Category Archives: Sports Philosophy
A deeper look at what we root for and why.
**(Hey so remember when I said that I was stepping away from the Cooler? That was apparently a lie.)
Have you ever seen baby turtles hatch from a nest? It’s frantic free for all. Hundreds of minute-old turtles scramble for their lives on the beach as seagulls swoop down from above and eat them whole. It’s a truly mesmerizing and horrific scene found in nature. The same happens with NFL quarterbacks. There are countless young players from robust programs with their own pages of the record books that are indiscriminately swallowed whole and crapped out onto your car. The benching of Blake Bortles, Teddy Bridgewater, and Johnny Manziel is a welcoming reminder of that fact.
Why? All three quarterbacks were taken in the first round and none of them will be starting on opening day. Many fans will see this news as a disappointment on the player’s part or a poor managerial decision by the coaching staff, which is grossly unfair. Just because it has become the norm for teams to trot out rookie QB’s doesn’t mean that it’s right. The main argument from the angry masses:
“He’s a first round pick!”
I hate this complaint. It’s short-sighted and misguided and generally makes me want to slap you in the face (it’s more rewarding than a punch!). Let me explain by stating a few simple things:
- College football and professional football and not the same game. Out of the 11 Heisman winners prior to Manziel in 2012, seven of them have been duds at the NFL level. The other four (Carson Palmer, Mark Ingram, Cam Newton, and Robert Griffin III) have had varying degrees of success. Success in college does not directly translate to the pros. the same even goes for coaches.
- First round picks in all sports are based on potential, not immediate impact. Sure, I could use a Thunderstone to evolve my Pikachu at level 5, but my Raichu is not going to be nearly as badass, nahmean? Some top talents need time to develop. Remember Drew Brees in San Diego?
- Human error exists. This last fact more or less covers the idea that some players get selected in the first round that have no business doing so. These players were misjudged by often desperate and/or simply bad teams and were then unfairly classified. For examples, consult your local Raiders fan!
With that argument dead and buried, let’s move on to the next major complaint:
“He should get the experience!”
This is slap-worthy as well because the phrase by default means that sitting on the bench is not a means of gaining experience. However, there is value in waiting and watching and learning. The idea of “the game slowing down” is often mentioned by players who are looking to make the leap. The adjustments within the system come naturally, allowing them to play without hesitation. Also, when you consider that a rookie QB has four to five months before the season starts and the majority of that time is spent in shorts against no pressure, it’s reasonable to believe that some aren’t ready to play, no?
So while Bortles, Manziel, and Bridgewater are first round picks and starting experience would be nice, it’s important to understand that sometimes the best way for a turtle to reach the ocean is to zig-zag rather than run a straight line.
This news has been a whirlwind for the last few days as Jonathan Martin left the Dolphins because of “bullying”.
Now before I get much into it this event was a bit of a perfect storm. First, Richie Incognito is a bad dude. The list of fines, incidents and whatnot is long and ugly. However, despite all of that Incognito had a job with the Dolphins.
Why? Because he’s good obviously. Incognito was a Pro Bowl caliber player last year and is considered one of the top 12 guards in the league this year by Pro Football Focus.
On the other hand there’s Jonathan Martin. Martin is a second year player (note: not a rookie) who was expected to play a pivotal role at left tackle after letting Pro Bowler Jake Long leave as a free agent.
How is he playing? Like crap. Martin is the 63rd best tackle in the league as rated by PFF allowing seven sacks and another seven QB hits during the seven games he played. A second round draft pick a year ago, he’s a complete failure thus far.
Now what can make this pairing any worse? The fact that they played next to each other on the line.
Now as someone who is a football obsessive and a former lineman myself, there’s something that needs to be understood: toughness is an essential part of the game. Sure you can be the world’s biggest, fastest, and strongest man, but if you’re not mentally tough odds are you won’t be successful in the NFL.
Consider the case of Vince Young. Young was a top class athlete coming out of college and played one of the single greatest college performances of all time in the Rose Bowl of his senior year. When he came out of college the success bled into his rookie year. He was Rookie of the Year, a Pro Bowler, and the Madden cover player. Life was good.
