The Pelican Brief?

Since we now have seen the scary Pelican mascot we thought it appropriate to repost this story from last year. 

By Dave Trausneck @trausneck

New Orleans appears to enjoy a good laugh… or maybe they were too drunk to realize their NBA franchise is about to have the worst name in the history of professional sports.

PELICAN-BRIEF

Team owner Tom Benson and his wife Gayle apparently want a team name to reflect the state of Louisiana.  So when David Stern calls out “With the 5th pick in the 2013 NBA Draft, the New Orleans Pelicans select…”

95% of those watching will start laughing. 4.5% will throw their Abita beer at the television.  The other half-percent will be Anthony Davis’ unibrow furrowing in disgust and calling Adam Silver’s office demanding a three-team trade sending him to Miami in exchange for 3,000 copies of “The Pelican Brief” on VHS, cash considerations and an immediate investigation into who killed Justices Rosenberg and Jensen.

The Pelicans. Nothing strikes fear into the hearts of opposing players like a water bird with a beak like Glen Quagmire’s nose.

With an ode to the 1993 movie starring Denzel Washington and Julia Roberts, this needs a little bit of history to explain.

The Brown Pelican is the state bird of Louisiana and “Pelicans” was the former name of the city’s minor league baseball team from 1887-1959 and 1977. It’s worth noting that Benson owned the rights to the name Pelicans.

It’s normal for sports franchises to honor the history of their roots. Maybe Benson has salt left in his mouth from when the Jazz picked up and moved to Salt Lake City decades ago and kept the name.  Benson and his wife would be better off renaming the team the Hurricanes than the Pelicans.  Even the Sugarcanes sounds sweeter than the Pelicans.  The New Orleans Corruption could probably steal a few votes in a public naming contest.

But Benson might have to put in a call to White & Blazevich to settle the score.

And if all else fails… season ticket holders can look forward to posing pictures with this hanging around their kids. http://www.starcostumes.com/lgimages/MU42155.jpg

The Rules Apply…Kinda.

By Dave Trausneck @Trausneck

In January, Sideline Signals highlighted the Charlotte’s Web of professional leagues, Major League Soccer; and the league’s confusing player system.

For the sake of this article, and possibly your sanity, you’ll want to take a few minutes to jot a few notes before you proceed further.  Oh, and take and Advil prior… save yourself the headache later.

MLS PLAYER MOVEMENTS

Since that article, some of Major League Soccer’s best players past and present decided the rules may not apply to them… and the league appears to be ok with that.  Reason being, they don’t want to play for the club that currently holds their rights.  And it’s turned into a blinking match between the league and its players.

Gomez and Rogers

We start in Kansas City who currently owns the rights to United States National Team forward Herculez Gomez. Gomez currently plays for Santos Laguna in Mexico, but stated he wants to come back to the U.S. and play.

Backtracking for a minute, KC offered Gomez a raise, but it wasn’t near what he could get on the foreign market, so he took his talents South of the Border.  But, because KC offered something, they get to retain his rights.  The former LA Galaxy and pre-MLS Seattle Sounder stated he may enjoy playing in Seattle if he returns to MLS, but he doesn’t understand the whole cluster of who owns his rights.  He even had an exchange with MLS Commissioner Don Garber over Twitter about it.

By rule, if Gomez returned to the league, anyone that wants him would have to trade compensation to KC for him.

It’s a similar situation for former USMNT player Robbie Rogers.  Rogers recently came out and announced he’s gay.  A staggering admission that made plenty of headlines, but after the dust cleared, Rogers started training with the LA Galaxy.  Rogers, who grew up in Southern California, admitted he could return to soccer (he retired earlier this year when he announced he was gay), but only in the right situation.  In recent interviews, he said he felt better about being in Los Angeles since he has more family in that area, and could draw strength from their support.

Rogers’ rights are owned by the Chicago Fire who acquired them in a way that’s not easy to find on the Internet, and also not easy to explain.  Leaving that to the side, like Gomez, if LA wanted Rogers to play for them, they would have to work out a trade with Chicago to make it work.

