Transition from row crops to pasture leads to profitability

first_imgShare Facebook Twitter Google + LinkedIn Pinterest Pete Conkle loves to stand in the rolling pastures of his family’s Columbiana County farm and just listen to the sound of his hungry cattle biting, tearing and chewing into a fresh new paddock of grass.“I love that sound,” he said. “It is therapeutic for me.”That sound gives Conkle plenty to ruminate about as it represents many things to him —profitability, success, animal husbandry, and hard-earned harmony between land, farmer and livestock. It all started when Conkle, this year’s Ohio Cattlemen’s Association Environmental Stewardship Award winner, returned home shortly after college and began to transition a few outlying grain fields to grass in order to supply feed for his commercial cow-calf operation.“We’d always had some calves but when I finished at Ohio State and came home, a good friend was looking for a place for a couple bred cows and so I bought them to eat the grass in the front. It was ground that couldn’t be cropped but it grew great grass. That was the start of our cow-calf operation,” said Conkle, who also works for the Columbiana Soil and Water Conservation District. “Dad really questioned the decision I made to buy those first few stock cows and seed some of the fields to grass. He thought I hadn’t learned anything at Ohio State. That was in ’98.”It was a big change for the farm, but the transition to grass fit in nicely with a long history of conservation for the family.“In ‘38 my grandparents bought the home farm where my parents still reside. They immediately began implementing conservation practices, planting trees on the steep slopes and taking that ground out of crop production. My dad has always been a big promoter of conservation practices too. He planted row crops at the home farm and rented additional acres of row-crop land. He installed sod waterways, drain tile, maintained the contour strips and used no-till planting to promote the conservation on the land. He always had small grains in his crop rotation as well. But, it got to the point where there wasn’t enough ground to justify all of the equipment for row crops,” Conkle said. “As we added more pasture, we got hooked on the grazing aspect of the cattle. We transitioned some fields into grass and did our best to manage the pastures using poly fencing. Now we have permanent subdivisions with high tensile fence and then we are further subdividing with poly wire or poly tape.”The details of grass management led to the need for more learning and experience.“The Eastern Ohio Grazing Council meetings have been a great resource. We attended a lot of those meetings to learn as much as we could. As we got further involved, we saw we needed to implement more things. We started with some spring developments and we could see our grazing efficiency wasn’t where it needed to be because we were getting away from our water sources. We started putting one-inch water lines and portable tanks out to break up our paddocks even smaller and continue to rotate. Then we could have water in every paddock,” he said. “We eliminated the cow trails and improved the overall efficiency of the operation. We started that back in 2006 or so. We have continued to add on to that water line to spider web it out. We have put in over 6,700 feet of water line. We switched to all grass in 2010 and the last of the row crops disappeared.”There was careful planning to make the transition from row crops to pasture as smooth as possible, both economically and agronomically.“To transition, we would plant beans and follow with an annual ryegrass cover crop with high-calcium lime in the fall. Then we would no-till drill pasture mix the following spring. We seeded a mix with 10 pounds of tall fescue, 10 pounds orchardgrass and two pounds of white clover and four pounds red clover,” Conkle said. “We would wait for that new crop to get up then fertilize with some chicken litter or ammonium sulfate. After that first hay crop comes off we hit it with a little nitrogen then go by soil test after that. We have worked with the USDA NRCS to develop a nutrient management plan to properly apply the manure. We also unroll hay to boost organic matter.”The pastures are managed differently based on their farm location and their purpose.“The home farm is where we do all of the spring calving and that is where the cows stay the majority of the year. We had 10 acres across the road that is away from the rest of the farm,” Conkle said. “That was the last field to be transitioned to grass. We make one cutting of hay on that 10 acres and then stockpile for grass and graze in November.”He bought a nearby 30-acre farm in 2002 that they had previously rented for crop production.“In 2008, we transitioned that farm to grass. Ever since then we make first crop hay, apply some fertilizer and stockpile that for grazing in the winter,” he said. “We move the older cows there in mid-December and this year the stockpiled grass should carry the cows to mid-February.”Four years ago, he added an additional 25-acre farm where they now keep replacement heifers.“When we took over this farm it had been in hay. There was a lot of fescue, green briar and Queen Anne’s Lace. We used older cattle with less nutrient demand and bunched them up tight so they either ate it, stepped on it or pooped on it,” Conkle said. “We would leave them in a paddock for a day and did that rotation for a season. I think mob grazing like that is pretty situation-specific in Ohio. It has its place, but it is limited.”The genetics have evolved over time to fit the needs of the grass-based operation.“We saw that those big cows did not work for us on a grazing operation. Their intake was way higher than their output. We have tried to select more moderate bulls and implement AI to get where we needed to be a little quicker,” Conkle said. “I like that 1,250- to 1,400-pound size cow with lots of rib and not too much leg. We want them to grow a big calf in there with plenty of room to fill up on grass. We have a lot of Red Angus because we don’t have a lot of shade and the reds seem to be better in that situation. They will still be grazing at 2 in the afternoon on a hot day when the Black Angus are looking for shade. I want an animal that can thrive on grass and not just survive.”The last few years a Charolais bull has been used as a terminal sire on the Red Angus based cowherd to provide heterosis and productive feedlot calves.The temperament of the animals is also important in this type of system.“As long as you have cattle that are accustomed to being moved it works. It is not a system for wild or hotheaded cattle. They just don’t do well in our system,” Conkle said. “After coming home from work it does not take too long to move two groups of cattle daily. The cattle are used to the poly wire and we can go out and set up new strands using temporary posts fairly quickly. We have tried to make everything portable and easy to manage.”The operation is managed with the benefit of the cattle and the people working with them in mind.“The heifers are always by themselves in a separate group. The mature cows are a separate group. We fence-line wean; we are really big on low stress. We move the calves off into the pasture near our heavy use pad and feed them depending on the grass and the market. All the cows and heifers are on grass,” he said. “Calves get grain after they are weaned and then sold as feeder calves, mostly locally, to be fed out. We try and market most of the steer calves, but it really depends on our grass. We kept almost half of our calves last year. We are about where we want to be if we calve 50 in the spring. That is what our land base can comfortably support, even if we get in a drought situation.The plan is to break ground this spring on a pen pack barn.“Once we wean the calves I would like to background them on grass until about the first of December. Then if we could go into that pen pack barn in December, we would save a lot of feed and improve their efficiency,” Conkle said. “The barn will allow us to capture the nutrients in the manure and apply it to our fields while the grass is growing. The pen pack barn will also give the pastures a rest from the young cattle during the dormant season which will leave the sod base intact throughout the winter.”The grass system also offers marketing options for the farm.“We have flexibility with our grass base. If we want to feed them longer we can, or if we want to sell them earlier when we run out of grass we can,” Conkle said. “The grass gives us flexibility to market cattle when we want versus when we have to. We can be more of a price maker and less of a price taker. We have pretty good freezer beef clientele as well, which helps to generate some income throughout the year. We will also sell some bred cows and bred heifers if we have a good breeding season and end up with more pregnant females than the farm can support.”Intense management is required with the system, but it has been very rewarding on the farm.“That switch to grass was important for the land we have. We have excluded pretty much all of the woodlots and added bluebird houses and wood duck boxes. We have installed 3,695 feet of stream exclusion fencing. We are fortunate to have several streams running through the property and the cattle do not have access to any of them,” he said.  “The water quality has improved as we have learned how not to overgraze. We just do not see the run-off and the sediment loss. It has been a definite improvement to the water quality.”The local wildlife populations have benefited from conservation practices as well.  There has been a noticeable increase in the songbird population, wild turkeys, and even a family of fox.“I work a lot with aerial photography and when I see our place still green in the late fall, it makes me feel good about what I am doing. We have a lot less inputs now than we did with the crops and on a per acre basis the profitability is there with the cattle,” Conkle said. “I believe this farm is more economically viable being in grass. I am blessed that my family let me do this even though my dad still questions that initial purchase from time to time.”last_img read more

