Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A Tepid Endorsement of the Status Quo

If one can believe the papers, the Tulane Green Wave basketball team played its best game this year and crushed Southern Mississippi far away from the Mardi Gras.

It is clear that Tulane is going to take a hard look at this program in the off-season. The product isn’t good or getting better or attended- and Coach Dickerson has been here awhile. As Katrina recedes into the near distance, a mandate for change could evolve.

That being said, I think Dickerson is going to get another shot at this (ed. note: assuming he is amenable, he was a good ACC assistant and might prefer that gig to this outpost).

First of all, the kids play for him. That is no little thing when the building is empty and the team isn’t very good. The only thing the Green Wave has to play for like years now is each other. And they do.

Frankly, they don’t have any good mid-major conference players- I mean, who exactly is all-League? But they are not a disgrace. They throw the ball up and they compete. They’ve won lots of first round conference tournament games lately- so they’re still competing at the end of busted campaigns year after year. All of this suggests to me that concerning on-court "x's" and "o's", Coach is extracting something like near maximum value.

So, Coach Dave gets both effort and the most possible wins out of the roster. He has a past as an effective recruiter- which is what, if he were fired, Tulane would be looking to add, right? Looking at the horrifying violence that is right at his doorstep, recruiting in the flotsam and jetsam of Katrina, who would do better? Heck, what coach with prospects would even want to try?

I guess I don’t think they’re going to do better than this guy- and the on court product isn’t far from respectable. Add a single good recruiting class and this is probably a plus .500 C-USA product. I look at Coach Dave and see a guy who seems to get the most out of his roster, a guy who kids play for and a guy who can excuse his recruiting failures by pointing at real horrid off court issues. Bring him back.

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Friday, February 20, 2009

Stop Crashing Into Each Other

The reigning Miss Food City is Lindsey Blevins. And even her kindly heart would be down on Dale Jr after the Daytona 500- joining the rest of the national racing press.

Junior had a very bad day. But he isn’t a “dirty” driver. He made a bad mistake at a track where if you make a mistake you wreck half the field. That is all. One can overanalyze it.

Vickers threw a block- but, let’s be honest, they all do at these plate tracks. Plate racing is getting in line and blocking people in the other line. As a matter of fact, Junior is good at the plate tracks because he is a great rear mirror driver. And they were racing for an important position created by this “lucky dog” rule; they're gonna block.

Now, a great driver, a driver with championship aspirations, drives with an eye toward a 34-race campaign, let alone another 100 laps. He backs off there. You won’t see Johnson or Martin throwing away an entire race, an entire off-season of prep because they’re real mad they were blocked and frustrated because they make moronic mistakes in the pits. But that isn't Dale. Junior is an average driver whose biggest problem is lap after lap discipline. He isn’t “dirty” but he obviously can be undisciplined, sloppy.

For a guy who generates a ton of ink and is a stone class act, Junior is a arid race car driver. He clearly has plus skills on the plate tracks- but he isn’t compelling or magnetic on the cookie cutter tracks and intermediate venues. He’s always got good gear (Truex took the second DEI car to the Chase) and good teammates/peers- and seems to have reached a ceiling of driving around in twelfth all day.

He is sort of miscast as an A-Driver on an A-Team. In an environment where he has to stand shoulder to shoulder with guys like Edwards and Kyle Busch, he is going to be an endless disappointment.

He should go to a B-level team. Take the pressure off himself. Use his grade A personal class, fan rapport and business contacts to bring resources and personnel to ramp up atwo/three car team. Drive the top effort there. Staff it with your pals. Make it fun again. Take an ownership share. One win every other year coupled with lots of good finishes on plate tracks, as well as elevating a second tier organization to top status, would have to better than this- the endless excuses, losing and disappointment.

Junior would have to give up dreams of winning a championship- but he isn’t going to ever win one anyway. He just isn’t good enough away from Daytona/Talladega

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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Don't Rain On My Parade

Let’s face it, the Daytona 500 was sleep inducing. All the worst parts of NASCAR’s modern era were on display.

