Thursday, May 31, 2007

LeBron James owns the game of basketball.

LeBron playing basketball is like a pro golfer playing a course that he designed.

Talking about him is like talking about Michelangelo: you're not really talking about the man, but an infallible spirit that dominates his age and his art. To question the creator of such masterpieces is beyond futile: it is the beauty and perfection of the art itself that matters to the ages.

Everything Comes Up Milhouse in the NFL Offseason (A Football Blizzard)

You've got to love summer if you're an NFL fan. Mediocre running backs talk openly about how they feel ready for a 2,000 yard season. Every team with a stiff at quarterback talks about how the team is confident in said stiff. Every player who sucked the previous year is talking about why next year will be different. It's all optimism, excitement, hope. Every new defensive coordinator preaches an aggressive attitude, and his players mimic it; every new offensive coordinator has the reason the offense will be better next year. Every team is excited about its new free agents; every new free agent is excited about his new team.

So Byron Leftwich will be better because he lost weight. There are all sorts of reasons Ben Roethlisberger will be better in '07. Hines Ward will face less double-teams as the offense moves him around. Every team and almost every player is going to have a feature this summer that focuses on why this team and/or player is ready for big things in 2007. I love it and you love it. It's all bullshit and it's all just what we need.

And I'm about ready to start my own fantasy football spreadsheets (my league's draft is August 17th--it's time to get cracking). In a few weeks I'll start posting and linking to more fantasy football stories and projections.

I think the USA Today headline writers played a joke on Matt Pitzer: "Keeper strategy: don't hold onto your kicker." That's a novel approach: don't use your keeper on your kicker.

ESPN debates whether Steve Smith or Marvin Harrison is the best WR in the league. Michael David Smith says he'd take Chad Johnson over either. I'd have trouble passing on Torry Holt, myself.

Might I suggest Marshawn Lynch for your fantasy team?

CHFF thinks the NFL is lame for banning alcohol at team activities. It is sort of odd to make millions of dollars in beer commercials and beer sales but then say alcohol is bad.

Football Outsiders looks at Dave Hampton's struggles near 1,000 yards.

Bucky Brooks looks at five offensive trends and five defensive trends in pro football.

An NFL study finds concussions are linked to depression.

There are several informants willing to place Michael Vick at dog fights. George Dohrmann looks at the "Complex Case."

Blizzard: Spurs Go on to the Finals

The Spurs easily beat the Jazz to move on to the NBA Finals. You can read takes from Marc Stein, Howard Beck, or The Feed. You can also read Ian Thomsen's feature on Tim Duncan.

But here's what I want to know: the Washington Bullets changed their name to the Wizards to remove the violent image of a bullet, but the Spurs are named after a device used to stab at horses to make them run fast. Where is the outrage, people!?! Of course I'm kidding.

Via PFT, The NY Times has a story about concussions in football. Sports Talk Daily also comments on football head injuries.

If I'm going to follow the goings on at Topps, I'm going to have to get educated on business. What I get out of this story is that one executive at Topps wrote a strongly worded letter (a la GOB Bluth) to other executives at Topps to say they have a conflict of interest.

Randball gives 10 rules for Minnesota sports fans to be happier. Here's the problem: when two of your rules involve ignoring the Vikings/Falcons NFC Championship game, you've sort of done a lot to remind us about it.

Via, Michael Fabiano addresses the fantasy implications of Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor.

Here is the AJC's latest on the Vick/dog fighting story.

The Daily Norseman interviews Football Outsiders' Ned Macey.

Sports Law Blog comments on the latests goings on with the NFL personal conduct policy.

Wages of Wins looks at Chris Paul and Deron Williams (I like rigid statistical analysis, but I'd also direct you to What was that bang?'s comment on statistical systems--or, I guess, my own).

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

A whole notch

via PFT, WAVY-10 reports that Gerald Poindexter has more to say about the rejected search warrant, and said for the first time that there is evidence linking Michael Vick himself to the dog fighting.

On the rejected search warrant:

"'Deputy Brinkman made a mistake. He should have gotten some legal advice during the affidavit for the search warrant,' said Poindexter.

Poindexter called it the domino effect. If one search is determined unconstitutional, searches after that could be illegal too and the case could fall apart.

Yesterday I said I wanted more information; I'm satisfied with Poindexter's explanation. Perhaps I will send him a letter letting him know that his explanation satisfied me, as I'm sure Poindexter's primary concern is the perspective of a blogger in Minnesota.

On whether Vick is involved in dogfighting:

"When asked, 'At this moment in time, do we have any evidence that puts Vick at dog fighting?' Poindexter replied, 'Yes.'

Poindexter said there are people who will make those claims. 'We have informants. We have people who are volunteering to make those allegations.'"

This is the big news. You've heard plenty of reporters and sources claim Vick was directly involved in dog fighting. However, this is the first time Poindexter himself stated that there is any evidence at all linking Vick to dog fighting. Ultimately, what anonymous sources are willing to say to sportswriters won't amount to much; it's what somebody is willing to testify to in a court of law that is going to determine legal guilt or innocence. Investigators and experts have repeatedly claimed the evidence points to dog fighting activities occurring on the property; this is the first time, however, an investigator involved in the case has suggested any individual might be linked to it.

WAVY-10 does provide video clips of their news coverage of this story. I don't much care for local news broadcasts, but watching WAVY-10's videos is much more informative and interesting than merely reading the text. There are more direct quotes from Poindexter in the videos than there are in the text.

In the previous clip I watched at WAVY-10, Poindexter was in a Hawaiian shirt standing outside a rural building with a hostile attitude toward the reporter (but local TV reporter's have a way of framing hostile questions). In these clips, Poindexter appears casual, but he's wearing a suit coat and answering questions deliberately and thoughtfully. He seems thorough, gives clear explanations, and talks passionately about getting the case right.

But I have to examine my own biases. Do I have negative connotations for Hawaiian shirts? I doubt it: I used to wear them all the time, and still do occasionally; furthermore, the loan officer on my home wore Hawaiian shirts every day, and I liked him fine. I think it's time to move discussion of this case into what really matters: what is your perception of Hawaiian shirts?

The business at Topps

There's some big corporate fighting going on over Topps, my favorite sports card company. You can read about it at the Cincinnati Post, Crain's New York Business, and Forbes.

I'm not in the habit of giving investment advice. In fact, my training in interpreting literature and career teaching writing leaves me completely unqualified to even understand the business world. I still don't understand why they allow bears and bulls to roam free on Wall Street. I did take accounting classes in high school, but I usually read novels during class. But I did watch Trading Places when I was in elementary school, so I do know there is some sort of market going on. So if you take my advice, you are an utter idiot.

But here's my advice: invest in Topps. They say the business is struggling, yet the takeover bids are for around $400 million: how bad could business be? If I understood anything at all--and I mean ANYTHING AT ALL--about the stock market, I might buy 2 or 3 shares of Topps just for fun. But that's my completely unqualified, completely incompetent, absolutely uneducated and uninformed advice: invest in Topps.

In good news for Topps, Greg Oden has signed with the company.

Blizzard: quick flurries

The Starting Five interviews Dan Le Batard.

Did you know Viking 6th-round pick Rufus Alexander was the 2006 Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year?

The Daily Norseman gets mad anytime anybody predicts bad things for the '07 Vikings. points out the inexperience (or lack of production) of the Viking skill position players.

The Fanhouse on how sports coverage has changed.

The AJC reports the Vick dog fighting charges might go to grand jury soon (via PFT).

Here's Bill Simmons' latest chat wrap.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

OK Poindexter: what's going on?

The latest on the Vick/dog fighting story:

WVEC (via Fanhouse) reports that the U.S.D.A. Inspector General applied for a warrant to look into the Vick property (to look for the bones of dead dogs). A state magistrate approved the warrant.

The Surry County Sheriff's Office and Attorney Gerald Poindexter rejected the warrant.

What the crap is going on?

All WVEC says is that "Poindexter says he and the sheriff 'did not like the language' of the search warrant."

