Long. Nerdy. Fruitless.

>> Saturday


An average Friday night, a slime-coated Milwaukee apartment, early spring 2006. A small group of genius soon-to-be bloggers is deeply immersed in conversation.

The topic at hand: the forthcoming 2006 baseball season. The future bloggers have touched on a wide range of topics, from the World Baseball Classic to Pedro Martinez’s trademark jerry curl. The conversation is passionate but civil, and dissention has been mostly innocuous.

But as the discussion steers toward championship predictions for 2006, one member of the group—a certain Matt “Zuch” Zuchowski—grows bold. Zuch, a White Sox fan still intoxicated from happy 2005 memories—and growing ever more intoxicated from his seventh Hamm’s and the rare species of mold living in the apartment—confidently predicts his Sox to repeat as champs.

Not only, Zuch says, would the White Sox win in 2006, but perhaps several more times in the near future. His reasoning in short: That Sox general manager Kenny Williams is an infallible, all-knowing handsome devil who--unlike Billy Beane or Brian Cashman since 2000--has a rare wisdom to build teams that are not only good but that are also ideal for winning in the playoffs.

Another member of the room, also named Matt, offers the most pronounced counterpoints to Zuch’s argument—foremost labeling Zuch a starry-eyed homer and “fucking crazy,” and further, challenging the very notion of a team “built to win in the playoffs”…But to little avail. Predictably, the discourse begins to break down as Matt implores Zuch to stick to college basketball analysis and to “leave the baseball to the adults.”

Insulted, Zuch rebuts with a defensive “Hey, fuck you, man” and accusations of blind deference to stat sheets and a Moneyball philosophy.

Not to be left out, Vinnie, the leading genius in the room, chimes in with a sprawling diatribe on Pythagorean win-loss records, impulse-response time, and standard deviations, which--like all of his sprawling diatribes--segues inexplicably into a sprawling moral lecture on resource conservation, the deterioration of communal values in modern society, and a general potpourri of pulpit-pulled poppycock.

Disgusted beyond his limits, the strongest member of the room, an Alaskan big-game hunter named Iain, cuts off the conversation and commands his friends to “shut the fuck up and let’s go to the bar you idiots before I kill all of you, Jesus Christ!

Then everyone starts pelting each other with empty beer cans.

End scene.

So what, you ask, is the meaning of this rather typical glimpse into the pointless existence of us YCS contributors?

Simply, it provides a real-life illustration of an older-than-Jamie-Moyer debate among baseball fans that is particularly relevant at this time of season. Though it's a debate for which no resolution likely exists, every baseball fan, player, and expert seems to hold strong opinions.

So as October begins and the MLB playoffs grow imminent, we ask, “What, oh baseball gods in heaven above, determines which teams win in the playoffs?...Anything?...No?...Come on...there’s gotta be somethin’! I've got parlays to win!”

John Kruk: “A fun-loving group of veteran character guys will always have that extra edge (wink wink).”
Orel Hershiser: “It’s all about that ‘bulldog’ at the top of the rotation.”
Steve Phillips: “You need a general manager that’s not afraid to fail! How this relates to the playoffs, I don't know. I can't believe I ever even got there.”
Joe Morgan: “A key to success is a good manager—like Sparky Anderson. You also need great balance up and down the order. Davey Concepcion wasn't the greatest hitter, but when it counted…”

What, if anything, puts a good team at an advantage over another good, seemingly equal team? What causes a superior regular-season team to lose a short series against a reputedly lesser foe? Is there really a difference between a generic good team and the fabled team-that-wins-in-the-playoffs?

Jeff Brantley: “A playoff team has to have a guy who can shut them down in the ninth. Me, I had a 1.30 career WHIP and a horrendous mullet.”
Tim McCarver: [muddled nonsense muddled nonsense muddled nonsense] “…Bob Gibson back in the '68 World Series…” [muddled nonsense]
Rob Dibble: “You can’t be afraid to throw inside at a hitter—even if it means crackin’ a few skulls! Wait…what were we talking about?”
Tim Kirkjan: "Even I find my voice painfully annoying!"

I tend to believe that good teams are good teams. Strength in one particular area over another equally important area may, may give a team a very subtle advantage but certainly nothing to get hung up on.

But perhaps—in highly rare circumstance—I am wrong; perhaps the 2003 Florida Marlins with their 91 wins really had something that the 2001 Seattle Mariners and their 116 wins did not. Perhaps the Twins, with their “one big horse at the top of the rotation” are at advantage this year. Or maybe it’s the Yankees with their “proven stopper at the end of the game.” Or maybe—just maybe—Jim Leyland’s wrinkled brow and tar-stained moustache really will put the Tigers over the top this year.

So consider this Part One of my unintensive, unscientific, SportsCenter-caliber study challenging the notions of what gives teams the competitive edge in the playoffs. With this first installment, I chose to challenge the notion that excellent-hitting teams succeed in the regular season but fall to excellent-pitching teams in the playoffs.

For reasons I will likely explain in a later post, there are plenty of logical reasons to believe this conventional wisdom would prove true. But as always, we need to see if the numbers bear it out as well before buying into it.

While I would imagine someone has done a more thorough, methodically-superior study to answer this question, I ain’t-a found it. And this topic has been bugging me ever since that fateful and ludicrous argument one February eve. So I tried my best to at least give a simple answer.

My method to analyze this first premise is super -basic. Starting with 1981, I examined how each year’s World Series winner ranked in the league in OPS+ and ERA+. I chose these two metrics because A) they’re probably the most inclusive and simplest comparative measure of overall offense and pitching and B) they’re adjusted for ballpark and all that good stuff.

Why did I pick 1981? For starters, it was the final year that Steve Stone pitched in the majors—a true watershed mark for the league. More importantly, though, it provides an additional eight-team playoff year to bump that sample from eleven years to twelve. (I originally thought that would somehow prove relevant, but…uh, yeah, it didn’t.) Why didn’t I go back further than 1981, you ask? Simply—I’m too lazy. I’m too lazy, and also, these mean people make me go to something called “work” every day.

Having said that, 25 years (minus 1994 = 24 years) was probably too small a sample to work with. Ok...definitely too small. But since the numbers from these last 24 years turn out to be sort of interesting, I’ll share them and hopefully add to the sample when I have more time (or when SABR finally accepts my membership application).

So what do the numbers say?

Inconclusive! But more specifically:

-The average World Series winner ranked in the 67th percentile in OPS+, or only about 10th in a 30-team league.

Fun fact! The lowest in ranking was the ’05 White Sox (23rd), and the lowest by percentile was the ’85 Royals (20th out of 26 teams).

-The average World Series winner ranked in the 80th percentile in ERA+, or a shade better than 6th in a 30-team league.

Fun fact! The worst champ in both ranking and percentile was the ’87 "Homer Hanky" Twins (15th out of 26). They were also 19th in OPS+ but a clear 1st in luck.

-The average World Series loser would rank a tad better than 8th in OPS+ and about 7.4th-ish in ERA+.

So in case you’re a simpleton who can’t process numbers, that means the loser has, on average, hit better and pitched worse than the winner. But barely so. And although these disparities are small given the weak samples, they theoretically would support the conventional wisdom that good pitching overrides good offense in the playoffs.

Out of curiosity, I also took the average rank of World Series teams among playoff teams only in each of these two categories. I only used the years of ’95-’05 because averaging ranks among eight teams is flimsy enough, let alone among four teams. I also could have included ’81 but didn't because it was a total sham. And…

-The average World Series winner during the LDS era has ranked 5.4 out of 8 in OPS+ and 3.4 out of 8 in ERA+.

Three teams (’05 White Sox, ’99 Yankees, ’95 Braves) have won the World Series while ranking last among playoff teams in OPS+. The ’03 Marlins are the only World Series winner to rank last in ERA+ among playoff teams.

-The average World Series loser has ranked just about 4th exactly in both categories.

Agan—better at hitting the ball but slightly worse pitching it. And while these results seem to reinforce the trends from the league-wide data, they’re also really, really shaky. Too few years, too few outcomes. You can decide what they’re worth.

I also compared the regular-season records of World Series winners and losers to those of teams that led the league in each metric (excluding the strike-shortened years of 1981 and 1995). Wouldn'cha know; the comparison seems to support the other implication of our conventional wisdom—that is, offense wins out in the regular season but not necessarily in the playoffs.

Average win total for a World Series champ: 95.9
Average win total for a World Series loser: 96.3
Average win total for teams that led (or tied for the lead) in OPS+: 96.4
Average win total for teams that led (or tied for the lead) in ERA+: 92.6

Excluding that cursed 1981, of the twenty-seven teams that have led (or tied for the lead) in OPS+, only three (11%) won less than 90 games (the ’83 Brewers with 87, the ’96 Mariners with 85, and the ’84 Phillies with 81). Even the strike-shortened ’95 Indians (not included in the average for obvious reasons) won 100 in 144 games.

By contrast, of the twenty-seven teams that have led or tied for the ERA+ title, nine (33%) failed to win 90 games. Six of these teams had .500 records or worse (the ’88 Expos with 81, the ’82 Blue Jays with 78, the ’83 Rangers with 77, the ’84 Pirates with 75, the ’92 Red Sox with 73). Compare that to only one .500 team among OPS+ leaders.

