30 November 2006

Weekly Sports Review

Yeah, there's really no set date for this thing to appear. We thought we'd write it every Wednesday, but then we realized BYU basketball had a game at Boise State (they lost) which we were probably going to want to mention and the Sonics had an important game (they also lost) against Orlando. But none of that matters, because...........


Yup, despite pre- and gametime fatalism, BYU found a way to beat Utah. We say "found a way" because this is hardly a gimme for BYU. Losses the four previous years had effectively given Utah the mental edge. Whatever they may say about BYU trash talking them before each game (see Curtis Brown's confident predictions of victory), those pronouncements were never meant for them to read. Heck, they really weren't even meant for public consumption. More than anything else, they were intended to bolster the confidence of a team that had been all but owned by the yewts for four years. Anyone who suggests otherwise is deluding themselves. Utah's mental advantage in this game was huge and probably had something to do with the overall "wanting it more" we referred to in last week's Sports Review.

The thing about the game is this: BYU came out focused and did to Utah what they have done to every other MWC team this season. They put up points early. Here's the difference: Utah didn't respond the same way every other MWC team has this season. That is to say, they didn't roll over and play dead. Of course they didn't, BYU is their rival. BYU shouldn't have expected them to and you can blame this on whatever you want--hubris, lack of focus, whatever--but it was plainly obvious that BYU didn't play the 2nd and the 3rd quarters the same way they did the 1st and 4th. What they need to understand is that they can't play that way against Oregon in the Vegas Bowl. BYU has to put together a complete game against a good team.

It's funny to read the yewts message boards because they universally believe that officials are biased in favor of BYU. If asked, we think BYU fans would say exactly the opposite--that there is a decided anti-BYU bias among officials. Considering that BYU is annually (and historically) one of the most penalized teams in the nation, BYU fans would seem to be right, but then again, it's a very difficult thing to detect a bias. We once heard one of our friends on the team comment that BYU had been flagged for three penalties one year that weren't called on another team in the whole of Division I. He knew, because when they were called he didn't believe they were real penalties/rules and proceeded to look them up in the rulebook. How he was able to find that they weren't called anywhere else is beyond us and is typical of such sports heresay. Take it, therefore, with a grain of salt.

All of this is to say, don't blame the refs because BYU won. It is true that Utah could have won if the refs didn't throw the flag, but so what? They could have won anyway. The same is true of our beloved Seahawks. Anyone who watched the Superbowl knows those were egregious (please cougarboarders, spell this word correctly) penalties. As the mtn. talking heads noted, if the defender doesn't look for the ball, and makes contact, they're going to flag you every time. In response, the yewts populating every message board then went to the rulebook and use that nifty copy and paste feature and proceeded to instruct us in the finer points of pass interference and how face guarding isn't a penalty in college. Fine. Whatever. What matters is how pass interference is interpreted by the officials and how it has always been interpreted. When has a defender ever not looked for the ball, made contact with the receiver, and not been called for pass interference? It gets called all the time, not just against Utah when they are playing BYU.

We wont go into the complex beauty of the last play because a Cougarboarder code named TheDash has done so perfectly. Click here. For video highlights of the game we thank Cougarboard and you can click here for those as well. We recommend the one put together by Cougarboarder TSN.

Looking ahead, the game against Oregon should provide plenty of drama. But it shouldn't be written as a Crowton vs. Cougars because the truth is, he isn't against the Cougars. We hope fans wont say, "now is the chance to kick Crowton for causing the four worst years in BYU Football history." As Coach Mendenhall notes, Mr. Crowton is still interested in BYU Football's success. Hopefully winning a bowl game for the first time since 1996 is enough to motivate the team and its fans. It's enough to motivate us, and yes, we'll see you at the game.

BYU Basketball

With meetings to attend early (11am) this morning, we didn't stay up last night to listen to BYU play Boise St. on the radio. And it's just as well as they ended up losing 72-68. We will limit, as a result, our observations to just a couple of things. BYU lost to a lesser team on the road because they did not come out and play hard in the first half the way they did in the second to cut Boise State's huge lead. Whose fault is it that they start the game unfocused and uninspired? The Seniors? Coach Rose? After a promising showing against UCLA (promising despite the turnovers), BYU still hasn't won a game on the road. With an upcoming game against Michigan St., it would behoove BYU to get their act together so they can put on a good show for the tournament selection committee--that is, if they want to go to the NCAA Tournament in March.

