Thursday, February 25, 2010

Michigan ‘Cheating’ Scandal: Less Than Meets the Eye

As a spectator at Spartan Stadium I’ve been known, at the drop of a yellow flag followed by the pronouncement from a referee of a Neutral Zone Violation or something equally as Just. Plain. Wrong. by the visiting team, to bellow, “Michigan (or whomever) is cheating again!” 

Believe me, if there was something even remotely major about this “scandal” involving the University of Michigan Football program, I would be screaming the good news from the rooftop: “Michigan Cheats!  I knew it!  They’ve been cheating all along!”  

But, I read the NCAA report, the “Notice of Allegations” sent by the NCAA to the school as well as the letter they sent to U of M coach Rich Rodriguez, and based on what the NCAA is saying, these violations—which the NCAA calls “potential” major violations that, in their own words, could be reduced to something they call “secondary” violations—may wind up being a case of their being no “there”, there.

In any event, in my view, none of the alleged violations rise to the level of, for example, paying your star running back to play (eh, USC?) or of having half your team leave the annual end-of-season Football Bust, don ski masks and walk across the street to a dorm and start a brawl with a members of a fraternity with whom they have a beef (eh, Michigan State?).

This story, which began with allegations of illegal workouts mandated by Rodriguez by unnamed former and current Michigan players published late last fall by The Detroit Free Press, is all about something known as CARA—an  NCAA-coined acronym for “Counted Athletic Related Activities." 

During the off-season, football players are allowed 20 hours of CARA.  The NCAA charges that in some weeks some Michigan football players racked up 20 and 1/2 hours of CARA. 

NCAA rules say athletes are limited to 8 hours a week in the weight room.  The NCAA says some players spent 10 hours a week there. 

NCAA rules say that players are limited to weight training and watching game films in the off-season.  The NCAA says some of the players played 7-on-7 football at various times during the off-season.  Furthermore, the NCAA charges that some of those 7-on-7 games were presided over by Michigan “Quality Assurance” staffers, an action which they say made them de facto Assistant Coaches, meaning Michigan had 5 more assistants than permitted by rule.

Were there violations?  It appears so.  Do they seem like a huge deal?  I will put the question to you.

I’m sure Michigan will be penalized, but I am guessing the penalty will be light.

But you ought to see what hoops Michigan has to jump through to answer the charges!  Here’s an example of what the NCAA expects the University and the football program to produce in response to just one of the 5 allegations they’ve made:





And here’s the best part.  The NCAA is very specific when it comes to how the documents should be presented.  Think in terms of the worst stickler for crummy little rules you ever had in a professor:


It’s going to take a lot of staff a lot of time just to answer the charges, with Rodriguez and others set to testify before the NCAA when they meet in Seattle in mid-August.  The paperwork has to be a major pain for the U of M staff, and may in and of itself be enough to prompt compliance in the future.  I know I’d think twice before maybe committing a violation if I knew what it was going to mean in terms of possibly having to answer to formal charges down the line.

Finally, congratulations to the US hockey team for their hard-fought quarterfinal win over the Swiss.  Too bad the Detroit Red Wings, er, the Swedish National Team, lost to Slovakia.  I think the Swedes would have given Canada a better game in the semi’s.  Canada is going to be tough to beat.  They destroyed the Russians as you saw and have outscored their opponents 15-5 in their last two games.  We’ll see.  The US plays the Fins at 3 Friday.  Canada meets Slovakia at 7:30.  Winners go for the Gold Sunday.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Olympic Mens Ice Hockey Standings, Explained

Oh. My. God.  Did you see that game?  It was, like, one of the best hockey games ever played, that’s all.  It was exciting, wasn’t it?  USA 5, Canada 3.  I felt like Bob Carr, radio man for the Charlestown Cheifs in “Slapshot”; the spittle flying from his lips, just about out of wind, barely managing to get the words out:  “THIS IS HOCKEY!”

It was almost as good as the win over the Soviet in 1980 except those were college kids taking on the Red Army team and here, 30 years later, we cheer for a plucky bunch of guys struggling to get by on only 3 or 4 or 8 million dollars a year.  But, other than that, pretty much it was the same.

So, now you ask, “Richard, what’s next?”

Here we go.  It all depends on the big Finland v Sweden game which begins in about an hour and which—like USA/Canada—I will have to watch on MSNBC with the sound down.  I can’t stand Mike Emrick’s broadcasting (really, really nice guy, though) and I won’t listen to that little prig whatshisname, who got his job because of his dad.  Besides, I met him and, unlike Emerick, he is not a nice guy.  

Now, if Finland wins, (in regulation time, that is) they will tie the US for first place  in the Preliminary Round but will have a higher goal differential than the Americans will thus be awarded first place and the right to meet the winner of the Qualification Playoff Game between Switzerland and Belarus in the Quarterfinals and America will play the winner of the the Qualification Playoff Game between Slovakia and Norway in the Quarters.

