Who to support to sate your bandwagon success needs

Who to support to sate your bandwagon success needs

Fans of ‘sport’ typically fall into one of three categories- the diehard, name every player on the roster, fanatics; the mild interest, check the scores once a week, fans and finally, the bandwagon, I support X because it’s trendy/I want to connect with someone and they like sport so I’m going to make the effort to learn about something they like. There is no shame or issue about being in any one of these groups (although members of said categories will tell you otherwise). But that’s not what this blog is about- this blog is for the success seekers, those looking to jump on a bandwagon.

As a success seeker, looking to align yourself with a consistently successful team, you may be wondering who to even support in the first place; what sport to invest yourself in. Well luckily for you, I have complied the data for nine US cities who host a baseball, hockey and basketball team (I would have included football but its inclusion reduces the number of viable samples to seven) and turn the data into an easy to understand guide to who you should support for maximum success.

Boston

Boston, Massachusetts is home to the Red Sox of baseball, the Bruins of hockey and the Celtics of basketball. The city has long been considered a successful powerhouse of the east coast, with the three teams collecting 23 championships between them since 1946, including the Celtics winning every NBA championship of the 1960s bar one.

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As for who to the support, the graph of season by season records shows that Boston offers the potential of choosing any of the three teams. Some things to note- as the green line shows, the Celtics have a precedent for a cycle of boom and bust, with stretches of prosperity nose-diving to a sub-.500 season or even an extended run of losing seasons. This unpredictability could be off-putting if success is your main focus as a fan. The Red Sox are typical safe bet with a losing season being rarity for them but all-in-all, the Bruins are your best bet for a Boston area success team. They haven’t had a sub-.500 season since 2006-07 and since then, they’ve only failed to make the playoffs twice. All three teams appear to be improving season by season as of the last three or four seasons but your safest bet would be to back the Bruins.

Chicago

Chicago, Illinois is home to the Cubs and White Sox of baseball, the Bulls of basketball and the Blackhawks of hockey. Sports fame for the city has largely stemmed from the mythos surrounded the teams that have played in the city- the Cubs Curse, the 1919 World Series Scandal, Michael Jordan, the Wirtz dynasty and the continuing controversy over the Blackhawks’ name. There’s a lot going on with Chicago’s sport teams.

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There is a reason that this graph looks so chaotic- most of Chicago’s teams have a very similar record when it comes to the late 20th Century. The Cubs, White Sox and Blackhawks never spent more than a few seasons either side of the .500 line at any one time. Closer to the present, the trends become a little clearer as the Bulls are on a downward slide and looking for their first division title since 2012 (and their first championship since 1998) while the Cubs are the feel-good story with their sensational 2016 World Series victory. However, it is once again hockey that brings you your best bet of following a successful team- the Blackhawks’ last sub-.500 season was in 2006 and since then they have won three Stanley Cups and only missed the playoffs once.

Denver

Denver, Colorado is home to the Rockies of baseball, the Nuggets of the basketball and the Avalanche of hockey. Denver has not always been a sports hub- while it is the long time home of the NFL’s broncos and has hosted the Nuggets since the 1960s, it was only granted an MLB and NHL franchise in the mid-90s. Aside from the Bronco’s Super Bowl win in Super Bowl 50, the last major championship for the city came from the Avalanche winning the Stanley Cup in the 2000-01 NHL season.

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As could be inferred from the lacklustre introduction of the Mile High City, there is nothing spectacularly about the city’s baseball, basketball or hockey. The Rockies haven’t recorded a winning season since 2010 (although they look on course do so in 2017) while the Nuggets are on the cusp of breaking .500 after a steady decline since 2011. Meanwhile, the Avalanche has crashed in a series of increasingly worse seasons. If I had to a pick team to recommend, I’d choose the Nuggets or the Rockies. Or the Broncos, go off book and support football.

Detroit

Detroit, Michigan is home to the Red Wings of hockey, the Tigers of baseball and the Pistons of basketball. The city and surrounding area was once the heart of the American automotive industry and strong, robust sporting franchises. While the industry has gone, the sport has remained and many denizens of the city embrace the Red Wings, with the affinity for hockey strong enough for the city to be nicknamed ‘Hockeytown’.

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Of all 10 cities I looked at, Detroit maybe the hardest to gauge. The Red Wings the dominant sports powerhouse for years but have shown consistent decline since the early 2000s while the Pistons fell from their highest point and are still slowly rebuilding. The Tigers are generally successful but when they fall below .500, they either fall had or they tend to stay below .500 for a substantial period. At the conclusion of 2016, all three had reached something of a crossroads, with the Tigers and Pistons rising above .500 and the Red Wings slipping below it. While Denver was a case of letting you pick the lesser of three disappointments, Detroit is more a case of picking one and hoping for the best.

