Monday, November 30, 2009

Ugh, Jeter

So apparently Jeter won the SI "Sportsman of the Year Award. It could be worse. I mean, he did have an excellent year playing baseball. But the worst part of it is the rationales given by SI Group Editor Terry McDonnell. Here are a few of the highlights:

"This verifies my idea that he is on the level of Ruth and Gehrig," McDonell said. "He's the greatest shortstop in the history of the game."

No, the greatest shortstop in the history of the game currently plays third base for the Yankees.

Jeter is not on the level of Ruth and Gehrig. He's just not. You can't just SAY that.

"He's so classy," McDonell said. "He brings a dignity and elegance to the game."


"It's about the manner of the striving and the quality of the effort, too," McDonell said. "Off the field he has grown so much as a member of the community."

If this award was really about the manner of the striving and the quality of the effort, they'd have to give it to Eckstein every year.

McDonell was impressed by Jeter's leadership, how he "stepped in and molded a team" this spring with the arrival of three expensive free agents, and Alex Rodriguez's admission to using steroids from 2001-03 and then having hip surgery that kept him out until May.

Jeter molded the team! Why didn't he mold any of the 2002-2008 Yankees into World Series Champs?

I like how A-Rod's hip surgery somehow becomes a reason for Jeter winning an award.

Sunday, November 29, 2009


Let the Weis-bashing commence! But my goodness, please, if you say anything like this in the process, you will, and I do mean will, sound like an inconceivable jackass. You know, kind of like David Haugh.

Notre Dame lost Charlie Weis's final game to Stanford, for those who haven't seen. Stanford was driving with little time left in a tie game, 38-38. They were down at ND's 4 yard line with just over a minute to play. First and goal.

The first came with 1 minute, 3 seconds left and the game tied 38-38 with Stanford at the Notre Dame 4. During a timeout, Weis told his players to let the Cardinal score to get the ball back with enough time to drive. On the next play, Toby Gerhart walked in untouched as one Irish defender didn't even move his hands off his knees.

Even if the call could be defended strategically, any time a coach of a bunch of 18- to 22-year-olds tells his team to lie down -- to quit -- it offends the sportsman in all of us. Weis first quit on his players last Sunday when he publicly acknowledged athletic director Jack Swarbrick had reason to fire him and again Saturday night with the game on the line.

What happened to the fight in Fighting Irish?

I'm near speechless, but I'm sure I can work up a tirade for this.

Stanford could have downed the ball three times and kicked a last-second field goal to win the game. Instead, they offer a GIFT, and try to score 7 points, which would give ND's offense a chance to retaliate in the final minute. And you are criticizing Charlie Weis for not vomiting the gift back in Stanford's face for some misconstrued sense of horseshit pride and "the sportsman in all of us". You literally just said that Weis told his players to "quit" in TAKING THE ONLY FUCKING CONCEIVABLE CHANCE THAT ND HAD TO WIN THE GAME.

I love this qualifier: Even if the call could be defended strategically

You are a football coach. As long as you are following the rules, that is THE ONLY THING THAT FUCKING MATTERS.

In reality, the only real mistake was that Weis didn't "quit" one play earlier. Why tackle them on the 4 yard line? That costed a timeout and about 10 seconds (because for whatever reason, Weis wasn't feeling the need to call timeouts as fast as possible yesterday).

I am not a Weis supporter. But as for writing crap like this in one of the nation's major newspapers: It is ignorant, it is lazy, it is stupid. Get a new job, you suck at yours.

Monday, November 23, 2009

TMTMQR: I am a Lazy/Busy Doucheplatter

Never did get around to the TMQR, did I? Or... DID I? No, I definitely didn't. But since the holidays are coming up and no one will probably be posting here later this week (which will be a big departure from the way things normally work around here, what with all the posting from all of the blog's named authors going on all of the time), I figured I should toss something up there. And so, I bring to you, the dumbest thing Easterbrook has said about college football this year... so far.

Non-Obscure College News: Sportstalk radio continues to call for the head of Charlie Weis of Notre Dame, whose team is "only" 6-4 after close losses to power schools.

In college football, 6-4 is not good. It's certainly not good enough to justify the use of sarcastic "only" quotes. As in, Bill Simmons is such a gambling expert he has "only" lost to his wife in a season-long ATS NFL pick 'em twice. Also: Navy (this was written before the UConn loss, unfortunately, so I can't include them in this) is apparently now a power school.

Must be that when Weis got to South Bend, immediately he forgot how to coach.

No one really knew for sure that he knew how to coach in the first place. He had a very good first two seasons, winning 19 games, but only one of those wins was against a team which finished the season ranked. He lost in a BCS bowl game both years, neither time in a game which was particularly close. Anyways, what is going on with this bizarre straw man? Who said that Weis was a great coach before he got to South Bend? He was acknowledged as a great coordinator, sure. But even with his early success, no one whose opinion matters thought he was being hired as a great head coach. They might have gotten a little carried away and said he was a great coach after his first two seasons, I guess. But that's not what Easterbrook wrote here. I suppose that analysis would have been too hyper-specific.

Bob Davie and Tyrone Willingham, his predecessors, saw their coaching careers hit the rocks, too, upon arrival at South Bend, followed by boosters' demands that it become 1966 again and Notre Dame roll over opponents.

Davie was never a head coach before picking up the job at ND. He clearly wasn't right for the job, which is why he was fired and has worked in broadcasting since. Willingham flat out wasn't any good. He went 44-36 during his time at Stanford. The fact that he went 21-15 at Notre Dame isn't surprising at all. Oh, and he ran Washington into the ground after that. This isn't an issue of perception or unrealistic expectations. Neither of these guys were good head coaches. Sure, expectations at a place like Notre Dame are often unrealistic. But these guys sucked. And Weis has been bad this year too, given the talent he's brought it.

TMQ thinks Notre Dame alums should be proud of the football program's recent struggles --

That's dumb.

because the reason for the struggles is that Notre Dame still requires football players to attend class.

Even with that explanation.

Over the past couple of decades, increasingly most top 20 football schools have discarded any pretense of education.

Sure, but ND is still bringing in great recruiting classes. Weis should have won 9 or 10 games this year with the talent he's assembled, and he didn't. The fact that ND's players actually sometimes go to class is not relevant to that discussion. It may be relevant to a discussion about the long-term goals and aspirations of the program. Wait, what were we talking about?

With a 94 percent football graduation rate, Notre Dame is competing against programs with a 68 percent football graduation rate (Florida), a 55 percent graduation rate (Alabama) and a 50 percent graduation rate (Texas); other football power schools have similarly miserable grad rates.

I'm totally down with the idea that this is a massive problem. But it doesn't really have anything to do with Weis's poor game plans, complete inability to make halftime adjustments (ND has been outscored by like 500 points in the third quarter this season), terrible defense, and horrific special teams. This year. In 2009. Unrelated to whether or not the school is perceived by top recruits as a place where they can go and not have to do any work in the classroom.

Low graduation rates at big football schools mean players cut class to concentrate on sports, being pros in all but pay. "Don't go to Notre Dame, they make you study there, come to our college and party, party, party" has become a recruiting pitch that undercuts the Fighting Irish.

Like I was saying.

It is extremely cynical of other football powers not to educate their players; Notre Dame is among the few football powers (others are Boston College, Nebraska and Stanford)

Stanford and Boston College are "football powers" like Notre Dame and Nebraska are basketball powers.

to refuse to give in to such cynicism.

Which is great. But doesn't really help them win more games.

Want the Irish to win more games?

Yes. Like any rational fan of any team anywhere.

If the school stopped making football players do term papers, results would improve. That would hardly be in the best interest of the players -- or of Notre Dame.

Very true. But the best result would be for the team to keep its current policies, and not lose to Navy, and most importantly not lose in the ways they've been losing. By which I mean with crappy preparation, crappy game planning, and a complete lack of discipline on defense.

Two weeks ago, when Navy defeated Norte Dame in the closing seconds at South Bend,

Perennial power team Navy!

both teams and 80,795 people stood quietly and respectfully in the twilight as "Blue and Gold," the Navy alma mater song, was played -- only a genuine institution of learning like Notre Dame could produce such a moment. Wasn't it worth more than a victory?

I mean, yeah. But when you take that perspective you make sports pointless. Which is more worthy of making me upset- the fact that my favorite baseball team lost in the first round of the playoffs, or that there are homeless people starving to death in the streets? Which is a more worthwhile moment- my favorite NBA team winning on a buzzer beater, or a soldier in Afghanistan giving his life for his country? Fuck, man. We like sports because they let us escape from the real world and give us something to care about that's not really that important but still captivates and intrigues us. Saying "Hey, stop worrying about whether your team wins and loses and start being happy that they're friendly to the service academies!" is fucking pointless.

Wasn't it far more impressive than the mindless fist-shaking exhibited by some big-deal football programs after 40-point wins against cupcakes?

Saying that is also fucking pointless. OK, if there's anything really awesome in today's TMQ, I'll try to get to it before 1 AM on Tuesday 12/1. Enjoy your Thanksgiving. Or as I call it: "Are you fucking kidding me? Raiders/Cowboys and Lions/Packers? Seriously? That's what they scheduled?" day.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

I Still Watch Sportscenter, for Some Reason

And in the span of about five minutes just now, I heard two things which undoubtedly made me and everyone else watching stupider.

In a "4 Downs" Q & A segment (because we can't just ask people questions... we need some kind of contrived setup or backdrop for the questions, which takes a sports theme), Craig James was asked the following:

Is this the year that the Heisman Trophy goes to the best player in the country, not just a hyped skill player on a highly ranked team?

A decent question. Craig, your thoughts?

Yes, I think so.

Awesome. Like who?

That's why I like Mark Ingram from Alabama.

What. The fuck. COME ON. I'm not saying Ingram isn't good- he's awesome. But Jesus, Craig- listen to the fucking question, OK? Does he not know that running back is a "skill position?" Does he not know Alabama is undefeated and ranked #2? Does he not know that Ingram is at least "hyped" at this point, if not maybe a tiny bit overhyped? Was he talking about a different Mark Ingram from Alabama? And just to make things even worse, village idiot Mark May then had to go and do something reasonable and talk about relatively unheralded Nebraska DL Ndamakong Suh. I hate "4 Downs," although it's better than the "Cold Hard 6 Pack of Coors Light Cold Hard Facts brought to you by Geico."

