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Monday, December 22, 2008

Smart Notes - Dec. 22, 2008

1. Not a good time to be a Ref

Two rather dramatic referee videos emerging from this weekend. In the first, some kid in a high school game targeted the Ref (watch the left free-safety):

In the second, from the Rams-Seakaws game, the Refs get a little revenge:

2. Why Oh Why Can't We Get a Better [Football] Press Corps?

I stole this line from economist Brad DeLong, and I plan on doing a few more of these sections to point out some of the more egregious errors sportswriters and pseudo-journalists make. This isn't the worst example, but I was watching ESPN's infamous NFL Countdown show with Chris Berman, Tom Jackson, and the revolving array of NFL cast-offs. They did a piece about injuries, which was fine and all: the moral was that NFL players all play fairly banged up throughout the season. Not a surprise. But throughout the 10 minute or so segment, they never bothered to get into the nuances (unsurprising). But one thing they were interested in was comparing some guys who were tough versus others who were not. (Keyshawn Johnson flat out said that Julius Jones spent all his time in the training room.)

In Bill Walsh's amazing book, Finding the Winning Edge, he had some really insightful points about injuries. Namely, that different positions can handle injuries different. Walsh observed that offensive and defensive linemen tend to be able to play through certain injuries with greater ease, than, say, a defensive back.

For instance, imagine if two players have a gimpy or somewhat sprained ankle. The offensive guard, though it is by no means easy, can play through it. But would you really want your press-man cornerback to play with a sprained ankle? One bad step or slow recovery and it's a touchdown. The injury is far more debilitating. Walsh made the same point regarding receivers: they have difficulty playing through injuries for the same reason that a track sprinter would. Quarterbacks provide a good example, in that they can play through a lot of injuries but certain injuries -- to the shoulder, hand, etc -- are debilitating and can often render a QB inoperable.

Runningbacks are a unique case. It often depends on the type of runner and the type of injury. An injury affecting explosiveness is significant no matter what; other bruises and various other problems might not have as much of an affect. Even hand injuries can depend on the type of running back -- is he a prominent receiver out of the backfield?

But, alas, not a mention of this. Just "this guy is tough" and "that guy spends a lot of time in the tub."


Anonymous said...

I was watching the Navy game and was shocked not only by how bad the announcing was, but how uninformative it was about the strategy being employed. Its a very interesting offense, the coaches make a lot of adjustments, telling us that all the outside running has "softened up the defense for the inside run" (pretty typical of the quality of the analysis) is frustrating.

The moment I thought was the worst (especially since it was a very interesting strategy shift) was when in the 4th quarter, Navy ran lead option a few times in a row instead of the triple, for big yardage. Not only did the announcer not point this out (which since it was an important strategic adjustment to how wake was playing them)but incorrectly attributed the gains to failure to play assignments. (Since the guy who had the assignment for the QB just got blocked for the first time the whole game, It seemed a touch unfair).

I have more and more been trying to figure out what is more likely, that:

A. The announcers themselves don't pay attention and so the only things they can say are rather inane
B. That they don't think that the audience can understand anything particularly complicated or that we don't care

zlionsfan said...

I would lean more toward A than toward B. I'm sure there is a feeling that the general public won't understand certain things and therefore there is no need to mention them (in fact, the producers may take this position on most telecasts), but there's certainly a reasonable percentage of the audience who wants to hear, well, everything.

Every now and then, we do get a bit more substance: why they line up this way, what the defense should be doing, what they aren't doing, and so on. The thing is that you seem to get the valuable stuff from the same group of announcers.

I think some of it is also the sheer number of games that are televised these days. It's great to be able to watch so many games, but that also means we have to have that many more announcers, and of course the networks aren't simply going to hire the best available people for the job - none of them had a solid cast to begin with.

Anonymous said...

To give announcers a little slack, it is hard to watch a game live AND explain the strategy being employed when it would take some background information to explain why it is significant. For example, that lead play that was mentioned by Andy would take some previous knowledge of what Navy was running and why this is now significant. The game moves rather quickly for explanations to be shared.

The one thing I cannot stand is misinformation. If you aren't going to be particularly insightful then at least be correct when you do speak.

Anonymous said...

Maybe this is like being the skinniest girl at fat camp, but I think Mike Tirico is one of the better NFL announcers in terms of providing nuance and substance.

And that first game, the high school game, that was a cheap shot of the highest degree. I really hope that the kid did that on his own accord and was not told to do that by a coach or parent.