Saturday, April 15, 2017


     It was a wild season-opening week in our APBA Football League. Some games went exactly as expected (Cincy over NE, 35-3; Dallas over Philly by 22), others were surprising. Not so much for the outcome but for how they came about.
     Let's have a look at the week's results and then we'll move on to the highlights, including your Games of the Week.

     Some of the highlights from week 1: A late kickoff return by St. Louis' Ahmad Rashad propels the Cards over the Colts. Daryl Lamonica and Marv Hubbard lead the Raiders over the Steelers, despite a late comback bid. Scott Hunter to Leland Glass was the combo of the day as the Pack edged the Browns. And John Brodie is nearly perfect as the Niners smother San Diego.

     Now for your Games of the Week. The first pits the New York Giants against the Detroit Lions at Tiger Stadium in Detroit.

Bob Tucker catches 6 Norm Snead passes for 202 yards and 2 TDs.
     Let's pick up the action in the 4th quarter. The Lions have just taken the lead on an Altie Taylor run, 27-23. On their ensuing possession, the Giants face a 3rd and 12 from their own 18.
     (Snead drops back... He looks around... Here comes the rush... He delivers...Tucker has it! He crosses the 50...the 40...One man to beat...TOUCHDOWN!!)
     With 9 minutes left, the Giants are up 30-27. But three plays later, from their own 8 yard-line...
     (Landry back to pass...He has Sanders slanting over the middle...It's picked off! Linebacker Jim Files has it! He spins out of one tackle and is pushed out of bounds at the one. First and goal Giants!)
     Fullback Charlie Evans takes it in from there. 37-27, Giants. 7 minutes left.
     Detroit then drives the ball from their own 20. Four Greg Landry scrambles and a 29 yard pass to Charlie Sanders has the Lions in field goal range with 3:45 left. Errol Mann makes the kick and it's now 37-30.
Landry takes the snap for the Lions...
     A long kickoff return has the Giants start their next drive near midfield. After picking up a first down they find themselves in field goal range. 3 Ron Johnson runs put them at 4th-and-5 at the Lions 30.
     (Pete Gogolak is on to attempt the field goal. Just over a minute remains....Here's the snap...This one will ice it...The kick is up...It's NO GOOD! NO GOOD! Oh, Gogolak must be sick!)
     The Lions take over at their own 20, no time-outs. Two incomplete passes brings up a third-and-10. Then Landry hits Mel Farr out of the backfield. He runs for 22 and wisely steps out of bounds with less than a minute left. Then:
     (Landry drops back...He's looking deep...But NO! It's a screen. Taylor has it with a convoy of blockers in front of him...He has to get out of bounds...He's down at the 25...The clock is running...Landry hurries to the line...19...18...17...Landry's back....He fires over the middle. It's Sanders at the 10! He has it...TOUCHDOWN!! With only 15 seconds left on the clock!)

Sander hauls in the tying pass!
     Final score: Lions 37, Giants 37. This was hand's down THE GAME OF THE WEEK -- until the Monday Nighter, that is.... (Right after this commercial break...)

Lions-Giants get the season started with a bang!

Thursday, April 6, 2017


     I guess I'm sort of a tool.
     Back in my teen years, I was a yuge (we live in the Age of Trump!) baseball fan. I loved the Pittsburgh Pirates. But I haven't really paid much attention to the sport lately. Not since 1990 really, when the Pirates had Bonds, Bonilla and Van Slyke. Remember that?
     This year's World Series -- with the perennial underdog Cubs winning -- has re-energized my enthusiasm. Yeah, me and about 40 million other people. I think we all agree: awesome series!
     Anyway, that spurred me to pick up a wonderful text-based baseball computer simulation from Steam called "Out of the Park Baseball 17."
     This game allows you to run an entire baseball organization in every imaginable way, from managing its farm teams to negotiating trades and player salaries and drafting players out of high school.
     That's a bit much for me, though. Fortunately, it also allows more casual fans, like me, to just manage a season. That is, I'm simply playing the games one-by-one and making all on-field decisions. I select offensive batting and defensive fielding strategies, pitching decisions and make all substitutions during each game.
     I'm starting with the 2015 Pirates season. I watched a fair number of their games last year (we get all the Chicago games where I live, and the Pirates and Cubs are in the same division, so they're on TV a lot here) and I really liked the team. Baseball is weird in that you can't really enjoy the game until you bond with the players, and the Pirates had some pretty likeable guys. I loved McCutcheon, for example. Also Neil Walker and Marte. I really rooted for these guys. I loved Cervelli, for some reason. Plus, they had excellent pitching, led by Gerrit Cole.

