Friday, January 30, 2009

Terry Frei Believes the NHL Runs like Roller Coaster Tycoon (Is That Game Still Popular?)

Yesterday Kix cereal was on sale for one day only, $1.88 a box. I picked up a box and was horrified - Honey Kix. Honey? I'm not a bear. If it's not Nut & Honey - and it isn't because Kellogg's stopped making it - then I don't want it on my cereal. This morning I woke up craving Kix and a shitty article written by Terry Frei.

It was a good morning.

NOTE: If I'm interrupting anything, Terry Frei writes a giant article about how the NHL needs the dictate ticket prices. I make jokes. Terry Frei and I both come out of it looking a little dumber. There, now go back to your FireJay Deathwatch.

Since the last time I wrote about NHL ticket prices, the North American economies have become so battered that if this were happening on the ice, the linesmen would have jumped in long ago.

More topical fighting joke: North American economies are more battered than Ray Emery's Russian trainers.

More than ever, I'm convinced that regardless of how the NHL attempts to spin and manipulate the numbers, the league botched the chance coming out of the lockout, and beyond, to address more aggressively the issue of affordability.

The NHL doesn't have the power to tell teams what to charge for a hockey game. Frankly speaking, I wouldn't want the NHL to dictate to different markets what the should charge for a hockey game. Different markets, different fans, different prices.

And as the crisis continues on both sides of the border, the NHL is going to pay for that lack of foresight, especially in the U.S. markets. It's going to pay for it in virtually all of those markets, both "troubled" and more traditionally supportive.

The NHL really should have seen this economic disaster coming back in the summer of 2005. What a cocksucker.

This is neither an expression of moral outrage nor a presumption that anyone should be able to tell NHL teams what to charge. But we repeatedly argue about what NHL teams should do, whether that's making a deal for a rental defenseman at the deadline or opining that a coach should be fired every time his team loses, so consider this among the realm of what I believe to be the right -- and pragmatic -- thing to do.

Maybe I have this article all wrong. It looks like we've hit a real turning point here. It isn't going to be about the NHL telling teams what to charge after all. Perhaps my bowl of Kix is the only salvation from a day of blocking sunlight from the basement windows and trying to make a Doritos-flavored Mountain Dew.

Attack ticket prices.

Do it showily.

Holler it from the rooftops.

Let me put down my Erlenmeyer. This article just went to shit again. Advertise lower ticket prices? Nobody has thought of that before. That Tampa deal is amazing.

Chip away at the NHL's reputation as a league that, because of its inordinate reliance on gate receipts, has to charge considerably more for a comparable seat than NBA franchises, and do something about the image of needing a mortgage broker to get involved in any purchase of season tickets.

Any purchase of season tickets? Let's see if I can get this without a mortgage broker. $20 ticket multiplied by 41 home games in a season multiplied by 2 so that you aren't sitting alone in the stands... FUCK! I was so close. Anybody know a good mortgage broker? Or maybe Passive Voice can lend a hand here with his automated number computing machine he called a "computer".

It's both the right and the smart thing to do in these times.

No. It isn't. The right and smart thing to do is not buy season tickets if you can't afford them. You must know full well that the cost of seats won't include things like parking, food, transportation, and hooker money. If you've gotten this far, though, you aren't looking for right or smart things to do.

Some of the effects of the economic malaise are already being felt and reflected in attendance figures, sponsorships and other areas. Yet otherwise, this is as if Kerry Fraser had his arm in the air. It's going to be a delayed penalty.

Usually when Kerry Fraser has his arm in the air, he is wrong. Nobody likes Kerry Fraser. It's not a good sign when you are a referee and people know your name. Rob Schick. Ed Hochuli. Don Denkinger. Tim Donaghy. Marie Reine Le Gougne. The last one is a stretch, sure. Point made, moving on.

"The first indications for us as to what next year will look like, and if you're looking for indicia as well, keep an eye on playoff ticket sales," NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said in Montreal this past weekend.

Makes sense, because season tickets could already have been paid for before the season started. Playoff tickets aren't on sale and will be bought in rough economic waters. And let's face it - playoff games aren't very rare.

Maybe. But it goes far beyond the issue of how markets react when their teams make the postseason. It's more about the invoices for next season, for the 41-game schedule that, depending on which conference is involved, might not even include an appearance by Alex Ovechkin or Evgeni Malkin or Jarome Iginla or Pavel Datsyuk. And it's about picking out how many games to go to next season, if individual-game tickets are available.

Wow. Bettman's quote just took a long and confusing trip around Terry Frei. I'm pretty sure that Bettman used the words "first indicators," which to me says that you can use those figures, couple it with data from previous seasons with playoff attendance figures, and adjust ticket prices for the next season. And instead, we've been given a paragraph about next season not having star players, which is devoid of the name Sidney Crosby. And who the hell clamors to see Jerome Iginla anymore?

One size or pricing structure doesn't fit all in a league in which the Maple Leafs could charge twice as much and still sell out; the Rangers don't need to package four tickets, four pizzas and four soft drinks for one price; and not all teams need to put together various mini-plans of 14 or some games to get folks in the seats.

Uh... yeah. Who is proposing this idea? Oh shit. Not you, right?

Ten franchises are officially at 100 percent of capacity or above for home attendance. But they're exceptional, and the storm clouds are many, because even those in the 90-percent-plus realm have an alarming number of empty seats. Even if they're taking some at face value as "sold" seats -- and that's a risky assumption -- the fact is, this season's empty seats (and many more) represent next season's cuts.

10% empty doesn't sound so alarming. I would think that people that needed the money sold their season tickets off already to the friendly neighborhood ticket broker. Those empty seats that Terry sees in Denver is slow walk-up sales because the Avalanche are currently 9th in the conference.

Momentum is cyclical enough when it's based on team performance in a robust or at least "normal" economy. Everything is multiplied, perhaps even exponentially, in this kind of economy, when snowballs turn into avalanches going downhill.

I guess I could agree with this. Why pay money to watch a shitty team lose when you have a TV with basic cable and can watch the game from your basement?

The 42-inch HDTV and televised home games provide more excuses than ever in this age, and that's even before the recent economic shockwaves, including business cutbacks in everything from jobs to corporate ticket purchases to advertising and sponsorships, are factored in.

Well I wasn't really making excuses... it just seems that watching a game in HD is a nice alternative if you already have one. The word advertising belongs nowhere near this thought, as teams don't collect ad revenue, they collect sponsorship revenue.

Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito were coming off a season in which they were 1-2 for the Bruins in league scoring the last time a U.S. president imposed wage and price controls. I'm not necessarily saying Bettman should skip shaving one day, wiggle his jowls, give "V" signs with both hands and imitate Richard Nixon in dealing with NHL ticket prices.

But he should do something.

Like ban Terry Frei from writing about the NHL?

That "something" shouldn't be continuing to act as if what he and others advanced as one of the major rationalizations for the management hard-line position going into the lockout has ceased to be a major issue.

Again, the economy was much different in 2005. And there's a salary cap that can change when league revenues fall. What does any of this have to do with ticket prices?

That "something" shouldn't be repeatedly relying on the by-now-familiar spiel about how what he really said going into the lockout was that the inflationary spiral needed to be arrested -- and then citing statistics to argue that it has been.

Once again, that involves salary. Make your stupid ticket prices point so I can make fun of it.

What he did say heading into the lockout was that he believed a "majority" of NHL teams would lower prices if the league achieved an "economic opportunity" with what he had been alluding to for months as "cost-certainty."

But people will still pay to come see the games, so why lower prices? Greed controls ticket prices. Not the NHL.

The adjustments were minimal and certainly not trend-setting.

Sure could use some info on what they were so that I could check up on that. But why go into detail to prove you're right when you can be vague, speak in generalities, and then just hurry off in another direction.

He went through the familiar pitches again last weekend in Montreal, in response to my question about how Colorado had just drawn its smallest crowd ever during its 13 seasons in Denver; I also alluded to the fact that in addition to the slippage of the on-ice product, the "reason" I hear most often is the Avalanche have staggeringly high ticket prices, among the highest in the league. The same seat in a lower-bowl corner that costs $76 for Nuggets games is $100 for Avalanche games, and both teams are owned by Stan Kroenke.

That's because the Nuggets used to suck big burlap bag of dicks. Now they don't. And affluent people in Denver will spend cash on anything as long as it makes others jealous. What impresses me is that the Nuggets can really charge $76 for a ticket and have people buy it.

"Every team sets their own policy," Bettman said. "Every team really has to read its own market in making those judgments. Some teams have increased ticket prices, some teams have reduced ticket prices."

Betmann should have followed that quote up with: "How does it taste to gargle on my balls, Cottonelle? I'm going to call you Cottonelle from now on, Terry, because I just shit all over you." He chose not to, which is probably why eloquence is lost on a blogger like myself.


