Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

btn #512

The Institute joins the podcast to break down the playoff matchups and look back the season.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Monday, December 5, 2011

btn week 13 live blog

Friday, December 2, 2011

weekly picks

Billy 31-18
Jimmy 30-25
Jeff 28-25
Brent 22-26
Umphlett 14-16
Overbay 14-16
VZ 7-4
Brandon 1-4

Thursday, December 1, 2011

btn #510

The Commish joins the podcast for the triumphant return of behind the numbers.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

btn #509

It's time for an intervention. behind the numbers style.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

put it on the board!

Chad Henne will score less than 15 points in Week 2. (Brent)
(Correct: Henne had 11 points in Week 2.)

Cam Newton will score more fantasy points than Philip Rivers during the 2011 season. (Brent vs. Umphlett)

Matthew Stafford will be a top 3 QB in fantasy points in 2011. (Brent)

The Steeler's chances of making the playoffs OVER The Commish's chances of making the playoffs. (Brent vs. Jimmy)

BackwoodCrazyCajuns will not win a game in 2011. (Brent)
(Incorrect: BackwoodCrazyCajuns defeated showmedamoney! in week 7.)

Monday, October 24, 2011

btn week 7 live blog

Thursday, October 20, 2011

btn #508

A special episode of btn radio features a top ten countdown by request of the managers of the Playoffs!?! fantasy league.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

btn #507

Oddsmakers editor/K Rabbits manager Kris Norris joins the podcast to discuss this week's games and the Occupy the Generalissimo movement.

Monday, October 10, 2011

btn week 5 live blog

Friday, October 7, 2011

lies, damned lies and statistics

The famous phrase from Mark Twain was meant to illustrate that numbers can mean anything we want them to mean. But in the age of Moneyball and in the context of fantasy sports, numbers have become more than just critical. They’ve become next to gospel. Fantasy football doesn’t lend itself to Sabremetric analyzation quite like the sport of baseball does. (If it did, I’m pretty sure Umphlett and Jeff would win our league every year.) Sure, there is DVOA and DYAR, but ultimately the only numbers that really matter are yards and touchdowns. That’s why fantasy football is equal parts science and art, numbers and intuition, statistics and equivalents.

What follows is a relatively unscientific look at what teams in the Playoffs!?! fantasy league mirror the most from their NFL counterparts.

Jerry’s Belt Buckle (3-1) = Buffalo Bills (3-1)
Not considered to be a real threat by many coming into the season, there were murmurs that this team would be “better than we expected.” After a somewhat shocking loss to another team performing better than most expected early in the season last week, the questions may be coming for this formerly great team. Still these players in place here are better than we expected. There is a certain chip on the shoulder of this team for being underestimated, disrespected, and forgotten for so long (even if it was at times deserved.) I like this squad to make a playoff push but a surprisingly light schedule so far might have them at their high point already.

black is for sunday (3-1) = Houston Texans (3-1)
This squad’s uncharacteristically fast start has the hype train buzzing all across the league especially as perennial favorites have stumbled out of the gate. But you still have to wonder if this team can get out of its own way. A temperamental personality as a game manager, their head coach has a tendency to outthink himself going into important games. He’s been on the hot seat so long at this point it would be hard to believe he can even recognize the temperature anymore. The team has struggled with injuries to this point but has emerged mostly unscathed and found different ways to win. You just can’t underestimate the ability of this snakebitten lot to come up small at the worst time.

The Commish (2-1-1) = Pittsburgh Steelers (2-2)
A shocking underperformance to a hated rival seems to still be echoing in the ears of this team from early in the season. Yeah, this team looks largely the same as previous years and we can never underestimate the pedigree of the man (and boy) in charge here. They know how to build champions. Yet, still we know something isn’t quite right here. Running the ball, fundamentals are the hallmark of this proud franchise as traditionalism runs through the DNA of this organization. The fundamentals are off and it’s too early to tell if the adjustments can be made to get this team on track or the flaws will be fatal this time around.

K Rabbits (2-1-1) = New York Jets (2-2)
Come from behind (moral) victories can only hide a team’s flaws for so long. Astute observers knew going into this season that this team was just not as good as in previous campaigns. The trademark bluster and swagger may still be in place but the goods are not. This squad has pretender written all over it and while they may stay in the playoff hunt deep into the season they are destined to come up just short this year.

showmedamoney! (2-2) = Atlanta Falcons (2-2)
The buildup to this season and some surprising but smart drafting put this team in the position that many analysts were predicting a deep run in the playoffs for this squad in the preseason. Then the games started. And while this team undoubtedly has the talent in place to contend, for whatever reason things have just not come together so far. A suddenly old-looking veteran running back and an oddly timed underperformance from Roddy White are causing difficulties for this team. With the talent this team has at the skill positions, you have to like their chances to turn it around but that turnaround needs to come sooner rather than later.

