Tuesday, September 27, 2011

WMTMQR: Show me the funny

Gregg's in the mood to tell jokes this week, moreso than usual. That's a good thing for us. Also, a shoutout to reader Daniel who went 2 for 3 in the prediction he made in the comments section last post. Buffalo's 3-0 start gave Gregg cause to talk at length about the undergrad institutions attended by Ryan Fitzpatrick (Harvard? I had no idea!) and Fred Jackson. Somehow he forgot to talk about how Stevie Johnson was a 15th round draft choice, though. Of course that's not the real reason Johnson rules--he rules because he blamed God for a dropped pass. But enough about me. Let's talk about pretentious faux intellectuals who write about science fiction and football.

Of course, children, I am referring to the Buffalo Bills and the Detroit Lions. And no, I don't know what "Bills" are, either. This has been lost to the mists of history. Perhaps the team was originally called the Buffalo Williams.

/bike horn

/slide whistle

Told you he was in the mood to yolk around.

The Bills-Patriots game even produced a moment in which the unassuming Chan Gailey, fired twice in the past five years and OOF -- Out of Football -- entirely in 2009, out-Belichicked Bill Belichick.

Do tell.

Game tied at 31, Buffalo's Fred Jackson -- undrafted from Division III Coe College, now one of pro football's top performers -- caught a 39-yard pass, lunging across the goal line with 1:43 remaining. Zebras signaled touchdown. Then booth review began. Jackson's knee went down at the 1, as replay ultimately determined.

Jackson not scoring was great for Buffalo! Belichick immediately realized that if the play was ruled a touchdown, Brady would have 1:43 and two timeouts to try for overtime. If instead Jackson was ruled down at the 1, Buffalo could kneel three times, force Belichick to burn the timeouts, then kick a field goal, leaving New England mere seconds to reply. Belichick gestured angrily at the officials -- he wanted them to count the touchdown. Belichick was demanding that his opponent be awarded a score!

As it happened, a personal foul against the Patriots allowed Buffalo to use the entire clock and launch the winning kick as time expired.

So "doing what any person with a brain and basic knowledge of football would do" now counts as outsmarting a guy who wins Super Bowls and deviously wrecks marriages on a semi-regular basis.

Postgame, Belichick had to explain to baffled sportswriters, in gruff terms, that he called time-out the moment the replay decision was made, because once officials determined the runner was down inbounds, the clock would restart as if Jackson had been tackled at the 1. How could it be that sportswriters who do nothing but football all year round don't know that rule?

How dare those sportswriters not know a basic thing about football! They should be ashamed. I bet they also don't know that if you lose by a field goal on the last play of the game, you could have prevented it by... and you know the rest.

An ideal outcome for the 2011 NFL season would be for two underdog teams from fading old-industry cities to meet in the Super Bowl. From now on, a Buffalo-Detroit Super Bowl is what this column is rooting for. As TMQ noted last week, if Buffalo and Detroit met in the Super Bowl, "One of them would have to win -- I think."

/laugh track

Stop citing to your own columns and unclever pithy remarks.

In Indianapolis Colts news, Peyton Manning seems a long shot to return this season. This would end football's version of "Narnia." Eustace, Lucy, where are you?

I killed the hyperlink- that was another citation to his own (awful) work. Come on man, who are you? Jason Whitlock?

Stats of the Week No. 3: Jay Cutler has been sacked 101 times in 34 starts for the Chicago Bears. While playing for the Denver Broncos, he was sacked 51 times in 57 starts.

Average mouth-breathing Bears fan: "CUTLER IS A PUSSYFACE WHO DOESN'T KNOW HOW TO WIN"

Stats of the Week No. 5: Since earning home playoff dates at the end of the 2010 regular season, the Atlanta Falcons and Kansas City Chiefs are a combined 1-7.

But just ask any Peter King; with their comically overrated QB and unremarkable defense, the Falcons are a lock to win the NFC this year.

Sweet Play of the Week: The Houston Texans leading the New Orleans Saints

You mean the Moo Cows and the whatever the fuck your nickname for the Saints is-es?

Sweet Play Called Back: The Green Bay Packers,

Shit, forgot this one too.

leading by 10, punted to the Chicago Bears


Sour Play of the Week Washington leading Dallas 16-15 just before the two-minute warning, the Skins had the Boys facing third-and-21 on their 30. Since the average NFL snap gains somewhat over 5 yards, and Washington this season is allowing 6.1 yards per snap, all the Redskins needed do was play straight defense and a stop was likely.

Joe Morgan was right. Statistics ARE stupid because you can make them say anything you want. Also, remember those reporters who didn't understand the rules about the clock following a challenge? What a bunch of clowns!

That cannot seriously be an eight-man blitz on third-and-21! The eight-man blitz is almost never seen, because it is like handing out a card that says "Please score a touchdown." Tony Romo threw a 30-yard completion to the single-covered Dez Bryant, penalty yardage was added, and a moment later the home team launched the winning kick.

Bryant was at 75% and Miles Austin was sitting. Blitzing makes much more sense when you can easily use man coverage against the other team's WRs. Not saying it was definitely the right call here, but let's add some context, you know? No? OK, no context.

On the possession, Washington defensive coordinator Jim Haslett called an eight-man blitz on first down, a seven-man blitz on second down

Wonder how those worked out? My guess is that Dallas was already in the end zone after each- so I'm not sure how it could have been 3rd and 21.

and an eight-man blitz on third down.

One fluky scramble and one bad play by DeAngelo Hall (who saw that coming?) later and the Cowboys were back in business. Debate settled: blitzing never works.

He also handed out cards saying "Please score a touchdown." Dallas settled for as field goal.


He also handed out cards saying "Please score a touchdown." Dallas settled for as field goal.

I think that joke is unintentional, but it still made me chuckle. Also, if you watched Washington's victories over Arizona and New York (by which I mean Jersey/A!), you would know that heavy blitzing was a big part of both of those games. But acknowledging that would require Gregg to provide his analysis after considering the facts, rather than only talking about the facts that fit the analysis he wants to provide. Very inconvenient.

Just to prove this was no fluke, at the two-minute warning, the Texans faced third-and-15. New Orleans showed the conservative three-man front that's become popular in long-yardage situations -- then rushed five, sacking Matt Schaub and all but ended the contest. Sweet. Nickelback Leigh Torrence came through untouched for the sack, though Houston had six available to block five. Sour.

I like how he carefully avoids using the work "blitz" when a blitz is successful. Blitz? What blitz? That was a "rush."

Bad Predictions Watch: Reader Tyler Smith of Zionsville, Ind., notes students at Hamilton College tracked a year's worth of predictions by political pundits, and found the average pundit no more accurate than a coin flip. Hamilton College students also discerned a hidden pattern: "Prognosticators with a law degree were more likely to be wrong."

Nothing to get the funny bone tickled like dumping on lawyers! Those stupid lawyers. They're so full of themselves and yet so stupidly stupid. Hey, what do you call 100 smarmy sportswriters at the bottom of the ocean? A PRETTY GOOD START!

A Fine Whine: The San Diego Chargers are plowing new ground by marketing a team wine. The beverage offers "vibrant fruit flavors and toasty oak." Considering the Bolts' performance in 2010 -- first in offense, first in defense, missed the playoffs -- TMQ suspects the wine is made to the highest possible standards from the very finest grapes, and tastes bad.

What if other NFL teams marketed wines?

Dallas Cowboys Missing Seats Merlot: Rich with deceptive promises, this wine will make you want to stand up throughout any dinner or social occasion.

And then he does like eight more of these. It's depressing.

It's not just that Martz has made the pass-wacky offense one-dimensional: counting sacks and scrambles, he has called 131 passes versus 48 rushes. The 1-2 Bears seemed discombobulated at critical moments against the defending champion Packers. Former head coaches tend to project ego fields.

Nah, that's just Charlie Weis's gravitational field.

/shows self out

Many don't really want to be taking orders, and don't want to be questioned by players or each other. There are so many ego fields on the Chicago sideline, they may be interacting negatively.

That's gotta be it. I can't think of any other reason the Bears could be 1-2, other than the slight possibility that playing at New Orleans and then hosting the pass-rush heavy Packers on consecutive weeks is going to hang plenty of teams with two losses.

What Tom Brady Will Do After Football: Last week TMQ said auto shows feature "glamorous models draped over concept cars you probably wouldn't even want. The models are always women, not male-model hunks, which must be the car industry's way of acknowledging that only men can to inveigled into spending huge amounts of money on cars." Reader Bal√°zs GyQrik, of Budapest, Hungary, reports Citroen had a male model adorning its latest product at the Frankfurt auto show. He notes, "Sure, it's only a drop in the sea, but can hunks in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue be far behind?"

Nope! And that's fifteen seconds you'll never have back.

