Thoughts on Green Bay

I really enjoyed the game last night in Green Bay.  It is impossible on TV to communicate the energy and decibel level of that crowd, particularly in the first half before Dallas opened up a large lead.  But even with victory pretty much out of reach with 5 minutes to play, virtually no one left  (our Arizona fans would already have been out of the parking lot by then).

The game featured a 72,000 person crowd in a town of 100,000.  In a world where traditional groups are increasingly fragmented, the entire town is united in their dedication to the team.  The Packers are ubiquitous in town, so much so I can't even think of any good major-city analogy.  The best analogy I can come up with is that the game was more like a high school football game in west Texas than a typical NFL game.  Even the cheerleaders look like a high-school cheer squad with girls in jumpers and guys with megaphones, in a world where the other 30+ teams all have pinup girls with breast enhancement. 

Posted on September 22, 2008 at 03:58 PM | Permalink | Comments (9)

Greetings from Green Bay

I am here in Green Bay checking off another item on my sports bucket list: seeing a game at Lambeau Field.  And it should be a really good one. 

We went out last night on the town to various bars, mostly on Washington street, after a ritual visit to "fuzzy's."  (Packers fans can tell me later if we were on the right track with these choices).  My friend (who lives in DC) and I were shocked to pay only $2 a beer at the first bar we were at.  It turned out that this was virtual price gouging in the local market.  We never paid more the rest of the evening than $1 for a mug of draft, on a Saturday night yet.  Yet another good reason to stay off the coasts.

For the record, Green Bay is really a very nice, tidy little town.  Kind of quiet, like many small towns -- they set all the traffic lights to flashing yellow last night about 8PM.  The only difference between it and any other nice midwestern town is that every single business has "packers" in its name somehow and roughly 30% of the population at any one time is wearing something with "FAVRE" on the back.  Who is this Favre guy?  I thought he played in New York  ;=)

Posted on September 21, 2008 at 08:37 AM | Permalink | Comments (7)

Yea! The NFL is Back!

The only time my son (born in Dallas) has every been sympathetic to Adolph Hitler.  Enjoy this bit of Friday randomness:

Posted on September 4, 2008 at 09:21 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)

Wow

What are the London Olympic organizers thinking right now?  In the immortal words of Bill Paxton,"That's it man, game over man, game over." 

I was amazed by the opening ceremonies last night.  I am not sure how that will ever be topped, particularly since most democracies cannot reasonably pour several billion dollars into a single three or four hour show.  I guess one could make some Triumph of the Will allusions, but it was really the most amazing meld of technology and showmanship I have ever seen.

Posted on August 9, 2008 at 08:28 AM | Permalink | Comments (15)

Day at Yankee Stadium

My son and I went to see a game today in Yankee Stadium. both because he is a big Yankees fan and to see Yankee Stadium one last time before they tear it down.  While the Yanks lost, with Mariano Rivera giving up a solo home run in the 9th, my son, who is a huge A-Rod fan, got to see A-Rod go yard to tie the game in the 8th.  A couple of observations:

  • There is a whole different seat-ethic going on in Yankee Stadium.  Every single time we got up to get food or go to the bathroom, we found someone in our seats.  Seat numbers on tickets seem to be a recommendation rather than an absolute assignment
  • If you leave aside the history, there are a lot of very good design reasons for blowing up Yankee Stadium.
  • The Yanks showed a nice Rocky-themed film in the 8th, but puh-leeze -- there is not any team in the world that can less wrap itself in the mantle of scrappy underdog.  If any team is Apollo Creed, its the Yankees.
  • Enter the Sandman is great entry music for a closer like Rivera.

Posted on June 9, 2008 at 05:45 PM | Permalink | Comments (6)

Bracket Challenge Update

With just three games to go in the tournament, here are the standings:

3 games remainingMust wins for best finish
Current
rank

(score)
Player
(125 total)
Best
finish

(chance)
Worst
finish

(chance)
Final FewChampion
1 (109) Jeff Charleston 1 (25%) 13 (12.5%) Kansas Kansas
2 (108) Ron Gallagher 1 (12.5%) 11 (12.5%) UNC UCLA UCLA
3 (107) Kevin Clary #2 1 (12.5%) 18 (25%) Kansas UCLA UCLA
4 (104) Craig 1 (12.5%) 21 (25%) UNC Memphs UNC
5 (104) Jeff Charleston #2 1 (12.5%) 19 (12.5%) UNC UCLA UNC
6 (103) Jeffrey Peterson 2 (12.5%) 21 (12.5%) UNC UCLA UNC
7 (102) Stan Brown 13 (25%) 32 (12.5%) Kansas UCLA
8 (101) briain's 2 (12.5%) 25 (12.5%) UNC UCLA UCLA
9 (100) Bennett Johnsen 2 (12.5%) 34 (12.5%) Kansas Memphs Kansas
10 (100) Tom Kirkendall 1 (12.5%) 29 (12.5%) UNC Memphs Memphs
11 (100) Wade Condict #2 11 (12.5%) 35 (12.5%) Kansas Memphs Memphs
12 (100) Nathan Lambert 3 (12.5%) 35 (12.5%) Kansas UCLA UCLA
13 (99) Andy Nemenoff 4 (12.5%) 33 (12.5%) UNC Memphs UNC
14 (99) Keith Ehlers 1 (12.5%) 39 (12.5%) Kansas Memphs Memphs
15 (97) Warren Meyer #2 5 (12.5%) 47 (12.5%) Kansas Memphs Kansas

I had show the top 15, of course, just to sneak myself in.  In fact, there are still 6 people who can win.  If you think of the three games yielding 8 possible game outcomes,  Jeff Charleston wins on three of those outcomes, and Ron Gallagher, Kevin Clary, Craig, Tom Kirkendall and Keith Ehlers each will win if one specific combination comes up.

Posted on April 4, 2008 at 10:53 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)

Bracketology Update

Not many people predicted to 12-13 matchups in the second round, but if they had, they would have runup some nice points given our upset-bonus in the scoring system.  Here are the standings to date, which I reproduce only because, well, I am in them:

BracketRankPointsCorrect GamesUpset Risk %Possible Games
Jeff Charleston 1 74 37 16.7 52
hopeful 2 71 34 23.4 44
Keith Ehlers 3 70 36 16.7 48
Warren Meyer #2 4 70 33 21.4 46
Ron Gallagher 5 69 36 10.8 47
Nicholas Stergion ii 6 69 32 35.3 43
Dawn Werner 7 69 31 29.2 40
Stan Brown 8 69 30 32.0 43
Wade Condict #2 9 67 35 25.0 44
Craig 10 67 35 10.3 47
Paul Noonan 11 66 31 26.3 42
Warren Meyer 12 65 34 14.3 47

The good news is that both my brackets are in the top 12.  The bad news is that I do a good job every year of picking early upsets and racking up early round points, and then I fall by the wayside in later rounds.  We will see if I can hang in there.  By the way, my loud-mouthed, smack-dealing son is in 76th place.  The leader has 14 of his sweet-16 still intact, while my brackets have 11 and 9 respectively, which are pretty good leading indicators for future problems for yours truly.

One of the reason I like pickhoops.com is that they have some cool analysis tools.  Here is my favorite, analyzing who has the best chances to win:

15 games remainingMust wins for best finish
Current
rank

(score)
Player
(125 total)
Best
finish

(chance)
Worst
finish

(chance)
Super SixteenExciting EightFinal FewChampion
1 (74) Jeff Charleston 1 (29.6%) 47 (<1%)    
2 (71) hopeful 1 (7.1%) 90 (<1%)    Wiscon     
3 (70) Keith Ehlers 1 (4%) 85 (<1%)     Memphs     
4 (70) Warren Meyer #2 1 (7.2%) 83 (<1%)        Xavier  
5 (69) Ron Gallagher 1 (<1%) 67 (<1%)    
6 (69) Nicholas Stergion ii 1 (4.3%) 100 (<1%)    
7 (69) Dawn Werner 1 (<1%) 95 (<1%)     Memphs   Xavier   Memphs
8 (69) Stan Brown 1 (19.5%) 92 (<1%)    
9 (67) Wade Condict #2 1 (<1%) 95 (<1%)     Memphs   Xavier   Memphs
10 (67) Craig 1 (1.5%) 68 (<1%)    
11 (66) Paul Noonan 1 (3.1%) 101 (<1%)    
12 (65) Warren Meyer 1 (2.9%) 89 (<1%)    
13 (64) Jeff Charleston #2 1 (<1%) 64 (<1%) UNC       UNC    UNC
14 (63) briain's 1 (<1%) 66 (<1%)    
15 (63) Kevin Clary #2 1 (<1%) 62 (<1%)   Kansas  Memphs    Kansas 
16 (62) Tom Kirkendall 1 (<1%) 74 (<1%)     Memphs      Memphs
17 (62) Andy Nemenoff 1 (1.6%) 85 (<1%)    
18 (62) Random 2x Risk 1 (1.6%) 104 (<1%) Tenn       Tenn   
19 (61) Derek Jankowski 1 (<1%) 93 (<1%)    Davdsn  Stanfd UCLA Xavier    UCLA UCLA UCLA
20 (60) Tony Casciano #2 1 (1.2%) 112 (<1%)      Texas    Texas Texas Texas

See the whole analysis here.  

Posted on March 25, 2008 at 09:06 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)

Third Annual NCAA Tournament Bracket Challenge

Note: This post sticky through 3/20.  Look below for newest posts.

We had a blast with it last year, so back by popular demand is the annual Coyote Blog NCAA Bracket Challenge.  Yes, I know that many of you are bracketed out, but for those of you who are self-employed and don't have an office pool to join or who just can't get enough of turning in brackets, this pool is offered as my public service.   

Last year we had close to 100 entries, and we expect more this year. Everyone is welcome, so send the link to friends as well.  There is no charge to join in and I have chosen a service with the absolutely least intrusive log-in (name, email, password only) and no spam.  The only thing I ask is that, since my kids are participating, try to keep the team names and board chat fairly clean.

To join, go to http://www.pickhoops.com/Coyote and sign up, then enter your bracket.  This year, you may enter two different brackets if you wish.

Scoring is as follows:

Round 1 correct picks:  1 points
Round 2:  2
Round 3:  4
Round 4:  6
Round 5:  8
Round 6:  10

Special March Madness scoring bonus: If you correctly pick the underdog in any round (ie, the team with the higher number seed) to win, then you receive bonus points for that correct pick equal to the difference in the two team's seeds.  So don't be afraid to go for the long-shots!   The detailed rules are here.

Bracket entry appears to be open.  Online bracket entry closes Thursday, March 20th at 12:20pm EDT.  Be sure to get your brackets in early.  Anyone can play -- the more the better.

Posted on March 20, 2008 at 01:03 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Last Reminder - Brackets Due by About Noon EDT

We have 99 brackets so far, lets get it over 100.  Remember, entry is free and fun.  As an added incentive, I will send the winner a copy of either of my books  (yes, I know the inevitable joke - 2nd place gets two copies).  Enter here:  http://www.pickhoops.com/Coyote.  More about the rules and scoring here.

Posted on March 19, 2008 at 08:43 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)

24 Hours Left to Get That Bracket In

Remember, entry is free and fun.  As an added incentive, I will send the winner a copy of either of my books  (yes, I know the inevitable joke - 2nd place gets two copies).  Enter here:  http://www.pickhoops.com/Coyote     .  More about the rules and scoring here.

Posted on March 19, 2008 at 01:18 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Reminder - NCAA Bracket Contest

Only a few more days to enter, but entry is free!  Enter here:  http://www.pickhoops.com/Coyote     .  More about the rules and scoring here.

Posted on March 17, 2008 at 08:33 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Subsidize it and They Shall Come

My son, an avid baseball player, loves the "field of dreams" concept, where little league fields are built to resemble famous major league stadiums.  We have played on such fields in several towns of California.  Recently, Gilbert, a suburb of Phoenix, ended up paying $40 million for such an 8-field complex, which seems excessive even with the cool concept.  It certainly is a whole new world when city governments build little league baseball fields at the cost of $5 million per field.

As a private company in public recreation, I can say that the deal  cut by the city of Gilber with Big Leage Dreams to design, build, and operate the park really looks appalling.  We build and operate recreation facilities under competitively bid concession contracts, but never have I seen such a sweetheart deal.  First, in every case, I pay a bid percentage of revenues as rent to the public landlord for the concession.  This deal seems to include no such rent to be paid by the operator Big League Dreams.

Second, our company is always responsible for making at least some of the capital investments.  The public entity may have to lengthen the term or reduce the minimum rent to a level where a private company can get a return, but most of the capital nowadays is usually private.  Further, if the public entity does put up capital, it is a fixed amount with the private company responsible for the overage (if the private company is building it -- the terms might be different if the public entity is doing the construction itself).  In this case, the town of Gilbert let the private operator build the facility with little oversight and was committed to absorbing all of the 76% cost overrun.  Now the private company, who has already defaulted on its one major commitment to the city (ie the capital cost) gets a $40 million facility rent free to run for profit.  Stupid city.

Well, at least the city engaged an expert consultant to help them with the feasibility study, the project evaluation, and the writing of the bid spec.  That consultant was ... Big League Dreams.  The same company that by a wild coincidence also got the construction and operating contracts.

Posted on February 12, 2008 at 01:31 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)

Go Tigers

Sorry, but we don't get to celebrate this kind of thing very often:

The Class of 2008's No. 11-rated inside linebacker Jonathan Meyers spoke with ESPN's Billy Tucker about his recent commitment to Princeton over Division I powers Florida and Michigan.

"When it came down to it, Princeton just offered so much more besides football; it just fit really well with me. Its academics are number one, the football program is highly-respected [2006 Ivy League Champions] and I have a chance to play lacrosse as well."

Additionally, Meyers received some helpful advice from Princeton graduate and current Washington Redskin Ross Tucker.

Posted on February 7, 2008 at 08:04 AM | Permalink | Comments (4)

Open Your Wallets Again, Arizona

From a reader comes this story of Arizona looking to the public trough to get funds to lure another SuperBowl.  I can say from experience now that Superbowl week is made up mostly of private corporate and celebrity parties that the unwashed locals like myself are either a) not allowed to attend at all or b) can attend only by ponying up $1000 or more.  Not being resentful or a leftist, I couldn't really care less about the parties being near by.  However, my opinion changes real fast if my tax dollars are required to pay for them:

Super Bowl organizers will try to nail down another big game for Arizona, possibly as early as 2012.

But for the state to stay competitive, taxpayers need to shoulder the majority of game costs, organizers say. And the organizers plan to lobby for legislation to accomplish that.

The weeklong celebration culminating with Sunday's Super Bowl XLII cost the local Host Committee about $17 million. The private sector, including such big contributors as the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation and the Thunderbirds, bankrolled more than 80 percent, while state and local agencies chipped in the balance.