A loss for agriculture on Election Day

first_imgShare Facebook Twitter Google + LinkedIn Pinterest When an election season includes a vote for President, the issues that are further down the ballot rarely get any attention. That is the case for a ballot initiative, “Question 3”, proposed in Massachusetts that will make it illegal to sell veal, pork or eggs from animals that have been confined to crates or cages of a certain size. The recent passage of that initiative is a blow to not only agriculture in that state, but around the country.“The legislation not only banned those practices in Massachusetts, but it also bans any products from being sold in the state that came from operations that used those housing methods,” said Hannah Thomson-Weeman, communications director for the Animal Agriculture Alliance. “Massachusetts is not a big ag state and it only has one farm that has cages for their laying hens, which is why activists groups chose to put this type of legislation on the ballot there.”The Humane Society of the United States was the main driver of this initiative investing over $2 million, over 90% of the funds raised for backing this plan, outspending the opposition by a rate of 10 to one.With that money, time and effort, anti-agriculture groups were able to overpower the alternative message, which was about food costs.“Not only are these cage-free practices not really necessarily better for the animals, there are issues of aggression, increased mortality and increased management by the farmer,” Thompson-Weeman said. “Of course, the intention is to make farmers comply and change to these new rules which costs money and that will increase food prices and make for some difficult decisions at the grocery store.”Anti-poverty advocate Diane Sullivan was one of the representatives opposing these new regulations and she talked, in detail, about how increased food costs on a very common protein source will have a negative impact on families that are trying to get by on a lower wage.“Cage-free eggs are a choice at the grocery store right now and the vast majority of people don’t make that choice,” Thompson-Weeman said. “They buy conventionally-produced eggs because that’s what fits in their budget and that’s what they can afford.”This new legislation will impact those who can’t afford to pay whatever it costs for cage-free eggs more than any other group of consumers.“There’s a reason our farming systems are designed they way they are today,” Thompson-Weeman said. “It’s all about maximizing animal health and efficiency so at the end of the day we can produce a safe, healthy and affordable product for consumers.”The Animal Agriculture Alliance anticipates continued issues like Massachusetts’ “Question 3” to come up, especially in states that do not have a strong farming community where legislators and voters aren’t as informed about agriculture. The organization is recommending a proactive approach when connecting with consumers, law makers and influencers so when they hear myths and misinformation about ag, they can sort through what is true and what is not.last_img read more

