Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Miami buried by Clay, Ball

Let’s start by stating the obvious. Wisconsin was much, much better than Miami, and the game was not nearly as close as the score indicated. Wisconsin easily could have won this game by 3-4 touchdowns, and in retrospect it is ridiculous that Miami was favored by so many pundits and by so many points. Untimely penalties, a few trick plays, a fluky interception, and a few punts on fourth and short in Miami territory kept it close, but Miami’s offense was completely unable to do anything against the Wisconsin defense, and the Wisconsin offense was efficient (as always) both running and passing.

Wisconsin outgained Miami 430-249, had 17 first downs to Miami’s 14, and averaged 4 ypc compared to a mere 2.7 for Miami. So why was the game close?

First, penalties. Miami was penalized only 3 times for 20 yards while Wisconsin was hit for 6 penalties and 60 yards, all of them in seemingly crucial situations. They generally did a good job overcoming these mistakes, but it definitely cost them a few first downs.

Turnovers likely cost the Badgers at least 10 points as Garrett Graham’s fumble probably cost them a touchdown, and Scott Tolzien’s bad-luck tipped interception probably cost at least a field goal.

But the main reason it was so close is that Miami was bad at offense, which allowed Brett Bielema to play conservatively. Several times he called on punter Brad Nortman to punt on 4th and short from inside Miami territory to pin the Hurricanes deep, and he succeeded every time. Had the Hurricanes shown any signs of being able to do anything offensively, I suspect the Badgers go for at least a few of these and, with the way they were running the ball, I suspect they make it, but in the end the excellent punting of Nortman made the strategy pay off. Since Nortman deserves to share player of the game honors (we’ll get to the other player of the game momentarily), let’s take a look at what can only be described as an outstanding day of punting.

Punt 1: 4th and 20 at WIS 33 Brad Nortman punt for 59 yards, downed at the MiaFl 8.

The first drive of the game for the Badgers stalled when Tolzien took a big sack on 3rd and 10 at the Wisconsin 33. The Canes had just gone up 7-0 on a trick play kick return, and had they started their second drive with any kind of field position, they may have been able to put Bucky behind by 2 scores, completely changing the game. Instead Nortman boomed a 59 yard punt to the Miami 8 yard line which was not returned. When Miami went 3 and out on the subsequent series, field position was flipped and Wisconsin was able to capitalize.

Punt 2: 4th and 7 at WIS 38 Brad Nortman punt for 46 yards, returned by Thearon Collier for 4 yards to the MiaFl 20.

Another good punt that landed inside the Miami 20. The subsequent drive would stall on the Wisconsin 34 yard line when Miami failed to convert on 4th and 4. If they start with slightly better field position they probably get points out of the drive.

Punt 3: 4th and 10 at WIS 40 Brad Nortman punt for 32 yards out-of-bounds.

Nortman’s only substandard punt of the night. He did, however, eliminate the possibility of a return.

Punt 4: 4th and 2 at MIA 36 Brad Nortman punt for 24 yards, downed at the Mia Fl 12.

Punting on 4th and 2 from the opponent’s 36 is generally a bad idea. You run a very high risk of the ball going into the end zone and netting only 15 or so yards, however, Nortman excelled in this situation all night and Miami continued to shoot themselves in the foot on offense. A 24 yard punt looks ugly on the stat sheet until you consider the context.

Punt 5: 4th and 2 at MIA 35 Brad Nortman punt for 34 yards, downed at the MiaFl 1.

Called on again to pin the Canes deep, Nortman hit his best punt of the night as it hit the turf and backed up, and finally proceeded to slowly bounce down to the Miami one yard line. The Canes would fumble on the second play of the ensuing drive, setting up a field goal for the Badgers.

The other player of the game was obviously Junior TE Lance Kendricks. Frequently in the shadow of the also excellent Garrett Graham, Kendricks showed NFL level skills in all facets of the game. He was explosive in the receiving game gaining 128 yards on 7 catches, much of it after contact. He also delivered several devastating blocks in the run game, including crushing blocks on both John Clay touchdown runs. With Graham graduating this year (and likely joining Badgers Owen Daniels and Travis Beckum in the NFL), TE still looks to be a position of strength going into 2010.

Big Ten Stereotyping

Finally, I would like to say a word about the coverage of this game. I know that announcers are, in general, always bad, but the focus on Miami in this game was over-the-top and I can’t help wondering if the recent production of the 30-for-30 documentary, “The U”, by ESPN had anything to do with it. At various points of the broadcast it sure seemed like they were talking about the old U, and not the team that was actually on the field.

