Sunday, November 30, 2014

Don’t you just love basketball on grass?

I’ll be honest—last night’s Iron Bowl made me more than a little nervous. In Alabama’s last two attempts to match the tempo of teams that are recruited and built to play basketball on grass, things didn’t go well. Alabama went 0-2 against Auburn and Oklahoma.

Enter Lane Kiffin.

I was puzzled when Nick Saban hired the former Tennessee and Southern Cal head coach as his Offensive Coordinator. I wondered to myself whether this was a smart hire. But as the 2014 season has unfolded, it’s clear that when Mr. Kiffin is given the tools and materials to build a vehicle, he can build a freight train.

What continues to concern me is Alabama’s willingness to enter the Dark Side. Ok. Kiffin can call plays. He can even know when a play is going for a touchdown before the ball even leaves his QB’s fingers. But deep down, ask yourself. Meditate on this question:

Is this Alabama Football?

I am uncomfortable with Alabama playing teams that are built to do what the Tide did last night. It was (kinda) fun to watch Saban and Kiffin beat Malzahn and Lashlee at their own game. But I was also downright uncomfortable.

I’ve always been a believer that the game of football is won and lost on the line of scrimmage. When your big uglies can knock the other guys’ big uglies off of the line, you usually win the game unless you make dumb mistakes.

Basketball on grass changes that calculus.

It’s like playing what I like to call “bingo poker.” Bingo poker describes those kinds of games where there are bunches of wild cards (“Aces, Deuces, One-eyed Jacks!”) . Who the hell knows what cards are being held and played? Chips fly into the pot, and even a knucklehead who lucks into a four-of-a-kind with three wild cards can drag the pot.

I would much prefer that Alabama get back to playing Alabama Football. Don’t get me wrong—Kiffin has been an outstanding playcaller since arriving in Tuscaloosa. He finally has the tools and weapons he needs to be successful; things he really didn’t have at Tennessee, and things that NCAA sanctions thwarted during his stint at Southern Cal, despite his best efforts at becoming the Sith Lord of Roster Management in SoCal. Like I said above—give a good coach the tools and materials he needs, and he’ll succeed.

But getting back to the original point of this post: if you’re a long-time follower of Alabama Crimson Tide football, this has to be a bit unnerving. Of course, watching Coach Bryant unveil the Wishbone was probably a bit unnerving to those who saw Bart Starr through Kenny Stabler run a pro-style offense—and win championships doing so.

Times are changing? I need to move into the 21st Century? Ok. Maybe so. That doesn’t mean that my “dinosaur” offensive strategy of three yards and a cloud of dust isn’t effective. It has been for decades and if it keeps the “basketball on grass” offenses on the sidelines; forced to watch while the opposing offense runs the ball down your throat, how is that bad?

Is 21-10 a less impressive victory than 55-44? Nope. They both go in the “W” column.

I know some people will disagree with me on this; that the kind of football Alabama used to play is boring and out of synch with the modern game. But wins don’t bore me. Nor do championships and Alabama has won more championships playing smash mouth football than not.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Darren Wilson’s story hasn’t changed since August 9th

One of the easiest ways to tell if someone is not being honest about his/her involvement in a crime is whether they are consistent in recounting events. As indicated in this WaPo story, OFC Wilson has never changed his story. Not once.

Wilson gave his first and so far only interview Tuesday to ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos, saying that he didn’t think he could have handled the confrontation with Brown any differently.

“Everybody says that [his story] was so rehearsed and he was so prepped,” Thompson said. “But the way Darren tells the story has not changed from the minute the shooting occurred. He could probably tell it in his sleep if he had to.”

“If I could, I’d show you my notes from one hour after it happened,” Kloeppel said, referring to an interview Wilson did at Ferguson police headquarters Aug. 9. “Same story.”

As anyone not living on Mars since August knows, OFC Wilson shot and killed Michael Brown after a confrontation on a street in Ferguson, MO. Wlson, white, killed Brown, black, in an episode that took all of 90 seconds.

There are no video or audio recordings of the incident, and notoriously unreliable eyewitness accounts varied. However, some of those eyewitnesses changed their testimony as the saga unfolded between the fateful August afternoon and Monday night’s announcement that a St. Louis County grand jury declined to indict Wilson.

Sifting through the evidence released by the prosecutor—all of which was presented to the grand jury—it becomes clear that even if DA Bob McColluch had gotten the proverbial “ham sandwich” indicted, a jury trial would never have resulted in a conviction beyond reasonable doubt.

The golden thread in that conclusion is that Wilson’s story never changed. You can see it in the interview with St. Louis County Police detectives. You can see it in his grand jury testimony, and you can see it in Wilson’s interview with George Stephanopoulos on ABC.

The fact that Mr. Wilson’s story has never wavered during the four month saga is not an indication that he is innocent of wrongdoing. But it is a powerful indication that he remembers every detail of the incident that led to the tragic death of an 18-year old.

If you’re lying, it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll cross up some of the details over the passage of time. That’s why interrogators use multiple interviews—all recorded—to go over the minute details of what could be a crime. If you tell the same story, over and over and over again, police and prosecutors have little reason to believe that you are being untruthful. If even small details are changed during the course of these multiple interviews, it causes investigators to dig deeper, probe more thoroughly, and use inconsistencies to build a case for probable cause.

