Silent Archimedes

Posts Tagged ‘football’

Why we still don’t like soccer and the World Cup

Posted by silentarchimedes on June 20, 2010

I really enjoy watching and playing soccer. I’ve been looking forward to the World Cup ever since the last one. And it’s nice to see that soccer has developed more of a following in America, and there seems to be more excitement this year. However, when you look at some of the things that has already happened in South Africa, you start understanding more why professional soccer still hasn’t taken a foothold (pardon the pun) here. In no particular order, here are reasons that can make a fan flabbergasted at soccer.

Vuvuzela

1. Vuvuzelas – Ok, seriously… I understand that if it’s part of a long tradition in South Africa, it’s fine, but it’s just not true. They became only popular in the 1980s, and introduce in the past couple years to international soccer play. It would be fine too, if it was a few vuvuzelas that provided added excitement and atmosphere, but it is soo loud that players have complained about how it affects their communication and concentration on the pitch. Watching on TV, I can’t even hear the typical sounds of competition, such as cheering, yelling, chanting, ref whistles, etc. It’s a continuous annoying buzz that drowns out all other noise. How is that a respect for the game? If you want to talk about African tradition, how about some drums or African music? That would a really nice atmosphere.

2. Low scoring games and draws – There’s nothing specifically wrong about low scores, but when clean sheets (shutouts) are more the norm than not, it gets a bit boring. Look at these stats for the first round of the knockout phase

– Only 25 goals were scored in the 16 games.

– An average of 1.56 goals per game.

– Thirteen times a team did not score, 15 times a team scored only 1 goal, 3 times – 2 goals and Germany scored four goals in their game.

Which leads to the abundance or high chance of a draw. Of the 16 games in the first round, six ended in a draw (two 0-0, four 1-1). That means 37.5% of the games ended in a draw.

3. Subjective refereeing – Due to the low scores of soccer games, so many issues that normally would be minor are magnified because they can affect the outcome of the game. There have been so many bad calls by referees it’s hard to really appreciate the game. Two that already stand out are the denied US go-ahead goal in the Slovenia game (not to mention all the other bad calls in that game), and the two missed handball fouls (on the same play) on Brazil’s second goal against Ivory Coast.

Bob Bradley – “There are times when a referee blows a foul and now thinks either he didn’t make the correct call on the foul or a previous play,” Bradley said. “Then literally, as soon as the free kick’s taken, he blows his whistle.”

Since writing this post, there’s been two other obviously bad calls by referees that have impacted the game. The phantom off-sides call on Clint Dempsey’s goal against Algeria and the disallowed goal off the crossbar against England’s game tying goal against Germany. Unbelievable.

4. Jabulani – The controversy over the playability of the ball every single World Cup is absurd. Just play the game! Imagine hockey players complaining about the puck, or NBA players complaining about the ball (ok, it did happen once), but stop being so sensitive. Either that, or FIFA needs to establish a standard ball, like in the NFL, and stop making everything a marketing campaign.

Dutch women - Guerilla advertising campaign

5. Orange mini-skirts – Ok, I had to throw this in there, even though I understand FIFA’s reasoning in protecting sponsors and making sure guerilla advertising campaigns don’t occur, but still, who arrests beautiful girls in miniskirts at a sports game?? Kick them out if you have to, but arrest? Go after the beer company if you have to, but to arrest the pawns of the campaign? All FIFA did was bring more attention to the guerilla advertising campaign, and show more the heavy-handedness of FIFA.

6. FIFA – The FIFA governing body reminds me too much of the International Olympic Committee – business suits with big egos and a lack of understanding and sensitivity to its fanbase. FIFA has always enjoyed the subjectivity of soccer because it believes controversy increases awareness and passion for the game. Well, not really. Not if you are trying to break into the United States market. Americans want fairness and want calls to be called right. The controversy surrounding USA’s third goal in the Slovenia game does not make casual fans follow soccer more, it makes them more skeptical of soccer’s fairness. FIFA needs to get off its high horse.

FIFA also hates technology in the game, but when the entire stadium sees the ball cross the goal line in the England-Germany game and the refs disallow it, it’s obvious that simple replay to determine if the ball crossed the goal line must be added. All these horrible calls by refs are ruining the sportsmanship and integrity of the game.

7. Penalty kicks – Penalty kicks are fine, if they were rewarded similarly to penalty shots in hockey, but they are not. They are given for hand balls in the penalty box, if the ref thinks there is any hint of intention. And the subjectivity of whether the hand ball denied a scoring chance is absurd. Even if there was going to be a scoring chance, the chance of a goal is so small. Usually a penalty shot in hockey is only awarded on an obvious breakaway. Of the 28 games through Sunday, June 20, five penalty kicks were given out (4 scored, 1 missed). Two of the five had an impact in the game, whether it was the winning or tying goal. Considering how low scoring the games are, it’s somewhat unfair that penalty kicks play such a big part in a soccer game.

8. Inaccuracy – Sometimes you wonder if the players are kicking a soccer ball for the first time in their lives. These guys are professionals and they practice kicking a soccer ball in all possible scenarios so often, whether it’s at the goal in or outside the penalty box, or a through ball to the striker. So why do so many balls sail waaaaay high over the crossbar or to the side of the goal? Why do so many corner kicks go so far to the other side and out? Why so many through kicks go either too far or too fast? I understand that many times players are trying to be too perfect or they are under too much duress, but seriously? So many of them are just pathetic.

When you look at the precision of other sports, such as Kobe draining a perimeter shot at the buzzer, or Ovechkin putting on evasive maneuvers to score a late winning goal, or Alex Rodriguez crushing a 96mph fastball into the seats for a walk-off homer or many other sports, it just makes soccer look somewhat random regardless of skill and experience. Especially to the casual observer.

Red card

9. Two yellows -> red card -> missed match – Just like the handball-penalty kicks, the way soccer handles yellow cards, red cards and automatic missed match has hints of unfairness. Once again the penalty is too severe for the foul. Not only do you get kicked out of the current match, but you also cannot play in the next game. Since yellow cards are already subjective, it seems so unfair if someone was to get a second yellow early in the game (the first one from the last game), that means an automatic red card, which means he’s ejected from the current game and the next game. For all intents and purposes, a foul in two separate games has cost him and his team two matches.

