Sunday, October 30, 2016

WITS: Playoff Chaos

What I Think, Sports edition: The College Football Playoff hits and near misses

Things got a little easier for the playoff committee's first rankings.  Three Big Five conference undefeateds, Nebraska, West Virginia, and Baylor fell at the hands of conference foes.  And the race for the Group of Five representative in the New Years Six bowls has a leader on the track: the mighty Western Michigan Broncos are last remaining undefeated team outside the Big Five after Boise State's narrow loss to Wyoming. 

The final and deciding points on that one were from a safety on a fumble.  You just never know in college football.

But things could have gone much differently.  Alabama had a bye week and Michigan took control of their rivalry game with the Spartans of Michigan state in the first half, so were never in danger.  Undefeated Clemson of the ACC and Washington of the PAC-12 had tough, close, road victories over ranked, conference opponents.  The top one loss teams, Louisville and Ohio State, also had to make plays late in their respective games to pull out wins.  A little more sprinkling of chaos and there would have been a big two and multitude of everybody elses.

Of course, that could still happen.

Alabama has road contest with a ranked LSU team this weekend.  And a date with a surging Auburn at season's end.

Michigan has its own rivalry challenge with Ohio State, which is still alive in the race for the Big Ten championship, pending an elimination game this Saturday with Nebraska.  A victory over the Buckeyes would propel the Wolverines into a championship game showdown with either Nebraska or Wisconsin.

The Badgers have virtually spent this season as the agents of chaos.  In addition to knocking off Nebraska, they have given Michigan and Ohio State all they could handle.  And a Buckeye victory over the Cornhuskers would give Wisconsin another shot against the winner of the Ohio State-Michigan tilt at season's end.  And they started the year pinning a nonconfersnce loss on LSU, something no SEC school can afford to suffer.

There are other agents of chaos lurking.  Two loss Oklahoma can win the Big XII, burying any hope of that conference to place a team in the playoff.  Washington State, Colorado, or Utah could put a blemish on Washington's record and deny them the Pac-12 title.  Clemson has played close games all season, making virtually every opponent a stumbling block, including potential ACC Coastal champ Virginia Tech and ever improving rival South Carolina.

And there's rarely just one Chaos Weekend.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The fallacy of #Nevervoting

As a US citizen it is your right to vote.  And a lot of celebrities, politicians, religious leaders, activists, etc. are encouraging you to do so.  Unfortunately this year appears to be the election in #Never land.  #NeverTrump, #NeverHillary, or too disgusted never going to vote are the choices put into our faces.  If you don't vote for "X" it's the same as a vote for "Y" the arguement goes.


Voting should always be a positive experience.  Not "feel good" positive, because if you vote for something or someone you feel strongly about, defeat can be a gut punch.  Positive as in not voting against a candidate or a policy or a law, but for values you hold dear.  Voting to move forward rather than hold someone else back.

But that requires effort.  The two dominant parties will spoon feed you if you wish.  They will give you their narrative, lock you into their orbits, give their voice to your frustration.  And change nothing.

But whether you identify as pure conservative or pure liberal or some combination thereof, there are alternatives. And in the Internet Age, they aren't that hard to find.  But it will take effort to search, and to think, and maybe even to lend some precious time and effort to get out the word or help obtain ballot access.

The Libertarian and Green parties have been getting a fair amount of press this year.  Independent candidate Evan McMullin has gotten some press for a very strong poll showing in Utah.  My fellow South Carolinians will also have presidential options from the Constitution party and homegrown American party. That gives several choices for conservatives (both fiscal and social) and an option for liberals as well.

Our state and local races have fewer choices (sometimes even just one!).  But this is our fault.  We've treated politics with an unswerving faith left only to religious beliefs.  Until we change, until half the voters quit hitting straight ticket, until the couch sitters get registered, until we start thinking and stop simply believing the good vs evil line the parties in power feed us things won't change.

They'll only get worse.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

WITS focus: The College Football Playoff

What I Think: Sports edition

Road to the Fin...Last Four?

Here we are at the midpoint of the college football season.  Depending on their bye week every team has played 6 or 7 games.  So where do we stand on the road to the playoff?

