A crazy four-way NFL trade to really shake up the 2021 draft

I will admit this trade is almost certainly to NOT happen, but I wanted it on the record because this is the kind of crazy trade I could see done before the draft:

As most know, DeShaun Watson wants out of Houston and is attempting to force a trade.  While many Jets fans want to see Watson wind up in New York, Miami is looking like the more logical landing spot because the Dolphins can give the Texans Tua Tagliviola, who they took in 2020 with the 5th pick in that draft while also giving the Texans back the third pick they originally got from them when the Texans traded for Larimie Tunsil (plus probably the 18th pick of the 1st round the Dolphins have and most likely a 2022 first rounder plus possibly additional picks).  Tua (as he is called by most because his last name is a bit hard to pronounce) would give them a ready-made quarterback who already has had an attempt at making the playoffs which failed only because it was a year where all three wild cards had 11 years and the Dolphins had 10, which normally is good enough to make the playoffs.

That led me to think, what if the Texans actually wanted Trevor Lawrence, whom the Jaguars are almost certain barring anything crazy to take with the first pick in the 2021 NFL Draft if they can’t have Watson return?  That thought gave me the crazy idea of a blockbuster trade you rarely see in the NFL: A four-way trade that could really shake things up.

With that in mind, this is one potential four-way trade that would allow the Jets to get rid of Sam Darnold (whom they took with the 3rd pick in 2018) and actually get a player whom is on a rookie deal for three more years in Tua while the Jags, either with Darnold or presumably the next best quarterback in the 2020 draft have a quarter they can build around while the Texans get Trevor Lawrence.  This is the scenario:

  • Deshaun Watson to the Dolphins.
  • Tua to the Jets, who also get Pick #36 (fourth pick of Round 2) from the Dolphins and Pick #65 (first pick of Round 3) from the Jaguars.
  • Jaguars get Pick #2 and Sam Darnold from the Jets AND Pick #3 from the Texans via the Dolphins plus at least one additional pick (in 2021 or ’22) from the Dolphins and Texans.
  • Texans get Picks #1 & #25 from the Jags and Pick #18 from the Dolphins plus pick #23 from the Seahawks via the Jets.  Texans also likely get at least one third rounder (in 2021 or ’22) from each of the others. 

This allows the Texans to take Trevor Lawrence with the first pick PLUS have three more first-rounders later in the draft, while the Jets have Tua while only giving up their first-round picks in 2021 (and one third) and the Dolphins have their man and the Jags have at least one pick they can trade down to a team desperate to take a quarterback with say the third pick since in this scenario, the Jags would have both the second and third picks in the first round.

While again, this likely won’t happen, it is something to wonder given Deshaun Watson’s trade demands.

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Time for the NFL to go to a Draft Lottery?

In light of the fallout what happened with the final game of the 2020-’21 NFL regular season between the Washington Football Team and Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field where many, including many Eagles fans and former players slamming the Eagles left and right for their decision in the fourth quarter to replace Jalen Hurts with Nick Sudfeld in an attempt to lose and move up three spots in the 2021 NFL Draft from ninth to sixth, perhaps it’s time the NFL did something the NBA did many years ago.

During the 1983-’84 season, the Houston Rockets, three seasons removed from making the NBA Finals with a losing record set up their team with such a bad lineup that the lost to where they in a coin flip won the #1 pick in the 1984 NBA Draft that became Hakeem Olajuwon, who would help the Rockets to two NBA titles in 1994 and ’95. That taking led to the NBA going to a draft lottery the next year (1985) where the Knicks got the first pick that became Patrick Ewing. The NBA has over the years made changes to the lottery to make it more difficult for the better teams that miss the playoffs to get the #1 pick (especially after in 1993 the Orlando Magic even after a 41-41 record and ONE ping-pong ball got the #1 pick for the second year in a row) and made further changes to reduce the effects of tampering, including making it where the three worst teams have a 15% chance of landing the #1 pick and no team can drop lower than four spots from their original picks.

It’s time for the NFL to do something similar in creating a Draft Lottery. That has in the NBA become a program all of its own in recent years and for the NFL, it could be made into a major event, perhaps during Super Bowl week in prime time rotating between the NFL’s broadcast partners. That would likely be a one-hour program with little actual content that likely would be ratings gold and the broadcast partners would clamor to carry.

This could be done where (all before any trades made are factored in) the 16 teams who missed the playoffs all qualify for the lottery, with the four worst teams each having a 12.5% chance of having the #1 pick in the draft, with the remaining picks done solely by record to where the best team has say a 0.5% chance of moving up while no team can drop more than four spots in the draft. This would not eliminate tanking, but prevent situations like this year where fans of the New York Jets get upset because their team won two games and they “miss out” on Trevor Lawrence for example.

Going to a draft lottery might very well be the best thing for the NFL at this point.

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Time for the NFL to have all games (in a conference) at the same time the final week of the regular season!

This was written shortly after the final game of the 2020 NFL regular season on Sunday, January 3, 2021 between the Washington Football Team (formerly Washington Redskins) and Philadelphia Eagles that took place at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia. The game aired on NBC as the final Sunday Night game of the season as it was the only game guaranteed to have meaning regardless of the outcome of the Sunday afternoon games. This has for years been an awkward dance for the NFL that led to in 2017 having no game at all on NBC that Sunday night and this game in the eyes of Cris Collinsworth, calling the game with Al Michaels blasting the Eagles for in his mind their tanking by replacing Jalen Hurts with Nate Sudfeld at quarterback in the fourth quarter of a game the Eagles had to win to put the New York Giants, who earlier that Sunday beat the Dallas Cowboys into the playoffs as NFC East champions (https://twitter.com/gifdsports/status/1345949063301263360).

