Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Electoral College Football

Yes, I know, it's not actually sports. But still...

There was an interesting article in today's New York Times about how states that experienced rapid population growth during the real estate boom are suddenly not as popular destinations. Sun Belt states like Florida, Arizona and Nevada, which had each spent time ranked first in domestic migration over the last decade, find their rankings plummeting. But that's not really what caught my attention.

Since this was a Census survey, and the Census is used to determine representation in the House, it was the following paragraphs that struck me:

Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Nevada, South Carolina, Utah and Washington would gain one seat each, according to an analysis of the figures by Andrew A. Beveridge, a Queens College demographer.

States that would lose a seat include Iowa, Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania. Ohio would lose two, leaving it with 16.

A quick check of my trusty Electoral Map shows that of the seven "gainers", four are solid "red" states. On the flip side, and far more distressing, of the nine states that will lose a seat (or two), eight of them are (mostly) solid "blue". That could easily change the makeup of the House without so much as losing an election. More math, but that equates to a net gain of roughly three new Red-state seats, while the Blue-staters are down six!

On the bright side, anyone from New York looking to move to Arizona, I hear they have some really great deals...

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

And that accident was just a minor blip on his driving record

There is no shortage of people weighing in on the Tiger Woods' saga. The latest to add his two cents is Nike co-founder Phil Knight. Speaking with the Sports Business Journal, Knight didn't think this whole Tiger mess was a big deal for one of his leading pitchmen. In fact, Knight thinks,

When his career is over, you’ll look back on these indiscretions as a minor blip, but the media is making a big deal out of it right now.

Right, Phil. Like that whole Monica Lewinsky thing is just a blip when you look back at Bill Clinton's presidency. In as much as the American media loves a good scandal to toss around for a week or two, this is no blip. This story, ultimately, becomes part of the Tiger Woods permanent narrative. Fairly or unfairly, the second paragraph of his biography has now been written.

Woods, golf great, blah, blah, blah, paragraph one.

However, his carefully-crafted image took a hit in 2009 when details of his extra-marital affairs, blah, blah, blah, paragraph two.

Will Tiger play great golf again? Beyond his recent physical failings, there's no reason to believe otherwise. But the days of Tiger Woods being America's #1 pitchman are probably over. (Ask Michael Jordan how all that cheatin' and gamblin' cut into his endorsements.) Although Accenture has been the only one of Tiger's sponsors to actually announce they were dropping him, many of the others will bide their time and simply "not renew" their sponsorship agreements. It's just not worth the risk, at least not now.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

No, it's not perfect, but don't blame Texas

In a column on, Dennis Dodd is irked that Texas was invited to play Alabama for the National Title. Perhaps that's the safe pick -- not the "BCS chaos" as Brent Musberger so desired -- but hardly an outrage. Yet Dodd goes on to imply that somehow the outcome of the Big12 Championship wasn't on the up-and-up.

It just doesn't feel right, not when the two happiest men in college football Sunday were Dan Beebe and Walt Anderson.

It doesn't feel right because the Big 12 commissioner (Beebe) and his supervisor of officials (Anderson) were just as much a part of Saturday's furious finish to the season as was the football.

It doesn't feel right because half of the BCS title-game matchup was decided from the video replay booth. The commish and his supervisor had to put the final stamp of approval on Texas' 13-12 non-loss over Nebraska. Yeah, they got it right even after Texas almost got it unforgivably wrong.

Slow down, Dennis. The Big 12 commissioner did not decide that game. Nor did the officials.
Unless you want to say that the officials made the correct call and allowed the game to finish as it should have. No one outside of Lincoln, Boise, or Fort Worth wanted to see that game end on an incomplete pass that sailed out of bounds. (Okay, so maybe it would have been a little funny.) Either way, Texas had one second left, and a chance to win. If you want to point the finger, what about Nebraska? Thanks to two stupid plays at the end of the game -- kick out of bounds and horse-collar tackle -- the Longhorns ended up in field goal range without much trying. Welcome to the title game.

While I don't see Texas putting up much of a fight against Alabama, again I can't fault Texas. Dodd goes on to argue that the Longhorns' season was uninspired -- maybe -- and that they're only in the title game because Texas began the season with a higher ranking. Again, that's not entirely ridiculous, but does anyone really think that either TCU or Boise State is a better team than Texas? Or would put up a better fight against 'Bama?

If nothing else, this situation calls for -- no screams for -- a playoff. Imagine if Texas played TCU while Boise State faced off against Alabama? Four unbeatens! That next game could truly be called the National Championship. But as the next best option, an Alabama - Texas showdown in Pasadena will have to suffice.
(But that TCU - Boise State matchup might end up being the better game.)