Oh, and not to forget, when he gets ejected, his team cannot replace his position in the game, which means his team must play a man down! Three penalties for two yellows on a player, and we know some yellows are pretty minor fouls. For reference, if you get a game misconduct in hockey, the other team gets a power play (man advantage) for a few minutes, and the player is ejected only for the current game. Umm, soccer might want to adopt a similar penalty system.

10. Racism – Unfortunately because of the passion, alcohol and whatever other reason, we still hear stories of players having to deal with raucous fans shouting racial and derogatory phrases at opposing players. There’s no place for racism in sports, especially in this day and age. Sports in the United States are more integrated and the population is more diverse than most international cultures. To read about this in soccer, the supposedly most popular sport in the world, it simply turns us off from the sport.

11. Too much passion – Americans are passionate about their sports, especially their football, but we don’t kill a player simply because they messed up. We might affect them psychologically to the point their careers and lives are destroyed, but we won’t take their lives away. There’s already been a couple instances of this occurring in soccer, and it just seems like the sport is a little over the top.

12. Egos – Players not wanting to train (French team this World Cup)? Player getting kicked off the team in the World Cup for cursing out the coach (Anelka of the French team)? That’s just the most obvious in this World Cup, but because the players are national and international heroes and they are one of the highest paid athletes in the world, their egos are also the size of, well, the world. Some of the players have more loyalty to their club team or themselves than their national teams. For example, there were so many questions of the Brazil national team because most of them play on the European club teams now.

13. Lack of sportsmanship – When flopping and diving is considered an art, something is wrong with the sport and the sportsmanship the players exude. Because the players know they can get away with it, sportsmanship goes out the window and they want that instant unfair advantage. What about the Ivory Coast player getting elbowed in the chest by Brazil’s Kaka, only to fall and cover his face as if his face is in pain? Seriously, is this sportsmanship? What about players diving in the ending minutes of a game to waste time only to see the other team drag him off the pitch? Sportsmanship, guys!! Have some! In football, if you waste time, you get a 15-yard penalty. No one wants to see that. Oh yeah, not to mention Zidane’s headbutt from the last World Cup.

14. Soccer is 90 min + ? – Another referee subjectivity. They determine how much injury time to add to each half, but they only have to tell the rest of the world roughly how many minutes it is. Only he knows the exact time the half or game ends. What the…

It’s unfortunate because the game is actually very tactical and requires a lot of teamwork and skill. However, because of the subjectivity, the rules and the commercialization of the sport, it has turned off the big casual market in America.

What other reasons do you guys think can turn off the casual fan from soccer?

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Mad props to Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald – Leaping Larry’s amazing catches

Posted by silentarchimedes on January 11, 2009

Wow, another amazing leaping catch by Larry Fitzgerald of the Arizona Cardinals. Another amazing leaping catch between two close defenders.  There’s a reason they call him Leaping Larry. I’ve always been a fan of Fitzgerald because he played ball at Pitt. I usually root for Pitt because they are in the same city as the one I went to for college.  I don’t remember where but I saw some report about how Dennis Green, the Cardinals’ coach back in 2004 was a close friend of Fitzgerald because Larry was the Vikings’ ball boy back when Green was a coach in Minnesota. Green stated that he would probably draft him third in the first round. Well, that and the fact that Fitzgerald has a good head on his shoulders and is an amazing wide receiver. All he has done since coming into the NFL five years ago is have three years of 1400+ yards receiving. You never hear him complain, especially playing second fiddle to Anquan Boldin sometimes. You never hear him do stupid things. He is one of the reasons the Cardinals are doing well in the playoffs.

The two catches he has in this playoffs have been simply amazing.

TD catch against the Falcons – Wild Card Round, Jan 2009

TD catch against the Panthers – Divisional Round, Jan 2009

Well, Larry has been making unbelievable catches since he was a freshman at Pitt. Check some of these older catches by Fitzgerald:

Larry Fitzgerald insane catch – Insight Bowl, freshman year

Behind the head catch

And here’s a great compilation video that YouTube’s TheFreakShow81 made of Larry’s catches.

Larry Fitzgerald catch highlights

It’s amazing because most of the catches occur against multiple defenders in really tight coverage. This guy has crazy sticky hands, amazing body control and awesome speed. And you’ll never see him celebrate too much. When does he become a free agent so the Giants can sign him to replace Burress? (Larry signed a 4 year $40 million contract after the 2007 season, so looks like he won’t be a free-agent until after 2011. Oh well…)

Mad props…

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Being a sports fan in New York City. What team combinations have had the most success the past 25 years?

Posted by silentarchimedes on January 1, 2009

rangersI was listening to Benigno and Roberts on WFAN on my 3 hour drive from New Jersey to Connecticut on Saturday afternoon. Joe and Evan, both Mets and Jets fans, were ranting with other Mets-Jets fans how that combination of sports teams to be fans of in New York City was probably the worst. Especially with the current Jets collapse after starting out 8-3 and the Mets’ two consecutive late season collapses, the heartbreaking is at an all-timemets high. Well, as a Giants and Yankees fan, it’s been the complete opposite for me. The Yankees made the playoffs 13 years in a row (and winning four championships), while the Giants just came off a stellar Super Bowl dream season, not to mention the 2000 run and this year’s 12-4 season. This led me to do a quick analysis of the different combination of teams of the four major sports that fans can follow in NYC, and which ones have the best happiness and least happiness. First, I will quickly review each team’s success the past 25 years (I chose 25 because I first became a sports fan of a NY team in 1984 with the Yankees, and it’s a nice round number for recent success). Then I will rank the combinations in order of success.

Success will be defined as follows:

ACCOMPLISHMENT POINTS/OCCURRENCE
Winning season 2
Division winner 3
Playoff season 3
Playoff round won 5
Conference championship 15
Championship 20

Points explanation: To be clear, the team accrues points every time one of the accomplishments occur. For example, if the Giants win the Super Bowl this year, they would get points for every single accomplishment, not just the 20 points for winning the championship. That means a championship year for a football division winner would net the team 2+3+3+5(3)+15+20 = 58 points! That also means not all four sports championships are created equal, but they are pretty close, The reason for this is because the excitement and level of accompjetslishment increases up to the championship game. Usually when a team wins a championship, the fans are  relatively satisfied for the next few seasons. A division-winning playoff season coupled with a loss in the first playoff round would net the team 2+3+3 = 8 points. In essence, a championship is loosely equal to seven playoff seasons. Ties in football and the old ties in hockey are counted as non-games when calculating winning percentages.

