November 25, 2015

If only Minnesota got the Mike Wallace they thought they were getting

Filed under: Football — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 02:00

In my post on Sunday’s awful outing at TCF Bank Stadium against the Green Bay Packers, I aired my opinion on the value of having wide receiver Mike Wallace on the roster. I’m not the only one wondering if Wallace was this year’s worst acquisition for the Vikings, as Judd Zulgad clearly feels the same way:

Mike Wallace arrived in Minnesota last March with the reputation for being a headache off the field but with the promise of being a dynamic playmaker on it.

The Vikings’ hope was that Wallace could serve as the team’s deep threat in the passing game and that the chemistry he would develop with Teddy Bridgewater would keep everyone happy.

According to all accounts from Winter Park, Wallace hasn’t created any issues in the locker room and has been pleasant enough to be around. Unfortunately, for the Vikings, Wallace hasn’t come close to living up to expectations and, unless something turns around quickly, his stay in purple will be a short one.

The statistics don’t tell the story of how ineffective Wallace has been.

The 29-year-old wide receiver is third on the Vikings with 28 catches for 318 yards and a touchdown. A guy who was supposed to stretch the field has a season-long gain of 22 yards.

Through 10 games, Wallace is the biggest disappointment on the Vikings’ roster and it would not be unfair to label him a bust.

Zulgad also pulls up a statistic which surprised me as much as it seems to surprise him: “Pro Football Focus has Wallace with only four drops this season, but anyone who has watched the Vikings on a regular basis would put that number closer to 10.” I haven’t been able to watch every game this season, but I was pretty sure I’d seen Wallace do his patented butterfingers routine on at least a dozen passes.

Zulgad also senses the growing inevitability of the end of Wallace’s time with the Vikings:

Considering Wallace’s lack of productivity, one would think that Johnson and Wright should get more work. The pair certainly has better chemistry with Bridgewater. But benching a guy making $9.85 million for a guy making $510,000 (Johnson), or $1.5 million (Wright) might be a tough sell to the front office.

What won’t be a tough sell is cutting ties with Wallace long before he collects on those eye-popping paydays of $11.45 million he’s due each of the next two seasons.

November 23, 2015

Vikings struggle against Green Bay, give up NFC North lead

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

The Vikings held the NFC North lead for only one week, as Green Bay came to Minnesota and got lots of help from Minnesota to take control of the game. While Teddy Bridgewater did just about everything he could (he would have thrown for over 300 yards if Mike Wallace had caught anything thrown his way), the running game never got going and Bridgewater was under pressure for much of the game, absorbing six sacks (second most of the season after the Denver game). A critical Adrian Peterson fumble put the game out of reach in the fourth quarter. One of the deciding factors in the outcome was penalties, particularly ill-timed penalties at critical moments on the guys in purple. The Vikings entered the game as the least-penalized team in the NFL, but you’d never have guessed that watching the first half of play … yellow flags seemed to fly after every other play, uniformly against the Vikings.


November 16, 2015

Vikings beat Raiders 30-14 in Oakland to move into first place in NFC North at 7-2

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 06:00

Unfortunately, the game wasn’t available in my area, so I had to follow the Twitter feed to keep track of the game. It was a fascinating day in the NFL, as Peyton Manning set a new NFL passing record and got benched in the same game, Detroit finally beat the Green Bay Packers for the first time in 24 years, and Adrian Peterson notches his first 200+ yard game in nearly two years (and the sixth in his career, tied for the most in NFL history).

It’s been a while since the Vikings had a five-game winning streak … since 2009, as a matter of fact. And the significance of Adrian Peterson’s 2012 numbers above? That’s his career best year when he fell just a few yards short of setting a new NFL single-season rushing record.


November 14, 2015

The scandal of NCAA “graduation” rates

Filed under: Football, Sports — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Gregg Easterbrook on the statistical sleight-of-hand that allows US universities to claim unrealistic graduation rates for their student athletes:

N.C.A.A. Graduation Rate Hocus-Pocus. [Hawaii coach Norm] Chow and [Maryland coach Randy] Edsall both made bona fide improvements to the educational quality of their college football programs, and both were fired as thanks. Edsall raised Maryland’s football graduation rate from 56 percent five years ago to 70 percent. Chow raised Hawaii’s football graduation rate from 29 percent five years ago to 50 percent.

