Friday, July 28, 2006

Chuck Klosterman is OK

I'm not a big fan of Chuck Klosterman, but I like that he examines the existential meaning of sports. There aren't any writers that I know of who are doing it as he does it--and it's the sort of think I think is worth doing.

Reality and Fantasy Don't Mix

Narcissism and Me (or, how I learned to stop worrying and love parentheses)

This afternoon, I plan on going out to the UW-River Falls football field to watch the Kansas City Chiefs open up training camp. After matriculating, living, and working in River Falls for eight years, I've had the chance to watch a lot of training camp (two different summers I lived maybe 500 yards from the practice field). I don't have any great loyalty to the Chiefs, but when I was growing up in small towns in Minnesota, I would have killed for the chance to go for a short walk in order to watch an NFL team practice (I would rather watch practice than preseason--preseason football is the most dispicable thing in sports. And yes, last season I sat through an entire preseason game at the Metrodome, but that was largely because of my crazy step-father-in-law. How crazy is he? On the way to the stadium, he says to me, "Joe, are you a fighter?" "Uh, no..." I said. "Hmm," he replies, "Is your dad?" Anyway, I'm on a disasterously long parenthetical here, so let's just end it now). So I take what chances I can to catch the Chiefs practicing, and I've been very entertained over the years. Highlights, of course, are the times the Vikes came to town to scrimmage the Chiefs--the entire town feels overrun by crazy Viking fans. Uh, people like me, I guess, that just didn't live there.

Now, I don't have a rooting interest in the Chiefs at all (other than the two and a half years Priest Holmes was on my fantasy team). When the Chiefs played the Vikings a few seasons ago, there was not a shred of my being that rooted for the Chiefs (though when the Vikes got up by about three touchdowns, I didn't mind Priest Holmes getting his garbage TDs in). I don't have a big passion for them, but I now have a sorting of "following" interest in them. I watch their games on TV because I've watched them practice.

So today should be fun. There are rumors that Willie Roaf is retiring (how does that affect Larry Johnson's fantasy value?). There's a new regime in, so we'll get to see how Herm Edwards runs a camp. I'll get to see Larry Johnson run around (though at camp, my favorite thing to watch is the Wide Receivers).

See, this blog entry is pretty pointless, with no real insight or perspective. But today I get to spend the day in the air conditioned bliss of my office, spend lunch at the culinary bliss of China Moon, and spend the late afternoon watching professional football players perform various drills (so I'm happy, and I don't care what you think of my lousy blog today).

Monday, July 24, 2006

Fantasy Football: if you play head to head, you are a sucker.

The biggest flaw of fantasy football is that most league's play head-to-head competition. Don't you hate when your fantasy team had a great week and had the second-most points of the week, but you had to play against the team that had the most points of the week, so you get a loss, while a bunch of people who did way worse than you get a win? Too much is left to chance. At the end of the season, you could have the most total points, but be in 5th place. It's preposterous.

Of course head-to-head competition is great in sports. But in sports, when Team A competes against Team B, Team A has something to do with the success of Team B. Not so in fantasy football.

What if the PGA Tour did things like fantasy football? Let's say they pair up the golfers randomly. Each golfer only golfs against that one opponent. What you do against the rest of the field doesn't matter at all to your success. If you happen to get paired up against Tiger Woods, then you will not get to win. Even if you have a better score than 90% of the rest of the golfers in the tournament, you will finish below them.

That's ridiculous, right? Why would anybody want to follow such a system, in which it barely matters if you do better than most people?

So what's the solution? One solution is to assign the champion by total points. This is a bad solution: consistency doesn't matter, and following your team throughout each week barely matters.

But there's a better solution. We call it CROSS COUNTRY SCORING.

When I ran in a cross country team, we would have meets against several opposing teams. This was much more competitive and efficient than scheduling all sorts of head-to-head meets between only two teams. And yet, it was very easy to determine who you beat because if you do better than one team, you get a W, and if you do worse than another team, you get an L. If you run in a meet with 10 teams, you have a chance for 9 wins and losses.

Let's explain for Fantasy Football. Let's say the league has 10 teams. During each week, every team competes against every other team. If you have the most points, that means you beat 9 people, and you go 9-0. If you have the second-most points, it's still OK, because you beat 8 people to go 8-1. If you have the lowest score, you got beat by 9 people to go 0-9. Etc., Etc., Etc. So getting a high score helps you even if you don't have the high score.
#1 score= 9-0
#2 score= 8-1
#3 score= 7-2
#4 score= 6-3
#5 score= 5-4
#6 score= 4-5
#7 score= 3-6
#8 score= 2-7
#9 score= 1-8
#10 score= 0-9
There are often ties in this system; ties just go as part of your record. You then don't have a playoff--you play 17 weeks, and whoever has the most wins is the champion.

