Monthly Archives: February 2013

Quick Slant: The Overuse of Metrics and Analytics by Sports Writers

By Kevin York

When I’m thinking about topics to write on, I like to try and support some of my opinions with stats. I spend time researching, looking for data available that supports my stance. Sometimes I find it, sometimes I don’t. If I don’t, I usually move on to another topic, or at times, proceed with the post I originally thought of, acknowledging in it that I have no data to back up my perspective. I don’t think all sports writers do this though.

The prevalence of metrics and analytics used in sports is quickly increasing. It all started with sabermetrics in baseball. We’re all familiar with the moneyball approach that Billy Beane popularized with the Oakland A’s in the 90s, especially after the concept went mainstream with the release of the movie based on it starring Brad Pitt. Now there’s even a conference dedicated to sports analytics. Everyone wants in on the data action. Which is fine, no great, for franchises; but what about for journalists?

I’ve noticed lately that more and more journalists are including deep stats in their articles. I’m talking advanced. So advanced that those of us that are commoners can’t wrap our heads around them. Not just something like PER in basketball, but crazy things like assist to traveling violation ratio when Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer are in the game at the same time, each with two fouls. Or stolen bases success with men on first and second in the bottom of the third with one out.

I think we’re going a little overboard with the stats. I disagree with a lot of things that ESPN’s Colin Cowherd says, but there’s something he brought up often during the recent election season that I agree with: Americans don’t watch political television for education, they watch it for affirmation. Conservatives watch Sean Hannity and liberals watch Rachel Maddow, not because they want to learn, but because they know what they’re going to hear and it makes them feel better about their own positions. I think the same thing is now happening with sports to a degree. We just look for affirmation.

You can come up with a stat to support almost any position and I’m starting to think a lot of journalists do that to validate: I think Nick Swisher will be a great addition to the Indians. Hmmmm, let me dig deep to find something that affirms that. I know! His number of doubles when two starting pitches are on the DL and the starting second baseman is on the bench. Yes! If Cleveland loses two pitchers, watch for those days when Jason Kipnis is on the bench. Swisher will go off with the doubles!

Ultimately, there’s just one stat that really matters – win/loss ratio. Fellow sports writers, let’s not forget that in our efforts to look overly intelligent.

By Kevin York
Follow Kevin on Twitter at @kevin_york
You can contact Kevin at

The Under-Appreciation of Frank Gore

Photo Credit: (Hoa Nguyen/

Photo Credit: (Hoa Nguyen/

By Ryan Lack

Now that we’re a few weeks out from the greatest disappointment of the football season, for a Niner fan anyway, I felt it was time to reflect on the under-appreciated, undervalued, and certainly overlooked greatness of Frank Gore.

After a standout freshman year at the University of Miami, Gore tore the ACL in his left knee during spring ball of his sophomore season, and then the ACL in right knee the following year. While he came back strong from each injury, I’m sure he wasn’t sure what to think entering the NFL draft. Optimism about going high, even though he knew he was worth it, probably wasn’t one of those emotions.

Gore entered the league in 2005 as a third-round choice out of Miami, being passed over largely, if not entirely, because of his injury history. Who was drafted ahead of him? It’s a great list that includes guys like Ronnie Brown, Cedric Benson, Cadillac Williams, J.J. Arrington, and Eric Shelton. Yeah, I have no idea who Eric Shelton is either. And a few that went after him included the likes of Vernand Morency, Ryan Moats, Maurice Clarett(!!) Marion Barber III, and Brandon Jacobs.

Someone tell me how many of those guys are still on active rosters? Anyone? Ronnie Brown (3rd down back for the Chargers), Cedric Benson (Current free agent formerly of the Packers in 2012).

Yep. That’s it. Two guys still on active rosters following this last season.

What is most telling about the called names ahead and behind Gore is how few of those guys went on to do anything meaningful, let alone whether they’re still in the league. You can argue Cedric Benson has had the best career among those preceding Gore’s selection, but that’s not really saying much. And the guys after him, well, the only two that did anything at all are Barber and Jacobs, with the latter serving as the No. 3 or 4 running back on the San Francisco 49ers roster in 2012 behind the starter, Gore.

From a recent Jim Trotter piece on there was this:

His primary goal used to be finishing with more career rushing yards than the running backs selected ahead of him in 2005 … He not only has done that — his 8,839 yards are 2,822 more than Benson — but his six seasons of at least 1,000 yards rushing are equal to the combined total of the aforementioned five.

As fans and pundits, we typically first judge a player on his draft class. Who did he come out with? How does he stack up? It’s clear from his draft class that not only has Gore been the most durable and healthiest, he’s been the most productive of any of these guys. If they’re good, and Gore is, we then expand that to the broader archives of running back greats.

So where does he stack up with them? Let’s start with other active greats.

