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Beating up on Losers…

January 22, 2012 Leave a comment

Much has been made in the week leading up to the AFC Championship game about the Patriots failure to beat any teams with winning records this season, but does that fact have any meaning? I think this is a pretty clear example of someone grabbing a stat that is factually true, but intellectually meaningless and spreading it for all to hear. Then, everyone else jumps on board, running along the watchtower shouting, sharing the proclamation, without ever stopping to actually think about what’s being said.

It is true that the Pats have not beaten a team with a winning record this season, but it’s also a misleading stat, because some of the teams that the Pats beat, would have had winning records if they’d won against New England. Brady’s boys beat San Diego, Oakland, Denver, Philadelphia, Dallas and the Jets twice. If you reverse any of those games, the Pats opponent suddenly has a winning record.

Beyond that, you can only beat the teams in front of you, which in all but three cases this season the Pats did. If you’d looked at the Pats schedule at the start of the season, you’d have felt it was a hard schedule. The Jets were coming off two straight AFC championship games, the Eagles were widely believed to be some sort of dream team, the Cowboys are the Cowboys, the Colts are the Colts, Miami was seen as an up and coming plucky team, as were the Raiders, and the Redskins are… well, no.

Yet, when the season played out, the Jets act had worn thin, the Eagles took longer to jell than expected, the Cowboys ARE the Cowboys, the Colts were a Manning away from being the Colts, Miami wasn’t so much up and coming as flaming out, and the Raiders lost their quarterback, their owner, and their minds (when they thought Carson Palmer was worth two picks, let alone a first).

Taken further, with a few exceptions, this was a season of almost universal parity: eight teams finished 8-8 (and the Pats beat six of them), three teams finished 9-7 (and the Pats lost to one of them), and two teams finished 7-9 (and the Pats beat one). That’s 13 teams hovering around the middle and the Pats played eight of them.  New England, more than any other team, was responsible for determining who passed the threshold of mediocrity to potential glory.

Yes, the Pats lost to the Steelers and they lost to the Giants (that 9-7 team), and each of those losses are tough to swallow, but lets not extrapolate that out to be something meaningful. It’s not. It’s two games, and really, since the Giants could just as easily have been one of those teams without a winning record, it’s really just one game.

I’m not saying the Pats are going to beat the Ravens – I think they will, but I’m a moron, so who the heck knows – I’m just saying that this fact that keeps getting repeated – that the Pats haven’t beaten a team with a winning record – is vapid and meaningless.

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5 Things I Could Care Less About

September 4, 2011 Leave a comment

Wait, didn’t I write a sports blog once upon a time?

Sadly, like the poor first child when the new baby comes home, Sports on the Brain has become neglected over the past three months, as my writing has been focused on baby, food, and all things Food and Fatherhood.  But, that doesn’t mean I haven’t been thinking about sports!

What’s unfortunate, is that while there have been things I wanted to write about since June 16th, I don’t really feel like I’ve missed out on anything.  I mean, honestly, hasn’t this been a particularly lame Summer for sports?  The biggest stories have involved two lockouts, 684 collegiate sports scandals, and a baseball season where the closest race heading into the last month is the Angels 3.5 back of the Rangers.  The whole summer’s been so (athletically) bleak it almost makes me long for the good old days of the Brett Farve retirement, unreitrement dance.

With that said, I figure the best place to begin is with a list of the five sports stories I care the least about:

Five:

Tiger Woods.  It’s sort of sad what’s happened to Woods, but it’s even more sad how much enjoyment people are taking from his demise.  It’s strange, I’ve never seen an athlete go from beloved iconic figure to pariah faster and that includes Kobe who was accused of raping a woman.  I know Tiger’s arrogant and controlling of his image, but the unadulterated joy over his demise is a little frightening.

Four:

The NFL lockout… and return.  I told my Father months ago that there was ZERO chance that the NFL would miss games and it’s not like I’m some master prognosticator; seriously, I can’t even predict whether I’m going to have breakfast every morning, but the NFL and the players settling was so patently obvious, the whole thing just felt like an arrogant publicity stunt:

Roger Goodell – “Hey Maurice, what should we do for fun this offseason?”

DeMaurice Smith – I don’t know?  Nothing to crazy, I mean we wouldn’t want to screw up our pubic support.

