I'm usually a sucker for math jokes, but between the incorrect use of "asymptote" and the terrible "derivative humor" joke it might be time to put them away for a couple weeks. Also, with Forte going 9 runs for 2 yards last week I'm not sure running the football more often is really going to help the Bears. Everything else was hysterical as always.

What needs to be put away is the Times' insistence on catering to the National Society for Using "The" Everywhere. I'm picturing a modified version of Word that editors are assigned to use: it automatically flags any uses of an adjective followed by a proper name and uses Facebook-like popups for auto-correct help. "Use 'the' in this instance? Yes/No." Eventually the editors give in and click Yes as many times as possible just so they can finish doing actual editing work.

I don't believe there has been a single game with no rushes...

Since 1960, the fewest is 6: Patriots in a 20-34 loss to the Steelers on Halloween 2004, and Cardinals in a 26-31 loss to the Vikings on 26 November 2006.

Click my alias for link to Pro Football Reference.

Loved the "derivative humor" double entendre, by the way.

Aveion Cason lead the team with 1 rush for 1 yard. Kevin Jones had an Old Jerome Bettis game, 4 carries for -4 yards (but one 4-yd TD!). Shaun McDonald had a -15yd rush, probably a failed reverse.

I thought the math bit was great, and "derivative humor" made me chuckle.

However, the asymptote is the line that is being approached by the curve. So he should have said something like "As x increases, the ratio of f(x) to g(x) asymptotically approaches zero" or "As x increases, the ratio of f(x) to g(x) approaches an asymptote of zero". Sorta pedantic though.

I'm being too picky, but the f(x)/g(x) curve would APPROACH the asymptote, it wouldn't BE an asymptote itself. Anyway the idea clearly got across, and I'm apparently the only one who groaned at the "derivative humor" joke, so the math jokes are appropriately calibrated.

Argh. Should have read further ahead. Anyway, Mr. Tanier should cease to feel
the pain of the bumps and bruises of the Cutler controversy due to the bumps and
bruises of the asymptote controversy.

As I recall an asymptote is a straight line to which a curve tends without reaching.
So in this case - where the function is y = g(x)/f(x) - the asymptote is the line where y=0, not the line of the ratio itself.

(I think that's right, although I'm sure there is someone out there who will put me right if not.)

Well, I am much more upset at myself for using asymptote wrong than for bashing Cutler. I only taught asymptotic behavior for a decade. And yes, I should have written "asymptotic behavior" because the curve itself cannot be an asymptote.

My issue with the asymptote comment is that you generally talk about them as your indpendent variable goes to infinity. But the amount of control Martz has over the gameplan (the independent variable x in this case) can not grow arbitrarily...it is presumably defined only on the interval [0,1]. In other words, Martz either has 0% influence, 100% influence, or something in between, but you can't talk about asymptotes when the independent variable is bounded. Instead, you would simply say what the function evaluates to at the bounds.

Derivative humour aside (and that is a great joke) do you remember the Bears / Panthers game from last year?

However much Clausen may have sucked he looked like an All Pro compared to the stiff playing for the Bears that day. You don't seem very impressed with Jay Cutler but the Collins to Cutler upgrade is bigger than the Clausen to Newton upgrade.

It's basically a curve (that is, not a straight line) that infinitely approaches an arbitrary threshold, but never quite makes it there. Quite like the Dolphins and wins.

Since we're having a pedantathon an asymptote is a curve that another curve approaches. It's really common to say for example, that some function (or curve) approaches a constant value like zero. It's also valid to say that some function approaches the line y=x. But it's equally valid to say some function approaches a curve like y=x^2. The line and constant are just special cases of the concept of a curve.

