Sports wrap-up – 18 September 2018

Well, the Eagles lost ugly and the Phillies are in a death spiral, which usually means I’m not that interested in writing about sports, but some fun things happened this weekend, so let’s check them out!

As the Phillies fall apart (probably a foregone conclusion for a long time, but still painful), I have lost interest in baseball, and my only hope now is that Aaron Nola wins the Cy Young Award, which he’s not going to do. HOWEVER – if he doesn’t win it (he’s currently 16-5 with a 2.44 ERA and a 9.4 WAR), I hope against hope that Jacob deGrom wins it. DeGrom has 8 wins and 9 losses, and old-schoolers might think that shouldn’t get it done. He has a 1.78 ERA for a putrid-hitting Mets team, though, and a 9.0 WAR, so he’s pitching amazingly well, and wins and losses shouldn’t determine how good a pitcher is. I want deGrom to win because it would make Michael Wilbon eat his own liver – Wilbon is one of these old-school dudes who thinks that deGrom should “pitch to the situation,” meaning that if his team scores 1 run, he should throw a shutout every time. Wilbon thinks a dude who wins 20 games for a great-hitting team and has a 4 ERA is better than a dude who has gone something like 25 consecutive starts giving up 3 or fewer runs. Wilbon says the point is to win games, and that’s true … for the team. The team should win games, but the starting pitcher has very little control over whether he himself is credited with a win or a loss. Most baseball people have moved on from wins and losses for pitchers as a measuring stick for greatness, and deGrom winning the Cy Young would make Wilbon have a conniption fit worse than he probably had this weekend when his alma mater lost to frickin’ Akron. I enjoy watching Pardon the Interruption, but part of the reason I like it is because Wilbon is so behind the times (Kornheiser, although he’s older, seems less so). Go Jacob deGrom!!!!!

Meanwhile, college football happened, and the rankings continue to frustrate. Penn State toyed with Washington in the Fiesta Bowl last year, finished with a better record, is undefeated while Washington has one loss, and is ranked … below the Huskies. What the everloving fuck? I know that voters still can’t get over the fact that Penn State trailed Appalachian State late and needed overtime to win it, but the fact is – they did win the game, while Washington had every chance to beat a mediocre Auburn team and couldn’t get it done. Penn State hasn’t played great competition, true, but they’ve won their last two games 114-16. I mean, that’s pretty good.

Penn State was up big on Kent State this past weekend, so they put their back-ups in. Their official back-up quarterback is still hurt, so Sean Clifford, their third-string quarterback, came in. Clifford threw one pass against Pitt the week before, and it was a 34-yard touchdown. On Saturday, he did this:

Yes, I know the receiver was wide open, but check out the head fake that froze the cornerback! That’s only the longest play from scrimmage in Penn State history, by the way. NBD. Clifford threw three passes, completed all of them, and his passer rating went down. From 715.6 to 582.1. What a chump. Then, when they were trying to run out the clock, one of their running backs had a (nice) 69-yard run but was tackled inside the ten, so they let him run it in for the touchdown a few plays later. The final was 63-10. It was a pretty fun game.

The rankings are also ridiculous because it lets people make ridiculous statements. I was watching ESPN on Monday and two of their college football experts (I won’t say which ones so as not to shame them too much) were debating that LSU might be the #1 team in the country. Okay, first of all, in a world where Satan Himself and his football team are laying waste to everyone, that’s a silly statement, but even if you take the Fightin’ Sabans out of the equation, that’s stupid. LSU has beaten an overrated Miami team in a game where, statistically, they were pretty much even, but turnovers and bad field position on Miami’s part meant LSU started several of their drives on Miami’s side of the 50, and even the worst offenses (which LSU might have) should be able to score a little with that help. Then they beat a mediocre and overrated Auburn team on Saturday in a game that, like many SEC games, set offensive football back 30 years or so. Some SEC teams (Georgia, and Alabama over the past few years) have figured out that playing a little offense might be okay, but the memo has not reached Baton Rouge or Auburn yet (to be fair, those parts of the country just got fax machines and they’re really excited!), and we can’t even tell if their defenses are any good because their offenses are so atrocious. So with rankings, you can get idiots saying things like LSU might be the best team in the country when their quarterback looks like he’s going to have a hernia if he tries to throw a ball farther than ten yards down the field. Sheesh, ESPN guys. (Okay, it was Greg McElroy and Joey Galloway. Those guys should be ashamed of themselves.)

