Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Maybe he'd have been more inspired against the Vikings if they'd worn pictures of dead puppies on their helmets?


Maybe Michael Vick's me-first attitude -- the same attitude that kept Atlanta from being a great team when he was there and the same attitude that let him start a business centered on electrocuting puppies -- is already coming back to haunt the Eagles, as in the same week that Vick announced that he would pick himself for MVP and got a congratulatory call from an increasingly-offbase President Obama, Vick played terribly last night against a Vikings team that had nothing to play for.

It doesn't matter, though, as football fans and now even the President will apparently forgive anything -- except being innocent, of course. That, we can't forgive.

What I'm talking about is this: In the same week Vick got lauded, mostly by himself but a little by the President and others, Wisconsin was giving an award of about $1,000 a year to a man who served 23 years in prison for doing nothing:

The Wisconsin Claims Board has agreed to pay a Milwaukee man $25,000 after he spent 23 years in prison for a homicide he didn't commit.

The board also agreed this week to ask the state Legislature to approve another $90,000 in compensation.

Robert Lee Stinson was convicted in 1985 in the death of a 63-year-old Milwaukee woman. A judge released him from prison in 2009 after new DNA evidence and fresh investigative techniques cast doubt on the evidence used to convict him.

Stinson asked the Claims Board this month for $115,000, or $5,000 for every year behind bars. State law allows for a maximum of $25,000 but says the board can ask the Legislature for more.

Michael Vick's "allowance," money he keeps while paying back his creditors, is $4,000 per month, not counting money he's allowed to pay his mom before other creditors get anything. And he strangled dogs .

Robert Stinson won't be elected league MVP, and won't get a phone call from the President, and won't get to play in the Super Bowl; he might be able to afford to watch it, though -- if Wisconsin gets around to actually paying him even a fraction of the sum football fans (and President Obama, apparently) willingly give to a dog murderer.

I won't watch a single game Michael Vick plays in, and though I'm not a one-issue voter, that phone call might keep me from voting to re-elect Obama.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Let the quick fixes begin!


Faced with the prospect of a 7-9 team getting into the playoffs -- and then possibly winning the Super Bowl -- I expected sports writers, etc., would have troubles justifying their opposition to the BCS while championing a system (playoffs) that would let a 7-9 team win a championship.

What I didn't expect was that they'd go the NFL route of suggesting modifications of the rules for playoff contests only -- modifications designed to achieve the desired result rather than a fair outcome. Modifications such as the one proposed today by Tuesday Morning Quarterback's Gregg Easterbrook.

Easterbrook in the past has argued that the BCS, which annually pairs no-loss or one-loss teams in a championship game, doesn't actually choose the best team, an argument which seemingly facetiously championed the BCS as a system which:

spreads the razzle-dazzle around to a large number of teams, and allows large numbers to say their seasons yielded a final triumph. That's the college spirit! Along these lines, football-factory schools may not necessarily mind that no true champion is crowned. Under the BCS and the previous dueling-polls system, two or three colleges may assert a plausible claim to the crown. It's easy to imagine a scenario in which this season ends with four teams (the winners of the BCS, Orange, Rose and Fiesta bowls) all claiming to be the national champion. The more the merrier! With a playoff format, only one college team can end the year calling itself the best.
So it's no surprise that Easterbrook secretly likes playoffs -- but dislikes them when the playoff system results in an outcome that he doesn't like -- such as a 7-9 team making it into the postseason and having a chance to contend for the championship. Easterbrook's solution? Have one set of rules for regular season, another for postseason:

That the league is entering its final regular-season weekend with a plausible scenario of a 7-9 team hosting a playoff game while a 12-4 team goes on the road is yet another argument that the NFL needs a seeded postseason format.

Easterbrook goes on to argue that divisions and conferences could be used to set up schedules, but abandoned for the postseason so that Easterbrook's desired outcome -- no 7-9 teams -- gets achieved. His rationale for that is implicit: Easterbrook, like everyone else, feels that there's no way a 7-9 team could be the best team in the NFL.

But isn't that what playoffs are supposed to determine? Aren't playoffs supposed to say who the best team is? Not quite 2 years ago, the Giants finished 10-6 and in second place in their division -- a six-seed team that had to play 3 road games to get to the Super Bowl, where they faced only the second team ever to make it to the big game undefeated... and won. Along the way, the Giants beat the razzle-dazzle media darling Cowboys and outplayed Green Bay in Lambeau Field. And the Giants had lost 2 of their last 4 games in December that year.

Easterbrook's solution is to seed teams regardless of division or conference. For the 2007 regular season that would mean the Giants would not be a 6-seed NFC wildcard. The seeding would be:

1. Patriots* (16-0)
2. Cowboys (13-3)
3. Packers (13-3)
4. Colts (13-3)
5. Jaguars (11-5)
6. Chargers (11-5)
7. Browns (10-6)
8. Giants (10-6)
9. Steelers (10-6)
10. Seahawks (10-6)
11. Titans (9-7)
12. Buccaneers (9-7)

That seems superficially pleasing, as it lets in the 10-6 Browns (who missed the playoffs that year) while keeping out the 9-7 Redskins (who made the playoffs that year) and all but one team with a winning record would have made the playoffs.

But after the 2008 season, things break down again; looking at the NFL site, a 9-6-1 Eagles team gets into the playoffs while four 9-7 teams miss out, with only one team (an 11-5 Falcons team) gets in that missed in real life. In 2006, the Easterbrook Seeding rule would have ousted the 8-8 Jets in favor of the 9-7 Broncos; is that really worth jettisoning (pun intended) the divisions for the postseason?

In 2005, Easterbrook's system would let in the 10-6 Chiefs, but keep out the 10-6 Redskins. That's an improvement worth doing away with the divisions and conferences?

In 2004, Easterbrook's seeding would let in the Ravens, Bills, and Jaguars -- all at 9-7 -- while keeping out the Seahawks, division winners that year at 9-7.

Does Easterbrook have an east-coast media bias? His system in 2003 would have let in the 10-6 Dolphins... while keeping out the 10-6 Seahawks. Maybe there is no bias, as in 2002, the Easterbrook Make-Up-Special-Rules-As-We-Go system would let in the 9-7 Broncos while keeping out the 9-7 Dolphins, Patriots, Saints, and Jets -- while as far back as 2001, the 9-7 Seahawks would've gotten in, instead the team that actually made the playoffs, the 9-7 Buccaneers.

All of those results are easily available on NFL.com, which'll sort by year and record. Easterbrook could have checked whether his proposed system would represent an actual improvement or simply a quick fix to avoid a once-in-a-blue-moon problem he doesn't like, but, then, providing opinions without bothering to see if they're correct is a TMQ hallmark.

Easterbrook also says that
The current system rewards luck-of-the-draw in division affiliations. The only possible effect of a seeded format would be ensuring the best teams reach the playoffs!
But as I showed through checking the facts, that's not the case; in six of the last 9 years, the Easterbrook Arbitrary System would let in one team with an identical record to a team that was kept out -- and teams would get those records by playing in "luck-of-the-draw" divisions -- with 9-7 teams sometimes getting that record because they play in tough divisions.

