Monday, January 31, 2011

Timberwolves Plays of the Week

Darko Throwdown!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

IDYFT Playoff Pick'em: Superbowl

Here it is, ladies and germs ... the final NFL pick'em. Remember, first prize is a high-quality literary gem! There is no second prize. Will Jess make it FOUR, or will someone else rise up to snatch the championship?

If there is no NFL next year, the pick'em will be about the weather or something. Boring! So heed this moment, and make your picks.


1. Big BM: 27 pts (+9, +7 bonus = Packers)
2. Leftnut: 23 pts (+10, +7 bonus = Pitts)
3. Jess: 22 pts (+10) [Long Bomb: Packers]
4. Adw: 19 pts (+6)
5. MuMan: 18 pts (+9)
6. Ryan: 13 pts (+6) [Long Bomb: Packers]

Superbowl Round +6
1. Ultimate Clash of the Ultimate Titans: Green Bay Packers versus Pittsburgh Steelers

Bonus Questions +3
2. Final Score for Packers?
3. Final Score for Steelers?
4. Lead at Halftime?
5. First to score?

Trivia Questions +3
6. During the 2010 regular season IDYFT Pick'em, which team was featured in the Clash of the Titans the most times?
7. Which team was featured on the Surprise! upset list the most times?

Friday, January 28, 2011

Yeah! Let Them Play!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Let's Check In With The NFL Ownership's Twitter Page

As I've mentioned before, it takes some balls for the official mouthpiece of NFL Ownership to Tweet under "NFLLabor", but that's what they do.  Let's see what they are up to this week!

First of all, the NFL would like to remind players that they have only the players salaries in mind when they lock them out over some $1 Billion Dollars.  Seriously.  The owners are attempting to tell players that they will lose money if they don't hand over a billion dollars to the owners.  Well, Jeff Tash is saying that, and the NFL Owners are just quoting Jeff Tash, who is just an NFL lawyer.  Don't fight, NFLPA, because it will cost you money, even though if you just lie down and take the owner's position, it will also cost you money.  It is so nonsensical, it just might work!

The Owners would also like to quote former NFL player Ross Tucker (who?) when he says "18 games could work"

Guess what doesn't make into their article summarizing Tucker's article?  Here's Tucker:

"My biggest concern with the enhanced season is that it is just a temporary fix. A Band-Aid, if you will. Sure, the increased revenue from two extra regular-season games could make the pie big enough that a new collective bargaining agreement gets done in the near term, but does that really solve the problem? What happens five or 10 years from now? Adding more games is a well you can only tap so many times before it goes dry. There still needs to be a better revenue-sharing agreement between the owners for the league to have a long-term sustainable business model that suits both sides."

Keep in mind that "the problem" is that the owners are only making billions and billions of dollars, instead of billions and billions and billions. That, in fact, there is no real problem at all.  The "pie" as Tucker calls it, is already some 8-10 Billion dollars strong, and the owners take almost 2 billion out from before any split, and then get well over 40% of what is left.  That's anywhere from 4 to 6 billion dollars that the ownership is splitting 32 ways.  That's a lot of money, right?  But they want more, and they'll quote Ross Tucker and Jeff Tash in their drive to get more of that pie, even though no one knows or cares who they are.

Fun fact:  Ross Tucker played in the NFL for seven years, which is twice as long as the average NFL player plays.

A Post In Which I Belatedly Complain

When the AP's Top 25 came out earlier this week, I was shocked to see Michigan State still on it, admittedly just holding on, at #25.  Regardless, they were on it, despite a 12-7 record, with exactly two wins on the road--Northwestern and Chaminade.  Michigan State plays a tough schedule, and they have Tom Izzo, who always has his teams playing their best when it matters, so I get the reluctance to hold their losses against them, for awhile.  But surely, I was going to argue, losing to Penn State on the road (and yes, I know of and like Talor Battle (it is pronounced "Taylor" but spelled like an angry barbarian version!)) and barely squeaking by Northwestern at home should mean that the Spartans are just not a Top 25 team right now.

"What will it take for the AP to follow the lead of the ESPN/USA Today poll and drop Michigan State?"  I was going to ask.   I'd follow that up with a sarcastic, "Maybe lose to Michigan at home?  Will that be enough to drop them?"  I didn't think that would happen, but happen it did, and I think that should do it.

And it may be time to acknowledge that this isn't one of those years wherein Michigan State plays a tough schedule and gets beat up in the rankings, only to get to March and destroy teams on their way to the Final Four.  This team needs to get going to even make it to the Dance.

Think that's a crazy idea?  A tough schedule only works if you win some of those games--and by "tough", I mean good teams, on the road--losses to UConn, Duke, Syracuse, Illinois, and Purdue don't hurt you, unless you don't have much in the way of quality wins.  And the Spartans are lacking those.  Beating Washington and Minnesota in East Lansing are decent wins, but not unexpected, and I don't know if those wins overcome tonight's loss to Michigan (or just how close those wins against Northwestern were, for that matter).  With the current rankings in place, the Spartans have five games against Top 25 teams left on their schedule, with three of them on the road.  They'll need to win those two at home, and more importantly, at least one on the road to  give the committee something to think about.  And the way they are playing right now, that scenario seems pretty unlikely.

Kevin Love's NUMB#RS

I'm not sure who else in the league markets their players to the Inside the NBA audience the way the Wolves do.  Last year, when they were trying to gin up some votes for Corey Brewer as Most Improved Player, they put him in a coffee shop, for an extended metaphorical piece on Brewer's intangibles.

