Archive for the ‘Gus Griffin’ Category

Ode to the Birdman

Monday, December 12th, 2016

by Gus Griffin

gus

 

 

 

 

LB

This past Wednesday was the 60th birthday of Larry Bird.

For those of you too young to have actually watched him play, trust me, he was a bad man. Not a

bad man for a white guy. A bad man, period!

I never agreed with the infamous Dennis Rodman statement.

He was not a basketball version of Adele.

Did he have more fans for being a stand out white guy in a “black man’s game”? Of course. But that

speaks to the popularity of white privilege in America. It is neither an indictment or validation of him

as a basketball player any more than Trump’s election is an indication of what kind of statesmen he

is.

But in spite of being a life-long die-hard Laker fan, unlike a certain group of haters today, I have

enough emotional maturity to give credit where credit was due.

The Celtics win over a clearly superior Lakers team in 84 was among the most painful of my sports

life. It does not happen without Larry Bird.

 

That year would be his first of 3 straight MVP years.  While I’ll go to my grave insisting that Bernard

King should have won the 1985 award, Bird’s place in the game was nevertheless secure.

More than a little can be learned about Bird’s mindset and mental toughness coming up when he

would go to Chicago playgrounds where he learned the “city game.” He always expressed

appreciation for being “allowed” to play with them.

Allowed is the right word.

If you know anything about the culture of inner-city basketball, be it in New York, Philly, DC, or Chicago, you know they do not let just anyone play on a regular basis. It’s a sports version of the Apollo and if you can’t cut it, no one is shy or sensitive about letting you know.

The Birdman could clearly cut it as the NBA would soon find out.

So here is an ode to one of the coldest assassin’s in sports history: Larry Joe Bird.

Gus Griffin, for War Room Sports

The Economics of Playing NFL QB

Tuesday, March 15th, 2016

by Gus Griffin

gus

 

 

 

 

Brock Osweiler is introduced in Houston (Image via WashingtonPost.com)

Brock Osweiler is introduced in Houston
(Image via WashingtonPost.com)

Does Brock Osweiler, on the basis of 7 starts, deserve the $72 million ($37 million guaranteed) that he has coming to him?

Of course he does, if some idiot is willing to pay him.  That is what the market is willing to bare.  What a team is willing to pay and what can be justified by on the field performance have never been completely in line.

Keep in mind that we are not talking about some billionaire owner being subsidized by taxpayer dollars to build a stadium, largely with seasonal workers and jobs with no benefits.  We are talking about a guy playing a game, largely financed by our voluntary viewership and patronage for a league that has made it blatantly clear that it could not care less about the health of its players after they are done.

He would be the idiot not to get every dime he could get and only those with a poor understanding of the economics of playing NFL QB are unclear about this.

What are those economics?  Think of it this way: there are 32 NFL teams.  If we evaluated the performance at starting QB with a letter grade, I can only come up with 17 that could clearly be graded as at least a “B.”  I am excluding rookies and first year starters in Tennessee, Tampa, and Washington, even if they are trending upward, due to the cautionary tale of RG3.  Simply put, their sample is too small to make a final assessment.  But even if they pan out, that still leaves 12 teams with a significant need of an upgrade at QB.  The irony of it all is that 3 of those 12 (Vikings, Texans, and Broncos) made the playoffs last year, to include the eventual champs.

Bottom line is that there are more NFL Teams than there are high quality QBs.  This produces an odd economic reality which allows the unproven and proven pedestrians, in terms of performance, to make out like bandits……..and we should not blame them for exploiting a situation reinforced by the false narrative that a team must have an upper-echelon QB to win the Super Bowl.

History shows that a dominant defense is a better predictor of winning the Super Bowl than an upper-echelon QB.  Consider this, of the 50 Super Bowls, the losing QB in nearly half of them (23) are either hall of famers or league MVPs.  Eighteen of them split between Elway, Tarkenton, Kelly, Staubach, Warner, Manning, and Brady lost more than one.  Compare that to this list of single SB starters to include Trent Dilfer, Brad Johnson, Mark Rypien, Jeff Hostetler, Phil Simms, and Jim McMahon.  Their Super Bowl record was 6-0.  The common denominator was dominant defense.

