Thursday, January 27, 2011

Even Sportscasting Plays the Game

A couple months ago Tucker Carlson made headlines for going onto Sean Hannity and stating that, "Michael Vick killed dogs, and he did [it] in a heartless and cruel way. And I think, personally, he should've been executed for that." We could go on about how both these men are extreme assholes, or that the hypocrite probably walked out of the studio and enjoyed a pulled pork sandwich, but neither matters; they sell controversy, and any criticism does nothing but generate attention and further their agenda - which is converting attention into money. It's the same game Limbaugh, Beck, Bachmann (whoops!), et. al. all play.

What frustrated me was that ESPN put out a really lame headline on it's front page that a 'news analyst' had called for Micheal Vick's death. It's the same strategy the Topeka Capital Journal engages in - write some controversial tag, and generate crazy internet traffic from the resulting reader comments. Being disappointed with such an approach, I took matters into my own hands and personally e-mailed ESPN's ombudsman the following letter:
Tucker Carlson isn't a 'news analyst' so much as a race baiter. Shock jock Imus wasn't referred to as an analyst when you referenced him following comments about the Rutgers basketball team being nappy hos, and Carlson is no different. You're lending credence to news that shouldn't be, and have encouraged a long dialogue of racist sniping on your site. At least one commentator got it right: ESPN should have just titled the link 'white guy says black guy should be executed.'

I mention this because Don Ohlmeyer, the ombudsman, published his final article yesterday. Obviously, my letter was too airtight to correct, and acknowledging my absolute rightness would've left ESPN with egg on it's face. As such, I never received a response. I'm still angry about the chickenshit headline about a news analyst calling for Michael Vick's death - the resulting conversation thread was absolutely disgusting and rife with racism.

Note: I just went back to the archives. Apparently, ESPN updated the article to change the headline. Yeah, I'm claiming credit for that one.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

How I Lost Half My Right Arm (Part II)

(Part I found here.)

There are several keys to game theory. When the game enters the point of brinksmanship, the man that stands to lose a multi-billion dollar investment loses every time. I agreed to help hunt down the marauding creatures, but on my particulars. Everyone armed with either a Franchi SPAS-12 - 12 gauge or a Kalashnikov. Shoot to kill. All men under my immediate command. I had to browbeat an ex-Marine into leaving his M16 behind, but the argument was necessary with my life on the line – I ain’t gonna risk my life over a Russia versus America principle invoking some damn jam-prone gun. Claymores. Mark’em on a map if you’re worried about other dinosaur casualties and want to safely detonate them up later, but it’s easier having one of them raptors go the way of an unlucky Cambodian cow than face it mano-a-mano.

The mines quickly paid off, as we discovered one crying out in pain within hours. One indiscriminate killer had taken another’s leg at the hip, and the raptor had almost bled out by the time we arrived. Its partner demonstrated a ruthless mentality, as only pieces of the bait goat were found and a second set of tracks leading to the machine shed were left behind. The lucky one sat there gnawing on brunch while its partner lay crying in pain. Literally cold blooded.

With ½ the threat eliminated, an obvious change consumed the men. They became less vigilant, almost cocky. Personally, I liked my chances better with two raptors and an alert crew than a set of careless cowboys hunting a solitary bird. Johnson was the first to go down – wandered off alone to piss in the bushes without a lookout. His screams made the company walk a little warier. We’d gone from 7-on-2 to 6-on-1. The new ratio was an improvement, but a betting man would be well advised pursuing a different gamble.

I never underestimate an enemy, but the raptor showed more intellectual instinct than anyone could have predicted. I still take full responsibility for Frenchie’s death, as I failed to fully vet the suggestion preceding his demise. The other men thought we could somehow coax the raptor into the open, and the former Foreign Legion sniper would do the rest with a Hecate II that had lain waste more to than a couple Taliban rebels. So he scurried up a tree while the rest of us set the trap: another goat, this time deliberately injured. Between the scent of blood and cries of pain and fear filling the air, we knew this temptation would be too great to resist. Had to be.

