Friday, August 31, 2007

Byron Leftwich

Peter King of SI reports that the Jaguars are done with Byron Leftwich. What the hell happened? After four seasons, you can hardly call Leftwich a bust: his numbers were decent enough to make you think he's a young QB on the rise, and he was the QB of a successful team (winning records in 2004 and 2005). Certainly he has been prone to injury, but he's still a 27 year old QB that might be good. Now his 2007 season is probably worthless. He's not an early draft pick that has flamed out on the football field--he's got game and potential that could have been realized soon, in my opinion.

I really do believe this is bad for the Jags, too. They were actually good in 2006 (on offense 9th in points and 11th in yards, on defense 4th in points and 2nd in yards), but were very inconsistent, and (here's the important thing) David Garrard didn't give them much of a passing game. Maybe Leftwich wouldn't have given the Jags more than Garrard can this season, I don't know. But I really thought the Jaguars were going to be successful this year with Leftwich coming back to a team with a dominant running game and a very good defense. Let me frame it this way: if Leftwich had become available several months ago, I'd have wanted him to be the starting QB for the Vikings. If David Garrard became available several months ago, I'd rather stick with Tarvaris Jackson.

From a fantasy perspective, I'm slightly crushed. Remembering the solid chemistry Leftwich had with Jimmy Smith, I've been jazzed on Matt Jones, thinking Leftwich would boost his numbers. Now Jones is worthless (most people already thought he was worthless, but now they're right).

I always liked that Byron Leftwich: something about a completely immobile quarterback that looks good drilling the ball around pleases me. I saw a lot of really entertaining performances from Leftwich. Hopefully he finds a place to thrive in the future.

PV: Viking Season Ticket Holder

Well that's exhilarating.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Navigating the Viking Projections

This year has offered Viking fans an experience we haven't had in a long time.

Nobody is picking the Vikings to do anything this year.

I've already read a lot of previews and predictions. Most prognosticators have the Vikes under .500, in third or fourth place in the NFC North. Some have predicted the Vikings to be among the worst teams in the league. With the exception of some Viking fan bloggers, I have not seen any writers projecting the Vikings with a division title, a playoff appearance, or even a winning record.

While this is somewhat disheartening (I can't help but think the entire rest of the football watching world must be onto something), I'm really not sure we should care. Since I've been following the Vikings closely, I've seen both Dr. Z and Peter King predict the Vikings in the Super Bowl. Randy Moss was on the cover of Sports Illustrated's NFL preview once; Daunte Culpepper was featured prominently in ESPN the Magazine's NFL preview in a different year. Several years the Vikings were seen as an emerging contender in the NFC. I've seen dozens (possibly hundreds, but I try to avoid hyperbole) of predictions for division titles in the last five years.

None of those predictions of good things for the Vikings were correct. And so it is entirely possible that all of these predictions of bad things for the Vikings will be just as incorrect.

The optimistic preseason predictions we read for the previous five years weren't worth my toilet brush. Here's hoping all the pessimistic predictions we're reading now aren't worth my plunger.

These are the things I tell myself as I mull over whether to purchase season tickets tomorrow.


Sports Illustrated has put out its NFL preview. Dr. Z's projections have the Vikings at 6-10. Peter King did the Vikings' scouting report.

Gregg Easterbrook does a solid job making some familiar arguments about the reaction to the Michael Vick charges: he says the outrage is disproportionate in a society that routinely makes animals suffer for our pleasure, and that "There is some kind of mass neurosis at work in the rush to denounce Vick [...] Society wants to scapegoat Vick to avoid contemplating its own routine, systematic killing of animals" (this is something similar to what I wrote on the matter: "hatred gets misplaced in many of our attempts to make moral sense of our dealings with animals. This misplaced hatred becomes scapegoating, where people bring vitriolic indignation to egregiously cruel or indifferent treatment of animals to help downplay our frequent and accepted mistreatment of animals"). However, in his high moralizing on the treatment of animals, he deliberately and without reason rejects his simplest course of action (via FO).

Peter King ranks the top 500 players in the NFL for SI's football preview. Let's not even get into the senselessness of trying to evaluate the relative worth of 500 players that are required to do massively different jobs on the football field. Mr. King, where were you in July? This would have been perfect for Irrelevant Controversy Season. Next time tell your editors that in late August, we actually have football content to think about: we need this crap in July.

Football Outsiders tells why you should beware Shaun Alexander. Footballguys tells you why you should beware Torry Holt. Interesting: in the Hazelweird League, Alexander and Holt were essentially traded for each other the morning after the draft. Maybe you both got hosed.

Viking Update talks about the Vikings' long-time problems selling out games: "Even when the team was dominant during the 1970s, blackouts were a way of life." We love our Vikings in Minnesota; we just love to watch them on TV. If you're a Viking fan, you learn to accept hearing about the "dominant" era of the 70s when the team nevertheless failed to win a championship. They did dominate in the NFC, of course, and the NFC Central in particular, but in Minnesota, deep emptiness over the Vikings is as much a part of our collective life as frigid January nights. We come to accept that the team that lost four Super Bowls might be as good as it ever gets (though we never quite give up hope). I used to deeply fear that the Vikings would relocate after the Metrodome lease runs out, and it is still something I fear: if the Vikings ever leave, I'll be thrown into a long, deep period of intense sadness (and I know I won't be alone). But now I see the specter of relocation as another part of the milieu of despair involved in rooting for this team.

The Ragnarok presents the Vikings' goals for tonight's final preseason game. My goal for tonight's game is to not watch it.

Deadspin interviews Dave Zirin.

In a week we'll be getting ready to watch a real football game. I've realized something: after a summer of following sports mainly through the internet and particularly in blogs, I will find it refreshing to escape the frequent negativity of focus and listen to broadcasters heap piles of praise on players. I'm actually looking forward to the hyperbolic praise of mindless broadcasters: that's what the blogosphere has done to me.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

"Good"ell: Maybe not So Good for the NFL

One has to question if "Good"ell is going to far. At what point will people realize that it cannot be good that one man arbitrarily decides who gets suspended? PFT brings up a good point. Why is it that the NFL (i.e. "Good"ell) suspends Rucker for an incident that happened before he was even drafted, while as PFT mentions Joey Porter isn't suspended for cold-cocking Levi Jones in Vegas. I am sorry, but this "extreme" application of the personal conduct policy might have the opposite effect, making questionable characters "off the field" turn into sympathetic characters.


This news is bad enough, but I first heard it from a Packer fan in my fantasy league, which elicited a profanity-filled response more incoherent than Miss Teen South Carolina's views on maps.

According to the Star Tribune, the Vikings' "Sept. 9 game vs. Atlanta in danger of a rare blackout. The Vikings must sell 5,800 tickets by noon Sept. 6, or NFL rules will prohibit the game from being televised in the Twin Cities and many secondary markets around the state."

Well, as fun as Viking games are, there are several reasons I don't want to have to go to that game (the first involves money, the second involves bringing a baby to the Metrodome). But my wife and I are already plotting our course of action if the game is not sold out: going to the Dome early in the morning and getting tickets for the game. C'est la vie, perhaps it will all be for the better: I can part with a hundred dollars and my son's ear drums can be put in danger.

5,800 tickets in a week? I'm looking for 5,800 heroes. True, U.S. American heroes.

Fantasy Football Issues

Why a playoff?

Though I'm a supporter of the revolution, I understand that most leagues continue to use a head-t0-head format for a whole host of reasons.

I will never understand, however, why fantasy football leagues use a playoff.

In real life, a playoff makes sense. You play a regular season, and at the end of that you make the best teams "play off" against each other to determine who is the best.

But that's not what happens in fantasy football. There's no fundamental difference for your team between a regular season fantasy matchup and a playoff fantasy matchup.

Essentially, a fantasy football playoff says "We are going to select two weeks at random and let that determine the outcome of our league." If you have a great team but have a mediocre week, you lose. If you have a just-good-enough-to-make-the-playoffs team and your team has a great week, you win. But there's nothing special about the playoffs--you really are just selecting two weeks late in the year to determine your champion.

It's foolish and illogical. It's not a good way to determine a champion--it just rewards having a team that performs well in select relatively random (at least to the players on your team) weeks.

Going to the bench

Simply drafting the best team is not enough in fantasy football; you have to manage your bench.

