Monday, April 30, 2007

NBA Playoff Legacy Watch: Jason Kidd and Steve Nash

Jason Kidd and Steve Nash have the mind-busting stat lines in this postseason: Kidd's 16 point, 16 rebound, 19 assist game against Toronto, and Steve Nash's 23 assist game against the Lakers. Both are playing incredible playoff basketball: Kidd is averaging a triple-double against the Raptors, while Nash is going for 15 ppg, 15 apg against the Lakers. They're the two best point guards in the league, and they're putting on some playoff shows.

But amidst the hype Steve Nash has been getting for three years, let's not forget: Jason Kidd is a better point guard and has had a better career.

Kidd has led the league in assists per game 5 times to Nash's 3, and Kidd has been in the top-5 in assists per game 12 times to Nash's 4. Think about that: Kidd has ranked in the top-5 in assists per game EIGHT MORE TIMES than Nash has. Nash's career highs in assists per game are a little higher than Kidd's career highs in assists per game, but Kidd makes up for that with a career 6.7 rebounds per game. Nash has averaged 2.9 rebounds per game.

In their career numbers, Kidd beats Nash (14.5, 9.2, 6.7 to 14.0, 7.6, 2.9). Kidd has done it better for longer. And Kidd has obviously had great playoff performances, too: he was the primary force guiding the Nets to two straight NBA Finals, and his career playoff numbers are 16.0, 9.0, 7.2 (Nash is good too, with 17.0, 8.2, 3.7; I love basketball-reference).

Kidd is the far superior rebounder. Kidd has had better team success. Kidd has been the better passer for longer. There is no question that Jason Kidd is the best post-Stockton point guard in the NBA. To suggest otherwise, you must ignore all the numbers.

Draft Grade Blizzard

Why does everybody give a draft a "grade"? We don't assess other sporting events by applying an academic scoring system. I suppose in a game we have clear winners, and writers want to show who the winners of a draft are. But why is the academic grading system so ubiquitous? There's really no originality at all in the format--somebody did it, then more people did it, and now everybody thinks they have to do it. Alas, we still read them; we just wish somebody would do a more creative system.

Though I rip Peter King's writing all the time, I still feel his MMQB is required reading. I don't know how to feel about that.

Dr. Z does a draft report card, and he's not high on Randy Moss.

Don't worry too much about Adrian Peterson's collarbone; he's already cleared to participate in rookie mini-camp.

The Ppress gives its draft grades for the Vikes (via Kansas Viking).

The Daily Norseman found three other draft grades.

The Ragnarok loves the Vikings' draft.

Packer fans should probably be a little upset.

Pro-football-reference looks at the Browns' decision to trade for Brady Quinn.

Here's the Fanhouse's draft grade for the Vikes.

I'm giving you all Ds for lack of originality. Freaking grades. For the next two weeks I'm going to be up to my elbows in grades; for the draft, give me something else to think about besides B+s and Cs and A-s and all that.

NBA Legacy Watch
Here are the three players doing the most to increase their legacies so far in the playoffs.

Luol Deng: the 22 year old averaged 26.3 ppg and 9 rpg in the Bulls' sweep of the defending champs. He shot 57.9% from the field.

Ben Gordon
: Gordon won an NCAA championship, and against the Heat, he averaged 25.5 ppg. He's a keeper.

Baron Davis: obviously. Last year LeBron was the bearded superhero, and this year it is Baron. He's averaging 25.8 ppg in helping the Warriors take 3 of 4 from the 67 win Mavericks.

Sportwriting Notes

Why are local newspaper columnists are often negative?
Because they want to be right. Let's just look at the NFL. Each year, 96.88% of teams don't win the Super Bowl, and 93.75% of teams don't make the Super Bowl. You can go further and say that 75% of teams won't win their division. You can go even further and say that 62.5% of teams won't even make the playoffs.

If a newspaper columnist is negative and predicts bad things for the team, he or she is more likely to be correct. That's just playing the odds. Don't let anybody fool you--it's a lot easier to be negative.

The Twin Cities Reporting Scene
When I look at the local media sports coverage (TV, radio, and newspaper) and fan reaction, I see a good mix of relatively objective reporting, overly optimistic homers, and overly negative critics. That's fine. What bothers me is that the negative commentators act like they're doing some great duty, some self-sacrificial defense of Truth, in a sea of rose-colored glasses and homerism. It's just not the case. Especially this year, no fan or commentator should legitimately claim that there is too much optimism about the Vikings, that everybody else is drinking purple kool-aid and that he/she needs to be the voice of reason, that he/she is rebelling against a tide of excitement. It's just not the case. There are optimistic voices and there are negative voices. The negative fans complaining about too much homerism have the tunnel-vision of a conservative complaining about "the liberal media."

Go ahead and be negative--there's a necessary place for your view, too. Just don't act like your a brave, unique rebel.

when I criticize bad sportswriting, I generally target people who are paid to write. Sometimes I'll get into discussions or arguments with other bloggers, and I'll point out what I see as poor logic, a poorly written argument, or a slanted phrase. But I try to let bloggers be bloggers, and focus my critical abilities on sportswriters who are paid for their writing ability.

Last night I wrote a lengthy piece criticizing a ProFootballTalk report on Randy Moss for using slanted word choice to frame the story the way the the writer wanted to, regardless of actuality. I saved it as a draft, but I'll never post it. The PFT Rumor Mill isn't supposed to be a place of good writing; it's supposed to be a place of rumor mongering. The wide speculation, mean-spirited bias, and pseudo-logic I'd like to criticize don't hurt the effect of the rumor mongering (in fact, they help). I realized that writing a post critiquing Florio's word choice would be akin to writing a letter to the editor in order to argue against somebody else's letter to the editor.

Apples and Oranges are Both Fruits.
Don't let anybody ever tell you that you shouldn't compare two things because it is "like comparing apples and oranges." Apples and oranges are both fruits. They both grow on trees. They're sold in the same section of the grocery store. They're both very popular hand fruits. There are all sorts of reasons apples and oranges can be compared. In fact, any two things can be compared. Sometimes that comparison is useless because the things are too different (like Hamlet's hawk and handsaw). But it is also useless to compare two things that are quite obviously different (like comparing one can of Diet Coke to another can of Diet Coke). Any two things can be compared--as long as you recognize it is a comparison of things that do have fundamental differences, and as long as you balance the comparison with contrasts, too (English teachers don't assign comparison papers or contrast papers; they assign comparison-contrast papers). "Apples and oranges" is a stupid cliche, and it is usually used to try quelch legitimate discourse.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Draft Blizzard

The Vikes had a very nice draft. In round one they got a RB that will be one of the league's best very soon, and in later rounds, they filled a lot of needs (including 3 WRs, a CB, and a DE). Once again, teams that take the top RB in a draft class usually fare pretty well.

JJ Cooper at the Fanhouse comments on the Vikings' improvement at wide receiver.

Tom Powers is trying too hard to be Patrick Reusse: evidently he wants to be the Ppress columnist that deliberately attempts to antagonize Viking fans in place of doing any analysis. His latest comment: "hard-core Vikings fans--a group that always sports a disproportionate number of mullets, tattoos and way too-tight purple jerseys..." You're a class act, Mr. Powers (via Kansas Viking).

Horseshit writer Jim Souhan thinks the Vikings did the right thing drafting Adrian Peterson--but of course he uses the opportunity to make fun of the Vikings, anyway. In place of the chronicle of cliches, for Souhan we might have to do a chronicle of completely unfunny attempts at easy jokes. Without completely unfunny attempts at easy jokes, a typical Souhan column would come in at 15 words (which would still be more words than Bob Sansevere usually makes).

Here's Cold, Hard Football Facts' take on Randy Moss joining Tom Brady.

And if you missed it, we blogged the draft harder than anything we've ever blogged (you know, "blog" is like "google": it always sounds like a euphemism for a lewd act). Scroll down to see more takes (and links) on Adrian Peterson joining the Vikings, Randy Moss joining the Patriots, and the rest of draft weekend's shenanigans.

