Category Archives: Sports

Blasphemy 2010 Champion of NFL-Idaho!

…or, What a difference a yard makes!

The 2010 season of the NFL-Idaho Fantasy Football League ended on Dec 28th with the victory of the Vikings over the Eagles in a snow-delayed prime-time matchup.  While ensuring that the Eagles wouldn’t be higher than the 3 seed in the NFC, it also determined our league champion and, for the second time in league history, Blasphemy is champion of the league (the last time being 2005)!  But, boy, how close it was.

Our league uses three categories to determine the champion.  Every week, we are paired off with another team in the league, and battle head-to-head.  One category is head-to-head wins.  We also tally how well we did each week if we faced all of the other teams, or an overall record for the week and thus an overall wins category.  Finally, we have a total points category.

I pretty much had my head-to-head win in the bag by the time of the Vikings-Eagles game, which also assured me second place in the head-to-head wins category, since first was sealed up by Uberman, and the others who might have caught or passed me lost their head-to-head matchup.  I was in essentially a tie for second for total points, though in the end I ended up third, only 3 points behind second place, held by Juggernaut (there was little chance of catching the first place Villains).

Entering this last week of the season, however, I was second in overall wins to Villains, with Juggernaut in an immediate third.  Villains had a relatively poor showing and dropped a few spots in overall wins.  Juggernaut had a good showing and was ahead of me.  In fact, before the week, he was only one game behind me, and if he finished more than one game ahead, the championship would be his.  As we entered the final game, The 8th Man was sitting right between the Juggernaut and myself, essentially dropping me out of a tie for first place in overall wins and thus costing me the championship.  Juggernaut had gotten so far ahead because Eli Manning had just barely gotten 300 yards — for which we award a bonus — propelling him past me.  Similarly, Brees had done the same for The 8th Man, also pushing him ahead of me.

But, now it was my turn.  My only player in the Vikings-Eagles game was Percy Harvin, who had done very well for me throughout the season, as we treat kick and punt returners well.  But, so far, he wasn’t having a break-out game and hadn’t scored any touchdowns.  Near the end of the game, though, he reached 100 yards receiving — again, a total for which we give a bonus — which pushed me past The 8th Man, just one game behind Juggernaut in overall wins for the week and into a tie for the year, and on to the championship.

This was probably the closest finish we’ve had yet.  And it was, for me anyways, incredibly exciting.  And it all came down to a few yards.  One less yard by Harvin, I lose.  If Brees or Manning had had 2 less yards passing, it wouldn’t have come down to Harvin in the first place.  In some sense, it was entirely random who won, because it was so close.  I was fortunate enough to come out on top this time.  Hopefully that luck continues to next season.

Priorities

The other day, listening to ESPN Radio on the way to work, they had an auction to raise money for the V Foundation.  I don’t know much about it, but it’s something started by Jimmy Valvano, a I believe college basketball coach who was diagnosed with cancer and started this to fight back.  This was in the mid 90s, maybe 94 or 95.  The talk show guys mentioned how, since the foundation started, it has raised $80 million for cancer research.

The next segment was Sports Center and it was reported that some player (don’t remember the sport) had either just signed or was in negotiations for a contract worth $60 million over how ever many years, something like 5.

$80 million over 15 for cancer research and $60 million over 5 for one guy to throw a ball around.  It sometimes feels like our priorities are really screwed up.

To be fair, this $80 million isn’t the whole amount devoted to cancer research in the last 15 years, just what this one foundation has raised.  And the $60 million isn’t the player’s fault.  It’s mine as much as anyone’s, as I’m into the whole professional sports thing, watching the games, playing fantasy football, and owning a couple of jerseys.

But, still…

Collapse by Jared Diamond

Guns, Germs, and Steel was one of the best books I’ve read, so I was very interested in reading Jared Diamond’s latest book, Collapse.  Browsing the reviews at Amazon, they were very mixed, with some finding the book boring, a rush job, or saying nothing new.  I guess I can see the last point, if I’d read more about the condition of the world’s environment.  But I haven’t, so, for me, it was a real thought-provoking, eye-opening read.  And I thought it was far from boring.  I don’t know enough about the facts behind Diamond’s claims, so I can’t judge at all the veracity or the bias behind the statistics or claims Diamond makes.  Even so, if even half of what he writes represents the real situation, then still the book is of great importance.

