Programming is a wonderful mix of art and science; source code is both a poem and a math problem. It should be as simple and elegant as it is functional and fast. This blog is about that (along with whatever else I feel like writing about).

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Is the NFL Fixed?

I feel like I'm the only person in America who hates the New England Patriots. That's like hating apple pie and Neil Armstrong! How could anyone hate the Patriots? They're an American flag with a football, and they're so good as to be unbeatable. But does anyone remember a time before their dynasty started, and exactly when it happened?

In the year 2000, the Patriots were 5-11. (2000 Standings.) They weren't a good team. At the beginning of the 2001 season, nobody expected them to do anything, and for good reason. They started off 0-2, as expected. Then the unthinkable happened. The World Trade Center towers got knocked down, and everyone needed to pull together and be patriotic. And ... the Patriots started winning. A lot. Tom Brady, a nobody, a quarterback from the Big Ten (which is not very well known for producing great quarterbacks these days), who didn't play at all in 2000 (not technically true; he played in 2 games, and was 1-3 for 6 yards and 0 touchdowns), suddenly became the best quarterback in the league. People are now trying to go so far as to say he's the best quarterback of all time. (This is complete crap, by the way. Johnny Unitas, Joe Montana, Dan Marino, Brett Favre ... at least you can say Brady's name in the same sentence, but he's not as good as any of them.)

In 2001, the Patriots won the Super Bowl, after an amazing turnaround from the previous season. They started playing well after a big tragedy. And the "dynasty" has been going strong ever since. After the 2001 season, I had begun to suspect that something fishy may be going on in the NFL. How did the Patriots get so good all of a sudden? Why did a team called the "Patriots" suddenly become the best team -- by a long shot -- right when everyone in the country was supposed to start being really patriotic? It seemed like too much of a coincidence, but I had to sit and wait until something happened again before I could point any fingers.

Then, a year and a half ago, Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans. Despite all the pain, death, and damage, what was the main focus by the people charged with rebuilding the city? The Superdome. They'd been planning to demolish the Superdome anyway, since it's so old and crappy. The Saints wanted to build a new stadium, and since they might not have gotten one in New Orleans, they were considering leaving for a city with a better fanbase. It didn't matter where. New Orleans fans had always been bad to their team.


Why did everyone care so much about rebuilding the Superdome and keeping the Saints in New Orleans? Surely the money could have been better spent elsewhere in the city ... unless the Saints had a good season for the first time in their history and actually got fans into the stadium, made some money, and united the population of New Orleans.

Last season, the Superdome wasn't ready. The Saints didn't play any home games all season. They were miserable, going 3-13. This team had no future, no quarterback, no coach, no talent. Then they drafted Reggie Bush -- despite all the hype, there was no way he could be ready for the NFL already. And they picked up Drew Brees from the San Diego Chargers. It was the first time in NFL history that a team acquired a quarterback who had a passer rating of 90 or better for the previous two seasons. I was surprised by this until I realized that if you have a quarterback doing that well, you're not going to give him up. Well, the Chargers did (and it wasn't a bad move by any means, thanks to Phil Rivers), and the Saints really lucked out.

This year they made the playoffs, got a first round bye, and even won a game, sending them to the NFC Championship game against the Chicago Bears. It was the second playoff game the Saints had ever won. It will be their first trip to the NFC Championship. And it is the most remarkable one-season-to-the-next turnaround in NFL history. No other team had a worse record in the year preceding a trip to the Championship game.

We'll see how the Saints do in the rest of the playoffs. Will they manage to defeat the Chicago Bears, at Soldier Field? It's possible; the Bears haven't looked good in the second half of the season, despite their early dominance. And depending on the outcome of tonight's game between the Patriots and the Chargers, as well as next week's AFC matchup between the winner of that game and the Colts, it's just possible that the Saints will be matched up in the Super Bowl against -- get this -- the New England Patriots. The two teams who actually benefited from tragedy will be facing each other. Will the torch be passed from New England to New Orleans? From the Patriots to the Saints? From Belicheck to Payton? Only time will tell.

Another possibility is that the Chargers will beat the Patriots, and then the Colts (which is likely, considering LT's awesomeness and Indy's lack of a defense), and go on to face the Saints in the Superbowl. And we'll get to see if San Diego made a mistake by getting rid of Brees, or if they made the right move in going with Rivers. (By the way, in case anyone was paying attention, Drew Brees is another Big Ten quarterback.)

