Wednesday, October 15, 2014

NFL All-Halloween Team

We're settling into Fall here. Football is on television every night, and Halloween will be here soon. Football and Halloween seem to go together well, and below are the best Halloween-related names throughout NFL (and pro football) history.

Michael Myers - Luckily this guy was born in Vicksburg, Mississippi, and not Haddonfield, Illinois. Still, Myers piled up 212 tackles and 15.5 career sacks over 10 seasons (1998-2007) with the Cowboys, Browns, Broncos, and Bengals. He also forced four fumbles and had an interception, which is one more NFL interception than Wedge, Speedgeek, and I have combined!

Boo Williams - Although his name is scary, Williams himself probably did not frighten opposing defenses as as much as he could have. Over four seasons with New Orleans (2001-04), Williams caught 107 passes for 1,143 yards and 12 scores. A knee injury ended his career, although he signed with the Arena League's Kansas City Brigade in 2007. After that he sort of... vanished. (Sorry, I had to.)

Candy Miller - Candy is basically the best thing about Halloween, and Miller might have celebrated with a Hershey Bar after scoring his only career touchdown in 1922. The right tackle (how did he score a touchdown?) played two seasons (1922-23) with the Racine Legion and the Canton Bulldogs.

Dick Witcher - Witcher played eight seasons (1966-73) with the 49ers, catching 172 passes for 2,359 yards and 14 touchdowns. It's just a shame he never had a chance to team up with Harvey Salem, a tackle who played with Houston, Detroit, Denver, and Green Bay from 1983-92.

Death Halladay - The man's name was Death, but he surely must have looked alive while scoring his two career touchdowns. Halladay played for the Racine Legion in 1923-24, meaning he was on the same field as Candy Miller for one season.

Dave Casper - He may share his name with a friendly ghost, but Casper was mean enough to accumulate 5,216 receiving yards and 52 touchdowns on 372 career receptions. A tight end with Oakland, Houston, Minnesota, and Los Angeles, he played from 1974-84 and was All-NFL numerous times.

Cody Grimm - Don't fear the Reaper, and you really don't need to fear Grimm too much either. In three years with Tampa Bay (2010-12), he managed just two interceptions in 12 starts. He did bring one back for a touchdown in 2010. 

The following players receive honorable mention for having Halloween-, horror-, or autumn-related names: Mike Scarry, Kordell "Slash" Stewart, LaRod Stephens-Howling, Webster Slaughter, Spider Lockhart, Dick Wolf, Jim Apple, Ryan Leaf, Michael Hay, Vlad Ducasse.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Fantasy Football: What's Normal?

The Grab Bag Sports bloggers all play fantasy sports. From the racing league that Speedgeek created, to hockey and basketball, we've played together in many different types of leagues. But are we wasting our time? Or are we just like everyone else? This issue was kind of addressed in the discussion Wedge and I had concerning his "return" to watching football. But after having fun watching a dumb 49ers/Rams game last night with some friends in a fantasy league (a game none of us would've ever cared to watch without hoping for a Brian Quick explosion or something similar), I really started to wonder about the real data behind fantasy football.

The Fantasy Sports Trade Association has some impressive data and research results posted. Below I will highlight some of their numbers and statistics and do my best to gauge if each applies to me or not. According to the FSTA site, the data represents all fantasy sports (and not only football).

80% of fantasy players are male.

I am currently in four football leagues. Counting co-owners, we have 47 people (42 teams), and six of them (about 13%) are female. I have two leagues where the 20% number is right on. My other two leagues, though, have one female in 22 combined owners.

The average fantasy player has played for 9.51 years.

I've played for 17 years, and many of my friends are closer to that number. But we've definitely included new players most years, so that number could be fairly accurate.

The average fantasy player spends 8.67 hours each week on fantasy sports.

I feel like I spend quite a bit of time on fantasy sports. Maybe 30 minutes each day. That's kind of a lot, right? That's still only 3.5 hours! Are any of you spending NINE HOURS setting lineups and making trades? To get my total to the average, one of you is spending 14 hours! You're ridiculous.

