Monthly Archives: July 2013

Big Changes Coming for the Pro Bowl This Season

ESPN’s Adam Schefter spilled some interesting info unto the interwebs this afternoon regarding the future of (arguably) the least competitive “all-star” game in all of sports. According to Schef, the Pro Bowl will switch from the traditional AFC-NFC rosters to a fantasy-style draft with Jerry Rice and Deion Sanders as your captains–very NHL All-Star-Game-esque. Also, there will no longer be kick offs. Each roster will be made up of 43 players, and the game will be played on January 26th at Pro Bowl Stadium in Honolulu.

Before we know it, they’ll be playing flag football on an open field with no pads and the end zone will be dissected into zones with a variety of scoring values. Oh wait…

I’m a fan of the league trying to do something to spice up the game, but I’m not sure this will cut it. The draft is an interesting idea and probably what I’m most excited about in all of this. It’s not unique in any way, but it’s something. The possibility of seeing Andre Johnson line up on one side of the field and Calvin Johnson on the other, with Adrian Peterson in the backfield and Peyton Manning under center is enough to get the juices flowing a little.

I just wish that there was some legitimate prize at the end of the game or something on the line. Instead, the game itself is still nothing more than grown men skipping around a football field with leis around their neck and Hawaiian luau dancers on their arms.

Chad Qualls’ Embarrassing Tumble

Pretty much nothing has gone right for the Miami Marlins this season. It’s been one big debacle after another, starting with the huge salary dump during the offseason that really turned what few fans they had away. Well, sticking with the that theme, even when something does go right for the Fish, something else will happen that reinforces their status as the laughing stock of the baseball.

Enter Chad Qualls.

After allowing a lead-off triple to Marlin Byrd in the top of the 8th, Qualls was able to escape the inning without allowing a run and maintain a 2-2 tie with the New York Mets. Naturally he was pretty pumped, and after recording a strike out for the final out, he decided to show some emotion with an emphatic fist pump. Problem was, in the act of pumping his fist, the journeyman reliever momentarily forgot how to walk. Hilarity ensued:

Quite the scene he made. Sad thing is, though, Qualls has a history of losing his balance in the middle of the diamond…

chad qualls falls

Poor fella.

(GIF via Larry Brown Sports)

Jason Giambi is So Old That His Walkoff Dinger Was Pretty Historic

Just how old is Jason Giambi? Well 42 years, 203 days today to be exact. But the Cleveland Indians’ designated (pinch) hitter is so old that his 9th inning walkoff home run in the team’s 3-2 win over the Chicago White Sox on Monday was pretty damn historic. Giambi is in his 19th year in the Majors, but it’s been nearly a decade since his last All-Star nod, he has just one season with 10+ home runs since 2009, and he hasn’t had a truly healthy season since 2003—in fact, he’s averaged just under half a season played since ’09. (Not too coincidentally, it was revealed after the 2004 season that Giambi admitted taking steroids during his testimony in front of a federal grand jury in 2003 during the BALCO case, and he has been in a steep decline ever since.)

Either way, he’s quite old, and all of this makes what he did on Monday just that much more awesome. The story via ESPN via Elias,:

Jason Giambi became the oldest player in major-league history to hit a walkoff home run in the Indians’ 3-2 win over the White Sox on Monday. Giambi, 202 days past his 42nd birthday, is 45 days older than Hank Aaron was when he hit his 754th career home run, at Milwaukee County Stadium off the Rangers’ Steve Foucault, which gave the Brewers a 10-inning win.

Giambi has hit a walkoff home run in each of the last four seasons, with a total of five game-enders over that time. The only other player with more than two walkoff homers after turning 39 years old is Barry Bonds, who had four.

A slow-clap would be appropriate right about now.

