Friday, April 30, 2010

Where Art Thou, Foul?

Play the game, they say. Refs do not determine outcomes, players do. Maybe that's so. In the end, a bad call here or there will ultimately not really impact the game. With that in mind, I present this:


If I've ever seen superstar treatment, here it is. Well, not really, since I don't even have the words to describe this. But terrible calls aside, I do have a problem with the supposed superstar treatment that certain players receive. I'll say it now, and I'll say it again.

Superstar players do not receive superstar treatment.

The simple fact is that they get fouled more. In fact, officials are less inclined to call a foul on ticky-tacky stuff on a superstar simply because they can play through it. It doesn't seem like LeBron gets fouled when he rumbles down the lane simply because defenders bounce off him at their own risk. Yet how much shirt grabbing, tripping and shoving do you think he experiences? Something tells me that Anderson Varejao will not get harassed on offense as much as LeBron. So I say give the officials a break when it comes to superstar treatment. But when it comes to that Nash call, let 'em have it.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Podcast Episode #4

Today's episode features the wrath of jews who join me to discuss all things NFL.

Guests: John Garfinkel, Jason Schwartzman





Topics:
1) Jon Gruden/Mel Kiper Jr.
2) Terrible NFL Coaches (Pete Carroll, Lovie Smith, Herman Edwards
3) Impact of College Basketball Coaches
4) Tim Tebow: Academic cheater?
5) Fantasy Football outlook 2010
6) Alex Smith, San Francisco 49ers
7) Terrible GM Drafting/Nazism/Madden/Trung Canidate
8) New York Jets

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Some NFL Draft Musings

Once again, Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay proved themselves completely worthless, as they managed to incorrectly pick almost everything outside of the top ten. Every year the same thing happens. McShay makes five mock drafts, Kiper makes five, I make a mock draft based on some combination of their choices and none of us end up picking anything correctly. Now that this process has once again played itself out, I must air a few more grievances.


1. You have to love the clueless faces of every analyst by the time the draft reaches the 5th round. The pick is announced, followed by four guys shuffling through papers, looking for this 6'0 185 lbs. guy from Ohio State. Meanwhile Mel rattles off his combine stats, college career stats and his full bio dating back to when he was three years old. You know you're late in the draft when even Jon Gruden cannot sing the player's praises.


2. I've ranted about McDaniels and the Broncos before, but the transformation is now official. He swapped Jay Cuter, Brandon Marshall and Peyton Hillis for a long from NFL ready Tim Tebow, DeMaryius Thomas and Knowshon Moreno. Once again, way to go.


3. On the flip side, Pete Carroll managed to land the best tackle in the draft in Russell Okung, Texas safety Earl Thomas, McDonald's #1 customer LenDale White and Leon Washington. Given his track record, I have to say that I am truly surprised. I expected his drafting ability to mirror Al Davis' more than Bill Polian's.


4. I would still like to know what teams are waiting for when they use the entire clock in the first round. Mike Holmgren admitted that St. Louis rejected a trade offer for the 1st overall pick 2o minutes before the draft started because they were without a doubt going to draft Bradford. Yet they still waited until the last second to make the pick. A part of me wonders if Goodell works in collusion with all the GMs to make sure the draft will remain on ESPN for as many minutes as possible.


5. The months before the draft build up anticipation. Yet when the moment comes and the picks are being made, ESPN cuts to the player on the phone, obviously from the team that is about to select him. Is this not completely contradictory to the entire drawn out process that has come to define the NFL draft? If they're going to make me wait for almost three months after the season ends, the least they could do would be to allow Roger Goodell to announce the picks with some element of surprise.


