Monday, December 3, 2007

Taking The Power Out of the Hands of the People

by Jason Jones

In life, there are a great deal of certainties. One of my favorites, “A person can be very smart but people are very very stupid”, applies very literally to All-Star voting. Some people may say, “It’s an All-Star game, who cares”? This is a common line of thinking. It really comes down to, like most aspects of sports, getting it right. Being voted in to an All-Star game is not just a privilege or an honor; it is justification for statistical production. This is the way it should be, not the way it actually is. Case in point, back in the mid 90’s Anfernee Hardaway was voted in as a starter for the NBA All-Star game. That year Anfernee Hardaway didn’t play his first game until one week before the All-Star break. A large portion of people who take the time to vote for All-Star games, do so by way of name recognition or base their decision from last season’s performance. The basis of this post revolves around the idea that people vote on All-Star games. Those people vote irresponsibly. Those people vote the wrong players in. Thus, said All-Star game is represented partially by players who don’t deserve to be there with the deserving watching at home. For this exercise I will be using the NFL and their Pro Bowl. Currently, we are about to enter week 13 of the regular season. There are still 3 games for each player to pad their stats. The numbers are not complete but the point remains. First, a Pro Bowl ballot whose result is an average of 5 ballots filled out by 5 different people not affiliated with Fantasy Draft


QB---Tom Brady----------------Tony Romo
------Peyton Manning-----------Brett Favre
------Derek Anderson-----------Drew Brees
RB---LaDanian Tomlinson-------Adrian Peterson
------Larry Johnson-------------Stephen Jackson
------Joseph Addai--------------Brian Westbrook
WR--Randy Moss---------------Terrell Owens
------Marvin Harrison----------Torry Holt
------Hines Ward---------------Steve Smith
------Chad Johnson-------------Plaxico Burress
FB---Lorenzo Neal--------------Tony Richardson
TE---Antonio Gates-------------Jason Witten
------Todd Heap----------------Jeremy Shockey
OT---Jonathan Ogden----------Walter Jones
------Levi Jones----------------Flozell Adams
------Marvel Smith-------------Chris Samuels
OG---Alan Faneca--------------Steve Hutchinson
------Cooper Carlisle-----------Todd Stuessie
------Logan Mankins-----------Leonard Davis
C-----Kevin Mawae-------------Jamaal Jackson
------Jeff Saturday-------------Olin Kreutz

DE---Dwight Freeney----------Julius Peppers
------Jason Taylor--------------Osi Umenyiora
------Justin Smith--------------Michael Strahan
DT---Casey Hampton----------Tommy Harris
------Albert Haynesworth------Darnell Dockett
------Vince Wilfork-------------Bryant Young
OLB-Shawne Merriman--------Lance Briggs
------Joey Porter---------------A.J. Hawk
------Terrell Suggs-------------Julian Peterson
MLB-Ray Lewis----------------Patrick Willis
------Adalius Thomas----------Brian Urlacher
CB---Champ Bailey------------DeAngelo Hall
------Chris McAlister----------Charles Woodson
------Asante Samuel-----------Shaun Springs
SS----Troy Polamalu-----------Roy Williams
------Bob Sanders--------------Adrian Wilson
FS---Ed Reed------------------Brian Dawkins
------John Lynch--------------Sean Taylor*
K----Stephan Gostkowski-----Robbie Gould
------Nate Kaeding------------Jason Hanson
P----Dave Zastadil-------------Jeff Feagles
------Matt Turk---------------Andy Lee
KR---Josh Cribbs--------------Devin Hester

As previously mentioned, this Roster reflects the result 5 different Pro Bowl ballots averaged together to arrive at one master roster. I do not think anyone would disagree that these two teams are loaded with talent. Over the last 3-5 years, this game would reflect the best of best. This exercise is not a five year period; it is to prove a point for this season. The following is what the ballot would look like if each voter followed statistical production and not name recognition.


QB---Tom Brady--------------Tony Romo
------Peyton Manning---------Brett Favre
------Derek Anderson---------Drew Brees
RB---Willie Parker------------Adrian Peterson
------LaDanian Tomlinson-----Brian Westbrook
------Joseph Addai------------Clinton Portis
WR--Randy Moss-------------Terrell Owens
------Braylon Edwards--------Larry Fitzgerald
------Chad Johnson-----------Donald Driver
------Reggie Wayne-----------Marques Colston
FB---Lorenzo Neal------------Tony Richardson
TE---Kellen Winslow----------Jason Witten
------Antonio Gates-----------Jeremy Shockey
OT---Matt Light--------------Walter Jones
------Joe Thomas-------------Chris Samuels
------Shane Olivea------------Chad Clifton
OG---Alan Faneca-------------Steve Hutchinson
------Logan Mankins----------Leonard Davis
------Eric Steinbach-----------Roberto Garza
C-----Jeff Saturday-----------Olin Kreutz
------Kevin Mawae-----------Matt Birk

