Defense in sports
As a sports fan, I'm supposed to appreciate defense.  And I do sometimes.  A 3rd down stop in football.  A blocked shot in basketball.  A strikeout in baseball.  These are all objectively good things which demonstrate skill and competitiveness. 

But sports are about scoring points.  Defense is about preventing you from scoring points.  Yes I've heard the adage that "offense wins games; defense wins championships."  That's probably mostly true.  But here's the thing:  It's boring.  It's boring to watch a football game that's a series of punts.  It's boring to watch a basketball game where nobody makes their shots.  A famous college football game between LSU and Alabama in 2011 ended in a score of 9 to 6, with all points being scored by field goal.  It was hailed as a "game of the century."  It sucked. 

But actually I don't think that adage is entirely true.  Defense will get you most of the way, but you need to score points to win.  Put another way, a good offense will beat a good defense.  I think most sports franchises are moving away from a defense-first mentality because they realize you still need to score points to actually win games.  I think this is the general concept behind the air raid offense in football and the increased popularity of three-point shooting in basketball.  For two teams whose defenses are fairly evenly matched -- heck, even if one is significantly better than the other -- a fast accumulation of lots of points will typically work out well.  To quote John Madden, "at the end of the game the team with the most points on the board is going to win," which is both stupid and profound. #sports

Smith hyphen
There are four current NFL players with a hyphenated last name that starts with "Smith": 
  • Ihmir Smith-Marsette - WR - Carolina Panthers
  • James Smith-Williams - DE - Washington Commanders
  • Jaxon Smith-Njigba - WR - Seattle Seahawks
  • JuJu Smith-Schuster - WR - New England Patriots
Honorable mention goes to Jaryd Jones-Smith - OT - Washington Commanders.  I don't know what was in the water supply 25-ish years ago, but it was something. #sports

Jerseys without names
Certain college football teams wear jerseys without players' names on the back, and I think that's stupid.  I get why it started:  In the old days, football was a team game where the contributions of one individual player didn't necessarily outweigh the performance of the team as a whole.  Sure, certain players were standouts and won individual honors.  But the team existed as a unit and players went to college primarily to get an education while playing football on the side.  We need to admit that hasn't been the case for a very long time.  College football is an industry, and the product is entertainment.  The most entertaining aspects of the game are created by the most entertaining players.  Also, players no longer stay with one team for very long because of the transfer portal.  How am I as a fan supposed to appreciate the best play-makers on the field if I can't even identify them?  Notre Dame, Penn State, USC:  It's time to enter the modern era. #sports

Tush Push
The Tush Push, a.k.a. the Brotherly Shove, is the quarterback sneak play run by football teams in short yardage situations, most notably by the Philadelphia Eagles.  In my opinion, this is the best thing that's happened to football since the Wildcat Formation was used by the fledgling Miami Dolphins to trounce the almighty New England Patriots, and then subsequently copied by everyone until defenses eventually figured out how to stop it.  For the Eagles, the Tush Push is about 90% effective, which is as close to a "gimme" as you can get in any situation in any sport.  It's a no-brainer; if you're in that situation, you run that play. 

But the interesting thing is that it's heavily dependent on personnel.  You need an offensive line that executes a specific thing exactly right, you need big strong running backs and tight ends to push, and you need a quarterback with a strong lower body who can take an initial hit and keep churning his legs.  The Eagle's quarterback Jalen Hurts is the ideal person for this role, both because he's relatively short and sturdy, and also because of his weightlifting prowess.  It's kind of funny to watch other teams try and fail to duplicate this play, either because their timing is off, or the offensive line doesn't quite get the motion right, or simply because their quarterback isn't athletic enough. 

There's nothing illegal or dirty about this play, and it's not particularly complicated.  Defenses know what's about to happen; they just don't have the physical ability to stop it.  It's just an us vs. them play -- Does our offense have more strength and grit and skill than their defense.  So it's kind of funny that people want it banned because it's unimaginative and ruining football.  It's not.  Figure out how to stop it, and then adopt it for yourselves. #sports

Early vs. late games
I don't understand the disparity in start times for early games vs. late games for American sports.  Early games start at 12-1 pm on the east coast, which is 9-10 am on the west coast.  Those are reasonable times for reasonable people on both coasts.  Unless you work the night shift or are weird in some other way, you'll have no problem watching those games in their entirety. 

