NFC & AFC Title Game Predictions for Sunday January 20, 2013
 
Well, we’re down to the “final four” of our annual NFL Super Bowl tournament.  
 
Last Week’s Picks
 
We did very, very well again with last week’s picks–we picked every game correctly, and only missed the Denver-Baltimore game, which was decided by a FG in a second overtime, 38-35.  But for the Baltimore upset, we would have been 4 for 4.

Taking the prior weekend’s picks into account, we are 6 for 8 or batting .750.  Not too shabby.  
 
The Super Bowl was Named for the Wham-O “Super Ball”.  See Discussion, Below.  I had one of these when I was a kid. As you can plainly see, SuperBalls were made of “amazing Zectron”.
 
 
Before we get to Denver-Baltimore, let’s go over the other games.  SF-Green Bay played out like we saw it in the first half, a very close game.  In the second half, Green Bay seemed to play tired, like a team coming off a wild card round, while SF seemed like the rested team they were, and SF steadily pulled away in the second half.  While it was surprising that QB Aaron Rodgers did not provide more offense in the 2d half, it’s also true that he was slightly missing on some throws while SF seemed to make all the big plays.  Again, fatigue has to play a role in things like that, and Rodgers, for Green Bay to win, has to toss it up there @50 times a game.    
 
The Seahawks-Falcons game also played out like we thought through @ 2 1/2 quarters, with the Falcons in firm control and up twenty points.  Then, the Seahawks, as with last week, mounted a furious comeback, eventually taking the lead 28-27 with less than a minute to go.  This again shows how evenly matched those teams were,and how very good a coach Pete Carroll is–his team never quit, even though they were on the road and they were tired.  You had to love the way Seattle played.  But even better was the way Atlanta responded–by going fifty yards in less than 20 seconds and then kicking the GW FG–showing that Matt Ryan’s experience–something we touted last week–together with the home field advantage–kicking in a dome is FG friendly–would prove very helpful to the Falcons when it came down to it.  So we got that one right.  Barely, but right.
 
Finally, we got the Pats-Texans game exactly right.  The Texans are a fine team, but they can’t keep up with the Pats’ offense, and they can’t hold them defensively.  That was not even a close game, and we didn’t think it would be, so we picked that one correctly and for the right reasons.  
 
So where did we go wrong with Denver?  What is the lesson?  Never pick Peyton Manning against Ray Lewis in a playoff game?  Well actually Peyton Manning was 2-0 vs Baltimore in prior playoff games.   
 
Here’s a stat worth considering:  Jake the Snake Plummer and Tim Tebow each have more playoff wins in a Denver Broncos jersey as starting QBs, than Peyton Manning.  This has to be embarassing to Peyton Manning, whose little brother Eli Manning of the NY Giants has two Super Bowl wins against the NE Pats on his resume to Peyton’s one win in the Super Bowl.
 
Well, we said Ray Lewis was a warrior, and in the end, the Baltimore Defense made Peyton Manning look awful.  They won the game by forcing him to roll right in OT, and make a terrible off balance throw that resulted in an interception, a throw that Peyton Manning never makes, normally speaking.  This results in an INT, Baltimore gets the ball, goes down and kicks the GW FG, game over.  
 
This is really the story.  
 
PREDICTIONS FOR AFC CHAMPIONSHIP AND NFC CHAMPIONSHIP THIS WEEKEND
Ravens at Pats 3 PM Sunday AFC Championship
 
First, we have the Baltimore Ravens at the New England Patriots in the early game, scheduled for 3 pm in New England, in a rematch of last years AFC title game.  There are three games we can look at here.
 
Initially, we have this years game between the two teams, which the Ravens won 31-30 on a GW FG as time expired, in week 3 of the season, back in September, in Baltimore.  The Baltimore defense essentially held Brady in check while Flacco & the Baltimore offense scored 10 unanswered points in the last five minutes of the game to beat the Pats.  Strong stuff.  
 
Second, you have last years AFC championship game, which the Pats won 23-20.   However, as everyone knows, Baltimore had a chip shot FG to tie, which Billy Cundiff missed with barely any time left on the clock, and Baltimore had numerous other opportunities in the 4th Quarter to come back from a 23-20 deficit.  The Pats were very lucky to escape out of that game as victors.  
 
Third, you have the 2009 wild card round game, wherein Baltimore came into New England and soundly whipped them, 33-14.  
 
Baltimore is the one team in the AFC that really gives Tom Brady trouble.  
 
Baltimore will be motivated to win because they lost last year, because Ray Lewis is looking at his last year, and because they know they can beat this New England team.  
 
On paper, this matchup strongly favors the Patriots, and they are at home, but the pick here is the Ravens in an upset.  
 
Ray Lewis is going to the Super Bowl.  
 
49ers at Falcons – NFC Championship
 
This is a very closely matched game on the stats.  Common opponents don’t really say much–the 49ers beat the Saints, while the Falcons split with the Saints, winning one and losing one.  The 49ers split with the Seahawks, winning one and losing one, while the Falcons hung on to beat the Seahawks in the playoff game this past weekend.  All this tells us is that both teams can play against very good opponents like the Seahawks and Saints and beat them on a given day.  It also tells us on any given Sunday either of them might lose to the Saints or the Seahawks, which we probably already knew, and therefore, there’s no 100% probability that if these guys played three games, one team would sweep all three–much more likely that there would be a split and then a deciding game.  
 
However, they only play one, and in this one, we pick the 49ers. The Falcons have much going for them–the home field, Matt Ryan being due, and Atlanta being ripe for a trip to the Super Bowl.  But on the other side you have a very tough SF 49er team, which features the rushing attack of one day HOFer Frank Gore (U. Miami Hurricane), who is 3d among career RBs in career rushing, just behind Adrian Peterson and both trailing Steven Jackson.  Gore is supplemented by a running QB in Colin Kaepernick, and a fervent defense.  
 
David Akers, who is a veteran kicker, should be an advantage, but he presents some weakness from beyond 40 yards, especially compared to Atlanta’s kicker Bryant.  If it comes down to FGs, there is an edge somewhat to Atlanta, though the dome will help both kickers.    The pick is still the 49ers.  
 
Postscript
 
We mentioned great RBs last week–but we forget to mention Emmitt Smith and Tony Dorsett among the greatest ever.  Smith is obviously among the greatest RBs ever to play the game, and a true champion, while Tony Dorsett, also a Dallas Cowboy great, could also do it all.  Both were great rushing as well as receiving, and both were durable and versatible backs who were at their best in the playoffs and in the biggest games.  No one could possible leave them off their teams.  Another mention has to be made of Franco Harris, the powerful and durable back of the Steelers dynasty of the 1970s.  
 
We were once (several of us) at a Penn-Princeton football game  many years back and sitting right in front of us, was Franco Harris, who was watching his son with the Princetonians.  He looked pretty much as he did during his playing days, and on his fingers were the four Super Bowl rings–quite a sight, mind you.  
 
We were not worthy.  
 
In fairness, you’d want a Franco Harris or an Emmitt Smith or a Tony Dorsett on your team any day of the week.  They were winners, and I can’t count how many Super Bowls, Conference Championships, playoff games, they all won  collectively, but it has to be a ton.  
 
The Name of the Super Bowl Derived from the Wham-O Super Ball, as Shown by This Exhibit in the Pro Football HOF in Canton, OH.  The fact that Lamar Hunt coined the name is recited therein.  The owners had decided to call it the “AFL-NFL Championship Game”.  Well, you see how well that worked.  No .92 resiliency coefficient.  “After watching his children play with a Super Ball, Lamar Hunt, founder of the American Football League, coined the term Super Bowl. In a July 25, 1966, letter to NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle, Hunt wrote, “I have kiddingly called it the ‘Super Bowl,’ which obviously can be improved upon.” Although the leagues’ owners decided on the name “AFL-NFL Championship Game,” the media immediately picked up on Hunt’s “Super Bowl” name, which would become official beginning with the third annual game.[8][17][18]”  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Super_Ball
 
 
Final PS point:  
 
The Super Bowl was named after the Wham-O toy, the “Super Ball
 
It’s true.  Lamar Hunt and his fellow owners were sitting around one day figuring out what to call the new championship game back in the mid-60s and they got the name from the “Super” of “Super Ball”.  It’s told right here at: http://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/blog/shutdown_corner/post/Is-the-Super-Bowl-really-named-after-a-1960s-chi?urn=nfl-317028.
 
The key source for this story on the website is Michael MacCambridge’s “America’s Game: The Epic Story of How Pro Football Captured a Nation.”  (Random House, NY, NY 2004).  It can be located at Amazon.com at:
 
 
Here’s the Yahoo article: 
 
“Is the Super Bowl Really Named After a Children’s Toy?”
It seems too much like an urban legend to be true that the Super Bowl was named after a children’s novelty toy that was popular in the mid-1960s.
But strange as it sounds, it is. The name of America’s biggest sport event got its name from a Wham-O toy called “Super Ball.” The story was recounted in Michael MacCambridge’s book, “America’s Game.”
Once the NFL-AFL merger was announced, discussions began about the inaugural championship game between the winners of the two leagues. A group of seven men were tasked with the specifics. During the course of the meetings, it became confusing when the men referred to “the championship game” because the others didn’t know whether he was referring to the league championship games or the finale, which still didn’t have a name. To end the mix-ups, Kansas City Chiefs founder Lamar Hunt jokingly referred to the final championship game as the “Super Bowl.” He had come up with the name while watching his children play with the toy pictured above.
“Super Bowl” is how the game was referred to for months, even though Hunt himself said it was “far too corny” to ever be used on the big stage. In the middle of 1966, he wrote commissioner Pete Rozelle and said the group needed to come up with an official name for the game. “If possible,” he wrote, “I believe we should ‘coin a phrase’ for the Championship Game. […] I have kiddingly called it the ‘Super Bowl,’ which obviously can be improved upon.”
Rozelle agreed. The league’s publicity director recalled that the commissioner despised the word “super,” because it didn’t have any sophistication. Rozelle was evidently a “stickler on words and grammar.” The game would be known as the “AFL-NFL World Championship Game.”
That bulky title didn’t last. People caught wind of Hunt’s name and soon everyone, from media members to players, were calling the title game “the Super Bowl.” The NFL was slow to adapt, though. It wasn’t until the third game that the words “Super Bowl” appeared on the official game program and the fourth game when the phrase appeared on tickets.
As mentioned above, Michael MacCambridge’s excellent “America’s Game: The Epic Story of How Pro Football Captured a Nation” was the main reference for this blog post.
citation supra.  
 
The Original Patent for the SuperBall aka “Highly Resilient Polybutadiene Ball” Patented by Wham-O Corp 1965.
 
March 22, 1966 N. H. STINGLEY 3,241,834
HIGHLY RESILIENT POLYBUTADIENE BALL
Filed Aug. 25, 1965
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United States Patent O
.1
3,241,834
HIGHLY RESELIENT POLYBUTADIENE BALL
Norman H. Stingley, Garden Grove, Calif., assignor to
Wham-0 Manufacturing Company, San Gabriel, Calif.,
at corporation of California
Filed Aug. 25, 1965, Ser. No. 432,584
3 Claims. (Cl. 273–58)
This is a continuation-in-part of application Serial No. 462,081 filed June 7, 1965, and now abandoned.
This invention relates to a toy and more particularly to a ball or sphere having extremely high resilience and a high coeflicient of friction.
The resiliency of rubber balls is one of their most important characteristics. This is because the resiliency of the ball material determines the “liveliness” and “bounce” of the ball and hence its utility in various sporting games and attractiveness as a toy for children. The resilient material normally used for making rubber balls is a polymer such as natural rubber or some synthetic analog of natural rubber such as polyisoprene.
The present invention is concerned with a material other than rubber and -polyisoprene as the base polymer in rubber toys and sporting articles. It has been found that this new material imparts some highly unusual qualities to articles fabricated with it. Such articles have been found to have a substantially greater resiliency than those manufactured from more conventional materials. This greater resiliency is thought to be due to the nature of the base polymer used in the mixture and the unique quality -of the mixture which comprises the article of being able to conserve the energy which is imparted to it rather than dissipating a substantial portion of it in the form of heat. The higher resilience means that balls made from the material of this invention have a resilience factor in excess of 90%. This resilience factor is the resilience of the material as measured by the Yerzley method, ASTM D945-59.
Another unusual quality of balls and toys of this invention is their coeflicient of friction. In this instance the coefficient friction is substantially higher than in other
similar items. This quality combined with the significant
ly higher resilience causes a ball to react in an extraordinary and unpredictable manner when bounced or struck. This higher coeflicient of friction also provides a means whereby the spin or “English” on a thrown, struck or dropped ball can be accentuated resulting in unusual reactions by -theball whenever it rebounds from a hard surface. This novel combination of qualities means that one natural application for ‘balls manufactured with the base polymer with which this invention is concerned is in trick ball uses. In addition, as a sports implement a ball of this invention presents -a greater challenge -to the user. As an article of play, the eccentricity of reaction makes the ball a highly entertaining and amusing toy.
The invention in the present case contemplates a molded, vulcanized, highly resilient ball comprising a mixture of polybutadiene, a sulfurous vulcanizing agent and a polybutadiene reinforcing agent.
In addition to the inherent resilience of the base polymer, the degree of cross linkage between -polymer chains is important in optimizing the bounce or liveliness of balls fabricated with it. The -degree of cross linkage is primarily determined by the amount of vulcanizing agent used. By limiting the amount of vulcanizing agent introduced into the mixture to the quantities specified below, a ball having a Yerzley resilience in excess of 90% is obtained. Such a resilience factor is substantially higher than that found in balls manufactured from natural rubber or polyisoprene.
In addition to resilience and cross linkage, the ability
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In the formulation above polybutadiene is the base polymer of the mixture. To produce cross linkage between polybutadiene chains, that is, to vulcanize or cure the polymer, sulfur is added to the mixture. A greater amount of vulcanizing agent is used in this mixture than in such products as tires thereby producing a greater degree of vulcanization. Put another way, the degree of cross linkage relative -to saturation (hard rubber) is increased over tires and the like. The more complete vulcanization is believed to result in the improved resilience of the finished product. The addition of sulfur in the range indicated will result in balls having a Yerzley Resilience in excess of 90%. Oil extended polybutadiene having as much as 50 parts by weight of oil per hundred parts by weight of polybutadiene can also be used as the base polymer.
Because the natural curing rate of a mixture of polybutadiene and sulfur is quite slow, certain other additives are combined with this basic mixture to initiate the curing cycle and accelerate the rate of vulcanization. The zinc oxide and stearic acid are added to the basic mixture to provide this activation function. Acceleration accomplishes two purposes, one, it shortens the length of the molding cycle, and two, it equalizes heat throughout the mixture during the curing cycle. In the preceding formulation, the accelerators are N-oxydiethylene benzothiazole 2 sulfenamide, di-orthotolylguanidine and bismuth dimethyldithiocarbonate. For ease of reference, the trade names AMAX, DOTG and Bismate respectively will be used to designate the accelerators.
The activation of these accelerators occurs as the mixture reaches a specific temperature. For Bismate and DOTG the activation temperature is approximately 230° F. while that of AMAX is -approximately 260° F. By insuring that t-he heat of reaction is equalized throughout the mixture a more uniform rate of vulcanization and improved consistency in the end product is obtained.
Hydrated silica is added to the mixture as a filler. A specific hydrated silica suitable for use in this mixture is marketed under the trademark Hi-Sil 233. This material and certain other materials perform the function of providing tear and abrasion resistance. The basic criteria for selection of the filler material is its ability to improve the durability of polybutadiene without unduly increasing the specific gravity. Carbon black and lithium oxide have also been found to fill these requirements and are satisfactory substitutes for the hydrated silica.

