Sunday, August 30, 2015

The Golfing Diaries: The Eyes Have It

Golf Aid
Now it can be told, as we're six months past it ending: the last job was one of the worst gigs of my life. I rarely slept, had anxiety nightmares, kept running into block after block after block, and saw the end coming for years before it happened. Such was the level of stress that I never even got around to visiting the eye doctor, because, well, time. Either I was doing the gig or looking for the next gig, and honestly, there was no time for much of anything else.

So this past week, now that a new gig has been secured (I've been there a month), I finally scheduled a check-up. And discovered much of what I already knew, which was that the prescription had changed by a lot. New glasses ordered, then re-ordered because the right eye wasn't quite working out as expected, and the other day at the range, things seemed to be better.

So today at the course, I had hope of being better, but we weren't exactly picking a pushover. Mercer Oaks West is 6200 from the whites (I'm well over a 30 handicap, which is to say, I stink), with a fair number of holes where my top out at 225 driver / 150 5-iron game doesn't really work in terms of getting into prime scoring positions. A good day for me there is under 110, and bad days have been over 120. It's not a bad place to play, and it's kind of fun to see loads of deer, groundhogs, geese and wild turkeys wander out into the course at times, but I've played many easier courses. Add in 90 degree heat, and yeah, not setting up as a great day.

The first hole gave me a small clue that things were going to work out, with a nine iron from 110 being pin high on the fringe, leading to a tap-in bogie. Second hole was a disaster, but the third, a 375 par four, saw a drive right to the 150 stick, then the 5-iron to the fringe; two putts and par, like I'm a golfer or something. Two holes later, a 4-iron at a 170 par three is just short of the green, and the chip leads to a 20-footer. And hey, eyesight helps when putting! I hole it out and hey, Golf Can Be Fun.

It's not for the next two holes, which stink out loud, but a 132 par three is fringed with a 7-iron, then saved with a chip and putt, and that's 3 pars in my first 8 holes, or more than I usually get in 18. I've alternated enough crud work with the competence to card a 52 for the front, with low comedy coming on the 9th when the sprinklers start to fire on the green while we're putting. More of a problem due to the pressure, given the temperature.

I play the first four holes of the back nine at 3 over, which is honestly scorching for me. Shots are lining up with the 150 stick off the tee, getting to the green on the follow, and the only club in the bag that's not working is my 60 wedge, which just means more time with the bump and run 8 iron that I prefer anyway. I drain another good long one on the 380 par-4 11th to make four, and then get flat out lucky on the 108 par-3 13th, where a terrible hit in the trap takes a crazy bounce and stays on the green. Hey, better lucky than good, right? I save double on the 14th with a 30-foot putt off the back fringe, and at this point, the ones that stay out seem like the outliers, not the ones that go in. The last par of the day comes on the 182 16th, where the 3-iron just stops before the green, and the putt leaves me a three-footer for the score.

I'm now close enough to the finish to truly dream of breaking 100, but the game has gotten shaky enough to make it dicey, with drives and irons either staying true or duffing. The penultimate hole is a disaster 8, which means I need to make par on a 510 yard par five to get it done. The drive dances just out of the fairway bunker, the 5-iron sets me up for 150 to go after two shots, but the third shot is chunked. I need to chip and get down, and just miss the landing spot, and watch the ball run through the back. My chance at 99 is a chip that stops two feet from the cup, and that's that. An even 100, with 5 pars and 4 bogies, or half of the course played to damn near the best of my ability.

The most encouraging thing? The putting (on aerated greens, no less), and the possibility that my level today is really more what I should be doing, now that my vision has been corrected. Lots of good drives today, too, and some just bounding out to nearly 250. I don't know how many more times that I'll get out this year, given the changing of the seasons and how playing while cold is a non-starter for me... but this was one of the five best rounds for me in the last ten years, and makes me eager to play more. But just the idea that a new level might have just been a trip to the eye doctor away... simultaneously encouraging and maddening. I could have been putting like this all along?

Tim Tebow, Donald Trump, and Clickbait Nation

One Nation, Under Trump
Mostly off-topic, but some sports.

So when I started this column, I was watching the tale end of the Eagles-Packers preseason game, which meant the entrance of Jebus Tebow at QB for the Eagles. Tebow has, of course, no business being on an NFL roster, but he gets clicks, and QB3 Matt Barkley does not. Tebow's admirers talk about his versatility (which does not, unfortunately, extend to throwing), his charity work, his intangibles. I see a guy who can not throw a football or make good and fast decisions, and haven't seen much else in the preseason to make me think either of these conditions have changed, or that it will in the future. But again, clicks and jersey sales to very stupid people, and no real harm done, right? It's just preseason.

Well, no. Damage is done by even entertaining the notion. Damage is done by lowering the standards. Damage is done by giving idiots the possibility of hope that they might get what they want, which in this case is an evangelical run-only QB who also, let's be honest about this, would never get even a first look at an NFL roster, let alone this fourth one, if he were black.

Which brings us to where this becomes Not Sports, and the Donald Trump Experience.

There is now, and there has never been, any real merit to the notion that this man should become the President. If it were to happen, it would signify that the nation has become no better than Italy, because there is no difference between Trump and Silvio Berlusconi. It would also show that the deification of the wealthy is now complete, and that the corruption of the media by moneyed elites was now total. Also, well, more.

I understand the desire for simple solutions, digital thinking, yes and no answers. They allow us to move along to the next decision, or to just stop thinking and get to the fun. But at some point, even the simple have to understand that some things in life are hard, complicated, require reading and compromise and nuance and so on. You can't make every decision in life based around a price tag, your gut, or whether it's shiny or easy or sexy. Sometimes, you have to do the hard thing and accept that life is complicated, and that there are people who might be better than you at some stuff, and that stuff might be important.

This is not how we want to see the world.

People like to disregard what hard work, or education, or intelligence, might produce. That's nerdy, or not important, or missing some bigger picture. The idea of doing something for 10,000 hours before you can really feel good about your chances... well, hell, isn't there an app for it? Don't give me all the details, just cut it down to a few bullet points. Can't you make allowances, or a compromise, or grade on a curve, and so on, and so on? Why aren't there more pictures? No one wants to read all that. Etc.

Here's the thing that no one wants to admit... some people who work in government are actually quite good at their jobs. They might have taken those jobs because they were looking to avoid corporate pressures, or because they truly liked helping people without having to worry about a bottom line, or anywhere in between. Just assuming that they are lesser workers then someone who worked in the private sector is a crap generalization, just like, well, nearly all generalizations.

I may not agree with most of the candidates for the Presidency on many things, but I don't deny that most of them have, on some level, proven their worthiness to take a shot at getting the gig in the first place. If you've been a Governor or a Senator, or held a high office, you've shown that you could manage a campaign, get elected, convince people to work for you even without a paycheck, and so on.

Trump has none of that. What he has is an ability to draw eyes like a carnie barker, while being rich, and with the willingness to offer simple solutions to complex problems. Middle-class not doing well? It's not a matter of poor tax policy, technology and world trade issues; we just need to build a wall on the Mexican border, which will magically improve everyone's wages because they stealing jobs. The pace of change in the modern world makes you uncomfortable, what with having to allow marriage equality and LGBTQ tolerance and a rapidly changing racial demographic? Deny citizenship to children and decry "political correctness", so that you don't have to change anything about your worldview. Tired of electing people who don't seem to really change much? Elect someone who has never ran a public sector operation, because he'll fire people on camera and magically change things. Think that other countries aren't doing the right thing? Elect a bellicose bully who will make them. And so on. Magical thinking that the get it done rich guy will solve all issues.

But hey, it's preason / preliminaties, lookit all the funny things that late night comedians get to say about him, no real harm done, right? No; see above.

If the Eagles keep Tebow over Barkley, they are stupid and deserve what they get, but the downside of that is that their fans get it too, and they don't particularly deserve to get thrown in the same bad boat. If the GOP, and later America, elect Trump, they are stupid and get what they deserve, but those who didn't vote for him get the same problem.

And the only reason why anyone would have the conversation in the first place? Clickbait metrics, and the thirst for simple answers -- in this case, page views and television ratings -- to complex questions (who would be the best option to have the job).

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

2015 NFL Predictions

Nostra Dumbass
AFC East

New England 11-5
Miami 9-7
New York 7-9
Buffalo 6-10

Sure, there will be anxious moments in September -- there almost always are in the most martyr-riffic region in the U.S. -- but New England will tread water early and dominate late. Miami has trenchy goodness and an eternally improving offense, but the crest of that hill isn't high enough to get it done. New York's offense is going to be better than expected, in that they will be tolerable, and Buffalo will be a hot mess. The bottom of this division, as always, proves that if you don't have a QB, or an ability to scheme around that, you are absolutely sunk in the NFL.

