Wednesday, October 31, 2012

What Happens When Everybody Believes In The "Nobody Believes In Us" Theory?

We here at TW42M have been known to shit on Sports Fella Bill Simmons from time to time, but we can't take away his skill at pithily reducing sports and the way we consume them into pocket theories. He's coined, among many others, the Tyson Zone for that level of crazy and celebrity wherein we'd believe almost literally anything from someone; the Ewing Theory, when an established athlete who's never won anything leaves a team and that team plays better without the star player's distraction around; and most of all, the Nobody Believes In Us (NBIU) theory. It's pretty self-explanatory: a team feels, rightly or wrongly, that everyone has picked against them and comes together to pull off an upset because that added unity trumps talent. The 2007 NY Giants that dethroned the mighty undefeated Patriots are the ultimate NBIU team.

It's a perfect theory, really. As in, if an underdog wins a game the media can point to this ineffable togetherness as NBIU-ex-machina (often allowing them to ignore more obvious explanations for the outcome, like coaching or incorrect evaluations of talent or luck). If the favored team wins, though, NBIU magically no longer applies and the winning team was just taking care of business. Sportswriter's crutch this may be, but NBIU looks to be airtight.

There are two main problems with this conception, though, and it gets right to why Bill Simmons so often draws our ire. Simmons is the narrative even as he's writing anti-narrative ideas.

Simply put, Simmons can't decide what he is. He wants to be a legitimate journalist with access and high-level sources and the zeitgeist-chasing/setting voice of the fan, a great writer who's elevated sportswriting as the head of Grantland and a guy whose stream of consciousness rants substitute for style. At times, he tries to be all these things, and this blurred distinction cuts to the heart of NBIU's failings. Bill Simmons is by leaps and bounds the most popular sportswriter in America, and Simmons' populist theories have a way of working their way into the casual fan's worldview of sports. How can a team feel nobody believes in them when the most popular writer at the sports-industrial complex's monolith, ESPN, believes in them?

With Grantland as his forum (and, apparently, as a lab for creating writers who write in the exact same style), Simmons has pushed NBIU to the forefront of sports narrative discussion. If everybody believes that NBIU exists, does NBIU still apply? Wouldn't the favored team inexplicably be able to believe that nobody believes in them because everyone believes the other team has NBIU mojo? Doesn't this open us up to a wormhole of NBIU wherein all sports are sucked into a black hole contained in Tim Tebow's chest cavity? Am I just over-thinking this?

Yes. Yes, I am.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Survivor Pool Week 8

Sorry guys, don't have time to flesh this out.

Our records:

Sean: 9-3
Jon: 6-6
Steve: 9-3

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Are -- Gasp -- The Europeans Right? The Problems with our Playoff System

Right now, in the World Series, the team with the 3rd-best record in the National League is playing the team with the 7th-best record in the AL (out of 14 teams!). Somehow, one of these teams will be crowned the best team. This isn't an anomaly. Nearly every year a team with a weak record wins the World Series. The team with the most wins rarely wins for a number of factors--the small sample size of five games doesn't separate teams like a regular season does, there is very little advantage to being the top seed, and luck. Matt Holliday twists his back and all of a sudden the Cardinals are out their best hitter for game 6 of a playoff series. American sports have just recently accepted this playoff format, with the wild card allowing teams with decent records the chance to win the title as the best team in a given year. Prior to 1995 in baseball, only four teams made the playoffs. However, this is no longer the case. The best division winners and two best teams after that make the playoffs, a system that makes the regular season incredibly unimportant.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Whole 42 Letters: Duran Durant

Football is in full swing, NBA is starting up next week, and the World Series starts tonight. Prettaaaaay, prettaaaaay prettay good.

What the hell happened to the Cardinals?  Why would they even bother to win all those playoff games just to lose 3 in a row when it really matters?  Go Tigers!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Red Sox Traded their Starting Shortstop for a Manager?

So the Red Sox finally rid themselves of Bobby "Mariano Rivera is the best pitcher ever" Valentine. Why the ass did they hire that guy EVEN?

But fine, you got rid of him and now you have a brand new manager. You got your old buddy John Farrell back! He was the pitching coach! Yayyy! But I thought he was under contract with the Blue Jays. What's that? Oh you traded for him? You traded your starting shortstop for him? Hey, quick question: WHYYYYYYYYYYYY?!?!?!?!?