6. When the Eagles traded up to select Brandon Graham, everyone at the ESPN table agreed the selection was going to be Earl Thomas. Their confidence even propelled them to discuss his future Philadelphia career. Yet when they were all proven wrong, they ignored the previous five minutes as much as San Diego fans ignore the career of Ryan Leaf. This is why the NFL needs an official draft heckling club (just like the Stephen A. Smith Heckling Society of Gentlemen). It's time for the passing of the torch and the birth of a new society. Or at least one to comment on the never-changing hairstyle of Mel Kiper Jr.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

NBA Playoff Lottery

So I've been a bit lazy. But as of now, I have officially awakened from my seven day slumber. My latest grumblings pertain to changes to the NBA Playoff system. You can check it out at jockpost.com, by clicking here. Enjoy, fellow sports fans. On a side note, I typed "NBA Playoffs 2010" into google images, and Stephen Jackson appeared. This is why I love google images.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Welcome to the Game

I am not going to write a playoff preview in the traditional sense. I cannot regurgitate statistics (nor do I have the patience to look them up) like ESPN, nor do my picks represent anything ground breaking. I am picking a Mavericks vs. Cavs finals, with the Cavs winning it all. I could pick uniquely and go with a Bulls/Thunder matchup, but I have decided to surpress my inner-rebel. Realistically, anyone who strays from some combination of Los Angeles, Dallas, Orlando, Cleveland, Phoenix, Denver and Utah (even the last two are stretches) as his finals matchup has ulterior motives. On the off chance that these contrarians encounter a stroke of luck, they simply want to fill our minds with their claims of brilliance and foresight.

Anyway, after thinking about the 1st round matchups for all of 10 minutes, one clearly distinguishes itself (Hopefully the picture hasn't given it away). That is not to say that I will not watch every series. In fact, most first round matchups will be competitive. In that sense, I am excited. But I can watch high quality basketball all throughout the playoffs. One first round series, however, will supply star power, conflict, and massive upset potential, a powerful combination for ratings: Oklahoma City vs. Los Angeles. Here is what, more specifically, will attach me to the television in the coming week.

1) Kevin Durant's angry face - Thus far, he has not unleashed it. Although he's mild mannered, even Dwight Howard occasionally graces us with a 7'0, 265 lb. "I'm going to tear you to pieces" look. Especially now that Phil Jackson has supplied the already dangerous underdog with greater motivation, don't be surprised if Durant throws a quick glance towards the Laker bench every time he gets fouled.

2) Scott Brooks' late game demeanor - I can only dream of a split-screen shot of the Laker huddle and the Thunder huddle during a crucial time out late in the 4th. We already know that in the Laker huddle, Phil will either diagram a winning play or Kobe will blurt out some form of "I want the ball," The Replacements/Keanu Reeves style. The big question then becomes, will Scott Brooks sweat through his entire suit or keep his cool? Or when a call goes against the Thunder late in the game, will he turn into a whining Tim Duncan or a calm, collected Steve Nash?

3) The decline of Kobe Bryant - Kobe Bryant is the Tom Brady of Basketball. Whether or not he's the best is debatable (Although I don't think it is. It's Manning and LeBron without question). If you're a fan of the Lakers, you love him. If you're not, you respect the skills, but you hate him. But I'm not talking about a simple hatred of greatness. I'm talking Red Sox fans on Aaron Boone hatred. That said, just imagine the scrutiny if the Thunder win the series and Kobe implodes. Is Kobe finally on the decline? Is his career over? Is he no longer able to carry a team to a championship? My mouth is watering at the potential media blitz.

4) The truth about Phil - It's hard to question his coaching ability. Yes, he's had Shaq, Kobe, Jordan and Pippen, but the ability to corral these stars and convince them to play as a team serves as Phil's greatest strength. Plenty of teams have star power each year, but not every one succeeds. Still, I am frustrated by the reputation that Phil is a great playoff coach. With Kobe or Jordan to give the ball to late in games, his teams have not required much tactical genious in the 4th quarter. If the Thunder knock off the Lakers, especially since they have a smilar go-to end of game player, maybe the media can raise some questions. Essentially I just want another media blitz, this time on Jackson.