AFC North

Cincinnati 10-6
Pittsburgh 10-6 (Wild Card)
Baltimore 9-7 (Wild Card)
Cleveland 6-10

The conference bloodsport division will do what it usually does; destroy each other in the regular season and kill off any chance that anyone here will go deep in the playoffs. I liked Pittsburgh before pre-season injuries made things difficult, but now the coin flip goes back to Cincy, who have the best balance and most to prove. But honestly, picking one of these three teams without having an injury report before December is pointless. The Factory of Sadness stays where they always go, despite the division's best offensive line, because QB matters. A whole lot.

AFC South

Indianapolis 12-4
Tennessee 7-9
Houston 7-9
Jacksonville 5-11

The Season of Luck begins with the league's most pinball-riffic offense clinching their division by Thanksgiving, and coasting to top seed status. It's not that they are that good -- they never are, really -- but the home field and offense will mask the defense for a very long while, and Frank Gore gives them 3-down competence in the backfield when they need it. The Titans will be the feel-good story of the conference, as rookie QB Marcus Mariota will be the sensation, along with beastly WR Dorial Green-Beckham, but the rest of the team won't be quite ready to get it done. Houston will continue to squander JJ Watt's career, while Jacksonville will be the tough luck loser. They're building something, but it's not ready yet, and the downside of the NFL now is that slow build doesn't look good enough anymore.

AFC West

Denver 11-5
San Diego 9-7
Kansas City 8-8
Oakland 5-11

The Broncos are trying to do the Last Years of Elway Replay by shifting to a better running game, and while Late Era Peyton Manning is a fine approximation of the QB, it's an open question whether CJ Anderson can pull off the Terrell Davis part of the equation. The regular season won't answer the question, because the rest of this division just isn't enough of a threat. San Diego draws the second slot with their usual mix of world-beating mixed with inexplicable, while the Chiefs squander talent with risk-adverse QB play and the worst game management in the league. Oakland will be better, but not good enough, and if you mistake them for the Jaguars, that's pretty spot on.

AFC Rookie of the Year: Mariota

AFC Wild Card: Baltimore over Cincinnati, Denver over Pittsburgh
AFC Divisional: Indianapolis over Baltimore, Denver over New England
AFC Conference: Indianapolis over Denver

NFC East

Dallas 10-6
Philadelphia 8-8
New York 8-8
Washington 6-10

What a train wreck this division is going to be. Dallas had a chance to pull away, but suffered a massive loss in CB Orlando Scandrick, just about the last guy they could have afforded to lose. Philadelphia will get off to a hot start, then fall apart as soon as the injury-prone start falling off, because this roster is paper-thin on the offensive line, and it will have a domino effect on the skill players. Besides, we all know what happens when they need Mark Sanchez has to win games. New York has tools all over but lacks the line, and DC is, well, DC. None of these teams would win more than the NFC North or West, of AFC North, but since they are in major media markets, we'll hear about them all year.

NFC North

Green Bay 11-5
Minnesota 9-7
Detroit 7-9
Chicago 6-10

Green Bay took a serious hit with the loss of WR Jordy Nelson, but they were far and away the class of this division before that, and the drop won't be felt before the playoffs. Minnesota is on the rise behind QB Teddy Bridgewater, but the defense isn't far enough along yet. Detroit could be a lot better than this, particularly if the defense spends the year trying to prove they didn't need Ndamokung Suh and Nick Fairly, but my guess is that they won't be able to use the motivation all hear, and Haloti Ngata won't hold up. Chicago is trying to win with Jay Cutler as their most important player for yet another year, which is a special kind of persistence. Especially with a worse situation at WR, and a defense that's still not up to franchise standards.

NFC South

Atlanta 9-7
Tampa 8-8
New Orleans 7-9
Carolina 7-9

A low ceiling division of wildly flawed teams that beat the hell out of each other, the South is a tasty but entertaining mess. I like Atlanta to get it done because the defense is a hair better, the RBs are a lot better, and they have the division's best QB (shh). Tampa is an offensive line and QB experience away from being quite dangerous, especially with the conference's tallest and most athletic set of pass catchers, but it's too soon to be over .500. The Saints still have an unfair home field and some players that can fill up the stat sheet, but QB Drew Brees is going to miss TE Jimmy Graham a ton, and the defense doesn't win games, no matter how often we show Rob Ryan grumping around the sideline. Carolina brings up the rear due to injuries, but still has the conference's best front 7 on defense. They'll put up a lot of fight, and be the league's best fourth-place team. Woo, that.

NFC West

Seattle 11-5
Arizona 10-6 (Wild Card)
St. Louis 9-7 (Wild Card)
San Francisco 3-13

Seattle breaks the mold for Super Bowl losers despite a troublesome offensive line, because Graham helps overcome the still-lacking WR set, and QB Russell Wilson overcomes the gap. Arizona and St. Louis will fight them every step of the way, and if Rams QB Nick Foles can establish a rapport with WRs Kenny Britt and Brian Quick, they might break through. I'll pick the Cardinals because I think the defense is going to be better. Taking up the rear is the NFL's worst team, the Niners, who just have the stench of death on them now. Sure, there's still some good pieces here from the not so long ago glory rays, but I don't think you overcome this much self-sabotage.

NFC Rookie of the Year: Todd Gurley
NFC MVP: Wilson
NFC Wild Card: Dallas over St. Louis, Arizona over Tampa
NFC Divisional: Green Bay over St. Louis, Seattle over Dallas
NFC Conference: Green Bay over Seattle

Super Bowl: Green Bay over Indianapolis

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Fantasy Football Fallers and Risers: WRs and TEs

Go right
No need to explain this; it's a pretty simple exercise, and we've already covered the basics with QBs and RBs. Three fallers, three risers, from players that are going to be drafted anyway.

Wide Receivers - Fallers

1) Demaryius Thomas.
FBB's #2 ranked wideout has a magical combination of discouragement. First off, he got paid in the off-season, and that's never good news for getting every bit of fantasy goodness. Denver's gone to run-heaviness in an effort to be more playoff-potent, and to keep Peyton Manning's workload down. With the swap of Julius Thomas for Owen Daniels, the TE isn't going to stretch the field. He's still a WR1, but more along the 8 to 10 range, not 1 to 5.

2) T.Y. Hilton. Just too many weapons in Indy now, with credible threats all the way down to WR3 and WR4, and QB Andrew Luck is smart enough to spread the love. Hilton will get his, but it will be in fits and starts, with too many mouths to feed.

3) DeAndre Hopkins. Maybe I'm missing something, but why should the only WR of note in a run-first offense with one of the worst QB situations in the league... should just be as good as last year, when he delivered WR2 value? Maybe Andre Johnson, particularly in 2014, wasn't exactly motivated to destroy the world, but he's still better than Nate Washington or Cecil Shorts III. Hopkins is in for a world of double coverage and QBs who don't get him the ball. Avoid with all speed.

Wide Receivers - Risers

1) Alshon Jeffery.
Every year, you have to balance a fear of injury from a player who is otherwise just going to be a stud. This year, it's Jeffery, the top target for a Chicago team that will be down often, throwing it a lot, and, well, he's good. A top 5 season awaits.

2) Keenan Allen. So what's real -- the 1K / 8 TD rookie machine, or the 800 / 4 TD sophomore slumper? Let's go to Column C instead, where he puts it all together and goes to 1200 / 10. Why? Because Malcolm Floyd and Antonio Gates are old, Ladarius Green is too good at blocking to just go out on patterns all the time, and QB Philip Rivers will get him the ball. Remember, no Eddie Royal now, either, and while Stevie Johnson isn't horrible, he's not going to go as much as Royal did last year. Allen's going to be a target magnet.

3) Jeremy Maclin. We get it; Alex Smith stinks. But Maclin's a lot better than Dwayne Bowe, Andy Reid will scheme to get him looks all over the field, and Smith is tired of hearing how he doesn't have the sack to feed a WR. Maclin won't get to the 1,300 / 10 range that he saw last year in Philly, but 1,100 / 8 is completely possible, and for where you will get him, you'll be happy.

Tight Ends - Fallers

1) Jimmy Graham
. TE2 really fell off a cliff last year due to health, and now goes to a run-first offense with bad outdoor bad weather, instead of the pass-happy dome that was his domain. He probably doesn't slide past TE6 range, but he also does not make you very happy every week, and for where you would need to take him, he should.

