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Tuesday, March 14, 2021

rose by any other name
During the OLN broadcast of tonight’s Buffalo-Washington game, the announcers focused briefly on Sabres right wing Mike Grier. They mentioned Grier’s family football heritage: His father, Bobby, is a pro scout for the Houston Texans, and his brother Chris is a college scout for the Miami Dolphins.

The first thing I thought of was, why didn’t they mention NFL great Rosey Grier, who I always thought was Mike Grier’s uncle?

But then, when I did a little digging tonight, I couldn’t find any confirmation for this. None of the Grier bios mention a connection to Rosey/Roosevelt; even if Mike didn’t want to highlight the relation, I’d think it would be standard backgrounder information for football guys Bobby and Chris.

So, I wonder if I’ve been under a false impression all this time. I thought I’d read that Mike was Rosey’s nephew around the time he broke into the NHL; either I’m remembering that wrong, or whatever I was reading was wrong.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 03/14/2006 10:09:44 PM
Category: Football, Hockey
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Friday, March 10, 2021

labored
As an NFL fan, I’m glad that a new collective bargaining agreement was struck, averting turbulence over the next couple of years (even though I thought the panic over staying with the old CBA to be overblown).

As an NHL fan, I kinda wish the football world had imploded, just so another sporting realm could have gotten a taste of what hockey fans went through over the past couple of years.

In any case, for mostly my own reference, I’m going to record the key provisions of the new CBA:

DURATION: 2006-2011, six years in all, replacing the contract that would have expired in 2008.

SALARY CAP: $102 million for 2006; $109 million for 2007. To be determined in future years by revenue. Owners’ contribution to salary pool starts at just under 60%.

RATIFICATION: Union proposal approved by owners 30-2 (Bills and Bengals dissented). Must still be formally ratified by players and approved by U.S. District Court Judge David Doty in Minneapolis, who still has jurisdiction over the antitrust suit filed by players following the 1987 strike.

REVENUE SHARING: Top 15 revenue-generating teams contribute, with the top five teams giving the most. The bottom 17 teams don’t contribute to the pool, expected to add $850 million-$900 million over the life of the contract.

ROOKIES: Players drafted in the first round of the draft can sign contracts longer than five years. Those drafted in rounds 2-7 can sign only four-year deals, to prevent teams from locking up players who prove to be worth more.

FRANCHISE PLAYERS: Discontinues the practice of some teams of protecting a player with the ”franchise” tag for more than two years. In the third year, ”franchise” player becomes ”transition” player, making it easier to leave.

OTHER: Player benefits will be substantially improved, including expanded post-career medical coverage. There will be continued support from the union for stadium construction, youth football, NFL Europe League and other initiatives.

As far as how this deal shakes out, I see a lot of wiggle room in the revenue-sharing component, which was the main sticking point. I’m not sure how the contributions are going to realistically keep track of total revenue generated by all team operations. But I guess that’s something to wrestle over again in 2011 or thereabouts.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 03/10/2021 09:09:12 PM
Category: Football
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Sunday, February 26, 2021

bustin' caps
So the rhetoric is heating up on both sides, after a month of build-up. All the reports indicate that the NFL is going to implode horribly next week, when the free-agency period starts on March 3rd without a sparkling-new collective bargaining agreement.

Except… For the little fact that football’s current CBA runs for two more seasons, right through to the 2008 entry draft.

True, both the league and the union want to supplant the final couple of years in this deal. The prospect of an uncapped year in 2007, along with various other factors, has implications that start his offseason. But it’s not a dire situation — the season’s going to start on time, this year and next. I’m getting tired of reports that miss this simple fact, and reflexively equate this situation with strikes and lockouts in other sports.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 02/26/2006 11:19:08 PM
Category: Football
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Monday, February 20, 2021

gimme an 'o'!
I cannot tell you how much it saddens me that the throngs in Turin aren’t taking to American-style cheerleaders at the Olympic venues.

I think the problem is wardrobe-based:

“Considering they don’t have cheerleaders in Europe, you have to give them credit for getting out there,” she said. “They’re not like the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders — they’re fully clothed.”

