Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Was Deion really wrong about Vick?

In Don Banks' recent Snap Judgments column, here's what he had to say about Deion Sanders' comments on Michael Vick:

"Whoever I have to thank for pulling the plug on those Deion Sanders columns on the Michael Vick saga, much obliged.

"'What a dog means to Vick might be a lot different than what he means to you or I,' Sanders wrote in the Fort Myers (Fla.) News-Press. That's some twisted logic that Sanders employs to explain Vick's alleged off-field hobby."

My first reaction was, what twisted logic? If Michael Vick was involved in dog fighting, then isn't the statement "What a dog means to Vick might be a lot different than what he means to you or I" pretty indisputable? The only dispute is the grammatical error of using "I" instead of "me"; certainly what a dog means to Vick is very different from what a dog means to you or me!

Let's alter this statement. In some cultures, if I'm not mistaken, dogs are eaten. Would I be incorrect to say "What a dog means to a person who eats dogs might be a lot different than what he means to you or I"? No, such a statement is factually accurate. Let's make one more turn of the screw: in Hindu tradition, cows are sacred. Would it be incorrect to say "What a cow means to a Hindu might be a lot different than what he means to you or I"? Of course not! The statement doesn't contain "twisted logic": it is logically indisputable!

Was there something else in Deion Sanders' column that featured "twisted logic"? To find out, I went to Ballhype and found Sanders' column "Don't be too quick to judge" in the The News-Press. Let's look closely at this column, since this column has been criticized by more sportswriters than Banks.

Sanders begins by talking about the potential effects of the Vick indictment. All the things he says are pretty indisputable. Sanders then transitions with "This is all the result of perspective," and talks about how different people treat their dogs. When he describes how Vick might feel about his dogs, Sanders writes:

"You can still choose to condemn him, but I’m trying to take you inside his mind so you can understand where he might be coming from."

Sanders isn't trying to justify dog fighting or exonerate Vick from the alleged actions: he's merely trying to "take you inside [Vick's] mind," doing some long-distance psychoanalysis. He's not excusing, but trying to understand. That sounds good to me: even if you are going to condemn a person/group for any action or idea, it is worthwhile to try understand how that person/group thinks.

Sanders then says of the accusations, "All of that is enough to make me cringe," with a diversion story about his own dogs. He then asks why Vick particularly is being targeted:

"Are we using Vick to get to the ringleader? Are we using him to bring an end to dogfighting in the United States?"

These are reasonable questions. Law enforcement officers are targeting Vick because they believe he committed a crime. But why is the media giving it so much coverage? Why are animal rights groups devoting such energy to it? Sanders isn't wrong to ask these questions.

Sanders then calls Vick's alleged involvement "wrong," "stupid," and "immature." It doesn't appear to me that he's trying to justify Vick's actions.

Then he comes with a statement that a lot of people have picked up on to criticize:

"I believe Vick had a passion for dogfighting. I know many athletes who share his passion. The allure is the intensity and the challenge of a dog fighting to the death. It’s like ultimate fighting, but the dog doesn’t tap out when he knows he can’t win."

Let me ask you this: can you dispute this statement? Remember, Sanders isn't trying to justify Vick's alleged participation in dog fighting; all he's trying to do is "take you inside his mind so you can understand where he might be coming from." If you take "Vick had a passion for dogfighting" out of the context of the column, then you might criticize it. But Sanders is not trying to justify Vick's actions; he's merely saying he believes "Vick had a passion for dogfighting," which is, after all, probably true!

Sanders then makes the comparison between the status that comes with dog fighting to the status of wearing expensive jewelry or driving expensive cars. An odd comparison, perhaps, but again, Sanders is just trying to help people understand why Vick (or anybody) might be involved in dog fighting.

Sanders then uses the "Humans before animals" argument, suggesting we should focus more attention on the bad things that happen to people (like Darrent Williams or Antoine Walker) than to animals (a viewpoint that I know is shared by many in the mainstream). Next he suggests the dog fighting indictment is getting so much attention because it's a dull period of the sports year (which is partly true), and that Falcon fans should hope Vick comes back or they have to watch Joey Harrington (which is true).

After reading Sanders' column, I can't see what the controversy is about. What did Sanders say? From the reaction of some reporters, you'd think Sanders said Vick was right to murder dogs and we all should murder our dogs, too. What Deion Sanders said was fairly reasonable, and most of it can't be disputed too strongly (unless you pick and choose which quotes to use to imply that Sanders is justifying Vick's alleged actions).

But Banks isn't alone.

Peter King
responded to Sanders' statement (particularly the quote about "passion for dog fighting") thusly:

"All I can say is this: These players, and player-sympathizers who write about the quasi-justification of NFL players being involved in this detestable bloodsport, need to start understanding what the rest of us in the United States think. Dogfighting is sick, and whoever participates in it is equally sick."

Sanders wasn't giving a "quasi-justification," at least not in my reading: he was explicitly trying to help people understand Vick's perspective, not trying to justify any actions. He called Vick "wrong" and said we could still condemn him, but that we should try to understand him first. And for some reason what matters to King is consensus: King lumps Sanders with those that "need to start understanding what the rest of us in the United States think." Mr. King, I happen to think meat eating is sick (though I don't consider "whoever participates in it" to be "equally sick"). But of course my views are not "what the rest of [...] the United States think[s]," so clearly my views don't matter. With King's use of the word "us" here, he seems to imply that if you don't follow the consensus (which he belongs to), you better realize what everybody else thinks and shut up.

Jennifer Floyd Engel of the Star-Telegram used the sub-heading "Idiot alert" to tell us that Deion Sanders tried to "defend" Vick (which he didn't), and picks quotes to criticize without recognizing the larger point of the column, which wasn't to justify dog fighting but to explore why Vick might enjoy dog fighting and why Vick is getting so much attention.

Don't just read the passages some sportswriters have selected for criticism, and believe their (flawed) interpretation that Sanders is trying to defend Vick or justify dog fighting. Go read the column yourself and tell me which parts you would actually dispute (and you indeed might find parts to dispute).

Of course, "When Sanders submitted his follow-up column responding to the criticism to the NFL Network, the network refused to let The News-Press publish it on Sunday" (USA Today). That's too bad, because I would like to hear some further thoughts (and perhaps clarifications) from Sanders.

(And there are other ways for us to protect dogs from suffering: Simon Cowell reminds us never to leave a dog in a hot car. Keep your dog cool this summer!).

Reacting to Training Camp Injuries

During this time of year, we hear a lot of stories about football players being withheld from practice or leaving practice early with injury. But I have a basic rule for responding to these stories:

Don't panic unless you hear some form of the word "break," the word "weeks," or the letters "CL" together.

If you hear the words "break," "broke," or "broken" regarding a player, then you are allowed to panic (though you might not have to).

If you hear the word "weeks" in relation to a player (especially when combined with the word "to," as in "___ to ___ weeks," or "up to ___ weeks"), then you are allowed to panic (though you might not have to).

If you hear "ACL," "MCL," or any other "CL" out there in relation to a player, then you are allowed to panic (and most assuredly should).

Any other stories about injuries you can monitor or ignore at your leisure.

Are there any other words I'm missing?

Monday, July 30, 2007

very random blizzard

Football innovator Bill Walsh has died: see Dr. Z and Cold, Hard Football Facts for comments.

Signal to Noise comments on the Denver offensive line finding its voice.

Cold, Hard Football Facts does not think Curtis Martin is a Hall of Famer.

Suspension of Disbelief indeed: Priest Holmes talks about returning to football (SI).

Troy Williamson's....bravado? So sayeth the Star Tribune.

The Pioneer Press reports that Brad Childress sees progress in our hero, Tarvaris Jackson. Such reports are of course predictable, but still fun.

