Monday, March 31, 2008



I hate everything about it. I hate starting the season on the road. I hate starting the season with a Packer game. I hate starting on a Monday night (I usually teach Monday nights). The schedule can eat shit and die.

Massive Monday Blizzard: I am having a love affair with this breakfast smoothie.

Public Money for Stadiums
Sports Law Blog comments on the use of public money for buildings that are primarily for and will be primarily controlled by a private (and rich) company. Basically, it's horseshit that public resources finance a billion dollar industry, but the Realpolitik is that if municipalities/states don't devote some resources to buildings for professional sports teams, those teams can move to another city.

Howard Wasserman suggests public money should be tied to free speech rights inside the arena/ballpark/stadium:

"One of things driving my arguments on fan speech in publicly funded/privately operated ballparks is kind of a quid-pro-quo notion: If the private teams are going to demand large amounts of public financial support for their toys (which the team easily could pay for itself), teams must deal with unpopular or distasteful expression by the fans who are given access to the ballpark--who, after all, help pay for that ballpark. If a team is to receive this unique benefit of exclusive control over publicly owned and (largely) publicly financed property built expressly for that team, it ought to be subject to the limitations of the First Amendment in ways that private entities ordinarily are not bound."

It's a good notion, and free speech inside the arenas is just one of the concessions citizens should demand if their public money is to be used for the construction of these buildings.

Of course professional sports franchises aren't the only businesses that ask for public money. The Mall of America has "asked for $234 million in state and local subsidies" for an expansion to the mall (Wikipedia) (and as Lizabeth Cohen shows in "From Town Center to Shopping Center," you really don't have free speech rights in malls, either). Whenever a city or state must decide about whether or how to allocate funds to private industry, it must ask a few key questions. What does this industry provide the community (in terms of jobs, economy, entertainment, prestige)? What financial sacrifices must the community make to support this industry (could that money be used for schools, roads, health care, parks, libraries, the arts, or just remain in citizens' accounts)? And what will happen if the city or state chooses not to contribute (will the industry leave, and what would the consequences be)?

It's a scylla and charybdis situation, to be sure.

Vikings and Quarterback
The Vikings are still probably going after Sage Rosenfels to be a backup quarterback (Star Tribune). The Vikings still desperately need a veteran backup that can step in if Tarvaris Jackson struggles early in the season and the Vikings are losing as a result. Sage Rosenfels thrills nobody, but when you're acquiring a backup quarterback, there really aren't many names that are going to thrill anybody. A second-round pick is too high a price, but the Vikes should probably try get Rosenfels on draft day.

The Fanhouse also suggests Chris Simms is a possibility. I could live with that--he fits precisely the category of "competent backup with upside to start if necessary."

Of course, there's still somebody out there available. Somebody we know well. Somebody that was quoting Gandhi last summer, so maybe he's interested in peace and reconciliation. But probably not.

Bring on the #1 seeds!
I'm one of those heathens that is not remotely disappointed that there's no Cinderella in the Final Four and that all the #1 seeds are in the Final Four. In any sport, upsets are fun. They remind us that the games really are competitive and that we watch sports because either team can win. But generally, upsets are brief fun while they last, but they rob us of later great games (not always--it can be really fun when an underdog takes it to the championship game and even wins the sucker. Upset champions really do remind us that every team in the playoffs has a chance, and why the end of the season playoff race matters, too).

But look what we have now! The juggernauts all have to beat each other. They should be outstanding games, featuring outstanding teams and outstanding players. That's what I want in a basketball game.

On the controversial Vogue cover
When I first saw the cover image of LeBron and Gisele, the idea of racism did not even enter my mind. When I first heard people suggesting the racist connotations of the cover, I thought "Really? Isn't that a bit of a stretch?" But as I've read more and more people sensing that racism, and as I've read more and more black writers discussing the cover, I feel more compelled to accept that point of view. We have a completely poisoned history of race in this country--no sane person can deny that. That poisoned history includes the negative manipulation of images of black people. If black individuals look at that cover and are reminded of old racist stereotypes and are offended at the image being presented, it's not my place to deny and dismiss their objections. I want to listen seriously to their objections, and I want to understand why such an image does connote racism for so many people.

The NFL Draft and Language
I have paid almost no attention at all to the NFL draft yet. I think I've reached the point in life when I don't want to speculate about what is going to happen with a bunch of players I've never seen play (not that there's anything wrong with that). I'll have just as much fun watching the draft and learning about the players that day (after all, there's plenty of time between picks to be learning about these players).

Soon I'll start paying attention to articles about the draft, though. I'm always ready to look for the big overused cliches that emerge around draft time.

It's been over two years since I arbitrarily decided I needed a college in sports to root for and chose UCLA. This was probably the peak of my life of calling myself an existentialist (I don't anymore).

This is the year I'm going to arbitrarily start following baseball. Should be fun. It may even give me something to write about on this blog all summer besides fantasy football and dog fighting controversies.

Here's what I'm hoping: baseball can be a nice, casual thing to have on in the background while I'm playing with my son, or reading a book.

The NBA Western Conference
It looks nine teams in the West have separated themselves into three groups: the three teams fighting for the #7 and #8 spots (Denver, Dallas, and Golden State), Utah (locked into that #4 spot pretty well, it seems), and the other five teams fighting for seeds 1, 2, 3, 5, and 6 (Hornets, Spurs, Lakers, Suns, Rockets). This is all very exciting: read more about the recent goings on at SLAM.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Blizzard: I'm wearing Converse Chuck Taylor All-Stars right now, and my feet feel pretty good. Pretty, pretty, pretty, good.