It should not take any marketing to get Kevin (KLOVE) Love into the All Star Game, but the Timberwolves aren't going to get accused for not trying if he somehow doesn't make it.  They whipped up an ad for KLOVE's "new fragrance", that directs people to a page that shows off just how gobsmackingly good Love has been this year, and full of quotes from folks around the NBA who are appropriately gobsmacked.  Apparently, Love may not get an All-Star berth.  Not sending a guy that good would be incredibly stupid.  But again, the Wolves are making sure that no one can say, "Oh, if only he weren't playing for the Timberwolves--we might have voted for him if he were putting up those numbers in a major market."  The Timberwolves are doing their damned best to make sure everyone knows what Love is doing, and if they have to resort to oddball viral videos to do so, so be it.

Old School Thursday: Vanilla Ice

You know what you did to deserve this.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Vacillation, Thy Name is Souhan!

I don't know whether there are actually two Jim Souhans, each operating independently of each other, or whether he's finally succumbed to the syndrome of subjective doubles.  The Victorian author Wilkie Collins, for example, suffered from the persistent belief that he had a doppelganger, who would occasionally show up at his house and attempt to change his writings.  All I know is that in pieces written two weeks apart, Souhan is vacillating wildly.  Leash your doppelganger, Jimmy!

Consider January 12th's headline:

Wolves are still bad, but at least they're bad and have a plan


Will the Wolves ever matter again?

Fascinating!  Let's play Point-Counterpoint with reasonable 2 week ago Jim Souhan taking on today's reactionary Jim Souhan.  Reactionary Jim Souhan, would you like to start?

Reactionary JS:  The problem is that the Wolves, after a series of management and coaching changes, and the trade of the best player in franchise history, and loads of high draft choices and dramatic personnel moves, still stink.

Reasonable JS:  This is a bad team, of course. There isn't enough chocolate icing in the world to make 9-30 taste good. But for the first time in years, this is a bad team with some semblance of a plan.

Reactionary JS:  I want to believe that this team is making progress, but every time you think they're throwing you a steak bone, it turns out to be Styrofoam

Reasonable JS:  The Wolves have been so bad for so long that we view every loss as the latest indictment of a criminally stupid organization, instead of recognizing that this year's failures are different from last year's failures, and all of the failures since '05.

Reactionary JS:  I wish all of this weren't true. I want to believe that...Michael Beasley will find the kind of internal fire that stokes superstars

Reasonable JS: Beasley needs to improve defensively, but he's been better than expected offensively. He will, despite his teammates' teasing, pass the ball, and he scores more easily than any player in franchise history.

This is all to say that it is hard to take anything Souhan says seriously when he clearly has a hard time taking anything he says seriously himself. I've always had problems taking Souhan seriously, particularly when it comes to evaluating talent in almost any sport.

And again, I find it ridiculous that a team whose MVP's of the season so far are both 22 year old kids (Beasley and KLOVE) and who gives regular burn (and gets productive minutes out of) Wesley Johnson, Jonny Flynn, Martell Webster and Corey Brewer (all under 25 years of age) with little to no real veteran help does not have at its goal to win a bunch of games--not even a bunch more games than they did last year.

That said--the Wolves won 15 games last year.  They have won 10 games this year, and seem to be a lock to win more than 15.  But that's not the goal.  The goal is figure out which of these guys, besides Love and Beasley, to build the team around.  They have two 22-year old future All-Stars, and a solid young core to work with.  Who cares how many games they win this year?  The fans?  The fans aren't coming to the games anyway, and that's despite the fact that this team is way, way more entertaining than last year.  This is all about making sure they come next year, and I'm all for that, because I am paying attention, and even though I end up disappointed, I rarely end up turning off the game.

(Note:  as I write this, the Wolves are currently winning a game Souhan predicted they would lose against the Thunder.  It's a close game, and it is still in the 3rd quarter.  But a close game in the 3rd quarter against a quality team didn't happen hardly at all last year, so there)

updated to clean up some horrible grammatical mistakes.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Timberwolves Plays of the Week

not a 3-pointer in the mix this time.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

That's Kind of Rude, Mark Sanchez

AFC Championship game--cameras catch Mark Sanchez wiping his booger on Mark Brunell's jacket.  Awesome!  Big ups to the CBS camera crew for this one.

Friday, January 21, 2011

NFL Ownership Has Some Balls

That title probably goes without saying, and they continue to shift the goalposts on this labor issue so effectively that it is hardly ever mentioned that the current CBA was opted out of by the owners.  It had another year to go, but they just couldn't wait to get this fight going.  So, do remember that, when people talk about how "these two sides can't come together".  Remember who is grasping for more.

That said, I think it takes all kinds of special nuts to start a Twitter feed with the name NFLlabor (something I would be happily unaware of, it not for ProFootballTalk), and then post nothing but ownership propaganda.

Occasionally, they just show how much they care--like quoting Daryl Johnson on how players need to wear padding--gosh, does anyone recall how the owners withdrew out of the CBA because they were demanding players wear kneepads?  I'm sure taking an extra 1.8 billion dollars is just for kneepad purchasing purposes.

But good lord is the vast majority of it just ridiculous.

Repeated quotes from Bob Batterman, like "Owners clearly do not want a lockout" and "This is a union waiting for a lockout", that then just link to extended NFL articles.  Of course, Twitter only has 140 characters available, and thus some context is lacking in those tweets, like who the fuck Bob Batterman is.  Let me tell you what American Lawyer's Brian Baxter told us back in 2008 when the owners first hired Batterman (and before they opted out of the CBA):  "The possibility [of the owners opting out] became more distinct when the league hired L. Robert Batterman of Proskauer Rose. Batterman is well known in labor circles for his National Hockey League work  It was Batterman who presided over the NHL labor negotiations that scuttled the league's 2004-05 season, making it the first North American pro sports league to lose a full year to labor strife.  'Batterman bullied [the union] into submission,' says one sports labor lawyer who requested anonymity. 'If one accepts the conspiracy theory of collective bargaining, this means the NFL must be looking for trouble,' says another."  That's the guy the NFL is putting out in public to extol the noble virtues of the owners!  That guy!  It is like they are daring the media to be like, "So you are the bad guys, right?"  I mean, he's not a guy you quote on your Twitter account, unless you are feeling all sorts of ballsy.  Congratulations owners, on your HUGE BALLS.

