Thursday, May 31, 2007

May Top 15

15. Gin Blossoms - Found Out About You
14. Rolling Stones - You Can't Always Get What You Want
13. Sheryl Crow - If It Makes You Happy
12. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club - Berlin
11. Rolling Stones - Dead Flowers

10. Cake - Short Skirt/Long Jacket
9. Tom Petty - Honey Bee
8. Peter Gabriel - Solsbury Hill
7. Sheryl Crow - I Shall Believe
6. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club - Took Out a Loan

5. Olivia Newton-John - Magic
4. Travis - Closer
3. Rolling Stones - Let it Bleed
2. Brandi Carlile - The Story

Song of the Month: Tom Petty - Time to Move On

Friday, May 25, 2007

The 2007 World Series of Poker: Lowered Expectations

Earlier this year, frustrated post-Aussie Millions-bustout conversations with TheMasterJ33 led to me declaring that "one bracelet would not be enough" to assuage the pain of two years of losing on the tournament circuit. I wasn't saying I was going to win two bracelets this year, just hinting that I might not be satisfied with "only" one.

At the time I was expecting to be in Vegas for the duration, playing almost every day. Since then I have quit playing poker full-time (go ahead, make your jokes - I played about 77 hrs in January and 85 in February, not including travel time), stopped traveling the circuit, and focused my day-to-day efforts on different pursuits. I now consider poker a hobby, so I no longer have "professional"-level presumptions for the WSOP.

One of the best bits to ever come out of the comedic abyss that was "Mad TV" was a dating service parody called "Lowered Expectations." I guess that's kind of how I'm looking at the 2007 WSOP. Delusions of grandeur now lie by the roadside. I'm not a great tournament poker player and probably never will be.

I have three goals for the 2007 World Series of Poker, none of which were achieved in my two previous WSOP experiences:

1. Play hard in every tournament I enter
2. Have fun in every tournament I enter
3. Make a final table

I plan to play the following events this summer:

Tue, Jun 12 Event #21 - 1.5k No Limit Hold'em Shootout

Wed, Jun 13 Event #22 - 5k No Limit Hold'em

Fri, Jun 15 Event #25 - 2k No Limit Hold'em

Sat, Jun 16 Event #27 - 1.5k No Limit Hold'em

Sun, Jun 17 Event #28 - 3k No Limit Hold'em

Mon, Jun 18 Event #29 - 2.5k No Limit Hold'em Shorthanded

Thu, Jun 28 Event #45 - 5k No Limit Hold'em Shorthanded

Fri, Jun 29 Event #47 - 2k No Limit Hold'em

Sat, Jun 30 Event #49 - 1.5k No Limit Hold'em

Fri, Jul 6 / Sat, Jul 7 / Sun, Jul 8 Event #55 10k No Limit Hold'em World Championship

The pricetag for this bunch is $32,000. Right now I'm at +$27k for the year. With a little luck I'll be able to have 100% of myself in each tourney and still be up for the year even if I strike out. With a little more luck I'll be able to snag a second straight winning WSOP. With a little more luck...

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Some Excellent Thoughts From Pauly

The most personally pertinent passage from the excellent post "Birth of Cool":

The semi-pro life is where its at. Those folks tend to be the happiest that I run across on the circuit. They have smiles on their faces. They have tans. They look fit and fresh. They play poker seriously but not full time which means they have a more fruitful and balanced life and do not have to rely upon their daily outcomes in order to eat, pay bills, and save for the future. In short, they are there because they want to be there not because they have to.

Friday, May 18, 2007

The Hated San Antonio Spurs

On Friday night the San Antonio Spurs defeated the Phoenix Suns 114-106 to win the Western Conference Semifinals series 4-2. In so doing, the Spurs
  1. Knocked out their toughest remaining challenger and essentially wrapped up the NBA championship.
  2. Proved once again that faster, higher scoring, flashier teams are no match for them.
  3. Destroyed all hope of the existence of any entertaining basketball until next fall.
  4. Officially surpassed the Miami Heat and Los Angeles Lakers as my most hated NBA franchise.
The Spurs are now a shoo-in to win their fourth NBA Championship since 1999. The Lakers won three straight championships from 2000 to 2002, but their recent struggles since losing Shaquille O'Neal to the Heat make the Spurs the most dominant basketball team in the world over the last ten years. It's so sad that the Lakers and Spurs have dominated the best years of my basketball-watching life. These are odious teams, short on style, flavor, and charisma. But I can't blame the Spurs - their only goal is to win basketball games, and they clearly do this more effectively than anyone else.

