Saturday, January 23, 2010

Women like what, now? (Sweetie's Hunk of the Week, 46)

Two quick follow-ups from last week's Hunk before we present the 45th Hunk of the Week.

1. Last night, I got Sweetie to rap
4 words of Bust A Move before she quit and walked away. And I didn't have tape rolling. I even tried to encourage her by rapping the entire wedding part myself, in what might have been my finest moment, but she wouldn't do it.

2. Petri Dish suggested that Sweetie should have chosen someone named "Christiano Ronald" and Sweetie acted like she didn't know who that was, but then last night she also showed me a picture in one of her celebrity magazines. "Who's that?" I asked, and she said "It's Christiano, the guy suggested by Petri Dish last week."

You know what I got out of that exchange? Sweetie is on a first-name basis with "Christiano."

On to the 45th Hunk of The Week:

Reggie Bush!

Don't stop reading. This isn't the sports post that nobody ever reads. That comes tomorrow. This is about Hunkiness:

He's the one on the right.

You Don't Know Him Without: You could know Reggie Bush one of two, or three ways, or even four ways, maybe. If you're a sports fan alive in the world today, then you probably have heard about Reggie Bush playing for the Saints and doing quite well in their playoff game last week. If you're a sports fan who was alive in the world a couple years back, then you probably heard about Reggie Bush playing for USC in the National Championship game against Texas -- a game his team lost and a game in which he didn't play particularly well.

If, on the other hand, you are not a sports fan, but are a fan of investigations into college football athletes getting paid and universities getting sanctioned and their head coaches moving on to coach the Seattle Seahawks for a while (coaching the Seattle Seahawks is the sports-world's equivalent of going to the mattresses), then you may have heard about Reggie Bush in connection with allegations that he was paid while attending USC -- some people allege that Bush got as much as $100,000 in "gifts" while he was there, and those allegations continue to dog USC, which is why (people say) the USC coach headed for the hills of... whatever state Seattle is in. Idaho, I think.

But, if you're not a fan of any of those things and you are instead a fan of "reality" shows featuring people who appear to do nothing except be on reality shows, and who also associate with noted "Girls Gone Wild" producer/child abuser Joe Francis, then you might also have heard of Reggie Bush, as he's dating Kim Kardashian, star of her own reality show (titled "Not The Girls Next Door, But That Other Show About Those Other Girls")

This is true: If you Google Reggie Bush, it's almost
impossible to find a picture of him that
DOESN'T have Kim Kardashian lurking around.

Sweetie, by the way, doesn't just think that Reggie Bush is a hunk; Sweetie thinks Kim Kardashian is pretty. I don't agree. Let's examine the evidence in support of Sweetie's argument:

Now, let's examine the evidence in support of my side:

Also, I always think that Kim Kardashian looks as though she might smell like salami.

Anyway, the odds are that you probably know who Reggie Bush is.

Reggie Bush isn't just the hunk of the week, though. Reggie also factored into the other discussion Sweetie and I had last night. We didn't just sit around trying to get each other to rap, you know. We also do productive things, like going to Walgreen's to buy crayons for Mr Bunches, or talking about which celebrity category outranks which other celebrity category in terms of status and desirability. Which leads me into...

Thing That Makes You Go Hmmm About Him: This is ordinarily the part where I'd put some video up of the person singing, or mention something potentially embarrassing about the Hunk, or maybe see if his picture is on underwear for sale on eBay -- once you start hunting for underwear sales on eBay, it's almost impossible to stop doing that -- but the only non-football video I could find of Reggie was this one:

And that's not embarrassing at all. I don't even know why that video exists. But when I see things like that, and the pictures the paparazzi take of celebrities, I have a secret, gnawing desire to be a paparazzi.

Imagine that job: Your job is to follow around celebrities and take pictures of them. Every picture you see of some celebrity in a bikini:

Like this:

Or this:

Was taken by someone whose job was to be there, on that beach, with a celebrity, taking pictures of them. Someone who doesn't have to wear a tie, or deal with office managers refusing to get them a wall calendar because "it's all supposed to be on computers now" or find out that they have 77 emails since lunch. Someone whose job it is to walk around in shorts, a t-shirt, and sandals, and take pictures of girls in bikinis.

Yeah. Think about that the next time you go into the office. I know I do.

So: The hierarchy of celebrities, as Sweetie and I discussed them last night. Sweetie brought up again the subject of who's the reacher and who's the settler in a relationship, as brought up on How I Met Your Mother last week.

(If you don't get all your relationship advice and theories from a sitcom, I think you're doing things wrong and are risking trouble in your marriage. Sweetie and I used to base most of our relationship on The King of Queens, but we got tired of that. Now we use a lot of How I Met Your Mother, with, somewhat alarmingly, a little bit of The New Adventures of Old Christine thrown in.)

(In our relationship, I pointed out, I'm the reacher, something she claims isn't true but she claims that in the same voice she uses to say things like "I like a man with a little meat on his bones," so you know she's not being totally truthful.)

Sweetie asked, in the Tom Brady-Gisele Bundchen relationship who the reacher and who the settler were, and I answered immediately: Tom = Reacher.

This is here because if you put a
picture of Gisele Bundchen on your blog
you will make that post the most popular
one you've ever written. Try it.

Sweetie wondered about my claim, so I had to remind her of the Hierarchy of Celebrity Fame/Fortune/Desirability:

1. Good-looking, Oscar-winning movie stars.
2. Other movie actors.
3. High-profile, good-looking TV actors.
4. Supermodels.
5. Other TV actors.
6. Good-looking, super-well known reality show/news-type stars.
7. Athletes.
8. Rock stars.
9. Other reality show/news-type stars.

Note that the Hierarchy has nothing to do with personality: It's based solely on looks, power and likelihood of being rich. So, in terms of desirability, Jennifer Aniston is a Level 3; George Clooney is a Level One. So is Tom Cruise: Crazy doesn't factor in. Conan O'Brien is a Level 9. So's Jimmy Fallon.

Also note that "Rock stars" include all musicians, and there's no way to move up no matter how famous you get or how many records you sell or how good-looking you are. Your stuck, Chris Martin.

Kim Kardashian falls into Level 6, or 9, depending on whether you go along with Sweetie's crazy notions.

Tom Brady, you can see, then, reached 3 levels to date a supermodel.

That was what I explained to Sweetie last night, and she debated a couple parts of it, but you know, as you read that list, I'm absolutely right. And I proved it to Sweetie by asking her this question:

"Oldest comes to you and says 'I won't name them, but I've got a movie actor and an athlete who both want to date me. Who should I pick?' Who would you tell her to date, just based on that?" And Sweetie said, "Well, the movie star." Which proves my point: Movie stars > athletes.

Reggie Bush and Kim Kardashian factored into that, and are the Thing That Makes You Go Hmmm About Him feature mostly because, honestly, I've got nothing much else to say about Reggie Bush, and because they also pose an interesting question: Is Reggie the reacher or settler in their relationship?

The answer is: trick question! It's a fake relationship made up for their TV show. There's no way anyone would put up with Kim Kardashian for more than a few minutes for anything other than their career.

Reason I Tell Myself Sweetie Likes Him: I don't really have to guess at this one. Remember that each week Sweetie picks out the Hunk and makes a picture of the Hunk the desktop background on our home computer, so that every morning I'm greeted with a vision of what Sweetie thinks is hot that week (and rarely is that vision anything like "Me in the morning," wearing my pajamas and old t-shirt and hair sticking out at random angles).

This is the picture Sweetie put up this week:

I didn't know who that was until I asked her -- how should I know what a football player looks like without his helmet on? -- but I knew instantly why she liked Reggie: abs. It's why every woman likes every man, deep down inside. I've pointed it out before in reviewing these Hunks, over and over and over: Women like abs. Forget money, power, hair, sense of humor, stability, all the junk women will recite by rote when they say what they look for in a man, and just remember this:

Women. Like. Abs.

That's why nearly a year ago I embarked on my quest to cement my relationship with Sweetie by getting abs of my own -- doing sit-ups in the morning several times a week, and sometimes exercising on the trampoline we have in the basement, the one Mr F will bounce on for hours. Mr F has awesome abs -- seriously, he does, especially for a three-year-old -- and I decided that if the jumping worked for his abs, it'd work for mine.

It hasn't worked yet: My abs still look a lot less like Reggie Bush's and a lot more like a souffle that was accidentally spilled into my pants, but I'm sure eventually I'll have a washboard stomach.

Hidden behind three inches of "Dorit0-based fat."

Actual Reason Sweetie Likes Him: When I asked her that, she looked at me and said:

"Seriously? I'm not even going to give you an answer, because I think you can guess. Just look at his picture."

Point I'd Like To Make About Sweetie's Actual Reason For Liking Him:

Women. Like. Abs.

Take it to the bank.


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Friday, January 22, 2010

A mystery wrapped in a riddle wrapped inside a poet who didn't like punctuation (Friday's Sunday's Poem 41)

I was going to post more stuff by Renee Mangunay, who wrote the excellent poem Paradox, but then I got into a discussion with a secretary here at the office. It went like this:

I had to stop up by her and help her edit into a seminar article some information I'd supplied another lawyer. I suggested that one part of what I'd added be all in parentheses, as I really like to put stuff into parentheses. (Seriously, I do.) (Try it some time.) (It's really fun.)(And it never gets old.)

Putting my blurb into parentheses posed a problem, as my blurb already had things in parentheses in it -- parenthetical expressions put there by the people I was quoting from. So I suggested that my blurb begin with brackets: [Like this (which is what you're supposed to do when you have parenthetical expressions inside other parenthetical expressions) I explained.]

She then said that it was perfectly acceptable to have "double parens," which went against everything I've learned about grammar, and I was about to say so when I realized that "everything I know about grammar" really amounts to nothing more than "a bunch of rules I assume I learned in school but which might as well be made up, for all I know, given that I never really paid attention in school and given that I've often times throughout my life shown a complete disregard for, if not utter contempt of, the rules of grammar (especially parentheses and semicolons.)"

So I instead said "Well, if you think double parens are okay, go with it." Then I said: "That's kind of fun, saying double parens. Although when you shorten it to parens, you're walking on the legacy of the great poet/punctuation nihilist e e cummings."

Secretary then asked me why that was and I explained that e e cummings had written the poem "since feeling is first," which includes the line "and death i think is no parenthesis." I went on to note that e e cummings is one of my favorite poets of all time and that I liked the line about death and parenthesis.

Secretary then said that there was a cummings poem that she liked which included the line where are the girls whose breasts begin, and asked if I knew that one. I didn't, but I looked it up for her today, and I found that:

(a) There is such a poem, making my searching for "e e cummings breast" a legitimate thing to do, Sweetie, and
(b) It's not clear what the poem is called, and
(c) It's not clear that what I think is the whole poem is the whole poem.
(d) The poem is very neat; it's a dialogue between two people and read that way is fascinating.

I found the poem, or what I think is the whole poem, in this article, and I can't find it anywhere else, or even what it's called, and I confess to not having read even a small portion of the article, because I'm not a scholar, not like that. I'm the kind of scholar who googles things and then puts them on his blog and acts like he knows stuff about them.

Anyway, here's the poem, and the mystery/riddle of the title is whether this is the whole poem, and what it's called. e e cummings, when you read this, let me know the answer to those questions:


[? untitled]
e e cummings

“think of it: not so long ago
this was a village”

“yes;i know”

“of human beings who prayed and sang:
or am i wrong?”

“no,you‟re not wrong”

“and worked like hell six days out of seven”

“to die as they lived:in the hope of heaven”

“didn‟t two roads meet here?”

“they did;
and over yonder a schoolhouse stood”

“do i remember a girl with blue-
sky eyes and sun-yellow hair?”

“do you?”


“that‟s very odd,
for i‟ve never forgotten one frecklefaced lad”

“what could have happened to her and him?”

“maybe they waked and called it a dream”

“in this dream were there green and gold

“through which a lazy brook strolled”

“wonder if clover still smells that way;
up in the mow”

“full of newmown hay”

“and the shadows and sounds and silences”

“yes,a barn could be a magical place”

“nothing‟s the same:is it”

“something still
remains,my friend;and always will”


“if any woman knows,
one man in a million ought to guess”

“what of the dreams that never die?”

“turn to your left at the end of the sky”

“where are the girls whose breasts begin?”

“under the boys who fish with a pin"

Thursday, January 21, 2010

And here I'd thought it was just a blue shirt. (3 Good Things From 1/18-1/20/10)

I'm back 'puting, sort of, almost. Stupid work, always getting in the way of the things I want to do instead of work! You know, just because they pay me to do stuff shouldn't mean I have to actually do stuff. Here's some Good Things from the last few days to help me get back into the swing of things, before I have to do more work.

1. Mr Bunches taught himself sign language! We have a bunch of those "Baby Einstein" DVDs to help make the Babies! into geniuses, and I was skeptical of them until this week, when Mr Bunches revealed that he knows sign language. Many of the DVDs show places and words and animals and then print the word and show someone saying the word in sign language, so this week, Mr Bunches came down and started signing tree and swing and ball and baby and more.

He doesn't keep his pants on regularly -- but he can speak two languages. Three if you count the way he and Mr F talk to each other.

2. Everyone liked my new shirt and tie. For my birthday, my dad got me a shirt and tie combo that I immediately told Sweetie to go exchange. The color combination Dad had picked out was a sort of purplish-pink that wasn't quite either of those colors. It wasn't a color found in nature and certainly not a color found on me. Sweetie went and got me a blue shirt and tie combo, and on Tuesday, when I wore it for the first time, I got eight different compliments on it. That's eight more than I've received on my clothes in all of Twenty-Ten.

3. Mike & Mike In The Morning on ESPN continue to read my blogs. Back when I had a sports blog, I realized that Mike & Mike on ESPN were reading it when, at one point, they made some references on-air to particular phrases that I used. I don't have a whole sports blog anymore, but I still do the Sunday Nonsportsmanlike Conduct! posts that none of you, apparently, read. (I'm still going to keep doing them, so you might as well read them.) In those posts, I habitually refer to the team I call Brett Favre's Minnesota Vikings. Yesterday, Mike and Mike made that same reference, the only one I've heard outside of my blog. So when you listen to sports coverage this week (and I know you will), and hear Brett Favre's Minnesota Vikings, you'll know who to thank. (Me),

Monday, January 18, 2010

It is an actual circumstance that makes a point about human folly and the misdirection of intentions. (3 Good Things From The Past Weekend)

I can never believe it's Monday again. Not because the weekend goes by so quickly but because I can't believe that we haven't yet abolished Mondays. Here's my 3 Good Things from the weekend!

1. Mr F and Mr Bunches' haircuts look great! Mr F and Mr Bunches hate getting their haircut. They express that hate by refusing to sit still, yelling, crying, grabbing the combs from the hair stylist, and, occasionally, stuffing the cut hair into my mouth. In spite of that, I resolved to take them this weekend, and it went... better than I'd expected, in that Mr F sat still for 2 of the 20 minutes his haircut took, while Mr F mostly just sobbed heartbreakingly as though his hair were shipping off to war.

The stylist did a great job and they look excellent -- and then she tried to dissuade me from ever coming there again. "You know, there's hair salons that have toys and things that the kids can sit in to make it more fun for them," she said, hoping I'd note that this salon had none of those things. "You should take them to one of those."

"But you do a really good job here," I said.

"Well, just think about it," she told me.

Also, she didn't get my joke. Near the end of Mr Bunches' haircut, she said "Boy, he doesn't like this," and I said "Well, it's my fault. I forgot to ask for the nonterrifying haircut."

She just looked at me blankly.

2. Sweetie and I got to go out to lunch on a very romantic date that involved also trying to find a candy store I'm sure exists. I got The Boy to babysit the Babies! for a while Saturday afternoon so that Sweetie and I could go to lunch and have some time alone. After our very-romantic lunch (in which I talked about the Malcolm Gladwell book I'm reading and Sweetie tried to remember why she'd wanted to come along), we went for a drive with no particular destination in mind at first. Then I remembered that I'd once read an article about there being a candy store that sells old-fashioned candy, on the East Side of Madison (I thought) so we drove over to that East Side, and then drove aimlessly down one of the two main roads on the East Side, before deciding that we might as well just go home.

And I had a meatball sandwich, so it was win-win.

3. Brett Favre's Minnesota Vikings won! I don't get too invested in football games, as a rule, because it's just a game, and not even one I'm playing. But I was glad to see my sports idol win his playoff game, if only because it means I get another week of wearing my Brett Favre Minnesota Vikings' jersey.

Almost as exciting was that the Jets won. In part, I liked that because they're underdogs, and in part I liked it because I don't like the Chargers (even though I like their uniforms) and in part I liked it because I like Jim Leonhard, former Badger and current extremely-undersized Jet. But mostly I like it because, for once, something that people will describe as ironic truly is "ironic," in that the Jets were playing the Colts, and were almost out of the playoffs when the Colts pulled their starters and gave up on the game, letting the Jets win and giving the Jets a chance to make the playoffs... and now the Jets play Indy and may knock them out of the playoffs.

Or, to put it the way the cartoon Archer did, hilariously, "It's as if O. Henry and Alanis Morissette had a baby and named it after this exact moment."


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Sunday, January 17, 2010

Making Sports Out Of Nothing At All: Things Sports Analysts Rely On Which Don't Mean Anything (Nonsportsmanlike Conduct!)

Today, I'll talk about the fact that sports "analysis" has very little to do with analysis. But first, just so you'll spend the day humming the same song I've been humming since I thought up this topic while I was sitting in the Babies!' room at 2:30 a.m. last night, trying to calm down Mr Bunches (who had woken up by a nightmare) and also trying to calm down Mr F (who was woken up by Mr Bunches), here's a video to watch:

The beauty of that video, and song? Even if you didn't play it, right now, you're thinking... And I don't know how you do it, makin' love out of nothin' at all. And then, in your mind, you hear that choir echoing: Makin' loooove.

That's probably true even if you've never actually heard the song -- something that's only possible if you were only just born, just this minute. And even then I probably ruined it for you as you clicked on that video and now you've heard it, too.

The other beauty of that song is how surprisingly good it is. Air Supply is one of those bands that is easy to make fun of, mostly because, they're Air Supply, but that song holds up every bit as well as, say Every Rose Has Its Thorn. Which means that we might not be very far from "VH1 Presents Russell Hitchcock's Supply Of Love," a reality show in which Russell Hitchcock, former lead singer of Air Supply, travels around the country by small plane, meeting random women picked out of a phone book to see if he can... make love out of nothing at all.

Then again, maybe we won't see that show.

The other other beauty of that song, and the group that made it popular, is how well it fits in with today's subject, which is, of course, an examination of the meaningless things that sports "analysts" rely on to provide us discerning sports fans with "analysis," by which I mean predictions.

Have you noticed how much of what passes for "news" these days is, in fact, opinions and predictions? Every time I watch CNN, which I mostly do upon returning to bed after getting the twins settle down by letting them watch a Sponge Bob DVD in the middle of the night -- don't you judge me! It was the third time he'd woken up in three hours -- every time I watch CNN, it seems like mostly what CNN is reporting is what people think about what CNN should be reporting. It works like this:

A major news event happens -- let's say, a giant monster invades Manhattan.

No, that's not quite right. Let me try again. A giant monster invades Manhattan.

Yes, there we go. This giant monster starts ripping down skyscrapers, flame-broiling helicopters, not advancing President Obama's health-care agenda, all kinds of mayhem-wreaking.

CNN then leaps into action. Wolf Blitzer fires up the diagram board to show areas of Manhattan where the monster might attack, noting that some of those areas "are believed to have been populated." Other reporters begin filing video reports reminding people that CNN can be followed on Twitter, and Robin Meade tells us, breathlessly, that the latest CNN poll is shaping up like this:

Should the government offer a bailout to the Manhattan Monster, or nuke it?
Bail It Out; It's Too Big To Fail: 51%.
Nuke It; It Might Have Explosive Underwear: 48%
Why Isn't Wolf Blitzer Out In The Field? 1%

Then we get a smattering of what you think, from the CNN Twitter page: "I just thnk the MonSTer is misundastood. Holler!" Says Deannapril, from Cold Springs.

If you were expecting to see the monster, or hear what it's done, you'd then have to wait until the next day, when viewers upload grainy, shaky cell phone camera footage to CNN.

When they're not reporting what we think about things we don't know about because they haven't actually reported on them, news shows tend to predict things -- analysts gather 'round the fake desk and say whether health care reform will pass, or whether this person or that person will get elected, or otherwise tell us what's going to happen in the next few hours, or days or weeks -- never bothering to cover what happend in the last few days or weeks. (That's what IReports are for, I assume.)

Nowhere is that problem more prevalent than in sports analysis, where virtually every single article, show, interview, or sideline-cheerleader-cam is devoted to telling you what's definitely going to maybe happen today (we hope), predictions that not only don't do anything to help you understand the game you're going to watch, or the game you've just seen; no, they don't just fail that way. They also fail because they're based on "facts" and "statistics" that are entirely meaningless.

Here's an example. Yesterday, when I breathlessly sat down to watch the big game of the day, I was a little early, and so I got to witness former Steelers/future Bills coach Bill Cowher analysizing the upcoming Ravens/Colts game. Cowher was going over what the Ravens need to do to win the game, and doing so in a very superficial manner that included, as the highlight of the "analysis," this line: pass early to run late.

I stopped listening and instead read my Malcolm Gladwell book until the game came on, because Cowher wasn't analyzing whether the Ravens could "pass early to run late," which I assumed meant pass the ball a lot to score quickly to get a lead that they could then hold by running the ball and eating up the clock... a strategy that isn't analysis at all -- it's a strategy, and it's one that would be perfectly valid for any football team ever to play any game. Instead, Cowher was just giving bland aphorisms about what might work for the Ravens. He didn't say something like "The only way to beat the Colts is to get your passing game in rhythm, but I doubt that Joe Flacco can do that because he's off and on as a quarterback and nobody in America, not even the Ravens' coordinator, can name a starting Ravens' wide receiver, so Flacco's best bet is going to be to dump it off a lot to running back Ray Rice and hope that Rice can turn that into positive yardage."

That would be analysis. Instead, we got pass early to run late.

It's not entirely the "analysts" fault... oh, wait. It is. It's entirely their fault, because in their quest to fill up all that air time without actually saying anything meaningful, they pump this gargantuan air supply...

... see what I did there?

... onto the networks, and they're, at heart, dumb guys who have no understanding of basic concepts like cause and effect, and statistics, so they simply try to rattle off things that seem to make sense (and try at the same time to not offend anyone they might have to later interview, like when Tony Dungy predicted that the Cowboys would lose to the Saints and then got ripped by the Cowboys, post-game). Being dumb guys who majored in blocking in college and having to talk a lot and being flooded with information, these "analysts" then fill you full of misinformation that you use to bet on your team, putting your mortgage payment down because you're going with Mike & Mike's Stone Cold Lead Pipe Locks, only to watch your team lose a game in which the legality of the final play will be endlessly debated, even though the team that suffered that fluky final play probably shouldn't have been in the playoffs anyway and certainly wouldn't have been in overtime at all if it hadn't been for a fluky field goal miss moments before, and wouldn't have been in overtime, either, if their quarterback hadn't begun the game with an interception that should never have been thrown.

Here's something for you Packer fans who are still stupidly mad at Brett Favre: If you are downgrading Brett because he threw an overtime interception against the Giants in the NFC Championship in the Packers' last playoff game, are you now mad at Aaron Rodgers because he threw a first-play interception in the Packers' next playoff game? How do you manage to contain that hobgoblin of inconsistency?

Here's an interesting fact for the rest of us: The Packers ended their last playoff series with an interception on offense, and began their next playoff series with an interception on offense, making them the only team ever to throw consecutive opening-and-closing interceptions in playoff games.

Back to Air Supply and how it fits today's theme. The lyrics of that song, which I've now listened to three times as I write this, have Russell Hitchcock -- remember him, from way back in this post? --

Singing about the things he knows:

And I know the roads to riches
And I know the ways to fame
I know all the rules
And I know how to break 'em
And I always know the name of the game

Including even some SPORTS things:

I can make the runner stumble
I can make the final block
And I can make every tackle at the sound of the whistle
I can make all the stadiums rock

Before getting to the big things that he doesn't know:

But I don't know how to leave you
And I'll never let you fall
And I don't know how you do it
Making love out of nothing at all

That song is the perfect template for sports analysts and their predictions for games -- they know all kinds of things, like hot to make every tackle at the sound of the whistle, which is, I'll note, technically incorrect: Tackles aren't made at the whistle; tackles are made, then the whistle blows the play dead. If you tackle someone at the whistle, you'll likely be flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct...

