MY NAME IS PITT, AND I'M NOT BUYING YOUR [EXCREMENT]
Pardon the paraphrase of Jules from Pulp Fiction. I'll readily acknowledge that turn of phrase did not spring forth first when I read Jason Whitlock's anti-statistics musings. It came as I watched The X Factor last night with Mrs. TetreaultVision. The final Dallas contestant came out spouting attitude and proceeded to sing just well enough that his pomposity earned him a cluster of no votes and a dejected march backstage.
I quipped at first, people buy from those they like, a reality driven home as I work to become a successful salesman of enterprise software. But then the thought coalesced into the title of this post, and I've tried applying it to the stories I've read this morning.
Per Whitlock, statistics are ruining sports. Well no, they aren't. They just make a less informed world view increasingly untenable. Need proof? Come and see how readily Whitlock's intellectual bankruptcy shines through by the end of the piece:
I don't know the answer. But I want to discuss and debate it. And I don't want to do it with people who simply want to quote stats. The answers and the questions that make sports special, unique, our collective national pastime, can't be found on a stat sheet. They're in our imaginations and our individual interpretation of what we witness.
When the "Moneyball" movie hysteria subsides, I hope the sabermeticians [sic] STFU.
Of course. All good debates should center around one faction Sierra Tango Foxtrot Uniforming, amirite? Makes it much easier for the ideological opponents on the other side. Because when one group Sierra Tango Foxtrot Uniforms all the debate ceases in a grand crashing halt. Add in your own screeching tire sound effects. Go ahead. Your cubemates will laugh at you, but that's okay.
Debate is the clarification of ideas in open competition. Thus debate is at minimum a dialogue, which etymologists tell us stems from the Greek words dia, which means through, and logos, which means discourse. So through discourse we arrive at agreement. And whether that agreement is the agreement to disagree or at some point of commonality upon which both parties can agree matters not. Debate begins with discussion and ends with clarity.
Sports engender passionate feelings among its many followers. We love our teams. We love the thrilling plays and many of us love a deeper understanding of those contests.
Find yourself in coherent congruence with any of my ideals, I bet you do. All of them, not likely at all. Report writers (and really most every database user) understand this inherently. If I join search terms with OR I get everything that matches at least one, and a big crowd. Couple them together with AND and you get a radically smaller subset. Thus debate is natural and needed among sports fans, and no matter of jargon laced monologues will silence those discussions.
The idea that Whitlock's desire is for those he disdains to Shut The Uck Fup suggests his claims of statistics chilling debate are more projective than steeped in any actual event of sabermetricians telling the other side that they need to zip it. Debate ends either when the moderator declares time is up or one side presents an argument so clear and compelling that it convinces the other side of its wrongness. You cannot silence others with your perspective, unless you convince and convert them to your way of thinking.
Whitlock's disconnect comes from the ignorance of the press about which they cover. Media types tend to align themselves ideologically and philosophically with the sources they cultivate. We buy a line of reasoning from those with which we agree. In the case of folks like the "olde tyme sports writers", these notions of analysis are as incomprehensible to them as they are to the people within the game to whom they speak.
Because the people who help inform his worldview of sports are not espousing a sabermetric viewpoint, there is no effective check on his assumption that statistical analysis is bad. Using that echo chamber to define your point as correct is lazy and incurious. Much like the stat head who regurgitates numbers without adequate observation or context is equally lazy and incurious. Only in combining our powers of observation, concrete data and adequate unseeable context can we best understand the world around us. Including the games about which we are passionate.
We choose to ignore that truth at our own peril. I'll leave you with this quote from F.A. Hayek, which strikes me as entirely relevant:
The curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine they can design.no comments
REMEMBRANCE OF THINGS PAST: Ten years is not a trivial duration. A decade offers opportunities for reflection on the events past and greater context and clarity than the moment can ever hope to provide. So here we are, ten years removed from the single greatest loss of human life on American soil in a single day in my lifetime. We again mourn the tragic deaths of those who perished because they arrived on time for work that clear autumn morn.
Many recollections are inwardly directed. This won't be different. I was late to work. Mrs. TetreaultVision and I were both employed by the same company at the time and we arrived after the south tower had fallen. The news hadn't been on in our apartment. It still rarely accompanies AM preparations. Feeds in my Google Reader have long since displaced any devotion to televised news coverage. The AP guy at the time came to ask if we had heard. We hadn't. The news sites were down, only intermittently available as millions flooded the Internet to follow the story. A television in the production area played the local ABC affiliates coverage.
