Thursday, November 20, 2008

TMTMQR: Will Someone Please Just Fire Gregg Easterbrook Already

Now. Immediately. Today. Yesterday, if possible.

Did Marion Barber get the ball across the goal line against Washington before his knee went down? Did Santonio Holmes get out of bounds with three seconds remaining in the first half against San Diego, stopping the clock so Pittsburgh could kick a field goal in a game the Steelers ended up winning by one point? Did Marvin Harrison get the ball across the goal line before his knee went down against Houston? Did Ben Roethlisberger get the ball across the goal line at all on the key play of Super Bowl XL?

All valid questions. All of them somewhat easily answerable under football's current replay format.

More importantly, why do we even have to discuss this stuff? Let's put a chip in the football and end these debates.

Oh, wow. There's an idea. Just like that, huh? No more disputes! No more debates. Never mind the horrific practical obstacles associated with this idea- do you have any idea how little this would do to reduce the number of issues associated with tough calls around the goal line? As Easterbrook himself admits later in this article (in a section I didn't copy and paste), even when the ball crosses the goal line there's still the question of whether or not the carrier was down or had possession at that moment. And that will have to be reviewed. So guess how much time and stress this measure would save? The answer is equivalent to the number of sports journalism jobs I would like Gregg Easterbrook to have as of right now, or yesterday if possible. Now on to the practical questions, which are even more significant.

If swim meets and horse races can be photo-timed to the hundredth of a second, it is ridiculous that the football world has to argue about whether a ball crossed a line.

Worst comparison ever. Absolute worst. I don't need to explain the differences between timing a race and this idea, if you can even call it an idea. There are too many of them.

Some kind of radio chip embedded in footballs, and weighing next to nothing, could surely provide a GPS-like readout on whether the ball touched some kind of electronically projected line in front of the end zone

So where in the ball will you put the chip? Under the laces? But what if only the tip of the ball crosses the goal line plane? I guess you could put a chip on both tips. But what if there's a big dogpile on the goal line (on, say, a QB sneak on 4th and goal from the 1) and only some tiny sliver of the ball located at a random point opposite the laces and in the middle of the ball crosses the plane? So I guess what we can do is cover every ball with tiny microchips so that when any part of it crosses the theoretical electronically projected line, an alarm located in the referee's headset that sounds like crazy bells and whistles goes off. OR, how about this- we just start using a big computer chip instead of a ball. Anyways, please also consider the following potential issues:

1) Regardless of where you put chips, or how many of them you use, players will make a big stink about how the chips make the ball feel/move differently when thrown/kicked
2) Whatever equipment projects the magical electronic line will probably be kicked, rolled into, or otherwise accidentally moved or disturbed by a player or someone else running into it on the sidelines
3) Will this magical projected line be able to sense the ball crossing the plane in the middle of a pile of players?
4) Will the chip never, ever, ever malfunction due to impact or weather?
5) Is this idea likely to be cost efficient? (Answer: FUCK NO)

I could go on all day. This is a horrendous, atrocious idea. Oh, I cut Gregg off before he could finish his last sentence. He was saying that this idea will help us figure out if a ball crossed the plane along the goal line, AND-

and along a field's sidelines.

Hey, dick-for-brains: how many times during the average football game does anyone care whether or not the ball broke the plane of the sideline? The answer, of course, is zero unless there's a fumble rolling towards the sidelines that gets recovered at the last second before it goes out. And even then, you still have the question of whether or not the player had possession. Maybe Gregg thinks every player's shoes should also be coated with microchips, so we can figure out if they stepped out of bounds or not.

Considering the state of miniature electronics, this doesn't seem as if it would be very hard to do. College engineering departments surely would compete for the right to design such a system. The system might prove too expensive for high schools and small colleges, but with all the money involved in the NFL and in football-factory colleges, the price of adding electronic sensing would be small by comparison. So let's insert a chip in the football!

To steal a phrase that was popular when I was about eight years old: let's not, and say we did. Jesus. This is the lead-in to his TMQ column this week. The first thing he wanted readers to see after they arrived at his article. Really? This is the best he can do? What a fucking dolt. Think through your ideas before you put them into writing, please.

The next step should be an artificial-intelligence device that can remember NFL rules! Because the zebras don't seem to know them. Perhaps robots could be built to officiate NFL games, programmed with a rulebook memory that does not fail on national television. Imposing 10-foot-tall robots with perfect memories would command the respect of players. And if the coach of the Giants wanted to challenge a ruling, he would call to the robot referee, who would wear a white carapace, "Gort -- Coughlin barada nikto!"

I may be a blogger, but you are a huge nerd.

