Why Can’t DB’s catch?

Hint: It’s the same reason that Shaq couldn’t consistently make free throws. It’s the difference between the start and the finish of the 100-meter dash. 

Their instincts are to chase, to disrupt, to defend. They are typically quicker than the receivers, but can’t catch a cold. Why is that?

It’s because of their mindset. They are in fight-or-flight mode. And the catch is a delicate maneuver.

Receivers have a set path, and a plan of attack. The defensive strategy is entirely reactive, based on what they see from the offense. So thinking quickly is part of their programming. The problem is that thinking quickly does not help you catch a football.

Think about it…receivers catch more passes when they are hit in stride, and don’t have to react or adjust to a bad throw. It’s because the act of changing the path and reacting to an off-target throw takes more energy, and the time is the same.

Look at the catch rate of these receivers. Does it remind you of the free throw percentages in the NBA? It should. Receiving stats look just like free throw stats. The best catchers hover near 90%, and the worst are around 50%, some even dip below 40%. And you know what they call receivers that catch less than 50% of their passes: defensive backs. 

Sources:

  1. https://www.footballdb.com/leaders/active-passing-intpct
  2. https://www.teamrankings.com/nfl/player-stat/receiving-catch-rate

I am Seau

I finally got around to watching the 30-for-30 on Junior Seau last night. As a natural follow up to my posts about concussions and CTE, this was a must. Not to mention the documentary was incredible, and provided great insight to an unbelievable career that met an unfortunate end. 

Junior Seau was the most talented athlete of his family, a hard worker, and freak of nature on the field. He made his presence known in college and moved on to the NFL where he continued to dominate. He imposed his will on NFL offenses for two decades. 

The problem comes off the field. When they get home. This state of mind is a gift for coaches and for teams, but it can be a curse for the individuals, if they don’t know how to properly wield it. It’s paramount that this beast is left on the field. If you bring this home to meet your family, you’ll bring home a void that you will never fill. 

Imagine, if you had the ability to freeze time, but didn’t know it. Once you remove the outlet [football], things really start to go haywire. These guys consume massive amounts of calories and have no problem burning them off in the warrior mindset. But when they retire and make their entrance into the real world, they will have some big adjustments to make. Not only will they need to make some diet changes, but the outlet for this mindset is even more important. Without that, the frame spills into your life. The insatiable, unbreakable beast has no place in your home. Your wife will never be enough. You will never be enough. 

How can I compare myself to such a legend?

Because I know what this feels like. The expectations. The relentless work. The speed. The instincts. I just always assumed that as long as I worked harder than everyone else, I would be successful. So I just constantly pushed myself, for fifteen years. I doubt anyone has logged more time working out in the past two decades than this guy. I know how to push. 

The problem is, though, that I’ve always struggled with relaxation and recovery. I can’t be the best, because I can’t relax. There is always something that I’m working to improve, to learn, to do, so why would I ever just chill? It turns out, that is as important as anything you do. The time that you do nothing. Or for me, just the ability to do nothing. 

I developed an entire personality around my lizard brain. I lived that way for years. The problem is, it makes relationships hard. It makes every thing that makes life worth living, impossible. Life is a slow game, and people that do whatever it is that I did, die early. So I’m trying to learn to settle in. To hang out. To chill. To be content. It’s not easy, because I can pretty easily go down a train of thoughts to convince myself I could be doing something better with my time. Something more productive. But it turns out that life isn’t a race. Or at very least, it isn’t a sprint. 

What you need to know if you’re trying to transition from warrior to settled? 

Know that it’s going to be the hardest thing you ever do. You’re going to be sad and helpless, but it will pass. You were happy before your fame, and you’ll be happy after. Find some way to burn off steam, to tap into that frame of mind that made you special. Do not sit in front of a desk for the next decade. 

Use your gifts. You were made a warrior, so no amount of sitting in front of a screen will change any part of that. Find something you’re passionate about, and pursue it with reckless abandon, the same way you pursued football. 

Your condition is reversible. Your brain is fully capable of the level of happy that you had when you were younger. 

Suicide is not an option.  What’s next may be worse than what you’re going through now. And it may last a whole lot longer. 

Talk to someone. A friend. A counselor. Someone you can completely open up to. Be completely honest, and question your own logic. Doubt your fears. 

Don’t be like me. Don’t be like Seau. Check your abilities at the door. Control your inner beast. Your sanity and longevity depend on it. 

