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Armaddengeddon Part III

Part I | Part II

The regular season is over. Some stats for you:

  • LaDainian Tomlinson rushed for 2,244 yards, breaking the record previously set by Houston Oilers running back Eric Dickerson in the 1984 season. Dickerson had 2,150. Jamal Lewis surpassed that mark as well, but just barely, rushing for 2,158 yards.
  • Ty Law finished with 18 interceptions, besting Night Train Lane’s mark by four. Samari Rolle (Titans) and Aeneas Williams broke it as well, finishing with 15. Andre Woolfolk ended up with 14, tying the mark.
  • Olindo Mare of the Dolphins made 46 field goals. Martin Gramatica made 45. Joe Nedney and Morten Anderson made 44. Billy Cundiff had 42 and Brett Conway had 41. All of these broke then then-record of 40. 1)The current record was set by David Akers in 2011 and is 44.
  • Our boy Jeff Smoker finished with four passing touchdowns, being the only player in the entire NFL to hit that mark. On the other hand, our other boy Ricky Ray finished with 61 interceptions, breaking Blanda’s mark by 19. Ten other QBs threw 42 or more picks, including Smoker.
  • Only five quarterbacks broke the 1,000-yard mark on the season. Kurt Warner led them all with 1,127 yards, which would have ranked 39th had it happened during the 2014-15 NFL season. The other four were Peyton Manning, Aaron Brooks, Smoker, and Tom Brady. Ricky Ray missed the cut with 935 yards.
  • The highest completion percentage was 31%, which belonged to several QBs. The lowest mark on ESPN’s scale for the 2014-15 season was 55%, which ranked 33rd out of 33 qualifying players.
  • On a team-wide scale, four teams (Broncos, Cardinals, Texans, Lions) finished with a points-per-game mark of less than 8.75, the record for fewest points scored per game in a 16-game season. 2)1992 Seahawks. The Broncos were worst of all with 8.1. Defensively, three teams finished with points-allowed-per-game totals of less than 10, which all break the current NFL record. The WPFT finished with 8.9, bested only by the Ravens with 8.4.

In all, the entire NFL threw 50 touchdowns to 1,568 interceptions. For a comparison, the 2014-15 NFL season had 807 passing touchdowns to 450 interceptions. Truly this is the Dark Era. But at least the Dark Era’s in the playoffs! Continue reading Armaddengeddon Part III

Notes   [ + ]

1. The current record was set by David Akers in 2011 and is 44.
2. 1992 Seahawks.

Armaddengeddon Part II

Part I

Week 1 results were consistent with that Colts/Pats game. Only one quarterback at all surpassed a hundred passing yards: A.J. Feeley. But his interception habit carried over from the preseason, too: he had the most with six. Two others (Chris Weinke for the Panthers, Craig Krenzel for the Bears) had five. Here’s the most worrying stat of all, though: only two quarterbacks threw a touchdown. One touchdown each for Jeff Smoker of the Rams and Joey Harrington of the Lions. That’s actually one touchdown more than Jeff Smoker threw for in his actual, real life career, so good for him! 1)He was a rookie at the time Madden 2005 came out. Smoker never saw any actual NFL action. It just goes to show you when there’s an equal(ly terrible) playing field, you never know what might happen.

The highest completion percentage anyone could muster came from then-rookie Matt Schaub of the Falcons, who went 10 for 25. 40%. Are the computer-controlled coaches and players of Madden NFL 2005 smart enough to bark up another tree when it turns out their QBs have turned to dust? Actually, kind of. There were actually a couple of high scores this week, owing to some teams with strong rushing attacks. We had an NFL record, actually. Jamal Lewis of the Ravens rushed 46 times for 204 yards, scoring 3 touchdowns and breaking the previous record of 45 rushing attempts. 2)Set in 1988 by Jamie Morris for the WPFT. Notably, it was an OT game.

As a whole, the entire NFL—all 32 teams—threw for two touchdowns and seventy-one interceptions. That’s bad. That’s horrendous. But it’s just one week. Surely things won’t stay this bad, right? Continue reading Armaddengeddon Part II

Notes   [ + ]

1. He was a rookie at the time Madden 2005 came out. Smoker never saw any actual NFL action.
2. Set in 1988 by Jamie Morris for the WPFT. Notably, it was an OT game.

Armaddengeddon Part I

Training camp.

The quarterback took the snap and dropped back to pass. Suddenly, something clicked—rather, unclicked—in his mind. He suddenly had no idea where he was, or what he was doing. The weird object he was holding seemed to him like an alien artifact. Before he realized what was happening it was out of his grasp, escaping from his hands like a bar of soap escaping a man taking a shower. It tumbled to the ground. Feeling some hint of a need to chase after it, the quarterback did so, though his movements were more laborious than he could ever remember them being. Rather than bending down to pick it up he managed to step on it and fall backwards, landing squarely on his rear.