5) The Seattle SuperSonic question - This may be one of the most underrated yet difficult to answer questions out there: Who do SuperSonic fans cheer for? Bitterness obviously plays a huge role here. On the one hand, the rebuilding of Oklahoma City started in Seattle; Durant played one season there. So there is definitely at least some fragment of attachment to the team that still remains. On the other hand, anger can cloud anyone's judgment. Considering the owners stole their basketball franchise, it would be easy to become a hater. Frankly, the NBA should grant free tickets to any Seattle resident/SuperSonic fan wanting to go the game. Management forced fans to suffer for years on end, only to watch Oklahoma City hijack the team. It's the least the NBA could do.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

A Change of Heart

My latest article is currently on jockpost.com, so check it out when you get a chance. JOCKpost is a solid sports blogging site which you should definitely check out. The article is on the misery that is the Denver Broncos. In the meantime, check out this article written by Geoff Director in response to my conspiracy theory thoughts regarding the NBA. Enjoy.

A Change of Heart
By guest Blogger Geoff Director

For the longest time, I sat through NBA games seething in anger over the apparent biases in the NBA. Refs, seem
ingly as a matter of rite, went out of their way to make games close. Star players could elicit foul calls from refs the way children get their grandparents to splurge for ice cream: A disappointed frown from Lebron and outcome the whistles. It seemed as if David Stern was feeding commands to the refs via hidden ear-piece during live action.

Being a fan of the Knicks, a team with no star power, and a team forced to endure elite players’ “A-games” because they liked to show up the Madison Square Garden crowd, I was hyper-sensitive to the league office’s puppetry. Was it really necessary to give Kobe that dubious blocking call with the Knicks down 28 in the 4th at home?

But then something happened, that in one instant, completely changed my outlook…in fact, it changed my whole way of thinking on the subject: They actually called a charge on Lebron in last year’s Eastern Conference Finals against the Magic.

It was clear throughout the series, that the Magic were simply the better the team. In fact they were the only team. The Cavs were a one-man circus. The Lebrons represented to me the ugly culmination of the NBA’s master plot to find the next MJ who could rescue the sport for the next 10 years: A stagnant one-on-one style team featuring a marketable, freakish individual athlete, who could single-handedly beat the opposition despite spurning any of the traditional concepts of team basketball. It was utterly clear to me, that Orlando would not be rewarded for building a true, coherent team, and instead Lebron would get foul call after foul call, despite running straight into people like Brandon Jacobs (circa 2008), and the Magic would ultimately foul out of the series.

Alas, that didn’t happen. They ultimately did call a charge on Lebron. The Magic did ultimately win (sparing Stan the Van from his future in porn production for at least a few more years). Justice is still alive in the NBA. In fact, when you think about it, the NBA’s favoritism, while real, is no more egregious than that of any other organization.

There’s a reason the well-behaved kids get away with more in grade school than the other kids. There’s a reason that promising, young artists in ad agencies are given chance after chance when others are put out to pasture. There’s a reason that young political stars, like Obama, achieve great status while others, with twice the track record, are left in purgatory. And that is because in this country we have bias for the prodigy. We have them in every organization from schools to politics, and they’re given an unfairly large chance for success. We give them every possible opportunity, and if they succeed, they are extolled for eternity.

But that’s as far as it goes in our culture, in our schools, and in the NBA. We don’t give free rides. The well-behaved kids eventually get caught if they abuse their good standing with teachers. Young whiz kids at agencies eventually are shipped off if they don’t produce winning campaigns. People were all too willing to jump down Obama’s throat after a few months and no change to be seen. And if Lebron keeps losing in the playoffs to teams that play real, team basketball, he too will ultimately be forgotten.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Rigged We Stand

Conspiracy theorists, a new supply of ammunition has arrived at your front doors. Yesterday evening, David Stern handed you another reason to storm the commissioner's office in an attempt to purge the NBA of its traitors. The 1985 draft lottery (i.e. the Ewing sweepstakes), the game 6 MJ forearm shiver and every close game involving Tim Donaghy immediately come to mind. But as I attempted to enjoy some Sunday basketball on ABC, the NBA flexed its rigging muscles in a much subtler way.

Blazers 84, Lakers 77, after a not-so-smooth alley-oop from Rudy to LaMarcus. Kobe had been misfiring all game. The crowd was out of it (the game was at the Staples Center). Then over the final three minutes, the ghost of Tim Donaghy returned to bail out the Lakers with some dubious calls and voodoo magic.