SHolstonKayakPirates (2-2) = Dallas Cowboys (2-2)
Isn’t every year this team’s year at this point? And yet, it seems like the man quarterbacking this squad is destined to be ever close to greatness and yet never quite close enough to reach it. Come from behind losses, interceptions, fumbles, this team is never short on finding ways to lose. Erratic but dangerous is the tone this team has seemed to take this year. Still, I expect a push from this team coming out of the bye weeks. With non-dominant teams on top of the standings and the path to the playoffs wide open, anything can happen.

The Institute (2-2) = Baltimore Ravens (3-1)
With the talent this group has in place and the ever-slipping sands of time burying their former championship further under the deluge of history, you have to wonder how many chances these guys have left with the current gallery of rogues. They’ve already shown early in this season they are capable of turning in dominant performances and then the every next week putting in a subpar effort. The scariest part is this team may go as far as Joe Flacco can take it. That’s just not the kind of sentence you want to hear when you think you can contend for a championship.

40 acres & a mule (2-2) = San Francisco 49ers (3-1)
It would be safe to say that no one expected anything from this team coming into the season. A new head honcho (or at least one who acts like he’s new) was still trying to break out of his probationary status. An injury prone running back as the franchise player made a big deal in the preseason. The team came into the year with an unproven and constantly underperforming quarterback. Yet, still somehow, this team is solid. Any given Sunday, this squad can beat you. And for them, that is progress. I’ll tip my hat to them. I was wrong about my preseason prediction of your incompetence.

the icon (1-3) = Philadelphia Eagles (1-3)
Some big preseason and draft editions had some prematurely referring to this lot as a “dream team.” But it looks like some of those predictions came a bit too soon. A coach who constantly puts his team in a place to compete but can never really get over the hump has created years of mounting frustration. Following the model of last year’s Eagles team, an early season quarterback change could be the spark to set this team back on track. Still, every loss that mounts is going to require that much more scratching and clawing to get back into the race.

BackwoodCrazyCajuns (0-4) = Indianapolis Colts (0-4)
This team lost its franchise player way too early this season to hope to compete. It does show the flaw in building your team so profoundly upon the foundation of one player. But when that player has the talent level of these respective stars, it can be a formula for success. An 0-fer season is not out of the question here as though this team has been to the heights of victory it is also well acquainted with the depths of disappointment. There is only one option now. Suck for Luck.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

btn #506

The Institute joins the podcast for Rivalry Weeks in the Playoffs!?! league.

Monday, September 26, 2011

btn week 3 live blog

Thursday, September 22, 2011

btn #505

Jerry's Belt Buckle manager Chris Umphlett joins the podcast for an update on the Playoffs!?! fantasy league.

Monday, September 19, 2011

btn week 2 live blog

Thursday, September 15, 2011

btn #504

The Commish joins behind the numbers to discuss the injury situation in the NFL, surprises from week 1, trends to look for going forward, and for a preview of week 2 in the Playoffs!?! league.

Monday, September 12, 2011

btn week 1 live blog

Thursday, September 8, 2011

numbers never lie (or how ESPN stole my idea)

Are you freaking kidding me? I've been doing behind the numbers in its various incarnations for five years now. We've done columns and podcasts and videos and rap songs and live call-in shows and real time blogs and everything in between. Now, in comes the "worldwide leader" to steal my idea, populate it with prettier people (ok, maybe not Matthew Berry) and try to steal my thunder.

That's right. Next week marks the debut of the new daily fantasy sports show on ESPN named "Numbers Never Lie." (ESPN, you could at least hide your blatant trademark infringement a little better than that. Why don't you just call it "Inside the Numbers" or "Beneath the Numbers" or "(Insert other preposition) the Numbers?")

And all of this after my repeated phone calls, tweets, Facebook messages, emails, and occassional knock on the doors of Michael Smith, Matthew Berry, and Christopher Harris. (Come on, even I'm not lame enough to stalk this guy.) Look, restraining orders mean nothing to a serious journalist, ok? You're gonna have to do better than that if you want to take me down.