In other football news, TMQ has grown accustomed to timid Preposterous Punts by NFL coaches seeking to avoid criticism. I also thought I'd seen it all -- but of course I was wrong. With New Orleans leading Kansas City 27-20 with 10:05 remaining in the game, the Chiefs faced a fourth-and-2 on the Saints' 40-yard line -- and punted!!!!!!! Kansas City had lost 16 of its last 17 games going into Sunday's contest, and, needless to say, now has lost 17 of its last 18. You've failed 16 of the last 17 times, what do you have to lose? Why are you punting???????

I agree. It was stupid for KC to punt in this situation. However, the reason I'm including it in this post is because it's another classic example of one of TMQ's Pillars of Idiocy (TM pending): the idea that anytime a coach does something that's not risky or totally gung-ho, he's doing it because he's a selfish asshole who just wants to minimize the margin of defeat and boost his own resume (yes, by losing). He doesn't care about his players, he doesn't care about the fans, and he certainly isn't making the decision because he thinks (correctly or incorrectly) that it will help his team win the game. Hey, Gregg: you're out of your fucking mind. Herm Edwards is definitely stupid, but I guarantee with 100% certainty that he did not punt on the 4th and 2 with 10 minutes because he was "seeking to avoid criticism." No one- NO ONE- not one single fucking writer or fan with any kind of brain, would have criticized him if he went for it and failed in that situation. NO ONE. And while he may be dumb, he's smart enough to know that.

Further, TMQ notes that although NFL coaches order mincing fraidy-cat punts when there's still a chance of victory, after hope has been lost, then they go for it. Herm Edwards would not try for a first down on fourth-and-short in opposition territory when there was plenty of time left to win the game. Down 30-20 to New Orleans at the two-minute warning and facing a fourth-and-10 in his own territory, Edwards went for it. Likewise, trailing by nine points -- two scores -- with 4:28 remaining, Lions coach Rod Marinelli ordered a punt on fourth-and-4. When the margin was still nine points but the game clock was down to 1:22, when it made no difference what the Lions did, then Marinelli had his charges go for it.

Interesting. He's admitting that there are times when all hope is lost, and it doesn't really matter what a team does. Speaking of that, and speaking of self-contradiction (which we weren't but are now):

Buck-Buck-Brawckkkkkkk: A week ago, St. Louis, trailing 40-0, kicked a field goal -- then did not even have the dignity to onside kick, kicking away. Sunday, trailing by 35-3, St. Louis kicked a field goal -- then did not even have the dignity to onside kick, kicking away. Not even attempting to win is simply unprofessional. Anyone who has purchased a Rams ticket this season should receive a refund.

Hyperbole, anyone? Sheesh, if you're going to hold franchise to that standard, no one should have had to pay to attend a Pittsburgh Pirates game for the past 15 years. Additionally, if there is such a thing as a time when "all hope has been lost" or it "[makes] no difference" what at team does (his words from the previous paragraph regarding punts), I'm pretty sure being down 40-0 and 35-3 fits those descriptions. And don't give me crap about that time Buffalo came back from like 60 points down to beat Houston in that crazy playoff game- those Bills were a playoff team in front of a home crowd. These Rams are, uh, for lack of a better term, bad. And they were the road team in both those games.

Sour Decision of the Week: With the score 13-13 in overtime, Philadelphia faced a fourth-and-1 on its own 22-yard line with 1:30 remaining in the fifth quarter and punted. The end result was the NFL's first sister-kisser in six years. But for the Eagles, wasn't a tie as bad as a loss?

I am almost sure that it will not be. The reasoning for that is a little complex, but it's sound and I'll get to it in a second. First, Gregg, you tell me why you think it's as bad as a loss and I will then tell you why you are wrong and need to go away forever.

Philadelphia, at 5-4-1, is in last place in the NFC East.


TMQ suspects that at the end of the season, that tie will effectively be a loss for the Nesharim. The situation in the NFC East seemed to justify a little risk taking.

F for explanation, F- for analysis. You "suspect" that it will effectively be a loss by season's end. Great. So, now that you're done not thinking, let me tell you what I am thinking.

Here's the NFC playoff picture- the North and West both stink, and will only produce one playoff team each. The Giants are basically in as East champs. Assume the Panthers win the South, as they are currently 8-2 and a game up. So that means the two wild cards come down to the Eagles, the 7-3 Buccaneers, and the 6-4 Redskins, Cowboys, and Falcons. That's five teams going for two spots, and I'd say it's likely that each of the two wild card winners will have at least ten wins. At least two (if not more) of those teams will go 4-2 (or 3-3 in Tampa's case) from here on out. Here's where it gets kind of complicated; this may lead to tiebreaker questions. The tiebreaker that is used when teams going for the wild card end up with the same overall record is record within the conference. A quick check of the standings, however, reveals that the Eagles (at 4-4) have a worse conference record than every other wild card contender except the Cowboys (who are also 4-4).