Good! Well, pack it in. Bettman just took Terry Frei to Economics 101 where you learn about break even points, supply and demand, and opportunity cost. This article ended pretty abruptly though, even for a Frei article...

There's more? But he just conceded that teams react according to the the individual clientele of their fan base.

Teams are separate businesses, although they're perfectly willing to gather under one huge umbrella -- not the kind you can buy for $3 from the street vendors outside the NHL's offices when the downpour begins -- and operate under something other than a completely free-market model (e.g., a salary cap and revenue sharing) when it's convenient.

The argument, as I understand it, is that he wants to eliminate the free market model. By having the NHL dictate ticket prices. That's also not a free market. That's like an anarchist clique at a high school. Frei suspended logic for one sentence there because it was convenient. What a doober.

"Average" ticket prices in many instances are a joke, thanks to many teams' declaring a huge number of lower-bowl tickets to be for "premium" seats and thus exempt from the calculations. That stipulation was designed to toss out luxury boxes and other seats that can lead to misleading numbers, because the "average" is supposed to create apples-to-apples comparisons about affordability for the average fan.

If many teams are doing it, then wouldn't the average be uniform league wide? I'm also missing where this ties into whatever argument he was making before Bettman wordfucked him a few paragraphs ago. The average ticket price is more of a barometer for how much your market is charging for against another. It has nothing to do with affordability for the average fan.

The "average" cited now in many cases would be akin to the U.S. Department of Labor excluding anyone making over $75,000 in the previous tax year in unemployment figures.

What? Just because the article is about dropping ticket prices in tough economic times doesn't excuse these horrific parallels being drawn.

What Bettman should do is make it clear to owners that he believes not only that the league failed to deliver on an implied promise to make this an important issue coming out of the lockout, but also that it makes good business sense -- both in the short and long run -- to react to the changing conditions.

You can't just change ticket prices in the middle of a fucking season. That's not how things work. You'd have to refund all the money that has ALREADY BEEN PAID for tickets, and lose even more money. If ticket prices need to be dropped, then a team will figure that out at the end of the year when they are out millions of dollars. The league should never take any action on individual teams ticket prices for a whole season. What needs to be addressed is how Terry Frei continues to make money writing shit like this. A non-hockey fan could point to this article and say "See? Ticket prices are too high and they aren't dropping. That's why I don't go!" Or maybe "What a horrific piece of journalism. I would rather sit at home and watch Ghost Whisperer in HD than go to a game of hockey, because I might run into the author and he would suck my soul out of my nasal cavities with his horrifically terrible writing style and arguments."


Wednesday, January 28, 2009

WATMQR: Gregg Easterbrook Limps Towards the Finish Line

He's still wrting. I'm still furious about it.

What jumps off the page about postseason stats? Pittsburgh's rushing defense. The Hypocycloids have given up just 44 rushing yards per game.

Sample size: two games. Both played at home. In bad weather. One against an OK offensive team (#11 during the regular season in yardage), the other against a sub-mediocre one (#18). Conclusion: DOMINANCE.

And though divisional-round opponent San Diego was down big in the second half and abandoned the run, the Pittsburgh-Baltimore AFC Championship Game was close until midway through the fourth quarter. Pittsburgh also was the second-best team in the NFL against the run in the regular season.

Much more relevant, although it's worth noting that there are no good offensive teams in the AFC North. In any case, it's cited four sentences later.

The Steelers' defense can bring a rushing game to a halt, and against Pittsburgh, staying with the run and continuing to pound the ball doesn't seem to work. Unless Arizona breaks a couple of runs in the first half, the Cardinals may have little choice but to go pass-wacky. Pittsburgh is also first in the postseason against the pass.

Again. Sample size: two games. Both played at home. In bad weather. One against an OK offensive team (#11 during the regular season in yardage), the other against a sub-mediocre one (#18). Conclusion: DOMINANCE.

With Warner, Arizona has often been careless with the football; Warner threw four interceptions and fumbled twice in the Cards' losses to the Eagles and Giants during the regular season, for instance. In the current postseason, Arizona is plus-11 in turnovers. Being plus-11 is a big reason for the Cards' surprise Super Bowl run. But luck is a huge factor in turnovers, and luck has a way of changing.

I mean... yeah. Recovering fumbles and intercepting tipped passes has an element of luck to it. On the other hand, forcing fumbles and intercepting non-tipped passes that come as a result of pressuring the quarterback has much less luck. I doubt the Cardinals will force 3.75 turnovers this game, because their pace so far in the playoffs is pretty ridiculous. Luck is "a huge factor" in winning at bingo and choosing the toll booth line that will move the fastest. Calling luck "a huge factor" in turnovers is bad analysis.

In the conference championship round, three of the four teams-- Arizona, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh -- employed the shotgun spread on third-and-1. All three did not rush. All three did not swing for the fence -- as the 1966 Packers showed, the best time to throw deep is third-and-1 -- rather, they attempted some dinky-dunky 5-yard junk passes. Tuesday Morning Quarterback finds it hard to believe the majority of teams in the NFL championship round felt they needed to go shotgun spread in order to gain 1 yard. But there it is.

What? You can gain positive yardage on low-risk passing plays out of the shotgun spread? What crazy world are we living in?!?!

TMQ believes the farther in the playoffs you go, the more important game-planning, coaching and psychological preparation become -- because at each stage, the pressure increases.

While the pressure in the Super Bowl may slightly exceed the pressure in the conference championship and divisional rounds, I have a really hard time believing that any team's game-planning, coaching, and psychological preparation can in any way get more intense or thorough as the playoffs progress. What are coaches saying during the divisional round- "Well, we don't need to prepare THAT thoroughly. Need to save some thoroughness for if we make it all the way to the Super Bowl." In other words: Gregg Easterbrook is a zilcheroo.

As the pressure increases, so too does the temptation to escape pressure. Tampa has a renowned late-night topless-club social scene, which some say is even better than the scene in Vegas. If any player from either team is out club-hopping Saturday night rather than back at the hotel playing Yahtzee and drinking milk shakes, that team is finished.

Tell that to Eugene Robinson, almost exactly ten years ago! HEY-OHHHHHHHHHHH!

Moving on to another douchechill-inducing Easterbrook skt, this time revolving around Lybian leader Muammar Qaddafi, who just had a piece about the Palestinian/Israeli conflict publised in the New York Times.

As a Christian, I believe in redemptive power, so I am willing to believe Qaddafi has changed. Still, encountering the jarring sight of an op-ed by Muammar Qaddafi, I envisioned this scene:

FACTOTUM: (Trembling.) Brotherly Leader, we have received the read-back from the Times copy editor.

QADDAFI: Did it come on purest vellum?

FACTOTUM: Not exactly. Staples fax paper, I used an Internet coupon. (Hesitates.) The Times copy editor -- she changed a semicolon.

QADDAFI: Infidel! She will die for this! Have her buried in sand up to her head in the village quad, then let loose the scorpions!

FACTOTUM: (Shaking.) If you would deign to cast your magnificent gaze upon this PDF …

QADDAFI: (Takes the edited copy, reads.) Hey, she's right -- the sentence flows better now. Forget what I said. Send her a thousand red roses. Name a school after her.

FACTOTUM: (Immensely relieved.) Of course!

QADDAFI: Buy the entire day's press run. Also, tell the Times editors if they don't want anything to happen to their fancy new building, give me the crossword puzzle answers in advance. I like to dazzle people by doing the crossword really fast.

FACTOTUM: (Bows.) By your command.

Who keeps telling him to write skits? I would rather watch My Name Is Earl than continue to be subjected to this garbage.

Re: The Hall of Fame credentials of former Bills WR Andre Reed:

Reed's accomplishment were compiled despite playing for a cold-weather team -- and during the no-huddle period, Jim Kelly's Bills actually rushed more often than they passed --

They were still running the no-huddle, genius.

while Rice played for a warm-weather passing team

Have you ever been to San Francisco (specifically the location of Monster Park/Candlestick Park, which has some of the worst weather in the whole Bay Area) in November and December? It's harder to catch a ball in rain than cold, and it is almost always raining there at that time of the year.

and Carter played most of his career indoors with a dome team. Today with spread offenses putting up pinball numbers, Reed has slipped to the lower part of the career statistical top 10, and is sure to slip further as the years pass, though he still trails only Rice in postseason catches.

And this is why we should put everyone who has played for the Yankees in the last 15 years or so in the baseball HOF; they lead pretty much everyone in postseason counting stats. That's the true measure of HOF worthiness.

