Doncaster-based family bakery The Topping Pie Company has struck a deal to supply into the cruise-line market. Through a partnership with premier ship supplier Cavendish Ships Stores it will sell a range of its hot and cold products on cruise liners.Products include multi-award-winning speciality pork pies such as the Yorkshire Farmer’s pork pie and the Regal Game and Poultry pork pie. Hot pies will also be available, including prime steak and pig’s kidney pie; cracked black pepper chicken with portobello mushroom; and Wiltshire ham pie.It is the second bakery of late to get its sea legs after bakery giant Greggs announced the opening of its first branch on a ferry in October. The opening was part of an £800,000 revamp of Wightlink ferry, St Clare.Matthew Topping, sales and marketing director at The Topping Pie Company, said: “Food, of course, is a crucial part of the cruise experience. Millions of people who travel on cruises every year expect memorable meals and top-quality food – we are excited to be working with Cavendish to serve up our premier pies to voyagers and to secure a slice of the high-end cruise market.”Cliff Gregory, sales and marketing manager at Cavendish Ships Stores, said: “We source fine-quality items for the UK cruise market and always look for distinct, quality products that stand out in both taste and appeal. We are delighted that the award-winning range from Topping is in our portfolio.
AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREStriving toward a more perfect me: Doug McIntyre More fundraisers are being planned to help the family with what they estimate will be $86,000 in expenses. For information or to donate, visit cotaforgregoryr.com, or call (562) 355-4748. Real snow job for La Mirada LA MIRADA – The Granada Heights Friends Church at 12000 La Mirada Blvd. will host its fifth annual Family Snow Day from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Nov. 17. The church will kick off the holiday season with 20 tons of real snow, play areas and three sled runs. Admission is free with a small cost for food purchases. For more information contact Teri Elfelt at (562) 943-7255, Ext. 25. Teachers display art in gallery WHITTIER – Rio Hondo College’s visual arts faculty will present “Nice Work if You Can Get It,” a collective show of their creative efforts, at the College Art Gallery, 3600 Workman Mill Road. The exhibit will be on display from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Thursday through Nov. 21. Works represented include paintings, drawings, sculpture, ceramics, photography, digital art and printmaking. For more information, call (562) 789-4047. Deputies raise drug awareness WHITTIER – The West Whittier Community Advisory Committee will host a meeting at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Sorensen Park, 11419 Rose Hedge Drive. Thd guest speaker, Deputy Armando Alvarado of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, will speak on drug awareness. For more information call Lt. Voza at the sheriff’s Norwalk station at (562) 863-8711 or Deputy Zarda at the sheriff’s Pico Rivera station at (562) 949-2421. Patriotic essays shared on Sunday PICO RIVERA – Winners of the annual “Voice of Democracy” Audio Essay Competition will be invited to share their essays at the Veterans Day ceremony at 10 a.m. Sunday at the Veterans Monument at Rosemead Boulevard and Mines Avenue. The theme for this year’s program was “My Role In Honoring America’s Veterans.” The winners were judged on originality of essays, delivery and content. For more information, visit vfw.org. Breakfast with ol’ St. Nick LA HABRA – Families are invited to have breakfast with Santa Claus at the Children’s Museum, 301 S. Euclid St. The breakfast will take place in three seating sessions, 8:30a.m., 9:45 a.m. and 11 a.m. Dec. 1 and 2. Admission costs $8 for children and $10 for adults. Children younger than 2 get in for free. Reservations are required. For more information or to make a reservation, call Jane Ivory at (562) 905-9647. – From staff reports 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! A bake sale, sponsored by the La Mirada Baseball Association, will take place to raise money for Gregory Ramsey, an 11-year-old Pico Rivera boy receiving treatment for a rare blood disease. The bake sale will be from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday at the La Mirada Baseball Association playing fields at Rosecrans Avenue and Beach Boulevard. The community is invited to bring baked goods to donate. Cash and checks will also be accepted. Gregory suffers from Fanconi anemia and must be given a bone-marrow transplant to survive. He, along with his parents and younger brother, Christopher, left Southern California for treatment at Minnesota University Medical Center in October. All proceeds from the bake sale will go to the Ramsey family to help defray the cost of treatment and travel to Minnesota.
The promised pan-African passport was launched and the financing of the African Union (AU) was among the many issues discussed by heads of state at the 27th AU Summit in Kigali, Rwanda over the weekend.Discussions centred on the continent’s actions regarding the AU’s Agenda 2063.This strategic framework sets a path for socio-economic transformation of the continent over the next 50 years. It was adopted at the Organization of African Unity (OAU) / AU 50th Anniversary Celebration, held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in 2013.Agenda 2063 lies at the heart of the future Africa envisions for itself. The leaders who signed it imagined a prosperous continent at peace with itself.One of the foundations of Agenda 2063 is the AU vision: “An integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in global arena”.The summit, which started on 10 July and ended yesterday, is themed 2016: African Year of Human Rights. Leaders in Kigali focused particularly on the rights of African women.ElectionsElections were held on Sunday, 17 July for a new chairperson of the AU Commission to replace South Africa’s Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, along with a roster of new AU commissioners. The new commissioner was to be announced as the summit closed on Monday.The three candidates for the post AU Commissioner, two of them women, were: former Uganda vice-president Specioza Wandira Kazibwe, Botswana foreign minister Pelonomi Venson Moitoi, and Equatorial Guinea foreign minister Agapito Mba Mokuy, according to the international multimedia broadcasting service, Voice of America.Leaders from across Africa gather in Kigali for the 27th AU Summit, from 10-18 July 2016. (Image: 27th AU Summit)Briefing the media on 15 July, AU chief of staff Jennifer Chiriga, said that African heads of state would meet for the first time at a closed session the following day. “They will be discussing strategic issues, particularly the financing of the union. We have a report that will be represented.“We also had a special envoy who has been going around the continent, getting views of the heads of state on how we can improve our peace fund,” she said.The out-going Commission has three months from the election date to compile a handover report before exiting. Chiriga said the highlight of the summit would be the elections. “We are anticipating the summit will be electing a chairperson and a deputy chairperson. The executive council will elect eight commissioners. They will form a new Commission.”Pan-African passportThe Pan-African passport, which will be made available to diplomats and heads of state first, will allow free movement across national borders. Louise Mushikiwabo, foreign affairs minister of Rwanda, explained that although security was a major concern, this would not stop them. “Our strategic thinking is that the fear of insecurity should not stop Africans from moving freely from one country to another.”Passports would be delivered symbolically to some heads of state, foreign ministers and a few officials of the AU, she said. Thereafter each AU member state would discuss country-specific design of the passports. “How soon the passports will be implemented will depend on each country and their preparation to distribute widely,” she said.The first two recipients were the leaders of Chad and Rwanda. Chadian President Idriss Déby, the body’s current chairperson, and Rwandan President Paul Kagame were presented with the passports by Dlamini-Zuma.The passport was launched on Sunday, 17 July at the opening ceremony of the 27th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union:Video of first @_AfricanUnion passports being issued at #27thAUSummit #KigaliConvention pic.twitter.com/rgiVrWrcYs via @abi_negn— Calestous Juma (@calestous) July 17, 2016South SudanThe most critical issue that was discussed was the resurgence of violence in South Sudan, Mushikiwabo said on 14 July. “We are expecting the secretary-general of the United Nations to meet some leaders on the continent on this matter. This is a very important topic on everybody’s mind.”Their first concern was the protection of civilians in South Sudan, and then the political process could be put back on track, she added.Agenda 2063In her statement on Sunday, Dlamini-Zuma said they were hopeful regarding the implementation of Agenda 2063. “Work started on the Agenda 2063 flagship projects and the first Ten-Year Implementation Plan, and over two-thirds of countries and (regional economic communities) began domesticating this collective vision of the Africa we want.