Monday

Heisman Recap & ST Mailbag

Hello again everybody...

Welcome to another Monday. I hope today finds you anywhere other than the upper Midwest, because oh my freaking lord is it cold up here today. As I write this at 1:30pm central time, the current air temperature is -4 degrees Fahrenheit. And with winds out of the west at 16 mph and gusting to 22 mph, the windchill factor is -25 degrees Fahrenheit.

Or as I like to call it "inhumanly cold".

Look, I've lived my entire life in Minnesota and Wisconsin. Been there, done that, I can take it. But why should we have to? Human beings weren't meant to live like this! Think about it. People moved out here and learned it gets inhumanly cold during the winter. Did they realize their mistake and leave? Nooooo. They invented means to try and mitigate their misery! What the hell is wrong with us? I know the summers are fairly nice, but come on! This is just wrong people. Wrong.

Weather rant, fin.

Thanks. I feel better.

On to the important stuff. We had the most legendary individual trophy in sports awarded on Saturday. And I have to admit, I was surprised! I'll discuss. Then it's the latest edition of The Sports Take Mailbag. It's a hockey-related question that some of you will already know the answer to, but I'll try to make it an entertaining read anyway! Off we go!

"I don't feel I have a concussion problem. I have a problem with people giving me traumatic blows to the head." - Dean McAmmond (1973- ), Canadian professional hockey player currently with the Ottawa Senators

Thanks to Renee in Minnetonka for the quote. Sort of a hockey version of the "chicken and the egg" bit if you think about it.

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First up today, we've got to talk Heisman. The 2008 Heisman Trophy Award winner was announced Saturday evening. And believe it or not, I was both right and wrong!

I gave you my ballot on Wednesday as: 1. Sam Bradford, 2. Colt McCoy and 3. Tim Tebow. I also told you that I thought McCoy was going to win it.

Turns out I got the order exactly right and McCoy didn't win it.

Here's the breakdown:

Heisman Voting

Player 1st 2nd 3rd Total
Sam Bradford, Oklahoma 300 315 196 1,726
Colt McCoy, Texas 266 288 230 1,640
Tim Tebow, Florida 309 207 234 1,575
Graham Harrell, Texas Tech 13 44 86 213
Michael Crabtree, Texas Tech 3 27 53 116
Shonn Greene, Iowa 5 9 32 65
Patrick White, West Virginia 3 1 8 19
Nate Davis, Ball State 0 1 8 10
Rey Maualuga, USC 2 1 1 9
Javon Ringer, Michigan State 1 0 5 8

Notice that Tebow actually received the most first-place votes, yet finished 3rd. Not that it's a distinction that you'd want, but he's only the second player in Heisman history to pull that off.

How does that happen, you ask? The best speculation that I've heard is that some voters (one would suspect mostly in the middle-south) made their 3-candidate ballot an all-Big 12 ballot using either Graham Harrell or Michael Crabtree in 3rd and left Tebow off their ballot entirely. Personally I'd argue that's a mistake, but they have actual ballots and I don't.

The important thing, obviously, is that I had the top 3 ordered exactly correct.

Did I mention that my ballot was dead-on? I just want to make sure I make that point clearly!

I did? Okay. Moving on...

Time for another edition of The Sports Take Mailbag! This week's question comes from Mary in Plymouth who asks:

"What the heck is with the point system in hockey? I think I understand it; it just seems a bit like trying to fix something that wasn't necessarily broken, whatever it was that The Powers That Be thought was broken in the first place."

Good question Mary.

First of all, let me give you the specific rules. If a team wins a game in regulation, they receive 2 points. If teams are tied after regulation, they each receive 1 point. They then play a 5-minute sudden-death overtime period. If a team scores a goal during that period, they get an additional point, giving them a total of 2. If neither team scores, then the game goes to a best-of-3 shootout with extra skaters added if the teams remained tied. The team that wins that gets the additional point, giving them a total of 2.

Straight-forward, the system is not.

It used to be that if the game was tied after regulation, they'd play an overtime period and if nobody scored, the game finished in a tie and each team got their one point. The problem was if a team scored in the overtime, they got 2 points, and the team that lost got zero. This created a condition where teams would play super-tight defensively in the overtime, figuring that 1 point was better than none.

So the NHL decided to try and create an incentive for teams to open things up a bit in the overtime by guaranteeing each team a point if they tie in regulation. So if a team scored in overtime, they got 2 points and the team that "lost" still got their 1 point. This led to the obnoxious standings line for the NHL which read: "Wins - Losses - Ties - Overtime Losses". See if you won in overtime, you could just put a tick in the "Win" column, but if you lost in overtime, well it wasn't really a loss, because you still got a point. Simple, right? Oof.

Then, starting in 2005, the NHL further "fixed" overtime by adding the shootout. On the plus-side, this meant that fans going to a game would be assured that they'd see a winner. But hockey purists hated the idea. And I certainly understood why.

If you think about it, it'd be the same if the NFL decided to have teams kick field goals from increased distances to decide a winner. Or if the NBA had teams shoot free-throws to decide a game. Or worst of all, if MLB had teams hold mini-home run hitting contests to decide games that go beyond 12 innings or something. It's taking one small part of a wondrously complex game, and having it decide who wins and who loses.

So back to Mary's question, "was the change really necessary"? That's a tough one.

At the time the NHL made the initial change, their ratings and attendance were starting to decline, so I guess they figured they had to try something to regain their stature in the sports universe. Unfortunately it didn't work. At best, you could currently say that hockey is 4th amongst the 4 major sports leagues. And though it pains me to say it, if you add NASCAR into the mix, the NHL is probably 5th.

So in that sense, the initial change probably wasn't necessary. But assuming that change is made, I'd argue that the 2nd change (the addition of the shootout) was absolutely necessary. As odd as the "Wins - Losses - OT Wins" line looks to some folks, it's far better than having to create a column for a special kind of loss.

The purists (and I know there are some that read this blog) will still say that they hate the shootout. I guess I've been moderately won over. I understand the casual fan's desire to have a definite winner and loser like the rest of the leagues (except the rare occasion in the NFL and certain MLB All-Star games). And the shootout does add a layer of excitement to the end of a game. Let's just say I've begrudgingly accepted it's existence. And while I'd like to see it changed to a best-of-5 skaters rather than best-of-3, I can live with the system as currently constructed.

Hopefully that clears things up for you Mary. Thanks for the question! Remember, if you want your question answered, submit it to the mailbag at: dcook93@yahoo.com!

That's all I've got for today. I'll be back on Wednesday, presuming I don't die of hypothermia before then. Did I mention it's inhumanly cold? As long as we're clear. Until next time, thanks for reading!

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