With that in mind, it’s time the NFL join much of the rest of the sports world literally worldwide with in this case scheduling ALL games in a conference at the same time, with as should be done here, all games divided up between ALL of the NFL’s broadcast partners (including separate games on ABC and ESPN) and for the bottom-level games putting those on cable outlets (FS1 for FOX and CBS Sports Network for CBS) and for any games on cable, those also airing on digital subchannels of the network affiliates whose network produce such games (in the case of ESPN, using LivWell, ABC’s DT-2 channel or LAFF, ABC’s DT-3 channel, for FS1 and NFL Network (whose games are produced by FOX) using MOVIES, FOX’s DT-2 channel and BUZZR, FOX’s DT-4 Channel and for CBSSN using DECADES, CBS’s DT-2 channel).

If we had the 3:30/7:30 schedule the final week (or 3:00/8:20 if CBS had to air 60 Minutes), here’s how it likely would be (games are listed in the likely choice order the networks would have, announcer parings are in parentheses):

AFC games at 3:30 PM ET:
NBC: Steelers-Browns (Mike Tirico and Tony Dungy)
CBS: Dolphins-Bills (Ian Eagle and Charles Davis)
FOX: Titans-Texans (Kevin Burkhardt and Charles Davis)
ABC: Ravens-Bengals (Sean McDonough and Todd Blackledge)
ESPN/LivWell or LAFF: Jaguars-Colts (Bob Wischusen and Dan Orlovsky)
NFLN/MOVIES or BUZZR: Jets-Patriots (Adam Amin and Mark Schlereth)
FS1/MOVIES or BUZZR: Raiders-Broncos (Joe Davis and Robert Smith)
CBSSN/DECADES: Chargers-Chiefs (Spero Dedes and Adam Archuleta)

NFC games at 7:30 PM ET:
NBC: Packers-Bears (Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth)
FOX: Cardinals-Rams (Joe Buck and Troy Aikman)
CBS: Cowboys-Giants (Jim Nantz and Boomer Esiason)
ABC: Saints-Panthers (Steve Levy, Brian Griese and Louis Riddick)
ESPN/LivWell or LAFF: Seahawks-49ers (Dave Pasch and Mike Golic, Sr.)
NFLN/MOVIES or BUZZR: Football Team-Eagles (Kenny Albert and Johnathan Vilma)
CBSSN/DECADES: Falcons-Buccaneers (Greg Gumbel and Trent Dilfer)
FS1/MOVIES or BUZZR: Vikings-Lions (Joe Davis and Robert Smith)

NOTE: Normally, Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit, ABC’s top college football announce team would have in this scenario gotten the 3:30 PM Eastern Time ABC game but because Herbstreit tested positive for COVID and could not be at the game site the way the NFL seems to want it they would not be on at all.  Tony Romo, who normally works with Jim Nantz was also out the final week this season due to COVID protocols.

All games could also be available to be streamed free of charge via the NFL and network websites to accommodate those who don’t have options in some cases to see the game(s) they want to see.

Doing it this way would prevent a repeat of what happened on Sunday night as ALL of the games would be airing at the same time from one conference. If DirecTV, which has Sunday Ticket has to be compensated for losing the last week, that can be done and it would be worth it in this case to avoid a repeat of what happened this season.

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The Presidential Election and why the 2020 Breeders’ Cup needs to be postponed to AT LEAST Thanksgiving (Third updated version)

With what has come out, it’s now the THIRD TIME I’m saying that the Breeders’ Cup, the championship event in Horse Racing scheduled for November 6-7 at Keeneland needs to be postponed until at least Thanksgiving weekend if not the following week, even if it has to be moved elsewhere as a result:

Two years ago, I wrote that the 2020 Breeders’ Cup should have been awarded to Del Mar with the BC pushed back to Thanksgiving Weekend.  When I originally suggested this two years ago, it’s because of what I saw where I am in 2016 (which was a swing state then and again now): Many people so exhausted by the intensity of the 2016 election that things did not return to normal until two weeks later at Thanksgiving (the election was on its latest possible date in 2016).  Even with an additional week this time (because of an earlier Election and later Thanksgiving date), this election in 2018 was always looked at as being WAY more intense given how even the 2018 midterms (which set all kinds of records for voting in such) were as close as the maximum intensity you could realistically have had for those, and it was already looking then that Thanksgiving would be when things went back to normal.  That, however, DID NOT factor in the level of rhetoric we have seen JUST SINCE THE MIDTERMS, with many predicting a violent post-election aftermath EVEN BEFORE we had George Floyd kick off the summer we had that has in some cases continued into the fall.  THAT is why I would have long ago pushed this BC back to Thanksgiving weekend and moved it to Del Mar (Keeneland is already hosting the 2022 BC because of no fans this time) to allow for tracks around the country to have been able to schedule an additional round of preps at the end of October/beginning of November. 

That said, people in racing for the most part have their heads in the sand and refuse to understand WHY I said it.  This had ZERO to do with such allowing as things would have worked out for the New York Racing Association to either run a rescheduled Wood Memorial on October 24 (three weeks after the rescheduled Preakness) at the traditional Belmont Stakes distance of 1 1/2 Miles or actually have scheduled The Belmont Stakes for October 24 instead of the bastardized version that was run on June 20.  Running a 1 1/2 Mile Belmont Stakes on June 20 would likely have resulted in Tiz The Law facing a vastly inferior field to where potentially $200-500 MILLION was bet on Tiz to win, causing the biggest MINUS pool in the history of the sport and leading NYRA liable for $10-15 Million or more in such a pool OR NYRA having to run The Belmont as a non-betting race.