Anyway, the Big Ten, a conference I nominally have to cheer for as Penn State is a member (but not-so-secretly, I hope they all lose every week, which is difficult when they play each other), had a bad week, highlighted by Wisconsin’s loss. As usual this early in the season, Wisconsin was overrated, as they used a soft schedule last year to go undefeated until they ran into the Ohio State buzzsaw in the conference championship game, yet people still thought they were worthy of a #6 ranking. I was a bit surprised that BYU beat them, but not shocked. I watched a little of the game, and BYU just pushed them around, which is fairly surprising, especially as Wisconsin was playing at home. But I couldn’t get too broken up about it. Meanwhile, in other Big Ten action, Illinois lost to a better South Florida team, Akron scored a fluky win over Northwestern (yes, Northwestern should have won, but it’s not like they were dominated) – the first time Akron has beaten a Big Ten team since 1894, when a) they weren’t called Akron; b) Ohio State wasn’t a member of the Big Ten, because c) the Big Ten didn’t exist yet. So that was impressive. Troy beat Nebraska, which wasn’t too big a deal either, as Nebraska is clearly rebuilding (their fans might not think so, but they are) and Troy isn’t actually bad, just like Appalachian State isn’t actually bad – Troy beat LSU last year when they were ranked #6, so clearly they know what they’re doing. Weirdly enough, perhaps the two biggest disappointments in the conference this weekend were Maryland and Rutgers, two teams not known for disappointing people because they’re always so terrible. Maryland was 2-0 with an impressive win over Texas on their schedule and they got beat down by Temple. A few years ago, Temple beat Penn State for the first time in something like 70 years, but a few years ago, Temple was actually decent, and this year they’re also clearly rebuilding, plus they lost to Villanova, a Division 1-AA team, who clearly dominated them (being a Philly guy, I watched quite a lot of that game). Rutgers has even fewer expectations, and they already got bulldozed by Ohio State, but they lost by 41 to Kansas, which has been the definition of futility in college football for almost 50 years (save for one inexplicable 12-1 season a decade ago). So the Big Ten had a bad weekend. At least the conference doesn’t have Florida State, which got boatraced by Syracuse, of all teams, 30-7. Florida State has now lost to the two Division 1-A teams they’ve played by a combined score of 54-10, and they barely beat the Division 1-AA team they played. I love it when the big three Florida teams suck, so this is pretty fun for me!

As usual with college football (which is far more fun than pro, simply because of the number of teams and the possibility of silliness), we got some weird plays. Notre Dame hung on to beat Vanderbilt, but they might not have without this play, which should have been a touchdown for the Commodores:

And, of course, this amazing punt return by North Texas against Arkansas.

Now, because the NCAA is trying to rival the NFL in sucking all the fun out of football, they’re considering a ban on the play because it constitutes an “unfair act.” I don’t get that at all. Yes, the punt returner was in danger because he was just standing there and could have easily gotten smashed, but that’s the chance he and the team were willing to take! Plus, the Arkansas guy standing right by him actually wondered out loud so the returner could hear why the refs weren’t blowing the whistle. YOU PLAY UNTIL YOU HEAR THE WHISTLE, FOOTBALLERS!!!!!! He could have easily not destroyed the guy, just put his hand on his jersey to stop him from going anywhere and then asked the ref if the play was over. I don’t know if refs will answer that, but the Arkansas guy got snowed because he forgot the most fundamental rule of football – the whistle is the only thing that stops the play. Of course, he plays on a team named after a pig. What are you gonna do?