Does Tim Tebow’s fame confuse you as much as it confused me?
I took a long, long time to study the phenomenon, and this essay is the result. Touching on historical, statistical, sociocultural, and media-related causes, this essay is a truly comprehensive study of Tebow’s baffling fame. Some of this stuff just might surprise you.
In what has become a super-scandal of sorts (Roidsgate, anyone? No?), the MLB could be suspending 20+ players due to their connection with a Florida group called Biogenesis. Assuming that most of the accused parties are suspended, this will be another damaging blow for baseball as it continues its quest to make the game clean.
Some of baseball’s biggest names are connected to Biogenesis. Ryan Braun of the Milwaukee Brewers, Nelson Cruz of the Rangers and the already disgraced Yankee Alex Rodriguez have all been listed as suspects thus far. This is great and terrible news.
On the surface, this is ugly. The war on steroids has been exhausting for the MLB as it fights to regain the image of America’s beloved pastime. The problem is that you need stars to sell every sport and when those stars appear tarnished (deserved or not) the casual fan shies away. Instead, they seek the stars who seem unquestionable, unbreakable, heroic…and from other sports.
The problem is that cheating is prevalent in all of the other leagues, they simply don’t have the guts to root it out.
For example, in the NBA eight players have been given suspensions for the use of banned substances. Ever. The most recent case being Hedo Turkoglu, who was suspended 20 games for using methenolone in February. However, the NBA is content with allowing cheating considering their questionable drug testing procedures and the presence of a star-loving, meddlesome commissioner in David Stern.
Read the rest of this entry
Recently, what has become a big story round the NovaCare complex is that new addition Cary Williams and tackle Jason Peters have not been at the team’s organized team activities. “They’re getting paid millions of dollars. They should get their asses over there” is a common theme.
And it’s stupid.
Cary Williams, the 26 year-old who hasn’t missed a game in the last two seasons, wasn’t in attendance because he is getting his new life together. Williams just got married and chose to monitor the building of his new house and enjoy some time with his new spouse by watching his daughter’s recital instead of attending optional practices. Jason Peters has missed the same voluntary practices over the last few weeks for unidentified personal reasons as well.
For anyone that this bothers…do you have a recital of your own coming up?
Imagine you’re in high school, you have a Latin final coming up and you’re good at it. Meaning you know that Julius Caesar wasn’t some guy who just happened to love pizza on a stick. Would you go to an optional review session? Probably not. You’ll study on your own terms for the time being—and maybe eat pizza on a stick.
In this case, Williams doesn’t want to go to work when he doesn’t have to either. And the only reason for him likely not being there is he wants to enjoy some free time with his new wife while he can before football takes over his life for the majority of the year. Is that really something to be mad about? When practices are voluntary?
And while Jason Peters is out for whatever the personal reason may be, do you really doubt his ability to come in a play like a stud tackle for the start of the season when he could have played last year and still has all of the mandatory minicamps, training camp and the preseason to prepare?
We all love the Eagles, guys, and of course we want them to succeed; but the regular season isn’t until September 9th. If you blamed anything in that game on missing a few practices in May it would be absolutely laughable.
Put the pitchfork down. It’s going to be ok.
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It’s time to upgrade our thinking – and our platitudes – for the 21st century. Screw inches. Our beloved pastimes are really all games of probability.
And Philadelphia’s teams are finally catching up. It’s about damned time.
The two most recent hires in the big four of Philly sports, Eagles head coach Chip Kelly and now 76ers GM Sam Hinkie, are not traditionalists. The foundations for their respective philosophies, Chip’s playcalling and Hinkie’s talent acquisition, are built on foreign, impenetrable, numerical concepts such as “expected values.”
