Posts Tagged ‘football’

American Sports Teams and Geographic Deception

Posted in Sports and Games on July 24th, 2015 by Nathan – Be the first to comment

The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, currently only one game ahead of the Houston Astros for control of the AL West, are visiting town next week in a series that will prove to be tense and interesting. Hopefully the Astros will regain the lead of the division during the series, but regardless of how things turn out, the Astros have one thing to be proud of: they're not geographically deceptive.

See, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim are, as the latter half of their name suggests, based in Anaheim, CA. A city, that, for the record, is not even in Los Angeles County. These Orange County wannabes look to their northwest and see love for the Los Angeles Dodgers, based in, believe it or not, Los Angeles. They are understandably envious of the admiration that big city living gives you. And frankly, I can't blame them. When they changed their name from "Anaheim Angels" in 2005, they gave a nod to their beginnings, they created a more easily marketable franchise name, and they began their geographic deception.

After thinking about the Angels, I got interested: are other baseball teams practicing geographic deception of the same caliber? What about teams of other sports?

As it happens, in baseball, they are the only team to lie about their location, and even that's not quite a full lie, as they maintain the "of Anaheim" qualifier. The other twenty-nine MLB teams are accurate about where they are located, although five (Arizona Diamondbacks, Colorado Rockies, Texas Rangers, Minnesota Twins, and Tampa Bay Rays) are vague enough to facilitate a possible future-though-nearby move.

And it turns out that this geographic deception is actually not very rampant outside of football: the NFL is by far the most egregious pit of lies. Of thirty-tw teams, only twenty-six play where they call home, and six of those (Carolina Panthers, Tennessee Titans, New England Patriots, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Arizona Cardinals, and Minnesota Vikings) are quite vague, hedging where they actually play. That leaves a whopping SIX teams that are geographically deceptive in the NFL: New York Giants (East Rutherford, NJ), New York Jets (East Rutherford, NJ), Dallas Cowboys (Arlington, TX), The Washington Professional Football Team (Landover, MD), Buffalo Bills (Orchard Park, NY), and the San Francisco 49ers (Santa Clara, CA). After all, what's in a name?

The NBA and NHL are much more honest, basically on the same level as baseball. The NBA has only four 'hedgers' (Indiana Pacers, Utah Jazz, Golden State Warriors, and Minnesota Timberwolves) and only one liar: the Detroit Pistons (Auburn Hills, MI, but can you blame them?) Frankly, the NBA should get bonus points for their aboveboard honesty in the form of the Brooklyn Nets. Where every other NY-centric team in any sport claims just "New York," the Nets are specific enough to name their borough. The NHL, similarly, has six 'hedgers' (Florida Panthers, Arizona Coyotes, Colorado Avalanche, Carolina Hurricanes, New Jersey Devils, and Minnesota Wild) and only one liar: The Ottawa Senators (Kanata, Ontario – I expected better from you, Canada… shame.)

The conclusion from all this? Minnesota is one big state with no individual cities, at least as far as sports are concerned.

The Wonderful World of Stadium Naming Rights!

Posted in Sports and Games on February 13th, 2015 by Nathan – 1 Comment

When I was a kid, the Astros and Oilers played in the Astrodome, and the Rockets and Aeros played in the Summit. Today, the Oilers are no more, the Aeros are no more, the Astros play in Minute Maid Park, the Rockets play in the Toyota Center, and the Texans play in NRG Stadium.

In between my childhood and now, Houston has been graced by even more names: the Astros went from the Astrodome to the Ballpark at Union Station to Enron Field to MMP. (Those last three being the same location.) The Rockets and Aeros went from the Summit to the Compaq Center to the Toyota center. (Those first two being the same location.) And the Texans began life at Reliant Stadium before NRG Stadium. (Yes, those are also the same location.)

