The Open Man Q&A: SmackDown 1000, Home-Field Advantage and Candy Corn

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You’ve got questions, The Open Man has answers. Sometimes. The only way to find out is to participate! Send your questions on Twitter @kensing45 or @the_open_man. You can also email kyle@theopenman.com.

Providing some coverage of a team that hasn’t lost at home in 19 games, and that often looks completely definitely at home and away from it, I’m inclined to believe home-field advantages is underrated. Of course, two things to be noted:

1. USC is an outlier.

2. We have to define the rating to determine over/underrated.

The number I have most commonly heard and seen referred to as the difference for a home team is +3, at least from a Vegas perspective. There’s mountains of data to sift through to provide a more substantive answer. Regardless the number, consensus agrees that home-field is an advantage.

Crowd noise plays a part, disrupting opponent snap counts and serving as a possible distraction. Autzen and Rice-Eccels Stadiums are often referred to as the loudest venues in the Pac-12: Oregon won 23 straight at Autzen from 1997 into 2001, and 21 from 2007 to 2011. Utah often plays like an entirely different team at Rice-Eccels, where the Mighty Utah Student Section causes a ruckus.

Beyond home crowds, atmosphere can play a huge part. Before each were renovated, both Cal’s Memorial Stadium and Washington’s Husky Stadium were notorious for their haunting aura, the result of odd light setups. Cal used to have transportable lights that gave night games in Berkeley the feel of a horror movie — or an Iron Circle Match.

Atmosphere can also refer to the actual environmental conditions. Playing in a high-altitude venue can lead to burning lungs as you run around the field. Wyoming reminds visitors they’re playing at 7,220 feet for a reason.

In a similar vein, Washington has not played well in the state of Arizona, whether at UA or ASU, for years. When you’re accustomed to cool temperatures and constant humidity, the dry air can make for a difficult adjustment. And then there’s the travel associated with going to a place with vastly different environments. Folks scoffed at the Stanford “body clock” debate after a confounding, Week 1 loss at Northwestern in 2015, but playing a 9 a.m. game after flying three hours and sleeping in a hotel bed the night before can be physically taxing.

Then there are stadium conditions. Familiarity with a particular kind of turf helps a home team. Transitioning from artificial to grass can be a daunting task, particularly for hurry-up teams. Different venues have different backdrops, which can impact depth perception on passes, and even knowing where you are on the playing surface. Playing basketball in my younger days, my high school team had the occasional game at Northern Arizona’s dome. I roll my eyes whenever someone cites context-less statistics to suggest there’s no difference shooting in an arena or gym than in a dome; it’s much different.

They’re different sports, sure. But an expansive stadium like the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum or Rose Bowl has a much different feel than playing in a 50,000-set venue.

All told, home-field advantage is very real, and in certain instances, very underrated.

2003, though you can’t go wrong with shows from the first half of 2001 (which include TLC 3 and a Steve Austin vs. Chris Benoit title match that borders on ***** distinction); or the latter half of 2002 (Edge vs. Eddie Guerrero in a No DQ match from August that year is an underrated gem). But 2003 was the best complete year, with the rise of Brock Lesnar and his feud against Kurt Angle, which included both one of the greatest pre-Wrestlemania angles ever…

…and the best Iron Man Match in WWE history.

Eddie Guerrero’s build into superstardom also kicked into high gear in 2003 with some highly entertaining work both in and out of the ring. He and Tajiri had an outstanding match on Smackdown that summer, which kicked off with Tajiri jumping out of the trunk of Eddie’s car and spitting green mist in his face before the opening bell. Good stuff.

Full disclosure, I cancelled my WWE Network subscription in the summer and have not watched nor paid attention to the product since. This is my longest stretch watching no WWE since 2010, when the product was dreadful. I’ll use this opportunity to get on my soapbox about the company, as my decision to walk away wasn’t any one moment.

Wrestling in general has always had unsavory elements that require some level of cognitive dissonance for me to enjoy, whether it’s tasteless booking; performers putting their long-term health at risk; the lack of a union and efforts made to stymie unionization at every turn. The past year provided a deluge too powerful to ignore:

• Linda McMahon finally fulfilling her political aspirations as an appointee to the Trump Administration, overseeing the Small Business Administration. WWE is a “small business” in the same way Walmart’s a small business, or the NFL’s a nonprofit.

• Vince McMahon riding the wave of positive (yet entirely out of touch with reality) nostalgia, as well as the bait-and-switch social hostility stoked toward the NFL, to relaunch the XFL.

• The reinstatement of Hulk Hogan to the WWE Hall of Fame after his 2015 “suspension,” and Hogan’s lack of any actual contrition.

• Saudi Arabia

Now feels like an especially pertinent time for this digression, because … man … Saudi Arabia. April’s Greatest Royal Rumble functioned as a lengthy PR event for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The murder of Jamal Khashoggi has thrown WWE under the microscope for its upcoming Crown Jewel event, but it’s not necessarily worse than laundering the image of a regime responsible for genocide in Yemen.

On a ***much*** lighter note: Halloween’s one of my favorite holidays, for a variety of reasons that have changed through different stages of my life, but never dissipated. As a kid, it was the thrill of picking out a costume and going trick-or-treating. Once I got to high school and became more of a reclusive nerd less childlike, I loved watching horror movies during the Halloween season (and still do today).

In college, Halloween is THE holiday when the entire campus turns up. Now as a parent, my son’s joy translates to me.

My Twitter account is a small reflection of my love for this time of year, which isn’t limited to Halloween. Autumn is great in general, with the slight chill in the air, football season in full swing and basketball on the horizon, and pumpkin-flavored everything. Halloween serves as the mantlepiece, and I’m just paying my respects with a horror movie avatar (this year’s selection is from the criminally underrated Halloween 3: Season of the Witch and a spoooooooky name.

Last year was an ode to the credits from The Simpsons‘ annual Treehouse of Horror episodes: KyHell Deadthing.

This year, I opted for an alliteration. Candy corn’s the most ubiquitous holiday treat, typically available only in the Halloween season. Seeing as I’ve now stalled long enough, my divisive candy corn opinion? It’s fine.