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September 27, 2011 9:30 AM

Column Awards of the Week (9/20-9/26)

By updating RealClearSports I read hundreds of articles every week but sometimes there are particular passages that need highlighting. And to make these passages more palatable I'm doing them in award form! The awards are completely random and will change weekly.

Column Awards for slide.jpgI'm not someone who goes all statistics on people and calls for NFL teams to go for it on every fourth down, never punt and always attempt onside kicks (although that is thoroughly entertaining). But there is one strategy many announcers condone and coaches follow that drives me crazy. It's late in the game and a team is down by 10 points. It's fourth down on the one or two yard line and they decide to kick the field goal. 

In the Jets-Raiders game in that situation the Jets decided to go for it and Clark Judge of CBS Sports put that decision in the Five Things I Don't (Like)" section of his post-Sunday piece: I'm with CBS analyst Phil Simms; I would have taken the field goal, then tried the onside kick. The Jets needed two scores; it didn't matter in what order.

Most defenders of the strategy to kick a field goal argue that it's best to keep hope alive. If the team kicks the field goal they still have a chance. If they go for the touchdown and don't make it the game is over. The problem with this argument is it doesn't make statistical sense. When a team has the ball within a couple yards of the end zone they have a decent chance of scoring a touchdown. Sure, a field goal from that range is nearly 100-percent but what are the chances they will get a better shot at the end zone if they get the ball back after kicking that field goal? Taking the 3 points might keep hope alive for fans and keep the game interesting for announcers but teams should take their best chance to win the game and that is to go for the touchdown when they are in a good position to do so and then have the much less daunting task of getting into field goal range for a chance to tie later. 

Even though the Jets failed to convert (Sanchez's knee barely touched the ground before the ball crossed the plain), the Jets made the right decision that gave them the best chance to get back in the game. And for that, I commend Rex Ryan. On to the awards!


Stat of the Week

Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reminds us that the Pirates are really, really bad: In the modern history of Major League Baseball that began in 1900, no team has fared worse than these Pirates after holding first place through 100 games. Actually, no team has even come close. The Pirates' 16-40 record down the stretch makes for a .286 winning percentage. Next-worst was the 1977 Chicago Cubs, who went 60-40 to lead their division through 100 games, then went 21-41 for a .339 winning percentage.

Remember when the Pirates had turned the corner? Remember when this was going to be the year they cracked .500 and possibly made the playoffs? Look at them now. How the slightly above average have fallen...

Bleak Outlook

The NFL just wrapped up the third week of the regular season but Dan Le Batard of the Miami Herald was ready to call off the season for the Dolphins if they lost to the Browns...which they did: Lose today, and you'll lose the season, customers and probably jobs, too. Lose today, and you empty your seats and fill your football season with meaningless Sundays, some of which won't even be televised. Such a perfect term, black out. Lose today, and even the most hopeful among us aren't going to be able to see very much light.

Ouch. At least Miami has the Marlin...er...Panther...er...Hurrica...or Heat? It's not a good time to be a sports fan in South Beach.

Reaching for a Reference
Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times knows why Arizona State defeated USC: The Sun Devils run to their field through what is now known as the Tillman Tunnel, and the fallen war hero's inspiration certainly carried them on a night when USC seemed as intimidated and confused as they were during bad road losses last year at Stanford and Oregon State.

They were inspired by Tillman. THAT'S why they won. It's why the Sun Devils are perfect at home since naming the tunnel in 2006. They're not undefeated at home? They must not have been inspired enough in those games they lost.

Why Newspapers are Failing

Mark Craig of the Minneapolis Star Tribune wrote about the Lions' futility against the Vikings: The last time the Lions won at the Metrodome -- on Herman Moore's 1-yard touchdown reception with 1 second left -- Barry Sanders was still a year from retirement, Randy Moss was still at Marshall and the national high price for a gallon of gas was $1.10, according to Answers.com.