The average fantasy player spends 17.89 hours each week on sports in general.

Wedge and I covered this in our discussion, and I think this number is accurate enough. I have some busier weeks where I'm closer to only 10 hours of sports, but I'm sure I go over 20 hours at times as well, especially around the holidays and bowl season. During baseball season, I'm sure I hit 18 hours each week on the Cubs alone most of the time.

46.8% of leagues have fees.

I'm way under this number. I'm probably in the minority, but I hate playing fantasy sports with money involved. It takes all of the fun out of it for me. I'd say fewer than 10% of my leagues have had fees, and I've never paid more than $20.

78% of fantasy players have at least a college degree.

Taking a quick look at my current leagues, and guessing in some cases, I'd say we're closer to 60-70%. Of course, many offices have work leagues, and some of those will be at 90-100%.

Other interesting numbers:

  • The average fantasy player spends $111 per year (league fees, transactions, web hosting, etc). 65% pay under $50 in entry fees each year, while 9% spend more than $300. (Obviously, not me.)
  • 74% of fantasy players research fantasy data from at least four different sports news websites. (I'm in the other 26% here. Maybe some years at draft time, I might have hit four different sites. But I usually stick with a couple of favorites.)
  • In the United States, 19% of all males (and 8% of all females) play fantasy sports.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Tales From the Gym: Flip Flop Man

I try to get to my apartment's exercise facility as often as I can, and while the program I usually do on the elliptical machine is only 28 minutes long, that is often enough time to witness some amazing sights. I figured it's time to start sharing some of the things I see. Please note, I am not a super fit exercise dude. If you're into that though, you should check out our friends (and fantasy football foes!) Tracy and Mike at the Mass and Shred Podcast.

So today, I had the room to myself for about 10 minutes. Then a guy walked in, talking on his cell phone. He sat down on a bench press machine and finished his call before hanging up and doing some reps. After about five minutes, he got up and went to a treadmill. That's when I noticed his FLIP FLOPS. He turned on the treadmill, standing on the sides at first to gauge the speed. Then he jumped on and went at it, with the flip flops completely flip-flopping on his feet. He ran for a good 30 seconds, and that was enough. Defeated, he walked out the door. His workout was done.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Skipping Football: One Year Later

Regular readers may remember that last fall Wedge declared he was taking a year off. Like John Grisham's story that inspired "Christmas With the Kranks," Wedge was indeed Skipping Football. As a new dad with increasing home and work responsibilities, he decided it would be a great experiment that, at the very least, would free up some of his time throughout the week, which is perfectly understandable. But now the experiment is over, and he is free to watch again. Wanting to know his thoughts now that he's had time to reflect and get back into watching games, I did a quick interview with Wedge.

Mike: So first, what are your initial thoughts about "returning" to football? Was there a sense of elation? Or was it really not a huge deal mentally?

Wedge: Honestly it wasn’t a big surge of elation or celebration.  More than anything, it was relief. Because it was so hard to do. I don’t mean via my willpower. I mean it’s incredibly hard to avoid football in this country without abandoning mediums altogether. I don’t know how to explain it to anyone other than telling them to try it; you get a real sense for how much market saturation football has.

People might say there are always alternatives, and sure there are, but how many quality alternatives are there for a sports fan in the US? Especially on weekends when football takes over 90% of the primary TV, radio, and social media landscapes.

Mike: What are some things you realized that you'd missed the most? Coaches' challenges, right?!

Wedge: Certainly not coaches challenges. In fact, dedicating yourself to watching other sports makes you realize how terrible the NFL (and NCAA) are at doing play review. Its a simple concept really: have a person dedicated to reviews, when one is needed do it fast and do it accurately. In cases where it can be automated via artificial intelligence, do it now (see: tennis). If you can’t make a decision after watching two replays, then it’s too indecisive to change anything. With modern technology there’s no reason that takes more than one minute tops. I’m a fan of getting calls right, but too often the challenge function is abused to get a free timeout or out of spite and, in both cases, that’s when they should be able to decide quickly that it’s a waste of time and to move on, just like in tennis.

