26 October 2010

Tuesday Football: The World Series, and a quick Texas sports quiz

The Texas Rangers have finally made it to a MLB World Series, just in time to add to their former owner's misery.  Dallas arbitrageur Tom Hicks lost ownership of both the Rangers and Liverpool FC, the latter just 10 days ago.  Fans in Merseyside and the Metroplex are, I'd imagine, equally happy to be rid of Hicks, who managed to run both clubs aground.

Liverpool FC, now siblings to the Boston Red Sox, will need time to recover from their Hicks-inflicted wounds, but the Rangers open their first Series tomorrow night in San Francisco.  [Go Giants!]  Over the weekend, the series shifts to Arlington, marking only the second time World Series games have been played in Texas.  With that in mind, here's a one-question quiz:

Rank the following major championship events, in order of their first staging at a venue in Texas.  (Hint:  Only some of these required Texas-based teams.)
  1. FIFA World Cup
  2. World Series (MLB)
  3. NCAA Men's Final Four
  4. NBA Finals
  5. Super Bowl (NFL)
  6. Stanley Cup Finals (NHL)
Leave your answer in the comments.  Good luck!

Fantasy recap:  The Fluttering Horde had to deal with bye weeks from several key players, so their week was hard enough.  Alas, Jay Cutler's astonishing incompetence for the Bears gave Osogood 32 points' worth of defense.  Ahmad Bradshaw had another solid week, but it wasn't enough to save the Horde from a 116-100 loss.  The Horde (5-2) falls to fourth place overall, and third in its division.  The good news is that The Smoking Popes (1-6) are up next.  With Manning, Johnson and Braylon Edwards all back from their byes, it should be an easy win.

Sadly, the Middlemen (4-3) are in free fall.  Tony Romo's broken collarbone last night effectively takes WR1 Miles Austin out of action, only a week after WR2 DeSean Jackson suffered a concussion.  With no decent receivers left, the Middlemen took a decisive 96-74 thumping from the Warriors, their third loss in four weeks.  Until Jackson and Romo come back, it's hard to see this team contending.

19 October 2010

Tuesday Football: This new NFL controversy isn't new

This gridiron weekend would have been horrible enough had its only incident been the errant tackle that left Rutgers University defensive tackle Eric LeGrand paralyzed below the neck on Saturday.  But then came Sunday and the brutal helmet-to-helmet hits taken by DeSean Jackson, Zack Follett, Joshua Cribbs, Mohamed Massaquoi and Todd Heap.  Only Follett avoided a concussion (though New Jersey hospital officials did observe him overnight).  Jackson is essentially out of next week's action; the others may not play, either.  [Best wishes to everyone on this list.]
On Sunday night, NBC commentator Rodney Harrison called for the NFL to start handing suspensions for helmet-to-helmet hits.  Besides being the defender who unsuccessfully marked David Tyree's miraculous catch in Super Bowl XLII*, Harrison (wearing #37 at right) is remembered as one of the dirtiest defenders ever to play the game.  When even he's telling the NFL to suspend rough defenders, maybe the league should listen.  The good news is that the league is prepared to do just that, maybe even before this blog entry posts.

It's hardly the first time the issue of hat-to-hat hits has surfaced.  Since 1998, the league has imposed fines on such hits.  That sort of enforcement works on second- and third-string defenders, but first-stringers earn enough to render it ineffective.  Since 2007, the NFL has advised game officials to eject players in these cases -- but not one offender saw a red card yesterday.  This summer, the league and the NFL Players' Association considered formally outlawing helmet-to-helmet hits on ballcarriers, but didn't follow through.  Now, faced with this disastrous weekend, and surely aided by Harrison's nationally-televised recital of his own case, the NFL will finally follow the Canadian Football League's lead.

Here's what I'm wondering:  Is it just me, or have defenders just gotten meaner? There seems to be at least one concussion suffered every week, just in the NFL.  We're starting to see more players suffering concussions at the college level, too.  [Ryan Mallett, anyone?]  Maybe players and coaches should take another look at how tackles and hits are made these days.