Stay with me now.

So imagine the Eagles had won this game rather than tied it. They would now have the same record as the Cowboys, Falcons, and Redskins. However, if the season were to end on this hypothetical day, the 7-3 Buccaneers would take one wild card and the 6-4 Redskins would take the other based on their 5-3 conference record. It wouldn't matter whether the Eagles were 6-4 or 5-4-1; their tiebreaker (4-4) wouldn't be good enough anyways.

Keep staying with me.

So now let's go back to reality, in which the Eagles did not win the game. Having a tie on your record basically assures you that you will not end the season with the same record as anyone, and thus will not need to utilize any tiebreakers. But that's OK for the Eagles, because they are worse off than every other contender in the conference in terms of tiebreaker strength. They will now (if they get hot) finish somewhere in the neighborhood of 9-6-1 or 10-5-1. 10-5-1 will get them in the playoffs unless two other teams finish 11-5, which is reasonably unlikely. The Bucs could do it, but I doubt any of the 6-4 teams will go 5-1 down the stretch and do so. 9-6-1, on the other hand, will probably not get the Eagles into the playoffs unless three out of their four competitors fail to get to 10-6, which is pretty unlikely. So that's what we're left with- the Eagles must win five of their final six games to get to the playoffs.

We're getting closer.

Now let me tie it all together by going back to fantasy land. What if the Eagles had won against the Bengals last week? Well, first of all, it's worth noting that beating the Bengals would not improve their conference record. It would still be 4-4, and still be worse than the Redskins', Bucs', and Falcons' conference records. In this case winning five of their final six would get them to 11-5 and an almost certain wild card bid. On the other hand, winning four of their final six (the scenario that puts them at 9-6-1 and almost certainly out of the playoffs in real life) would get them to 10-6. And you know what? Because of that poor conference record, this would still almost definitely still keep them out of the playoffs unless A) only one other wild card contender reaches 10-6, incredibly unlikely, or B) they enhance their tiebreaker by winning all four games against NFC competition and losing both against AFC competition, also incredibly unlikely considering that those four games are against the Cardinals, at Giants, at Redskins, and Cowboys.

Do you see what I'm trying to say? I swear I'm almost done.

Basically, by taking the tie, the Eagles didn't change their playoff chances one bit. A win would have done them basically zero good. However, you know what would have absolutely killed their playoff chances? Going for that 4th down on their own 22, failing, and giving up a field goal and losing the game. That would put them at 5-5, and probably require them to go 6-0 to get to 11-5 and into the playoffs. As things stand they probably "only" need to go 5-1.

OK, I get it, time to wrap up.

This, my patient readers, is why Gregg Easterbrook is a zilcheroo. Now, this whole mini-essay took me about 20 minutes to type and probably took you about two minutes to read through and process. But it only took about 45 seconds to conceptualize. You think Gregg could have spared an extra 45 seconds while writing this week's TMQ, to look at what I looked at in the standings, and say to himself , "Hmmm. Although it wasn't particularly exciting that the Eagles punted in OT, it didn't really do anything to damage their playoff hopes. I probably shouldn't rip them for that." Would that have been so hard? Evidently. Man, I hate this guy.

Donovan McNabb has been ripped by the sports media for admitting after the game that he did not know NFL regular-season contests end after five quarters, unlike postseason contests, which continue until someone wins. Could it be that the Eagles' coaches didn't know this either?

No. It could not be. I would literally bet my own life that the vast majority (if not all) of the Eagles' coaches were aware that NFL regular season games end in ties after 15 minutes of OT. Literally. If someone would take the bet, I would place my own life on the line that this is the case.

Sweet 'N' Sour Results: In Week 10, the key element of Minnesota's victory over Green Bay was Minnesota coach Brad Childress' deciding to go for it on fourth down, challenging his players to win. This week, with the score tied at City of Tampa, Childress went for it on fourth-and-1 -- Adrian Peterson dropped what would have been a touchdown pass. Then trailing by six with 2:29 to play and facing a fourth-and-3 on his own 27-yard line, Childress went for it rather than booming a mincing punt and trying to shift the blame in the postgame news conference. This try didn't work, either -- two sweet decisions with sour results. But suddenly Minnesota has an all-out-to-win attitude, and the football gods are likely to smile on this team down the stretch.