The Randy Moss to New England Patriots Post

The Fantasy Football Preparation Period begins in earnest today; we now know 99% of what we need to know for the Fantasy Football Draft. And to all the people in my league: what do I need to do to convince you that I DON'T want Randy Moss? Is it even possible? If I try convince you I'm not targeting Moss, will you just take that as further evidence I am targeting Moss? I was just telling my wife that everybody is going to think I want Randy Moss and that I should spend the next four months convincing everybody I'm in love with him. She then claimed that I do want Randy Moss, that I am in love with him, and that there's nothing I can do to convince HER that I don't desperately want Randy Moss. But I want you all to know: I don't want Randy Moss.

If Tom Brady throws for 30+ TDs this season, it will give obnoxious New Englanders a chance to say "See? When Brady has all-pro WRs, he can do the same things Peyton Manning does with all-pro WRs." That's probably the saddest thing of this all. No, the saddest thing is that Moss isn't returning to Minnesota. I can't imagine a greater happiness than having Randy come back to the Vikes.

The Pats could be running a wild offense next year: Corey Dillon is gone, and they've added Donte Stallworth, Kelley Washington, Wes Welker, and now of course the Wonderful Wizard of Moss. Run-and-shoot? Moss could catch 200 5-yard passes, because DBs will play off him for fear of his speed, and the Pats love the short passes.

The Madden '08 Patriots are going to be unbeatable. Nobody should be allowed to play as the Pats when competing head-to-head. It won't be fair. Hell, I'm not sure it will be fair playing the real Patriots. I fully expect a 15-1 season (and I expect them to get to the Super Bowl and get upset by the Vikings behind Adrian Peterson's 150 yards).

Randy is now going to be on TV all the time. That is the most pleasing thing of this all. And now that Randy is on a winner, he should be motivated.

Brett Favre will not break Dan Marino's TD record with a pass to Randy Moss. I am now so utterly relieved I don't know what to say.

I'm also relieved that Randy Moss isn't going to stroll into the Metrodome this season, as a Raider or as a Packer. If he stays with the Pats, we don't have to play him at all for four years (except, of course, this year's Super Bowl), and not in the Dome for eight years.

What number will Randy wear?

Will a motivated Randy Moss return to his old productivity? How will the Patriot offense utilize him? Will he still be a great deep threat (I think so--Brady can hit him on a lot of jump balls)? Can Randy now get back to the business of chasing all of Jerry Rice's records? Will Moss continue is exceptionally great playoff production with the Pats? How much will I have to pay for him in a fantasy football auction? Er, I mean, how much will some sucker pay for him in a fantasy football auction?

Well, good for you, Randy Moss. Screw you, Patriot fans. While you revel in the success of the Red Sox and Patriots, we have to imagine Lombardi Trophies and reminisce about the good old days with #84 tearing up the Metrodome.

But it doesn't matter: we've got our own new superstar offensive gamebreaker. I'm convinced Adrian Peterson will go down as the greatest running back in franchise history: he'll pass by Chuck Foreman and Robert Smith in both the record book and the hearts of the fans. But enjoy Randy--I think you will.

Randy freaking Moss

According to ESPN this morning, Randy freaking Moss is a Patriot. A freaking Patriot. Randy freaking Moss. Randy freaking Moss is a freaking Patriot.

Let us just smile that Randy freaking Moss isn't a freaking Packer. Let us also laugh with amusement at the Packers and Brett Favre for not getting Randy freaking Moss.

Enjoy Randy Moss, Patriot fans. You don't deserve him, of course. You've seen three Super Bowl wins in recent years--if there's anything you don't deserve, it is the pleasure of rooting for a motivated Randy Moss. Randy freaking Moss.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Thoughts during a wasted day

No, it really wasn't a wasted day; it was a lot of fun. We even went golfing during the end of round one and made it back in time to see the Vikes pick again. Anyway, here are some quick thoughts on today's draft, including some remaining thoughts on the Vikes, but a lot of other thoughts on the rest of the NFL. We've blogged the hell out of this thing, so just keep scrolling down for more on the Vikes in particular.

Before we go making silly comparisons between Sidney Rice and Troy Williamson, remember that Rice played at South Carolina for Steve Spurrier, while Williamson played for Lou Holtz. They attended the same school, but they basically attended two different programs with very different offensive philosophies.

Adrian Peterson is a superstud; everybody at ESPN has convinced me. If you want to know more, The AOL Fanhouse Vikings page has all sorts of stuff on Adrian Peterson.

Brad Childress was just on TV, and I'm pretty sure he was wearing the same sweater he wore to the poetry reading last Thursday.

The Vikes picked up a cornerback in the third round, filling another team need. Slick move.

PV hobbyhorse Josh McCown was traded to the Raiders. That's a good move; he could be the week one starter and stick with the job until JaMarcus Russell gets stuck back there.

Looking back now, there were 4 first-round safeties and 3 second-round safeties selected; however, while watching, it sure seemed like every other pick was a safety.

ESPN's talking heads covered Brady Quinn's drop as if it were just a bad day that he can recover from. Sure, I suppose it was. But how much money did Quinn lose by dropping from the top ten (or top three) down to #22? $10 million? $15 million? This was more than just a rough day.

When we heard Joe Thomas was going fishing, I pictured a little fishing boat with a tiny little engine on the back, a couple of guys just dozing around fishing lazily. Then they show the freaking gigantic ship Thomas was going out on. Holy crapballs.

What does Indianapolis want with Anthony Gonzalez? They've got the best receiving duo in the league (Harrison and Wayne). Their TE is basically a slot receiver (Dallas Clark). Now they've got Anthony Gonzalez to improve the incredible passing game. It will be interesting to see where this all goes.

If you're Cleveland, why not give up a future first-rounder to get a first-round QB this year? They would probably have just needed a QB next year; now, they get a full year of development before that time would even come. Buffalo did the same thing with J.P. Losman a few years ago, and in 2006 it was starting to pay off.

We all laughed when Green Bay selected a defensive tackle we've never heard of and whose name we don't feel we really need to learn. That was fun for us all.

Good for the Buffalo Bills filling a need at RB with Marshawn Lynch. Buffalo Bills fans, as fellow fans of 0-4 Super Bowl teams, we wish your team the best. May we meet in the Super Bowl one day and end this once and for all.

First Running Back Selected (perspective and context)

It is particularly exciting that the Vikings selected the top RB in the draft. Check out to see other first RBs selected. Here are some of the best and worst (I've included every first RB selected since 1989, and notable greats before 1989). As you can see, in recent years it has been pretty safe to take the best running back of the draft class. Since 1999, only William Green was a bust. Edgerrin James, Jamal Lewis, and LaDainian Tomlinson have won rushing titles, and James, Tomlinson, and Steven Jackson have led the league in yards from scrimmage.

The Best
Reggie Bush (2006)
Ronnie Brown (2005)
Steven Jackson (2004)
Willis McGahee (2003)
LaDainian Tomlinson (2001)
Jamal Lewis (2000)
Edgerrin James (1999)
Warrick Dunn (1997)
Marshall Faulk (1994)
Barry Sanders (1989)
Eric Dickerson (1983)
Earl Campbell (1978)
Walter Payton (1975)
Franco Harris (1972)
John Riggins (1971)
O.J. Simpson (1969)
Larry Csonka (1968)
Charley Taylor (1964) (he's listed under RBs, but he's a HOFer as a WR)
Paul Hornung (1958) (Jim Brown was the second RB selected--you can see what Notre Dame meant in the 50s)
Alan Ameche (1955)
Ollie Matson (1952)
Doak Walker (1949)
Steve Van Buren (1944)
George McAfee (1940)
Tuffy Leemans (1936)

The Worst (since 1990)
William Green (2002)
Curtis Enis (1998)
Lawrence Phillips (1996)
Ki-Jana Carter (1995)
Tommy Vardell (1992)
Leonard Russell (1991)
Blair Thomas (1990)

Before Peterson, the Vikings had twice selected the first RB in the NFL draft: Clint Jones in 1967, and Tommy Mason in 1961. Neither was great.