Then Easterbrook says -- without any evidence to back it up -- that

Most important, a seeded format would ensure better playoff matchups.
But consider: Easterbrook doesn't say how his playoffs would work; presumably the top 4 would still get a first round bye, while the rest would play high-low contests with the better record playing at home. So the 2008 playoffs, in which the Giants faced Tampa Bay, the Cowboys, and then the Packers -- the latter a thrilling, hard-fought overtime contest -- would instead of have featured a Giants-Steelers matchup, which, if the Giants won, would see them then take on the Patriots*, Cowboys, Packers, or Colts. Considering that the Giants played three of those teams in the actual playoffs that year -- a run that included two close games that made for great theater -- what would be gained by having the Giants face the Steelers instead of the Bucs in the first round? A Giants-Colts game is not guaranteed to have been more entertaining than Giants-Packers or Giants-Patriots* were.

Easterbrook also ignores 2008, and last year, when he says:

A seeded tournament would in most cases eliminate those awkward late-season games in which teams have locked their best playoff positions and start practice-squad members. If the playoffs were a seeded tournament, even the top teams usually would have incentive to win their final regular-season games.
In 2008, one of the best regular season games was the meaningless, or almost-meaningless, Giants-Patriots* final game battle, when New England opted not to rest its players while going for 16-0, and the Giants opted to play the game as though it mattered to them. (It didn't.) In 2009, the Colts rested their players at the end of the year and looked rusty in the playoffs. The Packers treated the season-ending meaningless game against the Cardinals as though it mattered -- and were ready to play for real a week later, taking the home team to overtime. Regardless of the playoff system, some teams will continue to play late games as though they matter, and some will not.

Last year, Brett Favre's Minnesota Vikings lost in the NFC Championship, in overtime, an Brett Favre never got to take the field in the extra period. Based on that, the NFL decreed a playoffs-only change in overtime rules that I refer to as the "Let Brett Play Rule," a rule that seemingly was designed to address the rare situation where a legendary player doesn't get a chance for a heroic outcome -- and expressing not just a preference for Brett over Drew Brees, but for offense over defense, as in the NFC Championship Game, Minnesota had gotten to take the field -- but only their defense.

In passing their rule, the NFL ignored the fact that the Packers, just two weeks earlier, had lost in overtime, too -- despite getting their offense on the field first, and without ever getting Kurt Warner a chance to take the field in the sudden-death period, as the Cardinals' maligned defense took on the Packers' hyped offense and won the game. And the NFL ignored the Giants-Packers overtime NFC Championship in Lambeau, when both offenses got onto the field even though the Packers won the toss -- both the Giants' and Cardinals' playoff OT victories proving that defenses and special teams are part of the team, a fact the NFL quietly ignored in passing the Let Brett Play Rule.

This year, in an effort to avoid a once-in-a-blue-moon outcome of seeing a 7-9 team host a playoff game, the NFL will likely propose more quick fixes without bothering to think whether this is a problem or just a fluke -- and with "thinkers" like Gregg Easterbrook urging them on, expect more half-cocked solutions to help mess up the game.

Coach Mike McCarthy prepares Packer fans for inevitable letdown. (Quotent Quotables.)


Packers Coach Mike "Mike" McCarthy is on a roll: two big games, and his team appeared impressively prepared for both, and played well in both (yes, I'm giving him credit for the loss to the Patriots* because he played on the road with a backup QB and the team still only lost by 4, and I'm not inclined to hold the special teams' return coverage problems in that game against him when he began with a special teams' great play on the onside kick), all of which means, for Packers' fans, that the other shoe is going to drop and hard at some point. Will "Mike" decide to call no running plays against the Bears? Give the team the week off from practice to help them prepare? Throw the replay flag on the second play of the game, a 2-yard gainer by the Bears, just to "set the tone?"

Whatever it is that inevitably brings "Mike" back down to earth -- and the level of coaching the Packers usually display -- you know it'll be something, given the genius Mr. McCarthy shows off for reporters in press conferences, genius like his wrap-up of how the Pack did against the Giants:

I don’t know if you can play much better than that on offense. 45 points says a lot. We score 45 points, especially with our defense, we expect to win significantly.

Mike, if you score 45 points, you should expect to win with any defense... unless, of course, your defense is Green Bay's and it's lined up against the Cardinals.

On the other hand, this being Mike "Mike" McCarthy, I suppose we should just be glad the microphone wasn't flagged for a false start.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Love the sinner, hate the Monsters of Midway (Quotent Quotables)


"Do you think it's because Jesus hates the Bears?"

WTDY (Madison 1670) talk-show host John "Sly" Sylvester, to a little boy named "Simon" who called in to predict that the Packers would beat the Bears in their season-ending game next Sunday.

I love Packer fans. They're so rational. Like when they cheered a false-start penalty on the Giants yesterday.

If they don't recognize this, will they at least admit "Involuntary Luge" as a category?


The Guiness Book of World Records recognizes over 2,000 different categories of human endeavor, including one for walking past the Pyramids holding a pool cue, so if what you're trying to do isn't considered a real category by Guiness, what does that say about you, personally? (Cough. Loser!)

The vaguely disapproving gaze of society caused by not setting a world record fell on the 19 guys who tried to set a world record for "People surfing while dressed as Santa," and something called "Seer Press News" had the scoop:

Nineteen people, including one woman, put on Santa suits and went surfing in Cocoa Beach, Florida, to spread a little Christmas cheer....Friday morning the group’s organizer, 57 year old George Trosset and his fellow Santas hit the beach near South 24th Street when the air temperature was around 65 degrees and the water temperature was 60 degrees. The waves were between 4 and 6 feet high. Trosset explained why they brave the waves in their Santa suits: “It’s just to have some fun. It makes me happy that we might put a smile on some people’s faces as we spread a little Christmas cheer”.

Guiness wouldn't certify "Santas Surfing" as a category -- despite it's obvious potential as the first in a wave of extra days to add onto "The Twelve Days Of Christmas" song to make that tedious exercise in singing relevant for our era.

Which raises the question of why the H not, Guiness? You recognize not just that pool cue thing, but also mimes dressing up in costumes and racing -- but Surfing Santas is just too weird for you?

Sunday, December 26, 2010

You know what the BCS never did? It never paired up 2 teams with losing records in the championship. Just sayin'.


Today marks the beginning of what could be the most important two weeks in the history of sports... if what you care about in sports is the idea of trying to watch sports writers and ESPN talking heads try to muddle their way through a conundrum. (Sportswriters: feel free to google that word.)

That's because today marks the first week of a 2-week span that could end up sending a 7-9 team to the NFL playoffs -- and possibly the Super Bowl. The vaunted [he said, sarcastically] NFC West begins a two-week set of showdowns today as the 5-9 49ers take on the 6-8 Rams, while the 6-8 Seahawks play Tampa Bay.