This is similar to the Herm Edwards analysis. I don't disagree that both of these 4th downs were good calls. However, HEY, ASSHOLE: NOT EVERY PUNT IS A REFLECTION OF A COACH'S DESIRE TO SHIFT BLAME AWAY FROM HIMSELF. THAT'S SOMETHING YOU MADE UP. IT'S NOT REAL. JESUS FUCKING CHRIST.

Reader Comments: TMQ regularly claims tenths of seconds are too brief to have meaning in athletics. Reader David Williams of Dunbar, W.Va., writes, "While I agree with your assessment of athletes, coaches and officials, keep in mind that musicians deal with fractional divisions of seconds all the time. Take the Sousa march, the Stars and Stripes Forever -- that march is traditionally played at the speed of 120 beats in a minute, one beat every half second. The thunderous passage for trombones and tubas in the middle of the final section has everyone playing four notes on each beat, one one-eighth of a second each per note. The difficulties are higher for concert artists. I can think of passages in violin concertos that require 12 notes played in one second. So maybe the way to get an accurate assessment of whether an NBA player really can get a shot off in half a second is to have Hilary Hahn or Joshua Bell be the replay official."

I've covered this topic ad nauseum, and given an item I'm going to cover below, it would be hypocritical for me to harp on it too much again. So, a few quick points:

1) It's really sad that he still won't fully admit how obviously wrong he is. There is no commentary from him accompanying this letter: just a word-for-word copy and paste, and he moves onto the next topic. So he's still not really owning up to it.

2) I like that it was a fan of classical and marching band music (stereotypically associated with snobby people, in my opinion) who got his letter published. I bet that if you wrote him a similar letter and talked about some heavy metal song that goes 180 beats a minute, there's no chance it ever makes the column.

"Monday Night Football" Analysis: Phil Dawson of Cleveland had just put the Browns ahead 29-27 with 1:44 remaining on a 56-yard field goal kicked with the gusting wind, and then Buffalo reached first-and-10 on the Cleveland 34 with 1:03 remaining and a timeout. Buffalo was facing into the wind -- the Budgies needed another 15 yards for a realistic field goal opportunity. But ultra-conservative coach Dick "Cheerio, Chaps" Jauron acted like the game was already won, running Marshawn Lynch straight ahead three times. To the surprise of no one except "Cheerio, Chaps," the 47-yard attempt into the wind failed, and Cleveland prevailed.

It was questionable coaching by Jauron; it almost seemed like he was more concerned with running the clock down so Cleveland couldn't score one last time when they got the ball back than with assuring his kicker a better chance to hit the field goal. But I've included this item here because of Gregg's hyperbolic claim that the Bills needed to get inside the Cleveland 20 to have a shot at "a realistic field goal opportunity." It's the NFL, asshole. Pretty much every kicker is very good up to 45 yards or so. Yes, they get better the closer they get, and there was a headwind on Monday night. But it's not like the coaching staff should have felt that there was no "realistic" chance of the kick going through unless it was a 35 yarder. The failed 47 yard attempt that lost this game for Buffalo didn't miss because it came up short. Is this to say that Jauron didn't coach questionably? No. Is it to say that a 35 or 40 yard attempt would have a much better chance at succeeding than a 47 yard attempt? No. Is it to say that I love nitpicking on every stupid little thing Gregg Easterbrook says? Absolutely.

"Friday Night Lights" Update: Once again, the Dillon Panthers won on the final snap, this time a last-play 50-yard touchdown pass. The Panthers are 5-1, yet a character said "The playoffs start next week" -- again the FNL gang has been so obsessed with relationship talk and longing glances that the team has forgotten to play enough games.

You bring this up every fucking week. We get it. The show isn't written with much regard for portraying the scheduling rules of Texas high school football accurately. IT'S NOT A BIG DEAL.

And this brings up the hypocrisy issue I mentioned before, but at least when I bitch about Gregg's inability to understand how fractions of a second work, it's because he has said something dumb about one of many different sports: basketball, swimming, track and field, etc. When he brings up this "OMG they're not playing enough games!" thing, it's the same fucking thing, over and over and over and over and over again. We get it, Gregg. OK?

/Larry B cups hands around mouth to amplify his voice


Criminy on a crutch. This guy... is... the... fucking... worst.

The only good part about this column is that he didn't have a "Wacky Wine of the Week." I really thought that was going to become a regular thing.


Tonus said...

re:chip embedded in a football- this could probably be done relatively inexpensively and be pretty reliable. But as you pointed out, it does nothing to help with calls where a player's knee may/may not have touched the ground first.

