Friday, January 30, 2015

2 comments Marcus Hayes Is Not Happy Marshawn Lynch Isn't Helping Reporters Gather Quotes; Lectures Him on Responsibility

Marshawn Lynch caused a firestorm by showing up at Media Day (it's capitalized because it's super-important and should be treated that way, except when the media who shows up don't treat it that way) and repeating the same answer "I'm just here so I won't get fined" almost 30 times. I personally would just answer the questions that the media has for me if I were Lynch, but I'm not Marshawn Lynch and no one is asking me questions. Lynch is putting himself in the NFL's Draconian spotlight by not answering questions and playing along. It's not a big deal, so I think he should just answer the questions. But of course, it's not a big deal, so who really gives a shit if Marshawn Lynch doesn't have much to say or doesn't want to say anything? I think reporters care more than fans do about canned quotes that can take up space in a column. If reporters are still relying on these canned quotes and think the fans really care about them so much that it's worth getting worked up when a star player won't talk, then I'm guessing that reporter isn't serving the needs of his readership as he should. That doesn't stop Marcus Hayes from accusing Lynch of making a mockery of Media Day (capitalized!). See, he thinks Lynch is shirking his responsibility to provide reporters who show up to Media Day with quotes so they can write stories. Lynch should work harder and show some responsibility so reporters who show up to Media Day don't have to work as hard to write the articles they publish about the Super Bowl.

What irks me is that Marcus lectures Lynch on duty and responsibility, as if he's skipping out on practice or going AWOL when serving in the military. Lynch is ANSWERING QUESTIONS. THAT'S ALL HE'S FUCKING DOING! This isn't a life or death situation where Lynch is not showing duty or responsibility. Let's keep the perspective that Marcus Hayes doesn't have about the "duty" that Lynch is shirking. I would bet fans don't care if Lynch answers questions or not. Fans aren't best served by getting canned quotes from players and it's a fallacy that fans will be pissed Marshawn Lynch isn't serving up cliches on Media Day. The only ones who care are the ones who accuse Lynch of having a duty to talk to them. Yeah, talking on Media Day is part of the deal, but it's not that important.

This is the same Marcus Hayes with the man crush on Pat Burrell, who also does not enjoy chatting about Chase Utley.

Marshawn Lynch literally grabbed his crotch to express contempt for the assembled throng of 200 media members as he made his way to his podium at the start of Media Day.

Not figuratively, but literally. It was literally the worst thing that Marcus Hayes has ever seen. 

For the next 5 minutes or so, Lynch figuratively grabbed his crotch to express contempt for the NFL and its commissioner, Roger Goodell.

Lynch was required to be there in front of the media and he did his job. That was his duty and he did it. The NFL can't (and shouldn't) legislate what players say or don't say to the media on Media Day (capitalized!). NFL players are not children who need to be reminded to sit up straight and give a good answer. If a player isn't going to give interesting answers, most of the media will move on to other players. But not Marcus Hayes. He wants Marshawn Lynch to sit up straight, answer the questions, say "yes sir" and do his job of helping the media do their job. 

He was fined $100,000 in the past year for his lack of cooperation with the press, including a debacle at last year's Media Day. One report contended that the NFL threatened Lynch with a $500,000 fine if he acted similarly here.

Well, he acted similarly yesterday.

I disagree with Gregg Easterbrook on a lot of things, but the one area he makes sense when discussing (most of the time he makes sense in this area) is talking about how the NFL doesn't have to be popular. If the NFL wants to turn off fans quickly, start treating the players like they are children and becoming heavy-handed. Marcus Hayes is advocating this heavy-handed approach. Media Day is a joke. It's not to be taken seriously. It's a day where the players joke around and talk to the media before the Super Bowl. It's not 1975. If I want to read a quote from an athlete then there are plenty of places I can find a quote from that athlete. Players are communicating to fans directly through Twitter and fans are getting better coverage of their teams through independent web sites that cover these NFL teams. If Marshawn Lynch doesn't give a quote, who cares? There are 105 other players the media can talk to on Media Day. 

Lynch stayed on the podium for just under 5 minutes, the minimum required of him.
Or as someone who is less concerned with indicting Lynch for his every action might see, Lynch did exactly what was asked of him by the NFL. He showed up for five minutes. He did his duty and met his responsibility. 

He repeatedly droned, "I'm just here so I won't get fined," a phrase that trended on Twitter 1 minute after Lynch left the podium. He saluted himself on the big screen in the middle of the US Airways Center. Ever self-serving, Lynch was thrown a bag of Skittles candy, with whom he has an endorsement deal.

Marcus Hayes is bitching that Marshawn Lynch didn't make it easy for him to do his job and brings Lynch's lack of cooperation back to who he is as a person, but it's Lynch who is self-serving by publicizing a brand that pays him to publicize their name. For someone who Hayes will suggest lacks responsibility and a sense of duty, Lynch sure is meeting his responsibility and duty to Skittles.

With more than 57 minutes left in Media Day, Beast Mode entered Airplane Mode and ended all transmissions.

He was required to meet with the media for five minutes and he did that. So he didn't answer the media's questions like they wanted him to. He's a grown man. If the media doesn't find him interesting enough, move on, don't indicate that he lacks character or is a bad person. 

Media Day at the Super Bowl, an hourlong availability of essentially everyone of merit in both organizations held every Tuesday of Super Bowl week, seldom elicits any real information about players or their teams; but then, most interviews with NFL types elicit little information.

So what's the fucking problem? Marcus Hayes admits there is no real information elicited from the players or teams, then says most interviews don't elicit much information anyway. So what is Lynch doing that is so wrong? He's not withholding information, because Hayes doesn't expect much information. Lynch is doing what the NFL is telling him to do, so he's not violating their precious five minute rule on Media Day. What Lynch is doing wrong is not doing more than what the NFL wants him to do. He's at the podium answering questions, but not in the right way. Lynch is being insubordinate by not playing the game that the NFL wants him to play the game. Basically, Marcus Hayes is mad that Lynch isn't doing exactly what the NFL tells him to do outside of the obligation he has already met. Seems kind of Draconian to me.

The NFL has credentialed entertainment reporters and fostered a circus atmosphere, a circus the NFL now charges fans $28.50 to witness.

And of course within this circus atmosphere where the players are asked questions by people dressed up in costumes, these players must answer the questions in complete and compound sentences. Perhaps the players should talk at length when asked a question by a media member dressed up like a cartoon character. Because the event may be a circus, but the NFL wants Media Day treated like the holiest of football days and Marcus Hayes is toeing that NFL line for them. 

The availability has devolved to include guys who wear barrels over their bare torsos; Olympic skaters Johnny Weir and Tara Lipinski asking fashion questions for NBC; and beautiful women in short skirts who salsa dance with Kam Chancellor.

Media Day is not to be taken so seriously as it is being taken by Marcus Hayes. It's fine for Lynch to be asked fashion questions by Olympic skaters, because the media doesn't have to take their holy day seriously, but Marshawn Lynch can't give non-answers to questions because that makes a mockery of the day set aside for the media to finally ask the questions they can ask every other day of the year to Marshawn Lynch. Marshawn Lynch isn't allowed to make a mockery of Media Day. Only the media can mock their day. 

But, be it cramped and hot and inelegant, Media Day serves its purpose.
If you need to speak with the kicker or the punter or the special-teams ace, you get that done at Media Day.

If your paper or website or station cannot afford to send you to the Super Bowl site for the entire week, you get all of your interviews done on Media Day.

Did Marcus Hayes really expect or want a quote from Marshawn Lynch? Does he think reporters are going back to their hotel rooms or the bar violently angry that Marshawn Lynch gave non-answers to questions and they only had 105 other players to talk to? Marshawn Lynch isn't a punter, kicker or special teams ace. He's been in front of the camera a lot in his career. 

Every player is contractually obligated to participate at Media Day.

Every player also is contractually obligated to interact with the press after games and during weeks of game preparation.

Lynch did both. He didn't do both to the satisfaction of Marcus Hayes, but he met his contractual obligation to participate in Media Day and interact with the press. In fact, I think most people will remember Lynch's interactions more than they will remember canned quotes from the other players participating in the Super Bowl. 

Patriots coach Bill Belichick, a master at gamesmanship and himself a reticent and often demeaning interview, yesterday fired this shot across the bow of SS Beast Mode:

"That's our role - to be the conduit between our team and all the fans - all of you that cover the team and the fans that read or watch or listen. That's an important part of the process," said Belichick, who lived and died on football news as a kid. "Having been on the other side of this . . . that's what I wanted. I wanted information. I wanted to hear what's going on. We provide the fans who are so interested in our team with information that makes it interesting and exciting for them. That's why we're all here."

This is simply laughable. You know the media is reaching to indict Marshawn Lynch when they start using Bill Belichick as the example of someone who understands how coaches and players are the conduit to the fans. Belichick rarely gives any relevant information in his weekly press conferences and repeated "We're on to Cincinnati" many times in a press conference earlier this year, which apparently qualified as doing his duty to meet with the media and give out important information as a conduit to the fans. But yeah, a Belichick quote talking about how information from coaches and players is important for the fans. Sure. Pot meet kettle.

And Belichick is wrong, which means Marcus Hayes is wrong. Belichick as a kid wanted information on players and now information like that is readily available through multiple web sites, blogs and online newspapers. No one needs Media Day to hear about what Jon Ryan has to say. They can follow him on Twitter. DeAngelo Williams of the Panthers did not speak to the media this year really. I barely noticed because he's on Twitter and communicated with fans that way. It's 2015. I don't need the media to get quotes from players as much anymore because there is a ton of information out there. 