If Sweden beats Finland in regulation time, they will tie Team USA with 9 points, but unless they beat the Fins by five goals, would trail the Americans in goal differential.  If they do beat Finland by 5, they would tie the US in goal differential, but would still finish second because the US would own the next tiebreaker which is goals scored.  To pass the USA and finish first, Sweden will have to finish off the Fins by at least a 6-goal margin or by a 5-goal margin while scoring at least 8 goals.  That would tie Sweden with the US in goals scored and the next tie-breaker is 2009 IIHF world ranking in which Sweden is 3rd and the US 5th.  Note: if Sweden scores 9 or more goals against Finland and wins in regulation time, they would finish first, as long as they beat the Fins by at least 5 goals.

If the Sweden/Finland game is tied at the end of 60 minutes, the US will finish first because once a game goes OT in the Olympics, the winner is awarded only two points. 

So, it’s all really quite simple, as you can see.  If the US winds up in first place in the Preliminary Round, they get the winner of Switzerland v Belarus.  If Team USA finishes second under any of the above scenarios, they will play the winner of the game between Slovakia and Norway.

I hope this has helped…

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Second Assassination of President John F. Kennedy

It will be 47 years this fall that Lee Harvey Oswald assassinated President John F. Kennedy in Dallas, Texas.

It may be right around the time of that sad anniversary that the History Channel plans to assassinate the character of President Kennedy by airing a right-wing smear of Mr. Kennedy and the Kennedy family.

I ask you to spend the eleven minutes it will take to watch the following video from Robert Grenwald's Brave New Films and to take a moment to sign the petition BNF is sending to the History Channel (the link is HERE) urging them to re-consider the mistake they are poised to make by airing lies in the guise of a documentary. I thank you in advance...

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


By way of an update, I'm recovering quite nicely from the Radio Frequency Ablation which was performed on me and my heart three weeks ago Monday. I tend to tire quickly but that's part of the bounce-back process. I'm regaining strength quickly and, most importantly, my heart is back in normal rhythm. The doctor told me (and I've mentioned this several times to my daughter who worries too much) that I have "a good strong heart." I was, in fact, back on the ice last week under the supervision of my doctor who appears to have no compunction whatsoever about shooting the puck at my head. He must think I'm okay. So, it's all good and I thank all of you again for the kind words and thoughts that meant so much to me. And for the troops, also.

It's a good thing my heart is "good" and "strong". The bill from the hospital just arrived in the mail a few minutes ago. Before I opened it, I was thinking a good over/under number on it was $50,000 and I just about nailed it. For the procedure and two nights in the hospital the total came to what we put in the title line of this post: $51,977.19

Wow and geez us. Here's an outstanding example of how one gets from zero to fitty-grand in 48 hours: I use a CPAP machine when I sleep at home so they had me wear one during the operation. I had it on for about six hours. That alone cost $1,400. They provided one for me to sleep with but I couldn't use it because it was way louder than the one I use at home and it kept me awake. Now, it's the bill for the thing that would be keeping me awake at night if we didn't have health insurance because that was another $1,100. Amazing. And I'm pretty sure the total I'm looking at here is only the hospital bill. It does not include the doctors fee.

As I said, good thing we've got insurance. The total bill was actually $51,983.19. There's a six dollar charge for "outpatient/guest lunch" which I think means Jeannie had something to eat while I was undergoing the procedure. We're on the hook for that.

Comeback Player of the Year
While recuperating, I remembered that I got a copy of a Tiger Woods video game for Christmas a couple of years ago and never got around to playing it so with time on my hands for a while here I've been hitting the links from my couch. It was all very frustrating at first what with the puny 210 yard drives I was hitting (try playing Pebble when you can only hit it that far and see how screwed you are) and the 20-foot putts I was easing 40-feet past the hole. But, like anything else, I lived and learned. I got better. I entered my first two "tournaments" over the weekend and promptly missed the cut in each, including a disastrous 83 in the second round at the aforementioned Pebble Beach. Now I'm playing an event at the Blue Monster--Doral--down in Miami. I opened with a 73 replete with four bogeys and thought that if I could do it again I might have a chance to make the cut and start building the bank account I need to buy better equipment so I can hit it farther and straighter and all like that there when, to my amazement, I shot a 66 in the second round. I not only made the cut, I played my way into contention; into the top ten! I followed that up with a, if I may say so myself, brilliant 65 in the third round yesterday and now I lead the tournament by 3 heading into the final round! I've been thinking in golfspeak all day. "There's still a lot of golf to be played...I've been striking it well but there are a lot of great players out there and we'll take it one shot at a time..." that sort of thing. But boy, it would be HUGE to win. Huge.

A victory means I could play in the US Open and the British Open as you need to have at least one tournament win to qualify in this game for those events.

Plus, being that it's Tiger Woods PGA Tour golf, I think if I win I get to cyber-bang a mediocre-looking Perkins waitress.

Badda-boom, badda-bing. A lot of work to get to that joke, eh? I'll let you know how it all turns out. Hell, I might even live-blog the final round. I am so excited...

Hitler Finds Out Somebody Already Made a Hitler Video

We've all seen the "Hitler Finds Out..." parodies on the YouTube or whatever it is the kids are calling it these days, but I came across this version this morning and laughed like hell. I forgot, by the way, the name of the movie upon which all of these captioning efforts depend, but I understand it's pretty good in its own right. And now, on with the show...

By the way, the "Hitler Finds Out He's Been Banned From X-Box Live" youtube mentioned in the video above is also a scream. As is the "Hitler Finds Out Sarah Palin Resigned" video and a few others. I don't know why this hasn't gotten old or tired, but it hasn't. At least not yet.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

R U Ready for Some BASEBALL??

Why, yes.  Yes, I am.  I had to send democommie™©® a note yesterday with a link to a story replete with pictures and a video, mind you, of something they call "Truck Day" in Boston--so named because it is the day that the Red Sox (who as you all know suck and always have and always will and there's nothing more to say about that) load up their gaudy, painted-in-Fenway Park-Green 18-wheeler with all their ugly uniforms and all of the rest of the equipment they need to play a game of catch and/or pepper--and send it off to where ever in the hell it is that they spring train.

We mention this because, Huzzah!, it is just about time for the pitchers and catchers to report and to that I say, "Oh, Hell yes!"  It snowed again here today and we've arrived at the time of year where I'm tired of being cold and tired of shoveling snow and am ready for a little hardball.  So, bring it on...

As I am too cheap to actually subscribe to "Baseball Prospectus" I cannot confirm that the following information was generated by Nate Silver of fame (he's the most savvy of all the political pollsters as you know) but word is that it was.  It's something called the "Pecota Rankings" named after former KC Royals utility infielder Bill Pecota due to the fact that the acronym by which it is known (PECOTA) matches his name: Player Empirical Comparison and Optimization Test Algorithm.  The algorithm--which involves math, apparently--takes into account things like who's out of rehab and who's still on the juice and the like and attempts to project future player performance based on what they've done in the past, etc.

We'll print the prognostications for you today and then we'll check back and check how things turned out in October or thereabouts:

        AL East
Boston         94-68
New York    92-70
T.B. Rays    91-71
Balt.            79-83
Toronto       71-91

       AL Central
DETROIT    80-82
White Sox   80-82
Minnesota   80-82
Cleveland    77-85
K.C.           74-88

      AL West
Texas        87-75
Seattle       83-79
Oakland    82-80
L.A.          76-86

    NL East
Phillies       89-73
Atlanta       86-76
Florida       82-80
NY Mets    77-85
Wash.         75-87

   NL Central
St. Louis     88-74
Cubs          79-83
Milwaukee 78-84
Cincy         77-85
Houston     77-85
Pittsburgh   72-90

   NL West
Colorado  88-74
Arizona     84-78
Dodgers    81-81
Giants       81-81
San Diego 72-90
That which jumps out at me is the predicted 3-way tie for first in the AL Central.  I guarantee one thing: if it happens it will be because Detroit dropped their last 8 games of the season or some such thing to make it happen.  I guess I can spend the summer trying to find out how a three-way tie would be resolved.  Right now I can't think of a way to do it without a double-elimination tournament of some sort.  I know this much, it's never happened before and is about as likely to happen as a coin landing on "heads" 50 times in a row, but hey, it could happen, I suppose.

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Winter Olympics, Explained

A commnetator at "Wonkette", one Escape Goat Nation, has helpfully explained the folly of the Games of the Winter Olmpiad:

Dear Mr. Sports Know It All,

When did Snowboarding become an Olympic Sport?
Jimmy age 10.

Dear Jimmy,
Nice try, but you have to get up pretty early in the morning to fool ol’ Mr. Sports Know It All.

The answer is:
Snowboarding isn’t a sport.

Snowboarding is actually a HOBBY whose enthusiasts are Silver Spooned Slackers who view themselves as some kind of disaffected counter-culture heroes that are too lazy, self-important, immature, undisciplined and disinterested to dedicate all of their time and energy to learn a real sport that is respected and that adults participate in.
Hope this helps Jimmy.
Mr. Sports Know It All.

Thank you Mr. Sports Know It All.
However, I do have one more question:
If Snowboarding isn’t a real sport, how come you can do it in the Olympics and win a bunch of Medals?

Jimmy age 10.

Hi Jimmy. Welcome back.
Well Jimmy, you see the Winter Olympics have never been really kind to the U.S.
Even though the U.S. has plenty of good mountains, snow and ice, they continually got their asses kicked by countries with populations 1/10th it’s size…with 1/1,000th of it’s funding.
You see Jimmy, Americans are big fucking babies and poor sports. So what happened was that American corporate interests bullied and pressured the IOC to include Snow Boarding and the Free Style Skiing bullshit to be Olympic Sports so Americans could win some medals.

Let me give you an example. Let’s take the results of the last Winter Olympics held in Turin, Italy in 2006.
The U.S. finished with a respectable 25 medals. Second only to Germany. U.S.A! U.S.A! U.S.A! WHOO HOO! IN YER FACE WORLD!

Ok Jimmy, here comes the Science!
If we subtract the Medals won by the U.S. in the BULLSHIT Snowboarding category, “Sport” (Hobbies for wealthy slacker kids) which was 7 total medals, The U.S. finishes 6th place in total medal count…below Canada.
See how it works Jimmy.
And now you know…the rest of the story.

Mr. Sports Know It All.