But what ESPN doesn't know and my readers do is my column is like an ice cold Coke pulled deep from your refridgerator in a frosty glass bottle. It's classic. It's refreshing. And there ain't nothing like the real thing, baby.

black is for sunday vs. BackwoodCrazyCajuns
Going into this season, there's no doubt that both these managers have something to prove. It's been six years since B-Town busted out and the whispers about black is for sunday never appearing in a championship game have never been louder. Both managers targeted upside at the 2011 draft but one started with one of the top RBs in football and the other started with one of the top RBs on the Cowboys. The Cowboys are facing a tough matchup pitting the Ryan brothers against each other for the first time since that ill-fated hot dog eating contest. This one could be just as ugly as the Boys stand to be stifled by the Jets bruising defense in what could be a low scoring affair. Both teams are affected by that game and the schedules will allow the Cajuns to build a substantial lead. It might prove just a little too much to overcome as the perenially slow starters of this league start slowly again.
Pick: Cajuns by 3

Jerry's Belt Buckle vs. 40 acres and a mule
It's been well-documented by this journalist as well as others how Umphlett built his team around two stud running backs in the offseason through trades and saavy financial techniques. It's been similarly well-documented how 40 acres built their team around two injury prone running backs and zero wide receivers. That was not as saavy. A.J. is already facing his first showdown of the season with anti-awesomeness and the uncertainty surrounding Foster's hamstring has reached proportions unknown to every other human body part except Peyton Manning's neck, Kyrie Irving's toe, and Kris Norris'... ehhh wait a minute... it's too early in the season for the easy joke. I like the chances of young players Matthew Stafford and Julio Jones to have big games this week. I don't like the chances of not as young players Matt Ryan and Robert Meachem to make a leap this year. Meachem, in particular, is the NFL's version of Proactiv. He never breaks out. (And, take that Tony Romo. I can find a way to work Jessica Simpson and her creepy @$$ dad into this column without your help.)
Pick: Jerry by 4.5

showmedamoney! vs. SHolstonKayakPirates
Billy is hoping that Darren McFadden is the new Adrian Peterson and Tom Brady is the new... ummm, Tom Brady. (Seriously, how the hell did you guys let Brady fall that far again? Oh, to draft Peyton Manning? Yeah, good call. You know I've had that Peyton Manning voodoo doll for years. Eventually, that joker was going to work.) showme's manager hasn't been this happy about something since he saw his first pornograph... I mean... scary movie. And he has every reason to be excited about the lineup he is putting on the field each week. Jeff, on the other hand, can't be as excited about Shonn Greene. Seriously, try it. Try to get excited about Shonn Greene. I'll give you a couple minutes. *waiting* Yeah, that's what I thought. Nothing. This week could be the worst thing to happen to Pirates since that horribly thought out fourth sequel this summer or since the Dolly Parton pirate-themed restaurant that I actually had to endure this week.
Pick: The show goes on... by 10

K Rabbits vs. The Institute
Take it from me, Institute. Joe Flacco is not the way to start your season. And as far as Krabs. Take it from everyone who has ever owned him. Frank Gore will be the way to end your season. Just probably not this week. The more I look at both of these teams, the more I feel about them the same way I do about their managers. I just don't like them very much. If I have to give an edge to one, it goes to VZ as I think his team has the stronger core. (Sidebet: Over/under on the number of years since either of these post-athletic managers has been accused of having a "strong core.") You're not 18 anymore, Kris, and neither is Dallas Clark. Schoolboy crushes should be a distant memory. Your constant doodling of "Aaron Norris"... who am I kidding? ... "Kris Rodgers" in your trapper keeper is making us all uncomfortable. Step away from the puff paint pen! And welcome to life without Adrian Peterson.
Pick: The Institute by 6

Game of the Week
The Commish vs. the icon
"what better way to kick off opening weekend than with a rematch of last year's championship. my boys are lacing up the cleats and are ready to give the commish a proper beat down."

That could quite possibly be the least inspiring smack talk I've ever witnessed. It sounds like something King George said right before he got rolled by the Americans in the Revolutionary War. "Well, chaps, we'd jolly like a fair duel today. That is, until we break for tea, of course." Or something said by anyone from Canada. If you're ever about to get in a fight with guys from Canada, just say "Can everyone here raise their hand if their country has ever been occupied by France? Yeah, that's what I thought, b*tches."

I'm glad to see the one and two teams from last year going at it the first week. While I think the icon may have actually outdueled The Commish on draft day and the pressure has never been at greater pitch with Jimmy staring down the barrel of an unprecedented third straight championship and fantasy immortality, I just don't think the icon has it in him to upend the Generalissimo in week 1. I sense a Monday night comeback in the making. The Commish likes the classics too.
Pick: Commish by 1

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

btn #503

This week's podcast features post-draft analysis from your host and the league's managers.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

michael vick creates jobs

So the news today is Michael Vick became the only player in NFL history to sign a second $100 million contract when he did so with the Eagles. Under the terms of the deal, Vick will receive $40 million guaranteed as part of the six-year contract.

