Keep dreaming, Dog. Keep dreaming... no comments
Keep dreaming, Dog. Keep dreaming... no comments
We don't have to like it, but the facts cannot be ignored.
Indiana isn't a basketball state anymore.
Until the past week, I was losing hope that it ever could be again. In fact, in my forthcoming book Blue Blood, I think I make a pretty good case for how the Colts have usurped hoops as the top dog in Indiana. I'm not going to step on the book, but there's plenty of good evidence for the claim. It's certainly something that you've heard the Colts players saying in recent months.
For all the misty eyed stories about Hoosiers and hardwood, the simple truth is that when the IHSAA killed our tournament after the 1997 season, they cut out the heart of Indiana basketball. Basketball on every level of the state has shown serious regression in recent years, but you can trace it all back to that fateful and utterly indefensible act of vandalism to the La Boheme of basketball. (Hey! Know what will be great? Let's give it a new ending with less tragedy and more winners! No need for the little guys to suffer. Everyone will love it! We'll call it multi-class opera. What? No one wants to see it? Oh well, at least the actors are happier!).
News that 30,000 showed up to watch Butler practice gives me hope. Maybe the Hoosier state is still a sleeping giant when it comes to hoops. Maybe the kind of passion that filled the Hoosier Dome for high school players, lifted the Pacers to new heights and put at least four Indiana schools in the NCAA Tournament ten times in 18 years can be rekindled. Butler could do it, if only...
The low point of ignominy was 2005. Not only did we endure the last season of Reggie Miller and the aftermath of the brawl, but no Indiana school made the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1972. Since then, Purdue finally found their footing and is back to being basically as good as they ever were. Notre Dame is more or less back as well. Indiana is still recovering from their ill advised deal with the devil, but the real heartbeat of Indiana basketball still has not returned. The innumerable mid-majors for which all Hoosiers root have fallen on hard times.
Ball State? State of disrepair. Valpo? Alpo. Evansville? Nowheresville. ISU? MIA. IUPUI? IOU. I don't know if it's cyclical or if there just isn't enough homegrown talent to go around any more, but we are a long way from sending six teams back to the tournament like we did in 2000.
Ah, but Butler...Butler has taken up the mantle as the standard bearer of true Indiana basketball for all of us. They play "The Butler Way", that is to say, the way the game is supposed to be played. The Bulldogs have a chance to spark a true renaissance of basketball passion this weekend. Tonight, they have the chance to transform The Luke into a real landmark in Indiana. Lucas Oil Stadium has yet to earn its chops as a part of the fabric of the city. It looks the part, and the Colts have certainly done their part to break it in, but it's Butler that could make the building hallowed ground if only...
Butler is trying to give us all heart transplant. It's not a new heart, though. They are trying to undue the damage caused by meddling middle managers who ripped the ticker out of our collective chest back in '97, replacing it with an artificial heart incapable of pumping the life blood of Indiana to all the extremities of the state. We survived, finding our solace instead in football, but it's been like something was wrong, dead, broken about being a sports fan but not being able to care about basketball.
A decade of decay, betrayl and defeat for all Hoosiers can be reversed. History can get a major rewrite. Butler can do it. Maybe they already have.
Butler can do it.
I admit it. I don't do a lot of draft coverage. The reason?
When it comes to the Colts, it's all just talk.
There are at least four prime reasons the Colts defy the draft experts every year.
1. The Colts use their own scouts.
I know this sounds like something every team does, but it's not. In fact, most of the teams in the NFL use a group scouting service that feeds information to all the teams that help pay for it. There are two primary scouting bodies in the NFL (BLESTO and The National). Together they service 25 of the 32 teams. Only the Colts, Pats, Ravens, Bears, Browns, Raiders, and Redskins employ their own scouting staffs.
The result is that Indy often has different grades on players than the rest of the league. That's not just because the Colts are looking for different things (they are), but also because the Colts are using a different set of eyes than most of the other teams.