Maybe 120 seconds later, Tim Kirkjuan narrated a taped segment about baseball's free agent period. This wasn't a lightly-scripted in studio interview; this was a piece that was recorded well before the show, as Tim read off a script. That was presumably reviewed by a production editor before it was used. Hmmm, let's kick off the segment with an analogy. Tim?

At midnight tonight, baseball's equivalent to March Madness begins.

March Madness is an end of the year tournament, featuring games played on the court (the football court by football players) among teams which have had set rosters for the previous five months. Baseball's free agent signing period is a contract negotiation window, featuring absolutely no games played on the field but rather players bouncing around from team to team. Come on, Tim.

And sadly, as I type this, I'm still watching Sportscenter. Sigh. Currently up for debate: should LeBron tone down the ferocity of his dunks? AMERICA NEEDS TO KNOW.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Before I Do This Week's TMQR, Let's Take a Minute to Remember that Gene Wojciechowski is Fucking Atrocious

See, the thing is this- I'm reasonably certain Bill Belichick made the right call in going for that 4th down against the Colts on Sunday night. It was a chance, with a great QB and a great receiving corps, to put the game away by gaining two yards. There are arguments to be made against it, of course, but I think it was the right call. What does Gene think? Mostly, Gene thinks that Gene is very clever and funny. He also thinks this is the most cut-and-dried situation in the history of sports, which I guess is the kind of hyperbolic attitude you have to write with to be considered for a position as a sportswriter at a major media outlet these days. Let's dive straight into the retardery.

With 2 minutes, 8 seconds remaining in the game, with the ball on the Patriots' 28-yard line, and with one of the best quarterbacks in the history of the game standing at his side,

Exactly. With an awesome QB and and awesome WR corps by his side... yeah, I already talked about this.

Belichick decided to go for it.

This is like saying "With Albert Pujols by his side, 1 out, and runners on first and second in a tie game in the bottom of the 9th, Tony La Russa decided not to bunt and instead to let one of the greatest hitters in recent history swing away." Actually, Tony La Russa is a dumbass so he probably would call for the bunt there. But you get the idea.

Not play it safe and punt. Not make the Colts drive 50, 60, 70 yards for the game-winning touchdown.

Something they had done twice in the quarter already. Both times from 79 yards, actually, and both times in about 2 minutes. Now that's playing it safe!

But go for it in a "Top Gun" "I've got a need for speed" sort of way, even though everybody is staring at their TVs and saying -- no, screaming -- "What is he doing?!"

It's worth mentioning, of course, that if the 4th down attempt had succeeded Wojciechowski's article would have been titled "Gutsy Belichick knows how to push all the right buttons!"

Not me. I knew what Brady was going to do. He was going to drop into the shotgun formation and try to use a hard count to coax the anxious Indianapolis defensive line into a 5-yard penalty.

Because the Patriots had no timeouts at that point. And surely, if the hard count didn't work, taking the delay of game penalty and punting from 5 yards further back would be no big deal.

Fourth down would become a gift first down.

The hard count trick works like 10 times per season across the entire NFL. Thinking the Patriots were going to try it there, in situation where every yard is critical, is ridiculous.

And it did.

Wait, it did?

For the Colts.


You can rationalize the decision any way you want, but Belichick cost New England a crucial victory.

Well, sure, he sort of did. And so did Kevin Faulk. And so did Tom Brady, for throwing to Faulk when Faulk was dangerously close to the first down marker rather than safely past it. And so did NE's defense, for allowing 21 4th quarter points. And so on and so forth. The result doesn't invalidate the decision. If the Belichick had decided to punt, and then the punt had been blocked and returned for the game winning TD, that decision would have cost New England a (questionably crucial) victory too. But who am I kidding with this logic stuff- trying to explain this to Gene is like trying to explain to a small child that they can't eat cookies for every meal.

Two yards isn't six inches. This wasn't a gimme quarterback sneak; it was a pass, meaning lots of things can -- and did -- go wrong. The first wrong thing was going for the first down.

This decision was wrong for several reasons. First, for being wrong. The way the federal government gave stimulus funds to banks earlier this year was irresponsible for several reasons. First, it was irresponsible.

The second wrong thing was Faulk's bobble.

Yeah, like I've said, let's not not throw him under the bus here. Catch the ball, butterfingers.

The third wrong thing was not having any timeouts to challenge the mark of the ball after Melvin Bullitt's tackle.

0% chance that gets overturned if reviewed. 0%. Ugh, it sickens me, but I'm channeling my inner "Oddsmakers" Mike Wilbon right now. ZERO PERCENT, TONY. ZERO PERCENT CHANCE THAT I WILL MAKE ANY REASONABLE OR NON-BOMBASTIC ARGUMENTS ON THE SHOW TODAY.

But where Belichick's logic springs a very large leak is why he chose Brady and fourth-and-2 over the Patriots' defense and first-and-70. That's about how many yards Manning presumably would have had to cover in the final 120 seconds (with one Colts timeout).

Because, you know, the Colts had only gone 79 yards in 1:49 and 2:04 on separate occasions earlier in the quarter. Clearly, the best way to analyze this decision isn't to look at all the specifics of the situation- it's to simply say "Duhhh, 70 yards is a long ways! Question: ANSWERED."

Giving Manning two minutes and one timeout from his own 30 is taking a chance. He's that good. But giving him two minutes with the equivalent of two timeouts from your 29 is football suicide.

Classic "double wrong" situation. Not only is this idiotic because taking one chance to gain 2 yards with the Patriots' offense is probably less of a chance than giving it to Manning on his own 30 with 2 minutes left (expressed mathematically: [odds of making 4th down attempt] + [odds of stopping Colts IF turnover on downs] > [odds of stopping Colts IF punt]), but they didn't give it to the Colts on the NE 29 "with the equivalent of two timeouts." The turnover on downs happened at the 2 minute warning. The Colts weren't able to use it as a timeout.

If Belichick was worried that his defense couldn't stop the Colts from scoring a touchdown from 70 yards out, why would he possibly think it could stop them from scoring one from 29 yards out?

Wow. You are a simpleton. You are a mental midget. You are a fucking stump.

Brain freeze.

Evidently Belichick was enjoying a Slurpee as he made this decision.

Come on guys

You know you guys are slacking when 2 out of the last 3 posts are mine. Get with it. I'm looking at you Larry B. But I'm ESPECIALLY looking at you, Pnoles.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

How Bout A Less Controversial Article This Time?

Last time I rapped at 'ya I was explaining my disagreement with a writer whom I respect greatly and who is a favorite of most of your readers. A lot of Joe Posnanski's fans (and some readers who just plained disagreed with my highly questionable POV's on competitive balance in MLB) took me to task for what I wrote. That's fine. I love a parade.

That said, this article, I think, will draw less fire, since I think the only reader of this blog bound and determined to go to bat for SI writer Jeff Pearlman is....well, Jeff Pearlman

Athletes like Allen Iverson ill-prepared for life after celebrity

I spoke with Roscoe Word the other day. A standout defensive back at Jackson State in the early 1970s, Word spent his boyhood in Pine Bluff, Ark., dreaming of one day starring in the National Football League. When he was selected by the New York Jets in the third round of the 1974 Draft, Word thought he had it made. Lots of riches, fame, the good life.

Three years later, he was done.

"The worst-off person in the world," he said, "is the poor S.O.B. who tasted the good life and can no longer afford it."

Word wasn't actually referring to himself. A Mississippi-based cattle rancher who dotes on his grandchildren and looks back at his first 57 years with little regret, Word instead was talking about Allen Iverson, the rapidly fading basketball star who recently left the Memphis Grizzlies, seemingly never to return.

Well, Jeff--it does seem like Roscoe is talking about himself. Why else would you use him as a source of authority on "being a poor SOB who tasted the good life and can no longer afford it."

Also, I realize you're setting "afford" up as a metaphor for what Iverson can or can't physically do anymore now that he's washed up in the league. However, it seems to me that your buddy Roscoe doesn't really know what it's like to be a superstar in a major sporting league for 13 years and then lose his ability to play. It seems what he knows about is "having a brief taste" of "having actual big time money and fame" and now can now "can no longer afford it"

Initially, Memphis team president Michael Heisley said that Iverson had bolted for a "family reason." Now, reading between the lines, it seems a "family reason" is abbreviated terminology for "I didn't join this sad-sack franchise to play 22 junk minutes off the bench."

link plz. k thx!

"What's that man going to do now?" said Word. "What can he do that'll ever match the last decade of his life?"

Most people's lives from age 34 on are as good as their lives from ages 18-33, right?

And certainly Iverson doesn't have access to the things that make 47 year old white accountants' lives family, hobbies, golf, vacations, etc, right?

Blessed with a perspective I lack and experiences I'll never know, Word's word is -- as Iverson once dubbed himself -- The Answer.

No, it was a question.

In modern-day America, what with our emphasis on fancy cars, fancy jewelry and (in the case of too many men) trophy women, nothing can match the complete and utter bliss of the life as a professional athlete. The first-class flights, the five-star hotels, the long-legged groupies, the Benz parked alongside the BMW parked alongside the Porsche.

Now you kids with your loud music and your Dan Fogelberg, your Zima, hula hoops and Pac-Man video games, don't you see? People today have attention spans that can only be measured in nanoseconds.

(tried to find the Youtube for this, but you know how modern life is. I got too distracted by my pursuit of fancy cars and jewelry. To say nothing of the trophy women...apologies)

It all adds up to a certain heaven on earth -- L'il Wayne's "Lollipop" brought to fruition.

Say....what? No seriously...say WHAT?

Yet if Iverson's 16 years in the NBA can be equated with a hip-hop video, then what awaits him now is an eternal April 15 trip to the post office. words.

