Monday, February 16, 2015

Get it Together Mariners

For the last several years I have attended the Mariners home opener with a group of friends. We take in the first game of the season at Safeco Field and revel in the optimism that still lives in the minds of baseball fans on those cold dark spring nights. For the last several years the game has been one of the few to actually sell out. It is an opportunity for the fans to cheer loudly for the home team stars. Generally it is an awesome experience.

Excitingly this year the Mariners home opener on April 6th will also be the season opener. This is the first time since 2008 that team will start the year in Seattle. Normally this would be reason for celebration, but the Mariners managed to screw up a good thing by scheduling the game at 1:00pm on a Monday. What a terrible decision by the Mariners. I mean downright awful. It makes a classic sporting event (the baseball opening day) inaccessible to the majority of the fans.

It is kind of like starting the season in Japan, but worse because instead of the team by on a different continent which completely inhibits the fan ability to attend, the game is here in Seattle. It is so close yet so far away. It will just be sitting there taunting us. Making us all curse our limited PTO stock piles.

Fans, who will be looking forward to seeing Felix, Cano, and Seager for the first time in 2015, will be forced to take time off work to see it live. I am sure some people will choose to miss work so they can see the M's play, but many wont be able to. I know I can't skip work to drive down to Sodo for a baseball game.

Additionally, because of the time of day, those of us that want to watch the festivities live wont be able to. The broadcast is right in the middle of the work day. Most jobs frown on employees watching TV while they work. These fans will be forced to record it and hope no one spoils the outcome before they get a chance to watch it. Coworkers, radio stations, and Facebook will all have to be avoided. If you don't a have a DVR or a functioning VCR and blank VHS tape you are just shit outta luck.

Instead of feeling like we are part of the festivities we are left feeling like we are being forced out of them. Shame on the Mariners for distancing their fans. Usually they are great at fan relations, but this time it was a total fail.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Stop Adding Gate to the End of Words

The NFL is a scandal ridden league. Every couple of years the league has another team (usually the Patriots) get caught breaking the rules. The media eats these up. A frenzy starts around the issue with every TV station, radio show, columnist, and blog trying to get their voice heard. Looking for a quick way to reference all these scandals the sports world has taken to tacking -gate onto the end of a word. For example, deflate-gate, bounty-gate, and spy-gate. This is a stupid practice and it needs to stop.

The gate suffix comes from the infamous Watergate scandal. The -gate in this name doesn't mean anything. Watergate isn't called that because it involved water. The scandal, which rocked the nation and resulted in the resignation of the President of the United States Richard Nixon, was dubbed Watergate because that was the name of the office complex that White House staffers broke into. If the complex had been called Mountain View or Emerald Heights we would probably refer to that scandal by one of those names.

Throwing gate onto the end of a word or every new scandal just makes that media sound ignorant. Every time I hear it uttered I cringe. The stupid practice really grids my gears. If we need a short name to quickly refer to the next Patriots scandal let's be a little more clever. Whatever happens just stop calling it something-gate.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Things More Likely than the Seahawks Winning the NFC Championship

You, dear reader, may have heard that the Seahawks had a 3.9% chance of winning the NFC Championship with four minutes left in the game.  This is an undesirable percentage, and one seen pretty commonly by anyone that has watched the Mariners in the last ten years (baseball zing!).  However, the Seahawks never quit.  They always compete, etc. etc.  All of the cliches apply here.  More importantly, the Seahawks are both very, very good and very, very lucky.

To truly demonstrate just how amazing it is that the Seahawks are in the Super Bowl after how that game was going, take a look at this highly scientific list of things more likely than the Seahawks winning last week.

  • The New York Knicks winning any basketball game
  • The New York Knicks playing said basketball game while wearing knickerbockers
  • Kevin Durant taking all his endorsement money and founding a new Seattle SuperSonics team
  • Jimmy Hoffa being alive
  • Jimmy Hoffa being a cyborg police officer in future Detroit
  • Any NHL player getting mentioned on ESPN at any time
  • Any U.S. president, chosen randomly, having attended Harvard
  • Someone hearing that George W. Bush went to Harvard and not laughing openly
  • All of us actually living in the Matrix
  • The San Francisco 49ers actually being named the 94ers since their inception but being too polite to correct anyone
  • Jim Harbaugh greeting you calmly and cordially, then inviting you to his hot yoga class
  • The Seahawk beating the Green Bay Packers
  • The sea gaining sentience, learning football, and beating the Green Bay Packers
  • The Patriots playing by the rules established by the NFL

Stop Putting Games on ESPNU

Growing up I was never a big basketball fan. I watched the occasional Sonics (R.I.P.) game on TV with my dad, but that was about it. The game was so repetitive it was hard for me to get into. It seemed like only the last 10 minutes or so really mattered. Then,in college I started playing quite a lot of basketball, both pick up and intramural. I also got into attending the Western Washington University (WWU) men's basketball games and quite a few of the women's games. Both of these activites helped me find a new appreciation for watching the sport. It is easier for me to get into watching something I can relate to.