Los Angeles

Los Angeles, California is home to the Dodgers of baseball, the Kings of hockey and the Clippers and Lakers of basketball.  LA is the punchline to most jokes about the relocation of sports teams. The Dodgers originated in Brooklyn; the Clippers came from Buffalo via San Diego and the Lakers started life in Minneapolis. Only the Kings and the NFL team, the Rams, started life in LA.

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LA is a story of haves and have-nots. Despite enjoy extended periods of success, the Lakers crashed to well below .500 and have only just begun to pull themselves back up towards success. Inversely, after spending a majority of their time in LA below .500, the Clippers are currently the most successful team in LA, although they have been on a shallow decline in winningness over the last three or four seasons. The Kings are similar to Chicago team in the manner they hug the .500 line, barring their recent spike in success and the Dodgers are a reliably successful team, whose last foray into sub-.500 territory was over a decade ago.

New York

New York, New York is currently home to the Yankees and Mets of baseball, the Knicks and (not included in this article for moving too recently) Nets of basketball and the Islanders and Rangers of hockey. New York and the surrounding area is famous being the starting place for many of modern professional sports teams, many of which appear on this list.

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Much like Chicago, New York is home to a number of sports teams who boast very similar franchise-long records. Every team has seen its share of failure and success. The Knicks are the only team to rule themselves out of being your bandwagon success team with their crash and subsequent sub-.500 rebuild. Of the four teams who are currently sitting above .500, only the Rangers are currently on an upward trend with the other the currently seeing periods of shallow yet consistent decline.

Philadelphia

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania is home to the Phillies of baseball, the 76ers of basketball and the Flyers of hockey. Philadelphia has a long history of sport, in part to the character credit the received for Rocky. It is especially well-known for its raucous and maybe the single most annoying mascot in history, the Phanatic.

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The city’s teams’ records bear a similarity to a number of cities we’ve seen previously. The 76ers have never decided whether they want to be successful or not while the Flyers have maintained a consistent successful as the Phillies flirt with .500 line. Despite being on a downward trend, the Flyers have been the only team above .500 for the last years, making them the obvious choice to be your success bandwagon team.

Toronto

Toronto, Ontario is home to the Raptors of basketball, the Maple Leafs of hockey and the Blue Jays of baseball. Toronto is the home of Canada’s first MLB team and the Raptors were one of two Canadian basketball teams to join the NBA in 1995.

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Toronto may be the most interesting city on this. With exception of the Raptors relatively poor performance until a turn around and rebuild towards success in 2010, the Blue Jays and Maple Leafs have been fairly consistent teams over the last 20 years. The Blue Jays won back to back World Series in the early 90s and the Maple Leafs are a staple of the NHL. All three teams are currently a safe distance above .500 so once more, the choice is yours. A want of consistency would lean you towards the Maple Leafs; room for disappointment would put you towards the Blue Jays and riding the coat-tails of the break out star would place you squarely in the Raptors camp.

Washington DC

Washington DC is home to the Nationals of baseball, the Captials of hockey and the Wizards of basketball. DC is home to the youngest team in the article, when the Montreal Expos moved to the nation’s capital and became the Washington Nationals before the 2005 MLB season.

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Washington is a city that leaves you spoiled for choice. All three of its teams have been above .500 for four or five seasons with Wizards and Nationals on the rise after seasons of breaking even. The Captials continue to be dominant and hold high-flying NHL numbers. This is certainly an occasional when any one of these teams would suit the needs of your success bandwagon.

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My footnote in (fake) baseball history

My footnote in (fake) baseball history

There is a game in my Steam library I have become smitten with. It’s called Out of the Park 18 and it’s a pretty extensive baseball management simulator. I’ve dabbled with the game’s various mechanics for a couple of months now but recently, as one of the ways I’ve been breaking up days of job hunting, I’ve started to take the game more seriously.

For my first serious save file, I chose to be the manager of the Minnesota Twins. The game allows you to be the GM (controlling the franchise as a whole), manager (controlling the major league team) or you can do both roles. Because I hadn’t done a serious playthrough of the game, manager seemed simplest.

So let’s introduce the Minnesota Twins prior to the 2017 season. In 2016, the Twins finished with a record of 59-103, the worst record in the MLB since 2013 (the Astros went 51-111). For me, that meant my rookie season would carry fairly low expectations.

I have no control over the roster, only the lineups and pitchers so I simulate spring training and get right into the season.

April 7th, 2017- Minnesota Twins @ Chicago White Sox

My Twins are on the road at the White Sox for the second series of the season after a 2-1 loss to the Royals at home. The game begins at 9:10pm EST with a fastball from Miguel Gonzalez and goes scoreless for three innings. Max Kepler doubled in the top of the 4th and was run in by an Eddie Rosario double two batters later. Chicago ties the game in the bottom 4th and two half innings later, I’m staring at no outs and runners on first and second for Chicago. Given how this game likes to simulate, I assumed that Chicago was about to start scoring runs until I quit the game. Adalberto Mejia pitches a weak slider to Avisail Garcia who hits a line drive towards third base. The runners are moving, looking to at least advance on a single and load the bases.

