Until about 8:00PM EDT on Sunday, this was a typical autumn weekend in sports. There were some surprising results in college football games on Saturday; the NBA and NHL regular seasons slogged on; a coach was fired, and a manager was hired; the NFL had a couple of exciting games but no real show-stoppers; and then … Game 5 of the World Series began. Let me say this before the results are in:
- I expect the TV ratings for SNF to be down this week because anyone who flipped over to see the World Series during commercial breaks in the Steelers/Lions game had to be severely tempted to stay with the baseball game on this night.
What a great baseball game that was! I can understand people being unhappy with the outcome of the game if they are Dodgers’ fans or if they had a financial stake on the game that was a loser. Having said that, I would suspect that even those folks would have to admit that this was an entertaining and exciting contest. I was “fortunate” to be home from school with a cold on the day Don Larsen threw the perfect World Series game; so, I really cannot say that last night was the “best World Series game I ever saw”. I also saw Bill Mazeroski’s walk-off and Joe Carter’s walk-off and Kirk Gibson’s too; I remember Carleton Fisk’s home run in the series against the Reds; I remember Willie Mays’ catch in centerfield; I saw the miracle that followed Bill Buckner’s error; I remember Madison Bumgarner’s relief heroics on short rest for the Giants and I surely remember last year’s Game 7 that gave the Cubs their first World Series title in more than a century. I walked you down that World Series Memory Lane to give perspective to this statement:
- Last night’s Game 5 between the Astros and the Dodgers’ was as exciting a game as any of those memorable moments from the last 60+ years.
It was only about 18 months ago when Leicester City stunned folks who follow European soccer and won the English Premier League. As recently as 2009, Leicester City had not been part of either of the top two tranches of English football competition, but they won it all in 2016 only a year after returning to the top-level of the sport. One might think that the team continued to bask in the after-glow of that accomplishment. That is not the case…
Claudio Ranieri was the club manager for the “miracle season”. However, in February of the ensuing season, Ranieri was sacked and replaced by Craig Shakespeare. Leicester City finished 12th in the EPL in May 2017; the team played more effectively under Shakespeare and rallied to end up comfortably above the relegation line. Earlier this month Craig Shakespeare was fired as team manager with the season only 25% of the way to the end and was replaced by Claude Puel. Leicester City stands in 11th place as of this morning; I wonder if that miracle championship in 2015/16 imbued the team owners with unrealistic expectations for the near future…
Every once in a while, I have a moment of insight and to explain my latest one to you, I need to set the stage. In the area where I live, there is an active youth football league that organizes teams to play all the way from ankle biters through early teenage years. It is well-organized, and it gets lots of kids involved. When I need to drive to the supermarket for groceries, I pass by one of the practice fields for some of these kids and I happened by a week or so ago and got to watch two teams practicing. There was a minor fender-bender on the road and so traffic was backed up for about 5-10 minutes as the police did what they needed to do. To kill a moment or two, I pulled over and got out of my car to watch the kids practicing. I would guess that one team had kids about 12-13 years old who weighed 150 lbs; the other team was clearly younger; for the purposes of illustration only, call them 10-12 years old and 120 lbs.
Each team was scrimmaging simultaneously and here is what I noticed. Both teams were using a shotgun offense and a spread formation. I only watched for about 10 minutes so I have no idea about the total offensive system for either team; but in the time I watched, they both used 4 WRs and a tight end most of the time and 3 WRs, a tight end and a running back on all the other formations.
I have said before that the spread formations used in many college systems these days does not fully prepare QBs to play in the NFL. For that position, the colleges are not serving well as a minor-league system for the NFL. [To be fair, that is not the purpose of college football.] Many other observers have suggested that the offensive line positions are similarly under-prepared to play NFL football because offensive linemen in college to not spend time learning a variety of blocking techniques; they focus mainly on pass blocking in a system where the ball comes out quickly.
I went digging through back columns by Bob Molinaro of the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot because I remembered that he had an observation along this line:
“Short stuff: Whatever the reason – a dearth of reliable quarterbacks, sieve-like offensive lines – the NFL has become a dink-and-dunk passing league. Not a lot of fun to watch.”
My moment of insight was that the spread system has worked its way all the way down to youth football. These kids are being taught football fundamentals tailored to that style of play from the earliest age groups. [Well, maybe not the earliest. I did not see any ankle-biters practicing using spread formations.] Proficiency in almost all athletic endeavors involves practice and repetition to develop “muscle memory” and a sense of comfort/confidence in what one is attempting to do. The spread offense ought to be very effective in high school and college where the defenses always have athletic limitations; the same goes for youth football prior to high school. Ergo, coaches use that system to be successful in their games and that is what kids practice and develop “muscle-memory” for. And perhaps, that is why some QBs and O-linemen arrive at the NFL as physical specimens who need loads of technique development before they can be “coached up” for a game.
Finally, here is a comment from Brad Dickson in the Omaha world-Herald:
“A Buffalo Bills fan threw beer at a player. The fan was immediately wrestled to the ground and rushed to a hockey game where he was seated in the first row.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………