Since entering the league in 2005 all the man has done is produce. He simply gets it done. In his eight seasons he’s failed to rush for 1,000 yards just once, this while a member of a team and an offense that ranked near the bottom in many key statistical categories and cycled through offensive coordinators like a woman would through dresses when preparing for a first date. It was a disaster, but through it all Gore was a workhorse. His 8,839 yards rushing and 51 TDs over the last seven seasons (good for the franchise’s all-time records in each category for a RB) trail only Adrian Peterson (8,849 yards and 76 TDs) and Steven Jackson (10,135 yards and 56 TDs) – the former achieving these stats in one year fewer than Gore and the latter in one additional. Gore achieved this while missing 12 regular season games of 128 possible; so almost a full season missed.

The general consensus seems to be, if you become a 10,000-yard rusher for your career the likelihood of receiving a call from the Hall is much greater than if you don’t. Clearly Frank will get to that number, but how much longer does he have? At the age of 29 he’s supposed to be running out steam, at least based on running back standards, but the strange thing many people noticed in 2012 was that Frank typically started slow and got stronger as the game went on. With the addition of LaMichael James splitting backfield duties with Gore, he has the potential to have 3, 4, hell, maybe even five more years if he wants it and barring injury.

Let’s assume he plays four more years and is able to rush for 1,000+ in each of them. If he can do that, even without that final fourth year, that would put him right on par with the career rushing yards of Hall of Famers like Marcus Allen, Marshall Faulk, Jim Brown, Tony Dorsett, and Erick Dickerson.

So what am I getting at?

Well, we all see it. The “A” players get the big money. They get all the press. They get the endorsements. They get the reality shows, if they want them. They seemingly get all of the goods, however we’re defining “goods” in this moment. But where’s Frank? Frank’s in San Francisco working his ass off so he can post another 1,000-yard season. Frank’s off not getting arrested for doing something stupid.

Maybe he doesn’t want all of the attention that comes with being a star running back. Maybe he doesn’t even view himself in that way. But I’ll tell you what, with the current success of the 49ers, almost the same exact roster and coaching staff coming back for another year, the future is bright. If he doesn’t want the attention, that’s fine by me, because I know he’ll garner plenty of it on the field as he rips through defenses for another 1,200-yard season like he did this year during the Niner’s run to the Super Bowl.

Shakespeare once said, “Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.”

We all know where Frank Gore falls here. It’s time to start acknowledging.

By Ryan Lack
Follow Ryan on Twitter at @ryanlack
You can contact Ryan at

Quick Slant: The NCAA and its Lack of Institutional Control

By Kevin York

Slant: Reports surface that the NCAA’s investigation into actions by the University of Miami will result in sanctions


If you find the fact that the NCAA is imposing sanctions surprising, you’re not alone. Earlier this year the NCAA admitted to misconduct during its investigation into Miami. It screwed up so bad that some of its evidence had to be thrown out and external investigation was done in the NCAA. Despite these wrongdoings, NCAA commissioner Mark Emmert decided to push forward with the case against Miami. Doesn’t this misconduct, resulting in “tainted evidence” call into question Emmert and his group’s credibility?

I have no problem with the actual allegations against Miami, but I think it’s time for administrative reform within the NCAA. How can you pin a “lack of institutional control” charge on a school when you yourself suffer from that same charge? And on that note, how can lack of institutional control still be used as a charge? Everything falls under that. Wouldn’t “failure to comply to an atmosphere of compliance” (another separate charge used by the NCAA) be the same exact thing? Lack of institutional control is how the NCAA found it appropriate to take action against Penn State for the Jerry Sandusky situation, a decision that is now coming under heavy scrutiny and one lawsuit, potentially more.

After its sanctions against Penn State were announced, Mark Emmert and the NCAA made it clear that a school’s head coaches are in ultimate control of their sporting programs. As ESPN’s Dana O’Neil points out, “Yet on Monday, when the NCAA announced the findings of an external review of its enforcement staff and its actions involving the University of Miami case, NCAA president Mark Emmert made it clear that the buck stopped well short of his office door.”

She goes on to say:

“So far on Emmert’s watch, the NCAA has bungled and fumbled multiple investigations (Cam Newton, Shabazz Muhammad and now Miami); fired two NCAA investigators; saw the exits of two enforcement administrators (director of enforcement Bill Benjamin resigned in June, just eight months after taking the job); and gone well outside of its own rulebook and sidestepped due process to punish Penn State, which generated a lawsuit from none other than the state of Pennsylvania.”

Time for the NCAA to look in the mirror. Time to reform yourself so you actually possess the authority and credibility to judge others.