I submit that as long as the false narrative of needing elite QB play is more prevalent than the reality, which is that there simply are not 32 dudes on this planet that can play NFL QB at an elite level, about a 3rd of the league will continue to chase that which simply does not exist in a quantity large enough to meet the demand.

Smart economics would stop going for the home run at QB and instead load up on defensive talent.

 

Gus Griffin, for War Room Sports

The Evolution of Basketball and the Steph Haters

Saturday, March 5th, 2016

by Gus Griffin

gus

 

 

 

Image via Basketball.RealGM.com

Image via Basketball.RealGM.com

Dear Oscar Robertson:

You may have never averaged a triple-double for a whole season in today’s basketball game!

And yet I still have no doubt that you are one of the greatest players the game has ever seen.

 

Dear Detroit “Bad Boy” Pistons:

You may not be so bad today.  The rules simply would not permit you to be.  And yet you remain one the best teams of the NBA’s greatest era.

Why?  Because you must be evaluated within the context of your own time.  To do otherwise makes about as much sense as comparing homicide detectives before DNA with detectives after DNA.  Or boasting that an administrative aide with a computer is better than one with a typewriter.

Enter the old timers’ reluctance to recognize the greatness of Steph Curry.

Former Milwaukee Bucks' Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Oscar Robertson  (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

Former Milwaukee Bucks’ Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Oscar Robertson
(AP Photo/Morry Gash)

This saga is as much about the evolution of the basketball as it is Curry and his haters, especially the 3-point shot.  It came into the NBA in the 1979-80 season…..the same year that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar won the last of his 6 league MVP awards.  Fellow HOFers Bill Walton and Moses Malone won the award the previous two years.  Simply put, the back to the basket dominant big man era was in full force and thus the 3-point shot was not yet an integral part of the game.  The team known for annually taking among the fewest 3-point shots was the best, my Lakers.  Who needs a 3 when Magic can penetrate or run the break and dish to Worthy or Wilkes, or choose Jabbar’s sky hook and you have a former league MVP in Bob McAdoo coming off the bench for much higher percentage 2-point attempts?

The first championship team to make the 3 an integral part of its offense was the Olajuwon era Rockets with Horry, Kenny Smith, and Mario Elie, awaiting “The Dream’s” pass out of the double-team, and that was 15 years after it came to the league.

It is no accident that it grew as the back to the basket big man began to go the way of the dinosaur.  The stats say as Ewing/Robinson/Olajuwon left the game, the 3’s increased league wide.

Think about it: if your choice is to dump the ball into say, Julius Randle, Kevin Love, or Porzingus (on the rare occasions they actually get on the block) for a 2-point attempt with a 41-42% success rate or let the shooters go for a 3 – 40% of the time, the math makes the choice for you.

Steph Curry is but the highest example of the evolution of this process.  It was delayed briefly by the Shaq/Tim Duncan era.  But we can all agree that they were once in a lifetime players.  It’s much more likely to find 3 or 4 poor man’s versions of Steph Curry than you will find another Shaq.

Projecting if players could do the same in another era is inherently flawed due to the failure to project the player to all the unique factors of that era, be they societal, training, or others.  For example, it’s easy to say Bill Russell at 6’9 and 215 lbs would be too small to play center today.  The real question is wouldn’t he likely be bigger if he grew up in the 1990s as opposed to the 1950s?

The argument can be made that adaptability is the single most common denominator among the exceptional athletes, even beyond basketball.  Look at the NFL and its evolution.  Seven years ago who was the poster child for the sort of play the NFL “claimed” to want to be rid of:  James Harrison, the league’s 2008 defensive player of the year and maker of arguably the greatest single defensive play in Super Bowl history.  And yet he will be on the field next year at age 38, why?  Because he adapted.

So too would Steph Curry, Oscar Robertson, or the Bad Boy Pistons, if called upon to do so.  If only the mindset of haters could do the same.

