Thursday, July 21, 2011

Why Sports Is A Religion

Please indulge me as I consider this, writing off-the-cuff, without fully developing this to line up logically...

Basically, religion gives us a reason to believe in something, that our life is meant to be or do something, or gives guidance in a way to live our lives in what/how/why we think and do
and central to it is basically faith.

Logic, although it makes sense to us, is still flawed, because we don't know everything. Even science is basically a religion in the sense that you have faith in that what it says makes sense.

So if I can stop being so deep, I'll conclude that faith can mean anything/everything you want it to be.

Here's why I think sports is my religion:

Most everything about sports is pointless and stupid. That we get emotional about people we will never meet who play a game for a living is stupid. That we live and die with the fortunes of teams, whose chief aim is to take our money in exchange for letting us be their supporters, is stupid. That government places sports above the needs of its citizens is stupid. That we care about players’ personal lives is stupid.

That supposed professionals can dedicate their careers to saying deliberately trite and lazy things about sports in print and broadcast and call it a respectable – and sometimes lucrative – living is fucking stupid. That the blogosphere exists in large part only to point out just how trite and lazy the things that the established media says about sports is stupid.

None of it matters. Spent energy that could be better utilized elsewhere. None of it will change the course of civilization in any meaningful way, other than maybe some of our cities will be reduced to rubble in a post-championship riot. Stupid piled high on stupid, like it were double meat on a Subway club, which is a stupid simile.
Now, I'm not exactly sure that lines up with my previous argument, but let's ignore that.

That is quoted material, by the way, from about the near-end of the 2011 NFL lockout.

I guess my thought basically is....yep, that's true...sports is a drain on society and a big waste of money because it's not really an efficient distribution of....almost anything.

Think about it. We can give money to poor people better, we can spend taxpayer money on better things, we can buy better things, we can use resources better....

As much of a "hero" Steve Yzerman is, there are better and more effective ways to find a "hero." My father has done more for me than Steve Yzerman ever could.

We have better human achievements to celebrate and revere, even in competitive ways.

...but it doesn't matter. Even though every religion before modern times has seemed like bullshit because we've seen their flaws, and even though future eras will see us and think we were really stupid....same with sports. It might be stupid, but dammit, I give it my time/money/attention/life anyway.

Where's my Catcher In the Rye/Jerry Macguire moment?

Monday, June 6, 2011

Conn Smythe Race

In my pick-em league, I chose Ryan Kesler to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP in my Canucks-in-five prediction.

At the beginning of the Vancouver-Boston series, this seemed quite likely. After Kesler shut down Chicago's Jonathan Toews, limiting him to 1G, 3A, -4, while adding 4 assists himself, he torched Nashville with 5 goals and 6 assists. He went into the Finals with 7 goals, 11 assists, and was second in scoring. The leadership shown to take over Nashville, while shutting down Chicago and San Jose was the stuff made of legends.

But he's only registered 1 assist in the Finals so far, and has 8 points in the 14 games Vancouver didn't play Nashville. Streaky? Maybe. It might be enough to win the Conn Smythe...writers will give the award to the best player, but also who makes the best story.

Who might be a better story? Let's assume Vancouver is going to win the Cup. History shows us you have roughly a 83% chance to close out the series when you're up 2-0. Ruling out the rarity that a Boston player wins the Conn Smythe in defeat, who could top Kesler?

For skaters, we have to look at offensive contribution first, then add in the little things, and considering there isn't a defenseman running up the board, it's Henrik Sedin, Daniel Sedin, and/or Alexandre Burrows.

Henrik leads playoff scoring with 2 goals and 19 assists, but is a -3, and assists aren't going to be enough.

Daniel has 9 goals and 9 assists; that's impressive, tying him for 2nd in goals scored. But he might be hampered by the what-have-you-done-for-me-lately crowd, who sees that 5 of those goals came against Chicago. He's also a -3.

Burrows has 9 goals and 8 assists; to be tied with a Sedin in a statistic besides number of Henrik-goals is pretty solid. He has been in beast mode of late, scoring 5 goals and 4 assists in his last 7 games. He has two OT GWGs. He might be the best argument to top Kesler, if he can continue to dominate the Finals and make people forget about Kesler.

However, we're missing the point of this post: what about Roberto Luongo?

Much maligned for his career for not being able to win the big game, I continue to disagree with that. I think it's a lot of Chicago-has-his-number and he's mentally shit against the Blackhawks. They're in his head.

But let's look at his numbers without the Chicago series. A 10-3 record, 26 goals allowed for a 1.83 average, and a saves of .959 with 2 shutouts.

Allow me to say it for you: holy fucking shit. That's pretty fucking good.

Of course, we can't pretend like 7 games weren't there, right? If we could take out a series for the others, their numbers would look better too.

So adding in Luongo's Chicago stats, he goes to 14-6, 43 allowed for 2.16 average, with a .928 saves and 3 shutouts. That's still impressive. Reasonably, only Carey Price (in 7 games, 2.11) has a better goals against, and Price (.934) and Boston's Tim Thomas (.930) have better saves percentages. Luongo leads in shutouts.

I think if we didn't know who Roberto Luongo was before the playoffs, we'd be singing his praises the same way Pekka Rinne (2.57, .907) and Corey Crawford (2.21, .927) were getting attention. Oh wait, those are two goalies who Luongo defeated and against whom has put up significantly better numbers.

