Thanksgiving Day, the Atlanta Falcons were in must-win status versus the red-hot New Orleans Saints. Trailing 17-3 in the second half, Atlanta lined up to punt on 4th-and-inches. “You gotta kick it away,” NBC announcer Mike Tirico declared. Sure the spot was the Atlanta 18. But on 4th-and-inches a conversion is likely, and the Falcons were facing the league’s highest-scoring team. Possession of the football is the most important aspect in football tactics—don’t give possession away because you are afraid to try to gain a few inches!
Six snaps after “you gotta kick it away,” New Orleans led 24-3. Falcons coaches might as well have called it a day and ordered blueberry-almond martinis.
The week before, Green Bay was trailing at Seattle and faced 4th-and-2 with 4:20 remaining. As the Packers lined up to punt, Fox announcers Joe Buck and Troy Aikman never even mentioned the question of whether Green Bay should go for it. They never so much as mentioned that the last time the Packers played at Seattle, head coach Mike McCarthy made exactly the same mistake, sending in kickers on 4th-and-short. The last time, this tactic led to defeat. It would this time, too—Green Bay never got the ball back. But Buck and Aikman said nothing about whether the Packers shouldn’t have punted, surrendering possession of the ball at the crunch moment of the game.
What Tuesday Morning Quarterback calls the Preposterous Punt has a rich tradition in NFL annals. Playing in the Super Bowl versus the Giants, possessing the league’s number-one offense, the Buffalo Bills punted twice on 4th-and-short in Jersey/A territory. Try to guess who won! Trailing the Giants 24-0 in the 2001 playoffs, the Vikings punted on 4th-and-inches. Try to guess who won!
Often a Preposterous Punt is launched for a reason central to big- organization group-think: “because that’s what we always do.” But there is another element: The Preposterous Punt reveals how ill-informed about sports analytics many network announcers are.
Mega-underdog USC leading Notre Dame 10-7 in the third quarter, USC lined up to punt on 4th-and-inches. “Surely the Trojans thought better of a gamble,” ESPN college football lead announcer Chris Fowler said. Sports analytics showed that the USC decision was insanity—but Fowler seemed not to know anything about that. Two snaps later, Notre Dame had passed the point where the spot would have been, had USC gone for it and failed. Try to guess who won!
Network announcers are house men. What the house—the league in the NFL, the conferences in colleges—wants is gushing praise but no mention of tactical decisions that make highly paid head coaches seem like knuckleheads. Plus, the announcers personally desire the red-carpet treatment when they visit teams. Head coaches control that, so head coaches are not questioned.
But as sports analytics expands, NFL and NCAA partner networks need to catch up. There’s been an explosion in understanding of sports analytics, yet almost no reflection of this in football television broadcasting. Today’s middle-school kids know the data showing that going for it on 4th-and-short improves the odds of victory. But network booth crew members who are paid millions of dollars per year to do nothing but football 365/24/7 seem oblivious to the existence of sports analytics. Clued-in fans find football announcers clueless.
It’s not just that network announcers have annoying verbal tics like crying “it’s a blitz!” when only four guys rush or saying “it was almost intercepted!” when the defender barely touched a pass or declaring “he was wide open!” when the receiver was hit as the ball arrived or saying (this is my bête noire) “if he hadn’t been tackled he could have gone all the way!” And don’t get me started about TV announcers who say “it’s a double reverse!” when it wasn’t even a single reverse.
It’s not just that network announcers incessantly chortle. (Did NBC lead announcers Al Michaels and Chris Collinsworth attend a special college that offers a major in chortling?) Nor is it that network announcers often are so wrapped up in telling us the vitally important details of the celebrities they met that they neglect the game.
It’s that the understanding of football exhibited by most network announcers seems frozen in the 1970s. Most don’t grok sports analytics. Most don’t even sound familiar with the existence of the subject.
A week ago, Minnesota at Chicago, the Bears scored to take a 9-0 lead, and rather than sending out the placekicker, they lined up for a deuce try. Announcers Michaels and Collinsworth were stunned. “Well, there they go,” Collinsworth said in a puzzled voice. “Well how ‘bout that!” Michaels added, using a baffled tone. Both seemed to have no clue why the Bears would try for two ahead 9-0 in the second quarter.