I've always been a fan of Vick. He has made some horrible mistakes but he has also paid dearly for those mistakes. America loves a good redemption story and fell further and faster nor rose higher as quickly as Michael Vick has over the past few years. The Michael Vick experience has truly been a roller coaster ride just as his famous commercial for Nike years ago oddly prophesied.

But I, for one, am glad to see him make good on his massive amounts of talent and realize the potential that an athlete and a quarterback can have for an NFL franchise. I'll be rooting for him to play well this year and lead the Eagles deep into the playoffs. And the only people happier than those named Vick and me are his creditors. It's payday, baby! If there's anything we know about Michael Vick and money, it's that he likes to spend it. He's a job creating machine! Michael Vick for President, anyone?

Check out Dan Graziano's post for ESPN on the marriage between Vick and Eagles for more insight.

Monday, August 29, 2011


Since the previous owner of this column is pretty much a deadbeat ne'er-do-well stuck in a Peter Pan Neverland of grad school where he never actually finishes and therefore never has to grow up to real-life responsibilities (like multi-tasking), I decided to do his column for him this preseason. (Seriously, man, I'm in the middle of complex litigation likely to go to the Supreme Court. You have to read for class. Priorities.) As always, the numbers are unquestionable and the opinions are my own. Enjoy.

40 acres and a mule

Keepers: Arian Foster (3), Matt Ryan (11)
Leftover draft cash: $0.25
Preseason Trades: Traded away 2nd round pick for Foster, flipped picks in rounds 3, 8, 12, and 13/15 with VZ
Preseason grade: D
Odds to win 2011 championship: 50 to 1

A.J. won the Arian Foster sweepstakes but at what cost? He gave away a second round pick to add a third round keeper leaving him with the first pick in draft but not another pick until the #40 selection overall. A lot of talent will come off the board between A.J.’s first two picks and leave his team very shallow for top talent. Although I sympathize with the feeling that having a top RB is the way to start a season, a mananger can only give up so much in the preseason through a trade without crippling their draft. A.J. just hasn’t found the right balance yet. He secured his fate as he can build a decent team around Foster but won’t be able to construct a champion with middle round talent.

black is for sunday

Keeper: Felix Jones (9)
Leftover draft cash: $2.88
Preseason trades: Swapped picks in rounds 3 and 4 with Jeff
Preseason grade: C-
Odds to win 2011 championship: 35 to 1

With $2.88, no manager will have more money headed into 2012 than Brent. And he’ll need it because it looks like this team is already playing for next year. After narrowly missing out on trades for McFadden/Jackson and Foster, Brent was left with few options for keeper picks on his own team. Wisely, he avoided the mistake of keeping a wide receiver at a high price for little round value but Felix Jones is not the kind of back you can build a team around. Not ending up with Foster left him in an odd situation in his trade with Jeff but the talent in rounds 3 and 4 is interchangeable enough to not do damage. If I was to give any advice to this manager, it would be draft with a long term perspective because it could be a while before this team’s Sundays are anything but black.

the icon

Keepers: Michael Turner (4), Philip Rivers (9)
Leftover draft cash: $0
Preseason trades: Swapped a round 6 pick with Umphlett for a round 9 pick to get Rivers
Preseason grade: B
Odds to win 2011 championship: 25 to 1

Overbay didn’t do anything wrong with his preseason. In fact, he obtained a very good QB at a very good value and didn’t have to sell his draft to do it. (A.J. should be taking notes for his next trade moves.) But if you’re going to spend all your money, is Michael Turner going to be the workhorse to pull you through to a championship? I’m just not sure that you can bank on that. So this manager did about the best he could with the options in front of him but he didn’t get very creative. Later this season, that lack of creativity could come back to cost him.

Jerry’s Belt Buckle

Keepers: Adrian Peterson (1), Matt Forte (6)
Leftover draft cash: $0.88
Preseason trades: Picked up a round 6 pick and Forte in the Rivers trade with Overbay, gave up a 3rd rounder to get Peterson, went mad scientist to pick up 4 consecutive picks at the round 7/8 turn
Preseason grade: B-
Odds to win 2011 championship: 20 to 1

Umphlett spent a lot of money this preseason. I’m just not sure he got enough bang for his buck. Peterson and Forte are good building blocks to a contender, however giving up every pick between pick #11 and pick #50 is not a recipe for success. It’s like this manager wants to have his cake and eat it too. He wants to spend big, get all of his top talent, then find steals in the middle rounds to build toward next year. If you’re going to sell out to win now then focus on one thing: winning now. Like George W. Bush in the 2000s, all that spending may have fed a booming trade economy today, but what will he have to show for it tomorrow? By the time we get to his four consecutive picks, Umphlett will be looking for the fantasy equivalent of a stimulus package but his team will already be shovel ready.

