I'm still coming back from my break, so I don't have any sort of fully organized post on this topic. I have some links and short comments for now. I hope everyone had a great holiday season. It's football playoff time, which is always exciting. Unfortunately, that means we're closer to the depressing lull of post-football/pre-baseball season where the sports and fantasy front is as bleak as ever (unless you're in a fun keeper league).
1. After the losses by the Indianapolis Colts (royally pissing off their fans when Manning was benched), the NFL announced that they will be looking into ways to incent effort at the end of the NFL season, despite already clinching a division. This is an extremely interesting problem. However, I don't think there's any long-term reason to worry about this. NFL teams (especially good ones) sell just about all of their tickets before the season. I don't think fans are going to be upset enough from one or two meaningless games to the point that they no longer purchase the season tickets IF the team is winning the division (and also winning in the playoffs). So from the home fan perspective, I think it's a pretty minor worry.
I've seen some interesting 'solutions' to this problem, and I am all for trying to see if a team will go 16-0, or continue to be competitive in the season. Obviously, this type of play has effects on other teams in the league and can affect playoff positions disproportionately. THIS is where the real problem lies for the NFL. Some have suggested allowing for an extra home game the following season if there is a Week 17 win this season. While this very likely could incent the teams to win in Week 17, it would have drastic effects on the following season. The NFL prides itself in balancing it's schedule from one season to the next. If you're a better team, you have a tougher schedule the following year. Home Field is a huge advantage in NFL, and given that the most likely winner of Week 17 is the better team, this would seem to have adverse effects on what the NFL wants in terms of competitive balance. On average, the better teams would be getting more home games, making it even tougher for the lower level teams to catch up. I'm curious what the NFL has in mind though. It's tough to 'make' teams risk injury and future wins/significant revenue so that a Week 17 game could be competitive. I think the real effects on fan interest in NFL are--at best--marginally affected by these games in the scheme of things.
2. Mike Leach sure got himself into a pickle with his troublemaking, son-of-an-analyst player down at Texas Tech. I think this was a complete screw up on both sides, but I'm pretty convinced Texas Tech administration had it out for Leach to begin with. The concussion is really irrelevant to the story in my opinion (also agreeing is Skip Sauer at The Sports Economist). The mention of it over and over again is just a red herring. The kid was in the 'training and equipment room' and then the 'film room'. Essentially, Leach put him in the corner just like your parents did when you were bad as a kid. James' father handled this like an common pushy parent, and I'm awfully surprised ESPN let him air a statement during a bowl game last week. It's amazing at how childish parents can act when it comes to sports (I experienced it when I coached High School Baseball for just one year!). Leach will find a job somewhere, and he'll probably be paid accordingly. He should consider himself lucky he doesn't have to live in Lubbock, Texas anymore. I feel like he is in line for some money through the lawsuit he files against TT as well. His behavior was a bit pompous, but I have no doubt that James was not emotionally damaged by the incident. He was on the sidelines of their bowl game smiling and conversing with some other players.
3. Boise State beat TCU in the "Other National Championship Game". In all seriousness, it was a great game, and just about what I expected. If only Cincinnati and Texas had lost that last week! I think Texas would have some trouble with either of the Fiesta Bowl teams. In the end, the BCS got the National Championship right, which should be a great defensive game that will be a lot closer than most seem to think. Then again, I thought last year's game would total over 85 combined points, so what do I know.