Ok, now I think we've crossed from pedantry into a generally interesting discussion. How can you say a function "asymptotically approaches" anything other than a straight line? My geometric intuition can't work its way around that one. I can't picture any function that would asymptotically go to y=x^2 as x -> infinity.

by Stevo (not verified) :: Fri, 09/30/2011 - 12:52pm

Great stuff. Though speaking of pedantic, the Times' insistence on N DOT F DOT L DOT always burns holes in my eyes. NFL - sans dots - is how the NFL refers to itself. But the New. York. Times. knows better, of course.

I think both teams will be Who We Thought They Were, meaning the Texans will grind out a few good drives that stall in the red zone, while Pittsburgh starts slowly but keeps the game close enough to win via a late field goal or timely takeaway by the defense.

As Calvin once said, "I would explain it, but it involves a lot of math." Which is why Jay Cutler is treated as something equivalent to Susie Derkins, as a rule.

by ClemsonMatt (not verified) :: Fri, 09/30/2011 - 2:53pm

Real life math humour....

I was working as a tutor and a student came in ranting that the teacher added derivatives with two independent variables to the test without covering it in class.

She was complaining about taking the derivative of y=2(pi)x^2.

That was always a huge issue for my students. They always assumed PI was a variable, and I could nail even the good ones from time to time. They would tell me the derivative of Pi squared is 2 pi, instead of zero.

I used to say "Pi ain't nothing but a number." Usually make an inappropriate R. Kelly joke as well to hammer the point home.

That was always a huge issue for my students. They always assumed PI was a variable, and I could nail even the good ones from time to time. They would tell me the derivative of Pi squared is 2 pi, instead of zero.

I used to say "Pi ain't nothing but a number." Usually make an inappropriate R. Kelly joke as well to hammer the point home.

A few days ago, I got a linguistics discussion started on another thread. Now we have a geometry controversy. Jeez, did you guys go to an Ivy League school or somethin'?

Best line by far, "X-rays on Michael Vick’s right hand revealed that the Eagles’ linebackers are terrible." I got funny looks from my office-mates after reading that one.

Re: quesiton 2
Elephantiasis. It reoasn why Chargers never win Supoer Bowl. Too much weighth to lug around. Ebvetually run otu of steam when get to playoffsd if get to playofofs at all.

I knew that there'd be a lot if discussion on the math joke by the time I got here, but I had to wait to comment. See, I get the dead-tree edition of the Times, and reading Mike's Matchups column is integral to my Sunday morning.

## Comments

## Re: Week 4 N.F.L. Matchups

qed:: Fri, 09/30/2011 - 11:47amI'm usually a sucker for math jokes, but between the incorrect use of "asymptote" and the terrible "derivative humor" joke it might be time to put them away for a couple weeks. Also, with Forte going 9 runs for 2 yards last week I'm not sure running the football more often is really going to help the Bears. Everything else was hysterical as always.

## Re: Week 4 N.F.L. Matchups

zlionsfan:: Fri, 09/30/2011 - 11:57amWhat needs to be put away is the Times' insistence on catering to the National Society for Using "The" Everywhere. I'm picturing a modified version of Word that editors are assigned to use: it automatically flags any uses of an adjective followed by a proper name and uses Facebook-like popups for auto-correct help. "Use 'the' in this instance? Yes/No." Eventually the editors give in and click Yes as many times as possible just so they can finish doing actual editing work.

## Re: Week 4 N.F.L. Matchups

Sergio:: Fri, 09/30/2011 - 11:57amIs it really? "Derivate humor" is perfectly used there - he's talking about rate of change...

Also the asymptote is correct AFAIK, I don't believe there has been a single game with no rushes...

However the Chargers logo is still biggest, and he picked them over Miami, so booo Tanier ;)

-- Go Phins!

## Re: Week 4 N.F.L. Matchups

Dr. Mathematician in Disguise (not verified):: Fri, 09/30/2011 - 12:11pmI don't believe there has been a single game with no rushes...Since 1960, the fewest is 6: Patriots in a 20-34 loss to the Steelers on Halloween 2004, and Cardinals in a 26-31 loss to the Vikings on 26 November 2006.

