Thursday, February 16, 2012

5 comments Tim Keown Thinks Uncontested Touchdowns Are Undignified and Unworthy of the Super Bowl

Don't worry, this is going to be one of the last examples of bad journalism coming from the Super Bowl. It is just the Super Bowl brings out the bad, the overreacting and the hyperbolic in so many writers. Tim Keown must have been desperately searching for an angle to cover on the Super Bowl that had not been covered yet. So he settled on an article about how Ahmad Bradshaw's game-winning touchdown was an undignified way to end the Super Bowl. It's a reach, but you can't tell that to Tim Keown as he stares at us disapprovingly in his ESPN mugshot.

And so the pivotal, deciding play in America's biggest sports showcase, the pinnacle moment in the most bloated spectacle in our culture, came when the defense gave up and the offense didn't want to score.

It does seem bizarre for the final score to go in this way, but these type of end game strategies happen in other sports as well. At the end of basketball games, teams will intentionally foul the other team at the end of a game to stop the clock and hope the opposing player misses the foul shot(s). It may sound weird for the defense to allow the offense to score, but it was a strategy the Patriots used to get the ball back. Then the Patriots tried to go the length of the field in less than a minute with one timeout left. The game was decided on a Hail Mary that barely went out of the reach of a Patriots player. That was fairly exciting.

When the Patriots' defense simply gave up (metaphor alert!) and allowed (forced?) Ahmad Bradshaw to score a 6-yard touchdown he tried to take back, we witnessed a true sports anomaly.

An exciting, interesting part of a game that was actually pretty dull through the entire middle half of it, but exciting in the first and second quarters?

There is no other situation in American sports in which a team would make a similar strategic decision.

This is true, unless you want to count when a basketball team intentionally commits a foul allowing the other team to shoot free throws or when a baseball team will intentionally walk a player to face the next batter. The fact football is original in that one team might allow the other team to score really emphasizes how football is a timed game more than anything else. It makes more sense to lose the lead in order to get the ball back, rather than allow the clock to run out and allow the opposing team an easy field goal attempt to win the game. The fact this strategy seems backwards doesn't make it a bad strategy or make a touchdown resulting from this strategy undignified.

There are loose parallels in other sports, but none that call for a team to relinquish its lead at the end of a game as a means of facilitating a comeback win.

This is true. But, there are instances in basketball when a team will allow another team to score in order to get the ball back. So it isn't completely unprecedented.

In baseball, teams play the infield back and trade outs for runs all the time, but never late in a game when the run would result in losing a lead.

Baseball is not a timed sport. In this situation, the clock was the biggest enemy to the Patriots. The Giants were probably going to score while running the clock out and the Patriots had to get the ball back in order to win the game.

Tennis players have been known to drop the last couple of games in a lost-cause set to conserve energy for the rest of the match. Golfers concede in match play when a hole is deemed unwinnable.

Is it undignified for an individual competing in sports to intentionally lose a game or a match because it is unwinnable or for strategic purposes? I say no. Apparently Tim Keown seems to agree. If Roger Federer wins Wimbledon in the fifth set, but he conserved his energy in a couple of his opponent's service games, does that mean his win is tainted? Not at all. So why would it be undignified or taint a win if a team intentionally allows another team to score for strategic purposes?

No matter how bad it looked -- just iso on Vince Wilfork to see how truly bad it looked -- it was the proper decision and probably should have been made one play sooner.

So this was an undignified way to decide the Super Bowl, but was also the right decision and should have been done earlier? This is what happens when a writer tries to come up with a new angle to the Super Bowl and it turns out half-assed. We get a flimsy premise for a column and an opinion given in the article that somewhat contradicts the premise.

That doesn't alter one fact: It was not a proud or particularly dignified way to decide the Super Bowl.

Who cares? What does it matter if the Super Bowl ended with one of the teams intentionally giving up a touchdown in order to get the ball back? The resulting attempt by the Patriots to score a touchdown with one timeout left was an exciting way to end the game. The Giants drive which led to the intentional touchdown was also exciting.

It seems especially satisfying -- ironic even -- that Bill Belichick, the great defender of all that is manly and stoic and arrogant in the world of the National Football League,


I get the arrogant part, even if Belichick probably isn't more arrogant than too many other NFL coaches, but manly and stoic? Not so sure about that one. Mostly, this isn't ironic at all.

had to resort to such an emasculating tactic to give his team a chance in the final minute.

Because it is emasculating to try do whatever it takes to win the Super Bowl? If this tactic had worked so many people would have been calling Belichick a genius. We all know being considered a genius is really manly.

Belichick's ploy didn't work, which doesn't mean it was incorrect. It's just a bad look. It runs contrary to every known principle coached by guys like Belichick.

Every known principle in basketball says not to foul a player intentionally and let them shoot foul shots. Teams will do this in order to get the ball back. Yet this happens in nearly every basketball game.

Every known principle in basketball says a player should not intentionally miss a foul shot so the opposing team doesn't have time to organize and get off a good shot. Yet, Coach K had a player intentionally miss a foul shot at the end of the 2010 National Championship Game.