The forensic evidence associated with this incident supports Wilson’s account of events and discredits eyewitness accounts. The multiple autopsies show the same. Brown refused a lawful order from a sworn officer. He then initiated a violent confrontation with Wilson, in which he struggled for the officer’s sidearm. He was shot in the hand at close range and tried to flee. As Wilson exited his vehicle to give pursuit, Brown turned and tried to bull rush the policeman. Wilson fired multiple shots, nearly emptying his magazine, and fatally wounded Brown. It was tragic. It was unnecessary. But it was Brown’s fault, not Wilson’s, that he is now dead and buried and Wilson walks as a free man.

We have confidence in this conclusion based on the simple fact that from the hours after the incident until the interview on ABC, Wilson’s story has not changed. Not one bit.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Enough about the SEC scheduling FCS “cupcakes,” already

clip_image001Kirk Herbstreit et al went after Southeastern Conference schools for scheduling FCS teams last Saturday on ESPN Gameday. As Herbstreit put it, it’s “the worst thing that goes on in college football.” His cohorts Desmond Howard and Chris Fowler dutifully nodded along.

Only Lee Corso(!) dissented with a voice of logic and reason. When you have Lee Corso on your side… well…

Look, enough already. The SEC schools that scheduled FCS opponents this late in the season did so for two simple reasons: Economics, and finance. Optics be damned—optics don’t pay the bills. Let’s face some cold hard facts, shall we?

No major school wants to give up a home game. Ever.

Home games are too important to the home team program, the community and the fans. To even play a home-away rotation with another major school means both teams lose a home game every other year. It's simply not in anyone's financial interest to do so, especially this late in the season.

It is however, in the financial interest of schools like WCU, who collected a hefty paycheck that they will use to further develop what appears to be a up-and-coming program. And so, we eschew a late season non-conference matchup. We maximize home game revenues, the opponent is better off financially, and everybody is set.

This is what some people in the media fail to wrap their heads around: It’s a voluntary exchange. When you look at things from a center-left point of view, voluntary exchanges are bad things. How can these dupes hope to do well by society by making their own damned decisions that work towards their own damned interests?

It’s not about doing well by society. It’s about the bottom line for the schools involved, the community involved and the fans.

The University of Alabama is a good institutional citizen of Tuscaloosa and the entire state. It's just not in their interest to agree to play a major non-conference opponent if that opponent insists on a home-away rotation. It’s fine to schedule an early season game at a neutral location, like Alabama has endeavored to do since Mike Dubose clapped his way into oblivion.

Also, any prospective major non-conference, late-in-the-season opponent faces the same financial calculus that UA does. Why should they not maximize home game revenues by scheduling cupcakes? Giving up millions (potentially) to assuage the politically correct talking heads is bad economics, bad finance and frankly, it steps close to a breach of fiduciary trust.

The community where these games take place spend enormous resources in providing security, traffic control, first responder capability and God knows what else. They do so in the knowledge that the economic impact of such events is tremendous to the local economy and vastly exceeds the costs.

That’s as true in Tuscaloosa as it is in Tallahassee, Columbus, Norman, Lincoln and Ann Arbor.

And what happens if (when?) the SEC goes to a nine-game conference schedule? Well, every SEC team gives up at least one home game per year, and all the revenue and impact associated with it. That means even more patsies scheduled as non-con opponents.

People, beware of the Law of Unintended Consequences. It always—always—comes back and bites you in the ass.

A similar example exists here in Mobile. Every late winter/early spring, the City of Mobile expends tremendous resources to provide security and first responder services during the annual Mardi Gras celebration. That runs for weeks, and the total public attendance for the carnival season dwarfs the attendance at any home game played in any SEC venue.

If the City of Mobile told the carnival crewes to go find their own security, first responder and other services, Mardi Gras in Mobile would cease to exist. That impact would be devastating. The impacts and economic devastation go up by an order of magnitude in New Orleans.

No one wants to see any of that take place, especially if the only reason to do so is to keep people like Kirk, Desmond and Chris happy. And let’s be honest, here. That would be the only reason to penalize schools and/or force major conference schools to eschew these kinds of matchups. They don’t care about (or they’re ignorant of) the economic and financial realities of college football. All they care about are the politically correct optics of bitching about big boys playing little boys.

There’s another angle to this, brought up by my friend TIDE-HSV over on the forum. When lesser schools are on the field with bigger schools, the incentive to make up the gap in talent is dangerous.

The  targeting rules are also running into the Law of Unintended Consequences. If you can't lead with your head or target an opponent from the shoulders up, then a lesser opponent has little choice but to go low. How many people got helped off of the field in the Alabama – Western Carolina game? You need two hands to count them, and they were all starters.The rules in place now could actually cause more injuries rather than fewer, although those injuries are much less life-threatening than head/neck injuries.

That's another thing that these politically correct talking heads completely miss. The argument for avoiding scheduling vastly inferior opponents because of increased injury risk is much more convincing than the one of optics made by the talking heads. That argument also plays right into their politically correct narrative that football is too violent and that it needs to be more thoroughly regulated.

"Well," they could say, "if you want fewer injuries, then don't allow little boys to play on the same field with big boys because the little boys have to find some way to compensate for the lack of speed, size and talent. The only way to avoid that is to keep big boys playing big boys and little boys playing little boys."

They don't make that argument because it makes too much sense.

But, when was the last time an argument was made by the mainstream media that made sense?

Western Carolina Head Coach Mark Speir made a lot of sense Saturday night. "Guys get an education and we battled our butts off, playing games like this.It sends people who wouldn't have an opportunity to go to college and have great memories. Then a guy like Troy sets a record. You tell me that ain't special. I'll get off my soapbox."

You know what’s special about college football and scheduling during the regular season? I’ll yell it at ya: It’s about the voluntary exchange. That’s something that people in the media don’t understand or simply can’t stand.