Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Top 10 Richmond Players In My Football Following Lifetime (1985 onwards)

1. Matthew Richardson

On his day Richo could destroy entire backlines. He played football like a sixth year boy against third years: larger, faster and more talented than his opponents, but not the most disciplined player on the park. A joy to watch... most of the time.

2. Dale Weightman

My memories of the 'Flea' have dimmmed over time, except for him collecting a gazillion possessions (give or take a few) every time he played for Victoria. But apart from Richo he's the only guy on this list who was ever among the very best players in the land, and so he has to rate this highly.

3. Wayne Campbell

Many Tiger supporters would favour Knights over Campbell, due to a perception that Campbo was a bit "soft". He wasn't: Campbell could certainly win his own ball, and was more of a natural leader than he was given credit for. You don't win four best-and-fairests by accident.

4. Matthew Knights

"Knighter" gets points for his brilliant 1998 season, his braving Tony Liberatore's fist, and for leading one of the most beloved non-premiership teams, the '95 Tigers. Another remarkably consistent player.

5. Joel Bowden

Starting as a talented midfielder, Bowden then became the main cog of the backline after Gaspar and Ben Holland "vanished". Should have been captain.

6. Brendon Gale

"Benny" was the smartest guy on the team and the one with the most interests outside of football, but no-one seemed to care more about the result of a match than he did. At crucial stages, he'd launch his big frame into packs to take match-saving marks.

7. Darren Gaspar

"Gas" is the only defender to make this list, which explains why the Tigers have routinely had big scores kicked on them. For a couple of years in the early 2000s he was one of the best defenders going around, restricting star forwards with his skinny fist.

8. Brett Deledio

Trent Cotchin and Dustin Martin may overtake him eventually, but for now Deledio has been our best player over the past few years. His quickness, accurate kicking and huge, running goals were all things that Tigerland has needed for a long time.

9. Jack Riewoldt

Richo may be gone, but in Jack the Tigers have the next best thing: a big forward who rips through packs and who on his day can be unstoppable. He's a smart footballer too, able to give off the quick handball or kick to a running teammate to set up an easy goal.

10. Michael Roach

"Disco" no doubt had a better career than some of the others on this list, but I only caught the tail-end of it. Nevertheless I have to include my first football idol on this list.

Monday, November 14, 2011

McGrath v Warne

As Gideon Haigh once put it 'Warne and McGrath. McGrath and Warne. Who is to decide their proper ordering? Should it be the man with the more wickets or the lower average?' Well, as I've argued here before, the lower average matters but the other relevant statistic for a bowler is not their wickets but their strike rate. A team's chance of winning a cricket match is a function of how quickly they score and how long they stay in, so how could a bowler who takes wickets more quickly and more cheaply than another bowler not be considered more valuable? And on both these measures, McGrath comes out ahead:

McGrath - Average: 21.64; Strike rate: 51.95
Warne - Average: 25.42; Strike rate: 57.49

But hang on, McGrath is a fast bowler and Warne is a spinner. How do they each compare to bowlers of similar characteristics? Well, if you take the average bowling average and strike rate of each of the top 10 spin bowlers and top 10 non-spin bowlers by wickets taken, you get these stats:

Non-spin bowlers - Average: 24.39; Strike rate: 54.88
Spin bowlers - Average: 28.98; Strike rate: 68.89

And if you take each of McGrath's and Warne's bowling averages and strike rates and transform them into a percentage of the corresponding averages just above, you get these figures:

McGrath - Average: -11.2; Strike rate: -5.3
Warne - Average: -12.3; Strike rate: -20.1

So Warne's average is slightly better compared to the top spin bowlers relative to McGrath's average compared to the top non-spin bowlers, but his strike rate is much, much better compared to the top spin bowlers relative to McGrath's strike rate compared to the top non-spin bowlers. Does this mean we're much more likely to see another McGrath than another Warne? It would seem so. Part of the reason why McGrath's figures, and those of non-spin bowlers in general, are better than those of Warne and other spin bowlers could be that non-spin bowlers face easier bowling conditions on average. Think about it: if bowling conditions are good then fast bowlers clean up before the spin bowlers get much of a chance but if bowling conditions are tough then both fast and spin bowlers have to rough it out. I haven't proven this theory yet, so let's just stick with the view that a spin bowler as good as Warne is rarer than a fast bowler as good as McGrath for now. Which, given the trouble Australia has had on settling on a new spinner since Warne's retirement, isn't all that surprising a finding..

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Who Has The Easiest AFL Draw in 2012?

With the release of the Australian Football League draw for 2012, analysts were quick to rate the difficulty of each team's fixture. Some went so far to come up with a numerical rating of this difficulty, generally based on who each team plays twice, road trips, and matches played against teams from interstate (see example here).

Using the AFL post-final power rankings posted on this blog a few weeks back, I have come up with the following ratings of the difficulty of each team's draw in 2012. Each team's rating is a sum over all matches of the reverse of the ranking points of their opponents (which themselves are based on those opponents' expected winning margins), adjusted for any home ground advantage. These adjustments for home ground advantage were explained here.

For now, I've assumed that Greater Western Sydney's ranking points are -50, and have treated their adjustments for travel in the same way as other non-Victorian teams (that is, +12 points for playing at home, -12 points for playing away) rather than Sydney (who have a smaller adjustment when playing Melbourne teams). I might change this before the season starts. Note also that I treat Hawthorn games in Tasmania as if they were playing in Melbourne (i.e. an advantage against non-Victorian teams, but not Victorian teams).

As an example, if Team X is playing West Coast in Perth then I deducted them -33.3 points: -21.3 due to West Coast having a ranking of +21.3, and -12 due to playing in Perth.

One main difference between my calculations and those of other analysts is that the latter do not account for the fact that higher-ranked teams do not have to play themselves. For example, Geelong gets a big boost in the ease of their fixture just by virtue of the fact that they don't have to play Geelong and other teams do.

Here are the rankings for the difficulty of each team's draw in 2012 - a higher ranking means that your draw is easier. Most team's rankings for difficulty of draw are positive since ranking points for AFL teams are skewed to the negative side, particularly with the introduction of Greater Western Sydney.

Adelaide 169.3
North Melbourne 164.4
Gold Coast 152.9
Fremantle 149.2
Melbourne 144.9
Richmond 115.1
St. Kilda 114.2
Geelong 100.7
Hawthorn 93.7
Brisbane 93.1
Greater Western Sydney 92.7
West Coast 86.6
Carlton 79.7
Port Adelaide 65.5
Essendon 46.9
Sydney 46.8
Western Bulldogs 4.5
Collingwood -9.0

So according to this system Adelaide has the easiest draw, and Collingwood has the hardest, which has pretty much been the consensus among commentators. However, Greater Western Sydney's draw is not as easy as some people think, partly because they don't get to play themselves, and partly becuase they don't have many home games at their own stadium. On the other hand, Geelong and Hawthorn have easier draws than most people think, partly because they don't have to play themselves, and in Hawthorn's case because they only travel three times to "hostile" territory.

But does it make a lot of difference? Essentially, Adelaide's draw advantages them by 178 points compared to Collingwood, so Collingwood needs to be a 178-point better team than the Crows to be expected to perform as well as them. Over the course of a season, that's about eight points per week. It's not negligible, but really if your team finds itself in 14th spot you shouldn't be blaming the fixture.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Monster Is REM's Acthung Baby

Why does REM's 'Monster' get so little love? OK, it gets some here, but it's generally seen as the tipping point for REM's popularity. Certainly it's a departure from their previous records, but that shouldn't be seen as a bad thing. I bought it on CD recently and listening to it again after the space of over 15 years I was struck by how much it reminded me of U2's 'Achtung Baby', widely considered one of the Irish band's most accomplished and inventive records. Both have a sense of irony and dirtiness after the clean, earnest soft rock of the albums that took them into the big leagues ('Automatic For The People' and 'The Joshua Tree') yet both still contain some of their band's most moving tracks ('Strange Currencies' and 'Let Me In' on 'Monster' and of course 'One' on 'Achtung Baby'). And the distorted glam-rock guitars on 'What's The Frequency Kenneth?' and 'Crush With Eyeliner' can match it with those on U2's 'Even Better Than The Real Thing' and 'The Fly'. Yet 'Achtung Baby' sold bucketloads and 'Monster' ended in the bargain bins. Maybe 'Monster' was just a little too murky for to garner mass appeal, or maybe it just didn't have the hits that U2's album had. Nevertheless it deserves to be remembered in a better light than REM's retreat from the mainstream.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Book Review: Supergods

Grant Morrison's 'Supergods' is uneven, a little bloated, but still weirdly compelling. A central thesis to the book is lacking, if not non-existent. Morrison's tome is part-history of the development of the American superhero, part memoir (although being one of the superhero genre's greatest writers, the two parts are almost necessarily intertwined), part-philosophical discussion. Contradictions abound - Morrison seems to both revere and mock the movement to make superheroes more realistic within the space of a few paragraphs, as well as his own efforts to bring high art to the long underwear characters. But then why should a unified view be imposed on multiplicity - shouldn't the author, like everyone else, have the freedom to change his mind? And really what does it matter when the best of Morrison's observations are so good, perfectly describing characters and tropes for which you thought everything had been said, such as his noting of the Sub-Mariner's 'fuck you snarl' and how the Silver Surfer was the first emo superhero. Morrison's choice of titles to focus upon mixes the accepted classics with his personal favourites (many of which seem like they might be better enjoyed on an acid trip), but in all cases his enthusiasm for the source materials makes the reader want to seek them out. Like much of Morrison's work, 'Supergods' could have benefitted from a little more discipline in the writing, but its best parts are pretty much as good as anything that has been said about this seventy odd year old genre.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Pop Will Eat Itself

I read a review today of a book called 'Retromania' which, according to the reviewer, essentially argued that pop music in the 2000s had lost its forward momentum and more than any other decade was obsessed with the past.

A few observations about this:

1) Every musical era is backward-looking to some degree. (I think the author would agree with this.)
2) Having said that, I think a case can be made that the 2000s have been more backward-looking than previous decades. It is possible this may in part be associated with the massive increase in access to pop's history through digital libraries.
3) Doing it first is not necessarily doing it better.

Is pop's time of innovation over and we are now doomed to an endless recycling of past tunes? Maybe, but you never know where the next wave of innovation will come from. A book I once read suggested that the next mega innovative pop star will come from outside the US and probably from one of the less developed nations. That was over ten years ago and we're still waiting, but hey don't count it out yet.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Why On Earth Does France Play Rugby?

Apparently it was introduced there by British residents in the 1870s - surely one of the crowning achievements of British 'colonization'. And apparently it's the most popular sport in the southern part of France.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

AFL Power Rankings - Post-Finals 2011

Here are the final rankings for 2011. Collingwood were the No.1 team for much of the year, but that changed when Geelong beat them easily in Round 22, and the gap widened even further over September.