But back to your question, I definitely missed some things. Mostly I missed the game of football and the variety. Football is so spread and there are so many games that it lends itself to easily finding exciting competition. I’m even more convinced that the announcers and media covering football are by far the worst in football. However there’s one exception. I missed being able to wake up early on Saturday mornings with my son and being able to turn College GameDay on in the background. That show is the fandom appreciation show that every other sport tries to copy and the NFL wishes it had. Those guys do good analysis and back stories, but more importantly the stars are the fans in the back constantly getting face time, and they spread their wealth visiting all kinds of different schools. If it were MLB they’d only be at Yankee Stadium and Fenway every week.

The last thing I’d say I missed is football’s willingness to change and make adjustments. Many of the other sports I watched (rugby, soccer, baseball, hockey, motorsports etc.) have some severe issues with their rules/procedures and the only thing stopping them from being fixed are the sporting bodies' unwillingness to make changes. Football by comparison isn’t even the same sport it was 10 or 20 years ago because it makes so many changes, but no one has complained to go back on the competition changes. And even while they fall very short on some things they at least acknowledge the issues. FIFA on the other hand, I watched them completely ignore three different times this/last year when a player was knocked 100% unconscious for 10+ seconds and then the team left them in the game once they came to. Or Formula 1 and their lax safety rules that led to the Jules bianchi incident. Even the NFL doesn’t have the balls to defend that kind of stupidity.

Mike: What are your thoughts on fantasy football, concerning watching or not watching NFL games?

Wedge: It's funny because this was where most people told me this was a terrible idea, because there’s no way I’d be able to do well in Fantasy Football by not watching the games, and I just don’t get it. People forget that its purely statistics and chance.

A prime example: T.Y. Hilton just ripped off a massive game on Thursday night. No amount of watching football games would have helped you predict that was going to happen. If anything watching games can have a negative effect on fantasy because it’s like watching the memory line at a roulette table where you convince yourself you see something instead of remembering statistics and probability and trends.

All that said when I wasn’t watching football I didn’t win either league I played in, but I also didn’t come in last either. According to Yahoo, in your league I set the record for strongest strength of schedule. Again, I’m not sure how watching football would change my ability to do anything about that. This year I’m off to a good start but not because of watching anything because for the last 10 years all my picks are based on statistics and Yahoo/CBS rankings.

Mike: I watch the Saints, try to watch the Broncos, and try to watch at least some of the prime-time games if I can (Thursday, Sunday, Monday night). Throw in LSU and parts of random college games, and I'm probably at about 15 hours per week. Obviously there are some who would be closer to 20-25 hours per week or more, so at least I'm not as obsessed as some. I also get a lot of work done (or play with kids) while watching football. If it isn't the Saints or LSU, I'm never just sitting idle and watching. What about you? How much time do you think you're spending? Do you feel like it's a waste of time, or can it just be a healthy hobby comparable to something like fishing or golfing?

Wedge: Hobby is the most important word you mention there. Yes it most certainly can be a healthy hobby and something on in the background during other activities, and that’s what I’m doing most of the time. But the issue I was testing for, and one I think a majority of the country has, is that it’s not a healthy hobby for many people. I am addicted to competition/sports. Just watch me on twitter: I go all in on anything I watch. You’re talking to a guy who once watched the final table of the World Series of Poker live for three hours. But with most other sports you can do ebbs and flows and it doesn’t take over your life. With football I feel like this country has crossed over the line for “healthy.”

At the end of the day all sports are entertainment, they are an escape from normal everyday life, but when it becomes more important than that, when you neglect life for entertainment, then it’s crossing the line. I wouldn’t say I was there, but I know many people who are, and I’m sure I was at least in the area where I could have been doing more productive things with my time or expanding my horizon of what information I was taking in, listening to music, other sports, documentaries, whatever.