Well, let me take that back. Yes words. Ok look: AI had a great, idyllic life for 13 years from his 1997 ROTY award to now--a time when his career has come to an end. It probably sucks for him that his career has come to an end. Now he will have to take his millions of dollars and find some other way to have fun. Will he? Won't he? Who knows.

Now consider Jeff Pearlman, a guy with a pretty good job which he sometimes seems to hate.

Jeff, like many of us who read and write for this blog, probably went to college. College, as those of you who went know, RULES. College is awesome. You drink and play video games and have lots of friends who are always around and you sometimes even have sex with women in their late teens and early 20's. It's great. Then you graduate and you get a job. The prime of your life is either behind you or it's not, depending on whether you love your job, hate your job, kind of love your job sometimes and hate it other times, love your wife, hate your wife, don't have a wife, have three wives, blah blah blah.

Allen Iverson is at the same crossroads many of us were at (including Jeff) at graduation. Big deal. Any "negatives" that come from his "college experience" being preponderately awesomer than ours are by his millions of dollars and the fact that he never has to work a day in his life unless he decides that's what he wants to do. Plus: no student loans!

Look. Is it possible that AI will feel completely unfulfilled with no basketball playing purpose in life? Absolutely. It's happened to a cadre of athletes and will happen to countless more as time progresses. But this isn't noteworthy. Every single person who has ever retired from his or her job has faced this problem and almost none of them have had millions and millions of dollars in the bank.

Is his situation a little more difficult because he can't go back to his job? Absolutely. But that seems like a pretty mundane point. He can open a clinic to coach promising young point guards. He can begin a college coaching career starting as an assistant and trying to work his way upward. Or he can just accept--like many people have in society--that his life is going to be a little less-satisfying now that his prime has passed than it was when he was in his prime.

I'd say "boo hoo hoo" on Iverson's behalf, but you know what? It's not even Iverson whining. In fact, it's not even Pearlman whining FOR Iverson. It's Pearlman trying to make fun of Iverson for whining even though we have no indication that that's the case.


Or, to be more blunt, rarely in our time have we been had with an athlete seemingly less prepared for life after the NBA.

You know, except for those athletes who played maybe one or two years, didn't make any money and now have no job and no transferable skills. Or you know, are completely bankrupt despite having made millions.

Or this guy. This guy wasn't less prepared for life after the NBA than AI?

What a ridiculous claim.

I'm not going to draw from the next passage, because it's just ridiculous. Jeff goes on to explain that besides a porn star, there's nothing he fears for his children than for them to be an ex athlete. He then goes on to compare ex-athletes to other celebrities and explain that their lives are better because they can still do what they did in their prime. And uses that as proof that AI is setting himself up for misery.

This seems patently ridiculous to me and I'm not going to waste my time with it. Moving on.

If this is indeed the end for Allen Iverson as a professional basketball player, he offers society the following: A former athlete with an inability to cohabitate with co-workers. His neck tattoo eliminates him from most white-collar jobs. His poor communication skills eliminate him from TV work (Iverson's odds of one day taking over for Regis? Not good). His oft-cantankerous approach toward the fans makes Iverson's Ice Cream Parlor or Allen's Greeting Card Emporium a long-shot.

Pearlman has not given any evidence that Iverson needs to take a basic job. According to Basketball-Reference, he's made 150mm over his career. Now, it's possible he's pissed away 150mm and will not be able to retire on it, or even will need to stop living a lavish lifestyle. But I doubt it. And Pearlman has done nothing but conjecture to "what if" AI were broke and could no longer play.

This is not exactly hard-hitting journalism is it?

But in any case, let's hope that AI has somehow managed to hold on to even 20mm of his 150, because Jeff offers these chilling words of warning that probably apply not-at-all to AI going forward from his excellent pro-career to his almost-certainly-idyllic post-career luxury retirement:

If nothing else, we can hope that Allen Iverson invested his money well and has a passion for the game of golf.

Because casino greeters make eight bucks an hour.

Eight-fifty, max.

Bum bum BUM.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

TMTMQR: Signing Your 1st Round Draft Pick Makes Your Team Worse, Obviously

I knew it was coming. As soon as the Titans finished their victory over the 49ers, I knew it would be brought up. But I never imagined he would lead his column with it. Or that said column would run on the main screen of the front fucking page of ESPN, complete with a graphic to accompany the story. It sounds stupid to say... but honestly, I was blindsided.

Beware the Crabtree Curse!


Coach Mike Singletary had San Francisco's players buying into the notion that no one's bigger than the team. Then, suddenly, you can jerk San Francisco around all you want and get $17 million guaranteed as your reward. San Francisco management's cave-in to the me-first Crabtree triggered an instant losing streak, by communicating to other 49ers the message that the team-first stuff was always just empty talk.

How do we know this? We just do. Nevermind that the 3-1 start happened with wins against the Cardinals (good), Seahawks (bad), and Rams (awful) while their current losing streak has included games against the Falcons (good), Texans (good), Colts (great), and Titans (OK, I can't really explain that one). But here's a better theory- Singletary made Alex Smith the starting QB at halftime of the Texans game. Since they the Squared Sevens (LOL math-based nicknames!) are 0-3. There is clearly a Smith curse- he was drafted first overall in 2005, hasn't done anything but be paid a lot of money ever since, and yet gets his starting job back from Shaun Hill by doing nothing? Clearly, with that move Mike Singletary sent a message to the rest of the team that you can suck and still be awarded a starting spot. THAT'S why they've lost four in a row.

Squared Sevens apologists have put word on the grapevine that team management should be praised because the contract Crabtree signed in early October was the same one offered before his nutty holdout began -- no added sweeteners were offered. So Crabtree shafts his team, and the team responds by not upping its offer -- talk about profiles in courage! Once training camp broke, San Francisco should have reduced its offer to Crabtree, since he was worth less at that point.

Master negotiator Gregg Easterbrook- he plays for keeps! Surely that power play would have worked really well on Crabtree and his oversensitive agent/relatives/advisors. No way would that have pissed him off and pushed him much closer to deciding to return to the draft in 2010. I hope Crabtree catches the game winning pass in the Super Bowl next year. And then spikes the ball off the ground so that it embeds itself into the eyeball of Gregg, who happens to be sitting in the front row behind the end zone.

A rookie who holds out is worth less every week; by season's start he is worth substantially less, since he becomes less likely to succeed as a pro,

Clearly the three months of practice and four games 22 year old Crabtree missed will ruin his career.

while projecting waves of negativity onto the team.

Waves! Waves and waves of it! Watch out, physics- there's a new electromagnetic phenomenon in town.

To boot, when he finally bothered to show up, Crabtree was treated by the Niners as a conquering hero.

Evidence of this? No? This reminds me of Larry B's immutable Law of TMQ: making stuff up is permissible if no one can disprove it. I also like Chris W's take on this situation:

"Let's use a high valued pick... on a guy we think will help our team... then watch him hold out, only finally agreeing to the terms we set, essentially compromising from his position... what's the best strategy? THROW GAS ON THE FIRE BABY."

The result is four straight defeats for a team that previously looked primed for a playoff run. And don't tell me the Niners have offensive line injuries -- it's the NFL, everybody has injuries.

You're an analyst, dummy, not a coach. You don't have to be a tough guy. Yes, everyone has injuries- and the 49ers' offensive line injuries are way more horrific than injuries sustained by the average "unit" on the average team in the NFL. They've used four different o-line starting lineups in their last four games. Their starting LT and RT are both out until at least December. So yeah, I'm going to tell you about injuries. They're not the only reason SF is struggling, but they're a pretty legit reason.

New Orleans is zany, wacky and emotional -- you never know what's going to happen in a Saints game, and you get the feeling the Saints' players have no idea, either.

No one on any team knows what's going to happen in their games. That's the worst possible characterization of a "fun-loving" team, or however he's trying to characterize the Saints. Oh, I should clarify- no one knows what's going to happen in their games except Raiders players, who know Jamarcus Russell is going to turn the ball over at least six times. Ohhhhhhhh BURN. BURNBURNBURNBURN.

You know exactly what the Colts are going to do -- you just can't stop them from doing it.

One of TMQ's "sweet plays of the week" last week was a HB toss/pass from Joseph Addai to Reggie Wayne for a key touchdown in their victory over the 49ers.

And in other movie news, the world gets destroyed yet again on Friday, when "2012" opens. At least there are no zombies!

You've talked about this for like six weeks in a row. The movie is coming out. We get it. The last thing I'll accuse Easterbrook of is being lazy (at least in terms of length of column), but seriously, talk about something else. Anything else. Shouldn't Babylon 5 be coming out on DVD sometime soon?

Trailing 28-23, the Bucs reached fourth-and-4 on the Packers' 7-yard line with 4:20 remaining, and rather than do the ultra-conservative thing -- many NFL coaches would take the field goal in this situation -- rookie head coach Raheem Morris went for the win.

And those coaches who took the FG, closing the margin to two points, obviously hoping to get the ball back and kick another FG before time expired? They'd be playing for the tie.

Also, Jax offensive tackle Eugene Monroe had a perfect block at the point of attack as Rashad Jennings, a seventh-round choice from Division I-AA Liberty, ran 28 yards for a touchdown.

Woooo hoooooo! Good for Rashad! Meanwhile, starting Jacksonville RB Maurice Jones-Drew (drafted in the second round out of well-known FBS school UCLA) has run for 737 yards and a league-leading 11 TDs so far this season.

Who's ready for some GreggJokes?

Why does Hollywood like apocalyptic flicks? One reason is obvious: Directors want to show things blowing up. The most reliable standbys of modern filmmaking are explosions and breasts. Somehow, in the current environment, the former are more acceptable at suburban mall theaters. Destruction is also a substitute for plot and dialogue. If the world is ending, all actions, statements and gestures take on significance: Even the worst-imagined character may hold viewers' interest when running down a street of collapsing buildings. Subtlety or cleverness are not required. Clich├ęs can be trotted out without reservation.

Scriptwriters meeting:

SCRIPTWRITER A: What if a tear in the space-time continuum caused half of Los Angeles to go into the past and the other half into the future, and a good-looking single mom struggling to connect with her rebellious 15-year-old son was caught between the two zones?