From the get-go, moving the Breeders’ Cup, especially as things were already intensifying before COVID-19 hit on the political front was solely about avoiding a disaster for Keeneland and Breeders’ Cup, Ltd. as when this BC was awarded to Keeneland, people refused to understand the intensity of this election that was being forecast even when this Breeders’ Cup was awarded to Keeneland and scheduled for November 6-7.  That has only intensified many times over just since then.  It was AFTER THAT you had George Floyd and everything that has happened since.  Then, on September 17, you had a British journalist predicting what MANY have for months about things getting very ugly no matter who wins this election (Raw Story article).  Even before that, two weeks earlier on September 3 there was a Washington Post article that suggested the same thing. There have since been other articles, including these in The Guardian on September 24 and more recently in VOX on October 9 that have also suggested Trump supporters be “agressive.”  That also is fueling widespread speculation that if Trump loses, he will “encourage” his supporters to go all-out in looking to cause violence in a last-ditch effort to force states to overturn their election results and declare Trump the winner.  Such could include going to events like The Breeders’ Cup that Friday and Saturday afternoon as well as a much-anticipated college football game with Notre Dame hosting Clemson that Saturday night in the hopes of getting those events canceled with threats of further violence to force a reversal of ELECTION RESULTS to favor Trump. Given what came out on October 8 of an attempt to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, including possibly “putting her on trial” and killing her, these threats have to be taken seriously.

Many of his supporters would be looking to cause violence without Trump’s “encouragement” anyway for another reason: Many are White Supremacists who fear whites becoming a minority in the US if Biden wins this election.  Trump would likely be “encouraging” such because if he loses, he is facing being CRIMINALLY INDICTED by New York State for FRAUD in the Trump Organization.  Because those are state charges, neither Trump nor ANY future President could ever Pardon Trump or anyone else for such crimes.  Eric Trump already has had to testify in a Civil Fraud case brought on by New York State Attorney General Letitia James (linked Politico article is from August 10) and that along with other evidence could lead to New York County (Manhattan) District Attorney Cyrus Vance CRIMINALLY INDICTING Trump for FRAUD (linked CNBC article from September 21), even possibly doing so PRIOR to Election Day.  There also on October 9 was a New York Times article showing how Trump was broke when he got a $21 Million windfall that was part of a much bigger investigation into Trump’s taxes that first came out September 27, showing he is likely over $400 Million in debt and why he is also desperate to remain in The White House.

No matter who wins this election, the losing side and their supporters are going to very likely claim fraud and especially if Biden does win after ALL votes are counted (as many have already predicted a “red mirage” where Trump leads on Election Night but once all votes are counted, Biden wins), I suspect Trump supporters will be looking to have all-out violence because they will not accept the result.  THAT is why this Breeders’ Cup needs to be postponed to Thanksgiving weekend (Nov. 26-28, when it can be held over three days) OR the following week (Dec. 4-5) at the very least, again, EVEN IF it has to be moved from Keeneland elsewhere.

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What REALLY cost Hillary Clinton the 2016 Election (and no, it was not the infamous letter from James Comey)

The polls are showing things in 2020 that were NOT the case in 2016:

Joe Biden is now leading Donald Trump by more than DOUBLE any poll where Hillary Clinton was leading Trump four years ago. In spite of this fact, those who are Trump supporters continue to think EVERY SINGLE ONE of these polls that have been done are wrong, people are lying and there is a “silent majority” of voters who will show up in huge numbers on election day. A big part of that comes from what happened in 2016, where many believe Hillary Clinton lost because of a letter that in reality now-former FBI Director James Comey noted unflattering e-mails from Hillary among other things, with many not realizing Comey feared he would be impeached if it were found out later on there was an investigation taking place. However, as things did wind up working out for reasons noted here, Comey was NOT the factor everyone thought he was.

What Trump supporters fail to take into account when they think Trump will easily win because of their “silent majority” is that:

  1. The polls actually were accurate in 2016. Hillary did win the popular vote by 2.7 Million or so votes. The problem was, she won California by 4.26 Million votes and that her entire margin of victory in the popular vote was because of California left her vulnerable to what happened in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania (Trump won the rest of the country by 1.39 Million votes).
  2. Hillary did not campaign at all in Wisconsin or Michigan, two states Biden has already been too quite a bit this time while outside of Philly barely campaigned in Pennsylvania. That likely contributed to Trump winning Wisconsin and Michigan by a combined 30,000 or so votes. Hillary had to win ONE of those two states (Wisconsin or Michigan) plus…..
  3. Pennsylvania. Hillary had to win Pennsylvania as well as EITHER Wisconsin or Michigan to win the election (even winning WI and MI Hillary still had to win PA) and because Pennsylvania didn’t have anything close to the kind of mail-in/absentee/early voting in 2016 there is in place for 2020, it left Hillary vulnerable to a situation completely outside of Hillary’s control, and that was NOT the infamous Comey letter.

It was a strike by SEPTA workers in Philadelphia that occurred ONE WEEK before the 2016 election where MANY people in the Philadelphia area suddenly saw their commutes BALLOON to 3-4 HOURS each way AND/OR having to work an 80+ hour week during that strike that ended early the day before Election Day in 2016. Many such people wound up exhausted because of that and it also caused, especially in the suburbs events the weekend before the 2016 election to be postponed (in some cases all the way to the following spring) or canceled due to people who were supposed to work such being called into their actual jobs as a direct result of that strike. That led to MANY, especially in Bucks County (the county actually most affected by that strike where Hillary lost 30,000 votes compared to Obama in 2012) changing their votes from Hillary to Trump to get back at SEPTA workers for striking and at Obama for not issuing an Executive Order to end that strike. THAT is what cost Hillary Pennsylvania and once that happened, even WITHOUT the James Comey letter and EVEN IF Hillary had properly campaigned in Wisconsin and Michigan, Hillary was NEVER winning the election because of that strike.

