Tuesday, December 25, 2012

GTOG Christmas Podcast: On the Steelers, Roethlisberger, and Why Everything Has Been Terrible Since We Started This Site

On this special Christmas Podtacular, we talk about the Steelers' loss to the Bengals and how we evaluate Ben Roethlisberger. We also look back on how horrible things have been since we started the blog and ask for reader/listener advice going forward. Plus a special appearance from Mrs. Artistry.

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Monday, December 24, 2012

Steelers' Playoff Hopes Dead After Loss to Bengals; Trade Roethlisberger for Kirk Cousins?

By Finesse

The Steelers' season came to a fitting end yesterday after a game full of sustained incompetence, inexplicable coaching, and a legacy-impacting stink bomb from Big Ben.  We will have full analysis on our podcast tonight, but here are a few quick thoughts.

- Roethlisberger emptied his entire arsenal of "This one's on me" after the game yesterday, and that's how it should be.  Not only was he mediocre during his best moments yesterday, but looming over him the entire game was the one question that, when lingering, is often the kiss of death for quarterbacks: when is the backbreaking interception coming?

First quarter:

And moments before the interception on the game-losing 4th quarter drive:

Gone are the days when you could arguably include Roethlisberger in the discussion of "which QB do I want down a score in the 4th quarter?"  It's not like he's bad now -- I'm still glad he's the Steelers' quarterback -- but his resume is increasingly filled with "what ifs?" and "this one's on me."  What's most frustrating about all of this is that despite the two Super Bowls he already has, he is the only reason that he doesn't have more.

Remember the three picks in the 2004 AFC title game? Remember these stats from 2006: 75.4 QB rating, 18 TDs, 23 interceptions, 8-8 record?  Remember the three picks in the wild card loss to the Jaguars?  Remember the five game losing streak and no playoffs in 2009? (Yes, Dennis Dixon lost one of those games).  Remember that the six games Roethlisberger lost in 2009 were decided by 3, 3, 6, 3, 3, and 7 points? Remember the heinous pick-6 against the Packers in a Super Bowl the Steelers lost by 6 points?  Remember the horribly discombobulated 2-minute drill the Steelers butchered at the end of that game?  Remember the three sacks he took on the final 4th-quarter drive against Denver in last year's playoff game that kept the Steelers from getting in field goal range?  And remember the game-losing plays this year to Denver, Dallas, and now Cincinnati?

And remember this?
And remember this press conference?
And remember this press conference?
There's arguably an excuse for every one of these games -- injuries, bad offensive line, "he put them in a position to be there in the first place" -- but the fact remains that the negatives are adding up.  Two Super Bowls is potentially a hall-of-fame career, and even the best QBs don't win the Super Bowl every year.  But the "he left plays on the field" cliche is ever more applicable to Roethsliberger.  The Steelers will only go as far as he takes them.  Unfortunately, he limits himself.

None of this is meant to denigrate what he has accomplished, which is incredibly impressive.  It's just to say that no longer does the conversation about his legacy begin and end with "That guy's a winner."  It may still begin that way, but there's a "but."

- Obviously, the Steelers shouldn't trade Roethlisberger for Kirk Cousins, or anyone for that matter.  That's something we call the "Recoil Test" -- the best measure of a player's worth is your gut reaction to suggestions for trading him.  And I threw up on myself typing that headline.  So, yes, let's keep Ben.

- The Steelers' defense was very good yesterday.  We thought all along that the defense would be the downfall of this team.  What a shame that it now seems like another year of a good defense wasted.

- Having said that, like the playoff loss to Jacksonville 5 years ago, maybe this loss is a blessing in disguise.  Going 7-9 is a lot less damaging to the team's legacy than losing 45-14 in New England in the first round of the playoffs would have been.

- We will break down all the implications of the Steelers loss on tonight's podcast.  Make sure to watch for it.

Friday, December 21, 2012

NRA's Super-Crazy Wayne LaPierre Undermines Only Part of 'School Shield' That Isn't Super-Crazy

By Finesse

If you strip away all the bizarre, disillusioned, and downright frightening specifics of the NRA’s proposal today to create a “National School Shield,” give them the benefit of every doubt, and then massage their proposal even a little bit more, there may be a point that is at least worth debating: Should there be an armed security presence at our nation’s schools? 

Unfortunately, the NRA and many of its members seem to fantasize about a world where parents dress up their 6-year old in Kevlar, drive him to school in an armored tank, flank into two columns to walk him to the school steps, hurriedly transfer him to the AK-47 wielding principal, then yell “CLEAR! CLEAR!” and fall back to their tank and retreat back to base. Despite this NRA-propagated fantasy that fat old white guys with guns are the only thing protecting us from Sharia law, Susan Rice, and kids who play too many video games, it would be a disservice to dismiss what might be a somewhat reasonable idea just because the messenger believes that President Obama’s failure to address guns in his first term was “part of a massive Obama conspiracy to deceive voters and destroy the Second Amendment in our country.” By itself, the presence of a gun at a school is not necessarily a bad idea. Like most things, the devil is in the details. 

