May 31, 2011

How To Make NCAA Sanctions More Sanction-y: Deferred Punishment

     I came up with this idea after the USC sanctions last year, and had this post in mind when I started blogging.  The problem was timing.  It was important to wait until some idiot at some university did some illegal action.  It was bound to happen eventually.  And after Jim Tressel's forced resignation yesterday morning, the moment felt right.
     Here's the problem with NCAA sanctions:  they don't hurt the right people.  By removing some arbitrary amount of scholarships and postseason games right away, the people that suffer most are current players that didn't have anything to do with it.  Any recruits would still see postseason action in their last year or two.  The loss of scholarships just means a worse supporting cast for the aforementioned current players.
     The way I would like to see sanctions done is to start them after three years.  So Ohio State would miss the postseason starting in the 2014 season.  That way, players that joined the team before the scandal would get their senior bowl game, and players who signed this year could play in bowls through their junior year and have ample time to transfer if they choose to do so.  Recruiting would be hit hard because kids would shy away from a team that will miss bowl games in the later years of their collegiate career.  And the few bad years resulting from the bad recruiting classes would make the school a lot less potent in the future.  Look what happened to Michigan after they had a few bad years.  No one takes them that seriously anymore.  That's the kind of thing that should be happening to programs with huge violations.
     If you want to punish someone, you need to make it count.  And for the NCAA, all they have to do is have a little patience.

May 26, 2011

W17L Self-Analysis: Readability

     There's a fun secret on Microsoft Word.  You can set it up so that after you use the spell check, it gives you the number of words, sentences, paragraphs, and characters you used; averages like words per sentence; and a couple of "readability scores".  One of them, the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level score, translates the averages mentioned before into a number that tells you what grade in school should be able to read your document.  For example, if the FKGL score was 8.0, the average 8th grader would be expected to be able to understand it.  So if you get a 6, you laugh at yourself for dumbing down your writing, and if you get a 10, you laugh at yourself for trying to be Ernest Hemingway.
     So I took my 17 posts to Microsoft Word and found the readability of each.  And because nothing is more exciting than analysis of analysis, I'll share with you the things I found.

Hardest Post to Read:  A Relegation Idea I Didn't Come Up With (score of 10.6)

     I found this kind of shocking, because the next highest score was a 9.0 for the LeBron post.  I'm guessing the issues were when I tried to make the hope sentence extra-beautiful, and when I turned NFL/UFL-style into one word.

Easiest Post to Read:  In Honor Of Cinco De Mayo, Cinco Great NFL Names (score of 0.0)

     In my defense, it's not that hard to comprehend a list of 5 names.  If you don't count the names post or the haikus, which scored around one, then the easiest post to read was Forget About The Closer, Find Someone That's Open-er, with a score of 6.3.  Which makes sense while I re-read it, because I used a lot of short sentences in that one.

Average Post:  Score of 6.3

     I care about 7th graders.  I don't want to confuse them.  Also, this counts the names and haikus.  Without them, my average score is a pretty respectable 7.6.  The words per sentence category kills me, because I always use long sentences.  Just for the sake of perspective, this recent Rick Reilly article scored a 5.7, mostly because he didn't drag out sentences like me.  This random post scored a 7.2.  I feel a little disappointed now.

May 24, 2011

A Relegation Idea I Didn't Come Up With

     In my introductory page, I mentioned that this blog would focus on solutions to problems in sports, something that I may or may not have gotten away from.  But I recently coaxed a post out of Jay Sutermeister at Seasons in the Sun that really reminded me of something I would have put here.  In regards to relegation, I prefer to let fans of bad teams feel some unwarranted hope that next year, their team will only be sort of awful and may contend for the division through the first two months or so of the season.  But if we have to drop teams from the NFL, NBA, NHL, and MLB every year, I think Sutermeister's plan would work really well.  Besides the awkwardness of watching the Bills potentially play arena style, Canadian style, and NFL/UFL-style football in three consecutive weeks, there are no major flaws I can see with his idea.

Take a look at his original post and his response to my response.  Chances are you won't be disappointed.

