THE PALLILOG

Charlie Pallilo: The lack of a Super buzz, Rockets, NCAA hoops and more

Charlie Pallilo: The lack of a Super buzz, Rockets, NCAA hoops and more
Rob Gronkowski could be a difference maker for New England. Gronknation.com

It sure seems there was more interest last year here in the run-up to the Super Bowl. Well duh, the game was played here. Add in the Texans’ season devolving into a fetid mess and an overall decline in NFL interest this season, and yeah, the buzz volume has been more whisper than earsplitter. But what, you’re not going to watch version LII Sunday? Whether you detest them, envy them, or marvel at them, what the Patriots have done and continue to do during the Belichick-Brady dynasty is astounding. Eight Super Bowl appearances in 18 years. In which century do you think the Texans make their 8th Super Bowl appearance?

Clearly the Eagles can win the game. The Jaguars gave the Pats fits at Foxborough. The Eagles’ defense isn’t Jaguars great, but is darn good. The Eagles will move the ball against the New England defense. But what the Patriots do is stiffen in the red zone. Good chance Nick Foles turns it over there at some point.

If Rob Gronkowski stays healthy, the Eagles just don’t have a good matchup against him. Who does? And Brady is still Brady. Patriots 23,  Eagles 20.

Rockets roll on

Congrats to the Rockets for extinguishing any Spurs’ hopes of mounting a charge at them for second best record in the Western Conference. Granted they had no Kawhi Leonard, but the Spurs were overmatched in San Antonio Thursday night in dropping seven games behind the Rockets in the loss column. The Spurs are closer in the loss column to the lottery than they are to the Rockets. The Rockets are back on pace to win 60 games.

Record review

So close Calvin Murphy, so close. Next month would have marked the 40 year anniversary of Murph holding the Rockets franchise record for points in a game. March 18th 1978 the Pocket Rocket went off for 57 in a game against the New Jersey Nets. That was before there was a three point line in the NBA.

Contrary to the cliché, all records are not made to be broken.  But Murphy’s fell Tuesday when James Harden went for 60 while the rest of the Rockets mustered 54 in a struggle of a win over awful Orlando. Harden is the 25th player to score 60 or more in a game. Only four guys have gone 60+ more than once: Elgin Baylor four times, Michael Jordan five, Kobe Bryant six, Wilt Chamberlain...32. THIRTY-TWO!

This may seem heretical to some, but James Harden’s offensive production is now at a higher level than even peak Hakeem Olajuwon’s was. Harden’s raw output and scoring efficiency are superior. As a player Harden is nowhere close to Dream; there’s that other half of the game that kind of counts (defense). But for pure offense, this James Harden is better than Hakeem’s Dreamiest. If you prefer more of an apple-to-apple comparison, this James Harden is certainly better than Kobe Bryant ever was offensively. Yes there is a caveat somewhere in size from meaningful to total solar eclipse-causing: regular season Harden. Hey, it’s a cross he has to bear. For now.

Tournament talk

It was a tough Wednesday night for the NCAA Tournament hopes for the Universities of Houston and Texas. Both are still strongly alive and right now probably would make the field of 68, but both missed out on opportunities for substantial resume-enhancing road victories. UH blew (or had ripped from it-matter of perspective) an 18 point lead at 8th ranked Cincinnati. No shame in the defeat, the Bearcats haven’t lost a home game in more than two years. The Coogs get a rematch with the Cats week after next. They hope the second time around goes the way it did vs. Wichita State. But road wins gain extra credit, and the Coogs do not have a quality road win to their name. A win at Cincy also would have vaulted UH into the Top 25 for the first time in a dozen years.

In Lubbock, UT could have made it a season sweep over top 10 Texas Tech but fell at the buzzer in overtime. Being in the Big 12 means the Longhorns play a vastly tougher schedule than does UH. UT has played one of the five toughest schedules in the country but you still have to win some games. Texas is 4-5 in Big 12 play. A 7-11 finish should mean the NIT, and furthermore should mean at least a warm seat for Shaka Smart going into next season. Fab freshman Trae Young and Oklahoma are in Austin tomorrow.

Buzzer Beaters

1. Jeff Allen has been a free agent disappointment with the Texans whose release should be considered.  2. Allen replaced Brandon Brooks when the Texans wouldn’t pay market rate to keep him. Brooks starts at right guard for the Eagles in the Super Bowl Sunday.  3. Best North American markets:  Bronze-Quincy, Boston   Silver-St. Lawrence, Toronto   Gold-Pike Place, Seattle

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These uniforms have to go. Photo via: Wiki Commons.

Major League Baseball will consider going back to having players wear their team uniforms for the All-Star Game.

Club uniforms were used by the American League from 1933-2019 and by the National League from 1934-2019. When the game resumed in 2021 following the pandemic-related cancellation in 2020, MLB had started a uniform contract with Nike and Fanatics, and All-Stars were outfitted in specially designed league uniforms that drew criticism from traditionalists.

Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images.

This year's AL uniforms had a sandy base with red sleeves and lettering and the NL had a navy base with light blue sleeves and lettering.

“I’m aware of the sentiment on this issue,” Manfred told the Baseball Writers' Association of America on Tuesday. "I think where my head is on it, it’s something we’re going to have a conversation about coming out of the All-Star Game. We've got a lot of uniform things going on. And, obviously, the conversations have to involve the players first and foremost but Nike, some of our partners. But I am aware of the sentiment, and I do know why people kind of like that tradition."

MLB and Nike were criticized for club uniforms this year and said in May that 2025 club outfits will have larger lettering on the back of jerseys and individual pant customization. Players complained this year that white pants worn by some teams are see-through enough to show tucked-in jersey tops.

Regional sports networks

Manfred said a national steaming package of local television broadcasts is a future possibility.

“I could see a situation where we grow into a 30-club model. It might start on the digital side, where you have 14 or 15 clubs, and, you start with a digital product there as your first alternative,” he said.

“I was in Sun Valley last week and I did the whole speed-dating thing with everybody who’s ever streamed anything. When you talk to people in the streaming business, they’re not really interested in buying the state of Wisconsin and two counties in Michigan," Manfred added. "They want to be able to stream quite frankly, all over the U.S. and Canada but more broadly internationally. So I think those conversations are a product of owners saying, holy cow, the RSN business is really deteriorating. We know the future’s going to be streaming. What we’re hearing from the streamers is they want a more national product, and we need to be responsive to what people want to buy.”

MLB took over production of Arizona and San Diego local television broadcasts last year following the bankruptcy of Diamond Sports’ Bally networks and said MLB will be available as an option for teams looking for new deals. He said Padres game are approaching 40,000 subscribers, which he called a good figure.

“Having said that, from a revenue perspective it is not generating what the RSNs did," Manfred said. "The RSNs were a great business. Lots of people paid for programing they didn’t necessarily want. And it’s hard to replicate that kind of revenue absent that kind of bundling concept.”

Offense

While offense is near half-century lows, it has picked up from early in the season.

“The decline in offense is something that we’re paying a lot of attention to and we’ll continue to monitor to make a decision as to whether we think we need to do something. You do hear a lot of chatter about the dominance of pitching in the game. That’s absolutely true.”

Birmingham

After the success of the June 20 game between San Francisco and St. Louis at Rickwood Field, Manfred said MLB will return to the ballpark in Birmingham, Alabama, but the “exact form” had not been determined.

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