At least that’s what the Department of Education says. According to the N.C.A.A., Hawaii graduates not 50 percent of its players but 70 percent, while Maryland graduates not 70 percent but 75 percent.

At work is the distinction between the Federal Graduation Rate, calculated by the Department of Education, and the Graduation Success Rate, calculated by the N.C.A.A. No other aspect of higher education has a graduation “success rate” — just a graduation rate. The N.C.A.A. cooks up this number to make the situation seem better than it is.

The world of the Graduation Success Rate is wine and roses: According to figures the N.C.A.A. released last week, 86 percent of N.C.A.A. athletes achieved “graduation success” in the 2014-2015 academic year. But “graduation success” is different from graduating; the Department of Education finds that 67 percent of scholarship athletes graduated in 2014-2015. (These dueling figures are for all scholarship athletes: Football and men’s basketball players generally are below the average, those in other sports generally above.)

Both the federal and N.C.A.A. calculations have defects. The federal figure scores only those who graduate from the college of their initial enrollment. The athlete who transfers and graduates elsewhere does not count in the federal metric.

The G.S.R., by contrast, scores as a “graduate” anyone who leaves a college in good standing, via transfer or simply giving up on school: There’s no attempt to follow-up to determine whether athletes who leave graduate somewhere else. Not only is the N.C.A.A.’s graduation metric anchored in the absurd assumption that leaving a college is the same as graduating, but it can also reflect a double-counting fallacy. Suppose a football player starts at College A, transfers to College B and earns his diploma there. Both schools count him as a graduate under the G.S.R.


Football players ought to graduate at a higher rate than students as a whole. Football scholarships generally pay for five years on campus plus summer school, and football scholarship holders never run out of tuition money, which is the most common reason students fail to complete college. Instead at Ohio State and other money-focused collegiate programs, players graduate at a lower rate than students as a whole. To divert attention from this, the N.C.A.A. publishes its annual hocus-pocus numbers.

November 9, 2015

Vikings beat Rams 21-18, but Bridgewater knocked out on cheap-shot

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

The Vikings moved into a tie for first place in the NFC North by (barely) beating the St. Louis Rams at the same time as the Packers lost to the Carolina Panthers. Both the Vikings and Packers now have 6-2 records, but Minnesota has more wins within the division so they’re technically ahead (for playoff standing, divisional wins are more significant than conference wins, which are in turn more important than out-of-conference wins).

The game itself was a slugfest, with both teams depending heavily on their defences to mask the weaknesses on the other side of the ball. Neither team was at full strength, with the Vikings lacking new rookie sensation Eric Kendricks at middle linebacker and the Rams without defensive ends Chris Long and Robert Quinn. Injuries piled up during the game even before the personal foul that took Teddy Bridgewater out of the game. Cornerback Terence Newman (suspected concussion) and backup middle linebacker Audie Cole both left the field, with Cole being carted to the locker room with a broken ankle and is probably done for the season. After the game, reporters noticed that linebacker Anthony Barr had his left arm in a cast, although he didn’t appear to miss any snaps during the game. Both Bridgewater and Newman have to go through the concussion protocol, so it won’t be known for at least a few days whether either player will be able to play next week. Rookie Trae Waynes stepped in for Newman and veteran backup quarterback Shaun Hill played the remainder of the game for Bridgewater.

It didn’t take long for suspicions to form about infamous (former New Orleans Saints) defensive co-ordinator Gregg Williams repeating his “bountygate” past:


November 8, 2015

Nobody wants to get on the Vikings bandwagon

Filed under: Football, Humour — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Draw Play Dave finally came up with an idea for a comic about the Minnesota Vikings:

Click to see the full comic at The Draw Play

Click to see the full comic at The Draw Play

For a few months now I’ve been playfully jawing with a Vikings sportswriter on twitter (Arif Hasan, he’s good, you should read his stuff if you care about the Vikings) about making or not making a Vikings comic. He kept bugging me to make one. I actually wanted to, to be honest. The Vikings are one of the teams I’ve neglected over the past few years, and when there is no obvious comic material out there I usually try to pick a team I ignore and give it some love so people on reddit can call me an unfunny jerk because I mocked their team. So for months now I’ve been trying to come up with a Vikings comic, if only to give them some love and get Arif (who is the viking pictured here) to shut up. And I couldn’t do it, because the Vikings are the blandest, least interesting team I can possibly think of. How else can you explain the fact that they are currently 5-2 and are getting less media attention than basically every other team?