Frankly, I'm rooting for the Chargers over the Patriots. No surprise, I despise the Patriots. But that's a passing thing. Five years from now, my hatred will have subsided. But for the sake of the sport, I hope that on Superbowl Sunday we don't see a scoreboard with the Saints and Patriots both on it. That would just be too much. For all us football fans out there, who have spent so many years of our lives following our teams and our favorite players ... is it really so meaningless week in and week out that the only thing that you need to do to have a Superbowl caliber team is to suffer some horrible tragedy?

14 comments:

He Said She Said Love... said...

We were at the game today when the Bears overtook the Seahawks in OT. Destined to be a classic. Go BEARS!

-He Said, She Said

http://www.hesaidshesaidlove.blogspot.com/

Anonymous said...

did you see the chargers vs. the patriots? i don't see how san diego could have made so many "mistakes" in the second half with the outcome being tom brady once again bringing america's team to a championship. plus, i didn't see to much emotion on the chargers side??? it almost seemed like it was their business to lose....i don't know maybe new england is a bigger media market than san diego and CBS needs to sell more commercials. it's going to be a tough call for the next game though since peyton stars in half those spots, but i can bet you one thing...a cinderella story with New Orleans winning is not out of the question...didn't g.w. screw up on the Katrina recovery?..wait a minute, why don't we just keep the masses happy by giving them a great football team....all speculation of course ;)

Sean Schulte said...

Of course it's all speculation, until someone admits to it. As if that'll ever happen.

But the point is that you've noticed that the Patriots seem to have a strange advantage over other teams which started on 9/11, and now the Saints are in the same boat. At least it's still believable for the Saints; as believable as it can be considering they've NEVER been a decent team. That was just their second playoff win in their 40 year history.

Sure, Peyton stars in half the commercials ... but has he ever beat the Patriots in the AFC Championship game? I believe he's 0-2 against them in that game. But I'll be rooting for him, for the sake of football.

Let's see how Indy looks next week. Will they come out and play their hearts out like they did the last two weeks, or will they look inexplicably flat like the Chargers did yesterday?

Anonymous said...

So, my recommendation would be..Don't watch the NFL.

I'm from New England, and anybody outside N.E. hates the Pats, because their times have fell to them this season. And this seems to be ONE of MANY responses. MAYBE, in 2001, I could see your point...But, it's been 7 damn years since 9-11. Nobody needs to be Patriotic anymore. It's not like American needs an injection of Patriotism at this point.

You failed to mention the acquisition of Randy Moss, the maturation of certain players (i.e. Wes Welker), and the list goes on.

You're opinion MAY have held water 6-7 years ago, but not anymore.

Sean Schulte said...

I understand your thoughts, and as you are a Pats fan, I also understand a certain need to be defensive.

Allow me to point out that this was written a year ago, right before the Conference Championship games. So at that point it looked as if a Patriots-Saints Super Bowl could happen in the first season after Hurricane Katrina. I think most people can recognize the ... "questionability" of such a scenario, considering the timing of the rise of the Patriots in 2001.

Note that this was before both teams lost. Note also that this was before the acquisition of Moss and Welker.

If the NFL had been "fixed" in 2001, I'd be willing to bet that it didn't continue to be fixed while the Patriots proved themselves to be an expertly run franchise that makes good personnel moves that always seem to work out.

And as soon as they got Moss, I thought they'd have a great offense. It wasn't hard to imagine the awesomeness of Brady->Moss.

I expected that Moss would have the best season of his career. The records came as a surprise to me.

I also think it's worth pointing out that the Saints did NOT prove themselves to be a well run franchise after their questionable and sudden rise to prominence.

If I were to write this article again this year, I might point out the close victories aided by suspect ref-work, possibly in the interest of helping to complete a 19-0 season.

But if I did that, I'd have to ignore the games where the calls went against the Patriots and they still managed to overcome the adversity and win.

I'd also have to overlook the fact that I don't WANT to believe the NFL is fixed. After all, I happen to like football.

Which is why I won't be following your advice, and will continue to watch the NFL.

Thanks for reading.

Anonymous said...

Just stumbled onto your blog. I've suspected the NFL has been rigged for 20 years. Among other things check out the strange circumstances surrounding Don Shula's 300th career win.

Anonymous said...

the nfl is fixed, its based around fantasy football. every game is suspect. you can tell by the way they play. it sucks gambling destroyed football more than any other sport. the over under and the spread are dead on most of the time. it draws the gambler in to think he can still bet on a game to make the money back he lost on the previous game. thats the sole reason for monday night. if your in the hole deep after a sunday u can count on monday to break even. its all about money in the nfl now more than ever

Anonymous said...

