Wednesday, June 30, 2010
Lions Don't Want "Negative Influences"
The Lions, in the midst of one of the worst runs in pro football history, could have bolstered their 4-3 defense and put the 360 pound Haynesworth next to their #2 overrall DT Ndamukong Suh. The fact is, the Lions recognized that Haynesworth is clearly a bad apple. A massive, pocket-crushing yet wormy and mealy apple.
A "source" is quoted in this NFL.com article as explaining: "Even though Suh is his own man, we don't want any negative influences around him."
When the Lions are making more thoughtful personnel decisions than one's own favorite team, it's a tough Wednesday.
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
Reasonable Discussion: Replay in Soccer
Big Blue Monkey: So, Barnyard, let's start with some areas in which I think we agree. I believe that you have no problem with a review system for seeing if a ball breaks the plane of the goal mouth. Perhaps some tennis technology could be used for that, as well. I also think you find some of FIFA's reasons for not implementing any changes faintly to distinctly ridiculous. Care to weigh in on those two basic points of agreement?
The only justification I've heard from FIFA as to why review will not be considered is that they like the drama and discussion that the missed calls create. Pretty dumb. Most governing bodies try to distract from fuck-ups so focus will be on the quality of play, excitement of the game, etc. I'm going to assume they just blurted out that justification without really thinking. Or maybe it made sense in a different language but just doesn't translate well to English?
Barnyard: Alright, I know you want me to answer the handball question, but in order to do so I need to give you my general frame of reference...
Barnyard: There are two concepts I like in soccer, which I believe to be longstanding traditions, that will be killed by the advent of replay, and two general rules I think replay in soccer will follow to soccer's overall detriment.
Concept Number One: You should always try to get away with whatever you can get away with on the soccer pitch. Sometimes this means intentionally stepping on someone's toes when breaking to a ball. Other times it means testing the lineman's willingness/ability to call you for offsides nine times in one game. Still other times it means craftily shielding the referee's view of the ball so you can use your hand. I loved it when I was a player and I love it as a fan. Is it a form of cheating? Yup. But if I'm good at it then I'm a better player than you, and every great player knows how and when to pull off a good cheat.
Big Blue Monkey: I agree wholeheartedly. This has nothing to do with Henry's handball, though.
Concept Number Two: A good referee will adjust what is/isn't a handball, foul, yellow card or red card based on previous occurences in the game. At the 2002 World Cup there was an Italian referee named Pierluigi Collina who had fifteen minutes of fame thanks to his impeccable on-field judgment, and, to be fair, his freakish appearance. Collina excelled because he knew there is a sense of equity a referee must bring to a game, and certain close calls must at times be made/not made to correct a previous injustice.
Big Blue Monkey: I agree wholeheartedly. This has nothing to do with Henry's handball, though.
General Rule of Destruction Number One: Replay will not remove the typical level of injustice from any game, it will only change what is argued about (and the argument will typically be more technical). The example I used (read: yelled) for the Big Blue Monkey last evening was the infamous 'Tuck Rule' from the Patriot-Raiders playoff game a few years back. The creation of the tuck rule is purely a creation of instant replay technology, but is really only a more confusing argument about a hard to interpret rule because we can now watch something ad nauseum really slowly. We still argue and teams still get fucked over.
General Rule of Destruction Number Two: Replay will ultimately lead to less scoring in soccer. Look, it is a fucking bitch to try and score a goal. That's no secret. Players, even the best players, need to apply Concept Number One at times in order to score. Replay will primarily serve to uncover implementation of Concept Number One by players and result in more goals being called back. Sure, there are situations like Dempsey's goal against Slovenia - but how do you apply replay to allow a goal that was scored after the whistle was blown?
Combining Concept Number Two with General Rule of Destruction Number One is the track that baseball is headed down - and where I think soccer should head too. I admit that Concept Number One and General Rule of Destruction Number Two are tougher to defend, but I like my soccer a little dirty.