2 things: 1. Citing Answers.com?? Is that now acceptable? How about Yahoo! answers or AskJeeves? 2. I Googled it and Answers.com says it was $1.23. So not only did he cite Answers.com but he cited it incorrectly. Now that's good reporting.

The Next Nostradamus

Michael Silver of Yahoo! Sports should by himself some lottery tickets. First though, his piece on injuries in the NFL and those that criticize those players is well done. But he's in this post because of his predictions tacked on to the end of the article: The Bills will break a 15-game losing streak to the Patriots by outscoring Tom Brady(notes) and friends - and fans at The Ralph will be very tempted to storm the field in celebration. ... Coming off an emotional victory over the Eagles, the Falcons will succumb to their lack of offensive rhythm and lose to the finally awake Bucs in Tampa. ... The Seahawks will look like a different team at Qwest Field in beating the Cardinals (or it's going to be a long, long season in the Pacific Northwest, and I will never pick them again).

He nailed all three with the Bills pulling a big upset, the Seahawks pulling off a small one and the Bucs/Falcons game was pretty much a pick 'em. That trifecta would've paid off quite handsomely had he wagered.

Runnin' With the Devil

Dan Delzell of the Christian Post goes way out there with this comparison (or lack thereof): The match between Djokovic and Federer in New York was quite a spectacle, but it was nothing compared to Christ's victory over sin and death and Satan. "And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross." (Colossians 2:15) Memo to Satan: Get over it. You have been defeated.

He really went out on a limb there. A tennis match that happens every year doesn't compare to the battle of Good vs. Evil? I really thought pulling for Djokovic was going to be my ticket into Heaven. Looks like I'll have to start worshipping Fred Couples again.

New Idea to Fix MLB's Postseason

Bud Selig seems determined to add a couple more wild cards to make the regular season a little more interesting. Dan Shaughnessy of the Boston Globe has another idea to make the playoffs better: With nowhere else to turn, I called baseball commissioner Bud Selig yesterday.
Left him a message:
Please, Bud. This is your chance to think outside the box. You have sweeping powers that enable you to make unilateral decisions "in the best interests of baseball.''
How about banishing the 2011 Red Sox from postseason play on the grounds of horsebleep play for the entire month of September?

Ugh. I hate how the baseball season is a ridiculous 162 games long, but a game in July is just as important as a game in September. Otherwise, why not treat everything before September as spring training and hold a 30-game season? The Red Sox are struggling and just might miss the playoffs but if they do they could easily turn it around just as they turned for the worse in September.

Uncalled for Hit Leads to Uncalled for Analogy

Gregg Doyel of CBS Sports doesn't think highly of people who are fans of Floyd Mayweather Jr. Mayweather knocked out Victor Ortiz with what many thought was a sucker punch. Doyel compares people that are fans of Mayweather to those that are fans of other dubious athletes/coaches: if you're an Ohio State fan who stood by Jim Tressel even after we learned he'd hid violations by his best players, played them anyway and lied to his bosses and the NCAA. It's a "you" story if you're an Oregon fan defending Chip Kelly for letting his program write a $25,000 check to a scout with no real scouting service, in exchange for the best player from that scout's collection of recruits. It's a "you" story if you were still a Roberto Alomar fan after he spat in an umpire's face, or a Christian Laettner fan after he stomped on the stomach of Amino Timberlake, or an Albert Haynesworth fan after he cleated Andre Gurode's face, or a Marty McSorley fan after he could have killed Donald Brashear.

The thing is all of the acts he lists were against the rules. Mayweather's punch was not. When you're in the ring you always need to be ready to defend yourself and Ortiz wasn't. I'm not a fan of Mayweather's but I find nothing wrong with how he knocked out his opponent. Boxing is a brutal sport that isn't exactly full of do-gooders. If you restrict yourself to those with high morals you're restricting yourself from just about all major professional sports.