The NFL is an entertainment organization; its players are paid millions of dollars for chasing a ball. That's fine, but NFL performance should never be confused with any kind of heroism. Tillman was a patriot, motivated by love of country. He expressed strong misgivings about the Iraq war, but had no misgivings about the US of A, and unlike the many "chicken hawks" in politics and the media who pound the table about how somebody else should go fight, Tillman was willing to offer himself. That made him heroic in the everlasting sense: a hero is someone who takes risks, or endures sacrifice, in order to serve others. Tillman walked away from money -- what I believe the NFL is "about" -- to pursue something much higher. Perhaps Tillman and Kalsu should have their images in Canton; in an age that has devalued honor, they were men of honor. But each of these men made a difficult choice that had nothing to do with football. It would be offensive if pro football, through the Hall of Fame, pretended its players and coaches, paid vast amounts of money for making no sacrifice of any kind, could claim the reflected glory of two departed war heroes.

I'm sort of undecided about whether or not Tillman was a cool guy or not (there are certainly rumors that he was killed by intentional friendly fire, for what those are worth). But to decry the NFL for thinking about honoring him in Canton is fucking ridiculous. They're not "claiming reflected glory," they're honoring a guy who made an unselfish decision that almost no one would make. I don't want to get all political or anything, but Christ, honoring someone who quit your league to go into the army is not "claiming their reflected glory." Easy now.

Popcorn Optional: Planning to watch this Sunday? Of the 17 most-watched television events ever, 17 were Super Bowls. In 2008, 13 of the 15 most-watched network broadcasts and 14 of the 15 most-watched cable broadcasts were NFL games.

It's not totally wrong, but this is an exaggeration. Adjusting for population growth by using percentage of US households watching rather than total worldwide households, the most-watched Super Bowl of all time comes in at number four and Super Bowls as a whole only account for four of the top ten. Just saying.

Leftover US Airways Question: In the harrowing four minutes between when US Airways Flight 1549 lost power and its successful splashdown in the Hudson River, experienced glider pilot Chesley Sullenberger flew the plane while first officer Jeffrey Skiles tried to work through a three-page checklist of steps required for in-flight restart of the engines. Obviously, Skiles had no hope of completing the task in time. But why were there instructions at all -- to say nothing of three pages? Aircraft flight-management computers could be loaded with software that immediately diagnoses the condition of the engines and performs the restart sequence whenever the flight deck sends an engine-restart command. No pilot could trust his memory on a three-page set of steps, but no pilot should have to: This is the kind of job that electronics do better than people. In distressing respects, today's cockpits apparently are often behind the curve of the chip-based technology in a typical teenager's pocket.

Gregg's solution for everything: computers! Robots operating computers! Tiny computers, which do everything for you! Computers never make mistakes or fail- this idea is foolproof! I mean, they work pretty well in iPods and cell phones, right? There is never a situation, such as during an in-flight emergency, when a job is better suited for a human than a computer! Let's put microchips in footballs so we can tell if they break the plane of the goal line! Fuck it, let's just run the whole country with computers! COMPUTERS!

What a fucking moron.

Leftover Curse Points: [M]any readers, including Clara Parke of Portland, Ore., noted that Brett Favre staged an embarrassing late-season meltdown in the same season in which his visage appeared on the cover of the new Madden game.

Favre's season ended horribly not because he is old, or not nearly as good at football as people think, but because he endorsed a product back in the summer of 2008. It's science.

The 2008 Tuesday Morning Quarterback All-Unwanted All-Pros: Each year, TMQ honors those gentlemen who became NFL success stories despite going undrafted, or being waived, or both.

Please enjoy my analysis of the following picks for the team.

Kevin Mawae*, Tennessee (let go by two NFL teams)

Cut by the Jets for salary cap reasons.

Antonio Gates, San Diego (undrafted, did not play college football)

Probably the best pick on the list- how dare no NFL team draft a guy who didn't play NCAA football! What were they thinking?

Kevin Curtis, Philadelphia (walk-on at Utah State)

He wasn't good at football at age 18, but is good now. Therefore: unwanted.

Derrick Ward*, Giants (signed off the crosstown rival Jets' practice squad)

Clearly nobody wanted him, certainly not the Jets, who had him on their practice squad.

Antonio Winfield, Minnesota

The Vikings signed him to a 6 year, $34 million free agent contract.

Wes Welker*, New England (undrafted despite numerous collegiate records at Texas Tech)

Setting records at Texas Tech guarantees NFL success. Just look at Cliff Kingsbury.

Fred Jackson*, Buffalo (undrafted from academics-oriented Division III Coe College, played for Sioux City Bandits of the United Indoor Football League)

Same story as Gates, essentially. What? No one drafted a D-III guy? Who'd have guessed?

Kerry Collins*, Tennessee (released by three NFL teams)

Released by all of those teams for sucking, he magically had a sort of good season while running a stripped-down offense for a team with a great defense and great running game.

Clinton Hart*, San Diego (undrafted out of Central Florida Community College, played in the Arena League)

Another guy who didn't get drafted because he played against nobodies in college. Compelling.

Kyle Larson, Cincinnati (undrafted, and owing to the awful Bengals offense, boomed a league-high 100 punts in 2008)

An undrafted punter? Knock me over with a feather.

Wedge blocker: Darrell Reid, Indianapolis (undrafted)

And you've got an undrafted guy blocking on special teams. Go figure.

Nick Ferguson of Denver, undrafted, was waived by the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, did not get his first NFL start until age 28

As a Broncos fan, I can promise you that this guy is terrible. He should be unwanted by the Broncos, as well as every other team in the league, but Denver is so bad on defense that he's basically a warm body filling space for them until they get some real players.

Only two (I think) more TMQs left until August, people. Hold on tight.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Bill Simmons removes shoe, prepares foot for oral insertion

Q: Has any movie ever predicted the future of sports better than BASEketball did, in 1998? Ridiculous end zone celebrations, stadiums named after brands, teams jumping cities for money. I remember watching it thinking it was outlandish to name a stadium after Trojan or Tampax. Now I could see it.
-Aaron, Denver

SG: Who knew Trey Parker and Matt Stone would be the George Orwells of pro sports?

No one, because they're not. Parker and Stone were commenting on contemporary trends in professional sports. Example: if you were as true-blue a Pats fan as you claim to be, you'd remember that that from 1970-1982, they played in SCHAEFER stadium.

With regards to touchdown celebrations: team celebrations were banned 14 years before BASEketball came out, the NFL has since banned players from using props, and recently gave Wes Welker a $20,000 fine for making a snow angel after a touchdown. So yeah, those TD celebrations are waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay out of control.

Teams leaving cities for money? That never happened before BASEketball.

I want to see which league will cave first and sell its championship game or series to a sponsor. You know it's coming.

Fuckkkkkkk. I'm going to call my friends on my NEXTEL CUP phone and warn them. Shit, I'm so depressed that I might go back to smoking WINSTON CUP cigarettes. What a BUSCH league move this would be by American sports leagues.

Would you ever have guessed we'd be saying the "Allstate Sugar Bowl"?

Only if you'd been to one of the past 50 Buick Opens.

This could be one more thing Gary Bettman screws up. We may be headed for the Levitra Stanley Cup Final.


Saturday, January 24, 2009

Sports and Priorities's front-page poll, 1.24.09.

Q: Are there really fans out there who are like, "Shit, man, I have this one-week break from the NFL, I better make sure I tell my kids I love them?"
A: Probably.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Hyperbole: Alive and Kicking

So today, after my World of Warcraft guild successfully completed an epic quest, but before I settled into watching Lost DVDs, I decided to check out's Page 2. The front story --Greatest of Them All? David Fleming Wonders If The Steelers Are The Greatest Sports Franchise Ever. Hmm, interesting concept. My immediate thoughts go to teams like the Yankees, Canadiens, and Celtics, teams that have racked up dozens of championships over the years. Still though, I'm intrigued. One could make a case that the Steelers are one of the greatest franchises in NFL history, with 5 Super Bowls and 7 AFC Championships. Maybe David was going to say something about how, with only 43 Super Bowls, having a team win such a disproportionate number of titles makes them the best ever. Let's see what he's got for us:

Are the Steelers the best sports franchise ever?

EVER? You tell me.

But since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970 (something Art Sr. helped orchestrate), no one's been better. No one.

Really? No one? Nobody even close? Oh... I forgot about these guys.

And now, after seven Super Bowls,

Those guys have been to 8.

30 postseason wins, seven championship games in the past 14 years,

This 14 years part will be relevant soon.

19 Hall of Famers and the dynasty of the 1970s that includes probably the greatest, baddest football team ever assembled

Nevermind that mini dynasty of the early 90s. That doesn't mean shit.

… if you factor in the popularity of the NFL and the quaint but sturdy Midwestern soul of this franchise, it's hard to argue against what the Steelers have built.

