As we fast approach the splendor of Selection Sunday – exceeded these days in the holy trinity of American weekend celebrations only by Super Bowl Sunday and Easter Sunday – I am reminded of the unholy trinity of cottage industries that have grown remarkably in recent years:
• NFL draftniks.
• Nate Silver.
Let’s deal with them in reverse order, which, alas, is going to put me in a bad mood for the rest of the column because I always get cranky thinking about Nate Silver.
Who is Nate Silver? He’s the boy next door with all the algorithms. Revered in analytical circles – the Jonas Salk of sports and political data – Silver can forecast just about anything accurately by calibrating everything but a toaster oven.
His science-based approach might put pundits out of business. Indeed, Silver’s New York Times blog is filled with information, as opposed to my column – essentially, a thinly disguised blog – which is filled with, well, nonsense.
So do I hate him because I feel threatened by his intellectual superiority? No.
I hate him because this statistical debris and so-called greater understanding is wearing us down.
So some guy can study polling and determine which candidate will end up with more votes? BIG DEAL. I can bait a hook while wearing a batting glove.
All this micro- and macro-analysis puts us in a really bad place; it’s misplaced energy. Yeah, I know, I’m a relic of a lost civilization yearning for a rotary phone. But trust me, folks, we’re taking a step in the wrong direction. And assuming the world is flat – as I do – I believe we are now just several steps from falling off the face of the Earth.
You see, besides the fact that we should redirect our priorities to stuff that really matters – like climate change or failing schools or gun violence – all I want to do is watch the games in relative peace. I don’t need breakdowns of batting average on balls in play or true shooting percentage; I’m just rooting against the Knicks.
Anyway, Silver has a rabid fan base. Every time I tweet something playfully dismissive about him – yes, I am on Twitter; that’s an entirely different life-changing faux pas – I lose 10 followers.
(Actually, anytime I tweet about anything, I lose five followers. It’s a curious phenomenon – people decide to follow you, then when they see how you think, they unfollow you. If I never tweeted again, I’d have a million followers by Labor Day; on the other hand, if I tweet hourly, I’d have no followers by Memorial Day.)
Geez, I spent so much time on Nate Silver, I don’t have much space left for draftniks and bracketologists, so I’ll have to be brief and blunt.
I used to watch the NFL draft, for this job; it was systematically destroying my senses. Then, in 2006, I made a tragic error: I watched the entire NFL scouting combine – again, this came in the line of column duty – and I have yet to recover from the psychological scarring.
NFL draftniks are the godfather of nascent NFL combinologists; in fact, as part of some twisted Frankensteinian sports experiment, it is possible the DNA of Mel Kiper Jr. and Mike Mayock have been fused to spawn the next generation of weakside linebacker watchdogs.
As for bracketologists – and what I’m about to tell you is a greater peril to our well-being than global warming – we are in the midst of ESPN Championship Week, in which our friendly worldwide leader in sports is televising 136 men’s college basketball tournament games over 12 days on ESPN, ABC, ESPN2, ESPNU and ESPN3.
Everything is available on WatchESPN, which delivers live access to all the ESPNs on tablets, computers, smartphones and Xbox – I believe there is even an app now on which you can watch ESPN from the grave, regardless if the cemetery is wired for cable.
In closing, I’m asking everyone other than Nate Silver to turn off their TV sets this Selection Sunday – for the children!!! – and, in turn, I will provide you right now with all the bubble teams that won’t make it:
Maryland, Arizona State, Minnesota State, South Central Louisiana State, Big State, Eastern State, Western University, UC Sunnydale, Hillman College, Faber College and Huxley U.
Ask The Slouch
Q. Why is it after every free throw, the shooter’s teammates all slap his hand whether he’s made the shot or not? Since when do we congratulate failure? (Dick Cree; Ballston Lake, N.Y.)
A. I guess you’ve never watched “Jimmy Kimmel Live.”
Q. Is Dennis Rodman the next Henry Kissinger? (Kim Murphy; Colonie, N.Y).
A. Uh, Rodman visits North Korea, and a week later North Korea threatens the U.S. with a nuclear strike. We should”ve sent Metta World Peace.
Q. With The Weather Channel naming winter storms now, will truTV start giving names to each of your marriages? (Tom Garrett; Pittsburgh)
A. Pay the man, Shirley.