That's why Lynch should be fined again; fined, at least.

If he is allowed to act this way, nothing would prevent other players - all players - from acting this way.

This is hilarious. "If Lynch is allowed to not speak with the media then every other player who doesn't like dealing with the media will not speak with us! Where will our stories and quotes come from?" 

If Marcus Hayes is concerned other players wouldn't speak with the media if allowed to do so, then maybe the problem lies not with the players being asked the questions, but with those people asking the questions. If Hayes is really concerned other players don't want to talk to the media, the issue for WHY they don't want to talk the media could lie with the media. Of course that's silly talk. A player's reluctance to speak with the media says nothing about the media and speaks only to the character of that athlete. 

Teammate Richard Sherman's contention that Lynch should be interviewed by a handpicked pool reporter is a typically Shermanian, unsophisticated solution: The best interviews grow organically, in the moment. Sherman, perhaps the best interview in the NFL, should know that.

Yeah, but little information is learned at Media Day anyway, right? Marcus Hayes said that himself. Lynch had a good interview with Mike Silver recently. It was a handpicked reporter and it was a good interview. Media Day isn't the time for an "organic" interview with the circus surrounding the whole event. Marcus Hayes knows that, but he's just trying to be difficult and act like Marshawn Lynch blew a chance for a probing, deep interview when this isn't true at all. 

Every player in the league who believes Lynch should not be fined should contribute his own money to his next fine.

Or maybe every journalist who wants Marshawn Lynch to do an interview should contribute his own money for Lynch to do an interview with the handpicked reporter of his choice. 

Lynch is loyal in the locker room and ferocious on the field, fully worthy of his "Beast Mode" nickname.

Also, consider their general profile: These largely are very young men whose talent has afforded them shelter and structure most of their lives.

This is as opposed to the reporters asking the questions who have lived a hard knock life of press box food and sitting down and writing at a computer for a living. 

I would bet many of these football players didn't have shelter and structure for most of their lives until they got to college. You can read in this story about all the shelter and structure Lynch grew up with. A father he didn't really know AND he got to move around with his three siblings multiple times? What a spoiled brat!

They are people for whom "hard work" equates to lifting weights and running sprints; for whom "commitment" means adhering to a loose daily schedule that tells them when to wake, when to eat, when to think; for whom "adversity" means being .500 midway through a season and somehow making the playoffs.

And this is as opposed to sportswriters like Marcus Hayes for whom "hard work" equates to sitting at a computer and meeting a deadline; for whom "commitment" means leaving enough time to eat breakfast and play some golf before making it to the 12pm weekly briefing with Chip Kelly; for whom "adversity" means having writer's block. Marshawn Lynch is a world-class athlete, so yeah, I would imagine mocking him for hard work, commitment, and overcoming adversity seems a bit funny coming from a sportswriter like Marcus Hayes. Marcus may need to find a mirror to see what kind of hard work and commitment he has made compared to a professional athlete, because I'm betting Marshawn Lynch has achieved something through hard work and commitment that few other people can ever achieve simply by playing in the NFL.

They know little of the real world and its gravity.

This is absolutely ridiculous. Marcus Hayes is obviously coming from the rough streets, unlike these pampered football players. A sportswriter lecturing professional athletes on the real world and the gravity of the real world requires no punchline. The lecture in itself is the punchline. 

Despite their existence in a universe parallel to most people's, they at least should understand the weight of obligation.

Lynch met his obligation. He met with the media for the required amount of time. It's still funny to read Marcus Hayes talk about the weight of obligations as if Lynch and other NFL players just always do whatever the hell they want. Meanwhile, as Marcus Hayes takes a paid vacation in Arizona, Lynch and his teammates are preparing night and day for one of the biggest games of their lives. Hayes' obligation is to not eat too much food off the hotel buffet in an effort to not feel bloated prior to his round of golf, which he must get finished before writing a daily column. Marcus Hayes KNOWS the weight of obligation. That golf swing isn't going to fix itself. 

Lynch's boycott of the press is no different from boycotting a meeting, a practice or a game.

It's entirely different. A meeting, practice or game is directly part of Lynch's job, which affects his teammates and their chances of winning a football game. Lynch not speaking at Media Day is part of his ancillary responsibilities which has ZERO effect on the Seahawks' ability to win the Super Bowl. This is how self-involved and little knowledge of the real world Marcus Hayes has. He's not doing brain surgery. He's taking words someone else says, writing them down and then telling everyone else what that person said. If an athlete doesn't want to speak meaningful words, few people care. 

What if he mailed it in at the Super Bowl the way he mailed it in on Media Day?

But he won't because he never has before. This is a ridiculous hypothetical because there's no comparison between a player boycotting the media and that player's performance in the Super Bowl, no matter how hard Marcus Hayes wants to try and tie them together in an effort to give himself and his job more importance. The way he's written this column shows Hayes has no understanding of the real world and its gravity. If he did, he wouldn't act like Marshawn Lynch committed a heinous crime.

He is contractually obligated to be present at both, to perform professionally at each.

It is part of his job, part of his duty.

And he did his duty on both. Maybe he didn't do his duty as Marcus Hayes saw fit, but that doesn't matter. Lynch was there and stayed in front of the media for five minutes. Instead of asking him questions you know he won't answer, maybe find another player to spend time with? Or is that too easy and wouldn't involve a sufficient amount of grandstanding? 

Duty should not be served. It is part of being a professional. It's part of being an adult.

Marshawn Lynch is neither.

Whatever. It's also not professional or adult to expect another adult to bow to your every whim simply because you want a juicy quote. 

As expected, his antics stole the spotlight from other, less distasteful distractions.

Why is Marcus Hayes acting like the media HAS to talk to Marshawn Lynch? If you don't like his answers, go interview someone else. Maybe the punter, kicker or a special teams player. Speaking of duty and obligations, doesn't Marcus Hayes have a duty and obligation to find interesting stories to write about? He's shirking that responsibility by insisting on spending five minutes with a player who will provide him with neither. So yeah, duty and about showing some duty and responsibility and finding another more interesting player to talk to, rather than antagonize a player who has nothing to say? 

Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski created a stir by reading aloud from an erotic novel that starred a fictional version of himself. The erotica was poorly done and, really, coincidental.

The news was that Gronk can read.

Gosh, I can't figure out why Marshawn Lynch doesn't want to talk to the media. Why would that be when they are so kind as to call one of the athletes they are interviewing an illiterate? 

Spritely divas Lipinski and Weir, former Olympic skaters working the fashion angle for NBC, showed up in fabulous outfits. He had on a scarlet jacket over a silk shirt with a gemstone necklace, crammed his feet into 4-inch wedge booties and wore more makeup than she did.

The biggest diva in Phoenix was Marshawn Lynch, and the worst sort of diva:

I see what you did there Marcus. Though I would argue the real diva behavior is to expect a professional athlete to bow to your every whim and answer every question you have in the very manner that you expect it to be answered, and even though there are multiple other athletes you could choose to speak to, you throw a hissy-fit questioning the character of the athlete for not doing exactly as you say or want. That's real diva behavior.

He contends he wants no attention beyond the game-day adulation of his fans . . . then arrives for Media Day in sunglasses, a special (and possibly unsanctioned) Beast Mode hat.
So Marcus Hayes criticizes Marshawn Lynch for even doing his contractual duty of showing up for Media Day and answering questions for five minutes, immediately after claiming Lynch should have stayed longer and answered the questions while putting on a bigger show for the media. So if Lynch doesn't show up because he doesn't want attention, he's going to get fined. If he does show up then he's grabbing for attention by arriving in sunglasses and a hat. So either way he goes, he's going to be criticized. So why should I blame him for not speaking to the media again? 

Within an hour, the hat was available online for $33, touted as the one Lynch wore during Media Day.

It was the height of hypocrisy. Lynch was afforded a priceless, 5-minute ad for Skittles and New Era caps.

The height of hypocrisy is criticizing an athlete for not upholding his duty and responsibility when that athlete is getting publicity for a product he is paid to endorse, as well as wearing and getting publicity for the official hat of the NFL. How dare Marshawn Lynch use his five minutes at the podium to sell his sponsors' products when Marcus Hayes wants to use those five minutes to help his company sell his products! Such hypocrisy!

Both are corporate partners with the NFL.

Maybe the league should just call it even.

So Marcus Hayes is going to criticize Marshawn Lynch for meeting the NFL-mandated obligation to meet with the media, while claiming Lynch isn't meeting his duty and obligations. Then Hayes is going to criticize Lynch for meeting his duty and obligations as the employee of an NFL team by advertising for NFL corporate partners. I think I can see why Lynch hates the media. 

But no, really, it's hilarious to hear a sportswriter lecture a professional athlete about commitment, hard work and dealing with adversity. I can't seem to figure out why newspapers are dying...