"Yes, I do think astronauts should be armed in space."
The reason that people in Sandy Hook Elementary School called the police when they heard gunfire is because the police have guns. So it’s not just the presence of a gun that’s the problem, it’s who has it. In the right hands, a gun is actually what brings us some comfort. We accept armed security at stadiums, at airports, and on subways, so why not schools? Maybe it’s just better to keep ALL guns out of schools (and certainly that would be ideal), but the fact that schools are full of children might also mean that of all places, schools deserve the most protection.  Whether having real police officers at schools would be effective or make things worse is unknown, but it's at least worth discussing.

Now here’s where the NRA goes way, way off the rails: 

NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre called for Congress to “appropriate whatever is necessary to put armed police officers in every school,” but his henchman Asa Hutchinson assured us that the NRA’s School Shield program “doesn't depend on massive funding from local authorities or the federal government. Instead, it'll make use of local volunteers serving in their own communities.”  If the plan is actually to use real police officers, that’s something that should be considered and we should be honest about the costs. But it appears that their actual plan is to deploy Hutchinson’s “local volunteer” army, and that’s frightening. 

Having armed, professionally trained police officers at schools is a lot different than asking for volunteers to secure recess with a high-powered rifle. If I’m a parent, the last person I want around my kids during the day is some unemployed 40-something guy with a gun fetish “volunteering” to be surrounded by young children. The truth is that a lot of these wannabe vigilantes in the NRA want to blur the line between officer and civilian because they are feeling irrelevant in a quickly-evolving society with shifting demographics – or they are just unemployed guys with gun fetishes. 

"Gather round kids. Who wants to hear a story?"
In criticizing violent video games, LaPierre incredulously asked, “Isn't fantasizing about killing people as a way to get your kicks really the filthiest form of pornography?” But fantasizing about killing people is the exact fantasy that the NRA is peddling. The only difference is that instead of fantasizing about shooting up a movie theater, they dream of a scenario where they draw their gun first, take out the shooter, and then get interviewed by Sean Hannity. If anyone is deluded by video games, it’s these self-deputized pretend cops. 

The fact that LaPierre and Hutchinson contradicted each other and themselves so blatantly -- on the one hand, the government has to pony up and hire professionals; on the other hand, let’s give the English teacher a shotgun -- exposes this “School Shield” program for what it is: a total diversionary tactic. If the NRA gets the debate to shift from gun control to armed security at schools, then they’ve already won. 

Armed security at schools has absolutely nothing to do with whether high-caliber weapons and ammunition should be banned or whether gun-show loopholes should be closed (they should, immediately). If the “volunteer” is armed with a handgun, but the crazed-shooter has an assault rifle, is that a fair fight? Should they both have the same weapons? Or should the volunteer have something more powerful than the shooter? A machine gun? A missile launcher? A stealth bomber circling above the school? Our plan for dealing with Iran’s nuclear program isn’t to hand out more nuclear weapons to everyone in the Middle East. We’re trying to stop them from getting one, because even though we have more than them, we don’t want them to use theirs. The goal should be to protect kids, not have an arms race. 

As so many have pointed out, the issue is obviously not just about guns. Mental health and cultural violence are factors, but no one has ever crazy’d someone to death and you can’t kill 26 people by throwing video games at them. You do that with guns. Big, powerful guns that shoot a lot of bullets in not a lot of time. You cannot stop this problem, or even make a dent in it, if you don’t immediately do something about guns and bullets. 

So here’s a newsflash for LaPierre and the most extreme gun-crazy NRA folks out there: You are not a Navy Seal; you’re sealed in your basement playing Call of Duty. You are not an American hero; you’re eating a gyro with American cheese. And you’re not starring in Die Hard; you’re dying from diabetes. So take down the Confederate flag, put away your camouflage vest, and have a seat at the table trying to figure out how to protect our schools. Because somewhere within you, if we give you every benefit of the doubt, there might be a decent idea.

Monday, December 17, 2012

GTOG Podcast: Steelers lose to Cowboys; will they make the playoffs?

Podcast on the Steelers, Ben vs. his coaches, Antonio Brown, other football stuff, and brief discussion of the Bachelorette wedding between JP and Ashley.

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Monday, December 10, 2012

Mike Tomlin Defends Indefensible 2-Point Conversion Decision with Inexplicable Explanation

By Finesse

When the Steelers went down 34-10 to the San Diego Chargers, there were plenty reasons to be upset with the Steelers.  Mike Tomlin's coaching was certainly fair game for criticism, even if only for the fact that the Steelers were losing by TWENTY-FOUR POINTS at home to the Chargers.  But it's when the Steelers scored a touchdown and cut the lead to 34-16 that Tomlin's deficiencies stepped to the forefront.

