Tuesday, March 27, 2012

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

Less than one month after the U.S. Men's National Team beat Italy for the first time ever, the U-23 squad embarrassed American soccer with an epic Olympic qualifying collapse.

If the children are indeed our future, then last night the kids of the US under-23 team gave us a depressing Paycheck-esque glimpse into the next generation of American soccer. The national team followed up a shocking 2-0 loss to Canada with a 3-3 tie in a "win or go home" game against El Salvador. As a result, USA has failed to qualify for the Summer Olympics for only the second time since 1980.

For U.S. fans, the game itself couldn't have been more heartbreaking. The Americans took an early 1-0 lead, but El Salvador countered with 2 goals in 2 minutes and brought a 1-goal edge into the locker room. After an uninspired 15+ minutes in the second half, the U.S. scored a quick 2 goals of their own. They held the lead until the 95th minute, when a "Hail Mary" shot snuck by keeper Sean Johnson to level the game at 3-3.

So who is to blame for the disappointing draw? Coach Caleb Porter? Absolutely. After a bold victory guarantee, the manager on the USA side might as well have been watching the game through a blindfold. Porter left a visibly injured Bill Hamid in net for not 1 but 2 goals before finally making the switch to the backup. In the second half, Porter made 2 time-wasting substitutions which included the end of captain Freddy Adu's night. A maturing Adu was one of the few bright spots last night, and his presence was missed when it mattered most.

And what about the officials? Do they deserve a share of the blame? Sure. As is the case in most big upsets (and we can certainly call a tie an upset), the center referee's calls were erratic and often incorrect. And of course, there is the issue of the game-tying goal in the 5th minute of 4 minutes of stoppage time...The biggest mistake, however, was a sucker punch (1:55 for the punch) missed by both center and assistant referee that surely should have resulted in an El Salvadorian send off.

But at the of the day, the lion's share of the blame must go to the players themselves. With the exception of the first five minutes, the American squad was outplayed, outworked, and outclassed.  Midfielders couldn't possess the ball, defenders with size advantages couldn't cover opponents on set pieces, and goalies missed 3 balls that were, at the very least, savable.

The most frightening aspect of the CONCACAF disappointment is what it could mean for the future of U.S. soccer. Since its rebirth in the 1990s when America hosted the World Cup and saw the creation of the MLS, national team soccer has been on a gradual upswing. The expectation is that when great players like Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey hang up the cleats for good, the now well-established U.S. Soccer program will have new stars to fill those boots. After last night, however, that assumption must be questioned. Is it possible that United States soccer has hit its zenith, to forever be at best a World Cup round of 16 team and at worst a disappointment?

Exposure in worldwide competitions is extremely important for an American soccer program that continues to fight for both international and domestic viability. Unfortunately, come July, the United States U-23 team will be watching Olympic soccer just like everyone else. That is, everyone who cares enough to tune in.

Friday, March 23, 2012

How to Prevent Another Fab Melo Suspension

Contrary to the opinion of some people (no one specifically), ECON-001 is worth showing up to.

Fab Melo, the Big East defensive player of the year and Syracuse big man, was suspended for the NCAA tournament. Economists have long studied similar market failures: externailities. The externality here is that the efficient quantity of basketball games that Fab Melo plays is undersupplied because the public demand is outside the market decision. There are a number of solutions to solving the problem; unfortunately, none of them were employed this year for due to poor creativity.

Of all the possible methods to combat externalities, institutional provision offers the most attractive solution to the problem. It doesn't make sense to privately supply national defense, so the government does it. Here, Syracuse University could help supply Fab Melo with sufficient grades to allow him to play basketball. The administration, other students, and professors can all play a role here.

Although the administration can't give Fab Melo good grades, they could certainly do more to help him out. The NCAA can set academic requirements for its members, such as a GPA, but it can't tell the school how to determine GPA. Further, it might be time to expand the course listing: brazilian culture, portugese, and staying out of foul trouble. The university should also change from a semester system to a monomester system. You can't get suspended for a poor first semester if there is no first semester.

The other students need to be more aware of how their actions affect the basketball team. If a class is curved and Fab Melo is in it, the better you do, the worse he does. Every student should sign up for a class that Fab Melo is in, fail every assignment and test, and then withdraw after the final before grades are submitted.

More attention to detail from professors could solve the problem on its own. Do you think someone is going to know a subject better if he was in class for it or if he was playing basketball in Connecticut while it was taught? If somone answers a question in class, he probably will still know that answer in two weeks. The professors cold-call specific students, note what they know and what they don't know, and then tailor the test to their strengths.

