Archive for October, 2014

Numbers do tell the occasional white lie

Wednesday, October 29th, 2014
Patrick Newell

ESPN has a daily show titled, “Numbers Don’t Lie.” I’m a numbers guy, and I noticed a bit of anomaly to that truism when it comes to football statistics. Of late, Norwich football has lied smack in the face of stat geeks.
The percentages may vary from season to season, but it is a fair bet in high school football that the team that gains the most yards will win the majority of games. Without any empirical data, I guessed that the winning team won the total yardage battle at least 80 percent of the time.
I decided to put that estimate to the test with the 45 games involving local clubs this season. Of those contests, the winning team outgained the losing team 38 out of 45 times, or 84.4 percent.
Oxford and Bainbridge-Guilford won games with less yards, but also lost games with more yards. Actually Bainbridge-Guilford won a second game with less yards – one yard, in fact – earlier this season against Unadilla Valley.
In all cases involving those two ballclubs, the total yardage difference was less than 75 yards, either way.
Then there is Norwich.
Two weeks ago, Norwich stunned Susquehanna Valley in overtime, 20-17. The Sabers outgained Norwich by 119 yards, although the margin was much wider at halftime.
Sometimes you have to look deeper to find insights, but still, nothing stood out. Turnovers were even, and the field position battle, often dictated by punts, was about equal. Sus Valley did have more penalty yards, but over four quarters and overtime, that proved insignificant.
Really, the only conclusion to draw is that Sus Valley moved the ball well and didn’t finish drives, while Norwich took advantage of its fewer opportunities to score.
If you happened to catch a glimpse of Norwich’s victory at Oneonta last week, there was a good chance you saw Oneonta in possession of the ball – and moving it well.
Norwich won the game comfortably, 38-12, but was outgained by 159 yards. Unlike the Sus Valley game, the final score is easily explained.
The Yellowjackets turned it over five times, often leaving Norwich with a short path to the endzone. Oneonta also committed 11 penalties for 100 yards, again shortening the Norwich field on multiple occasions.
Norwich was outgained by an average of 139 yards over the last two games, and came away winners each time.
Yes, numbers usually give you the truth, but they also tell a few white lies.

Follow me on Twitter @PatrickLNewell

I don’t mind getting it wrong

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014
Patrick Newell

More so than any of my previous 19 seasons covering local football, unpredictability has reared its head. By the second or third week, the games typically play out according to script. This season, the scripts have seen a number of re-writes.
Every local team has surprised me at some point this season beating a team I thought – on paper – had the upper hand. Yeah, yeah, games aren’t won on paper, they’re won on the football field. Still, after two or three weeks of football, you know where each team stands. This isn’t the NFL or high-level college football where upsets are commonplace on an week-by-week basis
To my chagrin, I’ve been called out by players and supporters of teams that I picked against after said team pulled out the victory. Truthfully, I couldn’t be any happier getting it wrong.
Creditability in this business comes from objectivity, so you make your honest analysis, and declare a prediction based on that analysis. We get it wrong – I get it wrong – a lot.
The games that have stood out the most were Sherburne-Earlville’s victory over Section III’s defending Class C champion, General Brown. I’m not sure many people outside of Sherburne-Earlville predicted that one. My second most significant prognosticating faux pas was Norwich’s 20-17 upset win over Susquehanna Valley last Friday. Again, outside of the die-hard Norwich faithful, players, and coaches, who had the confidence the Purple Tornado would pull out the win?
Not many.
In terms of upset victories for Norwich, it’s among my top three in two decades covering local football. The other two standouts came in 2000 when Norwich knocked off state-ranked Corning East, then in 2011 when Norwich beat Johnson City in the Class B playoffs, 35-0.
I’ve covered about 180 Norwich football games, and I remember those three upset victories the most.

Follow me on Twitter @PatrickLNewell

I don’t have a dog in this fight

Friday, October 10th, 2014
Shawn Magrath

I recently wrote a story concerning the fate of the Town Hall in Columbus and the efforts of a grassroots community group to spare the building from having a “for sale” sign on the front lawn. The argument among Columbus residents is that Town Hall, which is currently owned by the township, bears too much historical significance and potential to go to sale to the highest bidder. Opponents, however, insist that the building simply isn’t worth the worth the burden at the taxpayer’s dollar.

If nothing else, I consider myself an objective person. I try to see both sides of the argument and do what I can to understand every angle. That said, when it comes to the Columbus Hall debacle, I don’t have a dog in that fight. But I can’t help but weigh in a little.

I’m a sucker for old buildings. I love ‘em, and I love to see them restored at the hand of private developers. The hard truth is that the people of Columbus have a choice to make; either keep the building and pay to maintain it (keeping in mind that even if grants are available to bring the building up to par, that money only goes so far), or don’t.

The debate brings to my mind the discussion among town folk regarding the town’s 2014 proposed budget last December, which I also covered for the newspaper. At the time, some residents were reluctant to pay for a police service contract with the neighboring Town of New Berlin, saying that any increase in the local tax levy was too much.

It seems to me that if police protection isn’t enough of a driving force to get taxpayers to fork over a little extra, then keeping a building to use for community events would be pretty low on a list of priorities. But like I said, I’m glad the decision isn’t mine to make. It will be interesting to see how it all turns out after November’s vote.

The Columbus Town Hall issue aside, what’s a good blog without something a little less controversial and slightly irrelevant? I recently came across an article about a nationwide grant program that offers grants to people who come up with innovative solutions, particularly in the field of health care. This week, the U.S. Agency for International Development announced a $5 million contest that solicits protective suit designs for medical workers battling the Ebola epidemic. The contest – which is open to anyone – is an effort to replace current suits which workers say are suffocating and… well, they’re just hot.

Of course I can’t give details, but know that my design involves a lot of ice, sheet plastic, and duct tape – as innovative as the sneeze guard.

A rant, bad drivers and a tip

Thursday, October 9th, 2014
Matt White

I love to drive; It probably should be my profession. Behind the wheel is the one place I can go and have some adequate level of peace; but every so often it’s also the very place where I exhibit the most rage.
I’m not alone, either.
Now, I’m not the “road rage” type, but no matter where you live, I think it’s safe to say you have encountered another driver and thought “what the bleep is wrong with this bleeper.” (immediate apologies if you’ve thought that about my driving).
In my many years on the road, I’ve discovered that good music, a nice sounding horn, a sunroof, and two fingers help keep my rage in check.
An any rate, getting cut off make me especially testy. I don’t understand it at all, and more than likely never will.
We’ve all been there, but for whatever reason I seem to be a magnet for drivers how would like nothing more than to be tee-boned.
Lately I’ve been cut A-LOT. After the initial usual expletives, I find myself asking “why would you do that, what’s wrong with you?” Of course my mind wants to surmise that that the perpetrator is just a jerk – but that can’t always be the case, right? Maybe that minivan with the M.A.D.D. Bumper sticker is a mother late picking up her three kids from soccer practice. Perhaps that guy in the orange Mustang is a surgeon delivering a donated heart to a baby somewhere.
Then again, maybe those folks are just inconsiderate cogs in the rat-race machine trying to get “theirs” before everyone else.
I’ll be driving along observing the posted speed limit, no one behind me and a fellow narrow-minded motorist will dart out ahead of me two seconds before I’m about to pass them.
As a result, I am forced to abruptly slam on my brakes and weave my car in the opposite direction in an effort to avoid colliding with them.
My mind wanders once in a while to a conclusion where the hands of fate and laws of physics are allowed to run rampant – like if I didn’t brake hard and swerve right to avoid a collision.
But car accidents are never good for anyone; there’ll never be a plus side or silver lining to a fender-bender, only headaches and hassle with the police, gawkers and insurances adjusters, if we’re very lucky.
If roads were wide open and nobody else used them, driving would be just as brilliant as the car ads on TV portray. Can you imagine?
What if we all had the Nuremberg ring at our disposal like the chaps across the pond on Top Gear?
What if we could had the freedom to try and get our cars up to their top speed with no recourse?
How much less stress would we endure if we could own the road and travel at our own pace. Now I’m just talking nonsense.
Unfortunately, reality is nothing like television. I live in a village…in a 15 m.p.h. School Zone.
For now I’ll have to share public roads, covered with potholes and packed with thousands of bad drivers, just like you… so we might as well make the best of it.
Let’s try and show some care and respect out there; and take the high road when you can.