Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Unfair Judgment of Football

This topic is somewhat of a sore spot for me, mostly because I am a statistical junkie. I spend a lot of time parsing through numbers and trends in sports, considering that baseball is my favorite sport, with football an extremely close second. What I refer to in the title is this notion that a football player is only as good as the number of championship rings on his fingers or the number of wins his team gets.

Case in point: Michael Vick was largely shielded from criticism for the first 2-3 years of his career because, even though he had some low-lying numbers and mediocre statistics, his team 'won'. In the past few years, he has obviously been opened up to more criticism, between the fact that the Falcons started exhibited mediocrity and then his prison time. The point, though, remains the same: Vick got off easily earlier in his career because of being perceived as a 'winner'. On the other hand, a player such as Donovan McNabb will retire being in the top 20 of most categories for quarterbacks and has had some outstanding seasons, and yet, his reputation will be that of a 'choker' because he could never 'win the big one'. This is extremely unfortunate.

There aren't any other team sports where individual players get judged on the number of championships. The NBA probably is the closest one to doing that, since they also have the qualifier 'best player to never win a championship' and proceed to name Karl Malone, Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, et cetera. However, that is never harped on to the extent that NFL players, and especially quarterbacks.

Another example: Tony Gwynn went to the Baseball Hall of Fame in the summer of 2007; no one mentioned the fact that he never won a World Series (although he played in two). Rather, they mentioned his eight NL batting titles, his .338 career batting average, his 3,000+ hits, and so forth. Ditto with Cal Ripken in 2007, although he did play on a WS winning team (1983 Orioles).  Nevertheless, people instead focused on his 'revolutionizing' of the shortstop position, his consecutive games streak, and his two MVP trophies.

It is my belief that the kind of thinking that judges QB's and (to a lesser extent) other football players based simply on wins and Super Bowls is backward. It leads to some insane modes of thinking, such as:

'Joe Montana is the greatest quarterback of all time'

Well, why is that?

'Well, he won four Super Bowls'

Terry Bradshaw also won four, so I guess the two greatest QB's of all time are Montana and Bradshaw, right? Let's see where this logic goes...

a) Trent Dilfer and Brad Johnson each won a Super Bowl.

b) Dan Marino, Fran Tarkenton, Boomer Esiason, and Jim Kelly never won one.

c) Therefore, Dilfer and Johnson are better than Marino, Tarkenton, Esiason, and Kelly.

What utter garbage! The problem is, no one would argue that Trent Dilfer is better than Dan Marino. However, the people who subscribe to the aforementioned logic have to somehow untwist their pretzel, and they are unable to do so. There are two ways to get out of that logical pretzel: either admit that Dilfer and Johnson are better than the greats who never won a Super Bowl or...abandon the logic in the first place.

It is also this kind of logic that clouds the judgment of the Football Hall of Fame selection committee. Troy Aikman got into the Hall of Fame; a fine quarterback to be sure, but more as a result of playing on some great Cowboy teams than his personal performance. He is the statistical equal of Dave Krieg. However, you aren't going to see any kind of institutional push for Dave Krieg to make the Hall of Fame. Why?

He didn't win a Super Bowl.

The Adam V. Wikipedia Article

I wrote this a few years ago as a way to see how long it would be before Wikipedia took it down.  Unfortunately for me and for Adam, it never got past the initial censors of that fine "internet community" - they saw it for the absolute fakeness that it was.  Anyway, here is the official Adam V. Wikipedia entry.

Adam V. was born on February 15 in an undisclosed year, although it doesn’t really matter what year since he will live forever. Currently, he is working on yet another doctorate in Ohio, this time within the field of theology.

Adam V. was raised by Mama and Papa V. in Ohio. Even from the crib in the hospital, his parents could tell that their first-born was destined for greatness. As a toddler, he began his wondrous life by composing a three-part concerto for the piano and oboe. While working on composition, he found the time to research Attic Greek and had memorized the Epics of Homer in their original languages by the age of four.

Kindergarten for Adam V. lasted by two hours as he gave the teacher an aneurysm after explaining the engineering and fuselage features of the space shuttle. By the age of seven, he had accomplished a perfect SAT score, served as the US Secretary of Defense, and had won the Nobel Prize for Literature for his book Spiderman: Chronicles of Theology, a work that demonstrated how Spiderman was indeed a Christ-figure. He rose up so fast through the ranks of the government that people were clamoring ‘Adam V. for President!’ However, what stopped him was the required minimum age of thirty-five. A constitutional amendment was taken up on his behalf, but it narrowly failed the ratification process by one state. Yet, in spite of that, Adam V. still managed to receive thirty-two million write-in votes and seventy-two electoral votes; enough to throw the election to the House of Representatives.