Extreme Tennis Overload, And An Idea I Only Came Up With Halfway Through This Post

     I dread every tennis Grand Slam event, because that means instead of hearing insightful discussion on the hottest sports topics of the day, ESPN2 broadcasts tennis all afternoon, no matter how uninteresting the matches are.  There's a solid week of 4-set matches between a fringe top 20 player and the hopeless unseeded guy, and straight-set demolitions of another hopeless unseeded guy at the hands of Federer, Nadal, or Djokovic.  I don't think people who care about tennis even watch those matches.  Why not wait until the quarterfinals or something before putting it on national TV?  The only solid-looking match I saw today was Nadal/Isner, and I would've only cared about the last set.  Does anyone even watch a whole early-round tennis match?
     This leads me to the idea I just came up with.  ESPN should have a channel called ESPN Highlights.  (Not that they really need another one; they already have at least 4 channels, but just bear with me.)  ESPN Highlights would show the most exciting thing happening at the moment, sort of like NFL Red Zone, but in real time.  The awesome tall American guy just took Nadal to a 5th set?  Let's get that on ESPNH.  That close 4th quarter NBA game is now a 10-point game?  Switch it to an extra-inning MLB game.  ESPNH would be the greatest thing to happen to sports since the yellow first down line.  You could get your fill of athletic suspense without having to search all over for it.  Though I'm pretty sure it would have had the Mahut/Isner Wimbledon match on for three days straight.

The Holy Grail Of Fandom

     The sports world has been buzzing over Joakim Noah using a gay slur toward a fan in Miami, and a lot of it has dealt with how much Noah should have been fined by the NBA.  Many people are comparing his offense to Kobe using the same word about a referee a few weeks ago, for which Kobe was fined $100,000.  The heart of the issue is whether it's worse to curse at an official or at a paying customer.
     To me, the answer is obvious.  Harassing a referee is far worse.  The fan probably loved it.  If he had the money, he might have paid Noah $50,000 rather than wanting him fined.  I'm sure the guy is bragging to all his friends about how an NBA player called him gay.
     I've had rampside seats at a couple of WWE shows, and the main goal for anyone there is to interact with the wrestlers.  You ask for high fives, you make a sign in support of your favorite wrestler, you reach out and try to touch one as they walk past, and you say the meanest things you can without upsetting the parents of the little kids around you.  Anything to get a wrestler to notice you.  One of my favorite moments at a WWE event is still when 400-pounder Mark Henry turned around and told our section to shut up.
     There's nothing more special than getting a moderately famous person to notice you out of an entire crowd of people and have them say something directly to you.  Even if that exchange is horrendously rude.

May 20, 2011

Why I Really Like LeBron James

     Fans of the NBA and sports in general love to hate LeBron James, and for a lot of different reasons.  He has a big ego, he folds under pressure, and he's trying to win a championship the easy way by joining another superstar and a half on the Heat.
     But there's one thing about LeBron that I think makes him awesome.  He has enough talent to win a scoring title every year, but instead he makes the effort to get everyone else involved.  This is a guy who says he wants to be like the Magic Johnson of the Heat:  someone who will get some points, but is most valuable because he does all the other things that will help his team win.  Very few players appreciate a good pass like LeBron James.

May 14, 2011

W17L Self-Analysis: Post Length

     I was reading a long blog post and wondered to myself exactly how long my posts really were.  Because I like to think I'm concise and straight to the point, but I'm sure that's not the case.  Since there's nothing better than analyzing analysis, I thought I'd share my results with you:

Longest Post:  The Real Reason Some Players Are "Winners" (438 words)
     I think my problem here was that I wasn't entirely sure what I was saying, so I just kept trying to explain myself and it got a little out of hand.  That, and I had 3 bullet points to expand upon.

Shortest Post:  In Honor Of Cinco De Mayo, Cinco Great NFL Names (10 words)
     This wasn't exactly fair, because the title cut out about half of the words I would have needed to explain posting five first names and five last names.  And I didn't say anything very worthwhile in that post.

Average Post:  217 words
     Not including this post, because that would just be weird.  If you also exclude the May of Greatness and Sports Haiku posts, leaving the actual meaningful stuff, it comes out to 312 words, which is somewhere between a long tweet and a short magazine article.  I think I can live with that.


