I apologize for the title. I was going to be a little more honest about how I felt, but, "Fuck You, Bill Simmons and our Masturbatory, Overrated Screeds about How Much Smarter You are than Everyone Else" didn't fit in the little title box as neatly as I would have liked. C'est la vie.
Now I don't have the literary chops of Ken Tremendous. I barely have the literary chops of Mose Schrute. But some things are so infuriating that you have to rip them apart. And today's submission comes from Bill "Lil' Willy" Simmons and is about his beloved Patriots, who, if you don't know, play a sport known to Americans as "football", to foreigners as "American football" and to Paul Frank as "pornography."
Let's go. The article is long, so I'm gonna cut a good bit out. I think I've captured the spirit.
"After my beloved Patriots threw away Sunday's Colts game with one unnecessarily dangerous decision, my educated opinion was this: "That's the second dumbest thing I have ever seen any Boston team do."
That's your educated opinion? I think the thing that annoys me most about this article isn't Simmons' whining — it's his trademark! — it's that rather than just admit he's sad his team lost, he makes it about how smart he is. Keep in mind that Simmons isn't a football player. He's not a football coach. Hell, he's not even a football analyst. He's just a guy who likes sports and who treats MTV reality shows like a significant other.
Huh? Kevin Faulk hauled in a pass on the 30.3-yard line. It was spotted at the 29.
First of all, the pass was spotted at the 28. Secondly, it's hilarious that he's such a biased homer (excuse me, educated football connosieur) that even when he's whining about how smart he is, he has to make a point of how his team got screwed over. Bill's like that guy who whines all night about how annoying, and stupid, and ugly a woman was but then has to throw in, "yeah she was totally into me though."
These are the things that happen when you double on a 12 against a six because you believe — fervently — that a slew of non-face cards are coming.
In case you didn't realize, Bill is a blackjack expert. He deftly plays the odds at every conceivable juncture and knows that believing in "luck" or "magic" can be fun at the card table, but is ultimately a recipe for losing money. I mean, it's clear from his own words, from a different column (he talks about blackjack a lot):
For instance, this year we started comparing blackjack dealers to baseball pitchers. Have you ever noticed how the pit boss will always send over his most unfriendly, non-American dealer whenever the entire table is winning? It's uncanny. Anyway, within a few hours on Friday, we started calling this dealer the "closer"; by Sunday, it had evolved to the point that we would win a few hands in a row and start making jokes of the "Uh-oh, the pit boss just started warming up Mariano Rivera in the Asian Gaming Room" variety.
It's statistical science: your gut premonition has no effect on the cards. The only things that have an effect on the cards are whether your dealer is smiling and American.
Imagine that — a white guy from Boston afraid to engage with a non-American.
See, I never expected that fourth-and-2 call to turn into a lively sports debate. And I certainly never expected statistics to back up what seemed to be an unforgivable decision.
How could I, Bill Simmons, possibly be wrong? I'm so brilliant! What could these numbers do that I possibly couldn't while watching the game from my Man Cave and slurping on a Michelob Ultra?
Combine all these variables and what do we have? According to a formula called "Expected Win Probability When Going For It," Pattani believed that the Patriots had an 80.5 chance of winning the game. By punting, they had a 79.0 chance of winning. So my argument (made on Monday's podcast) that Bill Belichick should have "played the percentages and punted" was technically wrong. Barely. Belichick did play the percentages if you took those percentages at face value.
I like how blatant this is. "I know I said ‘play the percentages' and ‘try to win', but really what I meant is ‘agree with me.'" Clearly, the percentages are what's wrong. Can't you just imagine Bill arguing with his professors at Holy Cross?
Sure, I got a 79 on this test, which is in the C range. I mean, if you take my grade at FACE VALUE. But instead, you should be playing the real percentages. It's like blackjack, and that scene in Karate Kid.
He played the percentages! It wasn't as crazy as it looked! By this logic, Belichick also should have held a loaded pistol to his head on the sideline, spun the chamber and tried to shoot himself like Chris Walken in "The Deer Hunter." If those 1-in-6 odds came through and he succeeded, we could have said, "Hey, he played the percentages: 83.6666 percent of the time, you don't die in that situation! You can't blame him for what happened!"
First of all, you YOURSELF said he should have played the percentages. What a fucking annoying tactic; screaming, "LOOK AT THE NUMBERS!" until somebody does and proves you wrong.
Secondly, the award for "least appropriate analogy" goes to…well, it looks like it went to a Karen Holmes in Deluth who said during an important work meeting that her schedule was "wider open than the dude's asshole she was pounding with a strap-on last night."
Not going to lie, I was kind of hoping it would be Simmons, so I'm gonna criticize it anyway.
First of all, losing a football game isn't dying. Second of all, you've failed to specify what Belicheck would be gaining from spinning the wheel. Finally, football games have binary outcomes; either you win or you lose. It's not like Belicheck could do NEITHER. A more appropriate analogy (and a telling one) would be: You have the choice of playing Russian Roulette or picking a number from between 1 and 5 and having me shoot you in the face if you guess correctly. Losing in either case is terrible and unlikely, but you want to MAXIMIZE YOUR CHANCES OF WINNING. Which is the whole point of a football coach.
For some reason he starts rambling about basketball here.
But to argue, insinuate or even blink that Tim Thomas is underrated — by any metric — cannot be allowed.
