May 22, 2014
I rarely write about horse racing in these pages but I had to spend some time talking about Nasalgate. Funny how every scandal these days gets a name and that the name ends with “gate.”
Anyway, Nasalgate centers around a horse, California Chrome, who has won the first two legs of horse racing’s Triple Crown. All that is left for the three-year old thoroughbred is to win the Belmont in two weeks.
The overriding story after California Chrome won last weekend’s Preakness is that the horse wears a nasal strip. Since nasal strips were not allowed for race horses in the state of New York, Nasalgate was born.
The New York Racing Association reacted quickly to the controversy by informing California Chrome trainer Art Sherman that the horse will be allowed to wear his nasal strip when he attempts to win horse racing’s Triple Crown on June 7 in the Belmont Stakes. In other words, there was no way that NYRA officials were going to turn away from tens of millions in revenue (the potential betting handle on a Triple Crown Saturday) over a piece of equipment that’s allowed in every other racing jurisdiction and is available to every other horse in the field. There was no way they were going to risk not having the horse run in the race since we have not had a Triple Crown winner in 35 years.
How important is California Chrome’s nasal strip you ask? Did you know that Chrome won only two of his first six races through November 2013. Then at the suggestion of Martin, Sherman fitted him with the nasal strip. He’s won six consecutive races since, including the Santa Anita Derby, Kentucky Derby and Preakness.
NFL Draft Recap
I did not spend much time last week discussing the NFL Draft. I did talk about how the Carolina Panthers did. Here are some other thoughts I had regarding the draft.
First of all, the television ratings were the highest ever. I have to believe that Johnny Manziel played a large part in the ratings. Where would Johnny go was the question for weeks prior to the draft. It was like a reality show and it proved that Manziel moves the meter. All of a sudden, the Cleveland Browns are relevant again.
Speaking of Manziel, you know Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones struggled with the decision not to select the former Texas A&M Heisman Trophy winner. The Cowboys, for better or worse, have cast their lot with Tony Romo at quarterback. Jones finally realized that his team needs much more then a quarterback. And Romo is a top-ten signalcaller. Besides, Romo has one of the biggest contracts in the history of the NFL. If the Cowboys were to somehow part ways with him, through release, retirement or trade, the amount accelerated onto the Cowboys’ salary cap would be a staggering $42 million. Manziel would have been a celebrity-in-waiting behind an incumbent quarterback who, for at least the next two years, is unmovable.
I was somewhat shocked that the New England Patriots spent a second round pick on quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. Are the Pats starting to wonder about Brady? And Garoppolo was expected to be around in round three. Though New England makes the playoffs on an annual basis, it has been a long time since they won a Super Bowl. Using a second round pick on a quarterback usually means the franchise wants the draftee to start in a year or two.
Though there were hundreds of stories out there about Jadeveon Clowney not ending up being the first pick in the draft, I feel he was slotted for the top pick for over a year now. Clowney has been ready to play in the NFL for two years now. Clowney will be a difference maker down in Houston.
The demise of the runningback continues. In the past three drafts, the top running back selected has fallen from 3rd (Trent Richardson in 2011) to 37th (Giovanni Bernard last year) to 54th this year with the Titans’ selection of Bishop Sankey. Tennessee now downsizes costs at the position from Chris Johnson who was scheduled to make $8 million before being released, to Sankey, who is scheduled to make $3.7 million over four years. Johnson was released and later picked up by the New York Jets. The thinking now in the NFL is that runningbacks only produce for a few short years and that those few years are early in their careers. Why waste early round selections and money on them when you can take them later and pay them less.
Unlike the veteran market, the rookie running back devaluation is not due to “tread on the tire.” Indeed, rookie contracts are the “golden years” for running backs. Time will tell who among this crop will receive a lucrative second contract.
Charlotte Hornets Are Back
The Charlotte Bobcats are no more. It became official on Tuesday. That was when the franchise officially announced that the franchise has been renamed the Charlotte Hornets.
The change was timed to coincide with the draft lottery. While Charlotte was not represented at the proceedings in New York, it did gain the ninth pick in the upcoming draft after the Detroit Pistons were bumped back within the lottery that saw the Cleveland Cavaliers land the first overall pick.
One reason fans remember the good old days of the original Charlotte Hornets is that the franchise posted a 293-511 in 10 seasons after the team was renamed the Bobcats.
The team also announced that the franchise would reclaim its past Hornets history. This means the 1988-2002 Charlotte Hornets, as well as the 10-year lifespan of the Charlotte Bobcats, will now factor into this franchise’s all-time stats and records. Whitfield also said he intends to bring Bobby Phills’ retired jersey, which is hanging in New Orleans’ Smoothie King Center, back to Charlotte.