I just stumbled onto your blog too. I thought about your Patriots theory a little and suddenly realized why the Chargers are being taken out of the limelight this year - who wants a team called the "Chargers" to be prominent when we are in the middle of a credit crisis???!!??

FYI, I am only half joking. I am a long time San Diego Chargers fan and have been watching the refs suspiciously since the blatant blown call by Ed Hochuli in the Denver game earlier this year. It looks like we get more than our fair share of phantom calls. Just this Sunday, a referee got in the way of the defensive back covering the guy who caught the pass setting up the winning field goal with no time left. The fix is in...

Anonymous said...

you forgot to mention when the patriots had their big turn around after 9/11 and went to the superbowl they beat the L.A. RAMS
LARAMS TALIBAN...get it, the fix is in!

Anonymous said...

Ummm....the RAMS were so-named long before the Taliban came into being - or I should say int the spotlight of the Western world...they just moved around a bit...though I do agree some football games are fixed and the season is a foregone conclusion beore it happens. But please don't be foolish: it's all about money! Did you know that the NFL (as well as the other major sports) is a New York-run-not-for-profit charity? Yeah, a multi-billion dollar business that claims it breaks even (non-profit) and wants to change the non-profit laws to not have to reveal the identities of employees making >$150k/yr.? Did anyone ever put together the use of the word "franchise" for a team with other franchises such as Mary-freakin-Kay cosmetics, et. al.? Hello, people, it's money! And let's be honest: they pay a lot of smart people to cook the books to make it all a wash in the end but there IS a mafia and it's responisible for supplying the players and refs with drugs and - hey, who wants to pay for them when you can do 'favors' such as a misplaced ref here, a bad call there, a just-off-my-fingertips would-be reception there, etc. etc. These 1800 or so players are the best football players in the world and part of being the best is the ability to make a mistake or misplay look as though they were trying their asses off to make the play, but in reality, it's a grand show. Watch a Colts game this year (or review the tape) and see how much face-time is given to Payton Manning - it's enough to make you sick, but this year, he's the NFL's darling....they layed down in the game yesterday against the Jets to benefit the New York-based (by far the biggest market and mafia base in America) team's chances of making it to the playoffs. This is the constant struggle of the NFL: they have to keep up that faction of Don Shula, Mercury Morris, et. al. ('72 Dolphins) without tarnishing a Manning (Archie's got great influence and top figure in the NFL HQ) and keeping the mafioso boys happy with their gambling and drug conglomorates and maintaining the biggest market. This is where the true money comes into the NFL - off the books. I often compare it to the WWE honestly, it's all pre-dertimined in some years and is a good show (not that I'd ever be caught dead saying the WWE is a good show - we'll leave that for our hillbilly brothers). The amount of commericials Payton and Eli do is obscene and the face-time each receives during a game is so blatenlty obvious, but the younger of the two brothers will not be allowed to overshadow Payton until he's retired and commentating or takes his spot next to his dad in the NY offices of the NFL - however that plays out. Though Eli won a SB prior to Payton...a horrible display of how to keep the Dolphins' record of a "perfect" (yet it was only 16 wins needed to win the SB then) record intact. What a constant struggle it must be in those NFL board meetings LOL ... At any rate, fans keep coming to watch (and Indy fans - I can't stand them, but felt for them) deserved to see better yesterday. They paid good money for the tickets and parking and watched their team lay down and allow the Jets a free pass so that the last regular season game played in Giants stadium can see one of their two teams that haunt it win a meaningful game next week against the Bengals and close the place out with some class 'cause the powers that be weren't going to let the G-men in - it just wasn't part of the story line this year. It's all about Payton and breaking records this year to sure up his place (though he really sucks of late with his poor passing and lacks the talent now of faking it well so he'll soon be forced into retirement) in the NFL. No, he'll never have as many rings as Tom Brady of N.E., but he'll have some records that Brady doesn't and that'll appease his daddy. Watch as it plays out. It's all about Payton getting another ring this year and suring up commercial deals to come.

Anonymous said...

The guy above me is a dousch. The NFL is NOT fixed, it's just that the refs don't see EVERY call in EVERY game. That would be impossible.

Anonymous said...

It seems to be playing out like the "douche" said though. Keep watching it play out and listening to the commentators. I'm a believer that it IS fixed.

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john holbert said...

