Keith Strudler -The NFL’s Problem With Numbers

Jul 27, 2016

As is often said, numbers never lie. People, on the other hand, are quite adept in the art. Particularly when it comes to numbers. It’s like Mark Twain popularized, there are lies, damn lies, and statistics.

Keith Strudler: Tom Brady And The Supreme Court

Jul 20, 2016

I hung out with a lawyer friend of mine yesterday, and I’ve come to the very obvious conclusion that we live in a litigious society. I mean, you can literally take anything or anyone to court. Some of these cases get pretty serious, and some of them less so. But just because you don’t have a case doesn’t mean you can’t try. And, if you’re crafty enough and get the right lawyer, you might just win. Or settle, since apparently hardly anything actually goes to court anymore.

Chances are if you’re a dedicated WAMC listener, Frank Deford is a part of your morning routine. The legendary sportswriter has delivered more than 1,600 commentaries for Morning Edition over the past 36 years. His wry and incisive observations remain a refreshing antidote in an age of shouty sports talk defined by hot takes.

An Emmy and Peabody winner, Deford has written 18 books and serves as senior contributing writer at Sports Illustrated, where he first appeared in 1962. He’s also a correspondent for Real Sports on HBO.

This Saturday, Deford will sign copies of his new book I’d Know That Voice Anywhere: My Favorite NPR Commentaries at Sweetpea in Stone Ridge, New York.

Keith Strudler: The NFL Show Comes To Town

May 11, 2016

Today’s Las Vegas is far more than dirty casinos and adult night clubs. There’s high end restaurants, Broadway shows, five star hotels, and even a monorail that makes Sin City look more like Disney than Sodom and Gomorrah. For those seeking good clean fun, few towns offer more than Las Vegas.

Keith Strudler: Let Me Help

Feb 10, 2016

Here’s the good news for NFL quarterback Johnny Manziel. No one cares anymore about how many NCAA rules he may have broken or even how bad his Cleveland Browns were this year. But to be honest, that is literally all the good news he can expect to hear.  Because pretty much the rest of the 23 year old’s life is a car crash in slow motion. For sports fans – at least those with any compassion – it’s painful to watch, but nearly impossible to look away.

Keith Strudler: Big Wait For Big Game

Jan 27, 2016

This is the first of two weeks preceding the Super Bowl. Which means we now have two weeks to discuss things that could be dealt with in a matter of hours. For example yesterday it was reported that the Broncos selected to wear white uniforms instead of orange. Apparently that's a big deal, both because they could have chosen orange, but also because it seems they win more in road white uniforms then their home orange ones. This is what you write about when you have two weeks to discuss one game.

Keith Strudler: Sarah From Seattle

Jan 20, 2016

When you’re upset, sometimes you say things you don’t really mean. That’s what I’ve been told. So we’ll just have to hope that Sarah from Seattle was really upset when she wrote her message to Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton after they beat the Seattle Seahawks in the NFL playoffs, a message that was posted on a Seattle TV Network’s Facebook wall. Sarah’s note took Newton to task, but not because he beat her beloved Seahawks. It seems the problem was that Cam grabbed a 12th man flag dangling from the stands over the tunnel and threw it on the ground as he celebrated. For those not in Seattle or College Station, Texas, the 12th man is the expression used for Seattle fans, and Texas A&M fans, inferring their vocal support is like having a 12th man on the field, instead of the 11 mandated by the rules. According to Sarah, when Cam threw that flag to the turf, a flag that was being waved in Cam’s face as he walked towards the lockers, he insulted more than just some guy in the stands. In fact, according to Sarah, he insulted more than even the entire Seattle fan base, which is probably unusually large because they’ve been to the past two Super Bowls. According to this fan Sarah, who felt the need to express her thoughts to a news network and their corresponding public, Cam Newton’s actions insulted, and these are now her words, “a community that feeds and clothes the homeless, that raises funds for families in hard times, that helps a 3-year-old battle cancer, and that has more grace and respect than you (Cam Newton, that is) can imagine.”

