Wednesday, December 3, 2008

TMTMQR: Gregg Easterbrook Has Apparently Been Huffing Spray Paint Again

You get the feeling that he lived under power lines as a kid or something. He's kind of like an unfunny version of Tommy Boy who writes instead of selling auto parts for a living.

I don't think it would be an efficient use of time for me to cover the dumbest part of this week's TMQ line-by-line. It's about the viability of a college football playoff system. I'll summarize it instead- the distastefully named Gregg spends about 1,000 words breaking down why it would be a bad idea. His thesis is that there are only three possible ways to make it happen, and none of them work for logisitical reasons. If you hold the playoffs before the bowls start (and why the fuck would you do this... the national champion would be crowned before the season ended) then you have to shorten the regular season to get the playoffs underway in November. If you hold them instead of the bowls (seriously, I'm not making this up, he considered this to be one of only three possible scenarios under which a playoff system could exist... eliminating every single bowl) then you just knocked out the postseason opportunities of about 60 teams. And if you do it after the bowls, the season would extend too far into January. Not only are all three of these reasons poorly conceptualized in and of themselves, but he has also failed to consider the possibility that YOU COULD MAYBE HAVE AN EIGHT TEAM PLAYOFF RUNNING AT THE SAME TIME AS YOU HAVE A BUNCH OF OTHER TEAMS PLAYING BOWLS. THEY'RE NOT MUTUALLY EXCLUSIVE. YOU COULD DO BOTH SIMULTANEOUSLY, IT WOULDN'T BE THAT HARD.

The only tough part would be deciding what to do with the bowls which traditionally pit conference champs against each other, like the Rose Bowl. There are two options- first, you can just call one of the first round playoff games the Rose Bowl and hold it in Los Angeles. This messes pretty heavily with tradition and means you can't have the national title game until two weeks after New Years, so I don't think it's ideal. The better choice would be to tell the Rose/Orange/Sugar bowls, "Hey, it's too bad that we have to do this, but it's in the name of having a playoff. You're still going to exist, but you're no longer going to have conference champs. You'll have second and third place teams from your traditional conferences. Sorry, this is the way it has to be." This option messes with tradition too, but to a lesser extent. So that's what I'd do if I were in charge. McWorrrrrrrrld!

Why am I wasting all this time with my bullshit ideas for how to have a college playoff? Now I just sound like a less retarded version of Gregg. The point is, he is a zilch for thinking that "eliminating every single bowl" is one of only three ways a playoff system could exist. Let's just get to the rest of the article in actual cut-and-paste format.

In 2003, NFL teams averaged a combined 42 points per game; this year they're averaging 45. One additional field goal per contest just does not seem like a monumental change. (Excuse me -- the average is 44.7 points per game this year. Everybody's using the pseudo-precise decimal place.)

There is no pseudo-precision involved in decimal points. In fact, that couldn't be more false. Decimal points are all about actual precision. You want an example of pseudo-precision? Well, you could just say that NFL teams are combining for 45 points a game when that isn't actually true. That would be pseudo-precision. Why are you so afraid of any number that's not an integer, Gregg? What dark secrets from your past could explain why tenths of a second and tenths of a point twist your panties so much? What are you not telling us? Did your father run away with a decimal point when you were a small child, leaving your mother to raise you and your 1.5 siblings all by herself?

Re: Minnesota's 99 yard touchdown play on Sunday night against the Bears, which happened because Chicago CB Charles Tillman incorrectly thought he had safety help with Vikings WR Bernard Berrian:

Tillman made a killer mental error about the coverage scheme. Usually mental errors result in short gains; this one resulted in a 99-yard gain. Reader Mario Salazar of Monterrey, Mexico, suggests Tillman's boneheaded play was an example of TMQ's Law of the Other Shoe: When something bad just happened (Chicago getting stuffed on fourth-and-goal), beware that something even worse will happen on the next down.

Gregg has outdone himself in his relentless pursuit of anecdotal bullshit. The Law of the Other Shoe. Wow. You know, that law definitely makes a lot of sense. Except when it doesn't, like when a team forces a turnover but then subsequently turns the ball right back over. Or when a team gives up a touchdown, but then takes the ensuing kickoff back for a touchdown. Or when... or when... or when..., etc.

In this year's NFL draft, three Arkansas running backs were chosen: Darren McFadden and Felix Jones in the first round, Hillis in the seventh. Hillis has outgained Jones this season, 285 yards to 266; he is on pace to outgain McFadden, who has 405 yards.