Click my alias for link to Pro Football Reference.

Loved the "derivative humor" double entendre, by the way.

## Re: Week 4 N.F.L. Matchups

Dr. Try This Link (not verified):: Fri, 09/30/2011 - 12:13pmUgh, that link didn't work; click "Dr. Try This Link" for a working one.

## Re: Week 4 N.F.L. Matchups

Kevin from Philly:: Fri, 09/30/2011 - 2:29pmWas Belichick wearing an Andy Reid costume?

## Re: Week 4 N.F.L. Matchups

BJR:: Fri, 09/30/2011 - 2:37pmHow in God's name did Detroit have 8 carries for -18 yards against Arizona in November 2007? I feel like I should be able to recall that game.....

## Re: Week 4 N.F.L. Matchups

Aaron Brooks Go...:: Fri, 09/30/2011 - 4:28pmAveion Cason lead the team with 1 rush for 1 yard. Kevin Jones had an Old Jerome Bettis game, 4 carries for -4 yards (but one 4-yd TD!). Shaun McDonald had a -15yd rush, probably a failed reverse.

## Re: Week 4 N.F.L. Matchups

Independent George:: Fri, 09/30/2011 - 4:32pmEven more amazingly, they put up 21 points on a 32/45-296-2-2 performance from John Kitna.

## Re: Week 4 N.F.L. Matchups

D Jones:: Fri, 09/30/2011 - 12:29pmI thought the math bit was great, and "derivative humor" made me chuckle.

However, the asymptote is the line that is being approached by the curve. So he should have said something like "As x increases, the ratio of f(x) to g(x) asymptotically approaches zero" or "As x increases, the ratio of f(x) to g(x) approaches an asymptote of zero". Sorta pedantic though.

## Re: Week 4 N.F.L. Matchups

qed:: Fri, 09/30/2011 - 12:31pmI'm being too picky, but the f(x)/g(x) curve would APPROACH the asymptote, it wouldn't BE an asymptote itself. Anyway the idea clearly got across, and I'm apparently the only one who groaned at the "derivative humor" joke, so the math jokes are appropriately calibrated.

## Re: Week 4 N.F.L. Matchups

Sergio:: Fri, 09/30/2011 - 12:33pmHmm. Gotta go get some graphing paper.

-- Go Phins!

## Re: Week 4 N.F.L. Matchups

Marko:: Fri, 09/30/2011 - 4:16pmYou can never be too picky or too pedantic in FO comments. If you ain't being pedantic, you ain't trying.

## Re: Week 4 N.F.L. Matchups

jebmak:: Sat, 10/01/2011 - 9:34amI closed my eyes, lowered my head, and took a moment to compose myself before moving on. So I think that counts as a groan too.

## Re: Week 4 N.F.L. Matchups

wr (not verified):: Fri, 09/30/2011 - 3:09pmStrictly speaking, he should have said "asymptotically close to zero".

## Re: Week 4 N.F.L. Matchups

wr (not verified):: Fri, 09/30/2011 - 3:14pmArgh. Should have read further ahead. Anyway, Mr. Tanier should cease to feel

the pain of the bumps and bruises of the Cutler controversy due to the bumps and

bruises of the asymptote controversy.

## Re: Week 4 N.F.L. Matchups

hbh_uk:: Fri, 09/30/2011 - 5:41pmAs I recall an asymptote is a straight line to which a curve tends without reaching.

So in this case - where the function is y = g(x)/f(x) - the asymptote is the line where y=0, not the line of the ratio itself.

(I think that's right, although I'm sure there is someone out there who will put me right if not.)

## Re: Week 4 N.F.L. Matchups

Mike Tanier:: Sat, 10/01/2011 - 10:52amWell, I am much more upset at myself for using asymptote wrong than for bashing Cutler. I only taught asymptotic behavior for a decade. And yes, I should have written "asymptotic behavior" because the curve itself cannot be an asymptote.

