Archive for the ‘Sport’ Category

Back on the trail

Saturday, February 11th, 2017 | Sport

Between Venla arriving and the nights being cold and dark, I have not been for a run up the canal this year. That changed last week when I finally got out there. It felt good.

My times have really slowed down in January. I went from almost setting a personal best at the first Parkrun of 2017, to struggling to keep it under 30 minutes for the rest of the month. My weight has not changed, so I wonder if Christmas turned all of my muscle into fat. I am hoping that bumping back up to two training sessions a week will reverse this decline.

Super Bowl LI

Thursday, February 9th, 2017 | Sport

Ah, I was so close again! Last year I predicted a Carolina Panthers vs New England Patriots Super Bowl (this was before the playoffs started, not before the regular season). The Denver Broncos beat the Patriots in the AFC championship game to knock me off by one.

This year, I predicted a Green Bay Packers vs New England Patriots. Alas, the Atlantic Falcons convincingly beat the Packers in the NFC championship game to once again knock me off by one result.

Still, it made for a good Super Bowl. The first three quarters were so-so. It looked like the Falcons were firmly in control. But then Tom Brady did a Tom Brady and suddenly we had a game on.

Turn out was good too: six of us, not counting Elina, Venla and Kearny who were all here, but had gone to bed. For once, I managed to make a reasonable amount of food.

NFL: Who are the real franchise quarterbacks?

Saturday, January 28th, 2017 | Sport

The term “franchise quarterback” is thrown around a lot in the NFL. There is an official meaning: teams can use their franchise tag to keep one key player at the club. However, more often when referring to QBs it is used to label quarterbacks who people expect to be at the teams for a long-run without any enforcement.

But who exactly is a franchise quarterback?

Philip Rivers, for example, is probably not the first person to come to mind when you think about the legendary quarterbacks of the NFL. However, Rivers has now been at the San Diego Chargers for 12 years. Only Tom Brady has been at his current club for longer.

Quarterback tenure in data

Below, I have tabled all of the NFL teams and their starting quarterbacks. I have included the year that they joined the club, and the team’s 2016 record.

Note that this is slightly different to the year they became starting quarterback. Many sat on the bench for the first season, for example. However, as it is a measure of how long the teams have kept them around, tracking it from the time they joined the team makes more sense in this instance.

It also does not include how long they have been in the NFL. Alex Smith, for example, was at the San Francisco 49ers for several years before moving on to the Kansas City Chiefs. Again, this makes more sense for what we are discussing.

The data

Team Starting QB Year joined team 2016 record
Patriots Tom Brady 2000 .875
Chargers Philip Rivers 2004 .313
Giants Eli Manning 2004 .688
Steelers Ben Roethlisberger 2004 .688
Packers Aaron Rodgers 2005 .625
Saints Drew Brees 2006 .438
Falcons Matt Ryan 2008 .688
Ravens Joe Flacco 2008 .500
Lions Matthew Stafford 2009 .563
Bears Jay Cutler 2009 .188
Panthers Cam Newton 2011 .375
Bengals Andy Dalton 2011 .438
49ers Colin Kaepernick 2011 .125
Colts Andew Luck 2012 .500
Seahawks Russell Wilson 2012 .656
Dolphins Ryan Tannehill 2012 .625
Redskins Kirk Cousins 2012 .531
Chiefs Alex Smith 2013 .750
Cardinals Carson Palmer 2013 .569
Raiders Derek Carr 2014 .750
Jaguars Blake Bortles 2014 .188
Titans Marcus Mariota 2015 .563
Bills Tyrod Taylor 2015 .438
Buccaneers Jameis Winston 2015 .563
Jets Bryce Petty 2015 .313
Vikings Sam Bradford 2016 .500
Browns Robert Griffin III 2016 .063
Texans Brock Osweiler 2016 .563
Eagles Carson Wentz 2016 .438
Broncos Trevor Siemian 2016 .563
Rams Jared Goff 2016 .250
Cowboys Dak Prescott 2016 .813

Discussion

I was expecting to see some correlation between the length of quarterback tenture and the results of each team. However, this was difficult to fine.

Sure, a lot of the play-off teams have the longest-standing quarterbacks. But then, the Chargers and Saints did not make the playoffs, despite having had the same quarterback for ten years.

Similarly, while there are a lot of rubbish teams with new quarterbacks, there are also the Cowboys, with one of the best records in the NFL, who only replaced Tony Romo, their quarterback since 2003, this year.

Here is the data in a graph:

There is nothing there. As with most of the stats in the NFL it probably suffers from the same critical problem: small sample size. When you only play 16 games per year, and those games only involve 11 minutes of actual play, almost anything can be luck.