Former Purefoods point guard Ulysses ‘Buboy’ Tanigue passes away

first_imgUlysses “Buboy” Tanigue. PHOTO FROM TANIGUE’S FACEBOOKCOTABATO CITY — Former Purefoods point guard star Ulysses “Buboy” Tanigue passed away at 43 years old on Sunday around 9 a.m. due to a lingering illness.Efren Piñol, Tanigue’s former coach with the North Cotabato Braves, which played in the Manila Basketball League in 2004, said Tanigue had died after eight years of battling leukemia.ADVERTISEMENT Tanigue started his career with the San Sebastian Stags and was eventually drafted by Purefoods.Tanigue was a three-time Most Valuable Player of the Stags.FEATURED STORIESSPORTSWATCH: Drones light up sky in final leg of SEA Games torch runSPORTSLillard, Anthony lead Blazers over ThunderSPORTSMalditas save PH from shutoutHe also played with the Chowking team at the Philippine Basketball League.He later quit basketball and worked as sports coordinator of Mlang, North Cotabato. While working in Mlang in 2010, he was diagnosed with chronic leukemia. Kammuri turning to super typhoon less likely but possible — Pagasa Read Next MOST READ Slow and steady hope for near-extinct Bangladesh tortoises John Lloyd Cruz a dashing guest at Vhong Navarro’s wedding 2 ‘newbie’ drug pushers fall in Lucena sting LATEST STORIES NEXT BLOCK ASIA 2.0 introduces GURUS AWARDS to recognize and reward industry influencerscenter_img Typhoon Kammuri accelerates, gains strength en route to PH Don’t miss out on the latest news and information. Brace for potentially devastating typhoon approaching PH – NDRRMC In 2016, he worked at the office of Agriculture Sec. Emmanuel Piñol but had to go on medical leave after his operation for tumor.Tanigue is survived by his wife, Emelyn, and children Anne Margaret, 14; and Pete Maverick 13. His wake was at the Tanigue Residence in Barangay Poblacion in Tagoloan, Misamis Oriental. /je Trending Articles PLAY LIST 00:50Trending Articles00:50Trending Articles00:50Trending Articles01:29Police teams find crossbows, bows in HK university01:35Panelo suggests discounted SEA Games tickets for students02:49Robredo: True leaders perform well despite having ‘uninspiring’ boss02:42PH underwater hockey team aims to make waves in SEA Games01:44Philippines marks anniversary of massacre with calls for justice01:19Fire erupts in Barangay Tatalon in Quezon City Jokic has triple-double as Nuggets beat Mavericks Globe Business launches leading cloud-enabled and hardware-agnostic conferencing platform in PH View commentslast_img read more

Jürgen Klopp backs out-of-sorts Mohamed Salah to overcome tough spell

first_imgJürgen Klopp offered his support to Mohamed Salah after substituting him in Liverpool’s 1-1 draw at Chelsea, and backed the reigning footballer of the year to overcome his first difficult spell since joining the club.Klopp, who replaced the Egyptian with Xherdan Shaqiri just before the midway point of the second half, acknowledged that Salah had fallen below his usual standards and said he could not understand some of the player’s decision-making in dangerous areas of the pitch.“It’s always tactical,” Klopp said of his decision to remove the player. “He was not injured. I know you will make a fuss of it, but that’s football. It was not the best game of Mo’s career, that’s 100%. But coming into a game like this, constantly in [potentially scoring] situations, that makes him a world-class player. You fail, you miss, that happens – I’ve no problem with that. But he wants to be decisive. He wants to score in these situations. Reuse this content Liverpool Jürgen Klopp Share on Twitter Share on WhatsApp The Observer Liverpool’s Daniel Sturridge hits back after Eden Hazard’s Chelsea strike Share on LinkedIn Chelsea news Share on Facebook Read more Share via Email Topics Share on Pinterest Share on Messenger Mohamed Salah “It is like riding a bike. It is not like you wake up in the morning and you cannot finish any more, or you cannot ride a bike any more. You need to work for these moments when it is clicking. And that is the moment he is in.”Daniel Sturridge, an 86th-minute substitute, salvaged a draw for Liverpool by scoring within two minutes of entering the pitch and Klopp praised the former England international. “He is a fantastic footballer who has had a full pre-season and is in the best shape since I have known him. I am really happy for him.”Klopp was less impressed to be asked if Liverpool had deserved a draw. Maurizio Sarri, Chelsea’s manager, described it as a fair result but Klopp disagreed. “I am a bit angry because someone else [a television interviewer] also asked me if we deserved a point. Of course we deserved a point, we would have deserved to win. We didn’t but as long as we play like we did tonight we will win football games.”Eden Hazard had opened the scoring for Chelsea and is now the Premier League’s leading marksman, having scored six goals, as well as getting the winner against Liverpool in the Carabao Cup at Anfield on Wednesday. “I think he’s able to score 40 goals,” Sarri said. “He has to score another 33 and he’s trying to do it.”last_img read more

