Monday, November 30, 2009

I don't think they get it

The BCS just launched a website that basically says "nuh-uh".

Yeah, this is how they're fighting a playoff system, by walking around through the innernets and shouting "I am SO wearing clothes!"

Sorry, emperor. You'll find out soon enough.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

NHL and joke suspensions, continued

Flyers forward Daniel Briere suspended two games for hitting Colorado's Scott Hannan after Hannan scored on Philadelphia.

Should have been: 15 games: 10 for the hit and 5 for the thug team. Philadelphia has a long, recent history of cheap shots. Until their players are penalized sufficiently, the Flyers will continue to goon the rest of the league.

Canadiens fighter Georges Laraque suspended five games for a knee-to-knee hit that knocked Detroit's Niklas Kronwall out 4-8 weeks.

Should have been: 40 games: 20 for the hit and 20 for the resulting injury. Laraque isn't necessarily a Bryan Marchment – yet – but this certainly doesn't help. Kronwall is known for hard hits, borderline hits, and occasional cheap shots of his own, but that doesn't excuse the hit on him. Idiotic frontier justice is one-third of what has made the NHL a minor league. (The lockout is one third and the NHL's unwillingness to deal with any problems is the other third.)

Once again, until you penalize cheap players for cheap shots to the point that they actually refrain from committing them, this kind of stuff will happen. Wait until Laraque slew-foots Alex Ovechkin or a Flyer cross-checks Sidney Crosby into the boards after a goal.

If some idiot fan tells you the current system works fine, ask him about Ace Bailey. That was more than 75 years ago and the NHL still hasn't learned.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

No, it wasn't

It really wasn't.

Look, the average person realizes a lot about the game. The problem is that the average person also forgets a lot about the game from time to time. I mean, it doesn't take very long to figure out that it's good to have the ball and bad not to have it ... but then in certain situations, suddenly that no longer applies?

It wouldn't be that bad if it weren't for the fact that most coaches usually make the decision that will assign them the least blame. Why is that? Well, most GMs seem to be like most fans: they may know what's best, but they don't always act that way, especially not when things start to go wrong.

So coaches tend to coach not to lose so that they don't get fired ... unless they are pretty secure, either in their job or in the knowledge that their GM knows what they're doing. I think the latter is increasing – there are more and more instances of coaches going for it in situations where others wouldn't have in the past – but this was definitely a combination of the two.

Belichick, more so than almost any other coach in the NFL, doesn't have to worry about decisions. He isn't going to get fired any time soon. In fact, he can probably write his own contract. So the decision to go for it shouldn't have been surprising.

After all, if you had to choose between your QB with the ball to win, or their QB with the ball to win, who would you take? (Especially with Randy Moss on the field. And Kevin Faulk, the guy whom Tony Dungy referred to as the guy who caused them the biggest headaches in those games, probably because of matchup problems. You know you're going to put two, maybe three guys on Moss the whole game, but who covers Faulk? A linebacker? A safety? A corner?)

Belichick was coaching to win. It didn't work out. But there was a lesson to learn here: the value of timeouts. First and 10 at the IND 47 ... I think the Patriots, along with the Colts and Saints, have the kind of offense that can recover from a first and 15 better than just about anyone else in the league. I think it's better to take a penalty there rather than use a timeout ...

Update: See for yourself. Cold, Hard Football Facts shows some mainstream media responses followed by blog responses to Belichick's decision. Guess which ones are rational and which ones cry out "STOOPID SUX0R!!!!!" No, guess again. (Thanks to mgoblog for directing me there.)

Saturday, November 14, 2009

360 review: NCAA Football 10 (3/10)

So the "new" version of NCAA Football is out. I bought it because I'm a fool. As is typical of older EA franchises, there are about three new features in the game, a bunch of small new crap that nobody seems, and hundreds of bugs, most of which have been in the game for years and years.

New features? Well, one interesting one is an online/offline hybrid called Season Showdown. You register with the online site, pick a school, and then each week, you help your school win its matchup with its real-life opponent.

Each team's representatives compete in five categories: offline play against CPU, online play in general, online play against the current opponent, rivals voting, and trivia (a 10-question online trivia game, high score for each player counts toward the team total). One point per category you win, winner of most categories gets the win. For the voting, you can vote for up to five schools per day, including your own if you desire.