Losses by the Rams and Seahawks today -- a distinct possibility, because, hey, they're NFC West teams -- would mean that the NFC West would be in a 3-way tie for first place, with each team being 6-9, and that would in turn guarantee that the winner of that division-- the winner and team that would host a playoff game -- would boast [he said, more sarcastically] a losing record.

Which then would pose that conundrum for sports-type-people, because it's popular nowadays to bash the BCS and tout a playoff as giving all the teams a chance and being fair and all -- and being especially fair by including teams from inferior conferences.

So I assume that anyone who's ever had a problem with the BCS would wholeheartedly back the right of the NFC West team with a losing record to get into the playoffs, and, if possible, win the Super Bowl.

All you have to do is get hot at the right time, right? Playoffs cure everything, right? Playoffs rule!

So I'm rooting for the 49ers and the Bucs today, and I've already vowed to The Boy that if a 7-9 teams makes the playoffs I will back that sick pony all the way to the Big Game.

The First Ever Blog-Only After-Christmas Book Sale!

Let the buying of things we wanted but didn't get begin... with my books. Got junk for Christmas? Have extra cash laying around? Wondering what to do with that new eyeball you grew after drinking that day-old egg nog? Here's a suggestion:

Buy one of these great books: Or buy THREE, because if you buy any three of these, and email me proof of purchase at thetroublewithroy[at]yahoo.com, I'll send you the other two, free.

The Scariest Things, You Can't Imagine

The Scariest Things, You Can't Imagine

Print: $10.00

Download: $1.25

A shape-shifting demon torments children while their parents stand by. A widower haunted by the ghost of his wife tries to understand her requests. A baby stolen from his mother by gargoyles returns, full of hatred for the life he's led. A family of children raised by grave-robbing corpse stealers tries to discover a way out. An elderly man possesses the power of life and death in his retirement. These stories present images and people who will haunt your thoughts for a long time after you read them.

Just Exactly How Life Looks

Just Exactly How Life Looks

Print: $11.18

In Just Exactly How Life Looks you'll be introduced to unforgettable people living remarkable lives. Cowboys wander in a timeless desert. Scientists meet in secret to plot a new way to get attention, and money, from people. A man and his would-be lover try to find lions on safari, and more. The people and places in this book spring to life fully-formed and full of anxiety and imagination. They worry about the time they have had and the time they have left. They bury their loved ones and look for new friends. They talk and laugh and hope and cry and die, while their friends and family and enemies and Gods watch them, seeing, in their faces and actions and fears, a portrait of just exactly how life looks.

Eclipse

Eclipse

Print: $11.50

Download: $1.49

Claudius wanted to be the first man to reach the stars... and maybe he was. In a stunning psychological horror work, "Eclipse" unfolds slowly, beginning with Claudius drifting through space after something has gone wrong with his mission. As he stares at the only thing he can see, a tiny rock off in space, he mulls the events that led him here, reflecting on his childhood and the mission-turned-into-murder. Or did things go bad? As "Eclipse" unfolds, the reader is treated to a twisting, constantly changing landscape created by Claudius' own mind, as version after version of what-might-have-happened pile on. One thing is clear, though: Something has gone wrong, and Claudius may never reach the stars. Or will he?

Do Pizza Samples Really Exist?

Do Pizza Samples Really Exist?

Print: $10.06

Download: $1.49

Why will paying attention to Paris Hilton destroy the universe? How can one number be better than the other? Are saber teeth really necessary for a good movie monster? Would Hollywood as we know it exist if not for Jennifer Aniston's hair? These questions and more are asked, and answered, in the only book that dares to explain how jellybeans are related to the apocalpyse. Essays on pop culture, things that are The Best, and life show a provocative, and hilarious, way of looking at the world.

Thinking The Lions, and 117* Other Ways To Look At Life (Give Or Take)

Thinking The Lions, and 117* Other Ways To Look At Life (Give Or Take)

Print: $12.98

Life, only funnier: Here's the book you've been waiting for, assuming you've been waiting for a book about a guy who spends his time trying to prove velociraptors didn't exist, who teaches his kids to gamble and helps them with their homework by wondering what would happen if you cut a superhero in half, whose own wife said he would get a crocodile for a babysitter, who finds squid chili romantic, and who generally makes the most -- or the least? - -of his life.




Are you the electronic reader type? Get most of these books and my blogs on your Kindle for as low as $0.99. Click here for details.

Let's get a sense of perspective, here. (Quotent Quotables)


One of the greatest football games I ever watched was the Monday Night Football game when Trent Edwards nearly led the Bills to an upset over the Dallas Cowboys, who came back in the final minutes to eke out a victory.

It was a thrilling game that I watched every minute of, and then went to bed. My wife, Sweetie, said "Are you sad the Bills lost?" and I said, "Yeah, a little, but it was a great game."

Game.

I'm not one, then, to get all upset over my team losing a game -- I'm sad, literally, for zero seconds. Because it's a game, and a game is entertainment and entertainment isn't real. I didn't mope for days or weeks when [SPOILER ALERT! AND ATTEMPT TO CASH IN ON NOSTALGIC REFERENCES THE WAY '30 ROCK' AND 'FAMILY GUY' STAY ALIVE BY SIMPLY PANDERING TO THEIR AUDIENCES' NEEDS FOR INSTANT NOSTALGIA AS A SUBSTITUTE FOR REAL CREATIVITY OR PERSONAL CONNECTIONS] Han Solo was frozen in carbonite

[HEY, I REMEMBER THAT, TOO! YOU'RE LIKE MY FRIEND!] and I didn't mope for days and weeks when the Bills lost four consecutive Super Bowls, and I didn't mope for days and weeks when the then-Brett Favre's-Packers lost in overtime to the Giants in the NFC Championship before the Giants went on to beat the Patriots* in The Greatest Victory Ever.

But that's because I have a sense of perspective, unlike, say, Green Bay WR Greg Jennings, who, as the Packers prepare for the rematch in what amounts to a playoff game for each team today, was asked to recall what that loss felt like, and came up with this entirely overblown and completely inappropriate simile:

Everybody was in shock. It's like we all had just lost our moms. That's just the way it was.

I don't know if Jennings' mom is still living, but I'm sure that moms everywhere are heartened to hear a pro athlete measure their relative worth. "My mom? About equal in importance to a conference championship. Why do you ask?"

Thursday, December 23, 2010

So They Made A Song(S) About Sports:

A couple of Bowl-related songs for your listening pleasure, in between rounds of O Tannenbaum:

The
Oregon Ducks' "I Love My Ducks (Return Of The Quack)," apparently by NKOTB:



And the Wisconsin Badgers' tribute to getting into a second-tier bowl game instead of the National Championship, "We're Smelling Roses."




Wisconsin fans make a lot of rap/hip-hop songs about their team -- like Teach Me How To Bucky:



And that compels me to point out that if there's any place with less hip-hop cred than Madison, Wisconsin, I don't know where it is.


Does NASCAR feature talking, sentient cars now? Did I miss that evolutionary step?