It's well known that Gregg loves... nay, is fucking obsessed with players that were drafted late or not drafted at all. So this little stat is the kind of thing that gives him (at bare minimum) a partial erection. Only problem with it: if Denver hadn't lost five other running backs to injuries leading into week 12, Hillis would probably have less than 100 yards. And if McFadden or Jones played for the Broncos, they would probably have somewhere in the 500 to 800 yard range. But hey, why get bogged down in thinking or using your brain when you can just be really excited that a relatively untalented guy is benefiting from other players' injuries and getting a lot of reps in a good offense.

Also- did you know that there are some players in the NFL who are really good, but have been cut at one point or another for various reasons? The horror, the horror.

More college football baloney-

If Boise State gets no FedEx envelope from the BCS, a fantastic matchup would be Boise State versus Ball State in the Humanitarian (although as the likely MAC champ, Ball State is committed to the Motor City Bowl). Both are currently undefeated, and to the football purist, such a game might be more attractive than several possible BCS pairings.

Why would a purist rather watch this game than, say, Penn State/USC or even Utah/Texas? Why? And what does being a purist have to do with it? Because both these teams are undefeated, that makes the game better than the BCS games? If you want to say some fans (not purists... again, what the fuck does being a purist have to do with anything other than style of play) would find this game equally attractive as some of the BCS games, that's fine. Where does the "more attractive" label come into play? Here's a brief list I've assembled of how to get into Gregg's heart (and pants, if you're into that kind of thing):

1) Be an NFL player who was undrafted or got cut at some point, even if the cut was purely for salary cap reasons
2) Be a college team that isn't that well-known or heralded for a variety of reasons, including (and especially) if you play in a weak conference
4) Oh, and the same "worse than murdering kittens" standard applies for punting. At any time, in any game situation. Do not punt. Ever.
5) And if you're losing by more than three, you're not allowed to kick field goals. Down 7-0 with ten minutes left in the first quarter, facing a 4th and 15 from the 30? And you're running out the field goal unit? Wow, you might as well forfeit right now. Clearly you're not trying to win. You're just trying to avoid the shutout. Pussy.

Absurd Specificity Watch: In the Chicago at Minnesota collision, it wasn't clear if Minnesota tight end Jim Kleinsasser got the ball across the plane of the goal line. Referee Bill Leavy huddled with the replay assistant and announced, "The ball will be spotted at the quarter-yard line." A quarter of a yard is 9 inches.

Let's play a game called "Fill in the blank to complete the popular cliche that is for the most part true and valid." Are you ready? Here goes:

Football is a game of _______.

Do you need it again?

Football... (pause)... is a game of _______.

Think about it. Is there really actually any space between the one yard line and the goal line? If you stare at a field long enough, Gregg thinks you will conclude that there is not. There is the one, the goal line, and an untouchable void between them which cannot be understood or discussed for any practical purposes.

Why, Gregg? Why are you so terrified of small measurements? Can you imagine him trying to follow a receipe for baking a cake? "Two and a half teaspoons of baking powder- that's ridiculous. What a bunch of pseduo-accuracy. I'm just going to dump a couple scoops in and see what happens. Three quarters of a cup of oil? What are you, fucking nuts? Does anyone actually think there is an amount of oil that can exist which is greater than zero cups but less than one?"

Seriously, fuck this guy with a parking meter.

Buck-Buck-Brawckkkkkkk No. 2: With Baltimore leading 13-0 on the final play of the first half, Cincinnati kicked a field goal from the Ravens' 4, rather than use the final snap to try for a touchdown. The Bengals went on to be clobbered 34-3. Cincinnati entered the game 1-9-1. What do you have to lose? Go all-out to try to win! It was obvious bumbling coach Marvin Lewis was more concerned about keeping a shutout off his résumé than trying to win.

No. That is not obvious at all. You just made this up, because you hate punts and field goals. There are literally hundreds of coaches at all levels of football that would have done the same thing, for a wide variety of reasons. Maybe a handful of them would do so because they wanted to avoid a shutout. I would contend, however, than a much larger number of them would do it BECAUSE THEY THOUGHT IT GAVE THEM A BETTER CHANCE OF WINNING THE GAME IN THE SECOND HALF.

When the Cincinnati players saw their coach quit on the game, they quit too.

I don't think the problem was whether or not Lewis quit. I think the problem was that the Bengals are really, really bad and are depending on the worst QB in the league.

Sportsmanship Watch: Taking possession in New Orleans territory with a 23-20 lead, 1:30 remaining and the Saints out of timeouts, the Buccaneers simply knelt to end the game. Taking possession at the Bills' 14 with a 10-3 lead, 1:30 remaining and Buffalo out of timeouts, the Niners simply knelt to end the game.

