NFL14 Cherry Picks W8: Green Bay Gouda

23 Oct ............Gouda.J.Sullivan.6.15.06.wc.cca.171k

Semi-Hard

Chocolate, it’s good stuff. Some of it’s even good for you (70% cocoa).

Bread is the staff of life, if it’s whole grain (See; gluten-sensitivity).

Beer is a gift from the gods, if appreciable (21+) & enjoyed in moderation.

And then there is cheese, a true staple, world-wide.

............cheese.zamorano.Spain.wc.cca.07.thumb

You’ve got your soft cheeses, like ricotta, brie, camembert and limburger.

There are the firm varieties in colby, provolone, mozzarella, Swiss and my personal favorite, sharp cheddar. Mmmmm.

The hard palate-pleasers (graters) including parmesan, gouda (semi) and Romano.

And then there’s the Big Cheese, Midwest variety: the Green Bay Packers.

There was a time when, defensively speaking, hard was the only variety of Packer one would encounter on the tundra, frozen or otherwise.

...........Packers.logo.1959.wc.cca.thumb

Names like Dillon, Nitschke, Tunnell, Forester, Jordan, Davis, Adderley, Robinson & Wood struck fear into the hearts of lesser, and some very up-to-the-challenge opponents, the fearless Jim Brown and Joe Kapp not among ‘em.

But the cheese line turned muenster in the 70s & 80s, w/notable exceptions in hit-men like Hendricks, Carr, Harris, Anderson, Douglass, Gray, Buchanon and Ezra Johnson.

On arrival of Ron Wolf and Mike Holmgren (‘91), the Packerland Awakening began and continues today. It’s been marked by a West Coast offensive pass scheme that relies on a keen, highly-accurate, quick release QB. Enter Favre (’92) and then Rodgers (‘07). And when they‘ve gotten time (OL), and they usually have, it runs smooth as Cheese Whiz®.

Defensively, when Reggie White left Philly for greener Wisconsin pastures (93), he and LeRoy Butler gave gBay a stature it hadn’t had since the 60s. When both were gone, so too was the balance that had made the Packers back-to-back NFC champions (‘97-98).

Today, that balanced formula is a concoction too often left in the lab.

............McCarthy.wc.cca.8.11.07.TJ.Grant.thumb

Oh, the Pack’s been plenty good since the Wolf era, winning lots o’ games, NFCN titles and SB45 (31-25 PIT) under stewardship of Thompson – McCarthy. There have been gamers (Burnett & Hawk) and the glory-stat guys (Matthews / Woodson), but too often, in the big game, the hard-bodies have looked more like Swiss cheese than the ‘grater gang’ of old.

That may be changing in 2014.

While green & yellow resorted to trickery for a 27-24 win in Miami by way of the spike-that-never-was, no such chicanery was needed last Sunday as the they jumped on visiting Carolina quickly and relentlessly, putting 21 first quarter points on the board enroute to a 38-17 de-clawing of their opponents, holding the visiting Cats to just 3-pts through 3Q.

Coming into week 8, Packers defense ranks at #19 in ypg (362), just below the resilient Arizona Cardinals (357), but crack the top-ten in Pts/G (21), tied w/ Dallas at #9.

Their next foe: the Saints, GB’s first mettle game of 2014. Week 1 is week 1 (SEA).

............Capers.8.5.11.G.Cervantes.thumb

Set to take the Dome Sunday night versus snake-bit Saints, keeping prolific passer Brees from working the scoreboard will be a major challenge for upward trending Pack who are a bit over-sold this week w/wins vs NYJ, CHI, CAR, MIN and chicaneried MIA. Saints are ticked-off (2-4) and do favor that home-cooking on the big bayou. Should be good.

Be wary, cheese crew, as “Doug Heffernan” once quipped: “I don’t know why they call this place the Big Easy, it’s hard, very hard (“No Orleans”)!” Romano hard.

A World of Headache

Former Seahawks now Jets receiver Percy Harvin has been hot topic since the Seattle brain-trust suddenly, to public eyes, anyway, decided to part ways last week with the talented but rumored cantankerous, fleet-footed football star.

Back in his Minnesota days (’09-12) when rumors of personality conflict surfaced, Harvin was plagued by migraine headaches, keeping him out-of-action with some frequency, including their memorable run at the Super Bowl (‘09-10) when Favre still had ankles.

...........Harvin.wc.cca.10.6.14.K.Allison.thumb

Curious that in their first game post-Percy, the normally stout Seattle crew atypically fell behind big (3-21) to the 1-4 host Rams w/green QB Davis at controls who’d normally be feeling the wrath of a historically strong Seahawks’ D. The word ‘tank’ began to filter its way into the brain, until Hawks made it respectable late (L 26-28). Now word of locker-room grumbling that QB Wilson isn’t “black enough,” for some. Percy pay-back?

Not much is known about the causes of such malady, but stress is a known contributor. Broncos great running back Terrell Davis has talked publicly about his suffering similar headaches, a pain that reportedly abated upon his exit from the stress & rigors of NFL.

Neither a medical doctor nor privy to all the facts in Percy’s case, it wouldn’t be careless to presume an attitude adjustment or a personal inventory, if you prefer, is in order for PH after ugly separations from his prior clubs. If not for his career, then for piece of mind.

“Air Coryell” Remembered

.............Cardinals.wood.wc.cca.66.thumb

The year was 1976. Carter came out of Georgia to edge incumbent Ford in the November Presidential, the Big Red Machine was cruising, Gifford, Meredith & Cosell made MNF a national habit w/half-time highlights & witty banter and disco dominated the charts.

It also marked the last time the Cardinals started an NFL season with an impressive 5-1 record, a tally matched by their present-day descendents heading into week 8 (PHI).

The late, great head coach Don Coryell (1924-10) was mastermind behind the St. Louis revival of the mid-70s when the League’s charter member (w/Bears) made back-to-back playoff appearances (‘74-75) with a signature offensive scheme that came to be known as “Air Coryell,” a reinvigoration of Sid Gillman’s (SD) air-it-out invention.

Big names like Jim Hart (QB), all-purpose Terry Metcalf (PR/RB), Jim Otis (FB), Mel Gray (WR), J.V. Cain (TE), Ike Harris (WR), Roger Wehrli (CB) and Dan Dierdorf (OT) were known to most fans around the nation who knew the Redbirds would come to play.

After bowing out in Divisional round in both ’74 and ’75, Coryell’s bunch posted a spiffy 10-4 record but missed the post-season in ‘76 and would not return until, briefly, in ‘82.

The brass ring eluded their grasp but those 70s Cardinals rarely failed to excite.

The Real McCoy?

On Monday, Redskins rookie head coach Jay Gruden shelved the Kirk Cousins project and opted for 3rd-stringer and former Longhorn Colt McCoy as his starting QB after Mr. .45 played admirably (11-12, TD (Garcon 70y)) in 2nd-half duty in leading Skins to a win over Titans last Sunday, 19-17. Presently, the McCoy project is contingent on return of Rob Griffin who is still rehabbing from a serious ankle injury a month back.

Virtù isn’t exactly trending today, but given Washington’s bleak outlook for the rest of 2014, some serious patience with Cousins might’ve produced good results in the long run. Let’s hope Colt, unlike his predecessor, is less willing to step aside when Sir Runs-a-Lot. Good luck with the carousel, Jay.

Canton-bound Sticky Glove

I’ve not paid much mind to Peyton Manning’s on-field wardrobe of late (jacket & tie post game presser is impressive), but w/his surpassment of Favre’s career TD total (509 & counting) last weekend, the photo folk had a field day w/ the future HOF’er and noticed he had on the now standard year round shill gear for rough & tough footballers, a sticky-glove. Cute.

