Life, economics, politics, psychology, sociology, racism and other isms, law, history, journalism/media…all through the lens of sport.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

I've got a bad feeling about this

Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith is confident about his defense's chances against Michael Vick and the Philadelphia Eagles. Says Smith, "We're not going to change up what we do. We believe in our defense, and it's set up to play guys like him,"

I understand the power of positive thinking, and that belief must start with the coach. I've coached an expansion team through to a championship game, so yeah, I get that.

But, a coach also analyzes things, especially us arm-chair coaches, so I've got to take Coach Smith to task here - "guys like him"? Who might that be? Hello? There is no other player, in the NFL, like Michael Vick.

It doesn't take a spreadsheet to figure this out - most of the other premiere quarterbacks have all had multiple interception games, this season: Manning? Yes. Brady? Yep. Rivers? Check. Brees? You betcha. Rodgers? Correctamundo. Favre? Fahgedabadit. (he's not a premiere QB anymore, but I had to toss that one in).

Vick? He hasn't thrown an interception since becoming an Eagle last year. As a starter, he has not yet lost a game. I repeat: there is no one in the league playing the QB position like Michael Vick.

I don't tend to make predictions, but boy oh boy, this could get ugly real quick. The Bears have already lost to the Giants this season - you know, the Giants, the last victim of Vick's relentless trajectory to MVP? And now they think "business as usual" will carry the mail?

Yes, the Giants did the best job against Vick this season, holding him without a touchdown for the first time. But, that's like an inoculation - it showed the Eagles offense things to fix, and it wouldn't be a surprise to see them trot out the tweak against the Bears, who are trying to take aim at what Vick and the Eagles have done, without being able to adjust to what they may do this Sunday afternoon.

If it's over at half time, I won't be surprised. Lovie might be, but not me.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Win or go home

As we're on the cusp of the 2010-2011 NHL season, it's time to revisit an oddity that, unfortunately, has yet to be fixed. So, I once again shout into the wind, "get rid of that absurd point for an overtime loss in the NHL."

The North American team leagues that have national TV deals don't bother with points at all, so abandoning the silly stat isn't like inventing the wheel.

A win is a win, a loss is a loss, and the win percentage determines standings. That also eliminates the whole "game in hand" claptrap - at any given point in time in a season, regardless how many games have been played, it's a simple matter - 7 wins in 10 games is a .700 win percentage; 9 of 12 is .750; 10 of 13 is 0.769.

The concept of playing a game until a winner and loser are declared is what the playoffs are all about, right? It seems simple to me - if you can't win a championship by tying a game, you shouldn't be able to get to the championship by tying a game. In the playoffs, a team wins a best 3 of 5 or a best 4 of 7, and if they went to overtime for every game in the series, the losing team gets no brownie points for the overtime loss. It's not a strange concept, and that's what confuses me most about hanging on to this silly statistic. The league is already familiar with playing a game to win.

If that means overtime till it's two on two, or shootouts till the goalies and mascots get to take a shot, so be it. MLB will go non-stop through as many extra innings as it takes to declare a winner. NBA has seen triple overtimes, if that's what it takes. NFL assumes that pro teams can figure out how to at least kick a field goal in 15 minutes of OT play, and most times they do (there have been four regular season ties in the NFL in the last twenty years, for an average of one every five seasons).

But imagine it - it would raise the excitement value of each game in the regular season to near playoff pitch, which would be great for fans in cities where the playoffs are something they'll only hear about, like Toronto. It would also be great for the league, and if the excitement factor increases, wouldn't that make a more sell-able product?

Pro athletes whining about "playing all that time and not being rewarded for the effort" are absurd. It's sports - the reward is winning.

Whining that "a shoot out is tough way to lose a team game on an individual play" is silly - is a breakaway score an individual thing? How about a penalty shot? What about a goalie who stands on his head and his team wins 1-0 because the other team inadvertently scored on their own goal? If the "team" can't figure out a way to win as a team in regulation, they take their chances in OT/shootout. That's pro sports.

Win or go home.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

NFL and the WWE

From week 2, here's a tackle Rolando McClain put on receiver Danny Amendola...

  • one guy made the tackle
  • Amendola landed on his shoulder.
Result? 15 yard penalty.

And here's a "tackle" on quarterback Vince Young...

  • three guys
  • Young was driven, head first, into the turf
Result? No penalty.

Just for kicks, here's what the NFL rules digest says: "Officials are to blow the play dead as soon as the quarterback is clearly in the grasp and control of any tackler, and his safety is in jeopardy."

I guess they hadn't read that part, yet.

In week 4, T.J. Ward lays out receiver Jordan Shipley.

The flag was thrown immediately, it's a personal foul, and would subsequently be assessed a fine from the league. During the game, the commentators are quick to say "that's leading with the head." But, if you watch the replay, at 0:09 Ward is clearly turning his head away from Shipley and leading with his shoulder.

So, I'm going to go ahead and point out the elephant in the room - the penalties were called on plays where the guy getting hit is white, while there's no flag when Vince Young, who is black, and is the quarterback, is picked up by three defenders and driven head first into the turf.