Then something happens. The little icon at third, Miguel Sano, catches the ball and starts sprinting away from third. He intercepts the icon moving between second and third before stopping at second base. One pitch, three outs. Garcia caught, Cabrera tagged and Abreu forced out. Miguel Sano, a two-year major league veteran, has just completed an unassisted triple play. Disheartened, Chicago goes on to lose 6-2.

A rare gem

There are many rare feats in baseball- the immaculate inning (9 pitches, 9 strikes), the no-hitter (9 innings, no hits) and of course, the perfect game (9 innings, no bases conceded). Even a triple play is considered to be fairly rare. But there is one play that is rarer than them all- the unassisted triple play. This is a triple play (three outs from a single pitch) performed by a single player. Before we continue, allow me to tell you how rare an unassisted triple play is- between 1876 (the official inception of professional baseball in America) and August of 2017, there have been 713 triple plays, 296 no-hitters, 84 immaculate innings, 23 perfect games. There have only been 15 unassisted triple plays.

Given the number of MLB games played from 1876-2016, an unassisted triple play (UTP) occurs once every 14,225 games (or once every 6 seasons from a purely statistical standpoint). The average MLB career lasts 5.6 years or 907 games, meaning that the purely statistical probability of playing in a game in which a UTP occurs is 0.064 (one in 15.625 careers). The purely statistical probability of fielding a UTP depends on your position. Given how a baseball field is laid out, I think it is safe to say that outfielders (LF, CF and RF) cannot field a UTP because they would never be able to reach the infield in time. The pitcher theoretically could but to be honestly, that would be the most insane thing to happen in baseball and the same applies to the catcher (the only possible way a catcher could even do it would be to catch a fair or foul tip, force or tag out a runner coming home from third and then make it to third to run or tag out the runner approaching from second). So that leaves us with the three basemen and the shortshop. The existing fifteen UTPs tell us that in a game with a UTP, the probability of the position that completes the play is as follows: First baseman- 0.13; Second baseman- 0.33; Shortstop- 0.53. There have been no MLB UTPs by a third baseman but for the sake of this piece, let’s include my Sano UTP. That gives a third baseman the probability of 0.063. So before we move on, we now know that a third baseman making a UTP is about as likely as a UTP occurring in the first place.

This means that the probability of a third baseman making an unassisted triple play in Major League Baseball is 0.004032 or once every 248 unassisted triple plays. If a UTP occurs every 14,225 games; the math says that the 248th UTP would occur during the 3468 MLB season.

But Miguel Sano, a third baseman, made the play four games into the 2017 season. For arguably the league’s worst team.

Wild.

If you liked this piece, I recommend you check out my similar pieces, such as seeing if the 2016 Browns improved by going back and kidnapping football legends of the past

Should the Cleveland Browns focus on inventing time travel?

Should the Cleveland Browns focus on inventing time travel?

For those of you who don’t follow American Football, the Cleveland Browns are very bad. They haven’t had a winning season since 2007 and they haven’t reached the post-season playoffs since 2002. The Browns are so bad that telling your child “you’ll end up playing for the Browns if you don’t eat your vegetables” is probably precedent for a visit from child protective services.

They have suffered nearly decades of mismanagement- whether it was moving the team to Baltimore in the middle of the night; an inability to actually make a first round draft pick who turns out well or the string of injuries, bad trades and just generally cellar dwelling the team seems so fond of.

2016 marked the worst season for Cleveland since 1999. They finished 1-15 (which is the worst finish for any NFL team since 2008). Granted, a promising 2017 draft has given hope to a rebuilding of the team but for now, they are still the laughing-stock of the NFL.

So this got me thinking. What could actually help the Browns? And being a sci-fi nerd, the answer was clear- time travel. Could the Browns actually improve their standing if they used time travel to kidnap some of history’s best NFL players during the best seasons of their career? Well, I ran the maths and here’s what I found out.

1. Who do the Browns use time travel to bring to the team?

Using data from a number of different sources, I came to the conclusion (using an aggregated scoring system) that the three best quarterbacks of all time were Joe Montana, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning; the three best running backs were Barry Sanders, Walter Payton and Jim Brown and that the three best wide receivers were Jerry Rice, Randy Moss and Terrell Owens.