Everything that happened in the game happened because of something Miami was doing. When they screwed up it was cold, or they weren’t in rhythm, or Jacory Harris was limping. Miami was “faster” and “more athletic” whereas Wisconsin was slower but more powerful. At no point did the announcers create the impression that Wisconsin was simply a better football team, which was the obvious conclusion. They frequently focused on the enormous size of the Wisconsin linemen while focusing on the speed, size, and athletic ability of the Miami QB and receivers. You would never know from watching this broadcast that the Miami offensive line averages 307.33 pounds per person whereas the Wisconsin offensive line averages 295.61 pounds per person (and all you have to do to figure this out is have access to and Excel, and even if you take out the centers for both teams, Miami still wins 312-302).

It’s pretty clear that the announcers and the production staff performed only the most cursory research before calling the game. Wisconsin was easily able to match up with the allegedly more athletic team on defense, suggesting that at least on defense, Wisconsin was extremely athletic and fast in their own right. And while Wisconsin did play a power style on offense, Miami linebackers were completely unable to stay with Wisconsin’s TEs in the passing game.

I know this happens every year. I remember it in the very first Rose Bowl that I saw Wisconsin win over UCLA, I just wish television coverage would improve at some point.

It was an impressive win, and hopefully it will get the Big Ten kick started on improving their bowl record.

Finally, I should mention that Nick Toon caught that long pass as he was heading out of bounds, and I’m shocked it wasn’t reviewed.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Pro Bowl Snub?

I don't particularly care about the Pro Bowl. I won't watch it and 30% of the guys who made it probably won't go, but how does Orakpo beat out Matthews?

The only edge Orakpo has is that he has 1/2 more sack than Clay. Matthews leads in tackles, assists, fumble recoveries, passes defended AND he has a touchdown.

I don't get it. The only logical explanation is that Pro Bowl voters are racist.

Monday, December 28, 2009

No Country For Brett Favre

It's entirely possible that the Vikings will come back and win this game, but as it stands right now they're looking terrible against a truly awful Bear team. It's cold here. Really cold. It's probably even colder by the lake. The fact is that Brett isn't a good cold weather QB anymore. As you get older, you get colder (if you're a guy). There's nothing that can be done about it, and I don't even really mean this as a criticism of Favre. It's just a fact.

It probably won't even matter as the Vikings will probably spend all of the playoffs indoors, I just thought I'd mention it, as you can really see it tonight. At least, so far.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Packers Fans And Steelers Fans Are Classy

Football Outsider Vince Verhei watched the game while trapped in a bar that was split between Packers fans and Steelers fans:

I'm typing this from a bar in Federal Way, Washington, that is inexplicably filled with a mix of rabid Steelers fans on one end and rabid Packers fans on the other. Alcohol is plentiful. If I am killed in the inevitable riot, well, it's been real.

He had no reason to be worried though:

At the end of this game, the Steelers fans celebrated, the Packers fans banged their fists on the table. Then they met in the middle of the bar for a line of handshakes and "good game," like it was the YMCA t-ball league. I swear that happened.

A Frustrating Loss, But Not That Bad

There are many alternate universe's where the Packers won that game yesterday. Where Charles Woodson and and Tramon Williams catch those balls. Where Brandon Chillar doesn't pop Hines Ward 7 yards off the line of scrimmage. Where both challenges go the Packers way. Where Cullen Jenkins holds on to Big Ben. Where the refs realize that that Steeler receiver who got popped in the back of his head fumbled the ball and that it was not an incomplete pass. Where Mason Crosby isn't a head case.

Anyway, the Packers are still in pretty good shape, even after a tough loss. The can probably take care of business by beating a Seattle Seahawk team that looks like it has given up. They still could get some help from the Redskins tonight. If you're going to lose, losing to a team that's not in your division on he road is probably the way to go.

That said, there were some worrying trends in this game. Mainly:

1. The way to beat the new "psycho" defensive lineup is apparently to run a circle route out of the backfield. Mewelde Moore and Rashard Mendenhall both torched the 1 DL lineup with this strategy.

2. If you max protect (or just have a giant doofus QB won't go down) you can create a one-on-one matchup with either Jarrett Bush or that Bell kid, and that ain't good.

3. Dom Capers defense appears much more adept at stopping the run than the pass, and we may really miss Al Harris going forward.

4. The reason Aaron Rodgers is targeting Jermichael Finley so much is because he doesn't drop passes. Hear that, every other receiver on the team?

5. This really is a game of inches. That Steeler FG nicked the inside of the upright. An Aaron Rodgers pass deep down the middle to Donald Lee nicked a LBs helmet just enough to make it a tough catch. The Jeremy Kapinos punt that actually nicked the top of the pylon, resulting in a touchback. There were a ton of close calls in this game.

