Daily Archives: February 8, 2009

An auction beats a coin flip.

There’s been a lot of grousing lately about the NFL overtime scheme, because the team that wins the coin toss has a statistically significant likelihood of winning the overtime.  The statistics show that in the past season, in the 14 overtime games that produced a winner, the coin-toss victor won 10 of the games, consistent with the overall trend since 2002, which shows the team winning the toss also winning the game more than 60 percent of the time.

So, what to do about it?  Most observers like the college overtime format better, because each team gets a chance, unlike the pro version.  But it’s questionable how good a multiple overtime format would be for a 45-man roster NFL franchise.  Honestly, as much as I enjoy the tension of the college format, I’m not sure how good it is to have a multiple overtime format for the kids, either.

Well, how about this:

… An even more elegant solution to the overtime problem was proposed in 2002 by Chris Quanbeck, an electrical engineer (and Green Bay Packers fan). Quanbeck’s idea was to auction off possession of the ball in the natural currency of the game: field position. The team that was willing to begin closest to its own goal line would receive the privilege of possession.

Football’s number crunchers reckon that this “privilege” turns dubious about 15 to 20 yards away from your own goal line. That is, the expected value of having the ball so far back is negative—it’s more likely that your opponent will score before you do. But it’s not clear that the same would be true in overtime, when teams would be attempting to get within field-goal range rather than trying for touchdowns. If this system were implemented, it might take a couple of seasons for a consensus to develop about how far back is too far back. Still, everyone would be trying to work that out from a position of equal ignorance.

The auction idea puts the emphasis on the skill and judgment of the head coaches and their backroom staff—exactly where it should be. And it has some subtlety. For instance, having a powerful defense has an unexpected advantage in an auction: Because the other coach will fear your defense, he’s more likely to drop out of the auction and concede possession to your offense in a favorable field position.

Pretty cool, huh?  Aside from the strategic wheels that would be spinning, how dramatic would it be to watch the coaches facing off (of course, I can think of some coaches who might prefer to throw something harder than a flag – at the other coach) on the overtime call?

You can read the details of Quanbeck’s proposal here.

(h/t Smart Football)



Filed under Strategery And Mechanics

Taking over the world, one computer screen at a time.

An alert reader tipped me off to this story about ESPN360.com, ESPN’s online sports broadcast service.

For some sports fans, ESPN360, the online version of ESPN’s television channel, is a cornucopia of more than 3,500 sporting events each year, viewable from the convenience of a computer. For others, it’s a total bust. The only difference: their ISP.

The culprit is ESPN’s strategy of licensing ISPs rather than users. If your ISP doesn’t want to pay for you to watch ESPN360, there’s nothing you can do about it, short of switching to a provider that pays for it. While other companies strive for a more direct, one-to-one relationship with consumers, ESPN is doggedly pursuing the same strategy online that made it a success in the TV world: licensing pipes, not people. And it just might work.

“We’re believers,” ESPN executive vice president for affiliate sales and marketing David Preschlack told Wired.com. “It’s just the point of view that we have: that as opposed to just selling speed, content is going to play a role in the high-speed data marketplace.”

Here’s the message you get if your ISP hasn’t ponied up to play:

How To Get ESPN360.com

ESPN360.com is available at no charge to fans who receive their high-speed internet connection from an ESPN360.com affiliated internet service provider. ESPN360.com is also available to fans that access the internet from U.S. college campuses and U.S. military bases.

Your current computer network falls outside of these categories. Here’s how you can get access to ESPN360.com.

1. Switch to an ESPN360.com affiliated internet service provider or to contact your internet service provider and request ESPN360.com. Click here to enter your ZIP code and find out which providers in your area carry offer ESPN360.com…

That’s just a tiny bit misleading in that if an ISP chooses to pay for the access, there’s nothing stopping it from passing that cost on to its customers.  In essence, it’s a strategy of adapting a cable TV model to the internet.  Will it work is the $64,000 question (actually, it’s a much bigger number than that).  The answer to that would seem to rest on how insatiable an appetite we have for viewing sports.

And on that, I wouldn’t bet against the World Wide Leader.  Here’s the quote questioning the business model that ends the article:

But Free Press’ Ben Scott thinks the this new internet model will ultimately be bad for providers. “My gut reaction is that it’s a terrible business model,” says Scott. “The beauty of the internet is that you put a piece of content on your server, and it’s available to anyone with a computer anywhere in the world that’s connected to the internet. If you begin walling off your content and selling network operators [the right to distribute content], that defeats the whole idea of maximizing the exposure of your content.”

Take that reasoning back thirty years or so and change the context of it from the internet to broadcast television versus cable.  You could have said the exact same thing.  And look where we are now.


Filed under ESPN Is The Devil

Michael Lemon moving on?

UGASports.com is reporting that Steve Spurrier has invited Michael Lemon to walk on at South Carolina.

Lemon, as you might recall, had to deal with the horrible tragedy of his mother’s murder, but then found himself kicked off the Georgia football team after being arrested for felony battery.  He’s been at GMC for the last year.

The story is lacking in certain details, the primary one missing being whether or not he’s been told he has a chance to make it back to Athens.  In any event, I hope he’s been able to turn things around for himself.  Getting a second chance like he’s being offered is a rare thing.


Filed under Crime and Punishment