28 August 2007

Fix the FedEx Cup

One week into the much belly-ached FedEx Cup "Playoffs," the howls from the golf scribes can be heard from here to Madagascar. It's "irrelevant," "too complicated," "contrived," among other things.

So, we know the system is broken even before the first edition is completed. But does anyone have an idea on how to fix it?

I do.

Let's just assume the FedEx Cup concept is here to stay for a while: Since the PGA Tour has invested considerable resources to make this a go, it's not getting ditched after a season or two. And let's assume the current four-tournament format will stay in tact, too.

That leaves us with the most vexing problem: The points system. At the moment, it can only be described as an accountant's wet dream. It's convoluted. It's not user-friendly. It requires a mainframe and/or a highly-capable spreadsheet -- not something an average sports fan has at his disposal between the beer and chips.

The points system can easily be fixed and still achieve desired results. Keep in mind that baseball statistics are popular because most of it can be done with a pencil and paper -- and at most with a small calculator. The points system should be the same way.

Here's how it can be done:

1. Ditch the pre-playoff points system: This year, just before the "playoffs" the top 25 on the money list and the FedEx Cup points list are exactly the same 25 players, with slight variations in order. This tells me that the whole concoction of the pre-playoff points system is useless. The money list has been around for a long time and is an accurate assessment of a player's season. Stick with it.

2. Convert the money list into the playoff points list: That's simple to do. For example, Tiger Woods earned $7.82 million before the playoffs. So he has 78.2 points entering the playoffs. Vijay Singh at $4.47 million has 44.7. You're just moving the decimal point around a bit -- any fourth grader can do that.

3. Assign points to the top 25 players in each tournament -- but only in double digits. The winner gets 50 points, second place 25, third place 24, and on down the line, with the 25th-place finisher getting 2 points and anyone making the cut 1 point. The winner gets a big bonus as he should, allowing anyone within 50 points of the pre-playoff leader a realistic chance to catch up.

And just to compare, this is what the current FedEx Cup points list looks like:

1. Steve Stricker - 104950
2. K.J. Choi - 102900
3. Rory Sabbatini - 100650
4. Tiger Woods - 100000
5. Phil Mickelson - 99613
6. Vijay Singh - 99000
7. Jim Furyk - 98850
8. Zach Johnson - 97350
9. Adam Scott - 97150
10. Ernie Els - 96967

This is what my scale -- let's call it the Zoo Points -- looks like:

1. Woods - 78.2
2. Stricker - 76.1
3. Mickelson - 62.0
4. Choi - 61.7
5. Sabbatini - 58.6
6. Geoff Ogilvy - 45.6
7. Els - 45.1
8. Singh - 44.7
9. Mark Calcavecchia - 42.9
10. Scott - 40.4

The Zoo Points are much easier to keep track of, and I will argue, more fair. Zoo Points give a little more weight to regular-season accomplishments. Yet, any player on this list still can catch Tiger Woods, if they win one of the remaining tournaments. And you can sit on your couch and figure all this out toward the end of each tournament, not needing the Tour or CBS computer for the last word.

And one more thing -- I know you'll ask this, so I'll go ahead and answer it: Why should Woods be able to skip a tournament and still keep his lead? My response: Why not? Woods had a terrific regular season, amassing $3 million-plus more than the next guy (Singh) on the money list (and deserves to be more than just 1% ahead of him). Look at it as if Tiger earned a bye in the first round of the playoffs. Don't they do that in the NFL, too?

As a public service, I'll unveil the Zoo Points each week until the conclusion of the "playoffs." I'm sure you'll be quite satisfied with the results.

25 August 2007

Allah's Warriors

Even before viewing CNN's "God's Warriors" six-hour series by Christiane Amanpour, I was extremely skeptical. Just the attempt to lump the extremists within three of the world's dominant religions as apparent equals smacks of moral equivalence of the worst kind.

And Amanpour did not disappoint.

Doing her anti-West, anti-Christian and borderline anti-Semitic best, Amanpour vainly tried to convince viewers that conservative Christians who issue guidelines for the length of girls' skirts on their campuses are the same beasts as the Muslims who blow up trains, cars, markets and skyscrapers. And since one Muslim girl in New York claims that "jihad" really doesn't translate to holy war, then Islam must be the Religion of Peace.

Yep, every time I read about a terrorist who blew himself up, the first thing I wonder about is whether he was a Jew or a Christian. Because peaceful Muslims just don't do such things!

But even forgetting Amanpour's blatant biases for a moment, the series should be noted for its utter lack of depth. Except for a segment that profiles one of the "founding fathers" of modern Islamic radicalism, Sayyid Qutb, there is very little new information on the subjects that the series attempts to cover. The choice of "experts" is particularly subpar, which includes two of CNN's own in-house commentators and Karen Armstrong, an "historian" of dubious credentials.

