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Simply Unfair: The NFL OT Rules

This post has pretty much nothing to do with infosec, but rather comes on the heels of yet another Vikings OT NFC Championship loss. It's the only game I know of where so much emphasis is put on player skill and development, and yet comes down to the flip of a coin at the most crucial point of the game: Overtime (OT).

For those unfamiliar... in the NFL, and only the NFL, if the teams are even at the end of regulation, then OT commences as following: the ref flips a coin, the visitors call it, and whoever wins takes the ball, because it is immediately "sudden death" (that is, the first team to score wins). The inherent unfairness here is that 60% of the time, the winner of the coin flip scores and wins the game, most often without their opponent being given a chance to score (this is based on stats I'm too lazy to dig up a citation for). At all other levels, both teams are given a possession to attempt to score.

My Jiu-Jitsu is Frustrating Me

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I'm extremely ticked off tonight, partly at myself, partly at my school, and just overall in general. I've been training in Gracie Jiu-Jitsu (Brazilian JJ, generically) since October 2008 - so, less than a year, not a whole long time. I'm a white belt. Some day I would like to earn a belt of color, but for now I'm the level I should be.

So why am I upset? Well, a few reasons. First, I got hurt tonight, doing a move the wrong way, but because I didn't know any better. Second, I'm tired of guys from other martial arts coming in and not training or playing "nicely." Third, I don't feel like I'm progressing at all after a night like tonight, which makes me question why I bother. And, fourth, as per usual, I just can't keep my mouth shut sometimes and it just embarrasses the heck out of me.

Survived a Class with Rodrigo Gracie

This is a bit off the beaten path, but hey, if you can't talk about the things you like in your own blog, when can you? :)

Last Fall I started attending training sessions for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu at Capitol Jiu Jitsu (CJJ) out in Dulles. CJJ is part of the Royce Gracie Jiu Jitsu Network (Royce Grace being a legend in UFC realms). The Gracie family is often noted as the "biggest family in sports" and are the innovators of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ).

Last night I had an opportunity to attend a seminar with Rodrigo Gracie, who is a 3rd generation BJJ/MMA pro from the Gracie family. Talk about an awesome session! His pace was very good, demonstrating each set of moves multiple times, explaining new/different details with each explanation, and providing lots of coaching along the way to help everyone out. If you're training in BJJ, I highly recommend catching one of his seminars.

As for me, well, suffice to say that after working hard for 2.5 hours (of a scheduled 2-hour class), I ache all over (in a good way!). :)

If you're in the DC metro area and have interest in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Muay Thai, Cross-Fit, MMA, or Women's Self Defense, then I highly recommend Capitol Jiu Jitsu. The owner, Jeremy Lafreniere, is a very up-beat, positive, patient coach and is doing a lot of good work in the area.

Favorite Olympic Moments

Now that the Olympics are at an end, I wanted to take a few minutes to reflect on some moments that I thought represented the best and worst of these Games.

Top Moments
1) Michael Phelps - Talk about an iron man. 17 races over the course of, what, 10 days or so? Winning all that gold was quite amazing, too, as were all the world records. I even heard Spitzer pronouncing him the greatest Olympian. Phenomenal.

2) Beach Volleyball (May-Treanor/Walsh and Rogers/Dalhausser) - I put in a couple late nights the last two days in order to watch the gold medal matches in beach volleyball. Rogers/Dalhausser gutted out a strong win after getting off to a lousy start. I really thought we were going to see another Latvian-style upset, but thankfully the "thin beast" woke up and made a nice run. Hands-down, though, my favorite matches were watching May-Treanor/Walsh absolutely destroy their competition. These two athletes are simply amazing. I don't think I've ever seen a team so consistently on the same page with each other. It was also remarkable to see their mental toughness. I don't think they ever got down, despite a miss here or there. Most excellent!

3) Usain Bolt - Wow, what a speed-demon! His 200m performance was simply remarkable - perhaps even better than his 100m, where he coasted into the finish. For someone that tall to run so fast and so easy - it's truly a wonder. Normally you'd see a guy like that running a 400m or greater. Very nice.

4) Changing Times (China surges with gold, wins gold with the Games, too) - Aside from the oppression of demonstrations, I do think that China put on a very nice Games. There have been some complaints here or there, such as about stands not being full, but that's really quite normal, I think. The biggest challenge I imagine was getting visas to people to get them into the country (I've read that this was a challenge). Overall, though, I think this really represents China's coming out party as a major player on the world stage that knows how to play (mostly) nicely with others.