SCRIPTWRITER B: What if strange dust from a comet killed everyone on Earth except 100 Las Vegas showgirls?

SCRIPTWRITER C: What if the moon fell on California?

Tumbleweed. Crickets. Another tumbleweed.

TMQ thinks another reason for the popularity of global destruction in Hollywood is that post-apocalyptic movies are easy to film. You do location shots in a desert or in canyons, and there are both near Los Angeles. For costumes, buy out a consignment shop, then rip and dirty the clothes. Need zombies? Just hire extras and put some ridiculous makeup on them. Computer-generated special effects can be aggressively phony, since no one really expects the studio to hurl an actual aircraft carrier at the actual White House.

I, for one, demand non-phony special effects. If I'm going to go see a disaster movie, I want actual aircraft carriers being hurled into the actual White House. Nothing less will do. Eh, fuck it, I'm going to go see 2012 anyways just to spite Gregg.

Pittsburgh plays team-oriented defense, not everybody-look-at-me defense -- Albert Haynesworth and Shawne Merriman would have no place in the Steelers' scheme. Team-oriented defense works.

It sure does. And although Merriman probably abuses women and Haynesworth once stomped on a dude's head, they're both super talented and would probably fit in just fine with the Steelers. I mean, they like celebrating after a big play. Big deal. I just watched the Steelers crush the Broncos on Monday night- no one on the Pittsburgh defense did anything as mind-numbingly retarded as Merriman's "lights out" dance, but they still did plenty of celebrating after big hits and sacks. Playing "team-oriented" defense is about staying with your assignments and being in the right place at the right time. I think they're capable of that. They just also happen to be huge assholes.

The Dolphins are 3-5 despite being the only team other than Indianapolis above 50 percent for third-down conversions. Maybe the Dolphins would have a better record if their highly paid professional wide receivers learned how to catch a football! Ted Ginn Jr. has dropped everything but Jay Leno's name.

GreggJokes, GreggJokes, GreggJokes. Although this one is pretty decent. Sort of.

But two Wildcat touchdowns and no conventional-offense touchdown is not a formula for long-term Miami success. With New England leading 7-3 and Miami facing third-and-13 on the home team 33 -- a sack here knocks the visitors out of field goal range -- New England ran "cover zero," the extreme rare double safety blitz, and got a sack.

Stop me before I blitz again! Where was Gregg's notebook? Why was "game over" not being scribbled in it? Where was official son of TMQ, Spenser? WHY WOULD ANY TEAM BLITZ EVER?

'Tis Better to Have Rushed and Lost Than Never to Have Rushed at All: Trailing New Orleans 23-20, Carolina reached second-and-8 on the Saints' 43 with 3:02 remaining. Considering the quick-strike New Orleans offense, the circumstances dictated the Cats try to use up clock in driving for a touchdown. This seemed promising, since Carolina was running the ball well -- 183 yards rushing to that point. But as TMQ keeps noting, despite a strong rushing offense and a turnover-happy pass attack, Carolina coaches keep calling passes. From this point the Panthers went incompletion, incompletion, sack/fumble, and TMQ wrote the words "game over" in his notebook.

The Panthers had already fumbled the ball once at that point. Meanwhile, Jake Delhomme was playing much less shitty than usual, having completed roughly 65% of his passes with no INTs. It wasn't the worst idea in the world. In fact, after that turnover, the Panthers stopped the Saints three and out and forced them to punt. They got the ball back, still down 23-20, with a little over two minutes remaining. First play: fumble, returned for a touchdown by the Saints. Better to have passed and lost, than never passed at all!

Cats note: The Panthers entered the season with the best fullback situation in the league, with quality starter Brad Hoover backed by fourth-round choice Tony Fiammetta, the highest-chosen fullback of the 2009 draft. On Sunday, both were hurt, and with first-and-goal on the New Orleans 1 in the third quarter, the Panthers put guard Mackenzy Bernadeau, out of Division II Bentley, in at fullback. He collided with Jake Delhomme, causing a fumble and lost yardage; Carolina settled for a field goal.

I guess they ended up missing Fiammetta (who went to well-known FBS school Syracuse) on that one, huh? Yeah, that 7th round pick from Bentley College really let them down there. Hmmmmmmm. If only he had played on a bigger stage in college. Although Gregg really missed a chance here to mention that "quality starter" Hoover went to Western Carolina. Come on, man. You're slipping.

Unified Field Theory of Creep: Kevin Ong of Forest Hills, N.Y., notes that on Nov. 3, IHOP began serving "holiday hotcakes" -- eggnog or gingerbread pancakes. "Surely, the holidays they were referring to were Election Day and Veterans Day," Ong writes. IHOP will sell eggnog pancakes "for a limited time only." You mean they won't be offered for all eternity?

That's the first time I've ever heard that warning attached to a contest or promotion! What a clever point- it obviously won't last forever, so it's funny when a corporation directly states that! I can just imagine the scene in the boardroom right now:

Executive A: Let's do a "holiday hotcakes promotion" with eggnog and gingerbreak pancakes.

Executive B: Good idea. Better tell people it's for a limited time only- that'll probably get "on the fence" customers to go try it sooner rather than later, driving up our revenue numbers.

That conversation probably never happened! Hilarious!

On the game winning TD in the Chargers/Giants game:

Veteran corner Corey Webster seemed to freeze for an instant as Jackson broke for the end zone -- San Diego needed a touchdown to win, where else was the pass going to go?

The end zone is a two dimensional place, Gregg. There are many different places within it that Vincent Jackson could run to. He could run to the back corner. He could run to a spot just over the goal line in the middle of the field. Webster was in single coverage. I'm sure he fully intended to cover Jackson in the end zone. It's not that fucking difficult to figure out.

Buck-Buck-Brawckkkkkkk No. 1: Game tied at 7, Jersey/A punted on fourth-and-1 from the San Diego 45 in the third quarter. The Jersey home crowd booed loudly, and the Jersey home crowd was right. It took the Bolts just three plays to pass the point where the ball would have been if the Giants had gone for it and missed; this play set the retreating, afraid-to-lose tone that characterized Jersey/A for the remainder of the game.

Just like how the 49ers are losing because of the Crabtree Curse! That's the only logical explanation for the end result of the game: the tone that was set on a play a quarter earlier!

Obscure College Score of the Week: Bethel 48, Faulkner 6. Faulkner University is sufficiently obscure that the school has a Web page titled, "Where Is Faulkner?" Here is how William Faulkner would have reported the game: "And so it began, and so Bethel kicked off, they have a word for it, kickoff, and it means to kick, but off into what; into some phenomenon of the body, perhaps into some void -- and the runner brought it back a certain number of yards but yards are facts that tell nothing. Vines descended upon the stadium."

GreggJokes- never pretentious, never excessively drawn out, always hilarious!

Buck-Buck-Brawckkkkkkk (College Edition): Greg Veregin, a Wyoming graduate, attended the BYU-at-Wyoming game. He notes that playing at home against a highly ranked opponent, Wyoming, on its first possession, punted on fourth-and-inches at midfield. The football gods punished that with a 52-0 BYU win.

Just like the Crabtree Curse and the Giants' failure to go for a 4th and 1 in the 3rd quarter- here's the only possible explanation for the outcome of this game! I really do home Michael Crabtree spikes a ball into Gregg's eye after catching a Super Bowl-winning touchdown. Man, that'd be great. I hope it happens after the 49ers punted on 4th and inches from the 50 while trailing by 4 with 6 minutes left. And that the opposing team plays base defense and never blitzes on the 49ers' final drive.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

This Post Will Not Win Me Any Friends Among My FJayM Colleagues and Our Loyal Readers

This is poised to be my least popular post in the history of this site (the "I hate the NBA Playoffs" post notwithstanding). Why?

a.) It is an attempt of sorts to dispute the idea that baseball is an exceptionally "unfair" sport in terms of parity, salary, what have you...particularly in the context of this most recent Yankees championship--something I know most of you (especially Larry and Jack) have strong feelings about.

b.) It is a rip of an article by Joe Posnanski, a guy who is my favorite sportswriter living today not named Bill James--and I'm sure a favorite of a number of yours since the readers of this site generally seem like non-idiots.

c.) It's not a particularly new article. Baseball's over right? It's basketball (bleh) and football (Fire Lovie Smith!) season.

Nevertheless. Here goes.

Here’s the thing about the New York Yankees huge payroll: It has been talked about so much that, in reality, it is hardly talked about at all. I know this makes little sense, but what I mean is this:

A. Everyone knows the Yankees spend much more money than any other team to win games.
B. Because everyone knows it, people have been complaining about it for many years.
C. Because people have complained about it for many years, everybody is sick of hearing about it.
D. Because everyone is sick of hearing about it, nobody really listens.
E. Because nobody really listens, people don’t talk about the Yankees spending much more money than any other team to win games.

Yes, this is a weird circle. But in this bizarre world of spin where Alex Rodriguez tries to project himself as an underdog* and Yankees types try to recast George Steinbrenner as sympathetic figure, I think this Yankees money fatigue is very real. As soon as you start talking about it, people turn off. What we’re talking about this again? Or, as indignant Yankees fans, they get angry: “Oh man, you’re not going to talk about the Yankees MONEY thing again, are you?”

Joe begins with--in typically Posnanskian fashion--a very interesting and intellectually fascinating point. The Yankees success is so talked-about it is no longer talked about. Sadly, the article loses steam from here on:

Now, let’s think about this for a moment: You have a sport where the New York Yankees — in large part because they are located in America’s largest city and they have baseball’s richest television contract — can viably spend tens of millions of dollars more than any other team to acquire baseball players. You have one team (and only one team) playing the video game on cheat-mode.

"Only one team"? This is not intellectually honest. Do the Yankees spend preponderately more than the competition? Absolutely. They spent more than 50mm more than the Mets, the 2nd highest payroll in MLB in 2009. However, the Mets spent 150mm in 2009. The Cubs spent 134mm. The Red Sox spent 120mm. The Tigers spent 110mm. Yes, that is proportionately smaller than the Yankees' payroll #'s, but it is likewise proportionately larger than the middle of the pack teams like the Cardinals and Rockies who spend in the 70mm's. Look at it this way--The Yankees spend ~33% more than the Mets. The Mets spend 100% more than the Cardinals and 500% more than the Marlins (the lowest payroll in MLB).