For the handball question I'll apply both Concept Number One, General Rule of Destruction Number One and General Rule of Destruction Number Two. Concept Number One and General Rule of Destruction Number Two are pretty self explanatory, but I'll use General Rule of Destruction Number One to pitch a question back at you: how do you determine a "hand ball created goal?" Clearly Henry's was a hand ball created goal, but what if there had been a hand ball that was clearly necessary to control a ball and maintain possession by one player, who then passed to another player who set up another player that scored a goal?
As dictated by General Rule of Destruction Number One we haven't removed injustice from the game, we are just arguing a different point i.e. when can one defensibly state that a hand ball created a goal? I think I need a definition of a "hand ball created goal" before we can go on. See how fun the results of General Rule of Destruction Number One can be? Now we are playing the definition game. Good thing I am doing this on work time. Define?
Big Blue Monkey: Good Lord in Heaven. That it some serious theorizing for a handball in the box. Now I know what it would be like if Glenn Beck were a soccer fan. Does Freemasonry enter the officiating profession at all?
To take all your insane ramblings (and yes, I do imagine them scrawled on a chalkboard now) and address a specific example first--the Henry Double Hand ball in the box to assist the goal that kept Ireland out of the Finals.
Concept 1: I'm all for the subtle dark arts, as they've been calling them lately. Tug a shirt; leave an elbow out a little longer than normal; I'm all for that shit. As a former defender, I do enjoy seeing some sneaky plays like that. I get a little embarrassed for a defender though, when I see him almost remove the shorts of a striker going by him. And Henry's Frog of God play was egregious. It wasn't subtle; it was not tricky. It was as egregious of a missed call as Lampard's non-goal. No team should be advancing into the World Cup Finals based on that horseshit.
Concept 2: I'm all for referees adjusting on the fly based on game conditions. However, there are mistakes that are always mistakes. No is talking about, or even dreaming up (except you) a scenario in which normal fouls, plays, throw-ins and the like are being reviewed via video. It will never, ever, ever happen.
I said all through the conversation we had, and I'll keep up yelling it--the NFL and soccer could not be more different. The NFL has stops built into it to such an extent that an offense can screw up a defense simply by moving at a fast walk between plays. It is a ridiculous comparison and deserves no response whatsoever. There are insanely complex rules about simply setting up an offensive play--two people moving at once; tight end not covering the last offensive lineman; ineligible receivers; false starts! The NFL game has grown overly Byzantine for years, and the tuck rule is an outgrowth of that; instant replay is not at fault. That rule was on the books; it took replay to find that rule, but it did not invent it. It is an insane comparison. You are insane. Crazy. NFL football is designed to be stopped; soccer is not. Soccer will not allow a system of replays interferes with the run of play. Someone scores, check and make sure the play that directly set up that goal was legit, and move on.
One of the things you fret about is that scoring will go down. I have a solution to that--start calling the fouls that are happening in the box on every free kick. Clean up some of the dark arts that are ruling in the box right now, and you'll see scoring rise quickly. You can't be for cheating defense and increased offense; there is no way to improve one without hurting the other.
Barnyard ran out of time to respond, but we both agree that something that could help increase scoring is after-the-fact fines, like the NFL has. Let's say, I don't know, Ronaldo, Took a big dive that the referee ran by and said, "Get up"? Maybe he gets a call and says, "That cost you $10,000. Don't do it again." Dives and various other professional fouls that get punished after the fact could open up the game a great deal. I don't see it happening, but it could be a useful addition, if we're changing rules all over the place.
The Next Time A Grumpy Sports Columnist Complains About World Cup
Tell them that those ideas have been proven wrong, through the magic of money, ratings, and success beyond the dreams of the broadcasters. Richard Sandomir in the New York Times writes below. (And bear in mind, as Sandomir mentions elsewhere, that next World Cup will be held in Brazil, and will be a prime time event for most of the US)
Why Is the 3-4 Defense So Sticky-Sexy-Sweet?
After all, Washington has had solid defense for ten years and we just spent $100 million on the best 1-gap DT in the league. In 2010, my 4-12 team was #1 in the league defending the red zone and 4th down conversions: they were impregnable in short yardage.
Last year, four teams converted to the 3-4 including the Jaguars, who will be desperately switching back to their old 4-3 after a truly wretched season. This year, fourteen teams will have a base 3-4, with three new additions. The Ravens are a special case, because they run a true hybrid of 4-3, 3-4 and 46.