Apparently we're now equating "being ahead by one score or less, and then doing that which guarantees you will win the game with little to no risk" with sportsmanship. Sportsmanship is kneeling out the clock when you're winning by 30, you clod. Not when you're winning by 3.

Weasel Coach Watch: When Auburn was "only" 4-2, Tommy Tuberville fired offensive coordinator Tony Franklin; the boosters were in an uproar because Auburn was not winning by huge margins. Auburn went 1-5 for the remainder of the season, its sole win over cupcake Tennessee-Martin. TMQ predicted the Weasel Coaches of 2007, Bobby Petrino and Rich Rodriguez -- acquired by their schools at substantial cost in money and lost prestige -- would not combine to go .500. They didn't come close; Arkansas and Michigan combined to finish 8-16. Considering the incredible advantages in recruiting power and gimmick schedules possessed by these programs, a couple of orangutans could have coached Arkansas and Michigan to a combined 8-16 record.

Much as I hate weasel coaches, especially Rodriguez, I think it's worth noting that these coaches were not hired to win a national championship in 2008. They were hired to build successful programs, something they have both done before. Maybe we should wait and see where they are after more than 12 games before being sure that they're both total and abject failures.

On an extremely closely related note, I don't hear TMQ shitting on "Little Nicky Saban" at all this year. Strange. I wonder why not? About a year ago, he was saying the same thing about Saban that he is about Rodriguez and Petrino here. Again, I hate weasels like Saban, but Alabama didn't hire him to win a national championship in 2007. They hired him because he is good at what he does, and is relatively likely to lead them to a national championship at some point during his tenure. Like maybe even as soon as a month from now.

Hey, speaking of being good at what you do, you know who isn't? Gregg Easterbrook!


Anonymous said...

And let's not forget the pompous douchebag ripping on someone's Web site for bad grammar and demanding that he proofread, when, in the very same section, he writes "split infinites [sic]".

Anonymous said...

It's also worth nothing that five of those eight combined wins were Petrino's. He went 5-7, which for those scoring at home, is one game short of .500. (By one game, I mean that if one of their games goes the other way, they're .500. Was that obvious?) They were in every game the second half of the season, with their four losses coming by a combined 19 points. And perhaps best of all, Petrino made Casey Dick look like a semi-competent quarterback. But sure, an orangutan could have probably done that too.

Jeff said...

Larry - I had the exact same thought on the bowl system. It was unbelievable stupid the way he framed the issue. The bowls run for a couple of weeks anyway, you just have a playoff start when the first bowls start and run for 3 weeks. Pick the high profile bowls and wrap the playoff games into them. The 2,000 other bowls happen as they normally would. Not that hard. I hate when "travel schedules" is actually brought up. All bowls are on neutral sites! The hotels can reserve x amount of rooms no matter who plays. The media can book their travel no matter who plays.

I got really mad reading it and was going to write a long post, but then I just decided to go back to sleep.

Anonymous said...

Bill Shoop's favorite line...

"Seriously, fuck this guy with a parking meter."

Chris W said...

Tradition of the Bowls shouldn't be a concern. The BCS already shot it to shit by putting non Big-10/Pac-10 teams in it FIVE TIMES IN THE LAST SEVEN YEARS.

Angelo said...

Maybe it's because I love march madness, but I think people are selling NCF playoffs way too short. It's not enough to have an 8-team playoff. I propose a 32 team tournament, with each league sending one team guaranteed. Since there are 34 bowls, and the championship is a repeat site, there are 33 spots to play. Get rid of hawaii due to travel, and you have 32 locations for 31 games. And in fact, two bowls are played in the same location in Orlando, so you have 31 spots for 31 games. In terms of scheduling, the big 10 plays the same amount of games as everyone else (minus a championship) and finished two weeks ago. Make everyone conform to that schedule. Then the conference championships would be last week, the first round of the playoffs would be this week, and the season would end January 3, earlier than it does now. Which means you could even put a bye week somewhere in there. Get it done ncaa.

Tonus said...

There is no difference between a running back who gains 3.5 yards per carry, and one who gains 4.4 yards per carry. Some people get hung up on those pseudo-precise decimal places!

Also, I find it hard to worry about the tradition and integrity of the Tostitos Orange Bowl or the Federal Express Rose Bowl or the Enron Sugar Bowl or... you get the idea. Just seed the teams and give bowl names to the various match-ups depending on where they are in the rankings. I mean, we're not really worried about tarnishing the image of the Burger King Fiesta Bowl, are we?

Anonymous said...

...Wow, here I was about to come out and defend Easterbrook on the one cogent thing I thought he wrote. Then, I read it a second time, and realized he's an idiot who is scared of those little dots between numbers (and especially those creepy lines that have numbers above and below them).

