Minor Thoughts from me to you

Archives for Sports (page 1 / 1)

Congrats San Diego, you win by losing Chargers →

The people of San Diego won by losing. Chargers owner Dean Spanos did the corporate equivalent of taking his ball and going home Thursday, bolting for Los Angeles because San Diego residents had balked at building his team a fancy new stadium. Imagine the nerve of those people! Refusing to spend millions for a stadium that, studies have shown, would likely end up costing taxpayers more than what is originally estimated while providing less in return.

For a team owned by a family whose net worth was $2.4 billion as of Thursday, according to Forbes, no less. Yes, billion. With a B.

Emphatically seconded. Sports owners need to fund their own opulent stadiums. And if they don't think it's a good investment, why should taxpayers be expected to pay?

Scott Feschuk's guide to Super Bowl Sunday →

I didn't see this until after the game had started, but it was too good not to post.

I’m not saying a roll of Mentos could provide better analysis than Phil Simms of CBS. I’m not saying it—however, I am typing it in a magazine and placing it on a long banner pulled by a biplane. Listen for yourself: When someone makes a great play, Simms will say: “Whoa, that’s a great play!” He is the perfect analyst for football viewers who can’t figure out how to face their television screen. (To be fair, that does account for roughly 40 per cent of Cleveland Browns fans.)

The play-by-play duties will be handled by Jim Nantz, whose affection for Manning is so firmly established that, well, prepare yourself for this: “And here’s The Sheriff once again not accidentally coming out to play in his street clothes. PEYTON MANNING: WHAT A PRO!”

Yep. That about sums the experience of listening to Phil Simms.

Carolina’s Cam Newton is impossibly athletic and congenitally jubilant. He is known for celebratory dancing and for presenting the football to an adorable child after each touchdown. Naturally, sports pundits hate his guts. They bellyache about his “showboating” ways. This is yet another reason for Sportsnet executives to green-light my proposed reality show: Let’s Lock Some Sports Pundits in a Basement!

“Naturally, sports pundits hate his guts.” Naturally. I've never understood the Cam Newton hate. I love him and his enthusiasm for the game. Ask any kid playing backyard football, backyard baseball, or blacktop basketball—the showboating is an integral element of exuberant play.

This entry was tagged. NFL

How the Daily Fantasy Sports Industry Turns Fans Into Suckers

Jay Caspian Kang, in the New York Times Magazine, wrote a good overview of what daily fantasy sports are and how they're currently rigged against casual players.

I initially intended to write an article about the bro culture that had sprouted up around D.F.S., which, from a distance, reminded me of the sweaty, sardonic camaraderie you typically see at high-stakes poker events. At the time, the crusade against D.F.S. felt a few degrees too hot — DraftKings and FanDuel struck me as obviously gambling sites, but the game itself felt sort of like homework. You research players. You build a spreadsheet. You project data and enter a team. You watch the team either fulfill or fall short of your projections. The next day, you start over again. The ruinous thrill of other forms of gambling — sports betting, blackjack, poker — just wasn’t there.

Instead, I came across a different sort of problem: a rapacious ecosystem in which high-volume gamblers, often aided by computer scripts and optimization software that allow players to submit hundreds or even thousands of lineups at a time, repeatedly take advantage of new players, who, after watching an ad, deposit some money on DraftKings and FanDuel and start betting.

​The biggest problem is that expert players relentlessly hunt for, and take advantage of, inexperienced players.

Bumhunting” is a word that comes from the poker world. It means seeking out an inexperienced player and mercilessly exploiting him for all he’s worth. Bumhunters are pariahs because they turn what can be a cerebral, competitive game into its most cynical iteration, and, in the process, discourage that new player from ever coming back. But poker has built-in safeguards against rampant bumhunting — new players tend to play at lower limits, which make it harder for bumhunters to take in huge profits. The bumhunter’s dream is to play thousands of games of poker a day against a never-ending line of fresh, inexperienced newbies. He falls short of that lofty goal because he has to actually bet, raise or fold his hands – he can play multiple tables at once, but he cannot fully automate his bumhunting.