Bill then goes on to argue a.) that Tim Thomas is useless and that b.) any system that calls him underrated is crazy. Not only does he fail to establish a baseline for what Tim's rating is, he supports the exact point he's trying to refute. It's like being on trial for public indecency, being on the stand and yelling, "what did I do? Show strangers this???" and flopping your penis out. Not that I would know.
The "Belichick made the right move" argument was nearly as dense. In the biggest game of the regular season, when a football coach tries something that — and this is coming from someone who watches 12 hours of football every Sunday dating back to elementary school — I cannot remember another team doing on the road in the last three minutes of a close game, that's not "gutsy." It's not a "gamble." It's not "believing we can get that two yards." It's not "revolutionary." It's not "statistically smart." It's reckless.
Whether other coaches have done it has no bearing on whether it's the right thing to do. If Bill had his way, there wouldn't be forward passes in football, 3 pointers in basketball, or black players in baseball. The last one isn't really about coaching decisions, I guess, Bill just hates black people. Since elementary school.
I like that every single thing Bill says it's "not" is exactly what it is. If trying to help your team win despite conventional wisdom and a very easy to defend alternative isn't a "gamble" Bill doesn't know very much about gambling.
Wait, that CAN'T be true.
After all, this was essentially a two-point pass play. The Patriots went five wide, stuck Tom Brady in the shotgun, shortened the field and tried to find a quick-hit mismatch. Sure sounds like a two-point play.
In a 2 point pass play, the defense has to defend 12 yards of field. In this case, they had to defend 80.
Sure sounds like you have no fucking idea what you're talking about.
by settling for a quick bam-bam pass, they also increased their own odds for a deflection, drop or bad spot. Statistically, it was a dumb choice. Their biggest assets on a fourth-and-2 were the field, the threat of Randy Moss going deep, the threat of a draw or a delayed screen, and the threat of a run. They ignored all four things. You cannot tell me the odds for success here were 55.7 percent for that specific formation at that specific moment in time. You cannot. Just stop.
Please, Willy, get your whining straight. Are you complaining about the decision to go for it or the play that they ran? Where are your numbers coming from? Have you noticed that everybody defending Belicheck has offered statistical proof, and that your argument, is, essentially, "nah, nah, I'm right?"
AND you think the Patriots got in and were victimized by a bad spot. So clearly in your mind the play worked as it should have. So which is it: did Belicheck make the wrong choice in going for it or in choosing a play? Or is it the refs fault?
OR IS EVERYTHING AGAINST YOU??
I know it's fun to think stats can settle everything, but they can't, and they don't.
Very few people think that stats can settle everything, and even fewer would describe that process as "fun". In this case, people are simply saying that Belicheck's decision was defensible, at least, and not "dumb."
And not the "second dumbest decision in Boston sports history." Do you realize how histrionic that sounds when the numbers you thought would back you up actually vindicate the decision?
Put it this way: The Colts weren't exactly on fire. Admittedly, I am terrified of Manning and have written as much. But Indy had already started and completed two long touchdown drives in the fourth quarter against a good defense.
This is basically what's he's saying:
Put it this way. The Colts offense wasn't playing well. Manning is a very good quarterback. But he Colts offense was playing well.
I asked Peter Newmann to research the number of times a team started and completed three touchdown drives in the fourth quarter to erase a double-digit deficit and win an NFL game since 2005. Here's how the list looked before that fourth-and-2 call.
In 78 weeks of football dating back to 2005, it happened a whopping four times. Four! If you're playing the statistics card, why not play that one? By punting, the Patriots would have been asking Peyton Manning to pull off something THAT DOESN'T HAPPEN EVEN ONCE EVERY EFFING SEASON. You're damned right I just went all caps. Hold on, I have to repeatedly bang my head against my desk again.
I wonder if Simmons is actually this stupid or if he's pandering to his readers. Just in case he actually doesn't understand how statistics work allow me to enlighten him:
The fact that the Colts had been down double-digits is only slightly material, and even then in an unquantifiable sense. You can't prove that the Colts were LESS LIKELY to score because they'd already done it TWICE BEFORE (I had to go all caps!). Furthermore, the research you admit to having someone else do (it's not like this is your job!) is immaterial; the Colts aren't a team trying to score 3 times down double-digits. They're a team that's already scored twice that needs another touchdown. Run THOSE numbers, and let me know what you get.
Or don't, because it's a frighteningly small sample size that means NOTHING.
Isn't the impact much deeper than that of simply losing because Peyton Manning is great and he drove 70 yards to beat them? In the playoffs, when it's life or death, maybe that risk is more defensible.
This would normally just be stupid, but it's borderline crazy in light of his earlier analogy.
Look, this isn't life or death. It's just Russian Roulette.
After the kick return and TV timeout, had Belichick told his team, "…"
In case you didn't know, Bill Simmons was on the sidelines. He knows exactly what Belicheck said.
Just don't tell me this Sunday night didn't mean … something. In the aforementioned Game 6, I remember watching those Yankees fans celebrating after the seventh and thinking, "There is absolutely nobody in my sports fan life that makes me feel as secure as those Yankee fans feel with Rivera right now."
I used to feel that way about the Patriots. I did. And now we're here.
Whiny Willy, don't worry about it. This was a road game in the middle of the regular season against one of the best quarterbacks of all time. Now, if this was say the Superbowl, and your defense ruined your chance at a perfect season by failing to stop an inexperienced young quarterback, well, then, you might lose a little faith.