Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Suck to Unsuck the Suck for Luck

Indianapolis was well on their way to a historic season. Two weeks ago, 0-16 was pointing straight at them. And their fans could not be happier. Some franchises go 40 years without a competent quarterback. Indianapolis was about to secure back-to-back superstar quarterbacks in Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck. All that stood in their way was 3 division games.

It was at this point that, according to unnamed sources, owners Bud Adams, Bob McNair, and whoever owns the Jacksonville Jaguars put in motion what's been called "Suck for Not Luck." The plan was to simply out-tank the tanking Colts. Whenever the Colts started to suck, they would suck even harder.

The Colts first matchup came against the Tennessee Titans. Despite desperately needing the win to make the playoffs, the Titans could not afford to hand the Colts the number one pick. Three turnovers, including a pick-six, and one 80-yard TD run due to "poor tackling" later, the AFC South was one win closer to facing Justin Blackmon for the next decade.

Next, the Dan Orlovsky led Colts welcomed the Houston Texans on Thursday Night. Being a nationally televised game, the Texans had to make sure that it wasn't too obvious that they were not trying. But, when leading by 4 points, the Texans smartly decided to take Pro Bowl cornerback Jonathan Joseph off Reggie Wayne in the final seconds, allowing him to score the game winning touchdown. The AFC South was again one win closer to having to face Justin Blackmon next year.

This Sunday, the Indianapolis Colts will visit the Jacksonville Jaguars. Unlike the Texans and Titans, the Jaguars don't have to pretend they suck. They just need to make sure Blaine Gabbert is a crucial part of their gameplan. The AFC South could be decided for the next 15 years on Sunday. For better or worse.

Monday, December 26, 2011

The Greatest Athlete of All Time: Kim Jong-il

Last name General. First name Invincible and Ever-Triumphant.

Although he never went to the bathroom, The Beloved and Respected Father was too busy kidnapping movie starsbeing a world class djinventing hamburgers, and saving his country from famine by breeding giant rabbits to go pro. There is no doubt that the world benefited from his selfless decision to steer clear of pro sports and instead dictate the Democratic People's Republic of North Korea. Despite never playing professionally, Kim Jong-IlThe Great Sun of Life, is the greatest athlete in history.

The first criteria for the greatest athlete is dominance in his sport(s). The greatest athlete is not the best in a made up event that awards sub-world-class skill in a number of sports; as they say: jack of all trades, master of none. He is so good at the sports that he competes in that no one cares about his ability in other sports.

The second criteria is talent in multiple sports. The greatest athlete needs to have a wide range of skills that cover a wide range of sports. Being good at football and rugby, or bocce ball and curling, earns no extra points. On the contrary, baseball and football require vastly different skill sets and thus require a great athlete to excel at both.

The third criteria is playing sports that people have access to. Success in sports with location or money barriers to playing are discounted. An athlete who is dominant in a sport that has a low participation rate would probably not be professional if other people tried it, and he also doesn't get paid. Athletes in sports that aren't played in America are immediately removed from consideration because the best non-American at something is probably about the hundredth best in the world. Sorry, men's field hockey.

The Ever-Victorious, Iron-Willed Commander sweeps all three criteria. The first time he golfed, he shot a 34 (-38) with 11 holes-in-one at the 7,700 yard Pyongyang Golf Course. No PGA golfer could beat that score in mini golf. More impressive, The Great Sun of the Nation did this at age 52. His natural athleticism was so overwhelming that it transcended both age and preparation. Naturally, his athleticism was too much for the low ceiling of bowling. In his first game at Pyongyang Lanes, The Bright Sun of the 21st Century rolled a 300. Just like when you stop playing baseball in your friend's backyard because it's too easy to hit a homerun, The Great Man Who Descended From Heaven never returned to bowling. Although golf and bowling are not very popular sports, they cover a large part of the American population because there is little overlap between participants. Who goes from the country club to $3 pitcher night at the alley? While golf has a cost barrier to entry that prohibits young potential athletes, the barrier's effect is minimized because all professional athletes golf after their season ends; not all potential athletes golf, but all proven ones do.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

'Twas the Night Before a Sports Casual Christmas

'Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the House,
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Tebow soon would be there

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar plums danced in their heads
And mama in her kerchief, and I in my cap,
had just settled our brains for a long winter's nap

When out on the roof I heard such a clatter,
I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter
Away to the window I flew like a flash
Tore open the shutter, threw up the sash

The moon on the breast of new fallen snow
Gave the lustre of midday to objects below
when, what to my wandering eye should appear
but a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer

With a little old driver, so lively and quick
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick
More rapid than eagles, his courses they came
and he whistled and shouted and called them by name

"Now Dasher! Now Dancer!
Now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! On, Cupid!
On, Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch!
To the top of the wall!
Now dash away! Dash away!
Dash away all!" 