I will say—that four-win disparity between OPS+ leaders and ERA+ leaders seems impossibly high and is (my guess) skewed a bunch by that ’82 to ’84 stretch, where the ERA+ leaders had a sub-.500 record each of those years. Just a hunch, but I can’t imagine that ever happened before ’82-’84, nor is it likely to happen again any time soon.

Now look at the playoff results for these top-dog teams.

In the twelve years of divisional playoff format (that retarded ’81 and ’95-’05), the OPS+ leaders (fourteen of them, including two years with a tie) fared as follows:

Won it all:
1 (’99 Yankees)
Lost the World Series: 3
Lost in the LCS: 1
Lost in the LDS: 5
Early tee time: 4

As for the thirteen teams that led or tied in ERA+ (only one tie, which confuses the comparison a bit), here’s how they finished:

All the marbles: 2 (’05 White Sox, ’95 Braves)
Their league’s marbles only: 2
Lost in the LCS: 5
Lost in the LDS: 1
No dice: 3

Only one more World Series winner than the OPS+ leaders but four more teams in that "lost in LDS" category. Interesting.

Here’s that same breakdown from the twelve other years (’82-’93).

OPS+ leaders (thirteen teams):

Won WS: 2 (’86 Mets, ’84 Tigers)
Lost WS: 3
Lost LCS: 4
No such thing as LDS: Right
Bummerville junction: 4

ERA+ leaders (fourteen teams):

Won WS: 2 (’86 Mets—they were good, ’89 A’s)
Lost WS: 2
Lost LCS: 5
Whamp-Wawmp: 5

Essentially no difference. Given the limited data, this breakdown is sorta pointless anyhow. Come to think of it, the old two-division system was crap, so screw it. Also, I’m out of hokey ways to say “missed playoffs.”

As kind of an aside, I was curious to look into a specific team outside of my scope—the ’73 Mets. Though they didn’t win the World Series, they made it there and took the A’s seven games before losing. I was specifically curious about that team because, as far as playoff teams go, they sucked pretty hardcore. They got into the playoffs by winning an absolutely ridiculous NL East race with only 82 wins.

But it turns out the ’73 Mets could pitch—111 ERA+ good for fourth in all of baseball and good enough to knock off the favored and OPS+-leading Reds 3-games-to-2 in the NLCS. (Take that, Joe Morgan!) The Reds, for all their offense that year, ranked just fifteenth in ERA+ that year. And guess where the Mets placed in OPS+ that year. Yep—dead last. In the entire MLB.

I know this is a cherry-picked single outcome, but it’s pretty interesting nonetheless.

So what could these numbers mean?

Likely nothing; possibly something. If the trends since ’81 prove true when extended further back in history, they would suggest pitching-strong teams have a slight edge over hitting strong teams in the playoffs. This conclusion, of course, would draw in the complicating factor of teams (effectively) shrinking their pitching staffs in the playoffs and the consequent limitations with comparing regular-season results.

But even if the conclusion holds true, remember that for any norm, each individual outcome is a deviation--especially for something as wildly unpredictable as the MLB playoffs. So it makes perfect sense that the 2003 Marlins could win the World Series with the statistically weakest pitching among the eight playoff teams that year.

I guess the only thing we can safely agree on is that good teams make the playoffs, and really good teams win the World Series…unless we’re talking about 1987, the year a dynamic young pizano named Gary “The Rat” Gaetti led a pack of untalented vermin to the biggest cheese-hunk of all in one of the most baffling playoff outcomes of recent history. So really, who the hell knows.

Maybe the best conclusion to draw is the one we all knew to begin with. MLB playoff series are crazy short given the length of the regular season, the wildly variant single-game scoring outcomes (compared to, say, basketball), the limited number of human performance outcomes that determine a baseball game, the amount of luck that plays into each of these outcomes, the disproportionate impact of a single player (starting pitcher), etc etc etc.

So essentially, the result of any individual playoff series is pretty random no matter how you dice it. And given all the data, I’m pretty confident we would only see (what most people would consider) very subtle advantages among playoff teams with given strengths and weaknesses.

But all of this does intrigue me enough to pop a few—how do they say?—“greenies” or “magic beans” and add in the years ’69 through’80 to this OPS+/ERA+ comparison to round out the rest of the LCS era. And even though it would be a waste of my time, I’d also like to examine these other popular beliefs:

-More experienced teams win in the playoffs.
-A team needs an exceptional bullpen to win in the playoffs.
-Teams that rely on dingers don’t win in the playoffs.
-Teams with a dominant ace have a significant advantage in the playoffs.

For now, that’ll all have to wait for my next installment of “Snore Time with Dr. Snooze,” which I figure will never actually occur. In fact, I hope it doesn't for all of your sake. But that was pretty cool how I acted like this would be a multi-part thing but totally lied, huh? Who knows, though; maybe by next year's playoffs, I'll get a hankerin’ for playing around in Excel again. But I doubt it.

So hopefully I wasted a lot of your time. And what a shame--I'm too far to nail with a beer can! Maybe next time I'll write about resource conservation. Or shake my dick.


Wow--unnecessarily long set-up, Jamie Moyer cheap shot, heavy emphasis on stats--I think I smell that first Pulitzer, guys! And by the way, now you all know my shameful secret. Those late nights at college I spent whoopin’ it up and doin’ two chicks at once? Yeah, that was just a put-on. The whole time I secretly longed to be on baseballreference.com looking up the ’73 Mets pitching stats. Sad but true (all of it--especially the two chicks part).


The world's biggest geek is a Badger fan

No joke. The. World's. BIGGEST.

So I'm going to get my hair cut today, and this guy walks in. TOTAL geek. Think Fred Armisen-meets-Tom DeLay. Long-sleeved red "BUCKY" t-shirt tucked into a pair of carpenter's jeans--ankles cuffed, no belt!--dress shoes, sleeves pulled halfway up his arms. And you could tell he thought he looked cool. Ugghh!...Conclusion: Badger fans are total geeks.

Oh, and then, the person cutting my hair was this Mexican lady, and they had the radio playing there, and she started singing along to that Kelly Clarkson song "Because of You." SO funny.

Oh, and then, when I was in the waiting room at my doctor's appointment, they had on one of those terrible "smooth jazz" elevator music stations, and they played a song by Wayman Tisdale. You know, he's that guy who used to play for the Suns? SO random!


Lock of the Week

For the first of likely many times, I have decided to change my lock of the week. With Orlando Pace likely sidelined with a concussion, I have decided to take a trip to the City of Brotherly Love. While it may be unpopular with the Milwaukee members of the YCS staff, I now go with the Philadelphia Eagles over the Green Bay Packers. Besides the obvious fact of the Eagles being the better team, this will give me an excuse to watch MNF. The Gamble Tron 2000 has recalculated the numbers, and has the Eagles winning 213-7.


Good call Griese people

>> Friday

To pat my ample backside, I think sticking with Rex happened to be the right decision. Move over Sid Luckman, you finally have an award winning Bears QB to join you.


Doomsday Device

>> Thursday

I never thought this would happen, but this kid is starting to make me an Ohio State fan. Well, at least until he takes his rightful place as the next great Bears linebacker, following in the foot steps of Butkus, Singletary and Urlacher.


Taking America's Game to the World

ESPN is reporting that the NFL is considering holding more regular season games outside the United States, stating that TV and the old American Bowl series worked well to introduce fans to America's game, but fans abroad are now ready for "the real thing." The league so far seems to have worked out one potential problem by arranging that teams returning from overseas play will have a bye week the following week. There's still a couple issues left to be resolved.

Will every team play a game abroad each season?
-If yes, will teams still play an equal number of home/away games or increase to a 17-game schedule? I can't imagine the Packers would be too pleased to play 8 road games, 7 games at Lambeau, and 1 at Wembley Stadium.

-If no, how does that shake out in terms of playoff races that are often determined on tiebreakers? If I missed the playoffs because a team I was tied with had a friendlier schedule that didn't include a trip halfway around the world to China or Germany, I'd be pretty pissed off.

Is the NFL willing to play games midweek?
- The host stadiums, especially in Europe, are likely to be soccer stadiums. Matchday is traditionally Saturday or Sunday, with many leagues (including the Champions League) holding games midweek on a Wednesday or Tuesday. Would the NFL be willing to have "Monday Night Football" air at 2 in the afternoon?

Will the NFL have control of dates?
- Unlikely. Many fields in Europe are pristine manicured grass carpets. I can't imagine many clubs would invite the NFL in for one game that could very well rip up the turf and paint "CHARGERS" and "REDSKINS" in giant letters in the endzones. Then again, for the right price, I guess anything is possible.

Is there really that big of a market?
Last season, NFL Europe drew an average attendance of 18,000. That's more or less what MLS average attendance is. I suppose NFLE is minor league, and the real deal could bring out the expats. Just like when MLS invites high-profile foreign clubs in mid-summer.