So that’s college football, or at least the highlights. Sure, USC lost to Texas, which doesn’t really make me happy because I hate both programs, but I guess I like USC losing more because I still think Texas is trash? And some other stuff happened. But let’s get to the pros, where men are men and kickers should be banished to an island somewhere!

We had another tie this week, and as I love ties, I was so very happy to see it. I hope for a tie every weekend now, or if that’s not possible, I hope one of the four teams that already has a tie – Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Minnesota, Green Bay – gets another before the year is over. The last time a team had more than one tie in a season was 1973, when a few teams did it. That was the year before the NFL instituted overtime. Give us another one, you guys! People are starting to lobby for the NFL to use college rules, which tend to turn 21-21 games into 77-76 games pretty quickly, but I think if they’re going to do that, the teams need to score a touchdown and a two-point conversion. No field goals, no extra points. That would speed things up (or slow them down if neither team scores, but let’s look on the bright side!). Or just leave it alone. Professional football is the only major sport left that has ties. Ties are awesome!

Anyway, Green Bay fans are probably upset because the Packers intercepted a pass with less than two minutes left while leading by 8, but the play was wiped out because Clay Matthews got called for a roughing the passer call on Kurt Coupons. Let’s look at the play, with indignant French commentary:

Matthews wasn’t called for a late hit. He wasn’t called for landing with his entire weight on the QB (which is stupid, but it’s the rule, and he wasn’t called for it anyway). He was called for picking the quarterback up and driving him into the ground, and commentators have been having a lot of fun with this because it’s so stupid, they say. Here’s my question: Why don’t people who are paid to watch sports actually watch sports? In the second view of this play, the one the ref saw (you can see him standing behind the play), Matthews clearly puts his left hand on Croutons’s right leg and very briefly pulls up. Now, he takes his hand off very quickly, and I don’t know if he got any lift, but he’s clearly trying to lift Couscous’s leg, which is a penalty. Do I think this should be a penalty? Of course not! But by the letter of the law, it’s a penalty and a good call. Plus, Clay Matthews is an asshole so fuck him. Plus, you see where that call took place? About the 15-yard line, so the line of scrimmage was probably the 20 or so? So Minnesota got the ball at the 35 or so, still needing a touchdown and a two-point conversion to tie the game, and they had 90 seconds to do so. Green Bay’s defense is hot garbage, so they allowed the Vikings to march right down the field on them. Fuck you, Packers. Do better after the perfectly valid penalty and no one cares about it.

I’m not too worried about the Eagles, for a few reasons. First, their MVP-type quarterback is playing this week, and while it might take him a game or two to get the rust off, he’s better than Nick Foles (props to Foles for winning the Super Bowl, but Wentz is better). Second, they’re dealing with a lot of injuries, and when other teams are getting injured later in the season, they might be getting healthier. Third, they really didn’t play too badly in Tampa on a ridiculously humid day – they gave up on long touchdown on a blown coverage mistake that Malcolm Jenkins doesn’t make 9 times out of 10 (there has to be a one, right?) and another long touchdown on a poorly-tackled play. Tampa punted more than they did, and they gave up only one long drive all day, so while the long touchdowns were annoying, I don’t think they’re a trend. They were 1-1 last year and then went on a 9-game winning streak, and while I doubt that will happen this year, I’m fine with them being 1-1 without Wentz this year. Plus, as I noted last week, I’m very chill about the Eagles these days. They won the Super Bowl. This season they’re playing with house money as far as I’m concerned.