The Vikings resigned Heath Farwell (Pioneer Press).

A look at the off-season moves in the NFC North (Football Outsiders).

If you're a lousy football team, finishing a season strong really does matter (

Praise for UCLA's Kevin Love from Seth Davis and Gene Wojciechowski.

A nice exploration of what it means to be a fan (fuhbaw).

At Epic Carnival, wwtb? talks about SHENANIGANS!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Chronicle of Cliche: Peter King

Perhaps you think I'm lazy (no doubt). Perhaps I've been busy with other things (sure). Maybe I've just been uninspired (this blog is always uninspired, you say). Perhaps you thought I had a crisis of faith after reading in Guy Deutscher's The Unfolding of Language how all language is built on metaphor (not really--language built on metaphor is not the same thing as paid writers using cliched language). Maybe I've even been working on extending my religious pacifism toward being kind rather than insulting (that's sort of true, but I can still be a critic, right?). But for whatever reason, I haven't written about overused metaphors much here lately. But I'm back, baby! Let's chronicle some of the cliches found in Peter King's MMQB this week. Once again, a cliche is an overused metaphor; King also uses some relatively fresh and original metaphors that I don't call cliches, and also many metaphors that are now simply a part of basic English.

This is your chance to remember how pretentious I can be and how much you should hate me.

(By the way, those interested in observing the prevalence of cliche might enjoy this Boston Globe piece on "drinking the Kool-Aid.")

"there definitely will be more electricity in this year's draft."

Last year there were power outages--they need the extra electricity this year.

"I expect to be working hard to play Let's Make a Deal."

Shouldn't they play Deal or No Deal instead?

"Both hate to stand pat."

Do you know what "pat" even means in this context?

"Tannenbaum knows he's got holes to fill at..."

It's a tough job being a hole digger. It's even tougher being the guy that has to go back and fill those holes. With something.

"Jerry Jones is itching to make a big deal. Just itching."

I wanted to include an example of a word that is a metaphor, but is now just a part of English rather than being a cliche. I think "itching" works for that--it's a good word that conveys meaning well.

"I expect only the Jets and Patriots to steer clear of each other"

Me too--I wouldn't want them bumping into each other.

"T-minus 33 days 'til Draft Day..."

I'm guessing it's T-minus four sentences before I see another cliche.

"If Bill Parcells is going to guarantee anyone $33 million, it's going to be a 24/7 football player who he'd trust to marry one of his daughters."

Two cliches in one sentence! King is a pro, folks. An absolute pro. By the way, the word "whom" is dying a slow but meaningless death.

" and Gholston is tailor-made to..."

Do you know Dostoevsky slipped advertisements for his tailor into some of his great novels? Talk about product placement.

"...with Ray Lewis and Ed Reed jumping down his throat if he screws up."

Don't screw up, man: I don't want to see that.

"I think the jury will be out on DeAngelo Hall until..."

What did he do?

"Giant beat writers, you might sniff around this one..."

I really dislike the "sniffing around" metaphor: somehow it seems like a really tacky, lowbrow expression. I told you I'm pretentious.

"How could you not love the Western Kentucky-Drake first-round game? One for the ages, and a finish even better than that."

"One for the ages:" a round game between two colleges I've barely heard of. What ages?

Thanks, Peter King--that's always fun. I'll try not to let the "Chronicle of Cliche" gimmick sit on the sidelines for so long again. Wait a minute...sidelines? What sidelines?

Monday, March 24, 2008

Post Spring Break Blizzard

I still prefer the NBA
If I'm watching a sport, I'd rather watch that sport's best players. College basketball is exciting, but at the end of every day of college basketball, I still found myself more intrigued reading NBA box scores and checking the changes in the Western Conference standings (it's still nine teams between 42 and 48 wins, with five teams within a game of the first seed). Whenever I've watched great college players, I've watched them in anticipation of what sort of pros they might be. Somehow I feel the pros have a greater historical importance (I love NBA history), and a more exciting game.

The one-and-done NCAA tournament
A hot three-point shooting team can knock off a higher seed in the first few rounds of the tournament. But I don't think a team can win a championship relying on outside shooting guards. It's unrealistic to expect six consecutive hot shooting games against progressively more difficult competition. To win a championship, you need to have some sort of low post offensive game and a strong defense to help you past the cold offensive games. Any team can lose any game to a team with good guard play, but if you're looking for a team to win six straight in the tournament, look to the team's defense and to its forwards and centers.

Evidently the Vikings signed safety Michael Boulware (Star Tribune). The secondary and defensive line are similar: it's hard to have too many players capable of contributing.

The NFL might ban long hair flowing out from under helmets (Fanhouse). Safety issue, or yet another attempt to destroy individual personality in football games? I like the long-haired players: Troy Polamalu looks good running around with his hair flowing. If I were an offensive player, I wouldn't want something else for tacklers to grab, but defensive players should be able to let their hair flow: it's a harmless form of personal expression.

The NFL draft is still a month away (Epic Carnival).

OK, this photo shows that UCLA got away with one (Deadspin). To be fair, we should see how much the refs were letting go all game long (in a 53-49 game, I'm guessing it is quite a bit).

