Much Ado About All 22

Much Ado About All 22

Football junkies received an early Christmas present last week when NFL.com announced coaches film would be part of the Season Plus package on the site's Game Rewind program in 2012.

For the low price of $69.99, any writer, fan, or student of the game can access the "All-22" view of every play from every game for this upcoming season, which differs from broadcasts in that it reveals what every player on the field is doing at all times. You've no doubt seen All-22 footage dissected on TV before, and as the term coaches film implies, it's what teams use to study their own performance and gameplan for opponents.

Not to make the controversy out to be bigger than it is, as there's a good chance you hadn't even heard the news, let alone the bluster of a few, but there was a surprising amount of backlash to the NFL's latest offering. In providing fans an unprecedented level of access, the concern is second-guessing of players and coaches will increase dramatically as self-proclaimed experts become more certain of their knowledge.

Frankly, I don't see how we could fit any more second-guessing into our culture of watching sports.

Second-guessing is already happening at every level of discourse. Sports writers, whether they're high-profile or on blogs such as ours, are natured to second-guess what we see. Sports talk radio is nothing but a lot of second-guessing, and entire shows on ESPN are based on debating -- or second-guessing -- national stories across multiple sports. And fans, the people who buy tickets and merchandise, are the ultimate second-guessers, and are all too eager to demonstrate their second-guessing right in the midst of the action with a chorus of boos.

Furthermore, we're supposed to believe the tsunami waves of second-guessing as Joe Shmoe targets specific play calls or player mistakes will place additional pressure on the men on the field. I was at Lincoln Financial Field the night half the stadium chanted "Fire Andy," then filed out the gates in a mass exodus that left me wondering if they would ever come back. It's hard to imagine Andy Reid being more scrutinized, his relationship with the fans more strained than they are, yet he's still here. It's in the front office's best interests to block the noise to an extent, and make sound decisions for the future of the franchise, not entirely off of outside reaction.

The idea second guessing will grow is obviously nonsense, but more specifically, some are worried football hobbyists will mistake their obsession for unmistakeable knowledge. I'm sure that will be the case for a sub-set of Game Rewind subscribers, but the only way that's any different from present day is their rationale. People already tend to lend more credence to their own opinions in the first place -- now it will be that, and a smug, "I watched the tape."

Building on the alleged problem, critics of the feature contend that watching the All-22 feed will not make you a smarter football fan. You have the coaches tape, but you still won't know what the play call was, what each player's assignment was, where the quarterback's progressions were, etc. In essence, you'll have a bunch of untrained head coaches trying to decipher that which they cannot possibly understand.

This is where the divide really breaks down. That nothing gleaned from the All-22 look could be accurate without more information and some NFL experience is simply false. I'm not saying watching coaches film automatically transforms the viewer into an expert, but you have the chance to observe parts of the game you simply cannot during a traditional broadcast. Arguing outsiders could never understand what they are seeing is the same as arguing we never understand any of what we see on Sundays, and that's insulting.

While I think the only real controversy here is the bait-and-switch pricing NFL.com pulled last Friday, quickly raising the price $10 shortly after announcing the availability, ultimately it won't matter in 2012, as the NFL won't be removing a feature that's generated a buzz in a service that had none at all prior. Whether All-22 film remains in future years remains to be seen, but I have a feeling the only change we'll see in the immediate future is an escalating price as more and more hardcore fans and industry types flock to access this cool service.

>> Game Rewind [NFL.com]

Sixers' '66-'67 team reflects on success of 'best team ever'

Sixers' '66-'67 team reflects on success of 'best team ever'

As part of their “Salute Saturday” series, the Sixers honored the 1966-67 championship team at halftime of their 107-106 loss the Celtics on Saturday.

Fifty years after winning the title, the success of the squad (which went 68-13 in the regular season) still resonates with those representing the Sixers today. After all, they are the group Wilt Chamberlain described as “the best team ever.” 

“It’s just part of the history of this city and the organization,” said Brett Brown, who has established a relationship with Billy Cunningham through practice visits and emails. “There was a toughness with that team that he personified and the city sort of reflects. It’s stuff you hear me talk about all the time how you want our team to reflect the spirit of the city. That team did it.”

Prior to their tribute ceremony, members of the team reflected on their run in which they beat the San Francisco Warriors for the title. 

On Wilt Chamberlain
“Wilt was such a dominant figure, not only as a basketball player, but he’s almost bigger than the game,” Matt Goukas said. “He played so well, he was such a good team player – he started really passing the ball right around that time --and that enabled great scorers like Hal (Greer) and Billy and Chet Walker to do their thing, and Wilt was very happy to give them that leeway.”.

