Monday, December 31, 2012

0 comments ...Our Pets' Heads are Falling Off!: Week 17

The NFL season winds down so quickly. So after the last week of the season comes the last week of the critically-acclaimed weekend roundup I started writing this year. Now that we know the playoff teams have been set we can all be incredibly wrong about which team will end up winning the Super Bowl. I, for one, am excited to be wrong.

(Just as I finished writing this, half of the coaches in the NFL got fired. I didn't like the Lovie Smith firing and every other firing I had no problem with...again, not that anyone cares about my opinion.)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 22 Atlanta Falcons 17

Even if Dunta Robinson and John Abraham are injured and miss the playoff game in two weeks, I still think Mike Smith made the right call to play them. Yeah, it seems like a risk to play these two guys, but I think with the two week layoff it was important to keep them in the flow of the season rather than giving them the equivalent of three weeks rest. The Falcons didn't come out with an especially challenging game plan and the Buccaneers seemed to have more motivation, especially Doug Martin who seemed to desperately get his name in the running as a serious contender for Offensive Rookie of the Year. Of course, that's hopeless with Luck, Wilson and Griffin also in the running. Who cares anyway, it's just a stupid award. Since I am here to nitpick, the Falcons ability to run the ball scares me a bit when it comes to being a serious Super Bowl contender. I know having a good run game is overrated and all, but Michael Turner only had two 100 yard games this season and averaged only 3.6 ypc. Jacquizz Rodgers wasn't much better with 3.8 ypc. So I believe in the Falcons ability to throw the football, but I wonder if they end up matching up against a team like the Seahawks in the second round of the playoffs, will the Falcons be able to run the ball well enough to take pressure off Ryan when throwing the football? As far as the Buccaneers go, I'm still not convinced Josh Freeman has bounced back into the upper 50% of NFL quarterbacks, but they certainly do have a lot to look forward to next year with Mike Williams, Martin, and Vincent Jackson on offense.

Buffalo Bills 28 New York Jets 9

Any person who thinks this Jets season could have been turned around with Tim Tebow as the quarterback, well, that person would be wrong. The Jets aren't the Broncos from last year and don't have Eric Decker or Demaryius Thomas as the wide receivers. I don't know if Rex Ryan should be fired, but the Jets definitely need to draft better. I do think Chan Gailey needs to be fired (and he was as I finished writing this) and the Bills should try to build the offense around C.J. Spiller. My humble opinion is perhaps the Bills should draft a quarterback in the second or third round, so that means keep Fitzpatrick for one more year. Bills fans would probably strongly disagree and think the Bills need to go get Geno Smith or Matt Barkley in the first round. Either way, the Bills have some offensive and defensive talent, which is nice but they need to find a way to do better with the players they have. I'm not sure Chan Gailey is the guy to do this. Mark Sanchez has to be out in New York. He didn't do anything in this game he hasn't been doing for 2-3 seasons now and if the Jets don't have a dominant defense then Sanchez isn't close to being the quarterback the Jets need to get back to the AFC Championship Game or even the Super Bowl. It seems his teammates love him (or at least his ex-teammates), which is nice, but at a certain point a quarterback has to play the quarterback position better than Sanchez does.

Cincinnati Bengals 23 Baltimore Ravens 17

It's hard to judge teams in a game like this when starters for both teams seem to sit the majority of the game. I feel like the AFC is top-heavy in some ways. I don't believe in the Bengals or the Ravens and think at this point I don't see what will stop a Patriots-Broncos AFC Championship Game (so is there any way I could jinx this matchup more?), other than Joe Flacco playing like the quarterback he believes himself to be or the Bengals proving me wrong and winning two playoff games. I'm not completely writing either team off, since the Ravens seem to randomly play like the best team in the AFC at times and the Bengals have not lost once since November 4. Obviously the Bengals are going to have to put up more than the 189 yards they put up in this game (as well as have the starters play the majority of the game) to win a playoff game. I thought Tyrod Taylor acquitted himself well as a backup and Bernard Pierce ran the ball well and showed he is also a good backup. It's hard to tell in games like this when the backups play a lot, but I think the Bengals-Texans game is going to be a tough one for me to pick.

Chicago Bears 26 Detroit Lions 24

It's tough for the Bears to have won 10 games and still not make the playoffs. Of course we all know it is Jay Cutler's fault. Pretty much everything is. The Bears threw the ball well in this game, especially for a team that was described by the FOX pregame crew as having "one receiving threat." It probably hurt Bears fans to cheer for the Packers in order to get their team in the playoffs and of course the Packers can't even win a fucking game when Bears fans want them to. Detroit lost this game partly because they committed four turnovers, including three by Matthew Stafford. The Lions are one of those teams that don't seem to outwardly have problems on offense, but if you look deeper you see areas that need improvement. They could probably get some offensive line help and maybe another receiver. If I am Detroit, I probably look for defensive help in the secondary as the first priority during the offseason. Stafford took a step back this year in terms of being turnover prone, so that clearly has to stop. The Bears, and I am just guessing here, are probably going to try and find some offensive line help in free agency and in the draft. It's a shame they didn't make the playoffs this year and I still think they are a better team than the Vikings, which of course it doesn't matter what I think. Either way, let's blame Jay Cutler. It just feels right and is something Terry Bradshaw would probably like for us to do. The Bears lost six games this year, all of them to playoff teams. They were the 13th best team in the NFL during the 2012 season it seems. I guess this wasn't good enough to help Lovie Smith keep his job. I'm not sure how I feel about his being fired.

Tennessee Titans 38 Jacksonville Jaguars

The Titans had four return touchdowns in this game. As if Jacksonville didn't have enough problems winning games, they go and give up two special teams touchdowns and two touchdowns on offense. I'm still not convinced Chad Henne is the answer for Jacksonville, nor am I convinced Mike Mularkey is the right coach for the Jaguars. Henne threw for a lot of yardage, but the Jaguars were behind for most of the game and Henne got sacked seven times. I know it takes more than one year to turn a team around and Maurice Jones-Drew was injured for most of the season, but I feel like a change in culture is more important than anything in Jacksonville. No matter what, Chad Henne can't start off next year as the definite starter for the Jaguars. The Titans will probably keep Mike Munchak around for one more year and I don't know if it is the right call. Has Jake Locker really developed in his second year? That's partly how Munchak is going to be judged, on how much progress Locker has made. Locker has been pretty mediocre during the 2012 season and in 10 games he threw more interceptions than touchdowns and had a completion percentage of 56.2%. I think the Titans have the receivers for a strong offense with Britt, Washington, and Wright, so they need a quarterback to consistently get them the ball. This game showed the Titans defense is occasionally up to the task of winning games. Of course as the (not) old saying goes (no one says this), they can't play Jacksonville every week (but I bet they wish they could).

Indianapolis Colts 28 Houston Texans 16

I know I keep harping on this, but for how impressive Andrew Luck was this year he wasn't a very accurate with his passes. I realize the wide receivers have to catch the ball, but Luck didn't throw for over a 50% completion percentage in the past five games and hasn't had a completion percentage over 60% in seven games. Luck also didn't average over 7 yards per attempt in the last seven games either, so it isn't like he was throwing deep and that explains his lower completion percentage. So he's been very good this year, but if he starts to struggle next year don't be surprised when his lack of accuracy is suddenly mentioned as the cause (which is, of course, probably going to be unfair). Still, I can't argue with success and the Colts put the Texans down with a fair amount of ease. What worries me about the Texans is this is the kind of game they need to show up and win to help me feel good taking them seriously in the playoffs. They are going against a division rival and needed to win in order to solidify their seeding, but then they came out and got beat. It may mean nothing at all in the playoffs, but I don't know if I feel good about the Texans playing against the Patriots or Broncos in the playoffs. I feel like they are missing another receiving weapon on offense and against a good offensive line they won't be able to get the pass rush they need to beat good playoff teams.

Carolina Panthers 44 New Orleans Saints 38

Cam Newton got injured at one point in this game and while he was laying on the field some of the Saints fans in the Superdome began cheering his injury. These are probably the same Saints fans who defended Sean Payton through the bounty scandal. What a terrible group of people who cheered and you would think after the bounty scandal they would at least be self-aware to not act like assholes in a situation like that. As it relates to this game, Drew Brees certainly can't do much more than lead the Saints to score 38 points (seven of those points did come on a pick-six), but the Saints defense yet again gave up a ton of points and yardage. Carolina got 44 points in this game and ran for 273 yards. Perhaps this game saved Ron Rivera's job, though it all depends on who the next GM is of course. It is hard for me to feel bad for Drew Brees, but I do feel bad for him. He had another great year and the Saints defense gave up the most yardage in the history of the NFL. Of course with Sean Payton coming back to coach the Saints next year then the defense will magically get fixed. Carolina did their typical late-season winning after they have been eliminated from playoff contention. It's almost a Christmas tradition for the Panthers to win games at the end of the year and rue the day they lost 1-2 early season games that would have made games played in December actually matter.

New York Giants 42 Philadelphia Eagles 7

I have said probably four or five times I'm not concerned about the Giants as it pertains to them making the playoffs. I'm officially concerned about their ability to make the playoffs now that they have been eliminated from the playoffs. A week after getting their ass kicked by the Ravens, the Giants come out and run over the Eagles. Very typical of a team that had a very up-and-down year. Joe Morgan is very upset about the consistency of this Giants team. Two things are for certain in regard to the Eagles. Andy Reid is not going to be the Eagles coach next year and Mike Vick isn't going to be the Eagles quarterback...or at least he shouldn't be. This loss wasn't all on Vick, but I think it is clear at this point Vick is too turnover prone and probably not going to be a starting NFL quarterback that can get his team far into the playoffs. It just doesn't seem he possesses that kind of talent anymore. The Giants never seemed to have found a way to play consistently on a weekly basis and the Giants defense started off the game well about one week too late. David Carr even got a cameo appearance in this game and he somehow managed to not only avoid being sacked, but also didn't seem to duck in fear of the oncoming pass rush. It seems like Carr can still envision the opposing team's pass rushers sacking him from his early days with the Texans and playing behind their offensive line. We didn't get to see much of that against the Eagles. Maybe that says more about the Eagles pass rush and how long Carr was in this game more than anything else.