Before this experiment I probably dabbled with the 25+ hour mark because I will take live sports over syndicated television any day, so when I’m lying in bed, working in my garage, cutting grass or running on the treadmill, etc. I’d put whatever NFL or college football game was on. But sometimes you get sucked in and suddenly you are up at 12:30am because you need to see how the North Southern Midwest Central Florida vs. El Paso Dakota State game is going to end. And for many people it sometimes evolves into all the time. But I’d still say I’m not a typical American in that aspect.

If you ever need evidence of how unhealthy the relationship has gotten with football, watch ESPN in the football offseason. More than half the shows and SportsCenter coverage time is still dedicated to football. They don’t do it because they are that obsessed, they do it because the viewers are. That’s unhealthy, by a lot. So too is the way it takes over, not just NFL, but college, and high school, and the draft, and people just talking about it, and people talking about the people who talked. There are so many other quality sports out there people can watch, and its better than 70% of the football content that’s broadcast; the boycott was more about that large majority of football junk rather than the minority of really good games.

People leave public gatherings where they were having a good time to go home and watch a football game of non-importance. There are others who can’t fathom trying anything else. But you could easily replace the word “football” with any other activity and make many cases for other things. Football is just more common.

Like you said, it should be a hobby, and people should have many healthy hobbies. Don’t be the guy that only hunts, or only plays golf; instead, be a person who has tried out anything there is to try. Have a favorite beer, but make sure you try out some other beers to see if you like anything else.

Mike: After taking a year off, how do you feel about the current schedule, where there is basically football on TV nearly every night? Would you like to see it scaled back or expanded? For example, Thursday night football is fun and all, but it's also part of what made Thanksgiving football so special. 

Wedge: As you can tell from the last question, this is one of my biggest pain points about football is over-saturation. It doesn’t know when to stop itself. I attended the University of Southern Mississippi when the concept of playing college games on a Thursday night was invented. It seemed crazy. USM announced we were going to play on a Thursday, we stopped classes at lunch time so people could tailgate, and the university had to rent extra lights to make sure the field was bright enough for TV. But they did it because it meant they finally would get some primetime air because the big conferences dominated TV on Saturday. It was new territory for colleges and ESPN.

Only “problem” was it worked so well that the big conferences stole it from the small ones. And now the Boise States of the world have had to move to playing their games on Wednesday and Friday nights, screwing over high schools that traditionally played on Friday. And the NFL is now taking the Thursday slice from the big college conferences and playing games on Saturdays by the end of the year. To my knowledge, Tuesday night is the only night of a week that does not regularly have a football game on TV during the regular season.

No longer are any of these night games special because everyone plays them every night. There’s 2-3 games every night of the week instead of one matchup getting accolades for a night after a few days off allowing you to build up to it. Same thing for Thanksgiving, I’m totally with you there; tradition stampeded on.

Forget the fans though, lost in all of this is the HUGE negative physical effects weekday football has on players with much less time to recover and rest; or in college, less time to attend classes and study, which is supposed to be their primary purpose of being in college (or at least that’s what the NCAA still claims). The NFL keeps pretending like they care about the player safety so much, yet they added Thursday night games full season, play London games every year, and proposed adding two more weeks to the schedule, all to the detriment of players' bodies.

Mike: I gave up soda this year, and honestly it wasn't that hard. (Shout out to seltzer for making it possible!) You know how much I loved Coke, but it really didn't phase me after a couple of weeks. I just don't know if I could completely give up football though. I'd say, aside from necessities and things like spending time with family,  my top five most difficult things to give up would be (in order): music, horror movies, baseball, football, pizza. What is your top five?

Wedge: Man, just like you mention seltzer making it possible for you, frankly sports made it possible for me. Giving up football was only possible when I could still get sports fixes with baseball, hockey, tennis, rugby, soccer, IndyCar, Sports Car racing, Formula 1, UFC, Olympics etc.