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, 'ere he drove out of sight,
"Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!" 

Joe Silvestro is a regular contributor to Sports Casual, check back every Funday Friday for his witticisms concerning the Wide World of Sports.  Email him at

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

NFL Power Rankings

With only 2 weeks remaining in the NFL regular season, 4 division races and 3 wild cards are still up for grabs. Let's take a look at the power rankings to see how the final 2 weeks of the season might play out.

Top 5 Teams
1. Green Bay Packers
2. New England Patriots
3. New Orleans Saints
4. San Francisco 49ers
5. Baltimore Ravens

Top 5 Teams I Still Can't Believe Are Actually Good
1. San Francisco 49ers
2. Houston Texans
3. Detroit Lions
4. Cincinnati Bengals
5. Denver Broncos

Top 5 Teams With Players Accused Of A Felony
1. Green Bay Packers
2. New England Patriots
3. Baltimore Ravens
4. Pittsburgh Steelers
5. Chicago Bears

Top 5 Teams With Players Convicted Of A Felony
1. New York Jets
2. Cincinnati Bengals
3. Philadelphia Eagles
4. Washington Redskins
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers, pending trial

Top 5 Teams With God On Their Side
1. Denver Broncos
2. Denver Broncos
3. Denver Broncos
4. Denver Broncos
5. Pittsburgh Steelers

Monday, December 19, 2011

Christmas Cheer

In this season of giving, it’s time to throw away your Christmas Bonuses by risking it all on things that are impossible to predict. But don’t worry, I’ve found 6 NBA bets* that will give you a real chance at cashing in. Let’s get to it.

Chris Paul alley-oop passes over/under Chris Paul field goals – I’m taking the over. Blake and DeAndre will get the majority and hopefully they'll bring back Jamario Moon so we can see more of this.

Houston Rockets will finish the season as the 9th seed in the west (50/1 odds) – The worst possible three-peat in basketball. Not only do you never make the playoffs, but you can’t even get a good draft pick. Houston’s only hope is to get Terrence Williams more minutes in the hope that he forgets how to play basketball every time he goes in the game. That or Hasheem Thabeet. Tanking at its finest.

Demarcus Cousins over/under .5 nights hanging out with Jimmer Fredette this year – I’m pretty sure these two have a total of zero things in common. Except for the fact that Tyreke Evans won’t pass them the ball.

Chris Bosh being traded to the Mavericks in order to sabotage their title hopes (25/1) – A similar bet involving Juwon Howard, the ultimate basketball curse, is also available for 5/1 odds.

Blake Griffin accidentally killing someone on the basketball court this year (10/1 odds) – Those odds can more than make up for the moral implications of cheering for Earl Boykins to take a charge against Blake.

Mascot most likely to get hurt first: whoever the new Philadelphia 76ers mascot will be (60/1 odds) - If someone doesn't trip the Ben Franklin mascot during his first NBA game, I want my money back.

*These bets may or may not be real

Thursday, December 15, 2011

NBA Diaries: David West

Working in association with the NBA, Sports Casual has secured exclusive access to blog posts from two time All-Star power forward David West and Duke legend Shane Battier.  Throughout the season, these players will write about their experiences transitioning to a new team.  After spending the first 8 seasons of his professional career with the New Orleans Hornets, West recently signed a 2-year deal with the Indiana Pacers.  This week, David West weighs in on his first day and night as a member of the Pacers.  

David West, PF, Indiana Pacers

Hey guys,

      So right after I signed my new deal with the Pacers, I hopped right on a private jet and made my way to Indiana so I could get started on getting back into game shape.  The lockout felt like forever, I just can’t wait to play!!  The private jet was a nice touch, although I later found out it was a necessary one too – there are no commercial flights into Indiana, you have to fly into Ohio and catch a horse and buggy from there.  