Oh, that's a great point -- Pittsburgh has a real quaint and sturdy Midwestern soul. Sidepoint: If you're East of say... Indiana, you're not in the midwest. I don't care if they have farms in Western Pennsylvania, it's not the Midwest. Hey, New Mexico has farms, let's call that the Midwest too). Either way, having a sturdy soul doesn't have anything to do with a team being the greatest EVER.

Ok, so Mr. Fleming has given us some reasons that he thinks the Steelers are a good franchise, so let's hear why they're better than some other historically great teams.

Yes, of course, I know the Montreal Canadiens have won 24 Stanley Cups. But if we're talking about the best-run, most successful franchise in our lifetime,

Well, because the point you're trying to make is about the best team EVER, we're definitely not talking about the most successful franchise of our lifetime. Unless you're talking with Jesus, who lives forever.

the Habs are disqualified for winning only two Cups in the past 30 years.

Wait, they're disqualified from being the best team EVER because of what they've done in the past 30 years? That doesn't seem right.

There are the defending NBA champs in Boston, of course, who have collected 17 titles, but they too were largely a non-factor for the past two decades.

Again, what? The last 20 years? And didn't they just win a title last year?

The Cowboys? America's Team? Please. They haven't won a playoff game in a dozen years.

What the fuck? You're trying to prove a team is the best of ALL TIME!!!!!!!! If you wanted to prove that they're the best team in the last 30 years, maybe you'd be on to something, but right now you're just being a fucking idiot. I'm pretty sure this article started out just like that, and then some editor said, "You know what would make this jump off the page? Calling them the Greatest EVER!!!"

This is really a huge problem with sports media. It's not enough for the Steelers to be a "Great Franchise", they're have to be the "Greatest EVER". USC's Defense? Greatest EVER. Patriots last year? Greatest EVER. Ray's turnaround? Greatest EVER. Tiger's US Open? Greatest EVER. Last summer's Wimbledon Final? Greatest EVER. Michael Phelps? Greatest EVER. NCAA Bball Final last year? Greatest EVER.

At a certain point, we just get desensitized to the hype. It's a shame really. We're so overwhelmed with Greatest EVER, that when something truly great happens, sometimes it can get lost in the mix.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Brief TMTMQR: Gregg Easterbrook is Smarter Than You, But he Sure Doesn't Know Diddley About History

I don't have much time so a full TMQR it will have to wait. But considering how self-righteously intelligent Gregg is (or appears to be), I thought it was definitely worth mentioning.

In national news, Tuesday is the inauguration of Barack Obama as 44th president of the United States. We've been so wrapped up in various forms of financial panic, real or imagined, that some may have lost sight of what a great day this is for America. Regardless of whether Obama ultimately proves to be an outstanding president or an average chief executive or a dud, only in America could this happen. A country whose eternal shame is that it once held slaves elects a black man as its leader, and a black man who came from nothing, entirely self-made. Obama is so appealing because he is the embodiment of the American story -- and that story is still in the early chapters.

I haven't taken a history class since 11th grade- that was seven years ago. A history expert I am not. But about two seconds after reading this, I said to myself: Hasn't this, you know, happened somewhere besides America? Pretty recently? I mean, it's not an exact parallel. But it's pretty close. Apartheid is not slavery but it still sucks a pretty gigantic pair of balls. Definitely a close enough comparison to make Gregg sound stupid for using that italicized phrase up there. Only in a TMQ column could this kind of oversight happen.

I guess tomorrow I will do a post that's actually about sports.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

More Short Posts!

Hey, holy buttfucking fuckbutting poop, did you guys hear the big news? (No link because none of the major outlets have a story up yet, although you bet your sweet ass they will soon.) The Cowboys' team plane departed late for games several times last season because of tardy players! Or maybe it's because Jerry Jones was late, which is what a separate report is alleging! FUCK ME SIDEWAYS! Doesn't this just change your whole perspective on the NFL, sports, and even the world as a whole? Isn't this super-relevant news?!?! I mean, especially two days after conference championship Sunday and three weeks after the Cowboys' season ended?

Wow! COWBOYS NEWS! I'm enthralled!

I hate the sports media.

Supplement To Larry B's Post Below

Presenting: Punchlines That Write Themselves, Vol. 5

The guest on Bill Simmons's latest podcast (which I definitely will not be linking to) is... wait for it...




Chuck Klosterman.

That sounds like such an unbearably self-righteous combination that I might actually have to listen to it. Can you even fit both of their egos into the same room? I'm going to assume Klosterman makes his appearance via phone.

Oops, my fault, I'm supposed to let the punchline write itself. Sorry.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Can We Nitpick Blogs?

Is that allowed here at FireJay? I know we can nitpick the shit out of people who claim to be real journalists, but what about normal bloggers like us? If they say something stupid, should we be allowed to point it out? In most cases, I'd lean towards no, but in the case of Deadspin, I think they're fair game. Those guys must be millionaires with all their page hits and ad revenue! Well, I was joyfully reading about the football matches this weekend when I came across this.

Before I say anything else, just watch that video a couple times. So good. Anyways, we can have a debate all day on whether or not this was a "clean" hit, but Dashiell throws this out:

And Clark nearly did as much damage to himself as he did to McGahee. So, yes, it was a "clean" hit, but it was horrible form and not very smart. Stop throwing yourself around like guided missiles out there, because it's scary and rarely does any good.

If by "rarely does any good", you wanted to say "forced a 4th quarter turnover in the AFC Championship game and ended whatever slim hopes Baltimore had of a comeback", you'd be much more accurate. These type of hits do all sorts of good-- for the league, the players, the fans, basically everyone except Willis McGahee. Part of why the NFL is so popular is that the game is so fast, collisions like this are bound to occur. If you took these collisions away, I would argue that part of the game's integrity would also be comprimised. Ryan Clark just got tons of free press, and a step towards a nice big contract. Just ask John Lynch what a couple big hits can do $$$$$$$$$$$ for your career. Also, if you want to say that the game was out of reach, I'd point you to this game and the Broncos not making the playoffs.

A sidenote: This wasn't even the dirtiest hit in the game, if you ask me. The crackback block that Limas Sweed threw down at the end of the 1st half was insanely violent. Flacco and McGahee have to know that a safety is gonna be there to deliver a hit on a play over the middle, but the guy that Sweed blew up was in a very vulnerable position and not expecting it at all.

Sorry For Interrupting....

I know I don't really live here anymore these days, but I've gotta drop by for a visit every now and then. It's partially because I miss all yous guys so very much, but don't flatter yourselves. It's primarily because Scott Merkin is a fuckdouche.

CHICAGO -- Brian Anderson looks at the White Sox roster in its current form and realizes there's a center-field job there to be won for the upcoming 2009 season...But Anderson doesn't have to be one of the men running the team to realize his chances to start aren't quite as likely as they would seem.

I hope to gawdalmighty that you're referring to the White Sox trading Brent Lillibridge for Grady Sizemore straight up (unfortunately, that makes an equal amount of sense to what he's about to say...).

The White Sox don't currently have a veteran leadoff hitter in their projected lineup, not necessarily a necessity, but certainly more than a luxury in Guillen's desired attack.

Definition of "leadoff hitter": The man who bats first in a baseball batting order.

We can only conclude that the White Sox will field a starting lineup that begins in the #2 slot.

With a healthy Jerry Owens fitting these job requirements

What the af=eawe-fkjlwef fitting WHAT job requirements?!?!!?!!?


You just said that Jerry Owens fits the job requirements of a veteran leadoff hitter. Jerry Owens has logged 381 major league at bats. I am now going to enlist in the United States Navy, work on a laundry ship for 5 hours, quit somehow (the details are hazy on this part), then run around and claim to be a "veteran".

Jerry Owens was the primary leadoff hitter for the 2007 White Sox. The 2007 White Sox scored less runs than every team in the American League. Jerry Owens had a lower offensive VORP than every White Sox starter, including every member of the pitching rotation. But sure, go ahead Merkin, pencil him into that #1 slot. I predict the Chicago White Sox will finish at least 53.5 games back of the Minnesota Twins.

the fleet-footed leadoff hitter literally appears to have the leg up on both Anderson and DeWayne Wise in rounding out the White Sox outfield.

I want to know what happened between this year and last that catapulted Owens over Wise.....

We end with a quote from Brian Anderson.

"Nothing against guys who back up or spot start. If that's my role with the White Sox, I'm ready to do it again.


But at 26 or 27, I'm just not ready to be a role player or come off the bench. Nobody is ready to do that at my age."

So you're ready to....but not ready to.....what?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

FMTMQR: Gregg Sounds Even Dumber When Talking About the Playoffs

Fire this guy immediately. Jack M already covered the single worst sportswriting paragraph of 2009 (so far); here are the tattered remains of the rest of this week's TMQ.