2. How do the Browns utilize these new players?

So the rule I went with is that the player gains the same stats with the Browns in 2016 as they did in their best career season (with at least 8 game played). Essentially, they played their best season but with the 2016 Browns. Each football legend replaced the best player on the Cleveland roster in their respective position and their stats added to Brown’s stats. Touchdowns scored by the new additions to the team were distributed evenly across Cleveland’s 16 regular season games and any remaining touchdowns were assigned to games by a random number generator.

3. Anything else we need to know about your method?

Any tied games at the end of regulation were left as ties as I have no way of predicting how overtime would go. If a player managed to get Cleveland into playoff contention, Cleveland would replace the appropriate seed and then play their respective playoff matches using the specific player’s postseason stats for their best season.

4. So, what did you find?

Joe Montana (Best season: 1989)

JM89

Despite winning four Super Bowls with the San Francisco 49ers and amassing 29 touchdowns during his best season, Montana was let down by the failings in the rushing and receiving cores of the Browns. Most games in 2016 were lost by more than 14 points, meaning that Montana’s two extra touchdowns per game only made the games a little closer, and flipped two losses to ties.

Result: 7-7-2, 3rd in the AFC North

Certainly better than the 1-15 actual season and they do rise above Cincinnati, who finished on 6-9-1. With Montana at the helm, the Browns would record their best season since 2007 and technically finish with a winning season (.500). However, it is nothing particularly special.

Tom Brady (Best season: 2007)

TB07

The Patriots went 18-0 in the 2007 season before losing the Super Bowl and in large part, the success of the regular season is due to the sheer cyborg-like nature of quarterback Tom Brady. He threw 50 touchdowns and was just generally a beast.

Result: 14-1-1, 1st in the AFC North, #1 seed in the AFC, loses to Houston in the division playoff

Brady gives the Browns three extra touchdowns a game, plus a fourth in four of the  games. The only loss comes from the inability to overcome the 10-35 loss to the Dallas Cowboys in week 9, which became a 31-35 game. However, Brady’s numbers plummeted during the ’07 postseason, meaning at the was only able to put two touchdowns a game and so the Browns go out to the Texans 14-16. Still, best season since 1994 for the Browns and a number #1 playoff seeding is nothing to turn your nose up at.

Peyton Manning (Best season: 2013)

PM13

And here comes Peyton Manning, giving the Browns an even four extra touchdowns per game. Say what you will about Manning, when he was good, he was good.

Result: 16-0, 1st in the AFC North, #1 seed in the AFC, loses to Houston in the division playoff

Unsurprisingly, with Manning at the helm, the Browns are unstoppable and record the second ever perfect season in the NFL. Four extra touchdowns a game is enough to wipe out any real life deficit and turns the Browns into an unstoppable force of nature. Their undoing is once again Manning’s post-season performance. He recorded less TDs in the playoffs than Brady and this time can only manage to take the Browns to 7-16 against the Texans.

Barry Sanders (Best season: 1991) and Randy Moss (Best season: 2003)

1991 NFC Divisional Playoff Game - Dallas Cowboys vs Detroit Lions - January 5, 1992        RM03

The big problem that comes with using the Browns patented time travel to collect running backs and wide receivers is that your quarterbacks are still bad, as are the rest of your running backs and wide receivers. Just because you have a legend like Randy Moss doesn’t mean you are going to do any better. The other problem is that these players can’t be solely relied on to put points on the scoreboard. Not every play can be planned to have them take the ball and soon enough, your opponents with just smother them in coverage.

Result: 7-9, 3rd in the AFC North

Both Sanders and Moss give the Browns six victories more than the 2016 but due to the low numbers across the team, even their best seasons aren’t good enough to push the Browns to lower-middle wild card standings.

Walter Payton (Best season: 1977), Jerry Rice (Best season: 1993) and Jim Brown (Best season: 1963)

WALTER PAYTON   JR93        JB63

As I said with Sanders and Moss, even a legendary player’s best season may not be good enough to help the Browns do anymore than post a half-decent season. Most of the receivers for the Browns in 2016 scored 1 or 2 touchdowns apiece and the rushing core was not much better.

Result: 6-10, 4th in the AFC North

5 wins above the actual 2016 season. Here, have a tiny firework.

Party popper

and finally…

Terrell Owens (Best season: 2000)

TO00

Owens was a good, if controversial, player. However, he is largely remembered for his career records and so in his best season, he only recorded 13 receiving touchdowns. This means that for the Browns, he only added an extra touchdown for 13 of 16 games. At this point I should also note that of the three categories, wide receivers was the hardest to aggregate as almost every site had a different list or opinion.

Result: 4-12, 4th in the AFC North

Well, that’s three more wins than they actually got and one more than the got in 2015. Still, I don’t Terrell Owens circa. 2000 is particularly high on the Browns list of time-travel transfer targets.

—-

So in conclusion, taking on the more legendary quarterbacks is probably the best way to go for the Browns, maybe add in a running back or two. However, in all seriousness, the Browns surprised everyone at the 2017 draft with a well-rounded and well-structured draft selection so maybe 2017 will truly see the start of the Cleveland rebuilding effort.