3,241,834
3
In addition to the ingredients just previously discussed, 4 methyl-6 tertiary-butyl phenol is also added to the mixture. This substance has been given the trade name of Antioxidant 2246 and prevents discoloration and staining and inhibits aging of the finished product. Examples of substitutes for Antioxidant 2246 are phenyl B naphthylamine, alkyl diphenylamine, and hindered alkyl phenols. Pigmenting agents for obtaining the desired color of the end product are optional additives.
The mixture and molding of the constituents of this formulation proceeds according to the following steps. The various elements of the formulation are brought together in a mixing machine and agitated thoroughly to insare uniform mixing and distribution of the elements throughout the mixture. The result is a plastic mass ready for insertion in a mold.
To complete the process, the mixture is placed in a nold and subjected to a pressure of between 500 and 3,000 p.s.i. for a period of approximately 10 to 30 minutes. Simultaneously, the temperature of the mixture is raised to approximately 285-340° F. To a certain extent the length of the molding operation, the pressure, and the temperature to which the formulation is subjected are co-variant and one may be adjusted to compensate for a variation in the other. Preferably the time and temperature for the molding operation is 15 to 20 minutes at approximately 320° F. and 1,000 p.s.i.
An alternate formulation to the one outlined above is as follows:
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The above formulation is mixed in the same manner as the preceding formulation. To insure a good dispersion of all ingredients in the mixture, the batch is normally given a two-pass mix. In the above formulation, the zinc oxide and the stearic acid perform the same functions, viz., activation of polymer curing, as they did in the first formulation. Akron 544 Red and Akron 626 Blue are trade designations for organic coloring agents manufactured by Akron Chemical Co. Titanium dioxide is also a coloring agent. These three constituents in combination are the pigmenting agent for the mixture.
Zeolex is a proprietary brand name for a series of precipitated, highly hydrated sodium silico-aluminates and sodium calcium silico-aluminates. Its function is to strengthen the finished product and to act as a filler in the same manner as the Hi-Sil 233 does in the preceding formulation.
Sulfur is the vulcanizing agent. Vandex is a proprietary name for finely ground selenium. Its function is to supplement sulfur as a vulcanizing agent.
As in the first formulation, several constituents of the mixture (AMAX and M. Tuads) are added to serve as accelerators for the polymerization.
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As is normal in molding tehniques, the curing temperature must be carefully selected in order to prevent imperfections in the finished product. Too high a molding temperature will contribute to a condition designated “backrind.” This condition is characterized by an indented fracture around the body of the molded product defining the point where the two halves of the mold are brought together and is due to thermal expansion in this area during and after the molding cycle.
Subject to the proper choice of injection pressure, injection time, and the combination of mixture constituents, preheat, and mold temperature, this mixture can also be molded by means of a conventional injection-molding technique.
Combinations of ingredients of which the two formulations listed above are representative have been found to result in a product with a specific gravity of approximately 1.0 to 1.3. For greatest resilience, it has been found that a sufficient amount of filler should be added to produce a product having a specific gravity of 1.02.
What is claimed is:
1. A highly resilient solid ball in the form of a sphere, the ball material having a specific gravity of from about 1 to about 1.3, and comprising in combination a vulcanized polymer characterized by the use of 100 parts by weight of polybutadiene and 0.5 to 15 parts by weight of a sulfur vulcanizing agent, and further comprising, in addition to any activators and accelerators used for vulcanization, 5 to 15 parts by weight of an inorganic reinforcing material.
2. A ball in accordance with claim 1 in which the reinforcing material is selected from the class consisting of hydrated silica, carbon black and lithium oxide.
3. A ball in accordance with claim 2 in which the sul
‘ fur vulcanizing agent is approximately 5.25 parts by
weight and the reinforcing material is approximately 7.5 parts by weight.
References Cited by the Examiner
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Location: Tampa, FL, USA
PLAYOFF PICKS FOR DIVISIONAL WEEKEND JAN 12-13 2013
 
Last Week
Well, last week went pretty well as we got 3 out of 4 right. That wasn’t looking so good until Mike Shanahan, who I savaged in last week’s column, decided, after going up 14-0 on Seattle, to leave RG3 out there on one leg and see how injured the guy could get facing the best defense in the NFC.
 
We discussed last week Shanahan’s history of abusing QB’s and going one and done with guys not named Elway.  Last week was a classic batch of evidence of this.  Up 14-0, Shanahan only had to do one thing–sit RG3 on the bench and go with his competent backup and sit on the lead.  Instead, he left a hobbled, injured QB out there too long–who by the time they actually needed him to come back and get the lead in the 4th Quarter, was way too banged up to play.  Had Shanahan rested him for two and one half quarters, RG3 might have had enough for one last drive–or his backup could have gotten it going enough to keep the ‘Skins in the game.  
 
RGIII was left in last weeks game way too long by Mike Shanahan
 
Now the Seahawks march on, Pete Carroll is a genius, Shanahan is a ninny, RG3 may be out for 1/2 of next year, RG3 has LCL and possibly ACL damage that is severe to the same knee he destroyed once already in college, and Shanahan is directly responsible for aggravating the injury for leaving in the  kid in there after the kid worked hard in the first quarter to get a two TD lead.   If I’m a tort lawyer, I’m suing Shanahan for negligence.  I mean, c’mon.  
 
Oh, and by the way, another one and done for Shanahan.  See?  And another playoff win on the road for Carroll, who continues to show his playoff genius.  And makes my pick of last week look like brilliance.  Since I analyzed it as a case of Shanahan will beat himself and Carroll will take advantage.
 
Cincinnati was lackluster in losing to the Texans in the playoffs for the second year in a row (though I have to give a shoutout to our high school QB, Haverford School/Boston College and former NY Giant Michael Mayock, who was broadcasting that game and actually made it interesting).  Mayock does all of the draft analysis for NFL Network and is one of the best prepared and best NFL and college broadcasters in the game, and one of the greatest athletes I ever saw play high school football (he once dropped 26 points in a 12 year old hoops game that was about five minutes long).  Greatest line from Mayock:  the other broadcaster mentions that Arrian Foster runs like Marcus Allen, and Mayock immediately says “Hey, I played against Marcus Allen” and goes on to note the similarities and differences.
 
Marcus Allen, OJ, Jim Brown & Walter Peyton v. Adrian Peterson & Eric Dickerson
Thirty years ago this month I was living in LA, and my good friend E.N. was visiting from NYC, and we scored fifty yard line seats for the LA Raiders-NY Jets playoff game in balmy 70 degree weather.  You may remember that this was the game won by the Jets (barely) using Richard Todd at QB, and with their famous defensive combo of Gastineau and Temple’s own Joe Klecko.  Famous for the fact that until Rex Ryan came along, the Jets had not won a playoff game since that 1983 contest for a long, long time.  
 
Anyhow, Marcus Allen was in that game as a rookie, and not ten rows ahead of us was sitting then world famous actor and sports commentator Orenthal James “OJ” Simpson, a white Bronco ride still ten years away in his future, sitting with his beautiful blonde wife and an equally beautiful blonde on the other side of him.  During the entire game we (meaning the whole crowd) were peppering him with cries of “Juice, Juice”.  After all, we were in the LA Coliseum, the very place he had played college ball for USC, and he was watching his good friend Marcus Allen play ball.  
 
Marcus Allen USC and LA Raider HOF RB
 
 
It seems a long time ago, but this year some running back made an assault on Eric Dickerson’s 16 game rushing record of 2105 yards achieved in 1973 (Adrian Peterson with 2,097).  The only problem being, both Peterson & Dickerson did it in sixteen games, whereas OJ Simpson’s record of 2,003 yards, set in 1973, was achieved in fourteen games.  OJ averaged more than 143 yards per game, whereas Dickerson, in the longer season, averaged only 132 yards per game.  Meaning that had OJ played two more games, it’s pretty safe to say that OJ would have gained 2,289 yards in a sixteen game season.
 
No one since OJ has gained 2,000 yards in 14 games or less, and if OJ were playing today, he’s probably have already broken the 2,500 yard mark for a running back in a sixteen game season with a bye.  Remember, too, he set that record playing in Buffalo, outside, in the snow, without a bye week.  
 
OJ Simpson – the greatest RB of them all?
 
 
OJ had another year two years later in 1975 where he gained 1817 yards in a 14 games season and averaged 130 yards per game.  If he had played 16 games that year, he’d have rushed for 2,017 yards that year.  That would still be 5th on the all-time list today ahead of all but Dickerson, Peterson, and the famous 2000 yard seasons of Jamal Lewis & Barry Sanders.  
 
This was probably the OJ look that launched his “Naked Gun” film career
 
 
Lest we neglect the greatest RB of them all, Jim Brown played 1/2 of his career in a twelve game NFL season.  In 118 games he rushed for 12,312 yards and averaged over his career 104.3 yards per game.  In 1963, Brown rushed for 1863 yards and averages 133.1 yards per game, which means if he had played 16 games in 1963, he would have rushed for 2,129 yards.  
 
Needless to say, Jim Brown would have been the all-time rushing leader and the first to break the 2,000 yard barrier if he had played a 16 game season.  Moreover, Brown’s retrospective 2,129 yards he would have gained in 16 games played with a bye in 1963 would rank first in the NFL overall today, and would only rank behind OJ’s retrospective 2,289 yards which OJ would have carried in 1973 given sixteen games and a bye.
 
Consequently, let’s forget about Adrian Peterson and Eric Dickerson, who are great HOF backs, and concentrate on who were the greatest NFL running backs in history.  That list comes down to three–Jim Brown, OJ Simpson, and Barry Sanders.   And of course, the late Walter Peyton, whose 1977 season rushing for 1852 yards with a pace of 132 yards per carry in a fourteen game season would have propelled him to a total of 2,116 yards in a sixteen game, bye week season.  That would have ranked him third all time in NFL history.  
 
the late Walter Payton – perhaps the most beloved football player of all time
 
 
And I’d take Marcus Allen after them and before Eric Dickerson or Adrian Peterson.  Allen was as good a receiving back as he was a running back, and in his NFL career rushed for 12,000 plus yards as well as caught passes receiving for another nearly 5,500 yards at a nearly 10 yards per reception clip.  If you split him into two he’d be two HOFers, but as a single back, he was a wrecking crew.  In 1985 he totalled 2314 yards from scrimmage, 1780 on the ground and another 555 in reception yards.  Yikes.  Not even Sanders, Peyton, Simpson or Brown were that versatile.  Peyton could catch and run with the ball more than the others–and Sweetness was truly great–but at his peak, Marcus Allen literally destroyed defenses.  
 
In the Super Bowl of January 1984 between the LA Raiders and the Washington Redskins, wherein the Raiders destroyed the Redskins 38-9, Marcus Allen rushed for 191 yards on 20 rushing attempts.  John Riggins on the other side only gained 64 yards on 26 attempts.  The combination of Marcus Allen and Jim Plunkett was, literally, unstoppable, and the Raiders crushed a Washington Redskins team that had won the Super Bowl the very previous year over Dan Marino and the Miami Dolphins.  They didn’t just beat the Redskins–they destroyed, humiliated and made a laughingstock of them, so much so that everyone forgot that the Redskins had ever been champions the year before.  
 