When NBC came back from commercial, Michaels and Collinsworth discussed how surprised they were, saying nothing about deuce math. Generally, the math shows that going for two produces slightly more points overall than going for one. In this specific case, the opponent must score two touchdowns to get above an 11-0 lead; only one touchdown is needed as part of matching a 10-0 lead.
Throw in the psychological impact: An early deuce stuns the opponent, and indeed the Vikes acted stunned for the remainder of the Chicago victory. As the Bears lined up to go for two your columnist thought, “This is brilliant!” NBC’s highly paid football booth bots had no idea what was happening, because they don’t follow innovative thinking in their own sport.
After the Bears went for two in a situation when traditionalists would have sent out a placekicker, the world of network booth crews had a full week to think about that. In the next Bears outing, on Thanksgiving Day at Detroit, Chicago scored a touchdown to take a 9-7 lead and lined up to attempt an unforced two. CBS lead announcer Jim Nantz was puzzled. Color man Tony Romo declared cryptically, “There’s a lot of analytics out there.” Huh? Going for two at 9-7 makes total sense. Nobody for CBS delved into that.
Most network announcers seem unaware that there’s a statistical case for deliberately punting out of bounds. Most don’t seem to know that passing on first down is preferable to passing on third down. Most don’t seem to know that nearly all football defenses become more effective as the opponent approaches the end zone. (Announcers like to say “they bend but they don’t break”—that’s because the closer an offense gets to the goal line, the less area the defense must defend.) Most announcers don’t seem to know that yards per passing attempt is more closely associated with victory than any other stat.
And they really don’t seem to know that going for it on 4th-and-short is not a “huge gamble,” but rather in most cases is playing the percentages.
Not even the Philadelphia Eagles winning the latest Super Bowl by going twice on 4th-and-short, after leading the league with 17 fourth-down conversions in the 2017 regular season, seems to have made network announcers aware of the sports-analytics case about 4th-and-short. Which your columnist has been pounding the table about for so long it’s been since my logo showed a CRT desktop.
Chicago leading 14-0 in the second half of the Minnesota game a week ago, the Vikings lined up to punt on 4th-and-4 in Bears territory. Michaels and Collinsworth, the NBC announcers, did not think that was really strange; neither said anything about the sports-analytics case for going for it on the opponent’s side of the field. “Once again the Vikings have to punt,” Collinsworth pronounced, as if football rules require punting on fourth down. Not to put too fine a point on it—but the highly paid full-time NBC announcers had no idea what was happening.
Here are two tips for avoiding bad network announcing:
· Some home sound systems allow the user to turn off the announcers while hearing crowd reactions, essentially creating the experience of sitting in the stadium. This doesn’t always work but is pleasant when it does. Advice is here.
· Turn off the TV sound and listen to the radio call. Some NFL flagship radio stations let anyone dial in using the Internet; others don’t. The league’s Game Pass utility, at $100 a season, allows you to re-watch any game in several formats (full length, condensed, coaches’ overhead view) plus choose the radio call, either home or away, during live action. Radio announcers must paint a picture with words—they are, on average, 10,000 times more skilled than television announcers. And radio includes local locker-room gossip from the teams. Radio announcers are significantly better informed than TV announcers, who exist in a bubble and seem to know nothing beyond what spotters whisper into their ears. In general, the NFL is anti-consumer. Game Pass is pro-consumer.
One way for the NFL’s partner networks to jazz up their ratings would be to become educated about sports analytics. For now, millions of fans are clued-in while the booth crew is clueless.
In other football news, this season of runaway offense now has three consecutive weeks in which an NFL team gained at least 500 yards and lost. At Denver, the Steelers gained 527 yards and lost. The previous two NFL weeks, the Buccaneers gained at least 500 yards and lost.
In college, two ranked Power Five teams entered Tuesday Morning Quarterback’s ultra-exclusive 700 Club on the same day. Number seven LSU scored 72 points and lost; number 13 West Virginia gained 704 yards on offense and lost.
