Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Sampras Goes InsideOut

With thicker hair on his chest than on top of his scalp, a weathered Pete Sampras intends to play tennis on the over-30 tour. This was originally going to be a serious post about the beauty of homogeneity by rule in sports leagues. Restricting participation to a select few (e.g., softball leagues for Congressional staffers or Westchester Jews), results in more competitive games at the expense of quality of play. That's a good exchange for those of us who wouldn't make a D-I program. Anyway, on to the comedy:

The ESPN headline calls the senior league Sampras is joining the "Champions Series," although the text of the article calls it the "Outback Championship Series." If that's not bowl-season enough for you, the tour's website says, "InsideOut Sports & Entertainment presents the Outback Champions Series." I guess Gaylord Hotels and the San Diego County Credit Union had other sponsorship commitments.

So what is this InsideOut Sports? Glad you asked. (Please don't read this paragraph like the Royal We told you to read Mel Kiper.)

InsideOut Sports & Entertainment develops and produces proprietary events and promotions that provide advertisers unprecedented access to talent, unique opportunities to generate exposure for their brands, and the ability to connect in a meaningful way with their target customers.

There's not much about aging athletes maintaining their dignity and quenching their thirst for competition. Sampras, by the way, joins a roster of luminaries in the sports and entertainment world, including:
  • Taylor Dent
  • Mardy Fish
  • Anna Kournikova
  • Clyde Drexler
  • Sean Elliot
  • Paul O'Neil
  • Dr. Phil McGraw
  • Neil Schon (Journey)
  • President George Herbert Walker Bush
  • Barbara Bush
Pete must already share with Dr. Phil InsideOut's "common vision - to create world-class properties." You really thought this was about tennis?

Monday, January 29, 2007

Color Schemes

Don't those Page 2 articles look kind of naked without their yellow page background? The old style black type on a yellow background was pretty easy to read, though not as legible as dark blue on light yellow.

The randomness of yellow pages throughout an internet of mostly black text on a white page always appealed to me. My original choice of light blue on dark grey was meant to similarly separate Get Untracked from everything else on the web.

But making the site easy to read should have been my primary goal (forgive the pun) so in honor of the departed Page 2 scheme, what you see is henceforth what you get. Enjoy.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Predicting the Sports Guy

If Simmons kept a running diary of last night's Patriots-Colts game, I'd expect it to include the following...

How about the Reche Caldwell "wide-eyed terror" face? Belichick believed his Pats could win with no talent at wideout. He even left a ton of salary cap money on the table to prove his point. Yesterday's game - with Reche Caldwell dropping two huge passes and Jabbar Gafney and Troy Smith having quiet games - makes the NE coach look much less the genius.

Anybody got a better photo of Caldwell's huge eyes?

Friday, January 19, 2007

The Brooklyn Barclays?

The model on the left is the proposed arena in Brooklyn the New Jersey Nets will occupy as soon as the city council allows it to be built. Barclays Bank just agreed to pay $20 million a year over 20 years to put its name on the building. The Sports Economist contends that the British bank should have just bought the team instead, because Forbes Magazine estimated the Nets value at "only" $244 million.

I'm not sure Barclays overpaid, as it appears they matched the market price for naming rights to a New York City sports facility. Who cares how much other NBA teams get to rent the name of their arenas? Recall that the Mets also got $400 million to slap a Citi on their new stadium. But here are a few good reasons why Barclays did not buy the Nets and rename the team:

(1) Bruce Ratner bought the team with the intent to move it to Brooklyn. He's been building in that borough since 1988, and took over development of the Atlantic Center (currently a shopping mall and the site for the proposed Nets arena) in 1991. The arena wouldn't exist (even as a model) without Ratner's pull as a prominent New York developer.

(2) The value of the Nets as a Brooklyn franchise will be much greater than Forbes' recent estimate of the team as a tenant of the Meadowlands. That the team commands $20 million a year just to name the arena speaks to both the potential attendance boost and other sponsorship opportunities for a Brooklyn team over a New Jersey team.