Keith Strudler: The Inglewood Rams

Jan 13, 2016

The wait for the good people of Los Angeles appears to now be over. That is, to the extent that many people were truly waiting. But if you’ve spent the past 21 years in the city of angels longing for the NFL to return, it looks like that day will soon be upon us. That’s because yesterday the league approved the currently St. Louis Rams to relocate to the LA suburb of Inglewood, where they’ll build a multi-billion dollar stadium and surrounding entertainment complex. This returns the Rams to their prior home, where they spent nearly 50 years before moving to St. Louis. They left then because, neither surprisingly nor at this point ironically, they couldn’t get a new stadium in LA, or Anaheim, which is where they played at the time. St. Louis rolled out the red carpet, and off they went, from the nation’s second largest TV market to a city that’s currently the 21st. Of course, in the revenue sharing, made-for-television world of professional football, where anyone, anywhere can root for any team, where you play only matters so much as the amount of money you can make of your own stadium. Pretty much everything else is shared by all teams in the league. So, if you got a better stadium deal that gets you more money in Montana than midtown Manhattan, you might just take it. Assuming it’s got a dome, of course.

Actor Tate Donovan played a key role as Bob Anders, one of the Americans caught up in the Iran hostage crisis in 2012’s Best Picture Argo. Now, Donovan has returned to the subject matter, directing the new NFL Network documentary American’s Game and the Iran Hostage Crisis. From Smokehouse Productions, the film tells the story of how bits and pieces of football news helped the American hostages stay connected to their home and families during their more than year-long captivity.

Keith Strudler: Coaching Without Tenure

Jan 6, 2016

Being a head football coach in the National Football League is the complete opposite of having tenure as a professor. First, you get paid a lot, as a coach that is. And second, unlike tenured faculty, you have absolutely no job security. So with tenure, you pretty much have to work to get fired. As a head coach, it can happen because the owner didn’t like color of your pants that day. Such is the high stakes world of professional football management, where five years is an eternity and each day is an obstacle.

Keith Strudler: The Hits Keep On Coming

Dec 23, 2015

For now at least NY Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham will play the role of villain. His casting was complete after what can only be termed a nasty performance last Sunday against the Carolina Panthers, where Beckham earned three – count ‘em, three personal fouls, including a nasty helmet to helmet shot on Panthers cornerback Josh Norman. That performance earned him a one game suspension and the ridicule of most everyone marginally related to America’s national sport. Particularly as the NFL struggles to emphasize its new safety-first orientation, Odell Beckham’s boorish behavior stood out like a Rhodes Scholar at a Trump rally.

  From the time he took up the game of football Joe Montana has been initially been overlooked, not blessed with the prototypical size for a quarter back his skill and understanding of the nuances of the game overcame any perceived shortcomings. In his new biography of the Hall of Famer, Montana: The Biography Of Football's Joe Cool author Keith Dunnavant follows the life and career of one the game's all time greats.

Joe Montana is one of the only three quarterbacks to win four Super Bowls and did so in less than a decade, a two time league MVP, he became the signature player of the NFL landscape throughout the 1980's.

Sean Philpott-Jones: A Smack Upside The Head

Dec 3, 2015

Like many Americans, my in-laws have a Thanksgiving Day tradition of watching football and a Black Friday tradition of going shopping. Both of these are full contact sports, but only one of them will prove to be deadly for thousands of Americans.

Since I work at Marist College, and have for many years, I tend to avoid commentating on the air about Marist stuff, if for no other reason than keeping my job. And because there’s an obvious potential conflict of issue, which doesn’t always make for great journalism. So I will acknowledge that up front, lest anyone suggest I’m simply a homer or at least didn’t recognize the incestuous appearance of this piece.

Keith Strudler: How About Them Cowboys?

Sep 16, 2015

If you were near a TV and a sports fan on Sunday night, you undoubtedly heard the exasperating ending to the day’s final NFL football game. That’s especially true if that fan liked the New York Giants, who managed to grasp defeat from the imminent and unlikely jaws of victory. The G-men blew a 10 point fourth quarter lead, largely through a series of unfortunate mental errors. That process reached its apex in the final two minutes, when quarterback Eli Manning threw the ball out of the end zone on third down at the Cowboys one yard line instead of falling down and letting the clock run. That gave Dallas QB Tony Romo and the comeback kids enough time to drive the field and give the Cowboys a one point last second victory. It was a game the Cowboys were supposed to win, but suddenly seemed like they wouldn’t, largely thanks to a bunch of mistakes and bad bounces. It's a game story Dallas fans will retell for years, and one that drove Giants fans into an early season depression. New Yorkers assumed their team would be bad and probably lose this game – maybe by a lot. But it’s always worse to have false hope than no hope at all.