Many people have a problem with probabilities – and by extension the study thereof, that mathematical voodoo known as analytics. The term ‘analytics’ often conjures a couple of images, and neither are particularly flattering. One is that of the pasty, bespectacled weakling with a pocket protector and a TI-89, jealously crunching numbers as he fantasizes about athletic prowess he’ll never have, cheerleaders he’ll never date, and popularity he’ll never achieve. The other, more sinister depiction is the business executive in a 15th floor office furnished with exotic hardwoods and floor-to-ceiling windows, dispassionately assigning numbers to real people from high on his throne and then buying, selling, or trading them as he might deal in rice futures or credit default swaps. But stereotyping aside, I suspect most fans simply misunderstand the concept.
There has been a ton of speculation regarding the changes that would inevitably take place once Big Balls Chip Kelly was hired as the head coach of the Eagles. So far, most of the analysis has been fairly shallow.
He’s not a bore at his press conferences, he plays music at practices, he talks a mean game about having a mean team. That’s fantastic, however, still only a few crumbs of food from a king’s feast. The draft finally provided an opportunity to develop a sincere understanding of Chip’s philosophy and the general direction of the franchise.
The key word at the center of this draft is the word versatility. Every player that the Eagles drafted this year (Barkley excluded) has the ability to be used in multiple looks. Lane Johnson can play left and right tackle, Zach Ertz could feasibly be four different positions on the field on any given play, and guys like Jordan Poyer played safety and corner in college. All of this plays to Chip Kelly’s favor and supports his notion of putting players in the position to succeed.
Many times that sentiment is lip service from coaches. Andy Reid had a square peg (Michael Vick) and bludgeoned it to smithereens with a hammer (passed 45 times a game). This attitude of fitting players into a scheme rather than catering to their talents is a disservice to the team, the organization, and the fans.
During this offseason Victor Cruz has been a restricted free agent. However, not a single team in the NFL attempted to acquire his services. Not one.
ARE YOU F%&*@$# SERIOUS!
This is Victor Cruz we’re talking here! The 26 year-old Pro Bowl wide receiver that causes nightmares in the slot was available…and no one was interested.
Given his stats, it’s impossible to imagine why. Let’s take a look.
From the numbers, it’s obvious that Cruz is a playmaker (check some highlights here)—and a consistent one at that. In two seasons of play (he was developing his first year and recorded no stats) Cruz has managed 168 catches, 2,628 yards and 19 touchdowns while earning a Super Bowl ring. That’s a pretty damn good resume. In addition, his average of 18.7 yards per catch in 2011 was the best in the entire league for anyone with more than 45 catches and he had nearly double that number.
Simply put, Cruz is an explosive weapon and has already proven that he can be a vital cog on a championship caliber team.
“Just win the game.”
Considering how much of American life revolves around playing, watching, contemplating, studying, and discussing sports, it sometimes seems that it would require a remarkable feat of self-delusion to believe that it’s really worth so much time and effort. After all, don’t sports at the highest levels ultimately amount to little more than spectacle? Athletic exhibitions that distract our energies from those things that really count in life? Such skepticism is justified.
“I’m ok. Just win the game”
Yet, there are those ephemeral moments in sporting life that enlighten us about our nature. Sometimes there are instants that transcend the contest on the court, the bounce of the ball, the tick of the clock. Sometimes sports reveal our humanity.
“Just go win the game”
Kevin Ware’s body failed him spectacularly. Imagine jumping 18 inches and falling 30 feet. Doctors later said that Ware’s injury, a compound fracture in his lower leg, typically occurs only in high-speed collisions, like a car crash. He was bloody, mangled. Just skin held him together. In another place, another time, the 20-year-old would have lost his foot.
But in the midst of terror and trauma, something truly beautiful happened. Kevin Ware, who in seconds had lost so much, somehow managed to give a little more. Read the rest of this entry
According to a report from ProFootballTalk, the Eagles are listed as having $26.3 million dollars in cap room. That’s the 5th most space in the entire league and it makes me dance like a seven year-old who’s told to hold it during phonics.
Why? Cap space is everything in this league.
During the first decade of the Reid era the Eagles were a perfect example of the importance of cap space. By signing younger players to long (sometimes seven-year) contracts and losing veterans too soon rather than paying them big bucks and watching them decline, the team had tons of flexibility as a result. For example, this strategy allowed for the Birds to sign Asante Samuel, who had a great carreer in Philly.