But hey – what the hell are we talking about anyway?
The 4-3 Aligment
Each defender controls one gap in run defense. DE is the vital position in this defense. They must possess size, strength and speed. They are the primary pass rushers but must also hold their contain on the edge. These kinds of athletes (R. White, D. Manley, J. Peppers) are hard to come by, and getting two is nearly impossible.
If the DE’s aren’t rushing the passer, the team must blitz from man coverage, and that can be dangerous. If the DE’s aren’t holding contain, fast RBs and mobile QBs can kill them.
The 3-4 Alignment
The three down lineman are responsible for two gaps in run defense. This is a hard job, especially for the nose tackle who can be triple-teamed. However, the four linebackers are faster in pursuit and can gang tackle. The OLBs provide better contain and the extra pair of hands at linebacker depth can slow down the popular West Coast offense.
However, the 3-4 has weaknesses against aggressive passing attacks. Speed and quickness can elude LBs in coverage; zones are common in this alignment and can be exploited by good offenses.
The linemen don’t provide a rush, so at least one LB is usually pumped in. This does have the positive benefit of surprise. LBs can be blitzed from rotating zone coverage, which is confusing and safer versus short routes.
Unmovable linemen and outstanding talent at LB can make a 3-4 very dangerous; without that talent, the defense is spread too thin at the point of attack.
So Why Is The 3-4 So Sticky-Sexy-Sweet?
The Steelers and Patriots, two exceptional 3-4 teams, have won five championships since the 2001 season. Everybody wants to be like them … except for the Saints, Colts, Giants and Bucs, 4-3 teams who took the other four trophies.
That doesn’t convince me. Perhaps the statistics can offer a clear-cut answer?
In 2010, 3-4 teams gave up 19.9 ppg and forced 1.61 turnovers.
In 2010, 4-3 teams gave up 22.7 ppg and forced 1.67 turnovers.
2.8 points per game difference may not be inconsequential, but it definitely isn’t sexy. Considering that all the worst defenses in the league ran a 4-3 but would have been equally terrible in a 3-4, there doesn’t seem to be any real edge statistically.
And that makes sense. It isn’t the scheme, alignment or play call that wins or loses. It’s the players: talent, preparation & execution. The team must have good personnel for the scheme, they must coach it well and execute it properly. Which is damn hard to do when eleven other men are attacking you with a scheme of their own. This, by the way, is why I love football.
Washington’s Conversion to the 3-4
Head Coach Mike Shanahan comes from the offensive side (check out this outstanding explanation of “zone blocking”) but he has always had a 4-3 defense. Until his last season in Denver: the conversion to a 3-4 was a disaster and cost him his job.
Defensive Coordinator Jim Haslett was the coordinator in Pittsburgh before they won championships, and that was the last time he’s run a 3-4. As a head coach the last eleven years, he has exclusively run the 4-3.
It took Washington years to finally pull together a dominant 4-3 defensive line. They were heading into the season with only a hole at strongside LB.
By converting to the 3-4, Washington may only keep one of last year’s linemen as a starter (Daniels). Andre Carter and Brian Orakpo, two excellent 4-3 pass-rush & contain DE’s (remember how rare that is), will now play OLB despite their lack of coverage skills. The ILBs are not a good fit for this scheme either, at least on paper.
It sounds like Haslett might be working on a hybrid such as Baltimore’s. He has already hinted that the FS & SS positions are interchangeable and flexible. Perhaps there is a future in that.
But I just don’t understand blowing up a pretty good defense for a trendy scheme. I don’t remember Joe Gibbs going hog-wild for the Run-and-Shoot (which, by the way, won zero championships), or whatever “Hot Topic” was being copied league-wide.
Of course, Coach Shanahan and Coach Haslett know planets more about football than I do. Naturally, I will root for the 3-4 defense as ardently as ever, and hope for the best.
But I just don’t get it.
Unless it’s as simple as the fact that the Dallas Cowboys run a dominant 3-4, and held Washington to six points in two games last year?
That couldn’t be it. Right?