(3) The NBA frowns on corporate ownership of franchises. Cablevision owns the Knicks. The Toronto Raptors are held by Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd. That's it.

(4) Speaking of the Knicks, that team is a perfect example of why corporations don't want to own sports franchises: If the team starts to suck, after the coach and GM take their share of the heat, it becomes the owner's fault. That's happened with the Tribune Company (Cubs) Time Warner (Braves) and News Corp. (Dodgers). It's much easier for a corporation to put its name on a shiny new arena. Nobody's blaming Madison Square Garden for the Knicks' troubles.

So Barclays couldn't have bought the team and didn't want to buy the team. It wanted to popularize its name, perhaps as a part of an expansion into the US. Of course, it might not even get that, as people will probably end up calling it "The Bark."

Friday, January 12, 2007

Randy Johnson is a Ford Super Duty

There's been a curious lack of attention paid to the Yankees' trade of Randy Johnson to the Arizona Diamondbacks. Perhaps "trade" is too generous a term; it was more like a $14 million salary dump in exchange for Luis Vizcaino - a guy who barely cracks a list of last year's top 40 relief pitchers - and three unknown and unheralded minor leaguers.

People might think that a 43-year-old starter who's posted ERA's of 3.79 and 5.00 the last two years isn't worthy of big headlines. Those same people also claim that a guy who's recovering from back surgery and couldn't win a single playoff game in New York is not worth our consideration. Granted, he's got a ton of mileage on him, and the declining strikeout rate is troubling.

But the fact that the Big Unit needed back surgery after last season should make us pause before condemning his 2006 as proof of declining skill. If past is prologue, recall that Johnson had a similar surgery ten years ago. The Unit's results the following season? 20-4, with a 2.28 ERA and 291 strikeouts in 213 innings pitched. Looking just at 2005, Johnson was a top 30 starter, and may yet be again, moving to the easier league. Rather than sending him to the scrap heap, we should compare Randy Johnson to the Ford Super Duty pickup truck. Let's break it down, Get Untracked-style...

It dominates the field.
Ford's pickup has been the best-selling vehicle in America for the past 26 years. One auto writer back in 2004 even wrote, "If Ford's F-Series pickup were to lose its position as America's best-selling vehicle, the effect would be similar to that of a World Series victory by the Boston Red Sox: the end of an era." Chants of "1918" won't be heard in Yankee Stadium again, but the F-Series remains the country's best-selling vehicle. Randy Johnson dominates as the best lefthanded pitcher of his generation, seated in the pantheon between Steve Carlton and Johan Santana. Johnson's a lock for the Hall of Fame, with 280 wins and 4,544 strikouts, good for third all-time (and counting).

Its size is unmistakable.
The F-450 Super Duty 4x4 measures almost 22 feet long and weighs 8,687 pounds. The Honda Fit subcompact, for comparison purposes, measures a scant 13 feet long and tips the scales at 2,551 pounds. Yes, a Ford Super Duty could easily fit the Fit in its truckbed. Randy Johnson - despite his "Big Unit" nickname and 6'10" frame, is not the tallest pitcher in major league history. That distinction goes to Washington Nationals righty Jon Rauch, at 6'11". Still, Johnson's unique combination of height, left-handedness, three-quarters delivery and blazing fastball has always made hitters feel tiny.

It doesn't mesh with New York City.

A researcher extrapolating a sample of automobiles in the five boroughs of New York would probably conclude that the best-selling vehicle in America was the Lincoln Town Car. Or maybe the Ford Crown Victoria. You can't even drive the Super Duty on New York City parkways. Randy Johnson's first experience in the city wasn't a pleasant one. At least he didn't assault the cameraman like fellow southpaw Kenny Rogers. Both the Super Duty and Johnson are more suited to rural locales. Like Houston or Arizona - but nowhere as perfect as Atlanta.

It's linked to country music themes.