“On the sidelines of this summit, the commission met African editors, discussing the role they should play in popularising Agenda 2063, in holding up a mirror that reflects Africanstories in their great diversity, in changing mindsets, shaping an African narrative that is pan-African and promoting our Renaissance. To do this, they told me to transmit humbly to the excellencies, they require freedom of the press and not to be persecuted for telling the truth,” she said.Dlamini-Zuma also spoke about the third High Level Panel on Gender Equality.“Over 400 mainly women and some men from across the continent and the diasporarepeated their call to strengthen financing for gender and the role of women inpeace processes.”The AU and the OAUThe OAU was founded by 32 African countries at a meeting in Addis Ababa, in Ethiopia in 1963. By 2002, membership had grown to 53, when the organisation of African states was renamed the African Union. In 2011 it grew by one, when South Sudan became a member following that country’s creation.According to the AU website, the OAU’s main objectives, as set out in the OAU Charter, were:to promote the unity and solidarity of African states;to co-ordinate and intensify their co-operation and efforts to achieve a betterlife for the people of Africa;to safeguard the sovereignty and territorial integrity of member states;to rid the continent of colonisation and apartheid;to promote international co-operation within the United Nations framework;and,to harmonise members’ political, diplomatic, economic, educational, cultural,health, welfare, scientific, technical and defence policies.Source: Rwanda Broadcasting Agency and SouthAfrica.info reporter
A company’s values, having a social media policy in place, and employees being your customers, were a few of the discussions held at the Future of HR Summit in Boksburg, Gauteng.Ian Dury of Kyocera was on a panel speaking about “Digital Revolution” at the Future of HR Summit. Dury spoke about automation of administration processes such as filling in leave forms. (Image: Melissa Javan)Melissa JavanYour employees are your brand ambassadors, McDonald’s CEO Greg Solomon told delegates at the Future of HR Summit.The conference explored the transformation of human resources in the business environment, forecast trends for the coming year, shared innovative approaches to overcoming challenges and discussed methods of employee engagement in the digital age. It was held on 19 and 20 July in Boksburg, Gauteng.Topics under discussion included “Mobile talent sourcing: what does it mean for your business?” and “Unpacking the 2017 Global Human Capital Trends”.Solomon’s topic was “Guidelines to global success – a McDonald’s case study”.Solomon said out of 11,500 employees in his business, it lost about 2,000 people every year. It was important to treat employees well – if not, they would tell their families and friends, especially children, about their bad experiences. “Your people are your future customers.”When he spoke about a company’s values, Solomon challenged the audience by asking: “What is the one thing in your organisation that everyone can get right?” McDonald’s focus, for example, was quality, service and cleanliness.Equal happiness was important, he said. In 2016, he told restaurant owners they would not get bonuses. “We did make a deal with them that if they met their KPIs [key performance indicators], they would win a six-day trip on a ship to Mauritius. Out of 170 restaurant owners, 120 met their KPIs and went on the cruise to Mauritius.”There were 250 McDonald’s outlets in South Africa, said Solomon, who called it a “people business”. Of that amount, 74% were open 24/7, although he was wary about these hours and put them to the restaurant owners.“We used to close at 23:00, and then employees would be finished at 00:00. They would then arrive at home around 01:00. So we had people saying ‘I’m struggling with this late shift.’” But employees were happy that the shifts were different now; the 24/7 worked for them.Culture in a businessColin Browne, author of How to Build a Happy Sandpit, spoke about the importance of having a company culture. His example was a group of four friends on a road trip to Cape Town. Their strategy would include who paid for the fuel, where they would stay and where they would stop along the way. If they created a culture, he said, it would be an epic road trip.“Culture brings life, heart to strategy. Without culture, strategy is just things we do.”Without culture, the work place would not feel like life. “A lot of people put their ‘work hat’ on and do not bring their best level of themselves.”One way to build a culture in a business was to have fewer stupid rules, Browne said. “Often we are great at teaching, but can we learn too. You don’t have to be in leadership to have a leadership idea.”Respect was a two-way street. “We are seeing that younger people want to work for a company that is perceived to be good.”Speaking about living your company’s values, he gave as an example the McCarthy company. One of its values was family-related. It was found that there were people in the company whop could not read or write; free classes were then arranged to teach these people to read and write, to empower them.The importance of a social media strategyVerlie Oosthuizen, a lawyer, spoke about “The art of connecting: devise your winning social media policies and procedures”.“I did employment law for 10 years. I started seeing social media issues coming up. My friends would post things that I thought ‘how can you do (post) that?’”She was prompted to ask her firm to implement a social media department, and it had seen several cases relating to social media problems at the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration.WhatsApp was the biggest social media platform in South Africa, according to Oosthuizen’s statistics. “It is also where the biggest problems are found for employees. For instance, you cannot delete a message you send nor edit it. People screen-grab your message easily.”She warned that people who frequently used and understood social media, might not understand the long-term effects of the platforms. “It’s important to look at social media policies. Educate your employees on it.“Employers have a lot of control regarding what their employees say on social media. It’s important that employees are taught about what they can say. You are entitled to have a stand – your employees have chosen to work for your organisation.”Similarly, your employees had to know your social media strategy – it had to “live” when you implemented it. When you were enforcing it, it had to be consistent. “Look at each case differently.”Delegates tweeted their learnings:“You need to up-skill your staff if you expect them to do different things” – David Edwards if @CEB_News at #FutureofHR pic.twitter.com/SH0DwXYkU5— #FutureofHR (@Future_of_HR) July 20, 2017We’re here discussing all things HR, Recruitment, Talent Management, Corporate learning etc #futureofhr Summit cc @SABPP1 @Future_of_HR pic.twitter.com/QcGCf4UKCA— Ziyana Consulting HR (@HR_Ziyana) July 19, 2017“When you tie your actions to your values you are most likely to complete these actions”-SunInternational @MillionThrills interactivesession pic.twitter.com/zQku03RZxk— #FutureofHR (@Future_of_HR) July 19, [email protected]_of_HR #futureofhr – treat your employees as if they were your customers. Partner with them— Biase De Gregorio (@Biased77) July 20, 2017Source: Future of HR.Would you like to use this article in your publication or on your website? 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jamal danley facebook postIn 2014, Oklahoma posted an 8-5 record, finished fourth in the Big 12, and got blasted by Clemson in the Russell Athletic Bowl, 40-6. In the offseason, the Sooners made a number of coaching changes – especially on the offensive side of the ball – in an attempt to reestablish dominance in the conference. A year later, they’re 11-1 and a lock to make the College Football Playoff.Tuesday, junior offensive lineman Jamal Danley, who was a four-star JUCO transfer this year, posted a Facebook message that was written to him while he was making his decision on where to play in 2015. The post, which looks to have been sent by a fan, focuses on Oklahoma’s demise and calls Danley “SEC material.” Danley clearly finds it amusing, seeing where OU is right now.1 year later! pic.twitter.com/Z9HiJrX8NG— Jamal Danley™ (@JDanley54) November 30, 2015Oklahoma has off this week as it prepares for to play for a national championship. Apparently, not everyone saw that coming a year ago.
New Delhi: A light bout of rain and windy conditions Friday provided much-needed respite from the scorching dry heat in the national capital, officials said. The weatherman said a number of areas in the city recorded light rainfall accompanied by cool breeze. The city has been witnessing temperatures soaring to mid-40s over the last few days. On Tuesday, Palam recorded a sizzling high of 45.3 degrees Celsius, equalling the record high of April 25, 1970. Also Read – India gets first tranche of Swiss account details under automatic exchange frameworkOn Friday, the city recorded a high of 39.5 degrees Celsius and a low of 24.8 degrees Celsius. The humidity level oscillated between 37 and 64 per cent. The relative humidity recorded at 8.30 am was 54 per cent. The Met office has predicted partly cloudy skies for Saturday. The maximum and minimum temperatures are likely to hover around 40 and 24 degrees Celsius. On Thursday, the minimum temperature was 25.8 degrees Celsius and the maximum temperature settled at 41 degrees Celsius.