It is very likely that for a few weeks, one of your top picks could be putting up mediocre points. During this same period of time, one of your later round picks, selected to be a backup, could be putting up great fantasy scores. You need to determine if or when to replace your highly touted early pick with a high performing later pick. You don't want to abandon a stud early: sometimes players struggle in their first few games and then go back to their high performing ways (Barry Sanders in 1997, Ladanian Tomlinson in 2003). But you don't want to leave a real stud on the bench for too long just because you drafted him later and he's not as well known as your starter: after all, this year's late round steals are next year's first round picks.

This is a bit of a gut decision, with a lot of luck. I, for example, have Roy Williams backing up Reggie Wayne and Steve Smith at WR: I might need to decide whether to replace either Wayne or Smith with Williams, or to sub Williams in for my second RB. I also have Vince Young backing up Donovan McNabb: while McNabb is a dominant fantasy performer, I'm still going to be leaving a lot of rushing yards and touchdowns on the bench.

I also think that you're in trouble if you switch your lineup a lot from week-to-week. If you stick with a primary starting lineup, you're going to get good weeks and bad weeks from your players. To switch up your lineups often relies a great deal on luck: you're gambling on picking the starters that will have a good single week, while you chould then just as easily miss out on good single weeks from the players you've just benched. At the end of the year, you might hit on more hot weeks than cold weeks, but you also might hit on more cold weeks than hot weeks. But if you draft decent starters, you're usually better off just riding the starting lineup, because you have to hope you drafted players good enough to have more hot weeks than cold ones. You just need to decide when one of those starters needs to be replaced with a different long-term starter.

Drafting Peyton Manning in a snake and auction

On Sunday I made the argument that in the first round, after what you feel the sure thing elite RBs are gone, you should select Peyton Manning rather than a RB you are less sure of. We'll see if this strategy works out.

This is my argument for a snake draft only. In a snake draft, you are stuck in a slot, you don't have much control over who will fall to you in that slot, and you want to make sure you get good production from the pick.

This does not mean I recommend using a huge chunk of money on Manning in an auction. In an auction, you have more control over which players you really want: rather than getting stuck with a slot pick, you can target the players you really want (so you can decide whether to pay up for the elite RBs or pick out the better budgeted RBs you think will perform well). Also in an auction, you might be able to get a QB that puts up 90% of Manning's numbers for 50% of the money. Spending a lot of money on Manning is a budgetary decision with a lot of ramifications. For example, if you draft Manning in a snake draft, you are choosing Manning over one other starter; in an auction draft, Manning might cost as much as two or more other starters (indeed, in the Hazelweird draft Manning went for 75, while I got Donovan McNabb for 35 and Reggie Wayne for 40). But there are other ramifications that depend largely on your draft.

So yes, I do think that if you don't get one of the top 3-6 RBs, you should draft Peyton Manning in a snake draft. And honestly, Manning is so good that targeting him in an auction could pay off, too: he's always very good, and in 2004 his 49 TD passes helped KS to a Hazelweird Title. But in an auction, I'm not as confident that spending a large part of your budget on Manning is the wise move.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Intended Audience in Sportswriting

Some writers envision a particular audience for their work. Certainly intended audience is something that comes up in college composition courses. You need to know who you are writing for. But does that mean you should make assumptions about who you are writing for?

Matthew Berry of ESPN has written "50 things you need to know," which features interesting fantasy football tidbits, with a few life tidbits thrown in. It is important to remember that this article is stylistically organized to be directed toward "you," the reader.

Two rules particularly caught my attention:

15. Never date a woman who was a psychology major in college. (Some of these tidbits don't have statistics to back them up; you're just gonna have to trust me.)


40. Never date a girl who has a bunch of guy friends and no girlfriends. She might not know why, but you do.

Berry has revealed his intended audience. Presumably, he is writing to straight men and gay women; two of his items that you need to know specifically exclude gay men or straight women.

The perspective of reader and writer is a heavily discussed issue in literary studies. What is often called a "universal" perspective is sometimes simply the perspective of a white male from the dominant power group--this is the primary perspective, and books thought to be exploring "universal values" or "human issues" are primarily books written by white males. And where does this leave other perspectives? Secondary, of course--minorities and women are sometimes thought to be writing about social predicaments or political statements, concepts in literature that many consider secondary to "universal," "human" themes. Certainly literary theory in the past 50 years or so has been breaking down this assumption, examining all literature in terms such as class, race, and gender. But the idea of "universal themes" separate from cultural construction still persists (I cannot exclude myself here: my literary preferences lean toward the "big ideas" books rather than the social examinations). In academia, students and teachers of literature are having meaningful discussions about what values, if any, are "universal," and what values are entirely a product of culture.

I've criticized Harold Bloom for criticizing those who don't read Shakespeare the same way he does, i.e., as a white male (here and here). But I don't think this is just an abstract discussion for literary critics; it's an issue that cuts into our real lives. In graduate school I did a (very brief and non-scientific) study of book covers on books written by Asian American authors. I found that frequently a word like"universal" appears in the description or a blurb on the backs of books written by Asian Americans. My theory was that editors were trying to appeal to a majority audience (white), and wanted to emphasize that even though the book was written by a minority, it contained "universal" themes that could still appeal to a white audience.

Now let's bring this back to sportswriting. Certainly, I do assume that most people reading an article at ESPN are straight males--this is the common perception of the average sports fan (forgive me if this assumption is incorrect--it just seems to be the prevalent representation). But there are women who follow sports, and there are gay men who follow sports. They might be reading Berry's article about fantasy football, interested in the facts presented.

But how are straight women or gay men to respond to Berry's advice about what types of women not to date? While reading the article, which is directed at "you" the reader, they are required to take the perspective of a straight man (or possibly a lesbian, though I doubt Berry is considering this in framing his article, so I'm leaving that possibility aside for now). The article is written toward "you," the reader, with bits of advice framed toward "you," the reader.

So women? Gay men? When "you" read advice about what types of women you should or shouldn't date, you are being required to read like a straight man. And even if you are unwilling to do so, the article requires you to recognize your outsider, minority status, to recognize that on some level this article is not written for you.

In sportswriting, very often the "universal" perspective, the assumed audience, is heterosexual male. And again, this is quite likely the majority reader of sports articles. But when sports articles are written specifically with a perspective directed toward the majority reader, the minority is excluded. In this case, the article is assumed to be for heterosexual males, and if you are not a heterosexual male, "you" are still going to get advice about what women you shouldn't date.

Hey, I don't mean to pick on Matthew Berry. I'm sure Berry's intent is not to exclude gay men or straight women from reading his article. The assumption that sports (and fantasy sports) are primarily for men is reinforced everywhere, and I don't think there was a conscious level where Berry considered this. I happen to be using his article as an example because it shows the problem so clearly (with the explicit direction toward "you" and the gender explicit pieces of advice); if I wanted to find other examples in other sportswriters, I'm sure I could.

The sad thing is, it is not just sportwriting that assumes a majority perspective and requires minorities to subsume their own identities within the majority perspective. But sportswriting is an area where there is often not even an attempt to hide the assumption of the majority reader.

Viking News: Bevell calls plays, Jackson starts, Holcomb joins the team

The most important news to emerge about the team is that offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell will be calling the plays this year (Star Tribune).

Right now, however, we have little idea how this will affect the team. How will the playcalling be different? Will there be a fundamentally different approach? We don't know what impact Bevell's playcalling will have on the team, but it will be an important factor in this team's success. Given that this is going to be a team winning low-scoring, defensive games, the offense has a pretty thin margin of error; playcalling could be a key factor.

It is possible too that Bevell, as offensive coordinator not charged with running the entire team, will be able to devote greater attention to a young, developing QB than Childress can.

It should be noted that while Childress' playcalling is dismissed as conservative and predictable, Childress' approach to the game is not. The Vikes were tied for 2nd in the league in fourth down attempts last year (and third in conversion percentage), and that's not because they were down a lot; a lot of those attempts came earlier in the game or in close games. Childress called a key fake field goal in the Carolina win, and a halfback pass in the Seattle win. He's willing to make aggressive, gutsy moves to try win a game.

The move to allow Bevell to call the plays signals Childress' willingness to adapt, and willingness to defer on offense. Hopefully Bevell can call plays aggressively.

Our hero, Tarvaris Jackson
Tavaris Jackson has officially been named the starting quarterback (Pioneer Press).

This may have seemed like an inevitability, but it's not. A lot of people speculated that the Chiefs wanted Brodie Croyle to win the starting job, but Damon Huard outplayed him and will start (ESPN). Jackson has performed well enough to earn the starting job--now whether it's a major accomplishment to beat out Brooks Bollinger for a starting job, I'm not entirely sure.

