I'VE HAD JUST ABOUT ENOUGH OF YOU SONNY
in his Rat Pack phase
In other Paterno chiseling. I've read more than my fair share of outraged reactions to the Freeh Report and recommend those of Dan Wetzel, Scipio Tex, and Paul Campos. Wetzel has a passage at the end about the Grand Experiment that captures how ridiculous the very idea was from the start:
Paterno did help his football players. Those men, however, were heavily recruited, talented and often highly motivated people. If they hadn't gone to Penn State they would've gone to Michigan or Virginia or Notre Dame.
For decades he found a way to take top-line kids and maximize what they could do, usually by motivating them to excel at a sport they already loved. They were subject to mass adulation and had the potential to become millionaires at the professional level.
He wasn't taking illiterate Third World children and getting them to Harvard. Almost every person Paterno positively impacted through football would have fared similarly had Penn State not even fielded a team. They just would have played elsewhere. Bo Schembechler or Lou Holtz or Bobby Bowden would've coached them up in football and life, just like Paterno did.
That's always bugged me about the sanctimony of a certain section of the ND fanbase. Congratulations: you took kids from Catholic schools with solid families and didn't turn them into the Joker. Well done.
Campos touches on the refrigerator thing without having to cross the Atlantic for a metaphor:
A man who breaks some rules in order to win a few more football games is likely to understand himself to be nothing more exalted than a hustler on the make. By contrast, a man who talks himself into believing that he is running a uniquely virtuous Grand Experiment, rather than just another successful college football program that mostly avoids the most egregious forms of cheating, is far more likely to develop the delusion that he’s some sort of role model for his peers, or even a quasi-spiritual leader of our youth.
And Scipio Tex bombs the one moment of regret Paterno expressed:
Before his death, Joe Paterno remarked that "With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more."
The measured banality of that phraseology, the suggestion that hindsight is the necessary ingredient when confronted with the most simple matters of immediate moral action, reveals his own disconnection and concern for reputation right up until his last moments.
Let's be clear: Those boys wish you'd done anything at all, Joe.
That closes the door on Brian's opinion of Joe Paterno story time. Wait, one more: Grantland's Michael Weinreb, a State College native with Penn State ties that run as deep as they can, declares the experiment "failed."
NCAA matters. The Paterno debate closes as another one re-opens: should the NCAA step in and hammer Penn State for the above? I'm on the "no" side. The NCAA has an enforcement mechanism to maintain its own set of rules for things that the legal system has nothing to say about. Here, the perpetrators are going to jail. That is an appropriate punishment and effective deterrent. The NCAA stepping in is redundant, and the hammer would fall on a completely unrelated set of people. The legal system has a laser-aimed bazooka; the NCAA would be deploying a wonky BB gun with a misaligned sight. Meanwhile, the Department of Education could look into Penn State essentially ignoring the Clery act and PSU is about to be flooded with civil lawsuits that insurance probably won't cover. Deterrence: check.
That said, if the NCAA were to vacate Paterno's victories after the 2001 incident* and instate Bobby Bowden as the all-time victories leader I would clap like a seal. (Or Les Miles.) Paterno's maniacal pursuit of that goal long after he'd ceased to be capable of anything other than muttering in the press box seems like a symptom of the broader disease.
*[Ideally they'd deploy some sort of double standard so the Big Ten wouldn't have to go back and pretend that a decade of games didn't happen. Just nix them from Paterno's record, not the program's.]
rejected nicknames included "the super seven," "excellent thirty-six," and "adjective-free e to the x"
A rain of thunder from the FABULOUS FIVE. I just came up with that nickname for Michigan's incoming basketball recruiting class. You see, there are five of them, and they seem very good at basketball collectively. Thus I have decided to call them the FABULOUS FIVE. I may decide have a few of those letters lower-cased in the future. It's a work in progress.
No? You're saying something about how that's ridiculous, fraught with historical significance, and derivative. Well, you are a hater.
Anyway, the FABULOu5 FIvE are on campus and taking it to the veterans!
"They got us two out of three games. I don't think they got the better of us, but they looked really good. They came in and they're willing to learn and that's a good sign for freshmen. We should be really good with their help this year," sophomore Trey Burke said. "I remember there were a couple times they beat us … that doesn't surprise me because that's the type of players they are.
"They're really good, they have size and they know their roles — they can play."
Said Tim Hardaway Jr.: "The first two or three games, they destroyed us. I think they were very excited. (In) games to 11, they're beating us 11-6, 11-7."
"(Jordan Morgan) and I looked at each other and said we have to show them what Big Ten basketball is about and we beat them 11-1, 11-2, so they got their time, but it won't happen again."
