Category Archives: Sports

Restraint vs. Edginess

I understand that an elite athlete looks to gain any advantage they can by getting very hyped up during a game. They talk trash to an opponent or yell at themselves after an unforced error.  They scream with enthusiasm after a massive dunk or spectacular touchdown catch. We often celebrate with them.

After the game is over, during a break or even during the game the athlete has to manage his edginess. If he doesn’t he could get penalized for dirty play, excessive celebration, profanity towards the crowd, or smashing his racquet to bits. Muhammed Ali never stopped his antics. Outside the ring, he was as insulting as Donald Trump. It was good for ratings just like it is for Trump but is that really how we like our athletes (or politicians)? Do you like Richard Sherman’s arrogance, Nick Kyrgios’ profanity, Dez Bryant’s self-promotion, or DeMarcus Cousins court antics?

If an athlete is at the top of their sport we expect even more. LeBron James doesn’t act like a petulant child off the court. He doesn’t spend his time anonymously tweeting insults to other players or twitter trolls. He feels some responsibility for the reputation of his sport, as does Roger Federer, Tom Brady, and Sydney Crosby.

Which brings us to Serena Williams.  In a US Open final, I expect a lot, decorum wise, from the greatest female player of all time. I expect her to be the example, not the 20-year-old she’s playing against. I don’t care about whataboutisms like “men do it”. Did you see Raphael Nadal or Roger Federer ever act like that in a major tournament? Is John McEnroe who you really want to be compared to? No excuses. Step away from stupid discrimination claims and umpire unfairness.

Act like your sister.

Irritating Sports Commentary

Two thoughts here on entirely different issues:

Super Teams

Every sport loves the drama of their playoffs but if they focus too much on them, the regular season becomes meaningless. The only way to retain interest in both is to have a relatively short regular season and team parity. The ever upward shifting team salary cap in the NBA has allowed teams to pay everyone almost everything they ask for. The Lakers already have a team yet seem to have more than enough money (and cap room) to add both Kawhi Leonard and LeBron James? Thus we have entered into the era of the super-team. Commentators seem to cheer for this because they say they like to see two or three great teams battle it out at the end of the season. So where does that leave the average fan in New York or _______ (fill in almost every city in the country)? We are not entertained. It’s not just that the other teams have poor or mediocre records, it’s that they are providing a mediocre product. Who cares if they get into the playoffs in the 7th position in the east? Even when the great Phoenix Suns teams of the 2000’s failed to win a championship, everyone wanted to watch. So it was with the Ewing Knicks of the 90’s.

Sports commentators (and LeBron) like to say – if we don’t like super-teams then “beat them”. But as a fan I have no power over this. We count on the league to maintain parity or else the regular season becomes a waste of time. Attendance should collapse. Every fan is well aware of the difference between his sad team and the GS Warriors. Watching a regular season game is like rubbing salt in the wound. Fix the cap and fans, please stop going to games.

Bad Scoring Systems

As I’ve written before, a superior scoring system most exposes the skill difference between two teams or players. In golf the difference between the 2 top players at a tournament is often 1 stroke. It is easy for a poorly ranked player to have a great weekend and win a major. Then we must listen to the postmortem commentary about how well he played when, in the end, it came down to a lucky bounce off a sprinkler head on the 7th fairway in the 2nd round.

Germany was eliminated from the world cup this week by South Korea in spite of the fact that they controlled the ball around  77% of the time. A deflected ball can be the difference that eliminates a great team and saves a terrible one. Then we get to listen to commentators try to justify the outcome. They are forced to inanely argue that Germany was no good and deserved to lose. Weren’t those South Koreans great? NO!

This game is ruined by its scoring system and everyone knows it. That’s why there is such jubilation after each goal. It’s as though the crowd can’t believe the ball went in the net (neither can I). We can fix this by:

  1. Eliminating the offside rule.
  2. Give points for ball control.
  3. Give points for shots on or near the goal.

Otherwise we sit around waiting for “set pieces”. All the interim worthless passing and masses of crowded men in the center of the field guarantees a stalemate. They must incentivise ball control and offensive effort and disincentivise clock killing. At the next stage we will get to see teams advance by virtue of countless post-game penalty shots after a tie. That’s a solution? Why don’t they just remove half the players during overtime? That’s sort of what hockey did and it became the best part of the game!

No wonder Americans don’t watch.

They can’t believe their team scored.

Is Tom Brady really going to follow Richard Nixon?

When you are accused of a crime you have several options. You can:

  1. Prove that you are innocent or that your accusers have no evidence.
  2. Confess, say you’re sorry and that you were either temporarily insane or got a lot of very bad advice.
  3. Act outraged at being accused and offer no defense or contrition.

Obviously the third option is not really a choice – unless you’re as stupid as Richard Nixon. Simply saying that the accusations are ridiculous and you would never do such a thing, will not do. Ask Lance Armstrong or Barry Bonds. America wants to give you a second chance.  Colin Powell would have had a political career if he had confessed to be being used by the corrupt Bush administration. Resigning would have been the best choice but skulking away and saying not much of anything killed him. He no longer exists.

Michael Vick wrote the book on this – his crimes were too horrible to even read about (especially if you’re a dog lover) but his persistent sincere contrition won him redemption and many millions of dollars. Joe Paterno could have saved himself, but instead he said (in effect) -“It wasn’t my job”.  Pete Rose would be in the hall of fame long ago if he had hired Vick’s agent.

Imagine the 1968 election if President Johnson had said “I have no idea what I was thinking, I’m sorry (for the whole Vietnam mess). If elected I will devote the next four years to getting us out.” After accounting for his civil rights accomplishments, he would be seen as one of our greatest Presidents.

If Brady confesses and apologizes he might still save his reputation. Can someone tell him to call Michael Vick?