Kelly Holcomb
The Vikings have acquired QB Kelly Holcomb (

The Vikes acquired Holcomb pretty much the same way they acquired Brooks Bollinger last season: dissatisfied with their backup QB rather late in the off-season, they traded for a reserve QB that another team didn't really want or need.

Here is my un-researched, memory impression of Holcomb, based mainly on his time in Cleveland. He'll come in for a game or two and put up some pretty strong numbers (but usually in losses). His performances will then lead fans, coaches, and players to believe that Holcomb is the answer at the position, when he's clearly not.

But shows that Holcomb is a 64.7% passer, and he started 8 games in 2003 and 2005. If in a month or two Holcomb is forced to play, he could do a solid job as a short-term starter.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Anti-intellectualism, PFT, and Tiki Barber

ProFootballTalk is frequently anti-athlete, and engages in mockery of just about anybody involved in football for a whole host of reasons. And I suppose there's a place for that. But one particular form of PFT's mockery stinks of anti-intellectualism. PFT makes fun of Tiki Barber for using big words; essentially, PFT makes fun of Tiki Barber for sounding smart.

Currently, when the main writer at PFT uses a word or phrase that might sound smart, he'll insert "thanks, Tiki" in parentheses directly afterward. Today "(thanks, Tiki)" appeared after the word "extemporaneously." On August 19th "(thanks, Tiki)" appeared after persona non grata.

The main writer at PFT has claimed that he makes fun of Tiki's vocabulary because Barber is a fake intellectual, using big words pretentiously (ah, thanks Tiki?) to sound smart. As I showed, I'm not so sure. After all, if he's made fun of for using big words, how exactly is Barber supposed to show that he is a legitimate intellectual?

I'm not sure what an athlete or ex-athlete would have to do to convince PFT that he/she is a legitimate intellectual; it's possible that "intellectual athlete" simply doesn't fit into PFT's schema.

I guess I'll leave it to you: do you think PFT's mockery of Tiki Barber's big words constitutes a negative attitude toward intellectualism (whatever that might mean)? Or does Tiki Barber deserve to be mocked for his supposedly pretentious vocabulary?

Anti-intellectualism is a problem in our country. Science is frequently rejected for non-scientific reasons (evolution, global warming). Political candidates seem to deliberately dumb down their diction to appeal to the masses. Too many people speak of academia and intellectual pursuits with derision. Perhaps I'm wrong, but I see PFT engaging in this very problem in its mocking of Barber's diction.

ADDENDUM: One of the early words (though possibly not the first--another similar critique shows up a few hours earlier) in Barber's vocabulary that caught PFT's ire was "bloviate" in late October. Not a common word, but easily understood in context.

But here's the sure sign of an anti-intellectual bent: if a speaker uses a word you don't know, why is the speaker at fault?

If somebody uses a word that you don't know, you should not assume it is the speaker who has a flaw: you should assume it is you, for not knowing the word. To hold it against the speaker, rather than yourself, shows an animosity toward the person for being (at least in this case, for knowing a word you don't know) more intelligent than you.

Todd Lowber: We Hardly Knew Ye!

It is a sad day, the greatest darkhorse to make the roster since Brock Lesnar has been cut. Yes fans let us all join in a collective sigh because Todd Lowber has been cut. What does this mean for our darkhorse? Well it will either be the practice squad, finding another team, or returning to his regular life of trying to find a job like many other college graduates. My sincere hope is that Lowber still wears the Purple and Gold just on the practice squad for now (who knows Tyler Thigpen is probably headed there now with Holcomb on the roster and maybe they could develop some chemistry).

Welcome Kelly Holcomb: Why I'm Happy, Why I'm Not!

Well word is Kelly Holcomb is joining the Vikings for a 2008 6th round draft pick. This informartion comes with mixed reviews from me and here is why.

I think it is a good move because the Vikings defense is stellar and having a veteran at the QB position who has started more than all the QB's on our roster combined is definitely a good thing if Tarvaris shows he is not ready. Holcomb allows the Vikings a better safety net than our dear Brooks Bollinger.

However, here is why I don't like the move. Viking fans are fickle. The one position we historically have not had patience with is the quarterback position and with the addition of Holcomb to the roster I see a future of calling for "Kelly, Kelly." Don't get me wrong, I hope Tarvaris is a stud so that fans do not call for Kelly, but knowing that the fans used to call for Todd Bouman when Daunte struggled leaves me to believe Tarvaris is going to here some chants. The Vikings have now created an environment where the fans might not struggle along with the young QB, but rather will call for his head and to be replaced with Holcomb. Before I don't think many fans would have been calling for Brooks Bollinger if Tarvaris were struggling.

Good move Vikes in bringing in a veteran as a safety, but in the same light bad move Vikes because now the fans will grow restless and be harder on our young hero Tarvaris.

Michael Vick: lessons in ethics and religion

I keep saying I'm done talking about Vick, and I keep coming back with more to say. Sorry--sometimes I feel compelled.

Like many stories that emerge from the world of sports, the Michael Vick dog fighting story gives us a chance to explore a bit of moral philosophy. These are meager attempts at such exploration.

Where do we get our morality?

I've come to understand the great and probably disproportional outrage against Michael Vick for dog fighting.

For most people, their sense of morality is tied to their stomachs. They react viscerally, and judge the degree of sin/crime according to this visceral reaction.

Part of this is novelty. There are a lot of bad behaviors out there. Driving while drunk is irresponsible and life-threatening, but we're essentially immune to hearing about it. It happens all the time; when a celebrity is caught driving drunk, there is usually moderate condemnation, but acceptance that it has merely happened again. So, too, domestic violence is a very bad thing. But we've heard many allegations involving athletes and domestic violence, and many of these allegations do not lead to criminal prosecution. So we hear about it, we may judge the athlete, but essentially, we're used to it and we move on. I've compared dog fighting to other forms of animal cruelty that are accepted in our society, but the thing is, those are the forms of animal cruelty that are accepted in society. They no longer give people a visceral reaction.

And part of it is the nature of the brutality. People are hearing stories about rape stands, dogs being forced to fight each other to the death, dogs being drowned, hanged, and electrocuted. We get very concrete images--images that lead to physical revulsion for many.

I've shared this story before: I ask my students if they would eat hamburgers if they knew the meat was made out of a dog. Many respond with looks of disgust and revulsion. Rationally, they should not be appalled: there's really not a rational moral difference between a dog and a cow. Emotionally, of course, there is a big difference for most people.

Our morality should not be tied to our stomachs. We should have a sense of right and wrong (and a sense of degree of wrong) that is not connected to how we react viscerally. A lot of very deep evils in our world and society don't come with these concrete images, and they don't involve a form of violence that forces physical disgust on us. Our morality should be tied to something different.

Oh, I believe dog fighting is wrong. I just don't have physical revulsion to stories of dog fighting. These two statements are not mutually exclusive.

"Until seventy times seven"

Allow me to go in another direction here and explore part of this story from the perspective of Christianity. I'm not doing so to proselytize, but simply to explore the issue from another perspective, perhaps a useful perspective.

Michael Vick has apologized for his actions, asking for forgiveness (Fanhouse).

We're cynical about public apologies in our society. We suspect many celebrity apologies to be insincere and self-serving, more for publicity than sincere repentance.

But from a Christian perspective, is this the correct reaction?

I'll say first of all that I am not in a position to forgive Michael Vick. He did not wrong me, and his apology is not directed at me. But to any extent that I am in a position to accept Vick's apology, I must do so. To any extent I can offer forgiveness, I must do so.

In the book of Matthew, you'll find this passage:

"Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven."

Jesus follows with a parable illustrating why people are required to forgive one another: a king forgives a servant a massive debt, yet that servant refuses to forgive somebody else for a very small debt. We're not supposed to be like the servant, forgiven for our sins but unforgiving of others' sins.

The point is, if an individual wrongs us and asks for forgiveness, a Christian must forgive him/her. If the individual wrongs us again, a Christian must forgive him/her. If an individual wrongs us yet again, a Christian must forgive him/her. It would seem as these wrongs continue again and again, we might question the sincerity of the repentance. And yet, Jesus says to continue to forgive. If somebody wrongs me and apologizes, I am not to assess whether or not I believe the apology to be sincere: Jesus' command dictates simply that I must accept the apology.

Michael Vick has apologized: he is taking responsibility for his actions, and he is going to suffer for his actions. If it is forgiveness and redemption he seeks, I hope he finds it.