.............Manning.wc.cca.8.26.12.J.Beall.thumb

Johnny Unitas and Sammy Baugh are spinning.

I’ve just one question for Mr. Manning: Do you wear the glove when you eat pizza, too? Hot hot hot!

Not Ready to Bite

The Lions are enjoying a 5-2 start and are one of a handful of media darlings this week 8 (GB, DAL, IND, DEN). This writer isn’t ready to bite.

A come-from-behind, 1-point win, at home against an up & down (mostly down) Saints club, doesn’t yet qualify this Detroit team as down-the-road contenders, not with their long history of flame-out to overcome (See; 1960 – 2013).

Play a blinder versus Falcons (2-5) in London town this Sunday, a talented bunch just as ticked as are their arch-rival to the West (NO), then master November’s slate (MIA, AZ, NE & CHI (3-1)) and best the Packers at Lambeau (W17), and I’ll start consuming.

Book of Matthew (McConaughey)

It’s just… I love the emblem (Washington Redskins). I dig it. It gives me a little fire and some oomph. But now that it’s in the court of public opinion, it’s going to change. I wish it wouldn’t, but it will.” (“Matthew“ / SI.com (E/M) / 10-21 / Maloy).”

...........McConaughey.7.17.12.wc.cca.MAD.thumb

Such a back-handed, defeatist endorsement of the beleaguered motif is hard to figure. Dis-information? Hmmm, doubtful, but who can say in these times.

Don’t raise that white flag just yet, Mr. McConaughey (“change”), “Rome wuddn’t (lost) in a day (B.Hopkins),” it took five centuries. Plenty of time to gauge “public opinion.”

As for the “court” you reference, if lady justice is truly blind in her balancing-act (“public opinion“), pro-Redskins should remain a winner. But if she lifts that veil and winks at the PCB bunch, I fear too, a sad result, something like the OJ and Pistorius “court(s).”

Popularity and justice need not be mutually exclusive outcomes.

...........cherries.Hispalois.Spain.wc.cc.thumb

Cherry Picks Week 8: Mettle Match-ups

Chargers (5-2) @ Broncos (5-1): 10-23 CBS 8:30 EST: Bolts win
Lions (5-2) @ Falcons (LON) (2-5): 10-26 Fox 9:35am: Birds win
*Nice start time State-side. For Mom, “maybe no.” “Over there?.”
Ravens (5-2) @ Cincinnati (3-3-1): CBS 1:00: Bengals win
Seahawks (3-3) @ Carolina (3-2-1): Fox 1:00: Seattle wins
Bears (3-4) @ New England (5-2): Fox 1:00: Bears win
Eagles (5-1) @ Arizona (5-1): Fox 4:10 (GOTW): Cardinals win
Colts (5-2) @ Pittsburgh (4-3): CBS 4:30: Steelers win
Packers (5-2) @ New Orleans (2-4): NBC 8:35: Saints win

Record: 38 – 20 – 1

Steven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credits: hard gouda, J.Sullivan, 6.15.06, wc.cca; cheese, zamorano, Spain, 4.07, wc.cca; Packers wordmark, wc.cca, 1959; M.McCarthy, wc.cca, 8.11.07, TJ.Grant; D.Capers, 8.5.11, wc.cca, G.Cervantes; P.Harvin, 10.6.14, K.Allison, wc.cca; St.Louis Cardinal wood print, wc.cca, 1966; P.Manning, 8.26.12, wc.cca, J.Beall; M.McConaughey, 7.17.12, wc.cca, MAD; cherries, Hispalois, Spain, 7.2.12, wc.cca
Posted: 10-23-14 @ 6:32pm; edits 10:52 & 10-24 @ 1:37am EST

NFL14 Cherry Picks W7: Ohio Express?

17 Oct ..........Manziel.Hoyer.wc.cca.7.25.14.1.8m.ED.Drost

“Surprise, surprise, surprise!”

Only “Gomer Pyle, USMC” could’ve said it best, capturing the spirit and yet conveying the cautious optimism and perplexity (that was Gomer) most NFL fans feel this week about the eye-opening Cleveland Browns.

The Brownies come off a somewhat surprising 31-10 thumping of their regional rival and 3-year slumping Pittsburgh Steelers, putting Cleveland at 3-2 in the AFC North division that remains very much in play as NFL14 approaches the midway.

............Browns.M.Epsilon.wc.cca.9.3.12.thumb

The Bengals are beginning to bumble, the resilient Ravens rising, the Hoyer-led Browns contending (or pretending) and the Steelers are still in that post-Super Bowl 45 funk.

In pre-season, had a soothsayer told me the Browns, who, like 50s arch-rival and equally surprising Detroit Lions (4-2), never made a Super Bowl in their long, sometimes glorious (40s – 60s), interrupted history, would be looking viable nearing mid-point, I’d have said she should find a new profession and wondered if “Johnny Red-flag” were giving the spark.

..........Haslam.Pettine.wc.cca.7.25.14.Drost.thmb

When first-year head coach Mike Pettine tabbed 6-year clip-board vet Brian Hoyer for starter’s role in the exhibition period, over 1st-Rd draftee and junior-media favorite, Jon Manziel, it was seen as the prudent choice but more a stop-gap measure to afford time for the sideline-smiling, playbook-fearing rookie to mature.

But Brian appears to have no intention of being demoted.

After 6 games, his numbers are strong: top C% (60.4), smart TD-ratio (7-1) and while he has no GWDs as yet, he’s displayed a pocket poise befitting a seasoned QB and a savvy disdain for rabbit (6-att / -2y). But then that stat requires some elaboration.

..........Hoyer.wc.cca.7.26.14.ED.Drost.thumb

Buoyed by a capable run-trio in West, Tate & Crowell (4.8 ypc), Hoyer’s been getting top shield, too (Sk-6). That wall suffered a crack on Sunday when All-Pro center Alex Mack went down with “broken left fibula” and is “likely lost for 2014 (“Cleveland” / Cabot / 10-13 / Cleveland.com),” as is rookie contributor Armonty Bryant (DE) with a torn ACL (“Browns” / Hanzus / 10-13 / nfl.com).

Cleveland’s sore spot is defense, ranked 29th (409 ypg). They’ve one of the best in Karlos Dansby (LB) but he’s gonna’ need more contribution to keep the fun going. The schedule is a mixed bag. Next three contests are winnables (JAX / OAK / TB), so they better feast, for after that it’s a pretty tough row to hoe.

...........Dansby.wc.cca.7.25.14.ED.Drost.thumb

This week’s darling (DAL/PHI) can turn persona non grata by Sunday night (NYG/CIN).

For now, Cleveland Browns are showing a moxie that’s “Yummy, yummy, yummy” for every tummy, tummy, tummy in the greater Forest City metropolitan. And if you didn’t know that line was coming, you just gotta’ get hip to the 60s (See: title).

“Shame, Shame, Shame”

Mobile America. That’s us in 2014.

So it shouldn’t surprise anyone that the Green Bay Packers could pack-up home-field advantage and bring it with ‘em to sunny Florida when facing the Miami Dolphins.

This is what 95 years of membership (not charter, mind you) and a dozen NFL titles will get you, though, some States do impose strict travel restrictions (See; Seattle ‘11).

Either that, or the zebras were blinded by the Sun’s glare in those waning moments of last Sunday’s Packers – Dolphins game when Aaron Rodgers drove his team for the game-winning TD to topple their hosts, 27-24.