Minnesota: farm club for Boston sports stars

They got Randy Moss. Now they're getting Kevin Garnett.

The two superstars I've grown up cheering for (but failed to see bring Minnesota a championship) are now playing in a city with 16 NBA championships, as well as three Super Bowl wins and one World Series win in this decade.

Screw you, Boston.

But seriously (wait, but I was serious) Moving on...

The Timberwolves are right to trade Kevin Garnett. They are not built to compete for a championship in the next 2-3 years; why not bring in as many young talented players as they can, and perhaps build toward a championship in 4-6 years? Despite having one of the best players in the league (look at the Wages of Wins comparison between KG and Tim Duncan), the Timberwolves have been unable to make the playoffs for the past three seasons. If you're going to lose anyway, why not trade this tremendous asset now in the hopes that you can win in the future? It is the right move.

Quick comments on the Vick dog fighting story

1. It's getting rather wearisome: everybody is chiming in with comments, and news about Vick is usually the top story on football pages of news sites. Training camps have begun--real football teams are practicing real football. I wish more attention could be devoted to that than to Michael Vick's legal situation. Still, among all the chatter, it's good to look at primary source documents. The Smoking Gun (via Hashmarks) has the plea agreement between the U.S. and Tony Taylor.

I'm mostly going to stick to my efforts not to focus a great deal of attention on this story, other than occasional brief comments such as this.

2. It has become very difficult to argue that there was no dog fighting operation at all on Vick's property. It has also become increasingly difficult to argue that Vick had no involvement. Still, it's also hard to argue with the NAACP, which argues for restraint from judgment and vilification of Michael Vick before due process of the law takes its course (Sports Illustrated).

3. Though nobody would call it such, have you noticed the version of "political correctness" that has emerged in this dog fighting story? See if you recognize the following pattern:

a. Current or former athlete says something that sounds tolerant of dog fighting and/or Michael Vick.
b. Many people and media members lambaste the athlete, usually in harsh, derogatory terms.
c. The athlete makes a statement apologizing for or clarifying his previous comments.

That's a pretty familiar pattern, eh?

4. PETA is an organization I have respect for, but it also has two primary activities, in order:

a. efforts toward more ethical treatment of animals by humans.
b. self-promotion.

PETA is globbing onto the Vick dog fighting story because it is guaranteed to get it publicity (and I don't begrudge PETA for it). But PETA is wrong to demand Vick's employers' suspend Vick before he has been convicted. PETA usually uses its relentless tactics toward changes in corporate policies that actually impact treatment of animals. The unrelenting protests to get Vick suspended do not directly impact treatment of animals. PETA should certainly monitor and comment on this situation, but it would be better served showing some restraint, rather than making demands that really don't matter to its cause.

5. This story does, of course, relate to actual football: it seems unlikely that Vick will be playing with the Falcons this year, and that means Joey Harrington is once again an NFL starter. And look at here: the Falcons open the season at the Metrodome against the Vikings.

As Lion QB, Joey Harrington never beat the Vikings (the Lions last beat the Vikings in 2001). As Dolphin QB, he "led" his team to a victory over the Vikings (really, the Dolphins' two defensive touchdowns in the fourth quarter were more responsible).

So the Vikings are now opening the season at home, against a Falcon team that was 21st in team defense last season (29th in yards passing and 32nd in passing yards per attempt). They face a team with a new coach, and a team that might be without (or with a hobbling) Warrick Dunn. And this team will be quarterbacked by Joey Harrington.

The Vikings have a good chance to start the season 1-0, and for Tarvaris Jackson and Adrian Peterson to get a solid start to the season.

6. If you are interested in knowing more about somebody working to help animals, check out The Jane Goodall Institute.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

2007's Plea to the Spirit of Fantasy Football (or, evading adulthood and responsibility)

Last summer, in an attempt to discover some mystical power of football knowledge, I grew a ridiculous moustache for the Hazelweird fantasy football draft. Alas, my first two selections were Clinton Portis and Randy Moss; the moustache contained no hidden secrets of fantasy football future (though despite these horrendous picks, I still finished in the top half of the league).
The secrets of fantasy football knowledge are not so easily attained.

But later I discovered I was as a pagan philosopher attempting to describe the true God. The Spirit of Fantasy Football revealed itself to our league, and we now live with a deeper, fuller understanding of the meaning of our fantasy football exploits.
The Spirit of Fantasy Football leaves his home in the Shadow of the Endzone to sit at our draft table.

The Spirit of Fantasy Football cannot, I learned, be won over with a moustache. It takes a deeper sacrifice than looking ridiculous for a month to win his approval and help.

And so in 2007 I come with a pure heart and noble mind to the Spirit of Fantasy Football and plea for aid in this time of need.

I come with a headband.

That is what the Spirit of Fantasy Football asks of us. Not silly moustaches. We don't even have to spend our money on magazines. He asks only that we wear our headbands, our symbols of loyalty, during the draft.

This headband comes with advantages. If you have an infantile compulsion for playing with your hair, the headband aids in preventing such a distraction during the critical period. If for whatever reason you expect to sweat during your draft, the headband will help. And the headband comes with extra intimidation. Cleopatra is often represented with a headband, and if she were in an auction league, she would freeze the blood in your veins, getting whichever players she wished.
This steely gaze and gorgeous headband strike fear into Cleopatra's fantasy football opponents.

And so in 2007, I humbly beseech the aid of the Spirit of Fantasy Football, and come to the draft table with the symbol of my devotion openly displayed.
A preview of PV during the 2007 fantasy draft auction

But the Spirit of Fantasy Football reveals himself to different individuals in different ways. How do you attempt to summon his support during your draft?

Little Viking Blizzard (7/29)

Adrian Peterson signs (ESPN, Vikings.com). Our short statewide nightmare is over.

John Clayton goes to Mankato, mainly to talk about our hero, Tarvaris Jackson.

Vikings Frenzy offers some questions on the team.

Sean Jensen provides some details on the Viking receivers.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Simeon Rice needs to be a Viking

The Vikings' biggest defensive weakness is the pass rush.

Simeon Rice, an extremely good pass rusher in his day, is now available.

So he might still be too injured to play immediately. Keneche Udeze started every game last season and failed to get a single sack; I think a one-armed Simeon Rice might be able to top that.

Let's see Simeon Rice line up this season next to Kevin Williams and watch quarterbacks wilt in fear.

Little Viking Blizzard

Kevin Seifert looks at Brad Childress' second training camp as head coach.

Sid Hartman says that Troy Williamson will break out this year. As of right now, I think all the national commentators are right to dismiss the Viking WR corps as lousy; there is little in any of these WRs' pasts to indicate any of them are competent. But Viking fans watched Troy Williamson consistently get open last season; he was often able to get separation, but then he either misjudged the ball or simply dropped it. But if Williamson has improved his vision, and if the thousands of balls he's caught in the off-season help him improve (the very effort he's put in shows he cares), then Troy Williamson could be a bona fide #1 wide receiver this season. Now is the time, non-Viking fans, for you to laugh. But it's true: Troy Williamson has displayed the talent to get consistent separation from CBs, and if he's worked to improve his vision and catching, he could be a legitimate receiving threat, helping the Viking passing game to be better than most expect.

The Science of Winning offers a Viking preview.

Vikings.com looks at ten "Storylines for 2007," with quotes from Brad Childress, and also provides more "Quotes from Camp" featuring Childress. The Vikings' webpage has made a lot of improvements in recent years, and I think it'll be doing a solid job covering camp.

And regarding Viking rivals, at Football Outsiders you can learn that Brett Favre overthrew 13.5% of his passes last season, tops in the league.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Blizzard: We like Kevin Seifert

Re-adjustment Period

Every year during the first Sunday featuring regular season NFL games, I feel my consciousness ready to explode. Games everywhere! Stats everywhere! Touchdowns! Players! Actual events! After months of off-the-field news, speculation, half-hearted preseason games, practices, and lunging after every bit of news, it is like a mental explosion seeing all the real, authentic games and statistics that make all the bits of news we've been clinging to seem like so much dandruff.

