Take me out to the ball game…and other fine warbles

I, like many sports fans, am in the midst of being half-way interested and engaged with the NBA playoffs and about equally engaged with what happens with my favorite MLB teams.  I’ll make the confession right up front, yes I played college basketball, and no I don’t really care all that much about the NBA.  I’ll glance briefly at the highlights throughout the season and try to catch a Lebron or Kobe game every so often but that is about the max of my time invested in professional basketball.

It was just the other night however, that I broke my standard mold and set aside some time to sit down and consume some NBA playoff action.  The basketball was just fine, very entertaining, very lazy at times, and nowhere near as excellent as college ball.  My reasoning that it wasn’t really worth it to pay attention until the finals and that March Madness will always reign supreme was justified.  I clicked the button on the ol’ remote after the game with thoughts of ways I could have better spent the last two hours of my life.

As I walked out of the living room I caught myself humming some half melody to a random song.  I stopped, and it took me a full two minutes to figure out where the song had come from.  It was from a highlight clip, shown during the playoff game, from earlier that year.  While someone was dunking the schnoz out of the ball or crossing someone silly, that tune had been playing in the background.

This is a very standard practice in the NBA but it got me thinking about how non-standard that practice is across the wide world of sports.  Music exists at almost every sporting event, but never during the game-play (international soccer maybe? not sure on that one).  There are marching bands, theme songs for each MLB batter, etc. etc.  but, excluding the NBA, the idea of tunes being blasted out over the loud speakers during the action is a bit absurd.

Can you imagine…”David Feherty, what do you see here”  “Well John, Mickelson is going to have to be careful with that left to right break on this green, and thank god he’s chosen something more subtle than ACDC’s Long Way to the Top for his approach music, because that just didn’t do the trick”

Federer has asked for the eagle eye challenge but it appears that the judges have mistaken his pointing finger for a simple gesturing along with Celine Dion during her climax in “My heart must go on”

Ridiculous…but perhaps I’m a bit premature in my judgement; I might be more inclined to watch more sports on a regular basis if I could count of some spontaneous singalongs and random acts of dance by the athletes.

I see a waltz across center by Ichiro….love it.

Rob Melick

The Mountain Taketh

Ski and board season for most of the continental US is coming quickly to a close.  Now, if you’re out here with me in the PNW; you’ve got the option of skiing all year (something I’ve yet to partake in, but it’s on the books).  As an avid boarder and soon to be skier I always find myself in a strange state of limbo at this time of year.  I’m caught between looking forward to actually seeing the sun, and mourning the loss of bottomless powder days.  The PNW had quite a few of those this season, making for quite an epic past few months.

With the endless powder, however, comes endless danger, and this season brought that quite close to home as a group of skiers were killed in a resort that I visit sporadically, and a snowboarder was killed at my “home” resort on the same day.  While both incidents are very sad, both could have been easily avoided by not overlooking the massive risks of weather and snow conditions involved during that day.

The mountain doesn’t really mind that you’re using it for sport but it also doesn’t mind when it snuffs your life out.  In  such wild conditions it is paramount that the proper respect be paid to mother nature.  If this is done, and the right precautions taken, many injuries and deaths are easily avoided.

In light of the end of the season and my new position with Tableau Software I’ve worked up a little data vizulation – Tableau’s specialty – via Tableau Public.  The viz looks into Avalanche incident reports across most of the seasons that reporting has been around.  The data came courtesy of the CAIC.

I haven’t worked out how to get it to appear in the post yet so check it out here: http://public.tableausoftware.com/views/AvalancheIncidents1997-2011/Avalanches

It’s a live interactive dashboard, so you can click around in the different filters and the maps and graphs.  Play around, see what you think

*Note: Shameless plug coming*  Tableau Public is the free to anyone version of Tableau and functions much like youtube but for data visualizations.  If data and cool charts/graphs/etc are your thing, check it out: http://www.tableausoftware.com/public

Rob M

Hello, This is Rob Melick with Ta…….and we go again……..Hello this is Rob Me…..and we go again

Dear wonderful readers.  I have recently taken a great new job in sales with a startup here in Seattle.  Unfortunately this week is “sales bootcamp” for us and has left me somewhere between considering playing in traffic on I-5 and free jumping off the space needle.  I then realized that there was not nearly enough time to complete either of those objectives and certainly not enough time to do a blog post this week, so I leave you with this.  Enjoy

Fore!

As the warm weather here in Seattle continues to poke it’s little head out of the soggy hole it has been hiding in, I find myself turning my thoughts to one of my favorite pastimes; the wonderful sport of golf.  I have many a great story, and many a most likely not so great musing about the game of golf-perhaps to be shared in the coming weeks, but in the spirit of the newly arrived spring, today I propose something different.