Goodell – “Screw up our support?  Don’t be daft we’re more popular than Charlie Sheen, the NFL could get caught in a hotel room with a bunch of hookers and blow and the public would still love us.  Hell, I bet we’re so popular that we can have a protracted labor dispute in uneven economic times and the fans will still run up to sniff our butts when we get back.”

Smith – “You think?”

Goodell – “Hells yeah.”

Smith – “I bet I could even de-certify the union and the public would lap it up.”

Goodell – “See, now that’s the attitude!”

Three:

The NBA lockout.  Sigh.  This lockout actually seems real, but it’s still just so banal I cannot bring myself to care.  I almost always side with players in labor disputes.  It’s one of the things I find most interesting about sports, the way that fans begrudge players making the money they make, when it’s either they make the money or the billionaire owners make it.  I guess it’s an economic misunderstanding, fans think that higher salaries drive ticket prices, when in reality ticket prices are entirely driven by (fan) demand.  Anyhow, in this case, I’m not quite as lefty leaning as I normally might be. The median NBA salary last year was 5.356; this is a system that has DeSagana Diop earning 6.925 million, there’s obviously something broken here.

If the NBA season takes place this year, the Orlando Magic’s payroll will be 74 million and just look at the breakdown:

G. Arenas 19.269 million
D. Howard 17.885
H. Turkoglu 10.6
J. Nelson 7.305
J. Redick 6.500
B. Bass 4.0
C. Duhon 3.46
Q Richardson 2.446
R. Anderson 2.244
D. Orton 1.105

So, basically they have an underpaid Howard and EVERYONE else is overpaid at best, or horrendously overpaid at worst. And yes, Orlando GM Otis Smith is a moron who’s spending money like a teenage socialite with her father’s credit card, but still something needs to be done.

What bothers me though, is that the solution to these problems is always, ALWAYS a salary cap.  And frankly, I hate salary caps.  They restrict market value for players, ensure greater profits for owners, and… restrict young, potentially great teams from keeping their players.  I mean really, imagine if the Celtics of the 80s had lost McHale because the Celtics couldn’t spend above a certain amount?  Or what about the Lakers without Worthy?  The Bulls without Bill Wennington?  Bad example?  There’s just no way that with a hard cap the Oklahoma Zombie Sonics are keeping Russ Westbrook, James Harden, Serge Ibaka, Kendrick Perkins, Eric Maynor together on a team with Kevin Durant over the next seven years.  And, I like dynasties.  I know the vogue thing in sports is parity and I comepltely understand why David Stern needs to sell to each of his owners the idea that anyone can win, but parity’s boring.  Give me the Lakers of the 80s, the Bulls of the 90s, the Spurs of the 00s, the Memphis Grizzlies of the 10s.

I just want to watch greatness.

Two:

The MLB all star game.  It was a few weeks back, but remember the hullabaloo about the MLB all star game?  God, it’s just stupid isn’t it?  The first problem is that leagues want their all star games to mean something.  MLB’s the worst for this, because everybody remembers Pete Rose destroying Ray Fosse at the plate and wants that sort of intensity in the modern games.  This of course ignores three things:

  1. Not all the old allstar games were like that.  Rose was a hyper competitve arse
  2. Fosse was never the same player after that play.  People hold that up as though it were a good thing, but it wasn’t.  We should never want that play to happen again.
  3. It actually DOESN’T mean anything, so for a team to lose a good player for the rest of the season because of a collision in an all star game is actually asinine.

At this point, the all star game is so bloated, with 389 players being selected from each franchise by everyone from the fans, the players, the managers, the commissioner, my Aunt Mildred, and her pet monkey Reginald.  It’s so dumb it could have been concocted by government.  And, speaking of dumb things that baseball’s doing, what about this extra wild card?  I know that as a Jays fan, I should be in favor of this move, but… m’eh.  I hate it when sports leagues have a freak occurrence happen one time and then react like the sky is falling.  Trust me, I wish there were pennant races this year too, but this is the first time in the Wild Card era that there haven’t been any races and really it’s just a big fluke.  Get over it.  If it happens again next year and the year after that, then worry about the state of the division races, but lets not get hysterical here.  Having said that, it’s inevitable.  There’s a lot of money in playoff games and they will add another team, perhaps two, or four.  After all, what can we learn over 162 games that we can’t learn in a single elimination game?

One:

The NCAA.  Is there anything worse than this greedy, self serving, inherently hypocritacal organization?  I could write a 1,000 words about why they’re so ridiculous; actually, I think I’m going to do just that…

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