At least it will be exciting, right?

Screw You, Eric Mangini

Dear Eric Mangini,

I, and many other fantasy football players had Jerome Harrison pegged as a sleeper this year. Our reasoning was as follows:

1. He's actually pretty good.

2. He's obviously better than Jamal Lewis and only a moron wouldn't see that.

3. He appears to be better than random RBs off the street.

Why you did not play him over Jamal Lewis will remain a mystery forever. When Jamal Lewis got hurt, you still didn't play him. What did he do to you? Did he sleep with your daughter or something? Or are you just an idiot.

Anyway, had you played Mr. Harrison a bit more, you may have won a few more games. You definitely would have allowed those of us who drafted Mr. Harrison to start him over one of their more mediocre RBs these past two weeks, which would have put us in the fantasy league Super Bowl. But since you're such a freaky weirdo about the guy, no one really had the confidence to stick him out there because you could have benched him at any moment. So screw you.

Get bent,


Thursday, December 17, 2009

Crooked in 2001, Crooked in 2009

From last night's Brew Hoop recap:

And once the game started on the floor? This one felt even more like it was in Los Angeles. But not because of the fans.

The game officials (Joe Forte, Marc Davis, Phil Robinson) didn't wear Kobe jerseys themselves, but from start to finish they favored the Lakers. They were bad enough to make some calls that went in Milwaukee's favor too, but even if the score was tied after 48 minutes, nothing really evened out tonight.

The Lakers got the 50/50 calls, sure, but they also got 60-40 calls, 100/0 calls.

Just not good. The worst at the Bradley Center this season, and I've only missed a couple.

There are myriad specific instances, like when Bogut felt the slap heard 'round press row. No call. Or when Kobe got that and-one call on Bogut to bring the Lakers within one in overtime. You remember, the one when he may have traveled, may have charged, and definitely didn't get fouled.

"I don't think it was a foul on Bogut, or whoever they called the foul on. But he's (Bryant) a great player and he's going to get the benefit of the doubt," Charlie Bell said.

Nobody thought it was a foul on Bogut, except the onlybody who matters.

To make matters worse, Los Angeles felt entitled to get calls, you could see that, and despite the foul disparity in their favor, they still griped; both Ron Artest and Lamar Odom picked up technicals for dissent, and at (at least) one point Bryant gave the official the stare-down all the way down the court.

That call on Bogut was absolutely terrible, and the kind of call that makes the NBA so much less credible than the other major sports. What? A star got a questionable call that kept his team in the game? You must be talking about the NBA.

Note also that Brandon Jennings (who is certainly unafraid of taking the ball inside) can't get to the line:

One day, I will probably sit my grandchildren on my lap and reminisce about the 2009-2010 Milwaukee Bucks free throw differential. I will tell them the tales about a young Brandon Jennings who could not earn a whistle in his favor. Jennings’ per minute free throw rate ranks the second lowest among the 150 players with his 29.8 percent usage rate; only the immortal Freeman Williams toed the line fewer than 4.2 times every 36 minutes with a such large share of his team’s offense. In other words, Brandon Jennings should enroll in some acting classes so he can toe the line more and truly live up to the Allen Iverson comparisons.

Or maybe just learn to stare as hard as Kobe.

The NBA - The Professional Wrestling of the sporting world.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Juan Pierre’s Magical Spell of Idiocy

What the hell? Really? You know, in the Harry Potter books there’s a guy named Gilderoy Lockhart. He’s the “Defense Against the Dark Arts” teacher one year. Everyone thinks he’s a great adventurer who has found treasure and killed dragons. In actuality he just claims to do all of these things and casts a spell on anyone who finds out about his fraud that causes them to forget everything. I think Juan Pierre may have developed this magical ability. How else to explain this:

Last time he played in Chicago, Juan Pierre left with a fortune, signing for $44 million over five years with the Dodgers.

Yes, the Dodger front office is crazy stupid sometimes, we know that, but…

This time -- on the South Side not the North -- Pierre will try to overcome his reputation as being overpaid and under-talented.

As I see it, there are two points to this equation. The first is that Pierre is “overpaid.” This we know from the first sentence of this column. The second is that he is under-talented. This we know from the fact that he is a low-OBP leadoff man with no power who makes a ton of outs and gets caught stealing at too high of a percentage. And who can’t play a credible center field anymore. So to disprove this reputation will probably require some amnesia-dust or forget-me-hex or something. Maybe a secret room in the bowels of The Cell where White Sox employees cut out old Tribune box scores and pastes in new ones that turn Juan Pierre into a great power hitter who walks all the time a la 1984. Something like that.