But they aren't done, clearly.  Here's a very special and hilarious tweet:  "Poll: 99% oppose Congressional involvement in NFL CBA talks"  Mike Florio at ProFootballTalk does a pretty half-assed job of questioning those numbers.  He questions them, as one would have too, but he mainly talks about online polls unreliability, and voters who know how to release their IP, and so on.  But not once does he demonstrate that he clicked through and actually read any of the site that hosted said poll.  The poll isn't just unscientific, the blog itself probably isn't read by anyone to the left of say, Mitt Romney.  On the post that the survey appears, blogger Ed Morrissey writes, "As Hot Air readers know, I’m a big fan of NFL football, and my weekly football picks are one of my favorite regular features.  I also love to follow and write about politics, too.  That doesn’t mean that I think mixing the two is a good idea, however."  That's like saying, "I love Jell-O, and I love politics.  Doesn't mean I want Congress getting all up on food companies."

Congress isn't all about politics.  It's also about policy and legislation.  Just saying.

Not only is the NFL tweeting about a poll conducted online at a conservative blog, it's tweeting about a poll conducted online at a conservative blog that has been hilariously over-the-top stupid a number of times.  Example.  Example.  Example.  Example.  Example.  Example.  Example.  And so on.   People who write and read this blog aren't just conservative, they are crazy right-wing--the kind of people who can believe that Obama had APPLAUSE signs at the Tuscon memorial (seriously),  You could probably garner over 50% of them to vote for privatizing drinking water.  Congratulations, NFL!  You've won over the crazy right-wingers of the Internets!  You should absolutely tweet proudly over that.

So, you see--this lockout, that was predicted more than two years ago by labor attorneys, and more than a year ago by yours truly, isn't about money!  It's about kneepads, making sure that Bob Batterman has a public forum, and that Congress doesn't protect those darn millionaire players.  Who opted out, again?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Paul the World Cup Ruining Octopus Gets a Statue

Screw you, German marine biologists.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

It's SportsDome, and it's Infinite

If you aren't watching this show, you really, really should be.

Onion SportsDome

Monday, January 17, 2011

Timberwolves Top 5 Plays of the Week

I've decided that I'm going to post these for as long as it takes for people to recognize that the Timberwolves are a fun, young team that will be good sooner rather than later.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

IDYFT Playoff Pick'em: Conference Round

Gadzooks that was some up-and-down playoff action. The Steelers and Jets were as good as advertised, the Packers are red-hot and the Bears won their bye. The NFC will be a classic old-school bruisefest, while the AFC should be an instant classic.

One must hope for the best, because we are rapidly running out of football. Will there be NFL next year? Or is that merely a rhetorical question? Is this also a rhetorical question? What about this?

1. Adw: 13 pts (+11)
2. Jess: 12 pts (+9)
3. Big BM: 11 pts (+6)
4. MuMan: 9 pts (+6)
5. Ryan: 7 pts (+3)
6. Leftnut: 6 pts

Conference Round +4
1. Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears
2. New York Jets at Pittsburgh Steelers
Bonus Questions +1
3. Higher Scoring Game?
4. Closer Game?
5. Most team penalties?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Old School Thursday: Positive K

Snyder's Biggest Mistake?

First off, I would like to explain as patiently as possible that when I posted that I had quit rooting for my favorite team because Gross Rexman became the QB of the future, I knew that it wouldn't stick.

I stand by everything I wrote, and in the general mind of NFL fans, Washington remains the worst-run laughingstock in the league. However, I have no better chance of changing favorite teams than I do changing my blood type.

Yet I was in fact confronted by people out here in my wee little town (Cowboys fans all) who derided me for abandoning my team. I wasn't aware that they could read, let alone read this site. While I'm not yet ready to slog through the muck of a Washington 2010 Season Review, a little blurb about a Snyder press conference prompted this here consideration.

When asked by a Washington Post reporter what was the biggest mistake of his ownership, Snyder coyly referred to Haynesworth by saying, "I don't need to answer this. You all know."

A short while ago, I reacted to a blog which listed the top ten worst Washington signings of all time, and Haynesworth was number one. I didn't really disagree with that assertion, but now that it has evolved into the "obvious" answer I am compelled (due to innate orneriness) to question this.

When Haynesworth was brought in, Washington had a perennial top-ten defense that nonetheless struggled to force turnovers and win games on their own. They signed the big free agent tackle to bolster a blah D-line that was unable to pressure the quarterback. During Haynesworth's only season in Washington's 4-3, the defense went to #1 in short yardage situations and 4th down conversions, and the defensive ends recorded twenty-two sacks between them. While Haynesworth himself didn't dominate statistically, there is no question that his addition made a good defense even better.

Bringing in Haynesworth, despite his well-known character flaws, cannot be considered a mistake. However, the Shanahan regime imposed a 3-4 scheme which robbed the defense of its strengths and magnified its weaknesses. Haynesworth refused to play in it, a pure asshole move which was beyond selfish. But if there had been no change to a 3-4 (a defense which neither Shanahan nor Haslett has ever had success in), the issues with Haynesworth would not have forced him off the team.

If I had to point to Snyder's biggest flaw as an owner, it would obviously be his fantasy-style acquisition of pro bowlers. Rather than building a team through draft and development, Snyder operated under the assumption that the team was always just one star player short of the Superbowl.

If I had to point to Snyder's single biggest bust, it would have been the move which fundamentally defined his reign of error. In cutting Brian Mitchell for Deion Sanders after the '99 season, Snyder signaled forevermore that style trumped substance, that loyalty meant nothing, that a skipping jackass was more important than an entire team.