* these good diagrams by Mark Lawrence at Football.Calsci.com
Sunday, June 27, 2010
That Should Be It For Bob Bradley
I will say that I've read a review or two of the game, and I can't find a writer more off target than Yahoo's Dan Wetzel.. Wetzel backed the wrong horse a couple of days ago, by writing a column about how Bob Bradley is the Coach, without doubt, for the USA. Wetzel called the last couple weeks of miracle recoveries, questionable starters, and odd substitutions, "the redemption of the doubted." So I guess it isn't a surprise that Wetzel's summary of the USA's exit is that the team just isn't that good, not that Bradley made mistakes.
That's bullshit--though to be fair, it should be noted that Wetzel doesn't know shit about soccer. He's like Souhan and basketball.
This is a team that, if it wanted to be, would be full of English Premiership, or at worst--French League quality players (where Asamoah Gyan plies his trade)--this wasn't some shitty MLS All-Star team we sent to South Africa. This is a team made of players that the big leagues will be looking at, and in some cases, drooling over. Jozy Altidore didn't score a goal, sure--but he hit post after a tough run at a defense; he assisted on a huge goal, and in general, gave defenses fits. You don't think he's back in England next season based on what he did here? The number of US players who have improved their stock abroad is impressive, in my mind. This is a team, that when the right Eleven were on the pitch together, played really, really well. What kills me is how rarely that happened.
I've hammered Ricardo Clark as hard as anyone in the world has, but you know what? His huge mistake isn't his fault. He has shown, time and time again, that he isn't World Cup caliber. More than a year ago, I wrote, "Rico Clark was, as he always is, super spazzy. I don't know how else to categorize his game. He runs around like crazy; he makes tackles, both good and bad, and takes shots that beggar description both in terms of their audacity and their stupidity. He's not to be trusted in the center midfield, especially as a "defensive" or "holding" midfielder."
We all finally thought Bradley stopped seeing what he thought he saw when he benched Clark against Algeria. But there he was to start the game against Ghana. And of all the curious moves Bradley made (Findley starting, no Gooch) the Clark start was the one that raised my ire the most. It is not Clark's fault that he isn't as good as Maurice Edu or Benny Feilhaber. It is Bradley's fault for not seeing what is so obviously true. Even John Harkes, commenting as delicately as he could said, basically, "Maurice Edu and Benny Feilhaber deserve a start in front of Rico Clark." He said that before Clark's massive fuck-up, which was a pretty narrow window. When Benny Feilhaber finally got on the pitch, and helped orchestrate attack after attack, Ian Darke, the British commentator paired up with Harkes said, "Feilhaber is a gifted player--I won't guess as to why he wasn't starting."
There was a reason the US made a couple of great comebacks in this World Cup before finally being sent home, and it isn't because the team isn't that good, as Wetzel claimed--it was because we didn't start our best Starting Eleven once in this tournament. We got our Best Eleven in at halftime, and played better every time. So why not start with that Eleven?
Bob Bradley may be a fine tactician; it is clear his players love him. But if he can't evaluate talent better than me, and it is clear now that he can't, it is time for him to hit the bricks. I don't care if Rico Clark brought a bird back to life on the practice pitch; he was obviously not ready for actual games at the World Cup, and might not ever be. It is Bob Bradley's fault that he was out there; it is Bob Bradley's fault that the US used a sub in the 30th minute. It is Bob Bradley's fault that Gooch wasn't used at all. It is Bob Bradley's fault that we didn't have a late sub to use to bring in Stuart Holden, whose pace at the end of a game may have made all the difference.
The US team didn't lose to a superior opponent; it wasn't Brazil or Argentina who done downed us. It was a capable, good Ghanaian team that was given the gift of not having to face our best team at the starting whistle. They took advantage of that gift--as England did; as Slovenia did; as Algeria almost did--our best team barely got to play, and that's on Bradley. And now we are left to wonder what Ruud Gullit, or Jurgen Klinsmann could have done with a midfield of Donovan, Bradley, Edu and Feilhaber, and a strike team of Dempsey and Altidore. We'll find out in four years, I guess, as there's no way that the US Soccer Federation does anything but fire Bradley and bring in a proven international coach.
