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Posts tagged ‘Football’

Why you should love college football

Above is the ending of the Auburn-Georgia game in 2013 that helped keep Auburn undefeated. At the time, it seemed like it might be the craziest thing that happened in the SEC last year.

Nope.

If you’re a dude, you invariably get into a lot of bar conversations across your 20s and 30s (and logically beyond) about whether you’re an NCAA guy, an NFL guy, or something else. When the fall comes around, this is a much bigger topic; I’ve been in two of these discussions just today. There are arguments on all sides and ultimately it’s a personal decision, but I’m an NCAA guy. Read more

So, the Seattle Seahawks could become a dynasty, right?

The Super Bowl was terrible last year — phrased another way, the Seahawks are really good. The last time any NFL team won back-to-back Super Bowls was 2003-2004 (the Patriots). Begs the question, obviously: can the Seahawks do that, and can they become a legitimate dynasty in the mold of the 1990s Cowboys and all that? Here’s a few arguments on either side.

Yes, They Can Become A Dynasty

1. They were the second-youngest Super Bowl winning team ever, with an average age of just over 24 years.

2. They basically don’t lose at home — aside from one regular-season loss to the Cardinals last year, the last time they had dropped one in Seattle was Christmas Eve 2011. The last time the team lost a playoff game at home was 2004 — and Russell Wilson was probably about 13 then.

3. If Jim Harbaugh punts on the 49ers after this year, that takes away the biggest challenge to Seattle. (Yes, Arizona was good last year and might be for the next few years, but the biggest challenge to Seattle in the division and probably the conference right now is SF.)

4. They seem to have the right attitude:

“When we came back in, there was no talk about repeating,” receiver Doug Baldwin said. “It was (about) going back to the basics.”

No, They Won’t Become A Dynasty

1. Injuries can always be a thing.

2. Once you get a Super Bowl, there’s this notion of “target on your back” and “distractions.” Many teams fall prey to it. The Seahawks have a stable leadership pipeline, but they too could fall into it.

3. Long-term contracts and prioritization of the stars — if Wilson gets paid, and Harvin gets paid, can the O/D-Line get paid? And if they start to walk, what happens then?

4. Flip-side of the Harbaugh argument: let’s say he stays in the Bay Area for a long time. He’s just been to three consecutive NFC Championship Games and one Super Bowl. He’s clearly knocking on the door. At some point, one of his teams will knock it in. They’re always right there with Seattle in big games, for the most part. Who’s to say they won’t be again?

5. The rise of the Cardinals (although their QB is older), the Rams (very young team), or a team like the Eagles or Saints (or Panthers?) could be a threat to them in the broader NFC.

6. Remember how, a few years ago, we all thought the Packers were going to become a dynasty? That hasn’t happened yet. So we should all pump the brakes here a bit.

What’s your take?

 

No one seems to want to attend Tampa Bay Buccaneers games

The last time the Bucs won a playoff game, it was their Super Bowl win — back in 2002. That might be correlated with this: in 2013, they were 29th in the NFL in home attendance; in 2012, they were 31st; in 2011, they were 30th; in 2010, they were 31st; and in 2009, they were 27th. Phrased another way, they’ve been in the bottom seven of NFL attendance for the past half-decade. Part of this is on-field performance, of course — and part of it could be the location of the stadium, which is essentially near Tampa Airport:

This post goes into a little more detail on the supposed erosion of the Buccaneer fan base, blaming it on these reasons:

  • The economy
  • Bridges burned by the Glazer family (owners) after the Super Bowl was in Tampa
  • Fair-weather fans
  • The big-screen TV generation

You could broadly probably add “Florida” to that list; the area typically has good fall seasons, and Jacksonville, Miami and Tampa Bay — admittedly, none of those three teams has been very competitive in the last couple of years — tend to all be in the bottom third for attendance. The “economy” argument makes sense in this context too; Florida was one of the worst areas in terms of the 2008 economic downturn, specifically as relates to property. I buy the “big-screen TV generation” thing to an extent, and that is something the NFL will continue to struggle with down the road. The fair-weather fandom is interesting — get this:

Yet, ironically, the Fairweathers aren’t coming either. In 2010, when Bucs posted a 10-6 record, Tampa Bay had its worst drop in attendance – only filling up Raymond James Stadium 75% of capacity per game on the year. Tampa Bay’s attendance actually improved to 86% of capacity in 2011 when the team followed up its winning season by getting off to a 4-2 start, but this season – after the collapse at the end of 2011, many of these fairweathers are taking a wait-and-see approach. Tampa Bay fans have filled the stadium 82% of capacity this season.

You could also argue that part of the problem was the team starting 0-7 in 2013.

Here’s another broader argument the NFL will struggle with going forward:

“The NFL ticket has priced itself out of the middle class,” said Lighthall, “the average ticket is 75 bucks, and you take a family of four for a three- hour event. If I’m going to pay that much I’m going to take them to Disney World, and we’re going to walk till we can’t walk anymore.”

This happens to a lot of sports, but the NFL is a bigger deal than most — and there’s a lot of stuff to do within about a three-hour drive of Tampa in any direction, so it’s a little bit different than maybe Green Bay (also, the culture of the Midwest and Florida are obviously very different as regards generations, passions, etc.)

All this said, the Bucs are about middle-of-the-pack when it comes to NFL team valuations; they’re roughly No. 17 according to Forbes.

No one has repeated as NFC South champion ever. Odd, right?

Get this: since the NFL went to eight divisions in 2002, the NFC South has never had a repeat champion. Don’t believe me? Lookie here:

NFC South Division Winners

If you go through the other seven conferences, they’ve all had some sort of mini-dynasty — or at least repeat winners. Consider:

AFC East: Patriots win it fairly often

AFC North: Steelers and Ravens have both repeated as division champions since 2007

AFC South: The Colts won it from ’03 to ’07

AFC West: Chargers won it four years in a row in the mid-to-late 2000s

NFC East: Eagles won it the first three or so years after the eight divisions were founded

NFC North: Vikings won it in ’08 and ’09; Packers have won the last three

NFC West: Seahawks won ’04 to ’07; Niners won ’11 and ’12

Kinda crazy that in 12 years, considering the Saints have won a Super Bowl in that span and the Falcons have had a couple of 12/13-win seasons, no team has ever repeated as NFC South champion. If it’s going to happen this year, that would mean Carolina would need to win the division again. Hell, they could.

 

 

The Alabama-Auburn trolling has really hit a fever pitch

There are 37 days until college football is back, which is exciting. Although far more people get excited by the eventual return of the NFL, I personally think college football is the greatest thing on the American sporting landscape. I’m definitely not alone in that.

As you probably know if you follow college football, last season it seemed like potentially Alabama was headed for another national championship game — and Alabama vs. FSU would have been interesting — but then this happened:

As a result of that situation (which literally seemed to crash my Facebook at the time), the long-standing Alabama vs. Auburn rivalry (detailed well in the 30 for 30 embedded at the top) has reached some epic trolling places, such as this:

Then there’s this whole thing, whereby Alabama and Auburn are fighting about HTML code.

And while this isn’t about Alabama or Auburn, the SEC trolling has reached another new low with this story:

Tennessee Titans rookie quarterback Zach Mettenberger was the victim of a sucker punch during an incident over the weekend at a popular Nashville nightspot, according to its owner.

Steve Ford, owner of Losers Most Wanted Bar & Grill, said Mettenberger did nothing to provoke another bar patron, but the 6-5, 224-pound quarterback ended up getting punched in the face. He did not require medical attention.

“Here’s the truth: The guy said something about ‘Roll Tide!’ to Zach, and Zach turned around and said ‘Good luck with that,’ ” Ford said on Monday. “And the guy’s buddy then sucker-punched Zach.