Thursday, January 29, 2015

10 comments Gregg Easterbrook Says Special Teams Aren't as Important as Offense or Defense Unless Special Teams Becomes as Important as Offense and Defense

It's almost time for Gregg Easterbrook and TMQ (because they are two separate entities in Gregg's mind) to go into hibernation for the winter, or at least until draft time. So I will enjoy berating Gregg for his weekly contradictions and attempts to mislead his readers while he is still around for me to berate him. Gregg tells us this week that whichever team has a pick-six will win the Super Bowl, unless that team loses the coin toss. One would think the Authentic Games metric would allow Gregg to tell us NOW who will win the Super Bowl, but apparently the metric that predicts the Super Bowl pairing can't predict which team will actually win the Super Bowl. Gregg also takes issues with bottomless pits (irony alert!) and names his non-QB non-RB NFL MVP. I'm kidding of course. He has his readers name the winner of this award and nominates two undrafted players, a 5th round pick and a 2nd round pick in an effort to make sure the winner is undrafted or lowly drafted so he can crow about how undrafted players are the best. It's fun how Gregg skips over highly-drafted offensive and defensive players as the non-QB non-RB NFL MVP. He could include guys like Jamie Collins, Darrelle Revis, Vince Wilfork, Rob Gronkowski, Bruce Irvin, and Earl Thomas, but he wants to nominate two undrafted players and a 5th round pick as his non-QB non-RB NFL MVP. Not that Gregg would ever have an agenda of course.

There's data, there's big data, and then there is slam-dunk data. In the latter category: Teams that return an interception for a touchdown are 12-0 in the Super Bowl. Get a pick-six, win the Super Bowl. It's pretty much that simple.

So both the Patriots and Seahawks need to ignore whatever game plan they have and just try to get a pick-six. Once they do that, they can rest easy knowing they have won the game. It's slam-dunk data.

Teams that run back a fumble for a touchdown in the Super Bowl are 2-2. Teams that run a kick back for a touchdown are 4-6, that winning total diluted by two Super Bowl victors who had both kickoff and interception return touchdowns.

The pick-six rules the Super Bowl.

Again, each team's secondary should jump all routes and do whatever it takes, even if the opposing team gets a touchdown as a result, to get a pick-six.

Why do interception return touchdowns link so tightly with Super Bowl victory when other kinds of return touchdowns don't?

I'm not a smart man, but I'm guessing this is probably a coincidence and not any type of data that is indicative of a trend that actually means something. A pick-six is a big swing in a football game, but there is no reason a team that has a pick-six has won every Super Bowl. I'm not sure there is a causation here.

One answer may be sample size. There have been only 48 -- excuse me, XLVIII -- Super Bowls. Maybe that's not enough to wash out the role of luck in the XII-0 record for pick-six teams.

Right, it's a smaller sample size. I don't know of a way to find this information, but I would bet that teams over the history of the NFL (INCLUDING THE TRIASSIC PERIOD!) who have a pick-six in a game are more likely to win that game. So what we have is a smaller sample size, along with a pick-six making it more likely the team that gets the pick-six will win the game, leading to Super Bowl teams with a pick-six are now 12-0. It's an indicator a team will win a game, but not to the extent the 12-0 record in the Super Bowl shows.

Perhaps this is because high-level quarterback play is needed for Super Bowl success, and an interception returned for a touchdown causes the quarterback to lose confidence in himself -- or his teammates to lose confidence in him.

Or maybe because it's six points scored against a team while they are on offense is a large swing of points and it doesn't have a ton to do with reading the quarterback's mind and knowing if he has lost confidence or not.

Fumble return touchdowns are great, but all players know that being in the right place at the right time for a scoop-and-score is almost entirely chance.

A pick-six is partly chance too. There is skill in causing a fumble, like there is skill in making an interception, but to return it for a touchdown requires a certain amount of luck that there aren't five offensive players directly around the defender who made the interception to where he has a chance to run it back for a touchdown.

Kick return touchdowns are nice, too, but they involve special teams on both sides -- and while special-teams play is important, offense and defense are more important.

Oh. Well then, I guess it's official. Someone should tell Tony Romo or Scott Norwood that special teams aren't that important. I'm sure they probably would think otherwise. I bet the Patriots and their fans think special teams are as important in the Super Bowl as offense and defense, considering they have won two Super Bowls on game-winning kicks. As a Panthers fan, I'm liable to disagree that special teams aren't as important as offense and defense considering John Kasay kicking the ball out of bounds in the Super Bowl undid all the good work that the Panthers' offense did in the fourth quarter. But yeah, special teams isn't as important as offense and defense until it is.

Gregg kills me. Special teams isn't as important as offense or defense until a team screws up on special teams. Then it suddenly becomes as important.

When the quarterback throws an interception run back for touchdown, this may mean the quarterback, the team's leader, just made a huge mistake, or that the opponent's defense is really good. Both are unsettling. Peyton Manning won his first Super Bowl, versus Chicago, then lost his next two, versus New Orleans with Indianapolis and versus Seattle with Denver. In both losses Manning threw an interception returned for a touchdown. Both times as the intercepting player scampered down the field, one could feel the air drain from Manning's team.

There was even a measurement on the scoreboard showing how much air was in each team and after Manning threw both interceptions for a touchdown the Air Drain Percentage for the Colts and Broncos increased dramatically. Everyone in the stadium saw the Air Drain Percentage go from 4.32% to 74.3% both times Manning threw a pick-six in the Super Bowl.

While I won't doubt there is a psychological component to a pick-six, part of the reason the pick-six thrown by Manning against the Saints hurt so much is it put the Saints up ahead by more than a touchdown late in the fourth quarter. So it wasn't a matter of air being drained, but a matter of the Colts then being down by more than a touchdown late in the fourth quarter. In the Super Bowl against the Seahawks, the safety on the first play of the game set the tone for the game more than anything else did, at least in my opinion.

Super Bowl XXXV was close until early in the third quarter, when Baltimore's Duane Starks intercepted a Kerry Collins pass and ran it back for a touchdown; the Giants went on to lose 34-7. There are many examples of the interception return touchdown breaking a team's psychology.

It was close, but it was also 10-0 in favor of the Ravens prior to Collins throwing this interception. Then Ron Dixon ran a kick back for a touchdown on the ensuring kickoff, putting the Giants right back in the game where it was "close" again. Then know what happened? Jermaine Lewis of the Ravens ran a kick back for a touchdown, putting the Ravens up 24-7, which really put the game out of reach for the Giants against the Ravens' defense.

Notice how Gregg points out the pick-six broke the Giants in this Super Bowl, but fails to mention the Giants special teams unit that isn't as important as offense or defense put the Giants right back in the game to where it was (in Gregg's own words) a "close" 10 point deficit for the Giants. Then the Ravens ran a kick back for a touchdown, which put the Giants right back down by 17 points. So Gregg points to the pick-six as the psychologically damaging play, but it was really the Jermaine Lewis touchdown on the kickoff that did it, because it put the Giants down by 17 points in the third quarter. The special teams unit that wasn't as important as offense or defense suddenly became as important as offense or defense in the very example Gregg uses to show the damage to a team's psyche that a pick-six can do.

Come Sunday, should Seattle or New England take an interception back for a touchdown, turn to your friends and confidently predict victory for that team. Act like you have access to some incredible Vegas insider service. And if the pick-six team doesn't win, remember this column's ironclad guarantee: All Predictions Wrong or Your Money Back.

"If I'm right, tell everyone how smart I am and know that the pick-six is a definite indicator of whether a team will win the Super Bowl or not, but if I'm wrong, then it's all a joke anyway and I have no idea what I'm talking about. When I'm right, it's because my conclusion is based on fact, when I'm wrong, it was all a joke anyway so don't take me seriously."

This is the same shit Gregg did with the Authentic Games metric. He wants it both ways. He wants credit for his accurate metric when it's right, but when it's wrong, the metric was only a joke anyway so don't take it so seriously.

In column news, it's time to name the recipient of the coveted "longest award in sports" -- Entertainment and Sports Programming Network's Tuesday Morning Quarterback Non-Quarterback Non-Running Back National Football League Most Valuable Player.

As with last year, I nominate, then readers decide. Before you jump to a conclusion spelled "J.J. Watt," remember only players from teams that reach the Super Bowl are eligible -- my logic being if one is to wear the mantle of Most Valuable, one must have created value.

And of course, how could a defensive player who had one of the best individual performances ever by a defensive player have created value for his team? According to Gregg Easterbrook, the answer is that he did not.

The idea a player doesn't create value if his team doesn't make the Super Bowl is ridiculous. Just dumb. It's the same line of thinking that MVP voters in MLB use.

Stats To Ponder No. 1: This season, when New England and Seattle win the coin flip that starts a game, they are 18-2; when losing the flip, they are 10-6. 

Clearly whichever team wins the coin flip will win the game, but what if the team that wins the coin flip gets a pick-six? What if both teams get a pick-six?

Last week, I asked readers for their favorite bottomless pits.

And if there is ever an expert on a bottomless pit, then it's Gregg. Every week TMQ is a bottomless pit of misleading information and facts withheld in order to help prove the point Gregg wants to prove that week.

Mike Turschmann of White Plains, New York, noted that in "300," Leonidas has a bottomless pit in Sparta that he uses to dispose of Persians. If Sparta could build bottomless pits 2,500 years ago, why did Persia rule the ancient world?

Because it's a fictional movie.

Ryan Ottele of Renton, Washington, notes that in "Return of the Jedi," the evil emperor ends up hurled into a bottomless pit that conveniently is about 10 feet from his throne. I know if I ruled the galaxy, I'd want a bottomless pit in my office.

Ryan Ottele of Renton, Washington should probably know that it wasn't a bottomless pit that Emperor Palpatine was thrown into, but the reactor shaft of the Death Star. So he didn't have a bottomless pit hanging around his throne, but he had a reactor shaft for the Death Star near his throne. And the reactor shaft wasn't even bottomless, as can be seen in that video where there is an explosion when Palpatine hits the bottom. So this is just a big fail by Ryan, though it would help if Gregg wouldn't print something as bottomless when it was not indeed bottomless. It would require research to find out if the "bottomless pit" was in fact a bottomless pit and Gregg has no time for silly things like research.