While neither of these players have broken any sort of agreement with the league, or the clubs that own their rights… it’s starting to create a sticky situation for the rest of the teams in the league.  Why is it that teams like New York and Los Angeles seem to get first crack at the top talent? It’s no secret MLS wants to put its biggest stars in the biggest television markets. But for league fairness, is it wise business?  Sporting KC is one of the top clubs in MLS right now, and Chicago is a very large market in its own right.  It appears we may be on the verge of the “Robbie Rule” or the “Herc Rule,” like we had the “Beckham rule.” 

Major League Soccer seems to favor the top clubs, then, they come up with a rule the following year that “other” teams can follow.  Oh, Landon Donovan wants to play for LA?  We’ll allow it, and next year every team can have not one, but TWO Designated Players.  Oh, you want to add Robbie Keane too?  Ok, well, we’ll have 3 Designated Players for the clubs next year.  New York you want Thierry Henry, Rafa Marquez and Tim Cahill.  Ok, we’ll make that happen.

Below is a list of the clubs and their “guaranteed compensation for players.”  Notice a trend among the top 3 teams and who “usually” gets crack at top stars who want to play in the U.S.?  Kudos to NY, the Galaxy and the Sounders; they found a way to game the system in their favor.

NYR         $10,860,960
LAG         $9,685,263
SEA          $5,958,813
MTL         $5,288,700
VAN         $4,809,278
TOR         $4,710,844
CHI          $4,333,357
FCD         $4,244,860
DCU        $3,906,065
PHI          $3,832,575
SKC          $3,783,882
HOU        $3,648,640
RSL          $3,646,402
CLB          $3,617,001
POR         $3,564,501
NER         $3,476,086
SJE           $3,371,908
COL         $3,371,325
CHV         $2,607,146

It’s no wonder top players want to go to those 3 clubs.  They want to get paid.  But, if Major League Soccer wants to get serious about their player system, and they want to make sure it’s a level playing field for all clubs.  They’d look at some of these recent cases of players just wanting to go to a club because they “feel” like it.

It sets a dangerous precedent for the league moving forward and could be a major roadblock for the league’s development and potential expansion either to New York for a second team, or Orlando as an expansion franchise.

A Tale of Two Mid-Majors

By Dave Trausneck @Trausneck

Those who know me well know I’m an avid fan of “The West Wing.” In season 4 during the episode “20 Hours in America,” White House speechwriter Sam Seaborn took credit from the daughter of White House Chief of Staff Leo McGarry for an enthralling speech about domestic terrorism and how it makes Americans strive for greater achievements to prove our morals and our beliefs are right. Sam said, “Good writers borrow from other writers. Great ones just steal outright.”

That’s a long walk for an opening line of a sports piece. So with an ode to all the great writers before me, I open with:

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.

In the Spring of 2006 the College of Charleston parted ways with then-head coach Tom Herrion. The Cougars’ first coach since the John Kresse era led CofC to an NIT berth, and a Great Alaska Shootout victory by beating both Oklahoma State and Villanova during his tenure.

But to Cougar faithful, 17-11 wasn’t going to cut it.  Neither was losing consistently to what was once thought of as inferior teams.  Squads like East Tennessee State, UT Chattanooga, Wofford and an emerging Davidson would be seen as elite programs in the Southern Conference.  The Cougars’ were pegged back to the level as everyone else.  A change was needed.

Enter Gregg Marshall.  The then-Head coach for Winthrop in Rock Hill, South Carolina guided the Eagles to consecutive Big South titles, NCAA Tournament appearances, and a national ranking.  In him, Cougar fans saw a former assistant coach, and protégé of John Kresse ready to take Charleston back to its status as a mid-major powerhouse.

From Mashable.com
From Mashable.com

As an assistant for Charleston, Marshall helped the Cougars to an NCAA Tournament in 1994 and NIT berths in 1995 and 1996.  On several occasions, the Cougars earned a national ranking.

On June 28, 2006, the College of Charleston formally announced Gregg Marshall was leaving Winthrop to return to his roots.  He would make the three-hour drive down I-77 turning onto I-26 in Columbia. He would take the Meeting Street exit on his way to 66 George Street and a building that’s been around since the guns of Fort Moultrie fired on Fort Sumter.

Marshall said all the right things. It felt right.

The next day the Cougars basketball community woke up with a hangover the length of East Bay Street.  Marshall had a change of heart.  He would return to Winthrop.