Marcus Allen’s 9.55 yards per carry Super Bowl rushing average is second all time in Super Bowl history–to the immortal Tom Matte of Baltimore, who averages 10.55 yards per carry back in Super Bowl III (which the Jets, not the Colts won).  Matte rushed for 116 yards on 11 attempts in that game, but that was in a losing effort.  Matte and Unitas were usually a terrific pair, but Namath and his teammates were just better that day–a lot better.  
 
That was how good Marcus Allen was.  And as good as OJ, Peyton, Jim Brown, and all the rest were, only Walter Peyton won a Super Bowl, and Jim Brown an NFL championship.  Marcus Allen didn’t just win a Super Bowl–he dominated it.  
 
PICKS FOR THIS WEEKEND
 
Saturday’s Games:
 
Baltimore Ravens at Denver Broncos:
 
I’m getting this out a little late, so really I shouldn’t be picking so late on this one, but I’m going with the conventional wisdom and picking Denver, at home, over Baltimore.  Ave atque value, Ray Lewis.  Those about to do NFL combat for the last time salute you, you are a true warrior.  
 
Green Bay Packers at San Francisco 49ers:
 
This is a very close matchup.  Green Bay has a better offense with Aaron Rodgers, but SF has a superior defense, and one has to like the Niner’s coaching scheme.  Also, the Niners have the home field, which is a big difference from playing on the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field.  I like the 49ers in a close game.  
 
Sunday’s Games:
 
Seattle Seahawks at Atlanta Falcons:
 
On paper, you’d have to like the Seahawks.  However, Atlanta is very tough at home, they have the bye week, and Matt Ryan is a much more veteran and savvy QB than rookie RGIII, and will play for the long haul.  Atlanta has a good rushing attack with Turner and Rodgers to go with the passing attack of Ryan, and Atlanta also has an excellent defense.  Think about Atlanta’s 34-0 smackdown of the NY Giants in the Dome, and you get the idea of how good Atlanta can play at home, and their 13-3 record is nothing to sneeze about.  I pick Atlanta.
 
Houston Texans at NE Patriots:
 
This is a rematch of last year’s playoff game, wherein the Patriots pretty much destroyed the Texans.  As much as one would like to see a different result, the fact is that Tom Brady and the Pats are really good at home, they scored the most points of any team in the league, and their defense is pretty darn good also.  And their QB is very good.  The Texans won last week, but in one of the most boring games ever, and other than Arrian Foster, they just don’t have the offensive weapons to keep up with the Patriots, and their defense will not shut down Tom Brady for an entire game–the Patriots scored 557 points this season.  
 
Footnote:
 
The Canton Bulldogs, which featured Jim Thorpe, and played in the NFL only during the 1920s (my late grandfather lived in Canton OH for two years and watched Jim Thorpe play football), won two NFL championship.  That is more NFL championships than the Seattle Seahawks, the Houston Texans, the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Carolina Panthers, the Atlanta Falcons, the Cincinnati Bengals, the Minnesota Vikings (all of which have zero NFL or Super Bowl championships), and more than the Baltimore Ravens, the New Orleans Saints, the Tampa Bay Bucs, the NY Jets or the San Diego Chargers (all of which have one Super Bowl or NFL/AFL championship).  The Broncos, Bills, Chiefs, Titans, Dolphins and most embarassingly, since they’ve been in the league since 1920, the Chicago/St Louis/Arizona Cardinals, are all tied with Canton with two championships.   So much for NFL parity.  18 teams have won the same number or fewer NFL championships as the Canton Bulldogs, a team that last played during the Coolidge Administration.  Even the Philadelphia Eagles have three NFL championships (1948, 1949 and 1960).  
 
Art Kyriazis, Philly
http://arthurjohnkyriazisgoogleblog.blogspot.com/2013/01/playoff-picks-for-divisional-weekend.html

 

NFL Playoff Picks Wild Card Round Jan 2013
 
Well, we’ve arrived at the NFL Wild Card Round for Jan 2013.

Eagles Chuck Bednarik Penn Grad and last of the Sixty Minute Men levels Frank Gifford in November of 1960 on the Eagles path to an NFL Championship win over the Green Bay Packers.  The hit occurred fifty years ago this past November, and this was the fiftieth anniversary of the Eagles championship this past December.


Chuck Bednarik – A Short Documentary with Footage of the Famous Hit on Frank Gifford of the NY Giants.  The Eagles-Giants rivalry is the oldest in the NFL dating back to 1933.
 
By the way, there is no National Hockey League action, so if you want to watch real hockey, I suggest you make the trek up to University of New Hampshire (UNH) or Hahvahd or U Minnesota or some real hockey college (or go see the American Hockey League, featuring the New Haven Nighthawks).   Or just rent “SlapShot”, Paul Newman’s finest cinematic work. 

SLAPSHOT (1977) DIRECTED BY GEORGE ROY HILL STARRING PAUL NEWMAN – THE HANSON BROTHERS ARRIVE IN JOHNSTOWN


JOE WILLIE NAMATH THE GREATEST OF THEM ALL WITH HIS DAUGHTER JESSICA NAMATH AT THE PREMIERE OF THE HBO DOCUMENTARY “NAMATH” ABOUT AFL FOOTBALL THE PRECURSOR TO THE PASS-HAPPY LEAGUE WE NOW CALL THE NFL (WHICH USED TO BE RUNNING AND DEFENSE LEAGUE).


 
Making football playoffs all the more important, since the NBA (National BigMan Association) playoffs will not start until we are all at the beach and don’t care anymore about hoops.  Also, this year, in a novel approach, the NBA has decided it might be a good idea if the Los Angeles Lakers, who play in a city which has no water, let alone any natural lakes, actually stunk and let some of the other teams get to the Finals.   I mean, last night, the Sixers marched into the Staples Center and WHUPPED the Lakers.  And it wasn’t close.  The entire payroll of the Sixers wouldn’t pay for even one of Kobe’s regular sushi meals.

By Eric Pincus

January 2, 2013, 12:00 p.m.
The Lakers lost Tuesday night to the Philadelphia 76ers, 103-99, at Staples Center.
Sixers point guard Jrue Holiday was a difficult cover for the Lakers all night, finishing with 26 points and 10 assists in 39 minutes of play.
The 22-year old point guard from UCLA is midway through his fourth season, averaging 18.9 points and 8.9 assists for the Sixers.
Lakers guard Steve Nash said Holiday’s play gave the Sixers a big lift.
“Obviously they’re a different team with him. We beat them at their place by 20 without him,” Nash said (the margin was actually 13 points in the December meeting, 111-98). “I think he gives them obviously a very talented players but he also makes guys around him better.  He makes it more difficult for you to guard [Evan] Turner[Jason] Richardson and the other guys on the perimeter.”
The Lakers were within four points with about 32 seconds left when Metta World Peace missed a three-point shot.  Holiday took it right to the rack with a thunderous dunk to put the Sixers up 103-97, all but extinguishing the Lakers’ chances.
“He’s a terrific player,” Nash said.  “He’s an All-Star this year.”

Steve Nash and Jrue Holiday chase the ball yesterday, courtesy Lakers Now cited supra.



For some reason, the NBA now includes Oklahoma City, which by all accounts is the 505th largest metropolitan area in the United States, but has one of the 30 odd NBA franchises.  
 
This makes as much sense as when Bob Irsay moved the Baltimore Colts to Indianapolis in the middle of the night, as highlighted in a recent ESPN 30-30 documentary. 
 
Ok, so here are the matchups and here are the picks:

Wild Card Round:  

Saturday Jan 5th, 2013:  Cincinnati Bengals (10-6) v. Houston Texans (12-4) 4:30 pm.  PICK: BENGALS.  Close match but Bengals finished very strong, Texans didn’t.   This is probably a very tight matchup and could go either way, but the Bengals defeated three good teams down the stretch while the Texans wilted away the #1 seed down the stretch.
 
Saturday Jan 5th, 2013:  Minnesota Vikings (10-6) v. Green Bay Packers (11-5) 8:00 pm.  PICK:  PACKERS.  The teams split the two regulars season meetings, but the Pack is back and is much stronger than their record indicates.  It will be a hard fought game but one has to like the Packers’ superior offensive capabilities and QB Aaron Rodgers, a proven winner, over the wonderful Adrian Peterson, who assaulted Eric Dickerson’s NFL rushing mark this past season.  However, if the Vikings are down by ten points or more, then their running game will not prove useful, and they will need to go to the air.  Neither team has a very tight defense, so it’s hard to see the Vikings containing the Pack.  Only Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Matt Ryan had higher QBRs than Aaron Rodgers this year with the Packers.  Rodgers still holds the all-time QBR mark.  However, Rodgers led the NFL in Passer Rating in 2012.  
 
Sunday, Jan 6th, 2013:  Indianapolis Colts (11-5) v. Baltimore Ravens (10-6) 1:00 pm.  PICK:RAVENS. Everyone loves Bruce Arians, but am I the only person who remembers that he once was the head coach of Temple Football, where he was 21-45 over six seasons from 1983-88?  including 1986, when Temple went 6-5, but was later forced to forfeit all six of its wins due to the use of Paul Palmer, a fantastic RB who later was shown to have signed with a player agent, and was thus ineligible to play (see, the NCAA will take away wins from any university playing football in Pennsylvania).    At any rate, the Colts are the luckiest 11-5 team in the history of the NFL–they gave up 387 points while scoring 357 points.  The Ravens look more normal–their defense is still good, though they gave up more points than usual.  Joe Flacco won’t thrill anyone, but he gets the job done.  Andrew Luck–well, he’ll need it against the likes of Ray Lewis, who had 44 tackles in just six games.  Not everyday you have to look into the eyes of a middle linebacker who has done hard time for felony murder conspiracy, knowing that fellow is hell-bent on coming after YOU.  And sending your receivers across midfield into his path.  Good LUCK.  I pick the Ravens.  
 
Sunday Jan 6th, 2013:  Seattle Seahawks (11-5) v. Washington DC Redskins (10-6) 4:30 pm.  PICK:  SEAHAWKS.  The most underrated coach in the league has to be Pete Carroll of Seattle, who not only snuck into the playoffs two years ago with a 7-9 team, but then proceeded to win the mother of all upsets by upending the Super Bowl champion Saints in the Wild Card round and then proceeded to give the Bears a contest before falling in the second round.  This year, the Seahawks allowed only 245 points–one of the very lowest totals in the NFL–while scoring 412 points.  The Redskins by contrast allowed 388 points while scoring 436 points.  Among the tough teams the Seahawks beat this year were the Cowboys, the Packers, the Patriots, the Vikings, the Bears and the 49ers, and they didn’t give a whole lot of points in beating those teams either.  The total allowed in those six games was 92 points–or @15.33 points per game to six of the highest scoring opponents with some of the best running backs and QBs in the NFL.  In fact, based on point differentials, the Seahawks should have gone 13-3, while the Redskins should have gone 9-7.  And while many enthuse over the inestimable talents of Robert Griffin III, the QB rating of Russell Wilson of Seattle was right behind RG3–Wilson had a rating of 100, RG3 102.4, Peyton Manning 105.6, and Aaron Rodgers topped out the NFL at 108.  So RG3 is the third best QB in the league, but Russell Wilson is the fourth best QB in the league–so it’s a wash there.  Marshawn Lynch ran for more than 1500 yards for Seattle and Wilson added nearly 500 yards to that total.  Not only do I pick Seattle, but the game will not actually be close.  Seattle will win comfortably, and Pete Carroll will be revealed as the genius he is.  It’s worth noting also, that while Mike Shanahan does have two Super Bowl wins, his overall record with QBs not named John Elway is 112-87 in the regular season; Shanahan has had four one and done playoff runs, including three since he last had John Elway as his QB; that Shanahan has only won one playoff game in his coaching career since the 1997 and 1998 Super Bowl runs with Elway and Elway’s retirement, that sole playoff win coming way back in 2005 with Jake “the Snake” Plummer against the powerful NE Patriots, but at home in Denver, and possessing a powerful Denver defense that year.  Denver in 2006 got off to a powerful 7-2 start, then cratered with a 2-5 finished to end up 9-7 and out of the playoffs; Mike Shanahan never got back to the playoffs again with Denver, and it took him three years to get back to the playoffs with the Redskins, and seven years overall since 2005 to get back to the promised land.   Shanahan’s playoff record post-Elway is one and done, 2000, one and done 2003, one and done, 2004, won one and lost one, 2005, and out of the money, 2006-08, and 2010-11, five seasons.  Except for the one win against the Pats in 2005, Shanahan has not won a playoff game of any importance since 1999 and 1998 with John Elway in the two Super Bowl runs.  Whereas by contrast, Pete Carroll won a critical playoff game in the face of derision, skepticism and outright ridicule, on the road, against the NFL’s premier offense, against the New Orleans Saints, in 2010, and two years later, has his team not only in the hunt, but with one of the NFL’s premier defenses, and best young offenses.  While it’s true Shanahan gets some credit for developing RG3, were their roles reversed and Carroll had RG3 and Shanahan had Wilson, I’d bet at least a gold eagle from the 1880s that Carroll would have won 14 games with RG3, while Shanahan would have missed the dance altogether with Wilson.  Based on their track records, it seems to me that it’s Carroll, not Shanahan that is the superior QB developer and teacher of young men—Shanahan has never been able to really develop a QB since Elway, which means, essentially, unless the QB is already a great QB, Shanahan can’t develop one.  RG3 is already great—Shanahan has not been the key to his development.  RG3 is like another Elway–a truly great QB who thrives in spite of, and not because of, Shanahan.  My pick is the Seahawks.
–art kyriazis, philly

Last night we witnessed the triumph of existentialism, or should I say, Instantiation, in modern baseball, because the alleged two run home run hit by Alex Rodriguez NEVER ACTUALLY OCCURRED.

