A Substitute for War

Basketball philosophy

Posts Tagged ‘Sport

Ballon d’Or Nominations: A Sign of Rationality in the Most Arational of Sports

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AUGUST 19, 2009 - Football : Lionel Messi of B...

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On Monday, the FIFA Ballon d’Or award will be awarded to the player deemed to be the best in the world in 2010.  What’s most interesting about this is that all 3 nominees (Lionel Messi, Xavi, and Andres Iniesta)  play on FC Barcelona.  If you’re a generally knowledge sports fan, but don’t know much about global soccer, this probably strikes you as strange because it seems pretty unlikely that the 3 best players in the world play on any one team together.  That’s true, but even more peculiar is that FC Barcelona did not win the 2010 Champions League, which is the pinnacle of European club soccer.  The three best players in the world on the same team, and they didn’t even win championship?  Seems pretty indefensible doesn’t it?

Actually that’s part of why I’m so impressed.

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Mayweather the Coward

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Floyd Mayweather, Jr in a WWE ring. Bradley Ce...

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I’ve got a ton of respect for the kind of rapid strategy you see in boxing that you rarely see elsewhere – but with the move of the sport to pay-per-view, and the utterly inane inability of the sport to actually book good fights, boxing has fallen off my radar.  With that said, when thinking about the biggest narrative shifts in sports for 2010, there was no question that I’d either have Manny Pacquiao or Floyd Mayweather Jr. on here.

Mayweather is the one who brought this to a head, so I’ll go with him.

For those unaware of the circumstances here, Pacquiao and Mayweather are considered the two best pound-for-pound boxers in the world, and the boxing world is dying to see them go head to head.  Things were going according to plan until Mayweather added new steroid testing requirements in at the last minute of negotiations.  Pacquiao refused, and the negotiations broke down.    Later Mayweather made news for a racial slur filled rant against Pacquiao.  Both fighters fought another match against lesser opponents, and then word came out that Pacquiao had agreed to Mayweather’s previous ultimatum…only to have Mayweather not respond.  Pacquiao went on to beat another opponents, Mayweather proceeded to get in trouble with the law and raise questions as to whether he’ll be even available to fight outside of prison any time soon.

So, obviously, Mayweather has done a number on his reputation.  If you knew nothing about him before, you now know that he’s a fool.  A variety of characteristically can reasonably be attached to him, but the one that cuts deepest is “coward”.

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Written by Matt Johnson

December 31, 2010 at 4:55 pm

UConn’s Streak and Gender in Spectator Sports

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The Connecticut Huskies of women’s college basketball just broke a record that has garnered some crossover attention:  They’ve won 89 games in a row, which breaks the streak of 88 wins that John Wooden‘s UCLA Bruins achieved in men’s college basketball way back when.  Perhaps what’s getting most attention of all though is UConn‘s coach Geno Auriemma taking issue with the attention his team is getting for this accomplishment.

Now there are some layers here:

Yup, Sports Fans are kinda Sexist

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Written by Matt Johnson

December 25, 2010 at 9:43 pm

Why Sports Fans Should Watch Top Chef

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A new season of Top Chef has started, and I feel it’s my duty to tell you, dear sports fanatic, that if you haven’t watched Top Chef, you should.  Now look, there are different types of sports fans.  I know not all of us will like Top Chef.  But consider that I’m not really at all into cooking, and I still love it.

I wasn’t expecting this.  My wife put the show on, and before I knew it I was sucked in.  For me the key thing, is that as a lover of sport, I’m a competition junkie.  No, not all competition – Dancing With the Stars makes me feel ill.  Really though, any time I can watch competition between people who are really dedicated to what they are competing in, it doesn’t take much else to hook me in.

If you’re the type of sports fan who is also really into, say, the WWE, well then Top Chef might not be for you.  You’re probably more into the violence and the machismo more than anything else, and Top Chef doesn’t have that to near the same degree.

