Posts Tagged ‘Gus Griffin’

Where Jemele Hill Went Wrong

Friday, September 15th, 2017

by Gus Griffin

gus

 

 

 

 

JH

“Trump is the most ignorant, offensive president of my lifetime.”

“His rise is a direct result of white supremacy. Period.”

“He is unqualified and unfit to be president. He is not a leader. And if he were not white, he never would have been elected.”

“Donald Trump is a white supremacist who has largely surrounded himself w/ other white supremacists.”

“The height of white privilege is being able to ignore his white supremacy, because it’s of no threat to you.”

“Well, it’s a threat to me.”

“Donald Trump is a bigot. Glad you could live with voting for him. I couldn’t, because I cared about more than just myself.”

“I hate a lot of things but not enough to jeopardize my fellow citizens with an unfit, bigoted, incompetent moron. But hey, that’s just me.”

These are the tweets that landed ESPN commentator Jemele Hill into hot water.

Every last word is true!  

At the very least, it’s much easier to support what she says about the current president of the “Divided” States of America than it would be to refute them.  

And still yet often in America, truth is not the point! The denial of truth is.

Hill’s comments addressed the truth.  They did not address the denial of the truth, which is a prerequisite.  

It’s like trying to administer treatment or medicine to someone that does not acknowledge being sick.

I realize that this is a hard thing for truth loving people to stomach, especially those of us who are either more likely to be vulnerable to the adverse effects of the current president’s mindset and policies.  It is equally troubling for those who thought that they could find refuge from political commentary in sports.  

The point is that in America we have tacitly understood sacred cow subjects around which we are required to steer clear of under all circumstances, and race in sports is right at the top of that list.  

Full disclosure: Jemele Hill, along with Bomani Jones, Tim Kurkjian, and Jay Bilas, are my favorite ESPN commentators. Unlike Erin Andrews of Fox (throw a nickel out the window and you could hit 20 others who can do what Andrews does), she actually knows sports. She is insightful beyond sports, which is why she had to know that she was violating the code. What code you ask? The code that says as a sports commentator you are to, above all and foremost, insure that your white audience is comfortable with your commentary. Calling a man that more than a few of them voted for, a white supremacist, though absolutely true, is a violation of the code. One of the requirements to maintain a position such as the one Hill occupies is self-censorship.  

Now the other end of this is Jason Whitlock, who either consciously or subconsciously talks about race all the time, but in a way that placates the very element that is currently outraged about Hill’s comments.

As a result, his place in the mainstream sports media is secure.

I am not saying that she should not have said what she did. I am actually always happy to hear “insiders” rock the boat.  I am saying that when you do, understand that the pushback will be fierce and swift, and if one is not prepared to absorb such pushback without apologizing, why say it at all?  

My first degree from Howard University was in Journalism. My desire was to be what Hill is today, which is part of why I am a fan and have such great respect for her. I actually wrote for a Washington Black weekly paper upon graduating and was offered an internship with ABC News under Sam Donaldson. I turned it down and have no regrets. My thinking even then, over 20 years ago, was that to progress in such an environment would require I engage in the type of self-censorship that would have kept Hill out of the hot water she is currently in, and I knew that I simply could not adhere to “the code”.  

In the end, the issue is not Jemele Hill or even ESPN. The issue is the delusional notion that sports is some isolated haven, free of political commentary, or even that it should be. History proves this to be a fallacy.  Be it the influence of Jackie Robinson’s breaking the color line in baseball, or the civil rights movement, or Muhammad Ali’s stand against the Vietnam War, sports has always been a platform to address larger issues to include politics as well it should be. But until the contrary myth is debunked, the likes of Jemele Hill and others of her valuable consciousness have a decision to make: is it best to maintain her current platform and speak truth to power from within the existing mainstream system or leave it and all of its perks and restraints to do so from the outside?  Neither you nor I can make that decision for her. If she leaves on principle, I’ll miss her on ESPN but respect her decision.  If she remains, she will surely have to understand that the push-back she is receiving is indeed the price of the party.

Gus Griffin, for War Room Sports

I Changed My Mind: The Case for Guaranteed NFL Contracts!

Monday, September 11th, 2017

by Gus Griffin

gus

 

 

 

 

Image via The Point After Show

Image via The Point After Show

That’s right. For years, I have been of the opinion that NFL owners should not be at risk for fully guaranteed contracts in a sport where the risk of injury was so great.

