If your business is anything like mine every twelve months or so the head mucky-mucks come down from on high and ask for you to look into your crystal ball and tell them how many widgets you plan to sling at your faithful customer base in the next year.  It’s a ridiculous exercise when you think about it, as I can’t tell you what I’m doing Wednesday evening let alone how much my different accounts are allocating in my direction next April on their own imaginary spreadsheets.  It’s all a sick and twisted dance of the primates.  Hairless primates at that.  The whole thing is kind of batty which means it is something you can have fun with as well.  I like to think of myself as a weatherman during this process.  You need to always say that it’s going to be sunny so the viewers keep watching and come back to your channel tomorrow, but also note that there is a chance of rain to cover your butt and keep the farmers happy.  Farmers are nature’s pessimists. 

With forecasting on the brain I’d like to turn my focus to the sporting world around us and offer some insights on where things are headed based on the tea leaves I’m reading.

Women’s Soccer

I’ll admit it, I drank the kool-aid.  I was in on the Women’s World Cup and damn it, I’d do it again.  Soccer and tennis rank #1-2 in the world of women’s sports that I can watch and not ever really think, wow, this is an inferior product to the men’s version.  It sounds bad writing it, and I’m sure comes across even worse in the pixels on your screen but it’s true.  This isn’t a man-woman thing or anything like that, but there’s just a difference between the NBA and the WNBA.  There is.  Get over it.  With soccer, the vision and the passing and the fluidity are there at the highest levels regardless of the amount of testosterone on the field. 

The Women’s World Cup, which wrapped up on July 17th (this blog is nothing but timely), passed the test of my mom asking me about it during our weekly phone call.  In the world of sports, if my mom asks me about something going on then I know said subject has crossed an imaginary boundary into public consciousness.  I take this as a sign that soccer is on the come here domestically.  I’ll save a lot of space here, as well as some plagiarism laws, and point you in the direction of Bill Simmons podcast with Rob Stone to get a full hour’s take on the state of soccer today and I agree with most of what they say.  Basically I think if you throw a “USA” on the front of anyone’s jersey, regardless of the sport, there’s a very good chance I’ll stop changing the channel and will invest both my time and my interest.  Just because I am both a fan of America and soccer, and thoroughly enjoyed our young ladies going to the brink to be champions of the world, does not mean I’m going to be attending a professional women’s soccer league game next week.  The build up of the teams success in the media was all about how this will translate into the success of the women’s professional league here stateside.  Yes we have one, it’s called Women’s Professional Soccer or the WPS.  I think the performance our US National Team just put together was great for soccer and also had no lasting effect on the interest or future success of a professional version of the sport here domestically.  Does that make sense?  Good because it shouldn’t.  Kind of like the way I’m attracted to Hope Solo but also assume I would be petrified of her if I were to ever cross her.  I’m quite confident she could rip my arms off and beat me with them if prompted.  Now Alex Morgan?  I’ll take a slice of that anytime…

The NHL

Something remarkable happened the other day that did not draw nearly enough attention in the world of sports that I would like to bring to the forefront.  As the Blackhawks began their annual fan convention on Friday the 15th of this month, Stan Bowman – the Hawks General Manager – announced that the club will not be resigning Chris Campoli.  I can hear the collective so? come through the Ethernet cable now. 

Without getting into a whole history lesson here, Campoli came to the Hawks at the trade deadline and played well for the team into the playoffs but perhaps will best be remembered for being the guy who couldn’t clear the puck in overtime of game seven in Vancouver costing the Hawks the series.  Regardless of that single play, everyone seemed to be of the opinion that Campoli was going to be a big part of the Hawks defensive corps going forward, even more so after they were able to move Brian Campbell’s albatross of a contract. 

With Campoli being a restricted free agent this summer it was assumed that the Hawks would work out a long term deal with him at a reasonable price and everyone would move forward.  Things did not quite go as planned however.  I have no particular insight on these negotiations but given that the Hawks brought in Steve Montador – one would argue an equally or lesser talent than Campoli – and paid him $2.75M per year; and having gotten rid of Campbell’s salary as alluded to earlier; I’d go out on a limb and say that Chris and his agent thought they were in a pretty good negotiating spot.  I don’t know how much they asked for over how many years, but it obviously was not in line with what the Hawks were willing to spend for him.  As the two sides were headed to arbitration – a league sanctioned meeting with a neutral arbiter, who listens to both side of the negotiation and dictates a price for one year of the players service that the club can either accept or walk away from making the player a free agent for any team to sign – Stan Bowman took a stand.  Before even getting to the arbitration meeting Bowman announced that Campoli will not be a part of the team next year, arbiter be damned. 

