Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The UFC Lawsuit, and My Thoughts

In light of the class-action suit being filed against the UFC by Cung Le, Nate Quarry and Jon Fitch, I figured I'd weigh in. I've known Nate and Jon for many years, and consider both to be class guys.

As many of you know I did production work for the UFC over the course of 6-7 years, and wrote for their magazine as well. Along the way I got to know many fighters on a very personal level, and a lot was shared between all of us. These days I'm completely uninvolved with MMA/UFC.

A number of years ago I had a conversation with a former champion about the idea of a union, about which he spoke openly to me. He had just lost his belt, but was signed to a 6 fight deal because as he claimed "they are worried I may go elsewhere." Even though they had no plans on him competing anymore. At the time we were discussing writing a book together, but chose not to do so, and this was before my book with BJ Penn. After our talk in his hotel room, he said to me, "You should represent the fighters!" I laughed it off at the time, but he continued, "You know everyone, most people like you, and you have seen what goes on..."

Cannot say I was not intrigued, nor was it the last time I heard this suggested. But it was not my place, or my journey.

I do believe the fighters should unionize for a variety of reasons, but also think it's difficult for them to do because they're not part of a league. Unless, of course, you consider the UFC a league with one owner, which on some level I think it is. But I absolutely believe these fighters, especially the best of the best, need to protect themselves longer term. Whether that takes the form of a union, or something else, I have no idea. Yet these guys need protection. Just look at the retirees in the NFL.

A union would be very difficult for UFC fighters alone, so it would have to be offered to all MMA fighters. Membership and structure would be somewhat problematic because there are so many low-level fighters filling up cards these days it would be hard to bring them all under an umbrella, although I'm sure it could be done. Which brings me to another point...

The reason there are so many low level fighters, with combatants coming in and out of the company, is because the UFC is in fact attempting to monopolize the sport. They schedule their events to coincide with every boxing match, or other promotion's event(s). Certainly they're attempting to monopolize the sport, but who can blame them? Because of this practice of having so many lackluster events, we've reached a point where fight-cards are lined with filler fights with one cherry on top. And if that cherry happens to fall off because of an injury, like when the Jon Jones / Dan Henderson event was scrapped, an entire event is cancelled. In previous years any number of undercard fights could carry a PPV, but not anymore. Again, this is because the UFC has spread it's product so thin in an attempt to keep other promotions out of the space.

Is that a monopolistic practice? Absolutely. Does that make them a monopoly? Probably not. Surely this will be part of the argument regarding a "monopoly", but I'm not lawyer.

All of this said, irrespective of the fact I think fighters need a union, is I don't think the UFC will be declared a monopoly by the Department of Justice, which is where this probably ends. I say this because of the argument surrounding the 1994 case involving Ticketmaster, wherein the Justice Department failed to bring action against a company which was much more a monopoly than the UFC, at least that's my opinion.

It was argued then that Ticketmaster didn't have a monopoly because even though they controlled a substantial number of major venues in America (the majority of them), there were still countless other venues for artists to perform at. That TM did not control a majority of concert spaces in America, even if they controlled the marquee properties, meant Pearl Jam (petitioner) had many other options, both in the selling of tickets and spaces to perform.

The same can be said in this situation. There are a number of outlets for fighters to perform, some of which are even on cable television. Considering these fighters are individual actors, they have the right to fight in any promotion, and take the risk he/she is popular enough to garner an audience, which in turn would result in higher pay. It would even result in the rise in popularity of a separate promotion.

So no, I don't think the fighters will be successful in claiming the UFC runs a MMA monopoly.

I do think it's quite possible any case made against the UFC will take a bite out of the company, and this is probably the greater point. The recent deal with Reebok was probably a bit too much to chew after a number of fighters feeling they have less earning power because of company practices. This has been happening slowly for many years.

I think one thing to look out for is the structure of fighter contracts, and whether a fighter will more easily be able to leave the UFC for another promotion, if in fact the UFC is claiming each fighter is an individual actor. The contracts are very restrictive.

In summation, I don't see the UFC being labeled a monopoly, but I do think the fighters will make gains from any suit/case going forward.


Pardon my haste in writing this. Sloppy, I know.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Coaches, Racists and Craigslist Idiots

Jim Harbaugh is a very good football coach. Is he great? That remains to be seen. All the time I hear people say he's a "great coach" because he did this, or that. BUT, the standard for competitive greatness is championships. Of which he has none.

Now I think it's quite possible he could win a championship, but the likelihood is the current window in San Francisco has closed. Would this ownership/management group allow him the time to rebuild the franchise, considering the negativity currently afflicting the team? I highly doubt it. That's why I would seriously suggest the team fire...

Trent Baalke.

Baalke is the General Manager of the Santa Clara 49ers, and the truth is he hasn't done a great job. He has done a decent job acquiring some very talented players, but his job as General Manager is to keep the team moving forward in a positive direction. This is not happening.

As it now stands he has a questionable relationship with one of the better coaches in the NFL, and that is all that matters. Yes, Baalke has other job responsibilities, but not getting along with a coach who has taken the team to 3 straight NFC Title games and one Superbowl, should be priority number 1. It is not. Instead, two camps have formed within the organization, pitting Baalke against Harbaugh.

That's not good management.

It's a lot easier to find a GM than it is to find a coach. And it's even easier to turn over GM responsibilities to the coach to avoid the conflict altogether, like the Niners did with Bill Walsh, and how the Patriots' Bill Belichick has things setup. Now maybe this results in a total meltdown, as some of Harbaugh's scouting decisions are questionable, but it's a much better move than hitting the reset button, sticking with a Trent Baalke, and finding another great coach.