But there are little adjustment periods, too. There's been so little Viking news that every bit of speculation or mention of the Purple has seemed worth reading.

But now training camp starts, and now there is more news. Now there's no desperate need to read every article that mentions the Vikes. Now we get to be discerning about what is interesting and what is just fluff. Now there are a lot of stories to amuse us and distract us from the intolerable weather in Minnesota (it's a bit amusing that we start watching actual football in sweltering conditions, and end watching games in snow storms or below zero temps).

Viking news

Kevin Seifert examines the Viking QB position in "Low mileage, high risk," and a look at the team as a whole in "Are the Vikings a better football team?" It's interesting to compare these articles by Seifert, a hard-working reporter, to the most recent column by Jim Souhan, a lazy columnist. Souhan offers one meaningless quote, no inside knowledge, and no analysis of the team. Seifert offers us quotes, context, history, and statistics. Jim Souhan will provide you with little to no insight on the Vikings; he doesn't even seem to try. Seifert will give you data and context to help you make sense of situations; his writing is a fine example of good newspaper writing, of what can be provided to fans by somebody who works at his job.

Judd Zulgad looks at the "Best battles brewing on the depth chart" as the Vikes go into training camp.

In "Transition in FULL bloom," Sean Jensen looks at "the two dozen Tice holdovers" still on the Viking roster.

Priest Holmes is Lazarus

Priest Holmes was once a fantasy football god, and that sure seems like a long time ago. In 2002 He had 2,287 yards from scrimmage and 24 TDs in 14 games (leading my team to a fantasy title). In 2003 he had 2,110 yards from scrimmage and 27 TDs in 16 games (leading my team to a second place fantasy finish). He was one half of the Randy Moss Experience Featuring Priest Holmes. And it was all good.

And now...he returns! My favorite fantasy football performer of all-time is back. And there's a chance...just a chance...that the Experience could be resurrected.

Blog recommendation

Serious Dismay Sports comments "On the reaction to Christine Daniels' public appearance."

Let's say you read a blog that's mostly about football, but the main writer of this blog is also a pinko hippy who sometimes uses sports stories to present his crazy views on animals, class, race, and gender.

If you enjoy reading said blog, you might also enjoy Serious Dismay Sports. It is written by a person describing herself as "a socialist feminist vegan nerd," and often provides insightful perspectives you might not be used to getting from a sports blog.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Columnists want excitement; fans want winning

Last football season, Tom Powers seemed to frequently complain about how boring the Vikings were. It wasn't that the Vikings were bad--it was that they lacked excitement, making Powers bored with his job.

Jim Souhan picks up on this theme in "Kids Could Change Everything," where he says that

"Last year, as the NFL reigned as the most popular sports league ever, the Vikings fielded the least interesting team in franchise history."

That's the problem: the Vikings "fielded exactly zero stars worthy of a magazine cover." He says at training camp we'll be "hoping at least one of the wide receivers can keep fans from flipping the channel during the middle of passing plays" (doesn't it seem like he wants to say "reporters" or "columnists" instead of "fans" in that sentence? I doubt "fans" are desiring to watch something else).

Were the 2006 Vikings "the least interesting team in franchise history"? I can't say for sure, but for laughs, let's look at the 1967 Vikings, which happened to be Bud Grant's first season coaching the team.

The 1967 Vikings went 3-8-3. They ranked 14th out of 16 teams in points scored. Their leading passer was Joe Kapp, who completed 47.7% of his passes for 1,386 yards, 8 TDs, and 17 INTs.

I have to believe that team was probably pretty dull watching. In hindsight, Grant was building a team ready to consistently compete. At the time, I suspect people found the team frustrating and boring.

So, Viking fans (the ones that don't want to just fire Brad Childress, but want to FIRE BRAD CHILDRESS NOW!!!!!!), before you get too worried about Childress and the Vikings, look back to legendary Bud Grant's first season with the team. The team was bad, the passing game was atrocious, the offense was boring and unproductive.

And don't worry at all about anything Jim Souhan says.

Viking Optimism, Good Guys, and More (blizzard)

Viking hope
Football Outsiders/Fox Sports ranks the Viking DL 6th in the league. There might be good news for the pass rush, too: "according to our game-charting project, they ranked eighth in hurries per charted pass play. Look for some of those hurries to turn into sacks this season."

So far, Football Outsiders ranks the Viking DL 6th, the Viking RBs 6th, and the Viking OL 5th in the league. So why are we supposed to be so pessimistic about the Vikings? Certainly the QBs and WRs are questionable at best, but why wouldn't a team with one of the six best defensive lines, six best running backs, and five best offensive lines be competitive?

Be excited, Viking fans. I miss the flashiness of yesteryear's passing attack too, but the strength of the team--the running game, the offensive and defensive lines--suggests a competitive squad capable of winning games.

Good guys in the NFL
A lot of blogs devote energy to mocking athletes with legal and personal problems. A lot of blogs fight back, criticizing negative media portrayals of athletes. But more blogs need to give attention to the lives of athletes that live responsible, respectable, and/or interesting lives.

The Star Tribune offers us a look at Steve Hutchinson at home.

Sports Law Blog looks at Deuce McAllister's entrepreneurial and charitable work.

The Orlando Sentinal examines Ernie Sims' wild collection of pets (via Epic Carnival).

ESPN reports on Ahman Green, who helped pay a down payment on a home for a single mother with an autistic child.

There are a lot of good stories about athletes out there; if you focus your attention on the misdeeds and shady shenanigans, you're missing out.

Goodell's strategy has backfired
I first noted these thoughts at Leave the Man Alone (sorry, H.C.I.C. if I'm continuing to steal thunder--I'll try to leave more specific commentary to you), but I believe Roger Goodell's personal conduct policy has fulfilled the exact opposite of his intent.

Goodell has begun punishing players for off-the-field misconduct in an effort to preserve the image of the league. However, by doing so, he has brought greater attention to off-the-field misconduct. He has prioritized it, and pushed it to the forefront of NFL conversation. Instead of a story either going away or reaching closure on its own, Goodell has created a context in which reporters/fans are forced to continue to talk about various incidents of misconduct, because reporters/ fans first speculate about possible punishment, then discuss the punishment.

In the past, players would get arrested, and it would be a story, but most of us just love football and want to watch it. Now, Goodell has forced us to frequently consider these arrests and misdeeds. Instead of allowing us to put these incidents in the background of our consciousnesses and go on enjoying the games, we're required to consider them,speculate upon them, and allow them more interference into the actual on-the-field entertainment. Rather than preserving the image of the league by cracking down on personal misconduct, Goodell has hurt the image of the league by forcing personal misconduct of players to the forefront of attention.

It may be that Goodell is being preemptive, and a current messy period is a mere necessity to ensuring future stability. Sometimes, a preemptive solution would be a good idea to prevent future disasters. Sometimes, a preemptive solution ends up looking like a very, very bad idea. We can only wait and see, but as of right now, Goodell's strict enforcement of the personal misconduct policy looks like a bad idea.


Empty the Bench ranks the top 10 fantasy TEs. I find TE to be a tricky fantasy position, because as I suggested repeatedly in my team-by-team previews, if you don't get Antonio Gates, a lot of the other TEs are very near each other in potential production.

Outsports offers an excerpt from its new book, asking "Why should I give a damn about sports?"

Gregg Rosenthal includes the Viking WRs in the top 50 position battles.

Peter Schrager looks at "10 guys ready to have breakout years," and it's a good list, because he doesn't just list players we already know are good.

