Idealism, Pragmatism And Simplistic Reasoning

In a previous rant, I said that I agreed with the decisions made by Leonard Fournette and Christian McCaffrey to sit out second-tier bowl games and focus on getting ready to be drafted into the NFL.  I characterized it as an economic decision made by the players in response to the economic decisions by the schools and networks and cities to have so many less-than-important college football bowl games.  I stand by those remarks.  Now I want to add to them…

Another way to look at decision making is to consider the dichotomy often presented by idealism and pragmatism.  Ideally, I can wish for the non-existence of world hunger; pragmatically, there are too many people living in areas where growing food is nigh on to impossible.  Taking the life-and-death element out of my example, McCaffrey and Fournette had a similar dichotomy to resolve.  Ideally, they would have been with their teammates – their comrades-in-arms so to speak – for one final attempt at winning for dear old alma mater.  Pragmatically, they risked serious injury which might cost them millions of dollars as a pro football player – or even the chance ever to become a pro football player.  They chose pragmatism.  Once again, I agree with their decision.  Moreover, Christian McCaffrey can look to one of his comrades-in-arms for affirmation.

Stanford QB, Keller Chryst tore up his knee in the Sun Bowl game.  Stop 10 people randomly on the street and ask them to answer the following questions without resorting to Google on their cell phones:

  1. Where is the Sun Bowl game played?  [El Paso, TX]
  2. Who won the Sun Bowl last year?  [Washington St. beat Miami (FL)]
  3. What team has been to the Sun Bowl the most times?  [Texas Tech]

Your random person will not know these answers indicating to you that the Sun Bowl – old as it may be – is not a critically important fixture on the landscape of college football.  Keller Chryst – like Christian McCaffrey – aspires to play in the NFL; he suffered a significant injury in a meaningless contest.  Give me pragmatism every time…

Reasoning one’s way through a set of circumstances to arrive at a conclusion or a decision is something adults do all the time.  Some decisions are easy; it is a bad idea to take your life savings plus your kids’ college funds and lay the total on the line for one spin of the roulette wheel.  One’s reasoning faculties need not be honed to a fine edge for that one.  Simplistic reasoning – the kind that often leads to baffling decisions – abounds in the human experience and there is probably no place where it exists and flourishes to a greater degree than in sports radio “discussions”.  What continues to amaze me is the degree of simplistic reasoning that seems to exist and flourish in the upper echelons of NFL franchises.

A team needs to pep up its offense so the idea is to fire the current coach despite whatever circumstances have led to the feeling of displeasure with team performance lately and go out and hire an “offensive guru”.  That sounds so simple – and indeed it is simplistic as evidenced by the fact that sometimes it works (Adam Gase in Miami) and sometimes it does not (Chip Kelly in SF).  The obverse is also true; hiring a “defensive guru” sometimes works (Dan Quinn in Atlanta) and sometimes does not (Rex Ryan in Buffalo).  I mentioned earlier this week that the Bills’ opening was the least desirable one for coaching candidates due to the QB situation there and the franchise location itself.  I would like to add to the reasons that the Bills’ job is not a job for hot prospects to salivate over.

According to reports this week, the firing of Rex Ryan and the search for a new coach in Buffalo will be more than a tad unusual.  In a press conference this week, the Bills’ GM – who is presumably staying on with the team – told his audience that he had not been part of the discussion between the owner and Ryan that led to Ryan’s firing with one week to play in the season.  Doug Whaley said he was “not privy to the details” from the Bills’ owner, Terry Pegula, regarding the reason that Ryan was fired.  When asked if he agreed with the decision or not, Whaley responded, “I haven’t even thought about it.”  Seriously?  Not once over the past couple of weeks?  Haven’t you spoken with the owner even once over that period of time?

Right after the firing was announced, owner, Pegula, said that GM, Whaley, would conduct the search for a new coach – – which is pretty much standard procedure when a GM stays on after a coach has been let go.  This week, Whaley left that up in the air saying that Pegula would make the final decision on the new coach.  Maybe that is only a nuance in the sense that the owner signs all the checks and therefore indeed makes all the final decisions.  However, there was another troubling comment from Whaley.  He also said that details such as who would have control over the makeup of the 53-man roster would be part of the search process and the final negotiations with the new coach.  Can that possibly mean that the coaching search will start out with no firm organizational concept for how the team will function outside the lines on Sundays?  If so, WOW!

Do not misinterpret; I am not surprised that Rex Ryan got fired in Buffalo nor do I think his firing was a bad idea.  Ryan took over a team that was 9-7 with a dominating defense that appeared poised to be in the playoffs on the strength of that defense.  In 2014, the Bills led the NFL in sacks and were 4th in the league in points allowed.  In two years under Ryan, the defense has sagged significantly to the point where it is 28th in the NFL in rushing yards allowed per game.  I doubt that any coach on the planet could have won 10 or 11 games with this Bills’ team.  I wonder if the owner and/or the GM recognize the significance and/or the scope of the shortcomings there.