On the other hand, if you’re a competition junkie who is turned off at the idea of reality television based on the type of drama you see in much of the rest of reality television, then you should really give it a shot because such bitchiness is kept to a minimum on this show.  Even compared to other competition-focus reality programs like Project Runway or American Idol, there’s much less bad-drama going on.  Chefs, it seems, are for the most part no nonsense workaholics.  These aren’t a bunch of divas here designing from the clouds.  They are used to having work long shifts of constant action in hot kitchens every night.  They are, in other words, people who a sports fan wants to root for.  So give it a shot.

On a final note, there’s one more component that makes Top Chef a great show for me, and it’s an unexpected strength:  The competitors are judged on how their food tastes, but I can’t taste their food.  For some people this is clearly a drawback, and certainly I’d like to eat what they’re cooking.  However, a key component I think to anyone who is a competition junkie is objective meaning in the competition.  Nothing can kill a sport faster than the idea that the sport is rigged.  And a related point to that is the fact that if referees can’t consistently get their calls right, whether they on the take or not, fans are going to get frustrated with the idea the wrong team/player/competitor won.  For if the wrong team won, then winning ceases to have any significant meaning.

You saw me reference Project Runway up above, and well, I’ll admit that I watch that too, albeit with less enthusiasm than I do Top Chef.  I wouldn’t recommend Project Runway to y’all for a variety of reason, but one reason is that because you can experience the competitors’ products with the same primary modality as the Project Runway judges, and you can hear the judges discuss their decision, it becomes quite clear that they really don’t have any objective criteria.  Not only does it come down to taste – it comes down to who won the competition in previous seasons and their concern about the perception of their verdicts.  That’s an awful buzzkill, and the disturbing thing is – it’s possible Top Chef has some of that going as well.  However, because I cannot taste what the judges taste, it lends automatically a quantity of credibility to just about anything they say, which in turn let me enjoy the show more, without concerns of meaninglessness clouding my mind.

Written by Matt Johnson

December 8, 2010 at 12:04 am

Expanding the Baseball Playoffs is a BAD Idea

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As the 2010 Major League Baseball playoff have come to the close, commissioner Bud Selig has recently made statements indicating he wishes to strongly consider adding more teams to the league’s playoff system.

His statement of the issue:   “Is eight out of 30 enough? Is that fair? And that’s the basic question here, at least for me.”.  The ‘eight’ here meaning the 8 teams in the current playoff system.

He was then asked for his opinion of having 10 teams in the playoffs instead of 8: “It’s more fair than eight.”

This just leaves me shaking my head.  Talking about fairness sounds lovely, but without context, even the most die hard of baseball fans wouldn’t be sure what he meant, and with context, it appears he’s talking about striking some balance where part of the goal is putting as many teams into the playoffs as possible.

Folks this is just ridiculous.  You want to know what’s unfair?  Working your tail off for 162 games, and then having that discounted.  Sigh – let me take a step back here for a second.  I’m not anti-playoffs.  I’m not against having quite a few teams in a playoff if it’s suitable for the sport and league in question.  It’s fine for football, it’s fine for basketball, but it’s not okay for baseball, and I’m going to show you why. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Matt Johnson

November 2, 2010 at 1:54 am

The Problem(s) with the NBA

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Below are the major problems I see with the NBA right now.  I’m including issues of all kinds here, so don’t take this simply as a list of things David Stern has done wrong.

Fouls and Referees

No sport generates the quantity of fan frustration due to referee calls that basketball does.  Take any close game that matters, you probably have fans from both sides saying the refs were against them.  This results in allegations of the games being fixed by the powers that be, and in general gives some fans the belief that basketball is not fair.  Many of these fans still seem to follow the game (which I’ve never understood), but I’m sure some abandon the sport.

This is a problem for the sport, but it’s really not anyone’s fault.  Beyond that, I would argue that the problems here are minor compared to some other sports.  Take soccer, there you actually have 0-0 single elimination World Cup games decided by whether the referee gives a penalty kick or not.  The amount of controversial and/or blown calls in basketball is very high compared to other sports, but because each basket counts for so little, the effect of a blown call is much less powerful than in a lot of sports.  Good luck trying to convince everyone of that though.

The biggest problem with fouls that I see with the NBA, and basketball in general, is that there are so many of them, and every single one of them makes the game less fun to watch.  Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Matt Johnson

October 22, 2010 at 9:10 pm