Thursday, August 30, 2007

Champions' League Draw - First Impressions

I am making an effort to return to my roots a bit here and do some soccer coverage, even during football season...

Followed the draw today for the group stages of the Champions' League. Here are my first impressions:

Easiest Route for Top Seed to Knockout Round:

If AEK turns around the result against Sevilla, this category is Arsenal's without a rival. If Sevilla's result holds, it probably still is Arsenal (Sevilla are going to have trouble keeping it together after the Puerta tragedy). Other relatively clear routes are there for Liverpool and Inter Milan.

Toughest Route for Top Seed to Knockout Round:

The two Spanish giants. Barcelona get should've-been-a-top-seed Lyon, German champion Stuttgart and a resurgent Rangers team (killing people in Scotland now and hungry for CL football). Real have losable games against Werder Bremen and Lazio, and Olympiakos is not an easy place to travel to.

Easiest Group Top to Bottom:

I think it's Group G or H. Inter aren't as good as their Calciopoli-watered-down title last year. PSV are middle-of-the-pack 2 seeds. CSKA could surprise, but wouldn't in other groups. For the reasons Arsenal have an easy route above, H is easy too.

Toughest Group Top to Bottom:

Lots of choices here. Real and Barce's groups are tough, with exceptionally good 3rd seeded teams (Lazio and Stuttgart, respectively). Another group that draws my attention is Group D. Milan are defending titlists, Celtic and Benfica have lots of experience at winning games in the Champions' League, and Shakhtar Donetsk is probably as good this year as many of the 3rd seeds.

Most Likely Group to Hold Form:

Probably Group F. Man U and Roma are a good bit better than Sporting and Dinamo Kyiv (though either could put in a scare on any given Wednesday. If Sevilla hold on against AEK, Group H will have the top 2 advance.

Most Likely Upsets (bottom 2 pool team advancing):

Celtic and Shakhtar are as likely as Benfica to advance, in my mind. All three of those teams are about equal. Watch out for CSKA Moscow in Group G - it's hard to play in Russia in cold weather, and that group isn't loaded with the greatest top seeds. I wouldn't be stunned to see Schalke 04 take a slot away from Valencia either, as Valencia are off track right now.

Dodgiest Road Games:

Liverpool at Besiktas; the Real-Lazio Fascist-off; Any match in Ukraine or Russia in December.

Wait, Where are...:

Kanu mentioned it already, but it's quite possible that the best team in Europe this year isn't in the Champions' League. Bayern Munich look fantastic. Also missing is Juventus, who might put together a fine run in Italy. Only PSV from Holland? Time for Feyenoord and Ajax to return to prominence. I also would like to see champions of some lesser leagues get back in the mix of things - like IFK Gothenborg of Sweden, Anderlecht of Belgium, or FK Austria or Wien. I'm not sure if I personally like that England, Spain, Italy and Germany make up half the field. I never minded giving other clubs a prominent showcase.


Monday, August 27, 2007

Dead Horse

I know a lot of bloggers have signed on to the concept of not bashing other conferences or getting involved in pissing contests. That's fine. I agree to that as well.

However, I haven't forgotten, and I won't soon forget, the elitist, borderline-racist snobbery of Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany, as evidenced in his letter to Big Ten and College Football fans after his conference champion's embarrassing performance in the BCG National Championship Game. The exact language:

"I love speed and the SEC has great speed, especially on the defensive line, but there are appropriate balances when mixing academics and athletics."

The Wizard of Odds (an excellent college football blog) posts today that perhaps Delany has been vidnicated by the fact that few Big Ten recruits from this season have failed to meet initial eligibility requirements, while significantly more SEC recruits have failed to meet initial eligibility requirements and/or to receive admission into the University.

Unfortunately, this isn't vindication at all. In fact, it merely draws more clearly how wrongheaded and offensive Delany's comments were.

First off, there are a couple of logical flaws at play here. Let's take this one by one.

1. Speed on the field has little to do with academic standards (or at least meeting NCAA initial eligibility).

As an anonymous commenter pointed out at The Wizard of Odds' post, none of the players on the field in the BCS National Championship Game was ineligible. Every one of those players had to meet initial eligibility requirements, obtain admission to the university, and remain academically eligible. If one team had more speed or talent than the other, it wasn't because one team suffered from increased eligibility requirements while the other did not. Florida's eligible players were faster and more talented than Ohio State's eligible players.

2. The failure of several SEC schools to enroll all of their recruited players this recruiting season has nothing to do with on-field comparisons.

The harm resulting from a player failing to meet initial eligibility requirements or obtain admission to a university is felt by that very university. If players are not admitted or can't meet initial eligibility requirements, it follows, necessarily, that those players aren't on the team, and therefore can't help that team in terms of speed and talent. Florida wasn't faster than Ohio State because of certain players who failed to gain acceptance and eligibility, because those players weren't on the field. So the fact that several SEC recruits failed to matriculate serves no purpose to support Delany's argument - because those who fail to matriculate aren't involved in the comparison of on-field abilities at all.

3. A small number of players failing to matriculate does not directly mean that there are increased academic standards.

Taking Delany's words for what they are, it's either a completely illogical argument (Big Ten players aren't as fast/good as SEC players because the SEC players are more often ineligible, but if they're ineligible how are they playing?), or it's simply an unfounded assertion that Big Ten eligibility and admission requirements are more rigid than SEC eligibility and admission requirements.

Let's take a look at that latter proposition. The evidence provided by The Wizard of Odds may actually work against that. Assume that the NCAA initial eligibility requirements are a baseline for all schools. Certain schools may require incoming recruits to meet higher standards than that, and gain admission. Merely passing the clearinghouse isn't enough at a lot of places. However, when a school increases the requirements above the NCAA baseline, wouldn't it follow that certain recruits wouldn't meet those increased standards? The fact that players are failing to matriculate may actually be evidence that the schools have increased admission/eligibility requirements. The fact that players are matriculating isn't evidence that the standards for admission/eligibility are higher. That fact that recruits are matriculating may be that standards for admission/eligibility are merely at the baseline (against the argument), or it may be that the schools are self-selecting players that are already known to meet increased standards. Either way, however, small raw numbers of players failing to meet eligibility/admission requirements does not directly mean there are increased standards. It may mean a number of things, most notably, that Big Ten schools take fewer risks on players who may or may not meet eligibility or admission requirements. But this more conservative approach does not equal academic superiority - if a school takes a risk and the player is eligible, he meets the standards; if a school takes a risk and the player isn't eligible, he's not at the school, so it doesn't matter, academically.

4. Delany's argument must, necessarily, only serve to insult eligible and admitted players at SEC schools.

The only reasonable implication from Delany's statement is that players who were eligible and admitted at SEC schools would not be eligible and admitted at Big Ten schools. There are no other reasonable interpretations. Delany provides no evidence to support this claim. The suggestion that the SEC fails to enroll far more recruits than the Big Ten is a null argument (if they aren't eligible at SEC schools, they aren't eligible at SEC schools, so they wouldn't be properly comparable).

What other evidence is there for this statement? When we can only look at players who actually did enroll, we're left with few opportunities to compare academic standards. Perhaps we could compare the use of Junior College transfers, prep school delayed-initial-enrollment recruits, or partial qualifiers? The flaw in comparing those is the assumption that any of those recruits are necessarily less academically qualified. If the NCAA and the school finds that a JUCO transfer has met initial eligibility and admission requirements, why should we interpret that as an academic failing on the student' s part? How can we presume poor academic qualifications in a person who meets requirements?

The only way to objectively prove Delany's assertion is to provide examples of recruits who failed to meet increased standards of Big Ten schools, but then did meet lower standards of SEC schools. I have not seen such information.

Without objective proof, Delany's claim that the Big Ten recruits a higher caliber of athlete is simply ad hominem against those current SEC players who have met initial eligibility and admission requirements.

With that, I'll gladly provide some similar ad hominem, showing what the supposed increased admission standards of Big Ten schools has led to:

HERE (some dropped, others not)
and of course, HERE

Intellectual Honesty Disclaimers:

----- Illegal or reckless behavior does not equate academic failure. I recognize this.

----- I also recognize that all conferences have their share of illegal or reckless conduct among their players. However, other conferences' commissioners aren't claiming superiority and calling into question another conference's players' faculties.

