NFL Playoff Challenge

 Posted by on 7 January 2010 at 2:00 pm  Sports
Jan 072010
 

Despite a mediocre regular-season record, Paul won the Superbowl of the John Galt League! Go Mr. Woo! (My own winning percentage this season was between that of the Cleveland Browns and the Buffalo Bills. Eli Manning was not a good choice for quarterback, to say the least.)

Paul and I are not done yet though, as we’ve decided to play the NFL Playoff Challenge. It’s a simple variant of fantasy football just for the playoffs. If you want more fantasy football — or if you’d like to get a taste for what fantasy football is like, sign up! It’s free, and if you drop me an e-mail, I’ll send you an invitation to join this new “John Galt League.”

Just do so quickly, as time is a-tickin’… tic-tic … tic-tic … tic-tic …

NFL in the RedZone

 Posted by on 29 December 2009 at 8:00 am  Sports
Dec 292009
 

I’ve become a major fan of the NFL’s new “RedZone” channel this season. The basic idea of the channel is that it switches between the most exciting portions of all the games playing on Sunday mornings and afternoons, without any commercials. So unless I want to watch a full game — which I’ll do for Indy and other notable games — I’ll just watch the best of all the games via the RedZone channel.

A recent Sports Illustrated column sang the praises of the channel. It even reported on the best description I’ve seen yet: “as if God was holding the remote control.” That seems apt to me, as I often say that I worship at the Church of the NFL on Sundays! That NFL God is Scott Hanson. Here’s a bit on him from the article:

“You get a bucketful of 100-percent concentrated football awesomeness,” says Scott Hanson, the studio host who deftly sets the scene each time RedZone switches games. Hanson’s enthusiasm seems boundless, even though inmates at Leavenworth have a cushier setup: During his seven hours on the air he gets only a two-minute bathroom break and, if he’s lucky, a bite or two of a sandwich.

I like Hanson’s style as a host. He’s very smooth, easily able to handle the swapping between games. Plus, he’s relentlessly focused on the football. I’ve heard him cut away from a game just after a touchdown, where the camera was focused on the scoring player’s end zone dance, saying something like “Okay, enough of that” with just the perfect touch of exasperation.

Oh, and need I mention that I was not happy with Jim Caldwell’s controversial decision to rest starters in the Jets game on Sunday? Probably not: it goes without saying. Granted, I was disappointed, but wowee, Peyton looked downright irate. He kept his helmet on while pacing the sidelines for quite some time. Normally, he’s on the bench reviewing plays with a baseball cap on. (Yes, I’m totally appalled that I’m such a football fanatic that I know that.) Of course, Peyton was gracious in the post-game press conference.

Of course, any and all disappointment will be forgotten if the Colts win the Superbowl!

Matthew Stafford: Guts & Glory

 Posted by on 30 November 2009 at 2:00 pm  Sports
Nov 302009
 

If you’re an NFL fan, you’ve probably seen some footage of the dramatic end to last week’s Browns-Lions game. I’d definitely recommend watching the whole thing — with mic’ed up Lions quarterback Matt Stafford. It’s phenomenal.

Such moments are what I most relish about NFL football. This footage doesn’t merely document a gripping end to a game. Heck, the game wasn’t terribly meaningful, given that both teams were 1-8. The footage records the unfolding of real-life moral drama: Matt Stafford was so determined to achieve his goal, so committed to winning, that he was willing to endure lay-down-and-cry-worthy pain. I love to see that kind of resolve in action, and I’m fascinated by the response of other team members to such actions.

I hope, notwithstanding the loss of the Lions to the Packers on Thanksgiving Day, that this moment signals a turn-around for a team that has been abysmal for far too many years.

CrossFit: Three.. Two.. One.. GO!

 Posted by on 17 October 2009 at 12:00 pm  Exercise, Fitness, Health, Sports
Oct 172009
 

I started looking into CrossFit after seeing it mentioned by various health/fitness guys I’ve learned a lot from — like Richard Nickoley, Mark Sisson, and Art De Vany, who talk about the value of mixing things up, using high intensity, intervals, resistance training and such. I liked what I was finding in the methodology and was intrigued at its potential, so I was eager for an opportunity to try CrossFit in a way that includes the coaching I knew I would need to not hurt my middle-aged self. (Sure, it’s free if you do it at home, but who goes out on their own and just starts doing Olympic-style lifts? Not me!) Happily, a couple of months ago Tammy and I noticed that a CrossFit gym was about to open near our house. We checked it out and took the plunge! So far, it’s been very cool.

Before giving reports from the front and breaking out the obligatory pictures of progress, let’s start with a little about what CrossFit is. The headquarters site says

CrossFit is the principal strength and conditioning program for many police academies and tactical operations teams, military special operations units, champion martial artists, and hundreds of other elite and professional athletes worldwide.

