Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Bowl Controversy Series

Do you see what I did there? BCS headline joke, in your face. 

I rarely get fired up about sports controversies, because they're largely manufactured by ESPN and usually matter less than Steven Seagal's character in Executive Decision (ROFL!!!1). However, this Utah BCS thing has got my pickle juiced. Not only my pickle, but the pickles of sports writers everywhere! So, I started reading articles about how Utah is getting jobbed out of a National Championship shot (to be honest, I don't watch ESPN, but there doesn't seem to be THAT much outrage). Here's a little of what I found:

Let's start obscure, what's that you say Weird Head Shaped Lunatic from Topeka? Utah got screwed by epic proportions and you have a great solution? Let's hear it. 

Secede, I say! The five non-BCS conferences in the FBS - Conference USA, the MAC, the Mountain West, the Sun Belt, and the WAC - should award their own National Championship. 

This is a great idea, we could even group those conference together and call them something like... DII, or DI-AA. It's foolproof. Honestly though, this is a horrible fucking idea for so many reasons, mostly, it doesn't solve anything -- Utah (or any future team from a small conference with national title aspirations) is left holding their cocks. 

Alright, shit eating pieces of shit from Kansas aside, there must be "real journalists" to weigh in on this...Oh, my good friend Rick Reilly! He actually writes a pretty good article about the fuckjob that Utah is receiving, albeit, with his usual annoying style and smashed full of dumb references, but pretty good. That is, until the last line of the article:

Lemonades for everybody!

Wait, what? I'm lost, but what does that have to do with anything? Is he making fun of Utah for being Mormon and drinking lemonade? Is it some sort of "when you've got lemons, make lemonade" joke? Who knows?

Alright, who's next? Oh, my man, Bill James. The title of this article is "Boycott the BCS!" Hell yeah, we're gonna get some solid statistical analysis about why Utah deserves a chance at the national title. 

But until that happen, statisticians, quantitative analysts, and all related professionals should have the dignity, the self-respect, and the common sense to have nothing to do with the BCS...
You guys want to make a mess of this, you can make a mess of it without our help. 

Note to Bill James: Nobody Gives a Fuck About Your Computers. Maybe it was because I was misled about what this article was going to be about, but seriously, Bill James just ripped off a 2,300 word opus about how the BCS's computer models aren't statty enough. That is his biggest problem with the BCS: not that half the schools in D1 have literally 0% chance of ever even contending for a title, but that the computers used in the system aren't up to par. This probably isn't popular to say on a stat-favoring sports blog, but Bill James just made himself into a dickfor in my eyes. 


Passive Voice said...

What's a....oh, very good.

I disagree wholeheartedly on Reilly's article. What Reilly's doing is as shitty as what the BCS is doing. He's just proclaiming shit.

Rick Reilly is the biggest evil in sports journalism today. He's got it all: uncontroversial, uninspiring, (painfully, painfully) unfunny, unoriginal, and now he's somehow managed to turn me *against* the Utes.

"So that's it. Utah is the national champion. The Utes should probably have two now, actually. They went undefeated in 2004, too, and their coach still thinks they were the best team in the land. Smart fella named Urban Meyer. Coaches Florida now."

Well, fuckwit, it's possible to make an argument (although, in my opinion, it's pretty fucking flimsy) that Utah should be somehow crowned this year because of the undefeated thing, all other considerations be damned (Hawaii should have turned down the Sugar Bowl last year; they could have been national champs too!). But there's absolutely zero way to make an argument for that 2004 Utah team. There were two other, better undefeated teams with better wins. Except, what? Oh, their coach said so? Well fine then.

I lovelovelovelove what the Utes did to Bama the other day. I think the Utes deserve every shot at a hypothetical playoff spot, and they deserve to lay claim to whatever they want. But it makes me want to peel my face off when I hear some cunt like Reilly swoop down and start righteously squawking and shitting out a skin-deep argument. It's 482% worse here, because he's right in tune with everyone else.

""What else do we have to prove?" asks Utah's magical quarterback, Brian Johnson." I'm fairly confident Reilly hadn't heard of Johnson before, like, Saturday, when he flipped on ESPN to see what had happened the night before.

