Lots Of Magical Thinking Out There Today

The Women’s World Cup Final yesterday was an exciting contest. The Japanese team was sort of like Rocky Balboa; the Americans were taller, bigger and for the most part faster than their counterparts at just about every position. Nonetheless, the Japanese just “kept punching” and came back twice for late game one-goal deficits to tie the game after the mandatory 30-minute overtime. Then the Japanese won on penalty kicks.

I absolutely hate using penalty kicks to decide any soccer game – and loathe, abhor and detest using them to decide a world championship game. However, that is the rule and that is how the game ended. I have several observations about the game itself:

    There were very few fouls in the game.

    There was no “flopping” and none of the women suffered what they pretended to be serious injuries only to be up and running at full speed 30-seconds later.

    Because women run slower than do men, there is more room on the field for long passes and long runs in the women’s game; defenders take longer to cover open areas. Perhaps the men might consider 10 on a side instead of 11?

In yesterday’s Washington Post, a column rhetorically asked what a possible US victory might mean to professional women’s soccer in the US. Frankly, I thought we had moved on beyond having to ask that kind of question because the answer is fairly obvious. Women’s pro soccer in the US will continue to struggle to become a “niche sport” whether or not the US Women’s National Team wins the World Cup or not.

One of the least successful teams in the Women’s World Cup Tournament had to be North Korea; the team did not score a goal in its 3 games; the high point was a “nil-nil tie” with Colombia. [Aside: What are the odds that North Korea and Colombia use that game to forge a great international rivalry?] Then it was revealed that the North Korean team was involved in the worst doping scandal in decades. When 2 members of the North Korean team tested positive for banned substances, FIFA rules required everyone on the team to be tested. Even Sepp Blatter – - who never saw a scandalous situation that was too overly ripe for his tastes – - had to express dismay at the testing results. At least five North Korean players tested positive.

However, leave it to the spin-doctors and magical thinkers in charge of North Korea to come up with an explanation. The tests did not show performance enhancing drugs; the tests lit up the test tubes because the players had taken a Chinese medicine concoction to recover from injuries and the concoction included an extract of deer musk glands. Oh and those injuries were caused by lightening striking several members of the team just prior to the team’s opening loss to the US team. Somewhere Kim Jong Il was smiling…

On Saturday morning, I opened up my sports section to check the baseball results from the night before and saw that the Pittsburgh Pirates were in first place in the NL Central by percentage points with a record of 48-43. In other news, six pigs called Pittsburgh approach control to request landing clearance at Pittsburgh International Airport.

Seriously, the Pirates’ story this year is a good one after 18 straight years of losing baseball. Joel Hanrahan made the All-Star team; Andrew McCutcheon is budding star, and if you have not noticed, Jeff Karstens has become an ace for the pitching staff. From 1 June through Saturday, Karstens had won 6 games and pitched to an ERA of 1.26. Fans there are responding to the team; attendance is up more than 3500 fans per game compared to last season.

Last week, the Washington Post ran a story by Dan Steinberg and Mike Jones regarding Washington Redskins season ticket sales. The Post reported that the Skins were removing about 10,000 seats from FedEx Field – - perhaps to replace them with party decks or perhaps not – - and that the Skins tried to sell those tickets to folks in the DC area and presumably to their so called waiting list of 150,000 – 200,000 folks. When the tickets could not move, the decision was made to remove the seats. By the way, the Redskins maintain the fiction that they have sold out every home game since 1966. If you have EVER watched a game from FedEx Field, you can see thousands of empty seats at every game on every level in the stadium. There is no way that many people came up with something else to do on game day for each and every game…

Let us do a wee bit of math here. If there were really 150,000 fans on a waiting list to buy season tickets, chances are that each one would want to buy a pair of season tickets. Some might want to buy four. My point is that 150,000 fans on a waiting list represent a demand for more than 150,000 tickets. To make the math easier let us say that each one of these potential buyers wants 2 tickets making the “demand” equal to 300,000 tickets. The Redskins are removing 10,000 seats that they cannot fill…

So, that means if only 3.33% of those buyers who have been waiting for decades to have their name bubble up on the list to a point where they MIGHT have a shot at tickets would have said yes to the offer, those 10,000 seats would be full and would still be in FedEx Field.

    Conclusion: The Redskins’ waiting list of 150,000 folks for season tickets has the same level of reality as those lightening strikes that hit the North Korean team causing those injuries that had to be treated with the musk glands of deer. In terms of fantastical explanations, the Redskins’ PR trolls are almost on a par with the North Korean “news agency” folks.

Even more interesting than the conclusion drawn from some basic math is the “explanation” offered by the Redskins VP of Operations in that Washington Post story. According to what he told the Post, the seats are being removed:

“…to ease traffic congestion and lines at concession stands and bathrooms in the stadium.”

According to this guy, this is nothing more than a move to improve the game-day experience for fans at the stadium. Excuse me. If you cannot sell the seats and there are no people in the seats, how can that ease traffic congestion or lines in the stadium? Did someone clone 10,000 copies of Claude Rains and stash them in the bowels of FedEx Field?

Finally, Greg Cote of the Miami Herald made a connection I had not made before:

“The Tour de France, scandalized by performance-enhancing drugs, continues for another week. Ever notice that the yellow jersey the leader gets to wear is roughly the same color as a urine sample?”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports…

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  • Roger Phipps  On August 4, 2011 at 2:31 pm

    The website has changed and no postings (that I can find) since Jul 15. Has something happened? Am I missing something?

  • Helen Craig  On August 12, 2011 at 9:30 am

    I miss his posts. Very informed and opinionated writer. Hope all is well.

  • T.C. LaTorre  On August 15, 2011 at 1:50 pm

    Where’s Waldo? I miss him, best opinionated old bastard on the internet.

  • andy  On August 27, 2011 at 1:50 am

    What’s happened to him? He is an older guy, I hope everything is OK… I hope lebrons threats are totally unrelated and coincidental…

  • The Sports Curmudgeon  On August 31, 2011 at 1:01 pm

    Thank you all for your kind words. As noted in the Administrative Note on 8/31/11, the problem was with the software that kept this site open to updating.

    Hopefully all will remain in working order for another decade.

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