The Spurs' dominance began after they drafted Tim Duncan with the first overall pick in the 1997 NBA draft. Since his NBA career began, Duncan has been the most consistent and, arguably, best, player in the game. Duncan, however, does not get as much adulation as his superstar peers, players like Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Dwyane Wade, and LeBron James. The main reasons for this are
  1. Duncan's game is very mundane. He rarely makes jawdropping or even entertaining plays.
  2. Duncan's demeanor rarely changes. Fans like to see emotion and Duncan always looks the same, except when his eyes bug out annoyingly when he protests a foul.
  3. Duncan's career has been boringly standard and efficient - he played all four years in college at an ACC school; he got drafted first overall; he's never had a run-in with the law and/or a notable character incident; his teams have won a few championships, but never consecutively (which would garner more attention).
Head coach Gregg Popovich took over the Spurs just months before Duncan was drafted. Timing is just one of many parallels between Duncan and Popovich. Like his greatest student, Popovich is startlingly boring. Just read this wikipedia article on Popovich without drifting off. Also like Duncan, Popovich does not get nearly the credit he deserves. The results say Pop is the best coach in the NBA, but most casual fans would probably be quicker to mention Phil Jackson, Pat Riley, and Larry Brown. Popovich
  1. Is abysmal with the media
  2. Never does anything to differentiate himself (other than winning games)
  3. Doesn't use gimmicks to inspire his team or self-promote
As a result, no one really notices or cares about him, and that's probably how he wants it.

Manu Ginobili is the one Spur who plays with panache, but his game is so irritating that his distinctiveness becomes a source of annoyance rather than respect. Ginobili is one of the biggest targets of boos from fans outside of San Antonio, because
  1. His favorite move is to drive wildly into the lane, initiate contact, sprawl his body out and toss the ball towards the hoop, get a whistle and then sink two free throws.
  2. He flops more than anyone in the NBA now that Vlade Divac is retired.
  3. He has an unsightly bald spot
  4. He's Argentine/Italian and radiates disdainful Euroness
Tony Parker is quietly one of the five best point guards in the NBA. Like Ginobili, there are plenty of easy reasons to despise him:
  1. He's French
  2. He can't shoot worth a damn
  3. He's engaged to Eva Longoria
Bruce Bowen is the Spurs most underrated player. Marcus Camby's win of the NBA's defensive player of the year award this season confirms this. Bowen has turned countless offensive dynamos into sand, Steve Nash being the latest victim. Bowen provides nothing on offense except for his staple, infuriating three-balls from the corner. Bowen is a player to respect but also a player to hate, because

  1. He plays dirty
  2. He makes the game less entertaining
  3. He's just not easy to like
Robert Horry, in the twilight of his soon-to-be-seven-championship career, has made more big shots at key moments for the Spurs than their bigger stars. Horry doesn't do much these days other than foul and conduct halftime interviews, but there was a time when he was one of the most feared playoff performers in the NBA. Horry's an immensely likable player, but he has also been the twister of many knives throughout his career. Like his brethren, there are myriad reasons to hate on Horry
  1. His career 7.2 ppg average indicates he may be incredibly overrated
  2. He has crushed the dreams of many of the NBA's most likable up-and-coming teams, giving championships to boring teams that have already won too many
  3. His flagrant foul on Steve Nash in Game 4 of this year's series led to the one-game suspensions of Amare Stoudemire and Boris Diaw which likely cost the Suns Game 5 and the NBA Championship.
There's just not a lot to be said. The Spurs play great defense, they have enough playmakers on offense to win games, and they have the best big man in the world. There is really only one more thing I can add:

Go Jazz!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Survivor All-Stars II

After the first seven seasons of Survivor came Survivor: All-Stars, an attempt to bring the "best" eighteen castmembers from the show together for a super-duper deluxe special season of Survivor. All-Stars was certainly one of the finest seasons the show has had, with no dead weight like Cassandra or Becky, and a much higher quotient of vicious, thinking gameplayers.

