Sunday, January 17, 2010

Sunday sports page. 

[] It's another exciting weekend of NFL playoff football. With each exciting game consisting of 11 minutes of action and 60 minutes of commercials...

...the average amount of time the ball is in play on the field during an NFL game is about 11 minutes ... the average telecast devotes 56% more time to showing replays.

So what do the networks do with the other 174 minutes in a typical broadcast? Not surprisingly, commercials take up about an hour. As many as 75 minutes, or about 60% of the total air time, excluding commercials, is spent on shots of players huddling, standing at the line of scrimmage or just generally milling about between snaps...

"We make it a point to get Dallas cheerleaders on, but otherwise, it's not really important," says Fred Gaudelli, NBC's Sunday Night Football producer. "If we're doing the Jets, I couldn't care less." ... [WSJ]

[] In what may really be the most important event of the past week in the world of sports, the US Supreme Court heard oral arguments in American Needle v NFL. In it the NFL is trying to get itself exempted from anti-trust rules by claiming it is a single entity rather than 32 separately-owned business organizations (teams) cooperating with each other.

If it wins, it could be exempted from anti-trust rules in dealing with players, related businesses, fans ... meaning much better terms for the NFL at the cost of everyone else. And also for all the other other pro sports leagues that would follow suit.

But perhaps that's understating things. "Antitrust case could be Armageddon", says Law professor Michael McCann calls this "the most important case in sports history", in SI. You can read Drew Brees's alarmed op-ed about it in the Washington Post.

Drew may draw some comfort from the fact that at oral argument the Justices seemed "skeptical" of the NFL's position, according to the NY Times.

[] Coincidentally related to the above, the effect of the Federal League on major league baseball salaries during its brief existence is illustrated by J. C. Bradbury. Competition matters.

[] Curling championship cancelled do to over-popularity...
Last week it looked as if the Royal Caledonia Curling Club (RCCC) would be able to host a Grand Match of curling on Lake of Monteith near Aberfoyle, Scotland. The Grand Match is a gigantic curling competition in which as many as 2000 curlers compete, and the weather has co-operated so little that it has been held only 38 times since 1837; it was last held in 1979.
Who knew?
This year the temperatures had been below freezing for several weeks leading up to the planned event and the ice was forming nicely on Lake of Monteith, which has nice ice for curling when the weather conditions hold up. The last time the Grand Match was held, there were over 6000 people attending, and it was anticipated there would be as many as 10,000 in attendance this time.

And that caused a problem. A week before the planned event, the RCCC called it off, citing safety issues. The safety concerns were not due to ice conditions. Rather, the RCCC was concerned about access and congestion. From The New Scotsman ...

"Colin Grahamslaw, chief executive of the national governing body, defended the decision of the Grand Match Committee.

"He said: 'Since Monday, we have been working with the police and the emergency services and the local authorities to try and achieve this and make it work, but, in the timescale, it has just not proved possible.

"You are talking about trying to move 2,000 curlers and an unknown number of spectators on and off the site safely..." [The Sports Economist]
Curling is too popular for its own good!

(The Sports Economist suggests the crowds could have been controlled with "congestion pricing".)

[]The worst NFL coach of defense, ever?

It's NFL Hall of Fame nomination season -- and NFL playoff season, during which "defense wins championships", supposedly ... and lack of defense can cost them, certainly.

The question popped to mind because one of the Hall of Fame nominees this year is Don Coryell, famous for coaching St Louis Cardinals and San Diego Chargers with their the historically innovative, blisteringly high-scoring offenses in the 1970s and 1980s. But Don coached some pretty poor defenses too, and never came close to winning much championship-wise. I remember those great offenses zooming the length of the field trying desperately to stay ahead of what the defense had just given away.

When Coryell's name came up I looked through the great data base at Pro Football to see if his defenses were really as bad as I remembered -- and holy moley, sometimes memory understates!

It's usually very difficult to name a "worst ever" at anything in pro sports, because all serious candidates are nearly sure to get cut quickly and disappear leaving inadequate data to form a true evaluation of just how bad they were. But Coryell's offenses kept him in the league as a head coach for a dozen years.

During his 12 years as an NFL head coach his teams' defenses ranked on average 19th in points allowed, 20th in yards allowed, and 19.4 in average yards per pass attempt allowed, out of an average of 27.4 teams. Not good.

But, man, those Chargers teams! They are even more impressive because upon taking over in San Diego he inherited a good defense, ranked in these categories 6, 6, and 3, of 28 teams.

After Coryell took over the Chargers' defense's rankings in these categories ... watch the plunge!

1979: 2, 5, 5 -- of 28 teams
1980: 18, 6, 4
1981: 26, 27, 27
1982: 24, 25, 24
1983: 28, 26, 24
1984: 24, 26, 27
1985: 25, 28, 27
1986: 24, 23, 24 -- dismissed after 8 games

That five-year run from 1981-1985 is truly extraordinary, averaging 25.4, 26.4, 25.8, of 28 teams.

Basically that's a run of being 26th of 28 -- worse than 92% of the teams in the league -- consistently for five straight years.

I can hardly believe a streak like that could survive regression to the mean. Dumb random chance should have improved that defense.

I suspect that might be the all-time record for worst sustained defenses by one team ever, certainly by one coach.

Don Coryell for the Hall of Fame? As an offensive innovator, maybe.

But as a head coach responsible for the entire team on both sides of the ball? You decide.