Dave Zirin's "Brett Favre: the Restricted Archetype" (Edge of Sports), a comment on how players can be unfairly portrayed and perceived based on race: black athletes rarely get the "flawed hero" treatment that white athletes sometimes get.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Zany Basketball Coaching Strategy: Ignore Foul Trouble

In basketball, when a starter gets into early foul trouble, the coach usually takes him out to save him for later. This is stupid for two reasons:

1. In theory, your team's performance at different points of the game is equally valuable. Why take out a starter early when he could be helping you build a lead? Why is it better to save him until later? Actually, taking a player out to save his minutes until the end of the game can make him less effective: if you are down and your opponent is managing the clock, you could get that player for fewer possessions. But in general, a player's performance in five minutes in the middle of the first half can be as valuable as his performance in the last five minutes: all baskets are worth the same amount at different points in the game.

2. If you take a player with foul trouble out, you are choosing to limit his playing time on the chance that he picks up more fouls. But he might not. Taking him out for foul trouble might mean you get him for fewer minutes than you would have if you just let him play. Don't take a starter with two or three fouls out and hope a substitute and the rest of the team plays well without him. Let him play as long as you know you have him; if he fouls out, then you put in a substitute and hope he and the rest of the team perform well.

I think basketball coaches should ignore foul trouble; they should play players when they know they have them available, not purposely limit the minutes to avoid the possibility of not having the player later. Possible objections to this zany strategy: the opponent may target the player to get him to draw more fouls, or the player could play more tentatively in order to avoid fouling. Any others?

Advertising and College Basketball

I don't object that college athletes are not paid by the colleges. The athletes do get benefits from the college (a scholarship), in theory money generated for the college goes not to individuals for profit but to the general improvement and well-being of the college, and all college students and alumni are asked in different ways to contribute to the college community.

But I'm always disturbed by the way private corporations--which do exist for the purpose of individuals to profit--are able to exploit unpaid college athletes. Have you ever thought about the fact that corporations are advertising during games played by unpaid athletes? What disturbs me is that the companies are able to use the activities of unpaid college students to promote their products and services, thereby increasing sales, thereby leading individuals in the corporation to profit. Lots of corporations promote their products and services during the activities of unpaid college athletes with the intention of making a profit. Is this exploitation?

Student athletes benefit the college and get benefits from the college. That's fine. But its disturbing on several levels the way for-profit corporations are able to exploit unpaid student athletes.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Leave us alone.

What bothers me about Glen Taylor insulting Kevin Garnett is not what you think.

Glen Taylor should be our guy to criticize. And Kevin Garnett should be our guy to defend.

But this gives Boston sports fans a chance to defend their guy, Kevin Garnett, and criticize our guy, Glen Taylor. Not only does that remind me of all the sadness (why can't Garnett still be our guy?), but it again pricks at all the inferiority I've largely forgotten about since the Patriots lost the Super Bowl.

Boston still has a great football team, a great baseball team, and a great basketball team. They have Randy Moss and Kevin Garnett.

Please, Boston fans, just leave us alone. Just enjoy all the pleasure you have and let me watch my shitty basketball team play shitty basketball.

Wednesday Blizzard

The Vikings finally signed Ellis Wyms (SI). That's good: defensive line depth was (and still is) one of the team's needs.

The first part of Seamus Heaney's "Markings" is about kids playing soccer (The Guardian).

Frerotte! (Star Tribune).

Julius Peppers? (Viking War Cry). I won't allow myself to dream.

I'm going to the Timberwolves-Grizzlies game tonight. I haven't been to a game yet this year; the last time I went to a Timberwolves' game that didn't feature Kevin Garnett must have been 1995.

Reasons the NBA is in good shape: its leading scorer (LeBron James), leading rebounder (Dwight Howard), and second leading passer (Chris Paul) were each born in 1984 or 1985. I continue to be astounding at these three players' stat lines (James: 30.9 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 7.5 apg; Howard: 21.7 ppg, 14.4 rpg; Paul: 21.6 ppg, 11.3 apg). It should be a fun next decade or so of basketball, right?

William Rhoden: "Vick Case Exposes Rift Among Animal-Rights Advocates" (New York Times).

What's Drew Bledsoe up to? (New York Times).

Deadspin previews UCLA's first round game.

Stop Mike Lupica writes about the Washington pro football team's nickname.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

A Slight Detour: March Madness

*First let me remind our wonderful readers that yours truly, Holy Hitter, attended Duke University (Duke Divinity School to be exact) from 2004-2007. I say this because while I try to be objective, I might actually still have some subjectivity in me.*

Patrick Reusse went on a rant over the NCAA selections, you can read it yourself here. Nevermind that the whole topic of the article is overdone and a piece that gets written every year across the nation. No the problem I have is a lack of objectivity. Reusse states:

"The committee also offered the usual bouquet to Mike Krzyzewski and Duke. The Blue Devils lost four of their past 10 games. The last of those came against Clemson in the ACC tournament semifinals.

No matter.

CBS and the NCAA were heartbroken when their beloved Dookies were knocked out in the first round by Virginia Commonwealth a year ago. The committee was going to make sure that another early exit did not befall Coach I Deserve Every Call.

Duke was given a second seed and placed up the road in Washington D.C. It has Belmont in the first round and the minor task of defeating West Virginia (seventh seed) or Arizona (10th) in the second round."

1st- Duke is a good basketball program. Personally, I thought they were more deserving of a #3 seed, but I can see how the committee comes up with giving them a #2 seed. The notion that Duke always gets the "favor" of the committee does not objectively look at the facts that over the past 10 years no other program has won more games. Yes, they lost 4 out of their past ten games. 1 was a horrible loss to Wake Forrest, the other a quality loss to the 3rd best team in the ACC (the Miami Hurricanes). The 3rd was to #1 overall seed North Carolina (a game that Duke had won but then let slip away in the final 2 minutes), and the last came Saturday to Clemson in which they played the absolute worse game of the year (well except for maybe that Wake Forrest game) and still had a chance to win the game in the closing minutes. While they maybe should have had a #3 seed, saying that they are getting their "usual bouquet" is not objective or factual.