Rethinking Home Field Advantage

Everyone seems to have a theory about home field advantage. Here’s one you haven’t heard before. 

Freakonomics says it’s the referees. There is probably some truth to this, but what about sports that do not have referees? Since 1983, the host team has won the Ryder Cup 70% of the time. So there is something else at play here.

There are more fouls in important games. But why? If we say that the referees are so crucial to the game outcomes, it’s probably because there is more pressure on them. FiveThirtyEight’s blog did a piece about the home advantage playoff “boost.” Strangely enough, hockey does not get a boost at all.

In baseball, playing at home is only gives you a 2.6% edge.  That’s really low if you’re thinking that crowd, umpires, and atmosphere play a major role here. Not to mention the added advantage of the home team batting last.

Soccer has the best home field advantage of any mainstream sport. The home team wins 49% of the time, and the away team only wins 29% of the time. Draws make up the other 22%.

Also worth noting, Denver athletics have the top home field advantage in every sport [Except hockey. Calgary has the highest advantage in hockey, and has an altitude of 3500 feet]. So altitude definitely plays a role here. 

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It’s clear that it’s the sports. Not the franchises.

So why the huge difference between home field advantage in soccer and basketball?

Being similar endurance sports, you’d expect similar results. The home team in soccer wins 49% of the time, the away team wins 29% of the time, and they draw 22% of the time. If we say that half of the draws are wins, and half are losses you get a home field advantage right on par with that of basketball [8%-10%].

Why doesn’t home field advantage in baseball matter much at all? 

Home advantage in baseball is under 3%. That’s almost a fair game. Take a look at the endurance athletes, that make decisions that impact the play of the game. It’s the pitchers, and they have much less control over a game than a quarterback does on a football field.  Not to mention, they may be pulled before they complete the game for match ups , poor performance, or if they just didn’t have good “stuff” that day. So even if pitchers had a decent control over the action, they may only throw for a couple innings.

Your batters and fielders in baseball are your speed and strength guys. They are less effected by the environment, and translate better to road games.

What conclusions can we make here? 

The main decision makers in the game, what type of athletes are they? If they are endurance athletes, home field advantage is much greater. For example, take the quarterbacks of the NFL. They are going to be the individuals most effected by the change in environment, and since they basically run the show, it’s a much more dramatic home field advantage.

In soccer and basketball, most of the athletes are endurance athletes and decision makers. The new environment has a small but measurable impact in the athletes, changing their timing, essentially. This is why the warm up is essential, even to players who have been at it their whole lives. Conditions are never exactly the same.

Your speed/strength athletes will be effected much less by the conditions. If you’re strong at sea level, you’re strong at 5000 feet. But timing is much more complicated than that. A basketball shot isn’t about how far you can shoot or how high you can jump. It’s a very precise, fluid motion. There’s a lot more room for error around the rim, so your “bigs” in basketball should be less effected by the environment. 

Translating this to football, the majority of the athletes are speed and strength guys. So naturally, the sport is much less effected by home field advantage. The quarterbacks are the athletes most affected by the new environment, and because in most NFL games they play a major role in the outcome, it comes to reason that home field advantage should be close behind soccer and basketball. Obviously, this line of thought has its limitations. Alabama has the biggest, fastest, and strongest players in college football, so the quarterback really doesn’t matter.

The sport is the most important factor in determining the strength of your home field advantage. The nature of the athletes controlling play is more important than altitude or the referees in determining how many wins you have at home. 

Sources:

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Home_advantage
  2. https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/in-126-years-english-football-has-seen-13475-nil-nil-draws/
  3. https://deadspin.com/which-teams-in-each-sport-have-the-biggest-home-field-a-1828880402
  4. https://statsbylopez.netlify.com/post/playing-at-home/
  5. https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/a-home-playoff-game-is-a-big-advantage-unless-you-play-hockey/
  6. https://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/12/sports/soccer/12score.html
  7. https://www.forbes.com/sites/sap/2012/07/25/home-field-advantage/#6598fad73fdc
  8. https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.sbnation.com/platform/amp/tennis/2013/8/9/4599096/tennis-home-court-advantage-us-open
  9. https://www.sbnation.com/2011/1/19/1940438/home-field-advantage-sports-stats-data
  10. https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.cbssports.com/fantasy/baseball/news/home-away-splits-factor-into-making-fantasy-pitching-decisions—but-theres-a-twist/amp/
  11. https://www.google.com/amp/s/gizmodo.com/the-surprising-way-jet-lag-impacts-major-league-basebal-1791521616/amp
  12. https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.isportsweb.com/2016/06/29/mlb-analytics-statistical-discrepancies-home-away-games/amp/
  13. http://review.chicagobooth.edu/magazine/spring-2014/home-field-advantage-the-facts-and-the-fiction
  14. https://bleacherreport.com/articles/1604854-how-much-does-home-field-advantage-matter-in-soccer
  15. https://bleacherreport.com/articles/1520496-how-important-is-home-court-advantage-in-the-nba
  16. https://www.numberfire.com/nfl/news/7490/the-best-home-and-road-quarterbacks-of-2015