2) Jason Witten. Beware the Name Brand. Witten is 33 now, has scored 5 TDs or less in three of the last four years, and projects more as a 600 / 4 matchup play, rather than a set and forget guy. He's still good, and the best the franchise has seen at his position, but Lance Dunbar and Cole Beasley will move the sticks a lot more on third down this year.

3) Kyle Rudolph. Career high in yardage: 493, two years ago. Career high in TDs: 9, same story. Last two years: 17 games played, 15 games missed, and in the games played, the meh-ish totals of 544 / 5. He's not getting drafted in many leagues, but any is too much, especially with the Vikings developing other weapons.

Tight Ends - Risers

1) Greg Olsen.
OK, it's chalk to go here with Kelvin Benjamin out, but Olsen might be the only fantasy relevant pass-catcher in Carolina this year, and will not disappoint with a very heavy target load. He's been good for 800+ yards and 6 TDs the last three years; pencil him in now for 1K and 8, and likely TE2 status when it's all said and done.

2) Julius Thomas. Kind of the TE equivalent of Maclin, in that everyone has smashed his draft value with the move... but Thomas is a TE, and going to get all kinds of security and red zone love from QB Blake Bortles. I realize the injury concerns are real here, but he's got 800 / 10 potential, and maybe even more than the latter number if things go well. It's not as if he went to a murderous division.

3) Delanie Walker. I've seen enough of Marcus Mariota this off-season to think he's going to turn the Titans into an actual NFL offense, and all of the love can't go to the wideouts. Walker's never going to be convinced for a guy with great hands, but he does damage when he does catch the ball, and he'll get consistent targets. Draft and smile.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Fantasy Football Fallers and Risers: QBs and RBs

Up Down Up Down B A Start
Because, well, there are no sleepers any more, really. There are just guys that you will over-reach on in terms of Average Draft Position, because there are too many analysts digging into too many of the same sources to create true sleepers. Besides, this isn't baseball, where a fifth starter or back-up catcher can sneak in some chances and work his way up to prominence. There are only so many carries to go around to come out of nowhere as an RB, only so many chances to take snaps at QB, and so on.

Instead, what you have in fantasy football is top guys who will under-perform, and lower-ranked guys who will rise. Here's who I think will generate that kind of action.

Falling QBs

Drew Brees. Third ranked in Yahoo, but with turnover at wideout, and might be getting to that magical mid-30s reign where the INTs start to creep up from arm strength that isn't quite what it used to be. He's still a QB1, especially at home in a relatively easy division, but he's not an every-week starter anymore, which is what #3 QB should be.

Peyton Manning. At #5, he's not through the floorboards low, but Denver's going to get run-happy this year, and going from Julius Thomas to Owen Daniels at TE is not going to do him any favors in the red zone. He's also a million years old, and it has to end sometime.

Cam Newton. Moving him down with the injury to Kelvin Benjamin is the easy moment, but the bigger point was that he got more than a beat up last year, and the running that has made him special has to end sometime.

Rising QBs

Ben Roethlisberger. Am I missing something here? How is the guy who is under center for one of the most explosive offenses in the league in 2014 going 10th off the board? I get that historically, he's been hamstrung by some conservative play-calling, and RB LeVeon Bell will be fed, but this is a 3-WR circus with quality everywhere, and the loss of C Maurice Pouncey means they won't be so good at running the ball that he won't get 40 throws a game. I could easily see him leading the league in passing TDs this year.

Eli Manning. The defense stinks, he's in Year Two under offensive coordinator Bob McAdoo, and he's got a full year of Odell Beckham Jr., not to mention Shane Vereen. He's also in a pretty easy division for defense. It's not as if he turned into a consistent player, or will avoid a festival of INTs from time to time, but at the end of the day, he's going to be top 6. Just be sure to pick and choose the right weeks.

Matthew Stafford. Ready for the last great year of Calvin Johnson's career? Stafford certainly is, and he's also got emerging threats at TE and RB, and quality WR2 in Golden Tate. You still get a home dome to take some of the elements out of the mix, and they've never been so good at running the ball as to seriously hurt his numbers. It's time for the bounceback.

Falling RBs

Adrian Peterson. Set up as RB1 off the board, I'm just not feeling it. Rust will play a factor, as well as quality young'un Jerrick McKinnon, and a Vikings team that now answers to QB Teddy Bridgewater first. If he's your RB1, you are fine, but I'm not sure I'm thrilled about taking him where you'll need to go.

Joseph Randle. By the eye test, he's a *lot* better than committee-mate Darren McFadden, but unlike McFadden, he (a) doesn't come from Arkansas, (b) isn't tied to Jerry Jones' ego, and (c) might not be smart or stable enough to keep the gig, what with the petty larceny and idiot comments. Let someone else pay the premium; there are a lot better bets out there.

Andre Ellington. Yes, the NFC West isn't as terrifying as it used to be, and yeah, Chris Johnson is a pile of sad laundry. But the club just seems to constantly be on the make for new legs (rookie David Johnson?), and he just doesn't have the heft or the ability to shy away from contact. I don't think you'll be happy with him by the end of the year.

Rising RBs

Justin Forsett. I get why some folks are not in love with him; he's small and older. But in terms of career carries, he's a young'un, the Baltimore back-ups aren't near his level, and he just does everything well. I think he stays healthy and does what he did last year, which means that when it's all said and done, he's a sneaky-good RB1.

Frank Gore. Yes, he's a thousand years old, and yes, the Colts don't run block very well. But he'll stay on the field because he's a great pass blocker, will get it in from in close, and will play a lot of snaps for an offense that's going to be pinball-riffic this year. The only thing I don't like about him is that the Colts are going to win this division by too much, meaning they'll rest him down the stretch.

Jonathan Stewart. Saw what I said about how Newton won't be the running machine he used to be? Stewart benefits the most from that, and while I don't love the prospects of the Panther offense this year, there will be enough to keep Stewart fed. As for the injury concerns, it's the NFL. Everyone gets hurt, and I think Stew might luck out this year.

Tomorrow: WRs and TEs. (You don't really care about kickers and defenses, do you? Good.)

In this year's news you can't possibly care about...

He was mine first, dammit
Here are the results from the end of the auction draft. Keepers have asterisks.

    Player    TM    2015
QB    Matt Ryan    ATL    23 *
RB1    Jeremy Hill    CIN    11 *
RB2    Doug Martin    TB    41
WR1    Calvin Johnson    DET    65
WR2    Randall Cobb    GB    24 *
WR3    Brandon Marshall    NYJ    36
FX    Rashad Jennings    NYG    26
TE    Zach Ertz    PHI    20 *
DEF    Philadelphia    PHI    2
PK    Connor Barth    DEN    1
B1    Ben Roethlisberger    PIT    12
B2    Brian Quick    STL    4
B3    Darren McFadden    DAL    3
B4    Brandon Coleman    NO    13
B5    Ladarius Green     SD    6
B6    Pierre Garcon    WAS    1
    TOTAL        288

The story behind this draft... I lost Kelvin Benjamin to injury the other day, which was a real setback, as I had him for a tolerable low number to boot. The Tier 1 of available talent was very thin (Johnson, Matt Forte, Justin Forsett and CJ Anderson), and when Megatron wasn't named before my nominating position, I knew I had to go very hard for him, as the next tier of WR just wasn't anywhere close to WR1 status. I'd have paid $80 for him without a blink, so getting him for $65 is utterly fine.

Getting shut out on firm attempts at other RBs, I was left with either ending the run with an early shot at Martin, or naming another WR. Marshall offered the highest floor, and he's made hay with mediocre QBs before, so the move to New York doesn't fill me with terror. He's WR2 material in a WR3 slot, and 1K / 10 TDs doesn't seem impossible.

Martin was the last tolerable RB to me, and I know, he's not really a great shot at RB2, with the possibility of losing the starting spot. He's shown well in preseason and gotten touch from the PR, is in a contract year, and I think Jamesis Winston will give Tampa fewer stacked boxes. It's not a great price -- another owner correctly read that he was the last RB on my tier, and jumped the price by at least $15 over what the rest of the room was willing to pay -- but going without was too grim to contemplate. If I had the draft to do over again, and could have taken his money and my leftovers to land Forsett, that would have been optimal.

Backing up the shaky RB2 with the next best thing from Jennings seemed best, as I don't believe that Tom Coughlin will tip his hand so much with obvious run or pass backs in the other members of the committee, and the Giants play in a cake division. Quick was an actual WR1 before getting hurt last year, and has a possible QB upgrade now. The price is fine here.

Next time up had Roethlisberger as the best available player on the board, and several teams had a lot more money than I did, and we've got some Steeler fans in the league. I tossed him out under the hope he'd get bid up too much, but I guess 2014's numbers didn't impress them the way they did me, and leaving him with the last bidder would have made for too strong a move for an opponent. At $12, it's a great price for a very clear QB1, and might give me trade bait if both guys play to their level.