*Picture by Barry Chin, via boston.com

Gates trips leaders.  And vice versa:  Of course, not all game-ending injuries come to the head or the spine.  San Diego tight end Antonio Gates, for example, caught two passes for 12 yards before hurting his toe in the Chargers' game at St. Louis.  The Chargers hope he'll be able to go next week against the Patriots, but it doesn't look likely right now.

Gates' foot issue affected both my games.  His injury, combined with a Miles Austin dud at Minnesota, consigned the Middlemen (4-2) to a 101-92 defeat at the hands of the Juken' Jockstraps.  Before suffering his concussion, DeSean Jackson offset an awful performance by the Atlanta defense.  Chris Johnson's touchdown last night came too late, as the Middlemen fell to second place.  With Jackson and (probably) Gates both out, next week promises a stern test for the bench.

On the other hand, the Gates exit suited the Fluttering Horde (5-1) just fine.  It crippled Anything But Last, which also suffered a 6-yard whiff from Giants wideout Hakeem Nicks.  Peyton Manning's 307-yard, two-touchdown performance (bo-ooo-ring!) put the Horde within 0.04 points of the lead going into the Monday-night game, and Titans kicker Rob Bironas kicked in the finish.  The Horde won, 108-88, knocked ABL from the ranks of the undefeated and took the division lead.  Next up: my other twin nephew and Osogood, to whom I traded Wes Welker.   So far, that trade hasn't hurt.

12 October 2010

Tuesday Football: BCS stadiums, by the numbers

As college-football fandom prepares for the release of the first BCS rankings, I thought I was going to write a big post about the importance of the sport to so many public universities in the U.S.  That would have entailed spending several hundred words to state the obvious:  the BCS is so big, it could've been the sixth monster in Monsters vs. Aliens.

Instead, I'll cite some statistics about college-football stadiums.  A few details about the 61-venue sample:
  1. Only stadiums at public universities count.  I'm intentionally excluding several private schools with big football programs, including USC, Stanford, BYU, Miami (Fla.), Notre Dame and Boston College.
  2. The sample covers only the six conferences explicitly covered by the BCS scheme, plus the Mountain West.
  3. Statistics reflect conference alignments for 2012.  Nebraska counts as a Big Ten team; Boise State, as a Mountain West club; and Colorado and Utah, as Pac-10 sides.
And here are the simple numbers, courtesy of a Wikipedia aggregation.  Wikipedia may not be the greatest source for this kind of stuff, but for this post, the numbers are good enough.

Atlantic Coast Conference: 
  • Included colleges: 8
  • Average stadium capacity:  64 302
  • Largest included stadium:  Memorial Stadium, Clemson (82 300)
  • Smallest included stadium:  Byrd Stadium, Maryland (51 500)
Big XII Conference: 
  • Included colleges:  9
  • Average stadium capacity:  68 031
  • Largest included stadium:  Memorial Stadium, Texas (101 119)
  • Smallest included stadium:  Bill Snyder Family Stadium, Kansas State (50 300)
Big East Conference: 
  • Included colleges:  5
  • Average stadium capacity:  56 672
  • Largest included stadium:  Raymond James Stadium, South Florida (82 300)
  • Smallest included stadium:  Rentschler Field, Connecticut (40 000)
Big Ten Conference: 
  • Included colleges:  11
  • Average stadium capacity:  78 220
  • Largest included stadium:  Michigan Stadium, Michigan (109 901)
  • Smallest indluded stadium:  Memorial Stadium, Indiana (52 180)
Mountain West Conference: 
  • Included colleges:  7
  • Average stadium capacity:  43 189
  • Largest included stadium:  Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego State (70 561)
  • Smallest included stadium:  War Memorial Stadium, Wyoming (32 580)
Pacific 10 Conference: 
  • Included colleges:  10
  • Average stadium capacity:  60 177
  • Largest included stadium:  Rose Bowl, UCLA (92 542)
  • Smallest included stadium:  Martin Stadium, Washington State (35 117)
Southeastern Conference: 
  • Included colleges:  11
  • Average stadium capacity:  82 268
  • Largest included stadium:  Neyland Stadium, Tennessee (102 459)
  • Smallest included stadium:  Davis Wade Stadium, Mississippi State (55 082)

Fantasy update:   Another weird week.  One team did nothing but score touchdowns, the other scored exactly one -- and both won their games.