Every other team has interesting things about them that make them fun to follow. Some more than others obviously, but frankly every team seems to have something interesting going on. The Vikings don’t. Obviously Vikings fans are likely to disagree with me on that front because they are following the tiny minutiae more closely but from an outside fan perspective, even trying to find the Vikings interesting seems futile to the point where the only idea I can feasibly come up with is about how nobody cares. Teddy Bridgewater is progressing nicely, but he’s a boring QB. He’s got no personality, he’s got no quirks, no flair, and he’s not doing good enough or bad enough to really matter yet. The Defense is good, but not Denver good, or Seattle flashy, or Giants non-existent. Mike Zimmer was all sorts of hilariously blunt as a coordinator, but he never gives great soundbites anymore, or if he does nobody quotes him. About the only exciting thing going on right now is Stefon Diggs, who made the only interesting play of the season when he turned a Teddy overthrow into a beautiful lunging TD two weeks ago.

Who are the drunkest NFL fans? Come on down, Buffalo Bills fans!

Filed under: Football, Health — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

A breathalyzer company conducted a study to determine who are the drunkest fanbases in the NFL, and Buffalo turned in the highest overall score:

Click to see the full-size map at CBSSports.com

Click to see the full-size map at CBSSports.com

Apparently, losing does drive fans to drinking, at least according to a recent study done by BACtrack.

The Breathalyzer company spent the past six weeks anonymously collecting BAC samples and what they found is that Bills fans really, really, really like to drink.

According to the study, Bills fans had an average blood-alcohol level of .076 through the first seven weeks of the NFL season, which was the highest among all NFL fan bases.

If you’re wondering how BACtrack was able to hunt down the BAC level of random fans, they didn’t. The samples came to them.

The company used anonymous samples sent in by fans who were using the BACTrack app on their phone, an app that works as a Breathalyzer.

The company then collected data on Sundays between Sept. 13 and Oct. 25 to try and accurately gauge how much fans were drinking. Only samples sent in between 6 a.m. on Sunday and 5:59 a.m. on Monday counted toward the study.

The data was only collected from geographic locations that were hosting NFL games during the first seven weeks of the season.

There were probably plenty of flaws in the study, but based on what I’ve seen from Bills fans, it’s not surprising they’re No. 1.

I find it amusing that the NFC North’s drunk fan index exactly matches the teams’ relative standings right now, with Green Bay fans the most sober (at 0.042), followed by Vikings fans (0.046), then Bears fans (0.054), and finally Detroit fans (who definitely have reason to be drinking more this season) at 0.069.

November 5, 2015

The koans of Zim Tzu – Bears edition

Filed under: Football, Humour — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

It’s a great philosophical treat to get the words of Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer, as re-interpreted by the Daily Norseman‘s Ted Glover. Glover has made a life-long mission to understand the true meanings of the sometimes occult and difficult phrasing of Minnesota’s own warrior-poet, despite all the difficulties and problems of reducing the essence to the point that mere mortal sports fans can understand. Here’s Ted’s report after the Vikings barely managed to beat the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field last weekend:


November 2, 2015

Vikings beat the Bears in Chicago for the first time since 2007

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

No matter how strong the Vikings may have appeared and how weak the Bears may have looked, when the Bears hosted the Vikings at Soldier Field, the outcome was always biased strongly in favour of the hosts. Since the 2000 NFL season, the Vikings had only won twice at Chicago, until yesterday. I didn’t get to watch this game, as Elizabeth and I were away for the weekend (but in an odd twist, Elizabeth watched a few minutes of the second quarter as the game was shown in the bistro in Trenton where we stopped for a late lunch).


November 1, 2015

Every Press Conference Ever (ft. Weird Al Yankovic)

Filed under: Humour, Media, Sports — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Published on 26 Oct 2015

Whether your team wins or loses, this is what the press conference sounds like after the game. Every time.

