Sonya Thomas EatsAt the behest of the Powers That Be here at nerdsonsports.com, I have laid claim to Mondays and will be posting my darkest secrets and most ludicrous conspiracy theories on the first workday of every week.  So this is Business Day One, your source for ten minutes of sports-related distraction every Monday.  Here we go.

The day job that allows me to pay my bills involves a lot of quantitative and trend analysis.  More than “a lot,” actually.  “A terrifying amount” would be the best way to describe it.  As much as I want to quarantine that part of my brain to prevent it from affecting the rest, I need to accept my station in life as an Analyst and realize that my trend and variance geekery is a part of me.  As such, for my first Business Day One column, I offer three trend observations that have been on my mind this past week.

1.  Aging NBA big men are a lot like aging MLB left-handed pitchers, in that they can both hang in their respective games much longer than they really should. 

At 40 years old, 7’2″ Dikembe “Who Wants to Sex” Mutumbo is still pulling a paycheck and logging important minutes for the Houston Rockets.  At 40.  In a sport in which players hit 30 and begin a steady decline (see Kevin Garnett).  This is a young man’s game, yet Mutumbo is still playing despite the fact he is 13 years older than his team’s average age (and 15 years older than the average age of the day care center called the Boston Celtics roster).

At 43 years old, left-hander Jamie Moyer is still bringing home more than $5 million a year to throw 84 mph fastballs for Philadelphia.  Though his effectiveness took a considerable hit in 2004 (he lost 15 of his final 17 decisions), he is still playing three years later and will more than likely continue to find ways to be effective and record outs.

So why is this the trend?  Because skilled defensive big men and workmanlike left-handers are very, very rare.  The NBA is has an abundance of 7 footers with wiry frames and a decent ten foot jumper.  They do not have an abundance of behemoths with 15 foot wingspans than can work the offensive glass.  Mutumbo could get a job next year if he wanted one, and I guarantee that Shaquille O’Neal will be playing for five more years despite the fact he doesn’t even run anymore.  Major League Baseball suffers from a similar drought of reliable lefties.  Moyer, a known commodity got a two year deal at 42.  Randy Johnson got a two year deal at 43.  At this stage in their careers, neither are dominant.  But you know exactly what you are going to get with both of them.  And that’s a luxury for most GMs.  In any sport.

2.  No matter the fantasy league, owners will immediately try to off-load their scrub players on you as early as possible.

How familiar in this sight in your fantasy baseball league during the first week of the season:

The Spaghetti Avengers-

On the Block

-CF Ryan Mulhern

-RP Seth McClung

-SP Abe Alvarez

-1B Mike Carp

Looking For:

-Your Best Player

-Top Tier Second Basemen

-Entirely New Starting Pitching

 When you look at these On The Block reports, you have to realize how silly they look.  You may question the mental health of the person making the offer.  But the fact is that there are probably half a dozen such offers in every fantasy league during the first week of the season.  That’s a trend, and the trend has nothing to do with chemical imbalances.  The folks that put forth these offers know they only have a puncher’s chance of getting what they want.  But people just like to play the lottery.  For the time cost of putting up an “On The Block” report, they have officially entered the Idiot Lottery.  Their prize, if they win, is an idiot that is actually willing to trade away Chase Ultey for the platoon of Craig Hansen and Mike Venafro.  And for 30 seconds of work, that’s not a bad prize.

3.  Competitive Eating, like a hockey brawl, is a lot more scientific than it looks.

This Sunday, I ate a Godzilla Burger (two half-pound beef patties, four slices of cheese, bacon and onions) at the Eagle Deli in Cleveland Circle (Boston) in 4 minutes.  My friend Sylvia, who I was with at the time, declared that it was one of the more disgusting things she’s seen in her life.  While I will not refute this, I will say that there is a lot of strategy that goes into putting down a great deal of food in an awful hurry.  This lack of recognition of the art and science of competitive eating reminds me very much of the lack of recognition around the tactics of the hockey fight.

Power Gluttony and NHL brawls have more similarities than one might initially think.  Both are violent and messy affairs.  Both generally end with one person throwing their hands up in surrender (or passing out).  And both outwardly appear like nothing but barbaric, unplanned chaos.  I want to set the record straight on that last point, though, as a lot of though goes into both pursuits.

When I am eating a big burger for speed, there are a few things I keep in mind.

-After I pick up the burger, I need to eat as much as possible before putting it down.  Once you put it down, it’s going to fall apart and you’ll have to reassemble it before continuing.

-It takes about fifteen minutes after one starts eating that his or her stomach begins feeling like it’s filling.  As such, the first fifteen minutes is essential when you’re going for time, because the only thing that holding you back is the speed of one’s chewing.  So that time needs to be a dead sprint.

-Water is vital, but cannot be overused.  I look at drinking water like I do changing the oil in a car.  A necessity, but only after substantial mileage.

It is clear from my admission that I have an eating strategy, when I’m going for big meals.  And it is clear when you listen to a hockey goon (though nowadays goons are nothing more than big defensemen) that there is something to what they do besides hitting.  Next time you watch a hockey fight, make note of the fact that they’re often spinning.  This is not an accident.  Usually the larger or stronger man in the fight will start rotating his opponent to confuse and disorient him.  Also, be aware of the time between the punches; it’s longer than one might think.  A flurry of misdirected blows will tire a fighter and leave him open to counters, so the best brawlers are judicious in the distribution of haymakers.

As with many things in sport, there is more to Competitive Eating and hockey fights than a casual observer can initially see.  Not that I’m saying you all should dedicate time to studying both.  That’s what I’m here for.  Just be aware that you’re watching a little piece of art when you see Sonya Thomas power through Nathan’s Hot Dogs or Sean Avery cave in a winger’s face.

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  • As my old man pointed out this past weekend, Tim Wakefield is 40 years old and still pitching. My dad remembered this because he used to watch Ol’ Caberknuckle pitch for the Pirates, which ages a man a full 12 months for every 9 spent on the roster.

  • Serpico

    Thankfully, that’s offset by the fact that every 12 months spent living as a knuckleballer only ages you 6.

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