There were way too many cautions- including for debris and for “competition reasons”. Frankly, if NASCAR is worried about some competition issue- code for “tires”- have Morgan Sheppard go out and run twenty hard laps in a back-up car at noon. Don't stop the race for 7-9 minutes (10 green flag laps) for this nonsense. Do your knitting your own time.

And the number of debris cautions has got to be cut back- if stuff falls off an undisturbed car more than once in a season, that car has gotta be fined fifty competition points. It isn’t so much the race stoppage, it is the endless time it takes the field to loop around a super speedway three/four times under said caution. At any two mile plus track, for any minor incident, one lap to collect them, one lap to sort them, then race again.

And yes, forget the pit stop. There is zero drama in yellow flag stops at restrictor plate tracks. Track position doesn’t matter at plate tracks until the last fifteen laps.

And of course, these late starts force a dependence on weather. Starting at 3PM reduces the window you have to get five hundred miles in- particularly when you are committed to running a regime that features a dozen caution periods a race.

In my humble opinion, the two biggest changes in NASCAR this decade have been anti-racing: the new point system that rewards months of effort to simply make laps running ninth and the increased emphasis on safety. Now, I am not anti-safety. But be honest, it does effect the product detrimentally- and needs to be compensated for.

For one thing, NASCAR has a hockey helmet problem. The NHL mandated helmets to protect players’ heads- and "surprisingly" stick fouls and injuries to the head sky-rocketed. Putting the helmet on players’ heads removed the collective responsibility to police your stick to keep your peers from getting hurt. If you are increasing safety, while decreasing responsibility to keep one another safe, you aren’t advancing anything.

NASCAR’s never ending emphasis on safety has achieved a similar effect. They’ve made everything ostensibly “safer”- and accidents are through the roof. Every race now has ten cautions for people running into each other. Not too long ago they were able to run places like Talladega and Bristol with one or two (or zero). Drivers knew craziness could get them hurt or dead.

The wreck Junior caused this weekend was because of the safety improvements- not in spite of it. He can do something incredibly risky and dumb- because there is no consequence for it past a torn up race car. These guys simply don’t race with that respect generated from fear anymore. So you need to replace that fear with something else- taking big points from guys for causing repeatedly accidents.

Daytona isn’t marred by endless crashes because of the plates or competition- but by the fact these guys don’t think they can get hurt. You wouldn’t see half the craziness, the running with wounded, ill-handling cars- if these guys thought they could get seriously injured. I don’t want to bring back “guys getting hurt”- but I want to restore the incentive for racing without crashing. A good point docking would help get them there.

That being said, I’m inclined to give Junior a grudging pass- although I acknowledge the national press is not so kind (here and here and here). He is simply not a dirty driver- just not a very good one- and he had made a mistake. Frankly, he makes that sort of mistake all the time. His issue is not equipment or talent- but his focus over lap after lap, race after race. In the middle of July, at a routine stop on the tour, you know Jimmie Johnson is going to hit his marks again and again. Junior can go races just sort of being there- for all the hype, he is a pretty boring competitor- because he goes week after week making a concentration mistake or two and quietly running thirteenth.

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Friday, February 13, 2009


I love Tony and I love NASCAR. Let's go racing!


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Running of the Urinals

Frank Helps You Think It All Out loves horse racing- and that includes the Preakness Stakes in Baltimore.

The Preakness is the only race of the Triple Crown I have not seen. And alas, it appears too late to see the “true” festival- as the Maryland Jockey Club will now ban outside alcohol from the race track.

They are also apparently going to end the classic tradition of “The Running of the Urinals”. Sad. I could have made it!


Monday, February 09, 2009


I found this on Shutdown Corner- some photos of team mascots from the 1995 Pro Bowl- including Blitz the Eagle. It made me laugh- particularly the Dolphin.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Welcome to Tulane

Today is National Letter of Intent day! A day where young men around the country- quick-of-foot, with marvelous size, and capable of a violent mentality for three hours- commit to play football in the nation’s spectator palaces.