Phoenix Rises

Keepers: Jamaal Charles (2), Austin Collie (15)
Leftover draft cash: $1.62
Preseason trades: None
Preseason grade: B
Odds to win 2011 championship: 15 to 1

Brandon was able to keep his favorite player from last year’s team (albeit not at the greatest round value) and his greatest steal from last year’s draft. Unfortunately, while Charles’ star seems to be on the rise (with everyone other than Todd Haley, that is), Collie is a little worse for the wear from last year. Even if Manning comes back and the Colts offense kicks it into high gear again, Collie is one concussion away from missing serious time. After his problems last year, the Colts and the NFL will be monitoring him closely. (BTW, between Addai, Dallas Clark, and Collie, what is the over/under side bet on Colts offensive concussions this year? I think I will set it at 4 and take the over.) I like Brandon’s patience sticking with his players and not trying to get too cute and screw up his draft. Certainly, he would have liked to trade Roddy White but he didn’t get the offer he wanted so he threw him back in the pool. Now he has a chance to build his first champion since 2005. His championship clock is ticking louder than Norris’ biological one at this point.


Keepers: Ray Rice (4)
Leftover draft cash: $1.75
Preseason trades: Swapped round 3 and 4 with Brent, swapped with Umphlett to get back into round 4
Preseason grade: B+
Odds to win 2011 championship: 12 to 1

I liked Jeff’s moves this preseason. He improved his stock in rounds that mattered. He cut ties with dead weight (*cough* DeAngelo Williams) He didn’t overreach. He built around a solid player and he trusted his ability to identify talent on draft day as he did last year with Hakeem Nicks and others. He also saved some money for Ray Rice’s last keeper eligible year next year. Last season, I said that Jeff had more pressure than anyone to build a good team on draft day. This year, he may have less pressure than anyone and that could work to his advantage. If he can avoid the injuries that plagued his team last year, Jeff’s year may still be arriving… just one year late.


Keepers: Darren McFadden (9), Vincent Jackson (10)
Leftover draft cash: $2.13
Preseason trades: Traded picks in round 5 and 6 to get McFadden and Jackson
Preseason grade: A-
Odds to win 2011 championship: 11 to 1

Billy came out swinging early and often in the preseason trading period and it worked for him. Not only did he grab a RB and WR with massive upsides but he got a steal before the market priced him out of it. An argument can be made that no one is getting more value for his keeper picks than this manager. He won’t realize the full value this year but giving up two middle round picks is the next best thing. He also saved enough money to add another player to his keeper list for next year. showmedamoney! May not bring back the plaque this December but with these keeper picks, he could very well be a factor for many Decembers to come.

K Rabbits

Keepers: Aaron Rodgers (1)
Leftover draft cash: $1
Preseason trades: Traded keeper players for picks in round 3, 5, and 6
Preseason grade: C
Odds to win 2011 championship: 10 to 1

Well, he finally did it. Kris Norris finally consummated his man crush on Aaron Rodgers this preseason. Eat your heart out, Rex Grossman. Like a jealous lover, Kris abolished all of his other suitors in favor of his one true love. And I would argue it was not his shrewdest move. I would have kept McFadden and Jackson for myself. No one could have gotten more value for them or set themselves up for greater success going forward. Not to mention the fact, Kris could have picked higher in the first round and hoped that Rodgers fell to him anyway. That would have been a solid start to a great team. As it stands, Norris now relies on his drafting prowess to pick up the value he needs in rounds 3-6 to build a champion around his prized QB. Yeah, he’ll crumble faster than a lawn chair during last week’s earthquake.

The Institute

Keepers: LeSean McCoy (9), Rashard Mendenhall (11), Percy Harvin (12)
Leftover draft cash: $0.25
Preseason trades: Hoodwinked A.J. into a better 3rd round pick for God only knows the reason
Preseason grade: A
Odds to win 2011 championship: 13 to 2

New rule proposal for next year: A.J. can only make 2 trades per preseason and each move must be approved by a nonpartisan panel of experts. Someone has to step in to be the nanny state government and protect this guy from himself. Most of VZ’s good preseason work happened not this year but last as he grabbed the players he wanted and even got an exception written into the rules so he could continue to keep them where he wanted to. Now the pressure is on to capitalize as McCoy and Mendenhall are in their primes, the focal point of their respective team’s running games, and their keeper contracts are quickly dwindling. If not now then when for VZ? Now manager has a higher bar to clear to be considered successful this year. The Eagles of this fantasy league. Anything less than a championship is a failure for this squad.