Brian Mitchell remains the best all-purpose back in NFL history, and will be in the Hall of Fame. He had three more years of strong production, but more importantly he was a team-first veteran lifer who held Washington together by sheer will. Even during a blowout in a losing season, Mitchell fought for every yard and left everything on the field.

By contrast, Deion Sanders contributed jack shit to Washington in his single year before leaving the league. But he got paid, big-time. This established the precedent that Washington is only a place to get paid. This perception has lasted through this 2010 season and is the essential reason why the team is the pile of shit that it is.

Anyone can make a bad personnel decision, that's not special. Invoking a culture of selfish star-fucking is much more impressive. Washington has now finished last in their division for the third straight time, an unprecedented feat of ignominy for this once-proud franchise. That Snyder would blame a single acquisition as his "worst mistake" is proof that nothing has changed.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Minnesota Vikings Keep Making Bad Arguments for a New Stadium

I've talked about Vikings Stadium point man Lester Bagley before, and how he habitually says things that are comically cynical about what the Vikings want and need for a new stadium.

There's nothing super-new in this AP interview conducted with Bagley, but he's always fun for a dry a chuckle, so let's take a look, shall we?

1.  Piece of bullshit #1:  Bagley:  "A roof does not provide any benefit to the Vikings...It also costs a couple hundred million dollars more in capital costs, in addition to the operating costs that are much higher for a covered facility."

That's just objectively not true, right?  I mean, yeah--it is fun to play outside, and maybe it gives your team a leg-up when Tampa Bay comes to town (though probably not much of a factor when dealing with Chicago or Green Bay).  But it is clear that any northern stadium that isn't NYC adjacent that wants to host a Super Bowl needs to have the option of having a roof.  If the Vikings are willing to build (help build) a new stadium that has no chance of getting a Super Bowl, than I really question their long term planning.  It's also not at all practical--the new structure will have to have some kind of roof--too many teams use the Metrodome now, and the Vikings are just not in a position to demand a stadium all of their own.  They aren't good enough, and without some real spending  they aren't going to get better any time soon.  And with the lockout looming, it is going to be very difficult for any team to do any real spending any time real soon.

2.  Piece of bullshit #2.  From the article, discussing the fact that Vikings are "willing" to pay for a third of a roofless stadium--"Bagley said the Vikings saw it as precedent that the Minnesota Twins ponied up about a third of the cost of outdoor Target Field."

I really can't believe Bagley thinks it is a good idea to compare the Twins and the Vikings in any sort of way.

A couple of things here--even figuring for the financing costs, Target Field cost about half of what a new football stadium will cost.  Paying the same proportion for the two stadiums is a false equivalence.  It's roughly a difference of $300 million dollars, and that's not nothing.  Secondly, a lot of what sports teams argue about the revenue they bring into cities on game days is kind of horsepucky.  But there is definitely some effect--and let's be real clear on this one--baseball teams play 10 times as many games as football teams.  The Twins brought 3.2 million people to Target Field during its inaugural season; the Vikings brought 470,000 (to be fair, that includes one game at TCF Bank, and one in Detroit).  Comparing two stadiums to each other may seem logical, but it really is an apples to oranges comparison.

Comparing the two teams is also not in the Viking's favor.  The Twins have won two World Series in the last 25 years; the Vikings haven't been to a Super Bowl in almost 35 years, and have never won one.  The Twins regularly make the playoffs, to the point it is a little shocking when they don't.  The Vikings floundered hilariously this year, but let's not forget that they are a pretty mediocre franchise lately (79-81 over the past decade), and mediocre looks to be the likely future for the next couple of years.

If Bagley wants the Twin Cities to treat the Vikings like they treated the Twins, maybe the Vikings should consider being as competent as the Twins, and treat Vikings fans as well as the Twins have treated their fans over the past decade.  Just sayin'

3.  I haven't seen State Senator Julie Rosen's stadium proposal (coming soon, it sounds like) but if this is her logic, I'm a little pessimistic that it is going to be sensible:  "I do feel the Vikings could easily pick up and move," Rosen said. "Because it is a business. You have to ask yourself what would the Legislature be doing if, say, Target was threatening to move out of state? It demands a response."

Here's something I bet the State Legislature would say--"Hey, Target, before we create a tax just so you can build something, can we get a look at your books?  Because we were under the impression that you are a multi-billion dollar operation."  And again, let's talk about false equivalences--Target employs 10,000 people in Minnesota, it has been here since 1902 and is a Fortune 500 company.  None of those things describe the Vikings.  Target is ably run, too. Oh, and when Target needed a new $260 million headquarters, they built it.

Sports teams are about civic pride, and not some much about being a great investment for the community, and we shouldn't pretend otherwise.  It is particularly true for the NFL, which guarantees only eight games in that city, generates a few dozen millionaire players who may live in the suburbs for a few months of the year, and attempt to claim that they are so important to the community that it should it fork out almost $700,000,000 just to get them to stay?  Whatever, Lester Bagley.  Enjoy Los Angeles.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Technical Crazy--Almost a Record Tying 10 Seconds

The Timberwolves and the San Antonio Spurs are playing, but it looks like the Spurs will win (update:  did win).  One has to wonder how much closer it could have been had it not been for a stretch where the officials seemed to let their emotions get away from them.  Their were plenty of instances in this game in which the officials simply did not give the Wolves the same call that they gave the Spurs.  (See Beasley's injury at the 3:30 mark in the second half, when Tim Duncan runs into Beasley's legs as he is shooting a 3-pointer)

Nothing was more telling than the 10 second stretch that almost tied the mark for most technical fouls called on a single team in an entire game.  (Wikipedia:  "The most technical fouls ever charged to a team in a single game is 6 (all in the second half), to Aris Thessaloniki in a game against Olympiakos of the Greek A1 League on February 10, 2008.")

