Random News of the Day: Don't call it a comeback

Random News of the Day: Don't call it a comeback

Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2010
11:05 AM

By Joe Collins
CSNChicago.com

When it comes to NFL knockout pools, almost all of us are tomato cans. We are has-beens. We are no-names. Heck, maybe you were even called a "never-was" or a "never-will-be" at some point. We are there just to fill out the lot so that somebody else can run off with the money, title and glory. We get suckered into participating because of the illusion of money. Then, when our team doesn't win, we smash our Ikea coffee tables and punt the remote off the back porch. We're just not fully equipped to go 12 rounds in NFL's boxing ring.

Well, either that or we're just not lucky. Right?

How many of you are in an NFL knockout pool? Better yet: how many of you are still standing after Week (Round) 3? If you are not familiar with what a knockout pool is: it's a survival game, of sorts, where each participantplayer selects one team per week to win an NFL game. If your team wins? Great! You survive until the following week. If your team loses, you go Clark Griswold and punch the nearest stuffed animal and then wait to make your donation to next year's pot. Some pools have rules stating that you can't pick the same team in back to back weeks. Some pools go as far as saying once you pick a certain team you can't pick them again the rest of the year. There are even others where you can't pick a favorite with a point spread of seven or greater. Talk about the risk of hitting the canvas early on, you know?

It seems like everyone has a little system for picking a team in a knockout or survivor pool. What about you? Is there a set of rules or hunches that most of us can agree on? Here is my list of knockout rules that I abide by on a (semi) regular basis:

Never pick a team that's playing in front of a national audience: I always flash back to what a conference room full of executives would look like at, say, NBC when they pick their Sunday Night game lineup: "We simply cannot have a matchup like (contending team in small market) going up against (chump in a top 10 market) ever again! We lost so many eyeballs in the third quarter. Look at these numbers! And who got this catering order all screwed up? Where are those interns?" Anyway, TV executives want the absolute best matchups for prime time, nationally televised games. Trust me, these guys do their homework in finding the best possible matchups that don't result in blowouts. Plus, I would think that these games impact players a lot more than the noon Sunday games: "We better bring it! We're playing in the spotlight tonight!" The atmosphere is just too intense to put all of your faith into one game. Plus, a national spotlight gives the would-be "lesser" team a chance to shine. How many of you picked San Diego over Kansas City in Week 1? Look at all the warning signals in that game: Kinda-sorta-good-yet-untested team (SD) playing (1) on the road, (2) on national TV, (3) against a team with a crappy record in 2009 that's (4) looking to break out and has (5) a crazy fan base (6) who doesn't mind watching a game in a monsoon. You know what happened next.

Never pick a team that's playing against a "new" quarterback: I went against the grain on my own theory and nearly had an ulcer in the third quarter Sunday afternoon. Seriously, did any of you have a funny feeling that Ryan Fitzpatrick would help hang 30 on a New England team in Foxborough? Or that dinosaur Seneca Wallace would hang with a Ravens team with a venus fly trap-like defense in their home opener? I went with the Ravens and nearly fainted. To me, any team that look for a "spark" with their second-string quarterback (by choice or by circumstance with injuries to Plan A) have nothing to lose. Too many wacky things can happen.

Never pick the team that you cheer for on a regular basis: Having a random team let you down in a knockout pool is one thing. But having the team you love break your heart in a money-based knockout pool is tantamount to football's version of the show Cheaters. It's not going to end well. I can just see Joey Greco coming up to you after your team lost: "We know where your team is right now. If you want to confront that team, it is up to you."

Seek out the angry teams and make them your friend: I wish I had the huevos to pick the Cowboys in knockout this past weekend but I just couldn't pull the trigger. Let's face it, a team is better when its back is up against the wall. Think about it, if you're at work and you get called out in your supervisor's office for being a lazy mail-it-inner who is constantly updating your Facebook status with things like, "What am I going to eat at Arby's today?" or "UGH, I am having the worst day ev-errrr! LOL ROFL OMG BRB K", you should come out of that meeting a little more focused. The Dallas Cowboys were in that office after losing to the Bears. If they were to fall to 0-3, they cease to exist. Jerry Jones would have turned them all into hummus. They HAD to win in Week 3. And the Texans were ripe for a letdown anyway. Sure enough: Dallas 27, Houston 13.

Never pick a team in any bitter rivalry: Like the wobbly punt that is coming your way, you just have to think "GET AWAY! GET AWAY!" to picking knockout teams that play in games like: Bears-Packers, Jets-Patriots, Steelers-Browns, Redskins-Cowboys, Eagles-Giants, Eagles-Redskins (or heck, any NFC East matchup for that matter). Just say no! Again, too many wacky things can happen.

If you dare pick a road team, you better know something we don't: Home-field advantage doesn't really carry the same weight it used to. NFL stadiums all look the same now. The crowd noise is the same, the insults are the same (except maybe in Philly), the layout is similar ... etc. There just isn't that intimidation factor. So how does this theory come into play: if you dare pick, say, Arizona to go across the country to beat, say, Jacksonville, kudos for having big brass ones. This all is kind of an offshoot to another rule I have: never pick a road team to win that has to travel through more than two time zones to get to the game.