After one of the worst non calls (It was a Derek Fisher moving screen. He ran into his and Kobe's defender as if they were the only thing standing between himself and Rogaine) since the NBA invented the "great players get every call, non-great players get none" rule, Kobe drills a three. Then Andre Miller inexplicably ran right through Sasha Vujacic for an offensive foul. To put it simply, had Miller been the goal line back, he would've scored a touchdown.

Kobe then drives left, lays it in with his left hand and the whistle blows. Charge or block? On the replay, two things are obvious. Firstly, the Portland defender's feet were clearly outside of the charge circle. There's no conceivable argument to oppose that. Secondly, he was set for at least a second before Kobe impaled him with his knee. As you may have guessed, I thought it was a charge. But no, it was a block.

Fast forward to Blazers up 1 with 12 seconds left. Here's where the voodoo magic makes its second appearance to screw with the head of another Trail Blazer. Portland has been in the penalty the entire quarter. So what does Martell Webster do? He intentionally fouls Kobe before he takes a shot, sending him to the line. But after a mere 2o seconds, Kobe has missed both free throws and Webster is no longer the goat. Except David Stern would never allow Portland to get the rebound. So Gasol gets it and tosses it out to Derek Fisher. With one simple pump fake, Andre Miller is flying through the air as if he were Jordan in Space Jam. Except he's not, so he crash lands into the aging, balding corpse of Fisher. Two more free throws, but Fisher goes 1/2 and only ties the game.

Okay, so the Blazers did end up winning because Fisher inexplicably fouled Webster on the ensuing possession. But that is not the point. With Kobe returning to the lineup, the NBA seemingly pulled every possible string to ensure a Laker victory. So there's plenty to analyze here.

Well, analyze isn't really the right word; because there is simply no way to explain Webster's foul and either of Miller's two fouls except for blaming it on conspiracy. We all know why Boston vs. L.A. is a great finals match-up and San Antonio vs. Detroit is not. People want to see the best teams. We get it. But I envision the day when the Martell Webster's of the world will receive, and not be guilty of, the phantom calls dominate crunch time basketball. The day when two obviously #1 overall picks do not end up in their home towns. Yes I'm talking to you, LeBron and Derrick Rose (We will ignore LeBron being from Akron specifically). The day when Dwyane Wade cannot win an NBA title by recklessly driving into the lane for 4 straight series. The day when Michael Jordan's last game ends with him complaining to the refs about an offensive foul. The day when equality and fairness reign in the NBA.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Nellie Myth

Nellie Ball finally prevailed. Don Nelson has passed Lenny Wilkens as the all-time winningest coach in NBA history. Yet the story did not even crack the ESPN headlines. This seems just a bit strange to me. Maybe the headline already appeared and I just missed it. Or maybe (or so I hope) it's because Don Nelson is not worthy of this record.

His team currently stands at 24-54. While his star studded team that includes Anthony Tolliver, Reggie Williams and Chris Hunter may not represent the strongest accumulation of talent the NBA has ever seen, we'd expect a little more from such a highly touted and decorated coach.

I cannot take away his 3 Coach of the Year titles. I can, however, point out his last award came in 1992. In the mere 18 years that have floated by since, he's become the Tom Cruise of sports; coasting by solely on his reputation.

Let me throw out a few more stats that may sway your opinion on the supposedly immortal Nellie. He stands proud with a .565 winning percentage, which is equivalent to both a 46-36 average season record and, as of today, 9th in the Western Conference. Compare that to Phil Jackson (.705), Pat Riley (.636), and Jerry Sloan (.602). Actually, don't. We wouldn't want to make Nellie feel bad.

One more lovely nugget. He has 8 division titles in 31 years, 7 of which came in a row in the 80's. In other words, 1 division title in the last 22 years. How he still has a coaching job remains as one of the most baffling questions surrounding the NBA.

There's only one real reason to hate on Nellie: the famed "Nellie Ball." You can call it revolutionary, exciting or any sort of adjective to increase its prestige and grandeur, but it boils down to three things:

1. Small lineup.
2. Lots of shots
3. Play up and down the floor, always fast paced.

But after watching his Golden State Warriors receive a night in and night out pounding all season, you may have noticed some unintentional yet obvious consequences of this revolutionary basketball strategy.