Then a fiscally-conservative buddy of mine expressed surprise at my position.   

Whenever those types are to the left of me, I get concerned. LOL

So I began to rethink my position, which was based on “reasonable owner risk”.  

The good part is that the term reasonable is so broad and subjective that it was not hard to undermine my own position with factually based reasoning.  

First of all, player health risk should be, at the very least, as much of a concern as the financial risk of billionaires. Sure, players signed up for this and thus certainly assume a degree of health risks. That does not mean that they absolved themselves of any right to advocate mitigating those risks. Speaking of signing up for risks, that is what any business owner does when he/she starts a business. For NFL owners, guaranteed contracts should be among those risks.

But even with that, are the owners really at risk? The TV money is divided up evenly among all 32 teams.  Owning an NFL team is like having a cash printer in your basement. Your team doesn’t even have to be good. Even the sorry winless 2008 Detroit Lions made big profits. If owners can’t simply write bad contracts off on their taxes, I’m sure they will TELL their Congressional lackeys….I mean representatives, to simply rewrite the code for their benefit. The 1 percent has been doing that since the beginning of the tax system. The only obstacle on this front would be an adjustment to the salary cap, allowing the injured players debt to be removed which would allow a team to replace him without taking a cap hit.

So capacity is not the issue. NFL revenues are projected to surpass $13 billion when all the receipts come in for the 2016 season, and that number will only increase. Yet, of the 4 major sports, NFL players have the lowest career earnings, even when the comparison is adjusted for the same number of years.   

Simply put, they got the loot and between tax loopholes and insurance policies, owners wouldn’t lose a dime.    

There are two primary issues that will make this an uphill battle: 1) a lack of player unity; and 2) the owners’ control of the narrative that the public largely believes.  

On the first issue, NFL players must have unity if they are to have any chance of getting guaranteed contracts. That will be especially challenging given that they have a very small window to make as much money as they can. Getting nearly 1700 guys to come together would be no small task, even for the best of labor organizers, and the owners know this. The 32 owners, on the other hand, are far better equipped to miss a few checks than are the 1700 players. A good place to start would be to abandon these ridiculous long-term deals. They are highly misleading and the sports media is complicit in the deception.  For example, say a player signs a 6-year deal worth $100 million. Unless he is an upper echelon QB, chances are that the majority of the money is back loaded and everyone, including the player, knows that he will never see that money. This leads us to the second issue, which is the capacity of owners to craft a narrative that appeals to a critical mass of the 99%, and thus undermines the player position in the court of public opinion. That narrative basically says that “you are being paid good money to play a game. You play at your own risk. Shut up and entertain us!”   

Such a narrative exploits the envy that many fans have of NFL players and their obsession to themselves join the 1% so much so, that they are willing to do the ideological bidding of the owners. The line of thinking is not that much different from the fact that most whites supported slavery, even though very few were themselves slave owners, which was a sign of aristocracy. Or many of today’s poor supporters of the “crony capitalist” in the White House. The reality is that players will get guaranteed contracts BEFORE the cartel of NFL owners or any other element of the 1% permit the fan class to join them. Ask Marc Cuban, the very wealthy owner of the Dallas Mavericks. He is both rich and white.  But it was not enough to gain his admittance when he attempted to buy the LA Dodgers. Major League Baseball literally allowed the team to go into bankruptcy rather than allow an “outsider” into the fold. The NFL cartel is even more discriminating than that of baseball.

So what it comes down to is organized people vs organized money. Contrary to the misleading narrative promoted by owners and their mainstream media PR firms, the players are not among the organized money class. If as fans, you can say that you watch football more so because of who owns the team as opposed to who is playing, then disregard everything that I have said.  But if you are honest and get on the right side, then the players have a chance to reap a more secure piece of the pie that they largely bake.

Gus Griffin, for War Room Sports  

Ode to Venus Williams

Friday, July 14th, 2017

by Gus Griffin

gus

 

 

 

 

VW

Venus Williams is the single most underappreciated athlete in the world over the past 20 years!

The primary reason for this is understandable: when your little sister is on the short-list of greatest athletes of the last century, your accomplishments just might get a bit overlooked.

