Welcome! (I guess...)

For those of you who by some extremely unlikely set of circumstances happened to stumble upon this page, I apologize to you. For those of you who intentionally came to this page - yikes! As the title of the weblog indicates, these are my Ramblings About Whatever. There is a chance that I will ramble about just about anything (as I am in this introduction), but only a select few topics will actually make this site. Enjoy! (I guess...)

Monday, June 25, 2007

Why Even Bother to Seed?

I really wanted to wait until Wimbledon's conclusion to dive back into a tennis discussion, but I'm afraid that there is something that is bothering me way too much. And what is bothering me this time? Well, it is the insanely incompetent way in which Wimbledon handles the seeding of top players.

Wimbledon handles seeding in a different fashion than do the other major tournaments. The other majors (Australian Open, French Open, US Open) seed the players according to the players' world rankings. If a player is ranked seventh in the world, and the other six players in the world who are ranked ahead of this player are participating in the tournament, then this player would be seeded seventh in the other three major tournaments. To its credit, the Committee of Management will actually look at previous grass court performance and factor this in when determining player seeding. If a player is ranked eleventh in the world, but has shown great ability on grass in the past, he or she may be seeded seventh in the tournament. (This is actually true this year on the men's side as eleventh ranked Tomas Berdych is seeded seventh.) At the same time, if a player is ranked at a high level in the world but has struggled in the past on grass, he or she may receive a lower seed than their world ranking would suggest.

Okay, so far I have nothing wrong with this. The Committee is seemingly trying to come up with the best possible seeding for the tournament. This makes sense and one would think that this would lead to the best possible tournament. However, the next step that the Committee does demonstrates the rationality that one might expect out of a mental patient. The seeded players do not appear in the brackets where they "should" appear. Most people who are fans of the NCAA basketball tournament know that in each of the four regions (at the beginning of play) the matchups are as follows: 1vs16, 8vs9, 5vs12, 4vs13, 3vs14, 6vs11, 7vs10, and 2vs15. If form holds in the region, then the second round would be 1vs8, 5vs4, 3vs6, and 7vs2. Again if forms holds the next round would be 1vs4 and 3vs2. Finally the final game in the region would be 1vs2 if all goes as it "should." Now in tennis, there are 32 seeded players in each of the men's and women's draw. You can expand on the basketball example that I have just given by adding an additional round to the tennis case. In the round of 32, if all seeded players have successfully won their first two rounds, the matchups should appear as the following: 1vs32, 16vs17, 8vs25, 9vs24, 5vs28, 12vs21, 4vs29, 13vs20, 3vs30, 14vs19, 11vs22, 6vs27, 7vs26, 10vs23, 15vs18, and finally 2vs31. Essentially, in each quarter of the original draw, there should be eight seeded players and the sum total of their rankings should be 132. If everything holds, the number one seeded player should meet the fourth seed in the semifinals, while the number two seed should meet the number three in the other semifinal. However, this is not the case in Wimbledon, which is terribly troubling.

At this year's Wimbledon, on the men's side, the top four seeds (in this order) are Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Andy Roddick, and Novak Djokovic. In Federer's quarter you have the following seeds: 1, 26, 21, 13, 9, 20, 27, 5 (for a total of 122). In Nadal's quarter the seeds are: 7, 29, 19, 11, 14, 18, 28, 2 (for a total of 128). In Roddick's quarter the seeds are: 3, 31, 17, 15, 12, 24, 25 (for a total of 127, but would be 135 if including the original 8 seed, Andy Murray, who pulled out with an injury). Finally, in Djokovic's quarter the seeds are: 6, 32, 23, 10, 16, 22, 30, 4 (for a total of 143). Now, these variations from the 132 total may not seem to be that far off, but particularly if you look at the difference between the Federer quarter and the Djokovic quarter, there should definitely be some concern. The eight seeded players in Federer's quarter are on average seeded more than 2.5 positions higher than those Djokovic quarter. This difference is not insignificant. Just looking at the seedings, it would indicate that the ease of making it to the semifinals among the top four seeds goes in this order: Djokovic-Roddick-Nadal-Federer. In how many other sports would you find it that the road to the championship is intentionally made harder for the top seed? Now if this was one of the other three majors, this sort of a draw could be forgiven since they are basing the seedings solely on world rankings. If the rankings did not change appreciably over the course of a few years, it might get boring seeing the same matchups over and over. However, Wimbledon is a different story. The Committee already seeds the players essentially wherever they want irrespective of actual world rankings. If you are not going to have "well-behaved" tournament seedings, what's the point of even seeding players? Why go through the trouble of taking into account past performance on grass if you are essentially just going to ignore all of these considerations you have just used? I mean the only convention that these crazy people seem to hold fast to is that the numbers one and two seeded players cannot meet until the final. Goodness these people are frustratingly foolish...

