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Monthly Archives: October 2010

It was November 1987 in Michigan on a cold day that I ventured outside the rental until I was sharing with my friend Tyrone (we were both 17 and emancipated) and walked two blocks to a payphone to call my mother in Texas. I had moved out over the summer but I was calling back to get some vital information, specifically I needed to know how to cook tacos. When I say “cook tacos”, I don’t mean using some pre-packaged spice mix in a bag that is marketed toward Americans who want to eat something vaguely ethnic, I mean the real deal stuff that is prepared every day in kitchens every day by people who probably pick your vegetables and manicure your lawns.

The funny thing is that up until that time I had never evinced any interest in cooking. My mother was a very good cook but as a dude I had never really given cooking a second thought, that was until my roommate and I, living a block from McDonalds, had filled up on burgers and fries for the better part of three months. One day I had really gotten the urge for home cooking which is why I was now making the call to confer with my mother in Texas.

The basic recipe of ground beef, chili powder, onion, garlic, salt, and a jalpeño, has remained with me virtually unchanged from that day aside from minor tweaking on the amounts of the aforementioned ingredients. I also now make my own salsa on the side which involved using a mortar and pestle to pulverize a clove of minced up garlic, some onion, and about five boiled jalapeños after which I add a can of stewed tomatoes and salt as well as a little cilantro if I have some handy. I always fry thin corn tortillas myself (the thick ones do not work and using pre made Ortega taco shells is something I’m sure lands people in Mexican Hell, the details on which I’m kind of hazy but I’m sure it’s pretty hot). Add to that some cheese and refried beans if you are so inclined and those are the kind of tacos that are both very easy to make and authentically TexaMexiganian. I hunger myself even thinking about it.

Fast forward more than 23 years and the other day I found myself on the receiving end of a phone call from my son who recently moved many states away. He was calling to confer on (what else?) the recipe for tacos as he was going to try his hand at cooking some for the first time in his life (I had given him instruction a little while before that as I had him watch my cooking in action but this was to be his first solo attempt). We conferred, he began cooking and, still on the phone, he remarked that the kitchen was beginning to smell like my cooking. The results of his first attempt were this: he said his tacos weren’t quite as good as mine but he said his friends all agreed that they were very good. One guy, he said, ate seven of them. In case you were wondering if your friends were simply being polite, there is your answer, I said. People will politely eat a small portion of sub-par food in order to be polite. If they ate seven of them, that means the food was damn good. The oven mitt has been passed.

As an interesting aside, I just noticed that some of the Spanish words I use for utensils are not only the only words I use for them (I almost never say griddle or mortar and pestle), I’m not even familiar with how to spell the words in Spanish. Comal? Mocajete? I’m illiterate in Spanish!!!

In no particular order here are some things that come to mind:

When it’s fourth and one and defenses move all eleven players up to stack up against the run, why do offenses still try to run? The likelihood of running for a first down in a situation like that is roughly 50%.  Also note that if all eleven defenders are stacked up against the run, that means that NOBODY is hanging back in the secondary so in cases like that if an offense runs the spread and sends three receivers downfield the likelihood of a long completed pass (10 hards or more) is at least 50% (conservatively speaking probably closer to 70%) so why not run deep pass routes? I say if the defense wants to commit all eleven guys from preventing the one yard run, the smart thing to do is to concede that you cannot get a one yard run and you should pass for 15 yards instead.

The number of people who do not understand the BCS system in college football is just astounding.  In fact it’s not just the number but also the caliber of people who you would expect to understand it who do not (college football analysts and even coaches) that is so alarming.  To provide some background, the problem in college football is that at the end of the season teams need to be ranked in order to determine which teams get to play for the national championship.  Before the BCS system was invented, this process relied almost entirely on the Coaches poll and AP poll which is influenced highly by the prestige of the colleges involved.  Add to that the fact that many teams played very weak schedules in order to ensure that they would be undefeated by the end of the season.  Often these teams resorted to attempting to influence their spot in the college ranking by running up scores against lesser opponents.  There were sometimes situations in which three or more undefeated teams had to be considered for two available spots in the national championship which inevitably led to one or more undefeated teams being consigned to a lower bowl game.  This was the situation that needed to be rectified.

Enter the Bowl Championship Series which sets up a complex formula that, among other things, grades football teams on strength of schedule.  This is a good thing because it separates the wheat from the chaff and has the additional benefit of encourages teams to play strong schedules.  This gives college football fans more exciting games to watch during the regular season as well as providing valid points of comparison at the end of the season because more of the top ranked teams had actually played against each other during the year. Some programs like USC continued to play p***y schedules and then simply complained at the end of the season when they were not chosen for the national championship game.  The following is taken from an article about USC coach Pete Carroll’s comments about the BCS system in 2008:

“I don’t understand how the thing works, I don’t really know,” he said. “Maybe you guys will answer for it one of these days. Maybe you know and I don’t. I’m sure you do.

“What is the criteria of the process? Is it to pick the team that has the best season, that has the season that you like the most and feel best about voting for? Or is it the best team at the end of the year, the team that would win a playoff system if you did have it?” he said.

He said this because he didn’t understand why USC went down in the rankings after beating Washington 56-0 (We’re doing things the old way, why isn’t it working?).  Also note that the other one loss teams that were ranked higher than USC at the time (Florida, Texas, and Oklahoma) all played big boy schedules and had their only losses come against highly ranked teams whereas USC played a really weak schedule (something like 71st hardest in the country) and had their only loss come against Oregon State.  So yes, Pete Carroll, I agree that you don’t understand the BCS system and I think that’s more of an indictment against you than it is against the system itself. 

Also I realize I’m making this criticism two years after the fact but it was brought back to mind because some sports analysts apparently misunderstood Boise State’s projected number one ranking in the BCS as meaning that if they continue to win out they are going to retain this ranking until the end of the season (untrue as they will lose strength of schedule points throughout the season which means that other undefeated teams with strong schedules have the ability to pass them in the BCS rankings).  In short, some of the people who most need to understand how this system works appear not to and this is disappointing, especially since many other people seem to get it. 

By the look of Alabama’s schedule, Nick Saban gets it which is why I think that at the end of the year a one loss Alabama team should have a higher ranking than an undefeated Boise State squad.  To compare, as far as nationally ranked opponents by the end of the year Alabama will have played:

    Penn State
    Arkansas
    Florida
    South Carolina
    LSU
    Auburn

Boise State, by contrast, will have played:

    Virginia Tech
    Oregon State
    Nevada

Wack indeed. It looks to me like you’re vying for #3.