Friday Stupidity with The Farmer
LeBron. Stat geeks. The Onion. Per usual.
I started writing this on Thursday afternoon, when the weather in State College, Pa. featured both a blizzard and blazing sunshine in the space of about 45 minutes. Also, it was the NBA trading deadline. I can only guess that the possibility of having LeBron and Shaq in the same locker room has intimidated the weather into acting weird.
Work out what that means and let me know.
Speaking of LeBron — I know, I know — my wife sent me this link the other day. The video takes a minute to open (on a Safari-operating Mac, anyway), and Holly MacKenzie, founder and president (g’head, ask her) of the Northern North America LeBron James Appreciation Society (or NNALJAS, which sounds dirty, almost) informs me that you can’t watch it at all if you live in Canada. To which I say, not for the first time, “F*ck Canada.”
That link led me to this link, which I recommend you clicking on and playing until you master it. It’s like World of Warcraft multiplied by Madden, divided by GTA 4 or whatever number they’re on, plus some awesome tattoo graphics.
And bicycles. I forgot those.
So there’s that, and then there’s this. “Ever the selfless superstar.” Yeah, Howard Beck. Even the Times beat writer is buttering up LeBron to get him to come to NYC. Love it. For real, though, what more do you people want from the kid? (Myles Brown says: “A consistent jumper.” Beat you to it. Shut up.) He bought crystal, um, things for his All-Star teammates! He’s dodging mad potholes and sticks in an effort to save the world, one plastic water bottle at a time! And yet you hate! At least Holly’s on board. The rest of you people can suck it.
Unrelated, Facebook friends may be aware that I’m going for the “Joaquin Phoenix on Letterman look,” only skinnier and less surly. It’s still growing. Just, FYI.
What else? Ah, this, the cover story from last Sunday’s New York Times Magazine. It’s written by Michael “Moneyball” Lewis and inspired by my hero, Bill James*. I read this late Monday night, when I was tired from a day spent flying with the wife and kids. I was already kinda grumpy. Stat geekery? Just what I needed
I don’t know if this was already mentioned anywhere around here, but if it was, I missed it, so it really wasn’t, was it? Right. Anyway, the story’s about how the stat geekery that has infiltrated baseball like a digital steroid is working its way into the NBA, a point Lewis makes by focusing on Shane Battier. Lewis is obviously a really, really smart guy with a much higher IQ than me, and I think it’s great that he uses non-traditional stats to point out how valuable Battier really is. (I found the stuff about Shane locking down Kobe particularly enjoyable, though I’m not sure why.)
But my beef is with Lewis’ premise, which is (essentially) that all the traditional stats (like, you know, points) are overrated and stuff like plus-minus and PER are the real determinants of success. I mean, he’s right, except in how he’s not. And he picked a hell of a case in Battier. The best stuff in the story is about how monumentally weird Battier is — how he’s such a mediocre athlete by NBA standards, but so smart and so studious that he’s been able to make up for his athletic mediocrity. Lewis writes that Battier doesn’t fit in with the vast majority of the guys he plays with — which is fine, and actually makes Shane more interesting — but absolutely does not make Shane a great example of how the NBA will soon be run by 6-8 nerds. It does the opposite, actually. Battier is so unusual by NBA standards that he’s pretty much impossible to replicate — as is, by extension, the idea of any other NBA player spending half as much time studying the area-by-area shooting percentages of opposing small forwards. Dude’s not a marker of a growing trend. He’s a freak.
Ultimately, it’s about this: Shane Battier is a really good player within the right system (I’d love to have dude on the Cavs), but his teams haven’t won sh*t in the NBA. His teams have, as Lewis points out, usually gotten better once he’s been there, and he undoubtedly deserves some of the credit for that. But they haven’t actually won anything. Just like the Oakland A’s of Moneyball, last I checked, haven’t won sh*t either.
Which brings me back to what I’ve written here before, and more than once: Nerds, get your nerdy hands off our game and go back to Nerdland. You nerds.
*EARLY FRIDAY AFTERNOON UPDATE: SportsGal just put me up on this column from TPF Sports. We are, as Fred Durst once said, in agreeance. Plus, dude at TPF gets all smart and analytical and whatnot, which I didn’t have the time do to. Good stuff. Do check it out.
Lastly: This is relatively funny.
“You know what angers me most?” Howard says. “It’s that he really isn’t jumping over me. His crotch is barely clearing the top of my head, and he is putting his left arm on my back for an extra boost. You people are seeing that, right? You’re seeing that I need to lean down so he doesn’t bang his waist into the back of my head and fall to the ground and embarrass himself in front of everybody? You saw that I dunked on a f*cking 12-foot hoop, right?”
You people have a good weekend. Eat food and stuff. Maybe sleep in a little. You deserve it.
*Bill James is not my f*cking hero. Possible candidates for this job include B. Breathed, D. Wallace, M. Judge, and my pops. Also, Eboy. But that’s about it.