All Marshall did the following season was take Winthrop to an undefeated conference record and another spot in the Big Dance. In the Tournament, the 11-seed Eagles upset 6-seed Notre Dame before falling to 3-seed Oregon in the second round.

As for Charleston, they hired Bobby Cremins out of his Hilton Head retirement community.  Cremins had some success recruiting, landing Andrew Goudelock who ended up playing in the NBA, and remains one of the top performers in the NBA D-League.  Charleston made consecutive appearances in the SoCon finals, but could never make that push to the Tournament.  The team’s last tournament appearance was 1999, and this writer was still at least eight months away from selecting the school as my college.

Marshall left Winthrop for Wichita State following the 2006-2007 season.  The Shockers just had a run of tremendous success under Mark Turgeon.  They made the Sweet 16 in 2006, and the school needed to fill the void and keep Wichita State’s status as an elite mid-major program. Enter Marshall.

On March 23, 2011 the two worlds collided.  The Cougars traveled to Wichita to face the Shockers in the NIT.  The game stayed close, until the Shockers started pressing Goudelock in the second half, and forced several turnovers.  The Shockers pulled away for an 82-75 victory.  The Shockers continue to pull away today.

In the 2012-2013 season, the Cougars played what has become an average Cougars season over the past 5 years.  Solid enough to have a marginally-nice season, but fall one game short to Davidson (or another SoCon team) in the conference tournament.

Wichita State did not have a banner Missouri Valley Conference season.  They lost 6 conference games, and lost to top-seed Creighton in the MVC Championship game.  But as Creighton got bounced from the Dance, all Wichita State did was knock off number-one seed Gonzaga, an overmatched LaSalle squad, and number-two seed Ohio State to reach the Final Four in Atlanta… a four-and-a-half mile drive from Charleston.

So while many people in Charleston have a post-celebratory beer from the annual Cooper River Bridge Run on April 6th… John Kresse will greet his former assistant at the Georgia Dome as the Shockers face Louisville.

In a comment to the press earlier this week, Kresse said, “I didn’t have a ticket or a bed, but he invited me to Atlanta and to have a spot in his hotel.”

“That’s where I will happily be, supporting the Shockers.”

Kresse’s main office for the College of Charleston is right next to TD Arena, at the corner of Meeting and George Streets.  A corner Marshall knows too well.

Back to School Goes Old School

By Dave Trausneck @trausneck

It’s the 1992-1993 school year. You’re the envy of your friends because you’re rockin’ a Starter jacket for the Charlotte Hornets. You’re the man. That teal and purple schwag make you feel like you just scored a date with the prom queen.

HORNETS

Fast forward 20 years. That jacket 17 years removed from a donation to the local Goodwill store gets revived in all its glory. Starter announced they are bringing back the satin jackets that rose to prominence in the 1980’s and 1990’s.

starter jacket ad

For most kids in white suburbia, starter jackets were their first foray into hip-hop gear. Before flat brims were widely acceptable, if you had a black Raiders satin jacket, you were tough. You saw the Fresh Prince and DJ Jazzy Jeff sportin’ the gear. Before that it was RUN-DMC.

RUNDMC

You didn’t have to listen to NWA or rap to wear one. It was cool. Nordstrom started selling them. I know; I got one as a Christmas present in 1992. Somewhere there’s a picture of me wearing one with a bowl haircut.

And then the wheels fell off. Besides every white kid in the burbs getting one, they became the “norm” for MLB pitching staffs… and rotations like Atlanta’s with Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, Steve Avery and the 5th guy that never seemed to catch on would always be seen on Braves TBS baseball would be seen every night spitting sunflower seeds wearing those jackets. The jackets weren’t just street style anymore. Into the closet they go to gather dust.

braves starter jacket

But like all good things retro, Starter revived the iconic jacket, and with good reason. So
much of street style now derives from early 90’s hip-hop. Ok, Reebok Pumps might never come back (although I wish they would for a hot minute, just so I can buy one to collect), but the Starter jacket was a staple.

The trick was, the jacket was simple. No crazy swirl patterns or progressive striping. A solid jacket with a logo and that S with a star on the left cuff, that’s all the jacket needed. Simple enough that it could translate to this generation, and people wouldn’t confuse it with a Members Only jacket that lived past its prime.