Also, Burke and Hardaway are revealed to be on separate teams when this is going on, meaning 1) walk-ons are filling out the veteran five-man rosters, and 2) Burke and Hardaway are not playing together. You may have not needed the second bullet point there.
Anyway, I predict Mitch Albom thinks none of these guys are taking 600k from a Detroit numbers runner. This time, he will be correct. Also the basketball team will be good at basketball.
BONUS: Caris Levert is "built like small Kevin Durant," which means he can be used as a kite should the situation call for it.
Nevermind the good nonconference scheduling business. The Pac-12/Big Ten scheduling pact that was like conference expansion except brillianter, that was a historic way to something something with synergy, the thing that promised Wisconsin would finally have to play an opponent with zero confused Albanians in the secondary… it's dead.
The two leagues announced Friday that their pact, which initially called for 12 football games per year, has been called off. The reason: at least four Pac-12 schools were unwilling to agree to mandatory scheduling, ESPN.com has learned. A key sticking point is that Pac-12 teams play nine conference games, while Big Ten teams play only eight. Adding in traditional non-league series like USC-Notre Dame, Stanford-Notre Dame and Utah-BYU, and it makes the scheduling situation tougher for those in the Pac-12.
So much for that. The silver lining is that the Big Ten will look at going to a nine-game conference schedule in 2017, like they had announced they were going to do before the stars aligned with the Pac-12. I preferred a nine-game conference schedule anyway. From Michigan's perspective anything that helps balance the crossover-rival playing field is beneficial, and I hate going four years without playing Wisconsin, etc.
Libel lawsuit business. Prediction: Kitchener's lawsuit will have no effect on the Daily. As Tyler Dellow points out, the US passed an act that prohibits libel tourism and what they're accused of—paying an employee—is only debatably defamatory. Meanwhile, OHL restrictions on compensation may not be legal since the players have not collectively bargained for their contracts. Given the state of the law the play for the Daily may be to ignore the lawsuit:
In any event, it seems to me that one consequence of the SPEECH Act is that, if your assets are in America and you’ve received advice that a foreign defamation action against you could not succeed in America, you’d never bother to defend it. Let the plaintiff have his default judgment and then who cares. This is, of course, more true of corporations then it is of individuals – a judgment against him personally would kind of limit the career opportunities of Matt Slovin, the reporter in question, because the judgment could be enforced against him if he ever moved to Canada and acquired some assets.
The fact of the individual journalist apparently being named in the litigation is the one thing that might make it sensible to fight the thing here. Here’s hoping the case goes all the way to trial – a trip through the sausage factory of junior hockey could be a considerable amount of fun.
The Daily is standing by its story. Kitchener's playing a game of chicken here—it seems like their business model is based on not having anyone look too closely at why their players aren't employees.
Pressed for time. Michael of Braves and Birds also writes for the Atlanta SBN site and has a post on ESPN's suddenly great coverage of international soccer and how they could improve their coverage of college football:
Whereas ESPN starts off Euro matches in the studio with a discussion of the lineup choices made by the managers, they start off college football games with Mark May and Lou Holtz getting into contrived fights or Jesse Palmer looking pretty. Whereas ESPN includes the pre-match pomp and circumstance when covering Euro matches, they ignore it almost entirely in college football. Instead, the approach is for the play-by-play and color guys to drum through the story lines for the game - story lines that they will stick to regardless of how the game actually plays out - and then maybe the viewer gets a five-second shot of Michigan players touching the banner or Clemson players rubbing Howard's Rock. Whereas ESPN shows the starting lineups for both teams in formation at the outset of each Euro match, they cannot be bothered to even list the starting lineups for college football teams anymore, instead showing only the "Impact Players," as if every word coming out of Matt Millen's mouth is so critical that he does not have time to list 44 starters.
In short, ESPN feeds both the mind and the heart in the first 15 minutes of covering a Euro match, while it does neither in the first 15 minutes of covering a college football game. If ESPN started Georgia-South Carolina by covering the entire rendition of Also Sprach Zarathustra* and then discussed the teams' starting lineups and how they would match up against one another, both in terms of styles and in terms of individual matchups, then I would be a very happy camper and I suspect that most college football fans would be, as well.
The asterisk notes that yes, that's ESPN coverage, but if you watch that youtube clip it is remarkable because Mike Patrick just gets out of the way and lets you have your moment with the fans. I'd love it if every word spoken by Mark May was replaced by the PBP announcer pointedly not saying anything as the pageantry of the pregame played out.
Newspapers still struggling. An extensive Nieman Lab article on the situation of the Detroit papers is full of doom, gloom, and happy faces put on crappy situations by Paul Anger:
“Very soon, sooner than most people expect, we’ll only publish on Sunday,” Elrick, the Pulitzer winner, told me. “We’re still losing money. I think they were smart to do a lot of research. I think they were smart to communicate to people what they were doing and why. But there’s no question that they did this because there was no better alternative. To my mind, this was cutting off your arm so you can get out from under the boulder. This was not, ‘I’ll be so much faster and lighter with one arm.’ Anybody who’s telling you that is full of baloney.”