Sean Jensen looks at the questions surrounding the Viking offense.

Vikings.com talks about rookie DE Brian Robison.

Football Outsiders gives a closer look at QB completion percentage.

USA Today has finished its ranking of the 25 best NFL players in the last 25 years. And now that camps are ready to start, I think Irrelevant Controversy Season is coming to a close.

Clark Judge examines NFC North position battles.

The Sports Flow looks at NFC impact rookies.


As changes occur, I'll try to add updates to the team-by-team fantasy previews listed on the right. I'll give honest takes, but I'm also holding back on my stronger opinions until at least August 18th, because the rat bastards in the Hazelweird League are out to screw me.

Tiki Barber didn't like that Tom Coughlin made him the focal point of the offense and helped him to his best seasons ever.

As you can read at the Fanhouse, Tiki Barber is still complaining about Tom Coughlin, saying that while he has no personal problems with Coughlin, "I don't like the way he coaches."

I wonder which part of Coughlin's coaching Barber disliked more: the way Coughlin helped him eliminate his fumbling problem, or the way Coughlin focused the Giant offense around Tiki Barber's skills?

As I pointed out in November, before Tom Coughlin became the Giants' head coach, Tiki Barber was a good RB. In his seven years on the team, he had three 1,000 yard seasons, and was a very effective combination as a runner and receiver. He had a problem with fumbles (9 fumbles and 6 fumbles lost in both 2002 and 2003; an average of 8.75 fumbles from 2000 to 2003), but he was an effective football player.

When Coughlin took over the team, Tiki Barber became great. With career highs in rushing attempts, Barber's fumbles still declined (he had 9 total fumbles in three seasons). He had three absolutely incredible seasons:

2004: 1,518 rushing yards, 4.7 average, 2,096 yards from scrimmage (#1 in NFL)
2005: 1,860 rushing yards, 5.2 average, 2,390 yards from scrimmage (#1 in NFL, #2 all-time).
2006: 1,662 rushing yards, 5.1 average, 2,127 yards from scrimmage (#5 in NFL)

Tiki Barber was a decent RB before Coughlin was the Giants' head coach: he wasn't a dominant rusher, but he was an effective rusher/receiver with a fumbling problem. When Coughlin was the Giants' head coach, Barber was one of the best RBs of all-time, with incredible rushing averages and totals and all-time great yards from scrimmage totals.

So when Tiki Barber says "I don't like the way he coaches," I don't know if he doesn't like the way Coughlin helped him to historic yards from scrimmage seasons, helped him to become one of the NFL's best RBs, helped him to lower his fumbles, or allowed him to flourish in a system designed to showcase his skills.

A coach's job is not to get his players to like him, but to get the most production out of his players. Sometimes in order to get the most production out of his players, a coach is required to use methods that, indeed, the players themselves don't like. But given Tiki Barber's success under Tom Coughlin, it appears to me that Coughlin was very successful at getting the most out of Barber, whether Barber liked it or not.

Is Curtis Martin a Hall of Fame RB?

ESPN reports that Curtis Martin will retire this week. With his career complete, we can look at his numbers and consider his Hall of Fame status.

Curtis Martin's statistics at pro-football-reference.com

Martin's 14,101 rushing yards put him 4th all-time, and his 17,430 yards from scrimmage rank him 7th all-time. That makes for a very good career of compiling numbers. But compiled numbers based on longevity are one thing; I prefer to look at a player's career season to season.

Curtis Martin had 10 seasons with 1,000 yards rushing. 9 of those seasons were over 1,100 yards, and 7 of of those seasons were over 1,200 yards. So it appears Martin was also able to compile successful seasons throughout his career, too.

Now, was Martin dominant?

He won one rushing title, was second in the NFL in rushing two other seasons, and was in the top-10 seven times.

And let's look at his best seasons.

1994: 1,487 yards, 4.0 average, 14 TDs
1999: 1,464 yards, 4.0 average, 5 TDs
2001: 1,513 yards, 4.5 average, 10 TDs
2004: 1,697 yards, 4.6 average, 12 TDs

It appears at his best, Martin was able to be a dominant RB, too.

Curtis Martin compiled great cumulative numbers. He compiles several very good seasons. And he had a few dominant seasons.

Curtis Martin is a Hall of Fame RB.

Training Camp holdouts are easily avoidable, but teams and agents are senseless.

The Star Tribune reports that the Vikings are close to signing most of their draft picks, "but it seemed unlikely that first-round pick Adrian Peterson would be among the players reporting to training camp Wednesday at Minnesota State Mankato."

It will never make sense to me why agents and teams wait until a few weeks or days before training camp begins to seriously begin contract discussions with draft picks. I know, agents and teams want to see what other rookies get paid to know the direction negotiations should take.

But why does this process need to begin in mid to late July? Couldn't this process of serious negotiations and measuring of value against other contracts begin in early May?

Furthermore, eventually, everybody gets signed. It's rare for a draft pick to hold out into the season and miss regular season games. It's extremely rare for anybody to hold out for an entire season. So what are they waiting for? Eventually everybody is going to get signed, and you can make reasonable predictions about the value of the contracts based on the draft slots. It's not a question of whether a first-round rookie will sign a contract, and it's barely a question of how much: It's a question of when. Some argue that the pressure of Training Camp deadlines helps one or the other side in negotiations; however, again, the contracts always get signed, and the contracts are always based on an upgrade over the similarly slotted draft picks from the previous season.

So why, every year, do we have to have rookies missing valuable training camp (it is likely the most important training camp they'll have) because agents and teams decide to wait as late as possible to complete these contracts, which are virtually inevitable?

Because agents and teams are stupid. That's the only answer I can come to. They are convinced by the Appeal to Tradition, and seem utterly set against negotiating inevitable contracts any time prior to a few days before Training Camp is set to open.

So teams are unable to give their rookies as much training as possible, which limits the immediate contributions these players can make toward the team's success . Players miss out on valuable training, which has the potential to negatively impact their playing time and (possibly) their future income. Fans get nervous and frustrated. Nobody really benefits because of complete and irrational idiocy.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Fantasy Preview: the Minnesota Vikings

The premise is simple: I'll tell you what players you can confidently start the season with, and what players should cause your stomach to wobble if you have to start them.

Minnesota Vikings
2006 stats at NFL.com and pro-football-reference.com

Defense: It's been a long time since the Vikings had a competent pass rush that put up a quality number of sacks. Last season they totaled 30. In 2005 they had 34, and in 2004 they had 39. But it's also a defense that recently has been giving up few points and few yards, and forces quite a few interceptions (21, 5th in the league in 2006; 24, 2nd in the league in 2005). They play good defense and they score some TDs; it's a defense you can start in fantasy football.

Now, what do we do about Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor? Football Outsiders/Fox Sports ranks the Viking RBs 6th in the league, and the Viking Offensive Line 5th in the league (via Daily Norseman). Such a ranking suggests the Vikings are going to have great success running the ball this season (which is why we should be optimistic about the offense, even if the passing game is so questionable). But how will the carries be spread around, and who will get the bulk of the yards and touchdowns? One is tempted to lean toward A.P., but rookie status, injury status, and possible holdout status taint his fantasy value as of right now. One or both will be effective fantasy starters this season--we just don't know which one will be effective by week one. If you are going to draft one, you may as well draft the other. This will either end up pleasing you at some point during the season, or drive you crazy as Brad Childress imitates Shanahanigans.

Look at the Viking roster for other skill position players you even want on your fantasy roster going into the season. The only one I'd consider taking (for perhaps a late dollar bid) would be Troy Williamson, on the chance that he improves (if you wanted the Vikes in '06, you know he was capable of getting open, just not capable of adjusting to the ball or catching it). We of course have high hopes for our hero, Tarvaris Jackson, and if your fantasy league takes place in Minnesota, there's a chance he could be drafted. But you can definitely find better fantasy QBs during the draft.

