Tuesday, December 31, 2013


There are times when the raw numbers of a team's season do not tell us how good they are. This year, after losing to the NY Giants in Week 8, the Eagles were 3–5, and looked like they were on their way to 3–13. Then Nick Foles figured something out, and the Birds won 7 of their next 8.

Then there's Green Bay, with its lackluster 8–7-1 record. Stuck in the middle of their season, however, is a 2-5-1 mini-season when they were quarterbacked by guys not named Rodgers. In the other games, Rodgers was 6-2. And now, for the playoffs, he's back.

These are well known stories this year, as is the perennial tale of New Orleans, the “home” team. As usual, the Saints are 8-0 in Louisiana and 3-5 elsewhere. What you may not have noticed is that Cincinnati has the same home/away split.

Other teams have started strong and faded. There's KC, of course, but there's also Carolina, whose blow-out wins all came in the first half of the season. The most surprising fall-off was probably Indianapolis, which was outscored by its opponents over the last half of the season.

There's a lot of this stuff to keep in mind, even though I will be relying heavily, as always, on yards/pass adjusted for interceptions. This single statistic remains the only reliable measure of success in the playoffs and the Superbowl. Rushing yards, turnover ratios, sacks, FG%---all these things have their place, and each can be used to describe some aspect of football reality in a season or a particular game. What they cannot do is predict a winner. Adjusted yards/pass, however, though it has little descriptive value, acts like a chemical reagent to reveal something that would otherwise remain hidden---who is likely to win. In the morass of men and motivation and data and hope and history and expectation that is a yet-to-be-played game, there is a team destined to prevail, though its identity is obscured. Adjusted yards/pass dissolves that morass, lays bare the football truth and shows us that identity. It burns away the silt and clay and shows us the gold. Adjusted yards/pass itself has little to do with the football we see. Its meaning resides within the game rather than upon its surface. Adjusted yards/pass is the vehicle of the game's consciousness.

In the NFC, the six seeds are as follows:

1. Seattle
2. Carolina
3. Philadelphia
4. Green Bay
5. San Fran
6.New Orleans

My rankings are (with adjusted yards/pass in parentheses), are:

1. Carolina (7.2)
2. Seattle (6.6)
3. Philadelphia (7.2)
4. San Fran (6.2)
5. New Orleans (6.6)
6. Green Bay (6.1)

I also look at defensive yards/pass, which is not as important as offensive yards/pass, but it is the best measure of pass defense available. Here, since Seattle has the best pass defense and Philly one of the worst, it makes sense to flip them in the rankings.

For the AFC, here are the seeds:

1. Denver
2. New England
3. Cincinnati
4. Indianapolis
5. KC
6. San Diego
My rankings:

1. Denver (7.3)
2. Cincinnati (5.4)
3. New England (5.6)
4. KC (5.4)
5. San Diego (6.9)
6. Indianapolis (5.5)
The abberation is San Diego, with the worst pass defense in the tournament, though Rivers remains one of the league's elite quarterbacks (and he had a great year to boot). There are reasons they are 9-7 and needed miracles to make the playoffs.

The longterm prediction in the AFC is easy. No one is close to Denver. They will play in the Superbowl. It's hard to throw New England out of the mix, so I suppose I'll grant them a puncher's chance, but the other four have no shot in Colorado, even if they get there.

The NFC is much tougher. Carolina, Seattle, Philly and San Fran all have some realistic hope of playing for the ring. On the strength of Drew Brees, I would even give New Orleans a chance were it not for the fact they have played their last home game this year.

N.O. @ Philly (-2 ½)

It would be easy to take Philly here, and I do think Philly wins the game, but as a betting proposition it scares me. It is true that New Orleans lost five games on the road this year, but they lost mostly to good teams. The worst was St. Louis (at 7-9). The other thing that concerns me is that Drew Brees is always capable of lighting up a bad pass defense (e.g., 49-17 over Dallas in Week 10), and Philadelphia's is not good. The Eagle secondary appears competent, but pressuring a QB is not Philly's strong suit.

I can imagine Drew Brees putting up 42 points and winning this game. I can also see da Iggles posting 49 and beating him, but I ain't betting on it.

K.C. @ Indy (-2 ½)

Andrew Luck is a good quarterback and he is probably good enough to win a Superbowl for a good team someday, but I am tired of hearing him annointed as the next Brady, the next Manning, the next Brees, etc. He's not there yet and he may never be. Cam Newton had a better year than Andrew Luck. Philip Rivers had a much better year. And Alex Smith had at least as good a year.

Indianapolis was 11-5, which consisted of going 6-0 against the weak Tennessee, the wretched Jacksonville and the dreadful Houston, and then a mere 5-5 against the decent teams in the league. They were outscored by 4 points over the last eight games of the season. In addition, the Colts were BLOWN OUT (ten or more points) four times this season. Teams that challenge for the Superbowl almost never lose games like that. Denver didn't this year. Seattle didn't. New England didn't.