Approximately 2 hours into his wait, Frenchie moved to gain a better view. The branch he stepped on was termite-riddled and frail. It snapped, and he went plunging 20 feet into the underbrush. Following were the same blood-curdling screams let loose by Johnson that morning. That bastard wasn’t interested in our trap – he’d set his own. Rather than approach our well-armed group, he sat patiently waiting for a prey he knew would eventually come down. The raptor never even had to chase his quarry. Broken leg splintering through the skin, Frenchie had zero chance of escaping. 5-on-1.

No idea what happened to Richards. One minute he’s climbing a ravine to scope out the surrounding territory, the next he’s missing. We searched for over an hour. No trace. No sign of struggle, no remains, no trampled vegetation, nothing. At this point, Adams decided he’d had enough. Chickenshit jumped into a jeep, made a run for the helipad, and piloted off with the helicopter. It was 3-on-1, and time to call back your bookie.

(To Be Continued…)

Monday, January 17, 2011

How I Lost Half My Right Arm (Pt. I)

They appeared in my office one day, without appointment or notification. Said they had an offer - a once-in-a-lifetime one. I've unearthed a Brachylophosaurus in Montana and was chased for two days by Marxist rebels half-way into a dig involving a family of Sauropods in Colombia. To me, once-in-a-lifetime offers are a dime a dozen. Such language mildly piques my interest, nothing more.

What did intrigue me was the secrecy with which they concealed their project. The bombasity I typically encounter when someone's selling me an endeavor leaves the purveyor promising a mountain of opportunity that we both damn well know equates to a moll hill. These guys were different - desperate. I'd never encountered such desperation coupled with a refusal to divulge information. I knew something big was sitting in my lap, but couldn't tell whether big would land me in prison, a casket, or on the cover of national geographic. Ask any of my ex-wives, and they'll all tell you it doesn't matter. I've lived enough lifetimes for a dozen people, but a baker's is always better. The intrigue was too much. I was in.

Grad students spending their summer at a dig site think I'm one of the best because of my ability to delicately part fossils from their earthen coffins. They're wrong on two counts. First, I'm not one of the best - I'm the best. Second is the why; I can navigate out of a situation like a real life Jason Bourne. I'm James Bond without the pretty face and frilly drinks. Any asshole can dig a hole in Nebraskan loam. No one else can play two warring tribes in Saharan Africa against each long enough to expertly recover a set of petrified remains, let alone demonstrate the balls to secure the site before escaping once the tribes turn their machetes towards their white invaders. They didn't want me for these callused yet delicate hands - they wanted me because I'm as cool under fire as they come.

Boast as I might, nothing could have prepared me for when we landed on that island and first witnessed those beasts wandering the land; eonic anachronisms millions of years past their prime. Yet there they were, roaming before us. I'm normally quiet by choice. This was the first time in my life that, left with the choice, I was truly unable to fill the silence.

Three days of catered meals and behavioral observation lulled me into state of euphoria and security I should have recognized as false. Three days to scrutinize the social, physical, and intellectual properties these brilliant specimens displayed. Over dinner that night, a layer of their secrecy was peeled away. Michael, the prinicipal funder and typically jovial leader became quite serious:
"We have a problem with one of the dinosaurs."

"Which one?"

"The raptor."

"You never mentioned a raptor."


"You didn't bring me here to simply observe your magnificent genetic breakthrough, did you?"

"You're here because you're the best."

"How many?"


"How long?"

"Five days. This is why we were so insistent on your expedited arrival."

"So you've got a pair of the most adept killers the animal kingdom has ever known working in tandem to terminate every specimen on this island you've spent billions of dollars and likely decades of work to create."



"No what?"

"Seemed direct to me. 'no,' as in, I won't do it. I'm ready to head back to the main land."

"Mr. Thoman, you act as though we present to you a choice. The fact of the matter is, no helicopter or boat will leave this island until the threat is subdued. You simply have no choice."

"You will require provisions eventually. Until then, I am content to wait."

"But Mr. Thoman…"

"Additionally, I believe you've revealed more then you intended with your language. 'Subdued?' You expect me to 'subdue' these monsters with the tools supplied to riot police in a Western nation? These creatures are not WTO protestors, and only a dead fool would hunt them with anything less than weapons primed for maximum lethality. Gentlemen, I have had my fill for tonight, and believe it is time to retire. I'm sure we shall revisit this issue in the morning over breakfast."

"We shall, Mr. Thoman. However, we suggest you not tarry too long before changing your mind - your room is, unfortunately, not primed with the best security to thwart all dangers. I hope this situation can only expedite your willingness to reconsider your options."