Pittsburgh Steelers 24 Cleveland Browns 10

I know he didn't win this game for the Browns, but I was surprised at how well it seems Thaddeus Lewis played. Of course since he was tutored at Duke by David Cutcliffe (who worked with Eli and Peyton Manning when they were in college), it probably shouldn't surprise me all that much. That's why I am excited to see how Sean Renfree plays in the NFL and where he gets drafted. Lewis isn't going to replace Brandon Weeden anytime soon, but given Weeden's age he could be the Browns quarterback of the future (I'm kidding...sort of). Of course the Browns are starting all over again, so maybe that starting all over again is something Browns fans can look forward to. The Browns committed four turnovers on offense, but the Browns defense held the Steelers offense to 212 yards of offense, which of course isn't in any way Todd Haley's fault at all. Todd Haley is an offensive genius and we should never question this as not being true. For the Steelers, any time they don't make the playoffs then the season is seen as a failure, but I have no doubt they will be back next year. They need to make a few changes, like upgrade the aging defense and find a miracle cure that prevents running backs and offensive linemen from being injured. Also, fire Todd  Haley...just because they can. Knowing how Haley seems to find a job no matter what, I wouldn't be surprised if he was named a head coach for an NFL team even if he got fired by the Steelers.

Denver Broncos 38 Kansas City Chiefs 3

Thank God for Chiefs fans this season is over. The Chiefs had 119 yards of total offense, gave up four sacks, had seven completions in a blowout game, and held the football for only 22 minutes. This season being over has to be the third-best news for Chiefs fans along with knowing Scott Pioli will be fired and the only way Brady Quinn plays quarterback for the Chiefs again is if he buys a copy of Madden 2013. Quinn had 49 yards passing. Of course, is it all his fault? Probably not, but he makes Blaine Gabbert look like Aaron Rodgers. Now that I am done thrashing the Chiefs for the next eight months, let's move on to the Broncos, winners of their last 22 straight games (or so it seems). Peyton Manning is red hot and combining John Fox's great coaching ability with Manning's quarterbacking ability makes it seem like the Broncos could go far in the playoffs. Don't you just get the feeling the fictional script is being written to get Peyton Manning into the Super Bowl with the Broncos? It's amazing now what he did in Indianapolis with Jim Caldwell as his head coach, especially when Caldwell now doesn't seem completely trusted to be an offensive coordinator in the NFL. Oh yeah, the Broncos also have a great defense and Von Miller shouldn't be as overshadowed by J.J. Watt in the Defensive Player of the Year race as I am sure he will be.

Minnesota Vikings 37 Green Bay Packers 34

I'm a hater. I think Christian Ponder isn't a very good quarterback. He has been bad to terrible in too many games this year and I firmly believe if he didn't have Adrian Peterson in the backfield with him then he would be another Mark Sanchez. Ponder played well in this game though and was able to throw accurate passes when he needed to. What I like about Adrian Peterson is he was 9 yards short of the NFL record for rushing yards and when he was asked about it after the game he didn't even know how close he was. Unlike other players (ahem, Drew Brees) he isn't always exactly aware of where he stands in regard to personal records. I still think the Packers are going to beat the Vikings this upcoming weekend when these two teams meet again, but Minnesota showed they can play and score with the Packers. I don't know what has happened to the Packers pass rush nor do I understand how they can't protect Aaron Rodgers, but both the defensive and offensive lines look like major issues to me going into the playoffs. There were times yesterday that Rodgers barely had time to drop back before there were Vikings defenders on him and Ponder was too often given a clean pocket to throw in. If Green Bay wants to win this weekend they have to rattle Christian Ponder. Of course stopping Adrian Peterson would help also.

New England Patriots 28 Miami Dolphins 0

The Patriots defense sacked Ryan Tannehill seven times and created two turnovers in this game. As good as the Patriots offense has been, if the Patriots defense plays well and creates turnovers then they are going to be very difficult to beat. Tom Brady has had an incredibly quiet MVP-type season. He has 34 touchdown passes, 8 interceptions and 4800 yards passing. I don't know if he has had a better season than Peyton Manning, but I think Brady should at least be talked about a lot more in terms of being a serious MVP candidate. I feel like he is getting shortchanged in that discussion. Clearly, the Patriots are entering the postseason with some type of momentum, whatever that is worth, while the Dolphins didn't exactly end the season the way they would have liked. It's hard to win any games when you can't score points, but since New England has such a prolific offense, against the Patriots it is even more important to score points. The Dolphins defense didn't do terribly, but if the Dolphins want to win more than seven games next year they have to give Ryan Tannehill some weapons on offense. Expecting him to win games with Brian Hartline as his best receiver is a losing proposition. The Dolphins have a lot of decent guys on offense, but lack a consistent big play threat in the passing game, and also lack this threat in the running game when Reggie Bush decides not to show up on a given day.

San Diego Chargers 24 Oakland Raiders 21

December. It is the time of the year the fans of NFL teams not in playoff contention start to convince themselves the second or third string quarterback can be the "the answer" for the team. Raiders fans may be thinking Terrelle Pryor is "the answer" at quarterback for their team. Count me as speculative that is true. The Raiders ended another disappointing year by almost getting an upset over another disappointing team, the Chargers, who have their own quarterback issues. Mostly, what the fuck is wrong with Philip Rivers? He threw for 151 yards and led the Chargers to 210 total yards in this game. Isn't he supposed to be a Top-10 quarterback? Norv Turner and Rivers both know that Turner is gone. The Chargers aren't improving (and in fact are regressing) and Turner hasn't been able to do much to help stop this slide. I can't wait for Andy Reid to end up in San Diego. It feels like something that just needs to happen. The Raiders do have some talent on the roster and it's not fair to judge Dennis Allen on this one year. The previous regime put the Raiders in quite a hole in terms of trading draft picks and drafting personnel. It's going to take more than one year to get out of the hole the Raiders are in. I'm not over that Carson Palmer trade. It still feels crazy.

San Francisco 49ers 27 Arizona Cardinals 13

Brian Hoyer was the fourth quarterback to start a game for the Cardinals. Remember when Hoyer was being talked about as the next great Patriots backup quarterback who would be traded to an unsuspecting NFL team that thinks they are trading for a starting-caliber NFL quarterback? He did get Michael Floyd 8 catches and 166 yards, so at least this showed us all that there may be a #2 receiver to complement Larry Fitzgerald...or maybe it just showed us Michael Floyd played his best game of the season in the last game of the season. Ken Whisenhunt hasn't been so great without Kurt Warner as his quarterback. He's an offensive coordinator without a quarterback to run the offense well. Colin Kaepernick played well again for the 49ers and somehow managed to overcome Gregg Easterbrook's fictional "Crabtree Curse" to help Crabtree get 172 yards receiving with two touchdowns catches. I don't think the 49ers are going to have a receiver only make one reception in any playoff game this year because they look more well-balanced in the passing game. I still can't decide if I like the switch from Smith to Kaepernick. I was concerned before that Smith wasn't good enough of a quarterback to lead the 49ers to a Super Bowl victory, but Kaepernick also seems to add a higher ceiling as well as a lower floor than Smith. Being bold is good though, right? When has "fortune favors the bold" ever been wrong?

Seattle Seahawks 20 St. Louis Rams 13

Look, a Jeff Fisher team finished the season near .500! What a (non) shock. I joke, but the Rams seem to be on the upswing and are putting together a pretty good team. The Rams sacked Wilson six times and did not give Seattle a chance at another blowout win. I feel like Sam Bradford is a good enough quarterback to win games, but I'm still not sure he is a franchise quarterback. He's good, but not great in my opinion. The Seahawks already have a pretty good team and I am amazed at how well Russell Wilson has played this year. I expected him to be a decent quarterback this season after how he started the year off, but I didn't think he would throw 26 touchdown passes and be as accurate as he has been. I think the Seahawks are going to have to protect Wilson better in their playoff game against Washington. Marshawn Lynch ran for another 100 yards and Wilson was incredibly efficient in the passing game, only throwing four incomplete passes. If I had to rank the Offensive Rookies of the Year race then I would probably go:

1. Robert Griffin
2. Russell Wilson
3. Andrew Luck
4. Doug Martin
5. Alfred Morris

As much respect as I have for Luck, I think he has to be below Wilson and Griffin.

Washington Redskins 28 Dallas Cowboys 18

Sometimes there is a little bit of truth in stereotypes and assumptions. The stereotype is that Tony Romo can't win big games and throws ill-timed interceptions. Many of his positive attributes are ignored in favor of showing him as a turnover-prone choker. This isn't always true...but then he goes and throws three interceptions in a nationally televised Week 17 de facto playoff game, including one on the potential game-winning drive. Yes, Romo didn't have Miles Austin or Dez Bryant on that final drive, but that had nothing to do with the pass that was intercepted by the Redskins defense. Robert Griffin didn't throw the ball well, but he committed zero turnovers and Romo committed three turnovers. I can't help but think that's the difference in this game. It didn't help that defensive genius Rob Ryan's defense gave up almost 274 yards rushing and allowed the Redskins to be in manageable third downs for nearly the entire game. Not much else can be said about Robert Griffin at this point. He should be Offensive Rookie of the Year in my opinion, but I don't have a vote and I'm not entirely sure his teammate Alfred Morris shouldn't get some consideration too. The Redskins are going to the playoffs and the Cowboys are not. Tony Romo didn't have much help in the running game this season and he also had to deal with a shaky offensive line and injuries to his wide receivers. When it came time for a game-winning drive, he threw an interception. When the Cowboys needed to win one game to make the playoffs, Romo was responsible for three turnovers (all interceptions). He fulfilled the narrative others have set out for him.

