Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Football is back

And the Steelers look good. 38-17 and it was not that close.

Pittsburgh played close to a perfect game. That's a pretty big deal even though the Texans were only 8-8 last year.

In recent seasons, Pittsburgh has had a tendency to play down to the competition. They let inferior teams hang around. A couple of times a year it bit them in the backside as they lost games to they should win (like the Jets last season.) This year they have the toughest schedule in the NFL. They cannot afford to toss away any games. There was no danger of that on Sunday.

One of the big plays of the game came on the Texans opening drive. They went for it on fourth and 1 on the Pittsburgh 48. Brett Keisel and Casey Hampton stuffed the QB sneak and the Steelers got the ball on a short field.

In training camp Hampton was in the dog house because of his weight. I hope he came off the field after that play yelling "How do you like my fat ass now!"

The reaction of the sports yakkers was predictably wrong-headed. They focused on the rushing yards and proclaimed that the Steelers won by running the ball.

Any knowledgeable fan who watched the game knew that this was a case of correlation without causation. Pittsburgh jumped to a 21-3 halftime lead even though the running game was uninspiring. (Willie Parker carried 14 times for 46 yards in the half). The big story of the game was Ben Roethlisberger's almost perfect play at quarterback. Big Ben even had the best run of the half: a long scramble for a first down.

The sad fact is that sports pundits have little time to think or study. They have to opine on dozens of subjects every day. Therefore, they fall back on clich├ęs and conventional wisdom. Once an idea enters the pundit-stream it gets repeated endlessly. It takes a bold and well-informed observer to break with the bloviating masses. But the sports media isn't made up of knowledgeable independent thinkers. It's full of Tony Kornheisers.

BTW, Cold Hard Football Facts has a great post up on Kornheiser. A taste:

But he's also typical of the modern celebrity "pundit" of the cable age. He knows little about the history or the intricacies of the game (the latter, to his credit, which he readily admits). He grew up professionally in the ESPN age, and if Chris Berman never gave the guy a chintzy nickname, Kornheiser apparently doesn't even know he existed.

What kind of person makes the pronouncements that echo into received opinion? I discussed that in this post. (Hint: it is not the best informed or most thoughtful).

Fortunately, sports opinion is mostly just noise in the ether. I wonder, thought, if the same dynamic is at work with political punditry. Do Andrea Mitchell or David Gregory do their own thinking? Or are they just articulate sheep following along behind some ur-pundit?

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