Survivor just completed its fourteenth season, sixth since All-Stars. Survivor: China will be aired in the fall, and then it will be time for All-Stars II, assuming CBS & company decide to follow the same pattern. Here are the Survivors I'd most like and expect to see on All-Stars II:

The best all-around athlete in the history of Survivor, Ozzy truly embodies Survivor's "outwit, outplay, outlast" motto.

The early favorite for the All-Stars II Sole Survivor AND the People's Choice recipient, if they bring that million-dollar prize back.

The obligatory strong, crafty, determined ex-NFL quarterback.

The most eligible bachelorette in America?

One of the most deserving champs.

"I didn't come here to make friends with 24-year-olds. They haven't made it easy for me. The target's been on my back. I've been the underdog the whole time. If nobody talks to me for the next five days, I could give a %&#@. I'm winning the million dollars, and that's all." Terry won five consecutive immunity challenges with his Survivor-life on the line, only to lose the last one of the season.

The 9-0-0 vote said it all. A dominant but not overly overt force.

Every story needs its villains, and every reality show needs its unintentional comedy.

A complete nut.

Made perhaps the most unselfish, and, arguably worst, move in the history of the show. The Dreamz antithesis.

Took the equivalent of a 2-outer in Fiji and managed to keep a smile on her face the whole time.

Possesses that rare ability, especially for males, of willing to accept some humiliation in order to maximize his potential. The most entertaining character from the train wreck that was Survivor: Vanuatu.

Standard dominant alpha male champion.

Cao Boi
Can you imagine Cao Boi/Shane interactions?!

Only because it seems right to invite all the champs.

Throw in 2-3 players from the upcoming China season, sign up Chad, Eliza, Julie, Jonathan, and Nathan as alternates, and you've got potentially the greatest season of reality television ever.


EDIT: I was about to post this and then I realized this cast only includes two women. So consider Eliza and Julie locks, make sure to snag two women from China, and think about throwing in Parvati and Cirie.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Rumbling Thunder

The World Series of Poker approaches.

The last two years I was at the WSOP for its duration. This year I don't want to play much, don't have time to play much, and can't afford to play much. I won't be playing a lot of events, I don't think, but I'll be out there for a few. I was sorta thinking of using my 2007 profits as entry fees so either I'll make a score or not have to pay any taxes this year. Right now I'm at +$8k for the year. We'll see; I may decide to dip into the red in order to fund a few events. I don't want any of it to be staked.

Preliminary plans are to make two trips to Vegas with a bunch of peak climbing in the San Juans in between:

For the first leg I'll arrive sometime between June 13th and 17th and play the NLHEs including the 2.5k shorthanded on June 18. After that I'll go climb mountains for roughly a week before coming back to play some more NLHEs including the 5k shorthanded on June 28th. I'll probably hang around Vegas for that next week before the main event, which starts July 6th.

Poker seems pretty boring to me right now, but the four magical words "World Series of Poker" have not lost their lustre.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Song of the Year

Song of the Year was based around the college school year, roughly early September to mid May.

7. The Killers - Bling! (Confessions of a King)
6. Maritime - Parade of Punk Rock T-Shirts
5. Guster - Satellite
4. Fleetwood Mac - Gypsy
3. Red Hot Chili Peppers - Snow (Hey Oh)
2. Gillian Welch - Elvis Presley Blues

Song of the Year: Peter Bjorn and John - Objects of My Affection aka "Detects On My Attention"

I remember when
When I first appeared
A long time ago
'Cause I heard some song I used to hear back then
A long time ago

I remember when
Even further back
In another town
'Cause I saw something written I used to say back then
How to comprehend

And the question is
Was I more alive then than I am now
I happily have to disagree
I laugh more often now
I cry more often now
I am more me