The preseason. How cute (blizzard)

We should know better. Every year writers that cover the sport write about how meaningless the preseason is. Every year we get evidence of teams playing well in the preseason and sucking in the regular season, and sucking in the preseason but doing fine in the regular season. It doesn't matter. But we're so desperate for football, we let ourselves get nervous or excited based on these meaningless performances.

I don't know what anything means right now about anything. I'm happy that Tarvaris Jackson doesn't look completely inept, which he did a lot of the time last season; he at least seems poised and understanding. But it's still meaningless. Vanity of vanities, striving after the wind and all that.

But since the Vikes do have an inexperienced QB, Viking fans do want to know how our hero, Tarvaris Jackson, does. We'll see week one against Atlanta. But if you are interested, the Star Tribune has a couple of articles on Jackson's recent preseason performance: "QB's long outing doesn't provide much clarity" and "Jackson takes small step up, but Bollinger goes backward."

Viking Update says Kelly Holcomb might be coming to the Vikings.

Remember when some Viking fans were upset that the Vikes let Jermaine Wiggins go? Mike Morris called Wiggins a top-10 tight end, which caused me to go slightly crazy. Well now Wiggins has been cut by the Jaguars (Vikings Now). Folks, he's an 8 yard per catch TE, and there are plenty of them in the league.

I like sports. You like sports. But sometimes we just need to laugh out loud. Thanks to Ballhype for bringing this Youtube instant legend to our attention.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Fantasy: Why I drafted Peyton Manning at #6 (and why you should take him in the first round, too)

The Ghosts of Wayne Fontes organized a blogger fantasy football draft featuring 14 teams. That’s a lot of teams for a snake draft. In the first round, 13 of the 14 picks were running backs, which makes sense, since you have the option of starting three RBs each week.

I had the 6th pick. Ladainian Tomlinson, Steven Jackson, Larry Johnson, Joseph Addai, and Shaun Alexander were off the board. I selected Peyton Manning.

This may seem like a reach pick: obviously, to win at fantasy football, you need good running backs.

The problem is it is very difficult to predict what RBs will be good from year to year; it is the position with the highest bust potential in fantasy football. To illustrate this, let’s look at the performances of the 11 RBs selected in first two rounds of the 2006 Hazelweird Snake Draft.

Larry Johnson
2,199 yards, 19 touchdowns
Clearly a very good pick.

Ladanian Tomlinson
2,323 yards, 31 touchdowns
The best RB fantasy season ever; clearly a great pick.

Shaun Alexander

944 yards, 7 touchdowns
Injuries limited him to 10 games; clearly a disappointing pick.

Clinton Portis
693 yards, 7 touchdowns
Injuries limited him to 8 games; clearly a disappointing pick.

Rudi Johnson
1,433 yards, 12 touchdowns
He did just what was expected of him: a good pick.

Tiki Barber
2,127 yards, 5 touchdowns
A good season, but 5 TDs was disappointing: a lot of RBs selected later topped that.

Ronnie Brown
1,284 yards, 5 touchdowns
A mildly disappointing pick--probably a major disappointment to those who drafted him.

LaMont Jordan
508 yards, 2 touchdowns
Is "disappointment" a strong enough word?

Steven Jackson
2,334 yards, 16 touchdowns
A great pick.

Cadillac Williams
994 yards, 1 touchdown
Another massive disappointment.

Edgerrin James
1,376 yards, 6 touchdowns
Most would consider this a disappointment.

Of the 11 running back selected in the first two rounds of the 2006 draft, at least six must be considered disappointments. Whether these RBs struggled because of injuries, team ineptitude, or their own ineptitude doesn't matter at all: they weren't getting fantasy owners points.

Now look at Peyton Manning. He's never missed a start. In each of his nine seasons, he's thrown at least 26 touchdown passes. In seven of his nine seasons, he's topped 4,100 yards. There is incredibly little risk in drafting Peyton Manning, meaning there is little chance I've wasted my first round pick.

In The Ghosts of Wayne Fontes draft, the first-round RBs selected after Manning were Frank Gore, Reggie Bush, Rudi Johnson, Brian Westbrook, Laurence Maroney, Willie Parker, Maurice Jones-Drew, and Ronnie Brown. It is a virtual guarantee that a few of these RBs will be major fantasy disappointments; it is probably that several of them will be. Which RBs will succeed and which will disappoint? I have no idea--and that's why I didn't take any of them. Some of these draft selections will be considered wasted picks very soon; in 2008, several of these first round selections will be late fantasy picks. But we don't know which ones. It might be because of injuries (it's an injury-prone position). It might be because they play on lousy teams (it's a position dependent on line performance). It might be because the players themselves are currently overrated (several of them are fairly unproven).

It is very unlikely that Peyton Manning will get injured this season. Of course injuries are governed by chance, but he has no injury history. It extremely unlikely that Manning will struggle this season because of his team: he has the best set of skill position players in the league around him, and while losing Tarik Glenn hurts, the line has always done a good job protecting him (and he's smart enough to get the ball away quickly). It is virtually impossible that Manning will struggle this season because of his own ineptitude: he has proven himself to be an elite quarterback (I think he's the best ever, but that's a discussion for another day).

Some of the participants of The Ghosts of Wayne Fontes fantasy draft wasted their first round picks. They didn't waste them out of stupidity (all the picks appear reasonable); we can't know now which ones wasted their picks. But some of those selections will get injured and/or will struggle. We will look back on some of these players as virtual non-factors in fantasy football.

You can't really project which RBs will avoid injuries or struggles; it's a crapshoot. But you can avoid the crapshoot altogether. That's what I did. And while it certainly led me to what looks currently like a weak RB corps, I feel confident I didn't waste my pick, and that Peyton Manning will be a very productive fantasy football player.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Nike, Thanks for Nothing

Yes it is a sarcastic title. Why? Because once again Troy Williamson got open deep on a 1st and 10 play (set up wonderfully by a dominant run game), and somehow put his hands together a half-a-second after the ball passed through them.

Now I am not going to label Williamson a bust yet, but when you are a wide receiver who has had problems with coordination and depth perception it cannot bode well for you when you miss a very catchable ball. Troy, you are on a short leash with me and from what I saw from Sidney Rice on the second drive of the game tonight (i.e. a tough catch of a not so well thrown ball by Jackson) your time might be running out. Bobby Wade seems to have good chemistry with Jackson and as of right now definitely looks like the #1 WR in this offense.

Best thing about the game tonight? E.J. Henderson, Antoine Winfield, and Marcus McCauley. E.J. Henderson is all over the place. He got pressure on Hasselbeck and appeared to be all over the field. Winfield was his usual tackling stud and showed some great instinct on his interception. Marcus McCauley is destined to be the #2 CB on this team, maybe not this year but next year it should be his job (nothing against Griffen, but McCauley looks like a stud).

The destiny of this years Vikings team lies in the hands of Tarvaris Jackson and the offensive line. Tarvaris cannot turn over the ball and the offensive line cannot afford to be undisciplined and have false starts (yes that means you Ryan Cook). This team will be a ball control team, but in order for that to be successful penalties have to be at a minimum (we cannot afford to be the penalty ridden team we were under the leadership of Mike Tice).

Jackson to Wade is the new black.

And Wade to Shiancoe is a waste of a good play in the preseason. But the announcers are convincing us that it will make other teams think about it and waste time preparing for it. Whatever. Ah, well, it's basically the same play the Vikings ran at Seattle last season (Mewelde Moore to Jermaine Wiggins), so it's not like nobody knew they'd go in for these backdoor shenanigans.

But when Tarvaris Jackson to Bobby Wade bring the madness to the Falcons week one, we shall all release a collective sigh. It's all going to be alright.

Little Weekend Blizzard

Do you realize there are only two more football-less Sundays left? Enjoy them as much as you can. Of course football Sundays are 5,000% more fun than non-football Sundays (I'm not using hyperbole: 5,000% might even be a low estimate), but we should try to use our last two lazy open Sundays for pleasant activities.

Anyway, here are a few interesting or amusing things to call to your attention this weekend.

Don Seeholzer of the Pioneer Press says that "exactly how the Vikings plan to deploy their new running back rotation is still largely a mystery." It's true: not a one of us knows exactly what Childress' plans are for Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor. I wouldn't be shocked by anything week one.

The Ghosts of Wayne Fontes has an amusing post on fantasy football: "The League Manifesto: The Do's and the Do Not's."

18 to 88 has a really creative, entertaining NFL preview comparing the NFL to Star Wars (via Football Outsiders). If you're going to use this trope of comparing sports to pop culture, use it well; this one is really fun.