Exactly — if they were to show a little more skin like their NFL counterparts, I think the crowd would warm up to them.

In fact, here’s a brainstorm: Since the infamous bathroom-slogging Carolina Panthers cheerleaders are presumably blackballed in the States… I say they take their spirit-fingers act to Europe. Just because their talents are unappreciated in their own country…

Perhaps the Torino organizers should have used the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Ice Girls as their model. I know they’re popular, and those shovels they carry while skating at the Forum give them at least a ceremonial on-ice duty. Plus, as you can see, the naming-rights possibilities are huge.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 02/20/2006 02:02:15 PM
Category: Football, Hockey, Other Sports
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Wednesday, February 08, 2021

I guess Al Michaels is more attached to John Madden than to weekday football. The longtime ABC sports announcer is set to join his broadcast partner at NBC for Sunday Night Football next season, while ESPN announced a new Joe Theismann-led trio for its adopted Monday Night game.

Of course, the Peacock Network also broadcasts NHL games for the next couple of years. Dare I hope that Michaels will work a few hockey games, along with the NFL gig? He should have plenty of time, since the departure from ABC means he’s also giving up NBA announcing. It should be an even workload swap for Mr. “Miracle On Ice”.

As for the Theismann-Tony Kornheiser-Mike Tirico lineup at ESPN: My heart goes out to Tirico, who’ll represent the only voice worth listening to in that booth. Just another stage in the overall decline of MNF.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 02/08/2021 07:41:00 PM
Category: Football, Hockey, TV
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Monday, February 06, 2021

no sale
The game is over, and a good one it was. Pittsburgh and Seattle delivered a most entertaining Super Bowl XL.

Wish I could say the same about the game’s much-lauded commercial lineup.

The rundown reviews abound, including superlative rankings and USA Today’s traditional Ad Meter wrapup. From the media gawking the day after, you’d think the gametime ads actually were worth crowing about.

I really didn’t see anything yesterday to merit the attention. For a bunch of spots that occupy such a priviledged part of the media landscape, they came off as rather ordinary to me. Had you not known that they cost an average of $2.5 million to get into those broadcast slots (on top of however much they cost to actually make), you’d be hard-pressed to distinguish why these commercials deserve any special scrutiny.

I think we’ve reached the point where the price to buy Super Bowl airtime is high enough to preclude the production of truly noteworthy creative commercials. Once the slot is bought, it seems like the ad concept is developed around whatever resources are left over. Even a company like Anheuser-Busch, which bought up multiple adspaces yesterday, didn’t see fit to roll out anything particularly new — they showed off the same old fratboy crap they do every other football Sunday.

Certainly, some of the Super spots stood out more than others. Personally, I relished the chance to glimpse the V For Vendetta teaser (even though I’m expecting the movie to be a disaster). And the Dove spot is getting the acclaim it deserves for being so distinct from the usual sports-centric advertising. But here again, it didn’t represent a new approach: The brand’s Campaign for Real Beauty has been around for months now.

I’m not oblivious to the point: That a Super Bowl ad doesn’t have to be groundbreaking to be effective. Established brands like Pepsi and Burger King only have to flash their colors to reap the benefits of this type of exposure. Still, with all the hype build-up that the ads generate right up until kickoff, I think the audience is entitled to expect more.

I think next year, I’ll change the channel during the breaks.

UPDATE: AdLand’s Caffeinegoddess concurs with my disappointment, taking aim at all the pre-hype and heightened expectations. She even points to a marketing group study by OTX that validates this view:

“We wanted to see if the Super Bowl hype helped ads,” said David Brandt, managing director for OTX’s Marketing Insights division.

“What we found was that respondents took a much more critical view of the ads when they were told they were Super Bowl ads. They hold them to a higher standard than ads in other venues. So not only are advertisers already paying much more, they also have to work much harder to make an impact.”

It seems like the marketers have created a monster, and now the audience expects them to feed it — and feed it filet mignon, instead of regular ol’ meatloaf.

