Thursday, November 01, 2007

Thursday Morning Blizzard: running up the score

The Patriots are indeed running up the score, but what of it?
It's difficult to deny the Patriots are running up the score, but there are different interpretations to what it means.

Many (for example, the Big Picture) have responded in anger, suggesting the Patriots are doing something immoral and showing disrespect for opponents. It can be silly to apply the standards of sportsmanship we learn playing sports growing up to professional sports. One team of grown men being paid a lot of money to play a game is deliberately beating another team of grown men being paid a lot of money to play a game by as many points as it can. I can’t get outraged about that form of disrespect. Disrespect in professional sports? Consider that the team on the losing end of the latest Patriot blowout has a racist nickname, a nickname directed at a group of people who have faced centuries of domination, oppression, and injustice--that is real disrespect. Consider that several NFL stadiums have been built partially with public financing--with money that might have been used for schools, for social programs, for police, or money that could have been left in regular folks’ pockets. I’m glad we as sports fans aren’t so cynical to give up all ideas of sportsmanship and morality in the game, but there’s too much disrespect in pro sports to worry about highly paid professional adults being embarrassed.

Dwil suggests the criticism of Belichick is another example of the media creating a villain. This may be a fair assessment of media response, but it downplays the reality that Bill Belichick is a fan-created villain. People who grow up around sports can recognize running up the score on their own; they don’t have to be duped by columnists into believing it. So too can fans react organically and independently to running up the score without being told to do so. Much of the backlash against New England has come pretty organically from fans observing events, not media members creating a story. And admittedly, much of this backlash stems from non-Patriot fans frustrated and resentful over New England’s dominance and wanting to be able to in some way criticize it and diminish it.

Patriot fans, like Bill Simmons (here and here) have found all sorts of reasons to justify the Patriots running up the score, including the absurd logic that they are getting revenge on the league for…getting caught cheating and being criticized for cheating. At least Simmons is smart enough to know he doesn’t have the objective distance to make a clear assessment of this; it appears to me that some Patriot fans are naïve enough to think they’ve separated themselves from their homerism enough to make an objective assessment.

Dr. Z takes a more practical approach. Sidestepping the morality of running up the score, he puts it into historical context to examine the concrete consequences.

I don’t think the Patriots are “good,” “right,” or “justified” in running up scores on their opponents. However, it’s professional sports, and I’m not concerned over the embarrassment suffered by adults getting paid to play the game (their real embarrassment comes from their inability to stop the Patriots, not from the Patriots piling it on). The Patriots are extremely good, and they can try to score as many points as they possibly can. I root against the Patriots (not out of hatred of anybody on the Patriots, but because the Patriots have already won three championships this decade and I don't care to see another, and their fans have been treated to more sports pleasure in seven years than I'll likely get in my lifetime), but I don't want to justify my anti-rooting by complaining about running up the score.

Other Links
Tarvaris Jackson should be back on Sunday (Star Tribune). Crap.

The Vikings have to stop Antonio Gates (Star Tribune). provides the data on some interesting point differential numbers for previous Super Bowl champs. I now have a new idea of the greatest team ever: the 1984 49ers went 15-1 and their only loss was by a field goal. And yet the 49ers' 1989 team and 1994 team were each probably much better.

Thanks to Fanhouse, I'm for some reason looking at a Star Tribune article from the business section. It's about Brad Childress. It's interesting enough. My understanding of the business world is based primarily on American literature (Death of a Salesman, Bartleby the Scrivener) and television (Seinfeld, Kids in the Hall). I have no idea what that's all about. What do businessmen do all day? I figure they're like Kids in the Hall portrays them. Anyway, the article is good though--it's actually a reasoned, analytical approach to Childress' shortcomings (so you'll get 1,000 times more out of this article than a Jim Souhan column).

Dave Zirin writes on the University of Illinois' mascot. Though he's quickly dismissive of the free speech angle (something I could develop more in the future), it's a solid article.

Daily Norseman looks at Brad Childress lookalikes. I sort of wish Tobias Fünke were the Viking coach. Although not really.

Timberwolves start tomorrow! And they signed Al Jefferson to an extension! Fun times. We're hosting a Halloweenish party on Friday--hope nobody minds if the game's on in the background.


  1. An ex Minnesotan living here in DC, I totally agree with you about the name. The problem here is that unlike Bemidji, there really isn't a single tribe or group large enough in this area to challenge the Washington Redskins and their name. I don't have a problem with UND or FSU with their mascots because those schools got the OK from the local tribes. There are no tribes around here! They were either killed off or shipped to other parts of the US so long ago.

  2. Anonymous12:31 PM

    Totally agree with you regarding the absurdity of people complaining because professional football players had their feelings hurt by other professional football players scoring touchdowns. Sheesh. These guys have contracted to play 60 minutes of live action football, for extraordinary compensation. If they want to stop trying to play to the best of their ability with 20% of the game left, they can give back 20% of their pay, to be redistributed to paying customers.

    I have to disagree about the piece that ran in the Strib's business section. Yeah, it's better than a Souhan column, but the standard can't get much lower than that. Then again, at least Souhan doesn't throw out a bunch of pseudo-analytical hypotheses based on nothing but what the writer has imagined from afar, instead of from direct observation and testing. I really despise the phony empiricism that comprises so much of popular business writing, PV, and you probably haven't read as much of that stuff as I have (lucky you), which is why the needle on your dreckometer didn't jump when reading that piece.

  3. Anonymous1:55 PM

    This blog is REALLY gay

  4. Anonymous2:31 PM

    If anon thinks the blog is gay, what is he/she reading it for days in a row? If I don't like a TV program, I turn the channel. I don;t watch the program and complain about it. idiot!

  5. Anon 2: It's true: I don't read a lot of business writing, so I found the article more interesting than annoying.

    I do, though, often get frustrated reading economists and business types writing on other subjects, for reasons similar to "phony empiricism." I find when economists write on other subjects, they write as if their theories and systems are absolute, as if they've empirically defined and explained their subject. Now I hate generalizations, but while theorists in the Humanities and even most of the Sciences seem comfortable discussing their theories AS theories, I often get the impression economists write as if their theories are fundamental fact, and their systems infallible conveyors of truth (in my limited experience anyway).

    Anon 3: I know you're just trying to get a reaction, and I hate to reward you. However, it appears you are attempting to use "gay" as an insult. If that's the case, please stop: it's bigoted.

  6. Anonymous3:51 PM

    PV, forget about economists writing about noneconomic subjects. I've long maintained that if every university employed economist, who falsely claimed that a cause and effect relationship had been "proven" between a policy and a later economic development, was hung from a lampost, the students would have to walk bent over the entire way to their classrooms, to avoid bumping their heads on shoes. I have great respect for the study of economics, but it is an exceedingly difficult and complex field, and the people who engage in it are wise to keep their hubris in check.