The Commish

Keepers: Chris Johnson (7), Santonio Holmes (11)
Leftover draft cash: $1.00
Preseason trades: Traded Foster for a 2nd round pick
Preseason grade: A+
Odds to win 2011 championship: 5 to 1

How would the two-time defending champion be anything other than here? Much emotional turmoil surrounded this squad in the preseason as Jimmy really struggled with his decision about Chris Johnson in light of his holdout. But like a saavy veteran, The Commish held his ground, didn’t let an arbitrary keeper deadline freak him out, and didn’t reach for the panic button. Jimmy knows his best advantage is the value he gets for CJ…SignToday in the 7th round. He drafted the guy to get him three championships, not two and if he gets the job done this year, nothing will ever have been as impressive. Still, even if The Commish finds himself in a better position than he did last year, he’ll need to be. The rest of the league is nipping at his heels even more than it has been before.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

i have maryland pride

Some people are touting Torrey Smith as a potential sleeper WR out of Baltimore this year. A hometown boy (Smith went to college at the University of Maryland) trying to make good always makes for a good story. What also makes for a good story is a grown man freaking out over a sudden earthquake.

I'm with you, Torrey. Us East Coasters aren't prepared for this nonsense. But, hey, he's on my sleeper list after showing that speed. That dude skiddadled.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

btn #502

The conclusion of my conversation with the icon includes discussion of our favorite players from a fantasy standpoint as well as speculation on preseason trades and keeper implications in this part 2 of 2 podcasts.

btn #501

The icon joins me to discuss nfl news of the day, preseason college and nfl story lines, and sports team ownership both fantasy and real in this part 1 of 2 podcasts.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

dollars and sense

Two interesting articles I came across today regarding sports team ownership as business. I'll post some quotes from them here as I will probably touch on the idea in this week's podcast.

First, Malcolm Gladwell's introductory piece from Grantland discusses the value of sports ownership beyond what can be measured on paper in the context of the NBA lockout.

...Forbes magazine annually estimates the value of every professional franchise, based on standard financial metrics like operating expenses, ticket sales, revenue, and physical assets like stadiums. When sports teams change hands, however, the actual sales price is invariably higher. Forbes valued the Detroit Pistons at $360 million. They just sold for $420 million. Forbes valued the Wizards at $322 million. They just sold for $551 million. Forbes said that the Warriors were worth $363 million. They just sold for $450 million. There are a number of reasons why the Forbes number is consistently too low. The simplest is that Forbes is evaluating franchises strictly as businesses. But they are being bought by people who care passionately about sports — and the $90 million premium that the Warriors' new owners were willing to pay represents the psychic benefit of owning a sports team. If that seems like a lot, it shouldn't. There aren't many NBA franchises out there, and they are very beautiful.

The big difference between art and sports, of course, is that art collectors are honest about psychic benefits. They do not wake up one day, pretend that looking at a Van Gogh leaves them cold, and demand a $27 million refund from their art dealer. But that is exactly what the NBA owners are doing. They are indulging in the fantasy that what they run are ordinary businesses — when they never were. And they are asking us to believe that these "businesses" lose money. But of course an owner is only losing money if he values the psychic benefits of owning an NBA franchise at zero — and if you value psychic benefits at zero, then you shouldn't own an NBA franchise in the first place. You should sell your "business" — at which is sure to be a healthy premium — to someone who actually likes basketball. ...

Next, Gregg Easterbrook of writes that sometimes making the best business decision as a team owner leads to bad outcomes for players and fans.

...According to a financial officer for an NFL team, after ticket price, concessions and parking are added up, and then the visitor's share, overhead and taxes are deducted, each sold home seat represents around $30 in profit. This jibes with the numbers reported by Green Bay, the sole NFL club that discloses financial data. For 2010, the Packers sold 566,362 tickets and reported an operating profit of $10 million -- about $18 per occupied seat. The Packers' expenses were high in 2010, as they appeared in four road playoff games. Had they not, the profit per seat would have risen to $25 or $30.

The $30 estimate is a simplified number, but suppose it's roughly accurate. That suggests the 2010 attendance leader, Dallas, had a $21 million profit on seat sales, while 2010's worst-drawing team, Oakland, had a ticket profit of $11 million. That's a $10 million swing between the best case and the worst case for filling the stadium. Because most teams are in the middle of that calculation, going all-out to win with player and coaching salaries will add considerably less than $10 million in profit on packing the stadium. Contrast that with not spending up to the cap, which can add $20 million to $30 million to the bottom line. If your first goal is financial results, losing cheap can look a lot sweeter than winning expensive.

When this is taken into account, seeming nonsense suddenly makes sense. The Bengals, a low-spending team, are refusing to trade Carson Palmer, who says he retired but actually wants out of the Queen City. What's the point of getting nothing for Palmer? The point is to shed Palmer's large salary while creating an excuse for another bad season. When in this situation, teams with winning mindsets shrug and trade the unhappy star for whatever they can get -- think Green Bay with Brett Favre or Philadelphia with Donovan McNabb. Cincinnati management does not make winning its first priority. Losing cheap is fine, and getting nothing for Palmer generates a nifty excuse for a weak 2011 season. ...