"Good night, sir."

(To be continued...)

Thursday, January 13, 2011

My Metaphors Flow Like Traffic on the Turnpike.

K-State hasn’t beaten anyone good this year. 12-4 Washington State is probably the best win, with Virginia Tech and Gonzaga (both currently 12-5) in the mix. None are ranked. In fact, we’re losing to teams that aren’t that good. Take Florida, who’s best win is over Tennessee (haha – see what I did there?); even teams from a crappy SEC are beating them. Some are calling for the team to refrain from panicking. Personally, I say fucking panic like the roof is on fire.

The Wildcats have fallen from a lofty perch, going from #3 in the nation to 0-2 in conference play. This would understandable (though not excusable) if the conference season started with trips to Lawrence and Waco. It didn’t. It kicked off with a loss to Okie State, followed by a home loss to Colorado. COLORADO! The Buffs got their first victory over a ranked team on the road last night in fourteen years. That losing streak is older than R. Kelly’s next hookup.

Pullen is now on the record as saying he wouldn’t play in the NIT. Once players start thinking NIT, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. After Saturday’s game against Texas Tech the schedule goes: @ Mizzou; @ A&M; vs. Baylor; @ KU. (Aggievillage idiot) Curtis Kelly will make his return against the Red Raiders, and many hope this presence will right the ship. For my sake, I hope it does. Unfortunately, I’m not confident Kelly will ever get his act together, and it’s hard to have faith in a team that claims this is the key to success. Jimmer Fredette or Jared Sullinger being the difference between success and failure I’ll buy. But if Curtis Kelly is your linchpin for victory, you’ve got some serious foundation problems. If the Wildcats were stock, you’d short this in a heartbeat. At least Wichita State is providing some excitement this year. Of course, I refuse to get too high on the Shockers again this year - they’ve broken my heart more times than Stanley Lynch, Benmont Tench, Mike Campbell, and Ron Blair.

(family friendly version)

Monday, January 10, 2011

Defensive Blocking

That's how Oregon can win tonight. This was the game plan laid out by ESPN's College Football Podcast with Ivan Maisel. The idea is as follows:
-Cam Newton: excellent runner
-Cam Newton: subpar passer
-What the Ducks should do: promote Newton passing, not Newton running

Essentially, the idea is to play a lot of single coverage and cheat up a safety. Additionally, the defensive line is also responsible for playing contain. Ends are told since middle school to ensure no one gets outside, but this is particularly true against Auburn. If a tackle tries to push you inside, sacrifice 'easy access' to the quarterback for the sake of keeping containment. Let your linebackers cover the rest - the D-line's sole responsible is to keep containment. They actually called for the linemen to act as 'blockers,' more responsible for occupying linemen than actually rushing the QB. You couldn't pull this off if Vince Young was slinging arrows, but Newton's accuracy may allow for it.

Personally, I think this idea is simply genius. It sounds downright luny initially - why would you ever tell your defensive linemen not to charge full bore ahead? Attack, attack! However, putting linebackers on Newton and relying on your secondary to knock down his average passes demonstrates one method for addressing nonconventional offensive packages with nonconventional tactics. If only someone had been brilliant enough to proffer such a unique approach before.

Another idea I liked that the podcast did last month was outlining their dream BCS match-ups. For the record, here's what I would have liked to see play out:

Rose Bowl: Wisconsin v. Alabama (UW the best team in the Big 10(+2) this year. Arkansas probably deserved to make it in over Alabama based on record, but this is the match-up I'd prefer to see. Note: SEC team in the Rose Bowl to accomodate important pairings involving the Pac 10(+1.5) and some non-BCS schools.)
Fiesta Bowl: Oklahoma v. Boise State (UConn didn't deserve a bowl game, and who wouldn't watch this classic rematch?)
Orange Bowl: Stanford v. Virginia Tech (Stanford absolutely annihilated Virginia Tech, and I admit I was worried about this beforehand. I still think this was a good pairing. Virginia Tech by all accounts ran roughshod over the ACC and demonstrated it deserved to be in a BCS game. I'd still watch this game if it were to be played again in February.)
Sugar Bowl: TCU v. Ohio State (I'm dubbing this the "Little Sisters of the Poor v. Annually Overhyped, Can't Beat the SEC" Bowl)
National Championship: Oregon v. Auburn. Easy.


