Smart Notes 10/2/09

Actual Xs and Os. California Golden Blogs does an interview with Art of Trojan Football Analysis. Well worth the read.

james_carville_rose_bowl

– James Carville was born that way: Via Blutarsky:

James Carville (a huge LSU fan), in response to Tony Barnhart’s question “how did you become a college football fan?”, had this to say last night:

How did I become a college football fan?  How did I become a heterosexual?

– Food for thought. Although cleared to play, Bob Stoops is keeping Sam Bradford out against Miami for safety reasons. Meanwhile, Urban Meyer says that Tebow is “ahead of schedule.”

– Synecdoche, Kraghtorpe. It’s been a hard run at Louisville for Steve Kragthorpe, particularly as he has tried to replicate the success of Bobby Petrino before him. Tonight, he faces a must-win against Dave Wennstadt’s Pitt Panthers, and if he doesn’t win the calls for his head will be louder than ever. Yet while BCS school coaches get paid to deal with that kind of scrutiny, you have to feel a bit bad for his son Brad, a junior quarterback at perennial Louisville, KY power, Trinity High School. Aside from the scrutiny of being Steve Kragthorpe’s son, Brad has battled turf toe all season, and even got yanked this season when Trinity was crushed by Ohio power Cincinnati St. Xavier, 43-13. His head coach, the excellent Bob Beatty, said of pulling Brad Kragthorpe, “It’s called turning the football over. You can’t do it.” He had fumbled and thrown an interception.

And it seems that living up to the expectations of a Petrino is becoming part of the Kragthorpe experience. Adding to the pressure on Brad Kragthorpe is that he not only must follow in the shoes of Brian Brohm, who won a couple of state titles as quarterback for Trinity, but also those of Nick Petrino — Bobby Petrino’s son — who successfully quarterbacked the team to at least one state title, though I don’t have all the numbers in front of me. And tonight, while his dad fights for his career against Pitt, the younger Kragthorpe will start in one of the most attended high school games in the country, against Louisville St. Xavier, in a game expected to draw over 35,000 attendees (for a high school game!). Louisville St. Xavier is favored to win.

– Speaking of Kragthorpe, one of his former players, Mario Urrutia, who flourished under Petrino but flopped later is back in the news, having been activated in Tampa Bay.

– This is ridiculous but overall kinda great. From BHGP.

(more…)

Smart Notes 9/25/09

The “ski-gun.” I’ve been getting a lot of questions about a funky shotgun triple-option offense run by Muskegon, MI high school. (“Ski-gun” or “skee-gun” refers to Muskegon.) It’s basically Paul Johnson’s flexbone triple option offense run from a pistol set. They use a shallower pistol-gun set than does Nevada, but that’s because Nevada is more focused on traditional runs than with the quick hitting veer. Below are some clips of Muskegon’s triple: first the give reads, second the QB keeps, and third the pitches.

– Clock mismanagement. The commentary after the Dolphins lost to the Colts was partially about how much time of possession matters (my view is not that much, but I have more to say on it later), but even more about the ‘Phins awful clock management at the end of the game. And it was bad.

The biggest issue was they had no sense of urgency. I do not like teams that scramble and run around frenetically, but they were very lazy about it. They wasted a lot of valuable seconds, and there is little reason the game should have ended on second down from where they were on the field. They also spiked the ball unnecessarily. As I’ve said before, in college a spike is almost never necessary, except to get your kicking team on to the field. In the NFL, because the clock doesn’t stop except on out of bounds, incomplete passes, timeouts, and the two minute warning, a clock play might be necessary if there is a gang tackle and time is flowing off the clock, etc. But I’m still very skeptical because I firmly believe you can call a play with the same amount of communication as necessary to indicate a spike play. In this case though the Dolphins bad clock management overshadowed their improper spike because they ran out of time rather than downs.