You've heard the phrase "Texas Cadillac?" A large, customized pickup like the Super Duty is just what they mean. Jeff Foxworthy said you might be a redneck if you spent more on your pickup than on your education. Before joining the Yanks, Johnson had a Foxworthy-caliber mullet. Other country music themes connected to the Unit include divorce and child support. But perhaps the most popular country music theme is redemption, and that's what I think Randy Johnson's going to provide next year for the Diamondbacks.

Saturday, January 6, 2007

Tom Hammond Loves This Blog

Not really, of course. But with seven minutes left in the fourth quarter, Hammond's already mentioned its name twice, both in reference to the Chiefs' offense.

On a side note, I couldn't remember Hammond's name when I started to write this post, so I looked up who NBC planned to use for the first game of its Wild Card doubleheader. From entertainment blog "Your Entertainment Now" comes the following:
On January 6, 2007, NBC will have a doubleheader of football that night. Tom Hammond (Notre Damn football broadcaster for the network) and Cris Collinsworth (currently a contributer to NBC’s “Football Night In America” as well as part of the NFL Networks Thursday night football games) will announce the first game of the night.

Either that blogger hates the golden dome, or he needs to proofread a tiny bit better.

Thursday, January 4, 2007

What Did I Tell You?

Quinn's stinker (15-of-35 for 148 yards, including just 4-of-10 for 24 yards in the second half) shouldn't have surprised you. As predicted yesterday, Notre Dame's now lost nine straight bowl games, sort of like Duke's basketball team losing regional semifinals three of the last four years. Somewhere JJ Reddick is popping his collar.

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Will Brady Quinn Pull a J.J. Reddick?

Remember the last time a supremely hyped athlete from a blue-blood university went up against a scrappy LSU team in a nationally-televised postseason game? I'm thinking about the 2006 NCAA basketball tournament, when top-seeded Duke and J.J. Reddick were upset by #4 LSU, leaving Reddick in tears and his draft stock plunging.

Now comes Brady Quinn of the ballyhooed Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Quinn's expected to be the Raiders' #1 pick in the 2007 NFL Draft, and he has certainly been overexposed in the mainstream media. Tonight he goes up against the stout defense of LSU in the Sugar Bowl. The parallels end there, though, because the Tigers are strong 8.5-point favorites in tonight's game instead of a heavy underdog like the '06 basketball squad.

Let's just say I wouldn't be surprised tonight to see Brady Quinn crying on the sideline as the clock ticks down.

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Why There's No College Football Playoff

Phil Miller, a professor of Economics at Minnesota State University, Mankato, put together a nice post at The Sports Economist about the game theory strategies of Boise State at the end of last night's Fiesta Bowl. At the end, he squeezed in a couple paragraphs explaining why, even though last night's game proves (again) that the little guys can beat the big boys, we're not going to see a playoff system anytime soon.

Miller writes, "There are too many schools in D1 that have little shot in a reasonable playoff format who have a better shot at some kind of recognition (and cash) in the current bowl system. Their presidents can out-vote the presidents of the OU's and Texas's in the NCAA."

Here's how I responded in the comments of that blog:

I agree that a playoff is not forthcoming, but not for the reason you mentioned. This WSJ article described how, last year, 26 lower-tiered bowls distributed $64.36 million, for an average of $1.24 million per team.

Compare this to the following quote from the article: "BCS means money. The big BCS conferences get $14 million to $17 million if they have one team in one of the five bowls; a second team, an additional $4.5 million. Last year, the six conferences and Notre Dame received a total of $118 million."

It's clear that the conferences most likely to make a BCS bowl are the ones with the most to lose by going to a playoff, not the Boise States. Think about the recognition and money that George Mason University gained from its success in last year's NCAA basketball tournament. Imagine if Boise State beat not just Oklahoma, but also USC, Notre Dame and Ohio State to take the national championship. That is where the real money is.

Monday, January 1, 2007

The Wisdom of Crowds - Season Recap

With the end of the NFL regular season, here's a quick note to document an abbreviated 2006 for The Wisdom of Crowds. (This blog came online in mid-November, so our picks were only posted the last seven weeks of the season.)

Published on Get Untracked, our record is 38-30-1 (.559) against the spread.