Anger insists that the delivery change has been “extremely successful,” but that doesn’t mean things are bright. Weekday circulation continues to drop — nearly 6 percent between March 2011 and March 2012.
Even the director of the Knight-Wallace Fellowship is dismissing papers out of hand:
Charles Eisendrath, director of the Knight-Wallace Fellowship at the University of Michigan, puts it bluntly: “They do not matter,” he told me. “They’ve been fading for a long time. The decision to get rid of half of your [delivery] schedule accelerated the rate by two. What advertisers think is, ‘This isn’t going anywhere. It doesn’t carry any influence.’ What readers think is, ‘There’s nothing in this.’”
The Free Press just announced they would "sizably reduce" its newsroom again. Section 1 opens up a bottle of champagne.
Etc.: Lloyd Carr thinks the playoff will expand. He seems to like it all the same. Behind the Call Me Maybe holdouts. Denard gets you a plaque. The Detroit metro has the third highest effective income in the country. We can probably stop bemoaning the implosion of the state. Rothstein on Michigan's influx of SYF Players.
Paterno, fridge, Paterno
This might be off-topic, I don't know, but the release of the Freeh Report on what happened at Penn State does seem like something that I would like to address, especially a day after a letter purportedly from Joe Paterno was released by his family. The passage that jumped out at me was this one:
For over 40 years young men have come to Penn State with the idea that they were going to do something different — they were coming to a place where they would be expected to compete at the highest levels of college football and challenged to get a degree. And they succeeded — during the last 45 years NO ONE has won more games while graduating more players. The men who made that commitment and who gave of themselves to help build the national reputation of what was once a regional school deserve better than to have their hard work and sacrifice dismissed as part of a “football factory,” all in the interests of expediency.
His name is Tony Hawks, and he's an English dude who got drunk one night, accepted a bar bet, and proceeded to hitchhike around the circumference of Ireland with a mini-fridge. He wrote a popular book detailing his experiences afterwards, which I read.
His story gets latched onto by a Dublin radio station, which plans a triumphal march to the city center upon Hawks's arrival. This ends up being a sad anti-climax consisting of three people and a confused bagpiper; Hawks goes to a hotel and watches an Irish political debate afterwards. The next day he gets lunch with the radio folk, and what happens when he exits the restaurant has been an oddly persistent thing in my memory:
As I walked out of that restaurant pulling my fridge behind me for the final time, everyone on Gerry's table began applauding politely. Astonishingly, some people on a few of the other tables started to join in. Others looked up to see what was going on, and when they saw me and a fridge, they too joined in, possibly thinking it was somehow expected of them. Soon everyone in the restaurant was applauding, with cheers, whistles, and laughter thrown in for good measure.
I felt great. The anti-climax of yesterday didn't matter anymore. I understood now. Yesterday had been phoney, this was real. Yesterday I had been saying 'Look at me." It hadn't been right and it hadn't really worked, and I should have known that …. Now it was working, and it was working because I was walking humbly out of a restaurant with no airs and graces, affectations or histrionics. The restaurant's diners picked up on this and were offering their spontaneous and unaffected appreciation of someone for whom they had a peculiar nagging respect.
Just lug the damn refrigerator. Stop telling everyone how great of a job you're doing of pulling the refrigerator. Maybe someone will notice, maybe not, but once you start talking about it yourself your self-regard starts chipping away at the core.
If Penn State had not been posited as a Grand Experiment, it's possible that one of the four adult-type substances who could have put Sandusky's second career to a stop a decade before it did would have had more regard for the possibility children would be raped* than for what people would think about them. It's too late for all of them, perpetrator and victims alike, now. But to me the lesson is to shut up about yourself and get on with it. It will help you not make terrible mistakes because you are trying to preserve what people think about you in the face of what you really are.
BONUS AMAZING IRONY SECTION: I've been reading various Penn State boards, which are now riven with debate over how much proofy proof there actually is at this juncture. Quite a lot of people have given up the ghost—a BWI poll about taking down the Paterno statue is running 80-20 in favor—but a few continue to soldier on. Here's an exchange from BSD that is, well…
Just finished the report top to bottom minus all the parts about the Clery act and university and state codes.
I think the 98 investigation heavily, heavily influenced future actions. I think that investigation established to everyone involved that Jerry was not a child molester but rather a man who had boundary issues, the police reports even backed that when they describe his behavior as not that of a predator. Every action they took after that appears to have been normal actions taken with a prestigious former employee, whether it was 2nd Mile support, access to facilities, emeritus status etc, they seemed to feel there was no reason Sandusky should be a liability.