I have to know more. Why are the people responsible for investigating and prosecuting any wrongdoing in this case rejecting the opportunity to discover more evidence? Do I watch too much Law and Order and The X Files if I think these are local rural officials doing things their own way, resentful of federal interference? Do I have unfounded biases if I don't really trust local rural officials to handle this case?

I want to know more. I want to know what language in the search warrant Poindexter "did not like." I want to know what justified rejecting the opportunity to verify the claim of a tip and to search for more evidence of wrongdoing. I want to know if investigators will be doing anything else to attempt to verify the informant's claim that dogs were killed and buried on the property. Because this just doesn't make sense.

Addendum: George Dohrmann's "The House on Moonlight Road" in SI is a very good--and relatively objective--summary of the Vick/dog fighting story, as well as a solid background piece on dog fighting in America.

Blizzard: real football starts in over three months.

Clay Travis criticizes Roger Goodell's new policy whereby he and he alone decides what activities by players merit punishment, and what that punishment should be. We agree. If Goodell wants to "clean up the league" and punish/discourage off-field indiscretions, he can do so. However, he's basically announced that he and he alone should arbitrarily decide what activities deserve punishment (regardless of legal convictions), and what that punishment should be. If you want to appeal, Goodell himself will listen to your appeal. This reminds me of an aristocratic landowner acting as judge to dole out patriarchal, paternalistic punishments to his lowly and unruly serfs. It's not that Goodell wants to punish misbehavior that bothers me; it is how he is going about doing it (via PFT, which, unsurprisingly, thinks Goodell should arbitrarily mete out punishment as he sees fit).

Viking Update gives a look at the Viking RB situation (via Kansas Viking).

Football Outsiders puts out its most recent "Four Downs: NFC North."

Pete Prisco writes a feature on Byron Leftwich, a QB we like for some reason (via Hashmarks).

Sports Illustrated has a big feature on the Vick-dog fighting story. There are a lot of details on what evidence was found at the property to suggest dog fighting (or training dogs for dog fighting) occurred (though still no direct link between this evidence and any individuals involved).

More evidence that Jason Kidd is the best point guard in the league? The Wages of Wins system finds that Kidd was the most productive player in the league at any position.

It's hard to believe San Antonio won't win this series, but have you noticed nobody on the Spurs seems capable of guarding Deron Williams?

Monday, May 28, 2007

Blizzard: When is a Monday and a Weekend the Same Thing?

The big news everybody is talking about is the ESPN report on Michael Vick: an informant from the dogfighting world says Vick is heavily involved.

The Strib's Kevin Seifert is after my heart: he corrects his own homonym error, and then says "In reality, the entire sentence should have been different because 'handing over the reins' is a stupid cliche that shouldn’t find its way into newspaper copy." Mr. Seifert, if this paying reporting gig at the Strib doesn't work out, you could always be a contributor at PV. The money is not as good though: "nothing" doesn't pay as well as "something." has a story up about Tarvaris Jackson.

Via Vikingbuzz (an excellent site for links about the Vikes), USA Today has a report on the Vikings.

There's an Outsports book coming out: The Outsports Revolution: Truth & Myth in the World of Gay Sports. Congrats to Cyd Zeigler and Jim Buzinski on the book: I'm sure it's going to be a good one.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

NBA Legacy Watch: Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer

In the Utah Jazz run to the Western Conference Finals, Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer have really shown some incredible ability.

Williams has averaged 19. 3 ppg and 8.9 apg for the playoffs, including 30.3 ppg and 9 apg in the conference finals. Boozer is averaging 24.9 ppg and 12.4 rpg, including 26.7-13.0 in the conference finals.

The other big performers still around in the playoffs already had pretty strong reputations; Williams and Boozer have really broken out as stars, establishing themselves as legitimate studs this playoff season. More than anybody Tim Duncan has enhanced an existing legacy during these playoffs, but Williams and Boozer are doing more than any other players to create legacies.

Both players have been very impressive during the playoffs, and I've got my own preference for big men that can score and rebound. But Williams is one of many great young point guards that are really showing that the PG position is in good hands for the next decade.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Gin Smoothies

Alright, it looks like What was that bang? and Pacifist Viking are done for the day trying to top each other with deliberately ridiculous posts.

To recap:

I argued that people in the media are targeting Michael Vick because they hate left-handers.

WWTB came back to say that FT% is the most important stat in basketball.

WWTB then said the Vikes were the most improved team in the league.

I came back to say Randy Moss will be the top fantasy WR in the league.

And finally WWTB topped me by predicting Bobby Wade would catch 100 passes.

You win this round, What was that bang?.

Enjoy the rest of your extended weekend everybody.

The '07 Vikes will have a Top-10 Fantasy WR

Inexperienced quarterback Tarvaris Jackson is going to find one wide receiver on the Viking roster that he trusts, that he feels chemistry with, that he's going to latch onto.

That player is going to surprise EVERYBODY (except me, of course) and put up massive receiving numbers.

I just don't know which guy it will be.

Can Troy Williamson be the guy? He showed last season he has the speed and quickness to get open; if this season he adds the ability to catch the ball, he could be a star.

Could it be one of the rookies? I would pick Aundrae Allison among the draft picks, a polished guy who is going to surprise.

My darkhorse pick? Bobby Wade. He has experience working with young inexperienced QBs, and he could use that experience to gain the connection with Jackson. He's a good receiver working out of the slot, and in Brad Childress's short-passing offense, he could end up with 100 catches.

So that's it: Bobby Wade will catch 100 passes this season.

PV ain't the only guy that can handle his gin.

Randy Moss = #1 Fantasy Wide Receiver in 2007

If you have the fifth pick in your fantasy football draft, you should select Randy Moss.

If you are in an auction league, you should be willing to spend up to 30% of your funds on Moss.

Randy Moss will probably not be in the top-10 in reception in 2007; the Patriots spread their passes around. But what do receptions matter in fantasy football?

Randy Moss might not even be top-10 in yards in 2007.

But with Corey Dillon out of New England, Randy Moss is now BY FAR the best red zone TD scorer on the team. Tom Brady will always be looking for Moss once the Patriots get inside the red zone. Randy Moss's superb TD production will far outweigh whatever mediocre receiving yards he produces.

And in fantasy football, touchdowns rule.

I'd predict 65 receptions, 1,000 yards, and 19 TDs for Moss--and that will be good enough to be the top fantasy wide receiver in the league.

The Vikes are the Most Improved Team in the League

There is no team in the NFL that has done more to improve itself than the Minnesota Vikings.

First, look at recent injuries. 2005 first round pick Erasmus James was out for 14 games last season; 2006 first round pick Chad Greenway was out for 16 games last season. With James and Greenway added to the 2007 team, along with Adrian Peterson the Vikes are essentially adding THREE first round draft picks! Consider, too, that 2005 draft pick Troy Williamson couldn't see straight in 2006; since he will be able to see straight in 2007, it is like the team is gaining FOUR first round draft picks!

And let's look at that draft. First, we added the best player in the draft, Adrian Peterson, to pair with Chester Taylor to make one of the best backfields in the league. And as WR was the team's biggest need, the Vikes drafted receivers Sidney Rice, Aundrae Allison, and Chandler Williams. DE Brian Robison and CB Marcus McCauley should also be immediate impact players for the Vikes.

How about free agency? The Vikings made a few small moves to greatly upgrade. For example, last year TE Jermaine Wiggins averaged 8.4 yards per reception. They replaced him with Visanthe Shiancoe, who two years ago averaged 11.4 yards per reception. The Vikes have basically gained 3 yards per catch by the tight end--that is going to help the offense a ton. We also added other low-key free agents to add depth and strength to the defense and wide receivers.

The second-year version of Tarvaris Jackson is going to be twice as good as the 2006 version of Brad Johnson. He'll also be ten times better than the first-year version of Tarvaris Jackson.

But the most important addition is Adrian Peterson. He gives the offense an all-pro quality RB. Expect Peterson to produce like Eric Dickerson in his first few years.

Don't be pessimistic, Viking fans--the 2007 squad is going to be much improved. The NFC North is going to be easy pickings next year.

The most important basketball stat

In basketball, statistics can be deceiving. It's a free flowing, complex game, and it's hard to quantify an individual player's performance into numbers.

An individual player's statistics are dependent on the opponents, the opposing defensive strategy, the opposing coaching, his own team's strategy, his team's coaching, his teammates, and other complex factors.

But in basketball, there is one statistic that is independent of anybody else. Teammates don't affect it; opponents don't affect it; strategies don't affect it.

That statistic is free throw percentage.

Every free throw is the same. No matter who you are, what team you're on, where you're playing, who you're playing, or what the situation is, the technical aspects of the free throw are all on the individual player.

You can't rely on any other statistic to analyze player performance; every other statistic is dependent on factors outside the individual player. But you can rely on free throw percentage; you know that the individual player is wholly responsible for his own percentage.

With this knowledge, let us rank the five best basketball players in the league.

1. Kyle Corver
2. Matt Carroll
3. Dirk Nowitzki
4. Ray Allen
5. Steve Nash

Based on the only statistic that makes each player's performance 100% independent, Kyle Corver is your 2006-2007 NBA MVP. Dirk Nowitzki really is better than Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Tim Duncan, and LeBron James--but he's only the third-best player in the league.

The real vendetta against Michael Vick

I'm going to say what needs to be said: Michael Vick is being targeted by the media and police because he is a minority.

I can tell--as a member of his minority, I can recognize all the signs.

Like me, Michael Vick is left-handed. And America just doesn't want a left-handed quarterback.

Ken Stabler was a great lefty QB, but all the media reports were about his hard-partying ways. It's that reputation that has kept him out of the Hall of Fame.

Boomer Esiason was kept on teams like the Bengals, the Jets, and the Cardinals--the conspiracy to prevent him from showing his true left-handed talents made sure of that.

The NFL tried to shelf lefty legend Steve Young in the USFL, and then the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It didn't work: Bill Walsh (a long-time leftist sympathizer) traded for Young and he was able to show himself one of the best QBs in league history.

Michael Vick's left-handedness is especially grating to the reactionary traditionalist right-handists in America. You see, Vick is right-handed, but he throws a football left-handed. The rightists feel he could be just a normal right-hander, but something in Vick chooses to be the radical leftist QB.

And so the media attacks his every move, and trumped up charges are brought against him. Michael Vick could be a revolutionary QB, but the rightist conspiracy in the NFL will do whatever it can to prevent another Steve Young.

Matt Leinart, watch your back. That's not the devil sitting over your left shoulder: it's the rightists in America who can't stand the idea of a successful left-handed quarterback.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Today in Dog Fighting

Forgive us for giving so much attention to this story: it's just that so many of our interests (football players, treatment of animals, law) are all wrapped up in the story, so we're fascinated.

WAVY 10 (via Fanhouse) reports that "Gerald Poindexter plans to ask Virginia Attorney General Bob McDonnell to review the evidence and decide himself if the case should go forward. This includes whether anyone will be prosecuted." However, the AJC reports "The prosecutor in the investigation of a possible dogfighting operation at a house owned by Falcons quarterback Michael Vick is confident charges will be brought. He can't yet say who will be charged. 'We are moving forward,' Surry County Commonwealth attorney Gerald Poindexter said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press on Friday. He declined to set a timetable for when evidence in the case would be ready to present to a grand jury." According to the AJC, "Poindexter said, erroneous reports have surfaced that the dogs were malnourished and that many had scarring and injuries consistent with dogfighting. The dogs, he said, appeared largely to have been well cared for." It's not mistreatment of the dogs that raises suspicion, according to Poindexter, but bloody carpet, blood spatters, and a pry bar. However, we should note that WAVY-10 earlier stated that "Poindexter denied that he had seen scarred dogs, though our video of the property clearly showed dogs with scars on their faces."

I've sort of been picturing Poindexter as this restrained, thorough, very official-sounding lawyer. But go here, and click to watch the video titled "Surry County Commonwealth's Attorney speaks to WAVY TV." Poindexter is standing outside a very rural-looking building in a flowered Hawaiian shirt abrasively laughing off or scoffing at the reporter's questions and statements. The report has all the antagonistic cutting of typical local TV news, but I now get the impression of Poindexter as an almost stereotypical small-town, provincial official accustomed to handling things his way and not being questioned. Surry County has a population of about 7,000 people, so maybe that's a fair impression of the county's officers. I found this sentence on the Wikipedia page pretty amusing: "Surry County, mainly a farming community, didn't get its first traffic light until March 2004. [This statement is incorrect, Surry County has long had a traffic light at the intersection of Routes 10 and 31.]" It's like somebody made a joke about the county being really backwoods, and somebody had to respond, "That's not true! We've had one stoplight in this county for a long time!" But the small size of the rural county does make me wonder whether they have the resources for a thorough investigation of such a case.

We have no assumptions here; investigators have said that they believe dog fighting occurred and that charges are possible, but there has been no word whatsoever from any official about who could be charged. They are wisely making the investigation thorough, deliberate, and slow.

But lest you minimize the brutality and horror of dogfighting, you might want to see some images that are the results of dogfights. If you can stomach it, you can see such images here, here, here, here, or here. We don't know for sure what happened at the Vick property, nor who is responsible; we firmly hope the investigators are able to establish what happened and the prosecutors are able to punish those responsible. But please, don't try to minimize the significant brutality involved in dogfighting. It's a reprehensible sadistic activity.

Blizzard: Topps Football Cards

Let's begin with some utterly horrifying news. According to the Ghosts of Wayne Fontes, Upper Deck is trying to buy Topps. As Topps is by far the best sports card company out there, and as Upper Deck ruins everything, and as Upper Deck seems to be striving for a completely monopoly over the sports card industry, I AM HORRIFIED. Pack-bustling fans that love to collect cheap (but quality) cards of the players they love should be very wary of Upper Deck getting its hands on Topps.

Viking News
From the Star Tribune:
"Signals might be changing on play calling": a look at offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell's role in playcalling.

"Vikings hope Jackson has what it takes to be QB": bad columnist Jim Souhan writes a non-bad column on Tarvaris Jackson.

"Greenway Update": Access Vikings gives a brief report on how Chad Greenway feels.

From the Pioneer Press:
"Williamson dropping the past": expect a lot of features on Troy Williamson this offseason.

"Vikings' receivers short on experience": actually, expect a lot of features on Viking WRs, period.

"Rice in a Familiar Situation": a look at rookie WR Sidney Rice's learning at OTAs.

Other sports news
The AJC's latest on the Vick-dogfighting story lets us know we're not getting any quick answers:

"Poindexter has said there was evidence of dogfighting in a two-story house on the property — 66 dogs, mainly pit bulls, were seized — but there might not be enough to file charges at this point. Poindexter emphasized that the investigation is far from over."


"There is no timetable in making a decision to bring charges, Poindexter said."


"In a recent federal dogfighting case in Ohio, it took investigators 14 months to file charges. It took 11 months for investigators to gain the conviction of Stacey A. Miller of Richmond, Va., for dogfighting and animal-cruelty."

Nobody can accurately make any claims about what is found. I'll continue to read reports in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the Virginia Pilot, for those reporters are basing their news on what the investigators actually say rather than speculation.

When I saw this picture of Jerry West at Sports Law Blog, I thought about how West as GM just missed out on LeBron James (and by missing out on #1, lost #2) and now misses out on Greg Oden or Kevin Durant. And that made me think of West the player, who consistently got the Lakers into the NBA Finals where they consistently lost (until '72, finally). I'm not sure that there's an all-time legend--as player and as front office guy--that has faced as much frustration in a brilliant career as West.

"Oh, yeah, the Bears do suck."

Check out Dr. Z's latest mailbag.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Content in the Vick-dogfighting story

The Virginia-Pilot (via the Starting Five) reports that "Commonwealth's Attorney Gerald G. Poindexter said Wednesday that investigators still lack solid evidence linking Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick--or anybody, for that matter--to dog fighting." That's not inconsistent with what Poindexter has earlier said: "I'm convinced from what I saw that dog fighting has occurred down there, but who was involved in it I don't know at this point" (ProFootballTalk). Linda McNatt of the Virginia-Pilot covers the story the way the media should be covering the story: by speaking to investigators close to the situation and quoting them by name.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution also has the same story from the Associated Press, with a slightly different way of expressing the details: "Poindexter told the AJC last week that it appears dogfighting did take place in a room inside the two-story house on the property, but it could take several weeks to determine whether charges would be filed and against whom. At least six people could be involved, Poindexter said. Evidence is still being reviewed to determine if Vick is among those being targeted, Poindexter said."

It is interesting the way two different papers can spin the same story. When the V-P says "
investigators still lack solid evidence linking Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick--or anybody, for that matter--to dog fighting," you get a very different representation than when the AJC says "Evidence is still being reviewed to determine if Vick is among those being targeted." Neither paper is distorting the facts; however, the word choice in the presentation slants the story. The V-P story almost suggests dog fighting didn't occur, while the AJC story specifically mentions Poindexter's assertion that dog fighting did occur.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (via PFT) reports that "
NFL security has contacted investigators in Surry County, Va., to offer its services in the investigation of illegal dogfighting at property owned by Falcons quarterback Michael Vick, a person with knowledge of the situation told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution." Steve Wyche of the AJC gives another good content-based report of the story.

If you're following the story, these articles are very relevant and useful. The V-P and the AJC, because they are close to the situation, have been reporting on the story very well. I've now just bookmarked these two newspapers since they are doing a better job covering the story than national news outlets are doing (and other news sources are either linking to or citing these papers in stories they do).

All-Viking Blizzard

Lately on sports blogs I've gotten into more animal rights discussions than I really care to (I'm not forcing the issue--the Michael Vick dog fighting story makes the topic relevant--but still, it's not something I care to do all that frequently). I've made a decision about that.

And here is a long overdue All-Viking Blizzard.

From the Star Tribune
"Vikings: Henderson lands back in the middle" E.J. Henderson's play at linebacker is one of the reasons to be excited about the Vikings. It's amazing that a year ago the biggest question mark on the team was linebacker play--now it is one of the team's strengths.

"Winfield sends cautionary signals to team" Since Randy Moss was traded, Antoine Winfield has been my favorite Viking player to watch. He's one of the better tackling DBs I've ever watched. Hopefully he's on the roster next season without issue.

"Taylor: Peterson's arrival no bother to him" The backfield combo of Chester Taylor and Adrian Peterson is one of the big things to be excited about for this season: it should make the Vikes much more fun to watch.

Access Vikings, the Strib blog, is covering Viking offseason activities. I'm not a terribly big fan of the Strib Viking blog: it generally makes quick news reports (which can be useful), but the comments section is just inane.

From the Pioneer Press
"Chances running out for Udeze" Considering Udeze was a starting DE all season and recorded zero sacks, I would say those chances are running out.

"Doss shows himself to be a quick healer" Good news! With Doss recovering quickly from injury, the safety position won't be depleted this season. Without Doss, Tank Williams, Dwight Smith, Darren Sharper, and Greg Blue wouldn't have been able to handle the position.

"Time to jump on Bollinger bandwagon" Bad columnist Tom Powers writes a bad column about the Viking QB situation.

Vikings Now, the Ppress Viking blog, isn't terribly good (considering I think the Ppress actually figured out how to use the internet less than two years ago, we should probably be impressed they have anything at all). However, I like Sean Jensen's reporting and commentary on the Vikings, and when the season comes it should be a worthwhile stopping point. And there are rarely comments, so there's a chance to set some sort of posting tone.

"Dwight Smith steadies young secondary" I kid, but it is a good thing the Vikes have so much depth at safety. I keep reading how it is one of the most important positions in the Cover-2, and the possible lack of depth at CB makes depth at S necessary

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Blizzard: after losing the lottery

Yesterday there was hope--I thought the Wolves might get lucky and have a championship-ready roster despite themselves. Today it's back to empty pessimism. Ce la vie.

I Heart KG links to some of the mainstream reactions to the Wolves' #7 pick.

The Vikes have started organized team activities.

Wait a minute: it was freaking NIKE that figured out Troy Williamson had vision problems? Nike? I would like to know if the Vikes and Williamson are just teasing us with hope that Williamson has fixed his one problem and will now become a competent football player, or whether we should still expect nothing at all from him.

How did Clinton Portis get roped into the dog fighting story? But he does say that hunting is legal. Certainly he's minimizing the significance of dog fighting, but there is some truth there--should there be moral outrage over one brutal treatment of animals when there is basic acceptance of another brutal treatment of animals?

The Starting Five offers criticism of the media coverage and organization outrage over the Vick dog fighting story.

The Starting Five compares this year's draft to 1984, suggesting Portland passing on Oden would be like passing on Jordan. Ballers, Gamers, and Scoundrels compares this year's draft to 1984, suggesting that if Portland passes on Durant he'll torment them.

the number seven

The time has come to trade Kevin Garnett.

If the T-Wolves had received the #1 or #2 pick in the 2007 draft, they would need to keep KG. With either Oden or Durant, the Wolves would be back in the playoffs in '08 and possibly competing for a championship in a year or two.

But that didn't happen. And now we have to ask ourselves: can the Timberwolves win a championship in the next five years?

I don't think so. Here's what would have to happen for the Wolves to compete for a title soon:

1. Kevin Garnett needs to remain dominant (he's now 31).
2. Randy Foye or Rashad McCants must develop into very good guards.
3. Somebody must be found to play point guard.
4. Craig Smith must develop into a strong post presence, offensively and defensively.
5. The Wolves must draft an immediate impact post player at #7.
6. Randy Wittman must prove to be a competent coach.

Can all of those things happen? Sure. They could. But it's not that likely. And since the Wolves have traded away two first-round draft picks and have a pretty lousy cap situation, there really aren't great opportunities to improve in any other way.

If the Timberwolves cannot reasonably compete for a championship within three years, they should trade their one prize, KG, now while they can. They should trade him for talented young players and/or first-round draft picks. There is no reason to keep KG on the team if it is not competing for a title; they'd be better served moving him and thinking long-term.

But I love Garnett, and I'm afraid I'm not ready to give up on the team. Perhaps there is a better option. They could keep KG on the roster and draft a player they believe will be an immediate impact post player. If, through the first half of the season, Foye or McCants is playing very well, Craig Smith is a starter making good contributions, pick #7 is surprising people with incredible performance, and the T-Wolves are winning and looking toward a pretty sure playoff appearance, then they should keep KG. If none of those things are happening and the Wolves are struggling (even if they're just struggling toward an 8 seed), the Wolves should try to trade Garnett for picks and young players.

All I really want out of my sports fan life is to see the Vikings or the Timberwolves win a championship. That's all that matters. If the Timberwolves cannot win a championship in the next five years with Kevin Garnett, they should trade him while they can so that hopefully someday they can win a championship without him.

Of course, if KG is traded, then the Wolves will need to hire a competent GM to actually try and build a championship squad; we've had more than enough evidence that Kevin McHale is not competent.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

A Brief Fan's History of the Minnesota Timberwolves

As we wait for the NBA Draft Lottery, feast on the tradition that is the Minnesota Timberwolves.

1989-1992: Expansion and Utterly Awful
This team's first three first-round picks were Pooh Richardson, Felton Spencer, and Luc Longley. I want to cry. But Doug West was involved.

1992-1995: Hopeful but Still Awful
When little PV was in seventh grade, he would wear a Christian Laettner sweatshirt to school. When he got hot, he removed the sweatshirt to reveal a Christian Laettner t-shirt. Little PV had 20+ Christian Laettner rookie cards. Doug West and Chuck Person were involved. PV often skipped high school functions like a playoff football game and dances to stay home and watch the Wolves on TV.

1996-1998: The Next Dynasty Period
With a young nucleus of Tom Gugliotta (an absolute stud for one season), phenom Kevin Garnett (in his second year he was already showing what he would be), and Stephon Marbury (playing like the next great passing point guard), the Timberwolves were widely believed to be a burgeoning force. In 1996-97, they broke the franchise record for wins (with 40, besting the old record of 29) and made their first playoff appearance. Doug West was involved, but it all ended soon for him.

1999: Nuts to this
Stephon Marbury destroys the franchise. PV is still not over it.

2000-2003: First Round and Out
The T-Wolves keep putting competent but unimpressive players around an improving KG, and keep getting knocked out of the first round of the playoffs. They also don't get a lot of first round picks because of Glen Taylor, Kevin McHale, and Joe Smith.

2004: The Chance
The Wolves win an Western Conference best 59 games; new teammates Sam Cassell and Latrell Sprewell bring all sorts of fun; Kevin Garnett has his best season and wins MVP. PV watches Game Seven against the Kings from Emma's Bar. The T-Wolves win behind an epic performance by KG, and PV gets ridiculed when tears start rolling down his cheek. Why was he crying? See everything before this. But the Wolves lose in the Western Conference Finals in part because of an injury to Sam Cassell leaves the team with little hope at point guard.

2004-2007: Nuts to that
Latrell Sprewell and Sam Cassell try to destroy the franchise; Kevin McHale's horrible run catches up with the team; despite the continuing brilliance of Kevin Garnett (he's lead the league in rebounding four straight years, and he's still the team's only dominant offensive player), the team keeps missing the playoffs. The entire state turns against favorite son Kevin McHale.

2007: The Lottery
Maybe this is the day it all changes. PV (sans ESPN) will be following the lottery online, ready to scream and call his family if the Wolves get a top-2 pick. As fans, we don't control whether our team wins or loses, but we're still happy when they win. Why should the lottery be any different? We still don't control whether the team wins or loses, but we still get to be happy if they win. The Minnesota sports scene would be completely revitalized by pairing either Greg Oden or Kevin Durant with Kevin Garnett (and young guards like Rashad McCants and Randy Foye). But for a fan who used to wear his Christian Laettner sweatshirt and t-shirt to school and who cried in a bar when the team advanced to the Western Conference Finals, we really need this.

UPDATE: I hate everything.

Blizzard: Dreams, Lottery, and other nonsense.

It's that time of year again: I'm having dreams about the start of the Vikings' season. Last night I dreamt that the Vikes lost to Detroit week one 14-13, but beat Baltimore 41-6 week 2. Of course, the Vikes open with Atlanta and then Detroit, so it's just a pointless dream. I always have recurring dreams in the summer about the upcoming Viking season, to match my recurring dreams that I am a stage actor (and often don't really understand what play I'm in).

It's lottery time tonight, and if the Minnesota Timberwolves get the first or second pick, I will be living anxiously until the draft to see if Kevin McHale botches the pick anyway. If they get the pick right, I'll wonder if Wittman will botch it by starting one of the studs on the bench. But mostly I'll be ecstatic--getting the first or second pick in tonight's lottery is the closest thing to ecstasy I'm ever going to have as a Wolves and Vikings fan.

And since it's becoming the trend for cities and fanbases to whine about how much they deserve and/or need sports success, let me make the pitch for Minnesota.

Since the Minneapolis Lakers moved to Los Angeles (where they won 9 of their 14 titles), pro teams in the Twin Cities have won exactly two championships. No pro teams have even been to the final round of a league since '91, when the North Stars (who two years later moved to Dallas of all places) lost in the Stanley Cup Finals and the Twins won the World Series. So that's two championships in the last 50 years, two franchise relocations (and constant threats of relocation or contraction with the other teams), and no trips to the championship level since 1991.

In '92, the draft featured Shaq at #1 and Alonzo at #2; the T-Wolves, coming off the worst record in the league, got pick #3 and took Christian Laettner. In '93, Jamal Mashburn went #4; the Wolves got J.R. Rider at #5. In '94, the top three picks were Glenn Robinson, Jason Kidd, and Grant Hill; the Wolves got Donyell Marshall at #4. Until the Wolves got KG in '95, the draft was a miserable experience. Since then, the draft has been a horrible experience. Kevin McHale has hosed us bad; let us win something despite him.

We're desperate. We need this.

Via Kansas Viking, the Ppress reports stud cornerback Antoine Winfield is isn't attending offseason activities, suggests the Vikes are looking for ways to play both Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor, and notes other current RB tandems.

Shoals gives "A Brief History of the NBA Headband."

CHFF gives us more reason to appreciate Peyton Manning.

Marty Burns looks at the lottery.

By the way, more and more I'm using Ballhype to see what stories people are talking about. You probably should check it out, too.

Monday, May 21, 2007


Just a few quick notes for readers.

--During the NBA playoffs, we'll keep pumping out the blizzards and random unorganized posts about NBA history. After that, we're probably going to start looking toward the 2007 NFL season pretty heavily. Right now it is our intention to do a little fantasy discussion of each team in the NFL. That will start after the NBA Finals, and hopefully be wrapped up by August 17th (the night of our league's auction draft). We'll go team by team to do real-life and fantasy-life discussions of players. That's the plan, anyway.

--Believe it or not, we sort of started out to be a Viking blog. Since the draft we haven't had a lot of original content to talk about, but we're true to our roots. We've separated the Viking blogs and sites on the links from other sports links. While other sites we link to do feature the Vikings occasionally, the "Vikings Links" include sites that are almost exclusively focused on the Purple. And while we want to be something more than a single-team blog, of course as the season approaches and begins, we will have many, many more Viking-centric posts.

--The "Writing and Sports" archive also has a new prominent position. We really enjoy writing the posts under these categories (whether you enjoy reading them or not).

--The order of the "Other Sports Links" only makes sense to me, but it makes a sort of sense. I'm always trying to link to sites that feature unique perspectives and/or garner intelligent conversation. I recommend everything over there.

The 1961-62 Basketball Season Will Blow Your Mind

As I watch these NBA playoff games, I'm often browsing (an incredible database--easy to access information on statistics, awards, leaders, teams, etc.). Sometimes while browsing I find interesting things: interesting things like the 1961-62 season. And I realize this post is going to provide no original content, no insight, and no timely news. I don't care: I want to share the '61-'62 season with you anyway.

You've heard about this season. It is the season that Wilt Chamberlain had his 100 point game and averaged 50.4 points per game. It is the famous year that Oscar Robertson averaged a triple-double. The Big O didn't average any 10-10-10, though; he averaged 30.8 ppg, 12.5 rpg, and a league-leading 11.4 apg (you also might not know that Oscar averaged a triple-double over a 5-year period of his career, from '61 to '65).

With Wilt averaging 50.4 ppg (and a league leading 25.7 rebounds per game--this was one of five seasons Wilt led the league in scoring and rebounding, and he's the only player to do both in the same season. Wilt is also the only player to lead the league in rebounds per game and assists per game in the same season, which he did in '68. Tiny Archibald is the only guy to lead in scoring and assists the same year), and Oscar averaging a massive triple-double, which one of these guys won MVP?

Actually, neither. That would be Bill Russell, who led the Celtics to 60 wins (with 18.9 ppg and 23.9 rpg). That's sort of weird, too, since Russell wasn't even All-NBA first team. Bob Pettit did make All-NBA first team, despite leading his Hawks to a mere 29-51 record (of the MVP and All-NBA team, one or the other must have been voted on by reporters and the other by players).

An incredible six players averaged 30+ ppg in 1962: the aforementioned Wilt, Robertson, Pettit (31.1), and also rookie Walt Bellamy (31.6 ppg), second-year guard Jerry West (30.8 ppg), and Elgin Baylor (38.3 ppg, but he missed about half the season with military obligations).

The playoffs must have been exciting too. The Celtics won the championship, beating Wilt's Warriors in 7 games and the West-Baylor Lakers in 7 games (and in the playoffs West and Baylor pretty much matched their regular season numbers). This is also the year Oscar averaged a triple-double in the playoffs (though his Royals were upset in the first round by the Pistons).