Check out the full stories at the links above, feel free to offer your comments below, and tune into the podcast this week for a discussion of the unmeasurable benefits of team ownership in real life and fantasy.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

butch davis firing by the numbers

A fairly prominent, North Carolina-based political polling company I follow and respect did a survey of Carolina fans this week to gauge the level of support for Butch Davis and Holden Thorp after the ugly recent episode at UNC. Judge for yourselves what you think of the poll's accuracy and methodology but it has left me to conclude one thing. I and most other fans I know are among the "hardcore" set and we are the definite outliers when it comes to UNC football.

In the two weeks since Butch Davis' firing as UNC football coach there's been endless debate about what Tar Heel nation really thinks about the decision and the direction of the program. Here are the results of our scientific poll conducted over the weekend of self described UNC fans:

-UNC fans think that Butch Davis did a good job as coach, but they still support his firing. There's no doubt that Davis got the team headed in the right direction on the field after the dark days of the Carl Torbush and John Bunting years and Tar Heel partisans appreciate him for it. 41% approve of the job he did as coach to only 21% disapproving, with 39% not taking a side. Those describing themselves as 'hardcore' UNC fans are particularly supportive of the job Davis did with 65% approving and only 19% disapproving.

Despite the on field success though 36% of fans support Davis' firing with 27% opposed and 37% having no opinion. UNC alumni are particularly supportive of the decision, agreeing with it by a 50/32 margin. There is a significant divide though based on respondents' level of fandom. Those describing themselves as 'hardcore' fans disagree with Davis' firing by a 44/40 margin. They only account for 22% of the fan base though and those describing themselves as moderately big UNC fans (42/27) and casual ones (26/18) both support the firing.

-UNC fans think that Holden Thorp is doing a good job as Chancellor and should stay in the job...but they also think he's done a poor job handling the football team. The voices calling for Thorp's ouster are more loud than they are numerous. 31% of UNC fans think Thorp is doing a good overall to 19% who dissent with 50% offering no opinion. And 32% think he should continue as Chancellor to 23% who think he should resign or be fired with 45% unsure. Alumni are particularly supportive of Thorp. They give him good marks for the job he's doing by a 53/24 margin and believe he should stay on by a 55/20 spread. Even though they disagree with the decision to fire
Davis, even 'hardcore' fans give Thorp a 40/29 overall approval and think he should keep his position 40/34.

Despite the overall support make no mistake though- UNC backers think Thorp has handled the football situation very poorly. Only 20% give positive marks on that front to 35% who think he's done a bad job. Alumni (31/37) and non-Alumni (17/35) alike are unhappy with his football related leadership and 'hardcore' fans (24/56) are particularly displeased. The Athletic Director hire is going to be huge for Thorp given these numbers- he has to hire someone who has credibility in the football arena because right now folks don't trust South Building on that front. ...
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Monday, August 8, 2011

nihilism and dog ownership

Mostly just because it happens so infrequently, I had to share a diamond in the rough found by one Kris Norris. This weekend, he pointed toward a new FX comedy series named Wilfred. The first episode is embedded below and you can catch up on them via Hulu. I recommend you do. Telling you the premise will likely only lessen the possiblity you will actually watch it, but basically, it starts with a guy who feels trapped in his corporate existence but finds meaning in nihilism and dog ownership. And it's kind of a love story. So while A.J. is DVRing Jersey Shore, you can be watching Wilfred and realizing that Kris can't be wrong about everything.

Friday, August 5, 2011

making it: is the hall of fame good or bad for a player's post-career legend?

There is no living writer I read, study, or emulate more than Chuck Klosterman. His contrarian-type thoughts and clever writing style make him the crown jewel of Bill Simmons' new Grantland project. (And, seriously, if you don't have that site bookmarked by now, what are you doing with your life.) Klosterman is the best kind of sports writer because he's not really a sports writer. He's a guy with an interesting perspective on just about every topic who happens to enjoy sports and has opinions on their importance to our culture as a whole. (Plus, he uses footnotes incredibly well.) In his latest piece for Grantland, he discusses the importance of Halls of Fame and what making or not making it means for the post-career relevance of an athlete's accomplishments. It's very much worth reading in its entirety. I've only excerpted the set-up of the discussion below.

(Un)Reality and the Football Hall of Fame
Cris Carter, Shannon Sharpe, and the true meaning of a "snub"
By Chuck Klosterman

Here's the most important thing to realize about the Pro Football Hall of Fame: It does not exist.