And yet...

Indianapolis is a puzzle. All my numbers tell me KC wins this game outright, so I'm taking a live dog here. However, even though I have grown to hate the hype about Andrew Luck (I don't even like his name!), the Colts, in the space of a month, beat San Francisco, Seattle and Denver. They also beat KC two weeks ago, though at that point most of the KC starters were homeless guys Andy Reid had picked up next to the dumpster behind Arthur Bryant's. The game was meaningless.

The heck with it. KC's offense is better, their defense is better, and Andy Reid has been resting his guys for most of December. KC wins.

S.D. @ Cincinnati (-7)

Cincinnati crushes teams at home. They have the best pass defense in the tournament. In the AFC, they have scored the third-most points and given up the least. San Diego, on the other hand, while it does feature the wonderful and charming (and fertile) Philip Rivers, has the very worst pass defense in the playoffs. They really shouldn't even BE in the playoffs because all they had to beat in their final game was more of Andy Reid's homeless guys.

I'm laying these points. You can never be entirely comfortable with a big line like this in the playoffs, but the Bengals are significantly better than San Diego, especially in Cincinnati. I view this as a mismatch.

San Francisco (-2 1/2) @ Green Bay

Looking at the Packers over the course of the season, one cannot like the Packers here. But then there is Aaron Rodgers, in Green Bay, in the playoffs, in January. Is he all better? Is he a bit rusty from his injury layoff? Are there things he can't do? I don't know the answers to these questions. I don't know if Mrs. Rodgers knows the answers to these questions. I don't even know if there is a Mrs. Rodgers. Maybe he's gay, like all the other NFL quarterbacks nowadays.

San Francisco is an excellent road team (6-2, +10.5 points/game). Though they had some hiccups early in the season, they have won six in a row and appear to have all their parts in working order. They are, as far as I can tell, better than Green Bay (and in a much tougher division). I have to pick San Fran to win this game. I won't bet on it.


Friday, December 27, 2013


A young lady I know teaches Spanish in a charter school in Philadelphia, and many of her students are Puerto Ricans. She mentioned the other day that she knows two pairs of twins with exactly the same names. In other words, there are twins in one of her classes who are both named Juan Carlos Menendez. In another class, there are twins who are both named Louisa Lopez. (I'm making up the names, but you get the idea.) She hypothesizes that this twin-naming practice is a (goofy) Puerto Rican custom.

I asked my co-worker Benny (my main source for all things Puerto Rican) about this, and he immediately started chuckling. “Yeah, it's true,” he said. “I have twin cousins and they're named Nina and Lena. I never saw twins with the exact same name like your friend did, but Hispanics love their little jokes when they name kids. My mother is a twin and her name is Carmen Maria. Her sister is named Maria Carmen. I never thought it was a Puerto Rican thing, though. Mexicans do the same thing.”


There is one day each year when virtually all Chinese restaurants in America are closed---Thanksgiving. If you and your fiance work in Chinese restaurants (and most of your friends do, too), it might well be the day you pick for your wedding.


One of the more arcane legal doctrines thrust upon first year law students is the Rule Against Perpetuities, which arose in the Duke of Norfolk's Case in 1682. The Rule is often stated as follows: “No interest is good unless it must vest, if at all, within 21 years after the death of a life in being at the creation of the interest.” The gist of it is that there is a limit on the length of time a man may exert control over his property through his Will or trust instruments. A dead man cannot tie up title to land or other property forever.

As part of the Common Law we inherited from England, the Rule Against Perpetuities became part of the law in every state until twenty or thirty years ago when several states repealed it by statute. In one of these states, South Dakota, bankers quickly realized the potential of attracting enormous fortunes into the state by creating trusts that were practically eternal.

To simplify (actually, to oversimplify), what happens, a Very Rich Guy pours his assets into a trust and names his heirs (children, grandchildren, etc.), beneficiaries thereof. At that moment, the VRG doesn't own the assets anymore, so they do not pass through his estate (and probate) when he dies. Over the years, earnings from the trust will be paid to the heirs, and those sums will become subject to personal income tax, but the trust assets themselves never come under the Federal Estate Tax.

Avoidance of the feds is the purpose of the Dynasty Trust, as these things are called. If the heirs actually came into possession of the VRG's assets under a standard Will, the Federal Estate Tax would snag about 40% of it. And that process would be repeated for each succeeding generation. Instead, the repeal of the Rule Against Perpetuities in South Dakota means that the descendants of VRGs will be able to live off the trust assets for hundreds of years.


cybernation, n., (cyber + hibernation), the avoidance of harsh wintry weather by remaining indoors to shop, play games or view entertainment on line.


There was another school shooting in Colorado a few weeks ago, which means there are new demands for “gun control.” There are many ways in which schools might be secured, of course, but the Left doesn't seem to have any interest in doing that. Instead, they prefer to use these public shooting events as yet more fuel for their continuing campaign to disarm the innocent.

I have written before about “gun-free zones,” but there are actually two types of them.

The first type (let's call it Type-A), typically includes schools, many other public buildings, malls, and restaurants. Virginia Tech was this sort of “gun-free zone.” These are the most dangerous places in America, and they are where virtually all mass shootings occur because the only people who take guns into Type-A gun-free zones are killers and psychopaths. Decent, law-abiding types like me would never do so. It's against the law. The result is that when a lunatic decides to take down a dozen of his fellow humans in a festival of blood, he does it in a Type-A gun-free zone because he knows it will be a long time before anybody there stops him.

There is another kind, however. Type-B gun-free zones are places where serious efforts are made to keep guns out. Type-B zones exist, and they don't have any guns in them.

Federal courtrooms are Type-B gun-free zones, for example. You can't get into one without going through metal detectors that are manned by armed guards. Airplanes are also Type-B zones. We are often annoyed by the process of checking everyone and feeling up your nine-year-old daughter and searching in grandma's Depends, but passengers on planes don't have guns anymore, whether they are nuns or consigliores for the Gambino family or 20-year-old jihadists. Once you get to your seat on an airplane, you can be reasonably assured the guy sitting next to you will not shoot you..

The same process could be put in place in schools. It wouldn't be cheap, and it would take a long time to get every child in America through a metal detector every day, and with 100,000 schools in America, there would be weak spots and guards who become complacent, and the people who run many of our schools are often hopelessly incompetent so it would still be possible for a determined and clever madman to fight or trick his way into a building full of helpless children and kill a pile of them. But it would be a lot more difficult.

I'm not exactly recommending this, you understand. It's not a very good solution to the problem because of the trouble and cost and the very real danger that the system could be breached and that if it were breached, the body-count in a particular incident could be much higher. A much safer alternative would be to have lots of guns in schools, like they do in Israel. There is no such thing as a gun-free school in Israel. Some schools have armed guards, some have armed teachers or administrators, but all of them have guns in the house. It's a different situation, to be sure---they are worried about terrorists rather than loonies---but the goal is the same. Protect the kids. And Israel does a much better job of it.

But here in the USA, where the Left will not allow teachers or guards or anyone to fight back against people who want to kill children, maybe the Type-B gun-free zone is the best we can hope for. It seems a shame we have to tolerate these attacks, which average about one per month, just to provide the Left with ammo for their political arguments, but this situation has been in stasis for some years now. Considering the political impasse, metal detectors and TSA-like bureaucracy may be the only way America can address the problem.


Saturday, December 21, 2013


A number of commentators have predicted that once gay marriage becomes widespread, the legalization of polygamy is inevitable. There would be no logical argument against it. Marriage traditionally has been recognized and supported by civilizations as a means of protecting women, socializing men and nurturing children. But if it becomes accepted (as it obviously is) that the primary purpose of the institution is not to support families but rather to celebrate love and to sanctify loving relationships, everything changes. If it's only about love, well, why shouldn't gay people be allowed to marry each other? Love is love, and gender has nothing to do with it.

But of course, if gender has nothing to do with the reasons we officially dignify marriages, why should number? If society believes that the recognition of loving relationships is the purpose of marriage, why shouldn't three people marry each other, or ten? Polygamists are certainly as capable of love as are gay partners, so once gay marriage is accepted, there is no logical basis for drawing a line around “the couple.” Two is OK but three is wrong? Why?

But while the acceptance of gay marriage will lead inevitably to legal polygamy, “inevitably” seems to be happening a little quicker than anyone thought it would.

In Utah, with its history of LDS polygamy in the 19th Century, the ban on polygamy resides in an anti-cohabitation statute. A man who lives in the same house with several unrelated women violates that law because they are presumed to be (and almost certainly are), in a polygamous marriage. I don't know of other states that have laws like this, but then, there are no other states with Utah's history. The first anti-cohabitation statute was actually imposed upon the Utah Territory by the federal government in 1882. The suppression of polygamy was a condition of Utah being admitted as the 45th state in 1896.

Last week in Salt Lake City, in a lawsuit brought by the family in TLC's reality show “Sister Wives,” a Federal District Judge declared Utah's anti-cohabitation statute in violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the US Constitution. The effect is to decriminalize polygamy in Utah.

Utah, like every other state, still has a bigamy statute, which provides that a person may have only one “official” spouse at a time, but this is of no significance to anyone. Polygamy was always a religious practice and an unofficial arrangement rather than something you registered down at the courthouse. The end of the anti-cohabitation statute means that polygamy is now legal in Utah.

In an ironic coda to the decriminalization of polygamy, a different Federal District Judge in Salt Lake yesterday ruled that Utah's law prohibiting same-sex marriages violates the US Constitution. Gay marriages are now being performed in the Beehive State.