----- To the extent that the argument about schools failing to get their recruits admitted and eligible is actually about recruiting rankings and not a particular school's academic stature, I don't think anyone disputes the rankings' failings. Recruiting rankings that rate signed players rather than enrolled players are little better than meaningless.

Actually, I think I'd like to get into this topic a little deeper - on the "risk" issue. The raw numbers of SEC recruits who have failed to gain admission or eligibility provides strong evidence, but not conclusive proof, that SEC programs take risks on and sign players whose academic abilities might not meet standards. The few Big Ten recruits who suffered the same fate also provides strong evidence of, but not conclusive proof, that those programs don't take such risks. [I say evidence of, not proof, because there could very well be other reasons - such as the possibility that certain Big Ten programs actually have lower academic standards than some SEC programs.]

My thought on this is simple: why are any programs uncomfortable with the "risk" of offering a scholarship to a player who might not gain admission or eligibility, but whose abilities are strong? The risk, for the most part, isn't on the program, but rather the individual. Think of it this way: Player A is an exceptional athlete, marginal student. Elite U knows Player A would benefit their team significantly. Elite U offers him a scholarship. At that point, two things can happen, and neither is of Elite U's doing: (a) Player A meets the eligibility requirements and gains admission; or (b) Player A doesn't meet eligibility requirements or doesn't gain admission. If (a), then there's no issue regarding the academic reputation of the school - Player A met the requirements. If (b), then there's no issue regarding the academic reputation of the school - Player A didn't get in, so he's no blight. Either way, signing a risky player shouldn't affect a school's reputation. Now, once a player is enrolled, then keeping the player's eligibility is important - but that's also something that the program may have an ability to affect. Taking this a half-step further, I think there's an issue about the role of "hope" in taking these risks. When a recruit fails to gain admission/eligibility, that failure is on the recruit's shoulders - not the school's. No matter how elevated a particular school's standards are, that school relies on the recruits to do what needs to be done to gain admission. I think there's something kind of OK with offering a marginal kid a scholarship with the hope that he gets his act together (naturally, there are some situations that are special or where it's virtually impossible). There are way too many success stories about kids who were supposedly marginal students, or partial qualifiers, or something like that, who, once they get out of their home community, have structured rules and mentors to guide them and are given the opportunities to succeed, end up graduating and succeeding. Taking a risk on a particularly talented athlete has two outcomes. If the kid doesn't make it, there's no stain on the reputation of the school (as the kid never made it there), and the only downside is that the program may have to play catchup on signing other kids in the future (basically, reshuffling scholarships for future signing days). If the kid does make it, he's still no stain on the reputation of the school (unless the school fails the student once he's actually there - and in that case the school earns the stain), the program benefits by the player's abilities, and the opportunity is there for the supposedly marginal student to turn into a good student and productive member of the university community. To me, the positives significantly outweigh the negatives. So I don't really know why some programs don't take risks on marginal academic recruits. Note: I think character concerns are a different story - my thoughts on this above are limited solely to academic concerns.

If you couldn't already tell, too much of this post is thanks to the peerless archives of the inimitable EDSBS.


Friday, August 24, 2007

Early Bowl Projections = Not Smart.

So CNNsi has put out its Bowl Projections, based upon its own rankings of teams. It seems like they've attempted to use the BCS rules in filling out the slots, but I think they did it kind of wrong.

Here's their setup:

BCSNCG: #1 USC vs. #2 LSU
Rose: Michigan (Big 10 Champ) vs. Rutgers (At-Large)
Fiesta: Texas (Big XII Champ) vs. Wisconsin (At-Large)
Sugar: Florida (At-Large) vs. Oklahoma (At-Large)
Orange: Va. Tech (ACC Champ) vs. West Va. (Big East Champ).

Their only rule, it seems, in selecting At-Large teams is that they had to be in the Top 14 of their rankings. It also seems like they've abided by the BCS rule that no more than 2 teams from any particular conference may be selected to play in BCS games.

Here's where they go wrong: the order of selection.

I'll assume for the sake of argument that CNNsi's rankings are fine.

The way the BCS works is as follows:


#1 and #2 in the BCS rankings are automatically slotted in the BCSNCG.

So far, CNNsi is fine, placing USC and LSU in the BCSNCG.


Conference Champions not selected to play in the BCSNCG are assigned to the Bowl that conference is traditionally aligned with. Big 10 and Pac 10 to Rose. SEC to Sugar. Big XII to Fiesta. ACC to Orange.

CNNsi gets this almost exactly right, but it's hard to say perfectly. They slot Michigan in the Rose, Texas in the Fiesta, and Virginia Tech in the Orange. The problem is that they also appear to slot West Virginia in the Orange as Big East Champ. The Big East Champ is not automatically slotted in the Orange Bowl. Now, it may be that the Orange Bowl can select West Virginia to play, and they are eligible for the BCS because they are conference champs, but the fact is that West Virginia as Big East Champs is treated just like any At-Large selection (only the Mountaineers are required to get picked by some bowl).


Here's where it gets complicated, and it seems to me that CNNsi screwed up. Let's break this down a little.


The order of selecting teams rotates from year to year, and also depends on the selections of conference champions to play in the BCSNCG. The order in 2008 is:

1. Bowl that would have received #1 team because of conference tie-in.
2. Bowl that would have received #2 team because of conference tie-in.
3. Orange Bowl
4. Fiesta Bowl
5. Sugar Bowl

So, assuming USC and LSU are #1 and #2 respectively, the order of at-large, non-conference-tie-in choices would be:

1. Rose
2. Sugar
3. Orange
4. Fiesta
5. Sugar


CNNsi states that the team must be in the top 14 to be selected by a BCS bowl. This somewhat aligns with BCS rules, but it doesn't go all the way. There are teams that MUST be selected, and teams that CAN be selected, and there are further limitations on that.

Assuming the conference champions CNNsi has chosen, and assuming that their Top 14 teams mirror the BCS rankings, here's how things would end up:

West Virginia - by virtue of winning the Big East
Florida - by virtue of finishing #3 in the BCS but not winning their conference title.

Ohio State
Penn State

Everyone else

Now, there's a secondary BCS rule that comes into play right here. No more than 2 teams from any particular conference can be selected to play in BCS games in a single year. This cuts down the possible selections significantly.

Now, the options for at-large picks are:

Florida (mandatory)
West Virginia (mandatory)
Louisville OR Rutgers (not both)
Wisconsin OR Ohio State OR Penn State (no more than one)

Arkansas is now ineligible.

So now we know the 5 options for the non-conference-tie-in bowls. Let's see if we can project how the selection would happen.

The Rose Bowl would have the first choice of all these teams, to replace #1 USC and face Big Ten Champ Michigan. The only limitation as to which team it can pick is this: it cannot pick Florida unless the Sugar Bowl consents to letting them (the BCS has a rule saying the first choice bowl can't choose another team from the conference of the #2 team unless the bowl that would have received that #2 team consents). Let's assume that the Sugar Bowl won't consent to letting the #3 team slip out of their hands (and a safe assumption because the Sugar Bowl ends up with the last pick, so they'll want at least one big draw). Let's also assume that the Rose Bowl won't pick another Big 10 team to play Michigan.

So they can choose West Virginia, Oklahoma, Rutgers or Louisville.

By CNNsi's rankings, WVU is 4th, Louisville is 5th, Oklahoma is 9th and Rutgers is 12th (Michigan is 6th). For some reason, CNNsi picks Rutgers to play in this game.

Objectively, I think you can make an argumentthat Oklahoma would be the biggest draw (largest fan base). The best team would be WVU (assuming CNNsi's rankings). For CNNsi to choose Rutgers to play in this game (as the third best team in its conference and selected ahead of the two teams that finished higher), seems to be a great stretch. Were I selecting, under the assumptions CNNsi has made, I think Oklahoma would probably end up the choice, but just barely over West Virginia. Rutgers would not be in the equation.

Better Prediction: Michigan vs. Oklahoma

No doubt that the Sugar Bowl would choose #3 Florida. CNNsi is correct on this choice.

The Orange Bowl has no limitation on choices as to who should play against Virginia Tech. Further, since no other ACC teams are listed, they don't have conference matchup issues like the Rose Bowl. The following teams can be picked:
West Virginia
Louisville OR Rutgers
Wisconsin OR Ohio State OR Penn State

WVU is still ranked #4, Louisville is #5, Wisconsin is #10, Ohio State is #11, Rutgers is #12, and Penn State is #14.