When I got off the plane, Mr. Bird was there to greet me.  What an honor to meet such a legend of the game.  During the car ride back to team headquarters we talked about a few different things; mostly Mr. Bird just called me a “ninny boy” and “girly man” and told stories about beating Dennis Johnson in H.O.R.S.E.  The arena is awesome!  They took me on a tour of the training rooms and practice courts, the court and press box area, and ended in the locker room.  A few of the guys were already in there after seeing the trainer, so I got to meet Darren Collison, Brandon Rush and Danny Granger, all great guys.  Roy Hibbert was there, but he just sat at his locker reading a dictionary like he always does

 Anyway, Brandon Rush invited me out to a bar that night to celebrate with some of the guys, and it was a great time.  We had some drinks and some laughs, a bunch of my new teammates came through to say hello and talk about the season.  The one who hung around the longest was Jeff Foster – what a guy.  We talked about our lives and careers; all he kept saying was “Foster – it’s Australian for basketball”.  It was funny at first, but once he started crying as he said it things got awkward.  I talked to the Indiana girls at the bar – definitely an experience.  Both of them were nice and very interested in the outside world, but unfortunately their brother-husbands pulled them away pretty quick.  Oh well.  Well that’s it for now, I’m looking forward to a great year in Indy, championship or bust!  And by bust, I mean use my newly acquired millions to vacation outside of Indiana.

                                                                                                Love and Lay-ups,

Joe Silvestro is a regular contributor to Sports Casual, check back every Funday Friday for his witticisms concerning the Wide World of Sports.  Email him at

The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year

Let's run through the bowl schedule, shall we?

The best bowl before Christmas: San Diego County Credit Union Poinsetta Bowl
TCU and Louisiana Tech are two of the most underrated teams in the country. Both teams are really hot coming into this game, and Louisiana Tech is just good enough to upset TCU in this game.

Team most likely to shave points: Boise State
If you can't beat them, join them. Las Vegas may be the only place where their conference can make up the money they got screwed out of.

Florida team most likely to win: Florida International
Florida team with the most wins this year? Florida state and....Florida International. Huh?

Highest scoring bowl: AT&T Cotton Bowl
Kansas State gave up a combined 110 points to Oklahoma State and Oklahoma. Arkansas can't stop physical run teams. Fireworks in Jerry's World.

The "Gee, maybe we should go for third in our conference every year " bowl: Sheraton Hawaii Bowl
Shouldn't the best bowls be in the best locations? Why are we rewarding the third best team in the WAC by letting them go to Hawaii. The national championship should be in Vegas, the BCS bowls should stay, Hawaii and Dallas should be the next two biggest bowls, and the worst bowl game should be played in Antarctica.

Best under the radar bowl game: Bowl
Arkansas State and Northern Illinois went a combined 15-1 in conference play. Neither has lost since Oct. 1st. Should be a fun, high-scoring game.

Conference most likely to shine: Big 12
The best conference all season and a lot of favorable matchups. Missing the national championship hurts for Oklahoma State, but at least they can go score 200 hundred on Stanford.

Conference most likely to be exposed: SEC
The SEC will boast the national champion, but this conference has no depth. LSU and Bama are two elite teams, but Auburn, Florida, and Mississippi State are terrible football teams. Arkansas and Georgia have two tough games. Vanderbilt is playing the co-Big East champs. Looks like a potential 2-6, with one guaranteed victory.

The "Sportscenter Not Top 10" Bowl: Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl
Neither team has a head coach. This could be an all time great if you love bad clock management, blown coverages, failed challenges, terrible halftime speeches, penalties, turnovers, and an overall lack of effort. Oh wait, no one likes those things. Feel free to delete this on your DVR.

BCS National Championship: LSU vs. Alabama
I picked LSU to win the first game because they were more ready to handle adversity. I'm picking Alabama to win this one, because you just don't beat Nick Saban twice in one year. I expect a surprisingly high scoring game.

Monday, December 12, 2011


Extremely confused and hardly enthused.
Last Monday, the NHL Board of Governors approved a conference realignment scheme that has since been referred to as "radical," "chaotic," and "inequitable." I'd like to add another adjective to the mix: Bettman-esque. The commissioner's conference plan is just one more bad decision amidst the worst commissioner tenure in modern sports. Among the lowlights of the deal are conferences of different sizes (two with 7 teams, two with 8) and a hazy, undefined playoff structure.

