Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Week 12

President Obama! Doesn't it sound weird? Obama isn't exactly an American name. President Obama! All I know of elections is profound disappointment; three weeks later, I still haven't quite processed this.

Basketball season! I took Portland Trailblazers over 44.5(-130). This team went 41-41 last year and added last year's #1 overall pick, Greg Oden, fresh off a year in which he did nothing but work out maniacally and get himself into ridiculous shape. Also joining the team is Rudy Fernandez, who was drafted 2 years ago and last year was MVP of the Spanish league. Every key member of the team is 23 or younger, meaning they can all be projected to improve rather than decline. They're 8-6 now, which is a 46.857142 win pace. Go Blazers!

I am having a lot of trouble staying interested in the NFL. Football would easily be my favorite sport to watch, but the TV broadcasts' camera work is universally exceedingly poor. They just follow the ball. So much of the game is away from the ball. They even do a poor job of following the ball-related action though! When a pass is in the air, they just show the ball in the air, not the unfolding match between the receiver and the defender. When combined with those airhead announcers, it's fucking unbearable.

I'm still not over Spygate. It may have blown over, but that is only a measure of people's attention spans. I want answers! Goodell, you fucking douchebag.

Still, I persevere. I love the game just that much. Mute the TV, put on some music, enjoy.

A key principle of free market economics is the flow of information to all parties. Republicans always talk about deregulation as a solution, but a central purpose of regulation is to preserve that flow of information. What Republicans really want is to allow private interests to control the information and use it to gain an unfair advantage that undermines the free market they claim to love so much.

So let's go over my preseason picks(all nets are after 5 commission):
Obama to win-won. President Obama!
Pastriots over 12.5-lost. They're 7-4, so that bet is over. Brady went down, and I've mentioned the other areas of decline. Also, it's easy to lose 4 games in a season. Karma's a bitch, Belichick.
Arizona under 7.5-about to be lost. They're 7-4, so they'd have to lose the rest of their games. They seem to be pretty good, and their division is absolutely horrible. It turns out that Anquan Boldin really might be worth a big contract.
Jets under 7.5-lost, since they're also 8-3. This team isn't as fucked and injured as it was last year. It's really hard to get over the disgruntled skepticism all Jets fans feel, but I'm working on time to be crushed in the playoffs. J E T S JETS JETS JETS
San Diego under 10.5-won. They're 4-7. They've had some bad breaks, and I haven't seen so much. In any case, I blame Norv.
My net position, in the hypothetical world where I bought each equally is -60.

I watched a college basketball game last Monday night(or whenever it was), 21 Davidson @ 14 Oklahoma. Blake Griffin! Holy crap, what a great player. He's huge, athletic as hell, and seems to always be in the right place. I'll write in more detail about him when I watch him a little more. Stephen Curry's really good too. His game is interesting. He is about 6'2'', 190, doesn't seem real quick or anything, and a good athletic defender should be able to body him up and make his life hell. But it never seems to happen that way. He works to get open, comes off screens and such, has a really quick release on his shot and is deceptively quick, and a pretty good passer. I know from experience that the game really opens up for you if you can shoot. If you have a quick as hell release too, this happens to the extreme. Defenders have to overplay his shot so much that the game is wide open for him. He's also a good passer. Curry kept Davidson in the game for most of the first half. I knew Oklahoma would pull away when Curry had to sit for an extended period with foul trouble. Let's talk about foul trouble.

First, a word from the sponsor-
President Obama!

Optimization. For a firm, in this case a basketball team, to optimize its performance means to optimize the contributions of the employees, the players. Second, let's define foul trouble and the standard response to it. The foul limit is 6 in the NBA and 5 in the NCAA(one per eight minutes of game clock). Foul trouble is when a player has committed a number of fouls that leave him on pace to be disqualified from playing in the game. The coach's-standard-response to foul trouble is to take the player out of the game. The idea is to protect the player from fouling out because once he is disqualified, he can't play anymore.

But taking him out of the game is also not playing him! Your foul allotment is a resource. Fouling out BY DEFINITION means that you exhausted the resource, left it all on the floor, if you will. Cliches aside, though that one is completely valid in this case, it is essential to maximize the use of your resources in order to optimize performance. A player allowed to play until he fouls out with no intervention by a coach will obviously play more than one whose coach makes him sit.

Let's address all of the rationalizations now.
1) The endgame is more important than the rest of the game.
No, it's not. Maybe a little, but that's mostly an illusion, since it stands out so much in the memory afterwards. Its importance to the outcome is more obvious than the rest of the game. But if you leave your star on the bench, it won't be, because you'll fall too far behind.
2) Take the player out because his excessive fouling indicates that he is playing on tilt.
Yes, this is a very good reason to take a player out. But you are taking him out because he is playing out of control and needs to calm down, not because of foul trouble. If his mistake were not fouls, but reckless shooting, it would still be correct to take him out, even though he is not in foul trouble.
3) Take the player out because his excessive fouling indicates ________
Note that the excessive fouling is a product of the reason to take him out, or a side point, not the reason itself.