"Oh, by the way? It was Utah's eighth straight bowl win, the nation's longest streak." Completely, mind-numbingly irrelevant. Just...FUCK, REILLY. I LOVE THE UTES, AND YOU'RE TURNING ME OFF THEM.

Passive Voice said...

For what it's worth: IMO, there's no right answer. There isn't a champion. There's a team that seems unstoppable right now; there's a team that has no losses; there's going to be, as of tonight, a team with the best overall resume...but there's no one champion. It's actually pretty fucking awesome. In basically every sport, there's a neat and tidy ending every year. CFB is the only place to get a fix of anticlimax. Basically: David Foster Wallace might have killed himself, but Div-1A has got his back.

Chris W said...

Maybe you should have read Bill James's article.

He's not complaining that computers aren't "statty" enough, but rather that voters are merely tailoring the computer systems to fit the predetermined opinions of the human polls by amending the conditions of evaluation at the first sign of the computer polls' divergence from the human polls.

Seems like, oh I don't know, a pretty reasonable objection.

CHart said...

Thanks Chris W, I never actually read that article...

The computers have been tweaked to match up more with the human pollsters, and hence aren't based on the type of things Bill thinks they should be. I summarized this by saying they're not "statty" enough; maybe I should have been more specific. However, the point stands, Bill James = out of touch.

Passive Voice said...

Maybe Bill James just didn't feel like shitting out an easy "it's not fair!" article like 3 trillion other writers.

Aaron B. said...

I really don't see why the polls should have been tweaked to match up with the pollsters.

Pollster = someone who has maybe seen 5% of the games that week, makes a decision based mostly on W-L record and point differentials without putting it into context. Also highly swayed by where the person was ranked in the pre-season poll. In the final coaches poll, the coaches mostly vote with an agenda (e.g. for their coaching friends or former staff)
Also, 99% (yeah, made it up) subjective.

Computers = use more than win-loss record and point differential; try to establish strength of schedule; look at turnover margin and stuff; do things empirically, as best they can

Of course, it would be great if the computer guys weren't so "black box" with their methodology, but I guess that's what's keeping them as part of the BCS formula.

Martin said...

I actually agreed with Bill in some respects, what was clear however is that he never looked at the computer polls, and their history. They kept geting tweaked because they kept spitting out incredibly wrong/weird results. It wasn't every poll every year, but it was often enough that there were some that definitly needed to be tweaked or dropped. He took issue with criteria being forced or taken away from the computer pollsters, but since all values in a computer poll are subjectivly weighted, they all come out different anyway. nderI personally think margin of victory should count, but put a cap on it of say 21 or 24 points. I'm not sure that there is much diffference between winning 34-10 and 49-10 other then the bigger numbers look fancier. Both are dominating performances, by mere victory margin, and at a certain point, a big margin indicates a terribly inferior opponent, who a team should get almost zero credit for playing.
I understand why Bill objected to this being eliminated as a piece of data they were allowed to use, but he also needed to take to task the various computer models that valued beating a horrible team by 81 points over beating a decent team by 24. College football isn't MLB, point/run difference is hugely easy to manipulate in college football and has to be used with a careful eye. Back in the day, this wasn't being done by some of the computer models.

Chris W said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chris W said...

The fact that you continue to take away "The computers aren't statty enough" as the thesis of Bill James's article suggests that either

a.) you didn't read it carefully

b.) you didn't understand it.

Take your pick. His beef is that the PURPOSE of the computer polls is poorly and incompletely defined

Anonymous said...

Bill James' take sounded pretty reasonable. I actually read it before I came across this piece and thought it was one of the better arguments against the BCS. Computers do simply what we tell them to do. The BCS made a mess of this whole process and now blames the computers. You can't have it both ways. Bottom line is that a playoff system would be best. Everyone knows it, everyone agrees on it (in principle), but nobody with any clout will step up and do anything about it. Blame money, blame advertising, blame whatever you want...this argument will never end until there is a playoff