In the game lobbies of DraftKings and FanDuel, however, sharks are free to flood the marketplace with thousands of entries every day, luring inexperienced, bad players into games in which they are at a sizable disadvantage. The imbalanced winnings in D.F.S. have been an open secret since this past September, when Bloomberg Businessweek published an exposé on the habits of high-volume players. The numbers are damning. According to DraftKings data obtained by the New York State attorney general’s office, between 2013 and 2014, 89.3 percent of players had a negative return on investment. A recent McKinsey study showed that in the first half of the 2015 Major League Baseball season, 91 percent of the prize money was won by a mere 1.3 percent of the players.

​It's nearly impossible to avoid being matched against someone who vastly exceeds your own skill level.

For the 17 weeks I played D.F.S., whether at a $5 entry fee or for $100, I routinely was matched up against top players. But unless I examined win rates and researched the strengths and weaknesses of my opponents, I would never have known that I was being repeatedly bumhunted by high-volume players.

On Dec. 16, for example, I entered three $20 N.B.A. head-to-head contests on DraftKings. My opponents were gunz4hire, Dinkpiece and Nadia4Fashion. Gunz4hire was then ranked 47th on the Rotogrinders players ranking and is generally considered one of the better players in the world. Dinkpiece, who was 20th on that same list, is the alias for Drew Dinkmeyer, a former stock trader whose winnings in D.F.S. have been so well publicized that he has his own Wall Street Journal stipple drawing.

On Christmas, the biggest day in the N.B.A.’s regular season, I entered 17 head-to-head contests on DraftKings for prices between $1 and $20. Once again, I was matched up against Dinkpiece and gunz4hire, along with a handful of other professionals.

The next day, I entered three more $20 N.B.A. contests. I was able to avoid Dinkpiece and gunz4hire, but found myself in a $20 head-to-head against Birdwings, the 2nd-ranked player in the Rotogrinders rankings.

In three days, I played three of the best D.F.S. players in the world.

​Kang ends with a hope for the future. I was glad to see that he didn't call for a large, regulatory framework or an entire shutdown of the daily fantasy sports industry. Instead, he points out that simple transparency could eliminate much of the problem.

There is, in theory, a version of D.F.S. that could work. All that’s required is a transparent marketplace in which a player can reasonably expect to enter a head-to-head or 50-50 or even one of the big-money tournaments without going up against hundreds of lineups generated by professional gamblers who have been lying in wait for him.

This entry was tagged. News Regulation

On Super Bowl Parties

There are two kinds of Super Bowl parties: Super Bowl parties and Super Bowl parties. A Super Bowl party is about getting together to watch the Super Bowl. This is not the commercials. This is the action on the field. It's the heroics (or blunders) of 11 players on offense, 11 players on defense, 11 players on special teams. It's the decisions made by two head coaches, six coordinators, multiple position coaches, ball boys, and water boys. The Super Bowl party is about watching the football game, either while acting as an armchair quarterback or while taking the opportunity to learn more about America's most popular sport.

A Super Bowl party is just a social event. The game's on TV, but it's probably a smaller TV or else the volume is turned down. People pay attention to the TV, but only during breaks in the action, when the commericals are on. The host sets out some snacks and invites some people over. They spend the evening talking, hanging out, and only occasionally watching the TV. The Super Bowl party takes place on Super Bowl Sunday, but it actually has very little to do with the Super Bowl.

I go to Super Bowl parties and I host Super Bowl parties. I'm a football fan and I watch (what should be) the best game of the year. I like to watch with others who are interested in the game and who are interested in critiquing the game or learning about the sport.

Want to come over to watch the Super Bowl?

This entry was tagged. NFL

How the Packers Lost the NFC Championship Game

Last night's NFC Championship Game, between the Green Bay Packers and the Seattle Seahawks, was very disappointing. It was a game that could have turned around the defensive playoff disappointments of the past few years and proven that the Packers are finally able to beat the NFC's toughest teams.

The Packers scored 16 points points in the first quarter and made the Seahawks offense look powerless. After the lead held up through 3 quarters, I began to think that the Packers actually would win in Seattle. Then, over a 7 minute period, it all fell apart. A 19–7 lead turned into a 28–22 loss.

After it was over, I was tempted to blame the defense for the loss. After all, the Seahawks scored 28 points. After some reflection, I've decided that I mostly blame the offense and the special teams. The defense really has gotten better and everyone should acknowledge that.