Saturday, June 26, 2010
2010 NFL Divisional Preview
My longstanding disdain for soccer is a product of my high school experience. The soccer lads wore polo shirts and played golf, the football players lifted weights and drank beer. Since my hometown is definitely of the polo-shirt-and-golf set, the football team had to struggle for players and equipment while the soccer lads got Gatorade and full attendance.
Since then, I've maintained my hilarious disdain. But sides are being drawn politically, and I'll be damned if I join hands with the far right on any subject like soccer.
I think that it is amusing how elated/crushed soccer fans get. It's not for me, but I won't poop on the world's parade. So I measure my response, and while I hope the U.S. team loses and goes home to blowdry their show-pony hair, I'd love to see a third-world country such as my native (new) Mexico achieve something they can be proud of. Ghana!
But life, for me, begins when the NFL season begins. And at least some of our readers may agree. Therefore, the first prognostications from Professor Badcock's Future-Seeing Factory. The factory now runs exclusively on an oil-seawater amalgam. Drill baby drill!
NFL DIVISIONAL PREVIEW
AFC East is rising: a very competitive 3-team division with a tough schedule. Win %: .500
Opponents: NFC North & AFC North
AFC North is falling: a very competitive 3-team division with an impossible schedule. Win % .516:
Opponents: NFC South & AFC East
AFC South is rising: the best in the league, a 4-team division with a beatable schedule. Win %: .594
Opponents: NFC East & AFC West
AFC West is slowly rising: a noncompetitive 1-team division with a mixed schedule. Win %: .469
Opponents: NFC West & AFC South
NFC East is falling: a competitive, 2-team division with a difficult schedule. Win %: .531
Opponents: NFC North & AFC South
NFC North is rising: a competitive 2-team division with a difficult schedule. Win %: .500
Opponents: NFC East & AFC East
NFC South is slowly rising: a competitive 2-team division with a beatable schedule. Win %: .516
Opponents: NFC West & AFC North
NFC West is plummeting: a noncompetitive division with a mixed schedule. Win % .375
Opponents: NFC South & AFC West
There will be another IDYFT Pick’em this year. 2-time champion Jess will defend her title.
Upon your perusal, you may notice that the NFC East and NFC North will clash, which means we might as well have another IDYFT Cup. The Packers took it last time but things have certainly changed since then. The best part, dear reader, is that you don’t have to do a thing.
Friday, June 25, 2010
Get to Know the Netherlands
1. Tulip Mania! It may or may not have happened; but I love the idea that people don't buy into the idea of speculative markets crashing. Ummm, the past decade's real estate market doesn't count? How about the comic book boom that almost destroyed the industry? It says something about Holland that they may have almost wrecked their economy over flowers.
2. Give it up for Christiaan Huygens--critical work in mathematics (probability theory), astronomy (discovered Titan), and physics (a whole bunch of stuff). He also apparently believed in aliens. AWESOME.
3. The Dutch bred the Holstein Cow. It is just my favorite dairy cow of all time. I mean, come on--is it even close? No cow produces more milk! Maybe you like the Jersey? That's silly. The Guernsey? FUCK YOU. It's the Holstein all the way. Good job, Netherlands!
Get to Know Japan
1. Most folks know that suicide Japanese pilots in WWII were called "Kamikazes". Lots of folks know that the literal translation of "Kamikaze" is "Divine Wind". What most folks don't know is where the term originated--it goes back aways--like the 13th Century. Twice in seven years, Kublai Khan and his Mongol Horde attempted invasions of Japan, and both times, their naval power was significantly weakened by storms and even a typhoon or two. Hence, the Japanese Divine Wind that weakened their enemy and aided the defense of their country.
2. Japanese Snow Monkeys are one of the world's coolest animals, what with their hot-tubbing and cliques and what not.
3. Japan is the home of Shonen Knife. 'Nuff said.
Get to Know Slovakia
1. Ancient Slovakians were into boobies. To be specific, I'm talking about the statue dated to almost 25,000 years ago, the Venus of Moravany. Carved from mammoth ivory, it features one very naked lady and stands under 10 centimeters tall.
