2018 Rapid Review

The year 2018 was a year. Here are some of our favorite things from the year that was 2018.

  • Atlanta United winning the MLS Cup, at home, in their second year of existence.
  • America’s women’s hockey team beating Canada to win gold at the winter Olympics.
  • Phish summer tour. My first time seeing them three nights in a row. That they never repeated a song during that stretch was notable but not terribly surprising. What was remarkable and never received the treatment at this site that it deserved was the overall quality of the performances, especially on Friday, August 3 but really consistently throughout the weekend, where a wide array of songs from across their thirty-five-year catalogue provided launching pads for fresh, collaborative jams time after time. It feels like the band has reached a new level.
  • Hamilton College’s Francis Baker, the American hockey goalie who stood up to Hitler. This was your most-read story posted on this site in 2018.
  • Steve McNair: Fall of a Titan. This, from Sports Illustrated, was my first foray into the true-crime podcast genre. The gist: what we were told was an open-and-shut case probably has a lot more to it than what the investigating police department allowed to meet the public eye. Story had some additional resonance for me because I had been living in Nashville at the time.
  • Maryland-Baltimore County beating Virginia to become the first-ever sixteen seed to beat a one seed in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.
  • Justify‘s dominant Triple Crown achievement.
  • Baseball Hall of Fame adding Alan Trammell. Still no Cooperstown spot for teammate Lou Whitaker, though.
  • The Supreme Court clearing the way for states to authorize sports wagering.
  • J.R. Smith delivering the most memorable moment of LeBron James’ final series with Cleveland.
  • Shohei Ohtani making his major-league debut.
  • The Vegas Golden Knights reaching the Stanley Cup Final in their first year of existence.
  • Vanderbilt beat Tennessee in football again. The Commodores have won five of the last seven games in this series. (If you’d lost track of him, Derek Dooley’s currently working as the quarterbacks coach at Missouri.)
  • Baseball Prospectus revised its flagship bating metric and now concedes that Miguel Cabrera, not Mike Trout, deserved the 2012 and 2013 AL MVP awards.
  • Tiger Woods winning the PGA Tour Championship at East Lake.
  • In personal news, I published my first article at Baseball Prospectus, which took a look at whether MLB teams were colluding to depress player wages.
  • In memoriam:

Thank you for your readership this year. Look for more great content here in 2019.

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ALDLAND Pen Pal Project: Floyd Mayweather

Floyd Mayweather is in jail. He doesn’t want to be in jail, and he especially doesn’t want to be in solitary confinement. And even though his confinement hasn’t prevented him from winning a fourth ESPY as fighter of the year or becoming the highest paid athlete in the world (and interestingly, the only member of the top 25 on that list to get there with $0.00 in endorsements).

For Floyd, though, everything, including the money, really is all about the attention, which brings us to the tweet that showed up on his account this week:

Perhaps we, the writers and readers of ALDLAND, should collaborate to send Floyd a letter. Please add your contribution in the comment section, below.

Floyd Mayweather dodges Miguel Cotto’s fists, strip clubs to remain undefeated

After the ponies did their thing on Saturday, it was time for Cinco de Mayweather (plan B), a bout between the undefeated Floyd Mayweather and the then-twice-defeated Miguel Cotto for the latter’s 154-pound belt. The fight went the distance, and at the end of the twelfth round, the judges unanimously declared Mayweather the winner.

I can’t say I disagree with that determination, and it’s the one for which I was rooting, but I thought it was a very close fight, as my live round-by-round evaluation, reproduced below, evidences. The HBO announcers, by contrast, were confident that Mayweather was winning fairly early on and had the thing sewed up by the late rounds.

My general impression was that Cotto, the heavier puncher with the shorter reach, was able to dictate the terms of the fight: close range, with Mayweather backed into a corner or on the ropes. Even if Floyd simply was allowing this to happen, it surprised me, and I didn’t understand why he let it go on for so long. On the other hand, none of Cotto’s hits, including the one that broke Floyd’s nose, seemed to faze Mayweather, and it was Cotto who was staggering a bit in the 12th, not Mayweather. Cotto provided the toughest test for Mayweather of all the opponents I’ve seen.

Some saw it as Mayweather making like Jalen Rose and giving the people what they want, while others simply credited Mayweather’s endurance as a result of a training regimen that began when he opted for a 3:00 am six-mile run instead of a strip club visit in Orlando during the NBA’s All-Star Weekend. Whatever the reason, Mayweather heads into his eighty-seven-day jail sentence on a winning streak.

