West Virginia — smoking rate 29.9 percent — Senate passes cigarette tax


I have no idea if this bill is going to pass, but this in itself is a pretty amazing development.

West Virginia, a solidly red Republican state (Obama got less than 30 percent of the vote in 2012) and  either the No. 1- or No. 2-ranked smoking state in the nation (in the last survey, West Virginia was No. 2 at a staggering 29.9 percent smoking rate, just a tick behind Kentucky.), passed a pretty significant cigarette tax increase in the State Senate.

West Virginia’s cigarette tax is one of the lowest in the nation at 55 cents a pack, no surprise in such a conservative state with such a high smoking rate. The average state cigarette tax in the nation is about $1.50 a pack.

A bill was introduced in the W.Va. Legislature to raise the cigarette tax to $1 a pack, a pretty modest increase that would leave W.Va. still well below the national average tax. However, that bill, proposed by the governor, was amended to raise the tax by $1 a pack to $1.55 a pack, right around the national average.

In a Republican-dominated State Senate, the bill passed by a margin of 26-6. Wow. Republicans favoured the bill 12-6, joining 14 Democrats in favour. That blows me away.

Smoking rates in the U.S. West Virginia is pitch black.

The tax increase would raise an estimated $115 million and would help West Virginia balance a severely strapped budget.

In my mind, more importantly, the tax increase would likely make a dent in West Virginia’s shockingly high smoking rate. Studies have shown that a $1 a pack cigarette tax effectively lowers the smoking rate by 10 percent. It actually does help encourage smokers to quit to hit them in the pocketbook.

From a Charleston, W.Va., Gazette article:

Sen. Tom Takubo, R-Kanawha, a physician, noted that 10 times as many West Virginians die from tobacco-related illness as die from narcotics overdoses and said the existing 55-cent-a-pack tax is not enough to motivate smokers to quit.

“You have to hit somebody hard enough in the pocketbook that they say, ‘Now, I’ll quit,’ ” Takubo said.

While tobacco taxes are sometimes seen as inordinately burdensome on the poor, Takubo said smokers spend an average of $4,700 a year on cigarettes, money he suggested would greatly benefit low-income families.

“That’s a big number that can help out a lot of people — that’s cash,” he said.

West Virginia also has one of the highest lung cancer rates in the U.S.

Not coincidentally, West Virginia also has one of the highest lung cancer death rates in the nation, (also partly because of the state’s coal industry.).

The governor is apparently on board with the cigarette tax increase, but I have no idea if the tax increase will pass in West Virginia’s State Assembly. As I pointed out before, the state’s budget is extremely tight and they’d be pissing away $115 million a year in revenue rejecting the tax.
cigarette taxes
I can’t keep track in every single state, but I know cigarette tax bills are making their ways through legislatures in several states, including Indiana, Louisiana and California. California plans a state ballot measure to raise its ridiculously low 87 cents a pack cigarette pack. A similar bill in California barely failed a couple of years ago, literally by a few thousand votes, after Big Tobacco poured millions of dollars into defeating it.


Philip Morris International earnings, revenue down … big time


Great story!

Philip Morris International’s earnings and revenue are dropping, dropping faster than forecast by the company.

Philip Morris is a spin-off from Altria, which handles Philip Morris’ domestic production of cigarettes.

According to several stories I came across, Philip Morris’  revenues dropped 11 percent at the end of 2015, dropping faster than projected. Cigarette shipping volume also dropped 2.4 percent, excluding acquisitions.

What this tells me, surprisingly, is that even internationally, the tobacco industry is hurting. Now, by “hurting,” I mean, they aren’t raking in the kinds of billions there were raking in 20 and 30 years ago.  The biggest declines were in Eastern Europe,  the Middle East and Africa, where revenues were down 19 percent — that is interesting.

Here is an interesting paragraph from the the MySA Website:

International tobacco company Philip Morris International has been an attractive stock ever since it split off from domestic peer and former parent Altria Group , combining growth prospects from foreign markets with solid dividend income. But 2015 has been a tough year for Philip Morris, and between foreign currency weakness and new regulatory threats that, in some cases, are even worse than what Altria has had to face in the U.S., the global tobacco giant has seen its financials under pressure. Coming into Philip Morris International’s fourth-quarter financial report Thursday, investors were prepared for declining fundamentals, but worse-than-expected results and gloomy guidance went beyond those initial expectations.

There’s the important sentence: “new regulatory threats that, in some cases, are even worse than what Altria has had to face in the U.S.” What this is referring to are small countries around the world attempting to pass restrictions on marketing and packaging of tobacco. Philip Morris International has been in a massive legal battle for years with Australia over that country’s plain packaging laws, and they’re battling a bunch of other countries like Uruguay and New Zealand over marketing and plain packaging laws.

John Oliver’s “Jeff the Diseased Lung” was a giant “screw you” to Philip Morris International for its tactics bullying small countries around the world.

And here we go … I’ve talked about this extensively, that the tobacco industry absolutely is looking to take over the e-cig industry. From this Investor’s Business Daily article:

Chief Executive Andre Calantzopoulos said efforts to develop electronic cigarettes and other cigarette alternatives picked up steam.

“We continued to make exciting progress on the development, assessment and commercialization of our Reduced-Risk Products,” he said. “We significantly expanded the roll-out of iQOS (smokeless cigarette) in Japan and introduced it into several new markets.”

Yup, they’re absolutely going to be looking for e-cigs to help save their skins.

Anyway, I thought this was great news. Big Tobacco is slowly shrinking, not fast enough for my taste, but make no mistake, an 11 percent drop in revenue is a real hurt. I look for Big Tobacco to respond by diversifying more into e-cigs and possibly one day, marijuana.