October 30, 2015

QotD: Maybe the Minnesota Vikings should also change their name

Filed under: Football, History, Humour — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

After the fiancée-punching scandal the NFL suffered this fall, the league is working on an anti-domestic-violence campaign; a new public-service announcement featuring about two dozen pro footballers debuted this Thursday during the Chargers–Broncos game. But the question persists: How can the NFL paint itself as progressive while it permits one of its franchises to use a patently offensive team name? Calling a team “the Vikings” is grotesquely insensitive to everyone concerned about domestic abuse. Minnesota might as well call its team “the Pillagers” or “the Rapists.”

Of course, the public’s attitude toward Vikings has changed over the years. According to a piece in The Spectator by Melanie McDonagh, “the Vikings-as-peaceful-traders approach has now been academic orthodoxy for two generations.” But according to an Aberdeen University historian named David Dumville, whom the piece quotes, “We’re being invited to forget vast amounts.” Dumville “puts the fashion for cuddly Vikings squarely down to ‘Swedish war guilt about not participating in the [second world] war and American political correctness.’” In fact, McDonagh writes, “the Vikings’ cruelty and joy in battle put them in a class of their own.” Per the article’s title, “the Vikings really were that bad.” And according to the Huffington Post, new research done at the University of Oslo suggests that Vikings’ slaves and sex slaves would be beheaded and buried with their deceased masters. Is the NFL promoting rape culture?

Josh Gelernter, “Cleaning up the NFL”, National Review, 2014-10-25.

October 28, 2015

The koans of Zim Tzu, Lions edition

Filed under: Football, Humour — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

At the Daily Norseman, the eminent Zimmerologist Ted Glover provides an informed, wise, and fully footnoted translation of the most recent press conference of Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer. Rather than merely repeat Zimmer’s words, Glover transcribes, analyzes, and explains the subtle nuances of the famed Zim Tzu, warrior-poet, philosopher, and football coach:

… it was a somewhat content Mike Zimmer that took to the podium today for his weekly knowledge dump we call Zim Tzu. What is Zim Tzu, you ask? Zim Tzu is a form of communication,* an ethos,**, and a way to make people around you better.***

By speaking in carefully thought out phrases* that have hidden clues amongst subterfuge and deception,** only then can we determine the true meaning of what Mike Zimmer actually meant.***

*It’s just me swearing a lot, which is kind of fun sometimes.

**I have no idea what anyone means when they talk about anything, much less Mike Zimmer talking about football. I can’t stress how much of a moron I truly am.

***This is just something to try and get you to laugh, and totally made up. 100% fake. Like Kardashian emotions.This will not make you, in any way, a better person. Literally not at all.

As we always do, we take excerpts of Mike Zimmer’s weekly press conference and interpret them.* What Zimmer said is in quotes, and what he actually meant is deciphered** by me immediately below.

*Again, there is no interpretation involved at all. I’m lucky if I can piece two sentences together and make them coherent.

**Look, my lawyer says spell it out, because there are people out there that are so dense that light cannot escape a room they might be sharing: I am making this all up. I can’t read minds, because if I could, I’d be like a super villain or something. I’d at least have keys to the Playboy Mansion. That would be sweet.

October 26, 2015

Vikings get first road win of the season, beating Detroit Lions 28-19

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

I nearly gave up on this game early after Detroit ran up 17 points on the Vikings, but that turned out to be the Lions’ high-water mark except for a safety given up by the Vikings late in the fourth quarter. Lions QB Matthew Stafford absorbed a career-high seven sacks, while Teddy Bridgewater was dropped for five, including a strip-sack that was recovered by the Vikings. A sixth sack was eliminated by a penalty on the Lions.


October 23, 2015

The Orangutan Theory of Division 1 football

Filed under: Football, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Gregg Easterbrook points out the weirdness that is big-time college football in the United States:

These three coaching changes share in common what T.M.Q. calls the Orangutan Theory of Division 1: that football-factory programs have such incredible built-in advantages in recruiting power and gimmick schedules that an orangutan should be able to lead one to bowl eligibility.