If the NFL wants to do this right, here's what I think needs to be laid down.
1.) NO "top flight" stadiums whatsoever, especially in Europe. If the NFL really wants to do this without taking a huge financial loss (renting out a giant stadium, and selling too few tickets to fill it), I'd recommend taking it to second-flight stadiums or the bottom of the top-flights. That means no games at Wembley or Old Trafford or the San Siro in Milan. The mid-sized clubs are more desperate for revenue, and would likely take whatever the NFL has to offer. Not to mention that 15,000 people in a 25,000 seat stadium looks a hell of a lot better and creates more atmosphere than 15,000 people at the Olympiastadion in Berlin (Capacity 76,000). Yes, NFL Europe plays in premier venues, but their season is in the summer, during the football (round ball) offseason, and has been bleeding money for years.

If the NFL wants a more famous/larger stadium for TV that's a tad bigger capacity and maybe in a more glamorous locale, I'd suggest grounds that don't have regular tenants, like Twickenham Stadium in London, or Croke Park in Dublin, both famous rugby stadiums. There you'd have an easier time setting up dates, and tearing up the field without anyone getting too pissed.

2.) I like the teams coming back from abroad get their bye week rule.

3.) There has to be a rule about teams being from the same time zone, especially if say, the team flies out on Thursday and plays on Sunday (keeping in mind that football (pointy ball) practice facilities abroad would be...limited, to be generous).

If the 49ers play the Patriots at the Tokyo Dome in Japan or at Hampden Park in Glasgow, I don't think you need me to figure out which team is going to be 3 hours more jet-lagged.

4.) Make the tickets cheap, even dirt cheap, like 15 Euros (about $20-25). You're asking a lot of people to try something new that they've never seen before. A side effect of this is you will have more butts in seats, which leads to more concessions and souvenier revenue.

5.) Play SOME games in North America that are easy to get to for American fans. Have the Raiders play in Vancouver. Have the Jets play in Toronto. Have the Cowboys play at the Azteca in Mexico City.

6.) A system has to be established in terms of when teams go abroad, whether that's every team goes once a year, or every other year, or whatever, so fans know how many home dates are going to be in their season ticket package.

7.) It wouldn't hurt if NFL teams were to partner with Orbitz or travel agencies or something like that to make travel to these new exotic locales feasible for the hometown fans.


9.) The NFL sets the sites in advance, and the 32 teams have no control over the sites or dates. For instance, the NFL comes out at the end of every season and says, "Next season we'll hold 8 regular season games abroad, in Sydney, Mexico City, London, Madrid, Dublin, Glasgow, Tokyo, and Paris. Teams, dates, and times TBA." That shouldn't be too hard.

I wouldn't want to see teams scheduling games based on what might suit their advantage, like say, the Dolphins or Bucs scheduling a November game for themselves in Sydney or at the Bombonera in Buenos Aires, getting one more warm-weather game in (where it would be late spring). Likewise, I wouldn't want to see the Bears or Patriots scheduling a September game against the Chargers in Moscow. This goes down to even things like teams picking stadiums not known for their care of the turf to gain an advantage (Stamford Bridge in London comes to mind).

10.) Gridiron lines should be laid down with minimal intrusion on the stadium's primary purpose, be that soccer or rugby. This rule isn't borne out of my love for soccer, just good business sense. It's unlikely that stadiums would invite the NFL back if they had to play with "BRONCOS" in giant letters or green paint in the exact shape of the Carolina Panthers logo across their field for the next month. That would end the worldwide experiment really fast.

If the NFL can abide by as many of these 10 concerns/solutions as possible, they should be in good shape, and I can't see how this could be a bad idea.


Yea, I know you don't care, but...

...my favorite professional team just won the national championship, and I'm kind of excited about that.

This will be my last soccer post till next week. I promise.



>> Wednesday

I apologize to anyone who's come to this blog the last day or so and saw a bunch of crazy ad banner shit taking over the whole page. I don't completely remember why or how I put it there, but I just got rid of it all. Maybe no one noticed because I only saw it here at work and not at home, so it might not show up for most people. I have no idea. But anyway, it was annoying, and I hope you can find it in you to forgive me. Or not. I don't care. Just keep reading.


I Shot the Sheriff?

>> Tuesday

Okay, maybe Matt Leinart did. Seriously, Leinart may have had the shortest starting career in NFL history. A day after Dennis Green named him the starter, old man Warner has regained the starting job. The lesson here boys and girls, never trust information initially leaked by ESPN. That, and Denny Green has many screws loose.


A Reason To Respect Jason Whitlock?!?!?

Yes, it's true. Even I, perhaps the staunchest critic of Jason Whitlock have found something that makes him actually respectable. Here it is, courtesy of Deadspin:

James Cohen, an executive at the network, called me Monday and asked me whether the comments attributed to me in the interview were true. When I said "yes," he informed me that I could no longer appear on ESPN television shows and that my November appearances on "Pardon the Interruption" would be canceled.

I wasn't surprised. ESPN, a terrific network, has always been hypersensitive to criticism, especially when it comes from its independent-contract employees. Over the six years I've worked for ESPN, I've received complaining phone calls from its executives almost every time I've written a critical word about the network.This was inevitable.

ESPN does not tolerate criticism. Sportswriters far more distinguished than yours truly -- Tony Kornheiser, John Feinstein and T.J. Simers -- have been banned/suspended for comments perceived to be detrimental to the World Wide Leader.

I'm sure my move from ESPN .com to AOL Sports was viewed as an act of disloyalty by some within the network.It wasn't. It was just the act of a guy who values his ability to think, act and speak independently more than he does seeing his face on ESPN.

I concur. Well done, although I still think you're an assclown. Also, bonus points for lovin' on Kornheiser.


Mike's Weekly Token Soccer Preview

My preview this week is of Wednesday night's final of the U.S. Open Cup and is now available on The Proper Pitch. The Open Cup is like if the NCAA Tournament were held concurrently with the regular season. Wednesday's match between Chicago Fire and Los Angeles Galaxy may not be getting much play in the mainstream press, but it's the final of a tournament that earlier this season featured a pub league team knocking off an MLS side on PKs.

The winner gets their name on the Dewar Trophy, the oldest continuously-awarded championship in the United States in any sport.

The game can be seen live at 7PM on Fox Soccer Channel. For our readers in Southeast Wisconsin, I know Caffrey's has the channel in their package. For our readers in the greater Chicago area, the game is being played at Toyota Park at 71st and Harlem (Come on out to Section 118 and meet 1/8th of the YCS staff!), but if you're a cheapskate and don't want to shell out for a ticket, the Globe Pub on Irving Park Road and Damen will have the game as well.


Kollege Dayz

The Arizona Cardinals were done with sharing a stadium with a college team at Arizona State. However, they're not done with colleges. The Cards announced today that the naming rights to their new stadium in Glendale, AZ have been sold, not to Pink Taco as initially reported/hoped for, but to the University of Phoenix, an online university that doesn't even sponsor intramural sports.

The 20-year deal branding the facility "University of Phoenix Stadium" ensures that the University of Phoenix finally has something in common with Stanford. Both have a football stadium named after their school, but neither has a football team to speak of.


It should Be Robbie (18 K) Gould...

With his 12th consecutive field goal (dating back to last season), Robbie, 18 karat Gould, his now half way to Kevin Butthead's franchise record of 24. Here's to you kid... If he could throw, I'd want him as qb.


NFL Thoughts-Week 3

>> Monday

Forget all of the emotional aspects of the game, the New Orleans Saints were by far the better football team tonight. Honestly, I don't think it's a total aberration either, as I have never been sold on the Falcons and Mr. Mexico.

That feign begging sound I'm hearing from New England would be Tom Brady pleading for an actual pass catcher that doesn't line up with the big uglies.

Between Jake Plummer and Javon Walker's performances, the humble abode on Highland must have been one pissed off house.

At this time, I would like to take back last week's sentiments about Eli Manning.

It may have started a bit later than normal, but the curse of the losing Super Bowl team has begun with Shaun Alexander breaking his foot.

Kurt Warner, we hardly knew ye.

After a tough loss last weekend, the Rams took a big step with a road win in the Cards new stadium.

If the Ravens sneak into the playoffs, this week will be a huge focal point.

Even with the heartbreaking loss, the emergence of Frye, Edwards and Winslow give Browns fans legitimate hope for the first time since Tim Couch briefly looked like an NFL quarterback.

The other half of Super Bowl XL may have dug themselves too big of a hole to climb out of. Big Ben really wishes 2006 ended in February.

While they make the Raiders look like saints off the field, the Bengals sure have kicked ass on it so far. Also, Carson Palmer will be the coverboy for the 2007 yearbook of modern medical science.

The NFL has already erased all evidence that the Miami-Tennessee game existed.

Chris Simms, we tip the collective dirty hats of the YCS staff to you.

What's it with these kickers cheating Father Time like this? Seriously, I think John Kasay made game winning kicks in the first edition of Madden.

Even as Peyton Manning's biggest fan in Illinois, I still believe the Jaguars to be the best team in the AFC South.

It's nice to see Da Bears winning a game they had no business in doing so.

Well Detroit, at least you still have baseball season in your city.

Congrats to the Houston Texans for their humanitarian efforts in boosting the self esteem of senior citizens like that.