Our program delivers a fitness that is, by design, broad, general, and inclusive. Our specialty is not specializing. Combat, survival, many sports, and life reward this kind of fitness and, on average, punish the specialist.

And in a CrossFit Foundations article, creator Greg Glassman writes, “CrossFit is a core strength and conditioning program. We have designed our program to elicit as broad an adaptational response as possible. CrossFit is not a specialized fitness program but a deliberate attempt to optimize physical competence in each of ten recognized fitness domains. They are Cardiovascular and Respiratory endurance, Stamina, Strength, Flexibility, Power, Speed, Coordination, Agility, Balance, and Accuracy.”

Of course, I’m not a Navy SEAL, a stick-fighting champion, or a fireman — but developing serious competence in all of these domains, and therefore a powerful “ready state,” would be awfully useful for the sorts of play I like to engage in: mountain biking, summit-scrambling, snowboarding, maybe a spontaneous half-marathon hill run or whatever else Tammy or my friends might want to draw me into. And it would come in handy for those (hopefully vanishingly) rare times when Stuff Happens — plus as I age, maintaining as much physical capacity as possible would be invaluable for health and autonomy.

There’s a lot of empirical observation and some pretty good epistemology behind various aspects that I can go into later, but today I’ll just share the central CrossFit prescription for efficiently achieving that broad, general, and inclusive fitness: constantly varied functional movement performed at high intensity. Every element of that is essential. Glassman breaks it down in a brief article on Understanding CrossFit:

Functional movements are universal motor recruitment patterns; they are performed in a wave of contraction from core to extremity; and they are compound movements — i.e., they are multi-joint. They are natural, effective, and efficient locomotors of body and external objects. [Author's note: Examples include squats, pullups, situps, jumping, running, throwing, lifts like deadlift and clean & jerk and overhead press. They are elemental movements, used in lots of activities.] But no aspect of functional movements is more important than their capacity to move large loads over long distances, and to do so quickly. Collectively, these three attributes (load, distance, and speed) uniquely qualify functional movements for the production of high power. Intensity is defined exactly as power, and intensity is the independent variable most commonly associated with maximizing favorable adaptation to exercise.

Recognizing that the breadth and depth of a program’s stimulus will determine the breadth and depth of the adaptation it elicits, our prescription of functionality and intensity is constantly varied. We believe that preparation for random physical challenges — i.e., unknown and unknowable events — is at odds with fixed, predictable, and routine regimens. [emphasis and paragraph break mine]

Plateauing is not easy when the adaptational response never has a fixed target — plus, the novelty of not knowing what will be coming next keeps us from getting bored. As sick as it might sound, it actually becomes a fun adventure to show up at the gym not knowing what challenge we’ll be hit with! One day it’s a 5k run or row for time; another day it’s finding the maximum weights you can deadlift, press, and back-squat; on another it is a butt-kicking, lung-searing sequence of a dozen varied exercises done for time (here’s one we were given a week or two ago, as demonstrated by a bunch of uber-fit trainers at a certification: [wmv][mov]).

CrossFit turns fitness itself into a sport by making general fitness quantifiable, setting standards, and measuring performance in a very visible way. So people get to see their own development, have fun competing with themselves and their buddies in some sense, get encouragement in a group setting, and so on. This all goes toward motivation and intensity (making it fun to show up, and keeping you engaged in the work when it’s soooo hard).

Turning fitness into a sport also makes the CrossFit Games possible. The Games are a proving ground for demonstrating general fitness, and a way to draw attention to those who might have a more effective training method. Elite athletes train all year and show up to compete — but what’s special about this competition is that they have to train while not knowing exactly what the events will be. They only know they will be tested in some way that is broad and brutal enough to differentiate the fittest person. So the athletes have to focus on developing that well-rounded, inclusive fitness to win. The rest of us get to marvel, and learn.

Then we throw ourselves into tomorrow’s unknown workout. Three.. Two.. One.. GO!

Some links:

  • What is CrossFit” is a one-page promotional summary from an affiliate gym’s website.
  • The Okinawa Speech is a video of a great talk by CrossFit’s founder, Coach Greg Glassman. He presents the origins of the CrossFit definition of fitness, the development of the training methodology, addresses safety, efficacy and efficiency, and a lot more. Worth the time.
  • God’s Workout” in NY Times Magazine made me laugh (and of course I have seen no dangerous, macho behavior, nor any cultlike attitude — in fact, I’ve only seen the opposite on both counts).
  • The Truth About Crossfit” is a pretty good perspective piece by a fitness writer, fun to read, from a big bodybuilding site/magazine (though it has some goofiness, like defending another of their writers who apparently had some sort of tussle with CrossFit’s founder, Glassman).
  • Eight quick perspectives/reviews by people.
  • World HQ for CrossFit itself is a free website with a huge amount of information.