Every known principle in basketball says a team with a three point lead should not intentionally foul a player on the opposing team in order to send him to the foul line so that he can only score two points. Yet, teams do this.

Football isn't the only sport where the best strategy sometimes goes against widely coached principles. It doesn't make it undignified to use these strategies.

You might consider the failure of such strategy to be justice meted out by the football gods, or karma, if you were inclined to think that way. (The world would really be a better place if you didn't.)

How can this be karma paying Belichick and the Patriots back for using this strategy? There was no justice paid out because the Patriots were probably going to lose the game anyway. The Giants had the ball and could have bled the clock down and attempted a field goal. If the field goal were successful, it would have given the Patriots very little time to score. Karma doesn't even fit this situation because the Patriots were going to most likely lose anyway if they didn't consider the strategy.

And so Monday, we were treated to this written description of the Pats' Surrender Formation: "The gutsiest call in Super Bowl history." Please. It wasn't gutsy; it was desperate.

Yes, it was desperate because Bill Belichick wanted to do whatever he could to ensure his team didn't lose the Super Bowl. It was a gutsy call because he let the Giants score a touchdown in an effort to get the ball back. Belichick essentially tried to put his team back on the offensive (no pun intended) by allowing the Giants to score instead of passively letting the Giants run the clock out and kick a field goal. Tim Keown is criticizing him for breaking the principles of football because Belichick gave up the lead in the Super Bowl intentionally. I call that gutsy. It was desperate, but still gutsy.

But there's no way to dress up a move that -- logical or not -- looks blatantly pathetic as it's happening. And even though it's nothing new -- not even for the Super Bowl -- it does raise a question: Is it better to lose traditionally, with your pride intact?

No, it is better to win. How was allowing the Giants to score leaving with Belichick's pride no longer intact? He was trying to win the game. That was his goal. If the Patriots had to take a step back, accept the Giants were going to score, and try to save time on the clock to get the ball in the hands of the New England offense in order to win the Super Bowl, that is what would have to happen.

It is better to try and win a game than to lose traditionally, pride be damned.

Since late Sunday night, we've been told the percentages were with Belichick and the Patriots. Their chances of scoring a touchdown with 57 seconds and one timeout remaining were better than their chances of stopping the Giants from kicking a chip-shot field goal. But if the Legend of Billy Cundiff taught us anything, it's that no field goal is a guarantee,

If the other 90% of the time told us anything, it is that an NFL kicker will not miss a field goal from 30 yards or less. Tim Keown can have his one-time events to prove anything can happen and I will take what the percentages say...especially when a Super Bowl title is on the line.

regardless of percentages, especially when the time is short and the pressure is big.

Yes, but time wasn't short for the Giants. They could have run the clock down and Lawrence Tynes would have had plenty of time to line up and prepare to kick the potential game-winning field goal. The pressure would have been big, but Tynes has hit big kicks before and all indications are that he would have had plenty of time to line up his kick and the ball would have been set perfectly in the middle of the field. So time was on the Giants side and there was time for Tynes to deal with the pressure involved with such a kick.

In the end, we were left with the empty feeling that it could have been better. It could have been so much better.

Whatever. The end of the game was the most exciting part. For me, the first and the fourth quarter were the most exciting parts of the game. So I don't have the feeling the game could have been better. What was exciting about watching the Giants run the clock out and then kick a potential game-winning kick, as compared to the Giants scoring and watching the Patriots go the length of the field to score a game-winning touchdown? If anything, watching the Patriots scramble to score, and failing after tossing up a Hail Mary to the end zone, is a more exciting ending then a game-winning field goal.

New England linebacker Jerod Mayo said the Patriots were given specific instructions in the event a Giants player successfully fought human nature and stopped himself short of the goal line. What were the Patriots going to do? "We were going to drag him into the end zone," Mayo said.

it would have been quite a sight: America's most sacred sporting moment reduced to a group of defenders dragging an unwilling running back into the end zone.

Yes, but this didn't happen. Don't use hypothetical situations that didn't occur (hence, being hypothetical) as further proof the strategy employed by the Patriots was undignified. Bradshaw fell into the end zone and the Patriots got the ball back. As a strategy for the Patriots, it beat passively watching the Giants run the clock out and then hoping there was enough time left to get a Hail Mary into the end zone.

Talk about lost opportunities.


Oh well, there's always next year.

Yes, and if this strategy is employed next year it could still be considered a good strategy. Allowing the other team to score in order to get the ball back is a sound strategy when in the situation the Patriots were in. Basketball teams use a similar strategy and it isn't unmanly nor does it violate some core principle of sports. I think perhaps a blank web page with Tim Keown's name on the byline would have been a better angle on the Super Bowl then what was written.


rich said...

when the defense gave up and the offense didn't want to score.

Tim Keown is a hack writer. I'll forever remember how he predicted the Phillies would get swept every round of the playoffs in 2008.

The fact that a sports analyst doesn't understand why the defense would allow the offense to score when all the offense needed was a FG from the 7 yard line... is inexcusable.

So what happens if they tackle Bradshaw? Well they burn their time out and the Giants take a knee and let the clock run down.

