Waive that flag: The NFL returns with zebras on parade

nfl flag

The NFL’s back, and oh man is it boring. Last night’s Chiefs-Patriots game, the first of the 2017 regular season, should have been exciting. Kansas City hung close with the defending champions in Foxboro until they pulled away later in the fourth quarter. What should have been a compelling contest instead dragged. The third quarter alone took nearly an hour. Even if the NFL has eliminated the touchdown-commercial-PAT-commercial-kickoff-commercial sequence, the penalty flags literally are getting out of hand too often.

The last five minutes of the third quarter was comprised of fifteen plays from scrimmage. Officials threw flags on seven of them.

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If it seems to you like penalty flags are on the rise, you aren’t wrong. From the NFL Penalty Tracker, a website I just found:

nfl penalty flag data 9-8-17

The 2017 data comes from one game, of course, but the referees were significantly more active last night as compared to an average game last season.

Another interesting point in that penalty-flag data is the jump in total flags beginning in 2014. It isn’t immediately obvious to me why that happened (here‘s a list of rule changes heading into that season), so I’ll just quote from my Super Bowl XLVII preview post:

Call it the Efficient Breach Bowl. According to the Wall Street Journal, the Seattle defense is so successful against the pass, in part, because they just don’t care about being penalized for pass interference. They know that officials won’t call PI on every single play (and the number of penalties called in the playoffs is significantly lower than during the regular season), so they take their lumps with a few flags over the course of a game, disrupting receiver routes all the while. In a follow-up article in advance of the Super Bowl, the Journal suggests that Denver may look to combat Seattle’s aggressive secondary through so-called “pick plays,” in which receivers run routes designed to shed defenders by drawing them into collisions with another player. Though subject to recent controversy following a play in the AFC Championship game that resulted in a game-ending injury for New England corner Aqib Talib, picks or “rub routes” are not necessarily against the rules. As The MMQB’s Greg Bedard explained, the key question is whether the offensive player initiated the contact or whether the contact was incidental: “within one yard of the line of scrimmage, anything goes . . . but beyond that one-yard buffer it is illegal for an offensive player to initiate contact with a defender.”

The Seahawks won that Super Bowl (if you can name the MVP of that game without looking, I’ll send you some ALDLAND merchandise), so it isn’t unreasonable to speculate that other teams would mimic their aggressive defensive approach beginning in the next season, thereby triggering more penalty flags leaguewide, but I haven’t looked at an offensive/defensive breakdown of those numbers in the table above.

For years, people have been predicting that football would end as a result of its potential for dangerous, lasting injury, including brain injury, but we need to consider the possibility that a different and more immediate market force– boredom– might trigger its decline even sooner.

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Sports Law Roundup – 5/5/2017

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I used to write the sports technology roundup at TechGraphs, an internet website that died, and now I am writing the sports law roundup at ALDLAND, an internet website.

Here are the top sports-related legal stories from the past week:

  • NBA profiling: In 2015, Mike Scott, then a member of the Atlanta Hawks, and his brother were pulled over and subsequently arrested after a search of their rented vehicle turned up marijuana, ecstasy, and $1,684 in cash.  The deputy sheriff who made the stop later was found to have been racially profiling drivers as part of a forfeiture scheme and placed on administrative leave. Records provided by the Scotts’ attorneys show that the deputy sheriff “pulled over more than 1,400 vehicles in 2015 and 2016 but issued only eight traffic citations. He also arrested 47 people, at least 44 of whom were minorities.” As a result of the profiling, the judge overseeing the Scotts’ drug case this week threw out the key evidence against the defendants.
  • Baseball broadcast settlement: In early 2016, MLB settled a fan antitrust lawsuit targeting the league’s television blackouts and other components of its broadcast system. While the blackouts survived, the fans did win reduced-price single-team subscription options for MLB.tv (I am a subscriber, to varying degrees of satisfaction), as well as a price reduction for the full MLB.tv package. The agreement also included a component that would allow MLB to raise prices in the future in exchange for providing more live streams of in-market games by 2017. That component now is at issue in a new motion filed by the fan group demanding that the court enforce the terms of the settlement agreement. The fans allege that MLB raised prices without the required corresponding in-market streaming increase. They concede that the league may have agreements in place with local television providers to provide the in-market streams, but, the fans argue, “the obvious purpose of the settlement was not that ‘agreements’ of some kind be reached, but that the actual games be available.” The fans also argue that, contrary to what they were promised, MLB has failed to make the “follow your team” game broadcasts available when the selected team is playing the team based in the fan’s local broadcast market.
  • Cheerleader wages: The Milwaukee Bucks and Lauren Herington, a former cheerleader for the team who alleged that the team violated federal and state labor laws by underpaying her and her fellow cheerleaders, have reached a $250,000 settlement of Herington’s proposed class action lawsuit that provides for the settlement funds to be divided as follows: $10,000 for Herington; $115,000 for Herington’s attorneys; and unspecified shares of the remaining $125,000 to Herington and other would-be class members who opt into the settlement based on their hours worked during the three-year period (2012-15) at issue. While not insubstantial, the Journal Sentinel notes that Milwaukee’s $250,000 settlement amount is less than what other teams– for example, the Oakland Raiders ($1.24 million), Tampa Bay Buccaneers ($825,000), and Cincinnati Bengals ($255,000)– have paid to resolve similar lawsuits. Upon learning that Herington was wavering on whether to agree to the settlement, her lawyer, who wanted her to accept the deal, reportedly was overheard telling her that “it’s a Bucks dancer’s choice my friend, better take my advice.”
  • Minor League baseball wages: As predicted two months ago, the court overseeing  the minor-league baseball players lawsuit against MLB for higher wages and overtime pay will permit the parties to appeal its recent ruling certifying the case for class-action treatment. In doing so, the court also decided to stay the case pending resolution of the class-certification issues by the appellate court.