Thursday, June 21, 2007

On the Eve of Wimbledon, Some Thoughts on Tennis

In a few short days the 2007 edition of The Championships, Wimbledon, will get underway. Frankly, I'm excited about this, just as I am every year. Wimbledon seems to hold a much grander importance than any of the other Grand Slam tournaments. It is the oldest and certainly seems to be the most coveted of the major championships. I do not wish to write an extended piece on Wimbledon itself, or this year's tournament for that matter (I'll consider doing so at the conclusion if events during the fortnight warrant such an entry), but I will say that on the men's side I expect Roger Federer to win (yes, I know I'm going out on a limb on that one). At the same time, I do expect Rafael Nadal to get back to the final to face Federer just as he did last year. These two are easily the best two players in the world. But whereas very many of the so-called experts out there seem unwilling to admit, I believe that the gap between Federer and Nadal is considerably smaller than the gap between the two and everyone else.

Watching the French Open coverage was particularly infuriating this year. The fact that so many of the "experts" out there considered Roger Federer to be the favorite over Nadal was baffling. It was absolutely astounding to see how many of these people allowed their clear desire to see Federer win both a calendar Grand Slam and career Grand Slam, especially in view of his victory against Nadal in a relatively meaningless clay court match shortly before the start of the French Open, to so completely cloud their judgments as to render them nearly veritable fools. It was as if the moment Federer won at Hamburg by defeating Nadal all of these people collectively said (whether in their heads or out loud), "Like, oh my gosh!!! Roger Federer just totally beat Rafael Nadal on clay! Federer is so great! He's like totally going to win the French Open! I totally wonder if Nadal is even going to reach the final! Roger is the greatest ever!" Now, to be fair, I do believe that at this point Federer is the best player that I have ever seen. I think Federer now (whether he is truly in his prime at this point) would beat Pete Sampras in his prime more often than not on Sampras's best surface, grass. Additionally, Federer, barring injury, would never lose to Sampras on clay. That being said, these people still behaved as idiots before the French Open, and throughout the tournament up until the championship match. They seemed to forget that going into this year's French Open, if you excluded clay court matches, Nadal's record against Federer was a respectable 2-3. For those wondering, that is two victories for each on hard court and Federer with the lone victory on grass. However, once you included clay court matches into the record (again, prior to this year's French), Nadal's record would improve to 7-4. Okay, so this shows that Nadal has more than held his own in his career against Federer. But in addition to this, prior to Nadal's loss at Hamburg, he had won 81 consecutive matches on clay. That's longer than any other male player on any surface ever. And then you throw in the extra fact that Nadal had never lost a match at the French Open and you start to wonder what wonderfully potent hallucinogenic drug were these "experts" on at the time. But again, the start of Wimbledon is imminent. Last year Federer and Nadal became the first two male players in the open era to reach the French Open and Wimbledon finals in the same year. Each player won on his own stronger surface, with Federer winning seventeen games in defeat at the French, while Nadal won sixteen games in defeat at Wimbledon. If the two meet in the final, Federer will be the favorite, as he should be, but you will likely be able to count the number of "experts" on one hand (perhaps one finger?) who will actually favor Nadal to win. Nadal will not nearly get the same sort of respect that Federer got leading up to the French Open. Personally, I actually think that the gap between the two on clay is increasing, whereas I'm predicting that we'll see the gap between the two on grass decrease. This means, of course, that I believe that the overall gap between Federer and Nadal is decreasing...