Clearly we have a lot of teams exploiting a salary differential. And "playing the game on cheat mode"? I can understand the general sentiment behind this statement insofar as the Yankees bought up the perceived top 3 free agents this past winter. But the Yankees have been doing this for the past 8 years. The 2008 Yankees had a payroll that was even more disparate in re: the competition than the 2009 Yankees. Whereas the 2009 Yankees ranged from 50-80mm above the rest of the top 5 in payroll, the 2008 Yankees were 70mm beyond the 2nd highest payroll in MLB--the Tigers @ 139mm. They were ~80mm above the 5th place team (White Sox @ 120mm) making their "advantage above the competitive field" EXACTLY THE FUCKING SAME IN 2009 AS IT WAS IN 2008. What does that mean? It means "cheat mode" is a really impotent way to cheat, being that the 2008 Yankees missed the postseason. Or in 2007 when they enjoyed a similar payroll advantage and....made the playoffs as a Wild Card team.

What kind of cheat mode is this? A used Game Genie?

Perhaps I'm putting too fine a point on this, let's continue with Posnanski's article:

his is much starker than people think, by the way. I quickly went back and looked at the numbers before writing my column for, and I’m going to reprint them here because even as someone who has also grown sick of hearing about the Yankees payroll, I found them to be stunning:

In 2002, the Yankees spent $17 million more in payroll than any other team.

In 2003, the Yankees spent $35 million more in payroll than any other team.

In 2004, the Yankees spent $57 million more in payroll than any other team. I mean, it’s ridiculous from the start but this is pure absurdity. Basically, this is like the Yankees saying: “OK, let’s spend exactly as much as the second-highest payroll in baseball. OK, we’re spending exactly as much. And now … let’s add the Oakland A’s. No, I mean let’s add their whole team, the whole payroll, add it on top and let’s play some ball!”

In 2005, the Yankees spent $85 million more than any other team. Not a misprint. Eight five.

In 2006, the Yankees spent $74 million more than any other team.

In 2007, the Yankees spent $40 million more than any other team — cutbacks, you know.

In 2008, the Yankees spent $72 million more than any other team.

In 2009, the Yankees spent $52 million more than any other team.

Is it just me or does this seem to be counterproductive to the argument that there is a clear and easily defined correlation between payroll and success--postseason or otherwise?

By Joe's own numbers, shouldn't the years when the Yankees had their biggest advantage be 2005, 2006, and 2008, when their payroll advantage was at its most disparate? (85mm,74mm, and 72mm respectively) What were the results in those years? ALDS loss. ALDS loss. Missed playoffs.

Likewise, the years when the Yankees have had the most overall success (2003 with their WS berth and 2009, with their 27th WS title) have been years with a lesser (at least from "THE FREE SPENDING YANKEES standpoint") payroll advantage: 35mm and 52mm respectively.

I can appreciate the concept that the Yankees seem to be a monolithic team in their spending. Hell I see it every year when free agents on the open market are priced out of my favorite team's range of affordability by a Yankees team that drives prices on open-commodities through the roof. But why cite these numbers in this way, given the Yankees lack of success (at least by their own standards) throughout the 00's. And especially given that this year's payroll advantage comes at a reduction from their payroll advantage average from 2004-2008?

Is this a compelling argument in terms of "The Yankees bought themselves a World Series in 2009" rather than "The Yankees smartened up and did a better job assembling a team in 2009 than they have in years past...when they attempted to BUY a World Series team by equating dollar value of total salary with quality of team."

In other words doesn't this argument make the same mistake the Yankees of the 00's made?

Posnanski tries to blur this distinction, arguing that success and unfair dominance in baseball is harder to recognize.

Baseball happens to be a sport where dominance can be obscured. It doesn’t look like dominance. What I mean is this: Baseball, for many reasons, is built in such a way that the best teams win less often than in other sports. A 13-win NFL team wins 81% of the time. A national championship contending football team might lose once or twice — or not at all. A 60-win NBA team wins 75% of the time, and a big time college basketball team will win closer to 90%.

A 100-win baseball team wins 62% of the time … and there was only one 100-win baseball team this year. The New York Yankees. Every baseball team that won even 56% of the time this year made the playoffs. It is a sport of small triumphs, good months, one-run victories. I believe it was Whitey Herzog who said that the key to baseball is not getting swept … the idea being that if you can play well most of the time and steal at least one in a three-game series when you’re not playing well, then you will be in good shape at the end of the year.

An admirable effort but here are two important points

1.) Even if we assume that 55% success rate is dominance, the Yankees have not been the most dominant team in baseball year in and year out. They have had years, like this year, where they have won the most games--by Joe's definition "being the most dominant"--but they have had years where they have not even been the most "dominant" team in their division, much less their league

2.) 55% is not dominant. It may be "best," but it's not dominant. Plain and simple. There are teams who have won a historic amount of games, who have dominated rs/ra measurements, who have owned the postseason. You could argue that the 1975 Reds (Joe's book on them was fucking exceptional) or the 1939 Yankees or the 1908 Cubs were "dominant" despite only winning 70% or so of their games, because in addition to that their runs scored so vastly eclipsed their runs allowed, their batting and pitching statistics were oppressive, etc. etc. but you can't say that a team that won 103 games and had a fairly pedestrian RS/RA for a championship team was "dominant" just because "they play more games in baseball." It just doesn't stand up to scrutiny.

This Yankees team was "dominant enough" just like the teams before them between 2001 and 2008 were "not dominant enough" but this is not a historically dominant team by any fucking measure.

Baseball happens to be a sport where dominance can be obscured. It doesn’t look like dominance. What I mean is this: Baseball, for many reasons, is built in such a way that the best teams win less often than in other sports. A 13-win NFL team wins 81% of the time. A national championship contending football team might lose once or twice — or not at all. A 60-win NBA team wins 75% of the time, and a big time college basketball team will win closer to 90%.

A 100-win baseball team wins 62% of the time … and there was only one 100-win baseball team this year. The New York Yankees. Every baseball team that won even 56% of the time this year made the playoffs. It is a sport of small triumphs, good months, one-run victories. I believe it was Whitey Herzog who said that the key to baseball is not getting swept … the idea being that if you can play well most of the time and steal at least one in a three-game series when you’re not playing well, then you will be in good shape at the end of the year.

So, dominant baseball teams don’t LOOK dominant in the same way they do in football or basketball. It’s like the billionaire CEO who doesn’t wear ties and rides coach on planes. He’s still a billionaire but he doesn’t LOOK like a billionaire. No team goes winless or undefeated in baseball. Few ever go winless or undefeated even over 16-game stretches. No team in baseball loses fewer than 40 games, and no team wins more than 120, and it’s only the rarest of teams that get anywhere close to either of those numbers.

Right, but some teams do win 70% of their games. Some teams have a RS/RA margin greater than 200. Some teams have an acceptable 4th starter.

This is not a compelling argument.

I think of it this way, using a mockabet: I would bet if the Indianapolis Colts played the Cleveland Browns 100 times, and the Colts were motivated, they would probably 95 of them — maybe even more than that. But if the New York Yankees played the Kansas City Royals 100 times, and the Yankees were motivated, I suspect the Royals would still win 25 or 30 times. That’s baseball.

I love Joe, except for this article, but man I hate his neologisms. "Mockabet" is his coined term for a bet that you couldn't possibly ever resolve because it's completely hypothetical and immune to reality's trappings. Here he's saying something completely uncheckable and something I disagree with completely.

There is a kernel of truth to this because the Cleveland Browns will start the same roster against the Colts every week but that some days the Yankees will start Chien Ming Wang against Zach Greinke. However, the generalized point Posnanski's making seems completely illogical. The talent divide between the best teams in football and the worst seem to pretty much any rational fan to be about the same as in baseball. Does anyone really think the Raiders are any more equipped to beat the Colts week in and week out than the Pirates are to beat the Yankees? If so, I apologize I guess.

So you have this sport that tends to equalize teams.

So...the Yankees's spending is unfair because....the sport they play in tends to...equalize teams?

Also, isn't this the exact opposite of the argument for why the NFL is a paragon of parity? I'm confused now*

*I anticipate the commenters who use this moment to point out that "heh heh you are confused". Nevertheless.**

**And yes, I stole this device from Posnanski.

If the New England Patriots were allowed to spend $50 million more on players than any other team, they would go 15-1 or 16-0 every single year.

I don't believe this for a fucking second.

The Patriots' dominance is BECAUSE they have quote/unquote outsmarted a capped system and have found a way to produce effective and dominant players and keep them at a cost that allows their roster to be more well-rounded and schemable than other teams. If you take away the nature of their advantage (i.e. that other teams can't acquire as much talent as they do because these other teams are forced to allocate money to that talent in a way the Patriots have avoided up till now through smart use of draft picks on accruing affordable talent in the late first round and late rounds of the draft), they're not going to become more dominant. It will most likely allow other teams to catch up to them.

Or something like that.

But in baseball, a great and dominant team might only win 95 out of 160, and it doesn’t seem so bad.

So now a 95 win team is dominant?

The second thing is that ,at the end of the year, the best teams are thrown together in a succession of short series that are fun to watch but are not designed to pick the best teams. Quite the opposite: A short series in baseball is designed to shelter weaknesses and expose strengths. Yuni Betancourt can out-hit A-Rod in a five-game series. Livan Hernandez can out-pitch Tim Lincecum in a one-game match-up. Baseball doesn’t hide this — they slam it down your throat. October baseball! Anything’s possible! And so on.

I don't agree with this, but I suspect I'm alone. Let's move on.

So, you create a system where the best team doesn’t always win. In fact, you create a system where the best team often doesn’t win. For years the Yankees didn’t win. They lost to Florida. They lost Anaheim. They blew a 3-0 series lead against Boston. They lost to Anaheim again and Detroit and Cleveland — and how could you say that baseball is unfair? Look, the Yankees can’t win the World Series! See? Sure they spend $50 million more than any other team and $100 million more than most. But they haven’t won the World Series! Doesn’t that make you feel better?