Forget About The Closer, Find Someone That's Open-er

     5 seconds left.  Down by 2 points.  Who do you want taking the last shot?  It's a question asked on sports shows probably every 20 seconds.  And every time, the analysts bring up all the big names in basketball:  Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony, and so on.  (Not LeBron James, though; he must be terrible.)  Yet there's always one man that never comes up in this discussion.
     The open man.
     Obviously you want to get your non-LeBron superstar open for a game-winning-or-tying shot, but the defense knows that to, and they'll do anything to keep it from happening.  So you find someone else.  Every team has at least one or two decent players that can make an open three but don't attract attention from the defense.  I think Miami has six of them.  Teams need to go to them instead of letting their superstar force a shot over a defender.
     Think of it this way.  The people at ESPN tell me that the average shooting percentage on potential game-winning-or-tying shots in the last 10 seconds (or something like that) is around 25%.  I think Kobe's was 27% and LeBron's was around 30%.  Are you telling me there isn't anyone on the Lakers that can shoot better than 27% when his defender botches his assignment?  That's how Derek Fisher and Robert Horry became famous for having clutchness.  They made open shots because defenses were too focused on Kobe and/or Shaq.
     So why bother discussing whether James or Wade should take the last shot?  I'd pick Mario Chalmers, Eddie House, Mike Miller, Kyle Korver, and James Jones over those two.  Because no one would expect it.  Because clutch basketball is just like regular basketball:  in order to make the shot, you have to take the best one you can get.

May 10, 2011

Sports Haiku 2: Paul Pierce Again

In honor of Kevin Garnett botching the final regulation play in Game 4 against Miami:

Where's the screen, KG?
I can't shoot over LeBron
You disappoint me

May 8, 2011

Why The Media Shouldn't Quit On The 2010-11 Lakers Just Yet

     After the Dallas Mavericks demolished the Los Angeles Lakers this afternoon, 122-86, the entire media has finally written off the Lakers' playoff chances this year.  You might think I'm a little nuts, and maybe I am, but I think the Lakers can come back from this 4-0 deficit.  I've heard the stats:  59 teams have gone down 4-0 in a seven-game series, and not a single one of them was able to storm back to a series win.
     But if any team can get 4 wins in 3 games, it's L.A.  They have the best player in the league in Kobe Bryant.  Kobe is not going to give up on this series, even if the NBA executives themselves think it's over.  His intensity is contagious, and his teammates will come out with the same passion and desire.  (Okay, not quite that much, because we are talking about Kobe Bryant here.)  They have the best coach in the league in Phil Jackson.  If there's a way to still win this series, he will find it.
     And look at who the Lakers are playing.  The Dallas Mavericks.  A team that choked away a 2-0 lead in the 2006 Finals against Miami.  A team that managed to lose to a #8 seed in 2007.  If any team can manage to lose 3 games in a row and play so badly that they reverse a previous outcome, it's Dallas.  Did I mention they blew a lead in the Finals five years ago?

May 7, 2011

May 7: Best Touchdown Ever

     I thought it was May 6th, and I was going to do the best 6-point play in NFL history.  But it's my blog and I really love this play, so I'll put it on here anyway.

     The thing I love about this play is how efficient it is.  A lot of lateral plays involve a few guys going backwards and maybe an offensive lineman or two.  Every person in this play moved the ball forward, and it only took three laterals to get the touchdown.  Add in Donte' Stallworth's awesome catch and moves and Aaron Brooks falling into the potential game-saving tackler, and you have the best touchdown ever.

May 5, 2011

In Honor Of Cinco De Mayo, Cinco Great NFL Names

-Brad Lekkerkerker
-Al Afalava
-Chris Fuamatu-Ma'afala
-Brandon Manumaleuna
-Pat Angerer

May 4, 2011

No Playoff = Antitrust Violations? What Is The World Coming To?