During NCAA 10 games, you get points for plays you make yourself (catches, big plays, tackles, etc.), and you get bonus points for underdog wins, classic games, and even strategy (see below) and sportsmanship (punting on 4th down). "Poor" sportsmanship can cost you points, although it's kind of silly in some cases: for example, passing at all with a big lead costs you points. whatever.

Strategy is another new aspect. Now, when you execute certain plays, you're setting up others, similar to how it happens in real life. These plays are indicated in your playbook with a percentage of setup; if you succeed enough with the right plays, you'll get another play completely set up and it will glow. Call that play and you get bonus Season Showdown points. I don't know if it's also easier to run or what. The "instruction" guide suggests that it is more likely to work, but it should be anyway, right?

What else? Well, video clips of Erin Andrews talking about your Road to Glory athlete. Nice, but there's a limited collection of them (obvious because they're actual video and not digitized). And, um, that's it. Well, you get to "look around your room" in RtG mode, which is pretty dumb considering that left-to-right also is supposed to be used for menu navigation, but like with a lot of other things, EA screwed that up.

Bugs/design flaws from last year and before? Where to begin ... how about Road to Glory mode?
  • The coaching AI is terrible: running the option inside your own 5 or on back-to-back plays when it was stopped, calling three- and four-deep zone defenses when down 21 or more late in the fourth, etc. etc.
  • The point system is not only skewed toward defense, but you frequently get points in practice for things you don't do.
  • The depth chart is based solely on overall rating, but preseason all-conference and all-American teams aren't. One season, I was first-string All-American in preseason and wasn't even a starter on my own team.
  • You get rating boosts for good practice sessions, but only until you're a starter. After that, no. Why? Who knows? So you develop faster if you're not a first-team player.
  • Intercepting a pitch in practice gets you no points at all: not for an interception, not for a fumble forced or recovered, not for a tackle, nothing.
  • You only get tackle points if you are the last one in on the tackle, so you can end up with something ridiculous like 7 credited tackles but 13 tackles in the box score. This sucks in practice.
  • Pass deflections don't count toward your career stats, which is kind of awkward if you're a defensive back.
  • The camera angles used are frequently terrible. For example, on any kind of kick play, the camera is a high sideline camera. Good luck figuring out how to block a kick or block on a fake. What's worse is that the camera in live action will spin around as the ball goes past you, which would make sense except that it's a third-person camera and so there's no reason to have it be so disorienting ... especially considering that at times, when the computer pretends to snap the ball, the camera will twist toward the sideline. Basically, this means you'll never catch someone who runs right past you. Sometimes, when you're in pass coverage or in a pattern, you'll actually be off the screen. I wonder if they even let the testers play RtG mode.
  • Your high school isn't referred to properly. If you enter your high school name, that's the only thing they use. This works for about one high school in 50. They should use the whole thing.
  • Of course, this could be avoided if they used real high schools, which, of course, they could. All they have to do is round up high school standings from the year before. Not hard. I mean, WIS has every high school in America in their database. EA could figure out how to get the ones that play football. If they cared.

Next: the game as a whole. Again, these are returning bugs/flaws.
  • Tackling a player so he goes out of bounds gets you nothing. No credit for a tackle, nothing.
  • There's nothing that tracks your best practice efforts, which I suppose is just as well given the flaws with practice.
  • There are no I-AA teams in the game, which means that a whole bunch of teams play these made-up logos: Cobras, Rhinos, etc. What is this, Baseball Stars? Take Erin out and put in real teams.
  • AI players chain moves together like crazy. If you try the same thing, you get tackled every time.
  • AI defensive players jump the snap all the time and are never offside.
  • In certain defensive formations/against certain plays, the AI covers the wrong man, which means that not only do you have to recognize this, you have to figure out who the jerk was supposed to cover and run like hell to get to him before the QB figures it out.
  • Kick and punt return teams only block for the AI, but will happily stand around and watch while you get crushed, fumble, and lose the ball.
  • The play selection screen forces you into Corso Mode on fourth down, which is particularly a problem when you are in hurry-up mode late in the game.
  • Offensive linemen still carry large electromagnets in their arms which activate when the ball is snapped. Even if you're going the other direction, if they get close enough to you, you're locked into position and can't break away. Naturally, this does not apply if you're blocking them.
  • The AI insists on moving you forward at the snap, even if you've taken control of your player by moving him a bit. Combine this with the magnetic lock-on blockers and you have real problems on defense.
  • Pre-snap movement borders on absurdity. It's simply an excuse to move your player out of position before the ball is snapped. Again, this doesn't happen when they're on defense.
  • When you're on defense and the other team is in hurry-up mode, you can't sprint to the line because you are crouching down. Why? Because you're focused on the ball that isn't set yet. Nice.
  • There are barely any penalties in the game, and I mean that two ways: penalties are rarely called and there are very few of them that can be called, which is a good thing, because I doubt they'd be programmed properly.