Sidney Rice is a WR...

and I assume now the best WR the Vikings have.

Sidney Rice was the Ragnarok's #1 choice for the Vikings' second-rounder; you can read the Ragnorak's write-up (with highlight videos) on Rice here. And instead of comparing him to South Carolina WR Troy Williamson, you could also compare him to Gamecock wideouts like Sterling Sharpe and Robert Brooks.

The Viking Blogosphere is mad for Adrian Peterson.

The Ragnarok
Skol Vikes
The Daily Norseman
Vikes Geek
Vikings War Cry
Kansas Viking (for links to paper articles)

Now we look to see the Vikings select a WR. Please, Dwayne Jarrett.

Tarvaris Jackson and Adrian Peterson for the next ten years

As Brady Quinn falls, I feel better about the Vikings passing on him (but that's a bit irrational, isn't it?).

Robert Smith is the Vikings' all-time leading rusher with 6,818 yards. If Peterson stays healthy, he should be the Vikings' all-time leading rusher in five to six years.

More importantly, he provides dynamic, game-breaking ability to an offense in need of it. Behind a big, talented offensive line, and backed up with a young nucleus on defense, Peterson makes the Vikings immediately better than just about any other player in the draft could. Now the Vikes can grind it with Adrian Peterson, Chester Taylor, and Mewelde Moore and rely on the dominating defense; his talent gives the Vikings a whole-team identity and strategy.

And now Tarvaris Jackson has at least two good RBs to help ease his transition to full-time starter. And when he fakes a handoff to Peterson, he can look downfield to...scrubs. Total scrubs.

Now it's time to get a WR. Or two. Or three.

Adrian Peterson is a Viking

If the Vikes had selected Brady Quinn, they would have had a franchise quarterback to break all of Tarkenton's records. It was the pick I wanted.

They had better have faith in Tarvaris Jackson. Tarvaris better become a star.

But Adrian Peterson is an elite offensive player. He's now the Vikings best skill position player. Hopefully he is a stud in the NFL just as he was at Oklahoma. Hopefully these durability questions mean nothing, and Peterson stays healthy. Hopefully in seven or eight years, we're looking at the Vikings' all-time leading rusher. Hopefully the dynamic ability of Peterson makes the Viking offense dynamic, and he is able to combine with Jackson to be a productive young duo.

And hopefully the Vikes get a WR at #41.

Farewell, Brady Quinn. We never knew ye. Hello, Adrian Peterson. Welcome to the Purple. We have high hopes for you. May you dominate for the Vikings for years.

Fantasy Draft Principles and the Real Draft

For a fantasy football draft, an auction is preferrable to a snake draft (and cross country standings/scoring is far preferrable to head-to-head standings/scoring; go read this classic post and join me in the fantasy revolution).

But for a snake draft, I have one key rule:

Draft the player, not the value.

You have to draft the players you want and avoid the players you don't want. You can't get caught up in the "value" of the pick, because the real value of the pick is how it helps your team. If there's a player available you want more than any other player available, and you think he'll be gone by the next round, you must take him; don't convince yourself that it's too early to take him. And if there's a player that you're not really excited about, but you have a feeling he should be drafted or that he deserves a high pick, ignore him: there's no reason to get guys on your fantasy team that you don't want.

You can't worry about "reaching" with a pick. Sure, if you think Player X will be there by the next time you pick, you can risk it. But if you don't think he will be, or think there's a chance he won't be, you have to take him. Don't worry about reaching for the player you want or passing on the player you don't want (or the mockery that ensues): draft the player you want.

This principle cannot be applied entirely to the NFL draft because of the salary cap. If the Vikings really want Robert Meachem, for example, they wouldn't be wise to draft him at #7 because then they have to pay him the money for a #7, which he might not be worth. In the NFL draft, teams do have to consider the "value" of the pick: not the phony value of the draft game, but the financial value that gets associated with earlier picks.

Still, it's a principle GMs should keep in mind. They should draft the players they think are good regardless of where everybody else has them slotted. Or, I believe, they should trade down even if the the trade seems one-sided.

Hypothetically, let's say the Vikings really want Robert Meachem. Instead of drafting him at #7, they could trade down to #15, draft Meachem (the player they wanted anyway), and pay him like a 15th pick rather than like a 7th pick. When you look at it that way, does it even matter what the Vikings would get in return? Even if it looks one-sided, even if people say "Wow, they got screwed--they traded down that far and only got a 4th round pick out of it," the Vikings would know they didn't get screwed. They a) got the player they wanted, b) paid him less, and c) got a 4th round pick thrown in, a pick which they wouldn't have otherwise had. The only negative is that you might have helped somebody else move up without much sacrifice--but you have to be concerned with yourself, not others. Don't worry about perception.

So for the NFL, I modify the "Draft the player, not the value" rule:

Draft the player, not the value; or, trade down for whatever you can get.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Peter King's mock draft: a festival of cliches and bizarre references

When the title and subtitle of Peter King's 2007 mock draft contain worn-out metaphors, you know it's time to bring back the chronicle of cliches.

Here's the title: "Trade winds blowing in mock draft"
Here's the subtitle: "Lions are lynchpin in what could be chaotic first round"

We'll keep in mind that sometimes editors write the headlines and subtitles. On to the article.

On Cleveland selecting Brady Quinn: "Women of Cleveland, rejoice. You've got your matinee idol. Men of Cleveland, have hope." Isn't that just sort of weird? Are the women in Cleveland going to start swooning because Brady Quinn is in town? Are there no female football fans who can hope Quinn could help the team? Just sort of an odd one.

On Atlanta taking Adrian Peterson: "If not here, Peterson could sink like Big Pussy's body after it was thrown overboard off the Jersey coast." If you've seen The Sopranos, obviously you know the reference. If you haven't, how do you interpret this? Are you just staring at that saying "How did SI allow 'pussy' into a column?" Are you wondering exactly what "big pussy" could mean, and why it would be sinking in the ocean? I like the reference, but I just hope some people are reading that out of context wondering what the hell is going on.

On San Francisco selecting Alan Branch: "but all Mike Nolan knows is this: I need a horse for the middle of my defensive line long-term, and this is the Best Horse Available." Hmmm. How would a horse play football? According to The Simpsons, a horse isn't allowed to play in the NFL. Oh well.

On Green Bay selecting Ted Ginn, Jr.: "Makes lots of sense, though the drumbeat still sounds for Randy Moss making a leap to Lambeau." I love it when a writer can work two cliches into a single sentence: the sound of a metaphoric drum and a reference to the Lambeau leap. Creative writing indeed.

On Cincinnati selecting Aaron Ross: "The first question everyone's asking is: Is Ross an Eagle Scout?" Let's just pretend we don't know what that means and move on.

On Tennessee selecting Robert Meachem: "Vince Young and Meachem will make beautiful music together for the next year five or six years." Gorgeous. Would King have used this cliche if the Titans didn't play in "Music City"? Doubtful.

On Denver selecting Jon Beason: "and Beason is the kind of rush 'backer the Broncos think they can use from sideline to sideline." "Sideline to sideline" is a sports cliche used to refer to versatility and (mostly) speed. I actually like this cliche, though, because it is shorthand and easily understood. Concise language is usually the clearest language, and "Sideline to sideline" is more easily understood than "He's a versatile, fast linebacker who will be able to cover a lot of the field." I just wanted to throw this in there to mention that not all cliches are useless.

On Philadelphia selecting Brandon Meriweather: "Eagles are pretty good at sniffing out the bad apples." Here's an interesting use of a worn-out metaphor: this is potentially a mixed metaphor. Do people usually "sniff" to find the "bad apples"? People "sniff out" problems, and there are "bad apples," and people try to find the "bad apples," but I've never seen anybody in the supermarket produce section sniffing the apples.