1 Geelong 51.2
2 Collingwood 35.9
3 Hawthorn 28.4
4 Carlton 27.0
5 West Coast 21.3
6 St. Kilda 16.3
7 Sydney 10.3
8 North Melbourne 1.3
9 Western Bulldogs -4.6
10 Essendon -11.1
11 Richmond -16.2
12 Brisbane -17.8
13 Fremantle -23.3
14 Adelaide -23.7
15 Melbourne -29.9
16 Port Adelaide -46.2
17 Gold Coast -46.9

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

More Thoughts On The DC Relaunch

When I first learned of DC Comics relaunching their entire line I wasn't a fan, as I considered it a giant waste of 70-plus years of continuous publication for some small short-term gains. Now the first few weeks worth of books have appeared and my anger has subsided, so what do I think?

Actually I don't mind it, or at least I don't mind certain aspects of it. One aspect I like is the best of the books feel like they inhabit their own little corner of the universe. Titles like Grant Morrison's 'Action Comics', JH Williams' 'Batwoman' and Jeff Lemire's 'Animal Man' all provide very different reading experiences. Indeed, apart from the ho-hum 'Justice League' book, there has really been only minor interaction between the various major characters at this point. Kind of like Marvel Comics in the old days, rather than Marvel now, where there's a crossover and 50 tie-in books every six months and everyone hangs out in the Avengers Tower.

Another aspect that I'm really liking is the digital versions coming out the same day as the print versions. There's quite a few #1s that I wouldn't pay full price for in the store (or are sold out), but are quite happy to pay a reduced price to read it on my phone. Basically it's another example of price discrimination, which as an economist I find intriguing. And I think that's really part of the rationale for this whole relaunch thing (beyond the gimmick), that is to give readers a chance to try out a bunch of stuff and work out what types of titles suit them. Actually I wish they'd been even a little bit bolder in the types of titles they tried out rather than have a dozen Batman and half a dozen Green Lantern titles, but I suppose they've got to keep the cash flow going, and hey, that's kind of what they have the Vertigo imprint for.

Already some are suggesting that Marvel do the same thing. Speaking for myself, I hope not - I think you can achieve creative diversity and savvy marketing without necessarily hitting the reset button. But if it helps you find new audiences then I guess it's all up for grabs. Either that or go the way of the pulp novel!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

AFL Power Rankings - 2011 Summary

To finish off the home-and-away season, here is a summary of the ranking of each team for each round:

The graph might be a little crowded to follow, so let me summarize:

Adelaide - Biggest fall for the season, starting at 6th and ending in 14th. They dropped steadily until round 10, and then settled in the 12th-14th range.

Brisbane - Spent most of the year in 15th or 16th, but jumped to 11th after narrow loss to Collingwood, and ended in 12th. Their average net margin was not too bad considering they only won 4 games.

Carlton - Started in 7th, climbed to 4th by Round 3, and then spent most of year switching between 3rd and 4th.

Collingwood - Was in top spot for almost the entire year, often by a considerable margin, but lost it with Round 24 thrashing to Geelong.

Essendon - Climbed from 12th to 6th by Round 8 with a good start to the season, then fell back to 10th by Round 13, and spent rest of season in 8th-10th range.

Fremantle - Billed as a top four prospect early in the season by the media, the rankings showed that the Dockers were vastly overrated - they started in 11th, never climbed higher than 9th, and finished in 13th, not too far away from their final ladder position. (Good for me, because I bet on the Dockers to miss the eight on the basis of this ranking system.)

Geelong - Was in 2nd for most of the season, but nabbed 1st in the final round with huge win over the Pies.

Gold Coast - Should have started them off in 17th, because after their huge loss to Carlton in their first game that's where they stayed.

Hawthorn - Spent entire year in either 3rd or 4th.

Melbourne - Got some criticism earlier in the year, but maintained a ranking between 9th and 11th up to Round 18. Alas, maybe the criticism was justified, as they fell away badly, finishing in 15th.

North Melbourne - Was between 10th and 12th for first half of season, and between 7th and 10th for second half.

Port Adelaide - Started in 13th, dropped to 15th by Round 5, and stayed in 15th or 16th for rest of season, though only narrowly missed bottom ranking in the end.

Richmond - Was 16th in Round 5, but then spent most of season between 13th and 15th, though relatively strong finish to the season moved them up to 11th.

St. Kilda - The Saints' supposed early-season slump was always vastly overplayed because they had a tough fixture to start off with. Fell from 3rd to 5th by Round 3, then stayed between 5th and 7th for rest of season.

Sydney - Stayed between 5th and 8th for entire season.

West Coast - The biggest improvers by far: started in last place, climbed to 12th by Round 8, and then vaulted to 8th with huge win over the Bulldogs. Managed to climb into 5th spot by end of season.

Western Bulldogs - In contrast to the media, never considered a grand final chance by the rankings. Was in 6th-8th range until Round 8, when huge loss to Eagles saw them dive into 13th. Clawed their way back into 9th in the end.

There you have it. I'll wrap up with the final rankings after the Grand Final.

AFL Power Rankings - Round 24

In a stunning end to the home-and-away season, Collingwood lose the top ranking spot they have held all season to Geelong, with the Cats beating the Pies by 96 points in the final round. A bit further down, the Eagles and Saints close in on the Hawks and Blues, who have been the clear 3rd and 4th placed teams for most of the year. And at the other end, Gold Coast make up some ground with their narrow loss to the Hawks, but finish up in last place.

1 (Last week 2) Geelong 47.2 (Last week 36.3)
2 (1) Collingwood 43.3 (51.6)
3 (3) Hawthorn 29.2 (33.8)
4 (4) Carlton 25.3 (27.7)
5 (6) West Coast 23.1 (18.5)
6 (5) St. Kilda 21.2 (18.6)
7 (7) Sydney 9.8 (7.8)
8 (8) North Melbourne 3.0 (3.0)
9 (9) Western Bulldogs -2.9 (-5.9)
10 (10) Essendon -5.6 (-6.1)
11 (12) Richmond -15.1 (-17.2)
12 (11) Brisbane -16.2 (-15.4)
13 (13) Fremantle -21.2 (-17.6)
14 (12) Adelaide -22.6 (-19.5)
15 (15) Melbourne -28.4 (-27.3)
16 (16) Port Adelaide -44.1 (-45.6)
17 (17) Gold Coast -45.3 (-50.0)

The Wooden Finger 2011 All-Australian Team

In contrast to previous years I am going to have the courage to jump the gun and name what I think will be this year's AFL All-Australian team before the squad of 40 is named.

B: Grant Birchall, Darren Glass, Corey Enright
HB: Heath Scotland, Ben Reid, Leon Davis
C: Dale Thomas, Scott Pendlebury, Marc Murphy
HF: Steve Johnson, Travis Cloke, Andrew Walker
F: Stephen Milne, Lance Franklin, Adam Goodes
R: Dean Cox, Chris Judd, Gary Ablett
I: Sam Mitchell, Todd Goldstein, Dane Swan, Matthew Boyd

Monday, August 29, 2011

AFL Power Rankings - Round 23

1 (Last week 1) Collingwood 51.6 (Last week 49.1)
2 (2) Geelong 36.3 (40.9)
3 (3) Hawthorn 33.8 (33.6)
4 (4) Carlton 27.7 (27.6)
5 (6) St. Kilda 18.6 (14.2)
6 (5) West Coast 18.5 (19.8)
7 (8) Sydney 7.8 (3.0)
8 (7) North Melbourne 3.0 (8.2)
9 (10) Western Bulldogs -5.9 (-5.4)
10 (9) Essendon -6.1 (-1.8)
11 (11) Brisbane -15.4 (-16.7)
12 (14) Richmond -17.2 (-19.5)
13 (13) Fremantle -17.6 (-17.6)
14 (12) Adelaide -19.5 (-17.2)
15 (15) Melbourne -27.3 (-25.7)
16 (16) Port Adelaide -45.6 (-49.3)
17 (17) Gold Coast -50.0 (-51.1)

Monday, August 22, 2011

AFL Power Rankings - Round 22

The biggest riser this week is actually a team that lost on the weekend - Brisbane's relatively narrow away loss to Collingwood takes them up three spots to 11th. After weeks of swapping places with Carlton, Hawthorn settled into 3rd with their win over the Blues.

1 (Last week 1) Collingwood 49.1 (Last week 54.7)
2 (2) Geelong 40.9 (41.7)
3 (3) Hawthorn 33.6 (33.1)
4 (4) Carlton 27.6 (27.6)
5 (5) West Coast 19.8 (16.5)
6 (6) St. Kilda 14.2 (15.7)
7 (7) North Melbourne 8.2 (2.2)
8 (8) Sydney 3.0 (1.3)
9 (9) Essendon -1.8 (0.2)
10 (10) Western Bulldogs -5.4 (-8.8)
11 (14) Brisbane -16.7 (-23.0)
12 (12) Adelaide -17.2 (-19.8)
13 (11) Fremantle -17.6 (-10.6)
14 (13) Richmond -19.5 (-19.8)
15 (15) Melbourne -25.7 (-25.1)
16 (16) Port Adelaide -49.3 (-45.6)
17 (17) Gold Coast -51.1 (-50.0)

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Monday, August 15, 2011

AFL Power Rankings - Round 21

Hawks get a boost from their 165-point win over Port, again switching places with Carlton; perhaps next week's square-off between the teams will determine who is the best team outside "the Big Two". Port meanwhile, are giving the Suns their first serious competition for many weeks as the lowest ranked team.

1 (Last week 1) Collingwood 54.7 (Last week 56.3)
2 (2) Geelong 41.7 (43.6)
3 (4) Hawthorn 33.1 (22.8)
4 (3) Carlton 27.6 (25.2)
5 (5) West Coast 16.5 (13.5)
6 (6) St. Kilda 15.7 (13.4)
7 (8) North Melbourne 2.2 (1.6)
8 (7) Sydney 1.3 (6.0)
9 (9) Essendon 0.2 (-3.9)
10 (10) Western Bulldogs -8.8 (-5.4)
11 (11) Fremantle -10.6 (-11.0)
12 (12) Adelaide -19.8 (-22.8)
13 (15) Richmond -19.8 (-26.8)
14 (14) Brisbane -23.0 (-26.7)
15 (13) Melbourne -25.1 (-23.8)
16 (16) Port Adelaide -45.6 (-38.6)
17 (17) Gold Coast -50.0 (-48.0)

Monday, August 8, 2011

AFL Power Rankings - Round 20

A bit of shuffling around the edges this week, but there's huge gaps opening up between the top few and the bottom few. Collingwood are now considered at least a 13-goal better team than everyone from Adelaide on down, and Geelong are considered a least an 11-goal better team than all of that group. Even Carlton and Hawthorn would be expected to win by at least 8 goals against the teams in that group on neutral turf.