Excluding family and necessities, the five most difficult things for me to give up now I think would be: Music, the internet, going out to eat, travel for leisure, and streaming documentaries/movies.

Mike: Any final thoughts?

I said a lot already, but I think the biggest sports related epiphanies I had during this football layoff were watching other sports and seeing things I wish football would adopt. For example:

#1 – From rugby, the best thing football could adopt is the extra point procedure. Only one of the players on the field during the touchdown would be allowed to attempt the extra point. Instant revolution in the NFL. Fantasy gets a whole lot more interesting, and we stop wasting a roster spot on kickers.

#2 The America’s Cup. I already wrote about it on GBS, but I’m still amazed and love that the champion gets to choose the rules by which they defend their crown. I really wish they could do this in other modern sports to some effect and let the games evolve each year. That’s what modern day sports are missing. That was the biggest thing people kept telling me throughout this whole thing. They kept trying to tell me how I was missing all these games, but at the end of the day I was missing the same old thing, a footnote in the history books in a way.

Imagine if this was the year the champion said all teams can only field 7 players and that no punts were allowed… and I missed that!? Then yeah, then I’m missing out. The best players would be the ones who excelled no matter the rule sets. You could tell stories about the different years and the different rule sets that had to be followed. It would add so much more significance to everything.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Tecmo Super Bowl Fun

If you've been reading our blog for any amount of time, you're likely aware of my feelings about Tecmo Super Bowl and wouldn't be surprised to know that I probably play it more now than most of us did back when it was the raddest game available. In fact, there are so many fun quirks to this game that I am either remembering after all these years or realizing for the first time.

We all remember Bo Jackson and Christian Okoye completely annihilating our players and running with super turbo speed, particularly late in season mode. But there is so much more. Below are just a few of the ways that Tecmo keeps us on our toes, even in 2014.

  • Quarterback season stats have a cap of 63 passing touchdowns. I didn't remember this one and was pretty upset when I had to go count all of my players' receiving touchdowns the other day during my late-season surge toward 100 passing scores. Why was there a cap? Did they assume we must've been cheating if we got that high? Why 63? Not 60 or 65?
  • The same guy coaches every team. Seriously. Whenever they announce a division winner during season mode, the players are all celebrating with the same exact coach. Laughing white guy with a hat. Every time.

  • When you tackle the computer's player in the endzone for a safety, he gets up and keeps running. It's like he's completely ignoring reality while acting like an All-Pro player who is eluding all tacklers. Sorry, Johnny Hector. We're on the bench celebrating our two points already. Can you please bring that ball back so your team can kick it to us now?
  • The computer does not care how many of your players are injured. I recently had three of my four running backs out, forcing me to play a receiver in the backfield for two games. No free agent signings.

  • Fumbles void all stats. If you complete a 90-yard pass and then fumble, you will not get the stats for that play. This even counts if you make the computer fumble following a touchdown.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Thoughts of a (Crazy) Person in Four Fantasy Football Leagues

I've played in four fantasy leagues in one season before. But in those other years, at least one of the leagues was a joke. For a while we had a stupid league with hilarious scoring settings, like negative bonuses and 100-point field goals. Obviously, I wasn't stressing much about that league.

But this year I'm in four leagues, and I'd like to win all four of them. And it kind of sucks. The four leagues cover different facets of my life: family, friends, podcasters, and work. Who wouldn't want to win all of those leagues?

After a weekend where I went 4-0, bringing my overall record to 16-4 across all leagues through five weeks, here are some thoughts, both for anyone considering doing this in the future and to remind myself of this insanity for next year.