Spencer Ferrero of Los Angeles notes that in "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade," Indy has to leap across a bottomless pit, then is pulled out of an abyss -- the secret temple had one of each! -- by his father.

The secret temple didn't haven abyss, but an abyss was created when the temple started pulling apart, sort of like what happens during an earthquake when the ground separates to create an abyss.

John Yaeger of Minneapolis ‏notes there is an actual bottomless pit in Minnesota.

If Minnesota has a bottomless pit, then why don't they rule the world?

The physics of bottomless pits are never spelled out. How is one built?

I don't know, ask the people in Minnesota.

Where does the stuff go?

Well Gregg, since it's bottomless I think that question sort of answers itself doesn't it?

Why don't bottomless pits have guard rails?

Darth Vader did have to raise the Emperor over a rail before dumping him down the reactor shaft. So...maybe watch the movie or something.

Since the MVP award almost always goes to a quarterback or running back, Tuesday Morning Quarterback confers an MVP for which quarterbacks and running backs are not eligible. Given pass-wacky trends, soon the award may be the Non-QB Non-WR MVP.

Because wide receivers are winning the MVP award all the time now and all. The last time a wide receiver won the MVP award was....oh yeah, never. Anyway, I think I'll worry about it becoming the non-QB non-WR MVP as soon as a wide receiver actually wins the MVP for the first time ever.

Only players from teams that reached the Super Bowl are eligible.

Which is dumb.

Cast your vote nearby. Next week's column will announce the winner.

And of course Gregg has to provide the nominations for his readers to ensure that no highly-drafted glory boy would be named non-QB non-RB MVP or anything like that. So Gregg nominates as many undrafted and lowly drafted players as possible so he can lead his readers in the direction of voting an undrafted player as non-QB non-RB MVP. This achieves the purpose of allowing Gregg to crow about how an undrafted player was voted as the winner, as if he didn't provide nominations that led the voting in that direction in the first place.

New England, offense: Dan Connolly, guard. Undrafted out of lower-division Southeast Missouri State, Connolly is the man who replaced perennial Pro Bowler Logan Mankins. For five seasons, Connolly has started almost every Patriots game. Against Indianapolis, most of the Patriots' rushing yards came up the middle between the guards. Connolly helped open holes a runner could have gone through holding a medicine ball.

You mean the guy who was rated by Pro Football Focus as the Patriots' worst offensive linemen? That guy? I'm sure those numbers don't mean anything though and Gregg's visual observation that Connolly was undrafted and plays for a team in the Super Bowl means PFF is wrong.

New England, defense: Rob Ninkovich, linebacker. Kyle Arrington, Darrelle Revis and Jamie Collins have had fine years for the Flying Elvii defense,

But two of them are highly-drafted players, so Gregg can't count them as part of this discussion for fear he won't get to go on a "Undrafted players are so valuable and here's proof" rant.

He has great instincts whether dropping into coverage or rushing the passer, and must be accounted for. Bonus: Ninkovich was let go by New Orleans (twice!) and by Miami.

That is a bonus! Obviously knowing Ninkovich was let go years ago by two NFL teams means his performance on the field in 2014 should be judged in a more positive light. Ninkovich may be a 5th round pick but he's also considered "unwanted" by Gregg.

Seattle, defense: Bobby Wagner, linebacker. On a team of defensive standouts, Wagner is the man who gets it done. Who's most "valuable" is usually hard to measure, but not in this case. Wagner missed a few games because of injury: Seattle was 3-2 without him, 11-2 with him. Offensive coordinators find Kam Chancellor, Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman annoying; Wagner makes them tear their hair out.

Wagner was a second round pick, so he's the only hope to win this award and prevent Gregg talking about how valuable undrafted players are compared to highly-drafted glory boys. You know highly drafted guys like Earl Thomas, who is the catalyst for the Seahawks' defense. Notice that Wagner's draft position is not included in the discussion of how valuable he is.

The Super Bowl may be over at the coin flip, since Pete Carroll and Bill Belichick both like to defer and their teams perform better when deferring.

Deferring is thought to confer a slight tactical advantage since the team that gets the second-half kickoff knows what happened in the first half, what tactics were used and what the scoreboard situation is. Deferring also creates the chance of the back-to-back score -- scoring to end the first half, then scoring again to begin the second half. This can be demoralizing for the opponent.

Unless that opponent then gets a pick-six, in which case they have then demoralized their opponent that got back-to-back scores. The nature of demoralization is very complicated.

New England's performance has been reasonably uniform, a 292-194 margin in the first half then a 265-157 margin after intermission. The Patriots' best quarter is the second. They've outscored opponents by 79 points in the second quarter, which has fourth-quarter tactical dynamics but lacks the drama of the fourth quarter.

I think there are certain times in TMQ that Gregg just starts rambling without totally thinking about what he's rambling about. This may be one of those times.

Since about the middle of 2013, the Seahawks have disdained the blitz -- they brought pressure on five of 65 Green Bay snaps in the NFC Championship Game, much lower than the league average of 20 percent blitzing.

But as I always say, it's not just a matter of the Seahawks deciding they aren't blitzing, it's also a matter of the fact they can get pressure with four pass rushers. Not every team can get pressure with just four rushers, so teams that are able to do this don't have to blitz as much.

Given extra time to prepare, Seattle may try to surprise Brady by offering coverages it hasn't shown on film this season.

Or they may not offer coverages not shown on film this season. It may or may not happen.

When Seattle has the ball, expect a traditionalist approach of run-run-run then play-fake and throw long. In a pass-wacky era, the Seahawks' offense is a throwback. Early three-and-outs that might frustrate other teams don't seem to frustrate the Seattle offense, 

Partially because the Seahawks' offense knows their defense is good enough to not allow points that would put the Seahawks behind by a lot in the game. It's easy to not get frustrated with a three-and-out when you know that your defense won't allow the other team to score a ton of points and the three-and-out won't cause your offense to change the game plan drastically.

New England has been using press corners this season, playing a similar style to Seattle's. Adding Revis made press corners possible for the Patriots. 

Adding Revis allowed the Patriots to change their entire defensive strategy, but he's not in the running for non-QB non-RB MVP because he's a first round pick.

Statistically, by yards, Seattle is superior to New England on offense as well as on defense. Football Outsiders finds the Patriots' special teams better,

Yeah, but special teams aren't as important as offense and defense, so I'm not even sure why Gregg is choosing to discuss special teams at all.

and three of the past five Super Bowls included important special-teams plays by the victors.

Gregg Easterbrook from earlier in the column:

Kick return touchdowns are nice, too, but they involve special teams on both sides -- and while special-teams play is important, offense and defense are more important.

Gregg Easterbrook now:

"One thing that may make a difference in the Super Bowl is special teams. Three of the last five teams to win the Super Bowls had important special teams plays by the team that won. So special teams aren't as important as offense and defense, unless it is as important as offense or defense. It depends on what point needs to be proven at that moment."

The latest New England ethical lapse -- how many times do the Patriots have to let the whole country down? -- means Bill Belichick henceforth will be Bill Belichick* to this column.

Oh God, please don't let this become a "thing" in TMQ. Please.

A Nissan commercial showing a car driving through a pack of evil living snowmen says "do not attempt." If you encounter evil living snowmen, don't drive through them!

I think what the disclaimer means is don't drive your car through a lot of snow because it could damage the car in some way. It's more fun though to be intentionally ignorant and think the disclaimer is about evil snowmen.

The last time Bill Belichick's*

Crap, it's a "thing" that Gregg is going to be doing.

Patriots reached the final contest and also were in hot water was Super Bowl XLII, versus the Giants, the season of Spygate. As punishment for cheating, the football gods denied New England the first 19-0 record in NFL history. Now the Patriots once again have reached the final contest while being in hot water. Will the football gods once again exact vengeance?

They very well could. The football gods have been punishing the Patriots for Spygate so far by only allowing them to reach two Super Bowls since Spygate was uncovered, as well as allowing them to be one of the best teams in the NFL since 2007. It's been a harsh punishment, so I don't see why it would end in this upcoming Super Bowl.

When astronomers are puzzled by unknown high-energy events in the cosmos, TMQ asks: Why assume what we are seeing is natural? Perhaps astronomers are seeing the muzzle flashes of doomsday weapons. 

This from the guy who has a real issue with the use of bottomless pits in a fictional movie. Gregg has no issue with high-energy events in the cosmos possibly being muzzle flashes of doomsday weapons. Of course if a movie tried to set up a scenario where these were muzzle flashes of doomsday weapons then Gregg would make a great effort to point out how unrealistic this and then point out the scientific fallacies which the writers of the movie ignored and should not have.

Belichick* told the packed house. Shocked, shocked! In the famous scene from "Casablanca," the moment after Captain Renault shuts down Rick's cafe because he is shocked, shocked to find out gambling was going on, the croupier walks up, hands the captain cash and says, "Your winnings, sir." Captain Renault takes the cash and says, "Thank you very much." So when Belichick* declared himself shocked about Patriots cheating, a team assistant should have walked up to the podium and said, "Your Super Bowl plane ticket, sir."

I realize Gregg is attempting to be funny, but his example isn't the same as the scenario presented in the movie. In "Casablanca," Captain Renault was handed the very object which proved he should not have been shocked by the gambling. In Gregg's scenario, a Super Bowl ticket isn't the very object which proved Belichick should not have been shocked by the deflating of footballs. If the team assistant had walked up to the podium and said, "Here is the deflated football you ordered" then Gregg's scenario would make sense. Even when making a joke, Gregg just sort of mails it in without worrying about whether the joke makes sense in the context of the real life event he's commenting on.