And finally, some features for vegetarian sports fans. PETA ranks vegetarian friendly baseball parks (via Serious Dismay), and Ladies... has advice on making vegetarian options for a football party.

Who is Holy Hitter? (Beginning a Tirade)

Since Rev vike seems to be interested I will have my first post be a little bit about myself. Some of the long time readers of PV probably knew me under my former alias of BlueVikingDevil. Well my time at Duke is over and now I am pastoring a church and so I changed my identity to Holy Hitter (also the name of my fantasy team in the Hazelweird league that I am in with PV).

So what can you expect to read when I post? Well first, now that I am back in Minnesota I will be able to comment more on the Vikings game play since now I can actually watch the games rather than rely on the analysis of PV (not that PV's analysis is bad, actually I often wanted his take on the game, but it just isn't the same as watching the game with your own two eyes).

Outside of that you can expect occasional rants about negativity in sports (common throughout blogs and many sports websites), posts about college basketball once that comes around, and other various comments on sports in general.

So today I was reading the PFT Rumormill and became really miffed. What really bothered me was their take on Andy Reid walking out on his press conference after reporters began to ask questions about his son. Specifically, PFT states, "On one hand, we think that the troubles of Reid's adult son are unrelated to Reid's job, and should not be discussed at a press conference or anywhere else. On the other hand, the fact that Reid took an unusual leave of absence after his sons encountered legal troubles in January makes the topic fair game."

First of all "unusual leave of absence?" I would assume that many parents if their children got into trouble with drugs, guns, etc. would take time off from their work to address the issue and I am pretty sure Reid's leave of absence would more than likely fall under the "Family and Medical Leave Act" but maybe not. So Andy Reid was a good dad and now because of that his sons troubles with the law are fair game at press conferences? C'mon. It isn't like Reid took his leave of absence during the regular season or playoffs, he took it off at a time where he as a head coach was not as busy and I am pretty sure that if anything major needed to be addressed he probably was available to the franchise.

However, this gets to a more pressing issue. At what point do reporters realize that just because someone is a celebrity or "focus" of the media's attention that this doesn't mean that everything/everyone connected to that person is fair game when discussing that person's job. Andy Reid is the coach of the Philadelphia Eagles. The absolute maximum question I think a reporter could ask (not minimum like PFT states) is "Are you thinking about taking some more time off to support your family?" That question doesn't really center around his son and it actually deals with his job. We are talking about a pro football press conference not a press conference on Andy Reid's personal life (heck not even his personal life his son's personal life which might have an effect on his life). The fact is the media thinks that just because these people are in an industry (that is right an industry) that is consumed by millions that everything about individuals in the industry is fair game whether they personally are the agent of the story or if they are somehow tangentally related to the agent of the story. It is annoying and I would like press conferences actually to focus on football, but hey it is the offseason have to make a story somehow I guess.

Thanks again to PV for letting me come on board once again (this time I am here to stay since I dont have the time to maintain my own blog).

Why do we follow sports? (or, the NFL season must start now).

You should be familiar with Ballhype, a website that makes it easy for us to follow popular sports stories. It's a very good site.

Here's what you'll find right now on the first page of the Ballhype NFL page (right now: by the time you look, it may be different):

11 of the 15 stories feature Michael Vick.

2 others are about a hit against Redskin QB Jason Campbell.

1 other is about a player getting a DUI.

1 other features some commentary on a preseason game.

I realize it's just before the third week of preseason; there might not be a lot going on the in the NFL right now. Furthermore, it was just today that Vick's plea agreement became public (see it at the Smoking Gun).

But 11 of the 15 most hyped stories?

Is this why we follow sports? Is there not more real football that could break up the monotony of one athlete's crimes? Aren't there positive stories out there? Aren't there hopeful stories out there?

This isn't why I follow sports. This will never be why I follow sports. Am I childishly innocent (I do, after all, still collect football cards)? Is this what we want?

Does this make sports fun?

I hope when the real games start, we can focus on the games and the players. When that happens, I hope that instead of focusing all our energy on criticizing lousy performances, we can take the time and energy to praise and admire the great performances. I want to watch the great players that I can tell my children about someday. I want to appreciate and understand what makes these players great. I want to enjoy my favorite team, and I want to enjoy quality football around the league.

So why are you following sports? For the fun? For the hope? For the possibilities and inspirations of greatness? For the technical brilliance?

Or is all that a distraction from mocking athletes and commenting on their crimes?

Addendum: This one example of a day at Ballhype is just an illustration of the larger problem. Vick stories have dominated Ballhype's rankings for a long time. Every possible Vick story gets a post at Fanhouse (and why not? These stories elicit tons of comments). Several Vick stories have been prominantly featured at SI and ESPN--pushing other football news aside. But the Vick story is just the greatest example of internet sports coverage's focus on athlete misdeeds. All Vick has done is push PacMan Jones further down in the headlines; for a long time the focus has been too much on athlete misdeeds and a focus on the negative.

I just don't want that to be why we watch sports. And as bloggers, we have some (however little) control over how sports are covered on the internet. We'll be critical of things, don't worry (obviously we enjoy critiquing sports writing and cliches). But we want the focus to be on the games and players, and we want to make sure our sports spectating focuses some energy on the parts of sports we like, not just the parts we don't like.

Friday, August 24, 2007

And then there were three

We've got a new contributor to the PV blog. Holy Hitter will be joining us shortly. In the words of Martin Luther, "What does this mean for us?"

It means more content: I'll still be the primary writer, but Holy Hitter will join "What was that bang?" to provide additional commentary and opinion.

It may also mean some occasional critiques of the Pro Football Talk Rumor Mill. I occasionally have some issues with PFT--the negative focus (particularly player arrests), the Manichaean labeling of "turds," the unfair mockery (like criticizing Tiki Barber for using big words), the occasional specious speculation and logic--but I've usually refrained from comment. It is, after all, a place for rumor mongering, I generally like the site for the news and links, and if I don't like it, I of course don't have to read it. But Holy Hitter and I sometimes complain about what we read there, and as PFT grows bigger, it is as worthy of criticism as any other news source (and I haven't really seen serious critique of it anywhere else). And since the main writer at PFT often resorts to name calling and insults against those he disagrees with, we hope it is fair to bring reasonable critique when we disagree with him.

We're happy to be adding Holy Hitter to the site.

Up around the bend

This has really snuck up on me: are you people aware that there will be a real NFL football game in less than two weeks (for many of us this also means school starts in less than two weeks, which is another sneaky bit of calendar reality, but I digress)? The season starts on Thursday, September 6th when the Colts host the Saints. Everybody else opens the season the following Sunday and Monday. I can hardly believe it's already that close.

It doesn't matter to me terribly who wins the Saints-Colts game (I suppose an NFC team losing is preferable): the exciting part of this game is that it is a fantasy football maelstrom. For the Colts, sure starts include Peyton Manning, Joseph Addai, Reggie Wayne, Marvin Harrison, and Adam Vinatieri, with Dallas Clark a possible start. For the Saints sure starts include Drew Brees and Marques Colston, I would think Reggie Bush will also be a fantasy starter, and I suspect many people will start Deuce McAllister, the Saints' kicker, and even Devery Henderson.

That's some offensive talent we'll get to watch. The first game we watch features fun teams to watch and massive fantasy interest. I am just smiling like Buddha in anticipation.

I hope you spent your off-season well: hopefully you read some good books, spent time with friends and family, sought out spiritual fulfillment, yada yada yada. If not, you've still got a couple weeks left. But it's almost time to tone down the other aspects of our lives as the NFL season takes over our existences. Yes, we all still have our "real" lives (for me there are still classes to teach, papers to grade, a child to raise)--just not on Sundays!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Bucky Brooks praises our hero, Tarvaris Jackson

SI's Bucky Brooks takes a look at some QB questions in the NFL, and he says "Vikings fans shouldn't worry about Tarvaris Jackson." According to Brooks, Jackson is "a talented athlete with a strong arm and great physical tools" and that "he has made tremendous strides as a passer during the offseason. He no longer looks tentative and unsure of his reads in the pocket, and has done a good job of patiently letting the system determine where the ball should go on every play."

A lot of national media members are (rightly) doubtful about the Vikings because of the unproven, relatively unknown quarterback. Hopefully as more scouts look at Jackson, we'll hear more reports about his ability and poise.

Viking fans can root for Daunte (Blizzard)

Daunte Culpepper in Oakland
John Clayton says that Daunte Culpepper looks good right now, and he could be the Raiders' starting QB. As a Viking fan, I wish Daunte the best.

I thought Daunte bought his own ticket out of town after 2005, and when he was sacked or intercepted last season with the Dolphins, I spontaneously cheered. Daunte certainly broke our hearts many times. But things were never easy for Daunte in Minnesota. He was always hampered by an absolutely dreadful defense, and a lot of Viking fans never really believed he was a good quarterback (so many quarterbacks, including Warren Moon, Brad Johnson, Randall Cunningham, and Jeff George, were able to put up good numbers in Dennis Green's offensive system that a lot of people took the success for granted and really hammered Culpepper for the turnovers).

But time has passed. He's playing on a forgotten AFC team and I hope he revitalizes his career. If I could cheer for Randy Moss on the Raiders, I'm sure I can cheer for Daunte Culpepper on the Raiders (though I don't know yet whether I'll be able to cheer for Randy Moss on the Patriots--I really don't know until I spontaneously react to a play).

Dostoevsky and Me and Sports
A few weeks ago in a New York Times book review David Leonhardt wrote

"of the economics profession’s imperialist movement. For the last decade or so, economists have been increasingly poking their fingers into other disciplines, including epidemiology, psychology, sociology, oenology and even football strategy. These economists usually justify their expansionism on two grounds: They say they’re better with numbers than most other researchers and have a richer understanding of how people respond to incentives."

I frequently read and respect the statistical analysis of football and basketball I read on some websites. But I am the naive fool that still believes statistical relevancy isn't the only relevancy; I don't believe statistics and economic theory can explain our lives, and while I generally put a great deal of trust in statistics to understand sports (as you might tell from links I provide), I never accept that statistics alone can explain sports.

Sometimes when I feel like a philistine over my own skepticism of some statistical analysis, I have to remember Dostoevsky (evidently, as this is something like the third time I've talked about this on this blog). Dostoevsky reminds me that it's the world that has gone mad, not me, and at any rate even if it is me that has gone mad, that's alright too. Perhaps I bastardize my Russian master, but Dostoevsky wrote (most prominently in Notes from the Underground) of the inexplicable nature of human desire and behavior, how rational systems to explain or dictate human behavior are always doomed to failure. I generally think he's right. And I also think the concept can be applied to sports. I trust rigid statistical analysis 95% of the time, and believe it illuminates the nature of the games we watch. But I also believe there are some factors of human behavior, even in sporting events, that cannot be statistically quantifiable. These factors don't fit a statistical system: they are not quantifiable, and thus not predictive or useful in analysis. But they do still exist, and it is OK to accept and believe this (you run into trouble when you try to make arguments based on these intangible factors).

Statistics are useful, and should be used; they help explain reality. Statistics are not, however, reality itself. Just ask the underground man.

(sorry if I keep writing pretty much the same thing about this again and again: I'm trying to revise and explain my own idea on this, and repetitious revision might finally get me there).

Note on the sidebar
The team fantasy previews have been meant as off-season entertainment. When the season starts, however, they're not very useful anymore, and they take up a lot of space. In early September, just before the season starts, I'll be removing the links to each team preview from the sidebar.


You can read Viking previews at The Nosebleeds and Fanhouse.

Cold, Hard Football Facts translates a 30-3 baseball score into football numbers.

Kevin Seifert
writes about the potential Viking kick returners.

Sean Jensen writes about Brad Childress.

Viking Update says our hero, Tarvaris Jackson could play a lot in the next preseason game.

Footballguys write about Sammy Morris potentially stealing TDs from Laurence Maroney (and potentially driving PV into fits of uncontrollable rage--Maroney is the feature back of the Revolution--and the Revolution is the new name of the Experience--and the Experience has been the name of my fantasy team in years past).

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Being a homer in fantasy football

In my fantasy draft, I selected Adrian Peterson, Chester Taylor, Tarvaris Jackson, and the Viking defense. I tried to draft Troy Williamson, but it was late in the draft and I could only afford a dollar player, and J-Rod took the bid to two dollars.

As it happens, these picks won't hurt me (The RBs are a solid and affordable duo, the Viking defense is a solid start, and Tarvaris Jackson cost me only a dollar for a sentimental smile). But homer picks have hurt me in the past. In an auction I once got bid up to 121 dollars (out of 265) on Randy Moss, and I took Daunte Culpepper 2nd overall before his ill-fated 2005 season.

But it's painful to be cheering for your favorite team's touchdown, and then realize that touchdown helped a fantasy competitor. I don't like it. Psychologically it can be wrenching to hope your team scores but to hope it's not that guy. Of course my rooting interest in the Vikings always wins out over my rooting interest in my fantasy team, but I prefer to avoid the situation entirely by simply drafting the relevant Viking players.

I'm bringing this up to ask two questions:

1. What do you do to balance any tension or conflict of interest between your favorite real team and your fantasy team?

2. Does anybody have any homer stories to share?

Viking Blizzard

At, you can read Bryant McKinnie's training camp journal, or more about Robert Ferguson joining the team.

At the Star Tribune, you can read more about Robert Ferguson, and about Cedric Griffin's importance to the secondary.

At the Pioneer Press, you can read even more about Robert Ferguson, and you can read about Bobby Wade's contributions to the team.

At Viking Update you can read even more about Robert Ferguson.

Holy Hitter forwarded me an article at Yahoo! Sports about Adrian Peterson's fantasy prospects (knowing I'm very excited about having drafted him--and for a mere 20 of 265 dollars).

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Blizzard: Catching Up

The Hazelweird Auction stretched into over a week of festivities, and so I have to do a little catching up here.

Why I don't trash Brad Childress
Often on this blog I come off as a Brad Childress apologist. It's not that I'm convinced Childress is a great coach; it's that I'm not convinced he's a bad coach. I don't believe one season is enough for us to know that Childress is a failure that cannot turn the Vikings into a winner.

Let's take a look at how some of the NFL's Hall of Fame coaches did in their first seasons. Weeb Ewbank went 3-9. Bud Grant was 3-8-3. Tom Landry went 0-11-1. Marv Levy was 4-12. Greasy Neale was 2-8-1. Chuck Noll was 1-13. Bill Walsh was 2-14.

There are other Hall of Fame coaches that succeeded immediately. But there are enough all-time great coaches that really stunk in their first seasons and went on to great careers. None of these coaches should have been dismissed as failures after one season, and neither should Childress. If the Vikings don't make significant progress in 2007, Childress should be on the proverbial hot seat. If the Vikings don't make the playoffs in 2008, then it would not be unfair if Childress were fired. But one 6-10 season isn't enough for me to abandon all hope in him.

Robert Ferguson is a Viking
Here are some of the stories and reactions:

"Ferguson agrees to terms with Vikings" (ESPN)

"Vikings Add Wide Receiver" (

"Ferguson Signs" (Viking Update)

"Ferguson's Comments" (Access Vikings)

"Robert Ferguson--An Interlude" (The Ragnarok)

"Vikings Looking to Potentially Waste Roster Spot" (Daily Norseman)

"Ferguson Now a Viking" (The Viking Age)

"Robert Ferguson: Signs with Minnesota, should we care?" (Footballguys)

Michael Vick
Michael Vick is pleading guilty to the charges involving dog fighting (Sports Illustrated). Frankly, I'm irritated by the majority of commentary on the Vick dog fighting story, and I tend to regret ever writing about it. While I have other ideas, I'd prefer to be done with this story for a while.

A good time of year
Real honest to goodness pro football is starting up soon. It makes me realize how empty the off-season football days really are. Right now I can't imagine getting excited about the first day of free agency or the NFL draft. Sitting around reading about players signing contracts? Having no idea whether college prospects will be competent pros, but watching the draft anyway? That's not football. Of course when the off-season is here that all seems really exciting. Right now all I want is some real freaking football games, and that's all I'll accept.

Eli Manning is finding his soul; now he responds to Tiki Barber (Sports Illustrated).

Cold Hard Football Facts always provides data on underrated, critical football stats, like passing yards per attempt.

SML has good things to say about one of my favorite basketball players of all-time, Scottie Pippen (Stop Mike Lupica).

Sports fans are learning what most of us already know: the kids LOVE High School Musical (Sports Media Watch).

Viking fans are definitely getting excited for Adrian Peterson (Complete Sports).

Sad news: former Timberwolf Eddie Griffin has died in a car accident (Sports Illustrated). Dr. Lawyer Indianchief mourns (Free Darko).

Robert Ferguson

Robert Ferguson has joined the Minnesota Vikings (Sports Illustrated).