I'll quickly discuss the special teams. Mason Cosby kicked five field goals and scored 15 points. The kickoff coverage team recovered a fumble. But that's offset by the field goal coverage team giving up a touchdown and the onside kick "hands team" failing to recover the onside kick. Directly and indirectly, special teams gave up 14 points, more than enough to sink the team.

I reviewed each of Green Bay's 13 offensive possessions. I saw a lot of missed opportunities. The Green Bay defense forced 4 turnovers, and forced the Seahawks into four 3-and-out punts. Six different drives started with a field of 57 yards or less. In spite of these gifts, the offense only managed one touchdown and 5 field goals.

The numbers are stark.

  • After 5 turnovers (one from special teams, four from defense), the offense had a chance to score 15–35 points. They only managed to score 6 points and move the ball a combined total of 71 yards.
  • The offense put together 3 drives of 48 yards or more. They only scored a combined 6 points off of these drives.
  • Off of the four quick defensive stops (forcing the Seattle offense into 3-and-outs), the Green Bay offense had a chance to score 12–28 points. They only moved the ball a total of 133 yards and only scored a combined 13 points.

Throughout the second half of the season, the offense showed a disturbing tendency to stall out. They often had to settle for field goals instead of touchdowns. That sunk the team yesterday as the team got inside the Seattle 30-yard line 5 times, but only scored one touchdown.

The Packers offense could have scored an additional 44 points. Those points could have put the game out of reach and made the Seattle offense completely one dimensional. Instead, those missed opportunities allowed Seattle to stay within striking distance. Russell Wilson, one of the game's best comeback quarterbacks, finally struck—ending Green Bay's season.

This entry was tagged. Green Bay Packers NFL

Bakhtiari takes job as Rodgers' bodyguard seriously →

Tyler Dunne, of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, recently profiled Packers left tackle David Bakhtiari.

As a kid, Bakhtiari said energy was always “spewing” out of him. He was the class clown. Rambunctious. His parents called him the “Tasmanian Devil.” And his older brother, Eric Bakhtiari, remembers one freakout in particular when David stood up in a resource class at school and screamed “Ahhh!,” weaved around the desks and left the room.

... As a player, Bakhtiari is a visual learner.

When the Packers’ offensive linemen first met in the classroom last season, Bakhtiari would stammer through empty answers. He couldn’t articulate a blocking assignment. He said left guard Josh Sitton — the player pivoted to his right every play — thought he was “a complete idiot” in the classroom.

“Then we go out on the field,” Bakhtiari said, “and I don’t (expletive) up once. It just makes sense to me out there. But if you ask me to verbalize what we’re doing I’d just say, ‘Dude, I don’t know.’ Let’s just go out on the field and I’ll show you.’”

When he takes notes on specific plays, Bakhtiari doesn’t use words. His notepad is a constellation of X’s and O’s and arrows.

It's a good reminder that intelligence comes in different forms. Football players are frequently derided as neanderthals who's only outlet is violence. And, yet, I'm fairly certain that I couldn't breakdown football plays in real time the way that Bakhtiari can.

This entry was tagged. Green Bay Packers NFL

The Art of the Snap Count →

I'm always interested when I learn more about the hidden complexities of playing football at the NFL's elite level.

Most of the time, the Packers will meander along snapping the ball on Rodgers' command of "Ready, ready," or the first, second, third or even fourth "Hut."

But with the Packers generally operating from a muddle huddle this season, Rodgers usually has plenty of time to engage in verbal high jinks at the line if he chooses.

"It's not just going on a double count," said Packers tackle Bryan Bulaga. "There's more than just what you hear on the microphone.

"There's some where he'll start in completely different on a cadence. It messes with guys."

Many defensive coaching staffs study TV tapes of previous games in an attempt to find audio patterns of a quarterback's call.

"But if you're playing Aaron Rodgers you can't do that or you're going to jump offsides," [Mike] Trgovac, the Packers' defensive line coach said. "Aaron knows the right situation to use it (hard count)."

There are times during games when the offensive linemen will tell Rodgers the defense is timing his cadence and request a hard count.

"He knows it helps us up front," said Bulaga. "He does a great job mixing it up so those guys can't just tee off."