But with a slumping economy making fundraising a challenge, the Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee, the Arizona Cardinals organization and Valley business leaders want see that ratio reversed, with public dollars financing the bulk of the effort.

Don't you love the last sentence?  An exactly equivalent way to state this is "people have other priorities for their own money and refuse to give it up voluntarily, particularly in difficult economic times, so we need the state to take it by force."

No one yet knows how much this year's Super Bowl will fatten state coffers, though organizers project the game created more than $400 million in spending. An economic-impact study won't be out for at least a couple of months.

Bullshit.  Every major economic study not conducted by the management of a professional sports team has shown nearly zero impact from such events.  Here is the Seattle NBA team admitting they have no economic impactHere is yet another economic study to the same effect.

Here is my challenge:  Take the Phoenix-area GDP for this Jan-Feb, take out the growth trend line (which can be found in year-over-year comparisons of previous months) and then compare it to the GDP for Jan-Feb 2007.  I bet you whatever you care to bet you cannot find an additional $400 million. 

Posted on February 5, 2008 at 08:32 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)

At the Superbowl

Yesterday, I had what will likely (given ticket prices) be a once in a lifetime experience for me -- I got to take my son to the Superbowl.  Our ability to afford this event really was a result of our living in the same city as the Superbowl.  The obvious reason for this is that we did not incur any significant travel costs and did not have to pay peak demand level hotel pricing.  The less obvious, but ultimately more important, reason was because we could afford to watch the ticket prices on the secondary market up until the absolute last minute.  If your were bringing a group from New York, waiting until Friday or Saturday to buy tickets might have been a bit uncomfortable, given other sunk costs. 

As it turned out, Superbowl ticket prices this year on the secondary market  (e.g. TickCo, Stubhub, et al) followed a parabola.  They were below their peak early-on, particularly since sellers did not have the tickets in hand.  You can buy tickets weeks before the Superbowl, but they will be listed as "for this general area."  You could end up in the front row or the back -- it is a bit of a crap shoot.  So they are cheaper because of this.  The peak pricing came the week before the AFC and NFC championship games when many sellers had tickets in hand and could advertise specific seats.  All along, I was looking for a ticket to just get in the door, so I was looking for the cheapest seats (likely upper deck end zone).  At their peak, there was nothing gong for less than about $3800 (when you included the seller commission or transaction fees, typically 10-20% for this type of ticket).  Beginning the Monday before the game, prices started falling  -first 10%, then 20-30%, and finally as much as 50%.  I jumped in towards the end of the week because a pretty good (or at least better than the worst) seat came up for a good price.  I am told by a friend who showed up on game day at the ticket company office that he got in for less than $1500.

Anyway, here is the stadium - yes it is kind of odd looking.  This was taken about halfway through our walk from the car to the stadium.  We just barely parked in the same county.  We showed up about 6 hours before game time and were in the last half of arrivals:
Sb8_2

The stadium is a taxpayer-funded boondoggle that is a good hour away (on the complete opposite side of a very large city) from old Scottsdale where most of the parties and social activities and player hotels were. 

The security included a ban on any bag over 12x12x12 inches, a pat down, and a metal detector.  And the NFL did a MUCH better job than the TSA.  MUCH.  It is hard to see, but the tent on the left is about 1/4 of the length of the full security screening area.   They had  at least 25 lanes open in parallel.  Despite thousands of people, we had no wait at all (the lines below are all moving briskly and continuously).
Sb7
And look!  We must be in the front row!  Well, of the upper deck, but these turned out to be great seats and, having watched prices for weeks, a very good price-value point (in context).  My son braves the wrath of all the surrounding Giants fans by wearing his Cowboys jersey.
Sb6
I thought the fast set up and takedown of the stages was pretty amazing, and something you miss on TV.  Here is Tom Petty's stage going out (or in, I can't remember).  The funniest part was the crew of NFL guys who followed along with rags and buckets to dust off the grass after the equipment passed to make sure it looked good for TV.
Sb2
Sb10
We had a decent view of Tom Petty's back, which once I saw his scraggly beard was probably a good thing.  The crew of screaming fans at the stage was pretty funny.  They ran these folks out for Alicia Keyes, then kicked them out of the stadium, then ran them back in for Tom Petty, and then back out again.  I saw one show on TV last night, and the audience looked young, but to my eye the great mass of the crowd was middle aged women, which I thought was kind of funny.
Sb3
And here is the last play and confetti burst:

It was a great, perhaps historic game, and we loved the whole experience.  Now back to work to pay those bills.

So, here are the [sports-related] events on my must-see list I have tackled:

Baseball all-star game, Superbowl, game at Fenway, game at Yankee stadium, 16th hole at the Phoenix Open, center court at Wimbledon, BCS Championship game, Daytona 500, personally playing golf at St. Andrews, Big 10 home football game, Rose Bowl, Cowboys home game [update: and an original 90s-vintage American Gladiators filming live]

Yet to be tackled:

the Masters, Packers home game, game at Wrigley, NCAA final four, SEC home football game (maybe Tennessee or the cocktail party), maybe at World Series, maybe a World Cup

What else?

Posted on February 4, 2008 at 01:22 PM | Permalink | Comments (17)

Feed Your Gambling Habit

I am all for full legalization of gambling, but, at the risk of preaching at you, if you are betting one of the following Superbowl prop bets with any kind of cash, you might have a gambling problem.  Here are several examples from Sports Book Review:

What song will Tom Petty open with?
Petty is this year’s halftime entertainment in Glendale; FOX advertised this fact during previous NFL games using “Runnin' Down a Dream” off the 1989 album Full Moon Fever. That’s a strong indicator the song will at least be part of what will be a short set, although a medley like the one Prince performed last year is certainly possible.

“Runnin' Down a Dream” is the favorite at +110, followed by the 1977 classic “American Girl” at +175.

Color of liquid winning head coach is doused in?
Football lore has it that Bill Parcells got the first Gatorade shower in 1985, courtesy of Jim Burt and Harry Carson, when the Giants beat the Washington Redskins 17-3 during a midseason game. The Gatorade was orange (+200), as it was when Parcells took a bath after winning Super Bowl XXI. But Bill Belichick was doused in a clear liquid (+300) after winning Super Bowl XXXIX over the Eagles.

Halftime commercial to have highest rating
Budweiser is the big favorite at –180, followed by godaddy.com at +275. Last year’s winner was a commercial by Hewlett-Packard; the Bud Light ads didn’t even crack the Top 3. So Anheuser-Busch has reportedly taken out nine (!) Super Bowl ads this year; Bud should be the value pick here by sheer volume alone.

Length of National Anthem
American Idol winner Jordin Sparks will sing the Star-Spangled Banner at Super Bowl XLII, presumably because FOX is the television host for both programs. The over/under for this prop is 103.5 seconds. Sparks took about 102 seconds to complete the anthem at Game 1 of the 2007 NBA Finals between the San Antonio Spurs and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Here are a few others I found at this site, with all the prop bets you could ever wish for:

2008 Super Bowl XLII Props - First offensive lineman called for a holding penalty.
Chris Snee (NYG)   7/1
 
David Diehl (NYG)   7/1
Grey Ruegamer (NYG)   8/1
Kareem McKenzie (NYG)   7/1
Shaun O'Hara (NYG)   5/1
Dan Koppen (NE)   7/1
Logan Mankins (NE)   7/1
Matt Light (NE)   7/1
Nick Kaczur (NE)   8/1
Rich Seubert (NE)   7/1
Stephen Neal (NE)   8/1
Field (Any Other Player)   4/1

Who will the MVP of the Game thank first?
Teammates   +200
 
God   +250
Family   +200
Coach   +500
Doesn't thank anyone   +600

We must be a secular society - God's fallen to third.  I always wanted to see someone from the losing side get interviewed right after the winner thanked God for their win.  Wouldn't you just love the losing player to say "Well, you heard it.  God was against us.  What chance did we have?"

Posted on January 29, 2008 at 12:25 PM | Permalink | Comments (5)

Admission That Was A Long Time in Coming

The Seattle Supersonics have finally admitted what rational folks have known for a long time:  Billion dollar municipal stadiums are just taxpayer subsidies for already-rich players and owners, and do nothing for local economic development. Here is what the Sonics ownership stated in court papers (part of a case where they are trying to break their lease in Seattle):

"The financial issue is simple, and the city's analysts agree, there will be no net economic loss if the Sonics leave Seattle. Entertainment dollars not spent on the Sonics will be spent on Seattle's many other sports and entertainment options. Seattleites will not reduce their entertainment budget simply because the Sonics leave," the Sonics said in the court brief.

...Rodney Fort, a professor of sports management at the University of Michigan, who has criticized the economic-impact claims made by pro-sports teams, called the Sonics' latest argument "the best chuckle" he's had in a long time.

Municipal stadium funding and team relocation blackmail as a prisoners dilemma game here.

My son learned of one additional downside this year to subsidizing an expensive stadium for the hapless Cardinals.  He is a huge Cowboys fan, and there was to be a really good matchup in regular season this year that would be televised nationally (I can't remember which game, maybe the Packers regular season game).  We did not get to see the game, because the local network was obligated to show the Cardinals game instead.  If you have no team, you always get the best game on TV.

Posted on January 18, 2008 at 12:24 PM | Permalink | Comments (12)

NFL Playoffs, Baby

The NFL playoffs are absolutely my favorites sporting event of the year.  So of course I have to get on an airplane Sunday afternoon to get to a Monday morning meeting.  To get in the spirit, here is one of my favorite NFL spoofs, Peyton Mannings United Way commercial on SNL:

Posted on January 11, 2008 at 08:15 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)

Six Inches from Being Steve Bartman

Today I had to make my usual Sunday morning run to the hardware store to get ... something or other, I can't remember.  Anyway, as I was leaving, I looked behind be, saw no one there, and started backing up.  I have one of those backup warning thingies that been when you are about to hit something, and suddenly the things starts screaming at me, and I jam on the brakes.  There, cutting behind my car, is Randy Johnson, Diamondbacks pitcher and 27-time Cy Young winner.  I seem to have missed his knee by about 6 inches.  Gulp. 

By the way, if you think Johnson looks creepy on the mound, you should see him flashing a searing FU look.  This event effectively adds to my long history as scourge-to-the-stars, wherein I have stepped on Raul Julia's foot, spilled a big Gulp size diet coke on Brook Shields, added a big ink stain to Farrah Fawcett's blouse, hit Martina Navratilova in the face with a revolving door, and, uh, others I might share if my mom did not read this blog.

Posted on January 6, 2008 at 07:46 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)

Thoughts on Barry Bonds

I really don't like Barry Bonds.   I found his home run chase last summer almost painful, and was happy it was over just to stop hearing about Barry Bonds.

That being said, I am pretty non-plussed by his recent indictment on perjury charges.  I really am deeply concerned about going after high-profile people on perjury charges, particularly ones that are associated with cases where no underlying crime was even prosecuted (Martha Stewart and Bill Clinton also come to mind in this category).

The problem is that these cases get prosecuted incredibly selectively.  The vast, vast majority of people in Bonds situation never get prosecuted, much less have four year investigations.  As a result, it is pretty clear that those who do are selected on some basis having more to do with their profile (Martha Stewart), political animus (Bill Clinton) or just because the person is incredibly unsympathetic (e.g. Bonds).  As evidence for this in Bond's case, where are the similar investigations into McGwire or Giambi?

Tom Kirkendall has a great roundup of posts for those who are more concerned that titillated by Bond's indictment.  Or then there is TJIC's take, which is always, uh, not moderate:

What I find most amazing about cases like this, and the Martha Stewart thing, is that there’s some sort of unstated presupposition that the state has a right to extract information from people.

Lying to government officials on fishing expeditions isn’t just a right; it’s a duty.

Posted on November 18, 2007 at 11:07 AM | Permalink | Comments (7)

Gun to the Head in Seattle

David Stern is putting a gun to the head of Seattle taxpayers:

NBA commissioner David Stern is putting the screws to Seattle in his attempts to get the community to provide taxpayer subsidies that are lucrative enough to keep the team from departing the "Emerald City" to even greener fields in Oklahoma.

Stern blasts city officials and the overwhelming majority of voters in the city for passing a law requiring (gasp!) that any funds used to help build an arena earn the same rate of return as a treasury bill. "That measure simply means there is no way city money would ever be used on an arena project," Stern said. Effectively, Stern has just confirmed what sports economists have known all along: taxpayer spending on sports infrastructure is unlikely to provide significant returns on the investment.

We went through the exact same thing here in Phoenix, with various outsiders and city politicians chiding the voters to voting down taxpayer funded palaces for the Cardinals and Coyotes  (eventually, they found a sucker in the local city of Glendale).  In the past, I have written about sports team and corporate relocations as a prisoners dilemma game.

To see this clearer, lets take the example of Major League Baseball (MLB).  We all know that cities and states have been massively subsidizing new baseball stadiums for billionaire team owners.  Lets for a minute say this never happened - that somehow, the mayors of the 50 largest cities got together in 1960 and made a no-stadium-subsidy pledge.  First, would MLB still exist?  Sure!  Teams like the Giants have proven that baseball can work financially in a private park, and baseball thrived for years with private parks.  OK, would baseball be in the same cities?  Well, without subsidies, baseball would be in the largest cities, like New York and LA and Chicago, which is exactly where they are now.  The odd city here or there might be different, e.g. Tampa Bay might never have gotten a team, but that would in retrospect have been a good thing.

The net effect in baseball is the same as it is in every other industry:  Relocation subsidies, when everyone is playing the game, do nothing to substantially affect the location of jobs and businesses, but rather just transfer taxpayer money to business owners and workers.

   

The Sports Economist writes about this move in the context of another economic game:

Indeed this is a classic example of the time inconsistency problem for which Finn Kydland and Ed Prescott (my graduate school macro professor!) won the Nobel Prize in 2004. Stern would like to threaten Seattle with the permanent loss of their NBA team in order to secure taxpayer concessions now. But should the team move, the NBA has every reason to want to back off its previous threats and relocate a team back into to the area due to the size, location, and income levels of the city. Even having lost a team, Seattle will likely remain a better candidate for a successful franchise than smaller and poorer cities such as New Orleans or Memphis. Certainly Seattle should not fall for Stern's bluster.

Posted on November 9, 2007 at 11:28 AM | Permalink | Comments (9)

On the Off Chance You Missed this...

On the off-chance you have not seen this 20-lateral play by Trinity, here it is:

In American Football, the other ten players without the ball are taught to go downfield and throw a block.  However, if everyone does this, then a play like this becomes impossible, because no one is behind the ball carrier to receive a lateral.  I played rugby for years, and the training there is different.  You want to get behind the ball carrier diagonally to be ready to receive the ball.  This is what you see here -- watch for it.  Players are backpedaling to get in position.  I don't know if any of these players had rugby training -- I do know that a number of the Cal players in "the play" were also rugby players.