Newspaper front pages, the lead story of network evening newscasts, 24-7 cable news coverage -- if the Patriots doctored game balls, that's wrong, but why the four-alarm level of coverage?

One reason is simply that football is the king of sports. America is obsessed with this game, down to its minutiae. The NFL has an outsized role in society, and never hesitates to use that outsized role for money and ratings. When the NFL screws up, it's an outsized screwup.

That's the long and short of it. The NFL is very, very popular and any news that happens involving the NFL is big news. It's the main reason the deflating of footballs has led news coverage.

Initially mulling this, I was tempted to say another factor in the reaction is that so many people viscerally dislike Belichick*. But the Saints' bounty scandal and the Ray Rice imbroglio got four-alarm treatment, and neither involved Belichick*.

The fact the Patriots were involved with Spygate a few years ago had something to do with the coverage, but before mulling it too long, just know the reason the deflating of footballs story is so big is because the NFL is so big.

But on reflection I don't think the reaction to PSIcheated is about Belichick*. It's about the assumption that people reach positions of power and privilege -- in sports, business, government, school, Wall Street -- by cheating, and most are never caught.

I'm just glad Gregg is finally getting to the bottom of what this football deflating scandal is really about. Because it certainly can't be about a Hall of Fame-caliber coach and quarterback suspected of cheating for a second time. It can't be that simple. It has to be about society and the idea people in power cheat to get there. There has to be some sort of macro-level to the Patriots deflating footballs, so it can't simply be about how some people believe Belichick and Brady are found to have cheated for the second time and they are about to appear in the Super Bowl (some claim) as a direct result of cheating. That can't be it.

But if there's a fair, open competition and one person ends up with a powerful, highly remunerative position while another ends up with little or nothing, we may prefer to believe the whole thing was fixed. Seeing a powerful, wealthy person caught cheating reinforces this.

Or many people just don't like the idea one team is cheating in order to win games. Or many people don't like the Patriots and can't wait to eviscerate them for getting caught violating NFL rules for a second time.

Postscript No. 3: TMQ regularly reminds -- including in this 2007 column as Spygate started

I find it interesting that Gregg links a column from 2007 and refers to it as when "Spygate started" considering a few years ago he tried to justify his whole "The Patriots haven't won a Super Bowl or had postseason success because of football gods punished them" stance based on Spygate not really having started until AFTER the Patriots lost the Super Bowl to the Giants. Gregg wanted to push the start of Spygate to the end of the season to justify his insistence the Patriots had not had postseason success since Spygate occurred. I can't find the exact TMQ, but that was Gregg's position. When called out on this being incorrect, I recall Gregg mealy-mouthed his way around it by saying Spygate didn't start until the Patriots were punished for it. So basically, I find it interesting he acknowledges Spygate started before the 2007 season started, because that wasn't always his position when he had a point he wanted to prove.

Postscript No. 4: Andrew Luck's hand size (pinkie to thumb with fingers spread) is 10 inches, Brady's is 9.4 inches. That's a bigger distinction than it may seem.

This is an excellent example of how Gregg's position on an issue will change depending on what he wants to prove. After most NFL seasons, Gregg writes in TMQ about "hyper specificity" and how there is no difference in a player running a 4.41 40-yard dash and a 4.48 40-yard dash because both should be rounded to 4.4 or 4.5. All of a sudden, Brady's hand size isn't 9 inches or 10 inches wide. Not at all. Now Gregg embraces hyper specificity and says Brady's hand size is 9.4 inches long. In fact, here is Gregg mocking those who do exactly what he's doing here.

Football is wild for absurd precision. Here, a combine 40-yard dash time is touted as "4.27" seconds, trailing only a record of "4.24" seconds. A player who runs a "4.24" is half of 1 percent faster than a player who runs a "4.27," and would finish a 40-yard dash three inches ahead.

Maryland just raised its state income tax rate to 8.95 percent. It's certainly not 9 percent!

Medicare taxes are rising this year by 0.9 percent for many filers to help finance ObamaCare. It's certainly not a 1 percent increase!

When Gregg has a point to prove, he is allowed to use hyper specificity, but it's outrageous when anyone else dares to say Medicare taxes are rising 0.9 percent rather than 1.0 percent. Gregg's own rules need not apply to himself.

In the aftermath of Green Bay facing four fourth-and-1s in the NFC Championship Game and kicking four times, many readers, including Rebecca Wayne of Bellingham, Washington, noted that as the decisions happened, Fox's on-air announcers seemed to agree. She wrote, "So in hindsight Mike McCarthy was wrong but it wasn't obvious in real time."

In most fourth-and-short situations, on-air personnel for CBS, ESPN, Fox and NBC (CBS provides the booth crew for NFL Network broadcasts) express approval when the coach sends out the kicking unit. Announcers tend to assume that if coaches who do nothing all year but study football think kicking on fourth-and-short is the right move, they must be right.

This could be true. What is also true is that most play-by-play guys are older and the analysts tend to be older ex-football players as well. I view going for it on fourth down as a more progressive and more recent trend. Those people, like on-air personnel, that don't have to make the decision and have traditionally favored taking points over going for it on fourth down will think the head coach did the right thing by taking the points. It's why Twitter blows up with negativity when a coach like Mike McCarthy kicks a field goal so close to the end zone. Twitter trends younger and younger people tend to favor the more aggressive and progressive tactics, while the tactic of "take the points" isn't as entrenched in them as it is the older play-by-play guys and analysts. It's my small little theory about why on-air personnel tend to seem more conservative.

It's obvious when athletes make errors -- interceptions are not supposed to happen -- but not obvious when coaches err, thus they receive the benefit of the doubt. Announcers even use the "have to" construction. As in, "It's fourth-and-1, the Screaming Lemurs have to punt."

Again, they favor less aggressive tactics because going for it on fourth down being supported by data stating this is the right strategy is a relatively new thing. It's why baseball announcers also tend to be more conservative and less accepting of newer Sabermetric principles. They call the game based on how they played/grew up around the game, which may be slightly different from how the current game is played in terms of strategy.

Blame-shifting is essential to understanding why so many football coaches opt for the "safe" tactic even if it reduces the odds of winning. Of course every coach wants to win, but that is not necessarily the No. 1 objective in the coach's mind. Avoiding criticism, and thus prolonging job security, may be objective No. 1.

Mike McCarthy just signed a new contract extension that takes him through 2018 and it's probably worth more than the $5 million per year he got in his last contract extension. So why would McCarthy give a shit about job security? If he gets fired, the Packers will be paying him for four seasons that he doesn't even coach the team. Job security isn't objective No. 1. Maybe this blanket criticism is correct for other head coaches, but Gregg can't explain away why McCarthy was conservative against Seattle with this "job security" explanation. It doesn't pass the bullshit test.

Usually coaches are criticized for fourth-down tries -- Belichick* was hammered for going for it in Patriots territory at Indianapolis. McCarthy's situation is a rare case of a coach criticized for doing the "safe" thing.

Probably because it was so egregious. Gregg explains job security is the concern of a coach when he decides not to go for it on fourth down. I don't think that pertains to McCarthy, so I would love to know if Gregg thinks McCarthy is that concerned about avoiding criticism. I can't believe McCarthy would have that thin of skin.

Football aside: Yours truly watched the tape of the fourth-and-1 decisions and was struck by this: All four times Aaron Rodgers trotted off passively, not arguing to go for it. Can anyone believe Brett Favre in this situation would have trotted off passively? This may be emblematic of the difference between the modern analytics-based, emotionally cool approach to sports and old-fashioned passion for athletic battle.

For the love of God, running off the field and throwing a tantrum like a child or questioning the head coach while yelling at him IS NOT LEADERSHIP! It is not. I wish Gregg would get this out of his head. Maybe Favre would trot off passively, maybe he wouldn't. Rodgers was probably thinking about how the Packers left opportunities to score on the field instead of thinking about showing "leadership" by acting like a child and stomping off the field.

Trotting off passively has nothing to do with an analytics-based approach to sports. It has to do with real leaders not questioning their coach publicly or acting like a spoiled brat in cases where that quarterback doesn't agree with the decision of his coach. Is leadership showing fellow teammates that it's okay to question the coach? Is leadership showing fellow teammates that it's okay to act like a spoiled brat? This is not leadership.

Political aside: Hillary Clinton is so far ahead in the early polls that the very size of the lead ought to make her nervous. The Packers thought a 16-0 lead was insurmountable, too.

I'm sure Hillary Clinton knows that being far ahead in an early poll isn't the same thing as the Packers having a 16-0 lead in a football playoff game. If only Gregg knew it.

Next Week: That Super Bowl thing you might have heard about.

Actually the Super Bowl takes place this week. Is this an example of Reverse-Creep where Gregg talks about an event occurring next week when it really takes place this week? 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

7 comments MMQB Review: Vocabulary Lessons With Peter King Edition

Peter King named the wrong "Goat of the Week" for the third straight week in MMQB. He also detailed how Russell Wilson and the Seahawks pulled off a miracle comeback with the help of the inept Green Bay Packers. Peter was impressed with an airport coffee shop in Detroit (and he was shocked the best airport in the country would be in Detroit...I'm still not sure why this is shocking) where the ladies at the coffee shop took the time to make sure his Highness properly enjoyed his coffee. Peter wishes other coffee shops and service industry workers would take the same time to give personal attention, except for when Peter is waiting in line of course. When Peter is in a long line, he just wants the conversation to stop so he can get his food/coffee/whatever he's ordering. When it's Peter getting the personal attention, he appreciates the customer service. This week's MMQB is "offbeat" according to Peter King. He talks about an officiating comeback story, discusses the Patriots deflating footballs against the Colts, provides an absurd "Fine Fifteen," and condescendingly teaches his readers a new word. Because occasionally Peter lets his elitist attitude toward the idiot "normals" who read MMQB come through just a little bit.

