Ones And Sixteens

Even at age 45, statistics still fascinate me. Maybe not as much as they used to, but stats can be a powerful tool in sports, in politics, or in the news in general.

Up until the Super Bowl this year, I thought the most amazing statistic in sports was the anomaly that up until that classic Pats/Falcons Super Bowl, no Super Bowl had gone to overtime, winding up tied after 60 minutes of regulation play. Roughly, at least 1 NFL game in the regular season and beyond out of 20 such games needs overtime to decide, but after 50 Super Bowls, it had never happened in the big game.

Now that it finally happened this year (and I “marked out” big time when it did, dancing around the TV and saying to myself, “It happened! It finally happened!!!”), there is an heir apparent to the biggest anomalous stat in the sports world.

Since the NCAA men’s basketball tournament went to 64 teams in 1985, the teams are seeded in four regions: based on a combination of record and roughly the strength of schedule a given team plays. The best seed is to be a number 1 seed, while being a number 16 seed is the least desirable.

Counting the first round games this year, the 1 seed has played the 16 seed 132 times. The 16 seed teams have NEVER won, 0-132 against the 1 seed. In women’s college basketball, it’s only ever happened once, in 1998 when Harvard stunned the top seeded Stanford squad.

It will happen someday, but not until at least March of 2018.


The World Serious


All right, a quick show of hands here. How many of you had Kansas City and the New York Mets in the World Series this year at the start of the season?

Not many of you, I reckon.

When I watch sports, I always seem to enjoy the finales more when two teams are squaring off that haven’t won a championship in a while as opposed to teams that are in the hunt every year. The exception to that rule for me is the Super Bowl, because that’s not a best four out of seven series, it’s one game for a championship.

I think it will be a very good series, even if it stretches into November, which it will likely do. The Mets have great pitching and a hitter named Daniel Murphy who’s hitting everything out of sight. If he can stay hot as he did in the NLCS against the Chicago Cubs, the team from the NYC should have an easy time of it.

The Royals were a base hit away from sending the seventh game of last year’s Series to extra innings, or a home run away from winning it. I have great respect for the Royals, with ex-Ray Ben Zorbist on the team after being acquired from Oakland in a trade.

My pick, just for entertainment purposes: the Mets in five games. Thinking the Royals will win tonight, then the Mets will win four in a row, just like the 1969 World Series went against Baltimore.

Athletic Pornography

Most NFL players don't need a reason to party.

Most NFL players don’t need a reason to party.

With the exception of MLB’s All-Star game, I often think of all-star games as athletic pornography, a phrase I once heard wrestling announcer Gordon Solie (who would be 86 today, I’d later discover) use to describe the WWF in its “attitude era” of the 1990’s. Must like how porn is a bastardized version of movie making (not that there’s anything wrong with that), all-star games are a bastardized version of sports. Look at all that talent, never mind that the games are a glorified exhibition.

Look at the NHL all-star game last night in Columbus. 17-12?!? You can watch a Stanley Cup playoff series in the spring go the full seven games and you won’t see 29 goals in the whole series. This game alone had 29 goals.

The Pro Bowl has always been one of those events I either don’t watch or watch with the sound down. It’s a meaningless game that someone can only get hurt playing in. Imagine getting a career ending injury in a Pro Bowl? That would boggle the mind, and probably make the afflicted player suicidal.

If the Pro Bowl ever went away, I don’t think I’d miss it. The only thing good about it is it gets us closer to the Super Bowl.

The Green Cathedral

It was my dad who introduced me to this thing called Wimbledon back when I was seven years old.  He got up one Saturday morning in July of 1979, turned on the local NBC station, Channel 8 (WFLA)  and watched something being called “Breakfast At Wimbledon.”  He was interested in the men’s final, being aired for the first time live back to the United States from England.  An upstart pro named Roscoe Tanner was facing the reigning ice man of the grass courts, Bjorn Borg.  Borg won the match in five sets, but Tanner was highly praised for giving the best player in the world such a hard battle.

So here I sit at a computer on June 30, 2012, watching a different looking Wimbledon, or at least it appears as such on TV.  NBC gave up the televised rights to Wimbledon last night, and now the Tour De France has replaced it on their schedule.  The Peacock was given to airing a lot of Wimbledon on their schedule, which meant you would see a great deal of it on tape-delay.  You could listen to Radio Wimbledon or follow a given match on the Internet and get the result you’re interested in long before NBC got around to airing it prior to the Saturday and Sunday finals.  It wasn’t how the biggest tennis tournament in the world should be handled.

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Feeling My Age

Another Super Bowl is upon us, a day away as I write this.

I try to ignore all of the hype on TV.  I’d much rather watch the game.  Last year, I didn’t turn on the Super Bowl pregame until about 5pm.  I will likely do the same tomorrow.

The first Super Bowl I remember was the 12th one in 1978.  Dallas destroying Denver, 27-10.  My Dad was originally from New York but always liked the Cowboys, so he was in his element that day as he held a party for his colleagues from work, and my Mom’s. They both worked at Publix at the time, a supermarket chain that then just had stores in Florida.

So this one will be my 35th, and I’m 40.

Man, I’m getting old.  When you actually see someone get younger as time passes on, let me know.  That’s the person I want to talk to.

Getting old doesn’t bother me.  It’s what I’m doing with the time.  And that needs to change.

Four More Curtain Calls

It’s the second Saturday of January, 2012.  In my world, that means only one thing, an appointment with the television at 4:30 to watch two NFL playoff games.

For those who don’t know, 32 teams start the NFL season every September.  Unless a franchise moves, it’s the same 32 teams every year.  No promotion or relegation like you see in soccer all over the world.  They play 16 games over 17 weeks in eight divisions spanning two conferences.  The eight division winners based on record (if teams are tied for a playoff spot, there’s a tiebreaker procedure to decide the better team) join four more teams, two in each conference with the best records that did NOT win the division (called wild cards) to make the 12 team playoff field.

Of those 12 teams, only one can be the Super Bowl champion a given year. The remaining 11 teams consider themselves lucky to have had such a good season. So I think of those 11 teams as great actors taking a curtain call.

This week, the eight teams left are reduced to four.  The week after this, those four are reduced to the two teams that play in the Super Bowl two weeks later.

The Super Bowl has gotten so big that the promotion for it doesn’t seem to speak of the two teams that will be playing.  There’s usually a large performance by a popular rock artist or performer at an extended halftime intermission.  This year in Indianapolis, the 1980’s pop starlet Madonna performs.  It’s like the Super Bowl takes a back seat to the rock concert in the middle of the game.

Me? I just like a good football game.