2nd- The notion that CBS and the NCAA were heartbroken over Duke's loss to VCU last year is 100% bogus. That loss made for a good story line and almost everyone loves to see Duke lose. Duke might be the most televised program because of that fact. People watch hoping that they lose.

3rd- His name calling of Duke and Coach K show his lack of objectivity. Reusse does not like Duke. I get it and he proves it by calling Coach K "Coach I Deserve Every Call" and calling them the "Beloved Dookies"

4th- He talks about how they get put up in Washington D.C., but then he fails to mention that they then cross the country to the Western Bracket to play out the Sweet 16 and Elite 8 games (if they make it that far). D.C. is roughly 5-6 hours away from Durham. Omaha is roughly 6-7 hours away from Madison.) Now looking at Wisconsin who got the #3 seed in the Midwest, if they make the Sweet 16 only has to go to Detroit to play. Yeah, poor Badgers. They got jobbed.

5th- No doubt teams might have legitimate gripes about their seed or not making the tourney, but if someone is going to gripe I expect them to look at the whole picture and not just beat their bias drum without doing some objective broad research in their critique. Reusse talks about how Arizona got in yet ASU didn't even though ASU beat Arizona twice. But lets look at the whole body of work. Yes Arizona was 19-14 which is two more losses than ASU's 19-12 mark. Yes ASU had a 9-9 conference record while Arizona was 8-10, but lets also look at the losses by Arizona (2 vs. UCLA, 1 vs. Kansas, 1 vs. Memphis, 2 vs. Stanford...yes folks half of their losses were against top 10 ranked teams and 5 of those against top 4 in the nation teams). Combine that with two wins vs. Washington State, a win over Texas A&M and they start looking respectable. How about ASU? They had a big top 10 win vs. Stanford, 2 losses vs. UCLA and 2 Losses vs. that same Washington State team that Arizona beat twice. So lets see they had two wins vs. ranked teams and yes had 8 losses vs. unranked team. Say what you will, it could be debated but Reusse just uses the logic that teams with similar records that have met each other's bids should be determined by their head to head matchup, but that misses the fact that Arizona might not have as many losses if they wouldn't have had a far tougher non-conference schedule.

That is all I have to say about Reusse. Those people who wrote comments though are another story. The Badger beating drum is strong. How Wisconsin got jobbed and should have gotten a #2 seed because they won the Big Ten regular season and tourney. Folks have to come to the realization that the Big Ten aint what it used to be. Yes the Badgers beet Texas by one point earlier in the season, but Texas has shown that they deserved that #2 seed. Tennessee, well they probably should have been a #1 so their #2 is warranted. Georgetown deserved the #2. The only gripe could be against Duke. Duke had 5 losses didn't win the ACC regular season or tourney so maybe Wisconsin should have gotten the #2, but remember Duke throttled Wisconsin early in the season, has quality losses vs. Pitt (back before Pitt got injured, more like the current Pitt team that just won the Big East Tourney) vs. UNC and then Miami and Clemson. They have that one horrible loss vs. Wake. Wisconsin lost to Purdue twice, got whooped by Duke, and lost to a Marquette team that Duke beat. Then remember that Duke also beat UNC once. I think it is pretty fair that Duke got the #2 seed over Wisconsin. I don't think it has anything to do with a bias to Duke or some favoritism, but rather I think the committee objectively thought Duke was more deserving of the #2 seed. I just wish people would use reason and logic rather than just ranting about some Duke bias.

P.S. I was reading a comment about how Billy Packer loves Duke. I have never believed this, and as a Duke fan I hate Billy Packer because he always seems to be ripping on Duke (especially if they are playing UNC or any other ACC team).

Monday, March 17, 2008

Monday Little Blizzard

Viking signings
The Vikes made a couple of C signings recently: they're the sort of moves a pro football team just makes, so you can't really praise or criticize them. They signed Derrick Pope, who will be a backup linebacker that can hopefully play effective special teams. And they re-signed Robert Ferguson, a nondescript wide receiver that adds depth and experience to an improving unit.

Links and Miscellany
The NBA's Western Conference is crazy. If you haven't been paying attention, the current #1 seed has 46 wins, and the current #9 seed (meaning it would miss the playoffs) has 40 wins. I have no idea what seeding is even going to mean in this year's playoffs: after all, the current #2 seed has 45 wins and the current #7 seed has 44 wins. Does home court advantage mean that much? I'm getting excited.

Worlds could collide at Sports Toothache: UCLA and Duke are in the same bracket.

At Fanhouse: "Bowen Blames His Endless Whining on Jesus."

Sooze previews the Minnesota Twins' season at Epic Carnival. I think I've picked a bad year to arbitrarily pretend I care about baseball.

The Twins have a vegan on their team; that's why I'll root for them (I Dislike Your Favorite Team, Ladies...).

Empty the Bench says the Timberwolves aren't the worst in the league: they're a rebuilding team with real potential.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

What sports bloggers are

Sports bloggers are essentially people who watch sports and wish to express and discuss opinions about sports. That's pretty much it.