Most important, are not the Cardinals a rag-tag collection of undrafted and unwanted players -- exactly the sort of gentlemen whose praises TMQ sings? Check the Arizona front seven that shut down Carolina: you won't find a first-round draft choice. (Details below.)

Hit us with those tantalizing details about what a bunch of no-talent zeroes these guys are.

Quickly now, can you name anyone from the Arizona front seven that outperformed Carolina's big-deal blockers? Here they are: Bryan Robinson, an undrafted 12-year veteran who has been waived by four NFL teams;

Legit claim by Gregg. Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand it's all downhill from here.

Bertrand Berry, a twice-waived 11-year veteran who played for the Edmonton Eskimos once when no NFL team wanted him;

Berry was a 3rd round draft choice in 1997, who maybe needed to go to the CFL to remember what it's like to play football (almost) for free before he went back to the NFL and started living up to his potential.

Chike Okeafor, waived by two NFL teams;

Another 3rd round draft choice (one of the top 100 players chosen in the draft... what a no talent nobody!) who was waived by Seattle purely for salary cap reasons before joining the Cardinals.

Antonio Smith, a fifth-round draft pick; Darnell Dockett and Gerald Hayes, third-round draft picks; and Karlos Dansby, a second-round draft pick. Nary a first-round gentleman in that group.

Therefore, no one with any talent whatsoever! They did it all on heart, hustle, grit, gristle, and grindiness! TMQ has a David Eckstein fathead. He believes that any player making more than $3 million a year should be shot dead in the street.

Also, there is no such thing as a player being waived for salary cap reasons. Anyone who gets waived was unwanted in every sense of the word.

In other playoff news, TMQ contends that on fourth-and-1, it can be better to go for it and fail than to launch a mincing fraidy-cat kick. Proof was seen in the divisional round. Both No. 1 seeds, Jersey/A and Tennessee, faced critical fourth-and-1 decisions near the opponent's goal line, both launched fraidy-cat kicks and both went on to lose.

Correlation = causation. Also, both those teams lost as home teams in the divisional round. Therefore, FMTMQR contends that hosting a divisional game is a receipe for disaster.

Pittsburgh faced a fourth-and-1 at the opponents' goal line, went for it and failed -- then dominated the remainder of the game, winning decisively.

Again, correlation = causation. Pittsburgh did not win because they were the better team, or because San Diego only ran one offensive play in the 3rd quarter, but because they came away with zero points on a 4th and goal. Everyone knows, scoring points is ultimately bad.

Who was the last No. 1-seeded team to win the Super Bowl? New England in the 2003 season. That's five seasons since a first seed hoisted the Lombardi Trophy, and it can't happen this year. Maybe No. 1 seeds become overconfident, or nervous.

I've included this in the post because I'm actually impressed with Gregg (non-sarcastically) for his word choice here. See the use of "maybe?" See how easy it is to not make yourself sound like a total jackass when you theorize why outcomes happen the way they do? Rather than saying "CLEARLY No. 1 seeds become overconfident," Gregg carefully points out that what he's saying is only an unprovable idea and not perfect fact. If only he did this the other 95% of the time, we might have to discontinue the TMQRs around here.

Oh God.... no.... he's going to do it, you know he is....

Cheerleader of the Week: Also according to her team bio, Lofland works as a sporting-events coordinator and jokes that the worst part of being a cheerleader is having to run stadium stairs like the players do. What if there is more overlap between NFL players and NFL cheerleaders than we know? Here is what a cheerleader psyche-up session in the tunnel might sound like:

Fuck me with a goalpost. No way is he going to try to write another skit. No fucking way, no fucking how.

CHEERLEADER SQUAD DIRECTOR: Get out there and give 110 percent! Hip-hop like every hip and every hop is the most important of your life! Other teams' cheerleaders don't respect you! Nobody believes in us but us! I want to see some professionalism out there! Leave it all on the sideline! (Pause.) Who are we?

SQUAD: Cheerleaders! (They start jumping.)

DIRECTOR: I can't hear you!

SQUAD: Cheerleaders! (They head-butt and chest-thump.)

SQUAD DIRECTOR: I still can't hear you!

SQUAD: CHEERLEADERS! (They run onto the field, each ceremonially tapping a cover of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue.)

/slowly subsiding douchechills

Gregg should be fired for these little skits he throws in every once in a while, but his editor should also be caned for allowing them.

Sweet Play of the Divisional Round: The atmosphere was electric at Giants Stadium, the crowd raucous as it expected to watch the defending champions notch the first victory of their title defense. Philadelphia kicked off, Ahmad Bradshaw broke into the clear. He appeared to be headed for six; only Eagles kicker David Akers remained between Bradshaw and the goal line. Akers took a good angle and forced Bradshaw out of bounds at the Philadelphia 35, and the Giants had to settle for a field goal on the possession. Had Jersey/A scored six points on the game's first play, the crowd would have gone nuts and the day might well have been a rout for the defending champions. Rarely is the first play of a game the most important play -- in this case, Akers' tackle was the most important play of the contest.

Yeah, just ask Ohio State how beneficial taking the opening kickoff back for a TD can be. It was an opening kickoff return TD that propelled them to victory in the 2007 BCS National Championship Game. Wait, they ended up losing that game by 30? And yes, I realize that one counterexample does not totally disprove Gregg's point. But it sure damages it.

Stat of the Week No. 6: The Ravens had the first rookie head coach/rookie starting quarterback combination to win consecutive playoff games.

That's not a stat, it's a factoid. I'm so upset right now.

Why did Tennessee lose to Baltimore? Just ask Gregg- because they didn't make enough exciting decisions! Little known fact: this year, NFL teams that go for it on 4th down more times than their opponent in a game are 457-0.

Had Jeff Fisher gone for two and taken an 8-0 lead, it would have communicated the message that Tennessee would play all-out to win. Even a missed deuce try would have communicated this message. Instead the Titans played cautious, and that would become the theme of the team's loss -- see below.

The Ravens won, as anyone who watched the game can tell you, by playing a crazy, balls-to-the-wall, fuck-it-we're-playing-with-the-house's-money sense of reckless abandon. Fun game stats: the Ravens attempted zero 4th down conversions, while passing 22 times and running 30 times. ZANY. No caution there.

Baltimore was the league's most enthusiastic user of trick plays this season, yet radioed in no trick play in the wild-card or divisional round.

Don't tell Gregg that. Wait, what?

Because McNabb moves in a plodding manner, he never gets credit for his scrambling and throwing-on-the-run talents. Now McNabb has led the Eagles to their fifth title game in eight seasons. Explain please why this guy gets so little love from sports pundits, including in the Philadelphia media.

Re: sports pundits in general- McNabb gets plenty of love. He gets criticism too, but it's not like the media refuses to acknowledge how good he is. Re: why the Philly media doggs on him- is... is... is that a real question? Gregg lives in the DC area. You'd think he might be privy to the tendancies of Philadelphia, a mere three hours away. Then again, you'd think he might be able to figure out that not every coach who orders a field goal is just trying to decrease his team's margin of defeat. Life is full of mysteries.

The key tactical error came at 1:38 of the first half. The Giants to that point were dominating the game in yards gained and first downs, but trailed 7-5. They faced fourth-and-inches on the Philadelphia 17, in a game in which they averaged 4.3 yards per rush. This was the man-or-mouse moment, when the defending champions had their chance to take control of the contest: go for the first down, then score a touchdown for a nice intermission lead, while drilling the clock so McNabb, a master of the late second-quarter drive, had no time for reply.

I'm not saying McNabb isn't this... but who says he is? I have never heard of this aspect of his reputation, ever. Then again I've never heard anything to indicate that the Patriots lost the Super Bowl last February because they ran up the score on opponents earlier in the season, but Gregg seems OK with pushing that theory.

Instead Coughlin did the supposedly "safe" thing and ordered a field goal. To that point in the game, Philadelphia had just 32 yards of offense.

How foolish of him to think his defense could prevent the Eagles from scoring before halftime! Way to make such a stupid investment of confidence, Coughlin.

Before the half could end, the Eagles moved 65 yards down the field, kicking a field goal with a second left on the clock. So Jersey/A's "safe" kick decision did the team no good, because Philadelphia still led by two at halftime anyway. More important, the decision fired the Eagles up. Philadelphia players seemed to sense that Jersey/A was playing not to lose, rather than playing to win.

Anecdotal. Bullshit. But at least he said "seemed."

"Friday Night Lights" Update:

No mention in here of how the Dillon Panthers didn't play a full, legal, official Texas high school football schedule. Why even bother writing the item?

