Wednesday, April 29, 2015

NFL draft: the Dolphins and things that annoy me

Something I found annoying:

ESPN’s Bill Polian, on ESPN2's mock draft show: “The Dolphins need to run the ball. That offense is an off-shoot of Chip Kelly’s and is a running offense. So if Todd Gurley passed their physical, take Todd Gurley and don’t look back. He changes their whole team.”

Polian seemed like at least a halfway competent GM. And I get that he has to be able to talk about 32 teams. But damn, they do pay you to be able to know something about all of those teams. So it would help to know that the Dolphins were 12th in total rushing yards last season while being only 22nd in rushing attempts. That's because they were 2nd in yards per rush attempt. Most of that was due to Lamar Miller gaining 5.1 yards per attempt. (Note: I looked that up in about 5 minutes. What excuse do Polian and other pundits have for not knowing that information?)

Miller had an excellent season as the Dolphins' primary running back. Ryan Tannehill even had a good year running the ball, gaining 5.6 yards per attempt on his own. So what about the Dolphins' production running the ball last year suggested that they couldn't do so effectively? And what makes him think they won't be able to repeat that again without Todd Gurley?

Even if we grant that Todd Gurley is an Adrian Peterson type talent, how does that change the whole team? I'll grant that Peterson probably changes the way defenses play his offense. But is Gurley going to do that in his rookie year? After the year Lamar Miller had, how can we be sure he won't change the way defenses play?

Did you know that only twice in Adrian Peterson's entire career he has averaged more yards per carry than Lamar Miller did last season? Sure, it's possible that with more careers Miller's efficiency would decline. But it's also possible that the Dolphins' offensive line was not very good and he could replicate his efficiency with a better line.

All of this is to say that I hear a lot of people saying that the Dolphins should take a running back with their 1st round pick while completely ignoring what the team did last season with a player who is still playing on his rookie deal and who wasn't drafted in the 1st round. If you're going to buck the trend of not taking running backs high in the draft you're basically expecting them to be Adrian Peterson. But even if you are and they turn out to be him, it's not at all clear to me that those resources shouldn't be spent making sure your QB doesn't get sacked 50 times or that your defense doesn't collapse again.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Batman v. Superman teaser trailer

There's a lot of speculation out there about the movie based on the teaser trailer. That's fair up to a certain extent. But I want to point out that there seems to be a lot of preconceived notions about what the movie and characters should be. Snyder invites that to some extent by saying he's drawing from The Dark Knight Returns. But drawing is not adapting. And I don't think we should expect the same things we've seen from these characters and their stories.

The cinematic universe Batman and Superman share doesn't have decades of friendship to build upon like Miller did in The Dark Knight Returns. So, along with the fact that we don't know how it will play out, it's not completely fair to hold Snyder to that expectation. I also don't think it's fair to hold Snyder to the expectations of what Superman is/should be while also expecting him not to just remake the original Donner Superman movie.

I'm as adamant as anyone that Batman shouldn't kill. But we all overlooked the fact that he killed Harvey Dent in The Dark Knight. We overlooked it because Nolan laid the groundwork for the character and set up a scene in which Batman had no other choice. But Snyder sets up a similar scene where Superman has the choice to either kill Zod or let innocent people die and he doesn't get Superman because he chooses to save innocent people.

Sorry, but I find that to be a more compelling look at Superman than a movie where, failing to save the girl he has a crush on he reverses the orbital rotation of the earth, thus reversing time, and then deciding to save the innocent people he couldn't get to before. And while I probably enjoyed The Avengers more than Man of Steel, once again that movie gets a pass for destroying a city while Snyder doesn't.

I guess what I'm saying is that maybe if people check their expectations they might have a different perspective of what this movie and these characters can be. Plus, regardless of the plot, Affleck as Batman looks badass. Dude is huge.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Indiana's religious freedom law

Peter Steinfels asks if there's any liberals left that will protect religious freedom. Sure, to a certain extent. I'm all for allowing some of these things:

They may include refusing to fight in defense of the nation, rejecting certain foodstuffs or medical treatments, discouraging young people from secondary or higher education, honoring celibacy or condemning a variety of sexual practices, sacrificing animals, drinking alcohol, or ingesting hallucinogens for ritual purposes, prescribing certain head coverings or hairstyles despite school or occupational rules, insisting on distinct roles for men and women, withdrawing from friends and family for lives of silence and seclusion, marching in prayer through neighborhoods on holy days, preaching on street corners or otherwise trying to convert others to these persuasions.

I'd be many liberals would be open to allowing them as well. Then he specifically he asks that liberals:

let the question be debated and the legislation framed with as much sensitivity to acknowledging, harmonizing, and balancing the rights on both sides rather than dismissing one set of concerns out of hand.

I'll grant that many liberals have been too quick to condemn Indiana's law and have basically rejected it without giving much of a in depth response. But I think what Peter is asking for has already happened in regard to most if not any discrimination against gay people. The debate is over for liberals. We see no reason to discriminate against gay people.

I'm not sure how much sensitivity we've given to the balance of preventing discrimination and protecting religious freedom. I do take the principle of religious freedom seriously. But you have to have a reasonable argument behind it. And frankly, I don't think any religious reason I've heard for being able to discriminate against gay people makes any sense whatsoever.

If you're talking about the religious freedom to take an hallucinogen, I don't think the argument needs to be very strong. You're probably not hurting others and you might not even be hurting yourself. You certainly aren't discriminating against anyone. So go ahead and practice your religion. But while it may be minor, refusing a gay couple service from your business is a harm. And the reason for it is.....what, exactly?

It seems like the problem is less that liberals aren't sufficiently respectful of religious freedom. It's that the arguments offered up in defense of religious freedom don't merit much respect. And at some point we have to start drawing lines as to what arguments merit respect because we can't allow people cart blanche to do whatever they want in the name of religious freedom.