  1. Elderly voters. There was a warning sign four months before the 2016 election in England where voters in a stunning upset voted FOR the Brexit that had England leaving the European Union. Over there, the vote had been expected to be for “no Brexit,” however, polls failed to account for many elderly voters, most of whom were white males that openly admitted they voted FOR the Brexit because they had seen them, their children and grandchildren be left behind by the global economy and wanted a return to the “good times” of the 1950’s and ’60s when they THRIVED in many cases. In many cases, that group did so as a “last gift” for their children and grandchildren as just since that vote in June 2016, many such who voted for the Brexit have passed away. It was many of the same type of elderly, white, male voter that voted for Trump for the exact same reason, as well as their children and grandchildren as many such families thrived in a much more racist time when they had advantages other did not solely due to race. This group also was not accounted for in 2016 when many more seniors did vote for Trump that in 2020 are showing to be voting for Biden. Also, like with the Brexit, many older Trump voters have since passed away and there was never a guarantee others would in 2020 vote for Trump, even in this time and place.

THIS is what cost Hillary in 2016, NOT Comey.

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Why the 2020 Breeders’ Cup needs to be postponed to at least Thanksgiving Weekend (SECOND UPDATED VERSION)

NOTE: The original version post was originally written before The New York Racing Association announced The Belmont Stakes would be run on June 20 at 1 1/8 Miles. This is a new version of that post, updated considerably to reflect on things outside racing that have happened since the original post was done and updated as well. To view a slightly updated version of the original post, click here. There is a further update to this post at the bottom of this.

Back when I wrote this in May, it was just after The Stronach Group announced the Preakness would be at Pimlico on October 3. While there were reasons for that I wrote into a subsequent post on why The New York Racing Association was forced to run The Belmont Stakes as it did (which also played into why The Preakness was Oct. 3), as things worked out like with the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness in 2020 would be run without fans in attendance due to the Pandemic. NYRA was left with October 24 as the only other realistic option for The Belmont Stakes that I subsequently wrote should have a rescheduled running of The Wood Memorial, conducted for 2020 ONLY at the Belmont Stakes’ traditional 1 1/2 Mile distance to throw a bone to those disgusted. While that would still have that only two weeks before the Breeders’ Cup, there were other reasons I felt The Breeders’ Cup needed to be postponed:

Two years ago, I wrote that the 2020 Breeders’ Cup should have been awarded to Del Mar with the BC pushed back to Thanksgiving Weekend. That had to do specifically with the 2020 Presidential Election, which even at that time was already looking to be the most intense election in US history. The Breeders’ Cup being a few days after that looked like it would be safe from dealing with the bulk of the immediate aftermath of that election on November 6-7 though in 2016, it took for many two full weeks (or until Thanksgiving) to fully recover from the intensity of that election and Donald Trump winning the Presidency. Then the COVID-19 Pandemic came in and has literally changed for many how they will cast their ballots for President in 2020 that adds an entire new layer to the election.

With vote-by-mail expected to be much more widely used for the 2020 election by many states, in some cases exclusively where it has not been before, it could result in delays in getting vote tallies in order. That in turn could delay the result of the Presidential Election being known until at least the current weekend of The Breeders’ Cup, something neither Keeneland nor Breeders’ Cup, Ltd. signed up for when the BC was scheduled as it was for 2020. If that does happen, it could be a disaster for BC Ltd. and Keeneland for things they would have ZERO control over, especially the emotions of those who supported the candidate that LOSES the 2020 Presidential Election. There are many who think things could get VERY UGLY in the streets in the immediate period after the election results are known regardless of who wins, and a Washington Post article on September 3 (which may or may not be behind a paywall) now suggesting this is very likely to happen. This is something BC Ltd. never had to consider even being possible before the Pandemic fully hit in March.

With that in mind, it is now likely in the best interests of EVERYONE in the sport if the Breeders’ Cup is moved back to EITHER Thanksgiving Weekend (with the BC over three days from November 26-28 in a very similar manner to what I suggested two years ago or if not then to the weekend of December 4-5. Obviously, that is NOT an ideal weather situation for Keeneland that is not designed for winter weather (it usually races in early-to-mid spring and early-to-mid-fall), but it is now likely the lesser evil for Keeneland as Lexington could be dealing with fallout from the election during the Breeders’ Cup no one could have realistically anticipated when it was awarded to Keeneland. Having it a 3-4 weeks later after everyone has had time to absorb the election result probably works better.

Such a move would have one major side benefit, allowing The New York Racing Association and the sport to run as noted a rescheduled running of The Wood Memorial at what normally would be the 1 1/2 Mile distance of The Belmont Stakes on Saturday, October 24, which would have this “substitute Belmont Stakes” three weeks after the Preakness as it normally would be. This would even possibly allow for one final prep before the Breeders’ Cup for horses racing in such a rescheduled Wood Memorial on November 14 if the Breeders’ Cup were December 4-5. It also in the case of Tiz The Law allow for the possibility with the Breeders’ Cup delayed of running in such a rescheduled running of the Wood Memorial at 1 1/2 Miles that would legitimize the Triple Crown should he win the Derby and Preakness and remove any asterisks from winning the Triple Crown this year due to the Belmont Stakes having to be shortened (as otherwise, NYRA was facing a situation where Tiz The Law would have likely faced 3-4 vastly inferior horses in a 1 1/2 Mile Belmont Stakes to where potentially $200-500 MILLION was bet on Tiz to win, causing the biggest MINUS pool in the history of the sport and leading NYRA liable for $10-15 Million or more in such a pool OR NYRA having to run The Belmont as a non-betting race).