When I first read In the Chicago at Minnesota collision, it wasn't clear if Minnesota tight end Jim Kleinsasser got the ball across the plane of the goal line. Referee Bill Leavy huddled with the replay assistant and announced, "The ball will be spotted at the quarter-yard line." A quarter of a yard is 9 inches. I thought he was saying something totally different. I thought he meant that if the ball was an entire 9 inches away from the goal line that it should have been quite clear the ball didn't cross the goal line - like, it should have been spotted at the one or two inch line. Then I realized the statement was labeled Absurd Specificity Watch and I promptly shot myself.

I wonder what he says when someone asks him how tall he is...

CHart said...

Angelo, your idea would be great, but travel has to be considered (sorry Jeff, I think when people refer to travel scheduling being an issue, they mean fans, not media/players). Asking a fanbase to potentially have to travel to 5 different bowl games is pretty extreme. If those fans aren't in the seats, the bowls can't make money, which defeats the whole system.

PS. It's the TOSTITOS Fiesta Bowl, you ungrateful piece of shit.

cs said...

If Gregggg were the owner of a football team:

Looking for professional football coach with a minimum of 30 shutouts on resume. Robots preferred, but heavily modified cyborgs will be considered. Ideally a robot/cyborg who has been involved in a large, distant space battle. No knowledge of fractions, decimals or other witchcraft required. Applicant must best the official son of TMQ, Spencer, age 12, in a theoretical discussion of 4th down procedure. I will sit on the couch and write "game over" in my notebook when the word 'punt' is ever mentioned. Applicant must also be proficient at keeping a mutated, freakish unibrow with sinister designs of world domination under control. Mail resume and a minimum of three pictures of girls in their underwear to the address listed below. Pictures will not be returned.

CitizenX said...

"What are you not telling us? Did your father run away with a decimal point when you were a small child, leaving your mother to raise you and your 1.5 siblings all by herself?"


Angelo said...

CHart- my guess is that lots of people would travel to the first round game to support their teams (they could try to have the higher-seeded team play in their region) and that the semis and championship game would sell out no problem. That makes three games with a lot of revenue and two with less, but television rights for all the games would still be ridiculous. I can't see why good teams/conferences would make less money this way. Maybe some individual bowls get screwed, but I'm ok with that.

Larry B said...

This is my dream, and I actually think it has a realistic chance of coming true one day. Easterbrook regularly mentions that he coaches HS football for some school in Montgomery County, MD. One fall in the hopefully-not-too-distant future, I will travel to the DC area and attend one of his games. And then, I will mercilessly heckle him (until being ejected from the stadium) anytime he punts or kicks a field goal. "HEY, I JUST SCRIBBLED 'GAME OVER' IN MY NOTEBOOK, DOUCHEBAG." Or maybe a little "YOU'RE JUST TRYING TO REDUCE THE MARGIN OF DEFEAT TO MAKE YOURSELF LOOK BETTER." Yes, I am a simple man with simple dreams.

My other dream is to move out of this goddamn basement at some point.

Chris W said...

I think a 16 team playoff is both reasonable, and, to a certain extent, necessary.

I mean in an 8 team playoff they'd probably give conference champs of the BCS conferences auto-berths, because that seems to be the CFB m.o. That leaves 2 "at large" wildcards, which would seem to me to be even more inviting of controversy than the current system. We'd have Texas, Florida/Bama, tOSU, Boise State, Utah, and Ball State all bitching about who got left out.

In a sixteen team bracket you'd have a couple schools that had no business being there, but the only controversy would be over who was the 17th best team in the nation and who was the 16th. Hard to feel like too much injustice is done there.

Also it would only be 4 rounds. No biggie.

cs said...

Yeah, I live frighteningly close to Easterbrook. I actually want to go to one of his games and witness this magic play he used to talk about almost every week. He claims to have designed an unbeatable play but will not reveal the play in his column for fear of people stealing it. In one column, he remarked how he was surprised no NFL or college programs have contacted him for the play. I'm 97.3% sure he was dead serious and bitter.

Now, keep in mind, he said he has run this play numerous times in FLAG FOOTBALL and it has a 100.0% success rate.

pnoles said...

You know, I originally created that "pardon the idiocy" label for a post making fun of "Pardon the Interruption"....

But hey, we're finding awesome new uses for it, and that's great!

mole said...

How about a "pretentious douchebag" tag?

Larry B.'s Dad said...

You move out of the basement? Get a place of your own?
Yeah, that's your mother's and my dream also. What a coincidence.

Chris W said...

take THAT larry B

also take THAT back for good

dan-bob said...

The McWorld reference had me rolling in the aisle of my basement as well.