In case you were busy dancing like no one was watching, despite the fact many, many people were watching, here's what you missed in sports on Monday.
Clayton Kershaw pitched a shutout and hit a go-ahead home run in the eighth inning as the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the San Francisco Giants, 4-0 to open their 2013 season. "I've been playing at such a high level for a number of years, and now it's time for me to make an impact at every level of the franchise," Kershaw said after the game, while directing traffic in Dodger Stadium's serpentine parking lot, adeptly moving those headed to the 110 away from those headed toward the 101. Kershaw reportedly spent the remainder of his evening helping the grounds crew reseed the playing surface, before finally heading to the locker room to do the team's laundry.
Mike Conley and the Memphis Grizzlies sent the Spurs to their second consecutive defeat, winning in Memphis, 92-90. Conley hit the game-winning shot with six-tenths of a second left on the clock, but was also held without a steal for the first time in 64 games. "I'm out of the game," Conley said after the win. "I've been taking things my whole life, but I'm done. I've got a wife now, and I think a more stable life is what we need." Despite these comments, Conley was, admittedly, "intrigued" by a plan that Marc Gasol was putting together for "one last big score," but at press time had still refused to commit to any more steals in a potential first-round matchup with the Denver Nuggets.
In case you were out all night looking for the afikomen, here's what you missed in sports on Tuesday:
Dallas got a crucial win in the Western Conference playoff race, beating the Los Angeles Clippers, 109-102, at home. Clippers forward Blake Griffin, who had a potential game-winning shot waved off at the end of regulation after he fouled Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki, said after the game, "Dirk, man, respect his game, but the guy's a real Batusi dancer." When told of Griffin's comments, a puzzled Nowitzki asked, "Wait, is he calling me old? Like Adam West? Or lame? Is he saying I cheated? I don't get it. We won the game. What the hell is this? Ask him what he meant by that." When asked, however, Griffin responded, "Nah, guy just dances the Batusi, you know" before winking at the gathered media and jutting out his mouthpiece with a half smile.
The United States Men's National Team earned a rare road point at the Estadio Azteca, holding Mexico to a scoreless draw in a World Cup–qualifying match. U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann credited his team's resolve to their prematch preparation, in which Klinsmann himself berated his team in Spanish and threw bags of unidentifiable liquids at them as they attempted corner kicks. When asked if his own experience winning matches in Mexico with West Germany led him to that training technique, Klinsmann responded, "Um sure. Yes. Let's go with that."
In case you were out pretending like you've seen and have an opinion about Oscar nominee Amour, here's what you missed in sports on Thursday.
The Cleveland Browns have filled their vacant head coaching position, hiring Rob Chudzinski away from the Carolina Panthers. It has also been reported that Chudzinski is targeting former San Diego head coach Norv Turner to be his new offensive coordinator. "I can't imagine a more Cleveland set of hirings than Chud and Norv," said longtime Browns fan Milt Johnson. When asked to try harder and really push his imagination, Johnson let out an exasperated sigh, saying, "Fine, I guess that they could have hired like Chan Gailey and an old, overweight Golden Retriever named Honey, but I don't really know how having a dog as an offensive coordinator would work."
Black Monday delivered. The first morning of the offseason for 20 of the league's 32 teams brought a stunning wave of pink slips, as more than half of those 20 teams responded to their disappointing campaigns by firing at least one prominent member of their front offices or coaching staffs. Most handled it with class. Bud Adams of the Titans fired his COO, former general manager Mike Reinfeldt, by noting "I think we’d be better off without him," which is a total disregard for tact that you can only possess by being 90 years old and an NFL owner. It's like sending a telegram whose entire contents read "IDGAF." By the end of the day, seven head coaches and five general managers had hit the street, despite the continued employment of embattled candidates like Mike Munchak, Ron Rivera, and Jeff Ireland. Somehow, though, the only move that seemed truly surprising came out of Chicago, where Lovie Smith was sacrificed for the Bears' second-half collapse.
It's much easier to figure out which coaches and general managers are likely to be fired than fill those same holes with available candidates, so I'm going to avoid prognosticating here. My rule of thumb is that teams tend to notice their personnel's weaknesses as they fire them and replace them with personnel of the opposite persuasion. If they've just fired an offensive-minded leader with a reputation for being a player's coach, teams often look for a defensive coordinator with a disciplinarian streak. I don't know that the pattern I'm describing is necessarily what teams should follow, but I think it's a path that a fair amount of the league's teams do, in fact, take.