The only thing that can make simplistic reasoning worse than it is intrinsically would be to add three elements to it:

  1. Ignorance of the basics of the field in which reasoning and decisions must exist.
  2. Ignorance of one’s own fundamental ignorance therein.
  3. Impatience.

Purely reading reports on this matter and having exactly no direct insight here, I smell some of each of these elements in the air in Buffalo.  Or, maybe someone just passed gas…

Finally, Greg Cote had this comment in the Miami Herald several weeks ago:

“Tickets went on sale this week for sailing’s 2017 America’s Cup in Bermuda. God I hope I’m not too late!!”

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



A Nomadic Tuesday …

Let me lead off today by saying that I do not enjoy nor do I follow closely MMA as a sport.  I recognize and acknowledge that the participants in that sport are dedicated athletes and that other folks are avid consumers of the sport.  I am not.

Having said that, I wonder if the time has come for Ronda Rousey to back down as the “face of women’s MMA fighting”.  As I said, I do not follow MMA closely so I could easily have missed some happenings along the way here but here is the “timeline” I see:

  • Rousey uses her judo skills (Olympic medalist there) to dominate women’s MMA opponents.  She garners the image of the “baddest woman on the planet” except she is also interested in doing photo shoots and movies and other “girly things”.
  • She wins an MMA championship and is booked to defend it and she is KO’ed by a woman who then proceeds to lose her next fight.
  • After a period of time “incommunicado”, Rousey resurfaces and is booked to fight a current MMA champion.  She lasts less than a minute in that fight and “goes to Coventry” once again.

People are now debating/analyzing what is her future in the sport and what her legacy might be.  May I suggest the following:

  • Her legacy is that her early dominance in the sport raised the level of attention to women’s MMA bouts to the point where people cared as much about them as they did to men’s MMA bouts.
  • Her last two defeats – neither of which was a “squeaker” – indicates that she needs to retire from the sport before she gets hurt in some sort of permanent fashion.  I actually watched her recent loss on YouTube where she was totally dominated for 48 seconds before the fight was over.   She could not have caught any more punches had her face been magnet and her opponent were wearing iron gloves.
  • In the past, I have characterized MMA promotions as being the same as pro ‘rassling except the blood is real and the punches actually land.  It is the last part of that description that – I believe – makes it really good idea for Ronda Rousey to retire from the sport and go on to “future endeavors”.

MMA as a sport does not need to have one of its competitors killed on “live TV” in one of their pay-per-view events.  This happened to boxing on several occasions on TV and you may notice that there is precious little boxing on TV any more.  Ronda Rousey in the fight I just watched was like a javelin catcher; she was a significant injury waiting to happen.

Switching gears …  Last week, I happened to be grazing through the channels on my cable package and happened across the Sixers/Nuggets game in Denver.  I stopped to look for a while just because I wanted to see how bad the Sixers were this year – – as compared to how bad they have been for the past several years.  I have to admit that I was surprised to see that the Sixers played like an NBA team.

  • Joel Embiid is the real deal.  He can score inside; he can shoot from the outside; he can rebound and his defense – more than just his shot blocking – is good.
  • Nerlens Noel can play defense but is an offensive liability.
  • Jahlil Okafur did not play while I was watching.
  • Dario Saric will be a player in the NBA for a long time; he is only 22 now.
  • What the Sixers do not have is quality point guards – or even one quality point guard.  If they had a more balanced roster, this team might actually win 25 games in a season.  Trust the process…

If you had told me before the college football season started and the pairings were announced that any team in the country would score 49 points on the USC defense, I would have wondered:

  1. How did Texas Tech get paired against USC with Tech’s 5-7 regular season record?
  2. Did USC score 80 points on the Tech defense – –  or 90?

Well, last night in the Rose Bowl – the granddaddy of them all as Keith Jackson was wont to remind us all – Penn State’s offense did a number on the USC defense.  USC was a 7.5 point favorite in the game and the Total Line was 59.5.  Anyone betting the UNDER could have torn up their tickets in the third quarter; anyone betting the chalk knew this game was a goner.

I have been saying for much of the season in various Mythical Picks commentaries that Penn State RB, Saquon Barkely, is a special player.  I hope you got to see some of his runs against a very good USC defense last night; this kid can play!  I have also been very impressed with USC freshman QB, Sam Darnold, and he was the architect of the USC victory last night.  USC won the game on a last second field goal ending a game that was as entertaining and interesting as any bowl game so far this year.

Finally, the NCAA permits college athletes to accept “gift packages” from the organizers of bowl games as a thank you for their participation.  Here is a comment on that reality by Brad Rock in the Deseret News:

“Gift packages from bowls vary, though usually they include excellent swag for the participants. But this year’s national championship game might feature the most enigmatic.

“The description says players will be presented with an ‘iconic gift.’

“Won’t they be surprised when they open those Regis Philbin Christmas CDs?”

