Recent Comments by Howard_T

Stats Guru: Patriots Hold Onto Ball Far Better Than Any Other Team

Rubbing a football in order to raise its temperature by any significant amount would require an amount of pressure to be exerted upon the ball that would require machinery. Human muscle would be inadequate. Further, it would take some large amount of time to raise the temperature, and once you stop the mechanical process, the temperature of the ball begins to drop. I do not have any numbers or formulae to offer for how much energy is needed to raise a given amount of air by any given temperature. Considering the temperature of the air inside the ball, if it is above ambient, unless the container is insulated in some way, the air inside will soon return to ambient. If you have ever dealt with home insulation, you have heard of the R value. This is a measure of heat transfer across a surface (i.e. from inside to out). If someone cares to look up the R value of pigskin and a contained rubber bladder, let me know. Anyway, raising the temperature of contained air without raising the ambient temperature in which the ball is sitting would be rather difficult.

I believe Belichick did not mean to imply that rubbing the footballs had something to do with pressure. He was talking about the process by which the team tried to prepare the surface of the ball, and mixed it up with inflation. Anyone looking to find fault would tend not to parse his words too carefully.

Those who talk about the Colts' footballs not showing deflation below specification seem to assume that they were inspected along with those of the Patriots. I have not seen anything from the NFL that says they were. Could someone enlighten me on this?

It is all boiling down to the smartest kid in your 8th grade class and his good looking buddy that gets the girls for the 2 of them scoring another A without seeming to work for it. Let's face it, every one of us had one of those pains-in-the-ass in his class, and you wanted to kick the living crap out of him or her. If indeed Belichick knew exactly how the balls were cursorily inspected by the officials and knew that filling them to 12.5 in a warm room would result in their deflating below specification, then he was working to the letter of the rule, but bending its intent. Can the NFL or anyone else prove that this is the case? It's now the classic "he said, she said", and comes to a point of whom do you want to believe. For those who wish to believe the worst of the Patriots, here's some ammunition. Defensive coordinator Matt Patricia holds a degree in Aeronautical Engineering from Rensselear Polytechnic Institute, and worked as an engineer for two years after having a job as a graduate assistant at RPI.

Once again, the NFL has a crappy rule that was not being enforced with the vigor needed. It was circumvented with ease, and now the league has egg on its face. Roger Goodell really has his tit caught in the wringer on this one. If he says that the Patriots worked to the letter of the rule and outsmarted everyone, there will be pitchforks and torches at the gates of NFL Headquarters. If he says that the Patriots cheated, Robert Kraft, a close associate of Sumner Redstone, majority owner of CBS, might have something to say about TV contracts, sponsors, and the like. As bad as it might look for the NFL, it seems they are the ones who need to take the hit, change the rules, or at least the execution of the process, and admit how screwed up they really are.

posted by Howard_T at 06:56 PM on January 25

11 of 12 Patriots' Balls Deflated, ESPN Reports

Professor Howard, what happens to a 12.5 or lower ball at altitude?

Absolutely nothing, beaverboard, assuming that the ball is initially inflated at the high altitude. Gauges measure relative pressure (that is, ball pressure minus atmospheric pressure), the gauge is subject to the same atmospheric pressure as it was when the ball was filled, disregarding fast-moving weather fronts. Now if you were to fill the ball at sea level and take it to Denver, the ball pressure would read higher as a result of the lower atmospheric pressure on the gauge and the result of more force being exerted by the bladder on the air inside it (Boyle's Law, if one of the variables, pressure, volume or temperature is varied, and another kept constant, the third must vary accordingly (P1*V1)/T1 = (P2*V2)/T2). Longer kicks and passes that are overthrown are the result of lower air resistance and a slightly reduced force of gravity due to increased distance from the earth's core.

True, but there are enough reputable, professional sports reporters that we generally can get enough of the truth on a situation like this to form an educated opinion.

True enough, rcade, but their voice is muted. OK, time for an engineering anecdote. In order to measure a very weak signal with an instrument called a spectrum analyzer (does just what it sounds like, measures the strength of signals in the RF spectrum), it is necessary to reduce the noise level in order to see the signal. Most spectrum analyzers do something called video averaging, where the each signal sample is subtracted from the sample which follows it. Since the noise is a random thing, it will eventually cancel itself out and leave nothing but the constant signal. So it must be as we put our own video averaging to use and try to filter the noise of the talking heads fighting for ratings from the signal of the reporters trying to get it right. How this is possible in today's environment (thank you, yerfatma, for making this point) is beyond me. I do know some facts, but I can only guess at much of the rest. If the talking heads would issue disclaimers of what they really know and who are their sources, and would tell us what is speculative and why they believe it, the filter process would be well along.

What's that supposed to mean?

All this time, bonkers, we were assuming your screen name meant that you were a member of the NFL staff.

posted by Howard_T at 04:19 PM on January 24

SportsFilter: The Friday Huddle

I never got to see Ernie Banks play shortstop. I wish I had.

I did, at least on TV, and he was worth all of the accolades. Really wish he could be resurrected so we all could watch him "play 2".

posted by Howard_T at 03:48 PM on January 24

11 of 12 Patriots' Balls Deflated, ESPN Reports

The 12.5 psi would have to be a relative pressure though, i.e., 12.5 psi above and beyond atmospheric pressure, which is 14.7 psi.

Exactly true, DevilsAdvocate. The thing is that the pressure gauges used are also subject to atmospheric pressure, thus yielding measurements of relative pressure. A difference in absolute pressure would not have been measured.

how is it possible the Indy balls all checked out?

If the balls used by the Colts were inflated toward the upper end of the specification, they would not have lost enough pressure to test below specification. Had the officials recorded the starting pressure (i.e. at the time of initial inflation) and then compared it to the pressure at halftime, they wold have seen a decrease in pressure, but not enough to put them out of spec.

We accept the sports media as a reasonably accurate gatherer of information all the time.

rcade, this is not to start a flame war, but sports reporters are one thing and sports talking heads are quite another. The responsible reporter will tell what facts he knows and can verify. The talking heads will take whatever unverified scrap they have heard, embellish it without telling a flat lie, and scream as loudly as possible. It's an attempt to gain viewers or listeners or readers, depending upon the medium involved. It's their job, and they have the right, and indeed the obligation to their media organization, to do this. It's our job to separate the speculation from the facts, the spin from the story. The 2 psi story is an example. Could some very clever person have done exactly what DevilsAdvocate demonstrated and then "leaked" (pun intended) the story? It would be truth, but not reality.

The only problem I have with hincandenza's essay is one number: 11.

I think I might have an explanation for the 12th ball. It was never measured at halftime! Go back and re-read the story told by D'Quell Jackson about what he did after the interception. OK, you're back with me. He took the ball to the Colts' sideline and asked their staff to keep it for him as a souvenir. So do you think the staff then just turned the ball back to the officials? Nope, that ball is now somewhere in Jackson's trophy case, or at least on the way there. I don't posit this as fact, but it is an explanation of the Grassy Knoll 12th ball.