Late games, on the other hand, start at 7-8 pm on the west coast, which is 10-11 pm on the east coast.  No normal person on the east coast regularly stays up until 12-1 am to finish watching these games.  Games that start this late pretty much only happen on the west coast, and because of the relative time frame, I'm led to believe the target audience is solely on the west coast.  Which is odd, both because I'm an east coast native, but also because 80% of the population lives on the east coast

Finally, we as a country need to address the start time of prime time games.  These games start at 8-9 pm on the east coast and last until 11 pm or 12 am.  On the west coast, this is 5-6 pm until 8-9 pm -- easy peasy.  For people on the east coast, this is too damn late.  This isn't a big deal for a standard Monday Night Football game or whatever, but it's significant for games like the Super Bowl or College Football National Championship where a sizable portion of the population (again mostly on the east coast) are watching.  I would like to formally propose a constitutional amendment to start prime time games at 7 pm ET.  People on the west coast can accommodate a 4 pm start time; it's for the good of the country. #sports

RedZone good bad
The RedZone Channel is simultaneously the best thing and the worst thing that's ever happened to football, and perhaps all sports, on TV.  Instead of watching a single game interspersed with commercials (or more accurately, commercials interspersed with gameplay), I can watch up to 8 games simultaneously.  But wait it gets better:  Instead of just watching 8 games at once, the producers simply splice all the games together and only show the good parts.  It's phenomenal.  I literally can't bring myself to watch a regular game because they're too slow and boring.  Like many technological advances in our society recently, this has further destroyed my dwindling attention span. 

ESPN tried a similar thing a few years ago for college football called Goal Line which didn't have quite the same feel because of the inherent dispersed nature of college football (many divisions, many channels, etc.).  YouTube TV has a thing currently called Multiview which lets you watch 4 games at once.  As soon as the early afternoon games finish, the quantity of multiviews decreases until you're left with just one or two games at a single time.  Going from inserting copious amounts of live sports directly into your veins, to sipping on a single primetime game is like switching to diet soda, or de-cocained cocaine. #sports

Discrete vs. continuous sports
There was a little interesting tidbit mentioned in this Freakonomics podcast episode with Michael Lewis regarding statistics in different types of sports: 
It's just so much harder to generate good statistics out of a flow sport like basketball or a really complicated sport like football. Baseball, it's very easy to isolate and assign credit and blame on a field and capture it with a statistic.
I've never heard the idea of grouping different sports into "flow" and "non-flow" categories, but it makes a ton of sense.  Sports like basketball and soccer have all players in continuous motion doing all kinds of things at once, while sports like baseball are centered around discrete events involving only a few players at a time.  Football is more of a mixture of continuous and discrete where there are continuous events (a single play) happening at discrete times (between when the center snaps the ball and when the referee blows the whistle). #sports

College state
That "state" in college sports really makes a difference.  Michigan State vs. Ohio is very different from Michigan vs. Ohio State. #sports

Multi-event sports
Here's a list of somewhat unrelated multi-event sports: 
  • biathlon - cross-country skiing, shooting
  • duathlon - running, cycling, running
  • triathlon - swimming, cycling, running
  • pentathlon - fencing, swimming, riding, shooting, running
  • heptathlon - short run, long run, hurdles, long jump, high jump, pole vault, shot put
  • decathlon - short run, medium run, long run, hurdles, long jump, high jump, pole vault, shot put, discus, javelin
  • tetradecathlon - shortest run, shorter run, short run, medium run, long run, longer run, short hurdles, medium hurdles, long hurdles, long jump, high jump, shot put, discus, javelin
  • icosathlon - shortest run, shorter run, short run, medium run, long run, longer run, even longer run, longest run, short hurdles, medium hurdles, long hurdles, steeplechase, long jump, high jump, pole vault, triple jump, shot put, discus, javelin, hammer
Maybe it's just me, but it seems like track and field people are just dying for more ways to compete against each other. #sports

Monday Night Mannings
Peyton and Eli Manning have been hosting a show on ESPN2 during the broadcast of Monday Night Football on ESPN.  It it, these two future fall-of-fame quarterbacks casually chat about the game while making brotherly fun of each other, and they invite a series of guests to chat and joke with them.  All of it is done remotely, which adds some technical difficulties and audio hiccups.  It's not traditional sports coverage, with play-by-play and in-depth analysis.  It's more like watching a game with a friend you haven't seen in a few weeks.  You watch the game here and there, but it's not really the focal point. 

Here's my take:  This is the best sports show in the modern era.  This is must-see TV.  It's made even better by its haphazard schedule, which wasn't weekly and seemed to follow no pattern at all.  You have to look for it, or better yet, stumble upon it.  The guests are varied (athlete, coach, broadcaster, comedian, musician), and the remote nature of it means we're watching people in their homes, on their couches, wearing around-the-house clothes.  It's very intimate, but at the same time completely comfortable.  One guest did fake broadcaster commentary (he was a real broadcaster); another guest dropped an f-bomb.  I'm not sure what the censors thought of that, but I think it added to the casual nature of it all.  They interview current players and show old footage of their bloopers.  They bring up unflattering pictures of their guests as kids.  The comedians and musicians they interview are just there for fun; they're not promoting anything.  It's a breath of ridiculously fresh air. 

Monday Night Football, and really any primetime sporting event, is usually pretty boring.  It's an arbitrary matchup, it's late at night, it's slow-paced and full of commercials.  The ManningCast is the perfect antidote to that.  It's funny, it's simple, and it all happens directly alongside the traditional primetime broadcast.  Just brilliant. #sports

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