On New Orleans selecting Reggie Nelson: "Nelson will give the secondary a shot of adrenalin and aggression that was sorely lacking in the NFC title game loss to Chicago." King gives the Cliches archive a shot of adrenalin.

On Indianapolis selecting Joe Staley: "Meat-and-potatoes pick by the Colts..." A meat-and-potatoes cliche for Peter King.

Enjoy the draft, people.

What really matters

Brother of PV speculates on who the Vikings should draft--if they want to improve in Madden 08.

The safe pick

PFT reports the Vikings plan on selecting safety LaRon Landry.

I have mixed feelings. There are some impact safeties in the league (Troy Polamalu and Ed Reed are the best playmakers, and Brian Dawkins is probably the best cover-2 safety), but if you're picking a safety at #7, you better believe he's going to have that sort of dominating impact. If Landry is that dominant, great. If he's merely a good safety...well, if he's the best player available, so be it.

According to Ted Kluck, safety is the safest position to take, with a high percentage of Pro Bowlers and a low percentage of busts. If the Vikes get Landry, it won't be terribly exciting, but it might end up being the best choice.

Pre-draft Blizzard

Sportish Links
Pro-football-reference has an "Insane idea: quit scouting."

Signal to Noise says the NFL is considering adding a 17th regular season game (which I think is a horrible idea).

MNSG Vikings thinks LaRon Landry should be the pick. I'm not so sure a safety is a good pick at #7--you have to be very sure that's not just a good safety, but an impact safety.

I Dislike Your Favorite Team analyzes Brad Childress's choice of poem (I thought it was an adolescent sort of poem myself).

The NY Times does a feature on JaMarcus Russell.

Dr. Z has his pre-draft mailbag.

Go to bed early, and this is how you learn you still need to watch this series?

If you haven't check out Ballhype yet, you definitely should. It's a place to follow stories covered by blogs.

The NY Times looks at the recent books on Shakespeare (the challenge of the 21st century Shakespeare student is exactly the abundance of secondary criticism: where do you begin, and where do you end?).

Bleh. That's all I can say. Bleh. Says the publisher, “We realised that life is too short to read all the books you want to and we never were going to read these ones.” Great. But why is having a partial knowledge of many books better than having whole knowledge of fewer books? Which is the better way to enrich one's life?

Thursday, April 26, 2007


Warning: this is one of the posts where I go on a rant about animal rights. It's your choice if you keep reading.

Deadspin and WBRS Sports Blog both link to a story suggesting Michael Vick may have been running a dog-fighting ring.

As I'm the resident vegan and animal rights guy in the sports blogosphere (and as far as I know, "the" here is sincere, as I may be the only one), you might expect me to go on a rant regarding this story. After all, it's a story where sports and treatment of animals converge, and I've written on those subjects in the past).

But I'm not going to do that. I don't have a sense of outrage. You might say I'm numb to it.

We live in a society in which animals are routinely mistreated, abused, or killed for our amusement and pleasure. That dog-fighting is a particularly cruel form of abuse is beside the point. We hunt; we raise animals for food or clothing; we perform scientific research on animals; we test products on animals; we train animals to entertain us. We pick and choose which type of abuse of animals we label "crimes." We pick and choose which abuses of animals will spark our outrage. We pick and choose which animals it is acceptable to abuse and which animals it is wrong to abuse. All sorts of other abuses we either ignore, accept, or justify.

If Michael Vick was raising dogs for fighting, he's not a very nice person. But rather than cast all your outrage on him for such an egregious abuse of animals, look at yourself. Jesus said that he who is without sin should cast the first stone. If you feel that in your life you do whatever you can to avoid harming animals, that you don't benefit from the suffering of animals, then it's your choice to pick up that stone. If, however, you see in your life that you are complicit in the suffering of animals...well, maybe you just better leave that stone lying there.

That's the end of the animal rights rant. Come back later for sports discussion. By the way, I do actually have a sense of humor about vegetarianism. I routinely find amusement at "Suicide Food," and here are some vegetarian and vegan jokes I enjoy.

Big Blizzard

Sportish Links
Blue Viking Devil looks at this year's NBA playoff players to see where they went to college.

The Hater Nation tells Michael Strahan to quit his whining (for some reason, I've never liked Strahan, and I can't remember ever having a reason why).

Don Banks reports that Adrian Peterson is still injured; I Dislike Your Favorite Team thinks that could be good news for the Vikings.

Tim Layden says the NFL draft is the nation's biggest sporting event. Hey, the draft is fun, but I sort of like, you know, THE GAMES. My favorite sports day of the year is the first Sunday of football.

Via Randball, Brady Quinn is doing a chat today sponsored by Subway (Subway is a vegan's dream).

Ted Cluck studies 15 years worth of drafts to determine the riskiest draft positions.

Here's's report on Brad Childress's poetry reading.

St. Paul passed on ordinance on cruelty to dogs aimed at stopping dog fighting (hey, New Mexico just outlawed cock fighting this year and it's still legal in Louisiana).

I decided to label and archive the posts on sports card blurbs. Though "card blurbs" is listed with "bad sportswriting" and "Cliches," I assure you our commentaries on sports cards are done with nothing but love and affection.

The Ghosts of Wayne Fontes look at the biggest jerks in (mostly 80s) film. #1 is a good choice.

Via Arts & Letters Daily, Joshua Ferris looks at work in literature.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

A lousy player's football card: 2006 Fleer Charlie Frye

I love reading the blurbs on the backs of football cards--frankly, I wish I had a job writing the blurbs on the backs of football cards. The best blurbs are written for lousy or average players. The writers usually go to great lengths to praise the players for the most minor of achievements. Here at PV, we'll chronicle and interpret some of the best. We'll try to make this a regular feature.

Here's what Charlie Frye's 2006 Fleer card (#22) says on the back:

"Frye showed a lot of moxie as a rookie under center, and it was evident when he defeated the Raiders in Week 15."

With all due respect to Jonathon Moxon, here's what "moxie" really means:

"He's not very good at all, but he tries really hard and shows some sort of charisma despite his lack of talent."

Let's be honest: Peyton Manning is never said to have "moxie." Moxie is reserved for scrubs.

It's also interesting to find that "he" defeated the Raiders in Week 15 of 2005. Evidently the rules of football were changed and one man, Mr. Charlie "moxie" Frye, was able to take on the entire Oakland franchise all by his lonesome. No doubt that was impressive--"he," Charlie Frye, beat the Raiders. Even though the '05 Raiders were 4-12, it's still impressive for a single human being to be responsible for one of those twelve losses.

That Cleveland victory over the Raiders? The score was 9-7. The moxie of Charlie Frye got his team 9 points; luckily the incompetent Raiders couldn't muster more than 7 points. For the game, Frye threw for 198 yards and an interception. Somehow that was enough--Frye did help the Browns score a total of 3 field goals on drives of 23, 45, and 43 yards. I think it is perfectly reasonable to claim that Frye beat the Raiders.
"Come see my moxie, Luke! It's a lot like the Force."
"But I wanted to pick up some power converters!"

NBA Legacy Watch: Luol Deng and Tracy McGrady

Deng breaks out
It's very early, but after a few playoff games, Luol Deng is the player who seems to be really breaking out as a superstar.

A 22 year old averaging 18.8 ppg and 7.1 rebounds per game for a 49 win team is impressive. But in the playoffs, Deng is bursting, averaging 29.5 ppg in two wins versus the defending champion Heat--and he's doing so by shooting 60.9% from the field. Last year, Deng's playoff scoring fell off from his regular season scoring, from around 14 ppg to around 10 ppg. If Deng keeps up his strong performance this year (and the Bulls advance past the Heat in the playoffs), Deng might be establishing himself as a star.