Not-So-Top Moments
1) Usain Bolt - Well, we have to counterbalance Bolt's amazing performances with his theatrics and stupidity. My greatest annoyance was his pulling up at the end of the 100m because he was so far ahead. What a jackass. Run all the way through. It's really quite simple. Just do it. I hope he misses out on endorsements as a result of his antics, because he has not demonstrated adequate maturity to handle his place on the world stage. Disappointing.

2) Women's Gymnastics - I can't think of a single Olympics where there hasn't been some sort of controversy in women's gymnastics. Frankly, the system is still only 3/4 baked (better than half-baked, I suppose). Judges really need to provide short explanations for deductions. Perhaps more concerning than the judging, however, is an apparent flaunting of the rules by the Chinese. It was reported on NBC late last night (or, uh, early this morning) that the IOC has referred the matter of underage athletes to the FIG for review in light of new evidence presented. It's possible that up to 3 of China's athletes were under the age limit of 16. Now, I don't want to get into a discourse on why this rule exists, because I personally find it to be rather stupid, but rules are there nonetheless, and they're intended to provide for a fair competition. If all three Chinese gymnasts are found to be underage, China stands to lose all but 2 bronze medals, which would be a major shock. Hopefully it won't be found to be that bad, because it would be a crumby way to win a (higher) medal. Still, cheating is cheating, and the rules are the rules. Why is it always China that's pushing the limit on these things? Particularly disgusting now that they're the host nation.

3) Team USA Track (disappointing results) - Well, there's not much for me to say here. We had a few standouts, such as in the decathlon and women's discuss, but overall our track team has not been looking very good. Dropping the baton (men and women) in the 4x100m was pretty bad, as were the performances in the 100m. At least we swept the 400m. I dunno, maybe we didn't do too badly, but it sure doesn't seem like that's the case. It just feels disappointing. Next up: all the doping results. Let's hope nobody major is DQ'd and banned.

That's pretty much it for me on this. Overall, I'd say it was a good Games, but man do I ever need some sleep. :)

China Wins Much Gold, US Many Medals

Here's an interesting article from the LA Times talking about the much-improved performance of the Chinese in this Summer Games. They've already bested their gold medal count from 2004, and they are far ahead of the US in the same category. The US has a 1 medal lead in the overall count, which is fine, but isn't the old saying that 2nd place is 1st loser? :) Just kidding! Don't flame me for disparaging silver and bronze medals - I think our athletes have done amazing things that we should be very proud of.

Here are my quick thoughts on the Olympics:
* Hanna has made an excellent point about China. Of course they should be performing well. What other country in the world seizes children as young as 3 and carts them off to Olympics training in a specific sport, allowing them to see their parents only once per year? How does a free country compete with that?

* China has performed surprisingly well in some unexpected areas. For instance, who would have thunk that they would beat the US #2 womens' beach volleyball team? Yao Ming aside, you don't typically think of the Chinese as being tall or jumpers.

* The US has had some disappointing performances (100m dash, womens' swimming, diving, etc.). How strange is it that the US swept the individual medals in womens' saber and then didn't get a medal in womens' team saber?

* How do we balance disappointment in key areas like Track & Field vs the outstanding performance of our athletes? Moreover, how do we balance continued frustration in areas like gymnastics where the judging system, though a little less obtuse, still seems funky. I liked Howard Wasserman's comments here suggesting that the judges should be required to disclose the rationale for every deduction.

* I'm tired of hearing about doping and age controversies. The best athlete available should be allowed to compete. If the athletes want to give themselves a perceived advantage using drugs, then fine. However, that being said, I believe that all participating countries must then agree to and enforce laws that hold coaches, trainers, and doctors legally responsible should bad things happens from performing too young or from overdoing the drugs. Hold people accountable and then you can get away from this cat-n-mouse game.

Rafa Wins!!!