I think that that investigation clouded their judgement of 2001. It seems that there was some telephone affect in place as well but the lack of reconciliation between Paterno/Mike and Schultz/Curley’s statements makes that cloudy. At this point Jerry had been established as a man with boundary issues, not molestation issues and I think in their minds when they heard of another shower incident, they just related it to the same level of importance they thought of the 1998 incident, not a serious one.
It’s called priming. Once we have a preconceived idea about something or someone in our head, it’s nearly impossible to get it out.
A good book that get into this and all sorts of other cool issues is Jonah Lehrer’s book, How We Decide. Most of our decisions are not based on rationality or reasoning, but rather imbedded emotional responses. That can be both good and bad. In this situation, it was obviously bad.
…it's demanding some self-reflexiveness. Yes. Since I cannot shake 20% of the Penn State fanbase individually, screaming "SNAP OUT OF IT, MAN," I think I will go with "demanding some self-reflexiveness."
SIDE NOTE TO IRONY: One of the more useful ways to cleave the world into halves is to split people into a group A that is suspicious of their own brain and a group B that is not. I'm in the former group, thus all the numbers and systematization and so on. You could add a third group of people who are suspicious of other people's brains but not their own, but they seem like a subset of group B with particularly frustrating arguments. Apparently this is a post in which I dispense personal philosophy unrelated to its relevance.
FINAL PERSONAL PHILOSOPHY STATEMENT WITH BASICALLY NO RELEVANCE TO ANYTHING ON THIS BLOG: Port Salut is the most underrated cheese of all time.
ALSO: Boiled Sports takes this topic on as well, albeit with less references to underrated cheese.
Sponsors with benefits. Hotels: there are none on gameday unless you want to stay in Canada or Ohio. These places are inconvenient. Few people even speak English. Houses: Ann Arbor has many, lots of them right across the street from Michigan Stadium. Money: can be used to convince people in these houses to let you borrow the houses. Thus your crew of 8+ people can stay in the same, convenient place.
You are probably entering URLs that seem likely candidates to host such a service as we speak. Your fingers ache, your keyboard smokes. Well, enter nonexistent website URLs no longer. You can use Money to avoid Hotels at Gameday Housing, which not only benefits you but also the site. A bonus: mention MGoBlog when you sign up (in the "you heard about us from" box) and they'll take 50 bucks off your first rental*. You can lock down accommodations for Michigan State for about what a hotel would run you, except instead of a hotel room you get a house. Doing so also supports the site.
*[Fine print: only valid until the end of 2012, can't combine with another promotion, one per user.]
2011 photo spectacular. Max starts an excellent thread of favorite pictures from last year:
No sources are listed, unfortunately. Everyone should be shoving the metadata in their files so people can credit back if so inclined.
Troubaaaargh. The Daily's Matt Slovin reports that Jacob Trouba has a 200k offer from the OHL sitting on the table and that this is a source of OHL-related optimism in re: guy breaking his commitment to leave. Again. Kitchener denies this because kids in the OHL get 45 bucks a week only. It's not a professional league, man. You have to believe us.
We'll see how that goes. It's a chunk of cash, but for a guy who's likely to sign a max rookie contract in a year or two it's not a life changing amount. Insert usual bits about how Something Must Be Done, but what? It's clear the OHL doesn't care about its own rules, and the NHL is never going to step in, so what can be done?
UPDATE: Trouba has again reiterated he will play at Michigan.
Werner something. You're probably aware that Joe Paterno's legacy is even further tattered after the release of emails that imply the university administration was about to go to some sort of police-type organization that would have put Jerry Sandusky's crimes to an end until Joe intervened on Sandusky's behalf. But are you aware of the contortions many on the Penn State rivals board are willing to undertake to maintain their worship?
I Would Like to Pose a Question to the Board
Let's see who can answer this question. Bear with me -- I have a point to make. Here it is:
The human body consists of 99.9% of something. What is it?
[several posts in which people respond.]
Congratulations! Three of You Got It.
The answer is empty space. Now, on the face of it, the answer is absurd. How can the body be empty space? Well, because atoms are empty space. Vibrating energy (I think) is what gives things solidity (this is a quantum physics deal, so I can't elaborate). But, here's the point. It is absolutely PREPOSTEROUS to claim that the human body is empty space, just as it is preposterous to claim that Joe Paterno was not involved in covering up Jerry Sandusky's child abuse. Yet, the human body really is empty space; so why can't Joe Paterno not be involved in a cover-up, particularly since no one yet has forwarded any evidence of such? It is a supposition that Paterno was involved, just as it is a common supposition that the human body is not empty space.
This guy has a future as a noir defense attorney.
