Friday, January 31, 2014

The Super Bowl Pick

I Would Buy This Merch
Denver vs. SEATTLE (+2.5)

The case for Denver: Historically high performing offense, with the best and deepest group of skill players in many years. Offensive numbers may actually be under-reported, given methodical pace of play. QB Peyton Manning is a clear Hall of Famer with a legacy opportunity. Team has shown the ability to just go into overdrive and become unstoppable on offense, and is much better at overcoming a deficit than Seattle's more run-driven attack. Special teams have been explosive, and the defense is playing its best ball of the year. Has more or less dominated their two earlier playoff games against teams that have relied on a power running game. Have a probable coaching advantage, since HC Jon Fox has been here before; have a definite advantage in personnel experience, since Manning has won a Super Bowl before. Without getting too far down the rabbit hole of conspiracy, will get the better of officiating; they have all year and have been more disciplined than Seattle.

The case against Denver: Champion of the weaker conference, with a much easier schedule to get here. Defense has shown clear problems with opposing passing games, especially if they don't get heat on the QB. Haven't had to deal much with mobile QBs, and they are about to face one of the best in the league at that. Manning can be turnover-prone. While distraction is a clear nonsense factor for the most part, many Broncos seem to be moving on after this game, with multiple retirements and releases hinted at. Fox has crapped the bed before with too-conservative play-calling. Offense hasn't faced anything like this secondary, and could get dominated to the point where the speed pass rushers get to Manning. While the weather isn't expected to be a particularly strong factor, cold and wind isn't terribly conducive to an aging QB with occasional arm strength issues. RB Knowshon Moreno has moved into more of a timeshare as the season has moved forward, and while backup Montee Ball has more talent, size and explosiveness, he's also been more fumble-prone.

The case for Seattle: In SBs where the best offense faces the best defense, the best defense has won three of four prior matchups. Offense is significantly less turnover prone and can make this a time of possession frustration experience for Manning. If they can get production out of WR Percy Harvin to go with surprisingly competent secondary threats Doug Baldwin and Golden Tate, this offense has another dimension just when it needed it. Secondary is just incredible, with big hitters that are also fundamentally sound at tackling, and they even pick balls off. Special teams don't beat them, and the entire team plays with fire and emotion that can make one good play turn into ten with a quickness.

The case against Seattle: Just a different team away from home, and while this is basically a neutral site game that might swing their way, they just might not bring their A game to NJ. Wilson played a great game against a terrific defense with San Francisco, but was shaky at best against New Orleans, and will need to be as good here; that's a lot to ask from a second-year guy who doesn't get many early down chances at easier yards. Offensive line has been injured much of the year, and not as cohesive as you would hope. Could have easily lost at home against the Niners; defense in particular struggles late in games and can get gassed when the speed pass rush stops getting to the QB. Offense is prone to slow starts.

The pick: Well, Seattle was my preseason choice to win it all, and while I wavered a little in the face of what appeared to be a peaking Niners team, it's not like I was completely off the bandwagon. The NFC was a *lot* better than the AFC this year, so much so that I'm wondering if we could just have an old-time awful game from the last century. You kids don't remember this, but it used to be the SB was usually a terrible game, with multiple Buffalo homicides, or the Chargers or Patriots getting curb stomped by teams that seemed to be drawing from an entirely different talent pool, especially on defense. Free agency and more uniform scouting has made these games mostly go away, and you can also pull in your favorite conspiracy theory here, but the plain and simple of it is that every game doesn't have to be a classic, and every game that's expected to be close, well, isn't. That would seem to favor Denver, who seem much more likely to get a quick score and then run off and hide, but this Seahawk defense did nasty things to Drew Brees and the Saints... and, well, the Bronco offense is pretty Saint-like at its core. I can see a late score that makes the game seem closer and more interesting than it really was, but in the final analysis, give me young and mobile over old and crafty, and in something of a shock to the nation's advertisers, Russell Wilson over Peyton Manning.

The prediction: Seahawks 31, Broncos 24

Last week: 1-1


Year to date: 119-129-10

Past Super Bowls: 3-4

Career: 487-501-39

Thursday, January 30, 2014

A Brief And Obvious Point About... Distractions

Can't Argue With Results
You want to know what's never lost a team a football game?

Not penalties, or turnovers, or missed tackles or bad coaching or home field advantage or bad luck or kicker malfeasance or clock management or injuries or spectacular effort by the opposition...

No, it's the most dread mistake of all, the one that gets trotted out every time there's a big game in the NFL to hype: distractions during the hype of the game.

Whether it's Jim McMahon mooning a helicopter, Joe Namath guaranteeing a win, or any of the other ballast and bilge water that phoning it in media members kick out rather than, I don't know, statistical analysis or a fresh insight, it's football dogma to say that any player who dares to make himself into more or less than the same-old same-old interview fodder is doomed, doomed I tell you, to being the Ultimate Scapegoat for his team's loss. (Oh, and if they win? It's because the team somehow overcame Distraction due to some other greater force. Probably the QB's steely-eyed focus, or the coach really controlling things behind closed doors.)

It's as if everyone covering the damned game wants to be a hack creative writer for the WWE, where all you need to do to beat any opponent is to have some other dude he hates come out during the match, wiggle his arms in the air to do a voodoo curse, and get pinned by the previously hapless opponent that used to be dead in the corner. Oh Noes! Distraction Conquers All!

The lesson, as always, is that Sports Reporters suck harder, on a per capita basis, than any other segment of the media, and that includes the political operatives that they eventually turn into. You are better off dealing with gossip or entertainment folks; at least they might give you some mildly interesting stray fact numbers in regards to television ratings or the money that's being made, rather than this perpetual passion play of Who's Being Mean to some of the least worthwhile people in America. (No, not the owners! For once.)

What wins football games is football players, making football plays. And I guarantee you that their ability and skill to make those plays has about as much to do with how they deal with a pool of reporters as the color of the cheerleaders' outfits, and maybe less. Moving on...

Hope For Haters

Pwned, But For Reals?
So I'm away on business this week, which means I was able to watch tonight's Heat v. Thunder game in relative focus on a hotel treadmill... and in said game, the Heat raced out to an early 22-4 lead at home, then proceeded to get curb-stomped for the rest of the night, with Kevin Durant getting the best of LeBron James. It was OKC's biggest comeback to win for a damned long while, along with the first time that Durant beat James since Game One of their Finals

And the simple thing is to equate this as Durant finally passing James in his five year quest to be The Man, because Durant is so The Man right now, but hoop is, well, more complicated than that. What really happened tonight is that Thunder coach Scott Brooks got away from starting center stiff Kendrick Perkins in what might be Perk's worst matchup among any team in the league against Chris Bosh, and getting outstanding bench guard play from Derek Fisher and Jeremy Lamb. They also benefited from a lot of makes from perpetually improving power forward Serge Ibaka, and the increasingly lifeless Heat. They didn't even need Russell Westbrook, which is a whole 'nother story, of course.

There's no getting around this: Miami looks bored as paste with hoop these days. Designated #2 Dwyane Wade misses back to back games and plays effectively when he's around, but isn't the defensive hammer he used to be. Chris Anderson's short-term deal with Satan for professional relevance has gone back into remission, and point guard Mario Chalmers has atrophied into the guy they yell at for funsies, rather then as some kind of cruel indoctrination. They miss Mike Miller's presence in the bench unit something fierce, and another year of wear and tear on Ray Allen and Shane Battier isn't doing either any favors.

But, well, the story of the NBA for the rest of this season is whether, like Lucy with the football, the Heat are just trolling us. (It's not even, really, the Thunder; there's no telling who gets out of the West.) They don't need home court to win again; they just need to bring their A game and win on the road, like they've done before. They aren't going to be seriously challenged until the third round of the playoffs in the awful East, and all they will need to do is get past the twice-smashed Pacers, and whoever survives the meat grinder of the West. Getting punked at home in a national game on ESPN against a past Finals opponent is going to bother them for about as long as it takes you to finish this sentence.

So Durant's continuing eruption, his video-game cheat code level of prowess, his laughter-inducing 30-foot threes to just crush any chance of a Heat run in the few minutes of third quarter action where James and he went into Duel Mode? Well, it was as fun as the Association gets on a weeknight in January, but I was still counting all of the banked threes from Fisher that aren't going to happen in June, or how Ibaka has teased us before with that jump shot that doesn't fall in big games. Hell, Allen alone has been teasing regular season He's Too Old For This ever since he left Seattle.

If you could get a trend out of tonight, or a meaningful indicator, you're better than me. But not better than Durant. Which counts for, well, nothing more than hope right now...

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Mutually Assured Censorship

Let's All Encourage Less Speech
Seahawk RB Marshawn Lynch whipped through a perfunctory media session this week, having not quite learned his lesson by having to appeal an earlier $50K fine from the NFL for exercising his First Amendment right to, well, not speak to the media. Why doesn't he like talking to the media? Perhaps because he doesn't like talking while near-naked after three-plus hours of being in car accidents, or he doesn't like hanging out with guys who clearly tried and failed to do what he does for a living, or those who he was absolutely nothing in common with, who will use anything he says that isn't a cliche against him. What an oddball! Let's fine him, or others might want to be more like him.

Seahawk CB Richard Sherman had to scratch a check for a weird amount this week for failing to celebrate the biggest win of his career in an acceptable way, then spent the next week doing the media's work for them by being the source of a million easy paint by numbers pieces and counter pieces as to what kind of man he is, and what that says about Society. You'd think that the media would put together a collection plate to keep him talking, but as he's a guy that doesn't shine from individual attention, he must be chastised. Otherwise, more might want to be more like him. (Sherman apologized, so that means everyone was right to be offended, right?)

There's a fun aphorism in Japan, that, loosely translated, is this: the nail that stands up that will be hammered down. So clearly we live in Japan now. Anyhoo...

Now, let's look at Denver. Peyton Manning is a master not just at what he does, but how he does it. For the most part, he plays the media game nearly as well as he does the one between the lines; he's capable of saying nothing in original ways, all the while sounding earnest, funny or anywhere in between. From this, he's made an astounding amount of money in commercial endorsements. And the rest of his teammates more or less carry the same vibe. DeMaryius Thomas is a friend of Sherman's, but he's not going to go meet him at the WWE green screen. Wes Welker's said things in the past that probably greased the skids for his departure from New England, but this week, he's going to talk about nothing more controversial than his desire to play in the game, even if concussed. If there's going to be controversy at this game, it's going to come from Seattle, clearly.

Now, the easiest thing in the world is to note the background racial and classicist aspects of all this, but it goes beyond that. Rather, it's on Lynch and Sherman for not following the outdated and artificial script provided to them by the sports media contract, which is this... You have to defer to these people, and give them what they want in roughly the space and length in which they want it, or they will crap all over you like the mean girls they are. All at a time when athletes are able to go direct to their audience with as much (or more) hype than the official channel.

You know what happens next, right? That's the generational shift between the dinosaurs in the media and the audience at home, followed by the fracturing of the coverage, and, please Xenu please, the eventual ability to choose your own level of analysis and coverage. Me, I'm going for Complete Stat Nerd that treats the players as electrons in a video game, because then we don't have to hear them, or the media, talk. And now that the coolest endorsement contracts are for guys who turn themselves willfully deaf to the media, and become deaf in turn, it's a movement.

And just to show my years and bad attitude, you know where to put the cork. Though if you'd like to put it somewhere else, that's a defensible choice as well...

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Enough Of Choosing Your Own Retirement Date

More land over the horizon, mook
A small note to any athlete reading this, or having it read to them... stop trying to game life.

One of the very small ways in which we all find your existence to be laudable is that, well, what you do is clearly work. It may be overcompensated, it may have aspects of fun to it, but there's lots of practice and putting up with meathead coaches and teammates and media. We get that it's not all skittles and beer, and that having a job that's predicated on physically beating someone with a fairly similar job, to a point of statistical exactitude, can be daunting. No issues; better you get paid than the filthy owners.

But for heaven's sake... retirement is something that people do in late middle age and above, not what you do in the prime of your life. Especially when everyone knows that your earning potential is going to go to squat after the jersey comes off your back, and the vast majority of you are vastly unprepared for What Comes Next.

So if you are too hurt to continue, say so, and quit. If you've made enough money and miss your family, say so and quit. If you're tired of putting up with the things you put up with, say so and quit.

But this idea that you can snuff it at the exact right moment and add to your legend is proof that you're trying to live your life like it's a scene from a graphic novel, written and enjoyed by idiots.

Play until no one wants you. Suck the marrow out of every bone. Add every yard, strikeout, hit or point to your totals, because you can, and even the per-diem is going to be better than what's next.

Honestly, we will all respect you so much more than the guy who's trying to set up the Ride Off Into The Sunset cinematic music in the background. Because that rarely if ever works anyway...

Monday, January 27, 2014

A Brief and Obvious Question About Outdoor NHL Games In Warm Weather

I Regret Leaving California
This happened today, and the tech worked.

Hockey was played (LA vs. Anaheim) in 63-degree weather with no one dying, the rink turning into a swimming pool, or the integrity of the game compromised.

Oh, and the game attracted something like 3X the number of paying customers, and no one seems to mind being an absurd distance from the ice, because, hey, they are outside and outside is nicer than inside. Besides, being really close to hockey just means you are really close to plexiglass and limited visibility, and seeing the damned puck has always been a challenge.

So, um...

Why don't they do this, well, all the damned time?

And if there are 30 to 50K people willing to shell out for the venue, why hasn't the NBA tried it yet?

Oh, and one last thing...

Why do we have hockey arenas in the first place, if we could just multi-purpose yards that people would rather be in, anyway?

(Yes, yes, I know -- it's a novelty that would not sustain long-term big crowd moments. But does the math still not work if, say, there's 30K people for every game outdoors, rather than 18K?)

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Why I'm Rooting For Super Snowpocalypse

Let It Suck, Let It Suck, Let It Suck
I'm going to go through this once, because I'm sure that we're going to have seven days of buildup on something that isn't going to matter very much: the fact that the Super Bowl is going to be played outdoors in northern New Jersey in February. At night. Which means that, if recent weather is any indication, it will be played in the 20s, with wind chills that are lower, and isn't that, well, whatever.

First off, let's toss aside any idea that this will have very much impact on the actual game. Both teams are going to play in it, after all, and both teams are not hothouse flowers; the weather in Denver and Seattle can not be described as ideal, and they don't play in domes. The better team will, short of massive turnover luck or officiating scandal (cue Seattle Fan's paranoia!), win the game. So let's toss that out of the picture.

Next, let's pass aside the idea that anyone should feel very sorry for the "fans" in the stands. The crowd at a Super Bowl is not, with very strong and limited exceptions, indicative of actual fans; they are corporate overlords and wildly privileged people, and the children of wildly privileged people, who are going to the game for the experience of being able to say they went. That's why the crowds aren't terribly loud; these are not people who are going to mark out for a team, because many of them aren't even there for either team. On some level, if the game is interrupted by locusts, blood rain or frog shower, I will give it a big old fist pump and have my faith in a God that loves us restored.

But even more than delighting in the misery of people who truly and dearly deserve misery (and no, I'm not counting you, Bronco and Seahawk Fans, among those; you are just collateral damage), there's this. The only reason why this game is in New Jersey is a payback for a new stadium -- a stadium that was in no way necessary, and even by the sad standards of stadium projects, this one was particularly egregious. Seeing this as a precedent keeps us in the This Has To Stop era of Professional Sports Welfare, and we would all be served well, as a nation and species, if new stadium construction were made illegal for the next 20 years.

Now all of that could be swept aside for just one, final, point. I've never been to a Super Bowl, and in all likelihood, I will never go to a Super Bowl. The idea of blowing a mortgage payment or three, or a semester of college for one of my kids, on four hours of spectator sport, is an unconscionable decision. There is, of course, one exception... and that's if my team is there, and I can take the Shooter Mom with me. Because, well, she deserves it. She's my mom.

If and when I'm in the stands for the biggest game ever, with her, I don't want to be in life-threatening weather that makes us both miserable, and makes her wish she was at home and in warmth. That's just, well, pointless. And I can't be the only person who feels this way.

So, this Sunday? Let's agree to never make this mistake again. Let's mock the living hell out of Roger Goodell for making the venue as big of a story as the teams that actually made the game. Let's avoid, and even ignore, everything that isn't Game, so that the economic impact of the game is a sad echo of what the league thinks it will be.

If the NFL really wants to make sure it gets new stadiums for its annual wankfest, here's a simple suggestion... extend the opportunity outside of its current markets. Let Las Vegas make a yard for the game, or have it in Orlando in a festival of Disney/ESPN excess. Put it on a cruise ship and put FOOTBALL ACCOMPLISHED on a banner, or give Hawaii reparations for decades of Pro Bowl abuse. Hell, put the game in Mexico City or Australia and put your money where your mouth is for international expansion.
Because the Super Bowl isn't just another game. It's a game that everyone has agreed to watch and care about, with a borderline lifetime contract. It's also a dream destination and experience for every fan base.

And, well, 30 out of 32 NFL fan bases do not dream of going to that game in northern New Jersey in February. (Probably 32, honestly. You have to think Giant or Jet Fan is smart enough to want to get the hell out of town in February, too...)

Friday, January 24, 2014

A Brief And Obvious Point About The Pro Bowl

Sad On Many Levels
There is no reason for it to exist, and it will stop being played in our lifetime.

No fantasy game gimmick, no MTV tie-in, no tropical or foreign locale, no tweak to the voting, and no valuation to the winner will prevent the demise of the Pro Bowl.

It is the very worst of a very bad breed of sporting event that no longer needs to exist, because we now have the ability to see all of the games and all of the players. The only reason the game used to exist was because there was some clear fan interest in seeing guys from outside of your area, and it used to be hard to see those guys.

Now, thanks to technology and the wall-to-wall coverage of the league, you are easily able to see more of a team that's 3000 miles away then the one that is closest to you. And all of that assumes that you actually wanted to see those guys play in a no-contact quarter-speed no one get hurt or care event.

It still gets ratings, of course, because the market for professional football is dramatically underfed in this country. If the NFL introduced secondary and tertiary leagues (with, be still my heart, relegation to end the Daniel Snyder problem once and for all), with the same rules, in B and C markets, with a modicum of recognizable names (and there are plenty of recognizable names who are not in the NFL right now)...

Here, I'll make it easy. Just revive the USFL. Cost you, what, $3?

Well, it would crush MLB and, probably, NBA regular season games in the ratings. With a minimum amount of poaching on the A league. But anyway, back to the Pro Bowl.

Eight Niners -- eight! -- were named to the game. None will be playing. No one wants to play; everyone wants to be named. This will not be a new phenomenon.

So why not just run a computer simulation (the electrons will, I promise, try harder) and be done with it?

Top 10 takeaways from the Browns (finally) hiring a coach

Son, You've Got A Bone On Your Head
10) Mike Pettine is said to be a disciple of Rex Ryan, which means that lucky Browns Fan is about to get the Dirty Sanchez

9) Pettine says that his lifelong dream is to be an NFL head coach, which just goes to show that he should have given his dreams some qualifications

8) There's a very good chance that they won't fire this coach in a year, because it's better to vary the comedy

7) The Browns are congratulating themselves on being thorough, which is absolutely true, given how thoroughly they embarrassed themselves

6) If Pettins is extremely fortunate, he won't be competing with the guys who pulled out of consideration for this job at his new job interview

5) Their new coach was the last defensive coordinator of the Buffalo Bills, which makes sense, given how that team had a deep playoff run, making it impossible to speak enough to Pettine up to now

4) Pettine's defense was second in the league in sacks this year, and only 4 of those came against the Browns, so that's a legitimate accomplishment

3) Hiring a low-profile defensive coordinator from a team that didn't make the playoffs while giving up 388 points with the 28th-ranked run defense, for a club that may have two reasonable starters on offense, is sure to work

2) This hire could work out if Pettine is able to pair up with a proven offensive coordinator like Norv Turner, who somehow got offense out a carousel of crud QBs and glue-factory ready RBs -- oh, um, whoops

1) For yet another year, it's clear that God hates Ohio football fans

Thursday, January 23, 2014

A Miami Heat Player You Can Actually Root For

It's Greg Oden, of course. This is from his second game. (And don't blink or you will miss him; he's a deep sub and not relevant, even in the deepest of fantasy leagues.)

Now, a few things about the one-time #1 pick and perpetual injury problem, late of Portland, now trying to stay upright in Miami and have a career or something, after three years of not getting on the court.

He's 26 years old, and has made over $24 million in NBA salary so far.

The occasional tripod-ish photo and personal blog traffic generation moment aside, he hasn't struck the world as a guy who is burning through the money.

His career numbers, even if he somehow stays healthy, doesn't speak to much more than a low double-double guy, reasonable on defense, without very much of an offensive game. He is, in short, a guy who would be spectacularly lucky to have, say, Tyson Chandler's career at the absolute upside. In all likelihood, his ceiling is to be a rotation big man on a good team, since being a starter on a bad one is just going to wind up getting him exposed to enough minutes to get him hurt again.

In short, he shows every sign of being a guy who is only here because he loves basketball. And by signing with Miami, that he wants to win.

This doesn't exactly make him unique, or heroic, or anything more than an athlete with a good idea of what to do with his career.

But still, seems like the kind of guy you could root for, right?

A Brief and Obvious Point About Roger Goodell Making Just Under $30 Million In 2013

Security Camera Footage
The NFL is, according to the Internal Revenue Service and the legal definition of corporate America, a non-profit organization.

Pause for laughter, wait, make that settle motion with the hands...

No, seriously. The NFL is non-profit. I am not making this up.

Also, the guy who is shoehorning a Super Bowl into a region which currently is digging out from under a foot of snow with -15 wind chill, mostly because it's under the little-known rule that All New Stadiums Get Super Bowls, Whether The Stadium Was Necessary Or In Any Way Notable...

Got paid 125% of the salary of the highest-paid player in the league. Without having to put himself at risk of injury, statistical performance, or even venturing outside into the elements, assuming he didn't, well, want to. And why would you want to, really?

Which leads me to just one thought, really...

How are the northern New Jersey Home Depots and Lowe's stocked for pitchforks and torches?

Top 10 reasons why Vince Young has filed for bankruptcy

10) Isn't making that good Texas isn't supposed to be getting paid to play football money any more

9) Jeff Fisher was threatening to break his thumbs

8) His finances haven't been the same ever since Bud Adams went on to that great third finger in the sky

7) Kerry Collins won't take his calls any more

6) His Pro Bowl jerseys sold for depressingly low amounts on eBay

5) Hanging out with Matt Leinart will do that to a man

4) Gives him the opportunity to declare his financial attorney and accountant a Dream Team

3) Somehow wasn't able to keep a QB job for more than three months in Buffalo, or one month in Green Bay, which means he's pretty much unemployable at the NFL level now

2) There's always the chance that this is just the work of another Vince Yong impersonator

1) $64 million in salary and endorsements, earned over the last seven years, clearly doesn't go as far as it used to

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Top 10 reasons why Roger Goodell wants to abolish the PAT

Much Effort For Automatic
10) Was embarr- assed by clueless Seattle Fans getting loud to try to stop it

9) Lost his fantasy league playoff on a single PAT, and had told over 100 people who pretend to care but totally don't

8) Someone told him that they cause concussions

7) People in London are especially confused by them, and London rules Goodell's world

6) Secretly wants to steal all of the XFL's good ideas

5) Unilateral rule changes are the only one to judge a commissioner's legacy

4) Has been saving this in his back pocket for just such a Richard Sherman Twitter emergency

3) Thinks that touchdown celebration flags lose their sting since the penalty doesn't happen right away

2) Gives the NFL the opportunity to introduce complicated new rules that analysts and refs will spend months explaining, over and over again

1) Strong possibility of adding an extra play's worth of commercial time to NFL telecasts, and they totally need that

Monday, January 20, 2014

Top 12 consolations for Niner Fans

You Still Live Here, So Quit Bitching
12) There's a really good chance the NFL changes the challenge rules so that the Navarro Bowman tragic fumble play never happens like that again

11) You got a lot closer to winning than the last time you went to Seattle

10) There's a good chance that Jim Harbaugh has learned a valuable lesson about how freaking out at the refs isn't a good plan for the long term

9) White America is entirely on your side on the idea that Richard Sherman is uppity and uncouth

8) If Michael Crabtree doesn't come back better next year, you can pretty much walk away from him with speed fairly soon

7) LaMichael James and Vernon Davis both not only got up after those huge hits, but completed the game, which showed all kinds of toughness and/or insanity

6) You would have totally beaten Denver in the next round, so, um, that's got to make you feel good

5) Assuming you live in the Bay Area, you are already over the loss, because you live in the Bay Area

4) Seahawk Fan now has to go to New York, which means that he'll have no money to go to any games for the next three years, killing their home field advantage

3) Seahawks owner Paul Allen has showered the Bay Area with hundreds of millions of dollars of economic benefits over the years from his funding of ridiculously bad start up ideas, so now, you are even

2) Perhaps now, Colin Kaepernick will do the important work of throwing more accurately, learning to wear his baseball cap correctly, and having his tattoos removed

1) There's a reasonable chance that after this game, Seattle will be too beaten up, relieved and media freaked-out to play worth a damn, and that Sherman will pull a Eugene Robinson

Top 12 Consolations for Patriot Fans

Forks Are Fun
12) This wasn't a home loss where the nation would have seen a huge number of you leave at halftime

11) It's fairly impossible that this team will field as anemic a group of WRs next year, assuming that aspect of team management isn't some kind of psychological experiment

10) The fact that Tom Brady is a .500 playoff QB in his last 16 starts isn't widely known or discussed

9) You haven't really ever rooted very hard for this team, since they won with running plays

8) That's probably the last time you'll ever have to worry about Danny Amendola's lack of health again

7) LeGarrette Blount is a free agent, so he can break someone else's heart next year

6) Losing to Peyton Manning is easier when he's in the wrong laundry

5) As just about every single one of you felt compelled to say, pitchers and catchers report in yada yada days

4) The longer your team goes without winning a Super Bowl, the more you can pretend to be tortured or less hated by the rest of the country

3) You didn't lose to Eli Manning in a way that will haunt your dreams and be in highlight films for the rest of your life

2) Seattle is physical enough to give Wes Welker that career-ending concussion that would make you tingly all over

1) Having lost back to back AFC Championship games makes you just like those Rex Ryan Jets, and that's a great trend to emulate

Richard Sherman and Shame

Whoo, I Said, Whoo
Because this is the only thing that Twitter can seemingly talk about today, and it's threatening to be the only thing that anyone will remember from what was, really, a wonderfully intense and back and forth game that I could have watched forever...

As fans, we frequently act, and feel, like we care more about the outcome of the game than the participants. The opposing laundry isn't just the guys in it; it's the city that we've disliked for whatever reason, the history of men wearing said laundry that scarred as as children or adults, the dramatically awful people we had to endure who were fans of said laundry. I will, I am certain, have a deep and abiding hatred for all Boston sports teams, thanks to the actions of the ALDS fans... and yet, what happens when the game is over? The players hug, pray together, and basically act like mid-level managers at a freaking trade show. Because that is, really, what they are: contractors under contract who are taking off the mask of allegiance, because there's a really good chance that they are going to wind up working together at some point in the future. Actors in a play, ex-teammates who could be teammates again.

And then, with an increasingly lack of frequency, you get actual teams that overcome that, and honestly feel like they are going to completely sell out for each other. Usually it's a young team, without a lot of free agents or older players, sometimes after a coaching or regime change. Every team has some small aspect of this, but some have a lot more. And today, we were treated to that in spades with the Niners and Seahawks.

Compare it, if you will, with the Broncos and Patriots game earlier in the day. It's Peyton Manning and Tom Brady... but Manning is in the wrong uniform, and so is Wes Welker, and even Austin Collie. Champ Bailey is there and has been in Denver forever, but plenty of people remember him in DC. Jacob Tamme got a score today, and he's a Colt too, right? Brady's handing off to LeGarrette Blount, who killed you when he was in Tampa Bay, and he's not getting any support from Danny Amendola, who killed you in St. Louis, and so on, and so on. So the game matters, but it feels more or less random, at least to a casual observer. (Hell, even the coaches are transients, especially John Fox.)

Niners and Seahawks? Of all the principals here, the only guys who don't spend the majority of their time in the laundry are Anquan Boldin, Marshawn Lynch with his sad time in Buffalo, some Seattle receivers that didn't even suit up, and, um, that's it. And Boldin and Lynch seem like they'd die for their teammates, and have been there forever. It just led to a fanatically better game, because you got the sense that everyone involved cared -- maybe too much -- about who was going to win the game, and that they didn't much care what their opponent thought about them afterwards.

So Richard Sherman, the Seattle corner that is among the best in the league at what he does, makes the play of his life on a play that could have ended his season, and permanently altered his legacy as a professional. He makes that play against the Niners' best WR, Michael Crabtree, who is probably not completely innocent in the trash talking war, because, um, it's the NFL; it's very likely that there is no such thing as a complete innocent. Said play wins the game for the Seahawks, and post play, there is nothing that Sherman can do that it will have any impact on this fact.

So he celebrates. Too much, probably. He gets into it with Crabtree, takes off his helmet, yada yada yada. He's hearing 80K people going bonkers, he's feeling unspeakable relief from the fact that the Niners aren't going to pull this out despite his offense not putting the game away on several opportunities earlier in the quarter. He's also saved his teammates on the defensive line, who haven't gotten to the quarterback or contained the scrambles that were the majority of plays of note today for the Niner offense.

If there was ever a time for a man to celebrate, it's this one.

And then the game ends, and Erin Andrews makes the fateful decision to just stick a microphone in his face, lob a softball and duck. View it again with me?

Now, note what Sherman *didn't* do: use profanity. He's emotional, but he's not out of control. He's not using his indoor voice, but he's in a stadium of 80K people who've been screaming their heads of for three hours. And he's as amped up on adrenalin as a football player can be.

I don't really have a rooting interest in this game. I picked the Niners to cover and have some good friends who root for them, but I also owned Russell Wilson in my fantasy league and love to watch him play. If you can't appreciate Lynch, you don't like football. The same goes for Kaepernick and Frank Gore, honestly. I find Jim Harbaugh to be distasteful, but it's not like Pete Carroll is a bowl of cherries. I'm going to root for, and pick, whichever NFC team made it, because I believed that these were the two best teams in football, by a pretty wide margin.

So what Sherman said made me snort a little, and giggle, but it didn't really register as something that should change the world. Maybe you made a Bart Scott joke, or thought about how Andrews cut things short for cause, but it's just one guy, having a moment. And then you see the social media, and good grief.

Sherman, you see, isn't just a cornerback. He's a black guy disgracing his race in front of Martin Luther King Day. He's a Stanford guy who forever calls into question the idea that the college is basically a West Coast Ivy League school. He's proof that NFL players are on PEDs, or that Carroll has no control over his team, or that Seattle are class-free bad winners. Or that Beats by Dre is ruining the world, or guys from Compton are thugs with a capital T, or any other remarkably awful thing you might want to say about guys with his kind of hair or skin.

And it's all such a great load of fecal matter, and the fact that so many people seem to think it's not... well, I get that you'd hate the guy if you were rooting for the Niners. But was everyone rooting for the Niners?

So, anyone who wants to think too deeply about this? Take a moment. Breathe. Consider, for a moment, how you might be making Sherman's race the determining factor, rather than his profession. And how you might feel about what you are saying if you rooted for different laundry, or came from a different demographic.

Then, finally, answer this question.

If Sherman was CB1 on your team, and your team was going to the Super Bowl... would you be ashamed of him?

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Niners - Seahawks Takeaways

Amazing game and player, only memory
> Kind of suspect a first play turnover from your second year and hasn't been good recently QB is not the way the home team draws it up

> Major win by the Seattle defense to not give up the seven, but still a disaster start for the home team

> LB Navarro Bowman ended RB Marshawn Lynch on a third down run, because he's crazy good

> Talking about the decibel level at Seattle games isn't nearly as stupid as talking about the sun in Denver, but it's still pretty damned stupid

> If Niners QB Colin Kaepernick ran this much every game, he'd never make it to the playoffs

> Fourth and 1 from the 41 is auto go, but the Niners just did the wuss delay move; it worked out because P Andy Lee is a monster

> Wilson's touch/luck on the ball to WR Doug Baldwin, over CB Eric Reid, was very tight

> DB Donte Whitner's flag for a hit on a crossing drop is how football is called now, and awful

> Huge sack by the Niners to kill any chance to get back the figgie at the end of the first quarter, and this is as fierce as advertised

> PR LaMichael James with maximum puntfail, but the Niners got the ball back, luckily

> CB Richard Sherman with the 5-yard flag that contributes to the monster long drive

> Kaepernick putting up crazy rushing numbers early, not that you needed me to tell you that

> Scoring review on the Niners' touchdown took seven points off the board... for one play, and it's 10-0 for the road team after 20 minutes

> Wilson with the big time Fran Tarkenton impersonation to Doug Baldwin, but the Niner defense dominates in the red zone and holds to the figgie

> 3 and out for the Niners as the Niner offense is just hyper-dependent on Kaepernick's legs

> Watching Lynch go against the Niners is just about the best of best worlds, really... and then the RB finally broke loose and tied it up

> On Lynch's touchdown run to tie the game, he spent the last 20 yards more Not Falling than Running

> Niners got the luck early on loose balls, as a fat guy turned a sack into a few yards

> Kaepernick to WR Anquan Boldin is a Woo! play, and gets the Niners the lead right back

> Big answering drive by the Niner offense to get the lead back, and man alive, are these teams good

> KR/WR Doug Baldwin with the 3-point return to get it closer again

> S Kam Chancellor made TE Vernon Davis reconsider his profession, and that was porny

> I'd write something about the Seahawks answering touchdown and their first lead of the game, but I think it's being turned into an opera

> Russell Wilson knows how to take advantage of a free play

> LaMichael James is somehow still alive to return kicks after that punt problem earlier

> Finally, the Seahawks recovered a fumble, with 10 minutes left in the game, and you see why Kaepernick is just happier running it than trusting his protection or arm

> Karmic justice was achieved when the Niners recovered a fumble a play after they should have, well, recovered a fumble

> Kaepernick's INT after fumble was just brutally bad, and added to the back and forth I Have No Idea nature of this game

> Golden Tate nearly gave away a crucial first down, because he's kind of insane

> Lynch ran for two of the best yards ever on a broken play

> Both teams got really sloppy late in this game, mostly due, one suspects, to unrelenting and inhuman physical trauma

> Had Seattle kicked their figgie after the Bowman Tragedy, would have been up 9 with less than 4 minutes left

> Gadget play oddness with three minutes left aborted by RB Kendall Hunter

> The odd 2-minute warning moment nearly made America miss the biggest play of the game for a Viagra ad

> On fourth and killshot, the Seahawk defense can't contain Kaepernick, who finds Gore for the season-continuing conversion

> Seattle had so many chances to end this on the Niners final drive, but the pass rush and secondary is not doing it for them... and then CB Richard Sherman makes the tip, and it's all over

> Why on Earth the Niner QB is trying the CB he's avoided all day, with plenty of time and timeouts left, I'll never know

> Had Kaepernick just worn his hat better last week in Carolina, he would not have had those fourth quarter turnovers

> Honestly, there is no way that the Super Bowl will be half of the game this one was, mostly because these teams just well and truly detest each other, and are the best in the league

 > It says something about where we are as a nation that the best football game in decades is only going to be remembered for 15 seconds of post-game promo

Top 10 NFL Conference Championship Ad Questions

Bear Whiz Soda
10) Does drinking Dr. Pepper Ten make bears obey men, and capable of operating paddles despite their weight?

9) If I drink Bud Light, will I hallucinate Arnold Schwarzenegger at my basement ping pong table?

8) Does owning a Toyota Tundra compel you to elaborate, pointless and fiscally disastrous construction projects?

7) Will using Old Spice cause mothers to become spiteful singing zombies with supernatural forms of locomotion?

6) Am I allowed to eat healthy while operating a truck, or will I be beaten within an inch of my life?

5) Are people who eat Pringles mentally deranged before, or after, ingesting the product?

4) Is Google's definition of a life well lived honestly tied to just what you watch on an electronic rectangle?

3) Does the foam on Stealla Artois beer require a cutting utensil and sharp motion for removal, and if so, why would you ever want to drink that?

2) Can we all, as a nation, agree to file a class-action lawsuit against whoever put Mike Ditka and his old man lizard tongue on our screens?

1) Is Amelia Earhart really the person you want to be quoting before taking flight?

Patriots - Broncos Takeaways

Your Tears Are So Yummy
> Both teams failed to score on their first possession, which meant the game wasn't a classic

> Denver had the big yardage edge early, but since they didn't score a touchdown in the red zone, it felt like Foreshadowing

> The refs didn't call DPI early, which is all OK now, I guess

> Denver scored on its second red zone drive, because they smartly gave themselves first and 10 from the 11, rather than first and goal from the 10

> Bill Belichick kept the offense in on fourth and long at the end of the first quarter just to show he's a wacky guy

> Both teams CB1's went down ealy, and yet the game didn't become Immediate Pinball, because both team's have poor QBs

> After using the running game to get close, Peyton Manning made sure to pad his TD numbers to TE Jacob Tamme

> A sack to force a long field goal with 3 minutes left in the second quarter set up all kinds of good things for the Broncos

> Not to put too fine a point on it, but an 80-yard drive that takes 7+ minutes and puts you up by 17 at home should almost always end a game

> New England went for it on 4th and 2, rather than kick a 47-yard FG, with 17:30 left, because they had no faith in their defense getting off the field

> The subsequent sack was about as big of a play as this game had

> This is the Montee Ball his fantasy owners thought they were drafting, and will probably overdraft again next year

> Brady's first playoff TD in 110 minutes of playoff football kept some drama in this, which is to say, well, any

> K Matt Prater's make from 54 with 7 minutes left was pretty big, since it made it a 16-point game and prevented NE from getting the ball back in good field position with Mo Men Tum

> QB Tom Brady looked positively bored during their touchdown drive that brought them back to 9, but the missed 2-point run set up Facepalm Time

> I'm not sure what was worse today: Tom Brady's accuracy or the performance of the NE WRs

> If this games wasn't for the right to go to the Super Bowl, and involved a great deal of Patriot Fan misery, it would have been, you know, kind of dull

Friday, January 17, 2014

A Brief And Obvious Point About Tatooing Yourself About Your Team's Future Super Bowl Victory

Shameless and Stupid Is No Way To Go Through Life, Son
Today in Blogfrica, the inevitable Guy Who Got The Seahawks Super Bowl brag tatted on his body months ago is getting his 15 million page views of fame.

And man alive, does nothing make a man of a rapidly sliding out of relevance age feel old faster than, well, stuff like this.

So let me break it down for a minute here, for the kids.(You kooky kids!)

I get that you think tats are OK, and that I don't, and that this is just one of those generation points that we aren't going to resolve. I also get that commitment to pain is its own freaky little reward; hell, I work out more days than not. And if you want to spend your meager bucks from your increasingly ill-paid job at making yourself unfit for burial in a Jewish cemetery, and unfit for hiring in tightass corporate America... well, you can make that choice. Free country and all.

But when you predict your team to win, in everlasting ink on your sad skin... all that you are doing is say Lookit Me. And, just like the spiky boys in the Black Hole in Oakland, or the Dog Men in Cleveland or the Hog Lovers in DC or the people with cheese on their head in Wisconsin or the guy with horns on his head in might as well also be Wisconsin, or any number of other borderline personalities...

You are, um, a stone cold, focus-free, perspective impaired rube, loser, no lifer and willing geek in the sideshow of life.

And you deserve no attention from anyone, and in a better society that eschews human train wrecks, you would get none. And we would all live in a better country and era, where people grow up wanted to contribute to their communities, rather than their own egos.

Real fans, you see, are actually OK with being part of a terrifyingly united collective. Real fans wave towels like everyone else around them, or save their howls for third down and the last five seconds of the 24-second clock. Real fans chant and sing in unison, and become one voice. Real fans know that individual attention whores are, well, just that, and way more interested in getting on camera than losing themselves in the simple joy that is utter immersion into Game. Or the mutual assured illusion and pleasure that is the sense of a crowd actually having an impact on the outcome.

So, Guy Who Tatted Himself Up In Preseason? We know why you did it; it was to get on camera this week. How special for you. And if your team loses, how terrible when you limp away to the laser removal place, while the rest of us, um, just limp away. Bigger and better fans, who saved our money for the game or the merch or our families, rather than for being some mutant form of peacock and pin cushion.

(Oh, and Media? We already feel bad enough about the hours and money that we spend on Game. Holding up the freaks in the audience as de facto spokespeople is, well, just one more reason why we hate you. And since that hate isn't making you any money at all, could you please just knock it the hell off already?)

Thursday, January 16, 2014

NFC and AFC Conference Championship Picks

Here's what no one cares that they are playing for!

New England at DENVER (-6)

The case for New England: Beat this team earlier this year in what might be their signature win. History of success against Peyton Manning in big games. Power running game that is hitting on all cylinders. A better defense than usual. Special teams that don't get them beat; coaching that is the best in their generation. Extraordinary experience in big games, much of it positive. Tend to get at least a handful of back-breaking calls from the refs every game, especially when the games really matter. They don't beat themselves, and they don't give up.

The case against New England: As weak a receiving corps as during the entire history of the Brady / Belichick era, with very little in the way of downfield explosiveness. More trouble than usual in pass protection, which is not a selling point on the road against a Denver team that got after Philip Rivers very well for three quarters last week. Could be secretly medicore, given that the AFC was weak this year, the East was weaker still, and the Colts team they beat last week was starting a load of defensive inadequacy. Defensive secondary is very prone to giving up the deep ball, and they don't get the interior push they need. QB Tom Brady is having his worst year since the start of his career, mostly because of the issues with the WR corps. There's only so much you can get out of a passing game where Shane Vereen and Julian Edelman are your top targets.

The case for Denver: Most explosive WR corps in the league, and they are healthy. TE and RBs are also highly capable of making plays, and the offensive line usually doesn't struggle, especially at home. QB Peyton Manning just had one of the best years ever, and they are capable of just running out and hiding on teams. Weather is supposed to be in the mid 50s with light winds, which is a definite aid to the passing game. Effective 2-back runing game, with starter Knowshon moreno able to do a lot of things in the passing game as well. Home field advantage is strong here, with very loud fans and a definite altitude factor. Defense has played better as of late, and seem to have gotten a bit of a boost from the return of CB Champ Bailey. STs are usually good, with K Matt Prater and KR Trindon Holliday in particular capable of big plays.

The case against Denver: Manning's won-loss record in the playoffs is always a source of hope to opponents. Offense can be turnover prone, especially if they become one-dimensional. Manning tends to take every second of pre-snap time, which can really help a defense, especially when they aren't sharp. Defense can be downright hapless at times, kind of like the last time they faced the Patriots, where a 24-point lead on the road evaporated in a quarter. Head coach Jon Fox has a terrible record in the biggest games, which isn't exactly encouraging.

The pick: Everyone is expecting this to be a battle for the ages, the latest and greatest chapter in the Brady v. Manning war that has defined, for good or ill, the AFC in this century. (Seriously, the first time they met? September, 2001.) And the Denver defense does not exactly inspire confidence. Finally, I rank these teams as no better than third and fourth among the remaining temas in the tournament.

But having said all of that... modern NFL football is won and lost by passing, and the Broncos have, well, the first four guys that you'd take off the board in a sandlot pick'em game. The Patriots do not have a fearsome pass rush, and any drive they get off the field without giving points has to be considered something of an upset. Oh, and they aren't exactly airtight against the run, either.

So I'm going to take the dreaded Not Very Good Game option, which happens in these games more often than you think, and remember that this Patriots team is, well, capable of stinking up the joint. Especially on defense. And when run-heavy teams -- and that's what the Patriots are now, especially in the red zone and on the road -- fall behind, it's usually not pretty.

Prediction: Broncos 45, Patriots 24

SAN FRANCISCO (+3.5) at Seattle

The case for San Francisco: Hottest team in the NFL, playing their best ball of the year. Physically dominated the Panthers last week, who had a bye and home field. Extremely good at winning 1-on-1 physical battles at all of the skill positions. QB Colin Kaepernick breaks the opposition's will with his legs, and throws a good deep ball to get big plays in another way. RB Frank Gore is one of the better coup de grace backs in the league, great at blitz pick up and the screen game, and a spiritual leader. The WR tandem of Anquan Boldin and Michael Crabtree are a good match for Seattle's physical coverage teams, and good at getting calls -- a huge plus in a game that will start at chippy and could easily go to legally actionable. Coach Jim Harbaugh usually wins his matchups, and his referee freakouts seem to be working. The defense might be the best in football right now, in that they don't wear down or beat themselves, and have a number of ways that they can beat you. Have the last win in this Championship Of Us series. Strong special teams, especially in the kicking game. Good play calling details, such as running motion in QB sneak situations, or disguising defensive coverages to better their chance of INTs. Generally get the better of the officating despite the offense's puling and Harbaugh's meltdowns.

The case against San Francisco: Have really struggled in this venue, with some of their worst games in the Harbaugh era happening in front of the Seattle faithful. Kaepernick is disturbingly inaccurate for long stretches every game, and seems to trust his legs more than his arm. Perhaps the mouthiest offense in the league, which you have to think is going to get them into trouble one of these days, especially after all of the shenanigans last week in Carolina. Rely on Ted Ginn Jr. (whoops, make that, um, rookie Quinton Patton?) Vernon Davis for deep balls, which is to say, they are criminally underusing one of Kaepernick's bigger strengths. Offensive line is generally solid, but can take quarters off. Offense has not been a particularly fast starter, and has also failed to take advantage of red zone chances at the rate you'd like to see for a road team. Teams that lose the Super Bowl rarely, if ever, go back the next year.

The case for Seattle: The best team at home in the NFL in the past two years. The best secondary in the NFL, coming off a great performance against a better passing attack than the Niners bring to the table. Varied and constant speed rushers combine to form the NFL's best turnover generators, which is like nitrous to this fan base, in this setting. Weather is supposed to be cloudy and in the 50s, which doesn't seem like an edge, but is, because this passing game has really struggled in rain and wet for a while now. The best back left in the playoffs in RB Marshawn Lynch, and a cast of WRs that are usually depenable. QB Russell Wilson generally takes care of the ball, and can beat you in a number of ways. Special teams are solid due to the athleticism all over the roster, and the coaching usually has them up for games. Very good at playing with a lead, and with this defense, that happens a lot. Wilson is due for a good game, and just wins at home.

The case against Seattle: Wilson has gone from emerging star to reason they could blow it in the past six weeks, with middling efforts that haven't spoken to a solid professional progression. WR Percy Harvin is the only real threat here, and he can't stay on the field. Offensive line hasn't been healthy and/or solid all year, and this is so not the matchup for that to be the case. HC Pete Carroll can get outfoxed in game management, and the defense does not finish games the way they start, and hasn't for years. Just haven't looked as impressive in the second half of the year as they did in the first, and in general, that does not describe teams that go to the Super Bowl. If they are going to win this game, they are going to have to do it with Wilson throwing it, and that hasn't been working for a while now. Whether that's the QB or the WRs doesn't really matter.

The pick: I've been very tempted to take the Niners ever since last week's games, and the 3.5 spread seals it for me, in that I could easily see them losing by 3 or less as well. Home fields are important, but in a game where you could easily see the teams not combining for more than 600 yards of offense, a handful of game-breaking plays could swing things. That favors the Niners, who have the three best downfield targets in this game, and better special teams. (Oh, and in a better world, these teams would be playing for the Super Bowl, because they are both at least 10 points better than either AFC team, and seeing division rivals playing for absolutely everything would redefine rivalry in our time.)

Prediction: Niners 24, Seahawks 23

Last week: 3-1

Playoffs: 4-3-1

Year to date: 118-128-10

Career: 486-500-39

Top 10 reasons why the Dodgers gave Clayton Kershaw $30 million a year for 7 years

$100+ million for each thumb
10) Pretty confident that they can wring every last drop of value out of him before the current deal runs out

9) Had to prove to the home crowd that they can overpay their own farm system products as well as others

8) Having the highest paid player in baseball has worked out so well for the Yankees with A-Rod

7) Was going to be a free agent in another10 months, so he had that happiest of all things -- leverage

6) Now that the Dodgers have their own television channel, it's not like money actually matters to them

5) This should keep their fan base happy, and as their history with opposing fans shows, you really need those people to be happy

4) It's not as if the history of big money pitcher signings isn't spectacularly awful

3) Were a wee bit convinced by the last 700+ innings of sub 1.0 WHIP

2) By paying him more this year, he'll be sure to have more gas left in the tank to avoid soul-crushing playoff defeats

1) If you are going to overpay everyone on the roster, might as well overpay the guy who's actually really damned good

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Seven things I think I know about the NBA in 2014

Almost 50% Done, Actually
Here's a fun fact for many of you: the NBA season is nearly half over. And the biggest secret of the Association is that, just like you can learn a ton from those first 43 minutes that casual fans ignore, you can also learn a lot from the first half of the season that's also more or less ignored. Here's what I've got.

7) The Sixers are tanking right.

There are, of course, plenty of teams that are tanking wrong, mostly by jerking around the minutes rotation, grinding out every game as if it were an indictment of their coach, and shuffling the deck with short-term trades to try to get out of the depths of the Eastern Conference. (Milwaukee, Hello!) My laundry, on the other hand, are playing kids, insisting on a tempo that will bring in some guys looking to have fun next year, and artificially inflating the counting numbers of guys (Spencer Hawes and Evan Turner) that should not be around for the long term, and might be movable at the deadline to a franchise that doesn't know any better. They are also taking their own sweet time to make very, very sure that all of their players take the court completely healthy -- including and especially rookie point guard Michael Carter-Williams, who makes this team nearly .500 when he's in the lineup. It's all for the good, honestly.

6) Miami could not care less about the regular season.

The record looks fine -- 27-10 -- and no one really thinks they are in any kind of trouble, especially in the East, where the #3 seed might -- might! -- win, oh, 45 games. They won't play a game that matters until the third round of the Eastern Conference playoffs against the game but not great Pacers, about four-plus months from now. But it's still hard to watch these guys (a 6.1 points differential is the definition of meh, especially in the East) without seeing all of the playoff games on their legs, or how so many members of the rotation would be completely exposed without LeBron James drawing a double-team, or how much they miss Mike Miller, or how this might look better if they could only get Greg Oden or even a magically motivated Andrew Bynum on the floor. This is no way to three-peat, gentlemen... but it also may be the only way, given the realities of the salary cap and the schedule.

5) The current top eight Western playoff teams really should be the final.

Of those on the outside, you've got Minnesota, Denver and Memphis (see what unwarranted coach firings get you?), and most folks think they'll eventually oust the surprising Suns, or maybe even a Mavs team that has done most of its damage out of the conference. But that assumes that Denver adapts to the morale-killing slowball tempo of new coach Brian Shaw (who has already put Andre Miller and Kenneth Faried off their food), or that Memphis shakes off injury and age to their dominant post players. As for Minny, they are fun as hell to watch, but when your point guard shoots  35% (35%!) from the floor, that stinks, no matter how many assists and steals and highlight reels he makes.

Here's the scariest stat about Ricky Rubio: he shoots it better from outside of the 3-point arc than inside, and he also gets 2.6 steals per game. Which means that the inside the arc numbers are artificially inflated by clear path layups, and that he might be the worst shooting guard in NBA history inside the arc, in half court. I think I can guess the game plan against the Wolves if they ever get in a close game, and it will make the way teams defend Rajon Rondo look subtle.

4) The East is getting better, and it does not matter at all.

Basically, this comes down to Brooklyn and New York getting away from their godawful starts and getting back to the mediocre levels they should have always been at, then stealing one of the first two games in a playoff series against a high seed and terrifying the NBA into thinking that we might have to watch more of them. There's too much home court advantage and money on the bench for these teams to be truly terrible, and they've also got enough veteran cachet to get calls from the refs if they show just a modicum of effort. As for who will fall out, the Bulls are just dying to miss the playoffs, and no one ever lost money betting against Michael Jordan The GM. But in a conference where the Raptors qualify as intriguing just because they made an addition by subtraction deal in getting rid of Rudy Gay, I'm sorry to have made you read the last paragraph. And to have to watch the Eastern Conference Playoffs before the final round.

3) The Spurs aren't going away.

Here's what's gone right for the Spurs so far this year: very little, really. Kawhi Leonard has not taken a leap into superstardom. Danny Green has not become the consistent presence required to keep minutes off Tony Parker's legs. Manu Ginobili has not rediscovered health, youth and vitality. Tiago Splitter still looks like LeBron James ended his world with that Finals block. Boris Diaw is still fat. And if you drafted any Spurs in your fantasy league, you haven't made any real money from them.

Oh, and they are 30-8, and unlike the Clippers, Thunder, Grizzlies and Lakers, have had no real injury issues of note.

The plain and simple fact of the matter is that Gregg Popovich gets more out of his talent than any coach in the NBA, and it's not even close. And that Tim Duncan, Parker and Ginobili are that rarest of basketball player -- the kind that make their teammates better. A lot better.

Whether any of this will translate to a Finals run, or if they can pull one more sleight of hand championship out of their shorts, is a very open question. But for a miracle make by Ray Allen, they'd be the defending champs. And in the hands of a lesser coach, they would be a lottery team.

2) In a down year for Fun, the Warriors are the best show in the league, and maybe more than that.

In the past year, the Nuggets stopped being a fun team to watch. So did the Grizz, who were always more fun as an anomaly, anyway. The Lakers were fun in a train wreck way last year; now, they are just a NBDL team with a tempo coach. The Clips were dunking like mad last year, and now they are lacking Chris Paul, which always kills the party. (Not to slight Darren Collison, who is playing fine, but there's only one CP3.) OKC might be better off for losing Russell Westbrook now, because it's forcing them to give minutes to Reggie Jackson and Jeremy Lamb, but that doesn't equate to joy for the eyes. Dwight Howard has had his predictable buzzkill effect on the Rockets. Only the Blazers, who have morphed into a sort of younger Spurs, are more fun than the 2012-13 squad.

And then there's the Dubs, who crush when they have their starting five on the floor, and do so with all kinds of looks, many in the same quarter.

There's still the otherworldly 3-point barrage, which hasn't been hitting as hard as last year, but remains in play to turn any game into Globetrotter Time at any moment. They can thug you with big men, out run you with wing athletes, defend you with Andre Iguodala and Harrison Barnes, stay effective in transition from big men that can pass and finish, or just shake the rafters off with the best home crowd in the Association. And after a ridiculously long winning streak, they are still looking up at the Clippers in the Pacific, which means they are on the wrong side of the playoff draw. Mostly because along with all of the good stuff, they turn it over like the ball like no one's business.

What can I tell you? I'm a sucker for beautiful ball. And chaos.

1) There is something fundamentally wrong with Cleveland, and they may, well, never be good again until they change ownership.

The Cavs are 13-24 as I write this, with a point differential of -5.7, which means they are probably lucky to be just nine game under .500. They have been more or less healthy, spend their days playing in a division with one actually good team, in a conference with, well, two actually good teams. They have high draft picks all over the roster, a home crowd that marks out for them like nobody's business, and enough raw athletic ability that any number of people thought they'd win 45+ games and contend for a home series this year.

Instead, they snipe at each other, shuffle bodies, hoard the same player (shoot first undersized guards who can't defend, athletic bigs with no mid-range game), fail to bring in the right kind of vets or coaches, and wonder why it's not all better. Oh, and LeBron James was a big jerk for leaving, because he should have just continued to pound his head against the Quicken Loans wall and make pieces like Ancient Jamison and Unspeakably Ancient Shaq, along with Boobie Gibson and Eric Snow, into champions. Honestly, in 20 to 30 years, it's going to be as hard to find a guy who still hates James as it is now to find a guy who still hates Muhammad Ali. (Fun fact: Ali pretty much embraced the heel role for most of his career, because it made him a fantastic amount of money. But I digress.)

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Top 10 reasons why the Cubs launched a mascot

Do Not Look Straight Into Clark's Sad, Sad Eyes
10) Decided that drunkenness and losing while getting exposure to sun poisoning and the Hantavirus needed more family zazz

9) Since they can't have young and friendly ball players, might as well get the next best thing

8) Decades of abject Phanatic lust

7) Wearing the mascot head is the only threat that Starlin Castro seems to still respond to

6) Want to ensure that somehow in the stands at a Cubs game has, in the immortal words of Lee Elia, a bleeping job

5) Unofficial mascot of Bill Murray kept confusing the kids and getting them drunk

4) Biggest test yet of Billy Corgan's fanhood

3) The debate of why Clark the Cub is wearing sneakers (not cleats) without pants will totally distract the fan base from a starting lineup that won't combine to hit 100 home runs in 2014

2) One more way to discombobulate Edwin Jackson, who already spends his days trying to find his belongings

1) It might make them enough money to be worthwhile, and as this is the Cubs, that amount would be any money at all

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Top 10 Chargers - Broncos Takeaways

Nice Waddle, Too
10) It was nice of the Broncos to turn it over twice in the first half, so we could have a late comeback to ensure trace amounts of drama

9) Throwing for 20 yards in the first half while giving up 19 in sacks is not exactly the way to establish yourself on the road

8) This was your second straight AFC playoff game where being a punter was physically hazardous

7) Manti Te'o left the game with a concussion, leading to some of the easiest comedy of the year

6) Most of this game had all of the snap, crackle and energy of a preseason game, which was odd, seeing how you don't usually play preseason games in the division

5) It only seems like every Peyton Manning playoff game has 45 minutes of close ups of him saying "Omaha Hut HUT!" (it's actually 55)

4) I'm not really sure how even Charger Fan actually wants Philip Rivers to succeed, given what a ridiculously petulant child he is, to the point where even opposing players have his moves down

3) Just in case you are wondering who the Broncos scapegoats next week will be, it's Quentin Jammer, Matt Prater and Wes Welker

2) Mike Novak is very good at onside kicks, which makes you wonder why the Chargers didn't have him do it more often

1) It's amazing that the nation's sports writers and networks don't have Manning v. Brady as a macro by now

Top 10 NFL Divisional Playoff Ad Questions

Buy Insurance
10) How did humanity ever do anything without expensive electric rectangles to document the activity?

9) Isn't it more amazing that the people in Turbo Tax ads are capable of, well, anything?

8) Are all Courtyard by Marriott rooms haunted by the screams of tens of thousands of people?

7) If you are downloading and using a mobile app to determine the location where your beer was made, how have you survived all of the suicide attempts over the utter waste of time that is your life?

6) Does Joe Namath only give away Super Bowl trips to people he does not want to drunkenly kiss?

5) Are people who are eating McDonald's sitting down for less happy reasons?

4) If I drink Redd's beverages, will I start to hallucinate before, well, drinking Redd's beverages?

3) Have we officially run out of things to make movies about, since we're now making them about Lego?

2) How poor is the security outside of sports arenas now, that road team buses are just under such constant criminal attack?

1) Why is George Washington's eye hole on Mount Rushmore a dank and lizard-infested sewer... and how, again, does this sell insurance?

Top 10 Niners - Panthers Takeaways

10) Troy Aikman really liked everything about a fourth and goal QB sneak that failed

9) Excellent injury fake all week by Panthers WR Steve Smith, for at leas the first half

8) You know it's a playoff game when the teams argue like PMSing prima donnas after every play, regardless of the number of penalties called

7) It's more than a little disconcerting to see a playoff game not played in wind, rain, bitter cold and abject spectator misery

6) The Niner defense should pretend they are defending from the one yard line all the time

5) Colin Kaepernick ate the world by mocking Cam Newton, because our world is filled with Oh No He Didn't people,  rather than, um, football fans

4) If you need an offense to eat the clock without scoring points while trailing, the Panters are the team for you

3) The Niners run effectively in QB sneak situations, because they actually give the defense other things to worry about than a QB sneak

2) It didn't matter due to a subsequent pick, but there was a strong candidate for Worst Penalty Of The Year when the Niners were called for roughing the passer on a sack where Cam Newton led with his helmet

1) Given how both teams looked this weekend, the Niners being a road favorite in Seattle next week would not surprise me in the least

The Yankees Win Again

What Me Amnesty
Today, MLB's record-setting punishment to Alex Rodriguez was upheld by an arbitrator today, putting all sorts of misery to rest. And what strikes me now, as the coverage turns immediately to their pursuit of Masahiro Tanaka, just how little, really, the club will suffer from their association and employment of one of the greatest pariahs of the modern era.

The Yankees won't have any hit to their contract from their over the top spending on A-Rod; instead, they will just walk away from this. They won't have to vacate his World Series MVP performance, lose any draft picks, pay any fine or offer any merchandise refunds. He'll just go away now, or at least he will as soon as the media allows it, and the machine will go back to printing money, with a shiny new toy to keep the most MLB+ franchise relevant.

This is not, of course, what happens to lesser franchises. The Brewers are going to wallow in Ryan Braun's stink for a good long while, the same way that the Angels will dwell in the mulch of Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton. Only the Yankees get the Get Out Of Bad Signing Free Card, because getting rid of Rodriguez is just such a priority for MLB that everything else gets tossed aside.

And here you thought that only the NBA had an amnesty deal...

Top 10 Colts - Patriots Takeaways

Not Seen: Defensive Effort
10) In the time it took you to read this, LeGarrete Blount or Stephen Ridley ran for another touchdown and infuriated another five million burned fantasy football owners

9) Andrew Luck throws a great deep ball, especially when you count how many times he throws them to the other team

8) The Patriots scored 43 points, the third-most points ever scored in the playoffs without a touchdown, which just goes to show how uncommon playoff games were back in the old days

7) Patriot P Ryan Allen got hurt on an eventual safety and might not ever get his job back, given that K Stephen Gostkowski did fine in double duty, and one more roster spot is one more roster spot

6) I'm not saying that the Colts gave up in this one, but Blount's fourth touchdown was a marvel in energy conservation

5) Luck had 16 picks in 18 games this year, 7 of them in the two playoff events

4) This is the 8th time in 12 years with Brady and Bill Belichick that the Patriots have made it to the AFC Conference Game, which just goes to show how useful it is to play in a division with three long-term tomato cans

3) Given how the Patriots are a media darling and responsible for most of the NFL's head coaching hires, it's clear that Running Plays are the New Hotness

2) There really aren't many better young WRs in the league than T.Y. Hilton, who cracked triple digits again tonight despite his QB having all kinds of issues

1) The Patriots' next playoff opponent got a lot of revealing film from this game, in that it showed how the team really likes to, um, hand the ball to the running back

Top 10 Saints - Seahawks Takeaways

These People Are Loud
10) This was looking like one hell of a back door cover for the Saints, especially after recovering an onside kick

9) All in all, giving up the first 16 points of the game, not scoring in the first three quarters, and having your all-Pro QB throwing for less than 40 yards in the first half is not exactly the recipe for winning a road game

8) You don't often see a team have nearly twice the number of first downs and spend much of the game down 16

7) Percy Harvin is longing for Danny Amendola's durability

6) Khiry Robinson is a good back and a valuable asset, but when you shush a home crowd when you score to cut their lead to 9, you don't exactly show yourself to be a Mensa candidate

5) Golden Tate's onside recovery skills leave a lot to be desired

4) For a team that clearly does not play well outdoors, the Saints had all kinds of chances, mostly because Russell Wilson is looking more like a passenger than a driver on this buys

3) Richard Sherman helped hold Jimmy Graham to 1 catch for 8 yards, which means that he gets to talk and Graham gets to shut up

2) If the Seahawks could hypnotize Richard Sherman into thinking the defense is always wearing Saints' uniforms, they'd never lose

1) Seattle is now 16-1 at home since 2012, which will be put on auto-repeat for the next eight days in analysis circles

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