  • I own or play against every important player every week. Often both at the same time. "Go, Demaryius, go! No wait! Don't go THAT much! Wait, yes. Go! Score on this defense!" This is not uncommon in my house this year. My kids think I'm nuts. And I am.
  • I've never had so much riding on a Redskins/Seahawks game. Yet last night, there I was with three leagues depending on different outcomes in the Monday night contest. I basically needed Niles Paul to be terrible (he was), Seattle's defense to be unimpressive (they were), and Marshawn Lynch to score a touchdown (he did, at the very end). In a way, yes, this makes it fun to watch football. But on the other hand, I miss just watching the Redskins and the Seahawks (or other random teams) without caring much about what happens.
  • The work league is the worst one. Playing friends and family members is fun. You'll win and you'll lose, and everyone will have fun talking trash via the league site, social media, etc. It makes the holidays fun, but you don't interact in person with most friends or relatives on a daily basis. The work league is the opposite. Everyone sees each other every day throughout the entire day. I'm currently 4-1 and in third place (12 team league), but I'm definitely worried about slipping up here. It's pretty brutal. (Of course, in the meantime, I'm letting the nine losers below me in the standings know I'm awesome.)
  • It's best to own good players across all leagues. I was worried about this at first because of injury concerns and the possibility of hitting four different waiver wires when a star goes down. But I secured Reggie Wayne in all leagues at great draft value, and it's good to know he'll never beat me. Unless I'm playing against Andrew Luck, of course. Other players I own in multiple leagues include: Peyton Manning, Jimmy Graham, Desean Jackson, and the New England defense. If I'm dumb enough to play in this many leagues again, I'll try to make this happen more often.

Upcoming football content: I'll be interviewing Wedge about his return to watching football this season and will be live-blogging while watching the 1988 football flick Johnny Be Good for another edition of GBS at the Movies.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Week One Fantasy Football Recap

(Racing fans, if you missed Speedgeek's first post since Blogathon, check it out here!)

Below is a quick recap from the first week of the 2014 fantasy football season.

Play of the Week: Matt Ryan

It's possible that Ryan was drafted as a backup in some leagues, but owners who played him against New Orleans got his career high of 448 passing yards along with three TDs and zero interceptions. Other big plays included Julius Thomas, who caught seven passes for 104 yards and three scores, and the San Francisco defense, which was projected to struggle against Dallas and instead scored a touchdown while piling up sacks and interceptions.

Upset of the Week: Robert Griffin III

Hopefully you didn't draft Griffin as your starting QB, but if you did, you're probably looking for a replacement already. Griffin was held to two rushing yards, severely affecting his fantasy value. With 267 yards, no scores, and a lost fumble, it'll be hard to have confidence in him moving forward unless the Redskins allow him to use his feet more.

Biggest Zero: Cody Latimer

When it was announced that Wes Welker would miss four games, many speculated that Cody Latimer would be the main beneficiary of Welker's missed time. Instead, he didn't see a single target in a game that saw Peyton Manning completing passes to everyone else in the stadium. Latimer is still owned in 22% of Yahoo leagues, but that could drop drastically as Welker's return nears.

Player to Grab: Justin Forsett

Forsett is currently available in 88% of Yahoo leagues, but that is going to change quickly. With Ray Rice cut from the team, the door is open for Forsett to have a big season. In week one he rushed for 70 yards and a touchdown on only 11 carries. However, Bernard Pierce will see some of the touches, and Forsett may not end up being a solid play every week. Another gutsy add would be Josh Gordon, who could actually see his full-season suspension reduced significantly very soon. If he gets it knocked down to eight games, he'd be a key receiver to take you down the stretch. He's owned in more than half of Yahoo leagues though.

Player to Trade: Percy Harvin

Harvin is great for the Seahawks, but I don't believe in his ability to maintain high fantasy value. Even in a game where he hauled in all seven of his targets and got four rushing chances, he didn't even match receivers like Mike Wallace, Reggie Wayne, Julian Edelman, or Anquan Boldin. And how long can Harvin last without getting hurt again? There are many owners out there who think highly of Harvin, and if I could get a solid RB for him right now, I would do it. I believe his numbers as a WR are replaceable.