To understand this, first we must review the Home Run Rule in modern baseball, which was first defined in 1885, and was subsequently amended in 1892, 1914, 1920, 1926, 1931, 1950 and 1955.

The key concept of the home run rule is most plainly expressed in the 1892 rule which has not been changed very much since 1892:

A FAIR BATTED BALL THAT GOES OVER THE FENCE SHALL ENTITLE THE BATTER TO A HOME RUN…

The key concepts here are that

1) the ball has to be fair; and
2) the ball has to go “over the fence.”

The 1892 rule adds that “A distinctive line is to be marked on the fence showing the required point.” Meaning, if the ball goes over the fence above the line, it goes “over the fence.”

However, and this is the key point, the ball still has to go OVER the fence, not just ABOVE the line.

Last nite’s alleged home run by Alex Rodriquez, as a careful examination of the Rules of Baseball in this blog will demonstrate, was not a home run, but a Ground Rule Double.

It was a Ground Rule Double, because the ball never went OVER the Fence, as require plainly by the Rules of Baseball, but merely hit an object, which was in the field of play, above the line, but still in the field of play.

As to whether the ball would have, could have, or should have gone over the fence, but for the object, which was a TV camera, that is an interesting philosophical debate (which is the same as conceiving of unicorns, trolls, a planet without war and the tooth fairy), but the result is still the same: the home run remains an abstraction, something INSTANTIATED and given EXISTENCE only in the collective minds of the umpires.

You see the replay plainly on Fox TV. At no time did the ball go OVER the Fence. Moreover, the camera was jutting a good five to ten feet into the field. Even if the camera wasn’t there, the downward arc of the ball meant that the ball might have gone over the fence, or it might have continued its downward slope and hit the fence at a point BELOW the line of the fence.

Now, as a careful examination of the rules will show, similar disputes such as balls getting caught in the wiring of the ivy fences at Wrigley have always been rules as ground rule doubles. At no time have such balls ever been rules home runs, not in World Series and never on instant replay, because there has never been instant replay in the World Series or at any time in baseball.

I’m certainly pleased to see that baseball, not content with attempting to stop the Phillies from winning the World Series last year by calling a rain delay halt for the first time in World Series History when Cole Hamels was pitching a brilliant game in game five, this year, for the first time in World Series history called a fake home rum and foiled Cole Hamels again from winning.

Up to the point of the fake homer call, Hamels was pitching a no-hitter. It was obvious that Hamels was furious with the call. And rightly so. The call was utter and total BS, and proves that Bud Selig and Organized Baseball are determined to see that the Yankees win the World Series at all costs. The Umpiring crew rules so quickly that they must have been told by Selig how to rule. They didn’t have time to deliberate.

This is reminiscent of 1950, when the Yankees used their connections with the US Government to have Curt Simmons, a blazing lefthander with Sandy Koufax stuff, a twenty game winner, on the Phillies, get his draft notice in mid-September 1950, two weeks before the World Series was coming up with the Yanks. At the time, the Phils had Robin Roberts, now in the Hall of Fame, and Curt Simmons, a blazing lefthander, on their staff. The two pitchers had combined for more than fifty wins. The two pitchers could each have won two games in the series and blown out the Yanks, much like Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson won the 2001 Series for Arizona back a few years. But with Curt Simmons in the Army, the Phillies barely won the Pennant, and were eradicated by the Yanks in four games.

The Yankees always need to cheat to win.

Ok, so here are the Home Run Rules:

1885 – A fair batted ball that goes over the fence at a distance less than 210 feet from home base shall entitle the batsmen to two bases. A distinctive line shall be marked on the fence at this point.

My comment: At this point, a ball “over the fence” is not a homer at all, it’s a ground rule double. Weird.

1892 – A fair batted ball that goes over the fence shall entitle the batter to a home run; except that should it go over the fence at a distance less than 235 feeet from home base, the batter is entitled to only two bases. A distinctive line is to be marked on the fence showing the required point.

My comment: This is essentially the modern rule. The ball has to go “over” the “fence” to be a home run. And it has to go “over” the “distinctive line” of the “fence”. Not above, but over.

I think we all understand the difference between going near, above and around a line painted on a fence, and going over a fence. It’s the difference between a hurdler stumbling on the hurdle, and a hurdler clearing the hurdle entirely.

Rodriquez’ ball last nite, in Game 3 of the 2009 World Series, is not a home run under the Home Run Rule. It did not go “over the fence” or over the “distinctive line”, because in three dimensional space, it hit the camera before it crossed the plane of the line, and was knocked back into the field. Therefore, it never went over the line, never went over the wall, and never went over the fence.

Consequently, it was not a home run under the 1892 rule.

Are there any changes in the rules SINCE 1892 that could make it a home run? The answer is no, but let’s go through them all and see.

Note that this is not a “judgment call” by the umpires. The ball has to go “over the fence” and be a “fair ball” to be a home run. End of story. An umpire or group of umpires cannot make a ball that might have been or should have been a home run except that it hit something, into a home run by philosophical instantiation, or abstractive analysis.

In short, there are no unicorns, trolls or other imaginary beings just because we think there are; and there are no imaginary home runs. C.f. Occam’s razor—we don’t create a multiplicity of abstract universal beings just because we name them, think of them or create them in our minds. If we create now a class of abstract home runs, home runs that might have been, should have been and so forth, we now introduce into baseball a series of abstract balls, strikes, stolen bases, catches, hits and so forth and soon there will be entire parallel universes of baseball realities creeping into games, abstract realities which have nothing to do with what’s going on down at the field level, or, more pertinently, in the empirical world or in the rulebook. Everything will come down to what the umpires say and we’ll have a courtroom, not a ballgame.

1914 – Should an errant thrown ball remain in the meshes of a wire screen protecting the spectators, the runner or runners shall be entitled to two bases. The umpire in awarding such bases shall be governed by the position of the runner or runners at the time the throw is made.

My comment – this is the first indication that hitting a camera should be a ground rule double. Here the rule says if an errant thrown ball gets caught in wire screen mesh, the runner gets two bases and two bases only. It doesn’t matter if the ball is over the fence in fair ground, it’s still only two bases.

1920 – Home Run/Game-Ending – If a batsman, in the last half of the final inning of any game, hits a home run over the fence or into a stand, all runners on the bases at the time, as well as the batsman, shall be entitled to score, and in such event all bases must be touched in order, and the final score of the game shall be the total number of runs made.

My comment – this is the famous “walk off homer” rule change. Prior to 1920, if someone hit a walk off homer with one, two or three men on that won the game, the only runs that counted were the ones that won the game, e.g. if the score were 9-8 the road team, and you hit a grand slam, you got two runs, the score ended 10-9 home team, and you were credited with either a single or a double, usually a single. Not a grand slam. But under the walk-off rule, the score ended 12-9, the batter got credit for a homer, a grand slam and 4 RBI.

Note again that the rule says “over the fence” and “into the stand”. Rodriquez’ alleged homer last night meets neither of these key tests.

1926 – A fair batted ball that goes over the fence or into a stand shall entitle the batsman to a home run, unless it should pass out of the ground or into a stand at a distance less than 250 feet from the home base, in which case the batsman shall be entitled to two bases only. In either event the batsman must touch the bases in regular order. The point at which a fence or stand is less than 250 feet from the home base shall be plainly indicated by a white or black sign or mark for the umpire’s guidance.

My comment – again, the rule says “over the fence” or “into a stand” in order for a ball to be a home run. This changes the 1892 rule by making the minimum fence distance 250 feet for a home run instead of 235 feet in order not to have “cheap” home runs, although even 250 feet would be a pretty short distance. Of course, Yankee Stadium had a 297 foot right field porch for years for their left handed sluggers, another example of the Yankees “cheating”, and then they would have an all-lefthanded staff to keep the other team from stacking up lefties against them, c.f. Lefty Gomez, Whitey Ford, Andy Pettite, Ron Guidry and so forth. This unfair advantage has been wiped out with the new Yankee Stadium, although allegedly there remains a slightly easier job of hitting to right field.

1931 – Batter/Awarded Bases – A fair hit ball that bounds into a stand or over a fence shall be a two-base hit. Note: There is no reference to distance in this rule and any fair hit ball bounding over the fence or into the stand is a two-base hit.

My comment: This is the modern ground-rule double rule. It hasn’t changed at all. Most importantly, READ what it says. “A FAIR HIT BALL THAT BOUNDS INTO A STAND OR OVER A FENCE SHALL BE A TWO-BASE HIT.” That means that if the ball bounces off a camera and then over the fence, it’s a two base hit. If the ball bounces off a fan and over the fence, it’s a two base hit. If it bounces off the top of the Astrodome, and back into the field of play, as happened to Mike Schmidt in 1974, it’s a two base hit; but if it went off the top of the Astrodome and then over the fence, it would be a ground rule double according to the rule.

According to the plain language of the ground rule double rule of 1931, the ball A Rod hit last nite in game 3 of the World Series was a double. Not subject to review, not subject to judgment call. A ground rule double. It went off a camera and bounded over the fence and then back into the field. It was in play. It’s a ground rule double in that case.

In 1950 the rulebook was entirely recodified and rewritten, refined and clarified:

1950: Batter/Awarded Bases: Each runner including the batter-runner may, without liability of being put out, advance to home base, scoring a run, if a fair ball goes over the field fence in flight and he touch [sic] all bases legally; of if a fair ball which, in the umpire’s judgment, would have cleared the field fence in flight, is deflected by the act of a defensive player in throwing his glove, cap or any article of his apparel, the runner shall be awarded a home run.

My comment – to be a home run, the ball must go over the fence “in flight”. The only case where an umpire may exercise judgment and rule on whether a ball “would have cleared the field fence in flight” is solely and exclusively the case of when the ball is “deflected by the act of a defensive player in throwing his glove, cap or any article of his apparel”. This is the one and only situation where an umpire may exercise abstract judgment and award a hypothetical or abstract home run under the rules of baseball; where a fielder attempts to block the ball by throwing his glove, cap or article of his clothing at the ball.

This was not the case with A Rod’s home run last night. Jayson Werth did not throw his cap, his glove or any article of his clothing at the ball last night. Consequently, the ball would have had to clear the fence “in flight” to be a home run. Since the ball never cleared the fence “in flight”, it was not a home run under the 1950 rule, as amended.

More 1950 changes:

The batter becomes a baserunner when a fair ball, after touching the ground, bounds into the stands or passes through or under a fence or through or under shrubbery or vines on the field, in which case the batter and the baserunners shall be entitled to advance two bases.

The batter becomes a baserunner when any fair ball which, either before or striking the ground, passes through or under a fence or through or under a scoreboard or through or any opening in the fence or scoreboard or through or under shrubbery or vines on the fence, in which case the batter and the baserunners shall be entitled to two bases.
The batter becomes a baserunner when any bounding fair ball is deflected by the fielder into the stands or over or under a fence on fair or foul ground, in which case the batter and all baserunners shall be entitled to advance two bases.

The batter becomes a baserunner when any fair fly ball is defelected by the fielder into the stands or over the fence into foul territory, in which case the batter shall be entitled to advance to second base; but if deflected into the stands or over the fence in fair territory, the batter shall be entitled to a home run.

My comment – the first three rules make clear that deflections by the fielder and interference with the ball by objects on the field, such as vines, fences and shrubbery, are always ground rule doubles. The only case where a ball is NOT a ground rule double is when there is a deflection by the fielder, and for this to be a home run, there are four requirements;
1) a fair fly ball in fair territory;
2) deflected by a fielder;
3) into the stands; or
4) over the fence.

Note that even if argued analogically to last nites hit by A Rod, the 1950 rule does him no good. First, the camera deflected the ball back into the field. Second, the deflection was by a camera, not by a fielder. Third, the deflection was not “into the stands.” Fourth, the deflection was not “over the fence.”

Consequently, it’s really, really, really crystal clear that what we have is a ground rule double, under the remaining provisions of the 1950 and 1932 ground rule double rules. A Rod and the Yankees were only entitled to a ground rule double last nite in game 3 of the World Series.

1955 Rule Change

The 1955 rule change is very, very minor, it just provides that if a hitter hits a homer and has an accident while running the bases and time is called, he can have a runner come in and pinch run for him and run out the homer run and score it. It has no effect whatsoever on the discussion at hand.

Ok, through 1995, that’s all the rule changes I have from the source J. Thorn, P. Palmer, M. Gershman, D. Pietruskza, Total Baseball V: The Official Encyclopaedia of Major League Baseball (Viking NY 1997), c.f. D. Bingham & T. Heitz, “Rules and Scoring,” at pp. 2376-2432.

Now let’s hit the Net.