Friday, December 28, 2012

0 comments Terence Moore Says Lifetime Contracts are Great, Except When They Aren't, and Mike Trout Doesn't Deserve One but Bryce Harper Does

I think readers of this blog are familiar enough with Terence Moore at this point. He's sort of my new Joe Morgan. He hates instant replay, thinks team celebrations are not exciting anymore, and doesn't understand Scott Boras drives a hard bargain for his free agent clients. Now Terence is talking about "forever" contracts and how they are a great idea...except when they aren't. Terence not surprisingly gets the "forever" contract that Evan Longoria signed with the Rays confused with long-term contracts MLB teams sign free agents to. Longoria's contract is an example of a team signing a player it drafted to a long-term deal, while teams that sign free agents to a long-term contract are just signing a free agent to a long-term contract. There is a difference in perception among fans and the public alike. It's all the same to Terence and he doesn't find it important to write a column that is coherent and accurate on the topic discussed without ruining his own argument. Who cares if Terence is talking in generalities or compares Longoria's contract to non-analogous situations? You get his point. "Forever" contracts are good, unless they aren't.

The Tampa Bay Rays just did the right thing by signing Evan Longoria to one of those "forever" contracts. Thus a question:

How will Evan Longoria project out to the ages of 35-37? I don't really know but I look forward to a discussion by Terenc---

What's taking the Washington Nationals so long?

Spoiler alert: Terence Moore will soon refer to the free agent contracts signed by Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder as one of these "forever" contracts when they aren't. There are two major differences in the contract Longoria signed and Pujols/Fielder signed. Pujols/Fielder signed contracts as free agents, which is something Longoria was not, and they didn't sign these "forever" contracts with the team that signed them. The situations are not analogous. I spoil this fun revelation to point out two things:

1. The Nationals did sign Ryan Zimmerman to a contract that runs until he is 36 years old. So they have some history of signing their players to so-called "forever" contracts, providing the player and the player's agent are amenable to this of course. 

2. Terence is wrong on every account. If he includes a free agent contract as a "forever" contract then the Nationals Jayson Werth to a "forever" contract two years ago. Of course, this contract isn't analogous to Longoria's contract, so Terence is wrong on two counts.

They should do the same with Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg. 

I mean this in the nicest way possible, but is Terence Moore slow? Does he not follow baseball? Why don't the Nationals sign Strasburg and Harper to lifetime contracts? Two words why. Scott Boras. When was the last time Boras encouraged one of his elite baseball clients to sign a team-friendly deal or even re-sign with his current team and forgo free agency? I can't recall a time when Boras has advised his clients to do either of these things. Boras clients have signed deals with their current team, but he doesn't advise it. So outside of even having a discussion on what the terms of this contract would be for these two players, how would the Nationals even give Strasburg or Harper a "forever" contract if their agent suggests they don't sign one? Not to mention, Harper is 20 years old. A "forever" contract for him would be 15 years worth. That's quite a commitment. Not to further mention, Stephen Strasburg is just coming off Tommy John surgery. Giving him a seven year deal right now is a bit of a risk, even if Scott Boras would recommend Strasburg sign this long-term deal, which he probably wouldn't do.

Inquiring minds have a similar question for the New York Yankees regarding Robinson Cano. With their prized second baseman due to become a free agent after next season, why not give him a Longoria deal now,

Well, Cano is three years older than Longoria, the Yankees extended him in 2008, and his agent? Scott Boras. I'm seeing a trend here and it is a trend that Terence Moore doesn't seem capable of noticing in his columns. Scott Boras clients don't exactly sign "forever" deals prior to free agency nor do they give discounts to their current team. It is fun for Terence to ask questions for others to answer and refuse to work hard enough to get the answer for himself. 

Plus, the combination of the baseball gods, Tony Bennett (as in, "I left my heart ...") and common sense knows that Buster Posey deserves a lifetime contract with the San Francisco Giants. 

Of course, it isn't like Posey plays catcher, the position on the baseball field hardest on the body. He'll hold up fine and can play first base if need be. Where's his $200 million contract?

Mike Trout? I'm not saying his monster season as a rookie was a fluke, but before the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim think of committing to Trout like the Rays did to Longoria, they need to wait a little while -- like until the middle of next season. 

But that Bryce Harper? He's for real. Who cares Harper has been in the majors as long as Trout? Terence doesn't know enough about Trout to say he deserves a "forever" contract, but he's seen enough of Bryce Harper to know he needs a contract extension immediately. Throw in the fact Terence also believes Stephen Strasburg, a pitcher coming off major arm surgery, should also get a "forever" deal and I'm not sure how he can't think the same for Mike Trout.

So in summary, Mike Trout shouldn't be signed to a "forever" contract because Terence Moore doesn't have enough proof he is for real yet, but Bryce Harper, it's a shame he hasn't signed a 15 year deal with the Nationals yet. Nevermind the logic of randomly differentiating between two similarly-aged rookies who both play the outfield by saying one deserves a long-term contract NOW and the other does not. Logic is overrated.

Mike Trout almost won the MVP in his first season in the majors, as well as plays in the American League, while Bryce Harper plays in the National League. If both players were signed to long-term deals, at worst the Angels know they can play Trout at DH, but if something happened to Harper over the long-term to where he wasn't excellent on defense anymore the Nationals don't have such a chance to put him at the DH. So if you put a gun to my head, I would say Trout probably should get a "forever" contract over Harper. 

These "forever" contracts work.

Well, most of the time. They are good for the player, because they guarantee that player a designated amount of income for long stretches, regardless of that player's ups and downs through it all.

It's not always good for the player because it also buys out their arbitration years. Not only because arbitration is the gift that keeps on taking from teams (I'm just bitter from seeing how much money in arbitration Jeff Francoeur received to be a shitty hitter), it also means a player could be reducing how much money he could make in the prime years of his career since most players would normally go to arbitration in their mid-20's.

They are also good for the team, because if that player becomes even more prolific on the field, it saves the team from losing the player through free agency or having to engage in future bidding wars. 

Of course it is also tying up payroll for the future which could cause a team to be forced to trade these players below market value due to the money they are being paid. This doesn't happen too often (a player signing a deal 1-2 years after being in the majors and then not playing well to the point he gets traded), but there is still some risk involved with buying out a player's arbitration years.

Indians ownership agreed with Hart, and then he gave his version of "forever" deals to the likes of Albert Belle, Kenny Lofton, Jim Thome, Carlos Baerga, Omar Vizquel, Manny Ramirez and Charles Nagy.

These silly facts that always get in the way of Terence Moore's point, can't they just go away? Terence Moore is either misremembering or outright lying here. I'll let you decide which.

-I'm pretty sure Manny Ramirez was never signed to a long-term contract with the Indians. He seems to have left for Boston right after he had his service time with the Indians in. Either way, if the Indians thought they signed him to a "forever" deal they did a shitty job of actually doing it because Ramirez was playing for the Boston Red Sox at the age of 29. Maybe "forever" only goes to the age of 29 in Terence Moore's world.

-Albert Belle also left the Cleveland Indians before "forever" had ended. It seems he played for them until he was 29 years old and had joined the Chicago White Sox by the age of 30.

-Kenny Lofton was traded to the Braves before he could hit free agency in the mid-1990's and then was signed by the Indians in free agency. I'm not sure if you would consider that signing him to a "forever" deal or not since the Indians traded him initially.

-Carlos Baerga was traded by the Indians at the age of 27 and then was signed by the Cardinals as a free agent. Again, if the Indians intended to give Baerga a "forever" deal, they did a crappy job of actually doing it.

So I don't completely understand how Terence Moore thinks these players were signed to "forever" deals by the Indians when it seems few of the players he listed actually were re-signed to long-term contracts.

Even though the Milwaukee Brewers haven't precisely duplicated the Indians' model under Hart, they did give a "forever" contract to Ryan Braun. The same goes for the Colorado Rockies with Troy Tulowitzki, the Angels with Albert Pujols, the Detroit Tigers with Prince Fielder and the Cincinnati Reds with Joey Votto. 

No. Not at all. The Angels and Tigers didn't give Pujols/Fielder "forever" deals. They signed these two players in free agency. There is a huge difference. An analogous situation to Evan Longoria would be if a team drafted a player and then re-signed him before he hit free agency. In fact, the Cardinals did sign Pujols to a "forever" deal, but then it ran out and he signed the Cardinals. The Tigers just signed Fielder in free agency. It's clear Terence took about five minutes to write this column without doing any thinking about what he was writing or checking to see if his facts were correct.

Bottom line: If you know somebody is a lasting star (or at least you think he is), why not sign him for the long run? 

Great point. Here's a better point. If you know a player on another team is going to be a lasting star, why not just trade for him? It's not like there is a cost to acquire a player just like there isn't a cost to sign a player to a long-term contract.

Terence Moore has no concept of a budget and how a General Manager plans payroll.

As's Adam Berry wrote earlier this season: "Those lower-payroll clubs can't afford to make a huge free-agent investment then see it fail, but they can realistically risk a $10 million-$13 million mistake." 

This fails no matter whether this is $10 million-$13 million per year or over the length of a contract. In that case, the Giants should ask Buster Posey if he wants a contract worth 6 years at $13 million and see how long he laughs. He would laugh if the contract offer were 6 years at $60 million. The Nationals should call up Scott Boras and tell him they are perfectly willing to offer Strasburg or Harper a chance at a 10 year $100 million contract each and see if Boras even bothers continuing with the conversation.

Not all players can have their arbitration years bought out at four years at $13 million, so Terence either means $10-$13 million per year or he isn't really talking about giving a long-term contract to these up-and-coming players. Guys like Bryce Harper, Steven Strasburg, and probably Mike Trout wouldn't take a four year deal for $13 million.

It's about using the right criteria for signing a "forever" player, and the blueprint looks much like Longoria.

You want somebody who can play. 

I don't know why a MLB team hasn't hired Terence Moore as their General Manager yet. You need players who can play? Those are the type of guys you sign to a long-term contract? No way.

You want somebody who won't grow ancient with the contract.

Check. Longoria turned 27 last month. 

But Longoria will be 37 years old when the contract ends. We don't know now if that is ancient or not, but you never know how a player will age. What looks good in 2012 may not look as good in 2020.