Yet more stories of exploding e-cigs burning people


Damn, there were at least a dozen stories today on the tobacco news about exploding e-cigarettes. I posted something about this some time ago.

In a story I found all over the place, some guy in Utah was badly burned by his e-cigarette battery exploding in his pants while he was driving.  He ended up in the hospital with second- and third-degree burns on his hands and legs. Sounds awful. Don’t watch the video unless you have a strong stomach. The fire was so bad, it literally melted his pants to his car seat.

Well, these are probably still a bit rare, but according to this story from Seattle, it’s a growing problem. Harborview Medical Center in Seattle reported that it treated four people in the past three months alone for severe burns caused by exploding e-cigarettes

From a Yakima Herald article:

National fire experts say the Harborview cases are part of a small but disturbing trend linked to battery failures in the popular devices often touted as a safer substitute for tobacco cigarettes.

“I realized that this was something that was happening more frequently than we had previously recognized,” said Dr. Elisha Brownson, the Harborview trauma and burn critical-care fellow who’s tracking the problem.

“I just think that if people really knew this could explode in your face, they would consider twice putting a device like this to their mouth.”

Remember, these things are cheaply made and are often made in China where safety standards are pretty lax. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, there were 25 injuries in the U.S. caused by e-cigarette explosions between 2009 and 2014. Well, heck, e-cig use has exploded (no pun intended) since 2014, so I bet that number has gone up quite a bit. The number of nicotine poisonings from e-cig vials has gone up exponentially in the past two years, mostly because many more people are using them than ever before.

In a couple of cases cited in this article, one person lost 12 teeth when an e-cig blew up in his mouth. Another woman had injuries to her nose when an e-cig explosion ripped out her nose ring.

This brings up the fact that sticking anything that generates heat into your mouth is going to have an inherent danger. One issue with cigarettes was the number of fires — both home and wildland — caused by cigarettes. At one time, it was estimated that over 1,000 people a year were being killed in the U.S. in cigarette fires (Obviously, that number has dropped largely because the smoking rate has dropped … and it still pales by comparison to the 400,000 who die from tobacco-related illnesses, I know). I’m amazed my dad never burned down the house. His smoking habit left burns in all of the furniture in the house, including his bed and linens.

Utah Senate votes to keep airport smoking rooms because of concerns over state’s “image”


OK, initially, I thought this was a bit of a humourous story until I actually read it, and now I’m left feeling like, “WTF?”

The Utah State Senate voted 15-14 last week to keep smoking rooms in the Salt Lake City Airport. Two of the reasons cited were personal freedom and worries about Utah’s “image.” Wut? What do smoking rooms at the airport have to do with Utah’s image?

Here’s the quote from the Desert News:

Sen. Lyle Hillyard, R-Logan, said Salt Lake City carries a “different brand” and has to be careful about how people view it. He told a story about a Catholic nun from Utah who on a flight years ago had a passenger ask her if she minded him smoking. When she said yes, he replied, “You damn Mormons are all alike.”

“I’m very nervous about giving Salt Lake City a different image because people already have an image of Salt Lake City that we damn Mormons are all alike,” Hillyard said.

Also from the Deseret News, the bill sponsor’s response, which is pretty funny:

But Sen. Evan Vickers, R-Cedar City, said he intends to talk to some of his colleagues about reconsidering SB61 after they voted it down 15-14.

“The image thing kind of threw me off guard. I didn’t see that coming,” he said after the Senate debate.

Vickers said during the Senate debate he could understand the argument that Utah would look “weird” if it were the first state to ban smoking in airports. He told his colleagues to travel to other states if they think it’s a perception issue.

“This is a not a new, revolutionary idea. This is something that has happened across the country. The traveling public is very much used to it,” he said. “If we’re the only ones standing at the end of the day, then the perception is going to be there. But it’s not going to be the perception you want.”

To the dillweed from Logan, if you’re concerned about Salt Lake City’s “image,” then why don’t you allow the bars at the airport to serve alcohol on Sundays? Salt Lake City is the only airport I’ve ever been in that shuts down alcohol sales on Sunday. I’ve flown through Salt Lake City countless times and spent many hours stuck in that airport. I’m very familiar with the smoking rooms in the airport; it’s the only airport I’ve seen that has them. (In fact, according to the Deseret News, only seven airports in the U.S. have smoking rooms. If it’s only seven then how does getting rid of them in Salt Lake somehow hurt Utah’s image again?)

I’m not that dogmatic that the smoking rooms have to be banned, it was just that part about Utah’s “image” that kind of threw me for a loop.

These smoking rooms are a trip and I’m convinced they’re purposely set up to discourage people from smoking. They’re glass-walled, so everyone can see the people in there smoking. There’s absolutely no privacy, and I can just imagine that it must feel embarrassing for the smokers sitting in there, as everyone walking through the airport watches them smoking.

As an aside, one of the many times I flew through Salt Lake City, my head ABSOLUTELY exploded on this one trip. I kid you not, I actually saw a woman sitting in the smoking room with a baby carriage. Oh .. my … God. So not only was that nitwit exposing her baby to her cigarette smoke, she was exposing her to the cigarette smoke from half a dozen other smokers … in an enclosed room with negative air pressure so the smoke wouldn’t leave the room. It was one of the most mind-blowing things I’ve ever seen.

As I’ve talked about in the past on the Lounge, something that makes me absolutely crazy is seeing people smoke around children. Fortunately, I see it less and less. In fact, I bet it’s been at least a couple of years since I’ve seen someone smoking in a car with kids.