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



Two Rays Of Sunshine On A Gloomy Day

The weather outside Curmudgeon Central today is dreary at best – low clouds, drizzle, temperature in the mid-30s.  I probably won’t see the sun for the next 48 hours.  This is curmudgeonly weather and perhaps it is an omen for what I will get to kvetch about in 2017.  However, before I get into my grumbling groove for the year, I have two bits of uplifting news to share.  It is as if there are two little rays of sunshine beaming through the cloud cover here …

  1. Gene Collier published the 33rd annual Trite Trophy column in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.  As always it is clever and entertaining.  I would have preferred that the “Third Runner-Up” for this year’s award as the winner but that is unimportant.  I commend this column to your reading; here is your link.
  2. Last week, I told you that the powers that be at the Seattle Times had canceled Dwight Perry’s column Sideline Chatter as part of a cost-cutting/reorganization out there.  The final column was supposed to run on Jan 1, 2017.  Then I got news that Sideline Chatter had gotten a reprieve from the editors there.  Instead of running several times a week, it will only run on Sunday and the commitment to keeping it alive and kicking is only for a couple of months to see how things shake out.

As you probably suspected, I wrote to several of the folks at the Seattle Times lamenting their decision to sacrifice Sideline Chatter at the altar of newsroom reorganization.  If I were prone to using the false logic of post hoc propter hoc – which I am not – I would be hinting very strongly here that I was somehow responsible for the “stay of execution” here.  That is abject nonsense of course; what happened is that the folks who are in charge of putting out the paper there recognized that Sideline Chatter attracts readers to the paper and/or to the paper’s website.  Nonetheless, I can start 2017 knowing that there will be Dwight Perry columns for me to read – at least for the next month or two.

Now back to the gloominess that today’s weather suggests ought to be the tone for the day.  It is Black Monday – not to be confused with Black Friday, Sgt. Joe Friday or former Brooklyn Dodgers’ pitcher Joe Black – and that means a bunch of NFL coaches are no longer employed as they had been for the past season.  Three teams – the Rams, Jags and Bills – jumped the gun here and fired their incumbent coaches during the season.  Add to the list of teams that will be looking for new leadership next year the Broncos (Gary Kubiak is retiring for health reasons), the Niners and the Chargers.  Those are the known job openings as of this morning meaning almost 20% of the NFL teams will be “under new management” very soon.

Before getting to the rumors about who might get hired and where, let me suggest that there may be some other openings over the course of this week.

  • The Colts have now – and have had for several years – the key ingredient for a successful NFL team.  They have a solid franchise QB.  Moreover, they play in a division that is not fearsome by any means.  Nevertheless, they have not been able to put together a solid winning team because their OL and the DL and their DBs are sub-standard.  Is that bad coaching?  Is that incompetent roster-building?  Is that both…?
  • The Texans – in the same division with the Colts – spent a lot of money to sign a “franchise QB” last off-season and he stunk out the joint so badly that he was benched before the season began.  Might that coaching decision have polluted the waters there when it comes to the GM/Head Coach relationship?
  • The Jets were awful this year and the problem is the aging roster.  They have studs on defense who have gotten long in the tooth; they have not much more than journeymen on offense.  Will the coach take the fall for that situation?
  • The Bengals finished 6-9-1 after 6 straight years in the playoffs.  Marvin Lewis took over a franchise of futility and turned it into a respectable franchise.  But the NFL is a league dominated by “what have you done for me recently?”
  • The Bears finished the year at 3-13; anytime a team does that and the coach has been there for more than a cup of coffee, you have to wonder about that coach’s longevity.  I think the Bears would be nuts to fire John Fox, but who do you know that can read the minds of the folks who own the Bears?
  • The Panthers fell from 15-1 in 2015 to 6-10 in 2016.  That probably will not get Ron Rivera fired, but I’ll bet it puts him on a shorter leash than he enjoyed as of September, 2016.

In my opinion, the best jobs out there – purely from a football perspective – are the Chargers and the Broncos.  The Chargers have been hit by injuries for each of the last 2 seasons but they have a franchise QB and they have a solid RB and they have at least one very good WR.  The Broncos have an outstanding defense so the “restructuring work” only needs doing on one side of the ball.

In my opinion, the worst job out there is the Bills.  They have 3 QBs on the roster and none of them are any good; they have a very good RB who is getting very near the expiration date for most NFL RBs; they have a middling defense (19th in the NFL) that allows opponents to run the ball and control the clock (29th in the NFL in rushing yards allowed per game).  Added to those “football issues”, the fact is that Buffalo NY is not a magnet for top-shelf free agents.  For example, I believe the top tax bracket for NY State Income Tax is 8.8% …

I will be interested to see how many of the new coaching hires – and the interviewees who get serious consideration for jobs this year – will be “retread coaches” as compared to “up-and-coming hot commodities”.  Please note that of the 5 coaches fired during the season and at the end of yesterday’s action, 3 were retreads (Chip Kelly, Rex Ryan and Jeff Fisher) and 2 were “up-and-coming hot commodities” (Gus Bradley and Mike McCoy).

Finally, here is an item from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“DeVry University has agreed to pay $100 million over FTC claims that its ads misled prospective students.

“Especially the part about winning last year’s Rose Bowl.”

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