We took money out of the bank, cash seemed like the right thing to have on hand at that moment and drove down to spend the evening watching the news with my in-laws. My brother-in-law not even yet in high school vocalizing the fears that were ever-present amongst us all.
"What is going to happen next?"
After we left my in-laws we drove to Jersey City. Across the Hudson from lower Manhattan. Billows of acrid smoke belched out of the tomb that once was the World Trade Center - now a funeral pyre alight. The air was nasty with a variety of indescribable, foul odors. Some of the other visitors were staring across the water like we were. Others couldn't look. Other suppressed the horror by hooking up, the pre-cursor to what Salon would soon thereafter call "terror sex".
I remember the cash on hand, worrying that cascading societal failure would somehow be blunted by the presence of currency backed by faith, that the government would honor it and not devalue it, that because it was stamped legal currency stores would accept it. In God (and the Fed) we trust. I was reminded of that yesterday watching Contagion. The rapid devolution of society in face of a plague that gestates quickly and kills far too many but not all.
Soderbergh's sterile tale of infectious disease spreading rapidly throughout the world left me cold, not the least of which because of the depiction of anarchy stands in such stark contrast to what was our greatest horror and our finest hour. So many of the stories of September 11, 2001 are peppered with he led us to safety, he rushed back in to go find someone else to pull out, she made sure I got to safety.
In short: heroism.
I bristle at the non-sense that such heroism was born on September 11th. Americans - though we are rugged individualists at our core - have long been the most benevolent of souls. We band together to help each other out. For all the terrible stories of looting accompanying tragedy there are anecdotes of selfless giving to ensure that our fellows survive and are able to endure.
Soderbergh's San Franciscans riot in a pharmacy to get a placebo. His Minnesotans loot a supermarket and practice home invasion. His government officials are venal and corrupt. He creates a plotless dystopian society unrecognizable from the world we know.
Perhaps his vision is steeped in a greater reality than mine. I just can't accept that it is.
Happier subjects. NFL Sunday week 1 arrives. Let the fanfare sound. 13 games today another pair tomorrow. I get to wait a day before I see the Patriots play. I doubted the lockout would get settled. Let's hope such fortune favors the NBA as well.
|1:00 ET||Buffalo||Kansas City||CBS||Chiefs|
|1:00 ET||Philadelphia||St. Louis||Fox||Rams|
|1:00 ET||Detroit||Tampa Bay||Fox||Lions|
|4:15 ET||NY Giants||Washington||Fox||Giants|
|4:15 ET||Seattle||San Francisco||Fox||Seahawks|
|4:15 ET||Minnesota||San Diego||Fox||Chargers|
|8:20 ET||Dallas||NY Jets||NBC||Jets|
These picks are straight up and for informational purposes only. You wager, it's your call and your money and your risk. In short, don't blame me. Enjoy the games.
BASEBALL ENDURES: With professional football kicking off tonight, I'm reminded that baseball's marathon draws towards its inevitable end. For six months, the promise of more summer days beguiled us, beginning when pitchers and catchers reported in February. But now with days visibly shorter and cooler air enveloping us, we turn our eyes towards autumnal pursuits. Teams that thrilled in the early going have wilted down the stretch. In a shock, last year's champion has been unseated by a pack of upstarts.
I think that baseball becomes a game that we collectively follow more as years pile up on our internal odometers. Time passes. Such is the nature of baseball where change (and Red Sox-Yankee games) moves at a glacier's pace, slowly reworking the landscape incrementally. Football is more an earthquake - violently jarring us to full attention. Not to say that the young can't enjoy baseball and those not so young loathe football, but that we tend to relate more to the former as we examine the marathon of our lives and pace ourselves after our all-out sprint.
So, the baseball blogosphere found itself in a snarling contest, thanks in no small part to the work of a writer at a blog I regularly follow and one time even wrote for. The Sporting Hippeaux dropped a bomb on the acolytes of WAR and ruffled the feathers of the great Rob Neyer and Tangotiger, who followed up with a functional defense of WAR later. But his comments most recently illustrated the point of what makes Hippeaux' post great. Hippeaux researched and revealed a germ of truth in his analysis that will expand our knowledge of the game. Hats off to him.