See more college football predictions Oh, and don’t forgetBills fans were very generous after Andy Dalton won them a playoff berth We’re launching a sports newsletter. 🏆 Join the squad. Subscribe See more NFL predictions Things That Caught My EyeWater is technically snake oil, I guess?Tom Brady is really great at being a football player, but his provenance as a nutritionist or health expert is suspect. In the spirit of “just because you’re a bird doesn’t mean you’re an ornithologist,” Christie Ashwanden took a serious look at the TB12 method, and the reality is that drinking lots of water isn’t the same as putting on sunscreen, drinking too much water is actually pretty dangerous, and “pliability” could have less to do with Tom Brady’s continued efficacy behind center than, say, a continually successful offensive line that’s been adept at protecting him from injury. On the other hand, as I’m currently on day four of The Gronk Cleanse, I am pretty hammered. [FiveThirtyEight]The Bills are IN! But…The Buffalo Bills have snapped the longest active streak in the NFL and made the playoffs after 17 years of not doing that. The organization is in heaven right now. Still, making the playoffs can have a lot more to do with luck than skill, and this Bills group is pretty middle-of-the-road talent-wise when compared to those 17 other teams. While they finished 9-7, teams that got outscored by 57 points over the course of the year usually get fewer breaks in their direction and finish with six or seven wins. [FiveThirtyEight]Jordan Greenway with a firstOf 1,690 men’s Division I college hockey players, 13 identified themselves as black. One is Jordan Greenway, a Boston University forward who became the first African-American hockey player to represent Team U.S.A. at the Winter Olympics. [The Undefeated]UCF is committing to the bitThe University of Central Florida is claiming that they’re the national champions of college football. Despite not making the college football playoff, UCF argues that, since they went undefeated and beat Auburn in the Peach Bowl, they get to be champs. This stunt could be a lot of things, but it’s not a half measure by any stretch: Athletic Director Danny White said that the coaching staff is getting their national title bonuses and all. [SB Nation]Try out our interactive, Which World Cup Team Should You Root For?They get a parade!Cleveland went 0-16 this season, joining the Detroit Lions as the only franchises to lose 16 regular season games. Thousands of Cleveland fans will reportedly gather this Saturday to watch a parade commemorating the season of “perfection.” [Cincinnati.com]Four out of five top broadcasts!Off the top 100 most viewed telecasts in 2017, 81 of them ended up being sports events. Live sports continues to be one of the main attractions on the television. Put in a historical context, even the NFL is doing alright: While Fox telecasts of NFL games were down from 2016 and 2015, viewership is still up compared to 10, 15 and 20 years ago, according to Sports Business Daily. [Austin Karp]Make sure to try your hand at our fun NFL game: Can you beat the FiveThirtyEight predictions?Big Number21 percentGoing into the NFL Wildcard weekend, New England is the overwhelming favorite to win the Super Bowl, with a 31 percent chance of doing so. Minnesota, Philly, and Pittsburgh have 19, 15 and 14 percent chances of doing so according to out Elo model, so we’d expect about a 79 percent chance one of those teams wins the championship. Now, you may recall none of those teams are playing football this weekend. Among the wild card teams, the ones with the best shots are New Orleans, Kansas City, and Atlanta, with a 5 percent, 4 percent and 4 percent chance of winning the Super Bowl. Still, there’s only a 21 percent chance one of the teams this weekend wins it all. [FiveThirtyEight]Leaks from Slack: cwick:Rare D-I women’s quadruple-double recordedquadruple double!neil:Whoa!10 steals 👀cwick:@neil is it easier to get 10 steals or 10 blocks?neil:Way easier to get the blocks (at least in the NBA)There are only 20 games of double digit steals in Basketball-Reference’s databaseThere are 143 double digit block gamesPredictions NFL All newsletters NBA College Football See more NBA predictions
How Madden Ratings Are Made The Secret Process That Turns NFL Players Into Digital Gods by Neil Paine graphics by Reuben Fischer-Baum illustration by Mike McQuade Original 75 Comments Hidden Skill Set Poor awareness, decision-making Walt Hickey @WaltHickey Moore’s ratings elicit all sorts of reactions — anger, joy, pride, ridicule. Here, for example, is a sampling of reactions on Twitter to Tom Brady’s ratings over the last few years. madden rating tom brady a 93 further exemplifies why it is the worst of the EA sports games #thatsjustdisrespectful #hesthegreatestever— mackey (@kylemack_) August 28, 2012 Reuben Fischer-Baum is a visual journalist for FiveThirtyEight. “I’ve heard it speculated that even the Madden team themselves don’t really know what’s going on,” Bailey said. In the next madden game Tom Brady’s rating is going to be 100— Zachary Olds (@ZacharyOlds) February 2, 2015 The quarterback drills brought me back to earth. Asked to throw the ball as far as I could, I threw it pretty consistently between 17 and 20 yards in an often-loose spiral. I then threw the ball toward my colleague Neil Paine, who was trying his hand at receiver, and connected only 40 percent of the time on short, medium and long passes. Watching the drills unfold, Moore said I was throwing the ball too low and would probably end up hitting offensive linemen in the back of the head often. When I had exhausted my arm, I did some receiving drills — or attempted to. I was useless beyond 10 yards but caught each of the three short passes thrown my way. Brad Hilderbrand, a communications specialist for EA, said I could possibly be a great tight end. My pride swelled again. And then it withered the moment my foot touched a football. My range was so pathetic that I couldn’t boot it more than 20 yards, which at least doesn’t preclude me from being one of the league’s great onside kickers. Punting was no better. Any team with me as its punter would go for it on fourth down every time because I couldn’t kick it farther than 11 yards. “Offensive guard is probably your athletic skill set,” Moore said at the end of the day. “But you’re probably going to want to put on 100 pounds. So, that’s going to be hard for you to bulk up there and still maintain the performance that you put on display today.” Leaving Orlando, I reflected on the day and felt one thing above all: extreme pain. My back was seizing up, my right arm went somewhat numb, and a nap had only made me more sore. When I got home in the wee-morning hours, I took enough ibuprofen to dull my senses and decided that I should exercise more often.3 The soreness continued for three more days. I strolled onto the gridiron in Orlando wearing old gym clothes and the cheapest sneakers available, which I had ordered three days prior. I did the three stretches I remembered from my middle school Presidential Physical Fitness Test — touch your toes, lunge side to side, twist your arm out of its socket — and some light jogging. That may have tired me out more than I expected. My 40-yard dash and 10-yard split times were poor — 6.75 seconds and 2.30 seconds, respectively. Those numbers were a problem because they determined my speed and acceleration grades, which are two of the most important ratings in Madden. Player performance is notoriously more difficult to quantify in football than in baseball. Physical Talent Throwing Power Moore lobbied for many of the new rating categories, spurred by the same motivation that drove “Micro League Baseball” to add player ratings in the first place: greater differentiation among players. It says so right on his business card. ^ Including practice-squad members, free agents and other fringe players. ^ The namesake of retired coach and commentator John Madden. ^ Their equipment styles, for instance. ^ Good rightly cautioned me about the imprudence of declaring anything in gaming a definitive “first,” given the variety — and, just as often, the obscurity — of games and platforms in the medium’s history. ^ It’s impossible to say because “Micro League” didn’t actually have the capacity to track statistics from simulated games. ^ Perhaps it’s no coincidence that in another region of the baseball universe, the field of sabermetrics was tracing a parallel path at roughly the same time. Both endeavors were seeking to distill a player’s on-field performance to its numerical core, albeit for somewhat different purposes. ^ Acceleration, agility, hands, strength, speed, endurance, intelligence and discipline. ^ Also developed by EA’s Tiburon studio outside Orlando. ^ EA Sports’ ratings are on a 1 to 99 scale. ^ Not counting the overall rating, which just serves as a composite of a player’s component attributes. ^ There aren’t even college ratings to fall back on anymore; EA Sports put its NCAA Football series on hold in 2013. ^ Typically watched on the NFL’s RedZone channel. ^ In fact, the overall rating generally doesn’t use all — or even most — of the 43 component attributes at its disposal. Many categories effectively receive a weight of zero. ^ After a little digging, I found that the “press” rating measures a very specific skill: the defensive back’s ability to jam a receiver at the line of scrimmage while lining up in tight coverage. ^ In that class-action lawsuit, a group of retired NFL players sued the NFL Players Association — and won — over royalties that the union received from sales of Madden games containing classic teams with unnamed players whose ratings bore a striking resemblance to the talents of those teams’ real-life members. The unnamed players had “the same height, same ethnicity, same uniform number, same position,” Good said. “Although those things are very substantial in identifying a person, it was also that they would perform as you would expect that player to have performed in real life.” ^ As NBA Jam illustrates, there’s no limit to how much a video game can crank up the dial on pure athleticism. ^ Brady and Rodgers boast throwing power ratings of 93 and 95, respectively; Manning sits at 85. ^ Both Wayne and White boast speed ratings beneath the average of 90 for receivers in “Madden NFL 15”. ^ Front Page Sports: Football Pro Sierra Online’s “Front Page Sports: Football Pro,” regarded as the most realistic football simulation of its time, came out in 1993 and had eight ratings. Walker added that he never considered me one of his top rowers. “Even though you pushed yourself at practice, you lacked that same self-discipline away from practice and would often stumble into morning practices having not slept the night before,” he said. That is entirely correct. ^ Craig M. Booth’s excellent NFL height/weight charts inspired the scatter-plots in this article. ^ I have not. ^ Presumably to be used in event of a successful play in-game, so essentially unnecessary. ^ I just made a Manningface. ^ Using the 2014 roster each time. ^ Throw Power 0yds Moore’s employer, Electronic Arts, is the world’s fifth-biggest game publisher by revenue, and Madden is among its most popular titles. The franchise has generated more than $4 billion in revenue since its debut in 1988. Yet for all of EA’s resources, Moore performs his czar duties in surprising solitude. He’s assisted by a former Madden tester who oversees players’ cosmetic details4 and the usual barrage of (ever-civil) feedback on Twitter. But when it comes to the task of managing a database of more than 100,000 player attributes, one of the best-selling sports franchises in gaming history largely leaves matters up to one man. The Walk-On Donny Moore at his cubicle at EA / Photo by Erika Larsen “The possibilities are endless.” Walt Hickey is FiveThirtyEight’s lead writer for lifestyle. Deep Accuracy 0/5 Translating the athletic skills of flesh-and-blood humans into digital form has been a necessary part of sports gaming as long as real-life players have been incorporated into the software. According to Good, that practice dates at least5 as far back as the 1984 release of “Micro League Baseball” for the Commodore 64. “Micro League” was among the first sports simulations with a license to use Major League Baseball players on team rosters, an innovation that helped usher in the modern era of sports gaming. Developers were suddenly presented with a novel problem: having to represent actual players’ likenesses within the technical constraints of the day. One solution? Assigning numerical skill ratings to help differentiate good players from bad. “They were transitioning from primitive video games that were just trying to approximate the basic acts of a sport,” Good told me, pointing to the Atari 2600’s sports titles as examples of early games without rated players. “Basically, all players perform equally,” Good said. “They just wanted [to know]: ‘Do we have three outs and three strikes? You can throw the ball from third to first to put a guy out?’ ” But with the advent of licensed games, the stakes were raised. “You want Kirk Gibson to play differently from Tony Gwynn,” Good said. The method of “Micro League Baseball” was to algorithmically translate a player’s real-world statistical benchmarks — his batting average or home-run total, for instance — into skill ratings that would presumably6 spit similar numbers back out on the other side of the simulation. It was effectively the computerized version of older board games like All-Star Baseball whose colorful spinners reduced the essence of a ballplayer to a series of probabilities, locked in an eternal marriage with chance.7 But player performance is notoriously more difficult to quantify in football than in baseball. On the gridiron, detailed individual statistics are kept for only a handful of positions, and those numbers frequently miss the whole story because of interactions between 11 players on each side of the ball. Game developers quickly realized that football players, in contrast with their cousins in baseball, would need to be graded on a wider variety of skills — and that ratings-makers would have to temper the science with a whole lot of art. Madden Rating Adjusted 64 A Rating-Changing MomentNov. 23, 2014 A 75 overall rating for a rookie receiver is nothing to sneeze at, but that was just the beginning for the New York Giants wideout. Beckham recorded 31 catches in his first six games, raising his rating to an 80 overall by Week 11. And in front a national TV audience the next week, he hauled in 10 balls for 146 yards against the Dallas Cowboys — 43 yards of which came on arguably the greatest catch in NFL history. Beckham’s rating would increase by 10 more points, and he ended the year with huge upgrades in awareness, route-running, catching in traffic — and, of course, spectacular catch. Take, for example, a player’s trucking score, which captures his ability to run over a defender. Mine ended up being 9 out of 100, which makes me highly unlikely to take on Jadeveon Clowney and prevail. But my interaction with Clowney has an element of randomness — that weighted dice roll could lead to luck for me and misfortune for him, which would mean I’d lower my shoulder and it would somehow push him aside. When I walked on the field to try out for the game, I found this idea oddly comforting. On the early December day I visited his cramped cubicle, tucked away in a corner of an office building on the EA Sports campus near Orlando, Moore was putting the last touches on a roster update that would be downloaded later in the week by PlayStation and Xbox owners around the globe. When he was finished, 577 players saw some aspect of their skills re-evaluated on the basis of the previous week’s action. It’s an activity that Moore repeats every week of the season in an attempt to ensure that Madden imitates NFL reality. Reggie Wayne The effects of the ratings on actual gameplay can be arcane for even the most seasoned Madden veterans. Perhaps no one outside of EA Sports has spent more time contemplating Madden’s inner workings than SB Nation’s Jon Bois, the creator of Breaking Madden, a football column that doubles as an absurdist meditation on the game itself. But Bois confessed that he still can’t quite figure out what some of the rating categories actually do for players on the virtual gridiron. “There are definitely more obscure settings,” Bois said. “There’s a slider called ‘press,’ which I have no idea what it means. I set it to zero every time, and I still have no idea what it does, or what ‘press’ even is.”15 Neil Paine @Neil_Paine It’s all laughs for Bois, who excels at turning Madden into surreal comedy. But the cryptic nature of the game’s growing set of player attributes can also have frustrating consequences for serious gamers. “The unfortunate thing for Madden is that a lot of [its] player ratings are opaque,” USgamer senior editor Kat Bailey told me. “There are so many systems going on that you don’t always know which [ratings] affect which [systems].” How Madden helped a schlub like me make it into the NFL Reuben Fischer-Baum @reubenfb Speed Making The First String 2014-15 When “Madden NFL 15” shipped, the third-year linebacker had an overall rating of 64 and was buried on Denver’s bench. But after an injury to Danny Trevathan in August, Marshall joined the Broncos’ starting lineup. After he put together four straight games with a Pro Football Focus grade of +1.0 or better by midseason, Marshall was rated 75 overall with vastly increased awareness, tackling, zone coverage and play recognition ratings. By Week 14, he carried an 81 overall rating, up a league-high 17 from where he’d started the season. Medium Routes 0/2 Short Routes 0/3 Hidden Skill Set Reading defenses,calling audibles Adjusted 75 Footnotes Interactive 40-Yard Dash 0.0 sec Hickey’s best scores for combine drills. Next: Reggie Wayne Mute Video Physical Talent Throwing Power 3 Cone 0.0 sec “Some designers and producers complain that there are too many ratings,” Moore said of his colleagues. “They ask, ‘How can we limit the number of ratings?’ But I would argue you make players more vanilla with fewer numbers.” That’s why Moore wants to continue adding categories even if it makes his job progressively more daunting. “The developers and programmers hate this,” he said, “but it would be great to do more ratings.” He then launched into an only-half-joking suggestion that the game might add a long-snapping rating someday. When Moore sits down to build a player’s ratings for the newest version of Madden, he goes through one of two separate processes, depending on whether the player is a veteran or a rookie. Each type of player offers its own challenges. Veterans have existing ratings from previous games, but the degree to which each of their categories must be changed is uncertain. Rookies, meanwhile, must be created completely from scratch.12 For the past few versions of the game, users can download Moore’s latest roster update every week of the season via Xbox Live or the PlayStation Network. That means a player’s ratings fluctuate based on how he plays each time he takes the field. To figure out whose ratings to tweak and by how much, Moore said he combines his observations and notes taken during games13 with subsequent film study, conventional statistics, and — increasingly — advanced metrics from outlets such as Football Outsiders (particularly for schedule strength) and Pro Football Focus. “The big factor during the season is stat-based,” Moore said. “The advanced metric sites like Pro Football Focus, like the Football Outsiders, this guy named Ryan Riddle — [a] former NFL player who actually does a blog that has a lot of great information — those types of things bring out the snap-by-snap look on a player. And that, to me, gives a truer look in terms of a player’s value, rather than the conventional ‘how many receiving yards’ or ‘what was the completion percentage for the quarterback.’ ” Pulling all that data together, however, is when Moore’s instincts take over. Listening to him describe the process of rating a Madden player across all 43 categories, I began to realize that he has unwittingly adopted a sort of ad hoc Bayesian updating process. He said there’s a bit of “What have you done for me lately?” in the ratings but that certain categories are fundamentally more or less prone to short-term adjustments — another Bayesian-sounding notion. “Speed largely stays the same,” Moore said, “although when guys get hurt, I will make a change to [their] speed and agility” — a fact Cam Newton came to know firsthand. “Carry rating can be in flux if a guy fumbles a few times,” Moore continued. “Every position has certain ratings more impacted in-season than others.” Meanwhile, a category like “spectacular catch” can change on the basis of a single play. Moore defended the policy, saying that this particular rating has little to no effect on actual gameplay — but it underscores the ad hoc nature of some of Moore’s changes. Such modifications will take a veteran player through the end of the season. Moore makes additional adjustments over the summer based on age-related factors and other reports coming out of OTAs and training camps. “In the offseason, I look for guys trending up — young guys — or down — older players,” Moore said. As for the rookies, their creation process dominates Moore’s spring schedule. Starting around March, Moore begins sketching out the ratings framework for projected draftees using a series of templates for each position. Working with measurables from the scouting combine and pro days, he establishes a player’s ratings in categories such as speed and strength, which are almost directly tied to the drills performed by prospects in advance of the NFL draft. For instance, a 4.50-second time in the 40-yard dash will usually earn a prospect a speed rating of 89, barring particularly strong scouting comments about his fleetness of foot (or lack thereof). At the same time, Moore dives into the various public pre-draft scouting reports for each player, marking down pluses and minuses when consistent themes emerge and applying those adjustments to the templates in areas where the raw combine measurables are less useful, such as coverage skills or play recognition. Hidden Skill Set Knack for getting open This did not lend itself to a great deal of differentiation between players. The assortment of skills that needed to be collected for each player grew as football games progressed through the 1990s. By the end of the decade, EA Sports’ NCAA Football series9 assigned 14 attributes to every player in the game,10 while Madden began handing out 17. With the advent of fifth-generation consoles, the degree of complexity in simulating football increased dramatically, requiring a wider range of player attributes to feed into the new game engines. “Quarterback decision-making is the most difficult thing to simulate,” Moore said. “We’re trying to simulate strengths and weaknesses as best we can within the game, but how you play the game is still you.” 205 Pounds Weight When I asked Moore what types of players Madden had the most difficulty simulating, two archetypes sprung to his mind. “There’s the Peyton Manning guy — not [Tom] Brady or [Aaron] Rodgers because they have strong arms18 — but the quarterback that’s pure decision-making, accuracy and touch,” Moore said. “And the crafty veteran wide receiver with the ability to find holes in zone [coverage], like Reggie Wayne or Roddy White.”19 As he is wont to do, Moore suggested the latter could be better simulated with even more ratings or traits. “We could rate if a receiver was on the same wavelength with his QB,” he offered. After all, Moore loves to add to Madden’s stable of ratings. His pet example is passing accuracy, which was originally represented by a single rating but is now broken down into three separate classifications by distance. In previous versions of the game, the single rating was applied to the sureness of every throw, which failed to capture a big part of what makes each quarterback unique. In reality, some QBs have better accuracy on short tosses than deep bombs (think Brady), while others are better at judging long throws than short passes (Joe Flacco comes to mind). By splitting pass types into subcategories, Moore thinks he is better able to represent the characteristics that define different quarterbacks. Greater rating detail has also recently enabled Moore to address one of the criticisms that has dogged sports games — and Madden in particular — from time immemorial: that fast players are fundamentally overvalued. (Regarding the tendency for digital speedsters to far surpass the skills of their real-life counterparts, ESPN’s Patrick Hruby once mused that “Oakland Raiders boss Al Davis should have been a game programmer.”) Moore doesn’t shy away from that critique. “When you make a guy fast in a video game, he’s just a little too effective,” he said. Take receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey, a former track standout who hasn’t exactly had a great NFL career despite ranking among the league’s fastest players. Heyward-Bey is just the kind of one-dimensional speedster whose avatar traditionally wreaks undue havoc in Madden, but Moore insists the revamped ratings have made it more difficult for those players to trick the game’s engine. Bailey confirmed this development. “It was true for a long time [that] the little speedy guys could just get open, and that was that,” she said. “I don’t think that’s as much of the case anymore.” But while speed can be mitigated, Moore granted that there’s no good way to overcome the problem of simulating a quarterback like Manning, whose most important skills — reading defenses, calling audibles, seeing things on the field that no one else can, and making sound decisions — are instantly negated when a gamer picks up the controller. Comments KICKING/PUNTING Madden Rating No player to participate in the 40-yard dash at the NFL combine since 1999 had a 40-yard time as bad as mine.2 The closest was Regis Crawford, a 316-pound offensive guard out of Arizona State who after the 2004 combine went undrafted. Crawford still managed to run the dash 0.70 seconds faster than me. Next up came agility drills — one shuttle run with three cones in an L-shape, another a 20-yard back-and-forth — that would determine how agile I wasn’t. I have the maneuverability of a rudderless aircraft carrier. Moore charitably characterized my style as “a real north and south kind of player.” Then came a lunging jump, in which I posted a consistent 6-foot, 5-inch leap. Moore seemed less appalled than he had all day. “Not bad there,” he said. It was one of the only times I felt anything approaching pride. Footnotes Tecmo Super Bowl Nintendo’s seminal football game was released in 1991 and used no more than seven rating categories for any player. The game wasn’t super realistic. Bo Jackson was an all-time great in the NFL; he was superhuman in Tecmo. by Walt Hickey graphics by Reuben Fischer-Baum photography by Marius Bugge But these days, I don’t have to step on the field to know what happens when I step on the field. We have Madden for that. And shockingly, the people behind Madden were willing to turn me into a guinea pig. All I had to do was give them 36 hours and sit in front of a panopticon of cameras, and they’d turn my corporeal self into a digital one. I booked a flight to Florida. The most pressing issue on my mind: what my Madden ratings would be. The game (the most recent edition is “Madden NFL 15”) rates players on a scale from 0 to 99, basing overall scores on 43 categories, including trucking, deep passing, strength and agility. A guy like me was virgin territory for Donny Moore, the Madden Ratings Czar. How exactly would he quantify the football ability of a person with hardly any? That I was essentially a rookie made Moore’s job even harder. As my colleague Neil Paine explained, rookies require an intense amount of research — game tape, college stats, combine performance — because they have no NFL experience to use for a rating. The only way Moore could draw up my forecast was by watching me play. On the agenda: the 40-yard dash, agility drills, and basic throwing and catching evaluations. After that was all over, I figured I’d be one of Jon Bois’s Breaking Madden creations. For the past few years, in a series for SB Nation, Bois has been tweaking players’ stats to show what happens when those players are made superhuman or all too human. I expected to be in the latter category. But I wanted my avatar to at least get a point on the board, at least complete a couple of passes, and at least lead a team to one victory over several simulations (even if I broke an interception record for good measure). I wanted to show that the average dude could survive the rigors of the NFL. I’ve never exactly been an athlete. The last organized sport I attempted was three semesters of club crew in college. I reached out to my former coach, Nathan Walker, to get an independent assessment of my athletic priors. In an email, Walker said he didn’t imagine I was “the type of kid who defined himself through sports while growing up.” That is an understatement. I went to an elite-football high school but ran the debate team. He said that in my first year of rowing, I was “clumsy and awkward,” and my limbs didn’t quite go where I wanted them to. Nonetheless, he said, I was “a pure joy to watch” because I was passionate about it.1 Essentially, like most Americans, I’m not exactly out of shape, but I’m not exactly in shape either. I’m generally just a shape. Original 64 Maybe the only thing causing me to play poorly was that I wasn’t playing as myself. I challenged Madden’s creative director, Rex Dickson, to a scrimmage. Starting at QB for the Giants: Walt Hickey. Hickey did not have a good day. He threw 7 for 25, threw three interceptions and was sacked three times. The Giants lost 42-7. The only points came thanks to wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who could make any quarterback look good. He scored on a short pass that he turned into a 94-yard touchdown. My only comfort was to imagine the great headline The New York Post would put on its back page the next day: “Hickey Fails to Leave a Mark.” The Virtual NFL February 26, 2015 I was on the 50-yard line, trying to make sense of the long slant route ahead of me. My debut was not going well. I was winded, slightly dehydrated and kicking myself after a day of mediocre runs and failed catches. The next pass was my last chance to impress, and I knew the cameras would be on me. When I heard “hike,” I took off. Eight yards out, I saw the ball above in a spiral. I jumped for it pitifully … and hit the ground. The ball was not in my arms. Before that pass, I knew I wasn’t cut out for the NFL. But when it sailed over my head, something else became clear: I was barely cut out for a video-game facsimile of the league. I was in Orlando with a crew of people who work on Madden, EA Sports’ premier football simulation, because I, like many obnoxious New York Giants fans, once had a fleeting moment of hubris. Sometime during QB Eli Manning’s 97 interceptions over the past five years, I thought: “Christ, even I could throw a better pass than that.” I cannot throw a better pass than that. Yet there was a sort of perverse appeal to the damage I’d bring to the Giants if I were swapped with Manning. What would happen if a schlub like me played in a league as unforgiving as the NFL? Listen to Walt Hickey and Neil Paine discuss their reporting and how they broke Madden. Clockwise, from top left: Hickey poses in front of the cameras; the computer builds a 3D model of Hickey’s face based on his photos; skin tone and facial detail are added; Hickey’s final rendering Case StudyOdell Beckham Jr.Rookie Player Broad Jump 0’0″ Position WR Position QB 6’1″ Height Bailey offered an illustration from franchise mode, in which a gamer uses a finite supply of experience points to boost players’ skills. “It can be unclear which ratings you want to increase,” she said. Spending experience points on awareness, for instance, will almost always increase a player’s overall rating — but for defensive players and even quarterbacks, that boost won’t cause them to play better when they’re being controlled in-game. Meanwhile, wide receivers can actually see tangible in-game benefits from a higher awareness score. Confused yet? “I’ve heard it speculated that even the Madden team themselves don’t really know what’s going on,” Bailey said. “Because they’ve got years upon years of systems and code just layered on top of one another, where it’s not always entirely clear how they’re interacting. “It’s kind of a crazy system.” Whatever the virtues and drawbacks of Madden’s player ratings, though, they’re just a starting point. The game must still be played. Neil Paine is a senior sportswriter for FiveThirtyEight. “You’re going to be setting new ground in how low we go with the ratings,” Moore told me on my second day in Florida. But I still had a chance to succeed. In Madden, everything’s a weighted dice roll — one player slamming into another isn’t an athletic act, it’s a probabilistic one. Even bad players like me could get lucky now and then. Next: Michael Vick Mute Video Case StudyBrandon MarshallVeteran Player Gamebreakers There are certain player archetypes that have always been difficult for Madden to accurately simulate. The classic example is Michael Vick from “Madden NFL 2004“; Vick’s speed was overvalued in the game. But less egregious examples occur whenever a gamer takes control of a player whose real-life counterpart possesses immense physical gifts but lacks awareness. The converse is also true; players whose defining skill is football IQ — Peyton Manning and Reggie Wayne, for example — are inept in the hands of an inept gamer. Watch the gamebreakers 24 Years Age Early player ratings were simplistic. The legendary “Tecmo Super Bowl,” released in late 1991, kept 14 ratings categories in total. But only a few affected in-game performance for any given position. Meanwhile, the initial version of Sierra Online’s “Front Page Sports: Football Pro,” regarded among the most sophisticated football simulations of the mid-1990s, tracked just eight rating categories for each player,8 with the same traits taking on radically different meanings depending on the player’s position. (For instance, a quarterback’s strength rating might refer to powerful throws, while the same category for a lineman would control his ability to block.) Two months later, Moore and company asked me to return to Florida for the big reveal: what I’d look like as a real (fake), live (artificial) NFL (Madden) player. When I was first in Florida, EA mapped my face for an avatar by putting me in front of 12 high-definition cameras, each poised at a slightly different angle. It looked like what Jeremy Bentham would have made if he had gone into photography after he was tired of designing prisons. I posed seven ways — one mugshot, left and right profile shots, a natural smile,4 one with my mouth slightly open,5 one with a wrinkled forehead and eight chins, and one screaming. When I saw the photos in December, they looked like I had just walked out of an anti-methamphetamine advertisement. The photos came with polarized flashes that stripped my face of any shadow. Zooming in on the high-def shots made it look like I had slept in hot grease. Will Gibson, the technician who took the photos, said they made me look sort of like Ray Romano. But this, he said, was the point. “Put Brad Pitt in front of this,” he said, “and he’d look like Steve Buscemi.” For example, one of the most important categories when computing a quarterback’s overall rating is awareness, which is based on experience and attempts to quantify factors like decision-making and depth of playbook knowledge. Awareness clearly affects how computer-controlled quarterbacks play the game; the lower the rating, the more likely a CPU opponent is to throw into coverage or miss open receivers. But despite its heavy weighting in the overall rating formula, a quarterback’s awareness score makes no difference when a human is controlling him. When you, the gamer, are in charge, it’s up to you to be “aware” for the avatar you’re controlling. Bois described the same conundrum using a basketball analogy. “I’ve found that the video-game version of J.R. Smith is incredible,” he said. “He’s just way better than he is in real life, and I think the reason is because you get to make the decisions and not him. He’s an amazing player, but once you distill him to his physical self, he’s just unstoppable half the time.” So at what point does an unaware Peyton Manning — or an aware Smith — cease to be a true representation of the original? It’s an interesting philosophical issue and one connected to the delicate balancing act of favoring skilled gamers while having virtual players mirror the strengths and weaknesses of their real-life counterparts. “It’s a fine line,” Dickson said. “You want to make sure that somebody with great stick skills can still win and be successful but at the same time not transcend a really crappy team and all of a sudden they can beat anyone.” When that equilibrium is disturbed, the game can sometimes even be criticized as too realistic. In 2013, testers from Houston complained to Dickson after playing as the Texans’ undrafted rookie quarterback Case Keenum. “They all said, ‘[With] these computer physics, I can’t have fun with this guy: Every pass is inaccurate,’ ” Dickson said. “We’re watching film on [Keenum], and it’s like, ‘Well, he’s a third-stringer. Every pass is inaccurate. This is real life.’ ” “They said to us, ‘Well, if I’m good and making good decisions, I should be able to make good reads and get the pass there,’ ” Dickson continued. “But all of a sudden then you’re making guys like Geno Smith look like Peyton Manning, and your stick skills are now superseding the simulation. We’ve actually had that in the game before, and it didn’t go over well. People reject that. “You shouldn’t be able, just because you’re really good at Madden, to make Geno Smith all of a sudden awesome. Geno Smith, even if he makes a good read, is still an inaccurate passer. That’s just the way it works in the NFL, and that’s modeled in our simulation.” Polygon’s Good used a baseball example to illustrate this tug of war between enjoyment and realism: “How do you make failing seven out of 10 times fun?” It’s a challenge that doesn’t seem to be completely solvable using player ratings, no matter how much faith Moore places in them. Then again, I doubt it will stop him from trying. “In a perfect world, in ‘Madden 2037,’ we might have [ratings] split into 10 or 15 different awareness-type categories,” Moore said, still rattling off items from his wish list. “Like awareness around the end zone, awareness in the fourth quarter … Finally, after all the component categories are set for both rookies and veterans, the numbers are used to generate the fabled Overall Rating. When I asked Moore about this, I expected him to decline to comment, citing a proprietary formula shrouded in secrecy. Instead, he cheerfully called up a spreadsheet containing the values that go into computing a player’s overall grade (and later e-mailed it to us). And somewhat anticlimactically, the overall rating is simply a weighted average of a player’s ratings across the 43 skill categories tracked by Madden, with different categories taking on more weight depending on the position.14 For example, the most heavily weighted categories for quarterbacks in “Madden NFL 15” are awareness and throwing power (each contributes about one-fifth of a quarterback’s overall rating), accuracy by zone (short and medium accuracy are both slightly more valuable than deep accuracy), and play-action passing. Together, those categories make up 89 percent of the overall grade for QBs, with the rest of the weight given to throwing on the run, agility, speed and acceleration. Short Accuracy 0/5 Just lost ALL respect for the madden ratings creators! They got russell wilson the same rating as Tom Brady! GTFOH!!!!!— ☆G.O.A.T☆ (@YoungPrevo) July 22, 2014 Receiving “Quarterback decision-making is the most difficult thing to simulate,” Moore said. Position QB Michael Vick Deep Routes 0/2 Actual participation was out of the question. This is no longer George Plimpton’s NFL. The size of an NFL player has ballooned — players are taller and larger than ever before. Between 1974 and 1999, rookie offensive linemen got 24 percent heavier. I’m not getting near the turf of an actual football field. Plus, my insurance isn’t that great. Madden has generated more than $4 billion in revenue over its 26-year lifetime. Yet for all EA’s resources, Moore performs his czar duties in surprising solitude. Continue Reading Mute Video Walter Hickey Monroe, N.Y. Moore’s job has morphed from a behind-the-scenes technician to a sort of celebrity — and villain — in gaming circles. And in an increasingly data-heavy sports landscape, it’s a role that sits squarely in two intersections of growing importance — between scouting and analytics, simulation and reality. Because in both Madden and the post-“Moneyball” sports world, humans become a collection of data points and then are turned back into a digital approximation of themselves. It was against this backdrop that Moore began his professional affiliation with EA. In 1998, he was still a student at the University of Central Florida, pursuing a degree in political science, when in November when he noticed advertisements for an “NCAA Football 99” tournament at the student union. Moore and his roommates were devotees of the game — he recalls elaborate house rules requiring that a witness be present every time a game was played in the friends’ shared Dynasty Mode savefile. On a whim, he skipped class, entered the contest using Florida State as his team, and won first prize. Moore’s detailed knowledge of the game’s minutiae impressed NCAA Football developers on hand for the tournament. On the spot, they offered him a part-time job testing the coming edition of the game, a break he would later parlay into a full-time gig as an EA Sports football tester. Playing and testing the games, Moore got a firsthand look at the give-and-take between gameplay and player ratings. He recalls the time a long-forgotten defensive tackle for the University of Kentucky inadvertently became a superstar after a typo assigned him a speed rating11 of 85 — blazing for a lineman — and when the Oakland Raiders, long known for their real-life fixation on speed, became unstoppable because the Madden game engine translated the overall velocity of the Raiders’ roster into far better virtual performances than the team was capable of in reality. Moore would eventually be promoted to a designer and associate producer along his path to Ratings Czar, but the relationship between Moore’s testing background and his current job is clear. “The [ratings] are probably the single biggest factor in gameplay,” Moore said. And the ratings have far more moving parts now than when Moore began working at EA. Each player in the game is graded in 43 categories — many of which were added when Madden transitioned from the sixth generation of consoles to the seventh. There are also nearly 20 new player-tendency tags, known as “traits,” that control specific player behaviors. PASSING When I first met my avatar, it was like staring into a mirror set up across the uncanny valley. My facial features were nearly exact, down to the barely noticeable scar on my chin. But I looked disoriented — even more disoriented than I was on the day of the shoot. My neck lolled; my eyes were glazed over; my blinking was algorithmic. My avatar played just as strangely as it looked. We’re used to playing Madden with athletes who have remarkable skill sets; they move quickly, consistently and responsively. I did not. It was like driving in the snow: You know how the car is supposed to move, but it just doesn’t behave as expected. This is what happens when your Madden score is 12. A 12 out of 100 is bad. Very bad. The lowest-rated player in “Madden NFL 15” is Jacksonville Jaguars long snapper Carson Tinker, who’s a 41. Peyton Manning Extra Points 0/4 Walt Hickey 17 Throw Power 15 Throw On Run 14 Strength 03 Deep Accuracy 00 Consistency 12 Overall Long 0 yds Despite the praise during practice — that I had more of an offensive-guard skill set, that I could be a tight end, that I was “a real north and south kind of player” — when it comes down to it, I’m clumsy and awkward, my limbs don’t quite go where I want them to go, and at best, it’s just fun to watch me. Generally speaking, I don’t think a regular person could compete with the pros. Most people are somewhat good at something. But greatness — regularly scheduled weekly articulations of greatness — is something that just can’t be turned on. And yet I won some games as quarterback. In the 15 seasons that EA simulated with me as QB for the Giants,6 the team never had a winning season but did win an average of 2.9 games each year. Head coach Tom Coughlin was also fired every season. So, win some, lose some. Moore also simulated me as a receiver, kicker and punter, each of which also dragged the Giants down. The team had an average of 3.3 wins with me as a receiver, 3.5 wins with me at kicker, and 3.8 wins with me at punter. Somehow, I made 95 percent of extra-point attempts, and my average punt was 27 yards. Skeptical, I emailed Moore to see whether the game might be flawed. “It might be one of those things in our simulation where it might not simulate the Extra-Point kicks based off of ratings enough,” he said. Even my achievements may have happened in error. UPDATE (July 24, 7:15 p.m.): In July 2015, Moore announced his retirement as Madden’s Ratings Czar, leaving EA Sports to join the daily fantasy sports company FanDuel. Madden NFL 16, which will be released in August, will be the final game in the series to contain ratings curated by Moore. CORRECTION (Feb. 25, 1:23 p.m.): A previous version of this article incorrectly characterized Tecmo Super Bowl’s rating system. The game kept 14 rating categories in total, not per player. Moore looked relieved during the scrimmage. My abysmal performance was proof that Madden really is a simulation of the NFL: A player who somehow lucks into the league without any skills really doesn’t have a chance. He’d have to rely on his teammates to compensate. Thankfully, Madden doesn’t allow for locker-room coups. I will never on my best day be as good as Manning on his worst day. And yet, Madden was way too kind. The Giants should have been so, so much worse with me at the helm. My avatar couldn’t have been rated much lower. I was far closer to a zero rating than I was to the lowest legitimate athlete in the game (Tinker, the long snapper). Despite that, my avatar still managed to lead a team to a little less than three wins a year on average? That doesn’t make sense. The Giants went 6-10 last season. There’s no way Eli Manning is only three wins above Walt Hickey. All we need to do to demonstrate this is to look at the team that performed exactly as I expect mine would: the 2008 Detroit Lions. Although that team was among the worst of all time and failed to win a game, it was made up of talented players who were each still vastly better athletes than I am. Indeed, that year, the overall ratings for four Lions quarterbacks — Daunte Culpepper (80), Jon Kitna (84), Dan Orlovsky (73) and Drew Stanton (77) — vastly exceeded my rating. Factor in my shocking kicking performance (maybe I could make 95 percent of extra-point attempts on, say, the moon or some other low-gravity satellite), and I think that even my low stats fail to encapsulate just how bad (or rather how normal) I am. Madden’s simulation is geared to work within a realm of athleticism where I do not reside. To articulate my actual performance on the field, I’d probably need a negative rating. If you hang around the Madden studio enough, you’ll hear a curious phrase tossed around, a relic from games of a decidedly different genre and medium: “Dice rolls.” Although Madden takes pains to immerse gamers in the fantasy that they are controlling real NFL players, every interaction between two players in the game is also dictated by underlying probabilities, weighted by the various ratings of the respective players. As Rex Dickson, Madden’s creative director, said: “The way the game works on a high level is that when two players run into each other and are about to do an interaction — let’s say it’s a ball-carrier and a linebacker — it’s going to take several ratings and throw them into a formula and do a dice roll. “The dice roll is how we get the randomness. So it’s basically his break-tackle chance against your tackle chance and then a dice roll on top of that. The ratings mismatch is your modifier on the dice roll. If he’s 10 points higher than you for his tackle rating, the dice roll is going to be favored in his favor to get the tackle versus the flip where it’d favor the break-tackle.” After hours of hearing this kind of talk during our visit to EA’s studios, my colleague Walt Hickey had a realization: This is basically Dungeons & Dragons for sports fans. If an obsessive following is a requirement for that comparison, consider Madden certified. The annual unveiling of Madden’s player ratings is an event unto itself. Beyond just Newton, many NFL players grouse to Moore about their numbers. (Kerry Rhodes, while playing safety for the New York Jets, made a YouTube video titled “WTF Madden!” demonstrating pretty conclusively that his throwing power rating was too low.) There are also sites where amateurs, apparently dissatisfied with Moore’s handiwork, aim to create their own competing sets of ratings. And the ratings have even been deemed to constitute “likeness” in lawsuits such as Parrish, et. al v. NFLPA.16 Bois told me that he thought the game does about as well as it can when it comes to converting real players’ abilities into a series of numbers. “If we were going to be entirely realistic, you’d probably have to have 1,500 different skill sliders” per player, he joked. “But this is a decent way to distill it into a thing that the layman can play around with and use.” Bailey agreed. “It’s an inexact science,” she said, “but for the most part [Moore] gets it right.” Yet for all of Madden’s quest for realism, there are certain aspects of football that the game still, and may always, have trouble simulating. On one level, sports video games give regular Joes and Jills the opportunity to perform athletic feats that most could only dream about in real life — blazing runs, high-flying dunks, cannon-armed throws — and games have gotten pretty good at simulating these aspects of what it means to be a professional athlete.17 But sports video games will always struggle to accurately replicate the cerebral side of sports; that’s why it’s more difficult to simulate being Ricky Rubio than LeBron James. I asked Moore whether there were any sports that regular people could jump into and be at least a little competitive. “Poker, if you consider that a sport,” he said. Mohegan Sun has a poker tournament at the end of the month. How hard can that be? Physical Talent Agility The Virtual NFL February 25, 2015 Hunched over a keyboard, surrounded by computer monitors, Donny Moore, 37, controls the fate of the National Football League. Its players throw as hard as Moore wants. They run as fast as he says they should. And the stars of America’s most popular sport aren’t always delighted by his judgments. Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, for instance, was upset. “I want to talk about my speed,” Moore remembers Newton saying as he clambered into Moore’s cubicle last April. Despite leading all NFL quarterbacks in rushing yards in 2013, Newton ranked as only the ninth-fastest QB in the league, according to Moore — hence Newton’s unhappiness. But as Moore wheeled around from his den of screens, he was confronted by not only Newton, but also an enormous boot on Newton’s foot, the result of recent ankle surgery. “Yeah,” Moore said as Newton hobbled toward him, “let’s talk about your speed.” Eventually, Newton was pleading with Moore to not make him slower. Such is the power afforded Moore, a hyperactive Floridian who works as the official Ratings Czar1 for EA Sports’ Madden NFL video-game franchise. In that role, Moore is tasked with assigning more than 40 numerical grades to each of the NFL’s roughly 2,600 players,2 evaluating them in categories ranging from passing accuracy to tackling ability. Moore’s process has largely been a black box, and yet it shapes how more than 5 million gamers simulate pro football — particularly because there’s no official alternative to his numbers. A decade after signing a controversial exclusivity deal with the league and the players union, Madden3 is still the only licensed NFL game in town. In fact, an entire culture has grown up around Madden and its attempts to distill human athleticism into numbers. It is all good marketing for EA Sports but also speaks to the sway Madden holds. The ratings are a de facto time capsule from the year they were produced, a digital archive that offers players some measure of immortality in a sport where the average career lasts only a shade over three years. “It’s important to these guys that they be rated 99 in speed; it’s important to somebody that he have the best arm in the game,” Owen S. Good, a writer for the video-game news site Polygon, told me. The allure of the Madden rating might also speak to the relative lack of meaningful statistics in football itself. It would be strange for a baseball player to complain about his ratings in MLB: The Show, for instance, because a realistic baseball simulator (by necessity) has ratings grounded in actual statistics. But in a sport where objective measurements are often inadequate, subjective numbers — like those generated by Moore — take on greater currency. All these factors put more pressure on Moore to produce ratings of ever-increasing accuracy even as they highlight the fundamental paradox limiting Madden’s realism: It’s nearly impossible to accurately simulate some players as long as a gamer must assume control of the athlete’s brain.
Junior forward Peanut Johnson (right) fights for posession of the ball during a game against Ball State Sept. 14 at Buckeye Varsity Field. OSU won, 3-2 in overtime.Credit: Melissa Prax / Lantern photographerFour Ohio State field hockey players are set to see their final career home games during Senior Day at Buckeye Varsity Field.Emotions are likely be running high as OSU (6-10, 1-6) faces its rival, No. 14 Michigan (11-6, 5-2) on Sunday with a spot in the Big Ten Tournament on the line.Eight teams make it to the Big Ten Tournament out of the nine conference members. OSU is currently in a three-way tie with Indiana and Rutgers for the last spot in the conference.It would mean the world for OSU to get a win for its seniors and continue on to the Big Ten Tournament, coach Anne Wilkinson said.“It’s not until you’re a senior that you realize how every day is so important,” Wilkinson said. “It’s amazing how many seniors say that to me. The freshmen, sophomores and juniors a lot of the time just go through practice and work hard, but suddenly the seniors are like, ‘This could be my last.’”The matchup with Michigan remains the most important for OSU and its coach. Wilkinson said she learned early in her career at OSU that Michigan was the most important game.She added that the games she remembers most are the victories against Michigan.OSU is poised to play its best against the Wolverines on Sunday, junior back Emma Royce said. Royce added the team is firing on all cylinders and it’s looking forward to coming out strong against its biggest rival.“I think all the younger players are going to want to play for their seniors,” Royce said. “So they’re gonna use that passion to harbor their talents and their skills. And for the seniors, they’re gonna go out knowing this is probably gonna be one of the last games of their career and use that as a way to go for it with nothing to lose.”The 14th-ranked Wolverines are coming off a Sunday non-conference victory against New Hampshire, 3-2, at Ocker Field in Ann Arbor, Mich. Michigan has defeated three ranked teams on the season and sits one game out of first place in the Big Ten entering the final day of the regular season.It was announced Wednesday that two Michigan seniors had been selected to compete in the National Field Hockey Coaches Association Senior Game. Redshirt-senior midfielder Ainsley McCallister is second the Big Ten in assists with a career-high 17. Redshirt-senior back Leslie Smith was the second player selected for the game thanks to her 12 goals on the season, which leads the Michigan team.It will not be easy for OSU, but Wilkinson said the will of her team’s seniors could carry them to the finish line.“You really want to be able to take the pressure off of them on Senior Day and just let them go out and play the game,” Wilkinson said. “You can see it every day in practice, they’re coming out here and giving it everything they have because they don’t want it to end.”OSU and Michigan are set to finish out the regular season at noon Sunday in Columbus.
Ohio State sophomore guard Musa Jallow defends a shot in the Buckeyes’ 63-56 loss against Illinois on Feb. 14 at the Schottenstein Center. Photo: Cori Wade | For The LanternAfter Sunday’s 55-52 win against Indiana, Ohio State head coach Chris Holtmann would not talk about anything further along than the next game against Illinois. He would not call his team a bubble team for the NCAA Tournament, he would not talk about what a win against the Fighting Illini would do to help the Buckeyes’ chances in March. The focus was on the immediate future. And that focus continued, even with the 63-56 home loss to Illinois. “A loss is a loss. I mean, a loss is a loss,” Holtmann said. “People look at it differently. I’m disappointed after every loss, whoever it is, whatever time it is, whatever point in the season.” But junior forward Andre Wesson did not share the same sentiment his head coach did. He stepped up to the podium after the seven-point loss, and did not hide his disappointment with what the outcome ended up being, saying that all losses hurt. But he expanded, peering past the immediate future barrier that Holtmann and his coaching staff have seemingly set upon Ohio State. “This one we needed to have,” Wesson said. “We are .500. We are trying to make the NCAA Tournament. We are not a lock, so any game we play, we gotta have right now.” Wesson sees the reality of what happened against Illinois. It’s a familiar look for the Buckeyes. The offensive struggles continued, shooting 36.2 percent from the field and making 2-of-13 from 3. In either half, Ohio State failed to record double-digit field goals. The mistakes continued in the backcourt and in the passing game. Facing the No. 1 Big Ten team in terms of steals and turnover margin, the Buckeyes recorded 18 turnovers — 10 in the first half and eight in the second — leading to 14 Fighting Illini points. The 18 turnovers Ohio State recorded exceeded the number of field goals, 17, the team connected on. To Wesson, this loss shows the competitive depth of the Big Ten, but it also showed a lack of preparedness, which he blamed on himself and the older members of the roster. “Every night you can get beat if you don’t show up,” Wesson said. “We came out tonight and we weren’t prepared. That’s on me and us older guys. We didn’t get the younger guys prepared and that’s what happens. That’s how you get beat.” Holtmann blamed the coaching staff, saying it has to put its players in better positions to succeed, giving the upperclassmen an outlet to lead in an effective way. After five minutes, Wesson left. After six minutes, Holtmann left. Their focus turned to the same thing: Ohio State’s next opponent. But with that next game comes an opponent that exceeds the level and the quality of the opponent that handed the Buckeyes a seven-point loss“It doesn’t get any easier with Michigan State at Michigan State,” Wesson said. “It doesn’t get any easier. We got to go to work.” However, in Holtmann’s mind, Ohio State is just another bubble team, placing Illinois in that same conversation. He said the focus remains the same. He said it’s about getting better on the court. So, when asked about the NCAA Tournament, Holtmann shrugged it off. “No, no we won’t talk about it. We’ll talk about getting better,” Holtmann said. “We’ll talk about getting better.” But with Wesson, who left with the same downtrodden look he came in with after the game, that’s seemingly all he can think about.