The last move of consequence is Coleman at $13. I don't buy into the idea that New Orleans is going to stop throwing the ball everywhere, or that Marques Colston and Josh Hill are going to be world beaters. Brandin Cooks is nails, but he's small, so there's the chance that Coleman winds up as a #1 in a dome team with Drew Brees at the controls. Worth a shot.  Garcon at the close is just too much chance of upside -- he's a DeSean Jackson injury away from being force-fed the ball on a team that will be behind a lot, and throwing all the time -- to go undrafted. It's probably a pipe dream at 29, but it's not like his game was built on speed anyway. 

McFadden is a terrible football player now, but he's also playing behind the world's best offensive line, and was signed by the only GM in the NFL who has ego skin in the game of him doing well. Joseph Randle is also unstable (stealing underwear and cologne, seriously?), so there's a chance that he'll have a handful of RB1 games. Green gets the Do It Or Else role for four games with Antonio Gates suspended, and might actually, well, do it. Gates is also a billion years old, so if Green does it, there's the chance he'll keep doing it. If not, he's waiver bait for the hopeful Ertz breakout, because none of the Eagle QBs strike me as terribly adverse to overusing the security blanket.

Defense and kicker don't matter, and I still think the Eagles are more likely a .500 team or worse than a real contender, but the run defense looks stout, and so long as the skill players are healthy (not for long, likely), they'll have lots of shots at INTs in catch-up positions in the first half of the year. The second half, not so much, but it's not as if you keep a defense all year anyway. Barth has a job in altitude, which means more shots at big long figgies, so whatever.

All in all, I'm reasonably pleased with the draft, with the exception of (a) leaving money on the table, never encouraging, (b) not getting a better RB2, and (c) not having a truly great young talent to upside and save the year if things go wrong. Well, maybe that's Coleman, but last year was made tolerable by Hill and Benjamin, and I've got less of that goodness now. It's what happens when you zig when the market zags, and with everyone shoving hard on RBs and young sexy talent, locking down Big Ben, Marshall and other known quantities seemed like the better play. Being contrary is rarely fun, but it usually does better for you in ROI.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Top 10 things I've learned from the NFL Network's Week Two Exhibition Coverage

Orifices, You Say
10) The fourth quarter of every game is filled with guys who are being watched by other teams, rather than dockworker unions and organized crime syndicates

9) Arizona's Ron Wolfley really wants to talk about orifices, and no one will stop him

8) The most manly thing you can do with Hurt Feelings is to channel them into playing football with Moar Intensity

7) It is very important to break into replays of games with highlights of games that happened days ago

6) Players who are struggling to make teams benefit strongly from having entertaining origin stories or odd hobbies, because it shows they are Good Kids Who Should Be Rooted For

5) The preseason is for refs to be even worse than the regular season, which is why they throw so many flags, and the higher rate of flags has nothing to do with the guys who are going to be on the docks next week

4) Every coach is above average, and every team has the most fun

3) While we can feel charitable towards the deep reserves who are trying to make a team, the possibility of overtime is most awful thing in the history of the world

2) Game replays will be cut for time, because NFLN has to get to very important days-old highlights of other games that don't matter

1) If you are not driven out of your mind from the same set of five high frequency house ads, it will not be for lack of trying

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Double Down, Roger

Goose Him, Roger
This is going to seem like trolling Patriot Fan, but honestly, it's more than that.

We are now well into what, the seventh month of DeflateGate hullabaloo?

There is no one, even the most virulent Patriot Hater (I should know, I'm at all the meetings -- very depressing church basements, but great fellowship), who is happy about this. The people who want to see Tom Brady punished have had to spend all this time waiting to have the football pulled away from them, and the penalty get reduced on appeal. The people who want to see Brady reinstated have spent all this time not getting what they want, and still holding out hope that they will. PR people are using this as yet another moment of why advertisers should shy away from the NFL, as if this was going to be the straw that broke the golden goose.

THIS JUST IN: Straws do not break geese. Film at 11.

Old school NFL owners, we are led to believe, need wildly over-matched and over-reaching commissioner Roger Goodell to "win" this. Much in the same way that one wins a divorce or a custody battle, one suspects, given that the biggest takeaway from all of this has been to crush Brady's ability to whore himself out for advertising.

So let's just have it. Go all in, Roger. Just out and out ban Brady for life.

It would be thermonuclear in its impact. It would overshadow the rest of the preseason (and amen to that, because this preseason has been nothing but injury misery, which means it's the same as every preseason). It would result in lawsuits and boycotts and social media meltdowns and PR blowback and advertising pullouts  and on and on and on.

Then, the regular season games would start. And the tumult would drop by 90% because Game Always Wins. Brady would fade into the background. Bill Belichick will figure out how to win games without him, because the man won double-digits with freaking Matt Cassell, and he coaches in the NFL's short bus division. The advertisers will come back, because this is the only show on television that is DVR-proof. Then, people will freak out about something else (say, franchises moving to Los Angeles).

In the long run, Goodell exerts his utter and total dominance over the league. Everyone involved forgets the appeal process, because the appeal process is an utter joke and pointless. And the next time we go down the rabbit hole of someone taking a shortcut, maybe they don't, because Utter Hammer Tool Roger Goodell will be waiting.

Well, probably not; it's not like the death penalty has ever been a deterrent. But let the fantasy persist of a world without lawyers.

Monday, August 17, 2015

10 Reasons Why Robert Griffin III Feels That He's The Best QB In The NFL

I Haz The Best Sad
10) Only really knows the other QBs on the Slurs, so, well, sure

9) Remaining sentient and ambulatory with this offensive line requires super powers

8) Has been hanging out with DeSean Jackson, and feels like he needs to take the Ego Game up to a new level

7) Winning games and staying healthy is so overrated

6) Knows that he has to impress the team's next coach with his confidence, seeing as how that guy will get the job within three months

5) Has been told by surgeons that they stuffed his knees with extra greatness

4) Does not understand the difference between the NFL and CFB

3) Wanted to help the fan base fall into the annual delusion called Hope in the Snyder Era

2) If he's the best QB in the league, he can't lose his job to Colt McCoy

1) By convincing the team that he's the best QB in the NFL, they might actually remove him from games when he's putting his career at risk

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Five Reasons Why Fantasy Football Is The Worst

I Make My Own Hot Pockets, Dammit
It's not as if any of this will keep us from playing the game, of course. But that doesn't mean the game isn't wildly compro- mised.

5) It turns us into a nation of nits.

A nit is a poker term describing a small stakes, risk-adverse player, who winds up being irritating to play with, due to their lack of action / predictable play. Your average fantasy sports player will throw something like $20 into a pot, then grind and pule for up to half a year over that amount, as if that was the last $20 of their lives. It's embarrassing. I've got a lot more sympathy for you if you missed a 5-team parlay by a missed field goal. At least that way, I can think about whether you have a serious gambling problem.

4) Compromised fandom is the worst in fantasy football.

Football isn't baseball, where rooting against your actual team from time to time, while distasteful, isn't usually fatal. In the NFL, due to the very small season and sample size, rooting against your team in a situation that matters is an inevitability. Your half-measures of rooting in garbage time is just sad.

3) No one cares about your team, and yet, you feel compelled to talk about it.

Especially in head to head games, with agonizing small differences between winning and losing. No one has ever finished one of these conversations with an actually useful plan moving forward to fix the problem, or by feeling better. All they've done is ask for sympathy from a self-inflicted wound. Fantasy football is Mutual Masochism.

2) Most games come down to an unconscionable amount of luck.

Small sample sizes. Big bonuses for fluke plays like defensive touchdowns, or who gets the goal-line carry. Last minute and first-quarter injuries, both for you, and against your opponent. It's bad enough that real games basically come down to a handful of turnovers and big swinging penalty calls. (There's also rooting for people to get hurt, even more karmic awfulness.)

Putting the nerd games on a similar knife edge just makes America feel like Meth Nation, where very few things are just allowed to be, well, dull. If you've ever wondered why so many people seem so awful now, and need a phone in their hands all the time, with no one being able to just sit still and watch a game... well, fantasy contributes.

1) It makes life (even) easier on nerds.

I am small, nonathletic despite a lifetime of trying, and apt to obsess over things that well-adjusted people do not obsess over. It pays the bills, but the only way in which I've managed to make all of this work is through, well, focus and self-definition. I don't care what you call or consider me, and I also don't much care about your opinion of me. I'm 46. I'm not for everybody, and never will be. It is what it is.

