Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Football v Rugby

Last spring (Northern Hemisphere for 'autumn'), I pitted Baseball against Cricket to decide once and for all which is the greatest ball and stick game. The coming of the Northern fall brings with it football, rugby and the definitive battle for supremacy among these contact sports.

But first, the ground rules. For the purposes of this comparison, I will be using the NFL, the pinnacle of American football, and Rugby Union, the more popular, and in my opinion, superior form of that game. Ten categories will be considered, worth ten points each, plus a five point bonus category. Let the best game win.

Best Team
Football (7) - Cameragate notwithstanding, the New England Patriots have been the team to beat for the past six years. However, due to free agency and the salary cap, the Pats pale in comparison to the great teams of the past.
Rugby (9) - According to the IRB World Rankings, New Zealand is the current world's best, and it isn't for a lack of opposition. They dominate on the world scene, despite the best efforts of Australia, South Africa, England and France.

Best Historical Team
Football (9) - This is always good for a debate, but I'll go with the Cowboys. They are tied for the most Super Bowl wins, and I'd put the Boys of the early 90's up against anyone.
Rugby (9) - This one is a little tougher, but I'll go with the All Blacks again. Their 1925 squad was referred to as 'The Invincibles', and that's good enough for me.

Best Rivalry
Football (7) - The best rivalries are in college, but the Cowboys/Redskins rivalry isn't bad, followed closely by Chicago/Green Bay, Denver/Oakland, Denver/Kansas City, and Dallas/Philly.
Rugby (9) - There are some good options here, but I've got to go with New Zealand/Australia. Seems to usually come down to these two teams and they are currently the top two teams in the world.

Football (9) - Ties are possible but highly unlikely. Overtime rules cost it a point though--I don't like the fact that the losing team might never touch the ball.
Rugby (6) - Again, ties are possible but unlikely in league competition, although they do happen more than in the NFL. In tournaments such as the World Cup, overtime rules include two ten minute periods. Better than a tie, but sudden death would be better.

Big Play Potential
Football (10) - This is football's moment to shine. You never know when the QB is going to throw a deep pass, a RB is going to break through for a huge gain or even when a safely is going to drop a WR cutting across the middle. Good times.
Rugby (8) - You get some big plays, but no forward pass removes lots of opportunity.

Football (3) - And this is football's weak point. You've got offensive and defensive units, linemen, skill position players, etc. All it takes is the ability to do one thing well.
Rugby (8) - Some specialization, but for the most part, every player on the pitch needs to excel as an all-round player.

Football (5) - Rules have to be written to enforce sportsmanlike behavior. Shameful.
Rugby (9) - Tana Umaga, former All Blacks captain, once abandoned a favorable play to check on the Welsh captain who had been knocked unconscious. Pure class. It's a rough game, but the players respect their opponent.

Best Trophy
Football (5) - Not really a fan of the Lombardi Trophy. Kinda boring.
Rugby (6) - The Webb Ellis Cup. What is there to say? It's a nice enough cup.

Football (6) - A good deal of the world watches the Super Bowl, but no one else seriously plays football. The American Football World Cup could only attract ten participants, and until this year, when the US first entered the World Cup, Japan had been a two-time champion. Japan!
Rugby (7) - It's not yet soccer's equal on the world scene, but rugby enjoys fairly widespread popularity, although it has been dominated by a handful of countries for most of its history.

Football (9) - I get questions about this all the time from rugby fans, but I still give footballers credit despite the pads. As we learned two weeks ago from Kevin Everett, injuries still happen, even with a helmet and big shoulder pads. Football's hits and collisions are too big to try this game without protection.
Rugby (10) - Some players wear padded headgear, but otherwise players play without protection. And the hits are almost on par with the NFL. High speed collisions aren't as common and tackling rules help, but this is still a violent sport.

Bonus: Best Tradition
Football (3) - I'll go with the Lambeau Leap. Nice to get the fans involved.
Rugby (5) - New Zealand's haka is both a cultural celebration and fierce intimidation. That's Tana Umaga leading the haka in the video below.

Add it all up and rugby takes down American football and it isn't even close: 86-73. Football is a great game, but give rugby a try during the World Cup, shown on Versus.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Random Football Thoughts, College and Pro

1. I talked about this in my response to Chris' previous post, but I'm concerned about Texas. Having not gone to a major college football school (I went to Hardin- Simmons in Abilene, which had a really good Division III football team) I picked Texas a few years ago as my preferred team. (Mainly because of Chris Simms and cemented by Vince Young) I think that they are clearly the second best team in the Big 12. Texas A&M was a half away from surpassing them in my mind, but they fell asleep on Fresno St. and would have lost the game if the WR from Fresno St had just gone out of bounds instead of trying to stretch over the goal line. I watched that whole debacle at the end of the A&M game and it was unconscionable missing that call.
2. There is no way Notre Dame should be as bad as they are. My sports interests has as much to do with hate as it does love. You can read my favorites in my profile, but here are my hates: Yankees, Red Sox, Cubs, Eagles, Redskins, Lakers, Fighting Irish, and anyone else who really good (so, the Patriots and Suns also make the list.) So I'm actually pleased that the Irish are terrible. But I think there may be some poetic justice for Tyrone Willingham. You didn't have alot of success at ND, but he teams were always competitive. I laugh at Charlie Weiss.
3. LSU is the best team I've seen in the NCAA so. They blew an over-rated Virginia Tech away. I'm picking at LSU-USC championship game. I noticed Ryan Perrilloux getting some mop up time for LSU. He de-committed from Texas after Vince Young's sophomore season because he didn't want to sit behind VY for two years. Now he's sitting behind the immortal Matt Flynn. Nice call, Ryan. On my response to Chris, LSU v. USC in the National Championship
4. There is no more exciting player in the NFL than Vince Young. Not Reggie Bush, not any running back, wide receiver, defensive player, not anyone. Because there is a chance on every single Titans offensive play that he is going to do something that will make your jaw drop. But Sunday's game was tough to watch because he was off and most of his throws were not that great. Every game he has a couple of those throws, the ball bounces in or he throws it so far behind the receiver that he gets killed or whatever. He didn't win Sunday's game, but there are going to be several games that VY wins almost by himself. He is freakin' amazing.
5. I think the Cowboys need to sit Terrance Newman and hope that after the next two and hope he can go later in the season. The real meat of their schedule starts Oct. 14 against New England. The next couple of weeks against teams that struggle throwing the ball he should sit. They need him to be better later. Without Newman, the very best they can hope for 9-7. With Newman, they can play in the Super Bowl.
6. I was sure about several things in the Cowboys game.
a. That Tony Romo was going to throw an key interception at the worst possible time.
b. That the Cowboys would start running the ball midway thru the forth quarter.
c. I was also sure that the Boys give that game away.
Only one of those things happened. I thought the aggressive play calling by Jason Garrett was awesome. Maybe it was just because he knew as everyone else watching that game that there was no way the Cowboy D was going to stop the Giants. That was an ugly defensive performance. That has to improve. The next couple of weeks should be time to work on those problems before they really start work in the schedule.
7. As tough as it was to watch the Dallas defense for this Cowboy fan, imagine being a Giant fan. Eli Manning plays his best game, and then gets hurt and you don't win? That's gotta suck. At least the Cowboys won.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Back to school

I made my NFL predictions a few days ago and I'm overdue for my NCAA picks. You can take my word: I didn't have Michigan winning the Big Ten. On to the picks.

ACC: Virginia Tech. I really didn't want to pick them because I don't think they are as good as the hype or their current ranking. But I dare you to find anyone else in the ACC worth picking.

Big 12: Oklahoma. I've got serious questions about Texas's running game and secondary. Maybe next year.

Big East: I'd like to pick Louisville, but it's got to be West Virginia.

Big Ten: Penn State fills the void with Michigan and Ohio State both down.

SEC: I think the SEC is usually overrated, but this conference is good this year. Maybe too good—LSU could easily have a loss or two before bowl season.

PAC 10: USC. I thought we weren't supposed to have dominance like this anymore.

Conference USA: Southern Miss. I won't lie: I flipped a coin and this is what I got.

Mid-American: Kent State. Ditto.

Mountain West: Watch out for TCU. They can quickly replace Hawaii and Appalachian State as the early season media darlings with an upset of the Longhorns in Austin.

Sun Belt: Arkansas State. Any team that can put a scare into Texas can win the Sun Belt, right?

WAC: Don't believe the Hawaii hype: they are not this year's Boise State. That title belongs to...Boise State.

National Champs: LSU over USC. I know this kind of contradicts what I said earlier about LSU and the SEC, but if LSU can get to the title game, they can win it. Think of last year's battle tested Florida team beating previously unchallenged Ohio State.

Heisman: He's not the best QB (that would be Louisville's Brian Brohm), but he will be the QB on the top ranked team in the country. That's enough for Heisman voters to give the award to John David Booty.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

NFL: On the record

I've waited until the last minute to make my picks for the season, but time's up, so here it is:

East: Dallas Cowboys
North: Chicago Bears
South: New Orleans Saints
West: Seattle Seahawks
Wild card: Philadelphia Eagles, New York Giants

Yes, with the exception of Dallas taking the NFC East over Philly, this is exactly how the NFC turned out last year. But have you looked at the NFC? Eleven of the sixteen teams finished .500 or less last year; twelve had a negative point differential. I considered San Francisco replacing New York as a wild card, but I just don't see it. My NFC picks may not be original, but they will be correct.

East: New England Patriots
North: Cincinnati Bengals
South: Indianapolis Colts
West: San Diego Chargers
Wild card: Denver Broncos, Jacksonville Jaguars

The AFC division champs are all repeats other than Cincy, and I expect they should stay focused enough to leapfrog Baltimore. I did manage to find two new teams in the wild card, though. Denver and Jax will both thrive with their young quarterbacks and solid defenses.

Super Bowl
San Diego Chargers over Dallas Cowboys

New England is the trendy pick in the AFC, but I see Norv Turner working some of the old Cowboy Triplets magic with the Chargers own triplets. Plus, they still have a great defense. Some might say Dallas is a homer pick, but I think they have the most balanced team in the NFC. Besides, this matchup has good storylines, with Turner's history in Dallas and Phillip's time in San Diego. It will be a good game, but in the end, LaDainian Tomlinson will not be denied.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

I Have a Serious Question

The other day I saw that the MLB store has a sale going that you can get an authentic personalized jersey for $99. I forwarded it to my wife as a possible Christmas or birthday gift. She asked me if it should have my name on it or a player's name on it? This caused a bit of consternation in my mind. In the past, I thought that a personalized jersey with your own name on it was stupid. I mean there's no one named "Massey" on the Rangers. According the, there have three Masseys in the big leagues in history: Bill Massey played 13 games for the Cincinnati Red in 1894 (apparently the 5-11 168 lb Massey was big enough to be nicknamed "Big Bill"), Mike Massey played 31 games for the 1917 Boston Braves, and Roy "Red" Massey topped them all by playing 66 games the following year for those same Braves. In football, the only Massey I know of was a 90's Defensive back named Robert Massey. He even made the Pro-Bowl one year.
Anyway, having a Ranger's jersey with Massey on it seems the ultimate of loser-dom. However, if I get a player's name on it, what if they are traded or starts to really stink or starts fighting dogs or something like that? I mean, what if in Dec 2000 in those heady days after the Rangers stunned the world and signed A-Rod to the most ridiculous contract in history and it looked like he could be playing in Arlington for 10 years, I had run out and bought an A-Rod #3 jersey? I would be even more angry than I am now that they traded him. Perhaps a Michael Young #10 jersey would be a good idea. He signed a big contract in the off season and signed through 2013. Now we can debate the wisdom of that contract, but logic would say that he is here for the long haul right? Maybe he'll become to the Rangers what Craig Biggio is to the Astros, not quite to Hall of Fame level, but fan favorite level. But maybe not. Maybe he declines starting next year and by 2013 he's been released or traded for a spare starting pitcher with the Rangers picking up a lot of that contract. Either one could happen.
If I get a jersey with my name on it, I know I'll never get traded. I mean, honestly, if I've stayed with the Rangers this long, bad baseball isn't going to cause me to leave my fandom at the door.
So what should I do? Jersey with my own name on it, a player's name, or is there a 3rd way? I need to know what you guys think.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

