Tuesday, November 23, 2010

What’s the worst part about the new Soldier Field? I mean the inside, not the space toilet-y outside.

I attended the Bears-Vikings game a few weeks ago, just to cross a stadium off the list. Also, it's kind of fun to boo everyone. Anyway, I was not impressed. Why?

Well, the single worst thing is...


I have no problem with cheesy theme songs in theory, and all Chicago teams have them. (Go Cubs Go, Here come the Hawks, the Go-Go White Sox thing), but there is a time and a place for these things, and that time and place is not after every Field Goal. Imagine if, at Wrigley Field, the Cubs played Go Cubs Go after every run. That’s what it’s like at Soldier.

NO ONE IS AFRAID OF YOUR T-FORMATION. That’s the worst part of the song other than all of the other parts. I know the Wing-T was standard football back in the day and perhaps the Bears had some fearsome people running the thing, but the formation itself isn’t scary. It’s just weird. Like, if a terrible team would just line up their backfield in the T, all of a sudden the opposing defense would start cowering.

2. The second worst thing is that they try to label the fans as “Phase 4” (offense, defense, and special teams being the other 3 phases). I appreciate that everyone has the 12th man and the Packers have the G-Force thing and you want to be original, but once again, this doesn’t make any sense.

“Hey, Frank, are we on offense or defense?”
“We’re on “Fans”. You know, Phase 4.”
“Oh, in that case I’m going to the bathroom.”

See what I mean? No sense at all.

3. The 3rd worst part is that beer costs 8 bucks.

4. The 4th worst part is that the field itself is perpetually in terrible shape. When you drive from the North side of Chicago to the South side, you commonly take Lakeshore Drive. Once you pass downtown on a nice summer day, you might be shocked to find that the median as well as the sides of the road have absolutely beautiful flower gardens growing on them, courtesy of the city. I will never understand how the middle of a highway is more well-manicured than the multi-million dollar football stadium next to said highway.

5. The 5th worst part is that when there is a timeout, the announcer says “Timeout”, and everyone in the stands yells “Where?”, and then the announcer says “on the field”, and the crowd yells “Oh.” It’s weird.

6. The 6th worst part is the Bear growl. While they do exercise some restraint, unlike the hornblower in Minnesota or the Wildcat noise at Northwestern, it’s still too often for my taste.

7. The 7th worst part is that while the inside is definitely nicer than the outside, it’s still not nearly as nice as most new stadiums including the refurbished Lambeau Field.

Actually, I’m just kidding. The worst part is that you have to watch the Bears play.

The Chicago Bears are Frauds

There has been far too much talk lately involving the phrase "you are what your record says you are." This is a vast oversimplification which we can disprove with a quick look at the Chicago Bears.

First of all, while the Bears are tied with the Packers after their win against Miami’s backups, it’s worth pointing out that the Bears do not in fact hold a head to head tiebreaker over the Packers. People say it, but it’s not true. The reason it’s not true even though the Bears do have a head to head win against the Packers, against teams in your own division you have to beat them twice to gain that tiebreaker. This is obvious. The Bears will not have an opportunity to secure said tiebreaker until the last game of the year, and who knows what the situation will be for that game.

As for why the Bears are frauds:

1. Win v. Detroit, on nonsense Calvin Johnson rule. After the Bears knocked Matthew Stafford from the game. In a game in which the Bears turned the ball over 4 times and actually lost the turnover battle.

2. Win v. Dallas Cowboys, one of the worst teams in the league even when they still had Romo.

3. Win v. Green Bay Packers – In this game, the Packers set their franchise record for penalties, which is strange in retrospect because this Packer team actually hasn’t been penalized that much. It’s also worth pointing out that many of those penalties were both game-changing and bullshit. Jay Cutler and the Bear offense were basically terrible, but they capitalized on a Devin Hester punt return and good field position (penalties) to eek out a win over a much better team. The Bears were outgained by over 100 yards in this game.

4. Win v. Carolina Panthers, one of the 2 or 3 teams worse than the Dallas Cowboys. The Quarterbacks in this game were Todd Collins, Caleb Hanie, Matt Moore, and Jimmy Clausen. The Bear QBs were 8-19 for 51 yards. Against any other opponent this is almost certainly a loss, but a rare big day by Matt Forte bailed them out.

5. Win v. Buffalo, one of the 2 or 3 teams worse than the Dallas Cowboys. Despite being completely inept the Bears won this game on the strength of a missed PAT and a subsequent missed 2-pt conversion to make up for it. That is the margin of victory.

6. Win v. Minnesota. A rare good performance by the Bears, but even this win is suspect as it came against a team in complete turmoil after the Randy Moss fiasco, with no Sidney Rice and without Percy Harvin for an extended period. With no threat in the passing game the Bears were able to bottle up Adrian Peterson, and get a few tipped interceptions. It was the best possible time to play against the Vikings.

7. Win v. Miami. The Dolphins were playing without their first and second string QBs, a severely injured all-pro left tackle, and they lost their best WR and center early in the game. Oh, and since it was a short week their third string QB only had one day to get ready.