DE---Jared Allen-------------Andy Kampman
------Jason Taylor------------Patrick Kerney
------Kyle Vanden Bosch-----Osi Umenyiora
DT---Albert Haynesworth----Darnell Dockett
------Amobi Okoye-----------Tommy Harris
------Vince Wilfork-----------Bryant Young
OLB-James Harrison---------Greg Ellis
------Mike Vrabel------------DeMarcus Ware
------Shawne Merriman------Julian Peterson
MLB-Ray Lewis--------------Patrick Willis
------DeMeco Ryans----------Nick Barnett
CB---Antonio Cromartie------Anthony Henry
------Asante Samuel----------Terrence Newman
------Leigh Bodden-----------Charles Woodson
SS---Sean Jones--------------Sean Taylor*
------Sammy Knight----------Dwight Smith
FS---Ed Reed-----------------Ken Hamlin
------Marlon McCree---------Oshiomogho Atogwe
K----Stephen Gostkowski-----Nick Folk
------Phil Dawson-------------Mason Crosby
P----Shane Lechler-----------Andy Lee
------Todd Sauerbrun--------Donnie Jones
KR---Josh Cribbs-------------Devin Hester

Once you’ve read through the two different rosters, two things should become very obvious. 1) Almost all of the names of the first roster are household football names. 2) The second roster has a lot of player’s names in bold print whose names may be of a lesser known variety. This almost proves my point single handedly. The second roster is made up of names completely by statistical production. If the Pro Bowl is a reward for excellence in performance, then performance should be the only criteria. Granted, some discrepancies should be expected. Plus or minus 10-15 % would be acceptable. If you do the math based on the previous example, there is a discrepancy is 50%. Granting half of the players on this list who don’t deserve an invite is without a doubt unacceptable. This is a moderately flawed sample size due to the fact that the season has not concluded yet.

When one looks at the names involved from a far, there is no doubt these names are quality players:

Larry Johnson, Stephen Jackson, Marvin Harrison, Steve Smith, Todd Heap, Jonathan Ogden, Flozell Adams, Chris Samuels, Dwight Freeney, Julius Peppers, Casey Hampton, Joey Porter, Adalius Thomas, Brian Urlacher, Champ Bailey, Troy Polamalu, Brian Dawkins, and John Lynch are at the least all pro and potentially hall of fame caliber players. The point to be made is that they should not get an invite to Honolulu based on previous seasons or a combination of career performances.

It may seem contrived to analyze something so small and unimportant, but it is relevant to the larger scheme of things to understand why. Most people only acknowledge the surface information or what is basically convenient. It is convenient to believe that player A, B, and C have been on top, stands the reason they would continue to be on top until their skills begin to diminish. That simply is not always the case. Randy Moss had a terrible season in ’06, but to think he is done professionally is asinine. The converse is also true. In ’06 Frank Gore had almost 2,200 yards from scrimmage and was a top three running back regardless of conference. This season, he has not even amassed half of last year’s production. Frank Gore was a Pro Bowler last season and Randy Moss was not, to assume that production just continues and is loosely based on last year is irresponsible as a fan.

It is a nice gesture from the National Football League (or any other professional sports league) to give the fans control or power over who gets into the All-Star festivities. Unlike coaches, owners, players, sports writers, or sports talk show hosts, not all fans give these decisions the thought and analysis they deserve. It is not necessarily anyone’s fault. Chances are, a financial adviser father of three living the American dream complete with a mortgage and home improvement chores on the weekends doesn’t really have the time to devote to getting it right. What I am suggesting is not a matter of punishment. Taking the responsibility to get the All-Star participants correct out of the hands and minds of the fans is not a punishment. It is merely a matter of getting it right. Some will say that these games are designed for the fans. This is apparently true when dealing with the NBA, since clearly they don’t care that their All-Star game is not a game. It’s more like goof off time after winter practice. If entertainment value is the crux of the argument, then why not let the people who know or are willing to do the research decide who would make the best all star game. Besides, unless you are a resident of the commonwealth of HAWAII!!! Who is really watching this game for its entertainment value? In most cases, the Pro Bowl is a last ditch effort for husbands to get out of Sunday chores for one last weekend. Just like replay, challenges, officiating committee, competition committee, etc are all instituted for one reason and one reason only. TO GET IT RIGHT. Fans should not decide All-Star Games, we should leave those decisions to the experts, then let the fans do what they do best…WATCH THE GAME.

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