Just to summarize, Venus has won 7 Grand Slam titles and 49 tournaments overall.  Her lifetime record against top 10 opponents is 321-159, which amounts to a winning percentage of 67%.  Her lifetime record against the world’s number 1 ranked player is 10-5.  Even on clay, her worst surface, she has a winning percentage of 63%.  In Grand Slam finals, she is sub .500 at 7-8.  Seven of those eight losses have come to her little sister.  Simply put, Venus Williams has only lost one Grand Slam final to anyone not named Serena.

It is often noted if it were not for Venus, Serena would have even more Grand Slam titles.  But the opposite is true as well.  Without Serena in the picture, Venus could very well have 14 major titles.  That would have her in the G.O.A.T. conversation.

Those numbers alone are enough of a resume, but there is more.

It was Venus who was the most vocal active player in the fight for equal pay at Wimbledon for the women’s champion compared to the men’s champion.

In 2011, she was diagnosed with a rare ailment called Sjogren’s Syndrome.   Two of its symptoms are pain in the joints and fatigue; no small factors for a professional tennis player.    Being north of 30 and having already been a seven-time Grand Slam winner, it would have been understandable if she called it a career.  She did not, and as a result she is entering her second Grand Slam final of the year Saturday morning at Wimbledon, after having dominated up and coming Brit Johanna Konta in Thursday’s semi-final.   She is now 21-7 this year and will re-enter the world’s top 10, all at the age of 37 years old.   If she wins it will be her 6th Wimbledon title and she will become the oldest woman to win a Grand Slam event in tennis history!

Beating Garbine Muguruza for the Wimbledon title, a Grand Slam champion in her own right, will be a tall task.  I consider her to be the most likely to succeed Serena as the world’s undisputed best player.

But losing won’t take away from the fact that despite age, an ailment that would retire lesser competitors, some media that have been flaky at best to embrace one half of what is arguably the greatest story in the history of American sports, and the huge shadow of her little sister, VENUS IS RISING AGAIN.  We should not only notice, but we should show her the love and give her the standing ovation she so richly deserves.

 

Gus Griffin, for War Room Sports

Dear Kevin Durant Haters: Let It Go!

Saturday, June 17th, 2017

by Gus Griffin

gus

 

 

 

 

KD

Russell Westbrook averaging a triple-double this past year brought much deserved attention to the great Oscar Robertson, who previously had been the only player to accomplish such a feat, way back in 1962, his second year in the league.  Robertson came close to doing it his first 5 years in the league, usually missing because he would “only” average 9 assists one year or 9 rebounds another year.  He also had 5 different seasons in which he averaged over 30 points a game.

But as for rings for NBA titles with the Cincinnati Royals, he had nothing to show for his greatness.  While his teams made the playoffs 6 straight seasons from 1962-67, they lost to either Bill Russell’s Celtics or Wilt Chamberlain’s 76ers in 5 of those six seasons.   Four of those 5 defeats were to the eventual NBA champions.

It was not because he did not elevate his game in the big moments.  He averaged a triple-double in the 1962 playoffs.  Over that 6-year period his average playoff numbers were 29 points, nearly 10 assist, and over 8 rebounds a game.  Oscar Robertson spent his first and best 10 years in the NBA losing year after year in the playoffs because his team was simply not good enough.

Here is my question for the Kevin Durant (KD) critics who insist that he should have never joined the team that he could not beat: do you honestly believe Oscar Robertson would have stayed in Cincinnati all those years with the same foreseeable outcomes if he had the choice to join Wilt in Philly or Bill in Boston or even Elgin Baylor and Jerry West in LA?

Would you have?  If your GPS tells you that you can shave 10 minutes off your commute to your destination, can you honestly say you would ignore it and insist on going the hard way?

The fact is he didn’t have a choice because free agency at that time was a mere shadow of what it is today.  As a matter of fact, Robertson would go on to become the National Basketball Players Association president and in that capacity, in 1970, would file an anti-trust suit under his name against NBA owners which challenged, among other things, to do away with the option clause which bound a player to one team.  Though the suit was eventually dismissed as part of a collective bargaining agreement, it was an important piece of leverage that led to the free agency today enjoyed by players like KD.

With this important piece of historical context and the larger issue of LABOR RIGHTS, I am at a loss for why all this shade is being thrown at KD for joining the Warriors?

Whatever happened to “if you can’t beat them join them”?

That’s what Deion Sanders did when he left the Falcons to join the division rival 49ers to win a Super Bowl ring.  That’s what Greg Maddox did in leaving the Cubs to join the Braves to win the World Series.  What KD did is not new in sports.

