Friday, September 19, 2014

Sports Friday: 9/19/14

College football - Sports are fun to watch and follow, but unfortunately, some of the athletes who participate in said sports are idiots. So what if one of those idiots happens to be on a team you root for? And what if he goes on to win a Heisman Trophy and helps your team win a national championship? Are you a bad person for cheering anyway?

It's complicated. Sure, I could talk about how the media blows everything he does out of proportion (which they do), but that could be construed as defending the guy, which I don't really want to do, either. Honestly, I'm just tired of the nonsense. It'll be a lot nicer in many ways when Winston is gone, because then this nonsense will be over, and FSU will still be able to say "2013 national champions". (Assuming nobody broke any NCAA rules last year, of course.)

As for the question of whether it's "good" for someone like Jameis Winston on your team - very talented at football, but stupid and irresponsible* and always in the news for the wrong reasons - I'd say, yeah, but not for more than a year or two. After that, fatigue sets in.

* - It's important to make the distinction that being "stupid and irresponsible" is not the same as being a criminal, which...yes, Winston was cited for shoplifting and accused of rape, but technically, he's not...right, I decided I wasn't going to try to defend the guy, because you'll judge me for that, right? See why I'm tired of all this?

NFL - Just one quick thought on the recent "let's suspend everyone accused of domestic violence" crusade. If the NFL had a more lenient stance on recreational drugs, maybe that "two game suspension" would have actually seemed harsh instead of lenient, and not drawn the scorn of the populous? Because that's what started all this, right? "Smoking pot gets you suspended for a year, but assaulting a woman gets you two games??" I'm fine with these suspensions provided that the players are actually guilty, but what happens to these guys in court matters far more to me than how many games the NFL suspends them for.

So, the Jacksonville Jaguars stink again, but it's not necessarily time to put Blake Bortles out there yet. It's actually not (mostly) the quarterback's fault this time: the offensive line is awful, there is no running game to speak of, wide receivers keep getting hurt or suspended, and while the pass rush is much improved, the secondary has had some problems so far (which hopefully should be helped by Johnathan Cyprien's return this week). Let's leave Chad Henne out there a few more weeks, and see where we stand after, say, Week 6.

How many years has Shad Khan owned the team now? This is his 3rd year of ownership, and so far, no success; just really large scoreboards, fancy swimming pools, and one fewer home game in Jacksonville per year. (But hey, the Jaguars are now the 9th most popular team in the UK!) Shad Khan is obviously a brilliant businessman, and he's popular with the fans...but as the owner of two sports teams, can he produce a winner? Because so far, things haven't gone particularly well on that front. (Also see "Soccer".)

MLB - The Washington Nationals have had an incredible second half of the season, and that means I get at least 3 playoff games. Hooray! I'm looking forward to it, in part because of all the professional teams I root for, the Nationals are the only ones who have had a sniff of success this decade.

I think the team is well set up for the playoffs, too, in part because they've been fairly fortunate with respect to injuries. All five starting pitchers have been (mostly) healthy all year, and have also (mostly) produced in a big way. And the offense has been great, too, and has stayed (mostly) healthy as well, except for Ryan Zimmerman. None of the pitchers or position players are MVP candidates; instead, the team's strength is its depth. There isn't that much a dropoff as you go down the batting order or through the pitching rotation.

The Nationals could easily make a World Series run...or they could flame out in the Division Series, because it's baseball, and baseball can be pretty random. Either way, should be fun! And since I'm not as invested in the Nationals as I am the other teams I follow, I'll be able to handle a tough playoff loss a little more easily.

NASCAR - Television ratings have been consistently down all year. I was thinking, the new Chase makes the regular season even less relevant by making it easier than ever to get into the Chase, so maybe fans are losing interest in the regular season? Maybe NASCAR will see a ratings bump once the Chase starts? … Nope! Ratings for the first Chase race were down as well compared to recent years.

You can't say the new championship format is bad for the sport just because ratings are down this year - ratings have been going down for the last several years - but you can say that it's not helping, at least so far. Even if the Homestead rating ends up being huge, NASCAR will have to ask itself if it's worth sacrificing ratings all season long just to get a small ratings bump in the last race. (Although, the more they tinker with the championship format, the less credible and more arbitrary it seems; maybe the steady decrease in TV ratings over the last few years is a manifestation of that. So if I were Brian France, I'd make as few changes as possible from this point forward. Or, go back to the old system - the best driver over the course of 36 races is the champion. Really, that would still be my preference.)

What would really be beneficial for NASCAR is if their entire Chase wasn't head-to-head against the most popular sport in America. If it were logistically feasible, maybe they would consider reworking the schedule so that it ends in August, making the Chase a summer event instead of a fall event. But, it's not logistically feasible, if nothing else because the TV contracts for the next 10 years are already signed. They could try weeknight races in the Chase, but the problem there is that weeknight races hurt attendance, since so many fans come to NASCAR races from out of town. And, it may not help TV ratings anyway - back when the Daytona 500 was rain delayed to a Monday night primetime telecast, the final ratings number ended up being not that much different than from when the Daytona 500 takes place on Sunday afternoon.

All that said...I still plan on watching the Chase, at least as much as I have time for.

Soccer - So, last year, I started following EPL team Fulham, since they're sort of a "sister team" to the Jacksonville Jaguars. And, they were instantly relegated to the second division, a.k.a. the "Championship". But surely, Fulham will be able to immediately compete for promotion back to the Premier League, right? … Nope! So far, Fulham is in dead last in the Championship, they just fired their manager again, and they're in danger of being relegated again if they don't turn it around. It's still early; 39 games of 46 are still to be played. That's a lot of games.

Side note: the last team to get relegated from the top division to the third division in consecutive seasons was Wolverhampton, and this was actually pretty recent: Premier League in 2011-12, Championship in 2012-13, League One in 2013-14. (And back in the Championship again for 2014-15, along with Fulham, who Wolverhampton has already beaten 1-0 this season.)

Meanwhile, back in the Premier League...with Fulham gone, I decided to start watching Newcastle United games. Newcastle is a good "middle ground" team, at least on paper: not one of the biggest richest clubs, but big enough so that they might finish Top 6 and quality for European competition every few years, and also not all that likely to get relegated. ... Or are they? Four games into the season, Newcastle currently sits dead last in the Premier League. Maybe I should just give up and root for Arsenal like I originally planned.

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