The Champion National Football Champions


It’s college football Bowl season once again. Time for tailgating, drinking beer, singing fight songs, painting your face in school colors and all the rest of the crazy things football fans do. Fan is short for fanatic, after all. Also time to argue about the bowl system. Happens every year. While many grouse about how flawed the BCS system is, it used to be worse. There was no game, national cham­pions were determined by polls, by the opinions of coaches and sports writers. No biases there, eh?

Still, people like having a cham­pion, and the brag­ging rights that go with it whether they were on the team or even attended the school or not. Now we come to the trivia part of it all, which school has won the most college football national champion­ships? Of course, the answer may vary according to which past poll you consult. So it might depend on your personal bias of who’s bias you prefer.

While the NCAA didn’t officially designate national champions before the BCS, they allow schools to claim national titles based on the polls. Sort-of semi-official national titles. These go all the way back to 1869. The answer to who has the most recog­nized claims to the national title may surprise you. Though maybe not since you know it goes back to just after the Civil War when the Ivy League reigned supreme.

Top Eight Schools With National Titles
Princeton - 28
Yale - 27
Notre Dame - 21
Alabama - 17
Southern California - 17
Oklahoma - 16
Michigan - 15
Ohio State - 14

Needless to say, Princeton is unlikely to add to their total anytime soon. Still, it may be a while before any­one beats their record.

Filed 12/31/14

Politically Correcting Team Nicknames


Having lived there, it’s no great stretch imagining correct opinion in Fan Francisco is against the Washington Redskins in the cause célèbre du jour, the team name. After all, just down the peninsula Stanford University dropped the team name Indians in favor of Cardinal. Except, shouldn’t folks with the correct view of the separation of church and state object to that name? Stanford, a state supported school, the Cardinal? It’s like naming your team the Pope.

On the other hand, shouldn’t deni­zens of the Bay Area object to their NFL team’s name, the San Francisco Forty-Niners? Not the 49er part, the San Francisco part. After all, the city is named after a Catholic Saint. How do they let that go unchallenged? Then again, since the year 1849 is from the Christian calendar, maybe the name 49ers should go, too. How does the Yerba Buena Gold-Diggers sound to you?

One last thing, the Washington Redskins franchise started in Boston as the Braves. When the team moved to Fenway Park, home of the Red Sox, they changed the name to Redskins. The team name doesn’t really refer to an American Indian’s natural skin coloration, it evokes the red warpaint used to look fierce.

The team could have saved all the current gnashing of teeth had they renamed themselves the Washington Warpainted Warriors. Nicely alliter­ative, no? Their website could be

Filed 12/11/14

12 + 2 = Big 10 and 12 - 2 = Big 12


College football season has started. I have no predictions other than the usual suspects will finish at the top and the suspect suspects will languish at the bottom. What I’m curious about, how is it the Big Ten has 14 teams and the Big Twelve has 10 teams? What kind of institutes of higher learning can they be if they can’t add above single digits?

I must admit I wasn’t paying any attention as the Big Ten snatched up Maryland and Rutgers. Which is to say they added the Washington, DC and New York television markets. Maybe they should rename the league the Big Four and Ten. Or the Bigger Ten. The Big 10.4? Perhaps Big X where the X can mean ten or number unknown. How about the XIVy League?

Since they seem to be after the big money, why not take a page out of the English football playbook and sell the league naming rights a la the Barclays English Premier League? How’s this strike you: The Goldman Sachs Deluxe Conference?

Filed 9/2/14

Soccer’s Wildly Improbable Medical Palpitations (WIMPs)

wimps1 wimps4 wimps4

Click on the player’s shorts to see soccer knee in action. Like in real soccer, it only takes a click. Click on the player’s jersey to see the Rivaldo reflex in action. Click on the fallen player to reset.

If you’ve been watching the World Cup, you might have noticed soccer players are unlike any other athletes, their reflexes and nervous systems are unique. But not in a good way. This comes from having balls constantly rattling off their heads as well as years of resisting the natural inclination of normal people to catch, hit, carry, or in some way touch a game ball with their hands. This results in wildly improb­able medical palpitations, or wimps.

One wimp is soccer knee, which occurs whenever a soccer player is bumped in any way below about waist level. Both knees quickly bend so the legs fold up under the player, the arms fly out and up as they fall to the ground. While this seems quite comi­cal to anyone who has ever played any kind of contact sport like American football or rugby and has never fallen this way from even the roughest hit, soccer knee is instantly disabling and very painful. That’s why a player who gets it cries out and rolls around on the ground in pain for several minutes.

Soccer players nervous systems are also rewired, so to speak, so any bump from about the waist up causes excru­ciating pain in the face. When this happens a players legs go flaccid and they topple over holding their face. After the initial shock the player will repeatedly look at the sweat on his hands thinking it is blood but not being quite sure. This is called the Rivaldo reflex after the Brazilian international who had an extreme case of this disorder where a soccer ball hit to the hip felt like a head-butt.

In some cases a near miss, a leg brushing the shorts or a hand waved past the head, is enough to set off a sympathy reaction every bit as real as the real thing. There is no known cure for soccer knee or Rivaldo’s reflex. The only treatment used is referee witch doctors waving small pieces of colored cardboard. Though usually at the player who bumped the sufferer and not at the patient himself. Oddly, a player does recover more quickly if the referee simply ignores the episode and allows play to continue.

Filed 7/1/14

Time For a Cage Match: Suarez v Tyson?


I thought the World Cup in Brazil would be notable because it was on pace to be the highest scoring tour­nament since the 50s. Instead we get Luis Suarez biting an Italian. This tops Zinedine Zedan’s head-butting an Italian eight years ago by a long shot. What is it about Italians that drive opponents crazy?

Of course, Luis Suarez was already crazy. This is the third player he’s bitten in a game. Though the first for his country. He’s also a diver and a whiner. In the last World Cup he used both hands to block a sure goal in added time to keep Uruguay from elimination. Cheater, diver, whiner, cannibal. Is it any wonder he’s the most hated man in Soccer?

Filed 6/25/14

There’s Too Many Footballs


It’s quadrennial World Cup time again and… I’m making no predictions or team comments. I don’t care enough or know enough about it. The World Cup is basically the super Super Bowl of football. Well, what everyone else but Americans call football. Which is my segue into…

Why are there so many footballs? Or rather, so many games called football. There’s American gridiron football, which Americans just call football. Then there’s soccer, which everyone but Americans call football, or futbol, or some equivalent in differ­ent languages. Then there’s rugby football, Australian football, and Gaelic football.

There’s more foot in some footballs than others. In soccer (association) football there’s a lot of ball kicking going on, Australian football and Gaelic football there’s a medium amount. Rugby football and American football might have the least amount of kicking going on. Kicking the ball, anyway.

Soccer football has a round ball. The others have an ovoidal ball, or whatever the term would be. Except maybe Gaelic football, I’m not sure. So maybe they’re not true balls at all. Which would mean American football has very little foot to it and no ball. Perhaps it should be called something else. What might that be? Runball? Carryball? Scrimmage rugby? Footobloid? Ameriball?

One last bit of frivia, American football is the only football where they haven’t festooned the ball with wacky designs. It’s still plain brown with white laces. Sometimes it has stripes in high school and Pop Warner, but still basically brown. Wonder if those patterns on a soccer ball help or hurt the players follow the ball’s flight. Do they study that?

One more thing, what’s with soccer players and the two different colored day-glo shoes?

Filed 6/17/14

Just Thought I’d be Bloggy Again


MSU 24 - Stanford 20  For the first time in 26 years the Michigan State Spartans win the Rose Bowl. Sorry about the rehashed pic, but I don’t know how to illustrate Stanford, who call themselves the Cardinal, whatever that means.

Filed 1/2/14

Boot Your Punter?


How do you win 124 games, lose 22, and win three state football champion­ships in ten years?

Never punt
Always on-side kick

It sounds crazy, but that’s how the Pulaski Academy Bruins in Arkansas did it. Though maybe crazy like a fox. The results speak for themselves.

University of California economics professor David Romer studied over 2,000 football games and determined those two things would work. His main thesis, and a football truism, games are decided by turnovers. Punts and kick-offs are effectively voluntary turnovers exchanged for field position. Yet the numbers show field position is less advantageous than supposed.

Bruins coach Kevin Kelley puts professor Romer’s theory into prac­tice. Here’s a link to an article with a video explaining it.

Why You Should Never Punt

This strategy might not work so well in the NFL which has much better punters and kickers so the field posi­tion difference will be greater. Still, I wonder…

Filed 12/19/13

Ye Oldest League


125 years ago yesterday the first national professional football (soccer) league was founded in Manchester, England. A grand total of twelve teams competed in the inaugural season of 1888-89, won by unbeaten Preston North End. Since then 64 different teams have won the coveted trophy. The champion champions are Manchester United with 19 titles, followed by Liverpool with 18, and Arsenal with 13. By the look of things Man U looks to be on track for number 20 this season.

However, the champion for staying power is Liverpool’s cross-town rival, Everton who have only missed four seasons out of the top division. That’s a record 110 seasons. A quick bit of math will tell you 110 plus 4 doesn’t come out to 125. That’s because league play was suspended for a total 11 seasons during the world wars. Though they’ve played the most games, 4,284 to date, Everton haven’t got the most wins, only 1,746. That other Liverpool team, Liverpool, has the most victories at 1,800.

The league was one division at first. The First Division lasted from 1892 to 1992. Now it’s called the Premier League. Or maybe it’s the Barclay’s English Premier League to be specific. Barclay’s, as in the bank. Preston North End now play in the third division, called League One oddly enough.

The record for futility goes to Bolton Wanderers who have spent more seasons in the top division without winning a title than any other team. Still, one supposes they are more competitive than Birmingham City who have the all-time worst goal differential, a miserable minus 607.

So, Chicago Cubs fans take heart. It may be a full century since your last World Series win, but at least the team itself hasn’t been sent down to the minors. Relegated, as they say, from the Goldman Sachs National League to the Citibank AAA League.

Filed 4/18/13

Seeing Red Card


The Casual Sportsman may not know a lot about the current sports scene. Or care to predict the NFL playoffs. Or even really much care about the NFL playoffs at all. Still, we’re pretty sure about one thing, in team sports it’s all about teamwork. Teammates doing things together, working together, playing together, rooming together, travelling together, showering together, sleeping to… maybe not.

Though you can take this sort of thing too far. Teammates should definitely not do this. Whether they then showered together is not disclosed.

Filed 1/20/13

The Past Year in Sports Passed Us By


2012, a year we at the Casual Sports­man will never forget. Mostly because we paid so little attention we have nothing to remember. What we did notice we’d mostly like to forget. The Tigers being swept in the World Series comes to mind. Though we wish it didn’t.

So we ask ourselves, what was the most compelling sports story of 2012. The Super Bowl? Naw, a rerun of a few years ago. The Olympics? Yawn. The NBA? Snore. The FedEx Cup? What’s that again? Did anything really extra­ordinary happen in 2012?

Only one thing presents itself, Leo Messi scoring 90 goals breaking Gerd Müller’s “world record” of 86 goals in 1972. We put world record in quota­tions because it’s a funny kind of a record, but extraordinary nonetheless.

Soccer season generally goes from early fall through the following spring spanning two calendar years. Unless you’re in the southern hemisphere when that would be all in one year. So the “record” in question is goals in a calendar year rather than in a season. Which means two half seasons of league play, and parts of any other tournaments like the Champions League. Which raises another issue, the goals being counted are for all competitions, not just league goals. Meaning goals Messi scored for both his club team, Barcelona, and the Argentine national team. A bit odd for a record.

All the same, Messi bested Müller the previous “world record” holder. Except Zico scored 89 goals for Flamengo and the Brazilian national team in 1979. Not only that, Godfrey Chitalu scored 107 goals in 1972 for his national team and his club team in the Zambian league.

So then, is there really a “world record” for goals in a calendar year? Can we really compare scoring in the Spanish, Brazilian and Zambian leagues? Plus National team play of South American teams playing in their region to that of African teams in theirs? As well as European club tour­naments to South American club tournaments to African club tourna­ments? This would be like a hockey scoring record including points in the playoffs and in the Olympics. And then comparing a player from the NHL to one playing in the Swedish league.

Seems to us the whole idea there could be a “world record” for goals in all competitions is dubious at best. Whatever you want to call it, Messi’s 90 goals is still something pretty amazing. Unfortunately I couldn’t find a nice video of all 90 goals. But here’s a short video of a nice hat-trick Messi scored against Zaragoza.

Filed 12/23/12

When Four Outs Beat Three


First, a little personal celebration. Tigers sweep Yankees to make the World Series. Yippee! Not that most folks besides Tiger fans care all that much. And likely as not wouldn’t think much of what I have to say about it. So we’ll let it go.

Now down to the business at hand, explaining the intro. When does four outs beat three? How do you get four outs? What’s the point?

Here’s the situation: men on first and third, one out. Batter sends a looping liner to right. Looks like it will fall for a hit, the runners go. The right fielder makes a shoestring catch for the second out. The right fielder throws to first base doubling up the runner, out number three. Meanwhile, the runner on third, who didn’t tag up after the catch, crossed the plate before the third out was made at first. The question, does the run count?

Even though he never tagged up after the catch, the run counts if the runner crossed the plate before the third out was made doubling up the runner from first. To negate the run, the defense must also make an appeal play to third base, doubling up the runner there. This would be a fourth out. Though if they did that, it would cancel the third out at first base, making the fourth out the third out and the third out a non-out.

Perhaps I didn’t explain that very clearly, but that’s the gist of what they call “the fourth out rule.” Though technically it’s only three outs. Not something you see very often, but it does happen. Why this “illegal” run is allowed is a quirk of the rulebook. Baseball has lots of special rules to cover special situations. If you don’t know the rules you can get mighty confused when odd situations pop up.

Here’s an example of such confu­sion popping up on a pop-up called by two different broadcasts of a strange play in a game between the Marlins and the Dodgers. The Marlins announ­cers go through all sorts of gyrations trying to explain the play. Meanwhile the Dodger announcer, Vince Scully, makes the correct call right off the bat. Though Mr. Scully does muddy the waters when he starts going on about the infield fly rule. He should have followed his own advice and “Forget the play” because once runner inter­ference is called, nothing else matters. The runner at first is out, the other runner remains at second, and the batter keeps on batting as if the play never happened.

Filed 10/19/12

While I was Sleeping


Been quite a while since I added anything to The Casual Sportsman. Maybe I should call it the Lackadai­sical Sportsman. Truth is, I haven’t been paying much attention lately. Not to basketball, baseball, hockey, the Olympics, the Lance Armstrong thing, nothing. You can’t say much about what you don’t know. OK, that’s not true, many people have plenty to say about what they don’t know much about. I think that’s the basis of sports talk radio.

I don’t feel I’ve missed much (though how would I know?) except for the incredibly dramatic, Bobby-Thompson-Giants-win-the-pennant!-like finish of the English Premier League season. A moment Man U haters relish.

Man City Wins Title in Added Time

Filed 9/2/12

What We Hate More than Losing


People don’t like losing, but they hate being cheated more. Losing is sadden­ing, being cheated is blood boiling. If you’ve ever listened to sports talk radio you know this first-hand. Or first-ear if there is such a thing.

Fans rather easily come to terms with a loss where their team just got beat. They blame the players and coaching, but they can accept it. The old “You can’t win them all” attitude. Or maybe the old “Sometimes you win, sometimes you loose” philos­ophy. Either way, fans may not like it, but they get over it.

On the other hand, sports fans go ballistic when the officials blow a call that lost their team a game, especially a call that let the opponent cheat and get away with it. The controversy will be bigger news than any other loss. Fans will bitch about it for years. English soccer fans are still bitter about a disallowed goal against Germany in the World Cup some 40 years ago.

You might dismiss such sport con­troversies as a tempest in a tea pot. However the same thing applies to life in general. When a person fails in life or business through their own faulty decisions and efforts, they can accept it with some amount of equanimity. They don’t like it, but in a fair system they figure they had a shot and the failure is largely their own.

But if a person gets a raw deal from the powers that be, they get cheated by a corrupt system, that creates anger. The type of anger that can generate revolt. People who blame themselves are not easily roused, folks who feel victimized are. Rebels appeal to the outrage of being cheated. “Unfair!” is a good rallying cry, “We blew it!” not so much.

Then again, if things are unfair in their advantage... people can be philo­sophical about that, too. Especially if the cheating can be blamed on someone else.

Sports has a bevy of cliches, one being “It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.” People like to think this is the case. To a degree it might be. But there’s also this quote from Vince Lombardi, “Winning isn’t the most important thing, it’s the only thing.” So then, what happens when the system is so corrupt the only way to win is by cheating? Will people live by the cliche or the quote?

Filed 10/18/11



On March 2, 1962 the Philadelphia Warriors beat the New York Knicks 169-147. While this might sound like a ridiculously high-scoring game, back then not so much as offence and out­score the other team was the name of the game. Of course, the real name of the game was basketball. But I digress.

So the game wasn’t notable for the total points scored, but it did have one incredible distinction. One Warrior player, Wilt Chamberlain, scored 100 points.

This is one of those records they like to say can never be broken. And unless the way the game is played changes, I’d have to agree. Not only did Chamberlain tally a century in a single game, for the season he aver­aged an amazing 50 points per game. Another record unlikely to be broken.

Here’s the kicker, both records were set before there was a three-point shot.

Filed 5/25/11

Packer Super Bowl Win IV


Congratulations to the Green Bay Packers for winning their fourth Super Bowl. Thus the smallest city in the NFL increases their historic best total of NFL championships to thir­teen. I guess you might call Green Bay the biggest small town in America. With apologies to Reno.

Aaron Rogers becomes the third different quarterback to lead the Pack to Super Bowl victory. Previously there was Bart Starr, hall-of-famer, and Bret Favre, shoe-in hall-of-famer. Now we add Rogers who, if he keeps playing as he has the last few seasons, is a likely hall-of-famer.

Contrast that with my hometown team, the Detroit Lions whose Super Bowl record is, well, they’ve never even been to a Super Bowl. Over the time period there’s been a Super Bowl the Motor City Kitties have had Greg Landry, Gary Dannielson, Eric Hipple, Scott Mitchel, Joey Harrington... a completely forgettable lot. Not a single Super Bowl, not a single super quarterback. Think there might be a connection there?

Filed 2/8/11

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