Archive for November, 2005

The value of “forced” penance

Wednesday, November 30th, 2005

It’s my plan for Advent (and yes, that is the current Church season NOT Christmas which doesn’t start until December 25th (gee, what a surprise), but I digress) to do a daily reflection on some nature of the Church and her history. This is mostly for me as a way to make the most of Advent. Sadly, it is already the 4th day of Advent, and this is my first one. Expect 3 days in the future with 2 reflections…

Today I read an article on the meaning and value of the Advent season and it was speaking of the need to do penance. He spoke of one penance he planned on doing, not eating meat on Friday, and then said, “Not much of a sacrifice, I know—especially since we’re supposed to do that every Friday throughout the year, or else undertake “another act of charity or penance,” according to an almost forgotten (but still official) decree of Pope Paul VI.”

The part of the statement that really struck me was ‘we’re supposed to do that every Friday… or else undertake “another act of charity of penance”‘. This was something I knew and had, just as the sentence said, forgotten about. See, before the 2nd Vatican council, every Catholic was obligated as a Catholic not to eat meat on Fridays all year long and not just during lent. This was an act of penance and a rememberance that Christ was killed (in the flesh) on a Friday. One of the big conclusions of the 2nd Vatican council was that there is a big risk in over-ritualizing or specifying actions for Catholics. The risk is that one may forget that these actions are not necessary for salvation but good things to do for Christ and an undue emphasis on their necessity may be placed on them. As a result of this conclusion, Pope Paul VI made the decree making meatless Fridays “optional”. However, the forgotten part of the decree was that it was only “optional” in the sense of what the weekly penance was, not that one does weekly penance.

And there-in lies the problem.

The conclusion of the 2nd Vatican council was a very good one and there is much risk to over-ritualizing and over-regulating the faith. However, there is a counter-risk as well, one that we have fallen prey to in the last 40 years. The counter risk is the failure of people to ‘undertake “another act of charity of penance”‘. See, everyone knows/remembers that we no longer HAVE to abstain from meat on Fridays but who remembers that if we choose not to abstain from meat on Fridays, we are expected to do some other form of weekly penance out of reverence for Christ’s death for us? The practical answer is: nobody.

I don’t say nobody because I want to chastize people for not upholding the faith but because it is human nature in two ways: 1. Humans are creatures of habit. 2. Humans are creatures to which peer pressure is very meaningful. We use habit routinely (yeah, I know that’s a funny sentence). We use it both to our advantage and our disadvantage. For example, I know that if I don’t schedule to play racquetball every Tuesday morning with my friend Todd and instead say, “every week when it is convenient for us, let’s play racquetball” the reality will be that we’ll end up playing infrequently. So, Todd and I play racquetball every Tuesday morning at the same time. That ritual or habit helps us to do what is good for us. Second, having that “peer pressure” of Todd waiting for me at the court is further incentive. I’m not nearly as good at lifting weights every Monday, even though I made that commitment to myself, because I’m the only one I let down. There is no peer pressure to re-inforce the habit. The reality is that a ritualized action, particularly actions that we do communally, although it risks people just going through the motions, also helps to ensure we actually do something, particularly in this era of extremely busy lives.

So, my suggestion today to all is to re-consider abstaining from meat on Fridays. Yes, it’s not required as a Catholic any more, but it is recommended and it is required that if you don’t do it, that you do something else. Are you? (I’m not.) So, let’s do it! Let’s do that weekly act of penance! And since it is something that all of us Catholics still know about and do during lent, it won’t be hard to make it a habit where my brothers and sisters in Christ can be the positive re-inforcement they should be.

Pac-10 picks

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2005

Oh man, I almost forgot to post my picks! I don’t have much time but here I go:

Notre Dame 35, Stanford 13: I think Stanford will come to play in this game but will just be overwhelmed. I’m sure Weis and Co. are dutifully watching the Cal game footage to see how they can break the 9 sack mark we set.

Arizona 24, ASU 28: I am REALLY having a tough time figuring this one out. Which Arizona team is going to come to play? The one that killed UCLA or the one that bent over for Washington? My guess is that Washington was a post upset anomily and Arizona will come with their ‘A’ game. But will that be enough? The big question mark is whether ASU’s defense will come to play. They held the high flying WaZoo to 24 but gave up 45 to Stanford! My guess is that their ‘B+’ defense will come to play and that will be enough to win this tight game because Arizona’s offense will sputter too much and ASU will be able to put up just enough points to take home… the… um… er… sand? What the heck do they play for in their rivalry game? What’s the game even called? The cactus fight?