So what does it mean when Bob Costas calls bloggers "pathetic get-a-life loser[s]" (The Big Lead)? How can one avoid being a "pathetic get-a-life loser"? It seems there are only two choices:

1. Stop watching sports.
If watching sports makes one a "pathetic get-a-life loser," then one should stop watching sports. Of course, if every "pathetic get-a-life loser" stopped watching sports, sports broadcasters like Bob Costas would have to find something else to do for a living.

Does Costas think everybody who watches sports is a "pathetic get-a-life loser"? Probably not. That would mean his entire audience is comprised of "pathetic get-a-life loser[s]," right? So there's probably another way to avoid being a "pathetic get-a-life loser" in Costas's view.

2. Watch sports, but don't think for yourself: merely accept the opinions of commentators like Costas.
In this case, Costas is fine if you watch sports, and he's fine if you're part of his audience. But he doesn't want you to think about sports for yourself. He doesn't want you to express opinions about sports for yourself. And he doesn't want you to discuss sports. He would prefer it if you just watched sports without thinking and listened in awe of the opinions of various paid broadcasters, reporters, and columnists like Costas. If this is the case, he wants an audience of blank slates, unthinking slobs, automatons that merely soak in his knowledge without developing any ideas of their own.

Either way, Costas doesn't think very highly of his audience, does he?

Friday, March 14, 2008

At Epic Carnival

I expected PV's QB Pantheon to consist entirely of Peyton Manning, Eli Manning, Archie Manning, and Tito Jackson. Live and learn.

At Epic Carnival, I try to find analogies to anybody other than Jerry Rice wearing #80 for the 49ers.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

PV's Quarterback Pantheon

Inspired by this Dave Anderson column in The New York Times, RK and I were discussing via email the futility of "ranking" all-time great quarterbacks; once you've got a list of all-time great QBs, it's meaningless to try put them in order. We're better off just lumping the true greats into a group and saying there, there's our Pantheon, rather than trying to rank them in any sort of order. Dave Anderson calls this his "top shelf."

But what criteria do we use to decide which QBs belong in the Pantheon, and which don't? I have a way. If I could make a reasonable argument that a quarterback is the greatest quarterback of all-time, then he goes in the Pantheon. If a quarterback is really great but I can't make a reasonable argument he's the greatest quarterback of all-time, then he doesn't go in.

I've come up with 10 quarterbacks in history for whom I believe I could make a legitimate, fair argument for #1. I'll provide the unranked list with a brief explanation, and then name a few great quarterbacks that I didn't include. Remember, the entire point is that this is an unranked list--I don't want to try say any one of these quarterbacks is better than any other. What I am saying is that each of these quarterbacks could make a fair claim as the all-time greatest.

Let me note that I'm big on the black ink test: I like quarterbacks that proved themselves statistically superior to their contemporaries, meaning they led the league in significant categories frequently. For quarterbacks, I'll look at completion percentage, passing yards, passing touchdowns, and (reluctantly) passer rating. I also appreciate a quarterback's team success, even as I recognize team success is not entirely dependent on the quarterback.

PV's Quarterback Pantheon

Otto Graham
Graham played ten years of professional football. In his first four years, he led the Cleveland Browns to four AAFC championships. In his next six years, he led the Browns to six NFL championship games, winning three of them. That's 10 years, 10 championship games, 7 championships. And combine his performances in both the AAFC and the NFL, and he led the league in completion percentage four times, passing yards five times, passing touchdowns three times, and passer rating four times.

Steve Young
We should not forget how sickly good Steve Young was. In the eight seasons from 1991 to 1998, Young led the league in completion percentage five times, touchdown passes four times, and passer rating six times. In that time, the San Francisco 49ers led the league in scoring four consecutive years, ranked third in scoring three times, and ranked fifth once. They averaged 11.88 wins per season. Young was also a good running quarterback.

Sammy Baugh
All Baugh did was lead the league in yards four times, touchdowns twice, rating four times, and completion percentage NINE TIMES. Yeah, Sammy Baugh was the league's most accurate passer in nine different seasons. During Baugh's reign, Washington played in five NFL championship games, winning two of them. He beats out Sid Luckman as the greatest quarterback of the NFL's first 35 years, and could still be considered the best to ever play.

Joe Montana
Montana has great regular season statistics. He's also the greatest playoff quarterback of all-time. In the playoffs, his teams were 16-7, and Montana threw 45 touchdown passes and 5,772 yards.

Dan Marino
Marino is the only QB to throw 40+ TD passes in two different seasons (48 in 1984, 44 in 1986). He still has a single-season record 5,084 passing yards. He led the league in touchdown passes three times and passing yards five times. The quickest release and the best pure passer ever.

Brett Favre
To me, Favre's most impressive record is his eight seasons with 30+ TD passes; Marino and Peyton Manning are tied for second with four. I think you could argue that from 1995 through 1997, nobody ever played quarterback better. Plus he has the longevity to hold all the big career records.

Peyton Manning
After ten seasons, I already believe there's a good argument Manning is the best ever. Ten seasons makes his season average easy to figure out: 4,163 yards and 30.6 touchdown passes, with the Colts winning 10.5 regular season games. That's a season average maintained over ten seasons. Think about that.

John Elway
The numbers aren't there. But if you watched Elway play, you saw a strong-armed quarterback that consistently made big plays and won a lot of games. He led the Broncos to five Super Bowls, winning two of them. He's got 14 playoff wins to his name--if anybody is going to make my Pantheon simply as a winner, it's Elway.

Johnny Unitas
Unitas led the league in touchdown passes four straight years; he retired as the career leader with 290. He led in passing yards four times, completion percentage once, and rating three times. He won championships, and he's known for clutch performances.