San Diego began the game with a smart psychological ploy. Speed receiver Vincent Jackson had been shut out by the Colts, then during the week, was charged with driving under the influence. Their first play call was a deep post to him, though Philip Rivers couldn't get the pass his way. San Diego's third play call was again a deep post to Jackson, who was single-covered, the Steelers' safeties seeming to think it was safe to ignore him: 41 yards, touchdown.

Pittsburgh's defensive gameplan: Vincent Jackson was just charged with a DUI => therefore, the Chargers will not try to throw to him. Also, he had a bad game last week, and no receiver in history has ever followed up a bad game with a good one. We might as well not cover him. See, this is how Barry Bonds was able to beat Hank Aaron's all time home run record. As soon as he was connected to steroids, other teams' pitchers figured the Giants would stop sending him up to bat.

On the first snap of the fourth quarter, leading 21-10, Pittsburgh was not afraid to try to gain a yard -- and thereby, won the game. The fourth quarter began with the Steelers facing fourth-and-goal on the Bolts' 1. Pittsburgh went for it and failed.

That's how you win games, people: by not scoring. You can also win by not having any first round draft picks (or ideally, anyone who was drafted at all) on your team.

But the Steelers actually were better off going and failing than kicking! Obviously if they'd gone and scored, TMQ would have written "game over" in his notebook. Had Pittsburgh taken the field goal, the Steelers would have led by 14, but then had to kick off, likely giving San Diego good field position with a full quarter remaining.

Starting from between your own 15 and 35 is now "good field position."

That would have kept San Diego in the contest. By going and failing, Pittsburgh pinned San Diego on its 1, needing two scores.

Being down 14 with the ball on your own 20 is clearly worlds away from being down 11 with the ball on your own 1. In fact, they're so different that most coaches don't know that either can happen during the course of a football game.

The Chargers could do nothing from their own 1, and the next time you looked up, Pittsburgh led 35-17.

You must enjoy catnaps.

In kick-or-go situations, TMQ asks: "What does my opponent hope I will do?" On the fourth-and-goal from the San Diego 1, the Chargers were hoping Pittsburgh would kick a field goal. Though the Bolts stopped the fourth-down rush, they were worse off than if the Hypocycloids had kicked for three.

Now they needed a TD, a 2 point conversion, and a field goal, which is objectively much harder to get than 2 TDs. Everyone knows this.

Titans tailback Chris Johnson had 12 touches for 100 yards against Baltimore in the first half, then sat out the second half with an injury. The energetic Johnson leaving the game and the plodding, low-intensity LenDale White coming in was a factor in the favorite's defeat. As many readers, including Becca Garrison of Gallatin, Tenn., noted, thrice this season Johnson has taunted opponents, and thrice this season, TMQ has predicted the football gods would exact vengeance.

LenDale White? The guy has never taunted anyone in his life. Well, except for when he (hilariously) stomped on a terrible towel as the Titans were crushing the Steelers in December. But that's totally different. He didn't get hurt because... well, because. The football gods work in mysterious ways. Also, anyone who gets injured, ever, has that happen to them because they angered said football gods.

Next Week Arugula! Arugula!

You are a pretentious waste of a human being. Only a few TMQs left before the end of the year- everyone keep biting your tongues, he's almost finished.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Gregg Easterbrook : Logical Sports Arguments :: Jason Vorhees : Crystal Lake Camp Counselors

TMQ suspects there is a siren-like effect of being a very high-scoring team, luring you toward the rocks. Running up the score is always punished in the end --

Yeah, just ask the 1994-1995 49ers.

and in most of the games when the 2007 Pats and the 2008 Sooners got big point totals, they needlessly ran up the score.

The Patriots maybe, but you'd be pretty hard pressed to find anyone who would argue that Oklahoma's raping of Texas Tech didn't directly help them get higher rankings from pollsters, leading to higher rankings in the BCS, a spot in the Big 12 Championship, and therefore, a spot in the BCS Title game.

The desire to win is admirable; the desire to strut around boasting about how much you won by is not. If your brain is taken over by the craving to humiliate opponents with high scores, the football gods exact punishment.

Right, 1992-1993 Dallas Cowboys?

New England in last year's Super Bowl and Oklahoma in the BCS title tilt seemed to enter the final game thinking the goal wasn't merely to win, but rather to ring up lots of points and be lauded as mega-terrific.

If you had asked any player or coach from either team before the game if they'd be pleased to win their championship game 6-3, there isn't a single one of them who would have said "no."

A few days before the Giants-Patriots Super Bowl, Tom Brady openly scoffed at a suggestion the Patriots might be held to half their scoring average. How they wish they'd reached half their scoring average!

The prediction was made by Plaxico Burress; obviously Brady wasn't going to say "Yeah, Plax is right; their defense probably will smother us." On the other hand, if the Patriots had scored 62 points and won, Easterbrook would've undoubtedly written something like:

"Prior to the game, Plaxico Burress, he of only 2 receptions in the entire game, predicted that the Giants would hold the league's best offense to half their points per game average. Oh how the football Gods chortled as Brady's TD passes rained down upon the Giants like lightening bolts."

Oklahoma went into the BCS title game on an incredible run of five straight 60-plus scoring days, and seemed concerned with flashy touchdowns scored quickly so people would "ooh" and "aah." Reaching third-and-goal on the Florida 1, Oklahoma went ultra-hurry-up, then ultra-hurry-up again on fourth-and-goal, ending up with nothing. Both plays were snapped seconds after the ball was signaled ready for play, and both looked disorganized. At the 1, why not huddle and get things right? But the Sooners wanted people to say, "Look how fast they scored, how do they do that?"


I don't even need to explain why this is theory is so mind numbingly retarded. However, it is safe to say: Gregg, you are guilty of the single worst sports paragraph of far.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

While We're At It, Cancel EVERY All-Star Game!

Ah, the All-Star game. Remember being a kid and being excited that all these awesome players were playing together? Usually a player from your team would be playing there, too! Slam dunk contests, home run derbies, skills competitions... it was worth staying in on a Sunday to watch. Then you grow up and it turned into an excuse for taking a fantastic weekend nap with sports on TV. I'll TiVo Saturday's skills competition because the trick shots will be awesome and Versus might give me another goalie fucking up his hip.
Since the lockout, the NHL hasn't put out a single paper ballot for the All-Star Game and ever since, there's a big stink about people who don't deserve to go to the All-Star Game going. John Grigg is back to explain to us why fans shouldn't vote.

The NHL has reached the tipping point with All-Star Game fan voting. It needs to be scrapped. Now.

This wasn't a problem with the paper ballots because who brought a pen or pencil with them to a hockey game? Well they have the internet on computers now, and you can vote for anybody you want as many times as you want. This year you could also text the name of your team to some SMS short code and it counted as 1 vote for every player from your favorite team. So instead of throttling the input of fan votes down to say, a username/password combo and limiting each of those to a certain number of votes, we should abort the whole thing.
With the league insisting all 30 teams be represented, the game is already watered-down. With only six open spots available on each 21-man roster, allowing fans to determine the starters is akin to letting ice cubes melt in an already weak drink.

Letting fans feel like they have a say in something is SUCH a horrible thing. We shouldn't let fans go to the All-Star game. Instead, they should be forced to watch the game in large common areas with TVs that are tuned to Versus.
A few years back, the NHL got a glimpse of the future when a fan-based Internet campaign almost got journeyman defenseman Rory Fitzpatrick voted in. Conspiracy theorists suggest the NHL manipulated the results to ensure Fitzpatrick didn’t make the grade. The player himself was publicly uncomfortable with the possibility.

What Rory Fitzpatrick said he was uncomfortable with was that he was becoming a sideshow. From the CanWest News Service: ''It could have created more of a stir. I just tried to keep it fun and not stressful. If it got to be a distraction for the team or too much, I might have handled it differently.'' The NHL didn't do anything about the voting system because the Vote For Rory campaign made national sports headlines, and there's no way the league would discourage actions that make ESPN talk about the league.
This season the problem was taken to new heights. Eleven players - all either Canadiens or Penguins, including the yet-to-play-a-game-this-season Sergei Gonchar - surpassed Jaromir Jagr’s 2000 record of 1,020,736 fan votes. And just four teams - Anaheim (three players), Chicago (three), Montreal (four) and Pittsburgh (two) - are represented in the starting lineups for the Jan. 25 event.

My biggest problem this year is that four centers and two right wingers are starting. So left wingers can go fuck themselves. John Grigg cares not about positions, only about team representation.
Crosby led all vote-getters, topping 1.7 million votes. Malkin nearly matched him. The four Habs averaged about 1.4 million votes each. None of the other players with one million-plus votes were named reserves. The Hawks and Ducks starters averaged just 747,000 votes each, but took all the spots in the West.

