Author Archives: Matt Ginn

Quick Slant: NHL Realignment

By Matt Ginn

A little over a year ago the NHL owners proposed and approved of a significant shift in the conferences. Rather than 5 team divisions they were going to have 4 conferences each consisting of 7-8 teams. Each conference would have 4 teams qualify for the playoffs, which was great for the teams in the smaller conferences, and inherently unfair to the teams in the larger conferences. After the NHL fan base got excited about the possibilities of seeing every team on their home ice every year (something that doesn’t happen now, particularly in a strike shortened season in which no out-of-conference games are being played), the NHLPA (players association) voted the move down and the plan was scrapped. Some thought it was premature posturing on their part in advance of the upcoming CBA work stoppage, but the players had legitimate concerns regarding imbalanced travel schedules and the confusing playoff setup. Today, reports have started circulating that the plan is gaining momentum again.

Ultimately, this has been a long time coming. When a team moves from Atlanta to Winnipeg but stays in the “Southeast” division there are going to be travel issues. When teams from Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee are playing in the Western Conference and having to make multiple road trips to California each season they will inevitably log more miles than a team in New York or New England. But the main reason that it has regained such momentum despite the NHLPA rejection last season is the home & home series between every team. As a Sharks fan it really sucks not getting to see Sidney Crosby in person even ONCE per year. Or missing out on an Original Six team or two. The main goal of conference realignment is to make sure every city gets visited by the biggest stars, whether they be franchises or players. The other most exciting part of the realignment process will inevitably be the myriad ways the NHL fucks up, slows down or otherwise mangles the process of implementing the changes. Because if there’s one thing hockey fans have learned to count on from Gary Bettman, it’s his ability to make things worse.

By Matt Ginn
Follow Matt on Twitter at @mattginn
You can contact Matt at matt@thecouchletes.com

Newcastle and the EPL

By Matt Ginn

My first season as a (European) football follower was 2011-2012. I always enjoyed watching World Cup matches at 2:30AM, or whatever time they happened to air because they were being held in some far off locale, but never followed a league other than the occasional glance at my San Jose Earthquakes standing in the MLS.

One weekend morning in the fall of 2011 that all changed. While laying on my couch at 9AM drinking a Newcastle Brown Ale I flipped over to the Fox Soccer Channel that had recently been added to my cable package and saw, as luck would have it, Newcastle United Football Club facing off against Fulham in the Premier League. The fortuitous happening (my beer, their club name) blew my mostly-hungover, slightly-buzzed mind. The simple black and white kit the Toons sport wasn’t garish or offputting and eased my booze addled brain. At that moment I decided to be a Newcastle supporter for life. The Magpies went on to win that match 2-1, and to secure points in their first 11 matches of the Premier League season, competing for a Champions League spot atop the table until a rough stretch in their last few fixtures left them just outside the top 4. Confused yet? I was too, and that was before this year, when what I had previously thought to be the best feature of the Premier League became a horrifying reality. Relegation is a scary word.

Beginning to follow a new sport can be an intimidating experience as an adult. So much of being a male sports fan is tied into machismo and knowing more than your friends (and colleagues), so starting from scratch seems pointless. If I’m never going to know more about it than him, goes the thinking, why bother following it at all. Short answer, because it’s fucking amazing, but there’s more to it than that. All of the words in the above paragraph that don’t make sense to you and didn’t make sense to me a year and a half ago, are second nature to me now, and only part of using and understanding that language is enjoying the pretentiousness of them. I could explain the phrases that don’t make sense above, but you’ll be a lot happier if you start watching a few matches and figure them out for yourself. Instead of complaining about the slow pace of soccer you’ll start to notice the patient build up of a possession side, or the quick strike of an overmatched counter-attacking club. Instead of whining about ties, you’ll relish the point gained from playing to a draw at Old Trafford, Stamford Bridge, White Hart Lane or Anfield. Instead of bemoaning all the diving and fake injuries, you’ll.. well you’ll still hate the diving and fake injuries, shit drives me nuts and I love pretty much the rest of the game. The English blame it on the mainland Europeans, but it really is everywhere, all the Americans do it too. What do you want from me, no sport is perfect.

The one word that I will explain is “Relegation”. English professional football has a bunch of different levels. Think A, AA, AAA and the bigs in major league baseball, even though there are really more levels inside of those designations, it’s typically accepted that professional baseball has four different levels in America. The Premier League is the majors of English soccer, the top 20 clubs in England play 38 matches each to determine the best of the best. Now imagine that if a team finished in the bottom 15% of the standings (think Astros, Cubs, Rockies and Twins last year) they got moved down to AAA ball and the top 15% of clubs in AAA moved up to the majors to take their place. The AAA club would play in their own stadium, but would share in league wide revenue streams like national and international broadcast rights. The financial ramifications alone can be huge. Every year this is the dream for three teams in the Championship (AAA) and the nightmare for the bottom feeders of the Premier League. Thankfully Newcastle’s recent run of play has kept them just ahead of the bottom three, but another mini slump can drop them right into the relegation zone, and with two-thirds of the season already over, that’s a place they’d like to avoid at all costs.