This is, well, not today's nerd. Today's nerd gets the girl and the money and the job and more more more, and doesn't overcome being bullied or marginalized or whatever, because we don't do that anymore. Which means our modern nerds don't build up any amount of skin at all, and never develop the ability to get along with people who aren't you, of make an honest effort at things that you will never be very good at, without having your hand held and getting a post-defeat nice try trophy... well, you get where I'm going.

Want to know why today's young guys can't dress themselves? We've made life too easy on nerds. Want to know why every movie is genre-based, not written up a per-pubescent male sensibility, and has to make a special effort to give any role of substance to women? We've made life too easy on nerds. Want to know why fantasy football is too popular, and not nearly as much fun as it used to be, when only true number crunchers bothered with the exercise? We've made life too easy on nerds.

The toothpaste has left the tube a long time ago, and isn't going back. But if you've ever wondered why you don't feel so good in playing this game? You've got reasons. Good ones, really.

Top 10 takeaways from Eagles - Colts

QB4 on roster, QB1 on marquee
10) Mark Sanchez's first quarter TD to WR Nelson Agholor showed why being a QB in a speed system is such a blessing. The throw was terrible, but Agholor's adjustment to the ball made the CB overplay the throw, and then the rookie beat everyone to paydirt. After multiple misses to wide-open receivers that prevented drives from continuing, Sanchez's final numbers were a lot better than they had any right to be. As for anyone who thinks that Sanchez in Year Two is somehow not still Sanchez, AKA a QB2 that should never, ever, be a QB1... well, um, please come to my poker table. I can not invite you strongly enough.

9) Agholor dropped a 3rd and 12 throw from QB Matt Barkley that was right in range, after also missing an earlier catch. He's got obvious skills, but let's not call him Jeremy Maclin Jr. yet, or pencil him in for 1000+ yards.

8) The run defense from the first and second team was good, but it's not as if the Colts are known for their ability to get separation at the line. The Colts' first team converted a number of third and longs against too-soft coverage, so yeah, Bill Davis is still involved. Watching him turn Byron Maxwell into Bradley Fletcher is not going to be fun. As for defense for the entire game, they played well, with S Ed Reynolds getting two fourth quarter picks, but the pass rush wasn't much, and for the most part, my read was the Colts didn't play worth a damn, more than Green playing all that well.

7) Barkley's interception was one of those not his fault, but enough of his fault, blemishes that has been endemic in his limited NFL career. He's got an NFL arm, and his size and feet aren't terrible, but there's just been far too many mistakes to keep getting chances. (He also got very lucky to not have another one picked off to start the second half, which would have led to far too much Tim Tebow puling.)

6) There may never be a pre-season game in the Kelly Era where the offense does not look, at the very least, tolerable. This system fails against good and physical defense that prepare for it, and bring the intensity to stop the all-critical initial first down. That's not pre-season.

5) One of the drumbeats among the Kelly geishas has been how much better last year's first round whiff, LB Marcus Smith, has been. While he had a moment or two in the first half, he's still, well, horrible. Watching nickel CB candidate Jaylen Watkins whiff on a tackle that led to the Colts TD was also Not Encouraging.

4) Just in case you needed a mid-season moment of Nero Kelly, Poor Game Manager, who had a Whuuut? 4th and 3 middle run for RB Kenjon Barner, inside the red zone, rather than kick a chip shot field goal. I understand, it's pre-season and no one cares, but it's not as if Kelly has gotten any better at this sort of thing in the first two years of trying. Also, there was a 3rd and 4 throw into the end zone with 1:20 left in the second quarter that made no sense in terms of saving the defense some snaps.

3) Who the hell thought it was a good idea to have a pre-season game at 1pm on a Sunday? Last one was in 1968, for reasons. It was 100 degrees on the field in humid South Philadelphia, and I can't imagine it was much more fun to be in the stands. Schedule these wastes of time in the evening, now and forever. Better yet, don't have them. They are pointless, people get hurt, and the season is way too long as is.

2) Regression Alert: PK Cody Parkey missed one of those extra-long point afters, got lucky on a twisting longer duck figge to start the second, missed another short figgie in the third, and did not get his kickoffs to the end zone. One of the sneaky ways in which the Eagles are going to be worse this year is special teams erosion, and Parkey's near-magical materialization to Pro Bowl level kicking is something to file away for later.

1) I'm not saying the Colts mailed this one in, but Andrew Luck left in the middle of a drive, their back ups look as bad as any in the league, and Barner's punt return touchdown to end the first half was as lackadaisical as an effort as you are ever likely to see on an NFL field. It's nice for Barner, who has a real uphill climb to pick up NFL pension time, but anyone that thinks a blowout win matters, um, poker game. Week from Friday.

* * * * *

Fine, fine. QB Tim Tebow came in on his first drive, made easy plays to obvious targets, and was cheered as if he cured cancer. His first incompletion was in the red zone and missed by a mile. The second drive ended in a sack, and so did the third, because God's own QB with the girl-ready abs can not make a decision at NFL speed, and also does not throw the ball quickly enough to cover for that crippling problem. The fourth drive would have ended with a sack as well, but the Colts took a late hit while doing it. The fifth drive ended with a terrible overthrow, and on the sixth, he scrambled in during the absolute zenith of garbage time to score a touchdown. Guess what will be the only play from his game that will be shown in national highlights?

Barkley is a better real QB and GJ Kinne is a better NFL prospect, and Barkley can't even get on the field during games he should play -- Week 17 against the Giants last year -- and Kinne hasn't made the team in the last two years of mopping up preseason games. Can we end this charade already, or do we need Tebow around for a few more weeks to separate more idiots from their money by selling a few more jerseys?

Thursday, August 13, 2015

FTT Off-Topic: My Hatred For Billy Joel Is Deep, Boundless, and Correct

Broodmare Girl
Not sports, not sorry. Read or bail. It's probably safer for you if you bail.

On the commute in to the day job this morning, I fired up my local AAA radio station, because they frequently play new music (gasp!) that's actually been curated by a human (double gasp!) that generally has a modicum of intellect (sorry, all out of air to gasp with). I've heard everything from 20-year-olds from New Jersey that are too new to the scene for even my 15-year-old to have heard about, to the latest from the new Dr. Dre soundtrack, and lots of stuff from my own library. It works. I'm fine with it. But it's radio. It's not infallible.

Especially this morning, because, well, Billy Joel's had a new baby! How wonderful for him and us, that a 66-year-old has pounded the little blue miracle boner pills, then took his store-bought hard-on to his store-bought broodmare (old enough to not be his grandkid and actually older than his first daughter -- golf clap!), and hey presto, the world has one more human female, probably with a litany of DNA issues that we'll only understand later, on it. Good for us! But hey, she'll inherit royalty and performance money that will never, ever happen to any musician of his broodmare's generation, because the music business is forever broken, but if that means we can never have another Billy Joel, I'm strangely OK with it.

Well, fine, radio station: useless entertainment news moment passed. Can we go back to music that doesn't make me want to claw my own ears off? No, no, a thousand times no, because mentioning the worst thing to happen to music in my lifetime means we have to play tracks from him, too. First it was a cover of "Big Shot." And because I'm running late for work and futzing with my cell phone to try to avoid traffic with a map app, I'm just leaving it on. I might also hate myself. Anyway, just because it's not leaving my mind, why should it leave yours?

Well you went uptown riding in your limousine
With your fine Park Avenue clothes
You had the Dom Perignon in your hand
And the spoon up your nose

So we are dealing with a person in New York, with money. Clearly someone that Joel needs to berate. After all, they have nothing else going for them in their life, what with living in one of the world's best cities, and making good coin, or coming from money. Give them a piece of your little rat mind, Billy!

And when you wake up in the morning
With your head on fire
And your eyes too bloody to see
Go on and cry in your coffee
But don't come bitchin' to me

Not "I'm worried that you have a serious drug problem. Cocaine is a terrible, terrible drug. I love you, and I want you to be healthy." Nope, Joel just doesn't want to hear that you feel bad. Whatta guy!

Because you had to be a big shot, didn't you
You had to open up your mouth
You had to be a big shot, didn't you
All your friends were so knocked out

Maybe because your target has an actual personality, and friends, or showed a side that surprised your assumingly shared circle? Or maybe, just maybe, because the liquid courage and the Bolivian marching powder gave them the ability to finally get a word in edgewise against your miserable self?

You had to have the last word, last night
You know what everything's about
You had to have a white hot spotlight
You had to be a big shot last night

How dare you. You hussy! You claimed attention that was rightfully Billy's, and YOU. WILL. ATONE.