How dare Montreal fans vote to see their players play in front of them when Montreal hosts the All-Star game this year! It's stupid that there's only four teams represented in the starting lineup. I would imagine that after the first shift, those players will be split up between other lines.
In the old days, chad-punching homers voting with their hearts rather than their heads were the problem. Now the NHL has to fend off computer-hacker homers to ensure roster legitimacy. Luckily, most of the starters are legitimate all-stars, but some are debateable [sic]; some laughable.

And only fans of these four teams were stuffing the ballot box? I'm pretty sure that fans of every team are encouraged by their team to stuff the ballot box. I would even go so far as to say that there are very few people that sat down in front of their computer and thought out the scenario of the All-Star game and only voted for the best players. I don't care who starts, because the actual best players in the league will be named to the team anyways. So I might as well vote for my team's best players.
Jonathan Toews will be good, maybe great. But he’s not yet Henrik Zetterberg, Marian Hossa or Patrick Marleau. Scott Niedermayer is a Hall of Famer, but Duncan Keith and Brian Rafalski are more deserving this year.

Replace an Anaheim player with a Chicago player. That's a smart thing to say when you've completed bitching about how only 4 teams are represented in the starting lineup.
Jean-Sebastien Giguere has a Conn Smythe Trophy and a Stanley Cup on his resume. But he’s had better seasons when he wasn’t named an all-star and is being outperformed by others, especially rookie Steve Mason. Mason, at least, will be in the Young Stars Game, but it would have been fun to see the wunderkind in the skills competition and the big game.

It would have been a lot of fun to watch the kid get lit up by the Eastern Conference's finest.
With that in mind, I offer a solution: Have NHL players, coaches and GMs vote on who should represent the best hockey league in the world at its All-Star Game. Then open the starting-lineup voting to fans a couple of weeks prior to the game.

With that as a solution, what's the point of opening it up to the fans at all? To fix fan voting, limit the number of times they can vote. From what I remember, there was a 25 vote limit per person for the MLB All-Star Game. Make fans vote for every position instead of just voting for forwards. Don't give the fans a consolation prize just because the NHL screwed the system up to begin with.
Make the announcement an in-game event. Make a big deal of it. Keep the starters secret and give them prizes of some kind (Alex Ovechkin. Come on over! You’ve won your very own Segway. Sidney Crosby, you get your own apartment!). Make it fun. With some spontaneity and humor, it could be the NHL’s Golden Globe Awards.

A Segway joke? What is this? Do they even make Segways anymore? Give starters priz - - what the fuck just happened to the article? The All-Star Game is enough of a show as it is. If there's one thing the NHL doesn't need, it's a version of the Golden Globe Awards.
Because, really, who cares who starts the All-Star Game, as long as the best players are there? And since the 30-team rule already makes that difficult, the NHL shouldn’t let electronic ballot-stuffers make it impossible.

That's right, he just spent this whole article complaining about the starters and then at the end, he throws up his hands and says "Oh well!" Then why write this? Why not expand the roster to hold 63 players on each side, and the teams switch every period? The first period is determined by fan vote, the second period is determined by the coaches, players, and GMs. The third period - everybody on the ice at the same time! That'll fix your 30-team rule complaint.

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Important Part is that Andy Reid Looks Like a Bloated Walrus

Picking on things said by commenters is kind of like picking on things said by devout racists, the mentally ill, or Joe Morgan. I mean, it's kind of like the definition of low-hanging fruit. However I'm about to do exactly that. I think I'm justified in doing so because this particular comment was the "featured comment" on the website's front page last night. That is to say, out of every comment the site received on Sunday afternoon/evening, some clod at ESPN's offices thought this was the best/smartest/most relevant/most poignant/some combination of all of these. So I guess I'm more picking on that clod than the commenter himself, which I think is valid. Let's face it- how hard is that task? You go through a couple hundred comments and pick one that isn't stupid. And yet apparently it's not as easy as it sounds. How do I know that? Well, the NFL playoffs are down to four teams. Commenter 808forlife, what say you about their respective quarterbacks?
Donovan, Big Ben, and Warner are all Super Bowl QB's with plenty of big game experience. Flacco? Out of his league.

First of all, sir, I like your angle here. You have taken a controversial and not at all widely-held viewpoint and expressed it in a thought provoking way. Bully on you for that. But I digress; let's talk about why this is a "featured comment" worth blogging about. Here's what I'll give Mr. 808; Warner and Roethlisberger are legit. You won't find many people criticizing their big game credentials. Also, Flacco has never played in a conference championship game. (Although, to be fair, before last Saturday he had never played in a divisional playoff game and he didn't do too badly there. But let me get to the point.) So that's all well and good. Let's move past it and get to the retardery.

Take 100 reasonably passionate and well-informed sports fans. Ask them to do an association with you: say "Donovan McNabb," then say "big game," and ask them what's the next thing that comes to their mind. I am pretty sure that about 95 of them are going to say "Throwing up during the final drive of Super Bowl XXXIX." I mean, fair or not, that's just the first thing that comes to mind. Although the guy has had a moderate amount of playoff success, he's only made it to one Super Bowl and then allegedly lost his shit when the chips were down during that game. So I'm not entirely sure I'd rather have him over Joe "hey did you know rookies don't usually play well during the playoffs?" Flacco for the remainder of the NFL season. I'm not saying he's not good, but touting his big game credentials along with two guys who have actually won Super Bowls (without vomiting) is dumb. Thus, 808forlife/ESPN comment chooser, you've picked a real stinker here. You're both fucking morons, but one of you is just some asshole who comments on a sports website while the other is truly and completely terrible at his incredibly simple job. I guess I'd rather be the former than the latter.

Oh, and what about the other five fans who didn't associate McNabb and "big game" with throwing up during the Super Bowl? Four of them will say "Campbell's Chunky Soup" for some reason. And assuming the fifth is Jack M, he will say "Andy Reid is fat," which doesn't make a lot of sense in this context but is definitely true. That Jack is such a hater.

Thoughts on the Predictions of Leading Online Sports' Websites "Experts

Exhibit A:
ESPN NFL Football Expert Picks for the Wild-Card Games
ESPN NFL Football Expert Picks for the Divisional Playoffs

Interesting items:

  • For the wild-card game between San Diego and Indianapolis, nine of the ten ESPN experts incorrectly chose the Colts to win.
  • For the wild-card game between Baltimore and Miami, all ten of the ESPN experts correctly chose the Ravens' win.
  • For the divisional playoff game between Carolina and Arizona, all ten of the ESPN experts incorrectly predicted the Panthers (who, incidentally, got their ass beat).
  • For the divisional playoff game between San Diego and Pittsburgh, nine of the ten ESPN experts correctly picked the Steelers over the Chargers.
For these four games, the experts' unanimous and near-unanimous choices went a whopping ... 2-2.

Exhibit B:'s Experts' Picks for the College Football Bowl Season

Interesting items:
  • On January 2, three bowl games were played, and the Sportsline experts went a combined 0-15 - not one of the five correctly predicted even so much as one Utah, Kentucky and Ole Miss wins.
  • Hawaii, Nevada, Boston College and Central Michigan, all unanimously predicted by the experts to win, managed to lose - and UH in blowout fashion.
  • Six teams who were unanimously chosen to win their games managed to actually win their games.
Of all the bowls in which the experts chose a winner unanimously, the experts' choice went a rousing... 6-7.

The Moral Of The Story

Logically, you'd think that the games for which there was real consensus in picking a winner would represent a high chance for the experts to be correct. That's assuming that these "experts" are all independently evaluating the football teams and then predicting which team will win. The consensus, in this case, would represent a series of analyses that all come to the same conclusion.

Rather, I think these (admittedly small) samples suggest that there's a real tendency towards groupthink in these predictions. It's the sort of groupthink that is suggested by shit like the ESPN Bottom Line - which relentlessly reminded viewers that "Carolina is 8-0 at home, and Arizona is 0-5 when playing in the Eastern Time Zone" going into Saturday night's game - as though that would have a drastic impact on the game. Turns out, in an actual contest of American-style football, the time zone doesn't actually make much of a difference, and nobody bothered to mention that the teams played in the Eastern Time Zone were actually pretty good, including a 4-point loss to the Panthers. It's not like they played the Bengals or the Lions.

Or the same kind of groupthink that suggests universally that Notre Dame (they've lost a million straight bowls and didn't win road games this year!) or Ole Miss (Texas Tech is rated like really high! They scored a lot of touchdowns!) didn't merit even one choice of the five.

Actually, I suspect that these unanimous or near-unanimous decisions are rather the result of one analysis that gets passed around. Are there any statistical metrics which might have suggested that Arizona would win last Saturday (I mean, besides the fact that they only lost by four last time they played there)? I bet there are.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

I'd Best Explain My Absence......