By the way hincandenza, great job on taking the physical analysis further. I have not checked your numbers, and I probably will not, but the initial sanity check looks good. You have earned an A+ from Prof Howard, and may skip the quiz.

A couple of final thoughts before I take something for my recent case of diarrhea of the keyboard.

On the initial inflation value: In his presser yesterday Belichick admitted that the footballs used by the Patriots were inflated to the bottom of the specification limit (12.5 psi) as a regular practice. This was to satisfy the wishes of Brady. He also said that the practice henceforth would be to inflate to center specification. The question now becomes one of how much Belichick understood about the effects of temperature upon pressure. If he knew all about it, then he was "cheating", but only by knowing more than he suspected others knew. He was within the rules, but knew that there would be an advantage. You may also believe that Bill Belichick and the entire Patriots' staff were not forced to take freshman physics, and thus had no understanding of Gay-Lussac's Law, or at least were not thinking about it. Call me fanboy or whatever, but I honestly think Belichick didn't really think about the pressure decrease. For the majority of games during the season the temperature difference between the officials' room and the field is sufficiently slight that it will make little difference in ball pressure, and during warm weather the pressure might actually rise. If you're the DA, he knew everything all along. If you're the defense attorney, he was ignorant of the physics. Of course, the old saying is "ignorance of the law is no excuse". Does that apply to Gay-Lussac's Law?

On feeling the difference between footballs at different inflation values: If you are handed in rapid succession balls that are at different inflation levels, the difference will be apparent. Will you be able to detect the difference if you are handling balls that are at one pressure, take 15 minutes without handling a ball, and then are given one at a different pressure? I'm not so sure. In Brady's defense, he is not standing there squeezing the ball to determine how it feels after the snap. He is looking at his receivers, looking at the pass rush, and wondering if he will survive long enough to throw the ball. True, a baseball pitcher can recognize differences in the baseball. Within the past minute or two, he's just handled one that feels right, and the one he has now feels different. I believe the same holds true for any person who is asked to make a decision based on sensory perception. For a hypothetical example, someone who is blindfolded is given a room temperature beer to hold, then immediately given one that has been refrigerated for just a moment or 2. He'll likely be able to tell the difference. If you do the same experiment, but wait several minutes between the samples, he might have a bit more trouble making the distinction. Personal note, I prefer to do this test with a red wine, unchilled, and a nicely chilled dry white. Drinking the samples is encouraged.

posted by Howard_T at 03:50 PM on January 23

SportsFilter: The Friday Huddle

Marshawn Lynch's $20,000 fine for grabbing his crotch

I don't understand the fine. Was he not just checking the inflation?

posted by Howard_T at 02:27 PM on January 23

11 of 12 Patriots' Balls Deflated, ESPN Reports

To what accuracy is the pressure gauge

Good catch, hincandenza. I forgot all about calibration data on the gauge. If I had done that when running a test at work, I would have been looking for other employment. All of our test equipment had to have been submitted to an independent calibration laboratory, or to one that had traceable standards, and certified as accurate. Next time anyone wonders why military hardware costs so much just consider what the manufacturers have to go through.

Just found this

I had looked at that link, beaverboard, and found that either the writer had done some sloppy work in putting the story together or the physics professor shouldn't be teaching in university, and might be over-matched in middle school. A 30 degree drop in temperature, and I assume he was speaking in Fahrenheit as opposed to Celsius, would produce something close to the .7 psi drop in pressure that I calculated. Run your numbers, prof. Further, he talks about the shrinking of the football. The shell of the ball is inelastic, not rigid. That is, it will maintain its shape unless it is deformed by some force. A rigid structure would also deform, but would require significant forces. The reason the shell of the ball becomes easier to grip is that the bladder has actually shrunk slightly. Thus, the shell of the ball has room to deflect before coming into contact with the bladder and causing it to deflect in turn. Gay-Lussac's Law assumes a constant volume, while Boyle's Laws treat the relationship between pressure, temperature, and volume. In order to maintain the pressure, the bladder would have to be squeezed by some amount to reduce its volume. Football bladders actually do shrink a bit as pressure drops, but the force they impose upon the contained gas changes as a bladder expands.

That's the physics class for today, folks. There will be a quiz on the material sometime this week or next. Find your college or high school physics textbook, or wear yourselves out on Google.

posted by Howard_T at 02:47 PM on January 22

SportsFilter: The Wednesday Huddle

Belichick did something to my balls

Cold weather always makes balls get smaller and shriveled up. Don't blame Belichick for the forces of nature. Or maybe it is Bill messing with global warming.

posted by Howard_T at 11:18 PM on January 21

11 of 12 Patriots' Balls Deflated, ESPN Reports

There is a handy calculator for doing Gay-Lussac's Law temperature vs pressure problems on line. I ran the numbers assuming a beginning temperature of 30C (303.15 Kelvin) and an ending temperature of 10C (283.15 Kelvin), and a beginning pressure of 12.5 psi. The temperature on the field at game time was about 50F, which translates to 10C. The pressure after cold soak on the field would fall to 11.675 psi. To get to a difference of 2 psi would require the temperature on the field to fall to below zero (F) numbers. It did get colder as the game went on, but not that cold.

A physics teacher on another site (reddit, which I do not follow -- heard it second hand) pointed out that water vapor in the air inside the ball could also contribute to the pressure fall. This would require very humid air at a high temperature (let's use the 30C number here). Since water vapor has a greater vapor pressure than air, a decrease in temperature will cause a correspondingly greater decrease in pressure of the water vapor. What would happen then is that there would be a contribution to the overall pressure in the ball from the air and another contribution from the water vapor. The proportion of air vs water vapor would determine the additional pressure drop due to the water vapor. The physics teacher suggested that the additional pressure drop could have been as much as .25 psi. This still does not get us near the 2 psi difference claimed.

What I wind up with is the simple question of whether each and every ball of the 11 found under-inflated measured exactly 2 psi below specification. I tend to doubt this is true. What I suspect is that one or more balls measured more than 1 psi low, and for the interests of simplicity (or sensationalism) the writer of the story rounded off to 2. The 2 psi report did not come directly from the NFL, rather from some "source". I accept it at face value as something that may or may not be entirely true, but has some basis in fact. What I would like to see in the NFL's report, but I will wager is not there, is a full scientific report documenting the measurements of each ball tested, the time when each was tested, the environmental conditions (temperature, etc.) at the time of test, how long the balls had been in that environment, and a comparison of the balls used by New England with those used by Indianapolis. This last is only to establish some sort of standard, not to determine if Indy used under-inflated footballs. Anything less than a full report done by someone experienced in running and documenting scientific tests will leave me wondering if the findings have been skewed in one way or another.