This all unfolded in about five seconds. All the players and coaches had a good laugh. But the quarterback didn’t get up for a while. The laughter dissipated and eventually was replaced by a grim silence. The quarterback had fractured his tailbone after what looked like an innocuous fall any NFL player could get right back up from. It was the first hint of something far more sinister.

Continue reading Armaddengeddon Part I

Super Bowl XLIX: Madden NFL 2003 Edition

So, maybe the Official Game Losers 2014-15 NFL Playoffs Madden NFL 2001 Simulation didn’t exactly pan out. For one, the Super Bowl (one week from this Sunday) will be a contest between the Seattle Seahawks and the New England Patriots. Both were #1 seeds in this year’s playoffs—in other words, this was easily the most predictable outcome ever. Both were also left out of the 2014-15 playoffs in the Simulation. In fact, it would have been completely impossible for the Simulation to have predicted this outcome. If you’ll remember correctly, before the divisional realignment in 2002 the Seattle Seahawks were still in the AFC. In other words, one million Simulations could have been ran using the outdated Madden NFL 2001 and not a single one of them could possibly have had the AFC representative Patriots meeting the now-NFC representative Seahawks. Oops.

For what it’s worth (nothing), the Simulation did manage to hit a couple of things correctly. The Ravens went on the road and beat the Steelers both in the Simulation and in real life. The Colts made it to the AFC Championship both in the Simulation and in real life. 1)However, they hosted it in the Simulation and won. Otherwise, it was pretty much a wash. A simulation where the home team won every game would have been far more accurate and would have nailed the Super Bowl. This surprises no one but me. I would have thought the cosmic radiation of a plan so asinine would have come full circle, but nope. Turns out it’s a bad idea to try to use a video game that’s fifteen years old to predict today’s events.

Anyway, there’s still one game to be played this NFL season. 2)I do not count the Pro Bowl. Will the Seattle Seahawks ride the incredible momentum from their incredible comeback to incredibly win a second consecutive Super Bowl? Or will the New England Patriots deflate the egos of so many Seahawks fans? 3)I had to fit at least one reference in here. Personally, anything I predict myself will likely blow up in my face. So, instead, like the first Simulation, I will simply moderate a method taken completely out of my hands. What method will this be? Continue reading Super Bowl XLIX: Madden NFL 2003 Edition

Notes   [ + ]

1. However, they hosted it in the Simulation and won.
2. I do not count the Pro Bowl.
3. I had to fit at least one reference in here.

The Playoffs According to Madden NFL 2001

EA Sports traditionally simulates the Super Bowl using the latest Madden game. They’ve done it the past 11 years and will do it again this year. Madden has a pretty good record: 8 correct predictions and 3 incorrect ones. 1)Madden failed to predict the Giants upsetting the Patriots in 2008, the Packers beating the Steelers in 2011, and last year’s Seahawks beating the Broncos. That’s pretty good. Gives me an idea. Why not use an older Madden game and simulate up until the present time, including the entire playoffs? Surely that will be most accurate of all! Continue reading The Playoffs According to Madden NFL 2001

Notes   [ + ]

1. Madden failed to predict the Giants upsetting the Patriots in 2008, the Packers beating the Steelers in 2011, and last year’s Seahawks beating the Broncos.

Ten Underrated 2014 Sports Moments

Let me go ahead and get this out of the way: this is not a top ten, nor is it in any order other than chronological. These are just ten moments in 2014’s sports history that I feel are worth reliving as we cross over into 2015. So let’s relive them, because lord knows not much else from 2014 is worth reliving!

These are what I feel to be underrated moments from 2014. Yes, the World Cup happened this year. Yes, Derek Jeter retired this year. Yes, a bunch of other stuff happened. But you can go look at that other stuff elsewhere. Here is where you look if you want to relive some moments that may have been glossed over.

February 2, 2014 – A Super Safety

I’ve always felt like this moment didn’t get enough credit. Rarely, if ever, does the first play of a football game (kickoff notwithstanding) so accurately foreshadow how the rest of that game will go. Indeed, from the very beginning, it did not look like the the Denver Broncos’ day, nor did it look like Peyton Manning’s day. It was all Seahawks, and what started with a botched snap and a safety ended up in a 43-8 shock victory for Seattle. It was the city’s first title in the four professional leagues (NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL) since the Seattle SuperSonics (who relocated to Oklahoma City several years ago in the shadiest of circumstances) won the NBA Finals in 1979. 1)The Seattle Storm won the WNBA championship in 2004 and 2010.