This entry was tagged. NFL Green Bay Packers

Goodbye Paul, Hello Pat →

Reed, at Pitt Blather, says goodbye to Pitt head coach Paul Chryst.

The last three seasons are riddled with examples of poor game day management and head scratching decision making by Chryst. He had multiple brain freezes when it came to clock management and made some strange red zone calls. He made good decisions also but those just don’t stick out like his bad ones do.

We won some nice games over the past three years beating ranked schools such as ND, VT and Rutgers and our last game, a win over Miami was satisfying also. But in all honesty those don’t offset the bad feelings we had with the losses to YSU and Syracuse in ’12, then a poor Navy team and North Carolina last year and then the real kick in our collective asses being the loss to Akron this season.

He just never got us to the level of ‘beating the teams we should’ and that left a lousy taste in the mouth which wasn’t offset by the better winning games he did have. Always left us wanting a little bit more Paul did. I don’t really begrudge a 19-19 record as I think he really did have to rebuild the team and the roster.

Good luck with that Wisconsin. The Badgers have to hope that he doesn't have the same issues there that he did at Pitt.

Reed also has a nice note about the difference between being a college and NFL head coach.

Yes, Wannstedt was a NFL head coach but to me that is a very different animal than being a college head coach in that he didn’t have to answer to an Athletic Director or to the Chancellor, Donors, Boosters and Player Alumni. That is a huge drain of energy for a college HC. On top of all that the HC has to steer and corral 100+ young men into positive behaviors and academic actions. Not an easy thing to do consistently, effectively and well.

NFL head coaches don’t really have to deal with amount of personnel problems on the level that college head coaches do. So there is a lot more autonomy and less overall responsibility in the NFL than there is at a university where the football tail doesn’t wag the university’s body.

Aaron Rodgers gets the upper hand in the 40 seconds between plays →

An interesting look at what goes on on the football field when it doesn't look like anything's going on on the football field.

He also is sure to make mental notes off the previous play. It might be how the defensive end reacted as he faked on the back side of a run, or what he can see of a cornerback covering a receiver.

By the 30-second mark the voice of Mike McCarthy generally is being heard by Rodgers through the coach-to-quarterback electronic communication device.

There are two speakers in the helmet. When Rodgers had his helmet off during training camp and teammates cruised by, they invariably were stunned how loud it was.

"I'm, like, 'Yeah, try wearing it all the time,'" said Rodgers.

This entry was not tagged.

Seething Midwest Explodes Over Lombardi Cartoons →

Like a pot of bratwurst left unattended at a Lambeau Field pregame party, simmering tensions in the strife-torn Midwest boiled over once again today as rioting mobs of green-and-gold clad youth and plump farm wives rampaged through Wisconsin Denny’s and IHOPs, burning Texas toast and demanding apologies and extra half-and-half.

The spark igniting the latest tailgate hibachi of unrest: a Texas newsletter's publication of caricatures of legendary Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi.

Protestors demonstrated against the images throughout the Badger State yesterday, with violent egging and cow-tipping incidents reported in Oconomowac, Pewaukee, Sheboygan, Ozaukee, Antigo, Oshkosh, Waubeno, Wauwautosa, Waunewoc, Wyocena, Waubeka, and Washawonamowackapeepee.

Fantastic. Another great piece from Iowahawk.

This entry was tagged. Humor

Let’s Start Paying College Athletes →

Over the last few months, in consultation with sports economists, antitrust lawyers and reformers, I put together the outlines of what I believe to be a realistic plan to pay those who play football and men’s basketball in college. Although the approach may appear radical at first glance, that’s mainly because we’ve been brainwashed into believing that there’s something fundamentally wrong with rewarding college athletes with cold, hard cash. There isn’t. Paying football and basketball players will not ruin college sports or cause them to become “subcontractors.” Indeed, given the way big-time college sports are going, paying the players may be the only way to save them.

I'm in.

This entry was tagged. Jobs

Brett Favre is Retiring

It's not on the Packers home page yet, but it looks like it's official: Brett Favre is retiring.

ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported that according to Favre's agent, Buss Cook, Favre informed Packers coach Mike McCarthy of his decision Monday night.