So, with that in mind, I want to examine why these 12 men didn't make it into 2013 with their jobs. Understanding what went wrong (or what was perceived to have gone wrong) should give us some insight into whether the moves made any sense and if the teams in question are actually going to improve by making a switch.
There's no clear-cut smoking gun in every case, but there is one factor that plays an obvious role in many of these firings: disappointing quarterback play. By my count, the only firings on Monday that weren't directly preceded by a failed season from the sacked employee's quarterbacks were with Smith in Chicago and the combination of A.J. Smith and Norv Turner in San Diego. You can make a case that Jay Cutler and Philip Rivers didn't quite meet expectations, but consider that each of the nine other candidates oversaw quarterbacks who will either lose their job or be in a battle for their previously secure starting job in 2013, and you have an idea of just how closely quarterback play and coach/GM job security are related.
Let's start with the most surprising firing of Black Monday and work our way down.
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports over the weekend.
Tom Brady led New England on a stirring comeback, but the Patriots' 24 fourth-quarter points weren't enough to beat the 49ers, who prevailed, 41-34, and secured a playoff spot. After the final whistle, Jim Harbaugh and Bill Belichick stared at each other from across the field and simultaneously shouted, "It's probably better if we don't do this!"
It's good to check in with the league's most relevant team statistics about once every four weeks. Four weeks isn't enough to dramatically shift things, but it's enough to see some change from (season) quarter to quarter and actually get a macro-level view into how teams and players are performing and changing. Of course, I haven't gone back and done this since Week 8, so today's look at the numbers is actually going to be with six weeks of gametime in the books. Are the Broncos still treating loose footballs like they're banana peels in Mario Kart? And have the Dolphins continued to press opposing field goal kickers into missed opportunities? Let's see what the numbers say. (Much of the data in this piece comes courtesy of ESPN Stats and Information.)
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports on Tuesday.
Justin Verlander pitched 8.1 strong innings, allowing just one run and three hits, as the Tigers beat the Yankees 2-1 to take a 3-0 lead in the ALCS. "Our pitchers really let us down by allowing two runs," said benched slugger Nick Swisher, attempting to change the narrative of the massive Yankee failure. "You're not going to win a game when your pitchers give up two runs. Dicks."
Although you would be forgiven for forgetting, there were actually brief moments of football that snuck between the blown calls and "bullshit" chants that seemed to dominate this past weekend of NFL action. Some of that football inspired very interesting coaching decisions, and while the best and worst of those decisions normally come up in the "Thank You for Not Coaching" section in the Monday column, there were so many decisions worth discussing this week that it's going to serve as the basis for this edition of the newly named Tuesday column, "Fourth and Short." (Thanks to reader Josh Dixon for giving us a better name than "The NFL Thing We Used to Call 'Fabs and Flops.'")
My personal quest to discover precisely how much of a fool I am (and whether my foolishness is of the greater or lesser variety) has gotten off to a flying start, and I now have a much clearer idea of my failings as a tipster, and indeed as a human. Last week, I posted five picks; three losers, a push, and a tip that won’t be resolved until next May (and is definitely going to win at long odds, just you watch). Now, my hopes and dreams lie in ashes around me, but this week, I intend to rise from those ashes like the Green Bay Packers.
That was originally supposed to read “like a phoenix,” but it seemed inappropriate given that the Cardinals aren’t just undefeated, but also one of the best teams in the NFL, according to the British Conkers System, the origin point for all known sport ranking systems. The Conkers System is Britain’s gift to the world (along with computing, the World Wide Web, and One Direction; you’re very welcome), but I have opted to use restraint and forsake my patriotic duty to use it to make all my picks, and will instead be relying on a combination of cack-handed statistical analysis, poorly understood intuition, and my oft-touted blend of self-delusion and ego. After all, the saying “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” fails to offer any advice on what to do if it is, in fact, broken, so in the absence of any further clichéd guidance, I’m opting to continue as before, although I intend to proceed in a slightly more cautious fashion. So, here are five really solid NFL picks, one blindingly obvious trap bet that only a fool would pick (hello!), and — just to keep you interested to the very end — a value-tastic soccer tip that I would definitely be lumping huge sums on, had I any huge sums left to lump following last week’s escapades.