In the third quarter, the Wolves had cut the Spurs' lead to six.  On a San Antonio possession, Darko Milicic was called for a block that was awfully close.  He reacted a bit, and the commentators mentioned that he needed to watch it.  But no technical is assessed.  The Spurs take the ball back out, and Corey Brewer got called on a real questionable reach-in.  He reacted with some incredulity, and he was assessed a technical.  And then, so is Darko Milicic (apparently, he pointed at an official).  That's two technical fouls on the same team on a single play (with no violent play of any kind).  Timberwolves Head Coach Kurt Rambis appeared to inquire about how the hell he has two players getting two technicals on a reach-in foul, and got T'ed up himself.  At that point, Rambis lost it, and he's assessed a second technical and kicked out of the game.  That's four technicals, on an absolute nothing play.  Manu Ginobli stepped up and hit all four free throws, and the Spurs got the ball back.

On the ensuing possession, the Spurs put up a brick and it seems clear that Kevin Love was fouled by DeJuan Blair on the rebound attempt.  When he didn't get the call, he reacted angrily, and he was T'ed up, too.  Five technical fouls in under fifteen seconds that led to the Spurs doubling their lead without having to run a play.  Without a punch thrown, without anyone really (until Rambis lost his shit) jawing a whole lot--five technicals-- all over what were, in fact, kind of shitty calls.

To be sure, David Stern has bigger fish to fry this year, but it might be worth a phone call to that officiating crew to say, "Umm, hey--you are kind of devaluing the technical foul when you call FIVE of them in under fifteen seconds of gameplay."

(Update:  I didn't realize it at the time, but according to the AP, referee Ken Mauer called all five of the technicals.)

Hey, Michigan State, Where's-a Mario?

Seen 1/11/11 in East Lansing, Michigan State hosting Wisconsin (who absolutely crumbled down the stretch).  Is that Luigi being portrayed by Wayne Rooney?

Monday, January 10, 2011

IDYFT Playoff Pick'em: Divisional Round

Well I have some time to wait before my flight out of New Orleans, so I thought I'd slap this down. Only total assholes picked the Seahawks to win, which makes their victory disappointing on a number of levels. However, the victory is probably good for football, as it proves that the automatic seed for divisional winners shouldn't be changed. Fair is fair, even if it benefits a scumbag cheater like Pete Carroll.

This contest is still open to all, and correct picks will be increasing in value through the playoffs. So jump in, it is far from over. If you've made a Long Bomb pick from the regular season it will still be honored.

The standings are tight to start and will only get more heated as we move through the rounds of playoffs. Included are Big Bonus and Bigger Bonus picks from last week, as well as the Long Bomb pick from the beginning of the regular season (a whomping +17).

Standings (AFC & NFC) (Champ) [Long Bomb Champ]
1. Leftnut: 6 pts (Pitt & Saints) (Pittsburgh) [Houston]
2. Big BM: 5 pts (Colts & Pack) (Packers) [Colts]
3. Ryan: 4 pts (Pats & ATL) (Pats) [Packers]
4. MuMan: 3 pts (Pats & Eagles) (Pats) [Saints]
5. Jess: 2 pts (Pats & ATL) (ATL) [Packers]
Adw: 2 pts (Pats & ATL) (Pats) [Jets]

Divisional Round Picks +3
1. Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers
2. Green Bay Packers at Atlanta Falcons
3. Seattle Seahawks at Chicago Bears
4. New York Jets at New England Patriots

Bonus Questions +2
5. Lowest total score?
6. Biggest Blowout?

Friday, January 07, 2011

The Pointlessness of Pre-Season Predictions, via Peter King--NFC Edition

A few days ago, to demonstrate the silliness of pre-season projections, I took a look at Peter King's Sports Illustrated article from the September 6 (2010) issue in which he predicted the records of all the teams, and predicted every playoff game.  He didn't do great in that regard, but was very helpful in my thesis that bullshit predictions are well and good and fun, but maybe 80 pages based on conjecture in August isn't really all that worthwhile.

As I said before:

That's the thesis here, and our lab rat, fat on Owner Box freebies, is SI's Peter King.  It would be fun, wouldn't it, if SI and Peter King reviewed his predictions from the September 6th issue, and talked about what he got right, and where he went incredibly wrong?  But they won't do that.  But I will! Yay, accountability!

But let's be fair--even in a season that has only 16 games, it is ridiculous to predict an exact record.  On the other hand, that's my point--it is ridiculous to predict an exact record.  And if a guy who has Hall of Fame votes can't do better than predicting a 3-13 season for the Rams, for example, what the hell is the point?  Or that the Chiefs would win six games, and finish at the bottom of the AFC West?  We pay money for this expert analysis?  (and to fair, in on online column, King seems to suggest that all of this is foolishness)
Let's score 2 points for a getting the team in the right spot in the standings, and 1 point bonus for each record that's correct.  So that's 16*2+16, or 48 points total per conference. 

After I finished reviewing King's 25% success rate (12 out of 48 points) I said that eyeballing the NFC, it appeared he had done much worse.  Which I guess is understandable, as everyone thought the NFC was a bit more wide-open.  But let's see if King's predictions suffered for it.

NFC East:  Eyeballing done right on this one.  King had this division all sorts of funked up--Giants at the top, Cowboys right below them (with a Wild Card!) and the Eagles just missing out.  And, hey, let's be fair--lots of people got this division all sorts of wrong.  But on the other hand--let's be unfair, and talk about how many points in my slapped-together, arbitrary system King got.  He nailed the Drunken Savages, last place, 6-10 record.  3 points.  He got the Eagles record right, he just thought that the Giants and Cowboys would be ahead of them.  1 point.  4 out of 12 points.  