By Kevin York
Follow Kevin on Twitter at @kevin_york
You can contact Kevin at

There’s Cheating In Baseball

By Alton Beermann

As the 2013 baseball season ramps up I can’t help but think about the role of steroids in the game, especially with new allegations against A-Rod making the news. Baseball has a long and celebrated history. However, the history of the game is also littered with stories of cheating to gain an edge. There has been cheating in baseball since the game began. From the 1919 Black Sox scandal, to Pete Rose and his gambling, and recently, steroids or HGH, cheating has long been part of the game. What other sport allows participants to “steal” to get ahead? This is just part of Major League Baseball and it’s not necessarily a bad thing. Frankly, cheating may have improved the quality of the game in some circumstances, and the “steroid era” (that most likely isn’t over) brought more excitement than shame to the game. Look at the facts:more home runs were hit over a 20-year span than ever before while, Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, and Mark McGuire were all part of a media frenzy to become the next home run king.

Barry Bonds epitomized the steroid era. Whether or not you were a casual fan, a fan of Barry Bonds or even a fan of baseball, you sat down and watched Barry when he was up at bat in 2001, destroying the home run record Mark McGuire had set just three years earlier.

So I’m going to come out and say it: cheating in baseball is a part of the game and players who used steroids should not be kept out of the Hall of Fame because of it.

With the recent findings coming out of a Florida lab that players such as Alex Rodriguez, Melky Cabrera and Bartolo Colon were implicated as users even after baseball imposed sanctions and mandatory testing and AFTER the Bonds, Clemens and Sosa testimony before Congress in the early 2000’s, it raises questions on just how widespread steroid usage was and is in baseball. What is it about baseball that makes people want to cheat so badly? I love baseball and I don’t think HGH has tarnished the game. I, like most fans, love to see the long ball. The so-called steroids era shouldn’t have asterisk next to broken records in the Hall Of Fame. Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens both belong in Cooperstown.

I think the excuse that “everyone was doing it,” is somewhat valid. Everyone makes their own choices but it doesn’t make steroids less easy to do when they are accessible, under a doctor’s supervision, and are making a physical difference in muscle size and stature. There has been no proof that steroids make someone “better” at baseball but clearly they do have benefits. These players made bad mistakes in choosing to use drugs but the records that were broken still were broken and we can’t simply ignore what happened. Steroids don’t build muscle by themselves. Athletes (even couchletes) have to still be committed to working hard in the gym to build strength. Steroids simply allow faster recovery and harder workouts in the gym. I think as time goes on this point of view will gradually be accepted. I see it as players trying to do everything possible to win, and that’s much better morally than taking money or gambling to lose a game.

So even though I’m not condoning drug usage or cheating, I do think we need to recognize it and accept it as part of the game of professional baseball. These players did what they did and I don’t think you can look at them and try to speculate what numbers would have been like without steroids. These guys like Barry Bonds have great numbers and because of that, deserve to be Hall of Famer’s. Maybe I’m a biased Giants fan, and drugs have changed the game, but with baseball’s long history and reputation, it will bounce back, even without that extra boost.

By Alton Beermann
Follow Alton on Twitter at @altonbeermann
You can contact Alton at

The Walking Dead: A guide to watching the NBA’s lost causes.

By Mark Gaspar

The bottom feeders are coming for you.

The bottom feeders are coming for you.

As we cross the threshold of the NBA season’s halfway point we’re left with a lot of stories to ponder. Will the Lakers get their act together? Can anyone challenge the Heat in the east? Do the Spurs have enough left in the tank to compete for a fifth title? Could I love Ricky Rubio any more than I do now?

But there are other storylines. Deep within the dark recesses of our collective minds, in a place we don’t like to admit exists – let alone talk about – resides the walking dead; a collection of teams without hope of success. They’re just going through the motions. There will be no playoffs for them. No last second push. No absolution or chance for redemption. Only pain and suffering. Surrounding these teams is the familiar mantra “maybe next year.”

However, not all the members of the walking dead are as dead as others. Some still have some life in them. Some still offer something interesting to watch or look for. Below, I’ll break down our undead into two camps. The “Really Dead” i.e. Please watch something else, and the “Little bit of life in them” i.e. something interesting is going on.

Keep in mind the trade deadline is tomorrow so these could be meaningless by the time you get around to read this. Thanks for nothing NBA.

The Unwatchables

Charlotte Bobcats

There’s not a way to say this delicately. The Charlotte Bobcats are a bad team. Could they end up being good? At some point maybe. In the not too distant future? No. They currently have 2 ¼ serviceable players.

Player 1: I’ve only seen a few Bobcat games this year but Kemba Walker has been far and away the best thing about the team. If he can improve his defense, he should be able to comfortably reside in that top-20 PGS in the league (this is not an insult. Have you seen how many good point guards there are?)

Player 2: I really enjoy watching Bismack Biyombo. Sadly, he’s probably a minimum two years away from being a serviceable NBA player. I’d compare him to his former countrymen Serge Ibaka. Both athletic freaks and neither one of them knew what they were doing the first couple years they were in the league. Will he figure it out like Ibaka? I don’t know, but it might be worth checking in from time to time.

Player ¼: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is a really good player. It’s just unfortunate he hit the rookie wall after the first month of the season. When he’s on he’s very entertaining. He defends; he passes; he can score a little bit. Has the potential to be a poor-man’s Andrei Kirilenko if he stays healthy and continues to improve.