The league has yet to name each of the four new conferences, so I've taken the liberty of doing so myself:

Quebec Nordiques Memorial Conference: Anaheim Ducks, Calgary Flames, Colorado Avalanche, Edmonton Oilers, Los Angeles Kings, Phoenix Coyotes, San Jose Sharks, Vancouver Canucks
Over-Expansion Division: Chicago Blackhawks, Columbus Blue Jackets, Dallas Stars, Detroit Red Wings, Minnesota Wild, Nashville Predators, St. Louis Blues, Winnipeg Jets
The "Two Of These Things Are Not Like The Others" Conference: Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres, Florida Panthers, Montreal Canadians, Ottawa Senators, Tampa Bay Lightning, Toronto Maple Leafs
Lockout '04-05 Division - People Don't Forget: Carolina Hurricanes, New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburg Penguins, Washington Capitals

Certainly, there are some positives that emerge from the new conference structuring. For one thing, travel will be vastly reduced for many Western Conference teams that were previously getting the Samuel L. Jackson. Additionally, all teams will play each other at least twice - once per home venue - meaning season ticket holders will get to see every NHL team at least once.

And that's where the list of pros ends. These benefits, however, are in no way worth the sacrifices that the NHL is making. Here are four of the most noticeable problems with the new division alignment:

1) Travel issuess aren't really solved - Upon announcing the new structure, league officials admitted - there is no perfect solution. Exhibit A: see above. While the burden may be lifted for some teams, it has been placed squarely on others. Take a look, for example, at the Northeast/Southeast "Two Of These Things Are Not Like The Others" Conference. The Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning get to fly straight past Nashville, Carolina, Columbus, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and New York en route to play their "divisional" matchups against Boston, Buffalo, Montreal, Ottawa, and Toronto. Um, what?

2) No other league has a 4-conference structure - Since Wayne Gretzky retired, which if I'm not mistaken happened sometime during the late 1800s, hockey has veered away from the mainstream and cemented a reputation as a niche sport. The infamous TV deal with Versus certainly hasn't helped. If the NHL wants to rebuild a reputation as a major American sports league, then why shy away from the traditional 2-conference structure? This point is essentially your classic peer pressure / "nobody else is doing it" argument. But let's face it: even if he grew up to be a cool guy, there's a reason why no one in elementary school wanted to hang out with the kid who wore corduroys and a sweater-vest every day. NHL, put on a pair of jeans and a T-shirt like everybody else.

3) Problems were created where there didn't need to be any - Divisional structure has been a hot-button topic in Major League Baseball as of late. The perceived inequity of having one 4-team division and one 6-team division was so great that baseball bumped Houston to the AL despite the scheduling nightmare it now creates. With this new realignment, however, the NHL has gone in the opposite direction, willingly creating an unnecessary imbalance. Two conferences will now have 7 teams, while the other two will have 8 clubs, which *segway* means serious playoff inequity.

4) Playoffs?!?! - How will the new NHL playoffs be structured??? The league has yet to decide. But don't worry, as was apparently the consensus in the NHL boardroom, that's an issue that can be figured out later. There's even talk of adding a MLB-like play-in round between 4th and 5th place teams because, yeah, the NHL needs more teams in the playoffs. The likely proposal is that the top four teams from each conference will advance to the postseason for 2 rounds of within conference playoff series, followed by some type of final four between each conference champion. This would deprive us of some of the greatest hockey rivalries in later postseason rounds. Detroit vs. Chicago, Boston vs. Montreal, etc could never take place after round 2. For shame, NHL, for shame.

Friday, December 9, 2011

The Empire Strikes Back: David Stern Steps In

Last night, the Hornets, Rockets and Lakers completed a three-team deal which sent All-Star Chris Paul to the Lakers.  But then they didn't.  In the era of good feelings following the end of the NBA Lockout, teams wheeled and dealed (whelt and dealt?) for the chance to acquire either Chris Paul or Dwight Howard (or both).  It seemed that the veil of negativity had lifted from the NBA, and teams and players alike looked forward to doing what all professional athletes and franchises do best- Get Paid.