OK, enough for good fun. I might be flying through pheonix someday and don’t want to be blacklisted/put on the cavity search list for airport security like my brother is for talking smack about Pheonix while in the Pheonix airport.

Tune in Monday for updated metrics and an update on the likely bowl scenarios.

UPDATE: I just found out what they play for in the Arizona vs ASU rivalry game. Oh man this is great: the TERRITORIAL Cup. HA! HA! HA! I can’t make this stuff up.

Further proof of the stupidity of streaks

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2005

I was reading the yahoo sports preview of the Stanford vs Notre Dame game when I came across this gem of a quote:

“The Cardinal have lost three of four, including a 51-21 defeat to top-ranked Southern California three weeks ago.”

Wait a minute, I thought this was the team that had won 4 of their last 6 a week ago? While it was technically true, it didn’t indicate that while having won 4 of their last 6, they had also lost 2 of their last 3 (and of course now 3 of their last 4).

See, there is always a streak that runs both ways for anything but a team on a sustained continuous win or loss streak (say more that 3 games). It’s all just a matter of when you cut it off. If you’re trying to promote Stanford, you go back to they’re last win of note and use that to say that they’ve won 4 of their last 7. If you want to make them look bad, they’ve lost 3 of their last 4. For Cal, you can do the same thing: won 7 of their last 11 or lost 2 of their last 3.

Streaks are meaningless unless their contiguous win or loss streaks.

Updated metrics for Pac-10 games

Monday, November 21st, 2005

After that wonderful Big Game, I get to come back to the joy of having mostly picked the winners of rivalry weekend. I was 3 out of 4 with the only game I got wrong being WaZoo vs. Washington. I would have been right if Washington had been able to do what every other Pac-10 team has been able to do: shut down WaZoo in the 4th quarter. For the first time WaZoo was actually able to come back. Such a shame…

For the rest of the games I called them about right. Sure, Oregon blew out OSU by a much bigger margin than I expected, but I still called the easy game. I also called the easy Big Game and called that the Fresno St., USC game would be a high scoring affair (although I undershot a little on just how much Fresno could score). So while from a metrics perspective it wasn’t incredible, overall it was a pretty good week.

Here are the updated metrics:
-Winning percentage: 70.5% (up from 70.2% last week)
-MVD: 14.7 (up (that’s bad) from 14.6 last week with additions of 9, 31, 12 and 8 )
-TPD: 15.3 (down (that’s good) from 15.5 last week with additions of 11, 19, 16 and 4)

Tune in on Wednesday for my prediction for the two games this week:
-Arizona at ASU
-Notre Dame at Stanford (I’m not sure I can count high enough)

Tedford can move!

Monday, November 21st, 2005

I always record the Cal game even when I attend so that I can go back and see the plays that were confusing to me when in person. As I was watching the end of the game (which I completely missed while celebrating and taking pictures) I saw the effectively failed attempt of the Cal players to drench Tedford with Gatorade. Tedford made SUCH a sweet move, ducking and running under the cooler just as it was turned over. For a guy like me, I would have only been half way across when I got drenched but Tedford was fast enough that the gatorade barely caught his butt as he flew through.

Tedford’s got the moves!

The Great Unveiling of the Bear Territory blog

Sunday, November 20th, 2005

What better way to celebrate a wonderful Big Game victory than with a monumental announcement of the creation of a new blog!

OK, maybe that’s an overstatement. After getting the little bit of polling info from my readers about the need for two blogs, I decided that it would be worth if it I could have a separate Cal blog, but also have a for everything, including Cal stuff, blog. For the last week or so I’ve been playing with how to do that with the blog software I have. I’ve managed to do that by mucking with the code on my server so that if you go to instead of to www… then you’ll get the limited to Cal stuff blog (I force to the sports category and change the styles to match a new style sheet).

So go check out my “new” blog Bear Territory, Anyone who was at the Big Game this year will know where I got the inspiration for the name…

Although I changed the color scheme to be a True Blue blog, much of the look and feel and some of the quirks of it not REALLY being its own blog are not yet cleaned up, but it’s a start. Expect to see improvements in the future.