Gas! They (Mathematically) Gone

Now that the White Sox get to go play the congas and drink bathtub tequilla this October instead of playing baseball, many people will want to ask, "What happened?" (Or as Tadahito Iguchi would say, "What happen?")

Any baseball fan has to wonder how the defending world champ (sorry Mike--"Provincial Champ in a Sport We Invented") could improve its offense so appreciably yet miss the playoffs and drop at least seven wins from their previous season total.

What some will suggest: The 2005 Don't-Stop-Believin' Go-Go Grinder Gashouse Junction Boys Gang from Spit-in-yer-eye-grit-in-yer-teeth-ville White Sox had a swagger and a killer instinct that the 2006 Chicago Lazy Bunch of Homerun Hitters lacked.

What sensible people would suggest: The 2006 White Sox had to compete against better divisional competition, yet their starting pitching dropped off about as apreciably as their offense improved--possibly due to long innings on tired arms with short rest in blustery mid-October conditions the season before. (No one is saying this is the definitive or only reason that the White Sox starters overall did not perform as well this year. But it's at least a rational suggestion.) Also, the 2006 White Sox made the fatal mistake of not aligning their identity with a hit song tapping into the sentiments of nostalgic thirty-somethings. (Slightly less sensible explanation--basically a rider of the first that I know Zuch would want included.)

Now which version do you suppose turns up in the Chicago sports media in the next day or two?

Grinder Rule #239--Sliding head-first a lot makes it look like you're trying harder.
Grinder Rule #103--Sacrifice bunts make your manager look like he's thinking more.
Grinder Rule #Theseadssweresogay--Vague, inscrutable diagnoses give the pretense of insider knowledge.


This Just In!!

Frank Thomas is apparently the best hitter EVER. I think he was good back in the 90's but I wouldn't say he was the best ever. That's a little much.

Take a peek.


The Night ESPN Saved Mardi Gras

You guys knew I would keep harping on this, and gess what; I am.

Again, I understand--big moment for New Orleans, uplifting for the fans, etc., etc.

But I'm sorry. No one likes the guy who says this. Everyone sees it coming. It's a cliche. But it has to be said.

It's a fucking football game.

REPEAT--It's a fucking football game. It cannot be emphasized enough.

Homegrown music legends singing "The Star Spangled Banner"--a classy touch. Having a former president leading a massive relief effort perform the coin flip--also classy. Turning tragedy into an overblown publicity stunt--less classy. Opening montages playing on over-the-top stereotypes of the region and poor, southern blacks--not touching. Selling a FUCKING FOOTBALL GAME as a legitimate, singular moment in the resurrection of a city that in some places was, and still remains, utterly DESTROYED--misrepresentative, not classy, not touching.

I think this whole thing stinks for two reasons (which I already articulated before but will repeat):

1) The theatrics leading up to the game were clearly, in part, the doing of people who saw the event as an opportunity to make themselves feel important while stripping away the solemn reality of the situation. Remember--there's a little backstory involved here, and it doesn't exactly have a resolution. Not any to celebrate at least.

2) The theatrics very much gloss over the fact that a vast, vast majority of the affected individuals simply do not care about the Saints. For these people, they will wake up tomorrow knowing that life right now sucks just as much as it did when they woke up this morning. And even for those victims that have been heartened by the national spotlight this week, life will suck for them also, just as it did a week ago or a month ago. Only there won't be any ESPN around to celebrate their courage and culture in overwrought Disney imagery.

I agree--I hate when I get all self-righteous and shit like this as much as anyone else does. But I think what I'm saying is a very legitimate flip-side to this phoenix-from-the-dust hooey that every media outlet has pinned to tonight's game. I'm not saying I only see this one side of it. In fact, I'm rarely convinced of any opinion I share, but it doesn't mean they're not worth sharing. Because there's always someone else that does feel it.

...On a positive note: Matt, Gavin, and Nate--I guess we can all feel even better about blowing a couple hundred bucks we didn't have in the French Quarter this spring. Did you hear what Tony Kornheiser said? What New Orleans wants most of all is our tourism dollars! Done and done.

(Woooo! Spring break!)


Attention Sports Nation: There is nothing wrong, nor has there ever been anything wrong, with Brett Favre.

After The Great One torched the Lions for 340 yards, three touchdowns and no picks, ESPN Sportsnation gave their game ball to Favre. So did Len Pasquarelli, but did so with a backhanded compliment.

Just a few of Pasquarelli's notes:

If you'd have bet us at the outset of the season that Brett Favre would appear even once in this space in 2006, we might have stolen the mortgage check out of the family out-box near the front door, and taken the wager.


Truth be told, there may not be many more wins for the Packers in 2006, or many more touchdown heaves for Favre this season.


But for one day, one of history's greatest performers turned back a ticking clock.

Actually, truth be told, Favre is still one of the best quarterbacks in the league, and anyone who has actually watched more than the game highlights realizes this.
When the Packers are in the game, as they were against the Lions, Favre throws smart passes and makes good plays.

All the interceptions that everyone keeps bitching about usually come in the second half when the ineptitude of the rest of his team leaves him in a two or three touchdown hole. See, as much as the rest of the world makes of his high number of interceptions, Favre could care less. That is the definition of a gunslinger, of which Favre is the all-time greatest.

Against Chicago, Favre was simply playing against one of the best defenses in the game, and found himself in a quick hole. Against New Orleans, Favre statistically played well early (he didn't have an incompletion in the first half) but once the Saints scored two quick touchdowns, the Packers were in desperation mode and Favre had to take some risks, which led to a slew of incompletions and an interception.

With 13 games left to play, Favre needs 18 touchdown passes to tie Dan Marino for the all-time record. While the Packers may still end up as a 3-13 team, expect Favre to get the record. Saying that Favre won't have "many more touchdown heaves" is just plain ignorant.


Tom Brady and How to Woo the Office Hottie

>> Sunday

We've all been there before, but now we have Tom Brady teaching us how it's done.


It's Been a Long Time Since We Made Fun of Tim McCarver, so...

Compliments of Deadspin


Funniest On-Screen Graphic of the Day

San Francisco quarterback Alex Smith's stat line at the end of the 49ers-Eagles game, featuring the footnote "All career-highs."

Included in that stat line:
TDs: 1


YCS NFL Predictions - Week 3

This week in the NFL is a gambler's nightmare. The good teams play other good teams. The bad teams play other bad teams. The Raiders have a bye. There are no real clear favorites; even when you find a game that you think has a clear favorite, something in the back of your mind is saying, "Yeah, but I'm not completely convinced." Good advice: bet against the spread. Best advice: bet on something else this week.

So what does YCS's own Matt Bechtel do on this unpredictable weekend, before he sends in his picks? He leaves for the weekend to go to his parents' house in Whitewater, because our dryer is broken and he needs to do laundry (although I'm sure he'll spin some "Oh, I just came home cuz I miss you guys" BS).

So I'll give this a go, and if I have a winning record on my predictions I'm treating myself to a few drinks (I realize that's a hanging curveball, so take your shots if you must).

(My picks bolded)

EDIT: Nate is foolish, and you can't send a child to do a man's job, so I'm going to fix his mistakes.

Washington at Houston: Even the potential return of Clinton Portis won't help the hapless, stuck with Mark Brunell, Redskins. (Nate's an idiot for picking the Texans)

NY Jets at Buffalo: The Bills will put some hits on Pennington, which means...well, you know.

Green Bay at Detroit: Call it a homer pick, but I saw a lot of improvement from the Packers in week 2. (Wrong again, the Lions will win this one. And that is a homer pick)

Jacksonville at Indianapolis: To be the best, you've got to beat the champs, and the Jaguars beat the champs last week.

Chicago at Minnesota: The four combined wins from these teams is less impressive when you look at their opponents: Detroit, Green Bay, Washington and Carolina sans Steve Smith.

Tennessee at Miami: As much as I would LOVE to see Daunte Culpepper and the Dolphins go 0-3, they're playing the Titans.

Cincinnati at Pittsburgh: This is admittedly a homer pick, but I don't really see any other way of determining a favorite here. (Again, homer, you're wrong, the Bengals win this one).

Carolina at Tampa Bay: If, and only if, Steve Smith is in the game.

Baltimore at Cleveland: God, I hope this game is not on TV.

NY Giants at Seattle: The Seahawks' first real test could expose a lot of weaknesses.

St. Louis at Arizona: Leave the punters at home for this one. (Wa-rong, the Cards overpower the disappointing Rams)

Philadelphia at San Francisco: This is the part where I admit I may have been just a little bit wrong about Alex Smith. (Yeah, but you were even wrong-er when you picked the Niners to win this one)

Denver at New England: This is the only game I'm picking with any real confidence.

Atlanta at New Orleans: Atlanta is by far the better team here, but the emotion factor could play huge on Monday. (Everything before the word "but" is correct)

I realize it's a mess, but I had to fix the amateur's childish mistakes.


If we could use the Air Force, we'd win everytime, but we can't

>> Saturday

The recent failures of American professional athletes on the world stage (Basketball World Championships, Ryder Cup, World Baseball Classic, World Cup of Hockey, FIFA World Cup) have brought up the question. How can the richest and one of the most populous countries in the world fail to take a championship in a major international competition? I think the reasons are manifold, but solutions are hard nay near impossible to come by without fundamentally changing the structure of sport in the United States.

