Sunday, December 27, 2009
I hover above the struggling bodies.
They crawl, one arm in front of the other, across the barren desert. There is nothing on the horizon, no structures, no trees, no sign of hope. Just empty miles of sand.
I watch them from above, hungry, waiting for my chance to swoop down and devour the carrion. I can smell the meat, I can picture the feast.
But they keep crawling, and I keep circling.
One seems to slip behind the pack. He looks exhausted, like there's no point in moving any longer. He's tired, he's going to lay down.
But a short man in a suit helps him up with a wry eye toward the sky.
I am a basketball vulture.
In 2008, when Clay Bennett and Co. ripped the collective heart out of the city of Seattle by stealing our NBA franchise, the Seattle SuperSonics, I watched every minute of it happen. I was witness to one of the most despicable acts in sports history. This was no fight in the stands, it was no post-game riot, it was the disembowelment of a city's soul. I heard the Save Our Sonics chants, I saw the rallies and the picket boards. I read Sherman Alexie, the great poet and author, as he begged and pleaded for the team to stay, for the city to help, for anyone to stop this dumbfounding madness that was happening in front of our eyes and outside of our control.
I wept the day the team left, listening to the radio in disbelief like I was listening to a phone call that a close relative had passed away.
I watch my team, MY TEAM, play in different colored uniforms, with different names, different fans, different faces. They don't look like the same players I knew, they look haunted by their forced hands. I scowl at the name as it flashes on TV or my computer screen. I cringe when I sift through box scores and see they've won. But I'm tired now, I've given up hope that my Seattle Sonics will ever come back to town.
And so I wait.
The NBA is in full swing now. LeBron is dancing. Oden is injured. Artest is drunk and falling down a flight of stairs.
But it's not my NBA anymore. I'm still drifting in thermals above the fray. I don't want to be here, I don't want to be looking for a meal, but I'm starved, deprived, hurt and vengeful. I want to sink my teeth into an unfortunate carcass as the last breath leaves the body. I'm talking about you, Sacramento. You too, New Orleans.
And yet, I see the bodies struggling, financial disasters so dramatic David Stern had to loan out millions upon millions to his own teams to keep them from falling dead in the sand, and I start to lose my appetite. I don't want that meat. It's tainted, it's cannibalistic. I don't want to become the very thing that I loathe. I don't want to succumb to the very thing that destroyed basketball in Seattle. If another team fails and we reap the benefits, I simply become the man in the desert and another fan, another city, becomes the vulture. The NBA shouldn't be so karmic.
But what am I supposed to do? Every loss, every injury, every mistake in the front office from one of the failing franchises feels like a glimmer of hope. I start to descend, slowly, in a wide, mile-long circle. I feel so light, I can smell the meat from here. But that man in the suit reappears, "Have some water," he says.
I'm torn. The fans of those other cities don't deserve what happened to us. I see little kids wearing Sonics jerseys on the street, knowing they'll never get to watch another Sonics game at the Key. I see little kids with vintage Payton and Kemp jerseys. They weren't there for the glory years, but through the jersey alone, they get to somehow be a part of it. They get to extend into the past, and the past gets to extend into the present.
But our present is gone. We just have the past. We have memories and images and players and names. We have shared joy and shared defeat. We all have that, as a city, collectively. There is a void here now, an emptiness in the winter that no one wants to talk about. The NBA is a four-letter word, as it should be, but we still miss pro basketball.
Every fan in this city still has that hope, the hope that one day the NBA will return to Seattle. And so we hover above the bodies, the water-starved souls, conflicted but desperate, hoping that a body will finally drop, succumb to the harsh environment. Will the man in the suit ever let it happen? I don't know. Do we even want it to happen? I don't think so. But we're out of options, league expansion will never happen under Stern's watch. League contraction won't either. We are simply stuck, stuck in the clouds looking down, waiting ... waiting.
I am a basketball vulture; perhaps I'm always meant to be one.
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
These past few weeks have been brutal, haven't they Seahawks fans?
The sinking ship that was the Seahawks franchise is in monumental disarray: No veteran talent, no young talent, bad coaches, lost leadership, no General Manager, injury issues, pathetic offensive and defensive execution, and a complete lack of passion and heart.
But there has been one constant that has remained above the fray of angry sports writers, radio hosts, and Seahawks fans:
I'm not sure if it's his temperate grin, his baby-bald head, or his "Gee shucks" sense of humor about losing, but for some reason, people in Seattle love their quarterback. Last week he had five turnovers, at home, against a 1-12 team, in one of the worst losses in the history of the franchise. So what were people saying?
"[Hasselbeck will] walk in here in a few minutes and probably take the blame for the game. And he shouldn't. The guy is doing an excellent job leading this football team on the field." -Head Coach Jim Mora
"He'll bounce back quickly." -Offensive coordinator Greg Knapp (apologies for his title, I realize "coordinator" implies that the offense is ... well ... coordinated)
"Don't blame Hasselbeck for Sunday's defeat." -Seattle Times NFL reporter Danny O'Neil
"I believe Hass will be fine once he has an O-Line and isn't held together with bubblegum and bailing wire." -Seahawks fan's comment on the Seattle Times Web site
I became intrigued by all the talk about Hasselbeck (or lack thereof). Nearly every caller into KJR 950 sports radio in Seattle would haphazardly toss into the conversation, "He's a Pro-Bowler," referring to the three times Hasselbeck has received a Pro-Bowl nod at the end of the season.