There’s just a tiny chance the rules-tweaking pendulum has swung too far in the direction of offense.
tats of the Week #1. Since the start of the 2017 season, Chicago safety Eddie Jackson has five defensive touchdowns. That’s more defensive touchdowns than 20 entire NFL teams in the same period.
Stats of the Week #2. Since kickoff of last season’s AFC title game, Jacksonville is 3-9.
Stats of the Week #3. In rematches of last season’s playoff games, the losers from January are 6-1 this season.
Stats of the Week #4. Versus Arizona, Phillip Rivers got to 5:59 of the third quarter before throwing an incompletion. He finished 28-for-29.
Stats of the Week #5. Chip Kelly and Jon Gruden, the highest-paid new coaches in college and the pros, are a combined 5-17.
Stats of the Week #6. The Cleveland Browns have a better road record (1-4) than the Green Bay Packers (0-6).
Stats of the Week #7. City of Tampa and Santa Clara, who met Sunday, are a combined minus-38 on turnovers.
Stats of the Week #8. All Saints touchdowns versus the Falcons were by undrafted free agents: Dan Arnold, Austin Carr, Tommylee Lewis, and Keith Kirkwood, players no other NFL team wanted. (Noted by Jeff Duncan of the New Orleans Times-Picayune.)
Stats of the Week #9. Two of three Buffalo touchdowns versus Jacksonville were scored by undrafted free agents, while undrafted Robert Foster downed a punt on the Jax 2 late in the fourth quarter, setting in motion the icing points for the home team.
Stats of the Week #10. Andrew Luck has eight consecutive games with at least three touchdown passes.
Sweet Play of the Week. Colts and Dolphins tied at 7, Indianapolis faced 4th-and-1 on the Miami 39. Head coach Frank Reich, who does follow sports analytics, went for it. He inserted two quarterbacks into the game: backup Jacoby Brissett behind center, Andrew Luck split wide. Brissett threw to Luck for the first down, and the Colts recorded a touchdown on the possession.
Sour Series of the Week. With 4:30 remaining at Miami, the Colts scored to force a 24-24 tie. Miami was called for a personal foul on the touchdown, allowing Indianapolis to kick off from midfield.
A Dolphin decided to return the kickoff from his own goal line, though under new rules in effect this year, letting a kickoff roll into the end zone is an automatic touchback; now a kickoff is a live ball on the field but not in the end zone. Miami was called for holding during the return. Rather than begin a drive at the 25, the Marine Mammals were pinned at their 6. The Dolphins ran for no gain, threw a super-short pass for no gain, ran for four yards, then punted, positioning Indianapolis to win with a field goal as time expired. The final four minutes of the game were one mental mistake after another for the away team.
Why Exaggerate Global Warming When the Proven Aspects Are All You Need to Know? The scientific consensus is very strong that climate change poses a risk to society. In 2014, the National Academy of Sciences found “clear evidence” the Earth is warming at least in part because of human action. Unless Donald Trump knows more about science than the National Academy of Sciences, Trump’s claim that climate change is a “Chinese hoax” is the statement of an ignoramus.
In 2006, your columnist made a public conversion to accepting climate change science, and I devote a chapter of my new book i">>It’s Better Than It Looks to detailing policy prescriptions, such as carbon taxes, that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions without economic harm. The main reason for my 2006 conversion was that the National Academy of Sciences had just determined (previously, it had been skeptical) that human action really can influence a system as vast as Earth’s climate. The secondary reason for my conversion was that in 2006, President George W. Bush’s interagency Climate Change Science Program joined the National Academy of Sciences (and the American Association for the Advancement of Science) in declaring human impact on climate to be proven.
Yet even as a true-believer in global warming as a danger to society, I was disheartened by the overwrought tenor of reaction to last week’s release of the latest Climate Change Science Program report (they come out quadrennially, and it’s been 12 years since 2006):
GOVERNMENT ISSUES DIRE WARNING: CNN.
REPORT PREDICTS UNPRECEDENTED DISASTER: NBC News.