Are Greek Bonds Backing the Movie "Moneyball"? The movie "Moneyball" is winning rave reviews. Michael Lewis's 2003 book of the same name is also a great read, though handicapped in spots with the contemporary publishing-industry imperative of the nonfiction work that claims an amazing single insight that explains everything about a topic.

I have read Moneyball twice. At no point does Lewis present any thesis that comes off like it was concocted by some dipshit like Malcolm Gladwell. If you got that from it, either you were reading too fast or you are Tim McCarver.

In the film, the handsome Brad Pitt plays Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane, who is himself handsome -- maybe Beane could play Pitt in some future flick.

Seems pretty unlikely.

The book and the movie both portray Beane as a super-ultra genius for applying the Bill James sabermetric approach to baseball decision-making, then using James-style data crunching to guide the low-rent, underdog A's to a division title in 2002.

Lewis' book stops in that year, which is handy for its thesis.

Also handy when you consider the fact that Lewis wrote it during 2003 after spending 2002 doing research specifically so he could write the book the following year. WHAT ARE YOU HIDING, LEWIS? ADMIT IT! ADMIT YOU PAID OFF THE A'S TO MAKE THEM WIN THAT 2002 AL WEST CROWN!

Beane continues to run the Athletics using the moneyball approach: yet Oakland has not finished above .500 in five years, and currently is a dreary 72-88. Nor did the moneyball approach ever take the team into the World Series.

Oh brother. Here we go again.

One possibility is that the whole moneyball idea is hype: that Beane had some beginner's luck, which Lewis, wanting to puff up a book proposal, converted into a claim of a sweeping insight about sports economics. Since Beane took over the A's, there are many MLB teams that have reached the World Series without asserting they possess any stunning conceptual breakthroughs about whom to sign.

And nearly all of them have had good luck w/r/t injuries and excellent situational hitting/bullpen work. Two things that have exactly nothing to do with the Moneyball approach, and which the A's teams of the early aughts couldn't quite get right. And of course eventually everyone else caught up with the idea of exploiting market inefficiencies (except the Astros).

It is also possible that Beane fell victim to "commoditization," which happens with increasing speed in a globalized environment. This would mean Beane did in fact have an important insight, but his idea has been copied by most if not all MLB franchises, turning the idea into a mere commodity that, possessed by everyone, confers no advantage.

So you knew all along and just wanted to take a shot at Beane and Lewis before acknowledging it. Nice. Joe Morgan and Gregg Easterbrook have never been seen in the same place at the same time. COINCIDENCE????

Here's what your columnist wrote about commoditization in my 2009 book "Sonic Boom":


Commoditization is a reason the international economy grows more productive and simultaneously more turbulent -- when some business has a good idea, the rest of the world learns to imitate that idea with increasing alacrity. In Beane's case, once the book "Moneyball" was published in 2003, the rest of baseball had a road map -- available for $27.95 in a bookstore -- on how to apply sabermetrics to free agency decisions. The idea was commoditized, and the A's sunk back into mediocrity.

The idea that other teams wanted to know how the A's were succeeding with such low payrolls, and couldn't figure it out on their own, but then eventually were able to figure it out by reading Moneyball, makes me chortle. Can you imagine Brian Sabean and Dave Dombrowski standing in line at Barnes and Noble, excitedly flipping through the pages? Lord knows I can and it's a glorious image. Chortle chortle chortle.

Rule quirk: The other thing Oklahoma State might have done [to run out the clock on the last play of the game] is have the quarterback heave the ball deep down the middle. The clock stops when an incompletion crosses the out-of-bounds markers on the sidelines. But for a pass thrown through and out of the end zone, the clock does not stop until the ball crosses the backline. Surely a high-arcing pass would take more than 5 seconds to traverse from the Team A 39-yard line to the back of the Team B end zone. So in the situation faced by the Cowboys, this would seem a safe way to kill the final 5 seconds. But you'd be gambling that the zebras knew this rarely invoked rule.

You would also be gambling that a college QB can throw the ball 75 yards (or that if they can't, the other team's safeties couldn't track the ball and intercept it and have a chance for a return TD) which would make you incredibly fucking stupid.

That's all I can take- just don't have the energy to pick apart the obscure college score of the week. Later on I plan to post a review of Keith Law's review of Moneyball. Did Keith like it? Does he ever like anything ever? Do I wish someone would kick him in the balls and tell him to lighten up a little (yes, I know I am being a hypocrite)? All these questions and more will be answered later this week! Maybe!

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