Okay, now the new bugs.
  • Sometimes Erin and Kirk Herbstreit will talk about you as Player of the Game even when you aren't.
  • One year, the Heisman was awarded to the player who finished second in the balloting. No, that player wasn't from Notre Dame.
  • Postseason practice is messed up: when you finish one session, it doesn't advance to the next day or to the bowl games that day. The only way to do it is to advance to the next practice, and that's not available on Friday, even if your week of practice didn't start Monday.
  • Defensive players have had their speeds boosted because ... because ... I don't know. Because EA sucks.

Overall, the lack of improvement the programmers were allowed to put into this game is shocking. It's not like they don't know about this stuff: there's actually a thread on their forums where you're asked to report bugs. So the only thing I figure is that of the time the team spends on this game (and remember, they've probably been programming for 52 weeks straight across all games: EA is notorious for overworking its programmers), about 20% is allocated toward fixing bugs, and that includes bugs from the new features that are forced into the game. Playtesting? Whatever the testers report is probably thrown out the window by management. I mean, who the hell could possibly sit through some of this stuff and allow it to go out the door, other than a clueless manager?

Screw release dates. Next year, take the time to get it right. Better yet, stop adding crap we don't need (like other "pressure" crap; give me a break, shaking my controller just runs down the batteries, it doesn't replicate the feeling of playing in Michigan Stadium or Neyland Stadium or wherever in front of 100,000 hostile fans) and spend one year just fixing bugs.

If you've never bought or played an NCAA game before, yeah, I guess you can pick this one up. Otherwise, rent it from GameFly or just stay away. Next year's game won't be much different.

zlionsfan's rating: a disappointing three first downs out of ten.

More bugs/design flaws I've uncovered:
If a penalty is called on the defense on an extra point (perhaps only on personal fouls), the point counts and the offense gets the ball again. In this case, it was a 15-yard penalty, so the offense got the ball at the 17. This bug has been around for years, and frankly it's a deal-breaker. When it happens, I restart the game.

Reviews are rarely initiated by the booth (have these people ever seen a real NCAA game?) and always result in a reversal. Granted, the plays they do review generally seem to warrant a reversal, but a) it isn't the "realism" they appear to be shooting for and b) it's always a tipoff that you'll lose the ball. (It seems the majority of the reviews come when you've forced what you think is a turnover.)

Extra points are called "field goals". Incorrect. They are both place kicks ... if you must use a generic name, then the formation is "place kick", but honestly you should be using specific names. After a TD, it's the Extra Point formation. Other than that, it's the Field Goal formation.

Play suggestion on fourth downs is abysmal. It's not uncommon for Corso to suggest a fake punt on 4th and 15 or more inside your own 30 ... even running out of a fake punt formation.

The field announcer sounds almost happy to announce touchdowns for the other team; presumably this is because he's trying to remain neutral, but then that's the exact opposite of what you'd expect. If my announcer called a touchdown for our rival on our home field like that, I'd fire him on the spot.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Dear fans of other teams,

Please stop using hyperbole to try to make a point. Please stop exaggerating your teams' weaknesses and minimizing their strengths.

It is painful to listen to someone try to tell me how their defense is bad, or their offense is struggling, or blah blah blah whatever.