I can't help it, guys, it's 40+ years as an engineer, much of it running system tests in a field environment. If you miss anything in the documentation, the customer will get very angry.

posted by Howard_T at 11:09 PM on January 21

Playing with the Big Boys (and Girls)

In my limited experience with youth baseball (and many moons ago, softball), I found that 10-year-old girls had a much better attention span than boys of the same age. Put a bunch of boys on a baseball field or a basketball court, and unless they are very well disciplined, they will be all over the place. If you do succeed in getting their attention, the lull will last about 5 minutes before something sets them off. Girls, on the other hand, will be rambunctious, giggling, laughing, and generally cutting up, but once they are called to stay quiet and listen, they will. Once you have proven to the girls that they can be successful by following your coaching, they will stay with it. Boys will do the same, but it is much harder to get them started.

posted by Howard_T at 11:46 PM on January 20

Seahawks Advance to Super Bowl 0x31 with 16-Point Comeback

otherwise let them play it out

Why this is not the rule in playoff football is hard to understand. It works for hockey, it works for basketball, although the periods are shortened, but there is no limit to how many OT periods could be played. I agree with the idea of requiring each team to have a possession, except in the case of a TD. If you think about it, the possession requirement makes NFL OT almost the equivalent of the college rules. NFL kickers are generally accurate from 50 yards or less. Thus, a team would need merely to reach the 35 yard line or so to make a field goal. Unless the starting line were pushed back from the college rule of the 25 to about the 45, a field goal on each possession is automatic.

I think the real reason for the NFL OT rule is TV. Having an OT period that is limited to 15 minutes of play gives the network some certainty of when it might resume its schedule. Of course, in playoffs, you can not have a tie, so the 15-minute limitation is not possible.

posted by Howard_T at 05:41 PM on January 19

Patriots crush Colts in the rain

deflating footballs

The NFL is investigating, but why? Who put in the complaint? It had to be from Indianapolis, either a player or coach or front office, but upon what was the complaint based? The only scenario I can come up with is that a defensive player from the Colts picked up one of the Patriots' footballs and thought it felt strange. Don't forget the game was played in a rain that was heavy at times. The writer of the Yahoo.com story mentons that one football was taken out of play and weighed. How much of a weight difference could 1 or 2 psi make in a football that normally weighs just south of 1 pound (14 - 15 ounces uninflated)? If the problem was low inflation pressure, would the officials not have used a pressure gauge rather than a scale?

Two things come to mind. If the officials weighed a football, they might have feared that the rain was soaking into the pigskin cover, causing the ball to weigh too much. The other thing is that at one time, after an Indianapolis punt, the officials interrupted the Patriots' as they were about to snap the ball for a play. There was then a delay of several seconds until the officials replaced the ball that had been spotted for the start of play. The TV explanation was that the kickers' ball had been used for the spot and had not been replaced. Perhaps this made the Colts side suspicious. Officials handle the football after every play. Would they not notice if the footballs being used by one team were a bit softer than those being used by the other? If the difference is so slight as not to be noticeable by someone who touches the football over 100 times during a game, and who has done so in many games during the season, how could it be such an advantage?

I did notice that the spike after Gronkowski's touchdown seemed to lack the high bounce that has become typical. I want to believe that it was because he had it bounce more to the side rather than straight up, but perhaps this is why Indianapolis registered a complaint. This could be the new standard for inflation -- the Gronk test. Set up a measuring bar in each end zone, have Gronk spike the ball after each touchdown, and if it does not attain a certain height after the rebound, it is underinflated.

This whole thing sounds like some disgruntled person who wants to make some capitol out of the reputation of Belichick and the Patriots. If the accusation is made, the NFL has no choice but to investigate, and this in itself leads to a more widespread belief that once again the Patriots have cheated. Get over it, Indianapolis. You were beaten, your team is very good but does not match up well, and it showed. In his post-game presser, Andrew Luck reacted with a good bit of class, blaming his own inadequacy and recognizing that the Patriots were a better team. Leave it there, Indy.

posted by Howard_T at 05:25 PM on January 19

Patriots crush Colts in the rain

I-did-not-expect-that! A Patriots win? Yes. Convincing, as in by 10 to 14 points? Yes. An absolute dominant bulldozing of a moderately good team? Not at all. It was a case of one team whose defense matched up poorly against the other team's defense, and whose offense was not sufficient to find a match up that would produce consistent gains against the other's defense. The other factor was that the Patriots were not about to take the Colts for granted, gave them all of the respect they deserved, and played hard throughout the entire game. The game plan was pretty good too.

The interesting sidelight to the Super Bowl will be Bill Belichick vs his predecessor at New England, Pete Carroll. Right now I don't think Patriots can win, but I see ways that Seattle can be nicked for good yardage. These match up a bit with the New England offense, but whether Patriots' defense can hold Seattle down is a tough question to answer with "yes".

posted by Howard_T at 11:47 PM on January 18

High school coach suspended after basketball team wins by 159 points.

One way to prevent this is to adopt the "running clock" rule. If a team is leading by a certain score at a certain point in the game (I do not know the exact numbers on this, and any high school association or league can make up its own rules) the clock is kept running except for time outs and free throws. It probably won't prevent blowouts, but it will keep them to a more reasonable size.

posted by Howard_T at 11:34 PM on January 18

SportsFilter: The Sunday Huddle

...in the act of catching a pass... is the operative phrase. If the receiver has taken control of the ball and begun to attempt to advance, he is no longer in the act of catching a pass. Where the problem lay in the Green Bay vs Dallas game was that Bryant was deemed not to have taken and maintained control, even though he was attempting to advance. I do not agree with that interpretation. It sure looked to these eyeballs that he caught the ball, had it in one hand securely, took a step toward the end zone, and then dove forward attempting to reach the goal line. The rule as written stinks and needs a lot clearer language to determine what is and is not a catch, what is and what is not control, and forget all about football moves.

posted by Howard_T at 11:29 PM on January 18

NFL Playoff Pick 'Em Contest, Conference Championship Round

In haste:

Seattle by 12

New England by 11

Most Points to New England

Most Passing Yards by Luck

Most Rushing Yards by LeGarrett Blount

Most Receiving Yards (and loudest spike) Gronkowski

posted by Howard_T at 02:58 PM on January 18

SportsFilter: The Saturday Huddle

Hockey Hall of Fame broadcaster Bob Wilson of the Boston Bruins has died at the age of 85. Wilson was the successor to Fred Cusick after Cusick went on to TV, and he was the radio voice for over 20 years. Wilson had a deep baritone voice that could occasionally sound like the sepulchral "voice of doom", but his calls were accurate and conveyed the excitement of the game. He was the broadcaster during the Big, Bad Bruins' Stanley Cup run of 1971-1972.

