Friday, October 15, 2010

Formula 1 Championships By the Numbers... Literally

#5 is juuust right
So last weekend I was staying up into the wee hours of the morning to see Formula 1 pretend they were going to attempt qualifying during a freaking monsoon. Oddly enough that may not have been the weirdest thing I saw that night. In fact, that may have been when announcer Bob Varsha informed viewers of the possible scenarios in case qualifying had to be canceled. Plan B) Qualifying is moved to race day, sensible enough… but Plan C) If that 2nd attempt has to be canceled then the cars are lined up on the grid by their car number!

Not point standings, not practice times, not the most recent race’s result; a completely arbitrary identifier on a car. Rather than debate the merit of the system (or come up with other silly ideas, like driver height), I instead just looked at how the grid would have played out, and honestly it wouldn’t have been too terribly jumbled. So that leads me to wonder, is there a connection between good teams and lower car numbers.

Over the last 36 Formula One seasons here is how it breaks out:

#1 = 9 Championships
#2 = 3 Championships
#3 = 2 Championships
#5 = 8 Championships
#6 = 3 Championships
#8 = 2 Championships
#11 = 3 Championships
#12 = 2 Championships
#22 = 2 Championships
#27 = 2 Championships

The breakout between having a single digit and having two digits on your car is 27 to 9. Obviously #1 would be expected to be high because returning champions can obviously be expected to perform well. Secondarily interesting is how well #5 does, trailing #1 by only one championship and with Sebastien Vettel threatening to tie up the score for #5s this season.

But furthermore, if you are the kind of person who believes there is something more than coincidence going on here, well… then I guess of the current five drivers remaining alive, Alonso is the long shot with the #8, and Vettel and Button are your favorites with #s 1 and 5… and poor Nico Rosberg… he was doomed before he even turned a lap with championship-less #4.

But they are just arbitrary numbers on a car... right?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

So Who Does the BCS Blame When it’s Out of Excuses?

When it comes to the Bowl Championship Series, unless you talk to the handful of people who run it or the handful more who benefit from it, you will find nothing but disdain, anger and confusion regarding it. It’s not a debated issue, ask anyone if they think the BCS is the best we can do for determining a national champion in Division I-A football and you will get a 100% consensus that it is not. In the twelve seasons of its existence, the system designed (and repeatedly redesigned) for the sole purpose of giving us a National Champion has only produced two completely controversy-less championship match-ups, a 17% success rate.

Grab Bag Sports is no stranger to dissecting the BCS and its committee’s unproven excuses, but as part-time bloggers, we’ve never had the resources to research in more depth than online stats and databases.

So upon learning that Dan Wetzel, Josh Peter and Jeff Passan spent two years doing the hard research, over 100 interviews and more to get the cold hard facts behind the BCS excuses, its history behind the scenes and financial standing, I was practically salivating. Their findings, Death to the BCS: The Definitive Case Against the Bowl Championship Series, does not disappoint.

Death to the BCS is a must read for anyone who considers themselves a fan of college football in any way shape or form. They manage to tackle every argument, claim and excuse that BCS committee members (noted as ‘the cartel’ by Wetzel, Peter and Passan) have argued as reasoning that we can’t have a playoff. Academic fallout, decreased economic impact, decreased regular season importance, the death knell for traditional bowl games, playoff selection controversy; there isn’t a single anti-playoff argument that isn’t struck down or corrected with facts, research and studies. The approach used alone is why it puts to shame the likes of Rece Davis, Mark May or any other proponent of the BCS.

Wetzel, Peter and Passan don’t stop with simply putting the anti-playoff claims in their place, the real juice of their work comes from interviews with athletic directors, coaches and, most of all, results of FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) requests to obtain the financial statements of the current bowl games, possible because, unknown to many, most bowl games operate as tax-exempt non-profits.

As someone whose family lost everything in Hurricane Katrina, one factoid really hit close to home for me:
“The Sugar Bowl received $3 million in direct funding from the Louisiana state government, according to its 2008 tax filing; brought in $34.1 million in revenue. The Sugar Bowl gave nothing. Not a buck to the Hurricane Katrina reconstruction effort. Not a dime to New Orleans after school program. Not a penny to Habitat for Humanity. It hogged everything, including the $3 million in taxpayer’s money.”

The millions pocketed or wasted (those are really their only options) by BCS Bowl Game staff aren’t the only facts to be damning. The shocking discovery, likely to many football fans, is to learn the truth behind all Bowl games financial stability and burden. The numbers prove most bowl games usually end in a HUGE loss for the schools sending their teams to play. Losses in the hundreds of thousands, losses after the so called bowl game payouts (sometimes negotiated away from the teams in order for the privilege to play). And that’s not exclusive to the Boudreaux’s Butt Paste Bowl, once the University of Florida split its payout amongst its conference, pays all the team/band/cheerleader travel, coach and AD bonuses and lodging for the National Championship game it stood to gain a measly $47,000… for the National Championship.

Then there's the mind-numbing... baffling discovery found in the straight admission by members of the Harris Interactive poll that they didn’t even watch a single game of the University of Utah before they trounced Alabama in the 2008 Sugar Bowl. Yet these same people who don’t even watch the teams are controlling those same teams destiny.

Interestingly enough, Wetzel, Peter and Passan provide a solution that is eerie in its stark similarly to the solution produced here at GBS just short of a year ago. Great minds think alike I believe they say; but that one difference between our proposed solutions (home games versus neutral sites for quarter and semifinals) while debatable on the surface is plenty convincing once you take a look at the money required to have a game at a neutral field vs. sensibly funneling revenue straight into the colleges/conferences that host them.

By this point the questions don’t lie with debaters like us or the likes of Wetzel, Peter and Passan anymore, but instead for the BCS. Definitive proof is now supplied for general public consumption proving that none of their excuses hold any water. With possible litigation coming not only from anti-trust lawsuits but now also possibly the IRS, how will they attempt explaining that because we may complain about the occasional paper cut in a playoff, they’ll continue to punch us in the face instead?

Who/What do the BCS ‘cartel’ blame now for its greed?

Friday, October 1, 2010

Will Power Has Already Won

Before we get into it, let me just say this; Dear:  Hyatt Place Downtown Seattle... I think it is considered false advertising when the word "Downtown" is in the name of your hotel and yet I'm looking at the skyline of downtown Seattle from the distance out of my window... just saying... "Hyatt Metropolitan General Area" might be a little more appropriate... but anyways...

So we are just one day away from the IndyCar Series season finale. I have to assume some kind of record, 5th consecutive season that the championship will be decided in the final race, and if Will and Dario Franchitti put on a close show, it could even be the 5th consecutive time it may be decided on the final lap of the final race. Chase that NASCAR...

But even if you stand back for a second from the points battle, who will win, how awesome it is the series has had so many tight battles, and the fact that Dario could easily be building the best resume of any driver in the past 15 years... there is this:

One year ago, Will Power was in a back brace and we didn't know if he'd ever walk, let alone drive competitively again. Two years ago Will was dropped out of KV Racing Technology's roster because Aussie Vinyeards dropped their sponsorship of him when the Surfer's Paradise race was dropped (or at least that's what was claimed as reasoning).

Two and a half years ago when Will Power got his first lap around Indianapolis Motor Speedway, he responded by saying exactly "How in the heck do people go flat out around this track?"

For even if Will Power does win the championship this weekend at Homestead/Miami Speedway; he's already done one thing; he's proven to many young kids out there, to many aspiring young drivers, and even to current drivers overcoming injury like Mike Conway that overcoming adversity is entirely possible. Excelling after hitting the lowest of lows (from losing sponsors or losing the ability to stand) should still be shot for and aspired to; because if you put your heart into it, you can accomplish great things, and working VERY hard can reap wonderful rewards.

Will Power is already a winner, this weekend he's just trying to add another trophy to his shelf.