Once upon a time Blue Viking Devil and I negotiated bidding truces involving the likes of Daunte Culpepper and Randy Moss. Those days are long past. I think as a Viking fan that the team is moving in a better direction: rather than having a great passing game and atrocious defense, the team is now building on strong defense and a good running game. And as a fantasy participant the lack of Viking prospects relieves me of the homer burden; no longer does everybody assume they can screw me over by bidding up Randy Moss.

Adrian Peterson is a twitching jack-in-the-box of potential. But right now, you shouldn't be terribly excited about any Vikings on your fantasy roster.

Dog fighting (hopefully, the last comment for a while)

In Harold Herzog's excellent essay "Human Morality and Animal Research: Confessions and Quandaries," Herzog asks "What were the relative roles of logic and sentimentality underlying the moral confusion" of particular uses of animals for scientific experiments. It's a necessary distinction that needs to be presented again and again when we discuss morality in human treatment of animals: what is based on emotion and what is based on reason?

In order to get at the relationship between sentimentality and logic on this issue, I've devised a question. I'm not attempting to frame this question in judgment; I'm not trying to accuse anybody or find fault with anybody. I think it may be a question that can help us get to the line between sentimentality and logic in outrage over dog fighting. Here is the question:

What would be the reaction if Michael Vick were accused of raising dogs, killing them humanely, and then eating them?

What do you think? Would the reaction be better or worse? Why? What would your reaction be? Is this reaction based on emotion or reason? Does this question relate to arguments over the morality of animal consumption? Does it relate to particular outrage over treatment of dogs?

Is this a useful question? Michael Vick is accused of forcing dogs to fight each other: would the reaction be different if he were accused of killing dogs and eating their meat?

Other bloggers have been making points similar to the one I've tried to make on this blog: in the big scheme of humanity's treatment of animals, how bad is dog fighting and why does dog fighting draw such outrage? Serious Dismay Sports explains "Why the Coverage of the Michael Vick Scandal Ticks Me Off as a Vegan and as a Woman." At Sports Law Blog you can read "Professor Darryl C. Wilson on Reaction to Michael Vick's Indictment," where Wilson talks about the outrage in context of "a country that kills dogs and other pets by the millions daily, grinds them up with other junk, and feeds them to livestock that people will ultimately eat."

My point is not that we shouldn't be outraged by dog fighting (we should), but that we should put that in context and look at other treatments of animals for which we could also direct outrage.

I don't know that we'll continue to follow the Vick dog fighting story as closely as we have thus far. For us, following sports is about the fun. We love seeing the performances on the field. We love participating in fantasy football. We love watching the games and rooting for teams and players. We love talking about the players and the games. We love collecting the sports cards.

It's the fun of the games that matter to us. We don't get much pleasure from following the legal and personal exploits of players off the field. We usually avoid these stories in order to read the fun stories about sports, and to follow commentary on the actual games on the field. We're growing weary of this Vick dog fighting story as it is growing bigger and bigger; as the NFL season approaches, we don't want the top story to be federal indictments. It's time to start hearing what's happening at training camp, what people think will happen this season, who's ready to break out and why. We want to follow football for the love of the sport, not to read as much news and commentary as possible on one player's legal issues.

And with that, you may enjoy Cold, Hard Football Facts' "Nice guys finish last? Not always." CHFF reminds us that there are a lot of very good people in the NFL, and that we should be following and praising the exploits of players like Warrick Dunn. There are too many really good people in the NFL, doing really good things, and doing really exciting things on the field, for us to get bogged down analyzing the legal and moral aspects of dog fighting.

We love football, and we want to ensure that football is this blog's primary passion for the next six months and more.

(To direct your attention to another animal rights issue when mentioning the Vick dog fighting story--as I promised--I'd ask you to consider the morality of animal testing and vivisection. Even if we concede that we should use animals for medical research--a position I'm relatively comfortable with--we should work toward only using animals when absolutely necessary, devising alternative experiments that require no use of animals, and making conditions for the animals that are used as comfortable and happy as possible--the latter an argument Jane Goodall makes particularly well in "A Plea for the Chimps").

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Daunte and Gandhi

When Daunte Culpepper was released by the Miami Dolphins, he quoted Gandhi: "'As I was going through this process I heard about a quote by Gandhi that best expresses my thoughts about this victory: "First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win,"' Culpepper, who serves as his own agent, said in an e-mail" (ESPN).

Naturally, bloggers wanted to make fun of him for comparing being released from a multi-million dollar contract to the struggles of a saintly activist who used passive resistance to strive for the independence of his nation.

But you know what? Good for Daunte.

You don't appreciate the education of a man that can pull out Gandhi? You don't appreciate somebody who can make a poetic, historical allusion to describe his feelings at a situation he's facing in his life?

When you face adversity, are you able to whip out Gandhi? Or Shakespeare? Or Jesus? Or Whitman? Are you able to find poetic words from great people in history to try and make sense of your own feelings, to try and convey to people the experience you are having?

If you are able to reference great historical figures as you face the struggles of your own life, you'll be better for it. You might make sense of your life. You might put your sufferings in context. You might have a fuller, deeper, stronger mind and heart to deal with your own adversity.

That's not worthy of mockery; that's worthy of admiration.

Blizzard: training camp approaches, and so more people talk about the Vikings


Skol Vikes looks at seven questions for the Vikings training camp.

ESPN writes about Adrian Peterson and the possibility of a holdout from training camp.

The Star Tribune talks about Adrian Peterson's collarbone.

Victoria Times examines the Vikings' bad QB situation.

Epic Carnival helps you get to know these Viking QBs.

Other Viking bloggers write about why Peter King is wrong to rank the Vikings' 31st in the league, including Vikings War Cry and Vikings Frenzy.

Sid Hartman says that Antoine Winfield is now happy with the Vikes.

Other stuff

Football Outsiders looks at the Bunch Right Skinny Post.

A fantasy consideration: the Fanhouse notes that some people think Rudi Johnson could lose his starting job in Cincinnati.

Stop Mike Lupica writes that people aren't upset with Michael Vick over animal cruelty, but "dog cruelty" in particular: "And whether they realize it or not, it's because of unconscious biases... they are angered to see dog cruelty, but ignore the many, many other forms of animal cruelty that exist on a daily basis. Because it's easy to ignore, if no one tells you to care."

(I said yesterday that when I mention the Vick dog fighting story, I would direct your attention to other animal cruelty issues you might be interested in. I would like to encourage you not to attend circuses with wild animals. These animals aren't suited to an enclosed life for the purpose of human entertainment, and the training and conditions circus animals are forced into can be brutal. Here is PETA's introduction to some of the problems circus animals face, particularly elephants).

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Fantasy Preview: the Green Bay Packers

The premise is simple: I'll tell you what players you can confidently start the season with, and what players should cause your stomach to wobble if you have to start them.

Green Bay Packers
2006 stats at
NFL.com and pro-football-reference.com

Donald Driver (WR): Did you know that in the last three seasons, Driver averaged 87 catches for 1,241 yards and 7 TDs? And yet few in your league likely think of Driver as one of the good fantasy wide receivers. In an auction league, you could cite these numbers before throwing Driver's name out, and you'd still likely get him cheap, because nobody gives him the respect for his numbers he deserves.

Of course, I wouldn't draft him: he's a Packer, and I will not root for the success of the Packers for a mere fantasy league (when I'm forced to root for the Packers against the Bears, the little part of me that still feels anything burns in complicated frustrated anger). Like Wes Mantooth (whose mother Dorothy is a saint) for Ron Burgundy, I pure straight loathe the Packers. Everything about this team is detestable to me; the very colors make me grimace. So forgive me if I am unable to objectively offer an opinion on whether Brett Favre should be on your fantasy team (though he shouldn't), whether Vernand Morency or any other RB will end up competent (though he won't), whether Greg Jennings or any other WR or TE is worth a roster spot (though they aren't), whether the kicker could be a competent scorer (though he won't be), or whether the defense is on the rise or simply overrated (the latter).

