Super Bowl: Denver vs. Seattle — Russell Wilson Wins the Unit Circle Award

At this point there is nothing — literally nothing — new and meaningful that I (or anybody else) can say about the Super Bowl.  So I’ll keep my thoughts on the big game brief and move on.

  1. The “number one passing offense against the number one passing defense” storyline might actually be under-hyped, if you can believe that.  Chase Stuart of Football Perspective suggests that this might be “the great passing showdown ever” (with the numbers to back it up).  Even if that’s a bridge to far for you, it’s nearly impossible to be a football fan and not be excited for the Manning vs. LOB matchup.  If you’re a Broncos or Seahawks fan then it is completely impossible.
  2. Speaking of passing, I think Russell Wilson has a big game.  Call it an educated hunch.

That’s it for the Super Bowl.  For the rest of the post, I decided now is a good time to give out my first annual Jim Zorn‘s Lemma Seahawks Award (the JZLs for short).  The title Jim Zorn’s Lemma is a “before and after” of Jim Zorn and Zorn’s Lemma.  It’s a simultaneous homage to two of my loves, Seahawks history and mathematics.  The former is referenced frequently in posts; the latter I’ve been neglecting.  For this reason, I’m giving this year’s JZLs a math theme … What?  It’s creative.

Unit Circle Award: Russell Wilson
Because the sporting newscape is so saturated — anymore schmo with wi-fi and fingers can start a blog, and the mainstream media has to stretch 45 minutes of legitimate sports news a day into 24 hours — sports commentators have to try to give new angles on topics to distinguish themselves in some way.  This quickly fails for a very logical reason.  Once somebody posits A, and somebody else dissents and counteroffers Not A, a third person can’t come along and then countercounteroffer Not Not A.  Well, they can — they do — but it’s nothing new; it’s just A again.  You can think of it as walking along the circumference of the unit circle.  You can keep moving away from where you are, but eventually it will just take you back to where you were.

With no Seahawks player has this been more true than Russell Wilson.  From “overvalued game manager” last season to the “inevitable” heir to the Best NFL QB throne eight weeks ago and back to inconsistent “game manager”, Wilson has been around the unit circle and back again.  I don’t know at which point exactly he belongs, but I’m still holding out hope it’s somewhere near that second link.  Like I said earlier, I have a hunch he’s going to have a big game this Sunday.

Evariste Galois Award: Michael Bennett
Galois was a 19th-century Frenchman who developed the foundations for a prominent field of mathematics (group theory) while in his teens.  He died in a duel at age 20, and before the fateful day, the story goes, he stayed up all night writing down all his mathematical thoughts, so certain was he of his imminent demise.  (Perhaps he should’ve gotten some sleep to be a bit more alert and quick on the draw.)  The importance of Galois’ work was only recognized posthumously.

So this award goes out to the player who is most likely to not be on the Seahawks next year, and whom we won’t realize how good he was until he’s gone.  (If you don’t like mathematicians, you can call it the Steve Hutchinson Award.)  The winner is Michael Bennett.  He’s only on a one-year contract, and I think he gets a big payday in the offseason, probably not from the ‘Hawks.  They have to think about locking up other guys (e.g., Richard Sherman) whose rookie deals are set to expire soon.  Other candidates for this award are Golden Tate and Zach Miller.

Noli Turbare Circulos Meos Award: Marshawn Lynch
The phrase means “don’t disturb my circles”, and according to legend it’s what the great Greek mathematician Archimedes said to enemy soldiers who raided his home during the Siege of Syracuse.  So focused was he on a geometry problem he had drawn out in the sand that he was more concerned with the soldiers messing up his diagrams than he was with the minor fact that they were conquering his city.  This is like Marshawn Lynch being “so about that action, boss” that he tunes out the media circus.  In Archimedes’ case, a soldier got annoyed and killed him.  Hopefully things go better for Beast Mode on Sunday.

Graduate Assistant Award: Jermaine Kearse
A lot of the work, a bit of the credit, and almost none of the money — that’s the life of a graduate assistant in mathematics.  It also describes Jermaine Kearse.  A tremendous special teams player, the undrafted free agent in his second year out of UW was a clutch contributor to the offense this year as well.  Kearse caught just 22 balls on the season, but he made the most of his limited targets as evidenced by his lofty DVOA.  Nearly a fifth of his catches went for touchdowns, as he scored four times, including the game-winner in the ‘Hawks’ Week 1 win over Carolina that most people don’t remember, but should, because it ended up being a huge play in a huge win, given how the rest of the season played out.  Oh, Kearse also caught the game-winner in the NFC Championship Game if you’d forgotten about that too.  I gave some thought to Malcolm Smith and Jeremy Lane for this award, but it’s gotta be Kearse.

Paul Erdos PED Award: Bruce Irvin
Paul Erdos was the most prolific mathematician of the 20th century, writing thousands of papers and working with hundreds of collaborators.  He did almost nothing but mathematics every waking hour of his adult life, and he hardly slept.  To keep up this crazy schedule Erdos regularly took amphetamines; he literally used PEDs to do mathematics.

Three players qualified for this award: Irvin, Brandon Browner, or Walter Thurmond III.  But it was a no-brainer; of the three Irvin has clearly been the most impactful this season.

Archimedes, Newton, Gauss Award: Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, Russell Wilson
Most math historians cite the Big Three — Archimedes, Isaac Newton, and Carl Friedrich Gauss — when the question of “Who’s the greatest mathematician ever?” is asked.  So in their collective honor, this is the highest of the JZLs.  It’s a tri-MVP award.

Being that the ‘Hawks have one of the best pass defenses ever and all, I thought the LOB needed two reps, so Sherman and Thomas were shoo-ins.  The final spot came down to Wilson and Lynch, and for as good as Lynch has been in the postseason, Wilson was more valuable throughout the regular season.  There was a time when the offense consisted almost exclusively of Russell Wilson running around and maybe throwing it if somebody got open, and it worked.  It was quite remarkable to watch.  And for that, it’s gotta be DangeRuss.


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