For all involved in the sport, this is what I would now be looking at doing in light of a slew of things that have nothing to do with Horse Racing or sports at all for that matter but nonetheless something Breeders’ Cup, Ltd. should have considered looking at LONG before the Preakness date was announced back in May. In light of what has since happened, Breeders’ Cup, Ltd. needs to take a serious look at getting the Breeders’ Cup moved back to either Thanksgiving weekend or the weekend after as with the political climate being what it is, even before the rioting and protests many had already been predicting the immediate period after the election results are known would be very ugly no matter who won. This reinforces that view.

UPDATE on September 17, 2020: A British journalist is now predicting what MANY have for months about things getting very ugly no matter who wins this election (Raw Story article).

No matter who wins this election, the losing side and their supporters are going to very likely claim fraud and especially if Biden does win after ALL votes are counted (as many have already predicted a “red mirage” where Trump leads on Election Night but once all votes are counted, Biden wins), I suspect Trump supporters will be looking to all-out violence because they will not accept the result in a long-shot attempt to overturn the result to Trump’s favor, especially with the very possibility Trump will be CRIMINALLY INDICTED FOR FRAUD in the Trump Organization by New York State BEFORE Election day and many potentially facing PRISON if Biden wins.

It’s WHAT I have been talking about when I have said the Breeders Cup, scheduled for November 6-7 at Keeneland needs to be postponed to Thanksgiving or later. By pushing the event back 3-4 weeks, it would be much more likely things will have calmed down to where the more casual sports fan will be back watching sports and not watching news and/or being fearful of their safety and so forth no matter who wins. I had said TWO YEARS AGO the 2020 Breeders’ Cup should have been awarded to Del Mar and held on Thanksgiving weekend because even at that time, it already was looking like this election was going to be the most intense in US History with many feeling Democracy was at stake in this election. That was clearly BEFORE COVID and all the rhetoric back-and-forth that has only escalated further in the last few months that I think many in Horse Racing refuse to understand is going on because it is an inconvenient truth that does not jive with what THEY want to see.

If the Breeders’ Cup remains where it is scheduled to, it will likely be a disaster for Keeneland and BC Ltd. as only the die-hards will be watching as almost everyone else will be severely distracted to where ALL of sports feels the ripple effect of such, NOT JUST the Breeders’ Cup.

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NFL Pandemic Realignment and how that may be needed for 2020

                When the NFL made their plans for the 2020 season, they thought by now the US would be past the worst of the worst Pandemic to hit worldwide since the Spanish Flu of 1918-’20.  Instead, and especially with the problems Major League Baseball is currently experiencing with the Miami Marlins (19 players and two other personnel testing positive for COVID-19), Philadelphia Phillies (two of their personnel testing positive) and St. Louis Cardinals (two players testing positive) to where (as of when this was written) there was the threat of the plug being pulled on the MLB season, there were suggestions the NFL should do some emergency realignments and schedule changes to cut down on travel and the threat of the virus.

                With that in mind, this is my proposal on doing that.  The NFL may want to show they are above this, but given what is happening in Major League Baseball to where there is a real threat of college football (no matter what plans there are for playing this fall at the time of this writing currently in place) seeing its season possibly delayed until spring (already being done in much of FCS, the level below major college football), the NFL may have no choice but to do a fast realignment to reduce travel and make it where all games are within a relative regional “bubble.”  This could be done two ways:

                One where the regular season is reduced for this season from 16 games to 14 and instead of the traditional four divisions of four teams per conference, there are no conference and four divisions of eight teams each, the other where there are the traditional eight divisions of four (four divisions per conference) where 16 games are played where everyone in their division plays their other division rivals four times each and the similar geographical division in the other conference once. 

                In a no-conference format, here’s how the four divisions of eight would likely look in such a one year-only Pandemic realignment:

East
Patriots
Giants
Jets
Bills
Eagles
Ravens
Washington FC
Panthers

North
Steelers
Browns
Bengals
Colts
Bears
Vikings
Packers
Lions

South
Falcons
Jaguars
Dolphins
Buccaneers
Titans
Saints
Cowboys
Texans

West
Chiefs
Broncos
Seahawks
49ers
Raiders
Rams
Chargers
Cardinals

                If we had eight divisions and two conferences of four, here’s how it likely looks for a one-year Pandemic realignment (with “bubble” cities if such were necessary noted):

AFC East (East Rutherford)
Patriots
Giants
Jets
Bills

AFC North (Indianapolis)
Steelers
Browns
Bengals
Colts

AFC South (Atlanta)
Falcons
Jaguars
Dolphins
Buccaneers

AFC West (Santa Clara)
Chiefs
Broncos
Seahawks
49ers

NFC East (Philadelphia)
Eagles
Ravens
Washington FC
Panthers

NFC North (Chicago)
Bears
Vikings
Packers
Lions

NFC South (New Orleans)
Titans
Saints
Cowboys
Texans

NFC West (Las Vegas)
Raiders
Rams
Chargers
Cardinals

                While this would put the kabosh on some rivalry games for one year, the main purpose of this is to cut down on travel as much as possible.  This was as close as possible to keeping things regional though obviously for one year in some cases it would have teams switching conferences, including a few cases where original AFL teams would be playing in the NFC if realignment were done that way.