Wallace's 11-yard TD with 6:07 left in the 4th brought the Steelers to 34-16 pending the extra point.  Instead of going for 2 and potentially cutting the lead to 16 -- a two-possession game -- Tomlin decided to kick the extra point, stay down three possessions, and put the official GARBAGE TIME stamp on the rest of the game.  Tomlin's attempted explanation of this horrific decision compounded our befuddlement.  From Joe Starkey's Twitter, Tomlin was asked if he considered going for two:
"No. Until we stopped them it was going to be insignificant. I was holding the two-point plays for that reason and that reason only. Now, we still have them in our hip pocket. Those specialty plays we didn't want to put on tape unless we had an opportunity to close the gap. As you can see, we didn't."
[Asked if this meant he thought the game was out of hand] 
"I didn't say the game was out of hand," Tomlin said. "I said that I was going to hold it until I saw signs of us being capable of stopping them."
This makes less than no sense for so many reasons.

First: As unlikely as it was that the Steelers would score two TD's and two 2-pt conversions in the last 6 minutes, at least there was a chance.  Down 17, Tomlin had conceded.

Second: This is a bullshit explanation that makes no sense.  Saving plays?  Is there some special play the Steelers have prepared for 2-point conversions that they could never run, I don't know, twice?  Is it impossible to call, I don't know, a different play that wouldn't ruin the surprise of this super-2-point-conversion that Tomlin is holding in his hip pocket?  Even accepting the ridiculous notion that there is some super-secret play the Steelers are holding onto, they couldn't have run a fade? Or a rollout?  Or a run?  Next time the Steelers go for two, Roethlisberger better crap gold.

Would probably try.
Third: Tomlin implies that he was trying to prove some point to his team that as long as they weren't stopping anyone, he wasn't going to let them get in a position to win. This is, again, indefensible.  What if the Chargers fumbled the kickoff?  What if Rivers threw an INT?  What if  the Chargers went 3-and-out and the Steelers ran the punt back (yeah right)?  Whether Tomlin thought the Steelers deserved a chance to win after their play to that point is irrelevant.  Try to win the game, and make your point at practice.

There's probably a .001% chance the Steelers would have won if Tomlin went for two, but Tomlin chose, for reasons that diminish his credibility, to make that chance zero.  Thankfully, the Bengals handed the Steelers a gift with their last-second loss to the Cowboys.  I'm surprised Tomlin hasn't declined to accept the Bengals loss because the Steelers definitely don't deserve it.

More to come on the Steelers this week.

Friday, December 7, 2012

A fresh look at the NHL Lockout: why term limits make sense, and other thoughts on Bettman, Fehr, make whole, mediation, and the next CBA

By Finesse (follow me on Twitter)

The NHL Lockout is an emotional time for everyone.  Here are some long-winded thoughts on where things stand today -- term limits, "make whole," mediation, length of the new CBA -- and how they might get resolved. (Almost all details are from stuff on Puck Daddy)

Here's Donald Fehr, upset that his assistant isn't reading his press-clippings loudly enough.
Term limit on contracts

The NHL's offer calls for a maximum contract length of 5 years, or 7 years if a team re-signs its own player.  The players proposed 8 years as a maximum length for contracts.

This is the one provision that probably makes the owners look the worst because it is a mechanism to protect themselves from themselves.  But it might not be that simple.  Even though it's the "owners" giving out these contracts, remember that the "owners" are not a single entity -- they are 30 different people with very different approaches.  When four or five dumb owners give out mega-deals, it drives the price up for everyone and the "smart" owners are left with no choice.  Just look at the Penguins.  Are any of us really confortable with Crosby having a 12-year, $104 million contract, or do we just convince ourselves that it makes sense because we know that's what he would get (at least) on the open market?  Would we really be excited to give Malkin a 12-year deal in 2014 through age 40(!), or would we just say we're OK with it because we know that's what it costs to keep him?

The NBA has 5-year maximum contracts because it became far too common for a guy to sign a mega-deal and not even live up to 50% of the expectations.  The NBA's 5-year maximum doesn't just protect owners from themselves; it also creates an incentive for the players to earn their next contract by not sucking after signing a mega-deal.

7 years, $70 million.  Does anyone know who this is?
That latter concern doesn't seem to have hit epidemic proportions yet in the NHL (save for Ovechkin, most of the precipitous declines we see from mega-deal players are entirely predictable from the outset) but term limits aren't some phony concern used as a negotiating tactic.  Just read the 22nd amendment.  And given how big of a motivating factor money can be -- the term "contract year" is proof of that -- it's not a surprise that the owners view term limits as a critical piece of any new CBA.  So important, in fact, that the NHLPA's proposal accepted the concept (albeit 8 years, not 5).