     I stumbled upon this article today, which says that the antitrust chief of the Justice Department has asked the NCAA President why there is no FBS playoff.  Despite many people's objections to the BCS, there are a lot of good reasons to use that system instead of the traditional format.  Mainly, it's different.  It provides a unique kind of excitement that you don't get any other time of the year.  It rewards teams for giving the extra effort needed to go 13-0 rather than 12-1.  It allows fans to argue whether or not a team deserves a championship berth based on what they've done rather than guessing who's going to win a certain playoff game.  I really like the BCS.
     The sad part about this whole issue is that everyone is missing the point.  The BCS National Championship is probably the only legal thing about the BCS.  All teams are invited to schedule tough opponents and win every game.  It's completely fair.  The problem is the bowl games with automatic qualifiers and the fact that some schools get more money than others.  You could institute any kind of playoff and still have these problems.  The NCAA isn't avoiding a playoff because they want more money, it's just because how they determine the champion now is really cool.

May 3, 2011

Sports Haiku 1: Paul Pierce

     I love Haiku.  It's so easy to make up on the spot.  This one's in honor of Paul Pierce's first technical foul in Game 1:

You just fouled me, James
I'll hit your face with my face
You're scared now, aren't you?

May 3: 3 Of The Most Underrated Commercials

     This idea started with Cinco de Mayo.  My plan was to do a Mayo de Cinco (May of Five) where I would do top fives of a bunch of different stuff, but then I decided there were only a few things for which I could actually come up with a top five.  So instead I'll be doing a May of Greatness, in which I chronicle things I really like.  Today, in the spirit of the third of May, here are three commercials I think are really underrated:

1.  ESPN App- The Cowboy
     The way he says "Van Gundy", the laugh, and the music just crack me up every time.  That's really the only reason it's on this list.

2.  Snickers- Patrick Chewing
     This commercial contains only four sentences (five if you count the voice at the end).  But it all comes together in one simple, funny package, and that's what makes it great.  That, and the fact that Patrick's dunk sets off car alarms.

3.  GoToMeeting- Mr. Sushi
     In my opinion, this is one of the best pieces of commercial genius ever.  So many commercials today focus around one guy who's a complete idiot, and it just spends all its time making fun of him.  This one is great because it has the look of a standard "idiot" commercial, and then suddenly the idiot pulls out GoToMeeting and wins the competition.  I think it's fantastic.

May 2, 2011

The Real Reason Some Players Are "Winners"

     I've been hearing this a lot leading up to the NFL Draft.  Certain players are described as "winners".  Somehow guys like Cam Newton and Andy Dalton magically make a team better than it should be, without any explanation.  It happens in other places too.  Tom Brady, Kobe Bryant, Andy Pettite in the playoffs, and many others are said to have that winning edge.
     I, on the other hand, don't believe that some athletes are just more prone to winning than others.  The fact that they do win so much can be attributed to at least one of three things:

1.  The player is very talented.
     When a player is more talented than usual, they make their team better.  Good teams tend to win more games and more championships.  Is it really that weird that a Kobe-led team has won five championships?  It isn't Kobe's focus and performance in the clutch.  It's his talent.  LeBron James has won 60+ games with the Cavs and made an NBA Finals appearance.  The fact that he didn't win that championship is because his supporting cast was awful, not because he isn't a "closer".  Which leads me to my second point:

2.  The player was on a good team.
     Andy Dalton won with a team that's consistently in the top 5 in defense and plays in a mediocre conference.  Kobe won with teams that included Shaquille O' Neal or the Gasol/Odom combo and had a smart, experienced coach.  Andy Pettite wins with the superstar-laden Yankees lineup on his side.  The point is, no great player is going to win much of anything without great talent around him.  Proclaiming certain people "winners" is unfair to those who just end up being on bad teams, like Jake Locker.

3.  The team as a whole just happened to win more games than it should have.
     Sometimes this kind of thing happens.  Teams just become unbeatable for a few weeks.  But this trend always reverses itself, even if the "winner" tag sticks with a guy.  Tom Brady may have won 3 Super Bowls, but he's also lost his last three playoff games.  Jay Cutler has lost a lot of games since he got to Vanderbilt, but he managed to get his team to 11-5 last year.  The Lakers had a few bad years with Kobe leading the team.  Even Kyle Orton, who I thought was the only true "winner" after the Broncos started 6-0 last year, has lost 17 of his last 22 games.

Don't be fooled by someone who wins a lot of games.  In the world of sports, talent always wins out in the end.