1. They can't get a rebound.
2. Since every player has a green light, each individual's ego increases exponentially.
3. They have no bench and players get tired.

John Hollinger wrote an article on ESPN insider listing the biggest chuckers in the NBA. Guess who's number one? Monta Ellis. While he's the worst percentage shooter on his team, he also attempts the most shots. Meanwhile, as a shooting guard playing point guard, he does not get the team involved, nor can he guard any other two guard on defense. But while every other NBA team detests the undersized two guard/point guard who's really a two guard (see Stephon Marbury and Steve Francis), Nellie embraces them. So let's stop touting the man who's last success came 20 years ago and get with the times.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

What If?

Eagles management finally succumbed to the will of the people. Even though the process took 11 years, we can trace it back to that fateful day in April, 1999, when the Eagles selected Donovan McNabb with the 2nd overall pick. So let's play a game. What if the Eagles did not draft McNabb?

First, let's take a look back at the treatment he has received in Philadelphia. I think we can break down his Eagles career into five main events.

1) '99: Drafted by the Eagles and promptly booed to no end, even after both Tim Couch and Akili Smith stunk it up (they were the 1st and 3rd picks).

2) '07: After years of discontent, the Eagles draft Kevin Kolb, signaling the beginning of the end and the first time management gives in to fan pressure.

3) '08: McNabb is benched for the second half of a game against the Ravens in favor of Kevin Kolb.

4) '08: He drags the corpse of the Eagles roster to its 5th NFC title game, a feat most QBs don't accomplish. Yet he loses, and the berating he has heard his entire career continues.

5) '10: He finds a new house in Washington D.C.

It's really a sad story. The man never had a chance. Bet let's suppose he never gets to Philadelphia. What would have happened to his career?

1. Drafted by the Browns, 1st overall.

It's impossible to know if he would have succeeded as a Brown, especially since the city had just gotten its franchise back and was riding the likes of, well, no one. They were a brand new team. Bug going in, he would have at least been Blake Griffin among a roster full of Taylor Griffins. Or Michael Jackson among a bunch of La Toyas. You get the point. They were awful. Most likely McNabb would have floundered and suffered from David Carr Syndrome (being terrible because the team around you is terrible and never improves during your developmental years).

But let's play another what if and assume that he succeeds in Cleveland. Chris Palmer never gets fired after the 2000 season due to a combined five wins in two years. Consequently, Butch Davis never gets hired and most likely delays the onset of Pete Carrollitis (inflamation of the ego due to college coaching success, leading to the belief that college coaching success leads to NFL dominance as well. Sorry, Seattle.) In two seasons, McNabb is already vastly altering the lives of two men. He allows Chris Palmer's career to blossom while saving Butch Davis' reputation as a great coach (he resurrected Miami and made them a college football powerhouse once again.)

So where does this lead in the end for McNabb? Well, ironically, to the same place as in Philadelphia. With the Patriots dynasty just emerging, he probably would have lost a similar number of AFC title games as he did in the NFC. He is still scrutinized for not being clutch. On the bright side, he probably doesn't get booed on draft day, considering not many Cleveland fans show up to the draft in New York.

2. Drafted by the Bengals, 3rd overall.

(I'm making the assumption that he does not fall past #3 overall, considering all three teams desperately coveted and needed quarterbacks.)

Let's start with the positives. He's got a relatively young Corey Dillon. Assuming 90% of the team stays out of jail, he is more than likely to succeed (I know, Akili Smith was terrible. But if you watched him play, you knew that he, and he alone, was to blame for his failure as an NFL QB.) By 2001, he's got Chad Ochocinco. Once again, he turns around a floundering franchise. Maybe Bruce Coslet keeps his job, which means one important thing. Dick LeBeau and Marvin Lewis never get hired. Although they probably will become head coaches elsewhere eventually, it takes the NFL a few extra seasons to realize that they are the Tom Thibodeau's of the NFL, and nothing more (Cinci's success this season was in no way a function of Lewis' coaching. Take a look at their other seasons under him. The defense rests.)