THE NFL IS FIXED PERIOD. I DON'T CARE WHAT ANYONE SAYS IF THE PLAYERS ARENT IN ON IT FOR SOME OF THE GAMES THEN THE OFFICIALS ARE.
THERE IS NO WAY THAT IT ISNT FIXED.
THE SAME TEAM MISSES 15 TACKLES IN A CHAMPIONSHIP GAME NOT POSSIBLE UNLESS THEY ARE TOLD TO. AND IF IT IS POSSIBLE WHY ARE THEY BEING PAID MILLIONS TO BE A PROFESSIONAL WHEN THEY CAN'T DO THE JOB THEY GET PAID TO DO. THEN ON 3RD AND LONG A TEAM GETS THE FIRST DOWN 7 OUT OF 8 TRYS GIVE ME A BREAK. AND THEN A TEAM THAT SCORED OVER 40 TD'S IN THE REGULAR SEASON HAS TO KICK 3 FIELD GOALS. THEN THEY FUMBLE THE BALL 2 KICKOFFS IN A ROW BUT THE FIRST ONE DIDN'T GO AS PLANNED BECAUSE HE FUMBLED IT OUT OF BOUNDS ACCIDENTALLY. SO THEY FUMBLE THE NEXT ONE AND 4 PATRIOT PLAYERS HAVE THE BALL IN THERE HANDS AFTER THE FUMBLE AND NOT ONE OF THEM CAN GRAB AHOLD OF THE BALL.
AGAIN I REPEAT THESE ARE PROFESSIONAL FOOTBALL PLAYERS AND NONE OF THEM CAN GRAB AHOLD OF THE FOOTBALL THAT IS IN THERE HANDS UNTIL THE OTHER TEAM GRABS THE BALL. THE FIRST FUMBLE WOULD HAVE BEEN RECOVERED BY THE OTHER TEAM ALSO IF IT WOULDNT HAVE BEEN FUMBLED OUT OF BOUNDS. IT IS FIXED.
IT IS ALL ABOUT MONEY. IT IS NO LONGER A GAME. IT'S A BILLION DOLLAR INDUSTRY. THEY ARENT IN BUSINESS TO LOSE MONEY THEY ARE IN BUSINESS TO MAKE MONEY THE MORE MONEY THEY MAKE DEPENDING ON WHICH TEAM WINS THAT'S THE TEAM THAT WINS PERIOD. YOU KNOW HOW MUCH MONEY THEY MADE BY LETTING THE GIANTS BEAT GREENBAY. THE'RE SO MANY STUPID PEOPLE WALKING AROUND THAT THE NFL CAN CHEAT OBVIOUSLY RIGHT IN THERE FACES AND THEY STILL CAN'T SEE THE TRUTH AND THAT'S WHAT THE BILLIONAIRES IN THE WORLD TAKE ADVANTAGE OF DUMB PEOPLE. WHY DO THEY HAVE BILLIONS?
BECAUSE YOU ARE DUMB. THE SMART MINDS OF THE WORLD GET TOGETHER TELL ALL OF THE DUMMYS WALKING AROUND HOW GREAT SOMETHING IS AND YES YOU DUMMYS AGREE WITH THEM AND NOW THEY MAKE EVEN MORE MONEY AND THEY LAUGH WHILE YOU GO TO WORK ALL WEEK AND THEY FLY IN THER MILLION DOLLAR PLANE THAT THEY OWN.
WHILE YOU DUMMYS CAN BARELY AFFORD TO PAY YOUR GAS BILLS. SPORTS ARE FIXED IT'S A FACT AND ONLY A DUMMY DISAGREES WITH ME. END OF DISCUSSION. OFFICIALS HAVE EVEN ADMITTED TO CHEATING BUT STILL YOU DUMMYS LOOK THE OTHER WAY. AND WHEN THE OFFICIALS OR PLAYERS ADMIT TO BEING IN ON IT AGAIN YOU DUMMYS THINK IT'S AN ISOLATED INCIDENT. OPEN YOUR EYES IT'S FIXED. AND I'M NOT TRYING TO RAIN ON YOUR PARADE. THEY GREEDY MILLIONAIRES AND BILLIONAIRES DID WHEN THEY TURNED THE GAME INTO ONLY A BUSINESS AND STOLED THE GAME THAT I USED TO LOVE WHEN I WAS A KID. BUT ON THE BRIGHTER SIDE OF THINGS YOU CAN GET TOGETHER WITH YOUR FRIENDS AND PLAY FOOTBALL IN A FIELD WHERE IT WILL BE FUN AND A GAME THAT YOU CAN STILL LOVE.