Now, the absolute worst player to take out for a silly reason is a shooter who is in a good rhythm. Sitting on the bench disrupts your rhythm. Back to the Davidson example. Stephen Curry is your whole team. You're playing a very good Oklahoma team, one you will not beat without a substantial contribution from your star. What you need to do is leave Curry in the game, gamble that he plays well and does not foul out too early. Furthermore, he is a shooter. Taking Curry out due to fouls is like punting with 3 minutes left. It's a surrender move. Even if it made sense normally-you HAVE to take a chance here. But it doesn't.

President Obama!

Last week's SD @ Pit(-5)

11-10 Pitt, final seconds, SD runs a crazy lateral play that's broken up and returned for a touchdown by Troy Polamalu, Pit's excellent safety. This seemingly meaningless touchdown changes the outcome of all ATS(against the spread, Pit by 5) bets! The refs take time to discuss, rule that a forward lateral happened, I wonder why this matters since the penalty would be declined, then they announce that it's declined...then they announce that it was a pass and the ball was dead, doesn't matter that it could not have been a pass, no touchdown, 11-10 final. If that didn't make sense to you, you're right-the ruling MADE NO SENSE. I read in the Record the next day that of the $100 million wagered on the game in Las Vegas, 2/3 of it was on Pit, meaning Vegas did very well off of this non-sensical decision. The NFL acknowledged after the game that the touchdown should have stood, but said that the official final score will remain 11-10. I don't like to be a conspiracy theorist, but how fucking blatant can they make it?!?!

I think that we're indoctrinated by the Man to label things as 'conspiracy theories' and automatically dismiss them.

Stephen Colbert can really sing.

On to this week.

J E T S JETS JETS JETS @ Tennessee

-A lot of Elvii in the crowd.
-I really like Bryan Thomas, defensive end on the Jets. On one play, he was blocked in the backfield, yet chased down Chris Johnson, he of the 4.24 40-yard dash, 15 yards downfield. Wow! I bet Johnson was surprised to get chased down by big 99. There were other examples of him racing from behind a play to contribute-this guy does not give up on a play.
-I don't have anything brilliant to say here-the Jets just looked awesome and completely outplayed a great team. Yea, Ten's overrated, but they're still really good, and the Jets pwned them.

Giants @ Arizona

-Arizona has some unbelievable receivers. You can break Boldin's face, but not his spirit.
-Arizona had a brilliant onside kick play with 4 minutes left. They loaded up the left side with seven guys and had the legal min of 4 on the right. The kicker, Neil Rackers, ran up as if to kick it left, then directed it right. It COMPLETELY fooled the Giants-the ball went right at, and through, the hands of 20 in red(AZ). Still, nice try...On a less sweet note, they tried the EXACT SAME THING on their next onside kick three minutes later; this time the Giants were prepared with an extra player on that side to make the recovery. They were also wrong to kick that field goal to close to 8 points down-it was the same situation I wrote about a few posts ago where Mike Tomlin was correct to not kick it, but Ken Whisenhunt did. Look it up.

President Obama!

Indy @ SD
-Norv blew it! He called time-out before the tying field goal with 95 seconds left. He should have let the clock run-Indy would have called time-out! Indy took the ball with 2 time-outs left and all that time, using up absolutely all of both just to get a 51-yard field goal. Had Norv not helped them out, they would have run out of time. Norv sucks.
-Breaking news-Norv will return for the 2009 season(not be fired). AJ Smith clearly does not read my blog.


-Both quarterbacks(Drew Brees of NO, Aaron Rodgers of GB) are really, really good. Aaron Rodgers is a better player than Brett Favre.
-Aaron Rodgers is a great runner. There were at least two 'did you see that?!' moments where he faked out 4+ Saints defenders, then cut hard into open space. He also made a great low shoulder tackle at the end of an interception return. But he led with his right(throwing) shoulder! So I think he's a little too fearless. Speakin of fearless, I fearlessly predict that Rodgers will be injury-prone throughout his career.
-Near the end of the first half, the Saints reached first and goal at the 8 with 44 seconds left and one time-out, and Tony Kornheiser started talking about how well coach Sean Payton manages these situations, and how they'll easily have time for three plays and a field goal attempt, if necessary. As he's blowing all this smoke, the Saints are taking their sweet time, finally snapping the ball with :21 left, and getting called for a false start, after which a frustrated Drew Brees calls time-out. TIME OUT SAINTS briefly flashes, but Tony doesn't stop talking about how great the Saints are at time management. He does not miss a beat, simply says "now remember, the Saints have no time-outs left..." and then they end up forced to kick a field goal on third down, AND not run out the clock, meaning they also had to kick off to GB. What horrible time management! Kornheiser also pushed the Brett Favre story way too hard, even as Ron Jaworski, the one person at ESPN whom I like, pointed out that Aaron Rodgers' game mindset has nothing to do with Brett Favre or Drew Brees, but rather with executing a gameplan.

President Obama!