Bart Starr
Starr has a 9-1 playoff record with 5 championships. He led the league in completion percentage three times and rating three times. He rarely made mistakes, three times leading the league in low interception percentage.

Here are some of the great QBs that I just couldn't argue as the greatest.

Roger Staubach He was an incredibly efficient quarterback, a playmaker, and a winner.

Sid Luckman I think Luckman's great, but I can't claim he's the greatest. He won a lot of games and the Bears won four championships with Luckman as their leading passer. In 1943 threw a ridiculous 28 touchdown passes in 10 games.

Warren Moon We've been debating Moon's merits on this site lately, but I can't claim he's the best.

Len Dawson The AFL's finest passer, leading that league in completion percentage six times, touchdown passes four times, and passer rating six times.

Tom Brady Not yet. Team success: 12.3 wins per year since becoming starter, and a 14-3 playoff record with 3 championships. Statistical success: he's led the league in TD passes twice, passing yards twice, completion percentage once, and rating once. I'm just not ready to argue Brady is the greatest ever--yet.

Fran Tarkenton The scrambler came into the league on a crappy expansion team, got traded to another crappy team, then got traded back to his original team and led it to three NFC championships. He retired with all the career records, including 342 TD passes and 47,003 yards.

Terry Bradshaw The first quarterback to win four Super Bowls; he's great, but it was the defense that gave the Steelers their identity. And for a guy that played with two Hall of Fame wide receivers and a Hall of Fame running back, the numbers aren't really that strong. He deserves mention for the team success (and he did come through in big games), but he's not the greatest ever.

Your thoughts? How many QBs could you make an argument as the greatest ever? Who is on your "top shelf"?

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Blizzard: something bigger

Men can cry
Laura Ingraham made fun of Brett Favre for crying (Awful Announcing). She suggests it's not a good message for boys to "act like a girl."

There is so much wrong with this that I'm disgusted. First, there's the implication that we're all better off with our rigid gender stereotypes, meaning men are supposed to act stoic and not express emotions. Please. That men are more open about expressing emotions is a good thing--just ask our kids. We don't need more encouragement for boys to hide their natural emotions. Next there's the suggestion that it's bad for a boy to "act like a girl," suggesting superiority of males over females. This is typical of our language: when one refers to a boy behaving or performing like a girl, an insult is usually implied ("You throw like a girl"). We need to be conscious of this implicit ranking in our language.

Men, if we feel emotion, whether it be great joy or deep sadness, we shouldn't be embarrassed for expressing those emotions.

Bernard Berrian's contract may be big, but it's structured well for the Vikings (Star Tribune).

What are the Vikings going to do about backup quarterback (Viking Update)?

The Fanhouse has some posts on Eugene Robinson and Jamal Lewis, athletes with past legal troubles that are now doing well in life. These stories are important: they remind us that few people should be defined by their biggest mistakes, and that no person is beyond redemption.

Cold, Hard Football Facts has some nice things to say about the Vikings.

Adrian Peterson says he was average last season; it's good to see the team's superstar setting a high standard for himself (Vikings War Cry).

Daily Norseman talks about Bernard Berrian.

MJD remembers the USFL. We should do more to remember leagues like this: after all, Hall of Famers like Steve Young, Reggie White, Jim Kelly, and Gary Zimmerman played in the USFL, so it's not just some slouch league.

On Peter King's MMQB
I didn't write about this here: it wasn't at all about sports, and I don't think the purpose suited this blog. But if you're interested in how a pacifist responded to Peter King's recent column, feel free to read it at Costanza Book Club. It's not so much a criticism of King as an exploration of our screwed up way of talking about violence.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

In defense of playoff losing quarterbacks: Warren Moon

In a post below, we've been discussing the merits of Warren Moon. As often happens in such discussions, Moon's team's failings in the playoffs came up. Indeed, Moon's record as a playoff starter was 3-7, so you may believe Moon was a poor playoff performer.

But if you look at Warren Moon's playoff stats, you see a very good performer. He completed 64.3% of his passes, had 7.0 yards per attempt, and averaged 283 passing yards and 1.7 touchdown passes per game. He played very well in a lot of close losses: he threw for 315 yards and 2 TDs in a 3 point loss, 325 yards and 3 TDs in a 2 point loss, and 371 yards and 4 TDs in a 3 point loss. He had four consecutive playoff games with completion percentages between 70% and 75%. He had five consecutive playoff games with ratings between 91.8 and 118.4. By the numbers, he was a very good playoff quarterback.

Why, then, did Moon have a 3-7 record in the playoffs? It had less to do with Moon's failings than the failings of his teams' defenses: in Moon's 10 playoff starts, his team gave up an average of 26 points per game.

What does 26 points allowed per game mean?

In 2001, Tom Brady became a clutch playoff quarterback, but the Patriots didn't score 26 points in a single playoff game. If the defense had given up 26 points in any of their playoff games, would they still win the Super Bowl? Would Brady still be "clutch"?

In 2007, Eli Manning became a clutch playoff quarterback, but the Giants didn't score 26 points in a single playoff game. If the defense had given up 26 points in any of their playoff games, would they still win the Super Bowl? Would Manning still be "clutch"?

I'm not saying Brady and Manning should not be praised for their playoff performances. We can rightly appreciate the performances of quarterbacks who come through with big plays late in games. But should we still hold team playoff losses against a quarterback?

A look at individual performances shows that Warren Moon often played excellent football in the playoffs. His teams usually lost because they played badly on defense. Why, precisely, would should we blame Moon for these losses, and consider him a lesser quarterback?