But again, this doesn’t mean an ad must be spectacular to have an impact. Eyeballs are eyeballs, and those 90 million pairs that were glued on Sunday still got exposed to the sales pitches. In a way, the forum was more important than what was displayed within it.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 02/06/2021 03:00:33 PM
Category: Advert./Mktg., Football, TV
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Sunday, February 05, 2021

xtra xtra
It’s Big Game Day, aka Super Bowl XL. And I’m going to be watching it on a big-screen TV in Suffern, NY.

Where?

It’s a familiar enough placename for those in the New York City metro area, even most probably couldn’t locate it on a map. For the “Sex and the City” contingent — which probably represents a big chunk of the population — Suffern’s probably most associated with the Sex and the Country episode, where the Rockland County community is portrayed as a big patch o’ farmland.

Well… There are still some farm plots in that neck of the woods. But, along with the rest of Rockland, Suffern’s more of a suburban landscape these days. And it’s to my cousin Adrianna’s suburban spread that I’m going, to watch the game with my extended family. She and her husband bought a new television set, and they want to break it in.

Growing up, heading off to a corner of Rockland always seemed like an unbearably long hike. Even now, thinking about it hours before actually getting into the car, the conception is of a long journey. But really, it’s not — it’s only 30-40 minutes away. Even the weather’s clear, so that’s not going to factor in. I guess these mental constructs are hard to shake, especially when you’ve grown up with them.

This will be the first Super Bowl I’ve spent with family in… I don’t know how long. As with any gathering on this most secular of Sundays, I’m basically just hoping to be able to catch enough of the game (and the commercials, naturally) to offset the inevitable social distractions.

Unlike the past couple of years, I’m not experiencing pre-burnout from the attendant two-week buildup to Super Sunday. Obviously, with my move from Florida to New York, I’ve had enough else to preoccupy me. The result: I’m going into today more or less media-exposure fresh. A neat trick, and one I might try to repeat for next year. (I am indulging today, though, with my eye on ESPN’s “NFL Sunday Countdown” from now until gametime.)

As for the game itself: I’ve stuck with the AFC even before Pittsburgh emerged as Conference champ, and see absolutely no reason to change that stance now. I see the Steelers winning this one, rather easily.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 02/05/2021 12:15:35 PM
Category: Football, New Yorkin', TV
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Tuesday, January 31, 2021

A look at the TV ad lineup for Super Bowl XL shows this singular item near the start of the third quarter:

American Home Health - One :30 - PS line of home antibacterial soaps and disinfectants.

Summary: People in biosuits (”humorous”)

Ad Agency: Ronin Advertising Group, Coconut Grove, Fla.

The company, American HomeHealth, is a St. Petersburg-based upstart that’s looking at its $3-million worth of time during the big game as the ticket to instant national exposure.

The Times article makes it sound like AHH is shooting its entire marketing wad on the Super Bowl — a questionable all-or-nothing prospect. However, the company has already spent some dough in at least one other sporting venue, at least in its local territory.

During my last Tampa Bay Lightning game, I noticed continual ad rotations for the PS cleanser on all the St. Pete Times Forum’s video displays. There were enough of them, and they were presented vaguely enough with just the two-letter product name, that I distinctly remember my curiosity being roused. I wondered just what the heck they were advertising. I’m guessing plenty of hockey fans have been wondering the same thing.

So Super Bowl Sunday won’t be a complete coming-out party for PS. But aside from Tampa Bay hockey fans, no one will know the difference.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 01/31/2006 09:27:05 PM
Category: Advert./Mktg., Florida Livin', Football, Hockey
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bob's place
For a never-seen character, “Seinfeld’s” Bob Sacamano was quite a Renaissance man.

It seems that the legend continues. In the news of the Denver Broncos talking with Terrell Owens about joining the team next season, we find:

Broncos spokesman Jim Saccomano, working at the Super Bowl in Detroit, said he could not comment because he had no knowledge of the visit.

The first name is different, and the spelling of the last name is altered. But come on — despite the high-profile gig, we know this is Cosmo Kramer’s pal.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 01/31/2006 10:19:58 AM
Category: Football, TV
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Monday, January 30, 2021

hello out there, we're on the air
It didn’t take a genious to figure out that, when the NFL came up with the NFL Network, it was setting itself up to eventually become its own broadcast partner.

The future is now, as the league gave its network an eight-game package of games to broadcast, starting next season.