 

Gus Griffin, for War Room Sports

Why Chip Failed

Thursday, December 31st, 2015

by Gus Griffin

gus

 

 

 

(Image via CBSSports.com)

(Image via CBSSports.com)

The simple truth is that Chip Kelly never had the talent to win big in Philadelphia.

The more nuanced answer is that the Chip Kelly the talent evaluator was the primary reason he lost the very sort of talent that might have helped him avoid his fate.

Say what you want about DeSean Jackson and LeSean McCoy, they were both proven difference makers when Kelly committed the almost always fatal sin that befalls many coaches of thinking that his system mattered more than players.

A system/scheme is the platform through which players can shine.  It is no more the performer than a stage or theater is for a play.

I suppose coaches should be expected to fall for this line of thinking that they matter more than they do, especially in football where I contend they matter most.  After all, when your job is largely performed in a fishbowl and every decision is dissected and second guessed, you had better at least be able to give the appearance that you are sure of yourself…..even if you are not.

Simply put, players are most responsible for winning and winning elevates a system.  Case in point: what we know today as the West Coast offense began long before Bill Walsh got to San Francisco.  The Bengals, with Walsh as QB coach and Vikings used the same system throughout the 70’s.  But the Bengals were an occasional playoff team and the Vikings lost 4 Super Bowls, so they were not credited by popular casual observers.  The same is true in other sports.  The Triangle Offense can be traced to that L.A. college basketball juggernaut….USC in the 1940’s.  Nobody cared until it was the staple of Michael Jordan’s offense in Chicago.

Players matter more.  Bill Belichick’s record without Tom Brady is 47-52.  George Seifert after Young and Rice was 16-32.

Any coach who deludes himself to think otherwise has written his own epitaph.

Oh we love and welcome innovation.  Helps a short attention span society stay engaged.  That’s the exciting part.  But like the sheep that breaks away from the herd, your success and failure will show more brightly.

If you are right, you’re a genius and can peacock your way forward.  If you’re wrong, you are a wounded wildebeest for prey and will be fired!

Don’t believe me, ask Chip Kelly.

 

Gus Griffin for War Room Sports

No, the McCaffrey Snub Was Not Reverse Racism

Monday, December 14th, 2015

by Gus Griffin

gus

 

 

 

CM

In high school I remember playing football against a guy named David Craft.

He was not that big or fast.  He was white and be it consciously or subconsciously, I suppose initially that played a role in his being underestimated.  But you did not need multiple chances trying to tackle him to come to realize that David Craft was good….not good for a white boy….good, period!

Watching Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey this year reminded me of Craft.  As a die-hard USC fan, I saw much more of McCaffrey than I cared to see……enough to believe that he should have won the Heisman trophy.

He didn’t and it’s hard to know if the reasoning was SEC bias in favor of Derrick Henry, or regional bias in that all too many voters don’t bother to make it a point to watch the later showing west coast games, or the simple anti-stereotypical reality that McCaffrey is white and voters have a mold of the football running back that he simply can’t accommodate.

What I do know is that even if race did play a role in McCaffrey not winning the award, it is in no way a validation of the existence of reverse racism, and to make such a comparison amounts to a false equivalency on steroids.

Those who make this claim are either being shamefully disingenuous or have a child-like understanding of the concept of racism and more specifically in this case, white privilege.

Simply put, in no way will McCaffrey not winning the Heisman adversely affect his quality of life.  His opportunities going forward as an NFL prospect and Stanford graduate will be there.  Opportunities for his children to get a good education and fulfill other quality of life indicators are not affected.  The same can’t be said for the children of Eric Garner.

 

Gus Griffin, for War Room Sports

WHAT HAPPENED IN DC LAST NIGHT?

Thursday, December 3rd, 2015

by Gus Griffin

gus

 

 

 

KB

No matter how many armchair coaches and talking heads try to give you a basketball-based explanation, resist.  It was not about the X’s and O’s of basketball, it was about understanding the psychology of teams in the moment.  On Tuesday the maddening Wizards went into Cleveland and beat LeBron and the defending conference champs.  It was their first home loss of the year.  On that same night my Lakers were beaten soundly by one of the worst teams in NBA history, giving those Sixers their first win of the year.  So all logic tells you that those same Wizards should have little trouble with my Lakers, right?  Vegas saw it that way, installing the Wizards as 10 point favorites.  Wrong!  This game was not only a classic letdown spot for the Wizards, it was a letdown spot on steroids.  It was neither some brilliant tactical adjustment made by Byron Scott, nor some great coaching blunder by Randy Whitman.