Should you watch?: You’ve always wanted to read “Moby Dick” and by the time you finish they might be decent.

Sacramento Kings

This team has a ton of talent on it and yet I like close to nothing about them. Demarcus Cousins is a beast. If he screws his head on right he’ll be the second best Center in the league after Dwight. However, his actions have proven that that is a pretty big IF and if/when it happens it probably won’t be with the Kings/Sonics.

As for Tyreke Evans, he’s a physical freak. Unfortunately he doesn’t really know how to play basketball.

If you’re a Kings fan… well, I’m sorry. This team drafts players without knowing what they’re going to do with them. This leads to players getting frustrated as they are rarely put in a situation where they can succeed. This isn’t so much the players fault. They didn’t choose to be drafted by the Kings but it is systemic of their entire operation. And to make matters worse for their fan base (one of the best in the league by the way) they’re probably moving to Seattle.

Should you watch?: It might be time to go out and interact with your fellow humans.

Orlando Magic

The Orlando Magic are in a dark place right now. Unburdened of Dwight Howard they are a team without an identity or star. Their best player is currently J.J. Redick and there’s roughly a 100% chance he will be traded by tomorrow afternoon. Their best chance is to win the lottery. Sadly for them there isn’t a franchise-changing player to be found this year. What does this all mean? It means the Magic are going to be bad for the next half-decade, minimum.

Should you watch?: I’m pretty sure ESPN 2 is showing reruns of NFL Countdown.

Phoenix Suns

The Suns are in pretty much the same boat as the Magic but with one of the worst owners in the league. They recently parted ways with Steve Nash so they’re currently operating without an identity or any quality NBA players. They do have Marcin Gortat and Jared Dudley, i.e. two very capable players who would be nice on any team competing for the playoffs. However, when you pair them with Michael Beasley, you’re not going to win a lot of games. Again, just like the Magic there aren’t any players on the team as it’s currently constructed that can give their fans much to look forward to.

Should you watch?: Isn’t House Hunters on right now?

If the Thunder or Heat aren’t playing it wouldn’t hurt you to watch them

Washington Wizards

The Washington Wizards are starting to figure things out. After a horrendous start they’ve found their footing and are starting to play if not winning basketball, at least watchable basketball.

John Wall is healthy and starting to live up to his potential. Bradley Beal has had a few moments that show what type of player he could be. Combine them with veterans like Nene and Trevor Ariza and you have a team that can compete most nights. Will they make the playoffs? No. Even with as bad as the Eastern Conference has been this year they’ll still miss out by quite a few games. But with a smart draft and a few trades/free agent signings that break their way they could be competing for the 8th seed as early as next year.

Should you watch?: If some of the teams below aren’t on I’d recommend checking out the Wiz… at least when John Wall is on the court.

Cleveland Cavaliers

The Cleveland Cavaliers are one of the most watchable teams in the league even though they have the worst record. Why? Because Kyrie Irving is the most thrilling player to watch outside of LeBron James. His speed, balance, and decision making can at times leave you breathless, or if you’re Brad Beal, on your back.

The Cavs haven’t done a great job surrounding him with talent (sound familiar Mr. James?) but they should be in line for another quality draft pick. They just need to make sure they don’t choose another Tristan Thompson or Dion Waiters.

On the bright side, at least Anderson Varejao didn’t die from his blood clot scare.

Should you watch?: If Kyrie is healthy you should definitely watch the Cavs.

Minnesota Timberwolves

Do I have an unbiased opinion about the Timberwolves? Yes, yes I do. Should you believe me when I say you should watch them? Yes, yes you should. Just maybe not right now.

Before the season started the puppies were a trendy pick to be a 5th or 6th seed in the west. Then, Kevin Love broke his hand, Chase Budinger tore his meniscus, Brandan Roy’s knee exploded… again, Josh Howard’s knee exploded, and Ricky Rubio started his come back after exploding his knee last year. With five remaining players and two healthy knees to share the Wolves have had a hard time winning games. This trend will continue until they get a few players back.

That’s the bad news. The good news?

Ricky Rubio is starting to come back into form. Over his past 10 games he’s averaging 13.1 points, 8.6 assists, and 2.4 steals a game. These are pretty good numbers. Regardless of how many injuries they’ve had, a healthy Rubio makes this team a League Pass favorite.

Other bright spots: Kevin Love will return in the next few weeks. Chase Budinger will too. Will it be too little too late? Yes. The Western Conference is so stacked this year that a team is going to need close to 50 wins just to get the 8th seed. However, NBA fans will get at least 15-17 games to watch this team as it was originally constructed. It should be fun. And it sets them up well for next year.

Should you watch?: Watch the Timberwolves. Bet on their opponent.