Nuts to you all.

Helping you positively direct your outrage

As an animal rights advocate, I should be encouraged by the massive coverage and frequent outrage over the charges of dog fighting and dog killing against Michael Vick and others.

I never realized so many sports fans and reporters were so committed to ending cruelty to animals! Because that's what this is about, right? It couldn't be that a lot of people that eat meat and wear leather are using outrage over animal cruelty as an excuse to attack a prominent black athlete, right?

Since many of you are so outraged over over the accusations against Vick et al. for heinous treatment of animals, I want to help direct your attention to other forms of animal cruelty and show ways that you can actively oppose and resist animal cruelty. From now on, whenever I make any mention of the Vick dog fighting story, I will provide you a link to information on another animal rights issue. Since you are so disgusted by dog fighting, I hope you will find this additional information helpful.

I'll begin by directing your attention to PETA's Kentucky Fried Cruelty campaign, which exposes the horrible treatment chickens suffer through, and targets KFC because KFC appears pretty tolerant of this cruel treatment, and could take active steps to force more humane treatment of the chickens.

Don't rant and rave: there are things that you can do. Direct your outrage into positive action. Expand your outrage over dog fighting into positive action to combat all forms of animal cruelty.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Blizzard: Michael Vick is indicted

ESPN (via Fanhouse) reports that "Michael Vick has been indicted by a federal grand jury in connection with the dogfighting probe of his property in Virginia." At The Smoking Gun (also via Fanhouse) you can read the indictment.

Daunte Culpepper has been released by the Miami Dolphins (Yahoo).

Epic Carnival (via Ballhype) has ten intimidation tactics for a fantasy snake draft. Snake drafts are for cowards, and unless you are competing against complete incompetents, intimidation tactics mean nothing in a snake draft, but it's all for fun. In an auction draft, you actually have to consider your demeanor, because you have things to hide, and your behavior can actually affect the proceedings. I will write about this in the future, I hope.

Daily Norseman
takes on Peter King for ranking the Vikings 31st in his power rankings, suggesting a team with a dominant run defense and what should be a dominant run offense is probably going to finish better than second-to-last (Peter King, like a lot of national commentators, can't see past our hero, Tarvaris Jackson).

Kent Brockman, at the now closed Duff bottling plant, where a mysterious person in black keeps a solitary vigil.

Shinders is closed.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Fantasy Preview: the Chicago Bears

The premise is simple: I'll tell you what players you can confidently start the season with, and what players should cause your stomach to wobble if you have to start them.

Chicago Bears
2006 stats at NFL.com and pro-football-reference.com

Defense: The Baltimore Defense is the #1 fantasy defense: they've maintained their dominance over the past seven seasons better than Chicago has, they were better in 2006, and it's only Devin Hester on special teams that makes Chicago possibly better (but are special team TDs really very predictable?).

Robbie Gould (K): Jiminy Jillikers, Radioactive Man, Robbie Gould scored a lot of points last season!

Cedric Benson (RB): He should now be expected to get feature back carries. Somebody is going to have to suck on the sword and start Benson--if you're strong at other positions, it may as well be you. He could really perform well. Or he could do nothing at all, who knows?

Desmond Clark would be one of the valid fantasy TEs, if Chicago hadn't drafted TE Greg Olson in the first round this season. I'd still expect Clark to get most of the catches, but the threat of Olson taking playing time and end zone targets scares me off Clark. Muhsin Muhammed and Bernard Berrian are WRs that can be on your roster in a deep league. If you start them, buy a pack of breath mints, because breath mints will make your mouth feel fresh after you've just vomited.

If you enjoy horror movies and roller coasters, and don't really care if you win or lose at fantasy football, you should also start Rex Grossman.

Tarvaris Jackson will be entering your soul (and a massive blizzard)

Get ready, Viking fans: very soon Tarvaris Jackson will dominate your every day. When training camp starts, we're going to get local reports of his daily progress and practice performance. We're going to get features and quotes about how his teammates are responding to him. When national writers come to Mankato for training camp, they're going to focus their attention on the man, the myth, the legend, Tarvaris Jackson.

Via Kansas Viking, USA Today's "Inside Slant" on the Vikes begins, of course, with our hero Tarvaris Jackson.

John Holler at Viking Update looks at the criticism of the Vikes' decision to go with our hero Tarvaris Jackson.

Via the Daily Norseman, Clark Judge ranks Kevin Williams as the best defensive tackle in the NFL (which is interesting, because while I really like Kevin Williams, I think his teammate Pat Williams is better).

Christopher Harris of ESPN
looks at Chester Taylor and Adrian Peterson as fantasy running backs.

Minnesota Sports Guys asks some of the questions surrounding the Vikings going into training camp.

Everything else
Hashmarks has an amusing story about Tony Dungy's book being published at the same time as the last Harry Potter book.

Football Outsiders looks at the "Epic End Around."

Cold, Hard Football Facts compares Boomer Esiason to some recent HOF inductees. It is only hatred of left-handers that has kept Esiason out of the HOF fame, of course.

Moderately Cerebral Bias takes on the unwritten rules of sports blogging.

John Clayton reports on Dwight Freeney's new contract, which features a $30 million signing bonus. I think Freeney's contract is crazy stupid. A dominant QB like Peyton Manning is worth whatever you give him, because he leads the team to wins. A pass-rush specialist that didn't even have many sacks last season? Not worth that. Especially when, as a starting defensive end, Freeney is at least partly responsible for the Colt defense ranking 31st in rushing attempts allowed, 32nd in rushing yards allowed, 32nd in rushing yards per attempt allowed, and 31st in rushing TDs allowed in 2006. Do you get the impression the Colt defense was utterly horrible against the run last season? And yet the Colts are giving a massive contract to a DE that does nothing but rush the passer, and is partly responsible for that horrid run defense.

Clark Judge looks at the best backup QBs in the NFL.

It seems I always link to Dr. Z's mailbag, but since he's one of the sportswriters I really respect, that makes sense.

One of the things you can do in July is read ("I read!" "Books, Jerry." "Oh....Big deal!"). Wages of Wins talks about books.

Pro-football-reference.com looks at Maurice Jones-Drew, and examines RB carries on expected passing downs.

ProFootballTalk suggests the reduction in Jared Allen's suspension will make some people look at race as a factor. I agree: I doubt very much that race is a conscious factor in the reduced suspension (the NFL doesn't release much information at all on these appeals), but when suspensions are based on the arbitrary decision of one autocrat, the league opens itself up to such examinations and accusations.

After a brief hiatus, Peter King is back with his Monday Morning Quarterback.

We see a pattern repeatedly: when someone suggests gay people have a right to open participation in American society and don't deserve to be pushed into the closeted margins, an anti-gay group will accuse gay people of "pushing" homosexuality on people, or even suggest there is an attempt to "turn" kids gay. The Hater Nation points out that Richard Thomsen of the Thomas More Law Center believes it is not a coincidence that the San Diego Padres were passing out free floppy hats to kids on the same day that Pride Day took place at the ballpark: he thinks the Padres are "leading unsuspecting children into accepting the homosexual lifestyle as normal." It's unclear whether Thomsen thinks floppy hats are linked to homosexuality, or whether he merely thinks giving kids freebies at the same time Pride Day is taking place is encouraging families to go, causing them to be exposed to Pride Day. Either way, this stinks of bigotry: Thomsen thinks it's a problem that children might grow up thinking homosexuality is normal and accepted. It suggests Thomsen thinks there should be an alternative: children should grow up hating gay people, being afraid of gay people, viewing homosexuality as deviant perversity, seeing homosexuality as something shameful that should be hidden from society. In a free, pluralistic society, you of course have your right to religious beliefs, and this may include the belief that homosexuality is a sin. But in a free, pluralistic society, that doesn't mean gay people should be marginalized and hidden, which it appears Thomsen would prefer.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Fantasy Preview: the Detroit Lions

The premise is simple: I'll tell you what players you can confidently start the season with, and what players should cause your stomach to wobble if you have to start them.

