Did ESPN Blatantly Rip Off This Innocent-Looking Bald Man? You Be The JudgeSo ESPN rolls out this new feature recently by Thomas Neuman called Ultimate NFL Power Rankings, in which he ranks the 32 NFL franchises. It's a somewhat complicated formula and a fun read, but wait a minute here. It's also looking very familiar. That's because a Dallas-Fort Worth-area radio sportscaster by the name of Bob Sturm has been doing virtually the same thing on his web site since 2001 — seven years before ESPN got the idea. Coincidence, or ripoff? Many of Sturm's followers think it's the latter. I talked with him by phone to get his take on it, and also got an official, if brief, response from ESPN. Let's watch the fun. On Sturm's blog, he gives examples of ESPN's version of the power rankings, and compares that to his own feature. Despite a few cosmetic differences, they are pretty much identical. "I'm not suggesting that ESPN deliberately set out to steal my idea, but the two things are very similar," said Sturm, co-host of the Bob and Dan Show on The Ticket 1310-AM, the highest-rated sports station in the Dallas-Fort Worth market. "And I certainly don't claim exclusive rights to this premise; I'm sure I'm not the only sports nerd in the world. But, it is almost identical. The only adjustment they made is starting the rankings in 1970, at the the NFL-AFL Merger, whereas I started mine with 1966, which is the season of Super Bowl I. That's a small change that doesn't make the feature any better, in my opinion." Sturm said that he came up with the idea while playing around with concepts for his station's site in 2001. "I'm a pretty big sports nerd, so I'm always thinking about things like that," he said. "I thought it would be fun to work up a math ranking system for Super Bowl teams, so I came up with the NFL Power Rankings. "I didn't know about the ESPN version until I got a bunch of emails from listeners (beginning on Tuesday). They were saying, 'They're ripping you off!' I don't know. I guess I feel flattered, like I'm doing something right. If you have shitty ideas no one cares about, then no one is going to take them, right?" Sturm's power ranking formula goes like this: Each franchise gets one point for each season it makes the playoffs. Then if it reaches the conference championship game, it gets a total of three points. If it makes the Super Bowl it gets five, and if it wins the Super Bowl it wins the maximum total of points in a given year of 11. "It used to be 10 for the Super Bowl, but I have adjusted it this year because I didn’t like the idea that two Super Bowl losses equaled a Super Bowl win," Sturm said. "So, Now 11 points for a win and five for a loss in the Super Bowl." ESPN's formula includes one point per mill of a team's regular-season winning percentage (a .500 team gets 500 points), Super Bowls: 50 points per win; 25 points per loss; playoff victories: 10 points per win (not including Super Bowls); 12-win season: 10 points for each season of 12 or more victories. Points also awarded for four-win seasons, All-Pro selections, and Monday Night Football appearances. All in all a very similar concept. Josh Krulewitz of ESPN had this to say on the matter: "I checked with editors and they say there's nothing to the "ripoff" claim. They weren't even aware of what this other site was doing." But Sturm says that this isn't the first time that ESPN has poached his stuff. "In 1999 I started doing a thing on the radio show called "Homer call of the week," Sturm said. "It's pretty much what the title implies. Dan Patrick pretty much ripped that off word for word in 2005 when he was on ESPN radio. His copy was so direct, they didn't even change the name that time. He did it for about two years until he left the station. "The ironic thing is that Patrick is carried on our station now on tape delay," Sturm said. "Like I say,I'm not bitter or anything. We live in a time when your ideas go out on the web, and someone can take them and change it two percent and call it their own. It's not the greatest of worlds but it is what it is. In the final analysis, I'm flattered. At least someone likes my ideas." Stop, Thief! [Bob's Blog Live From Lewisville]