So, here are the results of the nine New York City metro area sports teams and their successes the past 25 finished seasons. I will update this when the football, basketball and hockey seasons are finished with their 2008 seasons. That means I do not include the Giants accomplishments or the Jets collapse for this season in my analysis.

NEW YORK CITY METRO AREA SPORTS TEAM PROFILES
TEAM RECORD WIN PCT. WIN YRS DIV WIN
PLY YRS
PLY RECORD PLY RNDS RECORD CONF CHMP
CHAMP SUCCESS POINTS
Yankees 2235-1741 .562 21 10 13 78-50 17-9 6 4 366
Mets 2087-1892 .525 16 3 5 30-24 6-4 2 1 136
Giants 215-182 .542 13 7 12 15-9 15-9 4 3 278
Jets 180-218 .452 10 2 8 4-8 4-8 0 0 70
Knicks 1005-1013 .498 13 4 16 89-86 18-16 2 0 206
Nets 882-1136 .437 10 4 13 52-59 10-13 2 0 151
Rangers 863-807 .517 12 3 15 70-76 14-14 1 1 183
Islanders 788-898 .467 10 2 12 41-62 8-15 1 0 117
Devils 918-752 .550 18 7 18 118-98 22-15 4 3 341

WIN YRS – years above .500, DIV WIN – years team won division, PLY YRS – years team made playoffs, PLY RECORD – playoff record, PLY RNDS RECORD – how many playoff rounds team won and lost, CONF CHMP – conference champions, CHAMP – championships

It’s not surprising the Yankees have had the most success the past 25 years. The Devils championship success in the 1990s make them a close second. Although the Mets had 16 winning seasons, they only made the playoffs five of those years because their records were probably closer to .500 than .600. The Jets by far are the worst team. They are the only ones to not even have a conference championship. Conference championships are a major key to a fan’s happiness. All fans hope for is their team to make it to the final round… to the World Series, Super Bowl, or Championship.

new-york-giants-superbowlHowever, the success points by themselves don’t mean much because we can’t compare teams across sports. We need to calculate the total possible points for each team and each sport. In our six points categories, the maximum is 25 (example: 25 possible playoff seasons) except the possible playoff rounds won. The only sport in which playoff rounds won is dependent on the team is football, where there is the extra wild card round. If the team was involved in a wild-card game, then that’s another possible playoff round to be won. In non-playoff seasons, total possible playoff rounds is 3, discounting the wild-card round. From the total possible points each team could have accrued in the past 25 years, we can calculate a success percentage for each team.

The success percentage of the NYC sports teams in the past 25 years, from best to worst:

TEAM RANKINGS
RANK TEAM POINTS TOTAL POSSIBLE POINTS
SUCCESS PERCENTAGE
1 Yankees 366 1355 .270
2 Devils 341 1575 .217
3 Giants 278 1490 (8) .187
4 Knicks 206 1575 .131
5 Rangers 183 1575 .116
6 Mets 136 1355 .100
7 Nets 151 1575 .096
8 Islanders 117 1575 .074
9 Jets 70 1485 (7) .047

devilsThe ordering stayed the same when we used success points except the Mets jumped ahead of the Nets because there are less total points in baseball than basketball (mostly due to playoff rounds). The Yankees effectively led all categories except the number of playoff seasons and playoff rounds won. However, unlike the other three sports, baseball is the hardest to get into the playoffs, even after the wild cards were introduced in 1995. The futility of the bottom four teams coincidentally have a team in each sport. That means a fan of the Mets, Nets, Islanders and Jets have been wallowing in the most misery for the past 25 years. The top four teams are also one in each sport. A fan of the Yankees, Devils, Giants and Knicks would be the happiest four-team fan in the area.

knicks2Now that we have a success percentage associated with each team, the fun part begins. We want to find the team combinations that give fans the most happiness. However, to be realistic, we realize that many fans are not hardcore or even big fans of all four sports. I know a lot of fans that are only into baseball and football, but not the other two. Or they are fans of other cities and teams (traitors) for some of the sports. To allow for combinations that don’t include all four teams, we will simply take the average success percentage of the teams involved.

Before giving the results of a lot of the possible combinations, let’s highlight the very popular baseball-football fans:

NYC HAPPY FAN RANKINGS FOR BASEBALL-FOOTBALL FANS
RANK TEAMS HAPPY FAN PERCENTAGE
1 Yankees, Giants
.229
2 Yankees, Jets
.159
3 Mets, Giants
.144
4 Mets, Jets .074

yankeesWow! If you are a Yankees-Giants fan you have been three-times happier than Mets-Jets fans the past 25 years. The funny thing is that if you are a Yankees-Jets fan or a Mets-Giants fan, the Jets and Mets pull down your overall fan happiness. Being a Jets fan pulls your Yankees fan happiness down by 41%, and being a Mets fan pulls your Giants fan happiness down by 23%. Or to be an optimist, the Yankees and Giants pull up the happiness of Jets and Mets fans. Hehe…

Here are the results of most of the possible combinations of being a NYC metro sports fan. There are too many total possible combinations to list, from 1-team fans up to 4-team fans, so I will make some assumptions in order to remove unpopular combinations. I will assume that multi-sport fans have to be at least a baseball AND a football fan. That means we will only allow combinations in which each must contain a baseball and a football team.