But The League didn't account for one thing: the Commissioner.

As the tzar of the NBA since 1984, Stern has held almost complete control over NBA ownership, creating a unified front in negotiations and decision making for nearly a quarter century.  However, as the NBA ownership demographic has shifted from older owners invested for the long-term towards younger owners with expectations of short-term returns, Stern's influence has waned.  The recent lockout only served to drive that point home - many owners' statements ran counter to Stern's statements, and Stern's strong-arm approach to negotiations came across as more Andropov than Stalin.

Enter Chris Paul: the latest in a line of NBA stars to attempt to force a trade in a contract year to have his cake and eat it too (choosing his team and getting the salary benefits of resigning instead of entering free agency).  This issue was one the new CBA tried and failed to address, but now the vicious cycle was repeating itself.  And David Stern wouldn't stand for it.

The vetoing of the Chris Paul trade by the league office will have an immediate, tangible impact; today the players involved in the trade had to report to training camp (or not) and face their teammates and team officials, and Chris Paul is preparing to do his best Oscar Robertson impersonation and sue the NBA.  However, the psychological impact of this decision by Stern is much more interesting.  Sports fans tend to view every franchise as sovereign, independent to do as it pleases (unless you're Frank McCourt), but the reality is much different - David Stern just crossed the same line that he and other league executives (Bud Selig, for instance) have toed for decades.  Our shock at his willingness to attempt to control superstar movement between franchises speaks to the naivety of sports fans as much as the audacity of David Stern.

Joe Silvestro is a regular contributor to Sports Casual, check back every Funday Friday for his witticisms concerning the Wide World of Sports.  Email him at

Monday, December 5, 2011

Tim Tebow

It's been several weeks since I explained why I feel the way I do about Tim Tebow. So I don't want to go into that again. Let's just talk football.

I want to first begin by explaining why Tebow was successful in college. The formula for winning in college football is simple: play great defense, make plays on special teams, and then you run up the middle every single play with your star player. Seriously. In college, having an ordinary passing game is ok.

Cam Newton, Mark Ingram, Percy Harvin, Tim Tebow, Vince Young, Joseph Addai, Jacob Hester (not a stud, but converted so many critical 3rd/4th and shorts), and Reggie Bush.

College is all about the running game, because college football is all about consistency. A power run team never changes. You don't have off days when it is raining or windy. That star defensive end doesn't matter as much. You get long drives, and make less mistakes. You control field position. You don't turn the ball over. You hold onto leads. You convert key short yardage situations. You don't need a superstar QB. You merely need a game manager, which is why Greg Mcleroy, Matt Flynn, Matt Mauk, and this year's champion can win.

Based off those requirements, Tim Tebow was the ideal college QB.

Consistency means you have a chance to go undefeated. That's why prolific passing offenses lose against teams like Iowa State every year. Although your peaks with a great passing games are higher, your valleys are much lower as well. Better to bring your B game every week in college football than fluctuating between an A and an F, because 1 loss could end your season.

The NFL is the complete opposite. Consistency doesn't mean anything. Teams that struggle during the regular season often times get hot and win Super Bowls. Their overall body of work may not be pretty, but when they play at their best, they can compete with anyones. Having a higher peak is more important than being consistent. Which is why the passing game is so important in the NFL. Aaron Rodgers, Big Ben, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, and Eli Manning are all capable of playing a perfect game. You need that kind of QB, because you'll need that kind of game at some point in the playoffs.

Which leads us to Tim Tebow. We all know that building the team around Tebow will be more difficult (can't have receivers with big egos, have to have a playmaking D, enough running back depth to handle the load, ect.), but let's assume Denver does a great job of managing the roster and putting the right players around Tebow. In that case, I wouldn't be surprised if Tebow continues winning regular season games like he's been doing. He doesn't turn the ball over, he keeps the clock moving, he keeps his team in the game, and he can convert key short yardage sitautions. He's consistent, which makes his team consistent. A consistent team should be good for 9-10 games a year. Tebow will probably lead his team to the playoffs almost every year from here on out (assuming they still play the same field position time games). Tim Tebow's been a much better pro than I ever thought he'd be, and his game against Minnesota was the best of his career.