This post is the greatest of all time

When Appalachian State beat Michigan this past weekend, people started immediately saying that it was the greatest upset of all time. Michigan came into the game ranked number five in the preseason polls and the Mountaineers are in the Football Championship Subdivision (or The Football Division Formerly Known as Div I-AA, iconic symbol pending), although they are two-time defending Football Championship Subdivision Championship Game Champions (no, that is not an error). When Corey Lynch blocked Michigan's field goal attempt to seal the game, history was made: for the first time ever, a Div I-AA team (I'm not going through that again) defeated a Top 25 opponent. But was it truly the greatest upset of all time?

Ever notice that we've had a lot of 'greatest of all time' moments lately? The Heat's Finals comeback over the Mavs was called the greatest ever. The 2004 Red Sox ALCS win over the Yankees after falling behind 0-3 was too. The 2006 NCAA basketball tournament was called the greatest of all time, at least until the later rounds when everyone found out that huge upsets early in the tourney means good, not great, teams in the Final Four. The 2005 USC Trojans were hailed as the greatest team of all time, then lost the Rose Bowl and the National Championship to Vince Young and the Texas Longhorns. Then that game was called the greatest of all time and Vince's performance was called the greatest individual performance of all time.

OK, I won't argue with that last one.

We've even turned it into an ironic acronym: G.O.A.T. Used to be, if someone said, "Who's the goat?" the answer was Bill Buckner. Now it's Alex Rodriguez. Come to think of it, Barry Bonds could arguably be the answer to both questions.

Why do we feel the need to attempt to validate today's sporting events, teams and athletes by naming them the greatest of all time? Is it not good enough to put on a great performance? Why do we need our teams to defeat not only their opponent, but also history? Is it because we live in a world of mass media, the internet and SportsCenter highlights? Is it our arrogance to believe that we live in the greatest era of mankind? Or is it simply a desire to feel as though we are witnessing history at every turn? Whatever the case, we have become a society of statistical outliers, the tapered ends of the bell curve, where the greats of today (and the worst--it works that way as well) will be quickly replaced by tomorrows G.O.A.T.s (or goats, as the case may be).

App State's win over Michigan was not the greatest upset of all time, but it was a great game, and that's good enough for me.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

110 Percent Pick 'em contest

Well, the Summer of Nothing (except the Michael Vick and the NBA gambling scandals) is mercifully almost over. It's been difficult to find anything worth writing about, which is why we haven't been writing. But football season is here, and with it comes more posts and a new 110 Percent contest: NFL Pick 'em.

To join, go to Yahoo! Fantasy Sports Pro Football Pick'em. Here's the details:
League name: 110 Percent
Group ID#: 52452
Password: cliche

Current standings will be kept up to date here, but we need players before we worry about that. So if we have any readers left after the Summer of Nothing, head on over, sign up and get you Week 1 picks in this week.

When we did this for the NCAA Basketball tourney, we were totally embarrassed by a reader, and before he can comment on it here, I'll go ahead and say it was my dad. Everyone knows the tourney is a crap shoot anyway. Picking football games is a different story. Let's just say we are each looking for redemption/revenge.