If you link to my blog as a Cal blog, please change your link to the new location:

BOOYA! Cal 27, Stanford 3

Sunday, November 20th, 2005

Well it turns out that turning Ayoob around (as in headed for the door) was the best thing the Cal team could do. Levy was exactly the spark the team needed to win. In my opinion he did 3 things that were critical:

1. He had the right balance of determination and enthusiasm. I didn’t think about it much before now, but all of the interviews I’ve seen with Ayoob, he NEVER seemed excited. He always had this bored, disinterested persona. Not Levy, he’s both determined (i.e. not easily discouraged) and enthusiastic (i.e. gives a spark to the whole team).

2. He only threw one “ill-advised” pass. He was pretty good all day of not throwing the ball to bad spots.

3. He had great timing. He both threw the ball at the right moment (not late like Ayoob was always doing) and when the play wasn’t there recognized it early enough to run up field.

Was he incredible? No. But he accomplished two critical things: 1. He kept Stanford’s defense guessing just enough to add effectiveness to the run game and 2. didn’t cripple the successes of the running game by fumbling and throwing interceptions.

In other news about the Big Game, blogger Michael Cruz pointed out how much Bay Area media sympathies lie with Stanford, a belief I’ve always had, and considering the result of the game that thought is only reconfirmed. As much as I was happy with Levy, we would have won the game with Ayoob, it just may not have been 27-3. The reality is that Cal is a far superior team to Stanford and has been all season. But the media just loves to give too much credit to “The Cardinal” and to give as little credit to the Bears as possible. That’s the only reason that every Bay Area newspaper was talking about how much Cal had to lose and how much Stanford had to win while the betting sites were favoring Cal. That’s the only reason why no one was talking about who Stanford has choked all season against good defenses and Cal has arguably the best overall defense in the Pac-10.

Finally, can someone PLEASE explain the bowl situation to me? What I am told in the various newspaper articles discussing the subject, is that Cal could go to one of the 3 following bowls: Sun, Insight or Las Vegas which are the bowls for #’s 3 through 5 respectively. But the way I see it, there is no way Cal will fall to the #5 bowl. Right now Cal is 4-4 along with Stanford. The only other team in the same vicinity, Pac-10 record wise is ASU that is 3-4 right now with one Pac-10 game to play. If they win, they’ll be 6-5 overall and 4-4 in the Pac-10. We didn’t play ASU, but when it’s the case that a tie can’t be broken by head to head play(either because they didn’t play or because there are more than 2 teams without a concensus victor) the next tie-breaker is overall record. Isn’t Cal 7-4? What am I missing here?

Another note along those lines that isn’t getting any press, is that the Pac-10 could have as little as 4 bowl eligible teams if both Stanford and ASU lose next week which I think is fairly conceivable.

Pac-10 picks

Friday, November 18th, 2005

Well it’s that time of the week again. Time for me to pick the winners in this week’s games:

Cal 28, Stanford 13: Much is being made of the poor performance of Cal recently and the great performance of Stanford recently. But when you dig into what has ACTUALLY happened, a very different story emerges. The quoted stat is that Cal has lost 4 of its last 5 and Stanford has won 4 of its last 6. That’s all well and good, but it only reflects the nature of their schedules. 3 of those 4 loses for Cal comes from teams ranked in the top 12 in the nation. All one has to do is switch Stanford’s game against Oregon and ASU in their schedule and all of a sudden, Stanford has lost 3 of it’s last 4. Streaks don’t mean much, because they’re completely dependent on one’s schedule. Cal was 5-0 because each of the teams it played early were horrible. Stanford started 1-2 because it had UC Davis on the schedule… er… OK, it was Oregon. What’s far more important than the current streak is common opponents, of which there are 6: USC, UCLA, WaZoo, Arizona, OSU and Oregon. The short answer is that the only team against which the final result was different was OSU, where Cal lost at home 20-23 and Stanford won 20-17 on the road. OK, that’s definitely a point for Stanford, but when one considers Stanford was killed by Oregon 20-44 at home while Cal lost in overtime on the road, Stanford gave up 51 to USC while Cal only gave up 35 and Stanford barely squeeded out a 20-16 victory over Arizona while Cal crushed them 28-0 one can see why the comparison matchups don’t necessarily favor Stanford. With that in mind, I see Stanford as a team that, for the most part, has executed very well with minimal talent but is completely incapable of playing with the big boys and Cal as an underachieving team with the talent to win against the big boys, but with a serious QB problem. In fact, the only ranked team Stanford was competitive against was UCLA. I watched that game and it was quite clear that Stanford’s ability to hang in the game was because UCLA was in a deep funk and insistented on turning over the ball to Stanford at the most inconvenient times. Once the sleeping giant woke up and played football, even with the game at Stanford, it was no contest. Cal on the other hand gave UCLA the game of it’s life even in the hostile environment of the Rose Bowl. All of this just is a long way of saying that Cal is a better team and minus some bad QB play would be at least 8-2 if not 9-1 with just a minor improvement in that position. All Cal has to do is minimize the mistakes and they’ll win this one. Cconsidering that Stanford’s run defense SUCKS, Cal can win this game just by handing the ball off reducing the chance that our QB will sink us.