I don't usually like to talk about NASCAR, because it's not a sport, but when almost-sports cross paths with cartoons my kids like and lawsuits, it at least piques my interest and creates some filler for this blog, hence my reporting on Mark Brill's loss in his lawsuit against Pixar, for, apparently, Left-Turn Aficionado Infringement:

An Oklahoma appeals court has handed Disney and Pixar a victory against a stock race car driver who alleged the animated film Cars misappropriated the likeness of a red race car with a yellow 95..... Mark Brill alleged that the fictional character Lightning McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson) in the movie was too similar to his own race car. Apparently Brill is a big deal in the racing world and is closely associated with such a car.

On November 30, the Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals affirmed a lower court's summary judgment order putting the breaks on Brill's lawsuit.

I like the fact that my source on this -- the Hollywood Reporter -- is as unfamiliar as I am with "Mark Brill." (Note the "apparently Brill is a big deal...") but not unfamiliar with such showbiz luminaries as Vanna White:

The justices relied on a Ninth Circuit standard set in the Vanna White v. Robot-With-A-Blond-Wig case in which essentially analyzes whether the average viewer would mistake the car in the movie for Brill's car. The court found that "a fictional, talking, driver-less red race car with the number 95 on it cannot be construed as a likeness of a driver of a similarly colored/numbered race car."

So, Mark Brill: You are less familiar to most people than a woman whose career ended some 20 years ago (I think? I don't watch Wheel anymore, and I don't even know if it's on.)

It seems fitting, though: Both Brill and White made their names by simply turning left. But in many respects Vanna's career has already eclipsed Brill's: She holds a record, after all, having been recognized as "The World's Most Frequent Clapper." Plus, she's been on Rachael Ray's show. Have you been on Rachael's show, Mark Brill?

I didn't think so.

Also, instead of a lawsuit, why not settle this score the way all NASCAR grudge matches are resolved: By going and betting on a real sport?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

No, they didn't. (Or: Are you familiar with that "apples vs. oranges" thing?)


I need to remember NEVER EVER to pay attention to college basketball stories that don't take place during the NCAA Men's Tournament -- that tournament being the only reason to pay attention to college basketball.

The latest example of being duped is the supposed "record" set by the UConn women's basketball team. I heard about this "record" earlier this week when a promo on TV said that a college team would be going for 89 and trying to set a record for wins.

"Wow," I thought. "That was certainly a boring interruption to my watching South Park's Christmas Critters" episode."

Then, later, I heard that the UConn had done it - -they'd gotten 89 wins and surpassed UCLA's 88 wins as a college record.

Then, this morning, I heard that it was the UConn women's team, which means, no, they didn't set a record.

Because they play in a different league. UConn plays women's basketball, while UCLA played men's basketball. They're not the same league, any more than my kids' Saturday soccer league records were comparable to Landon Donovan's scoring totals.

I'm not saying UCLA's record is better, or worse, or anything-er than UConn's. It's just different. There's a reason they have men's and women's world records and men's and women's leagues and college and pro leagues, and there's a reason that we don't talk about some college quarterback breaking Favre's consecutive game streak: when the competition is different, the records can't be compared.

Even UConn coach Geno Auriemma's noted the disparity -- while still trying to claim he'd set a record in a league his team doesn't play in:

All the women are happy as hell...All the guys that love women's basketball are all excited and all the miserable bastards that follow men's basketball and don't want us to break the record are all here because they're [ticked]."


First of all, there's guys that love women's basketball? Prove it. Second of all, as noted, you didn't break the record. Because if you did, then I'd like to point out that last year I threw for 63 touchdown passes on Madden NFL, so suck it, Tom Brady, and I'll be expecting a call from the Pro Football Hall of Fame any day now. (Which just might happen, if they follow boxing's lead.)

So: UCLA still holds the record for most consecutive wins by a men's team, and UConn holds the women's record. Let's not get overexcited here, ladies.


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

So boxing is entirely fictional now. Good to know.



I can remember when boxing was an actual sport that got covered and treated like something more than a human version of dogfights (settle down, Michael Vick, that's not legal either...). Those were the days, at least for people who wanted to take all the skill and strategy out of sports and focus on the causing-other-people-injury aspect of it.

Now, those people have all gravitated towards Hobo Crotch Kicking, leaving boxing aficionados to struggle to scrape up fans and/or interest in their sport.

Their answer? Let's just pretend that boxing movies are real. That's a clever move -- remember, this is a country where people so confuse media with reality that a significant percentage of people once believed that Martin Sheen was actually president. And it's working, as media reports that Sylvester Stallone would be inducted into Boxing's Hall of Fame have now led Sports Illustrated to do this:


Granted, the issue is The Year In Sports Media, but weren't there sports media that weren't fictional?

(And, yes, I know that The Fighter is based on a true story, but so was the home-invasion movie The Strangers, and when you find out what the actual true story behind that movie is, you'll never care if a movie shouts 'based on a true story' again.)

Actually, I think all sports should start doing this. We could have Crash Davis signed to the Brewers, and wouldn't everyone rather look at Cameron Diaz in the owners' box than Al Davis?

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Return of the Norwood Awards!


Back when I had Nonsportsmanlike Conduct!'s first incarnation (it's this now) I gave out on a routine basis The Scott Norwood Award For Unfairly Being Given Responsibility For Losing A Game. (Or Norwood Award for short.)

Scott Norwood, you'll recall, was the kicker who's wide-right attempt was the final blow to the Buffalo Bills' hopes to beat the Giants in their first Super Bowl -- and who was unfairly blamed for the team's loss.

The Bills, remember, came into that game heavily favored, but then let the Giants keep possession of the ball for 2/3 of the game and were 1/8 on third down despite running the best offense to date in the NFL. At the end, with a chance to win still, that best-ever offense couldn't manage to get closer than the 30-yard-line for the game-winning field goal attempt. But that game is remembered for Norwood "losing" the game -- an unfair blaming of the kicker for a team loss.

No one player ever loses a team game. Had the Bills' defense stopped the Giants once, had the offense scored another touchdown, had they gotten three feet closer, the game might have been different.

But Norwood (who played one more year with the Bills) bears the distinction of having lost the game because it's easier for fans (and teams and owners) to blame a single player than to blame themselves.

Ever since then, I've given the Norwood Award to those players who are unfairly blamed for losing a game -- and today, I've got two recipients.

First up: Former Redskins' Punter Hunter Smith. Smith was cut recently after bobbling a snap on an extra-point attempt that would've tied the 'Skins in the game against Tampa Bay. It wasn't Smith that went 6 of 16 on third down, or who gave up the two points on the conversion by Tampa Bay to go up 17-10. But Smith bobbled the snap, and rather than admit a team failure, he was let go by the Redskins. Hunter Smith, here's your Norwood Award. I hope you catch on with another team soon.