They were all impressed with your Halston dress
And the people that you knew at Elaine's
And the story of your latest success
Kept 'em so entertained

OK, she does sound awful. But then again, she's a friend of Joel's. We're not exactly dealing with the deep end of humanity here.

Aw but now you just can't remember
All the things you said
And you're not sure you want to know
I'll give you one hint, honey
You sure did put on a show

Gosh, could you maybe fill them in, maybe help them recover from a lapse in judgment? Nope! Billy's just here to yell at you while you are hung over. Would any jury convict for a sudden and repeated stabbing of the singer right now? Aim for the throat.

I'm pretty sure the song goes on for another hour after this, or six. I tend to lose the ability to tell time when I'm in a blind rage. If (hey, there's still a chance at downloading my consciousness to a robot body and writing this blog forever) and when my time comes, putting Billy on repeat just to make my final minutes seem like an eternity is a plan. Not a good plan, but a plan. It's important to have plans.

So it's a crap song, Shooter, and it's been a crap song for nearly 40 years now. Why can't you just ignore it, the way that functioning adults have to do for the vast majority of their waking lives, otherwise it's just the constant screaming, and eventually they put you somewhere that no one can hear you? But that is the absolute hell that is Joel. It's not just a crap lyric from a guy that always sounds like Supertool White Guy; it's a crap lyric from a guy who sold his eternal soul to Satan for the ability to churn out melodies and hooks that will never, ever, leave a brain.

Admit it, you are humming "Big Shot" right now, aren't you? And until someone pointed out to you that the lyrics were from someone who should be hurt with a hammer for the good of humanity, you were fine with that. Catchy wins! Some of you even still like Billy Joel, because Catchy Wins! (By the way, if you still like Billy Joel? I'm sorry, but you have to die. By your own hand or someone else's. Get it done. Please and thank you. Moving on.)

I tried to have a career in music for the better part of a decade. Spent years with a guitar in my hand, worked with any number of devoted and talented people, cared deeply about lyrics and everything else involved in the enterprise. Nothing we ever did was as catchy as at least 100 different things that Joel excreted into the world, then saddled with the worst lyric sensibilities this side of whatever demon spawn works on "Barney And Friends."

And because no one pays attention to words, I get to be reminded about this on any number of occasions. In the middle of "Trainwreck", an otherwise great time at the movies. In my radio this morning. On YES at any given commercial break, when I'm just trying to have some sports on in the background, because YES has a hard on for Billy Joel that's mightier than any blue pill.

It's that bad. It will always be that bad. It doesn't matter how much the culture splinters. It doesn't matter how much control we have over our media. Billy is waiting.

Oh, and then after that was over, they played "You May Be Right." Yes, yes, I may be.

Why Geno Smith's Injury Should Get The Jets Relegated Out Of The NFL

Oh, You Sad, Sad Laundry
It's been a few days, but it still boggles the mind: the Jets will be without their likely choice of QB1 for up to 10 weeks, because he got his jaw broken by a reserve linebacker.

Not on the field, but in the locker room.

Not in an accident, but in a fight.

Well, not in a fight, but in an assault. One that, seemingly, he inspired by poor behavior.

In the long run, of course, this doesn't matter, because the Jets do not matter. A great year for Smith would have just meant that he kept the job from (snort) retread Ryan Fitzpatrick and rookie Bryce Petty, and led the team to some pretending playoff run. There is not now, nor has there recently been, a QB who turned around early days like Smith's to become a QB of substance. Getting put on the shelf through some absurd moment of violence is chuckle-worthy, but all it did was accelerate the process and give us all another moment of Oh Those Jets.

Which leads, along with the upcoming rape of Oakland by the have to be departing Raiders (again), and the giveaways brought by extortion to St. Louis and others, to what really has to happen to the NFL: relegation. I know this is my holy grail of sports, but with each succeeding city that gets worked over, there's another straw on the camel's back.

Relegation would get you, the American sporting public:

> An iron-clad defense against tanking

> The ability to see truly life and death football for more than just playoff teams, with no meaningless games late in the year

> The chance to get rid of some of the worst NFL teams and owners

> A safeguard against franchises holding up cities for ransom

> More football in more cities, over more weeks, which means even less time to pretend that we still care about sports that are not football

Oh, and as a post script?

The Jets waived the thug, and the Bills put in a claim for him on waivers, because Rex Ryan is just that kind of chucklebutt.

So yeah, you could put the Bills on the relegation list, too.

Monday, August 10, 2015

For Eagle Fans, Actually, It's A Fine Time To Panic

Play On, Dipspit
On my drive-time radio this afternoon, and on the Internets this evening, news that rookie CB JaCorey Shepherd has a torn ACL and is out for the season. Shepherd had first crack at nickel CB's Brandon Boykin's job, and was said to be the prime reason why Boykin had to be shipped out for pennies on the dollar to Pittsburgh last week... um, before training camp got started, before anyone could get hurt, and before Pittsburgh, or any other team, could take a good look at their not very good secondary, and make an offer for a guy that has always graded out as one of the best in the game at shutting down WR3s. And should have been given the chance to defend CB2. But hey, bygones.

Anyway, Shepherd's done before he even played a snap for the team, and hey, that's starting to seem like a theme. Last week, it was outside LB Travis Long with the ACL snap, his second in two years, and hey presto, maybe the fact that the team has four possible interior LBs (Kiko Alonso and Mychal Kendricks being the actually good players, DeMecco Ryans being the too-old guy, and rookie Jordan Hicks as the too-young guy), and not so much beyond the two starting OLBs...

Well, hey, maybe the GM of this team is an absolute colossal idiot, disaster and trainwreck?

Nah, that can't be the case. The Eagles were going to run off Boykin no matter what, having drafted so many DBs, and doing so much with last year's guys who weren't good enough to get on the field when the team was going down the tubes. Shepherd was merely the first guy up, you see. There's plenty of other guys who can be CB3! That's not an important position in today's pass-happy NFL!

Which makes a man wonder, honestly, just how much bullsquat Nero's media coterie can dispense, and why, on God's green earth, anyone else should want to eat that meal. After blowing the budget on multiple free agent signings, after drafting and re-drafting to fill the need at the expense of the aging and thin offensive line, the team is likely only marginally better than last year's trainwreck, with a coaching staff that didn't develop anything more than excuses over the past two years.

It's a fine time to panic, Eagle Fan. You are staring down the barrel of a double-digit loss season with an utter asshat of a GM, and your sole realistic hope is that it's so bad, so fast, that even the notoriously slow trigger that is Jerry Lurie will show the con man the door at the end of the season.

You want to know how bad it is? A trainwreck of a year isn't my worst-case scenario with this team. Rather, it's some 8-8 to 10-6 pretender experience, one where QB Sam Bradford stays healthy just long enough to convince Nero to further wreck the salary cap, and he gets another year to do some dipspit move like moving Fletcher Cox for a tight end. That way, once this virus is finally flushed from the system, the team can be somehow behind even the DC Slurs. My worst-case for Nero isn't failure; it's mediocrity, followed by even more failure. That's how bad he is as a GM. That's how little of a chance this has of working. I have no hope from the jump, and am rooting for wipeout.

So yeah, feel fine with the panic, folks. Root for more ACL injuries, not less. Take the names of the enablers who want to tell you how so and so can play this and that, and how Shepherd, Boykin or anyone else with a name doesn't matters once you've got an Allmighty Culture Of Non-Uppitiness installed.

Because that's the thing with con men. You can't have the con sting just a little, and get out with most of your belongings. You've got to be well and truly destroyed before the whole thing ends, and you can recover.

Which leaves me with one question.

How does DC, Oakland, Jacksonville, the Jets and other fans of no hope franchises put themselves through this every year?

Sunday, August 9, 2015

The Best Team In Baseball Since The All-Star Break...

Habit forming?
Is, and has been for several weeks, the no longer last place Philadelphia Phillies.

Yeah, this isn't exactly a sentence I expected to write, either.

I've been watching more than a few of their games, due to having fantasy players on other teams, and if you didn't know how terrible their won-loss record was before the break, you might think this was a frisky .500-ish young team on the rise. Hell, it might be anyway.

Realistically, they are at least two corner outfielders who are better than fungible away from fielding a decent starting 8 behind the pitcher. But 3B Maikel Franco looks like a keeper, CF Odubel Herrera has a lot of athletic skills that make him look downright intriguing, and SS Freddy Galvis seems tolerable by the current weak grade of MLB shortstops. The problem is LF Cody Asche, RF Domonic Brown and 1B Darn Ruf, all of whom will be lucky to draw MLB paychecks for long enough to get a pension, but at least they are all young enough to have a trace amount of hope. At some point, C Carlos Ruiz will need to be replaced, but maybe C Jorge Alfaro might be that guy, and they did get other pieces in the Hamels trade. (Before we get too giddy, though, keep in mind that Jeff Francoeur has the 4th best OPS on the team.)