Friday, March 07, 2008

Linky Blizzard

The Starting Five asks if Brett Favre is really better than Warren Moon. For the record, I don't think Moon is nearly as good as Favre (and I certainly like Moon better--he had a good couple of years for my beloved Purple). But the point is valid: because of racism, Moon's first six years of pro football were spent in the CFL. If it weren't for this racism, what NFL records would Moon hold? How differently would we regard him? In recent years, Favre has been praised for overcoming the sorts of things that people commonly struggle to overcome, such as death and illness in the family. That sort of universal suffering should not be diminished, but there's something odd about so much praise on one person for dealing with it. But who really overcame more in his career? Moon had to go excel in Canada before he had a chance to be an NFL starting quarterback because of racism--now he's a Hall of Famer.

Via PFT, Kent Somers questions Larry Fitzgerald's commitment to winning--because he'd rather not give up the money that he has earned by his performance and that his team has agreed to pay him in a contract they gave him. If The Arizona Republic has to fire some reporters, I'll question Somers' commitment to working for a good newspaper if he doesn't restructure his contract to take less money. OK, there is some selfishness involved when an employee puts himself above his fellow employees (I once heard a story of a high school teacher that, during contract negotiations, preferred younger teachers be fired than see his wages frozen at all). But the Cardinals gave Fitzgerald a huge contract based on incentives that he met. If he hadn't met those incentives, he wouldn't be entitled to the money, and if he was really bad, he might be cut.

MJD writes about Warren Sapp's retirement. In the mid and late 90s, Sapp was a dominant defensive tackle, a player I really feared.

53 Deep discusses the Vikings' team needs for the draft. I'm now all about defensive line depth in the draft, and I also think the team should trade for some reasonable backup quarterback (Sage Rosenfels? J.P. Losman? Somebody reasonable).

When I saw the Yahoo headline and blurb about a golfer charged for killing a hawk with a golf shot, I thought it was remarkably stupid. They're really going to charge a golfer for hitting a bird with a shot? I assumed that it was an accident. No, he purposely and repeatedly tried to hit the bird with golf ball because it was noisy. A stupid quote, though, from a Humane Society executive: "Americans have no tolerance for cruelty to animals." Well, no, except for all the animal cruelty that people don't call animal cruelty and thus still participate in. The golfer should have just waited until hunting season, used a gun, and killed a different type of bird. Our laws and morals about treatment of animals are a mess of inconsistency.

At Epic Carnival, wwtb? explains why Brett Favre's career interception record will never be broken.

Addendum #2
At Fanhouse, TAN has some interesting insights about Favre and changing media treatment of players. But here's a rule: whenever a Fanhouse post touches on race at all, absolutely do not read the comments section. You'll just get sick.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Football Blizzard

Maurice Hicks: upgrade?
The Vikings have signed KR and RB Maurice Hicks (Access Vikings). Hicks essentially replaces Mewelde Moore on the roster. Running back depth is important, and Hicks has a 4.2 average for his career; he'll be a solid third running back on the roster.

But Hicks is also, presumably, being brought in to return kicks and punts; after all, he's primarily been a kick returner in his career, and punt returner Mewelde Moore is no longer on the roster.

But is Hicks an upgrade? Moore averaged a solid 10.4 yards per punt return in his career with two touchdowns, while Hicks has never returned a punt in the NFL. Can Hicks return punts? Why hasn't he in the past? Will he next year?

Hicks has a career 22.7 yards per kick return with no touchdowns, but last year rookie Aundrae Allison averaged 28.7 yards per kick return, including one touchdown. Of course, Allison had just 20 kick returns, hardly a large sample size, while Hicks has 187 career returns. And it is possible that Allison will be used more as a WR in 2008, limiting his use as a KR.

Hicks is a solid addition to the RB roster depth, but I'm skeptical of what he brings to the return game.

Why Donovan McNabb's completion percentage is low
I'm a big fan of Donovan McNabb, but his career 58.7% completion percentage is a bit low for a great quarterback in this era. But I have a kooky theory about why. McNabb is left-handed, but he throws right-handed. He probably has more natural ability with his left arm--why does he throw with his right arm? Was he pressured as a young athlete? If he wanted to play quarterback, was he basically told he couldn't do it throwing left handed? What happened? I want to know. I already consider McNabb a great quarterback. But if he had developed as a thrower with his natural writing hand, who knows? He might be the greatest quarterback of all-time.

The NFC North is there for the taking
It will probably take nine wins for an NFC North team to win the division next year, and it is a completely open race. At this point, I don't see any favorite.

Of course, our goal is to see a Super Bowl win, not a 9-7 division winner (I don't know why I call it a "goal," since as fans we have no control whatsoever in the achievement of this "goal." I also don't know why I don't just go back and revise the word. Oh wait, I do: I'm addicted to parentheses. Parentheses are my crutch). The point is, the division is open, and the Vikes have a chance to rise up.

Weintraub on Favre Love
Slate re-posted Robert Weintraub's "Favre from Heaven: Why Journalists Deify the Green Bay Packers Quarterback." An excerpt:

"Favre and Owens make for an intriguing contrast. If you've watched even a single Green Bay game in the last few seasons, you've heard the misfortune that has befallen the quarterback recently: the death of his father, the death of his brother-in-law, his wife's cancer diagnosis. [...]

