Smart Notes 3/26/2010

More influential books lists:
Kyle King
Tom Gower
Carlin (The Marlin)

– The NFL’s new overtime rule. So far, opinion is split. The coaches appear the most unhappy. Brian Burke offers some thoughts. For my part, I am mostly confused as to why they went with this complicated system; I’ve yet to wrap my brain around the decisional nuances that will be present with giving teams the chance to “match” and so on. The old sudden death system already skewed the touchdown and field goal numbers, since (a) teams in field goal range usually settled for a field goal, but (b) sometimes a demoralized defense gave up a cheap touchdown when the offense had the ball in obvious field goal range. Now, the team with the ball will face a big decision whether to go for the touchdown, particularly by increasing their odds of scoring a touchdown by going for it on fourth down, or playing conservatively. And the team that gets the ball second will have plenty of incentive to go for the touchdown and be aggressive — but I anticipate most will settle for the field goal.

So I think there are only two things we can, right now, say with certainty about the new plan: (1) almost any statistics you hear on TV about how often the team who gets the ball first or second wins will be misleading because there are so many factors at play, and (2) it will likely succeed in making overtime last a little longer on average, which I take to be the overall goal anyway. Whether the system is any fairer in practice is probably besides the point: if the team that won the toss gets a field goal, you can say the other team “got a shot,” and if they get a touchdown, everyone will use truisms about “stopping them.” The measure ameliorates debate, but it doesn’t solve issues.

– Jump on the Coach Kill bandwagon. Northern Illinois’s football coach loves football, corn cobs, his own face, and THUNDERSTIX, and hates Toledo, Wisconsin, and your kids.

– Nick Saban doesn’t want to hear about “repeats.” Via Doc Sat: “Saban would disagree with that “defending” part. He’d say that last year’s team is no more because so many important elements of that team are gone, and to say this next group of football players is defending anything is incorrect because this particular group hasn’t won anything to defend.”

This is basically an argument of necessity: How do you get 18-21 year olds to handle success, particularly when several if not many of the major contributors are no longer around? Saban is well-known for championing the “process” over the results or even end-goals, and we’ll see if his approach succeeds better than another coach’s recent attempt to deal with the same “entitlement” phenomena.

– St. Mary’s football pedigree. From The Quad:

[T]he most significant victory in St. Mary’s history came in a sport the college no longer plays — football.

In the 1920s and ’30s, the Gaels had one of the best teams in the nation under Edward Madigan, known as Slip, a Knute Rockne protégé….

St. Mary’s, then an all-male college, beat the Rose Bowl champion of the 1927 season, Stanford, and the 1931 season, Southern California, which won the national championship that season. In 1933, the Gaels had the third-largest attendance in the nation.

Their biggest win, though, came in New York in 1930 when they traveled east and ended the 16-game winning streak of Fordham with a 20-12 victory after trailing by 12-0 at halftime.

On the eve of that game, Madigan threw a party in New York that included Babe Ruth, Bobby Jones and the politician Al Smith. After the game, the team traveled to Washington, as it had planned, and received an invitation from President Herbert Hoover, a Stanford graduate, to visit the White House — perhaps the first sports team to be celebrated there.

– Rex in the City: The HBO series “Hard Knocks” will follow the New York Jets this fall. But isn’t there a risk of giving away information by having cameras and a film crew troll your practices, while having no editorial control? Not to Jets Coach Rex Ryan:

Would the Jets leak information about players and schemes that opponents might latch onto for future use? Ryan shrugged it off. Giving away a play or a coverage, Ryan said, would not be included in the final version of the show.

“I think, you know — I trust, you know, let’s just throw a guy out there — anybody,” Ryan said, pausing, a gleam in his eye. “Bill Belichick. Let’s just throw him out there.”

The room erupted in laughter at the mention of the New England Patriots’ intelligence-gleaning coach, before Ryan said: “He’s going to do his due diligence. He’s going to do his work, anyway. He’s going to have a huge opinion on our players, one way or the other.”