The jacket won’t be released until later in 2013 (Fall is the rumor), and it’s only fitting. Because when the kids go back to school, you can take your friends to school in the style department.

MLS Player Movements in 12 Easy Steps

Image

By Dave Trausneck @trausneck

Sideline Signals recently highlighted the recent comments by FIFA President Sepp Blatter and his criticism of Major League Soccer.  Blatter said it’s been 18 years since the United States hosted the World Cup and the country still does not have a strong professional league.

But it’s not for a lack of ways a player can join the league.  A simple glance of MLS’ roster rules for 2012, and you may need more than a high word score on your SAT to understand the complexities of MLS as compared to the rest of the world.

The more notable professional leagues around the world have a simplistic way of dealing with player movement.

They are…

  1. Signing a youth player into their academy and developing him from a young age.
  2. Paying a transfer fee to another club to acquire the rights to a player. (For example, Real Madrid paying Manchester United 80 million British Pounds in 2009 for Christiano Ronaldo.)
  3. Loaning a player out to another club. (Often done by bigger clubs with massive rosters and good players who are not getting as much playing time.  They loan players to smaller clubs in lower divisions, with certain stipulations.)

Major League Soccer is different, and possibly because the league owns all the player contracts, not the club.  Here’s how players may join a MLS club

1. SuperDraft

(Most of the eligible players are the top collegiate seniors, and some top underclassmen known as Generation adidas players.)

2. Expansion Draft

(Only done when a team joins MLS, like Portland, Vancouver and Montreal in the past few seasons)

3. Allocation Ranking

(Teams are given a ranking in reverse order from the previous season’s finish. When a US Men’s National Team player leaves a foreign league to play in MLS, the teams with the worst record the year before get first crack in acquiring the player.

4. Designated Players

(Players like David Beckham, Thierry Henry and Robbie Keane command high salaries. In order to lure them to MLS, the league allows teams to only count a fraction of that salary toward the team’s salary cap.  The league has to pay the rest, which can be in the millions.)

5. Player trades between MLS clubs

6. Discovery claims

(Clubs may make a “discovery claim” on a player who does not have an MLS contract, and are not part of the league’s allocation ranking.  In short, this allows teams to call “dibs” on a player.

7. Homegrown player

(Similar to international clubs signing a youth player, this allows MLS clubs to sign the top youth players in their area and get around the draft process.

8. Re-entry draft

(Players who no longer have a MLS club to play for can re-enter the league with a different team through the re-entry draft.)

9. Claim player off MLS waiver.

10. Weighted lottery

(Generation adidas players who sign with MLS after the draft can join a team through a lottery. Teams with worse records have a better chance. The most recent example was Portland winning the lottery for Mobi Fehr. The other two teams in the lottery were San Jose and Seattle.)

11. Extreme hardships

12. Injury Replacements

(Both of these are available to clubs when their rosters are extremely depleted due to injuries.)

This complex set of rules isn’t to suggest MLS has to bend over backwards just to field a viable league.  Merely, it suggests league officials who oversee competition have to work harder to make sure the league has parity, and the same teams are not the only teams competing for a championship year after year.

Of note, former Real Salt Lake Forward Robbie Findley was released by Nottingham Forrest last week which clears his way back to MLS. Although the Portland Timbers hold his rights they apparently traded them back to Real Salt Lake. Everyone paying attention?

Why Chip Kelly Isn’t Right For The NFL

By Dave Trausneck @trausneck

A few days after Christmas, my father and I were riding around in his car straddling the state line between North and South Carolina when he asked me if Chip Kelly was leaving Oregon.

About three heartbeats later I said, “no.”

When asked why, I told my father that I had a pretty good hunch that Kelly would stay in Eugene, because we went down a similar road last year, and I don’t think his offense would parlay into success in the National Football League.

Chip Kelly-Oregon

Much has been said over the past few days about Kelly’s “blur” offense at Oregon, and how versions of it is currently being used by the New England Patriots and Washington Redskins… and Kelly “wins” no matter where he goes.  Could Chip Kelly win in the NFL?  Yes.  Enough to mirror his success at Oregon?  No.Here’s a list of reasons why Kelly can’t win at Cleveland, Buffalo or Philadelphia like he can in Eugene.  I’ll go into more details below.