2. The Colts aren't afraid to trade, but they don't always trade.
There is simply no way to predict trades in the NFL. We know the Colts are willing to wheel and deal in the first two rounds, having moved down in 2001 and 2004 to draft Reggie Wayne and Bob Sanders and moved up to draft Ugoh in 2007. The Colts like who they like, and if they think that player is available to them in a later slot, they will trade down to get him. However, lots of people thought the Colts should have moved down in 2002 before drafting Dwight Freeney. The Colts knew that Freeney was a hotter prospect than the experts assumed, however, so they didn't deal down, and just took the passer rusher.
The moral of this story is that you can't trust the Colts to always do the same thing every time. Bill Polian will deal if he feels there's value in it, but won't trade just because other people think he should. The Colts keep a bead on what other teams plan on doing as well, so they have a feel for whether or not the guys they target will be available to them.
3. The Colts use a secret metric to evaluate players.
Scouting is great, but the Colts focus on acquiring undervalued talents. To that end, they employ a mathematical system that players must measure up to in order to be considered for selection. In other words, it doesn't matter what any media draft expert thinks about a player, unless he has access to the Colts 'secret sauce' he has no way of knowing whether Indy would even consider the guy. Because the Colts' entire philosophy is based on valuing what other teams don't, Indy is always going to be going against the grain. Mel Kiper could know for a fact that 25 other teams love a player, but that would have no bearing on how the Colts' feel about him. The operative word in Indianapolis is 'value'.
4. Need doesn't enter into it.
That's perhaps a little overstating it. In the past, Polian has talked about the draft in terms of the intersection of talent and need. In other words, if a player is super talented, it doesn't matter if the team needs him or not. This philosophy directly led to the selections of Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark. At a time when most of the league expected the Colts to draft for defense, Indy went with the best players available. You could argue that this is why Don Brown and not Ziggy Hood is a Colt today. You just can't look at the Colts roster, guess at a weak spot and figure they have to fill it in the first round of the draft. The Colts do address trouble areas through the draft, but if they feel they have a chance to draft a more talented, more valuable player, they'll do it. They aren't slaves to the 'need board'.
Having said of that, I've never had a harder time figuring out what the Colts will do than I have this year. Two years ago, a lot of us were hoping for Anthony Gonzalez. Last year, we guessed that the Colts would go DT, RB in the first two rounds, and they went RB, DT. This year, the only thing the Colts really need is new offensive tackles. However, because the recent record for the Horse in drafting offensive lineman hasn't been strong, it's hard to get too excited about a new crop of projects.
My Best Guess: Ultimately, my best guess is that the Colts have a bead on a left tackle. I believe they cut Lilja planning to move CJ to guard, and I think they did that because they think there will be a good LT option at 31.
What I Expect: I believe the Colts will draft at least two corners during this draft, but I would be surprised if either them come in the first two rounds. Since 2002, the Colts have drafted at least two defensive backs in every draft but 2008 (0) and 2009 (1-Powers in the third round). The Colts need another corner or two, but they love to get 'value' with those picks, so look for them to spend later round picks on corners.
What Won't Surprise Me: I haven't seen any player in any mock draft that screams "I'm a Colt!" the way Gonzo did. I don't know, but this smells like a deal down kind of year.
What Will Suprise Me: If the Colts trade up. Someone wrote me last week (a fan of another team), saying the Colts should trade way up and go for Suh. I said, "Sure, if they'll take the this year's 1 and 2 and next year's 1. Otherwise, forget it." If the Colts do have their eye on someone and they feel like they can't get him without moving up, they'll pull the trigger. I just don't see that guy out there right now, though. If he is there, I'd guess he was a pass rusher.
What I Secretly Hope For: A new tight end. I know. Too many weapons already, but I look at Dallas Clark and the career numbers for tight ends and they tend to drop off fast. I have my doubts about Dallas's ability to be productive much past the 2011 season. I would shed no tears if the Colts nabbed his replacement now. If the Colts see an oddball TE that they think can become a dynamic weapon in the passing game, they should take him.
Listen, I hate Tom Brady as much as you do, but I wasn't about to turn down the chance to ask one of the iconic stars of the NFL some questions. Don't judge me, you'd do the same thing in my shoes.