Gregg Easterbrook is stil a moron

In other news, Gregg Easterbrook aka TMQ, a writer for espn.com Page 2 gives us more of his blatant, basic-law-of-economics-defying-populism with his not-so-veiled attack on pharmaceutical companies.
"Placebon™ will be extremely expensive, thus increasing demand. Pharmaceutical companies will treat doctors to lavish dinners, send them on all-expense-paid cruises and hand out handsome 'consulting' fees to get them to prescribe Placebon™. Controlled clinical studies will fail to show that Placebon™ is any more effective than breathing, but the manufacturer will lobby the Food and Drug Administration not to report this. Celebrities will be hired to have public breakdowns, then make spectacular recoveries by taking Placebon™. A saccharine version, Diet Placebon™, will be marketed. Initially, many insurers will refuse to pay for Placebon™. But as senior citizens stream across the Canadian border to buy low-cost government-subsidized Placebon™, politicians will demand that insurers pay, and the health care share of the GDP will rise again. Eventually a generic will be available at discount, while the patent holder makes a tiny molecular change in order to maintain proprietary pricing of advanced Placebon 24", a longer-lasting version.
Placebon will be extremely expensive thus increasing demand? That's not what we learned in Econ 110: 'All together class, as price increases, demand goes down.' He's talking about a placebo but his critique of drug companies and the FDA is clear. Of course, he must think that pharmaceutical companies spend hundreds of millions of dollars to develop wonder drugs out of the goodness of their hearts. We shouldn't have a problem with this arrangement. Without the big dollars involved, drug companies wouldn't spend the big bucks and take risks to develop breakthroughs that make life better. Sure, some doctors are looking for the cure to cancer because it makes them feel warm inside, but a far greater number of them do so because of the financial incentive. Take that money away from drug companies and they will simply cease to gamble on research and development. Though we may get today's drugs cheaper, tomorrow's drugs will never be developed because there is simply no incentive to do so.

We've written about health care before at length. Rising health care costs are a result of another economics problem called the "tragedy of the commons." It holds that when something is shared by everyone, rather than being owned by someone, everyone will use it as much as possible without any regard to its future condition, because if they don't, someone else will. In government or business sponsored health groups, with a small or no co-pay, individuals have every incentive to go to the doctor all the time. They do so because if they don't someone else will. They do so because rather than increasing wages, companies increase health benefits (incidentally, companies increase health benefits because government taxes wages, but not the health care they provide), effectively paying their employees in health care. This has something to do with the lack of increase in real wages. And because they go to the doctor every time they have the slightest cold or back ache, and when they do go, they get every test and medicine allowable, health care costs go up for everyone.

Back to the sports part of this column

Seattle Seahawks

First off, a little bit of business we neglected to take care of last week. Does anyone know if Sports Illustrated actually does any research for their articles? As part of their NFL Preview issue, SI listed the best local coverage for each team, be it a newspaper, blog, etc. For the Seahawks they listed the Seattle Post Intelligencer. We don't have a horse in this race, but anyone who knows anything about Seahawks coverage, knows that the best in the game is the Tacoma News-Tribune--specifically Mike Sando and his incredible blog. In the last two weeks extending from before the Seahawks-49ers game until today, the Seattle PI has had three entries. In that same time Mike Sando at TNT has posted literally dozens (we quit counting once we got into the 30s) of entries to his Seahawks Insider blog. Mr. Sando produces all sorts of sortable stats from passes dropped, to red-zone defense, to a 33 category roster--33 categories! He even makes audio from interviews available via podcast which you can subscribe to on iTunes. Seriously, this guy is the best--the best! In true Bill Simmons fashion, we wont even listen to argument about this point. It is not debatable. The only thing half-way hokey about his whole deal is how he picks teams each week but does not pick them against the spread. Anyone can pick straight winners and losers. Few people can pick successfully against the spread--just ask us. Including his wife in this competition seems like just a bit of a ESPN Page 2 Bill Simmons knockoff. Still, we read Sando constantly and our life is better for it.