Monday, September 8, 2014

I Sing the Formula Electric (Mostly)

It's occurred to me just today that after months and months of hearing about Formula E, the FIA's new electric formula car racing series, we are now just mere days away from the first event. Testing has taken place, the teams have (mostly) named their drivers, and as far as all the pre-event publicity goes, it sounds like things are actually going to go down in Beijing this weekend. As I tend to do with most new things, I haven't jumped onto the bandwagon with both feet (I hardly think this is going to replace F1, as I've seen in some suggest, though I could see the September through June calendar making it a de-facto latter day A1GP during the normal racing offseason months), but I am very, very curious to see how things go.

I've been spurred into writing a little something before the Beijing debut by a columnist that I usually enjoy, Peter M. De Lorenzo, who seems to have eaten a giant bowl of grumpy flakes over the weekend, or possibly a mostly silent electric car ran over his foot recently. Whatever the case, PMD not only isn't bullish about Formula E, he basically seems to be rooting for it to fail all together, which seems awfully mean spirited and unnecessary, if you ask me.

(A word of full disclosure right here: one of the major backers of the Formula E series is Renault, who is providing the powertrain for the Formula E cars, along with most of the technical support for the cars. I work for Nissan, who is a corporate allied partner with Renault. So, yes, while I suppose I probably hope that Formula E succeeding means that Nissan might sell an extra Leaf electric vehicle or two, I've yet to have a single conversation with anybody at my workplace about Formula E. I sort of suspect that 99.9% of the people at my office don't even know that it exists, and don't care about it one way or the other. Believe you me, this is coming from a standpoint of "I like racing" much, much more than a standpoint of "I hope somebody makes money". I'm certain that there are far more effective ways for a company to make money than by supporting/advertising in a burgeoning, mostly unknown racing series. I just like racing.)

A criticism that I've heard, and that PMD somewhat addresses by pointing out the billed "sustainability" of Formula E, is that this is some sort of future "replacement" for Formula 1. Oh, my. Um, no way. First of all, Formula 1 has worked on its own "sustainability" this year by introducing the hybrid-turbocharged-V6 formula for this year (which has been pretty darned effective, in my opinion, producing similar lap times to last year, at about 30-35% less fuel use...this is a whole other topic, though). If F1 is positioning itself for the future, then why would the FIA feel the need to position Formula E to "take over" at some point in the distant future? Secondly, motor/battery technology in this type of application (high power/low weight/semi-reasonable endurance) is basically in its infancy. The cars are going to be a fraction as quick as Formula 1, though to my eyeball, they don't look all THAT slow to me.

No, Formula E is going to be its own thing, not replacing any other existing thing. Really, the argument here is: "something new" or "no new thing"? I'll take the "something new", personally. It gives me something to watch in the off-season. So, what we're getting is a slew of recognizable name drivers (Bruno Senna, Nicolas Prost, Sebastien Buemi, Jarno Trulli, Nick Heidfeld, Stephane Sarrazin, Jaime Alguersuari, Sam Bird, Karun Chandhok, Oriol Servia, Nelson Piquet Jr., Lucas di Grassi, Katherine Legge, Franck Montagny, and others) for teams that many of us have already seen elsewhere (Andretti Autosport and Dragon/Virgin Racing, to name a couple), using cars of a sort that we've never really seen before, using what's more or less new technology. And they're going to be run in the middle of large cities, many of which have never had racing on their streets or even anywhere nearby (Beijing, Buenos Aires, Berlin and London, to name a few, though I suppose F1 did run near Buenos Aires years and years ago). Putting racing in these locales near large concentrations of people who have never had first-person contact with racing has the potential to not just attract new fans to Formula E, but new fans to all of motorsport. Can somebody outline for me how exactly THAT is a bad thing?

Are there downsides here? Of course. The battery capacities are not to the point where they can run a full race distance, so each driver will have to hop out of their car and hop into a totally different car around halfway. That's admittedly pretty dorky, and I do hope that the technology improves over the course of the coming seasons in order to eliminate this. And for reasons I can't quite make out, the FIA has decided to introduce the ludicrous "Fan Boost", where people can log into the Formula E website and vote for their favorite driver, who will then get a Mario Kart-esque five second boost of roughly 40 HP. That is ridiculously gimmicky, but at least a five second boost is probably only good for one pass, so the effect should be fairly small.