In need of a 1st down, w/time running short and GB approaching Miami’s red-zone, the starry QB, upon center snap, began moving backward and, w/head staring straight down at the spheroid, appeared set to spike the ball, but instead, pulled the old slight of hand trick, except, in Rodgers’ case, it was his cabeza that did the slighting.

..........A.Rodgers.wc.cca.M.Morbeck.08.thumb

Rather than spike it, the expectation of which is likely what cued (baited) the Dolphins’ defenders to freeze for that all important split second, the wily signal-caller pulled his head up, continued back and then threw pass for first down. Cute.

That frozen second is critical to give your guys a jump at the line of scrimmage.

And because eyes always start on the QB like a pitcher in baseball, you can bet your bottom dollar everyone was watching Mr. Signal-caller: the fans (at Sun Life), TV viewers, Dolphins defenders and the referees.

A quarterback and his center have a rapport, a trust in transfer (snap) of football to hands. They must. If a veteran like Rodgers has his gaze downward to the ball, he’s not worried about transfer, but rather, he’s sending a clear message to the world of an intent to spike.

Apart from deception and unfair advantage this trickery gives, the bait & switch move will weaken carefully crafted League rules designed to prevent QB bull-rushes.

Some were captured by the moment, the celebrity of the trickster (State Farm®) and termed it “magic (“Is This Real” / King / 10-13 / SI.com). Fiddlesticks.

It was about as “magic” as that dicey referee call back in 1989 that let Don Majkowski’s out of bounds TD throw stand, and help the green & yellow similarly snatch victory from certain jaws of defeat against Mike Ditka’s befuddled Chicago Bears.

Message to Aaron: “Don’t stop the motion if you get the notion” to pass, or “shame on you.” Shirley & Company (‘74), they knew the score.

American “Yutes” & Washington Redskins

As Dan Snyder took in the Skins-Cards game last Sunday in Phoenix, the NFL owner had some noteworthy guests seated along side: Navajo nation leader, Ben Shelly and his wife.

............Snyder.wc.cca.11.0.04.J.Wallace.thumb

Manufactured Redskins-debate aside, Shelly’s presence raised eye-brows because the soon-to-step-down Indian President had recently reached a settlement (“$8, 250”) in lieu of “fraud, conspiracy and theft charges (“Redskins” / SI.com / Mascaro & Kay / 10-12).”

The public display of friendship between the NFL enthusiasts sent sirens to scramble the politically correct bullies (PCBs) and their media minions into flight pattern, who, right on cue, dropped their anti-Redskins pay-load on their football targets.

...........Shelly.Sebaz86556.wc.cca.thumb

SI.com, in cooperation w/CBSSports.com (Can anyone say, concerted campaign?) saw fit to use the opportunity to dredge-up an April quote from a Jacqueline Keeler, aboriginal American descendent and creator of the entity known as EONM: Eradicating Offensive Native Mascotry.

Keeler was “alarmed” that Shelly, in his capacity as Navajo President, had permitted Snyder and his OAF to participate in a tribal-sponsored, fund-raiser golf tournament:

“I think it is unfortunate the Navajo Nation administration of Ben Shelly is so out of step with the Navajo people, particularly, the young people, regarding this issue (“Redskins”).” Keeler tipped her hand.

This War of 2012 may‘ve been instigated by corporate (Nike®) and personal power-grabs (Halbritter Oneida), and supplied by celebrities (Obama, McCain, Costas, Pelosi) & media, but it’s being mercenaried in large part by America’s socially-driven youth.

What’s really “alarm(ing)” is the low regard in which Ms. Keeler, the “young people” to whom she refers and their 5-star general benefactors, hold the views of sport fans, commercial art and “particularly,” those of the elder generation.

The people whose biggest contribution to Mother Earth, so far, appears to be history’s most single-minded pursuit of consumerism, in gadgetry, gambling (fantasy), music, body additives (sugar, PEDs, THC, metal, tattoos) and soft shoes, are in poor position to be lecturing the nation on any definitions, least of which is the word racism, Don Sterling and his reported age-related dementia, notwithstanding.

“And a child shall lead them (Isaiah 11:6)?” I don’t think so, not on this one, anyway.

One request of Jacqueline: put the Redskins logo issue to a vote (or poll), of rank & file Indian tribal membership, ages 18+, coast-to-coast, and take it out of the hands of “tribal council(s)” & media tools, that is, if you believe in democracy.

“Nothing to fear but fear itself,” kiddo.

.......cherries.B.Kua.thumb

Cherry Picks Week 7: “And (we’ll) have fun, fun, fun…”

Panthers (3-2-1) @ GB (4-2): 10-19 Fox 1:00 EST: Pack wins
Dolphins (2-3) @ Chicago (3-3): CBS 1:00: Miami wins
Bengals (3-1-1) @ Indianapolis (4-2): CBS 1:00: Cincy wins
Saints (2-3) @ Detroit (4-2): Fox 1:00: New Orleans wins
Chiefs (2-3) @ San Diego (5-1): CBS 4:10: Kansas City wins
Giants (3-3) @ Dallas (5-1): Fox 4:30 (GOTW): NYG wins
49ers (4-2) @ Denver (4-1): NBC 8:35 (GOTW2): Broncos win
Texans (3-3) @ Pittsburgh: 10-20 ESPN 8:35: Steelers win

Record: 33-17-1

Steven Keys
NFL Hunch Line
Photo credits: Manziel & Hoyer, wc.cca, E.D.Drost, 7.25.14; Browns.logo, M.Epsilon, wc.cca, 9.3.12; Haslam & Pettine, 7.25.14, wc.cca, Drost; Hoyer, 7.2.14, Drost, wc.cca; Dansby, 7.25.14, wc.cca, Drost; Rodgers, M.Morbeck, 08, wc.cca; Snyder, 11.5.04, wc.cca, J.Wallace; Shelly, wc.cca, Sebaz86556
Posted: 10-17-14 @ 10:58am; edit 10-18 @ 1:06am EST

Chin Music’14: Yostest with the Mostest

12 Oct ............Yost.wc.cca.5.25.11.K.Allison

Return of Royalty

I could’ve gotten on baseball-reference.com, boned-up on KC’s stats and tried to sell a familiarity, but who needs another numbers cruncher anyway? I wouldn’t have dropped WAR into it, I‘ll tell ya‘ that much, baseball’s version of the QBR.

To be honest, I’m pretty much an empty vessel on these 2014 Kansas City Royals. And I’m not alone. Besides those who reside in the 816 and 913 area codes, most national sport observers are equally deficient on the topic. And why not?

............Royals.wc.cca.5.24.11.K.Allison.thumb

Like most fans I’ve not paid much mind to the goings on at Kauffman Stadium since their glory days passed. Those would be the mid-70s (Herzog – Fry) up to 1985 when they won their only World Series (STL) under Dick Howser who died just a few short years later.

Winning ways don’t just forgive faults and cure the blues, they grab headlines, always have, always will. A perennial loser? They’re for the dedicated followers (35% +/-).

Not many predicted these Royals to make this MLB post-season, let alone advance to the cusp of a World Series.

These are the number nuggets on Team Royal:

The team hitting tallies here are not so much the home in the run (95 / AL-15th) as it is the runs on the ledger (651 / 9th), and then the means used to put ’em there (BA .263 / 2nd; SB 153-1st). As for the pitching, the ERA tells the tale (3.51 / 4th).

If you know anything about manager Ned Yost you might’ve been one of the few to see this coming back in March.

Ned works a 5-year plan which fits in fine with ownerships who tend to tug tight on the purse strings. I’d say he’s slightly ahead of schedule, no?

Yost’s first managerial gig was Milwaukee (See: above), where in 6 seasons (‘03 – 08) he compiled a 457 – 502 mark, making the playoffs his final turn and losing NLDS (3-1) to eventual Series champs, the Phillies. Shortly afterwards, Brewers cut ties and Yost landed in KC where he’s followed the same, steady pattern of gradual gain in the wins column.

That leads us to here.

This time Ned’s trip into the second season is proving more memorable, to say the least.

KC unexpectedly won their wild-card play-in game over the A’s, unexpectedly swept the best-record boasting Angels in the ALDS (3-0) and have now unexpectedly taken a 2-0 lead in the ALCS over Eastern rivals, the Orioles, and home-field with it.

............Showalter.wc.cca.4.4.11.K.Allison.thumb

Royals took the opener Friday night for a record 4th straight extra-inning playoff win, in a tenacious effort where small-ball turned muscly in clouting 3 dingers, Moustakas 2-run shot in the 10th the deciding blow, enroute to a 8-6 win, then carried it forward to top the hosts again on Saturday in another barnburner with Cain‘s 4-5 night setting the pace.

Only a handful of big name players remain in this years title tourney but the managers in Matheny (STL), Bochy (SF), Showalter (BAL) and Yost are plenty big to fill the void and keep things interesting. You’ll get no argument amongst aficionados in describing all four as some of the best baseball minds in the business today.

Besides the clash between bats, arms, fingers & feet, the battle of wits could be intense.

7th Inning (Poll Tax)

Baseball’s had its share of poor traditions, no doubt. Segregation, reserve-clause servitude and betting scandals top the list.

But there’s a new custom being forced upon fans at some MLB ball-parks that may constitute the worst undertaken since those pernicious promotions in the 70s like “10 cent beer night” (CLE 6-4-74) or “disco demolition” at old Comiskey Park (7-12-79).

In fairness to the promos, remember what founding father Franklin quipped; “Beer is proof God loves us and wants us to be happy,” maybe just not that happy. As to the records, glitter rock was on the outs and the Sox (and their aged stadium) were scuffling pretty good, too, as I recall in my days of youth.

The new practice: force fans to stand at attention in 7th inning stretch to test their allegiance to a rendition of “God Bless America” with its unmistakable religious-political overtone. And this after the game-opening, always welcome, “Star-Spangled Banner.”

Even as GBA’s introduction into ball-parks in 2001 seemed to take advantage of our national state of mourning in wake of the 9-11 tragedy, I could stomach the politicizing of baseball to unify the nation and honor the dead, wounded and emotionally traumatized.

But while the memory stays strong, the mood has changed and so too should the music.

It’s performance now feels singularly conservative in campaign, much in the same way left-leaning politicos & corporate shills jump the anti-Redskins bandwagon to profess a feeling for something they cared not enough to publicly address for decades.

............penny.wc.cca.usmint.2013.thumb

As MLB profits mightily in its ancillary operations (TV / merchandise), it struggles just as greatly to put bodies in stadium seats, competing with so many other entertainments, the lingering ill effects of the PED plague and the deterring high cost of attendance.

Instituting a polarizing ritual that simply promotes one poli-religious view to one segment of the audience, while disenfranchising those who feel the opposite, is contra-indicated for what ails our national pastime and the public purpose in attendance: to enjoy baseball and its accoutrements, have fun and above all else, feel welcome.

Fans are not coinage to be imprinted as they pass through turnstile with political notions as expressed through slogans (“In God We Trust”) and songs. Enough is enough.

If we must be denied the choice of exactly how we choose to use our 7th inning break and must partake in add’l public chorus (ugh), best that owners retire GBA in favor of “Take Me Out to the Ball-Game” or “America the Beautiful,” a song whose sentiment is unmistakably neutral, hopeful and unimposing of test.

Cyberdyne Alert

While champagne was pouring elsewhere, the whine was flowing from Dodgers locker-room in wake of their series loss to St. Louis earlier this week (See: Kemp & Mattingly). Strike-zone was the issue, or its location, to be exact. But the boys in blue had no one to blame but themselves. Lesson for Matt in ‘15: If you’re two in the hole and it looks like a strike, you aught swing away.

............Kemp.4.20.13.wc.cca.K.Allison.thumb

More significant than the moaning & groaning from the vanquished was the fodder it provided the Xbox® kids who clamor for the umpires to be replaced by machines.

How do you explain the essentialness of the human element in sport to those who were nurtured on video games, fantasy and sabermetrics? Difficult task.

Take balls & strikes away from the umpires, who do a pretty good job, even as their work is scrutinized like no others, excepting NORAD and air-traffic controllers, and baseball stops being baseball. Who knows, maybe the players would be next (See: Honda).

So remember, Matt, next time you feel it important to vent-at-length, consider you might be the tipping-point for a BIG change (See: “Miles Dyson”).

Steven Keys
Can o’ Corn
Photo credit: N.Yost, 5.25.11, wc.cca, K.Allison; Royals, 5.24.11, wc.cca, K.Allison; B.Showalter, 4.4.11, wc.cca, K.Allison; penny, USMint, 2013, wc.cca; M.Kemp, 4.20.13, wc.cca, K.Allison
Posted: 10-12-14 @ 1:58am; edit @ 12:00, 2:04pm EST

NFL’14 Cherry Picks W6: The New Belichick?

10 Oct ...........Sherman.Carroll.wc.cca.2.2.14.A.Quintano.6.5m

“Nam-myōhō-renge-kyō, nam-myōhō-renge-kyō, nam-myōhō-renge-kyō,…”

Seattle Mist: You can feel their prowess growing bigger by the week, their mystique hanging over the League like a heavy mist rolling in off the Sound.

With just over one-quarter of NFL14 in the books, the defending champion Seattle Seahawks are still sitting securely atop their bejeweled throne.

......NFL.wikiproject.6kb

They dropped their royal scepter during a visit to San Diego in Week 2 (L 21-30), but then those highly-charged Bolts are not exactly compliant subjects, not since their fine showing in last season‘s playoffs that ended in close loss to eventual AFC champ, Denver (L 17-24), proving they could play with anyone, anywhere.

Sorry Vince, and Shirley (Jackson), but winning clearly isn’t “the only thing.”

Though, the Seahawks latest triumph, coming against the Redskins (27-17), where Mr. Cousins proved he belongs, if he wants to (“This is Rob’s team (9-22)”), raised one not insignificant red-flag in that Russ Wilson saw fit to go flash 11 times in the win.

Most novice football observers ooh’d & aah’d about the 122 yards & TD the 3rd-year QB gained in scamper-mode. But when your QB is your leading rusher it spells trouble.

..........R.Wilson.wc.cca.11.11.12.L.Maurer.thumb

Keep it up and that misty mystique will burn off quicker than you can say Jack Robinson.

Wilson’s fast-track to success was paved by managing from the pocket. A reversion back to college curriculum, i.e., rabbit-mode, is a risky road. DC’s defense pressed Russ with verve but couldn’t make him pay up-field. One day, one team will. “Guar-own-teed.”

On the plus side, Wilson’s excursions, if he must, are textbook for aspiring run-QBs.

He slides before the hit, appears to have motive in mind in aiming at sideline or endzone in play-action fake (TD run)), and even in mobile-mode has a cohesion, a synchronization with his receiver corps that translates into a fine completion % (18-24 v. DC).

This time his skill-set kept his rabbit-act from turning toothy (See: Bullwinkle & Rocky). But if you think Pete’s happy w/ a 100+ rusher from the QB spot you’re sadly mistaken.