I was assigned to a job at North American Aircraft in Columbus, Ohio, putting self-protective systems onto RA-5C aircraft during the playoff run. One or two of the games were on TV, but not enough to satisy this Bruins fan. I found that there was a little hill near Columbus where the signal from the Bruins radio station, WBZ, a 50KW, Class 1 clear channel station, could be heard on the car radio. I spent several hours parked there listening to Wilson's baritone describe the action, and cursing when the occasional atmospheric effects caused the signal to fade.

posted by Howard_T at 06:16 PM on January 17

The Gaming Obsession of the Green Bay Packers

My son's girlfriend introduced my wife and I to the game last week. We had a nice foursome playing, some good Malbec wine, and homemade guacamole. The game is rather intricate. I could understand the basics pretty quickly, but it took longer for me to pick up on w strategy that would increase win probability. My wife had a good bit of trouble with it. She's not dumb, but is not the analytic type that the rest of us are. She finally got pissed off, chugged her glass of wine, slammed down her cards, and loudly quit. Too bad. We probably won't play the game any more, and I really liked it.

posted by Howard_T at 01:01 AM on January 17

Packers Rally Past Cowboys, Who No Longer Love the Refs

..and here I thought that a "football move" was what a player did when he was traded or signed with another team.

posted by Howard_T at 05:24 PM on January 13

Colts Silence Broncos Offense, Make Peyton Manning Look Old

Peyton Manning has to be considered as one of the greatest QBs in the league's history. Yes, I know what his post-season record is, but what it took to get to the post season, and considering that some of his Indianapolis teams were somewhat flawed on defense, his career is still one of great accomplishments. He could get into the head of defensive coordinators and head coaches. The most glaring example I can think of is the infamous 4th-and-2 game. Bill Belichick elected to go for the 1st down late in the game rather than punt the ball to Manning. He feared that Manning was capable of leading a comeback regardless of here the drive was started. That respect on the part of an opposing coach is one of the marks of greatness.

One of the Boston "knights of the keyboard" (a term that should have been trademarked by Ted Williams), Chad Finn, who is usually level-headed and not given to fan boy reaction except in a light-hearted, tongue-in-cheek manner, had a rather snarky blog recently. He said that Manning should not retire until the Patriots defeat him in the playoffs once more. I equate that sort of sentiment to kicking a 3-legged dog. Those who question Manning's claim to greatness appear to have similar feelings. If Manning retires after this season, I will feel badly that he had to go out with an undeserved loser reputation.

posted by Howard_T at 05:16 PM on January 13

Buckeyes Win College Football Playoff

Those who still believe that a football game is decided by the guys up front had that belief verified. Ohio State's "fat guys", "big uglies", or whatever else you want to call them were dominant. The blocking on many of the OSU running plays was textbook. I was surprised that Meyer didn't just tell his offense to keep running Elliot off tackle right or left until Oregon stopped it. I don't think they could have. The OSU win was a mild surprise; the dominant way in which they won was a shock.

posted by Howard_T at 04:53 PM on January 13

Packers Rally Past Cowboys, Who No Longer Love the Refs

To add to my comment above, baseball rules are equally complicated, but there is one thing that keeps arguments over interpretation from becoming a daily occurrence. Most of the rules of baseball contain the phrase "in the judgement of the umpire..." Calls that are reviewable are those that have a physical aspect: safe/out; fair/foul; catch/no catch; and the like. Ball/strike calls are not reviewable for obvious reasons. The ones that are really touchy are things like the balk rule or especially the infield fly rule. How do you convince a manager that it's an infield fly when the ball was caught by an outfielder? Well, the rule says something to the effect that if in the judgement of the umpire the ball may be caught by an infielder with ordinary effort it is an infield fly. Of course the other conditions of runners and outs must exist. It doesn't matter who catches the ball or where in fair territory it is caught. To argue whether it was ordinary effort is arguing about the umpire's judgement, and this is forbidden. Adding a similar sort of expression to some of the football rules and giving better definition to what constitutes a "football move" and possession might help.

posted by Howard_T at 10:11 PM on January 11

SportsFilter: The Sunday Huddle

Actually, the times work out well for me. I have a church youth group meeting to attend at 1630, and if the Patriots were on at 1500, I wouldn't be at the meeting. As a matter of fact, I wouldn't have been surprised at a cancellation of the meeting. As it is, I can throw something together for the pot luck supper accompanying the meeting, watch Seattle - Green Bay for a quarter, and then head for the meeting. I will bet someone there is watching the score via his 'phone.

posted by Howard_T at 09:53 PM on January 11

Packers Rally Past Cowboys, Who No Longer Love the Refs

When you get so far into a ruling that it has to be explained in fine detail in order to convince the fans, and I mean those fans who are not just the casual game watchers, that the ruling is correct, then you have a rule that is far too complicated. I sometimes feel that there ought to be a high desk set up behind one end zone and at the desk is seated someone in black robes carrying a gavel. Rather than replay, have a rules lawyer for each team argue the case. Twelve people, in a city that is not part of the contest in any way, will decide, with a majority vote, rather than unanimous, determining the decision. In other words, simplify the rules somehow, as rcade suggests.

posted by Howard_T at 09:34 PM on January 11

Patriots Edge Ravens as Belichick Displays Some Trick Mojo

I was surprised that Belichick left enough time at the end...

I'm surprised that Belichick decided to let his punter actually kick the ball. I was looking for the punter to retreat into the end zone, try to run around for a few seconds, and then throw the ball out of the end zone for a safety. Result of that would have been a 2-point NE lead and a free kick from the 20 with about 10 seconds left. By the time the free kick is executed, Baltimore is at its 40 or so with less than 10 seconds and no time outs available. Thus, unless they can get 1 or 2 plays totaling 25 yards and stopping the clock after doing so, they won't have time for the field goal try.

Had Patriots tried 3 running plays, the possibility of a catastrophic fumble is there. A deliberate safety, or the actual play of a punt after the 3 kneel downs, seems to be the safer option.

The "ineligible receiver" ruse is completely within the rules and should remain so. The referee clearly announces who is ineligible prior to the snap, and there is enough time for a defense to determine coverage based on this. Motion plays, unbalanced lines, tackle eligible plays are all designed to make coverage more difficult. Having a running back or a tight end on the line of scrimmage and having him declared ineligible should not be such a difficult thing to understand for a defense. Of course it's designed to create confusion. Coach your players better.

posted by Howard_T at 04:36 PM on January 11

Patriots Edge Ravens as Belichick Displays Some Trick Mojo

News reports around New England say something like this:

Freak high winds were reported south of Boston this evening. The strongest gusts were felt in the vicinity of Foxborough. An unconfirmed report says that the freak wind was caused by a massive exhalation of breath as Duron Harmon intercepted a Joe Flacco pass to all but seal a New England Patriots' playoff win. State Police are investigating.

posted by Howard_T at 10:04 PM on January 10

NFL Playoff Pick 'Em Contest, Divisional Round

The goat I had intended to slaughter so I could spread the entrails for portents of success froze to death. Darn thing was frozen so solid I couldn't get at its guts. I guess I'll just ave to go on my instincts.

Baltimore at New England: Patriots' secondary defense deprives Flacco of early targets, forcing him to run around. While he throws well on the run, he will also throw some picks. Patriots' O line is healthy and ready, and NE runs the ball well. Brady is Brady. What else needs be said? New England by 17.

Carolina at Seattle: Sometime about the middle of the 3rd quarter, the announcers will say something to the effect of "Thank you, Carolina, for playing. Here are some lovely parting gifts". This one will be ugly. Seattle by 28.

Indianapolis at Denver: Will Manning's arm fall off in the 4th quarter? Will Colts' defense be able to stop the newly-created (well sort of recently discovered) Denver running game? The answer is No and No. Manning's arm is a bionic replacement, and Indy's defense is too small and light to stop a hard running attack. Denver by 12.