Ok, if KD tweeted criticism of LeBron for going to Miami, he set himself up for some of this.

Furthermore, admittedly there is a competitive romantic side of me that would have admired KD even more as a champion had he done it from Oklahoma City.  There was an additional gratification when seeing the long-suffering likes of Andy Murray in tennis and Phil Mickelson in golf finally win major titles after multiple heart-breaking disappointments.  The same feeling came watching the Cubs in baseball and of course the great Akeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler with the Houston Rockets.

But that romanticism will always be trumped by the necessity to appreciate the struggle, yes even among professional athletes, for labor rights.  The fact that most of us in our lifetime will not have the leverage to impact our compensation and place of labor the way professional athletes do is not a basis to begrudge them.  After all, the simple reality is that millions of people have no interest or willingness to pay to watch you nor I do our jobs.   It should be an incentive to improve our own collective 99% lot and not hate on them, be it John Elway or Eli Manning maneuvering out of Baltimore and San Diego, or KD leaving Oklahoma City.

I suspect that the common sports myth of loyalty is a factor of the KD hate.

Weather we as fans want to continue to deny getting the memo or not, sports loyalty has always been at best the exception and not the rule.  Don’t let the final chapters for Kobe Bryant and Derek Jeter fool you.  The more common finality between a player and a team is that of Babe Ruth who ended his career with the Boston Braves when he could no longer hit homers for the Yankees.  Or Johnny Unitas who ended with the San Diego Chargers when he could not throw enough TD passes for the Colts.  The reality is under capitalism, even the all-time greats are mere commodities for the enrichment of the owners.  And yet you can find more needles in a haystack than you can fans that hold never-ending grudges against teams for their lack of loyalty to players.

Chris Rock once declared that men are only as loyal as our opportunities.  That bit of truth is not restricted by gender or other aspects of life to include sports.   So, I urge you KD haters; chill, get your favorite mind-altering substance, plug in some Toni Braxton, and LET IT GO!

 

Gus Griffin, for War Room Sports

When Facts are Not the Truth: The Blackballing of Colin Kaepernick

Monday, June 5th, 2017

by Gus Griffin

gus

 

 

 

 

CK

It seems Dan Orvlovsky will be calling it a career.

Yes, that Dan Orvlovsky was still in the league in 2016.  The same one who in 2008, made the 2nd most egregious (after a throwing a pick 6 inside your own 20) hustling backwards move a QB can make.  He literally sacked himself!

While with what would become the 0-16 Lions, Orvlovsky retreated away from the Vikings Jared Allen and with absolutely no awareness of the back of the end zone, which by rule is a safety and two points for the Vikings, and gives them the ball.

This play was literally his claim to fame.

Nevertheless, he was never subjected to the ever sticking “he can’t read defenses…I mean the back of end zones”.  In fact, after that season and play, 3 other NFL teams, the Texans, Colts, and Buccaneers thought he was good enough to be a backup.  Simply put, a guy who was not good enough for arguably the worst team in NFL history still got 3 other jobs with NFL teams.  Still, yet some are still trying to rationalize with a straight face that “system” incompatibility explains why Colin Kaepernick doesn’t have a job?

You may as well piss on me and try to tell me it’s raining!

This is a perfect example of when an analysis can be factual and well-based and yet not be truth at the same time.  Facts are statements or analysis that can be supported with verifiable reality.  Truth are facts within the full context of contributing factors.

The facts are that Colin Kaepernick is not, nor ever has been a traditional drop back passer.  It simply is not his strongest skill-set and thus a system calling for that is not a good match.  Some pitchers have a great fastball but not much of an off-speed pitch.  Some guards are good at penetrating but don’t shoot well from the outside.  Most professionals are incomplete.  It doesn’t mean that there is no job for them.

But when these facts are offered up to explain why he doesn’t have a job in the NFL, they are not truthful.

Always be leery of the “he can’t read defenses” critique, which is a dog whistle way of calling Black quarterbacks dumb.  The fact is he has had a poor offensive line which has contributed to an unreliable running game and non-threatening receivers.  Under such circumstances, knowing when to get the hell out of Dodge is actually a sign of intelligence.  Staying in the pocket to take an unnecessary beating would be dumb.

The truth is, the overwhelming number of NFL QBs, both historically, present day, and even the Hall of Famers are system dependent!