You'll be hard-pressed to explain to me how the 2003 Marlins were inherently a worse team than the 2003 Yankees. I guess there's an argument to be made for the concept that the 2003 Yankees lineup was overpowering enough to overcome the fact that the Marlins's frontline pitching was better than the Yankees' but I don't really buy that.

All this is mighty subjective. The Angels teams that beat the Yankees were better in some ways than the Yankees and worse in some ways against the Yankees. The Tigers team that beat the Yankees were bette in some ways and worse in others.

And the major way these teams were better is pitching. So let's not get on the pity party of "the Yankees lost to a worse team." They lost to teams that did some things better than they did and did some things worse than they did, and they did it in close serieses and they did it because they weren't by any means an unbeatable team.

And this has been the Wizard of Oz slight of hand game that Baseball has been playing for a long time … ignore the man behind the curtain who makes more money off of baseball than anyone else and can buy just about any player he wants. Ignore the absurdity of it all. Just remember: The Yankees haven’t won in a while! Just remember: Anything is possible.

Ah, yes, but not only hadn't the Yankees not won in a while, they hadn't come close to winning in a while. The closest they got was Dave Roberts stealing second. And then their payroll advantage decreased...and...they won it all.

This is not exactly helping the case.

There’s something else that people say: They talk about how money doesn’t guarantee wins. And they point out that other teams (the Mets, the Cubs, the Astros, etc.) spend a lot of money and don’t win. I think this actually makes for an interesting argument if you want to talk about the inequities of baseball … big markets, small markets, all that.

But the Yankees are a whole different argument. They are their own argument. The Yankees are not a big market team. They DWARF big market teams. They are quantitatively different from every other team in baseball and every other team in American sports. They don’t just spend more money than every other team. They spend A LOT more money than every other team. The Boston Red Sox spend $50 million more than the Kansas City Royals? Who cares? The Yankees spend $80 million more than the Boston Red Sox.

The Yankees have a pat hand.

Ah, let's just dismiss a reasonable objection out of hand. Why? Because IT'S JUST DIFFERENT. Never mind that the Cubs had a 100% payroll advantage over the team that beat them handily in the Central last year. IT'S JUST DIFFERENT. Never mind that another team that spends heavily, but smartly, has been consistently a better team in the latter half of this decade than the Yankees. BECAUSE IT'S JUST DIFFERENT. The Yankees spend the most. AND IT'S JUST DIFFERENT. They're the most successful too because of it. Never mind that they haven't really been all that successful. That's just because success isn't easy to see in baseball. Just trust me when I say they've been successful in relation to their expectations.

Sigh. I love you Joe, but this was awful.

Look--I don't know if this is the beginning of the end of any semblance of competitive balance. I hate the Yankees, and sadly it seems as if they're primed to win a lot of games next year too. But then again, it looked like the Phillies were primed until their stud pitcher decided he wasn't any good at pitching and their closer decided to shit himself and then not shit himself and then shit himself again. And it looked, in 2001 that the Yankees were going to keep on winning championships until the commissioner disbanded the MLB. It's easy to sit at what seems like the precipice and abandon all logic and point to one aspect of a team's success (payroll) and ignore the fact that it had only a little to do with their moderate success in the past. It's easy to do that. But it doesn't make you right.

Apologies to my fellow writers on this blog for this 5000 word essay devoid of humor burying your always-hilarious posts. But it had to be done. May the Lord forgive me!


Sunday, November 8, 2009

Nothing Needs to be Said About This:

Jay won Around the Horn on Friday (which of course does not involve "winning" in the traditional sense, but work with me here; I guess you could say Tony Reali thought he was the least stupid member of the panel that day). Here's how he led off his subsequent "face time:"

A few months ago it would have been unthinkable to say that Alex Rodriguez would one day make the Hall of Fame.

So, like the title says, nothing needs to be said about that. But I think I'll post a funny picture of Jay anyways.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Kerry J. Byrne doesn't understand what parity is

From his Cold Hard Football Facts piece for SI:

Six Signs the Parity is Dead in NFL

The NFL's decades-long effort to produce equality on the playing field is dead and buried. In fact, it suffered a gruesome, unwatchable demise in Week 7 of the 2009 season.

Perhaps it's only fitting that parity's final bloody demise came just days before Halloween,

No that's not really fitting at all. It would have been fitting if parity had died in the "Nokia Presents: The Parity is Dead Bowl."

1. The frightening pace of blowouts

Week 7 of the 2009 season offered more televised beatings than the 1968 Democratic National Convention.


Six of the 13 games last week games were uncompetitive blowouts -- each decided by 28 points or more. If that rash of routs seemed unusual, there's a good reason: it was.
Pro football had produced six four-touchdown blowouts just once before in its history: back in Week 14 of the 1970 season, the very first year of the AFL-NFL merger.

Oh noez, there were a lot of blowouts in ONE week of ONE season. Parity is obviously dead.

We shouldn't expect those kinds of blowouts in these days of league-wide efforts to level the playing field. But we're seeing them.

You know why? Because parity isn't intended to mean every single team will be competitive every year. The hope is that every team will make the playoffs every few years, and aside from a few poorly managed franchises, most teams have been competitive at some point over the past decade.

This idea will continue to elude you for the next 5 points.

2. Last-second thrills and chills are hard to find

Year after year, week after week, one NFL game after another came down to a last-second play that determined the outcome. It made for great theater in a sport that thrives on televised drama. That drama is slowly disappearing.

Here in 2009, 84 of 103 games (81.6 percent) have been decided by more than a field goal. That's the most in nearly a quarter century (since 1985) and the third most since the AFL-NFL merger. The trend began last year when 206 of 254 games (80.5 percent) were decided by more than a field goal -- also among the most since the merger.

Double-digit blowouts, meanwhile, have become the rule here in 2009, not the exception: 56 of 103 games (54.4 percent) have been decided by 10 points or more -- the most in 17 years and also among the most since the merger.

Emphasis mine. Kerry, if you don't tell us specifically where it ranks with other years since the merger, and the other years it compares to, then there's really no frame of reference. We're like children who've wandered into a movie and ask "what's going on."

In addition, final scores aren't necessarily indicative of how close the game was. (Anybody remember the Steelers' double digit "blowout" of the Vikings?)

Furthermore, high number of blowouts in a year != lack of parity, because parity should not be looked at on a week-by-week scale.

3. The horrifying divide in the standings

For the first time in NFL history there are three undefeated teams after Week 7 -- Indianapolis, Denver and New Orleans. And all three look virtually unbeatable, dominating opponents week after week in virtually all phases of the game.

In hindsight we know that the Broncos got absolutely dismantled by a 3-3 Ravens team. Indy has been 7-0 about 100 times and not won the Super Bowl. The Saints have been to the playoffs three times in the past 20 years, so they may not be the best team to bring up in an article saying parity is dead in the NFL.

But at the very same time that the NFL boasts three unbeatens nearly halfway through the season, the league also fields three winless teams -- Tennessee, Tampa and St. Louis. These teams barely look competitive, getting dominated week after week in virtually all phases of the game.

Tennesse won their division last year. It took a monumental collapse on Tampa's part to not make the playoffs last year. St. Louis is 5 years removed from its last playoff appearance and 10 years from their last Super Bowl win.

This great divide, meanwhile, comes after a pair of historic NFL seasons. In 2007, the Patriots became the first 16-0 team in league history; in 2008, the Lions became the first 0-16 team in league history.

In two separate years, one team was historically good, and one team was historically bad.

In two separate years, Brett Favre was really bad, and Brett Favre was really good. What conclusions about Brett Favre's overall effectiveness throughout his career can we draw from this?

A league ruled by "parity" simply does not produce historically good and historically bad seasons year after year.

Yes, you can. The year the Patriots went 16-0, the rest of the league was competitive, and the Patriots lost the Superbowl to a team they beat in week 17. The year the Lions went 0-16, the Titans and Giants looked like favorites to make the Superbowl, but were bounced in the divisional round.

4. The gruesome disparity on the scoreboard

The Saints have scored 31 touchdowns this year (26 on offense).

The Browns have scored just six touchdowns (four on offense).

The Saints are good. The Browns are bad. This does not prove parity or lack thereof.

5. The bloodbath on the stat sheets

The gridiron Grand Canyon that divides the league's winners and losers is also evident on the stat sheet. In fact, we haven't seen these kinds of disparities in statistical performances since the early days of the AFL.

Peyton Manning, for example, once again leads the league in passer rating (114.5), a mark which could go down as one of the highest ever (he holds the record with a 121.1 passer rating in 2004).
Cleveland quarterback Derek Anderson, meanwhile, has posted an abysmal passer rating of 40.6. He's on pace to become the lowest-rated qualifying passer (14 attempts per game) since Ryan Leaf in 1998 (39.0). Oakland's JaMarcus Russell is not much better (47.2).

Peyton Manning will probably retire as the best QB ever in the NFL. The fact that Derek Anderson and JaMarcus Russel are still starting is a testament to bad team management, and not parity.

6. The haunting specter of elite powers

Advocates of NFL "parity" say any team can win in any given year. Sure, it happens from time to time. But the league's always been like that.

13 different teams have won the Superbowl in the past 20 years, so really, more than 50% of the time, some "random" team will win in a given year.

The fact of the matter in today's NFL is that four teams -- all in the AFC -- have held an iron grip over the NFL for more than a decade. Denver, Indy, New England and Pittsburgh can be counted on year after year -- with the occasional exception here and there -- to stand among the very best teams in the league.

See if you notice a trend:

Indy: #1 QB of all time
New England: Top 5 QB of all time
Pittsburgh: Likely HOF QB

Conclusion: All very white fan bases!

Also, Denver? Dominant for the past decade? They've made the playoffs four times this decade, but advanced to the divisional round just once, and were promptly shown the door.

Those four have won 11 of the past 14 AFC titles.