For many people, the Super Bowl is the only football game they watch all year. For some, it might be the only sporting event period! Safeties happen so rarely in the NFL that many of them might not have even known what one was. And one was the result of the first play from scrimmage! In the Super Bowl! And it happened to Peyton frickin’ Manning, no less! Maybe he will get his revenge in the coming weeks. But until then, always remember that it’s not always a good idea to do the Safety Dance.

March 21, 2014 The Mercer #NaeNae

There’s some bias involved in this selection. One, as a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, I am rightfully obligated to hate Duke and revel in their misery. Two, I absolutely adore everything to do with March Madness. The vast majority of college basketball players will never play a minute of professional basketball. March Madness affords all of them an opportunity to earn fifteen seconds of fame playing the sport they love.

Kevin Canevari killed his fifteen seconds. After the #14 seed Mercer Bears upset the #3 seed Duke Blue Devils in the first round of the tournament earlier this calendar year, they had every reason to celebrate, knowing their joyous ride could end at any moment. 2)They lost to #11 seed Tennessee in their very next game. Canevari showed off his dance moves, dropping the #NaeNae with aplomb. Here’s to you, Kevin Canevari. Hopefully whatever non-basketball career you end up pursuing treats you right.

April 16, 2014 – The $127,000,000 Goal

Gareth Bale did a lot with fifteen seconds, too. In the summer of 2013, Real Madrid of Spain paid an exorbitant but impossible to precisely determine amount of money for the rights to sign Bale from English club Tottenham Hotspur. That’s a lot to live up to, and nagging injuries helped to prevent Bale from reaching his full potential at Real Madrid. But in the final of the Copa del Rey, Spain’s domestic soccer tournament, against hated rivals Barcelona, he showed why Real thought he was worth that much money.

In a 1-1 tie with less than ten minutes in regulation, Bale had his first touch of the ball at midfield, was fouled and pushed out of bounds, but recovered with almost-impossible speed (remember: he had played 85 minutes by this point) and even managed to finish off the run himself, slotting past Barcelona goalkeeper José Manuel Pinto. It was the winning goal; the match finished 2-1 to Madrid. Watch the Barcelona player fall to the ground in the bottom right of the screen. What else can you do when someone does that to you singlehandedly?

April 30, 2014 – A Wild OT Finish

I’ll freely admit that, though I respect the hell out of hockey, I don’t know enough nor do I follow it enough to be able to honestly call myself a hockey fan. But man, overtime hockey in the playoffs is incredible. Especially if that overtime is coming in Game 7 of a 7-game series after three previous games in the series went to overtime. Knowing that the game and series can end at any second is a feeling like no other. And that’s just watching it! I can’t possibly imagine what it must be like to play in one of these games.

Nino Niederreiter (what a name!) scored the game-winner here. More notable than this being the fourth overtime game of the series is that the Wild won in Colorado, when every previous game of the series had been won by the home team. Power like that is incredible; silencing an entire arena full of fans with one shot, one flick of the wrist. The Wild’s playoff journey ended in the next round, but Niederreiter made it a journey to remember. After all, only one team can win any championship but that never means the other stories aren’t worth telling.

May 2, 2014 – Damian Lilliard Shoots and Scores

Though this isn’t a ranking, I can confirm that this moment would far and away rank at #1 were it indeed a ranking, either of underrated sports moments of 2014 or sports moments of 2014 period. It is impossible to overrate this moment. A buzzer-beating three … to win the playoff series … with 0.9 seconds left … for Portland … by a player drafted by Portland … in Portland. Watch that crowd fucking explode when the shot drops. Fact: this was Portland’s first playoff series win since 2000. What a way to win it.

Fuller context is necessary. Just a few days prior, Dr. Jack Ramsay died at 89. Ramsay was the coach who led the Portland Trail Blazers to their only NBA Championship in 1977. This was the first game played in Portland since Ramsay’s death. And they won it in the most exciting and exhilarating way possible. Lilliard became the first man to hit a buzzer beater to win a playoff series since John Stockton in 1997. I don’t remember Stockton, but I remember exactly where I was watching Lilliard hit that shot. I haven’t been able to pick my jaw up since.