Only one today is not burdened with such limitations and that would be of course Aaron Rogers!  He is the beginning and end of the current list to have all the specialized skills that can accommodate any of the common offensive schemes/systems of today.  In short, one must be able to throw the deep out, be accurate in traffic, avoid the rush, and extend plays when the pocket breaks down; and also know when to get rid of the ball, usually with a 3-step drop.  Historically, for me, only 4 others come to mind; Roger Staubach, Warren Moon (you must remember the Moon at Washington and in the CFL), John Elway, and Steve Young.

No, Tom Brady cannot run the read-option or avoid pressure, nor could Peyton Manning.  Big Ben has never nor ever could be a traditional 3-step drop West Coast passer.  In fact, that would be contrary to his strength which would be to extend plays.

So, if 95% plus of NFL QBs are system dependent, then that could not possibly be the reason for a QB not being able to get a job.  The truth is that the NFL is arguably the most exclusive cartel in the world.  Its owners only answer to a commissioner that they have the authority to fire.  Even if their product is bad, every team prints money.  Such people are not very interested in anyone posing serious questions about the society that allows them such privilege, and that is what Kapernick did.  They didn’t have to all agree on a conference call or meet at some golf club for the blackballing to take place, any more than drug lords need to verbally agree that potential witnesses need to be taken out.  It’s understood.  Common interests often are reflected in common motives and behaviors.

It is warranted to “peacock” about American freedom of speech.  I am not aware of such a principle being written into law quite the way it is here.  But part of that pride should come from having the capacity to stomach the speech or expression one does not like or agree with as well.  Thus far, the NFL has not mastered that aspect of the principle.

 

Gus Griffin, for War Room Sports

Bryce Harper was Right And the Myth of Code Loyalty

Wednesday, May 31st, 2017

by Gus Griffin

gus

 

 

 

 

BH

I so appreciate the sports of the San Francisco Bay Area.  Be it Colin Kaepernick or the Golden State Warriors, they give me material.  And now Bryce Harper and my San Francisco Giants.

Yes, my San Francisco Giants.  Full disclosure for those who have been under an FB rock, baseball is and has always been my favorite sport, and the Giants are my favorite team.  I got it from my pops.  I modeled my pitching motion after high-leg kicking Giants pitchers Juan Marichal and Vida Blue.  I lived long enough to see them win 3 world series rings in 5 years to lap the hated Dodgers in titles.  Simply put, over the past 8 years, it’s been good to be a Giants fan.

And with all that being said, I am 100% in support of Bryce Harper for going after Hunter Strickland for intentionally hitting him with a pitch upwards of 97 miles per hour.

This all played out with the larger backdrop of baseball trying to reign in “bean ball” wars.

Good luck with that.

Since its inception, baseball has long had an unwritten code that says if you throw at one of ours, we will throw at one of yours.  Of course, the likes of Don Drysdale, Bob Gibson, Nolan Ryan, and Roger Clemens took this internal vigilantism to an entirely different level, both for retribution and intimidation.  It was all understood that this was how things were done.

Of course, the other complication is that there is a legitimate tactical justification for pitching inside.  The gentlemen’s agreement has long been that the outside part of the plate belongs to pitchers and the inside belongs to hitters.  If a hitter gets greedy trying to crowd the plate to take aggressive hacks at pitches on the outside corner, things must be put back into order and the inside fastball is the mechanism for doing so.  While this will surely result in some batters being hit, to ban the tactic in of itself would tilt the balance of competition so far in the direction of hitters to the point of the game ceasing to be what we have known it to be.

Baseball’s challenge is against whom and when does it intervene; against the first violator or the second?  On the first shot, a pitcher could have legitimately simply lost control of a pitch.  Should he be thrown out of the game?  If second offender (or retaliator) is ejected, that will essentially give the initiators a free shot.  The bottom line is that as MLB moves to eliminate this internal policing of the game, hitters can no longer count on their pitcher to keep things in order.

So, when a guy throws a 97 mph baseball at a hitter, what the hell do we expect him to do?  If Harper does not make a stand, then the message to the rest of the league is clear; you can throw at him with impunity!

