Thursday, September 6, 2012

10 comments Haikus? No, Please.

Last week in TMQ, Gregg Easterbrook continued his weekly tradition of presenting statistics to his readers without giving a lot of statistical context. He said in his last TMQ the average NFL play gained 5.4 yards, but there is a variety of other information we would need to know in order to believe his conclusion that a team would always get around 5 yards per offensive play. Gregg tends to criticize head coaches for not going for it on fourth down because the average NFL play goes for 5.4 yards (what's with the absurd precision?), no matter where on the field a team is going for it on fourth down. If this were true, NFL teams would rarely have to punt since they would gain 5 yards per offensive play. This week, Gregg continues the tradition that everyone (except for one person apparently) wishes would end, the all-haiku NFL preview, which again may not really be a preview anymore than Gregg tells us what he thinks each team's record will be in the form of a haiku. It's even less fun than it sounds like.

On Brett Favre's helmet
beer falls, and the cup crumples.
Sideline in autumn.

So began the very first Tuesday Morning Quarterback, a dozen seasons ago. In the intervening years, these trends have held:

• Each year the asides wander farther afield.

And more pointless. Don't forget more pointless!

• Each year the readership grows larger.

Very depressing to think about.

• Each year the jokes don't get any better.

They are pretty much the same jokes that were told the previous year, so I wouldn't expect them to necessarily get any better.

• And each year begins with America's original all-haiku NFL season predictions. Here they are for 2012.

I probably say this every time I post a TMQ, but this is my least favorite TMQ of the year. Nothing says, "I don't care to read this" like a mixture of Gregg Easterbrook writing about sports and memories of high school when my English teachers would angrily force the entire class to write a haiku about a given topic when we all hated haikus.

Texas A&M
with cheer-babes not Yell Leaders.
Miami Dolphins.

Forecast finish: 5-11

This doesn't make sense. Texas A&M does have Yell Leaders. They don't have cheerleaders (or "cheer-babes" as Gregg so creepily puts it), they have Yell Leaders. So to say Texas A&M doesn't have Yell Leaders is incorrect.

Then this year came "Why Women Still Can't Have It All," a cover by Anne-Marie Slaughter, a Princeton dean and recent State Department official. Slaughter filled 14 magazine pages with angst about how despite a high-paying super-elite job with lifetime tenure, personal connections in the White House and a husband who does the child care, despite writing about herself for the cover of the world's most important magazine, nevertheless she feels troubled that every moment of her days is not precisely what she wants.

Women like this will soon learn they indeed can't have it all, just as men reached this conclusion a few decades ago. Attempting to have it all and attain perfection will only serve to annoy and frustrate a person until that person is forced to finally admit "having it all" is overrated and trying to find happiness with what you have is underrated.

That's our moment of zen and clarity for the day. Articles about how a certain gender "can't have it all" only serve to irritate me. It's just an excuse for a writer to complain about how troubled his/her life can be, while handing out an air of superiority over his/her readers.

But "all" never meant a woman could have everything she wants at every second without ever facing hard choices or bending over to pick up a piece of laundry. Men can't "have it all" in that sense either. No one has ever "had it all" and no one ever will.

Don't piss on their parade Gregg. It's also a fun and lazy mantra that television writers can use to write female characters who are insufferable in their complaining about how hard the lives they have chosen truly can be and forms a built-in excuse for mistakes made in life. Few episodes (or the movies) of "Sex and the City" could have ever be produced without this "I want to have it all, but I just can't" mantra at the center of most episodes.

I'm such a sucker. The more Gregg's asides tend to wander, the more I tend to chase those asides and comment on them.

But though TMQ thinks the NFL should give on the NFLRA's money requests, if I were a zebra, I would be nervous about the season starting with replacement officials. Everyone assumes the replacements will make boneheaded mistakes that embarrass the league. What if their performance is fine? Then ditch the NFLRA and keep the new guys.

I can't see a situation where the replacement officials perform well. They are going to be under so much pressure and every single call they make is going to be analyzed for accuracy. So when a call is made wrong, it will be blown up and used as one more example of why the NFL should cave to the regular NFL officials. NFL officials will miss calls on occasion and they will be criticized when they miss calls. The perception of incompetency will be magnified when the replacement officials miss a call. The replacement officials are less experienced to the speed of NFL players and when they miss a call it will only serve as an example to prove their incompetency and how the NFL is suffering without competent officials. The combination of the replacement officials' lack of experience and the attention any incorrect calls will receive causes me to think perhaps even if the replacement officials performance is fine, they will be viewed more critically even if their performance is only slightly below the performance of the regular officials.