I wake up at 5:15 every day for work. Because my body has an incredible internal alarm clock I also wake up at 5:15 on the weekends. Unless you’re the world’s biggest Sham Wow (TM) fan there isn’t a whole lot of watchable television on at that time. So next time you can’t sleep or come home from the bars waaaaayyyyyyy past closing, tune into ESPN 2 or Fox Soccer and check it out.

By Matt Ginn
Follow Matt on twitter at @mattginn
EMail Matt at matt@thecouchletes.com
 

Super Regrets

By Matt Ginn

I wanted to post something about the Super Bowl, the way a thing like sports can impact our lives so completely, can make me pulse with restrained frustration and excitement. But because of the adrenaline hangover I’m almost at a loss for words.

My team should be the Super Bowl champion right now. If I was told before the game that the 49ers would have four shots from inside the ten to take the lead with two minutes left, I would have been confident that Greg Roman would call a play that would succeed. It would have been nice to see a different call on third down, though the QB counter they called on the almost-delay-of-game sure looked like it would have been successful had they gotten the play off before the timeout/delay. It would have been nice to see the clear helmet to helmet hit on a defenseless Crabtree be called on third down, or the toss-up of a holding call on fourth down be called, but that’s just sour grapes because my team didn’t come through.

Ultimately, two years ago this team had worst-coach-ever Mike Singletary as its head coach, a completely ruined Alex Smith as the starting QB and an under-performing top 10 pick in Michael Crabtree. After watching Harbaugh and his staff run this team for two years, Alex Smith played the best football of his life and still has been significantly outplayed by a 25 year old who makes beautiful down field throws and can run 100MPH. Crabtree has blossomed into a guy with great moves, better than ever separation, and solid hands, hopefully destined to be a 1,000 yard receiver for years to come. The defense, long a bright spot on a mediocre team, has stayed consistently capable of performing at an elite level.

Things are looking up. Even if this game didn’t go their way, the 49ers are poised to be successful for a long time. Management has shown great ability at drafting well (AJ Jenkins aside) and they should be able to replace some of our aging starters over the next few years with smart picks. Our two coordinators will be around for another year at least, most of our starters are already signed and while the competition looks to be getting stronger in the NFC West, it’s hard to say the 49ers won’t still be the favorites next year.

Looking back at the last decade of my 49ers fandom, I know that they are in the best position to succeed since Eddie D was bribing Louisiana bureaucrats for riverboat gaming rights, but knowing that doesn’t make this sting any less.

Oh well, there’s always next year!

UPDATE: I went 1 out of 4 on my prop bets. I successfully picked the first quarter as the lowest scoring quarter, unfortunately I had bet on it to be the highest scoring quarter. Interesting to see that had I gone with my gut and bet the third quarter it would have won the bet. Flacco didn’t thank anybody during his MVP speech so that was a loss as well, and the 49ers did not cover the spread. The Ravens led by 22 at one point so my largest lead of the game prop bet paid.

Total Wagered $350

Total Payout (including stake) $215

Total won/lost ($135)

By Matt Ginn
Follow Matt on twitter at @mattginn

Super Bowl XLVII Prop Bets

By Matt Ginn

While the spectacle and majesty of sport in general is of course my primary reason for following along with my favorite teams, life is always a little more interesting when you have money on the line. It is in that spirit that I’ve selected Super Bowl Prop bets to be my initial foray into The Couchletes.

I’d love to be able to adapt in-depth game analysis to search for value comparing odds on various bets, but I suck at in-depth pregame analysis and analysis done after the fact isn’t very helpful when you have to place the bets ahead of time. So I’ll just take a look at a sampling of the props compelling to me.

SUPER BOWL XLVII SPECIALS – Highest Scoring Quarter

1st Quarter 4/1

2nd Quarter 8/5

3rd Quarter 3/1

4th Quarter 2/1

My initial thought on seeing this bet was to bet the 3rd quarter. Being a 49ers fan I’ve seen most of their games and feel that they’ve been an occasionally slow starting team that likes deferring when they win the opening kick, are great at in-game adjustments and possess an explosive offense. After minimal research I found that the 3rd quarter hasn’t been significantly higher scoring for either the 49ers or their opponents for the majority of the season and that this is just a narrative I created, probably due to being more intoxicated as the game went on. However, I did notice a few high scoring 4th quarters while digging through this season’s box scores and started leaning towards betting the 4th even though the odds are fairly low. The flip side to that argument (that I had with myself in my head) is that the Ravens have been a successful team going deep, the 49ers’ safeties have been susceptible to being beat by the deep ball in recent weeks and that both teams are going to want to get out to a fast start. So, I’m leaning towards the 1st quarter for those reasons and because the payout is the best. I’m nothing if not a sucker for an underdog. $40 on 1st.

SUPER BOWL XLVII SPECIALS – Who will the Super Bowl MVP of the Game thank first?

Teammates 5/4

God 5/2

Coach 12/1

Family 12/1

Owner 15/1

Does Not Thank Anyone 9/4

A couple of interesting plays here. If the Ravens win, barring a huge game by either of the Rays (Lewis or Rice), we’re probably looking at an MVP for Flacco. I don’t know Flacco’s personal religious beliefs but he seems cut from the same no-nonsense, no-interesting-quote cloth as Brady, Rodgers and the Manning boys, Eli’s love of pranks aside, and would most likely thank his teammates, coach, owner and then God for “really putting it all on the line” and “winning one for Ray (Lewis)”. Pretty much any Raven will feel inclined to mention Ray Lewis first if they win the MVP, so teammates seems like a fairly safe bet if you’re counting on a Ravens win and don’t have much confidence in a washed-up alleged murderer who hasn’t played his best football in 3+ years stealing the MVP trophy based on sentimentality. If Lewis wins the MVP he’ll thank God, and wouldn’t we all if we beat a murder rap without serving any jail time?

But if you like the 49ers, and I do, then you have to assume it’ll be Kaepernick taking home the trophy. Kaep has also come across as a professional, handling the media well and not making waves for anything out of the ordinary, but he’s also an outspoken Christian who has multiple tattoos referencing bible passages and seems inclined to praise God first in any hypothetical MVP speech he’s giving. I’m putting $50 on teammates and $40 on God, hoping one of them comes through for a small profit.

SUPER BOWL XLVII – The largest points lead of the game by either team will be

Over/Under 13 (-115)

I’m taking the over. 49ers have been behind by 17 and been ahead by 21 in their two playoff games this year, but just look at the scoring progression in the SF – Falcons game and you’ll see my rationale. 17-0 Falcons, 14 straight by SF, another TD for the falcons on a two minute drill and then 14 straight for the 49ers again. Granted, the only time the lead was greater than the 13 points we’re looking for here was the 17-0 start, but the 49ers have shown a tendency in the last few weeks to both score in bunches and allow scoring in bunches. Largest leads (for either side) going back to week 15 from the NFC Championship game, 17 Falcons, 21 GB (Hi Kevin!), 21 Arizona, 36 Seattle (I don’t want to talk about it) and 28 New England (Hi Amy!).

What about Baltimore though, how did the scoring progress in their games? I’ll use their last 6 games, though I think the team has changed a bit since being blown out by Denver in week 15, I want to use the same length of time that I did for the 49ers. Largest lead (for either side) going back to week 15 from the AFC Championship game, 15 New England, 7 Denver, 15 Indianapolis, 9 Cincinnati, 26 NYG and 28 Denver.

In games played by either of these teams over the past 6 weeks the 13 number has been surpassed in 9 of the 11 games competed. I could easily see this game starting out 14-0 or 21-7 before turning into the hair-pulling, nail-biting tight game it’s destined to be. $115 on the over.

SUPER BOWL XLVII SPECIALS – SF -4 BAL

For my last Super Bowl bet, I’m just betting the spread. After opening at SF -4.5 in most places the number has started creeping toward the Ravens. At the time of this writing (one week before the Super Bowl) the current line is SF -4 (-105). If you aren’t familiar with point spreads this means the 49ers would have to win by four or more points to payoff a bet on them, the -105 accounts for the casino’s portion of your bet, or the vig. A $105 bet on the 49ers to cover would only pay $100 if you won in addition to the stake (amount bet). If you were to bet on Baltimore you would need them to win outright or to lose by less than four. A four point 49ers win would result in a push and no bets winning or losing. As I’ve said (repeatedly) I’m a 49ers fan and I would rather get the apocalypse inducing super-flu for a month than bet against my team in the Super Bowl. $105 on the 49ers to win and cover 31-24.

A small caveat on this post – Don’t actually trust me for betting advice. For one, betting is illegal in most places in the United States and on top of that I’m not a professional gambler. As I said at the top life is just a little more interesting when you have some money on the line.

By Matt Ginn
Follow Matt on Twitter at @mattginn