## Re: Week 4 N.F.L. Matchups

MJK:: Fri, 09/30/2011 - 3:39pmMy issue with the asymptote comment is that you generally talk about them as your indpendent variable goes to infinity. But the amount of control Martz has over the gameplan (the independent variable x in this case) can not grow arbitrarily...it is presumably defined only on the interval [0,1]. In other words, Martz either has 0% influence, 100% influence, or something in between, but you can't talk about asymptotes when the independent variable is bounded. Instead, you would simply say what the function evaluates to at the bounds.

## Re: Week 4 N.F.L. Matchups

Aaron Brooks Go...:: Fri, 09/30/2011 - 4:29pmYou can define it as the ratio of control vis-a-vis Smith, in which case Martz/Smith can go to zero or infinity.

## Re: Week 4 N.F.L. Matchups

Jimmy:: Fri, 09/30/2011 - 11:54amDerivative humour aside (and that is a great joke) do you remember the Bears / Panthers game from last year?

However much Clausen may have sucked he looked like an All Pro compared to the stiff playing for the Bears that day. You don't seem very impressed with Jay Cutler but the Collins to Cutler upgrade is bigger than the Clausen to Newton upgrade.

## Re: Week 4 N.F.L. Matchups

justanothersteve:: Fri, 09/30/2011 - 12:04pmFor us non-math people, it was definitely obscure though I did get the derivitive joke. I have no idea what asymptote means.

## Re: Week 4 N.F.L. Matchups

Sergio:: Fri, 09/30/2011 - 12:07pmAsymptote by Wikipedia

It's basically a curve (that is, not a straight line) that infinitely approaches an arbitrary threshold, but never quite makes it there. Quite like the Dolphins and wins.

The page has several examples.

-- Go Phins!

## Re: Week 4 N.F.L. Matchups

SteveNC (not verified):: Fri, 09/30/2011 - 1:52pmAs your link says, the asymptote is not basically a curve; the asymptote is the line that the curve approaches.

## Re: Week 4 N.F.L. Matchups

BaronFoobarstein:: Fri, 09/30/2011 - 5:55pmSince we're having a pedantathon an asymptote is a curve that another curve approaches. It's really common to say for example, that some function (or curve) approaches a constant value like zero. It's also valid to say that some function approaches the line y=x. But it's equally valid to say some function approaches a curve like y=x^2. The line and constant are just special cases of the concept of a curve.

## Re: Week 4 N.F.L. Matchups

qed:: Fri, 09/30/2011 - 9:44pmOk, now I think we've crossed from pedantry into a generally interesting discussion. How can you say a function "asymptotically approaches" anything other than a straight line? My geometric intuition can't work its way around that one. I can't picture any function that would asymptotically go to y=x^2 as x -> infinity.

## Re: Week 4 N.F.L. Matchups

PatsFan:: Fri, 09/30/2011 - 10:10pmHere's one:

y(x) = x^2 + 1/x

That will asymptotically approach x^2 as x -> infinity

## Re: Week 4 N.F.L. Matchups

Gus (not verified):: Fri, 09/30/2011 - 12:05pmGreat stuff! Except Sanchise is not going to beat the Ravens.

## Re: Week 4 N.F.L. Matchups

bravehoptoad:: Fri, 09/30/2011 - 1:01pmHe doesn't have to! He gets to bring the rest of the team with him.

## Re: Week 4 N.F.L. Matchups

Stevo (not verified):: Fri, 09/30/2011 - 12:52pmGreat stuff. Though speaking of pedantic, the Times' insistence on N DOT F DOT L DOT always burns holes in my eyes. NFL - sans dots - is how the NFL refers to itself. But the New. York. Times. knows better, of course.

## Re: Week 4 N.F.L. Matchups

Led:: Fri, 09/30/2011 - 12:53pmThe sentient computer joke in the DVOA comments thread was better! Tanier is the T.S. Eliot of esoteric sports comedy.

## Re: Week 4 N.F.L. Matchups

drobviousso:: Fri, 09/30/2011 - 1:14pmin Pittsburgh it is always 1978So I take you've been to Pittsburgh?

And ballsy move to pick the Steelers to win straight up. I wouldn't even take them with the points.

## Re: Week 4 N.F.L. Matchups

trill:: Fri, 09/30/2011 - 2:37pmI think both teams will be Who We Thought They Were, meaning the Texans will grind out a few good drives that stall in the red zone, while Pittsburgh starts slowly but keeps the game close enough to win via a late field goal or timely takeaway by the defense.

## Re: Week 4 N.F.L. Matchups

Jerry:: Fri, 09/30/2011 - 6:46pmThere was still some manufacturing around in 1978.

And 1976 was the year of 40 rushes a game, especially while Mike Kruczek was in for the injured Bradshaw.

## Re: Week 4 N.F.L. Matchups

TomKelso:: Fri, 09/30/2011 - 1:46pmAs Calvin once said, "I would explain it, but it involves a lot of math." Which is why Jay Cutler is treated as something equivalent to Susie Derkins, as a rule.

## Re: Week 4 N.F.L. Matchups

Raiderjoe:: Fri, 09/30/2011 - 2:00pmWill make pucks hrre tonight

## Re: Week 4 N.F.L. Matchups

Kevin from Philly:: Fri, 09/30/2011 - 2:32pmYou're from Canada?

## Re: Week 4 N.F.L. Matchups

Dean:: Fri, 09/30/2011 - 2:53pmRJ goes hockey? You have my attention. GO FLYERS!

## Re: Week 4 N.F.L. Matchups

Raiderjoe:: Fri, 09/30/2011 - 6:18pmMeant picks. Finger hit wrong key. Not fan of hockey but id go to some games ealrier in life.

## Re: Week 4 N.F.L. Matchups

Kevin from Philly:: Fri, 09/30/2011 - 2:34pmWell Mike, if the whole author thing doesn't work out for you, at least you can get a job writing dialog for "The Big Bang Theory".

## Re: Week 4 N.F.L. Matchups

ClemsonMatt (not verified):: Fri, 09/30/2011 - 2:53pmReal life math humour....

I was working as a tutor and a student came in ranting that the teacher added derivatives with two independent variables to the test without covering it in class.

She was complaining about taking the derivative of y=2(pi)x^2.

## Re: Week 4 N.F.L. Matchups

Lance:: Fri, 09/30/2011 - 4:00pm?

## Re: Week 4 N.F.L. Matchups

Manonanon (not verified):: Fri, 09/30/2011 - 4:41pmI feel like such a nerd for answering this, pi is not a variable. The student was an idiot.

## Re: Week 4 N.F.L. Matchups

Mike Tanier:: Sat, 10/01/2011 - 10:55amThat was always a huge issue for my students. They always assumed PI was a variable, and I could nail even the good ones from time to time. They would tell me the derivative of Pi squared is 2 pi, instead of zero.

I used to say "Pi ain't nothing but a number." Usually make an inappropriate R. Kelly joke as well to hammer the point home.

## Re: Week 4 N.F.L. Matchups

jebmak:: Sun, 10/02/2011 - 5:41amI remember that being on a test in high school and thinking, "He's trying to trick us, but I caught him. Ha!"

## Re: Week 4 N.F.L. Matchups

Mike Tanier:: Sat, 10/01/2011 - 10:55amThat was always a huge issue for my students. They always assumed PI was a variable, and I could nail even the good ones from time to time. They would tell me the derivative of Pi squared is 2 pi, instead of zero.

I used to say "Pi ain't nothing but a number." Usually make an inappropriate R. Kelly joke as well to hammer the point home.

## Re: Week 4 N.F.L. Matchups

J Martin (not verified):: Fri, 09/30/2011 - 4:09pm"X-rays on Michael Vick’s right hand revealed that the Eagles’ linebackers are terrible."

Awesome.

Who, on the Dallas O-Line, will stop Ndamukong Suh?

(Yes I googled spelling of "Ndamukong".)

## Re: Week 4 N.F.L. Matchups

Led:: Fri, 09/30/2011 - 5:10pmI hope and expect Tanier to work in the same kind of joke about the Eagles' linebackers every week.

## Re: Week 4 N.F.L. Matchups

Hank (not verified):: Fri, 09/30/2011 - 4:14pmtrying to complete the set, nice.

## Re: Week 4 N.F.L. Matchups

young curmudgeon:: Fri, 09/30/2011 - 4:30pmA few days ago, I got a linguistics discussion started on another thread. Now we have a geometry controversy. Jeez, did you guys go to an Ivy League school or somethin'?

Oh, wait...

## Re: Week 4 N.F.L. Matchups

Manonanon (not verified):: Fri, 09/30/2011 - 4:49pmDel Rio didn't need a JUGS machine to take out Koetter, he already hit him with a bus earlier in the week.

## Re: Week 4 N.F.L. Matchups

BaronFoobarstein:: Fri, 09/30/2011 - 5:57pmBest line by far, "X-rays on Michael Vick’s right hand revealed that the Eagles’ linebackers are terrible." I got funny looks from my office-mates after reading that one.

## Re: Week 4 N.F.L. Matchups

andrew:: Fri, 09/30/2011 - 6:39pmWatching vikings games backwards results in spirited comebacks that still wind up just short.

## Re: Week 4 N.F.L. Matchups

qed:: Fri, 09/30/2011 - 9:46pmThey would all end in 0-0 ties. I think the Vikings might prefer to go 0-0-16 at this point.

## Re: Week 4 N.F.L. Matchups

LionInAZ (not verified):: Fri, 09/30/2011 - 6:48pm1. Better safeties than Gerald Sensabaugh have tried to account for Calvin Johnson. The results haven't always been pretty.

2. What math is behind the fact the the Chargers ball on the page is larger than the ones for every other team?

## Re: Week 4 N.F.L. Matchups

Raiderjoe:: Fri, 09/30/2011 - 6:56pmRe: quesiton 2

Elephantiasis. It reoasn why Chargers never win Supoer Bowl. Too much weighth to lug around. Ebvetually run otu of steam when get to playoffsd if get to playofofs at all.

## Re: Week 4 N.F.L. Matchups

Hurt Bones:: Sat, 10/01/2011 - 8:38amI'm picturing a cinematic thriller with A.J. Smith starring as Wuchereria bancrofti.

## Re: Week 4 N.F.L. Matchups

bigtencrazy (not verified):: Sat, 10/01/2011 - 4:58amLot of good lines in the article. Enjoyed it.

Thanks

## Re: Week 4 N.F.L. Matchups

DGL:: Sun, 10/02/2011 - 11:10amI knew that there'd be a lot if discussion on the math joke by the time I got here, but I had to wait to comment. See, I get the dead-tree edition of the Times, and reading Mike's Matchups column is integral to my Sunday morning.

## Re: Week 4 N.F.L. Matchups

Raiderjoe:: Sun, 10/02/2011 - 1:01pmforgto to post picks

here they are

eagsle 28, 49ers 20

loins 27, cowboys 24

Bilsl 21, bengals 10

Viks 28, chiefs 17

Ramms 17, redksins 14

Bears 29, Panthers 20

Texans 31, steelers 21

sainmts 33, Jax 13

titans 23, browns 19

cards 27, giaqnts 23

chargers 27, dolphsins 13

Falcs 30, seahsks 23

Raiders 34, Pates 24

Packers 41, Broncos 3

Jets 13, ravens 9

Buccs 31, Clorts 10