Although it will take until next school year to implement the monomester, this should give a good first set of measures to prevent another suspension. Syracuse had a very good chance to win the national championship with Fab Melo in their lineup, but that chance decreased significantly after his suspension. The school has a lot to gain by winning a national championship, and a simple cost benefit analysis should lead them to implement all of the suggested changes for next year. 2013 National Champions.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

GM Mickey Loomis: Suspended

If you haven't heard, pretty much everyone on the saints is suspended. Coaches, front office, ball boys, and everyone else.

Included was the suspension of General Manager Mickey Loomis for 8 regular season games. Since this doesn't seem to ever happen, here are 10 possible things that "suspending a GM could mean"

10) With no general manager, the Saints are unable to submit their draft picks during this years NFL Draft. Eventually the clock runs out on every single one of their picks. After the 8th game of the season, the Saints finally make their picks, with the only real question being, who will be Mr. Irrelevent

9) Mickey Loomis isn't allowed to answer his phone till after the 8th game is over. God forbid, someone try to offer a trade from an "unknown" number.

8) The Saints can't trade for Tim Tebow.

7) A record number of undrafted free agents join the saints. None of them are cut.

6) If this means that an "assistant general manager" is put in charge, expect Drew Brees to get traded in September.

5) If this means that "Roger Goodell" is put in charge, expect Drew Brees to get traded in Septemeber, get untraded a few hours later, and then get traded a second time.

4) Aaron Brooks could be signed and starting by week 6.

3) Mickey Loomis is not even allowed to watch a single NFL or college game. That would be considered "scouting."

2) Mickey Loomis will go on vacation for 9 months, and come back just in time for the playoffs, making him wonder if this "bounty" thing was really that bad of an idea after all.

1) The Saints will fire Mickey Loomis.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Manning Madness

Amidst the annual week of unadulterated, unashamed use of bracket terminology, Peyton Manning has allegedly arrived at a "Final Four." His decision, which has been narrowed down to the Denver Broncos, the Tennessee Titans, the Miami Dolphins, and the Arizona Cardinals, is expected to be announced very shortly, perhaps in the next 24 hours.

While the four remaining teams make a lot of sense, the decision process hasn't been easy. Manning's "Elite Eight" had some thrilling, highly contested matchups. Let's take a look at how the Dolphins, Titans, Broncos, and Cardinals emerged from the quarterfinals with victories.

East: Miami Dolphins vs. Washington Redskins
In tennis this matchup would be a walkover; in team sports it would be a forfeit; in Super Smash Brothers it would be a "NO CONTEST." The Washington Redskins took themselves out of the Elite Eight by trading away their 2012 first and second- round picks, their 2013 first-round pick, and their 2014 first-round pick all for the ability to draft RG3. While he's certainly a good player, Washington has too many holes to be a contender and D.C. might be in for another John Wall-esque train wreck, where one great player leads one terrible team to many, many awful seasons. Miami, which has several of the same issues (especially now that Brandon Marshall is gone), advances to the next round by default. The fact that Peyton may accidentally bump into LeBron James on the street and will almost certainly be invited to Chris Bosh's birthday party could be a liabilities in the Final Four.

South Region: Tennessee Titans vs. SEC Commentator Job
Many football fans were adamant that Peyton would be making a return to his SEC roots in one way or another. One compelling option for Manning would be a color commentary gig for SEC games. While CBS would certainly be glad to add such a famous name to its broadcasting team, the nation would hate to see another awkward love triangle of commentators. For the love of God, what would become of Gary Danielson?? Heading down to the Tennessee Titans lets Peyton get close to his SEC glory days without forcing him to play the role of television homewrecker.

Midwest Region: Denver Broncos vs. Cialis Commercials
Peyton's game last year was, well, impotent. So the opportunity to hang up the jersey for good and return to the throne as King Peyton of the Commercials seemed like an obvious choice. And what better product to work for than Cialis? Even if Manning is broken, he can still perform. Now that's a powerful message. But the allure the Broncos was too great. An opportunity to play for a team that is largely a title contender, save for one enormous flaw, is hard to resist. Denver's defense is solid, but they'll need a quarterback whose game isn't so flaccid if they want to win a Super Bowl.

West Region: Arizona Cardinals vs. Politician
Everyone loves a good athlete-turned-politician. I can't think of a soul in America who wouldn't vote for Peyton, besides all AFC South fans who cheer for teams that aren't the Colts. Besides, I hear running for governor is always in vogue. Manning would be a dynamite politician, but the situation in Arizona is too hard to walk away from. How do you resist going to a team that just, less than one year ago, was acquired via trade for a pro-bowl cornerback and a second-round pick AND signed a $64 million contract with $21 million guaranteed? Who doesn't love ending another guy's career