NFC North:  The Eyeball test is again proven right on in the North.  Poor Pete bought into, even a little bit, the legend of Brett Favre (shocking, consider how Peter King has not once dreamt of gently tickling Favre's balls.  Really!) Yes, King anointed the Packers the best team, but had the Vikings right behind them (which I could have told you was trouble in August).  King saw the Bears as a sub-.500 team, which might be his biggest miss in the whole Conference, until the next division (foreshadowing!), and didn't like the Lions to get much better at all.  Let's be clear, before we get this total--it is hard to get a 4 team race so wrong that you don't get one team in the right place.  Surely first place or last place is locked up.  Even if you were picking, blindfolded, from a bag of tennis balls that had each team written on them, you'd have a 25% chance to get the first team right.  King goes 0-4.  He doesn't get a record right, either.  0 out of 12 points.

NFC South:  No one can blame King for picking the Saints to finish first, though a cursory look at how they dominated last year might lead one to wonder whether their defense could rack up the turnovers and short fields that made victories for the Saints so damn easy in 2009, and from there, wonder if 12-4 might be a little high for a team that won the Super Bowl the year before.  But King's most hilarious miss (and the reason I held onto this magazine from the day it came out) was his contention that Matt Moore and the running attack of Carolina, despite looking like shit all pre-season would somehow be a 10-6 team.  I have read King's reasons for why he thought that a couple of times, and they still don't make any damn sense.  The Falcons finishing behind Carolina?  That was hilarious in August.   To be clear--King had the best team in the NFC (record-wise) missing the playoffs, and had the 2-14 Panthers in the playoffs.  an emphatic 0 out of 12 points.

NFC West:  King correctly labeled this as a garbage dump, with the best record at 8-8.  I'm sure he looked at all of these teams, and said to himself, "No way can I predict that the best team in the conference will finish below .500."  And so, he didn't.  Can't fault him.  Except that I can.  Zero records correct (biggest miss, not shockingly, was putting the Rams at 3-13.  Who knew Sam Bradford could grow up that fast?  Second biggest miss was that San Fran could weather Singletary's Head Coaching incompetence and lack of a real QB, and count on Frank Gore being healthy all season to get to 8-8 and win the division).  Zero records correct.  0 out of 12 points.

Grand Total:  4 out of 48 points, or 8.3% success.  And let's keep in mind, 3 out of those 4 points came from predicting that the garbage dump that is Maryland's Drunken Savages would in fact ingest too much firewater and go wandering off their reservation.  Nice job, Peter King, paid writer on the NFL!  Sports Illustrated wanted you to predict the season, and I know you weren't too sure of yourself, and sure enough--I'm pretty sure SI could have had one of those painting cats, or dancing elephants or a woman do better than you did.

Old School Thursday (belated): Stetsasonic

More Terrible Judgement from Wisconsin: Snooki Edition

The AV Club has helpfully highlighted the pride of a man from Union Grove, WI.  His Snooki tattoo.  God damn you, Wisconsin.  Stop acting like shitheads for a day, please.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Roger Goodell is Doing What, PFT?

I really don't know where Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk is getting this idea from:

"No one currently seems to be putting the broader interests of the game above self interests.  The closest anyone has come to doing so is Commissioner Roger Goodell."

First of all, that first sentence is practically nonsensical.  The NFL is a business (as players are constantly reminded when they get traded) and interests of the owners and players are what's most important to them.  "The broader interests of the game" in this context, means next to nothing.  Asking players to take pay-cuts, so I can continue to sit on my ass and yell at my TV for a few months, seems kind of ridiculous.

As for that second sentence--well, I've spent the better part of the past year demonstrating ways in which Goodell hasn't done anything in his role as Commissioner (aside from handing out seemingly capricious punishments) but toe whatever line the ownership comes up with, regardless of feasibility, desirability or sanity.

Let's review, shall we?

Last week, Goodell wrote a public letter that suggested that expanding the season in an 18-game regular season was something that the fans had asked for.  Funny, in his letter, there is no mention of the real driving force of this--owners looking to get more money.  It was a fine piece of propaganda, but it certainly didn't suggest that Goodell was getting more serious about the issues facing this upcoming Collective Bargaining Agreement.

A couple of months ago, Commissioner Goodell went down to Atlanta to inform the leaders of that city that their stadium, less than 20 years old, was too old to host a Super Bowl, and if they wanted to bring the big game back down there, they should help the Falcons ownership build a new one.  Commissioner Goodell was showing his commitment to interests other than the owners when he went down to a city with 10% unemployment and held the Super Bowl Gun to their head on behalf of Arthur Blank (worth approximately $1.3 billion)?

One huge stumbling block in the negotiations is the fact that the owners won't open their books to the players.  It is a completely reasonable request of the players--why believe owners are hurting, if they aren't willing to demonstrate that hurt?  Roger Goodell, as Commissioner, could make some serious headway if he were serious about acting in a way that was "putting the broader interests of the game above self interest", by publicly stating that he agreed that opening the books would be a fine thing to do.  Instead,
at the very beginning of this process, he attempted to shut down the entire idea that opening the books was even the least bit worthwhile.

At that time, almost a year ago now, I said that it makes more sense to think of Goodell as the ownership's PR guy, as opposed to an actual Commissioner (who presumably would at least occasionally let the owners know when they are off the mark).  He's done nothing since then (at least publicly) to make me think anything different.  I'm wondering what the hell Mike Florio is referring to when he says nice things about the NFL Commissioner.  

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Gotta Agree with Kelly Dwyer This Time

I have disagreed with Dwyer's take on the Wolves at times, but I think he's got a good point here about the danger of David Kahn's praising of Darko Milicic.  The quote that got Dwyer all hot was from Monday's game against the Celtics--Kahn said, "We think that Darko can actually get to sort of a near All-Star if not All-Star level."

Dwyer's reaction is fair:  "But you have to leave the guy alone, David Kahn. Partly because initial expectations turned him into a lottery bust before he could legally buy a beer in this country, but mostly because these All-Star expectations just aren't feasible."