After college, with intramurals unavailable and WWU too far away, I needed to fill my basketball void. I took up watching the UW men's team. With the death of the Sonics it was the biggest game left in town. Back then the Huskies were primarily on Fox Sports Northwest (now Root Sports). As a basic cable subscriber I could see almost every game on TV.

In 2012 the Pac12 Network was born. This network was pitched as a one stop shop for Pac12 sports. You were supposed to be able to watch all of the Pac12 sports your heart could desire. When I heard about the network, I was hesitant. I was concerned that the Pac12 Network would be a premium channel and I wouldn't get it with my basic cable subscription. Turns out they also created regional networks. So, I get Pac12 Washington instead, which is available in my cable package.

The first season turned out great. I could see all the games and with a higher quality broadcast than Root Sports. It was a good thing, but things changed. The Pac12 network stopped showing all of the UW Huskies Men's Basketball games. Lots of the games now air on ESPNU, which I don't get. So, now I can't watch Huskies basketball. I can watch lots of Oregon State Basketball on Root, and tons of random Colorado and USC games on Pac12 network, but very few UW games. This is unacceptable.

The Pac12 network was created to show Pac12 games on TV. I am positive that the UW is still in the Pac12 and now that it is the conference season they play all their games against other Pac12 teams.  I understand selling the rights to a few games here and there to the big boys at ESPN and CBS. Those major providers present a chance to showcase Pac12 basketball on a national scale. But, ESPNU? Basically nobody gets that channel. All it is doing is limiting the fanbases ability to watch the games on TV.

Sure I could listen on Radio, but let's face it basketball is not a good radio game. The constant rate of play and score changes make it hard to follow the action. Basketball is best experienced when you can see it. That means live or on TV. When the game is on ESPNU that essentially means I (and lots of you) cant watch. Last year that didn't really matter because the team was mediocre at best, but this year they have been playing well. I actually want to see the games. Basically this all boils down to one single request to UW Athletics, please stop contracting to show games on ESPNU.

Monday, January 19, 2015

NFC Champions: A Series of Unlikely Events

I don’t even know what to say about the NFC Championship game. It basically left me unable to articulate myself. I mean if you saw it you must kinda understand what I mean. What do you say about such a crazy game? You cant really recreate the experience with typed words. You had to experience the game live. However any self-respecting Seattle sports centered blogger has to make on post about his game.  So, I am gonna try.

On Sunday the Seahawks beat the Packers 28-22 in the NFC Championship game. In a vacuum this result isn't that surprising. The Seahawks were favored in Las Vegas by 7.5 points. Leading up to the game they had been on a tear through the NFC. The had won seven straight games. The thing is this game shouldn't be viewed in a vacuum. With five minutes left in the fourth quarter, this victory was completely unexpected.  From a nonbiased opinion, the game had been sloppy, but good to watch. From a Seahawk fan's point of view it was a complete disaster.  The Seahawks offense had been so inept in the first half that quarterback Russell Wilson had complete more passes to the Packers than to the Seahawks (3-2). Then, in the third quarter, after another Seahawks offense series had stalled short, things got crazy. The series of very unlikely events started to unfold. 

The story line of this game was too crazy. I doubt Hollywood would even consider writing a script like this. Outcomes like this just don’t happen, especially at the professional level. The Producers would assume everyone would deem it to unbelievable. Good thing Hollywood wasn't in charge of this game. Here is a recap of the craziness.