What else is here? Well, Ryan Howard and Chase Utley are filling out the last lines of stats that will get them on a local wall, not the one in Cooperstown. Utley in particular looks rejuvenated following a stint on the DL, but 36-year-old 2Bs should not exist on teams with this kind of won-loss record, and Howard's only employed because GM Ruben Amaro made him unmovable with the worst contract in the game. One month of good baseball doesn't wipe away years of bad GM work, particularly on offense.

Turning to the pitching staff, there's the core of a good bullpen here, even (especially?) with Jonathan Papelbon and his breathtakingly terrible personality gone. In the current hot streak, the bullpen has been sub-2 in ERA, and it's not as if they've been getting routine rest from a starting staff that's been as bad as could be imagined for much of the year. With Cole Hamels gone, this doesn't seem like it should improve, but Aaron Nola and Adam Morgan have helped, and even Jerome Williams was tolerable today, and that's hard to do with an ERA over 6 for the year. If and when these guys remember who they are, the days of winning three out of every four games will be long gone, but in the interim, let the good times roll.

Will it continue? Well, Arizona is the next step in the roadie, then Milwaukee, so stranger things have happened. Maybe it's just a dead cat bounce from the DOA managerial stylings of Ryne Sandberg, relief at not having to deal with Papelbon anymore, or even just finally being able to put the Hamels trade winds behind them. This also is where we provide party pooper information about how much of the run here has been at the expense of teams like the Marlins (3-0), Braves (3-1), Padres (3-0, with the road sweep finishing today) and Cubs (outlier, but still prone to Cubbiness, 3-0). It should also be noted that it has to be easier to play games when nearly no one is paying attention, having checked out on this Phillies season before it even began, such is the level of confidence -- justified -- in Amaro. Finally, it's the NL lEast, where 7 games over .500 makes you the hot young thing, also known as hands down the worst division in baseball. Baby steps at best.

But hey, better to watch tolerable baseball than terrible, and 16-5 since the break is still 16-5...

The 49ers Are In Free Fall, And Deserve It

Empty and Far, Far Away
These past few days, San Francisco (well, more Santa Clara) added a few more leaky bags of manure to a stink of an off-season that is hard to imagine. With the sudden but not terribly surprising release of LB Aldon Smith for reasons of him being, well, Aldon Smith, what was a borderline dynasty in the NFC West is now poised to be a chic pick for fourth and beyond, and while they aren't as bad as all that, picking this division to be in while losing talent hand over fist is a poor life choice.

Start with the coaching situation, where the franchise decided that Jim Harbaugh was getting too much credit for the team's turnaround, and Had To Go. Add in the usual faceplant in home field advantage that always happens when a team moves into a new stadium -- seriously, America, stop tolerating this -- and the middling weapons provided, and you can see why this team is going nowhere fast. But the issues go beyond the people you've heard about, or the myriad number of retirements and dismissals on the defensive side of the ball.

Rather, what really is going on here is that the club decided it could live without Scott McCloughan, the player personnel man most responsible for the team's turnaround in drafting acumen. While McCloughan's last two drafts were not as ridiculously good as the ones that got them a half dozen Pro Bowlers, he's a damn sight better than trusting young trustafarian owner Jed York. The club's drafts since 2012 are as bad as when the club went belly-up in the time between Steve Young and Harbaugh. In case you've forgotten who the Niners took back then, the Niners probably have as well -- AJ Jenkins, LaMichael James and Marcus Lattimore, limp on down! -- and McCloughan is now with (drumroll!), Seattle.

The point, really, is that the Niners never really built the kind of organization that was going to sustain long-term success. They just caught lightning in a bottle with McCloughan and Harbaugh, thought that it was their doing for the upswing, and will now be rudely corrected by the universe. New coaches get to work with new starters (Eric Mangini? Good luck with that), as Patrick Willis, Chris Borland and Anthony Davis will join Smith in not playing for the definitely more pliable Niner defense. Frank Gore and Michael Crabtree are also gone, and while neither man is a flat-out stud, both were better than what was on the bench, and the offense wasn't good enough before the drop. This is a team that's going to lose 10+ games next year, in a stadium that's very expensive and far away from the actual fan base.

So the Niners are going to be bad again; so what. But what interests me in all of this is to see what happens to the Bay Area fanbase, who have been made very spoiled by the recent Giants and Warrior wins. As always in any multi-sport town, the NFL matters most, and whenever there's a team in Oakland for San Francisco fan to look down their noses on, they do with speed... but the Raiders appear to be getting better, are ten miles away instead of fifty, and do not play in a division where they will get their heads caved in by fire-breathing defenses.

It's stretching the point to think that the Raiders will get to be a threat in the region. They are threatening to leave, after all, and have been the NFL's laughingstock for a decade. No one goes into the Black Hole without a little bit of trepidaiton, even though security issues are wildly overplayed, and the cosplayers are easily evaded by just getting seats that don't suck.

Final point: before Harbaugh, the Niners were nearly as embarrassing as Al's Final Days in Oakland -- hard to do. On some level, getting good and then blowing it up with your own idiocy might be more infuriating than just being bad. Keep an eye on this, if for no other reason than wishing ill on a team that changes stadiums always puts you on the side of the angels.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Brief and Obvious Points About Chip Kelly's Personality Issues

Not Seen: A Winning Manner
Because this circus shows no sign of ending...

Whether or not you think the Eagles are going to be a good team in 2015 (and no, they will not)... Chip Kelly is a terrible general manager.

He got nothing of value for DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin and Evan Mathis -- three players who made the Pro Bowl, and did not go to jail.

You have the ability, as a general manager, to run a player off the team. You do not have the ability to squander talent, and get back nothing for them.

You have the ability to acquire and trade for injured players -- and that's what they got, over and over again, in the off-season.

You do not have the ability to overpay for those players, without criticism, because, well, health is an ability. A pretty freaking important one.

You have the ability to acquire free agents.

You do not have the ability to blow your salary cap on fungible assets like an overpriced RB2, when you already had a perfectly serviceable cheap RB2 already on the roster. Or a pricey QB2, when your system is supposed to be so QB-friendly that you don't need the perfect QB in the first place.

You have the ability to choose your coaches.

You do not have the ability to help create and perpetuate the perception that race plays an issue in your decision, by not having a single African-American coach in a prominent position on your staff. (And no, folks, Lone Coach Duce Staley does not count, especially as this is his first coaching role of any prominence.)

I do not care, and no one outside of the media that loves circuses cares, whether or not Kelly is aloof, or needs to develop a personality that extends beyond football.

I do not care, and no one outside of the media that loves circuses cares, whether or not Kelly is developing A Culture that he feels can only be achieved by running off anyone with an Andy Reid taint.

What we care about is the fact that Chip Kelly is a terrible general manager.

Which we will see, in great and glaring relief, for the next five months and sixteen regular season games.

And if we are very, very lucky, we will not see it for more than that.

At which point, with luck, Kelly and his personality, and far more importantly, his terrible, terrible ideas about being an NFL general manager, will go star in Some Other Town, in Some Other Circus...

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

The America's Cup Is All That Is Wrong With The World, And Should Never Be Sponsored

Every Sailing Guy Ever
Today in my day job, I read a marketing sports piece that talked about how the writer was enthused about the possibilities involved in sponsoring the America's Cup. It's got patriotism! It's under-utilized compared to other plays in the space! Look at these fabulous demographics involved with the people who are watching! America is defending a championship with a team that's sponsored by Oracle!

Um, seriously, Media Post?

Sailing Guy is, without a doubt, the most repugnant bag of douche in the history of bags of douche. The fact that these ships cost an ungodly amount of money and require an absurd amount of technology does not wash out the undeniable athleticism. I don't care about the skill required to sail these ships, and neither do you. Putting a flag on it does not make me care more; it might actually make me care less. (In re patriotism, I do have the more than occasional moment of it, but on some level, it's just where your parents rutted.)

So, um, no, the America's Cup is *not* a great place for your brand, unless your brand enjoys massive patronage from the worst of the Gilded Class, and if that's the case, why are you even bothering to do marketing and advertising, anyway? You already have it made, have already done unspeakable things to an unspeakable number of people, and should just be swimming in money, Scrooge McDuck style, rather than doing something so unseemly as a media or sponsorship buy. In a better world, the America's Cup would be without sponsors and unpublicized, for fear of taking fire from the world's military, or better yet, Somalia pirates.