1.) World Champions?
Let's examine how sport is played in the U.S. Major League baseball's championship is declared the "World Series" even though only teams from the US and Canada participate. The Super Bowl winner is often declared the "World Champion," despite never playing a team or often even a game outside US borders. Ray Clay introduced the starting lineups for "Your World Champion, Chicago Bulls!" ignoring that aside from the Toronto Raptors and the then-Vancouver Grizzlies, the Bulls had never needed to pack their passports. These three leagues are arguably the three most popular leagues in the US. Some American sports often have a view of themselves that because the best players in the world play in a league in the US, therefore, the winner of said league is the "World Champion" without making the distinction between club and international competition.

However, this nomenclature differs in sports where strong national leagues exist outside Uncle Sam-land. The NHL winner is only the "Stanley Cup Champion" to recognize that while the NHL is the premier hockey league, there are solid leagues in Europe as well (why many NHL players played there during the lockout.) MLS only crowns an "MLS Cup Champion." The PGA Champion is just that. The PGA Champion, recognizing the strength of golfers from abroad.

The "World Champion" Chicago White Sox have a roster of players from 6 countries. Until they are eliminated from the playoffs, the Sox are technically the best club team in the world, but the best national team in the world is Japan. If the World Baseball classic was structured where the national champion of each country faced off, the White Sox would certainly beat the Hiroshima Carp or the Mexican League champion or what have you, and we'd have an American "world champion." American fans need to recognize a difference between club and national team competition. If the best players in the world play here, that must mean they came from somewhere else, and will play for a different flag.

2.) Money
Not that the players are millionaires, because last I checked, Dirk Nowitzki didn't play for the Stars and Stripes. For many years, Americans were able to dominate athletic competition (the Olympics) in part because as such a wealthy nation, Americans were able to put more of a focus on sport, and its infrastructure. Now other countries have caught up, putting more money into their national programs. These are often countries that may still be considered "third world." Countries like Mexico, who defeated the U.S. in the WBC, and Ghana, who defeated the US in the World Cup.

Create more of an integrated youth system. National teams abroad often field U-23, U-20, U-18, U-16, and so on national teams. In the US, with different teams between grade school, high school, college, and pro, any player will have had a minimum of 4 different coaches, in four different systems for four different teams before they put on the USA jersey for the first time.

Now, we can't change the number of coaches as players age, but we can change the system (but it won't happen because it's too radical). For example, Joliet Park District's youth football program uses the same playbook and system as Joliet Catholic Academy, an Illinois State football power. By the time the kids get to high school, they've been working with the same system, and playing with each other as a team for many years, rather than a hastily assembled "all-star" team.

3.) The US "major sport" federations don't take international competition seriously
With the exception of the US Soccer Federation, none of the US National teams seem to take the idea of global competition seriously. USA Basketball is starting to turn the corner here with the development of a permanent player pool, but it's only during the NBA offseason, and the team is still more or less thrown together weeks before the competition. While Coach K is on board to skipper the team, if torn between focusing his energies on USA Basketball or Duke Basketball, who do you think he's going to choose?

Spend a little money and announce a full-time national team coach (basketball, baseball, hockey), where coaching the US team is his (or her, but who are we kidding?) only job. However, this would require a year-round national team, with competitive international games or exhibitions every...say...6 weeks. Stability breeds familiarity.

4.) Americanizations lead to championships of America only
In the US, one of the reasons, by far not THE reason, but there nonetheless, is that we tailor the rules of sport to be more appealing to fans and tv, instead of winning competitions. One isn't better than the other, but to wonder why Americans underperform across the board, you have to look at all the causes. The rules of international games are changed or "Americanized" to make it more appealing to fans and more lucrative to owners.

The average NHL rink is about 15 feet narrower than a standard international rink. What this does (inaddition to lining owners pockets with more close-up seats is breed a more physical "smashmouth" game than the international game, which is based more on speed and finesse than the NHL. OK, how come Canada's so good when they play on the same rink size? Canada has a much larger and much more talented player pool than the U.S.

NBA, NCAA and High school basketball in the US use a rectangular lane. International competition uses a trapezoid lane. In the US, if the ball hits the rim and stays in the cylinder, to touch it is goaltending. Abroad, it's fair game.

When MLS first started, it used a downward counting clock that stopped at zero, and used 35-yard hockey-style "shootouts" to resolve ties, and best-of-three playoff series. The US National Team came in dead last at the 1998 World Cup. They then switched to an upward counting clock with stoppage time, allowing ties, and switched to two-game aggregate goal playoffs. Since then, the team has markedly improved. Not saying they're related, but aligning with international standards and gaining familiarity with the rules and nuances of international play can't hurt your performance in international competition.

Trapezoid lanes. They'll only look wierd for a while.

5.) History of mediocrity
Americans failing in international competition is not a recent phenomenon, which is why I haven't used the "Overpaid whining spoiled millionaires" excuse. While Americans have traditionally dominated the Olympics in the final medal count, in "major" sports our trophy case is relatively empty, even in our "Big 4" (I'll include soccer since there's no such thing as international football (pointy ball). Just look at our long list of accomplishments.

Soccer: Before 1990, the US had made it to the World Cup Finals only once since 1938, and that was in 1950. In the World Cup Finals since 1990, the United States has gone 3-12-3.

Basketball: While one of the top teams in the Olympics (the only time the Americans haven't medaled was during the 1980 boycott), the US hasn't performed up to snuff at the World Championships. The US has only won this competition 3 times out of 15 tries.

Baseball: Baseball has only been an Olympic sport since 1992, but the Americans only have 2 medals (Gold 2000, Bronze 1996) That's one less than Japan, and only one more than Chinese Taipei. In the old Baseball World Cup (held regularly every 2-3 years from the 1940s to 2005) the US only won the tournament twice.

Hockey: The 1996 World Cup of Hockey was the United States' first international championship since the 1980 Miracle on Ice. The U.S. has only won 2 medals since 1972 in Olympic hockey, and none in that time when Herb Brooks wasn't the coach.

Just look at the Olympics nowadays. Americans underperform in sports like hockey, bobsled, and other sports that the rest of the world is good at, but we dominate sports where Americans created them, and as such, only Americans are good at them (snowboarding, beach volleyball, etc.) At the 2006 Winter Olympics, the Americans took 25 medals (9 gold, 9 silver, 7 bronze.) 7 of the 25 (28%) came from Snowboarding alone (3 gold, 3 silver, 1 bronze). This medal total was nearly twice the closest competitor (4).

You can't argue with history.


He takes the "necessary" out of "necessary evil."

If you're looking for college football's "Chump of the Week" look no further than Alabama kicker Leigh Tiffin. Here is a break down of his day against Arkansas.

Second quarter: Tiffin pushes a 34-yard field goal wide right, and Arkansas maintains a 3-0 lead.

Okay, this shit happens. No biggie.

Second quarter: At the end of the half, Tiffin makes a 46-yard field goal to put the Tide up 10-3 going into the half.

Good, now he can forget about missing that chip shot.

Third quarter: Arkansas scores a touchdown on the opening drive of the second half, and Tide kicker Jeremy Davis misses the extra point, failing to tie the game up at 10.

See, I told you this shit happens.

Fourth quarter: Alabama drives down the field and sets Tiffin up with a 30-yard field goal to put them ahead with three minutes left in the game. Again, he pushes it wide right.

Okay, he's having a bad day. Let's play for overtime.

Overtime: After Arkansas fails to score on the opening possession, Tiflin is given a chance to redeem himself with a 38-yard field goal. Uh oh, wide right.

Okay, seriously. Can we get a back-up linebacker in there to try it next time?

Second OT: 'Bama says the hell with Tiflin and goes ahead and scores a touchdown on the opening drive. But, oh that tricky extra point...wide right.

This guy better find a way to miss the flight home.

Arkansas takes advantage of one man's inability to kick a football in a generally straight direction. Touchdown Razorbacks, extra point is GOOD. Goodnight 'Bama.


We stink, we fucking stink

Well, this post will assuredly bring the bitter element of YCS, as I'm one pissed off American right now.

Another major international sporting event, another American embarassment. While I may be the only one on the blog who really gives a damn, our Ryder Cup team is bending over and letting Europe have their way yet again.

Seriously, what happened to the glorious times when we dominated the sporting landscape. For golf, those days have unfortunately been over for the last 20 years. Still, after both our basketball teams crapped out in the sport that they made popular and the soccer team proved why no one in America gives a damn about it, my frustation as a proud American sports fan has reached a boiling point. Unfortunately, apparently the only thing Americans care about is the almighty dollar.

Everyone else's favorite, the Tiger, craps his bed in international team events like a weekend hacker. Phil Mickelson plays every hole like it's the 18th at Winged Foot. Even sadder, the European team may actually have more talent now. Young American golfers have no sense of how the game is actually played. On the other hand, the Europeans have a seemingly endless stable of talented golfers who actually have pride in their countries and continent.

