Friday, October 5, 2007

weekly gregg easterbrook report

nothing too extraordinary going on here; just a belated review of what the TMQ had to say earlier this week. as usual, there's at least a little bit of baloney. (check the "gregg easterbrook" label if for some reason you find this entertaining and want more.)

this first part is not sports related, but so hilariously cliched from a "crusty old guy who complains about kids and their rock music" angle that i have to include it.

Now think what has happened in technical and artistic trends in the 50 years since 1957. Scientific endeavors have made fantastic strides in quality, complexity and significance. Consumer product quality has increased dramatically -- new cars are packed with features unknown in 1957 yet are far safer and more reliable, and the cell phone in your pocket and the computer you're reading this on, to say nothing of the Internet it's transmitted over, would have been viewed as supernatural by the engineers who built Explorer I.

At the same time, the quality of art has plummeted. There hasn't been a musical of artistic merit to open on Broadway in many moons -- right now, it's all vapid dreck. (In fact, I think the show "Vapid Dreck," based on a remake of a remake, opens at the Brooks Atkinson soon.) And although good books are still written, what truly great novel has been produced in the past decade or two? Fifty years ago, technical stuff was buckets of bolts and art was splendid; now, the technical stuff is splendid and the art is in poor repair. This tells us something -- I just wish I knew what.

here's what that tells me- you're old, and no longer appreciate new art because it's scary and unfamiliar to you. i hope to god i have the kind of forum gregg has in which to express this exact same (inevitably held) opinion once i'm old. i bet writing this kind of thing in his columns really helps his blood pressure/arthritis/aching back/other old man ailments.

later, some of easterbrook's trademarked WRONG clock management analysis (if you're familiar with him, you know he writes something dumb like this basically every week):

Bills note 1: Leading 17-14 with less than three minutes to play, the Ivies faced third-and-short and threw incomplete, stopping the clock. At the end, the Jets reached the Buffalo 38 before turning the ball over on a desperation play. Had the Bills simply run up the middle for no gain on their final snap, the clock would have expired with the Jets far from Buffalo territory.

no. no no no. you don't know that with any certainty whatsoever. i don't even have to explain why this is wrong. anyone with a brain and a basic understanding of football knows exactly why.

some ridiculously misguided thoughts about running up the score:

Florida, Rutgers Punished by Football Gods: Every college season has an Upset Saturday, and it fell last weekend for 2007. Top-10 teams Florida and Rutgers were upset almost immediately after displaying poor sportsmanship by running up the score: Oh ye mortals, trifle not with the football gods. Reader Jeffrey Camp notes that against hapless Norfolk State, Rutgers showed terrible sportsmanship by calling all three of its timeouts in the final minute of the first half, frantically trying to score again before intermission -- although Rutgers was ahead 45-0 at the time. Camp asks, "Aren't Knights supposed to be honorable and chivalrous?" Reader Chris Shirley notes that when leading Tennessee 49-20 in the fourth quarter, Florida still had Tim Tebow on the field and still had him throwing deep; leading 52-20 with first-and-goal with less than two minutes remaining, Florida could have taken a knee to end the game, but instead, Urban Meyer had his charges pound the ball into the end zone to run up the final score to 59-20. As Tuesday Morning Quarterback often notes, running up the score is little-bully behavior that evinces lack of character. And it always comes back to haunt you because when the pressure is on, little bullies fold.

yes, running up the score is generally kind of lame (particularly against a non-conference opponent, like in rutgers' sitaution... i can sort of see why florida did it because they were playing a hated conference rival). no, that last part about "little bullies fold[ing]" is not legitimate analysis. i'm too tired to do this right now, but i guarantee if i had fifteen minutes to burn i could find plenty of instances in recent college football history where a team ran up the score at some point in the season, and went on to win multiple "high pressure" games later in the season. hell, i bet plenty of national title winning teams have run up the score on opponents. this is like saying "this mean kid i knew in middle school who used to beat me up and take my lunch money broke his leg in a skateboarding accident. it just goes to show you: people with no character always break their legs in skateboarding accidents."

finally, one of the worst explanations for a team's dominance i have ever read:

What is [patriots offensive line coach dante] Scarnecchia's secret? It's so, so simple, yet few NFL teams understand it: New England offensive linemen never stand doing nothing, watching the play. On a shocking number of NFL plays, there is at least one gentleman simply standing there doing nothing at all, and often that gentleman is an offensive lineman. New England's offensive linemen never stand around doing nothing. More than anything else, never standing around doing nothing is what separates the Patriots from the rest of the league, and this approach pays the most dividends on the offensive line.

i beg, you please pay attention to the offensive line on a reasonable number of snaps in the college and non-patriot NFL football games you watch this weekend and see if this analysis is anywhere close to correct. (hint: it is not. i'm going to go out on a limb and say the patriots are good because they have a fantastic coach, fantastic coaching staff and fantastic players. but go ahead, check out some other teams this weekend for yourself and see if easterbrook's theory holds water.)