Probably, WVU is the choice here. They're ranked ahead of Louisville, and the Cardinals had played there just last year. There may be a temptation to grab one of the Big 10 teams and their legion of fans, but the gap in quality of teams is probably too great to pass up one of the Big East teams.

Therefore, CNNsi is probably correct that WVU is the pick, but it should be clear that this is a "choice" and not a mandatory conference-tie-in.

Texas is tied in as Big XII champ. The Fiesta can then choose any of the following teams to play the Longhorns:
Louisville (#5) OR Rutgers (#12)
Wisconsin (#10) OR Ohio State (#11) OR Penn State (#14)

Sexiness vs. fanbase. Any of the Big Ten teams would travel better, but Louisville is objectively the best team left. It'd probably be left to how big the gap is between Louisville and the 3 Big Ten teams (i.e., if Louisville is 11-1, and Wisconsin's the best of them at 9-3, Louisville is probably the choice, but if Louisville is 11-1 and Wisconsin is 10-2, it's probably a closer call). Of all of the BCS bowls, the Fiesta is probably the least concerned with ticket sales, believe it or not. University of Phoenix Stadium is the smallest BCS locale by a good margin (only 63,000 unless expanded as it is for BCS title games). And with Texas already rolling in, it's probably unlikely that they'd have trouble selling out the place even with Louisville.

One could argue either way, so we will.
Option A: #8 Texas vs. #5 Louisville
Option B: #8 Texas vs. #10 Wisconsin

The final pick goes to the Sugar Bowl to pair someone against Florida. The choice for the Sugar depends largely on the choice of the Fiesta.

If the Fiesta chooses Louisville, the Sugar can choose between Wisconsin, Ohio State and Penn State.
If the Fiesta chooses Wisconsin, the Sugar can choose between Louisville and Rutgers.

It's probably a safe assumption that the Sugar will take whichever team the Fiesta didn't.

Option A: #3 Florida vs. #5 Louisville
Option B: #3 Florida vs. #10 Wisconsin.

So there you have it, a full analysis of the BCS selection. Basically, CNNsi screws up when it chooses a #12, third-in-their-conference Rutgers team to be the first team taken off the board by the Rose Bowl. Under the scenario CNNsi laid out, it's highly unlikely that the BCS bowls would consider Rutgers at all. The only advantage Rutgers has is the New York TV market. Rutgers does not have a sizable traveling fanbase. Rutgers is not geographically proximate to any of the bowls. And Rutgers wouldn't have the "they deserve it" argument behind them, having finished behind several other teams. There's just no justification for placing them in that bowl, aside from favoritism towards the local team closest to CNNsi's location. And that's poor punditry.


Friday, August 17, 2007

Gregg Here's a Nurse, Part XVIII

Shorter Gregg Easterbrook:

I have sympathy for those who have to lie in beds they've made.


Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Let's Ask Bristol (if you want terrible analysis)

ESPN has their "Power 16" list of the top college football teams up, as based upon voting by their particular experts. Georgia is at #11, which is probably too high in my opinion. But the reasons some of the experts give are just ree-damn-dick-a-loss.

Todd Blackledge on Pass Offense
QB Matthew Stafford took his lumps (7 TDs, 13 INTs) last year as a freshman. But he has a big, accurate arm and surprising mobility. Question is: Who will be his safety valve? Senior Sean Bailey is speedy, but he has only 36 career catches and is coming off a knee injury.

In re Stafford, very conventional analysis. As to the receivers, Georgia probably has one of the deepest corps it's had in years. Kris Durham is listed as the 7th or 8th received, and he had a lot of plays last year. No mention of Massaquoi, Kenneth Harris, Mikey Henderson, AJ Bryant, Tony Wilson?

Bill Curry on Run Offense
The Dawgs have lots of backs but no stud. Kregg Lumpkin is a slasher, not a home run threat. And, while Thomas Brown can break into the secondary and run away from DBs, he's coming off a knee injury. No matter who's back there, Stafford is going to face stacked fronts.

First sentence OK. I don't think of Lumpkin as a slasher at all. He's a pounder just not with a massive, Jerome Bettis-type body. No mention of Knowshon Moreno. The last sentence I disagree with. I think Georgia's passing game will be much improved over last year, and will especially require defenses to respect the deep ball. I don't necessarily believe the way to beat Georgia this year is "stack the box". Also, mandatory conflict of interest statement: really, ESPN, are you going to ask a guy who coached 3 rivals of UGA and who has never held back his contempt for the program for advice on UGA?

Rod Gilmore on Pass Defense
Asher Allen and Prince Miller are small (5'10" and 5'8", respectively) but scrappy CBs. They're fast enough to cover. Just not sure yet if they'll be able to tackle anyone.

Asher Allen and Prince Miller are both currently listed as backups to Thomas Flowers and Bryan Evans. Also, I'm not really sure where he gets the evidence that they're "scrappy" and "fast enough" or that they'd have trouble tackling opponents. Neither has had a ton of playing time.

Chris Spielman on Run Defense
Both DTs -- 6'3", 292-pound Jeff Owens and 6'5", 315-pound Kade Weston -- command double-teams. That should allow new starting DEs Roderick Battle and Marcus Howard to work one-on-ones and become backfield pests. Combined, they had only 2 TFLs last year.

Probably too favorable analysis. Owens and Weston have promise, but I think it's a little bit of a stretch to say they command double teams so far. I hope he's right, but this seems a bit optimistic.

Desmond Howard on Special Teams
Henderson can flat-out fly, and he's one of the few guys who can legitimately take it to the house at any time. Just have to wonder if a guy who's 5'10", 150 pounds and playing a bigger role on offense will hold up back there.

To Desmond Howard, "Special Teams" doesn't mean field goal kicking, punting or coverage. It's just the return guy. Also, it should be said that Desmond Howard was 5'10, not much bigger than 150 pounds the year he won the Heisman Trophy. Just sayin'.

Jim Donnan on Coaching
Mark Richt is a terrific special-teams coach, but he relies too much on field goals. And while he did an underrated job bringing along Stafford, he needs the QB to take a monster step in red zone efficiency this year.

REALLY! ESPN thinks it's a good idea to ask the guy who got fired to comment on his replacement? Seriously!!! And it takes some nerve for him to knock red zone efficiency and field goals. I don't recall Georgia being a scoring machine during his years. Points per game under Donnan = 26.6. Points per game under Richt: = 28.2. Nerve. (Also, arguably, the jockeying of QBs in the middle of the season messed with Stafford more than helped him along, and it may have cost us against Vandy and UK. That's the crazy thing about this whole piece - even when they're complimentary, they get it wrong.)

Brad Edwards on Schedule
A 2-0 start would vault Georgia toward the top of the polls, but the Tennessee game is huge. It's Georgia's first big SEC road test, and the Dawgs lost at home to the Vols last year, 51-33. Now they have to win in Knoxville.

Yes, they have to win in Knoxville... which is exactly what they've done the last three times they've traveled there. Brad Edwards normally has the numbers behind what he writes, but this is just lazy. Nothing on OOC games, nothing on SEC west rotation. Just weak.

So there's your expert analysis. Two guys with clear conflicts of interest (and I've always sensed that Blackledge didn't much care for Georgia, either). One guy who didn't even look at the depth chart.

These guys are supposed to know more than we do. To have more inside information. To be a filter, getting to us what we need to know. Awesome job.

This little thing right here is reason enough to hate national coverage of college football.



Gimme a f'n siren... Here's my attempt to answer all of the EDSBS Live!!! questions since they've been doing it. When they ask for something about "my team", I'll respond for UGA reluctantly, but my real response will be in reference to college football media coverage.

Naturally, this is going to be long, so it's below the fold...

August 14:

1. Favorite Sportswriter (Big Media): I used to like Tim Tucker back when he was really just interesting quirks and numbers. But I'm not even sure if he even has a column anymore - and all I can remember from him for the last few years are some Reillyesque human interest stories. I'd give props to Phil Mushnick for his recent crusade against Joe Morgan (but he's not really into college football, is he?). But really, isn't Barnhart the correct answer here?