Hawks didn’t hoist Lombardi last February on the shoulders of a run-QB (3-26y v DEN).

Lateral mobility is key, but hanging tough and fighting a college tendency to bolt-at-will, letting the big men carry the freight (Lynch) and implementing the boss’ game-plan, from the pocket, are reasons why Wilson & Seahawks’ offense clicked in Super Bowl 48.

If it works, don’t fix it, or something like that, Russ.

...........P.Carroll.wc.cca.12.29.13.M.Morris.thumb

Imperfections aside, Pete Carroll & Crew are earning a reputation for making super teams (GB / DEN) look downright, super-silly-us.

And that gives the look of an organization with serious plan to royally repeat (SB49).

Seahawks look about as centered as a Buddhist monk in high prayer week.

Defense gets lion’s share of credit in Seattle. Why so special? Simple, no compromise on basics: tackle efficiency (Skins flaw) and over-lap in zones of responsibility, a team tactic that was SOP in olden days but in 2014 gets bumped by glory-stat strategy (sacks / INTs).

On the other side of the ball, harmony is the word.

Carroll and his young protégé Wilson share a symbiosis. In manager-QB system, the composer (Carroll) is as important as the conductor (Wilson) to making beautiful music.

It takes all styles to forge a championship caliber NFL offense. Ditka & McMahon (’85-86) were kismet, for a time. But longevity requires a rapport in style & purpose. Lombardi and Starr had it, Tom and Bill still have it and Pete and Russ are building to perfection.

Carroll may be the new Bill Belichick.

Beli-like, only in success, not personality, where Bill and Pete are moons apart.

...........B.Belichick.8.28.09.wc.cca.K.Allison.thumb

Belichick plays it cool, almost aloof at times, though, with today’s petulant press corps it‘s hard to find too much fault there. Peter, on the other hand, he can’t talk enough. When he’s not jawing with the zebras he’s jawing his gum like nobody’s business.

Like William the Conqueror before his knighthood (CLE), Peter the Great met with poor results too in his first NFL head-coaching gig (NYJ). But he found the title-touch in sunny Southern California and is now gunning for Belichick’s roost as NFL’s top guru.

Some don’t cotton to the term manager-QB. Fantasy financials require big digits. But dedicated jocks & football fans know better. Who needs super-stats when you’re hoisting?

Russ may manage his way into Canton if his ‘mates keep playing to potential and he keeps playing like Roger “the dodger” Staubach: passin’ pig is first, then hit the road.

The wrapper is barely off this new NFL season, but if Pete-harmonic continues to orchestrate the right tunes and his men keep listening, Seattle could have a dynasty and we could have a new football genius in the Emerald City come February.

“Holy Bouncing Boilerplate, Batman!”

..........Batman-West&Robin-Ward.wc.cca.68.PD.thumb

With negotiation like this, who needs NFL lawyers?

Some of the details in the recent revision to the NFL – NFLPA jointly negotiated drug policy were made available to the public earlier this week.

A few of the more notable changes to that policy:

For the first time beginning this week, NFL players are being subjected to blood draws, which’ll include testing for the banned PED known as human growth hormone (HGH);

While the prior urine test had been conducted weekly on 10 players from each of the 32 teams, the new policy will only test five players on eight teams, both randomly;

Testees will be drawn from pools of active rosters, practice and reserve squads; and

In one more body-blow to the Commissioner’s former authority to discipline wayward players, the union, under leadership of DeMaurice Smith (ED), won the player right to have their positive test result heard by a “neutral” arbitrator (“NFL Begins” / Fox / Garafolo / 10-6).

...........D.Smith.wc.cca.4.1.09.NFLPA.thumb

Haven’t seen holes like that since OJ ran for 2000 (’73). Oy vey.

“This is How We Do It”

It’s a hard sell, considering the NFL‘s troubles of late, but college football could take a lesson in gamesmanship from their professional brethren. Seriously.

While too many campus coaches shamelessly run up scores for profit in polling, the pros are much more prone to show some class.

Thursday night (W5) the visiting Minnesota Vikings were clearly out-matched by their Midwestern rival and host, the Green Bay Packers, who led 28-0 at half. Vikes were w/out #1 (Cassel) and #2 (Bridgewater) QBs and former starter Ponder was thrown “unto the breach.” The purple were also missing their star running back, Adrian Peterson, suspn’d indefinitely (exempt) pending criminal charge.

...........M.McCarthy.wc.cca.8.11.07.TJ.Grant.thumb

As if all that weren’t bad enough, in aftermath (42-10), Vikings DE Brian Robison was publicly distressed in belief that not all his ’mates gave full effort (“checked out“) when the chips were down, a suspicion his coach Mike Zimmer did not himself share (“I didn’t see that, and looked for it hard”) (“Vikings” / 10-4 / Shipley / twincities).

When, by 3rd quarter, the game was getting as ugly as that scene in Cool Hand Luke (’67) when George Kennedy (“Dragline”) was boxing new inmate Paul Newman (“Luke”) into oblivion (“Someone oughta’ stop this thing ( R. Waite)”), with the Pack practically waltzing into their opponent’s endzone, coach Mike McCarthy seems to’ve found some empathy and decided to pull his Mr. Matriculator, Aaron Rodgers, for back-up Matt Flynn.

There is no more bitter, contentious, disdainful rivalry than the one existing between the Minnesota and Wisconsin pro-football fandoms, but players & pro coaches know better, they know what’s important: winning with dignity. It’s not always achieved, but you do what you can.

..........ripe.cherries.thumb

Cherry Picks Week 6: Pretenders & Contenders

Colts (3-2) @ Houston (3-2): 10-9 CBS 8:30 EST: Indy wins
Steelers (3-2) @ Cleveland (2-2): 10-12 CBS 1:00: Pitt wins
Patriots (3-2) @ Buffalo (3-2): CBS 1:00: New England wins
Panthers (3-2) @ Cincinnati (3-1): Fox 1:00: Bengals win
Packers (3-2) @ Miami (2-2): Fox 1:00: Dolphins win
Cowboys (4-1) @ Seattle (3-1): Fox 4:30 (GOTW): Hawks win
Giants (3-2) @ Philadelphia (4-1): NBC 8:35: Giants win

Record: 31 – 13

Steven Keys
NFL Hunch Line
Photo credits: R.Sherman & P.Carroll, A.Quintano, wc.cca, 2.2.14; NFL – Wikiproject; R.Wilson, 11.11.12, wc.cca, L.Maurer; P.Carroll, 12.29.13, M.Morris, wc.cca; B.Belichick, 8.28.09, K.Allison, wc.cca; Batman & Robin, Ward & West, 1968 – wc.cca, PD; D.Smith, NFLPA, wc.cca, 4.1.09; M.McCarthy, wc.cca, 8.11.07, TJ.Grant; ripe cherries, wc.cca, Chirak, 6.24.07.

Posted: 10-10-14 @ 12:22pm EST

NFL’14 Cherry Picks W5: Field Generals & Super-Chiefs

4 Oct ..........LBJ.M.Hammer.DSC.wc.cca.10.26.66.Y.Okamoto.1.9m

Born to Quarterback

Article III, Sec. 2, Clause 1., US Constitution states, in part:

President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into actual Service of the United States.”

The War Powers clause adds another twist (A1.S8.C11). No one ever said checks & balances would be easy. Nothing worth having ever is, eh?

..........Brady.wc.cca.12.18.11.J.Beall.thumb

NFL quarterbacks don’t bear the burdens of our Chief Executive, to be sure, but he is often referred to as a field general, marshalling his offensive troops in a Patton-esque, forward-moving campaign to gain territory and vanquish the opponent.

