Monday, December 28, 2009

The Colts Find a Fold

'Nobody's Perfect, Charlie Brown'Wasn’t able to participate in that PokerStars record-breaking tournament yesterday, as I was busy during the mid-afternoon and couldn’t be there for the start. Looks like I was one of the few online poker players who didn’t, as the $1 no-limit hold’em tourney attracted 149,196 runners. I did pick up things later in the day and noted that the population of the event exceeded that of Syracuse, New York.

There was a $300,000 guarantee -- didn’t even make it halfway to that total, so a big overlay there. The whole sucker took less than six hours to complete thanks to them five-minute levels and quickly rising blinds and antes. Top 30,000 got paid, though only the top 80 earned more than $100. Winner got $50,000. That’s a decent ROI.

Meanwhile I parked it in front of the crystal receiver to watch some NFL. Was most intrigued to see if the Indianapolis Colts, the league’s sole remaining unbeaten team at 14-0, could keep their streak going versus the up-and-down-though-mostly-down New York Jets. If the Colts could take care of NYJ, they had only the crummy Buffalo Bills -- who were getting pounded by Atlanta 31-3 yesterday -- to get past in the season’s final game to head into the playoffs without a loss.

NFLDid not get the game locally, so I ended up following the score on the iPhone. Picked up a very cool app a few weeks ago called Wunder Radio that allows you to listen to radio stations around the world. So I dialed into 1070 The Fan to hear the Indianapolis radio network’s broadcast of the game.

As anyone who follows football well knows, the Colts were up 15-10 in the third quarter when the coaching staff decided to pull quarterback Peyton Manning along with some other starters. Fans started booing. “Ridiculous!” pronounced the Colts’ play-by-play guy, criticizing their response.

I lived in Indiana for a while back in the 90s and used to listen to this same announcer a lot then. That was the pre-Manning days when the Colts were usually horrible, and I remembered how sour the dude would often get after relating yet another bad play. His distaste at the fans’ response to the decision to yank the starters yesterday reminded me of those days.

Even so, it sure seemed like the fans had a point.

The Jets immediately forced a turnover and scored a go-ahead touchdown. The Colts couldn’t move the ball with the backup QB, and New York ended up winning going away, 29-15.

Despite my spell in Indiana, I’m not really a Colts fan. Still, was disappointing to hear them laying the game down that way, not to mention how doing so affects the rest of the playoff picture. I’m sure there are several teams fighting NYJ for one of those last wildcard spots who weren’t too pleased the Jets got that win yesterday, especially the way they did.

Peyton Manning on the team's 'organizational philosophy'I listened to Peyton Manning in the post-game presser talk about how the decision to pull the starters had been in the works all along. “It was the plan,” said Manning, “the organizational philosophy that we were going with... and, as players, we support that.”

I’m a Manning fan. A hell of a QB, who is obviously smart and eminently likable. He also makes funny commercials. Not surprised at all to hear him support his coach and speak for his teammates this way. Still, that reference to the team’s “organizational philosophy” kind of made me cringe a little.

We’ve all been in those situations where we are forced to deal with a huge difference between theory and practice. Happens in poker all the time, where we begin a session or tournament or even a single hand with a “plan,” then realize how certain developments make sticking to that plan a less than desirable course to follow.

I’m not going to say it was completely out to lunch for the Colts to pull Manning et al. and essentially hand the game to the Jets, thereby making the whole quest for 16-0 -- genuinely important to many fans (and not just Colts fans) -- seem like some sort of vain, immature desire. But I’m not going to say I liked it, either.

Lucy pulls football away from Charlie BrownI understand the need to prevent injury and the “big picture” and all that. But it seems to me like the willingness to tank this game only increases the pressure for the Colts come playoff time rather than relieves it. And having your star quarterback defending your “organizational philosophy” after a loss -- well, that sounds a bit more abstract than I’d like, too. Let’s talk about the game, and the decisions and plays we made to try to win it.

Maybe I’m missing the point. Sometimes it really is best to fold -- even if you think you are best -- in order to increase the likelihood for future, greater successes. Still, you gotta think Manning hated giving up this pot, even if it were a small one.

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