Anyway, here's what the hated field general had to say to us:
1. Tom, thanks for answering our questions. First, what's the toughest part of the game for you?
TB: I would have to say it's all the attention off the field. On the field, I'm just one of the guys, but off the field, I have a lot of people clamoring for my time and image. I attribute that to smelling great, and I attribute smelling great to Stetson. It gives me that "cowboy musk" that really helps me throw for the touchdowns.
2. You and Randy Moss have developed a tight relationship. Do you hang out together off the field?
TB: Not so much, I'd say we have different interests, which is healthy for a team. I've asked him to come along when Volmer and I go shopping for chaps, but he's just not into it. That's ok, it doesn't affect how easy it is to throw Randy in the endzone.
3. What's fatherhood been like for you?
TB: It's great. I've actually learned a lot more about motherhood though from helping to give birth to a whole new line of scents by Stetson. Having kids is a blessing, but so is working with the great olfactory artists at Stetson labs. Our newest creation is called Vaquero. It's got the same rich tones of the original Stetson, but also has just a hint of salsa.
4. Where do you keep your Super Bowl rings?
TB: I have a display case where I keep all my favorite rings. Some times I get them all out and have a ring party. I'll wear up to 21 rings at once!
5. If you weren't a football player, what would you be?
TB: A rapper. Rap is my first love.
6. Imagine you win the Super Bowl this year. How will you celebrate?
TB: I'll just chill out with Gisele and some close friends. We'll toast with some champagne. Whatever we do, it'll blow your mind how I celebrate in such a normal, relateable way.
7. How do you handle criticism?
TB: I use it as motivation. Some times things people say are really unfair. What really gets me is when people throw around innuendo or homosexual slurs about me. That kind of stereotyping and hate speech is never funny. Unless it's done by Sean Hayes. Then it's hilarious!
8. What's your favorite memory?
TB: It has to be that one episode where Jack and Rosario get married.
9. I mean on the football field...
TB: Oh yeah, of course. I know this will sound weird, but one time I threw a short touchdown to Wes, and he spiked the ball, and it bounced up and hit him in the crotch. It was hilarious. We all laughed about it for the rest of the game. After the game, we all bounced balls off our crotches. That's what life is about. Celebrating in totally relateable ways, you know?
10. Are you worried about replacing Wes Welker's production next year?
TB: Yeah, at first I was freaking out, then Bill, said calm down. We still have Julian. And I was like, the team chef? And he was like, 'No, Edelman'. And I was like, we have a guy named Julian Edelman? But then I was like, hey, that's perfect. If anyone could replace Wes Welker it would be Julian Edelman, right?
11. You get the Colts in Foxboro this year. Excited?
TB: Very. My boy Peyton and I are on the outs right now. I wanted him to do a charity video with me, but he turned it down. I mean, what's wrong with "I'm a little bit country and I'm a little bit street"! And it would have benefited a great cause. Greater Boston Kid Relief.
12. Wow, that's great that you want to help children.
TB: No, not children baby goats.
Ah. of course.
Thanks to Tom Brady. I've never met a more relateable guy.
If you read my piece on the draft a couple of days ago, you'll be interested in this back and forth that occured largely over email.
Thanks to the awesomely named Favre Dollar Footlongs for hosting the debate.
The unlikely appearance by Butler in the Final Four has raised questions over just how profitable the event will be for local merchants. Surprisingly enough to outsiders, Indianapolis's local economy is built on tourism. Between the race, conventions, and sporting events, the city's brain-trust came up with a plan about 30 years ago to make Indy a hub for tourism, and especially sports tourism.
Imagine for a moment that Butler knocks off Michigan State on Saturday night. Most of the Butler fans will just drive home, whereas the MSU fans might have stayed the weekend in a hotel. The mere fact that one of the teams is located in Indianapolis will automatically reduce the number of people traveling, staying in hotels, and eating out twice a day downtown. Considering that one of the primary arguments for building the Luke was a long term agreement with the NCAA to host the Final Four, the city is counting on big money to flow to offset the admittedly exorbitant cost of the building.
