The best sports stories of the week 2.28.15

No theme this week, just a selection of wonderful articles about sports that I flagged throughout the week. One of my favorite parts of writing Dear Sports Fan is reading other great writers cover sports in a way that’s accessible and compelling for the whole spectrum from super-fans to lay people. Here are selections from the best articles of the last week on the subject of attitude:

How Madden Ratings Are Made

by Neil Paine for the Five Thirty Eight

Oh no! Not video games AND sports. It’s true, the subject of this article is the attempt to accurately recreate the strengths and weaknesses of real-world football players in the most popular football video game, Madden. One of the most fascinating aspects of this piece is the graphic showing how different strengths are weighted in importance for different positions. You can learn a lot about real football from how the game programmers decided to do this. For instance, look at how the importance of the pass blocking skill varies across the offensive line positions. It’s most important for the left tackle, who protects the blind side of all right-handed quarterbacks. Note that the tight end is the only offensive position where all the skills have some importance to the overall rating — the tight end is a hybrid position that does a little of everything.

There’s no good way to overcome the problem of simulating a quarterback like Manning, whose most important skills — reading defenses, calling audibles, seeing things on the field that no one else can, and making sound decisions — are instantly negated when a gamer picks up the controller.

“Quarterback decision-making is the most difficult thing to simulate,” Moore said. “We’re trying to simulate strengths and weaknesses as best we can within the game, but how you play the game is still you.”

Wasp species named in honor of Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask

by Carolyn Y. Johnson for the Boston Globe

Everything you need to know is contained in the headline of this article… but that doesn’t stop it from being a ludicrously fun short read.

“This species is named after the acrobatic goaltender for the Finnish National ice hockey team and the Boston Bruins, whose glove hand is as tenacious as the raptorial fore tarsus of this dryinid species,” the authors wrote in the paper, which has been accepted and will be published in April.

The name also fit for other reasons. The project that led to the discovery of the species was underwritten by the government of Finland, Rask’s home country. The wasp is yellowish and black, similar to the Bruins’ colors. The grasping front legs of the female have claspers that look vaguely like goalie gloves.

The battle within Larry Sanders

by Kevin Arnovitz for ESPN

Two months ago, Larry Sanders was the promising young starting center for an NBA basketball team. Now he’s unemployed after negotiating a buy-out of his contract. What happened and what does it mean for mental health advocacy in sports?

This presents a stubborn paradox for NBA teams: Mental health treatment for players can’t realize maximum effectiveness until there are first-class services in place. But it’s hard to sell owners, management and players on shelling out for first-class services until they’re proved effective.

All the while, NBA players struggle in the shadows. Virtually everyone in the league can rattle off names of current or former players who needed serious help but never found it. A player who is getting razzed on social media for pouting his way through a season is actually dealing with the sexual assault of a loved one who lives across the country. Another player who seems uncomposed on the floor and confrontational with teammates and coaches suffers from acute anxiety and the prescribed medications are having an adverse effect. Read deeper into any story about fragile team chemistry or “off-court behavior” and there’s likely a component of mental health embedded inside.

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