That the broadcasts aren’t exclusive isn’t particularly relevent. This is basically a seeding technique. The idea is to establish the concept of the NFL Network as a source for real-time NFL game broadcasts. This should increase demand by cable and satellite subscribers for carriage, which will increase the Network’s reach. The more mainstream its broadcast arm becomes, the more leverage the NFL has when negotiating future television deals with the other networks. In fact, the negotiation round that the NFL engaged for this package — which included Comcast, Verizon, ESPN and other television outlets — resembled nothing so much as a test case for that maneuver. It’s turned out to be a successful one.

The ultimate goal is to elbow out third-party broadcast partners completely. The stakes are high: If you think the billion-dollar broadcast rights deals the NFL has been getting were impressive, imagine how much they’ll rake in when they’re selling their own advertising slots.

I wouldn’t have guessed the sports-league-as-broadcaster evolution would have accelerated this quickly. But the NFL has certainly upped the ante.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 01/30/2006 09:03:00 PM
Category: Football
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Monday, January 23, 2021

high-stakes
Looks like football fever has gotten the best of a few too many advertising execs. Fast on the heels of the BooneOakley-Hadrian’s Wall bet over the Carolina-Chicago NFC divisional playoff game, AdLand reports on another gridiron wager between agency heads.

This time, though, the stakes go beyond just some silly website redirection:

Mike Burns has bet the presidency of his Fort Collins-based agency Burns Marketing Communications for a week.

If the Broncos win, Burns will assume the role of honorary president at Markowitz Communications, a marketing and public relations agency in Pittsburgh. If the Broncos lose, Saul Markowitz takes over at Burns.

The game has been played, and won by the Steelers. So I guess Markowitz began his phony reign at Burns today.

All very amusing, but this second time around represents the limit of my interest. Any more stunt-betting from here on out would obviously smack of a plea for attention.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 01/23/2006 06:29:50 PM
Category: Advert./Mktg., Football
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Sunday, January 22, 2021

steeling a victory
Weeks ago, I made a couple of observations about this year’s NFL playoffs:

Since the Steelers just knocked off Denver, 34-17, my assumption of AFC supremacy is now flying through unprecedented territory.

Pittsburgh impressed me. The Broncos were my pick to win the whole she-bang; I gave them a slight edge over Indianapolis even before the Colts were knocked off. There was something about Denver, from midseason on, that told me they were going to cash in on the entire thing. They had a swagger that seemed to hold a lot of promise.

But Pittsburgh took care of that. They looked as dominating as they have been during the postseason, and put it away decisively. They may have come into the playoffs as the No. 6 AFC team, but they’ve earned the top spot now.

So, I’m sticking with my AFC prejudice. In fact, I’m even more sure now than I had been. Whoever wins the Carolina-Seattle game will be little more than a strawman. In two weeks’ time, Pittsburgh will be bringing home the Lombardi Trophy.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 01/22/2006 06:26:17 PM
Category: Football
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Tuesday, January 17, 2021


Now this is how you make a friendly football bet. Head honchos at Chicago’s Hadrian’s Wall and Charlotte’s BooneOakley ad agencies wagered linkage and praise on their respective website front pages over the outcome of this past weekend’s Bears-Panthers playoff game.

Well, Carolina won, 29-21. And so, Hadrian’s put up a cute little Flash switchup, showing the homepage being “hotsauced” into a Boone-signature orange color, resulting in the message shown above. It’ll be that way for the rest of the week.

Creative as all get-out. Not only does it draw attention to both shops, it also beats the heck out of the standard mayoral food bet.

(Via AdLand)

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 01/17/2006 07:54:57 PM
Category: Advert./Mktg., Football, Internet
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Thursday, January 12, 2021

bearly
I’m wondering if Allen Barra’s “The Last Coach”, the recently released biography of University of Alabama football legend Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant, is worth a peek.

Not so much because I’m interested in the subject matter — I love the NFL, but don’t give a whit for the minor leagues college game. But I’m interested if Barra ever came across a persistent rumor about Bryant having been offered the inaugural head coaching job of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers by the team’s first owner, Hugh Culverhouse.