1 (Last week 1) Collingwood 56.3 (Last week 50.5)
2 (2) Geelong 43.6 (38.7)
3 (4) Carlton 25.2 (22.8)
4 (3) Hawthorn 22.8 (25.2)
5 (6) West Coast 13.5 (12.1)
6 (5) St. Kilda 13.4 (12.4)
7 (7) Sydney 6.0 (7.0)
8 (8) North Melbourne 1.6 (0.8)
9 (9) Essendon -3.9 (-5.5)
10 (10) Western Bulldogs -5.4 (-5.8)
11 (11) Fremantle -11.0 (-10.3)
12 (13) Adelaide -22.8 (-23.5)
13 (12) Melbourne -23.8 (-20.7)
14 (15) Brisbane -26.7 (-26.1)
15 (14) Richmond -26.8 (-25.6)
16 (16) Port Adelaide -38.6 (-32.6)
17 (17) Gold Coast -48.0 (-44.0)

Monday, August 1, 2011

The Best Basketball Player In Each Position

In a series over at over the past week, five "basketball nerds" have been asked each day who is the best player currently playing at each position, and who is the best player at that position of all time. These were the players who received the most votes at each position.

Current players

Point Guard: Chris Paul
Shooting Guard: Dwyane Wade
Small Forward: LeBron James
Power Forward: Dirk Nowitzki
Center: Dwight Howard

All-time players

Point Guard: Magic Johnson
Shooting Guard: Michael Jordan
Small Forward: Larry Bird
Power Forward: Tim Duncan
Center: Bill Russell

In terms of current players, I would absolutely choose Paul, Wade (yes, over Kobe), James and Howard (isn't it weird how all their surnames are first names?). All of these players are productive on multiple levels and are more or less at the peaks of their careers. I wonder though if Kevin Love would be a better choice than Dirk Nowitzki. Yes, Nowitzki achieved amazing things this year by being the leading offensive option on the team that won the championship, and that prevented James and Wade from winning a championship in the process. But let's compare Love's and Nowitzki's statistics:

Love: field goal %: .470; 3-point field goal %: .417; free-throw %: .850; rebounds per game: 15.2; assists per game: 2.5; points per game: 20.2.

Nowitzki: field goal %: .517; 3-point field goal %: .393; free-throw %: .892; rebounds per game: 7.0; assists per game: 2.6; points per game: 23.0.

Love has a huge rebounding advantage, and Nowitzki holds slight advantages in most of the other categories. I guess in the end though it's hard to make a case against the guy who won the ring.

In terms of the all-time choices, Magic, Michael and Larry seem to me the obvious picks. The center spot seems to me the toughest to pick with Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Shaquille O'Neal all having strong claims. In this case, it's hard to argue against the guy who won 11 rings - i.e. Russell (even if I think rings are overvalued). Russell certainly didn't score as much as the others, but his rebounding and reportedly his defence were close to unparalleled. You could argue about this for more space than I will here, but for now I have no problem with Russell being the pick.

For me, the power forward battle is between Duncan, Karl Malone, Charles Barkley and Kevin Garnett. Their stats were all fairly similar, though Malone was the highest volume scorer, while Barkley was a hugely efficient scorer (FG%: .541) and the most effective rebounder. But in the end Duncan has had a lot of success, so he probably deserves the spot.

So, in the end, I guess I'm agreeing with the consensus. With Duncan's success though, the debate about the all-time best at each position has become fairly settled. An all-time Top 10 though, I think, would be another story.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

AFL Power Rankings - Round 19

Not a lot of movement in ranking positions this week, despite some huge results. Geelong halve the gap from Collingwood with their mammoth 186-point win over Melbourne. The Demons remain in 12th, but are now a lot closer in ranking points to the bottom group. The Hawks move into third with their big win in the west.

1 (Last week 1) Collingwood 50.5 (Last week 48.8)
2 (2) Geelong 38.7 (26.6)
3 (4) Hawthorn 25.2 (23.2)
4 (3) Carlton 22.8 (23.3)
5 (5) St. Kilda 12.4 (13.6)
6 (6) West Coast 12.1 (11.2)
7 (7) Sydney 7.0 (6.8)
8 (8) North Melbourne 0.8 (0.4)
9 (9) Essendon -5.5 (-3.6)
10 (10) Western Bulldogs -5.8 (-5.2)
11 (11) Fremantle -10.3 (-7.6)
12 (12) Melbourne -20.7 (-9.0)
13 (14) Adelaide -23.5 (-25.7)
14 (13) Richmond -25.6 (-24.5)
15 (15) Brisbane -26.1 (-26.2)
16 (16) Port Adelaide -32.6 (-30.0)
17 (17) Gold Coast -44.0 (-46.2)

Monday, July 25, 2011

AFL Power Rankings - Rounds 17 and 18

I was away last week, so this week we have two rounds worth of updates. St. Kilda have moved up to fifth, and Hawthorn and Carlton are closing the gap on Geelong.

Round 17

1 (Last week 1) Collingwood 50.6 (Last week 51.6)
2 (2) Geelong 25.8 (26.8)
3 (3) Hawthorn 19.9 (19.9)
4 (4) Carlton 19.6 (18.5)
5 (5) West Coast 12.6 (12.7)
6 (7) St. Kilda 8.4 (7.6)
7 (6) Sydney 5.4 (8.9)
8 (8) Essendon 0.7 (-0.8)
9 (10) North Melbourne -0.5 (-3.1)
10 (9) Western Bulldogs -3.8 (-1.9)
11 (11) Melbourne -6.5 (-5.3)
12 (12) Fremantle -8.3 (-12.7)
13 (13) Adelaide -19.4 (-18.6)
14 (14) Richmond -23.5 (-20.6)
15 (15) Brisbane -25.1 (-26.7)
16 (16) Port Adelaide -30.5 (-32.2)
17 (17) Gold Coast -48.2 (-52.0)

Round 18

1 (Last week 1) Collingwood 48.8 (Last week 50.6)
2 (2) Geelong 26.6 (25.8)
3 (4) Carlton 23.3 (19.6)
4 (3) Hawthorn 23.2 (19.9)
5 (6) St. Kilda 13.6 (8.4)
6 (5) West Coast 11.2 (12.6)
7 (7) Sydney 6.8 (5.4)
8 (9) North Melbourne 0.4 (-0.5)
9 (8) Essendon -3.6 (0.7)
10 (10) Western Bulldogs -5.2 (-3.8)
11 (12) Fremantle -7.6 (-8.3)
12 (11) Melbourne -9.0 (-6.5)
13 (14) Richmond -24.5 (-23.5)
14 (13) Adelaide -25.7 (-19.4)
15 (15) Brisbane -26.2 (-25.1)
16 (16) Port Adelaide -30.0 (-30.5)
17 (17) Gold Coast -46.2 (-48.2)

Monday, July 11, 2011

AFL Power Rankings - Round 16

A huge gap has now opened up between Collingwood and everyone else - only Geelong would now be expected to get within five goals (and Gold Coast would be expected to lose by 19 goals in Melbourne).

1 (Last week 1) Collingwood 51.6 (Last week 44.7)
2 (2) Geelong 26.8 (28.4)
3 (4) Hawthorn 19.9 (20.1)
4 (3) Carlton 18.5 (22.3)
5 (5) West Coast 12.7 (10.9)
6 (6) Sydney 8.9 (6.8)
7 (7) St. Kilda 7.6 (5.3)
8 (9) Essendon -0.8 (-2.2)
9 (11) Western Bulldogs -1.9 (-7.6)
10 (8) North Melbourne -3.1 (2.2)
11 (10) Melbourne -5.3 (-5.4)
12 (12) Fremantle -12.7 (-12.2)
13 (13) Adelaide -18.6 (-18.9)
14 (14) Richmond -20.6 (-19.0)
15 (15) Brisbane -26.7 (-28.2)
16 (16) Port Adelaide -32.2 (-28.9)
17 (17) Gold Coast -52.0 (-48.9)

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

My 10 Favourite Beers To Date

I'm sure this list will change dramatically within a year's time, but here are my current fave brews:

1. Effen

2. Rogue Dead Guy Ale

3. Hoegaarden

4. Coldstream Pilsner

5. Little Creatures Pale Ale

6. Traquair Jacobite Ale

7. Mountain Goat Rare Breed IPA

8. Chimay Red

9. Coopers Vintage

10. Tokyo (Brewdog)

Sunday, July 3, 2011

AFL Power Rankings - Round 15

This week, Carlton moves back to 3rd and closes the gap on 2nd-placed Geelong.

1 (Last week 1) Collingwood 44.7 (Last week 43.3)
2 (2) Geelong 28.4 (32.1)
3 (4) Carlton 22.3 (16.3)
4 (3) Hawthorn 20.1 (21.8)
5 (5) West Coast 10.9 (10.0)
6 (6) Sydney 6.8 (6.9)
7 (7) St. Kilda 5.3 (5.3)
8 (8) North Melbourne 2.2 (2.6)
9 (10) Essendon -2.2 (-6.2)
10 (9) Melbourne -5.4 (0.3)
11 (12) Western Bulldogs -7.6 (-13.5)
12 (11) Fremantle -12.2 (-12.6)
13 (14) Adelaide -18.9 (-19.7)
14 (13) Richmond -19.0 (-14.7)
15 (15) Brisbane -28.2 (-28.3)
16 (16) Port Adelaide -28.9 (-29.9)
17 (17) Gold Coast -48.9 (-48.6)

Monday, June 27, 2011

AFL Power Rankings - Round 14

West Coast's unexpected win over Carlton has re-arranged the top half of the rankings, with the Hawks taking over third spot from the Blues, and the Eagles moving up to fifth.

1 (Last week 1) Collingwood 43.3 (Last week 46.1)
2 (2) Geelong 32.1 (32.4)
3 (4) Hawthorn 21.8 (18.3)
4 (3) Carlton 16.3 (22.5)
5 (7) West Coast 10.0 (4.5)
6 (6) Sydney 6.9 (4.8)
7 (5) St. Kilda 5.3 (5.7)
8 (8) North Melbourne 2.6 (-0.1)
9 (9) Melbourne 0.3 (-0.4)
10 (10) Essendon -6.2 (-3.4)
11 (12) Fremantle -12.6 (-13.4)
12 (11) Western Bulldogs -13.5 (-13.2)
13 (13) Richmond -14.7 (-13.4)
14 (14) Adelaide -19.7 (-20.0)
15 (16) Brisbane -28.3 (-27.6)
16 (15) Port Adelaide -29.9 (-27.3)
17 (17) Gold Coast -48.6 (-49.3)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Debut Albums Rock!: Which Number Albums Are The Best?

Following on from my evidence suggesting that the best tracks on great albums are weighted towards the front of the album - particularly opening tracks - I've gone on to see if the most highly rated albums tend to be albums that are early in a act's career. What I did was go back to the Best Ever Albums website, and note down for each of the Top 100 highest-ranked albums what album number it was in the act's chronology (for example, OK Computer is album No.3 for Radiohead). I excluded "Magical Mystery Tour" by the Beatles, which was originally an EP, and "Kind Of Blue" by Miles Davis, because it was too hard to work out which number it was (it was high). The graph below shows the outcomes:

As I expected, the top-ranked albums tend to be earlier albums within a band's chronology, with about one-fifth of the "Top 98" being debut albums, and about another 30 per cent being either the second or third album. After that, there is a general downward trend, which is in part to be expected, given that many great acts don't make it past a sixth album.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Opening Tracks Rock!: What Are The Best Track Numbers On Albums?

For a long time I've believed that a great album needs a great opening track, and probably a good closer too. To test this theory, I went through the top 50 ranked albums at Best Ever Albums (except for monster albums "The White Album" and "The Wall") and noted down all the top-ranked tracks (as voted by the site's members; note that one album can have multiple top-ranked tracks). And here are the results in graphical form:

OK, it's still a small sample, but my theory about great albums tending to have great opening tracks is looking pretty good. It also appears you need some heavy hitters around the Track 2 to Track 5 mark. After that, it drops off a bit; the results for Track 6 to Track 9 are all about the same, and it appears that you don't really need a good closer at all given the results for Track 10 onwards (although many older albums did end at Track 9). Actually, this kind of makes sense when you think about it: OK Computer? "The Tourist" was the last track - there were better ones. Dark Side Of The Moon? "Eclipse" was the last track - that was almost a coda. And so on.

Now to test my theory if great bands also tend to have great first albums...

The Finger Points Outwards - No. 35: Beer and Economic Growth

I'm not sure I'm totally convinced by the evidence here, but I like the thinking!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Finger Points Outwards - No. 34: Who Had The Best Civil War Facial Hair?

Over at the Smithsonian website, a survey is being run on who had the best civil war facial hair? Frankly, I think there is one obvious standout (and the voters appear to agree with me): Maj. Gen. Ambrose Burnside:

Meanwhile, though I don't usually talk about work on this forum, I thought I'd note that a bunch of FWA Research Reports are appearing on Australian Policy Online. I wonder though, if by linking it up with an image of Ambrose Burnside, I can get more hits for this report here.

AFL Power Rankings - Round 13

Nothing really to comment on this week, except I'm hoping that Melbourne continue their schizophrenic form and have an off day next week against the Tiges.

1 (Last week 1) Collingwood 46.1 (Last week 45.1)
2 (2) Geelong 32.4 (32.8)
3 (3) Carlton 22.5 (20.3)
4 (4) Hawthorn 18.3 (18.6)
5 (5) St. Kilda 5.7 (5.9)
6 (7) Sydney 4.8 (5.2)
7 (6) West Coast 4.5 (5.3)
8 (8) North Melbourne -0.1 (-1.6)
9 (10) Melbourne -0.4 (-6.8)
10 (9) Essendon -3.4 (-2.6)
11 (12) Western Bulldogs -13.2 (-14.6)
12 (11) Fremantle -13.4 (-8.6)
13 (13) Richmond -13.4 (-16.9)
14 (14) Adelaide -20.0 (-19.2)
15 (16) Port Adelaide -27.3 (-28.6)
16 (15) Brisbane -27.6 (-25.2)
17 (17) Gold Coast -49.3 (-50.4)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Final Thoughts on the 2010-11 NBA Season

Well done on the Dallas Mavericks for winning this year's NBA championship. Dirk Nowitzki and owner Mark Cuban have put their team in a great position to win for over a decade now and it's good to see it all (in Cuban's case, quite literally) pay off. Plus, the Mavs conform roughly to my ideal of how a team should be constructed: astute drafting, clever trading, a couple of handy free-agent signings, all combining to form a deep and balanced team that can handle just about any situation that is thrown at them. Essentially they're another version of my beloved 2004 Detroit Pistons team.

Meanwhile, I've grown well past tired of the level of vitriol that has been thrown at the Miami Heat over the past season. That Cleveland and Toronto fans will never forgive LeBron James and Chris Bosh for leaving I can understand, absolutely. But really, when you put it all together, what have they done to inspire the general level of hatred they have received from other fans? LeBron's "Decision" TV special? Yeah, it was self-promoting and a kick in the teeth to Cleveland fans, but it's not like he went up there and gave the middle finger to anyone - he seemed genuinely torn and sad to be leaving the only team he had known for seven years. (What he did behind the scenes might be another matter.) The "Welcome Party"? Yeah, it was over the top, but is it a lot different to how New York or Chicago would have reacted if they had managed to sign up the three most desired free agents in the league? The on-court and off-court posturing? It's no worse than a lot of other players; indeed, compared to what was going on in the early '90s when the league first gained global prominence, it's relatively subdued. If you're not from Ohio or Toronto, get over it. They lost anyway.

Now, unfortunately, it seems we are headed for the owners locking the players out over disputes around a new collective bargaining agreement. Presumably it's in no-one's interest for it to go on too long, but it may eat up a sizable part, if not all, of next season at least. This is during a time where interest in the NBA (according to TV ratings) has ignited again, and a lockout would surely slow this momentum.

Anyway, to finish off, here are my five most memorable moments from season 2010-11:

5. Following a mutiny in Detroit, the Pistons' bench laughs as their coach John Kuester is thrown out.
4. Jason Terry inexplicably lobs a long-range 3 in the dying moments of Game 5 of the Finals - and essentially ices the game for Dallas.
3. Blake Griffin dunks over a car.
2. Blake Griffin dunks over the Knicks.
1. The Miami Welcome Party - you have to admit it was memorable.

AFL Power Rankings - Round 12

North Melbourne in the top half of the rankings? Yes, a couple of big wins to the Roos - even against lowly-ranked teams - combined with the ineptitude of the teams directly above them, pushes them into eighth position.

1 (Last week 1) Collingwood 45.1 (Last week 41.0)
2 (2) Geelong 32.8 (32.8)
3 (3) Carlton 20.3 (19.2)
4 (4) Hawthorn 18.6 (18.0)
5 (6) St. Kilda 5.9 (4.8)
6 (7) West Coast 5.3 (0.5)
7 (5) Sydney 5.2 (6.5)
8 (10) North Melbourne -1.6 (-4.6)
9 (8) Essendon -2.6 (-1.1)
10 (9) Melbourne -6.8 (-3.7)
11 (11) Fremantle -8.6 (-10.5)
12 (12) Western Bulldogs -14.6 (-13.1)
13 (14) Richmond -16.9 (-18.6)
14 (13) Adelaide -19.2 (-14.8)
15 (15) Brisbane -25.2 (-24.4)
16 (16) Port Adelaide -28.6 (-30.5)
17 (17) Gold Coast -50.4 (-47.7)

Thursday, June 9, 2011

@$&! ... Everyone's An Avenger

And talking about things in comics that piss me off - today I found out that Daredevil is joining the New Avengers. So much for being an Avenger meaning something. Excluding the X-Men characters, the only major Marvel heroes who do not have Avenger membership now are the Silver Surfer, Nick Fury (although it's recently been revealed that he led some 1950s Avengers group, and he hangs around so much he may as well be a member), the Human Torch, Ghost Rider, and the Punisher (who is not really a hero anyway). Sorry, despite his movie success I don't count Blade as a major Marvel hero. Luke Cage, Doctor Strange, Iron Fist, Spider-Woman, Nova ... they're all Avengers now... essentially if you've appeared in more than forty Marvel comics and haven't been given membership you should feel miffed (if you were something other than paper and ink, that is).

To some extent, this is an inevitability of the serial nature of the comics running up against the static nature of the Marvel Universe. The major characters at Marvel now are essentially the same major characters as there were in the 1960s. Take away the X-Men characters, and there haven't been any major Marvel characters introduced in 30 years. Things can change, only in the past five years have some of the characters introduced in the 1970s, including Cage, Spider-Woman and Ms Marvel, become cornerstones of the Marvel U. But Marvel seem to has missed their chance for generational change, and it seems that all we might get now are the shuffling around of the same basic pieces. Perhaps this is why one should stop reading comics at 20. I'll stop now before I depress myself...

My Mid-Season AFL All-Australian Team 2011

B: Matthew Scarlett, Michael Jamison, Heath Shaw.
HB: James Kelly, Sam Fisher, Brett Deledio.
C: Scott Pendlebury, Jobe Watson, Joel Selwood.
HF: Dale Thomas, Lance Franklin, Steve Johnson.
F: Josh Kennedy, Jack Riewoldt, Jeff Garlett.
R: Aaron Sandilands, Chris Judd, Gary Ablett.
I: Marc Murphy, Dean Cox, David Mundy, Nathan Fyfe.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The DC Relaunch

This one pisses me off. DC have announced that, in September, they will be relaunching most (if not all) of their titles at issue #1. This probably includes titles such as Action, Detective, Superman and Batman, all of which have had unbroken runs for over 70 years. 70 years of history gone, just like that, to a marketing gimmick.

One possible justification for the line-wide relaunch is that it will boost sales. But will it? True, #1 issues do tend to have higher sales, but often they settle down after a few issues so that within a few months it won't matter if it was issue #6 or #206. And it's debatable how much sales will spike for the new #1s, given the limited budgets of comic buyers.

What about from a creative standpoint? The shuffling around of most of the titles' creative teams could yield some hits - Brian Azzarello on Wonder Woman for instance sounds interesting - but couldn't this have been done without relaunching every title? Word of mouth about which titles are worth reading should spread regardless of the numbering system.

Really, DC have trashed 70 years of tradition for a short term gain. I wouldn't go so far as to say I hope it fails, but I hope they sorely come to regret it.

Monday, June 6, 2011

AFL Power Rankings - Round 11

Sydney make the most significant jump this week after their big win in Brisbane, moving from eighth to fifth, but another notable movement is Carlton knocking Hawthorn out of third place to become the highest-ranked team behind the "Big Two".