In a spectacular first-place showdown with the Tin Men, both teams posted the week's two highest scores -- but the Middlemen prevailed, 144-123.  Spectacular performances by Matt Forte, Chris Johnson, Miles Austin and the Atlanta defense powered a record-setting day.  Both teams now stand at 4-1, but I hold the head-to-head tiebreaker.

Meanwhile, the Fluttering Horde struggled, staying in the game only because opponent Crown My Ass left Forte on his bench.  Late in the Eagles-49ers matchup, I was ready to put Vernon Davis on the trading block.  But Davis came up with the Horde's only touchdown, which proved just enough for an 86-81 come-from-behind victory.  Next week, the 4-1 Horde engages in its game of cat-and-also-cat against undefeated Anything But Last, run by my former in-law.

05 October 2010

Tuesday Football: Oy!

This blog spends two pages complaining about the way the NFL handles overtime, but I shudder to think about the first time that happens in the Super Bowl.  The ensuing chatter will consume North America for a month.

On the other hand, we could have what happened in Australia in the last two weeks. St. Kilda and Collingwood played in the AFL Grand Final two weeks ago.  So far, so good; it was just another championship game. But then St. Kilda rallied late to force a 68-68 tie.   Instead of overtime, the AFL scheduled a replay. More than 100,000 fans went home confused, with a request to come back in a week -- to watch the Saints and Magpies play an extra game.  That's exactly what they did.  Fans of both teams snapped up all the replay tickets, leaving none for the general public.  Their reward?  A 108-52 Collingwood blowout last Saturday afternoon.  Too bad for St. Kilda, who last won the Premiership in 1966.  Since then, their fortunes have tracked those of their NFL namesakes in New Orleans.  It would've been nice to see both set of Saints -- both perennial also-rans -- come away winners in the same year.  Oh, well

If you haven't seen an Australian football game, you've been missing an chaotic, fast-paced, high-scoring and incredibly fun form of the sport.  While you wait for the deejay to bring the tunes, it's a perfect background for Friday-night parties.  The 2011 season begins in March.  Hopefully, someone stateside will give us live games to watch before the next Grand Final.

Lucky weekend:  Over on the fantasy-football side, well, I was lucky this week.  The list of roster disasters was long:
  1. Injuries kept Andre Johnson and Steve Breaston from playing for the Fluttering Horde.  I didn't have enough active wide receivers, so I had to waive Breaston for Jacksonville's Mike Taylor.
  2. The Middlemen lost Miles Austin to his bye week, then Michael Vick went down with his nasty rib injury.  That effectively removed both Vick and his favorite target, DeSean Jackson, from the Middlemen lineup.  On top of that, the Middlemen dumped a New York Giant defense that ended up sacking the Bears 10 times.
  3. The Bears' woes hurt both teams, essentially blanking Greg Olsen for the Horde and Matt Forte and Johnny Knox for the Middlemen.
Given all that, in theory, I should have been lucky to avoid two losses.  In practice, I was unlucky not to win twice.  The Horde's opponent, who will remain unnamed, fielded only five players, so the Horde cruised to a 94-36 win.   The Middlemen lost 82-78 to the previously winless Hurricanes -- but only because New England scored 18 special-teams points and blocked both a punt and a field-goal attempt.  It was like losing with a full house on the river.

The bizarre combination of good luck and bad luck leaves both teams at 3-1.  The Middlemen fall to second in their league, while the Horde stays in third place.  Oy!