The script was a familiar one: Act 1: Kobe gets the ball; Act 2: everyone in the whole arena knows that he is going to shoot; Act 3: he single-handedly stops any semblance of functional half-court offense by dribbling and head faking with a defender on his back as if he were in the post, though he is now usually 25 feet from basket; Act 4: he shoots; Act 5: and this was the only outcome of all the acts that differed dramatically from previous scripts: THE SHOTS WENT IN.  It was the old Kobe, pun intended, not the Grey Mamba, to the tune of 31 points to include two huge shots inside the last 2 minutes.  Sure it took him 24 shots to make 10, but that’s not different from the Kobe that will be a first ballot HOF’er.  Unfortunately for the Lakers, he cannot sustain such efforts.  Last night’s Kobe was the norm for so many years, or at least 7-8 of every 10 games.  They will be lucky to see him once every 12-15 games.  I am fully prepared for my Lakers to return to being what we are: some shit!  But hey, as a lifelong diehard fan of the mighty purple and gold, in a game that may as well have been in the Great Western Forum, it was nice to reminisce of the glory days.

 

Gus Griffin, for War Room Sports

Bryce Harper was not the NL MVP and this is why.

Friday, November 20th, 2015

by Gus Griffin

gus

 

 

 

May 10, 2015; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper (34) at bat against the Atlanta Braves during the first inning at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

May 10, 2015; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper (34) at bat against the Atlanta Braves during the first inning at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Bryce Harper was the best player in the National League in 2015….perhaps in all of baseball.

Bryce Harper was not the most valuable player in the National League and that was not his fault.

This is not about hating on Bryce Harper. I love the way the he plays the game. He combines Pete Rose’s mindset with Mickey Mantle power. In all my years of going to see baseball games, he is the only player that I have seen hit multiple upper deck homers. One was in the playoffs against my Giants (I did not particularly love him at that exact moment) and the other was against the Dodgers. You can imagine how much that endeared him to me. Early in the year his improved pitch selection and overall plate discipline forecasted trouble for pitchers. When a guy with his power restricts his swings to strikes, the results are career highs in both homers and walks both nearly double previous highs.

My liking him or not liking him has nothing to do with my case. At the heart of it all is the failure of the baseball, and sports writer culture to make a distinction between the best player and the most valuable player. So lets do that now.

The most valuable player is the player whose team’s level of success would be least likely without! A key provision would be team’s level of success. Subsequently if the team had little or no success, how valuable could any one player have been? Apparently not valuable enough for 2014 NL manager of the year Matt Williams because he got fired.

It’s at this point when the baseball sabermetric zombies will cite Harper’s WAR (Wins Above Replacement) stat which was 9.9, round it up to 10 wins which is outstanding under any assessment. Simply put that means without Bryce Harper this past season, instead of winning 83 games, the Nats would have only won 73 games. If our task is to measure value in the context of the team’s success to that I say, WHO CARES? How valuable can any one player be on a team that regressed 13 games from the previous season?

If we look at Harper’s value from a pure costs benefit analysis, it’s a more compelling case than pure baseball statistics in that he greatly out performed his $2.5 million salary for the year. He does not hit arbitration until 2017 and free agency in 2019. Unless he dramatically regresses, the Nats will have to pay for their 2015 bargain with the highest arbitration award in the history of the game in 2017 and highest contract ever to keep him in 2019 when they will surely be competing with his childhood favorite team the Yankees. They may decide to do that but to this point, what do they have to show for it? In football both Seattle with Russell Wilson and Baltimore with Joe Flacco illustrate cautionary tales in paying to compensate past bargains at the expense of addressing other team needs. But at least their decisions can be defended by the players value to their winning a championship.