Even worse is the case of Giants Punter Matt Dodge. As we all know by now, the Eagles ran back Dodge's punt to win the game against the Giants in the final seconds:



resulting in New York fans spamming someone by the same name on Twitter, TMZ commenting that Dodge "stupidly kicked away the game" (sports commentary from TMZ?) and The Huddle saying that Dodge's "failure to punt the ball out of bounds in the waning seconds allowed DeSean Jackson to score a 65-yard punt return for a TD as time expired."

If you watch that video, you'll see a high snap, and you'll see at least four Giants who could've tackled Jackson... but didn't... on the final run. If you watched the game you'd see a monumental collapse by the Giants, who led by 21 halfway through the fourth quarter.

So... it's the punter's fault? Was he playing defense? Was he throwing the ball? Was he the long snapper? Was he the only one on the field during the return?

Matt Dodge, here's your Norwood Award.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Cliff Lee should read my blog, because he just screwed up the Phillies.


Cliff Lee signed a $120 million five year deal with the Phillies the other day. In doing so, he turned down an extra $30 million that the Yankees were offering him to come play for them, and turned down better money from the Rangers, too. Lee rejoined the Phillies team that traded him for Roy Halladay, who got $60 million from the Phillies last year.

That might seem to be a good thing for Phillies fans -- but it's not, because Cliff Lee isn't the answer and spending $120 million on a pitcher isn't the answer. The Phillies would have been better off buying some cheap-but-good outfielders.

Baseball Prospectus said a while back that every $5 million spent on a free agent tends to get about 2 extra wins. The Phillies went from 92 wins in 2008 to 97 wins in 2009, so it would seem they got ripped off by Halladay -- except that pitchers only go about once every five games, so maybe it should be that every $5 million to a pitcher gets 0.4 extra wins, in which case Halladay should have improved the Phillies by 4.8 wins -- and they finished five games up from the year before. (So, all you high school teachers out there facing constant questions of Why do we have to learn this stuff, tell your students it's so they can figure out why their team won't make the playoffs again this year.)

In signing for less money with the Phillies than the Yankees, Lee seems to be following the instructions that can be gleaned from my post "Free Agents Are (a) Stupid or (b) Hate Your Team," in which I detailed how greedy free agents take hypothetical, meaningless amounts of money and then go on to not win championships. He took less money to play for a team that he seems to love, after all, and one with good prospects.

Except that Lee still took $120 million from the Phillies, a team that I'm pretty sure wasn't moving in the right direction, going from a World Series win to a playoff appearance to... paying $120 million to Cliff Lee, a player that was deemed expendable a year ago. Lee took that money even though he doesn't need it -- he's earned $23 million in his career already, a sum of money that means he'll never be poor (unless he's stupid) -- and the Phillies gave the money even though Lee will only pitch about 1 of every 5 games for them.

What makes this worse is that pitchers aren't the most likely source for improvement on a baseball team these days: defense is. As the Freakonomics radio program pointed out recently, the lack of run production last year was probably more due to improved fielding than better pitching or fewer steroids.

So, um, congratulations? Phillies fans. Enjoy your ticket price hike.

Eclipse

Paperback, 150 pages
* * * * *

Price:$11.50
Claudius wanted to be the first man to reach the stars... and maybe he was. In a stunning psychological horror work, "Eclipse" unfolds slowly, beginning with Claudius drifting through space after something has gone wrong with his mission. As he stares at the only thing he can see, a tiny rock off in space, he mulls the events that led him here, reflecting on his childhood and the mission-turned-into-murder. Or did things go bad? As "Eclipse" unfolds, the reader is treated to a twisting, constantly changing landscape created by Claudius' own mind, as version after version of what-might-have-happened pile on. One thing is clear, though: Something has gone wrong, and Claudius may never reach the stars. Or will he?


CLICK HERE TO BUY IT NOW!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

But you said he should be benched, which means that you think he SHOULDN'T have started... I'm so confused.


Last week, after wrongly attacking big school football and basketball programs as featherbedded wastemongers, Gregg Easterbrook (ESPN's Tuesday Morning Quarterback) also decided to try to shoot down Brett Favre, who'd left the game against Buffalo after being injured, early on. I took to task for both arguments here, pointing out that argument was supported by evidence.

This week, following the end of Favre's streak of 297 consecutive starts -- a streak that's way more impressive than Cal Ripken's -- Easterbrook says this:

Sweet 'N' Sour Play of the Week Was by Leslie Frazier, when he turned in a lineup card with Brett Favre scratched. See the league's official Game Book here, under "Not Active."

It was sour because Favre's iron-man streak -- his first start came when the elder George Bush was president, when Charles and Diana were still married -- concluded. It was sweet because no quarterback ever started 297 straight NFL games before, and no one ever will again.
But... Easterbrook has long argued that Favre should be benched. As far back as 2006, Easterbrook was arguing that

a case can be made for handing the ball to Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay's quarterback of the future, and letting Rodgers get some experience so that 2007 might be a winning season for the Packers....If Favre stays on the field merely to break a record, Packers fans will be glad, but the record could have some of the feeling of a stunt. Should the Packers be 2-6 a month from now, the dignified thing would be for Favre to remove his helmet and hold the clipboard for Rodgers.

(S0urce.) So why was it sour that Favre didn't start, in a season that's going nowhere for the Vikings? If years ago Favre should have stepped down to avoid a "stunt" record -- a "stunt" record that TMQ now heralds as one that will never be equalled -- why is it sour that Favre stopped now (due to injury?) Shouldn't TMQ have been arguing that the streak ought to have ended in Favre's second-to-last year with the Packers? What about ending it when the Jets were out of playoff contention the year that Favre was with them?

The truth is, Easterbrook is trying to have it both ways: slamming Favre unfairly at every opportunity and then heralding him for doing those same things that Easterbrook has faulted him for. Easterbrook began his November 2 post with these words:

Brett Favre is one of the best quarterbacks ever, has won a Super Bowl, holds most of the NFL's passing records ... and should be benched.

And, according to Easterbrook, Favre didn't deserve benching simply because of subpar (for Favre) play, but also because

at this point the Brett Favre Brett Favre Brett Favre me-me-me-me business must have worn out its welcome. Football is a team game. For the good of the team, Favre should head to the bench.

So why was it sour that Favre couldn't start for a record-setting (each start set a new record, after all) 298th time against the Giants?

Easterbrook has been arguing for years that Favre's attitude is me me me and that Favre's record-setting streak is a stunt that holds back whichever team he's playing for. For Easterbrook to now celebrate the man, and the record, he's been denigrating for years is simple bandwagon-jumping hypocrisy.

And, moreover, it's all the more reason to simply disregard what Easterbrook says in his column -- since his opinions are subject to change with the popular viewpoint. Two weeks ago, Favre was considered joke fodder and over-the-hill, and Easterbrook was piling on, saying that the Vikings play more as a team without Favre, and demanding credit for having called for Favre's benching. Now, in the afterglow of recognition that football fans witnessed something truly spectacular over the past 297 regular season games, Easterbrook wants credit for that, too. That's not analysis. That's opinion -- and rapidly-shifting, unsupportable opinion, at that.