                This also would allow for “bubbles” if it got to that point with the NFL, especially if you had eight such where two such “bubbles” are near each other for short travel for interconference games.  In an eight-city “bubble” format, these would likely be the most likely areas given attempting to keep such to groups of four while allowing for short travel as necessary:

AFC East: East Rutherford, NJ (Met Life Stadium)
NFC East: Philadelphia (Lincoln Financial Field)

AFC North: Indianapolis (Lucas Oil Stadium)
NFC North: Chicago (Soldier Field)

AFC South: Atlanta (Mercedes-Benz Stadium)
NFC South: New Orleans (Superdome)

AFC West: Santa Clara, CA (Levi’s Stadium)
NFC West: Las Vegas (Allegiant Stadium)

                As much as possible, it would be done where a team that has to go a the opposite conference division bubble for “road” interconference games would play those games in such bubble on back-to-back weeks in a 16-game format that might require 18 weeks to allow for “bye weeks” before and after a team has to travel to and from one bubble to and from the other to allow for testing and so forth.

                These may be the two ways the NFL could go in order an NFL season work.

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Why The New York Racing association had to schedule The Belmont Stakes as it did for 2020

In case anyone did not already know, on May 19, The New York Racing Association announced The Belmont Stakes was being run on June 20 and shortened to 1 1/8 Miles, which resulted in MANY people being furious because to them it was done at the behest of Bob Baffert following comments that suggested HE wanted the distances shortened or he would not bring any horses over for it. While that is not true except in the minds of many who actually believe it, it was an unfair swipe at NYRA giving the image one trainer forced that change. I had written shortly after if NYRA should reconsider their decision, but since then I realized there a number of factors that actually forced NYRA to do what they did. Below is what was originally written as a Facebook post:

For people who are STILL furious with The New York Racing Association’s decision to run the Belmont Stakes as they are, this is as detailed an explanation as possible as to why NYRA had to schedule The Belmont the way they did IMO:

Given I believe NYRA could not make any announcements on The Belmont Stakes until they were allowed to resume racing, NYRA had no choice as it turned out other than to otherwise run The Belmont Stakes on October 24 and that would likely mean a subpar field that NYRA could likely get by running a rescheduled Wood Memorial at The Belmont Stakes distance on 10/24 due to the Breeders’ Cup only being two weeks later (10/24 would have been fine for an NBC telecast of The Belmont Stakes because Notre Dame is not on NBC that Saturday). As I have noted in a slew of comments in various forums, I actually would now have a rescheduled Wood as noted for say a $500-750,000 purse to throw a bone to those who are STILL clearly disgusted by this move by running what essentially would for this year be a replacement for the “real” Belmont Stakes.

The problems NYRA had otherwise were these:

Monmouth had the Haskell scheduled for July 18 dating back to last year (their contract with NBC for the Haskell dictated that date). NYRA could not run the Belmont July 11 because of that.

Notre Dame would not allow their game with Western Michigan on Sept. 19 to be moved to prime time to accommodate the Preakness being that day because Notre Dame alumni would have gone bonkers (and Mike Golic Jr. and Sr., both Notre Dame alumni themselves would have both ripped ND big-time for moving that game to the evening to accommodate a Preakness telecast on NBC on their ESPN Radio/ESPN 2 show in all likelihood) because especially their most wealthy alumni hate going to night games, even the one ND is required to have each year for NBC. It also would have been a very bad optic to move the game to NBCSN because for Western Michigan and the Mid-America Conference, that is their ONLY full-national, over-the-air TV game ALL YEAR (that is even though NBC is allowed to move one ND game a year to NBCSN). The MAC has experienced severe financial problems because of the Pandemic and they need that game to stay on NBC at all costs. Without that, we likely would have had the Preakness on September 19 and The Belmont Stakes on October 10 that had originally been widely expected.

Notre Dame’s refusal to change the start time of that one game AND the fact the Breeders’ Cup would have been two weeks after the one date the Belmont could have been realistically on in the fall left June 20, the date the Belmont is scheduled for, and August 8, the likely date for the Travers (as the PGA Championship is that weekend and that is NOT an NBC event) as the only realistic landing spots. The more logical move to me would have been to run the TRAVERS on June 20 at its traditional distance with the Belmont on August 8 at Saratoga at 1 3/8 Miles. August 8, however is ALSO Hambletonian Day at The Meadowlands, which is the biggest event in Harness Racing which the Meadowlands as of now still expects to be able to have fans for (Hambletonian Charter requires that race and its filly counterpart, the Hambletonian Oaks to have their finals run on the first or second Saturday in August). Given THAT situation AND knowing how uber-sensitive some in Harness Racing are with ANYTHING T-Bred racing does that in their minds slights them, that made August 8 a non-starter for The Belmont due to likely many in Harness Racing, as well as the Hambletonian Society AND New Jersey Officials screaming bloody murder if NYRA did that. THAT likely also played into why the Belmont is as it is this year.

ALL of the above is why NYRA had no choice but to do what it did. Unless somehow a deal can be ironed out where the Breeders’ Cup is pushed back (and I think the BC needs to be anyway for reasons unrelated to the sport (updated Sept. 3), a view I actually first wrote about in 2018) where the Belmont can be subsequently moved from June 20 to October 24 so it could be run at 1 1/2 Miles, this was the only choice NYRA had.