Also mentioned in this story is the fact that Salt Lake City has a new mayor who is in favour of a smoking ban, and the mayor could simply shut down smoking at the city’s airport if the Legislature fails to do so.




Learning about all the legendary quarterbacks not in the Hall of Fame, thanks to a butthead Dave Krieg fan

Seahawks Raiders 1989
Dave Krieg

I once got into a huge argument with a Seahawks fan about a year ago about whether Dave Krieg belonged in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Well, this guy was definitely looking at Dave Krieg with Seahawk-coloured glasses and I honestly didn’t like this person and I was looking at his argument coloured by the fact I thought he was kind of an arrogant and ignorant jerk, so we made zero progress with each other.

So, I decided after the cooling of heads over time to take a less passionate view of his argument as sort of a follow up to Pepe’s heartfelt John Brodie post, just as an exercise in logic.

In giving it some thought and doing a bit of research, I decided after a while I didn’t really want to rip into everything wrong with Dave Krieg as a quarterback or Hall of Famer. That was honestly my original intent. Instead,  I’ll spend some energy on that, but not a lot, because I actually found something much more interesting to me — which is, not that many quarterbacks are actually in the Hall of Fame and you might find it amazing some of the very famous names in the history of the NFL and AFL that are not in the Hall of Fame.

The truth of it is, if you really parse Krieg’s stats, there actually is an argument there for him being in the Hall of Fame. Better than I thought before looking into it. However, I’m going to argue that he doesn’t belong in the Hall of Fame, not anytime soon at least, for a much different reason than I initially planned.

John Hadl … in 1960s sepiatone!

Here’s the pro arguments in favour of Krieg being in the Hall of Fame. Krieg played a really long time in the NFL — he started 175 games at quarterback between 1983 and 1998, about half of which for the Seahawks and the other half for Kansas City, Chicago, Arizona and Detroit. Krieg was basically what you call in baseball a “compiler” — someone like Jim Kaat or Harold Baines — who is good enough to start for a long time and while perhaps never really being great, is able to compile a lot of stats by staying healthy and not missing many games.

Here’s the impressive stats about Krieg and why you can’t completely dismiss the idea of Krieg as a Hall of Famer. When Krieg retired, he was eighth all-time in passing yardage at 38,147 yards and seventh all-time in passing touchdowns at 261. Every single guy ahead of him in those two categories at the time of his retirement are in the Hall of Fame (Montana, Marino, Elway, Unitas, Fouts, Tarkenton and Moon). Krieg also won 98 games as a starting quarterback, which was also good for eighth all-time. (His overall record as a starter was 98-77, for a winning percentage of .560.)

Most impressively, I believe, at the time of his retirement, Krieg was 15th all-time in the history of the NFL with a quarterback rating of 81.5. With the wide-open passing offenses of today’s game in which a rating of 90 is basically average, he’s dropped quite a bit in this category, but 15th at the time of his retirement is nothing to scoff at. That’s higher than a bunch of Hall of Famer quarterbacks.

But, to the con side. The first flaw I see in the pro-Hall of Fame argument for Krieg is that football is somewhat different from baseball in that having big “moments” on the “big stage” matters more in football than in baseball. In baseball, a position player gets 2,000 to 3,000 games and a pitcher 500-600 starts in which to build a Hall of Fame resumé. In the NFL, players get 150-200 games to build their Hall of Fame cases if they’re lucky. In fact, a number of NFL Hall of Famers barely played 100 games total. (Otto Graham, considered one of the greatest quarterbacks ever, only ever started 114 games.)

So, “moments” count. Let’s compare Krieg’s career to Joe Montana’s. They played in virtually the same era in the 80s and 90s (Krieg even backed Montana up a couple of years in Kansas City) and started virtually the same number of games (164 for Montana, 175 for Krieg). Montana had 273 TDs, Krieg 261. Montana had 40,550 yards passing, Krieg 38,147. Pretty close in both categories. Montana did have far fewer interceptions (139 for Montana and 199 for Krieg.) Montana also had a much higher career passing rating — 92.3 versus 81.5 for Krieg.

However, here is the HUGE difference between them, and why you simply cannot really compare Krieg to Montana. Montana went 16-7 in the postseason and won four Super Bowls, and in fact, played great in all four of those Super Bowls, winning three Super Bowl MVPs. He also had of course, the other huge “moment” with “The Catch” to beat the Cowboys in the NFC championship in 1982.

Krieg simply doesn’t have anything even remotely like this on his resume. Krieg went 3-6 in the postseason with a passing rating of 72.3. Krieg actually won his first two postseason games, then went 1-6 over the rest of his career. His one big chance on the “big stage” so to speak, in the AFC championship game vs. the Raiders in 1983, he wilted — badly — going 3-for-9 with 3 interceptions. He was pulled at halftime for Jim Zorn. Krieg not only never won a Super Bowl, he never even played in one. So, he played totally under the radar.

Right or wrong, that matters when you talk about Hall of Fame time in the NFL. Guys like Terry Bradshaw and especially Bob Griese are in the Hall of Fame based primarily on their postseason success. Griese honestly wasn’t that great of a quarterback statistically, but he’s in the Hall of Fame because he played in three Super Bowls and won two of them (He threw a whopping 41 passes combined in those three Super Bowls). True, Dan Fouts never got to a Super Bowl and Dan Marino never won one, but Marino owned almost every single passing record there was when he retired and he did win an AFC title and he managed to go 6-5 in the postseason. Fouts was second all-time in passing yardage and fourth in TD passes when he retired.