Johnny Football Kicked Out of UT Fraternity Party

I don’t like getting all caught up in the bad mouthing of Johnny Manziel. The reigning Heisman Trophy winner–and the only Freshman to have that honor laid upon him–has had quite the eventful summer with the media down his throat (not to mention the booze that’s been flowing through there as well), and plenty of criticism for how he’s carried himself since bursting on the scene last season. But let’s face it, he’s just starting his Sophomore year at Texas A&M and is still just a kid. Let him have his fun.

Now, all of that aside, what happened to Johnny Football over the weekend is absolutely amazing. Manziel was in Austin over the weekend and decided to get himself into a fraternity party at the University of Texas. And there’s problem numero uno. When you’re the starting quarterback for the A&M Aggies, the last place you’d really want to find yourself is on the campus of one of your (former) biggest rivals. As soon as the fine brothers of UT’s Zeta Beta Tau chapter realized who had set foot in their house, they so kindly asked that Manziel get the f*** out. Problem number two? Reports are abound that Johnny was seen with Keystone Light in his hand and allegedly packing a bong.

Forget the weed. Keystone Light, Johnny? I took you for a much classier individual than that. What a disgrace…

Someone at the party was smart (and sober) enough to get some video of Manziel being booted from the party. The video itself isn’t bad, but if you’re at the office, I suggest putting some headphones in while you watch this one–the audio is about what you’d expect from a college frat party (and–a fraternity man myself–I don’t throw that “f” word around lightly).

Pope Francis Disses Soccer in Visit to Brazil

An estimated 3 million Catholics gathered on Copacabana beach in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil on Saturday for World Youth Day, where recently-elected Pope Francis made an appearance. In his talk with the churches followers, he did his best to connect with the country’s soccer-crazy citizens, though he may have actually put a slight wedge between himself and his people.

According to the Associated Press, Francis compared being a good Catholic to training to play soccer, but then added that Jesus offers them “something more than the World Cup.”

Ohhhh snap.

Not only did the Pope jump about the full length of a soccer pitch over the line with that statement, be he said it in the homeland of Pele, one of the sports most storied athletes, and where the 2014 FIFA World Cup will be played. Let’s also not forget that Francis—the man formerly known as Jorge Mario Bergoglio—hails from Argentina, one of Brazil’s fiercest rivals in futbol.

Maybe this was just a little jealousy showing through as the Canarinho have more than double the amount of World Cup titles as Francis’s La Albiceleste.

Either way, his holiness remains a huge fan of the world’s most popular sport—he’s reportedly a lifelong fan of the Buenos Aires club San Lorenzo and has been a member since 2008, has been adding soccer jerseys to his already large collection while on his multi-nation trip, and will be treated to an international friendly between Argentina and Italy when he returns to home in August. That match was organized in honor of his election.

Before Everyone Overreacts About Jeremy Maclin…

The Philadelphia Eagles announced that wide receiver Jeremy Maclin suffered a torn ACL in his right knee today during practice. Tough news, sure, but the reaction that the injury received from the Philly and national scriptuals was incredibly ridiculous and far overblown. A sampling:

Don’t get me wrong at all, Maclin is a great talent, an incredible individual—a team-first kind of guy—and this isn’t the kind of injury that’s going to ruin the season for this team. So we all just need to take a step back, take a mighty deep breath, and not lose our shit over this. Seriously, it’s going to be OK.

Maclin wasn’t even the best wide receiver on the team. Statistically speaking, last year he may have been, but contrary to what one ESPN program would have you believe, numbers most certainly do lie. Maclin was the most targeted receiver on the team (122 passes were thrown his way, 35 more than the next closest receiver), but his conversion rate on those passes was on 56 percent, second worst out of the Eagles receivers targeted more than 40 times last year (of which there were 7). Then there’s the clutch factor. Dropped passes in crucial situations have been the norm with No. 18. Go back to Week 2 of the 2011 season, a huge missed catch with the game on the line against Atlanta; Week 4 that same year against the 49ers brought about another game-ending drop; and then I’m sure there were countless others during that whole debacle that was the 2012 season.