Sabermetrics has been and remains a quest to understand the game of baseball more completely than mere observation allows. No other sport devotes such attention to minutiae in such a pursuit. Because all other sports center on one of three aspects. The ball. The chase. The fight. This is why gymnastics, diving and figure skating, while remarkable athletic competitions are not sports. The ball, the chase, the fight provide objective understanding that clarifies the nature of the contest. Usain Bolt is the fastest man on the planet, because he is. Mike Tyson was a devastating fighter because for one amazing stretch, he pummeled all who stood in his path. Whether its football, basketball, soccer, hockey, or whatever ball-centric sport you follow (Congrats to the Boston Cannons adding to the Best. Decade. Evah.) the games that use the ball to tally points have a defined and objectively measured results.
But not baseball.
Baseball uses incremental progression to mark its results. In football a few unlucky bounces can doom a team that has dominated its opponent. In baseball, a masterful, dominant pitching performance can end with one swing of the bat piercing the night. Nine batters take their turn against each pitcher, trying to evade outs and add runs. Our understanding is enhanced by delving deeper into the underlying aspects of the game. What players get on base, enabling their teammates the opportunity to drive them home? And which when presented that opportunity succeed? Which pitchers understand the mechanics of what they control and benefit from slick fielders backing them up? We understand this and more through unpacking the component parts and more thoroughly consuming the games themselves. Is WAR perfect? Hardly. Nothing created by man shall be. Not baseball, and certainly not the metrics we use. But we can strive to make them more perfect, a cause Hippeaux has aided.
As did Michael Lewis when he published Moneyball in 2003. And now, eight years later, when we have seen ample evidence that Billy Beane's stuff (I'm paraphrasing) could be copied and perfected by others, a major motion picture arrives to rehash (and rewrite) the tale of the little Oakland that could. I'm immersing myself in sports dramas this month, with the excellent Warrior fresh in my mind, I await another attempt at baseball on the big screen. But knowing how the story ends will undeniably spoil the show.
Let's talk Warrior for a second. Opening wide tomorrow, I snuck into a screening with Mrs. TetreaultVision to enjoy the first really great MMA drama. A tale streaked with dysfunction and dedicated to the proposition that sometimes wounds heal only when there is a bloodletting. Tommy (Tom Hardy) and Brendan (Joel Edgerton) are the focus, but the overriding specter of their father (Nick Nolte) haunts both men. The notes are somewhat melodramatic. Brendan fights to save his home. Tommy fights because his heart is filled with rage from the way his father, brother and country abandoned him and his compatriots. Consequences pile up as Brendan gets suspended from his job for his side job and Tommy faces punishment for his own act of abandonment. Nolte's Paddy Conlon suffers most for his years of drinking, isolated, alone, left with meetings and 12 steps and no connection to either son. You root for healing and triumph, but only one fighter can win. Back top that idea above of the clarifying nature of fights. And in the end you are left to make your choice. Which Warrior would you choose? Good stuff all around.
Ach, nearly 1000 words later and I'm still rambling. Quickly then: The Zealots have the results of the Bloguin Heisman poll up, and I'm pleased to participate. More loquacious breakdowns will arrive next week. Peyton Manning may be done. And that leaves the great Nate Dunlevy filled with sorrow not only at the prospect that an era is over, but that he must stoically bear the pall in the procession. His reporting has been top notch. And worthy of your attention and respect.
I like the Saints tonight. And Oklahoma St. I doubt Tim Wakefield will ever win #200. I think the NBA Lockout is dragging through November. I await the New Years Eve visit of the Stanley Cup Champion Bruins to the Metroplex. I miss Woody Durham. I applaud Maury Brown's fantastic reporting on the story of Jim Crane. Back to back seasons with Texas based teams in contentious sales. Thankfully the state is out of MLB teams. Full slate of college top 25 picks tomorrow. Headlines, if time permits.no comments
Labor Day traditionally marks the conclusion of summer. I've discovered summer weather endures in Texas. Coming from New England the progress of seasons was marked by changes. A renewed chill swept fragrances of the coming season through the neighborhood growing up. That soon to be changed leaf smell - to this day rivaling all others for the sensation of comfort provided. But Texas is different.
There are fewer trees on the plains and far fewer maples and oaks, the ones whose scents most infuse my recollections of falls past. Even the warmer climate of Chapel Hill sprinkled in a fair share of autumnal aromas amid the stale beer of both big and little fraternity court.
For Texans, including us newly minted ones, this weekend marked a break from the oppressive summer heat. No triple digit readings in the Metroplex. Even better no burning wind scorching revelers delighting in the last weekent of summer. But warm weather endures, even if the season unoffcially has passed. And with the closing of summer, comes the preparations for the return of the NFL and big time college football stormed into big D with LSU taking on Oregon and beating them fairly soundly down in Jerry World.
A pretty stellar year for the Metroplex sportswise. The Rangers won their first Pennant. The Mavericks upended the Heat in the NBA Finals. And Cowboys' Stadium played host to the kickoff of the college football season and the final act of last year's NFL campaign.
So thus begins fall. I'm voting at the College Football Zealots Heisman poll this year. Here's how I saw the top Heisman trophy contenders in week one:
- Robert Griffin III - Baylor: spoiled the Horned Frogs 2011 unveiling with a 21 of 27 evening and five touchdown strikes. Accumulating 359 yards through the air in a game devoid of defense is still impressive
- Kellen Moore - Boise State: Far less heralded than the night that Griffin had, Moore was solid taking the reins for Boise State hitting on 28 of 34 attempts and finding the end zone three times. His pick diminishes his day somewhat, something the Bulldogs (and there awful unis) couldn't do
- Landry Jones - Oklahoma: Tuned up for the Seminoles in two weeks by wrecking the Golden Hurricane of Tulsa with a 35 for 47 afternoon and 375 yards. He only found the end zone once, which leaves something to be desired
- Andrew Luck - Stanford: Returning for his junior year Luck eschewed a spot atop the NFL draft and while he didn't hurt his Heisman standing with a 17-26 171 yd afternoon, he didn't win over any new fans and supporters with it either
- Marcus Lattimore - South Carolina: Can't hardly call them the other Carolina anymore. Lattimore announced his candidacy with a solid effort toting the pigskin 23 times for 112 yards and a touchdown. He also hauled in three passes for 33 yards
- Ryan Tannehill - Texas A&M: The Aggies senior signal caller had a field day connecting on 21 of his 26 attempts, piling up a pair of scores to go with 246 yards against SMU
- Montee Ball - Wisconsin: They didn't call his number much but he found the end zone four times - thrice by ground (part of a ten carry, 63 yard game) and once via the air. Ball was gaudy only in scoring as he piled up a mere 130 combined yards
- Trent Richardson - Alabama: Much was expected of Richardson with Mark Ingraham no longer dominating the Crimson Tide gameplan. And he failed to deliver much of anything. He falls off this list if he doesn't bounce back next week in Happy Valley
- LaMichael James - Oregon: Quacked by the Tigers who held him to 54 yards on the ground and 61 yards through the air. The damage though is done from the high profile of the stage on which he was ineffective
A special honorable mention to UNC's Bryn Renner who went 22 for 23 with two touchdowns through the air and another on the ground. His only blemish was the pick that James Madison's freshman safety Dean Marlowe (he of the awesome name) hauled in in the second quarter. Tuck 277 yards in his back pocket and my Tar Heels for whom I hold out minimal hope have a nice start to the season and a promising quarterback in the fold.
Which may be more than Indy can say this week. Peyton Manning has been told not to practice as his recovery from neck surgery suffers a setback. Fans of the Jacksonville Jaguars, Tennessee Titans and Houston Texans are salivating at the prospect of a weakened Colts team stumbling out of the block.
Today's headlines will appear as time allows. And check back to see the clip file as it gets updated. See you tomorrow.
TIME FOR LUNCH. Many years ago when I was but a lad and mastodons still roamed the plains freely, consuming entire swaths of scrub grass as they went, Roger Clemens on the heels of his first Cy Young Award stormed out of Red Sox camp demanding a better deal than the one the team was allowed under the CBA to pay him.
Gorman, when questioned by a ravenous pack of rabid hyenas, better known as the Red Sox press corps, responded to the tantrum that indeed, the sun would rise, the sun would set and he'd have lunch and those were the three things he could count on that day.
Words to live by. And on that note, it's time for me to affirm the validity of the third truism Gorman uttered. Here's to you, Lou.
Requiescat in paceno comments
RICH DYER on the sudden seriousness of spring training: "You don't need to slide too many abacus beads back and forth to figure out that nine players currently in camp will either be sent to the minors, cut, or traded in the next week. Spring Training is no longer about feel good stories, slow moving ballgames in the desert sun, and fans stretched out on the lawn beyond center field."no comments
Each day this week, a member of the Bloguin family will preview the upcoming 2011 season for each of the NL West Teams. The Giants Cove (Giants), RJ's Fro (Padres), The Rockie Mountain Way (Rockies), TetreaultVision (filling in for the Dodgers) and D'Backs Venom (Diamondbacks), will all give their 2 cents for their respective teams. It's my turn to pinch hit and tackle the open inquiries about the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Due up next are the Diamondbacks.