A Web search has yielded nothing. I’m not sure just how true it is. I remember hearing about it a couple of times, back when I was working in Sports at the St. Petersburg Times, but don’t remember the source or the veracity of it.

The connections are clear: Culverhouse was an Alabama alum, and made his mark on the university. Bryant was heading to the twilight of his career by the time the expansion Bucs joined the NFL in 1976. And, more tangentially, Bryant’s immediate successor at Alabama, Ray Perkins, was eventually hired as Bucs coach, being declared by Culverhouse to be “his Vince Lombardi”. So I can see how all those tidbits could be molded into a false rumor.

If the Bryant-to-Bucs thing ever was true, it’s just as well that it didn’t happen. Otherwise, Tampa Bay would have been denied John McKay’s coaching platitudes, including his assessment of those early-history teams:

Throughout it all, there was McKay, laughing through the pain. In those awkward, stumbling first steps, McKay was the only reason to smile when someone mentioned that professional football, sort of, had come to Tampa Bay. The execution of his offense? He was in favor of it. The future of his kicker? Capece was kaput.

No way could the Bear have been so loquacious. He probably would have beat on his kicker instead.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 01/12/2021 06:10:46 PM
Category: Football, History
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not for long
Not that comparative object lessons are needed in the case of Marcus Vick, but bringing up the ghosts of Lawrence Phillips and Maurice Clarett serves to underline just how badly Vick the Younger has already fouled up his NFL career, before it even started.

Let’s not forget the likes of Ryan Leaf and Demetrius Underwood, either. Sometimes all the pre-draft research teams commit doesn’t amount to squat.

Virginia Tech finally washed its hands of Vick even before the latest incident, cutting its ties to him just four days after he stomped on the left calf of Louisville’s defensive end Elvis Dumervil in the Gator Bowl.

But Vick should have been gone a long time ago. This was a player who was charged at various times with marijuana possession, furnishing alcohol to minors, having sex with a 15-year-old girl, and reckless driving.

This was also the most valuable player of a highly ranked team. And, because Vick was such a talent, Virginia Tech kept him even after he made an obscene gesture to fans at West Virginia in October and was caught driving with a suspended license in December.

If anything, Virginia Tech should be embarrassed it used Vick for its own purposes, waiting until after he helped the Hokies win their biggest game of the year before dumping him.

Vick’s latest encounter with the law was his most serious. He wasn’t going to be a top draft pick. Now, he may not be drafted at all and will have to wait for an invitation to a training camp.

True, Marcus will be at some team’s training camp this summer. He’ll probably even stick on a roster as a backup. But he’ll come in with a very short leash, and it would surprise no one to see him get bounced on the very first infraction he commits, no matter how major or minor.

Talent makes up for a lot, but when the warning signs are so obvious, it’s not going to be enough. And as noted, Marcus was never going to be a high-round pick anyway; after the first-rounders, the tolerance level among NFL clubs drops off significantly. If he has this little self-control, discipline, and discretion before signing his first pro contract, imagine how hog-wild he’d go once he had the big money in his pocket (although, obviously, he’s already had a taste of that through his brother’s millions).

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 01/12/2021 05:29:25 PM
Category: Football
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Tuesday, January 10, 2021

ad bowl
I guess reports of slack ad sales for next month’s Super Bowl served as a starter’s gun for a pre-Christmas rush. Ad inventory for the game is close to sold out, and yet another 30-second-spot price record is on the way:

Executives say that ABC is 85 percent to 90 percent sold, with anywhere from 7 to 10 30-second units left to sell. [ESPN/ABC Sports exec Ed] Erhardt would only say: “We have one 15-second spot in the first half, and some availability in the fourth quarter.” He added that ABC is on the same pace now as when it had the game three years ago.

“If they have ten spots left now, it’s nowhere near an emergency yet,” said Larry Novenstern, executive vp and director of national electronic media, Optimedia International. “That’s standard.” “Super Bowl XL” will take place February 5 in Detroit.

Executives close to ABC say this year’s Super Bowl has seen a price hike of some 5 percent to 7 percent from the 30-second commercial price of $2.4 million that Fox received when it had the game last year. This year’s game would hold a new record average price of $2.52 million to $2.57 million for a 30-second Super Bowl commercial.