And it’s also fair to say that the President rarely, if ever, has to bear the weight of a 300 lbs lineman flopping on his person as does Joe Quarterback. The Kennedy clan was big on touch football (Jack was JV at Harvard) but none of ’em ever saw anything like Jared Allen or Justin Tuck bearing down with nothin’ but bad thoughts on their minds. Ouch.

In truth, QBs and C-in-Cs are pretty much worlds apart in the duties department. They do have one thing in common: as big kahunas, both get credit with a win, blame in a loss.

So in honor of all those who bear the lonely burden of leadership, I list those fifteen Presidents and c. 2014 quarterbacks who presently bear the burden best.

America’s Best Signal-Callers

1) Tom Brady, Patriots, pocket-passer;
FDR: His economic vision prescribed emergency medicine and took policy beyond simply feeding the greed, then he undertook to save the world;

..........FDR.wc.cca.E.Goldensky.1933.thumb

2) Peyton Manning, Broncos, pocket-passer;
Lincoln: Made the union whole, more human and gave his life in the process;

3) Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers, mobile-PP;
Washington: iconic leader who led world’s first revolt against imperium slavery since Spartacus (d.71 BC), gave the new office stature and then the nation a serious start;

4) Aaron Rodgers, Packers, mobile-PP;
Jackson: First non-elitist President who fought Indians, British, banker thugs and brought the people and democracy to DC;

5) Eli Manning, Giants, manager-PP;
Wilson: Professor President w/steely courage to make America a world leader in war (WW1) and peace (LoN), whose 2nd wife Edith (Ellen) co-ruled after his stroke (‘19);

..........Wilson.1916.thumb

6) Drew Brees, Saints, pocket-passer;
JFK: Saved the Earth (Cuban Missile Crisis) and then lost his life in the battle against entrenched power;

...........Brees.wc.cca.Kuwait.T.Day.07.thumb

7) Joe Flacco, Ravens, manager-PP;
Cleveland: Should’ve been first 3-term President, designing a template for modern-era “government of the people, by the people, for the people;”

.........G.Cleveland.USNARA.thumb

8) Phil Rivers, Chargers, pocket-passer;
Jefferson: Crafty Purchase (Louisiana) doubled the nation’s size, decades after he drafted America’s creed of independence (DoI ‘76);

9) Russ Wilson, Seahawks, mobile-manager;
LBJ: mis-policy in foreign war (Vietnam) did not derail efforts of this legislative juggernaut in making civil rights reality and honoring America’s seniors;

10) Alex Smith, Chiefs, manager-PP;

..........A.Smith.M.Bragg.wc.cca.1.31.14.thumb
Polk: Pragmatic, fiscally sound and productive, James was Mr. Manifest Destiny, adding 13 States, in whole or part, to United States’ territory. Died 3 months post-term;

..........JKPolk.wc.cca.LoC.Brady.thumb.1849

11) Matt Ryan, Falcons, pocket-passer;
Truman: The plain-talking, former farmer, WWI major and haberdasher proved critics & premature press-men wrong with a strong, spirited and common sense administration;

12) Tony Romo, Cowboys, pocket-passer;
Teddy: “Big Stick” buster of trusts, builder of Parks, a celebrity turned progressive;

..........TR.wc.cca.LoC.thumb

Rounding Out Top 15:

13) Andrew Luck, Colts, mobile-manager / James Madison;
14) Andy Dalton, Bengals, pocket-passer / Andrew Johnson;
15) Carson Palmer, Cardinals, pocket-passer / William McKinley

Note: Quarterback Cues (no QBR):

Games started (longevity & mettle measure); career regular-season W-L; Clutch factor (post-season W-L & GWDs (See: Eli & Wilson), titles (SB / Conf.); Comp-%; TD-Int. ratio; sacks-suffered (See: Rodgers, Brady & Smith (highs), P. Manning (low)).

“All I Really Need to Know I Learned (on the Playground)”

A play on the title of Bob Fulghum’s 1989 best-seller (“…in Kindergarten“). The read? Never quite lived up to its nifty title. Short on reality, though, the billion copies likely printed-up made plenty o’ real cash for its producers. But I thank Bob for the segue.

Grade school on the whole was enlightening: teachers, the topics, most my classmates were friends. Those were the good years. After that, competition & cliques. Ugh.

But then learning isn’t confined to a classroom. There’s also the classroom of recess where “playground justice” was doled out by the kids in charge.

What we learned there wouldn’t fill a book (didn’t stop someone else), but it did start us young’ins on that all important pathway to self-socialization.

One of the biggies in recess: the tit-for-tat rule. Translation: what goes around, comes around, i.e., “He started it!” If you’re pushed first, you can push back w/ reason.

The NFL and NFLPA apparently don’t care much for that standard, but then those are the same blokes who usually sat things out on the playground battlefield (“Puff!“).

NFL’s goal: keep it simple, contain the problem. That’s great for them, and the chucklehead fan who thinks his, or her ticket (See; finger-fan woman @ J. Noah, AA Arena ‘13 ) gives a license to verbally abuse. But for players, not so great.

..........G.Smith.eltiempo10.wc.cca.8.11.13.thumb

Case in point: Jets QB Geno Smith who, after suffering home loss (17-24) to the Lions last Sunday, then suffered verbal attack of a self-important licensee (fan) and did what any self-respecting person would do, he responded in kind. That got him $12,000 fine.

Gino apologized the next day but then had royal salt poured into his wound when one of the Manning princes (Eli) from on top his high horse chided the 2nd-year signal caller: “If they’re yelling at you, you probably deserve it.” Thanks, friend.

The word ‘fan’ is short for fanatic, originating in 1880s St. Louis when a writer tagged the very boistrous baseball game attendees who took it all very seriously. How seriously? You don’t wanta’ know.

Cat-calling of players and officials is a time-honored tradition in sport attendance. But there is a line you don’t cross, physically and verbally.

In these times, no person, no man, woman or child, millionaire player nor fan, should suffer the verbal hostility of another person, ticket or no ticket. It’s high time the NFL, NFLPA and press backed up players (and nearby normals) on this point, giving these guys some room to move when confronted w/the beer-swilling, venom-spewing chucklehead.

“No (pizza) for you,” Eli. “Come back, one week!”

Thankful for Small (NFL) Favors

Consider it one of those rare pleasures: NFL fans not having to endure the ludicrous uncorking of bubbly and donning ski goggles in shower of champagne after every playoff round victory, as the kids in MLB do on cue and with reckless, boyish abandon.

After winning what really amounted to a play-in game, wild card winners Royals and Giants got all wet in wild & wacky celebration, as if they’d just won the title or successfully landed rover on Mars. But boys will be boys.

.........cherries.Hispalois.Spain.wc.cc.thumb

Cherry Picks Week 5: “Nothing to fear but fear itself”

Bears (2-2) @ Panthers (2-2): 10-5 Fox 1:00 EST: Cats win
Falcons (2-2) @ Giants (2-2): Fox 1:00: Atlanta wins
Texans (3-1) @ Cowboys (3-1): CBS 1:00: Dallas wins
Bills (2-2) @ Lions (3-1): Fox 1:00: Detroit wins
Ravens (3-1) @ Colts (2-2): CBS 1:00: Indianapolis wins
Cards (3-0) @ Broncos (2-1): Fox 4:10 (GOTW): DEN wins
Chiefs (2-2) @ 49ers (2-2): CBS 4:30: Kansas City wins
Bengals (3-0) @ Pats (2-2): NBC 8:35: New England wins

Record: 26 – 10

Steven Keys
NFL Hunch Line
Photo credits: LBJ & M.Hammer / Vietnam ’66 (DSC) / Y. Okamoto / wc.cca; T.Brady / wc.cca / 12.18.11 / J.Beall; FDR / 1933 / E.Goldensky / wc.cca; Wilson / 1912 / Pach / LoC / wc.cca; D.Brees / Kuwait – 07 / wc.cca / T.Day; Cleveland / USNARA / wc.cca; A.Smith / wc.cca / M.Bragg / 1.31.14 – ProBowl; J.Polk / 1849 / wc.cca / LoC / Brady; Teddy / wc.cca / LoC / 1919?; G.Smith / 8.11.13 / eltiempo10 / wc.cca; Cherries / wc.cca / Spain / Hispalois / 7.2.12

Posted: 10-3-14 @ 10:52pm EST

Chin Music’14: Exit Jeter, Enter A-Rod

30 Sep ..........ARod.092907.wc.cca.K.Allison.3.3m

Mood Swing

They’ll feel the breeze clear over in Jersey, once that change in mood starts swingin’ across the great Metropolis.

As Derek Jeter, newest member of the vaunted pinstripe pantheon, exits stage left for golf, girls & good food (go easy, DJ (See; Thomas & Maddux)), and Alex Rodriguez of the tarnished reputation (‘14 PED susp’n) re-enters stage right and re-rosters with the New York Yankees, the change in the air will be palpable. And that’s not all bad.

..........ARod.082611.wc.cca.K.Allison.thumb

The mood (& pitches) may’ve been groovin’ in Derek’s NYC farewell (v BAL) but Yanks captain was running near empty most of ‘14. Alex just may have some gas left in his tank.

Though, if I had my druthers, the 39-year old A-Rod would never be rostered again in the majors, i.e., banned-for-life, w/legal prejudice. Of course, you’d need monarchical-power, backed by a strong, well-compensated military alliance to pull that one off.

Today’s sport union is a powerful entity, advocating for its player membership seemingly at all costs, sometimes to the great detriment of the game’s integrity (PEDs), the fans trust and even the players themselves (long term health).

The same could be written of the owners and their Commissioner advocate (See; Silver & gambling push), but then cufflinks, apart from the rare case (J. Irsay), don’t send a bad message to kids on drugs & alcohol and are minor leaguers compared to players major league skill-set for criminal misdeeds.

Fear is the great motivator.

Were collegiate and pro athletes banned-for-life after one positive PED test result (no shortage of notice), a rigid standard like that proposed for domestic abuse and other serious crimes in the NFL, the use of performance-enhancing drugs would plummet.

As it stands today, the sliding stigma that attaches for the first failed test and resultant susp’n, is small deterrent to drug cheats when millions ($) are to be gained in risking violation of what are still half-measured, substance abuse policies.

..........Cashman.062509.jimmyack205.wc.cca.thumb

One can assume NYY top brass have swept most the bad feelings arising from A-Rod’s 2014 Biogenesis susp’n under the proverbial rug. Yanks are contractually bound to Alex for near $60M (3y) and, with tepid team tallies (84-78; BA .245 (#11-AL)); OB% (14); runs (14) hit (13)) bringing up the League rear, the Steinbrenners, GM Brian Cashman and Mgr Joe Girardi are hoping the former MVP still has enough spike on his cleats and speed in his swing to add some much needed punch to a low-impact New York line-up.

Now it’s A-Rod‘s team, for better or for worse.

“Decline and (near) Fall of the (2014 Athletics)”

A baseball funk is like quicksand, the harder you try to get out, the more it pulls you in.

Funk is what the 2014 Oakland Athletics have been experiencing since mid-summer but managed to pull themselves out Sunday night, clinching the remaining American League wild-card spot on last day of the regular season in besting the Texas Rangers, 4-0.

The Swing-less A’s were in serious danger of becoming this season’s sad collapse story, having comfortably led the AL-West for two-thirds the season. Then GM Billy Beane of Moneyball (‘11) fame made major pick-ups in the all-important pitcher department, chiefly, Jeff Samardzija (Cubs) and playoff patina’d Jon Lester (BOS / 11gs – 2.11 (3-0 WS)), hoping to cruise to the division title. But nobody booked it and Oakland went in a tailspin for the next six weeks, just barely pulling out at the last minute.

..........Beane&DePodesta.090911.GabboT.thumb

Most opinionators lay blame at doorstep of Mr. Beane, godfather of sabermetrics, for choosing to part w/ former A’s slugger, Yoenis Cespedes in acquiring Lester. While it’s true the Athletics’ team batting average (#9-AL) made hitters a premium pre-trade (162g #13 / .244), in his four seasons on the Bay (‘14: .256 / 17 hr / 67 rbi), most of Yoe’s biggest moments seem to’ve come in the home run derby (2x champ).

Besides, gotta’ admire Bill’s boldness in breaking with recent A’s tradition of playing it cool at trade-time and instead, taking the plunge this year in obvious effort to break with their other contemporary trend of bottoming-out in the post-season. Sensical.

A’s (Lester) will fly to KC to take on 2nd-half wunderkinds, the Royals (Shields) Tuesday night, who make their first playoff appearance since days of Brett & Saberhagen (‘85).

Oakland’s playoff birthing wasn’t exactly a breech presentation, more like collapsing w/ finish tape in hand. It won’t make ‘em favorites but in Athletics’ favor is knowledge that all you need do today is make it into the 2nd season (PS) and ANYTHING can happen.

The sporting gods love determination and surprises (See: FLA ‘03 & STL ‘11).

Legacy Planner

Joining Alex in the Butterfly Club (nerves) this spring will be rookie invites hoping to “show,” along w/ baseball’s newly appointed Commissioner, Rob Manfred.

Rob, like other Commissioners before, has a long association with baseball, having served in some legal capacity since ‘87, including his current post as COO. He’s a veteran of the lawyer league but an unknown to fandom and maybe most in media as well.

Hopefully, Manfred’s given serious thought to what imprint he’d like to leave on MLB, whether that’s simply the mark of money (owners & affiliates), or something bigger like restoring integrity and a broadly felt excitement to the national pastime that goes beyond transitory gimmicks (HRD / IR) and fads (drag pants, bunny hops & sugar-water baths).

Rob’s should do list:

1) Affirm lifetime ban on Pete Rose

Unclear message on gambling we don’t need, Rob (i.e., MasterCard Rose invite). No player nor cult of personality is bigger than the game;

2) Close window tight on PED cheaters

Add an in-season blood draw to the half-measured spring sample, from every player or institute cutting-edge biological passport stratagem, then watch the typical player weight drop from 210 to 190 in a year’s time;

..........Manfred.071514.A.Pardavila.thumb

3) Keep designated hitter rule in AL or eliminate all together

Time to bury the trite DH debate that arises each year from quarters seeking to expand it into the Senior circuit but who likely get as much thrill from baseball as they do from their Law & Order re-runs. Those who love the game and pass it down WANT the League distinction and DON’T want more homogenization (inter-league). American devotees favor a power game while DH-free National disciples live for the strategy-based play. It’s called allegiance, Rob. Mess with it because of faux-fans (saberheads) and watch NBA move into #2.

4) Fix MLB record book. Asterisks, strikes, whatever, but do it soon. Bedrock stuff;

5) Daytime World Series

A necessary part of becoming a Restoration Commissioner, putting back into baseball that which the past four Czars took out, those special elements that made it America’s favorite pastime for over a 100 years. Not every game need be day-light. Can’t expect greed to be bridled. Like Godzilla (pre-‘64), you can’t stop it, just hope to submerge it for a time. One game would be sweet. And it won’t be the Super Bowl (thank god), but just might become the best thing: a national Series Skip Day (work & school / 2:00 EST). Be bold.