2. Favorite Broadcaster: For TV, the guy who shuts up the most wins. So, I'll give it to the time the CBC broadcast CFL games without announcers. If I have to choose one... well, Ron Franklin's an obvious pick. Brad Nessler's pretty good, but kind of plastic. This question would be a lot easier if "least" were inserted at the front. I'll catch hell for it, but were he not affiliated with his current school, I guess I'd pick Wes Durham. Calls a clean game, doesn't dumb things down, and you always know what is happening on the field, even if you can't see it. So basically, the opposite of Larry Munson (who is fine for adding color, but is totally useless if you can't see what's happening).

3. Simple change in coverage that would make things better: Some competing network puts on a pregame show opposite Gameday, and that show is modeled almost entirely on Sky Sports News: 60% of the screen showing information, constant injury and weather updates, first hand interviews, zero personality stories. Like you wouldn't watch that.

4. Sexiest Blogger: Great framing. Why not ask about the smartest character on The Hills, or most virginal contestant on Rock of Love? I don't even know where to start on this. So I won't.

August 7:

1. Question Marks for my team: For the Dawgs, you'd think O-Line (and you're right), but I'm more worried about the defensive backs. Could be trouble. For the media: will Gameday continue the trend of cross-promotion at the expense of objective journalism? Will the daily CFB Live show cause Gameday to be a rehashing and repeating of previously run topics/clips?

2. Player our team cannot lose this year: Dawgs - might think I'm crazy, but it's Fernando Velasco, the senior center. Seriously. Media - SMQ.

3. Preseason Shopping List: TiVo HD Dual Tuner. Comcast's DVR is driving me crazy. I just won't be able to do Gameday Recaps with that crappy box and remote.

4. Something that gets me almost as fired up as college football: Books about mountain climbing. Highbrow/Lowbrow comedy classics that first time you see it. Cold beer.

July 31:

1. Best road trip destination: Ole Miss this past year was solid, but I doubt anything will top the New Orleans/LSU trip in Fall '98 (Quincy Carter's "One Shining Moment"). Hurricanes on Bourbon Street, outrageous drunkenness in Red Stick, the single worst smelling vehicle I've ever been in. I'd say Georgia-Florida in '97 was at least second, but I cannot for the life of me remember a single detail of the entire weekend (including where I even stayed) before or after Edwards turned it upfield to clinch.

2. Road Trip I want to take the most: Got a lot of ideas on this one... How about a Wisconsin weekend with Madison on Saturday and Lambeau on Sunday? What about Louisville with a side trip to Churchill Downs? But the one I've always watched and I'd love to see in person: Army-Navy in Philadelphia.

3. Essential Road Gadget: Ex Officio Give-n-Go Boxers. Your balls will thank me.

4. Most impressive road performance: Hmmmm... not too great history here. Perhaps the 11 hour train from Oxford to Edinburgh, during which I vomited for 8 of them (hot scotch and coke from a bowl for several hours right before departure), but then rallied to drink on Grassmarket Street? Maybe pulling the "Drink around the world" trick from France to Mexico at Epcot? Pretty weak, overall.

July 24:

1. Adopt an underdog (player or team): I'm going with Idaho. Getting jobbed by Dennis Erickson deserves something, doesn't it? Also, App State against Michigan.

2. Underdog I hope falls flat: I'm not sure I get this question. If it's a traditional underdog that some people are talking up this year, it's simple: South Carolina.

3. Favorite underdog player of all time: In time, I've got a feeling that Verron Haynes will become a favorite underdog for most Georgia fans. Perhaps it's odd how a lot of recent big plays for the Dawgs have come from underdog-type players, like Haynes and Michael Johnson.

4. Biggest sexual upset: The fact that the night I introduced myself to my eventual wife I was wearing bright white slacks with embroidered nautical symbols and anchors. That's Nova over Georgetown right there.

July 17:

1. Game I'd sacrifice my firstborn to the Gods for this year: To win, Georgia-Florida. This will be the answer until people stop using the phrase "Florida's won X out of Y in the series" and start using the phrase "Georgia's won X out of Y in the series."

2. Game not involving my team I'd sacrifice something to see: I've got a feeling Michigan-Wisconsin in Madison would be fun as hell and it'll be important too. But there is a correct, non-obvious answer here: Thanksgiving weekend, Boise State at Hawaii. Like you wouldn't want to roll up on that one.

3. College Football Gods: Darren McFadden is Brahma, the Creator. Jake Long is Vishnu, the Protector. Glenn Dorsey is Siva, the destroyer.

4. Sexiest God/Goddess: Got to go with the Celtic Goddess Brigid, who for some reason has a following in Haiti, where she's described thusly: "Maman Brigitte may be characterised as a hard working, hard cursing woman who can swear a blue streak and enjoys a special drink made of rum laced with 21 hot peppers." Awesome.

July 10:

1. Three worst coaches: Zook, Morriss, Mangino. Three coaches with at least 5 years tenure, below .500 winning percentage, all have winning percentages far below the traditional winning percentage for their respective schools.

2. Offensive or defensive scheme I hate the most: Modified West Coast Offense. 5 yard out, 5 yard out, 5 yard out. Games take 6 hours to play. The entire scheme is predicated on the idea to make the other team miss a tackle. It's a loud admission that you don't have the ability to overpower another team. I hate it.

3. Playoff/system preference: Shit or get off the pot. Either go back to conference tie-ins where bowl committees chose teams based solely on economics and champions are decided in Locke's Natural State, or go to a completely objective won/loss system. As long as coaches and writers who aren't paying attention and have inherent biases aren't involved, I'd be for it.

4. New crush for the season: I always have trouble with the "sexy" questions. I guess I'll go with the most beautiful girl in the... room. Rachel Blanchard

July 3:

1. What do I know about the ACC: I get a sense that there's a continuing trend of ACC teams playing toward the middle. I see UNC as improved. NC State should be a lot better. Wake and Georgia Tech should be worse. FSU better. Miami underrated, but not great. Duke will suck, but I don't see another team better than 9-3 or worse than 5-7.

2. UGA's worst multi-year starter: Greg Bright drove me nuts back when I was starting college, but there's no way I could not say Quincy Carter after 2000 in Columbia. F him in his cokehole.

3. Something nice about the ACC: Ralph Friedgen is a fantastic coach and deserves to be considered among the best in the country. Maryland simply isn't a football school. He's been able to create winners there, and not just off the back of a couple of players or a quirky system.

4. Most mediocre performance: So many to choose from! Wrecking a car from falling asleep (no alcohol) at the wheel the night of Junior Prom is high mediocrity.

June 26:

1. Most undervalued team: I typically think this team is overrated, and normally lazy pundits look at schedules and returning starters, so I expected them to be listed a lot, but I haven't seen them anywhere. Iowa. They miss Ohio State and Michigan. The OOC is weak. The way last year ended offered some off-season motivation. I could see them 11-1 and top 10, easy.

2. Underrated coach and announcer: Believe it or not, I honestly think Dennis Erickson is underrated. 2 National Titles, 4 conference titles, and a top 15 active winning percentage, to me, means he's objectively a top coach, but he's rarely thought of that way. Also, I think Phil Fulmer's gotten to the point where he's underrated. Wins don't lie, and he's got a ton of them. I don't think any announcer is underrated, because "not being completely horrible" is equivalent to sainthood in that profession.

3. Advice I've been given and undervauled and wished I hadn't: "Take your vacation time. If you don't, you're not earning your full compensation."

4. Undervalued sexual asset: words.

June 19:

1. Paradise for UGA: 1980, before my Dawg Mitzvah. 2002 could've been...

2. Gameday Utopia: I arrive before the parking lot is full. It's quiet and a little chilly (cold enough for a pullover that'll get removed by 10:30. The only sound is the pitter patter of flip flopped feet of a shacking girl on the walk of shame. Thought it was early? Wrong. I unwrap a Chic-fil-a biscuit. Not undercooked, as they're wont to. I read the newspaper, scanning the high school scores. Then, the silence is punctured with the crisp crack of a frigid cheap tallboy. The next 4 hours are filled with discussion about the day's games and exactly how many nugget trays I could eat in a single 24 hour day. 7 beers killed, but not wavering. Arrive at seats just as the trumpet blares. Mistake free football is played - especially clock management. I feel the nerves that things will fall apart at exactly 3 points during the game, but it never comes to pass. Leave hoarse and happy. Drink a gallon of gatorade and eat half a ton of chicken fingers. Sleep without worry.