Spanish phenom Rafael Nadal has won the 2008 Wimbledon Championship for the first time today, and boy was it a thriller! After going up 2 sets to love, Nadal's competitor, the legendary Roger Federer, fought back to win two straight tiebreakers, forcing a fifth set. Last year, Nadal took Federer to 5 at Wimbledon, but eventually succumbed. This year, however, was different as you could sense Nadal's confidence and see the slow erosion of Federer's faith in his own ability to win. Despite Federer's reliance on a successful huge first serve, it was Nadal's match to win, which he finally did in the no-breakers 5th, 9-7. This represents Nadal's first Grand Slam championship on a surface other than clay (he's undefeated at the French Open), and it represents the first time since Bjorn Borg that a player has won the French and Wimbledon back-to-back. It's now on to the US Open Series. Let's hope that Nadal can bring his energetic pace to the hard courts!

Final score was 6-4, 6-4, 7-6, 7-6, 9-7. Phenomenal!!!
Wimbledon
ATP

Sick Ride: Terje's First Descent

This is TOTALLY AMAZING. If you're a snowrider at all, then you'll absolutely love this video. It's a first descent on one of the sickest runs I've ever seen. He's a mad dasher, for sure.

Hat tip to The Goat.

New England Who? How 'Bout Them Giants!

A couple weeks ago, as the NY Giants were completing a rather stunning upset of the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, I told a friend "well, if anybody can give the Patriots a run for their money, it'll be the Giants - look at how close they came to upsetting them in the last game of the regular season." Just call me Nostradamus.

As a general rule, I cheer for NFC teams in the Super Bowl, since my favorite team (MN Vikings) are in the NFC (unless the Steelers are playing, then I cheer for them). This year, however, I was torn. On the one hand, you had to like the underdog role of the Giants. On the other hand, it would have been cool to see a perfect season completed, for only the second time in history, and the first time in the modern era (16-game regular season).

The game last night did not disappoint. I'm still a bit shocked that the G-men pulled it off, actually. Who would have thunk it? Nonetheless, talk about a phenomenal game! Certainly one of the most competitive Super Bowls in recent history. I wish they could all be that way. And, as a former defensive back, I have to say that I thought the defensive play - particularly of the Giants - was outstanding. Congratulations to the Giants, and their fans, for winning Super Bowl XLII!

Aussie Open: In With the New?

We could potentially subtitle this as "Serbia takes on the world of tennis" in the grand scheme of things. For those who don't follow tennis, let me sum things up for you in a quick nutshell. The Australian Open is currently going on in Melbourne. It's the first of the Grand Slam tournaments of the year given their southern latitudes. This weekend will be the final matches.

Going into the tournament, Justine Henin and Roger Federer have completely dominated singles play, both easily establishing and maintaining their position at #1 in the world in their respective leagues (WTA for Henin, ATP for Federer). Both were expected to do well in the tournament, as were two American sisters, Venus Williams and Serena Williams. In the end, none of them made the finals, and Serbian players are the reason.

Contrary to moron Bryant Gumbel (ala the NE/NYG game play-by-play), if the Patriots don't win the Super Bowl, then this year will have been a waste. I mean, come on, get serious for a moment, and consider this: does it matter how good your regular season was if you don't win the championship in the end? That's right, I didn't think you'd disagree. Of course it matters how you end the season.

That being said, here are a few thoughts...
- If your offense is really clicking, then Randy Moss is a good WR to have on your squad. For reference, see the 1998 Minnesota Vikings.
- Tom Brady is a very good quarterback.
- Wes Welker has really blossomed as a clutch receiver. He's open at uncanny times, and really takes the pressure off some of the other receivers.
- The New England linebackers demonstrate every week that age can be trumped by experience and desire.

So, do I think they'll go all the way and win the big game? Yeah, probably. There is, however, a significant risk of choking under the pressure. It's one thing to go undefeated in the regular season, when nothing but records are on the line. It's another thing entirely to make it through the playoffs to win the championship when it will determine how your team is forever remembered. Sure, the '98 Vikings are remembered for a good offense, but that's about it, and they went 15-1 in the regular season (only the 3rd team to do so).

As for whether or not the Patriots compare to the '72 Dolphins... that's hard to say, since the modern game is so much different from that era. Free agents, salary caps, etc., have made building a dynasty very difficulty. Pound-for-pound, I would imagine that the Patriots would make the Dolphins look rather small by modern standards. Could their running backs run all over the Pats? It's hard to know, but it seems unlikely.

In the end, though, it'll all come down to the playoffs, and whether or not the Patriots can survive to true greatness.

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