Look. You don't know squat. This is what my team did yesterday. It took what should have been a 24-0 or even 28-0 lead and made it 17-0; they failed on third-and-one, then missed a field goal on fourth-and-one, and settled for a field goal on another drive that started in Seattle territory. Of course, they only scored 3 points the rest of the way and lost yet again.

That's 1-24 over their last 25 games ... for reference, 2-24 in their last 26. The '76-77 Buccaneers went 0-26 over their first 26 games, won the next two, and played in the NFC Championship game two years later. The Lions will be lucky to make the playoffs in two years.

The offense is bad. There are about three good players on that side of the ball, and two of them have been hurt this season. The defense is bad. I don't know what to say about that. Even special teams, long an area of expertise for the Lions (which is extremely unusual; typically ST success is not sustainable), has been a problem.

Surprisingly, the Lions have one game left that is possibly winnable, at home against Cleveland. The rest of their schedule is against teams with .500 records or better: at Minnesota, at home vs. Green Bay, at Cincinnati, at Baltimore, vs. Arizona, at San Francisco, and at home vs. Chicago. Yes, Bears fans will say the last game is winnable. I say shut up.

My team is bad. They haven't had a winning season in 9 years, a playoff appearance in 10, or a playoff win in 18. (And that was the lone playoff win in the last 52 years.) They're coming off the only 0-16 season in NFL history. They will likely set a record for most losses in consecutive seasons; five teams lost 28 games over two seasons, and that shouldn't be a problem for Detroit to match.

And what's worse, they have plenty of company. Even with the 0-16 season, they didn't have the worst record in the last two seasons: St. Louis was 5-27 and Kansas City was 6-26. If the Lions hadn't lost to the Rams, St. Louis might well have exceeded Detroit's 19-game losing streak.

Cleveland isn't much better and may be getting worse. Tampa Bay has been struggling quite a bit. Neither Oakland nor Washington seems like a 2-win team.

Look, I understand the concept of not meeting expectations. Once upon a time, Detroit could actually be good enough to consider a playoff appearance, so I know what that's like. But don't confuse that with actually being bad.

And if your team is 8-0, don't complain at all. You'll sound like a Patriots fan.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Dan Burton voted against health care for me

But it passed anyway.

Sorry, Dan. If this passes the Senate, you'll have to share. None of this keeping the best health care for yourself and spreading lies about what's available for the rest of us.

Liveblog: but why?

For some reason, I'm blogging while I watch the horror that is Purdue-Michigan.

12:05 - I show up in time to watch Purdue drive 80 yards in 4 plays. So it's the bad Michigan defense that showed up? We'll wait and see.

12:11 - Purdue intercepts a deep Forcier pass. Except no, it's actually caught. (Shared reception.) Purdue challenges and loses. There goes that one.

12:14 - After the not-interception, Michigan moves right down and scores a TD of their own. You'd think these teams have absolutely no defense.

12:23 - Dropped passes resurface, Michigan gets a little pass rush, and Purdue settles for a field goal. 10-7 Purdue.

12:28 - Special teams mistake 1: Michigan gets a huge kickoff return. However, Purdue's pass rush pressures Forcier, but Olesnavage drills a long FG. Tied at 10.

12:37 - First turnover of the game. Of course it's Elliott throwing an interception. sigh.

12:41 - End of the first quarter, tied at 10.

12:45 - Brandon Minor off to the races. Michigan 17-10.

12:53 - Purdue's offense stalls again. Punt back to Michigan ... not looking good.

12:59 - Bad coverage, missed tackle, 24-10 Michigan. here we go.

So then I miss some things, like another interception and stuff. But it's still 24-10 Michigan. sigh.

1:18 - Halftime, 24-10 Michigan. Yep, that's about what I expected.

1:43 - Michigan's first turnover, an option play gone awry. (Reminds me of about 20 plays in NCAA 10.) Next play, Bolden runs it in thanks in part to poor tackling. 24-17 Michigan.

1:50 - Michigan comes right back down and scores a TD, although it looked like Forcier got banged up on the score. 31-17 Michigan, but look for a Shoelace appearance on the next drive. I mean, 30-17. Guess they missed the extra point.