3. Perfect game, situation and score: After 8 weeks of eking out wins against inferior opposition but remaining undefeated, #5 Georgia is a TD underdog to #1 Florida. 21-0 at the end of the first quarter. 38-0 at the half. 45-3 at the end of the third. 59-3 final. Florida turns the ball over 6 times in their own half. Florida receivers drop 11 passes. Basically, everything that had gone their way over the last 2 decades gets turned on its head. A stunned national media elevates Georgia to #1. Brogen's and the Jacksonville Landing burn to the ground.

4. Favorite book/show/movie in re Hawaii: Magnum's the easy pick. Lost is probably my favorite current show, but it's just filmed there without reference to being in Hawaii. If I can't pick that, I'll go with a tie between From Here to Eternity and Saved By The Bell: Hawaiian Style.

June 12:

1. Big XII winner: I've got a weird feeling that the South is going to look like the SEC East this year, with 4-5 teams all at 5-3 in conference and every single team with at least one scalp against a good team. I could see some weird tiebreaker coming into play, and, seriously, 5 different teams winning it. Looking at the schedule, Oklahoma and maybe Texas Tech have the most favorable home/away/North teams. I'll go with the Raiders to be weird. In the North, screw it, I'm going with Kansas State. They'll have a lot of tiebreaker advantages because of their schedule against the North. I'm not buying Nebraska. K-State vs. Taco Tech? I'll go with the 'Cats.

2. Winner of Big XII play for BCS title? I doubt it. I see a lot of teams beating each other up. I actually think the Big XII will be better than it has been in recent years (step up in abilities for Okie State, A&M, Missouri, Kansas, Kansas State), but that'll just lead to tougher games for supposedly elite teams - and random losses. The conference will be better for it though.

3. $500K to move to Nebraska: I'd do it for less than that, but to make me stay it'd take repeat payments. Also, it'd depend on what I'd be doing. Insurance Adjuster? $300K per year minimum. Athletic Director in Lincoln? $100,000 per year. Blogger? $100K per year.

4. Sexiest Big XII mascot: I'd say Kansas, because of the phrase "naked as a jaybird", but the mascot's nose looks far too much like a dick. I'll go with Kansas State - because cougars are Wildcats.

June 5:

1. Do I care about Notre Dame: A little, just not what I'm supposed to. I'm Irish Catholic. I was born up North. I have an Uncle who graduated from Notre Dame. But I've never been all that fired up about them. Natural response to something when people tell me I'm supposed to like a certain thing is to go the other way. It's hard to separate what I think of them from the massive promotional support system. I guess objectively, I care some. But not anywhere near as much as someone in a conference room in Bristol, CT thinks I should.

2. Grief ND fans endure proportional to crimes: Please. Undeserved worth draws undeserved criticism. This question is akin to "Does Paris Hilton deserve to be hounded by papparazzi?" Were the Irish just another program, they wouldn't deserve criticism and attention. But they reap the benefits (bowls, poll fluffing, easier recruiting, $$$$$$$$$), so don't cry about it.

3. What do I like about ND: The fact they've never beaten UGA. Sugar Bowl 1980. How they occasionally beat GT. How good an example they are for why the current system of popularity-based polling should be completely scrapped.

4. Sleep with a leprechaun?: No. Not into dudes, and there aren't female leprechauns.

May 29:

1. OMG What's HoTT?: Perception of the SEC among sportswriters. I sense a lot more "best ever" descriptions attached to the SEC this year than in many. A lot of national writers I think felt totally scooped by Florida last year, and right on time (translate: late to the party), they decide to jump in with hyperbole. And it's probably wrongheaded. CNNsi has 6 SEC teams in their top 20. The early coaches poll has 9 getting votes. I think the SEC is tough as hell, but I also know that polls inevitably drop teams that lose games. In the SEC, these teams will play one another, and someone has to lose. I'm readily awaiting the columns mid season (after everyone in the SEC has a loss or 2) that wonder why the SEC isn't quite as strong as they though because there isn't a dominant team (and without the intrusion of y'know, logic).

2. OMG soooo NoT HoTT?: Wake Forest. They return a whole lot of talent but aren't getting much stick. It's not like the ACC got that much better overnight. I don't know whether they'll win the conference again, but it wouldn't surprise me to see them back in a bowl and the Top 25. Also, I wrote above about Iowa. Don't understand why they're not getting much publicity.

3. Hot Boomlet: Iowa ends up hyped big by the end of the year. Arizona pulls a big upset and gets into the Pac-10's third best bowl.

4. Trend for 2007: Red Bull and other energy drinks fall out of favor. I've got a feeling that these drinks won't age well - and the people who were 18-23 when they originally came out are getting older. Red Bull and Vodka will be as easily mocked as an 18 year old male ordering an Amaretto Sour. If it's not already.

May 22:

1. Big program that deserves the awe: I don't care much for awe. I guess the best way I can answer this is by saying the big program that pisses me off the least for receiving awe is Michigan.

2. Big program that has caused me the most personal anguish: Florida. 1995 alone gets them this spot. If you'd asked me this question in 1998, I might've said Tennessee.

3. Little program I wish was big: Any of the Florida schools- FIU, FAU, UCF, USF. Dilute the talent down there. Also, if Memphis were more of a perennial power, I think it'd hurt Tennessee and several of the SEC West schools, and it wouldn't hurt UGA all that much.

4. Overrated Hottie: Jessica Simpson's never done much for me. I like women smart-strong-independent, not fake-strong-independent. Never much cared for Jennifer Aniston either. Can't really separate her from her loathsome character on Friends.

May 15:

1. Favorite play/scheme/thing that goes boom: If it worked better, I'd like that goal line run that UGA sometimes rons with the FB lined up just behind the tackle and even with the QB. But it rarely works. So I'll go with the play I appreciated the most in flag football: the inside shovel pass.

2. Favorite football movie: Football is probably the worst sport when it comes to movies. I suppose I think Varsity Blues was entertaining, if ridiculous. Little Giants had that awesome play, the "Annexation of Puerto Rico".

3. Am I blitzing: early, but not often. If you can get the jump on the opposing team's line in the first quarter and shake the confidence of the QB, it can have a great impact (not just risk rattling him, he'll feel like he has to rush his throws the rest of the game). But I wouldn't blitz much in the second half. Fewer risks unless absolutely necessary.

4. Most suggestive football term: There are hundreds. I'm personal to "spread 'em out wide, but pound it right up the middle".

May 8:

1. Worst team I've ever seen: 1998 Kent State. They went 0-11 and were annihilated 56-3 by a Jim Donnan Georgia team. One of the few instances where Georgia didn't play to the level of the opponent, because it was physically impossible for Georgia to play as bad as that Kent team.

2. Team I'd wish football anthrax on: You might expect me to say Florida, but I'd rather beat them hard, fair and square. I might have said Auburn, but since the fanbase whines more than anyone, terrible misfortune would simply spread. I thought about Georgia Tech, but that'd just make us look bad because of a worse OOC schedule. I'll just go with the team from Knoxville.

3. Worst player/play I've ever seen: September 9, 2000. The first, second, third, fourth and fifth interceptions thrown by Quincy Carter.

4. Worst song to make love to: OK, here's something embarassing... I was making a mix CD of mood tunes. I found a somewhat recognizable Massive Attack song. Slow groove. Moody, seemed right. Slapped it on there. Of course, when I finally get around to playing it, the Lady chimes in with "Isn't this the theme from 'House'?" Indeed it was. Things stopped right there, as she couldn't control her laughter. Alternate answer: The Kidz Bop version of Since U Been Gone.

May 1:

1. Sportswriter that most gets under my skin: If just college football, Stewart Mandel. If not, Scoop Jackson.

2. Sportswriter I like that some unfairly bash/underrate: I like Clay Travis and wish he had a broader audience. Not too many people bash him though.

3. One writer who doesn't cover sports who would become one: I cackle to think of how Chuck Pahlaniuk would cover college football.

4. Lovin' Song: Trainspotting by Primal Scream is pretty great. Big Poppa by Biggie usually gets a laugh, but it's never failed.

April 24:

1. Best Pre-1990 team: The talent on the '86 team might've been even better, but I'll take the '87 Miami national champs. Steve Walsh, The Blades Brothers, Bubba McDowell... even the punter was a stud: Jeff Feagles. And the icing on the cake: Irvin. They beat then-ranked #10 Arkansas, in Fayetteville, 51-7. Beat Prime Time in Tallahassee. Shut out a top 10 Notre Dame team. Beat top-ranked and totally roided Oklahoma (with the Boz) in the Orange Bowl. Pretty impressive season. One of the few 1980s teams to get through a challenging schedule unscathed with some badass wins.