A sure-fire first-ballot Hall of Famer, Favre, acquired in a trade with the Atlanta Falcons, led the Packers back to the NFL's elite. He retires with 5,377 carrer completions in 8,758 attempts for 61,655 yards, 442 touchdowns and 288 interceptions.

Update: The official Packers press release:

Brett Favre has informed us of his intention to retire from the Green Bay Packers and the NFL. He has had one of the greatest careers in the history of the National Football League, and he is able to walk away from the game on his own terms - not many players are able to do that.

The Packers owe him a tremendous debt of gratitude. He has given Packers fans 16 years of wonderful memories, a Super Bowl championship among them, that will live on forever. Brett's many accomplishments on the field are legendary. He leaves the game holding virtually every career passing record, plus his consecutive starts streak, which may never be duplicated.

The uniqueness of Brett Favre - hispersonality, charisma and love of the game - undoubtedly will leave him as one of the enduring figures in NFL history.

More from USA Today:

The news was a surprise to at least one of Favre's teammates. Most players expected Favre to return after a successful 2007 season.

"I just saw it come across the TV," Packers wide receiver Koren Robinson said, when reached on his cellphone by the Associated Press.

... But it was widely assumed he would be back.

"I think he's going to come back," Packers receiver Donald Driver said in early January. "I wouldn't be surprised if he comes back. He's having a great year, so it'd be great to see him come back if he decides to."

Retiring Packers chairman Bob Harlan figured Favre would be back, too.

"Yeah, I think he'll be back," Harlan said, on his final official day as the Packers' top executive. "And I felt that way the last couple years, when we've had these long debates about it. I just think he's such a competitor that as long as he feels he can compete, he's going to keep coming back."

Still, in the week leading up to the playoff game against Seattle, Favre said his injuries were starting to linger.

"I'm not getting any younger," said Favre, 38. "I wake up some days and think I can't even touch my toes. I think about that. I think, well, next year is not going to be like some refreshing, awakening season where all of a sudden you're going to feel great. That's not going to happen.

"I carry some of these things with me that maybe you wouldn't see. I tend to dwell on them, at least internally, more than I used to. I don't write them off as quickly as I used to."

Last month, coach McCarthy said that Favre's decision would be a complex one.

With Favre's 16th season in Green Bay in 2007 one of his best, and the team coming within an overtime score of advancing to the Super Bowl, some have considered it a no-brainer that Favre will return. He's playing well, and the team is having success, so what's there to think about?

"But that really has nothing to do with it," McCarthy said during his press conference from the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. "It's not the fact that he knows he still can play. He had a great time this year.

"It's just the fact that he's played a lot of football, and he's had to fully commit himself and his family year in and year out. When you do get older, you have more responsibility, and he just wants to make sure he'll be able to commit himself 100 percent."

That commitment is to the regimen of offseason workouts, training camp, preseason games and in-season meetings and practices. That's a grind for any player, but particularly one who's been in the league as long as Favre.

"His career is very unique. Who else could he talk to about this?" McCarthy said. "Guys that are 37, 38, 39 years old, that can still play two or three years? And that's his thing. He said, 'I've played a lot of football and I just want to make sure I'm doing the right thing and I want to make sure I can commit 100 percent.'"

This entry was tagged. Brett Favre

Putting Rumors to Rest

If Condoleezza Rice truly doesn't want to be President, she could take another job:

Condoleezza Rice, a bona fide football fan, is not applying for the newly opened post of NFL commissioner -- not now, anyhow, her spokesman said carefully on Monday.

"At the moment, the secretary is enjoying being secretary of state," said McCormack of his boss, an avid Cleveland Browns fan.

The wiggle-room in his response after NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue announced he would retire resonated off frequent only half-joking statements by Rice that as a lifelong football fan she aspires to run the league one day.

I'd support her for commish. (Also, it's not every day that I get to file a post as both "Sports" AND "National Politics".)

This entry was tagged. NFL

Super Bowl Pick

I'll take Jerome Bettis on his home turf and the unstoppable Ben Roethlisburger. Steelers by 14.

UPDATE: It was actually Steelers by 11. You can read a recap of the game courtesy of Captain Ed. Patrick of Badger Blogger live-blogged the Super Bowl commercials. If you missed the game, but are curious about the commercials, that's your stop.

This entry was tagged. NFL