Brady is all ears for national deaf team

first_imgSocial MediaFacebook – www.facebook.com/touchfootballaustraliaTwitter – www.twitter.com/touchfootyaus (be sure to use the hashtag #NTL2013)Instagram – search for ‘Touch Football Australia’YouTube – www.youtube.com/touchfootballausTouch Football Australia will be live streaming matches on their YouTube page.Related LinksDeaf team a possiblity By BEN HARRISAn historic milestone could be achieved at next year’s X-Blades National Touch League tournament if David Brady gets his way.Touch Football Australia’s general manager of business operations is hoping to set-up an Australian deaf team to play at the 2014 national competition.Brady is deaf himself and has to rely on two hearing aids.He has been hearing impaired since he was born but his disability doesn’t stop him from doing day-to-day tasks or participate at this year’s National Touch League.Brady is playing in the men’s 40s division for the ACT Pirates.After orchestrating a very successful inaugural Deaf Touch Football Australian National Championships in January, Brady wants to take that next step by establishing an Aussie representative team.“Next year we hope to have an Australian deaf team here at the tournament,” Brady said.“Already I can see it will be an interesting challenge. It will be completely different for the referees and the opposition but we have to get it together and hopefully this message goes out to all the kids out there, the boys and the girls, we will try and get a team together and come to this fantastic tournament.”Brady said touch football has a distinct advantage over many other sports in the country as it can be played by anybody.“If you can’t play footy anymore when you get to the masters you are able to still play with the ball in hand,” he said.“But more importantly for the kids, a lot of kids who have cochlear implants can’t play contact sport. Touch football is one of those sports that they can aspire to. “If their brothers or sisters play rugby or rugby union and feel left out, touch football is a way of being included and being part of it.“Anybody who is deaf or hard of hearing, get yourself to a touch team and keep on trying. Nothing is impossible.”Unable to hear while playing is very difficult but Brady said he manages.“Playing in the deaf games… it was completely different with styles and tactics and coming into a hearing competition, you see how organised they are and there is a big difference between the communications. It is a big learning curve.Brady is not the only deaf person playing at this year’s NTLs.Greg Quinn is playing for the Pirates in the men’s 45s.“Greg is one of the best players but he has a harder job because he plays in the middle and I play on the wing so I’ve probably got an easier job,” Brady said.“Greg has got to make more calls, try to work out what is happening with his teammates. He is one of the smartest players I’ve met in my life.”You can keep up-to-date with all of the latest news and information from the 2013 X-Blades National Touch League in the following ways:Websiteswww.ntl.mytouchfooty.comwww.austouch.com.aulast_img read more

Second Phase of Audit for Hotels and Attractions to be Completed by June

first_imgStory Highlights Mr. Bartlett was speaking at a press briefing, held at the New Kingston offices of the Tourism Ministry on Tuesday (January 8). This was disclosed by Minister of Tourism, Hon. Edmund Bartlett, who informed that 16 properties located in Negril, Montego Bay and Ocho Rios have been audited to date. The second phase of the island-wide security audit of hotels and attractions being undertaken by the Tourism Product Development Company Limited (TPDCo), is to be completed by June this year. The second phase of the island-wide security audit of hotels and attractions being undertaken by the Tourism Product Development Company Limited (TPDCo), is to be completed by June this year.This was disclosed by Minister of Tourism, Hon. Edmund Bartlett, who informed that 16 properties located in Negril, Montego Bay and Ocho Rios have been audited to date.Mr. Bartlett was speaking at a press briefing, held at the New Kingston offices of the Tourism Ministry on Tuesday (January 8).“What we are doing is not to go to every single entity but rather to look at categories and to ensure that we are taking solid samples of each, so we get a good sense of what is going on… then we can apply the principles of safety and security as they are evolving to deal with those areas,” he said.The Minister said the review exercise is expected to put the Government in a better position to measure, monitor and evaluate the overall security infrastructure for the sector, noting that at the end of the process, a document is to be produced that will inform new policy arrangements and possible legislative arrangements, if necessary.“Certainly, the document will put us in a position to guide the way forward and to build out a strong communications programme for training and public education in particular, because we believe what has to be done is a reorientation of the players in the industry and a ‘reappreciation’ of what the relationship between visitors and host countries is, and what are some of the new technologies that are now impacting the way decisions are made and actions are determined,” he noted.International tourism security expert, Dr. Peter Tarlow, is to provide technical support in the production of the document, which will entail a complete list of findings and recommendations on the way forward. Of note is that recommendations may also include stricter sanctions for breaches, including revoking licences in some instances.Dr. Tarlow, who held several consultations with officials of the Tourism Ministry, tourism industry partners and Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) personnel, said he is impressed by the willingness to cooperate and to collaborate among various sectors of the industry.“People have been incredibly open. I would say this is one of the most transparent countries I have been in,” he said.The security audit was designed to get a thorough evaluation of the security vulnerabilities of the properties within the hospitality sector and destination areas to uncover non-compliance, deficiencies and irregularities and to assist the operators of these business enterprises to enhance the quality of their existing security apparatus.The audit aims to measure, monitor and assess the overall security architecture within the industry; collect and collate data in relation to incidents; establish benchmarks and minimum thresholds for elements of the security apparatus; establish a pathway to correction for the industry and mitigate the concerns of the market; reduce negative public relations values that have partially affected the destination Jamaica brand value; enable human resource personnel practices, such as training, monitoring and recruiting staff within the industry, and ensure that these are aligned with destination assurance principles as a mitigation strategy.The main areas of focus were personnel and electronic security, environmental profile, building safety and security, communication devices and security incident history.Part of the audit also included security awareness meetings with General or Resident Managers and the Human Resource and In-house Security Managers at the hotels and General and Operations Managers at the attractions.last_img read more

