A Not-So-Sophistical Defense for Going for It

First of all, congratulations to the Colts for an amazing second-half. They played better and they won the game. And they don't deserve the criticism that "Belichick handed them the win."

  1. How often are coaches criticized for "coaching not to lose"? For being too conservative? Last night was an aggressive call, no doubt. But it was a call to win the game when you had your hands on it. Let's face it, this isn't like the Patriot SB teams that win with defense. When this team beats you, the ball is in Brady's hands.
  2. Those who have read Halberstam's excellent Education of a Coach will remember that it has a dedicated discussion of going for it on 4th down. In short, academic statistical analysis supports the idea that coaches should go for it on 4th down every time they have 4th and short. They should go for it on 4th down every time they are across their own 40. Statistically, the possible reward of keeping the football is worth any risk. Essentially, going for it on 4th down isn't a matter of overcoming difficulty on the field as much as overcoming the psychological and cultural perception of going for it on 4th down. Yeah, its a rhetorical thing.
  3. The Patriots hadn't put the running back in motion to create an empty backfield all night. Remember that the play in theory worked--Faulk was open and caught the ball beyond the first down marker. However, in practice, he juggled it and lost forward progress. These things happen. But saving the running back quick out (matched up on an inside linebacker, I believe) for when you really need it is the kind of things that the hoodie does. Once again, the human element and the statistical/theoretical element might be in conflict here--but that doesn't mean that going for it wasn't the right decision.
  4. As far as Belichick having to apologize to his defense, I think this needs to be revised: the defense has to apologize to the offense. The offense spotted the Colts a 24-7 lead. In the second half of that game, the defense played the roll of butter, Peyton Manning and Reggie Wayne the roll of hot knife.
  5. Finally, I think Belichick had visions back to the 2006 Playoff game. Remember that the Pats blew a 21-6 halftime lead in that game. Remember, too, that Belichick called the game conservatively in the fourth quarter--I do think that ghost showed up in the 4th quarter last night.

Was I surprised to see the call last night? Not really. Not as someone who has watched Patriot games for the past decade. The Patriots have always played to win the game. Last night, they just came up a foot short when they really needed it. And, oh, by the way, did anyone notice how the defense failed to even make Peyton Manning blink on that final drive? That's why you go for it on 4th down. You play (call) to win the game.


Why the New "V" Isn't "Battlestar"

This started as an email to Casey's question of what I thought of the new V last night. He remarked that the show had clear conservative overtones. My response:

I agree on the conservative overtones- but art is meant to probe and question reality, and our current reality seems fairly liberal, so that's not too surprising? Eh, that's bullshit. I was surprised to see a show so overtly critique Obama's political agenda. Especially since, while I don't have demographics, most sci-fi fans are likely liberal. Although there's always Ayn Rand--maybe they are playing to that audience?

Overall, I didn't think it was a great first episode in the way that Battlestar grabbed me immediately. I think the show is trying very hard to bridge Battlestar and Lost, to produce the kind of tension and mystery that marks those shows.

Ultimately, it will likely fail on those fronts--here's why: Battlestar and Lost work extremely well in that they, like any great piece of art (but especially the pomo stuff), problematize clear notions of good and evil, us and them. V doesn't have that option. They are evil (most of them), we are good, let the struggle resume. This, of course, is also the foundation of conservative politics. But in the long run, this kind of clear opposition doesn't speak to our contemporary milieu. Perhaps, as I intimated above, there are a group of conservatives today who fear that Obama brings an evil covered in smiles, and that we need to unmask the "Red-Lizard" threat. But I don't really think so.

We'll see.


Jon Stewart on Fox News

I discovered this at the Blogora this morning, and posted it to Facebook already. But I do have a few friends, well at least one, who resist the siren song of Facebook. So here's the video clip with my short, glib commentary.

The comment that MSNBC wishes they could be Fox News was on point, though I think the Washington Senators would have improved the analogy. The closing nod to Nietzsche, and the acknowledgment that the White House doesn't complain about MSNBC because "they agree with us," demonstrates that contemporary comedy is often more transparent, and thus more trustworthy, than either politicians or news agencies. Given Fox News' parodic claims to "balance," and Obama's intense interest in media new and old, the vituperate nature of this clash isn't too surprising. A reminder that the death of the author equates to the propogation of authors.

For those unfamiliar with Nietzsche, here's the relevant passage from his "We Scholars" in Beyond Good and Evil (I'll quote at length his comparison between meager intellectual laborers and true philosophers, but you really only need skip to the last line):

Those philosopical laborers after the noble model of Kant and Hegel have to determine and pres into formulas, whether in the realm of logic or political (moral) thought or art, some great data of valuations--that is, former positings of values, creations of value which have become dominant and are for a time called "truths." It is for these investigators to make everything that has happened and been esteemed so far easy to look over, easy to think over, intelligible and manageable, to abbreviate everything long, even "time," and to overcome the entire past--an enormous and wonderful task in whose service every subtle pride, every tough will can certainly find satisfaction. Genuine philosophers, however, are commanders and legislators: they say, "thus it shall be!" They first determine the Whither and For What of man, and in so doing have at their disposal the preliminary labor of all philosophical laborers, all who have overcome the past. With a creative hand they reach for the future, and all that is and has been becomes a means for them, an instrument, a hammer. Their "knowing" is creating, their creating is a legislation, their will to truth is--will to power.

What I find interesting here is that both Fox News and Obama represent this Will to Power--Kaufmann's choice of "legislate" works well for me, since both Fox and Obama equal share legislative power. Notice, too, that Nietzsche emphasizes "thus...shall" and not "it...be." Being here (object) is less important than emergence of Being, or the rhetoric of Being, of power to influence Being's becoming in the public eye. Thinking about politics over the past few months, it seems as if Fox News is beating Obama, that his Power is waning.

Of course, I feel compelled to say "Obama," as I am using it above, becomes something that Obama [flesh and blood] could not possibly contain or control. It becomes mimetic. As "we" host it, we invest in it. We invest more than it could hope to contain. Bubbles burst. Frustrations remain. As old notions of authority become evermore loquacious, I can't help but think of Nietzsche's "Night Song":

Night has come: alas, that I must be light! And thirst for the nocturnal! And loneliness! Night has come: now my craving breaks out of me like a well; to speak I crave. Night has come: now all fountains speak more loudly. And my soul, too, is a fountain. Night has come: now all the songs of lovers awaken. And my soul, too, is the song of a lover ("Thus Spoke Zarathustra")

It will be interesting, as we move toward 2012, to see and hear, in the era of increasingly democratized media, the overflow of fountains.