Hell, the statement about American golfers rings true for many other groups of young athletes. Sadly, it looks like the ESPN generation will continue to not give a damn about representing their country and the international domination in sports will continue. All I have to say is I wish these athletes would stop giving a shit about money and have some damn pride in the U.S.A. However, I'm not naive enough to think that will happen anytime soon.


Man, I wish I had those 40-1 odds on the Jags THIS year

Vinnie's bold, baseless prediction of the week: In a game that will delight Gavin and piss off Zuch, the Jaguars will sack professional pitch-man and part-time quarterback Peyton Manning at least five times tomorrow and win by two touchdowns in Indy to make my Super Bowl prediction look even more brilliant.

Peyton's base salary: $10mill
Peyton's total endorsement contracts: $642mill (roughly)
Peyton's net worth (minus taxes and agent fees): more than Ghana
Peyton getting his sellout ass handed to him: priceless. There's some things that money can't buy. For everything else, there's a commercial featuring Peyton Manning.


Greatest White Hope?

For the love of Kieth Van Horn, Shawn Bradley, and Tom Gugliotta, let the kid play a game first!

If you haven't seen yet, unproven Bobcats white guy Adam "Mr. Moustache" Morrison is featured on the cover of NBA Live '07. Besides the fact that this honor (I guess) is crazy premature for a guy who's game--in some people's opinions, though not in mine--may translate poorly to the NBA, I mostly would prefer not to see Adam Morrison's scary-ass face every time I go to play my electronically simulated basketball. (Actually, I wouldn't have this problem since I don't play video games made after 1995, but you get what I mean.)

"NBA Live 2007--White dudes can ball too!"

(Note that I didn't even mention Adam Morrison crying. Until now. The baby.)


Live Free or Die Hard

Yes, I understand this blog is meant for irrelavant opinions on sports. But in reality, this blog is a "man's blog" and that is why I felt the need to tell everyone that Bruce Willis is reprising his role at Lt. John McClaine in Die Hard IV. In this edition, McClaine will battle an internet villian whom threatens to attack our country's computer infrastructure. Co-Starring is the guy pretending to be an Apple computer in those Macintosh ad's. No word yet whether Jeremy Irons will make a guest appearance.


What does a great nation do in the wake of tragedy? Cash in, baby!

>> Thursday

Opinion Poll: Monday night's "First-Saints-Game-Since-Katrina, Super-Duper Super Dome Grand Re-opening Extravaganza Bonanza (Featuring the Goo Goo Dolls and Bono! Wowee wowee wow!!!)" is:

A) a powerful and a touching way to commemorate a seminal moment for a city and a region that saw unfathomable devestation, as well as a way to raise valuable relief funds for those who continue to suffer as intensely as they suffered one year ago.

B) an ESPN/NFL made-for-TV ratings-grab put on by some mega production firm probably based in New York or Los Angeles, having nothing to do with Saints fans or the Gulf Coast region--save the home team's stadium serving as a venue--that glosses over the still-tragic state of the region--football, Super Dome, and Goo Goo Dolls be damned.

I don't know how I feel about this event, to be quite honest. I look at it much like the post-9/11 U2 Super Bowl performance, World Series bald eagle theatrics, etc. While I'm not so cynical to overlook the philanthropic and spritual benefits of these events, I also feel they demonstrate a troubling impulse to bring grandeur into our suffering and healing.

I have a story to offer an analogy. Maybe it's a really stupid analogy, but hear me out anyway. Sophomore year in college, I went on a spring break service trip to a little, rural town in Virginia (YCS regulars--you already probably know this stuff, but just indulge me for a minute). Besides our group from Marquette, there was a group from another school. When the other group arrived on the first day, no one could miss them. They pulled up in three or four vehicles, all of which were painted up with the name of their school and their destination. The entire purpose of the trip was to put aside their own wants and identities for a week to commit to those of others. Yet there they'd come, all done up as if they were seeing their high school football team at state.

I feel like ESPN is the painted-up caravan of cars. And I feel like the Goo Goo Dolls are the girl who thinks she's cute in her bandanna and messy clothes and forgets that she went on the service trip to do work and not to pose for digital photos. (Or maybe Joe Theisman is the bandanna girl in this analogy. Either way.)

Maybe I'm the only person crazy enough to see this angle. I don't know. But it really does bother me. And I can't imagine I would be very inviting of this event were I a proud and true New Orleans resident. I would probably feel that people behind it were using my city as a stage and its plight as a backdrop for something that would lift their own spirits but bring them no closer to my own struggle.

Yes, I understand that proceeds will benefit the victims of the hurricane. But come on; who's really going to benefit more from this event--the victims or the NFL? The victims or the Goo Goo Dolls? The victims or Mike Torico? Those putting on these festivities--and for that matter, probably a vast majority of those attending the game--will be just as removed from the victims' troubles on Tuesday as they are today, no matter how warm their on-camera sentiments are.

Again, I understand the thought behind Monday night's events. But I still can't help but partly see it as an attempt to fabricate a "seminal moment" for a national television audience. Yes, these extravaganzas aspire to raise public's sensitivities and awareness, but as a side-effect, I think they can serve just as strongly to skew the significances and insigificances of the actual situation.

(Ok, I'm done. Sorry to preach. Sorry to bore you.)


Lock of the Week

>> Wednesday

Well, this may not be the best week to debut my new feature. However, through my participation in an NFL Survival pool, I must choose one guaranteed winner a week, and can only choose a team once. This week, my choice is the Miami Dolphins over the Tennessee Titans. I know the Dolphins looked absolutely dreadful last week, but I believe Nick Saban will not allow them to go 0-3. Plus, the Titans really suck and the Raiders have a bye this week. Like my man Smooth Jimmy Apollo says, I have a 52% chance of being correct.


God Bless Canada

MLS has announced that the name of the new soccer stadium in Toronto, home to 2007 MLS expansion club Toronto FC will be called "BMO Field." Today's announcement is a victory for sports bloggers everywhere. Finally, a stadium is only one stray typo away from being referred to as B.O. Field or B.M. Field in a press release, television broadcast, or major publication.

What makes this announcement of the sale of the naming rights even funnier is that if you look at the Legal page for BMO Financial Group, you discover that BMO is short for Bank of MOntreal. I can see the stadium marquee already."Welcome to Bank of Montreal Field, home of Toronto FC."

Those Krazy Kanadians.


Almst Too Good To Be True

>> Tuesday

This story is absolutely hilarious. And boy, do I mean absolutely fucking hysterically brilliant. It seems a young man (who may or may not be YCS' own Pat Scott) tried to enter the NFL's "Take a Player to School" contest to get Bears quarterback Kyle Orton to come to his school. The NFL, however, denied his request, claiming that the fan was ineligible for the contest simply because of the school he attended. Oh, yeah, the school he attends is the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, and the fan was probably like 20 years old. Irrelevant, if you ask me.

The funniest part of the story? The response letter from the NFL, a snippet of which reads:

"Dear Mr. X...

Your request to have Kyle Orton of the Chicago Bears come to the University of Illinois to, in your words: "Drink a ton of beer and get completely obliterated" has been denied."

The letter goes on to say that such a request doesn't fall in line with the NFL's "morals" or some bullshit, which only seems to suggest a liiiiiiiiiittle hypocrisy from a corporation that makes billions of dollars each year thanks in part to advertising for...uh...a ton of beer...that gets people completely obliterated.

Also - this is hilarious because of the fact that I know at least 90% of the editorial staff at YCS has had the same idea when they saw these commercials.

And come on, how awesome would the commercial be that featured Kyle Orton and some dude from U of I just absolutely shitfaced and carousing through the streets of Champaign, having some laughs, getting into fights, trying to pick up girls, and acting (as only Kyle Orton can) like complete drunken wrecks. Also, I give good odds that Orton would be totally on board for this one. I say we petition the league office to get this one approved. God bless Kyle Orton - a true Gentleman of Leisure.

*Thanks to Deadspin for the story


Welcome Back. You've Been Missed.

Peter Gammons will return to ESPN's Baseball Tonight lineup tomorrow night. This is great news. Baseball fans everywhere (and YCS bloggers) will all certainly agree that Gammons is one of the best in the business when it comes to covering the game. Amen for a (seemingly) full recovery.


Dust Off Those Cleats

Great news for everyone in the blogging world, the Atlants Falcons have signed 46(still don't believe that's his real age) year old Morten Andersen to assume placekicking duties. With their current all everything kicker apparently not able to actually kick field goals, the Ageless Dutchmen will once again boot some balls through the uprights. An envious Nick Lowery could not be reached for comment.


Mike's Token Weekend Soccer Game of the Week Preview

Since it's midweek, and there's no football (pointy ball) going on, there's really one game to look for this weekend in the world of football (round ball). It's the "Old Firm" matchup between Scottish archrivals Celtic FC and Rangers FC, both of Glasgow. Celtic-Rangers is hard to describe in terms of American rivalries. Take the near monopoly on league success of Ohio State-Michigan, add the proximity of White Sox-Cubs, then pretend that Cubs fans are Israelis and Sox fans are Palestinians. You know, those kind of friendly relations.