Recall the 1981 PATCO strike. An air traffic controllers union walked in violation of a no-strike agreement. Ronald Reagan fired PATCO members who refused his order to return to work. Everyone thought the replacement controllers would do a terrible job, and instead they did fine. PATCO members then relented and asked to return to their high-paying cushy jobs, but it was too late.

Air traffic controllers need to be skilled, but there is a difference in replacement air traffic controllers and replacement officials. The difference is that the replacement air traffic controllers were given time to be trained to improve their skills, while the replacement officials won't be allowed a year to improve their officiating skills before calling NFL games. After the 1981 strike, it took ten years for the overall staffing levels to return to normal. Not to mention, the controllers were fired and banned from federal service for life. That's part of the reason the controllers couldn't get their cushy jobs back. Naturally, Gregg neglects to mention this. The NFL can't cut the number of games they play or slow down the games temporarily over a couple year span for the replacement officials to catch up and adapt to the faster NFL players. So replacement officials will have to keep the level of officiating at the normal standard immediately and won't have the benefit of time to get used to the speed of the game at the NFL level.

Hines Ward outruns blast
in "Rises." Can't outrun time.
The Pittsburgh Steelers.

Forecast finish: 12-4

Ward is retired now. I don't know what this has to do with the 2012 Steelers.

Drop Texas QB
for Oklahoma QB.
The Browns (3.1).

Forecast finish: 4-12

Again, being nitpicky...Brandon Weeden is from Oklahoma, but he went to Oklahoma State and not the University of Oklahoma. Since there is a University of Oklahoma, who also happens to be the Texas Longhorns biggest rival (where Colt McCoy went), this haiku could only serve to confuse a reader who may think the Browns replaced a quarterback from the University of Texas with a quarterback from the University of Oklahoma. I do realize it is a losing proposition to analyze Gregg's haikus, but I have always had a soft spot for losing propositions.

Last season Pulaski Academy punted once, and won the state title.

They also won a state title in 2003 before they decided not punting the football was an effective strategy. Two straight weeks Gregg leaves this important point out of TMQ in effort to mislead his readers.

To open its 2012 campaign, Pulaski flew all the way to Los Angeles to face Chaminade Prep, a traditional power.

"We led by three with 2:06 remaining and had a runner break into the clear for a first down," Kelley reports. "If he'd just gone to his knee, we would have run out the clock. But even NFL players have trouble doing that calculation in their heads at game speed. Instead he tried for more yards, and fumbled.

If this were an NFL game then Gregg would blame the me-first running back for trying to pad his own statistics by getting an extra yard or two and then blame the head coach for not teaching his players to get down on the ground to run the clock out. Verily, because he likes Kevin Kelley, Gregg doesn't blame him for his running back not going to the ground to run the clock out and doesn't blame the running back for trying to pad his statistics.

Granted, this is a high school football player versus an NFL player, but the idea of coaching a player to be aware of the clock and Gregg's usual speculation a player only cares about padding his statistics by gaining an extra yard or two should still remain because the player's intent remained the same.

Pulaski never punted, going for it seven times but converting only twice. "For several years we have converted 50 percent of our fourth downs, so I expect the law of averages to swing back our way," Kelley said.

Gregg was fine with the outcome not being a positive for Pulaski. They lost the game and converted only two first downs on fourth down. Gregg is fine with this because he has a point to prove about going for it on fourth down. If an NFL team went for it on fourth down seven times and failed two times, Gregg would have criticism for the type play that team ran on fourth down. Since Gregg likes Kevin Kelley and his success helps prove his point that teams need to go for it on fourth down nearly every single possession as correct, Gregg can accept the law of averages as a reason for why a strategy failed when it pertains to a strategy that Gregg supports. If an NFL team uses a strategy Gregg doesn't support then he bases his criticism entirely on the outcome of that strategy.

If the Atlanta Falcons go for it on fourth down and don't get the first down, then the law of averages won't swing back the Falcons way in Gregg's opinion, it was just a bad play call.

All have done lately
is run of 21-2.
The Green Bay Packers.

Forecast finish: 13-3

The Packers are also on a 0-2 streak in home playoff games and haven't won a game since January 1. I can provide misleading and cherry-picked statistics too.