I know I’m making him sound way worse than he is, but there are plenty of names on this roster that now have an opportunity to step it up and play a bigger role. Guys like Riley Cooper, Jason Avant, and Damaris Johnson will definitely get more looks, and who knows how they’ll respond in a whole new offense. Oh, and don’t forget about Jaccass. DeSean missed a good chunk of last season, and this high-octane offense will absolutely play to his favor, so he should be back to his pre-2011 numbers. Just having him back out on the field, as one of the biggest threats in the game, is going to benefit this offense.

Also, if they decide to look for outside help, the list of free agent wide outs is pretty lengthy—Brandon Lloyd, Randy Moss, Laurent Robinson, Donald Jones, Deion Branch, Steve Breaston… And just to put it out there, Terrell Owens… Just saying. There are plenty of names out there, and don’t forget that cuts are still a few weeks away, so the list is only going to get longer.

Does it suck that the Eagles will have to go the year without the man who lead the team in nearly every receiving category last year? Yes. But this team has seen much worse happen. It’s a long season people. I know being a Philly fan sucks ass, and we’re supposed to be cynical douche bags because nothing ever goes our way, but please just let this one play out.

Nate Silver Talked to NPR About His Move to ESPN

I already shared with you my excitement about acclaimed statistician Nate Silver (who I’ll have the chance to hear speak at the Online News Association Annual Meeting this October) making the move to ESPN and ABC. Silver appeared on Morning Edition on NPR yesterday and talked more in depth about the move and the role of statistics in reporting.

Here’s the audio:

And some snippets of the interview.

DAVID GREENE: Do you feel like, in all of these types of fields, whether politics, sports, that the numbers have not played a large enough role?

SILVER: It’s a case-by-case basis. I mean, I think certainly that sports coverage, for example, has come a long way since Michael Lewis wrote Moneyball about 10 years ago now. In baseball in particular, almost every team has a statistical analyst on their payroll. Sometimes, the so-called stat head is running the team.

So baseball and other sports are the one place where you’ve seen, I think, already reaching equilibrium. But it’s way behind, I think, still, in coverage of elections, for example. Part of the problem is people are looking for narratives. It’s always a better narrative when, oh, the candidate who’s behind is coming back. Oh, it’s a really close race, down to the wire. But sometimes that isn’t true. Sometimes you have a close, but clear lead, the kind of rooting-for-the-story component, wanting to sell copy – to put it a bit more cynically – kind of goes against what the statistical evidence, what the history would say, I think. And we try and provide clarity on that for people.

Silver got a lot of flack from the journalism community for this stance, and he admitted in this interview that it got to him a little. For the total cynic, Silver’s ideas might have you believe that he believes he’s able to do some number crunching, and have all the answers you ever need in the world about any and everything. But that’s just not true, and he addressed that.

You know, I think I have less of a critique of kind of traditional shoe-leather reporting. I think that’s very valuable. But, yeah, I felt that somewhat became important to kind of put what I was saying in context. And I’m not a guy who says, oh, we can just press a button and predict everything. I’m saying that we have to be more careful about how we weigh information. We have to be more accountable about how we characterize future events and not just kind of flippantly say, oh, it’s a tossup when one candidate’s ahead in most, but not all of the polls. And that led, I think, to some ideological clash.

Greene ended the interview with a really good question that anyone who deals with sports statistics I’m sure has had to answer thousands of times, but Silver supplies a great answer: Things like leadership and other intangibles are impossible to truly quantify, so how much stock should we really put into stats?

We have to be careful here. I think sometimes staties can make a mistake of assuming that because something is hard to quantify that it doesn’t matter. That’s not quite true. In science, you’d want to set up some kind of a testable hypothesis, right? So take all the guys who are seen as good clubhouse leaders and see what happens when they leave. Does a team play inexplicably worse? And my guess is what you’d find is that if you take all these clubhouse leader guys and look at what happens when they’re released or traded or injured doesn’t make a ton of difference. But I don’t know. I think both sides should be willing to contemplate actually setting up an experiment for that.

He can’t get started soon enough.