But of course some days I just lie around
And happily exist
And can’t tell apart what I’m eating
From my hand or my wrist
Cause flesh is flesh
Flesh is flesh is flesh
The difference is thin
But life has a certain ability of breathing new life into me
So I breathe it in

It tells me here you are
And you all are here
And you can still make sense
If you don’t show up with three cents and honest face
Instead of that grin

And the question is
Was I more alive then than I am now
I happily have to disagree
I laugh more often now
I cry more often now
I am more me

And the other day
This new friend of mine
Said something to me
“Just because something starts differently
Doesn’t mean it’s worth less”
And I soaked it in,
How I soaked it in
How I soaked it in

And yes asked to prove how right he was
Then you came
So I’m gonna give, yes I’m gonna give
I’m gonna give you a try
So I’m gonna give, yes I’m gonna give
I’m gonna give you a try

And the question is
Was I more alive then than I am now
I happily have to disagree
I laugh more often now
I cry more often now
I am more me

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Lessons Learned From the 06-07 Golden State Warriors and Dallas Mavericks

The eighth-seeded Golden State Warriors snuck into the playoffs on the last day of the season, finishing with a 42-40 record. Their first round playoff opponent was the Dallas Mavericks, the NBA’s top team with a 67-15 regular season record. The Warriors stunned the Mavs in six games, a resounding and shocking series victory some called the greatest upset in NBA history. The Warriors actually made it look pretty easy, defeating the Mavs by 12, 18, 4, and 25 points in their four victories and losing one game they were in position to win. Watching the games, they did not seem like upsets; the Warriors appeared to be the more confident, accomplished squad, the team expecting to win. The Mavericks looked like the lower-seeded team.

How were the Warriors able to pull this off?

First off, it should be recognized that these Warriors were no ordinary 42-40 team. At one point this season, they stood 26-35. They finished the season 16-5, including 9-1 during the last ten games of the season. A January 17 trade with the Indiana Pacers brought Stephen Jackson and Al Harrington to the Warriors and dramatically changed the complexion of the team, though it took a couple months for the team to gel.

The key is, when they finally did gel, the Warriors almost magically morphed into the rare “positive sum” team better than the sum of their players. The closest thing the Warriors have to a superstar is oft-injured and physically unimposing point guard Baron Davis. A career 41% shooter (32% on 3s), Davis had not garnered a reputation as a player who improves the play of teammates (a la Steve Nash). Other star players, such as Jackson and Jason Richardson, have never been known as great team players either. Yet somehow this motley crew of castoffs, unwanted young players, and mediocre talents surged together into a tough and exciting band of ballers unintimidated by anyone and capable of embarrassing the finest teams in the world.

One of my favorite concepts is synergy, defined by American Heritage as “the interaction of two or more agents or forces so that their combined effect is greater than the sum of their individual effects.” Basketball is the most synergistic of the major sports, and the Warriors have more of it than any team I can remember watching, with the possible exception of the modern Phoenix Suns, another pedal-to-the-medal horde of gunners and dream Western Conference Finals Warriors opponent. Whether this synergy came from the work of GM Chris Mullin, coach Don Nelson, improved leadership from Davis, or dumb luck is hard to say. Whether by design or chance, the Warriors maximize their talent incredibly efficiently.

The Warriors also matched up extremely well against the Mavericks. Many likened them to kryptonite to the Mavs’ Superman. The Warriors went 6-1 against the Mavs during the regular season the last two years, and have now won 10 of their last 13 games against them. Thoroughly analyzing the specific player characteristics that give the Warriors a head-to-head edge over the Mavs would be too dense and scientific for all but the most hardcore basketball pundits, but the numbers make it clear that something about Golden State just gives Dallas difficulty.

Coach Don Nelson, who captained the Mavs into a powerful franchise before being put out to pasture by owner Mark Cuban after too many early playoff exits, was hired right before the season. Mullin and Nelson decided to roll the dice and turn the Warriors into a wild, balls-to-the-wall regiment in the mold of the present Suns and Nelson’s early-decade Mavs barnburners. As former coach and architect of the Mavericks, Nelson knows their weaknesses better than anyone – and how to exploit them. Nelson has never led a team to the NBA Finals, but he may have been the best coaching choice on earth if the goal was to beat the Dallas Mavericks.