This helps explain why Belichick has such great luck with retreads and unknown players. He takes players who were in environments where people were standing around, or where success was judged by individual stats rather than team outcomes, and puts them in an environment where no one ever stands around and team outcomes are all that matter.

wow... more anecdotal bullshit, please! i really don't think this attempt at an explanation for new england's success has enough of it. if i thought easterbrook would reply to me, i would email him about this and ask for a complete explanation and some objective evidence. but i know he wouldn't and i'm lazy anyways. needless to say- there is no way to prove this. none. there's not even a good way to sort of start going about the process of beginning to establish that it might be the case.

thanks gregg, see you next week! and hey, could you please put more science fiction blurbs in the non-NFL parts of your column then? i really feel like you're not covering enough of that crap.


Anonymous said...

"i'm too tired to do this right now, but i guarantee if i had fifteen minutes to burn i could find plenty of instances in recent college football history where a team ran up the score at some point in the season, and went on to win multiple "high pressure" games later in the season."

See Spurrier, Steve, for reference (probably the coach most famous for running up the score).

In Spurrier's FIRST SEASON with the Gators, he demolished hapless Akron 59-0. The next week, the Gators faced a huge test against Auburn, a team that was undefeated at the time.

Florida 48, Auburn 7.

In fact, almost every team in CFB history that has gone undefeated in a season has taken at least one team to the woodshed. Like Larry said, "plenty of national title winning teams have run up the score on opponents." Pretty much all of them did, at least once. Even the 2002 OSU national championship team that was famous for its numerous close escapes won 51-17 over Kent State, and 50-7 over San Jose State. This is a team that won half its games by a touchdown or less, yet never lost.

That whole 'running up the score will catch you at some point' is a gutless statement because of the general difficulty in going undefeated in college football. If a team that runs up the score manages to avoid a loss all season, well, it's not TMQ's fault the bully mentality didn't catch up with them, because they were clearly a superior team. However, if they DO lose (as, generally, at least 115 D-1 teams do once or more a year) it's because they got caught by the circumstances. I'd wager teams that run up the score are MORE likely to win 'big games,' because they're actually GOOD ENOUGH to run up the score in the first place.

Who'd you rather take in a big game? Florida, or Duke?

Chris W said...

"because they ran up the score"

oh ever consider Florida and Rutgers lost because they weren't all that good (or, at least, multidimensional) to begin with?


Chris Hart said...

I literally thought the paragraph where he talked about people standing around "doing nothing" was you making stuff up. Turns out he really believes that the Patriots long held secret is... trying? What are you, fuckin nuts?

Anonymous said...

No, he's right, I'm in my early 30's and all the music, books, movies, art, etc. do pretty much suck. You don't need musical talent to win an grammy (any rap act) or acting skills to win an oscar (Halle Berry) or art talent to get accolaids (piss Christ anyone?). He's right on about this.

larry b said...

anonymous- i'm not sure you're helping his point or proving mine. early 30's is kind of a nebulous age- do you mean 3ish, or 35ish? because if it's the latter, and you were born in the early 70s and went to high school in the late 80s/early 90s...

just saying. you know what i'm saying.

(PS- i'm 23, so i may or may not be qualified to comment on this phenomenon.)

Anonymous said...

Larry b,

I guess your saying Easterbrook is old, which I guess means over 40 and doesn't get it concerning art, music, etc nowadays. I'm 32 and I pretty much lost touch with new music, movies and art by the time I was your age because I took too many art, music, movie classes in college. Shakespeare or David Mamet? Count Basie or Kanye West? Bach or Rolling Stones? m.c. eshcer or Mapplethorpe. Denzel Washington or Jamie Foxx Quick, which ones are more talented? Usually the old guys.