  Recently the Washington Redskins have been synonymous with controversy but in the not-too-distant past, D.C.'s beloved team was considered a model franchise that put together one of the most unique and colorful dynasties in NFL history under the leadership of Coach Joe Gibbs.

Based on more than 90 original interviews with key sources, the new book Hail to the Redskins by sportswriter Adam Lazarus, gives readers access to the players and coaches who championed the extraordinary era from 1981 to 1992, charting the teams rise from mediocrity to its stretch of three Super Bowl titles in 10 years.

Keith Strudler: The Pain Of Preseason Football

Aug 26, 2015

If you are so inclined to pay attention to the NFL right now, beyond Tom Brady and deflated balls, you know that this is the league’s preseason. Which basically means that these games don’t count. At least not in any standings that determine who goes to the playoffs and who goes home at season’s end. These first four games, while a full 25% the length of the 16 game regular season, really serve two purposes, neither of which have anything to do with winning and losing. First, this allows teams to cut their rosters from 90 to 53 players, essentially Survivor played out over four grueling episodes. That means young and marginal players compete against their teammates as much as any opponent. In fact, we only see star players sparingly during this stretch, since they’ve already cemented their spots. Second, the league and its teams use the preseason as a way of making more money. It’s four filled stadiums using largely marginal talent for games that have no particular significance. It’s like paying full price for preview shows on Broadway, oh, and they only used understudies. That’s the NFL preseason, half the sound and fury that means pretty much nothing.

Keith Strudler: To The Participant Goes The Spoils

Aug 19, 2015

What do Pittsburgh Steeler linebacker James Harrison and the Softball Little League World Series team from Washington State have in common? Well, very little, really. But in this one particular odd moment, they’ve both made strong statements about the state and place of youth sports.

It has been quite a summer in sports. New York Jets QB Geno Smith had his jaw broken this week by a the locker room.  As the NFL gets ready to start exhibition season, Tom Brady and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell met in a court room over "Deflate-Gage."   The Red Sox are enduring a lousy season. The Yankees just lost first place to the Toronto Blue Jays.  And then there's the first place New York Mets. There is a great deal to talk about!  Good thing we'll be joined by Marist College's Keith Strudler and Daily Gazette Sports Editor, Mark McGuire. 

Keith Strudler: Fighter J-E-T-S

Aug 12, 2015

Jets fans, all five of you, here’s the good news. Gino Smith will not throw an interception for the next six to 10 weeks. That’s the good news. The bad news, and there’s plenty, is that the Jets starting quarterback won’t throw anything for six to 10 weeks, at least not wearing pads and a helmet. That’s because Smith broke his jaw this week in a locker room altercation with now former teammate IK Enemkpali. According to reports, Smith owed Enemkpali $600 for a plane ticket he never used, and Enemkpali let him know by way of a fist to the jaw. The result is one QB on injured reserve, one backup linebacker on waivers, and enough material to keep late night talk shows in business for a generation.

5/12/15 Panel

May 12, 2015

  The Roundtable Panel: a daily open discussion of issues in the news and beyond.

Today's panelists are WAMC’s Alan Chartock, SUNY Albany Journalism Professor and Investigative Reporter, Rosemary Armao, and Associate Editor of the Time Union, Mike Spain.

Scheduled topics include Tom Brady four game suspension, Skelos out, White House anger over Seymour Hersh’s Bin Laden story, Arctic drilling, Picasso painting sells for $179 million.

Keith Strudler: The $ound Of $ilence

Jan 28, 2015

Money is a strong – no a fantastic motivator. Don’t want to slow down on the highway? You do because of the threat of a $200 speeding ticket. Working weekends? You might for time and a half. Outside of maybe food and certain unmentionables, money gets the job done better than any other positive or negative reinforcement.

