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Are Javy and Rizzo really going to stay?
They both want to, but at what cost? The index also looks at the tournament selection committee, Mark Giangreco's job and Pat Hughes the TV star
Drew Brees’ retirement
Congratulations to Drew Brees, the lock first ballot Hall of Famer who once lost an NFC Championship game to Rex Grossman. Brees is retiring after an incredible 20 year career in the NFL. He leaves the game as the NFL’s all-time leader in completions, completion percentage and yards passing. He also holds the NFL record for most consecutive games with a touchdown pass (52) and for the most times being asked, “Hey, is that a caterpillar on your cheek?”
Brees’ retirement comes just two seasons after his right arm quit the game.
This fall he will start his new job with NBC where he will contribute to the Sunday Night Football pregame show, serve as the color analyst on Notre Dame football games (oh, god, why?) and he’ll do play-by-play of team handball at the Summer Olympics in Tokyo. Probably.
Hey, did you know Drew was a state champion tennis player in Texas as a high schooler? It’s not like fact wasn’t mentioned during every game he’s played since Purdue, or anything.
Virgil Patrick Hughes, TV star
With Boog Sciambi literally loading up the old moving van to get from New York to Chicago, Marquee let Pat Hughes get some reps in on the TV side over the weekend. He’s going to fill-in for Boog on occasion during the season, so it made sense for him to do a couple of games this spring. And, as you’d expect Pat was excellent. TV play by play is different than radio play by play in that we can actually see what’s happening so we don’t need it all described for us. So what did Pat do? He just did the game like he was doing radio. He described everything. Well, not the uniforms, which was a disappointment, but I got over it. But you know what? It was fine. The reason it was fine is that Pat is so good at it that it doesn’t detract from the broadcast. When it was Chip Caray bloviating his way through games it was terrible, because he was bad at it. But when Virgil Patrick gets rolling you just kick back and enjoy it. He’s also very good at quickly getting to his color man, so Jim Deshaies got to talk just as much as he would in any other game.
One of the fun things about watching along with Pat’s call is confirmation that the reason he’s so good is that he never makes the tragic play by play announcer mistake of predicting what’s happening. It seems simple, but the impulse to get ahead of the call is a very real thing. The great announcers confirm what they’ve seen. The hacks do this:
That’s not to say that everything was smooth between Pat and JD. On Sunday, Jason Heyward made a diving catch and Pat said that he’s never seen a right fielder better at coming in on line drives than Jason. He threw it to Jim for confirmation and Deshaies said, “I don’t know. I just know he’s really good.”
Pat also said that extension talks between the Cubs and Javy Baez and Anthony Rizzo are going well.
We know that Rizzo is optimistic that he’s going to get a long term contract. He’s low hanging fruit for the Cubs. He’s insanely consistent at a position that players can age with. He’s also one of the most popular Cubs in franchise history, and clearly, spending the rest of his career with them is important to him. All of that is music to the Cubs’ ears. He’s not going to take as big of a discount as he did back in 2015 (seven years, $41 million), but there were a lot of factors that went into that decision. He was just two seasons removed from Dale Sveum trying to send him to Iowa, he was just a few years removed from beating cancer and, Dan Vogelbach was rocketing through the system behind him (just kidding, the only thing Vogey was rocketing through back then was the IHOP menu.)
So while Rizzo certainly wants to make up for some of the money he eschewed for safety seven years ago, his desire to stay with the team works in the Garbage Family That Owns The Cubs™ favor. I hate to see a player do that detestable bunch any favors, but I also really want to see Anthony stay. I expect he’ll get a deal with them and extract three quarters of a pound of flesh along the way, instead of the whole thing.
If Rizzo’s not the most popular Cub the only guy who could be is Javy. He also seems to want to stay, but the Cubs are going to have to pay him to keep him, which, could be problematic for reasons we’ve become way too accustomed to in recent years.
One thing the Cubs have going for them is that it might be in Javy’s best interest to take the money and run now instead of going out into free agency in the same year as Francisco Lindor, Trevor Story, Carlos Correa and Corey Seager.
Then again, do any of them have a seven minute video collection of their best slides?
No. You bet your ass they don’t.
And, can any of them do much of this?
Of course not.
Javy’s a star player and he’s got a few flaws in the batter’s box, but he still does a lot of damage there. Outside of the batter’s box? You’ll be hard pressed to find a better player, anywhere. In fact, you won’t. You just won’t.
Yeah, Javy should feel safe to make the Cubs pay up.
Mark Giangreco’s job
I will start by saying that I’ve always liked Mark Giangreco, and thought that he did more with the final few minutes of a newscast, telling us stories and reading scores that we had already heard about, than anybody else I’d ever seen. There was a time when the local TV sportscaster was a big deal, and at both WMAQ and at WLS, when the job still meant something, he was the one to watch.
But honestly, nobody’s needed a local sports anchor for a long time now. The position had declined steadily in importance for a decade and a half, at least. First, nobody tunes into the 10 p.m. news to find out who won their favorite team’s sports contest that night. But that fact alone wouldn’t have been terminal for the position. Those few minutes could easily be repurposed to less scores and highlights and more features. But the second big element in the fall of the local sports anchor is something that increases every time a TV station splurges for some marketing geeks to offer up pizza to conduct a viewer focus group. Whenever that happens, the outcome is the same. The news invariably increases the amount of time they dedicate to weather, and it’s always at the cost of how much time they devote to sports.
And that part doesn’t make much sense. If we can just look on our phone to see whether or not the Cubs or Bulls won, we can just as easily do it to see tomorrow’s forecast and the seven day forecast and the 10-day forecast. And yet, as someone who still buys TV ads from time to time, I can tell you what those focus group results say. By far the number one reason people say they watch the local news is for the weather.