49ers record season

Monday, January 2nd, 2017 | Sport

When I started following American football, there was only one sensible choice for who to support: San Francisco is the Mecca of software development, so the 49ers it had to be. As it happens, much like the team’s namesake, I had struck gold. Jim Harbaugh was in charge and doing amazing things.

In Harbaugh’s first three seasons in charge, the 49ers went to the championship game in all of them. He was the first NFL head coach to do this. The second of those saw the 49ers go the Super Bowl and were just one play away from winning the thing.

Then, in 2014, the team went 8-8 and Jed York fired him.

Jim Tomsula was given the head coaching job, while the two highly commended coordinators, Vic Fangio and Greg Roman, both left the team too. The team went 5-11. Tomsula was fired and replaced with Chip Kelly. This had promise. Kelly had taken the Philadelphia Eagles from a 4-12 season to a 10-6 season in which they went to the championship game, before being fired a year later for a still-respectable 7-9 season.

But this year, things have been even worse.

Should Kelly be fired? Well, maybe. But it is worth noting Bill Walsh’s record. Bill Walsh is the greatest 49ers coach of all time. In his ten seasons in charge, he won three Super Bowls. Even Bill Belichick’s record with the Patriots is not that good. What was Walsh’s record the first year in charge? 2-14. It was the equal-worst season ever for the 49ers. But they stuck with it, and it turned out to be the best decision they ever made.

2016 F1 World Championship

Tuesday, December 27th, 2016 | Sport

Yes, I realise I am rather late writing about this. I’ve been busy. Where possible, though, I have tried to make sure that parenting did not get in the way of watching the Grand Prix.

I am glad Nico Rosberg won. He earned it. Hamilton has not had any more reliability problems than Rosberg has. Rosberg does not whine about it, though, he just gets on with the job. He also comes across as a really nice, genuine guy. Slow and steady wins the championship: famously, his father Keke Rosberg (1982 world champion) is one of only two drivers to win an F1 World Championship while only winning one race (the other being Britain’s Mike Hawthorn in 1958).

I am also pleased that he has retired, though. It will save the family arguments. Keke Rosberg was Finland’s first world champion, and as such, Finland considers Nico Rosberg one of their own. However, Nico grew up in Monaco and races under a German flag. Therefore, Elina cheers him on, while I, being British, could naturally never support a German (unlike Finland, we were against Germany in the world wars). It will be nice to have that tension resolved!

Sub-28

Thursday, December 22nd, 2016 | Sport

It has been a good year for running. So far this year I have already smashed a bunch of records. I ran my first half marthon, went sub-60 in the Leeds 10k with an amazing 59:59 and then butchered that in the Abbey Dash with 56:45.

Parkrun has been going well too. My personal best of 28:50 had stood since 2014. However, I beat that in August, setting a new time of 28:11. This was the first time I had gone sub-28 in two years. On the 3rd of December, I beat it again, setting a new record of 27:16.

How? I have no idea. I suspect the timing was off. To take almost a minute off your personal best is suspicious: even if I have taken about 10 minutes off my 10k time this year. How long will this stand for? Probably a while. Though I have managed to repeat a sub-28 time in the two Parkruns since as well.

On Saturday, I am touristing it up at Temple Newsam Parkun, where my dad will be doing his 100th run. My personal best there is 29:29, so that is the target.

Abbey Dash 2016

Monday, November 28th, 2016 | Sport

abbey-dash-2016

Earlier this month I took part in the 31st Abbey Dash.

It was the first time I had run the Dash. However, it is not a race I do particularly well. Last year, I set a personal worst over 10k. This year looked like to be a repeat of previous years: old and wet.

Luckily Jane and Rob were already there when I turned up and Chris and Carley turned up later too. Usually, I am stood around by myself for the hour you have to wait, so it was nice to feel like I had some friends for a short while.

Organisation was improved. They only do one water point (Run For All does two) but they did text me my result this year. There was still stuff to fix, though. They let the sub-60 and sub-70 pens go at the same time. I was at the back of the sub-60 pen, so I was running behind a lot of the sub-70 runners. By the finishing straight, I was literally having to push my way through, and it slowed me down a lot.

Despite my previous bad times, I was hopeful. So far in 2016 I had run my first half marthon, set a personal best at Parkrun and run my first sub-60 over 10k when I managed a 59:59 in the Leeds 10k in July. My faith was rewarded: I brought it home in 56:45 setting a new 10k PB.