Pirates defeat the Arizona Diamondbacks! Cervelli has broken out of his slump. So has Marte. McCutcheon homered, but he's still up-and-down. Neil Walker has cooled off, but he's the team leader. You really become attached to your team in this game.
     OOTP17 comes with every team from 1871 to the present. The real reason I bought it is because I wanted to replay the Pirates 1975 season. Stargell, Parker, Sanguillen, Zisk etc. What an offensive powerhouse they were! Lots of fun. It'll be tough to beat the Reds, though. The Big Red Machine. Man, they were good! Looking forward to taking them on.
     Why 1975? Because that was the year I was playing a boardgame called APBA. Each player had a distinct card. Roll the dice (one red, one white) and consult the card and cross-reference with the results card. Ah, good memories! You used to have to keep stats for yourself. With OOTP17, the computer does all that. Amazing the trouble we used to go through in pre-computer days, isn't it?

APBA cards. All you over-50 guys know what I'm talking about! This game still exists, too. I'm tempted to get a copy just for the nostalgia of it. IIRC, a "61" is a base hit!

Saturday, March 11, 2017

APBA: 1972 WEEK 1

     1972 Week One is in the books. And what a week it was! It opened with an unlikely and dramatic victory by the St. Louis Cardinals over the heavily favored Baltimore Colts, continued with an absolute barn-burner in Detroit and finished with a Monday night thriller in Minnesota. It was a week full of blow-outs, narrow escapes, heroes and goats.
     So, without further ado, I give you APBA Football 1972 Week 1:


Tuesday, March 7, 2017


     One game left to go in 1972 Week 1, and I've just about got this game figured out (APBA Football, that is). As you know from previous posts, my last hurdle was passing yardage, which up to this point has been way too low.

      At first, the problem was that, by calling the pass (Short, Medium or Long) and then selecting the receiver, backs were the intended receivers for too many Medium Passes and wide receivers too many Short Passes. So I started calling the pass after selecting the receiver: if the receiver was a back, it was a Short Pass; a WR, a Medium or Long. Close, but still not right.
     Now, in game 13, I think I've hit on the right solution.
     Here's how the passing game works:
1) The player calls for a pass.
2) Roll to determine the play result. That's right, the play result comes first.
3) After seeing the result, determine the depth of the pass -- short, medium, long.
4) Roll to determine the receiver from the pool based on the pass depth.
5) Roll to determine the Offensive Index and the defensive play call.
6) Implement the result.

     Sounds like cheating, doesn't it? Well, it's not really. I consider it throwing to the open man. My WRs are running downfield routes, my backs shorter patterns. I throw to who's open.
     For example, I call a pass and then roll a 15. A 15 is incomplete on Medium range and Long passes, but has several completion results as a Short pass. So the play is a Short Pass. Basically, the downfield receivers were covered, but the QB found a back open in the flat.
     Now, I determine the receiver from my pool of eligible Short Pass recipients; i.e. my backs and tight ends. I roll the dice and select the receiver based on my percentage list (which I prepared before the game).
     Next, I roll for my Offensive Index and the Defensive play call (also a homebrew) and then find the result on the play chart. Simple really.
     There are some special rules, however. On third downs, if the Short Pass chart does not include a first down result, then the Short Pass play cannot be called.
     Let's say you rolled up a 15 result. It's third-and-10. You consult the Short Pass chart and find the longest gain possible is 7 yards. You must then call a Medium or Long Pass. This will, hopefully, prevent unrealistically high completion percentages.
     Another rule is that any Medium Pass completion for less than 10 yards represents a checkdown from the wide receiver to one of the backs or tight end. Roll again -- on the Short Pass pool this time. (1972 wide receivers did not run 5 yard routes!)

     If you recall from an earlier post, I randomly determine my ball carriers on a percentage basis. Well, I do the same thing here with a little difference. I break all my eligible receivers down by pass depth.
     Short Passes can only be thrown to backs and tight ends.
     Medium Passes: wide receivers and tight ends -- and backs with a "B" rating or higher.
     Long Passes: WRs only.
     Here's a sample of one of my lineup sheets (of all the backs, only V. Washington is eligible to catch Medium Passes):

     My passing pools are at the bottom of the sheet. I determine the pass depth, and then roll 2d10, reading the result as a percentage. If the roll is from 0-27, the Short pass is to Vic Washington, for example. The percentages are based on the percentage of catches each player within a pool had that year. In 1972, Washington caught 27% of all balls caught by 49ers' backs and TEs.
     In my first game using this system, the results were pretty good. John Hadl of the San Diego Chargers threw for 207 yards, and John Brodie of the 49ers threw for 198. Granted, I rolled extremely well for them all day long. But the yards-per-completion were just where I thought they should be -- and a big improvement over what I had been experiencing. Completion percentage was a little high, though: Hadl was 15-24 and Brodie 15-18. But Brodie was a 63% passer that year and has an extraordinarily good card for Short Passes. But I will continue to tweak the system as I continue on with it.

