Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Catching Up

Sorry for the lack of content in recent weeks, but between work and my posts at SB Nation's Atlanta site, time has been tight.  For those of you who don't visit the Atlanta page on a daily basis, hang your heads in shame ... and then click on the tab that I added to the right that goes directly to my profile there.  That has a fill list of what I have been posting, both in shorter and longer form.  Some highlights from the last few weeks:

My predictable gloating over the Saints' little bounty issue:

The last parallel between the Ohio State and New Orleans scandals is that both relate to the most pressing issues facing their respective sports. College football has been plagued in recent months with significant scandals involving major programs and improper benefits, leading many to question the continued viability of a sport that is built on a fiction. For instance, the 2010 national title game was contested between a team whose star quarterback's father was trying to sell his son to the highest bidder and an opponent currently under investigation for paying a runner in Texas to direct players to Eugene.

The biggest issue facing the NFL is the long-term health impact of the sport, a dilemma that leads to a plausible scenario in which the NFL no longer exists. Through a combination of: (1) the school firing its head coach and suspending several of its best players; and (2) the NCAA tacking on a one-year bowl ban, Ohio State has essentially had to give up two football seasons. That's the message that the NCAA and its members have to send to deter money finding its way to the players who generate it.

I don't pretend to know what is in Roger Goodell's holster in terms of potential punishments, but it is clear that he is going to have to bring the hammer down because the participation of Saints' coaches in the team's bounty system and the acquiescence of the head coach and general manager in that system touches on the biggest problem facing the league. Goodell has to ensure that current and future authority figures in the league see what happened to the Saints and take the lesson that they have to stamp out incentives to injure opposing players.
This is one of those instances where I am quite happy that Roger Goodell has given himself untrammeled power to punish league figures who "damage the shield," to quote that preposterous phrase that was bandied about by authority worshipers when Goodell was disciplining Ben Roethlisberger for tawdry conduct that did not lead to criminal charges.  Let's see him use that power when the wrongdoers are management instead of labor.  That, after all, is the big issue with the Saints scandal.  It's not that the Saints had a bounty system, as that appears to be something that happens every now and again in the NFL.  It's that this appears to be the first instance in which a defensive coordinator, a head coach, and a general manager all either participated or at least knew about the scheme and did nothing.

My predictable counter to Forbes labeling Atlanta as the most miserable sports city in America:

Forbes would never permit this terrible reasoning when evaluating companies. Financial reporting is (at least theoretically) based on reviewing the entirety of a company's record to make the best evaluations possible. That same rigor apparently does not apply to sports analysis, where we define disappointment based on a "small sample size important; big sample size unimportant" framework.

The point of sports is to provide us with entertainment. We all want an escape from the ennui of the working world and games provide us with exactly that. A team like the Braves during their heyday provided great entertainment, as they consistently won more than they lost. Day after day, we could rely on the Braves to make us happy by beating down the rest of the NL East. Losing a playoff series was a sad experience, but was it enough to overwhelm six months of happiness? No.
Personally, this has been a pretty good period to be an Atlanta sports fan.  How many other times in city history can we say that two of our teams - the Hawks and Falcons - are playoff regulars and the third - the Braves - are at least on the cusp and have a roster full of promising young players.  Maybe my expectations were beaten down by two of the city's three teams being so bad in the 80s when I was growing up, but this seems fine to me.  It's unfortunate that the Hawks have reached their ceiling at the second round of the playoffs and the Falcons can't win a playoff game, but as between playoff disappointment and finishing in last place every year, I'll take the former.

I also finished a post that I've been meaning to write for weeks on the decline of the ACC as a basketball conference.  I offered four potential explanations: conference expansion, bad coaches, the Big Dance killing the regular season, and the possibility that we are just seeing a statistical blip.  The decline of the ACC stands out for me because of the juxtaposition with SEC football.  The latter is as strong as ever, as population trends have dovetailed with the ability of athletic departments to monetize fan passion - and thereby build facilities and hire coaches that create a recruiting advantage - to put the SEC on top of college football.  Those same shifts in population should be helping the ACC in basketball, but they aren't.  That leads to a chicken-egg question: is fan intensity down in the ACC because the product is weaker or is the product weaker because fan intensity is down?


1 comment:

4.0 Point Stance said...

Eh, the comparison between the Saints and the Buckeyes is stretching it. I think the most obvious similarity is that they're two teams Michael doesn't like and who got nailed.

I also doubt that the Saints' scandal tarnishes Brees in any meaningful way. I'd be genuinely shocked if he was involved even tangentially. Obviously it tarnishes Payton, but he always was kind of a jerk, so that doesn't bother me too much. Payton is like Mike Leach without the charm.