Immigration levels compared with Olympic medals

Sunday, August 28th, 2016 | Religion & Politics, Sport

Nothing to see here. Correlation does not imply causation.

immigrants-to-medals
Number of immigrants (millions), number of Rio 2016 Olympic medals at 1/4 scale

In fairness, if you line the countries up in population size, they come out in a pretty similar way. But it doesn’t fit quite as well as these figures do.

Caster Semenya, and hyperandrogenism

Saturday, August 27th, 2016 | Sport

Caster_Semenya_2010_Memorial_Van_Damme

Caster Semenya is a South African athlete who recently won gold in the women’s 800m at the Rio 2016 Olympics. That should not be controversial, but it is, because she has hyperandrogenism.

Hyperandrogenism is a medical condition where you have an excess of testosterone in your body. Because testosterone helps you train harder and recover faster, it is on the banned substance list in athletics. If you get caught taking it, you will be banned from competing (unless you are Russian, of course).

Caster Semenya hasn’t been taking it: she just has incredibly high levels of it in her body. But other athletes claim it is unfair: they say no matter how hard they train, they can never compete with someone who has so much testosterone.

My view, is that that is tough luck.

Caster Semenya isn’t cheating. She is just naturally bigger, stronger and faster than other athletes. That is just how sport is. It has never been a meritocracy. You can train as hard as you want, you are never going to beat Usain Bolt in a sprint. When we take the top athletes in the entire world, of course they are both hard working and physically gifted.

I have been running for 25 years and I still can’t get my 5k time to within a few minutes of Mo Farah’s 10k time. No amount of training is going to make me faster than he is. However, for consideration, I have laid out the possible paths we could take.

Let Caster Semenya compete

This is the obvious one, and the one I favour, as outlined above.

Not let Caster Semenya complete

So now we’re banning anyone with hyperandrogenism competing because we’re confused about their gender? That’s obviously discriminatory.

Make Caster Semenya take medication

You know, like we did with Alan Turing to try and cure his homosexuality. We could give her pills to reduce her testosterone levels to a “reasonable” level.

This sounds like Kurt Vonnegut’s distopian short story Harrison Bergeron in which ballet dancers must wear weights, newsreaders must have stutters and smart people must be dumbed down. We will be giving Usain Bolt a drag parachute and removing large segments of basketball players legs so that I can compete in the NBA?

Do away with gendered sport

Instead of diving everyone into men and women, we could just allow everyone to compete in the same competition. Do away with discrimination and give everyone an equal opportunity.

Make Caster Semenya compete with the men

Which would be totally unfair, because she is a woman.

Have a new “we’re not sure” category

As well as having a men’s race and a women’s race, we could introduce a new intersex category that would allow the IAAF to parade around anyone who doesn’t exactly fit into their nice gender boxes.

Conclusion

Personally, I find all other possible routes out of this situation either ridiculous, or offensive, or in some cases both. Caster Semenya is a wonderful athlete and should be allowed to compete.

Rio 2016 Olympics: a review

Wednesday, August 24th, 2016 | Sport

rio-2016

I have really enjoyed the Rio 2016 Olympics. London 2012 was pretty good: a spent a lot of time watching that too, but no where near as much as I spent watching Rio. My love of sport has grown over the past four years. This time I was watching it from 9am to midnight most days. I am exhausted from sitting around watching sport.

It helps that Team GB has completely nailed it. Without home advantage I assumed we would be unable to hold on to third place in the medals table. The predictions said we would match last time. But as things progressed, people asked question. Could we beat China? The answer was yes. We finished in second, our best performance for over one hundred years. The only time we have ever done better than third was when we came first at the 1908 London Olympics. We have never matched that away from home before.

Brazil did a good job overall, in my opinion. Their opening ceremony was okay, but if we have learned anything from Bejing and London, you probably do need to spend an obscene amount of money to make it mind-blowing. Despite the odd technical glitch, Rio did a wonderful job though. Compare this to #SochiProblems at the Winter Olympics two years ago, or the absolute disaster that was India’s attempt at hosting the 2010 Commonwealth Games. Things were not perfect, but isn’t it better to give a developing country a chance and accept it isn’t going to be London?

Brazil’s support for the Paralympics has clearly fallen short of the mark, and I will not defend them on that count.

In some ways, the Olympics has also been depressing. I remember spending an afternoon watching dressage. I lay on my sofa, wishing I had the motivation to get up and sort my life out and get things done. But all I could do was lie there and watch more dressage, a sport I have very little interest in.

But for the most part it was just sport, amazing sport, and the Union Jack being hoisted up a flag pole again, and again, and again.