But can he win a Super Bowl? I still don't think so. Not until he learns to throw the football. Put me down for being a non-believer. I think this is as good as Tebow as we're going to see for a while. I don't think this Denver Broncos team has that extra gear. I don't know if he can make the perfect throw to covered receivers over and over again in the playoffs. If you saw Aaron Rodgers on Sunday, you saw a QB who threw receivers open almost every throw down the stretch. Tebow still can't do that. I don't think he ever will.

The reason John Elway is hesitant to commit to Tebow is he may be what I think is the most dangerous QB to own. The type of QB that can get you the playoffs every year, but never win the Super Bowl. Matt Hasselbeck, Kerry Collins, Steve McNair, McNabb, ect. All those guys won a lot of football games. They put up great numbers. Franchise committed to them for a long time. Never won a Super Bowl. Looking back, they would have been much better served finding a new QB earlier. John Elway doesn't want to spend 10 years falling short. He wants a QB capable of being elite. Or he wants to keep looking for someone new.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Penalty Shootouts

Soccer is a team sport in which the most important games
are settled with 10/11 of the team watching what happens from midfield.

Before I was old enough to form independent opinions, I thought penalty shootouts were the best part of the World Cup. As much as I loved watching actual soccer, there was something irresistible about letting five minutes trump the previous 120. Clean slates. New rules. Same outcomes. Since then, I have added "fair" and "manufactured excitement" to my vocabulary. Shootouts have a time and a place, but they have no place in important sporting events such as the World Cup, Champions League, the Olympics, and the MLS Cup Playoffs because the importance of determining a deserving winner and the need to do this by continuing the original sport outweigh the benefits of saving time and the excitement of this premature and abrupt finish.

Big time sporting events value the ability to schedule events for known time intervals to allow for multiple use of the same facilities and the simplification of television coverage. The Olympics would likely have difficulty in implementing sudden death overtime for these reasons. The honorable and respectable soccer governing board, FIFA, on the other hand, is largely unaffected by this concerns. Scheduling matches with the potential for overtime in a manner to avoid conflicting with later events that require the same facility and utilizing online streaming and the increasing number of channels would avoid these concerns.

The immediacy of a shootout is pretty sexy, but it lacks the suspense and emotional connection only seen in sudden death overtime. In a shootout, the outcome unfolds over its course, granted quickly, instead of appearing spontaneously; in sudden death, any shot can win it. Further, the highlight goals from a soccer penalty shot are few and far between, although the same can't be said for hockey. Unexpected is exciting, and soccer shootouts fail in this category as well (with the exception of the the three possible kick directions: left, right, or center): the closer the probability of the two potential outcomes is to 50%, the more unexpected the outcome is. Hockey has been able to gain a large national following because of the excitement created by a nearly 50-50 shootout situation. If only there were a way to make this the case for soccer...

Despite the difficulty of scheduling for sudden death matches, and regardless of your opinion on the entertainment value of a shootout, ending a match in one sport with a completely different competition featuring a fraction of the original players and a mild overlap of skills is ridiculous. Beer league kickball allows for chug-offs if a play is challenged--a different contest, beer chugging, is used to decide the outcome of the original game, kickball. This is ok because it is beer league kickball. This is not ok in the belle of world sports. It would be excusable to end soccer with something logical that utilized more relevant skills and included the full team, like mayan deathball, roller derby, or tagteam MMA, but a contest of kicking a ball into a net that is 192 square feet from 12 yards away doesn't cut it. Of all the skills required in soccer, shooting is the one that has the least overlap across all positions, and it isn't even used that much in a game--compare the number of dribbles, passes, or tackles to the number of shots; penalty shot ability is not a good predictor of the quality of a soccer player.

Shootouts are a marginally better method of deciding a match than flipping a coin; they make away goals seem like a good idea. Because soccer and hockey are low scoring, they can't add an additional period to decide a winner immediately like basketball or tennis (depending on where it is played). However, this is not an excuse for not continuing the game until there is a winner. If overtime is too long, people don't have to watch it, and if more people watch overtime than would watch whatever it would be running over, the station should be able to make more money from advertisements. Spectators tend to enjoy the excitement and emotional connection that develops throughout overtime, rather than complain about it taking too long. If they were interested in watching the game when it was less exciting in regulation, they're probably interested in watching overtime. If for whatever reason overtime can not be played, a subjective scoring by judges, like in boxing, or a formula from a regression that weighted the importance of various game statistics, such as possession and shots on goal, in winning a game could get the job done. Shootouts are fine when they have no effect on the course of an 82 game season and are actually entertaining to watch, but elimination games should not be decided by a shootout. Deciding a deserving winner should take precedence over brevity.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Declaration of Independence: What Will It Take to Make Chris Paul a Knick?

