Q: What are some of the issues you see facing the Redskins' transition from a 4-3 to a 3-4, and how do you feel about Jim Haslett? It seems like it could be a hard transition because the Redskins have run a 4-3 for so long. What do you think?
Zach in Frederickburg, Va.
A: Haslett is a good defensive coach, and he brings a lot of the zone-blitzing schemes to Washington that he learned when he was with the Steelers. The biggest transition is involving Albert Haynesworth. He loves being a defensive tackle in a 4-3. He might not take to being a nose tackle or a defensive end who is forced to two-gap. Haslett's biggest challenge is having Haynesworth buy into the scheme and using him effectively. With the Redskins last season and with the Titans the rest of his career, Haynesworth was double-teamed, but he was allowed to worry about only one gap. There will be an adjustment at cornerback too, because there will be more zone defensive plays. In a perfect world, the Redskins would find a veteran nose tackle to handle the dirty work and let Haynesworth destroy things from the defensive end position.
- John Clayton "mailbag" column.
This is a great descriptor of sports, I think. The players are paid to be slaves: to the system, to the coach, to the point that they don't choose who they play with, where they play, or what the rules of the game are. It's like a five person rock band that gives over its group membership, location selection (and are forced to live wherever their "home arena" is!), and the tunings on the instruments they play. At the same time, "stars" in sports get special rules, from foul and travel calls and noncalls to steroids in baseball to the Tom Brady rule.
Also, if you don't know what I'm referencing:
- In the NBA, star players are players who score a lot of points. This is the flashiest part of basketball. The dunks, the 3-Pointers, the contested shots. The showmanship aspect of basketball is well rewarded: players perceived as better are treated more leniently by the referees; more fouls are called on players guarding them (allowing them to shoot two free shots, further boosting their scoring totals. (the logical extreme of this type of player is Dwayne Wade, who in the 2008-2009 season made, on average, 10.8 of his total 30.2 points per game from free throws, over 33%)).
Additionally, good dunkers are allowed to violate the league's traveling rule, which states that a player may take no more steps after he has stopped dribbling. A player is only allowed to "pivot," that is, stay planted on one foot while moving the other. However, dunks look better when the player picks up his ball before he leaps up, when still in motion. Actually, the rule was forgotten as the NBA progressed, written in the original rulebook, for some reason, and then applied regressively over the league's early history.
- Steroids are big in the baseball world. Or, rather, sterroids scandals are big in the baseball world. Finally, maybe it is best put this way: steroid nonscandals are a big deal in the baseball world.
In 1994 the league had a strike, and a season was cut off halfway. There was no World Series. As a generational theater, this was a bad move. The public went away from baseball and on to football and basketball, catapulting the standing of those leagues in the lives of the people of America. What could solve this problem? (Since the league can follow only its own interests)
Steroids! Here comes Mark MacGwire, I hear he hit a ball 500 feet! No, wait, here's Sammy Sosa, I hear he cleans his yard with a baseball bat! (Aw shit that's racist) No wait, here's Barry Bonds, he's our black version of a mythical white figure! (that's Babe Ruth, the founding celebrity of mediated baseball)
And then baseball went nuts. It became totally cutthroat, or perhaps only more openly so: the potential revenues skyrocketed as some of the population became very rich, and luxury boxes began to appear in stadiums. Nowadays, stadiums derive much more revenue from the more expensive seats than they did before. Instead of having first-to-come-first-served, democratic seating system, sports arenas have boxes, like old-timey theaters, for privileged patrons to watch from (and lose the humanity of the experience).
So the "baseball fans" were really just strung along by this group of money bastards who saw the whole thing as an enterprise, a system of investment and recouperation (and what recouperation! stadiums are often subsidized by local taxpayers!).
- Some rules stuff: in football, a player called the quarterback at one point steps back into an open field that some of his teammates, in a line, are defending from the opposing team's "rushers." He is looking for another one of his own teammates to throw the ball to, and his team will gain the amount of distance to where the second ball carrier can carry the ball. If one of the opposing "rushers" breaks through his team's "line," and tackles the quarterback when the quarterback has the ball, after which the quarterback drops the ball, one of two things could happen, and they are dictated by this rule:
NFL Rule 3, Section 21, Article 2, Note 2. When [an offensive] player is holding the ball to pass it forward, any intentional forward movement of his arm starts a forward pass, even if the player loses possession of the ball as he is attempting to tuck it back toward his body. Also, if the player has tucked the ball into his body and then loses possession, it is a fumble.
So, if the Quarterback has already pulled his arm back, and has begun the forward motion of a pass, then the ball will not be recoverable by the opposing team, since an "incomplete pass" is not recoverable by the opposing team once it has hit the ground.
On the other hand, the last line of the rule says that if the Quarterback has tucked the ball before getting hit, then it will count as fumbled if dropped and that therefore the opposing team can recover the ball.
Now, the favortism:
In one of the plays in the 2002 AFC Divisional Playoff game, Tom Brady was hit in the pocket by Charles Woodson. He dropped the ball. Raiders player Greg Biekert jumped on it to recover it, and the ball was ruled fumbled, and recovered by the Raiders. At this point in the game there were less than two minutes left to play, and the Raiders led 13-10. If they had recovered the ball, they would have won. Now let me hit you with this: Charles Woodson is black, and Tom Brady is white.
Some people respond to that by saying that Quarterbacks are just predominantly white and linebackers are usually black.
To which I respond: exactly!
So here's what happened next: the call went up for "official review." In the NFL, calls (evaluations of rule infractions) can be challenged by the coaches. [they have to throw red flags on the field, it's hilarious] This was not such a situation. The "officials" of the game decided that the call needed to be inspected more closely.
It is not normal in sports to have someone reviewing a video recording of a play to analyze minute movements in the action, especially to decide such a thing as the SuperBowl. These "officials" are probably porxies for the owners of the teams and the league. The money in sports came after sports. Sports are like a shell for their hermit crabs of owners. The owner is no longer associated with the franchise, and the team is kind of autonomous, a collection of people (players, coaches, staff, maintenance workers, fans) all trying to do something together who need a lot of money to give it a purpose.