Quarterback John Brodie (12) of the San Francisco 49ers hands off the ball, 1971.©James Flores/NFL Photos
Quarterback John Brodie (12) of the San Francisco 49ers hands off the ball, 1971.©James Flores/NFL Photos

Here is a bigger issue I believe with Krieg being in the Hall of Fame. This is something I really enjoyed researching. There are a number of quarterbacks in the NFL who were either MVPs or first-team All-Pros or who won Super Bowls or who were Super Bowl MVPs who are not in the Hall of Fame. Krieg made three Pro Bowls, but he was never a First-Team Pro Bowler. He never won an MVP nor was he ever an AP Offensive Player of the Year nor did he play in a Super Bowl. He never led the league in passing yardage or TDs or passer rating. He simply played reasonably well for a long time.

There have only been 27 quarterbacks named to the NFL Hall of Fame since World War II. It just took Ken Stabler 33 years after his retirement to make the Hall of Fame. That’s how hard it is to get in. Just 27 guys in 70 years.

Ken anderson
How is Ken Anderson not in the Hall of Fame?

Let me tick off a few of these guys who are not in the Hall of Fame:

* There’s John Brodie — MVP, First-team All-Pro, led the NFL in passing yardage three times and led in TD passes twice, third all-time in the NFL in passing yardage and fourth in TDs when he retired.

* Ken Anderson — Considered by some to be the best quarterback in the AFC in the 1970s. MVP award, Offensive Player of the Year award, First-team Pro Bowler, four Pro Bowls, led the league in passer rating four times, played well in a Super Bowl loss.

* Daryle Lamonica — 5-time AFL and NFL Pro Bowler, 2-time AFL First-Team Pro Bowler, twice won AFL Player of the Year, led the AFL in TD passes twice, passing yardage once, won an AFL Championship and played in a Super Bowl. Had an incredible won-loss record as a starter of 66-16-6.

Daryle Lamonica

* Jim Plunkett — Won two Super Bowls and a Super Bowl MVP. Had a postseason record as a starting quarterback of 8-2.

* Roman Gabriel — Won an NFL MVP, Bert Bell Player of the Year award, made four Pro Bowls, was named First-Team Pro Bowl once, was sixth in the NFL in passing yardage when he retired.

* Joe Theismann — Won a Bert Bell Player of the Year Award, won an MVP, won an Offensive Player of the Year award, was a First-Team Pro Bowler, played in two Super Bowls and won one.

* Don Meredith — Bert Bell Player of the Year award, three-time Pro Bowler, played in the famous “Ice Bowl.” And on top of that, was a well-known NFL broadcaster for decades.

* Frankie Albert — Perhaps the best quarterback from the AAFC other than Otto Graham. Twice led the AAFC in touchdown passes, and led the league one year in passer rating. Played in an AAFC championship, but lost to an almost unbeatable Graham team in Cleveland.

Frankie Albert … quarterbacks used to wear No. 63?

* John Hadl — Made six AFL and NFL Pro Bowls, led the AFL in passing yardage twice and passing TDs twice, led the NFL in passing yardage once and passing TDs once. Was in the top 10 for AFL/NFL passing yardage when he retired.

* Phil Simms — Made two Pro Bowls, threw for 33,000 yards, won a Super Bowl and won a Super Bowl MVP. Had a 95-64 record as a starter.

* Randall Cunningham — NFL MVP, Player of the Year (two separate seasons), Four Pro Bowls, and one First-Team Pro Bowler, and rushed for 4,900 yards and 35 rushing TDs, rushed for over 500 yards six times. I will talk more about Cunningham later.

* Boomer Esiason — NFL MVP, First-Team All-Pro, won a passer rating title, won an AFC championship, came within seconds of winning a Super Bowl. More on Esiason later.

* Vinny Testaverde — Believe it or not, he was actually sixth in passing yardage (46,223 yards) and seventh in passing touchdowns (275) when he retired, made two Pro Bowls, threw for 356 yards in an AFC Championship loss. I will talk more about Testaverde.

testaverde, esiason, cunningham
Vinny Testaverde, Boomer Esiason, Randall Cunningham and Dave Krieg have a lot in common

I might be missing some other guys, but I would argue that every single one of these guys with the possible exception of Testaverde should go into the Pro Football Hall of Fame before Krieg — especially Brodie, Lamonica, Theismann, Ken Anderson and Hadl. Meredith should go in as a broadcaster if nothing else.

Here’s comparisons of Krieg’s career to Esiason, Cunningham and Testaverde’s. Krieg’s career numbers are remarkably similar to Esiason’s — and they played in the same era. Krieg threw for 38,147 yards, Esiason 37,920. Krieg threw for 261 TDs, Esiason 247. Krieg’s career passer rating was 81.5, Esiason’s 81.1. However, I give Esiason the edge for winning an AFC championship, playing in a Super Bowl and coming within 39 seconds of winning (that the was the Montana-to-John Taylor Super Bowl win for the 49ers). Esiason was also an MVP and a first-team All-Pro one year and once led the NFL in passer rating. Krieg did none of these things.

Dave Krieg was a pretty good quarterback for a really long time, but so many other genuinely legendary quarterbacks are still not in the Hall of Fame.

Krieg and Randall Cunningham also had identical career passer ratings — they both ended up at 81.5, and again, they played in the same era, so it’s fair to compare them though they were different kinds of quarterbacks. Here’s the difference — Cunningham won an MVP and a Player of the Year award in two separate seasons, was a First-Team Pro Bowler and had 4,900 rushing yards, rushing for over 500 yards six times. He was the first quarterback who could both run and play effective QB and led the way for guys like Steve Young, Russell Wilson and Cam Newton. Based on those factors, I’d put Cunningham in before Krieg.