Peaceful bypolls in Darjeeling Islampur

first_imgDarjeeling: Assembly by-polls were peacefully conducted in Darjeeling and Islampur in North Bengal on Sunday. “There were no incidents of violence. However, there were some complaints, which have been addressed. The voting till 5pm stood at 62 per cent,” said Koushik Sinha, SDO, Darjeeling.”An FIR was lodged at the Darjeeling Sadar Police Station but no one has been arrested,” said Amarnath K, Superintendent of Police, Darjeeling. A scuffle took place in Badamtam tea estate. There were allegations from the GJM (Binoy Tamang faction) that outsiders had entered booth number 112, Badamtam Higher Secondary School. After the scuffle ensued, additional security forces arrived. Also Read – Bengal family worships Muslim girl as Goddess Durga in Kumari PujaIn Darjeeling, BJP candidate Niraj Zimba entered the Turnbull school polling station with his armed guard to cast his vote. The Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) personnel asked his bodyguard to leave. On his way back after casting his vote Zimba and his supporters had a heated exchange of words with GJM (Binoy supporters) on Gandhi road. GJM supporters alleged that Zimba and his men manhandled GJM workers. Zimba however denied the allegation. Binoy Tamang, the GJM president and an Independent candidate backed by the TMC and GJM (Binoy faction) while talking to mediapersons appealed to maintain peace in the Hills. Also Read – Bengal civic volunteer dies in road mishap on national highwayThere are 321 polling stations in the Darjeeling Assembly constituency. Altogether 45 polling stations have been declared as critical. There are 2,34,758 voters, including 1,15,665 males and 119093 females. There are 3,950 service voters. Along with state forces, 16 companies of CAPF were deployed in Darjeeling for the polls. Except for a stray incident at Madaripur, Islampur the by-polls passed of peacefully. One person was arrested in Islampur. Polling stood at 71 per cent. The number of voters in Islampur Assembly constituency is 2,03,891. The number of male voters stood at 1,07,255 and female voters 96,634. There are 219 polling stations in Islampur. With Congress MLA Kanailal Agarwal resigning from the Assembly and contesting the Lok Sabha elections as a TMC candidate, the seat had fallen vacant.last_img read more