The basic theme of the book is that there are many examples of societies, both in the past and in modern times, that have failed.  Diamond’s task is to try to understand why, and he has arrived at a five-point framework to consider a given society’s collapse:

  • environmental damage by the society
  • climate change
  • hostile neighbors
  • friendly trade partners
  • the society’s response to its environmental problems

Not all of these factors contribute to any given society’s collapse, but, according to Diamond, at least one of these is a major contributing factor and for nearly all societies, the first one is often the most important.  Diamond tries to demonstrate this by looking at various past and present societies that did fail, including Easter Island, the island of Henderson, the Anasazi, the Maya, Rawanda and Burundi, and the Greenland Norse, and some that overcame their problems and developed a sustainable society, such as New Guinea, Iceland, the Greenland Inuit, and Japan.  As Diamond points out, some of the problems that faced some of these societies was essentially random luck, such as the quality of the land they settled.  For example, the Greenland that the Norse encountered looked lush, like their native Norway, but the soil was not anywhere near as productive and that led to some of their struggles.

The point of all of this is to understand what led to the failure or eventual success of each society so that we can apply the underlying lessons to our modern world.  Diamond illustrates those dangers by describing the current state of China, Australia and Montana, showing how ecological damage has affected the environment and, more important, the people and society of each.  He concludes that failure is not a given, that societies at some point essentially choose to either fail or succeed.

One might wonder why they would ever “choose” to fail.  To say that they choose to fail is a bit misleading.  Rather, Diamond gives 4 reasons that they essentially do not end up fixing their problems:

  • they fail to anticipate a problem before it arrives
  • they fail to perceive a problem that has arisen
  • they fail to try to solve a problem they do perceive
  • they may try to solve the problem, but fail

The third point, that they don’t even try to solve a problem that they do know about, is the hardest to understand, but in truth it seems that societies do indeed just fail to act.  Whether the choices involved in acting are too difficult, maybe involving abondoning core values or beliefs, or there are conflicting values, such as a profit motive.  We are at a point where we will have to make these hard choices to confront problems facing us, choices that many of us will be reluctant to make.

Finally, Diamond describes 12 problems that are currently facing the world:

  • the destruction of natural habitats, such as forests and wetlands
    - Diamond claims that deforestation was one of or the primary reason for the collapse of each previous society he analyzes
    - half of the world’s original forests have been converted to other uses and a quarter of what remains will be converted within the next 50 years
  • wild foods, a large fraction of protein for many of the world’s people, are disappearing, with many fisheries already having collapsed
  • many species have gone extinct, decreasing the world’s biodiversity, upsetting the balance of many ecosystems
  • farmland soil is being eroded at a much greater rate than it is being reformed, leading to the eventual ruination of that land; much other farmland is being destroyed by salinization
  • the primary energy sources are fossil fuels, which are a limited, non-renewable resource
  • most of the world’s freshwater is already being used, for irrigation, domestic and industrial use, or recreation, leaving very little for future expansion
  • we are near the photosynthetic capacity of the planet; that is, the way that sunlight can be used for plant growth is finite and we are already using about half of that, even assuming plants are 100% efficient at capturing photons
  • chemicals, either synthetic ones made by humans or natural ones that are made in extreme quantities by humans, are entering the environment; they have reached the furthest corners of the planet — the level of PCBs in the milk of Inuit mothers is at hazardous levels
  • alien species, introduced either intentionally or unintentionally, are upsetting ecosystems around the world, destroying native species and making farming extremely difficult in some areas
  • greenhouse gases and global warming
  • the growth of the global human population
  • finally, even more importantly, the impact per person on the environment is increasing

Upon reading his arguments, one realizes that the most alarming aspect of all of this is that these are problems today, in a world where the First World uses 32 times more resources per capita than the rest of the world, and the rest of the world is trying to catch up.  The rest of the world sees how the First World lives and wants that standard of living.  Getting there will mean that they too have a much higher per capita impact on the world, exacerbating all of the problems listed above.  For example, if China alone, which is pushing hard to achieve First World standards of living, reaches the same level as the First World, the per capita environmental impact of the world will increase by a factor of 2.  This is just if China reaches that level, and many of the other very populus countries are currently poor and working to get to First World standards.

All of this made me feel very depressed and pessimistic about the future.  These are huge problems that will require huge efforts to fix, require huge changes in how we live.  It seems to me that, to reach a sustainable lifestyle, people all around the world will have to compromise.  The First World will have to realize that, even if the rest of the world stays poor, the lifestyle we have is unsustainable.  We will have to settle for a lifestyle that is less affluent.  At the same time, the rest of the world will have to realize that they cannot have the same standard of living the First World currently has, a harsh realization.  This means hard choices on both sides, choices that it is not clear to me we will all make.