June 26, 2014 – The NBA Selects Isaiah Austin

Not every great sports moment has to happen on the field of play. Like I said earlier, the vast majority of college basketball players will never play a minute of professional basketball. Neither will Isaiah Austin, though it’s not for a lack of talent. The seven foot one center from Baylor University was projected as a surefire first round pick before a diagnosis of Marfan syndrome ended his professional career before it could even start. For it to happen so shortly before the NBA Draft was cruel. He would never get to hear his name called on draft night, a dream for so many players

But NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, working his first full draft after taking over for David Stern earlier in the year, helped that dream come true. Between the 15th and 16th picks of the draft, Silver paused it to recognize Austin. Tearfully, Austin walked up to the stage and shook hands with Silver, like every other player drafted that night. Austin’s opportunities for success have continued: Silver offered him a job with the NBA once he finishes his degree at Baylor and, earlier this month, he was added to NBA 2K15 as a free agent.

August 27, 2014 – Cosmin Moți Becomes Immortal

This is the moment that this list is all about. Some background for you as the commentary of the above clip is not in English (English commentary here): Cosmin Moți is a centre-back for Bulgarian club Ludogorets Razgrad. After a lengthy qualifying process, all that stood between them and their first-ever berth in the group stage of the UEFA Champions League was a penalty shootout. 3)Qualifying for the group stage of the Champions League also comes with a very sizable amount of money due to TV deals. One problem: their goalkeeper had been shown a red card and sent off right before the shootout and Ludogorets had already used all three of their substitutions. They could not bring in an actual goalkeeper.

Enter Cosmin Moți. On the grandest stage of his entire life, with what I am assuming is no professional experience as a goalkeeper, he put on someone else’s goalkeeper jersey for the shootout and not only scored a penalty but saved two, including a save that clinched the berth in the Champions League. As the ESPN video above noted, that save was worth over ten million dollars for Ludogorets Razgrad. He’s not even a keeper! Ludogorets went on to win one, draw one, and lose four in their Champions League debut, failing to advance past the group stage. But that TV money will help them for a long, long time.

September 30, 2014 – Royal Walk-Off

Again, we have a moment for a team whose quest for the championship ended in heartbreak. The Royals were making their first playoff berth since 1985, ending the longest playoff drought in all of professional sports. They still had to win this game to make it to the ALDS, and when the score was 7-3 in the bottom of the eighth, the fans at Kauffman Stadium had a right to wonder if their journey would be over after just one game. But three runs in the eighth and a tying run in the ninth forced the game to extra innings.

When Oakland took a one-run lead in the top of the twelfth, the magic might have ran out. But Kansas City tied it and then walked off in dramatic fashion, starting a playoff run that would not end until Madison Bumgarner had an out-of-body experience in Game 7 of the World Series. That was the moment that defined the MLB season, and as someone who watched it play out in real time, it was truly transcendent. But hearing that roar of the stadium as three decades of pain was washed away by one swing of the bat…that’s the good stuff right there.

December 21, 2014 – Beast Mode Sequel

(Required viewing. Content warnings for casual use of a couple of slurs but nothing hateful.)

The Beast Quake, linked between the above parentheses with commentary from Demetry James, is a wonderful moment in NFL history. It’s a shame that the FCC prevents us from having commentators say things such as “Darren Sharper Hold My Dick!” when Marshawn Lynch jumps into the endzone while doing the aforementioned action. That he did it again after breaking off a similar touchdown run against the Arizona Cardinals raises a very important question. Has Lynch seen James’s video? Does he know that he put the team on his back doe?

This run admittedly had less actual impact than the first in the series. The former sealed a playoff victory for the Seahawks in the 2010-11 season, while this one came in the fourth quarter of a 35-6 victory in the regular season. But man, when he leaps into the end zone performing the same action Demetry James narrated several years ago, it’s great. 4)He was fined for the “gesture.” No Fun League, y’all!

December 24, 2014 – The One-Second Hail Mary

This type of thing just doesn’t happen. One second left on the clock, down by a touchdown, on your own 25-yard-line. 99 times out of 100 this ends with a short pass, a few laterals, and eventually the ball is fumbled or rolls out of bounds and the game ends. But this time, the ball made it all the way to the endzone after a long pass and a few laterals. It was unbelievable. That’s not to mention the fact that Central Michigan was down 49-14 to start the fourth quarter. CMU scored an incredible 34 unanswered points in fifteen minutes of play.

They could have tied the game and sent it to overtime with the extra point. Instead, the coach took the momentum and said, “Let’s win the game.” Whether or not that was the right call is a huge matter of debate. 5)I personally feel he should have just kicked the dang old extra point. But he went for two, and the team failed to convert. It would have been an incredible comeback marked by an impossible play, but instead we are left to play What If. That doesn’t mean the play itself is any less awesome.