"Commonsense Conservatives & lovers of America: 'Don't Retreat, Instead - RELOAD!' Pls see my Facebook page."
-Sarah Palin, Twitter

“The way that she has it depicted has the crosshairs of a gun sight over our district. When people do that, they have to realize that there are consequences to that action."
-U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords, discussing Sarah Palin's map that has since been removed from her Facebook.

Maybe it affected Loughner, maybe it had no impact at all. Personally, I don't think it did. Doesn't matter; it already happened and making this our defining concern does the country a disservice by diverting attention from where it needs to go. Jon Stewart was right - it's time we take it down a notch. Not just today and tomorrow either. It's not enough to condemn acts of violence. If we are to grow as a society, we must also condemn the conditions and environment that foster such violence. No excuses. None. I never want to hear another American talk about 'second amendment remedies' ever again. And if that American should run for office, no self-respecting party could endorse them. No excuses. None.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011


is gonna get rich, in the form of a $2.5 million buyout from the University of Michigan as the school officially cans the man it once trusted to transform the Big 10(+2) from a Power I to a Spread Option conference. Financially, I’m sure it’s no big deal – universities like Michigan write coaching buyouts into their potential expenditures simply because they can. Rich daddies send their kids to Michigan because that’s where they met their frat buddies, and they all expect to root for a 10-win team when visiting their kids during homecoming. And what daddy wants, daddy gets – because he still controls the trust fund.

Personally, I’m more of an anachronism. I grew up in rural Kansas. Back home, you can’t always get what you want (but if you try sometimes – you get what you need). Struggle is inevitable to the human condition. Never trust anyone who had life handed to them. This is why I don't trust 'Michigan Exceptionalism.'

What I’m getting at is my basic belief in giving a coach four years before making any decision regarding their compatibility with a program. This trial period only ends early in the event of player abuse, abject failure to demonstrate improvement, rules violations (still on the fence in UM’s case), and other blatant shortcomings. However, it takes four years to build a team. Four years to recruit and develop the guys playing in a system (plus redshirts). Four years to build a sample size worthy of evaluation.

Rodriguez didn’t get four years. He was evaluated based on three years. Here’s what his three years provided us:

2010 7-6
2009 5-7
2008 3-9

However, his defense allowed this during those years:

YPG FBS rank
451 110th
393 82nd
367 67th

Steady improvement in the win/loss category, a decline in defensive prowess. Offense was winning games, defense was losing them. Fans can bemoan all day long the lack of defensive effectiveness. The thing is, Michigan couldn’t possibly get much worse on defense, and the offense looks like it’s got a pretty high ceiling with the major skill players becoming upperclassmen in 2011. This portends another improvement in the win-loss total. Which means RichRod, over the course of four years, would have demonstrated steady improvement all four years on the job.

That he has improved by two games each year is an undeniable fact. Winning should be the most important thing to a fan except possibly team character (are we recruiting convicts or Catholics). The following whinnies have been supplied in response, and I answer them soundly:

He’s only improved because the baseline was so low. We should’ve fired him after he went 3-9 the first season.
Wrong. I know Lloyd Carr was responsible for many wins and grew up in the area, making his work infallible to some. Regardless, he left a pretty bare cupboard following the 8-4 highlighted by a loss to a Division II team. The team did not have talent in 2008. Additionally, those players available were recruited to play an entirely different system. Rodreguez was brought in to transform UM into West Virginia – a program promoting speed and quickness over bulk. He needs four years to adequately recruit players to play in his system. Four years.

While the wins improved, the defense didn’t.
I don’t understand the argument. You’re winning. Fire Greg Robinson, if you need to vilify someone. The cornerbacks will come – there were six freshmen in the two-deep backfield. The defense was positively loaded with freshmen this year. They’ll get more experienced. They’ll get better. The team will improve.