Check. Since Longoria is popular with teammates and fans, he is marketable for the Rays.
That said, during the early years of Longoria's career, he hasn't exactly been Lou Gehrig in terms of durability. This past season, he was around for only 74 games after partially tearing his left hamstring in April. He also missed much of the previous season with an oblique injury. 

But he's 27 years old. He's probably going to get more healthy as he ages, like many pro athletes are prone to doing. Athletes are always getting injured when they are young and then being very durable as they get to the other side of 30 years old.

I never said "forever" deals are perfect. 

You didn't. But you also said the Longoria deal fit the criteria for a player who deserves a "forever" contract while skimming over the part where he has had injury issues while being only 27 years old. 

Rodriguez was supposedly locked in with the Texas Rangers for life after he signed a 10-year deal for $252 million in 2000.

I hope Terence Moore doesn't think this is analogous to the Evan Longoria deal. It isn't. Alex Rodriguez signing with the Rangers isn't an analogous example because it isn't the Mariners signing him to this deal. This is an example of a baseball player signing an expensive long-term contract.

Then came the end of the 2007 season, when the Yankees gave Rodriguez his second "forever" contract. 

Okay, now I think Terence is just using the term "forever contract" to describe a long-term contract. He's making my head hurt.

Rodriguez is 37, and that will be Longoria's age when his current deal with the Rays expires. 

But remember Terence, you said Longoria is 27 so he won't grow ancient with the contract? Rodriguez has been declining over the last three seasons and so if he has declined then it is entirely possible Longoria could as well. I'm not saying it is a bad contract for the Rays, it's just I'm not entirely sure what Terence is getting at. He seems to support contracts like Longoria's, yet (as usual) he is ruining his own point.

Rays executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman isn't concerned with it all.

"It gives it a much better chance than not of that happening. And all sides understand and appreciate the risk associated with it."

Makes sense to me.

Makes sense to me too. This is why it is such a great to sign up-and-coming players to "forever" contracts, so both sides can benefit...except for Mike Trout. The Angels need to wait-and-see before giving him a long-term contract. Giving a long-term contract to Bryce Harper or Steven Strasburg is a brilliant idea though. It's not like Strasburg has had any major surgery recently or anything like that. 

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

5 comments Rick Reilly Still Hates Sports and Writing Good Columns about Sports

Most people know Rick Reilly is the worst. Whether it is imploring Stuart Scott to say he broke an injury first on Twitter when this wasn't the case, burying Notre Dame prior to this season only to see them go undefeated, or report a player made the team bus wait for 40 minutes when this wasn't true...he has a history of awfulness. He also recycles his old columns and presents them as new columns with slight re-wording and wears Ed Hardy shirts. Recently, Rick Reilly does us one better and re-wrote a couple of ideas from two old columns into one new column. All he had to do was combine his hatred for sports with his hatred for live football. He claims it makes no sense to attend an NFL game and then lists (because he always has a list) reasons why this is true.

This is the same old tired article that gets written a couple of times a year about how there is too much security at a football game and the fans act too crazy. Rick Reilly really doesn't enjoy sports like football and baseball. That's the difference in this column and the other 200 similar columns that have been written. On Reilly's list of the Top 10 sporting events to see live he has no mention of any football game and includes the Home Run Derby (yawn), the Iditarod (Maybe for the experience around the Iditarod, but not for the actual competition), America's Cup, and the Tour de France (even the most diehard cycling lover would possibly agree three weeks of this race isn't the fifth best sporting event to see live). Rick simply doesn't enjoy the major sports. He doesn't like baseball on television and he doesn't enjoy live football. He enjoys the upper crust sports like golf and sailing. Mingling with someone below his pay level? No thank you, he's above that. Watching a baseball game on television. Boring. Having to be in public with regular football fans? They are just barbarians!

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said recently that the reason NFL ticket sales are down over the past five years is HD television.

That reason, plus the economy...that's a conclusion I can somewhat buy.

Oh, Rog, Rog, Rog. There are so many reasons that NFL games, like teenage boys, are better at home.

Why are teenage boys better at home? Because Rick Reilly likes teenage boys in an inappropriate way and he want to be with them alone at home using football as a lure? I broke it first! Be sure to give me credit for accusing Reilly of liking teenage boys in an appropriate way. Sure, it's libelous, but I was first.

I've mentioned a few before, but how about 20 more?

Acknowledging you are plagiarizing yourself doesn't let you off the hook for being an uninspired and boring writer. It only shows you are aware of your terribleness and lack of new column ideas so you resort to partially copying what you have already written.

There are several reasons to attend an NFL game. It's the experience of cheering with thousands of other fans who cheer for the same team as you. It's about seeing the game from a different perspective than on television. It's the chance to get closer to the field and the players. It's the experience of tailgating with friends and to be able to say, "I was there for that," when something really cool happens. It's about creating memories (wipes away tear). I don't remember every NFL game I've watched on television, but I remember every NFL game I have been to over the last 10 years. Yes an NFL game is expensive, so if a person doesn't choose to go to NFL games then that is his/her choice. Simply because Rick Reilly doesn't like having to attend an NFL game doesn't mean they aren't worth attending for some people. There things a person can see when watching an NFL game in person they wouldn't see on television. Rick loves watching golf live, but what can you see in person that you can't see on television when it comes to golf?

1) At home, you don't have to stand in line to pee.

2) At home, you don't have to stand in line to pee while watching a drunk pee in a sink.

I've seen quite a few things in a public bathroom, but I have never seen a drunk pee in a sink at a sporting event. I'm sure Rick has seen this a lot as he uses the bathroom in the press box and he isn't just writing down stereotypes of fan behavior he hasn't personally seen because he's too good to use the public bathroom at an NFL game.

3) The average cost of a beer at an NFL game is $7.13. In your fridge, it's about a buck. And it's colder. And you can keep the cap if you want.

That is why a person should tailgate before the game and drink beer prior to the game. You can keep the beer cold, eat food with your friends and keep the cap off the beer. Problem solved.

4) At home, you will not get one of those precious beers accidentally poured down your neck.

I'm pretty sure that's only an issue you would have if you are a famous sportswriter who sucks at your job. Welcome to the world, Rick. People know you are stealing money from ESPN and have given up being a quality writer. While I normally wouldn't mind someone stealing money from ESPN, at least do so less blatantly.

At a Monday night game in Phoenix three weeks ago, I was standing on the field when a guy yelled at me, "Hey, Feherty," as he spilled his Budweiser down the neck of the guy in front of him, "You suck!"

In this guy's defense, he got the name wrong, but he got the sucktitude correct.

5) At home, you will not get one of those precious beers purposely poured down your neck. 

Rick just used this exact same reason it's better to watch NFL games at home in reason #4. Not only does Rick rip off prior columns to write this column, he duplicates reasons in this column because he doesn't have enough creativity to get to 20 reasons. So basically Rick is ripping off his old columns, but he can't even rip them off enough to write his new column, so he has to rip off the new column as well.

6) At home, parking is free. At an NFL game, the average cost to park is $27.35, according to Team Marketing Report.

The Denver-Carolina game from early November is the first time I paid for parking to an NFL game since 2003. You just have to simply park far enough away from the stadium to where there is no charge or be lucky that a local business will allow you to park for free. When I did pay for parking at the Denver-Carolina game it cost $10. The average cost to park may be $27.35, but people are lazy and don't want to walk, so that's a reflection on this laziness more than anything else. In my experience, parking can often be found cheaper further away from the stadium.

In San Francisco this weekend, people driving motor homes paid $100. A hundred dollars! And do you know what those people did once they parked those motor homes? Sat in lawn chairs and watched football on HDTV.

Where did these people park? Probably very, very close to the stadium or in a specific section for motor homes. Naturally, in an area for motor homes it is going to cost more to park since the motor home is huge and could hold 6-8 people. Yes, parking is expensive at an NFL game, but my wife has to pay $600 a year just to park in her company's parking garage. She isn't the only one. My sister has to pay about $1200 a year to park in her company's parking garage. So $20 to park for a football game a person actually wants to attend, as opposed to paying for the privilege of driving a car to your job, probably isn't the worst expense some people pay when it comes to parking.

7) The yellow first down line.

If a person requires the yellow first down line and can't figure out what yard line a team needs to get to when attending a football game then that person needs glasses or to pay better attention. The yellow line is a luxury and not a necessity.

8) Your comfy couch. Have you sat in an NFL seat for three-and-a-half hours lately?

Yes I have. I've never been uncomfortable as long as it isn't raining. Even then, I'm not uncomfortable because of the seating situation.

They're approximately the size of American Girl Doll tea chairs. This makes no sense. American seats are getting wider while American stadium seats are getting narrower?

How fat is Rick Reilly that he can't fit in a seat? I know some big people who don't have a problem sitting in seats at a stadium. Also, this small seat situation goes for nearly every sporting event. So if Rick doesn't like the small seats at an NFL stadium then the same problem is present for every major sport.

10) At home, nachos aren't 15 stale round tortilla chips placed in a plastic tray with cold Velveeta cheese squirted into the corner and topped by half a jalapeno sliced thinner than a Matthew McConaughey plot.

Again, tailgate before the game. You can eat before the game and then not be hungry again until after the game is over.

Also, the correct analogy is now "sliced thinner than a Rick Reilly column idea."

11) At home, the chance that a woman might walk out in Page 3 of the Victoria's Secret catalog is 2 percent. At the stadium, 0 percent.

This is stupid and juvenile. Rick and Gregg Easterbrook should get together and ogle women 30 years younger than them. We live in an age where porn and pictures of scantily-clad women are readily available. The only reason a person would list this as a reason to stay home from an NFL game is if that person was overcompensating for something.

13) At the stadium, more and more NFL teams blare ads during timeouts. Does it really take 125 decibels to remind us The Mattress King is insane? At home, you can flip straight over to "Doomsday Preppers."