Naming rights are fascinating to me when I consider this: as a child, every stadium I knew was unnamed, an advertisement for sports only, yet today, I see cars, juice, and electricity. And in traveling, I find that there's fewer and fewer unnamed sports complexes. My uncle once took me to see games at both Cowboys Stadium and the Ballpark at Arlington, but those are now gone, and their teams instead play at AT&T Stadium and Globe Life Park in Arlington. Even while in college, I watched as Shea Stadium was replaced by Citi Field. The unnamed building is rapidly becoming a thing of the past.

Given this, I decided to do some simple research to answer some questions. What industries are most prevalent in naming rights? Does that differ by sport? What stadiums/arenas/ballparks still don't have paid naming rights and what are they named for? Etc. Here's what I've found:

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Links to full size images: MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL, Overall. And the data I used (excel format).

  • Outside of the MLB, there's very few places that haven't sold naming rights. Fully one-third of MLB ballparks have avoided doing so, but the other three sports combine to produce the same number (ten: two in the NBA, six in the NFL, and three in the NHL).
  • Financial institutions hold the most naming rights (twenty-one overall), followed closely by Tech/Communications (fourteen), Insurance (eleven), and Retail/Consumer Goods (eleven).
  • There are two Casinos, one in the NBA and one in the NHL, that have naming rights, yet sports gambling is illegal in most of the country.
  • There's something called a Scotiabank Saddledome.
  • When the Dallas Mavericks played the Miami Heat in the 2011 Finals, American Airlines won. Both teams play at AA-branded arenas.
  • Of the twenty venues without naming rights, six are named for a team owner, six are named for the team itself, three for a place, three as a memorial, and two just as a pleasant flourish (The Palace of Auburn Hills and Arrowhead Stadium, where the Kansas City Chiefs play).
  • There are some interesting choices in the non-Finance/Retail/Insurance sectors. For example, four NBA stadiums/NHL arenas have airline naming rights, yet there are no airlines in any other sport. Similarly, the MLB has five Food/Beverage ballparks (Coors, Minute Maid, Miller, Busch, Tropicana), whereas the other sports combine for three (NBA: Pepsi, NBA/NHL: Smoothie King; NFL: Heinz).
  • And finally, in case you were unsure just how much of a scam for-profit colleges are, in 2006, University of Phoenix (which, it should be noted, has a higher student-loan-default rate than graduation rate) paid $154.5 million for twenty years of naming rights for the Arizona Cardinals' stadium.

Nineteen December Games (Texans v Patriots)

Posted in Sports and Games on December 5th, 2012 by Nathan – Be the first to comment

I saw a curious tidbit float around twitter regarding the upcoming Texans/Patriots game on Monday night. Basically, it stated that the Patriots have not lost at home in December since 2002. Nineteen straight December home victories.

The idea behind the tweet, of course, was that the Texans don’t have a great shot at winning, in that they’ll be at New England, in December, against this juggernaut of a December-home-victory team.

Of course, there is some truth to the idea that playing in Foxborough, Massachusetts in the dead of winter is difficult. Playing in any cold-weather city is hard for a team like the Texans who are based in a warm-weather city. And away games are never easy for any team, other than the Giants, who seem to be particularly fond of them.

But there are two issues I take with such a tidbit: it ignores anything other than these wins, and it implies that past performance indicates future results. Both of these issues are not insignificant.

The latter is frequently ignored in sports reporting. There may be an interesting fact about a team, but the Patriots of the past ten Decembers have been ten different teams. Only a few things are still the same after ten years, and such a streak is in no way an indication of whether or not it will continue in the future.

I often see snippets like this while watching sports or reading about a sports story. Something will say “no Bengals quarterback has ever rushed for more than 200 yards in a season” (I made that one up, I’m sure it’s false) as though that means that such a thing can never happen. This is foolish, as past performance is not an indication of future results.

