Playbook's ultimate list of who's NOT NEXT

ESPN’s NEXT determines the people who are primed to dominate the sports world in the coming years. Playbook’s NOT NEXT determines who and what have almost no hope for the future. Here are some names, teams and things not to keep an eye on.

Houston Astros

The Houston Astros were horrible in 2012 with the worst record in baseball by six games at 55-107. Usually that suggests a team has bottomed out and will see improvement thanks to the development of young talent. Usually.

Baseball America rated Houston’s farm system as baseball’s 18th best. Help is not on the way. But that’s not the bad news. The bad news is that the Astros are going from the National League Central to the American League West in 2013, swapping games with the Pirates and Cubs for games with the big-spending Angels and Rangers. If you’re looking for a baseball franchise that is even more hopeless and depressing than the Marlins, here you go.

Jameill Showers

Once a three-star recruit who was in line to start at quarterback for Texas A&M as a sophomore in the Aggies' first season in the SEC, Showers is now Johnny Manziel’s backup. Backing up the first freshman Heisman winner is not exactly a job with a ton of future. Even if Manziel leaves after next season for the NFL, Showers will have one season on the job, and everything he does will be compared to his legendary predecessor. Ruh-roh.

Game programs

Buying a program at a game used to be exciting. It was a sign you were at a real professional sporting event! “Dad, can we get a program? Please?! It says the names and numbers of all of the players! There are pictures and everything!”

Now? Buying a program is essentially a $7 tax on people who are too dumb to know how to operate their smartphone. “Ahh, I don’t know how to get the Internet on this thing. I'd better buy a program.”

The target market for game programs today: dumb people who have enough intelligence to know how to read. Not exactly a market with a lot of long-term growth potential.

Bill Daly

Bill Daly is the NHL’s deputy commissioner. Yes, he is Gary Bettman’s protégé. There is not a worse thing a person can put on a résumé.

Assuming the NHL owners ever come to their senses and break from the worst commissioner in sports history, Bettman Jr. wouldn’t get a promotion. Of course, history suggests that believing NHL owners will come to their senses is a foolish bet. Maybe Daly is more NEXT than NOT NEXT. Depressing. Moving along ...

MMA for kids

Yes, this is a real thing. At the same time many parents are wondering whether they should allow their kids to play football, hockey, soccer -- really anything in which the head may be slightly jostled -- MMA for kids is here for those parents who want their kids to get punched and kicked in the head. Societal trends don’t favor the growth of mixed martial children, except maybe among parents who also buy game programs.

Chris Collins and Steve Wojciechowski

The youngest flowers on Mike Krzyzewski’s coaching tree are doomed because most of the previous flowers from that tree instantly rotted by those who picked them. Quin Snyder, Tommy Amaker and Jeff Capel all played for Duke, then coached for Duke, then moved on and ... well. Amaker is now at Harvard, Capel is back at Duke and Snyder is a coach -- an assistant coach -- for CSKA Moscow. That’s not a coaching tree, that’s a diseased bush.

Kick returners

Roger Goodell is considering removing kickoffs from football. This is bad news for the future employment of kick return specialists. These people who can catch and are extremely fast and elusive will have to find other work. Hmmm. Those skills seem as though they may have other applications. Have they considered being wide receivers? Offense will never be legislated out of the NFL.


It’s a made-up job. A team’s best reliever shouldn’t be saved for the ninth inning with the lead if he’s needed to put out a fire in the seventh or eighth. One day, when baseball is run by those who grew up in the logical age of sabermetrics instead of that of hunches and tradition, closers will go away. As will their facial hair, thankfully.

Two-year ACL recovery window

It used to be gospel that an athlete needed a full two years to return to form after having reconstructive ACL surgery. Then Adrian Peterson came along and ruined it for everyone by becoming better than ever less than nine months after tearing his ACL and MCL. He’s the sports version of the middle school classmate who asked for more homework and made everyone else look like lazy underachievers.

Sports books

Like game programs, sports books had their place in olden times. Some athlete put out an autobiography and sports fans devoured it. Hooray for literature! Athletes' books were the only way to hear from them in their own words outside of the traditional cliché-a-thon of postgame interviews and press conferences.

Now? Every athlete has a Twitter account where they share -- and over-share -- absolutely everything that could ever go in an autobiography: what they like to eat, how and when they train, what music they listen to and what makes them laugh (almost everything ... lol). Thanks to Twitter, I know more about most athletes than I do most about my relatives. There’s nothing new a current-day athlete’s autobiography can tell us.


There’s only one season left. Starting with the 2014-15 season, we have the playoff we’ve always wanted. Know hope!

Of course, now we’ll have to find something else to complain about. Here’s something that’s definitely NEXT: everyone complaining that the playoffs have only four teams instead of eight.