None of that contextual backdrop applies to what Strickland did Monday in San Francisco.   He was simply pissed off because 3 years ago in the playoffs, Bryce Harper hit not one, but two moonshot home runs off him.  The espoused offense was that Harper ran around the bases too slow.  I was at the game in Washington.  The ball cleared the Jackie Robinson number in the upper deck.  While I did not think it was funny at the time, you could not help but be impressed.  The one in San Francisco cleared the stadium and landed in McCovey Cove.  Simply put, if Harper decided to walk around the bases, I would have had no problem with it at all, and if Strickland did, he should have learned to throw a damn change up!

The other aspect of the incident that has garnered a lot of attention was the Giants’, especially all-star catcher Buster Posey, lackluster attempt to “protect their guy”.  Admittedly, it is unusual for the catcher not to grab the hitter or at least attempt to do so in that situation.  Some have speculated if this will affect how Posey is perceived in the locker room.  That is an assessment that cannot be made without knowing how Strickland is perceived in the locker room.  If he is viewed as some out of control lone wolf who takes matters into his own hands, Posey’s place in the locker room will not be affected one iota.

The truth is that these “ride or die” loyalty codes we men swear to adhere by unconditionally are anything but unconditional.  We espouse to believe in them because they are often a rites of passage for peer group, cultural and societal acceptance.  But the graveyard has its share of dudes who actually took that nonsense literally at a party or on the streets.  Such blind loyalty is romanticized in the media.  Buster Posey is neither Cookie from Empire nor Marines from A Few Good Men.  No matter how sincerely committed, there will come a time when one must use your capacity to think for yourself, to dismiss the group code in favor of your own individual best interests.  Doing so doesn’t make one cowardly or disloyal.  It makes one intelligent.  In the real world, when the rubber meets the road, the sheer practicality of self-preservation will rule the day, be it among the Bloods and Crips or the Mafia.   We should expect no less from baseball players.

Simply put, if a loose cannon like Strickland fires off a 97 mph fastball at a hitter for no legitimate tactical reason, and without any pre-approval or reassurance from the leadership or team collective that they have his back, HE IS ON HIS OWN!

 

Gus Griffin, for War Room Sports

SAT Scores and the NFL Combine: Why Both are So Often Unreliable

Thursday, April 27th, 2017

by Gus Griffin

gus

 

 

 

 

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 28: A general view of the draft stage during the 2011 NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall on April 28, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

 

NFL Draft day is here.  And what we think we know from our instant information on steroids era is leaving us no more informed about who will be a good player than in past years prior to the NFL Combine.  Call it a case of too much information in the wrong hands.

 

A great case study for this was the 2003 NFL Combine when a very well run franchise wanted a particular player very badly.  However, it was feared that the player would not be there when the teams’ turn came.  Though this team had two first-round picks, it did not want to trade up or give up one, if not necessary.  So their best hope was for the player to run a disappointing 40-yard dash.   This organization was smart enough to realize that the teams picking ahead of them were doing so for a reason: they were not very smart and overvalued NFL Combine information.

 

The player they wanted obliged them and ran a poor 40-yard dash, and as a result, the Detroit Lions bypassed him and took WR Charles Rogers at number 2.  The NY Jets did the same and took DL Dwayne Robertson at 4, as did the NO Saints taking DL Johnathan Sullivan at 6.   None of those three played more than 6 years in the NFL, a combined 14 years overall and 0 Pro Bowl selections.  This team with its 10thpick took an edge rusher out of Arizona State who would go on to record 6 double digit sack seasons and become a 6-time Pro-Bowl player.  Even after missing most of 2015 with an injury, he had 8 sacks last year, at age 33.  This year will be his 15th in the NFL.

 

The team was the Baltimore Ravens and the player was Terrell Suggs.  In addition to being the ugliest man in the NFL, he has been terrorizing my Steelers and the whole damn league ever since.

 

It’s not just the NFL.  Remember all the fuss about how much weight Kevin Durant could or couldn’t lift?

 

It might surprise some of you how this process of reading way too much into combine data is not much different than the impact of the SAT/ACT scores on the college admission process.   In my time as an educational professional, I wish I had a dollar for every student I have come across with great SAT/ACT scores who fell flat on his or her face, not just at a 4-year college, but also at the community college level.  I would be even richer if I had a dollar for all those I have encountered speaking little to no English and/or coming from impoverished situations, often with no household knowledge of the college process, and yet thrived, even to the point of earning transfer scholarships.

 

What the two processes have in common is how much of an indictment they both are of how we assess human potential.  Even more disturbing is the underlying reason we fall prey to this; simply put we are analytically lazy.