The rules as they exist through 1955 continue to exist and are codified in Official Rules of Baseball at Rule 6.09, exactly as they were enacted in 1950, see for yourself:

6.09 The batter becomes a runner when—
(a) He hits a fair ball;
(b) The third strike called by the umpire is not caught, providing (1) first base is unoccupied, or (2) first base is occupied with two out;
Rule 6.09(b) Comment: A batter who does not realize his situation on a third strike not caught, and who is not in the process of running to first base, shall be declared out once he leaves the dirt circle surrounding home plate.
(c) A fair ball, after having passed a fielder other than the pitcher, or after having been touched by a fielder, including the pitcher, shall touch an umpire or runner on fair territory;
(d) A fair ball passes over a fence or into the stands at a distance from home base of 250 feet or more. Such hit entitles the batter to a home run when he shall have touched all bases legally. A fair fly ball that passes out of the playing field at a point less than 250 feet from home base shall entitle the batter to advance to second base only;
(e) A fair ball, after touching the ground, bounds into the stands, or passes through, over or under a fence, or through or under a scoreboard, or through or under shrubbery, or vines on the fence, in which case the batter and the runners shall be entitled to advance two bases;
(f) Any fair ball which, either before or after touching the ground, passes through or under a fence, or through or under a scoreboard, or through any opening in the fence or scoreboard, or through or under shrubbery, or vines on the fence, or which sticks in a fence or scoreboard, in which case the batter and the runners shall be entitled to two bases;
(g) Any bounding fair ball is deflected by the fielder into the stands, or over or under a fence on fair or foul territory, in which case the batter and all runners shall be entitled to advance two bases;
(h) Any fair fly ball is deflected by the fielder into the stands, or over the fence into foul territory, in which case the batter shall be entitled to advance to second base; but if deflected into the stands or over the fence in fair territory, the batter shall be entitled to a home run. However, should such a fair fly be deflected at a point less than 250 feet from home plate, the batter shall be entitled to two bases only.

http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/downloads/y2008/official_rules/06_the_batter.pdf

the deflection by the fielder rule is also exactly the same as adopted in 1950 and has not been changed, and is codified in Rule 7.05(a);

7.05 Each runner including the batter-runner may, without liability to be put out, advance—
(a) To home base, scoring a run, if a fair ball goes out of the playing field in flight and he touched all bases legally; or if a fair ball which, in the umpire’s judgment, would have gone out of the playing field in flight, is deflected by the act of a fielder in throwing his glove, cap, or any article of his apparel;

http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/downloads/y2008/official_rules/07_the_runner.pdf

See? It’s exactly the same. The only way an upire can judge if the fair ball would have left the stadium and gone out of the playing field in flight, is if it was deflected by the act of a fielder under Rule 7.05(a).

The umpire can’t make a judgment call under any other of the rules of baseball.

All the rules of baseball, incidentally, are on line and available for you all to read for yourselves at;

http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/official_info/official_rules/foreword.jsp

see also these websites:

http://www.baseball-almanac.com/rulemenu.shtml

http://www.rulesofbaseball.com/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baseball_rules

There IS however, a rule which pertains to interference by media, and that is rule 3.15, which I hereby quote now:

3.15 No person shall be allowed on the playing field during a game except players and coaches in uniform, managers, news photographers authorized by the home team, umpires, officers of the law in uniform and watchmen or other employees of the home club. In case of unintentional interference with play by any person herein authorized to be on the playing field (except members of the offensive team participating in the game, or a coach in the coach’s box, or an umpire) the ball is alive and in play. If the interference is intentional, the ball shall be dead at the moment of the interference and the umpire shall impose such penalties as in his opinion will nullify the act of interference.

http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/downloads/y2008/official_rules/03_game_preliminaries.pdf

NOTE WHAT RULE 3.15 SAYS ABOUT INTERFERENCE WITH A BALL BY NEWSPHOTOGRAPHERS WHO ARE AUTHORIZED TO BE ON THE FIELD OF PLAY: In case of unintentional interference with play by any person herein authorized to be on the playing field (except members of the offensive team participating in the game, or a coach in the coach’s box, or an umpire) the ball is alive and in play.

Since A-Rod’s ball was UNINTENTIONALLY INTERFERED WITH BY A PRESS CAMERA, RULE 3.15 COMES INTO PLAY EXPRESSLY AND THE BALL IS IN PLAY. It’s not a case of fan interference where the umpires are allowed to make a judgment call to nullify the fan interference and create a home run abstractly.

To the contrary, the rule is clear and express- “the ball is in play” says the rule. Since the ball did not go over the fence or into the stands or over the fence in flight, but back to the field, and since Werth relayed it back, the Yankees runners were stuck at 2d and 3d.

There was no interference, and if there were a ground rule here, it was at best a ground rule double. See discussion above, supra.

NOTE THAT THIS IS AN ENTIRELY DIFFERENT SITUATION THAN IF A FAN HAD INTERFERED WITH THE BALL.

The Umps and all of major league baseball got the rules wrong last night.

The ball was alive and in play last night and/or was a ground rule double, under the ground rule double rules and also under official Rule 3.15.

The Umps had no interference discretion under rules 3.15 or 3.16 because NO FAN touched the ball—instead, an authorized member of the press touched the ball.

The camera was an authorized photographer.

Consequently, the ball was in play.

Note the difference if a spectator had touched the ball:

3.16 When there is spectator interference with any thrown or batted ball, the ball shall be dead at the moment of interference and the umpire shall impose such penalties as in his opinion will nullify the act of interference.
APPROVED RULING: If spectator interference clearly prevents a fielder from catching a fly ball, the umpire shall declare the batter out.

Rule 3.16 Comment: There is a difference between a ball which has been thrown or batted into the stands, touching a spectator thereby being out of play even though it rebounds onto the field and a spectator going onto the field or reaching over, under or through a barrier and touching a ball in play or touching or otherwise interfering with a player. In the latter case it is clearly intentional and shall be dealt with as intentional interference as in Rule 3.15. Batter and runners shall be placed where in the umpire’s judgment they would have been had the interference not occurred.
No interference shall be allowed when a fielder reaches over a fence, railing, rope or into a stand to catch a ball. He does so at his own risk. However, should a spectator reach out on the playing field side of such fence, railing or rope, and plainly prevent the fielder from catching the ball, then the batsman should be called out for the spectator’s interference.
Example: Runner on third base, one out and a batter hits a fly ball deep to the outfield (fair or foul). Spectator clearly interferes with the outfielder attempting to catch the fly ball. Umpire calls the batter out for spectator interference. Ball is dead at the time of the call. Umpire decides that because of the distance the ball was hit, the runner on third base would have scored after the catch if the fielder had caught the ball which was interfered with, therefore, the runner is permitted to score. This might not be the case if such fly ball was interfered with a short distance from home plate.

http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/downloads/y2008/official_rules/03_game_preliminaries.pdf

The ground rules for ground rule doubles are exactly the same as the 1950 and 1932 rules discussed above, and are codified at the official rules of baseball 7.05;

7.05 Each runner including the batter-runner may, without liability to be put out, advance—
(a) To home base, scoring a run, if a fair ball goes out of the playing field in flight and he touched all bases legally; or if a fair ball which, in the umpire’s judgment, would have gone out of the playing field in flight, is deflected by the act of a fielder in throwing his glove, cap, or any article of his apparel;
(b) Three bases, if a fielder deliberately touches a fair ball with his cap, mask or any part of his uniform detached from its proper place on his person. The ball is in play and the batter may advance to home base at his peril;
(c) Three bases, if a fielder deliberately throws his glove at and touches a fair ball. The ball is in play and the batter may advance to home base at his peril.
(d) Two bases, if a fielder deliberately touches a thrown ball with his cap, mask or any part of his uniform detached from its proper place on his person. The ball is in play;
(e) Two bases, if a fielder deliberately throws his glove at and touches a thrown ball. The ball is in play;
Rule 7.05(b) through 7.05(e) Comment: In applying (b-c-d-e) the umpire must rule that the thrown glove or detached cap or mask has touched the ball. There is no penalty if the ball is not touched.
Under (c-e) this penalty shall not be invoked against a fielder whose glove is carried off his hand by the force of a batted or thrown ball, or when his glove flies off his hand as he makes an obvious effort to make a legitimate catch.

(f) Two bases, if a fair ball bounces or is deflected into the stands outside the first or third base foul lines; or if it goes through or under a field fence, or through or under a scoreboard, or through or under shrubbery or vines on the fence; or if it sticks in such fence, scoreboard, shrubbery or vines;
(g) Two bases when, with no spectators on the playing field, a thrown ball goes into the stands, or into a bench (whether or not the ball rebounds into the field), or over or under or through a field fence, or on a slanting part of the screen above the backstop, or remains in the meshes of a wire screen protecting spectators. The ball is dead. When such wild throw is the first play by an infielder, the umpire, in awarding such bases, shall be governed by the position of the runners at the time the ball was pitched; in all other cases the umpire shall be governed by the position of the runners at the time the wild throw was made;
APPROVED RULING: If all runners, including the batter-runner, have advanced at least one base when an infielder makes a wild throw on the first play after the pitch, the award shall be governed by the position of the runners when the wild throw was made.
Rule 7.05(g) Comment: In certain circumstances it is impossible to award a runner two bases. Example: Runner on first. Batter hits fly to short right. Runner holds up between first and second and batter comes around first and pulls up behind him. Ball falls safely. Outfielder, in throwing to first, throws ball into stand.
APPROVED RULING: Since no runner, when the ball is dead, may advance beyond the base to which he is entitled, the runner originally on first base goes to third base and the batter is held at second base.
The term “when the wild throw was made” means when the throw actually left the player’s hand and not when the thrown ball hit the ground, passes a receiving fielder or goes out of play into the stands.
The position of the batter-runner at the time the wild throw left the thrower’s hand is the key in deciding the award of bases. If the batter-runner has not reached first base, the award is two bases at the time the pitch was made for all runners. The decision as to whether the batter-runner has reached first base before the throw is a judgment call.
If an unusual play arises where a first throw by an infielder goes into stands or dugout but the batter did not become a runner (such as catcher throwing ball into stands in attempt to get runner from third trying to score on passed ball or wild pitch) award of two bases shall be from the position of the runners at the time of the throw. (For the purpose of Rule 7.05 (g) a catcher is considered an infielder.)
PLAY. Runner on first base, batter hits a ball to the shortstop, who throws to second base too late to get runner at second, and second baseman throws toward first base after batter has crossed first base. Ruling—Runner at second scores. (On this play, only if batter-runner is past first base when throw is made is he awarded third base.)
(h) One base, if a ball, pitched to the batter, or thrown by the pitcher from his position on the pitcher’s plate to a base to catch a runner, goes into a stand or a bench, or over or through a field fence or backstop. The ball is dead;

APPROVED RULING: When a wild pitch or passed ball goes through or by the catcher, or deflects off the catcher, and goes directly into the dugout, stands, above the break, or any area where the ball is dead, the awarding of bases shall be one base. One base shall also be awarded if the pitcher while in contact with the rubber, throws to a base, and the throw goes directly into the stands or into any area where the ball is dead.
If, however, the pitched or thrown ball goes through or by the catcher or through the fielder, and remains on the playing field, and is subsequently kicked or deflected into the dugout, stands or other area where the ball is dead, the awarding of bases shall be two bases from position of runners at the time of the pitch or throw.
(i) One base, if the batter becomes a runner on Ball Four or Strike Three, when the pitch passes the catcher and lodges in the umpire’s mask or paraphernalia.
If the batter becomes a runner on a wild pitch which entitles the runners to advance one base, the batter-runner shall be entitled to first base only.

Rule 7.05(i) Comment: The fact a runner is awarded a base or bases without liability to be put out does not relieve him of the responsibility to touch the base he is awarded and all intervening bases. For example: batter hits a ground ball which an infielder throws into the stands but the batter-runner missed first base. He may be called out on appeal for missing first base after the ball is put in play even though he was “awarded” second base.
If a runner is forced to return to a base after a catch, he must retouch his original base even though, because of some ground rule or other rule, he is awarded additional bases. He may retouch while the ball is dead and the award is then made from his original base.
(j) One base, if a fielder deliberately touches a pitched ball with his cap, mask or any part of his uniform detached from its proper place on his person. The ball is in play, and the award is made from the position of the runner at the time the ball was touched

http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/downloads/y2008/official_rules/07_the_runner.pdf

as you can plainly see, nothing has changed in the ground rules at all.

Consequently, A-Rod’s hit was either a ground rule double under rule 7.05, or it was a ball in play since it hit a media camera which was authorized to be in the field of play under rule 3.15. What it was not was a home run under either rule 6.09(d) or rule 7.05(a) or any other rule of baseball.

I’ve looked exhaustively and so have my sabrmetric friends, and there isn’t a rule in the book supporting what happened last night.

What happened also violates the laws of logic and violates the laws of physics. It violates the laws of logic, because the home run was created by an act of particular instantiation—abstract thought created a thing from a concept—what we in philosophy call a “unicorn”—which would make my old professor of logic at Harvard turn over twice—and violates Occam’s razor—that you don’t create needless entities through nominalism.

Instead, empiricism and realism dictate that a home run is a home run when we SEE and WITNESS that the ball goes over the fence—not that we imagine or suppose that it MIGHT have gone over the fence.

The problem with the umpires’ supposition last night is that it is what we call in philosophy a “modal” proposition, an “if….then” statement, that is conditional.

“If the camera were not there, then the ball would have flown over the fence.”

This can readily be recognized as a categorical statement of conditional form—namely, if there were no camera “x”, the trajectory of flight of the ball would have been different in form “y”.

The problem, as anyone knows, is that without an actual observation of same, there are a plethora of possible universes of possible “y’s”.

All we know is that the ball may or might have gone over the wall—or it may or might have bounced below the line and back onto the field. All we have is a possibility that it might have gone over the wall.

All conditionals are like this.