     I've made my own game sheets, too. Here's what one looks like:

     It includes all the stats I care to keep. I don't bother with any kicking or punting stats and the only defensive stats are Sacks and Interceptions. I've included a spot for keeping track of Time Outs and Time of Possession (T.O.P.). I only only allow 1 "Rare Play" (RP) per half, so I have included check-off boxes for those also.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

The Essence of Essex

    I've completed another game since the Rams-Saints. This was the Bengals-Patriots. I don't want to put too much importance on what happened in this game because the Patriots are so horrible, but the passing seemed much better. Ken Anderson went 13-17 for 125 yards, which is just about right. In reality, he went 10-15 for 115. So the yards per catch is still a little low, but I was throwing more Short Passes because I valued completions more than yards and Anderson's card pretty much dictates shorter passes. There were a couple times where I could have thrown Medium and done much better. But there were also times when, had I gone Medium, I wouldn't have completed the pass at all. So half-dozen of one, 6 of the other.

     On the other hand, Plunkett was awful: 5-12 for 40 yards. In reality, Plunkett went 9-17 for 117, but a lot of that was a 35-yarder to Garrett. Chances are good that was a garbage-time screen pass or something, since the Patriots lost 31-7. Oh, in my game, they lost 35-3. Again, though, I was throwing short, primarily to backs, and it was a chore just gaining a yard at all for the pathetic Patriots.
     Interestingly, the Patriots got their field goal at the end of a drive in which I threw 4 doubles in a row -- 11, 44, 33, and 44 -- which accounted for 56 yards rushing on 4 carries. This game is a lot about die-rolling. If I had called a Medium Pass or two during that stretch, Plunkett's stats would be a whole lot different.

Johnson gaining more than 0 vs the Rams.
      Anyway, one thing I discovered is that not all cards are created equal. I think the Essex Johnson card is misprinted, for example. Look, Johnson was a 4-yds-per-carry back in 1972, but his card doesn't bear that out at all.

     I've circled the 25s. In APBA, 25 is no gain across the board. 0 yards. His first 7 carries of this game: 4, 0, 0, 0, -2, 4, 1. It happens, even to 4-yds-per-carry guys. But the last time I used Johnson (I actually played this game once before), the result was pretty much the same. No way in heck this guy's going to run for a 4-yd average at that rate. So now, when a 25 comes up, I roll a die. Even = use 19 instead. Odd = use the 25 as printed. This bore fruit, three times in the game. 3 of Johnson's last 6 carries of the game would have been for 0 yards. But using this rule, two were changed to 5 and 6 yards. Using the card as-is, you'd have to roll doubles about 1/3 of the time to get a good rushing day out of him.
     We'll see how it works out over time. But (7)25s out of 36 seems a little excessive. 

Saturday, February 25, 2017


     Normally, in a game of APBA Football, the offensive player has the usual complement of starting skill players (running backs and receivers) and a handful of back-up players. During play, you roll dice to determine who the intended receiver is to be on a pass play, while the player himself decides on a ball carrier for running plays. The dice roll for the receiver is intended to prevent a player from even subconsciously over-using his best receivers. This works well especially in solitaire play when there is no double coverage (at least there isn't the way I play it).

     This is all wonderful, but I take it one step further. Not only do I roll for the receiver, I also roll for the ball carrier in order to replicate a realistic distribution of carries. In the same way that the dice prevent you from unrealistically over-using your best receiver(s), my dice does the same thing for the runners.

Bertelsen after the Rams added color to their uniforms (1973)
      My method is certainly not complicated and only requires a minute or two of research. First, I go to Pro Football Reference and check out the rushing stats for my team. Then I simply calculate the percentage of times each player ran the ball over the course of the year. For example, in my recent game featuring the 1972 Los Angeles Rams, I found that Willie Ellison ran 170 times, Jim Bertlesen 123 times, Bob Thomas 77, and Larry Smith 60. All these guys are included in the APBA card set for the '72 season, so for each I calculate their running attempt percentages.
     Ellison: 39%
     Bertelsen: 28%
     Thomas: 18%
     Smith: 14%.
     Then I just translate these figures into a 2d10 dice roll range, thus:
     Ellison: 0-38
     Bertelsen: 39-66
     Thomas: 67-84
     Smith: 85-99

The Rams' stable of running backs.
      So for the Rams, whenever I decide they are going to run the ball, I roll 2x10-sided dice, a red and a blue. If the result falls within a runner's range, he's the ball carrier. For example, a roll of 1(red) and a 9(blue) equals 19, which means Ellison is the ball carrier. A roll of 7(r)5(b) would give the ball to Thomas because 75 falls within his range of 67-84. At the end of the day, each ball carrier will have a realistic percentage of the Rams' carries for the season.
     For this reason, I don't juggle players in and out of the game. In effect, all players are in the game at all times. Same with the receivers. I don't roll the dice only to find that the receiver I just rolled up is not currently in the game and then roll again, as the rules suggest you do. I just assume that whatever receiver I roll up is indeed currently in the game.
     From a realism standpoint, this doesn't bother me much because in the real football world players are constantly being juggled in and out -- due to fatigue, slight injury, equipment malfunction or what-have-you. As early as 1971 or so, Tom Landry of the Cowboys was using receivers (tight ends, I think) to shuttle plays in and out of the offensive huddle. So each play would have a different set of receivers on the field. Plus, it relieves me, the APBA player, from having to shuffle my receiver cards for no good real world reason. Short of some actual fatigue and coverage rules, I don't really want to have to do that.