Not only do the top recruits flock to prestige programs like South Carolina and U.S.C., but they also play under gimmick conditions. This year the Gamecocks have seven home games and five road dates; one of South Carolina’s opponents is lower-division Citadel. (Initially South Carolina scheduled eight home games and four road dates; a home game was moved because of Hurricane Joaquin.) U.S.C. enjoys seven home games versus five away; one of the Trojans’ opponents was Arkansas State, which plays in a lesser conference. Such schedules are as if the Denver Broncos played twice as many games at home as away, and one of the home games was against an Arena League team.

In the wake of the Spurrier and Sarkisian departures, the sports world — SportsCenter, Sports Illustrated, ESPN’s College GameDay — wondered when glory would return to these programs. Unless I missed it, not a word was said about the educational goals that are the ostensible purpose of the universities in question.

Spurrier’s team had a 51 percent graduation rate, including a 46 percent rate for African-Americans. He should have been given the boot for exploiting players without ensuring their educations: Instead all the boosters and the networks seemed to care about was his won-loss ratio. South Carolina is an SEC school. CBS has the contract for that conference, and benefits when the Gamecocks win. Where is the 60 Minutes segment on SEC football graduation rates?

Sarkisian’s team was graduating 47 percent of players, including 38 percent of African-Americans; Kiffin’s team had a 48 percent graduation rate, including 39 percent for African-American players. ESPN and Fox, which broadcast Pac-12 football, devoted lots of air time to the recruiting and ranking ramifications of the Kiffin and Sarkisian dismissals. Did either so much as mention graduation rates?

Even from programs like U.S.C. and South Carolina that produce many N.F.L. draftees, more than 90 percent never receive a professional paycheck. Because of the risk of injury and brain trauma and because of the effort and time that goes into the sport, colleges should make extra efforts to ensure football players receive educations. And yet many big football programs exploit African-American football players for profit without giving them the level of support to get the bachelor’s degree that is most people’s ticket into the middle class, or even distract them from education by demanding all their time and effort go into football. In many cases the boosters and boards of trustees don’t care, and the sports broadcasting world, which takes a cut of the exploitation, stays silent.

You want to discuss inequality? There are many thousands of NCAA football players, many of whom could not possibly attend university without athletic scholarships. They are subject to arbitrary rules that threaten to yank their funding at the slightest violation, constantly required to put aside any actual education-related activities to concentrate on training for games and in many cases, they are “studying” for degrees that don’t have much post-academic future. Most of them won’t ever be considered for the NFL, so getting that degree is the most important thing about attending university, but coaches and administrators collude to deprive them of that possibility in order to win football games, which attracts donations from alumni and TV coverage.

October 21, 2015

The first rule of Donut Club

Filed under: Football, Randomness — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

I’ve been following the Minnesota Vikings Donut Club for a few years on Twitter, but as far as I know, this is the first coverage of the secretive organization in the mainstream media:

“We just like to see commitment from guys. We need to see proof that you want to be a part of this club and want to be part of something bigger than yourself.”

That quote isn’t just another cliché being spewed by an NFL player about next week’s game. It’s a passionate explanation from veteran linebacker Chad Greenway about a different kind of club that meets early on Saturday mornings and follows a rule book that’s nearly as detailed as the league’s: The Minnesota Vikings’ Donut Club.

By even acknowledging its existence, Greenway has already broken the first rule of Donut Club. “I’m now getting yelled at for talking about it,” he says. “It’s like Fight Club. You’re going to get me in trouble.”

Donut Club has its roots in the 2008 season, when starting quarterback Gus Frerotte brought a few dozen donuts into the training room one Saturday morning. They were devoured in a matter of minutes, and it became a regular thing. “I just kept bringing donuts in because it’s a great thing to see when a guy sees fresh, big-ass donuts and they want to eat them,” says Frerotte, who retired after that ’08 season, his 15th in the NFL. If he returned to the Vikings’ training room now, he wouldn’t recognize the cult-like institution that grew from his humble act of generosity.


“The athletic trainer never pays for the donuts,” Sugarman says. When Frerotte first brought in donuts, it was a nod of appreciation for the trainers and equipment staff, so players rotate paying for three dozen donuts on a weekly basis in the regular season. YoYo owner Chris Moquist, a lifelong Vikings fan, remembers when the Vikings first started ordering from his shop: “A guy came in to pick up an order and we went, ‘Wow, that guy’s neck is way too big to be a normal person. That’s Chad Greenway. That’s awesome!’ ”

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