Once I despaired of the Viking wide receivers; now I am filled with limitless hope. For reasons I cannot begin to fathom, Robert Ferguson as a Viking makes me gasp and smile. My Packer friend RK has spent 6 years talking about Ferguson in a tone I can only describe as "jeering"; now he's a Viking and perhaps one day over drinks we'll share Robert Ferguson stories. I hope mine are happier than his.


At first I was skeptical. I just wasn't sure what you were trying to say. But you've finally won me over with the subtlety and sophistication of your argument.

I now believe you were right all along and continue to be right. An NFL team would be wise to fire its head coach immediately before training camp starts. And an NFL team would be wise to fire its head coach after two preseason games. Indeed, it now seems quite obvious that the Vikings would be better off beginning a new head coach search in late August. By firing Childress now, abandoning all the work and implementation of the off-season and starting fresh with whatever coaching candidate is currently unemployed in late August, the Vikings have a better chance at success than they would have sticking with Childress to find out if he can build a winner and if his efforts this off-season can pay off. Just one season is clearly enough to determine whether or not a coach can actually be successful or not. If the Vikings didn't realize this in January, they could at least realize it NOW!!!!!! and fix their mistake. Even if the team is familiar with and ready to execute the plan put in place all off-season, I think pulling that out from under all the players and starting fresh with a coach who has three weeks to put in a new plan is a good idea. I haven't been won over by any new data or analysis; I've been won over by the strong eloquence of your argument.

And oh what an argument. A lesser intellect might think the strength of your argument lies in the multiple exclamation points or in the redundant repetition of your argument. But I understand the real strengths of rhetoric, and I can see clearly that the power of your argument lies in the use of Caps Lock. "Fire Childress Now!!!!!" would never have convinced me; "FIRE CHILDRESS NOW!!!!!!" shows eloquence and wisdom. Any reasonable person would have to agree with you.

Judging by your style, I am guessing that you are about 12 years old (by the way, did you enjoy High School Musical 2?) Keep honing these eloquent argumentative strategies and techniques; they are really going to help you when you reach high school. With a little effort, you might even convince your parents to let you stay out past 10:00 or to let you play your video games two hours a day instead of one.

Beyond the clear superiority, intelligence, and eloquence of your argument, I admire most your philosophical groundedness. You've realized that the best way to spend your life is by spamming one little-read blog with the same message again and again and again (and again). Buddha and Jesus would have a lot to learn from you about the spiritual meaning of life. When Sartre spoke of an authentic life, clearly he was referring to a life spent typing "FIRE CHILDRESS NOW!!!!!!" repeatedly for a few people to see (though I've wondered: do you type it out new every time, or do you copy and paste the message? I always hope you write it out new each time: that sort of monastic dedication and focus is truly admirable in our day and age).

Now that you've convinced me (you convinced all my readers long ago) that the Vikings should FIRE CHILDRESS NOW!!!!!!, I suppose you can retire to a peaceful existence, content that you have shown a few ignorant internet readers the light of truth. Your efforts have been greatly appreciated, and we wish you happiness and joy in your restful retirement from typing FIRE CHILDRESS !!!!!!!.

Monday, August 20, 2007

The Hazelweird Auction

It's narcissistic and dull to write too much about one's own fantasy team or league, even on a blog. But since I've written quite a bit about fantasy football (look to your right), and since I've written quite a bit about disinformation and secrecy, you might be interested to see what I actually think about some players. And there's been at least one request for me to write about it, and I occasionally try cater to requests on this blog.

In the Hazelweird Auction, we have 265 fantasy dollars to spend on 16 roster spots. Here is a list of players that went for 30 or more fantasy dollars:

1. Ladanian Tomlinson 123
2. Steven Jackson 96
3. Joseph Addai 75
4. Peyton Manning 75
5. Frank Gore 71
6. Terrell Owens 69
7. Larry Johnson 63
8. Steve Smith 59
9. Carson Palmer 57
10. Torry Holt 55
11. Marvin Harrison 55
12. Chad Johnson 53
13. Larry Fitzgerald 50
14. Tom Brady 48
15. Antonio Gates 48
16. Reggie Bush 47
17. Shaun Alexander 47
18. Laurence Maroney 44
19. Javon Walker 41
20. Brian Westbrook 40
21. Reggie Wayne 40
22. Rudi Johnson 40
23. Willie Parker 40
24. Randy Moss 35
25. Donovan McNabb 35
26. Willis McGahee 35
27. Ronnie Brown 34
28. Travis Henry 34
29. Edgerrin James 31
30. Roy Williams 31
31. T.J. Houshmandzedhah 31
32. Marc Bulger 30
33. Drew Brees 30
34. Lee Evans 30

Here are the players I drafted that excite me the most; consider these recommendations.

Donovan McNabb, QB, Eagles: A highlight on my team and a draft priority. McNabb averaged more fantasy points per game than Peyton Manning last year, and in this auction he cost less than half the money. Some people look at McNabb and see an injury history; I see McNabb as a fantasy juggernaut capable of carrying a team week to week.

Laurence Maroney, RB, Patriots: My running back priority was Joseph Addai, and I was the last person to flip my cup on him (meaning only one person was willing to pay more than me), but he was too expensive. The Pro Football Prospectus has good things to say about Maroney, and he's one of the many second-year running backs that could just go nutso this year.

Adrian Peterson, RB, Vikings: !!!!!!!! I didn't think he'd be on my team, but he cost 20 dollars, and now he's my week one starter.

Roy Williams, WR, Lions: He was the first player I selected, and yet even as I drafted him I knew he was not going to be one of my top two WRs. I was too excited about the next two players. But he's got no ceiling, and I'm happy to have him on the roster, even if he's starting the season on my bench.

Reggie Wayne, WR, Colts: In the Colts' games I watched last season, I saw Manning looking to Wayne as much as or more than Marvin Harrison (maybe it just felt this way because Harrison was on my team last season, and I died a little every time Manning dropped back and looked left instead of right). He was 15 dollars cheaper than Harrison, but I really think he'll at least match Harrison's numbers this year. And you always want at least one Colt in your starting lineup.

Steve Smith, WR, Panthers: If you've never had Steve Smith on your fantasy team, you have missed out on one of the great sports experiences in your life. He's an absolute delight to watch. Just draft him, and you'll learn what I've learned: no current NFL WR is more fun to watch.

And just a bit of advice: if you have the opportunity to hold an auction league instead of a snake draft (essentially, can all the members of your league meet in one location?), give it a try. You have much more control over your own team and the draft is much more lively. It's much more fun to outbid your competitors for the players you want than to sit around waiting for players to fall to your slot.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

"In the shadow of their own endzone"

You all know I grow weary of cliches. However, I really despise botched cliches. Often overused metaphors are so overused, writers don't make the effort to even make the clear allusion, analogy, or reference. We are just expected to be familiar enough with the metaphor that we don't need illumination through image or reference.

Take this sentence about Vince Young in Don Banks' recent Snap Judgments:

"Young's passing accuracy was another Achilles that we might be talking plenty about this year."

There are two problems in this metaphor that you're not even supposed to notice because the metaphor is so familiar. First, it appears Banks is referring to "Achilles' heel." Achilles was a great warrior in Greek mythology; suggesting "Young's passing accuracy was another Achilles" gives perhaps the opposite meaning than Banks intended. Achilles' heel refers to a weakness.

And that leads to the other problem: Achilles was invulnerable except for his heel, which never got dipped in the river Styx. The metaphor of "Achilles' heel," then, refers to one small weakness in an entity that appears to have no weakness (and furthermore that this one small weakness threatens to bring down the entire entity). So it really doesn't make sense for one person/entity to have "another" Achilles' heel (assuming it was the heel and not Achilles himself Banks refers to): if a person has multiple weaknesses, it is a person with several significant flaws, and thus "Achilles' heel" doesn't really fit.

That's one of the problems of overused metaphors: they don't even require accuracy or clarity, since they are so familiar we recognize the meaning without accuracy or clarity. But that means they also fail to illuminate. "Achilles' heel" may be an overused metaphor, but it's still a delightful reference to Greek mythology, and it still evokes the necessary imagery to understand a situation. But if it botched ("Achilles" instead of "Achilles' heel") or misused (there really shouldn't be "another" one), it is just ugly.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Are Minnesota reporters really overly positive?

Patrick Reusse makes the assertion in his column "We're the home of Big Love in the sports department" that Minnesota sports reporters are much too positive about the local teams leading up to their seasons (and he includes a footnote that suggests he includes himself).

But is this really the case? Are all the sportswriters in Minnesota too glowingly optimistic about the local sports teams?