For the most part. The next group, the not-so-quick, the bulky rather than massive... well, they get to go to Tulane. (ed. note: I kid. I kid.)

I’m not going to embarrass myself by suggesting I know anything about these kids. I haven’t seen a single one play a single down. But folks seem optimistic- largely because the Rivals service has them attracting something like eight “three-star” recruits- up from zero in recent years.

Can't argue from eight to zero!

The other sign of the coin is that the same service still has Tulane’s class well below average- deep in the morass typical of a bottom teir C-USA program.

It is sort of hard to square... I can see why eight from zero is heartening- it is darn tangible and this blog loves facts-but it still seems if you respect these Rivals guys opinion on players, you have to also admit they still don't think the Tulane class is even "okay" for C-USA.

I wonder if the broad increase in three star players might be due to the fact there is now an actual Tulane contributor over there. He appears to hustle, publish and be around the programs. I always thought there was merit to the point that the reason our recruits were always "generic"- we haven’t seen ‘em so put ‘em up as the catch all “two-star” ranking- was Tulane had no Rivals advocate. All of a sudden the Wave does- a writer with some clue and facts- to talk up our prospects. Anyway, seems a little too coincidental that vastly more individual players get noticed the moment a real correspondent shows up.


Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Enigmatic Professionalism and Consistency

Perhaps the Eagles are prone to overanalysis. So first pricipals: for the umpteenth year in a row, they’ve ridden the enigmatic professionalism and consistency that permeates the organization to a nice finish. The same existing powers for the last decade will now commence an off-season of the same enigmatic professionalism and consistency that could very likely put them in the NFC mix and, just as certain, mean no Super Bowl Championship for Philadelphia.

Right now, say post-November, the Eagles are probably top five outfits in the League. They’re the best team in NFC East, whipped the Giants twice in their own building in big spots. They feature an outstanding defense and offense that can score. They were ousted from the tournament by an Arizona team that pretty conclusively proved they were no outright fraud.

Normally, you fix such teams on the peripherals- add to the core, make tactical rather than strategic changes- conceding that a lot is working so let’s not mess it up.

But not this group. Or, at least not this offense.

Look, it is impossible to believe in the McNabb-Westbrook axis anymore. For more than a half-a-decade, these two guys have absorbed cap space and touches at a rate commensurate of superior pro bowl style players- and now, it needs to end.

I’ve written before on why this “good mix” ultimately fails- say here in 2007. The quarterback is not a great player. Westbrook can’t consistently absorb the franchise back workload and, consequently, places weird salary pressures and high expectations on players down your roster. In retrospect, would the Eagles have been better off six years ago spending the Westbrook monies on a top wide-out and using subsequent first day draft picks to find an inexpensive, very serviceable running back? Watching the Cardinals wide outs, remembering the success TO enjoyed here, watching guys like Buckhalter and Brown having to pick up the slack, trading first day draft picks for characters like Lorenzo Booker, all to account for the lack of production from the perimeter players and Westbrook's limited, shifting workload....

So it has to change. The franchise mix has got to be stirred differently. Okay, you probably can’t get rid of McNabb- and frankly, what are you better options? Or Westbrook- too much dead money. But if Westbrook and McNabb are going to cede 15-20 touches per game, every game- then those missing 300 plays need to go to a productive, fair cost, asset. And that means first round selection, the most ready-to-play, potential be damned, running back on the board. Lord, the Eagles need Matt Forte—how did it come to this?

It isn’t so much the draft pick, it is the realization that the old comfort level in this offense, that the vast majority of production must come form these two existing assets, has to change. They are declining, they never got it done in the biggest of spots anyway. They need to an offensive skill asset to allow the two existing cornerstones to slip into more apt B-level roles. They can’t pay for one with tier current salary commitments, they need to draft one. And adding a top tackle or quality wide-out to this mix isn’t going to change the production mix enough- a mix that has failed for a decade now in big spots.