Keith Strudler: The One That Got Away

Jan 21, 2015

One the most powerful words in sports, in life really, is regret. The sporting past is a road map of wins and, more importantly, the ones you should have won. Just ask a fisherman. It’s always the one that got away. For the Green Bay Packers, one got away on Sunday. With less than four minutes in the fourth quarter of last weekend’s NFC Championship Game and holding a commanding 19-7 lead that felt much greater, and with the ball, it seemed the only thing that could keep the Packers from a trip to the Super Bowl was divine intervention or willful intent. In fact, in that very penultimate moment, the Packers had a 97% chance of winning, according to the wonky sports statisticians that calculate this stuff.

1/9/15 Panel

Jan 9, 2015

  Today's panelists are WAMC's Alan Chartock, political consultant Libby Post, and WAMC newsman, Ray Graf.

Scheduled topics include Paris investigation and continuing hostage situation, Honda fined for underreporting security issues, Senator Barbara Boxer won't seek re-election, and NFL news.

Keith Strudler: Should The NFL Return To L.A.?

Dec 17, 2014

Los Angeles has a lot. It's got movie stars and great weather and Disney and beaches and enough night clubs to entertain the Kardashians. But what they don't have is an NFL franchise. They used to. In fact, they had two, assuming we count the LA metro area, which includes Anneheim, the former home of the then Los Angeles and now St. Louis Rams. At some concurrent moments, the Raiders called the Los Angeles Coloseum home, before they returned to Oakland. But since 1995, the city of angels has been home to exactly one less NFL team than Jacksonville, Charlotte, New Orleans, and Buffalo, respectively, cities that collectively don't approach LA's populace.

Keith Strudler: St. Louis Rams Protest

Dec 3, 2014

Perhaps the last thing the NFL needs right now is this. Just as league officials were looking for something, anything, to divert the national gaze from Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson, they go from the frying pan to the bonfire. That oncoming train came in the way of the St. Louis Rams. During the introduction of Sunday's home game against the Oakland Raiders, five Rams exited the tunnel with their hands raised in the now familiar "Don't Shoot" pose synonymous with the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in nearby Ferguson, Missouri. These five athletes, all African-American, received far, far more attention than the reported 75 or so protesters outside the stadium doing the exact same thing, only for a whole lot longer. The on-field statement lasted all of a few seconds, before the Rams  proceeded to beat the Raiders by 52 points, which probably says more about Oakland than anything else.

Keith Strudler: Money And Sports

Oct 1, 2014

It was hard to tell former LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling what to do, when the NBA and collective America wanted him to sell his team because of racist commentary. That’s because Donald Sterling was, and is very wealthy. In fact, at a net worth of $2.8 billion, he’s the 223rd richest person in America. So making Donald Sterling do something is like getting the chief of police to move his car. He just doesn’t have to. That is, until he’s replaced by, say, the secretary of defense. That’s essentially the case for the NBA, which strong armed the sale of the Clippers to Steve Balmer, who at $22.5 billion is the nation’s 18th wealthiest. It’s cliché, but Balmer could essentially buy and sell Donald Sterling – eight times, in fact. Which made it much easier for the league to strongly encourage this transaction, equipped with the knowledge they’ve got the biggest kid on the block in their corner. That, more than anything, made it much easier to get rid of one aging racist bully.

Sean Philpott-Jones: Tackling The Problem Of Domestic Violence

Sep 25, 2014

The National Football League is in for a rough season, both on and off the field. In the past month, for example, America’s most popular sport has been rocked by allegations that league officials and team owners willfully ignored evidence that the Baltimore Raven’s star running back Ray Rice beat his then-fiancée unconscious in an Atlantic City elevator.

  One of the best sportswriters working today, Mike Lupica, joins us this morning to talk about his new book, Fantasy League and about the current state of the NFL.

Lupica will be at The Odyssey Bookshop in South Hadley, MA on Thursday.

Keith Strudler: Adrian Peterson

Sep 17, 2014

The NFL is like a giant vacuum. It pretty much sucks the air out of everything around it. That’s why in May, in the middle of the baseball regular season and the NBA playoffs, all people can talk about is the NFL draft. It’s an American obsession, caring more about professional football than baseball, basketball, hockey, global affairs, and your kid’s birthday combined. That’s the way the NFL likes it.