2. Favorite Pre-1990 player: Herschel is Herschel, enough said. But I remember liking how Terry Hoage played, a lot.

3. Remove one aspect of the modern game/coverage: TV timeouts. I'm not too upset with commercials during games when the clock and game is stopped anyway. It's TV's insertion into the game that bothers me.

4. Favorite Retro Babe: Myrna Loy. Nora Charles is the ideal woman: hilarious, kinda hot, willing to get ass over ears wasted with you, and can solve mysteries.

April 17:

1. Sleeper player of the season: For UGA, it's got to be Sean Bailey, because nobody remembers him. Wouldn't surprise me if he tears up a few early games, then draws more safety coverage, and Mo Massaquoi explodes the second half.

2. Incoming freshman/early enroll that can help: If you count JUCOs and Redshirts, then pick one of Haverkamp, Davis, and Sturdivant. If just true frosh: Sturdivant's your boy.

3. Tailgate the Spring Game: Nope. Had to help the Lady travel (pregnant 6 months). Saw some of it on TV though. Mark Richt was doing play-by-play, which should let you know how important it really was.

4. News anchor reporter I'd bang: I'd bang Debbie Matenopolous with a hammer in the face. For the other meaning, I'd go with two choices. (a) CNN's blog girl Abbi Tatton. (b) 60 Minutes II's Lara Logan. Lara Logan in a war zone in a flack jacket = fantastic.

April 10:

1. Sketchiest Football Player Ever: I take sketchy to mean "you know something's fishy, but it's never public", so guys like Marcus Vick don't count. Quincy Carter fits that description. I'd also add Onterrio Smith, because it takes a large amount of sketchiness to get kicked out of Tennessee for bad behavior and then go on to get caught with a fake-dick drug test circumventor.

2. Sketchoid Program: Everyone's dirty but my team, right? Those mid/late-90s Nebraska teams were really sketchy, but I think Alabama's probably got the all-time title wrapped up on this one.

3. Sketchy Family Member?: Yes, but it's not polite to point that out. Who am I kidding? The guy just filled up half the first page with pictures of ThunderCats. Sketchy (and awesome)enough?

4. How am I gay: At every party my roommates and I threw in law school, I made sure to play George Michael's "Father Figure" on the stereo. It was always a hit, if to nobody but me.

April 3:

1. Favorite Sporting Freak: In terms of freaking out, there's Lee Elia, Lou Pinella, Bobby Cox, Earl Weaver, and the best ever, Jim Mora. In terms of being totally eccentric and loving it, I don't know if anyone will ever top Shaq. Seriously, he's a freak and it's awesome.

2. Is it harder to be weird now?: Yes, but not because of the public eye looming larger. It's because it takes more and more insanity to be considered weird now. I find myself shrugging off things that are completely insane.

3. Biggest oddball currently in action: In college football, I think Hal Mumme tops Mike Leach.

4. What would my eccentricity be?: I'd respond to all inane sideline reporter/press conference questions entirely in rhyming verse a la Tobias Funke.

March 27:

1. Favorite sports broadcasting widget: The first down line. It's hard to watch football on TV without it.

2. Something I'd like obliterated from the face of TV: I'll avoid the gratuitous ESPN bashing on this question. What I really hate is the in-game shot of a celebrity promoting a TV show on the network. I don't want to see Mandy Patinkin in the 4th row of the Super Bowl so CBS can tell us that "an all new Criminal Minds is up right after the trophy ceremony." I hate this so so so so so much.

3. Celebrity who would make the worst color commentator: Can it get worse than Craig James and Rod Gilmore? Robin Williams? Rosie O'Donnell? Bill O'Reilly?

4. Antisocial behavior I fantasize about indulging: So there are some kids that park outside my house and roll back into nearby woods to smoke weed or screw around. Didn't bother me for a while, but this summer it's been terrible. All hours of the day and night. They block my driveway and wife's car. Litter in my yard. The woods area used to be a good place to walk Murphy, but now there's blunt wrappers and empty beer cans and broken bottles everywhere. Eventually the police caught some kids, and it's subsided. But before the cops caught them, I always wanted to let the air out of their tires and fuck up the rest of their cars. Never did it because of reciprocity, but it was the first time I ever really wanted to fuck with someone's car.

March 20:

1. Favorite NFL Draft pick I saw play that's not obvious: Thought David Irons to Atlanta in the 6th round was a nice pick. Fred Bennett in the 4th wasn't a bad pick either.

2. Radioactive Do Not Touch Pick: I've got little faith in Brady Quinn at #22, but my choice here is Ted Ginn at #9. I think he'll have an injury-filled, so-so career.

3. Favorite College Stud with no success in the Pros: Breaks my heart, but it's Robert Edwards. I don't understand why he doesn't own ESPN now. He should've sued the crap out of them after that ridiculous sand football BS.

4. Big Draft Board of Life, I was: as a sophomore, Kiper had me pegged as a can't miss prospect, but for some reason I slipped to the 5th round. People in the know then thought I was underrated and a steal, if only the right program could motivate me. Nobody did though. I was out of the game quickly. Total bust.

March 13:

1. What don't I know about football: Too much, but most importantly, how much it hurts, physically.

2. What do I pretend to know more about than I really do: Everything football related. I honestly have little knowledge.

3. Something I could lecture on: Professional sports systems of player allocation (law journal note), movement of professional sports franchises, Arrested Development, the connection between the growth of the game of soccer and shipping routes.

4. Offseason Resolution: TOO LATE! By August 2007, I will be fully capable of using a Baby Bjorn to carry my daughter to a football game.

March 6:

I actually tried calling in on this one and had answers ready... I posted them HERE.

February 27:

1. Prediction for next season pulled from ass: Navy will beat Notre Dame for the first time since 1963.

2. Shameshag: I'm terrible for saying this... Chris McKendry.

3. Tweak one thing about college football: This question has been repeated, sort of. Competitor to College Gameday.

4. Hire one coach, Fire one coach: If I could hire one guy for UGA (assuming Richt becomes unavailable), I'd hire Paul Johnson. If I could fire one guy at another school, I'd fire Urban Meyer, to be replaced by the gay sounding intern from The Tonight Show and Celebrity Fit Club.

5. Sweaters with Ties: Not for me. I'm not much of a sweater guy at all.


Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Sword of Omens, give me sight beyond sight

LD asks, LD receives.

I was never much of a comic book fan, but I'm not ashamed to admit I had a huge tub full of action figures. While I dug the first and last Batman movies, and the Spider-Man flicks, there's been a lot of shit in that genre in the 20 years since Dolph Lundgren and Courteney Cox set the standard for live-action-figure movies. With the much-deserved success of Transformers (despite the need for more Rachael Taylor), the moneyprinters in Southern California have announced the upcoming live-action production of Voltron, G.I. Joe, and my personal favorite, ThunderCats. I can't wait, so I thought I'd try my hand at casting. Although I made my list independently, I found this forum while looking for pics. Looks like I'm not the only one who hopes this really happens.

Feel the magic, hear the roar...

Kevin McKidd as Lion-O

Not sure what this time-traveling business is all about, but if you've seen his intense turn as virtuous badass Lucius Vorenus, you'll agree he's a perfect fit for the leader of the Guardians of Thundera.

Ray Stevenson as Tygra

Can't have Vorenus without Pullo. And don't talk about the 13th.

Barry Bonds as Panthro

Samaire Armstrong as Cheetara

Matthew Roloff as Snarf

Michael Chertoff as Mumm-Ra

Don't hassle the 'Toff.


Monday, August 13, 2007

Very Early SEC Predictions

I originally posted this on the message board of the truly exceptional Duff fantasy baseball league (there's your shoutout, boys). I wrote it in about 5 minutes, then annotated and slightly edited it (poorly).

These predictions will most certainly come true...

  1. Florida will win an important game by an incredibly lucky play performed by a player who, the very next Monday, will be suspended for failing a drug test administered prior to said important game. CUM will deny knowledge of the results of the test and pout like my 3 month old daughter when I withhold her nightly Similac & Jack when reporters even slightly hint that the timing looks bad.