So yeah. They’re lucky. They’ll probably make the playoffs, but they’re truly not very good. It happens sometimes.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Let's Run Half Court

They have played football in Wrigley Field many, many times. Yet somehow, they still screwed it up:

Only one end zone will be used at Wrigley Field on Saturday for the Illinois-Northwestern game because of safety concerns, Illinois sports information director Kent Brown said Friday.

The east end zone is feet away from the right-field wall, and although there is padding, there was still concerns that injuries could take place. Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald had said he would have different game plans for the different end zones to avoid the possibility of injury.

God I Hate The Bears

They are truly the luckiest team ever. When Brandon Marshall went down, that game was over.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Running Up the Score: An IU Perspective

"Who can we blame but ourselves?"

That was the reaction to the final score from my wife, an IU alum and die hard. It was clear Indiana was not ready for this game. The coaching staff was not ready, the offense was not ready, and the defense was most certainly not ready for what they faced on Saturday.

I like the Indiana program. Not real reason why, I just really liked what Hoepner was doing with them before he passed. It's a shame to see his work and dedication pissed away so quickly by incompetence and indifference.

I was listening to the second half (it was clear watching was no longer required) and Indiana's color guy did get pretty pissed off when White was running the ball in the 4th (I agree, that was not smart from a risk perspective) but other than that little niggle the rest of Hoosier country is more embarrassed than angry, and if they are angry it certainly isn't at the Badgers. My favorite comment (from the Indiana radio play-by-play):

"I wonder what Bielema's card calls for with up 57?"

At least the folks down here maintain their sense of humor.

Rick Peterson

Is no longer the Brewers' pitching coach.

Peterson officially out as #Brewers pitching coach. Has one more year on contract. Teams still with openings: #Pirates, #Mets, #Yankees #MLB

Jeff Potrykus, of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

I agree with this completely:

And one last editorial comment on the Indiana game.

The only way the Badgers could have avoided scoring Saturday would have been to kneel down on just about every offensive play from late in the third quarter until the final minute.

To me, that would have been an insult to the Indiana coaches and players.

But what do I know? I'm just a reporter who covered the game and saw the effort of the Indiana defenders sag dramatically as the game progressed.

(So, any problem with Wisconsin running up the score?)

No, not really.

(Why not?)

Bret Bielema is a lot of things. “Kind of a dick” is probably one of them. But so is “cold and calculating.” I will remind you of his abuse of the new kickoff rules against Penn State a few years ago that almost caused Joe Paterno to have a heart attack. I like that the coach of the Badgers cares enough to understand the subtleties of certain rules, and has the fortitude to abuse those rules where they can be abused.

The fact is that the BCS has the Badgers behind several other one-loss teams, and the nonsensical “computer” part isn’t going to give them any help. Their only hope is to move up in the equally nonsensical polls, and the polls care about margin of victory even if they pretend not to. Moreover, the controversial move has garnered the program far more attention this morning than they normally get, and as they say, all publicity is good publicity.

(But really, what’s the difference between 83 and like, 56?)

At 56 you’re just another team. Teams routinely put up 56. Scoring more really helps you a lot. Much of the way we look at Oregon is based on some outlandish scores (72-0 over New Mexico, 60-13 over UCLA, plus a few 53 and 52s). If you have a few of those huge games, suddenly people start viewing you as an offensive juggernaut and the pollsters respond accordingly. Running up the score often makes logical sense.

(Didn’t they take “margin of victory” out of the BCS equation?)

To the contrary, they’ve increased the importance of “margin of victory” over time. Every time the “computers” spit out something that differs significantly from the polls, the evil BCS committee changes the equation to give more weight to the polls, and voters do care about “margin of victory.”

(Don’t you feel bad for those kids at Indiana?)

In my experience, while losing sucks, and getting blown out sucks, at some point while getting blown out you just sort of stop caring. Moreover, this isn’t Austin Peay. Indiana is a Big Ten football program that should have beaten Iowa last week. If they want to stop getting blown out by Wisconsin and the rest of the Big Ten, they should try a little harder to build a program.

(So you think this will be good for the Badgers?)

Absolutely. If nothing else they are now an attractive villain. They’re on the national radar. I don’t think I’ve ever heard Mike and Mike talk about the University of Wisconsin before, but they were all over them this morning. Everyone is going to want to see them get embarrassed by someone else, and maybe they will. Michigan can put up some points and maybe they’ll steamroll the Badgers. Who knows? But if they can keep winning, this will only help them.

(So you don’t think that coaches should “call off the dogs” at some point?)

I actually find the whole idea offensive to some extent. You don’t have any duty to the other team. If you start destroying someone I don’t know why every team doesn’t use that as an opportunity to run their 2nd string and 3rd stringers out there for some real live game work. Golic this morning said that “this wasn’t the time for that.” That’s stupid. There is no other time for that. Let me ask you some questions.

(Uhm, ok.)

Do you think Wisconsin should have just gotten in the V formation for every play after halftime and then punted?

(Well, no, but you don’t have to keep passing.)

So you want them to just run.


You know, they were running pretty well too. They were averaging 7.2 yards per carry.

(Well, they don’t have to run that hard. They could just run basic plays.)

So you want them to run plays, but you don’t want them to try to score?

(I suppose.)

To what end?

(Well, they should still play football.)

It sounds to me like you want them to just pretend to play football. Isn’t that more insulting to Indiana? How is that different from just lining up in the V?


It’s a stupid fiction that you should “call off the dogs.” Bret did what was best for his team. He put them in the best position he could. What more can you ask of a coach?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Gold Glove

Congrats to Derek Jeter on winning his Nobel Peace Pri...What?...Gold Glove?!

That's asinine!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Al Harris's Finest Hour

Al Harris

I couldn't agree with ESK more. I like Al, I'm sad to see Al go. For a brief period 4-5 years ago Al Harris may have been the best cornerback in football. But that was 4-5 years ago.

Al was never fast. He was a technique guy, which is why he has lasted as long as he has at such a high level, but that's a double-edged sword. When you don't start out fast you also do not have much speed to lose.

Al had also been declining noticeably even before the injury, and that knee injury was absolutely catastrophic. It is extremely unlikely that Al Harris will ever possess the speed to be an effective starting cornerback again.

I always thought he would end up at safety in the Leroy Butler mold. Leroy also never had blazing speed (he always looked more like a small linebacker to me) and Al had the instincts and the run support ability to play the position, but the Packers look to be in good shape there as well.

I also have no doubt that the locker room will not take this well. Everything I here about Al Harris off the field is hugely positive. He's a nice guy, a leader, and a true professional. The Packers on Twitter (Finley, Grant, etc.) were pretty pissed off, and surprised, and I suppose I'm surprised too, but mainly because I didn't think the organization would have the guts to make a move like this.

The Harris/Roenicke Barometer

Sometimes sports fans are gifted with polarizing events that separate the wheat from the chaff. The intelligent fan from the fanatic. The Paul Ryan from the Christine O'Donnell.

This week, Wisconsin sports fans were gifted with two such events.

The first was newly minted Brewers manager Ron Roenicke expressing his love for the "small ball." At his press conference he clearly showed that moving up a base if worth giving up an out. An impatience that only old-school baseball fans (and people who think Carlos Gomez is "exciting") could love.

"At times, you're going to say why are you running so much? That's the style I like to play. I've seen it win a lot of games over the years. At times we're going to get thrown out. But over the course of the season we're going to score more runs by being aggressive."

Speaking of Carlos Gomez, I find it hard to believe our new manager will jettison the excitingly fasty small-bally player. I mean, maybe he makes some out but by God is he aggressive! Last year Brewers bemoaned the fact that the vast majority of Fielders home runs were solo shots. This year they applaud the fact that Fielder will have fewer opportunities to hit multi-run bombs thanks to a managers fundamental inability to properly calculate risk/reward.

94% of fans in a recent Journal poll support trading outs for bases.

As of yet there is no poll on the Packers apparent decision to jettison Al Harris, the 36 year old cornerback who destroyed every part of his knee last season. Harris, despite not being activated, has practiced the last three weeks with the Packers. I repeat, Al Harris has been practicing for three solid weeks and has not been activated.

Folks, this is a pure performance issue. Al Harris is simply not as good as the other options on this football team. He is no longer the starting cornerback, and a nickel back who can't play special teams simply does not belong on the roster. The big worry is that Al Harris will end up on the Vikings. So what? The Vikings are a terrible football team with three wins against other terrible football teams. I hope Harris does end up in Minnesota because it will mean he won't be relevant this year.

The point is that these are simple head v. heart issues. I love to see a stolen base. It's fun. Runner v. pitcher and catcher in a battle of wits, speed and deception. In a vacuum a stolen base is cool. Stealing bases as a philosophy to score more runs is stupid. It's stupider when you look at the Brewers lineup. The Brewers scored 750 runs last year. The Cardinals score 736. Small bally San Diego scored a paltry 665 (woohoo PetCo). The Brewers are built to mash. Five players had more than 23 home runs last season, when you look at every player on the roster (starters, pitchers, backups, Zaun) the Brewers still slugged a whopping .424. That is third best in the NL.

In 2010 the Brewers had the second most home runs, 4th highest OBP, 3rd highest OPS, 4th in runs and second most total bases in the national league. The also led the league in at0bats, a stat that is sure to plummet once we start giving away outs. HITTING WAS NOT THE PROBLEM! There is zero reason to change the Milwaukee approach to offense. Offense did not lose the Brewers games. The Brewers are a power team that has no problem scoring runs from first. If you disagree you're an illogical fan who likes speed more than winning.

Right now the Packers have the 3rd best pass defense in football. Al Harris is an unnecessary risk that cannot contribute anything to stopping the run or more important to special teams. Sorry, I love him, but he is superfluous and activating him makes the Packers worse. If you disagree you're listening to your heart and not your head. I hope Al Harris finds success somewhere, but he has no place on the 2010 Packers roster.

In short, if you like Ron Roenicke's base-running philosophy for a team that is already scoring runs by the boatload, or if you think Al Harris should be kept because he's been on the team so long you are probably a witch...I mean irrational.