The other issue is the isolation of data. The Patriots have not lost in December at home in nineteen games. But who did they play? How good were their opponents? Did they lose in January? How good were the Patriots come December? There’s a lot more to the story that could be told by answering these questions, so I set out to do so:

Did they lose in January? Over the same stretch of time, the Patriots have played five January regular-season games. They’ve won three (2004 49ers, 2010 Dolphins, 2011 Bills) and lost two (2005 Dolphins, 2009 Texans). Not quite as formidable as December, though the weather is generally worse.

Who did they play; how good were their opponents? Over the course of those nineteen December games, the Patriots faced such juggernauts as the 0-11 2011 Dolphins, the 1-13 2007 Dolphins, and the 2-9 2006 Lions and 2005 Jets. Of course, they also played some difficult teams; the best team they faced in that time was the 9-2 2010 Jets (and they were 9-2 at the time as well). But the combined record of the nineteen teams they played by the time the matchups began was 105-138, for a less-than-impressive 0.432 win percentage.

Who were these Patriots and how good were they? The Patriots, on the other hand, have had the opposite side of the story. Four of the ten Patriots teams made the Super Bowl, two won it. Three of these nineteen games were during the famed 16-0 season. The combined win-loss record of the Patriots by the time the matchups began was 187-56, or a very impressive 0.770. Only twice did the visiting team have a better record than the Patriots: both the 2002 Dolphins and 2005 Buccaneers had one more win than the Pats.

So basically, you have a fantastic team playing against a lot of subpar teams, with only a few standout victories among these December games. And from this, we’re supposed to understand that the Texans have no chance to win, because it’s December in Foxborough.

Will the Texans win on Monday night? No one knows. But will a win or loss come because it’s December (and impossible/due) in Foxborough? Not a chance. But heck, this is an 11-1 team coming in to face a 9-3 team. And after all: that represents the most lopsided-against-the-Patriots game that has been played in Foxborough in the last ten Decembers.

I'm not saying bench Romo, but…

Posted in Sports and Games on October 2nd, 2012 by Nathan – Be the first to comment

One interception wasn't his fault really. But four more are too many to excuse.Last night's Cowboys-Bears game was a disaster for Dallas. Five interceptions tells the story of how poorly Romo did, but it doesn't belie the horrible miscommunication that plagued the whole offense. The receivers were never on the same page as Romo (someone in the bar where I was watching joked that Romo was reading from the playbook, Dez Bryant from a coloring book), and even though Witten finally had some catches (instead of the dropped balls of the previous three games), it was clear that he was not in sync with his quarterback. Even worse than all that, the running game simply could not get off the ground. Of Dallas's 430 yards, less than 10% (forty-one yards), were gained via rushing.

It's hard to win a football game if you only throw the ball. It's impossible if you combine that with five picks, including two returned for touchdowns.

Some might call for benching Romo, as when Orton, his backup, showed up, he was able to execute plays with finesse and expertise, as though Romo were the backup. Romo's 60.1 QB rating looks like a joke compared to Orton's 137.1. Orton had only one incompletion, more yards per completion, no interceptions, and an equal number (one) of TDs as Romo.

Now, obviously all of that was during garbage time and should be taken with a grain of salt. And of course, anytime you have a backup in, you're gonna treat him like a backup and have him execute simpler, less involved plays. And that is where I think the real solution for this Cowboys team lies.

Frankly, I do not believe that Jason Garrett or Rob Ryan are particularly good coaches. Garrett has room to grow and maybe will be great in the future, but right now he's simply not there. And coaching is, as we've learned from Sean Payton this year, extremely important. It seems that Garrett and Ryan are trying to prove themselves to the overly-harsh Jerry Jones by drawing up plays that are significantly more complex than necessary. The result is mistiming, lack of coordination, dropped passes, failed sacks, and otherwise Washington Generals-style play.