OSU 20, Oregon 31: OSU always comes to play in the “Civil war” game. I expect them to give Oregon everything they’ve got. Too bad that Oregon is just a better team even with its backup QB’s sharing time now that Clemens is lost for the season. Particularly with the game at Oregon, I expect this one to seem closer than it is but with Oregon handling the game for the most part.

Fresno St. 28, USC 48: Fresno is good this year and I give them a chance against any Pac-10 team, with the exception of USC. USC is just too good. I think the game will be close early with Fresno able to put enough points on the board to keep it close, but USC will control the ball in the 2nd half and running away with it.

WaZoo 24, UW 28: Talk about your toilet bowl. Who will escape being in the Pac-10 cellar by winning this game? WaZoo at 0-7 in the Pac-10 but with the better 3-7 overall record has to travel to Seattle to face 2-8 overall Washington who only has 1 Pac-10 victory. To try to figure out who was worse, I went and looked at their schedules. Boy, Washington’s schedule had a tough middle of the season: #6 Notre Dame, followed by #12 UCLA and #10 Oregon on the road, then #1 USC at home and back to ASU on the road. That’s about as rough as one could have it this season in the Pac-10. I’m sure their head was spinning so bad after that stretch that they didn’t even have chance to see straight against OSU at home two weeks ago. In any case, the real story in this game is that everyone has figured out WaZoo. After the WaZoo vs. Cal game where WaZoo was only in the game because of the long bomb, everyone realized that if you kept behind their wide receivers, WaZoo had no offense. Washington will have some confidence after beating up on Arizona last week and I expect them to win this one in the end. If we’re all lucky, it will include another 4th quarter colapse by the Zoo boys.

Well, that’s it folks as USC and UCLA have decided to buck the trend and play their rivalry game on Dec. 3rd and the ever trendsetting Arizona schools followed suit by scheduling their game for the 25th. Check in on Monday for updated metrics.

Levy to start!!!

Thursday, November 17th, 2005

Wow, I didn’t think it would actually happen, but according to the SF Chronicle, Stevy Levy is going to get the start at the Big Game. Tedford is less stubborn than I thought.

Three cheers for Levy! We’re behind you!

Great joke

Thursday, November 17th, 2005

This was passed on to me via e-mail this morning:

Bubba was from Alabama, and was a good ole Southern Baptist. He loved to sneak away to the race track. One day he was there betting on the ponies, and losing his shirt, when he noticed a priest step out onto the track and bless the forehead of one of the horses lining up for the 4th race. Lo and behold, this horse — a very long shot — won the race.

Bubba was most interested to see what the priest did in the next race. Sure enough, he watched the priest step out onto the track as the horses for the fifth race lined up, and placed a blessing on the forehead of one of the horses. Bubba made a beeline for the window and placed a small bet on the horse. Again, even though another long shot, the horse the priest had blessed won the race. Bubba collected his winnings and anxiously waited to see which horse the priest bestowed his blessing on for the 6th race.

The priest showed, blessed a horse, Bubba bet on it, and it won! Bubba was elated! As the day went on, the priest continued blessing one of the horses, and it always came in first. Bubba began to pull in some serious money, and by the last race, he knew his wildest dreams were going to come true. He made a quick stop at the ATM, withdrew big money and awaited the priest’s blessing that would tell him which horse to bet on. True to his pattern, the priest stepped out onto the track before the last race and blessed the forehead, eyes, ears and hooves of one of the horses.

Bubba bet every cent, and watched the horse come in dead last. He was dumbfounded. He made his way to the track, and when he found the priest, he demanded, “What happened, Father? All day you blessed horses and they won. The last race, you blessed a horse and he lost. Now I’ve lost all my savings, thanks to you!!”

The priest nodded wisely and said, “That’s the problem with you protestants …you can’t tell the difference between a simple blessing and the Last Rites.”