Category: Culture

Dumbest Rules in Sports: The NFL Overtime System

This is another article from my time in the Houston sports media. It was meant to kick off a recurring feature with multiple authors, but it looks like it’s all on my shoulders now.

When you introduce a new feature called “The Dumbest Rules in Sports,” it makes sense to kick it off with a look at the NFL, whose rules committee comes from a magical realm of non-Euclidean maps. After only five decades of overtime games, the NFL noticed that it had a problem: an unbalanced overtime system that lets a coin toss directly influence the outcome of a game. Rejecting proven solutions, the rules committee thought and thought, until one of them shouted: “I’ve got it! Let’s replace it with an arbitrary, bureaucratic tangle that still lets a coin toss directly influence the outcome of a game!”

How did it come to this? Let’s take a look.

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Madden NFL: Geriatric Checkers Edition

I spent a while as a writer and editor at a sports media company down in Houston. Their history is now so complicated that I can’t even say the name, but I still got to have some fun there. Here’s an article that I published in their humor section. 

For the upcoming Texans at Redskins game on Nov. 18, our editors assigned us a challenge: use Madden NFL to simulate the game and attempt to correctly predict the outcome.

It’s a great idea; the game has an excellent record of predicting winners, with correct calls in ten of the last 15 Super Bowls. We leapt at the opportunity, but our XBox is currently having difficulty running Madden, thanks to a minor equipment malfunction.

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The Excruciating Pain of Christmas Music, Scientifically Measured

If you’ve visited this blog during the holidays, you know my feelings about Christmas music. It’s my tradition to unleash a primal, Munchian scream against the unbearable, tinny, maudlin, manipulative, manufactured dreck that the Sentimental-Industrial Complex annually sees fit to inflict on us. But this time, science is here to help us.

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What we’ve lost

On the morning of November 9, when the votes were counted and we all knew that Donald Trump would become our next president, I put the following statement on social media:

Well, folks, it’s been a nice republic.

It got a positive response from friends on the left and the right. They all sensed that something very important had been lost, though it was hard to pinpoint what. But those who find profit in that loss are leaving no end of clues, and it’s our job to read those clues.

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If the clown nose fits, wear it

(Warning: It’s possible that I’m about to directly insult some of you.)

There’s a stupid and wasteful tradition, dishonestly masquerading as “charity,” that’s been going on in the UK for some years now, that has recently made its way to the United States. I’m talking about Red Nose Day. It’s coming up on May 26. The gimmick is: you buy a red clown nose for a dollar, and your dollar (or at least a small fraction of it, after multiple layers of administrative costs) gets used to “fight” something called “child poverty.”

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The Angry Reviewer

I got a book through Amazon Prime called “The Good Neighbor,” by A. J. Banner. It was billed as a suspense novel from “a phenomenal new voice,” and it was praised to the heavens. It would, they promised, “forever change the way you look at the people closest to you.”

Big promises, right? And based on all this hype, the book quickly became a bestseller. But I’m not convinced that those things were written by conscious human beings—because this book is godawful bad. By the time I was only a couple chapters in, I was already angry at them (the publisher and promoters, not the poor inept author) for tricking me into choosing it. So I annotated my copy with all the things that made me roll my eyes, grumble frustratedly, or laugh out loud. Then, based on my notes, I went back to Amazon and wrote the following review (which leaves out a lot):

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If you don’t vote, you must complain

“If you don’t vote, you can’t complain.” It’s universally accepted—and exactly backwards. Consider this scenario that (I hope) remains far away.

Smith: Help! The president signed an executive order criminalizing my beliefs! They’re seizing my home and taking me away! Tell someone!

Jones: Sorry, neighbor, but I didn’t vote, so I can’t complain. You’re on your own. Good luck!

Brown: I voted for the current administration, so my complaint would be hypocritical. You’re on your own. Good luck!

If you see an injustice being done, do you really think it’s your duty to silently go along with it just because you didn’t vote? Should others, if they see it being done to you?

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