Now, in the case of Butler, there's a flip side. This is tremendous publicity for the city as a whole. This Final Four has become about Butler and about Indianapolis. That's incredible publicity and it would be easy to argue that it could offset some of the financial losses felt by the Bulldogs playing at home.
There's a bigger problem looming for the city, however. Let's assume for a moment that the 2012 Super Bowl actually gets played. I know that the NFL's labor crisis could scuttle everything the city has worked so hard for, but assuming cooler heads prevail, we all know that the Colts ought to be a viable contender to make the game. That's because they have been for a decade now and show no signs at all of slowing down.
The Super Bowl is a much bigger economic plum than the Final Four. The impact of the Super Bowl is expected to be upwards of $200 million dollars compared with just a quarter of that for the Final Four. Part of the reason in the disparity is that the Super Bowl is one of the world's largest corporate events. People come and stay for several days attending parties instead of just game day. Because two of the teams go home on Saturday night, a high percentage of the visitors for the Final Four may not even stay one night in town.
So, having spent $700 million on a beautiful stadium, the city is counting on that $200 million to pump big money into the local coffers. However, should the Colts be the first team to play a Super Bowl in their home stadium, the results could be catastrophic for the city's economy. First of all, ticket prices for the game would sky rocket. Not only would demand be high from Colts' fans, but because they wouldn't have to spend any money for hotels and flights, fans would be able to pay far more for tickets than fans from other cities. All that money would go to scalpers and ticket holders, most of whom live outside the area.
As much as I want to see the Colts play in a Super Bowl at the Luke, I have to admit that it would be disaster for the city. Worse yet, if they happened to play a regional NFC team like the Bears, Lions, or Packers, the impact could be even worse.
I'm obviously not saying we should root against the Colts making the 2012 Super Bowl, but I'm saying we have to be careful what we wish for. What's best for the team could be what's worst for the city.
Just a short post today because I'm still battling the flu (yeah...two weeks now. It's horrible).
We'll be posting our 2010 Mock Draft in the next few weeks, so get ready to have some serious knowledge dropped.
I'm also pleased to introduce my good friend Tim Landrum to all of you. As I'm sure you know, the World Cup is fast approaching, and while I have some soccer chops, they are mostly limited to South American teams. I actually know almost nothing about the US team. Tim, however, is a dedicated follower and routinely makes pilgramages to watch the team play.
Tim will be chipping in with a weekly collumn about the US soccer team and the World Cup in general, leading up to the big show in South Africa this summer. During the Cup, Tim will post reguarly with his analysis and commentary. I know there are a lot of anti-soccer snobs out there, and that's fine. I used to be one myself. Part of the reason I'm bringing in Tim to cover soccer is so that I will have more time to focus on football (when there is actually something to talk about).
Finally, we are efforting some sweet 18 Questions interviews. With any luck we'll get those up in the next month or so. By the way, I'm always open to suggestions for 18 Questions. If there is someone you'd like to hear from, let us know, and I'll see what we can muster.
This is the most brilliant idea ever proposed on 18to88. I promise.
Last night the Pacers won their 5th game in a row. Obviously that's terrible news because the more the Pacers win, the more likely they are to miss out on a top pick in the NBA lottery. In the NBA, the only way to save a franchise is to hit on a top pick in the draft. Otherwise, you are relegated to the lower middle class ghetto of 30-40 wins forever.
Unfortunately, that means that teams have to tank games down the stretch and that fans have to ROOT for the team to fail. It creates a bad, toxic environment and leads to players forming bad habits and bad cultures in locker rooms.
Now, we can't just give out top picks to teams that are already good either, because that also keeps the bottom of the league down. But, there is a solution that I've never heard before.
Give out either ping pong balls or just simply allocate the picks based on how many games a team wins AFTER it is eliminated from playoff contention.
It's simple and elegant. Once you aren't playing for the playoffs, you have to keep playing hard, trying to improve in order to HELP your draft status. Awful teams that are eliminated early on have an incentive to play hard and create excitement for their fans. Goodish teams that barely miss the playoffs won't get enough opportunities to win after they are eliminated to seriously help their draft status, so you don't have to worry about 40 win teams getting the top pick every year, but if they are booted from the playoffs a week or two before the season ends, they still might pick up a handfull of wins that could vault them over some other team that packed it in.