Indeed, having the brash Ryan as coach had nothing to do with HBO selecting the Jets…

“We have our Brad Pitt, George Clooney and Mark Wahlberg in Rex Ryan,” Ross Greenburg, the president of HBO Sports, said. “Absolutely,” Ryan said.

– The effect of shooting angle in basketball.

From the NY Times: “Success favors a fairly high arch…. The hoop is 18 inches in diameter, and the men’s ball is about 9.5 inches wide (women’s about 9.2). So if the men’s ball were thrown straight down from above — that is, at an angle of 90 degrees to the horizontal hoop rim, as in the classic Michael Jordan airborne dunk — there would be 4.25 inches of free space all around, a comfy margin. But as the angle decreases and approaches the horizontal, the free space for a “nothing but net” shot gets much smaller. At 55 degrees, it’s about 2.5 inches. At 45 degrees, it’s down to 1.5 inches. And at 30 degrees, it’s basically impossible to get the ball straight into the basket, even with a full scholarship and more tattoos than a Hell’s Angels convention.”

– NFL Commissioner Goodell is desperate to make Week 17 matter and to force starters playing. So, to do so, he said the NFL “plans to schedule only division games in Week 17[,] [a]nd Week 16 could largely consist of division games. That may not stop teams that have secured their playoff position from resting their starters, but it may keep the games interesting for fans.”

This is far better than some silly rule telling teams to play their starters in meaningless games, but backloading the divisional games still strikes me as silly. (And what happens when some 12-1 team rests their starters in week 15 in preparation of divisional games in weeks 16 and 17?)

  • I know that Northern Iowa is on the brain of us all, but I believe you meant to say Northern Illinois when referencing Coach Kill.

  • Patrick

    What I appreciate about the NFL overtime rule change is that it lessens the effect of mere chance (successfully determining the result of a coin flip), and instead adds a human element. Maybe the team that wins the flip only kicks a field goal and loses by giving up a touchdown, or goes for the touchdown, misses, and loses by giving up a field goal. Or whatever permutation you can think of. What I like is exactly what the coaches hate: the outcome of the game is now decided by an actual football decision, and not an arbitrary coin flip.

    All the platitudes about “well, teams play defense too” are lost on me. The former NFL system is somewhat similar to asking MLB teams to flip a coin heading into extra innings, and then play sudden death. If someone scores in the top half of an inning to end it, well, pitching’s part of baseball too.

    Lastly, in light of the complaints about how it’s different for the regular season and the postseason, why not abolish overtime entirely for the regular season? What, I ask you, is wrong with a tie?

  • Dubber

    Even more awesome than that NIU website?

    The freaking sweet Coach Kill Mustache.

    I guarantee he’s had that thing longer than I’ve been alive.

  • Wow! Great Leach (video) find! I love it (and the god squad comments).

    I think we all get too accustomed to sports news reporting and frame everything from that homogenized perspective. We forget what its like expressing ourselves in a trusted environment. Dropping F-bombs isn’t abuse, its language. Viewing those Leach clips and attempting to receive it through a press conference lens (what we all instinctively do) only distorts what is actually taking place there (and seen as a ‘meltdown’)

  • Thomas

    re: brophy

    Please, it’s childish. If a man cannot control his temper around his team without cussing up a juvenile storm, he should not be in control of a program with college-aged kids. Perhaps Leach is foolish enough to believe that he lived in a bubble, which would not be surprising considering his idiotic history, but a man leading a program is supposed to act like a man.

    I don’t care where you are- if you have to say “fuck” 21 times in a five minutes setting, you are a fool. Saying it’s “just language” is like defending the N word. There is meaning behind it, and to deny the connotation and tone is beyond stupid.

  • Treme

    hi-ya, I go over all your blogs, keep them coming.

  • Jack

    I honestly enjoyed browsing your blog threads, and I’ve included you to my Bing RSS.