2:04 - Purdue answers back, a nice sustained drive. 30-24. Michigan fans are probably pretty nervous, especially if Forcier is injured. Uh, it's still the same not-defense out there for Purdue ...

2:08 - Oh, hello surprise onside kick. And first-play long pass. Touchdown, Purdue. 31-30 Purdue.

2:13 - Three-and-out on Michigan's next possession.

2:17 - Three-and-out on Purdue's possession. Guess these teams really are evenly matched.

2:19 - End of the third quarter. Much closer than I thought it would be at this point.

2:30 - Michigan misses a field goal, and on a third down, Purdue gets a really long completion. Too bad it was a TE, or he might have scored.

2:34 - Despite my attempt to jinx them by going to the bathroom before the end of the drive, Purdue scores to extend the lead, 38-30. Elliott looks pretty sharp now.

2:37 - Three-and-out, and on top of that, Michigan seemed to be caught in between going for a fourth-and-one and punting, so they didn't get the punt off in time. Fourth and 6. Of course the announcers said "good move" not to go for it. Um, no. Possession is always worth more than punting. Fourth-and-one is very makeable; the next one might be fourth-and-10, down 15, for all RR knows. Oh well.

2:43 - Purdue punts back to Michigan, the punt is muffed, Purdue recovers, but there's a flag on the field. Kick catch interference, 15 yards, Michigan retains possession.

2:46 - Nearly a touchdown to make it close, but a holding penalty calls it back.

2:50 - Reviewing a play on the field. Michigan RB is tackled, but the Purdue defender is underneath ... so he laterals to an OL who gets the first down. Except the Purdue guy is lying on the sideline. But the Michigan guy isn't out of bounds, right? The refs on the field say first down, but it's being reviewed. I have to admit, it was a pretty heads-up play.

2:54 - The review says illegal forward pass. No first down. Purdue ball.

3:00 - Purdue can't get out of their own end and has to punt. Long return, and all of a sudden Michigan is right back in the game.

3:03 - Minor scores his third TD of the game. 38-36. Here comes the two-point conversion attempt. Any bet it'll be a QB option?

3:04 - It wasn't. Shotgun, sack, conversion failed. (I've seen that in NCAA 10 as well. Should have run out of the I.) 38-36 Purdue.

3:06 - Onside kick, expected, Purdue recovers. Now to keep the ball and let the clock run out?

3:12 - Purdue punts to Michigan. 0:29 to play, probably 70 yards to get in FG range. Just don't screw this up.

3:14 - Last gasp for Michigan. Forcier scrambles, can't find anyone. Game over. Purdue pulls it out, 38-36. Wow.

Amazon funny

So I ordered a couple of things off Amazon, surprise, but I did it Thursday night. (Hey, I did need one of them for my consulting stuff.) So I couldn't do one-day delivery for sure and get them on Friday, because you have to do it earlier in the day, and for some reason I didn't get the two-day Saturday option (which is relatively new, meaning Amazon apparently is also using USPS or someone else who delivers on Saturday).

So I tracked my order tonight, and I got this funny:

 11/06/20091:51 P.M.ORIGIN SCAN

so ha ha. It's going to take four days, in a sense, to get something from Indianapolis to Fishers. It would have taken me about 90 minutes, max, to get it myself from wherever it is here.

Oh well. It costs me the same amount to get something shipped here from Las Vegas in two days through Amazon ...

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Death by blackout

On, Greg Garber has a very interesting article about the viability of the NFL in Jacksonville. When a team flirting with .500 draws worse than the Lions and Raiders, you know there's a problem ...

and what makes it worse is blackouts. The blackout rule is a relic from the '50s, from a time where it really was the difference between watching on TV and driving down to the stadium for a game. Now, the only people who can afford to make that kind of decision could afford suite tickets if they really wanted to go: the general public is priced out of the impulse-buy market.

But professional leagues are very slow to adapt to the times: the NHL is stuck on a fourth-tier channel (thanks to its idiot commissioner) and still shows a significant number of games in SD, MLB as recently as last year was showing multiple playoff games at the same time, etc. Are they likely to realize that they're starving the golden goose? (I doubt the blackout rule is actually killing it, but it sure doesn't help.) Do they know what it means to Jacksonville that the Jaguars haven't been on TV at all this season?