Moreover, accepting conditionals as true introduces a host of problems.

The medieval philosophers didn’t like conditionals, and neither should we.

It’s true that rule 9.03c states that

Each umpire has authority to rule on any point not specifically covered in these rules.

http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/downloads/y2008/official_rules/09_the_umpire.pdf

however, in this case, the A-Rod double IS covered specifically by the baseball rules. There is no room for discretion or authority to rule.

Here’s what actually occurred before game 3 of the World Series according to the umpiring crew:

Indeed, umpire crew chief Gerry Davis said that his crew explored every inch of Citizens Bank Park prior to Game 3, spending time reviewing areas unique to the park. The right-field camera was one of the aspects they discussed.
“We tour the field during the series whenever we go to a new ballpark, and discuss specific ground rules and potential trouble areas just like that,” Davis said. “Because we cannot control what the cameraman does with the camera, one of the specific ground rules is when the ball hits the camera, [it’s a] home run.”
http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20091031&content_id=7586236&vkey=news_mlb

So, the umpiring crew themselves MADE UP THEIR OWN GROUND RULE that the camera, if it was hit, would be a home run.

That would be fine, except that it’s in direct violation of Baseball Rule 3.15, as cited above, supra, that a media photographic camera, if a ball strikes it, the ball is in play and NOT a home run.

The Umpires don’t have discretion to make a ground rule about that.

The statement made by Umpire Davis is totally and completely WRONG. The rules cover the situation of when a ball strikes a camera held by a camera man.

Let’s see the rule again:

3.15 No person shall be allowed on the playing field during a game except players and coaches in uniform, managers, news photographers authorized by the home team, umpires, officers of the law in uniform and watchmen or other employees of the home club. In case of unintentional interference with play by any person herein authorized to be on the playing field (except members of the offensive team participating in the game, or a coach in the coach’s box, or an umpire) the ball is alive and in play. If the interference is intentional, the ball shall be dead at the moment of the interference and the umpire shall impose such penalties as in his opinion will nullify the act of interference.

http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/downloads/y2008/official_rules/03_game_preliminaries.pdf

Ok, then, cameramen, news photographers who unintentionally interfere with the ball, and the interference is unintentionall, the “ball is alive and in play.”

It’s not up to Davis and his crew to make up a ground rule there. It’s up to Davis and his crew to follow Rule 3.15. Rule 3.15 trumps Article 9 and the umpire discretion rules.

Now let’s discuss the instant replay rule.

Here’s the story on the instant replay rule adopted in September of 2008:

5. Instant replay
Main article: Instant replay
In November 2007, the general managers of Major League Baseball voted in favor of implementing instant replay reviews on boundary home run calls. [19] The proposal limited the use of instant replay to determining whether a boundary home run call is:
• A fair (home run) or foul ball
• A live ball (ball hit fence and rebounded onto the field), ground rule double (ball hit fence before leaving the field), or home run (ball hit some object beyond the fence while in flight)
• Spectator interference or home run (spectator touched ball after it broke the plane of the fence).
On August 28, 2008, instant replay review became available in MLB for reviewing calls in accordance with the above proposal. It was first utilized on September 3, 2008 in a game between the New York Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. [20] Alex Rodriguez of the Yankees hit what appeared to be a home run, but the ball hit a catwalk behind the foul pole. It was at first called a home run, until Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon argued the call, and the umpires decided to review the play. After 2 minutes and 15 seconds, the umpires came back and ruled it a home run.
About two weeks later, on September 19, also at Tropicana Field, a boundary call was overturned for the first time. In this case, Carlos Peña of the Rays was given a ground rule double in a game against the Minnesota Twins after an umpire believed a fan reached into the field of play to catch a fly ball in right field. The umpires reviewed the play, determined the fan did not reach over the fence, and reversed the call, awarding Peña a home run.
Aside from the two aforementioned reviews at Tampa Bay, replay was used four more times in the 2008 MLB regular season: twice at Houston, once at Seattle, and once at San Francisco. The San Francisco incident is perhaps the most unusual. Bengie Molina, the Giants’ Catcher, hit what was first called a double. Molina then was replaced in the game by a pinch-runner before the umpires re-evaluated the call and ruled it a home run. In this instance though, Molina was not allowed to return to the game to complete the run, as he had already been replaced. Molina was credited with the home run, and two RBIs, but not for the run scored which went to the pinch-runner instead.
On October 31, 2009, in the fourth inning of Game 3 of the World Series, Alex Rodriguez hit a long fly ball that appeared to hit a camera protruding over the wall and into the field of play in deep left field. The ball ricocheted off the camera and re-entered the field, initially ruled a double. However, after the umpires consulted with each other after watching the instant replay, the hit was ruled a home run, marking the first time an instant replay home run was hit in a playoff game. [21]
Source:

http://wapedia.mobi/en/Home_run?t=3.

Citing to

• ESPN – GMs vote 25-5 to use replay to aid home run decisions – MLB
http://mlb.mlb.com/news/gameday_recap.jsp?ymd=20080903&content_id=3412731&vkey=recap&fext=.jsp&c_id=nyy
http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20091031&content_id=7586236&vkey=news_mlb

Now, let’s parse all this.

What instant replay boils down to is this.

A lawyer sits in Bud Selig’s offices in NYC and HE reviews the play and decides how it should be called.

The head of the umpiring crew calls NYC and asks the lawyer how the play should be ruled.

Then they decide.

Uh, what’s wrong with this picture if the NEW YORK YANKEES are one of the teams in the playoffs?

Let’s see, a NEW YORK LAWYER making the call? Against a PHILLY team?

Oh right, that would be really fair, impartial and just.

Incidentally, let’s review the rule again:

The proposal limited the use of instant replay to determining whether a boundary home run call is:
• A fair (home run) or foul ball
• A live ball (ball hit fence and rebounded onto the field), ground rule double (ball hit fence before leaving the field), or home run (ball hit some object beyond the fence while in flight)
• Spectator interference or home run (spectator touched ball after it broke the plane of the fence).
Id, supra.

Note that the ball has to hit an object BEYOND the fence while in flight.

Not in front of the fence, but BEYOND the fence.

This is completely consistent with Rules 6.09 and 7.05(a) which define a home run as one hit “over the fence in flight”.

The camera, in this case, was jutting out over the fence by a good five to ten feet.

So it was not beyond the fence, but on the field of play.

Second, because it was on the field of play, it was therefore a photographic interference under Rule 3.15, and should have been considered an unintentional interference, and a live ball in play under Rule 3.15.

Third, if not a live ball in play, then the ground rule double rule of 7.05 (b) et seq. comes into play.

What’s wrong with this picture?

THERE WAS NEVER ANY JURISDICTION FOR HOME RUN REVIEW UNDER THE HOME RUN INSTANT REPLAY RULE BECAUSE THE BALL HIT BY A ROD NEVER WENT OVER THE FENCE IN FLIGHT OR BEYOND THE FENCE.

Let’s review the criteria for instant replay;

1) is it fair or foul? Well, it was a fair ball. No need for instant replay.
2) Is it a live ball that hit the fence and bounced back to the field? No. No need for instant replay.

Was it a live ball that hit some object beyond the fence while in flight?

No. It never went beyond the fence. So no instant replay was required.

Well, it hit the camera==part of which was behind the fence, but the part of the camera the ball hit was NOT beyond the fence.

This is not a semantic issue, but a real rules issue, because if you start saying that balls that don’t go over the fence in flight are home runs, just because the umpires make up ground rules before the game to make them eligible for instant review, doesn’t make it so.

I think the key here is to parse the fact that the umpiring crew made a mistake before the game establishing false ground rules, by making a camera that jutted INTO the field, a candidate for HOME RUN instant replay.

That wasn’t their call to make.

Under the instant replay rule, the camera has to be entirely beyond the fence for them to make that decision, end of story.

Remember, the rule is to decide the boundary issue of when a ball has hit an object BEYOND the fence–not an object within the ballfield.

The Umps exceeded their rulemaking authority. Also, see #3, below, because there’s actually a different rule that applies to cameras that are in the field of play and not beyond the field of play, in which case the ball is either a ground rule double or in play. In either case the result is the same; arod at 2d, texeira at 3d.

3) There was not spectator interference, but rather, photographer interference under rule 3.15, which made it a live ball under the rules, and on the field of play.

Consequently, there was no jurisdiction for an instant reply. Rather, the umpires AGGREGATED and SEIZED inappropriately the jurisdiction for home run instant replay because they forgot their own rule book and the rules of baseball.

They got the call all wrong.

It’s an insult to our collective intelligence and our common sense to say that a ball that fell short of the wall, and never went over the wall, is a “fair ball” that “went over the fence in flight” or that after instant replay, was shown to have struct an object “beyond the fence” in flight. None of these things occured on arod’s hit.

And messed up a 25 year old kids’ no hitter in the processs.

Did they purposefully do it?

Did the NY Offices of baseball reverse the call to obstruct the Phillies from repeating?

I don’t know—go ask the Atlanta Braves. No one in Bud Selig’s office was happy when they went up 2-0 on the Yankees in 1996 either.

The Commissioner’s office basically wants LA or NY to win the series because that’s good for TV ratings.

They like to ignore Philly and Atlanta even though we’re much more rabid about baseball than New Yorkers, most of whom are too poor to afford to go to a game, whereas in Philly or Atlanta, it’s mostly the middle class who attend.

And if we have to cheat and violate the rules to make the Yankees winners, what the hay?

Just remember Curt Simmons’ draft notice, and Bud Selig’s ridiculous rain delay call in last year’s Game Five in Philly.

Definitely be sure there’s bias against the Phillies in NYC.

And of course, let’s not forget they used a single New York Lawyer as the judging panel for instant replay of a World Series play involving….

The New York Yankees.

Like that’s really fair.

This is the Second World Series in a row where Bud Selig has personally messed around with our ace, Cole Hamels, in a World Series game.

First was Game Five in World Series 2008, in which Cole Hamels was shutting the door down on Tampa Bay. Selig allowed the game to proceed in the rain, then let Tampa Bay score a cheap run in rain soaked conditions against Hamels, a cheap run in conditions not fit to play in, and then Selig announced the game would be suspended—a first in Series history—which infuriated not only the Phillies, but Hamels, who had pitched well enough to win. Last year the story line was supposed to be tampa bay to win, cindarella, last place to world champions. New york didn’t want philly winning.

Conspiracy theorists, you are right if you think Selig hates Hamels.

And now this year, Selig sends Davis and an experienced umpiring crew out, and they set up illegal ground rules, and use the first chance they get, to award a two run instant replay home run—an existential, instantiated home run—an abstraction if you will, because nothing ever left the park or ever went over the fence in flight—for the sole purpose of screwing up Cole Hamels’ game in game 3, the pivotal game of the 2009 world series.

I need not point out how furious Hamels must have been with all this BS; for the second year in a row, he’s been messed with, not by the opposing lineup, but by lawyers and umpires and the commissioners’ office. They just won’t let him do his job.

I understand why he might have hung a few curves the next inning to Swisher and Damon.

What I don’t understand is why the Phillies don’t aggressively move

1) for Bud Selig’s immediate ouster as Commissioner of Baseball; and
2) an immediate amendment of the baseball instant replay rule requiring that the review of plays always be done in a neutral city by an impartial panel of three arbitrators, not lawyers, with one chosen by each team and the third chosen by the other two.
3) And the umpiring crew and ground rules be reviewed two weeks in advance of the World Series by the front office of each team, and by the teams attorneys, to be sure there are no conflicts with the Rules of Baseball.

Even my 80 year old mother in law, who just had eye surgery, who watched the game last night, and used to be a Brooklyn Dodger fan from Brooklyn, saw the play last night and she knew that the A-Rod hit wasn’t a home run.

“it didn’t go out of the park” she said. “how could it be a home run?”

Exactly. To be a home run, under rule 7.05(a), and in the common sense of every fan, a home run must go over the fence in flight.

And to be a home run for instant replay purposes, it has to go over the fence in flight and THEN hit some object.

Not hit some object which inteferes with the ball from going over the fence in flight. That’s a ground rule double or a ball live in play, as we have seen from our discussion, at length, of the rules.

The difference last night was two runs.

But the difference, from our perspective, is the lawlessness of the Bud Selig regime.

A regime which bars Pete Rose from the Hall of Fame, but tolerates steroid use by the likes of A-Rod and David Ortiz, and turns a blind eye to the income inequalities between teams like the Yankees and the Twins that keep baseball from truly being competitive.

A regime which makes arbitrary and capricious decisions each and every year about rain delays, rain suspensions, instant replay home runs in the World Series, and which plays games of law and fate which affect a man’s life and career in the case of Cole Hamels, who is a truly great pitcher along the lines of a Steve Carlton.

In fact, if you study Hamels stats, you will see that his 2009 is to his 2008, as Carlton’s 1973 was to Carlton’s Cy Young 1972.

I expect Cole Hamels to have a very bright future.

And he will not take much more of this abuse from Bud Selig and his cronies.

And neither should we philly fans.

And New York Yankee fans, you are cheating to win.

And to think I actually shed tears for you guys on 9/11.

And by the way, your NY Giants got rolled by the Eagles. At least the NFL runs a fair league. Thank you Pete Rozelle Paul Tagliabue and your successors.

Guess those memories of Joe Namath are starting to fade, eh?