Rangers and Celtic have won a combined 91 League Championships, and have met 371 times (Rangers lead 147-133-91). As for the friendliness of the rivalry, Rangers is the team supported by the Protestant community in Glasgow, Celtic the Catholic community. Rangers fans predominantly are from Scotland proper and British Northern Ireland. Celtic is one of the most popular clubs in the Republic of Ireland, and among Irish expatriates in Scotland.

For a taste of the rivalry, consider this. When Rangers signed Scottish International Mo Johnston, fans organized protests, not because he was a bad player, but because Johnston was a Roman Catholic. Thing was, he wasn't even the first Catholic to play for Rangers. By now people are thinking, "This was like in the 1920s, right?" No. This was in 1989! Not even 20 years ago. The terraces at Celtic Park and Ibrox Stadium are still filled with sectarian songs glorifying the deeds of the IRA and the devastation of the Irish Potato Famine, respectively. The rivalry has been marred by fan violence on many occasions. While security has been increased at matches, and the clubs' front offices have put forth messages of tolerance, if you're looking for a riot this weekend to confirm common stereotypes of soccer fans, this is probably the best (albeit still unlikely) chance for one.

As for the match itself, after 7 matches, Celtic sit atop the Scottish Premier League with 16 points from 7 matches. Rangers are in third with 12 points. For this weekend, I'm calling Celtic to take all three points from Rangers, who suffered a defeat last weekend. This is the first of up to 4 SPL meetings between Rangers and Celtic this season, and the first since Celtic beat out Rangers to win the League last season.

(Shown below, an Old Firm match, with Celtic supporters on the left, Rangers supporters on the right, and security-mandated empty seats and lines of police between the factions).


Stop the Alternate Jersey Madness!

Many of you already know my disdain for the Bears' Orange alternate jersey. But this week, money-grabbing is hitting a new low with two incredibly stupid decisions for teams to bust out some new threads.

Firstly, Florida State has announced that it will throw one of the best uniforms in college football out the window for its game on October 21st, and will don an all-black alternate, essentially turning the Seminoles into Willie Beaman's Miami Sharks from "Any Given Sunday." I guess this would make Bobby Bowden Al Pacino. The Tallahassee Democrat reports that the jersey will honor the school's relationship with the Seminole Tribe, which sounds nice in a newspaper. However, it also mentions that the jersey was designed by Nike and was Nike's idea, which means it will likely look terrible/ridiculous.
I'm guessing a ridiculous "Authentic Native American culture"-type costume.

Secondly, the Buffalo Sabres changed their logo and jersey, and colors. Upon introducing the new logo, Buffalo also introduced an alternate sweater that is essentially a throwback of the jersey the Sabres wore untill 1996. The alternate was brought back, and the colors were changed largely as a result of fans feeling a disconnect between the Sabres of today and yesteryear.

If you're going to commission an alternate that is the old uniform, why not just bring back the old uniform? Why make separate jerseys featuring a logo that looks like a toupee with devil horns? Ahhhh ye$. I under$tand.

Go $eminoles. Go $abres.


Week 2 NFL Thoughts

Damn CBS and Fox combining to screw me over with two games, one of which was a Jets-Patriots game that meant zilch to me. Hopefully when I'm gainfully employed at this time next year, I will have Sunday Ticket at my place.

San Diego, Super Chargers. Okay, maybe they have yet to tangle with the NFL elite. They still look like a Super Bowl team to me.

Da Bears, Da Bears, Da Bears, Da Bears. Erik Kramer, you finally have to give up the title of last legitimate NFL QB to wear a Bears uniform.

Roy Williams, how did that guarantee work for you again?

Could it be, two playoff caliber teams from the NFC North?

Carolina will still rebound and win the NFC South. When Steve Smith gets back to running up and down the field, and Mike Vick has his leg fitted for a cast, the rightful order will be restored.

Andy Reid must have been dreaming of the postgame spread prematurely.

Eli made a big step in his ascent to the elite NFL QB's.

Aaron Brooks, you're time as NFL starting quarterback has officially ended.

Damn, David Pollack has had some awful luck with injuries. Maybe they can consult Maurice Clarett on finding his replacement.

Folks, a legitimate NFL team may be emerging in San Francisco, still making it one for the Bay.

Seattle, you're still not fooling me. A potential four team dogfight may be shaping up in the NFC West.

David Carr has managed to stay upright long enough to throw 4 TD's in his first two games.

Aww, T.O. has a broken finger. Deep down, you know Bill Parcells is smiling.

Vinnie may have already brought this up, but for the love of God, doesn't Washington have any better options at QB. Hell, take a trip to Capitol Hill and sign J.C. Watts.

Coming from Mr. Offense himself, that Jacksonville-Pittsburgh really kicked some ass. Watch out for Matt Jones, he has superstar potential. Also, Fragile Fred played shockingly well against a physical defense.

Top Five Teams:
1. San Diego Chargers
2. Jacksonville Jaguars
3. Cincinnati Bengals
4. Pittsburgh Steelers
5. Chicago Bears

Bottom Five:
28. Houston Texans
29. Cleveland Browns
30. Green Bay Packers
31. Tennessee Titans
32. Oakland Raiders


The Raid-ahs!

>> Monday

A post on yesterday's Raiders-Ravens game from a blog on our little clicky link box thingy (See? I 'm using it!).

Nothing beats utter disgust straight from the blog of a diehard, and I figure a few extra readers might cheer up this Aaron dude a little. Bad enough he's a Raiders fan, but he has to share a first name with Aaron Brooks on top of it.


Two Games

That's how long it took for Chicago Bears Nation (--these days every fanbase is known as "Nation," I'm told--) to start shufflin' this year.

I think we at least made it eight games in '01 and about five or six last year before any "Super Bowl Shuffle" detections. But this morning, I flipped on the radio just in time to catch the Gary Fencik verse (my personal favorite) pumping out the airwaves of "Jack FM" (WJMK 104.3 Chicago--"Playing what we want!").

Come on, Chicago; the nostalgic bunk has gotta stop. The Bears' current players--you know, the guys creating this excitement with their excellent wins--don't wanna hear about 1985. They just don't.

In the words of OKGo, "Get get get get get over it."

(OKGo and Jack FM...Everyone's gonna think I have terrible taste in music. Oh well.)


Michael "The Burner" Turner

Simply put, the boy can play some football. After inexplicably falling to the fifth round of the 2004 NFL draft despite a decorated college career, The Burner has emerged as one of the NFL's best young running backs. However, he currently sits behind the best back in the NFL, LaDainian Tomlinson. Still, The Burner has broken out for 175 yards and a TD in his first two games this season in limited play. Like Larry Johnson a season ago, if Turner gets a chance to get the majority of carries, he will produce eye-poppng stats. Here's hoping that Turner eventually gets a chance to break out on his own and take his step into stardom.


Whose Dog Did He Kick?

Unfortunately, Separation Saturday took a literal meaning to Louisville quarterback Brian Brohm. After making a full recovery from a torn ACL suffered last November, Brohm now has torn thumb ligaments that may knock him out of the big West Virginia tilt. Brohm, who may be the best pro quarterback prospect in college football, led the Cards to a beatdown of Miami (Please keep the sharp objects away from Dave Sampair) before succumbing to his second serious injury in as many years. With him and star running back Michael Bush (another future first round pick) down for the count, Louisville's BCS hopes have likely evaporated.


Finally, the Man gets some Respect

According to Deadspin.com, Kyle Orton has become a member in the inaugural class of the Deadspin Hall of Fame.

"All inauguration speeches are encouraged, preferably while shirtless in some sort of random suburban household"


I can finally sympathize with Ozzie Guillen

In Saturday's game between the A's and White Sox Esteban Loaiza limited the Sox to three hits in seven innings, and Chicago lost the game 4-2, dropping the Sox to three games out of the wild card (they currently stand four games out after another former White Sox player, Frank Thomas, hit a three-run homer to lead the A's).
After Saturday's game, Guillen was said to be profane and angry...because he couldn't drink his misery away.
Apparantly, because of Loaiza's DUI problems, the A's no longer allow alcohol in the clubhouses. Guillen was none too happy about it.

“He doesn’t run my club. I run my club,” Guillen said, referring to A's general manager Billy Beane.

And apparantly, Guillen likes to run his club the way any of us would...drunk.


Mark Brunell is Jeff Fassero in shoulder pads

>> Sunday

"The Redskins are actually starting Mark Brunell?"
-Everyone, two years ago

And whatd'ya know--the wiley, crafty, grizzled southpaw is still tossing those pretty, slow-moving, six-yard spirals two seasons later.

Line so far tonight: 8/19, 69 yds, 0TD, 1 INT, RAT: 30.4

All the grit, guile, and veteran savvy in the world can't make those numbers look good. Someone should tell Joe Gibbs it's not 1998 anymore.

And by the way, this has nothing to do with Jason Campbell being on my fantasy roster.


Notre Dame Loses, A Nation Rejoices

In what has got to be one of the most satisfying trips to the woodshed I've seen in college football in a long time, Michigan absolutely pasted ND on Saturday. Yeah, I know, it's old news, but come on - this one is REALLY satisfying.