Posted on October 31, 2007 at 10:04 AM | Permalink | Comments (10)

Zero

Number of experts that predicted that the NLCS would feature two teams from the National League West.  Go D'backs.

Posted on October 8, 2007 at 12:22 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Congrats to Milton Bradley...

...for getting the dumbest sports injury of all time, tearing his ACL when his manager was restraining him from attacking the first base umpire.  Video here, if you missed it.  We Diamondback fans are becoming big supporters of your, Milton.

Posted on September 24, 2007 at 03:43 PM | Permalink | Comments (5)

Eagle Travesty

What I know:  The Philadelphia Eagles' jerseys this weekend were a travesty.  But that is OK, because I can't stand the Eagles, since their name is a tribute to Mussolini-style fascism.

Posted on September 24, 2007 at 10:03 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Number of the Day

$400,000

Amount the University of Michigan paid Appalachian State to come up and kick its ass.


Postscript:  I remember a while ago there was a item on eBay where you could pay a guy to come to your house and kick your ass.  The whole marketing pitch was hilarious, but I remember the final price was a lot less than $400,000.  Update:  Found the eBay item archived here.

Posted on September 5, 2007 at 10:42 AM | Permalink | Comments (4)

Great Moments in Marketing

Whose idea was it to rename Division I-AA college football as the "Football Championship Subdivision?"

Posted on September 4, 2007 at 10:45 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Ask a Question, Get an Answer

A while back, I wondered if the highest paid public employee of every state was a university men's football or basketball coach.  Well, its not exactly answering the same question, but via the Sports Economist comes this article that head coaches beat the governors 49-1 in the salary sweepstakes.  Only the Alaska governor makes more money than the state university head coaches (probably because there is no college football in Alaska).  Governors probably have more job security, though.

Unlike my question, the author considers coaches at any college, public or private.  For example, my readers found that NY is probably an exception -- there are public employees paid higher than public university coaches.  This article comes to the opposite conclusion, but only because they use Syracuse University, which is a private institution.

Posted on August 29, 2007 at 09:17 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)

The Most Important College Football Poll of the Year

The most important college football poll of the year is out, and the top five are as follows  (rank, team, #1 votes record so far, total points):

1. USC (45)  0-0 1,481
2. LSU (4)  0-0 1,372
3. Florida (9)  0-0 1,278
4. Texas 0-0 1,231
5. Michigan (2)  0-0 1,218

The rest of the list is here.

Many of you might notice that all of these teams have a record of 0-0.  So you might ask, "Coyote, are you crazy, why did you call this the most important poll of the year?"  Well, since I answered that last year, I will go back a year ago and quote myself:

In theory, voters in the college football polls each week come up with their current ranking of teams, which in theory could be very different from how they ranked things the previous week.  In practice, however, voters start with their rankings of the previous week and then make adjustments up and down for individual teams based on that week's game results....

In effect, the college football rankings are a bit like a tennis ladder. Each week, losers drop down 3-8 spots and all the winners and no-plays move up to fill in the vacated spots. Sometimes a team will leapfrog another, but that is rare and it is extremely rare to leapfrog more than 1 or 2 spots. In this sense, the initial football poll is the most critical, since only those in the top 10-15 have any chance of moving up the ladder to #1.

In effect, the pre-season poll is the baseline off which all future polls start.  I haven't done the research, but you could probably refine my statement in the previous paragraph to a set of rules such as:

  • A three-loss team can never win the championship
  • A two-loss team can win but only if they start in the top 5 of the pre-season poll
  • A one-loss team can win but only if they start in the top 15
  • An undefeated team can win even if they were left out of the initial top 25, but only if they play in a major conference.  A minor conference team, even undefeated, will not ever end up #1 unless they started the season in the top 25.

Again, the numbers in these rules may not be exactly right, but I think they are directionally correct.  This is what I call my theory of College Football Calvinism (the religion, not the cartoon character) since one's ultimate fate is in large part pre-ordained by the polls even before the season is born.  So, if your alma mater has any shot at the title, you should hope your AD is out there in the summer lobbying the writers like hell to up their pre-season poll standings. Every spot you gain in the pre-season poll is one you don't have to win on the playing field.

Posted on August 10, 2007 at 03:36 PM | Permalink | Comments (8)

You Too Can Be Billy Beane

As a baseball fan, you may have heard something about Bill James, Billy Beane, and/or Sabremetrics, but were afraid all the math was too difficult.  Well, you too can use simple numbers to out-manage most major league skippers.  For today's introduction, you only need one simple table of numbers:

RE 99-02 0 1 2
Empty 0.555 0.297 0.117
1st 0.953 0.573 0.251
2nd 1.189 0.725 0.344
3rd 1.482 0.983 0.387
1st_2nd 1.573 0.971 0.466
1st_3rd 1.904 1.243 0.538
2nd_3rd 2.052 1.467 0.634
Loaded 2.417 1.65 0.815


These are the run expectancy numbers, compiled from data in the 1999-2002 baseball season.  Here is how to read the table: With a runner on 2nd (row three) and two outs (column three) a team on average can expect to score .344 runs the rest of that inning.

So, to test your understanding, how much does a leadoff double increase a team's chance of scoring?  Well, the base run expectancy at the beginning of an inning is .555 runs.  After a leadoff double, you are in the square for man on second, still no outs, which has a run expectancy of 1.189.   On average, then, a leadoff double increases the scoring expectations for the inning by 0.634 runs, which is a lot.  So here are a few simple sabremetric type conclusions you can reach just from this data:

  • Outs are extraordinarily valuable.  For example, man on first and third with two outs has a WORSE run expectancy than you have at the beginning of the inning, ie it is worse than nobody on and no outs.
  • Bunting almost never makes sense.  Assume a runner on first, no outs -- a typical bunting situation.  After a succesful bunt, you have runner on second and one out.  Notice that this has REDUCED the run expectancy from 0.953 to 0.725.  The reason I say "almost" never is that an even worse outcome is a strikeout, which would take you to man on first and one out for a RE of .573.  For batters highly likely to strike out or pop up in the infield (think: pitchers) bunting can make sense.
  • You can actually calculate what percentage chance of success you need to justify stealing second.  Lets again take man on first, no outs.  The RE is 0.953.  If he steals successfully, the RE goes to 1.189.  If he gets thrown out, the RE goes to 0.297 (bases empty, one out).  If X is the probability of stealing success, then 1.189X+0.297(1-X)>0.953.  X must be about 74% or greater.

Exercise: You have two hitters.  Assume they always lead off an inning.  One hits .300 with all singles.  The other hits .258 but a third of his hits are doubles, the rest singles.  Which is more valuable (assuming they walk and strikeout at the same rate)

Posted on June 5, 2007 at 12:04 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)

Best Headline of the Year

"Fire Joe Morgon" nominates this for best headline of the year.

Posted on May 12, 2007 at 12:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (3)

Maybe This is a Victory of Sorts

The NYT reports on what looks like a well-reasoned study on officiating bias in the NBA.  I say well-reasoned mainly because Steven Levitt, who has become famous for applying tools of economics to such problems, seems to be comfortable with their approach.  The key finding is that white refs call fouls on black players at a rate .12-.20 fouls per 48 minutes playing time higher than they do on white players  [note that most players don't play a full 48 minutes per game, so the actual rate per player per game is less].  Black refs show the same tendency to call more fouls on whites, though the article omits this rate.

That's obviously a bummer -- we'd like to think that stuff never comes into play.  However, I would like to offer this bit of perspective:  Sixty years ago, black men were not allowed in the NBA.  Today, black men in the NBA, along with folks like Tiger Woods, are among the highest salaried people in the world.   In 60 years, we have gone from  total exclusion to a measurable difference of about 1 foul called every 10 or so games played.  That's pretty good progress. 

My sense is that we make snap decisions about other people based on a wide range of physical attributes, including height, attractiveness, clothing, tattoos, piercings as well as visible racial characteristics (e.g. skin color) and race-related appearance choices (e.g. cornrows).  It would be interesting to see where skin color falls against these other visible differentiators as a driver of third party decisions (e.g. whether to call a foul).   My sense is that 60 years ago, skin color would be factor #1 and all these others would be orders of magnitude behind.  Today?  I don't know.  While skin color hasn't gone away as an influencer, it may be falling into what we might call the "background level", less than or equal to some of these other effects.  It would be interesting, for example, to make the same study on level of visible tattooing and the effect on foul calls.  My sense is that this might be of the same order of magnitude today as skin color in affecting such snap decisions.

Posted on May 2, 2007 at 11:16 AM | Permalink | Comments (8)

Clutch Hitting

Last year, Alex Rodriguez was Mr. Choke, because he was perceived as batting less well when the game was on the line.  This year, he has hit a few walk-off homeruns, and he is the new Mr. Clutch.

Clutch hitting is one of those baseball notions that are constantly argued about.  A short summary of the ongoing argument is:  Inside baseball guys swear it is a true phenomena;  statisticians generally cannot find it.  I tend to believe that few if any players have consistently elevated their hitting in clutch situations, but you can find players whose hitting is worse, where the mental stress takes a toll.   Tom Kirkendall points to this great blog I have never visited before called "Fire Joe Morgon."  I am presuming the name is a reference to the fact that former player Joe Morgon has effectively staked himself out as the defender of baseball conventional wisdom against the assault of the Bill James / Billy Bean statistics guys.  He has a great long post showing the absurdity of some of the clutch hitting claims.  This one got him started:

It was a week ago today, fewer than 24 hours after the Pirates had put down a sizzling St. Louis rally in the ninth inning, that catcher Ronny Paulino reflected upon it and offered this surprising tidbit.

"You know what the key was to that whole inning?" he said. "When David Eckstein got hit by that pitch."

Say what?

Hitting Eckstein -- not intentionally -- loaded the bases and, ultimately, forced closer Salomon Torres to pitch to Albert Pujols with a one-run lead.

"Doesn't matter," Paulino said. "Eckstein's the guy you don't want to face there."

There's a lot of stupid stuff in this article. I am happy to say -- since I get bored of disparaging journalists only -- that most of it is said by actual baseball players. That's new and fun!

David Eckstein's career EqA is .260, which is exactly league average. Albert Pujols's career EqA is .341, which is easy, don't-even-think-twice Hall of Fame shoo-in. Anyone who ever wants to pitch to Albert Pujols over David Eckstein in any situation, including pick-up whiffle ball games at family barbecues when Pujols has dengue fever and Eckstein gets to use one of those over-sized red bats while Pujols has to hit with a live cobra, is a goddamn moron of the highest order.

Derek Jeter is generally considered the hands-down clutch playoff hitter in baseball today.  Everyone in baseball, almost to a man, will say that Jeter steps up in the playoffs, so we see this:

Derek Jeter's Career Splits: .317/.388/.463

Derek Jeter's Career Postseason splits: .314/.384/.479

Mr. Clutch is actually Mr. Exactly the Same No Matter What Month You Are Talking About. He is Mr. Equally Excellent Hitting SS Every Month from April to November. He is Mr. Outrageously Similar Statistics Every 30 Days.

LOL

Posted on April 30, 2007 at 10:25 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)

You Know You Have A Pitching Problem When...

The New York Yankees scored 6-5-6-8 runs in their last four games, for a total of 25, and lost all four games.

Posted on April 23, 2007 at 08:00 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

We Have A Winner!

Congrats to Rob Nieweg for winning the 2nd Annual Coyote Blog bracket challenge!

BracketRankPointsCorrect GamesUpset Risk %Tiebreaker Total Points (diff)Possible Games
Rob Nieweg 1 112 51 14.1 156 (3) 51
Lincoln Beachey 2 103 49 16.3 165 (6) 49
Coleen Eicher 3 103 49 8.9 130 (29) 49
Jeff Haught 4 101 45 27.0 150 (9) 45
Michael Lindsey 5 100 47 18.6 126 (33) 47
Marvin Lewis 6 100 46 9.0 175 (16) 46
Schimmy 7 100 44 16.9 183 (24) 44
skunk 8 99 48 7.8 141 (18) 48
Terry Davis 9 99 47 12.9 111 (48) 47
Jim Galbo 10 98 49 7.0 143 (16) 49
Thomas Roeschlein 11 98 48 11.7 131 (28) 48
Zak Barron 12 98 44 18.8 172 (13) 44
Will Blakemore 13 98 43 23.9 123 (36) 43
Craig Limesand 14 97 44 16.7 147 (12) 44
R. Combs 15 97 42 19.5 145 (14) 42
Joe Sandusky 16 95 48 13.5 157 (2) 48
Darren Munford 17 95 46 15.1 141 (18) 46
Michael Gunter 18 95 42 14.3 158 (1) 42
Richard Pitchford 19 93 47 11.7 153 (6) 47
Nicholas Meyer 20 93 44 13.7 165 (6) 44

Posted on April 3, 2007 at 01:45 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Its Down to Skunk or Rob

To win in the Coyote Blog bracket pool.

BracketRankPointsCorrect GamesUpset Risk %Possible Games
Lincoln Beachey 1 103 49 16.3 49
Rob Nieweg 2 102 50 14.1 51
Jeff Haught 3 101 45 27.0 45
Michael Lindsey 4 100 47 18.6 47
skunk 5 99 48 7.8 49
Thomas Roeschlein 6 98 48 11.7 49
Zak Barron 7 98 44 18.8 44
Joe Sandusky 8 95 48 13.5 49
Darren Munford 9 95 46 15.1 47
Michael Gunter 10 95 42 14.3 43

The others get passed because they don't have the right teams in the finals, despite a lot of good picks to date.  They chose...poorly.  Full disclosure, I am in 44th, but I vault up to 27th with a Florida win.  Go Gators.

I know it has become a cliche to point it out, but I am still amazed we can go through a whole season and a whole bracket of 65 and get down to the same two teams who were in the football championship game.

Posted on April 1, 2007 at 08:21 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Update on the State of the World

The sun rises in the east, politicians love pork, and my bracket sucks, again. 

The current bracket challenge leaders are as follows:

BracketRankPointsCorrect GamesUpset Risk %Possible Games
Michael Lindsey 1 100 47 18.6 50
Lincoln Beachey 2 98 48 16.3 49
Rob Nieweg 3 97 49 14.1 51
Jeff Haught 4 96 44 27.0 47
Thomas Roeschlein 5 93 47 11.7 50
Bob Woodfield 6 93 44 11.3 46
Zak Barron 7 93 43 18.8 46
Joe Sandusky 8 90 47 13.5 50
Darren Munford 9 90 45 15.1 47
skunk 10 89 46 7.8 49
Coleen Eicher 11 88 47 8.9 50
Richard Pitchford 12 88 46 11.7 49
eagles dare 13 86 42 21.6 45

I have run the 8 different remaining scenarios, and here are your possible winners:

  • Rob Nieweg (2 different possibilities)
  • Skunk
  • Jeff Haught
  • Thomas Roeschlein
  • Eagles Dare (all the way from 13th)
  • Michael Lindsey (2 different possibilities, basically he needs the #2 seeds to reach the finals)

Posted on March 26, 2007 at 10:55 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Schilling Blog

I know Curt Schilling is kind of a love-him or hate-him kind of athlete, but I will say his current blogging effort is pretty impressive.  No big revelations in this post, but note the detailed observations he makes about a pre-season game that many pitchers of his experience and profile might not even think twice about.