Yes, but there are still a ton of commercials shown while watching an NFL game at home. You can flip to "Doomsday Preppers" if you want, but when at an NFL game you could talk to the person beside you or marvel at how many/few people are at the game. Of course Rick wouldn't want to talk to normal, average humans while at an NFL game. If there isn't a chance at taking a picture with a celebrity while pretending to choke that celebrity then Rick isn't interested. Not to mention, Rick contradicts himself. His reason #12 was this:

12) Your DVR pause button, in case one does.

Rick complains NFL games move too fast, but then in the very next reason why people shouldn't attend NFL games is because there is too much down time and loud music. That's the chance to pause, when The Mattress King is yelling in your general direction.

15) Your thermostat. Last week, at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, a 40 mph gust broke my umbrella in half, which meant the sideways rain soaked me like a human sponge. And as I stood there, somebody hollered, "Hey, Simmons! You suck!"

I don't believe this. I don't believe a person confused Rick Reilly with Bill Simmons. First off, why would Bill Simmons be at a Steelers game? Second, they don't really even look that much alike. I think Rick is lying when he claims someone said, "Hey, Simmons! You suck!"

But again, this fan did have the right idea, but just yelled it towards the wrong person.

17) There's no need to memorize that "Need Help?" stadium text number on the scoreboard.

(shakes head sadly)

18) At home, nobody murders the national anthem for you. Networks don't show it anymore. At stadiums, I've heard renditions that make you want to rip up the turf and crawl under it.

Yeah, fuck the national anthem. Who cares to hear the national anthem sung if it isn't sung well?

This isn't an audition for American Idol. Many people screw up the national anthem, but it's nice to hear it sung and then see jets fly by right at the end of the song. If you don't enjoy this, you are un-American. Vote McCain/Palin in 2008.

One woman in Atlanta tortured every single note, up and down the scales, until you wanted to walk up to her and hand her sheet music. "Here's the actual song. You should sing it some time."

Rick Reilly: Music Producer-extraordinaire.

19) At home, you do not have to stand because the guy in front of you is in your view. Unless you live with Yao Ming.

So from Rick's complaints about the seats being too small and not being able to see because the person in front of him is blocking his view, I can only assume he is 5'1" and weighs 350 pounds. Otherwise, if he is at an NFL game and wants to sit in his seat the entire game then he deserves not to be able to see. Don't get pissy because you don't like the game (or sports) enough to stand when something exciting happens.

20) Home is much, much cheaper. To take four people to a Dallas Cowboys game with hot dogs and Cokes and some souvenirs will run you $634.78. 

Well, right. If you go to one of the most expensive stadiums in the NFL, buy everyone food and then buy a bunch of bullshit souvenirs it is going to be expensive. Nearly anything can be made expensive if you buy enough needless shit. I could go to Chipotle and spend $150 if I buy a family of four a burrito, chips, a few beers, and some t-shirts to take home.

My God, you could get a 50-inch HDTV at Best Buy for $550 and have enough left to buy 84 beers.

Or you could pay for 1.2% of a Rick Reilly column.

He makes $3 million per year (reportedly), which is $57,692 per week. He writes one column per week, so you could go to a Cowboys game or read 1.2% of this Rick Reilly column. This is 1.2% of this Rick Reilly column: 

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said recently that the reason NFL

Now going to that Cowboys game seems like a good deal, no?

Which is about how many the guy at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans looked like he had had the other night when he yelled, "Hey, Reilly! You suck!"


That sound you heard was Rick Reilly cashing his $57,692 paycheck for this column. If Rick thinks paying $634.78 is a rip off, then it doesn't say much for the deal ESPN is getting for him to write this column. 

Monday, December 24, 2012

1 comments Oh Poynter Review Project, We Hardly Knew Ye

It appears the Poynter Review Project for ESPN is now officially over. In some ways, it feels like it never really started. I'm not entirely sure what I expected, but when being an ombudsman for a 24/7 entertainment entity like ESPN any amount of coverage that isn't updated at the very minimum every week is going to feel insufficient to me. My opinion is bi-monthly discussions of ESPN's right steps and missteps is always going to feel like playing catchup to those who are eager to read these type of columns. ESPN is a train barreling down the tracks and while I understand it isn't the ombudsman job to stop or derail the train, standing by the side of the tracks screaming criticism as the train roars by seems pretty ineffective. By the time Poynter had discussed ESPN's fascination with Tim Tebow, it had been discussed in thousands of other forums and it was simply too late for their criticism to have an effect. Will ESPN review what Poynter says and then make changes accordingly? Possibly, but writing two posts a month about standards and practices issues at ESPN isn't effective to create the kind of change or tweak in ESPN's policies that may be needed. So Poynter has often come off as apologetic to ESPN and like the disappointed parent who can't change his unruly child's behavior.

A scene from "South Park" recently reminded me of the ESPN/Poynter relationship. For those who don't watch the show, in the latest episode "Obama Wins" Cartman was stealing (and then hiding) ballots in order to help President Obama win the election. When Cartman's mom was told by Cartman's friends that he was doing this she said something to the effect of, "Oh no, he's going to be grounded from watching television," and then she went about putting the groceries up. Clearly nothing was going to be done because she has no control over Cartman, but she continues the facade of being an actual parent.

My point is why does ESPN even have an ombudsman when it doesn't seem to take the ombudsman or the criticism seriously? Even Poynter in this very column admits they aren't exactly sure what ESPN has done with some of the feedback and criticism they have gotten. I'm not sure I believe ESPN has changed their editorial, sourcing, or any other policies based on Poynter's advice. Why should they? They are making a shit-ton of money and getting good ratings. The ombudsman is nice to have around in an effort to pretend they care, but the ombudsman doesn't write their columns but every two weeks or so, which means usually when an ESPN mis-step occurs they are playing catchup.

Anyway, so here is the final column by Poynter. I haven't heard word on who will replace Poynter, but it wouldn't shock me if ESPN either (a) went without an ombudsman for a while or (b) just hired another firm who will seemingly stay behind the news cycle.

After nearly 40 columns reviewing ESPN content across all platforms, we’ll close with lessons learned over 18 months of observing the network’s various media outlets, 

Think about that. "Nearly" 40 columns in 18 months. The actual count is 32 columns. If I missed other columns, then I apologize, but I don't think I did. I'm not sure how 32 columns becomes "nearly" 40, but that's not my point. How can they sufficiently be an ombudsman for an 24/7 entertainment entity by publishing a column every other week? That's one column for 336 hours of content across multiple networks. They will always be neglecting certain issues (Craig James) or playing catchup to where they can't affect change in ESPN policies. Often by the time Poynter has given feedback on policies or proceduers ESPN has probably "corrected the problem" internally. The columns by ESPN's ombudsman don't always feel timely to me. Even at 40 columns that comes to 2.2 columns per month and at 32 columns over 18 months that is 1.78 columns per month. I'm sure Poynter would classify this as "nearly" a column per week, which is the minimum volume I would like to see.

This is a relatively new phenomenon for ESPN and other media companies, and ESPNers are of two minds about the torrent of discussion, simultaneously appreciating being the center of so much conversation and worrying about a discourse they can’t control. 

And of course we all know how ESPN likes to control the discourse of a discussion. In fact, I would submit the ombudsman often doesn't do much in regard to creating discourse ESPN couldn't control. Poynter doesn't seem to have an idea of what change they have affected and when ESPN confronts an issue they will often handle it their own way. If the problem is out of the spotlight, it is considered corrected. Once a problem with standards and practices arose and Poynter came around to discussing it, then the news cycle was already on to another topic. ESPN asked for forgiveness not permission when a problem did arise.

We hope what we’ve learned will help readers and viewers understand ESPN better, so they can make more informed judgments -- whatever those judgments may be -- about the network’s decisions.

Perhaps to a certain extent Poynter has done this. Again, nobody knows because ESPN likes to stay so insulated.

ESPN’s television presence includes multiple channels -- ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNEWS, ESPN Classic, ESPN Deportes and ESPNU stand alongside the likes of the Longhorn Network, the broadband channel ESPN3 and the many flavors of ESPN International. The same could be said for ESPN’s digital operations: gets most of the attention, but there’s also espnW, Grantland, the quintet of powerful local city sites, and overseas, sport-specific outposts such as And we haven’t even mentioned ESPN The Magazine, ESPN Radio, the company’s 30 for 30 documentaries or the unrelenting waves of information ESPN pushes out to mobile subscribers.

Why should readers and viewers keep this startling breadth in mind? Because we all fall into the trap of thinking about ESPN as a monolithic organization with a single point of view, mission and set of values.

The fact ESPN isn't a monolith only better goes to show my point that the company needs a more involved ombudsman than one that writes a column every other week. It is interesting how Poynter makes it clear ESPN doesn't have a single point of view, mission or set of values, yet the same content can be seen on 5-6 of these branches of the ESPN empire at the same time. You can hear about Tim Tebow/LeBron James on ESPN, read an article about them on, see the latest news on these players at ESPNEWS, read a printed article about one of them in ESPN The Magazine, and have a discussion about these players on ESPN Radio. So no, there isn't a single point of view, but magically these branches can all come together to saturate coverage of one topic.

It’s a big family, with different priorities and cultures, and most of the time ESPN maintains an uneasy balance between those competing entities. But sometimes they wind up working at cross-purposes or get eclipsed by each other.

Poynter seems to be arguing that getting eclipsed by each other or working at cross-purposes is a bad thing. I would argue these entities working at cross-purposes isn't entirely a bad thing.

And some of ESPN’s worst moments have come when things fall out of balance, as we would argue they did with Tebowmania

Here's the issue with this argument that things "fell out of balance" in this situation. Tebowmania is a situation where ESPN and it's various branches WEREN'T working at cross-purposes. This is when things were out of balance because there was balance across the competing entities. To argue ESPN entities working at cross-purposes is a bad thing would be to ignore that when ESPN entities aren't working at cross-purposes and working towards one goal, that's when the network can be at its worst. The reason entities need to eclipse each other is because when ESPN has an agenda, they tend to ram it down their viewer's throats.

Repetition is method as well as madness: If you watch large blocks of ESPN, you sometimes feel like you’re being cudgeled, subjected to the same stories and narratives over and over again with only the name of the show and the identities of the hosts changing. But here’s the thing: Most ESPN viewers don’t watch this way. 