UPDATE: At the time that was written, it was not known publicly that FOX and NBC were in negotiations to move the US Open Golf Championships, which by that point had been moved to the weekend of Sept. 17-20 to NBC because FOX wanted to get out of their contract with the USGA because that contract was beginning to interfere with other contracts for MLB, the NFL and college football due to not only this year’s US Open being postponed, but the prospect NEXT YEAR’s US Open also could wind up being postponed due to the virus. That meant Sept. 19 was never an option for the Preakness as it turned out. Also, as I later discovered, August 1 and 15 in addition to August 8 were both OFF LIMITS to having Thoroughbred TC events due to the Hambletonian Final having to actually be on the Saturday following the first Thursday in August, with the eliminations on August 1 and August 15 held in reserve in case bad weather on August 1 or 8 forced a one-week postponement of the final. Had NYRA attempted to run The Belmont on August 1, 8 or 15, Harness interests, given they have far more political pull in New York and New Jersey than their thoroughbred counterparts with help from The Hambletonian Society, other Harness interests around the world (Hambletonian is actually a bigger race than any of the US Triple Crown events in some countries), Meadowlands owner Jeff Gural and even New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy likely get New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to BLOCK NYRA from running The Belmont Stakes on ANY of those weekends.

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Should NYRA reconsider the 2020 Belmont Stakes Decision?

On Tuesday (5/19) The New York Racing Association announced what many had expected given everything this year:

The 2020 Belmont Stakes would be a shell of what it normally is, being run at 1 1/8 Miles as NYRA appeared to desperately want the Belmont Stakes to be run before the Saratoga season. Running it in this spot though is likely to diminish the field given the Santa Anita Derby was already scheduled for The Belmont’s original date of June 6. Running it two weeks later almost assures neither race will get every top horse.

The move to run the Belmont on June 20 to me says 2 things: NYRA is trying to get back at The Stronach Goup for scheduling the Santa Anita Derby on June 6 and kowtowing to local officials in Saratoga Springs who would be very upset if the Belmont was run at Saratoga. Otherwise, unless local officials in Saratoga Springs were being THAT stubborn on insisting the Travers be run in August at Saratoga no matter how diminished such a Travers would be being run at any point in August due to the Derby being rescheduled, what should have been done in my opinion was this:

Run the Travers on June 27 at Belmont at its traditional 1 1/4 Mile distance, the one and only way to me this year the Travers could be any semnlence of normal with it in that scenario three weeks after the Santa Anita Derby and three weeks before the Haskell at Monmouth on July 18. The Belmont Stakes (which is actually named for August Belmont and NOT the racetrack) could then have been run on most likely August 8 at either 1 3/8 Miles (the distance Sir Barton won the Belmont at when he became the first Triple Crown winner in 1918) or 1 1/2 Miles, starting it on the far turn as was done at Aqueduct from 1963-’67 when Belmont Park was being completely rebuilt after the original grandstand was condemmed in early 1963.

The likely reason such a move was not explored was likely NYRA knowing local officials in Saratoga Springs would be all over NYRA if they did that. That said, before announcing The Belmont would be shortened to 1 1/8 Miles and run on June 20, NYRA IMO should have tried first to work out a deal with Breeders Cup, Ltd., Keeneland, Churchill Downs and any other parties necessary to where the Breeders’ Cup was moved back to AT LEAST November 20-21 so the Belmont Stakes could be run October 24 as traditionally run at 1 1/2 Miles (and I did check, Notre Dame is NOT on NBC on 10/24). Given the outrage by many real racing fans already over this, NYRA IMO should now attempt to do this (with perhaps if successful the Wood Memorial, which is traditionally run at that distance replacing The Belmont on June 20) and if I’m Andrew Cuomo, I’m along with New York Senator Chuck Schumer on the phone to Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear asking him to intervene and ask BC Ltd. to change the date, doing whatever it took with Keeneland and if necessary Churchill to make that happen. If that failed, then NYRA should run the Wood Memorial (Grade 2) on October 24 at the Belmont’s 1 1/2 Mile distance with bonuses for horses who race in that event off the other TC races and further bonuses if they then come back in the Breeders’ Cup two weeks later.

I had already noted my view before this came out early the Sunday before this came out that this year’s Breeders’ Cup at Keeneland needs to be pushed back anyway, as I put it there before this was known to December 4-5 for reasons completely unrelated to this. Those views, as noted in that blog still stand as they were then and those actually were views I had two years ago  when I felt Del Mar should have been awarded this year’s BC and had it on Thanksgiving weekend for almost the same non-horse racing reasons that now are only likely to be WORSE than I thought they would be at the time I originally wrote what I did two years ago.

Breeders’ Cup, Ltd. though actually for the non-racing reasons noted in the two linked blog posts needs to step in and push back the BC to Thanksgiving Weekend or the weekend after.

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The 2020 Breeders’ Cup and why it needs to be pushed back (and not to allow NYRA to preserve the Triple Crown as we know it for 2020 either)

NOTE: This post was originally written before The New York Racing Association announced The Belmont Stakes would be run on June 20 at 1 1/8 Miles. It is updated to reflect on things outside racing that have happened since the original post.

On May 16, the original date of the Preakness, officials with the Maryland Jockey Club that runs Pimlico and Laurel for The Stronach Group announced the Preakness would be run on October 3:

This had actually been reported “erroneously” 10 days earlier on May 6, but was considered the likely date in order to best possibly have it with fans and find a broadcast window on NBC. While many traditionalists wanted it run Sept. 19 with the Belmont October 10 leading into the Breeders’ Cup November 6-7 at Keeneland, that was impossible because of one thing: Notre Dame Football.