(Another interesting thing to note: When LeBron James is a free agent in 2014, the maximum length deal he can sign is 5 years.  When Phil Kessel is a UFA in 2014, he'll probably want a 12-year deal.  If Leafs owner Larry Tannenbaum grabbed Kessel by the neck and starting screaming at him, "YOU ARE NOT LEBRON JAMES!!!!! I don't think anyone would have a problem with that.  When you look at it that way, it makes 10+ year deals that much more ridiculous).

Much more after the jump...

Monday, December 3, 2012

Today in Fake Outrage: Richard Deitsch Spends 3,000 Words Lathering Himself in Phony-Disgust About Media Coverage of KC Chiefs Tragedy

By Finesse

As we discussed on our critically-acclaimed podcast last night, the murder-suicide involving Jovan Belcher speaks for itself.  It's a terrible tragedy.  Unfortunately, its secondary legacy will be to further enable the Faux-Outrage Police to deputize themselves to patrol the airwaves and internet drumming up mock-disgust at others' perceived failure to be outraged enough, or sad enough, or sensitive enough, or whatever other emotion the Faux-Outrage Police dictate that we feel.

Last night our discussion was about Seth Rorabaugh of the Post Gazette's Empty Netters blog taking great offense that ESPN described Adam Schefter as "ESPN Insider Adam Schefter" when Schefter was reporting on the breaking news out of Kansas City.  This morning, Richard Deitsch of SI.com upped the Indignant-Ante to infinity by devoting over 3,000 words to chronicling the supposed failures of various sports media entities to devote a Deitsch-approved amount of attention to the situation in Kansas City.

Richard Deitsch, mid-faux-outrage
He believes (or pretends to believe) that the CBS NFL Today pregame show "disgraced itself" on Sunday because it led off its morning show with -- GASP! -- an advertisement for Garmin GPS.  How horrific.  Next thing you know, SI.com is going to devote prime real-estate on its webpage to advertising.

Deitsch writes that CBS compounded its failure to exhibit "proper sobriety" in this unprecedented situation by waiting an additional five minutes to even mention the Belcher murder-suicide.  He is apoplectic that CBS only gave a "90-second recap" of the actual news story before interviewing Chiefs chairman Lamar Hunt and then discussing the NFL's decision to play the game as scheduled. Deitsch's crocodile tears reach a full boil when later in the program CBS aired a 5-minute segment featuring a Victoria's Secret model picking NFL games, as is apparently an annual tradition at CBS.  Finally, he turns somber when noting that CBS did not show a "graphic to commemorate the life of Kasandra Perkins" (the victim), before declaring: "It was abysmal television and it left me disgusted as a viewer."

"Shannon, your thoughts on gun control?"
Deitsch then itemizes his disgust with many other media outlets, including echoing a critique made by Damon Hack of the Golf Channel that the NFL Network was out of line when, after the tragedy, it may have aired a pre-taped segment in which Matt Millen told viewers how Peyton Manning  "kills people" with the play action pass.  I can only assume that if Deitsch covered politics, he'd be complaining that the phrase "fiscal cliff" is insensitive to victims of cliffs.

Lindsey Graham, you apologize to this goat right now!
The notion peddled by Deitsch that there is some mandatory amount of sensitivity that the media must display and that we should uniformly be outraged and disgusted when the media fails to hit Deitsch's contrived and amorphous baseline is more offensive than any of CBS's alleged transgressions.  What tragedies count?  How long should we be sad for?  When is it OK to talk about football again?  Do I hate the victims if I buy a Garmin GPS?  Was it insensitive to have Cam Newton in your fantasy football lineup yesterday against the Chiefs?

Deitsch, Rorabaugh, and so many others have turned tragedies into a platform to express pretend-outrage about things they aren't that outraged about and aren't likely going to do anything to prevent (does #Kony2012 ring a bell?).  It's nothing more than jockeying for the highest seat on the highest horse, not because you care about horses, but because you like the view.

On the other hand, some of us can understand that what happened in Kansas City is a tragedy, but we still want to watch and hear about football.  We're not offended if a football show uses its platform to discuss sensitive issues.  But we're also not offended if an NFL pregame show with Bill Cowher and Shannon Sharpe on it doesn't touch on domestic violence or mental illness issues with Deitsch-approved tact.

Finally, it's worth noting that while Rorabaugh took offense to what he saw as ESPN's shameless self-promotion, Deitsch actually lauded ESPN for striking the "appropriate somber note."  It just goes to show that even when the Faux-Outrage Police disagree about some things, they always agree about one thing: they're outraged.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

GTOG Podcast: Steelers’ Batchwork Victory Over Ravens; Chiefs Tragedy

We talk the Steelers' huge win and the murder-suicide in Kansas City.

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