I was in favor of resigning Campoli as I like what he brings to the table but I must say I was most impressed by Mr. Bowman throughout this process.  With cash at their disposal for the first time in two year, the Hawks held their ground and stuck to their guns as to what they were willing to spend on their #4 or 5 defenseman.  This serves as an excellent example of what is right with the Hawks and an excellent indication of their future success.  In a sport with a salary cap, the worst thing that a GM can do is overpay for talent and handcuff the team in the long run.  Talent comes and goes but getting locked into crappy contracts is the bane of any GMs existence and usually get mentioned in their obituaries.  Well done Stan Bowman, I feel like this is becoming a theme of this here website.  It’s this kind of restraint that speaks well of the NHL and its future.  You’ve got a good thing going right now NHL, water it daily and handle it with care and good things will come…

The NBA

Remember that restraint I just mentioned the NHL showing?  Well it’s exactly what the NBA is lacking.  Have you ever heard of Travis Outlaw?  If you have then you’ve got way too much time on your hands or your one of 15 New Jersey Nets fans in the world.  Congratulations either way.  Mr. Outlaw signed a 5 year $35 million dollar contract last summer with the Nets and produced a whopping 9.2 points and 4 rebounds per game last year.  Guess what?  Those numbers are just about on par with his career averages.  The next logical question is why would anyone give a player $35M over five years to suck?  It’s because the Nets panicked when they knew they weren’t going to make a LeBron James-sized splash last summer so it became a game of we have all this cash we need to spend, who wants some?  For $17M I’m willing to bet I’d stand a puncher’s chance of hanging 4pts and 2 rebound a night on the stat sheet for the Nets.  For half the price I can get you half of Travis’ production and I’d argue I’m more marketable.  I need a new agent.  The lesson however is that the NBA is currently in a lockout that is not getting nearly as much attention as the NFL did (poor marketing on their part – never be the second kid to wet the bed as you’ll only get anger and not sympathy from your audience – trust me I know) and it’s pretty much entirely due to the owners not being able to stop themselves from spending money they can’t afford to.  You’ll hear a lot of “the system is broken” talk out of the NBA – if you care to listen these next few months – but the system is a product of the owners own doing.  My prediction is this thing is going to go on a whole lot longer than the NFL’s lockout did, less people will care, their product will suffer more, and at the end of the day they’re going to end up biting off their noses to spite their faces.  The big winner will be the NHL and the English Premier League soccer as the viewing public will be looking for something to sit in front of in their living rooms during the winter months. 

As a side note I’d like to point out the irony that as the NBA player disperse around the globe to play in new markets and increase their individual “brands”, all they’re really doing is opening themselves up for injury and helping provide exposure and build fans for a league that they are currently locked out of.  When the NBA returns (it’s got to happen eventually), new Derrick Rose fans are going to buy Bulls jerseys with the name ‘Rose’ on the back and watch Bulls games that Derrick Rose plays in.  In 20 years Derrick will be retired but those people and their children will still be watching Bulls games.  I don’t understand the players logic here.

The NFL

Welcome back you selfish pricks.  I’ll be watching but I’m not happy about all the pageantry we just went through.  In the past two weeks both sides sat down and worked out the whole thing as soon as paychecks for all parties were in serious threat of being lost.  Basically this could have been done in March but both the players and the owners felt the need to drag out the entire summer tying up the federal court system and taking up valuable newspaper space over a bunch of poopy-cock.  To make matters worse, today I had to come home and tell The Wife that the Bears are not re-signing Brad Maynard.  Not cool guys.  Not cool.  Oddly enough I think her vote is still our on Mr. Culter’s situation as she is neither a fan of Kristen Cavallari nor Jay Culter.  I think as word leaks out that Jay was the dump-er in the situation he comes out a bit ahead in the race to ultimate dis-like but it’s close in her book.  They made such a good couple in that respect… 

The NFL is back and will be just fine and as popular as ever going forward.  Congratulations.

Major League Baseball

There is no such thing in Chicago this summer.  They must be on strike too.  Funny that I haven’t heard more about it…

So that’s the state of my forecast for professional sports as of this writing.  I know it’s just a bunch of guesses but this site is free and they’re as good as the ones I’m getting paid for.