You'll be looking for years.


I've been looking for some used furniture on Craigslist to avoid buying junk my future child might destroy.

Word to those who sell sofas and furniture on Craigslist for about $3,000: If someone can afford to buy a $3,000 sofa on Craigslist they are probably going to buy a new sofa. Just because you paid "$6500 for it just last year!" does not mean jack shit, other than you are a bad planner, and make poor purchasing decisions.


Kansas Gov Sam Brownback has always been someone I truly despise.

There was an article in the Sunday Times summarizing the current budget shortfall in his state, and how he prepares to deal with it. Truth of the matter is his tax policies, which usually just means tax cuts, have left the state with a massive shortfall, which seemed to only pop after he won re-election.

There has been a movement by certain fiscal conservatives in this country to "starve the beast", and that tax shortfalls are a great time to start reducing the size of the government. In a general sense, voters have tended to support this idea (at least in conservative states), but mostly in theory only. When presented with the details of what would actually be cut, that's when arms start going up in the air.

Now here's where all of this gets kinda racisty for me, and is the crux of the problem I have with many conservative politicians.

Some of the programs Governor Brownback (what an ironic name) will attempt to cut are Early Head Start, preschools, and a program that helps parents teach their children at home. These types of programs have proven to be some of the most effective programs in all of government. In Kansas it is funded by a settlement from tobacco companies. You can read all about it.

In the last demographic breakdown from 2010 from Head Start 60% of the children were either Black or Latino, and at least 30% spoke a language other than English at home. I don't know the specific demographics in his home state, but I'll take a guess and say many of the people in need don't support Brownback. Or at the very least, there has been a racist-like portrayal of the types of people in need of government programs, which is what these are.

And this is why someone like Sam Brownback has no problem cutting funds from this type of program: because they're not his voters. They are not his typical, white, conservative base. Therefore, he does not care about their well being. And because of these types of actions. Because people think it's okay to cut these programs. To create tax holes. To push the problem down the road to the next politician. All of these things, in my view, make Sam Brownback (and other like him) a racist.

To me, that's what racism looks addition to what it also looks like.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Football Makes Me Sick...Sometimes

Disclaimer: When I watch football I thoroughly enjoy it, and I watch a lot of damn football, both college and pro.

Georgia running back Todd Gurley has declared for the NFL Draft, which everyone knew was going to happen. Unfortunately, Gurley tore his ACL 2 weekends ago, while running toward the endzone. He was not hit; the thing just snapped. This happens in football all the time.

Fortunately for Todd his career won't end like say that of Gayle Sayers, who thought he just had a swollen knee (he kept playing). No, Todd will go to the NFL and make quite a bit of money. Or so we hope he does. He is the best running back in college football, and probably has been for the last 3 years.

All of this begs the question: Why did Gurley have to stay in college and abuse his body, which in turn has probably cost him millions of dollars?

There's no question Gurley was likely prepared to go to play pro football after his freshman year, and without question after his sophomore year. So why in the world would the NFL/NCAA hold him back?

I know the obvious answers, that they don't want to end up like the NBA, and that most college football players are not physically ready to handle the NFL. I get that, and it's obvious. This being the case, the likelihood is most college football players wouldn't be prepared to go to the NFL until their junior season anyway, at the very least. The number of underclassmen NFL teams would draft in the first round who would be limited. But even if it wasn't, who cares? Buyer beware, right? There would certainly be many failed prospects who came out to early, which in turn would deter them from doing so.

For the athlete it is mostly about making money. The longer they stay the more they would make, which is probably opposite in the NBA. College coaches would be less likely to play kids as freshman, which in turn would help these athletes grow physically. As it stands, some of these kids are getting physically abused by much stronger players.

By playing Todd Gurley for 3 years at Georgia the school has actually cost him money, while they have reaped millions. This is not the same in other jobs. You have a shelf life in football, especially as a running back. The more you play in college the less you'll play in the NFL. It's probably not the same with any other position in the sport, and quite frankly, it's completely unfair. Every college running back should want to redshirt.

Another great example would be Jadaveon Clowney of the Houston Texans, who played 3 years at South Carolina. During his junior year people were saying Clowney took plays off to avoid getting hurt. Can you blame him? He is going on his second knee surgery in his rookie year, in addition to other physical ailments. Imagine he had given it his all as a junior? How much money would he have stood to lose? And Clowney was the best player in college football his FRESHMAN YEAR. He is/was a freak of nature, an anomaly on the field. Why did he need to stay, and hurt his earnings?

People generally heal in basketball. Football? You know what happens.

Clowney should have taken the year off as a junior, but he should not have had to. Imagine he had to stay in college 4 years? Maybe he breaks down as a senior, and his earnings go completely in the toilet?

Greg Oden is another guy. A physical freak, who clearly broke down. Am I supposed to be sad for Paul Allen and the Trailblazers for drafting this guy? Allen is a billionaire. Oden made Ohio State millions of dollars. What did he see of that? Well, he got paid by Paul Allen. That's how it goes. I also consider basketball and football to be very different, but it still holds.

The solution?

The NCAA needs to institute a minutes played, or "plays on the field" statistic, that allows kids to declare for a professional league once that threshold is met. This will save the kids physically, or at least get them closer to the pay day they deserve. This is the only fair thing for college football players. A PERCENTAGE OF MINUTES PLAYED should be the only factor in considering eligibility, if there even is one.

Football is vicious, and I still watch it. But it's time to change the model.

I'm someone who thinks colleges should reconsider the athletic scholarship model altogether, but that's a story for another day.