Saturday, November 21, 2009

Weekly Picks

Just a disastrous season and I really can't figure out what's going wrong except I just keep picking the wrong best bets.

san diego -3 DENVER
The Broncos are in an absolute freefall and believe it or not they are going to miss Kyle Orton.

indianapolis -1 1/2 BALTIMORE
Somehow, they find a way to win.

cincinnati -9 1/2 OAKLAND
The Bengals are better than we all think, and the Raiders are just as bad as we know.

tennessee +4 1/2 HOUSTON
Don't question it, just believe, Vince Young has something special working.

NEW ENGLAND -10 1/2 new york jets

A lot is at stake here and I think the Patriots are going to be very motivated to beat the Jets brains in.

Last week: 2-3 (1 point)
Season: 22-28 (20 points)
Best Bets: 0-1 (4-6)
Home Favorites: 0-0 (6-7)
Home Underdogs: 0-0 (1-1)
Road Favorites: 1-2 (9-9)
Road Underdogs: 1-1 (6-11)

My Mind's Telling Me No, But the Math's Telling Me Yes

At first I was against Bill Belichick's decision to go for it on 4th and 2 against the Colts, a decision that failed, and led directly to the Patriots losing the game.
But as a poker player you learn to judge decisions on something other than the outcome. You evaluate decision based on how likely you were to be right. Face it, nothing is 100% so your goal, as a poker player, football coach or nearly anything else is to give yourself the best chance to be successful.
In poker, the thinking is you get into certain situations thousands of times, so being right 52% of the time is a major advantage but you will still lose 480 times out of 1000.
In football, situations are more unique so Belichick likely won't face that scenario again but if he does I'm sure he would go for it again, and he'd have these numbers from the New York Times 5th Down Blogto back him up.

With 2:08 left and the Colts with only one timeout, a successful 4th-and-2 conversion wins the game for all practical purposes. A conversion on 4th-and-2 would be successful 60 percent of the time. Historically, in a situation with 2:00 left and needing a TD to either win or tie, teams get the TD 53 percent of the time from that field position. The total win probability for the 4th-down conversion attempt would therefore be:

(0.60 * 1) + (0.40 * (1-0.53)) = 0.79 WP (WP stands for win probability)

A punt from the 28 typically nets 38 yards, starting the Colts at their 34. Teams historically get the TD 30 percent of the time in that situation. So the punt gives the Pats about a 0.70 WP.

Statistically, the better decision would be to go for it, and by a good amount. However, these numbers are baselines for the league as a whole. You’d have to expect the Colts had a better than 30 percent chance of scoring from their 34, and an accordingly higher chance to score from the Pats’ 28. But any adjustment in their likelihood of scoring from either field position increases the advantage of going for it. You can play with the numbers any way you like, but it’s pretty hard to come up with a realistic combination of numbers that makes punting the better option. At best, you could make it a wash.

And if you consider the Patriots have Tom Brady (making the 4th down more likely) and the Colts have Peyton Manning (driving up the Colts chances) there is really no argument at all.

I never want to be one of those stubborn people who sticks to his argument despite all the evidence showing he’s wrong. I also hate people who reject numbers in sports, instead choosing to rely on feel.

This reminds me of my stance on the Mets signing of Pedro Martinez. I claim the deal was an awful failure because he basically missed three years, and the Mets never won anything (other than a division title which he wasn’t around for) during his tenure. The benefits of his signing are perceived to be his supposed on influence on recruiting other players to the Mets.

Think of it this way, if there are two arguments, one is supported by numbers, evidence and history. The other is a bunch of people bloviating loudly with no proof to support their argument, I’ll take the former.

As for the other (overshadowed) decision of the weekend, Maurice Jones-Drew absolutely did the right thing by delaying gratification and kneeling on the one. The chances of making a field goal from there have to be 95% or higher. You'd have to think the Jets have a better than 5% chance to score a TD in that situation.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

My Favorite Soliloquy in Seinfeld History

I liked this George speech when I first saw it, but now I love it because it reminds me so much of Mrs. Poop and me.
There are so many quotable lines in this short clip but this one stands out:
"She didn't know about pasteurization, he didn't know about fumigation, but they made it WORK!"

Jew or Not a Jew?

A pending court case in England may set new guidelines on who is or isn’t a Jew.

Here’s the background:

The U.K. has state sponsored religious schools. A boy known in court as “M” was rejected from the Jews’ Free School because he is not Jewish, at least not according to the school. His mother converted but she did so in a progressive, not an orthodox synagogue, therefore she is not a Jew nor is her son, in the school’s eyes.

His family sued saying the school discriminated against him. They lost the first case but won the appeal when the court said the school’s test of Jewishness needs to be based on religion, which would be legal, instead of on race or ethnicity, which would not. The court ruled that it was an ethnic test because it concerned the status of M’s mother rather than whether M considered himself Jewish and practiced Judaism.