Kickers had a rough week, reinforcing my belief that they should get kickers completely out of the game. I guess they could still kick off, but you shouldn’t be allowed to punt anymore and you shouldn’t have field goals or extra points. You go for two and you like it! In the tie, Green Bay’s kicker had 5 field goals … but he missed on in overtime that would have won the game. Minnesota’s kicker missed 3 field goals, including one in overtime, and he’s now looking for work. In New Orleans, the Browns Browned again, as their kicker – who had the game-winning field goal attempt blocked in their Week One tie – missed two extra points and two field goals … in a game the Browns lost by three. So that’s eight points left on the field, and, let’s see, yes, I think … 8 > 3. #Math, motherfuckers. He too is looking for work. The Seahawks’ punter, however, is awesome:

The second one didn’t work, but it still looked pretty sweet.

Meanwhile, the Cowboys won, which is good because they’re not very good, but if they finish 8-8 or 9-7 Jurrah will think Dak Prescott is a good quarterback and sign him to a huge contract that will cripple the ‘Boys for years to come, while the Giants are a dumpster fire, so if they keep losing, it doesn’t matter. The Patriots got beaten pretty badly, and whenever the Patriots lose, it should be a national holiday the following weekday for every part of the country except Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine. It’s always good to see the Golden Boy yelling on the sidelines:

The Patriots traded for Josh Gordon, which should be scary, but Gordon seems to be unable to stop smoking marijuana, which is sad for him but good for the rest of the league because he won’t be able to help Brady, and anything that gets Brady and Belichick out of the league faster is an objectively good thing. Still, you’re telling me that no team could offer better than the fifth-round pick the Patriots gave to the Browns for Gordon? Dang.

The Steelers seem to be spiraling into dysfunction more and more, which isn’t a bad thing either. Their star running back is still holding out and doesn’t seem to give a shit at all, as he’s jet-skiing and rapping in Miami, while their star wide receiver didn’t show up for work on Monday. I hate the Steelers (yes, I hate a lot of teams – deal with it), so I have no problem with this. They got shredded by the latest shiny new quarterback, Pat Mahomes, whom everyone on Monday was anointing as the love child of Tom Brady, Joe Montana, Aaron Rodgers, Brett Favre, Dan Marino, and probably Otto Graham and Sammy Baugh as well, to which I say … can we pump the brakes a bit? The dude has started three (3) games in the NFL, and Andy Reid will find a way both to get him great offensive statistics and a way to cripple him when it really counts. That’s what Andy does!!!!! So yes, Mahomes is playing out of his mind. Let’s see how he does for, I don’t know, a full season?

Finally, there’s the story of Vontae Davis, American Hero:

Why is this awesome? Dude retired at halftime of the Bills’ game. Buffalo was losing badly (again), and Davis decided he’d had enough. Now, his statement is bullshit – he should have just said, “I’ve played long enough to make some coin, and Buffalo sucks, y’all, so peace out,” but that would have gone over even worse than this is. Davis is getting hammered by guys who played in the NFL or cover the NFL, all of whom think he could have easily done this before the game or after the game. That’s bullshit – whenever someone holds out, all these dudes rush to their defense and say “It’s a business” and the players should get theirs. Yes, some Steelers have criticized Le’veon Bell for holding out, but most commentators are saying it’s fine, because the team doesn’t care about him as a person, so he needs to get paid while he has some leverage. Yet Davis, who can probably see that Buffalo doesn’t give a shit about winning football (they traded the quarterback who got them to the playoffs last year, replaced him with a dude who threw five interceptions in the first half of his only start last year, and drafted a QB in the first round – in the top ten! – who doesn’t seem to know what he’s doing), is selfish for bailing on his teammates when he realized that playing football sucks if everyone around you sucks? I love it, and the talking heads on ESPN and other places should shut the fuck up.

So that’s about it for this week. Let’s head out while watching Keelan Cole make an unbelievable catch:

And, just for the hell of it, here’s Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively answering Google autocomplete questions. They’re both funny, but if you watch the video, I want you to try to explain Blake Lively’s outfit to me. I cannot!

Have a nice day, everyone!

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