When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one player to dissolve the professional bands which have connected him with others, wild speculation ensues.  Almost immediately after the NBA Lockout was settled, Chris Paul's agent informed the Hornet's management that he "wants to be traded to the New York Knicks" and would not be signing a contract extension.  There is certainly a precedent for this type of conduct; for better or worse, players holding their teams hostage during a contract year has become the norm (a norm preserved in the form of extend-and-trades as part of the new CBA).

However, while Chris Paul has expressed a serious interest in the Knicks, the Hornets have good reason to not be seriously interested in making a deal with them.  The Knickerbockers unloaded essentially all of their tradeable assets (assuming Amar'e and Melo are untouchable) in their dealings with the Denver Nuggets, leaving them very little with which to entice New Orleans.  However, if the Knicks get creative there's still a chance that this deal can happen - here are the three most creative trade options which end in Chris Paul in the orange and blue.

1) Knicks Get: Chris Paul    Greece Gets: Bailout   Hornets Get: Greece

Although the Knicks lack trade assets, the one thing Jim Dolan can always count on is money.  Everybody wins in this deal: the Knicks get Paul, Greece gets solvency, and the Hornets get the rights to all players and olives coming out of Greece in the next 10 years.

2) Knicks Get: Chris Paul      Hornets Get: Rights to Isiah Thomas, Marv Albert

The Knicks' current players may not be attractive trade bait, but the Garden's famous player and play-by-play man represent a tantalizing deal for the Hornets.  If anything, the Knicks are overpaying with this one.

3) Knicks Get: Chris Paul     Hornets Get: Spike Lee, Landry Fields, 2030-2035 first round picks

The 2030-2035 first round picks are the only first rounders the Knicks haven't already traded away.  Spike Lee is essentially Chris Paul with more Knicks gear and two fewer knees, and after Landry Fields retires he can put his Standford degree to good use in the front office.  There's no downside to this deal.

Joe Silvestro is a regular contributor to Sports Casual, check back every Funday Friday for his witticisms concerning the Wide World of Sports.  Email him at

Thursday, December 1, 2011

A Done Deal

Given the context, it is all the more surprising that Major League Baseball was able to hammer out a new collective bargaining agreement without any turmoil. After all, no American sport has seen more labor turmoil through the decades than baseball. Yet quickly and quietly, Major League Baseball deprived us of the 2011 lockout trifecta.

Of course, the collective bargaining process may have lasted a little longer if either side brought up competitive balance / revenue sharing issues. For better or for worse, however, Pirates fans don't get a seat at the bargaining table. With the players making a decent living and teams - even perennially awful ones - profiting each year, the MLB followed an age-old adage and decided not to fix "ain't broken" things.

A few highlights from the new deal:

-Two additional wildcard teams, one from each league, who will play a 1-game playoff for the right to be in the ALDS or NLDS. With such impressive TV ratings from 1-game playoffs in previous years, the MLB has essentially decided to force a tie in every wildcard race each year. You know what I can't wait for? A tie for the 2nd wildcard. Which teams will be the first to have a 1-game playoff for the right to play in a 1-game playoff for the right to be in the actual postseason?

-A move from the NL to the AL by the Houston Astros, which will take place in 2013. The Rangers-Astros rivalry will be an exciting one, assuming Houston is able to snap out of a current trend and actually find 9 guys who know what a baseball is. The move will create a scheduling headache, but for now it looks like we're stuck with two 15-team leagues. The MLB is reluctant to expand, and the league shot down my proposal of traveling back in time and un-adding the Diamondbacks and Devil Rays.

-A partial ban on smokeless tobacco, which prevents players from use during team appearances and TV interviews but allows them to keep dipping on the field. The iron fist of Bud Selig strikes again.

-Blood testing for HGH, which is the Players' way of saying "We've found something better and less detectable than HGH."