 

It’s a lot easier to look at numbers and be overly reliant upon them when making an assessment than it is too take the time to make a holistic and comprehensive assessment.  What NFL combine numbers and SAT scores do not measure is resilience, work ethic, and emotional intelligence, in spite of the fact that there are tools to measure both resilience and emotional intelligence.  Instead the NFL uses the Wonderlic.

 

I am not suggesting that none of the information collected is valuable.  I am, however, adamant that the vertical leap of an offensive linemen in football is not a piece of information that serves any useful purpose.  Furthermore, I argue the information collected should never replace direct interaction and other developmental factors, such as those already mentioned.  After all, at age 18-22, none of us are fully developed neurologically and thus even the best assessments are grasping as indicators of future success.

 

There is good news on the college front.  There are now over 800 accredited, bachelor-degree granting institutions that have changed their approach to standardized test scores, by not requiring the SAT or ACT for admission.  So when high school counselors advise students with poor SAT or ACT scores about their college options, they can still offer them hope to include both those 800 colleges, in addition to the far too often undersold community college.

 

Unfortunately, I see no trend in the NFL against the current conventional thinking, which is to remain a slave to combine data for fear of looking stupid if one takes a chance on an outlier way of thinking.    It’s as if teams would rather continue to fail doing what most of the league does as opposed to taking a chance doing things differently.

 

Tonight, the cycle continues.  I’ll kick back with friends and watch but not far from my mind will be something a highly successful college and NFL coach once said about the draft, to paraphrase; you only have to worry about maybe a 3rd of the league.  The other two-thirds are so dysfunctional that they will self-destruct under the weight of their own idiotic decision making.

 

I wish the Ravens were among that two-thirds dysfunctional group back in 2003.

 

Gus Griffin, for War Room Sports

 

3 all-time greats go down on the same day!

Tuesday, March 21st, 2017

 

by Gus Griffin

gus

 

 

 

 

PKI

March Madness trivia question:

 

Have 3 coaches with more combined wins ever all lose on the same day in the NCAA tournament?

 

Mike Krzyzewski – 1071, Rick Pitino – 770, and Tom Izzo – 544,  for a total of 2385.

 

Throw in 8 national titles as well.

 

Gus Griffin, for War Room Sports

DADDY BALL AND THE HYPE MACHINE OKIE DOKE

Friday, March 17th, 2017

by Gus Griffin

gus

 

 

 

 

LB

For those of you so caught up and even “outraged” over LaVar Ball’s mouth, relax! You are missing a much larger business and commerce point which is the fact that the NCAA, shoe companies, and even coaches routinely do to its athletes, what we fear and complain he is doing to his son.  Which do you think has his best interest at heart?

The only thoughts that I will add center around Harold Miner, or better known at the time as “Baby Jordan”.

That’s right, there was once a player, also out of Southern California, he literally went to and played for USC, hyped to be the next Michael Jordan. With that hype was a shoe brand which both the maker and he profited off well. He did win 1 or 2 slam dunk contests, if that impresses you. Beyond that, he had an enduring 4-year NBA career, averaging 9 points a game. And in the end: who cares?

Here is what those annoyed by Daddy Ball don’t understand. When it comes to hype or promotion, it doesn’t matter if the words are true. It doesn’t matter if there is reason to project them to be true in the future. Hell it doesn’t even matter if either the father or son believe the hype themselves. All that matters is that we are talking about it, and by that measure, LaVar Ball is indeed crazy…crazy like a fox.

As for those who contend he is putting undue pressure on his son, it would seem to me that you would actually have to know his son personally to confirm that, and most of his father’s critics do not know the son. If on the court play is any indication of him feeling the pressure, my guess is that UCLA wants his father to talk even more. Last year they won 15 games. With Ball as the only major addition they have won 29 games thus far this year, including road wins over Kentucky and Arizona. He averages 14 points 6 assists, and nearly 8 boards a game. If you have actually watched him play, a more athletic version of Jason Kidd is a valid basketball-based comparison. Where is the evidence of his father’s mouth adversely affecting him?

In the end, my money is on LaVar Ball looking a lot more like Richard Williams than Marv Marinovich, and both he and his son(s) will take that to the bank. If more parents of phenom college athletes took his approach, maybe we could make more progress in breaking the NCAA’s monopoly on its endless supply of free labor.