If you’ve never been to Nashville (I haven’t), here’s a quick review of Losers:

It’s a bar. It’s in Midtown. It’s lots of college kids. It’s perfectly fine if you just want to sit and drink. Nice patio. Can’t really see anything that differentiates it from Winner’s or Rebar. The 1 toilet bathroom is a little ridiculous. The “security” guy was kind of a dick when it was time to close. He just came over and told us we have to get out. Not nicely at all. Just “get out.” Umm, whatever dude.

Makes sense.

Trolling in the SEC is a time-honored tradition — you can say it’s a cliche, but football is a damn sacred passion down there — and there’s a post here that attempts to explain why:

But why is hating on Alabama such good business? There’s a good reason why Clay Travis and Tim Brando love to pick on the Tide, other than Tennessee and LSU love respectively.  Alabama is the Yankees, Alabama is the Patriots, Alabama is the Heat, Alabama is the (insert dominate dynasty hockey team here.)  Nick Saban has turned Alabama into a dominate program.  Even on Alabama’s down years they are playing for BCS bowls.  Even when they lose their BCS bowl and have a brand new quarterback they get ranked in the top 5.  Fans of other teams hate dynasties.

The trolls of college football know that if you want to get the highest number of people fired up you knock the big guy down a few pegs.  It’s human nature to want to see Goliath toppled from his pedestal.  To confirm this all you have to do is look at how social media lights up when Alabama loses a game.

Yep. Concur. College football fandom is about as base a study in human psychology as you can find. It’s all about in-group/out-group (often defined by the region you live in or where you went to school, or something to do with your family) and David/Goliath, which is in turn about knocking down the big, bad man at the end of the block.

I can’t wait for this to get started again. I’m actually living near Texas A&M — vaguely — for this season, so I may try to check out a game.

Oh, and by the by … Auburn and Alabama are both looking like top-five preseason teams again, so … be ready.

 

 

This NFL Draft is a big night for H-Town: Houston Rockets haven’t won a title since 1995, Houston Texans have never been to a Super Bowl, Astros haven’t been relevant since 2005. Is “a savior” coming?

Above is the end of Game 4 of the 1995 NBA Finals. The Rockets swept the Magic (with a young Shaq) and won their second consecutive NBA championship. That was the last championship the city won, which is about 18-19 years. That’s not as bad as San Diego — which hasn’t won anything since the 1963 AFL Title — or Cleveland (1964 NFL Title), which is often held up as “the most tortured sports city.” But still, the Houston misery is becoming a thing of its own.

A few years ago, the Texans were considered one of those soon-to-get-over-the-hump teams; they kept losing in the AFC Divisional Playoffs, which is fairly far to go (that’s Final 4 for the AFC). They couldn’t clear that hurdle of the Ravens/Patriots/Broncos, though, and now they’re back at almost Square 1 (admittedly, there are pieces there). Tonight’s a big night for the franchise: mega-watt (potential) QB or fear-of-God DE? The Colts are good, but otherwise, that’s not an amazing division they play in. The top of the AFC — Broncos, Patriots — do have amazingly elite QBs in their late 30s, so could a good pick here mean an eventual changing of the guard in that conference? Theoretically, it could.

Houston doesn’t have a hockey team, but MLB + NBA haven’t been great in these 18 years either. Here’s the Rockets since that 1995 NBA title: Conference Semis, Conference Finals, First Round, First Round, No Playoffs, No Playoffs, No Playoffs, No Playoffs, First Round, First Round, No Playoffs, First Round, First Round, Conference Semifinals, No Playoffs, No Playoffs, No Playoffs, First Round, First Round. If you’re scoring at home, that means they went from 1997 to 2009 without winning a playoff series, then won this series in 2009:

… and haven’t won another since, despite winning more than 50 games four times since the ’06-’07 season.