New Orleans Hornets

The Hornets are a lousy team. So why are they on the watchable list? Well, they have Anthony Davis, one of the best big men prospects of the last decade. When he’s healthy he’s a defensive terror and turns NOLA into the Cajun Lob City. Do they have weak links? Yes, Austin Rivers is putting up numbers that put him in the running for worst basketball player of all time. Eric Gordon can’t stay healthy, he doesn’t like the team and the fans don’t like him. However, they have a new owner, a new name as of next year, and they should be in line for another decent draft pick. If they can find a good small forward to pair with Davis and Greivis Vasquez they could have a nice little nucleus.

Should you watch?: This year? Sure, as long as you’re doing something else useful.

By Mark Gaspar
Follow Mark on Twitter at @markgaspar
You can contact Mark at

Quick Slant: The MLB and PEDs, Not Again!

By Ryan Lack

Today, we’re rolling out a new recurring post – “Quick Slants.” The goal of these will be to publish daily short reactions to some of the biggest sports stories of the day. In lieu of solid news to react to, Kevin will substitute with a diatribe on beard haircare and the benefits of exfoliating and moisturizing to promote healthy skin and vibrant, voluminous hair.

Slant: Documents from Miami clinic link five MLB players to PEDs.


From a fan perspective, the news that five more Major League Baseball players are being allegedly linked to the purchase and, by extension, use of performance enhancing drugs is nothing new.

The new players listed in documents from the Biogenesis of America clinic run by Anthony Bosch: San Diego Padres shortstop Everth Cabrera, 26, the reigning National League stolen-base champion; Jordan Norberto, 26, a lefty reliever with the Oakland A’s; Fernando Martinez, 24, a Houston Astros outfielder; Fautino De Los Santos, 27, a reliever claimed off waivers by the Padres; and Cesar Puello, 21, a top Mets outfield prospect.

According to two sources familiar with Bosch’s operation, however, the Washington Nationals’ Gio Gonzalez, previously identified as being named in Biogenesis documents, did not receive banned substances from Bosch or the clinic.

Many of us as young as in our 20s and 30s remember the “steroid era.” First off, my biggest problem with labeling that period from around 1987-2009 or so is the problem is still plaguing the league.

How can you call a period of time “an era” when that era clearly never ended?

The short answer to that is marketing and PR. And also, you can’t.

Labeling something an era signifies it had a beginning and an end. The league and probably the media want us all to move on; to believe they’ve done enough to shore up these issues and rectify the negative sentiment rampant among fans new and old. But as time goes on, more and more revelations are made. A-Rod gets pegged again and may never step foot on a diamond again. Heros will continue to fall. Even guys you don’t expect to see getting roped into this, like this most recent one above with Gio Gonzalez, are extremely disappointing. Fortunately for Gio, he’s been cleared of any possible connection to this clinic in Miami but, let’s be honest, no one’s buying it. We’ve learned the hard way in the recent past with the likes of Melky Cabrera that where there’s smoke there usually is fire. I loved Gio as an Oakland Athletic and was sad when he went to the Nationals and became a 20-game winner, but if this is the kind of baggage he’s going to tote around with him they can keep him.

The MLB is trying to fix this but it’s not working. And it will never work until they drop the hammer on these guys. A 50-game ban is great and all, but it’s 50 games. A guy can get caught at the beginning of the season and still come back to not only play but play well.

What needs to happen is the MLB must become more stringent:
– First offense – 50-game ban
– Second offense – Season-long ban
– Third offense – You’re done, bro. Out of the league forever.

Make it happen, Bud.

By Ryan Lack
Follow Ryan on Twitter at @ryanlack
You can contact Ryan at

Has the NFL peaked?

By Josh Orum

Now that the NFL season is over and we have a small break until the draft, it’s a good time to sit back and reflect on the game’s larger challenge: how to deal with its concussion problem.

If you follow sports news, you’ve probably heard something – or a lot – about this issue. In summary, it turns out that repeated concussions lead to a brain condition called chronic traumatic encephalopathy, also known as CTE. The symptoms evolve slowly, and don’t show up for a while. They basically they start with psychosis, and end with a combination of Parkinson’s and Alzheimers type symptoms.

On the Atlantic Monthly, Ta-Nehisi Coates writes about whether football players can truly assess the risks that come from playing football. A lot of people have responded to the whole football-is-surprisingly-dangerous idea by saying that football players know the risks and have the personal responsibility to decide on their own.

This avoids the larger point, which is that football players – in fact, no one – knew the true dangers of the sport. Even today, we still don’t know the extent of those dangers.

Many sports are dangerous, and participants must take that into account when they decide whether to play or not. Participants in every sport – baseball, basketball, race car driving, big wave surfing, climbing, cycling, skiing – know the risks because they are clear. Injuries happen on the field and on the track. People get hurt, and even die in full view.

And that’s what’s different about the brain injuries occurring in football. They aren’t clear. They’re revealed years after they’ve occurred. And they aren’t just something that players can “deal with” like a knee injury or bad hip – these are ticking time bombs that change them as people and kill them.