The Warriors were backed by a passionate, old-school corps of fans whose noise level mimics the heightening of a shark’s senses as blood becomes evident in the water. The fans were already delirious to have the Warriors back in the playoffs after a 13-year absence; when their boys returned from Dallas with a game under their belts, the fans could smell fear in the Mavs and willed the home team to three victories. There is no atmosphere like Oracle Arena in professional basketball, and this became more and more apparent with every Warriors basket. The Warriors are a “hustle” sort of team – the league’s smallest – whose success depends on beating opponents to loose balls and forcing turnovers on defense. At the Oracle, the Warriors were able to feed off the crowd’s emotion and manifest it into energy for their team.

It’s important to try to learn lessons from the losers as well as the winners. The Mavericks were loaded with talent, with at least two playmakers at every position and likely MVP Dirk Nowitzki leading the charge. They didn’t seem like a team that would go down quietly – they had experience and depth, and were well-rounded with no obvious weaknesses. The most apparent of these weaknesses were psychological rather than physical. Their alleged leader, Nowitzki, faces questions about his ability to come through in the clutch and has been accused of apathetic play in trying situations. The Mavs’ coach, Avery Johnson, was a likable, hard-nosed, inspirational champion as a player; as a coach, he is still young and doesn’t yet provide “the rock” a basketball team needs in stormy waters.


Business lessons from the series:

  1. SYNERGY! This is what teamwork is all about. Chemistry is a difficult, “lightning in a bottle” sort of thing to master. Finding a positive sum equation for your team provides an innumerable advantage.
  2. Passion MATTERS (see Randy Moss) and is infectious. Others (the crowd) will appreciate your passion if they can see it in your product.
  3. Matchups can be exploited: in the business world, this means creating a product that fits into the existing markets you want to sell to.
  4. A strong, veteran, reassuring leader helps to mold and sharpen raw talent and exudes stability and confidence during difficult times.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

The Greatest Games of the Last Ten Years

Last night with two minutes left in another scintillating playoff contest between the Golden State Warriors and Dallas Mavericks, I found myself wildly running around the house writing emails and IMs to as many people who could possible care that this might be the best game I had ever seen. The last minute did not live up to the first forty-seven, as the Warriors fell apart and let the Mavs back into the series. Ultimately it was just another exciting game, highlighted by perhaps the finest stretch of basketball I have ever seen as the Warriors turned a twenty point deficit into a nine point lead before their collapse.

As I wildly announced that this might be the best sporting event ever, I got to thinking about some of my all-time favorite games. I watch a lot of sports, and love to make lists, so naturally within 30 hours I managed to compile a countdown of the greatest games from the last ten years.

Honorable Mention

20. France vs England, Euro 2004 First Round
England led 1-0 going into stoppage time...

19. Los Angeles Lakers vs Philadelphia 76ers, 2001 NBA Finals Game One
A 19-game win streak snapped.

18. Indianapolis Colts vs New England Patriots, 2007 AFC Championship
Too painful to watch.

17. Texas vs USC, 2006 Rose Bowl
About as well as the game can be played at the college level.

16. Los Angeles Lakers vs Portland Trailblazers, 2000 Western Conference Finals Game 7
On an episode of The Circuit, Haralabos Voulgaris tells a story of how he sold his business for something like $100,000, then wagered the whole kitten kaboodle on the Lakers at 7:1 to win the NBA Championship. When I think of this game, I always imagine what Haralabos must have gone through watching it.

15. Detroit Pistons vs New Jersey Nets, 2004 Eastern Conference Semifinals Game 5
I've actually never seen this one. Three OTs and a halfcourt buzzer-beater to end one of them.

14. Northwestern vs Michigan, 2000
I remember thinking this game might cost me admission to Northwestern because of increased applicants.

13. Boston Red Sox vs New York Yankees, 2004 ALCS Game 5
The tensest moments of that series came as this game went deeper into extra innings.

12. Goran Ivanisevic vs Patrick Rafter, 2001 Wimbledon Final
To fully appreciate, one must have an understanding of Goran Ivanisevic's career before this match.