See if you can detect a theme in these picks, as well as spot the obvious/costly mistake.
"The greater fool is ... a patsy. For the rest of us to profit, we need a greater fool, someone who will buy long and sell short. Most people spend their lives trying not to be the greater fool; we toss in the hot potato, we dive for his seat when the music stops. The greater fool is someone with the perfect blend of self-delusion and ego to think that he can succeed where others have failed. This whole country was made by greater fools."
— Sloan Sabbith, The Newsroom
Hey! She’s talking about me! While I’m pretty sure that I didn’t help to build America, I certainly exhibit the other qualities outlined by Aaron Sorkin’s all-seeing econ-o-vixen. Or at least I think I do; if I’m truly such a great fool, my judgment can’t be trusted, on account of all that ego and self-delusion. Maybe I’m not the fool after all? It’s so confusing. Meta-cognitive awareness really is a minefield.
Now, the greater-fool theory applies to all economic markets, but my personal foolishness is localized to betting. I fare better than most with the bookmaker, but it’s also true to say that I don't always choose my bets wisely. I've yet to find a betting market where I didn’t fancy myself to have some form of edge over the mob, and this means I am prone to gamble on everything from reality television shows to sumo wrestling, with wildly varying levels of success. Over the years, this overweening confidence in my own abilities has led me to take on the markets in the NFL and NBA. I believe I have a solid understanding of both these sports, but that's probably just the perfect blend of ego and self-delusion talking.
“When we talk about mortality, we are talking about our children.” — Joan Didion
Here in the bizarro world of Greater Cleveland, it comes as a surprise to see the late Art Modell narrowcast into a prevailing legacy — the marriage of football and television — an alchemy that former NBC president Dick Ebersol this week dubbed Modell’s “magic formula.”
Because there are countless thousands of us who think of Art Modell specifically as the man who inspired us to stop watching the NFL.
Not just in Cleveland, but in all of professional sports, there have been few figures as alienating as Modell, a man once so full of passion for the game who then betrayed it with stunning deceit.
“Are you ready to lose your 401KKKK??!!” I may hire Hank Williams Jr. to work on that one a little.
We can all breathe a little easier. Football is back. And I figured it went so well last year (just play along) I would again offer up my keen insights as to which weekly NFL gambling propositions are worthy of taking a chance on.
And because I’m in such a good mood after the Cowboys big but sloppy win against the loathsome Giants, this season I’m offering you unlimited *jermajesties!! What the hell do I care? It’s all pretend anyway.
At this point you should have drafted teams and set the stakes in your league, and should already be rooting for your team’s quarterbacks to get into a war of words with Terry Bradshaw. If all of this is crazy talk to you, click here to get caught up on the quantification and celebration of failure at the quarterback position that is the Bad Quarterback League. Once you have all the teams drafted in your league, you are ready for the greatest technological advancement of the 21st century, the BQBL Failure Machine. All you have to do is click on the link below, follow the instructions, and then watch as your BQBL team racks up points for TAINTs, sideline arguments, and arrests.
The Seahawks announced on Tuesday that rookie third-rounder Russell Wilson would start their third preseason game. Wilson's been very impressive against second- and third-string defenses during the preseason, but it's certainly a surprise that he appears to have the upper hand on free-agent pickup Matt Flynn for the starting job in Seattle. If Wilson makes it to Week 1 as the starter, he'll join Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Brandon Weeden, and Ryan Tannehill as one of five rookie quarterbacks starting on the league's season opener.
It's easy to understand why a team might want to turn to their rookie quarterback from day one. It creates excitement within the fan base, instills confidence in the young guy, and begins the arduous-but-necessary process of getting the rookie the needed reps against first-string NFL pass defenses in meaningful action. For the Colts and Redskins, it was the obvious choice. The Browns were committed to Weeden because he's already old enough to be a Grantland writer, too, but the decision to anoint Tannehill as the Week 1 starter and the possibility that Wilson will follow are curious and dangerous.
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports on Thursday.
Michael Phelps out-dueled Ryan Lochte in the 200-meter individual medley to win his 16th Olympic gold and 20th medal overall. A heartbroken Lochte told reporters that he was really sad to finish second, since the other swimmers told him the gold medal is the only one with chocolate inside, and he still can't get the foil off of his 400 IM gold.