The Trend Is The New Normal

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard


Last March I wrote a blog at the rash of younger players retiring from the NFL. The most notable of which being San Francisco 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis. Well as training camps get under way there have been another slew of quality players (if not Hall of Fame candidates) 30 and under who have decided that another season on the gridiron just isn’t worth it.

We all know about the high profile retirements this off-season of Peyton Manning and Charles Woodson. Those were expected but Charles Johnson, aka Megatron, hanging it up along with Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch came as a shock to some. They were joined by wide receiver Greg Jennings, linebackers Jerod Mayo and AJ Tarpley, defensive backs Walter Thurmond and Husain Abdullah, offensive linemen Phil Loadholt and Eugene Monroe just to name a few.

The oldest member of the group listed outside of Manning and Woodson, was just 30 years old. As the video above shows, some people just can’t believe that 30 years olds like Lynch and Johnson are walking away from millions of dollars.

Everyone has a reason but as Tarpley stated in his piece with MMQB, it was about concussions. It is a reasonable conclusion to make that with all of the publicity surrounding CTE that it is influencing players in their late 20’s, veterans, to take the money and run.

Last March I said that we will have to wait and see if this was a trend. Over a year later I would say that it isn’t a trend but a fact of life moving forward. Yes players like Manning and Woodson will still be around but overall NFL teams should expect players to give them between five to seven years of service before they hang it up.

While this seems like a ‘crisis’ for the NFL it really isn’t. Back in 2011 an NFL study said that the average NFL career was around seven years. The league and teams should plan on players pushing very hard for a bigger and bigger signing bonus after their rookie contracts are up and that in all reality shouldn’t be coming as a great shock to anyone in the NFL.

The NFL is smart. They will adjust salary caps and such to fit what is going to be the ‘new normal’ for the sport.

EXTRA READING:

What it’s like to retire from the NFL

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Sports Hacking And It’s Risks

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard


Former St Louis Cardinals Scouting Director Chris Correa was finally sentenced today for his role in the 2014 hack of the Houston Astros. He faces 46 months behind bars and a fine of over $250k. It seems pretty harsh but it raises a bigger question which is how secure are sports organizations data?

I wrote about this issue last year when it came to light. I wanted to know two fundamental things; 1) how does a team go about protecting it’s data and 2) if data was taken did it truly provide a measurable competitive advantage? In this case the federal prosecutors claimed that it cost the Astros $1.7 million. Does $1.7 million equal 46 months in prison? I think that is very much up for debate.

Some may feel that the sentence is harsh but when you look at the amount of statistical data floating around in MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL, and MLS and how much teams have come to rely on that data to select and identify potential season ticket holders, then one could argue that this sentence provides a deterrent to other individuals from attempting a similar thing. It doesn’t provide a deterrent to outside actors.

The fact is that we as a society do not know the boundaries yet for cyber crime which is what Correa was convicted of. In this case it would appear to be a law enforcement issue as data was take from a database without the owners knowledge or approval and it involved US citizens. However what if this was similar to the Sony hack? How does that change the game? (Pun intended.) Is this then just a law enforcement issue?

Former Gen. Michael Hayden talked about some of this in presentation this past January (pick it up around the 15 minute mark and no you can’t see his slides). What if, and yes we are in hypotheticals here, but what if Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban made a negative remark Russia that Russia took personally? Would that put the Mavericks database at risk? Would it put their season ticket holders information at risk? We already have precedent with the Sands Casino hack back in 2014 of a high profile individual making remarks that the Iranians didn’t like. You saw what happened there.

What responsibility did the Astros have to secure their own data? Doesn’t the blame, in part, fall on them? Yes Correa had to make the choice to infiltrate their network however it does appear that once inside he had full reign. One could argue that the Astros should have had an extra layer of authentication like an RSA key in order to gain access to their proprietary network.

Sports organizations with all their data and high profiles need to start looking at themselves in the context of everything else. While this case is about gaining access to player information and potential player acquisitions, it raises a much bigger question about sports franchises level as a target to outside actors. What if China decided to hack the New York Yankees or the Dallas Cowboys and release all of the season ticket holder info? Two iconic American brands hacked because the US Government did something that the Chinese didn’t like.

Impossible? It’s really not that far off. In any event Correa isn’t a terrorist or a state sponsor of one. He isn’t an Eastern European criminal gang but he is going to prison none the less. And one last point, neither of these teams have won the World Series in the last few years so is 46 months really a fitting punishment?

The Twitter Streaming Plan

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard


PAC 12By the looks of it Twitter is trying to become the ultimate mobile live streaming sports platform. They surprised everybody by getting the rights to stream the NFL’s Thursday night games this fall. Now they have grabbed the rights to the PAC-12.

It’s not all wine and roses however. The deal is apparently mainly focused on Olympic sports like swimming, volleyball, baseball, etc. The football and basketball games are apparently off limits with their current deals.