Even knowing this, I’m sure people will still want to play football.  It’s not a decision I’d make, but I don’t have a problem with others making it.

The NFL faces several problems:

  • Given this knowledge, there will almost certainly be a decline in kids playing. This won’t directly effect the NFL – it’s not like there will be a shortage of players, but if their kids aren’t playing, it will have less hold on communities, and become a smaller part of the national conversation.
  • Greater understanding of the true damage the sport does will turn some people away, people who can stomach physical damage but have a harder time accepting brain damage.
  • There will be intense pressure to introduce things that improve player safety. I don’t expect these to actually improve safety that much (the hits that are the real culprits aren’t the big hits that make highlight reels, but the small happen on the line and occur every down), but they will change the nature of the game.
  • Finally, and most potentially most damaging, it appears the NFL knew about the problem and hid the information (the same problem the tobacco companies faced). I wouldn’t be surprised if this has a legal and financial impact on the NFL.

In the end, I think the NFL is currently at the apogee of its power and popularity. I’d be surprised to see it exist in the same form in a decade or two. I expect it to face significant declines in popularity, and the style of play to change dramatically.

It’s unfortunate because American-style football gives us some of the best combinations of strategic and tactical brilliance viewable today.

So what changes are needed? I expect that the NFL will focus on rule changes that lead to fewer “big” hits. As I wrote earlier, these won’t really make a difference because it’s not the big hits, but the routine hits that matter, but they may also negatively change the nature of the game.

On the other hand, there are two changes the NFL could implement that would not only reduce the likelihood of CTE but also improve the quality of the game:

  • Make smaller helmets. Though they purportedly exist to protect, helmets lead to bigger and harder hits. If you’re using your head as a welcome without a helmet, you’ll immediately feel the impact. If you have a big helmet, you’re more likely to use it.
  • Dramatically increase the size of teams. What if a coach was able to completely shift out the offensive and defensive lines every down? Not only would linemen have a chance to recover a bit, but they’d stay fresher throughout the game, and have less wear and tear throughout the season.

What do you think about this?

By Josh Orum
You can contact Josh at

The Most Disliked Coaches in America

By Kevin York

While writing my post last week giving my thoughts on Forbes’ list of the ten most disliked athletes in America, I began wondering who would appear on a broadened list of the most disliked sports figures in America. How would coaches be included? What about owners? At the end of that post I decided I would do a follow up assessing the most disliked coaches in America. Since then I decided to do a larger series where I would look at coaches, owners and finally teams. Today I’ll focus on coaches. Watch for posts examining owners and teams in following weeks.

As I thought about disliked coaches, I started thinking about what makes a coach disliked. Two things immediately jumped out at me – success and arrogance. Everyone tends to hate a winner. It’s just a fact in sports. Call it jealousy, call it envy, hatred and dislike builds for people that see success, even moreso for those that consistently attain success. People also hate arrogance. It’s cool for a while if it’s your coach (everyone else hates it), but the minute your team begins to struggle, that bravado you used to love quickly becomes irritating. Rex Ryan is the prime example. Jim Harbaugh is a more recent one. Jimbo’s fiery personality played well to fans in the San Francisco area and really all across the NFL, especially after the quiet, conservative approach of Mike Singletary. However, his schtick began to irritate many non-Niner fans in his second year. The minute he encounters difficulties I can foresee San Francisco fans following suit.

I have my own thoughts on the most disliked coaches in America, but I wanted to get broader perspective for this post so I asked my fellow Couchletes for their thoughts, as well as my friends on Facebook. The coaches listed below, were chosen based on the feedback I received from those two sources (I got a lot of responses and couldn’t use them all). I listed them in alphabetical order as opposed to ranking them 1-10.

Bill Belichik
Although “the hoodie” has won over the hearts of fans throughout the New England area, much of the rest of the country despises him. Why? Success. Well, that and a little thing called spygate. Personally, I don’t dislike Belichik; I actually respect him, but can see why others wouldn’t like him. He carries a certain arrogance, but it’s not a boisterous, loud-mouthed type of arrogance, it’s more of a quiet “I know I’m smarter than you” arrogance. That’s the type of ego I can respect, he knows he doesn’t have to back it up with a lot of bluster.

John Calipari
Calipari is cocky and knows it, embraces it even, to the extent that he passes the cockiness onto his teams. That’s not the reason he’s on this list though; no, his status on this list is cemented because of his role in bastardizing college basketball by not just cherishing, but wholly and fully adopting, the one and done system the NBA now pushes on promising young players. Throughout his career he’s toed the gray boundary line of the NCAA, falling on the wrong side just as much as he’s ended up on the right side. Sure, he puts together good teams, but there are always questions about the legality of how he formed these teams. Quiz – how many Final Four trips has Calipari made throughout his career at UMass, Memphis and Kentucky? If you said four, you’re wrong. It’s only two, his two most recent while at Kentucky. The NCAA vacated Calipari’s Final Four appearances while at UMass and Memphis due to rules violations. Based on his past behavior, we’re probably just looking at a matter of time until his Kentucky trips are vacated.

Pete Carroll
Many people have built up a dislike for Carroll based on his tenure at USC, one that was filled with greatness, conference titles and national titles, but also egotism, vanity, swagger, and toward the end, scandal. Carroll’s Trojan teams didn’t win any favors through their frequent tendency to run up the score on inferior teams or their habit of running others noses in their supreme ability. That made it all the more ironic when Carroll bitched and whined about Jim Harbaugh and his Stanford Cardinal running up the score on Pete’s Trojans. When Carroll got to the NFL, his antics continued, most notably on two occasions that continued to build an anti-Pete following:
1.) After the Seahawks beat the Packers due to a horrendous, blatant missed call by the officials, Pete ran around the field, giddy as a school girl who just learned the popular boy asked her best friend if she likes him. After the game, he then talked about what a superb game his team played to ‘earn’ the win (both teams actually played really sloppy, Pete; what game were you watching?)
2.) In the Seahawk’s playoff game against the Falcons, Carroll tried to ice Atlanta kicker Matt Bryant prior to his field goal attempt at the end of regulation to win the game. Bryant missed the kick, but Carroll had been granted the timeout, leading ‘ol Pete to whine to the referees that he didn’t call a timeout. We all saw it, Pete. Fox was even so gracious as to pull it up on video to show all of America you clearly told an official you wanted a time out.

Gene Chizik
Chizik might not have the national presence of some of the other coaches on this list, but those that do know of him, don’t like him much. Chizik gained some national notoriety for his one season tenure as co-defensive coordinator at the University of Texas under Mack Brown, though he only held the position for one year before leaving to become head coach at Iowa State. Chizik signed a six year deal with the Cyclones, but only served two of those years, leaving after compiling a 5-19 record to become the head coach at Auburn. He was one of the earliest examples of college coaches showing no loyalty to the school paying them. Chizik became best known for winning a national championship at Auburn behind the play of one year wonder, quarterback Cam Newton. So far you’re probably reading this thinking, he doesn’t sound that dislikable. Unfortunately that national title season was stained with controversy surrounding Newton. The quarterback originally started his college career at Florida, before being suspended from the team for stealing a laptop from another student (which was found to be in his possession). He transferred from Florida to a junior college for a year, before coming to Auburn. However, suspicions were raised that Newton’s father had run a play for payment scheme before choosing Alabama, attempting to get interested schools to pay substantial sums of money to get Newton. It was found that Newton’s father made this type of arrangement with Mississippi State, but oddly enough, Newton chose Auburn, leading many to speculate that Chizik and Auburn had come to a similar arrangement. While the NCAA was unable to find proof of payments after launching one of its laughable ‘investigations,’ the damage to Chizik was done. He now carries the reputation of a dirty coach.

Jim Harbaugh
My fellow Couchletes will disagree with me on this one and blame his inclusion in the list to my personal distaste for Harbaugh; however, I wasn’t considering including him until his name was mentioned by others after asking about the most disliked coaches. I mentioned him in my opening and will now expand on it a bit. The 49ers were a lowly team when Harbaugh took the reigns as head coach. So in his first season, when he started winning, people thought it was a good story. They looked past his sideline ranting and raving antics. Harbaugh gained more national attention in his second season after leading San Francisco to the NFC Championship game. More eyes were on him now and those eyes became tired of brash and blustery personality. Jimbo, you’re not a player anymore. It’s time to learn to keep your emotions in check. You don’t need to run up and down the sidelines screaming like a lunatic. And I know this will astonish you, but your team does commit penalties. So please, stop bitching and whining like a spoiled child every time a penalty is called on your team. The league and the officials aren’t out to get you.

Lane Kiffin
Lane Kiffin has always come across as a snot-nosed little brat. His father is the great defensive coach Monte Kiffin, and I question if Lane used his family roots to skirt by. As a head coach, Kiffin certainly hasn’t been impressive. He seemed like a good assistant at USC under Pete Carroll, convincing Raiders owner Al Davis of this so much that Davis made him the youngest head coach in NFL history. He lasted less than two years with the Raiders, being fired four games into his second season. He compiled a 5-15 record with Oakland. He then left to coach the University of Tennessee, lasting one 7-6 season before being poached by USC to become their head coach. In his one season in Knoxville he raised a lot of chaos though, being investigated for NCAA violations and also publicly accusing then-Florida head coach of violations. Lane Kiffin’s an immature hot head.