Dallas at Green Bay: It won't quite be an ice bowl, but it won't be a trip to the tropics either. Dallas will try to run the ball, and if they succeed, Packers will be hard put to keep up. The thing is, Cowboys might not be able to run. Depending on Tony Romo to be able to throw consistently well is like depending on Scarlett Johansson to be sharing your pillow every morning. Green Bay should be able to dictate what it wants to do on offense. Packers by 9.

Most points: This is a tougher call than it looks. Denver and NE could run up the score, but with the combination of a home crowd, a vicious defense, and a pretty solid attack, Seattle will light it up. My choice is Seattle.

Running Back Yardage: There are 4 teams with backs who could win this. I will eliminate 2 of them, New England (Blount) and Dallas (Murray), one by virtue of their style and the other because they won't be able to run successfully. That brings us to Anderson from Denver and Seattle's Marshawn Lynch. While the Lynch mob will excel, Lynch will not be the weapon upon which Seattle depends. With Manning's apparent arm difficulties and Colts' weakness against the run, the pick is clear. Anderson.

Who will get a sack: There will be many, and there might be a few who, after the game, pick up a sack at the grocery store for their "let's go home and grieve" party. My pick is a guy with the power and speed to break through and run down the QB. He might even get the double with a sack and an interception. My pick, from New England, Jamie Collins.

Now for the Green Bay weather: The temperature at game time will be 18 degrees Fahrenheit. Can I get double points for converting it to Celsius? Let's go with -8C or 18F.

posted by Howard_T at 02:46 PM on January 10

SportsFilter: The Wednesday Huddle

Bill James made predictions

Do you think I can get him to look at the stock market for me?

posted by Howard_T at 12:00 AM on January 08

ESPN Anchor Stuart Scott Dies

Stuart Scott was one of the few things that ESPN has gotten right in recent years. He was always worth watching. His words about his illness could be an anthem for anyone who is suffering from adversity: "When you die, it does not mean that you lose to cancer. You beat cancer by how you live, why you live, and the manner in which you live."

If a definition of dignity is needed, just put up Scott's picture. R I P

posted by Howard_T at 04:50 PM on January 04

SportsFilter: The Saturday Huddle

One of the delights of being both a sports fan and a lover of history is coming across a nugget of information in the "I didn't know that" category. I happened to me again yesterday as I was looking through my latest Naval History magazine. This is published by the U S Naval Institute, and it is a monthly collection of articles about famous events in the U S Navy. Each month has a theme, although articles in the issue are not limited to the theme. One month it was privateers during the War of 1812, last month it was about U S submarine warfare against Japan in WW II. The latest number features the development of race relations in the Navy. They were not always very good. In fact, for a long time Blacks were not allowed in the Navy, and when they finally were, they were restricted to certain menial rates, such as mess steward or laborer.

Not so the U S Coast Guard. Black Coast Guardsmen had been around for many generations, and served in all rates. Even though the Coast Guard came under the operational control of the Navy during WW II, the Coast Guard retained its own policies for manpower. This brings me to the nugget. Emlen Tunnel was a standout player for the University of Toledo, but suffered a near-fatal broken neck. He recovered from his injury and tried to enlist in the Army and the Navy during the war. Neither would take him, using the injury as an excuse. The Coast Guard welcomed him, and he eventually was assigned to a ship. In April 1944, his transport, the Coast Guard manned USS Etamin was attacked, and Tunnell saved the life of a burning shipmate. A year later, Tunnell went into the frigid waters off Newfoundland to save another shipmate, later being awarded the Coast Guard's Silver Lifesaving Medal.

After the war, Tunnell renewed his football career at Iowa, leaving after the 1947 season, and eventually received a tryout, and ultimately a contract, becoming the first black player with the New York Football Giants. He was a standout defensive back, helping the giants to an NFL championship in 1956. Tunnell later joined the Green Bay Packers and helped them to a championship win against his old team, the Giants, in 1961. Tunnell became the first black player inducted into the Professional Football Hall of Fame in 1967.

Since I easily qualify as an Old fart, I am old enough to remember watching Emlen Tunnell on TV when he played for NY. New England was considered part of the Giants' home territory for broadcast rights, so we were stuck with them. I can't remember any particular plays or games, but I do remember Tunnell's name frequently being called for one play or another. So as I read the article about the Coast Guard's efforts at racial integration and came across the name Emlen Tunnell, I could hear the voice of Chris Schenkel calling out a tackle or interception by Emlen Tunnell. War hero? I didn't know that.

posted by Howard_T at 04:12 PM on January 03

Ducks v. Bucks in Arlington

My anti-FSU bias makes me extremely gratified about the lopsided result. To go from a winnable position at 20-25 in the 3rd quarter to a 34-point blowout makes the FSU program look somewhat overrated. It probably isn't, but Oregon's tempo seemed to wear FSU down. The "no-means-no" chant is quite tasteless. Perhaps it could have been replaced by "we like crab legs clap clap clapclapclap".

I'm of mixed emotions about Ohio State vs Alabama. I'm ambivalent about the Tide, but since I am a Penn State fan, Ohio State is not my favorite. However, since Ohio State is in the Big 10, it is sort of the "I and my brother against my cousin; I and my cousin against the world" feeling.

I fully expect Oregon to easily prevail over Ohio State, but after yesterday who knows?

posted by Howard_T at 03:30 PM on January 03

NFL Playoff Pick 'Em Contest, Wild Card Round

Never got to the laptop yesterday, but I guess I'm just in time. Here goes:

Sloppy field, No LeVeon Bell, Baltimore by 4.

Suh or no Suh, Detroit steps on itself. Dallas by 10.

The mirrors break and the smoke clears. The true Arizona is revealed. Carolina by 17.

Hard-nosed running attack could work against Colts, but Bengals don't have enough. Indianapolis by 6.

Most points: Dallas

Most yard passing: Andrew Luck

Interceptor (no, not the old Ford police vehicle): Rolando McClain

posted by Howard_T at 03:20 PM on January 03

SportsFilter: The Wednesday Huddle

Good bye, 2014. It looks like we got away with it again this year. WOOHOO!!

posted by Howard_T at 09:01 PM on December 31

New York Jets Fire Rex Ryan, GM John Idzik

"Physician, heel thyself" case for himself.