Cheap Shot That Doesn't Even Apply

Gwen Knapp of the San Francisco Chronicle isn't exactly praising Alex Smith but isn't slamming him either after the 49ers defeated the Bengals: He hasn't been transformed into Aaron Rodgers, or even Ryan Fitzpatrick. But he hasn't put the 49ers in constant jeopardy, either.

Why the cheap shot at Fitzpatrick? He's seventh in the league in passer rating and has thrown 9 touchdowns to just 3 interceptions. He's playing as one of the top QBs in the league. If Alex Smith were playing like Ryan Fitzpatrick the people in San Francisco would be through-the-roof excited. And Fitzpatrick is doing it with a team of misfits. His top receiver was a 7th round pick and second and third options went undrafted. Let's not throw his name out there like he's just an average QB.

The Problem With the Internet Age

Vinnie Iyer of Sporting News decided to write a post at 2:35pm on Sunday: It was more business as usual Tom Brady and New England's offense in a key AFC matchup of unbeatens in Buffalo. Wide receiver Wes Welker and tight end Rob Gronkowski helped Brady get the Patriots a 21-0 lead, while Brady's hot counterpart Ryan Fitzpatrick cooled off with two early interceptions. It's clear the Bills are getting a brutal reality check in their own division, where the Jets also started 2-0.

Who got the reality check? The Bills came roaring back to defeat the Pats and the Jets fell to the Raiders - a team the Bills beat the previous week. If you can't tell I'm a Bills fan. The rational side of me easily forgives Iyer because who in the world thought Buffalo would come back to defeat the mighty Patriots. But it happened and I'm glad I can point out how wrong Iyer was.


Leave Luck Alone!

Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports is appalled at all the fans clamoring for their NFL teams to tank for a chance to get the top pick in order to draft Andrew Luck: Doesn't Luck deserve some sort of asylum from the racket barking at him from the future? ... We are a society living moment to moment. Twitter and its cyber-pals have given a voice to those who maybe shouldn't have one. Suck for Luck?

Damn those fans! Why can't they root for their team and not for a draft pick? So irresponsible. If only they had a more reasonable and longer term outlook like members of the media...

Let's Get Luck (Broncos edition)!

Dave Krieger of Denver Post: Having won a game already, the Broncos are not among the leading contenders to get Lucky at the moment ... oddsmakers like their chances to enter their bye week at 1-4 amid a crescendo of calls for Tim Tebow to replace Kyle Orton at quarterback.

In that event, the switch would make sense on more than one level. If Tebow's supporters are right and he is a revelation, the Broncos will discover they already have their quarterback of the future. If Tebow's critics are right and he isn't ready, the Broncos may have the pluck for Luck.

Don't mention this to any current players or coaches, of course. They are playing and coaching for jobs and pride every week. Losing is bad enough; losing on purpose is unthinkable.

But that doesn't mean the rest of us can't ask what would be better for the franchise in the long run, a 7-9 record that gives it pretty much the same choice of signal-callers it has now or a 3-13 mark that gives it a shot at its best quarterback since Elway. More than ever, winning in the NFL is all about quarterback play.


Let's Get Luck (Vikings edition)!

Jim Souhan of the Minneapolis Star Tribune: If Ponder took over and played well, the Vikings could start building toward 2012 and intriguing a fan base that is close to abandoning them. If he took over and struggled, then the Vikings could make an informed judgment on whether he is the right quarterback to serve them for the rest of this decade. And if he proved incapable of playing quarterback in the NFL, the Vikings could even wind up with a shot at drafting Stanford star Andrew Luck.

Let's Get Luck (Dolphins edition)!

Greg Cote of the Miami Herald: Meantime Miami finds itself in the early mix over who will finish with the NFL's worst record and overall No. 1 pick, also known as Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck.
Would the Dolphins draft Luck?
They would in a heartbeat, or certify themselves insane.
The way Sunday's game ended for Henne only underlined that Miami continues to desperately need a quarterback who is special -- this one, or somebody else. 

I didn't find an article calling for the Chiefs to tank and get Luck but I'm sure it's out there or I'll see it in the next couple of weeks.

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