I’m with “M” on this one. I think religion is based on what you feel and what you do. There are lots of Jews, especially in America who are only Jewish because someone a long time ago was Jewish. A student from two traditionally Jewish parents who doesn’t practice Judaism or identify with the Jewish people should have less right and would like derive less benefit from a Jewish education than “M.”

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Voting is Efficacious

A couple weeks ago I asked the Poopheads if I should give a dollar to the homeless woman who complimented my Mitchell & Ness Mets jacket. The overwhelming response was yes. But after the votes were counted, I didn’t see her again – until yesterday. When I stopped to give her a dollar she started telling me her life story (“I was always poor, my father worked in a furniture store”) and asked me for another dollar. Sounds like old sob story-beg for more hustle you often see in strip clubs. Whatever the case I gave her $2 at the behest of the Poopheads and it’s going to take me 300 ad clicks to make that money back.

Song of the Week

"Forever Young" - Alpahville
If there's anything in the world I hate it's getting older, so I kind of like the idea of staying forever young.

Jay-Z incorporated the song into his "Young Forever" on his Blueprint 3 album. "May the best of your todays be the worst of your tomorrows."

Monday, November 16, 2009

Music to Rake Leaves To

I recently read someone's Facebook status that read something like this "if I put all these songs on the iPod how come whenever I put it on shuffle I can never find anything I like?"

I pondered that existential question and decided to listen to my iPod on shuffle without skipping any songs. After four mediocre songs I finally found something I like.

"Feelin on Yo Booty" - R. Kelly

Followed by

"Secret Lovers" - Atlantic Starr

Followed by

"Lollipop" - Lil Wayne

Damn you, Mrs. Poop!

That streak ruined I went ahead to song #14 ("I Don't Care" - No Question) and listened to it until I was done raking.

I Guess "Hang On, Sloopy" Didn't Go Over Too Well Either

Bruce Springsteen started a recent concert by yelling to the crowd "hello, Ohio."
The concert was at the Palace of Auburn Hills outside Detroit, Michigan.
He said it a couple times before Steve Van Zandt (who looks a lot like the guy who played Silvio on the Sopranos -- maybe I should do a WDYGMR?) told him they were in Michigan.
The Boss said the mistake is "every front man's nightmare."

For those who don't get the reference in the headline, for some reason "Hang On Sloopy" is an Ohio State song (complete with shouting "O-H-I-O" during the lulls in the song). Even harder to explain is why Bruce plays it at concerts. And most disturbingly, Pizza Parlor Derek went to a Springsteen concert, but in an effort to beat traffic he left right before what he thought was the final song, only to learn later he missed "Hang on Sloopy." Pizza Parlor Darren hasn't spoken to him since.

Truth is "Hang on Sloopy" is the official rock song of the state of Ohio, thanks to this resolution passed in 1985. It's worth the time it takes to read.

Oh, Ohio and Michigan hate each other.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

World's Smallest Mother

Stacey Herald is 2-feet, 4-inches tall, and her new son will already be half her size when he is born.

The 35-year-old from Dry Ridge, Ky., was told by doctors that a baby would grow so large inside her tiny body it could eventually crush her organs, strangling her from the inside out.

But she has already defied the odds by having two healthy daughters.

"The doctors all told me that I would die,” she said. “They begged me not to have a baby. Even my mother said, 'You know you won't survive right?'"

However, Herald and her husband, Will, insist their kids are a gift from God.

Herald suffers from osteogenesis imperfecta, which causes brittle bones and underdeveloped lungs. The condition stunted her growth and forces her to use a wheelchair.

She’s currently 30 weeks pregnant and admits that it’s getting tougher to move around.

Weekly Picks

I'm having a horrible run of luck and if I don't get hot this will be the worst season I've had since I started picking games on this blog. I think I have a few games I like this week though.

denver +3 1/2 WASHINGTON
The Redskins level of play is equal to the Rams, Bucs or Lions. Would either of those teams be giving only 3 and a half in this game? I know the Broncos lost two in a row and looked bad doing it, but even though the Redskins defense is decent, they never force the turnovers that have done in Kyle Orton.

new england +3 INDIANAPOLIS
It's amazing how much difference one player can make, especially with a safety. But we saw it with Troy Polamula this year, we've seen it with Bob Sanders in the past, and we're seeing it with Bob Sanders again this year.

new orleans -13 1/2 ST. LOUIS
The Saints have just eked out a couple but I predict total domination in this one, something like 31-7 seems about right.

baltimore -10 1/2 CLEVELAND
The Ravens are going to kill Brady Quinn. They are the team I was talking about last week. Good enough to beat bad teams, not good enough to beat good teams.

atlanta -1 1/2 CAROLINA

The Falcons are Exhibit A on my new theory of the NFL though. Their three losses coming against New Orleans, New England and Dallas. Carolina is not in that class.

Last week: 1-4 (0 points)
Season: 10-25 (19 points)
Best Bets: 0-1 (4-5)
Home Favorites: 1-3 (6-7)
Home Underdogs: 0-0 (1-1)
Road Favorites: 0-0 (8-7)
Road Underdogs: 0-1 (5-10)