Misspelling (heel vs heal) intentional? If so, I guess you are just trying to dip a toe into the pool of this discussion.

posted by Howard_T at 12:23 AM on December 31

SportsFilter: The Tuesday Huddle

Skip Bayless??? All this time I thought it was Skip Brainless.

posted by Howard_T at 12:19 AM on December 31

Sources: Jim Harbaugh Expected to Take Michigan Job

Harbaugh will do well at Michigan. Then, after his contract nears its completion, the NFL will come calling once again. I suspect he will go the same route as Bill O'Brien, Pete Carroll, or Dennis Erickson and depart the Maize and Blue in favor of the green and greener dollars of the NFL.

posted by Howard_T at 03:16 PM on December 29

New York Jets Fire Rex Ryan, GM John Idzik

Despite the won-lost record, Rex Ryan is a pretty good football coach. He did not get a lot of help from his GMs and scouting at NY in selecting players. His defensive schemes usually worked well, but when your offense cannot hold onto the ball long enough to score, the success of the defense is obscured. I hope Ryan can wind up somewhere as a head coach where he can get better players on offense, and perhaps get better coaching of the offense. Until he comes back, we fans of the Patriots will miss him and the twice yearly fun before the Jets games.

posted by Howard_T at 03:06 PM on December 29

SportsFilter: The Friday Huddle

Didn't do a thing to effect a cure, but SpoFi is now working properly when I use Chrome for a browser. A Christmas miracle?

posted by Howard_T at 10:56 PM on December 26

SportsFilter: The Wednesday Huddle

To all of my fellow sports fans on Sports Filter, a very merry and holy Christmas. May the joys of the day be yours through the season and throughout the year. May you be blessed with championships, never allow the sting of defeat to overcome your spirit, and above all remain the true sportsmen and women you are.

posted by Howard_T at 08:20 PM on December 24

SportsFilter: The Tuesday Huddle

Something strange is happening when I open SpoFi. The home page comes up, but within a few seconds it goes to a Sports Filter "Page not Found" screen. This happens only when I use Google Chrome as my browser. I'm using Firefox for this comment, and it works OK. Is there some strange incompatibility that has crept in, or is it something that also causes really weird dreams among SpoFites?

No kidding, I am having a bit of a problem here.

posted by Howard_T at 11:16 PM on December 23

SportsFilter: The Tuesday Huddle

Devin McCourty immortalizes Vince Wilfork's FG block:

The acceptable way of giving the finger to the New York Jets.

posted by Howard_T at 11:09 PM on December 23

What Jeffrey Gamblero Knew About the Nets

The Celtics have 3 or 4 "personalities", season ticket holders who make the Jumbotron every game. Each has a style of dress ranging from an odd hat to a full green jacket, slacks, shirt, and tie. One wears a green "afro" wig, another sports a full beard and always a Celtics jersey. They are usually shown in an attempt to stir the crowd into noise. As far as I have seen at the games, they usually stay in the neighborhood of their seats. I can take them or leave them, but they are not annoying. My guess about Jeffrey Gamblero is that, much like the Celtics' "superfans", he wanted very badly to be seen as part of the Brooklyn Nets organization even though there was no official connection. It must have grown to the point of obsession, and when reality struck him so forcefully, he could not cope. Who knows what other demons were taunting him, but he could not overcome them. RIP.

posted by Howard_T at 04:56 PM on December 22

The Boston Celtics have traded Rajon Rondo to Dallas

An update about the Celtics without Rondo. They started Turner at the point, much to my surprise, but that might have had something to do with the size of the guards for Minnesota. Turner had a turnover early in the game, but then he settled down and had only 1 more for the game. From the outset the Celtics were pushing the ball up the floor, the offense was moving without the ball, and the ball was finding its way down low. This is the offense that Coach Stevens wants to run, but it did not always happen. Blame Rondo for slowing things down if you must, but it seemed that everyone else moved better off the ball than they had.

Marcus Smart had limited minutes in the first half, but he was on the floor in a close game late. Once he found his rhythm he began to take over a bit, hitting a couple of threes, making several good entry passes, and working the pick-and-roll a couple of times for assists on easy layups by Zeller and Bass. Unless there are further moves made from the Celtics backcourt, Jameer Nelson might find himself relegated to the splinter inspector on the bench. Between Turner, Pressey, Smart, and Bradley you have 3 point guards (Turner, Pressey, Smart) and 3 shooting guards (Turner, Bradley, Smart). This is not to say that any of them is as good at one of the guard spots as he is at the other, but all are serviceable. It also gives the opportunity to go to a 3-guard setup in order to harass the perimeter shooters on the other team.

As good as Rondo had been on defense, Smart makes up for it. He's quick, quite strong, and has some anticipation for where the ball might go. He's raw, but he looks like a fast learner. All in all, the Celtics in the short term will be no better nor worse without Rondo. I will bet that Dallas gets somewhat better, but I agree with tron7 and Zach Lowe that this is not the trade that puts Dallas into the Western Conference finals.

One last thing. I went to the game to have a look at Andrew Wiggin. My rheumatologist is a Kansas grad and was really hoping Wiggin would somehow fall to the Celtics. Wiggin left me thoroughly unimpressed. I barely knew when he was on the floor as the rest of the team did not involve him in the offense. He did nothing outstanding on defense either. The Kevin Love deal looks worse and worse every game.

posted by Howard_T at 02:24 AM on December 20

The Boston Celtics have traded Rajon Rondo to Dallas

Talking heads in Boston were falling all over themselves talking about how Rondo was not helping the team, was playing badly -- perhaps on purpose -- and it was about time the got rid of him. In the next breath, these same guys were bitching and moaning that the Celtics had not gotten enough for him. Dwight Powell's main function was to remove splinters from the bench using his ass. Why Dallas wanted him is beyond me, but it probably has something to do with cap hits. Jameer Nelson is here to fill in until Marcus Smart is physically ready to play heavy minutes every night. Until then look for Phil Pressey to pick up a lot of minutes. Oddly enough when Pressey was at the point instead of Rondo, the team played faster and better. Pressey's problem is that he is about 5'10" tall.

Brandan Wright might have some use, but he is a bit undersized for a center, and the power forward/center spot in Boston is rather crowded. His contribution remains to be determined. Jae Crowder might be the excuse to move Evan Turnover Turner, but I don't know if Crowder can play the 2-guard spot as well as the small forward. I'll probably go to the game tomorrow night, although I doubt any of the new additions will see any time. It's mostly to get a look at Andrew Wiggin.

Hey, we get a $12.9 Million trade exception, a 1st round pick, and a 2nd rounder for all this. The picks will be well down in the order, barring disaster in Dallas, but with all the picks Ainge has accumulated in the past couple of years, he can probably move some of the down-table stuff for the lottery. As long as the team doesn't try to jump into the same tank as Philadelphia, I'm OK with it.

posted by Howard_T at 01:56 AM on December 19

Can True Sports Fans Switch to a New Favorite Team?

The teams I grew up with are still in existence, still contend from time to time, and are still worth watching. There's one I no longer watch nor follow nor favor. I didn't "grow up" with the Patriots, but they came into existence when I was in college, so they sort of grew up with me. The one exception of teams that I grew up with that I favor is the Braves. My dad was an ardent Boston Braves fan, my oldest sister used to take me to games, and I followed the team closely. It took me some time to get used to being a Red Sox fan, and I still followed the Braves during their successful Milwaukee years. I cannot like the Atlanta Braves for a variety of reasons. Let's just say they aren't what they were (nobody is after 62 years) and let it go at that.

for NoMich, I understand being unable to watch a team can have an effect on fandom. I will say that I was a Bruins and Celtics fan long before I ever saw a game on TV or in person. Cable had not been invented and we did not own a TV until I was about 12. There was this thing called a radio, the Red Sox, Braves, Bruins, and Celtics games were always on, and I was a faithful listener. Johnny Most, high above courtside, could paint a picture with words better than anyone else I ever heard do a basketball game. My fandom started with my ears and not my eyes.

posted by Howard_T at 04:06 PM on December 17

Served up on a platter for SportsFilter

Played slopitch one year with a cricket player.