There are other crazy rules in pools like this that make us think we're knockout savants, like: Never take a team that's going up against a top-10 defense (no matter what the records are), never take a team that flunks the turnover ratio, never take the Detroit Lions in any scenario, look for home teams against non-divisional foes in the same conference ... etc. It just gets delirious after a while. Bottom line, we know nothing. If we did, we would all have won we would have built our own "knockout pool" in the Caribbean, only we'd be swimming in it with margarita in hand. It's an inexact science. And maybe that's what make NFL knockout pools so much fun. We think we have everything figured out and then something comes along (Miami beating Minnesota in the dome for instance) that makes us want to go Mike Tyson on the entertainment center.

The closest I have ever come to winning a knockout pool was 16th (out of a pool of over 300). So, you're not exactly getting 1-800 number advice here. But the minutiae of every mental rule and detail when it comes to pools like this is nothing short of fascinating. Our wallets are gluttons for punishment. We get knocked out every year and come back hungrier.

Because this might be the year that we end up getting the dough to buy a new coffee table.

Right?

Or something like that.

Joe Collins is an assignment desk editor for Comcast SportsNet and contributor to CSNChicago.com.

89 Days to Kickoff: Vernon Hills

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89 Days to Kickoff: Vernon Hills

CSNChicago.com preps reporter "Edgy" Tim O’Halloran spotlights 100 high school football teams in 100 days. The first 75 team profiles will focus on teams making strides across Chicagoland and elsewhere in the state. Starting Jul. 31, we’ll unveil the @CSNPreps Top 25 Power Rankings, leading up to kickoff on Friday, Aug. 25.

School: Vernon Hills

Head coach: Bill Bellecomo

Assistant coaches: Corey Atwell, Greg Stilling, Tim Dydo, Jason Czarnecki, Avelino Cortez, Brian Palmer, Mike Larsen, Dave Schroetter

How they fared in 2016: 10-4 (3-2 Central Suburban North), lost to Peoria in the IHSA Class 5A state title game.

[MORE: 90 Days to Kickoff - Morris]

2017 regular season schedule:

Aug. 25 – Grayslake North

Sept. 1 – @ Zion-Benton

Sept. 8 – Rolling Meadows

Sept. 15 - @ Hoffman Estates

Sept. 22 - Highland Park

Sept. 28 – @ Deerfield

Oct. 6 - Maine West

Oct. 13 - @ Maine East

Oct. 20 - Glenbrook North

Biggest storyline: Can the Cougars make another deep run in Class 5A?

Names to watch this season: Senior WR/DB Max Lyle, senior OL/DL Danny Lester and senior LB Kyle Fasbinder

Biggest holes to fill: The Cougars will need to reload in particular on the offensive side of the football with just three starters back from a season ago.

EDGY's early take: The Cougars had a great run in 2016 and while several key starters have graduated, Vernon Hills still has some gas left in the tank. Getting off to a strong early start could be a big key in 2017 as the Cougars schedule is tough especially early on in 2017.

With Ben Zobrist sidelined by sore wrist, Cubs move Ian Happ to second base

With Ben Zobrist sidelined by sore wrist, Cubs move Ian Happ to second base

LOS ANGELES – The Cubs drafted and developed Ian Happ with the idea of turning him into a Ben Zobrist-type player who would move quickly through the farm system and surface as a versatile big-league contributor and/or legitimate trade chip.

With Zobrist sidelined because of a sore left wrist, the Cubs got their first look at Happ playing second base in The Show during Saturday’s 5-0 loss at Dodger Stadium. That kind of depth – plugging in a 2015 first-round pick while a World Series MVP rests – should ultimately propel the Cubs over the course of a 162-game season.

Even as the Cubs stutter-step through a 25-23 start, there are enough choices for the best defensive second baseman on the team and a National League Championship Series co-MVP (Javier Baez) to sit on the bench.

“We know that the talent’s there,” Zobrist said. “It’s not like having any one or two guys out of the lineup is a big drop-off for us because of the talent that’s there. And we know that just because we have a lot of young players doesn’t mean that they’re not extremely capable of doing the job as well.”

Zobrist – who’s reached base in 23 straight games and emerged as a new leadoff option with Kyle Schwarber struggling – felt something on an awkward swing in the first inning of Friday’s 4-0 loss to the Dodgers. Zobrist played through it that night and called it a “day-to-day thing” that didn’t require an MRI.

[MORE: Is Joe Maddon turning Kyle Schwarber into a platoon player?

Facing Clayton Kershaw on Sunday after back-to-back shutouts will be a game-time decision.

“It’s tough,” Zobrist said. “We just haven’t strung together enough quality at-bats to score runs the last two games. It’s not just because of us. They’ve pitched well. Their pitchers are pretty hot right now. They’ve spotted up. They’ve gotten early strikes where they needed to and then gone to work pretty well on us.

“The task doesn’t get any easier tomorrow with Kershaw. We just got to keep trying to chip away.”