11. Barton vs Winona State, 2007 D-II Championship
Trust me.

10. Texas A&M vs Kansas State 1998 Big XII Championship
What this clip doesn't show is KSU completed a hail mary at the end of regulation, but the receiver was tackled a yard short of the end zone.

9. George Mason vs UConn 2006 NCAA Regional Final
What if Gus Johnson called this one?

8. Manchester United vs Bayern Munich 1999 EUFA Champions League Final
I still think the ceiling hasn't been reached on soccer yet.

7. Boise State vs Oklahoma, 2007 Fiesta Bowl
Really the best game of them all, with a compelling storyline, loads of jawdropping plays, a likable underdog, and a pinpoint climax. Unfortunately all bowls except the championship game are meaningless.

6. Los Angeles Lakers vs Sacramento Kings, Game 4 2002 Western Conference Finals
The Robert Horry Game of Robert Horry Games.

5. Illinois vs Arizona, 2005 NCAA Regional Final
Still gives me chills.

4. Pittsburgh Steelers vs Indianapolis Colts, 2006 AFC Divisional Playoff
Shame I could only find this one clip.

3. Ohio St vs Miami, 2002 Fiesta Bowl
Featured the added entertainment of Willis McGahee's ACL destruction repeated in super slo-mo.

2. Team ski jump competition, Nagano Winter Olympics, 1998
Happy Harada's jump was so long it went over the measuring devices and competition was delayed for several minutes while they hand-measured.

1. Arizona Diamondbacks vs New York Yankees, 2001 World Series Game 7
The most exciting game I have ever seen.

Lessons Learned From the 06-07 Denver Nuggets and San Antonio Spurs

  • At the highest level of competition, weak links are enough to ruin the hopes of an otherwise flawless team. Top competitors will exploit all weaknesses and render a team hopeless.
  • Controlling the disposition of the competition provides a considerable advantage. Functioning in your comfort zone and making your opponents uncomfortable will allow you to maximize talent

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Lessons Learned From Randy Moss

Marshall wide receiver Randy Moss was drafted 21st overall in the 1998 NFL draft by the Minnesota Vikings. Moss’s talent was considered top-5 in the draft, but teams were concerned about “character issues” – Moss’s rap sheet already included a battery charge and a positive test for marijuana.

This was not the first time Moss’s stock dropped below his estimated talent: he had originally signed to play for Notre Dame in college, but the Irish revoked his scholarship after he pled guilty to the aforementioned battery charge. He then transferred to Florida State, but had to sit out his freshman season because of NCAA transfer regulations. While at FSU, Moss tested positive for marijuana during a routine drug test and subsequently lost a second scholarship. He then transferred to Marshall, then a D I-AA school.

At Marshall, he immediately set I-AA records for most games with a touchdown catch in a season (14), most consecutive games with a touchdown catch (13), most touchdown passes caught by a freshman in a season (29), and most receiving yards gained by a freshman in a season (1709 on 78 catches). In addition, Moss was the leading kickoff returner in I-AA, and Marshall went undefeated and captured the I-AA title.

In 1997, Marshall moved up to D I-A. Led by Moss and Chad Pennington, the Thundering Herd took the MAC title in their first year in the conference. Moss set a D-I record for touchdown catches in a season (25), garnered first-team All-America honors, and won the Biletnikoff Award as the nation’s top wide receiver.

Moss’s impact on the Vikings was potent and immediate. During his rookie season, Minnesota set an NFL record for points by a team and went 15-1 before a shocking upset loss in the NFC Championship. Moss finished third in the NFL in receiving yards his rookie season, scored a rookie-record 17 touchdowns, was a Pro Bowl starter, and took the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year award. His ’99 season was just as productive, with 80 catches for 1413 yards and 11 TDs. In 2003, Moss finished with 111 receptions for 1632 yards and 17 TDs, all personal and league bests.

Currently Moss
  • Has 101 TD in only nine seasons – trailing only Jerry Rice, Cris Carter, Marvin Harrison, and Terrell Owens (who have all played more seasons)
  • Has caught 13+ TDs in four different seasons – only Rice and Owens have done this more seasons
  • Is the only player other than Rice to have caught 17 TDs in a season twice
  • Is the only player in NFL history to have had three seasons with an average of more than one TD per game (98, 03, and 04)
  • Averages 11.2 TDs per season, an NFL record
  • Holds the record for most 1,000 yard seasons to start a career (6)
On Sunday morning, Moss was traded from the Oakland Raiders (who acquired him in March 2005 for Napoleon Harris, a #7 first round pick, and a 7th round pick) to the New England Patriots. For a player of Moss’s caliber, what did the Patriots (a contending team in desperate need of some receiving clout) give up? Moss is neither unhealthy nor old. He turned 30 in February, by no means over the hill or even old for an NFL wide receiver (Terrell Owens is 33, Rod Smith is about to turn 37). Thirty is still “in the prime.” Shortly before the trade, Moss was clocked at 4.29 seconds in the 40 yard dash, an extremely quick time. And yet, Moss was traded for…

A fourth-round draft pick.

The Raiders (who probably deserve their own jawdropping-ineptitude post) traded Randy Moss, an incredibly talented and proven wideout in the prime of his career, for one fourth-round pick. What (other than their obvious inane incompetence) could have driven them to do so? How could they deem Moss less valuable than a fourth-round pick?

There are two main reasons, which are likely just two manifestations of one problem: attitude.

Moss has always had “character issues” like the ones that prevented him from playing for Notre Dame and Florida State, and these have not subsided in the NFL. Most notable was Moss’s altercation with a Minneapolis police officer in September, 2004 in which Moss bumped the officer with his car and was arrested. Moss has also received a number of fines from the NFL during his career, including a $25,000 fine in 1999 for squirting a referee with a water bottle.

More disturbing are concerns regarding Moss’s effort on the field. In 2004, Moss infamously walked off the field before the end of a game against the Washington Redskins. While still with the Vikings, Moss once stated “I play when I want to play.”

Most believe Moss rarely gave full effort while a member of the Raiders. Moss was criticized by his teammates for a lack of effort down the stretch in 2006, including team leaders Warren Sapp and Tyler Brayton. In a November press conference, Moss was asked about a rash of dropped passes and poor production. “Maybe because I'm unhappy and I'm not too much excited about what's going on, so, my concentration and focus level tend to go down sometimes when I'm in a bad mood,” Moss explained.

This Moss comment on Fox radio a few days later gave the Raiders little choice in the matter:

“I might want to look forward to moving somewhere else next year to have another start and really feel good about going out here and playing football.”

Moss now has his fresh start, with the top franchise in football. His coach and quarterback are the best in the business. Moss may well flourish in New England and, possibly, finish off a Hall of Fame career. Yet the fact remains that on April 29, 2007, the value of a healthy 30-year-old Randy Moss was a fourth-round draft pick.

While I was a professional poker player, I continually sought to make analogies between the sports world and my own profession. While often applicative, these analogies were ultimately frustrating because most of poker in the short term really comes down to luck. I would watch an athlete or team focus and bring its all and defeat a superior foe. This didn’t work quite how I hoped it would in poker tournaments – what really mattered was the cards. As I move into the business world, I hope that I can draw more relevant analogies between sports and business. I am always trying to learn lessons, from sports and everything else that enters my conscious. Here are the lessons I have learned from Randy Moss’s rollercoaster career:

  • Possessing great talent means there will always be another chance. Only a flagrant malfunction, a la Ugueth Urbina or Rae Carruth, will suspend this opportunity.
  • Effort matters. The Patriots traded a fourth-round pick for Moss shortly after snagging Wes Welker for a second-round pick. Clearly Moss is more talented, but Welker's reliability makes him more valuable.
  • Passion is a defining characteristic. When Moss has cared about playing football, he has been one of the most productive receivers in the game.
  • You will be judged on how you conduct yourself. Behavior and attitude can be quantified.
  • As a coach, motivating and disciplining players like Moss is part of the job description. Maximizing talent, on both the micro and macro levels, is the key to leading a group to success.