Sportscasters know all kinds of things. But they don't know what they don't know -- they don't know that the things they rely on don't mean anything, and so they go on making sports out of nothing at all.

I have now stretched that metaphor as far as it can go, so let me just get to the point. Here are the things that sportscasters routinely rely on to "analyze" and "predict" games, and because of the flaws in these measures, they mean nothing, making the "analysis" that you'll hear -- everywhere but this blog -- meaningless, and making sportscasters predictions random. Entirely random and pure luck.

One thing sports casters love to rely on in predicting and "analyzing" games, is Yesterday.

By "yesterday" I mean whatever just happened in the sports world. "Yesterday" is huge in the world of sports; whatever just happened is deemed to be what must happen next.

That's why everyone -- except me -- was so surprised when the Packers lost to the Cardinals last week. The Packers, you see, had won YESTERDAY; they had just beaten the Cardinals, the week before, handily. Not only that, but the Packers had won a lot of yesterdays - -they were 7-1 in the last 8 games of the season, we were reminded going into the Packers-Cardinals game. 7-1! And one of those wins was over the Cardinals! Last week!

Yesterday only matters, though, if there's no reason to think that today will be different. I like to make fun of weatherman who provide me the forecast for the day by pointing out how easy their job is, generally: Today is going to be like yesterday, only a little more so, I like to say weathermen could say, and for about 80% of the days of the year, that prediction would be right. Today, January 17, is going to be a lot like January 16 was, only a little more so.

Unless something changes, that is. Unless, say, overnight a cold front blew in and there's going to be a major snowstorm. Or unless I've traveled, overnight, to a different hemisphere. Things can change - -and they do change, and Yesterday is only helpful as a guide if you know whether things are the same today as they were yesterday.

In the Packers-Cardinals game, that was obviously not the case. The Packers were 7-1 in their last 8 games -- but they'd given up the one loss to the Steelers, a team that had thrown for 500 yards on them and scored more than 30 points because the Packers' defense had no answer for a veteran quarterback with good receivers. That's a yesterday that analysts conveniently forgot while they focused on the meaningless yesterday of the season-ending Packers-Cardinals' game, when the Cardinals, with nothing to play for, pulled their starters and didn't try, while the Packers kept their starters in for most of the game, going all out.

It didn't matter, in the end, what had happened yesterday, though, because too much had changed by the next day and nobody was paying any attention to a host of new factors: Aaron Rodgers was making his first playoff start, ever -- and he came out keyed up and full of bad decisions before settling down in the second half. The Cardinals had that veteran quarterback and excellent wide receivers. They had a reason to play in the playoff game, whereas the week before it hadn't mattered.

Sometimes, though, sports "analysts" like to look a little deeper, seem a little more important and authoritative. They go beyond yesterday to do that, and look at Ancient History.

Examining Ancient History gives the sports analysts, they hope, "gravitas." It doesn't work; putting a patina of historic importance on someone silly talking about something meaningless just makes the historic importance seem less so. Like this:

Not only does it not work, it also DOESN'T MATTER. Ancient History matters less than yesterday, but it's constantly brought up by sportscasters who want to look like they know what they're talking about.

So yesterday, we were told by the annoying-voiced announcers of the Saints-Cardinals game that Kurt Warner is "0-2 lifetime" in the Superdome in the playoffs. Those two losses came when Warner was with the Rams and lost to the Saints in the playoffs, and when Warner was with the Rams and lost to the Patriots* in the Superbowl played in the Superdome.

In 2000 and 2001, respectively. When Warner was nearly 10 years younger, playing for a different team against different teams.

Earlier in the week, one "analyst" crooned that Brett Favre, who's Brett Favre's Minnesota Vikings face the Cowboys today, has never beaten the Cowboys in the playoffs!

Did you know that! It's true! Brett Favre is 0-3 against the Cowboys in the playoffs! 0-3! Lifetime!

That 0-3 record came in losses in 1994, 1995, and 1996. Each of them was on the road -- playing at the Cowboys' home field. Each of them was against that great Dallas team that won 3 of 4 Super Bowls in the 1990s. Each of them came when Brett was with the Packers, playing for Mike Holmgren, early on in his career.

But never mind that! Brett Favre is 0-3 lifetime against the Cowboys in the playoffs! So he's probably going to lose today! Because of that history, you see! The history!

You know what I'm surprised they missed? Here's an Ancient History fact that I dug up and which nobody else will point out but which I'm sure has all kinds of meaning and portent:

The last time Brett Favre played against the Cowboys in the playoffs was in the NFC Championship on January 14, 1996, a 38-27 loss. You know who the Cowboys beat in the Wild Card round that year to get to that championship? Minnesota! Dallas beat Minnesota 40-15 on December 28, 1996!

AND, that same year, 1996, Dallas beat Philadelphia in the playoffs, 30-11, on January 7, 1996! Just like this year!

Ancient history seems to say that any year in which Dallas plays Philadelphia, then plays either the Vikings or Brett Favre, they're going to win -- in fact, Dallas did go on to win the Super Bowl that year, beating the Steelers, so bet it all, now on the Cowboys!

Or, um, remember that none of those games had any bearing... whatsover... on today's game or teams. Tony Romo was 16 and still hanging out and pitching pennies at the strip malls in Burlington, Wisconsin, when those games were played. Wade Philips wasn't a head coach; Brad Childress was coaching at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Darrell Bevell, the Vikings' offensive coordinator, was a year out of college and coaching the Westmar University Something-Or-Others -- a college that would close in 1997.

But sportscasters jump all over historical facts like that, without bothering to say things like "You know, this is interesting but really has no bearing on anything at all whatsoever," because if they said that, they wouldn't be "experts."

Of course, they also wouldn't be "experts" without a little math thrown in -- and throw in the math they do, because anyone can look up historical facts and put them on a blog; I just did it. How are "analysts" supposed to keep their high-paid jobs spouting things that people can look up on Wikipedia (a source, it should be noted, that has been ruled by courts to be unreliable.)

"Analysts" don't want you to feel like you could get up on TV and say stuff like If the Ravens score more points than the Colts they'll win, because if you do that, they'll be out of a job and what could they do then? Westmar University closed, remember. So they throw some math at you, in the form of things like Quarterback Ratings and Point Spreads.

I don't have a song for Quarterback Rating, specifically, but in the spirit of why "analysts" tell you about Quarterback Ratings, here's They Might Be Giants' "Never Go To Work."

Quarterback Rating is thrown out over and over and over by "analysts" who want to sound like they know what they're talking about. "He's got a great quarterback rating," they'll say, or "His quarterback rating is really low."

Here's a couple of questions for you to ponder when they say that -- questions I'd ask Bill Cowher, or Terry Bradshaw, or that really annoying Rich Eisen. I'd say:

1. Do you know what quarterback rating is supposed to measure? and
2. Do you know how it's calculated?

Everyone knows that the higher the QB rating, the better, right? Or so we think. But if you don't know what it's measuring, or how it's calculated, you might as well rate quarterbacks based on how American-Manly their name is, as I do.

Quarterback rating measures, in a word, efficiency. It doesn't measure how far the ball is thrown, arm strength, or anything like that. It measures how efficient the quarterback is, and to understand what's meant by efficient, you have to look at the formula. The formula is:

(a + b + c + d)/.06. = QB Rating.

Those variables mean:

a = completions per attempt, with some math, so a = (((Comp/Att) * 100) -30) / 20

b = touchdowns per pass attempted, so b = ((TDs/Att) * 100) / 5. Note that it's not touchdowns per touchdown pass attempted; if your QB throws a dumpoff pass from his own 1 yard line, to get room to punt, that is an "attempt" which factors into touchdowns per attempt. For some reason.

c = interceptions per attempted pass, with more math, so c = (9.5 - ((Int/Att) * 100)) / 4

and d= yards gained per attempted pass, with more math thrown in, so d = ((Yards/Att) - 3) / 4

As an added bonus, there's this rule: a, b, c and d can not be greater than 2.375 or less than zero. What happens if they are? Who knows? Maybe some kind of wrinkle in the universe makes us all look like Russell Hitchcock.

Would that be so bad?

I have no idea, frankly, why the various bits of math are thrown in there -- why, for example, "Int/Att" is subtracted from 9.5. I suspect that those are "constants" thrown in to the formula to make it work out to something, the way the ancients used to use the made-up concept of retrograde motion to explain the orbits of the planets, or the way Einstein made up the "cosmological constant" to justify his belief that the universe was static, or the way scientists now use the made up concept of "dark matter" to explain why they can't explain anything.

But I don't need to know those things to know that the formula doesn't really accurately measure anything. Take yards per attempt. If, today, Brett Favre throws a pass to a running back, dumping it off behind the line of scrimmage, and that running back runs the length of the field, breaking tackles to do it, and that's the only pass Favre throws all day, his yards per attempt will be 100, which in the formula would give him a value, for d of -.7475, which can't be used. So nobody can measure how efficient Favre was or what his passer rating would be, because the entirely-fictitious formula can't account for that kind of anomaly. And the more Favre has success that day, the worse it gets. If his next pass goes for an 80-yard touchdown, his d value in the QB rating is (2/100 - 3)/ 4, or -.745 -- a little higher, but not measurable.

To make matters worse, there's more than one system for the quarterback rating. The NCAA doesn't use the NFL's formula at all. College says that a passer rating is:

Passer Rating = {(8.4 \times YDS) + (330 \times TD) + (100 \times COMP) - (200 \times INT) \over ATT}.

In the NCAA, a passer rating can range from -731.6 to a high of 1,261.6. In the NFL, it ranges from 0 to 158.3.

But it doesn't matter, either, because passer rating doesn't tell you who's going to win, and having a low passer rating doesn't mean your team will lose. The Ravens won against the Patriots* last week even though Ravens' QB Joe Flacco had a rating of 10.0. At least two quarterbacks have won games despite having a zero passer rating, which is presumably as inefficient as you can get.

Equally important, the passer rating doesn't tell you what happens after the pass is thrown. Last week, Aaron Rodgers threw a pass that should have been caught, but James Jones turned his head and started thinking about running instead of catching. That incompletion counts against Rodgers' efficiency, even though Rodgers did everything a quarterback can do: he delivered a perfectly thrown pass to a wide-open receiver, who then simply dropped it. Brett Favre, on a Monday night game, once heaved a pass skyward, throwing it behind the receiver, Antonio Freeman, a bit too much. The defender (a Viking!) got a hand on the ball, Freeman stumbled and bobbled the ball and fell to the ground, and the ball bounced into Freeman's hands:

Leading to a touchdown and overtime win. Favre got credit for that pass in his quarterback rating, even though it was a horribly thrown pass that should have been intercepted.

Quarterback ratings don't necessarily predict success. Of the top 6 rated quarterbacks at the end of the regular season, only five made the playoffs and only four are still playing -- with two of those four, Favre and Philip Rivers, yet to play their first playoff game. Mark Sanchez ranked 28th in QB rating, and he's still playing, too. His regular season passer rating of 63 is barely over 1/2 of Drew Brees' 109.6.

Here's an interesting fact, too: Mark Sanchez has the highest passer rating in the postseason: 139.4, fourteen points higher than Brees and fifty-two points higher than Peyton Manning. But who would you rather have starting for your team today: Sanchez, or Peyton Manning?

So, when "analysts" tell you that someone has something or other as a quarterback rating, do what I do: laugh, and try not to spill your Ramen noodles.

More so than quarterback rating, Point Spreads might be the most misunderstood and misused statistic or number in football, or sports. Again, I've got no song to go with this, so let's plug in another They Might Be Giants song: "Science Is Real."

They Might Be Giants obviously don't know any modern-day "scientists," or sportscasters, because if they did they'd know that "science" today is anything but real. In a world that thinks the Point Spread has any meaning, how could science be real?

The Point Spread is used by "analysts," and bettors, and, probably, you, to help determine who people think is going to win, because people assume that an expert, somewhere, has looked at a game and analyzed it and determined how likely it is one team will win and by how much.

But it doesn't work that way. At all.

The point spread is set by a few large Las Vegas sports books, and it has one purpose and one purpose only: To get an equal number of people betting on each team. Las Vegas sports books make money off of people betting on games, but not off of people betting on games and losing; they make money off the number of bets placed on games, taking a cut of each bet. An ideal system for a Las Vegas sports book (or any bookie) is to have an equal number of people betting on each team. When that happens, 1/2 the people lose, 1/2 the people win, and the payout from the book is equal to what they took in, less the book's cut (usually 10%, called the vig. Yep, they really call it that.)

So in a typical game, like today's Cowboys vs. Brett Favre's Minnesota Vikings matchup, the books hope that half of all bettors take the Cowboys, while half of all bettors take Brett Favre's Minnesota Vikings. That way, when Brett Favre's Minnesota Vikings win, the books take all the money Cowboys' fans threw away, and pay it to all the people who like Brett Favre (me, and Deanna Favre), and the books take 10% off the top, coming out like bandits.

To get half of you to bet on the Cowboys, the books have to offer a point spread -- they have to give points to one side or the other. Today's point spread for the Cowboys-vs-Brett-Favre's-Minnesota-Vikings game is 2.5 to 3, and it's been that way all week. What that means it that the books didn't think that people needed much incentive to bet on the Cowboys.

The key to the point spread is it's not based on experts, or "analysts" or statistics, or anything. It's based on what you think.


You're the hidden expert behind the point spread. The books set the point spreads to get half of you to bet on a given team, and how many points they give depends on what you think -- that is, if you aren't likely to take the Cowboys, no matter what, the point spread will be huge. If you're likely to take the Cowboys, the point spread will be small.

Another key point in the point spread? More or less half the people in the world think you're wrong.

No matter which team you pick.

If you take the Cowboys, and the three points, then half of everyone who bet on that game thinks you're wrong. It's set up that way. So you take Brett Favre's Minnesota Vikings, instead... and half of the world is betting against you. It's set up that way.

That's something the "analysts" don't mention, do they? I'm not sure they know it. But they never say something like "I'm going with the points and the Cowboys, even though that means that half the world disagrees with me."

Because if they said that, they'd have to explain why they were saying that, and why they felt they could disagree with half of everyone who exists.

There's two NFL games today, and two next week, and then the Super Bowl. Over the course of the next month, you're going to hear, over and over and over, about what happened Yesterday and about Ancient History, and you'll be told who has a better passer rating and what the favored team is...

and it'll all mean nothing. Nothing at all. Watch and see how much, now, actual analysis you get over the course of that month, and how much, instead of analysis and thought, what you get is a bunch of sports made out of nothing at all.