Posted on March 23, 2007 at 07:19 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Where is Cinderella?

Incredibly, out of 32 initial NCAA championship games, there were only two real upsets (I don't count 9 beating 8 as a real upset).  Maybe my memory is faulty, but that seems like a really low number by historical standards.   Conventional wisdom would hold that we should probably see more rather than less upsets, as early flight to the NBA of the top players has tended to level the playing field out.

Posted on March 16, 2007 at 10:05 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)

I Love Hearing This From An Athlete

Apparently the media tried to make a controversy out of Curt Schilling's announcement he would enter free agency at the end of the year.  This is part of his response, from his blog (emphasis added):

Now we fast forward a bit and we have what appears to be ‘controversy’ because the Red Sox do not extend my contract when alls said and done, and I am going to file for free agency at years end. Again contrary to ‘expert’ opinions and views this was never a ‘gun to the head’ situation, the Sox knew this and I knew it. It really was very simple for both sides. We spoke at length, Theo, Mr. Henry, Mr Werner and I all spoke at some point and at no time, and let me reiterate that, at NO time, were there ever any hard feelings, ill will, or loud exchanges.

The Red Sox owe me nothing. They’ve paid me over 40 million dollars for what amounts to two seasons worth of starts. They didn’t ask for a refund in ‘05 when I couldn’t get my mother out, and on top of that they’ve been respectful of my family at every turn.

I wanted to remain in Boston to finish my career, I made that clear to them. They made it clear to me that if it wasn’t for the money this would be a done deal. I get that, it’s not hard to understand. If I was to sign a 4 million dollar deal I’d be signed already. The 13 million we had talked about was money they were looking at as ‘available’, so this had changed their plans if they were to sign me.

Posted on March 15, 2007 at 11:54 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Summarizing The Brackets

Here is the pick distributions for out 91 brackets.  The number to the right of the schools name is the number of players who picked that team to win that round/game:

Round 1Round 2Round 3Round 4Round 5Round 6
Midwest
1 Florida 91
16 Jackson State 0
1 Florida 88
8 Arizona 2
9 Purdue 1
16 Jackson State 0
1 Florida 76
4 Maryland 12
5 Butler 3
13 Davidson 0
12 Old Dominion 0
9 Purdue 0
16 Jackson State 0
8 Arizona 0
1 Florida 52
2 Wisconsin 20
3 Oregon 12
4 Maryland 6
6 Notre Dame 1
7 UNLV 0
15 Tex A&M CC 0
10 Georgia Tech 0
14 Miami Ohio 0
13 Davidson 0
8 Arizona 0
16 Jackson State 0
9 Purdue 0
5 Butler 0
12 Old Dominion 0
11 Winthrop 0
1 Florida 29
1 Kansas 21
2 UCLA 20
2 Wisconsin 9
6 Duke 3
3 Oregon 3
3 Pittsburgh 3
4 Maryland 2
7 Indiana 1
12 Illinois 0
4 S. Illinois 0
5 Virginia Tech 0
11 VCU 0
15 Weber St. 0
10 Gonzaga 0
14 Wright State 0
9 Villanova 0
13 Holy Cross 0
15 Tex A&M CC 0
5 Butler 0
12 Old Dominion 0
9 Purdue 0
8 Arizona 0
16 Jackson State 0
13 Davidson 0
6 Notre Dame 0
10 Georgia Tech 0
16 PlayinWinner 0
7 UNLV 0
14 Miami Ohio 0
11 Winthrop 0
8 Kentucky 0
1 Florida 17
1 Ohio St. 16
1 North Carolina 11
2 Georgetown 9
1 Kansas 8
2 Wisconsin 7
2 UCLA 6
3 Texas A&M 6
2 Memphis 5
3 Pittsburgh 2
4 Texas 2
3 Oregon 1
6 Louisville 1
7 Boston College 0
12 Arkansas 0
10 Texas Tech 0
14 Oral Roberts 0
11 George Wash. 0
13 New Mexico St. 0
3 Washington St 0
6 Vanderbilt 0
8 BYU 0
14 Pennsylvania 0
11 Stanford 0
7 Nevada 0
10 Creighton 0
15 North Texas 0
13 Albany, NY 0
4 Virginia 0
5 USC 0
16 CentralConnct 0
9 Xavier 0
5 Tennessee 0
12 Long Beach St 0
15 Belmont 0
15 Weber St. 0
11 Winthrop 0
6 Notre Dame 0
14 Miami Ohio 0
7 UNLV 0
15 Tex A&M CC 0
10 Georgia Tech 0
13 Davidson 0
4 Maryland 0
8 Arizona 0
16 Jackson State 0
9 Purdue 0
5 Butler 0
12 Old Dominion 0
16 PlayinWinner 0
8 Kentucky 0
7 Indiana 0
14 Wright State 0
10 Gonzaga 0
16 E. Kentucky 0
8 Marquette 0
11 VCU 0
6 Duke 0
5 Virginia Tech 0
9 Villanova 0
12 Illinois 0
4 S. Illinois 0
13 Holy Cross 0
9 Michigan St. 0
8 Arizona 49
9 Purdue 42
5 Butler 55
12 Old Dominion 36
4 Maryland 59
5 Butler 21
12 Old Dominion 7
13 Davidson 4
4 Maryland 78
13 Davidson 13
6 Notre Dame 49
11 Winthrop 42
3 Oregon 62
6 Notre Dame 15
11 Winthrop 13
14 Miami Ohio 1
2 Wisconsin 40
3 Oregon 38
6 Notre Dame 6
7 UNLV 3
10 Georgia Tech 2
11 Winthrop 1
15 Tex A&M CC 1
14 Miami Ohio 0
3 Oregon 87
14 Miami Ohio 4
10 Georgia Tech 54
7 UNLV 37
2 Wisconsin 75
7 UNLV 9
10 Georgia Tech 6
15 Tex A&M CC 1
2 Wisconsin 90
15 Tex A&M CC 1
West
1 Kansas 91
16 PlayinWinner 0
1 Kansas 82
9 Villanova 8
8 Kentucky 1
16 PlayinWinner 0
1 Kansas 70
4 S. Illinois 10
5 Virginia Tech 5
9 Villanova 4
8 Kentucky 1
12 Illinois 1
13 Holy Cross 0
16 PlayinWinner 0
2 UCLA 40
1 Kansas 32
3 Pittsburgh 10
6 Duke 3
4 S. Illinois 3
7 Indiana 1
12 Illinois 1
9 Villanova 1
15 Weber St. 0
10 Gonzaga 0
14 Wright State 0
13 Holy Cross 0
16 PlayinWinner 0
8 Kentucky 0
5 Virginia Tech 0
11 VCU 0
9 Villanova 64
8 Kentucky 27
5 Virginia Tech 69
12 Illinois 22
4 S. Illinois 46
5 Virginia Tech 34
12 Illinois 9
13 Holy Cross 2
4 S. Illinois 78
13 Holy Cross 13
6 Duke 60
11 VCU 31
3 Pittsburgh 57
6 Duke 25
11 VCU 7
14 Wright State 2
2 UCLA 59
3 Pittsburgh 19
6 Duke 6
7 Indiana 4
10 Gonzaga 2
11 VCU 1
15 Weber St. 0
14 Wright State 0
3 Pittsburgh 83
14 Wright State 8
10 Gonzaga 56
7 Indiana 35
2 UCLA 81
7 Indiana 6
10 Gonzaga 4
15 Weber St. 0
2 UCLA 90
15 Weber St. 1
East
1 North Carolina 91
16 E. Kentucky 0
1 North Carolina 84
9 Michigan St. 6
8 Marquette 1
16 E. Kentucky 0
1 North Carolina 44
4 Texas 42
5 USC 4
8 Marquette 1
13 New Mexico St. 0
9 Michigan St. 0
16 E. Kentucky 0
12 Arkansas 0
2 Georgetown 38
1 North Carolina 25
4 Texas 17
3 Washington St 6
7 Boston College 2
5 USC 1
10 Texas Tech 1
8 Marquette 1
14 Oral Roberts 0
15 Belmont 0
13 New Mexico St. 0
16 E. Kentucky 0
9 Michigan St. 0
12 Arkansas 0
6 Vanderbilt 0
11 George Wash. 0
1 Ohio St. 25
2 Georgetown 22
1 North Carolina 14
3 Texas A&M 13
4 Texas 8
2 Memphis 5
3 Washington St 2
6 Louisville 1
8 Marquette 1
4 Virginia 0
12 Long Beach St 0
5 Tennessee 0
11 Stanford 0
10 Creighton 0
15 North Texas 0
7 Nevada 0
14 Pennsylvania 0
9 Xavier 0
13 Albany, NY 0
15 Belmont 0
12 Arkansas 0
13 New Mexico St. 0
5 USC 0
9 Michigan St. 0
16 E. Kentucky 0
6 Vanderbilt 0
11 George Wash. 0
16 CentralConnct 0
10 Texas Tech 0
7 Boston College 0
14 Oral Roberts 0
8 BYU 0
9 Michigan St. 52
8 Marquette 39
5 USC 57
12 Arkansas 34
4 Texas 70
5 USC 14
12 Arkansas 5
13 New Mexico St. 2
4 Texas 86
13 New Mexico St. 5
6 Vanderbilt 55
11 George Wash. 36
3 Washington St 44
6 Vanderbilt 27
11 George Wash. 11
14 Oral Roberts 9
2 Georgetown 69
3 Washington St 15
10 Texas Tech 4
7 Boston College 3
15 Belmont 0
14 Oral Roberts 0
11 George Wash. 0
6 Vanderbilt 0
3 Washington St 67
14 Oral Roberts 24
10 Texas Tech 49
7 Boston College 42
2 Georgetown 80
10 Texas Tech 6
7 Boston College 5
15 Belmont 0
2 Georgetown 90
15 Belmont 1
South
1 Ohio St. 91
16 CentralConnct 0
1 Ohio St. 90
9 Xavier 1
16 CentralConnct 0
8 BYU 0
1 Ohio St. 79
5 Tennessee 6
4 Virginia 5
9 Xavier 1
13 Albany, NY 0
16 CentralConnct 0
12 Long Beach St 0
8 BYU 0
1 Ohio St. 41
3 Texas A&M 27
2 Memphis 15
6 Louisville 4
5 Tennessee 2
4 Virginia 1
9 Xavier 1
7 Nevada 0
10 Creighton 0
15 North Texas 0
14 Pennsylvania 0
13 Albany, NY 0
16 CentralConnct 0
8 BYU 0
12 Long Beach St 0
11 Stanford 0
9 Xavier 63
8 BYU 28
5 Tennessee 68
12 Long Beach St 23
5 Tennessee 42
4 Virginia 39
12 Long Beach St 7
13 Albany, NY 3
4 Virginia 76
13 Albany, NY 15
6 Louisville 64
11 Stanford 27
3 Texas A&M 61
6 Louisville 24
11 Stanford 4
14 Pennsylvania 2
3 Texas A&M 45
2 Memphis 27
6 Louisville 14
11 Stanford 2
7 Nevada 2
10 Creighton 1
15 North Texas 0
14 Pennsylvania 0
3 Texas A&M 85
14 Pennsylvania 6
10 Creighton 46
7 Nevada 45
2 Memphis 68
7 Nevada 15
10 Creighton 8
15 North Texas 0
2 Memphis 89
15 North Texas 2

Posted on March 15, 2007 at 10:37 AM | Permalink | Comments (3)

Let the Madness Begin

We had 91 brackets submitted this year for our NCAA bracket challenge, which is great!  Let the fun begin.

PS:  Based on past history, my current rank (in a 91-way tie for first) is probably the last time I will be front.

Posted on March 15, 2007 at 10:24 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Annual NCAA Bracket Challenge

Note: This post sticky through 3/16.  Look below for newest posts.

We had a blast with it last year, so back by popular demand is the annual Coyote Blog NCAA Bracket Challenge.  Yes, I know that many of you are bracketed out, but for those of you who are self-employed and don't have an office pool to join or who just can't get enough of turning in brackets, this pool is offered as my public service. 

Last year we had over fifty entries, and we expect more this year.  Everyone is welcome, so send the link to friends as well.  There is no charge to join in and I have chosen a service with the absolutely least intrusive log-in (name, email, password only) and no spam.  The only thing I ask is that, since my kids are participating, try to keep the team names and board chat fairly clean.

To join, go to http://www.pickhoops.com/Coyote and sign up, then enter your bracket.

Scoring is as follows:

Round 1 correct picks:  1 points
Round 2:  2
Round 3:  4
Round 4:  6
Round 5:  8
Round 6:  10

Special March Madness scoring bonus: If you correctly pick the underdog in any round (ie, the team with the higher number seed) to win, then you receive bonus points for that correct pick equal to the difference in the two team's seeds.  So don't be afraid to go for the long-shots!

Bracket entry appears to be open.  Online bracket entry closes Thursday, March 15th at 11:30am EDT.  Be sure to get your brackets in early.

Update: I have managed a lot of bracket pools over the years, with a lot of tools.  I would not hesitate to recommend Pickhoops.com.  Least intrusive, cheap, good tools, easy to use.

Posted on March 15, 2007 at 10:15 AM | Permalink | Comments (4)

One Day Left to Enter NCAA Bracket Challenge

It's fun.  It's free.  It's really easy (and the registration is unintrusive).

To join, go to http://www.pickhoops.com/Coyote and sign up, then enter your bracket.

Scoring is as follows:

Round 1 correct picks:  1 points
Round 2:  2
Round 3:  4
Round 4:  6
Round 5:  8
Round 6:  10

Special March Madness scoring bonus: If you correctly pick the underdog in any round (ie, the team with the higher number seed) to win, then you receive bonus points for that correct pick equal to the difference in the two team's seeds.  So don't be afraid to go for the long-shots!

Online bracket entry closes Thursday, March 15th at 11:30am EDT.  Be sure to get your brackets in early.

Posted on March 14, 2007 at 07:48 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

NFL Tightens the Screws

As most people know, the NFL doesn't want you to use the word "Superbowl" when hosting a party, sale, event, etc, and they aggressively enforce their trademark on this term.  In response, since all the country does in fact have parties, sales, events, etc. associated with the Superbowl, folks have adopted the euphemism 'the big game" in their communications. 