Times are getting hectic around the ol' basement. Tis' the season when my workload gets busiest around these parts. Here's my set of annual assignments.

Super Mario World
Command and Conquer: Red Alert 2
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars
Kingdom Hearts
Perfect Dark
The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City
Super Mario 64
Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty
Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest
Halo 2

After I'm finished with all of those, I've been given the following new projects to work on.

Grand Theft Auto IV
Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots
Red Alert 3
Starcraft II

Basically, I'm looking at a workflow of 60+ hours/week from all of this. It's unfortunate, but I'm clearly way too swamped to have much time to post over the next few months. I'm likely going to drop in every so often to attack Mariotti and such (isn't it so great he's back you guys????), but I probably won't be a consistent force of disparagement for all the dunderheaded writers fucking it up every day at their jobs (I'm allowed to make fun of them for that, because at least I'm fucking sweet at Sonic the Hedgehog 2). Sorry all, and come late spring, you'll have your ol' pnoles back in his prime.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Punday, Bloody Punday

Sorry Chris W for burying you again. I HART you.

When I read an Associated Press game recap, I want the basics. Give me information on how the game unfolded, game implications, maybe some quotes or stats, etc. What I don't want is fluff, or even worse, puns. If I want puns, I'll try reading Woody Paige or some other columnist. Not you the AP, not youuuuuuuu......

Their first pun:

National chomps, indeed!

I can see it now: a lone AP reporter sits in a dark Miami pressbox, long after the game has ended. He needs to spice up his game recap, but how? Wait a second...the Gators are National CHAMPS, and sometimes Gators can CHOMP. Brilliant.

Still though, something feels off. The article feels a little too... "reporty" and "unbiased". What do all those other reporters who get bylines say that makes them special? Oh, they love scrappy, white athletes!!

His [Tebow] passing wasn't so precise -- 18-for-30 -- yet it was his sheer will that kept the Gators going.

Yes, his sheer will alone carried the National Chomps to victory! The reporter nodded his head as he typed these words. This fluff and cock-sucking is sure to get me noteriety, he thought. Just when he was almost finished he paused, smiled, and added one more clause to the article. As he emailed his editors, he made sure to CC the Pulitzer committee...

He [Tebow] got off the team bus, walked over to a clutch of Florida fans, waved his arms and then ripped off his tie and threw it into a bunch of tailgaters -- tail-Gators, in this case.

Ugh, alright, enough with the AP guy story. This is horrible, and honestly, totally inexcusable. Tail-Gators? Really? That needed to get added to the AP game recap? Disgusting.

BCS Game

I have never. Not once in my life. Not NEVER. Never heard such a prolonged and hyperbolic dicksucking of an athlete as Thom Brennaman gave to Tim Tebow last night.


My favorite quote went something along the lines of: "“In such a cynical, sarcastic society, oftentimes looking for the negative on anybody or anything, if you’re fortunate enough to spend five minutes or 20 minutes around Tim Tebow, your life is better for it.”" And he said that, or a permutation thereof, like 7 or 8 times throughout the night.

Shut the fuck up and call the game. Wipe the spiz off your chin, and tell me what's going on on the field.

Congrats to the Gators, etc.

That is all.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Bowl Controversy Series

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lemonades for everybody!

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

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

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

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

This Man Blows Goats

Guy who deserves his HOF vote....NOT! (Click Here to Erase the Memory of that Wayne's World Reference From Your Mind)

Here are the men who Corky (lol) Simpson thought were better HOF candidates than Rickey "Best Leadoff Hitter in Baseball History" Henderson:

Bert Blyleven
Andre Dawson
Tommy John
Don Mattingly
Tim Raines
Jim Rice
Alan Trammell
Matt Williams

What a fucking shitbag. And don't give me that "blah blah blah shouldn't be unanimous" or "blah blah blah first ballot" bullshit.

There's no excuse for this. This man is a piece of shit and should have his vote taken away since he obviously refuses to take it seriously.

Fuck this asshole.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Sociology and Sportswriting Don't Mix: Gregg Doyel on Notre Dame's Decline

Gregg Doyel takes on the state of the Irish and the decline in the program. I realize that this article is designed to prompt a response, but I'm going to respond to it in a thoughtful and reasoned manner, without trying to initiating some kind of yelling match, but rather making a calm presentation of several places where Gregg goes horribly wrong.

Here's his basic thesis:

Once upon a time, Army was Notre Dame.

Soon enough, Notre Dame will become Army.

Right - Army football was dominant once, and is irrelevant now. Notre Dame football was dominant once, and mediocre now. Ok, I see the connection; let's see how Gregg's going to work this out:

It's not Notre Dame's fault, so if there are any Notre Dame fans out there feeling angry -- assuming there are still Notre Dame fans out there at all -

Ok, let's see: Notre Dame, for six straight seasons ending in 2004 (I couldn't find more recent data), was voted the most popular team in all of college football. In other news, Forbes magazine ranked Notre Dame the "most valuable" college football program. (1/2/2007).

There are Notre Dame fans out there.

- don't be mad at me. Notre Dame hasn't screwed up. Notre Dame hasn't changed.

Actually, Notre Dame *has* changed; the real answer to the problem about Notre Dame's institutional decline has as much (or more) to do with internal (but not heavily covered by sports media) changes at the school.

The world has changed around it, much as the world changed around Army 50 years ago.

Well, sure, but there's really no reason Notre Dame can't be competitive right now.

Just like with Army football, the evolution of America is killing Notre Dame. The most influential person in the world is no longer the Pope.

What? Who cares? Is there some correlation between the power of the papacy and Notre Dame's winning percentage?

The Catholic Church is no longer dictating how our country acts,

What? This country has had one Catholic president in its history. While Catholics in the country have a significant political presence, they're still only approximately 1/4 of the nation, by self-identification (and it's sure that a good chunk of that 1/4 aren't active or practicing enough to dictate anything).

so what chance does it have to influence where our best young football talent plays? It has no chance.

Huh. I wonder how the hell Notre Dame's enrolled class of 2008 managed to rank... first? on's ratings. Notre Dame's 2009 class

The number of Catholic kids is dwindling, and their draw to Notre Dame is dying.

Apparently that didn't matter last year.

I wish I knew what percentage of ND football players in the past were Catholic, but this is still pretty irrelevant. It's still the most storied program in college football program, they still have pretty good facilities, the only national-tv contract, and a reasonably-good shot of making the NFL. There are a lot of reasons kids might go to Notre Dame.

You don't have to like it, but don't pretend it's not a fact.

Actually, in using actual facts, I have demonstrated that several of your premises are absolute bullshit, Gregg. And it took me four minutes with Firefox to do it. I don't much like any of this decline, but I don't have to pretend you're any kind of knowledgeable authority on it.

It's no coincidence that Notre Dame football was at its best before the integration of college football. According to Gallup polling research, there are 33 million Catholics in the United States -- but only 7 percent are black. What does that tell you? It tells you that back in the day when college football was mostly white, and the Catholic church was in power, that the best (available) recruits would naturally take a hard look at Notre Dame.

And yet, last year, a lot of the best available recruits did look at Notre Dame. This is the sort of stupid bullshit that gets spouted by people like Paul Hornung. Who knows what "competitive advantage" Notre Dame might had by getting this mythical "Catholic athlete" before... but Notre Dame isn't at a competitive disadvantage in getting most athletes right now. You know what Notre Dame sucks at? Getting the dumb athlete.

Tradition only lasts so long, and for Notre Dame it's fabulous tradition carried into the 1970s and seeped somewhat into the '80s thanks to Lou Holtz's creative interpretation of the NCAA rulebook.

Or maybe the early 1990s, where for the first four seasons, the Irish went 40-8 and culminated a streak of finishing in the AP top six five out of six years?



Notre Dame football is mediocre right now. Notre Dame football, except for a few momentary flashes, has been utterly mediocre since 1993. Yet there's really no reason to believe that this is the result of some sort of pseudo-sociological argument about the decline of the Church in America. More useful might be some thought about why ND has become so mediocre: it's NOT because they haven't gotten recruits - in fact, the talent level has remained (mostly) excellent. It's because their coaches have been objectively mediocre. The changes at Notre Dame that have resulted in this string of reasonably-poor coaches are at the higher level.

Doyel's is a stupid, un-reasoned article. The basic premise is completely illogical:

1. The Catholic church has declined in America over the last 50 years - and isn't coming back.

2. Notre Dame football has declined over the last 20 years.

∴ Notre Dame football isn't coming back.

The funny thing is, Gregg might be right. Notre Dame football might never make it bacl to the upper echelon of college football. But if ND never does, it has itself to blame, not some bullshit sociology.