TWITTERIt is still a nice step to see and one of only a couple of deals that Twitter is working on. They recently signed on CBSN and Bloomberg but Tuner, MLS and MLB could be right around the corner.

It would be a major coup for Twitter to bag multiple sports league and be a huge benefit to the cord cutters like myself. While Twitter doesn’t give you the ’10-ft experience’, providing live game content on the computer or mobile device might just be good enough. It also really helps them corner the market on the younger sports demo.

Time will tell how this all shakes out and if Twitter even has the infrastructure to support such moves. The speed at which they are moving is a great sign that they may have this figured out. It would be even better if the PAC-12 just went ahead and streamed all of their content but at this point let’s take what we can get.

The Dark Hype

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard


Ask around baseball and just about everyone will tell you that New York Mets pitcher Matt Harvey has some amazing stuff. His stuff was so good that many felt it was only a matter of time before he won a Cy Young or two. His potential was so high that ESPN’s E:60 did an hour long show on him even though he had never pitched a full major league season and was coming off of Tommy John surgery. Now with his season over due to another injury to his throwing arm it’s time to ask, should Matt Harvey been put up on the pedestal in the first place?

Harvey went down with a season ending arm injury this past week. It’s his second season ending injury in his very short major league career. Questions abound but it is pretty clear that he will never be the show stopping pitcher people made him out to be.

Here are the facts: Harvey has a combined 29-28 record as a starting pitcher. While he has some impressive stats like a career 2.97 era and a 4.41 strikeout to walk ratio, he has pitched only one full major league season (2015) and has only one complete game in his career.

With this in mind, it makes you wonder why ESPN’s E:60 would dedicate an entire show to a player who has yet to play an entire major league season.

ESPN weren’t the only ones of course, Sports Illustrated put him on the cover back in 2013.  The hype around him was palpable.

Now, he starts over again as he undergoes surgery.

The rhetorical question is, would Harvey have received the same coverage if he wasn’t in New York? The answer is no. If he came up in the Houston Astros organization no one would given a damn.

Madison Bumgarner and Felix Hernandez have each thrown over 200 innings in one of Harvey’s major league seasons. Clayton Kershaw isn’t far behind (he only threw 198.1 innings in 2014 but threw 232 in 2015) and neither is the Chicago White Sox Chris Sale or the Washington Nationals Max Scherzer.  Where is their hour long special and over the top coverage? This group has won World Series titles, the Cy Young award, thrown no-hitters and perfect games.

Matt Harvey hasn’t.

Look Matt Harvey sells. He’s an interesting guy and makes a good story in the biggest media market in the world. This means that he makes media companies money but that doesn’t make him a great pitcher. The media put Harvey up on a pedestal, labeled him ‘The Real Dark Knight’ and they got it wrong. It’s not the first time it has happened and it certainly won’t be the last.

If you are going to be given this kind of coverage he should have to earn it. You should be carrying your team to championships, winning awards, and making All-Star teams. If you do this that means you are shutting down the opposing teams best hitters. It means you end your teams four game losing streak during the dog days of summer. It means that you go to the manager and say, ‘yeah I can pitch on two days rest’ when it’s game seven of the World Series and then go shut the opposing team down.

That’s when you get the big media coverage. Not before.

None of this is Matt Harvey’s fault. He would much rather be out on the mound showing everyone that he is better than the pitcher everyone thought he would be. But he’s not and media is going to let him know it. The media rushed to judgement and put another young athlete on a pedestal he didn’t belong on. It’s them who should be having season ending surgery and not Harvey.

BAM is for Billions

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard


BAMIt wasn’t a secret that Disney was looking to take a stake in MLBAM (BAM) but the end number may surprise some folks. According to Bloomberg Disney is buying 33% of BAM for $3.5 billion with an option to buy more in a few years. That is a valuation of over $10 billion. Not bad for an entity that doesn’t even turn a profit yet.

A few years ago Fast Company did a profile on BAM and within that article there was an estimated IPO price for BAM in 2005. That number was $2.5 billion so the company has essentially increased around $8 billion over the last 11 years. If you did some loose math based on that article you could see that BAM was more or less breaking even.

That’s not to say that MLBAM isn’t worth a $10 billion valuation. They are a white label solution as their CEO Bob Bowman would say. They are the streaming backend for MLB, WWE, NHL, Watch ESPN and have even done the Super Bowl. They made bets that paid off and with this purchase by Disney, it puts them in a position to stay in the lead when it comes to live video streaming.

Disney for it’s part made another shrewd investment. It’s no secret that their cash cow, ESPN, is having to adjust to the new realities of cord cutting. Enter an investment by it’s parent company and Disney has created an A to Z revenue stream when it comes to over the top video. It’s like selling the car and the gas that goes in it.

This is a very smart purchase by Disney. They have the cash to do it and it’s very well timed. It’s no wonder that the Disney board wants Bob Iger to stick around a bit longer. It will be interesting to see if BAM competitors like NeuLion look to cut deals or merge with CDN or network. In the meantime the only one doing better in this space is probably Amazon.com.