Meanwhile, Vijay comes out of retirement to re-evaluate the "Grand Experiment."
If this really happens… If Wisconsin's nonconference scheduling goes from sad to decent, yes, Virginia, strength of schedule will be a big deal in the new playoff world. Alvarez is talking about it, at least:
“If you want to be a player (in the national championship equation) and strength of schedule is going to be a part of it, then you really have to consider (a different approach),” UW athletic director Barry Alvarez said.
That might explain why UW football coach Bret Bielema disclosed on his Twitter account this week that he’s reached out to his Notre Dame counterpart Brian Kelly about a possible series with the high-profile independent. Bielema is targeting openings for 2018 and ’19 when Michigan drops off the Irish’s schedule.
It might also explain why Alvarez disclosed this week that there were recent discussions, orchestrated by ESPN, about matching the Badgers against defending national champion and Southeastern Conference power Alabama at a neutral site.
Alvarez, who handled scheduling when he coached the Badgers from 1990 to ’05, said Bielema countered with an offer to play a home-and-home series with the Crimson Tide — no specific years were discussed — but that Alabama coach Nick Saban declined.
That's all talk now. I have a hard time seeing SOS becoming important enough to overrule our current how-many-losses ranking system except in intraconference instances like last year's Oregon-Stanford hypothetical controversy, and if that's the case Wisconsin will continue its steady diet of cupcakes. Something to keep an eye on, at least.
Mario. He got suspended that one game and was kind of frustrating at other times, but Mario Manningham could play, yo:
In other Wolverine Historian bits, he captures the 1994 Minnesota game.
Big Ten Network programming breakdown. A poster on BSD totaled up a month's worth of BTN programming this summer and came out with these numbers:
A quick breakdown of school and how many hours of programming they have, in order from least to greatest:
Nebraska 27.5 hours Minnesota 32 hours Northwestern 40.5 hours Penn State 47.5 hours Purdue 49 hours Illinois 73.5 hours Iowa 82.5 hours Indiana 85 hours Michigan 106 hours Michigan St 108 hours Wisconsin 127.5 hours Ohio State 153 hours
Wisconsin and MSU benefited from frequent replays of the inaugural champinship game. OSU's edge on the rest of the field is a combination of football and basketball prowess that no one else is matching at the moment. The jump from Purdue to Illinois is… odd.
Left tackles can't stand normal bikes. Via a TTB interview with Erik Magnuson:
That is a 6'6", 300 pound man on a unicycle. Maybe we'll see him performing during halftime at Crisler next year.
Etc.: Hardaway, Burke, McGary all second-round-ish NBA prospects at the moment, with Burke in that gray area between the first and second round. The 2013 class rankings are rejiggered: Walton, Donnal up, Irvin down a little.
Sam Mikulak makes the Olympic team. Jeff Porter makes it in the 110M hurdles. Michigan alum Richard Kaplan is mayor of a small Florida town that is way into cricket. Brady Hoke returns to his old stomping grounds to out MANBALL Ball State's new coach.
WR ALERT. Devin Gardner's facebook:
Stop everything you're doing for the next three months and talk about this. Certain packages are likely to include the redzone and third down stuff when Michigan has four WRs on the field. 20-30 catches maybe? Unless an enraged Al Borges refuses to field a leaker?
UPDATE: Michigan says that's not actually Devin Gardner's facebook page. Woo!
Wow. Of all the quotes to put on Joe Paterno's grave, this is the best one:
No idea if that was planned previously and now takes on a vastly sadder meaning in the aftermath or someone in the family calling a ballsy audible. But, yeah.
When Irish legs are drunkenly crane-kicking you. Tommy Rees was at a party in South Bend that was broken up because it's South Bend. City motto: Where Fun Goes to Die. He got some tickets and stuff, but then the crushing weight of life in rural Indiana finally got to him and he went "wwrrroaaaaaAAHHHH" at a cop:
Officers saw five people jumping a fence to run away and they chased them down, catching Rees and Calabrese.
In an attempt to get away, Trent says Rees kneed an officer in the stomach.
Rees got pepper-sprayed—internet, where is the Tommy Rees getting it from Pepper Spray Cop image?—and arrested on various charges including a felony that has a zero point zero percent chance of sticking.
This is par for the Tommy Rees decision-making course. Confronted by police, the options he considered included:
- calmly taking the ticket and going home
- licking Manti Te'o's face just to see what would happen
- detaching his arm, insisting that it was actually Tommy Rees and he was Steve Miller of Steve Miller band
- transferring to any school coached by a non-mauve person
ANSWER KEY: #5: 10 points. #1: 5 points. #2: one point. #4: zero points. #5: you have been eaten by a grue'o.
So he could have done worse. Irish fans are hoping this disqualifies him from starting this fall. Opponents are hoping for his safe, addled return.