I am not saying this isn't a true statement, but is there some sort of data that supports this contention? I don't have data that disproves this, but if the ombudsman does have data to prove it, then this would be a good time to include this data. If not, then this should be an opinion-based statement and not represented as a fact. 

Wall-to-wall ESPN watchers are outliers, with a very different experience from that of mainstream viewers. But they’re also the people most likely to tweet and blog about the company.

Again, what sort of evidence does Poynter have that shows this to be true? Any evidence those who watch more ESPN are more likely to Tweet and blog complaining about the company? Otherwise, again, this could be considered coming to a conclusion based on an opinion instead on fact.

This means vocal megafans (not to mention media critics and ombudsmen) have a big social-media footprint that considerably outweighs their value to ESPN as viewers. 

Sort of like how large entertainment entities and their coverage of a player or event can have a bigger social impact on that player or event than outweighs their value to the viewer? Good examples of this would be anything involving Tim Tebow, any LeBron James debate involving Skip Bayless and Brett Favre's late 2000's annual "to retire or not?" hostage situation.

So much like Poynter can't discount the input of megafans who watch ESPN all day, they can't discount the effect the saturation of overblown stories has on the viewers who watch ESPN either. This is true no matter how much a person watches ESPN. To say, "Well, these people just watch too much ESPN," is a cheap excuse in order to get around ESPN's overblown coverage of certain players and events.

That’s important to keep in mind when criticizing ESPN for putting a story in heavy rotation; the network’s strategy is designed to catch viewers who tune in for a single show or game, or drop in and out even within individual shows.

I can understand that, but isn't this the purpose of ESPNEWS or ESPN's Bottom Line? Isn't the purpose of constant rotating sports updates at bottom of the screen to ensure a viewer who comes in and out of a single show or game can get information quickly and easily? Shows like Around the Horn, Pardon the Interruption, First Take, and other shows like that repeat the same material that isn't necessarily informational nor breaking news. This claimed strategy to catch viewers in and out doesn't match with the intended purpose of these shows. ESPN already has the Bottom Line and ESPNEWS for those who want to quickly gain information. That's my issue. Those who watch Around the Horn or First Take probably aren't dropping in and out of the show, so the claim ESPN is using these shows for these individuals who want to drop in or out of a program falls short in my opinion. These so-called "debate shows" aren't informative, but are purely for entertainment. So a person wouldn't tune into hear Mike Wilbon and Tony Kornheiser break news about a topic, but would tune in to hear them discuss a previously reported topic.

I don't even have an issue with ESPN repeating stories, but do we need three or four shows that debate one topic during the day? The issue isn't the repeating of the stories, but the issue is what stories ESPN chooses to cover and saturate the airwaves with. Is it necessary to update what Tim Tebow is doing in Jets training camp or try to turn SportsCenter into a debate program? I don't think it is.

This is not to excuse ESPN’s excesses (again, we’re looking at you, Tebowmania).

But it is to sort of excuse it, because ESPN uses the reasoning that viewers want to hear about him, so that's why they have morning, afternoon, and evening debates, along with coverage of Tebow at Jets training camp. It's to make sure they catch those viewers who only tune into a single show or drop in/out of individual shows. This reasoning essentially can cover everything.

And it highlights the fact that ESPN’s reach gives it a critical responsibility as a news organization. Even in today’s universe of websites and blogs, lack of attention from ESPN can starve a story, and repetition by ESPN can amplify one until other stories feel crowded out.

This is true and goes without saying. Does ESPN understand or care about this critical responsibility? I'm not sure. In fact, in this column Poynter basically says, "you can't argue with ratings" and says this is why ESPN starves or amplifies a story. Viewers can vote with their remote, which while true, seemingly ignores the problems many viewers have with ESPN.

ESPN deserves criticism for its excesses, and it must remain aware of its power in creating and shaping the dominant narratives in sports news.

I'm sure the bi-monthly columns by Poynter have really shown ESPN the light. The simple fact is bi-monthly columns where Poynter aren't timely enough nor do they seem to serve a purpose other than to express mild criticism or try to explain what happened on behalf of ESPN. Perhaps that is the point of an ombudsman, not to do media criticism, but I don't believe an explanation of standards and practices does ESPN viewers much good without tangible evidence ESPN takes these standards and practices seriously.

We get the ESPN we deserve: With a few exceptions, during our tenure, we shied away from media criticism except where ESPN’s own standards and practices came into question. Media criticism wasn’t our job, and there’s no shortage of thoughtful critics keeping an eye on ESPN. 

I can understand this. When ESPN fires or suspends an employee for using a slur, but then allows another analyst/debate team member (Stephen A. Smith) to use a slur on-air twice, how is this explained to viewers? Not only did Smith not apologize either time, but the second time he was fairly standoff-ish about his insistence he didn't use that word. This comes as a surprise to the many who heard it when the word was aired live, when it was heard on video throughout the Internet, and when ESPN edited this word that Smith didn't say out of further First Take broadcasts. So I get media criticism isn't Poynter's job, but when there is a clear double standard in standards and practices I would expect the ombudsman to address it at some point. Poynter never commented on this topic, at least that I could find. That's very, very disappointing and if they are paid to be ESPN's ombudsman then the failure to comment on this story seems to be an obvious failure at their job.

And some of what they consistently decried came down to questions of taste -- which, ultimately, are questions about ratings.

I think many of the questions would also have to deal with the line between ESPN making news by how often and with how vigor they report on a story, and ESPN reporting on an existing story. A company as big as ESPN can turn a non-story into a huge story, thereby creating ratings for them. Tim Tebow may get good ratings for ESPN, but they have overblown the Tim Tebow story in an effort to chase ratings. Basically, is it a problem that ESPN will blow up certain stories in an effort to chase ratings? ESPN not only covers sports news, but they decide what is and is not sports news. So doesn't ESPN have an obligation to not saturate coverage on a story that isn't really pertinent sports news in favor of reporting on pertinent sports news?

We once called “Numbers Never Lie” a bait and switch -- a show that purports to be about advanced stats but is really just another venue for arguments about heart, momentum and other sports generalities. 

Smith’s comments at the conference fell along similar lines: He said that “Numbers Never Lie” began with different goals but “now is a debate show, like most other shows on ESPN. ... I hate to say it’s not about analytics, but it’s not about analytics.” 

This is just a misleading name for a show.

Unfortunate, but why did that happen? Because, Smith said, ESPN’s research found most viewers didn’t want to watch a show with statistics that had to be explained to them. We’ve heard similar things from other ESPNers; they like smart, dispassionate shows such as “Outside the Lines” as much as we do, but those shows don’t consistently pull in the ratings of, say, “First Take.” 

I understand the concept of ratings. ESPN is a business whose lifeblood is money. Ratings equal advertising dollars and advertising dollars equals profits. Television shows are on the air because they have good ratings and make money. Someone has to be watching these debate shows, just like someone has to be watching "Two and a Half Men" or purchasing Michael Bolton's albums. 

But such choices don’t amount to violations of ESPN’s standards. Yes, ESPN “plays the hits,” to use the expression we heard a number of times. But television is a hits-driven business. The real question might not be why we get so few shows such as OTL – it’s why we get such shows at all. If readers want such fare -- say, more “30 for 30” and less “Around the Horn” -- they need to vote with their remotes. 

It's our fault of course. Hey, there's nothing ESPN can do about this. They don't decide what shows are aired on their network.

It's simplistic to say viewers should vote with their remotes. The real issue is ESPN doesn't have any competition. That's the real issue. Once competition comes along then ESPN will no longer be the only game in town and will be forced to try and find shows which will woo the demographic they have lost to other networks. I personally rarely watch ESPN, outside of baseball or football games.

In ESPN’s early days, the forced insularity of Bristol life fostered a scrappy us-against-them attitude that was a big asset for ESPN, as well as creating a certain boys-will-be-boys cabin fever that the network came to regard as a problem.

After being forced to see this as a problem by female ESPN employees who were being harassed. Let's not pretend ESPN was leading the charge at finding the boys-will-be-boys fever as an issue. They were forced to see it as an issue.

But some prominent ESPNers date back to that era, and both those times and Bristol continue to shape how they see the world.

We don’t want to overdo the psychoanalysis on this point, but it’s a mindset we think is worth keeping in mind when trying to assess ESPN’s decisions, particularly how it reacts to outside criticism. 

This is irrelevant. Everyone else lives outside of Bristol, Connecticut. The fact ESPN has an insulated environment is not an excuse or reason to explain away the mindset that takes hold. The world moves on and exists outside of Bristol and the "Bristol mindset," which sounds like a convenient excuse, makes it seem like these employees have never been outside of the city when this isn't true.

The numbers game: In a given year, more than 1,000 content contributors -- anchors, reporters, columnists and analysts – provide coverage across ESPN properties. If you count guests who call in or contribute via satellite on breaking news stories, the number tops 5,000. Most of its entities are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. says it posts more than 800 new content items a day. 

And yet, the ombudsman writes one column every other week.

Yes, ESPN makes mistakes every day, mistakes of commission and of omission. But given the amount of content ESPN produces, daily mistakes are neither surprising nor necessarily alarming.

Again, the issue isn't the mistake in and of itself, but the amount of sweeping under the rug and lack of humility the company can show at times. Bruce Feldman is given permission to write a book with Mike Leach and then gets suspended for writing a book with Mike Leach. Stephen A. Smith uses a slur on air and then gets indignant in his "apology" that we thought he used that word, even though he clearly did.

Another major issue is sourcing issues. Poynter did a column on this, but I found the explanation given by ESPN to be wholly unhelpful to prevent further issues of sourcing in the future. In reality, the issue of sourcing in regard to ESPN has not stopped. Rick Reilly grabs credit for a scoop about Ben Roethlisberger's injury even though he wasn't the one who reported on the injury. These are the types of things that happened after Poynter wrote their "sourcing" column and will continue to happen. Presumably because ESPN just doesn't care. Reilly made it a point to claim he was the first one on a story when it wasn't true and he was never corrected nor was the mistake acknowledged. I find it hard to believe the "sourcing" column was taken to heart by ESPN.

