Written by Andrew Ottoson Tuesday, 24 November 2009 13:48
A lot has changed since the second week of October. For a while there, it really looked like I might have to eat my words about both the Denver Broncos and the Colorado Avalanche—I had opined that both teams would be unspeakably bad.
While it looks to me like the jury is still out on both counts, there are a few certainties I should own up to.
I was definitely wrong about the number of wins the Avs would have. I expected “maybe not even 20” but it is clear that Colorado will exceed that number. The Avs have won 13 games already, and are on pace for a total in the mid-40s.
Much of that success can be attributed to rookie players I did not expect to make an impact—but I should have known better than to imply that Milan Hejduk ought to be traded for Will Smith and the dog from “I am Legend.” Hejduk has been nothing less then outstanding—well worth whatever the Avs are paying him, and wholly untradable.
As for the Broncos... I compared them to every disaster movie I could think of and still didn’t quite capture just how bad this season will have gone if they fail to win the AFC Worst after the magnificent start Josh McDaniels pulled out of his... uh... magical top hat.
The point is, I’m standing by my earlier statement that if San Diego stumbles, it will be the Chiefs— not the Broncos—taking first in this division.
I might have to change my tune if Denver can beat the Giants at home and the Chiefs at Arrowhead. Kansas City plays Denver twice, Cincinnati, Cleveland and Buffalo.
If the Chiefs beat the Chargers this week—and stranger things have happened—they have an outside shot at 9-7. Remember: 8-8 won the West last year.
* * *
Consider the columnists who raked Bill Belichick over the coals for his decision not to punt to Peyton Manning. Offering the opinion that “Belichick was wrong” implies that the pundit himself (or herself) could have made a better decision in the same situation.
But this “fact” cannot be evaluated without a Michael J. Fox Delorian and a flux capacitor. Even if the columnist were a personal friend of Stephen Hawking or lived in a house possessed by Albert Einstein’s poltergeist, I’d have no reason to believe he or she could predict the outcomes of games held in an alternate past.
“Belichick was wrong” also implies that his decision was a true/false test, one with an unambiguous (if unknown) outcome—like the box containing Schroedinger’s Cat. But the choice of punting to Peyton Manning during the endgame looked (and looks) to me like a no-win situation—the coaching equivalent of the Kobayashi Maru simulation.
The Kobayashi Maru is a recurring scenario in the Star Trek fictional cosmos; it is a test given to would-be captains and involves making a command decision that pits the needs of the many against the needs of the few, with no possibility of meeting either set of needs.
The point of the test is to force the decision-maker to experience failure.
Belichick handled his failure with a certain amount of professionalism, and I think that is praiseworthy.
Enter Bill Simmons—the pundit of pundits—who picked the Patriots to win, then blasted Belichick’s decision to go for the win on fourth and short.
Not only did Simmons quibble with the math at work in the situation (which favors Belichick by a hair’s breadth), he likened watching the end of the game to riding shotgun with a friend who “plows over a pedestrian in a crosswalk” and speeds off.
Given that he picked the Patriots to win, wouldn’t Simmons have blasted Belichick for doing anything else that resulted in a Patriots loss?
Simmons expressed some uncertainty about the pick when he made it; that uncertainty was nowhere to be found in his critique.
I suppose it doesn’t matter—what I’d really like to see is how The Sports Guy would do against the Kobayashi Maru.
* * *
Beyond the fact that Simmons’ criticism borders on science fiction—where what-ifs and time travel and alternate universes may be treated as part and parcel of “reality”—the problem is his lack of accountability.
Yes, he frequently points it out when his picks are less than accurate, but his job will never depend on whether the Broncos reach the bar he set at 10-6.
Sports writers put very little on the line when offering opinions about the people they cover; is showing a little respect too much to ask?