Johnny Bright

Johnny Bright

JB

Let me tell you about Johnny Bright.

Bright grew up in an African-American neighbourhood in Fort Wayne, Indiana with his mom, step-dad and a few siblings. He was a talented sportsman; playing football, basketball and track for his high school and leading the school teams to either local championships or state finals in football and basketball.

When Johnny graduated in 1947, he accepted a scholarship at Michigan State to play football, who were one of the giants of college football at the time. However, unhappy with the direction of the program, he transferred to Drake University, a small private college in Des Moines, Iowa. After being redshirted during his freshman, Bright began his college football career as a quarterback/halfback in 1949. He passed for 975 yards and rushed for a further 975, leading Drake to a 6-2-1 season. To put this in perspective, his passing yardage is about a quarter of an NFL quarterback’s season passing yards while his rushing yards, thanks to his experience at halfback, are better than the first NFL season of all 32 current starting NFL quarterbacks (there are maybe 3 quarterbacks who even come close to Bright’s stat). He only got better in the 1950 season, setting an NCAA record for total offensive yards and again leading Drake to a 6-2-1 season. Johnny Bright was a legend in the making.

Then came the 1951 season. Things started well- Bright was considered a surefire candidate for the Heisman Trophy during the pre-season and cemented these feelings by leading Drake on an unbeaten streak in the first five weeks of the season. Saturday, October 20th rolled around and the Drake team travelled the 513 miles from Des Moines to Stillwater, Oklahoma for their match against Oklahoma A&M (Now Oklahoma State). A&M were 1-3 going into the game and would go on to finish the season 3-7. Bright had become the first African–American player to play at A&M’s stadium, Lewis Field, during the 1949 match between the teams. But things were different this time, A&M’s The Daily O’Collegian and Stillwater’s The News Press both described Bright as being a marked man and many A&M students were openly claiming that Bright “would not be around at the end of the game” while students interviewed after the game said they had overheard coaches yelling “get that nigger” when the A&M practice squad ran Drake plays in the week before the game.

The game was horrific- Oklahoma DT Wilbanks Smith knocked Bright unconscious three times in the opening seven minutes, breaking the QB’s jaw on the third occasion. Bright still managed to complete a 61-yard touchdown pass a few plays later before he had to leave the field due to the injury. The final score? Oklahoma 24, Drake 17.

JB handoff
Johnny Bright (circled) hands the ball to FB Gene Macomber
JB Tackle
Johnny Bright is tackled by Smith. Macomber can clearly be seen with the ball towards the bottom of the photo

This story of how racism fuelled a shocking display of football may never have come to light, however, if it wasn’t for Bob Spiegel and Don Ultang. They worked as cameramen for the Des Moines Register and had a camera focused on Bright once the threats of him being a marked man became too large to ignore. The two photos you can see above are part of a sequence published 10 days after the incident. The article also included the “get that nigger” story from A&M students as well as a member of the practice squad showing a local businessman, sat in front of Spiegel, a facial injury he claimed was from Smith practicing his jaw-breaking tackle. The photographic sequence would go on to win the 1952 Pulitzer Prize.

Oklahoma A&M adopted a total denial attitude about the incident and continued to suppress the story, from their end at least, for the next 50 years. Drake University would later pull out of the Missouri Valley Conference in protest of the lack of reprimand for Smith and would not return to the Conference until 1971, Bradley University, who quit in solidarity, would never return to football in the conference. But this isn’t about Oklahoma A&M, this is about Johnny Bright. Despite having his jaw broken, Bright earned 70% of Drake’s yardage for the season and scored 70% of their points. He came fifth in the Heisman ballots.

At the 1952 NFL Draft, Bright was picked as the 5th overall pick of the draft by the Philadelphia Eagles. Due to the influx of southern educated players to the NFL and worries about how he would be treated, Bright declined and instead went to Calgary to play in the precursor to the CFL. However, it would be at the Edmonton Eskimos that Bright enjoyed the most success, joining midway through the 1954 season, he would go on to win three consecutive Grey Cups. He also worked as a teacher in Edmonton to provide for his family, as CFL salaries are not what they are today. Bright played 13 seasons of professional football, retiring in 1964 with a heap of records under his belt. After football, Bright continued to teach and was eventually principal of two junior highs in Edmonton.

Johnny Bright died in December 1983 and was buried in Edmonton, survived by his wife and four children.

Epilogue

-Oklahoma State University formally apologised for the Johnny Bright incident in September 2005, fifty-four years after the incident and twenty-two years after Bright’s death.

-The football field at Drake Stadium was named after Bright following renovations in 2006.

-During a 2006 interview, Wilbanks Smith, the DT who made the infamous tackles, maintained that he didn’t see the targeting of Bright as racially motivated.

-Canadian sports network, TSN, ranked Bright as the 19th best CFL player of the modern era in a November 2006 poll.

Blue Dragon: How Wales could define the 2017 General Election

Blue Dragon: How Wales could define the 2017 General Election

Wales is divided into 40 constituencies for representation in the House of Commons. The Labour Party currently holds 25 of those seats with the Conservatives in second with 11; social-democratic Welsh nationalist party Plaid Cymru holding 3 and the Liberal Democrats holding a single seat. Labour has been the dominant political force in the nation since the 1929 election, holding at least 37.5% of the constituencies since that time. June 8th’s snap election is already being called ‘the election made in Wales’ in reference to Prime Minister Theresa May’s comment that she made the decision to call an early election while on a walking holiday in Snowdonia. However could this also be the election decided in Wales? Here are four reasons why this might be the case.

1. Wales’ slow blue shift: Over the course of the last three elections (2005, 2010 and 2015), the Conservative party has slowly been increasing their share of Welsh seats, moving from 3 to 8 to 11 with their 2015 result marking a 32 year high. Two of the three seats won in 2015 were taken from Labour, albeit with the slimmest majority of the election with 27 in Gower and a meagre 237 in the Vale of Clwyd. However, Gower had been held continuously by Labour since 1910, with an average majority of 10,220. And the loss of Gower in 2015 may have been a sign of things to come. Theresa May has visited Wales five times in three months, suggesting serious Conservative ambition in the country and a recent article from the BBC showed some of the thoughts of Welsh voters, many of whom were lifelong Labour voters considering the shift to Conservative for one reason or another. It is still too early to tell what will happen but if polls hold and the trends of the last few elections are anything to go by, a blue shift in the west might be the Tory’s saving grace.

Byron Davies
Bryon Davies, MP for Gower, will be hoping to push his majority to a more stable figure

2. Seeing red over Brexit: Wales voted in favour of leaving the European Union and this has put the voters at odds with their Labour MPs, 21 (out of the 25 in Wales) of whom had said they backed the Remain campaign. In contrast, only 3 of the 11 Conservatives in Wales publicly backed remaining in the European Union. While the decision over Brexit was largely seen as a personal decision, one to be made by each voting individual, it does show a lack of local representation if you vote one way and your MP backs the other. This could be especially dangerous for Labour, given the wave of calls for voters to oust Leave supporting MPs. While the party leaders seek to show that this is not simply an election about Brexit, it is definitely a factor considered by many voters, especially young and first time voters, the people who the ramifications of Brexit will affect.

Wales Brexit
Welsh support for Brexit could be a fatal thorn in Labour’s side

3. High stakes: The 2017 election is not exactly a safe one for either of the main two parties (Labour and Conservative). While the polls have the Tories far out in front, they are going into the election defending a majority of 17. While this does give them the advantage, it does mean that the other contesting parties (Labour, Liberal Democrat, UKIP, Green and Plaid Cymru (I would include the SNP but there is only one Conservative seat in Scotland)) only need to take 18 seats from the Conservatives across all 650 constituencies to create a minority government. However, this does mean that Labour especially need to be on the defensive. If the Tories were to win, say, four seats in Wales, that is four seats that Labour would need to make up elsewhere in the country. And while calls have been to unify in order to strategically beat the Tories, a united front is yet to appear, meaning Labour needs to keep its seats, meaning Labour needs to keep Wales.

Bad Poker Hand
Labour has not been dealt with best hand at this point in the campaign

4. The potential inverse: Polls can be wrong- they certainly were in 2015 and while unlikely, Wales could be the starting point for the Labour comeback. An outright Labour victory is very unlikely, as they would need to turn 97 seats plus any additional seats needed in the event that they lose seats. However, Wales is still red for the time being- Labour is currently the polling favourite in local elections, due to take place on May 4th, and it isn’t a simple thing for a lifelong Labour supporter to suddenly cross the aisle. If Labour can defy the polls, the 15 seats held by other parties in Wales may help, at the least very, force Theresa May and the Conservatives into a minority government. While it’s not the Labour government Corbyn dreams of, a minority government would certainly be a victory for the parties opposed to the current government.

Jeremy Corbyn
Corbyn defied expectations once, can he do it again?

The election is still 42 days away and a lot can happen in that time but Wales is already shaping up to be a battleground without precedent. For the Conservatives, gains in Wales will help ease them into a comfortable majority while Labour will need to hold firm or make gains or their own if they want any chance to make their opponents in blue sweat on the night of June 8th.

Overwatch: Uprising- Please sir, can we have some more?

Overwatch: Uprising- Please sir, can we have some more?

