Monday, August 03, 2009

Back From Vacation

A few quick thoughts:

1. I heartily co-sign on Tony Barnhart's argument that college football coaches should be judged by conference titles and not national titles. The one caveat that I would add is that this is true for top conferences, but it isn't necessarily true for weaker ones. I have two coaches in mind here. The first is Jim Tressel, whom I see as a little overrated because he's had the good fortune of coaching in the Big Ten while Penn State has been coached by the Queen of England and Michigan was coached by Lloyd Carr with one foot out the door. (On the other hand, if Tressel's reputation is defined by the recent losses to Florida, LSU, and USC, then he's underrated.) The second is Frank Beamer for the same reason as Tressel: the other two major programs in the ACC have been down this decade, so beating out Boston College and Clemson for conference titles is not the greatest achievement.

2. I'm a little disappointed that the Braves' momentum petered out this week. As currently constituted, the team is playoff-caliber for the first time since the end of the dynasty. Frank Wren has done a good job of covering the team's weaknesses over the course of the season, to the point that there isn't an obvious weak point on the team. (Was I the only one who was very surprised that the Red Sox, a well-run team, traded Adam LaRoche to the Braves for Casey Kotchman? To my untrained eye, LaRoche is a significantly better hitter and he's always finished seasons well, so the Red Sox are giving up on a potential asset. Are they solely in the market for a defensive first baseman, in which case Kotchman is a slight improvement?) The outlook for the team in 2010 is very good because just about every major contributor is under contract for next year. The question is whether the team gets hot at the end of 2009 and makes a run at the Wild Card. I was feeling good about that possibility, but the team are now five games out and have a number of rivals to vault.

3. I finally read Friday Night Lights on vacation. It was a terrific read from start to finish, although Bissinger's take on the conservative politics of west Texas came across as condescending (and I say that as someone who is left-of-center). Generally speaking, Bissinger was amazed that the residents of Odessa would be so obsessed by their high school football program, but that's a quintessential attitude for someone living in the Northeast who is more interested in pro sports and college/high school sports don't register.

Bissinger did a great job of describing how the collapse in oil prices damaged the economies of Odessa and Midland and the context that the downturn created for the Permian-Lee rivalry. I'd be shocked if there isn't a similar plot line in the TV series this season. I was also especially interested in the three-way tie in the region that was resolved by a coin toss at an undisclosed truck stop. For those who think that the Big XII's use of the BCS rankings to break a three-way tie was a bad idea, there are more arbitrary ways to do things.


AuditDawg said...

Welcome back. I too read Friday Night Lights a few weeks back and came to a similar conclusion about Bissinger coming across as condescending to the peoples of West Texas and their conservative beliefs (albeit I would describe myself as slightly right of center with a social twinge of left).

Anonymous said...

Do you similarly discount Bo Schembechler's record and his copious Big Ten titles? I mean, the Big Ten is exponentially better today than it was in the 1970s. Take 1973: according to JHowell's power ratings, OSU was 5th, Michigan was 7th, and the next best Big Ten team was Minnesota at 37th! 1975: OSU 3rd, Michigan 12th, the next best team MSU 30th, then Minnesota 59th! 1972: Michigan 5th, OSU 11th, next best team Purdue 31st, then MSU 41st.

Compare that to 2002, when there were 4 Big Ten teams in the top 15 (yes, OSU missed one, but they made up for it by beating #3 Miami FL). Even in 2008, PSU was 7th, OSU 11th, Iowa 21st, MSU 26th.

Michael said...

Yes, I do. Bo was a very good coach, but I would never put him in the absolute top tier because of exactly the reason that you identify.