How can you get better? Here’s the best drill I know of for being ready for the two-minute drill. It should be used to finish practice at least once a week, and I know of a team that ends every practice with it. The ball is placed on the practice field at either the 5 or 10. The quarterback and first team take the field; the coaches line up on the sidelines, just as if it is a real game. (You need a manager or ref to set the ball.) The point is to replicate the game-like scenario. You can use it against no defense but it is best I think to go live against the first or second team defense (and work on that planning as well), but don’t use any tackling to the ground. (I.e. routes, blocks, etc are fully speed but no tackling.)

The offense then runs its plays but, after every play, regardless of the play’s outcome, the ball is set 10 yards ahead, i.e. to the 15 or 20 and so on. The coaches signal the play in (or the quarterback does), the players deal with the time management, and the coaches keep a stopwatch.

(more…)

Smart Notes 9/23/09

Zero out of ten. That was how many third downs Southern Cal converted against Washington. Couple that with a minus-three in turnovers, and you have a recipe for a loss. Trojan Football Analysis actually managed to stomach charting the third downs and compiling a video of the ten fruitless attempts. (Rated R for gore.)

chart

Packers fans agree. The New Yorker on Dan Brown, of The Da Vinci Code and now The Lost Symbol fame:

By now, we all know his writing, but do we really know Dan Brown? If there’s one thing I’ve learned from him, it’s that an ancient, super-secret, quasi-religious cabal that takes on many shifting identities—much like Brett Favre—is really controlling the world. We must be suspicious of anything that has too much power.

Paul Johnson, hero. I’m a bit late with this, but it is too good not to repost. Paul Johnson is not happy with his football team, though he points out that his offense’s performance against Clemson, whereby the team rolled up 400 yards of offense, maybe doesn’t look too bad now. Other than that? Feel the wrath:

“Miami [who the Yellow Jackets were roundly defeated by] is an outstanding football team, but it wouldn’t have had to be the way we played.”

Also: “The way we played, the way we coached, it was a group effort.”

And: “We’re not really good at anything right now.”

. . . Of an illegal block that wiped out a Tech touchdown in Miami, Johnson said: “It was very poor technique. I don’t know what the guy was doing, really.”

Of Tech’s false starts: “If you can’t go on the snap count — the other team doesn’t have anything to do with that. That’s you.”

Of Tech’s defensive collapse: “We had too much in. Anytime you can’t do what you’re supposed to be doing, you’ve got too much in.”

Of coordinator’s Dave Wommack’s assertion that his defenders will switch to a 4-5-2 alignment for Saturday’s game against North Carolina: “We could play a 4-12-9, but it won’t matter what we play if we don’t get our face on somebody and our eyes where they should be.”

(more…)

Smart Notes 9/17/2009

Credit where it is due. Trojan Football Analysis shows that Ohio State’s defensive plan against USC was creative, as they came out in a completely different look than they normally do. Trojan offensive line coach Pat Ruel observed that, “Half [of OSU’s] line was playing a Bear front and half was playing an Under front and they were stopping our outside zone running plays.” Offensive linemen Jeff Byers added, “We spent all night trying to adjust to what they were doing up front. They did not come with the stuff we practiced against.” The fact that the offense, Tressel’s main focus, didn’t do the same still troubles me.

bear

– Myles Brand, president of the NCAA, has passed away. There are many sports related obits (including this one from the NY Times), but don’t forget that Brand made serious contributions to his field as a philosophy professor, including “well-known work in metaphysics and epistemology, especially action theory, as a professor at places like Pittsburgh, Arizona, and Illinois/Chicago.”

Rethinking Fourth Downs. From Brian Burke:

Imagine that for decades no one ever thought of the punt. Teams knew nothing else than to run or pass on 4th down. And then one day it’s invented. Some guy comes up to a coach and says, “Kick the ball on every 4th down and the other team gets possession 37 yards further down the field.” The coach would think he was crazy: “Wait, you want me to give up one quarter of my opportunities for a first down on every series…just for 35 yards of field position? Do you realize how much that’s going to kill our chances of scoring?”