Tracy McGrady is no old man
Are you under the impression that Tracy McGrady has to be about 35? He's actually turning 28 in May, but he's been in the league for 10 years, playing for 3 different franchises. He's had his breakouts, his injury issues, disgruntlement, etc., all of which makes it seem like he's been around forever. But at 28, he should have a lot of basketball ahead of him. Michael Jordan won his first (of six) championships at 28.

But despite a 29.8 playoff scoring average, McGrady hasn't had much team playoff success (his teams have never been past the first round). That may be changing, if the Rockets don't blow their 2-0 lead over the Jazz.

I've often dismissed Tracy McGrady by comparing him to Dominique Wilkins--a memorable scorer that never really won anything significant. But McGrady's real legacy has yet to be written.

Blizzard: Hopes for the Vikings' Draft

If you want some great examination of what the Vikes could do with their second round pick (probably the key to a good draft for the Vikes, since that's likely where they'll take a WR), check out the Ragnarok. If you want ridiculous cherry-picking to try prove a point, see this Strib article by Mark Craig. I don't have to tell you how easy it would be to pick favorable facts and show exactly the opposite. But Mark Craig also has a good article on why the Vikes might be able to fill the WR need in the second round.

Here is the order of my first-round wish list for the Vikings:

1. Calvin Johnson. There is little chance Johnson will slip to #7, and according to Peter King, it's not likely the Vikes will trade up (though he underestimates the Vikes' need at WR). But that would be the dream pick.

2. Brady Quinn. I believe Quinn will be a franchise QB. Tarvaris Jackson may end up being a franchise QB, but I think Quinn has the better shot and would be worth the franchise investment. Two sources I generally trust, FO and CHFF, give Quinn an edge over JaMarcus Russell. I'd love to have the guy tutored by Charlie Weiss come be the Viking franchise.

3. Adrian Peterson. Peterson might be a dynamic, game-changing RB. That's the sort of offensive explosion the Vikes need.

4. Trade down. That's it--those three are the only three players I want the Vikes to consider at #7. If they draft a defensive player, I'll be bored and frustrated. If they reach on a different WR, I'll be frustrated.

And over at ESPN, Gene Wojciechowski mocks the draft.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

A lousy player's football card: 2006 Topps Frisman Jackson

I love reading the blurbs on the backs of football cards--frankly, I wish I had a job writing the blurbs on the backs of football cards. The best blurbs are written for lousy or average players. The writers usually go to great lengths to praise the players for the most minor of achievements. Here at PV, we'll chronicle and interpret some of the best. We'll try to make this a regular feature.

Here's what the back of Frisman Jackson's 2006 Topps card (#76) reads:

"Now in his fifth season, Frisman's next start will be his first--and based on his progress in 2005, it may not be too long in coming. A part time QB in college, he went undrafted in 2002. He was actually released by the Browns in '04, but they quickly resigned him. Jackson's 24 catches last year included a 68-yard TD in the season opener."

WHAT THE CRAP. The goal of a football card blurb is to praise the player, even if it goes beyond all reason. But what are the distinguishing features we learn about Jackson on this card?

--He's never started a game in the NFL.
--He wasn't good enough to be drafted.
--He was once released.

There's so little to praise in Jackson's career, Topps actually points out that he's never been good enough to start and he was once released. They actually mention that he's been cut. But Topps does give him some praise: they do mention his one career touchdown reception specifically.

This is a great blurb--it's just barely covert ripping. Here's what the sub-text reads:

"Frisman Jackson sucks. We're sorry you got his card in this pack. Better luck next time."

The Blizzard: draft perspective

Mark Craig, a Strib columnist I don't yet dislike, covers the NFL draft by giving Minnesotans an historical perspective. He contrasts scouting players today with scouting players in the past by talking to Bud Grant and Ron Yary. He talks about the leaking of information about players' drug use in context of Bud Grant's conversations with Chuck Foreman. This is what good columnists do--they mix in reporting, they try find an original, informative take, and they give readers a sense of context. They don't make up silly poems and distantly insult.

(And of course, all good Minnesota columnists put everything in the context of Bud Grant).

Extremely negative Viking fans always get what they want. They want the team to succeed, so if the team wins...great! But if the team fails, well, they've been ripping the team and predicting doom and gloom for a long time, so of course they get to be right.

David Halberstam is dead.

The tragedy at Virginia Tech was bound to make some universities respond in really unproductive ways.

Jeff Chang and Dave Zirin on the criticism hip-hop has gotten recently: "Much of the criticism of commercial rap music — that it’s homophobic and sexist and celebrates violence — is well-founded. But most of the carping we’ve heard against hip-hop in the wake of the Don Imus affair is more scapegoating than serious."

James Carroll on "The Two Types of Violence": "Thirty-three people in Blacksburg, 230 in one day in Baghdad. Though residents of the United States and Iraq measure hurt on different scales, last week seemed off the chart in both places....At a time like this, it is necessary to step back from politics and grief to think about violence as such."

Monday, April 23, 2007

New Feature: Bad Sportswriting Archive

There's a new little feature here at Pacifist Viking.

What? No, don't be frightened. It's not that big a deal.

As an adjunct English professor, I spend a lot of my day teaching, analyzing, dissecting, and critiquing the written word. As one so tied to written English, I get particularly worked up when I see paid writers doing a lousy job writing. On this blog, I've occasionally devoted time to critiquing some of the bad sportswriting I've seen: dissecting poorly developed arguments, exposing faulty logic, chronicling the overuse of worn-out metaphors, and criticizing poor use of language.

Since these are some of my favorite posts to write, I decided to create a special archive for them, using the labels feature blogger so generously offers to us. So if you look down below the links

See, right over there

you'll find the Bad Sportswriting Archive. The categories are the general "bad sportswriting" (hint--there's a whole lot of Peter King) and the more specific "Cliches" (which includes some of the bad sportswriting, and a few other posts).

So if you've got the time, you can go peruse critiques of lousy writing. I'll likely be doing a lot more of these types of critiques in the future. With so many blogs out there, bloggers must constantly ask themselves what makes them unique, and try to incorporate that originality into their blogs. As an English teacher and sports fan, I can offer you critical examinations of sportswriting that, I hope, bring you some insight or amusement.

The Blizzard: thus begins draft week

Box Score Legends
Baron Davis had 33 points, 14 rebounds, 8 assists, and 3 steals in helping the Warriors upset the Mavericks. Davis is one of many players in the league that seem to me to be 35 years old when in fact he's just in his late 20s. The former Bruin's performance in box score domination and in defeating the 67 win Mavs was the best NBA performance of the weekend.

It's getting drafty in here.
Cold, Hard Football Facts give us two worthwhile articles: a brief comment on mock fantasy drafts, and a few draft nuggets.

By now you know I think Peter King is a horrible writer. He is, however, a plugged in reporter, and during draft week, that means it's worthwhile reading his MMQB column.

Other Sportish Links
Inside Higher Ed looks at "Women and Men in Women's Sports."

Jim Souhan is a bigger hack than even we thought. The sad thing is he probably thinks these satirical Viking poems are evidence he is an intelligent, witty, and funny writer. But they don't; they just prove he's another hack columnist trying to pass easy jokes off as edgy. Actually, this column made me pity Souhan. I pictured him at a desk, trying to think of rhyming words he could use in these poems. The image of a grown man writing silly rhymes to make fun of a football team, of using poetry merely as a pseudo-comic device, but no doubt working hard at it, just made me see him as a depressing figure.

Virginia Tech
A.O. Scott of the NY Times looks at the tendency to blame violence on movies. As a devoted pacifist with a ken for violent entertainment, I agree with his conclusion:

"Millions of people meanwhile will continue to be entertained by spectacles of murder, indulging for a few hours in the visceral, amoral thrill of cinematic brutality and then going back to their peaceful, sane, non-threatening business. That we know the difference between reality and make-believe is evident in the shock and horror we feel when confronted with events like the one last Monday in Virginia."

I don't know why the violence at VT means Yale needs to ban swords in theater productions. Do you?

Adam Gopnik in The New Yorker also looks at the mass violence.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Jim Souhan is a typically lousy columnist.

The Strib's Jim Souhan is a predictably bad columnist, so I don't usually bother ripping on him. But today's column ripping the Vikings and Timberwolves is worthy of our scorn. Go see his column "Wolves, Vikings need a plan, not a prayer."

Souhan begins:

"If you were to assess the local pro sports scene in one sentence it would be: Having a plan is good.

Unfortunately for the Wolves and Vikings, hope is not a plan."

He then goes on to praise the Twins: horrible in 1999, they sacrificed winning now to win in the future, with great results. He then talks about the Wild, and how they've had a plan to succeed and that it's working.

He turns his ridicule to the Timberwolves, VERY deserving of it (though he cherry picks facts similarly to how Reusse picks facts in comparing Dwane Casey and Randy Wittman). Clearly Glen Taylor and Kevin McHale haven't had a good plan in destroying the Timberwolves.

Then he goes on to the Vikings, lumping them with the Timberwolves (no plan) in contrast to the Twins and Wild (plan).

"This is the Vikings' problem, as well. Owner Zygi Wilf's decisions -- firing Mike Tice and hiring Brad Childress, Fran Foley and Rick Spielman -- were the result of his lack of a guiding philosophy."

Hmm. Interesting idea. Do you have any evidence for this, Mr. Souhan? Do you have any analysis for why these decisions show no plan?

"Wilf's standard for hiring someone apparently is, "He said what I wanted to hear.""

Well, I'm not quite sure your random speculation is evidence that Wilf has no plan.

"Wilf commissioned a lengthy "Code of Conduct" that nobody will ever read, and his dealings with local officials in his search for a stadium has followed no logical or productive pattern."

So the fact that he indeed HAS a plan with his "Code of Conduct" doesn't matter because, according to Souhan, "nobody will ever read" it. So ACTUALLY having a plan doesn't matter. And the complexities of the stadium issue, local communities, and the legislature are not nearly simply enough that Wilf can be blamed for having no plan.

And...oh, what? That's it? Now we're on to talk about the Gophers? Oh, wait, at the end we're back to the Vikings:

"The Vikings and the Timberwolves don't seem to have any plans -- unless their real goals are franchise relocation."

Souhan presents no real evidence that the Vikings have no plan. He doesn't even present real analysis that the Vikings have no plan. He just lumps them in and insults them without showing or proving any of his claims. He doesn't look at on-the-field issues. He doesn't actually go and ask anybody about any plan and report on it. He does what all lousy, lazy columnists do. He doesn't report (there's not a single REAL quote in this column, though he does MAKE UP two quotes), he doesn't analyze, and he doesn't attempt to provide real evidence or make a legitimate argument; instead, he vaguely insults.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Hey, bloggers...

Fuck you.

But that doesn't just go for bloggers; it goes for anybody who was ripping on Ronyel Whitaker.

Ronyel Whitaker is an innocent man; he should never have been arrested. The police even apoligized to him.

That's why we have a mother-fucking constitution. Because people can get arrested by corrupt cops, by incompetent cops, by bureaucratic error, by decent cops making an honest mistake, or by forces much worse. Check out that Bill of Rights: there's all sorts of shit about due process.

But in your rush to judge, in your absolute fucking glee to make fun of the Vikings and bring up Lake Minnetonka and love boats and all that, you went right in for the easy jokes.

Hope you never get arrested through a bureaucratic mistake, fuckers. Hope you never give anybody a chance to revel in an embarrassment you don't deserve. Eat it, people: we're standing loyal and true to the Purple.

Friday, April 20, 2007

The NBA Legacy Watch: before the playoffs

During the NBA playoffs, we'll watch the proceedings and try to fit players and teams into historical perspective. It's wild, widespread action--we'll try to make sense of how this action will fit into the annals of basketball history.

But the playoffs aren't the only time legacies are made. Scoring titles, rebounding titles, and assist titles for the regular season get added to the chronicles and resumes.

This season, Kobe Bryant won his second consecutive scoring title, Kevin Garnett won his fourth consecutive rebounding title, and Steve Nash won his third consecutive assists title. Since each is a repeat winner in his respective category, each of these players is merely extending and enhancing an existing legacy. Each is differently, however. Bryant's scoring titles are an important part of his post-Shaq legacy, and define him for all-time as one of basketball's great scorers. In three of KG's four seasons leading the league in rebounds per game, the Timberwolves missed the playoffs--sadly, that will probably be a more lasting aspect of his legacy. And while Steve Nash leads the league in assists per game for the third straight season, it is entirely these past three seasons which have boosted Nash from good point guard to Hall of Fame, all-time great point guard.

The Blizzard: NBA Playoffs Time

NBA history buffs have to love playoff time, because it is NBA history in the making. Legacies of individuals and legacies of teams get defined in the next couple of months. Enjoy it.

Manichaeism and Turdism
ProFootballTalk reports that Viking DB Ronyell Whitaker’s arrest was a “total mistake”—and at first left him in the Turd Watch, but then removed him (for unspecified reasons). That’s the problem with the Turd Watch. If a man makes one mistake, he’s a turd. If a man has a mistake done unto him that makes him look like a turd… does that make him a turd? In this case we found out it was a mistake—what about when we don’t find out? It’s such a black and white worldview that leads to all sorts of problems. The line between turds and non-turds runs not between individuals, but within individuals.
The Daily Norseman has a justifiably angry take on the Whitaker arrest. As a Viking fan tired of seeing his team made fun of by everybody under the sun, it’s frustrating to have a player slurred by all sorts of bloggers over a mistake by the police. Though I’m sure Whitaker is much, much more frustrated.

Philosophy and Virginia Tech
Forgive me for attempting to make philosophical sense of the disaster at Va Tech, but two central points keep reverberating for me:
--We don’t control our lives. You can drive as safely as possible, but a drunk driver might get into the wrong lane and kill you. You can live your life not hurting anybody, but a mad gunman can kill you, and there’s little you can do about it.
--Violence connected. This has been a particularly violent week in Iraq; hundreds have died in violent attacks. We must see violence as violence, abhor it, and attempt to resist and eliminate it in any form.

Sportish Links
Via Signal to Noise, And Here Comes the Pretzels has some praise for Kevin Garnett.

I Dislike Your Favorite Team compares the Rasputin-like Kevin McHale to George W. Bush. Both are incompetent leaders that we’re somehow stuck with no matter what. Being a Timberwolves fan is an exercise in frustration.

Get excited for the NBA playoffs. SI has a five-minute guide.

Stewart Mandel looks at the overrated and underrated prospects in this year’s draft.

We Are the Postmen has a video of Nikki Giovanni’s closing remarks at Virginia Tech.

Scott Eric Kaufman at The Valve has an interesting post inspired by the Virginia Tech shootings.

In The Guardian, Jonathan Bate looks at how Shakespeare transformed from vulgar popular writer to “the supreme deity of poetry.”

Thursday, April 19, 2007

The Blizzard: Anti-intellectualism

As you've probably heard, Keith Olbermann is joining MSNBC's Football Night in America, and Colin Cowherd insulted the move (as you can read at the Fanhouse, the Big Lead, and Awful Announcing).

Specifically, Cowherd said of Olbermann,

"he's about as middle-america as a transgender film festival. He's a Northeast Intellectual Baseball Guy....he doesn't speak to the NFL fan at all!"

This is blatant anti-intellectualism, of course, and worse: it's an insult to football fans. Cowherd is assuming that as an intellectual, Olbermann can't connect to football fans...because I guess football fans are stupid.

I compared Cowherd's anti-intellectual rant against Olbermann to ProFootballTalk's anti-intellectual rants against Tiki Barber. Interestingly enough, ProFootballTalk, which praised Olbermann, responded:

"In the comments to the item, a reader compares Cowturd's assault on K.O. to our habit of calling out TiVi Barber for using big words.

There's a difference. Olbermann is an intellectual, and that's fine with us. Barber is like Otto in A Fish Called Wanda, forcing big words and high concepts into conversation in an effort to make people say, "Wow, he's smart.""

Fair enough. I'd accept the argument that PFT is showing respect for a legitimate intellectual and contempt for a phony intellectual. But that's not quite what ProFootballTalk said about Tiki Barber. Check the late October archives:

"Tiki, pal, you've got to drop the fancy-shmancy talk. It doesn't connect with the kinds of folks who'll comprise the TV audience you ultimately aspire to have."


"we think (with all due respect to Tiki) that he's not going to play in Peoria until he: (1) quits using ten-dollar words gratuitously; and (2) removes that smug look from his face whenever he is being interviewed."

Yes, PFT's specific critique is that Barber uses a large vocabulary gratuitously to look smart. But PFT specifically says it "doesn't connect with the kinds of folks who'll comprise the TV audience [he] ultimately aspire to have," and uses the cliche "play in Peoria," which refers to playing to the Mainstream (or "Main Street"). In our current parlance, I think it means "will it play in middle America?"

I'm just saying, PFT's critique that Barber's big words won't connect to the audience he wants (such as Peoria) is not so far off from Cowherd complaining that Olbermann can't connect to middle America or football fans.

A few more links
Via the Big Lead, Keith T. Clinkscales lays down a cogent, well-written argument against Jason Whitlock's shift away from Imus and against Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and rap lyrics. It's definitely worth your time.

Blue Viking Devil takes on pessimistic Viking fans.

FreeDarko has Part 2 of its playoff preview/racial stereotype battle.

Whatever you think of Bill Simmons (and there's plenty to dislike), he writes good NBA columns. See Part 1 and Part 2 of his MVP column.

And don't forget to scroll down to see pictures of Brad Childress reading poetry.

A few more notes on the poetry reading. While a lover of poetry, I generally don't like readings. I digest poems by reading them slowly and repetitively. I need a chance to examine the words and reflect; when I hear poems spoken, it's just flowy words to me--for the most part. Some poems seem particularly written to be read, and hearing them read can be a forceful experience. I think the best reading of the day was Ta-coumba Aiken's reading of Nikki Giovanni's "All Eyes on U (For 2pac Shakur 1971-1996)." Which sort of fits into my earlier post about the cliche "all eyes on."

Worlds Collide: Brad Childress reads poetry

The Friends of the Minneapolis Public Library put on their 6th Annual Favorite Poem Celebrity Reading. As noted by the Fanhouse and by Randball, Minnesota Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress would be one of the readers.
The crowd featured the usual suspects you'd expect at a cultural event in the Twin Cities (we all looked like the kind of people that support public television). Perhaps not the crowd Childress is used to addressing, though he fit right in.

It's wasn't exactly a highbrow poetry event. The first reader (Andrew Zimmern) read a poem by Roald Dahl, and one speaker read a poem by her junior high student. That was nice and all--the student was there, it was quite an honor for her, I'm sure. But at no point did I expect anybody at the podium to wax eloquent on T. S. Eliot or read a poem by Keats or anything.

Childress read Will Allen Dromgoole's "The Bridge Builder." After being introduced, he quipped that after today, he didn't think he'd quit his day job (har har). He talked about how the poem meant a lot to him because life isn't always easy. Sometimes it's hard and there's somebody there to help you through it.It was a low-key event on a Thursday afternoon--a surprising spot to find one of the NFL's 32 head coaches. But poetry readings are always fun, and other celebrities included WCCO's Amelia Santaniello and MPR's Kerri Miller (I recognized the voice as soon as she spoke).

Thank you, Friends of the Minneapolis Public Library for a fun little afternoon event.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Cliche to be wiped from the crust of the planet: "all eyes are on"

While skimming headlines on the sports page of the NY Times, I caught the headline, "Before the N.F.L. Draft, All Eyes Are On the Texans." My first thought was, you gotta love the Times, sticking with those periods in N.F.L. I haven't seen that anywhere else in years. My second thought was, really? All eyes are on the Texans? Hmm. I hadn't heard much about what the Texans are going to do with the 10th pick in the draft, but evidently all eyes are on them.

Then, when skimming the Star Tribune sports page, I learned that "All eyes are on Culpepper in Miami." I suppose that sentence could mean "In Miami, all eyes are on Culpepper." Otherwise, the Times and the Strib seem to be reporting contradictory stories.

To get to the bottom of this, I googled "all eyes are on." 277,000 results. OK, that's not helping. How about "all eyes on." 863,000 hits. Google News tells me that all eyes are on all sorts of things more significant than football. But I have to know: when I'm watching the draft, where should my eyes be focused?!

So I'm stuck. Should my eyes be on the Texans, or on Culpepper? Can they be on both? What about the other teams? Can I have my eyes on them? I thought at least a few people had their eyes on JaMarcus Russell and Brady Quinn. I thought the Vikings might even have eyes on Adrian Peterson. But if everybody else's eyes are on the Texans, should my eyes be there too? Should I trust the paper of record, or should I put my trust in the local scribes? Or are there even some non-football stories out there that people are casting their eyes upon? Are the newspapers lying too me? Are all eyes really not on, Culpepper?

All of my eyes are squinting in frustration.

The Blizzard: nice game, pretty boy.

I do have every intention of bringing my camera and notebook to the Minneapolis Public Library tomorrow for the poetry reading (that includes Brad Childress). But I will be caring for my three month old son, and I'm not terribly confident navigating Minneapolis, so I may not make it; if I do, however, I will certainly blog the experience.

Football Outsiders has a proven system for predicting the success of NFL quarterbacks: the important college stats are games started and completion percentage. looks at the relative importance of positions.

FreeDarko finds that you can still find humor in racial stereotypes.

Insomniac's Lounge notices an awkward comment by David Stern, and Sports Media Watch chronicles Stern's ESPN tour. As a Timberwolves fan, I hate David Stern with the passion of a thousand suns. As a reasonable person, I don't mind him.

Pro Football Talk looks at Cedric Griffin's arrest (and shows exactly the reason their manichaean Turd Watch is so absurd).

Inside Higher Ed continues its great analysis of the Va Tech tragedy from a college issues perspective.

Via 3quarksdaily, Slate reports on a study finding men and women work an equal amount of time, on average.

I'm not resurrecting my failed literary blog entirely, but I have been using it lately to express feeling on Va Tech.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Minnesota Vikings, Poetry, and You

Or at least Brad Childress. See the Fanhouse and Randball.

If this doesn't call for a PV field trip, nothing ever will.

The Blizzard: making sense of it

If you're like me, you're fluxuating between going about life as usual, finding little amusements, and then thinking about Virginia Tech and wondering why. From a historical perspective, we know that death, bloodshed, and tragedy are a part of the human condition as we know it; this is not something new. But what stings is that a place of such peace and idealism was marred by unexplainable violence. Murder and violence occur all over the world, but if a place of such hope and vitality can be attacked... If you're interested, I resurrected an old blog to post some random thoughts about the disaster. I also recommend the NY Times coverage of the story, And an Inside Higher Ed's report which, naturally, looks much more from the college perspective.

The Fanhouse has a great headline: "NFL Union to Retired Players: Drop Dead."

The 2007 Pulitzer Prizes have been awarded.

The NY Times has a bit on film's influence on Picasso.

I won't be able to stomach this, but you might.

Via 3quarksdaily, the NY Times has a feature on the intelligence of chimps. I love all the apes: they're like little and big people covered in hair.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Dear United States Olympic Committee

I get a lot of letters asking for donations to various causes. Recently I received a letter from the United States Olympic Committee asking for a donation. Here is my sarcastic response, intended to be cynical rather than un-American.