The media economy continues apace. No real surprise, of course. Even with the Olympics raking in nearly a billion dollars for NBC, the Super Bowl was still going to be the cash cow it’s always been. If anything, there are simply more players at the table now; the void left by those pulling out or reducing their Super Bowl presence is being filled by new advertisers.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 01/10/2021 03:45:52 PM
Category: Advert./Mktg., Football
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Monday, January 09, 2021

hard-off
Just when you had resigned yourself to watching endless Levitra commercials on Sundays, the NFL is declining to renew its marketing partnership with the makers of the erectile dysfunction drug.

Brian McCarthy, an NFL spokesman, said the league chose to end the relationship because “the ads shifted from men’s health to a performance, lifestyle issue.” The change in advertising strategy made the NFL uncomfortable, McCarthy said.

Yeah, and the most uncomfortable part: The ads were becoming so pervasive during game broadcasts that they were setting a distinctly old-man tone. As I noted, when this partnership started three years ago:

Does it occur to anyone else that some of these sports are going a little too overboard on the old-man target audience advertising?…

If I’m a kid watching an NFL game, the constant stream of commercials for medications, lawnmowers, etc. tells me that I’m in the minority of viewers, i.e. those who aren’t 35 and above. Short-term, it’s no problem; longer term, the risk is a dwindling next-generation fanbase, who decide early on that other sports, including X-Games, are more their speed.

I wonder if any marketing people at the NFL picked up on this vibe too, or maybe even got back some hard survey data that confirmed it. Just from my observer perspective, I interpreted it that way.

Between this, and the indirect spawning of the unlicensed Blitz: The League videogame, it seems the NFL is aiming squarely at the middle, demographically: The not-too-young and not-too-old 26 to 45 male set. Makes sense; that is where the most disposable money is.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 01/09/2021 05:47:39 PM
Category: Advert./Mktg., Football
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Monday, January 02, 2021

dance time
Continuing my quest to provide easy, concise access to postseason dates and times (for myself, if no one else), here’s the complete NFL playoff schedule for this new year.

Hey, I already gave this treatment to the NBA and Major League Baseball; you’d better believe I’m going to mark it for a sport I actually care about. (Not to mention the NHL, when hockey’s postseason starts in a few months.)

UPDATE, 01/08/2006: Reflects determined Divisional Playoffs sites and times. (No more updates after this; times and sites should be easy enough to determine from here.)

WILD CARD ROUND

SATURDAY, JAN. 7th
National Football Conference
Washington Redskins at Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 4:30PM EST
American Football Conference
Jacksonville Jaguars at New England Patriots, 8PM EST

SUNDAY, JAN. 8th
National Football Conference
Carolina Panthers at New York Giants, 1PM EST
American Football Conference
Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals, 4:30PM EST

DIVISIONAL PLAYOFFS

SATURDAY, JAN. 14th
NFC
Washington Redskins at Seattle Seahawks, 4:30PM EST
AFC
New England Patriots at Denver Broncos, 8:00PM EST

SUNDAY, JAN. 15th
AFC
Pittsburgh Steelers at Indianapolis Colts, 1:00PM EST
NFC
Carolina Panthers at Chicago Bears, 4:30PM EST

CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIPS

SUNDAY, JAN. 22nd
NFC
TBD, 3:00PM EST
AFC
TBD, 6:30PM EST

SUPER BOWL XL

SUNDAY, FEB. 5th
6:00pm EST

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 01/02/2021 11:32:00 AM
Category: Football
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Sunday, January 01, 2021

Midway Games has been making a lot of noise over two of its recent sports game releases: Blitz: The League and NBA Ballers.

Both titles are something of a fusion of sports games with a Sims-like sensibility. The gameplay that happens on the field and the court is almost incidental; the portions that deal with characters’ extracurricular activities (barhopping, flashing that blingy-bling, etc.) are the meatier portions of both games. It’s basically a reality TV approach to videogaming, with infotainment reportage serving as the inspirational underpinnings.