The league's worst offense.
Maybe should punt on first down.
The Jacksonville Jags.

Forecast finish: 2-14

The Jaguars should never punt. Punting, no matter the situation, is always a losing tactic that tells a team the head coach isn't serious about winning the game.

Were 4-4. Signed
Haynesworth. Then went 0-8.
Tampa Buccaneers.

Forecast finish: 3-13

I am sure there is a correlation between the Buccaneers signing Haynesworth and losing their next eight games. Haynesworth got released back in February, so how are the Buccaneers going to lose thirteen games if Haynesworth isn't on the roster anymore? He was the reason they were losing, right? So if he isn't on the roster this year then the Bucs should win plenty of games.

Tuesday Morning Quarterback was delighted that this summer's Pro Football Hall of Fame class contained four linemen, one running back and one defensive back -- no quarterback! All the Hall of Fame need do is cleave to this ratio for a decade and the linemen/quarterback problem will be corrected.

And we all know the entire purpose of the Pro Football Hall of Fame is to ensure each position is represented at an equal ratio. So who cares if there are eligible and worthy quarterback candidates, let's leave those guys out to make sure the ratio of linemen to quarterbacks is corrected. It's sports socialism at it's best.

Six straight losses last
season -- yet Norv's job secure.
San Diego Bolts.

Forecast finish: 8-8

Turner's job is secure because he has a 49-31 record with the Chargers. Turner certainly isn't the best head coach in the NFL, but he seems to have done a fairly good job with the Chargers, and that's why his job is secure.

The rules require the fleet-average of new cars to rise from the present federal standard of 27.5 MPG to 54.5 MPG by 2025. Aside from the absurd precision of such figures,

How the hell is tenths of a mile per gallon "absurd precision?" Why is Gregg so feeble-minded that he must have numbers rounded perfectly to the closest mile per gallon? I have never understood Gregg's fascination with calling numbers rounded to the tenths of a gallon as absurd. These 27.5 and 54.5 MPG numbers come from repeated fill-ups over a long period of time. Representing these numbers to the tenth of a gallon isn't really absurd at all.

Gregg's typical hypocrisy is on display here. He criticizes the absurd precision of using 27.5 MPG, but is fine with telling us the average NFL play gains 5.4 yards. As always, the rules Gregg sets don't apply if he doesn't want them to. A team should go for it on fourth down, unless a team doesn't get the first down in which case going for it on fourth down was a bad move.

A reader bids farewell to "Terra Nova" in haiku:

Zap! Rawrrrr! Blam! Smooch. Plot??????????????
Cash vanishes through portal:
Terra Nova, poof.

-- Joseph LoSasso, Tampa, Fla.

So THAT'S who reads TMQ and likes haikus. Honestly, if you asked me whether someone named "Joseph LoSasso" liked TMQ, I would give an emphatic "yes." It just seems like the person behind the name "Joseph LoSasso" would enjoy TMQ.

I thought I would end this post with my 2012 NFL Predictions. I realize one game has been played already, but that result won't have an impact on my predictions.

AFC East

New England Patriots: 14-2 (#1 seed)
Buffalo Bills: 10-6 (#6 seed)
New York Jets: 6-10
Miami Dolphins: 3-13

AFC South

Tennessee Titans: 10-6 (#4 seed)
Houston Texans: 9-7
Indianapolis Colts: 6-10
Jacksonville Jaguars: 5-11

AFC North

Baltimore Ravens: 12-4 (#2 seed)
Pittsburgh Steelers: 10-6
Cincinnati Bengals: 7-9
Cleveland Browns: 4-12

AFC West

Kansas City Chiefs: 11-5 (#3 seed)
Denver Broncos: 10-6 (#5 seed)
San Diego Chargers: 8-8
Oakland Raiders: 5-11

NFC East

Dallas Cowboys: 11-5 (#3 seed)
New York Giants: 9-7
Washington Redskins: 6-10
Philadelphia Eagles: 6-10

NFC South

Atlanta Falcons: 13-3 (#1 seed)
Carolina Panthers: 10-6 (#6 seed)
New Orleans Saints: 7-9
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 5-11

NFC North

Green Bay Packers: 12-4 (#2 seed)
Chicago Bears: 10-6 (#5 seed)
Detroit Lions: 7-9
Minnesota Vikings: 2-14

NFC West

Seattle Seahawks: 10-6 (#4 seed)
San Francisco 49ers: 8-8
St. Louis Rams: 7-9
Arizona Cardinals: 3-13

AFC Playoffs

Buffalo Bills over Kansas City Chiefs, Denver Broncos over Tennessee Titans
New England Patriots over Buffalo Bills, Baltimore Ravens over Denver Broncos
New England Patriots over Denver Broncos

NFC Playoffs

Dallas Cowboys over Carolina Panthers, Seattle Seahawks over Chicago Bears
Atlanta Falcons over Seattle Seahawks, Dallas Cowboys over Green Bay Packers
Green Bay Packers over Atlanta Falcons

Super Bowl

New England Patriots over Dallas Cowboys

I already hate my picks.