Somewhat of an arbitrary number, but yes, they've all had likely HOF QB's in that time frame.

They've won six of the past eight Super Bowls and eight of the past 12.

And eight of the past 39.

Over the past 15 years, the AFC's Big Four have filled 19 of 30 spots in the AFC title game.

HOF QB's will do that for your team.

There's a good chance you'll see the NFL's Big Four battling for the right to go to the Super Bowl once again. They're a combined 22-4 after Week 7, and if the playoffs began today, they'd hold four of the top five seeds in the AFC. There's a good chance one of the Big Four will hoist the Lombardi Trophy once again in February 2010.

I'll eat my hat if Denver wins the Superbowl, but I definitely wouldn't be surprised if New England, Indy, or Pittsburgh won. However, I don't think anyone would be shocked if Philly, New Orleans, Minnesota, or Baltimore won the Superbowl either. Damn this predictable, unbalanced league that only offers 7-9 likely winners of the championship!

The Colts, meanwhile, are in the midst of an unprecedented string of six straight 12-win seasons and well on their way to making it seven straight -- a fact that alone should kill any notion of "parity."


The Patriots, of course, are two years removed from the first 16-0 season in history

In which they were not league champions.

they won a record 34 games over two seasons earlier this decade (2003-04), they need one postseason victory to set a record for most in a decade (15) and they've set every win streak in history this decade, regular season (21), postseason (10) and combined (21). Brady, meanwhile, has won a record 78.5 percent of every game he's started (106-29) in his career. Again, all facts that should, on their face, prove that concepts such as "parity" are dead.

The Pats have been the class of the NFL this decade. They have been fortunate to have: a HOF QB, a HOF coach, and one of the best front offices in the NFL which constantly turns over talent. This all came after being a middling team for most of the 90's.

Parity's postmortem

There's no perfect explanation for the death of parity, especially in the wake of the league's open efforts to keep it alive. But it's obvious the league's efforts to legislate equality have failed.

The NFL has a constantly adjusting salary cap which is death for many a would be dynasty (Anyone remember how quickly Tampa Bay faded into mediocrity after their Super Bowl win?). The fact that the Colts and Patriots have remained dominant is due in large part to their quaterbacks. Unless, you want to regulate how long a team can keep a quarterback, you can't do much better than the current formula for shuffling the deck of NFL teams.

Here's one guess why: the NFL, with so many players and so many coaches and so much turnover and so many moving parts, is all about management. And, right now, management has never been more important.


Humans are not equal in talent, whether they're in the front office, on the sidelines or in the huddle, and the notion that a few rules will "level the playing field" is being mocked openly on the field right now.

What the NFL has done, actually, is create a system that ends up rewarding well managed teams and punishing poorly managed teams. The Colts, Patriots and Steelers continue to fine tune the system year after the year and win year after year. The Browns, Lions and teams like (in recent years) the Redskins make poor and sometimes desperate off-the-field decisions that make them uncompetitive on the field.

So what do you want? A rule against effective management?

Back in the day, before the efforts to "level the playing field," a poorly managed team could splurge for a season or two on talent and compete. Money is the great equalizer. But that weapon has been removed and now, more than ever, not less than ever, NFL teams are dependent upon smart decision-makers and good executives. The NFL has maximized, not minimized, inequality on the playing field by maximizing the importance of management.

That is...fucking...RETARDED. So a poorly managed team could splurge on a few big names and instantly compete? What happens when you get a well managed team that splurges on whoever they want, whenever they want? I'll tell you what you get: The New York Yankees. Is that what you want Kerry? Is that what you call parity?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

WNTMQR: Gregg Being Gregg

Who's ready to vomit? I hope you haven't eaten recently. No GreggJokes this week, but more anecdotal bullshit than you can shake a Bill Simmons at. We do see a return of Friday Night Lights criticism, as well as a deep and dark journey into the mind of an NFL coach (because Gregg knows exactly what they're thinking at all times). Oh, and don't forget- NO BLITZ IN THE HISTORY OF ORGANIZED FOOTBALL HAS EVER PAID DIVIDENDS.

But the Colts and Saints have one thing in common -- lots of nobodies playing well. Indianapolis starts numerous players who were undrafted (Gary Brackett, Ryan Lilja, Daniel Muir, Gijon Robinson, future Hall of Famer Jeff Saturday) or who came out of nowhere (Pierre Garcon, from Division III Mount Union College). The New Orleans lineup is heavy on out-of-nowhere players, or those unwanted by previous teams. Starting Monday night were undrafted players Mike Bell, Jo-Lonn Dunbar and Jabari Greer, while the undrafted Pierre Thomas came off the bench to rush for 91 yards and catch the game-winning touchdown pass. Jahri Evans of Bloomsburg University, a Division II school, started on the offensive line with Jermon Bushrod of Towson University, a Division I-AA college. Jonathan Goodwin, Anthony Hargrove, Scott Shanle and David Thomas, all let go by other teams, started for the NFC's only undefeated club.

Every team has nobodies and guys from small college playing well. Here, I randomly chose the Buccaneers out of a hat (not literally, but I just tried to think of a random mediocre/crappy team and they came up). Take a look at their roster. They've got guys from Ottawa College in Kansas, Utah State, Portland State, Appalachain State (probably too big a college for Gregg, after their upset of Michigan in 2007), South Carolina State, Northern Colorado, and UC-Davis. I'm sure at least a few of those guys are significant contributors. RB Derrick Ward is the guy from Ottawa College, so that pretty much covers the quota right there.

New Orleans standouts Drew Brees, Darren Sharper and Jonathan Vilma were players other teams actively wanted to unload. Brees, the best quarterback in the NFC, was shown the door by San Diego,

Here's what actually happened: Brees was injured in his final game as a Charger, before reaching free agency. San Diego still offered him a 5 year, $50 MM deal that offseason (granted, it was heavily incentivized... because he was an injury risk). He refused the contract and demanded franchise QB money. The Chargers decided he wasn't worth the risk and went with Philip Rivers instead.

then rejected when he offered to sign with Miami;

Miami couldn't fit him in under the salary cap at the price he was asking. Thus, they couldn't sign him. "Offering to sign and then being rejected" is not naming a price the team can't meet and walking away when they won't pay that price. Jesus Christ, there's revisionist history, there's incredibly deceptive political revisionist history, and then there's the revisionist history being used by Gregg here.

Green Bay let Sharper walk as "washed-up" five years ago! Scan around the NFL and behold team after team stacked with big-money first-round draft choices who don't perform.

Including Indianapolis and New Orleans. No one drafts perfectly. Meanwhile, scan around the league and find team after team stacked with big money first round (no hyphens necessary) draft choices who do perform. Because a lot of the time, that's what happens. This is one of the best examples I've ever seen of someone coming up with their thesis first and then fitting the facts to that thesis second. Gregg really likes underappreciated/undrafted/small college players. He devotes an entire column to them at the end of every season. New Orleans and Indianapolis are awesome, fun-to-watch teams right now... THEREFORE THEY MUST CONSIST OF NOTHING BUT UNDERAPPRECIATED/UNDRAFTED/SMALL COLLEGE PLAYERS!

Give me motivated castoffs any day.

You're a terrible writer with a tiny brain.

The Crabtree Curse continues. San Francisco was 3-1, with its only defeat a fluky last-play loss; then the 49ers signed Michael Crabtree, and are 0-3 since.

What a foolish decision! Adding talent to your team like that! For shame.

All that work Mike Singletary did building team spirit on the Niners went out the window when management decided a player could jerk the team around all he wanted and still get a $17 million reward.

My sources inside the San Francisco locker room have confirmed that all spirit has been removed from the team. At this point, all anyone is doing is sitting around and pouting about not having jerked the team around for money as much as they should have.

On the key down of San Francisco's loss at Indianapolis -- third-and-10 for the 49ers with six minutes remaining -- Alex Smith fell on a "coverage sack" when no one was open. Megabucks me-first diva Crabtree was nicely handled by undrafted free agent cornerback Jacob Lacey.


In the kitschy "V" of the 1980s, the aliens' ultimate plan was to steal Earth's water. Since water is a common substance in the universe -- comets are mainly water-ice -- this made little sense.

Look, I don't really want to go down this road with Easterbrook- it would dignify his decision to talk about realism in science fiction in every fucking column- but I gotta say, comets are moving at thousands and thousands of miles per hour. It would be kind of hard to get water out of them. Just saying.

Sour Play of the Week No. 1:
Rookie glam-boy Mark Sanchez ran a nice naked bootleg for a touchdown against Miami. The play was full-frontal naked -- not only did Sanchez have no blocking, but no one else on the Jets even knew he was going to keep the ball. But well before paydirt, Sanchez started waving the ball in the air to taunt the Dolphins -- sour in itself, but especially because even after the touchdown Jersey/B still trailed.

OK, got it. Celebrating a touchdown before crossing the goal line is taunting, "sour," foolish, dumb, etc.

Sour Play of the Week No. 2:
The 49ers scored to make it San Francisco 14, Indianapolis 6 with 32 seconds remaining in the first half -- then Josh Morgan was hit with the infamous celebration penalty. TMQ doesn't like the rule -- why should jumping around after a touchdown be illegal? -- but the rule is the rule, and professionals must know that. San Francisco had to kick off from its own 15-yard line, giving Indianapolis good field position, and the Colts converted that into a field goal on the final snap of the first half.

OK, but celebrating a touchdown after crossing the goal line is totally different and not at all related to sourness or taunting. Thanks, Roger Godell! More like the No Fun League!

Sweet 'N' Sour Play No. 1:
Place-kicker Josh Brown of St. Louis threw a 36-yard touchdown pass to Daniel Fells on a fake field goal attempt, then kicked the extra point; that was sweet. The two situations in which a fake field goal attempt are likely are fourth-and-short, or a long attempt that would probably miss anyway. Les Mouflons lined up for what would have been a 53-yard kick. Yet Detroit fell for the fake. Also, Detroit had no one back deep to return a potential short kick -- if there had been a deep man, he might have stopped the touchdown. The Lions' falling for an obvious trick was sour.