With the spread of Sunday Ticket (a DirecTV exclusive because the NFL is stupid), fans are more free than ever to follow their favorite team no matter where they live, or to pick a new team if they can't watch their current team. A wise commissioner would work with the networks (who'd be more than happy to show all the games) and the owners (who need to realize what's happening) to rescind the blackout rule. Will Goodell figure this out?

Wayne Weaver, the Jaguars' owner, goes on to say that given time, they could be like Pittsburgh or Green Bay (smaller markets with avid fan support). But there's a big problem with that analogy: do you really think Green Bay would even get a team, much less support one, if they didn't have one now and were trying to land an expansion team? Hell no. The only reason Green Bay has a team is that they had one before the NFL was around. And yes, that's how old the Packers are.

How old are they? Check this out. It's the 1921 APFA standings. The APFA is the "league" that was the predecessor of the NFL. Items of note:

  • The Chicago Staleys, who moved from Decatur for the 1921 season. Those are now the Bears.
  • The Chicago Cardinals, who are now in Arizona.
  • And yes, the Green Bay Packers, who are now in ... Green Bay, approaching their 90th season there.

Also note the number of "baseball" teams ... football owners were not very original. The Giants kept the name of the baseball team long after it left for San Francisco (NY enters the league in 1925). The Boston Braves joined in 1932, changing their name to the Redskins in '33 and moving to Washington shortly thereafter, where the Lions have still never beaten them. (The baseball team moved to Milwaukee and then Atlanta.) And in '33, the Pittsburgh Pirates joined the league, becoming the Steelers in '41.

So yeah, Wayne, you can be like those teams. Just wait 60 years. Oh wait, you don't have 60 years.

Look, Florida is a great football state, but as any NASL owner will tell you, passion does not always translate to money spent on professional events. Jacksonville simply can't support an NFL team and everyone knows it.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Weigh-in: Week 35, -2.4 pounds

Back on track. One week of behaving myself and I've undone the October damage. Now I just need to stay focused and get down to where I need to be. 160 is definitely possible by the end of the year.

I'm resetting my goal. 160 by December 31. Obviously August is well past. If at first you don't succeed, try again. Granted, 5.4 pounds in roughly 8 weeks should be easy enough, but the pounds at the end aren't always as easy as the pounds at the beginning.

Weigh-in: Week 34, +1 pound

This week was less acceptable. I should have done better. A gain of 2.4 pounds for the month ... take out the Virginia trip and it's a loss of 0.6 pounds, but if I did things correctly this week, I'd have balanced that out.

Time to refocus.

Weigh-in: Week 33, +3 pounds

Falling behind, so I'll make these quick. This week was understandable, somewhat: it was my four-day Virginia visit. Granted, two days were spent on the road, but still, I could have eaten quite a bit less. (Far too much sugar, quite a bit too much meat, not much in the way of vegetables.)

It's acceptable for a once or twice a year thing, but even with that, it's work I have to redo. However, it can still be done if you're careful the rest of the year. I'm not there yet.

Sounds about right

Here's what's on my DVR right now:

Surviving Disaster
Rams @ Lions
Lions @ Packers
Steelers @ Lions
Lions @ Bears

Sounds about right.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Some men you just can't reach

So the New York Times had an article about a poll they conducted recently about texting and driving. They found that 97% of the people surveyed believed that it should be against the law.

However, this line drew some attention on Gizmodo:
The nationwide telephone poll was conducted Oct. 5-8 with 829 adults and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Apparently some people saw the 829 figure and were confuzzed. "Number too small. All numberz bad. Survey bad."

I attempted to address the issue with a brief description of sampling, but it didn't do much good, and of course because this is teh innernets, stamping out ignorance is like putting out a grease fire with water: if you don't bring an incredible amount of water, you'll be overwhelmed by the fire, but either way, there won't be much left when you're done.

So I had my say, and now I'm moving on.

Not quite sure why the Times said 3 percentage points, though. I got 1.5 from this online calculator, but then I wonder if there is somehow a one-tailed vs. two-tailed issue here. Just curious ...