One would think the right way to groom Darko is to give him confidence behind the scenes, but not to oversell him to the public.  That is exactly what made him a bust--the guy was ready, at age 25, to simply quit on the NBA altogether.  His confidence was shot.  He's been coming around of late, and playing pretty solidly.  But let's not talk All Star game, "if Darko were to continue his trajectory upwards."  (Kahn again).  Let's just keep the pressure off Darko.  

Hell, The Timberwolves will have a hard enough time getting their legitimate All-Star folks into the All Star Game.  And by that, I of course mean KLOVE.  

We are talking about a guy in Darko who is still averaging less than 10 points a game.  Yes, he's put up some big numbers on occasion, and he's been much better on the whole than he was to start the year, but he's still wildly inconsistent.  In the last five games (not including the poop-fest transpiring against Charlotte as I write this), Darko has a game in which he put up 16 points (caveat:  it was against the Nets), another where he scored 14 points and finished with a plus/minus of +8.  However, against the Cavs, Darko played 17 minutes, scored 4 points, and had a plus/minus of -6, and against the Nuggets managed 2 points.  

I would expect my All Stars to dominate against bad teams, and Milicic just isn't there, and might not ever be. His 9.3 points a game is the result of yo-yo scoring and not steady productive play.  Let's get that steady productive play from Darko--which I think is a real possibility, and this team (in the long run) will be pretty damn solid.  He just needs to be good to be a bargain; asking him to be great is the mistake that the Pistons made in the first place, and doesn't need to be repeated.    

Congrats to Bert Blyleven!

He's finally in the Hall of Fame.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

The Pointlessness of Pre-Season Predictions, via Peter King--AFC Edition

It is a tradition, amongst NFL media types, to predict what will happen in the NFL season.  Who will make it to the playoffs?  Who will absolutely suck?  Is it remotely possible to know which teams will rise, and which teams will fall?  Given the parity, the factor of injuries, the sheer WTF factor that any given week in the NFL has, how silly is it to look at the schedule before a single game is played, and attempt to determine what will happen?

That's the thesis here, and our lab rat, fat on Owner Box freebies, is SI's Peter King.  It would be fun, wouldn't it, if SI and Peter King reviewed his predictions from the September 6th issue, and talked about what he got right, and where he went incredibly wrong?  But they won't do that.  But I will! Yay, accountability!

But let's be fair--even in a season that has only 16 games, it is ridiculous to predict an exact record.  On the other hand, that's my point--it is ridiculous to predict an exact record.  And if a guy who has Hall of Fame votes can't do better than predicting a 3-13 season for the Rams, for example, what the hell is the point?  Or that the Chiefs would win six games, and finish at the bottom of the AFC West?  We pay money for this expert analysis?  (and to fair, in on online column, King seems to suggest that all of this is foolishness)

Let's get into it.  And again, I might sound like I'm picking on Peter King, but that's just because his picks are handy (for me--I've got the magazine sitting right here. Can't find it online, though).  I think it is pretty stupid to waste time and print and money on any of this sort of crap, regardless who does it.  Sure, it's fun, I guess, in some bland, no-accountability way, but it doesn't fundamentally add anything to what is already a pretty great sport.  Let's score 2 points for a getting the team in the right spot in the standings, and 1 point bonus for each record that's correct.  So that's 16*2+16, or 48 points total per conference.

AFC East--King pegged the bottom two teams, (Dolphins and Bills).  Swapped the Jets and Patriots (he missed significantly on the strength of the Patriots, I would say, predicting a 10-6 year).  He didn't get any of their records correct; the aforementioned 10-6 was the best record he was expecting; 2-14 the worst. The Patriots and the Bills combined to win 6 more games than King predicted.   4 out of 12 points.

AFC North--King gets the top two in the North--Steelers and Ravens did finish 1 & 2.  But King imagined a snugger race for that second spot--he had the Ravens at 9-7, just inching out the 9-7 Bengals.  And we all know how it went in Cincinnati this year.  He also gets Cleveland's record correct at 5-11.  He can hardly be blamed for thinking that 5-11 wouldn't be good enough to finish 3rd in the division.  5 out of 12 points.

AFC South--Poor Pete--the AFC South was particularly nutty.  He's right about the Colts finishing first.  And nothing else.  Essentially, he got right what every schmuck in America would have guessed.  2 out of 12 points.

AFC West--Wasn't a kind division to prognosticators but it's hard to imagine getting it worse than King did--He didn't see the Chiefs winning more than 6 games (again, nothing odd about that).  In fact, he saw only one team finishing above .500.  Can you guess who?  The Chargers!  In fact, he's not far off in most of his records; aside from the whole Chiefs thing.  He pegs the Chargers record; gets the Raiders within a game of 8-8.  But still, the point of this is exercise is pointing the silliness of guessing entire Division races, and records  and so--1 out of 12 points.  

Grand total:  12 out of 48, or 25% success.  I'm just eyeballing, the NFC, but I'm pretty sure King does even worse there.  We'll see.

Seriously, Wisconsin--Enough With the (alleged) Bizarre Sex Crimes

We've been documenting these for awhile, and a few have been pretty disturbing but I don't what to say about this one.

Star Tribune's Paul Walsh writes, "Two Wisconsin men, one of them a twice-convicted sex offender, have denied in court that they used a live snake to rape a woman in a home in Eau Claire."

emphasis fucking mine.

IDYFT Playoff Pick'em: Wildcard Round

This Playoff Pick'em is open to all readers of IDYFT. Free to enter! The winner will receive a fabulous prize, such as an autographed copy of my novel To The Last Drop (or something else nearly as fabulous).

Jump in now, and make your picks. Correct picks will be worth 2 points, with bonus questions along the way.

Wildcard Round
1. New Orleans Saints at Seattle Seahawks
2. New York Jets at Indianapolis Colts
3. Baltimore Ravens at Kansas City Chiefs
4. Green Bay Packers at Philadelphia Eagles

Bonus Questions +1
5. Highest scoring game?
6. Closest game?