Part of this challenge is the inconsistent history of what the writers are actually looking for in the MVP. The process also reeks with personal gripes, surely at times stemming from which guy gave them interviews when they wanted one. Go back to 1983 when the Orioles won it all, led by both Eddie Murray and Cal Ripken. Either would have been valid MVP choices. Cal finished 1 and Murray 2. No secret that Cal was much more amenable to media than Murray. Murray was arguably the most feared hitter in the league, a switch hitter with power and a clutch rep similar to what we have seen with David Ortiz in recent years. He hit 4th behind Cal which insured Cal was not being pitched around. Consider the assessment of teammate and Hall of Famer Jim Palmer when asked who he believes should have won that award, “Eddie Murray missed 7 games that year. We lost every one of them!”

Fast forward to 1989. Cecil Fielder leads the league in homers and RBIs and is first to hit over 50 (51) since 1977. He finished second in the MVP voting, losing out to Rickey Henderson. The general writers’ response to his losing to Henderson was that Henderson played for a contending team. The next year, Cal wins his second MVP on an Oriole team that finishes in 6th place over Cecil Fielder and his league leading 44 homers and 133 RBIs for the second place Tigers.

So which is it?

The point is as great as Harper was in 2015, his absence from the Nat’s would have been no more than a distinction without a difference on what really matters: winning! On the other hand, does anyone think the Cubs get to the NLDS without Jake Arietta? Would the Mets have made it to the World Series without Yohanes Cespedes? The answer is no on both counts and that is what value is all about.

The basic resolution is two awards: a Most Valuable Player award which must be tied to the players contribution to the teams NOTEWORTHY SUCCESS and a Player of the Year award which can be driven by statistical production alone. Pitchers would not be eligible for player of the year. There is a Cy Young and Firemen’s awards for them. All players are eligible for MVP. In theory a player can win both. An example of when the awardees should have been split would have been 1987. Andre Dawson was the best player in the league that year leading the league with 49 homers and 137 RBIs…….for the last place Cubs that finished 18.5 games out of first place. He won the MVP that year. So were the voters saying without him they would have finished in 7th place? Hell there were only 6 teams in the division. Meanwhile Ozzie Smith didn’t hit a home run all year……but he drove in 80 and batted .303 while playing his routinely great short stop for an offensively challenge Cardinal team that advanced to the World Series. That’s value and due to no fault of his own, Bryce simply did not have that for a historically underachieving Nationals team this year.

Gus Griffin, for War Room Sports

WHAT DOES IT TAKE?: Greg Hardy, the need for pictures, and what it says about America

Monday, November 9th, 2015

by Gus Griffin

gus

 

 

 

 

GH

I’m clear about Steven A. Smith’s  agenda: he caught a lotta flak after the Ray Rice abuse case and is now pandering to the very folks who wanted his head.
What is more useful is to discuss the threshold of proof necessary to acknowledge the mistreatment of some, particularly women, Black, and Latino folks.
On due process terms, it seems to me that only the Dallas Cowboys can take any action against Hardy and we all know that if they did cut him, more than a few teams will be lined up to sign him.  I’m clear that Greg Hardy is a bully and likely a psychopath. I would shed no tear if he never played in the league again. But I did not need to see pictures of his abuse to come to that line of thinking. The fact that anyone needed pictures to get to this level of outrage means that this is much bigger than Greg Hardy. This is about America and whose suffering is at the back of the line for addressing. It’s clear that women being brutalized by men and Black and Latino folks by police requires a certain level of visual proof beyond that of most others. In the Black man’s case, Eric Garner, sometimes even the picture isn’t enough. I’m not suggesting that alleged victims are all truthful. That “cry wolf” opportunist element is out there. But there is a distinct difference in justifiable scrutiny of the truth and hoping one is not being truthful so that we can maintain our business as usual world views about women, Black, and Latino folks being primarily responsible for their mistreatment. I say we because on the Greg Hardy issue, I am just as much of part of the problem. Certainly not for condoning violence against women but because Hardy’s arrogance and indifference is fueled by the very fundamental fact, be it conscious or subconscious, that he knows I and most of you will keep watching the NFL. Roger Goodell and Jerry Jones know it as well. So Ill climb down from my soapbox and hopefully “Screaming” A Smith will soon follow.
Gus Griffin, for War Room Sports

MOVE BACK BASEBALL’S TRADE DEADLINE!