Sunday, November 29, 2009

A Michigan man will coach Michigan

Now I will freely admit that I can't be the first person to think of this. Truth be told, though, I haven't yet seen it in print. Either way, let me state that Jim Harbaugh should be the next coach of the Michigan Wolverines.

Following last night's come-from-behind victory over Notre Dame, not long on the heels of Stanford's upset of mighty USC, Harbaugh's status as the next up-and-coming "Big Time Coach" is cemented. The cat, as they say, is out of the bag.

Now imagine, if you will, what Harbaugh might be able to accomplish in Ann Arbor. I'll wait. No longer having to pick through the leftovers in the PAC-10, once the USC's and Oregon's have signed their share of blue-chippers, Harbaugh would be recruiting for one of the nation's most storied programs. Well, at least historically. (More on that in a bit.)

Besides, while the West Coast offense is the NCAA's prevailing flavor, who wouldn't mind a Toby Gerhart smashing through the line for the Maize and Blue? And lest anyone worry whether this might be Bo II, a halfback pass, anyone? Or that nifty Flea Flicker? The mind wanders.

So what about the current Michigan head man? It's no secret that the Rich Rodriguez Era has not gotten off to a great start. Year One we all let slide. Given Rodriguez's history, the first year is the throwaway; the second year, though, is supposed to be the turnaround. And it sure looked like things were turning around in Year Two as Michigan jumped out to a 4-0 start. Then the Big Ten schedule kicked in.

Not everything about Michigan under Rodriguez is bad, mind you. They did score a lot of points. Tate Forcier, at times, looks like a big time QB. But unfortunately, the bad has far outweighed the good of late. The 3-13 Big Ten record. The practice scandal. The no-shows at the Big House. Some questionable hiring decisions. Somehow, it just doesn't add up.

That said, I fully believe Rodriguez will return to coach the Wolverines in 2010. It's too soon to pull the plug on a coach who had been very successful elsewhere. However, provided Harbaugh, in turn, returns to Stanford to coach another season, the Rodriguez Watch is officially ON. What will it take for Rodriguez to stay? I'll know it when I see it. But if Jim Harbaugh's Stanford Cardinal enjoys another year of success and Michigan can't turn it around, then the phone lines between Ann Arbor and Stanford had better be burning.

Danger, Greg Robinson!

Not everything went wrong for Michigan in 2009 -- they did score a lot of points. Of course, they also gave up a lot of points. A lot of points. Ergo, Greg Robinson needs to be fired today. Okay, so this post is a bit late in coming but it doesn't make it any less relevant.

Does anyone know how Robinson even got hired? Was it his exceptional success elsewhere? He was run out on a rail from Syracuse, where he went 10-37 in his four years as head coach. No, that's not a typo. His teams managed to win 1, 4, 2 and 3 games over the four miserable seasons Robinson coached the team. Certainly teams were lining up to hire this guy after Syracuse cut him loose.

Apparently, Robinson's only claim-to-fame was his stint as the Denver Bronco's Defensive Coordinator during their Super Bowl run in the late 90's. Raise your hand if you can name a single player on that Bronco's defense. Didn't think so.

Anyway, I'm sure there will be plenty of debate this off-season about the fate of Rich Rodriguez. Whether or not you feel RichRod should return, there's at least one person who should no longer be seen within the Ann Arbor city limits. Pull that trigger, Rich. Now.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

History is History

Well, so much for the Rangers. Never blown a 3-1 series lead? Until last night, anyway. The Caps hadn't overcome a 3-1 deficit since 1988? Twenty-one years is just too long.

Anyway, not that I had much faith going into last night's game, but I came away even more disheartened. The Rangers played their hearts out for two periods and had exactly one goal and a tie score to show for it. It was only a matter of time until the Caps finally scored again and the Rangers -- all one shot's worth -- were utterly powerless to fight back.

Which brings me to this point: why does Glen Sather still have a job? I'm beginning to think that having Gretzky and Messier and Lowe and Coffey all on one team made Sather look good. Really good. Like Phil Jackson coaching Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen good. (Or Shaq and Kobe good -- take your pick.)

My point is that if you overlook the Edmonton portion of Sather's résumé for a moment, the results aren't all that pretty. After all, the Rangers missed the playoffs in his first four seasons as GM. Even now, with four straight playoff appearances, they've never finished the regular season better than 3rd in the division and haven't made it out of the playoffs' 2nd round. (The Rangers have a 14-17 playoff record during Sather's reign.)

The bottom line now is that the Rangers simply can't score. As great as Lundquist played in this series, without a margin for error, the team was doomed. Sather has left the team without a guy who can put the puck in the net. And I'm not talking an Ovechkin, here. There are four Capitals with more points than the Rangers' leading scorer, Nik Antropov. (Full disclosure: not only is Antropov only the 65th-best scorer in the NHL, but he tallied 43 of his 59 points for Toronto.)

And the big-money guys like Gomez and Drury can take their place alongside such high-priced, underperforming talents as Lindros, Bure and Holik who were never able to put the Rangers over the top. How long can a man live off his past success and not be held accountable for the present? If Sather can't produce that scoring threat for next season, the Rangers should begin their own search for a new leader.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

O Ye of Little Faith

Okay, I admit it: that's me. After watching the Rangers get blown out of the Garden on Sunday (well, for as long as I could stand watching it, anyway) my hopes are not particularly high for tonight's Game 7. It should be noted that even in the Rangers' wins it was by the slimmest of margins, whereas the Capitals have had their way with the Rangers during their three wins. (In fact, if you'd only watched the Caps' wins, you'd wonder -- and rightfully so -- how it was the Rangers were even still in this series.)

However, I'm always a sucker for historical stats, especially the ones that favor the Rangers. To wit:
  • Of the 233 teams that have built 3-1 series leads in the Stanley Cup playoffs, 213 have ultimately won the series. That's good for 91%.
  • No NHL team has overcome a 3-1 deficit since 2004, when Montreal beat Boston in the first round.
  • It has been 21 years since the Capitals overcame a 3-1 series deficit -- 1988 against Philadelphia in the first round.
  • The Rangers have never blown a 3-1 series lead, though they needed a Game 7 in the 1994 Stanley Cup finals against Vancouver.
Okay, so there you have it. History favors the Rangers. (Let's just not talk about the on-ice matchups...)

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Sometimes Nice Guys Finish First

Congratulations, Adam. That's a fine group of men standing there. You deserve your place among them.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Throwing good money after bad

So it turns out that the most appalling off-season largess ever doled out has just a little bit more to go. As if throwing $49 million at the top of the rotation wasn't enough, the Yankees announced today that their courtship of Andy Pettitte has been consummated. For the privilege of tacking the now barely serviceable Pettitte to the end of the rotation, the Yanks are on the hook for another $5.5 million, with incentive clauses that could mean another $6.5 million.

Are they kidding? Did anyone else notice Pettitte’s record after the All-Star break last season? In 13 starts, he went 4-7 with 5.35 ERA and a .302 opponents’ batting average. Pettitte is a mere shell of the pitcher he was before, and he's only getting older. (I guess the HGH is harder to come by these days.) Pettitte isn't worth $6,000 at this point, let alone $6 million. (Here's hoping that those incentives are based on more than just games started or innings pitched... not that he'll be hard-pressed to meet those, too.)

Let’s make sure that Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy get plenty of starts under their belts at AAA. That way, when they are inevitably pressed into service to take over Pettitte’s rotation spot, they’ll be ready. I only hope that Joe Girardi and the Yankees' brass keep a short leash on their latest Pettitte experiment. Like Yogi used to say, it gets late early around the A.L. East these days. Watching Pettitte self-immolate on the mound isn't going to be much fun with very little margin for error in arguably baseball's best division.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Some Hall of Fame Voters are Dicks

Rickey Henderson was voted into baseball's Hall of Fame today. That shouldn't surprise anyone. After all, it would be exactly five years after Rickey finally decided he was finished playing baseball (it took a while, but still) that he would become a first ballot Hall-of-Famer. But there's always gotta be a few cranks out there (present company excluded).

From the 539 eligible Hall of Fame voters, Henderson received 94.8% of the vote. That amounts to 511 ballots. That also means that 28 voters out there determined that Rickey Henderson, the greatest lead-off hitter of all time, wasn't good enough this go-round to be inducted. Well, there must have been some reason. Perhaps his career numbers were lacking?

  • 25 seasons, 3,081 games played (4th all-time)
  • 1,406 stolen bases (1st all-time)
  • 2,295 runs (1st all-time)
  • 2,190 walks (2nd all-time)
  • 3,055 hits
  • 1990 AL MVP
  • 2 World Series titles
Didn't think so. No, it comes down to the long-held, old school (very old school) notion that no one should be a unanimous selection. It's never happened, though Tom Seaver came the closest.

The real problem I have is that for the Baseball Hall of Fame, voting is anonymous. Votes are tabulated but the ballots are not released. Not one of the 28 holdouts has to explain himself, why a stupid "tradition" trumps simple logic, or why he thought Rickey Henderson didn't qualify for the Hall of Fame.