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Survivor Pool Week 7

Guys, I know this post is all about football picks, but I feel the need to point out that basketball is back in less than two weeks.

Yeah, I'm excited.

Sean: 7-3
Jon: 5-5
Steve: 8-2

Our picks.

Friday, October 19, 2012

A-Rod Is A-vailable, But Who Will Take Him?

Yesterday, amid hastily denied rumors that the Marlins might be maybe sorta interested in taking on Alex Rodriguez (but not his contract), ESPN posted a SportsNation poll about whether or not this would happen, and 64% of responders found this to be a viable option. On Wednesday, ESPN asked whether A-Rod had played his last game as a Yankee, and 54% thought so. ESPN spends a lot of time posting idiotic faux-zeitgeisty questions about whether Tim Tebow should start over Mark Sanchez (he shouldn't, but about 60% of America says an emphatic yes), but sometimes ESPN posts interesting hypotheticals. These A-Rod questions are both stupid (we as fans know NOTHING of the inside economic workings of various baseball teams) but they do qualify as interesting.

Monday, October 15, 2012

If I Were Ever To Root For the Yankees, It'd Be Now

Here at The Whole 42 Minutes, there's almost nothing we hate more than "the narrative" in sports and sports journalism. Many of our posts combat this omnipresent "narrative" that dictates sports fans' attitudes about a whole host of issues. "The narrative" consists of ideas including the following: Tim Tebow should be a starting quarterback in the NFL, Justin Verlander deserved the AL MVP last year, Dirk Nowitzki can't get it done when it counts (2010 edition), LeBron James can't get it done when it counts (2011 edition), Michael Jordan can't get it done when it counts (1990 edition), and now, Derek Jeter is the best postseason player in baseball history and Alex Rodriguez is a terrible postseason player. I'd like to point out that all of these are WRONG.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Survivor Pool Week 6

So we had to skip a week of suicide picks during the season some time, so I guess last week was the week. We were overloaded with baseball last week...couldn't deal with football. So we're back, and we'll be doing every week from now on. Here are our records:

Sean: 6-2
Jon: 3-5
Steve: 6-2

On to our picks!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Oh Geez, Here We Go

So last night, Joe Girardi pinch hit for Alex Rodriguez, one of the greatest hitters of all time, and put in 40-year-old Raul Ibanez, who then proceeded to hit the game-tying and game-winning home runs in his two at-bats in the game. Not only is this annoying because it's the Yankees, but it's annoying because it's something for the awful fans and sports writers who are narrative-mongers to latch on to about A-Rod. I'd just like to take this opportunity, before you read every single "A-Rod just can't get it done in the playoffs" article that will come out today, to tell you all the reasons why that's just wrong.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Whole 42 Letters: Take 15

Welcome to week fifteen of your letters. This week we are covering creating new franchises, athletes playing other sports, what makes a sport a sport, and rooting for a new team. Basically, we are continuing our theme of discussing what it means to be a sports fan and doing weird hypotheticals. I guess you could say we have a type.

If you took 11 guys from the NBA, NHL, MLB and NFL and had them play a soccer tournament, who wins? I'd lean toward NBA because of the combination of athleticism and guys who probably grew up playing soccer, but I'm interested what you think. As a corollary, who would win between the offense and defense of any given football team (just have them play the starting 11 on 11, no gimmicky lineups)?

It has to be the NHL or the NBA because they have the most Europeans and guys who grew up playing soccer. The NBA guys would probably be a little worse than the hockey guys because hockey requires more lower body strength and balance, skills that carry over to hockey well.

As for offense v. defense, I think that the athletes are more on the defensive side of the ball. Being saddled with five 300 pounders might protect your QB but it doesn't help on defense unless you try and hermetically seal the goal. Defensive ends, linebackers, and cornerbacks would dominate.

Hall of Famer Series: Kenny Lofton

So a while ago, I posted something about how we determine who is a baseball Hall of Famer. Then I promised that I'd post some profiles of people who should be in the Hall of Fame, all leading up to HOF voting in January, where awful baseball writers pick all the wrong people and leave out all the right people. I'm not even going to get into Tim Raines in this series of posts because he's just so obvious. Suffice to say, the BBWAA is completely idiotic and they're keeping Tim Raines, a total Hall of Famer in every way, out of the Hall. Absolutely baffling.

But no, I'm going to steer away from Raines and go more into guys who may be a little less obvious. As I said in my previous HOF post, I have a broader-than-average definition of "Hall of Famer," but I think many people would agree with my approach. If a player helped his team win games as much as or more than other established Hall of Famers, he deserves to be inducted. And that's where Kenny Lofton comes in.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Saying Goodbye to Chipper

Chipper Jones is done playing for the Atlanta Braves. The last link to the great Braves teams of the 90s is gone and the Braves have to find a new face of the franchise, leader, cleanup hitter, and third baseman.

I've been dreading writing this ever since Chipper announced that he would be retiring in March. Not only is he my favorite Brave but he's my favorite athlete ever. As a ten-year-old I had the prescient foresight to name my new cat Chipper, a lucky break considering that Andres "Big Cat" Galarraga played for the Braves at the time. (It turns out ten-year-old me wasn't the only genius to name his cat after the Braves all-time great). Amazingly, Chipper Jones, the human, survived his feline namesake and has continued to be a great baseball player. He is an anomaly in today's sports world, a thoughtful superstar who lived up to the hype of being the #1 overall pick, won a title, and did it all with one team. His only comparison is Derek Jeter and in a few years they will both have plaques up in Cooperstown (note me taking the high road and not making the joke that Jeter has been frozen while playing shortstop for years).

Chipper announcing his retirement in spring training

Friday, October 5, 2012

Why Being a Diehard Fan is the Worst

In the past twelve days, my two favorite teams -- the Packers and the Braves -- have had heartbreaking losses due in large part to officiating errors. This post is written as a direct result of the pain I feel from these two losses, but it is going to go well beyond Wayne Elliott and Sam Holbrook. This goes to the crux of sports as a whole.

Sports is obviously a huge part of my life and has been since I can remember. I was the kid drawing a fake diamond and filling it with Braves and their backups to keep myself entertained on flights. I was the kid who broke a chair when Freddie "the People's Champion" Mitchell caught a pass on 4th and 26. My social life, friendships, and thoughts are almost entirely influenced by sports. This has been my gospel for as long as I can remember, but for the first time, after tonight, I'm reconsidering.

MLB Playoff Preview

Get ready for a ton of baseball-related coverage. Steve is rolling out a Hall of Fame series, looking at interesting players that might be over or under rated because of a variety of era-specific or narrative-based causes. Jon is telling us what it all means with regards to steroids and how we grapple with baseball's closet skeletons. I'm going to try and say goodbye to Chipper Jones when the Braves' season ends.

For now, we are going to set you guys straight on what to expect for the next month of crazy baseball.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Whole 42 Letters: MVP Debate Edition

Baseball playoffs are upon us. Our preview of the playoffs is coming up soon (hopefully, later today). Looks like you can take my homer prediction of the Brewers to win the World Series straight to the bank.

Your letters:

Does Miguel Cabrera get the MVP now that he's won the Triple Crown?

This question was sent to me in future tense, but I didn't get around to writing the answers until after Cabrera had already clinched the Triple Crown. Kudos to Miguel Cabrera, who's been the Pujols to Pujols' Bonds the last few years (i.e. the clear-cut second best hitter in baseball). The Triple Crown is an incredible achievement, last accomplished by Carl Yastzremski in 1967, but Miguel Cabrera does not deserve the MVP. Make no mistake about it: Cabrera will win the MVP, but Mike Trout deserves it. 

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Some Scattered Thoughts On Drugs And Baseball

Let's play a hypothetical game together.

Two baseball players, X and Y, look a lot alike. Player X stands 6'4"at a muscular 240 pounds while Player Y is 6'2"/220.  Player X and Player Y are in fact identical twins, similar enough looking that they have multiple times attempted to impersonate one another at various public (and allegedly, private*) events. Both dream of playing baseball professionally, and both make it. With the aid of steroids, Player X hits more than 450 home runs over the course of 17 seasons. Player Y, on the other hand, barely sniffs the Majors, hitting a grand total of zero home runs in 3 different short stints in the Big Leagues. With this information alone, we could assume that steroids (along with a slightly bigger frame) give Player X a significant advantage, but you probably already know that I left something out.

Player Y also uses steroids, uses them in the same way as his twin brother, Player X, whom he trains with. So here we have it: same training regimen and diet, same genes, almost the same size and same steroid use, but vastly different results. Can we really quantify how much steroids altered performance?