And of course, when in doubt, go ask Jimmy Carter, who never lets up with his own venom and vitriol toward fundamental Christians and the state of Israel alike. The man also has never stopped hating the country that fired him as president in 1980.

24 August 2007

Dog Day Afternoon

So Michael Vick enters his plea, and now his future, football and otherwise, is in the hands of U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson, who has a reputation as a tough hombre when it comes to sentencing.

Since I'm not a lawyer (and don't even play one on TV), my guess on Vick's sentence is as good as anyone on the street. But I'll guess anyway: I say he doesn't get more than 18 months. Even if Judge Hudson does not have to abide by the prosecution's recommendation, I think he'll decide not to destroy the young man's life by throwing the book at him, which would be a five-year sentence.

Of course, Vick's reputation will be forever tarnished -- as it should be. But we must keep in mind that as heinous as his crime was, it really was nowhere as notorious as say, what Rae Carruth did. And should Vick be able to come back to the NFL? Well, after he has paid his debt to society, I don't see why not, provided that somebody in the league is willing to give him a chance. At the moment, with him suspended indefinitely without pay, that's a long way away.

The bottom line, though, is this: What a waste. Michael Vick was one of the faces of the National Football League, right up there with Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and LaDainian Tomlinson. But he threw everything away because of his complete and utter lack of character and sound judgment. This is not a guy who just made one mistake. He willfully engaged in an illegal enterprise for a period of over six years. For that, he must now pay a heavy price.

23 August 2007

Shocking News ... USC is No. 1

(From BCS Guru)

With both the AP poll and coaches poll now available, the BCS Guru has released his 2007 pre-season BCS rankings. And surprisingly, Southern California is ranked first!

All kidding aside, the Trojans are an overwhelming choice in the AP poll and just slightly less so in the coaches poll. Keep in mind the pre-season rankings are little more than the combination of the two human polls, one of which (AP) is not even in the BCS formula. The other human poll, Harris Interactive, won't be released until late September. Five of the six computer ratings will be made available after the first weekend of games; the sixth, Peter Wolfe, won't be unveiled until Oct. 14, the first week of the official BCS standings.

Still, a few observations may be gleamed off the pre-season polls:

1. USC is such an overwhelming choice as the pre-season No. 1 -- for the third time in four seasons -- that if the Trojans go undefeated, they will be a lock for New Orleans.

2. Ditto for Louisiana State.

3. The Big Ten and Big 12 champions, whoever they may be, will have a hard time getting into the national championship game if they fail to go undefeated. The pre-season strength of schedule ratings are quite a bit in favor of the SEC and the Pac-10 and down on the Big Ten and Big 12. The Big East is somewhere in the middle, and the ACC, after Virginia Tech loses to LSU in Baton Rouge, might as well pack up its tent for this year.

4. The Nov. 23 game between Hawaii and Boise State might be the biggest one in WAC history, as a possible BCS berth might be on the line. And both teams have a good shot to be undefeated going into that showdown in Honolulu. Unless ...

5. TCU pulls off the big upset in Austin on Sept. 8 and remains unbeaten through the regular season. In that case, then the Horned Frogs get the at-large bid into the BCS because their computer rankings and human poll rankings are bound to be ahead of the WAC champion.

Now, observations aside, the BCS Guru will make one fearless prediction: Only one team will go undefeated in the regular season, and that team will NOT be USC.

Only LSU will bring an undefeated record into the Louisiana Superdome for the championship game. The Tigers, despite a tough early-season non-conference game against Virginia Tech, have a very favorable schedule. They will play their two toughest SEC opponents -- Florida and Auburn -- at home. They will miss two top SEC teams this year -- Tennessee and Georgia. And they do not have any killer back-to-back weeks.

USC, on the other hand, has a brutal schedule with most of the beasts on the road. Nebraska looms as the second game of the season. Notre Dame, with a mediocre squad, will not mow its grass just so it can throw its entire season on the line against the Trojans. Oh, and between Oct. 20 and Nov. 22, USC will play four of its five games on the road, including stops at South Bend, Eugene, Berkeley and Tempe. Its lone home game in that stretch is against Oregon State, which ended USC's Pac-10 winning streak a year ago.

So there you have it. The Guru sees a clear No. 1 at the end of the regular season and a dogfight (uh, is that now considered to be in bad taste?) for the second spot, with the BCS computers expected to do the dirty work.

Should be an interesting season.

2007 Pre-season BCS Rankings

1. USC ; 2. LSU; 3. Texas; 4. West Virginia; 5. Michigan; 6. Florida; 7. Wisconsin; 8. Oklahoma; 9. Virginia Tech; 10. Louisville; 11. Ohio State; 12. California; 13. Georgia; 14, Tennessee; 15. Auburn; 16. UCLA; 17. Rutgers; 18. Penn State; 19. Nebraska; 20. Arkansas; 21. Florida State; 22. TCU; 23. Hawaii; 24. Boise State; 25. Texas A&M.

