Blog Archives

The Annexation of Patience

There is a trend in sports that has transformed analysts and “experts” into Bingo contestants that frequently stand-up with bravado and gusto to shout “BINGO!” for all to hear.

The only problem is that this occurs after only marking off one letter.

College football punditry is a perfect example of this evolving dynamic. There is a tendency to want to declare with absolute certitude the two best teams in the country each week. Admittedly, it is perfectly okay to speculate about teams and their corresponding achievements and failures. Totally fine. These are fun debates. However, it shouldn’t be exercised in the definitive nature that is done today. Three games into the season and the national championship is already being predicted with incomplete statistics from some of the aforementioned analysts.

Will the BCS Standings remain exactly same by the end of the regular season? Probably not. And that’s partly because of the unpredictable and inspirational dimension of college athletics.

It’s a weird phenomenon: these analysts love to watch college football, but they are more often than not so eager to chisel in stone certain bowl match-ups with incomplete statistics and records that they end up not allowing football teams the “ridiculous” courtesy to work hard, improve and then play their best game by the end of the regular season as a final exclamation point to their fall campaign.

As written above: weird.

While the schedules for most Division 1 college football teams list around 12 games, the attention span for most analysts seems to range from 5-7. At this point, most of the “experts” would have you believe the top two teams are pretty much penciled in (not with a pen, but pencil mind you) and that the remainder of those seasons are mere technicalities.

Of course, do you know how many “technicalities” have resulted in shocking upsets or surprising victories?

One of the amazing aspects of college football (and college sports in general) is that anything can happen…anything! In college, the underdog, whether a single player or an entire team, has the potential and opportunity to shine for that one play or one drive to win the game or to make a strong goal line stand to complete an upset for the ages.

What’s even more incredible is how many of these moments occur during the final seconds of the last games of the season when everything is on the line.

Hopefully, the lighting crew won’t turn off the lights in the stadiums on those players, coaches, teams and fans when those unbelievable plays happen at season’s end.

Technically speaking, that would be a terrible thing to do. And the same notion goes for day games as well.

Otherwise, the world may never have witnessed the incomparable, “Annexation of Puerto Rico” that only works as the last play…

Those “one time” moments help make up the magical fabric of sports.

So, let’s just sit back, relax and watch some football.

You just may see something special.

It’s So Easy a Caveman…Maybe Not

Last night, in the hot spring air of Cleveland, Ohio, the United States Men’s National Soccer Team played a friendly against Belgium. A final score in soccer can have a variety of meanings. For instance, a 1-nil affair could be thrilling or downright dull. In the case of the 4-2 final score between the U.S. and Belgium, it too had its defining dynamics.

The Belgians were terrific at making quick, cutting runs towards the goal while moving fluidly on counter-attacks while the United States’ defense looked like a castle with no draw bridge when the enemy charged. Combine the two together and there’s the final tally of 4-2. After each mistake the defensive backline of the U.S. made, the commentator, former MLS (& briefly USMNT) player Taylor Twellman, rigidly defended (at least one American was defensive last night) how the errors in the defense were easily fixable.

The score was 1-1 at halftime.

Then, during a fifteen minute span (56′-71′), the sharply dressed Belgians put three past the Americans to make the game a quintessential blowout. Again, patience was professed by Twellman regarding the latest, yet still “easily fixable” mistakes of the defense. We the fans just need to continue to be patient for these defenders to develop.

Three years ago during the World Cup in South Africa, the backline consistently conceded a goal within the first ten minutes or so of a game. Its predictability deserved its own mathematical proof. As it was said then too, the players in the back were still great defenders and all of this was just bad luck or was, again, “easily fixable.”

It was never fixed.

What we the fans and the team needs is not patience in the defense anymore, but rather serious changes in personnel. The “easily fixable” mistakes continue to happen over and over and over again. The defenders are not defending. This is a minor problem when you’re a defender. Perhaps, these players are not capable of making the easy fixes. The bottom line is that the wrong combination of players are being assigned to play directly in front of Tim Howard. Of all the lines in any formation for any team, the defense needs to be the most solid and have the strongest foundation. Period. Think about the backline of a chess or checkers game…

(And yes, I’m aware Carlos Bocanegra (34) and Steve Cherundolo (34) were both absent. However, the World Cup is about a year away and must-win qualifiers are right around the corner and conceding goals in bunches is a recipe for disaster)

Twellman also said during the broadcast that defender DaMarcus Beasley could catch anyone on the field with his recovery speed. False. He literally stopped running when coming back to defend a Belgian attack and his mark was the player who, seconds later, calmly played the ball across the box to his teammate who scored a goal.

