Saturday, August 28, 2010

MRI is Always a Losing Score

Gosh, there was a lot of frantic palaver yesterday about how awful it was the Pats lost an exhibition game to the Rams 36-35. There always is, everywhere. Football commentators and fans are so starved for data in August that even though they rationally know exhibition games aren't anything like real ones, they can't stop themselves from doing straight-line extrapolations from the performance of third-stringers in the fourth quarter into what their team of interest will look like come December.

I'm not calling a foul here. Human sports nature is immutable. I've been known to fall into that trap myself, in print, where it's harder to pretend it never happened. And to a certain extent, exhibition games do provide data worth mulling over -- just not worth rending one's garments.

Ferinstance, Rams fans SHOULD be happy about how Sam Bradford looked against the Pats. It's always nice to see a little return on investment when the home team makes one of those franchise quarterback plunges, because the alternative is so horrid to contemplate. Pats fans SHOULD be a trifle disgusted with the nonperformance of the starting defense. Those fans do have the comfort of knowing their disgust had nothing on Bill Belichick's and that the coach is in position to act out his unhappiness more effectively than by phoning to Andy Gresh.

But in the final analysis, that's all chaff. By the only preseason measurement that truly matters, the Patriots were winners Thursday night, and the Rams losers. New England won by a score of 0-1. As far as we know, it had no frontline player suffer a long-term injury, while Rams wide receiver Donnie Avery is done for 2010 with a knee explosion he suffered in the second quarter.

The best way to think of any exhibition game is this: If your team's injured reserve list is the same length after the game as it was before, your team enjoyed the best possible outcome. Let the media fret about the other stuff. My former colleagues get paid to be worrywarts.


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