Round-by-round analysis after the jump…

Cinco de MayNo

Old news by this point, but the announcement came on Wednesday that Floyd Mayweather’s May 5 opponent would be Miguel Cotto, not Manny Pacquiao, as some had hoped and anticipated. Mayweather had been making public (twitter) and private (telephone) ovations to Pacquiao this year (a bit of a role reversal, at least as far as casual public perception was concerned), but the fight of the century will not come to pass, at least as far as 2012 is concerned. Reports have been sketchy as to why the top two fighters won’t be in the ring together in Las Vegas on 5/5/12, some briefly mentioning “an impasse in talks.” while others suggesting there was a lack of agreement over how to divide the pay-per-view money. Mayweather made his own view of the situation known:

My interpretation of the apparent lack of media probing into the breakdown in talks is that it is evidence of the changing perception of the two fighters toward a more positive view of Mayweather.

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Related
Cinco de Mayweather
Four rounds with Floyd Mayweather and Victor Ortiz

Cinco de Mayweather

Last Friday, Las Vegas Justice of the Peace Melissa Saragosa agreed to delay the 90-day jail term Floyd Mayweather must serve due to his conviction on domestic battery charges until June 1 because Mayweather’s attorney convinced her that the fight Mayweather had scheduled for May 5 would be too difficult to change and will be worth “more than $100 million” for the Las Vegas community. Everyone’s assumption is that Mayweather’s opponent on that night will be Manny Pacquiao– almost everyone, anyway.

Keep reading…

Buy a share of the Green Bay Packers, sit down, and shut your mouth (and your wallet)

The Green Bay Packers are America’s only publicly owned professional sports franchise, and that is really cool. Just in time for Christmas, the Pack recently launched a new stock offering, issuing a minimum of a quarter-million shares of common stock. In this case, common stock is not the sort of investment opportunity people are used to, although it does carry voting rights, however mathematically miniscule. For many of the more interesting elements of this offering, see Deadspin’s typically jaundiced-eye treatment of the details.

I found one aspect to be particularly noteworthy. Page five of the official stock offering document contains the following reminder of what it means to be a part-owner of an NFL team:

The NFL Rules prohibit conduct by shareholders of NFL member clubs that is detrimental to the NFL, including, among other things . . . publicly criticizing any NFL member club or its management, employees or coaches or any football official employed by the NFL . . . . If the Commissioner of the NFL (the “Commissioner”) decides that a shareholder of an NFL member club has been guilty of conduct detrimental to the welfare of the NFL then, among other things, the Commissioner has the authority to fine such shareholder in an amount not in excess of $500,000 and/or require such shareholder to sell his or her stock. In addition, if the Commissioner determines that a shareholder has bet on the outcome or score of any game played in the NFL, among other things, then the Commissioner may fine such shareholder in an amount not in excess of $5,000 and/or require such shareholder to sell his or her stock.

It seems to me that the sort of person who would want to buy common stock in the Packers is likely to be someone who does one or both of two things: 1) criticize football-related people, and 2) gamble on football. While enforcement seems unlikely, Deadspin notes that the threat was enough to spook at least one would-be purchaser.

Running past interference

I like Grantland’s Vegas correspondent, Bill Barnwell, and it seems he had himself a pensive weekend, maybe because he lost all his money? Who knows, but he posted today his suggestions for reforming the NFL’s pass interference rule that are thoughtful and almost academic in their substance and presentation. Aside from the practical workability concerns he identifies, I think his solution– creation of minor, major, and flagrant pass interference penalties– is a good one. The details are available here.

I have long complained about pass interference calls in football too, but not for the same reasons as Barnwell. I’ve often said that 75% of pass interference calls shouldn’t be made, and while I’m no good at numbers, the point is that it’s called too much. Barnwell agrees for a derivative or secondary reason: the game-atlering nature of the sanction. I think so for a primary reason, however: the very act being punished isn’t worthy of punishment as often as it is punished, irrespective of what that punishment is.

I get that football doesn’t work if the DBs get to just tackle the receivers on every play, and I get that this is especially true today, when passing has come to dominate the pro game to the extent it now does (ESPN declared 2011 the Year of the Quarterback, so it must be true), but this is still a contact sport, and passes are still live balls, and getting a jersey tugged or an arm touched is part of the game. Watching every receiver who just missed a catch pop up and flail for a flag he more often than not gets shouldn’t have to be, though. I know we don’t really live in the world of tear-away uniforms anymore, but the jersey pull is the dumbest of all, right? “Yep…right there…grabbed the back of his jersey….”  Whether that and other similar physical interactions cost the defense five yards or fifteen yards isn’t my concern, and I don’t propose any formal rule change. Rather, the league should just tell the officials to back off on their pass interference calls. 

Barnwell, ever the Vegas man these days, writes a lot about risk and reward in his proposal for sanction modifications. Because the types of interactions the pass interference penalty punishes aren’t those that are large player safety threats, a similar analysis could apply to my proposal for treatment of the underlying act in that this is a low risk, high reward area for the league to permit back into the game some of the physicality it’s taking out in other areas.