Today, I say, quit reading the snooze. Literally stop right now and get outside! (if you have nice weather, and are not working, of course…..or maybe even if you are….).  Too few are the times in life when we choose mother nature over our electronic devices and our LCD displays.  Go forth, off the grid, and enjoy life.

If you are a golfer, break the clubs out and make a tee-time.  If you are a non-golfer, consider a lesson-believe me it’s a wonderfully frustrating but even more wonderfully rewarding game.  If you refuse golf and aren’t tempted by my wonderful pictures below, fine, but at least get some outdoors time.

-Rob Melick

Joe Paterno

Hey everyone. Rob is attending a seminar on eradicating animal stereotypes in our Zoos (its become a real problem). I will fill in as best I can (that’s what she said?)

On January 21st, 2012, Joe Paterno died of lung cancer. Adding to the confusion of his legacy, his death leaves people unsure of how to feel. For 46 years Joe Paterno was the head football coach for the Penn State Nittany Lions and, unofficially, the most powerful figure on campus. He is credited with transforming Penn State from a mediocre state school with 9,500 students into a nationally recognized university of 45,000. He donated and raised money for libraries, saved the classics program, graduated his football players at an astonishing rate (no small feat in this day and age), and transformed Penn State into an academic/athletic powerhouse. Much of the academic and athletic success that Penn State has known over the past four and a half decades can be attributed to the efforts of Joe Paterno.

Enter Jerry Sandusky.

Joe Paterno knew of and harbored a known pedophile for 13 years. He allowed him access to the university, gave him an office, let him run a non-profit organization for at risk boys, and said nothing about the fact that Sandusky lived a stones throw away from an elementary school. Not to mention that he never informed the police about a report of Sandusky sexually assaulting a boy in the Penn State showers. He fulfilled his legal obligation by reporting the incident to his superior, but he never asked questions. He didn’t see it as his responsibility get to the bottom of the situation. The incident was out of sight out of mind for 13 years. To quote Paterno himself “I wish I had done more.”

How do we remember this man?

I don’t think Paterno was an evil person. He did an incredible amount of good. There are numerous quotes from students and professors about the positive impact he had, and his dedication to the the university will never be in question. However, he made many critical errors in judgement. It wasn’t one mistake, as many people seem to believe. Everyday he didn’t bring the situation to the police was a mistake. Everyday that he let Sandusky on campus, near kids, or live near an elementary school was a mistake. He deserved to be fired and held accountable for what happened. His contributions to Penn Sate should not be forgotten but he deserves to be held accountable.

An icon for 46 years, an example for other schools and athletic programs,  the most successful football coach of all time, and someone who made a terrible mistake which damaged the lives of so many. Joe Paternos legacy will be forever tarnished. He will always be remembered as the man who let all this happen on his watch. He should have done more and we all wish he had. That will be his legacy.

Feathers, Fur, and Nuts: The REAL Final Four

My bracket’s hopes are long gone, I resigned to torching mine by way of kitchen matches long ago when all of my genius picks were promptly thwarted by the finicky mistress of NCAA hoops.

In that light I have decided to one up March Madness and take a look at this year’s two final four games through a very different lens.  My results below:

Cardinal vs Wildcat

 



 

  • The Cardinal, a robust, seed-eating bird with a strong bill is a worthy adversary; prone to capturing the hearts and camera lenses of many a mid-west bird tourist.  They are quick, flashy and have an aptitude to clog the bird feeder lanes with their strong plumage presence.  However their obsession with nuts, seeds and grass as well as an almost negative killer instinct misses the aggressive mark and leaves many a hole in their defense.
  • The Wildcat, refusing to go by its proper name of lynx or catamount immediately gives off the vibe of cocky and self-assured.  However this is largely just a defensive ploy as the bobcat is a very shy animal and does not handle noise or large crowds especially well.  With few known predators and a powerful athletic and agile fortitude the Wildcat has taken a comfortable seat atop the forest throne, but is often seen napping and swatting at flies.  They can be caught off guard by a clever opponent who can dart in and around their claws, teasing them out beyond their own reach. Especially if a well placed bit of string is involved.

The winner here is the wildcat.  The cardinal would put up a good fight; flying around and tiring out the lazy wildcat but ultimately would be caught posing for a tourist camera and become wildcat feed.  The cardinal would be played with, batted across the floor a few times before either being consumed or taken as a dead gift to someone’s doorstep.