Dear United States Olympic Committee,

I would like to express my heartfelt appreciation for the complimentary address labels you have graciously given to me. However, I am choosing to decline your request for a financial donation for the U.S. Olympic team.

I know that, as you've told me, my gift would "help train the U.S. Olympic Team to compete against government-backed giants like China, Germany and Russia." But I will rely on the scrappy determination of the underdog Americans against such "giants." I think they'll still have a chance, even though you've told me you estimate "double the number of gifts will be needed to give us a chance at victory in the 2008 Olympic Games compared to the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens." Somehow, Some way, I hope the underfunded, underappreciated American athletes will still have a "chance at victory" without my donation.

It's just that with limited funds, my wife and I have to pick and choose which organizations to charitably support. And while my "gift will ensure they have the coaching, travel funds, and traning so necessary for victory," I'm going to reserve my charitable donations for other causes. It would be nice if I could give you money so that American athletes could win medals so that they could make their own money through sponsorship and endorsements. Unfortunately, we'll probably continue to give money to animal rights groups, wildlife protection groups, and homeless shelters. Hopefully the American athletes can still make it to Beijing, where they can earn the endorsements without my help.

But I do wish you luck. Hopefully your sponsors, whether they be worldwide sponsors, partners, sponsors, suppliers, or licensees, will provide you with enough funds to make the trip. That's a pretty good list of some very rich corporations; I think you'll be fine without my twenty bucks.



As bad as can be imagined

Spending my day on a campus, feeling comfortable in my office, engaging students in discussions of ideas in the classroom, is a pretty good life.

This morning Inside Higher Ed posted an article asking "Is Anything Off Limits?," in which Stephen Joel Trachtenberg considered terrorist violence at universities.

Sadly, it is particularly fitting today, with an horrific disaster occuring at Virginia Tech. That this atmosphere of openness, of learning, of peaceful discourse could be disrupted by violence; that human beings could go to learn and be murdered; that a setting of optimism and promise for the young could be marred by bloodshed: this is as bad as can be imagined.

NY Times
Statement from Virginia Tech President

Sport in Poetry: Tony Harrison's "v."

"v." is one of the more complex and nuanced poems I've ever read. A full interpretation would require a great deal of time and energy. I'll focus on the soccer hooligans and the poet's attempt to make meaning, in a way that (I hope) illustrates what this blog is sometimes all about.

In "v.", the poet is visiting his family's plot in a graveyard. This graveyard is located near a soccer stadium "where Leeds United play," and so a lot of soccer hooligans cut through the graveyard after the matches. But Leeds United

"disappoint their fans week after week,

which makes them lose their sense of self-esteem
and taking a short cut home thorugh these graves here
they reassert the glory of their team
by spraying words on tombstones, pissed on beer."

The poet finds that one soccer fan,

"dodging between tall family vaults and trees
like his team's best ever winger, dribbler, swerver,
fills every space he finds with versus Vs."

These "versus Vs" lead the poet to muse on all sorts of external and internal oppositions and conflicts (indeed, later the poem shifts into an internal dialogue between two aspects of the poet's self).

But he finds something else when he goes "to clear the weeds and rubbish thrown/on the family plot by football fans." He finds "UNITED graffitied on my parents' stone."

Again, this UNITED leads him to think of bigger issues. He finds in the word

"an accident of meaning to redeem
an act intended as mere desecration
and make the thoughtless spraying of his team
apply to higher things, and to the nation."

And yet, the poet previously admitted that while he might want to believe there is higher meaning in the soccer fan's graffiti, he really might be reaching:

"the feelings that I had as I stood gazing
and the significance I saw could be a sham,
mere excuses for not patiently erasing
the word sprayed on the grave of dad and mam.)"

The poem goes on in increasingly complex ways. The poet continues to try make meaning, and an internal voice mocks him for it. The meaning of work, class, death, human connection, and poetry itself is explored in ways that it would be cheap to try and transcribe into prose.

But the initial point is this: the poet sees something random and rather meaningless, but he attempts to give it meaning. He uses the inspiration of graffiti "v." and "UNITED" to muse on much bigger issues than soccer hooligans.

And in some ways, that is what we try to do at this blog. My favorite posts occur when something in the sporting world inspires a philosophical reflection (for example, this and this). You've heard that sports is a microcosm of society, and I don't disagree. But just as graffiti on a headstone isn't an inherent inspiration to muse on conflict and union, the sporting world doesn't always offer us clear, obvious parellels to our world. We interpret them. We make meaning of them. Even when we admit that the significance we see "may be a sham."

Games have always been a significant part of culture; think of how many little contests, games, and puzzles you encounter in your everyday lives. But if the world of professional sports is to have meaning beyond our mere entertainment, perhaps we should use it to inspire us to deeper reflection on our lives. Even if it the catalyst to this reflection is forced or artificial, it is the reflection itself which ultimately matters.

The Blizzard: in the doldrums

In a week the NBA playoffs will be all the rage and the NFL draft hype will actually have a touch of immediacy. But for this week, you may as well find something non-sportish to do. Go read some poems: I recommend Tony Harrison's "v.", the definitive poem on soccer hooliganism.

As you probably know, Viking CB Cedric Griffin has been arrested. Yippee! Another relatively minor offense gives bloggers a chance to make fun of the Vikings and bring up the Bawdy Boat and all that. Bleh.

Ben McGrath of The New Yorker has a big story about Manny Ramirez; go check out "Waiting for Manny."

Charger fans, naturally, don't want LaDanian Tomlinson on the cover of Madden. I've got the solution to all your problems: Brett Favre. He's an old and still popular legend and this might be his last season, so it would be a fitting tribute. And as the QB with the longest streak of consecutive starts, why not stare the curse in the face and dare it to blink?

Adam Gopnik in The New Yorker reviews a new biography of Kingsley Amis.

In Inside Higher Ed, Stephen Joel Trachtenberg requests that at the very least, Universities be off limits from violence.

Frank Rich weighs in on Don Imus (I'm finally moving Imus-related stories to the "Non-sportish" links). Among other things, Rich says: "If we really want to have this conversation, it also means we have to have a nonposturing talk about hip-hop lyrics, “Borat,” “South Park” and maybe Larry David, too." I'm all for nonposturing talk; it's always a good thing. So here is my non-posturing talk, complete with no hyperbole: Larry David is the greatest artist to ever utilize the television medium.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

The Blizzard: Tea Time

An odd day: in between grading papers, I made the transition from soda (bad carbon dioxide) to iced tea (good antioxidants), went to the Como Zoo with a sleeping baby (yes, even as a vegan I support zoos), and I even got to send some Jehovah's Witnesses away (we politely answered the fellow's questions, but when he pulled out a copy of "The Watchtower," it was time to say goodbye).

But enough about me; here are some links that you might be interested in.

The Star Tribune tells us that Michael "Jordans' divorce is proving to be a very costly affair."

In The Start Tribune, Anne Aronson asks why girls play softball instead of baseball in "Girls deserve an equal shot at the great American pastime."

In "Baron von Footlights," Rohan Preston of The Star Tribune tells us about a play about the life of professional wrestler Baron von Raschke.

At Blue Viking Devil's Spinoff blog, he tell us why the 2003 draft was a key year for Viking WRs in "Fandom: 2003 The Year of the Viking WR."

Andrew Perloff of SI asks, "Will Ginn fall in draft?" How will you feel if Ted Ginn, Jr. ends up on the Vikings? I'll be confused. I will also devote a large portion of my life to creating new puns for "Ginn" and "gin."

Harvey Wasserman reminds us that Kurt Vonnegut hated war in "Peace Be With You, Kurt Vonnegut" (if you've read Slaughterhouse Five, you probably knew that).

Serge Schmemann in the NY Times sends us his "Dispatches From the Front Line of the Great Vodka War."

Via Arts & Letters Daily and in The American Scholar, Morris Dickstein has some interesting things to say about American literature and the canon in "Going Native."