NYC HAPPY FAN RANKINGS
RANK BASEBALL FOOTBALL BASKETBALL HOCKEY HAPPY FAN PERCENTAGE
1 Yankees .270
2 Yankees Giants .229
3 Yankees
Giants Devils .225
4
Devils
.217
5 Yankees
Giants Knicks Devils .201
6 Yankees
Giants Knicks .196
7 Yankees
Giants Nets Devils .193
8 Yankees
Giants Rangers .191
9
Giants .187
10 Yankees
Giants Nets .184
11 Yankees
Jets Devils .178
12 Yankees
Giants Islanders .177
13
Yankees
Giants Knicks Rangers .176
14 Mets
Giants Devils .168
15 Yankees
Giants Nets Rangers .167
16t Yankees
Giants Knicks Islanders .166
16t Yankees
Jets Knicks Devils .166
18t Yankees Jets .159
18t Mets
Giants Knicks Devils .159
20 Yankees
Jets Nets Devils .158
21 Yankees
Giants Nets Islanders .157
22 Mets
Giants Nets Devils .150
23 Yankees
Jets Knicks .149
24t Mets Giants .144
24t Yankees
Jets Rangers .144
26 Yankees
Jets Knicks Rangers .141
27 Mets
Giants Knicks .139
28
Yankees
Jets Nets .138
29t Mets
Giants Knicks Rangers .134
29t Mets
Giants Rangers .134
31 Yankees
Jets Nets Rangers .132
32t Yankees
Jets Knicks Islanders .131
32t
Knicks .131
34 Yankees
Jets Islanders .130
35 Mets
Giants Nets .128
36 Mets
Giants Nets Rangers .125
37 Mets
Jets Knicks Devils .124
38 Mets
Giants Knicks Islanders .123
39 Yankees
Jets Nets Islanders .122
40 Mets
Jets Devils .121
41 Mets
Giants Islanders .120
42 Rangers .116
43 Mets
Jets Nets Devils .115
44 Mets
Giants Nets Islanders .114
45
Mets .100
46 Mets
Jets Knicks Rangers .099
47
Nets .096
48 Mets
Jets Knicks .093
49 Mets
Jets Nets Rangers .090
50 Mets
Jets Knicks Islanders .089
51 Mets
Jets Rangers .088
52 Mets
Jets Nets .081
53 Mets
Jets Nets Islanders .079
54t Mets
Jets Islanders .074
54t
Islanders .074
54t Mets Jets .074
57
Jets .047

islandersBy far, a pure Yankees fan has had the most happiness the past 25 years in NYC. This is followed by the Yankees-Giants fans not interested in basketball or hockey. Throw in the Devils hockey fans with that combination and you are just as happy. The best four-team combo, unsurprisingly, is the top four successful teams, the Yankees, Giants, Knicks, and Devils. My combination of the YGKR is ranked 13th in happiness. If I had been an Islanders fan and not a Knicks+Rangers fan, I would’ve just been as happy. At first glance, this might not make sense since the Islanders success percentage is much lower than the Knicks or Rangers, but because I would not be invested in a fourth sport and team (hockey), the success of the Yankees and Giants keep me very happy even with the Islanders lack of success. The Knicks and Rangers haven’t had enough success to override that extra sport disadvantage. Interesting…

netsOn the flip side, the Mets and Jets dominate the bottom half of the rankings. Their city rivals’ (Yankees and Giants) success coupled with the fact that you can’t be a Mets-Yankees or a Jets-Giants fan (those that are should be forced to move to a one-team city) give their fans plenty to be sad about. If you are solely a Jets fan, you have it worst; being only  happy 4.7% of the time the past 25 years. And for Joe and Evan of WFAN, well, you two have the second worst team combo.

Anyways, hope you enjoyed this little exercise. If you have any comments or suggestions, please leave a comment below (You will be anonymous). Or leave a comment on what team combo you are. Sorry I couldn’t put all the possible combinations on a chart. There are too many to list. And frankly, how many Nets-Rangers fans are there (without being fans of baseball and football)?

To finish up, please vote for the teams you are fans of below. Of course, you can pick multiple teams.

Posted in List, Poll, Science and Math, Sports | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments »

Point differential a telling statistic in the NFL

Posted by silentarchimedes on December 16, 2008

On November 3, I wrote a blog comment on ESPN‘s Matt Mosley’s NFC East blog article Rapid Reaction: Steelers 23 Redskins 6 :

“What this game has shown is that the Redskins have actually been very lucky with their six wins. Simply look at the point differential. They have scored 171 points but have given up 168! That 3 point differential usually means a .500 record. The Eagles even have a +76 pt diff. The division leading Giants have a +97. The Cowboys have a -3. Seems like the Redskins are closer to the Cowboys. I’d have to say the Eagles are 2nd best in East now. Both Eagles and Giants beat the Steelers, while Skins got destroyed.”

The Redskins were 6-2 before losing to the Steelers. Redskins fans attempted to deride my analysis as simply a Giants fan hating on the resurgent Skins. One fan even said “I think you’re crazy man.” However, ever since my comments, the Redskins proceeded to lose four of their next five games and now sit in last place in the NFC East with a 7-7 record. Their point differential is now a horrible -35. Let’s look quickly at the rest of the NFC East:

NFC EAST W L T PCT PF PA PT DIFF since Nov 3
z- NY Giants 11 3 0 .786 374 246 +128 +31
Dallas 9 5 0 .643 332 288 +44 +47
Philadelphia 8 5 1 .607 369 273 +96 +20
Washington 7 7 0 .500 231 266 -35 -32

Point differential is a very telling statistic of how good a football team is. Although the saying “A win is a win is a win” is true, how well you win or how bad you lose a game provide clues into the momentum of a team. Point differential captures the spread between the strength of the offense’s ability to score points and the defense’s ability to limit points. It also captures the ability of the special teams to do both as well. When a good team consistently maximizes this ratio, the point differential steadily increases and builds over the course of the season.

How telling is the statistic? In 6 of the 8 divisions in the NFL, the division leader has the best point differential. The AFC North, where the Ravens (+112) have a tiny edge on the division leading Steelers (+110) is basically a tie. The only division where this is  not true is the AFC West, where the Broncos -40 leads the Chargers +44. In 7 of 8 divisions, the cellar team has the worst point differential. Once again, in the AFC West, the Raiders -143 is worse than the cellar Chiefs at -132. It is the teams in the middle, where their inconsistency in winning give true meaning to “Any Given Sunday.” Division leaders and bottom feeders do not strongly abide by that saying because they consistently win or lose.

I am surprised that ESPN does not have point differential as a column statistic. The NFL website does. Since point differential is a derived statistic, (Points for – Points Against), ESPN’s thinking is that there does not need to be a column for it.