I observed that this not only pointed out some of the silliness in our intellectual property laws, but also was counter-productive for the NFL -- shouldn't they want people talking about and holding events for the Superbowl?  I suggested a simple licensing program that would raise a little money and probably work better for everyone:

The NFL needs to offer a one time use license each year for a bar or other establishment to hold a Superbowl party and actually use Superbowl in the promotion.  The license would of course be non-exclusive, and would carry a myriad of restrictions on how you use the name, etc.   The license could be purchased for a price that would be cheap for a business, maybe $200, and could be purchased right over the web.  It would actually be easier, I think, to go after violators because the NFL could point to the existence of a legal licensing program the violator could easily have participated in.  I would think they could easily bring in a couple of million dollars, not to mention saving them enforcement money and PR headaches.

The NFL has decided to go in a different direction.  It is trying to trademark the term "the big game" so that term can't be used either (HT Overlawyered).  I particularly liked this from the application:

Disclaimer NO CLAIM IS MADE TO THE EXCLUSIVE RIGHT TO USE "GAME" APART FROM THE MARK AS SHOWN

Jeez, why not?  Who at the NFL is sleeping on the job here?

Well, that's what I get as a libertarian for trying to work within the system to make things incrementally better rather than going on one of my usual idealistic rants.  So I officially withdraw my previous suggestion in favor of a new one:  Trademarks should, at most, only give one the protection from someone else labeling a similar product with the trademarked name.  By trademarking Jif, P&G gets protection from another company selling peanut butter under the same name in the US.  However, any other use of Jif in communication should be entirely legal.  If I communicate to people that I am having Jif party, that communication is protected under the first amendment and P&G can't shut down my party.  If I want to put out a poster and sell it with Jif peanut butter labels and how they have changed over the past 100 years, I should have the right to do so.   Ditto if I want to print bumper stickers that say "Jif sucks."

Similarly, the NFL can be legally protected from having another group host a football game (and if I am in a generous mood, maybe any type of sporting event) and calling it the Superbowl.  And that is it.  They should not be granted an exclusive government monopoly to use the word Superbowl, or more ludicrously, "the big game":

posters, calendars, trading cards, series of non-fiction books relating to football; magazines relating to football, newsletters relating to football,notepads, stickers, bumper stickers, paper pennants; greeting cards; printed tickets to sports games and events; pens and pencils, note paper, wrapping paper, paper table cloths, paper napkins, printed paper party invitations, paper gift cards; paper party decorations, collectible cards; collectible card and memorabilia holders, souvenir programs for sports events,...toys and sporting goods, namely, plush toys, stuffed toy animals, play figures, golf balls, footballs, sport balls, toy banks, playing cards, Christmas tree ornaments...Men's, women's and children's apparel, namely T-shirts, fleece tops, caps, headwear

And don't even get me started on Pat Riley's "Threepeat."

Posted on February 22, 2007 at 09:39 AM | Permalink | Comments (12)

First, I'd Like to Thank God...

There was a lot of thanking God for the Colts victory today.  I would love to see the losing coach come on TV after such an interview and say "you heard it -- God was against us.  What chance did we have?"

Update:  I would love to see this on John Madden's etch-a-sketch.  "OK, here's Grossman dropping back for a pass, he throws it across here, and BOOM, God knocks it right out of the receiver's hands.  First down Colts, game over."

Posted on February 4, 2007 at 09:57 PM | Permalink | Comments (9)

A Super-Suggestion for the NFL

Every year about this time, the NFL earns itself some bad press for busting some small bar or local group for using the word "Superbowl" rather than that catchy phrase "the big game on the first Sunday in February down in Miami."  This year, the bad press honor goes to the NFL for shutting down a party at a church in Indianapolis for having a screen too large.  (Hey NFL!  I am breaking the law!  I have a 110" front projection TV, twice the "legal" 55-inch limit, and I am showing the game on it at my party.  HA HA HA!).  And by the way, what lapdog legislator wrote this law for them, and did he get Superbowl tickets for life?

Now, I understand the situation with copyrights - if you don't defend them vigorously and even-handedly, you can lose them.  I seem to remember Exxon or some other chemical company lost the rights tot he name Formica when they let it be used too generically for counter-top materials.  And the NFL PR people use this defense every year, saying "we really don't want to shut down these folks, but we have to." 

I don't agree that individual words should be copyrighted such that their use in a broad range of contexts should be illegal.  I am fine saying that I can't create another peanut butter and call it "Jif."  I will accept P&G has some sole right in this country to that use.  However, I don't think P&G can tell me that I can't advertise a "Jif party" feature their peanut butter.  In the same way, I am willing to grant the NFL exclusive use of "Superbowl" to describe a sporting event, but I don't think that should restrict me from advertising that people should come to my bar to watch the Superbowl.  And just to add one more example so I have a "threepeat," I don't think Pat Riley should have any ownership in that word.   However, since copyright law is not going to change tomorrow, I will offer up a more modest change.

So here is my suggestion.  The NFL needs to offer a one time use license each year for a bar or other establishment to hold a Superbowl party and actually use Superbowl in the promotion.  The license would of course be non-exclusive, and would carry a myriad of restrictions on how you use the name, etc.   The license could be purchased for a price that would be cheap for a business, maybe $200, and could be purchased right over the web.  It would actually be easier, I think, to go after violators because the NFL could point to the existence of a legal licensing program the violator could easily have participated in.  I would think they could easily bring in a couple of million dollars, not to mention saving them enforcement money and PR headaches.

PS-  Welcome to the NFL intellectual property department.  I presume I included enough verboten uses of "Superbowl" to catch your search engine's attention.

PPS-  My Firefox spell checker (which I love!) does not have "Superbowl" in it.  I wonder, would the NFL consider it a copyright violation for a program to use the word "Superbowl" in its dictionary?

Posted on February 2, 2007 at 09:11 AM | Permalink | Comments (7)

Princetonian to Coach the Cowboys?

The Cowboys are apparently looking pretty seriously at former Princeton Quarterback Jason Garrett to be their new offensive coordinator, and possibly even head coach.  Garrett is one of two Princetonians with a Super Bowl ring (quarterback Bob Holly being the other) as part of the mid-1990s Cowboys dynasty. Who will ever forget that great Thanksgiving game against the Packers when Garrett (15-26-311-2-1 for the day) outduelled Brett Favre for a spectacular win after trailing 14-3 at the half?   Well, at least I haven't forgotten.

Posted on January 25, 2007 at 08:40 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Colts 38, Pats 34

Wow.  That game didn't suck.

Posted on January 21, 2007 at 08:18 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Football Coach Salaries

I am not sure I find Nick Saban's $32 million contract with Alabama that surprising.  After all, Alabama considers itself a top-10 program but a series of rejections have made the job tainted goods.  When prestige won't sell, money is always the fall back.   And Saban has learned what most other college coaches have learned -- the NFL is a LOT of freaking work and stress compared to college.

My question is a different one.  My guess is that this makes Saban the highest paid state government employee in Alabama.  Is there any state where a college men's football or basketball coach is not the highest paid state official?

Posted on January 3, 2007 at 01:41 PM | Permalink | Comments (9)

Distance Runners are Nuts

For those who think marathoners are wimps:

Paul Keeley, a U.S. Marine at the South Carolina Military School, wants to run the Boston Marathon unshod next year. Last summer, he began training by pounding the streets of Charleston, S.C., in combat boots, hoping to nurture some preliminary calluses. He took off the boots this fall but soon landed on a surgeon's table for an abscess in his middle toe that required draining. Mr. Keeley, 18, says his calluses had hardened so well that he felt no pain when a pine needle or some other sharp object penetrated his skin and worked its way to the bone. He says he's still on track with his barefoot-in-Boston plan.

"Barefoot running isn't for sissies," says Jonathan Summers, a 37-year-old Boston horticulturist who took up the regimen this summer after seeing a couple of unshod runners pass him by at a local 10K race. "It's like running on sandpaper."...

Paul Keeley, a U.S. Marine at the South Carolina Military School, wants to run the Boston Marathon unshod next year. Last summer, he began training by pounding the streets of Charleston, S.C., in combat boots, hoping to nurture some preliminary calluses. He took off the boots this fall but soon landed on a surgeon's table for an abscess in his middle toe that required draining. Mr. Keeley, 18, says his calluses had hardened so well that he felt no pain when a pine needle or some other sharp object penetrated his skin and worked its way to the bone. He says he's still on track with his barefoot-in-Boston plan.

"Barefoot running isn't for sissies," says Jonathan Summers, a 37-year-old Boston horticulturist who took up the regimen this summer after seeing a couple of unshod runners pass him by at a local 10K race. "It's like running on sandpaper."

Posted on December 27, 2006 at 12:34 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)

I Am Done with the Cardinals Until...

I am done with the Cardinals until they get an offensive line. I have written many times about the sad, failing strategy of drafting high-profile position players (particularly wide receivers) but paying no attention to the offensive line.  The Cardinals have one of the best receiving corps in the nation, have what looks to be a great young quarterback, has a top-notch running back, but did NOTHING over the winter to shore up what last year was a crappy O-line.  This is despite being $10 million under the cap!

And you saw it last night.  Commentators have criticized the coaches for getting too conservative in the second half of last night's debacle, and certainly that is true.  But a good team with a back like Edgerin James should be able to close out a game in the fourth quarter by pounding the ball on the ground.  And the Cardinals could not, with James averaging less than 1 yard per carry after the opening drive in the first quarter.

I give up.  I am tired of getting suckered onto the bandwagon.  Until the Bidwells crack open the wallet and focus some cap money on the O-line, I am back to rooting for the Broncos.

Update:  Greg Easterbrook piles on:

When my two football-crazed boys got up early this morning I said, "Guys, Arizona was ahead by 20 and had the ball on the last play of the third quarter." Immediately both said, "And the Cardinals lost." Not only did Arizona blow a late 20-point lead at home in front of a national television audience; the Bears committed six turnovers and the Cards still managed to lose. Arizona held Chicago to nine first downs and was plus-four in turnovers, yet managed to lose. In the closing seconds, Arizona had last year's Pro Bowl kicker lined up for a 41-yarder to win, and trigger what would surely have been wild civic celebration, and still lost. What's a stronger expression than "pitiful"? We must now twist an old line and proclaim: Whom the football gods would destroy, they first make Arizona Cardinals.

 

Posted on October 17, 2006 at 10:53 AM | Permalink | Comments (3)

The Ocho!

I wasn't too impressed with the movie Dodgeball, but I did enjoy the niche sports spoofs associated with the mythical ESPN "the Ocho." Today at lunch, I saw a crowd gathered around the TV, and went to see what they were watching.  On ESPN - the main one, not the deuce - was the world sport stacking championships. Basically, this is a timed race to stack drinking cups in fixed patterns (pyramids and such).  I could not believe this was on TV.  It was far more outrageous than any of the sports they came up with on the Ocho.  Also, the kids doing it were fast -- a couple were such total blurs with the cups I thought the tape was sped up.  There is no way you can adequately picture this without seeing it - Click on one of the videos in the lower-center of this page.  The kid in the Comcast video on the right is pretty good too.  Oh, and get your gear here.

Posted on August 23, 2006 at 03:53 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Pre-Season College Football Rankings are the Most Important

Yes, that's what I said.  The pre-season college football rankings are absolutely the most important poll of the year, at least if you think your school has a chance to be #1 at the end of the year.  That can't be right, you say -- surely a poll taken before anyone has played a game is the least important. Here is my reasoning:

In theory, voters in the college football polls each week come up with their current ranking of teams, which in theory could be very different from how they ranked things the previous week.  In practice, however, voters start with their rankings of the previous week and then make adjustments up and down for individual teams based on that week's game results.  The result is as I described in the comment thread of this post at the Sports Economist:

In effect, the college football rankings are a bit like a tennis ladder. Each week, losers drop down 3-8 spots and all the winners and no-plays move up to fill in the vacated spots. Sometimes a team will leapfrog another, but that is rare and it is extremely rare to leapfrog more than 1 or 2 spots. In this sense, the initial football poll is the most critical, since only those in the top 10-15 have any chance of moving up the ladder to #1.

In effect, the pre-season poll is the baseline off which all future polls start.  I haven't done the research, but you could probably refine my statement in last sentence above to a set of rules such as:

  • A three-loss team can never win the championship
  • A two-loss team can win but only if they start in the top 5 of the pre-season poll
  • A one-loss team can win but only if they start in the top 15
  • An undefeated team can win even if they were left out of the initial top 25, but only if they play in a major conference.  A minor conference team, even undefeated, will not ever end up #1 unless they started the season in the top 25.

Again, the numbers in these rules may not be exactly right, but I think they are directionally correct.  This is what I call my theory of College Football Calvinism (the religion, not the cartoon character) since one's ultimate fate is in large part pre-ordained by the polls even before the season is born.  So, if your alma mater has any shot at the title, you should hope your AD is out there in the summer lobbying the writers like hell to up their pre-season poll standings. Every spot you gain in the pre-season poll is one you don't have to win on the playing field.

Posted on August 22, 2006 at 11:06 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Penalty Kick Stupidity

Well, yet another key international soccer match, this time the most important game of all, the World Cup Finals, was decided by penalty kicks.  Penalty kicks are the most absurd way to determine a championship that I can imagine.  They are barely one step removed from a coin toss in terms of their ability to really determine who the best team is.   Its like giving up on a baseball game in the 12th inning and settling it with a home run derby.

I understand that in regular matches and probably in pool play, logistics require that games not go on for hours and penalty kicks make sense.  But by the time you get to the quarterfinals, and certainly the finals, why can't they just play the freaking game until someone wins?  That's what they do in the Stanley Cup, and in US pro football -- each have ways of settling ties quickly for regular season games, but once crunch time comes, they play until there is a winner.  In Wimbledon, they settle sets with tie breakers but come the fifth set, they play until someone wins.  Its not like the stadium is booked for anything else the rest of the day.  And do they really think anyone in the stands is going to get tired and go home?  Pro hockey fans will tell you there is no more compelling time in their sport than overtime in a Stanley Cup Final.  How great would it have been to have just left the two teams on the field until one was a winner, even if that took two more hours?  I mean, they have waited four years for this moment, they can't put in a few more minutes on the field?

As an American non-soccer guy, I have really given this World Cup a chance.  I was in England for much of the tournament, so I not only watched but got to experience some of the excitement of the populous.  And I have, excluding the silly play-acting fake injury thing, mostly enjoyed the games.  But they lost me right at the end.  Settling their once-every-four-years world championships with ridiculous penalty kicks demonstrates to me that soccer types have no respect for their own game.  After just 30 minutes of overtime, they give up on their own game and have teams play a different game to determine a winner. So if they don't have respect for their own game, why should I have any?  Americans are never going to fall in love with a game that decides its championships with the moral equivalent of a coin flip.

Update:  First, though this post was applied to soccer, its not just a soccer rant.  I went on the same rant several years ago when the Olympic ice hockey gold was awarded with a shootout.

Second, I get it that the athletes are tired.  I'm not going to put my toe in the water on the "what sport requires the most athleticism" debate, except to say that soccer is right up there, with its 45 minutes of continuous play each half.  (But I will say that, having personally played rugby for years, rugby is right up there too -- one thing soccer aficionados don't acknowledge is how much physical contact and going down on the ground frequently -- for more than just a fake injury -- takes out of you above and beyond just continuous running.)