To show you just how credible Easterbrook is as a commenter, consider: Easterbrook was all over Favre last week, claiming that the Vikings' win over Buffalo proved that Favre was holding the team back. Yet, this week, Easterbrook is strangely silent about the Vikings-Giants game that saw the Vikings roundly embarrassed and eliminated from playoff contention... while Favre sat the bench and Easterbrook's golden boy started. No explanation of whether he's changed his mind, or whether Jackson, too, was holding the team back. Nothing.

So long, Favre!

Arthur Moats.


That'll be the answer to the Jeopardy! question "He's the Buffalo Bills' player whose tackle ended Brett Favre's consecutive games started streak."

Commit it to memory, because the scores can really change in Double Jeopardy.


I don't usually get that worked up about sports, but this made me sad. It's the end of an era, like when telephones lost their cords.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Metrodome's Streak of 224 Consecutive Starts About To End.

An aging veteran who's seen better years finally succumbed to the Minnesota winters over the weekend:




The roof of the Metrodome -- techincal name "Mall of America Field at Humbert H. Humphrey Metrodome" -- is said to be "inflatable," or "inflated," which simply means "held up by air pressure inside the dome," and now you know why they don't do that for homes in the midwest.

In case you were wondering, here's the exact geographic coordinates of the Metrodome: 44°58′26″N 93°15′29″W. I don't know why I put that in there, but, then, I don't know why Wikipedia put them in its entry on the Metrodome, either.

It's not all bad news, though: Not only does the collapse mean that Detroit will get to host an actual professional football game as the Vikings play the Giants at Ford Field tonight -- but the damage might mean expanded gambling in Minnesota.

I'm not sure why they're moving games, though. I didn't gather that the field was wrecked or anything (although I played the video with the sound off, and I'm a bit behind because yesterday I opted to watch the beginning of The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause rather than the somewhat-slower-moving, less amusing Packers-Lions game) and although Vikings fans may not remember it, football can be played outdoors.

Also, did nobody think to move the Vikings/Giants game to Lambeau Field so that Brett Favre's Minnesota Vikings could recreate his last game as a Packer, when the Giants won in OT en route to the Super Bowl? (Or did they ask, but the Packers turned them down out of fear that the Lambeau Field turf can't handle an actual running game?)

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Cam Newton Awarded Temporary Custody Of Heisman Trophy.


"Keep it safe for us," Heisman officials tell him. "We'll be back for it in 3 years or so."

Last night, whatever group it is that awards the Most Irrelevant Sports Trophy made it official: they have no real standards.

Or, that is to say, Cam Newton (shown at right in his felony crime booking photo) was the latest recipient of an award that more often than not marks the end of an athletic career.

Reporters are still investigating whether it's true that the award was given with one of those "If it fits, it ships" boxes to make it easier for Newton to send the trophy back in the future.

Newton's receipt of the trophy was controversial, as he'd actually been mentioned to win the Johnny Unitas Award but the committee in charge of that honor couldn't come to terms with Newton's father over how much the elder Newton would receive if Cam accepted that trophy.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

NCAA to Cam Newton: "So many investigations, so little time before the awards ceremony. What say we just gloss over some of the harsher ones?"


As college football gets ready to give the Most Irrelevant Award In Sports to Cam Newton tonight, here's a pop quiz:
“I’m a person that did no wrong....I did it the right way.”


“I’m not worried about any of these allegations or anything like that, because I know what the truth is, like I said from day one.... Once the smoke clears, everybody’s going to see we did nothing wrong.”

After considering those, answer this: Which of those quotes was from Cam Newton, and which was from Reggie Bush?

Extra credit: While you may know that the NCAA found Cam Newton didn't know his dad was seeking money, can you say what, exactly, the NCAA ruled with respect to allegations that Newton cheated on exams at his old school, and what did the NCAA say about Cam Newton's felony arrest in 2008 for allegedly stealing a laptop and obstructing justice?

Discuss.

(Or, if you are on the Heisman voting panel, absolutely do not discuss.)

Aaron Rodgers Probably Doesn't Like You -- BUT YOU LIKE HIM! YOU REALLY LIKE HIM! (Sort of.)


I wonder how many people out there get that reference. Yesterday, at work, one of the secretaries made a joke that involved quoting Steve Martin's "let's get small" routine. Of the three other people in the room, only I got the reference; the two younger guys admitted they knew Steve Martin only as a dad in the movies -- not as the amazingly funny comedian of his younger years.

So when I reference Sally Field winning an Oscar, I think I'm shooting over the heads of the readers. Maybe I should have titled this "Imma let you finish, Brett Favre, but Aaron Rodgers has surpassed you in jersey sales."

Or is that played out? I can't keep up with culture.

Anyhoo, I'm pointing out today that The Anointed One has moved ahead of Brett Favre in the only category that really counts: the hearts of the fans. (Studio audience: "awwwww."). Rodgers' jersey sales passed up Favre's as of December 10, 2010, as reported in a story capped by the not-biased at all headline "Rodgers surpasses Favre in jersey sales." Said Fox Sports of a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel report:

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has moved one spot ahead of the former Green Bay icon in total jersey sales....According to NFLshop.com, Rodgers ranked sixth in total jersey sales... with Favre in seventh place.

Awesome! Way to go, A-Rodg! The rest of you... don't go on in that story. Nothing to see here. Move along. What's that? There's qualifiers?

... total jersey sales from April 1 through Dec. 3.
Oh, well, that's still something. Rodgers' is a big deal -- he's ahead of Favre, proving that he's gained the love and respect of football fans in Green Bay and elsewhere. Thank God I'm done with that story. Nothing else to read at all about the Rodgers-vs-Favre situation...

...The 41-year-old Vikings quarterback, who left Green Bay via a trade to the Jets in 2008, is still, however, the all-time leader in total jerseys sold.

Well, look. If you're going to be that way about it and mention all these facts, there's nothing I can do here.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Aaron Rodgers Probably Doesn't Like You, Take Three


Who was better at carrying a grudge, Richard Nixon or Packers QB Aaron Rodgers? While Nixon had his enemies' list (most notable name on it: Yosemite Sam), The Anointed One has everyday life in the NFL to drive him completely batty.

Never one to miss a lead once I've written about it twice before, the Wisconsin State Journal's Jim Polzin published an article on December 9 about Rodgers' quick-on-the-draw temper with teammates. Titled "Heart on his sleeve: Rodgers is quick to let players know when they've made a mistake," the article details A-Rodg's everpresent irritation with his teammates:

The Green Bay Packers had a 15-point lead with 6 minutes, 45 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter Sunday when fullback Quinn Johnson lined up wrong, forcing Aaron Rodgers to burn a timeout.

The Packers were well on their way to a 34-16 victory over the San Francisco 49ers at Lambeau Field, but that didn't stop Rodgers from giving Johnson an earful as the quarterback made his way to the sidelines.