Patriots flying high

Patriots flying high

So, what team had the greatest point differential in a season since the16-game season was instituted in 1978? Yup, you guessed it. The 2007 16-0 New England Patriots, whose +315 was 127 more than that year’s second place Indianapolis Colts’ (+188) and 413 more than the AFC East’s second place Buffalo Bills (-102). The next team with the best point differential since 1978 were the 1999 St. Louis Rams, whose +284 led to a 13-3 record and a Super Bowl. Which team had the worst -274 point differential since 1978? The 1981 2-14 Baltimore Colts. The 1990 1-15 Patriots had the second worst point differential with -265.

Point differential is now used extensively in the NBA because of how telling it is. The amount of games in a season and points in a game in the NBA coupled with the consistency of the players and plays provides a more predictable environment. However, good teams and bad teams in the NFL also prove year in and year out that point differential is also a good indicator of the strength of a team.

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Why Andy Pettitte owes the Yankees. Just look at Plaxico Burress.

Posted by silentarchimedes on December 4, 2008

Plaxico Burress in a Yankees cap

Plaxico Burress in a Yankees cap

Let me get this straight. Both Andy Pettitte and Plaxico Burress hurt themselves. Albeit one with drugs and the other with a gun. And yes, they hurt their teammates (Pettitte’s might be arguable) and the integrity of their respective games. But physically, they only hurt themselves. The Giants proceeded to suspend Burress for four games and put him on the non-injured reserve list; essentially ending his season. The suspension obviously resulted in major financial repercussions for Burress. The Yankees, meanwhile, welcomed Pettitte back with open arms for the guaranteed $16 million. Even with the Mitchell Report coming out just 10-days after Pettitte exercised his $16 million option.

Now comparing Pettitte and Burress is like comparing apples to oranges. Pettitte has always been a model citizen and family man, whereas Burress has been a headcase of suspensions, fines and showmanship for the Steelers and Giants. You could also bring up the fact that Pettitte used HGH to help recover faster to help his team. Not much moral support for Burress being late to a bazillion team meetings or shooting himself in a club.

However, Pettitte still hurt the integrity of the game of baseball. To all those fans that don’t care if players use steroids or HGH, imagine a game without integrity. Full of gambling and drugs. The game would become a farce, much like wrestling is now. So as much as fans are tired of hearing about performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) in baseball, it’s a necessary fight. Although Pettitte apologized, you can see how differently fans treat PED-using players based on their remorse. Pettitte and Giambi? Back in good grace. Clemens and McGwire? Who are they?

Which brings me to my point. Pettitte is very very lucky the Yankees welcomed him back and fully supported him. The news conference with Brian Cashman and Joe Girardi sitting to his sides as he apologized and answered questions must have been tough to watch for some hardcore baseball traditionalists. There was no compromise regarding salary. The whole contract was honored and fans even cheered for him because he owned up to his mistake. He proceeded to go 14-14 with a 4.54 ERA and a team high 204 innings. However, he battled shoulder problems all year and closed the season with a 2-7 record.

Remember this apology? (Getty Images)

Remember this, Andy? (Robert Browman, Getty Images)

Now Pettitte is a free agent. He owes the Yankees. The Yankees would like to bring him back for $10 million. Pettitte does not want to take a pay cut from his $16 million. His agents are shopping him around, especially to Joe Torre and the Dodgers. Although Pettitte has been saying all year that he wants to pitch in the new Yankee stadium (even jokingly picking a locker in the new locker room on  a tour there), when asked if he would take a pay cut to stay with the Yankees, he dodged the topic and deferred to his agents. One, Pettitte will be 37 next season. Two, Pettitte is no where worthy of a top of line $16 million contract. Three, the Yankees saved his career this past season by welcoming him back. Four, the Yankees saved his reputation by allowing him to show complete remorse and prove himself on the field. Five, he owes all the Yankee fans who supported him this past year.

Is he really going to argue over $6 million in pay? I’m sure he doesn’t need the extra money after earning tens of millions in his career. If it’s about getting what he’s worth, well, he’s not worth $16 million. He needs to give a nice Christmas present to the Yankees and their fans. Stop being business-like, show some gratitude towards the team that saved you and the fans that stood by you.

I’m one of them.

RELEVANT LINKS

NY Times – Agents work to avoid a pay cut for Pettitte
Baseball as America’s Pastime continues to fall further into the past
The disappointing 2008 Yankees Season – Stick a fork in it, the Yankees are done
Analysis: New York Yankees at the half

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Baseball as America’s Pastime continues to fall further into the past

Posted by silentarchimedes on November 19, 2008

Baseball is not a sport built for parity. It is not like the NFL where parity in a 16-game season promotes excitement and competition. It’s not like the NFL where each team has a strong base of hardcore fans and where most fans are fans of watching football as a sport. Football is more exciting to watch than baseball. The biggest complaint from casual sports fans about watching baseball is that it’s boring. This is apparent when we look at the popularity of college football versus that of college baseball or even the MLB minor leagues. Baseball’s lengthy 162-game season and similarly lengthy best-of five or seven game playoffs series are not conducive to small market teams like the Tampa Rays and Florida Marlins capturing the attention and excitement of casual fans around the country.

Penalty - horsecollar tackle

Penalty in football - horse-collar tackle

The drama of baseball takes too long to unfold in this day and age of “keep me interested right nowmentality. Baseball is about rivalries and story lines and history. It is about statistics and tradition. It can be agonizingly slow and frustrating. It’s not like football where all it takes is three hours to resolve the pent up competitive juices. Words you hear about in football are war, in the trenches, cold, frozen tundra, swirling winds, etc etc. Penalties include grabbing the facemask, unsportsmanlike conduct, taunting and horse-collar tackles. Imagine if any of those words are ever used near baseball. Baseball is too slow for this new era of extreme sports. This is why mixed martial arts is gaining popularity over its more traditional and more boring sport, boxing. Since when is boxing considered boring? This is why a sport like soccer continues to have difficulty gaining popularity in America. The sport takes too long to achieve satisfaction. Even a violent sport like hockey has had to transform itself after a period of low scoring games due to the NJ Devils’ inspired zone trap defense. The game now requires faster, younger athletes with more room to show their speed and skills. It was a matter of survival for the NHL, and baseball might be headed that way as well.