1 (Last week 1) Collingwood 41.0 (Last week 40.2)
2 (2) Geelong 32.8 (31.5)
3 (4) Carlton 19.2 (15.9)
4 (3) Hawthorn 18.0 (19.7)
5 (8) Sydney 6.5 (2.0)
6 (5) St. Kilda 4.8 (6.7)
7 (6) West Coast 0.5 (2.7)
8 (7) Essendon -1.1 (2.2)
9 (9) Melbourne -3.7 (-6.0)
10 (10) North Melbourne -4.6 (-8.1)
11 (13) Fremantle -10.5 (-11.9)
12 (11) Western Bulldogs -13.1 (-11.1)
13 (12) Adelaide -14.8 (-11.1)
14 (14) Richmond -18.6 (-17.5)
15 (15) Brisbane -24.4 (-19.6)
16 (16) Port Adelaide -30.5 (-27.9)
17 (17) Gold Coast -47.7 (-49.4)

Sunday, May 29, 2011

AFL Power Rankings - Round 10

This is the week where the relative part of "relative adjusted net margin" comes into focus. West Coast getting belted by Collingwood is still a better relative performance than Sydney's narrow win over North Melbourne, so the Eagles move up to sixth. Similarly, the Bulldogs' loss to Hawthorn is not as bad in a relative sense as Fremantle's loss to St. Kilda and Adelaide's loss to Brisbane, so the Dogs move up to eleventh.

1 (Last week 1) Collingwood 40.2 (Last week 41.8)
2 (2) Geelong 31.5 (30.1)
3 (3) Hawthorn 19.7 (18.5)
4 (4) Carlton 15.9 (13.4)
5 (5) St. Kilda 6.7 (3.5)
6 (8) West Coast 2.7 (1.4)
7 (7) Essendon 2.2 (2.2)
8 (6) Sydney 2.0 (2.3)
9 (9) Melbourne -6.0 (-3.9)
10 (12) North Melbourne -8.1 (-8.3)
11 (13) Western Bulldogs -11.1 (-9.7)
12 (10) Adelaide -11.1 (-5.3)
13 (11) Fremantle -11.9 (-8.1)
14 (14) Richmond -17.5 (-15.6)
15 (15) Brisbane -19.6 (-24.8)
16 (16) Port Adelaide -27.9 (-29.6)
17 (17) Gold Coast -49.4 (-48.2)

Saturday, May 28, 2011

LeBron vs Jordan

OK, right now I'd say Michael Jordan was better than LeBron James is, but there's one argument that I never want to hear again for why Jordan was better, which is that LeBron has teamed up with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to try and win a championship. Jordan had great teammates in Scottie Pippen and Horace Grant, and then Pippen and Dennis Rodman. The difference is this: Jordan's front office in Chicago got him his great teammates, LeBron had to leave Cleveland to find his. Yes, the 'taking my talents to South Beach' quote does grate, but it doesn't impact how effective LeBron is on a basketball court. If anyone wants to say Jordan was better than LeBron is, find another argument (and there's plenty of other arguments that one can use).

Thus ends the rant.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

So Where Are the Cuban Mavs On The List of Most Memorable Non-Title Winning NBA Teams Now?

Up to No. 4 I reckon, although of course if they win the title they fall off the list entirely. And if Miami don't win the title, they knock out the 2004 Lakers for the No. 10 spot.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

More Wins = More Brownlow Votes?

Yes they do, but the effect hasn't been uniform across clubs. In particular, the newer clubs have considerably higher correlations between average votes per match and winning percentages across home-and-away seasons (excluding those seasons in which the 3-2-1 system of voting was not in place).

Brisbane Bears/Lions: 0.97
West Coast: 0.96
Adelaide: 0.95
Port Adelaide: 0.92
Fremantle: 0.91
St. Kilda: 0.81
Hawthorn: 0.78
Richmond: 0.75
Bulldogs: 0.74
Geelong: 0.73
Carlton: 0.73
Essendon: 0.73
Sydney: 0.72
North Melbourne: 0.67
Melbourne: 0.66
Collingwood: 0.61
Fitzroy: 0.59

The likely explanation for this is that votes have become more highly correlated with wins over time.

Monday, May 23, 2011

AFL Power Rankings - Round 9

Most interesting week this year in terms of movement in the rankings. West Coast and the Bulldogs essentially swap spots after the Eagles toasted the Dogs. The Eagles, remember, were dead last when the season began. The Saints jump back to fifth after their win, but are still a fair way off the top four teams, which have been settled for a while now.

1 (Last week 1) Collingwood 41.8 (Last week 43.8)
2 (2) Geelong 30.1 (31.8)
3 (3) Hawthorn 18.5 (16.5)
4 (4) Carlton 13.4 (12.3)
5 (7) St. Kilda 3.5 (2.6)
6 (5) Sydney 2.3 (6.2)
7 (6) Essendon 2.2 (4.0)
8 (12) West Coast 1.4 (-9.6)
9 (9) Melbourne -3.9 (-3.1)
10 (10) Adelaide -5.3 (-6.8)
11 (13) Fremantle -8.1 (-11.9)
12 (11) North Melbourne -8.3 (-7.5)
13 (8) Western Bulldogs -9.7 (2.0)
14 (14) Richmond -15.6 (-17.9)
15 (16) Brisbane -24.8 (-25.8)
16 (15) Port Adelaide -29.6 (-25.5)
17 (17) Gold Coast -48.2 (-47.4)

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Overvaluation of Rings in Basketball

Most basketball fans would have heard this one before: Player X has won more (championship) rings than Player Y, therefore Player X is better. Certainly the number of rings that a player has won gives some indication to how good they are - no-one wins a championship, let alone multiple championships, purely through luck. But as a method for evaluating players they are vastly over-valued.

Now I think it's true that in basketball one or two or three players can have a much larger influence on the outcome than a lot of other sports. So the amount of games a player wins does say quite a bit about a player's ability. The fact that Jordan, Magic, Bird, Tim Duncan, Shaq and Kobe have all been major contributors to teams that won championships indicates they were among the best players than the NBA has ever produced - you would have a very hard time arguing otherwise. But the difference in ability between them and a few of the players who did not win championships is not as large as often thought, and in some cases may not even exist at all.

The first reason is that a lot of basketball playoff games are very close, and there was a substantial probability that they could have turned out differently to how they did. Consider Kobe for instance - three of his championship runs involved a Game 7 that was close to going the other way: 2000 (against the Blazers), 2002 (against the Kings), and 2009 (against the Celtics). Had the Lakers lost all three he would have won "only" two rings to date. Now I'm not saying we shouldn't think of him any differently at all because he has won five rings: his team was able to win those games after all. What I'm saying is that we shouldn't think that much differently of him whether he ended up winning two championships or five, because the margin between him winning two or five championships was very slim.

The second reason is that, as dominant as the best players are, whether you win a championship or not depends to a considerable degree on your teammates. If Kobe had been an LA Clipper instead of an LA Laker, would he have won a single ring? Unlikely. But the wide disparity in results would barely be any reflection on him, rather it would be a reflection of the respective teams around him. Conversely, put Tracy McGrady (at his peak) on those Laker teams and he would have had a great chance to pick up a few rings by now. It should never be argued that a player wasn't great simply because he never won a ring. What that means is his team wasn't great. If you want to argue a player was or wasn't great, you have to have more of an argument that the number of rings he has won.

Yes it is great to win and it sucks to lose. But don't let the huge difference in emotion fool you into thinking there is a huge difference in ability. The difference is often not as large as it seems.

AFL Power Rankings - Week 8

There were a few unexpected results this week, with Geelong beating Collingwood, North Melbourne beating Melbourne, and West Coast beating Fremantle. St. Kilda fall to 7th after another loss, while Fremantle fall to 13th.

1 (Last week 1) Collingwood 43.8 (Last week 45.3)
2 (2) Geelong 31.8 (30.2)
3 (3) Hawthorn 16.5 (15.5)
4 (4) Carlton 12.3 (12.1)
5 (6) Sydney 6.2 (4.1)
6 (7) Essendon 4.0 (1.2)
7 (5) St. Kilda 2.6 (4.7)
8 (8) Western Bulldogs 2.0 (0.8)
9 (9) Melbourne -3.1 (0.3)
10 (10) Adelaide -6.8 (-6.7)
11 (12) North Melbourne -7.5 (-11.3)
12 (13) West Coast -9.6 (-13.8)
13 (11) Fremantle -11.9 (-9.6)
14 (14) Richmond -17.9 (-16.8)
15 (16) Port Adelaide -25.5 (-23.8)
16 (15) Brisbane -25.8 (-22.7)
17 (17) Gold Coast -47.4 (-49.3)

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

AFL Power Rankings - Round 7

All the action is around the middle this week, as Melbourne rebound back into ninth, while the Crows and Dockers take sizable hits in terms of ranking points. In terms of next week, even if Geelong beat the Magpies it's highly, highly unlikely they'll take the top spot, but it will close the gap between them.

1 (Last week 1) Collingwood 45.3 (Last week 46.1)
2 (2) Geelong 30.2 (29.6)
3 (3) Hawthorn 15.5 (14.2)
4 (4) Carlton 12.1 (10.9)
5 (5) St. Kilda 4.7 (5.3)
6 (6) Sydney 4.1 (2.4)
7 (8) Essendon 1.2 (2.2)
8 (7) Western Bulldogs 0.8 (2.4)
9 (11) Melbourne 0.3 (-8.2)
10 (9) Adelaide -6.7 (0.8)
11 (10) Fremantle -8.8 (-3.9)
12 (12) North Melbourne -11.3 (-10.5)
13 (13) West Coast -13.8 (-14.2)
14 (14) Richmond -16.8 (-20.6)
15 (15) Brisbane -22.7 (-21.3)
16 (16) Port Adelaide -23.8 (-23.6)
17 (17) Gold Coast -47.4 (-49.3)

Monday, May 2, 2011

AFL Power Rankings - Round 6

Essendon jump into eighth after their 139-point thrashing of Gold Coast, although a 139-point win against the Suns doesn't get you as many ranking points as it did a few weeks back. Indeed, the Bombers are now barely out of sixth place as they continue their rapid rise up the rankings. Melbourne fall to eleventh after being belted out west.

1 (Last week 1) Collingwood 46.1 (Last week 44.1)
2 (2) Geelong 29.6 (29.6)
3 (3) Hawthorn 14.2 (13.9)
4 (4) Carlton 10.9 (8.5)
5 (5) St. Kilda 5.3 (5.6)
6 (6) Sydney 2.4 (3.7)
7 (7) Western Bulldogs 2.4 (3.5)
8 (11) Essendon 2.2 (-5.6)
9 (8) Adelaide 0.8 (-0.5)
10 (10) Fremantle -3.9 (-4.0)
11 (9) Melbourne -8.2 (-3.8)
12 (12) North Melbourne -10.5 (-14.4)
13 (13) West Coast -14.2 (-19.4)
14 (16) Richmond -20.6 (-21.3)
15 (14) Brisbane -21.3 (-20.1)
16 (15) Port Adelaide -23.6 (-20.7)
17 (17) Gold Coast -49.3 (-39.5)

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The 12 Most Memorable Non-Title Winning NBA Teams Since Jordan Started Winning Everything - Part Two

6. The Mid-‘90s Sonics

Peak years: 1992-97.
Best result: NBA Finals ’96.
Key players: Shawn Kemp, Gary Payton, Detlef Schrempf, Hersey Hawkins, Nate McMillan, Sam Perkins.

Kemp and Payton just edge out Shaq and Penny because they hung around for longer and they avoided getting swept in the finals. They were also arguably even brasher, what with Kemp’s spectacular dunking and Payton’s non-stop mouth. They first rose to prominence in ’93 when they stretched Barkley’s Suns to seven games in the West Finals, then had two embarrassing first round exits (including becoming the first No.1 seed to lose in the first round in ’94), and then finally broke into the NBA Finals in ’96, knocking off the two-time champion Rockets before becoming fodder for the rampaging Bulls. After that they kind of faded away, so much so that I had to look up when their era actually ended – it was when Kemp got annoyed about the Sonics giving too much money to Jim McIlvane and was traded to Cleveland in ’97. Payton then soldiered on with Vin Baker for a few years, and then he was gone, and then a few years later the Sonics were gone also.

5. The Late-‘90s Jazz

Peak years: 1994-2000.
Best result: NBA Finals ’97, ’98.
Key players: Karl Malone, John Stockton, Jeff Hornacek, Bryon Russell, Greg Ostertag, Howard Eisley.

Though the Stockton-to-Malone era lasted for what seemed like an eternity, they reached their peak when Jeff Hornacek joined the line-up. The Jazz are memorable for how uncool they were, with Stockton and Hornacek forming the dorkiest backcourt of the ‘90s, and Malone standing as an imposing pillar of blandness. But they faced Jordan’s Bulls for two years in the Finals, and gave a decent showing both times, adding some more memorable moments to Jordan’s highlight reel in the process. Malone even stole two MVPs in the process, one which should have belonged to Jordan (though most people were happy to see Malone win one) and one which should have gone to Tim Duncan. They were a great team no doubt, but I can’t put them any higher than fifth.

4. The Early-‘00s Kings

Peak years: 2001-03.
Best result: Western Conference Finals ’02.
Key players: Chris Webber, Mike Bibby, Peja Stojakovic, Vlade Divac, Doug Christie, Bobby Jackson, Hedo Turkoglu.

Oh, the agony… the Kings surely deserved to beat the Lakers in the 2002 Western Conference Finals, but were stopped first in Game 4 by a Robert Horry buzzer beater and then in Game 6 by (allegedly) the referees, and then they lost Game 7 in overtime. Had they won that series, they no doubt would have destroyed the Nets in the Finals (which, admittedly, would have been watched by about five people). This team also probably went up a couple of notches because of Doug Christie’s wife, who brought a whole new level of crazy to the WAGs club.

3. The Seven Seconds Or Less Suns
Peak years: 2004-08.
Best result: Western Conference Finals ’05, ’06.
Key players: Steve Nash, Shawn Marion, Amare Stoudemire, Leandro Barbosa, Joe Johnson, Boris Diaw, Raja Bell.

When Steve Nash re-joined the Suns in 2004, they quickly became the most popular team going around, with their “run and gun” or “seven seconds or less” offence seen as a welcome antidote to the defensively-orientated Pistons and Spurs. That popularity gained Nash two MVP awards, and the Suns made two straight trips to the Conference Finals, making the world a better place in which to be a skinny white basketballer with bad hair. Joe Johnson’s departure hurt their chances to win it all, as did Stoudemire’s microfracture surgery in ’05-06 (though it did help Nash win his second MVP award). Then, inexplicably, Marion was traded for an aging Shaquille O’Neal and his massive contract in ’08, effectively killing off the SSOL era, though the Suns would again reach the Conference Finals in 2010. Coach Mike D’Antoni and Stoudemire’s ego are now using a “run and gun” style in New York, but it isn’t quite the same without Nash on board.

2. The Riley Era Knicks

Peak years: 1991-95.
Best result: NBA Finals ‘94
Key players: Patrick Ewing, John Starks, Charles Oakley, Charles Smith, Anthony Mason, Doc Rivers, Derek Harper.

Say what you want about Pat Riley’s Knicks teams, but they were memorable (though not always for the right reasons). Ewing’s jumpshot and battles against Hakeem, the thuggish frontline of Oakley and Mason, Starks’ dunk on the Bulls and his epic fail in Game 7 of the ’94 Finals, Charles Smith getting blocked 47 times by the Bulls’ defence, and so on … This team also spawned a memorable rivalry when Riley jumped ship to the Miami Heat and the Heat and Knicks proceeded to pound on each other for the next few seasons. It’s a shame they never went up against the Pistons’ “Bad Boys” more often, maybe then we would have seen if Riley’s hair could ever be ruffled.

1. The Mid-to-Late ‘90s Pacers

Peak years: 1993-2000.
Best result: NBA Finals ‘00
Key players: Reggie Miller, Rik Smits, Dale Davis, Antonio Davis, Mark Jackson, Jalen Rose, Derrick McKey.

You wouldn’t think a team from Indiana could stand out as the most memorable non-title winning team of the past couple of decades, but there’s a number of factors that earned them the top spot on this list. First, their long run of success: they made the Eastern Conference Finals in ’94, ’95, ’98, ’99 and 2000. Second, their depth: Miller, Smits, the Davises, Jackson and Rose were all All-Stars at some point in their careers. Third, their memorable rivalries with the Knicks and the Bulls: who can forget Miller’s mouthing off at Spike Lee, or his eight points in 8.9 seconds? Between Miller’s shooting and the Davises toughness on the boards they could do it all: except win the title that is. So they will have to settle for being No.1 of the non-winners instead.

Friday, April 29, 2011

The 12 Most Memorable Non-Title Winning NBA Teams Since Jordan Started Winning Everything - Part One

12. The “Dream Team” Lakers

Peak years: 2003-04
Best result: NBA Finals ‘04
Key players: Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant, Karl Malone, Gary Payton.

This team barely qualifies for this list, as Shaq and Kobe won multiple titles with the Lakers, and this line-up was only together for one season. But with four future Hall-of-Famers it’s still a memorable team, made even more so by their Finals loss to the non-superstar-studded Detroit Pistons in 5 games. In that series, the cracks in this heavily favoured Lakers team were burst open, as Chauncey Billups obliterated Payton, Kobe couldn’t hit the side of a barn, and Malone spent half the series grizzling on the bench (I have fond memories of that series). At season’s end Shaq was traded to Miami and Malone and Payton were let go, leaving Kobe as the lone star of the team - needless to say, it would be a few years before the Lakers were a force again.

11. The Pre-Brawl Pacers

Peak years: 2001-05
Best result: Eastern Conference Finals ‘04
Key players: Jermaine O’Neal, Ron Artest, Reggie Miller, Brad Miller, Stephen Jackson, Jamaal Tinsley.

The Pacers were on the rise in the early/mid-‘00s, earning the best regular season record in 2003-04 before losing to the Pistons in the Eastern finals. Jermaine O’Neal finished 3rd in the MVP voting that year and Artest won Defensive Player of the Year, and they looked like they would be a contender for years to come. The team is more memorable though for their spectacular flame-out as a result of Artest and Jackson’s infamous brawl with the spectators at Auburn Hills. From that game, Artest received a 73-game suspension, Jackson received 30 games, and O’Neal received 25 games, effectively killing their ’04-05 campaign. Artest would be traded the next year and the Pacers never recovered. Funnily enough though, O’Neal has emerged the worst from the Pacers’ collapse for earning big contracts and putting up mediocre numbers, while Jackson earned a measured of respectability as captain (!) of the Warriors and Artest won a championship and recently the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award (!!) as a member of the Lakers.

10. The Barkley Era Suns

Peak years: 1992-96.
Best result: NBA Finals ’93.
Key players: Charles Barkley, Kevin Johnson, Dan Majerle, Mark West, Danny Manning, A.C. Green.

Barkley’s arrival in Phoenix changed the team from moderately successful to championship contenders, and they were only stopped from winning it all in ’93 by Jordan’s three-peating Bulls. Actually, what I remember most from this era in Phoenix is the awesome ads they produced, including the “Godzilla vs. Charles Barkley” series and the Nike ad of Dan Majerle diving around the court. This team could be higher, but no-one really remembers anyone in the team outside the “Big Three” of Barkley, KJ and Majerle (oh, and Richard Dumas... let’s not forget him).

9. The Late-‘90s/Early-‘00s Blazers

Peak years: 1999-2001.
Best result: Western Conference Finals '99, ’00.
Key players: Rasheed Wallace, Scottie Pippen, Steve Smith, Damon Stoudamire, Arvydas Sabonis, Bonzi Wells, Brian Grant, Detlef Schrempf.

No team has ever been more stacked than the 2000 Trail Blazers, and no team is better remembered for losing a big lead in a pivotal game, as they lost a 15 point fourth-quarter lead to hand the Lakers the Western Conference finals. They were so stacked that a young Jermaine O’Neal could hardly get on the court, which some say may have been their undoing given the difficulties involved in getting everyone ample minutes. But if they could have just held on to that lead against the Lakers, then maybe people would have ended up singing the praises of having a deep roster over having two superstars and nothing else. Two years later, another team with a deep roster would come even closer to knocking off the Lakers, forging some of the most painful-ever memories for us Lakers-haters ... we’ll get to that...

8. The Cuban Era Mavericks

Peak years: 2000-present (it’s all a blur, really ...)
Best results: NBA Finals ‘06
Key players: Dirk Nowitzki, Steve Nash, Jason Terry, Michael Finley, Jason Kidd, Josh Howard.

Since Mark Cuban took over ownership of the Mavericks in the early 2000s they have been successful for a remarkably long period of time, and through a considerable number of roster changes without ever winning it all. Apart from the aforementioned key players, other former All-Stars that the Mavs have employed include Shawn Marion, Antawn Jamison, Caron Butler and Devin Harris. Many observers think they should have won in the ’06 Finals, when Dwyane Wade was famously awarded more free throws in one game than the entire Mavericks team. Then the next season they were even more famously ousted in the first round by the 8th-seeded Warriors, after they had won 67 games and Nowitzki was named the MVP. But still, all those 50 and 60-win seasons are hard to ignore. What keeps this team from placing higher is that they haven’t really had a stable core throughout this era: their most memorable line-up was when Nash and Finley were on the team, but their greatest successes came after those two left.

7. The Mid-‘90s Magic

Peak years: 1993-96.
Best result: NBA Finals ‘95
Key players: Shaquille O’Neal, Penny Hardaway, Horace Grant, Nick Anderson, Dennis Scott.