Blizzard’s massively popular first person team-based shooter, Overwatch, received a new patch last night. This is nothing new, the Overwatch team is very keen on keeping the game fresh and provide regular updates. These updates are typically known as ‘events’ and are usually based around a seasonal theme- 2016 ‘Summer Games’, Halloween, Christmas, Lunar New Year. They are all to be ‘expected’- new skins for the characters, maybe a fun seasonal game mode. However, Overwatch: Uprising  is different, very different. Here are 5 reasons why it is and why what I hope this is a promising glimpse of the future.

1. Uprising is completely different to the other game modes that previous updates that provided: The Summer Games had a variety of sports;  Halloween had a four player co-op horde mode; Christmas had a snowball fight and Lunar New Year introduced Capture the Flag (which has since been reintroduced as a main game staple). These are usually fun and cutesy. Uprising is not that- the game mode introduced is a four player gauntlet run that combines the point capture and payload escort of the regular game. It is the first lore based game mode, centred around four members of the Overwatch roster (Tracer, Torbjorn, Reinhardt and Mercy) fighting their way across the London-based King’s Row map against waves of AI-controlled Omnics, the lore’s big bad robots. You capture three control points dotted across the map; defend a payload for four minutes, escort said payload and then eliminate four mini-boss enemies. While the humour remains in the scripted interactions between the characters, the experience is a lot more gritty and tense, especially when the game mode opens with Tracer, Overwatch‘s hella gay poster girl, cheerfully explaining in her cockney accent how robot terrorists killed hundreds of people in the Whitehall area. The combination of the multiple segments, PvE set-up and general foreboding tone finally bring something unique to Overwatch.

2. The story mode option gives a perfect team balance: There are two ways to play Uprising- story mode and all heroes. As previously mentioned, story mode only gives you access to four characters, each one representing one of the four hero classes.  The good thing is that they have purposefully gone for non-specialised heroes. Granted, Tracer needs a little time investment to be able to play effectively but the team composition of Tracer, Torbjorn, Reinhardt and Mercy gives a good balance of abilities, strengths and weaknesses as well as being accessible for a majority of players. And once you grow tired or tiring to master that, Uprising is available with all twenty-four Overwatch heroes.

3. New cosmetic content that isn’t trash: Go to any Blizzard forum or talk to anyone in team chat and you’ll soon realize that a lot of the fan base isn’t exactly fond of some of the skins released for the characters of Overwatch. Often these skins are tacky seasonal garb, a little too out-there or just plain ugly. However Uprising, which provides seven characters with new skins in the blue of the original Overwatch uniforms, are largely very pleasing (I’m a little miffed that my main, Mercy, has something of goofy nurse look (It’s the hat and having her hair down that does it) but you can’t have everything). Uprising also provides a large number of emotes, victory poses, sprays, highlight intros and voice lines for most characters. It seems that Blizzard really have gone all out with these update in terms of cosmetics, rather than the somewhat phoned in efforts of previous events.

4. Uprising is a lesson in teamwork (for those who may have forgotten): For a game whose premise is 6v6 multiplayer, people sure do forget about teamwork. 6 times out of 10, you lose a match due to not working as team (the other four times are a combination of people quitting partway through, poor team composition, trolls etc.). However, if you don’t work together in Uprising, you will lose. I haven’t played a lot of games in Uprising yet but so far, I have only lost once and that was due to the team fanning out across the map in order to collect the time bonuses or whatever. The healer (me) couldn’t heal and so the team was picked off one by one. Teamwork is essential to success in the new game mode, especially at the horde mode and control point sections. Blizzard and Overwatch creative director Jeff Kaplan know that players have a lot of issues with teamwork so I like to think that Uprising is a subtle reminder of the importance of teamwork.

5. Unfortunately, once you’ve played it, you’ve played it: During the Summer Games event, the specific event was changed up once a week to maintain flavour and so it managed to stay fresh, as was the case with the old weekly brawl system before the development team cleaned it up and turned it into a fully fledged arcade mode and custom game server. The Lunar New Year Capture the Flag had similar longevity as it complemented the full roster of characters and played like the other game modes of the regular game. However, as with the Halloween Horde and the Christmas Snowball Fight, the only real variation the mode offers is the difficulty of the AI. While the novelty of the shiny new game mode is going to last for a while, it might not be retained in any real sense after the end of the Uprising event (May 1st). However…

What does Uprising mean for the future of Overwatch? Uprising and its associated game mode are the first real lore-based game modes, the first thing vaguely resembling a story mode/campaign. Its release has me very excited as, while Kaplan and the dev team have expressed an objection to building a full-blown story mode, more co-op extended missions like Uprising, that either tell stories from the past or do push the present lore forwards (mission that ends with a Doomfist boss fight anyone?) would be a great addition to the game, as well as beginning to truly justify the Triple A price tag.