The Astros made the World Series in 2005 (swept by the White Sox, which interestingly is Chicago’s only baseball title since the early 1900s), and since then their loss totals hath been: 80, 89, 75, 88, 86, 106, 107, 111. Right now they’re 10-24; extrapolated, that’s another 100-loss season. The last team to lose 100 games in four consecutive seasons were the expansion New York Mets of the early-to-mid 1960s.

Now, admittedly, the Dynamo are pretty good.

Here’s the thing: the narrative around the 2014 NFL Draft will likely center largely on Cleveland, especially if they end up with Johnny Manziel. But while Houston is a big, great city (I’ve lived there on two different occasions), its sporting history is also largely tortured, especially in the modern era — so what they choose to do at No. 1, and what means to their franchise, is also massively important to the civic engagement of one of America’s five largest cities (and where all the jobs seem to be).

Munchie Legaux has another year of eligibility at Cincinnati. What now for the endless carnival that is Gunner Kiel’s college life?

Following this bouncing ball: Gunner Kiel was, at one point, the top high school prospect in the country (or the top QB of his year, depending on how you read scouting services). Initially, he was headed to Indiana — he’s from Columbus, Indiana and pairing him with former Oklahoma OC Kevin Wilson (the new head coach at Indiana) seemed like a big deal. Eventually he backed away from Indiana and ended up settling on LSU. That didn’t work out — Les Miles even took a shot at him on his way out the door — and he ended up at Notre Dame. He was buried on that depth chart during a solid run for ND, so he decided to transfer to Cincinnati. Everett Golston had to depart ND soon after, and there was a brief window where maybe Kiel would return to the Fighting Irish, but ultimately he didn’t. He’s still at Cincinnati — if you’re scoring at home, that’s the fourth college he’s been associated with in the last couple of years — but now Munchie Legaux (great name) has an additional year of eligibility, and Kiel’s status is again kind of cloudy. You could view it through this prism:

Or this one:

Basically, we could have a situation where a once-in-a-lifetime stud prospect (OK, perhaps I over-sold that a bit) might get to a couple of years out of high school never having been the unquestioned starter at any of the four programs he’s been linked to. There are tons of stories about high school stars hopping around, but typically they do land somewhere, and it’s usually not four stops. It seems like there are two possible aspects here — either he’s a tough kid to coach (as exemplified by Miles’ comments above and his own admissions of his relationship with his QB coach at ND) or he’s just had a run of not-finding-the-right-place, which happens to all of us from time to time, be it job-wise, relationship-wise, etc. Here’s a quote from Kiel of interest:

“I just tell people I’m doing with what’s best for me. I committed to so many places but I did it all in the right way. I didn’t think I made any dumb decisions. Different places I looked at, the position coach or the coordinator isn’t there anymore. Alabama, Missouri, LSU, Indiana … the position coach isn’t there anymore or the (offensive) coordinator isn’t there anymore. People will have their opinion, but I thought it was in my best interest to not commit or de-commit for that very reason. You can look now, of the position coaches I would have had, none of them stayed.”

People sometimes throw this around in discussion or color commentary, but it really is hard to be an elite QB when your system keeps shifting all the time — look at Alex Smith in the NFL. He was en route to bust status, but after getting under Harbaugh and then Andy Reid, he looks like a top 10-12 NFL QB again. Consistency matters a lot, and it’s hard to get in the current era of football: after one-two bad seasons, a coach and most of his top staff can be suddenly scattered all over the country. That filters all the way to the recruitment of 17 year-olds, and Kiel may have been caught in that vortex.

Regardless, it’s likely that Munchie vs. Gunner might be among the most interesting QB battles of the spring/summer — remember, the Bearcats did go 9-4 last year and they are coached by a guy who’s recorded some elite seasons at other stops. With Louisville firmly on the rebound (no Bridgewater, no Strong), and a manageable 2014 schedule minus OSU, whoever wins that gig could be en route to a major bowl game — and maybe get the kind of late-career pop that Blake Bortles did too.

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