I had the same experience when I lived in Egypt. The guy was from Turks and Caicos, had a good arm, used a glove and was sure-handed, mostly played outfield and had range. Batting was quite another story. It took nearly a full season to get him to stand still and not shift his feet around as in cricket. Even then the guy had some power. Once he got the hang of a batting stance and approach, he turned into a pretty good hitter.

posted by Howard_T at 03:48 PM on December 17

The FSU Problem

I have long looked at those universities who seem to place athletic success above all other things at the school with a highly negative bias. As time passed and I came to meet people who had actually gone to these places, I found that some of them really did provide a quality education. Auburn and Virginia Tech have programs in aerospace engineering that are among the best in the country. I've worked with graduates of those schools who impressed me greatly with their knowledge and ability. My son is a Penn State grad. Before you start up about Sandusky and the rest, I get it. What the administration did to try to protect the school was bad, but also understand that there was more to this than just a football program. Before he made his choice, we looked deeply into academics and programs. (He also looked deeply into the selection of bars, but that's another story.) Once you look at academic programs among the Big Ten schools, you will find that all of them are excellent. The athletes who attend are encouraged to do well in their studies. I am not familiar with the schools of the southwest and far west, but admittedly some seem to place the team ahead of the school.

Now I look at Florida State. If I had a college-age kid, I would be ashamed to send him there. There seems to be no pretense on the part of the school to be anything except a football team, and to make it a winning team, anything is acceptable. I will not proclaim Jameis Winston guilty of anything until a jury convicts him, but I will condemn the State of Florida and the university for being less than meticulous in its initial investigation of the rape claims. I find the Florida State situation frighteningly similar to that at the University of Miami a few years ago. While the majority of Miami football alumni have gone on to good careers in football and outside the game and have become leaders in their community, there is one glaring example now spending his time in a Massachusetts jail awaiting a murder trial. One aside here, I do not include the University of Florida in my condemnation of Florida schools. My brother-in-law (wife's sister's husband) is a Gator through and through. He has done pretty well for himself, is a joy to know, and is a fine person. I would prefer to think he's typical of Florida grads.

The question is why things like the Winston situation happen. When a kid shows a high level of skill in a sport, he seems to become "the golden child". That is, because he is so good at what he does, he is in a privileged place among his peers. (Another aside, when I was in high school, our assistant principal had 2 favorites who could get away with anything. Athletes and good math students were on a pedestal. I was not an athlete, but I still got away with mayhem.) If you take a kid without a solid background in responsible behavior and put him in the sort of situation that a heavily recruited high school athlete encounters, you are likely to have created a ticking time bomb. These kids understand they are being judged by a different standard, and some of them are willing to push it too far. Do I have any suggestion about how to fix this? Without a total overhaul of contemporary American society, I do not. It is a sad situation. Sports fans who are as deep into sports as we SpoFites can only stand and ineffecively cluck our tongues.

posted by Howard_T at 04:45 PM on December 16

SportsFilter: The Sunday Huddle

Sid's got the mumps, 13th NHL'er this season

This could put a dent into the crop of future NHLers among the sons of current NHL players. One of the complications of mumps among adult and teen age males is "orchitis" which can lead to sterility. Is the MMR vaccination not done outside the US?

posted by Howard_T at 01:58 PM on December 14

SportsFilter: The Monday Huddle

You might not recognize the name "Ralph Baer", but the chances are he might well have had an impact on your life. You see, Ralph Baer, who died yesterday at age 92, was the inventor of the video game. He took an idea that might have some usefulness and turned it into the multi-billion dollar video game industry of today.

I met Ralph Baer for the first time in 1969, when I was given an assignment to work in the information systems division of Sanders Associates in Nashua, NH. There we worked on systems that adapted user-interactive displays for use in defense and industrial applications. My particular system was for the data reduction system for the DC-10 flight test program at Douglas Aircraft in Long Beach, CA. In order to test the displays to make sure there were no empty spots (CRT displays that were raster scanned were the technology of the time. The pixel style display of today had not been invented yet.) and that the display moved evenly with the controls (keyboard commands usually, the mouse had not been invented yet, either.) a simple program had been set up. Think of 2 vertical lines, one at each side of the display, but not quite at the extremity. In the vertical center of each line is a small opening. In front of each line is a vertical bar that may be moved vertically and horizontally. There is also a bright dot that at the beginning of the test program is moving randomly. When the dot is contacted by one of the movable bars it changes direction. The dot also changes direction whenever it hits the top or bottom limit of the display area or hits the stationary vertical bar. Should the dot enter the opening in either stationary bar, the event is recorded.

If the above sounds familiar, it is the game "Pong". Needless to say that we engineers who worked in the lab were quite enthusiastic in our testing, and when we couldn't get the noontime cribbage game going, the game was the substitute. Mr. Baer really did not expect the game to turn out to what it came to be. The whole idea was to develop the interactive display into a useful tool, which we certainly did. The thing that triggered the gaming use was that Mr. Baer set up a display with controls in the patent office during the patenting process. The patent office employees couldn't resist it, so the patent was drawn broadly enough that Sanders Associates, later Lockheed-Sanders, and now BAE Systems, made money every time a video game system was sold. The intellectual copyrights ran out in the late 1990s, but they kept the company in good shape during the occasional lulls in defense procurement.

To Mr. Ralph Baer I owe a debt for the years of employment at Sanders/Lockheed/BAE Systems. Because of him, and a lot of others like him, I earned a good salary, was able to put a few bucks away, and I am now comfortably retired. The rest of you owe him a debt for letting you waste so much of your lives with the various versions of Madden, NHL, NBA, NCAA, and the rest.

posted by Howard_T at 11:47 PM on December 08

CFL Playoff Pick 'Em, Final Standings

...and a good time was had by all. Dr. John, these contests are always fun, and we are all indebted to you for putting them together. Many thanks.

posted by Howard_T at 10:20 PM on December 04

SportsFilter: The Thursday Huddle

I know nothing of Barry Hearn, but the way he approaches business reminds me a bit of Victor Kiam, he of the "I liked the shaver so much, I bought the company" fame and former owner of the NE Patriots. Kiam ran into trouble with the press by defending his players after one of them exposed himself to a female reporter in the locker room. Both Hearn and the late Mr. Kiam seem to be from the same "keep your name before the public and say things they will remember" school of marketing.

posted by Howard_T at 10:16 PM on December 04

SportsFilter: The Wednesday Huddle

And now you know...the rest of the story.