While Favre is lionized for playing through tragedy, Terrell Owens' success has never been given the same kind of context. As
Catch This! reveals, the fact that T.O. made it to the NFL is a miracle. Owens, who grew up destitute and fatherless in backwater Alabama, wasn't allowed to leave his front yard as a child for fear of getting whipped. Favre grew up in small town bliss surrounded by his loving family. Not to demean the loss of loved ones, but who has overcome more here? Why is every hurdle Favre has jumped over presented as the Pillars of Hercules, while a guy like Owens is dismissed as a loudmouth?"

I remember a game when WR Darrell Jackson utterly destroyed the Vikings shortly after his father died. Do you?

Football Outsiders does an "Audibles at the Line" for free agency.

I found a lot of amusing stuff at Ballhype recently. The New York Times talks about Favre's last pass (an interception) and where the ball is. I laughed out loud at Kissing Suzy Kolber's title for a post about Peter King and Brett Favre. MJD says Brett Favre's consecutive games started streak is more impressive than Cal Ripken's (there's only one problem, as MJD points out himself: Favre's streak isn't the record for consecutive games started. Jim Marshall has that). Let's Talk Sports says the Vikes are now the best team in the NFC North (the Vikes have never won the NFC North, and I won't feel comfortable saying they're the best in the NFC North until they do). Minnesota Sports Daily talks about the Vikings' free agent signings.

Dave Zirin points out that Arlen Specter, dogging the NFL for "spygate," gets a lot of contributions from Comcast.

I Dislike Your Favorite Team is the latest to discover the brilliance of "Garfield Minus Garfield." I was pushing "Garfield Minus Garfield" before pushing "Garfield Minus Garfield" was cool (um, last week. And it was already cool then. Nevermind).

SHAMELESS SELF-PROMOTION: At We Have Mixed Feelings About Sven Sundgaard, Cruelty-Free Mommy discusses that "Ask Gary" ad.

And don't stop celebrating.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

A new day

The Vikings have played 47 seasons. Brett Favre started for the Packers for 16 seasons. ONE THIRD of the Vikings' history has been spent competing against Favre, in games twice a year, for the division title frequently. The last 16 seasons of NFC Central and NFC North football have been dominated by the presence of Brett Favre.

But now an era has passed. Something that oozed with dark full energy is now gone.

It's a new day.

The division takes a new shape. Rivalries take a new form. The world is now full with possibilities. Anything can happen.

Perhaps the old forms will no longer oppress us. Some of us have lived with the football world as it is for as long as we've followed football. But now something is changing. Of course we knew one day it must change, as all things must change. Still, it feels surprising and vital. Something to celebrate. Something to fill us with hope.

Many will speak of this as a time to mourn, to reflect, to remember. Others see it as something to celebrate. We are liberated. We are free. The haunting specter, the grim shadow, is no more. We have been crouched in self-dug holes, prisoners of our own anger, our own hatred, our own bitterness. Today we crawl out; today we rise and stretch.

Indeed, the wicked witch is dead.


Monday, March 03, 2008

Viking Defensive Ends: Mediocre, Not Awful

Before we get too depressed about every significant free agent defensive end signing elsewhere, let us calm down and look at the Viking roster. The Vikings have struggled to get a pass rush in the past few seasons, and they should try to upgrade pass rushers at defensive end; however, they do have some competent players that can actually play the position. The DEs currently on the roster are Ray Edwards, Otis Grigsby, Erasmus James, Jayme Mitchell, and Brian Robison (Kenechi Udeze is on the roster, but naturally we won't include him on the active roster; we hope for his recovery and good health for himself and his family above all).

If that is the group the Vikes go into 2008 with, then defensive end will certainly be a team weakness. But those are players that can fill the position and occasionally make plays.

Keep in mind the defensive tackles on the roster are Pat Williams, Kevin Williams, and Fred Evans; while the Vikings should definitely work to improve their pass rush, defensive line is not an area that should make us quake with fear in the long dark night. The starting linebackers (Ben Leber, E.J. Henderson, and Chad Greenway) are strong too, which can also help cover up some of the weaknesses at defensive end.

The Vikes will also likely look at defensive end in every round of the draft. They must hope to find some rookie defensive linemen that can contribute right away, whether they are first day or second day draft picks.

But the biggest need is now quarterback: the Vikings must sign a competent backup for Tarvaris Jackson, and/or a quarterback that can push him for the starting job.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Bernard Berrian!

Access Vikings reports that wide receiver Bernard Berrian is a Viking. They now have a receiver that can get separation and get downfield, filling a huge need.

I think the last last two years Bernard Berrian was what he is. In 2008, I expect 51-71 receptions, some big plays downfield, and a few drops. That probably makes him overpaid for his position, but wide receiver is such a desperate need for the Vikings that for this team, it is worth it. Berrian is going to be critical to the Vikings' offensive success in the future: he can make long catches, and defenders will have to account for him.

UPDATE: Access Vikings has highlights of the Berrian press conference.

We still need reporters

I've argued that newspaper columnists often do little different from what bloggers do, but sometimes without any quality writing or insight. But I still respect reporters, who get information we can't get sitting at our computers.

At Access Vikings, Judd Zulgad says he saw Bernard Berrian at Winter Park wearing a Viking hat and carrying a Viking jersey.

There's also mention of interest in Javon Walker. Access Vikings has been doing great work during free agency: it's a wonderful idea for a newspaper to have its team reporters blogging, giving them a chance to share info with fans as it's coming out (and sometimes before it really counts as a "story").

a million dollars per sack

In his seven year career, Defensive End Justin Smith has 43.5 sacks. the 49ers just gave him a $45 million contract.

The Vikings need to improve their pass rush, but that price is a little steep for just over six sacks per season. Looks like DE will be a priority on draft weekend.