His time away did little but make Pierre rich and clearly money could not buy him happiness.

Well boo-frickin-hoo.

So he was overjoyed Tuesday when the White Sox traded two minor league pitchers to be named later to make him what could be the final piece of the puzzle for 2010.

That puzzle is a reproduction of an obscure Picasso painting in which a cubist baseball player is depicted grounding out, getting caught stealing, and not being able to throw the ball all the way in to the infield all in that particularly single-dimension cubist way. It’s actually pretty rare. Picasso allegedly created as an experiment in the Cubist potential for depicting motion in multiple perspectives, and because he needed to pay off a huge bar tab. Maybe they can sell it to make up for the money they’ll lose when they don’t make the playoffs because of Juan Pierre.

Exactly what does the trade mean for the Sox? Let's take a look:

This must be the part where they explain that giving up prospects for Juan Pierre is insanity, as is hitting him in the leadoff spot, and building a speedy team in a power hitter’s park. Man am I looking forward to…

--No more Scott Podsednik. One of the heroes from the 2005 World Series championship and an unexpected catalyst in his second go-round in 2009 is now history, a victim of his own demands.

I will admit that ditching Pods is a victory, and that his demands were insane. I also might point out, however, that he won’t actually get what he demands, that he may end up being cheaper than even the subsidized Juan Pierre, and he wouldn’t cost any prospects.

Podsednik, 34 in March, hit .304 with 30 stolen bases in 43 attempts last season. Pierre, 32, hit .308 with 30 steals in 42 tries.,

There is one meaningful stat in that sentence. Pierre is in fact two years younger than Pods. That said guys whose value is tied up in their speed tend to be bad whether they’re 32 or 34.

"It really isn't about apples and apples because I don't know if we were ever close to signing Scott," general manager Ken Williams said.

The Sox will pay Pierre $3 million in 2010 and $5 million in 2011 (the Dodgers will pay for their mistake by adding $10.5 million). They weren't willing to give Podsednik a multiyear deal, even though he would have come cheaper.

The silly thing about this article is that they’re comparing Pierre to a player who actually is probably worse, but they’re both bad players. Juan actually had a nice little season last year, putting up an OBP of .365, but the 4 years before that he was in the .320s, which is closer to the “real” Juan Pierre. They should compare him to some actual leadoff men. And for what it’s worth, Pods is pretty much the same guy. His OBP has been around .320 forever until last year when he had a career year. Both of these players are bad players coming off of career years who are unlikely to repeat those years. It’s like everyone somehow magically forgot that these guys are lousy. Hmmm….

Truth is, Pierre has proven to be a better leadoff hitter

AHHHH!!! I knew it! This guy is insane. The forgetting spell has worked! He must not know about Juan’s OBP and…

(despite a .348 on-base percentage, he rarely strikes out),

It’s worse than I thought. This poor guy hasn’t lost his memory. He’s lost the ability to read stats generated after 2004 by a then 26 year old Pierre. Otherwise he would see that Pierre’s OBP is closer to .335 over the past 5 seasons, which is artificially inflated by a big outlier last year which again, is unlikely to repeat itself. He also doesn’t realize that when leading off there are no people on base, and so putting the ball in play for an out is NO DIFFERENT than striking out.

a far better bunter,

The last refuge of a desperate sportswriter. It’s nice to know how to bunt, but unless you’re a national league pitcher, it is probably the least valuable skill you can have as a baseball player. Especially when you play in the NL, and the pitcher hits in front of you, and will therefore almost never be on base, and will therefore, almost never need sacrificing.

a much better baserunner,

Scott Podsednik is a terrible baserunner. However, this is still like claiming that my 1994 LeCar has sturdier cup holders than your 89 Dodge Omni. Both players are thrown out too often on the basepaths.

a slightly better outfielder and certainly a better fit for manager Ozzie Guillen, who became an admirer as a coach when both were with the world champion Marlins in 2003, when Pierre stole a career-high and NL-best 65 bases.

He was also caught stealing a league-high 20 times, making his success rate about 76%, which is right around the break-even point. What I find strange about this is that Ozzie Guillen won a World Series behind a power lineup, not behind a speed lineup. By being impressed with Pierre he’s going away from what made him a winner.

This is what Williams said about Pierre's value that he never said about Podsednik: "I love the guy's work ethic, his intensity; he adds a lot more than what he does on the field (although) what he does on the field is pretty special."

Everything in this sentence is true about me as well, and if the White Sox would like to sign me to a 2-year, $8-million contract to poorly patrol their outfield and make a lot of outs, I'm game. And we’re both “special” on the field too.