It creates a 'losers bracket' of sorts, a separate set of standings that show which teams are out of contention for a championship, but IN contention to have the "Best Eliminated Record". Those teams are rewarded with the best picks in the draft. The worse the team, the more opportunity for advancement simply because they have more games they can try to win.
Why wouldn't this work? It would radically transform the last two months of the NBA season and save both ratings and attendance for crappy teams. Make winning matter again, David Stern.
I don't want to be depressed about a five game win streak any more.
Here's a chart of all the eliminated teams, how many games they would get to play after elimination, and how many wins they have after being eliminated. Remember that under the current system, teams are trying to lose. If they were trying to win, the situation would be different.
|Total Games after Elimination||WAE|
I have not had time to fully watch and digest this 90 minute video yet, but I want to get the discussion started.
The Sloan Conference is the preeminent gathering of sports nerds, executives, and math geeks. This particular panel discussion was called:
"What Geeks Don't Get: Limits of Moneyball"
I'll try to absorb this in the next day or so. When I do, I'll post my reaction here. For now, this will serve as the home base for this particular discussion. I can't wait.
UPDATE: I've watched the clip, and I have to say, it was well worth the time. Polian commented on a wide variety of topics. Here are some of the highlights.
On use of advance statsitics in the draft: Polian said that the Colts use a variety of advanced stats in talent evaluation. Their entire model is built around finding players that are undervalued by other teams. Shockingly, he said the Colts have metric they use and plug all potential draftees into it. If a scout says one thing and the metric says another, the Colts go with the metric. I found that shocking, but insanely cool. Later Johnathan Kraft of the Patriots talked about how New England and Indianapolis are two of just four teams that use a high priced psychological consulting service to evaluate potential draftees. The reason why the Colts are so 'odd ball' when it comes to the draft is that they are absolutely not paying attention to the same things that everyone else is. Keep that in mind this April and as you are reading mock drafts.
On use of advanced statistics in games: Polian emphatically said they are all crap and useless. He had especially harsh things to say about any stat that models how teams should behave on downs and distances. This was the comment that caused no end of consternation at FO. Polian's point is that football is too complex with too many variables to rely on averages across the league and across seasons to make decisions based on statistics. What's interesting is that he then used some statistics to show why the Pats were right to go for it on 4th and 2. It was a little inconsistent.
While that is obviously true to an extent, I think the stats can help you change your default starting place for making tough calls. For example, if your default is "Going for it on 4th down is a risky play", then your end decision will be colored in that direction, even after taking into account game scenarios. If, however, you realize that going for it on 4th down pays out over the long haul, you can still take game situations into account, but you are starting from a better default position. For instance, in Cleveland in 2008, the Colts went for it on the goal line on fourth down. At the time, I was actually against the call because of the game scenario (points at a premium, inside of 2 minutes to play in the half). However, as everyone knows, under almost every other scenario I'm in favor of going for it.
As for other kinds of measurement of players, the big problem is that without access to coaches tapes, outsiders will never be able to analyize play as well as coaching staffs.
On the next frontier of analysis: He wants better ways of measuring the effect of different officiating crews on games. He clearly doesn't like the randomness. He also wants to see a way to compare players across scheme. How much would Vince Wilfork be worth to the Colts who run a totally different scheme, for instance.
On 'the cutting edge': He claims that NFL coaches already push the envelope to the limit when it comes to data collection and analysis. The games are so tight and complex that most coaches want as much data as they can gather. He says any new metrics would be immediately accepted if they proved valuable, because coaches just want to win. I found this surprising. He clearly has a higher opinion of NFL coaches than I do. As with any disagree I have with Polian, I can only say, "He must be right. I must be wrong...but it sure doesn't feel like it".
Other highlights included Mark Cuban's game of "Protect the Moron", Bill Simmons providing comic relief, and the auro of "we're just better than you" given off by Kraft and Polian toward the rest of the NFL. There's little wonder those teams dominated the decade.