Slant Pattern Mailbag

Welcome to another edition of the Slant Pattern mailbag! As usual, I get no letters for my column, so I will be answering questions directed to other sports sites.

This first letter comes from Robert in Cathedral City, California, to David Ubben's Big 12 blog on ESPN:

"Hey Dave, WVU fan here. Our fan base is sort of unruly and independently outrageous at times. I am wondering how you see us "nestling" into a Big 12 environment. I am sure that we will appall some people, and perhaps make others leery of us. But the thing everyone needs to understand, we are basically good people ... just a little more "boisterous" than other schools. For example, if other Big 12 schools come to WVU, most of them will receive a little trash talk, but then be invited to share our food and drink. I wonder how you see our culture fitting in with the current Big 12 mix?"

Aw, isn't this letter just adorable? Our little West Virginia fan wants the legion of proper, composed, restrained Big 12 fans to know that when they burn couches, they don't mean nothin' by it. It's just their way, is all.

But I've been to a number of big college towns in my life, and I daresay that WVU is likely only slightly rowdier than the average university fanbase. Hell, during my days matriculating at Ohio State, High Street would be a haze of pepper spray amongst the, yes, burning couches, and even the occasional overturned car ... and that was after all big football games, win or lose. Yet I haven't heard of OSU having a rowdy reputation.

But Robert, your concerns are even more misplaced in Big 12 country. As I read once, "If you don't like barbecue, football, and the occasional fistfight, you ain't a Texan, you just live here." And then there was the insane Baylor football riot of 1993, led by David Koresh (that "Branch Davidan" religious stuff was just a phony pretext, a media whitewashing). So don't you worry your pretty little head about it. The Big 12 invited you because they like you. They really, really like you.

My final two questions come from Drew Magary's mailbag at Deadspin. They are both doozies. The first one is from Dan:

"What's the worst crime a surefire No. 1 pick could commit one week before the draft and still go first overall (question void if Bengals have first pick that year)? Let's use this year as an example, and pretend that RG3 doesn't exist/didn't declare. It works well this year because the Colts have already passed the point of no return with [Peyton] Manning, so they need this guy. Luck is clearly the No. 1 guy, and there's no close second.

"Clearly crimes like DUI, assault/bar fight, shoplifting, etc. aren't going to prevent him from being picked first. But what about beating a girlfriend? Date rape? Kiddie porn found on his computer? For the sake of this argument, let's pretend that whatever the alleged crime is, there are lots and lots of vocal witnesses — so we know pretty much without a shadow of a doubt that he's guilty."

I'm going to add a wrinkle to your question, because I think what you're getting at is, "At what point would the moral outrage trump the need for that surefire No. 1 pick?" In fact, if someone committed a serious crime, teams would pass on him not for moral reasons, but practical ones. Namely, who wants to waste a pick on a player that's gonna spend years in jail?

So the wrinkle is he's guilty as hell and everyone knows it, but he got off on a technicality.

It's still hard to know where to draw a line in the sand, because I don't think the NFL outrage-o-meter is a finely-calibrated sliding scale. For example, no one really cares about Leonard Little, who drove drunk and killed a guy and came back to play in the NFL, but multiple books have been written excoriating Michael Vick.

But anyway, I think it'd take a very serious crime to make a team pass on an available player. They'd take a flyer on any and all drug offenses, even serious major-distributor stuff like Sam Hurd (if he had more talent than Sam Hurd, of course). Unless it involved exploiting children in any way, I think all non-violent offenses would also be forgiven if it was a good enough player, unless it was something where the circumstances were particularly vile (like, stealing the government check out of the hands of a quadriplegic that he was taking to the clinic to get life-sustaining treatment).

I think even murdering a man would be forgiven if it was indeed a man, and it was the sort of men-being-men scenario that allows people to not be outraged.

Come to think of it, a good parallel exercise might be to think of movies, and what a protagonist can do in a movie and still be a sympathetic character to root for, because certainly we frequently cheer for murderers in movies, if the murder is seen as just. Or at least, not unambiguously unjust. But we wouldn't pull for any movie character with child pornography, for example. Our stomach for criminal acts depends almost entirely on our view of the victim, not an abstract view of the crime.

Finally, Jed writes:

"Every time I watch an NFL game, I am always amazed at the accuracy of (most) kickers. So, my brother and I have been kicking around the idea of the Middle Pole.

"1. Before either a PAT or field goal, the coach of the kicking team can opt for the Middle Pole. (He can throw a flag or something ... I don't care.)

"2. When the pole is requested, it will slowly rise up in the exact middle of the goalposts. The Middle Pole will be the exact same circumference and height of the other two goalposts. A laser will also shoot from the top of the Middle Pole so that any ball higher than the pole will register a successful conversion. Also, "2001 Space Odyssey" will play over stadium speakers as it slowly rises.

"3. On a PAT, if the kick hits any part of the Middle Pole, the team is awarded 2 points. A field goal will be worth 4 points. Also, sparks will shoot out of the top of the Middle Pole if struck.

"4. If the kicker misses the Middle Pole, NO POINTS ARE AWARDED.

"I think this would change decisions at the end of some games. Throw a 30-yard Hail Mary, or try for the pole? Go for two to tie the game, or go for the pole?

"Plus, it would make the goal posts look like a pitchfork, which is kinda badass!"

You must be watching a different NFL than I am, because I'm not "amazed" at the accuracy of kickers. A third of the teams in the NFL made less than 80% of their field goals in 2011. So out of every five, more than one was missed for those teams.

But that aside, I don't think it would work because I don't think anyone would ever try it. On extra points, as Drew Magary pointed out, teams would just go for two the conventional way, it works about half the time, which would be a greater chance than the kicker hitting the middle upright, even at that close range. Think about it ... it's impossible to back this up, but I'd estimate that even with extra points, less than half are absolutely dead center.

As far as field goals ... well, first of all, teams would only try it if they needed exactly four points. If they needed three or less, they'd obviously go for a "regular" field goal, and if they needed more, it wouldn't be worth the likely goose egg if the kicker doesn't hit it dead center. In fact, your penalty of no-points-if-you-miss-the-middle-upright is really moot, because no team would ever, ever try for it if those missed three points could hurt them in any way.

So, okay, it would only be attempted if a team was down by four. I pointed out that teams would be better off going for two the conventional way than on your tricked-up extra point. But the same applies for field goals. If you're down by 4 with five seconds left, at your opponents 10, are you more likely to score a TD (and get a win to boot, rather than just forcing overtime) or hit a perfect field goal? I'd say the former. And that still applies when a team is on the 25, or the 40, because as they get further away from the end zone, sure, the less likely they are to get that hail-mary touchdown, but to hit a perfect long field goal is even more unlikely.

In summation, I can't see a single instance where it'd be preferable to try this rather than run an offensive play. Not one. It'd only be feasible if you had some sort of robocop kicker who made Morten Andersen look like a high school punter. Which judging by your "amaze(ment) of the accuracy of (most) kickers," you seem to think we have. But we don't.

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