We don’t play that type of football in the Big 10(+2). The spread can’t succeed here.
It can. Shoelace still put up arcade game numbers. The defense failed. The offense did not fail – it scored a lot of points. Besides, the fans were the reason Rodriguez was brought in in the first place – it was you who wanted something new and fresh. The spread was exciting, and that’s what people wanted. Three years later it’s suddenly passé? More importantly, Michigan scored a lot of points in the Big 10(+2) even though the defense provided few 3-and-outs or takeaways. That’s a lot more impressive than an offense that scores a lot of points because the defense keeps giving them the ball back. I don’t blame my mom when my father does dumb things. Don’t blame a successful offense for the defense’s shortcomings.

He destroyed the integrity of the program with his rules violations.
To think that UM was shamed from a lofty perch because it practiced a couple extra hours a day during the summer completely ignores historical fact. Michigan hides football players that wouldn’t hack it in most classes in its Communications Department, and that didn’t start in 2007. Additionally, there’s a reason Rodriguez was absolved of any wrongdoing and the University never incurred any penalty beyond some basic reductions in summer practice time. And do you really want to argue that’s what UM should be embarrassed about? Chris Webber.

Several players transferred under his watch.
As they do with every coaching transition. I'm aware we supplied Arizona State and Arkansas their starting quarterbacks when Threet and Mallet left the program. You really think Robinson'll be back next year if we bring in a coach looking for a traditional dropback passer?

He never won a game of any significance; Ohio State owned Michigan.
Richrod beat the teams you’re supposed to beat this year. The big wins come later, in year four and beyond. Wait – didn’t he beat BCS team UConn in 2010 and own Notre Dame during his tenure? While not overly impressive, it’s a start.
Addressing the Buckeyes, few teams (specifically, one) beat this school that will finish top five in the nation. UM played them damn close in 2009. This is as much a symptom of OSU’s national dominance the past decade as it is UM’s failures. Ohio State has won seven straight in the series and nine of ten – Lloyd Carr was responsible for more losses in that streak than Rodriguez. Face it – the Vest has owned the Wolverines the past decade, regardless of who’s calling plays.

We’re an elite institution. We deserve better.
The Mountain West. Western Athletic Conference. South Florida. We’ve seen that traditional powers are no longer entitled to wins over the sisters of the poor. South Florida put the best team on the field in Florida this year. That’s right, they were better than FSU, Miami, and the Gators. Hell, UCF might’ve been better too. Remember that intro about not always getting what you want? Michigan may still desire the role of a privileged white male, but other schools are getting the opportunity to compete as well. Deal.
Previous comments about sustained improvement and the likelihood of continued success still apply.

But but but…!
But nothing. Go back to your blasé cul de sac in Livonia devoid of any culture or personality and tell people you’re from 'the D.' Then appreciate having a winning record.

I’m open to reasons for letting Rodriguez go that aren’t listed above. However, think very carefully about whether they supersede argument #1 – steady improvement demonstrated every year, with a substantial number of returning players to suggest continued future improvement.

Monday, January 3, 2011

A Post About Pie!

A rising tide lifts all boats, we’re told. There’s some truth in this – a growing economy means more people are making more money. Unfortunately, the tide has a habit of rising faster than the boats being lifted. This is what we call inflation. And it’s one more reason Reagonomics ain’t right.

A booming economy portends more jobs and higher wages, although America’s lowest caste will always be stuck making minimum wage. The next level, people above the poverty line and even some of the middle class, may see their nominal incomes rise. Unfortunately, Reagan never attended a class that taught about real interest rates. Example: say economic growth means you make 2% more this year than last year. That’s great! Unless inflation rises by 3% - than you’re comparatively poorer and have less purchasing power, even though you technically earned more dollars.

The vast income gap that began exploding during the ‘80s (and has further ballooned ever since) means that the rising tide has certainly lifted a select few. However, the purchasing power of the rich fuels greater demand, which increases prices, which means higher inflation. When those at the bottom rung are then told they’re better off because they’re making more money, they’re often presented with nothing more than a farce.

(Here come's the pie!): The comeback is often presented by way of another lame analogy: we needn’t reapportion the economic pie as long as the pie grows; then every piece is bigger. And the poor’s slice of pie may technically be bigger. Unfortunately, the real cost of pie just increased too.

Note: this phenomenon is further exacerbated when certain types of economic growth happen. Companies may become more profitable when they become efficient by shipping jobs overseas or mechanizing them (e.g., computers and robots replacing accountants and welders). There may be short-term economic growth, but at the expense of real purchasing power from non-dividend holders.

More Economic Pie!: