Substitutes

Why is it that coaches and general managers continue to think having a body around is “good enough” as a backup? The concept that you have a starter who will always play because he’s never going to get hurt is just not valid in the NFL.

When Tony Romo went down with a fractured collarbone last night, Jon Kitna came in to run the team. However, he’s not practiced (Romo runs the first team), he’s not of the same temperament (he’s much older) and he’s not as mobile. How is this a substitute?

A substitute anywhere else in the universe is “something that’s pretty close you use instead of what’s required.” A substitute for the Cowboys is “somebody that doesn’t cost too much.” Oops.

Didn’t we go through this the last time Romo got hurt? We had another elderly QB who I’m sure is good at team leadership but wasn’t very effective on the field.

If you have one of the better quarterbacks in the NFL, you can only afford to have a recycled QB on the bench if your starter is never going to be gone for any length of time. Otherwise, it’s like replacing a Mac with a PC – they’re both computers, but none of your programs work.

This season was pretty much done before last night, but I’m pretty sure it’s over now. Maybe this time (third time’s a charm), the Cowboys will get a backup that is similar, just not as good and not completely different.

Perhaps the problem is the term itself – “substitute” or “second-string” sounds like a lesser quantity. A better term would be “understudy” – someone who knows the role intimately and is ready to take over at a moment’s notice and perform almost as well as the principal without changing any of the parts. Unfortunately, we don’t have an understudy for Tony Romo.

Mental Mistakes

I’m very happy that the Australian baseball season is about to start since there is no point in watching the Dallas Cowboys this year, unless you enjoy pain. With a 1-4 record (actually not the worst in the league, but pretty bad), they’re done. Theoretically, they could start winning, but trends say that is very unlikely.So, since nobody else will say it out loud, I will. They’re done. See you next year.

The new plan for the Cowboys to get to the Super Bowl? StubHub.

The most annoying part of the Cowboys season is that one of the major reasons they keep losing is penalties. Penalties are assessed when you break the rules. The kind term for “not following the rules” is “mental mistakes.” The other term I hear is “lack of discipline.”

Here’s a question that always bothers me – How can you play a game for a living and not know the rules? If you’re at a pro level, you’ve probably been playing for a long, long time. You should have it memorized. Granted, if you do something stupid (horse collars come to mind) and the rules change, you may need a while to remember, but holding has been holding for a long time. Pass interference hasn’t changed in a while.

Why are sports different from other jobs? I have rules I have to follow. When the rules change, my boss tells me. However, he doesn’t have to call me every week to remind me all my business travel needs pre-approvals and I can’t fly first-class. I know this. I was told once, and we have a rulebook I can check if I don’t remember. That was enough.

If I do break the rules (I decide to go visit a customer in France, so I just book a first-class ticket and go), does my boss get fired while I stay? Somehow, I doubt it. However, in sports, the coach (or manage) tend to take the blame for players not following the rules.  I think it’s because it’s easier to fire and replace one person than forty.

Why don’t players get fired? It’s not like there aren’t other people that want to play pro sports. Sure, they’re “not as good”, but if you have a 1-4 team, what does “good” really mean?

I am very tired of hearing from the players that they are a “better team than their record.” You are judged on your record. If this team miraculously makes the playoffs, that will be the record in the books. If they continue a death spiral, that will be the record. I don’t expect to see the record book contain:

2010 Dallas Cowboys 6-10 (*)
* Team was actually a 14-2 team, they just lacked discipline.

So, I think it’s back to baseball, Australian or Texas Rangers style. Otherwise, you can watch the Cowboys but you’re just going to have to find a lot of synonyms for “suck.”

Time to Panic?

The Cowboys have now lost their first two games and some people are beginning to write off the entire season. This is one of the major failings of professional football – it has a really short season. There are sixteen games in seventeen weeks and then the playoffs. So, if you’ve lost two games, that’s 12.5% of your season. Ouch. It’s probably the shortest season in professional sports. Hell, even Ford Truck Month seems longer than football season.

Isn’t a longer season a better idea? In the American Association where the AirHogs play, with a 96-game season, two games is only a weekend. Two losses in a row aren’t even time for concern,  much less panic. It’s not even a trend. The AirHogs lost 13 games in a row to start the second half this year, recovered and were still in the hunt (at least mathematically) until late in the season. They didn’t even finish last in the division. (People did start to panic about game eight. By game eight in the football season, you’re half done.)

I’ve watched football even longer than baseball, but it never really hit me until this year that the length of the season leaves very little room for error in the NFL. There is no mercy for a slow start. This is unfortunate for a lot of football fans whose teams are a bit slow out of the blocks.

So, if you’re a Dallas Cowboys fan this year, there’s one new cheer you have to learn: “Go, Rangers!”

Baseball is better than football

The Dallas Cowboys lost in rather spectacular fashion to open their regular season last night, so I’m sure the usual panic calls will start on the radio today.  They’ve already started in the online press. You really wouldn’t think one loss would be a big deal, but in the NFL, it is. After 96 AirHogs games this season, I’m not really used to the concept of panic after one loss. That’s when I started thinking –

  • If the AirHogs had lost their 2010 opener (they didn’t), that would have been 1/96th of their games (1.04%), while the Cowboys did lose their opener, which is 6.25% (1/16th) of their season. An American Association team has more games against each of its division rivals than an NFL team has in its entire season.
  • By losing their opener, the Cowboys have now lost half the games they will play against the Washington Redskins this year, a huge problem.  By winning their opener, the AirHogs had won 5% of their games against the Pensacola Pelicans, a victory but a small one.
  • If the AirHogs lose at QTP, you’ve paid $12 or less to sit outdoors in the fresh air to watch a baseball game for three hours or so. If the Cowboys lose in the DeathStar, you’ve paid from $30 to thousands of dollars to sit (or stand) indoors for four hours to watch an hour of sports on a really big, distracting (and kick-attracting) TV set. You’ve probably paid more for your car to sit in the Texas heat at Cowboys Stadium than you did for a baseball ticket.
  • In baseball, you always have another day when you lose (except for the last day, of course.) So, you only have to wait 24 hours or so until you can watch the next game and have the team get back on a winning streak. If your team loses the first half of a double-header, you only have to wait twenty minutes. In football, you will have to wait a week to see if the team is really in trouble.
  • Nobody worries about baseball players playing a game the next day. People worry when football players have to play in less than a week.
  • Who’s ever heard a football player say “Let’s play two!!”?
  • In baseball defense, people are assigned to each base and areas of the outfield. In football on defense, you can switch from five people in front to four, but it requires years of retraining and you need a new coach and possibly new players.
  • In football, almost anyone on the field can draw a penalty (I’m looking at you, Alex Barron.) In baseball, a pitcher can balk or hit the batter (I’m looking at you, Mariano Rivera.) A batter can get ejected for a few random infractions. (I’m looking at you, Greg Porter.) The manager can get tossed for many issues, big and small. (I’m looking at you, Pete Incaviglia.) Who else can get in trouble? It’s not like an outfielder is going to get flagged for hugging one of the opponents during a play.
  • Baseball players play on offense and defense (except pitchers and designated hitters.) Football players are more limited.
  • Football players learn plays and have to remember an entire playbook (“I 31 Trap”, “Right Y Fly Pass.”)  This is so challenging, a coach often has to call the plays. Baseball players learn concepts (“Throw a strike, dumbass.”, “Hit it where they ain’t.”)
  • The playbook also means football players have to relearn how to play when traded. Baseball teams all hit the ball the same way.
  • Professional baseball players that need grooming and practice have the minor leagues. Professional football players that need grooming and practice have unemployment and reality TV shows (I’m looking at you, “Cops”.)
  • A baseball player that fails is spectacular fashion tends to disappear in the middle of the night. A football player that fails in spectacular fashion shows up the next game to possibly do it again. (Is Alex Barron really still on the Cowboys?)
  • In baseball, you can always win in the bottom of the ninth of a home game. If you’re ahead in the middle of the ninth at home, you get the rest of the game off. In football, you’re always on the clock.
  • In football, receivers run the wrong routes, and quarterbacks throw to the wrong place. Baseball runners rarely run to the wrong base.
  • There are more referees than umpires. This cannot possibly be a good thing.
  • If you wear a cap and glove to a baseball game, you’re just a fan. If you wear a helmet and pads to a football game, you’re a dork.

How long is it until Spring Training starts?