In many ways, other than Esiason, the player whose career best mirrored Krieg’s was Vinny Testaverde. I don’t think there’s a big hue and cry for Testaverde to be in the Hall of Fame, but as I mentioned earlier, he was sixth in passing yardage and seventh in TDs when he retired. He is still in the top 10 in passing yardage nine years after he retired. He turned into a pretty good quarterback the second half of his career, but for the most part he was like Krieg, a guy that was good enough to find a team to play for, a guy who never got seriously hurt, was a bit of a journeyman, played forever on mostly mediocre teams, had a period of success with the Jets and compiled a ton of passing stats. Honestly, if you put Krieg in the Hall of Fame, I believe you have to put Testaverde in, too.

So, while I started out wanting to slag Dave Krieg and prove some nitwit wrong and point out all of his interceptions and fumbles and sacks (three areas Krieg actually was pretty weak in), what I found out is that there’s a remarkable list of quarterbacks who have never made the Pro Football Hall of Fame and I enjoyed learning more about them; these are some truly legendary players and some of whom have been waiting decades to get in.

Now it’s John Brodie’s turn for the Pro Football Hall of Fame


I was glad Ken Stabler finally got in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, unfortunately a few months after his death, but it was long overdue. Granted, his great period of play was pretty short — only about five or six years — but he was one of the great and most iconic quarterbacks of the 1970s, a Super Bowl champion and MVP.

This column was originally going to be about Stabler and another player who has been ignored by the Hall of Fame committee. I’m glad Stabler got in (as well as Eddie DeBartolo, who was one of the great owners in the history of the NFL), but I wish the NFL would correct another great oversight, a real injustice in my view. When I was a kid, one of the great quarterbacks in the NFL was a guy named John Brodie.

Ken Stabler finally got in the Hall of Fame after 33 years, seven months after his death.

I’m amazed at how many people don’t realize Brodie isn’t in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He’s in a  bunch of Hall of Fames — the NCAA Hall of Fame, the Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame, the Multi-Ethnic Sports Hall of Fame (which is based in the Bay Area), but not the Pro Football Hall of Fame. It makes no sense to me. He’s part of a great legacy of 49er quarterbacks from Frankie Albert to Y.A. Tittle to Brodie to Montana to Young. (Frankie Albert is another great quarterback passed over by the Hall of Fame, though his career was really short due to World War II, only about seven years.). In fact, this article says the 49ers have the fourth-best quarterbacking legacy in the NFL, and the story doesn’t even mention Frankie Albert or another very good quarterback, Jeff Garcia.

All I can think of is Brodie has simply been forgotten about. I see Brodie as the Gil Hodges of the NFL. A really great player who has been largely overlooked, at least outside the Bay Area, where he’s literally a legend. The 49ers retired his number decades ago, though Trent Dilfer wore his number for a while with the 49ers to help lobby for getting Brodie into the Hall of Fame.). He was nominated by the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce for the Hall of Fame in July of last year, but I was really disappointed that yet again, the Hall overlooked him.

The 49ers have a legacy of great quarterbacking, from Frankie Albert to Y.A. Tittle, John Brodie, Joe Montana and Steve Young.

Here’s some things about Brodie I bet a lot of people don’t realize. When John Brodie retired in 1973, he was:

* Third all-time in passing yardage in the history of the NFL with 31,548 yards. Only Johnny Unitas and Fran Tarkenton were ahead of him. That’s it, just Unitas and Tarkenton. Think about that!

* Fourth all-time in the NFL in passing touchdowns with 214. Only Unitas, Tarkenton and Sonny Jurgensen were ahead of him.

* Seventh all-time in wins as a starting quarterback with 74.

These rankings don’t include Len Dawson, Tittle or John Hadl because Hadl and Dawson racked up most of their stats in the AFL and Tittle played a couple of years in the All-American Football Conference. These are strictly NFL numbers, but still — third all-time in yards and fourth in TD passes? (Even including these guys who played in other leagues, Brodie still ends up fifth all-time in yards and seventh all-time in touchdowns at the time of his retirement.)

In addition, he:

* Won the NFL MVP in 1970 and was a first-team All Pro (he made two Pro Bowls total). In 1970, he was simply the best quarterback in football, hands down.

* Led the league in touchdown passes twice, led the league in passing yardage three times, led the league in completions three times, led the league in completion percentage twice, led the league in passer rating once and led the league in yards per attempt once.

His career passer rating wasn’t spectacular at 72.3, but for his time, that was pretty good — it’s higher than Hall of Famers Bobby Layne, Joe Namath, Bob Waterfield, George Blanda and Terry Bradshaw. Y.A. Tittle was 74.3. Stabler 75.3. Even Unitas, considered the best quarterback of that era, was 78.2. Not that much higher.

John Brodie and Sonny Jurgensen ended their careers with very similar numbers. Jurgensen is in the Hall, but Brodie isn’t. Check out those weird Washington uniforms.

The only real knock on Brodie is he didn’t win any championships. He didn’t play on bad teams for most of his 49ers’ career, but he played on mediocre teams, and back then, it was extremely hard to make the playoffs, so he only started five postseason games in his career. Brodie played from 1957 to 1973 and only two NFL teams made the postseason until 1967, then after that only four out of 16 teams made the postseason. Teams commonly went 10-4 and missed the postseason back in those days. Guess what? Hall of Famer Sonny Jurgensen never started a playoff game in his entire career.