My point is that shoot-outs are a different game - they are not real soccer.  Yes they use the same equipment and have roughly the same goal (to get the ball in the net) but by that definition "horse" is real basketball.  Anyone up for settling an NBA finals after two overtimes with a game of horse?  The beauty of soccer is in the passing and the assists, in the clever footwork, in the wing trying to use his speed to turn the corner.  Where are those in a shootout?

If athletes are getting exhausted, it just increases the likelihood that someone will score and end the game, since it is as true in soccer as any other sport that fatigue hurts defense more than offense.  And this might stop teams that play a defensive game in overtime, who are clearly playing for the shootout.

And think of posterity.  No one is going to remember this World Cup final game except to say that Italy beat France on penalty kicks.  But what if the game went 3-1/2 hours in a grueling test of endurance before France finally punched it in, all the players too exhausted to celebrate.  People would talk about the match for years.  I'm not saying you play this way for every run of the mill international competition.  But wouldn't it be nice once every four years to actually decide the championship actually playing soccer, rather than horse?

Update #2: Per a couple of commenters, nothing in this post is meant to imply that sports that are more popular in the US are not without their flaws.  Silly set-piece fist fights in hockey and the unfairness of overtime rules in football (putting too much emphasis on winning the coin toss) come to mind immediately.

Posted on July 9, 2006 at 02:18 PM | Permalink | Comments (17)

OUCH! My Ankle!

Not being much of a pro soccer fan, I have been surprised to find that the sport can be compelling, at least in stretches.  For example, the 30 minutes of overtime between Italy and Germany was quite exciting.

However, I think the sport should be ashamed at the state of affairs in its refereeing.  In any one game, you might see players rolling around on the ground faking injuries as many as 15 or 20 times.  It became a source of immense amusement for my son and I to see not only how much faking was going on, but how often the faking involved holding a body part that seemed unrelated to any contact  (e.g. holding their head as if they received a concussion when they were accidentally tripped).  If these were all real injuries, the field would look like Omaha beach by the end of the game.

Why do they do it?  Because the referees reward them for it, of course.  It was pretty clear that on many occasions acting and injury-faking turned accidental falls into penalties and minor penalties into yellow and red cards.  It's disgraceful.  I know refereeing is hard given the speed of today's athletes, but for god sakes soccer has got to be an order of magnitude easier to referee than say basketball or particularly American football. 

Even more, I wonder why fans tolerate the pretend injuries?  Can you imagine Pittsburgh Steelers fans fondly embracing a wide receiver that faked ankle injuries two or three times a game to try to get an interference call?

Most all the regulation goals in later games of the world cup have been scored on penalty kicks.  It seems that the game has devolved into lofting the ball into the box and then hoping to draw a penalty, sort of like a hail Mary play at the end of a football game.  I would love to see the game opened up a bit to allow more scoring of real goals in regulation -- how about eliminating the offsides penalty?

Posted on July 5, 2006 at 03:47 PM | Permalink | Comments (7)

Congratulations to Gene Wright!

Congratulations to Gene Wright, who won the first annual Coyote Blog NCAA bracket contest.  Gene only had one of the final four picked (UCLA) but did so well in the opening rounds he had the contest locked up even before last weekend.  Second place was Michael Gunter and third was Bob Houk.  Interestingly, no one out of 34 contestants had Florida in the finals or winning it all.  By the way, yours truly limped in at 24th, though my son helped uphold the family honor at 10th.  If you were not in the pool, you can still click here and enter email "coyote -at- coyoteblog -dot- com" and password "coyote" to see all the results.

By the way, I highly recommend the www.pickhoops.com site for your brackets.  It costs $9 to set up, but it has no ads, the registration is MUCH less intrusive for your players than free sites like Yahoo, they have great analysis options, and they are much faster at posting results.

Posted on April 4, 2006 at 08:56 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)

NCAA Pool Update

Congratulations to Gene Wright, who has a strong lead in the pool with 151 points.  Michael Gunter is in second with 143, and Bob Houk in third at 138.  For those playing, make sure to check out this page, which takes all the various possible combinations of future wins and losses in the tournament and calculates probability of winning.  This analysis gives Gene a 60.9% chance of winning it all, followed by Bob at 23.4% and Michael at 12.5%.  Don't worry, your faithful author Warren Meyer, despite being at 21st right now, is just lurking to give everyone a false sense of confidence.  I have a 3.1% chance of victory which depends on Texas taking it all.  Hook 'em horns!

Posted on March 25, 2006 at 07:04 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)

And the Game is On...

We had over thirty entries this year for our bracket pool.  Good luck.  After three games, your host Coyote is in.... Last!  Woohoo.

Posted on March 16, 2006 at 02:53 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)

Coyote Blog NCAA Bracket Challenge

Note: This post sticky through 3/16.  Look below for newest posts.

As promised, we are proud to announce the first annual Coyote Blog NCAA Bracket Challenge.  Yes, I know that many of you are bracketed out, but for those of you who are self-employed and don't have an office pool to join or who just can't get enough of turning in brackets, this pool is offered as my public service.  In particular, I invite bloggers who are experiencing post-Weblog-Award depression to reignite the spirit of online competition.  I mean, why should NZ Bear have the monopoly on ranking bloggers? 

I don't know if we will get 1 or 100 entries, but all are welcome, so send the link to friends as well.  There is no charge to join in and I have chosen a service with the absolutely least intrusive log-in (name, email, password only) and no spam.  The only thing I ask is that, since my kids are participating, try to keep the team names and board chat fairly clean.

To join, go to http://www.pickhoops.com/Coyote and sign up, then enter your bracket.

Scoring is as follows:

Round 1 correct picks:  2 points
Round 2:  4
Round 3:  6
Round 4:  8
Round 5:  10
Round 6:  20

In honor of the Blogfaddah, we have added the special "Army of Davids" bonus scoring:  If you correctly pick the underdog in any round (ie, the team with the higher number seed) to win, then you receive bonus points for that correct pick equal to the difference in the two team's seeds.  So don't be afraid to go for the long-shots!

OK, so what about the prizes?  Well, fame and recognition on this weblog should be enough, but, for those who enjoy recreation, my company will give the winner a choice of 3 nights free camping at one of the public campgrounds we run, or a half-day jet ski rental at Lake Havasu, or a half-day boat rental at Burney Falls State Park in California, Blue Mesa Reservoir in Colorado, or Patagonia Lake in Arizona.

Disclaimer: I sincerely hope that there is something about this purely recreational activity that violates the ridiculous gambling laws we have in this country, because I feel the need to protest them at every turn.  For example, can any politician explain to me why gambling in many Midwestern states is moral on a boat but immoral and therefore illegal on dry land next to the boat?

Update:  We already had a number of entries in the first hour this was up, so it looks like it is going to be a lot of fun.  Go ahead, sign up, it just takes a few minutes.  You don't have to know that much about basketball -- last year our family's tournament was won by an 11-year-old girl.

Posted on March 16, 2006 at 08:31 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Olympics Question

In a previous post, I discussed decision anchoring in judged events.  This week I have a simpler question:  Whose idea was it to give out CD-ROM's this time instead of regular medals?

Cdrom

Is this some kind of weird prelude to a Microsoft takeover of the games?  Or maybe these are just remaindered "Glitter" DVD's.  By the way, this picture does not do her justice, but Tanith Belbin is pretty hot.  She came in third in ESPN's page 2 hottest female athlete survey.  Better pictures here.

Posted on February 20, 2006 at 05:22 PM | Permalink | Comments (6)

Judged Olympic Events

I have an experiment I would love to run.  I would love to compare the actual winners of Olympic events with the pre-event favorites, in two categories:  Those events with objective standards (time, distance, etc) and those that are judged (e.g. skating).  My hypothesis is that in judged events, barring a disaster (e.g. falling in a skating jump) judges tend to give high marks to those who they come in expecting to win.  I would expect that for people deeply tied into a sport (which Olympic judges are) it is impossible to totally separate the contestant's past body of work from their current performance.  I therefore would guess that favorites fail to win at objectively measured events more often than in judged events (again barring Michelle-Kwan-like falls).

Update: In another great moment in Coyote's reinventing the wheel, a reader emails to say that this phenomenon is called "anchoring":

Anchoring or focalism is a term used in psychology to describe the common human tendency to rely too heavily, or "anchor," on one trait or piece of information when making decisions.

During normal decision making, individuals anchor, or overly rely, on specific information or a specific value and then adjust to that value to account for other elements of the circumstance. Usually once the anchor is set, there is a bias toward that value.

This apparently occurs even when the number has nothing to do with the decision:

according to Daniel Kahneman if an audience is asked firstly to memorise the last 4 digits of their social security number and then to estimate the number of physicians in New York the correlation between the two numbers is around 0.4—far beyond what would be expected by chance. The simple act of thinking of the first number strongly influences the second, even though there is no logical connection between them.

I would presume that a number that was more related, like a figure skating pairs couple's world ranking upon entering the competition, would have an even greater impact on the decision.

 

Posted on February 13, 2006 at 11:55 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)

Lines Win NFL Championships

You hear a lot of debate about what wins NFL Championships - is it offense, defense, the running game, the quarterback?

Well, if we look beyond what is probably the most important determination of success -- don't have any injuries -- I think the last few games have really proven the importance of having a great offensive and defensive line.  The Indianapolis Colts, the team that supposedly had everything, lost because the Steelers penetrated their O-line at will.  Both the winning teams yesterday won in large part because their lines pushed the other team's around the field. 

Good teams know this.  Bad teams, like our Arizona Cardinals, don't.  At the beginning of the year, the Cardinals were getting a lot of publicity because they had exciting new players at many of their skill positions.  I went to see their 3rd preseason game, and I knew then that they would suck this year, yet again, because their lines got pushed around by Denver's second team.  Denver, by the way, is a great case for building from the lines - for years they have turned no-name guys into thousand yard rushers because of their O-line.  Same this year in Pittsburgh.  The great Cowboys teams of the 90's had Aikman and E. Smith and M. Irvin, but it also had what may have been one of the great offensive lines the league has seen.

Unfortunately, the Cardinals, like many bad teams, feel the need to draft big-name position players that temporarily excite a lethargic fan base rather than really building unsexy offensive and defensive lines.  I mean, for god's sakes, we have drafted like 3 or 5 wide recievers in the first round of the last few drafts.  This team needs EVERYTHING and we are drafting recievers?

Posted on January 23, 2006 at 12:28 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)

My First Half Marathon

Today I ran my first half marathon, at the PF Chang's Rock and Roll Marathon here in Phoenix.  It was fun through about mile 9, and mostly sucked after that.  I am pretty excited that I got through it, though right now I am ready for Kurzweil's singularity because this body definitely needs to be replaced.  My sister runs full marathon's and I laughed when she told me she bandages her nipples and Vaselines her thighs for the race.  Now I wish I had done it too - beyond the joints and muscles those are the two spots that are chafed pretty raw right now.

My time?  Well it was 2:27:20 for 13.1 miles, which is pretty lame since it translates into a blazing 11 minutes per mile, but it does qualify as my personal best!  Update:  They have the stats up on the Internet, so I now know that I finished 10,345th place out of 18,536 finishers, so I seem to have finished just outside of the medals (lol).  By the way, my two sisters both ran the full marathon in Houston on the same day, so combined with my marathon-lite the coyote sibs ran 65.5 miles on Sunday.

Posted on January 15, 2006 at 01:34 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)

The Baseball Closer Role is Nuts

I am not really a huge baseball fan, but we generally watch the World Series, and the Astros pitching decisions in the seventh inning had me yelling at my TV again.

In a previous post, I talked about my pet peeve of the closer position.  For non-baseball fans, here is the background:  Typically, starting pitchers make it about 6 innings on average, leaving a need for other pitchers to cover the last three innings.  Most relief pitchers who cover these later innings are not as good as the starting pitchers, or else they would be starting pitchers.  The exception is that most teams have a "closer", typically their best relief pitcher who is reserved for pitching the last inning (thus the name "closer").  I asked before why the closer always pitched the 9th, rather than whichever inning of the last three that the toughest batters were expected.  The answer I came up with was this:

the explanation must lie in metrics.  If a manager loses a game in the 7th, it is just a loss.  If a manager loses a game in the 9th, the game was "blown".  Newspapers and talk shows keep and publish stats on games blown in the 9th, but not games lost in the 7th and 8th.  Games lost in the 9th are in a sense portrayed as more of a management failure than games lost in the 7th, and this is made worse by the fact that a game lost in the 9th is somehow more psychologically devastating for fans and media.  Managers are not dumb - recognizing that they get dinged on their performance rating more for a game lost in the 9th than the 8th, they have invented the closer role.  General managers take a disproportionately large part of their salary budget for relief pitching and dedicate it to this closer role.

You can even see this effect today, as everyone talks about Brad Lidge giving up a 1-run homer in the 9th, rather than talking about the grand slam the bull pen gave up in the 7th.

So here is what specifically drove me nuts last night:  Bottom of the 7th, the White Sox trailing 4-2, the Sox had managed to load the bases with two outs and had Paul Konerko, one of their best sluggers, up to bat.  The Astros were clearly going to switch pitchers, since the current guy had just walked two batters in a row.  The question was, who to bring in?  One announcer suggested they bring in Brad Lidge, their closer and the best guy available (short of bringing in a starting pitcher). The other announcer said, no, you can't do that, he will never make it all the way to the 9th.  You can't, he said, bring your closer in this early.

Well why the hell not?  Are you really going to face a more dangerous situation than bases loaded with Paul Konerko up to bat later in the game?  Lidge, if he is their best guy, should have been in then, and pitched the 8th, and then they could have patched guys together for the 9th.  Instead, they sent in some other guy and boom, grand slam.

Now, I will admit that Lidge's giving up the game-winning home run in the 9th taints my argument a tad, if only to make the point that Lidge may have not been as hands down superior to the rest of the bullpen as we may have thought a few innings earlier.  But that does not change the facts of the 7th inning:  The Astros were facing the most dangerous possible situation, in the heart of the Sox order, one worse than anything they were likely to face in later innings, but they chose not to put the person they thought of as their best available pitcher out of homage to this weird baseball conventional wisdom called the closer.