[T]hat coach would be absolutely right. . . . Every single serious study of 4th-down decisions has found that, in most situations, teams would be better off by going for the conversion attempt rather than kicking. . . .

. . . I also think it has something to do with what economists call Prospect Theory. In short, almost all people tend to fear losses far more than they value equivalent gains. In this perspective, a punt is considered the “break-even” decision. A failed conversion attempt is seen as a loss, and a successful attempt is seen as a gain. But the loss is feared disproportionately, and the result is clouded decision-making.

– Who does a good job in NFL free agency? Via Pro Football Reference Blog.

– Why are people successful? What motivates? Wilbon:

It’s now a rather famous anecdote in the life and times of Michael Jordan that he was cut from the varsity when he was in high school. You think that’s merely a footnote more than 30 years later? You think Jordan’s forgotten the details or is willing to let go? Guess whom Jordan invited to the Hall of Fame Friday night? Leroy Smith, the kid who took his spot on the high school team. Jordan said he’s still saying “to the coach who picked Leroy over me: ‘You made a mistake, dude.’ “

– A story about quasiparticles. From Gravity and Levity:

Imagine, if you will, that you are an alien from some advanced and distant civilization. You find yourself fascinated by humans, whom you observe from your own planet through an ultra-high-powered telescope. As individuals, you think you know what humans are like: at least you have a sense of their characteristic size and patterns of motion. But you are puzzled by the behavior of large groups of humans. You therefore decide to make a study entitled “the properties of large, densely-packed groups of humans”. You begin your study by turning the gaze of your telescope to the biggest, densest group of humans you can find: the crowd at a football stadium.

The collection of humans inside the football stadium seems at first to be an enormous, chaotic, impossibly-complex collection of individual movements. But after a long period of observation, you see something truly remarkable: the humans begin doing “the wave”. What a startling observation this would be! From 80,000 humans packed together and moving around in a hopelessly complicated mess arises something remarkably simple: a single wave, which moves around the stadium with its own characteristic size and speed. You complete your study by observing “the wave”, writing down laws that describe its size and speed, and trying to predict when and where it will occur in the future.

– “It’s the downside of celebrity without the upside of it.” College athletes under the (social networking) microscope.

– A history of violence. Urban Meyer and Kiffin the Elder have a good relationship. How will that manifest itself when the Son of Kiffin, with Dad in tow, faces the Gators?

– This is unfortunate. “Fatty acids derived from pork bone fat are used as a hardening agent in crayons and also gives them their distinctive smell.” Ugh.

A little late, but I love this. Old media covers from the WizOfOdds.

– Statistical sagas [edited]. The Doc wonders how Georgia beat South Carolina despite the stats; Blutarsky notes that he might not have been paying enough attention to the right ones, and Dawgsports notes that the problem might be in focusing too much on the box score.

A Rand row. Jonathan Chait vs. Will Wilkinson on Ayn Rand.

Smart Notes 9/16/2009

Monte Kiffin is gearing up to play the Gators. It seems that everyone wants to know what Kiffin will come up with for Florida. I’m not sure but I wouldn’t be it would be anything magic. Yet he is taking it quite seriously:

Kiffin, an NFL assistant for 26 years before joining his son’s staff this year, said he has seen Meyer’s offense in person and was awestruck. When the Bucs had a bye week from the NFL schedule several seasons ago, Kiffin went to Colorado State to see his youngest son, Chris, play against Utah, Meyer’s former team.

“He was a dang good football coach, but I didn’t worry about it because I was in the NFL and I didn’t have to go against it,” Kiffin said. “I thought Alex Smith, the Utah quarterback, was good, but you ain’t seen nothing until you’ve seen Tim Tebow run it.

“I was talking to (former Tennessee coach and player) Johnny Majors one day; he’s an old single-wing player, and he and I said the more we looked at it, the more it reminded us of the old single wing. They run the single-wing plays and then the next play they spread you out. … I have spent a lot of time at the office this week.”