We interrupt the Deflategate hysteria (I do believe that is not an overstatement) to bring you this incredible factoid

It's a fact, not a factoid. Since Peter will be teaching his readers a vocabulary lesson in slightly condescending fashion later in MMQB, I wonder if he needs a lesson in the definition of the world "factoid" himself. A factoid is:  

"A questionable or spurious statement presented as fact, but without supporting evidence." 

The word does have other meanings with the second meaning also indicating a statement isn't factual. The third meaning is the CNN version with means a trivial piece of interesting information. The word mainly means a statement that lacks fact. Peter uses the word a lot in MMQB and I sometimes wonder if he knows the word's main meaning indicates he isn't exactly spitting out facts.

One player out of 106 active Seahawks and Patriots was not healthy enough to practice when the two teams worked out this weekend. That player, starting Seattle right guard J.R. Sweezy (ankle), still is listed as probable for Super Bowl 49, meaning it’s very likely he’ll play in the biggest game of his young life next Sunday. So, barring someone straining an oblique on the golf course Tuesday afternoon, it is surprising to report in the fifth month of a brutal NFL season that the two teams left standing are ridiculously healthy as they begin final preparations for the game.

See!? An 18 game schedule would absolutely work for the NFL because this season the two Super Bowl teams are very healthy. Roger Goodell thinks that he should just go ahead and ram the 18 game schedule through. It's not like any of the teams who didn't make the Super Bowl are injured or injuries may have helped prevent another NFL team from having a shot at the Super Bowl or anything like that. The Colts didn't need Ahmad Bradshaw and I'm sure the loss of B.J. Raji was no big deal to the Packers. Plus, the Cardinals were just as good without Carson Palmer as they were with him. Why is an 18 game schedule a bad idea.

My point is that an 18 game schedule is still stupid and it sometimes happens the teams that are able to stave off major injuries to key players are the teams that are able to advance in the playoffs.

I dare to defer one of the biggest pre-Super Bowl stories in the 48-year history of the game to page two of the column today. Page one belongs to Bill Vinovich, the Super Bowl referee.

I feel like every Super Bowl there is a story that is one of the biggest pre-Super Bowl stories in the history of the Super Bowl. Whether it is whether Terrell Owens will play or not, if the Patriots can have a perfect season, if the Patriots can get revenge on the Giants for ruining their perfect season, or whether the Steelers can win another Super Bowl. If it's not Peyton Manning trying to secure his legacy by winning another Super Bowl or Jon Gruden getting revenge on the Raiders by defeating them in the Super Bowl, there is always a story that is one of the biggest stories in the history of the Super Bowl.

Vinovich went to work out one day near his southern California home, and when he came home, his back was killing him. “It actually felt like somebody stuck two knives in my back,” Vinovich said from California the other day.

Sort of how many NFL teams feel after having their games officiated by NFL officials.

At the hospital, his blood pressure skyrocketed. The CAT scan stunned the doctors: The descending portion of his aorta had torn off. This “aortic dissection” caused this huge blood vessel to tear and blood to pour through the area.
“They said it was inoperable,” Vinovich said. “I heard them say, ‘The next 48 hours will tell if he’s gonna make it or not.”

Wow, that sounds pretty severe. So at this point, Peter King will either continue with the story or explain to his readers who he seems to think are morons what "...tell if he's gonna make it or not" means. Because that's a phrase Peter apparently thinks his readers aren't smart enough to understand without him condescending a bit and explaining the phrase. Very lofty of him to do.

They meant, The next 48 hours would determine whether Vinovich would live.

Yes Peter, we understand that's what it means when the phrase "if he's gonna make it or not" is used in front of the words "the next 48 hours." I'm sure that Peter would be shocked to learn his readers aren't complete morons, because he insists on treating them that way. Why would you have to explain what this phrase means? It's obvious.

After 11 days in intensive care and a few weeks of in-home rest, Vinovich felt good, and he sent all his medical records to the NFL so he could be cleared to officiate the season. League physician Dr. Jeffrey Borer, whose job it is to clear officials for duty, not only wouldn’t clear Vinovich for the season. “They said they weren’t going to allow me on the field anymore,” Vinovich said. “Ever.”

This is the part where Peter would explain "ever" meant that the NFL wasn't going to allow Vinovich to officiate another NFL game in his lifetime. 

“How long did it take you to come to grips with that?” I asked.

A few years Peter. Then Vinovich evetually came to grips with it, which is why he isn't an NFL official anymore. Great question.

“Never,’’ he said. “I never gave up.”

Obviously he is still officiating NFL games so Vinovich never gave up. The phrase "if he's gonna make it or not" doesn't seem obvious to Peter, so the fact Vinovich didn't come to terms with the NFL not allowing him on the field, and that's why he is still officiating required further explanation as well.

In 2008, he became a regional supervisor, watching and grading officials. He applied for Pereira’s job when Pereira quit after the 2009 season, but Carl Johnson got it. Imagine if Vinovich got that gig; he probably never would have returned to the field. He decided to continue as a supervisor, but to go back to his other officiating love—college basketball.

Vinovich got four thoracic surgeons to write to the NFL in 2010, saying he was healthy enough to officiate a football game. He took the NFL physical and felt great. Borer still said no. Too risky. “It was like pounding your head against a wall,” Vinovich said. “I’ve got all the information. I just couldn’t get through that wall.”

Peter wants to explain that "couldn't get through that wall" meant that the NFL wouldn't allow Vinovich to officiate a football game again. Also, Peter wants his readers to know that football is a sport, but he isn't talking about what's called football in Europe, which is called soccer in the United States, but Peter is talking about American football that's not soccer. Then I'm sure Peter wants to explain America is the country where he resides as a citizen and is often also called the United States of America. Then Peter would explain to his readers there are 50 states in the United States of America.

Six months later he was back on the basketball court, reffing games on the West Coast. Early in 2012 he re-applied to the NFL, with Elefteriades’ blessing. In May 2012, he opened his email one day to find these words from the NFL: You’re approved for the 2012 season. “I obviously started crying,” Vinovich said. “Very, very emotional.”

Peter would like to explain that Vinovich was emotional in a good way, not in a bad way. The emotions were happy emotions.

Vinovich had Baltimore-New England. In the middle of the third quarter, the bizarre New England formation occurred: Tight end Michael Hoomanawanui lined up at left tackle, eligible. Running back Shane Vereen reported on the field and said clearly to Vinovich: “I’m reporting INeligible. INeligible.” 

“It obviously caught me off guard,” Vinovich said. “I’m not gonna say what the Ravens should or shouldn’t have done. I mean, the easiest thing [for them] to do would have been to call timeout and let them match up.

Peter wants his readers to know that "off guard" means Vinovich wasn't expecting it. Okay, I'm done now.

And yes, the Ravens maybe should have tried to call a timeout, as nearly everyone suggested they do in this situation. It's like a knee-jerk reaction. The Ravens didn't like what they saw, just call a timeout.

Vinovich is aware that some critics—Harbaugh, for one, who thinks the Ravens weren’t given sufficient time to match up; and also Tony Dungy, who felt the same way—didn’t like New England being able to use that play.

I'm sure there is a bucket somewhere that can catch all the tears Saint Tony Dungy was crying over the Patriots using this play in a game when the opposing team wasn't properly prepared.

But he also knows on those three plays, the Ravens had at least seven seconds per play to adjust. So he’s sure he made the right call. “I don’t know how else we could have handled that,” he said. “You’re not going to put the umpire over the ball at that point. We told the Ravens the back was ineligible.”

It was a good move by Belichick and I thought sufficient time was given. What do I know though? I'm not Saint Tony Dungy, image rehabber to football stars.

“Has it hit you that you’re doing the Super Bowl,” I asked, “just three years after you didn’t know if you’d ever be allowed on the field again?”

“No,” he said, “and I don’t think it will until I do the coin toss, honestly. I just want to get that over with, because then it’s just football.”

“No one’s coming to see an official officiate,” Vinovich said. “Trust me.”

Karl Hess is amazed that no one is coming to see an official officiate a game.

I thought the Bill Belichick press conference Saturday afternoon was extraordinary. Clearly, he realized his integrity, and that of his organization, was under fire. He wanted to tell the world there was, in his mind, a rational explanation for the decline in pressure in the footballs during the first half of the AFC Championship Game. He wanted to tell the world stridently that he thought his team and his staff did absolutely nothing wrong. He wanted to tell the world he was proud of his players for continually persevering and becoming the best team in the AFC this season, which the Patriots certainly are. It was passionate and moving and very human.


We still don’t know why New England’s footballs were fine before the game, low at halftime (at least 11, according to Chris Mortensen), inflated to the proper level by the officiating crew, and then fine after the game. So that’s a problem that needs to be addressed. Mike Florio at Pro Football Talk reported Sunday, quoting a league source, that 10 of the New England footballs “may have been closer to one pound below the minimum limit for inflation,” which leads to an important part of the investigation.

(falls asleep reading about the proper inflation of footballs)

A little education this morning, on the parts of this story I think people are missing.

Peter is all about the education in this week's MMQB.

1. The big issue is a six-to-10-minute window of time between when the officials release the ball to the ball boys and the start of the game.