BONUS: Carlo Calabrese is as connected as you would expect a guy named "Carlo Calabrese" to be:
At 1 point, (Carlo) Calabrese allegedly told officers, "my people will get you," per police reports.
DOUBLE DRAGON BONUS: Jacobi uses the Furman suspension to troll Notre Dame about their lack of character. Well done. (BR link!)
Give us back our New Year's Day, and do so by taking it away. Remember when New Year's Day was reserved for teams that had won, like, eight games? Yeah, man, back then you really had to eke out a mediocre season to play on January first. No longer:
At the 2010 Outback Bowl, Auburn became the first team in 62 years to play on New Year’s Day with a losing conference record. Five more teams have done that since then: Northwestern, Texas Tech, Michigan, Florida and Ohio State.
In the past five years, 10 of the 27 New Year’s Day bowls featured a team without a winning conference record. That occurred in just six of the 221 New Year’s Day bowls from 1968 to 2007.
Fans have been treated like suckers. The powers-that-be figured by putting something on New Year’s Day — even if it was undeserving teams — you’d keep filling seats, watching on TV and building up ratings for BCS bowls in the coming days.
You can't even blame TV since the Big Ten's desire to cram every game they're in onto New Year's Day means four games I'd watch if given the option are on at the same time. As long as we're banning 6-6 teams from the postseason, let's ban teams with more than three losses from New Year's Day.
The erosion of NYD is a fine example of the stuff that drives me nuts the increasingly short-term thinking plaguing of college athletics: you have an institution that is loved, so you milk it for dollars until you've destroyed the meaning of that institution. Get The Picture:
The thing is, it’s not like that happened in a vacuum. It wasn’t an accident. It’s what TV wanted. And the conference commissioners were more than happy to comply with the request, as long as the checks rolled in. Now the panic has set in as the numbers decline. But who’s to say that the guys who drove the bus into the ditch in the first place are qualified to pilot the tow truck to pull the bowl season out of the ditch? Does anybody really believe they’d place the sanctity of New Year’s Day above a few more dollars?
On the national level this results in Gator Bowls between 7-5 teams on NYD; on the local level it results in the reseating of Crisler with absolutely no consideration given to the guys who have had tickets for the last crappy decade.
Alienating your most loyal fans is rarely a winner unless you're winding down an industry. (See: profitable but debt-laden newspapers slashing content willy-nilly.)
How to do it. I may expand this into a larger post later, but amongst an avalanche of head-nods and "you go girl" exclamations while I read Dan Wetzel's latest article on how to construct playoffs I found myself having a serious disagreement. It's here:
There is no good way to choose the field. None. There has to be a subjective decision made, and no one likes subjective decisions.
The best of a bad situation is to have that subjectivity hashed out in a cool, calm and studied environment and then make the selection process as transparent as possible.
As such, the sport would be best served if it created a single computer formula. People could decide how important strength of schedule (preferably giving extra credence to tough nonconference scheduling) or margin of victory or home-field/road-game criteria should be. They could program the formula accordingly and then test and tweak the next two seasons.
Most importantly, they could offer it up to everyone so that teams can plan ahead, know what they are up against and track the progress as the season goes along.
I'm a math guy, but that's not going to work. There is just not enough data in a 12-game season with very little meaningful overlap between conferences. Adding MOV helps, but not enough. Even computer models that try to take every drive or play into account spit out weird results like Virginia Tech #3 overall in 2009. While any selection mechanism would fall on the descriptive side of the descriptive/predictive rankings divide*, I just don't see a computer ranking ever getting fine enough that it will be right as much as a dedicated selection committee.
You need the committee to override groupthink like "Oregon has more losses than Stanford because it played LSU, so Stanford makes it."
In other playoff ideas, I do like the idea that a conference champ ranked 5 or 6 gets in over someone who didn't win the conference. Without that limitation you get some squirrelly fields. That one seems good to me since it solves that Oregon issue.
*[IE: rankings either describe what you've done—evaluate who's had the best season—or attempt to predict the future by ignoring noisy wins and losses for a more robust underlying model.]
Stop, collaborate, and listen. Joe Stapleton talked with Zak Irvin's AAU coach and came back with some tantalizing tidbits. He's his loaded AAU team's go-to scorer and we also get some additional indication he could be BRJ 3000:
“Defensively, he’s our stopper,” Green said. “We put him on the other team’s best player. So sometimes you’ve got the best offensive guy, he’s going to work, but then he’s got to turn around and play defense against the other team’s best player. He’s capable of doing both.”
When the All-Stars were in zone, Irvin played at the top and was disruptive. His 6-foot-6 frame and long arms made it nearly impossible for smaller guards to get a lob pass over him, and his quickness allowed him to hound the ball without getting taken advantage of.