The Seahawks beat the crummy Packers despite 4 turnovers. Any team that can beat another team despite four turnovers is doing pretty well. We stayed up late to watch this game on channel 5 over here in London. What an experience that was. Whenever the American broadcast would go to commercial, the British feed would go to these two guys sitting in some studio in London where one guy, who apparently last played organized football for Wesleyan back in 1969, proceeds to describe what just happened using every word imaginable except for the correct football term to describe the action. If he did use a correct term--like say, tackle--it was mis-used. At one point they went into a portion of the show where they read viewer emails and responded. One viewer asked for a birthday wish and the guy, we'll call him Mike, said happy birthday in this creepy voice and gave the camera a wink and a nod. Meanwhile back in America, Vince Lombardi rolled over in his grave. Michael Irvin would be a positive influence on this production.

But the Seahawks won. Seattle's offensive line started the gel, Shaun Alexander looked like the MVP, Matt Hasselbeck shook off the early rust and looked really good throwing a beautiful fade pass to D-Jack in the endzone that was even more amazing because of the adverse conditions (read: snow and ice). That's right, the first snow game in Seattle history. The defense shut down Green Bay's run and aside from playing in a field shortened by Hasselbeck's early turnovers, really played well. All three cornerbacks had picks (thank you Brett Favre).

2006 was never going to be 2005 for the Seahawks. But this is a team that looks like it's starting to put things together. The early difficulties on defense had a lot to do with an offense that regularly put them in tough spots. With Mr. Hasselbeck back and Mr. Alexander improving, the defense should respond as they feel less pressure to win the game on their own. Jerramy Stevens needs to get his head right. That's all we're going to say about him. The line needs to continue to improve their run and pass blocking. But with master-teacher/coach Mike Holmgren running the show, the Seahawks should make another run in the playoffs.

On Sunday the Seahawks play the Broncos in primetime (the night game). Having Jay Cutler start at QB for the Broncos will help, but this game will still be a good test for the Seahawks who have only played medium to weak teams thus far.


We've never understood the finer points of the mental game played between coaches and players, you know, the one supposedly perfected by the Sun Tzu of NBA coaches, Phil Jackson. But apparently that's what's been going on over the past couple of days as Seattle coach Bob Hill feuded with the three main players on his bench--Earl Watson, Dominique Wilkins, and Nick Collison. Mr. Hill at one point called out Mr. Wilkins saying that he was "pouting" because he wasn't getting the playing time he thought he should. After airing his grievances to the press, Mr. Hill met separately with Mr. Watson and Mr. Wilkins where they each expressed their loyalty and eternal affection and Mr. Watson made some vague reference to a Jay-Z song from Hard Knock Life Vol. 2 saying that he would "ride with" Mr. Hill.

We hope by "ride with" he means win a few games at home because the Sonics are 2-6 at home and it looks like the public relations blitz they needed to mount via a winning season to coax a fat tax subsidy from fans, is failing. Which really, really bugs us. We enjoy watching the Sonics--especially when they're good. They have talent and potential but they don't play defense and they, as Mr. Hill notes, are immature in how they play the game. Last week's game against San Antonio provides the perfect context. We know lots of people hate the Spurs. They aren't a glamorous team that wins by scoring lots of points like Phoenix. But they win a lot of games because they rebound, play defense, and take advantage of the other teams turnovers and weaknesses. The Sonics are young and inconsistent. They played their immature inconsistent game against the Spurs and San Antonio played theirs and the predictable happened. It really is as simple as that. Which leads us to conclude that it is on Mr. Hill to figure out a way to convince his players, teach them, Phil Jackson them, do whatever he has to in order to get them to win games.

Truth is, we'll probably lose them to Oklahoma either way.

Seattle Mariners

No news is bad news. A pool of pitchers short on talent with teams long on demand means that a team like the Mariners who still haven't signed anyone, are rapidly running out of options. Our #1 guy, Barry Zito, is still on the market and we hope the Mariners will be sensible enough to break the bank to get this guy. They can fill in the other two open spots in the pitching rotation with Jake Woods and Cha Seung Baek. The Mariners could use another bat, but after signing Mr. Zito they wont have much cash left (because they haven't kept pace with inflation since the first budget jump in the Safeco Era). They should follow the A's example from last year and sign a Frank Thomas. Someone who is old and slow but who still gets on base and hits for power.

We wish they'd cowboy up and sign Manny Ramirez thereby proving to Red Sox nation that, despite his quirks, Ramirez is the most important hitter in their lineup, but we know that wont happen.

It would make too much sense.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great hodgepodge post Lybbert!