Diamond does end on one cautiously optimistic note.  The problems we are facing are caused by us, meaning they can be fixed by us.  Some of them will be difficult to fix even if we decide to do everything possible today.  But, it can be done if we have the will.  Whether we choose to do so will be the big question.

There is a lot in this book that I have failed to mention.  I highly recommend this book and think it should be a topic of discussion in all classrooms in the country.  We all have to acknowledge the problems facing us for there to be any chance that we can address them.  That means we have to think beyond how we want to live and consider how we should live.

After reading this book, I am concerned about the world my daughter will live in.  Hopefully, my generation will begin to act such that her generation has a better chance for a world in which the majority of humanity can live in both a sustainable and reasonably affluent manner.

Superbowl XLIII – A good game, disappointing ending

Another Superbowl, another Steelers appearance.

I have a running bet with my brothers and, if the Steelers won (again), I’d owe (again).  So, of course, I was rooting against the Steelers.  And, I don’t dislike the Cardinals, so I was all for the Cards winning.

The game started out alright, with the Cards stopping the Steelers on a couple of drives.  I mean, one of those stops was necessary after that running into the holder penalty, which seemed a bit ticky-tacky, but still, the Card defense was pretty impressive.  And stopping Big Ben at the goal was pretty damn impressive.  The team as a whole had too many penalties, started the game off sloppy.  But, they were still in it, holding the Steelers to just 10 points and starting to come alive offensively.  First they got the one touchdown to the tight end, and then, after getting that tipped interception, were about to score again to finish the first half ahead.  Then, Warner throws that interception, returned for a TD, the longest play in the history of the Superbowl (not sure how many times I heard that).  Not the best way to end the first half, and a bit disappointing that no one on the offense can tackle worth a damn.

The second half got really exciting as the Cards mounted a comeback.  Two TDs to Fitzgerald, one of them for 64 yards as he blew by the secondary, made it a game and put the Cards ahead.  And the Steelers were getting sloppy too, with the holding penalty in the end zone for the safety, the personal foul for hitting.  It looked like the Cards might actually win.  The left the Steelers only a couple of minutes to try to tie the game.  But, for some reason, the Card D decided they didn’t need to defend Holmes any more.  First the first down.  Then the TD.  And the game is over.  Maybe not quite.  The Cards had one more chance, but it ends in a maybe-somewhat-controversial fumble call.

Overall, I thought it was a good game.  A little sloppy at times, with too many penalties, the stupid kind.  But, the Cards played, overall, a better game, I thought.  If it wasn’t for that interception return, they would have likely won the game.  I think the Steelers did just enough to win, but the Cards also shot themselves in the foot more than a few times with all those penalties and the int.  They definitely showed that they deserved to be on the same field as the Steelers, in contrast to what all the pundits claimed.  And the Steelers didn’t dominate like some feared.  So, while the game, I thought, was overall very good and very exciting, I was still disappointed with the outcome.

Someday, maybe the Vikings will be on the other side of the trophy.  Someday.  The dream of the fan lives on.

Vikes, losers again

Another season, another disappointing ending.

Driving home from Idaho, we made it to Cortez, CO last night.  We had something like 300 miles to home which, as I drive, would take about 4.5 hours.  Leaving at 10AM, that put us at home roughly at 2:30PM, just in time for the kickoff of the Vikings-Eagles game.  Another playoff game, another hope for glory at the end of the season.

We got out a bit earlier than 10, just about 9AM.  The roads, however, were not so cooperative.  We hit probably the worst stretch of road between Boise and Santa Fe, with some areas covered in snow, forcing us to slow to 35 miles per hour.  Even so, we made it just in time.  We rushed into the house, turned on the TV, and saw the kickoff.

The first half gave hope.  Sure, the Vikes were behind, 16-14, at the end of the first half, but that was due to a Viking interception returned for a touchdown.  The Vikes held the Eagles to 3 field goals and scored two TDs of their own after impressive drives.  If the Vikes could continue that kind of play in the second half, they had a real shot.

Unfortunately, they couldn’t, they didn’t, and the season is over.  There are bright spots on the team, though quarterback is still a weakness.  Jackson showed some good abilities in the first half, but the second half, he seemed to fall apart.  He couldn’t complete any passes and the last few plays, he just was making horrible decisions.  I wonder what the Vikes could accomplish if they had a true quality quarterback.  Maybe we’ll find out next year.  One can hope.