Are you enjoying Uprising? How do you think it compares to events of the past? What are you hoping it means for the future of the game? Let me know in the comments!

More angry Overwatch advice from an angry healer

More angry Overwatch advice from an angry healer

Overwatch competitive season 4 is upon us and let’s just say that I’m not enjoying it. A combination of bad teams and the unilateral ranking system during placement meant that I ended up far below my potential. However, working my way to more fulfilling games has let me see the dark underbelly of the Overwatch competitive scene and so I am back with more advice for any players willing to listen.

1. Provide cover for your healers. Your healers are a collection of DJs, doctors, snipers and monks. They may have potent healing abilities but they are squishy and fragile, with around 200 hit points each. This means that your healers can’t take a lot of damage before they die or have to retreat. So maybe, as a big, buff tank or high damage offence character, you could maybe take that damage for us? Tanks should be intercepting Reinhardt charges instead of jumping out of the way to maintain their precious KDR and offence characters should be sticking to their healers so the team can actually get heals. Ensuring that your healer is still alive is the best way to win a match.

2. Learn the abilities of the characters you don’t play as. Right before I began to write this piece, I was in a competitive match (we lost). At one point, the team’s Reinhardt was screaming at me via voice chat for me to heal him (I was Lucio). Funny thing was that I was stood right behind him, providing Lucio’s AoE healing abilities. Sadly, Lucio only heals 12.5 points of health per second so to a 500 hit point character like Reinhardt, it can seem like Lucio is slacking off. Players should also remember that characters like Ana and Lucio have heal boosting abilities with substantial cooldowns. Take the time to learn what characters can and can’t do so that you don’t have to waste your time berating a healer for doing their job.

3. Accept the fact that healers aren’t gods. Healers can’t keep you alive in a firefight, it’s part of Blizzard’s checks and balances in the game to ensure balance. To emphasize that, let’s do some math, using the Reinhardt scenario from the previous point:

Reinhardt has a base health of 500 (300 health and 200 armour) as well as a 2000 hit point strong shield. In this scenario he is defending against an attack from Soldier 76, whose primary weapon does 20 damage at the distance he is from Reinhardt, as well as an attack from Hanzo, whose primary weapon at full charge is doing 125 damage. Reinhardt is being supported by Lucio, who has just used his healing boost and is current doing 12.5 points of AoE healing. However, Lucio cannot heal damage to Reinhardt’s shield, only Reinhardt himself.

Reinhardt is a large stationary target, meaning that Hanzo and 76 aren’t missing him. This means that Reinhardt’s shield, something that can’t be healed unless he stops using it, is going to last around 15 to 20 seconds when reload times are factored into the equation as Hanzo and 76 pump 262.5 points of damage a second into it. This has been something of a protracted fight so Reinhardt it already injured at the start of the scenario, sitting at 312 health. This is when he starts demanding to be healed. With Lucio stuck in the 12 second cooldown for his amplification ability, he is stuck doing 12.5 of healing per second.  Reinhardt is calling for healing because shield is at about 400 health, and will last another second and a half.

Here’s the problem- it’s going to take Lucio 15.04 uninterupted seconds to fully heal his teammate and he only has 1.5. Once the shield goes down and the 76/Hanzo combo press the advantage, not only does Lucio come under the threat of fire, at the very most he can only reduce the damage to Reinhardt to between 250 and 226.5 per second. Reinhardt is either going to die or have to retreat to a health pack, as the rest of the team is frantically defending the point.

And substituting any other healing in the scenario doesn’t help. Mercy only need 3.3 seconds to fully heal Reinhardt but that’s still double the amount of time his shield can hold for and once that’s down, Mercy can only reduce the damage to 202.5 per second. Ana needs 3.3 seconds to fully heal Reinhardt and even with perfect aim, she only reduces the damage to 206.25. Finally, Zenyatta would need 6.2 seconds for a full heal and then can only reduce the damage to 232.5 per second.

What all of this shows is that if you are under fire, your healer can’t keep you alive, especially if you there is not one returning fire on your attackers. Please accept this.

4. Don’t insult your healers. In another match I played today,  the team’s Soldier 76 boldly proclaimed ‘No Heals’ at the end of a lost round, suggesting that he had not received adequate healing from the team’s healers. My fellow healer and I were understandingly confused, having done a combined total of 17,000 healing across the round. If you aren’t near the healers,we can’t heal you. This isn’t Call of Duty or Battlefield with healers, it you aren’t at the objectives, you’re not getting healed. The player proceeded to get increasingly abusive towards the team healers until, as he had said, we gave him no heals.

Remember this: If you are going to give your healers shit, your healers aren’t going to be nice to you. We own your ass because we’re the only ones who will keep you alive.

What advice do you have for Overwatch players? If you haven’t check out my previous instalment of angry healer advice, click here!