You know, all of a sudden I feel an upswell in the magical particles in the air, much like how Qui-Gon Jinn can tell how many force bacteria live inside Anakin Skywalker. It’s almost as if…

--No more Jim Thome?

Oh, he’s not going to…

That's likely because Guillen would rather pass around the DH spot than have the same player there every day,

It’s getting stupider, can you feel it? It’s almost here…

especially one that clogs up the bases.

YES! YES! IT’S ALMOST 2010 AND WE’RE STILL SAYING IT! UNBELIEVEABLE! Dave van Dyck, congratulations, you probably have said the phrase “clog up the bases” in a serious fashion for the final time of the decade. I think we should make some sort of pronouncement or at least bestow you with some kind of moron hat, maybe with a statue of Dusty Baker perched stoically atop? Well, at least it can’t get any stupider. This is the epitome of stupid baseball writing. We’ve got Juan Pierre, Jim Thome clogging the bases, what more could you ask for?

And Williams says he won't "do anything that conflicts with what my manager wants."

So would Guillen be completely satisfied with his team the way it is now, with extras Mark Kotsay and Andruw Jones getting plenty of playing time in a DH/outfield/first base rotation?

Wow. Jim Thome is old, however, until he became a pinch hitter for the Dodgers last year, Thome put up an .864 OPS, which is very similar to the .847 and .865 marks he put up the two years prior. Unless he hits a sudden major decline (which is certainly possible as the guy is 39 years old), it is reasonable to expect more of the same (as he has been old for awhile now). Andruw Jones hasn’t sniffed an .800 OPS since his last two probably steroidy seasons with the Braves in 2005 and 2006. Kotsay hasn’t sniffed an .800 OPS since 2004. And it’s not like these guys are spring chickens either. But at least the White Sox will improve their defense at DH. Oh, wait…

"Absolutely, yes," Guillen said in a conference call. "It's a more athletic ballclub and can do a lot of things. I'm very excited because it's going to be fun. You will see a different ballclub. I was looking for a challenge, looking to see how good I can be."

Screw hitting. Who needs hitting from your DH? What does DH stand for again? Designated...uhm..Helper Monkey? That's probably it. Designated Helper Money. Why not DHM though...?

--A different lineup. Guillen said either Gordon Beckham or Alexei Ramirez will bat second, although he prefers Beckham in an RBI role in the middle of the order.

Alexei and his .326 OBP will fit right in to the beginning of this lineup. Good luck with those RBIs, Gordon Beckham!

As for the outfield alignment, Pierre will play left, Alex Rios center and Carlos Quentin right. And Pierre expects to play every day after sitting for much of his first two years in L.A., or as he calls it, in the "witness protection program."

How dare the Dodgers bury their light-hitting, poor fielding fourth outfielder behind Manny Ramirez, Matt Kemp, and Andre Ethier! Those guys are terrible. I mean, sure Manny doubled Juan's VORP in the same number of PAs, and sure those 3 outfielder were the team’s 3 most valuable offensive players, and sure they all play better defense than juan does, (well, maybe not Manny), but where do they get off?

"I had two years (of rest), so my legs have been saved up," he said. "If it's up to me, I'd like to be out there 162 games."

It’s true. I’ve been resting my arms for like 15 years and I just went out and dead-lifted 800 pounds.

From 2003-2007, Pierre played in 162 games each season. That includes 2006 with the Cubs.

--A future that could suffer. Williams is always in a win-now mode, so if minor league pitcher John Ely really is included in the deal, it could affect the pitching staff down the line.

Ely, 23, was 14-2 with a 2.82 earned-run average at Double-A Birmingham. He was a third-round pick in 2007.

Yeah, but you should always risk your future for a highly replaceable, old, bad leadoff hitter. Everyone knows that. Ely’s top PECOTA comp is Edinson Volquez, by the way.

--A media-savvy player. Pierre's one season in Chicago left him open for criticism, despite the Cubs making the playoffs. And his three years in L.A. were, well, they were tough.

"Those three years made me strong as an individual," he said. "Me and the fans came a long way. I didn't hit for power, I didn't have an arm. I've been criticized so much the last few years, I guess I'm prepared for the Chicago media again, that's for sure.

Note that those criticisms are all true.

"There's not too much more that can be said about me that hasn't been. But I'm quite sure some other thing will float up."

This article is certainly a floater, if you know what I mean. Juan Pierre Amnesia continues to plague the country. If you see anyone who you think may be infected, please, back away slowly, turn, and run as fast as you can, because that person is insane.

