Friday, November 11, 2005

A Loser Picking Winners, Week 10

OK, a bunch of stuff to get to -- some of which I had hoped to discuss earlier this week, but because my employer gets some deranged satisfaction out of watching me work 15-hour days, I'll try and cram it all in here.

... My buddy Des, a big Redskins fan, has questioned on several occasions recently my aversion to picking Washington in my weekly pool. Actually, "aversion" is understating it a bit. I've never picked the 'Skins in 27 regular season games dating back to last year.

When I discussed my inane betting strategy back during Week 5, I thought included Washington in that conversation. I didn't. I should have. But I can add an addendum here:
(3a) Always bet against the Redskins because my buddy Desmond left this goofy comment after Week 2:
"Who's that team that's 2-0
It's the Skins, the Skins
Who's that team with the 2-0 NFC record
It's the Skins, the Skins
Who's that team with Santana Moss
It's the Skins, the Skins
Who will you see in Detroit in Feb.
It's the Skins, the Skins"
I know that doesn't explain why I always picked against them in 2004, but I had a feeling Des would do something like this at some point, and I was just covering my bases. That, and the 'Skins were dreadful last year. But hey, not only is Washington 5-3 this season, they also have Jerome from D.C. and Dr. I Don't Know at running back. Sweet.

Right before I rip a Bill Simmons column, I always say something to the effect of, "Simmons writes a lot of good stuff, but ... " Well, Simmons writes a lot of good stuff, but it seems like he's been doing Pats Kool-Aid keg stands. Look, I'm as big a homer as the next really irrational guy, but when your team gets its ass handed to them on national television, that's probably not the best time to whine about why they got hosed.
"... Forty points and a gazillion first downs later, Manning was smiling on the sidelines, his teammates were pretending they liked him, ABC was rolling their fake MasterCard commercial and the fans were pouring out of Gillette Stadium. The torch, for all intents and purposes, had been passed. After four arduous years, various rule changes to help their passing game, and a cream-puff schedule highlighted by a fortuitous bye before last night's game, the Colts (and the NFL) finally got their wish. There was a new alpha dog in the AFC."
Yeah, it's really hard to feel sorry for a guy who spent the last four years gloating like it was his job (OK, it was his job ... at least to write about the gloating, but you get my point).

And I think it's pretty funny that he mentions Manning's teammates pretending to like him. I was actually thinking the same thing about Brady. NFL Network's Thursday night Game of the Week was -- you guessed it -- the Colts - Pats. Say what you want about Manning, but Brady's a spaz. My favorite scene was when he was stomping up and down the sideline (while the Colts offense were stomping up and down the field ... to the tune of 40-21 at that point) yelling to no one in particular, but in earshot of everybody, "Are we gonna fight! Are we gonna effin' fight!" And then he slammed down his water bottle, sat on the bench next to Tim Dwight and put his head in his hands while Dwight looked straight ahead with that, "God, I hope I don't get cut right on the spot" look on his face.

Dude, relax. If Brett Favre wigged out after every loss, the guy would've been dead a month ago. My advice: quit begging. The Pats got stomped, and it had absolutely nothing to do with rule changes, schedule-makers, or the NFL, and absolutely everything to do with the Pats fielding a defensive unit that would bum out Morris Buttermaker. And by the way, this team has three Super Bowl rings since 2001. Yeah, I'm pretty sure I don't feel sorry for you.

To be fair, Simmons on Wednesday did try and explain why he was so vitriolic in his column (apparently a wicked case of bitterness ... the same thing I come down with when the Steelers lose), and he also had a weirdly humorous email conversation with Mark Cuban (who might be the angriest guy -- in a really funny way -- in the world) that more than made up for all the Pats silliness.

I read Chris Chase's weblog daily, but I think this is the first time I've disagreed with something he's written. Maybe because it was about me ... kinda. Wednesday he did his NFL Mid-Season report, and his last category was Most Overrated Web Site.

And the winner is ... Football Outsiders. Huh? Really? How do you go from having a small but dedicated readership to being overrated? Anyway, that's not a big deal. I've been associated with things called much worse than overrated (feel free to ready any of the "reviews" on the left sidebar there). What's a little troublesome is the rationale Chris provides for why FO is overrated:
Don’t get me wrong, the guys at FootballOutsiders do great work and I enjoy reading their stuff. But baseball-type sabermetrics simply don’t work while analyzing the NFL. The reason that stat-analysis can be so successful in baseball is because that sport is based on one-on-one matchups over a 162-game season...


In football, there are only 16 games so those types of things don’t even out. I always write on this site that most NFL team’s seasons hinge on four or five plays...


No amount of game analysis will tell you how good an NFL team is. Yards accumulated in garbage time are meaningless, as is a 70-yard drive that ends in a turnover on the goaline.(sic) These things can't be accounted for with statistics. Leave the sabermetrics to baseball. Football is to be figured out on the field.
Ugh. I'm pretty open-minded about most stuff, but saying things like "no amount of game analysis will tell you how good an NFL team is," and "these things can't be accounted for with statistics," is, uh, ridiculous. (Let's see, Football Outsiders predicted the Chargers would actually be good in 2004 -- when nobody else did -- and some people [OK, a lot of people] picked them to finish 3-13. ) First of all, when people make the argument that football is a 16-game season, and it creates a small sample size problem, my response is: "Well, it depends on what you're talking about." If you're referring to the number of touchbacks on opening kickoffs by Arizona Cardinals kickers, then yeah, it's hard to make any informed decisions based on no more than 16 events. If, instead you're talking about the number of plays over the course of the regular season, then you couldn't be more wrong. The average team is involved in 120 plays per game (60 on offense, 60 on defense). There are 32 teams, and 16 weeks (not including the bye). That works out to over 61,000 plays from which to make some inferences and draw some conclusions. I think you're pretty much assured of not violating any of the rules of normality when you're dealing with 60,000 observations.

Look, I agree that football stats stuff is miles behind baseball. And like Chris mentioned, some of that has to do with the nature of the sports. Baseball is pitcher against batter; football is 11 fat guys versus 11 other fat guys. It's hard to measure the marginal effect of each player on the field. But that doesn't mean you let guys "figure it out on the field."

Well, unless you like hearing doofuses like Salisbury, Irvin, Theismann, Simms and probably everybody else not named Troy Aikman who happens to talk about football for a living on Sunday. Like Jeremy Piven told John Favreau in PCU: "Don't be that guy."

I was 8-6 last week, which is basically like the 49ers winning a game. No one expects it, everyone is pretty sure you'll crap the bed next time around, and it really doesn't put a dent in an otherwise abysmal record to date. That's me -- the San Francisco 49ers of the NFL betting world. And to mark the occasion, I'm still not picking the 'Skins. Just call me Mr. Pyrrhic Victory Guy. Take that Des.
SF CHI -13.0 SF
GB ATL -9.0 GB
Season: 58 - 71 - 1
Last week: 8 - 6
Earnings to date: - $2100

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