Thank you, for distracting me from these playoff games and for making me wish Doc Brown and Marty McFly would come along in the Delorean to bring me to spring 1962--just for a few weeks. Though to be honest if I had a few weeks to spend in spring 1962, I'm not sure I'd spend much of it watching basketball.

Blizzardy Goodness

Via Moderately Cerebral Bias, Jemele Hill rips Brett Favre.

Did you see this Tony Parker pass? It was fun.

Former NBA player Howard Porter was beaten nearly to death. Obviously, we hope he's alright.

Sorry Ghosts of Wayne Fontes: nothing in the world is going to get me to root for any Detroit teams for a long, long time. You don't need squat.

Your favorite NBA team could draft Yi JianLian, so you might as well let the Sports Flow tell you something about him now.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Poetry and Sport: David Bottoms' "Sign for My Father, Who Stressed the Bunt"

You can hear Bottoms reading his poem here, and can read the poem here.

David Bottoms' poem "Sign for My Father, Who Stressed the Bunt" is very good, and very simple: the father tries to teach his kid to sacrifice bunt, but the child just wants to hit dingers, and it is only later in life he learns the meaning of the bunt (and you can take the symbolic meaning from there).

Interesting, though, is that many stat people now say that bunts are bad for business. From Tango, Lichtman, and Dolphin, "conventional sabermetric wisdom says that the sacrifice bunt is generally an ineffective and archaic strategy. (...) The sacrifice bunt appears to be a strategy eschewed by sabermetric teams." From Levitt, "Baseball analysts have been near universal in their condemnation of the overuse of the sacrifice bunt. While acknowledging it as the correct strategy in a small number of cases, most feel that any gain in moving players around the bases is more than offset by giving up an out, the 'clock' in baseball. Much of this disparagement of the sacrifice bunt derives from analysis based on expected runs tables (ERT)."

I don't follow baseball or sabermetrics enough to argue about whether bunting is good or bad; the point is that many statisticians now believe that bunting is not beneficial to a team.

With this knowledge, do we have to re-read Bottoms' poem? Was the kid right to want to try and get hits rather than work on his bunting technique? Did the father have flawed values, a distorted worldview, a faulty ethos? Was the child right to resist, and is it somehow tragic that the child eventually caved to and inherited his father's self-sacrificing, hard-working worldview?

Clearly Bottoms means it to be a good thing that the child grew to be a man and recognized the role of self-sacrifice in life; it is a good sign that he gives to his father, letting him know that he is no longer so selfish. However, armed with our new information--or our new ideas--about bunting, might we challenge the point? Or should we bother (the point, after all, isn't really about baseball, but about life)?

It's a question I've asked about literature before: do new scientific ideas or mathematical discoveries require a re-reading of classic works of literature? But the point is, new knowledge and new ideas always demand re-interpretations of old ideas and old works. So too in sports, and so too in poetry about sports.

Blizzard: a Sunday grab sack of links

First, a correction: in an earlier post I stated that Jerry West never won a scoring title. This isn't true: West was the leading scorer in 69-70. Considering I have a basketball card featuring the top three scorers of the 69-70 season, this error is truly troubling to me. But wow, the 1960s would have been a great time to be a basketball fan. Your team of the decade would be Wilt, Russell, West, Oscar, and Elgin Baylor, and I would argue that those five players in their primes would beat any other five players in their primes (though if you put Kareem, Shaq, Jordan, Bird, and Magic against them, it would probably be the greatest event in the universe's history. But enough of random fantasies).

The Spurs took game one, and because I like nothing better than pointless questions about the NBA, here's one: what team has the best trio in the league? It would be hard to beat Duncan, Parker, and Ginobli. Can you think of a better trio? Anyway, if you want to read game summary and analysis from somebody that clearly understands basketball, check out the Starting Five.

I don't know how to feel about the Kate Mara fascination that is spreading about sports blogs. I liked it better when every time I saw her in something I could say "There's the girl from Nip/Tuck and Brokeback Mountain" (which are one of my favorite TV shows and one of my favorite movies). Now everybody knows her and loves her, and I don't feel as special. Oh well, I'm left-handed, so take that all you bland right-handed people who like Kate Mara.

Via the Daily Norseman, Len Pasquarelli of ESPN has a feature on Viking quarterback Tarvaris Jackson.

You can always count on Sports Media Watch to get deeper into what the ratings actually mean.

The Onion reports that Brett Favre demands to be traded to the 1996 Packers.

The Onion also points out that Chris Berman has taken a night course on Russian literature, altering his nicknames drastically.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Blizzard: Around the Web with Michael Vick, NBA Playoffs, and more

Comments on Vick situation
Via the Fanhouse, Angela Tuck of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution thinks that there is too much "rumor and speculation" in coverage of the Vick-dogfighting story.

Via Sports Law Blog, East Coast Bias believes prosecutor Gerald Poindexter is doing the right thing by slowly building a case rather than bringing charges due to public pressure (I agree--if Vick is involved, justice is better served by deliberately developing a case based on evidence and following due process than by bringing big charges for early publicity).

ProFootballTalk notes Clinton Portis's comments on the situation to WAVY TV 10:

""I don't know if he was fighting dogs or not, but it's his property, it's his dog," Portis told WAVY-TV. "If that's what he wants to do, do it. (...) I think people should mind their business," Portis added.

In response to the question of whether dog-fighting is prevalent in the NFL and the NBA, Portis said, "I mean it's prevalent in life. . . . I'm from Laurel, Mississippi. I know a lot of back roads that got the dog fight if you want to go see it.""

NBA Playoff Legacy Watch
Jason Kidd does end up averaging a triple-double for the playoffs (an impressive feat over 12 games--Oscar Robertson did it in 1962 but in only four games. Of course, in '63 Oscar averaged 31.8 points, 13.0 rebounds, and 9 assists per game over 12 games. There's no reason to arbitrarily pick "triple-double" as the standard other than it looks good and sounds good. It does show versatility, but I'll take Oscar's 32-13-9 against the Nationals and eventual champion Celtics--whom Oscar's Royals pushed to 7 games--over Kidd's 15-11-11 against the Raptors and Cavs). Still, his weakness as a shooter is partially responsible for bringing the Nets out of the playoffs (not as responsible for their lack of a real inside game, though). Now can LeBron get past the Pistons and into the Finals?

Steve Nash and the Suns have been impressive the past three years, winning 62, 54, and 61 games. However, they've only won four playoff series in those years, and I think their failures in the playoffs should taint Steve Nash's back-to-back MVPs (if nothing else already does). After all, Steve Nash did nothing to neutralize Tony Parker, who averaged 20.8 ppg (with games of 30 and 32 in Spur wins). Meanwhile, Tim Duncan is solidifying and enhancing his legacy.

See Sports Law Blog for "Yankee Stadium, God Bless America, and the First Amendment."

If you're interested in such things, I've been trying to post more frequently at Costanza Book Club and at We Have Mixed Feelings About Sven Sundgaard.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Blizzard: a few Friday afternoon flurries

Gil Brandt seems to have plagiarized from the Football Outsiders.

Pro-football-reference has something surprising to tell you about Dallas TE Jason Witten.

The power of Christ compels you! The power of Christ compels you! The T-Wolves are bringing some holy water along to the lottery for luck (I'm not quite sure that's how holy water works, but it never hurts to hedge your bets).

Dr. Z gives some further comment on Michael Vick in this week's mailbag.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Jim Souhan proves columnists need not exist

I actually believe that newspapers still serve a vital purpose in covering sports. The reporters and beat writers, and even some of the columnists, really do provide some inside knowledge, some specialized analysis, and some pointed discussion.

But some columnists do nothing--NOTHING--that any blogger doesn't do.

One such columnist is The Star Tribune's Jim Souhan.

Let's look at Souhan's last two columns to show that he is a glorified blogger.