Bill Simmons on the 2001 Bucks

I think the reason that I'm not an NBA fan, (and frankly, sort of a deranged conspiracy theorist*) is this series:

10. If crooked NBA playoff series were heavyweight boxers, then the 2002 Western finals (Lakers-Kings) was George Foreman and the 2001 Eastern finals (Bucks-Sixers) was Earnie Shavers. Translation: People remember only George, but Earnie was almost as memorable. To briefly recap, Philly's wins in Games 1 and 4 swung on a controversial lane violation and two egregious no-calls. The Sixers finished with advantages of 186-120 in free throws, 12-3 in technicals and 5-0 in flagrant fouls. Glenn Robinson, one of Milwaukee's top-two scorers, didn't even attempt a free throw until Game 5. Bucks coach George Karl and star Ray Allen were fined a combined $85,000 after the series for claiming the NBA rigged it. In that game, Milwaukee's best big man, Scott Williams, was charged with a flagrant foul but not thrown out, only to be suspended, improbably, for Game 7.

The defining game: When Philly stole a must-win Game 4 in Milwaukee despite an atrocious performance from Iverson (10-for-32 shooting), helped by a 2-to-1 free-throw advantage and a host of late calls. How one-sided was it? When an official called a harmless touch foul to send Sam Cassell to the line with two seconds left and the Bucks trailing by seven (maybe the all-time we-need-to-pad-the-free-throw-stats-so-they-don't-seem-so-lopsided-afterward call), the subsequent sarcastic standing ovation nearly morphed into the first-ever sarcastic riot. And this was Milwaukee, the most easygoing city in the country! Nobody remembers this. The real loser was Allen, who exploded for 190 points in the series, including a record nine threepointers in do-or-die Game 6. Nobody remembers this, either. Even I didn't remember it. Crap.

By the way, whenever I whine about this (especially to Philly friends) I am always told that the Bucks wouldn't have stood a chance in the finals anyway. This is simply not true. The Bucks swept the top 4 teams in the Western conference that season including the Lakers. The Bucks were uniquely built to stop Shaq as they could just throw defensively adept (Ervin Johnson), and fouling adept(Joel Przybilla) at Shaq without any tangible effect on their offense. The Lakers didn't have an answer for the Allen/Cassell/Robinson trio defensively (no one did) and the Bucks would have, at the very least, put up a better showing than the Sixers.

The NBA can go fuck itself. I'll probably be mad about this series forever. (By the way, I went to every single playoff home game in 2001.)

*At least until the Tim Donaghy thing. Now I'm just correct.

The NCAA: Still Evil

The NCAA is the rare organization that seems to get increasingly evil the more I think about them. Read this article in the Huffington Post about their latest crusade against student athletes.

I understand the sentiment involved in not allowing student-athletes to make money. It’s stupid and evil and wrong, but I at least understand the madness that makes people think this way. The ban on agents, lawyers and advisors is madness of a different sort. Here the NCAA is not just seeking to financially exploit players, but also to keep them as ignorant as possible about their options.

What is the point of this? Why can’t student athletes receive professional advice (unless, of course, the giver of that advice is barred from actually sitting in on 3rd party talks, which is pointless)? Here are some facts (or at least opinions which nearly everyone agrees with).

1. 18-21 year old kids are not the best decision makers, and are, in general, especially ill-equipped to think long term. I’m not saying this is true of every college student, but it is true more often than it is not.

2. Most students are not faced with the potential to make millions of dollars right out of college. Top-flight student-athletes are. Moreover, their prime earning years will occur in their early youth. Not having professionals assist you in this situation is ridiculous.

Moreover, financial planning for an athlete can take different forms than it can for the average person. Take Tim Tebow, for instance. Most scouts seem to agree that he isn’t much of an NFL prospect at quarterback, but according to everything I hear, he insists on playing there, at least for now.

What if Tim Tebow had an agent since he graduated from high school? If his long term goal is to have a long, prosperous NFL career, would an agent have advised him to gain experience as a fullback or TE? That may sound insane as playing quarterback for Florida (as one of the best college QBs ever) is probably a big deal to you, but it’s not going to pay his bills long term. It is in Florida's best interest to have Tebow at quarterback, but is it really in Tebow's best interest?

There are probably a lot of QBs who just don’t have the arm or the decision-making skills to play quarterback in the NFL who could benefit from someone telling them to play WR, even if they really want to play QB.

There are probably other examples in other sports. (Baseball, in particular. If you’re a middling prospect at 3rd base, but you have a nice fastball and you’re left-handed, maybe a position switch is in order. Of course, I get the sense that baseball is better about this because of the existence of the minors. Football has no minors.)

The Poor Running Back

Finally, as we learn more about football’s effects on the body, the NCAA’s ban on player compensation looks increasingly insane. Even if you think the famous Football Outsider “curse of 370” is overstated, it’s pretty clear that running backs can’t take as much wear and tear as some other positions, and that every time they are tackled in college, they are potentially losing money. Moreover, every time some kid suffers a concussion in college, he is costing himself money as well as his future health.

Football is dangerous. As athletes continue to get bigger and faster it gets more dangerous, and as we learn more we’re finally starting to understand just how dangerous it is. The average NFL player plays just 3.52 seasons and loses two to three years off his life expectancy for every season played, and we’re asking college kids to forgo compensation and advice for that.
What is becoming increasingly clear is that the NCAA wants to keep its money while keeping its golden goose in the dark about just how long it’s going to be able to keep laying those eggs. They remain evil.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Going To The Ground

A clarification from the league:

The timing of when contact was made by Bears CB Charles Tillman was the determining factor.

"The key is that the receiver was contacted by the defender before he got both feet down so he is therefore considered to be going to the ground and has to hold on to the ball throughout the whole process," the spokesman said.

This still doesn't really answer the question of how long it takes after contact before the receiver is no longer "going to the ground" if he, you know, doesn't go to the ground.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Mike Rivera should throttle Doug Melvin

Doug Melvin ruined any shot Mike Rivera had at a MLB career. It turns out, he also did it for a completely bullshit made up reason.

The last two years all we have been told my Melvin is that Kendall needs to get the starts because familiarity with the pitching staff is more important than being a competent baseball player. This offseason shows he doesn't buy that for one second. The Brewers will have significant turnover in their staff, however it's also looking like at least three starters will be back and depending on how the starters cycle through the season we could see more. Yet Melvin decided it was prudent to go into 2010 without a single catcher returning catcher. Experience and making the pitcher "comfortable" apparently are no longer in vogue.

Now, don't get me wrong. I think Zaun is an upgrade over Rivera and I would like to see one of the kids (whichever has a better Winter/Spring) win the starting spot. However, I am not a fan of utter bullshit, especially when used to cover up a massive contractual blunder that you are far too proud to admit was a mistake.

Speaking of mistakes...the Brewers can afford $2.1 million dollars for Craig Counsell but couldn't shell out $1 million for Branyan last year? Really? Man, with that two million plus what Melvin gave Hawkins I imagine the Brewers could have actually signed a major league baseball player. I know Counsell was effective last year. Chances he sniffs that productivity this year? I'll be stunned if he puts up 75% of what he did last year.

(I do like Randy Wolf though, kind of)

Things the Bears are bad at.

1.Talent evaluation.

Living in Chicago, you hear certain refrains about the Bears. Most of it is meaningless pabulum, but one stuck with me; Jay Cutler swore up and down all season that the frequently inactive Devin Aromashodu (or “The Stinky Beatnik” as I like to call him) was their best receiver. He never got to play because:

a. There’s now too much money invested in the ruined Devin Hester.

b. Earl Bennett went to the same school as Jay Cutler, and hey, apparently that counts for something, and

c. Johnny Knox had a few good games.

d. Oh, and you can’t have too many Devins. It’s bad karma.

Anyway, this guy’s been sitting all year (with another receiver named Juaquin Iglesias who is apparently the bees’ knees as well) and as it turns out, he probably is their best receiver. Huh. From cutting Thomas Jones for Cedric Benson, to cutting Cedric Benson for Matt Forte, to drafting Garrett Wolfe, the Bears are a non-stop thrill-ride of talent evaluation suckitude.

2. Trading.

I don’t think the Bears have a first or second round pick until 2084. This is due to the Jay Cutler trade, which was certainly defensible, and the Gaines Adams trade, which isn’t. Making it less defensible still is the fact that the Bears have a terrible offensive line, and rebuilding lines through free agency is really hard.

3. Challenging calls.

In the game on Sunday Greg Jennings lost a touchdown on the new “going to the ground” rule. I find this rule annoying, but I understand the rule and know how to apply the rule. The refs explained the rule as it applied to the Jennings situation, and we all moved on.

Fast forward a few quarters to throw over the middle from Cutler to TE Greg Olsen. Olsen was not able to maintain possession when going to the ground, and because of the earlier Jennings play, this should have been fresh in everyone’s mind. The Bear coaching staff should have dropped a few cuss words, figured out a new play and moved on. Instead the following sequence occurred according to some hidden microphones I have on the Bear sideline.

Jay Cutler – Shit, we’re running out of time to get the next play off, and I don’t have the play yet, and Greg isn’t in the huddle yet, and Ron Turner is staring at the Jumbotron for some reason. Fuck! Time Out.

Lovie Smith – Ron, let’s get the play in a bit quicker next time.

