Tuesday, November 9

Downtown Report after a great sports weekend

I was reading Sam Harris' The Moral Universe yesterday, and came to an interesting passage where the author describes the loss-averse nature of human reasoning. What this means is that people instinctively avoid risk more than they seek gain, and tend to view a loss more negatively than they would view an equivalent gain positively. Granted, this can be hard to quantify, but it can be done. For example, on average, when test subjects are presented with a hypothetical 50/50 bet where they might lose $100, they typically demain $200 as the potential reward for accepting the bet. I'm not sure if this is an evolutionary psychological mechanism intended to promote cautious, conservative decision-making, but it has some interesting consequences in the real world.

One of those is that I don't feel as positively about the past weekend in sports as I realize I should, because the steelers won last night on Monday Night Football. I hate the steelers as much as I can possibly hate a sporting entity, and their victory (a loss for me and for decent folk everywhere) is eclipsing the Browns' tremendous 34-14 victory on Sunday (a gain for me of clearly superior utility). Part of this is timing - the steelers game was more recent - and part of it is the loss-averse portion of my mind accentuating the soul-crushing negative that is a steeler win over the life-affirming positive that is a Browns triumph.

Conscious of these limitations of the mind (and of my own thinking, since I believe myself to be even more loss-averse than the average human), I'm trying to remain as focused as possible on the positives from this past weekend, an unqualified success for Cleveland sports fans that even featured my rec league basketball club claiming a victory in our debut game on Sunday night. With that preface, let's talk about recent events in FCF's world.

There's almost literally no way the Cleveland Browns could have played a better game than they did this past sunday in their dismantling of the Patriots, the team that still owns the best record in the NFL. For those of you scoring at home, that's an aggregate 64-31 beatdown of the defending Super Bowl Champions, followed by the team regarded by many going into this weekend's contest as the NFL's best. Not bad for a 3-5 squad.

But the Patriots game was in many ways more impressive than the Saints victory. The win in the Superdome was the product of a lot of things going right, and relied heavily on the Browns executing unusual plays and catching the Saints off-guard. You only get one game a year where you bust out a punt-pass, fake punt, and halfback pass to the quarterback, and the Browns played that card expertly.

Sunday, however, was just straight-up superior football from Cleveland. They were tougher, smarter, and more skilled than New England all day long in all three phases of the game. Colt McCoy didn't just manage the game - he made big throws and runs all day and compiled a 14-19 for 194 (101.6 passer rating) with no turnovers and a big rushing touchdown. Peyton Hillis ran over, through, and past Patriot defenders all day long for 184 yards and 2 TD's. The Browns defense gave New England nothing on the ground and made Tom Brady look average at best all day long. Special teams kept the Pats, who came into the game with an NFL-best five special teams TD's) in check all day, and consistently gave the Browns excellent field position. A complete team effort rewarded with one of their signature wins since returning to the NFL in 1999.

The question is: can they keep this up? After a game this Sunday against a tough New York Jet squad, the Browns have some really winnable games - @ Jacksonville, vs Carolina, @ Miami, @ Buffalo, and @ Cincinnati. There's no reason they couldn't be above .500 after that stretch if they keep playing the same smart, disciplined football they've proven themselves capable of playing the past two games.

Certainly, some of the credit belongs to the Browns' coaching staff, especially head coach Eric Mangini. The Browns have looked exceedingly well-prepared and organized against the Saints and Patriots, and that reflects well on the men in charge. Mangini is still up to some of his old tricks, waffling on naming McCoy the starter for next week. I'm not sure even he takes himself seriously at this point - Seneca Wallace and Jake Delhomme are still at least semi-injured, and even if they weren't Mangini would have to be nuts to take the job away from McCoy at this point. Hopefully he goes out and collects another solid win so that even when the other fellows come back, it'll be crystal-clear who should be behind center.

Also, Braylon Edwards is coming back to town! I'm excited for him to drop a few passes and blame other people. I'll be there live and direct from Cleveland Browns Stadium to catch all the action this Sunday, hot of the heels of Nick and my attendance of the Buckeye game this Saturday in Ohio Stadium against Penn State. Now that's a weekend.

Ladies and gentlemen, your first-place Cleveland Cavaliers!

That's right, after six contests, Los Caballeros sit alone atop the Central division at 3-3. We're still the only team to knock off the defending East champion Boston Celtics. Someone at espn.com (JJ Adande?) came to the realization that, if the season ended today, the Cavs would be the East's 4th seed and would host an opening-round matchup against the#5 seed...the Miami Heat. It's true.

Three wins...that's only nine short of Kelly Dwyer's preposterous prediction of 12 for the season. I'm pretty sure we can manage a 10-66 effort down the stretch to surpass that particular expectation. This week actually affords the Cavs an opportunity to collect some more W's before making their first road trip out west for the year. This week features a home-and-away (I never liked the term "home-and-home") with the lowly New Jersey Nets, a Saturday night home tilt with the also-lowly Indiana Pacers, and a home game next Wednesday against a Philadelphia 76er team that one might describe as...lowly. Is it unrealistic to see the Cavs sitting at 6-4 after that stretch? I don't think so.

I got a chance to watch Cleveland's road victories against Philly and Washington this past weekend, and I have to say it was really fun to watch. I enjoy this team. Now, I'm not saying I like this better than being among the NBA's elite and competing for a championship each year. Obviously that's where it's at. But I like the new team's style, the emphasis on athleticism and team play, and the drama and uncertainty of close games they bring every night. I'm looking forward to following the Cavs during the entire 2010-11 season, and especially eagerly awaiting that elusive 13th victory.

1 comment:

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I don't really feel as positively concerning the previous weekend in sports activities as I recognize I should, mainly because the steelers won final evening on Monday evening Football.
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