In the mid-‘90s the Orlando Magic were cooler than “Seinfeld” or Pearl Jam, with Shaq and Penny coming to prominence in the era where mass-marketing was at its peak for young, high draft picks. If you were a teenager playing basketball in this era, the rules were simple: if you were a smaller guy you thought you were Penny, if you were a big guy you thought you were Shaq. When Grant joined in ’95 they shot up the standings and into the Finals, beating Jordan’s Bulls along the way (the only team to do it in this era), only to get swept by Hakeem Olajuwon and the Houston Rockets. The next year, Jordan’s Bulls destroyed everything in their path, and the year after that Shaq was in LA. Fans in the mid-‘90s would soon get used to seeing potential dynasties rise up and then get suddenly dismantled; no-one encapsulated that more than Shaq and Penny on the Magic.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

AFL Power Rankings - Round 5

Only a couple of surprise results this week, so very little change in the rankings.

(What may be a surprise is the relatively low rankings of Fremantle and Essendon, given their current ladder positions. The Dockers' position reflects their mediocre form over the second half of 2010, and their win in Adelaide was their only result this year that has had a notable change on their ranking - that is, all their other results (including their recent win over the Bulldogs) have been fairly much in line with their current rating. As mentioned before in this space, the system may be under-rating the Bombers: they had some dreadful results late last year, but seem to have significantly improved this year - if they can keep up this form, they should soon be able to break into the top half.)

1 (Last week 1) Collingwood 44.1 (Last week 45.1)
2 (2) Geelong 29.6 (28.9)
3 (3) Hawthorn 13.9 (13.5)
4 (4) Carlton 8.5 (8.9)
5 (5) St. Kilda 5.6 (5.9)
6 (7) Sydney 3.7 (3.8)
7 (6) Western Bulldogs 3.5 (4.0)
8 (8) Adelaide -0.5 (-2.4)
9 (9) Melbourne -3.8 (-4.1)
10 (10) Fremantle -4.0 (-5.4)
11 (11) Essendon -5.6 (-8.0)
12 (12) North Melbourne -14.4 (-13.0)
13 (14) West Coast -19.4 (-19.6)
14 (15) Brisbane -20.1 (-20.9)
15 (13) Port Adelaide -20.7 (-18.9)
16 (16) Richmond -21.3 (-24.1)
17 (17) Gold Coast -39.5 (-42.2)

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Finger Points Outwards - No. 33

I've often experienced a feeling similar to that expressed in this article about the 'two eras' of pop music history, or any other medium for that matter.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

AFL Power Rankings - Round 4

A match against Gold Coast is the gift that keeps on giving - this week it's the Demons who benefit from playing the Suns, moving up from eleventh to ninth. The top eight remains the same, but the Crows' position is looking more precarious.

1 (Last week 1) Collingwood 45.1 (Last week 44.3)
2 (2) Geelong 28.9 (29.0)
3 (3) Hawthorn 13.5 (16.4)
4 (4) Carlton 8.9 (11.4)
5 (5) St. Kilda 5.9 (5.8)
6 (6) Western Bulldogs 4.0 (5.3)
7 (7) Sydney 3.8 (3.7)
8 (8) Adelaide -2.4 (1.3)
9 (11) Melbourne -4.1 (-10.8)
10 (9) Fremantle -5.4 (-5.6)
11 (10) Essendon -8.0 (-9.4)
12 (12) North Melbourne -13.0 (-12.4)
13 (14) Port Adelaide -18.9 (-23.2)
14 (15) West Coast -19.6 (-23.3)
15 (13) Brisbane -20.9 (-21.6)
16 (16) Richmond -24.1 (-23.5)
17 (17) Gold Coast -42.2 (-35.7)

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Greatest De-Motivational Poster Ever

Yeah, it's an oldie, but it still hasn't been topped:

Sunday, April 10, 2011

AFL Power Rankings - Round 3

The Bombers continue to re-shape the rankings after another big win over a highly rated team, moving them up to 10th, and knocking the Saints out of the top four.

1 (Last week 1) Collingwood 44.3 (Last week 44.1)
2 (2) Geelong 29.0 (28.4)
3 (3) Hawthorn 16.4 (13.7)
4 (5) Carlton 11.4 (12.1)
5 (4) St. Kilda 5.8 (12.7)
6 (6) Western Bulldogs 5.3 (4.2)
7 (8) Sydney 3.7 (3.1)
8 (7) Adelaide 1.3 (3.8)
9 (9) Fremantle -5.6 (-9.0)
10 (12) Essendon -9.4 (-15.9)
11 (10) Melbourne -10.8 (-9.8)
12 (11) North Melbourne -12.4 (-12.2)
13 (16) Brisbane -21.6 (-23.6)
14 (15) Port Adelaide -23.2 (-22.4)
15 (14) West Coast -23.3 (-22.3)
16 (13) Richmond -23.5 (-20.6)
17 (17) Gold Coast -35.7 (-33.2)

Sunday, April 3, 2011

AFL Power Rankings - Round 2

Well, the Gold Coast make their first appearance this week, and given their 119-point capitulation at home to Carlton, they rightly bring up the rear. They are joined down the bottom by Brisbane, who were well beaten by the Bulldogs, and Port Adelaide, who were beaten at home by our previous bottom-ranked team, the Eagles.

Up the other end, Carlton have made the largest jump in ranking points, almost grabbing a spot in the top four. Time will tell if it's a sustainable leap, or if other teams that play the Gold Coast Suns also experience a boost in their ratings. Other clubs that have considerably raised their standing this week through strong wins are the Bulldogs (up a couple of slots to No. 6), Hawthorn (up to No. 3), and of course, Collingwood, who now look to be nearly three goals better than their closest rivals. Sydney, despite their win over Essendon, fall to eighth, partly because the teams just below them had great weeks, although the ranking system may still be under-rating the Bombers at this stage.

1 (Last week 1) Collingwood 44.1 (Last week 39.9)
2 (2) Geelong 28.4 (28.7)
3 (4) Hawthorn 13.7 (10.5)
4 (3) St. Kilda 12.7 (14.6)
5 (7) Carlton 12.1 (3.1)
6 (8) Western Bulldogs 4.2 (0.7)
7 (6) Adelaide 3.8 (3.1)
8 (5) Sydney 3.1 (3.4)
9 (11) Fremantle -9.0 (-11.5)
10 (9) Melbourne -9.8 (-7.2)
11 (10) North Melbourne -12.2 (-9.8)
12 (12) Essendon -15.9 (-18.2)
13 (15) Richmond -20.6 (-24.4)
14 (16) West Coast -22.3 (-26.1)
15 (13) Port Adelaide -22.4 (-20.8)
16 (14) Brisbane -23.6 (-21.3)
17 (-) Gold Coast -33.2

Monday, March 28, 2011

AFL Power Rankings - What To Do With The Gold Coast Suns?

The AFL Power Rankings are meant to be a reflection of a team's form over their past 22 matches (discounting the pre-season), with more recent matches receiving a higher weighting. However, until next week, the total number of games the Gold Coast Suns will have played is zero. Hence, there is the potential for the Suns to add a great deal of instability into the rankings over their first few matches. This is not only because there will not be a lot of data by which to determine Gold Coast's ranking, but also because there will not be a lot of data to determine a team's relative performance against them. For example, if Carlton beats Gold Coast by 6 goals next week is that a relatively good result or bad result for the Blues?

I like the following solution best. I am going to assume that the Gold Coast, in their first season, are essentially the equivalent of the Brisbane Bears in their first season (1987). In their first season, the Bears had an average net margin over 22 rounds of -25.1 points. I will therefore populate each of the past 22 weeks of data for Gold Coast (thanks to Lauren for this part of the idea) with a net margin of -25.1 points.

The result is that Gold Coast currently sit 16th in the rankings, between Richmond and West Coast. Any team that played Gold Coast next week would have to beat them by 14 points or more (remember there is an adjustment of +12 points for playing in Queensland) for their performance to be considered above par. The best part about this solution is that Gold Coast's ranking will now change at broadly the same pace as other clubs: if they get off to a great start they will move up the rankings, but pretty much no faster than any other team near the bottom who has a few good games. And teams that play the Gold Coast will have their ranking no less affected than if they played any other team down the bottom of the rankings.

It may be that Gold Coast turn out to be a better/worse team than the 1987 Bears, but I think that's a reasonable expectation for them for now.

Until next week...

Sunday, March 27, 2011

AFL Power Rankings - Round 1

As promised, here is the first installment of the weekly AFL Power Rankings for 2011. Most of the results in Round 1 were consistent with the rankings post-2010 finals, so there is not much changing of positions from then. The big exception was Essendon smashing the Bulldogs, with the result that the Bombers fly up a couple of rungs, and the Bulldogs, continuing their rather average ending to 2010, crash from fifth to eighth. I'll figure out where to slot in new team the Gold Coast Suns when they play next week.

1 (Last week 1) Collingwood 39.9 (Last week 39.8)
2 (2) Geelong 28.7 (30.6)
3 (3) St. Kilda 14.6 (12.9)
4 (4) Hawthorn 10.5 (12.0)
5 (7) Sydney 3.4 (3.4)
6 (8) Adelaide 3.1 (1.6)
7 (6) Carlton 3.1 (4.2)
8 (5) Western Bulldogs 0.7 (8.2)
9 (9) Melbourne -7.2 (-7.1)
10 (10) North Melbourne -9.8 (-9.9)
11 (11) Fremantle -11.5 (-11.1)
12 (14) Essendon -18.2 (-25.4)
13 (12) Port Adelaide -20.8 (-21.0)
14 (13) Brisbane -21.3 (-21.7)
15 (15) Richmond -24.4 (-25.9)
16 (16) West Coast -26.1 (-26.3)

Friday, March 25, 2011

My SuperCoach Starting Line-Up For 2011

Plenty of cheap Gold Coast players, although all on the bench for Round 1 (because of the bye):

Defenders: Goddard, B (StK), Gibbs, B (Carl), Deledio, B (Rich), Grimes, J (Melb), Adcock, J (BL), Otten, A (Adel), Heppell, D (Ess), Toy, J (GC), Lower, N (Fre), Duigan, N (Carl).

Midfielders: Swan, D (Coll), Pendlebury, S (Coll), Bartel, J (Geel), Gaff, A (WC), Conca, R (Rich), Atley, S (NM), Swallow, D (GC), Bennell, H (GC), Harris, D (GC).

Rucks: Sandilands, A (Fre), Hale, D (Haw), Fraser, J (GC), Smith, Z (GC).

Forwards: Riewoldt, N (StK), Franklin, L (Haw), Pavlich, M (Fre), Goodes, A (Syd), Higgins, S (WB), Krakouer, A (Coll), Tapscott, L (Melb), Petrie, D (NM), Matera, B (GC), Darling, J (WC).