 

Gus Griffin, for War Room Sports

The Trouble with G.O.A.T. (Greatest of All Time) Debates

Sunday, February 12th, 2017

by Gus Griffin

gus

 

 

 

 

Image via KnowYourMeme.com

Image via KnowYourMeme.com

About a week ago, BEFORE the outcome of the Super Bowl, I made the case against Tom Brady being the G.O.A.T. …or more specifically, against the overly simplistic criteria of Super Bowl rings so many use to come to such a conclusion. Since the Patriots’ improbable comeback, social media has been inundated with claims that it validated his G.O.A.T. status.

 

Even before last week’s win, Brady was well within the conversation…even if the conversation itself is inherently flawed and incomplete. Why? Consider Joe Montana’s response to the question about Tom Brady.

 

“I think that it’s really hard to put anyone in that bucket,” he said. “Even before he got five-you look back to some of the guys some people don’t even know, Sammy Baugh or Otto Graham, I can’t remember which one but one of them won like seven or nine championships and was so far ahead of their time. It’s so hard to compare guys from then to now, how they would compare here and how we would compare back then.”

 

Maybe this is merely one competitor’s refusal to surrender the mythical throne to another, but even if it is, can it be denied that he has a point?

 

Here is the trouble with G.O.A.T. debates: 1) they wreak with recency bias; 2) they lack consideration for era context; and 3) its participants have no way to factor in the eye test.

 

Why are they subject to recency bias? Because it is a natural tendency of human memory. That is precisely why those running for political office try to get the last positive idea about themselves and/or negative idea about their opponent out before the actual election. Whatever is most recent is often deemed “better” or at the very least, most reliable. This is compounded as time goes by. As hard as it might be to comprehend, in 30-40 years some very knowledgeable basketball fans will be having a G.O.A.T. debate and it will not be open and shut that such a title will go to Michael Jordan. In fact, some will not even give MJ proper consideration. As ridiculous as that sounds, trust me, it will happen.

 

Then there is the lack of consideration for the context of eras. Regardless of the sport, different rules and circumstances provide for different challenges. So essentially, the comparisons are next to never “apples to apples”. For example, for most of Mel Blount’s career as the best corner of the 1970s, he could literally maul receivers all over the field until 1978 when the “one chuck within 5 yards” rule was implemented. Add that to the fact that he didn’t have to cover long playing on the back end of the Steelers “Steal Curtain” defense and pass rush. So as great as he was, how does one compare him to Deion Sanders as a cover corner?

 

How does one compare Johnny Unitas to Tom Brady, who faced the same 11 guys on defenses that were far less sophisticated when compared to today’s defenses? But Unitas also had to use receivers that had a much more difficult time getting open then any that Brady has had. Finally, defenders could actually rough up Unitas without getting the flag that they would get today against Brady.

 

The differences cannot be limited to sports factors alone. Our food supplies are different, one could argue for both the better and worst of that supply, I contend has led to bigger and stronger athletes, if not necessarily better. Thus, the more recent era produced a 300+ pounder named Shaquille O’Neal. It’s often said he would have knocked Bill Russel into the second row. But would he have been 300 pounds had he come along during Russel’s era? Would Russel have been a mere 215 pounds had he come up during Shaq’s era? Unless an adjustment is made for both, it’s as a ridiculous comparison as it would be comparing the production of a secretary with a typewriter with one that has a computer. Or the closure rate of a homicide detective with DNA with one before DNA.

 

The last factor in the flawed GOAT debates is the lack of the eye test. This is what stat junkies fall for all the time. Statistics alone do not provide the nuance that only actually watching an athlete does. In other words, consider sports greatness the same as the Supreme Court considers pornography: you may not be able to define it, but you know it when you SEE it.

 

Statistically, some will make the case for Andy Petite being a viable Baseball Hall of Fame (HOF) candidate over other lefthanders such as Mickey Lolich, Dave McNally, Mike Cuellar, Vida Blue, or David Wells; none of whom are or ever will get into the HOF. I remember all five of them and trust me; Andy Petite, though a very good pitcher for many years, was not as good as any of them.

 

So how can we continue these flawed, but highly entertaining debates? One simple adjustment; instead of declaring who is the G.O.A.T., how about we simply limit it to the G.O.Y.T. or Greatest of Your Time? Under this banner, we are all qualified. Recency bias is not a factor, we can all speak to era context and we limit our assessment to those we have actually seen play.

 

Gus Griffin, for War Room Sports