17 August 2007

Made in ... Chinese Taipei

It's that time of the year again. Little League World Series. My native team of Taiwan, winner of a preposterous 17 championships since 1969, is back in Williamsport again.

Uh, make that Chinese Taipei.

Is there a dumber name for Taiwan, the Republic of China, than Chinese Taipei? And never mind the indignities this name has visited upon untold number of teams and athletes from Taiwan. All this, just to placate the insanely monomaniacal government of Communist China.

Chinese Taipei makes as much sense as, say American Ottawa for Team Canada. Or Deutschen Wien (German Vienna), for Team Austria.

Think about this for a moment: Taiwan, or the Republic of China, has been a sovereign nation since either 1912 or 1949, depending on your point of view. The ROC was established in mainland China by Chinese revolutionaries who overthrew the last of China's dynasties, the Qing (Ching) in 1911. In 1949, following its defeat by the People's Liberation Army, the ROC regime, headed by Chiang Kai-shek, essentially set up a government in (permanent) exile in Taiwan, with the capital city in Taipei.

In any event, the People's Republic of China, the Communist outfit that controls all of mainland, has never ruled Taiwan for one second. For the PRC to claim "ownership" of Taiwan is as ridiculous as the United States claiming Canada as a "renegade province."

Further, while the heritage and lineage of Taiwan is undeniably Chinese, the island of Taiwan has been ruled by a mainland Chinese entity for exactly four years since 1895. Germany has ruled Austria for twice as long over the past 100 years (the Anchluss of 1938 made Austria part of Grossdeutschland Reich until the Nazis were crushed in 1945), but does that give the Federal Republic a mandate over Austria now? Don't think so.

So where did this rubbish of Chinese Taipei come about?

To make a long history short, after Taiwan was booted out of the United Nations in 1971, the ROC struggled to maintain diplomatic viability due to a vicious squabble over who's the legitimate government of China. Unlike the Koreas and the Germanys that eventually reached a truce that allowed both sides independent diplomatic standings, that never happened with the "two Chinas." Things got worse for Taiwan as the United States finally abandoned it in 1979 and officially recognized the PRC. As of now, only 24 nations around the world have embassies in Taipei.

As PRC gained political clout, it became increasingly difficult for Taiwan's athletic teams to compete internationally under the banner of China, which they did until the 1976 Olympics in Montreal. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the two Chinese delegations reached a settlement in 1979 that allowed teams from Taiwan to compete as Chinese Taipei, as a compromise.

This insulting offer compelled Taiwan to compete with the idiotic moniker, with its Olympic Committee banner as the flag, in lieu of the national flag, and the "Flag-Raising Song" in lieu of its national anthem, to be played when occasions warrant.

I experienced this first-hand in 1984 during the Olympics in Los Angeles. It was a lousy feeling, worse than a man without a country -- it's like a man with a country but can't say what it is. In 1996, during the Olympics in Atlanta, security personnel confiscated flags from Taiwanese spectators in arenas because they weren't "approved" by the IOC. Keep in mind, this was on American soil.

During the World Baseball Classic in 2006, the official logo of the tournament intentionally left out one of its participants. If you guessed it correctly, I have some Chinese Taipei souvenirs for you!

While various sports organizations have adopted this approach to kowtow to China, it really befuddles me why the media is buying into this crap. Listening to announcers on ESPN talk about Taiwanese Little Leaguers as "the kids from Chinese Taipei" makes me want to laugh, cry and throw my Chinese Taipei paperweight through the TV screen all at the same time.

There is no place like "Chinese Taipei". Toto. No one has ever come from the land of "Chinese Taipei." Please. Do us all a favor. Call them Taiwanese, people from Taiwan, even Chinese people from Taiwan. Just no more Chinese Taipeisians.

09 August 2007

The Zoo is Now Open

After plotting this project for well over a month, the Berlinzoo is now officially open. Just like its namesake in the German capital, there are actually two zoos for the price of one. The political animals will reside apart from the sporting animals -- most of the time. Of course, they will all be in the charge of one Zookeeper.

You'll find fascinating commentary here about politics of our time, specifically about the survival of Western Civilization, lessons from history and also China. Full disclosure: The Zookeeper is a native of the Republic of China.

Sport will get its due as well, for the Zookeeper is a former sports journalist. He wears another hat as the BCS Guru. In addition to college football, the Zookeeper will keep you informed and enlightened about other pursuits from the extremely popular pro football to the extremely obscure college baseball. And yes, the 2008 Beijing Olympics will be prominently discussed here as well.

Welcome to the Berlinzoo. Enjoy the visit.