The edges of a defense are vulnerable against the Gators because Tebow can make defensive ends charge inside, then pitch to a back racing outside. The divide-and-conquer spread puts linebackers and defensive ends on islands.

“He’s been drawing on napkins since the spring, studying the spread, theorizing about it,” said Lynch, who visited the Kiffins in the offseason in Knoxville.

[Former all-pro safety under Kiffin John] Lynch said Tennessee’s defense has to attack Florida’s offense the way the Bucs attacked Michael Vick when he was with the Falcons. “Instincts make you passive; what you have to do in a game like this is play all out,” Lynch said.

Kiffin visited Meyer and his staff in Gainesville following the 2007 season when the Gators went 9-4. The Florida staff leaned on Kiffin for insight on coaching defense, but he will not overstate his impact on Saturday’s game.

“We can get them in position,” Kiffin said, “but I can’t make the plays, The players have to make the plays.”

There is a lot of talk about Kiffin’s “Tampa Two” defense, but I don’t really expect them to play a lot of true “Tampa Two.” In that coverage, the two safeties play deep and show a “cover two shell,” but the middle linebacker retreats down the middle, making it like a three-deep defense, which lets the safeties squeeze the outside corner routes. The advantage of Tampa Two over regular three-deep is that the cornerbacks can press and jam the outside receivers and funnel them inside. (They also can either sit shallow for short throws or retreat if the outside receiver runs deep; this is infuriating too and defenses can switch up this technique.) But the thing the Tampa Two defense does as well as anything is take the other team’s outside receivers — often their best — out of the game. For more, see this fairly informative video from nfl.com.

That’s a great strategy in the NFL because offenses are designed to get the ball to the outside guys. But with Florida? Their strength is inside to out: Tebow, Demps, Rainey, and the tight-end Hernandez. If Kiffin overemphasizes taking away the outside receivers, this plays into Meyer’s hands. Instead, expect Kiffin to do what his protege Tony Dungy did with the Colts more often than people gave him credit for: to go to a single-safety look with one of his safeties in “robber” coverage both spying Tebow and taking away inside routes. Likely Eric Berry will play the “Bob Sanders” position. Kiffin appears to be a big fan of Tebow, but he knows the easiest way to lose to Florida is to get spread out and have them run right up the middle on you; he will test to see if Scott Loeffler, Tebow’s new quarterbacks coach, has taught him anything and, more importantly, if Tebow’s new outside receivers can make enough plays. If they can, it could get ugly.

– Will the Supreme Court bless (or even hear) the dispute over the Redskins’ name? The case is being appealed to the Supreme Court (keep in mind the Court grants review in very few cases):

The long-running dispute over the appropriateness of the “Redskins” name for the Washington D.C. NFL football franchise reached the Supreme Court today. Philip Mause, partner at Drinker Biddle & Reath in D.C., representing a group of Native Americans offended by the name, filed a petition for certiorari in the case titled Susan Harjo v. Pro-Football, Inc.

“This is a derogatory term for Indians that sticks out like an anomaly,” said Mause today. “No other group still has to deal with this kind of a term being used” in such a public and widespread way.

The case began with a petition in 1992 to cancel the Redskins trademark under the Lanham Act, which bars trademarks that “disparage … persons living or dead … or bring them into contempt, or disrepute.” The latest ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit found that the claims were barred by the doctrine of laches, a defense that acts like a statute of limitations to protect defendants from being sued for long-ago violations of rights.

– Well, he does need some help. Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman has turned to an unlikely source for some assistance (hat tip to reader Chris):

It took almost two decades, but Lake Travis head football coach Chad Morris went from cheering the Aggies to victory at Kyle Field to helping them win the season opener against New Mexico.

Morris was among those Texas A&M head coach Mike Sherman sought advice from in formulating the Aggies’ no-huddle, fast-paced offense that got off 90 plays for 606 yards in the 41-6 victory over New Mexico.