11 undefeated teams:  Two of these are "Group of Five" teams with weak schedules.  Even if they stay unbeaten they have virtually no chance of making the playoff.  Of the nine Power Five conference teams, 4 will lose to a fellow unbeaten in the regular season.  Theoretically five teams can go undefeated and claim Power Five conference championships.  This would be playoff nightmare scenario number 1.

9 one loss teams:  Five of these are Group of Five teams, of which only Houston has any cachet as a national level team.  At least 4 of the current unbeatens will fall into this category.  But there are spoilers out there, teams that can really muddy the waters.

Oklahoma and TCU - Every team in the Big 12 plays every other team.  And these two loss powers can inflict losses on Baylor and West Virginia, leaving the Big 12 with no undefeated team, or even no team with fewer than 2 losses.  Oklahoma State could also enter into this equation.

Florida State - Clemson coach Dabo Sweeney said Clemson has beaten everyone but Clemson.  Not for lack of trying.  Five turnovers against Louisville and four against NC State were offset only by clutch plays, stout defense, and the home field advantage.  But the Seminoles are not coming to Death Valley, and they could easily derail the tigers' unbeaten season if given a chance.

Wisconsin - The Badgers had close losses to Michigan and Ohio State.  But if Ohio State puts a loss on fellow unbeaten Nebraska, Wisconsin could seize the division with a victory of their own against the Cornhuskers, setting up a grudge match with the Wolverines-Buckeyes winner in the Big Ten title game.

Utah and Washington State - The Washington Huskies have the straight line to an undefeated season and PAC 12 championship.  But that line leads through the home field of the Utah Utes, the Apple Cup with the rival Cougars, and a potential rematch with Utah in the championship game.

A few of these occurrences could lead to a fairly straight forward mix of four zero or one loss conference champs for the playoff.  But too many, or too few, could lead to five undefeated conference champions,  a bunch of one loss teams, or even some two loss conference champ.

The College Football Playoff Committee may have some interesting choices ahead.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

To WIT: Votepocalypse

What I Think, Political Style

The Votepocalypse is upon us! 

Because: a) early voting has begun across the country and b) no matter what happens November 8th a large group of people will think the end of the world is upon us.

Think being the key word.  There are a lot of misnomers in this campaign.
  • That the presidency is some sort of ramrod
This is largely the fault of a no thinking Congress and the "War on Terror".  The Previous Occupant of the White House took a lot of liberties in the name of national security. Literally.  And Congress went along with it in the name of flag waving and to "do something".  Acting on fear will do that.

And of course the Current Occupant has faced a bad decision the last 6 years. He can either sit around the Oval Office waiting for Congress to do something other than try to repeal his signature healthcare plan or expand the boundaries of his power until one (or both) of the other two branches pushes back.

I believe, if elected, Mr. Trump will be disappointed when he realizes the President is actually not as powerful as a lot of CEOs.
  • That the makeup of our economy can be "rolled back"

Even if the factories that moved overseas come back, the jobs of the past won't.  Automation has spread through the manufacturing world.  Advances in robotics and logistics have raised the skills needed to work in those plants and reduced the number of people needed.
  • That "the rich" have enough money to solve our economic woes
Ummm, no.  Yes, the middle class is getting squeezed.  And yes, the tippy top of the economic ladder is getting wa-a-ay too much of the wealth.  But you can't solve those conundrums and send everyone to college for free and balance the budget and eliminate the sequester and save the entitlements and...etc. on the backs of the rich.  Sacrifice will be needed all the way around.
  • That better background checks and gun registration will stop terrorism and lead to gun confiscations
 I've been living for 45 years, and not even the strictest gun control law has eliminated all gun violence or led to law enforcement raiding the homes of law abiding citizens.  The boogey men the "no guns" lobby and NRA serve up are nonsensical.  And all the extremism does is give would be lone wolves or troubled souls access to ways of killing lots of people.

Sadly, the Republican, Democrat,, and alt-right cartels have managed to reduce a lot of people to sheep.  And they did it by telling people, "If you believe us, heart and soul, you'll be the only ones who aren't sheep."  Neat trick.

So gather your pitchforks and torches.  If your "side" loses rage against the night. And if your "side" wins, and other chase you, point ahead while yelling, "There he goes! Follow me!"

(But really don't do any of that.  You have far more in common with the people you despise on the Net or in your community than any of us have with the folks running for office.)