MLB Commish - Bud Selig

MLB Commish - Bud Selig

To make matters worse, two factors have had very negative effects on baseball. The steroid era has pushed baseball into a precipitice decline in popularity. The skepticism surrounding the genuity of sacred baseball records being broken during the steroid era has removed two of the main attractions I mentioned earlier, history and statistics. It has removed the excitement of slow journeys toward hallowed records and the respect given to such players. Remember the awe and respect of Cal Ripken when he broke Lou Gehrig’s consecutive games streak or when Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa battled to break Roger Maris’ single season home run record. Of course, the second record is now seen with skepticism and is considered one of the defining moments of the steroid era. The fact that players have seemed unwilling to address the problem of the past ten years is disturbing. The feeling that the players rather protect their cheating teammates than the integrity of the sport leaves many traditional baseball fans disgusted. The second factor is directly related to the steroid era. Bud Selig, the baseball commissioner, has been a  complete travesty to baseball. Although he is good for the owners, fans see him as boring, slow,  biased and ineffective. He continues to brush over the steroid era and had to be fully pushed by even Congress before taking action. His decision to leave the All-Star Game a tie was horrible. And although his decision to add interleague play initially seemed a huge success, it has proven to be a hassle and distraction to fans. He seems unwilling to confront the problems of baseball and his biased views are shown in a somewhat condescending tone when pushed by the media or fans.

So what is baseball to do? For one thing, it needs a new commissioner. One that is younger and understands that baseball requires changes that appeal to younger fans but keeps the traditionalists happy. One that realizes that the steroid era can potentially destroy baseball forever unless a level of happiness is reached among all groups involved, including but not limited to owners, players, former players, Congress, traditionalists and new generation of fans. However, there are things about baseball that are at the roots of its tradition and changing them would prove good and bad. The Rays-Phillies World Series was a disaster. Television ratings have never been lower. However, baseball cannot change the playoffs to one game takes all because the lengthy journey of 162 games culminating in one 9-inning game seems unfair. Although why not? I bet if the World Series was one game, more people would definitely tune in to see who wins. If I’m a Yankees fan, why would I tune in to a best of seven between the Rays and Phillies? Especially when football is on or I can watch DVDs or do something else. However, if it was a 3 hour event, like the Super Bowl, I’d be willing to watch it and even make a social event out of it. Baseball has to be willing to face the problem of why it is declining in popularity. It has to be open to innovation and the possibility of changing tradition for the better of the sport. It has to also lean on the teams that make it a popular sport, like the Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers and Cardinals. Just like the NBA, which always does much better when popular teams like the Knicks and Celtics do well. With the Knicks in a multi-year doom and gloom, NBA has lost a lot of its luster.

Kids and video games

Kids and video games

However, I believe it will be difficult for baseball to regain its name as America’s pastime. It’s a sport that has lost its appeal, most likely for good. Children have more interest playing football, basketball and even soccer than baseball. Inner city kids almost exclusively play basketball now. Nowhere is stickball or other variants of baseball being played in city streets and playgrounds. Additionally, there are too many other things to keep kids occupied nowadays. Video games, internet and hi-def television are far more intriguing options than watching baseball or even rounding up atleast 10 of his or her friends to play a game.

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Giants literally running on all cylinders, crush Ravens 30-10

Posted by silentarchimedes on November 16, 2008

Brandon Jacobs hugs Ahmad Bradshaw

Brandon Jacobs hugs Ahmad Bradshaw

That was a very dominating win the New York Giants had over the Baltimore Ravens today. It is apparent that all this talk about the Giants having the most difficult remaining schedule in the NFL doesn’t matter to them. All the talk about the Giants having the easiest schedule in the first half and not justifying the high power ranking is out the window. The Giants have beaten the Ravens, Eagles, Cowboys and Pittsburgh the past four weeks. Their three-headed rushing attack continues to improve every week as they work Bradshaw more into the mix. They have gained 207, 219 and 200 the past three games. Overall, they have had five 200+ rushing games, and seven 150+ rushing games in the 10 games. Bradshaw was four yards shy today of reaching 100, which would have given each of the three running backs at least one 100+ yard game.

What makes the Giants RBs so dangerous is that none of them go down easily. Jacobs is famously known for his monster truck style of running. That run he had from around the 20 yard line to the 1 yard line were no one was able to tackle him was unbelievable. He also has the speed to run to the outside and push it up the sidelines. I still can’t believe Jacobs outweighs Ray Lewis, the formidable linebacker. However, Bradshaw seems to be the most difficult to tackle. The 77-yard scamper he showed today should have been a 3 yard gain, but the guy just knows how to break tackles. His only penchant has been fumbling, and that is partly due to his hard-to-bring-down style of rushing. If the Giants keep this up, all three RBs will be fresh and healthy come playoff time. They will pose a tremendous problem for defenses. After being pummeled by Jacobs and Ward in the first three quarters, the Giants bring in the fresh legs of shifty Bradshaw in the fourth. The result, a tired and beat-up defense just wants the game to end. Did you see the Raven’s Washington’s face and tiredness after desperately tackling Bradshaw at the end of that 77-yard run?

Derrick Ward

Derrick Ward

Manning has yet to pass for over 300 yards and the Giants have had only two 100+ yard receiving games, but does it really matter? The key for Manning now is to manage the clock, protect the ball, minimize interceptions and continue his signature third down passes and fourth quarter drives, if even necessary.

At this point, the Giants are definitely the best team in the NFL. They are deep on offense and defense. They are a team that is focused and has the ultimate team first mentality. No one has any big egos.  Jacobs has no problem sharing carries with Ward or Bradshaw, since he sees it as helping the length of his career. Bradshaw also has no problem not getting more carries and being the fourth quarter reliever. If the only problem they have is a clock-less Plaxico, that’s okay for now.  As bad as Plaxico has been, he is not like Tiki and his big mouth. Burress even went so far as to pseudo-apologize on FOX NFL. It would be nice to see Burress have a big game one of these days to show that the Giants can still pass.

It’ll be sad come offseason time because some key players, including Jacobs and Ward, will be free agents and it would be difficult for the Giants to keep all of them. If the Giants repeat as Super Bowl champions, forget it. There’s going to be a swarm of money thrown at Giants free agents. And that’ll be a good-bye to the amazing defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo as well.

Related links:

Newsday – Jacobs seeks to remain Giant as contract expires

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What’s going on with the NFL wide receivers brat group?