Concussions do not cause CTE

I’m going to watch the Will Smith movie tonight. The gist of it would be this: a bunch of NFL veterans have serious neurological complications to their time in the league. And apparently they can link that directly to the concussions they experienced on the field. There was a billion dollar settlement, with 20,000 former players. 

I call bullshit.

What else do we know about people in the NFL? They are massive, and bigger than ever. Here’s some size information.  What does every player do when they get out of the league? They start looking at life in a new way and decide that they need to get healthier so they can live longer. Here are fifteen examples.  So if we can correlate exiting the NFL to massive weight loss, can they prove that the new symptoms in the former players is because of their head trauma and not because of their massive weight loss.

Because I can tell you from experience that massive weight loss can lead to depression. And assuming that the majority of these players were happy whenever they entered the league, and while they were playing, how can we attribute their sudden change to their concussive blows?

I had to do some research on CTE, and there were some pretty interesting findings. Worth noting: Previously, CTE had been associated with boxing and was called dementia pugilistica or “punch-drunk syndrome”. The risk of CTE in boxers seems most closely tied to the number of rounds boxed, not to the number of times a boxer was knocked out, suggesting that even repeated blows to the head that don’t cause unconsciousness may increase CTE risk. [Source: alz.org]

In general, there is no treatment, and no cure. And we really don’t know all that much about it. But we seem to think that it’s somehow tied to blows to the head. Here’s a great read about the NFL Hall of Famer Mike Webster and how he changed we look at concussions and injury protocol in the NFL and other contact sports.

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I can’t find his exact weight, but “Iron Mike” was 255 pounds when he played and a shell of that in the years following. I want to be very clear here: I am not saying that repeating head injury does not cause trauma, but I do not think it’s the whole story. One of the most relatable portions of his story was his drive. The guy would not stop. He was training on vacation. He was the first to practice and the last to leave. Everyone was impressed with his will and his drive. I can relate to that. I played tennis around the clock for the past two or three years. I know what the fire is like to be a man on a mission. What if that is one of the qualities that breaks us? When you remove all of what we know? What do we become?

Here are the people that get CTE:

Source of head impacts
Boxers Punches to the head
Tackle football players Hits to the helmet
Soccer players Headers and collisions
Ice hockey players Fighting, checking
Military veterans Blast injuries, combat
Victims of domestic abuse Repeated violence

I think of the brain as a very resilient machine, and I have a hard time believing that these disorders would remain dormant for so long. These football players sometimes played 20 years [if you count high school and college] before retiring. And they just seem to show symptoms later in life.

So if we are completely missing the point and the new helmets and protocols don’t work? At some point, we’ll realize that the problem is not with the hits. The problem is the lifestyle, body, and mind transformation that the players go through after they exit the league.

In this NY Times article, they analyzed over 200 former NFL players, and 111 had CTE. Most noteworthy was that 44 were linemen. The number is twice as much as the other positions. And you think about it, lineman really don’t get hit in the head more often, do they? If CTE was impact related, wouldn’t the running backs or linebackers have a higher percentage?

If you’re still reading, here’s your conclusion. We’re missing the point. The brain is a resilient machine. It’s when you try to reprogram it that things start to go haywire. Concussive blows are not the only variable at play here. New helmets will not eliminate CTE, because concussive blows are not the underlying cause.

Edit: I watched the movie. It’s definitely worth a watch. Also, I came across Ryan Freel, the first Major League Baseball player diagnosed with CTE. He committed suicide on December 22nd, 2012. Read the article, and make your own judgments. They tallied up his concussions after his death: 10. What they don’t emphasize is that he was ADHD, bipolar, depressed, and on a host of brain altering drugs.