More than forty hours later, the sports world is still buzzing about the “call.” By now, everyone has offered their two cents on Bill Belichick’s decision to go rather than punt. And by everyone, I mean EVERYONE. Obama, Tom Hanks, the lady whose face got eaten by a chimp, Sarah Palin, 800 sports columnists, Hamid Karzai, 400 former players, and 247,000 chat room trolls. More specifically, Keith Olbermann declared BB to be the World’s Second Worst Person of the Day, Sean Hannity said the move was “a disgrace to those Patriots who fight for this country’s feedoms, ” Lindsey Lohan called the move “redonkulous,” John Cougar claimed it was “arrogant” and Target CEO Greg Steinhafel surprsied everyone on an earnings call this morning when he said the call “right on the mark.”
I made my views on this subject pretty clear at 7:00 AM yesterday. In a nutshell, I supported the decision and argued that the math made perfect sense. Moreover, I argued that it is hard to find fault with a decision that puts the game in Tom Brady’s hands. Now a day and a half later, after reading volumes of material and listening to dozens of rants, I have a handful of observations relating to this matter.
The knee-jerk reaction – from all the talking heads and print guys on deadline – was BB had lost his mind. From Rodney Harrison to Tony Dungy to Dan Shaugnessy (Globe) to Sam Farmer (LA Times) to Jay Marrioti (SportsForRetards.Com) …the immediate reaction was overwhelmingly negative. And it remained that way through early yesterday morning on ESPN and in the chats. But things broke a bit late in the morning. For one, the story in the NYT, authored by Brian Burke from Advanced Football Stats, started getting attention. This story, which was similar to my point, explained that BB made the right call if you are solely looking at percentages. By noon, it was being cited on the air, on websites (WEEI, Deadspin, Boston.com) and in the chats. And I got the sense that it was turning public opinion. Moreover, when guys like Gruden and Steve Levitt (Freakanomics) started weighing in on BB’s behalf , I think laymen began to re-think their position. Who knows whether these opinions were the reason, but a day later, the public seems much more evenly divided. It’s funny how malleable public opinion can be. Sometimes it can be turned with a little sunlight.
When players are polled, you see one theme right away. The defensive guys are all pounding BB. Eric Allen, Rodney Harrison, Teddy Bruschi, Keith Bullock …..all defense …all busting balls. And I can only imagine that Tom Jackson went crazy on this last night. I guess that stands to reason as these guys all think it was a show of disrespect. I think it was partly that as BB didn’t trust his defense to make a stop. On the other hand, I think you have to consider the other side of the coin. He respected Peyton Manning a great deal and didn’t want to see him ram one down the Pats’ throat. If the opposing QB had been the other Manning, I think you might have seen him kick. And if the opposing QB was named JaMarcus, the Pats would have kicked on third down.
Advanced Statistical analysis, aka sabremetrics, has made important inroads into baseball and there are now people who cover that game who understand the world is not flat. The same cannot be said for football. The last forty hours have revealed an important finding: Football analysts are Neanderthals when it comes to applied math. They don’t understand math and they certainly don’t know how to apply it. Gene Wojciechowski of ESPN even wrote a whole story about “math” and yet he fucked up the conclusion. Where is Bill James when you need him?
Anyone notice how open Wes Welker was on the play ….. along those lines, I still don’t know why the Pats didn’t run on third down.
Pinch me …..long-time Patriot critic Merrill Hoge actually supported BB on this one. That hasn’t happened ever. The Pats could be playing the 92nd Street YMCA and Hoge would have it “pickem.” Needless to say I was surprised but I think Hoge is a “ah fuck it” kind of guy and he liked that BB took out his balls and yelled “get your red hots!”
“Dipshit Citations” go out to everyone who has used the term “arrogant” to describe this call. Since when does thinking that your HOF QB can execute a two-yard pass qualify as arrogant?
“Michelle Malkin” awards go out to everyone who went hyperbolic with their adjectives on this one. “Assinine,” “Worst Ever,” “idiotic,” “disgraceful,” “Assinine,”“horrendous,” all qualify. Yeah, Bill Simmons you get a MM on this one and so do you Gary Myers (NY Daily News). Folks, invading Russia is idiotic, running Ramiro Pena for Arod is assinine and favorably comparing the Sopranos to The Wire is disgraceful. This wasn’t within 500 miles on any of these. Worst you can say about this was it was overly-aggressive, poorly executed, or questionable in light on the call on third down. And in case you were wondering how Michelle Malkin came down ….well, she said it was all Nancy Pelosi’s fault.
[I don't want to be accused of pawning off the MM award as my own creation ....instead, it was an invention of Andrew Sullivan's and it honors those who favor hyperbole over measured and rant over reason]
WFAN’s Mike Francesca probably gets my three-headed Neanderthal/Malkin/Dipshit award in the radio division for his excellent coverage on this affair and Myers edges Wojo in the print category. Mind you, the print category was the most competitive it’s been years. And in the chats ….some guy named bodhi (ESPN) narrowly wins out over belicheat (Daily News).