Big Bonus +7
7. AFC Champ?
8. NFC Champ?

Biggest Bonus+10
9. Superbowl Champion?

Monday, January 03, 2011

IDYFT NFL Pick'em: And the winner is ...

With no long-bomb bonus question winners from the early season, the IDYFT Pick'em came down to the final week of NFL action.

Final Standings
1. Jess: 76 pts (+4)
2. Ryan: 72 pts (+10)
3. Adw: 71 pts (+4)
4. MuMan: 53 pts (+6)
5. Leftnut: 47 pts (+6)
6. Josh: 46 pts (+5)
7. Big BM: 35 pts (+5)

That marks Jess's third victory in our little pick'em here. Congratulations. Truly.

Jess has already won a copy of my novel To The Last Drop, a To The Last Drop t-shirt, and a random item from my house (it was a Simpsons trivia game that she already had). I was rather hoping to spread the prizes out around the IDYFT community a bit more. But it was not to be.

So Jess, would you like a book from my collection, another random object from my house, or a Mystery Gift? Because I'm pretty cleared of relevant items.

IDYFT Cup Final
1. Chicago Bears = +2
2. Green Bay Packers = +1
3. DC Skins = 0
4. Detroit Lions = -1
5. MN Vikings = -2

Roger Goodell, Obfuscating

If you have signed up for news from the NFL, you got Roger Goodell's letter talking about the future of the league (specifically, some of the changes getting proposed for the CBA).  If not, you can read it here.

But why bother, when it is peppered with such toasty bullshit as this:  "A significant change would be to resolve fan complaints about preseason by modifying our 20-game format. Fans tell us they don’t like the quality of the preseason games, and we’re listening. An enhanced season of 18 regular season and two preseason games would not add a single game for the players collectively, but would give fans more meaningful, high-quality football."

Obviously, this would add to the players workload.  Teams currently (generally) use two pre-season games to get a look at their young guys and two games to prepare for the regular season with their starters.  I think it is safe to assume that most organizations would feel forced to play their starters for at least one of those pre-season games to make sure their gameplan is flowing.  You can rest slightly banged up starters in pre-season games that maybe you can't for a regular season game.  I don't think there's any doubt that a healthy veteran player would end up playing at least four more quarters, and probably more.  Maybe that's no big deal; maybe you'll say that they are millionaires, and they should just suck it up.  That's fine, if that's your position--but let's be clear here--saying that you would be adding no extra games to the players collectively is true only in the most literal reading of the change.  It is a fundamentally dishonest position to take.  But that's what you get from this commissioner.

The fans don't complain about the quality of the pre-season games just because.  Acting as if fans are the ones demanding more regular season games is bit mendacious, to say the least.  The problem fans have with pre-season games is that they cost just as much to attend as regular season games.  And for two of those games, no starters are playing.  The obvious solution that would benefit fans (but not owners, who Goodell is shilling for here) would be to cut the cost the prices of the pre-season games.

What's really silly, though, is to suggest that adding two more games would add a lot "more meaningful, high-quality football."  Sure, maybe for a couple of teams, it may do that.  This year, I'm sure fans of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the NY Giants would have not minded a couple of more games.  But if you were a fan of half of the teams this year, you couldn't wait for this season to be over.  By my count, sixteen of the thirty-two teams in this league just wrapped up a sixteen game schedule below .500.  Fully half of the league was done and buried by Week 17, and adding two more games to the schedule wasn't going to change that.

If you are a Vikings fan, do you really want two more weeks to see if this team can get to 8-10?  Maybe the Panthers could win a third game.  Maybe everything could fall into place for the Arizona Cardinals and they could get into the playoffs with a 7-11 record.  That sounds promising.

No, wait--it sounds like more garbage at the end of the year, when teams like the ones I mentioned and a dozen more besides are done playing and just want to go home.  There is no grand protest from the fans about the need to add more games to what is just about a perfectly balanced schedule.  Pretending that there is?  That's just what you get from an NFL Commissioner these days.

Jason Aaron Picks the Playoffs (Part 1, Hopefully)

We've talked to comic book writin' bad-ass Jason Aaron a few times, and recommended some of his work a fair number of times as well.  He's a busy guy, usually writing a couple of ongoing titles at the same time (Scalped is still kicking ass, and he's writing a Wolverine book, too), so I asked him to provide predictions of a sentence or two for the upcoming round of playoffs.  Hopefully, he'll have time in the upcoming weeks to keep this a regular thing for the postseason.  Don't expect him to pick against his Steelers any time soon.

RAVENS AT CHIEFS -- Arrowhead will be rocking, but so will the Ravens D. Chiefs loss though won't dampen what's been an amazing season for them.

SAINTS AT SEAHAWKS -- The beginning of the most improbable run to the Super Bowl in NFL history or three and a half hours of your life you'll never get back? I think you know the answer to that.

PACKERS AT EAGLES -- Definitely the game of the week. A few weeks ago, I was thinking one of these two teams would wind up representing the NFC in Dallas. Neither one's quite as hot as they were then, but still the winner of this will be a very dangerous team down the stretch. I'm leaning toward the Packers, if for  no other reason than that Aaron Rodgers helped power me to victory in fantasy football this year.

JETS AT COLTS -- I can't pick four road teams to win, so I've gotta go with the Colts here. The Jets made for an enjoyable HBO series, but I never bought into the hype that they were an elite team. That offense that looked so scary on paper back in August doesn't really scare anybody now. As a Steelers fan, I knew what the Jets were getting when they so happily scooped up Santonio Holmes. The guy sometimes makes amazing plays. Other times, he just completely disappears. He played big time football in the playoffs during the Steelers last Super Bowl run. If he shows up big here, the Jets can win. But something tells me he won't. Ole's Santonio, like the Jets as a whole, still seems to have some growing up to do.
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