Anonymous said...

Do you really think the Packers going being 21-2 is their last 23 is cherrypicking? That's a season and a half of games. They're 29-7 including playoffs the last 2 years. Gregg's a doofus but how is that misleading?
signed, Packers fan

JimA said...

Because it's arbitrary. Going back to when they lost in 2010 and going from there is picking your spot. Why not say they were 15-1 last season, or use the numbers you used? Gregggg picks his spots all the time in order to make his point, and ought to be called on it.

Anonymous said...

I work with a (good) high school football team and the no Punting/onside kick thing seems to be kind of a dick move. I like how he blows off how it doesn't work when they play a team of seemingly similar talent, but I bet he will forget about that when they go 8 for 10 against some less talented team.

Bengoodfella said...

Anon, I think your issue is you think I was picking on the Packers. I'm not. In fact, if you check my archives I have liked Aaron Rodgers before he became the Aaron Rodgers we come to know. I thought he deserved the starting spot over Favre when Favre was being a complete dick in 2008.

I do think taking the last 23 games is misleading and cherrypicking. He is picking a certain arbitrary point where he chooses to start counting the Packers record. He doesn't start at the beginning of the 2010 season because it would ruin the statistic he is trying to show. It's meaningless. Saying the Packers have gone 21-2 tells us the Packers have been great recently, but he begins using this stat at an arbitrary point and leaves out the Packers record since the beginning of the 2010 season.

I think the number you used it more persuasive because there is a natural beginning or end. Gregg chooses not to use the 29-7 statistic because he wants to come up with a more amazing statistic. It's nothing against the Packers.

Jim, the issue I have when Gregg picks his spots is that he intentionally leaves out parts of data. You can use statistics to prove nearly anything. I don't get why Gregg uses 21-2 to make it seem more amazing. He uses statistics to shock the reader rather than provide information.

Anon, I didn't even talk about how Pulaski was playing a team of equal talent. Funny how that works isn't it? I'm not against punting all the time and think it would be interesting to see in college or the NFL. Having said that, when up against a team with similar talent I just don't know if not punting is an effective strategy. Surely, others disagree, but when the talent is equal I think it won't be an effective strategy.

Gregg just sort of glazed over the idea Pulaski was playing another quality HS team and the strategy didn't seem to work too well. He won't see the correlation when Pulaski manages to use the strategy effectively when there is a greater talent disparity. I just wish Gregg were slightly more open and honest. I always get the feeling he's not playing it straight with his readers.

jacktotherack said...

It's just wonderful that Pulaski lost its first game when Gregg decided to give us a weekly update on their season. It's even better that their dumbass strategy was 2-7, which you could certainly argue contributed to the loss. But of course Gregg is willing to tie himself in knots making excuses: they had to go all the way to LA, the RB didn't go down, the law of averages screwed them, etc.

BAWK-BAWK-A-BAWK!!!! Where are these same excuses for NFL players or coaches??? What an inconsistent fuckhead, it is insulting that ESPN continues to employ this man.

Bengoodfella said...

Jack, there's always excuses when Gregg is proven wrong. I'm surprised he even followed up with Pulaski to be honest. If they had lost their first game, I would bet Gregg wouldn't catch up with them until they won a game.

It annoys me because he doesn't make excuses for NFL teams like this. You are right. I get it is a high school game, but in terms of the strategy, I would think Gregg could provide the same criticism to Pulaski he would normally provide when discussing an NFL team.

JimA said...

Gregg Easterbrook sucks
his columns are pure bullshit.
Worse than Bill Simmonds

Bengoodfella said...

Jim, that is probably true. I think Easterbrook is the worst of the writers I cover on this site.

JimA said...

Yeah, but dig the haiku.

Bengoodfella said...

Jim, I dug the haiku. Very impressive. I see your English teacher beat it into you as well.