So, in my opinion, you can’t beat him up for playing on mediocre teams in the 1960s. The 49ers were usually one of the top offensive teams in the NFL during his era (they led the NFL in scoring twice during Brodie’s tenure, were fourth two other times and sixth two other times), but they also usually had poor defenses. I checked and virtually every year in the 1960s, the 49ers were always 9th, 10th, 11th, 13th, etc. in scoring defense. Here’s just some of the scores those teams lost by — 20-61, 28-34, 41-42, 31-39, 34-35, 28-31, 21-33, 30-41, 24-45, 38-43, 20-30 (and a 30-30 tie) — and man that was in the 1960s … in the NFL, not AFL. They just had no defence for years. Their defence was never in the upper half of the NFL for about eight straight years. Still, without much help on the other side of the ball, Brodie managed to go a respectable 74-77-8 for his career. It’s not like he was Norm Snead filling a roster spot on a bad team year in and year out. Those 49er teams in the ’60s could light it up. They just couldn’t stop anyone.

John Brodie 'Banacek' (1972) 1.1
John Brodie in some 1970s George Peppard TV show called “Banachek:

He finally got to play with a decent defense in the early 1970s, winning three straight division titles from 1970-72. He won two postseason games and played in two NFC Championship games, losing twice to Dallas in 1970 and 1971. Then, he lost a legendary heartbreaker to Dallas again in the divisional playoffs 30-28 in 1972 when the 49ers had a 28-13 lead in the fourth quarter (I think this is one of the first NFL games I remember watching). That Cowboys team went to two Super Bowls and won one of them, so they were a serious powerhouse. Brodie and the 49ers simply couldn’t get past them. They likely would have won a Super Bowl or two if they could’ve. And I wouldn’t even be writing this post because Brodie would be in the Hall.

I think the most amazing thing about Brodie is he threw for 31,500 yards in an era in which teams hardly threw the ball, especially in the NFL, because the rules at the time didn’t allow for today’s wide-open passing games. This was also an era of 12- (until 1960) and 14-game seasons. So, to get to 30,000 yards in that grind-it-out period of running offences is really impressive (By comparison, Bart Starr threw for 24,700 yards and he started 156 games.).

On top of everything else, though it really shouldn’t matter for the  Hall of Fame … it’s just interesting …  he also turned into a champion golfer on the PGA Seniors Tour. He actually beat Chi Chi Rodriguez in a playoff once to win a PGA Seniors Tournament event, and had 12 top 10 finishes on the tour.

So, here’s one of the strangest things I don’t get about why Brodie’s been ignored for the Hall of Fame. I check the numbers and you know whose stats are really similar to Brodie’s? Sonny Jurgensen. Jurgensen played on mostly mediocre teams during the same era for Washington. His won-loss record as a starter was 69-73-7. And as I mentioned earlier, not a single playoff start. He did get to play on some good playoff Washington teams in the ’70s, but as a backup to Billy Kilmer. Jurgensen ended up only throwing for 700 more career yards than Brodie. He did throw a few more touchdowns — 255 vs. 214 — but Jurgensen also never won an MVP. So some of their numbers are virtually the same. In fact, Tarkenton, Brodie and Jurgensen really were the three dominant quarterbacks in the NFL from 1965-1970 (Unitas faded quite a bit after 1967).

Trent Dilfer is a big advocate of enshrining John Brodie in the Hall of Fame.

Yet, Jurgensen was elected in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1983. What gives? Again, I scratch my head.

Bob Griese, whose career overlapped with Brodie’s by a few years, ended up with 25,092 passing yards and 192 touchdown passes and not once passed for as much as 2,500 yards in a season. He was voted into the Hall of Fame in 1990. I guess because he did a really good job of handing the ball off to Larry Csonka in a couple of Super Bowls. A high profile helps apparently. You’ll never convince me Griese was a better quarterback than Brodie.

John is getting pretty old. He’s 80 years old and had a major stroke in 2000.  I sure hope the Hall doesn’t make the same mistake they made with Kenny Stabler, of waiting until after a guy passes away to put him in the Hall of Fame.

Federal judge tells Big Tobacco, “quit wasting my damn time”

Big Tobacco weasels

This is a great story.

I’ve posted earlier stories about as part of a Justice Department RICO (a federal racketeering law usually used against organized crime) lawsuit, Big Tobacco was ordered some time ago to come up with “corrective statements,” ie, full-age newspaper ads admitting that tobacco companies have lied and covered up about the dangers of smoking.

Well, those full-page ads have yet to show up, partly because Big Tobacco is wrangling big time with the courts about what it has to say in its “corrective” ads. This has actually been dragged out now for SEVEN years. (And that’s SEVEN years after all the appeals over the original order were exhausted). The final order was issued in May 2015, and still no ads.

The wording of the ads has been directed by federal court judge   Gladys Kessler (District of Columbia). The ads are supposed to hit on five major points:

* The adverse health effects of smoking;
* The addictiveness of smoking and nicotine;
* The lack of any significant health benefit from smoking “low tar” or “light” cigarettes;
* The manufacturers’ manipulation of cigarette design to ensure optimum nicotine delivery;
*  The dangers of exposure to secondhand smoke.

But the tobacco companies appealed. Apparently, the fifth total appeal filed by Big Tobacco in this case. Big Tobacco continues to try and weasel its way out of these corrective ads and Kessler is getting fed up:

From this story posted on the Consumerist blog:

“That is ridiculous — a waste of precious time, energy, and money for all concerned — and a loss of information for the public,” writes Kessler [PDF]. “The Court has no intention of following that path, although it is obvious that Defendants are, once again, attempting to stall any final outcome to this long-standing litigation.”