Jerry Jones is too involved in the team. This creates an unreasonable atmosphere in which one man, too old to have adapted properly, controls the destiny of his team. We've seen how that worked in Oakland, and Dallas is rapidly heading in that direction. Jones needs to step back, give more control to others, and allow his team to prosper without his interference.

I don't think benching Romo is the answer. I do believe that Romo has more talent than Orton. But when Orton outshines Romo that spectacularly, you have to ask questions. There are a lot of valuable pieces on this year's Cowboys team, but if they aren't put together properly, they'll explode. As they did last night.

Who is the worst sports commissioner?

Posted in Sports and Games on September 26th, 2012 by Nathan – Be the first to comment

Roger Goodell. Like the other commissioners, it's hard for me to believe they are actually acting in bad faith. Outdated? Serving the wrong interests? Yes. And that's a good reason for term limits.After Monday night's refereeing debacle, some people are calling not just for the return of the regular officials (who, again, I don't think are that much better than these replacements) but also for the head of Roger Goodell, the NFL's commissioner. Most who approach this replacement ref from an economic vantage point out that the NFL has no real incentive to back down in the face of the referees demand: the replacements are an adequate (economic) substitute. This means that as long as people watch, there's no real reason to pay more to get the same result. NFL viewership is relatively inelastic in relation to refereeing. Thus far.

Of course, if things change, you have to expect that the NFL will give in. If viewership drops off precipitously, the regular refs will be back shortly. But in the meantime, those who look at it in a less pure-economics sense have a different point, one equally valid: aren't there more things than money that dictate these decisions? Certainly player safety has to be an issue. And long-term economic viability of football relies on player safety. With replacement refs on the field, an argument could be made that player safety is at risk.

And of course, there's an even better argument that Roger Goodell has done nothing, or very little, to improve player safety over his tenure. He has consistently pushed for an eighteen game season, knowing full well it will increase concussions, while making small strides to punish the players for such hits rather than the greed of the owners for more revenue. He is universally hated by players (who treat his fines as a joke and sometimes even ask to be fined), fans, and now even officials (though probably not the replacements). On the other hand, under his watch, the NFL has grown to greater international recognition and has become the most profitable American sport. He has done good for the league, he has also done bad.

But is he the worst sports commissioner right now? Some would suggest as much but I'm not sure. Let's take a look at the other Big Four commissioners: Gary Bettman, David Stern, and Bud Selig.

Gary Bettman has, during his tenure, massively increased the size and scope of the NHL. He added six new teams and in almost twenty years has nearly octupled league revenue. However, also during that time he has seen three lockouts, including a shortened season, a canceled season, and the ongoing lockout now. Players don't like him and fans routinely boo him, including when he awards the Stanley Cup. Two of his expansion teams have undergone troubles including bankruptcy and relocation. Some suggest he over-expanded, and international exposure suffered because of it.

David Stern has done a lot of good for the NBA. He helped found the WNBA and has done countless wonders for international exposure, arguably more so than any other commissioner of any other sport ever. During his reign, league revenues have improved, and though much of this is directly attributable to international exposure (Yao Ming, for example), a lot of credit goes to Michael Jordan. Since Jordan left, basketball's value has been more stagnant, with several teams failing to be profitable. He's also overseen four player lockouts, including two shortened seasons. He's been accused of tampering with the draft, he has interfered with trades and contracts (including trades with league-owned teams), and he's hated by players and fans, especially fans in Seattle who frequently blame him for being instrumental in the relocation of their team.