Bobby Petrino
Petrino is currently the head coach of Western Kentucky, not really a hot college football job, huh? The reason he’s there is due to his past mistakes. While serving as head coach at Arkansas, Petrino crashed his motorcycle. After initially saying he was alone on the motorcycle, it came out that a former Arkansas volleyball player, whom Petrino had just hired for the football staff, was on the back of the bike with him. He later revealed that the woman was not just a passenger during the crash, but was someone he’d been having an affair with, prior to even hiring her to his football staff. Petrino was fired for the incident. But that’s not all that gets Bobby on this list. Petrino was hired as football coach of the Atlanta Falcons in 2007, with the intent of building the team into a winner around star quarterback Michael Vick. Of course, Vick would not play that season after facing federal dog fighting charges. After 13 games, Petrino put together a 3-10 record and decided to take the head coaching job at Louisville. He essentially left the team in the middle of the night, informing his team through four sentences typed on a piece of paper placed on each locker. Classy.

Rex Ryan
Rexy’s spot on this list is due to his boisterous and often obnoxious personality. While there are weird, yet funny, stories about him such as his foot fetish with his wife and his tattoo of his wife wearing a Mark Sanchez jersey, Ryan hasn’t really done anything like Petrino, Calipari or Chizik. His personality just rubs a lot of people the wrong way.

Nick Saban
Success breeds jealousy, envy and dislike. Saban is the Bill Belichik of college football. For all intents and purposes, he’s a respectable guy, making sure his team plays the right way. But, damn he’s seen a lot of success, which brings out haters.

Roy Williams
Williams may seem like an odd fit for this list. He’s largely on it just because he pissed off so many people for leaving Kansas for North Carolina. He denied the Tar Heels once and then succumbed to them three years later.

By Kevin York
Follow Kevin on Twitter at @kevin_york
You can contact Kevin at

Valentine’s Day advice from Ricky Rubio

By Mark Gaspar

For men around the country, today is a day of romance, possibility, and crippling fear. We’ve spent months, weeks, days, or maybe hours planning something perfect. Something that will make that special someone in our life appreciate and love us all the more. It can be tricky, we all know that. But thankfully Mr. Rubio is here to provide us with a little pre-rising stars challenge advice (this honors my commitment to write an all-star post. In short, watch the rising stars challenge and be amazed at what Ricky Rubio can do when nobody plays defense).

His advice? It’s better to give than to receive.

Pretty simple. To illustrate his advice (and get you in the mood for tonight with some very sexy giving) I’ve included 9 minutes of Ricky Rubio passes. Enjoy.

By Mark Gaspar
Follow Mark on Twitter at @markgaspar
You can contact Mark at

On Short Sleeve Basketball Jerseys

By Kevin York

Photo Credit: (Adidas)

Photo Credit: (Adidas)

On Monday, the Golden State Warriors announced that for three of its remaining home games, the team will wear the NBA’s “first modern short sleeve jersey.” The only question I had upon hearing this news was, why? After seeing the first few photos released of these new jerseys, I was still left asking why.

Anyone that played in a summer basketball league growing up knows what it’s like to wear a sleeved t-shirt while playing. It’s not ideal. The sleeves can affect the movement of your arms when shooting, rebounding, passing, actually they can affect movement in nearly every facet of the game. That’s why most kids in those leagues cut off the sleeves (that, and to a lesser degree, for looks). It allows for better range of motion with the shoulders, especially when it comes to shooting. When I saw these new sleeved home alternates that Golden State unveiled I was pretty shocked. Not only is it a t-shirt, it’s a tight t-shirt. I know Adidas, the manufacturer, raved about how light the jersey is and how the fabric stretches so the sleeves aren’t the type of hindrance that traditional sleeves can be. They went so far down the ‘innovative’ path that they tied the Warriors wearing the new jersey to the team’s proximity to Silicon Valley. Innovative jerseys for a team based in an innovative area. Sure, Adidas. Seems like a stretch to me, and not a good stretch like your new jerseys are supposed to allow.

Photo Credit: (San Jose Mercury News)

Photo Credit: (San Jose Mercury News)

I don’t know about you, but that photo doesn’t make the sleeve look like it would allow you to move around a lot.

Let’s be honest. Adidas didn’t introduce these because they wanted to make some big basketball jersey performance innovation. The performance enhancements seen from a jersey are minimal anyway. They introduced these for money, pure and simple.

The problem is, THESE THINGS ARE UGLY. If another team was going to follow Golden State’s lead, it would be for money reasons, not for performance reasons. Big mistake by Adidas. Did they expect teams to line up their door, wanting their own t-shirt jersey? Will the Nets, widely seen as the team now at the forefront of basketball fashion, be trotting out in these things next year? No, we won’t see another team adopting these things. Who ever thought this was a good idea? Are we seeing that many problems with the traditional jersey style that every team in the league wears? No, we’re not seeing any problems.

Adidas is calling these the “adizero NBA short sleeve uniform system.” Really? System? It’s a shirt, guys. A more fitting name might be the “bizarro NBA t-shirt jersey.”

By Kevin York
Follow Kevin on Twitter at @kevin_york
You can contact Kevin at