Having hit a bit of a lighter period of my academic load, I hope to get a bit more recreational writing done in the next couple of months. This downtime is a result of having submitted my research proposal to the institutional review board and now getting to wait anywhere from two weeks to six months waiting for them to decide whether or not to approve my project. With any luck, some leisure scribing will whittle away at my neuroses around the process. As serendipity would have it, we also are entering the greatest part of the sports year, with vibrant action from all four major sports and baseball down for hibernation.
The last few weeks of America's Professional Game have been... weird, in that it was full of performances surreal in quality, at both ends of the spectrum. Cowboys fans know how that goes better than anybody, but I'll get there. In the midst of some people writing off the quarterbacking old guard in favor of the newer, Beats-slinging variety, two of the oldest guys in the league dropped gems featuring one of my favorite statistical anomalies: 1:1 TD to incompletion ratio (or better, in Peyton's case).
I love this anomaly. I don't think it is of any notable significance, really, in the way that Nate Silver has turned us all into amateur statistical analysts. This is not analysis, so much as appreciation. I just like seeing when it happens. I like trying to point it out when it's happening, but there isn't a name for the phenomenon, at least, as far as I could discover, and I looked. Which, of course, became the point of this present work, as I LOVE trying to name things. Patrick Rothfuss knows the seven words that unlock my heart.
It is really more difficult than you might imagine. Naming, that is, but also the TD:Incomplete thing. Aaron Rodgers hadn't ever done it, you know, until last month. Montana and Brees each did it three times. Brady just broke his tie with those worthy gentlemen. Steve Young did it eight times, but he was lefty Aaron Rodgers before being Aaron Rodgers was marketable. Manning has now tied Young, and in only twice as many games. Or at least, that is what my frenzied perusal of pro-footballreference.com's gamelogs discovered.
Running through the gamelogs also revealed the associated Quarterback Rating for each of those games, which was fascinating. I mean, between QBR and the challenging stat, Total Quarterback Rating, I think we all agree that there is no great, encompassing Quarterback Stat. What I found surprising is that these statistical anomalies varied so much in rating. A handful of these games scored the elusive Perfect Rating of 158.3, but others barely cracked the century mark.
I love excellence. I think a large reason that I enjoy the year round sports culture of our modern society is that sports gives me an opportunity to hope for excellence, and every once in a rare while, to watch excellence being created right in front of me. I will watch a thousand bricklaying, tankfests (Looking at you Lakers and Sixers!), for just one chance to see Steph Curry happen. I love excellence, and that love is why I began paying attention to the TD:Incompletion thing in the first place, but there feels like there is something missing. Of all people, I have Geno Smith to thank for helping me figure it out.
Last week, Manning, Brady, Big Ben all put on dazzling displays of the heights to which quarterbacking can ascend. Meanwhile, Geno Smith made the bold move in the other direction, deciding to fight the Sanchize for the Worst Jet QB belt: 2-8, 3 INT's. That's right, he completed more passes to the other team than to the team employing him. Now I can appreciate the sheer willpower necessary to stick to ones guns in the face of adversity almost as I admire the near Zidane levels of concentration necessary to reach the TD:Incomplete feat. Both are difficult, but judging by my 4 hour pro-footballreference.com binge, Geno's feat is the more rare.
Geno unlocked it for me; it was like seeing my favorite anomaly through a glass, darkly, two sides of a surreal statistical coin. My knee jerk reaction was to name this coin of quantum quarterbacking the Romo, after the polarizing Cowboys slinger who is our best chance at getting a first half on one side of the coin, say, Good Romo going 12-15 3TD's, and then rocking the second half on the other side, Bad Romo - 2-9 2 INT's. The problem is Romo has never done what Geno did this week, though he has two TD:Incl games. We can't name a phenomenon after someone who can't represent the fullness of the glory.
That is when I discovered Dick Shiner, Original Gunslinger.
Shiner was so OG, he threw his first TD:INCL game and then tried to match it with a INT:COMP the very next week. Here was a man whose very play screamed Emersonian adages about consistency being the hobgoblin of little minds, and even apart from that close call is the only person I can find to have thrown both sides of the QB coin. Even his name has nice ambiguity to it: a shiner can either be something notably shiny or a black eye.
Let's say someone calls you up (Read: text or tweets you), and says your favorite team's Q is throwing a shiner. Your first reaction could well determine your level of optimism in regards to your team. Pant wetting terror and a frantic Google search for your teams backup, free agent quarterbacks, and Tim Tebow? You probably live Florida and are expecting to see Bortles 1-4 with two picks in the first quarter. If your reaction is a sinister giggle and a snarky riff on your fantasy league message board? You probably live in Denver and drafted Peyton, and are expecting to see something like 11-13 with 3 TD's about a minute into the second quarter.
The great fun about the shiner is that if that same friend hits you up saying the opponent's Q is throwing a shiner against your favorite team you get the same reaction splits! Fans in Florida can expect to see Teddy Ballgame dropping 13 straight passes with a pair of TD's on the shattered remains of your defense's self-esteem, while here in Seattle one might sprint to the bar in time to catch the Legion of Boom in the midst of a group celebration as Matt Leinart warms up on the visiting sideline.
The shiner: a statistical phenomenon in American football where a passer has reached one of two thresholds - throwing at least as many touchdowns as incomplete passes OR throwing at least as many interceptions as complete passes; colloquially used as, "throwing a shiner".
Meanwhile, Across the Pond
We continue sticking it to our former colonial overlords by shipping out the worst representations of our favorite sport back for their entertainment. Don't worry, London, the Jaguars are coming back next week! You're welcome! Wait, what's that? Instead of United and Chelsea touring the US, next summer were getting Stoke City and Portsmouth? Didn't Portsmouth get relegated? Several times? Oh, I see what you're doing. No, we haven't spoken with either the Canadians or the arena leagues about a relegation system. Well, I think it is kind of you to offer to administer our leagues from the island, but... Well, I know it's a stupid system, but it's our system, and you don't get to tell us what to do! LIBERTY OR DEATH! AMERICA!
COMING SOON: hope to have a PAC12 basketball preview done in the next week or so. Teaser: Arizona is going to be goooood.
Thoughts on culture, community, and development.