Here’s what I find curious: While Blitz is the product of a loss of official NFL licensing for any football games not produced by Electronic Arts, Ballers is being produced as branded NBA merchandise. Throw in the fact that the creative force behind Blitz is Peter Egan, former writer for “Playmakers”the NFL’s series non grata — and it appears that the football boys are more concerned about keeping their images clean(er) than the NBA is about its rep.

It’s not completely cut and dried. The morphing of Blitz into a faux XFL experience came after the NFL cut off Midway and other game studios. The NFL wasn’t presented with the option of putting its seal of approval on an ultraviolent, negative-stereotype game; Midway went the extreme route because they needed that to replace the lost NFL/NFLPA cache. On the other hand, the NBA and its players’ union didn’t appear to have any qualms about officially sanctioning a game with fairly similar themes.

Basketball has always been seen as being more attuned to youth culture than the other major pro sports. Maybe this is another manifestation of that.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 01/01/2021 04:07:21 PM
Category: Basketball, Football, Videogames
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something wild
Last night, I happened to express to a fellow partygoer about how the playoff setup in the NFL is largely a bunch of padding: Wild cards pretty much never go anywhere, and are there solely to give division champions game action before the championship.

I wasn’t speaking with any hard numbers in mind, but it seemed to me that, historically, the NFL postseason has been much less of a random affair than that of the NHL, NBA and MLB. It’s far likelier to see a lower-seeded team go deep into the playoffs in those other sports — perhaps even all the way to a championship. But in the NFL, it just doesn’t happen; a first-round upset, maybe, but that’s it.

Turns out I wasn’t imagining things. Joanne Korth has crunched the numbers, and confirms that non-division winners start out behind the 8-ball, and stay there:

Since the 12-team format went into effect in 1990, 180 playoff teams have sought 30 Super Bowl slots. The 60 teams seeded first or second, those with first-round byes, filled 25. The 60 teams seeded third or fourth, those with first-round home games, filled five.

Even I can do that math.

The 60 teams seeded fifth or sixth have never made it to the Super Bowl. Only two, the Colts in 1995 and Jaguars in 1996, won two games to reach the conference title game.

Seeding is everything.

I guess this realization was part of the reason why I don’t think much of the entire NFC’s Super Bowl chances this year. But that extends to the AFC’s wild card entrants as well. Simply put, the higher-ranked teams are that much better than the rest of the pack, and the extra week of rest and preparation they get enhances that edge.

It’d be interesting to see if expansion to the NFL playoffs, where eight teams per conference would eliminate postseason byes and force the top teams to play all the way through, wouldn’t shake up this predictability. I have a feeling it would, as that’s how the other sports’ playoffs work. I don’t know that it would result in many No. 8-beating-No. 1 upsets, but it would take something out of the top seeds as they go to the next round, where upsets would become more likely.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 01/01/2021 12:50:51 PM
Category: Football
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Saturday, December 31, 2020

getting in
Sports fans are all familiar with the concept of a team that, even if it wins games late in the season, needs help from other teams playing other teams to actually get into the postseason.

But that’s under normal circumstances. So fouled up is the NFC this year that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers would actually need help to not get into the playoffs:

The NFL says there is only one set of circumstances in which the Bucs can miss the playoffs.

8 p.m. Saturday: Oakland beats the Giants.

1 p.m. Sunday: The Bucs lose to New Orleans and Carolina wins at Atlanta.

4:15 p.m. Sunday: Washington beats Philadelphia.

8:30 p.m. Sunday: Dallas beats St. Louis.

If all those happen, the NFL would need to figure out the strength of victory tiebreaker to knock out the Bucs, the Giants or the Cowboys (and the Bucs might still get in).

There’s convolution for you.

I’m actually quite amused by this, and by Chicago, the Giants and all these other NFC teams getting on the road to the Super Bowl. Because it’s been painfully obvious, for the past month, that all those teams are the weakest bunch of pretenders to qualify in a long time. There’s no doubt in my mind that whoever comes out of the AFC side — whether it’s the Colts, Broncos, Bengals, etc. — will roll right over the NFC chumps on the other side of the field. So it really doesn’t matter who gets the National Football Conference crown, because they’re going to get crushed in February.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 12/31/2005 12:30:22 PM
Category: Football
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