Sunday, March 28, 2010

Overtime and the Saints

Some Saints, including Jonathan Vilma and Sean Payton, are complaining that the NFL changed its playoff overtime rule. Vilma in particular thinks it is a show of disrespect to the Saints.

For Minnesota Viking fans still not over the NFC Championship game (would that be all of us?), there is a lot to be annoyed with in some of those comments (especially those fans still upset by some of the officiating shenanigoats of overtime). I'd rather not do a line by line deconstruction, but I will make two points.

1. NFL overtime rules are unfair. Don Banks of Sports Illustrated notes: "59.8 percent of the games since 1994 -- when kickoffs were moved back to the 30-yard line -- were won by the team winning the overtime coin toss." Rules of a competitive game are supposed to be fair to each team. If you have a rule that gives one team a 59.8% chance of beating the other team based on a random event, that's not a fair rule in a competitive game. Within the rules of the game and the lines of the field, each team in a competition is supposed to have a fair chance at winning. A sudden death overtime with a coin toss does not do that. Is there any other such rule that fundamentally sways the competitive fairness of a game? Homefield advantage might (especially when loud fans affect playcalling), but there are rules attempting to make that advantage fair (everybody gets the same number of home and away games in the season--with rare exceptions--and teams earn homefield advantage in playoff games by achieving certain standards), and the rules of the game itself don't distinguish between home and away teams (except to determine who gets to guess at the random coin toss--in that sense it's the Vikings' fault because they guessed the random occurrence wrong). Let's be clear here: a team that loses the coin toss only wins the game 40.2% of the time. If two teams have played even for 60 minutes, does it make competitive sense that a particular rule would reduce one team's chance of winning the game down to 40.2%?

2. After the Trojan War, do you think the Greeks said things like "This is a real slap in the face. It's like people think we never would have won that war if we hadn't snuck in with that big wooden horse"? The New Orleans Saints won the Super Bowl! They vanquished everybody! Everybody is acknowledging that! Everybody is praising them for that! If they feel that they need reminding, they can go look at their Lombardi Trophy. If they feel people disrespecting them, they'll have Super Bowl rings to flash at them. Has the "Nobody believed in us" trope reached its absurd conclusion when less that two months after the Super Bowl the Super Bowl champ can make claims that they are being disrespected? They won the Super Bowl: nobody can deny that and nobody can take that away from them. Isn't winning the championship the point? Isn't that what makes you immune to those that hate, disrespect, or diminish you? When you win a championship, should you even care about those that would hate, disrespect, or diminish you? Do you really want to complain that people aren't acknowledging you as the legitimate champion enough? Isn't celebrating your victory, celebrating your championship, celebrating your defeat of everybody else, enough?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Oedipus wasn't a tragic hero; he was just screwed.

And so are we.

(By the way, I'm glad that the Vikings and Bills agree on things; I like when the 0-4 teams stick together on absurd and wrong-headed stances).

Friday, March 19, 2010

From inside this pothole I've fallen in, I can hear city officials making plans to fix potholes.

Whenever I come across a story about the NFL's proposed changes to overtime rules for playoff games, I sort of want to throw up.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Future Tense

part four in an erratic offseason of blogging

Perhaps my recent dream is pulling me back.

Today in my literature class, we continued discussion of Jhumpa Lahiri's The Namesake, a novel told (mostly) in the present tense.  I asked students to consider the effect of the present tense on the novel, and then offered my own idea.

Putting something in the past tense turns it into "history;" it crystallizes it, makes it firm.  When something is in the past, one can start to make meaning about it.  And when something is past (especially in a novel that starts in 1968 and continues to locate itself at various points until 2000), and it gets hardened into history, it can begin to feel inevitable (even if it is not).  It is similar to what John Fowles writes in The French Lieutenant's Woman:

"You do not even think of your own past as quite real; you dress it up, you gild it or blacken it, censor it, tinker with it... fictionalize it, in a word, and put it away on a shelf--your book, your romanced autobiography."

Locating a novel in a "now" has the effect pushing away immediate interpretations of meaning (for the characters, anyway, if not the readers).  It also leaves open possibility that past tense does not.  You might not think adding "ed" to your verbs could do that, but it can.

To illustrate this point, of course, I brought myself back to the NFC Championship Game.  During the game I was a mess, a nervous wreck, physically and mentally.  While the game was in a "now," the tension and possibility of the moment quite overwhelmed me.  But very shortly after it was over, and yes despair set in, but that tension was gone.  Once the game was over, it became the past, a history, another heartbreaking moment in the team's history, another gut-wrenching disappointment in a long line of them.  Then, I could start to make meaning of it.  Then it was fixed, and if not quite inevitable, it made sense (the fumbles, the 12 men in the huddle, the interception, the coin toss, the bad officiating).  It's not like those things weren't apparent as they were happening; it was that, while happening, we didn't know what they meant.  Now we do.  The book is on the shelf.

For now.  It finally needs to be said.

Maybe next year.

One dream is worse than the last

part three in an erratic offseason of blogging

Part of the schtick of this blog has always been that I care too much, but that on a rational level I know I care too much.  Well, I still care too much, and I still know it.  I continue to avoid following football news (I keep up from the periphery as not to miss anything big), but still things will come along to kick me in the ear.

And I still dream about the Vikings.

Last night I dreamed I went back in time.  While in the recent past, I bumped into the Vikings' skill position players.  I implored them: hold onto the ball tight.  In that game, fumbling could be your undoing.  Make sure to grip the ball tight and DON'T FUMBLE.

Apparently they listened: they proceeded to dominate the Saints.  In my dream.  In one vivid image, the Vikings were already leading 17-0 when they called an end-around pass, Percy Harvin hitting a leaping Sidney Rice in the back of the endzone.  In my dream.

Tell me, dear reader: if you dreamed like this, what would you do?