It wasn't the first time this season Rodgers let one of his young teammates have it for making a mental mistake. And Rodgers said Wednesday he doesn't plan to end that practice, even though his emotional outbursts may rub some people the wrong way.

Rodgers was quick to make a distinction between mental mistakes of the sort he's going to lay into teammates for, and physical mistakes:

To me, physical mistakes are going to happen....They just are. I'm going to throw a bad ball, guys are going to drop passes, might not be able to make a play at some point. But the mental stuff, I just have a really hard time with that.

So if you line up on the wrong side and have to burn a timeout, Rodgers is going to get in your face. But if you were to, oh, I don't know... fumble away a touchdown against the NFC-leading Falcons in a game you needed to win, or throw an interception and fumble away the game-ending score in OT in a playoff game, that's just the way it is.

Rodgers then finished up by knocking Green Bay, in general, as a place so dreary that there's no reason to think of anything other than football:

We live in Green Bay and there's not a ton of distractions. There's no excuses in my opinion to (have) that many mental mistakes.
Odds are that if you exist, you've gotten on A-Rodg's nerves. And if you don't exist, that'll probably just annoy him. Either way, I'd lay low if I were you.

What else could you be doing, besides listening to the Song Of The Week?

What I'm reading, what I'm writing, and the Song Of The Week, down below:

Cam Newton Awarded Temporary Custody of Heisman Trophy (Nonsportsmanlike Conduct!)


Dead birds on a pole and a wraith made of blood: It's the Fifth Best Christmas Song (That Has Nothing To Do With Christmas) (The Best Of Everything)

I support providing free and low cost lawyers to people, and it could easily be done. (Pagel For Judge)

Hamlet mentioned Christmas? Boy, Shakespeare really was great. (Thinking The Lions)


Hey, it's that free-lawyers-for-people thing again. Plus some articles on debt collection. (Family and Consumer Law: The Blog.)

Saoirse's life didn't really begin until after she died. Now, she's got to find The Tree before William Howard Taft gets everyone sent back... somewhere? It's the web novel the After, only on 5 Pages.

He rescued her from drowning, and now his dreams of her are sending him back to the ocean. Read I Am In Love With This Cruel Ocean, a uniquely haunting story, on AfterDark - your home for scary stories!

Your Song Of The Week:








Books! Booksy Books Books!

You may already know this, but for those who don't, I write more than just dumb jokes about my life and lists of things I think are great. I've got a couple of books available that would make great Christmas presents for you or that reader in your life. Each of these is available on Lulu.com, but you can click right through to buy them now if you'd like.

And, if you buy any three of these, and email me proof of purchase at thetroublewithroy[at]yahoo.com, I'll send you the other two, free.

The Scariest Things, You Can't Imagine

The Scariest Things, You Can't Imagine

Print: $10.00

Download: $1.25

A shape-shifting demon torments children while their parents stand by. A widower haunted by the ghost of his wife tries to understand her requests. A baby stolen from his mother by gargoyles returns, full of hatred for the life he's led. A family of children raised by grave-robbing corpse stealers tries to discover a way out. An elderly man possesses the power of life and death in his retirement. These stories present images and people who will haunt your thoughts for a long time after you read them.

Just Exactly How Life Looks

Just Exactly How Life Looks

Print: $11.18

In Just Exactly How Life Looks you'll be introduced to unforgettable people living remarkable lives. Cowboys wander in a timeless desert. Scientists meet in secret to plot a new way to get attention, and money, from people. A man and his would-be lover try to find lions on safari, and more. The people and places in this book spring to life fully-formed and full of anxiety and imagination. They worry about the time they have had and the time they have left. They bury their loved ones and look for new friends. They talk and laugh and hope and cry and die, while their friends and family and enemies and Gods watch them, seeing, in their faces and actions and fears, a portrait of just exactly how life looks.

Eclipse

Eclipse

Print: $11.50

Download: $1.49

Claudius wanted to be the first man to reach the stars... and maybe he was. In a stunning psychological horror work, "Eclipse" unfolds slowly, beginning with Claudius drifting through space after something has gone wrong with his mission. As he stares at the only thing he can see, a tiny rock off in space, he mulls the events that led him here, reflecting on his childhood and the mission-turned-into-murder. Or did things go bad? As "Eclipse" unfolds, the reader is treated to a twisting, constantly changing landscape created by Claudius' own mind, as version after version of what-might-have-happened pile on. One thing is clear, though: Something has gone wrong, and Claudius may never reach the stars. Or will he?

Do Pizza Samples Really Exist?

Do Pizza Samples Really Exist?

Print: $10.06

Download: $1.49

Why will paying attention to Paris Hilton destroy the universe? How can one number be better than the other? Are saber teeth really necessary for a good movie monster? Would Hollywood as we know it exist if not for Jennifer Aniston's hair? These questions and more are asked, and answered, in the only book that dares to explain how jellybeans are related to the apocalpyse. Essays on pop culture, things that are The Best, and life show a provocative, and hilarious, way of looking at the world.

Thinking The Lions, and 117* Other Ways To Look At Life (Give Or Take)

Thinking The Lions, and 117* Other Ways To Look At Life (Give Or Take)

Print: $12.98

Life, only funnier: Here's the book you've been waiting for, assuming you've been waiting for a book about a guy who spends his time trying to prove velociraptors didn't exist, who teaches his kids to gamble and helps them with their homework by wondering what would happen if you cut a superhero in half, whose own wife said he would get a crocodile for a babysitter, who finds squid chili romantic, and who generally makes the most -- or the least? - -of his life.




Are you the electronic reader type? Get most of these books and my blogs on your Kindle for as low as $0.99. Click here for details.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Gregg Easterbrook and ESPN bravely (and wrongly) take on "The Fighting Unauthorized Cheesburgers" of College Sports.


Sit down and make sure you're ready for this news: ESPN and Tuesday Morning Quarterback have decided to unfairly pick a fight with bigtime college athletic departments -- and they've rigged the evidence in their favor.

As I ate lunch today, I read Gregg Easterbrook's well-written-but-missing-the-point Tuesday Morning Quarterback examination of bloated "featherbedding" college athletics programs.

As someone who always believed that the big athletics departments at the big schools at least support themselves, I found this interesting:

The median big-university subsidy from general funds to sports is $10 million per school, the NCAA found. Many major college athletic programs claim to be self-sustaining, since this is what everyone wants to hear, but actually are not. For example, the University of Oregon claims its athletic department is self-sustaining. Yet the school's general fund gives the athletic department nearly $1 million per year, Rachel Bachman of The Oregonian reports. Increasingly, college students who don't play sports are charged to support those who do. USA Today reports that in the 2008-09 school year, colleges charged their students $795 million to support athletics. Often this wasn't revealed, with the costs buried in tuition fees that students, and their parents, thought were solely to support academics.

And as I read that, I thought: his point is a good one: Schools throw tons of money at athletics, with little impact on or meaning for most students at their school; I attended UW from 1995-1998 and didn't much care one way or the other if the Badgers won or lost in any sport, and I don't know that I benefited in any way from UW fielding a team during that era.

Easterbrook sums up:

Yet at a time when states are cutting spending for public universities, and private colleges are reducing financial aid, athletic departments generally -- and football and men's basketball staffs specifically -- continue to be extensively featherbedded. (Does Michigan really need five men's basketball coaches plus a "director of basketball operations"?) Top-heavy staffing in college sports is far more troubling for higher education than some football player who sells a jersey on eBay. Yet bloated staffing, which benefits the well-off and comfortable, continues, while God forbid some recruit from a poor family should eat an unauthorized cheeseburger.

That's an important consideration for anyone who is in college or who has kids that might one day attend college, or who simply wants kids to be able to continue to attend college: Wisconsin right now is hoping to pass a law that would "limit" tuition increases to not more than 4% per year, but the UW is spending $30,000,000 per year on salaries in the athletics department. (And lost $2,000,000+ in the last year noted on the report that link goes to-- more than 1/2 of the losses coming from an expense called "postseason participation.")

But Easterbrook actually misses the point: In his zeal to zing the bloated athletic departments, he failed to actually investigate the facts-- or he didn't bother to do that because the facts would get in the way of his argument, which is that college athletics hurt the colleges' academic missions.

The real facts are more complicated than that -- and ESPN and Easterbrook didn't want complication to get in the way of their argument; why let facts get in the way of a good theory?

I did my own investigation -- and, remember, I'm not a highly-paid, highly-touted sports writer for ESPN; I did this while I ate my pretzels and listened to Dan Patrick, and still found out that Easterbrook is wrong, and that he's either deliberately ignoring some facts to make an argument, or that he's simply ignoring facts, period.

Easterbrook's claim is that bloated athletic departments -- by which he obviously means football and basketball, given his emphasis on those departments -- cost universities money. But the truth is that big time college sports add to college revenues, while small-time college sports deduct from them -- and the truth is also that postseason play, which ESPN benefits from significantly -- costs colleges a lot of money.

I looked at the University of Wisconsin athletic department report for 2008-2009 -- it was pretty easy to find, and I'm not even related to a Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals judge -- and learned that Wisconsin gets the bulk of its athletic money from football -- about $17,000,000 per year, compared to $13,000 from gifts and $16,000,000 from conference payments (and $6,000,000 from concessions).

Football meanwhile only uses up about $7,000,000 in expenses, so football adds $10,000,000 per year to the University's bottom line.

Men's basketball raises $5,000,000 per year, but costs only $3,000,000, so that, too, is a net plus for Wisconsin's bottom line.

Hockey, even, manages to more-than-break-even -- so the big 3 sports at UW all in fact do pay for themselves.

Meanwhile track and cross-country suck money like a vacuum: They spend $880,000 between them but raise only a fraction of the $41,000 in revenue attributed to "Varsity Sports." Rowing, swimming and diving spend more than $1,000,000 per year but raise almost nothing, too -- that's $1.8 million per year on sports that only a tiny number of people take part in at the University and fewer actually go watch -- but the University keeps them going, and they have nothing to do with football and basketball.

On the women's sports' side, things are worse: Title IX requires that the UW field women's sports, but they cost a lot of money: $1.5 million for women's basketball annually, and $1,000,000 for hockey, but the revenues from those programs combined are about $215,000 combined. That's a drain of $2.3 million on the UW budget for programs that aren't popular enough to sustain themselves but which are legally required to be there or the UW wants to support for other reasons.

One of the biggest drains on the budget? The aforementioned "postseason expenses." Salaries and bonuses are included in that category -- but they account for only $550,000 or so of the $2 million postseason costs UW had in the reported period. The other $1.4 million or so was for operating expenses associated with making the postseason -- operating expenses that may be in part incurred by exorbitant costs schools incur in attending those bowl games or buying unused tickets.

Given that SI had done a lot of work on this issue already, why didn't Easterbrook and ESPN decide to pick on the BCS Bowl funding system and how it costs schools a lot of money to play in the postseason, instead of just attacking school athletic departments? Could it be because ESPN makes a lot of money televising BCS bowl games and doesn't want to alienate its sponsor -- while not caring if it attacks college athletic departments because they don't pay it?

________________________

As a postscript
, I note that Easterbrook has a habit of ignoring evidence, or taking incomplete evidence, to support his opinions, and the foregoing isn't the only example of that in that column.

Easterbrook is a longtime Favre-basher, and moments after opening his column by incorrectly blaming big sports for college deficits, Easterbrook said this:

In other football news, last month TMQ took considerable flak for saying it was time for Brett Favre to carry a clipboard while Tarvaris Jackson played. Jackson "holds slightly fewer records than Favre, but he's a mobile quarterback, which may be what Minnesota needs at the moment," your columnist wrote. Sunday, Favre left the game early with an injury, Jackson played and the Minnesota Vikings moonwalked to a 38-14 victory. True, the opponent was the Buffalo Bills, and some Buffalo fans at this point are rooting for defeat to keep the team alive in the Andrew Luck sweepstakes. But on Sunday the Vikings played like a team, rather than a jeans promotional organization, for the first team this season.

The implication being because Favre didn't play, the Vikings were unified, and the implication being that Tarvaris Jackson led the Vikings to the win.

It's hard to comment on what Easterbrook meant by played like a team, since that's his opinion only -- I don't know what he considers playing like a team and it's an unsupportable argument (did the Vikings, for the first time this season, hold each others' hands in the huddle? In prior games were they refusing to block for each other?) and it's hard to comment on how Favre being out would affect, say, the defense's attitude -- so Easterbrook's bias shows in that he blames Favre for Minnesota's offense, and defense, and special teams for not "playing like a team."

But worse, Easterbrook failed to do even a simple comparison. The Vikings and Bills had similar numbers of passing first downs -- 9 to 7, respectively. The Vikings were 4 for 12 on 3rd down; the Bills were 3 for 12, and 3rd down is typically a passing down. Tarvaris and Bills' QB Obi Wan Fitzpatrick were similar in completions and yards gained, while Jackson threw 3 interceptions to Obi Wan's one.

The difference in the game was rushing: Adrian Peterson scored three touchdowns and ran for 107 yards, while backup Toby Gerhart added another 54. Buffalo's two leading rushers had 77 yards between them -- or less than 1/2 of Minnesota's. The Vikings had 7 minutes more in time of possession -- each team ran a play about every 31 seconds of possession - but the Bills made only 23 run attempts, to the Vikings' forty.

An interesting question would be whether Minnesota, without Favre, was forced to rely on Peterson, whereas with Favre they throw more because they want to (or because Favre makes them?) If the Vikings can win resting on Peterson's legs, as they showed this week, and if having Favre in the lineup makes them more likely to throw (for whatever reason) instead of run, then Easterbrook's claims that Favre is holding the team back might have some support.

But Easterbrook didn't ask (or answer) that question -- he simply wanted to bash Favre and point out that Minnesota won with Jackson in, while ignoring why they won. That's neither analysis nor supportable opinion; it's just having a grudge.

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