–art kyriazis, philly
home of the world champion phillies, 2008 world champions
2008, 2009 National League pennant champs

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–art kyriazis philly/south jersey
home of the non-steroid using world champion philadelphia phillies

The Arizona Cardinals, one of the worst franchises in recent NFL memory, shocked me and perhaps the entire world yesterday, by upsetting the battle-tested and road-tested NFC East worthy Philadelphia Eagles 32-25 in the NFC Championship Game yesterday. I simply cannot believe that the Cardinals managed to win this game, even though it was a trap game in many respects–a road game after two tough road games, a revenge game for the Cards, and a warm weather game for a warm weather team, as well as an emotional let down game for the Eagles coming off a big win against the Giants. Nonetheless, the Eagles should have won this game, for many reasons. The Eagles nonetheless had a terrific season, and for me the high points of the season will still be crushing the Giants last week at the Meadowlands, as well as Donovan McNabb’s incredible double fake roll out and 80 yard throw to DeSean Jackson to take the lead in the NFC Championship Game in the 4th Quarter on a 62-yard bomb that was magnificent in execution and brilliantly thrown. It was everything and more that we as fans could ever have hoped for from our Eagles.

Nonetheless, the Eagles, as well as they played, came up short. I see three main factors.

Factor one – The NFL’s System for Assigning Home Games is Faulty When it Comes to Back-End Division Chapions with Poor Records and Easy Schedules vs. Wild Cards with Better Records and Harder Schedules

First thing, this game had no business being played in Arizona. Arizona was 9-7 in the regular season, the Eagles were 9-6-1. The Eagles had the better regular season record. Second, the Eagles trouced the Cards 48-20 in the only game between the two clubs. Third, the Eagles were 4-0 against the NFC West. Fourth, the Cards were 0-4 against the NFC East. The NFL’s official explanation for the seeding was that the Cardinals, as NFC West Division champs, were official the 4th seed in the playoffs, while the Eagles were the sixth seed as the wild-card.

However, it seems to me, that once you get to a head to head match-up between two teams where one team clearly has a better record, a stronger schedule and has beaten the other team head to head as well as beaten the common opponent, you have to throw out the brackets and assign the home game based on record and head to head competition.

The proper thing to do here would have been to break brackets and give the Eagles the home game. After all, Arizona did not really earn their home game in any sense of the word. Nor did they earn their bye week with a weak 9-7 record. While I give Arizona credit for beating Carolina on the road last week, there is simply no way that Arizona as NFC West Division champs deserved a home game with a weak 9-7 record.

The NFL playoff rules need to be amended such that division winners should only get home games if 1) they are division winners and 2) of the remaining two teams playing, the division winner has the better record of the remaining two teams playing, taking strength of schedule into account.

i know this is a loser’s beef, but a fair one. If this game had been played in Philly, the Eagles could have played more their style of ball.

Factor Two – David Akers cost the Eagles lots and lots of Points

David Akers came up small in the biggest game of the year. With the score 7-3 in the first half, Akers shanked a 45-yard field goal attempt badly to the right. Akers had the shanks all game long–he shanked a kickoff, an extra point, and the 45 yard FG attempt to the right during the game–all to the detriment of the Eagles.

If Akers makes that FG, the Eagles are at 7-6, one point down, and they kick off and pin the Cards deep. Instead, the Cards took over at about their own 30, and immediately they did the flea-flicker play to Larry Fitzgerald that went for 70 yards and a TD, making it 14-6. That’s a ten point swing right there.

So that sequence cost the Eagles ten points, maximum, three points minimum, and Akers was kicking in a dome, remember.

Next, Akers missed an extra point in the second half, costing the team another point, and forcing them to go for two on another TD, which the team didn’t make, costing them another two points, which in essence cost them three points. If Akers makes the first extra point, they kick another, so really it’s two points.

So Akers cost the team another two points in the second half.

As I see it, Akers cost the team six points, and possibly ten. So on account of Akers, and only Akers, the final score could have been 32-30 Cards, or better yet, 30-25 Eagles, which is what I think the score would have been if Akers had simply done his job.

Moreover, if Akers kicks the field goal in the first half and kicks his two extra points in the second half, and even assuming that the Cards score 32 points, the score is only 32-30 with three minutes to go, and the Eagles are on the 47 of Phoenix needing only about 20 yards to kick a game winning FG, instead of needing to go 47 yards to get a TD. As I see it, that changes the whole complexion of the game.

David Akers needs either to be replaced, or supplemented by a long-distance kicker. He no longer has the range or distance from past 40 yards.

Akers, and Akers alone, arguably cost the Eagles this football game.

Factor Three – The Eagles came out Flat in the First Half

The Eagles were thoroughly out played in the first half of the NFC Championship game, and obviously came out very flat. Most surprisingly the defense played badly and allowed 24 points, probably the most number of points allowed by the Eagles in a half in many a week.

The Eagles offense actually did not play so badly in the first half. While they didn’t score TDs, they played well enough to get in position for three FG’s, but Akers missed one, so they should have had 9 points, and arguably one of the Card’s TDs came about because of the FG miss, so the score could have been 17-9 at half.

However, to the Eagles everlasting credit, and quite unlike the Tampa Bay and Carolina NFC Championship Games, where they basically lay down and gave up, the Eagles mounted a ferocious comeback in the third quarter and second half of this game to come all the way back and actually take the lead, 25-24, in the fourth quarter, and make this and exciting and truly great NFC championship game.

During that third/fourth quarter stretch, the Eagles scored three straight TDs, stopped the Cards on every offensive possesion and stifled them defensively, and looked every bit like the Eagles of the last two weeks. I had given the Eagles up for dead after the first half, personally. I was surprised to see their comeback. It was the comeback of a great team with great character and a great will to win.

This years Eagles were nothing like the Eagles of other years. They were a great team that had a great will to win, even until the end.

Even Arizona’s final drive (and I suspect the home team was shaving time off the clock, incidentally), which consumed 7 minutes and went for a game winning TD and two point conversion, did not mask the greatness of the Eagles defense, which resisted them every step of the way, and pushed them to 3d and 4th down repeatedly, and nearly made a big goal line stand to force them to a Field Goal.

And McNabb made a great run at a final two minute drive to win the game and just came up a couple of passes short.

The final stats show that the Eagles actually outplayed the Cards–McNabb threw for many more yards, and was a terrific passer on the day. McNabb’s second half was far better than the Card’s Kurt Warner’s first half.

Edgerrin James, though, did have a great day, and was a big factor in the Cards’ final drive.

This game was quite reminiscent of the Rams-Eagles game of 2001 where Warner and McCutcheon came back to beat the Eagles in the second half. that was a great game, too.

People will say that this tarnishes McNabb’s and/or Reid’s legacy. No, no, no.

The Eagles are truly a great team. Five NFC Title games in eight years, and a terrific performance in this last one, an exciting performance, and nearly a win against all odds.

Only the 1990s San Francisco 49ers appeared in five NFC championship games in one decade, and I would remind everyone that that team, also, made it to just one Super Bowl appearance in those five games under coach George Seifert, were 1-4 in NFC championship games, and thought they won the Super Bowl they appeared in, their record of accomplishments in the 1990s is not dissimilar from the Eagles. Also, the Niners were up against a powerful Dallas Cowboys team piloted by Troy Aikman in those years. The Eagles have faced similarly talented teams within their own conference.

The Eagles have been playing with house money the whole way through. They nearly made it to another super bowl in a year that no one expected anything of them.

Now, they are in a position to sign a kicker and a running back (LaDainian Tomlinson?) and make another run next year at the title.

The dynasty continues. Another great year of pro football comes to a close in philly.

Oh, and by the way, GO STEELERS! (hey, we love PA teams).

–art kyriazis philly/south jersey
home of the world champion phillies
Happy New Year 2009

The NFL, FOX and other major media claim that the Arizona Cardinals have never hosted an NFC Conference Championship Game. Technically, that is correct, because the NFC and AFC only came into existence after the AFL-NFL merger in 1970, but the NFL existed and had playoffs and championships and divisional playoff games for forty years or more before that date.

Before they were the Arizona Cardinals, they were the St. Louis Cardinals, and before they were the St. Louis Cardinals, they were the Chicago Cardinals.

And in 1947, 61 years ago, on December 28, 1947, the Chicago Cardinals hosted the Philadelphia Eagles for the NFL Championhip. The box score of that game can be found at http://www.pro-football-reference.com/boxscores/194712280crd.htm. The Cardinals beat the Eagles 28-21. The Cardinals boasted Charlie Trippi at halfback and Ray Mallouf at QB.

That was a great Eagles team. It boasted Steve Van Buren, a 1000 yard rusher; Tommy Thompson at QB; Pete Pihos at end; Allie Sherman and Bill Mackrides at backup QB; and Bosh Pritchard at the other running back. It came back to win the NFL title in 1948 and 1949.

On December 19, 1948, the Eagles hosted the Chicago Cardinals in a rematch of the previous years title game, only this time at Philadelphia, and the Eagles defeated the Cardinals for the NFL title 7-0.

The Cardinals after 1948 never made the playoffs again while they were in Chicago. In 1960, they departed to St. Louis. In 1964, they had a 9-3 season, but finished second and missed the playoffs. But in 1974-75, they did finally make the playoffs again after a 26 year drought, under Don “Air” Coryell as their coach, with Jim Hart at QB and Terry Metcalf in the backfield and the outstanding Jackie Smith at tight end. Although they lost their opening round playoff games both years to the Vikings and Rams, those were two outstanding Cardinals playoff teams. Unfortunately, that was it for that team. The St. Louis Cards got in again in 1982, a strike year, but again lost the opening round playoff game.

In 1988 the Cards moved to Phoenix. In 1998, the Cards with Jake “the Snake” Plummer at QB went 9-7, made the wild card, and beat Troy Aikman and the Cowboys on the road in the wild card round, 20-7. Even though they lost to the Vikings in the Divisional Round, that would have to be counted as a very succesful season for the Cards. Unfortunately, it wasn’t repeated, and Plummer would soon make his way to Denver. It would take until this year for the Cards to again make the playoffs.

In 1925, the Chicago Cardinals won the NFL Championship, although this is disputed by some, since the Pottsville, PA Maroons had nearly the same record and defeated the Cardinals 21-7 in head to head play. There is a long ongoing controversy as to whether the Maroons or the Cardinals were the 1925 NFL Champions and I can’t get into the details of that here, except to say that both claim the championship, and the NFL record books apparently give it to Chicago’s Cardinals.

Suffice it to say that the Cardinals won at least one undisputed NFL championship on the field, and it was in December, 1947 against the Philadelphia Eagles. The same two teams played each other the next year and in December 1948, the Eagles beat the Cardinals for the NFL championship.

So actually, there’s a little bit of history between these two clubs, although you have to dust it all off to find it. And this coming weekend’s game is in fact a rematch of the 1947 and 1948 NFL championship games. It’s old school. These are two ancient franchises locking horns for the right to go to the Super Bowl. Even though the game is in Phoenix, which didn’t have an NFL franchise in 1947 or 1948, the history of the game is clearly there nonetheless. These two teams have both been in the NFL a long, long time and they have some history of losing to go along with their winning records.

Throw in the fact that Kurt Warner faced the Eagles as a St. Louis Ram in the NFC Championship Game not so long ago (2001) and the fact that Arizona was humbled and schooled 48-20 on Thanksgiving day by the Eagles, and you definitely have some rivalry issues on both sides for these clubs.

The Eagles, to justify their entire existence as a truly great team of the decade, must make it to the Super Bowl, and indeed, must win the Super Bowl.

The Cards, and Kurt Warner in particular, need to win to save face from the humiliation of thanksgiving day, though to lose in a close game would be enough.

On the whole, the synergies are such that I like the Eagles to win in a close, hard fought game.

The Eagles have the better defense, and on the whole, the better offense as well.

Warner is a very immobile QB,and will be a good target for the Eagles defensive blitz packages.

McNabb is healthy, can run his way out of trouble, and the Eagles have had success running the ball as well as passing.

I look for an Eagles win, though in many respects it’s a trap game on the road.

–art kyriazis philly/south jersey
home of the world champion phillies
happy new year 2009

The Philadelphia Eagles continue to shock the world. Yesterday they did what no one thought was possible—they marched into the Meadowlands and defeated the defending Super Bowl New York Giants in a divisional playoff round game 23-11. The game was close, hard-hitting and was up for grabs as late as the fourth quarter. The two teams went into the halftime with Philly up 10-8 after McNabb engineered a two-minute drive for a field goal by Akers. The two teams traded field goals in the third quarter and Philly was up 13-11 when the Eagles finally put together a touchdown drive to go ahead 20-11. Then the Giants stalled out at fourth and inches and the Eagles made a big defensive stop. The Eagles went three and out but the Giants again got to their own forty and got to fourth and around two and went for it again—and the Eagles stopped them again. This time the Eagles offense converted a long pass play to DeSean Jackson and while they didn’t make the TD, they converted another Akers FG to go up 23-11 with a little over four minutes to play in the fourth quarter. This pretty much iced it. Manning on his next series threw a pick and Philly again wasted clock with another offensive possession.

The Eagles won by controlling the second half with defense, by running the football about as often as they passed, and by controlling the line of scrimmage on both offense and defense. After a while, with the Giants defense out there so long, you could see the Giants defense getting tired, as great and awesome as they are. The Eagles had a 2-1 edge in time of possession in the second half. They simply dominated the Giants in the second half.