First, "Long on egos and short on substance." Souhan begins by complaining about egotistical stars like Brett Favre, Roger Clemens, Curt Schilling, and Donovan McNabb. In his complaint, he offers no quotes. He offers no special knowledge. He offers no special analysis. He simply talks about things that we all know about, and provides information that we can all access, and sort of complains about it.

But in this column, Souhan evidently couldn't make his word count on this subject alone. He adds in three other sub-headings, with different subjects on them. First, he complains about Tim Duncan whining--something we can all do after watching the Spurs play on TV. Next, he gives his opinion on the NBA suspensions of Amare Stoudemire, Boris Diaw, and Robert Horry--something just about every blogger has done this week. And finally, he talks about how Phil Mickelson succeeding is good for golf--with little or no special insight provided.

Now tell me this: how is this column different than anything a blogger does?

His next column, "Rhetoric raises bar, then lowers the boom," takes information from a Star Tribune headline and goes on to comment on it. Hold on here: this means that not only did he not do any of his own reporting for this column (all he had to do was look to somebody else's newspaper story), but he doesn't even have to read the article! All he has to do is look at the headline!

He then shows contempt for the spin that franchises and universities use to try promote their teams, and does a little truth serum bit: he takes what the teams say about themselves (without every citing anything any team actually says), then cynically interprets what they are really thinking.

Again, Souhan offers no quotes, no inside information, no special analysis. He takes somebody else's story, and then does a comedy bit commenting on it--something bloggers do ALL THE TIME.

But Jim Souhan is a paid columnist for the major newspaper in the 15th largest media market in the nation. He offers NOTHING that you or I can't offer. In his last two columns, he gives no unique takes, offers no creative writing, offers no inside information, offers NOTHING of any substance whatsoever.

He is a lousy columnist. And if you compare his blog-like columns to many of the sports blogs that are out there, you'd find that Souhan is inferior to a lot of them.

It is when a writer like Souhan has a forum to allow him a large audience (and picks up a paycheck in the process) for lazy, unoriginal writing, that I want to run out into a storm like Lear and shout at the cosmos to rain its horrors down upon me.

Addendum: here is the absolute kicker. In an old interview, here's what Souhan gives as advice for writers:

"Advice for aspiring sportswriters? Write a lot, and read even more. Find writers you like to read, and figure out what works for them. Discard anything that reeks of cliche or routine; read writers who grab your attention for the right reasons.

When I want inspiration, I read everyone from Elmore Leonard to P.J. O'Rourke to Tom Verducci. And when you get into the business, become an expert at something. There are lots of people who can write a nice feature; there are few who can tell the reader something he or she doesn't know, or provide the kind of context that makes a story meaningful. Find a way to become both a good writer and a good reporter, then you'll be able to take your career in a lot of different directions."

Souhan tells aspiring writers to "Discard anything that reeks of cliche or routine," and to "become an expert at something" because "there are few who can tell the reader something he or she doesn't know, or provide the kind of context that makes a story meaningful." Oh, man, when a writer as cliched and routine as Souhan, who offers readers no context and nothing he or she doesn't know, gives this sort of advice, I don't want to just go all Lear, I want to go all Gloucester on the edge of an imaginary cliff.

Blizzard: comments and links

Did Tecmo ever really go away?
I've read a lot of excitement this week about Tecmo Super Bowl. I'm actually not sure why. Over three years ago my brother showed me a website where you could play Tecmo Super Bowl with current NFL rosters, and it's not like you can't access an original NES and Tecmo Super Bowl (I have one myself and could go play it right now if I chose). But hey, everybody, knock yourself out over the "return" of Tecmo.

NFC North Rivals
CHFF has the NFC North Fillability Index up. Frankly, I think everything is coming up, the Vikings. Brett Favre is angry and the world, and after throwing 38 TDs and 47 INTs the last two years (while going 12-20), I really don't see him improving this season (plus they lost Ahman Green. Some of the Bears' best defensive players want to leave town. Sometimes we're told we're supposed to feel sorry for Lion fans because Matt Millen has made the team perpetually awful. I don't know why I should pity Detroit sports fans: the Red Wings won three titles in the last ten years, the Tigers just won a pennant, and the Pistons have played more playoff games than anybody the last few years, and won a championship in 2004. Pitying Detroit fans would be like being a Boston fan who has seen a World Series title and three Super Bowl titles this decade but still wants to frequently whine about how sad it is that the Celtics didn't get Tim Duncan ten years ago.

The Vikings have agreed to terms on a local TV deal.

The Daily Norseman thinks Tarvaris Jackson is going to make people look stupid for voting him the 32nd best starter in the NFL (that means last). Hey, I think Tarvaris will surprise too; however, the point is that he'll SURPRISE. I don't think anybody is stupid for ranking Jackson last among starting QBs RIGHT NOW; if I weren't a Viking fan, I'd probably consider Jackson as the worst starter in the league, too.

Other Links

We love pointing out stupid errors and faulty logic in paid sportswriters. So does The Feed, which wonders what Scoop Jackson has been reading if he thinks the media isn't criticizing Roger Clemens.

Kevin Garnett better than Tim Duncan? That's what Wages of Wins says.

Since it has come up at this blog, you might be interested to know this. After nearly five months, I am no longer a hardcore vegan; I am now but a weakcore vegetarian. But as a vegetarian, I'll still write about it here when animal rights issues intersect with sports.

Tarvaris Revolution

SI says the Vikes have the shakiest QB situation in the league (and with 10 career TD passes on the roster, that's understandable). Don Banks lists the Vikes first in his look at shaky QB situations.

Marie Antoinette got her damn head cut off. Bet nobody saw that coming, either.

Vive le Revolucion!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Blizzard: Newsly Times Edition

The Star Tribune has a few good news stories on the Vikings. First, Adrian Peterson won't need surgery on his collarbone. Second, Pat Williams is fit and ready to play, and he wants to sign a contract that will allow him to retire a Viking. Williams has been the best player on the team for the past two years, so it is good news that he feels healthy and fit, and it's good news that he wants to re-sign with the Vikes. They should do whatever they can to keep him.

In animal torture news, ESPN (via Ballhype) and The Virginia-Pilot (via PFT) report that there may be a witness/informant that places Michael Vick at dog fights. It is important to remember that humans facilitating dog fighting is torture of animals. If I put a bunch of sharp knives at the end of a stick, started wacking a dog with it, and in the end tried to rip the dog's neck with this tool, you'd say I'm a pretty sick person, wouldn't you? When you train dogs to attack and kill each other in a controlled setting, for your own entertainment, you are doing little different. I don't know that those dogs face less brutality than a cow entering a slaughterhouse, or a chicken raised for food. I don't think the cow, the chicken, or the dog are given much dignity in such lives. While I may not place much moral difference between the treatment of those animals, society, and the law, does (I do also see a moral difference in intent: dog fighting is intentional torture of animals for the purposes of entertainment and gambling). But let's not minimize the significance of evil involved in dog fighting.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Covering Vick

We'll be following the Michael Vick-dogfighting situation closely throughout (here's the Fanhouse with the latest). We'll also be following media reaction to the Vick story. So far, there have been three main reactions we've seen which, conveniently enough, show up in three different NFL writers for Sports Illustrated.

1. Vick is an entitled, reckless troublemaker: this dogfighting scandal is just the biggest mistake that shows the deeper problems of Vick's character.

This is the angle suggested in Don Banks' big story on Vick:

"The portrait of Vick that sources painted was of a "rock star'' athlete who believes the rules don't apply to him and who seems to have little awareness of how his actions and lack of judgment reflect so poorly on the franchise that has made him its public face and paid him millions of dollars in the process."

In the Banks story, it's not that dog fighting is a heinous crime: it's that Vick makes poor decisions and has no accountability. This is partly to blame on Arthur Blank and the Atlanta Falcons, partly to blame on Vick's choice of friends, and of course partly to blame on Vick. But the story isn't the dog fighting, but what the dog fighting may reveal about Vick's character and his flaws as a franchise QB.