But I've been watching the games, I've seen a weak-armed Hasselbeck underthrow receivers (on the rare occasion he actually throws beyond three or four yards). I've seen a shaky Hasselbeck dissolve into the turf under any type of defensive pressure. I've seen the "Pro-Bowler" throw dumbfounding picks, misread defenses and routes, refuse to audible out of doomed plays, mismanage time, mismanage yardage, and generally mismanage the offense. That's a reflection of the play-calling, no doubt about that, but a "good" quarterback, as Hasselbeck is constantly referred to, makes adjustments and succeeds. That's the bottom line. Make adjustments and win some damn games.
Is Hasselbeck really a good quarterback?
I decided to compare his stats, using an arbitrary amount of games to establish a "career standard," and compared statistical careers of 33 current NFL quarterbacks. I call it my "300 Theory" ... 300 games, equal footing, and let the math get Muppets on the situation. These numbers are statistical forecasting and in no way can factor in injures, benchings, trades, etc. However, they are a forecasting snapshot, an educated, research-based estimate, of relative statistical comparison.
As Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brett Favre currently has 287 games played, highest among all active quarterbacks, 300 games was chosen as the control number to create statistical equivalency. Some of the numbers are skewed, of course, based on players who have had extremely short careers (Detroit Lions QB Matt Stafford, a rookie, would be on pace for an extraordinary amount of interceptions if he were to play 300 games), and extremely long careers, but what this really comes down to is relativity.
Is Hasselbeck an accurate passer, relative to the rest of the league? Does Hasselbeck get sacked a lot? Does he throw a lot of touchdowns in comparison to all other quarterbacks? Interceptions? Does he throw a lot of deep passes?
These are the questions that are addressed in eye-opening fashion through the statistical forecasted analysis. The numbers speak for themselves.
The 300 Theory: A Statistical Breakdown
|Player||Team||G||Compl. %||Yds||Yds/G||Yards/Compl.||TD||INT||TD/INT Ratio||20+||40+||Sck|
Across the board, Hasselbeck appears to be a lot lower in areas where he's often lauded. And in comparison with the rest of the league, pouring over this data causes significant head-scratching.
His career completion percentage is just 60.3 percent?
His average yards per game is 170.2 ypg?
His touchdown to interception ratio isn't that great?
He's the 10th-least productive quarterback on throws over 20+ yards?
He's the third-least productive quarterback on throws over 40+ yards?
It's also telling that he's near the bottom in total times sacked? Think about that ...
But it's hard to sift through all of that data and really understand what we're looking at.
So ranking the players by their numbers in each critical category clears through the fog and shows exactly what type of quarterback the Seattle Seahawks have, the same quarterback our future is on hold for so that he can get healthy, the same quarterback we entrust year-after-year to stay healthy even though his body is worn to the point of no return, the same quarterback we excuse after every game and shake misguided fists at the football gods for what they've done to poor Matt Hasselbeck's protection. If he only had more time, he'd be legendary ... or so they say.
The numbers, however, disagree.
The 300 Theory: Rankings Per Category
|Player||Team||Compl. %||Yds||Yds/G||Yards/Compl.||TD||INT||TD/INT Ratio||20+||40+||Sck||300|
Based on this analysis, Hasselbeck is the 23rd best quarterback in the league currently using the "300 Theory."
His saving grace is essentially his medicore thrown interceptions and his touchdown-to-interception ratio. Outside of those numbers, the bell curve turns into a plateau Mordor consider prime real estate.
- 17th in completion percentage (60.3%)
- 25th in total yards
- 25th in yards per game (170.2 ypg)
- 18th in yards per completion (7 ypc)
- 21st in touchdowns thrown
- 24th in throws over 20+ yards
- 30th in throws over 40+ yards
Essentially, all of those numbers can combine to build a forecasted quarterback scorecard ... The 300 Theory Ranking. Combining all of the individual rankings from each category provides the final 300 Rank, the lower the score the better.
Not surprisingly, the top quarterbacks ranked one-through-six in the QB Scorecard are 1) Peyton Manning, 2) Drew Brees, 3) Kurt Warner, 4) Tom Brady, 5) Philip Rivers, & 6) Aaron Rodgers.
So where is the "great" Matt Hasselbeck?
The future of our football team is a 34-year-old, injury-prone quarterback with a bad arm, a bad offensive line protecting him, a bad core of receivers to throw to, bad play-calling from an utterly inept offensive coordinator, and no future options on the horizon other than Mike Teel, the rookie quarterback the Seahawks drafted in 2009, who hasn't even been given a shot to play the last two weeks so the front office can assess potential quarterback needs heading into the 2010 draft.
It's time to come to grips, Seahawks fans ... Matt Hasselbeck is not a good quarterback.