Would you put faith in your really, really good offense led by a future HOF QB to score on a defense that has already allowed a team to go 90 yards in under a minute to win a game. Of course Keown would rather try to block the 24 yard FG or hope Tynes blows it (in a dome...)

none that call for a team to relinquish its lead at the end of a game as a means of facilitating a comeback win.

Because the rules of football are different?

In hockey and basketball, possession changes very quickly and even with 5 seconds on the clock you can score.

In baseball, you can only score runs when you're up to bat, so allowing runs to score won't help you preserve the clock.

Football is a mix of that: it's timed, but yet it's much more likely to score with your offense on the field, so sometimes you have to conserve the clock.

I mean for crying out loud, basketball has intentional fouls and hockey allows you to pull your goalie.

This is what happens when a writer tries to come up with a new angle to the Super Bowl and it turns out half-assed.

This is pretty much every ESPN article of the past decade.

It runs contrary to every known principle coached by guys like Belichick.

Ya, I honestly can't think of many championship caliber coaches who think that with 1 time out and 57 seconds on the clock that playing defense and hoping the kicker shanks a 24 yard field goal inside a dome is the better alternative.

No, it is better to win

This should be plastered all over the ESPN offices. You should make t-shirts that say this.

Would you rather lose the game with "pride" or have a shot to win the game? Gee, that's a tough one.

But if the Legend of Billy Cundiff taught us anything, it's that no field goal is a guarantee

1) Cundiff's kick wasn't in a dome.
2) Cundiff's kick was about 10 yards longer
3) Billy Cundiff sucks.

In the end, we were left with the empty feeling that it could have been better.

Ya, the game could have been decided on the final play with either teams mere inches from winning or losing (Gronk was pretty close).

Ya, that ending sucked.

Patriots scramble to score, and failing after tossing up a Hail Mary to the end zone, is a more exciting ending then a game-winning field goal.

I'll repeat what my dad said on the phone with me at the time:

"Why does it have to be Brady back there? I don't feel good about letting him have a shot to throw it in the end zone."

Would you rather see the SB end on a memorable play (especially if Gronk makes the catch) by a future HOFer or on a 24 yard field goal by someone whose name will be forgotten in 10 years?

ivn said...

But if the Legend of Billy Cundiff taught us anything, it's that no field goal is a guarantee...

right, because a kick from the far right hashmark in 30 degree weather is absolutely the same thing as a dead-center kick - practically an extra point - in a dome.

In the end, we were left with the empty feeling that it could have been better. It could have been so much better.

a game that turned into a legit chess match between Coughlin and Belichick and ended on a tipped hail mary "could have been so much better." right.

Tim Keown, as rich said, is a total hack. I went through his archive and found this:
ESPN's Tim Keown writes about a new kind of sports interview in which journalists have less face time with athletes and questions come prepackaged. Because of this, the chasm between athletes and their fans continues to grow.

keep in mind this was from two months ago, in an era where practically everybody has a smart phone and where most athletes are on Twitter, "the chasm between athletes and their fans continues to grow." I didn't bother to read it but I'm pretty sure he doesn't care about the fans at all. like most sportswriters he's just a self-important leech more interested in his precious access than what the average sports fan thinks.

Justin Zeth said...

The mistake was that Belichick didn't let the Giants score as soon as they crossed the 30, when there were still two minutes left in the game.

Murray said...

It was the right call. Hell even w/out the HM if Branch or Welker make a catch it would likely have paid off. Anyway I've moved on. This year and the game was great. Belichick took a flawed team farther than they probably should have gone.

Bengoodfella said...

Rich, see Tim Keown would say he understands why the Pats let them score, but it was undignified...whatever that means. A win is a win in my world. If they let Bradshaw score then the Giants can run the clock down and will probably make a short FG. I don't think Tynes misses from that distance.

Football is different in that letting a team score can also be a way of helping win the game by getting possession before the clock runs out.

I don't think letting the other team nearly run out the clock and hope the kicker misses a short FG is any type of strategy. Letting NYG score doesn't go against any principles, in fact I think it is a good idea.

I thought the most exciting part of the game was when Brady was trying to move the Pats down the field. There was a lot of tension b/c Brady can move his team quickly down the field. I thought that was a great ending. Tim Keown apparently forgot a/b that part of the game.

Ivn, exactly. It is a short kick in a dome. Kickers tend to make those. I don't see how hoping for a miracle is any way a strategy.

It seems like Keown believes there isn't any other way for athletes to talk w/ fans outside of speaking with journalists. This is kind of silly. If anything, with Twitter, Facebook, etc. there are more ways for athletes to interact with fans. They are just cutting the journalists out of it, which scares Tim Keown. So he pretends the fans are being hurt when in fact the athlete is cutting out the middle man.

Justin, that is a good point. I didn't think about them letting the Giants score at that point. Some may say that was too early to let the Giants score, but it certainly would have given Brady more time. I like outside-the-box strategies.

Murray, I'm glad you are over it and I will try to quit talking about it. I promise. I completely agree with you the Pats were flawed. I have one more article from the Super Bowl and I actually make this exact point. If anything, it is amazing a team with quite a few holes made the Super Bowl and almost won it.