The New York Times and Washington Post gave lead-story headline treatment to the study’s assertion that the United States economy could lose 10 percent of its value by 2100 because of artificial climate change. The Times decried “severe economic and humanitarian crises” from greenhouse gases and went so far as to call the projection “precise.” The Times followed up a day later with a page one lead story warning the world is on “the brink of catastrophic climate change.”
In other words, the most negative possible interpretation of the report is what was favored.
Partly this stems from the MSM’s preference for pushing all news toward the negative. For It’s Better Than It Looks, I tracked occurrence of the word “crisis” in the New York Times in June 2016, the month I was working on a chapter about the use of negativity to distort public understanding of progress. In June 2016 the word “crisis” occurred in the newspaper 914 times, about 30 times a day (and I discounted instances in which direct quotation required the writer to employ the word). Everything’s awful, everything’s super-ultra-awful: That’s the message most establishment news organizations want the public to hear.
That message is not factually true. But when has that ever stopped CNN or the New York Times?
It’s not just that theatrical instant-doomsday nonsense keeps the public in a constant state of generalized anxiety—a condition that reporters, pundits, and politicians seem to like. The desire to have the public to believe in an endless crisis applies to many issue areas. Specifically on climate change, exaggerated negativity undercuts arguments for reform.
I spend a lot of time in It’s Better Than It Looks showing the reason that crime, pollution, discrimination, and rates of disease have fallen, while longevity, living standards, and education have risen, is that reform works! Now reform is needed in the way society deals with greenhouse gases. Understanding that reforms of the past worked—that there is genuine progress—helps make the case that reforms to reduce greenhouse emissions will work, too.
Exaggerating the situation with doomsday rhetoric, in contrast, makes it seem there’s no way to fix the problem, shy of a return to pre-industrial existence.
Climate change commentary needs a hopeful tone: We stopped acid rain and smog, we can stop greenhouse gases if we roll up our sleeves and get to work! But the MSM/political/academia system prefers the gloom-and-panic mode, not the hopeful analysis.
The strong scientific consensus on global warming is that human behavior does impact climate. There’s no consensus on what the impact will be down the road—just guesswork and computer projections.
The range of possible impacts varies from a slight chance that climate change will be good, to a likelihood climate change will cause significant disruption, to a slight chance of disaster. Pundits and politicians focus on disaster (“Climate change is the single greatest threat facing our planet … and it poses a catastrophic threat to the long-term longevity of our planet.” ”—Bernie Sanders) rather than on mid-range forecasts that lend themselves to suggestions of practical reforms like carbon taxes.
Since computer models can be tuned to produce whatever result the modeler desires, it was especially disheartening to see the Times calling the report’s projection for the year 2100 “precise.” The year 2100 is as far forward from today as the year 1936 is backward. Can anyone imagine that a government forecast written in 1936, trying to project conditions in 2018, would have been correct?
Yet the Times and other news organizations assumed last week’s report can be accurate about conditions as far into the future as 1936 is into the past. Calling the computer-generated projections for the future “precise” is the classic case of the statement that is literally true but intended to deceive. “Precise” is literally true since lots of numbers in the report are specific. The intent is to deceive since there is no chance—none, zero—the report’s computer projections for 82 years from now will prove accurate. Maybe they’ll be roughly in the right range, though that itself is unlikely. Nearly all forecasts about nature have proven too negative—think of the 1970s forecasts of imminent petroleum exhaustion.
The report’s computer-generated predictions are not in any meaningful way “precise”—the word was used to deceive readers. Doesn’t the Times have editors anymore? But claiming “precise” knowledge of the unknowable fits the everything-is-always-awful worldview.
During the report’s release, PBS interviewed Michael Oppenheimer, a professor of geoscience at Princeton. Oppenheimer is an accomplished academic and an admirable person who really cares about this issue. But he’s long spun out worst-case projections that did not stand the test of time. His 1990 book about climate change, Dead Heat, predicted that by the year 1995, global warming would “desolate the heartlands of North America” while a new Dust Bowl would “stop traffic on interstates and strip paint from houses” and the Mexican police would have to “round up illegal American immigrants” trying to cross the border to escape the United States climate change doomsday.
Why Americans fleeing warming would move south was never really explained. Anyway, it’s easy to be wrong with predictions (trust me, I have plenty of experience).
The important consideration is that Oppenheimer made a set of testable predictions, within his academic specialty, that turned out so far off-target as to be laughable. Yet he kept his stature as Princeton’s global warming expert and is still sought by the mainstream media for more gloomy declarations. Figures on the instant-doomsday fringe are never held to account for past statements that are later shown to be nonsense—because what the media/political system wants is more doomsday forecasts, without any review of whether previous sky-is-falling claims were correct.
After Dead Heat was published, Oppenheimer’s collaborator, the nature writer Robert Boyle, who died last year, said the nutty stuff wasn’t really a prediction but rather “fictive” and a “composite.” What in blazes is “composite” science? As for “fictive,” the definition is, “comes from the imagination.” In this sense all climate change predictions are fictive, since beyond what time the sun will rise, no one can be sure of anything about the future.
The fictive part of the last week’s report—screwball computer projections for 82 years from now—received a lot of attention because the fictive part was the most negative section in a 1,656-page document.
The report’s nonfiction findings—human impact on climate is proven, greenhouse gas reforms are needed—is what Americans need to know. The United States should enact a carbon tax, not to stave off some ludicrous Hollywood-stylized disaster, but because greenhouse reforms will work—and if acid rain and smog reforms are the guide, be far less expensive than expected.
Happy Hour Keeps Getting Earlier. The same Americans who endlessly claim their lives are unspeakably horrible also seem to be drinking ever-earlier in the day, which one associates not with suffering but with a carefree lifestyle. Chipotle recently added a happy-hour for discounted beer and margaritas—a happy hour period that begins at 2 PM!
Isn’t College Athletics Supposed to Teach Sportsmanship? Ohio State leading Michigan 62-39 with less than two minutes remaining, ball on the Wolverines 9, Urban Meyer still had his starters in and was frantically trying to run up the score.
Meyer makes huge amounts of money from the unpaid labor of his mostly African-American players, most of whom will never receive an NFL paycheck. Some of Meyer’s pay is effectively provided by taxpayers, some comes from student debt; he also gets cars, country club memberships, and other perks effectively subsidized by students and taxpayers. He claimed he was not responsible for inaction on sexual assault allegations against a now-former assistant coach because he has a bad memory. And he can’t even make the simple gesture of good sportsmanship by not calling plays when he has an overwhelming lead with less than two minutes.
The message the Ohio State football program sends to the world is that ethics and education are irrelevant compared to money for the elites at the top. Nobody on the Ohio State board of trustees seems to care.
Hoist a Molson for the CFL Champs. In the Grey Cup—Canadian football has to wrap early, before glaciers cover the fields—it was Stampeders over Redblacks. Surely you know what cities these clubs represent!
The Ottawa Redblacks, a CFL franchise that hit the gridiron in 2014, is a sign the world is running out of sports team monikers, since all the good animal names were snapped up long ago.
The CFL does have some great names: the Alouettes, the Argonauts, the Roughriders, the Blue Bombers, the Calgary Stampeders. Then there is the problematic Edmonton Eskimos. Though people outside Canada may not view “Eskimo” as pejorative, Inuits long have objected to the term. The twist is that “Eskimo” is an Algonquin word, devised by Native Americans. The Inuit say the word is disrespectful, and that’s good enough for me—the Edmonton franchise of the CFL needs a new name.
How about the Edmonton Steam Roller? TMQ continues to hope someone will revive my all-time favorite sports team name, that of the Providence Steam Roller, who won the 1928 NFL title. The logo of the Steam Roller was, inexplicably, a dog.
Do a Little Dance if You Want to Gain That Yard. At Minnesota, the Packers punted twice in Vikings territory before Green Bay head coach Mike McCarthy finally girded up his loins and had the team go for it on 4th-and-inches at the Vikes’ 44. But the call was plain-vanilla straight ahead, stuffed. This column’s Law of Short-Yardage holds: Do a little dance if you want to gain that yard. Shifts and misdirection are essential for a 4th-and-short snap.
Bartender, I’ll Have Scotch with Ice-ine. Maybe climate change won’t matter because a particle accelerator in China will crush the Earth out of existence.
For a generation there’s been an arms-race in atom smashers in the United States, European Union, and now China. These machines are thought to confer national prestige, and some heads of state may believe they have something-or-other to do with weapons development. But they don’t.
The information that particle accelerators produce is part of humanity’s quest for knowledge, yet it doesn’t have any practical value—there’s certainly no hurry to find out how the Higgs boson works. Mainly atom smashers are a subsidy to science. The right would be entirely outraged if such subsidies—the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland has cost about $13 billion so far—were going to the arts. Yet music, dance, and theater have proven important to the economic revival of urban America, while atom smashers are important economically only to the people who work at them.
Then there’s that whole crush-the-Earth-out-of-existence thing. This outcome is unlikely. But science establishment figures including the British astronomer Martin Rees have warned that particle accelerators might create some kind of novel molecular template that causes nearby matter to collapse into a hyper-dense structure that wouldn’t be real friendly to people. Think Kurt Vonnegut’s Ice-nine. Society is going full speed ahead on building atom smashers that engage a small, but not zero, risk of something orders of magnitude worse than the global warming worst-case.
Of course society builds other things that engage small risks, but gets benefits in return. The only benefit the Chinese atom smasher is likely to produce is bragging rights for government officials.
Is Pat Shurmur the New Ben McAdoo? Jersey/A took a 19-11 halftime lead over the defending champion Eagles, largely on the strength of Saquon Barkley running for 94 yards. In the second half, Barkley carried the ball just four times as Philadelphia came back to win. He wasn’t hurt—it was a coach’s decision. Running with Barkley could have gained yards and kept the clock moving; instead Eli Manning threw five incompletions in the second half, stopping the clock for the Eagles’ winning field goal with 22 seconds remaining.
Adventures in Officiating. The first down that allowed the Bears to go into victory formation in the Thanksgiving game at Detroit should have been a penalty on Chicago. Once, it was illegal for teammates to help the ball carrier by pushing or pulling him. Now pushing is allowed but pulling is still illegal—see rule 12, section 1, article 4 in the NFL’s super-complicated rulebook. It’s a foul and a loss of 10 yards to “pull a runner in any direction at any time.”
When Cleveland Browns teammates pushed David Njoku into the end zone at Cincinnati, that was legal. Bears facing 3rd-and-10 with a minute remaining at Detroit, Tarik Cohen ran for 10 yards with a Bears lineman pulling him across the line-to-gain. That should have been a flag.
For years NFL aficionados have been told the league needs full-time zebras to clean up the officiating mistakes. Now the league has full-time officials, at hefty salaries that are partially publicly subsidized. The mistakes continue as before. We’re paying more but not getting more—a metaphor for life!
Year of the Geezer Quarterback. Forty-one-year-old Tom Brady is now the NFL’s all-time leading passer by regular season and postseason yards combined. Thirty-six-year-old Phillip Rivers completed 25 consecutive passes.
Best 97-Yard Drive. Normally this item is reserved for 99-yard drives, but Pittsburgh’s 97-yard drive in a single snap merits mention, as did the Steelers’ fake field goal that resulted in a touchdown pass from a placekicker to an offensive lineman.
At the endgame, it was Denver leading 24-17, Steelers at 3rd-and-goal on the Broncs’ 2. Ben Roethlisberger threw almost exactly the same pass to the same spot in the end zone as on the fake kick. This time, thrice-waived Broncos nose tackle Shelby Harris made the interception that started the celebration in Denver. Maybe Pittsburgh should have put in the placekicker at quarterback.
Next Week. Christmas decorations go up! For Christmas 2019, that is—this year’s Christmas decorations have been up in some places since October. In Chicago, Santa paraded down Michigan Avenue not on Thanksgiving but the week before. Why not just make it official and leave Christmas decorations up all year?
Source : https://www.weeklystandard.com/gregg-easterbrook/tuesday-morning-quarterback-football-announcing-is-behind-the-times-plus-overreaction-to-the-climate-report-gets-america-no-closer-to-addressing-the-issue5454