To put it in perspective, here are the numbers of the last few Cup-winning goaltenders:
2006 - Cam Ward, 15-8, 2.14, .920, 2 SO (won Conn Smythe)
2007 - JS Giguere, 13-4, 1.97, .922, 1 SO
2008 - Chris Osgood, 14-4, 1.55, .930, 3 SO
2009 - MA Fleury, 16-8, 2.61, .908, 0 SO
2010 - Antti Niemi, 16-6, 2.63, .910, 2 SO

Luongo's numbers as of now look favorable. Only Chris Osgood was really "robbed" of the trophy, by a forward whose offense put him in contention, and defense took him over the top, Henrik Zetterberg. Niemi's numbers likely wouldn't have gotten him the trophy enough, but Jonathan Toews' play was similar to Zetterberg's. Ryan Kesler's play compares favorably to Zetterberg and Toews, but until he scores a few more, I'd give my vote to Roberto Luongo.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Baseball Safety

First off, allow me to set a reminder for why there was such a discussion for revamping some rules:

Buster Posey gets railed by Scott Cousins and basically gets his left leg shredded by the weight of the two men awkwardly on top of it.

Over the last few years, all four major sports have started to make slight changes to their rules to adapt for the bigger, stronger, faster-mentality of sports in the 21st century. We've seen massive concern in the NFL over concussions; the same in the NHL, specifically with headshots, fighting, and general lack of "respect" for the game; I don't care about the NBA, but I'm sure there's something.

This is baseball's biggest on-the-field concern since steroids, to which the NHL and NFL snicker. The MLB is all up in arms over the ONLY time there is physical contact between opposing teams that isn't related to pitches and bats. Maybe in my baseball ignorance, it happens more often than roughly once a series, which I would imagine equates to about the instances of fighting in the NHL.

Nevertheless, should there be concern? Should the MLB require baserunners to only stay to one side of the foul line, and catchers the other? Should a baserunner not be allowed to plow the catcher, leading with the head?

Certainly there is probably no more exciting play than the "play at the plate." It rewards speed, strength, accuracy, timing, guts...but times change. You can't throw a spitball anymore, either.

In my mind, this argument is much ado about nothing. I can understand injuries and that owners want to protect their investment. Ballplayers play every day and even minor injuries like a muscle strain, which would keep out a hockey or football player AT MOST one game (and likely not at all), can sideline a player for a series. A serious injury eats up half the season.

In this case, Buster Posey (and keep in mind, my lack of baseball knowledge lends me only stating my summation from Wikipedia) was a young star catcher for San Francisco, a high draft pick upon whom the Giants vested much faith (trading away Bengie Molina last year to make room for Posey). Posey only won NL Rookie of the Year last year. The increased spotlight and importance will hurt the Giants, whose outrage at a simple play is ridiculous. Do you think Dave Dombrowski would flip out if Alex Avila suffered a similar fath?

He's a rising star that got hurt in an awkward situation. Plenty of players will tweak a hamstring or roll an ankle on weird things, and somebody will be gone for the year on a freak accident too. Injuries happen.

And what, are you going to penalize or automatically rule-out a baserunner? Or suspend after-the-fact with supplemental discipline? The catcher is certainly vulnerable and no other baseman has to deal with someone running through the bag quite like home plate, but that's what comes with the territory. That's partially why the catcher gets more pads. Adjust the protection if you want.

So maybe adjusting the rules would prevent this sort of injury, but the fact that it's a stud kid who fell on his leg weirdly says to me, don't overreact, consider protection changes or additions, but don't flip out because a catcher who can actually hit .300 (rare) got hurt doing his job.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

At What Point Does Garth Snow Get The Boot?

Just skimming the NHL standings tonight, and there the Islanders are, dead last in the league again, with a record of 5-15-5, good for 15 points, 3 worse than the 29th team, the Devils, and 18 points out of the playoffs.

Now, I understand that they're missing Mark Streit, their #1 defenseman. I understand the average age of their top 6 scorers is 25. I understand that Rick DiPietro is a relative bust and is made of glass.

But I also understand that James Wisniewski is their leading scorer. Does that mean bonus for Islanders GM Garth Snow, for trading for him? Maybe. I don't think so.

I get that Kyle Okposo, John Tavares, Josh Bailey, Rob Schremp, Blake Comeau and the rest of the players I saw in the OHL are young, and need time to develop, but that's almost exactly the problem, too, isn't it? Yeah, maybe the young and exciting players bring in some fans, but your shitty arena isn't the reason the team has finished last in the Atlantic Division the last three years in a row.

Since Snow took over, the Islanders have made the playoffs once (his first year, the #8 seed) and compiled a 135-152-41 record, averaging 78 points a season, in a post-lockout world where you've needed on average 92 points to make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference over the same period.

It's okay to fall short, if there appears to be improvement. Maybe there is some with the young kids like Tavares, but that's not a good record. Maybe Garth Snow isn't the first GM to fall, but then again, Don Waddell was replaced (well, moved out of the way) in Atlanta.

I'd like to think that it was the abrupt moving from the ice to the front office that can explain part of Snow's team's struggles, but hockey hasn't been a competitive on Long Island for four years, and really not since before the lockout.