  1. Recruiting vs. the Draft
  2. Speed in college vs. speed in the NFL
  3. Coaching teenagers vs. coaching 5-8 year NFL veterans
  4. He can’t be his obscure, quirky self with members of the media in the NFL or with any of those fan bases.

The University of Oregon football program has several exclusive perks.  Most notable, it’s the school Phil Knight launched into the stratosphere.  When 16 and 17-year-old boys watch the Ducks on television, they see hundreds of jersey combinations and Nike EVERYWHERE.  It’s flash, it’s 80’s-era Showtime at the Forum, and Chip is like Magic running the break dishing to Worthy or Kareem.

Like Tampa Bay last year, I believe Kelly realized the infrastructure in Buffalo, Cleveland and Philadelphia could not sustain his type of offense… and he would be out in three years at either location.  Brandon Weeden, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Nick Foles cannot run Kelly’s offense as well as Jeremiah Masoli, Darron Thomas or Marcus Mariota.  The three former quarterbacks are better for the NFL than for college… the three latter quarterbacks are better for Chip than the NFL.

Kelly’s offense relies on speed more than anything else.  In his UPS commercials, he notes the offense includes many simple patterns, but he emphasizes speed.  The “blur” offense can work in college where talent is somewhat diluted, but not in the NFL.  Right now, the spread offense is a gimmick that keeps defenses on their toes between multiple spread formations and 50-pass attempt per game quarterbacks.

Oregon’s Win The Day motto resonates in young men better than 28-year-olds who have three homes and three cars.  His message serves as a viable life lesson for an 18-year-old who just became eligible to vote, and who will soon play on national television for the first time.  The message gets drowned out in a room of men who have had 3 coaches in their career.  Motivating young men is much simpler than changing a grown man.

If you’ve ever listened to Coach Kelly talk to a reporter, you know he’s an odd fella.  He speaks differently, acts differently… and can be best described as “obscure.”  It fits perfect in Eugene.  It’s an obscure part of America… and he gets to fly under the radar of bigger national media on the East Coast.  It’s tougher to stay up and watch the end of an Oregon game at 2am than it is to finish watching the SEC game of the week that ends at 7pm.

Each city that showed interest in Kelly has a rabid fan base that does not tolerate failure.  While success in Buffalo, Cleveland and Philadelphia has been tough to find the past few years, you need a coach who understands that and can speak to the blue-collar nature of their core fan base.  Kelly has a frosty relationship at best with boosters in Eugene.  It’s a relationship that could also put a strain on the fan base.

Chip Kelly will probably make the jump from Oregon to the NFL one day.  But the time isn’t right, and it may never be right.

As one woman in Portland put it, “If he (Kelly) wants to do the game a service, keep teaching.”

Missed Out On “Movember?” You’re Covered

By Dave Trausneck
Mustaches are as en vogue as spread formations in college football. Chances are you’ll make the cameo at a friend’s holiday get together and someone will have those mustaches on a stick that you and a few choice people will take pictures with and upload to Instagram.
But the Lexington Legends, the Kansas City Royals’ new Class A team in the South Atlantic League gave you a chance to play the ultimate one-upsmanship… or just show that mustaches belong in places other than a coffee shop in Portland, Seattle or Brooklyn.
Their brand new away uniforms include a green cap with a mustache logo only on the front.
 MustacheHat_resizeA logo like that can only make Tom Selleck, a sausage racer in Milwaukee or an 1890s barber blush.
More often than not, minor league teams get caught up in a web of heinous designs, such as this  Classic_Frog_resize,this graybill_resize,
this hwl-resize.

And occasionally, we see examples of professional catastrophes such as thisBARKELY-RESIZE

Never-mind the Legends’ primary and tertiary caps could pass as a ode to mid-1990s WCW or WWF logo type, it’s this stroke of genius on the mustache cap that makes the whiskers stand up above your upper lip.
The bromance over these flat brims (available in fitted and adjustable) seems to have spread from Wildcat country to at least 25 other states (according to team store employees). And if you’re looking to don the dapper cap in your neck of the woods this Christmas season, the adjustable version may be the only option you’ll be guaranteed to stuff in your stocking.
But the question come First Pitch 2013… will anyone get mustache rides?