Posted by silentarchimedes on November 12, 2008

Chad Johnson

Chad Johnson

Hmm, it’s been an awfully quiet season statistically for the top four NFL wide receiver divas. The top ten receivers leading the NFL in yards include none of them. The top 20 receptions leaders include none of them. The top 20 average yards per catch leaders include none of the four. The top 10 receiving touchdowns include none of them. The top  15 receivers leading the league with receptions of 20+ yards or 40+ yards include none of them. These four divas consistently ranked near the top in these categories in years past.  It allowed them to become divas and have the “it’s all about me” attitude. However, it’s been awfully quiet this year. Let’s check it out.

TOP TEN IN RECEIVING YARDS

RNK NAME REC YDS
1 Andre Johnson WR, HOU 67 900
2 Greg Jennings WR, GNB 43 801
Roddy White WR, ATL 53 801
4 L. Fitzgerald WR, ARI 57 791
5 C. Johnson WR, DET 39 774
6 B. Marshall WR, DEN 57 714
7 Lee Evans WR, BUF 37 700
Reggie Wayne WR, IND 49 700
9 Santana Moss WR, WAS 44 672
10 Eddie Royal WR, DEN 52 625

There are some familiar leaders, such as Fitzgerald, Reggie Wayne and Santana Moss. Don’t mix up Calvin Johnson of Detroit with Chad Johnson, aka Ocho Cinco. So where do Terrell Owens, Randy Moss, Chad Johnson, and Plaxico Burress rank in yardage??

RNK NAME REC YDS
19 Randy Moss WR, NWE 43 589
39 Terrell Owens WR, DAL 35 467
47 Plaxico Burress WR, NYG 32 407
61 Chad Johnson WR, CIN 37 349
Randy Moss scoring a rare TD.

Randy Moss scoring a rare TD.

None of the four have lost playing time due to injury. Although Burress was suspended a game and a quarter, as per diva rules. Of the 36 games played by all four of them, they have combined for only four 100+ yard games (Moss 3, Burress 1)!! It’s easy to blame their lack of production on injuries to their quarterback. Brady is injured for the entire season, and both Romo and Palmer have been injured for a majority of the time. However, Moss has had three 100+ games with QB Matt Cassel, so it’s not just due to the Brady effect. Burress’ lack of production with a healthy Eli Manning definitely has to do with his diva distractions resulting from being suspended twice. Additionally, when you look at some of the top receivers now, they are getting their yards even from bo-bo and/or inexperienced QBs. Johnson from Matt Schaub in Houston, Jennings from Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay, White from upstart Matt Ryan in Atlanta and Johnson from pathetic QBs in Detroit.

Their touchdown numbers are still respectable (they average 4.5 while the top 10 yardage receivers average 4.6). However, when you start looking at average yards per catch (YPC), the four divas’ performance starts to degrade. The four average 12.3 YPC while the top 10 average 15.4 YPC. Then, when you look at their total average receptions, 37.5, compared to the top 10’s 49.8 you start getting a better picture of what’s going on. That translates to an average of 4.16 receptions per diva per game while the top 10 receivers are averaging 5.08 receptions per game.

Terrell Owens

Terrell Owens

All four divas are playing far below their career performances. Moss’ four TDs are on pace to rank this year with his trouble years in Oakland (3 and eight) and that crazy year in Minnesota (7). His three fumbles so far are already the most he’s had in any season. He has only averaged 0.7 fumbles per season in his career. This shows a lack of concentration and motivation on Moss’ part. To give a little credit to Moss, he has remained quiet this year and has been a team member, although he has been known to shut down and be quiet at times.

T.O. on the other hand has continued to complain and even cried once about his close bond with his ‘boy’ Tony Romo. Today he made another selfish comment that this year’s Cowboys should follow the same blueprint as last year’s, an obvious jab that he should get the ball more often. Someone should remind him with some videos of how many balls he has dropped or how many times balls thrown his way have been defended.

Burress height advantage

Burress height advantage

The main troublemaker this year has been Plaxico Burress, having been suspended twice for lack of time management. At least, he doesn’t show the frustration towards Eli anymore when passes are badly thrown to him or aren’t thrown to him at all. Burress has yet to have a strong game since the first week of the season when he had 10 receptions of 133 yards. Burress at least understands the importance he plays in drawing double teams and does a respectable job blocking even in his off games. However, he knows if he steps too far out of bounds, the Super Bowl champs will make him a pariah.

Chad Johnson? Ever since his pre-season news of changing his name to Ocho-Cinco, there has been no national news about him. His highest yardage game so far has been 57. His 9.4 YPC is far below his career 15.0 YPC. He has had only one 20+ yard reception this year!! Compared with 27 last year. Ocho-Cinco has been reduced to Nacho-Cero.

These four receivers need to realize they need their QBs just as much as their God-given talent. Because of their selfish attitudes, they tend to give up and play non-chalantly when QBs they don’t respect take over. Imagine other position players doing that? Cornerbacks? Offensive linemen? Taking games off for cornerbacks and offensive linemen would prove detrimental to a team’s chances of winning that game. So why should wide receivers, especially the best ones, do that at times? The mind of the diva wide receiver.

Related Link:

Why NFL diva wide receivers and Olympic sprinters are the same breed

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Why NFL diva wide receivers and Olympic sprinters are the same breed

Posted by silentarchimedes on October 30, 2008

Terrell Owens

Terrell Owens

There has been all this talk about talented NFL receivers that are headcases for their team or the NFL. This year it has been about Chad Johnson and his Ocho Cinco name change, or Terrell Owens and his tears for Romo and complaints about playing time, or Plaxico Burress and his lack of time management and suspensions. In previous years, it has been about Randy Moss and his “I play when I want” or Joe Horn and his cell phone celebration or Michael Irvin and his complaints. The list goes on and on. Many people don’t understand this “me above the team” mentality. However, I think many times their outward confidence and look at me mentality is closely intertwined with their ability to succeed and make remarkable plays. To understand why, simply look at the  brethren of wide receivers, Olympic sprinters.

Both professions require an inner and outer confidence in order to succeed. Both require an almost cocky persona that transcends team sports. Sprinters are divas at a much greater scale than NFL receivers because they are the epitome of individual sport, the divaness can quickly reach an uncontrollable level. There are no constraints from team members or coaches to control their “me first” attitude. Look at Michael Johnson and his golden shoes. Look at Usain Bolt and his “staring at the cameras too early” or dancing. Look at Maurice Green or Donovan Bailey.

Usain Bolt - 100m world record holder

Usain Bolt - 100m world record holder

There is something about speed that is exhilarating, from car racing to supersonic jets to horse racing. But when the speed is the natural speed of humans, this brings a completely different feeling of freedom and power that person feels. The runner feels invincible and for that particular moment feels free from all that drags him down in the world. When he consistently runs faster than everyone he competes against, this invincibility and confidence increases in strength. When he breaks the world record, he is on a stratosphere that no other human has ever been on. He IS invincible. He is Superman.

Similarly with wide receivers, once they realize that they are playing among boys, the cockiness increases. Once they see themselves week after week being lauded on ESPN for their highlight catches or game changing plays, they start feeling that same invincibility. They feel that they are above the team; that the team needs them more than he needs the team. For most receivers, this invincibility has  been forming since the days of high school and college football. However, most of them also are greatly tested and humbled in their early NFL years. But to a few, like Moss, Chad Johnson and T.O., their natural talents quickly carried over to the NFL. The invincibility continued to grow without a hitch.

Faster than a speeding bullet

Faster than a speeding bullet

What one will notice is that the divaness in football and sprinting only exists at the cream of the crop. It is only at this level where the public and especially the team’s fans are willing to look the other way. This is especially true in sprinting, because it’s an individual sport. Although there is public pressure against divas at the mid-level talent of receivers and sprinters, the main reason that divas don’t exist at lower levels is more of a natural reason. The biggest fear of receivers and sprinters is failure.  Tyson Gay in the 2008 Olympics is a good example. His fear of failing in the 100m and 200m due to recovering from a  quad injury left him lacking in confidence and staring at defeat. He looked like a beaten man, even though the entire world still saw him as one of the elite sprinters. He had no confidence and no invincibility and therefore, the look at me attitude became a “don’t look at me” attitude. It is also this fear of failure that leads many sprinters to seek questionable methods to maintain or achieve that invincibility. The prevalence of performance enhancing drugs in sprinting was confirmed by the numerous convictions and suspensions of high profile sprinters, such as Tim Montgomery, Justin Gatlin, Ben Johnson, and Marion Jones. Similarly with receivers, if they have no confidence in beating a cornerback or making a catch, they prefer to stay quiet until they make some big plays.

Receivers and sprinters without the invincibility

Receivers and sprinters without the invincibility

Since we do not expect Olympic sprinters to change their “me, me, me” attitudes, it is somewhat unreasonable to think that just because that breed of athlete plays in a team sport, that the divaness will not exist. Many of the receivers were track stars in high school or even college and they have already tasted the feeling of invincibility from God-given speed. From a team first mentality, this attitude is obviously a distraction and curse. However, there will always be a breed of them. The fall from invincibility of wide receivers can be a very  humbling experience. Many successful diva college wide receivers become quiet support pieces in the NFL, if they even make it in the NFL. Even one time NFL divas can become humbled. Randy Moss without Tom Brady is a skeleton of his old self. He has lost his invincibility and desire to attract public attention. This is the key to controlling the divaness. The receivers need to know that unlike sprinters, their invincibility is highly contingent on someone else, their QB. If they do not recognize that, and they still cause a problem, then it’s time for the team to move on without them. One perfect example of this was T.O. and Donovan McNabb of the Eagles. The Eagles did the right thing by trading T.O. after his public disdain of his QB brewed over. Now that T.O. is in understanding that Tony Romo makes or breaks him, then his divaness and crying is at least acceptable, although a distraction, to his own team and Cowboys fans. As long as wide receivers and sprinters perform, the divaness can be somewhat acceptable. The difference is when they falter. When a sprinter falters, he solely takes the agony of defeat. However, when a wide receiver falls from grace, his teammates, his coaches, and the fans also feel strongly the agony of defeat.

On a quick note, just look back to the days of playground football when you were a kid. What were the two positions you always wanted to play? Either quarterback or receiver. If you have the speed, being a receiver and making amazing catches was a sense of invincibility, freedom and flying.

Update – December 01, 2008

It’s amazing what has happened in the few short weeks since I wrote this article. Chad Johnson was suspended by the Bengals for a game due to team policy (unspecified). T.O. finally complained to the media that in order for the Cowboys to be successful, they have to be more like the team of 2007. In other words, give him the ball more. And, how can we forget Burress “accidentally” shooting himself in the thigh at a nightclub and facing possible felony weapons charge. Unbelievable.

Update – December 12, 2008

Finally, T.O. and QB tension. I was wondering how long that honeymoon between Owens and Romo was going to last. Today, reports are surfacing that Owens is “jealous” of Romo’s close friendship with TE Jason Witten and that Romo passes to Witten even when Owens is open because of their friendship. Then Owens  proceeds to say that Romo and Witten secretly meet to plan extra plays! Hahaha! Make it 3 for 3 on Owens and his QBs.

High school background information:

Randy Moss – Won the West Virginia high school state championships for the 100m and 200m as a sophomore.

Plaxico Burress – Was a national semifinalist in the 400 intermediate hurdles at 52.6. Won the state 300 intermediate hurdles title at 37.6 as a senior.

Terrell Owens – Lettered four times in track in high school. Anchored the 4×100 sprint team his senior year at University of Tennessee – Chattanooga.

Related Link:

What’s going on with the NFL wide receivers brat group?

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Top 5 NFL teams most dependent on their quarterback

Posted by silentarchimedes on October 20, 2008

1. New England Patriots – This is the obvious choice. The Patriots have shown they are a very pedestrian team without Tom Brady.

2. Dallas Cowboys – Without Tony Romo’s heroics and leadership, the Cowboys are self-destructing

3. Indianapolis Colts – For years, Peyton Manning carried this team with his physical and decision making skills on the field. This year he has been somewhat off, and thus, so have the Colts.

4. Pittsburgh Steelers – When Ben Roethlisberger is healthy and manages the game with accuracy and leadership, the Steelers win. When he doesn’t they lose. Simple as that.

5. New York Giants – If Eli Manning doesn’t make bad decisions with interceptions or bad throws, the Giants are a dominant team. Otherwise, too much on the defense.

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