I don't think so. If you want criticism of the Vikings at the Star Tribune, you know you can count on Jim Souhan, and despite his footnote, you can usually rely on Reusse himself to criticize the Vikings and you for liking them. At the Pioneer Press, Tom Powers will definitely provide you with negativity about the team and yourself. On the radio, you can find the cynicism and negativity at KFAN with Dan Cole and Dan Barreiro. Certainly Viking bloggers (including myself) are optimistic, but if you want negativity you can go to Vikes Geek.

And that's fine. I'm not saying that reporters and commentators shouldn't be critical or negative. I'm not saying the local sports teams don't often justify criticism and negativity. What bothers me is the frequent assertion that the overall sports coverage in Minnesota is too positive. Too many commentators justify their own negativity by citing the myth that they're lone crusaders for truth in a sea of hopeful homers and pro-organization sycophants. Thus the negative commentators believe and will tell you that they are just being more honest, that they are just being realistic.

But do we really have to accept this myth of a Twin Cities sports commentariat awash in homerism and optimism? It's just not true. There are some local sports reporters and commentators that give glowing positive optimism. There are some local sports reporters that try to give balanced objectivity. And there are some local sports reporters that revel in cynical pessimism. There's a little something for whatever a local fan might be looking for.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

"It is either Valjean or Javert"

Let me follow up on some of my thoughts examined below on the Vikings' decision to sign Fred Evans, an athlete that has been arrested a couple of times.

My recent readings (Dostoevsky's Demons and Yoder's The Original Revolution: Essays on Christian Pacifism) and listenings (the soundtrack to the musical Les Miserables) have put the concept of redemption prominently in my head. Les Miserables offers us the contrast of Javert and Jean Valjean. Javert is loyal to the law above all else and believes criminality is in the essence of the person: once a criminal, always a criminal, with no justifiable crimes and no room for personal growth and redemption. Valjean, the one-time prisoner and hardened criminal, offers us a sign of humankind's redemption: when a man he robs forgives him rather than punishes him, he converts to a life devoted to God and to selflessness toward his fellow people.

The contrast of Javert and Valjean offers us much for life, including how we choose to view athletes. Shall we take the perspective of Javert, allowing the taint of a crime to follow an athlete through his career, hounding him, preventing him from moving on? Or do we recognize Valjean, a man who through another man's forgiveness comes to understand redemptive power and changes his life, and allow athletes the same opportunity?

You have a choice. But remember that when Valjean shows mercy to Javert, Javert is unable to accept this mercy, and kills himself. Perhaps Javert's worldview separates us from our fellow people and dooms us to solitude. Perhaps Valjean's worldview shows us a deeper way to connect to our fellow people.

Welcome to Minnesota, Fred Evans.

Mostly Viking Blizzard

Kevin Seifert writes about the Vikings' attempt to improve the red zone offense, and he writes about their signing of DT Fred Evans (it really doesn't matter to me terribly that Evans was arrested earlier this summer, or before that. Michael Irvin's recent Hall of Fame speech ought to show us that a man's mistakes neither define him nor put him beyond redemption; when a player is arrested--even more than once--we ought not label him a "turd" and thus untouchable to the higher castes of NFL society. Evans' mistakes need need not define him, and if it is redemption he needs, then he should have the chance to work it out).

Sean Jensen writes about Antoine Winfield's goals for the season.

Mike Wobschall at features the team's defensive line.

The Viking Age comments on the Vikings' Madden '08 ratings (having played the game, I hope Tarvaris Jackson is better than pixel Tarvaris Jackson).

Signal to Noise has an NFC North preview.

Cold, Hard Football Facts has a really amusing article on fantasy projections that don't add up. I've been deliberately not linking to anything having to do with fantasy football or particular player projections: the Hazelweird draft is Friday, and the Hazelweird festivities begin today (!). But this article is just fun.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Chiefs at UW-RF

I just wanted to point this out to my fellow UW-RF alums reading this blog: ESPN has a feature on the Kansas City Chiefs' training camp at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, with a nice little photo shoot accompanying the main article. It's fun to look at the pictures of the dorm rooms we used to live in, currently servicing millionaire athletes.

Sports Fan Peacemaking

Sports fans have strong opinions. Sometimes when discussing these opinions online, things get contentious. Sometimes ideological discussions turn to personal attacks. Sometimes fantasy football disputes lead to verbal assaunt via email.

Let us remember to be peaceful, and that we aren't out to hurt each other.

But don't listen to me: let Reh Dogg tell you that online friendships hurt.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Fantasy Football: the flaw of head-to-head illustrated

Right now I'm watching The Singing Bee. In the round I just watched, there were four competitors. The competitors were split up into pairs to compete against each other.

In this round, contestants were provided with song lyrics, but with blank spots. The goal of the competition is to fill in the blanks with the most correct answers.

In the first head-to-head pairing, competitor A gave a very good performance, getting 12 lines right. But competitor B did slightly better, getting 13 words correct. Competitor B moved on; competitor A was finished.

In the second head-to-head pairing, competitor C did horribly, getting only 2 words correct. Competitor D had an easy time, getting 8 words correct, and she moved on.

So four competitors played, and they had no impact on each others' performances. Competitor A got 12, competitor B 13, competitor C 2, and Competitor D 8.

So the competitors with 13 and 8 points move on, while the competitors with 12 and 2 points are finished.

How is this fair? If this contest were performed fairly, the competitors with 13 and 12 points would move on. Remember, this was essentially an individual contest: though contestants were paired against each other, the game does not allow one competitor to affect the performance of the other competitor. If the game were checkers, then the opponents would be taking turns, playing on the same board, and affecting each others' performances. But this wasn't the case: they each performed individually, but because they were paired head-to-head, the top two competitors didn't succeed. Competitor D, who performed worse than competitor A, actually ended up ranked ahead of competitor A.

Isn't the goal of a competitive contest to try eliminate as much hazard as possible to allow a fair competition, thus allowing the better performers to move on? Certainly chance and luck will still play a role in the success or failure of the outcome, but the game usually attempts as best as possible to limit chance and luck, thus allowing the best performers to succeed. In a checkers tournament, for example, you might get randomly scheduled to play a world-class checkers player; however, you are still able to compete and have a chance to win, because your performance is directly against, and directly impacts, your opponent.

Transfer this to fantasy football. You have a team that is trying to score as many points as possible. You are paired against an opponent, who has a team that is trying to score as many points as possible. Neither of you are allowed to impact each others' performances. And while this is happening, there are other competitors, also trying to score as many points as possible, and they are paired up into head-to-head competitions.

So though you have no impact on anybody else's score, and nobody else has any impact on your score, your success or failure is dependent largely on who you are randomly paired up to compete with. You might finish with the second highest score of the week, and you will finish the week with a loss, while other performers who did worse than you will end with a win.

There are two ways to attempt a fairer league, to attempt to allow good performers to succeed more than inferior performers, that still has an element of luck but attempts to take a major factor of chance out of the game.

You could determine your champion by total points (but then you don't have to follow the team week-to-week).

Or you could use a point system: the highest score gets 9 points, the second highest score gets 8 points, etc. You can set this points system up in terms of wins and losses, in a competition where each week you are in direct competition against every team in your league.

We call this Cross Country Scoring. Let the Revolution begin.

Cross Country Scoring also eliminates the stupidity of a fantasy football playoff. It is absurd to compete for 14 weeks or so, determining who is the best, and then allowing an inferior performer to win the league because he/she had a high scoring team for just a few weeks. Oh, yes, in real football this can happen, but real football is a competition in which you can affect your opponent's performance. Not so in fantasy football. If you play in a fantasy football league with a playoff, it is largely luck whether you win or not. It's not a matter of picking the best team: it's a matter of picking a team that happens to have its best performances in weeks 15, 16, or 17, or catching opponents who have their worst performances in weeks 15, 16, or 17.

And that's stupid. That's random. And a fair, competitive league should attempt as best as possible to eliminate randomness.

And in a Cross Country Scoring system, every single real NFL game is likely to have a fantasy impact. In a head-to-head matchup, there are all sorts of NFL games that have no impact on your weekly performance: all that matters is the performances of your team's players and your opponents' team's players. In a Cross Country Scoring system, you are competing against everybody in your league, meaning every single fantasy football starter can affect your performance. It makes it a whole lot more fun to follow the sport.

So as we set up the barricades for our fantasy football Revolution, let us sing together a rousing revolutionary hymn from the epic musical, Les Miserables:

Red, the blood of angry men.
Black, the dark of ages past.
Red, the world about to dawn.
Black, the night that ends at last!

Vive la revolution!