  2. South Carolina will have several teams on the ropes, but fall short in at least 3 games because of key-moment mental mistakes made by one of the 84% of USC recruits who were "special admits". Steve Spurrier will shake his head, smirk and whine about the university not admitting enough of his athletes to be able to compete.

  3. Every single good Tennessee player who spurned UGA will suffer a horrific injury that costs UT at least two games. Phil Fulmer becomes the talk of the nation with his new sideline apparel.

  4. Vanderbilt will upset at least one of the better teams in the East and will be on the verge of a bowl game, but will blow it by losing in OT to Ole Miss and screwing up an easy win against Richmond/Eastern Michigan/Miami.

  5. Kentucky will lead the league in yards per game, points per game, and will place 4 players on the All-SEC offense. And they will go 6-6.

  6. Georgia will just barely win at least one game on the last play against an opponent over whom it was favored by double digits.

  7. Auburn will lose at LSU because of multiple phantom pass interference penalties. Auburn fans will complain about it incessantly (until the week of the Alabama game, when they have bigger fish to fry). Adroit internet sleuths will identify payoffs from the Alabama Board of Trustees to particular officials. More technologically advanced Tiger fans will identify the "kerning" on a printout of a cellphone picture taken from the upper deck as undeniable proof positive that blah blah blah I stopped listening after the 40th mention of Nick Saban, the Illuminati, the Rothschild family, Jack Ruby and "Liberals who want to take away your bibles and make you marry a dude". Questions to Auburn fans about the 2006 LSU game will be met with confused, blank stares.

  8. Mississippi and Mississippi State battle to an incredible 9-hour, 12-OT 15-13 classic that disrupts ESPN2's showing of 6 different episodes of the World Series of Poker As to who won? Nobody cares, since both teams were 2-9 going into the game. Somehow Sly Croom and The Orgeron keep their jobs, but only due to a complicated plot involving Nick Saban, the Illuminati, the Rothschild family, Jack Ruby and "Liberals who want to take away your bibles and make you marry a dude." Meanwhile, Southern Mississippi finishes 12-1.

  9. LSU coach Les Miles calls Pete Carroll a "nancy boy" and says that the rest of the Pac-10 are "total homos". He follows that up with a statement that "Nick Saban wears womens' underwear and I've got the dirties in the closet in my office to prove it." When asked about schedule strength, Miles adds "they're all, y'know, fagging out and stuff... everyone in all those other conferences is scared and hiding like a frightened turtle, which also reminds me of Nick Saban's miniature schlong." The next day, when interviewed on ESPN, Miles asserts how he has the greatest respect for everyone he constantly mocks and degrades and all of the comments attributed to him were taken out of context because of the fact that he has no mental faculties whatsoever. As proof for this assertion, he goes 9-3 with the most talented team in the country.

  10. Alabama loses several games over the course of the season, but somehow pulls it all together and upsets Auburn in the final regular season game. A rash of overweight women with awful haircuts who wear bootleg jerseys getting DUIs strikes Alabama. Nick Saban threatens to leave for the Japanese National College Football team if he doesn't get unlimited refills at the Tuscaloosa Roly Poly AND unlimited free blue cheese for his wings at Bottomfeeders. "Non-negotiable. I'll do it."

  11. Arkansas, to the disbelief of sentient beings everywhere, goes 11-1 and wins the west using just the Tecmo Bowl playbook (but not using the passing plays, naturally). McFadden gains 2500 yards and scores 30 touchdowns but loses a close Heisman vote to Chad Henne of 10-2 Michigan. Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit agree that it was the right decision. Nutt gets an extension the week before the SEC title game, but gets fired the week after an embarassing loss in the title game to the winner of a tiebreaker among four 8-4 teams in the East. Everyone else shakes their heads and wonders why the SEC didn't make a push for Clemson or Miami or, hell let Sewanee or Tulane back in... just pick one of them to join instead of those lunatic hillrats.


Banishment Nominee!

A few years ago I posted about how the Georgia legislature needs to bring back the concept of banishment. If you act like an idiot and bring shame to our state, you are free to keep acting like such, but you just can't do it here. Take it to South Carolina or Alabama or someplace else.

New nominee:

Juanita Marie Jones of Rochelle, Ga.

Want the law to prosecute the guy who sold you fake crack? I believe the Muscle Shoals Police Department can help.

That said, I'm no lawyer (or at least a good one), but is it really possession if the crack was indeed fake? I mean, yes, arrest the woman on general moronic behavior (that's a law, right?), but possession doesn't seem to me to be the right law for which to prosecute her. I mean, what if she produced a fully-completed Voltron or an adorable puppy and called it crack?

And on the topic of Voltron... awesome?


Flick the Button

1. Pan's Labyrinth: Quite good. I understand the people who are overwhelmingly effusive with praise, and I also understand the people whose expectations were too high and therefore were underwhelmed. I figure I'm in the middle of that. I liked the storyline set in reality much more than the fantasty storyline, but I thought they worked fine together. I want to say that this was one of the better movies I've seen this year, but I've seen a lot of crap. Objectively, I set this as pretty good, but not a classic. Steak Knives.

2. Breach: Surprisingly decent. What I liked about this was how instead of a tense, tradecraft, twisty thriller, this set all of the tension and twistiness in a plain white walled, blue suit, bland bureaucracy. I definitely got the sense that I was looking in on an actual government agency, and not the dark-lit, wall-of-plasma-screens-with-satellite-feeds offices of most ridiculous Hollywood versions of government agencies. Chris Cooper is great as usual. And Billy Ray seems to have quite a talent for bringing out decent performances from young actors with questionable abilities (see Hayden Christensen in Shattered Glass), as Ryan Phillippe was believable and support-drawing. Could've used more of Laura Linney and President Palmer though. Steak Knives.

3. Cars: I was disappointed. Pixar has been so consistently good, that I suppose they were due for a letdown. I just didn't find it clever, or really all that sweet. And the eyes in the windshields bothered me far far far too much. Sadly, this made me think what I normally think about non-Pixar computer animation movies: that the movie is secondary to the sale of tie-ins. I didn't think that way about Finding Nemo, or my favorite, Monsters, Inc. This felt like they just wanted to sell Happy Meal toys, rather than actually make a good movie. You're Fired.

4. Shooter: Here's what's odd about this movie: there are like 4 moments in it when the move jumps the shark, but it never gets to the point where the ridiculousness makes it fun. The script felt rushed, there are quite a few plot holes, and the acting was just bad for most of it. The climax scene with Ned Beatty's 45th try at recapturing his scene in Network was so painful to watch without laughing, but it wasn't even close to funny. Just weird. Either they should've gone totally realistic and cut out the ridiculousness, or they should've hammed it up with some winks and nods. Instead, we're left with a movie that could be unintentionally funny, but isn't. You're Fired.

5. Alpha Dog: Very watchable, but very flawed - and that seems strange to me, since the movie looked like it had been shelved for a while (long enough for them to have noticed some of the problems and break out the scissors). What was good was the energy of the movie, and the realistic performances from some of the young actors - especially Timberlake, who definitely captured "in-over-my-head immaturity" better than most in the movie. And Ben Foster's scene-chewing was really entertaining. The bad: the opening credits were atrocious; Bruce Willis' interview scene at the beginning almost made me turn it off; how the movie provided us no explanation for why Emile Hirsch's character got respect; the way Ben Foster's character disappeared for the last 45 minutes; and, worst of all, Sharon Stone's Oscar Reel scene in a fat suit at the end (probably the worst 5 minutes of film I've seen all year). The movie could've used more subtlety, more backstory, or more procedural (the references to each character as witnesses was OK, but they could've gone further with that). Instead, it hammered the point across too strongly. Decent performances by most of the kids, really bad performances from all of the adults. I'm writing a lot about this one because it's kind of troubling to me. I actually enjoyed watching it, but the more I think about it, the more I actually want to not just not like it, but hate it. It's rare that I have such a different response to the same movie from my eyes and my mind. You're Fired, but I'd recommend it.

6. Norbit: Ain't gonna lie to try to maintain credibility... I laughed a lot at this. Obviously, it's a cheap movie, with ridiculous plotlines and jokes we've heard 100 times before. It's also enoyable and funny if you've got a little buzz on. I'd watch it again, no question about it. Also, I find it funny how some people think Eddie Murphy lost an Oscar for Dreamgirls by releasing this during the voting period. If so, that's stupid. First, I actually liked this movie more than Dreamgirls. Second, and more importantly, it just displays snobbery. I mean, it's Eddie Murphy in a fat suit with fart jokes. It's not like the point of the movie was to cut to the heart of emotions and the core of our existence. A movie like this should be judged solely on whether it's funny or not. And I'm not too ashamed to say that I thought a lot of it was. But take note: drinking makes this a lot better. Steak Knives drunk, You're Fired (and you have a bug up your ass) if sober.