On fond memories
“It was a team that we played well together and we lived as a family and that’s what made it so good for us," Greer said. "A lot of fun, a lot of fun. We missed the next year, but 68-13 is not bad at all.”

“It’s hard to forget a situation like that where we had such a terrific team and the season went so quickly, we won so many games and then of course winning a championship,” Goukas said. “As a first year player I said, ‘This is the way it’s supposed to be, I guess.’ But of course I never won another championship as a player, but we had such a terrific group of guys and true professionals that for me as a rookie, Billy Melchionni as a rookie, we really benefited from guys like Hal Greer, Wally Jones and Harry Costello, they really showed us the way.”

On team chemistry
“It was very difficult times when you look at the sixties from a social aspect,” Cunningham said. “Martin Luther King was killed the following year we won the championship. Race relationships weren’t the best. And this time, which was just about half black-half white, I’m not even sure, it was never an issue. That’s the beauty I think of being on a team you know getting to know people, you judge them as an individual and nothing more than that.”

“I think it was our coach Alex Hannum, for one (that kept the team together),” Greer said. “And of course the big guy. He held us together most of the time, he could rebound, play defense, do it all.”

Ivan Provorov buries Chicago nightmare by showing Blackhawks his true self

Ivan Provorov buries Chicago nightmare by showing Blackhawks his true self

Ivan Provorov moved on but didn’t forget.

The 19-year-old still remembers losing his footing on the United Center ice in front of 21,263 fans, alone in his own end and costing the Flyers a goal in a blowout defeat to the Blackhawks on Oct. 18.

In just his third NHL game, Provorov had his rookie moment. He also had a minus-5 rating when the 7-4 loss was all said and done.

Well, on Saturday at the Wells Fargo Center, he saw the Blackhawks again and made it a point to show them his best. Provorov ripped off two goals in 31 seconds of the second period to erase a 1-0 deficit and spearhead a 3-1 win for the Flyers (see story).

Better output than last time?

Provorov laughed, paused and then laughed again.

“A little bit,” he said. “I think so.

“I was trying to use it as a positive thing. Try to prove that that’s not me, that it’s just one bad game.”

Consider that job done.

“I didn’t play my best at that game,” Provorov said. “But I put it behind me, learned from it and this was a better result tonight.”

In 31 ticks of the clock, the Russian defenseman topped his goal total through the first 25 games (see 10 observations). Provorov uncorked a slap shot and slung a wrister for the tallies early in the middle stanza.

“I think you have to keep everything in perspective from a night like that,” Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said of Provorov’s first game against Chicago. “He is a guy that continues to work at his game and continues to build.”

Provorov didn’t net the hat trick, but in the same period, saved a goal on the defensive end when he quickly pounced on a puck dribbling toward the goal line off and behind goalie Steve Mason.

“I came from the left corner and I saw the puck was rolling on Mase’s shoulder,” Provorov said. “It went down, rolled to the goal line. I just got there as quick as I could and swiped it out.

“I think it was close. As soon I saw the puck, I tried to get there as fast as I can.”

After experiencing some growing pains to start the season, Provorov has played better. Once he makes a mistake, he rarely makes it again.

“He’s just beyond his years in terms of maturity and the way he studies the game,” Hakstol said a little over two weeks ago. “He’s a young guy that I can probably ask him about a play that happened two weeks ago in a game and he would immediately have recall on that play. A very intelligent player, he’s handled the ups and the downs pretty well."

Mason isn't surprised by Provorov's development.

"When you come into the league at a young age, it’s not easy and you’ve got to get your feet under you," Mason said. "We’re starting to see that [with Provorov]."

And two goals in half a minute don’t hurt.

“Score one goal in a game, it’s a good feeling. Score two in one shift, it’s unbelievable,” Provorov said. “Two great plays by our forwards. The whole team, it was a great effort, we played a great hockey game, so it was easy to play.

“Every time you score, it’s like a confidence booster. For me, it’s defense first but when you get goals and assists, it’s always nice.”

The Flyers had the players’ dads on hand for Saturday’s game. Provorov’s father, Vladimir, couldn’t make it from Russia, but you can bet he tuned in.

“He watches every game back home,” Provorov said. “Today was a little easier because it’s only 9 p.m. back home when the game started, so yeah, I think my whole family watched it.”

He watches the other games at 3, 4 a.m.?

“Yeah,” Provorov said with a smile, “then he takes my brother to practice at 6.”