Notes   [ + ]

1. The Seattle Storm won the WNBA championship in 2004 and 2010.
2. They lost to #11 seed Tennessee in their very next game.
3. Qualifying for the group stage of the Champions League also comes with a very sizable amount of money due to TV deals.
4. He was fined for the “gesture.” No Fun League, y’all!
5. I personally feel he should have just kicked the dang old extra point.

The Ups and Downs of Being a Carolina Panthers Fan

Update 12/22/14: The Panthers control their own destiny yet again after the results of the previous weekend. They play at the Atlanta Falcons for the NFC South title.

As of now, thanks to a humiliatingly bad performance on Monday Night Football from the immortal Jay Cutler, the Carolina Panthers do not control their own destiny even though, for just over 24 hours, they held the lead in the abysmal NFC South. 1)The NFL has eight regional divisions of four teams each. No team in the NFC South can possibly finish with more than 8 wins. The New Orleans Saints, courtesy of Mr. Cutler, currently stand at 6-8. The Panthers stand at 5-8-1. 2)The Panthers tied the Cincinnati Bengals 37-37 earlier in the season. The Atlanta Falcons stand at 5-9. Out of those three teams, the Panthers are the only team that does not control their own destiny.

It’s been a weird season. That tie, which occurred in Week 6 and preceded a six-game losing skid from the Panthers, was the first in the 20-year history of the Carolina Panthers. It ended in a tie only because at the end of overtime, Mike Nugent, the kicker for the Bengals, missed a field goal that would have given them the win. That six-game losing skid was marked by two types of games: ones where we gave it away at the very end (against Seattle and Atlanta) and ones where we didn’t look like we deserved to be on the same field as the other team (against Green Bay and Philadelphia). 3)Yes, I do use “we” when talking about my sports teams.

But the mental gymnastics necessary to make a playoff berth for the Panthers a realistic scenario aren’t too difficult! Seeing as every division winner makes the playoffs and gets at least one home playoff game, the odds aren’t that long. There are two things that need to happen: Carolina needs to beat Cleveland and Atlanta in the final two games of the regular season and New Orleans needs to lose one of their last two games against either Atlanta or Tampa Bay. There are other permutations but this one is the simplest. Once New Orleans loses even once, destiny falls back into the hands of the Panthers.

Why do I care so much? I’ve often found it hard to explain to outsiders why this team has had such an effect on me for my whole life. In January of 2004, Super Bowl XXXVIII, notable in the public eye as the one where a single nipple was a huge deal for some reason, also had a football game going on: the New England Patriots versus the Carolina Panthers. The Panthers were making their first Super Bowl appearance ever. 4)As of right now, it is their only appearance. Long story short, the Panthers lost one of the most exciting Super Bowls ever in heartbreaking fashion on a last-second field goal. 11-year-old me was curled up in a ball on the floor, crying his eyes out. Why? Continue reading The Ups and Downs of Being a Carolina Panthers Fan

Notes   [ + ]

1. The NFL has eight regional divisions of four teams each. No team in the NFC South can possibly finish with more than 8 wins.
2. The Panthers tied the Cincinnati Bengals 37-37 earlier in the season.
3. Yes, I do use “we” when talking about my sports teams.
4. As of right now, it is their only appearance.

NASCAR: The Times They Are A-Changin’

NASCAR is often a laughingstock. People criticize it for the perceived lack of skill necessary to compete—after all, all you really have to do is go fast and turn left. People criticize it for the lack of diversity at the top levels of the sport—after all, no matter how much Danica Patrick-centric advertising occurs, she still has yet to win a race and very few NASCAR drivers are people of color. People criticize it for the sport’s desperate attempts to remain relevant—after all, the championship system has undergone what seems like a change every year for the past decade. People “watch it only for the wrecks.”

These are all biased opinions, of course. Any of these can be turned on their head once you look at it from a different perspective. Yes, NASCAR seems simple, but it takes an incredible amount of endurance and skill to complete 500 miles on a track with 42 other cars at speeds of up to 200 miles per hour without totaling your car. Yes, NASCAR isn’t too diverse, but how many sports even allow men and women to compete against each other at the top levels? Yes, NASCAR is struggling to remain relevant, but can you blame it for trying? Continue reading NASCAR: The Times They Are A-Changin’

The Phantom Match and The Bloody Stadium

The following article is an edited excerpt from a much longer article I wrote as my undergraduate thesis my senior year at UNC – Chapel Hill. The topic of that paper is FIFA’s relationship with the Cold War during the 1970s. Should you wish to read the whole thing, it can be found here. I used three different case studies to illustrate my point, the first of which being the World Cup qualification play-off between the Soviet Union and Chile in November 1973. This case study will be found below, edited to be less academic and more accessible. Continue reading The Phantom Match and The Bloody Stadium