7. And not a movie, but I spent a couple of weeks re-watching the entire series of Arrested Development. The best comedy that has ever been on television. Period. Even the episodes I didn't like the first time around (the Martin Short episode and the Wee Britain episodes) had great moments. Here's hoping that Superbad blows up and someone greenlights an Arrested Development movie to make money off of Michael Cera's impending domination of Hollywood.


Sunday, August 12, 2007

OK, OK! He can still eat a dick!

Since I started this weak blog, I've rarely been asked to comment on particular issues of the day. But this week, no fewer than 6 people have emailed, commented or told me in person that I needed to write something about Stewart Mandel's two week assault on rationality which was his attempt to categorize elite teams.

I hadn't said anything because I thought Sen. Blutarsky, Michael Elkon, and the Mayor said most of what I wanted to say, and with significantly better writing.

Here are a few of my thoughts...

  1. Mandel's not alone in doing this - a lot of national media writers I sense have fallen into this habit of late, possibly due to the presence of bloggers: taking something that's pure subjective opinion and covering with a veneer of categorization to give the appearance that there's some form of objective analysis. The 100 Montantans test is a perfect example. Mandel isn't actually interviewing 100 semi-interested college football fans in Montana. He's just telling us what he thinks 100 fictional Montanans would think. It's a costume of objectivity, when it's really just subjectivity cloaking subjectivity. Personally, I think objectivity and subjectivity are sort of an "East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet". If you want to categorize teams a certain way, either use objective criteria (like winning percentage, titles, whatever you want) and include those teams no matter how much you personally differ (that's called intellectual honesty), or use subjective criteria alone and say "I think this because I think this" an if others disagree with their opinions, fine.

  2. To follow up on the objective/subjective divide... I think subjective analysis probably has its place, but there's no doubt that I prefer objective analysis when it comes to actually learning something. And that's the paradox. National columnists have jobs not because they can aggregate data, but because they are supposed to have some advanced knowledge on a subject that supports opinions the rest of us can't be expected to have. The flaw in that is that with information more readily available to us all, nobody has a particular monopoly on knowledge. So if Stewart Mandel's opinions (or anyone else's) aren't necessarily more informed than his readers' (and they aren't necessarily), he's not providing any service. Further, because national writers are expected to cover over 100 teams, their knowledge will necessarily be less informed than a fan who only cares about his team. So while in the aggregate on college football, national writers might have more knowledge (though not necessarily - if someone puts in the effort, the information is out there), but on any one particular topic, the national writer is at a distinct disadvantage. So if a national writer has no particular information advantage, why should we be expected to learn any more from them than we could from raw data?

  3. It might be a worldview issue for me. I have little respect for my betters. Never had. I refuse the concept of "betters" at all. So I've never really bought into the idea that someone else's opinion (especially when such opinion contrasts or cannot be supported by objective facts) is automatically deserving of respect. Naturally, there's a big picture approach to this. Opinions are the product of what people think. People are wrong. A lot. Opinions are often misguided or incorrect. College football polling is the basis of opinion.

  4. The worst part of Mandel's elite program analysis is that it's a tautology. Certain programs are "elite" because certain programs are thought of as elite. Certain programs are thought of as elite because individuals who cover those programs think of those programs as elite and affect their coverage accordingly. This cycle can happen without an external, objective definition of "elite" getting in the way. Or worse, when an objective definition is involved, writers/pundits insert their own opinion to supplant facts.

  5. Back to Mandel... a few weeks ago he admitted that he chose his own questions for his mailbags. To me, this was a significant development. Because now, there's ABSOLUTELY no excuse for when he doesn't answer a question for lack of knowledge (and it happens kind of frequently). If you can't answer it, DON'T CHOOSE THE QUESTION! If the question was so mind-numbingly stupid that it would receive mockery from a mouthbreathing message board troll, DON'T CHOOSE THE QUESTION! The only point that question serves is to elicit sympathy for the fact that a writer of such esteem has to actually receive emails from the hoi polloi. Deleting emails isn't hard. But with knowledge that he chooses the questions, we now know how he frames issues. If Mandel wants to take a shot at a particular team, all he has to do is pick the worst letter from a fan of that team. If he wants to puff up a particular program, he can pick a good letter and build upon it. If he wants to draw out trolls and start a massive debate, all he has to do is throw out some moronic analysis that would fire up a rabid fanbase. Which I think is why this elite program thing got revisited... Mandel's trolling.

  6. And on the topic of trolling... Mandel knows exactly how many people read every page at CNNsi. He knows what drives attention. He also knows that the more readers he gets, the more valuable he is to the site. There's a serious question here: if more readers is the strongest motivation, what is more important to a national writer: creating controversy or providing cogent analysis? Are we to a point where bad analysis could draw more flies because of the resulting controversy than good analysis? Are we now at the sports talk radio breaking point? An don't get me wrong... blogs aren't isolated from this. Some blogs surely troll for comments and links.

  7. I'm pretty sure this elite argument isn't over. Perhaps it shouldn't be. Elitism in college football is a problem. Certain teams receive the benefit of the doubt, while others do not. And this ends up affecting polling, bowl selections, and potentially the crowning of champions. Simply knowing that people, with all of their biases and flawed opinions, affect the game... that's a start. Then we can take the next step: rooting out those biases and flawed opinions, exposing them, and removing them from the equation. That'd make for a fairer system.
The guy has always bothered me, but he's not alone. The media's effect on the game shouldn't be discounted. And when poor analysis like Stewart Mandel's rears its head, it should be pointed out and we should learn from it. What we should do next is more difficult. Even if I ignore him, he matters because of his profile to others. Blogs can serve as a counter to national media figures - exposing their logical fallacies, factual inaccuracies, etc. Other writers can also do the trick. One of the things I've liked about Bill Simmons (who, yes, I know has tons of flaws as a writer and is a convenient blogger punching bag) recently is that he's not exactly afraid to take shots at other writers and voices with national pulpits. We need more of that. If LD in his pajamas in his mom's basement takes shots at Stewart Mandel, all of 6 readers might nod and post a comment saying how I took it to him. And he wouldn't care a bit. If Bruce Feldman, Pat Forde, one of the CFN writers, or whoever else points out how bad a competitor's piece is, that'd be a lot more effective. I wish we could challenge the idea of mutual respect or collegiality among people with the profile. I'd love to see writers police inadequacies among their own. I'd love to read it.

UPDATE: Peter Bean has more thoughts on this here.

I agree with much of it. I'd add one thing about the blog/MSM divide. I think there's a distinction between national media columnists and bloggers that's very evident in motivations. I think most MSM types are generally interested in college football, but they write because it's their job - and they are a source of profit for their employers. That motivation may affect how they write. Bloggers, on the other hand, may have thousands of reasons why they blog. Some are rabid partisans for a particular team. Others want to parlay a blog into a media job. Others just have lots of free time on their hands. Some bloggers offer basically the same content as a national media guy, but the only difference is the platform. And naturally, whatever motivation the blogger has for writing will eventually affect that writing.

I agree completely that the divide between bloggers and big media writers should be elevated. I'm as guilty as anyone of juvenile namecalling. I hope (bad writer, so hope is all I have) that the content of the posts, even if they start with namecalling, includes some more substantive criticism. And furthermore, I think the frustration many bloggers have with big media guys isn't what they write, but where. It's the platform for bad analysis that gets my goat, not the bad analysis. If Stewart Mandel wrote the same exact subjective analysis and anecdote-driven commentary on a blog with 100 hits a day, I doubt I'd devote any time to him. But because he gets tens of thousands of hits a day, what he writes matters more. And to whom much is given, much is expected. I've always kind of looked at it this way: I don't want Stewart Mandel's job. I sometimes don't even care if he does his job better. What I really want is for his actions not to have an effect on things. But under the current college football system, what he does (or the Gameday guys, or whoever else) matters. To the extent that blogs can factcheck or provide a counterweight to big media types, I think that's a realistic and positive step.