In her order, Kessler notes that the revision offered by the government and its allied public health groups should suffice, as it simply shortens the disputed preamble to “A Federal Court has ordered Altria, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco, Lorillard, and Philip Morris USA to make this statement…”

“The newly crafted preambles do not in any way send a message to the public that Defendants deceived them in the past,” explains the judge, “nor that Defendants are being punished for their previous conduct.”

Apparently, one of the things the tobacco companies are asking for is having their corporate names removed from the corrective statement (By the way, they are ALTRIA, RJ REYNOLDS and BRITISH-AMERICAN TOBACCO)


They’re also fighting over ticky-tack language issues, such as not wanting the word “ordered” in the ad, and wanting that word replaced with “determined.”

From the Consumerist story:

A lawyer for one of the firms representing the public health groups involved in the case tells theNational Law Journal that everyone is onto the tobacco companies’ tactics.

“I think it’s safe to say that [Kessler] believes that the defendants are trying to delay the issuance of the corrective statements and that’s certainly the concern that my clients have had for many, many years,” he explains, “that the defendants have done and continue to do whatever they can to delay the day of reckoning.”




U.S. Department of Justice urged to investigate bribery case against British-American Tobacco


Several U.S. Senators and Congresspeople have signed a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice urging the agency to begin an investigation into bribery accusations against British-American Tobacco.

I wrote about some of these accusations a few weeks ago here. However, according to the letter from Congresspeople, the accusations go beyond those exposed in a recent BBC documentary about British-American Tobacco.

From a Guardian article:

The politicians, led by congressman Lloyd Doggett and senator Richard Blumenthal, suggest that BAT’s actions may have violated both the Anti-Bribery and the Foreign Corrupt Practices Acts (FCPA). If proven, the allegations – denied by BAT – could result in jail terms for the company’s executives.

Some of the allegations about BAT’s activities in parts of Africa first surfaced in a BBC Panorama documentary last year. Since then, US lawmakers say that additional documents have come to light, which they claim suggest alleged bribery may have been more widespread than previously thought.

It is alleged that the documents raise questions as to whether BAT paid people off to protect its corporate reputation and to cover up scandals, including environmental damage caused by a warehouse fire in Uganda. There are also claims that the company engaged in corporate espionage and the sabotage of competitors in Kenya. “If true, these allegations would demonstrate a deplorable choice by BAT to balloon its profits through bribery at the expense of the health of millions,” said Doggett. “Any corporation that enjoys the benefits of our stock exchange must comply with our anti-bribery laws.”

According to a BBC documentary on British-American Tobacco, the company was bribing officials in African nations to weaken laws regarding tobacco marketing and packaging. Tobacco companies have been pulling out all the stops, including intimidation, threats of lawsuits and getting the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to pressure countries to combat any kind of anti-smoking measures in small nations, which simply don’t have the money or resources to fend off these powerful companies.

The nations involved in the BBC documentary include Rwanda, Burundi and the Comoros Islands.

Though British-American Tobacco is based in the UK, the company is the third-largest tobacco comglomerate in the U.S., behind Philip Morris and RJ Reynolds. BAT brands include Pall Mall, Lucky Strike, Kool, Kent and Benson & Hedges. British American Tobacco is already under investigation in the UK and has publicly stated that whatever bribery schemes took place were the result of a “rogue employee.”


New York City may be next to ban chewing tobacco in ballparks


New York City could be soon joining Boston, Los Angeles and San Francisco in banning chewing tobacco in baseball parks.

A bill has been introduced before the New York City Council to ban chewing tobacco in all ballparks in the city, and this includes Yankee Stadium and the Mets’ CitiField. And the ban might be in place by opening day in April.

From a New York Times article:

“If New York passes this bill, and I think it will, it moves us dramatically closer to the day when smokeless tobacco is prohibited in all major league cities,” said Matthew Myers, the president of Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

According to bill proponent, Councilman Corey Johnson, both the Yankees and the Mets are behind the bill.

I’m guessing with neither team opposing the bill and with the fact that New York City is one of the most anti-tobacco cities in the nation (The city has extremely high cigarette taxes and very strict smoking bans, thanks in large part to former mayor Michael Bloomberg, an anti-smoking zealot.), odds are this bill will pass. In San Francisco, Boston and Los Angeles, bills in all three cities easily passed. Johnson says that he is hoping the bill will take effect before the beginning of baseball season in April.

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 07: A general view of game between the New York Mets and the Atlanta Braves at Citi Field on April 7, 2012 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY – APRIL 07: A general view of game between the New York Mets and the Atlanta Braves at Citi Field on April 7, 2012 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

This bill is just the latest salvo by cities to force the Major League Players Association to ban chewing tobacco on the field. Chew is already banned on the field at the Minor League and NCAA levels and Major League Baseball has made it clear that it wants to ban chew on the field, too — however, the Players’ Association has to agree to it through the collective bargaining process.

When contacted for a comment by the Times, Mets’ third baseman David Wright responded:

 “On one hand, I would argue we are adults and that’s a choice we choose to make,” he wrote in an email. “On the other hand, we are role models and the last thing we want is for an underage kid to begin using because they watched their favorite players do it.”

I’d guess I’d respond to David no one is saying you can’t chew — you just can’t do it on the field during the games, just like you can’t smoke. Back in the day, players and managers used to actually smoke cigarettes in the dugout, but cigarettes on the field were banned by baseball many years ago. No one really seems to care about that.

In addition to San Francisco, Boston, L.A. and apparently soon New York, chew may be banned soon in San Diego and Oakland baseball parks because a bill is being considered by the California State Assembly to ban chew in all ballparks in the state.

Chew is a big problem among baseball players. A much, much higher percentage of baseball players use chew than the general population. It’s for some reason deeply ingrained into the culture of baseball. The issue of chew in baseball has been brought to the forefront somewhat by the recent death of Tony Gwynn from salivary gland cancer and the recent battle by Curt Schilling against oral cancer.


California researchers fear legalization of pot could create the next Big Tobacco


An interesting story about a report put out by California State University, San Francisco (co-authored by anti-tobacco advocate Stanton Glantz) warning that legalized marijuana could become the next “Big Tobacco” because it would create a massive, wealthy and politically powerful economic behemoth.

Here is a copy of the 66-page report. , In reading the Sacramento Bee article about it, Glantz and the report are arguing that with legalized pot and the billions of revenue it would create would also create a very powerful marijuana lobby. A lobby that would likely throw its weight around politically and could ultimately become a subsidiary of the tobacco industry, possibly to the detriment of public health policy.


From the article:

“Evidence from tobacco and alcohol control demonstrates that without a strong public health framework, a wealthy and politically powerful marijuana industry will develop and use its political clout to manipulate regulatory frameworks and thwart public health efforts to reduce use and profits,” the report states.

Glantz, in an interview added:

“The goal (should be) to legalize it so that nobody gets thrown in jail, but create a legal product that nobody wants,” he said.

He worries that a new marijuana industry would spend large sums of money to curry favor with lawmakers.

“I think a corporate takeover of the market … is very, very hard to stop,” he said, adding, “They are already a potent lobbyist in California.”


I’m not necessarily agreeing with the report, and honestly, I found parts of it a bit alarmist. But, the concerns about marijuana monopolies and Big Tobacco involvement in the industry are valid. I have posted other articles about Big Tobacco eyeing the legalization of pot very carefully, with the very real potential of today’s tobacco companies swooping in and taking over the legalized pot industry. Keep in mind, this has already pretty much happened with e-cigarettes. RJ Reynolds bought out the No. 1 e-cigarette brand — Blu E-cigarettes, which controls about 40 percent of the E-cigarette market — and there are a number of other e-cig brands owned by tobacco companies. Big Tobacco isn’t in competition with e-cigs, not anymore. When in doubt, buy ’em out.

Tobacco is a dying product, especially in the West, while both e-cigarettes and marijuana are booming. Pot is likely to boom even more as it’s legalized in more states and Canada. If California legalizes pot in November, that state alone probably represents over 10 percent of the pot market in the U.S. Now tack onto that Washington, Oregon, Alaska, Colorado and perhaps a few other states (legalization seems likely in Nevada, soon), plus another 35 million people in Canada if Trudeau goes through with his promise to legalize pot nationwide. I just have to imagine the people at RJ Reynolds, British American Tobacco and Philip Morris are absolutely drooling over the prospects of getting into that market. That’s over 90 million people in North America living under legalized pot laws as early as 2017.


One of the things I like about one of the California pot legalization measures is that it would allow people to legally grow up to six plants. I haven’t taken the time to research how many plants a person could legally grow in Washington, Oregon or Colorado, but I think it’s important that if pot is legalized that people still be allowed to grow a small amount of their own pot, so it doesn’t quickly and completely become a corporate-run industry. You want to keep RJ Reynolds and Philip Morris or some other monopoly out of the pot business? Let people grow their own pot, and take other steps to prohibit any corporation from getting more than a certain market share and make sure it stays in the hands of small businesspeople.

And there is a paranoid X-Files side of me that is convinced there are people within Big Tobacco that have thought about, dreamed about, maybe even started doing the work on … how to add nicotine to marijuana. Seriously,  think about it. Marijuana with arguably the most addictive substance on the planet added. It would be like Spice in “Dune.”

The report states that pot should be regulated much like tobacco. Instead, the California proposal calls for regulations similar to alcohol. From the article:

One of the (measure’s) proponents, Donald Lyman, a retired physician and a former state public health official, said the notion that marijuana must be regulated exactly like tobacco “represents an awkward minority opinion not widely shared within the public health community.”

I have to agree with Lyman here. For one, there’s some actual medical benefits to pot. I think the medical benefits of pot gets overstated by some pot proponents, but there’s legitimate medical uses as a painkiller and to control seizures. There is NO legitimate medical use for tobacco. While it can become habit-forming for some people, marijuana also is not physically addictive anything like tobacco, nor is there any evidence that marijuana causes lung cancer or even COPD. You simply can’t treat pot and tobacco like the same product. Probably the most similar product to pot would be beer or wine (and yes, there are rumours that not only is Big Tobacco drooling over legalized pot, the beer industry has interest in getting into the pot business as well).

One of the California measures would prohibit monopolies and large-scale pot licences for five years. Co-author of the report Rachel Barry, says five years isn’t enough. From the article:

“I am thinking more in 20 years what the industry will evolve into, not five years,” Barry said. “And that’s something we should be doing with the regulations.”

One marijuana legalization proponent sees some validity in some of the report’s concerns, but said that most of these issues are being dealt with in the language of the California measures.

From the article:

Abdi Soltani, executive director of the ACLU of Northern California and a member of the (Calif. Lt. Gov. Gavin) Newsom commission’s steering committee, said he agrees with some of the concerns raised in the report but ultimately believes the initiative protects the public.

“My middle school child will not walk into a corner store where tobacco and alcohol are marketed and see marijuana for sale,” Soltani said.