Good (with rising inflection) day.

posted by Howard_T at 09:16 PM on December 03

Montreal Canadiens Jean Beliveau dead at 83

One of the benefits to being "old" is having had the privilege of watching some of the legends of various sports. I saw Bill Russell's first game in Boston and watched Ted Williams' incredible ability at bat, and I am now watching another generation of those who will someday be called "legend". I saw Jean Beliveau play once. It was enough to realize how wide was the gap between some pretty good Bruins teams of the early- and mid-1950s and the Montreal Canadiens of that era. The Richards, Geoffrion, Bert Olmstead, Dickie Moore, Doug Harvey, and Jacques Plante were on the ice, but the presence of Jean Beliveau lent an air of the "invincibility of royalty". Beliveau's effect on the team was such that they behaved as one would expect the best to behave. That is, they played hard but fairly, did not back down, and always played well. Giants such as Beliveau do not appear often. He will be long remembered.

posted by Howard_T at 03:59 PM on December 03

SportsFilter: The Tuesday Huddle

Contempt of court or something.

It's certainly not true in all jurisdictions, but I remember reading something about a juror who deliberately tried to get out of jury duty by deliberately messing up a trial. I do not remember any details, but I remember something about a contempt finding and a heavy fine.

posted by Howard_T at 11:49 PM on December 02

SportsFilter: The Tuesday Huddle

Docket is a shining example of the overprivileged athlete who thinks his comfort and convenience are the only things of importance in the world. If I am a prosecutor or defense attorney in Arizona, as soon as his name appeared on a list of potential jurors, I would challenge for cause. What cause? How about being a blathering idiot? I would think there is no way this man could pay attention to what is being said in the trial to allow him to make a judgement. Let him sit in the pool, do not excuse him from reporting to the court and staying for the full day, but never let him be part of a jury.

posted by Howard_T at 05:09 PM on December 02

MLB umpire Dale Scott comes out as gay in quietest way possible.

The real takeaway from this is that there is a Referee magazine.

There are about 19,000 people employed as referees or umpires in the US. That is, these are people who list this as an occupation and draw a paycheck for it. I would suggest there are at least that many more who, like me, umpire as a sideline or hobby. We still receive pay for it. To deserve this pay, we try to maintain our skills as best we can. Referee magazine offers stories and "how to" tips for whatever sport is in season. It also has features on fitness, diet, and exercise. It's a good resource.

posted by Howard_T at 04:57 PM on December 02

CFL Playoff Pick 'Em, Grey Cup Edition

It's Saturday night, and I finally have a bit of time to breathe. This has been a busy week. I was baking pies for Thanksgiving all day Wednesday, went out late Wednesday night to blow about 6 inches of heavy, wet, white crap off my driveway and front walk, and drove to my wife's sister's place in CT for dinner on Thursday. This last involved about 7 hours of driving round trip from NH to Wilton, CT. Still, it was fun to get together with family and friends. Friday was the Celtics vs Bulls, then after that shopping for bird feeding supplies, groceries, and some Thai food at a new place in town. Today I had to assist as a lay minister at a funeral - sad time when a 48-year-old mother of two passes suddenly - then cooked an early supper so our son and his girlfriend could get out on time to meet some friends who were home for the holidays.

All this leads to making a pick for the Grey Cup. For this entire CFL season I've been operating under "the blind squirrel finds the occasional acorn" theory. This must have been a mast year for the oaks, for I have finished near the top in the regular season, and I'm in contention in the playoffs. So once again I will put on my gray suit with the bushy tail and see if I can do this again.

The game: The "experts" give Hamilton the defensive nod and Calgary the edge on offense. This would seem to make the offensive/defensive phases a wash, and would put the game in the hands of the special teams. Nay not so, say I. It will come down to a battle between the big ugly guys who populate the front end of each team, and if that war proves to be a draw, then whoever makes the fewer mistakes will win. I say Stampeders seem to be more likely to hold together for the longer time. Will it be a tight game coming down to the last possession, or will it turn into a blowout? I say the score will indicate a clear superiority by one team, but the game itself will be much closer than the score indicates. Calgary by 13.

MVP: With 3 downs to make gain, a longer and wider field, deeper end zones, and pre-snap motion allowed, the CFL is a passing league. Nonetheless, an exceptional running back can be the difference. I see the winning QB also being the MVP. My pick is Mitchell.

Points: The game will not be played in adverse weather conditions, but each side has a stout defense. 52.5 is not a lot of points to be scored by 2 powerful offenses; 28 - 25 would be enough. In this one, the total score will exceed the over.

Passing yardage: This will go over 500 yards, but how much over? I figure I moved about 650 square feet of 6 inch deep snow on Wednesday. This gives me 325 cubic feet moved. At 62.4 pounds per cubic foot of water, and a water content of about 30% (3 inches of water per 10 inches of snow), I moved about 6000 pounds. Let 10 pounds of snow equal 1 yard of passing, and adding 1 yard for good measure, the 2 QBs will throw for a total of 601 yards.

posted by Howard_T at 09:43 PM on November 29

SportsFilter: The Saturday Huddle

A good look here by Bill Speros in his Obnoxious Boston Fan blog at baseball in the Dominican Republic, with a bit of history and some cultural/economic aspects thrown in. It starts out a bit Boston-centered, but there is much of a broader view.

posted by Howard_T at 08:56 PM on November 29

Red Sox Sign Pablo Sandoval, Hanley Ramirez

Actually radio is a most attractive medium to be in. When was the last time you sat in Boston traffic during your commute -- either way, it makes no difference -- and turned on a TV? You guessed it, the radio is on, and if you are a sports fan, it is on sports talk radio. There's gold in them thar kilohertz (or megahertz in FM).

yerfatma, I think it was the airhead from Maine, Gary Tanguay. Fully as annoying as Mazz, but without any semblance of understanding. I usually watch the sports news that immediately precedes Tanguay and company and change channels afterwards, but on this occasion I was in the midst of cooking and couldn't get to the remote quickly enough.

posted by Howard_T at 05:54 PM on November 26

Cricketer Fighting for Life After Ball to Head

Having the ball come up from below in cricket adds a dimension to the danger of being struck. A batted ball in baseball presents the same sort of danger, but usually there is time to avoid (unless you are a pitcher) or deflect with the glove if you are a fielder. Trying to get out of the way after a swing and miss when the ball is moving upward would seem terribly difficult and only a full football style helmet would protect well in the area where Hughes was struck. It is always sobering to hear of an athlete in his prime being in danger of having his career or even his life in danger of ending.

posted by Howard_T at 05:46 PM on November 26

Red Sox Sign Pablo Sandoval, Hanley Ramirez

They really don't give themselves much of a "down cycle" in Boston.

They don't dare. One talking head -- a particularly annoying one -- insists that this is all part of a PR campaign to make the team "appealing". His story is that the ownership wants to move into radio by buying a station, and that they would need "attractive" players to help sell it. My take is that the younger players they were trying out last year have not measured up (Middlebrooks, Bradley Jr.) and the young pitching is not quite ready. One other consideration for free agent pitchers is to look at the team and determine whether or not you have a chance of winning there. Lester did not have a choice when he was traded to Oakland, and trading one of their better hitters for pitching led to poorer results for the Athletics. Of the several teams that will be interested in John Lester, I would suggest Boston has a bit of an advantage, although it's not a sure thing by any stretch. The length of a potential contract seems to be the big item. Boston wants to keep it as short as they can, while Lester would like it to be 6 years.

posted by Howard_T at 12:10 AM on November 25