Jay Glazer then further reported on Roethlisberger's injury and SportsCenter attributed this story to "sources." To make matters worse, ESPN had previously given Glazer credit on and then later removed Fox Sports as being the first to report the story. So ESPN steals Glazer's report and files it under "sources," then replaces what was the correct sourcing on their web site to Fox Sports with "sources." Throw in an interview with a soccer player this summer that never actually occurred (ESPN said it was done by a freelancer, thereby absolving them of any wrongdoing of course) and the whole Sarah Phillips disaster, to where the problem isn't the mistakes but the hubris with which ESPN refuses to admit wrongdoing and correct these mistakes in the future.

Are slips of the tongue treated differently when anchors relatively low on the totem pole make them, compared with what happens to high-profile personalities?

If Poynter had taken the time during one of their bi-monthly columns to cover this story, then yes, they would find out slips of the tongue seem to be treated differently.

It’s hard to judge because ESPN rarely reveals the internal changes it makes in response to external criticism. Often we heard privately that policies were being revised and training was being implemented.

What's the point of an ombudsman if even the ombudsman has no idea if changes are being made? I know the answer to this question, but the fact ESPN shells out thousands of dollars to pretend to care about standards and practices only annoys me further at their hubris. We don't need heads on sticks, but if the ombudsman has no idea if changes were implemented, then how can ESPN's viewers feel comfortable the same issue(s) won't arise again?

The big picture: ESPN’s critics seize on every mistake, which can make the company’s editors, producers and PR folks defensive at times. That’s understandable; it’s not easy waking up each morning knowing you’re a big target. 

(the world's tiniest violin plays for this billion dollar company)

Media analyst SNL Kagan estimates ESPN will make $8.2 billion in revenue this year. It controls the rights to a huge range of live sports, using that content as fuel for its sports-information engine.

While ignoring the sports they don't have the rights to. That's why each SportsCenter doesn't have NHL lockout coverage in the first ten minutes and why when the NBA lockout occurred if David Stern farted too loudly then it warranted courthouse step coverage.

At its best, ESPN’s reporting is thorough and uncompromising about matters of great concern to its business partners: Take its recent series on football concussions, or the throw-the-script-away “SportsCenter” that followed the debacle of an NFL replacement ref’s blown call that cost Green Bay a victory in Seattle. Both storylines served fans and undermined the business interests of the NFL. 

Both times ESPN got credit for doing this from viewers. The off-the-cuff SportsCenter, as well as the reaction from Jon Gruden and Mike Tirico was a breath of fresh air to many fans. It removed many of the barriers and canned opinions from the broadcast and felt like ESPN was actually covering the story as opposed to framing the story in a way to draw ratings.

ESPN can’t be an observer or bystander because its mere presence changes things. This is true not just in business but also in journalism: As noted earlier, if ESPN covers a story, it becomes big news; if it ignores it, often it withers.

Hence the difficulty I have with accepting the "vote with your remote" and "we market towards the fan who only watches one show" reasoning they use for saturating their stations with coverage of one story. ESPN knows they can create or destroy a story, so by saturating their coverage with one story they are determining how big of a story it becomes.

But occasionally, as happened in the wake of the grand jury indictment against former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, the rest of the world overrules ESPN’s judgment and the network must reverse course and pursue a story it originally treated lightly. 

Because at the time, accusations of multiple counts of child abuse wasn't nearly as important of a story as how well Tim Tebow was performing for the Broncos. 

we need journalists such as ESPN’s -- and they, in turn, need standards and practices that are clearly and wisely defined, and faithfully followed. 

But who is going to stop ESPN if they don't do this? Is the next ombudsman going to write a column three weeks after an issue occurs or completely ignore that issue (Craig James, Stephen A. Smith)? Mistakes happen and no one has to be burned at the stake as the result of the mistake, but when mistakes do occur it would help if ESPN acknowledged these mistakes. Maybe once ESPN figures out how to make money or get ratings from admitting mistakes they would will be more inclined to do so.

Friday, December 21, 2012

10 comments Gregg Easterbrook Accuses NFL Teams of Giving Up on the Season

Gregg Easterbrook has continued trolling us all last week with his latest TMQ. I am becoming more and more convinced Gregg isn't paid by ESPN to be a writer, but is paid to irritate ESPN's readers much in the way Skip Bayless is paid to irritate ESPN viewers. Gregg is good at it, because very few times in a week do I get more irritated then when I read TMQ and he blatantly ignores a truth or shades facts in a certain way to try and prove a point he wants to make. This week Gregg says certain NFL teams are mailing the season in, as well as telling us he will be giving us a mini-TMQ next week. Perhaps Gregg is mailing in his Christmas Day TMQ?

The United States Postal Service might be losing billions of dollars, but much of the National Football League tried to bail it out by mailing it in this week.

Terrible. Apparently Gregg Easterbrook was jealous that Rick Reilly had cornered the market on awful puns and so he made his own entry into the groan-inducing joke competition.

San Diego lost at home by 24 points to a team that arrived for the game 4-9.

But this 4-9 team had beaten the Falcons the week before and had lost on the last possession of the game to Dallas, Atlanta, and Tampa Bay during this season. So the Carolina's 4-9 record was misleading in that good coaching could have gotten them at least two of those victories.

Buffalo lost a "home" game in Canada by 33 points. Kansas City, playing a Raiders team that entered 3-10, did not record a first down until 5:28 remained in the third quarter, finishing with 119 yards of offense against one of the league's worst defenses. Detroit lost by four touchdowns to a team that entered the contest having dropped nine consecutive games. Jacksonville played cross-state rival Miami and neglected to score a touchdown.

Yes, there were a lot of blowouts this weekend. This could be indicative of teams mailing it in or could be indicative of there being a lot of blowouts this weekend. The Bills, Chiefs, Lions, and Jaguars aren't very good teams, so perhaps they didn't mail it in and instead just didn't play well.

On Sunday, there were three shutouts in 14 games. Discounting for Atlanta shutting out the Giants -- that was a hard-played contest in which a 12-2 team was terrific --

See that game doesn't count because it doesn't fit Gregg's narrative of teams mailing in the end of the season. This is what is important to remember when being a sportswriter. Come up with a narrative, write so that the narrative fits what you are writing and ignore any evidence that doesn't fit the narrative you have come up with.

The Giants were shut out, but this was a "hard fought" shutout because Gregg knows the Giants haven't given up on the season and it would sound silly to say so. Gregg can say the Chiefs or Jaguars have given up because they aren't very good teams and when they lose another game or two Gregg can simply say they have given up, rather than say they lost because they lack talent.

To say many teams mailed it in this week actually is sugarcoating. They didn't even phone it in. They barely bothered to text it in.

I read this as Gregg Easterbrook saying, "Rick Reilly, I can out cornball your writing any day of the week."

Eric Decker of Denver beat Cary Williams of Baltimore for a 51-yard touchdown. Once Decker broke into the clear, Williams came to a stop and watched him, not bothering to pursue. 

Doesn't Gregg mean "lowly drafted" Cary Williams? Oh yeah, that doesn't fit Gregg's narrative that lowly drafted players work harder than highly drafted players.

Later, Denver's Knowshon Moreno jogged across the goal line untouched as the Ravens' front seven stood watching.

Doesn't Gregg mean first round drafted, highly drafted glory boy Knowshon Moreno jogged across the goal line untouched?

Detroit trailed Arizona 24-10 but was still alive with the ball on the Cardinals' 2 in the fourth quarter. Someone ran the wrong pattern, as two receivers went to the short left corner of the end zone. The pass was intercepted by Greg Toler. Wide receiver Kris Durham, the Detroit player closest to Toler, casually jogged to about the 10-yard line and then just stopped and watched as Toler went 102 yards for a touchdown, making no attempt to chase down the play.

Fourth round draft picks...what are you going to do about those lazy bums?

Seattle's Marshawn Lynch was running for a touchdown with only Buffalo's Da'Norris Searcy between him and pay dirt. At the goal line, Searcy stepped out of Lynch's way so he would not have to exert himself by attempting a tackle. 

Again, when a highly drafted, highly paid glory boy is coming at you and you are a lazy fourth round draft choice, then you gotta step out of the way.

Later, Earl Thomas intercepted a pass intended for Buffalo's Scott Chandler. Thomas fell to the turf; all Chandler had to do was touch him, and the play was over. Instead, Chandler did nothing, then didn't bother to chase Thomas as he took off for a 57-yard, game-icing touchdown. 

It was a game-icing touchdown in a game where the Bills lost by 30+ points. Interesting use of "game-icing" there by Gregg. What I mean by that is, Gregg continues to mislead his readers. Not only does Gregg say this was a "game-icing" interception, but he fails to mention Earl Thomas is a highly drafted glory boy and Scott Chandler is a lowly, lazy fourth round draft choice. Again, it doesn't fit the narrative Gregg attempts to deceive his audience into believing is true for a first round pick to perform well.

The Giants and Ravens are strong teams that played poorly; the Bills, Bucs, Chargers, Chiefs, Jaguars, Jets, Lions and Raiders simply quit.

This is an idiotic comment. Gregg is basically saying a team's record is directly tied to their effort. The teams that have bad records and lost, quit, while the teams with good records and lost, just had bad games. Gregg assumes it is impossible for a team to quit in a game and have a good overall record, while also assuming a team can continue to try hard in every game and still have a bad overall record.

The Raiders accomplished the seemingly impossible feat of winning while mailing it in, failing to record a touchdown at home against one of the league's worst teams. 

This is just so stupid. Teams can play hard and have a bad record. There are teams that do quit, but it's like Gregg doesn't understand certain teams have a different level of skill from other teams. Giving a good effort is great, but a team still has to have talent to win games.

The NFL is a year-round enterprise that, for 20 of 32 teams, builds up to only 16 games. Every quarter ought to matter. Thousands of hours of offseason preparation, then teams simply quit when the playoffs become out of reach.