This was a terrific win for the Eagles, one of the finest wins in the playoffs in the Andy Reid era, perhaps the finest. A win over an NFC East rival on the road in the opponents stadium as a wild card having played the week before is a tall order, but Andy Reid dialed up a good game plan and won with it. Again, the keys to the game were a sound McNabb, a healthy Westbrook, a great DeSean Jackson and an awesome Eagles defense.

We should stop for a moment and appreciate what Andy Reid has now accomplished—five NFC Championship round appearances in eight years. The chance of doing this randomly in anyone year is the chance of making the playoffs (six out of 16) or .375 (37.5%) times the chance of winning at least one more playoff games (.5 or 50%) which aggregates to .1875 or 18.75% in any single season randomly. Leaving out the combinatorics of doing it five out of eight seasons (56 ways), assuming you had to do this five straight seasons would be .1875 times itself five times would would be .00023 or .023% chance of this happening randomly. That’s 23 chances in 10,000 seasons. The odds improve a bit when you stretch it over eight seasons, but still, it’s an impressive accomplishment. Andy Reid is clearly staking his claim for the Hall of Fame among NFL Coaches.

Of course, I’ve already gone out on that limb and said the Eagles would go to the Super Bowl this year. That prediction is looking better after Arizona knocked Carolina out of the playoffs. The Eagles knocked the stuffing out of Arizona on Thanksgiving day. Not that Arizona will lay down and die at home during the NFC championship game. Kurt Warner is an experienced quarterback who has won the Super Bowl, and who has defeated the Eagles in the NFC Championship round with St. Louis back in 2001, though he had Marshall Faulk back then to do it with and a pretty good defense. But he does have a renewed Edgerrin James, who has been enjoying a renaissance in the playoffs, and the Cardinals running game has been respectable enough to give their passing game some respectability. Moreover, the Eagles may have a letdown after their emotional win over the Giants. They may underestimate the Cardinals.

A historical note: The Eagles last met the Cardinals in a playoff game in 1947, for the NFL title. The Chicago Cardinals defeated the Philadelphia Eagles for the NFL title in that game. The Eagles came back to win the NFL title in 1948 and 1949. It’s taken 61 years, but this is the Eagles time for revenge and payback. Besides, what kind of crazy person would leave a great town like Chicago for St. Louis or Arizona?

The keys to this upcoming game are that Warner is a stationary QB vulnerable to the blitz; and the Cardinals weak defense. Also the Eagles good secondary has to maintain coverage on the fleet-footed Arizona receivers. The Eagles must maintain the same kind of game plan that resulted in a blowout from Thanksgiving while making adjustments in light of Arizona’s last two big wins.

I believe the Eagles will win at Arizona, though it will not be a blowout as before. I also think that the Steelers will finally knock Baltimore out of the playoffs, though Baltimore is playing very, very well. And we will finally have an all-PA Super Bowl of Steelers v. Eagles in Tampa, where there are a lot of ex-PA people living as snowbirds.

–Art Kyriazis Philly/South Jersey
Home of the World Champion Phillies
Happy New Year 2009

The clash between Eagles head coach Andy Reid and his former assistant coach (and now Minnesota Head Coach) and good friend Brad Childress in the playoffs yesterday highlights a new trend in the NFL—the Philadelphia Eagles family of coaches in the NFL. First, there are the Buddy Ryan assistant coaches—Jon Gruden, formerly of Oakland (where he went to the Super Bowl) and now of Tampa Bay (where he also went to the Super Bowl, and narrowly missed the playoffs this year) and Jeff Fischer of Tennessee, the NFL’s longest tenured coach, who is the AFC’s top seeded team this year, a regular playoff contender, and a former Super Bowl coach and AFC champion. Former Eagles head coach and Buddy Ryan assistant coach Ray Rhodes continues to work as an assistant coach in the league. Buddy Ryan’s two sons now are assistant coaches in the league. Second, there are the ex-Eagles—such as Herm Edwards of Kansas City, and former head coach Dick Vermeil, who used to coach at St. Louis, and won a Super Bowl there. Ex-Eagle John Bunting was a college head coach at North Carolina. And then you have the Andy Reid connections–Harbaugh at Baltimore, who used to coach special teams with the Eagles, and all the connections of Reid through Green Bay as well as Philly like Childress at Minnesota and Holmgren in Seattle.

There are probably many more connections to the Eagles that could be found, but it certainly is illuminating how many coaches and assistant coaches in the NFL (and in the college ranks) now have philly ties. And we used to think this was a college hoops town with a lot of college and pro hoops coaches everywhere. Who knew we were a spawning ground for college coaches. Guess it’s a spawning ground of football coaches as well for the NFL.

–art kyriazis philly/south jersey
home of the world champion phillies
Happy New Year 2009

The Philadelphia Eagles played another outstanding game yesterday in defeating the Minnesota Vikings 26-14 at the Metrodome in Minneapolis, Minnesota in a nationally televised NFL wildcard playoff game. Coming off their destruction of Dallas 44-6 the week before, the Eagles might have been expected to lower their guard somewhat, but quite to the contrary, the Eagles played well and with intensity, especially on the defensive side of the ball.

Minnesota boasts Adrian Peterson, who since his rookie last year and his second year this year, was and is the finest running back in all of professional football. Peterson has gained more than 3,000 yards on the ground in those two seasons and has moves, quickness, speed and power reminiscent of all the great Hall of Fame running backs of yore. The Maxwell Club Award winner this year, Peterson is a spectacular running back who can run and score almost at will against nearly all defenses. Against the Eagles yesterday, Peterson was held to 83 yards rushing on 20 attempts. Morever, Peterson had only one breakaway run for a touchdown late in the first half for more than ten yards—a forty yard TD sprint that accounted for almost half of his rushing yards for the game. The Eagles defense didn’t stop Peterson, but they contained Peterson sufficiently that the Eagles offense could win the game. Limiting Peterson to one breakaway run, a short TD run and a long TD run, and 83 yards on the ground, was in effect, stopping the prodigious Minnesota running game. This was one giant key to the Eagles win yesterday.

A second giant key was stopping the Minnesota passing game. Asante Samuel made a spectacular interception which he returned for a defensive touchdown for the Eagles, thus demonstrating why the Eagles signed him for big free agent money in the off-season. Samuel is a big-play man in big playoff games. The defensive touchdown came at a critical juncture, when the Eagles were ahead by just two points, 9-7, and gave the Eagles some needed breathing room.

Third, the Eagles offense was steady all day. While they didn’t score touchdowns, they got into the red zone and gave David Akers the chance to kick field goals, which in the wind-free Metrodome was an easier than normal task—and Akers booted three in the first half, and another in the second half. Akers was a fourth key to the Eagles win.

The final and fifth key to the Eagles’s win was Brian Westbrook, who played well all day, and finally broke a big play open late on a screen pass call that was brilliantly executed just when Minnesota had nearly all of its men committed to the pass rush, leaving Westbrook free to run downfield for 71 yards and a game-breaking touchdown that gave the Eagles a 23-14 lead late in the game that held up.

With this win, the Eagles now get their rematch date with the New York Giants in the Meadowlands, and while the Giants have to be favorites as the home team and the defending Super Bowl champions, no one should count the Eagles out. If the Eagles win against the Giants, they would have either Carolina on the road or Arizona on the road for the NFC Championship Game, and a shot at their second Super Bowl in this decade. The Giants continue to be without Plaxico Burriss and their middle linebacker continues to be a subject of investigation in that matter.

Now, onto another more important question: how great is Andy Reid as a coach? First, Reid has made the playoffs now seven of ten seasons as Eagles coach, made the playoffs five years in a row his second through sixth seasons, and won four NFC East titles. Reid has also reached the NFC Title Game four times, and won once to get to the Super Bowl once. Reid has the third highest winning percentage of all active NFL coaches. And Reid has won seven opening round playoff games in a row in each of those seven seasons that he has made the playoffs. In other words, every year he gets a ticket to the dance, he dances a little longer than all the other teams combined.

Compare that with Dick Vermeil or Buddy Ryan. We all loved Vermeil, but Vermeil had his problems with opening round games. Buddy Ryan had terrific defenses and outstanding regular seasons, but never won a playoff game in Philly, even when he had the homefield advantage (the Redskins) or the lead on the road (the fog game in Chicago). Losing first round playoff games led to Ryan’s demise in Philadelphia.

And what of other NFL coaches? We all love Tony Dungy, but increasingly, his record reflects, whether in Tampa Bay or in Indianapolis, a record of first round playoff exits, despite having superior talent and outstanding regular season records on his ballclubs. One would have to think what an Andy Reid would do if he was coaching Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts. A first round exit on the road at San Diego would not be in the cards for Andy Reid, who NEVER loses first round playoff games.

To understand how difficult it is to win seven straight opening round playoff games in a row, is, let’s look at some basic statistical or probability theory. Initially, let’s assume that winning the playoff game is just a 50-50 shot (it’s less than that, but we’ll get to that in a second). If that were the case, winning one would be 50% probability—winning two in a row 50% times 50% or 25% and so on.

To win seven in a row randomly would be a chance of .0078% or approximately a 1% chance. One in a hundred. Those are the odds randomly of winning seven games in a row of any kind. But playoff games are of a different kind—much more difficult—the odds are somewhat less than fifty per cent—so you have to think that those odds are less than 50% each time—and consequently the odds of randomly winning seven playoff games in a row are consequently somewhat less than 1%.

In any event, to win seven playoff games in a row represents a substantial deviation from the norm. A great NFL coach would win about 50% of his playoff games—Reid has won 100% of his first round playoff games, and has an overall winning record in playoff games. This is a remarkable record, and one which argues that Reid is as good a coach as a Vince Lombardi or a John Madden. In point of fact, John Madden lost plenty of playoff games before he got his Super Bowl ring, but no one disputed that John Madden was a great coach.

Again, to win one NFC east title in a row, with three other teams in the division, would be a 25% random probability. But to win four NFC East Titles in a row would be 25% times 25% times 25% times 25% or a .0039625 probability—about one-half a percent chance of randomly making the NFC East Championship four times in a row randomly. That means about four times in a thousand years, randomly. That would be the lottery ticket odds. But again, the odds are less than that-the other teams in the NFC East are good, spend a lot of money and are competitive—and second, Reid’s success is a marked deviation from the norm. Also, the NFL has a high degree of competitive balance due to the draft and free agency.

Now, what are the odds of making the playoffs seven out of ten years and five straight years? Six teams in the NFC make the playoffs each year of sixteen teams in the NFC, or 37.5% of the teams in the NFC. Making the playoffs five straight years randomly is therefore 37.5% multiplied by itself five times in a row, or a .00742 probability, or again, just about 1%.

Here Reid has substantially deviated from the norm and the odds again in making the playoffs five times in a row from 2000-2004.

But the odds of making it seven out of ten years (2000-2008) are even less—on the order of 3.83 to ten to the minus eighth, a negligible sum (I’ll leave out the combinatorics). Here, it’s not even possible that this is a random accomplishment. This is an amazingly rare accomplishment–and here Reid starts to join the company of coaches like Tom Landry, John Madden, Vince Lombardi, Don Shula, the true greats who find a way to win year after year, even after rebuilding and retooling. This year’s Eagles defense might be Reids’ best ever.

On getting to the NFC Title Game, there are a number of probability factors. First, you have to make the playoffs, and second, you have to win at least one and possibly two playoff games. Let’s take the minimal scenario, that the Eagles win the NFC East, have a bye, and have to win just one playoff game to make the NFC championship round. The chances of both of these happening four years in a row are, from above, .39% for winning the NFC East four years in a row, and 6.25% for winning four playoff games in a row to get to the NFC East finals. Multiplying those two probabilities, you get a random probability of .00024 or .024% chance of this happening randomly—about 24 times in 10,000 years. Suffice it to say that Reid is way, way better than the norm and the odds here. Thus his run from 2001-2005 was unbelievably great.

A few weeks ago, the Eagles were 80 to 1 underdogs against them making the Super Bowl. In retrospect, that’s not a bad wager. The Eagles under Andy Reid both in the regular season and the post season over the past nine years have substantially outperformed the market and the competition. They are among the best “investments” in pro football. They substantially outperform the random odds and the random prospects for any given football team. They make the playoffs far more than average, they win division titles far more than average, and when they do make the playoffs, they always win the first game of the playoffs, and sometimes additional games as well.

In winning this years 2009 first round playoff game against Minnesota, Reid in ten years as an Eagles coach is now 7-0, undefeated in seven seasons, in opening playoff rounds, and is slowly cementing himself a place in the Hall of Fame among football coaches. Owner Jeff Lurie is correct to keep Andy Reid around as long as possible. In fact, Lurie should give Reid more money to keep him put.

This is clearly Andy Reid’s best Eagles team since the 2004 Eagles that reached the Super Bowl. The main reasons for this are 1) McNabb has stayed healthy all sixteen games of the regular season and through the playoffs, along with Westbrook 2) a devastating defense helped by Asante Samuel and Brian Dawkins and 3) the amazing play of rookie wide receiver and return man DeSean Jackson, who has put up receiving numbers like TO and return numbers that are amazing. He came up big in yesterday’s playoff game, and continues to amaze all of us with his speed and football talent.

Berman on ESPN has already come out and said this Eagles team will reach the Super Bowl. Of course, he also picked the Colts in the AFC, but on this one, I think he might be right. I really like the Eagles to go to the Super Bowl. Naturally, the party may come to an end in New York next weekend, but this is truly a great Eagles team no matter what happens next weekend.

Art Kyriazis Philly/South Jersey
Home of the World Champion Philadelphia Phillies
Happy New Year 2009