So I ask again, where does this lead McNabb? And once again, to the exact same place: Championship game failure. Based on what the Bengals have done up to 2010, they have not assembled a championship caliber squad. While they may sneak through once or twice to the Super Bowl Butler style, success was unlikely. By the way, tell me you don't see the parallel between the two teams. Bruce Coslet serving as the "we only know you because your team is doing well" coach (Brad Stevens), Chad Ochocinco as the "you should have drafted me higher/recruited me more and I'm going to show you why being a little too selfish" (Shelvin Mack) and Justin Smith as the "under appreciated white guy" (Matt Howard).

In the end, McNabb's fate was already set, no matter who drafted him. While he may have always been good enough to win a Super Bowl, it was just never in the cards.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

It's Baseball Time...and Prop Bet Time

Opening Day is here. You know what that means.


Here are a few more. (None of the following bets actually exist, but it'd be fun if they did.)

Number of times the Red Sox/Yankees is mentioned as the greatest rivalry in sports:
Over/Under: 4.5

Number of relief pitchers used by the Yankees:
Over/Under: 2.5

Number of relief pitchers used by the Red Sox:
Over/Under: 2.5

Total number of highlights of previous Red Sox/Yankee games:
Over/Under: 7.5

Number of Injuries:
Over/Under: 0.5

Number of foul balls:
Over/Under: 59.5

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Roto or Head to Head?

One of my fantasy baseball leagues has 11 people. We were going to make the switch to head-to-head after 3 years from rotisserie, but sadly, now we cannot. Even though I have only ventured into the realm of head-to-head fantasy baseball once, I was excited to try it again. But that begs the question: Roto or head-to-head?


Rotisserie

I love fantasy drafts. To be perfectly honest, the draft represents 90% of the attraction. There is no better feeling than outsmarting your friends. Any idiot can scour the waiver wire, waiting for a random player to emerge as a star, and quickly pounce. But this is not where the skill lies.

Unfortunately, most fantasy baseball owners (myself included) do not supplement their desire for winning with the necessary research. I simply use an incalculable combination of my own knowledge, an hour of research, Matthew Berry's opinions, and gut feelings. Sabermetrics and other ridiculous statistical analyses merely cloud my judgment as opposed to clearing it up. So what does this have to do with Roto? Well, all is determined by the draft. If you draft a good team, you will win. For the baseball purists, this is fantasy baseball at its best. The owner with the best team will win. It is all based off of statistics. But while this may seem ideal, I would beg to differ.

If you have played rotisserie fantasy baseball and you have not encountered the following situation, you are simply lying. There is no other explanation.

1) March/April - Excitement for fantasy baseball builds. You have your draft. In the first month of the season, you're regularly following all of your players stats, updating lineups, and even making a few trades and waiver wire moves.

2) June - You're interest is dying a little. You've stopped on the trade front, but you still occasionally check the waiver wire. You set your lineup once a week or so.

3) July/August - You've completely lost interest. People are so far ahead/behind in the stat categories (in the standings) that you know you're essentially confined to your current spot in the standings.

4) August/September - You're excited for fantasy football. Baseball (on the fantasy front) has taken a back seat.

Here lies the problem. There's not enough chance for redemption in Roto. Standings essentially lock. No playoffs. If you're not in it, by the end of July, there's no point.

Head-to-Head

The problems are obvious. The best team will not always win. You can have a great regular season (which required a lot of effort), but still lose in the first round of the playoffs.

But the positives outweigh the potential pitfalls. Everyone is in it. If you draft a so-so team, you're not totally screwed. Don't get me wrong. I love fantasy baseball. I make every effort to afford it my complete attention. But it's hard. Nearly impossible, in fact. Match-ups present me with a reason to amble over to the computer a little more often. With a few strong weeks, anyone can jump to the top of the standings. Obviously, I am not the most intense fantasy gamer out there. But that is not to say that I don't care. Head-to-head erases the gap between my desire to win and, to put it simply, my desire to have a life. No offense Matthew Berry.