Posted on October 24, 2005 at 09:21 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)

Week 5 Football Outsider Rankings

I discussed why I like the Football Outsider rankings of NFL teams and players here.  Typically defenses and offenses are ranked by total yards (given up and gained, respectively).  This is a really poor metric, as evidenced in part by the fact that Arizona is something like 3rd in the NFC in offense and 5th in defense by these traditional rankings.  The better football outsiders team rankings are here

A couple of observations

  • Cincinnati #1 after five weeks.  Wow!  Both offense and defense in the top 6.  I know it is early, but the Outsider's way of ranking teams tends to be more reliable than traditional statistical approaches.  For example, last season after week 5 they had Philadelphia and New England ranked #1 and #2, and these two teams eventually met in the Super Bowl.  Cincinnati has had a pretty easy schedule to date, which will get harder as the season continues
  • San Diego is by far the best 2-3 team out there.  They have had a brutal schedule, which gets better going forward.  They still should be considered a good playoff bet.
  • Washington is easily the worst 3-1 team out there.  Expect them to start losing soon, particularly as their schedule remains tough.
  • Philadelphia may continue to struggle.  The rankings show that their 3-2 record is no fluke, and they have perhaps the toughest schedule left to play of any team in the NFL
  • San Francisco and Houston are really, really bad.  Historically bad.  I had been hoping that Arizona had a chance in the Matt Leinart / Reggie Bush sweepstakes, but SF and Houston will be tough to beat.
  • Chicago is working on the Baltimore Ravens award, with the #1 defense to date in the NFL and the third to last offense.  Chicago has also been one of the least consistent teams (highest variance), but has one of the easiest schedules for the rest of the year, so still may have a chance if it can just to anything on offense.
  • NY Giants and Indianapolis are solid #2 and #3, though you have to worry about the Giant's high special teams score pulling them up - these scores tend to regress to the mean over the season.  Is there anyone who wouldn't love to see a Manning-Manning Superbowl?

Posted on October 12, 2005 at 09:59 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Playing for Matt Leinert

I will pat myself on the back and say that I called it, way back in week 4 of the preseason and again after week 1:  The Cards, as usual, suck.  The only reason that this is news is that some national sportscasters were drinking the kool-aid and had predicted that this will be a turnaround year for the Cards.  One quarter of watching the Cards get manhandled by Denver's second team in pre-season convinced me that while the Cards had some interesting skill position players, they had no Offensive or Defensive line.  And now, their top player on each line has gone down with an injury. 

This is a team that has never given a crap about its lines, as illustrated by the brilliant trade a couple of years ago of the draft rights to Terrell Suggs (despite his being a hometown ASU hero), perhaps the best young DL in the game, for two mediocre receivers.  Here is Coyote's draft rule number one:  Teams like the Cards that draft receivers in the first round several years in a row are going to suck (hear that, Detroit?)

I said previously this is maybe a 5 win team.  Did I overestimate?  It looks like the Cards have a shot at the Matt Leinert sweepstakes, otherwise known as the first draft choice.  Of course, the Cards being the Cards, they will probably pull out some last second win in the last second of the game to drop out of the first pick, like they did two years ago against the Vikings.  If they do get the first pick, they should trade the pick for linemen or more picks to draft lineman.  Here's why:

  • There is no point in having a good QB and a bad O-line (see Houston Texans in their first year)
  • You can get more value by trading the top 3 picks for lower picks
  • Matt Leinert is going to be uniquely valuable.  Some team will see him as a once in a generation type player and will give up many goodies for him (see Mike Ditka and Ricky Williams)
  • Like Eli Manning and San Diego, Leinert will probably refuse to come play in Arizona anyway

Posted on September 26, 2005 at 11:47 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)

NFL is Back, and the Cardinals Still Suck

I enjoy many professional sports casually, attending an event or two every year, but the NFL is by far my favorite.  In the pre-season, there was a lot of hype that maybe the long-time hapless Cardinals would be decent this year.  I knew better, even from the pre-season.   Heck, my 8-year-old daughter knew better.

We went to see the last pre-season game against Denver.  In that game, the Arizona starters played for quite a while against the Denver 2nd team, and got beaten up.  Specifically, they could not run the ball and in turn their defense could not stop the run.  So it was no surprise to see them get blasted in their first regular season game against the Giants. 

The problem with the Cards is this:  They have spent the last several years drafting high-profile position players, including spending a jillion 1st round picks on receivers.  Great teams got that way because they invested in their lines - both O and D, even when such picks might be less popular with the fans on draft day.  The Cards have instead focused on drafting "names" who might help sell season tickets in the new stadium.  This neglect is very apparent today.  It doesn't matter how good your position players are if there are no holes for the backs and the QB is getting plowed to the turf on every play.  This is a 5-11 team that is fortunately playing in the NFL's worst division, so they may eek out 7 wins.  You heard it here first.

By the way, if you are an avid football fan, I recommend two sites to you.  The first is Football Outsiders, who have taken a Bill-James-like approach to football stats, rethinking metrics to provide a better insight into what teams really are good.  Make sure to check out their DVOA rankings - basically they compare every teams performance on every play against other teams in the same situation (e.g. 3rd and 8 on their own 45).  The other site is Greg Easterbrook's always entertaining Tuesday Morning Quarterback column, providing large doses of football clear thinking and haiku.

Posted on September 12, 2005 at 10:15 AM | Permalink | Comments (3)

What I Love about the South

Having grown up in Texas, I love this:  Their city underwater and possibly joining Atlantis for eternity, the Superdome looking like the Kingdome, the newspapers flooded out of their offices, with no power and no printing presses, probably operating out of a Motel 6 somewhere, the New Orleans Times-Picayune still has time to address life's essentials -- How ARE the Saints going to stop the run this year? (posted at 8:50 PM Tuesday)

One of the major on-field concerns for the Saints is to figure out how to stop the run. Off the field reports of major flooding back home occupied the thoughts of many of the Saints players Tuesday in the second day of practice at San Jose State.

Going into Thursday's preseason finale against the Oakland Raiders, the Saints have allowed a whopping 535 yards on the ground in the first three exhibitions with a staggering 6.7 yards per carry for opponents.

You may have to scroll down a few posts, I am not sure their permalinks are working right.

Posted on August 30, 2005 at 07:50 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

A (Partial) Defense of Larry Krueger

Larry Krueger, a radio personality for the San Francisco (baseball) Giants, recently ignited a firestorm by saying that he was frustrated by the Giants'

brain-dead Caribbean hitters hacking at slop nightly.

In response, Giants manager Felipe Alou has demanded Krueger's firing, asserting that this statement represents the worst sort of racism, and that he refused to accept Krueger's apology because "There's no way to apologize for such a sin."

OK, at the risk that Krueger turns out to be a serial idiot with a long history of racism, I will deal with this statement solely on its face.  And in context, the reaction to his statement strikes me as extremely exaggerated.

Some background:  Typically, hitters can be thought of in two classes:

  1. Picky hitters, that sort through pitches like my wife shopping for vegetables, carefully picking out only the best to swing at, and gladly accepting walks when they come.  These hitters are often considered more "thoughtful" hitters
  2. Aggressive hitters, who swing more indiscriminately at pitches, and who often consider a walk to be a failed at-bat.  These hitters often described as "intuitive" or "natural" hitters, rather than thoughtful.

Some managers prefer the first type, some the second (for example, Miguel Tejada's being indiscriminate at the plate drove A's GM Billy Beane crazy, while other managers are happy to let him hack away for their team, given his huge numbers).  Which brings us back to the Caribbean.  What's interesting to me is that the Caribbean is not actually a race, but a location.  And in that location, it is very clear that hitters are schooled to be type #2 aggressive hitters.  Players in the Dominican Republic, Filipe Alou's home country by the way, have a saying:  "You don't walk off the island".  In other words, to get the attention of the US scouts and come to the majors from the Caribbean, a hitter is trained to be an aggressive type 2 player. They are taught that going down hacking is better than a walk.

In a sense, the Caribbean is a big (and very very successful) baseball school for training players to play in the US.  And it turns out that this "school" tends to teach players be more indiscriminate hackers at the plate.  Ask any manager in the majors if Caribbean hitters on average are less picky, more aggressive hitters at the plate and they will say "of course".

So, to some extent, Krueger is getting flamed for saying what everyone already knows.  Saying that Caribbean hitters can be indiscriminate hackers is like saying that PAC 10 quarterbacks tend to be more NFL-ready and polished than Big 12 quarterbacks -- its just a fact that is not always true, but is true on average given how they were trained.  Krueger's real mistake was probably using the term "brain dead", which can be a dangerous term when it has racial overtones, but in context probably refers to hitting style rather than absolute IQ.  I think Alou is reaching to say that Krueger was referring to Caribbean hitters poor English skills, but I will admit that he has more history with Krueger and may have reason to make this interpretation from past events.

Posted on August 8, 2005 at 08:32 AM | Permalink | Comments (8)

Cardio Tennis

Since Instapundit has been fitness blogging and my post on weight and mortality stirred up some comment, I thought I would put in a plug for my new exercise class.  My wife talked me into signing up for a 1-hour class called cardio-tennis.  Basically its a group tennis lesson, but with very little instruction.  Instead, the instructor hits three or four balls to me, typically running me all over the court.  Then I jog around to the other side, pick up my 3-4 balls and put them in his basket, and go back to the other side to wait my turn.  With the right sized group, I am jogging constantly and I get a fair amount of practice on my tennis strokes.  Its exhausting but it beats the hell out of jogging.

Posted on April 26, 2005 at 12:49 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Economics of NFL Draft

Forget the UN and judge nominations and other trivial matters.  This weekend is the NFL draft.  Via Marginal Revolution comes this cool article about the economics of the NFL Draft.

The article is pretty long, so let me summarize the couple of things I thought were pretty interesting.  The first was the relative value of draft picks.  They did a lot of work quantifying the performance of players selected at different positions in the draft (i.e first pick, second pick, etc).  You'll have to see the detailed study as to their methodology, but it struck me as pretty reasonable.  They also looked at the cost or salary by draft pick.  Combining the two got this curve:

Curve1
The "surplus" line is the difference of the curves, ie performance value minus compensation cost.  Since compensation costs fall faster in the late first round (the first round is 30 picks) and into the second round than does performance, the surplus value peaks in the second round.  This does not mean the best players can be found in picks 25-75, but it does mean that the best values can be found there.  Since the NFL works under a salary cap that equalizes total compensation, the best team should be the one that consistently picks these value players (this is different than the baseball / NY Yankees model, where there is no cap, and maximum performance presumably comes from getting the top players, irregardless of salary).

If this is correct, teams should be willing to straight-up trade a pick in the top 15 for a pick around 35.  However, in reality, they can usually trade a pick in the top 15 for two or more picks in the 25-75 ranges, which should make the trade a no-brainer.  Interestingly, the market for picks is actually going the other way:

Curve2
The researches studied hundreds of past draft day trades of picks to generate these curves.  It basically says that early picks are valued exponentially higher than even late first round picks, and this preference for very early picks has actually increased in the past few years.  This curve says that a #5 pick might be worth at least 3 and possibly many more picks in the 25-75 band.

Given these two curves, if they are correct, why don't more teams trade their top picks into the 25-75 band.  There are at least 3 answers to this:

  1. Read Moneyball.  Once you read it, you will understand that sports GM's do not understand these concepts of value.
  2. There may be other values, other than player performance, that teams get from top picks.  For example, most fans will have heard of the top ten people drafted, but will know few from the 25-75 band.  The top, well-known picks generate a disproportionate amount of fan excitement and "hope" which can translate into more paying butts in seats, which this study does not take into account
  3. Some teams are getting it.  In listening to several mock drafts lately, it is clear many teams want to trade down from the top picks this year - no one wants to pay the signing bonuses commanded at these levels.  By the way team that has traded for the most picks in this band is ... Philadelphia.  Who has been in the NFC championship game 4 years in a row, so maybe someone out there does get it.

 

Posted on April 22, 2005 at 10:08 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Go Suns!

The Suns are the best in the West, and for the first time since Charles Barkley wore a Suns uniform, the town is excited about the team´s chances.  My wife was commissioned to design a handbag for the wife of one of the Suns owners (in Suns' colors, of course) for her to display during the playoffs.  It was finished just in time:

Sunspurse_1


Posted on April 19, 2005 at 09:07 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Watching Golf

Today I am going to the the Phoenix Mardi Gras, which happens to take place at a golf tournament.  The Phoenix Open is unique among PGA Tour events, with about twice the attendance as the next-most-attended tournament, and with a huge party atmosphere.

Below is the famous 16th hole, ringed all the way around with grandstands and tents.  Absolutely the loudest and rowdiest hole on the PGA tour:

Hole_16_5

By the way, here is the weather forecast today (he he):

Posted on February 3, 2005 at 09:13 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Dear Pittsburgh Steelers:

Boy, did you luck out.

Posted on January 15, 2005 at 09:06 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)

Final Regular Season Football Outsiders Rankings

Find this week's rankings here.  Incredibly, Buffalo ended the year at number 5, and just a hair from #4, and are on the outside looking in at the playoffs.  I think the Colts are breathing a huge sigh of relief to be facing Denver rather than the Bills in the first round - a fate which they interestingly controlled by tanking the last game of the season, despite their coaches assurances to the contrary.

For the Super Bowl, I am sticking with the Patriots in the AFC.  Its tough not to pick Pittsburgh, who were impressive with even their scrubs beating a surging Buffalo team in the last week.  However, I will go with experience. The NFC is a total mess.  No one has ever lost much money betting against the Eagles to reach the Super Bowl, but everyone else really, really sucks.  Everyone else is an 8-8 team, even the Falcons who should be 8-8 but got away with a few.  I'll go with NE and Philly in the Superbowl, with the AFC winner, whoever they are, taking the title.

By the way, the Cards finished 27th in the rankings, which is actually (pathetically enough) one of their best finishes.  However, don't get cocky.  You can see from this post that the Cardinals are still the standard for mediocrity against which all teams are compared.

Posted on January 4, 2005 at 11:09 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

OK, Can We Please Not Send OU to the BCS Championship Again?

Two years in a row, voters had to choose two out of three very good teams to send to the BCS championship game.  And, for the second straight year, the team left out (USC, Auburn) has looked a lot better than OU, who got blown out for the second straight year in the Championship game.  I thought the Big 12 was way overrated at the beginning of the season and I have not changed my mind.  Maybe it is some flaw in the distribution of the AP's voting ballots, with a disproportionate number going to Big 12 States.  Certainly it seemed that way when Texas slipped by Cal in the last poll of the season as a number of voters seemed to "reevaluate" their rankings to slip Texas in.

UPDATE:  Same goes double for Ashlee Simpson

Posted on January 4, 2005 at 10:56 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Week 16 Football Outsiders Rankings

Football Outsiders has their week 16 football rankings up here.  Previously, I explained why I like Football Outsiders here.

The amazing thing to me is just how bad Atlanta looks in these rankings, at number 19.  In fact, much of the NFC playoff mix looks bad, with ATL, SEA, and GB sitting at 19,20,and 21.  On the flip side, Buffalo and 5 and Baltimore at 7 could be the best teams to miss the playoffs.  Buffalo in particular has really been playing lights out, but they still need some help this week to make the playoffs given their really bad start and the strength of the AFC.