Solution- implant chips in the player's knees! Or, you know, stick with the replay system that works pretty well 99.9% of the time.

re: the "tenths of a second" debate. I just want to point out (AGAIN) that if Gregg's claim is true, then baseball umpires would be unable to call balls and strikes, nor would they be able to make close calls at any base, and hitters wouldn't be able to hit the ball unless they just closed their eyes and swung. (Heck, hitters not only need to make a decision in a micro-fraction of a second, they then need to REACT within a tenth of a second or so just to hit the ball)

re: the explanation about the Eagles playoff chances- why not just point out that going for it from their 22 and failing would've led to a loss, which would've been worse than a tie? Then I wouldn't have had to read that dissertation, and my eyes wouldn't be all red and watery now.

Bengoodfella said...

I almost wish I had not ever realized the awfulness of Gregg Easterbrook. His stupidity haunts me now.

A chip imbedded in the football seems to bring up more problems than it actually helps to solve. I think using instant replay and trying to get the call correct originally is going to be the best option here, not more new technology. I bet at some point Easterbrook will want robots to coach the teams so they will take human decision out of the equation and make "smart" decisions, like always going for it on fourth down.

Larry B said...

Tonus- of course I agree that a loss would have been worse than a tie, but Gregg's point is that the tie is the same as a loss and that a win would have been better than a tie. Thus the dissertation. But I appreciate the fact that you read it.

Ben- Yeah, he's sneakily stupid, isn't he? If you just casually read him once in a while, it wouldn't really shine through. But it turns out he's a real clod.

cs said...

Dude, your columns crushing TMQ have replaced Bill Simmons crushing as this blog's highlight.

I honestly swear to God that there was a time when I enjoyed TMQ. I distinctly remember this. Maybe I'm remembering it wrong. I don't know. But holy fuck are his columns terrible. You know, putting a micropchip in a football is like having touchboards in Olympic swimming... um, yeah... what? Can we bring back Reader Participation Friday but rename it Easterbrook Analogies or some shit? The potential material is endless.

Or, let's not, and say we did.

cs said...

And furthermore, if you never watch actual football and just read his column, you'd probably think he was clever. His MNF paragraph ends with "the 47 yard attempt into the wind failed, and Cleveland prevailed." First of all, nice rhyming, I'm sure it was intentional. But, while the wind was a factor, the kicker missed it like a yard to the right. The dude pushed it. I'm sure the wind had something to do with it, but it wasn't even remotely short. Gregggggggggggggggggg conveniently leaves that out and words his sentence as if the wind was the sole factor like it was blowing 60 mph and EVERYONE knew what was going to happen before the ball was snapped.

This is a common theme in his column. He leaves out facts all the time and he instead creates a picture that is really wrong if you watch the games or follow the NFL. If the kick had come up 10 yards short short, "TO THE SURPRISE OF NO ONE", we'd all be like yeah, what a dip shit that Cheerio Dick is, he should have attempted a pass (INTO THE CRAZY FIELD GOAL STOPPING WIND) But, in reality, a place Gregggg finds himself in occasionally only by sheer accident, the fucking kick was wide by a yard! WIDE not SHORT.

Martin said...

Though I do agree with Gregg about the ridicuolous amount of times the Dillon Panthers win on the last play of the game on 50+ yard pass plays. It makes the team seem more like the luckiest team ever, instead of the best team in Texas.

dan-bob said...

There we go! Some of the good old LB vitriol. I'd missed it.

cs: +1 for deft use of capitalization.

Chris W said...

fucking sports nerds.

let's talk about guns 'n' roses

Andy said...

I hear they have a new CD coming out!

cs said...

Hey, aren't the NHL playoffs coming up soon? Boy, if there's one thing I love, besides Guns N Roses of course, it's the perfect length of the NHL playoffs.

Chris W said...

NHL playoffs rule. NBA playoffs drool.

Jeff said...

Chip in the ball = Worst. Idea. Ever.

Even if there was a chip, and everyone agreed that if the chip broke the plane (instead of just any part of the ball) then it was a TD, there would still be crazy arguing about if the chip actually broke the plane...if the computers were right down to fractions of inches needed, along with the other challenges noted (was the knee down, etc.).

It's a worse idea than watching child pornography at work, with the volume on. So, you know, that's pretty bad.

Chris W said...

no shit. Who cares if the ball breaks the plane. Unless you have some sort of like chip in each player's kneepad hooked up to the chip in the ball the ball chip is worthless.

THis is, like, the stupidest idea ever.


CitizenX said...

This wouldn't happen if they game was played by robots.

Robots would always go for it on 4th and 3. They would know about the length of the average play.

Man, in 125 years people are going to realize how ahead of his time Greggggg is.