This is some great writing here. Gregg makes an assumption that certain teams quit and then just runs with it, never even acknowledging his assumption could be incorrect.

Stats of the Week No. 3: In 2011, Chicago opened 7-3, then went 1-5. In 2012, Chicago opened 7-1 and since has gone 1-5. 

Of course these two seasons aren't comparable in that the Bears were playing without Jay Cutler in 2011 when they ended the season 1-5. The Bears haven't lost Jay Cutler for the season in 2012.

Sweet Defensive Plays of the Week: The score tied with 1:34 remaining in regulation, the visiting Steelers had first-and-10 on their 46, holding three timeouts, and seemed ideally positioned to drive to a winning field goal. Dallas showed an unusual blitz alignment and got a sack. The Steelers used a timeout. Dallas ran twists on both sides of its line and got another sack. The possession ended with a punt, and the home team went on to win in overtime. Rob Ryan often calls too many crazy fronts. But calling just a few, and saving them for a big moment in the game, can be effective. 

As always in TMQ, the moral of this story is that the Cowboys should have blitzed when a blitz ended up working, but should not have blitzed if blitzing ended up not working. Whatever the outcome of the play, that's how Gregg decides whether a team should blitz or not, then he bases his criticism on the outcome of the play. It's very annoying and a way for Gregg to act like the smartest guy in the room when he is really chasing outcomes.

Because the Broncos yield the tiebreaker to New England, Denver needs at least one more victory to attain a bye week. The Broncs' final regular-season foes are Kansas City and Cleveland, combined record 7-21. This puts Denver in the driver's seat for resting starters in the regular-season finale, followed by a week off -- the very situation in which Peyton Manning tended to falter in Indianapolis. 

So now if the Broncos don't win the Super Bowl it will be because they rested their starters during the final week of the season. Just like last year all the playoff teams who didn't rest their starters faltered in the playoffs because they didn't rest their starters? It goes both ways. Should the Packers have rested Aaron Rodgers more and they would have beaten the Giants in the playoffs last year?

Perhaps you assume Golden was the sour player on this down. Veteran linebacker Lawrence Timmons ignored Witten, letting him run past; veteran defensive back Ryan Clark ignored Witten, letting him run past. Timmons and Clark are experienced performers. They knew a green guy had just come in and was likely to be targeted, yet ignored the receiver heading toward the green guy. Sour. 

What Timmons and Clark should have done is completely ignore the defensive play-call and blow their assignment so Golden's area on the field was covered? Does Gregg Easterbrook have a fucking clue about how NFL defenses are run? I don't think he does. He seems to believe defenses always run man-coverage and a defender can just ignore his assignment and do whatever the hell he wants to do. Golden's poor defensive play is bad enough, but the fact Gregg seems to think Steelers defenders can do whatever they want on a play is worse.

By firing Cameron now -- rather than this past offseason, when the offensive coordinator position could have turned over in an orderly manner -- Ravens coach John Harbaugh sent the signal that he expects yet another playoff collapse and wants an excuse lined up.

Gregg is so over-eager to point out how Harbaugh is pushing the blame away he doesn't look at this situation logically. If Harbaugh really wanted to blame Cameron for an imminent playoff collapse then he would keep Cameron on staff to blame him after the playoff collapse. It doesn't make sense for Harbaugh to fire Cameron now when Harbaugh expects there to be a playoff collapse in the future. Without Cameron on staff there isn't anyone to blame (other than Jim Caldwell) for a playoff collapse. So why would Harbaugh fire Cameron before the playoff collapse? It makes not of sense and this tells me Gregg Easterbrook is full of shit when he says Harbaugh is looking for a fall guy.

At the postgame media event following the playoff collapse Harbaugh/East appears to expect, he can blame Cameron for the team's troubled offense.

Except this doesn't explain why the offense failed over the last three games of the season and in the playoffs. If Harbaugh wanted to blame Cam Cameron for a playoff failure, it doesn't make sense to fire him now. Hypothesis fail.

Parents of children who are doing well in school should consider moving to Michigan, North Carolina, Virginia or Wisconsin, where the flagship state university is a prestigious institution, offering the chance of in-state tuition at a great college. (California has prestigious public universities, but its state budget, public schools and public university system are so fouled up, at the moment no one in his or her right mind would move to California for education.)

Apparently no one in their right mind would go to California-Berkley for an education. Good to know.

Its season on the verge of implosion, Philadelphia faced fourth-and-goal on the Cincinnati 1, score tied at 10, in the final minute of the first half. The home Eagles crowd roared for a touchdown try. Philadelphia is averaging 5.8 yards per offensive snap this season. The Eagles needed 1 yard in front of their home fans. Trotting out the kicker would send the team the message that the coaches expected to lose and were trying to hold down the margin of defeat.

When Andy Reid sent out the field goal unit, TMQ wrote the words "Eagles season over" in his notebook. And so it was -- Philadelphia went on to lose 34-13,

The Eagles were 4-9 prior to this game. Considering I believe the Eagles were seemingly mathematically eliminated from the playoffs prior to this game, it wasn't a longshot to write "Eagles season over" in a Selena Gomez Trapper Keeper notebook, considering mathematically the Eagles season was over at this point. This was a failure to make a good point.

The Bengals emerged from the game 8-6, with a decent shot at the postseason. They have been getting energy from Vontaze Burfict, who went undrafted after being roundly denounced in the draftnik world.

Son of a bitch. Quit deceiving your audience. Burfict's talent was never in doubt. Ever. The reason he was dismissed by draftniks is because he had a poor junior season, had a terrible Pro Day by his own admittance, tested positive for marijuana prior to the combine, blamed the Arizona State coaching staff in pre-draft interviews, and was known as a loose cannon on and off the field. I am sure if Burfict ends up having a great NFL career Gregg is going to point to him as an undrafted player who the draftniks missed on, but Gregg is leaving out the important fact that Burfict had three or four red flags, including throwing his coaching staff under the bus in interviews with NFL teams prior to the draft.

TMQ has long believed that whenever all experts are certain something will happen, the reverse is about to happen.

BotB has long believed if Gregg Easterbrook claims something is true, then it is probably false.

The spread of computers and Internet service into disadvantaged homes creates equity in access to the information and services available on the Web. But society needs to be aware of the downsides of electronics. Those computer and software gifts being opened this holiday season might, especially for teen boys, backfire. 

Thanks for the information, Gregg. The world wouldn't know how to parent without your assistance.

Then Gregg does on and on and on and on about perks that corporation board members give themselves and their CEO. I tend to agree with him on most of this, but there's this one part when he was discussing Leon Panetta and his flights on the taxpayer dime...

Panetta contended he needed to be in a private jet so he could talk without being overheard if the president suddenly called him about a classified matter. Occasionally there is a military operation, such as the Osama bin Laden raid, that requires the defense secretary to have access to scrambled lines and live intel. On those rare occasions, he shouldn't be taking a weekend trip home!

Yes, but what if Panetta is traveling when the raid is planned or when a military operation suddenly becomes necessary? It isn't the expected reasons that require him access to scrambled lines and live intel, but more the unexpected reasons that would require him access to this information. So it is easy to say Panetta shouldn't take a weekend trip home, but if he knows there will be a raid or military operation, but doesn't know when, then he can't necessarily postpone his trip home in anticipation of something that may not happen. Panetta wasted taxpayer money with his private jet flights and he should not have done this, but simply saying "he shouldn't go home" as a reason to not have a private jet seems to fail the logic test for me.

New England would score 28 unanswered points to tie the contest at 31. San Francisco's front seven looked tired as New England gained 520 yards, made 32 first downs and ran 92 plays. San Francisco snapped out of it with a 62-yard kickoff return followed by the game's decisive play, a 38-yard touchdown pass to Michael Crabtree as the Patriots blitzed seven on first-and-10.

I'm sorry, who caught the pass and scored a touchdown again, Gregg?

a 38-yard touchdown pass to Michael Crabtree

This must be the same Michael Crabtree who Gregg was just two years ago blaming for the 49ers woes. Gregg made up a fake "Crabtree Curse" where the 49ers couldn't win football games because the other 49ers players were jealous the 49ers paid Michael Crabtree the slotted money for the #10 overall pick in the draft. See, the 49ers players thought (according to Gregg) Crabtree didn't deserve this money, so the team wasn't playing well because Crabtree held out for more money, got his slotted contract for the #10 overall pick, and then Mike Singletary dared to allow Crabtree to play during the season. The "Crabtree Curse" was all of a crock of shit if you can't already tell.

The Patriots are 3-3 in games against teams likely to make the playoffs, a middling record, and finish the regular season with Jacksonville and Miami, a combined 8-20.

What Gregg fails to mention is the Patriots are 3-1 against teams from the AFC likely to make the playoffs and have beaten two AFC division leaders. So the Patriots may be 0-2 against NFC teams likely to make the playoffs, but they won't have to face either Seattle or San Francisco until the Super Bowl.

Leading 47-17 in the fourth quarter, the Seattle Seahawks faced fourth-and-4 on the Buffalo 43 and ran a fake punt. Russell Wilson was still in the game, not leaving until the score was 50-17 and less than five minutes remained. A week before, Seattle repeatedly had thrown deep in the fourth quarter when leading Arizona 51-0.

Gregg has no problem with a football team throwing deep with a 50 point lead in the fourth quarter as long as that team is a high school football team from Arkansas who always goes for it on fourth down.

Obscure College Score of the Week: Valdosta State 35, Winston-Salem 7 (Division II championship). Located in Valdosta, Georgia, Valdosta State University has "approximately 12,491" students

It's very difficult for a college to pinpoint on a daily basis exactly how many students they have on their web site because students are constantly withdrawing from school or students in the graduate program (depending on how the program is set up) may enter or withdraw from school at a certain point during the semester. So the school goes with the "approximate" calculation of their student body.

Next Week: Bells are ringing all across the local star cluster -- and a mini-TMQ will appear Christmas Day.

Much like the NFL teams he criticizes, it seems Gregg starts mailing TMQ in sometime around the Christmas holidays.