2. Will Commissioner Roger Goodell suspend Vick, and how will this affect the Falcons?

This is the angle Peter King takes in this week's MMQB. King includes a quote by Vick as one of his quotes of the week (about the lecture he got from Arthur Blank), and King mentions that Vick is denying the story to the Falcon organization (so the story is how Vick and the organization are responding). And King adds:

"I also hear the Falcons have a legitimate fear that even if a scintilla of this story is true, that the commissioner will suspend him a game or four this fall. As would I."

Right now, the mainstream reaction isn't "Are we ready for Joey Harrington?" Not yet. Right now it's still "this could lead to suspension. The story isn't about Vick's character and it's not about Vick's dog fighting; the story is about how Vick will respond, how the organization will respond, what consequences Vick may face, and whether this story could end up affecting the Falcons on the field.

3. Dog fighting is a torturous, heinous act.

And here we come to the Dr. Z's mailbag. Dr. Z does mention that Vick may be suspended if it is proven he's involved, and goes on:

"Personally I feel that there is something sacred about animals, and something decidedly evil about people who take pleasure in killing and torturing them. "

Dr. Z goes on to provide a lengthy quote about respecting animals.

Reporters and columnists are much more comfortable with responses #1 and #2. Sportswriters are frequently speculating on and criticizing the character of the athletes they cover, and they are very comfortable predicting and speculating on how teams and leagues and players will act. Not so many journalists, I think, have been as comfortable with #3. Sportswriters frequently moralize (especially King), but they also often (attempt to) act as objective reporters. They don't seem quite so comfortable condemning the actual behavior as reprehensible. At SI, Don Banks reports and speculates on Vick's character. Peter King provides some inside information on communication between Vick and the Falcons, and speculates on what the league will do in response. But the always unpredictable Dr. Z talks about "decidedly evil" behavior.

We'll continue to see how mainstream reporters and columnists respond to the story.

Rebounding: Wilt v. Rodman

With all due respect to Bill Russell, Moses Malone, or anybody else, I've always considered Wilt Chamberlain and Dennis Rodman the two greatest rebounders in NBA history. Who is the best?

Wilt has superior numbers (he edges Russell for the career rebounds per game record, he's got the three best and six of the best seven rebounding per game seasons, and he has the record with 55 rebounds in a single game, which he achieved against Russell), but then, he played in a different era: all statistics from the 1960s are inflated due to rule differences, style of play, etc. According to Wikipedia, Rodman's '95 "rebound rate" was the best of all-time, but rebound rate data doesn't go back to Wilt's prime. It is hard, then, to compare how different eras reflect the different numbers for Wilt and Rodman.

Wilt did lead the NBA in rebounds per game a record 11 times, while Rodman is second with 7 rebounding titles. Wilt carried his dominance on longer, which is worth something.

Wilt faced competition as the greatest rebounder in the league from Bill Russell--Russell led the league in rebounds per game during two of Wilt's years, and was often a close second. Nobody was really close to Rodman: In his prime, Rodman was far superior at rebounding to the next best in the league. But let's not just hold it against Wilt that he played in the same era as Russell. Let's look at each year that Wilt and Rodman won rebounding titles, and compare the % over the #2 and #5 rebounder each year. Then we will see who dominated his particular era more.

Wilt's rebounding titles
1960: 12.5% over #2, 90% over #5
Wilt: 27 rpg
#2 (Bill Russell): 24 rpg
#5 (Willy Nauls)" 14.2 rpg

1961: 13.8% over #2, 88.8% over #5
Wilt: 27.2
#2 (Bill Russell): 23.9
#5 (Bailey Howell): 14.4

1962: 8.8% over #2, 74.8% over #5
Wilt: 25.7
#2 (Bill Russell): 23.6
#5 (Red Kerr): 14.7

1963: 2.9% over #2, 69.9% over #5
Wilt: 24.3
#2 (Bill Russell): 23.6
#5 (Elgin Baylor): 14.3

1966: 7.9% over #2, 56.7% over #5
Wilt: 24.6
#2 (Bill Russell): 22.8
#5 (Walt Bellamy): 15.7

1967: 15.2% over #2, 65.7% over #5
Wilt: 24.2
#2 (Bill Russell): 21.0
#5 (Willis Reed): 14.6

1968: 25.3% over #2, 73.7% over #5
Wilt: 23.8
#2 (Jerry Lucas): 19.0
#5 (Ray Scott): 13.7

1969: 7.1% over #2, 15.9% over #5
Wilt: 21.1
#2 (Nate Thurmond): 19.7
#5 (Wes Unseld): 18.2

1971: 7.7% over #2, 15.2% over #5
Wilt: 18.2
#2 (Wes Unseld): 16.9
#5 (Jerry Lucas): 15.8

1972: 9% over #2, 26.3 over #5
Wilt: 19.2
#2 (Wes Unseld): 17.6
#5 (Dave Cowens): 15.2

1973: 8.8% over #2, 17% over #5
Wilt: 18.6
#2 (Nate Thurmond): 17.1
#5 (Wes Unseld): 15.9

Rodman's Rebounding Titles
1992: 20.6% over #2, 50.4% over #5
Worm: 18.7
#2 (Kevin Willis): 15.5
#5 (Hakeem Olajuwon): 12.1

1993: 31.7% over #2, 41.9% over #5
Worm: 18.3
#2 (Shaquille O'Neal): 13.9
#5 (Kevin Willis): 12.9

1994: 31% over #2, 45.4% over #5
Worm: 17.3
#2 (Shaquille O'Neal): 13.2
#5 (Olden Polynice): 11.9

1995: 34.4% over #2, 54.1% over #5
Worm: 16.8
#2 (Dikembe Mutombo): 12.5
#5 (Tyrone Hill): 10.9

1996: 22.1% over #2, 30.7% over #5
Worm: 14.9
#2 (David Robinson): 12.2
#5 (Shawn Kemp): 11.4

1997: 38.9% over #2, 50.5% over #5
Worm: 16.1
#2 (Dikembe Mutombo): 11.6
#5 (Patrick Ewing): 10.7

1998: 10.3% over #2, 41.5% over #5
Worm: 15.0
#2 (Jayson Williams): 13.6
#5 (David Robinson): 10.6

What do we see? At his best, Wilt Chamberlain was 25.3% better than the next best rebounder in the league. At Rodman's best, he was 38.9% better than the next best rebounder. In fact, Rodman had four seasons in which he was at least 31% better than the next best rebounder.

Again, though, can we hold it against Wilt that he played with Russell during his prime? That's why I somewhat arbitrarily decided to compare each with the 5th best rebounder in the league. Forget the next best--how do Wilt and Rodman compare to rebounders a bit further behind?

At his best, Will was a stunning 90% better than the fifth best rebounder. In another season he was 88.8% better. He also has two other seasons at 70% better than the fifth best rebounder, two other seasons over 60% better than the fifth best rebounder, and another season at over 50% better than the fifth best. There were two seasons in which three players averaged better than 20 rebounds per game ('61 and '66), but usually Wilt and Russell were far above everybody else. Meanwhile, the best Rodman ever did over the fifth best rebounder in the league was 54%.

I always thought Rodman was more superior to his contemporaries than Wilt was to his contemporaries. But when you look beyond Bill Russell's stunning numbers, Wilt was much, much better than everybody else in his era. Rodman had no #2 to compete with him at all; however, beyond the #2, Rodman was never so superior above the rest of the league as Wilt was.

I'm convinced: Wilt Chamberlain is the best rebounder ever to play basketball. Dennis Rodman is the second most dominant rebounder, but looking at the numbers, I'm not even sure I'm comfortable saying he's better than Russell. Wilt and Russell are far above everybody else in career rebounds per game (Wilt at 22.89 and Russell at 22.45), and together they have the best 19 rebounding seasons ever. We may have to accept the fact that the best and second best rebounders ever happened to play against each other, and the third best rebounder came along later.

(I'm no statistician or mathemetician: I'm sure brighter mathematical minds than mine can pick apart this "study." I'm not trying to give a statistically comprehensive conclusion; I'm merely looking at particular numbers and presenting them as circumstantial).