It stinks that the NBA TV schedule is locked in at the beginning of the season. The networks should shuffle things around as the season progresses and give fans the best available games, not just the ones they thought would be the best last summer.
Most of the usual suspects will be regulars on the 48 remaining ABC, TNT and ESPN games. The Western Conference-leading Kings will be seen 11 times, followed by the Mavericks and Yao Ming's Rockets (10 each), the Lakers (nine), the Nets (eight) and the Spurs (seven). And national viewers will not be burdened even once with the Clippers, Hawks, Wizards or Bulls.
But the worst team in the league, the disappointing Magic, will be seen three times. That's three times more than the Bucks, who would be the fifth seed in the East if the season ended today. The worst team in the West, the surprisingly awful Suns, will be on three times, and the Warriors, who were up-and-comers last year but are now tied with the Clippers for second worst record in the West, will be on four times.
That's the same number of appearances as the four through eight seeds in the East combined -- none for the Bucks, and one each for the Hornets, Knicks, Raptors and Heat. But the 76ers and Celtics, both out of the playoffs at the moment and likely to sink, not rise, are each scheduled for five more games. It's infuriating.
The Grizzlies and Nuggets are surprise teams that would make the playoffs if the season ended today. They'll be absent from national TV for the rest of the season. The Pacers, leading the East, will be on just twice, and the Timberwolves, leading the Midwest Division thanks to the MVP-quality season of Kevin Garnett, will be on four times, one fewer than the Trail Blazers.
The national schedule ought to be made no more than a month in advance, but even scheduling the stretch-run games at midseason would be an improvement. On Friday, ESPN has a nearly meaningless Raptors-Celtics game when it ought to be showing Grizzlies-Bucks or Pacers-Hornets. The doubleheader nightcap will be a terrible Sonics-Suns matchup. Either of the other West Coast games that night -- Jazz-Kings and Knicks-Clippers -- would be better.
The same thing goes on in college ball. Much of the TV schedule is dictated by network contracts with conferences, but not all of it. As Luke Winn of SI.com points out, 26 of Duke's 29 games this year have been or will be on TV, compared to six games for No. 1 Stanford and five for No. 2 St. Joseph's. It would have been nice if the national broadcast schedule had adapted even a little to the unexpected reality of the Cardinal and the Hawks being powerhouses this season.
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This column's humor rating: 76.3 [PERMALINK]
The terrific football stats and commentary site Football Outsiders is passing time in the offseason by trying to improve on the NFL's quarterback passer ratings. Three alternatives are offered: The site's own Value Above Replacement calculation, which compares individual performances to league average, with game situations taken into account; the Hook Quarterback Value, modestly named after author Brian Hook and mostly measuring scoring efficiency; and Anthony Brancato's Quarterback Rating System, which, like Value Above Replacement and unlike the NFL system, attempts to assess a QB's entire performance, not just the results of his throws.
NFL passer ratings are almost totally nonsensical. "Can't we do better?" Football Outsiders asks rhetorically. Well, it's a trick question. Closing your eyes, pointing at a quarterback and randomly reciting a number is actually a better rating system than the one the NFL uses, in which a "perfect" score can be achieved without being perfect, among other things.
Last week reader Ted Kane passed along a clipping about the Montreal Gazette's NFL pool being won by an 11-year-old brown tabby named Miss Kallie. Picking against the spread, Miss Kallie went 101-82-9, winning the pool over two sportswriters and two former pro players. It really wasn't a fair fight, putting a cat up against sportswriters and athletes. A cat's brain is about the size of a golf ball. The poor writers and players had no chance!
Anyway, Miss Kallie made her picks for each game by sniffing at one of two pieces of paper with the names of the teams written on them. She could do a better job sniffing out the better of two quarterbacks than the NFL's passer rating does. But the Outsiders piece makes good reading for the non-arithmophobic. My favorite system? Whichever one that at any given time is being kindest to the quarterbacks I think are really good, of course.
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