Exposed in the game was ND's lousy defense and the fact that Brady Quinn is nothing special, even with Charlie "Honey" Weis pulling the strings. ND had no business at #2 and now they're going to be where they should have been all along - in the 10-15 range of college football's best.

So, with that, ND's title dreams for a title go down in flames and the world no longer needs to be forcefed rich-kid Irish bullshit.

Hail to the victors.


A few thoughts on the NFL games thus far

Sucky and Suckier I love being right. I really do. For some reason I cannot understand, people thought that Daunte Culpepper was the savior in Miami. I maintained that he sucks, and will simply be throwing picks in warmer weather. Same thing with Jake Plummer. I cannot remember a player who has so consistently sucked, yet so consistently had a filled-to-capacity bandwagon. Honestly, Damon Huard looks better than Plummer. Cutler should be the starter by October.

At least we're getting SOME answers After week 1, the question that ESPN experts could not answer was "Who's the worst team in the NFL? The Packers or the Raiders?" They shouldn't have any trouble this week. Even though they lost, the Packers at least looked like an NFL team this week. The same cannot be said for the Raiders, or for that matter the Lions or Titans.

Santa Claus wouldn't agree The FOX halftime crew called Philadelphia fans "great fans." Are you serious?

It Must Be Football Season...the 2002 season We all love those commercials. Watching the grocery store cashier getting plunked with a pineapple makes me chuckle everytime. But can't they come up with some new ads? It seems like a theme that has endless ideas. Boo ad agencies mailing it in. Hooray beer!


In what was the greatest performance since a certain fullback ran for 4 touchdowns for Polk High, Rex Grossman proved that Bears fans will soon forget the days when they thrilled the nation with their "T" formation. Rex "The Wonder Dog" looked cool all day in the pocket as he picked apart the Lions supposed "quality" defense. The Bears line did not give up any sacks (the Lions had 5 last week against the Seahawks) and the defense punished Lion receivers (aka Roy Williams) all day.

This game illustrated that the NFC North runs through FIB land for really the first time since the early 90's when DITKA was roaming the sidelines.

In the words of Al Bundy: " how do you plan on stopping the 1966 All-City fullback???"


Yes, it's time for the encore

On October 29th, the BEARS will once again showcase their superb orange jerseys... Doesn't this just make you yearn for the days of the creamsicle look???

Here's a pic of the coolest look on the block.


Pam Ward is, or at least used to be, a MAN!

Actual conversation between me and Matt Bechtel this morning midway through the Iowa/Iowa St. game. (paraphrased)

Matt: "These announcers really suck."
Me: "The one guy sounds like a chick."
Matt: "Dude, it IS a chick. That's Pam Ward.
Me: "Really?"

I didn't catch who was announcing the game, and I honestly couldn't tell it was Ward. Seriously, she sounds like a slightly feminite guy.

p.s. Although Matt discredited the whole Ward/Gottfried team, Gottfried actually had one money comment on Duke's blocked XP: "Well, they get a lot of practice."


YCS One-Line NFL Predictions - Week Two

Alright ladies, gentlemen and children of all ages. Hope everyone enjoyed the week one action and was able to revel in the fact that I was so awesomely right for a good majority of the weekend. God damn, I rule.

Anyway, on to this week's picks (Gentlemen, start your gambling!)

Buffalo at Miami: Miami was a preseason playoff contender and they'll walk the walk as they rebound from a tough opening week loss.

Carolina at Minnesota: The return of Steve Smith (or maybe not?) will get the running game back on track as the Panthers win this one.

Cleveland at Cincinnati: While Charlie Frye and co. looked improved against the Aints, they're still a year or so away and Cincinnati, who looked excellent against KC will run off with this one.

Detroit at Chicago: Roy Williams' mouth and math won't get it done on offense enough for the Lions to upset the Bears.

Houston at Indianapolis: The Texans looked hapless against Donny Mac and the Eagles, and their defensive woes will continue against the Colts this week.

New Orleans at Green Bay: Man, this will be a lousy game.

N.Y. Giants at Philadelphia: The Giants looked good in their loss to Indianapolis and figure to be the better team in this one, but it will be close.

Oakland at Baltimore: This year's Oakland Raiders team may be the worst in NFL history.

Tampa Bay at Atlanta: Though they have a good history against Mike Vick, the Bucs seem to have regressed this year and will struggle again against the Atlanta defense.

Arizona at Seattle: I like Seattle's running game to rebound in a big way this week as they get it done in a shootout against the Cards.

St. Louis at San Francisco: The Rams laid waste to Jake Plummer last week, so it doesn't figure to be a good day to be Alex Smith (but then again, what does?).

Kansas City at Denver: The Chiefs haven't won in Denver in 6 years, and without Trent Green, they won't do it this year either.

New England at N.Y. Jets: The Jets burned me last week as they blew Tennessee away, but they're going down this week against the Pats.

Tennessee at San Diego: Marty Schottenheimer paid big money to someone in the NFL front office to set up this early schedule.

Washington at Dallas: The Skins offense looked pretty lousy versus a solid Minnesota D, and although the 'Boys lost a tough one last week to the Jags, I like them to rebound for this one.

Pittsburgh at Jacksonville: They could easily splice in footage from 1940's bloodbath games and nobody would know the difference in this game - I like the Steelers, but not by much.


Where's the money going to come from?

>> Friday

Nate made some great points in his post, and feeling that another great YCS debate is about to be touched off, I've decided to throw my two cents in.

The question that wasn't posed (as it often isn't) was, "Who's going to pay for it?" The money to pay college athletes isn't going to come out of nowhere. Any change in the NCAA financial structure will not happen in a vacuum. There will be consequences, both positive and negative. Some of these consequences could include...

A.) Schools cutting sports to save money (which wouldn't save much cash, since the ones on the chopping block are likely to be non-revenue-generating sports like crew or judo or whatever. Sports which, as non-revenue-generating as they may be, often represent the top level of competition for that sport in the US, ie: Women's Soccer, Men's Wrestling).
B.) An increase in student tuition to cover the increased costs, which many in this country are not willing to stomach, especially if the money isn't going towards academics.
C.) Payment of college athletes would come out of existing university money (endowment?), which would mean that the rich would likely get richer, since schools that can afford to pay players will perform better than schools who can't afford to pay players. The resulting increase in competition could lead to television rights being split even less evenly among schools than they are now. Think how big a deal it was when Utah finally made it into the BCS from the Mountain West Conference. In 8 seasons (64 BCS slots) there has been only one team not from a BCS conference (or Notre Dame) to make it to the big payday. I don't see how paying athletes will help this ratio.

Nate brought up a "salary cap," which I think would be integral to any sort of plan to pay college athletes. However, I'm not sold on a cap leveling the playing field in this situation. Even if a cap is established, there's still the matter of actually having the cash in hand. For instance, Notre Dame's endowment is over $3 billion. Will schools that don't have that kind of money lying around (say, Miami of Ohio or Central Florida or even Boston College) be able to regularly compete? OK, maybe they don't already, (granted) but it would seem that introducing payment to athletes would only widen that gulf.

I'm not even going to mention the possible tax hikes that could come as a result of state-funded institutions like UW-Madison having to pay their players, and the political ramifications that would entail.

To see how all this money adds up, for instance, just look at football. To pay its 89-man roster of football players $1,500/month as Nate proposes, the University of Tennessee would have to pay them $1,602,000 per year. It adds up fast. An ADDITIONAL $1.6 million to what's being sent already. That's one sport, admittedly UT's largest in terms of roster size, but UT carries 20 sports. Even the women's soccer team would be an extra $324,000 per year. Why bring up women's soccer? Because if you pay the football players but not the women's soccer players, then you have Title IX issues to worry about.

UT is admittedly a bigger athletic school and would probably be able to afford the increase through a combination of endowment, tuition hikes, ticket price hikes, and taxpayer funds, but what about schools like Kent State? KSU has an 89-man football roster as well (another $1.6 million). They also have 15 other sports that would need money. Does Kent State have that kind of money lying around?

On a nationwide scale, only Division I-A football would cost an additional $190,638,000 PER YEAR. Do the NCAA and its member schools really have almost 200 million extra dollars a year to pay just the football players? (Keeping in mind that the NCAA sponsors 88 championships in 23 sports).

I agree, college athletes sometimes get a raw deal (The Majerus fast food incident was my favorite), but if they're going to be paid, the money has to come from somewhere, and any change won't happen in a vacuum. Non-athlete students, schools that don't sponsor as many sports, and taxpayers will likely take the brunt of these new costs.


I'm not sure whether I should be horrified or laughing my ass off

>> Thursday

Remember that guy who ran onto the football field and attacked the 13-year-old who put a late hit on his son? Well thanks to this T-ball coach, the football dad won't even win the YCSPY for biggest bonehead move in a youth sporting event.
Mark Downs Jr. paid one of his T-ball players to bean a 9-year-old teammate during warm ups so that the teammate, who is autistic, could not play in a June playoff game.

Read that again.

Mark Downs Jr. paid one of his T-ball players to bean a 9-year-old teammate during warm ups so that the teammate, WHO IS AUTISTIC, could not play in a June playoff game.

Okay, I have to...I just HAVE to...

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