As the age of ten neared, Adam V. decided that he should take a break from politics and devote himself to serving humanity. Within a week, he had found a cure for AIDS, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and even syphilis. Busy as he was, he still found time to earn yet three more doctorate degrees, while at the same time eradicating world hunger.

By the age of thirteen, he had served as a humanitarian ambassador to five different continents and had peacefully settled both the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the Indian-Pakistani nuclear standoff. As the envoy to the Balkans, he single-handedly took on an entire army to arrest strongman Slobodan Milosevic and bring him to justice. However, in spite of all of the success and fame, Adam V. felt it was time for a change.

At age fourteen, Adam V. decided that he was going to try and act like a ‘normal’ fourteen year old – by entering high school. He slogged through the four years and at the same time wrote fifty-three books on various subjects, becoming just the second author in history to be listed under all ten categories of the Dewey Decimal System. While in high school, he also managed to pick up another six advanced graduate degrees, including nuclear physics, medieval metaphysics, and pre-Israelite Near-Eastern languages.

Upon leaving high school at age eighteen, he decided that it would be important also to live as a college student, as research for the large series (twelve volumes) of books about college life he had started. The life of Adam V, however, simply never stopped. He became a media and corporate mogul, owning ninety-one newspapers, all four major television networks, twenty cable stations, and even started the highest rated cable station of all time: Adamnation!

By age twenty-two and getting out of college, Adam V. again decided to change directions; this time toward theology. His first major accomplishments after this change were to solve the mystery of the Trinity and to discover the actual autographed manuscripts written by Sts. Matthew, John, and Paul. He became special adviser to Pope John Paul II, who praised him for his excellent fluency in forty-three languages.

His last act as special adviser before John Paul II died was to finally heal the schism between the Greek Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church that had lasted since the year 1054.

Summarizing Adam V’s accomplishments in his short life thus far are as follows: sixteen doctorate degrees, seventy-eight books, a Nobel Prize, a term as Secretary of Defense, ownership of a vast media empire, cures of major diseases, eradicator of world famine, capturer of dictatorial strongmen, and a net worth of sixty-one billion dollars.

On a more personal note, Adam V. is married; to a woman he met while living as a college student. They have been married for three years. Rich AND famous...

What a life!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Christmas Music (Yes, I Am Back)

Christmas time is creeping up on us, and one of the things that this usually entails is the switching of radio stations to an all-Christmas music format. Washington, DC has a station that does this – 97.1 FM, called “Wash FM”. I don’t generally mind this, mostly because I don’t listen to that particular station anyway. However, there are some issues I have with the format and the whole notion of Christmas music at large.

First of all, there are many beautiful songs that commemorate the birth of Christ and the surrounding events associated with that event. However, when you have an all-Christmas radio format, you are stuck with a general playlist of about 50 songs. What you end up having is several different interpretations of those 50 songs. How many different versions of “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” do we need? DJs then are pressed into repeating the same songs over and over again, whether it is through requests from the listening audience, or from their corporate masters on high. 

The solution to this problem is to do away with the all-Christmas all-the-time format, at least for eight entire weeks. It’s one thing to do it for the 10 days surrounding Christmas, say from December 22-31, and on New Year’s, switch back to whatever the normal format of the station is. The rest of the time, do it in blocks of say, two or four hours. That way no one has Christmas music overload by the time Thanksgiving rolls around and there is still an entire month to go before Christmas even arrives.

There is one other thing that I dislike, and this is more a matter of personal taste; if you disagree, I am not going to argue with you or say you are wrong – and that is remakes and versions of particularly modern ‘novelty’ Christmas songs. I like Brenda Lee singing “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” and Bobby Helms singing “Jingle Bell Rock”. I listened to LeAnn Rimes singing the former the other night in the car, and while she does a passable version that even manages to sound like Brenda Lee, it just isn’t the same. When it comes to the traditional Christmas songs, I like the diversity of styles and speeds, but when it comes to the modern novelty songs, I like one version and one version only.

Friday, November 19, 2010