Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Mad Football

I, for one am sick and tired of hearing it over and over: “These are the wildest playoffs ever!  We haven’t seen anything like this before!”  It is time to face facts.

Say it with me now…

(channeling Robin Williams--careful for the language on the clip)

We don’t know anything about the NFL.

We don’t know anything about the NFL.

We don’t know anything about the NFL.

(Still don’t get the idea?  Watch from 2:03 till 2:32, I’ll wait…….Thank you Jim)

That’s right, one more time: We don’t know anything about the NFL.

(and It's not your fault)

Considering the following 4 things;

1.       The Cardinals supposedly “came out of nowhere,” and for two weeks have been the best team in the NFL.  This would be nothing if it were October, but the red, orange and yellow leaves have long since fallen, meaning that it is playoff season when we find the Red and (white…I guess), on top of the NFL.  Of the other 3 teams, the Eagles were declared dead weeks ago when Donavan McNabb was done in Philly, and no one on the blogosphere, radio or television had the Ravens with their rookie head coach and quarterback going to the playoffs coming into ’08, let alone the AFC Championships.

2.       On the other side, we were told that the Giants were the class of the NFL for the entire season, only to be one and done in the playoffs.

3.       (and now for your explanations)  In three of the four sports, we receive what would be considered an appropriate sample size.  Baseball plays 162 games, and the NBA and NHL play 82.  An appropriate sample size from which trends can be extrapolated according to statisticians (the real kind, not those who keep sports stats) is approximately 40, well within the boundaries of those three seasons.  The NFL season is scarcely 1/3 of that established benchmark.  According to this, any statistics that we are able to take regarding teams ability to win football games are not sufficient to predict future behavior.  Without getting too far into the numbers, this means that it is entirely possible (from a statistical point of view) that the 4-12 Seattle Seahawks were equally capable of winning football games as the 12-4 Carolina Panthers.  Breaking down turnovers, points scored, and yards gained etc. can give football’s answer to SABRmetricians plenty of things to play with, and indeed an idea of how good a team is, but so many things go into winning football games (from offense, defense and special teams to clock management, play calling etc), that football more than any other sport really defies statistical analysis when it comes to the 2 columns that matter (W and L) at the end of the day.

4.       We know what a pitcher does, we know what a power forward does, and we know what a first baseman does.  While we know what a quarterback does (or at least most of it), %99.9 of fans couldn’t watch a football game and tell the difference between an all pro guard and one who is on his way out of the league.  While the offensive line thing is no new revelation, most fans watch the ball when they watch games, meaning that if they weren’t told by the Ron Jaworski and Peter Kings of the world, they would never be able to tell you who is a shut down corner, and only the most diehard fans would know about run stopping linebackers, so let’s be honest, very few people can pick out a defensive MVP, let alone break down a 4-3 without help from the media (this is particularly important in the playoffs where “defense wins championships”).  While there are a few people (particularly the aforementioned Jaworski and King) who attempt to give us a glimpse into the hidden side of football, no fan truly knows everything that goes on in a play, let alone a game.  The defensive MVP this year went undrafted by 32 teams with front offices chocked full of experts attempting to put the best defense that they can on the field, which really tells you all you need to know.  This leads to complexities that are lost to everyone that watches.  For instance how many people watched the Atlanta-Arizona game, turned to their  buddies and said “I can’t believe Ryan is snapping the ball on 1 every time!”  %01?  %.00001?  And while multiple Cardinals have said this was the case, the fact is the most observant fans probably just said “wow, Arizona is getting a lot of pressure on Ryan,” while the vast majority of the fans just said “the Falcons offense seems off.”

So there you go.  It doesn’t make it any less fun to watch (or indeed predict) but it is time to admit it.  The fact is, no matter how much football fans watch or play, the fact is THEY KNOW NOTHING!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Introducing The OV Sports Hall of Fame

Ladies and Gentlemen, after much deliberation (not really), we here at OV Sports (ok, it's just me...) are launching page 2 of obstructed view sports.  Worry not, you will still get the sporadic and irrelevent ramblings you have grown accustomed to seeing at, but luckily for you, the OV Sports empire has just doubled in size.  
Later this evening, we will be launching the OV Sports YouTube Hall of Fame.  While this needs a much better name, I am a busy student athelete at a prestigious university, so I don't have time (please spare me the comments contending that the mere existence of this page happes to prove the preceeding sentance wrong).  The plan for this blog is to post the best youtube clips that I come across.  It is pretty simple.  This will probably be updated more often than the main OV Sports page, simply because it is simpler to embed a youtube video on a webpage (it consists of hitting ctrl+c and ctrl+v, pretty advanced programing jargin, forgive me) than to write a thousand words in elequent prose matched only by Shaq and Miss Teen South Carolina.  
Anyways, that URL is (I will post this on the side of this blog), enjoy.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

A Quick Prediction

Arizona could win the Super Bowl.  Usually I try to refrain from one paragraph blog posts but I have to put this one up here.  As I type this, Arizona, who no one has given a chance since about week 11 is up 14-7 with Carolina in a game most predicted would be a blowout, they are doing it without Anquan Boldin and I’m coming to realize that everyone may have been wrong about them.  The reasons are pretty simple, they have an experienced quarterback, their running game is coming on at the right time, and they don’t have any glaring holes provided they are in warmish weather.  If they win tonight, they will have to win at most one cold weather game (maybe none), and while it may not be exceedingly likely, stranger things have certainly happened.  So sorry for the short post, but I just wanted to get this one on the record.  Sure, they could fall apart and lose this game 35-14, it is still early, but it is time to give this team a chance.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Reigning In 2008

                Fifteen Months ago, I wrote my first piece for the Kent News (and indeed the first to appear in this space) on the dismal year that filled the past twelve months.  Since that time, quite a bit has changed.  In fact many have editorialized in the past month or so that for all its shortcomings in terms of well, pretty much everything else, 2008 may have been the greatest year in the history of sports.  I hate to burst the collective bubbles of both SI and ESPN, but it hasn’t been nearly as great as they have claimed.  Call me a picky if you want, but in truth 2008 left plenty to be desired.

                Make no mistake, there were plenty of great moments in 2008, but there were drawbacks to each which have been ignored by an overly sentimental media.  Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt personified athletic achievement in Beijing.  While Phelps garnered most of the attention stateside, to me Bolt deserves to be admired in the same light.  Both athletes took their sports to another level in brilliant and memorable displays of greatness in their fields.  Without taking anything away from either man though, truth be told these were more of flash in the pan events in the larger sports world.  While both were achievements that will have a timeless status in their respective sports, the quadrennial interest of the mainstream in swimming and track and field prohibits 8 gold medals or multiple world records from being truly transcendent achievements.  The simple fact that neither athlete will likely compete in their sport for the next year is evidence of this.  The same is true for the Wimbledon final, as tennis was quickly put on the backburner just weeks later (can anyone name the winner of the Australian Open?).

Also in 2008, Tiger Woods reminded us that he is the greatest golfer in history, and that to suggest otherwise is foolish.  The 2008 US Open was truly one of the greatest golf tournaments ever played, with an everyman underdog challenging an infallible, once in a generation force of nature.  Woods, even on one leg was able to gut out a win in a performance that no one who witnessed it will soon forget.  As for the Open itself, there is really nothing negative that I can say about it.  On the other hand, that was just one week in what was otherwise an extremely boring season for Americas fifth most popular sport.  The fact is that in the current climate of the PGA tour, there is only one attraction.  That is Tiger Woods, and with him out of action for July and August, most of the season turned out to be forgettable, save one memorable weekend.  Once again, this was a moment of greatness, but not actually a great golf season.

                All of these were great moments, make no mistake, but all four also happened outside of the realm of the four major sports.  Much was made about the Super Bowl, but really aside from one catch it was an extremely sloppy game.  Aside from one timeless highlight, even if we still aren’t ready to admit it yet as a nation, it would have been much more memorable to see New England complete the 19-0.  As for the 08 regular season, the most enduring story will be one not of greatness, but of failure.  The 0-16 Detroit Lions were definitely the most compelling story in a league that lacked a single memorable team once Tom Brady was replaced in New England.   

Then there was the other story in the NFL…Brett Favre.  My distain for the coverage that this received is well documented, so I will keep this short.  Essentially all other stories were ignored so that ESPN could cover a past his prime quarterback go back on his word and break the hearts of an entire state.  What was the end result?  None of the teams involved in the saga made the playoffs.  Riveting!

                Sure, the NBA saw an old rivalry rekindled and the MLB saw a true worst to first story, neither of those things were unique.  The reason for the interest in the finals was really based on history.  This Lakers-Celtics finals was certainly entertaining, but they have a ways to go to reach Magic-Bird levels of compellingness.  And while the Rays were compelling, they were no more so than the Braves of the early 90s, probably less so, as the Atlanta team didn’t go ignored by its city until mid September.

In the other major sports, the Wings won the cup, but no one really seemed to notice.  A two loss team took the National Championship and the only compelling theme of the 08 season was that no one could agree on anything regarding the BCS except that there won’t be a true, undisputed champ.

Finally, the most compelling thing about sports is the players.  Our peers, as humans (sort of), who accomplish the things that we only dreamed of accomplishing are at the end of the day, the reason that we tune in.  The fact is the two breakout athletes in 2008 were a swimmer and a runner who we won’t hear from again for (at best) four years, and even if we do, they will be past their primes at that point.  This was the main shortcoming of 2008. Even 2007 saw LeBron, Sid, and Ovie take their games to another level.   In the four major sports, Matt Ryan was the only youngster that established himself as a star in 08, but even the most hard core Falcons fans would stop short of calling him a transcendent talent.

So sorry to hate on 08, but someone had to do it.  Before you go off thinking that I am a morbid, impossible to please, hardened skeptic, you should know that I really did enjoy 2008.  There were indeed plenty of memorable moments (getting a gold, silver and bronze in my three fantasy football leagues for instance).  My only point is that we shouldn’t get as carried away as we have.  As many great moments as 2008 saw, the fact is we only had one compelling regular season in the sports we actually care about, and that was due to league wide mediocrity.  2008 was as electrifying as any year, but to call it the best ever is jumping the gun.