Sports court is in recess.

Haggard Jam

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Country legend Merle Haggard died on Wednesday, his seventy-ninth birthday. Without further ado, because Haggard didn’t seem to be the type who cared for any ado, here are two of his songs. The first seems a fitting choice for the occasion, and the second is a cover of one of his songs, the first one I remember knowing.


(Featured image from Alejandro Escovedo)

Injury Report Jam

It was a tough week on the health front for a couple folks we keep track of here at ALDLAND. First, Phil Lesh, best known as the bass player for the Grateful Dead, announced that he has bladder cancer. Lesh previously was forced to undergo a liver transplant due to a hepatitis C infection, so word of a new, serious condition was worrisome. The good news is that Phil’s cancer is “non aggressive,” and it sounds like he plans to make a full recovery soon.

Three days later, new Detroit Tigers pitcher Daniel Norris revealed that he’d been battling thyroid cancer this season. Norris’ cancer is malignant, and he will be undergoing treatment in the offseason.

For this week’s Jam, here’s Phil doing his warbly best with the Grateful Dead, twenty years ago in Memphis:

Ready to Die: Three Days of Drugs and Disintegration with The Grateful Dead (via Vice)

gd50We’re clacking and lurching on a Red Line car to the Roosevelt stop. This is the exit for Chicago’s Soldier Field, site of “Fare Thee Well,” the last three shows for the band formerly known as The Grateful Dead. Ask me why I’m here and I can only give you elliptical answers.

On most Sundays, the Grateful Dead are my favorite rock band of all-time, but this seems destined for pure farce—a Necrophiliac spectacle where the hallucinogenic ashes of Saint Jerry spike the Fourth of July fireworks. During intermission, the field will split open and he’ll ascend in a floating mausoleum, wax mannequin covered in tie-die, exhumation costs covered by the largesse of Ben and Jerry. A Jerry hologram was planned, but couldn’t be properly brought to fake life in real time. The Jerry impersonator from Half Baked was waylaid with prior Independence Day plans. One of these is true.

Somehow, four old guys, Bruce Hornsby, and Trey from Phish sold 65 percent more tickets per show than Taylor Swift—more than every summer festival except Coachella. And there may be more floral garlands here. The Golden Road to Devotion now costs a couple mortgage payments. No free press passes either. Entrance meant that you won the lottery, sold spare appendages on the black market, or finessed the Patchouli circuit plug. Maybe you’re one of the hundreds outside with a cardboard sign that reads: “Hoping for a Miracle.” … Read More

(via Vice)

Who’s conflicted about sports? World Series of Poker edition

While the idea of writing about the cartographic results of ESPN SportsNation polls long has percolated in my mind, it (obviously to you, erstwhile ALDLAND reader) never took off. In part I suspect this is because there’s little categorical variety in the types of conclusions we ordinarily draw from these maps, those being 1) the one state associated with the obvious minority view holds out, probably irrationally, against the weight of a nationwide majority and 2) shoot, there really aren’t too many people with internet connections in Mississippi are there? After a very short time, this would become boring to read and write.

We are living in the post-peak-SportsNation world, though, which means that, if this thing’s going to work at all, we’ve got to try it now, but with a slightly different angle of approach. Instead of focusing on the people who supported a poll choice, we’ll look at those states where the voters were not able to reach consensus.

For those unfamiliar with the mechanics of these voting maps, ESPN assigns colors to each of the poll options and presents each state as the color of the option most popular among that state’s voters. Where there is a tie between leading options, however, the state appears grey. These indecisive states are the focus here.

ESPN (I assume from the existence of this poll and Norm Macdonald’s late-night tweeting) has been televising the World Series of Poker this week, and SportsNation, in a totally happenstance, non-marketing-driven poll, casually asked, “How would you rate your poker game?” Here are the results:

nv-pokerWhile we could postulate that Louisianans spend too much time playing Three-card Monte and Arkansans are just people who picked up the rudiments of poker as a post-hoc character alibi while on the run from an out-of-state murder rap, but we don’t really know any of that for certain, and it’s more– though still, extremely mildly– entertaining to note that Nevada, home to the nation’s largest casinos, has no opinion on the matter.

UPDATE: A plurality of Nevada voters now say they do not play poker at all. Click the map above to see the very latest results.

Flying Tigers: Closing the Book on 2013

Rock and Roll never forgets, and neither does ALDLAND. Last season, I took a look at whether the Tigers struggled to score later in games, a trend that, if shown and in combination with the team’s bullpen woes, would make comeback wins less likely. While the preliminary numbers suggested I was onto something, the trend appeared even more pronounced with one-hundred games’ worth of data. The purpose of this post is to make good on the promise implicit in that last one by completing the full season’s worth of data.

First, an aside on data collection. I previously gathered and organized these inning-by-inning run totals by hand because I didn’t realize Baseball Reference actually tracks that information. In order to maintain the same error potential, and because B-R doesn’t separate the runs/inning between wins and losses, I’ve updated (a simplified version of) my chart as I did before.

r-in 2013

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