Friday, July 31st, 2015

by Gus Griffin

gus

 

 

 

MLB

It’s time for baseball to push back its trade deadline. This July 31st line in the sand is an outdated relic from an era when free agency didn’t exist and only two teams made the post season, which was the case up until 1969. That year the field was expanded to 4 with the divisional winner format and since has been expanded to its current number of 10. With that many spots for post season available, it makes no sense to force teams to decide in July if they still have a chance to make it to the playoffs. Furthermore, historically, more than a few teams have lost considerable leads after the deadline beginning with the 1951 Dodgers, which had a 13.5 game lead in August, only to do what they do and choke the lead away to my Giants and eventually lose a 3 game playoff on Bobby Thomson’s famous 9th inning walk off homer. But this is not about picking on the Dodgers (they blew it again to my Giants in 62 and to the Padres in 96) because there are many more examples: 69 Cubs, 95 Angels, 2011 Braves and Red Sox. The 1964 Phillies had a 6 game lead with 12 left over the Cardinals in September. They were so confident, as the legend goes, that they started to sell World Series tickets only to collapse and have to burn them. Then there is the other case such as the 2012 Phillies who traded Hunter Pence to my Giants and Shane Victorino to the Red Sox only to get red hot in August and September and just miss the playoffs. Pushing the deadline back to August 15 is a win-win for all involved. Teams maintain fan interests, players and agents get more time to negotiate contract extensions. Baseball has successfully challenged old traditions to move the game forward with such innovations as inner league play. It’s time it did the same with the trade deadline.

 

Gus Griffin, for War Room Sports

 

Why Sports fans get politics more than voters

Sunday, May 31st, 2015

by Gus Griffin

gus

 

 

 

(Image via the500section.com)

(Image via the500section.com)

Before you “serious” minded folks get on your soap box about the opium of sports, consider this: we know the art of that which you consider of most importance better than you do and here is why.

For the sake of simple numbers, let’s use football as the example.  Consider the fortunes of our team to be the same as voter aspirations.

We fans understand clearly if our team is mired in consistent 7-9, 8-8, or 9-7 seasons, it will NEVER fulfill our hopes of becoming a Super Bowl champion.  So as painfully as it will be, we accept the need to blow the whole damn thing up and to start over.  Painful in that doing so will surely produce a season or more of bad football.  No way around the short term pain, if we truly want a chance at long term success.

Football history validates this time and time again.  When [Vince] Lombardi got the Green Bay Packers in 1959, he inherited a 1-win team from the previous year.  They won 5 titles in the 60’s.  [Chuck] Noll’s Steelers were 1-13 in 1969, [Bill] Walsh’s Niners 2-14 in 79, [Jimmy] Johnson’s Cowboys 1-15 in 89, [Bill] Belichick 5-11 in his first year in New England.  All went on to be the dominant teams in the league over the next 10 years. Why?  They all understood that doing the same would get them the same and 8-8 just didn’t cut it.

But you voters don’t get this.  The last president that was not from the Republican, Democratic, or Democratic Republican party was Millard Fillmore in 1850.

You have been playing this same Democrat-Republican game for generations and yet constantly express frustration over redundant minimal success.  This is the definition of insanity.

You don’t have to be certain that the new plan will work.   And it’s ok to be lucky.  The Steelers’ first choice was Joe Paterno still at Penn State.  As brilliant as Walsh was he had no clue a 3rd round QB out of Notre Dame named [Joe] Montana would become what he did, nor did Belichick know what a 6th round pick named [Tom] Brady would become.  The Cowboys don’t become what they did without the Vikings over-paying for Herschel Walker. Strokes of luck to be sure for all.

The only absolute you must do when you’re in a hole is to stop digging.

So voters I urge you to take a lesson from we less sophisticated sports fans, cue up a Smokey Robinson and Miracles CD and Try Something New.

Gus Griffin, for War Room Sports