Busy Monday

It was a busy weekend, really, and mostly because it was twice as long as most ordinary weekends. Plenty of football, including another Lions Thanksgiving day defeat at the hands of the Packers, injuries, and Ndamukong Suh (more on him later), a dominant performance by LSU over then-number 3 Arkansas that left Razorbacks head coach Bobby Petrino less than happy with the Tigers’ Les Miles (Clay Travis (who else?) has the video here), Michigan State rolling over Northwestern in a classic trap game, Michigan beating Ohio State for the first time since 2003 (more on that exciting game later), and Vanderbilt destroying Wake Forest to finish the regular season with a bowl-eligible 6-6 record, tripling their win total from last year and besting their win total of the last two seasons combined. In an era when a new coach routinely gets three or four years to “get his guys in” before he has to show success, Vanderbilt’s James Franklin turned a 2-10 team into a 6-6 team in one year, playing in the toughest conference in America, and he’s mad because they were a couple plays away from being 9-3. The Commodores’ loss to UT still stings, but the Vols’ defeat at the hands of lifeless Kentucky will keep the Big Orange out of a bowl this year, and that definitely is a silver lining for Vandy fans.

In Sunday NFL action, I have to mention Tim Tebow, who continued his improbable winning ways, and the Indianapolis Colts, who continued their extremely probable losing ways.

Two pieces of basketball news sure to be disappointing to large segments of the population: first, throwback UNLV took down top-ranked UNC in decisive fashion at the Las Vegas Invitational on Saturday, and the NBA is back, games to start piously on Christmas Day (link to the entirety of Grantland.com pending) (UPDATE: here it is.). (More seriously, the situation in Syracuse seems to have entered a new phase.)

In hockey, the Red Wings took down the pesky Predators and the Capitals fired their coach 22 games into the season.

Oh, and despite their loss in Ann Arbor, Buckeye hearts are aflutter with news of the hiring of Urban Meyer as OSU’s next head football coach. (More on that later, too.)

The de facto national championship preview: Everything else

We’re less than an hour away from kickoff in the game some are calling the Grass Bowl, others are calling the Game of the Century, and we’re calling the de facto national championship. We’ve previewed the coaches, the players, and the fans. All that’s left is you, the viewer (assuming you didn’t spring for those $10,000 tickets).

  • If you’re a fan of one of these teams, your prediction is a foregone conclusion, but what about the rest of the country? According to Covers.com via Deadspin, Vegas likes Alabama as a 4.5 point favorite, but America likes LSU. So there’s that.
  • If numbers are not your bag, maybe the LSU/Alabama drinking game is more your style. Even if it’s too late to place a bet on the game (and I doubt it is), there’s still plenty of time to get set up with that thing.
  • In beard/viewer/fan news, there’s this.
  • Nick Saban has made it to the game and says hello.
  • I haven’t polled the other contributors, so I can’t offer a full slate of expert predictions for this game, but I’ll give you mine, which is worth less than the corndog you’re about to eat: LSU 28, Bama 24.
  • I think that’s it for the gameday news. Leave your comments below, or join us on twitter during the game.

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Previous de facto national championship coverage
The fans — 11/4
The players — 11/3
The coaches — 11/2
The de facto national championship – 11/1

Monday Monday

Dan Wheldon, a two-time Daytona 500 champion and one-time overall IndyCar champion, died yesterday in a 15-car, 230 mph crash in the early laps of a race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. He had agreed to start the race from the back of the pack as part of a $5 million contest that would award half the prize to him and half to a fan if he won the race. He was 33 years old.

In the world of college football, ALDLAND’s rivalry games both were exciting, as Michigan State held off late pushes by Michigan to make it four straight over the Wolverines, and Georgia avoided three game-winning opportunities for Vanderbilt, escaping Nashville with a five-point win. (More on the latter game later.) Elsewhere in the top 25, Clemson came from behind to beat Maryland 56-45, and Virginia upset Georgia Tech. And the first set of BCS rankings are out: 1) LSU; 2) Alabama; 3) Oklahoma; 4) Oklahoma State; 5) Boise State.

On Sunday, one streak ended (the 49ers handed the Lions their first loss), while another continues (the Colts fell to 0-6).

The Word Series matchup is set as of last night, and it will start in St. Louis, where the late-surging Cardinals host the Texas Rangers, who finished off the ailing Tigers in a blowout on Saturday night. Although I was hoping for a different ALCS outcome, I knew Detroit likely was outmatched after watching the first game of the series, and when the injuries to starters continued to mount, it seemed only a matter of time before the Tigers ran out of gas, which they did in spectacular fashion on Saturday. Still, they made competitive a series I did not think would be, and they pushed Texas to extra innings in many of the games and otherwise played them close. It leaves to the imagination and the off season what that team could have accomplished had it been healthier.