Each day this week, a member of the Bloguin family will preview the upcoming 2011 season for each of the NL West Teams. The Giants Cove (Giants), RJ's Fro (Padres), The Rockie Mountain Way (Rockies), TetreaultVision (filling in for the Dodgers) and D'Backs Venom (Diamondbacks), will all give their 2 cents for their respective teams. Next on the list is Joe Dexter from The Rockie Mountain Way answering all the difficult questions about the Colorado Rockies.
I'm proud to participate, and glad you clicked here to take a peak, but the credit for this report is all due to Joe at The Rockie Mountain Way and reading the preview over there is well worth your time. Due up next is my report on the Dodgers.
Each day this week, a member of the Bloguin family will preview the upcoming 2011 season for each of the NL West Teams. The Giants Cove (Giants), RJ's Fro (Padres), The Rockie Mountain Way (Rockies), TetreaultVision (filling in for the Dodgers) and D'Backs Venom (Diamondbacks), will all give their 2 cents for their respective teams. First up on the list is SDPads1 at RJ's Fro answering all the hard hitting questions about the defending World Series champion San Francisco Giants.
I'm proud to participate, and glad you clicked here to take a peak, but the credit for this report is all due to SDPads1 at RJ's Fro and reading the preview over there is well worth your time. Due up next are the Rockies.
Each day this week, a member of the Bloguin family will preview the upcoming 2011 season for each of the NL West Teams. The Giants Cove (Giants), RJ's Fro (Padres), The Rockie Mountain Way (Rockies), TetreaultVision (filling in for the Dodgers) and D'Backs Venom (Diamondbacks), will all give their 2 cents for their respective teams. First up on the list is Richard Dyer of The Giants Cove answering all the hard hitting questions about the defending World Series champion San Francisco Giants.
I'm proud to participate, and glad you clicked here to take a peak, but the credit for this report is all due to Rich over at The Giants Cove, and reading his preview over there is well worth your time. Due up next are the Padres.
"NEWSFLASH: SOME COMMENTERS ON THE INTERNET ARE BIG MEANIES" I believe it's called human nature.no comments
GOOD NEWS FOR LIQUOR PACKAGE STORES IN THE REST OF NEW ENGLAND So says Reason: "So despite the niggling fact that Massachusetts voters repealed an alcohol tax last election, Democratic State Rep. Kay Kahn decided recently that this was an unwise decision, that there is a “disconnect” (her word) between what voters pull the lever for and what they really want. So Kahn has taken it upon herself to correct the confused instincts of her constituents, offering a bill to reinstate the alcohol tax."no comments
QUARTERBACK RATING: A BOGUS STATISTIC James Joyner points to a thorough debunking of passer rating, the stat the NFL invented to try to quantify quarterback production by Mike Tanier. Joyner's comments illustrate the absurdity of referencing the stat:
I recall as a kid, 30-odd years ago, when Cowboys quarterback Danny White was in exactly the same position as Rodgers is now. Upon the 1500th attempt, he was the number one quarterback in NFL history, supplanting his predecessor, Roger Staubach. Nobody thought it was true. Within a few weeks, a kid named Joe Montana supplanted White and nobody believed that, either. Until a decade or so later, when they did.
Some of the greatest quarterbacks every –Stabubach, Unitas, Bradshaw — are blips on the QB ranking scale, ranking so far beyond today’s mediocre QBs that it’s not even funny. But quarterback is, alone among the so-called “skill positions,” unmeasurable by a single stat. People have a sense of who’s great and who’s not, but there really isn’t a widely used stat that works. Passer Rating is an index, but a complicated one that doesn’t really make any sense.
Keep all this in mind when Joe Buck and Troy Aikman gush about how great the two quarterbacks are on the field in Dallas next sunday.no comments
SNOWTORIOUS B.I.G. STRIKES NEW HAVEN The lack of plows is a feature not a bug. Note how WTNH gets results:
Brett Aiello says that when he calls public works of both New Haven and East Haven he doesn't get a response.
So, News 8 put two calls in to New Haven Mayor John Destefano's press secretary. Maybe it's a coincidence, maybe not, but seven minutes later the cavalry arrives.
Yes, Mayor Destefano recognizes that WTNH will play a greater role in getting him re-elected than the Aiellos.no comments
'PUTER ON THE DECLINE AND FALL OF CHARLIE SHEEN Just a taste, it's short enough for you to read the whole thing, "Hollywood, CBS and everyone on Two and a Half Men can bite 'Puter's love hog. You are watching a grown man slowly but surely kill himself, yet you continue to use him to enrich yourselves."no comments