Interestingly, Buffalo gets in if they win and the Colts beat the Broncos.  The Colts are likely to play one of these teams in the first round.  If I were the Colts, I would much much much rather face the Broncos in the first round than the surging Bills.  Bledsoe may be a playoff question mark, but Plummer is even more so.  Therefore, the Colts, despite what Dungee is saying lately, have zero incentive to win this weekend and every reason to take a dive.

Posted on December 30, 2004 at 12:16 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

We in Phoenix Support Our Troops

Hats off to ex-Arizona Cardinals cheerleeder and Phoenix resident Sarah Coggin for being part of the work to support our troops by visiting them overseas.  And here is more on other cheerleader visits here at the NFL Cheerleader Blog (as I have said in the past, if I could get paid to write that blog, my life would be set).  And shame on you cynics who think that I posted this just to have an excuse to get a cheerleader picture on the front page.  I actually did it to get two cheerleader pictures up:

Sarah1  Joint2

Posted on December 18, 2004 at 10:59 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)

This is Even Worse than Publicly Funded Stadiums

I have written a number of times about how I hate public funding of sports stadiums for billionaires.  But, via the Arizona Republic, this is perhaps worse:

Mired in debt, the Insight Bowl is considering leaving downtown Phoenix's Bank One Ballpark unless the postseason college football game receives a public subsidy.

Great - using tax money to fund random college bowl games.  And where does the money go - most of the money does to the participant teams and their conferences which this year are Notre Dame and Oregon State.  Why does Arizona need to subsidize the State of Oregon's athletic programs.  And Notre Dame?  They have one of the largest endowments in the country.  Neither of these teams have any connection to Phoenix or Arizona.

OK, I am being purposefully naive.  The money may go directly to the teams, but the purpose of the subsidy is to get those teams' fans to come to Arizona on the week between Christmas and New Years and buy hotel rooms.  In fact, it is an indirect subsidy of the lodging industry.

Why does the lodging industry have so much power in Phoenix?  People come here anyway, because it is warm - our climate is the best advertising.  And during the week between Christmas and New Years all the hotels are probably full anyway - certainly their rates are the highest of the year, as I have found when family have come to town that week.  And don't even get me started on tax money for this.

If the lodging industry values this stuff, let them pay for it via one of their trade groups.  The city of Phoenix does not advertise my business.  In fact, it does not advertise most of the businesses in town.  Why is lodging the exception?

Posted on December 18, 2004 at 08:33 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

I REALLY Hate Public Funding of Stadiums

I have harped on the subject of public funding of stadiums a number of times.  Here we go again, though.  Our nation's capital (which means all of us, probably) is going to pony up $ for a new sports stadium.  Reason takes it on here.

Posted on December 16, 2004 at 11:47 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Week 14 Football Outsider Rankings

Football Outsiders has their week 14 football rankings up here.  Previously, I explained why I like Football Outsiders here.

The top 4 or 5 teams stay the same, though NE moves to the top, where they belong.  The amount the Philly ranking depends on special teams is still a concern, but no other team in the NFC even cracks the top 10, so Philly's route to the Superbowl looks pretty greased.  Note that while Rothlesberger gets the press, its the Pittsburgh defense that is doing the heavy lifting, moving to #1 in the league, ahead of even Baltimore. 

The underachiever award definitely goes to KC, which is apparently doing well on a play by play basis but can't win games.  Conversely, the overachieving goes to Atlanta, which falls in the middle of the rankings but is 10-3.

Posted on December 15, 2004 at 09:20 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Heisman Trophy Charade

This weekend, another Heisman Trophy will be awarded, nominally for the "most outstanding college football player".  This is a joke.  The Heisman is in fact the award for "best college football player at an offensive skill position, preferably running back or quarterback, who plays for a nationally ranked program and has gotten plenty of TV exposure".

In the nearly 70 year history of the award, only 1 defensive player (Charles Woodson) ever won the award, and I think Woodson won only because he was a three-way player and scored a couple of dramatic special teams and receiving touchdowns in the last couple of games of the season.  In fact, of the nearly 350 finalists (the top five vote getters each year) only 20 have ever been defensive players.  In the ESPN highlight era (ie the last decade) no defensive player other than Woodson has cracked the top five in any year.  This belies the "best college football player" facade, since, last I checked, defense was about half the football game, and in many cases the more important half.  Heck, more Princeton and Yale players have won the Heisman (3) than defensive players (1).  And don't even ask about Offensive linemen or tight ends.  Even wide receiver is a bit iffy, with only two wins, so really you need to be a quarterback or a running back.

Posted on December 9, 2004 at 10:02 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)

Week 13 Football Outsider Rankings

Football Outsiders has their week 13 football rankings up here.  Previously, I explained why I like Football Outsiders here.

Arizona is almost there, in its traditional spot!  It is second from the bottom, but unfortunately San Francisco has the bottom spot nailed down pretty solidly.  I find the Outsiders rankings particularly useful when they diverge from a team's record.  One case in point is the Rams, or Les Mouflons as the Tuesday Morning Quarterback calls them.  Their 6-6 record seems to hide the fact that they are a pretty bad team.  This makes sense, as they have won a couple, like the game with Seattle, that they should have lost.

On the other ends of the scale, its still Philly-NE-IND-PITT at the top.  I like the NE and PIT stats the best, as they have both nice defense and nice offense.  Philly's #1 ranking still worries me - its defense is a bit soft and a lot of their ranking comes from special teams, which are notoriously fickle.  People have jumped off the NE bandwagon a bit, but I still think they are the team to beat.

Posted on December 8, 2004 at 09:35 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Umm, Yes, It is Cheating

Last night I watched the 20/20 Interview with Victor Conte, the man at the center of the BALCO steroids scandal.  I can't tell you how tired I got of hearing him say "if everyone else is doing it, it's not cheating."

Let me tell you Vic - it is cheating.  Cheating is breaking the rules.  We could actually have a pretty good discussion as to whether steroid use should be illegal, but the fact is that steroid use is currently banned in track and field (the main focus of the piece).  You knew it was banned, else you and the athletes would not have gone through so many hoops to hide what you were doing.  If everyone is breaking the rules, it is still cheating.  Go try to sell your point of view to Andy Fastow and his wife over in the Enron section of the federal pen.

Don't know why his lawyers put this guy on TV - he sure did not gain my sympathy.

By the way, I am still upset that everyone is so busy being titillated by this scandal that no one can spare any indignation for the press yet again putting a dagger in the grand jury process.

Posted on December 5, 2004 at 02:02 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Week 12 Football Outsiders

Previously, I explained why I like Football Outsiders here. Their week 12 statistical rankings of teams is here.

If you really want to dig into NFL stats, this is a great site.  Also, they just ran their model restrospectively on the year 2000.  And, what do you know, our beloved Arizona Cardinals again came in dead last, with the worst full-season score in the history of the rankings.

Posted on December 2, 2004 at 02:06 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Week 10 Football Outsiders Rankings are Up!

Previously, I explained why I like Football Outsiders here. Their week 10 statistical rankings of teams is here.

Despite the win last week, our Arizona Cardinals have finally returned to their usual stomping grounds -- in the bottom 5 teams, along with Miami, Oakland and San Francisco.  Hard to argue about these teams being the worst.  Perhaps the biggest surprise is the team fifth from the bottom - Dallas.  Cowboy haters rejoice.  Parcel's record of second year improvement seems to be in serious trouble.  If the season ended today, San Francisco would set the record for the worst statistical performance since these guys started keeping the stats, beating the second worst team, the 2002 Cardinals and the third worst team, the 2003 Cardinals, but just shy of the 2002 performance of the expansion Texans.  (Gotta love our Cards).

The top three, unsurprisingly, are New England, Philly and Pittsburgh.  New England has taken the top spot, which is where I think they belong.  For a while, Philly's special teams rank was carrying them, but history in these rankings has shown that special teams ranks are very volatile and tend to regress to the mean.  Philly's soft defense may well spell another playoff disappointment for the Eagles.

Posted on November 17, 2004 at 09:28 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

I Hate Public Funding of Stadiums

One of the government habits that consistently irritate me is the public funding of stadiums.  Never has so much public money been transferred for so little economic benefit to so many billionaires who don't need it.  For example, Seattle ponied up hundreds of millions of dollars for a stadium for Paul Allen, one of the five richest people in the world (and who probably has spent more than the cost of the stadium searching for aliens). 

Credit the owners of sports teams, I guess, for they have learned to use gun-to-the-head threats of moving the team out of town to get local taxpayers to vote them new stadiums.  I mean, for god sakes, we are building a stadium here in Arizona for the hapless Cardinals (and here is our new Glendale Arena, constructed by taxpayers just in time for the NHL strike - but we get roller derby!) Some thoughts:

  • Public funding is totally unnecessary.  Many private owners have built their own stadiums, either through private capital or Personal Seat Licenses.  In fact, with naming rights and luxury boxes, there are more revenue streams than ever to pay for these stadiums.
  • Its all about blackmail. If the mayors of the 50 largest cities in the country got together tomorrow and made a no-public-stadium funding pledge, then owners would be forced to build their own stadiums.  Congrats to Los Angeles for resisting the the NFL's outstretched hand.  What the owners have created is a classic prisoners dilemma for the cities (see update#1 below)
  • Sports teams bring little net economic benefit.  No disinterested economist has found any justification for the premise that they improve the local economy - instead, they just shift benefit around.
  • Teams take better care of stadiums they actually own.  Private stadiums are steadily improved, year-in and year-out.  Public stadiums (I am thinking of Veterans Stadium and the Astrodome in particular) are used up and thrown away.
  • Teams always underestimate the tax burden of the stadium and the implied subsidy.  Often you see them arguing that the stadium will be funded only out of the revenues from the stadium itself -- well if that's the case, then why does the public need to be involved at all?

Here is a Cato paper debunking the economics of the proposed new DC baseball stadium.  Matt Welch has a great article on this topic in Reason here.  Hit and Run has an update today on the Angels' jacking both Anaheim and Tempe at the same timeMakes Me Ralph (lol) has a series of posts here, just keep scrolling.  For even more, see the website Field of Schemes and the related book Field of Schemes : How the Great Stadium Swindle Turns Public Money into Private Profit.

UPDATE#1

Marginal Revolution makes the counter-case for public funding, citing a study by two economists who try to put a value on the intangibles of having a team in town.

I have to disagree for three reasons:

  • I am against taxing for such value.  If everyone finds value, find a free-market approach to get the same thing.  Have a telethon or something.  And by the way, this value is fleeting and much more limited than owners let on.  One good example - has anyone south of Chicago noticed that the NHL season has not started?
  • This is a very slippery slope argument.  How many times have you heard politicians say something like "Everyone I know would pay a dollar a week to get this, its not that much".  Yeah, it sounds great, but a dollar a week per person in the US gets us a new $15 billion a year program or tax. 
  • Most importantly, though, is that private enterprises don't NEED the public funding to make stadiums work.  If the product works, like the NFL, they don't need public funding.  And if the product isn't working, like the NHL, then no amount of public funding, like our new arena here, will save it.  Team owners get public funding only because they can, not because they have to.  And they can because of the threat of moving the team out of town.  This is a classic prisoner's dilemma.  If all major cities collude and refuse to fund public stadiums (like the two prisoners agreeing not to cooperate with police) then everyone except the owners is better off, because the NFL will still exist but without public subsidies

UPDATE #2

A nice post with lots of good links from Houston's Clear Thinkers.  A nice blog based in my old hometown and birthplace.

Posted on November 10, 2004 at 12:36 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Week 9 Football Outsiders is Up

Previously, I explained why I like Football Outsiders here. Their week 9 statistical rankings of teams is here.

Miami still can't nail down that bottom spot. San Francisco and the Raiders both have fallen below the Fish (so much for Bay Area football). Miami has the worst offense in the league by a HUGE margin, but its defense keeps it off the bottom, as it probably should:  A good defense will win you a few games, no matter how bad the offense is.  My Arizona Cardinals continue to fall, down to their rightful place in the bottom quartile, despite having a pretty good defense. At the top, Pittsburgh, New England and Philly are threatening to run away and hide, which just goes to show that every once in a while, BCS notwithstanding, computers and common sense can converge.

Posted on November 9, 2004 at 11:05 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Week 8 Football Outsiders is Up

Previously, I explained why I like Football Outsiders here. Their week 8 statistical rankings of teams is here.

Miami assumes its rightful position back at the bottom of the list. The surprise, at least based on pre-season expectations, is to see the Titans in the bottom 5. My Cardinals continue to regress back to mediocrity, though their defense remains among the 10 best -- last week against Buffalo was more of an Offense and Special Teams failure than a defensive lapse.

I don't think anyone can disagree with the Outsiders' top 3. KC at number four doesn't seem right to me; however, for some reason, both this season and last, their statistical system seems to over-rank KC.

Posted on November 3, 2004 at 11:33 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Week 7 Football Outsiders is Up

Previously, I explained why I like Football Outsiders here. Their week 7 statistical rankings of teams is here.

A couple of observations. For the first time in recent memory, our hapless Arizona Cardinals crack the top half of the rankings. Woohoo. Arizona is ranked 5th in total defense, and first in rush defense. Good thing, since we can't score to save our lives. Also of note, Miami pulls out of last place, ceding the spot to cap-hangover suffering San Francisco. I can't believe the Cards lost to those guys in the fourth quarter. Yeah, I know what you are thinking - you can't believe anyone really cares about the Cards.

Also, this weeks Tuesday Morning Quarterback is up. Always entertaining.

Posted on October 26, 2004 at 11:06 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

New Football Outsiders Rankings Up

Previously, I explained why I like Football Outsiders here. Their new weekly statistical rankings are up.

Unsurprisingly, Philadelphia is number 1 (by a huge margin) and New England is number 2. The real surprise is that Miami is NOT last - storied Green Bay is.

Also, this week's Tuesday Morning Quarterback is up.

Posted on October 14, 2004 at 08:15 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Rethinking Football Metrics

I find that most experienced managers have become experts at identifying and gaming flaws in measurement systems. The in and outs of measurement systems have always interested me, both in business and in sports (how about that segue-way?)

Those of you who are baseball fans may be familiar with Bill James. Bill James came to the conclusion that baseball stats really didn't say very much about what went on in a game, and were misleading in evaluating individual performance. He and people like him have asked questions like "is RBI production really a fair measure of individual performance (since it depends on teammates getting on base)" and "why are walks left out of traditional hitting stats". My post is really on football, but if these baseball questions interest you, check out the book Moneyball.

Much like these baseball stat pioneers, there are a number of people trying to rethink football statistics. For example, is total yardage given up a good measure of defensive productivity? Won't a mediocre defense on a team with a great offense that grinds out 8 minute drives sometimes look better on this stat than a good defense on a team with an offense that is always 3 and out? A site called Football Outsiders is one example of the search for better football understanding. If you are numerically inclined, and are tired of the "its all about execution, about taking it one game at a time" football analysis, check these guys out.

Posted on October 4, 2004 at 08:22 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)