Detroit Lions
2006 stats at NFL.com and pro-football-reference.com

Roy Williams (WR): Roy Williams makes me feel funny all over. He's the sort of player you can get giddy thinking about. He's an amazing player capable of becoming the best WR in the league very soon--possibly even this year.

Jon Kitna (QB): Kitna was not even on my list of draftable QBs. Then I looked at the numbers to find Kitna ranked 5th among QBs in fantasy ppg last season, and I saw the significance of passing yardage on a QB's fantasy numbers. Mike Martz, Roy Williams, a lousy running game, a lousy defense--OK, I'm convinced Kitna is a starting fantasy quarterback. Unless your league includes negative scoring.

I want nothing to do with Tatum Bell or Kevin Jones or any other running back on the Lions' roster. If I am somehow starting Bell or Jones week one, it means an epic travesty occurred on draft day. Maybe I got drunk too early. Maybe I was violently ill and speaking in tongues and "Tatum Bell" randomly came out. Maybe an alien replaced me with an android that is very, very stupid. I don't know, but if Bell or Jones are in my week one starting lineup, it means something utterly and stupendously awful happened to me on August 17th.

And finally, what do we do with Calvin Johnson?

I've got a long bias against rookie WRs, despite Terry Glenn, Randy Moss, Anquan Boldin, or Marques Colston. I don't trust WRs to pick up the complicated pro passing game that quickly. So despite all the hype Johnson is getting, I don't trust him whatsoever as a first year fantasy WR.

For laughs, I decided to look back at the first wide receivers selected in previous drafts (at DraftHistory.com), and examine their rookie seasons. Here are the first WRs selected in the previous 16 drafts (number selected overall in parentheses, rookie season receiving yardage and TD totals following).

2006 Santonio Holmes (25) 824-2
2005 Braylon Edwards (3) 512-3
2004 Larry Fitzgerald (3) 780-8
2003 Charles Rogers (2) 243-3
2002 Donte Stallworth (13) 594-8
2001 David Terrell (8) 415-4
2000 Peter Warrick (4) 592-4
1999 Torry Holt (6) 788-6
1998 Kevin Dyson (16) 263-2
1997 Ike Hilliard (7) 42-0
1996 Keyshawn Johnson (1) 844-8
1995 Michael Westbrook (4) 522-1
1994 Charles Johnson (17) 577-3
1993 Curtis Conway (7) 231-2
1992 Desmond Howard (4) 20-0
1991 Herman Moore (10) 135-0

In the past 16 seasons, the first WR selected in the draft has never had greater than 844 yards. Only 4 of the 16 had more than 4 TDs. Some of these WRs were massive disappointments in their careers, but even those that developed into good or great WRs were somewhere between awful and underwhelming as rookies. I'm fairly sure some of them came into the league with as much hype as Calvin Johnson is receiving now, and yet as rookies, they were horrid to mediocre fantasy producers.

So, are you still excited about Calvin Johnson for 2007?

Thursday, July 12, 2007

From Virginia to Pamplona

(Here is another post that's partly about sports, but also moralizing analysis on animal rights. As always, it's your choice to keep reading or not).

Following the Vick dog fighting allegations story has been frustrating and illuminating. There are intensely heated opinions and arguments from all sides, some rational, some not. I rarely write about the alleged crimes or personal issues of athletes on this blog; it's just not a part of sports that interests me. But since I'm a sports fan and an animal rights activist, I try to write when an animal cruelty story intersects with sports. I hope that I'm in a position to offer a unique perspective, and I usually try to offer insights on these issues that might be unexpected. For example, when I wrote about Barbaro, I suggested there's something fundamentally flawed about meat-eaters mourning over one particular horse; when I first wrote about the allegations of dog fighting at Vick's property, I suggested a lot of the outrage was misplaced considering how many forms of animal cruelty are openly accepted in our society.

There have been some questionable motivations behind some of the writing on the Vick allegations. I can't know another's motivations well, but I hope I have kept my focus, as Leave the Man Alone puts it, "on the actual crimes at hand and not just the undermining of Michael Vick." Going forward, I'll be following this story regardless of Vick's role in the story, because for me Michael Vick is not the main theme of this story.

Perhaps it is worthwhile to shift from dog fighting, a pseudo-sport devoted to animal torture, to bullfighting, another pseudo-sport devoted to animal torture (though Hemingway writes in Death in the Afternoon that "The bullfight is not a sport in the Anglo-Saxon sense of the word, that is, it is not an equal contest or an attempt at an equal contest between a bull and a man. Rather it is a tragedy; the death of the bull, which is played, more or less well, by the bull and the man involved and in which there is no danger for the man but certain death for the animal").

According to Wikipedia, Spanish-style bullfighting has three stages. In the first stage "The picador stabs a mound of muscle on the bull's neck, which lowers its blood pressure, so that the enraged bull does not have a heart attack. The bull's charging and trying to lift the picador's horse with its neck muscles also weakens its massive neck and muscles." In the second stage, "the three banderilleros each attempt to plant two barbed sticks (called banderillas) on the bull's flanks. These further weaken the enormous ridges of neck and shoulder muscle through loss of blood, while also frequently spurring the bull into making more ferocious charges." And finally, it all "ends with a final series of passes in which the matador with a muleta attempts to manoeuvre the bull into a position to stab it between the shoulder blades and through the aorta or heart."

How does such activity sound to you? Though for many this is entertainment, it reads like systematized torture to me.

There are reasons why you might be more concerned about dogfighting in American than bullfighting in Spain. But such activity is worth at least as much vitriol as many people have directed at Michael Vick or the activities alleged to have occurred on his property.

But let's set aside the question of whether people who have been loudly critical of Vick in the past few months really hate dogfighting, or really hate Vick (for whatever reason).

Instead, let's consider the concept of misplaced hatred as a form of scapegoating.

In Toni Morrison's novel The Bluest Eye, characters frequently transfer what should be righteous indignation against a victimizer into hatred against an innocent party, creating more victims. There are many examples, explicit and implicit, of characters misplacing their hatred (and other feelings) throughout the novel. Some of this misdirected rage turns to self-hatred: several black characters in the novel internalize society's racist standards of beauty, and hate what they see as their own ugliness. But in the end, the entire community is able to transfer its self-hatred onto the innocent victim and scapegoat, Pecola Breedlove.

I would suggest that hatred gets misplaced in many of our attempts to make moral sense of our dealings with animals. This misplaced hatred becomes scapegoating, where people bring vitriolic indignation to egregiously cruel or indifferent treatment of animals to help downplay our frequent and accepted mistreatment of animals.

Make the connection between dogfighting and bullfighting. And keep looking, for there are more connections to be made.

(Image from Wikipedia Commons. Sorry if you're annoyed to read analysis of animal cruelty on a football blog, but you were warned at the beginning).

Fantasy Preview: the Houston Texans

The premise is simple: I'll tell you what players you can confidently start the season with, and what players should cause your stomach to wobble if you have to start them.

Houston Texans
2006 stats at NFL.com and pro-football-reference.com

Andre Johnson (WR): Johnson has been a weak #2 WR for his entire career (averaging 64 yards per game and a touchdown every 3-4 games). During this time, however, he's shown amazing talent, and has been playing on a pretty lousy team. Being a weak #2 WR is his floor this season; it's possible Matt Schaub will have a better connection with him than David Carr did (they should hit on more deep passes), so he could become a strong #2 WR or even a good #1 WR.