And on to something that is even more troubling to me than what I have already mentioned... Have you ever noticed how elite tennis players will play doubles? And in this case, I do mean to include such players as the Bryan brothers as elite tennis players. I mean players like Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal or, on the women's side Justine Henin or Maria Sharapova. While it is true that the top players in the women's game seem to be less likely to play doubles (Henin and Sharapova, for instance, have yet to play doubles matches this year), the obvious question is why in blazes do the top men's players ever play doubles? It seems to me that Henin and Sharapova are smart of enough not to waste any time or energy playing doubles, so why don't Federer and Nadal follow suit? Now granted, the two play doubles far less frequently than they play singles, but I am of the opinion that the only time they should ever play doubles is if they have a kid brother who is struggling to make some money playing tennis so they play alongside to help the kid out. Maybe I'll include a cousin in there, but I draw the line at second cousins. Now as with every rule, this one has an exception. And the exception to this rule is for mixed doubles. I could understand if these players played mixed doubles because it might give them the opportunity to play with and against hot girls. In fact, I'm just going to amend what I just said. They should not even play doubles to help their kid brother have a little success. They should only play mixed doubles, and only if they can be certain that they are partnered with a hot chick. I will make one exception, and that would be Marat Safin. Safin is in the rare position where he could play alongside his sister, Dinara Safina, and just totally hit on the hot chick on the other team throughout the match. Safina is a good enough (currently ranked number thirteen) where she could carry the play for a while. And during that time Safin could hit on the chicks. Well, I've gone on for long enough, but the important message to take away is top dude tennis players should never play doubles, except for mixed doubles, and only with a hot partner.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Spears-Federline Rankings - June 19, 2007

There are very few people who have not heard of Kevin Federline and Britney Spears. As to whether this fact is a good thing or a bad thing is up to one's own interpretation. (It's a bad thing.) But with all that has been going on in the lives of these two very talented individuals, I thought that it would be worthwhile to periodically provide updates of the current rankings of the two. So, what follows are the current rankings between the two, with short explanations given for each. First place votes appear in parentheses.

Rankings for June 19, 2007

1. Kevin Federline (1) - After a one poll absence from the top, Kevin Federline once again resumes the top spot in the rankings. And it was not necessarily anything that Federline did that caused the committee to return him to the top of the rankings, rather, it was what he was rumored to have done. In case you missed it, it was rumored that Federline had once again impregnated Shar Jackson! Of course it probably is not true - Shar Jackson even denies it. However, the committee does not necessarily need accurate information on which to base its deliberations. Unsubstantiated rumors are certainly fine with us! But more importantly, the committee has convinced itself that this news is true for the sake of these rankings because of a larger impact that Kevin Federline's impregnation of Shar Jackson would have. Such a fact would finally do the inconceivable and bring together the proponents of Natural Selection and Intelligent Design. Both sides would have to agree that they were horribly wrong.

2. Britney Spears - Britney Spears fights back to the number two spot in the poll after her absence from the last poll. Britney did some inspiring work to once again force her way to near the top of the poll. By allowing herself to be seen in unflattering photos, Britney was saying to the world, "Hey sure, I may not be as hot or talented as you or I really think I am, but I still have photographers who are willing to take snapshots at my backside as if I was hot and talented. So there!" And to show that she's really on her way back up to the top, Britney has made a few changes in her life. Now sure, she has not decided to actually give up flashing the paparazzi while out on the town, but she has decided that when she flashes the paparazzi, from now on she's going to be wearing underwear! You go girl! Now these may appear to only be baby steps to everyone reading this, but these baby steps are helping Britney inch ever closer to the number one spot. However, she just could not compete with the bringing together of Natural Selection and Intelligent Design.

Good show Britney, keep fighting to the top!