The added benefit is that as a fantasy football competitor, EVERY GAME MATTERS TO YOU. If you go head-to-head, your only fantasy interest is games in which your players play and your opponents players play. With a Cross Country Scoring System, there is almost never a game without some effect. Every single Monday Night game could affect your finish.

Another benefit is that you're never out of it. In my league, last season's champion was in last place at the half-way point. Each week has so much potential to force you up or down in the standings.

Head-to-Head Competition in Fantasy Football is no way to determine the best team.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

So much depends on a red Johnson

I have recurring nightmares. Sometimes I dream that I am supposed to be in a play, but I screw everything up because I'm late, or I don't know my lines, or I don't know the blocking, or I don't know what play it actually is (which makes sense, since I'm just dreaming and never went to any audition or rehearsals). And even though I haven't been on an organized basketball team in 8 years, I have frequent dreams about being on a basketball team and spending all my time at the end of the bench.

And now, and likely for several months, I'll have a recurring daydream-nightmare. I'll fear that Brad Johnson is going to get injured this season. Is Brad Johnson a make-or-break superstar QB that the Viking offense can't live without? Not on the surface, he's not. But there are three reasons that Brad Johnson is the most important player on the Vikings.

#1: Mike McMahon is the backup QB.

#2: The other QBs on the roster are J.T. O'Sullivan and Tavaris Jackson.

#3: See 1.

Johnson is a solid, saavy, smart, functional quarterback. If the Viking defense can perform (soon I'll write about how so much depends on Chad Greenway) and the running game performs (in 2006 a running play up the middle will involve Hutchinson, Birk, Hicks, Richardson, and Taylor, 5 players who didn't play a game for the Vikes in 2006), that should be just what the Vikings need.

But if Johnson goes down, it's like when Homer Simpson ordered the best item on the menu stuffed with the second best item on the menu, and got lobster stuffed with tacos. The qb cupboard is pretty bare. It's like spending a week eating nothing but mac & cheese just to get all the boxes out of the cupboard that you've hoarded for months, buying them because they were cheap, then discovering a dozen cans of generic pork and beans behind them. It's over.

I saw Mike McMahon play last year. I assume, too, did Brad Childress, considering he was McMahon's offensive coordinator. And yet Childress has decided that his best course of action in 2006 is to start the season with a 38 year old QB who has played 16 games in a season only three times, with Mike McMahon as the only thing between starting a QB with 0 NFL attempts.

This is why I have recurring daymares. The Vikes were 9-7 last season, improved immensely at offensive line (the biggest weakness last season), drafted a first-round linebacker (the team's second biggest weakness last season), and now seem to have a real pro head coach. And yet without Brad Johnson, it is just a team led by Mike McMahon (in other words a 5-11 team) or a team led by a QB with no attempts (in other words, who the flip knows?).

This is why in 2006, even though the Vikings certainly have better players on the roster, Brad Johnson will be the most important player on the team.

Friday, July 14, 2006

My second-least favorite player: LenDale White

According to, it was LenDale White who asked Esera Tuaolo at the rookie symposium, "Is it offensive if I call you a faggot if you are a faggot?"

If this true, I now have somebody to replace Favre when he retires. My two LenDale White rookie cards are now getting pulled from my album and might get placed in some bike spokes (well, my bike has a flat tire that I've been too cheap to fix for the last year. I'll have to find something else to do with them).

Good old Southern Cal, they sure do have some sparkling gems of humanity as alumni, don't they?

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

NFL coaches and moustaches

I don't what what percentage of men have moustaches. I would guess it's pretty low, but I admit I haven't been paying attention. The percentage is clearly higher than the percentage of women with moustaches. But that is neither here nor there.

But NFL head coaches have moustaches at an alarmingly high rate. There are only 32 head coaches, and Bill Cowher, Romeo Crennel, Mike Holmgren, Tony Dungy, Jeff Fisher, Andy Reid, and Brad Childress all frequently don the stache. That's 7 of 32. And there are others I can't recall offhand (and guess what, this public library computer has trouble opening two browsers; whither September when the Pacifist Viking blog comes off it's part-time suckassedness and returns to full-time suckassedness?): it seems to me Herm Edwards and Denny Green occasionally go moustachioed.

So, is this the source of some ultimate football power? Does the moustache convey a personage who cares nothing about his personal life and grooming, and is so consumed by football that nothing else matters? Does it make it difficult for the opposing team to hire lip-readers to try and steal play calls?

In an attempt to discover the ultimate football knowledge that lies in the moustache, I will be growing one for the impending fantasy football draft. What secrets will I hide in it? What special powers will it grant me?