That six- or 10-minute window is key to this investigation. In fact, it’s the biggest key. Did anything untoward happen in that time?

Okay Mr. Football, point to the spot on this doll where the Patriots touched you before the game. Don't be afraid and just show me on the doll where they touched you. No one will be mad at you. Just point.

2. How did the players and teams get such control over the footballs? Why doesn’t the league take control of the football-prep process?

Let’s go back to 2006, to something I wrote just before the start of that season. Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, backed by 20 other starting quarterbacks, petitioned the league to allow each team—rather than just the home team—to condition the footballs it would use on offense each week in the way it saw fit.

“Imagine,” Brady told me at the time, “if Derek Jeter were handed a brand-new glove just before the start of every game. Baseball players break in their gloves until they feel perfect to them. It’s ridiculous to [be forced to] play with new footballs. I can tell you there’ve been nights before road games when I have had trouble sleeping because I’m thinking about what kind of footballs I’ll be throwing the next day.”

I get the Derek Jeter comparison or where Brady wants to go with it, but a glove is a personal item that a baseball player uses, so while I get the comparison, I don't think it's apt. It's like if MLB allowed each pitcher to rough the baseball up as he sees fit, because a football is used by every participant in the sport just like a baseball is used by every participant in the sport of baseball. On the other hand (no pun or glove-related reference intended), a glove is a personal item that is only used by one participant. There's the difference in Brady's comparison of a football used by multiple football players to a glove used by one baseball player.

Brady proposed that the visiting team have access to a certain number of the allotted game balls—the number turned out to be 12—so it could prepare them the way it wanted; those balls would be stamped with the visiting team’s name and kept on the visitors’ sideline for use when that team was on offense. The remainder of the balls would be prepared by the hosts to their liking, 12 kept on the sideline for use on their drives and the other dozen in reserve in case bad weather created the need for additional balls. The competition committee approved the plan the next month, and it’s been that way ever since.

I'm sure it gives those who hate the Patriots and want to see Brady/Belichick executed at halftime of the Super Bowl more ammunition knowing that Brady was part of the push to allow each NFL team to provide their own footballs. It's a decade-long conspiracy! And naturally, Manning's involvement meant he would never over or under-inflate a football so that he could throw it better. He's above that.

3. And about Bill Belichick’s or Tom Brady’s legacy and Hall of Fame status …

Too early. Way too early.

There’s just too much that can happen before then, in all ways. Let’s see where this story ends up.

So Peter is saying that neither Belichick or Brady's legacy and/or Hall of Fame candidacy can be judged prior to either of them being eligible for the Hall of Fame? I refuse to believe this should be the case. Let's make a judgment on their legacy and whether either should be in the Hall of Fame right now. It's much more fun that way.

Requiem for a sportswriter.

Paul Needell died after a long battle with multiple sclerosis Saturday. He was 57.

Peter then has four people eulogize Paul Needell in MMQB. I won't cover much of this because it's hard to be snarky about dead people. Except Joe Paterno. Apparently he's free game.

Roger Goodell, former Jets PR intern, current NFL commissioner. “Frankly, it is difficult to speak about it now.

Because Goodell hasn't seen the videotape of Needell's death. Is he dead? Roger Goodell doesn't know because he's not making a snap-judgment based on someone's word that Needell's heart has stopped beating. Bring the tape, then Goodell will say for sure he will speak about Needell's death.

I was a wide-eyed intern, and he taught me a great deal about the media business—a world to which I was admittedly unaccustomed. Most of all, he taught me about respect.

(Goodell suspends Josh Gordon for drinking beer and smoking pot, then gives a two game suspension to Luke Kuechly for murdering an entire family)

The love of his family over the past few years is the greatest testament to Paul Needell. What a special guy. He will be missed.”

Assuming he is dead of course. Goodell still needs the videotape showing Needell as indeed dead and he'll be locked in his office all day so if the information goes to someone else then he isn't responsible for that person's actions and what they do with this tape. A supervisor can't always be responsible for the actions of his employees, unless that supervisor is an NFL coach or any other NFL-affiliated person that isn't Roger Goodell. Those people are responsible for everything their subordinates do.

This comes from Jim Steeg, who for years ran the Super Bowl and big NFL events:
“Back in the seventies, the Dolphins were going to play the Raiders in Oakland. They practiced at the Oakland Coliseum on Saturday, and in the locker room Larry Csonka found laying there the Raiders’ game plan for the next day’s game. He gave it to [Dolphins offensive line coach] Monte Clark to give to Don Shula, which Monte did.

“The next day the Dolphins got beat by the Raiders. Csonka went to Monte and asked, ‘How did we lose? We had their game plan.’
“Monte’s response: ‘I gave it to Don and he threw it in the trash. He said, ‘We do not cheat!’ ”

Sure...I bet Don Shula didn't grab that game plan out of the trash. I bet he's just embarrassed he used the game plan and then the Dolphins didn't win the game.

The Fine Fifteen (Or Two) 

A quick list, seeing that only two teams are still alive and very little has changed in the rankings since last Monday.

If you read my MMQB Review every week, then you would know that I have advocated Peter just stop doing the Fine Fifteen every week during the playoffs because not much has changed on a weekly basis and the rankings serve little purpose since many of the teams won't be playing any more games during the season.

So that's fine that Peter isn't doing the Fine Fifteen this week, but why in the hell is he doing the Fine Fifteen with just two teams? He's going to rank them equal to each other because he hasn't made his Super Bowl pick yet. What's the point of this exercise?

T-1. Seattle (14-4).


T-1. New England (14-4).

Sometimes I believe Peter has a contest with himself to see what is the most inconsequential item he can include in MMQB.

“I would not say I’m the Mona Lisa Vito of the football world, as she was in the car-expertise area.’’
—New England coach Bill Belichick, channeling a memory of “My Cousin Vinny’’ during his rather amazing news conference Saturday, during which he said he wasn’t a great expert on the science of pressure in footballs (the way Marisa Tomei, playing the Ms. Vito character, was in identifying the characteristics of different brands of tires in an Alabama courtroom).

Yes, we get it Peter. If someone didn't get the reference in the original quote then the explanation you gave of "My Cousin Vinny" as the film where the reference comes from would then explain that a character in the movie was an expert on cars. If someone really cares enough to find out who played the character then they could use the Google machine to figure it out. What I'm saying is everything doesn't require an explanation.

“The energy is sort of sucked out of you. You do feel deflated … Awwww, shoot. Oh well.”
—Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, describing in a bit of a double-entendre his feelings about the sudden end of the Indianapolis season while being interviewed at the Pro Bowl.

I don't care what anyone says, I think Andrew Luck slipped up intentionally here and then was all "Awww, shucks" after saying it. He meant to do it and you can't convince me otherwise. Well done, Andy Luck, well done. 

“Everybody’s talking about Bill Belichick and Tom Brady. When is Robert Kraft going to come up and explain why, if they are found guilty of this, why do these things keep happening in this organization?’’
—Former Carolina GM Marty Hurney, now a talk show host in Charlotte, to Brian Lewis of the New York Post.

While possibly a good point, it's overshadowed by the fact Marty Hurney still wonders if the Patriots taped Panthers practices. It's been a decade, let's try to move on and focus on more important things like Hurney spent $80 million on running backs in a league where the running back is being devalued. I do think Hurney has a point, and not just because I'm one of the last great defenders of Hurney's legacy as the Panthers' GM, but because I would expect another owner to come out and explain why these things happen in his organization. That's probably why Robert Kraft did come out and speak on Monday, while standing by his coach and quarterback.

Ernie Banks, one of the best baseball players of all time, and a man who never had a bad day, died at age 83 Friday night. He was to Chicago what, a generation later, Ripken was to Baltimore and Jeter was to New York, and

what David Eckstein was to Anaheim and St. Louis.

Between 1955 and 1960, my rudimentary knowledge of baseball history would suggest that the four best baseball players were Hank Aaron, Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays and Ernie Banks. (Stan Musial would have belonged on the list in 1955, but not by ’59, when he was 38 years old.) Here’s how the power numbers matched up in those six seasons, which were 154-game seasons:

Player, Pos. Games HR RBI MVPs Gold Gloves
Ernie Banks, SS 152.3 41.3 115.5 2 1
Mickey Mantle, OF 148.3 39.3 98.2 2 0
Willie Mays, OF 152.0 35.7 101.8 0 4
Hank Aaron, OF 152.6 34.3 112.3 1 3

Isn’t that a surprise? Prime years for all four players, and Banks with more homers and RBIs than the other three. There’s the Wrigley Field factor, to be sure, but interesting numbers nonetheless.

Isn't it a surprise that Peter's cherry-picked data goes to prove the point that he wanted to prove? Who would have thought that could happen? What a shock.

Mantle was 23-28 years of age during this sample.
Banks was 24-29 years of age during this sample.
Mays was 24-29 years of age during this sample.
Aaron was 20-26 years of age during this sample.

I would argue that neither Mays nor Aaron were in the prime of their careers during the time that Peter has cherry-picked. Both players put up better numbers after 1960 than they did during the time Peter is claiming was the "prime" of their careers. But yes, Banks was a great baseball player, but no, you can't sell me on 1955-1960 being the prime of Mays and Aaron's careers just so you can prove a point you want to prove.

Banks was good late too: At age 39, his 505th career homer came off Tom Seaver, and his 506th and 507th came off Steve Carlton.