When the All-Stars were in man-to-man, Irvin guarded the opposing team’s best player and gave them plenty of trouble. Irvin’s combination of size and quickness allowed him to guard post players and wing players equally effectively.
“His best attribute right now is being a lockdown defender,” Green said. “Defensively, he’s always been a lockdown defender and that’s never going to change.”
I love players who can add value without using possessions, whether they're Aaron Craft or Ben Wallace. Irvin is going to use possessions, possibly at a Hardaway rate—in AAU the dude is an aggressive shooter. Add in a lot more value than Hardaway has at the other end of the floor, where he's an indifferent defender, and an inch or two of height and Irvin sounds like a top 50 player easy.
Etc.: Various coaches on playoffs. Considerable speculation that Alabama's projected starting tailback may not be ready for the Jerryworld game. They would plug in a five-star freshman in his stead. You are annihilating the EDSBS fundraiser. Good luck, St. Louis group trying to get a Big 10-SEC bowl game there. Seriously, good luck.
Joe Paterno's death was a hugely misreported fiasco of the sort that is inevitable given the speed of information in the internet age. This post is an attempt to provide a framework for existing in a world of uncertain information.
This is what happened: Onward State, a blog/online newspaper run by PSU students, reported Paterno's death based on an email sent to Penn State players that turned out to be a hoax. This was good enough for a local radio station and StateCollege.com. It hit twitter and was then picked up without attribution by CBS Sports. It took off from there once the imprimatur of a major news agency was on it. Black Shoe Diaries has a detailed chronology of the mass screwup if you're interested in details. Shirtless Mark Twain isn't sure if he approves of this whole business or not, but would like you to know that rumors of his rippling pecs have been sorely undersold.
It's a story about the internet screwing up in very understandable ways. Onward State had what seemed like reliable information, and it passed their threshold for reporting. It is not a good threshold, but not everyone has one these days. CBS's Adam Jacobi did something unwise and sloppy. Pagewhoring Huffington Post saw an opportunity for views and cares about nothing else.
We've seen this happen before when a newspaper intern replicates an internet rumor on one of the dingy blogs shuffled off into the corner of large metro papers: as soon as a rumor gets paired with header graphics associated with a real newspaper, everyone else is confirming it via "sources." In this instance, CBS's screwup was compounded because they didn't even provide a link to the primary source; Huffington Post did the same thing, but that's just their MO. Jacobi is a BHGP founder and should have known better.
I've screwed these things up myself. Earlier this year I erroneously reported that Kaleb Ringer had been booted from his high school team based on information that seemed solid but obvious was not. By contrast, a couple years ago I had the sense not to run anything about the serious car accident that Jon Bills and Mark Moundros were in despite having a ton of solid sources telling me about it. That seemed like a place to let journalists be journalists.
As I go along here that realm has steadily expanded. I probably won't report something like the Ringer thing again for a lot of reasons. Michigan playing Alabama is one thing to be wrong about; a high school kid's problems or lack thereof is another. This leaves windows open for crass opportunists like Ace Williams, but it's the internet. There's always going to be a bottom of the barrel.
Anyway, these things evolve naturally. As this site expands it has more at risk and becomes more cautious. People just starting out have little to lose and have not experienced the backlash from being wrong—or the frightening period between your post and official confirmation of it. Also some of them are total idiots.
From the user's perspective, the thing to do is maintain a Bayesian approach. Phil Birnbaum explains what that is:
Generally, Bayesian is a process by which you refine your probability estimate. You start out with whatever evidence you have which leads you to a "prior" estimate for how things are. Then, you get more evidence. You add that to the pile, and refine your estimate by combining the evidence. That gives you a new, "posterior" estimate for how things are.
You're a juror at a trial. At the beginning of the trial, you have no idea whether the guy is guilty or not. You might think it's 50/50 -- not necessarily explicitly, but just intuitively. Then, a witness comes up that says he saw the crime happen, and he's "pretty sure" this is the guy. Combining that with the 50/50, you might now think it's 80/20.
Then, the defense calls the guy's boss, who said he was at work when the crime happened. Hmmm, you say, that sounds like he couldn't have done it. But there's still the eyewitness. Maybe, then, it's now 40/60.
And so on, as the other evidence unfolds.
That's how Bayesian works. You start out with your "prior" estimate, based on all the evidence to date: 50/50. Then, you see some new evidence: there's an eyewitness, but the boss provides an alibi. You combine that new evidence with the prior, and you adjust your estimate accordingly. So your new best estimate, your "posterior," is now 40/60.