     APBA Football is a wonderful game. There is something oddly rewarding about rolling dice and consulting charts. I enjoy that in wargames, too (God help me!). At the very least, you always know why something happens. (Well, I rolled a "66," that's why!) In the end that is what is so superior about manual games over computer games. With most computer games, you never really know why anything happens. It doesn't have to be that way, it just, for some reason, is. Action PC Football, for example, clearly has some sort of  built-in "mystery factor" involved in obtaining its results. Apart from driving me nuts, it is this "mystery factor" -- among other things --  that keeps me from playing this game as much as I otherwise would.

      One of the problems I've been having with APBA, on the other hand, is an overall lousy performance by my passing game. In my last game, Rams vs. Saints, for example, Gabriel went 10-of-18 for only 53 yards. Manning was little better: 11-24 for 82. What the hell? Part of the problem is that I might be throwing too many Medium passes.

      I analyzed Roman Gabriel's card, and here is what I found.
     For Medium passes, I've broken down the likely completions against good, average and poor competition.
     Vs. Good: Gabriel can expect to go 7-36 on medium passes.
     Vs. Average: 10-36.
     Vs. Poor: 13-36.
     As you can see, pretty much a losing proposition all the way around. I've been throwing all Medium passes when the receiver is a wideout, short or medium to TEs and short only to backs. I do this based on the tendencies of the time. QBs threw deeper passes in those days. Fewer completions, more yards. Unfortunately, barring extraordinarily good luck, the APBA cards don't bear this out. 10-for-18 is a pretty standard passing day for 1972 -- but not for just 53 yards. (And even Medium pass completions often go for less than 10 yards!) It should be more like 153. What to do about this? I don't know.
     But I analyzed Gabriel's card for short passes, too.
     Vs. Good: 14-36.
     Vs. Average: 16-36.
     Vs. Poor: 18-36.
     As you can see, it's going to take a little luck no matter what you do. For now, I'm going to try throwing more short passes, even to wide receivers. We'll see if this helps. If I can't get the YPC (yards-per-catch) up significantly, APBA may not be long for my table.
     In my playings so far, it's been feast-or-famine: roll a couple of "66s" and you can have a pretty reasonable day. This is why 1st downs are unrealistically low, too. Maybe my dice are loaded....We'll keep trying....

Tuesday, February 21, 2017


     Look, here's the bottom line: the '72 Packers are just better than the '72 Browns. Face it, Browns. The verdict is in. Two-out-of-two football games can't be wrong.
     First it was APBA. This time it's Action PC Football (get it here).
     So I've started the '72 season in both APBA and now Action and I can't make up my mind which game to go with. Both have strengths. Both are strong statistically. But both have weaknesses, too. One of these days, I'll blog about my small collection of football games. For now, I guess I'll just keep playing both until a clear winner emerges (and I'll be able to tell that because that's the one I'll keep going back to).
      Anyway, let's have a look at how the game went.
     Things started off very poorly for the Packers. A blocked punt resulted in a TD for the Browns, followed by a MacArthur Lane fumble, setting up a Don Cockroft field goal. 10-0 Browns before my first sip of Gatorade. Here's how things stood at the half.

     A Ken Ellis 58-yd interception return and a Browns' fumble give the Pack two freebie field goals and a long drive culminates in a John Brockington touchdown run. But Lane is the star on the ground so far. The Packers defense is playing lights-out and the green-and-gold are dominating overall, but lead only by 3.
     Turnovers keep the Browns in the game in the second half. But the Packers taketh away as well. Safety Jim Hill picks Phipps twice. And Phipps, well, he'll have better days. Gang Green is tough as nails. Bob Brown and Mike McCoy were standouts on the line. Dave Robinson comes through on a sack. Great defense, a solid running game, and Chester Marcol should form a winning combination for the Packers in 1972. The Browns are no slouches, either, but they could do nothing today.

Packers start off in a quick hole, but slow and steady wins the race.
Browns passing attack: GROUNDED!!
Not glowing stats for either side. Phipps' numbers jump out at you, though.
This is where the action is -- Defense! Big Bob Brown has most of his columns filled in. Charlie Hall has a busy day for the Browns