In the end, what we're getting here is this: a different kind of racing with some very capable drivers, in some different areas where we've never seen racing, using some technology that we've never really seen in race cars before. It's not going to replace F1 or NASCAR or anything else. It's something extra to follow, and maybe even attend, should you feel the urge (though unless you live in or near one of the site cities, I can't really imagine justifying a special trip for a one-day event). If you're half the racing junkie that I am, it's probably worth a look. It's going to be on Fox Sports 1, starting early this Saturday morning (with color commentary from retired IndyCar legend, Dario Franchitti!) at 3:30 AM Eastern, so you may want set your DVR. Will it be a great show or a fiascotastrophe? It's anybody's guess, at this point, but I'll be watching to find out.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Brewers and Matt Garza Get an Early Look at the Cubs' Future

A few months ago I posted about Matt Garza's dumb comments to Jeff Samardzija, who he essentially told to "pitch his way out of Chicago." For a minute let's put these two things aside: I hate the Brewers, and I believe pitchers will wish they were pitching in the Chicago Cubs lineup in the very near future. Instead, let's focus on the facts.

Last night, Matt Garza took the ball for the Milwaukee Brewers with a chance to get his team back into the top of the division. The Cubs, yes the very team Garza suggested Samardzija should abandon, had knocked the Brewers out of first place the night before; however, Garza sees himself as an ace and was set to face a 2014 Cubs lineup without Anthony Rizzo or Starlin Castro. This should've been an easy win over a team Garza openly disrespected despite being treated like nothing less than a star pitcher during his time there.

Of course, the Cubs prevailed and did so easily. Garza was severely outpitched by rookie Kyle Hendricks, the NL's Rookie of the Month in August. The victory completed a sweep for the Cubs, who are looking more and more like the team fans have been waiting to see, even with their two current best players out with injury. While Garza fell to 7-8 in another injury-plagued season, Hendricks moved to 6-1 and now owns an ERA (2.02) that is about half of Garza's (3.87).

Hendricks is just one of a few options the Cubs seem to have ready to replace recent higher priced pitchers like Garza, Samardzija, and others. Perhaps most importantly, he's healthy, something Garza could rarely claim during his Chicago stint.

The point here is that I believe the change is finally in sight. For now, it's fun enough to watch my Cubs sweep the Brewers right out of a September division lead. But starting in 2015, players like Garza should finally be trying to pitch their way IN to Chicago. Milwaukee can keep Garza. I'll take the kids who beat him.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Fantasy Football Player Profile: Julian Jones

Name: Julian Jones
Team: Atlanta Falcons
Position: Wide Receiver
Why you want to own him: You don't, dummy.

So you're at your auction draft this weekend. having a few beers, feeling good. You begin to think you might be a little weak at wide receiver and plan to make a splash when the next top one is on the auction block. Suddenly your buddy calls out Jones from Atlanta. J. Jones, wide receiver. Jul. Jones. You immediately start to calculate how much you're going to bid.

Don't do it!

Your crafty friend may have just attempted the ultimate of shenanigans. He's hoping that everyone in the room will begin bidding the amounts they'll spend on Falcons receiver Julio Jones, who averaged nine touchdowns and over 1,000 yards in 2011-12. The only problem is that everyone is actually bidding on JULIAN Jones, a rookie receiver out of Arkansas State.

Yes, your friend is a jerk. Julian Jones did score four touchdowns as a senior last year. Heck, he even scored seven times on only 13 catches as a junior. But he's no Julio Jones.

Don't be the guy who fell for the wrong Adrian Peterson all those times. Instead, be the guy who calls Tony Gonzalez's name. It's likely that one of your lame friends will not know that he's retired. And if you get stuck with him, you can always just say you paid a buck out of respect for the greatest tight end ever and that you knew you could sacrifice a draft pick and still win this joke of a league.

Happy bidding!