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

A Thirty-Day Makeover

The date was May 6, 2007 and the location was The Bronx, New York City, New York State, United States of America. And in particular, the scene in the Bronx was Yankee Stadium, the House that Ruth Built. A momentous event occurred on this day, as the great Roger Clemens announced that he was returning to from like his fourteenth retirement to play once again with the New York Yankees. At the time, the Yankees were in the midst of a mediocre start. They were 13-15 at the moment Clemens made that announcement during the seventh inning stretch of that particular game. However, Clemens presence paid immediate dividends as the Yankees went on to victory that day. True, the Yankees were already ahead at the point when Clemens made the announcement 3-0, and the Mariners only had six more outs with which to work, but the bottom line is that the Yankees scored two more runs and they won the game 5-0. Red Sox look out!

And now we are thirty days removed from that monumental day - that day when the Yankees' very own knight in shining armor (along the lines of the soon to be knighted David Beckham) rode in to save the season. And what a turn around it has been! The Yankees have been an unstoppable juggernaut since then. They've steamrolled opponent after opponent. Roger Clemens has been virtually unhittable, shutting down every single American League lineup he has faced. This sort of surge by the great Yankees has certainly justified the unbelievable amout of television coverage that ESPN has dedicated to The Rocket's return. Print those playoff and World Series tickets right now!

Wow! Forgive me please. I momentarily slipped off into delusional, psychadelic, hyper-euphoric, crazy-person Yankee fan fantasy land. For a good example of what this sounds like, listen here. But if you have been watching the ESPN family of networks since Clemens's grand announcement you probably won't have had to listen to that link. ESPN's slavish devotion to all things Yankees since Clemens made that announcement has been downright sickening. It's like, "Oh my gosh! Roger Clemens is starting in a single A baseball game! We simply have to dedicate a channel to covering this, or maybe two channels!"

Since the conclusion of games on May 6, the Yankees are 10-16. They are currently tied for last place in their division. That Clemens addition has surely been a shot in the arm to boost this team! Clemens has started precisely zero major league games. But does that stop ESPN from broadcasting games featuring the crappy Yankees and other teams that are mediocre at best? Of course not! Just last night ESPN showed a game between the Yankees and Chicago White Sox. Going into the game, the White Sox were 25-27 and the Yankees were 24-30. The White Sox won the game of course. Now granted, perhaps ESPN might have been justified in showing the game if Roger Clemens started as was originally planned but Clemens had to pull out of the game with a "fatigued right groin." So wouldn't it have been wise because of Clemens's fatigued right groin for the people at ESPN to say, "Holy crap! Clemens is not starting because of a fatigued right groin! Maybe we should show another game rather than this one which features two crappy teams. We'll just plan to broadcast Clemens's actual first start after he recovers from his fatigued right groin."? I think that this would have been the way to go.

But hats off to the Yankees and their fans (and ESPN as well)! The Yankees are 12.5 games out of first place, but never fear, they have a forty-four year old pitcher who is currently injured with a fatigued right groin who is certain to lead them to glory!

Monday, June 4, 2007

Oh Please, Please, Please...

Have you ever wondered whether being knighted in Great Britain is analogous to receiving a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame here in the US? Well, I have, and it appears that it is. That is the only explanation that possibly makes sense to me when I read that there is serious consideration being put forth to the knighting of David Beckham.

When one hears the word knight, the vision that is conjured in the mind is one of a gallant, armour-clad figure, sitting astride a powerful steed. Whether it be fighting for the honour of some fair lady, protecting the realm of his sovereign king, sacking an ill-defended castle, or subduing any advance by an upstart pawn, you know that chivalrous and heroic deeds are certain to happen as the knight travels his path.

But this is not to say that Beckham has displayed some shortage of heroic deeds himself. There are plenty of examples of Beckham's knightly exploits like this one, or this one, how about this one, and maybe this one. Now sure, these exploits probably would not have been able to grant Beckham a seat at the Round Table of King Arthur, but he sure does know how to kick a soccer ball when no one is allowed to block.

However, please do not read this to mean that I in any way disapprove of Beckham's being knighted. On the contrary, I approve of this action 100%. And the reason why I approve of this move? Well, quite simply, this would force the British people to recognize Victoria "Posh Spice" Beckham as Lady Beckham.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed...