Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Beard's Gonna Beard

Before And After Beard
So James Harden didn't sign a below market deal to stay with Oklahoma City, and was subsequently dealt to Houston for a bushel basket of to be determined utility (defense-free shooting guard Kevin Martin, first round pick Jeremy Lamb, future picks). Harden, it was said by angry or sad Thunder Fans, wasn't interested in giving up cash to stay with a championship contender. Others noted that the Thunder weren't interested in paying the reigning Sixth Man of the Year even after making an absurd amount of money last year, and that when you make decisions on money, more than talent, it's a prelude to downfall.

Harden, as usual, didn't say much: maybe when you've got a beard like that, you just don't have to talk very much. Tonight, he made his debut for Houston, as part of a back court with Jeremy Lin, in a rotation where he's clearly the top option. It was a road game against the Pistons, who aren't the defensive hammers they used to be, but still get after it.

It, um, went well. Scored 37 on 14 of 25 shooting, 4 of 10 from the three point line, and 5 of 6 from the line. Added six boards, 12 assists, 4 steals and a block. (Lin went 12-8-4 on 5 of 12 shooting, by the way.)

Um, Yikes.

Now, one game does not a career make, and Harden (and Houston) will both struggle when faced with better competitors and scouting. Both guards turned it over four times tonight, and as much as I like Chandler Parsons for sneaky fantasy basketball goodness, he's really not going to be on anybody's radar as the guy you have to stop. Houston looked to me to be a competitive but limited .500 team before this trade, and while they are better now, I can't imagine them getting to a higher seed.

But, um, he might be one of the 10 best players in the NBA now.

He's also, gulp, 23.

And Houston just got him for a guy who's never going to sniff that level and a couple of lottery tickets.

Enjoy him, H-Town.

And Thunder Fan?

Try not to spend the rest of Martin's time in your city pining for what he so clearly is not...

NFL Week 9 Picks: Up Down Up Down (left right left right a b a b start)

Litter With Tears
The roller coaster ride continues. The only really good takeaway from last week is that dog teams that are dogs (Carolina) will cover, while dog teams that have shown life (St. Louis) will not. Oh, and that betting against Andy Reid and Norv Turner should be required by law. But enough of my low-powered kvetching; on to the picks, before I run out of laptop battery and free WiFi. (Seriously, I'm Internet homeless here. Would it kill you to click on some ads before you go donate to people that actually need help?)

And just because I love you for doing both of those things, here. Have a cookie.

* * * * *

KANSAS CITY at San Diego (-9)

Last week, when asked why his stud RB (Jamal Charles, in case Chiefs Fan needs reminding as to who that is) only got a handful of carries in a home game against the Raiders when his starting QB (Brady Quinn) was concussed and his back-up QB (Matt Cassel) remains a turnover machine, Head Coach Romeo Crennel said the following words of True Inspiration:

I Don't Know.

Now, does anyone know why Crennel is the coach? Show of hands, really.

So, why take these 1-7 dogs, who have not held a lead for a minute of regulation play this year, to cover the number?

Because Chargers QB Philip Rivers has turned it over nearly as much as Cassel. Because Charles is going to get the ball 25 times this week as Crennel predictably goes to the one thing his offense might be good at. Because Cassel actually is better than Quinn, in that the team moves the ball before turning it over, and because WR Dwayne Bowe is still capable of putting up numbers in one of these "nationally" televised games. Also, the San Diego home field advantage does not exist, and nine points is too many.

Chargers 31, Chiefs 24

DENVER at Cincinnati (+3.5)

I give, Peyton Manning, I give: you are fully back, your WRs are as good as advertised, and your defense isn't going to give up any more big early leads to teams that throw it all over the place. But can you do that on the road, against a team coming off a bye? Well, sure, because the Bengals are secretly terrible on defense and QB Andy Dalton has been making with the turnovers. This division is increasingly looking like Denver's for the asking, rather than the taking.

Broncos 27, Bengals 21

BALTIMORE at Cleveland (+3.5)

If these teams were both coming off a bye, I'd like the Browns chances for the upset; the defense has been good all year, and the offense will seem more than competent against the beat-up Carrion. But that's not the case here. Baltimore used its bye to get key personnel (Ngata, Suggs, Reed) healthy on defense, and I'm not quite buying the idea that Cleveland's all that great on defense. Besides, I'm just not buying the idea that this team was a borderline Super Bowl contender with an aging lightweight MLB, but dogmeat without him.

Ravens 27, Browns 19

Arizona at GREEN BAY (-11)

After the MNFail against the Niners in which they scored 3 points, ran for 9 yards and were picked apart by Alex Smith, the increasingly DOA Cardinals get to go cross-country to a Packers team that are a little teed off over getting outgained by the similarly challenged Jaguars in last week's win. So they get a short week, a wary opponent, and bring a one-dimensional passing offense with an erratic, turnover-prone QB to one of the louder and better home fields in the NFL. Arizona can get to the QB (especially against the Packers), but they won't do it for very long, because they are going to quit when it starts to go bad. Here's that big Packers blowout we missed last week.

Packers 38, Cardinals 17

CHICAGO at Tennessee (+3.5)

Are the Bears for real? This week should prove an interesting test, as they have to go to Nashville and fend off the under-the-radar Titans, who can approach competence when QB Matt Hasselbeck has time and RB Chris Johnson has space. Neither is terribly likely to happen with consistency against the Bears, but the game is at home and prime for letdown. I think the Bears will struggle, but make a play in special teams or get a turnover, and make a tight cover.

Bears 24, Titans 20

Miami at INDIANAPOLIS (+2.5)

A battle to see which not really good enough to contend team gets to tell that contending story longer. While the Dolphins have been more impressive and consistent in recent weeks, they still have to start a rookie QB in a loud dome, and face an Indy team that shows signs of developing a running game. Something of a low confidence pick here, but with a reasonable amount of feel.

Colts 23, Dolphins 20

Carolina at WASHINGTON (-3)

Finally, the Redskins get an opponent with worse across-the-board talent than they have. I think they'll break this thing wide open, with lots of fantasy goodness for Robert Griffin The Only Quarterback That Matters Enough To Get Extra Syllables Every Time He's Named. I'm not buying the idea that Carolina showed enough of a spark in last week's close but not quite loss to the Bears to qualify as a feisty dog here.

Redskins 34, Panthers 20

DETROIT at Jacksonville (+3.5)

Look for the Lions to get their running game going in this easy road game, where the Jaguars haven't had a solid home-field advantage since the Mark Brunnell years. Detroit hasn't really righted the ship so much as taken advantage of the schedule, but that doesn't change much this week. Oh, and special vengeance game for WR Mike Thomas, who takes over the Nate Burleson role after getting moved from Jacksonville this week. Nice timing, Lions.

Lions 31, Jaguars 17

Buffalo at HOUSTON (-10)

Let's see -- a team that's terrible against the run, on the road, against a team that's borderline fantastic at it. Buffalo rarely travels well in the best of times, and this Texans team is coming off a bye and ready to crush. High confidence survivor pick here, and equally high confidence on the cover; the late suckout with QB Ryan Fitzpatrick is just as likely to turn into the fist pump TAInt for Texans' gamblers.

Texans 37, Bills 20

Tampa Bay at OAKLAND (NL)

Arr, it's a Pirate Battle! Arr! Count on lots of fan shots for people for whom Halloween never ends, and the Raider offense to enjoy another foray into the soft underbelly of the NFL. Tampa can score and move the ball, but they are error-prone, and this is a Raiders team that makes a lot fewer mistakes than they used to. (They are also, well, not as talented as they think they are. Sigh.) After back to back wins against Jacksonville and Kansas City, Oakland might petition to move to Division I-A.

Raiders 24, Bucs 20

Minnesota at SEATTLE (-5)

With a point line in the Vegas Doesn't Really Know Zone, this looks like a no confidence game... but I'm really not getting that feel at all. Seattle might have the best home-field edge in the NFL. Minnesota was last seen getting skunked at home by the Bucs, with RB Doug Martin having the game of his career to date. The road team comes in with a couple of extra days of rest and prep, but that hasn't been an overwhelming help to TNF teams in 2012 to date, especially the losers. Put that across the field from a tasty Seahawks defense at home and the slowly improving work of QB Russell Wilson, and this looks like easy money to me.

Seahawks 26, Vikings 17

PITTSBURGH at NY Giants (-3)

Time for that disturbing mid-season letdown for the Giants, who historically lose focus around this time in the calendar; had WR Dez Bryant had a finger's worth of more body control, the NFC East would still be up for grabs. Pittsburgh has been very good against the pass this year on defense, the offense is running the ball well with RB Jonathan Dwyer, and the short passing game is keeping QB Ben Roethlisberger as healthy as he's been, at this point in the calendar, in years. I'm still not sure they are a real contender in the AFC, but after this week, they'll be regarded as such.

Steelers 26, Giants 24

DALLAS at Atlanta (-4)

Time for a prime-time letdown for the still-undefeated Falcons,despite the home field. I'm looking for the Cowboys to break through with a ball containment passing game without the first half turnovers, and for Atlanta's deep passing game to not make the big plays to provide early separation. The Falcons are going to coast in to a top #2 seed in the NFC this year, mostly because the NFC South has become a cakewalk, but they aren't going undefeated. (And yes, I said all of this stuff last week, too.)

Cowboys 31, Falcons 30

Philadelphia at NEW ORLEANS (-3)

Finally, the word is starting to get out: the 2012 Eagles are a bunch of quitters. Why else would the line move 1.5 points from open, for a Saints team with a historically bad defense and an interim coach? The Superdome is a good home field for them, QB Mike Vick is in the no man's land of play safe and don't move the chains or play dangerous and turn it over, and the defense reacted to the departure of Juan Castillo like they were dipped in glue prior to kickoff. The Saints also need the win, have weapons out the wazoo, and can rush the passer a little, which is all that anyone needs to do against the Eagles, since running the football early in the game is for Neanderthals. (That win football games.)

Oh, and there's also this: Eagle Fan is now actively rooting for them to lose every game, under the utterly fruitless hope that 3-13 and 12 straight defeats might mean the end of the Coach For Life Reid Era, under the theory that maybe his body will explode from all of the depression binge eating. EAT, FAT MAN, EAT.

Saints 31, Eagles 20

Last week: 4-10

Year to date: 55-60-2

Career: 597-584-28

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

I'm Alive, But Probably Not Posting Very Much

A very few miles from my house
Folks -- Hurricane Sandy was relatively kind to me and mine -- no downed trees, no flooding, clean up that took about half a day -- but it did take the power out, and I might have to live without that for a week. Happy happy, joy joy.

I will be online during daylight office hours, as I have worked out a solution for the day job, but blogging will likely be a little lighter than usual. Picks column will still happen, though.

If you are so moved, go contribute to the numerous aid programs helping the seriously afflicted, or just click on this crappy blog's ads and help the mildly inconvenienced.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled sports blog.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Top 10 consolations from the Giants winning the World Series

A much more problematic sweep
10) Forces America to reconsider their opinion on marriage equality, since it seems to inspire better pitching and defense

9) Pablo Sandoval is sure to respond to his World Series MVP award with a breathtaking celebratory weight gain

8) Gives us more exposure to Brian Wilson, which increases the chance that some nut job will shoot Brian Wilson

7) Barry Zito and Marco Scutaro now have rings, which somehow proves that Billy Beane was right all along

6) The Tigers nearly gave us the minimum number of innings possible with Joe Buck and Tim McCarver

5) All of those poor shivering Fox "stars" can get the hell away from baseball stadiums now

4) Now that Justin Verlander has been solved, he's sure to never trouble the rest of the American League again

3) Speaking of the American League, it's also completely OK that the tiresome narrative of which league is better has been put to rest

2) Gives Ryan The Riot two World Series rings, further proving that

1) Thanks to football, basketball, the election and a billion-dollar hurricane, no one will be talking about this for more than five minutes

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Top 10 Giants - Tigers Game Four Takeaways

Forgot To Paint Tears
10) Miguel Cabrera decided to actually hit a home run in this game, just to remind Tiger Fan what that looked like

9) Buster Posey's home run to the left field foul pole area took away the first and only Tiger lead of the series, and no, I'm not making that up

8) This Matt Cain, who isn't an absolute hammer, hasn't been seen in a while

7) Brandon Belt picked up an RBI triple, just to remind you that he actually exists, and should be drafted by reaching fantasy owners next year

6) The fact that this game went extra innings is further proof, not that you needed it, that God Hates Detroit

5) This really hasn't been the series for HD and/or super slo-mo

4) With his 10th inning base hit to give the Giants their final lead, Marco Scutaro completed his ascension to Full Eckstein

3) I'd like to thank the Tigers for giving us just one inning less than the bare minimum of Joe Buck and Tim McCarver

2) It was nice of the Giants to end the series with Cabrera making the last out on a called third strike, just so Detroit Fan had an extra helping of doomed hope and bitterness

1) Baseball is now gone for six more months, and honestly, not a minute too soon

This Is Fixable

Spend more time with the family
So said Coach For Life Andy Reid in the post-game of the latest desultory Eagles loss, and for once, I agree with him.

(Now, this isn't going to take a long time, because this franchise really does not deserve long any more. At this point, it's becoming increasingly clear that the people who pay to watch this team care more about their performance than the people who work there.)

The fan base isn't going to get rid of Andy Reid, no matter how many times they chant Fire Andy. The fans in the stands do not matter, because they are there. If they weren't, that might be another matter, but this franchise could lose with Reid for another 20 years before the stands would be empty. People around here just like football, and will always delude themselves into thinking the team has a chance.

The team isn't going to get better at selecting players, because they overrate defensive speed over size and tackling ability, to the point where they can only play from ahead. They also aren't going to fix the offensive line problems because when only your starters can play, that goes back to the front office. They also aren't going to move away from the overrated wideouts, the weak special teams, and the play-calling that generally does everything it can to waste LeSean McCoy.

Jeffrey Lurie isn't t going to get rid of Andy Reid, because he could have done that for the last five years. Besides, the stadium is still selling out with people chanting at Reid, so, well, whatever. Being under the cap is more important, and so is putting wind turbines and solar panels on the building. At this point, I'm really not sure that Lurie's even paying attention any more.

The players aren't going to get rid of Andy Reid, because for as long as he's here, they can pretend that they are on a good football team that's just unlucky, rather than a team that's 11-12 over their last 23 games. Besides, he brought them here and provides cover for their lack of production.

Michael Vick leaving for Nick Foles isn't going to fix this, because Foles can't make these WRs show up every week, can't make the coaching staff go to a more even run-pass mix, and can't fix the fact that the defense is based on having great corners when, well, they do not. To be charitable. (And if he does get in, they don't win the Cardinals game or the Falcons game, because both of those games were far beyond the ability of the QB to alter.)

Having Random Position Coach or Coordinator leave, as we've seen this week, also does nothing. Something about deck chairs on the Titanic goes here.

No, there's only one person that can start to turn this franchise around. Reid.

And there's only one way that he can do that: by leaving. Which would set up the justly deserved tear-down this slag heap deserves, and would doom them to several years of irrelevance, but well, they've been irrelevant for years already. I'd like my irrelevance to come with new faces now.

(Would he, ever? I can't really see it. Though if the press just started off every press conference with "Are you quitting?" and then leaving after that single question, rather than stay for the rest of the mumble apology-fest, that would be a start.)

So, Chanting Eagles Fan? Mix in a new one.

Quit, Andy, Quit.

If, for no other reason, to show the ownership just how little you trust them to do a goddamned thing.

Top 10 NFL Week 8 Ad Questions

Why does this exist?
10) Do Bank of America users have issues in counting?

9) Did Greg Jennings set up his injury filled year with foolish stunts for Old Spice?

8) Why does State Farm have younger versions of its illiterate fat loser to scream at Aaron Rodgers?

7) Can't you kill yourself stupidly on old roads without driving a new Cadillac?

6) Do Nissan owners routinely collect awful swag from dirty gas stations?

5) Can other Verizon users see the amateur porn video uploaded by the MILF?

4) Does the fact that Pepsi has pad for a Cowboys anthem mean that the 98% of NFL fans who don't root for that team can just drink Coke?

3) If a foot lift gate is a good idea, what about just a voice activated one?

2) Why are Ford truck drivers hauling dirt, and furthermore, why are they so angry about it?

1) If a black man has a substandard smart phone, is he usually abused by strange old white women?

Eagles - Falcons Takeaways

Nine More Games Of This
> Coach For Life Andy Reid won the toss and deferred, because you wouldn't want your offense to get the ball first when the weather is going to get progressively worse

> DT Fletcher Cox dropped a relatively easy pick in the first minute, because, well, this defense does not get takeaways

> LB Mychal Kendricks missed a meeting and hence, the start, so Reid decided to punish the team by sitting him out for the first series

> For a defensive line that is supposed to come at the opponent in waves, these waves don't seem very, well, scary

> The Todd Bowles Era certainly started with a whimper, with an 80-yard drive for the opening touchdown

> If you need an offense that goes three and out after the opposition scores, this is the team for you

> The Falcons looked about as anxious on third down as if this was a preseason game

> It was nice of Kendricks to commit the DPI in the red zone to make sure that both player and management looked bad

> Eagle Fan had plenty of time to get home before the storm

> Clearly, Juan Castillo was a genius

> If you need a QB to sprint out, don't challenge the defense, and nearly get picked, Mike Vick's your man

> The Eagles have 7 points in the first quarter this year -- in all games

> RB Bryce Brown nearly won Red Zone Turnover Bingo this week with a ball juggle

> Atlanta so dominated the ball in the first quarter that Reid wasn't able to get his first wasted timeout in until the second

> RB LeSean McCoy scored after a stiff arm on Falcons CB Asante Samuel, shocking everyone who knows of Samuel's tackling prowess

> One of these weeks, perhaps CB Nnamdi Asomugha can stop being referred to as a good corner, particularly when he gets beat for a score every game

> You have to admire how well the Eagles waste timeouts even when the offense isn't on the field very much

> This game more or less ended on the failed third down conversion with 3 minutes left in the half

> Once again, this defense was supposed to be able to rush the passer with their speed, so when they don't show any evidence of that speed, they just, you know, suck

> When you watch a defense that doesn't sniff the QB even on a blitz, you know you are watching something special

> Kendricks missed on a possible pick, because... the defense does not make those kind of plays, either

> Fittingly, when Ryan finally did get pressure, they still gave up yardage

> Not that I've lost faith with the organization, but it's a little telling that the special teams also suck

> Watching DeSean Jackson toast Samuel was kind of fun, I guess

> It would really be nice if Vick didn't put the ball on the ground on just about every run, regardless of whether he's hit by the ground or the defense

> For a team with no pass rush, the Eagles sure got burned for a lot on screen passes in this game

> The first "Fire Andy" chants were heard with 9 minutes left in the third quarter, but for the most part, these weren't as powerful as you might expect, mostly because no one in town really cares that much any more

> The first sack in 160 pass attempts happened with 7 minutes left in the third quarter, so, um, whoopie

> Falcons LB Steven Nicholas dropped a clear TAInt

> Reid wasted a timeout with his patented spot the ball challenge, then punted down 17 with 20 minutes left with a sieve defense, just to make sure that everyone got home early and safe

> It's nice that DPI calls against the Eagles amuse the refs so much

> The Jacquizz Rodgers run was that classic defense gives up moment that we used to blame Castillo for, and prompted the loudest Fire Andy chants

> DeSean Jackson left early, which seemed like a good idea

> Vick seemed fixated on drawing the Falcons offisdes, which is good, I guess

> Vick's fourth down conversion to TE Brent Celek was big, in that it ensured more fantasy numbers for some people

> I'm ready to declare Jeremy Maclin a bust, if for no other reason than his terribly confused pre-snap body language

> McCoy converted a third and one on a play where he made a half dozen guys miss; with luck, he'll still be a viable back in several years, when this team has a new coach and an actual chance to win

> This team is unmatched in its ability to run off every second of clock when down by a lot

> McCoy's second touchdown of the day showed that he's still all kinds of special, which also makes him unique on this team

> RB Michael Turner fumbled late, but this defense does not make big plays late or early

> Ryan gave DT Cullen Jenkins a mercy sack with 4:30 left, just to prove to you that I did, in fact, watch this whole mess

> LB Casey Matthews blocked a punt, which meant that the Eagles were able to waste better field position

> Since Vick and the Eagles didn't have a turnover, and the defense played its best ball in the fourth quarter, I guess this game represents Progress

> Falcon Fan is getting tired of hearing how his team hasn't beaten anyone good, but, well, they still haven't

> At least we don't have to hear about Reid's perfect record after the bye any more

> I'd pay serious money to have the discipline and flexibility to no longer watch this Eagles team

Top 10 Giants - Tigers Game 3 Takeaways

Tiger Hitters, Not Looking Spry
10) If you are not a Tiger or Giant fan, and are still watching this series, you are, well, me

9) This game has 2 runs and 12 hits, and since both of them happened in the second inning, so if didn't tune in early, you really didn't need to tune in at all

8) As the Tigers are the first AL team since 1919 to suffer back to back World Series shutouts, we can safely assume that, like the Black Sox, they are on the take

7) Boston Fan made sure to tune in for that 0-3 factoid, which is the only part of any series not involving the Red Sox that they care about

6) This Tim Lincecum is a hell of a lot more useful to the Giants than the guy that's been in his uniform all year

5) Tiger and A's Fan is really wondering why they couldn't have played this collection of heavy-legged losers

4) It's clear from his run support that Anibal Sanchez is really despised by his teammates

3) Even Giants Fan is starting to wonder if there's something not quite right with Brian Wilson

2) Pablo Sandoval got a couple of more hits in this one, so he's probably going to be the MVP

1) Usually baseball ends with a bit of sadness, since there will be no more games that count for six months, but after watching this snoreathon, there's no sadness here

Saturday, October 27, 2012

2012 Fantasy Basketball Picks and Pans

Spencer For Hire
I know, I know -- I'm late to the party on this. Blame the day job. But it's still preseason as I write this, and unlike many of the people who ply their hand at fantasy hoop, this isn't a sidebar to me. I've been playing this game since before the Internet (no, seriously -- I've owned two generations of Currys and Rivers now), have ran my own league for a decade, and have won a bunch of times despite being brutally antisocial when it comes to the great timesuck that is trading. But enough of my bona fides; let's get to the meat.

Early Round Pans

> Dwight Howard. OK, he promises to care now, and the career numbers of 21/14 with 2 blocks a game should only rise now that he's got Steve Nash setting him up, rather than Jameer Nelson. And if Nash could turn Marcin Gortat into a top center option, what can he do with the guy that kept Gortat pinned to the bench? Well, plenty... assuming that (a) Howard stays healthy, which is far from a given, and (b) the Lakers don't do the sensible thing and conserve Howard's minutes for games that matter.

Look, LA doesn't care about a great regular season record, and Mike Brown is not going to run the risk of Howard not being ready to dominate in the playoffs. So that career mark of 36 minutes a game is about to go to 30, which means that the most you are going to get is 18 and 12. With a category-killing 59% and often FT mark. And all of that assumes health. There are better guys to go make or break with.

> Kyrie Irving. Ready for a heaping helping of sophomore slump? Then step on down to Cleveland, where Irving is about to make the tragic mistake of trying to make his team better by spreading the ball around more. Last year's 18/4/5 will become 16/4/7, and while you might like the trade-off in points for assists, you aren't going to like what happens to his three point attempts. He's still a very good player, but not where he's currently being drafted.

Early Round Picks

> Deron Williams. Here's the sum and substance of why DW hasn't been as good for the Nets as he was for the Jazz: shooting percentages that went from 45-51 in Utah, and have been 35-41 on the East Coast. It's not that he's forgotten how to shoot; it's just that he's been the whole show, the only guy you had to game plan for, and a guy playing career-high minutes. This year, he's 28, in a new building, with actual fans, and with solid (albeit overrated) teammates. Write him down for 20/4/9, with a hair less threes and percentages that will be back to his career norms. In other words, look for a guy that's going to rival Chris Paul as best PG in the game.

> Ty Lawson. Man alive, am I in love with his game -- and as the straw that stirs the drink in Denver, along with a guy that's got room to move in terms of minutes if and when Andre Miller's deal with Satan ever comes due. I think this is the year he really gets some room to hit more threes, along with a few game-winning moments that give him the leeway to be the alpha dog in the Denver wolfpack. And don't you want the point guard who will be feeding Kenneth Faried?

Mid Round Picks

> Kevin Garnett. His 15/8/3 line is set in stone, with a side order of defense and very solid percentages for a guy with center eligibility. On a Boston team that will struggle with turnover and personnel, and who no longer can depend on a gift-wrapped top 4 seed in an Atlantic Division that's suddenly frisky, he's not going to lose minutes. Heck, I think he might even gain them. And since the refs give him a lifetime of leeway to be a dirtball veteran, he can still be effective against any center in the league. The only problem with drafting him is that you kind of have to root for him. (Shudder.)

> Anthony Davis. Boy, I hope your draft happens fast enough, or is with enough owners that aren't paying attention to preseason. The Unibrow is the best-looking rookie power player in years, and while he's got hops to spare, the hands are also world-class, and he also cares about defense. On a Hornets team that's going to have a pulse all year due to good ball movement, it wouldn't surprise me if he's a top 5 PF, when he's currently ranked around 20. Besides, owning the Rookie of the Year is fun.

Mid Round Pans

> DeMarcus Cousins. I have seen this movie before, folks, and it rarely becomes a feel-good hit: the talented knucklehead on a bad team and franchise, who just needs the love of a good coach / fan base / point guard to give up his bad boy ways and dominate. The problem is that bad franchises are that way for  a reason: they draft and coddle people like Cousins, need him more than he needs them, and silently kills his club with poor percentages, turnovers and fouls. Cousins shots 43.9% from the floor, turns it over 3 times for every 2 assists, and commits a foul every 7.5 minutes. Run, do not walk, away from him.

> Danny Granger. I just don't like his game, really: it seems like he's either bombing from distance to poor percentages, or mixing it up inside and losing all interest in providing anything beyond a high free throw percentage. Do you really need a 20/5/2 guy who'll shoot in the low 40s and is aging fast (29 with heavy minutes)? I don't, and the Pacers have to know by now that if he's their best player, they aren't going anywhere.

Late Round Picks

> Jeremy Lin. The pick will make the cognoscenti roll their eyes, but tell me this -- if he could help make Steve Novak deadly from distance, what can he do with Kevin Martin? Houston's not going to be good enough to ever get him off the floor, and with his size, he's going to be the rare point guard that doesn't regard rebounding as servant's work. Sure, the turnovers are going to be trouble, and the Rockets won't play at the same secret speed that made the Knicks a fantasy gold mine last year, but they've paid him too much to not give him the chance to roll up numbers in volume.

> DeAndre Jordan. Still just 24 years old, Jordan's poised for more minutes in Clipperland with the departure of Reggie Evans and Kelvin Martin. Yes, the FT numbers are terrible, but he did get a hair better last year, and doesn't go there enough to kill you anyway. I think you could easily see 10/10 with a dunk-tastic FG% and second only to Serge Ibaka performance in blocked shots. In many ways, DeAndre is on the rise.

Late Round Pans

> Arron Afflalo. I know what you are thinking here -- lots of minutes, shooting guard is a secretly weak position, he shot 47% from the floor last year while still giving you 1.4 threes a game, and his defense always passes the eye test. But all of that happened in an optimal situation in Denver, where no one had to plan for him, and he had point guards that got him separation. In the Orlando wasteland, he's going to be hounded, slowed down, and depressed in any number of ways. Oh, and his good defense? Doesn't translate to steals. Stay away.

> John Wall. You know what you call a point guard with absolutely no shot from the three-point line? A liability in the modern NBA, especially when you couple it with a 41.6% career field goal percentage and a middling path to the free throw line (6 attempts a game). Wall may be a physical marvel and as fast as anybody in the NBA from end to end with the ball in his hands, but there's a lot more to the game than that, and the 8 assists per game don't look so good when you factor in the 3.8 turnovers in 9-category leagues. He'll be a little better this year if the Wizards are actually competitive, but I didn't like his game before he got hurt. And, well, now he's that.

Ten Sleepers for Real (Deep) Leagues - Past The Top 100

> Bradley Beal. Scary talent, terrible team; could get a lot of minutes and pay off big. Perfect late-round flyer.

> Andrei Kirilenko. Might have recharged his batteries with a year away from the Association, and more importantly, Jerry Sloan, who used to just ream him out for every mistake. I like his chances to drive big value, especially if Ricky Rubio comes back strong.

> Glen Davis. OK, everybody knows he's a Drunken Seal, the most favorite guy in the NBA for rival shot-blockers, and pining to go back to a roster where his shortcomings aren't on such prominent display. But in the last 12 games of 2011, when Howard quit on his team and Orlando had no better options in the pivot, he got 31 minutes a game and delivered 16/9/1 on 50% from the floor. As a bargain basement PF/C, you could do a lot worse.

> Spencer Hawes. Nearly as hard to watch as Davis, but will have an opportunity early with Andrew Bynum on the shelf, and he did come out last year like a house on fire. At power forward with teams keying on Bynum, he could have a ton of open looks, and he provides reasonable assist and percentage numbers for a center.

> Greivis Vasquez. How can you not love a guy who looks like Snidely Whiplash, has a name like a Star Wars character, and parlayed some reasonable playoff moments into a starting gig? It's especially solid when Eric Gordon gets hurt again, but seriously... opportunity is everything, especially when you are a Euro point guard.

> JJ Hickson. Portland's not going to waste LaMarcus Aldridge in the pivot for huge minutes, and he showed something late in the year. Could be a cheap 18/10 kind of guy.

> Kirk Hinrich. He'll be worthless if and when Derrick Rose returns, but until then, he'll provide sneaky top 20 PG value with his all-around game. It also doesn't hurt that the town loves him and that the other guys who can take minutes at the 1 here are defensive sieves.

> Ricky Rubio. I love to stash hurt guys at the start of the year, particularly when they have sex appeal in trades. Rubio desperately needs to get a handle on his outside shot, but the 8 assists and 2 steals per game play regardless, and you'll be able to move him for a lot more than he's worth after a few highlight reel games.

> OJ Mayo. Has shown something in preseason in Dallas, and with Dirk Nowitzki out for a little while, he might have the opportunity to be The Man for the first time in years. I'm not in big love with his game, but Dallas does play up-tempo, and he's got a lot to prove.

> Chandler Parsons. When you fill out the end of your roster, most guys go for single category savants... but I'm not one of them, for two reasons. The first is that a single category guy will frequently just murder you, especially in defense or threes. The second is that savants have erratic playing time because, well, they are savants. Parsons isn't anything to write home about, but he can get you 13/6/3 with a steal and a three per game if he gets 30 minutes of run... which, well, is what he got for the last 43 games of 2011. Not bad for a second rounder, and really not bad for a guy off the scrap heap.

Good luck and good drafting!

Friday, October 26, 2012

FTT Off-Topic: Say Less Or Do More

Yes. Yes It Is.
As always with FTT O-T, not sports, not arguing, read or not.

I have these relatives. Maybe you do, too.

Older folks, mostly. Like myself, well, white as the driven snow. They used to say all sorts of unfortunate things about groups of individuals; luckily, I'm of an age and educational level where I get to miss that.

Now, they mostly say these things about a specific individual.

And they are, as you might have guessed, Very Concerned about the upcoming election.

It probably also doesn't surprise you that they are very interested in sharing their nuanced views -- almost always in all caps, with high emotion, a susceptibility to conspiracy theories, and with a minimum of non-forwarded original thought -- in my social media stream and email in-box. To others, on the phone.

And I'm not going to change their minds about, well, anything.

But I do have one, very serious, question for them.

Why aren't you doing more to share your views?

I mean, I'm related to you. I'm easy pickings. All you did to take advantage of me showing you pictures of my kids or puppy, and ruin my opinion of you for life, was to click share or send. Lame.

(I also live in a state which has been out of play for this election since, well, the last election. Seriously, pointless.)

No, you see, if you care so much about this election, it's time for you to do more. Lots more. (Well, OK. Way past time. But I digress.)

Let me show you how I handled this, back when I was still open to the idea of changing anyone's mind about anything. In 2004, I spent a few hundred hours, and several thousand dollars, trying to get my guy elected. I was deeply concerned, in ways that history has borne out, that the guy I didn't want to get the job was a poor choice. After my guy lost, I seriously considered emigrating, and took job interviews overseas to determine the feasibility of that action. In short, I committed.

But the one thing that I didn't do was, well, feel that my firmly held beliefs were best served by howling at the relatives that didn't agree with me. They knew how I felt, and if they didn't want to hear about it, I didn't say another word. Still haven't (at least, well, not directly; if they read this blog, that's their choice).

And I haven't replied to any of their communications mostly, because, well, I'd just upset them. Pointlessly. And while elections come and elections go, being related to them is, sadly, a little more permanent.

So, to those folks who might be trolling this, if you feel so strongly about this election? Put your money where your froth is. Go scratch a check that will hurt for a good long time. Quit your job to pound doors. Wave signs at intersections. Get into the magical world of street art. Show up at demonstrations with puppets and hand drums. Prep your Third World control room getaway, and see, honestly, just how many complete and total strangers you can convince to go your way.

Or, um, get a grip and consider that in another four years, there will be another election, and a fresh new opportunity for you to show us all just how concerned you are. And that maybe having an ounce of class, or decorum, or self-doubt that you might not be 100% right about this, and that people who think the other way might not be evil or ignorant or both...

And maybe have a civil conversation with us then. Having banked a little good will in the interim.

But until you do scratch that check, or serve your time talking to strangers, all I can think is...

That you really don't care *that* much about who gets elected.

And that all you really want to do is bitch.

Which makes you, well, extraordinarily tiresome, even to the people who might agree with you...

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Top 10 takeaways from Tigers - Giants Game Two

Deep Fister Hurting
10) In case you were wondering about that team of destiny feeling, watch the Gregor Blanco bunt in the seventh a few times

9) Doug Fister took a ball off the head, kept the Giants scoreless until the seventh, had his bullpen and defense give up the inherited runner and more or less has a clear lawsuit available for non-support... which just goes to show that being a Fister working a job in San Francisco doesn't always work out

8) If the Tigers can't score against the Giants' weak starting pitchers, perhaps they will score negative runs against their good ones

7) Continuing the annual tradition of remarkable pointlessness, Fox sent actors from soon to be cancelled shows to the game to whoop at the camera as if they wanted to be there

6) It's getting increasingly obvious that Marco Scutaro is the new David Eckstein

5) To say that Bruce Bochy is out-managing Jim Leyland so far in this Series isn't very fair or accurate, because it implies that Leyland's been managing at all

4) Madison Bumgarner continued the Giants tendency of having a shaky left-handed starting pitcher be more or less dominant

3) Bryan Stow was at the game tonight, and if you don't remember who he is, that's actually OK

2) Gerald Laird showed, on multiple plays, why no parent should let their kid catch

1) Even in a 2-0 game with all of seven hits, postseason baseball takes well over three hours, and will be something you switch off a lot to see what's happening in a more or less meaningless regular season NFL game

Top 10 reasons why David Stern is retiring

Somebody get him an orange
10) Ensures that he won't have enough time left to do anything for San Diego, Seattle, Vancouver, Kansas City, New Jersey, Oakland, Sacramento and New York

9) There's only so much time that a man, even an odious one, can spend around Mark Cuban, Bill Simmons and Jim Rome

8) By naming an end date that's15 months in the future, he can have an even longer and  more drawn-out retirement tour than Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Karl Malone

7) Just learned that there are more NBA fans in China than there are people in the United States, so he's totally out of here

6) Fairly certain that he can't be booed any louder at the NBA Draft than he was last year

5) Keeps falling asleep in the middle of massive referee conspiracy meetings and schemes to screw the player's union

4) Now that the Association is taking steps against flopping, all of the magic is gone from the job

3) Wants out before the next television contract is due, when he has to negotiate with TNT President Charles Barkley

2) Just doesn't have the energy to compete with Roger Goodell for the title of most hated commissioner anymore

1) Wants out before the league starts selling ads on jerseys, shorts and heads

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Top 10 takeaways from Tigers - Giants Game One

Panda Three Times, Baby, I'm Gonna Eat
10) Since the Giants beat Justin Verlander with Barry Zito. it's pretty obvious that the series is over, and that the rest of America isn't gay-friendly enough to be very good at baseball

9) Zito got a hit and drove in a run off Verlander, who somehow did not kill himself immediately afterward

8) Tonight's start, combined with last week's effort in St. Louis, shows that Zito's been underpaid for all of these years, and is clearly bound for Cooperstown

7) By the fifth inning of Game One, the Giants had scored more runs against the Tigers than the Yankees did in the four games of the ALCS, which I mention just to deepen the pain that Theoretically Still Watching Baseball Yankee Fan is feeling

6) Three Giants hit three home runs at home this year -- not in a game, but all year -- which means that they were clearly saving them up for when it was, you know, important

5) The idea that Zito and Marco Scutaro are now gritty playoff veterans that make their team win, rather than jittery pups who make them lose, just deepens the pain for Theoretically Not Suicidally Depressed A's Fan

4) The singing of "God Bless America" by a cop from the Tenderloin (so butch), who doesn't even love America enough to remove his hat, sure prompted a lot of spitting

3) As soon as you saw Jose Valverde in this game, you could safely assume that Jim Leyland just wanted to see if the Giants could tire themselves out for the rest of the series by running the bases

2) Jhonny Peralta hit a 2-run homer in the ninth just to prove that the Tiger offense did, in fact, have the opportunity to score runs in this one

1) Pablo Sandoval hit three home runs, which is kind of a big deal when you do it in a World Series game, though not nearly as big of a deal if you do it while wearing a Yankee uniform

NFL Week 8 Picks: Angering The Gambling Gods

I'm Not Happy With You, Davey
Last weekend was a trainwreck of time for me. Friday night was the poker game, hosting 26. Saturday was the NBA fantasy league draft, hosting 9 in house, 2 out, and the Shooter Mom to watch over the kids, as the Shooter Wife was booked out of town that weekend. Sunday was more or less a day to try to catch up on sleep. So I had no time, no car, and no opportunity to get to my closest parlay ticket palace to play my bets.

The picks, of course, were the second-best week of my year. And did nothing more than pretty up my numbers, but not my bank account.

This week, I have no idea right now if I'll get to the sportsbook to lay a little cash on the outcome of these games. I'll only know later in the week. And if I go... I'm sure that the picks will stink. And if not, these are gold.

So with that little dare to the Beavisian Deities (or, well, angry dude with Amish farming equipment, who also seems invested in the gambling vice)...

On to the picks!

* * * * *

Tampa at MINNESOTA (-5.5)

This is the first year I've had the NFL Network, and the first year that we've had all-year games on Thursday night. So I'm sorry to have enabled this whole mess of disjointed games, awful picks, and overall mendacity, and just thank my lucky stars that my parley action never involves these awful, awful games.

This week, look for the Vikings' QB Christian Ponder to bounce back from one of his worst games, the Bucs to deepen their depression after losing a winnable game to the cheating Saints, and RB Adrian Peterson to get to his Sell Highest moment of 2012. (And seriously, AP owner, now's the time when you ease away from your horse, because he never finishes the year strong.)

Vikings 24, Bucs 17

Carolina at CHICAGO (-9)

Man, do I hate giving this many points here; the Panthers have bounce-back written all over them, and the Bears have a short and cocky week after the MNF home win against the Lions. But this defense has always done it's best work on dual threat QBs who struggle with coverage reads (see how QB Michael Vick has never, ever, beaten the Bears), and the Panthers are almost as bad on defense. This might be the week where Chicago gets survivor pool play, and I'm pretty sure that I'm going to be hating this pick for much of Sunday... until QB Cam Newton throws a pick six that ends it.

Bears 27, Panthers 17

SAN DIEGO at Cleveland (+1)

Folks, this is what Norv Turner does; you don't get to live forever with people chanting for your death if you don't win enough games to get their hopes up in the first place. The Browns are feisty on defense and have green shoots on offense, but they also really, really know how to lose in close games (see how rookie WR Josh Gordon dropped that game-winner in Indy last week? That's latent Browns DNA right there). And it's too early in the year, with the weather being too nice, for the home team to really enjoy the home field advantage yet.

Chargers 31, Browns 23

SEATTLE at Detroit (-1)

Ready to kick dirt on the Lions yet? I know I am. Since last year's sneaky hot start, this team has been Same Old Lions, albeit with fantasy relevance. This week, against a Seahawks team that has a three-day rest advantage to make up for the home field, and a defense that's potentially better than the Bear team that held them scoreless for 59 minutes last week, more people join me with the shovels.

Seahawks 23, Lions 20

Jacksonville at GREEN BAY (-13)

I've really enjoyed the Pack Revival these last few weeks, as the team has gotten back to what makes them special -- the otherworldly play of the best QB in the world, Aaron Rodgers. Last week in St. Louis, he terminated a good defense with mobility and non-convention This week in Green Bay, he'll get the ball early and often -- the Jags' offense is terrible with starting QB Blaine Gabbert, and even worse with veteran back-up Chad Henne -- and the only suspense will be if the home town fans with get prolonged exposure to the back-ups. This is going to be such a drubbing, even those snaky RB Rashard Jennings grabs in fantasy aren't going to be worth much.

Packers 41, Jaguars 17

Indianapolis at TENNESSEE (-3.5)

Can the Colts keep RB Chris Johnson from continuing to recharge the QB Matt Hasselbeck Revival? The short answer is no, and that also makes for a pretty short blurb about this one. In a few years, QB Andrew Luck will own this team, but for now, not so much.

Titans 24, Colts 20

New England at ST. LOUIS (+7)

Wow, have the Patriots really sunk to the point where I'm not expecting them to blow out the eternally blown out Rams? Yes, and because they are just the kind of smash-mouth physical defense that takes the air out of the Patriot sails. Remember the Seahawks game, or last week against the Jets -- long periods of hurry up and punt, with WR Brandon Lloyd not making enough plays on the outside, and the OL giving up penalties and sacks to put them in irresponsible third and longs. Look for more of the same here, some preposterously long FGs from K Greg The Leg Zuerlein at home, and a game that will smell like an upset all day long, but fail at the close.

Patriots 27, Rams 26

MIAMI at NY Jets (-1)

The best thing I can say about the AFC East is that it will be over in just a few short months, and what happens here won't matter much in the post-season. After that, it's just an admission of your gambling problem. But if you must, and we must. I like the Fish because they'll be able to sustain drives more often, and really should have won the game the last time these two teams met. Back then, the Jets had CB Darelle Revis. They really aren't as good without him.

Dolphins 20, Jets 16

Atlanta at PHILADELPHIA (-1)

Look at the bright side, Eagles Fans: this will either be a rousing win after the bye over the NFL's last unbeaten team, with renewed hope that new DC Todd Bowles is the latest solution to all problems and HC Andy Reid's continued post-bye magic spell will continue... or you can all join me in the five years and counting bandwagon to finally get Coach For Life out of town. It's a no-lose situation! (Feel free to also look at the Charger pick above for the same Tease Has Got To Win Middling Games To Set Up Losing Big Games Later mojo, too. If the Chargers and Eagles would simply just trade coaches, both fan bases could put a fresh face to their hate.)

And if you are looking for actual football reasons to go Green here, the Falcons' defense is secretly bad against the run, and their team is openly good enough for Reid to try to win this game with, you know, actual coaching, rather than being a mule-headed stylist. If he had this much respect and preparation for the game every week, there would be 2-3 more division crowns to his credit, and maybe even that Lombardi trophy that he'll never come close to sniffing ever again.

Damn, I just made myself depressed again.

But, um, hey -- not this week! It's a no-lose situation! And QB Michael Vick will continue to be the worst thing ever to Falcon Fan!

Eagles 27, Falcons 17

Washington at PITTSBURGH (-5)

Once more with feeling, people -- a great QB, even a jaw-droppingly sexy rookie one with wheels to burn and obvious eye value, does not make for a great team. And it really does not make for a great defense, as the thin Redskins keep losing the few guys on the roster who are actually capable of winning football. Look for RG3 to keep it close for a while, to scare Yinzer Fan all day long, and to eventually make the Young Guy mistakes that doom his club's comeback effort. And the comeback effort will be in place because, well, his defense isn't very good. And isn't getting any better.

Steelers 31, Redskins 21

OAKLAND at Kansas City (-1)

How bad is the AFC, really? So bad that the Raiders are going to get back in the AFC West race after eight quarters of football against Blaine Gabbert, Chad Henne and Brady Quinn. You'd face tougher opposition in many college conferences. Arrowhead has held no terror to the Silver and Black in recent years, and while this offense is far from a finished item (RB Darren McFadden, in particular, is ruining my fantasy team), they are still capable of, say, over 300 yards in total offense and several touchdowns. Whereas the Chiefs prior to Quinn were capable of turning the ball over a lot, then scoring in garbage time. Now, they don't turn the ball over, and don't ever score. Big improvement.

Raiders 24, Chiefs 10

NEW YORK at Dallas (+1)

I can only assume this number is due to Dallas being a public team, or the gambling public thinking too much of that opening week game... but since then, the Giants have gotten better and found quality in their depth, while the Cowboys have just gotten more hurt and uncertain. Hell, they might have even lost to Carolina last week without some red zone largess from their hosts, and the notoriously front-running locals have checked out on these frauds (finally!), giving up big swaths of the Jerruhsoleum to Road Fan.(Did you know that the local ratings for Cowboy Football are through the floorboards? It's true.) Look for more of that (count the CRUUUUZE chants, for one) in this one, and the Giants to put a stranglehold on the division.

Giants 27, Cowboys 24

NEW ORLEANS at Denver (-6)

The line has moved a lot in Denver's favorite the past week, and while they are still going to win this game -- New Orleans couldn't stop a newborn in the passing game, let alone the Broncos -- Denver's disquieting tendency to slow starts makes the number a little too much for me to swallow. Look for an early Saints lead, the Broncos to come storming back to take the lead, and a back-door cover before the buzzer. And yes, this will be a gold mine for fantasy players.

Broncos 34, Saints 31

San Francisco at ARIZONA (+7)

Too big of a number for a bitter and sluggy division game, between two teams that overdose on the defense. The Cards might have shown the semblance of a pulse in the running game last week, and the Niners haven't been at their best in the desert in recent years. Prepare for an ugly game that you won't want to watch, and ESPN covering it as if it were going to be shown on an eternal loop in Canton.

Niners 17, Cardinals 13

Last week: 8-3-1

Year to date: 51-50-2

Career: 593-574-28

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The World Series Pick: The Detroit Verlanders

Look Into The Face Of Giant Fear
We're going to make this quick and dirty, because baseball stopped being very interesting to me weeks ago, and even a historic comeback by the Giants has not re-stoked my fire. Also, I'm just seeing this on really, really simplistic levels.

Here's what I wrote about why the Tigers were going to beat the A's in five, which was exactly what happened:

But they don't have (Justin) Verlander, and they don't have the absurd twosome of Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder. It's been the most fun run in a generation, but it ends with Verlander.

In Game One of the World Series, Detroit will start the rested and best pitcher of his generation. The Giants will go with Barry Zito, who has certainly been well-supported and had good timing in shutting down the Cardinals a few days ago... but, um, Verlander and Cabrera. I don't feel like I need to go further than that.

In Game Two, Detroit will throw Doug Fister, who has been very solid all year and postseason. The Giants are undecided. Maybe they go with Ryan Vogelson on three days rest, or the toasted Madison Bumgarner (11.25 ERA in the postseason), or the far from dominant Tim Lincecum. So it's very possible that the Tigers, like the Reds and Cardinals before them, will take the big early lead on the Giants.

Once the series shifts to Detroit, the Giants get to let loose Matt Cain, which will give them their first starting pitcher matchup win... but Anibal Sanchez and Max Scherzer haven't been awful, either. And the Detroit home crowd, frankly, will take it up another level than the relatively satisfied denizens of St. Louis or the neophyte Reds. Also, the NL team rarely does well on the road in World Series games due to the lack of a DH that's used to the role.

Can the Giants win this? Of course. It's baseball; the hot team, or the team of destiny, wins fairly often. Even a clearly inferior team is going to win a third of the time, and the Detroit defense could be as giving as the Cardinals' were. If this becomes a bullpen battle, the Giants have the edge, and Bruce Bochy has been making all of the right moves for weeks now as the Giants' manager.

But at the end of the day, I'm going with the rested team with the better hitters, and the best starting pitcher of his generation, going for his first championship. If the Giants are going to win again, they are going to have to go through Verlander multiple times. I don't like their chances.

FTT Off-Topic: The Undecided

Most important, Most Hated
As always with FTT O-T, not sports, not arguing. Move along or not.

Some of the things that you hear in your social media feeds is how stupid, venal, lazy, pestilent, etc., the Undecided Voter is in any big election, especially in a close race between very different candidates. It's about the only group in America that you can just slag without remorse or a second thought, regardless of which side of the aisle you are on. And the closer you get to the date, the more it seems like each side hates this guy or girl more than even the folks that are counteracting their vote on the other side.

I have no doubts that many undecided voters are, well, just as awful as all that. Just the same way that some of the people voting my way, and some voting the other way, are also truly regrettable people. We're people, and many of us aren't wonderful, especially when we go outside of our comfort zone. But as always, a moment of charity, or considering how much of your story you are treating as fact, can bring forth wisdom.

In 2004, I was far more politically active then I am now, to the point of driving from my home in the San Francisco Bay Area to Reno, Nevada, aka the closest "Swing State." I wound up serving a few hundred hours, over a six month period, to try to get my guy elected in 2004. (And if you want to hear way too much about this, send me your email address, and I'll send you a book. Seriously.)

Nevada, like many states now, has early voting. So a Get Out The Vote effort is frequently about going to people who are registered as your party, and getting the means to vote early to them, then checking back to make sure it happened. Then, you can take them off your list and spend more time going after the rest of your list, or maybe the independents. If you have enough boots on the ground, this kind of thing can swing a race by 1 to 4 points, which is to say, it can swing a race. A lot of them, really.

One afternoon, I had a woman on my list. She was 67, registered our way, but had told someone before me that she was on the fence about voting this year. So I went to talk to her, and discovered exactly why she was undecided.

Her 95-year-old mother, for whom she was more or less providing hospice care in her last weeks of life, was taking up all of her time. The rest, she was working 2 other jobs to try to keep things solvent. She told me this, not with venom or anger or self-pity, or anything beyond the highest level of fatigue that I've ever seen another person endure.

So, um, she had other things to worry about. Barely had time to sleep, let alone pay attention to a political campaign. And had a 40-year history of always voting, but only after she saw the debates.

You see, she wasn't undecided for any bad reason. She was undecided for reasons that were better than anything I could ever articulate.

I did what I could for her, which was get her registered to vote by mail.She thanked me. I left.

And have remembered her ever since.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Top 10 NLCS Takeaways

Check bat for straightness
10) In retrospect, Matt Holliday is sorry he motivated Marco Scutaro

9) I'm not saying that Chris Carpenter has nothing left, but the Giants' hitters biggest issue was in dealing with their Pavlovian saliva

8) The Giants are now 5-0 in elimination games in 2012, which means that if they don't win it all, their fans will be completely OK with the outcome

7) Clearly, the Cardinals are much more comfortable with staving off elimination than actually, well, eliminating a team

6) If you are still wondering how the Giants are alive after starting Barry Zito on the road in an elimination game, join the club

5) St. Louis has now given up 10 unearned runs in the NLCS, which is the most ever, and something that won't be remembered at all if they just win Game 7

4) David Freese is trying very hard to make everyone forget that he's a clutch playoff performer

3) The Cardinals have scored one run in the last 19 innings, which really isn't a great recipe for winning games

2) San Francisco is highly motivated to win the NLCS, so they can take advantage of Melky Cabrera's All-Star sacrifice

1) By the time the World Series starts, Justin Verlander will be ready to pitch as much as the Tigers want him to, which is to say, the Tigers are going to win the World Series

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Top 10 NFL Week 7 Takeaways

A similar Ohio disaster
10) The Packers now look like the best team in the NFC, since it's been two whole weeks since they lost, and their QB has thrown 9 TDs to 0 INTs since then

9) Baltimore proved that the media's past decade of servicing Ray Lewis was justified by folding like a cheap tent without him

8) Dallas proved they could win a close game on the road after all, provided that the opponent plays with the energy of the walking dead

7) Chris Johnson gave both of his fantasy football owners that are still paying attention hope

6) Andrew Luck beat the Browns with his legs, because he had "beating an NFL team with his legs" on his things to do list

5) Despite the best efforts of Eli Manning and Robert Griffin The Thwarted, the Giants held on for a big division win against the Redskins

4) There are plenty of good seats now available on the once-unbeaten Arizona Cardinals bandwagon

3) New England and New York heroically went to overtime to keep America from seeing any part of Jaguars-Raiders

2) Drew Brees and Josh Freeman combined for 797 yards, 7 TDs and a 1-1 record

1) Ben Roethlisberger is now 16-2 in games played in the state of Ohio, which is impressive even when you consider that only the Bengals and Browns play there

Top 10 NFL Week 7 Ad Questions

VW Keys Taste Like Bacon
10) Have you ever, in your entire life, ran into people who actually care enough about recording television shows to have spitty little arguments about which show gets recorded?

9) How many men have to die from exposure to the wintry elements before Coors gets a real delivery system?

8) Now that I can get Cinnabons at Burger King, can we reclassify this criminal enterprise from fast food poisoner to mass murder via type 2 diabetes?

7) Is anyone else more than a little thrilled with Samsung's decision to portray iPhone line nerds as complete idiots?

6) Does buying snack food from KFC attract other forms of carrion beyond useless human freeloaders?

5) When Taco Bell talks about taking tacos to a whole new level, does that mean life-ending diarrhea, instead of the mere soul-crushing variety?

4) Are VW keys particularly tasty to dogs, or attractive to Rush fans?

3) Can the little girl on the Visa ad ask Ray Lewis when he'll be moving to Florida, and how long he'll be eating hard food?

2) Is one of the side effects of Cialis that it turns middle-aged women into gawky hyperactives who are devoid of any sense of shame?

1) If I give money to COTA, can they get these poor kids away from all of those loathsome Fox Sports personalities?

In this year's fantasy NBA news you could not possible care about, I'm already playing for 2013

The risks for 2012
Do you have an expert level player in your fantasy league?  I do. He's a good guy and a great owner -- lots of trades, brings new people into the league, and a genuine friend -- but man alive, he wins too damn much. And in this year's NBA fantasy draft, he started with blue-chip keepers for two-thirds of his line up, and all of them were well below market-level prices. I could have every pick work out and still not beat his team in 2012. He's a monster.

So much so that, when it came to drafting my own team, I did something I've never really done in a league before. I didn't really play for 2012. The Monster is winning that. Instead, I'm trying to give him more of a run for his money in 2013.

And with that, here's the line-up; asterisk players were keepers.

PG    Stephen Curry    GST    46    51
SG    Dwayne Wade *    MIA    55    60
G    Derrick Rose    CHI    17    21
SF    Jared Dudley    PHX    1    4
PF    Al Jefferson *    UTA    36    41
F    Dirk Nowitzki    DAL    21    25
C    DeAndre Jordan    LAC    3    6
U    Dion Waiters    CLE    7    10
U    Kirk Hinrich    CHI    3    6
B1    Austin Rivers    NO    3    6
B2    Emeka Okafor    WAS    1    4
B3    Brandon Rush    GST    1    4

The total cap is $200; the middle column is this year's price, and the far right one is what the player would cost if I wanted to keep them in 2013.

Curry was the de facto first round selection, when everyone still has money and it's flying around fast. (I nearly got Dwight Howard for a ridiculously low price, but so it goes.) He's a percentage monster in a high tempo offense and does everything, with the single exception of remaining healthy. I'm hopeful that the last surgery will actually stick, and he's still really young, so if he can turn around the health record -- and many people actually do this, honest -- I'll have the front-line guy that I'll need to let Wade go.

The next pick was Nowitzki. What happened here was that I threw him out as kind of a feeler move, to either draw a big number from someone who wasn't aware of the recent procedure, or take advantage of too much recent bad news getting me an over-discount. At $21, I think the latter happened. Even in his decline years, it's hard to see the Diggler losing his effectiveness in a big hurry, since he's not going to stop being 7 feet tall, with range, and with that freaky Euro leg kick he does to get separation. I'm hoping he can come back in 6 weeks and give him a full strength second half, and be a tremendous value in 2013.

Finally in the last part of the guys you've heard of portion of the program, there's Derrick Rose. I could have protected him for $29, and thought hard about it. When he's healthy, he's just special: big volume numbers, lots of goodness all over multiple categories, and capable of carrying your whole roster for a night. And if his shot isn't working, he does other things. Like Curry, he's still crazy young to be at such a high level, and not yet, in my mind, ready to just accept the mantle of chronically injured. At if nothing else, I got $12 extra to play with by successfully working the catch and release.

To fill out the rest of the roster, I went with upside plays where I'm hoping to hit the lottery once or twice. Jared Dudley does everything and will be on a Phoenix club where he could be a high usage player. DeAndre Jordan might get more minutes this year with Reggie Evans gone, and more time to allow coaching to teach him that learning how to shoot something -- anything, really -- from outside the paint might help his game. Dion Waiters could provide big numbers when the Cavs' opponents make them do anything but beat them with Kyrie Irving. Hinrich is a decent handcuff for a prolonged Rose absence. Rivers and Rush are both in battles for minutes, but have the clear athleticism upside to possibly show a breakout. And Okafor... was a mistake, but at least just a $1 one. (I didn't realize he only qualified at center. Sigh.)

Now, this could all go very, very badly: I've overdosed on injury risk plays, and could easily have a last-place team on my hands. But if I catch a little health, I could start 2013 with four players you could draft in the first round of a snake draft, for a protection amount that leaves more than enough left over for a credible fill of the starting position.

And if some of the longshots actually pay off, maybe I'll make someone play for 2014 at the 2013 draft. Doing that once was enough, really.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The 2012 Yankee Elimination Day Song

Almost an annual tradition! And should definitely be a national holiday.

Faces filled with joy and cheer
What a magical time of year
Howdy ho, it's Yankee Elimination Day

Put your Tiger face paint on
Spread A-Rod's pick-ups on the lawn
Don't you know if's Yankee Elimination Day

Most of the nation's girls and boys
Love that wonderful angry noise
You'll know that sorrow goes away this day, no prob

When Yankee Fan demands everyone in pinstripes loses their job

So come along and have a laugh
Write Derek Jeter's epitaph
Swisher is dead and everyone in Detroit's getting laid
Hip hip hooray, it's Yankee Elimination Day

Big Stein's day is worse in Hell
Pitchforks and laughter with the smell
Is it Satan, who can say?
I hear the angels work as temps this day

So let the Parade of Pain begin
Tabloids delight when pinstripe dreams cave in
It's tradition - that makes it OK
Hey everyone, it's Yankee Elimination
We'll have some fun on Yankee Elimination
Stop watching baseball, it's Yankee Elimination Day

FTT Off-Topic: The Measure Of A Man

As always with FTT O-T, not entirely about sports and if that offends, move along.

Today, we learned that Andy Reid's son, Garrett, died of an accidental heroin overdose when he passed a couple of months ago. Now, I'm not sure what an on-purpose heroin overdose would look like, but there's no reason to really spend more time on this life. The younger Reid made a series of bad choices, and found one of the worst things that anyone can find, really. He was 27, and while you and I might feel bad for his family, the only takeaway is, well, what a waste. From all accounts, people were made worse for knowing him. I don't know of a more damning thing to say about a person, really.

Someone else that you don't know who battled some poor choices to a very different outcome, a friend of mine who lived in California, passed this weekend, following a long battle with ill health. Mike was about 5 to 10 very hard years older than me (the man enjoyed life, very often by the can), someone I have maybe seen twice in the last 15 years, and yet incredibly influential. Back when music was analog and expensive, Mike was a friend who I'd used to go visit during college spring break, as he lived in Florida and was also in my baseball fantasy league. We'd go to games, and then I'd go through his library of nearly a thousand albums, many of them fantastic, and tape to my heart's content. Many of them were wildly important to my development as a music fan, and eventually, a songwriter. Thanks to Mike, I learned why the Rolling Stones were more than the overplayed radio hits, how Frank Zappa was the end of music (and what an end), who Mott the Hoople was, why Zeppelin and Pink Floyd were better on bootleg, and how dozens of lesser-known artists were well worth my time.

Mike had two conversational callbacks that he'd rely on, and out of context, both sounded like fighting words... and yet, never were. The first, he would use when he disagreed with you, whether it was about music or politics or whatever. He'd simply fix you with his clear eyes, filled with the knowledge and certainty and twinkle of humor that he was about to infuriate you, and say...

Your Opinion Is Wrong

Now, the really nice thing about Mike was that while he could argue with you for years, really, he never made *you* wrong -- just your opinion about whatever it was that he disagreed with. He'd rarely, at least with me, lose his cool or composure about your wrong opinion; he'd simply note its existence, like a prehensile tail, and give you, perhaps, a small note of sympathy for how you had acquired it. This made him, improbably, both impossible to argue with, and actually kind of fun to argue with. He showed me how to disagree without being disagreeable, a talent I need to acquire, over and over again. Honestly, the man had some kind of magic to him.

The second conversational trope was limited to music, of which Mike was, honestly, an expert. He had the gift of listening, to the point where he could turn you on to bands and artists that he knew you'd like, and was inevitably right about whatever it was that he sent your way. And if you liked a band that he did not, you'd get the simple declarative of...

You'll Grow Out Of It

And, well, inevitably he was right. But I never grew out of liking the man. A lot.

He leaves behind a very good woman, some very good kids, and many grateful people for the time that he spent with us.

The planet is worse for his absence. And there's no bigger compliment that I can give to a person.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

NFL Week 7 Picks: Unsatisfied

Are you unsatisfied by this NFL season yet? I have to confess, Dear Reader, that I am. A lot of this is going to seem like whinging over recent events -- a bad turn in the picks, a fantasy team that's fought all the way back to middling but probably won't contend for money, the real-life laundry going back to the .500 level despite exceptional talent, in a maddening pattern that has been their domain for years now -- but I think it's more than that, really. Only nine of 32 teams are above .500, and no team is winless. I used to think that that my Eagles were a special lesson in pain for their fans, but to be honest, they seem sadly ordinary as I look around the league - a handful of plays away from having a good or bad won-loss record. And we can forget the idea that a team builds during the year. The Super Bowl chances of Arizona and Houston are a lot lower today, and Atlanta's correction is coming. This season is 10 weeks of putting yourself into position without getting hurt, then six weeks of de facto playoffs to get into the real facto playoffs.

So what, as someone who is still on the plus side of the parley bet ledge, are we supposed to do with all of this? (Besides the intelligent thing of not betting on games anymore, or learning a lot more about the college game.) Well, get more comfortable with shaving the points to think that a team is going to win and not cover, that home field and short weeks and injuries matter a lot more than talent or scheme, and think harder about the dreaded "who needs it more" pick. After all, if everyone is going to be within hailing distance of .500, your picks should take that into account.

Oh, and one last thing: if there was ever a weaker 4pm slate of games than this round, I haven't seen it. You will be begging for the Jets to make it a game against the Pats, people, because the only other game in all of Christendom is Oakland hosting the Jaguars. If there ever was a bye week for your viewing, this is it...

And with that... on to the picks!

* * * * *

SEATTLE at San Francisco (-7)

I'm already on the wrong side of business here, in that the opening line has dropped two points for the underdog, but there's still something in the way that the Niners lost last week that was unsettling. We're supposed to think that their run defense is for real, but as soon as the offense starts putting it on the ground -- as they are clearly due to do, given last year's happy luck on that account -- they give it up to a Giants' running game that hasn't looked this good in years. Against a Seahawks team that will be patient with RB Marshawn Lynch, and seems to be starting to open it up a bit more with QB Russell Wilson, I think they win... but not cover. And I really wish I had gotten the pick in at the opening number.

Niners 24, Seahawks 20

TENNESSEE at Buffalo (-3)

Two teams that feel much better about themselves after improbable wins last week. The Titans look better with QB Matt Hasselbeck under center, mostly because their WRs win enough battles that simple accuracy is preferred over extending the play with mobile but inaccurate QB Jake Locker. For the Bills, they've been getting home run play from their RBs, but the rest of the team still seems oddly unfinished to me, even though they are athletic. Look for Hasselbeck's smarts and the once a month good game from RB Chris Johnson to carry the day, and the Titans to benefit from the extra time off.

Titans 23, Bills 17

Cleveland at INDIANAPOLIS (-3)

This is what the 2012 NFL has come to. Instead of picking an emerging Colts team that will have home-field and a multi-game winning streak as a 7-point favorite over a winless team... you get to pick them as a 3-point who the hell knows move, coming off a thorough punking by the sideshow Jets. I'm still going to go here, especially with RB Trent Richardson banged up and QB Brandon Weeden in a road dome, and I like WR Reggie Wayne's chances to post a good number against overrated CB Joe Haden after folding last week against the Jets' Antoine Cromartie... but what was going to be a nice little ride with a secretly good team is just another up and down play.

Colts 27, Browns 20

GREEN BAY at St. Louis (+5.5)

There, Pack, was that so hard? All you needed to right the ship was an actually well-played game against the shockingly vulnerable Texans, who got away from the run early and got punked by QB Angry Aaron Rodgers, who threw for six scores last week and is (shh!) on his way to a 42 TD / 11 INT, 4,300 yards season, with another 500 on the ground. In other words, the best QB in the game, and here's his slate for the next 3 weeks: at St. Louis, then home for Jacksonville and Arizona. Oh, and second-year RB Alex Green gave them everything they were getting out of RB Cedric Benson, only with adequate pass-blocking and the potential to be more than a mule. So if the Pack hits the Week 10 bye at 6-3, with Rodgers bettering his pace, we'll really be able to forget the Monday Night Massacre? (No.)

As for the Rams, they've entered the Timeshare portion of the program with RB Stephen Jackson, who really deserved so much more out of his career than what the Rams have been able to give him. In this game, they'll get to Rodgers early on defense, but not score enough to take a big enough lead, then get left in the dust once they turn it over.

Packers 38, Rams 23

Arizona at MINNESOTA (-6)

Are you ready for the end of the John Skelton is a Winner myth? I know I am. To be fair to the Cardinals' inadequate backup QB, their inadequate frontline QB wasn't going to win this game either, not on the road, in a dome, and to a Vikings team that's due for the bounceback after last week's missed opportunity in DC. Look for the Vikings' D-line, a fading but still proud unit, to ring back the echoes for at least one week in this matchup.

Vikings 26, Cardinals 16

Washington at NY GIANTS (-6)

For an incredibly low confidence game, I know exactly how this one is going to go down. The Skins will take an early lead as the Giants do their usual We Fear Prosperity, Especially In 1PM Home Games, routine. Then the Giants' offense will find some measure of equilibrium, leading to the defense forcing a turnover. Eventually, Blue grinds out the clock and has DE Jason Pierre-Paul get to Skins' QB Robert Griffin The Legacy, and it's a Blue win. But I have no idea whether it will be by 4 or 7. The coin flip says... home team.

Giants 31, Redskins 24

NEW ORLEANS at Tampa Bay (+2.5)

A tough but necessary spot for the Saints, who still have a long way to go to get back to equilibrium after that 1-4 start... but the Bucs' pass defense is awful, and New Orleans is coming off a bye. They also historically struggle in Tampa, but I think they'll score enough to get past the Bucs.

Saints 31, Bucs 27

DALLAS at Carolina (+1)

Another moment where the line has moved significantly -- 1.5 points towards Dallas -- and while trusting this Cowboys' team in any kind of close game is a signed affidavit of a gambling problem, the stink in Carolina is just too great to ignore. This will be one of those games that pad QB Tony Romo's numbers enough to make his dwindling number of apologists more convinced that their man is being done wrong. And more tellingly, TE Jason Witten, the security blanket that actually makes this offense go (since, as has been proven over and over, you can't trust WR Dez Bryant), looks like his old self.

Cowboys 26, Panthers 20

BALTIMORE at Houston (-7)

Too big of a number, and too much of a correction; this line has moved 3 full points since opening on the Ravens' injury news. The problem with that logic is that the Houston defense is also banged up, and I'm expecting a short-lived Win For Ray (Lewis) movement to keep the Ravens afloat, at least until the secondary issues really take them down. Besides, Baltimore is on the bye after this, so I think HC Jim Harbaugh pulls out all of the stops, especially on offense. This will be the best game of the day.

Ravens 27, Texans 24

Jacksonville at OAKLAND (-4)

Just a feeling that RB Darren McFadden puts up one of those 150+ yard 2+ TDs kind of days against the Jags here, who do not travel well and have to be seriously worried about how little they are getting out of first round WR Justin Blackmon. In a game between what may be the two worst teams in the AFC (assuming, of course, that the Sideshow Jets don't make a run for the title later), and the only outlet for America if Jets-Pats is a blowout, give me the home team that nearly pulled off an upset in Atlanta last week.

Raiders 31, Jaguars 16

NY Jets at NEW ENGLAND (-10.5)

Love that the line came down from 13 on this one, in that it's taking even the suckout cover worry out of play for me. Both of these teams are 3-3, but that's where all similarities end. New England has a top-5 option at QB, a stable of reasonable RB options, the home crowd, and a coaching staff that's borderline legendary. New York has left and right-handed sideshows at QB, a single mudhorse RB, unproven and never-was WRs, and a defense that isn't nearly as good as they think they are, since they don't have a consistent pass rush or two lockdown corners. They can trick you a bit on offense and special teams and they tackle well, and if you don't get a lead, they can ugly it up with a running game... but not if the opponent puts points up early and often. That's what the Patriots will do. It's going to get ugly.

Patriots 34, Jets 10

PITTSBURGH at Cincinnati (+1)

How do you figure either of these teams? The Bengals could be seizing this division by the throat with the Ravens' injuries and Steelers' age, but keep coughing up highly winnable games with turnovers and weak defense. The Steelers look ancient and slow on defense, and sieve-like on the offensive line... but coaching, weapons and an experienced QB can go a long way, especially in a year where seemingly everyone in the AFC is a .500 team. So, coin flip, Pittsburgh, and if you think I'm going this way just to put Superstitious Yinzer Fan on tilt... well, bonus!

Steelers 24, Bengals 21

Detroit at CHICAGO (-5.5)

The Bears have led in most of their games this year for many reasons, not the least of which is that their defense starts hot, the offense has long drives, and the special teams are some of the best in the game. They don't always finish that way, given that the offense is turnover-prone and the defense can lose their edge... but when you combine that with the Lions' offensive tendencies to sleep through the first three quarters, I'm seeing Chicago carrying a lead into the end game. Which puts us in prime back door cover and suckout anger mode, and the line is right on the point of pain... but I'd rather be on the side of the team with the lead in such a situation.

Bears 27, Lions 21

Last week: 5-9

Year to date: 43-47-1

Career: 585-571-27

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