February 6, 2011

Tom Brady wins NFL MVP unanimously

That revives an old but still popular argument: Who is better, Tom Brady or Peyton Manning?

Beats me. I had my say on the meta-issue surrounding Brady v. Manning in 2009. I find particularly fascinating something, as I wrote in Taki's Magazine in November 2009, that bores everybody else:
Steven Pinker’s concept that “mental effort seems to be engaged most with the knife edge at which one finds extreme and radically different consequences with each outcome, but the considerations militating towards each one are close to equal.” 

To put it another way, the things that we most like to argue about are those that are most inherently arguable, such as: Who would win in a fight, Tom Brady or Peyton Manning?...

Yet, if I were in charge of player personnel for all the NFL teams, [Malcolm] Gladwell would no doubt be right about the futility of the draft in forecasting quarterback outcomes: I, personally, would have chosen [Ryan] Leaf over Manning.

As you may have noticed by now, I’m like that: clueless about most subjects that most people are most desperate to discuss. Who will win the Super Bowl? Will the stock market go up or down tomorrow? Will the health bill pass? Which party will win the next election?

Don’t ask me.

Those questions concern competitive institutions that are structured in ways that make their outcomes hard to foresee … and therefore captivating.

The NFL has become the top spectator sport in America in part by contriving its affairs so that the winner of the next Super Bowl is very much in doubt. (No NFL team is allowed to dominate financially, as the Yankees and Red Sox do in baseball; last year’s best teams get this year’s hardest schedules; and the worst draft first.)

Paradoxically, that means that my being profoundly ignorant about these concerns wouldn’t keep me from making quick predictions that would be almost as accurate as if I did nothing else but study the subject.

Who will win the [February 2010] Super Bowl? Well, two minutes on Google leads me to a betting site that says the New Orleans Saints are +360, while the Indianapolis Colts are +385. (I don’t even know what those numbers are supposed to mean.) Here’s another site that has the Colts at 3:1 and the Saints at 4:1, which at least I understand.

So, there you have my fearless forecast: the Saints will meet the Colts in the 2010 Super Bowl, and one of them will win.

You heard it here first.

... Instead, I’ve spent time studying other fields, such as the social science behind educational and economic achievement. That way I can generate a higher return on my investment by being able to make more accurate predictions than the conventional wisdom about the effects of crucial public policies such as immigration. (That’s my metaphorical ROI I’m talking about. My financial ROI? Eh …)

In contrast to more popular subjects, in which what you learn is as ephemeral as the mood of the Tennessee Titans, what I’ve learned about school test scores over the last 37 years doesn’t become quickly obsolete. For instance, Chinese students are still averaging higher math scores.

Moreover, it’s not a terribly competitive market niche I’ve selected, since many people don’t ever want to think about it, and get angry at those few of us who do. Others just find these huge swathes of the social sciences as boring and depressing as if I specialized in being a bookmaker on Globetrotter v. Generals games. (Krusty the Klown explained after losing his fortune on an imprudent bet, “I thought the Generals were due!”)

Still, as Pinker told me in 2002:
Q: Aren’t we all better off if people believe that we are not constrained by our biology and so can achieve any future we choose?

A: People are surely better off with the truth. Oddly enough, everyone agrees with this when it comes to the arts. Sophisticated people sneer at feel-good comedies and saccharine romances in which everyone lives happily ever after. But when it comes to science, these same people say, “Give us schmaltz!” They expect the science of human beings to be a source of emotional uplift and inspirational sermonizing.


Matra said...

The Chelsea v Liverpool and Inter v Roma matches earlier today were so much more interesting than that bloated 4 hour borefest filled with steriod monkeys in tights.

I must say though I'm impressed that America is so dedicated to Special-Ed children that it provided them with an entire half-time show. I don't think even FIFA would do that.

OneSTDV said...

I was a Brady basher for years (as in this comment during the early part of last season:


But I've since "seen the light." Brady is an all-time great, no doubt about it. IN fact, the only reason he doesn't have the absolute stats Manning does is simply because his team passes less. Brady's QB rating, TD-INT ratio, and other stats not dependent on throwing 60% of the time are either on-par with Manning or better.

I still think Manning is a hair better, but Brady is right there.

I was wrong about his talent, but I still don't think he should have been considered an all-time great just due to his 3 Super Bowls. And I stand by the fact that he wasn't a great performer during those playoff runs.

peter A said...

Right now Aaron Rodgers is probably better than either of them. Moves better, throws better, better leader.

It's kind of a silly argument, because QB is an overrated position in some respects. Roethlisberger is not better than Manning, although he has a much better post season record, but he has benefited from great defenses. Brady in 2007 and 2010 was a better QB than the Brady of 2003/2004 but again - you need a solid defense to win championships, and a decent running game doesn't hurt.

Reg C├Žsar said...

Get ready for another tsunami of articles asking, "How does Green Bay manage to support an NFL team with only 101,000 people?"

Funny, nobody ever asks, "How does Foxborough manage to support an NFL team with only 16,000 people?"

Same answer, though.

Anonymous said...

The Colts have had neither the system (the coaches) nor the defense that both Brady and Roethlisberger have had over the years.

In a way, that's because having a qb like Manning has made the Colts' organization lazy. They've relied on his skills too much.

With a better defense all these years, just what might Manning have accomplished?

Sideways said...

Brady is a lesser Rodgers with the best coaching staff ever. Manning, given neutral coaching and managerial staff, would obliterate him.

Frederick said...

Hard to say whether Manning or Brady is actually better. This relies upon the archaic and racist system of meritocracy, as there is no way to incorporate the strength and wisdom of diversity into a choice between Manning and Brady, two white men, to give the nod to a minority who has been historically denied. This suggests that we need to apply affirmative action type policies to sports positions which show signs of discrimination such as quarterbacks to achieve a level playing field so that men and women of color can dominate to make up for historical disadvantage. After this, we should focus on equality in tennis, swimming, and NASCAR.

James Kabala said...

The NFL does not actually have superior parity to baseball anymore. Three franchises (New England, Indianapolis, Pittsburgh) have won nine of the last ten AFC championships (and the last eight in a row) and six of the last ten Super Bowls. In contrast, despite the clear financial advantages of the Red Sox and Yankees, during that same period they have won only five of the last ten American League pennants and three of the last ten World Series.

Anonymous said...

"Funny, nobody ever asks, "How does Foxborough manage to support an NFL team with only 16,000 people?"

Same answer, though."


Foxborough is in a metropolitan area of 7.5 million people. The Green Bay metropolitan area has 300 thousand people.

Truth said...

The staduim is about 2 hours from downtown Milwaukee.

stari_momak said...

Castefootball has the Packers as the whitest team in the NFL, overall, and tied for whitest number of starters.

Then again, the Runnerup Pittsburg is the blackest.

At any rate, good to see two outstanding performances from white defensive players -- Hawk and Matthews -- and white receivers.

Doug1 said...

Brady does a lot better with the hotties.

Whiskey said...

The coaching at Indy has been miserable. Neither Jim Caldwell nor Tony Dungy have had anything other than utterly predictable, rote, offenses and defenses relying mainly on superior performance by Manning and a receiver corps and a few stand-out safeties on defense.

Brady is good made excellent by perhaps the most gifted coaching staff in the NFL, with (ahem) some "extra" stuff going on (videotaping of signals).

Agreed on the lack of parity, while the Saints finally won last year, there have been mostly in the Superbowl the usual suspects: Steelers, Patriots, Colts.

Michael Vick got the comeback award. The NFL is pushing him hard, figuring fans love Black thugs. They might be surprised. Certainly the ownership loves Black guys, the thuggier the better, as part of idealization of non-Whites and a debased Calvinism of "original racial sin." But I think the almost-sure-thing Lockout and pushing of Vick and other Thugs (nearly all Black) will turn off a lot of fans.

There's no cost to switch to another sport for fans. Ask MLB after it's 1990's strike and steroids scandal.

Peter A said...

There is no parity in the AFC, there is a lot of parity in the NFC (11 different teams in 11 years!).

The funny thing is that the old AFL continues to lag behind 40 years after the merger. The Patriots are the only original AFL team to appear in the Superbowl since 2002. (The Colts and Steelers are both legacy NFL).

Anonymous said...

Football is oddly inappropriate. It's surprising that it has done as well as it has.

First of all almost 99% of the fans watch the games on TV yet players are concealed from the viewers in costumes that hide their faces and make them all look the same. The result is that the "stars" are anonymous.

In order to recognize a player you have to read his name or decode his ID number.

If that weren't bad enough with every snap the players on both sides mix together in a jumble. At least in baseball if you see a guy screw up in right field you know it must be Canseco - no one else is out there.

Baseball also has clear authority structures. What the umpire says goes. But in football every decision can be appealed. When you also consider that any of the many players who are simultaneously in motion can commit an infraction, you get the coitus interruptus experience of plays being called back.

After twenty minutes of just watching a lot of big guys falling down you finally get a beautiful break out play with a back going fifty yards down the field. The runner looks sensational and his skill is a joy to behold - but then it's all called back because some other player who had nothing to do with the play misbehaved somehow.

Nothing remotely this frustrating takes place in any other sport.

Football is just not a well constructed game. It is too expensive for one thing. If played as originally intended, the crowd freezes. So today the game is played in covered stadia which cost approximately a billion dollars. Normally you could recoup that expense by having more games, but American football is so destructive of the players that that isn't possible. Barely a dozen games can be scheduled a year.

The game is so tedious and the half time shows are so oppressive that people watch for the commercials.

Time to dump football and create a better sport for the modern age.


Tony Romo said...

Tom Brady and the Patriots raise the question of how much is the NFL stage managed like the WWF? Brady's NFL MVP seems like a beauty contest to draw in female viewers.

Tom Brady is the new Joe Namaeth heartthrob planted to win over the women. Similarly, the NFL put out pink shoes and gloves for breast cancer awareness and there are lots of NFL bimbo announcers now.

It seems the NFL suits are feminizing football because they figure more women will compensate for young males leaving for MMA, extreme sports, etc or that they have such a lock on the male viewers that they can do whatever they want.

The Patriots coincidentally peaked right after 9/11 going to Superbowls in 2001, 2003 and 2004. NFL officials handed a close playoff game to the Patriots in 2001 at the expense of the Raiders.

The New Orleans Saints win the SuperBowl 4yrs after Katrina, partly due to NFL officials throwing a close NFC game to them at the expense of the Vikings.

With so much money at stake and big sports acknowledged as entertainment, there certainly has to be a drift towards stage managing the NFL.