The pro Basketball Hall of Fame doesn't exist, either. The Baseball Hall of Fame is equally unreal, in the same way that all Halls of Fame are unreal. There are certainly buildings that house these fabricated facilities in Ohio and Massachusetts and New York, and you can drive to them and buy a ticket and walk inside, and the various rooms are filled with statues and arcane uniforms and officially licensed shot glasses available for purchase in the various gift shops. You can see these things and you can tap your fingers on the glass display cases and you can buy a cup of coffee that will taste and smell and burn like coffee, but this experience is no different than living in The Matrix: It's a construction of the mind. It's multiple layers of symbols and simulation that are meaningless unless we decide a meaning must exist. But because this is what we do (and because we all do it, without even wondering why), the Pro Football Hall of Fame represents the pinnacle achievement within a life in football. Players and coaches love to insist that the most important goal in their professional lives is the winning of championships, but they are all lying when they say that. Either they are lying consciously or they're so socialized by the omnipresence of that childish falsehood that they've actually convinced themselves Jeff Hostetler's career was more fulfilling than Dan Marino's, simply because Scott Norwood missed a field goal in 1991. The Hall of Fame does not exist, so it's unaffected by reality; it matters more than reality, because ideas are more important than actions. ...

And that's what's so weird about the whole Hall of Fame process: The public sees it as an argument, but — within the mind of the elite athlete — it must be one of the most confusing, painfully personal scenarios they'll ever experience. Being inducted into a Hall of Fame is both the greatest thing that can happen to an athlete and the effective end to his or her cultural import; being rejected by a Hall of Fame is a major blow to one's self-image and the single-best thing that can happen to a retired player's legacy. The process is a lose-lose: It's either good (and then bad) or bad (and then good).

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Thursday, August 4, 2011

is peyton manning done?

Even the title of this post may send shivers down the spines of many Colts fans and fantasy owners. However, the truth is the fact that Peyton Manning just signed a new contract and has historically been an iron man when it comes to the regular season does not detract from his current residence on the Physically Unable to Perform list. Normally, if a star starts camp on the PUP list everyone will be speculating about his chances to play in regular season games once they begin. (See Gates, Antonio.) But since Manning just signed a new deal and never allows his backups to take snaps in meaningful situations, no one is openly wondering about the chances Manning starts the season anywhere other than under center.

As Adam Schefter of ESPN reported this morning on Mike and Mike, a history neck injuries actually runs in the Manning family. The reason that Cooper Manning didn't follow in the footsteps of his father and brothers to become an NFL player was a condition that led to a career-ending neck injury. Is it possible that there is a chink in the armor of the iron man? Is the injury Manning is nursing back to health now more serious than the Colts have let on? We may not know the answers to those questions for several weeks, but make no mistake, fantasy owners should be tracking this situation closely.

From Rotoworld...
NFL Network's Mike Lombardi believes the Colts will wait until right before the regular season to decide whether to activate Peyton Manning (neck) from the PUP list.

Manning opened camp on active/PUP, making him a tentative candidate to stay on reserve/PUP into the season. "I think that neck injury is severe," said Lombardi. "They really don't know (when Manning will return)." ...

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

is randy moss pulling a keyser soze on the nfl?

If you think about it, Randy Moss' decision to retire rather than accept one of the presumably mediocre contract offers he was fielding was genius. He totally changed the conversation about where he was in his career and where he was heading.

Before the last few days, all anyone was focused on was whether or not any team would be willing to take Moss after a disatrous 2010 campaign. All anyone could remember was the mere 80 yards he accumulated as a member of the Tennessee Titans.

Now all people are talking about is where he stands on the list of all-time great receivers. They are replaying his 1998 and 2007 highlights constantly on ESPN and debating his legacy. No we once again see his hand-up calling for the ball against Darrell Revis and remember, "You know what? That wasn't that long ago."

An additional benefit that was now instead of the conversation being what team would be willing to take Moss and his baggage, it has switched to what team can lure Randy and his talent out of retirement. Does he still have the top end speed to be a playmaker in the NFL? Maybe only Moss himself knows that. What he does still have are the brains Bill Belichek raved about during his time in New England and a lot more GMs with their interests suddenly piqued about his ability to change the dynamics of an offense.

From Rotoworld...
The Eagles made a contract offer to Randy Moss after the receiver filed his official retirement papers with the league, according to the Boston Herald.

The Eagles just won't stop. Moss' filing of his retirement papers isn't significant as he can unretire any time he wants. If he is truly intrigued by the Eagles' offer, there's a good chance it will still happen. And based on the way veterans are flocking to Philly to play with Mike Vick, we would no longer be surprised.

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