Team USA Isnt Getting Better — World Basketball Is Getting Worse

1994World Cup+9.5+37.8 2000Olympics+12.0+21.6 We’re on the ground in Rio covering the 2016 Summer Olympics. Check out all our coverage here.Despite trailing much of the first half, the U.S. men’s basketball team defeated Australia 98-88 on Wednesday, moving to 3-0 in Olympic pool play. Over those three games, the Americans have won by an average of 37 points, the third-best mark of any U.S. team through three games of a major international tournament1Including both the Olympics and FIBA world championships. since the Dream Team era began in 1992.The other two teams — the original ’92 wrecking squad and their ridiculously stacked 2012 heirs — dominated en route to Olympic gold. But if this year’s team ends up pulling the same trick, it might not be so much a testament to U.S. dominance as a signal that the rest of the world has gotten weaker in recent years after a long run of improvement.We can measure the progress of international competition over time using Team USA as a reference point. Since American Olympic and FIBA World Cup teams are made up entirely of NBA players (save for the U.S.’s 1998 FIBA Worlds squad, which featured zero stars due to that summer’s NBA lockout), we can estimate the total talent on those rosters using Box Plus/Minus (BPM).2Specifically, I built a multiyear projection model that estimates a player’s talent level in a given year using both the seasons leading up to and following the season in question, when available. Since these tournaments take place in the summer, I averaged a player’s talent estimate between the previous and next season; e.g., Michael Jordan’s rating for the 1992 Dream Team was an average of his 1992 and 1993 BPM talent ratings. In regular NBA competition, there’s a steady relationship between a team’s underlying talent, its per-game margin of victory and the strength of schedule it faced. Therefore, we can estimate the strength of Team USA’s opposition in international tournaments (such as the Olympics) by comparing its margin of victory to that which we’d expect based on the talent level of the U.S. roster. 2002World Cup+10.0+16.9 Team USA’s greatest basketball rosters (on paper) 1992Olympics+23.1+43.8 2010World Cup+9.4+24.6 2016Olympics+13.1— 2004Olympics+12.7+4.6 2014World Cup+11.4+33.0 1996Olympics+20.8+32.5 YEARTOURNAMENTROSTER TALENTPPG MARGIN 2008Olympics+19.0+27.9 No matter whether we look at the Olympics or the World Cup, the level of competition faced by the U.S. peaked with the surprise upsets of 2004 and 2006, and has been zooming back down ever since — even after controlling for changes in talent on America’s rosters. Yes, USA Basketball improved its team selections after its mid-2000s wake-up call, but the U.S. is also winning by wider margins than we’d expect from its talent improvements alone.And in many ways, the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro will put this trend to the ultimate test. This year’s American roster is, according to BPM, the weakest U.S. Olympic squad since 2004, and the third-weakest since ’92. On the spectrum between America’s strongest Olympic teams (1992) and its weakest World Cup teams (2010), the 2016 version sits near the middle, but it also bears more resemblance to the average U.S. World Cup squad than the average Olympics entry. Without Steph Curry, LeBron James, Russell Westbrook, Kawhi Leonard and Chris Paul (and so forth), this is just the kind of depleted roster that could have been poised to disappoint in years past.Instead, the U.S. is 3-0 — albeit shakily so after Wednesday’s unconvincing victory over the 11th-best team in the world. If the Americans can iron out the shooting woes of the Australia game and keep winning, it might mean this roster is better than the numbers thought. But it could also be further evidence that the U.S.’s competition is less of a threat than in years past. Based on multiyear Box Plus/Minus talent ratings, weighted by each player’s minutes played in the tournament.Source: Basketball-Reference.com, RealGM.com 2012Olympics+19.8+32.1 Unsurprisingly, the 1992 Dream Team was the most talented group the U.S. ever sent to a major international tournament. Weighting by each player’s minutes played — and putting aside the complicated relationship between projection and reality for superteams — that ’92 squad had +23.1 points per 100 possessions of BPM talent on its hands. (By comparison, the most talented NBA team ever, the 1995-96 Bulls, boasted a +10.8 mark; the 2015-16 Warriors were +8.5.) Against average NBA competition, we’d have expected them to win by a margin of 25.9 points per game, so the fact that they won by 43.8 instead implies they were playing competition about 17.8 points per game worse than the NBA average. (As another point of comparison, the Denver Nuggets were the NBA’s worst team during the 1991-92 season, and they were “only” 7.6 points per game worse than average after adjusting for schedule, earning a 24-58 record.) Yes, the Dream Team was really good, but the competition was also pretty weak.That wouldn’t stay the case for long. Although the U.S. won the 1994 World Championship by an average of 38 points per game despite fielding a far weaker roster than they’d sent to Barcelona in ’92, the landslide victory margins would quickly taper off. In 1996, the second iteration of the Dream Team carried an impressive +20.8 BPM talent rating (10 points/100 possessions better than any team in NBA history), yet it won by 32.5 points per game — only 9 more than would be expected vs. average NBA competition. In just four years, America’s international competition had begun closing the gap.The U.S. advantage would be steadily chipped away every few years, in concert with USA Basketball assembling its own squads of ever-decreasing talent. The two trends came to a head at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, when America was stunned with a bronze-medal finish. Despite its disappointing performance, that team wasn’t exactly barren — it starred the already legendary Tim Duncan, plus a still-in-his-prime Allen Iverson, the perpetually underrated Shawn Marion and Lamar Odom, and even young versions of budding superstars LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. On the other hand, it also prominently featured Stephon Marbury, whose reputation for killing NBA teams might be overstated, but was definitely not at his best in Athens.American fans quickly attributed the loss to toxic chemistry and poor fit — a fair criticism, if you peruse this wacky roster — but it was also apparent the world had improved greatly since the Dream Team’s debut. According to the numbers, Team USA’s competition at the 2004 Olympics played to a level about 9.8 points per game better than NBA average. Even granting that our method is only a proxy (and should have some give built in to it to allow for things like badly constructed rosters and questionable coaching), that’s still a quantum leap forward for U.S. opponents, compared with Barcelona 12 years earlier.Athens was a high point for international parity, but it may also have been a bit of a mirage. In response to the debacle of 2004, the U.S. assembled a more talented roster for the 2006 FIBA Worlds, and although America was held to the bronze again, it did post an average scoring margin 15.8 points per game greater than in Athens. Two years later, the Redeem Team won gold with a +27.9 PPG margin; then America easily won the 2010 World Championship with the least talent the U.S. had sent to a major tournament in the post-’92 era. Tack on two more golds after that (at the 2012 Olympics and 2014 FIBA Worlds) with growing victory margins, and the U.S.’s international foes are trending in the wrong direction: 2006World Cup+15.4+20.4 read more