  • The Seahawks trail the Packers 16-0 at half time and their star QB has 2 completions for 12 yards and 3 interceptions.
  • On fourth down, during a field goal attempt, Seahawks P Jon Ryan takes off running and finds OT Garry Gilliam (whoever he is) running free in the endzone for a wide open TD pass.
  • With Seahawks fans clinging to hope, Russell Wilson throws his fourth INT with 5:04 left in the game. The interception, like the first three, is on a pass targeted to WR Jermaine Kearse.
  • After the pick, with the Packers looking to end the game by running out the clock the Seahawks defense comes in and forces a three and out.
  • The Seahawks offense, which has been epicly bad at passing, drives 69 yards and scores a TD with a 1 yard Russell Wilson run.
  • Down by five with 2:09 left in the game, the Seahawks were forced to attempt an onside kick. The ball bounces high and ricochets off the head of Green Bay player Brandon Bostick. Seahawks WR Chris Matthews (who had no catches during  the regular season) snags the ball out of the air and keeps the Seahawks hopes alive.
  • RB Marshawn Lynch catches a pass and tip toes 20+ yards into the endzone for what appears to be the go ahead score. Upon review it is clear Lynch stepped out of bounds.
  • Shortly after his potential lead changing TD is overturned, in true Beast Mode fashion, Marshawn Lynch bursts free for a 24 yard TD run and gives Seattle their first lead.
  • In order to secure a three point lead and eliminate the chance of a last second field goal beating them the Seahawks go for two. Running around in the back field quarterback Wilson hucks the ball high into the air in what appears to be an attempt at a throw away. Instead it turns out to be a pass that lands right in the hands of TE Luke Willson who converts the two point play.
  • By scoring early the Seahawks gave the Packers a chance to possess the ball again with 1:25 to play. Aaro Rodgers, the best QB in the game, had three timeouts and plenty of time to drive down field and crush all of Seattle dreams. Instead the Seahawks defense held Packers to a FG and forced overtime.
  • The Seahawks sent backup QB Tarvaris Jackson, K Steven Haushka, and P Jon Ryan (also maybe a backup QB) out for the OT coin flip. Collectively they stood their noded their heads to signale understanding of the overtime rules and watch the coin land heads (some might wonder if Tarvaris has psychic powers). This ensured the Seahawks offense would get the ball.
  • Russell Wilson completes two 35 yard passes in OT. The first is to Doug Baldwin. The second is to Jermaine Kearse, the same WR that had seen four other passes directed towards him picked off. His final catch is for the game winning touchdown.

In case you dont believe what you just read let me recap the recap for you. The Seahawks scored 15 points in 44 seconds, recovered an onside kick, convert a PAT, held an amazing QB to a FG, and won in OT. This series of events unfolding, in this order, in the NFC Championship, and with so little time left, if super unlikely. It was probably the most unlikely finish in NFL history. ESPN calculated that after the fourth and final interception the Packers had a 96% chance of winning the game. That basically means the Packers win this game 25 out of 26 times. Realistically, the chances were probably even smaller because it was the NFC Championship game and two really good teams were playing. But probability is a funny thing. Just because an event is really unlikely doesn’t mean isn't going to happen. Sometimes people do flip a coin heads five times in a row. And sometime the Seahawks do sail into the Super Bowl of a huge helping of grit, determination and luck.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

The SEC West and Perception vs Reality

Projecting an image of strength is a very important defense mechanism in nature. It is why many animals (think cats) will puff up their fur and make themselves big when they sense danger. They are trying to create the illusion that they are dangerous and not to be taken lightly. In reality the creature may be a 10 pound weakling, but how the threat perceives them is more important than the reality. A large bark is often better than a hard bite.

Much like nature, in college football perception matters, often more than reality. There are too many NCAA Division 1 teams for them all to play each other. Instead we have to use like opponents and strength of schedule to try and gage how good teams really are. Talking heads and sports writers guide the public discussion based on their often flawed opinions. The perceived quality of teams is used to schedule bowl game matchups.

The goal of the schedulers is to  create as many classics as possible. They want people to remember their bowls. Think Boise State vs Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl. That game was so intriguing that it added to the cache of the Fiesta Bowl. It helped bolster their brand. However, often these bowl games don't end up so much fun. They often result in blowouts. They expose to the world the reality of a team's strength or weakness. This year the bowl season revealed just how wrong the common perception about the SEC West was.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

A Question for Elias Sports Bureau

Yesterday the UW Huskies lost to the OSU Cowboys 30-22 i the Cactus Bowl. This was a game that UW should have won. It was also a game that highlighted one of the strangest things about the Huskies 2014 season. They have three All-American Defenders on their team (Shelton, Kikaha, Thompson), yet, during the regular season, they still gave up 24.4 points per game and 405.8 yards per game. These stats ranked them fourth and fifth n the Pac-12. What I want to know is, has team ever had so many standout individual defensive players yet been so bad at team defense? Somebody with an Elias Sports Bureau or Stats Inc contact please figure this out. It is simply amazing to me.