Banks was good late in his career. Well, he was good for his age, but from age 32 to the end of his career he was essentially a shortstop who could hit home runs, but didn't get on-base above .320 and couldn't hit above .276. He was still great, but he essentially became a home-running hitting shortstop who was good at fielding as well. It makes him a Hall of Famer obviously, but he definitely peaked during the years Peter cherry-picked and fell off after that.

I love the idea that’s gaining steam in Chicago: The Cubs, as a rightful tribute to Banks, should schedule a single-admission doubleheader once every year. Call it “Let’s Play Two Day.” What do you say, Theo Epstein?

I'm sure Theo Epstein makes scheduling decisions like this for the Cubs.

In Russell Wilson’s three seasons as starting quarterback for Seattle—he has started all 55 regular-season and post-season games since being picked in the third round by the Seahawks in 2012—he and his teammates have played 10 games against quarterbacks who have won at least one Super Bowl. The Seahawks are 10-0 in those games.

I know, I know—give credit to the defense for being so dominant and for holding Peyton Manning to 14 points per game and Brees 11 and Rodgers 17. The Seahawks defense has been terrific in the past three years, leading the league in scoring defense in all three seasons. But Wilson has not been just an innocent bystander here.

Peter knows, Peter knows. Point out a big reason that the Seahawks are 10-0 against quarterbacks who have won at least one Super Bowl as being the Seahawks defense, but don't forget that Russell Wilson is a winner and that should count for something too. Sure, the Seahawks defense has put him in good position against these great teams and didn't make him score 30 points to win, but wouldn't it be cool if that part could be ignored?

One more Wilson morsel that will drive the quarterback-wins-is-a-meaningless-stat crowd to drink: Wilson’s 42 victories in his first three NFL seasons, in regular- and postseason games, is six more than any other quarterback in NFL history.

I'm not of the "QB wins are meaningless" crowd, I'm of the "Let's not get carried away and put Russell Wilson in the same class as other elite quarterbacks because it's completely possible he's just a great quarterback who has won a lot of games" crowd. 

New England’s five Super Bowls in the Belichick-Brady Era have been decided by 3, 3, 3, 3, and 4 points.

It's almost like there is a thin line between winning and losing which is why stating Brady needs another Super Bowl victory to cement his legacy is probably a stupid point of view.

Mr. Starwood Preferred Member Travel Note of the Week

Four hours and 56 minutes. That’s how long the flight was from New York to Phoenix on Sunday morning. That is also how long I had to smell the over-ripe woman in the seat behind me.

Whatever this was, it was five hours of my life I will not remember fondly. Well, I guess I should look on the bright side. It’s an easy, though odoriferous, travel note of the week.

Then realizing he had not talked down to his audience in a few pages, Peter decides that he just used a big word which most of his moronic readers didn't know and can now use at parties. It's his job to use his elitist attitude and well-educated nature to teach his readers big words.

You should look on the bright side too: Now you have a fun word to share with friends, who will be so impressed if you use “odoriferous” instead of simply “stinks.”

Thank you for the vocabulary lesson, Peter. Now that you have used the word "odoriferous" I have learned the word and will impress my friends with this knowledge. Because I, like most of your readers, am not educated enough to already be using that word in a sentence.

Ten Things I Think I Think

3. I think the most stunning bit of news in Rick Gosselin’s always-superb ranking of the 32 NFL special-teams units in the Dallas Morning News was this: Green Bay finished 32nd, and had one of the worst seasons by a kicking unit in some time. In the NFL this season, 61 kicks or punts were blocked—and seven of them happened to the Packers.

What's stunning to me is that the two teams at 31st and 32nd both made the playoffs. That seems...interesting to me that two teams who are so bad at special teams could make the playoffs. Of course, the team that was 31st was Carolina and they were only better than the rest of the crappy teams in the NFC South, as their losing record showed. So they were more of a playoff team by default.

6. I think by the NFL putting all three London games next season (Weeks 4, 7 and 8) at 9:30 a.m. Eastern Time, we see the league’s reasoning—and for East Coast fans, I do not mind it at all: There is a real chance to create a fourth Sunday window for a game for FOX (once) and CBS (twice).

I love football, but I really worry that opening a fourth timeslot on Sunday for games isn't in the best interests of the NFL. Of course, I also think putting an NFL team in London (without me knowing how exactly this would work) is a bad idea too. So no one probably cares what I think, because money.

And you know what the teams like about it? All six teams—the Dolphins, Jets, Jaguars, Bills, Chiefs and Lions—will be able to return home no later than 4 a.m. local time on Monday, if they so choose. The following week will be a bye week, but the players will be able to be off that week at home if the teams wish, and the coaches will be able to treat the post-London week as if it were a borderline normal post-late-Sunday week entering the bye.

I still don't see how the NFL is going to do games in London on a permanent basis. The logistics of it seems odd to me. If there were a permanent team in London, then every team who plays in London can't go on a bye immediately afterwards playing in London can they?

8. I think it’s just a matter of time before a youth football player crossing the goal line, or a youth basketball player hitting a big shot, or another young athlete doing something great, follows that act with a crotch-grab. Well, they’ll say, I saw my favorite player, Marshawn Lynch do it; I’m following him. Lynch would be so proud, I’m sure.

Peter King is clutching his pearls at the idea of a kid grabbing his crotch like Marshawn Lynch did. Lord have mercy! It's like that scoundrel Randy Moss and how he pretended to moon Lambeau Field after scoring a touchdown a few years ago. What if "the kids" pretended to moon someone after hitting a home run or scoring a touchdown? Good thing Moss is nowhere to be found now and isn't employed as a member of the media. Because that would be embarrassing if there were other examples of professional athletes making gestures that weren't emulated by children and then that athlete ended up working in the same industry as Peter.

9. I think I’ll say one thing to you, Seattle fans, pre-emptively: Don’t tell me I’m a Marshawn Lynch hater.

I'll say one thing to you pre-emptively. It's "preemptively" (oh yeah, the English lesson goes both ways) and if you are talking about Marshawn Lynch still then this point #9 should be up with point #8 and not as it's very own number.

But do not try to defend a man who has something going on in his head that tells him to grab his crotch on national TV after he scores a touchdown. It is demeaning, and you are demeaning yourselves as one of the best groups of fans I’ve encountered in 31 years covering the NFL by defending the indefensible. 

Hey, and if anyone knows anything about defending the defensible then it is Peter King. This is a guy who has been able to defend Roger Goodell in some ways over the past year.

10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:

a. I bow this morning to the six full-time SI photographers laid off the other day, all of whom I’ve worked with, all of whom take such great pride in their work—Al Tielemans, Bill Frakes, John McDonough, Simon Bruty, David E. Klutho and Robert Beck. A sad day for us.

Maybe there would be more money left over at Sports Illustrated if they had not invested a lot of their money in a micro-NFL site and pay well into six figures for Peter King to run said micro-NFL site. There may be more money left to pay for some full-time photographers if SI wasn't sinking funds into a micro-NFL site.

c. Ichiro a Marlin. Now that’ll take some getting used to.

He was a Yankee before that. That was less weird than Ichiro being a Marlin?

g. Just catching up on the last episodes of “The Newsroom” this season, and it’s the best this show has ever been. By far. Olivia Munn hit a few home runs down the stretch,

Okay, one more time.

What Peter means by "hit a few home runs down the stretch" is that Olivia Munn was very good at playing her role towards the end of the series. She was not playing baseball, but it was a phrase Peter used to point out how good Munn was at the end of "The Newsroom." Peter doesn't need his less haughty fans to get confused, so he needs to explain these things to them.

h. Can’t “The Newsroom” come back? Why is it ending?

Perhaps because it was never that good in the first place and Aaron Sorkin knew that?

i. Ernie Banks’s death reminded me of George Costanza in “The Opposite,” when his life goes up and Elaine’s down. George enters the restaurant, sees his pals and in a cocky voice, sing-songs: “Greetings and salutations. It’s a beautiful day for a ballgame! Let’s play two!”

Yes Peter, everything in life can be brought back around to "Seinfeld." Everything.

j. Klay Thompson scored 37 points in a quarter the other night. That’s got to be one of the great sports feats of recent times. Looks like such a happy guy.

Thanks for the helpful input, Peter. It doesn't sound juvenile at all.

Peter saw a puppy on the road yesterday riding a bike. That's a great feat for him to achieve. The puppy looked happy. His tongue was hanging out. Peter likes puppies.

Good to see different teams winning in the NBA.

It's good see different types of dogs out in public. Peter likes it when he sees different dogs on the street.

k. Thursday: Celtics win by one, 90-89, at Portland. Friday: Celtics win by one, 100-99, at Denver. I know nothing about the NBA, but with all the draft picks they have in the next couple of years, maybe the Danny Ainge/Brad Stevens Celtics are on the right road.

It's Peter's typical, "I know nothing about the topic I will opine on, but here's a conclusion I have reached based on my limited knowledge about this subject and I expect it to be taken somewhat seriously because it's an opinion coming from me" mention in MMQB.

r. Love Phoenix in the winter. I just wish they wouldn’t have sent the Coyotes away this week. Would have loved to have stolen a night with the pucks with Rick Gosselin.

What do you say, Theo Epstein? Is there a way you can get the NHL to build the Coyotes' schedule around the times that Peter will be visiting Phoenix? In fact, make it a doubleheader.

The Adieu Haiku

Welcome to Phoenix!  
And a week of Deflategate.
Really hate that name.

If you hate that name then don't use it. Peter used "deflategate" two other times in this MMQB. Peter has some control over the coverage of the Patriots deflating footballs and what his writers for THE MMQB refer to it as. Sometimes Peter acts like he has no choice about which stories to cover and how to cover them.