Ahman Green (RB): It seems Green should get feature back carries. He may not be at the height of his powers (I thought he was ungodly good from 2000-2003--he always killed the Vikes), but he's a gritty runner that also catches passes. He'd be a good #2 RB.

I can't recommend any other Texans right now. I'm sure Houston fans are excited about Matt Schaub, but he's a pre-season wonder with pretty mediocre regular season stats (52.6 completion percentage, but a good 7.7 yards per attempt the last two seasons). I don't want him on my roster. Owen Daniels did OK for a rookie TE, so he could make a roster spot worth your while. But this team was 28th in points and 28th in yards last season; if you draft Texans, you are hoping the additions of Schaub and Green combined with the second year of Gary Kubiak's system means a major improvement; I'm not so sure.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Blizzard: this is what it used to be like

Do you remember what July was like for NFL fans back before the internet made us feel entitled to read and talk about football all year round? Go look at the Pioneer Press Vikings page today to find out.

Via Leave the Man Alone, you can read a PDF of the actual court document alleging dog fighting at the Vick property. The document is sort of funny: it's titled "United States of America, plaintiffs, v. Approximately 53 pit bulldogs, defendants." So the entire U.S.A. is taking some sort of legal action against a few dozen animals. If the U.S. government recognizes these dogs' right to a fair trial, it will be the best support yet for Animal Rights!

But seriously, it is an action to seize the animals, "for violation of 7 U.S.C. 2156," which is an "Animal fighting venture prohibition." Paragraphs 8 through 15 contain the details of the allegations.

Via PFT, the Wall Street Journal reports that Topps is still trying to resist Upper Deck's takeover. But I just read in Beckett that 2007 Topps football packs will have three fewer cards per pack than last season; takeover or no takeover, I'm afraid the UpperDeckification of Topps has already begun.

Bucky Brooks takes his division-by-division look at the NFL to our beloved NFC North.

Fantasy previews are showing up all over the web: Roger Rotter ranks QBs.

You make fun of Matt Millen for drafting WRs 4 out of 5 seasons. But Pat Kirwan (via The Wayne Fontes Experience) notes that Detroit has 16 WRs on the salary cap books for 2007. According to Kirwan, "Mike Williams, Charles Rogers, Corey Bradford are no longer on the team but will eat up $10,229,720 of space this season (close to 10 percent of the cap)." Uff da.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Fantasy Preview: the San Diego Chargers

The premise is simple: I'll tell you what players you can confidently start the season with, and what players should cause your stomach to wobble if you have to start them.

San Diego Chargers
2006 stats at NFL.com and pro-football-reference.com

Ladanian Tomlinson (RB): It's not just that in 2006 he had arguably the greatest fantasy season for a RB ever, with 2,323 total yards and 31 TDs scored; it's that in the previous five seasons before his epic 2006 season, Tomlinson averaged 1,950 total yards and 16 TDs per season. He's the most dependable RB in fantasy football, and he has been for years. If you have the #1 pick in your draft, you must select Tomlinson. But the real question is what you should do in an auction league: should you resign yourself to missing out on Tomlinson, or should you spend 50% of your total money to get him? Last season he was as productive as two starting RBs--if you started Tomlinson, whatever points you got from your #2 RB were gravy. He always gets tons of yards and tons of TDs--the only way that slows down now is if he gets injured (he's only missed one game in his career so far). I personally have resigned myself to saving my money for other players; however, if you are willing to draft Tomlinson, you are likely to have a high scoring team, so he might be worth the major chunk of your auction money.

But if you do draft Tomlinson in either a snake draft or an auction draft, you might want to go ahead and draft Michael Turner too; if you've invested a crapload in Tomlinson, you don't want a competitor to benefit from a Tomlinson injury by starting Turner.

Antonio Gates (TE): I'm of the opinion that if you don't get Gates, you may as well wait and spend little to nothing on one of the many viable fantasy TEs out there. I also think Gates is more valuable in an auction league than a snake draft. If you select Gates in a snake draft, you're using an early pick on a TE, and that means you are passing on a starting RB, WR, or QB. If you draft him in an auction league, you can still attempt to manage your money to fill out a solid starting lineup.

Philip Rivers (QB): One of the solid fantasy starters: if he can pick up his yardage production, he'll be an elite fantasy QB soon.

Nick Kaeding (K): The Chargers were the #1 scoring team in the league last season: of course you want their kicker.

Defense: The Charger D was 7th in overall points and 1st in sacks last season.

Monday, July 09, 2007

"Naturally we called our stuff Gatorade"

For months and months and months I've listened to this old codger tell me that naturally they called their stuff Gatorade. I've vexed about why it was natural (I know they're the Gators, but couldn't they call it Florida Juice? Gator Water? Is "Gatorade" all that natural?). Cruelty-Free Mommy thinks he sounds like Cleveland on Family Guy. Every time the commercial is on I wait for the zany old man to to tell me "Naturally we called our stuff Gatorade." For some reason listening to him say "Naturally we called our stuff Gatorade" just sounds beautiful to my ear, like listening to the soundtrack to Wicked or Julia Louis-Dreyfuss calling somebody a "jackass" or the sound of MacBeth's "To-morrow and to-morrow and to-morrow" speech. I would like that man to follow me around and narrate my life. "Naturally you need to take a left turn." "Naturally you should have an iced latte." "Naturally it's time to use conditioner."

I like you, "Naturally we called our stuff Gatorade" guy. I like you a lot. May you continue naturally calling your stuff Gatorade forever and ever.

Random blizzard

USA Today says that Dan Marino, the greatest quarterback ever to set foot on a football field, is the 11th best player in the last 25 years. But we refuse to get into the spirit of irrelevant controversy season: we will accept this slight from the paper designed to be fast, punchy, and mediocre.

The Fanhouse looks at why the University of Texas has not retired Vince Young's number.

Pro-football-reference.com looks at the desire for consistent fantasy players, and says the reality is you want your team to be good, and consistency is relatively irrelevant. It's true you want your team to be good--consistency doesn't matter if your team sucks. But if you want to join the Revolution, know that you're better off with people good on a week-to-week basis than with boom-and-bust guys. Certainly, in 4 of 5 years the team with the most total points won the league (and I'd have to look closer to see if consistent teams simply end up compiling more points than boom or bust teams). Overall, I think in the revolutionary system, you're better off scoring 50-60 points every week than fluctuating a lot: perhaps this season I'll monitor this.

The Outsports book is now available: the table of contents really makes the book intriguing. Uff da, I sure hate parting with money, especially on new books (I've got centuries worth of books to read: I rarely see the need to shell out 30 bucks to read any particular one now--not since Stephen King finished up The Dark Tower, anyway), but this month I might want to buy The Outsports Revolution and the Pro Football Prospectus. Gosh, and my wife is going to be buying the Harry Potter book: July is going to be hum ding in a notoriously frugal household.

Deadspin talks about the running of the bulls in Pamplona, and says "I don't mean to tell Spain their business. But isn't it time someone stepped in and ended this bullfighting business once and for all? Why torture big, dumb animals in the name of sport?" In PV's younger days (back when I at animals and didn't have the P), I imbibed Hemingway and found the idea of a bull fight romantic. Well, nuts to anybody who says people don't change: I've clearly grown disgusted with the idea of torturing animals for any reason, much moreso for our mere entertainment. I suppose I also shouldn't tell Spain its business--we've got plenty of brutality toward animals here in America to protest and resist.

Oh, and since we posted way too many times for a weekend, I didn't want What was that bang?'s hyped up post on Bryant McKinnie and the Vikings to escape your attention.