Ron Turner – Let’s challenge it! Greg wants us to challenge it. I think it was a catch. Greg thinks it was a catch. We’re all in agreement.

Lovie Smith – Didn’t the refs say something earlier about “going to the ground” or something like that? What’s that mean again?

Ron Turner – Probably some night club or something.

Bear replay booth guy – Uhm, you really don’t want to challenge this.

Ron Turner – Nuts to that. The ground can’t cause a fumble right?

Lovie – I don’t think this really applies to…

Turner – Throw It!

Lovie – If you’re sure Ron. (Throws flag).

Refs – What are you challenging? Really? Uhm, OK. You know you already used a timeout, right?

(Tells other refs. They all snicker.)

Jay Cutler – Fuck.

4. Counting.

The Bears had 4 false starts in the serene tranquility of their partially empty home stadium.

5. Falling in love.

Tommie Harris was the best player on the Bears when they made the Super Bowl a few years ago. Tommie Harris then suffered a leg injury and has been playing with one leg ever since. But the Bears love Tommie Harris, and the idea of Tommie Harris, so they keep him around and assume he is awesome. They also overspend on local players like Northern Illinois RB Garrett Wolfe, who was a 3rd round pick of the Bears even though he wasn’t really on anyone’s radar. The Cubs do this too with guys like Jeff Samarjdasl;htkh;. They also had their hearts broken by Mike Brown, Rex Grossman and many others who they stuck with for just a little too long.

6. Building a stadium.

As we’ve mentioned many times before, the Bears play in some kind of space toilet. They did such a poor job that Soldier Field was stripped of its landmark status.

7. Writing songs.

“The Superbowl Shuffle” is high comedy of the unintentional variety, and ages more hilariously all the time. “Bear Down” is insipid, relying on a terrible pun for its inspiration. Not as bad as “Go Cubs Go”, but still terrible.

8. Drafting healthy players.

The Bears attempted to address their offensive line by draft LT Chris Williams in the 2008 NFL draft with the 14th overall pick. Unfortunately, Williams had a herniated disc in his back and missed his entire rookie season. He has spent this season playing mostly out of position, however when moved to left tackle has played more poorly than the elderly Orlando Pace.

9. The Peter Principle.

The Peter Principle states that players/employees will be promoted until they are too incompetent to perform their job. For instance, say you have a guy who is the best kick/punt returner in NFL history in his first year. If you took some of his return responsibility away and tried to make him into a WR, which ended up making him worse at both jobs, that would be an example of the Peter Principle in action.

Another example would be taking a great pass-rushing specialist named Mark Anderson and turning him into an every-down player, which would allow him to be exploited in run defense and too tired in pass defense. Hypothetically, of course.

10. Stopping slow RBs from running 62 yards untouched into the end zone.

It was a nice run by Ryan, but really, when was the last time you saw Ryan run that far?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Congrats To The Phoenix

I am not surprised that UW-GB managed to beat Wisconsin. Even in their down years they're always a plucky little team, and they're off to a 9-2 start this year so far.

What I am surprised about is that they managed to put up 88 points! Duke only scored 69 against Wisconsin, and while this game did go into overtime, the Phoenix's regulation score was still impressive in its own right.

I know Dick Bennett has been gone for a long time now, but this is still surprising. The strategy employed by most mid major schools to compete with big schools is to limit possessions and keep scoring down. Beating a team like Wisconsin by outgunning them is very impressive.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Cincinnati v. Pitt

That was one of the most entertaining games I have ever seen. Big East football is so terribly good.

I hope they make the BCS Championship. This hilarity needs more exposure.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Wisconsin Defeats Evil

Wins Big Ten/ACC Challenge.

What is it about Duke players that makes them so consistently unlikeable? I mean, isn’t Kyle Singler just annoying to look at? Doesn’t he make you want to knee him in the groin? Duke always has a guy like that.

Beating Duke is really fun. Trevon Hughes played an excellent game. He was effective when penetrating and drained his jumpers. Jonathan Leuer has come a long way from being the tall guy who could drain threes once in a while. He’s now a legitimate low-post threat, and his versatility makes him genuinely difficult to match up with. It’s kind of amazing that they won despite a complete chuck-fest from Bohannon, but the big guys got enough easy dunks to make up for it, and Hughes was just on fire. (Nankivil, by the way, is an excellent passer out of the post. He had 5 assists in the game, and I think all 5 led to easy baskets. He played great.)

The Big Ten looked to be in good shape to take the Challenge after Illinois’s spectacular comeback at Clemson, but disappointing losses by Minnesota and Michigan (to Miami and Boston College) made the Badger upset a must if the conference was to finally win the tournament. Kudos to the Big Ten for finally picking up a victory.