So if some guy with 50 followers claims Armani Reeves is headed to Michigan because Urban was late for his in-home visit, you might increment your 50% to 51%. If Mike Farrell says its 52-48 you might bump it to 52%, but if Farrell said he thought Reeves was definitely headed to Michigan you could push it up further. You base your confidence in the opinion on previous accuracy, with a list like this…
- TomVH/Sam Webb
- Established message board posters
- National analysts
- Random message board posters
- Raving lunatics
- People who don't know what football is
- Fictional races from another galaxy
- Hyperintelligent tacos
- Regular tacos
- Tacos that aren't too bright even for tacos
- Ace Williams
…and change your baseline confidence based on the information and your confidence level in it. This is something people do naturally, but too often the weight they put on the information is either 0 or 1 when it should be somewhere in between.
For purveyors of information, it's time to put an explicit confidence level on what you're relaying. My mistake with the Ringer thing, other than mentioning it at all, was saying something was the case when I should have said something less certain. When I got tips about the Michigan-Alabama game I erred by saying with certainty a contract would be signed on a certain date when the people involved with the thing probably didn't know that.
I try to follow a policy of revealing as much as I can about the nature any information I pass along without exposing a source, and that added transparency is necessary in an age when information—valid information—can come from anywhere or anyone. I still make mistakes. That's inevitable. I'm trying, though.
However, not even linking to the original report is a mortal sin. If you are going to run something based on someone else's reporting it is vital that you explicitly tell readers that. Otherwise one report from a little-known online news source turns into multiple reports, some of them from organizations with people paid to do reporting, and the echo chamber starts going exponential. If you do not link, you are telling people that you are reporting it, and when it turns out to be wrong you can't point the finger at anyone but yourself.
You can't throw a rock today without hitting a piece on Joe Paterno, and I'll add my bit. I've read a half-dozen of them and feel myself drawn to the portions that focus on his ignoble demise at the hands of a long-overdue grand jury investigation into Jerry Sandusky. The ones that skip it entirely, as many PSU-based POVs do, or attempt to put it "in perspective" seem to be succumbing to the same disease that felled everyone when Nixon died and people scrambled for good things to say about him other than "he's dead."
Paterno is not Nixon, obviously. Nixon is the most obvious public funeral held in which ill things were not spoken of the dead due to social taboo, rather than reason. I dislike that natural impulse to whitewash. When Christopher Hitchens died I spent a lot of time reading his withering obituaries just to watch him stick the knife in and twist. If that makes me ruthless, okay.
I just can't get over how it all came crashing down. Not only did Paterno and the culture he created shelter Sandusky, Paterno did not seem to feel remorse for half a second. Maybe this is just an addled old man speaking but it is appalling that this came out of his mouth at the impromptu pep rally at his home in the immediate aftermath of the grand jury's testimony:
The kids that were victims or whatever they want to say, I think we all ought to say a prayer for them. Tough life, when people do certain things to you. Anyway, you’ve been great. Everything’s great, all right.
Virtually the entire media edited Paterno's statement into a less awful version because their sense of propriety could not grasp the words that had actually come out of his mouth. This was Joe Paterno. He couldn't have said that. He shouldn't have said anything. He should have been in his house crying to his wife, finally realizing the monstrous consequences of his inaction.
Instead he seemed to think of himself as a victim. A lot of people find ways to blame themselves for massive tragedies they are not responsible for. Paterno was oblivious to his role to the end. Maybe that's forgivable to some people who look at the donations and the football coaching and the Great Experiment. Not me. I have great respect for Chris Grovich of Black Shoe Diaries but I can't read this…
Behind Joe Paterno's Beaver Stadium statue are the words, "Educator, Coach, Humanitarian." They really could have been arranged in any order.
…without inserting "child rape enabler" in any order. That phrase overwhelms the rest. If he did lead a program that strove to prove it was capable of operating at a higher plane that just makes it worse. He was held up—he held himself up—as a man who could achieve success on and off the field in a way that others could not.
Maybe any one of us would have done the same thing if confronted by the terrible truth about a long-time friend. Maybe 90% of people would not have had the courage to blow up a reputation so carefully crafted over such a long period. Maybe Joe Paterno was just being human.
That's not enough when you have a statue. Paterno wasn't supposed to be human, he was supposed to be Joe Paterno. He wasn't and now he never was. He had over a decade to do something about Sandusky and did not. That is no mistake, or misjudgment, or error. It is immensely sad, but in the end Paterno failed his charge more spectacularly than a man who dared less would have. You can call him Icarus if you want; I'm not inclined to give him that benefit of the doubt. The costs were not worth the attempt.
The statue is Joe Paterno now. The man is dead. Hopefully the idea behind the statue can help people be better than the man turned out to be.
[Editor's note: Orson and I both go for the statue conceit. We've seen people crying or overturning news vans in its vicinity it every 30 seconds over the past few months, so maybe not a huge surprise.]