[image from games.crossfit.com]

The John Galt League Draft

 Posted by on 7 September 2009 at 1:10 pm  Sports
Sep 072009
 

The John Galt League just completed its draft a few minutes ago. It went very smoothly. (Thank you, Kevin!) I relied heavily on ESPN’s rankings in my selections, as I’ve paid almost no attention to football so far this year.

I plan to be extra-committed to football when the regular season begins later this week. Sundays will be for football and chores — and nothing else. I’ve even downloaded the whole NFL calendar into iCal so that I don’t miss anything! Woo Hoo!

Hopefully, my fantasy team will do well. Here they are, the noble and courageous players of the Sedalia Sea Monkeys, in draft order:

  1. Michael Turner, Atl RB
  2. Randy Moss, NE WR
  3. Brian Westbrook, Phi RB P
  4. Wes Welker, NE WR P
  5. Joseph Addai, Ind RB
  6. Dallas Clark, Ind TE
  7. Eli Manning, NYG QB
  8. Antonio Bryant, TB WR P
  9. Darren Sproles, SD RB
  10. Donald Driver, GB WR
  11. Vikings D/ST, Min D/ST
  12. Kerry Collins, Ten QB P
  13. Rob Bironas, Ten K
  14. Dustin Keller, NYJ TE
  15. Justin Gage, Ten WR
  16. Cowboys D/ST, Dal D/ST

Go Sea Monkeys!

John Galt League: One Slot Left

 Posted by on 5 September 2009 at 11:00 am  Sports
Sep 052009
 

The John Galt League — the fantasy NFL league for Objectivists and other fans of NoodleFood — has one open slot. We want it filled!

We’re holding the draft this Monday at 3pm ET. (If you want to play but you can’t do that time, I think you can do set the computer to select your highest picks.)

If you want to sign up, you can do so via this link. It’s first come, first serve. So hurry!

If you have any questions or problems, please contact league commissioner Kevin McAllister at kevin@mcallister.ws.

Fantasy Football

 Posted by on 20 August 2009 at 2:01 pm  Sports
Aug 202009
 

I’d like to play fantasy football this year, but I don’t want the burden of acting as league commissioner, as I’ve done in the past. I’d just like to be a mere team. (Go Sedalia Sea Monkeys!)

Is anyone interested in putting together a league of NoodleFood readers?

How and Why Athletes Go Broke

 Posted by on 25 March 2009 at 11:01 pm  Economics, Psychology, Sports
Mar 252009
 

The March 23, 2009 issue of Sports Illustrated features this interesting article entitled, “How (and Why) Athletes Go Broke“.

One astonishing tidbit:

By the time they have been retired for two years, 78% of former NFL players have gone bankrupt or are under financial stress because of joblessness or divorce.

Within five years of retirement, an estimated 60% of former NBA players are broke

The article analyzes the psychology behind the bad decision-making and puts them into four main categories:

1. The Lure of the Tangible
2. Misplaced Trust
3. Family Matters
4. Great Expectations

As the article notes, many professional athletes are very similar to lottery winners in that they suddenly gain a great deal of money out of proportion to their life skills. Either they raise their life skills to match their money, or they lose money until their bank accounts are again proportionate to their life skills.

These athletes’ stories also illustrate the following truth from Francisco D’Anconia’s “money speech” in Atlas Shrugged:

…Money will not buy intelligence for the fool, or admiration for the coward, or respect for the incompetent. The man who attempts to purchase the brains of his superiors to serve him, with his money replacing his judgment, ends up by becoming the victim of his inferiors. The men of intelligence desert him, but the cheats and the frauds come flocking to him, drawn by a law which he has not discovered: that no man may be smaller than his money.

…Only the man who does not need it, is fit to inherit wealth — the man who would make his own fortune no matter where he started. If an heir is equal to his money, it serves him; if not, it destroys him.

Explaining Mystery of the First Down Yellow Line

 Posted by on 14 January 2009 at 4:36 pm  Sports, Technology
Jan 142009
 

Wow, the technology of the first down yellow line in football is even more cool than I ever imagined!

Sports Videos, News, Blogs

My One-And-Out Colts

 Posted by on 3 January 2009 at 10:01 pm  Sports
Jan 032009
 

Wow, what a stressful game — and a disappointing ending.

Normally, I do really like the Chargers, and I must admit that they played an excellent game overall. (My hat is off to runningback Darren Sproles and punter Mike Scifres!) But I didn’t want the Chargers to do so well against my most beloved Colts!

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