(more…)

Smart Notes 9/11/09

LSU vs Georgia TechThe best of times, the worst of times. Georgia Tech’s win over Clemson was a fun game to watch, but ultimately taught us very little. GT scored on a long touchdown run (beautiful), and then a punt return for a touchdown off a quick kick and then one of the great trick plays in the form of a fake field goal where GT snuck a guy onto the field. And, after the initial burst, GT’s offense completely stagnated, and, over that stretch, Clemson looked like the better team.

But I wasn’t that impressed with them. Tigers quarterback Kyle Parker had a bizarre statline, where he completed touchdown passes of 77 yards and 63 yards, and added another 37 yard completion, but other than that he was 12 of 28 for 84 yards. I mean, I know it’s not totally fair to imagine someone’s statline without their best plays, but the fact that Clemson could not move the ball well other than two or three enormous plays doesn’t necessary speak well to an offense. (And this goes for GT’s 400 yards of offense considering 82 of them came in the first two plays.)

I think the takeaways are that: both teams are probably better than last year, but have issues; Georgia Tech will not win many games if they have to throw it; Clemson has a very impressive defensive line (they used a nose tackle on every play and managed to stop the dive-phase of the option without committing many extra people, which helped them run down the rest of the option until GT went to some counter plays); Dabo Swinney passed a test by bringing his team back; and Paul Johnson just earned a +1 for wins attributable to coaching (at least in a sense) since the quick kick return and the fake field goal were the result of good planning and taking advantage of plays, and both played into the margin of victory. The question on that last one is whether Johnson has any more of those in his system.

– Option to win. Speaking of Johnson and the option, Andy Staples of Sports Illustrated has a nice article on the subject.

– Best preview you’ll read this week. Blutarsky previews South Carolina vs. Georgia, blahblahblahblah.

– 1969, football’s season of discontent. From Slate.

– What is Michael Crabtree doing? From the Fifth Down. I am normally pretty sympathetic to players who fight for their value — fans and owners are quick to turn them into greedy jerks who “won’t play” to turn all the leverage and public opinion against them when this is, realistically, their one shot to get paid while the money they don’t take will just wind up funding jumbo trons and luxury boxes and whatnot. But I don’t really have a handle on the Crabtree situation: do we really know what he wants? Are the 49ers lowballing him? (That wouldn’t surprise me.) Or is he being irrational? (That wouldn’t totally surprise me either.)

– Roethlisberger and Santonio Holmes lead the Steelers to victory. I didn’t get to watch all of this game, but Roethlisberger is turning into sort of the Lebron James of football to me. Now, he’s not as good as Lebron, but both are excellent, excellent players, who play the game with almost zero grace. I love Lebron, but for pure fluidity and elegance and aesthetic measures, Kobe or Jordan just obliterate him. Yet he’s amazing, and aesthetics is not a metric that affects the bottom line. Same with Roethlisberger: the guy lumbers around, points downfield, does those herky-jerky pump fakes, but hey, he’s turned into a hell of a quarterback.

– A video on pairing wine with cereal. Seriously.

(more…)

Smart Notes 9/2/09

This video is amazing on a number of levels. An interview between blogger Mike Rasor and Akron head coach J.D. Brookhart:

  1. What is Brookhart wearing? Some theories: Brookhart “was apparently thrown out of a local Bass Pro Shop for shoplifting five minutes before the interview.” – Black Shoe Diaries (also h/t BSD). “[I]t wouldn’t surprise me to find out Akron’s new head coach has tracked a raptor.” – Dr Saturday. Add your own.
  2.  

  3. So let me get this straight. The offense will be installed and implemented in the following way: One guy will handle the pass install, another will handle the run install, each will be assisted by another guy, and then a separate, fifth coach, Shane Montgomery (tight-ends coach), will actually call the plays. That sounds like it will work beautifully.

– From mortally wounded police officer to football coach. Very good story.

– Boom. Roasted. Deadspin’s Dashiell Bennett went after Michigan Alum Jon Chait for going after the editors of the Detroit Free Press. Bennett wrote that “Jonathan Chait stepped down from his high horse at The New Republic to lambaste the Freep’s Michael Rosenberg for his anti-Rich Rod bias, stating that no place he worked would ever let an opinion writer do hard news about a subject he was so “passionate” about. Interesting, if true. I wonder if any of those fine, upstanding newspapers Chait’s talking about would let an alumnus (UM, Class of ’94) attack another writer because they published dirt about an organization he used to be associated with?”

Chait responded, via mgoblog: “Was I writing an investigative news article in a newspaper about a topic which I have strong opinions on? No, I was not. Nor should I. Having lambasted the Freep’s journalistic ethics, if I were to go to the Detroit News and propose they hire me to write an expose about how Freep sports editors are laundering money for the Cali drug cartel to fund their kitten-strangling hobby, the News should definitely not hire me.”

But then, the coup de grace: “It’s perfectly ethical for Rosenberg to wage his anti-Rodriguez jihad in his sports column. Dumb, unpersuasive, misleading, sometimes factually inaccurate, yes, but not unethical. It’s likewise perfectly ethical for me to opine about the University of Michigan, despite having graduated from it. But if Dashiell Bennett learned he was the subject of an investigative news story in the New York Times, authored by me, reporting on the scandal of people who are allowed to write sports blogs despite having IQs under 90, he would probably feel that something unethical had transpired.”

Wherever you are on this debate, I wouldn’t want to be Dashiell Bennett.
(more…)

Smart Notes 9/1/09

I just started a guest-bit at EDSBS, where I’ll be answering fan submitted questions (tweet them to Orson here). This week’s question was about blitzing, both man and zone. Read the full thing here, but here’s a preview:

Zone-blitzing is awash in contradictions: vanilla and endlessly complex; aggressive but conservative. It is vanilla and conservative because it takes a minimum number of guys to competently defend a football field in zone coverage — no one tries to play zone with one safety deep and two guys in underneath zones. Instead, 90-95% of the zone-blitzes you’ll see involve three elements: (1) three guys in “deep” zone coverage; (2) three guys in “underneath” or intermediate to short coverage; and (3) five pass rushers. The complexity comes in how these guys are arranged. . . .

– Brett Favre’s illegal block. I say illegal because whether it was “dirty” is being debated, though either way I think even Favre fans can admit that it was incredibly idiotic and dangerous. “Dirty” implies that he wanted to injure Eugene Wilson; I don’t think anyone can know that.

– Rich Rodriguez, being sued? The hits keep coming. As reported, via the WizOfOdds:

According to the lawsuit, Rodriguez and his partners owe Nexity Bank $3.9 million, including interest and penalties. Rodriguez was served a summons and complaint in his office on Aug. 24, shortly after a Wolverine practice.

Mike Wilcox, who is Rich Rod’s financial advisor, issued a statement Monday night saying the coach is a victim of a real estate Ponzi scheme.

“This is a personal issue, and as coach Rodriguez’s financial advisor, I and his legal counsel will be handling this matter moving forward,” Wilcox said. “We are evaluating legal actions and solutions since the promoter of the scheme is currently awaiting trial on criminal charges.”

(more…)

Smart Notes 8/30/09

In his discussion of the Michigan fracas, Dr Saturday steps back:

But the broader implication isn’t about the changing culture at Michigan as much as it is the longstanding culture at all big football schools, where the notion of “voluntary” workouts and hourly limits have been met with winks for years. A survey of Division I athletes last year revealed the reality: Time limits or not, big-time football everywhere is a full-time job that consumes vastly more hours than the NCAA officially sanctions — and has to be, if the competition is putting in the same work. That players will “voluntarily” go above and beyond the proscribed limits is taken for granted. (It hardly seems like a coincidence that at least 20 college players have collapsed and died following offseason workouts in the last decade, which was practically unheard of even under old school sadists like Bear Bryant.) Coaches follow the letter of the law at the peril of their records and their jobs.

In that sense, assuming that Carr’s staff really were the sticklers they’re widely reputed to be (an assumption backed up by the Free Press’ reports), the exuberance of their successors is just another case of Rodriguez and Barwis bringing the program into the 21st Century. The fact that they’re being singled out may only be because they’re doing it at one of the very few places that knows the difference.

In other words, there is a degree of hypocrisy in singling out Rodriguez, but it is only in the fact that this has become normal, and even expected. It is, in modern big-time football, the cost of winning. Maybe Rodriguez went too far (or maybe not), but it makes little sense to single out Rodriguez and Michigan, at least for most of the allegations. (The Sunday stuff, if true, does seem excessive.)

There is also little point in the NCAA having rules no one can be expected to comply with. The NCAA practice limits are quite stringent, and there are obvious reasons why a school would want their players to practice more than the NCAA limits would allow. Besides improving their overall conditioning and fitness, or their football skills, the large amounts of downtime for student-athletes who only practice about four hours a day and are, in many cases at least, barely even students can lead to a lot of time to get in trouble off-the-field. I’m not singling out football players as miscreants, but instead just pointing out that many 19 year-old males do stupid things, and scholarship football players are given a lot of freedom and privilege — a lot of rope to hang themselves with. Call it the Cesar Millan/Dog whisperer strategy: if you make kids work harder they are less likely to have the time (or energy) to get into trouble. (In high school, many teams schedule an early morning Saturday morning practice where the focus is on the younger guys; for the varsity players, the point is to make them get up early and thus deter them from staying out late after football games on Friday night.)

In any event, the point of the rule seems to be, among other things, to protect the image of players as “student athletes” — they don’t treat their sport as a full-time job. This is of course a classic case of image versus reality, and a conflict that will not go away. For every scholarship football player who spends extra time pursuing their degree, there are countless others for whom it is just a full-time job. And it is not like fans, if they are honest, would have it another way. I have never heard a player come off the field and say, “You know, I’m sorry I didn’t play well this week. I’m taking a lot of really interesting classes and I stayed up late to work on them and I skipped some extra film study so I could go to my professor’s office hours — man it was fascinating. I promise to refocus next week.” The NFL has no such identity crisis, but it’s just another symptom of college football’s dual role as a business that puts out a sports product where the employees are “student athletes” paid (primarily) with a free education. This tension won’t go away.

– Thanatos and football. As the Doc also noted, practicing football has become increasingly deadly. He says,  “It hardly seems like a coincidence that at least 20 college players have collapsed and died following offseason workouts in the last decade, which was practically unheard of even under old school sadists like Bear Bryant.”

Why football players are dying is a tricky question, and theories abound. Are they the same and they were just underreported previously? Are workouts tougher? Are kids less able to handle these workouts because they spend the rest of their time inside, playing video games, etc? Is it the supplement industry, with creatine-influenced cramping, reduced water retention, and sports/redbull/caffeine drink induced increased heart rates causing the injuries? It’s very hard to say.

(more…)

Smart Notes 8/24/2009

How does fatigue affect memory? Based on tests of people who have just completed marathons:

The end result? The group that had just finished the marathon showed a significant decline in explicit memory. They were less able to consciously recall a series of words that they had been shown only a few minutes earlier. However, after running 26.2 miles the marathoners actually showed a large improvement in implicit memory. In other words, the extreme stress and utter physical exhaustion sharpened their ability to act on information stored in their unconscious.

Bonus: The Netflix prize and the brain.

– Ron Zook is not happy with Urban Meyer, even if Urban Meyer is (was?) not happy with the program Zook left him. For those who haven’t followed the surprisingly uncounseled repartee, Meyer complained about the state of the locker room (literally and figuratively) when he got to Gainesville:

(more…)