Bud Selig reversed the MLB's revenue decline and in two decades has quadrupled revenue. He introduced revenue sharing, made interleague play part of the schedule, and served a crucial part in creating the World Baseball Classic, possibly the only thing that has even attempted to make baseball an internationally-recognized sport. Though he's avoided most possibilities for work stoppages, he canceled the 1994 World Series in response to the player strike, the first canceled World Series in ninety years. He's consistently acted in different, inconsistent manners toward teams, leading many fans and even some owners to question his loyalties. He canceled the Dodgers' media contract during the sale of their team though did not do the same to the Mets. He mishandled Hurricane Ike, sending the streaking Astros to Milwaukee for a "home" series against Chicago (one hour away) when Dallas was available. The resulting losses pushed Milwaukee (Selig previously owned the Brewers) into the playoffs. He forced the hand of Jim Crane to move the same Astros to the American League upon his purchase. And most importantly, he willfully looked the other way (according to the Mitchell report and common sense) as players beefed up during the steroid era. He ignored a serious problem in the integrity of the sport and has only halfway-decently attempted to combat the problem since the MLB took a reputational hit due to steroids.

Is Roger Goodell the worst commissioner of a sport right now? It seems like they're all pretty bad. Having the same job for twenty or so years with no real checks and balances on power will likely make anyone become a bad commissioner. They will act according to their interests or the interests they perceived to be important twenty years prior. They will fail to adapt. They will not do a good job of dealing with stains on their sports. And they will be unfair and hated.

Goodell is bad, and ultimately player safety may end up being the tarnish that paints him as the worst. Right now, I have to believe Selig is worse, but I can't say what we'll know about player safety and Goodell's role in these issues in the future. I can say one thing though: with commissioners this bad, it shocks me that they don't have term limits. Were I to own a team, I would demand such a thing. As a fan, I have to wonder why the owners don't push for such a limit.

What if Sean Payton was the source of the bounty leak?

Posted in Sports and Games on September 24th, 2012 by Nathan – Be the first to comment

Is there a more valuable coach right now than Sean Payton, in his absence? I think not.When the hammer fell on the New Orleans bounty program, a lot of people asked a lot of questions. Some pointed out that these programs existed all over and questioned why New Orleans should be singled out for punishment? Others suggested that Roger Goodell was looking for a distraction from the various health and safety issues that are now coming to light in relation to concussions. This bred a lot of various conspiracy theories, crackpot ideas from people who thought that everything wasn't exactly right.

Although I don't allow myself to believe in conspiracy theories, except for one, I'd like to propose a new one I haven't heard discussed before.

One of the questions that hasn't gone away is who the NFL's source was for the bounty leak. At some point, it became obvious that Goodell had evidence against Jonathan Vilma and other members of the New Orleans Saints, and used this evidence to suspend him and others, including head coach Sean Payton, from the league for various sentence lengths. But the contents of this evidence, as well as its source, remain unknown.

At one point, Jonathan Vilma sued the NFL for defamation, claiming that he did not participate in any bounty program. The NFL, apparently desiring to avoid a public suit, attempted to settle with him immediately. When this did not work, Vilma and seven others testified in an arbitration court, in front of a federal judge, who ordered the NFL to reinstate the players. Sean Payton, Gregg Williams, and Joe Vitt, and Mickey Loomis, the coaches and front office staff suspended, were not similarly reinstated.

They did appeal, but their appeal was turned down by Goodell himself. Rather than take it further, they ended their protest there.

Some have suggested that these coaches/front office staff have a long future with the NFL and taking it further would damage that relationship. However, I'd like to offer another possible explanation. One that I do not believe in, but would still like to propose just in the interest of "what if."

What if Sean Payton were the source of the bounty program evidence? That is to say, what if he leaked his own involvement and the involvement of others in his staff to Goodell, knowing he would be suspended, punished, and that his team would be harshly dealt with?

There are a few things that Payton would stand to lose in this scenario: he obviously loses a year of coaching, and all that entails. And he suffers a hit to his reputation as the bounty program took place on his watch and was allegedly covered up by him. If no one knows that he was the source, that is, I believe, where his personal losses end: with blows to his career and his legacy.

The bounty scandal opened up a wide inquiry into the violence of the sport, something that many, including those deeply involved with the sport (such as Payton) would like to see curtailed to some extent. This is a more altruistic rationale, though, so it's not that convincing. There is one, much larger reason why Payton benefits from the bounty system.

Sean Payton gets a year off. Not a suspension, but a vacation. And when he returns from his enforced vacation (the only reputationally acceptable way he'd be able to keep his job after a sabbatical would be such a suspension), he will be sorely missed, welcomed back with open arms. The New Orleans Saints, one of last year's strongest teams, have started the season, through three weeks, without a win. All three of the teams they have lost to are not great teams; the only wins they have are the wins against New Orleans. For all intents and purposes, they look like a terrible team, and the only other 0-3 team is the Cleveland Browns, the team that many picked to lose the whole year.

When Payton comes back, he'll have the benefit of a team that hasn't gotten worse in terms of talent. He'll have a high second-round draft pick (assuming Goodell reinstates that pick, which is being discussed) or a high third-round draft pick. He'll have the support of his front office. And he'll have everyone in the world realizing just how important a head coach is.

Right now the phrase "coaching matters" is more meaningful than ever before. And when it's time for Payton to cash out on that belief, there's no question he'll do so big time. If he is the source of the documents that exposed this scandal, it was an investment. An investment on which he stands to make glorious returns.

My 2012-13 NFL Predictions

Posted in Sports and Games on September 4th, 2012 by Nathan – Be the first to comment

Football season begins tomorrow. And I couldn't be more excited. I've been waiting through yet another horrible baseball season and now that football season is about to begin, I'm thrilled. Here comes #BullsOnParade, fantasy football, horrible beer commercials, touchdowns touchdowns touchdowns, and so much more. Also, here comes predictions from every sports fan ever. Here's mine:

The playoff teams

Division champions: Patriots, Ravens, Texans, Broncos, Giants, Packers, 49ers, Falcons.
Wildcards: Steelers, Bills, Lions, Bears

Playoffs?!

Texans over Bills, Broncos over Steelers. Texans over Ravens, Patriots over Broncos. Patriots over Texans.
Bears over Giants, Lions over Falcons. Packers over Lions. 49ers over Bears. Packers over 49ers.
Packers over Patriots, 31-27.

First coach fired

My first thought was Jason Garrett, after the Cowboys fail to get off to a good start following what will likely be a crushing loss tomorrow night. But Jerry Jones hates to fire someone during the season because of the bad publicity, so I think it's more likely that Andy Reid, whose owner already stated, "all of the analysis will be on Andy Reid." Now, he did state that he would analyze the situation at the end of the season, but I see Philadelphia going 1-5 in their games before their bye week, poor enough to get Reid run out of town early on.

Offensive rookie competition

I still am not sold on Andrew Luck, but I have to believe he'll do better than I expect from Robert Griffin III. Luck is coming into a slightly better situation as far as his development goes, and that will be good for him. Plus the hype can't hurt.

Peyton

But even though I think Luck will probably end up taking offensive rookie of the year, Peyton will absolutely outperform him in every way, causing Indianapolis to immediately regret their decision, forcing Luck to be on the hot seat for the next several years. Will he perform enough to be in a Colts jersey in say 2016? Possibly. But I'd place the odds higher on Peyton still having a Broncos jersey on by that time.

The Refs

I suspect the refs will cave by week four, causing pundits all over to lament at how bad the replacements were. And then in week four, some game (my money is on Saints-Packers) will be decided on one bad call. And the next week, everyone will be calling for the replacements again will pretend that the officiating is still better off than with the replacements.

Fantasy

I'm in two leagues this year. One of them auto-drafted because I somehow forgot to write down when the draft was. The other drafts tonight (fingers crossed). In the league I care about, I suspect I'll do about the same as last year in the regular season, barely squeaking into the playoffs at spot #4. But unlike last year, I don't expect to win in the end. There's better competition and I believe I'll pull second place. In the league I don't care about? Fifth place.

That's it for now. I'll check back in in several months to see how I did. Are you ready for some football? I am.