Omar Gonzalez, heralded as a “great defender,” was absent-minded on the first Belgian goal as he stopped defending his mark around the American’s penalty box. He was absent-minded during other critical moments throughout the course of the game. Geoff Cameron (also a “great defender”) was directly responsible for the first goal as he stopped running and covering his man after an initial shot by the Belgian and save by Howard. The rebound by his mark was an easy slice into the back of Howard’s net (I will give Cameron isolated props for getting the equalizer at 1-1 about fifteen minutes later). On another occasion, Beasley literally bounced off his mark and the Belgian was then able to easily cut to the top of the 18-yard box for an uncontested shot on goal. Quite frankly, Beasley is not strong enough to be a defender.

The only bright side of the defense may have been Clarence Goodson.

The problem in soccer is that each team is only afforded three substitutions and having to replace your entire backline is usually not an encouraging sign.

P.S. I think Chad Marshall and Josh Williams own cell phones…and after watching Brad Guzan, add Andy Gruenebaum to the call list as well.

“Don’t Tell Me the Results: I’m Watching it Later!”

Gathering around the television to watch the 30th Summer Olympics in picturesque London has made more than a few viewers uneasy in the United States. The reason surprisingly has virtually nothing to do with the roman numeral representation of the Olympics (XXX), but something much more frustrating and yet, at the same time, oddly ironic to the roman numerals: exposure. There is too much exposure of the Olympics. Why? I’m glad you asked.

The Problem: Just like the athletes, news organizations, and seemingly any website designed for daily views, simply have to be first in reporting. The public needs to know that they will provide breaking news the second, not minute, it happens. This can be particularly helpful with advertising revenues and that whole “making money” thing (it can backfire though: remember CNN & Obamacare). As a result of them ‘winning’ the breaking news contest with their competitors with the action from across the pond, the viewer is consequentially losing.

Five hours. This is the shortest time difference between London and the United States, and events are being competed in real time in London throughout the day. Major news outlets, like NBC (the host network), constantly update their online websites in the 24-hour news cycle world (for better and certainly worse). NBC has taken it upon themselves to publish and report on what is happening live overseas to their loyal online stopper-by who may just be visiting to check on the nations and worlds headlines sans the Olympics. How unnecessarily painful this routine has become.

Obviously, NBC would not spoil the results for one of the largest audiences of any program they produce (cough cough Missy Franklin). I suppose it’s no big deal except that most people like to settle-in at night and watch the extended coverage of the days competitions, in whatever tickles their fancy. And they want to do this without knowing results. But be warned that just two seconds after typing “nbcnews.com” and hitting enter, the days anticipation of watching a marquee swim or gymnastics final can and will be ruined. The reason? Impatience, and quite frankly, incompetence.

The Solution: If someone would like to know the daily events, everything but the Olympic results, then I have a super messy and controversial idea that is sure to spur questions of “how?” and “are you insane?” Here it is: Create a tab at the top of the page of the website and title it “Olympic Results and Video: Spoilers Included.” This will in no way impact the rest of the news on the homepage and will not reveal any results because all of the information and video will be available by clicking on the new tab, which would be clearly designed and labeled as such. That’s it. Just create a link to “nbcolympics.com” on NBC News’ homepage and refrain from publishing results on that regular news page. It would take an elite programmer from Silicon Valley, but I think it can be done.

We live in a world of 24-hours news coverage, whether we want it or need it. As a result, we can literally get exciting headlines at a moments notice. However, there are occasions when people would like to read a story slowly and not just the eye-catching headline. Yes, it takes longer, but in the end we will discover the whole story and understand why the headline was so thrilling to see at first glance. It’s an old school approach, but there is a reward to this method.

As the saying goes, “patience is a virtue.” There was no better example of that than when McKayla Maroney absolutely nailed her vaulting routine Tuesday night that sprung the U.S. women’s gymnastics team toward their first team gold medal since 1996 and only the second team gold medal ever. Words almost cannot describe what she did in the air, except for maybe perfection and beauty. Those five gymnasts had the meets of their lives and to watch each of them contribute to the team with their individual talents was incredible and inspiring. Their smiles became infectious. You felt nervous and anxious for them before and ecstatic for them afterwards. For the first time in nearly a decade, NBC had Must-See-TV. It was amazing!

mckayla maroney vaultNBC

There is a difference between reading greatness and seeing greatness. All it takes is a little patience.