Buckeye vs. Jayhawk

 

 

 


  • The Buckeye is a shifty nut, it’s leaves often being mistaken for marijuana and this has caused it to develop a spike laden exterior to fend off any would be addicts or junkies.  While the spikes prove to be a great defense, they leave the buckeye with very little speed or mobility, opening them up with a nimble and cleverly designed offense reveals a very soft and docile nut that is ripe for the picking.
  • The Jayhawk is a combination of two birds, the blue jay, a robber of other’s nests and the sparrow hawk a smallish devious hunter.  This combination leaves the Jayhawk with great power and speed but often a lack of morals and integrity.  While stealing the Jayhawk is prone to making costly mental mistakes due to the pressure of a high stakes life of thievery.  However, when cornered look for the jayhawks to lash out with beak and claw in a valient effort to make off with their bounty.

This match-up promises to be a real thriller with copious amounts of rolling around aimlessly and much pecking.  It will be a test of patience and stamina.  I give the victory to the buckeye, who will wait until, through no act on the nut’s part, the jayhawk will become frustrated and make that costly error.  The jayhawk will get antsy with the non-responsive and very sluggish nature of the opponent and accidentally stab it’s beak on a spine as it tries to make off with the sweet nut inside.  The jayhawk flies off in extreme anger and a beak full of pointy skin-parts to contemplate his lack of identity while the buckeye nut sits on the ground, brown and shiny, awaiting his future as neck jewelry.

– Rob Melick

NCAA Wrap(crap) Up

And breathe.  The first round madness is over and we all have time to grab a quick one before the the second plunge.  Honestly though, I don’t need a breath.  I need a restart.  Sure, there is some great talent and have been quite a few da da dum, da da dum, Sportscenter top plays but the basketball itself is lacking.  By the time the second half rolls around everyone has figured everyone else out and the game becomes dull and ugly to watch.

I have been overwhelming depressed by the basketball in this year’s tournament and here is why:  Offense is stagnant and one-dimensional, fundamental concepts have gone by the wayside, and finally, team defense is at an all time low.

Stagnant Offense:  When did college basketball switch to the two-man pick and roll, everyone else stand around with our hands in our shorts, game plan?  It seems like every team follows some version of the following.  Bring the ball down the court, make a pass or two around the perimeter then some big come set a ball screen and see what happens on the drive.  This works twice, then the defense wises up and the offense is left bumping into each other and backdribbling out of the lane until there is two seconds left on the shot clock and we hoist an ill-advised something.

Stockton and Malone perfected this pick and roll and it was continually successful for two reasons, they played together for eons (a record 1,412 regular season games) and they had talented threats around them to keep the D honest.  This simply does not exist in college.  Kids are in and out in less time than it took me to figure out where my college’s library bathrooms were and let’s be honest, college teams simply don’t have the depth to surround a would be dynamic duo with reliable threats.

Secondly, it would appear to me that we have lost all sense of what to do when facing a zone.  Not once during this tournament have I seen anyone dribble drive to a gap, make two guys guard them and then pass either to an open man on the wing (who is toeing the 3-point line) or feed the high post.  Instead the standard is to whip it around the wing to players seven feet from the arc and then looked bewildered when the clock runs down and we turn it over.

Fundamentals: Who in the name of everything holy is designing out-of-bounds plays these days?  Just terrible.  Every team seems to rely on the ol’ wait, lazy cut, lazy cut, wait, wait, panic, throw a lob towards the back-court and pray that your guy can jump the highest.  Out of bounds plays should be a simple well designed machine that almost always result in 2-3 guys being open.  I don’t know if the coaches are just over looking these in practice or the players are too lazy but it is bad.

Team Defense:  COMMUNICATE!!!  Unbeknownst to me, the NCAA has issued a credo stating that it is irrational and simply rude to  talk to ones teammates during the ball screen.  Instead players should simply run smack into each other or play follow the leader – chasing the ball carrier, leaving the screening johnny come lately wide open under the hoop.  Next, should said johnny come lately make his cut and find himself open it shall be a sin to have anyone yell help and pick up the open man.  Such simple things to work on in practice, but from what I can tell essentially nonexistent during the games.

My conclusion?  Schools are hunting out the 1-2 superstars and trying to build a team around them.  Then, when those superstars leave  before they’re halfway done with their college career the teams is left in shambles without ever having formed any sort of bond or “chemistry.” You’ve got to get players to stay with and buy into a system.  That is the only way to develop the team skills, and flow that make for the great basketball of years past (Princeton offense baby!).

Mark my words, without change I say that within the next two to three years we’ll finally see a 16 upset a 1.  The teams that have a deep core group of bonded players, regardless of athletic talent, will rise to the top.  Look at the two who nearly did it this year.  Lehigh, I thank you for saving my tournament sentiments with your genius and simple picket fence scramble out of bounds play that slammed the lid on the Dukies’ coffin.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KSL8qrp6PVs&feature=related (skip to 1:20 for the play)

There is hope for collegiate bball yet.

– Rob Melick