That’s why every newscast now starts with the anchors introducing themselves and then “a peek at the weather” and then they read a few stories and then they throw to the weather person who almost but not quite gives you the forecast, then after a few commercials the weather person pops back up and gives you a good six minute chunk of weather, then some commercials, a couple of more stories, more commercials, and then maybe three minutes of sports (though they’ll cut into that time if something comes up, or runs over, during the first 25 minutes of the broadcast) then they finish up with, you guessed it, more weather.
Local newscasts are by far the most important thing any TV station in any market has. It doesn’t matter if it’s New York, Chicago, Rockford, Boise or Rhinelander. It’s the most important because unlike the network programming they offer or even the syndicated stuff they run during the day, the TV station owns every inch of that news programming. Every commercial in their news shows is theirs to sell. And, they can get the Super Doppler Radar 5000 sponsored, they can get the school closings ticker sponsored and that money is all theirs to keep for themselves. If they have data that says the more weather they show the more viewers they’ll get you damned well better believe there’s going to be more weather.
So yes, after a long career of being a smart ass it’s hard to believe that joking that Cheryl Burton could play the “ditzy combative interior decorator” on a jokey DIY Network show he was pretending to pitch is what got him canned.
If WLS still thought people were tuning in for sports, Giangreco wouldn’t have been disciplined much less fired. But paying multiple millions of dollars for somebody to take a knee at the end of the news hasn’t made sense for a long time, even as big markets continued to pay it. And Giangreco will continue to get that WLS money for the next year and a half thanks to his contract. But the days of paying real money for that job are over.
Even two years ago, the sports guy wasn’t in a bumper during a Cubs’ game that they were showing.
Was the weather person? You bet.
The real casualty in all of this is that in less than two months WLS declined to extend Janet Davies’ contract and to fire Giangreco. What, are we going to have to pay to join a Zoom feed next December 31 for the annual midnight awkwardness?
The NCAA Selection Committee
You can’t say I didn’t call it. In this very space last week I told you that the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee was going to set up a second round (or third, I hedged my bet even though I knew better) Illinois-Loyola matchup. In fact, I felt that was such a layup that I tried to figure out what other awkward matchup the committee would try to line up. Illinois coach Brad Underwood bolted after just one season as the head coach at Oklahoma State and the Cowboys still managed to land on probation before the landing gear on his plane to Champaign were deployed.
Sure enough, Cade Cunningham and OSU are now a potential Sweet Sixteen foe for the Illini. And, just for kicks, the committee put Syracuse on the other side of the Midwest Region bracket, and in the unlikely event that they advance to the regional final and Illinois is waiting for them, Alan Griffin would get to face the team he transferred away from just last spring.
You remember Alan Griffin, right? He was the solid wing player who was good at shooting threes and getting technicals. He got thrown out of two games last season for Illinois and suspended for two more. His dad is former Bulls player Adrian Griffin who was a hot name for NBA head coach openings this summer (including the Bulls) until this.
But the problem with the NCAA’s proclivity for cutesy matchmaking is that in this case it really screws Loyola. An eight seed for a Missouri Valley Conference team seems like an achievement, but in this case the Ramblers deserved much better. They are clearly one of the 24 best teams in the nation at least (top 20 is more likely), so they should at worst have been a six seed. The difference between a six and an eight is pretty monumental. As an eight, you’re supposed to be basically in a coin flip game with a ninth seed who should be of like talent. And if you win you get the fun task of taking on a number one seed. As a six seed you play an 11 seed and then get a three seed if you advance.
Not only is Loyola looking at a daunting matchup with Illinois in round two, but they got a really bad matchup in the first round. Georgia Tech isn’t a typical nine seed. They just won the ACC Tournament and they’ve won eight games in a row. As paranoid as some Illini fans might be about having to deal with Loyola, I have a feeling that when they get a look at Tech’s defense they’ll start rooting for the Ramblers to advance to face them.
If Loyola and Illinois do face each other, the most fascinating matchup will be between each team’s All-American centers. Doughy, creepy mustached, Nikola Jokic-esque Cameron Krutwig against the dominate force that is Kofi Cockburn.
Krutwig averages three assists per game (82 total). Kofi has four assists all season.
So yeah, their styles are a little different.
One thing we know about NCAA officiating is that both of them will have three fouls before the first first media timeout.
Indiana Farmers Coliseum
The entire tournament is being played in the state of Indiana, I guess because nobody at the NCAA offices has seen a movie since Hoosiers, and most of the locations are ones we’re familiar with. They’re going to have two courts set up at Lucas Oil Stadium (but they won’t be playing games on them at the same time with the whistles confusing everybody like it’s an AAU tournament). They’ll be playing at Bankers Life Fieldhouse (home of the Indiana Pacers), Hinkle Fieldhouse (from Hoosiers and home of the Butler Bulldogs), Mackey Arena in West Lafayette (Purdue), Assembly Hall in Bloomington (Indiana University) and one place you likely haven’t heard of, Indiana Farmers Coliseum.
Illinois is playing there on Friday (but not Loyola who will be at Hinkle) and it’s a 6,500 seat arena on the site of the Indiana State Fairgrounds. Your favorite school ooey-poohey (IUPUI) among others, plays there. It was completely renovated in 2014 but it’s most famous for its current streak of not exploding for more than 58 years.
On Halloween 1963, the arena, then named the Indiana Fairgrounds Coliseum, was hosting a Holidays On Ice skating show when a propane explosion killed 74 and injured nearly 400. Yikes. That’s awful.
The worst thing that’s ever happened in the Bankers Life Fieldhouse pales in comparison. The biggest tragedy experienced there was Austin Croshere’s contract extension.