Afoot!, football refs, music books

Things I’m thinking:

  • If I was a detective, or if I was writing a detective story, I’d never have someone say “The game is afoot!” … Why? Glad I asked.
    • Because “afoot” is a terrible name for a game. I get that there are games based on “Dr. Pimple Popper” and stuff, but “Afoot, the Game” is just… too far.
    • If it’s NOT the name of a game, then … you’re risking stepping on whatever game it is you’re talking about. Detectives detect. They don’t step on what they’re hunting. That changes them from detectives to … step-upon-ers.
    • Again, if you’re a detective and you’re on a case – it’s not a game! Take your job seriously, detective! Sheesh!
  • As bad as I feel for the Saints, I’m glad the NFL is going to have to confront officiating in some fashion. Refs have really struggled these past two years on both the collegiate and pro levels, with fans being able to see things that really should have been called being missed, and refs focusing on ticky-tack things instead… I almost hope there’s a “voice of the watchers” kind of reviewer put in place, someone who says, “Look, a four-year-old can see that. Throw the flag,” or “If you’re going to call THAT, you’re going to have to call THIS, too,” or even “If you’re NOT going to call that, you shouldn’t be calling this.”
  • I’ve done no music of any kind for a while now. This is getting distressing, and I need to change it.
  • Speaking of: limited time offer from Humble Bundle: Computer Music Books from MIT Press.

NCAA Football, accents, free will

Things I’m thinking about Monday:

  • Tonight’s the last NCAA football game of the season. Thank goodness. I hope it’s a good one.
  • I want to pronounce “Monday” with a Scottish accent, but it turns out I have no idea how to make it sound like it’s a Scottish accent. It’s not my accent, whatever it is, but I have a feeling a Scot would be… unamused to hear it. In my head I’m thinking a Scot would say “Wot the bloody … is that” but on thinking about it, I think even that sounds more Irish in my head. And I’m sure the Irish would be offended by that. Maybe I should stick to my native Southern accent.
  • I’m still trying to keep up my exercise regimen. My core is stronger than it was, already – this is a very good thing – but I’m constantly sore, which isn’t bad, but it’s not good. Still keeping it up, though. Haven’t really lost significant weight yet.
  • Professionally, few things annoy me as much as when an AWS container reboots on me.
  • I tend to speak little and quietly, not because I think volume adds gravitas, but because I recognize the value most of my words have for others (not a lot) and I don’t want them to feel bad for interrupting.
  • Tool’s “Right in Two” is a fantastic song. The opening lyrics include “… Why did Father give these humans free will? Now they’re all confused” – which is a great line – but isn’t that a natural result of having free will? Free will doesn’t mean making the RIGHT choice every time, it means making your own choice. Still a great song.
  • I would far rather be “a good guy” than “the good guy.” It’s not a zero-sum game.

Malazan Book of the Fallen

Things I’ve learned recently:

  • Steven Erikson’s Malazan Book of the Fallen is better than A Song of Ice and Fire. Yes, I said it, and yes, I meant it. It’s very simple to explain why: Malazan was completed. I have very little faith we’ll ever see A Song of Ice and Fire to completion. What’s more, Malazan is more broad, more complex, more consistent in its own context. Take that, George. I love A Song of Ice and Fire, and I think it hits a sweet spot of complexity to mass appeal – which Malazan does not – but Malazan being “finishable” makes it better, hands down.
  • I have learned that I do not understand offensive coordinators in football who insist on running inside the tackles when the opposing team’s been shutting those down all game and you’re running out of time to make things happen. I got tired of seeing FSU do it all last year, and by golly, I’m tired of seeing it this bowl season over and over again, too. What gives, guys? I get the idea of making sure the other team has to respect the inside run – it draws the defense to cover the middle of the field, presumably opening up longer passes – but to use it over and over and over and over again, when the other team expects it? If I can call your plays without being familiar with your offense, something’s wrong with the way you’re calling your plays. And you can bet that the opposing team – which is going to have taken pains to learn your offense – is going to be able to predict what you’re doing fairly well, too.

The Problem with the College Football Playoff

I really don’t know, offhand, if I’ve been pro- or anti-playoff for NCAA football. I liked that the BCS gave us the possibility of seeing a champion determined by playing a game, but I recognize that there are lots of arguments about who should be playing in that game.

So far this year, though, I’ve been somewhat unsatisfied with the way the playoff rankings have been determined. I think I understand them, but I’m not happy about them.

The arguments seem to have changed. Last year, Auburn just won; nobody really seemed to care that it was because Alabama totally blew field goal coverage, or Missouri forgot to defend against the run – which was, after all, only Auburn’s greatest strength. Auburn was the team of destiny, after all! — and maintained that position as the team of destiny, except the ‘destiny’ in question was to lose in the second half to FSU, just as so many teams have done this year, too.

This year, the argument seems to be around strength of schedule, and that strength of schedule is taken as a whole season. I think this is where things break down.

Strength of schedule is effective in a playoff like this only if it’s calculated before the game in question is played.

Look at Notre Dame/FSU. ND was ranked #5 before the game, and lost thanks to a controversial call.

The controversial call was not the offensive pass interference to close the game – it was that the same play hadn’t been called as a penalty earlier in the game for one of ND’s touchdowns. The refs only warned ND about the play, and then Notre Dame’s coaches got all surprised when the referees followed through on the warning and called the penalty later in the game.

Now, Notre Dame is 7-3, and out of the top 25 in the Associated Press polls. At the time of the game, this was a power matchup, and FSU got a lot of credit (which it deserved) for winning, even if it was over a one-loss team.

Note: Notre Dame’s one loss at the time was against FSU. I don’t think you should get dinged for winning a game against the team you’re actually playing.

Now, though, that game’s not really relevant except as a win – the implication is that “at least FSU didn’t lose.”

But with the playoff system, the stakes are so high that one loss can entirely deflate a team; for most teams, once they lose, they no longer have the same urgency; the rabbit’s already dead, the milk has been spilled, the water is already under the bridge. Once you have that first loss, for most teams, they get to play and enjoy – maybe play the role of spoiler, I suppose, but generally at that point it’s pride and not purpose.

Note: you want both pride and purpose when you play a sport.

The result is that once a team like Notre Dame, or Clemson, or Miami, or anyone, loses, the impact of the game on strength of schedule is minimized somewhat. That’s wrong, for the most part.

To me, a team that is ranked highly and loses, then continues losing, needs to be carefully evaluated. Perhaps it’s the spirit of the team that gets out of whack – that doesn’t mean the game wasn’t a true test, it only means that the losing team took the loss too much to heart. Perhaps it was an injury to a critical player, as happened to Miami’s Duke Johnson last year; losses after that injury don’t mean that the games in which that player was fully effective weren’t valid!

I’m still watching the playoff system to see what the results really are, long term – but right now? I think it really is a competition of brands (as Charles Pierce wrote on Grantland’s “Roll Brand! Alabama’s Win and the Problem With the New College Playoff“), and that concerns me.

I’m still at the point where I think FSU should be left on the pedestal until they get knocked off of it on the field… and at the end of games.