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Yelling, Jeff Fisher, and Michael Lewis: While We’re Waiting…

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Hey Cleveland, how you doing? Is there a lot of holiday spirit in here, or is that just the eggnog talking?

I’m only at “ho ho” on the “ho ho ho” scale, but I’m yet to watch How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (the 1966 cartoon version with Boris Karloff, of course), Home Alone and Home Alone 2 (nothing gives me holiday cheer like mocking the incapacity of the McCallister parents), and The Muppet Christmas Carol (because no one imparts life lessons better than talking sock puppets), but I did catch Alec Baldwin parodying his “coffee is for closers” rant from Glengarry Glen Ross on the SNL Christmas special.

I’ll get jollier soon enough before seasonal depression sets in, the passing holidays and year end reminding me of the inexorable march of time, squandered youth, and imminent death. But while we’re waiting…

Is it just my imagine, or have people been touchier this week than usual? Social media certainly amplifies the noise, but our other supposedly more dignified mediums for discourse haven’t been much better. In particular, the Cav-less Cavaliers injustice and (gulp) the parade … thing seem to have inspired an unusual amount of hot air and shadow-barking.

Not to delve too deeply into either of them (I also thought Scott and Andrew already touched on the parade with the proper amount of perspective), but good NBA teams resting players is going to continue indefinitely because it’s simply prudent rationing of valuable player exertion (and anyone with a brain in 2016 can see that), and if the Browns (and fans) are upset by a sardonic act of fan defiance, maybe try winning a game … one damn game. Just an idea. But I guess I’m just increasingly a Brick Tamland in a room full of Ron Burgundys.

The Los Angeles Rams fired Jeff Fisher, and although Bode touched on it yesterday, I couldn’t resist bringing it up because it’s too funny. The main reason I found Jeff Fisher’s demise hilarious was because of what I wrote in my preseason prediction for the Browns.

Let’s not forget that the New York Jets won 10 games last season, and the Detroit Lions won seven, as did the Philadelphia Eagles and St. Louis Rams. In fact, Jeff Fisher has made an entire career of being mediocre. Fisher has a career record of 169-156, has the closest career record to .500 of any coach in the top-25 of career wins other than Weeb Ewbank, and has won eight or fewer games his last six seasons as a head coach.

To be honest with you, I think we can do better than Jeff Fisher. If you believe Hue Jackson is the guy to lead the Browns long-term — and if you believe anything as a Browns fan, then you do — then you must think he’s a smarter and better coach than Jeff Fisher. Hue did win EIGHT games with the Oakland Raiders when they were at peak dysfunction.

In the NFL, if a team can linger in games, avoid shooting itself in the foot, and not be a collection of total dumbasses, then it can win 7-to-9 games. So why can’t the Browns win 6-to-8 games? “Because their defense is made of Fontina cheese?” you say? Well, to that I reply, THE BROWNS CAN DO BETTER THAN JEFF FISHER!!! THE BROWNS MIGHT NOT BE COACHED BY A TOTAL DUMBASS!!! WE CAN DO THIS!!!

Anyway, I have them down for 3-13. Go Browns.

I just want to savor the layers of irony in that block quote forever. Let us review: 1. I set the bar so so sooooo low. I was hoping for mediocrity, willing to accept it, and made a spirited for argument that the Browns could be mediocre; 2. I even further lowered my expectations, forsaking hope that the Browns could even achieve dumbass-levels of success; 3. The Browns underperformed those even lower expectations; 4. Jeff Fisher underperformed, and lost his job after years as the longest-tenured bad coach (at least since 2000) in NFL history; 5. Jeff Fisher still won seven more games than the Browns in the past year. It’s simply astounding.

If you read any books or any nonfiction at all, then everything Michael Lewis writes is a must-readLiar’s Poker captured the mania of the 1980s, The Big Short and Flash Boys told the story of how the ghosts of that preceding era torpedoed the economy in the late 2000s, and Moneyball launched a revolution in sports and every other industry to use data to drive decisions and find market inefficiencies. In many ways, Lewis’s new book The Undoing Project is the unofficial sequel (or prequel?) to Moneyball, as Lewis examines the peculiarities of the human mind (and two psychologists who examined it) that make markets like professional baseball rife with inefficiencies and ripe for tinkering in the first place.

The Undoing Project is of interest to Cleveland sports fans not only for the obvious reasons (it’s written by Michael Lewis), but because it can provide insights into the thought process of Cleveland’s professional sports teams, who have now all embraced Moneyball-style thinking with the Browns’ installation of the HBT. For instance, Lewis talked to nerd-king general manager of the Houston Rockets Daryl Morey, who set out to find patterns for successful NBA draft picks, only to find, “Almost everything we looked at was nonpredictive.” This may pose special challenges for the Browns who are trying to do the same thing in a sport where data is notoriously shoddier and more ambiguous.

Jacob discussed data’s role as a tool in the decision-making toolbox in his “While We’re Waiting…” last week, and Lewis’ new book isn’t a condemnation or a retreat from making data-driven decisions, but rather a look at why humans sucked at making decisions in the first place. Or, put another way, before Morey and the Indians’ front office brought a better process to management, “Why had so much conventional wisdom been bullshit?” A few chapters in, I’m not totally sure where Lewis is going yet, but he’s already taken me deep into the workings of an NBA front office, and through a young psychologist’s formative experiences as a refugee in World War II and post-war Israel. I’m excited to see where it goes next.1

Your Calvin and Hobbes strip of the day. Every time Cleveland fans get to watch LeBron James suit up for the Cavaliers after those four years they were … less than understanding while he was in Miami.

calvin-xmas-acquittal

And now for the random 90s song of the day. The R90sSotD is Ace of Base’s “Cruel Summer.” How can “Cruel Summer” be the R90sSotD in the dead of winter you ask? Maybe the R90sSotD was looking for the Kanye West-led compilation album with fire tracks like “To the World” and “Clique,” only to find it was from 2012 and thus disqualified from the R90sSotD. Maybe the 90sSotD thought you all could use the catchy Europop tune with the Latin flavor celebrating our hottest season to stay warm in the December cold. Maybe the R90sSotD was on clearance because “Cruel Summer” was out of season.” Or maybe the R90sSotD is just emotionally confused. Listen at your own risk: It will be stuck in your head all day.

It’s a cruel (it’s a cruel) cruel summer
Now you’re gone you’re not the only one
It’s a cruel
(Cruel summer. It’s a cruel (cruel)
Cruel summer
(Cruel summer. It’s a cruel (it’s a cruel)
Cruel Summer
(It’s a cruel summer)

  1. If you’d like a preview, the first chapter of The Undoing Project, which primarily focuses on Daryl Morey and the Rockets, appears to be available in its entirety on Slate. []