Notre Dame hosts Western Michigan on September 19, a game that is very important to Western Michigan and the Mid-American Conference from a financial standpoint given the MAC recently had to cut postseason tournaments in many sports, either in size or altogether due to financial issues caused by the Pandemic. Western Michigan and the MAC likely refused to allow that game to be moved to NBCSN so NBC could televise the Preakness and likewise Notre Dame likely refused to change the start time of that game to after the Preakness at 6:00 or 7:00 PM Eastern Time because many of their alumni are older and hate going to night games. The following Saturday (Sept. 26) was out because the Ryder Cup, a bi-annual competition between teams from the US and Europe was as of now still scheduled to take place the weekend of Sept. 26-27 in Wisconsin on NBC. That left Oct. 3 as the best option for the Preakness.

What does this mean for The Belmont (again, this was written before NYRA announced it would be run on June 20 at 1 1/8 Miles)? Assuming the Breeders’ Cup remains November 6-7, this gives NYRA the following options for the BC, none of which are good:

1. Run The Belmont before the Saratoga meet, either at its traditional 1 1/2 Mile distance or shorter as has already been suggested.

2. Run the Belmont DURING the Saratoga meet in place of the Travers, again either at its traditional 1 1/2 Mile distance or shorter.

3. Run the Belmont AFTER the Breeders’ Cup on most likely December 5 at Aqueduct or Belmont at its traditional 1 1/2 Mile distance. While 1 1/2 Mile races at Aqueduct would start on the far turn, The Belmont Stakes actually WAS run that way at Aqueduct from 1963-’67.

Of those options, Dec. 5 looms to be the best option because it likely would be when NYRA could have fans, however, there is another option that I think needs to be seriously looked at that may very well prove to be the best option for everyone that has NOTHING to do with attempting to preserve the Triple Crown as it is run traditionally for this year (though that would be a side benefit), but something that is far bigger than the Sport of Kings or ALL of sports for that matter:

Two years ago, I wrote that the 2020 Breeders’ Cup should have been awarded to Del Mar with the BC pushed back to Thanksgiving Weekend. That had to do specifically with the 2020 Presidential Election, which even at that time was already looking to be the most intense election in US history. The Breeders’ Cup being a few days after that looked like it would be safe from dealing with the bulk of the immediate aftermath of that election on November 6-7 though in 2016, it took for many two full weeks (or until Thanksgiving) to fully recover from the intensity of that election and Donald Trump winning the Presidency. Then the COVID-19 Pandemic came in and has literally changed for many how they will cast their ballots for President in 2020 that adds an entire new layer to the election.

With vote-by-mail expected to be much more widely used for the 2020 election by many states, in some cases exclusively where it has not been before, it could result in delays in getting vote tallies in order. That in turn could delay the result of the Presidential Election being known until at least the current weekend of The Breeders’ Cup, something neither Keeneland nor Breeders’ Cup, Ltd. signed up for when the BC was scheduled as it was for 2020. If that does happen, it could be a disaster for BC Ltd. and Keeneland for things they would have ZERO control over, especially the emotions of those who supported the candidate that LOSES the 2020 Presidential Election. There are many who think things could get VERY UGLY in the streets in the immediate period after the election results are known regardless of who wins. This is something BC Ltd. never had to consider even being possible before the Pandemic fully hit in March.

With that in mind, it is now likely in the best interests of EVERYONE in the sport if the Breeders’ Cup is moved back one month to the weekend of December 4-5. Obviously, that is NOT an ideal weather situation for Keeneland that is not designed for winter weather (it usually races in early-to-mid spring and early-to-mid-fall), but it is now likely the lesser evil for Keeneland as Lexington could be dealing with fallout from the election during the Breeders’ Cup no one could have realistically anticipated when it was awarded to Keeneland. Having it a month later after everyone has had time to absorb the election result probably works better.

Such a move would have one major side benefit, allowing The New York Racing Association and the sport to preserve to some degree the traditional version of the Triple Crown with The Belmont Stakes on October 24, 31 or November 7 depending on whether or not NBC can convince Notre Dame to change the start time of its October 31 game against Duke to most likely a 7:00 PM Eastern Time kickoff OR move the game to NBCSN. Unlike with Western Michigan, Duke is a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference that Notre Dame also competes in as a member in all sports except football (Notre Dame plays five football games against ACC opponents each year as part of it’s deal to be a member for other sports). As the ACC has plenty of full-national telecasts, this would not be nearly as important as is the case for the MAC to be on NBCm so Duke might be so inclined to allow the game to be moved to NBCSN. Otherwise, October 24, which would have the Belmont Stakes three weeks after the Preakness as it normally would be would likely become the date and even possibly allow for one final prep before the Breeders’ Cup for horses racing in the Belmont on November 14 if the Breeders’ Cup were December 4-5.

For all involved in the sport, this is what I would now be looking at doing in light of a slew of things that have nothing to do with Horse Racing or sports at all for that matter but nonetheless something Breeders’ Cup, Ltd. should have considered looking at even before the Preakness date was announced. In light of what has since happened after this post originally was written with the protests and rioting that have taken place in the death of George Floyd (one that were it not for the Pandemic that already postponed the Belmont Stakes would have now resulted in such given curfews in place in New York City for the rest of the original Belmont Stakes week), Breeders’ Cup, Ltd. needs to take a serious look at getting the Breeders’ Cup moved back to either Thanksgiving weekend or the weekend after as with the political climate being what it is, even before the rioting and protests many had already been predicting the immediate period after the election results are known would be very ugly no matter who won. This reinforces that view.

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