Sunday, March 13, 2011

My Top 5 Favourite Places to Drink in my Little Circle of Melbourne

5. SweatShop - Lonsdale St, CBD: This is a tough call between this bar, Black Pearl (Brunswick St, Fitzroy), Troika Bar (Little Lonsdale St, CBD), and Town Hall (Errol St, North Melbourne). All of them play great music, but I will go with Sweatshop because even if you don’t get a table you can still hang about, which doesn’t work so well in the other spots. The design of Sweatshop is simple enough: it’s essentially a bunker with a whole bunch of ‘1sts’ scrawled along the walls (all of them appear to be in-jokes, don’t try to understand them). But it has a decent atmosphere at any time of night (possibly because it always feels like it is 11pm there), making it a good stand-by for any night out in the CBD.

4. Berlin Bar – Corrs Lane, CBD: I’ve only dropped by Berlin Bar twice, but it’s certainly a place that makes an impression. First you have to walk up a flight of nondescript stairs to an equally nondescript door, and ring the bell for access. Once inside you walk past a large photo of Hitler (or Charlie Chaplin I suspect) standing over a globe, and then up to the bar itself, which has been divided into a very plush ‘West Berlin’ section, and a plush but faux-rundown ‘East Berlin’ section. The drinks menu itself is also fairly satisfying, with plenty of German beers, and a good range of cocktails. It’s not necessarily a place you would go to on a regular basis, given the degree of difficulty in obtaining access, but it’s worth making the trip at least once.

3. The Corner Hotel – Swan St, Richmond: In terms of design, the Corner Hotel is no better than any of the other pubs in the Swan St area; its rooftop beer garden is quite good, although not even necessarily among the best beer gardens in Richmond. But of course, that’s not what the Corner is most famous for: it’s the great line-up of bands that play at the venue each year. It’s pretty handy to have a beer upstairs and then walk down to the bandroom, and on some nights, to go back and forth between the two: music, beer, music, beer, and so on… It would rate higher, but getting up to the rooftop beer garden can sometimes be frustrating, and there’s some chance one of your party will be kicked out before the night is through.

2. Der Raum – Church St, Richmond: Der Raum is apparently considered one of the best bars in the world, and I would say with good reason. Any drink there is guaranteed to be some sort of experience: mine so far have been a Jamaican Black Strap served in a medicine bottle and wrapped in a little brown paper bag, and a coffee-flavoured cocktail that looked like a miniature stout. And they all taste great, hence justifying the relatively hefty price tag. Alas, Der Raum is soon to become a ‘members’ bar’, which may make it harder to gain access, but if I’m passing by and feeling wealthy I’ll still give it a shot.

1. Madame Brussels – Bourke St, CBD: Madame Brussels has pretty much everything you would want in a Melbourne bar: an outside rooftop area, kitsch d├ęcor, a back room parlour, good-looking wait staff, jugs of cocktails, and imported beers. And it used to be a brothel. Just about the perfect place to drink - except when it rains, that is …

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Finger Points Outwards - No. 32: The Australian "Housing Bubble"

While I'm still not prepared to definitively call it a 'housing bubble', I reckon this is a pretty convincing argument on why we should be at least a little concerned about Australian housing valuations.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Gig Review: MGMT - Palace Theatre, Melbourne

First on stage were Pond, who essentially looked like MGMT if they had been de-aged by a decade. They also looked like they had come directly from a 'Time To Pretend' video shoot given their various states of undress. Listening to their set was basically a game of 'pick the late '60s psychedelic hippie tune', but they passed the time for the audience in attendance, and playing to a large crowd seemed like it was a thrill to them at least.

The real MGMT then stood up, opening with three of my favourites: 'Weekend Wars', 'I Found A Whistle', and the duke of all rock manifesto anthems: 'Time To Pretend'. For all the kerfuffle about how much of a departure their second album was from their first (always an exaggeration), the songs were woven pretty much seamlessly together, backed by the obligatory arty footage of coloured lights and transposed images. The set was well executed and very rarely dull, no small achievement for a band that has the 12-minute 'Siberian Breaks' in their repertoire. There wasn't much in the way of putting on an actual 'show' for the punters - the exception being 'Kids' where Andrew and Ben left their instruments and danced and rolled about the stage - but the band didn't really need to resort to theatrics when the music they were playing was so multi-layered and, to use a 'late '60s psychedelic hippie' term, groovy. The audience reacted well also, obviously the popster trinity of 'Kids', 'Electric Feel', and 'Time To Pretend' received the most enthuastic responses, but in contrast to reports I have read of other shows, the band's other material wasn't drowned out by the murmuring. All in all, worth a pat on the back and a great big congratulations for Brooklyn's shaggiest, and let's see where they go from here.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Finger Points Outwards - No.30: 65 Greatest Shots in NBA History

Hmm, there's been quite a few basketball posts here recently, but I can't resist a link to this cool visualisation of the NBA's 65 Greatest Shots.

(Also, on the same site - every slam dunk video from the NBA Slam Dunk Contest.)

Game Review - NBA Jam

If you're a junior basketball coach, you'd want to keep your charges well away from NBA Jam, where players are rewarded for showing off and shoving the other team on defence. As a rule-follower myself, I felt a bit uncomfortable at first with this laissez-faire approach to the game J.Naismith built, but after a while you get used to the mania, and how it marks a refreshing change from the 'if it's in the game, it's in the game' attitude of other sports sims. For those unfamiliar with the original, NBA Jam essentially revolves around a fast-paced game of 2-on-2, in which players have abnormally big heads and can leap higher than the backboard to deliver court-shaking dunks. For those already converted to the church of 'Boomshakalaka!' this version updates the players to today's rosters, but you're able to unlock the players from the early '90s version, as well as other basketball legends not named Jordan. There's also a 'remix tour' which involves a slightly different version of 2-on-2 with power-ups (but these don't tend to affect the game that much), as well as a backboard smashing game, a 'domination' game in which you shoot and try to capture seven spots on the floor, and boss battles. And you can still catch 'on fire' if you make three consecutive shots. Like all sports games it tires after a bit, still it's not like you can replace it by going down to your local court and doing backflips from the free throw line. Or growing a gigantor head. Or shoving your opponent to the ground. At least not without some unintended side-effects.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Album Review – Cut Copy: ‘Zonoscope’

What is the difference between OK and addictive? When Cut Copy’s second album, ‘In Ghost Colours’ was released, it seemed like the perfect soundtrack to Melbourne city nightlife (or indeed, any Western city’s nightlife) – swooning vocals, open guitar, pulsating synths - with every track flowing seamlessly into the next and demanding your attention. Most of the same elements are present on their new album, ‘Zonoscope’, and yet it feels much more like scenery than its predecessor. It should work … for example, the 15-minute closer ‘Sun God’ has the potential to be an epic Mancurian-like final track for the ages, with its insistent beat and looping chorus of ‘Are you gonna give me your love/Love will treat you’, and then its winding down for a patient breather before heading into the final flurry. But maybe that’s the problem – it’s all a little bit too much in the head, and built around what should work rather than what does. On ‘In Ghost Colours’, even though a lot of work and craftsmanship undoubtedly went into the music, it also felt like it had been bursting to get out ever since Dan Whitford bought his first Casio. ‘Zonoscope’, in contrast, feels too drawn out, which is not to say that there are not some good tracks on here – ‘Alisa’, ‘Take Me Over’, ‘Pharaohs and Pyramids’ and ‘Blink And You’ll Miss A Revolution’ in particular. But it’s never a good sign when listening to a band’s new album makes you long for their last one. Never mind Cut Copy – I’ll still see you when you tour.

Image copyright Modular

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Introducing the AFL Power Rankings - Part Three

OK so far I have introduced the formula for the AFL Power Rankings, which is built around the concept of relative adjusted net margin, where points for versus points against are adjusted for the strength of the opposition and the state where each game is played. I have also talked about what adjustments could be made to net margins, based on the historical results of teams when they travel interstate. Now it is time to calculate us some numbers.

When calculating the numbers, I made one major change to the methodology I had outlined to date. In a previous post, I had proposed using the following formula:

Team Score = 2/3*(Average relative adjusted net margin over past 22 games) + 1/3*(Average relative adjusted net margin over past 5 games)

But I have since replaced it with this formula:

Team Score = Sum over past 22 games of (Weight for game * Relative adjusted net margin for game)

Where weight for game = (1/22) + (1/22) * (11.5 – No. of games ago)/11.5

Essentially the difference is that, in the latter formula, each game has a progressively lower weight the less recent it is. This seemed to me a better weighting pattern than my first formula where, for example, every game from 6 games ago to 22 games ago had the same weight.

Applying this formula gives us the following rankings after the 2010 AFL home-and-away season:

1. Geelong 35.6
2. Collingwood 34.0
3. Western Bulldogs 17.1
4. Hawthorn 16.0
5. St. Kilda 9.6
6. Carlton 5.9
7. Sydney 4.0
8. Adelaide 3.5
9. Melbourne -5.7
10. North Melbourne -7.6
11. Fremantle -9.4
12. Port Adelaide -19.1
13. Brisbane -20.1
14. Essendon -23.5
15. Richmond -24.1
16. West Coast -24.8

Given what we know transpired in the finals, it may seem that Collingwood and St. Kilda are too low. However, while it may be difficult to remember this fact now, Geelong and Collingwood were roughly equal favourites for the premiership heading into the finals series, with Geelong coming off thumping wins against the Bulldogs and Carlton heading into September, and Collingwood squeaking past Adelaide and losing (albeit narrowly) to Hawthorn. Meanwhile, St. Kilda had a so-so second half of the season, only winning three and drawing one of its last seven games.

The rankings of Hawthorn and Fremantle may also be controversial, given that the Dockers polished off the Hawks in their first final. But leading up to that game Hawthorn were displaying much better form than Fremantle, with the Hawks making up for their poor start to the season, and the Dockers squandering their great start. If you take away Fremantle’s 116-point thrashing in Hobart, where it fielded a second-string side, it would move up to ninth in the rankings, which is perhaps a fairer reflection of its form.

If we factor the 2010 finals in, we come up with the following rankings:

1. Collingwood 39.8
2. Geelong 30.6
3. St. Kilda 12.9
4. Hawthorn 12.0
5. Western Bulldogs 8.2
6. Carlton 4.2
7. Sydney 3.4
8. Adelaide 1.6
9. Melbourne -7.1
10. North Melbourne -10.0
11. Fremantle -11.1
12. Port Adelaide -21.0
13. Brisbane -21.7
14. Essendon -25.4
15. Richmond -25.9
16. West Coast -26.3

Collingwood has now pulled clear of Geelong, and St.Kilda has moved up to third, reflecting the good form of both of those teams during September. In terms of its score, Hawthorn has been punished for its first-up loss in Fremantle, although it remains in fourth position overall. (The scores of non-finals teams also change as all of the relative margins change, but only by small amounts.)

I’m reasonably happy with the post-finals rankings, so I think this formula will stick. That being the case, the Depot will bring you the updated AFL Power Rankings every week throughout the season (though with considerably less discussion). Stay tuned.