Commentary NFL playoffs divisional round has potential for great games and lopsided

The NFL’s divisional round playoff games this weekend are likely to range from close fought slugging matches between evenly matched teams, to complete and utter blowouts as some of the best and most overrated teams take to the field. Ravens at Broncos Saturday 4:30 p.m. Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice and Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning will square off Saturday as the Ravens travel to Mile High Stadium in Denver. There’s a long list of statistics that point to the Ravens having no shot whatsoever in this game. The Broncos have won 11 straight games. Manning has won nine in a row against the Ravens, including playoff games. Last week Baltimore gave up almost 300 passing yards Indianapolis Colts rookie quarterback Andrew Luck who was without his offensive coordinator, and the Ravens gave up those numbers at home. The Ravens are operating on a short week of rest against a Broncos team that has been off since late December, and when these two teams met less than a month ago the Broncos won 34-17. All these factors combined with an aging team could spell disaster for Baltimore, but there is some hope. Manning has never won a playoff game when the temperature at kickoff time was below 40 degrees. His numbers in those games are very un-Manning like, a combined 64 for 120 for 612 yards with one touchdown, seven interceptions and a record of 0-3. That being said, he’s still Peyton Manning and he’s had all season to get used to playing in Denver. The Broncos will probably roll over the Ravens and make it look fairly easy. Broncos win by 12. Packers at 49ers Saturday 8 p.m. This game contains some of the more interesting storylines of the weekend: two starting quarterbacks with roots in the opposing team’s area, and the classic matchup between explosive offense and hard-nosed defense. Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers is from the northern California city of Chico and grew up rooting for the San Francisco 49ers. Conversely, 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick is from Milwaukee, Wis., and grew up rooting for the Packers. Now the two will go to war against their childhood teams for a shot at the NFC Championship.  Green Bay’s offense, which finished the regular season ranked fifth in the league in points scored, will face a San Francisco defense that was second in points allowed. The Packers’ offensive output is even more impressive considering the injury problems they have faced throughout the season. They lost their top wide receiver, Greg Jennings, for half the season due to an abdominal tear, and starting running back Cedric Benson went down earlier in the year with a sprained left foot that required surgery. With Jennings back in the offense, Green Bay is even better than their top five rank would indicate. If the Packers can grab an early lead they will win this game easily. They have the fourth-most sacks in the league, and the 49ers allow the ninth-most sacks. If Kaepernick has to drop back a lot, the 49ers are in trouble. It’s also worth noting this is his first-ever NFL playoff game. However, if the 49ers can jump out in front early and let their elite running game and defense take over, then the Packers could struggle since their rushing defense is ranked in the bottom half of the league and allows an average of 118.5 yards a game. It’s either going to be a close 49ers win, or a solid Green Bay victory. I’m picking the upset and going with Rodgers’ experience and the Packers’ offense for this one. Green Bay wins by nine. Seahawks at Falcons Sunday 1:00 p.m.  This will almost certainly be the most competitive and exciting game to watch as the high-scoring Atlanta Falcons take a shot at the stingy Seattle Seahawks defense. Atlanta’s sixth-ranked passing offense will be hard-pressed to duplicate their regular season success against the Seahawks sixth-ranked passing defense. The two big questions in this game are, will the Falcons be able to get their passing game going and can Atlanta contain the Seattle running game? Seattle has two of the league’s biggest and most physical cornerbacks in Richard Sherman (6-foot-3, 195 pounds) and Brandon Browner (6-foot-4, 221 pounds). They will be a handful for the Falcons’ top receivers Julio Jones (6-foot-3, 220 lbs) and Roddy White (6 feet, 211 lbs). Add in Seattle’s Pro Bowl free safety Earl Thomas, and Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan could have his hands full trying to find open receivers. Atlanta will need to find a way to get the ball downfield and get a lead early or the Seahawks third ranked running attack will chew up the weak Falcons’ rushing defense. If Atlanta can get out to a big early lead it’ll likely handle Seattle with no problem and win comfortably. However, in a close game look for the Falcons’ defense to get worn down against the run and give up big yardage in a Seahawk win. I don’t think the big plays will be there for Atlanta this week so getting an early advantage will be difficult. Seahawks win by six. Texans at Patriots Sunday 4:30 p.m.  This game can be summed up in one word. Yawn. New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick has had weeks to prepare for this game, and will throw wrinkles at Houston that they’ve likely never seen before. New England has the league’s best tight end in Rob Gronkowski back after he missed the Patriots blowout win against the Texans in Week 14. That game, which was in Houston, saw the Patriots embarrass the Texans and win by 28. While Houston will probably respond with some pride and lose by less than four touchdowns this time around, they simply don’t have much of a chance to win. The only way the Texans can even make it competitive is to control the ball and eat up clock by handing the ball off to running back Arian Foster a lot. If Foster has a huge game then there is a glimmer of hope for the Texans. However, it’s far more likely that Houston will be so far behind that Foster will not get a chance to have much of an impact on the game. Patriots win a snoozer by 14 or more. read more

Former Ohio State linebacker Jordan Whiting still chasing NFL dreams

Jordan Whiting could be playing for an Ohio State football team that won all 12 of its games last season, or playing for a Louisville team that upset Florida in the Sugar Bowl. Formerly an OSU linebacker, Whiting transferred to Louisville prior to the 2012 season. He was not eligible to play for the Cardinals last season, due to NCAA rules requiring players who transfer between Football Bowl Subdivision schools to sit out one year before playing for their new school. His career at Louisville, however, ended before it even began because of a failed drug test. “When I first got here, I was hanging out with a buddy of mine, and unfortunately, hanging out with him, not really thinking too clearly, I decided to take a few hits of marijuana,” Whiting told The Lantern in January. “I failed my first drug test of my college career.” This wasn’t the first time Whiting made a mistake that affected his college football career. On Dec. 23, 2010, Whiting received a one-game ban as one of six OSU football players suspended for receiving improper benefits from Eddie Rife, owner of Fine Line Ink tattoo parlor. Those violations, dubbed “Tattoo-Gate” by many, eventually resulted in the Buckeyes vacating the results of their 2010 season, being banned from postseason play in 2012 and losing nine scholarships over a three-year period. Whiting said his violation came as a result of accepting a discount on a tattoo and said he did not realize he was receiving a discount at the time. “It’s a learning experience and unfortunately some rules, even though we don’t necessarily agree with them, they still are rules,” Whiting said. Whiting said the hardest part of the situation was dealing with the criticism he and his suspended teammates received. “I learned that some people can be very cruel,” Whiting said. “A lot of the guys, not necessarily me, but some guys were getting death wishes via email. “None of those athletes, including myself, ever would bring harm to any other person out here,” Whiting added. Whiting has tattoos on both of his arms, his chest and his back, which he said “mean everything” to him. “My tattoos are all religion and family,” Whiting said. “I don’t have one tattoo that you could look at and be like, ‘What does that mean?’ or ‘Why would you get that tatted on you?’ or anything like that. “I love tattoos,” Whiting added. “I guess you could say it’s somewhat of an addiction.” Whiting remained with the Buckeyes in 2011 after serving his suspension but transferred to Louisville that spring. His three-year career at OSU consisted of one redshirt year and two playing seasons, but only one career tackle. Whiting said he became more mature as a result of his experience at OSU. “It was a growing pain that I had to go through,” Whiting said. “I think me being at Ohio State, it wasn’t for me to shine as an athlete, it was for me to grow up as a man.” By blowing his opportunity to play at Louisville with his failed drug test, Whiting said he disappointed himself and his family. “I made a bad decision, and unfortunately that bad decision did lead to me not being a part of the team anymore,” Whiting said. “I don’t blame them for that decision, I don’t blame anybody else but myself, but you live and you learn and you move on, and that’s the only thing you can do.” Whiting hasn’t given up on his football dreams quite yet. He said he is continuing to pursue a career in professional football. He told The Lantern earlier this month that he had not yet received interest from NFL teams leading up to the 2013 NFL draft. “I’m not ready to tell the game goodbye, and not under these circumstances,” Whiting said. “I’d rather tell the game goodbye under circumstances that I cannot control. Whether it be because I got hurt, or whether it be because I got cut from a team, or retirement … I can accept that, but I cannot accept telling the game goodbye off of my bad decisions. I feel like I have a lot to bring to a team.” OSU assistant coach Luke Fickell said it is critical for Whiting to take advantage of any opportunity he gets if he is going to make it at the next level. “He’s a guy that’s got some physical tools and ability, and you know, anybody that finds the right place and the right situation and at the right time has a chance to be successful,” Fickell said. “You have a chance and you get an opportunity, the window is slight and you got to take advantage of all those opportunities.” Etienne Sabino, who is pursuing his own NFL dreams and could be selected in the 2013 NFL Draft as an outside linebacker, played with Whiting at OSU from 2009-2011. He said Whiting “looked good in drills,” although Whiting did not get much chance to play. “He definitely had a lot of ability,” Sabino said. “He has a lot of potential, and I know he’s a strong kid so I wish him the best of luck.” Whiting said it would mean “the world” to him if he gets a chance to play in the NFL, but he is also working on other pursuits. He is enrolled to resume classes at OSU this summer and work toward completing his degree in marketing. He is also a founder of a marketing consulting company (J. Infinity LLC) and is writing a book, which he said is titled “A Developing Man.” Whiting said he also wants to start a foundation to benefit and mentor low-income children. Whiting said he “would never make the same mistake twice,” has learned from his mistakes and hopes young athletes can also learn from his story. “I’ve played over 17 years of football and I’ve been a part of five different organizations,” Whiting said. “I’ve earned 12 championship rings, 10 in high school, 2 in college. I’ve been to three BCS bowl games and I was one season away from what I would like to see as my blowout season. But one thing that prevented all that from happening was one bad decision. And that’s all it takes.” read more