Get to Know Germany
1. Once upon a time, there was a place called Nazi Germany. They practiced genocide, and launched a war on the entire world to fulfill the sick vision of their leader. They practiced disturbing and bizarre scientific experiments, and were fixated on creating a Master Race using eugenics. This aspect of Nazi Germany can be fairly compared to the Theory of Evolution.
2. Once upon a time after the time mentioned above, Germany was split into two parts, and East Germany became evil and communist. The evil communists built a huge wall around their section of Berlin. Then one day, a King Ronald Reagan went to Germany, and with his bare fucking hands, tore down the wall, and saved the world.
3. However, despite the fine work of King Ronald, there is still some evil in Germany. "Germany is a legally and socially tolerant country toward homosexuals. Civil unions have been permitted since 2001. Gays and lesbians can legally adopt their partner's biological children (stepchild adoption)." Don't say we didn't warn you when Germany is hit by some sort of natural calamity or man-made disaster or just a bunch of rainy days in a row. That's God's displeasure right there.
Get to Know Ghana
1. The current nation of Ghana should not be confused with the Ghanaian Empire that sprung up in the late 8th Century, and dominated trade for a couple of hundred years. The modern nation of Ghana was named in honor of that historical empire, but not because of shared territory or anything like that.
2. Afro-jazz was invented by a Ghanaian, Guy Warren (or Ghanaba).
3. Lake Volta is one of the largest man-made lakes in the world. It was created by the Akosombo Dam, which was completed in 1965. And it might have manatees in it!
Thursday, June 24, 2010
Jim Souhan Phones in Another One
"In Oscar terms, they went with Walter Brennan instead of Marlon Brando."
Marlon Brando died six years ago, but is certainly famous for being a temperamental pain-in-the-ass genius. Walter Brennan? Walter Brennan? He died when I was less than a year old, and I'm 36 years old. Jesus Christ, Jim Souhan. Walter Brennan last won an Oscar in 1941. Seriously, Jim Souhan--you are not that old. Your writing is, but you are not.
I like Cousins too. I like him a lot. But hey, Wes Johnson is a polished, talented, multi-purpose small forward, something the Timberwolves haven't had in a long time. There's no bad news in that selection.
But Souhan persists, using the kind of logic you only find from a Jim Souhan type columnist:
"The problem is, the Wolves have tried this good-guy-from-a-winning-program approach before, and it helped them to 15 victories last year. Jonny Flynn (Syracuse), Kevin Love (UCLA) and Corey Brewer (Florida) are good guys from good college programs. Add three more guys just like them and the Wolves can contend for a Big Ten title."
Oh, hey, Jim Souhan--Did you just name three players under the age of 25? And two players under the age of 22? The Timberwolves team last year was designed to lose a bunch of games and give a young, talented core of players a lot of time in the NBA crucible. That was the publicly stated goal. By any measure, last year did exactly what it was supposed to do. Calling last year a failure because a bunch of kids didn't win 50 games is ridiculous. Jim Souhan is ridiculous. He writes this column, over and over again, regardless of the sport. Remember his bitchy takedown of the Twins for not ridding themselves of a then 23-year old Delmon Young? Delmon Young, who's now hitting over .300, has more doubles and walks than he did all of last year, and is closing in on 50 RBI's? Guess what, everyone--sometimes patience is actually a virtue. Who knew?
More Souhan: "Johnson could build a nice career. Cousins could become the best player in the draft." This is a common meme that is being circulated everywhere. But let's be clear here--Souhan isn't an evaluator of NBA talent. He doesn't know any more than you or I about it. He's spouting what he's heard other guys say. Meanwhile, other folks, who know basketball, like Dick Vitale (who is annoying, but does know talent) and Jon Berry think that Wesley Johnson is going to be a terrific professional. Souhan quotes no one who knows basketball in his evaluation. It's just so much bitching.
Combine that with jokes about Commissioner Stern's height, Ron Artest's sanity, and Ricky Rubio's wish to avoid the NBA lockout as being somehow the fault of the Wolves, and it combines into a wonderful goulash of whiny, lazy, self-satisfied, know-nothing crap.