Oh, and if that happens? Sponsor the pirates. They will be far better to deal with, and enjoy a far better public image...

Monday, August 3, 2015

Chip Kelly and the Racism Mistake

People, people, people... I understand. Honestly, I do.

It is very *easy* to think that Chip Kelly is a racist.

After all, he's ran off many outspoken and outstanding black athletes for little to no return on value.

Like most racists, Kelly purports to just know more and better than you do.

Like most racists, Kelly believes that if you would simply bow down and think the way he does and toe the line, everything would just go swimmingly.

Like most racists, Kelly does not tolerate difference, diversity of thought, or any creativity or self-expression that isn't his.

Like most racists, Kelly thinks that if he just hews to his principles long and hard enough, the world will bow to his will, because he simply knows more and better than everyone else.

Like most racists, the people who choose to associate with Kelly will make excuses for him, justify his behavior, and otherwise enable him.

I understand, honestly. The similarities are strong.

That's because racism is, at its heart, incredibly, relentlessly and impossibly all-day STUPID.

Just like Chip!

So let others recognize players as having Pro Bowl talent. Kelly knows it's all about his scheme. Let other teams look past height and weight to measure performance. Kelly will keep a talented cover corner on the bench to only go against other small players, while Tall Guys gets toasted to the point of blowing a playoff date. Let others draft offensive linemen, take health into account while measuring the worth of players, lock down star players before they get to free agency rather than create holes you have to fill in the draft, or avoid sideshows who can not play, but can sell jerseys. Kelly will be his own man, dammit, and he will win his own way, with his own players. Until those guys don't work out either, at which point they'll leave for other, better organizations.

But to the next Eagle of note who gets shown the door for far less than he's worth, so that Nero can continue to wheel and deal his way to double digit losses in a mediocre division, in his quest to be the very worst GM in the long and unstoried history of an organization that hasn't been good enough in 55 years, just say this:

I'm fine with moving on to a new team. Because I'm going to be in the league longer than this clown.

See? No racism. No issues. Just plain and simple truth.

That even truly stupid people will understand.

Just life Chip!

Sunday, August 2, 2015

The Golfing Diaries: Mountain View Is Hell's Own Golf Course

Course Ranger
In my experience as a golfer, there's always a course or two that just does not work for you. Either the layout does not fit your game, there are holes that just perplex for club selection, or the slope and distance is just too much. Sometimes you come back for whatever reason, and maybe one day you break through and play better, but you still do not like it very much. It's one thing to not score terribly well, but it's quite another when the game just stops being golf, and becomes something that you are just looking to finish, rather than enjoy.

That's Mountain View for me, just outside of the Trenton airport. It's a muni that's in my county, and hence, one where I can play for a discount. It gets less traffic than the other, better muni that's closer, and it seems to be in decent shape... that is, until you set foot on the course.

Let's start with the layout. Mountain View has lots of back and forth par fours without much in the way of risk / reward. They are close enough to each other where you can make birdie from the wrong fairway, which means you have to keep your eyes open for other groups. The only thing you are doing here is trying to hit it straight... but the vast amount of landing area in the fairway is sloped, because it's mostly cut back and forth into the same hill. So what's in your head is that there really isn't a place to target, and when you land, it's just going to kick off anyway. From the tee, you are already annoyed, and there's also more than a few shots when you are blind coming back.

Signature hole? There isn't one. There's a par four with a carry over a fountain that might qualify, I guess. There's plenty of water, but none of it pretty. There's a par 3 on the front nine where the water carry is hidden, to the point where I found my ball in a pencil stream and wound up scrambling it out, but only after an armful of mud and a brush with something poisonous that caused my forearm to fire away for the next few hours.

Not appetizing enough yet? I'll go on. The greens are flat and boring. The bunkers aren't particularly well-maintained or fluffy. The refreshment cart zooms around the place, but I think the woman driving it today was pranking us, in that we saw her a half dozen times, and were 0 for our first 5 in attempts to flag her down for a damned drink.

That's what is involved in the place every day of the week. What's new today was *clouds* of swarming little flies. They kicked in on the second hole, and were pretty much in my eyes, ears, and crawling under the brim of my hat for about half of the four hours that we went around the track. They were in and out just often enough to be noticeable every time they came back, and went away just often enough to hope that was the end of it. But it never was.

In the front nine, you couldn't see why they were so omnipresent. Sure, there's water on the course, but not so much as to be plague levels. On the back nine, it all came together, with three different instances of stagnant water just sitting in the middle of play; on the throat of the green, next to the tee box, etc. All of these pools were just teeming with larvae, the clear breeding ground for player misery, and no one from the course seemingly giving a damn.

Do you know what would be better, Mountain View? Pouring sand on that. You are a golf course, and a well-trafficked one. Sand is not particularly expensive. One assumes that you have to buy a fair amount of it. Send a guy over, in a cart -- hey, you have those, too! -- with a bag and a knife. Use the knife to cut the bag. Pour the sand on the wet area. Voila! Maybe not so many clouds of flies in everyone's eyes, ears, nose and throat.

To be fair, I probably wasn't going to play a great round of golf anywhere today. I spent Saturday at a water park and the ocean with my kids, and the sunblock application was not perfect. I was stiff, tired, not terribly flexible and haven't hit a shot in a week. We didn't get there early enough to hit anything at the range, so my first few holes were particularly ugly. I brought bad game to a bad course, and what happened was bad golf.

But what usually happens in a bad round of golf is that there are a few shots that bring you back, when your muscle memory or simple luck kicks in and you get something that looks right. On the 18th, I put a wedge from 50 yards away within 10 feet of the hole with a pleasing arc, and my partner for the day laughed, because that's just the thing that happens. I didn't even want to putt it. I was just glad to get close to the pin, because that meant that I would be able to get the hell away from this place a few seconds faster.

That's the thing about bad courses. Life's too short to play on them. No matter how close they might be, or when you can get out for a round.

Sometimes, I have trouble sleeping. When I do, I visualize playing on the course where I've played the most. I imagine a remote view of myself, "see" my shots in the round of my life, go through my bag to pick different clubs, slow it down like it's a video game. When I do this, I also do some deep breathing exercises, and it becomes meditative and calming. I sleep.

I think if I ever tried to do this with Mountain View, I'd wake up screaming.

Do yourself a favor and stay away from the place, OK?

Brandon Boykin Gets Sold For Pennies On The Dollar

Play On, You Halfwit
Today, the Eagles moved one of the best slot CBs in the NFL, and a guy who might have been the best cover CB on the roster... for a fourth or fifth round pick.

Yes, on a team that desperately needed to get better play from its secondary, and was ostensibly running an open competition for CB2. Coming off a year in which nearly half of the roster has a new job, with continuity being a big win in the NFL. Coming off a 2-year period where Boykin did just about everything he was asked to do, and didn't lip off when he was given no shot at CB2 in last year's turd fire secondary, the one that cost the team a playoff berth after a fast and lucky start. (Seriously, rather than give Boykin a shot at CB2, they kept single-covering guys with said failing CB2. Hard to do, really.)

Why did the deal go down? Well, Boykin isn't the right size or height for Coach / GM Chip "Nero" Kelly, the man who runs off talented players for any reason whatsoever, regardless of performance level or team need because, well, He's A Genius. Boykin at least fetched them a fifth round pick from Pittsburgh, which is a startling step forward for Nero, in that he at least got back some value at all for top-level performance, rather than the Absolutely Nothing At All that he got for DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin and Evan Mathis. (Oh, and the fact that he got back less than the fourth round pick they spent on him in 2012? Also immaterial. After all, that pick was Before Nero, when nothing was ever any smart. Don't look at now-tossed GM Howie Roseman's last draft without Kelly, which was actually quite good. After all, Nero's A Genius. And the fact that Shortie Boykin was good, while Tall Dudes that Nero brought in were not? Also immaterial.)

Boykin at least has the mild excuse of having a contract come due after 2015 ends, and the team did over-farm on DBs in the draft, to the complete neglect of the aging and thin offensive line. He goes to a Steeler team who actually have made a history of managing talent to scheme, rather than insisting on thinking that good production from a smaller player is good production.

I don't doubt that Boykin will be better off for the move, and that the Steeler pick will not be very good. I also don't doubt that he'll be in the league for longer than Nero. And that this is just one more plank for the pyre that will be lit for Nero after a double-digit loss campaign, one that will hopefully flush the virus from the system.

With each succeeding Kelly whiff at GM, we get one day closer to the day when the franchise resets. Unfortunately, we also get one player further away from having enough talent to compete. Good luck in Pittsburgh, Brandon, and enjoy the Nero Alumni meeting at the Pro Bowl next year...

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