HOW DID THEY NOT SEE THAT COMING? Everyone in the stadium knew it was a fake! I mean, it's not like this was an NFL game, with NFL kickers, being played indoors! And there have to be at least 10, maybe 15 fake field goal attempts per season in the entire NFL. Gregg is patting himself on the back pretty firmly here, but he shouldn't be. I mean, like I said... who DIDN'T know the Rams were running a fake there? Those Lions special teams players sure are a bunch of morons.

Keep 'Em In College:
Last week, yours truly defended raising the NBA minimum age to 20

If you have a few minutes and are interested in this kind of thing, click over to the column and read this portion. I think it's very well thought out and I completely agree with Gregg's stance. Feels weird, kind of like I'm saying "Listen, I don't approve of [person or organization that is really ideologically horrible], but he/she/they do have some good ideas..."

Now it's third-and-11 at the Green Bay 16 with 3:54 remaining. If the Packers hold the Vikings to a field goal, they face a manageable eight-point deficit; if the Vikings get a touchdown, the game is over. As six Green Bay defenders crossed the line at the snap, TMQ said aloud, "Minnesota wins." And yea, verily, it came to pass, in this case, a touchdown pass. Not only does a skilled quarterback like Favre want to be blitzed on third-and-long, a sack here is meaningless, since even after a sack, the Hyperboreans would have been in field goal range. What Green Bay needed on this down was a stop. Instead, the Packers played for a sack. Ye gods.

Clearly, this was the mindset of Green Bay's defensive coordinator when he called that play. "We need a sack! Nothing but a sack will do here!" No way was he just trying to get pressure on Favre and force an incompletion (or perhaps one of those signature Favre 4th quarter INTs). No way. He definitely wanted a sack. Not to mention, no 3rd and long blitz in the history of football has ever succeeded. If they blitzed, they shouldn't have. If they didn't blitz, they should have. If the call worked, it was good. If the call didn't work, it was bad. Gregg Easterbrook is a dipshit. Gregg Easterbrook is not a non-dipshit.

Unified Field Theory of Creep:
Kurt Leinenbach of Jasper, Ind., was among many readers to note that Kia is already advertising the 2011 Sorrento, which goes on sale in January 2010.

Boy, I hate agreeing with Gregg, especially since I've already done it once in this post, but man... that's fucking ridiculous. No sarcasm. There's no reason for this whatsoever.

In Court, Confess; in Sports, Do Not Confess:
Marcus Trufant of the Green Men Group was called for pass interference three times as Dallas pounded Seattle. On the third occasion, as he collided with a receiver, Trufant threw his hands up in the "I didn't do anything" gesture -- and only then did the nearby zebra reach for his flag. Never make the "I didn't do anything" gesture! It only alerts officials that you did, in fact, do something.

Between watching NFL and NCAA football last weekend, I saw at least 3 or 4 defensively linemen successfully use the "I didn't do anything" gesture to avoid being called for roughing the passer (which is called on pretty much every pass play these days). If a player made the gesture, he shouldn't have. If the played didn't make the gesture, he should have. Everything can be proven with anecdotes. Nothing cannot be proven with anecdotes.

'Tis Better to Have Rushed and Lost Than Never to Have Rushed At All:
Trailing 30-25, Jersey/B reached second-and-7 on the Miami 9 with 1:50 remaining, holding two timeouts. The Jets went scramble, sack, incompletion -- turnover on downs. Seven of the Jets' last eight play calls were passes, though Mark Sanchez is a rookie -- and the Jets have the league's No. 1 rushing offense. It was as if media-conscious coach Rex Ryan wanted to let Sanchez win the game, so sportswriters would call Ryan a genius for getting and starting the rookie. Next time, just win the game.

Oh boy, what a trip down memory lane! This takes me back to the days of "[Coach X] called for a 46 yard field goal when his team was trailing 28-3 with 1:15 left in the 2nd quarter. CLEARLY HE WASN'T TRYING TO WIN THE GAME- HE WAS TRYING TO REDUCE THE MARGIN OF VICTORY SO HE WOULD LOOK BETTER IN THE PAPERS ON MONDAY MORNING." Yes, Gregg. Yes. Rex Ryan, a 1st year coach in the most vicious media market in the country, knows several things. First, he knows that New York fans don't just want their teams to win- they want them to win on touchdowns thrown by rookie quarterbacks. Only that will soothe their lust for victory. Second, he knows that if the team had won the game on a rushing TD by Thomas Jones, he would have been torn to shreds by the Post and the Times the next morning. No one would give him credit for that kind of winning TD. Third, he knows that fried foods are delicious. Fat joke!

The game started at 2:15 p.m. local time, a time no football player's body clock is set to.

Uh, there's an NFL team that plays the vast majority of their home games at 2:15 PM. They used to have a pretty decided home field advantage, too. They won a couple Super Bowls in the late 90s. Google around a little bit, you'll figure out who they are. My guess is that at least a few of their players (and the players on the other teams in their division) can set their body clocks to that.

Not to mention the fact that this is a retarded argument to make in the first place, in terms of trying to explain why two teams played flat or poorly. We're not talking about runner training exclusively in the evenings for a 7 AM marathon. We're talking about a one hour difference between this start time and all of the following: EST early game start times, CST late game start times, and PST late game start times. Pathetic.

And it's high school, not the NFL, where many of the concussion problems are -- partly because slightly more than a million boys play high school football, versus fewer than 2,000 players in the NFL, and because medical treatment is rudimentary at many high schools, while players feel pressure to return to the game with a concussion to prove their manhood.

And no NFL player would ever behave similarly! Surely not, what with millions of dollars and their occupational future on the line!

Why did players want out of their Memphis commitments when Calipari left? The sportsyak grapevine said they only were drawn to Calipari because he has "the magic touch" in getting players into the NBA. (Surely not in getting them educations -- Kentucky, it may not be long until your first Calipari scandal.)

Easy with the near-slander, there, bub. Not that I like Calipari. But come on now.

But is it really true that he has some kind of added ability to prepare players? Calipari began at Memphis in the 2001-02 season. Seven roundballers he coached at Memphis have played at least one year in the NBA: Dajuan Wagner, Antonio Burks, Rodney Carney, Shawne Williams, Joey Dorsey, Chris Douglas-Roberts, Derrick Rose. (This count stops at players who have been in the league at least one year, so it doesn't include Tyreke Evans, who almost certainly will achieve that milestone but hasn't yet.)

Wow, eight NBA players in eight years? That sounds like a lot if you ask me. My alma mater- which plays in the Big East, is frequently ranked in the top 25, and goes to the NCAA tournament roughly every other year- has produced just three in that same amount of time. And none of them are any good.

During the same span, 12 UCLA players left their school and spent at least one year in the NBA, along with 11 Duke players, eight Kansas players, eight North Carolina players and eight Florida players. So Calipari doesn't have any kind of unusual ability to send players on to the NBA.

Incredible. Four of the top programs in the history of the game (if not THE four top programs of all time... well I guess Kentucky should be in there too but wahtever), along with another program that has won two national championships in the last five years, produced the same number of or more NBA players in the same timeframe. Therefore, Calipari is nothing special. I mean, Princeton doesn't produce any more fortune 500 CEOS than Harvard, Yale, or Columbia. (Note: stat made up. Just work with me here people) Therefore, there's nothing special about going to Princeton.

The new Dillon coach asks SuperWife Tami Taylor, now principal of Dillon High, to call the ceremonial coin toss for the opening game. He instructs her, "If you win the toss, say we want to play defense." She wins the toss and tells the referee, "We'll start on offense," just to cheese off the new coach, whom she despises. But "we'll play defense" or "we'll start on offense" make no sense at a coin toss. Texas public high schools use the NCAA rulebook, which presents the toss winner these choices: kick, receive, select a goal to defend, or defer. Except in very strong wind, the toss winner always says either "receive" or "defer." (In strong wind you might choose a goal; no one ever chooses "kick," which gives the opponent the ball and the choice of goals to open the game, then the ball again to start the second half.) If as instructed by the coach, SuperWife had said, "we'll play defense," the referee would have responded, "Huh?"


Reader Comments:
I supposed that coaching is overrated because the most the best coaching could add to performance is 10 percent. Robert Lipson of New York City counters, "If coaching can make a 10 percent difference then coaching is everything. At the elite athletic level the difference between greatness and also-ran is much less than 10 percent. Take, for example, Usain Bolt's 100 meter victory at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. He shattered the world record. Yet he was only two percent faster than the silver medalist and 3.5 percent faster than the eighth place finisher. I think it is more likely that a top coach like Bill Belichick gives his team a two or three percent edge over poorly coached teams. But that is all they need. Kind of like the house's advantage at a casino -- a small advantage over the long run will pay off handsomely."

So Usain Bolt's advantage over other sprinters = Bill Belichick's advantage over other coaches. (The equals sign doesn't mean "is similar to-" it means "is mathematically precisely equal to.") Ah, Easterbrook's readers. The only people on the planet more self-satisfied yet also more retarded than Gregg himself. Perfect analogy, Robert from NYC. How does your taint smell? Good? I'll bet it does. If only everyone had your analytical skills. On a related note- Tim Lincecum's advantage over MLB hitters = McDonalds's advantage over other fast food restaurants.

Stop Me Before I Blitz Again! (College Edition):
Underdog Wake Forest led Miami 27-21 with 1:51 remaining, the Hurricanes facing fourth-and-16 in their territory. All Wake Forest needs to do is play straight defense and victory is highly likely. As seven defenders crossed the line at the snap, yours truly said aloud, "Miami wins." And yea, verily, it came to pass.

I'm going to watch hours and hours and hours of football this weekend. And when a 3rd/4th and long blitz works, and forces an incompletion or turnover, and the team that blitzed goes on to win the game (which I bet happens several times), I'm going to email Gregg about it. Oh, and I'll also email him when a team only rushes three or four on 3rd/4th and long and the offensive team converts and goes on to win. You think he'll publish my points? Probably not... unless the teams that blitz and go on to win are filled with underappreciated players from small schools, and the teams that don't and go on to lose are filled with highly drafted players from big schools. We shall see.