Steven Keys
Can o’ Corn
Photo credits: A.Rodriguez / 9.29.07 / wc.cca / K.Allison; A.Rodriguez / 8.26.11 / wc.cca / K.Allison; B.Beane & DePodesta / 9.9.11 / wc.cca / GabboT; B.Cashman / 6.26.09 / wc.cca / jimmyack205; R.Manfred / wc.cca / 7.15.14 / A.Pardavila
Posted: 9.30.14 @ 1:21pm EST

NFL14 Cherry Picks W4: Calling Mrs. Miniver

26 Sep ..........G.Garson.wc.cca.40.P&P.36k

“A (football) by any other name would (sail) as sweet”

Oh, how we could use more souls like “Mrs. Miniver” on this side of the pond, to advise & consent those who occupy our seats power. The nasty John Oliver, he you can have back, England, but “Kay,” oh my gosh, more like her we need.

One of those Chairs-in-Command sits in America’s fourth branch: the media monopolies, who’ve apparently ordered their army of producers, scribes & staff to take offensive to try toppling NFL’s head honcho, Commissioner Roger Goodell.

Mrs. Miniver (‘42) is William Wyler’s heart-warming film that tells the tale of a fictional matriarch running a household in England at outbreak of WWII and how she & family cope with the trials & tribulations on the home-front that befall soon after their nation’s entrance into the War (‘39) upon Nazi Germany’s invasion of Poland.

.........G.Garson.wc.cca.42.R.Harvest.thumb

Why a reference here in sport article to a beautiful lass from Hollywood’s golden age?

Week 4 on the NFL schedule sees the start of London-fest, with the first of three games slated to be played at Wembley Stadium. Phase I features the Miami Dolphins versus the home-designated Oakland Raiders. That means, of course, the Sir Francis Drake and Sir Henry Morgan fan-clubs should be in full attendance:

Gangway, ye scallywags & scurvy dogs! Mess with me booty (grog, fish & chips) and you’ll be keelhauled quicker than a pirate can separate a dandy from his coin purse!

No movie gave American audiences a better dramatic window through which to view the lives of our British Allies across the Atlantic in their lonely fight to halt Axis powers Westward blitzkrieg, than did this film gem starring the redheaded Greer Garson, who’d captivated movie goers three years earlier w/Robert Donat in the classic, Goodbye, Mr. Chips (’39).

Garson’s inspirational character was cinematic but certainly emblematic of millions of women, people, who held down the home front for the fighting forces, working arsenal of democracy, keeping a semblance of sanity in place and sometimes sacrificing their lives.

World War 2 exposed a frightening & prevalent capacity in our human race for organized cruelty & greed by way of the Axis powers (ESPN still shamelessly employs their own version of “Axis” visual gadgetry). But by good triumphing over evil, the grace of god or simply better military strategies, the resolute Allied forces prevailed.

Watching Mrs. Miniver last weekend (TCM), I couldn’t help but appreciate how different were the eras, the spirit of community and mental approach taken to trying times.

Today’s mental tack: mountains made of media mole-hills, privacy exposed for profit, self sacrifice too rarely afforded, patience is anything but a virtue,…you get the idea.

Charming, easy-on-the-eyes, neighborly, strong of constitution, even stops to smell roses and appreciates history (“Richard I“), maybe “Kay’s” most endearing trait today would be her ability to defuse the explosive situation, i.e, angry blue bloods (“Lady Beldon (Dame May Whitty)” and armed & dangerous, downed German pilots (Helmut Dantine).

..........Goodell.thumbnail.flag

Roger Goodell may wish he’d booked a flight to “Kay’s” old stomping grounds for this weekend’s festivities, offering him a brief escape from the Hounds of the Barkervilles.

Because of the politicized protest on domestic violence that’s quickly turned lynch-mob in tenor, lacking a more constructive, practical, honest purpose & tone, it’s come clear now that the anti-Goodell campaign is really the anti-Redskins push (‘12 / Nike joins NFL) in different garb, w/assorted malicious mercenaries joining the horde:

Grudge-holders (Bountygate, Simultaneous-gate, ex-players (Bruschi)); PED-punished player entourages; profit-seeking ($) opportunists (TMZ, Oliver, ESPN, Costas, etc.), and simply those who just don‘t like sport and believe those that do are moronic, some w/ agenda (NOW), others a prejudice. Not a big group, but a big megaphone (Disney, Time Inc., etc.).

To be concerned, a bit angered by recent wave of player criminal arrests is appreciable.

But to make Goodell scapegoat for this rare confluence of badness, spotlighted by tabloid tape drop (TMZ) after an initial League response (Rice 2g) that was not atypical, as news & leisure-media grant immunity to NFLPA, is shameful, and more so, unbelievable.

..........P.Tagliabue.wc.cca.8.4.02.G.Mitchell.thumb

As a plan took shape in the 90s under then Commissioner Paul Tagliabue to bring kids & female consumers into the NFL fold, the failure to use their bully-pulpit to expose player refusal (NFLPA) to raise their own standard of behavior to a level comporting better with the new audience, chiefly, drug use, in particular PEDs, sowed seeds of trouble and either innocently or negligently created environment where Rice-gate was bound to happen.

In a highly flammable state where player misdeeds start the burn, fanned by all the above (“Grudge-holders, etc.), and a Commissioner who, ever since Tagliabue vacated Bounty-gate suspensions (12-‘12) (after arbitrator voided (9) & NFL reinstate (10)), has had his authority, prestige severely undercut, NFL’s leadership post itself has been compromised no matter who sits atop, leaving the direction, value & health of the League uncertain.

The only thing that’d make matters worse for NFL would be election of a polarizing, poli-operative, faux-football proponent (C. Rice) or like celebrity into Commissioner’s post, one even the earlier Iron Maiden, “Mrs. Miniver,” would hesitate to take.

......NFL.wikiproject.6kb

“Who (brought) the dogs (in), woof, woof?”

The Green Bay Packers Aaron Rodgers has been doing something this week to which he’s almost entirely unaccustomed: quelling a growing chorus of grumblers in Packerland.

As result of Green Bay’s lethargic loss in the Silverdome last Sunday (19-7), a game where Packers’ defense actually played what normally would’ve been fine enough for a win, the Cheese Squad has fallen to 1-2 in what had been a hopeful outlook for ‘14.

The natives are restless but the Packers stellar QB is taking it in stride, as any former champ & MVP should: “Relax, we’re going to be fine,” he said on Wednesday. Okay.

..........A.Rodgers.wc.cca.M.Morbeck.08.thumb

But unless I’m mistaken (I am), those are the exact words Napoleon spoke to his Grande Armée when things were looking bleak at Waterloo (and the Duke of Wellington was closing the deal): ‘Détendez-vous, nous allons bien.’

You’re probably, right, Aaron, the offense will find its rhythm. But if losing continues, you (& MM) just want to make sure you bring the dog in at night (See; Dan Devine ‘74).

Off the Schneid

Week 3 Sunday was a time of redemption for four previously winless teams, picked by many prognosticators to contend (It‘s only Week 4): the Giants (1-2), Colts, Saints and the Kansas City Chiefs.

Most likely to run-the-table rest of the way? the Saints, KC, Indy and, sure, the Giants.

“Stay Classy,” Coach

NFL has its share of lopsided scores (W3: ATL 56 v. TB 14), and if loppy enough, will be scornfully referred to as ‘piling-it-on.’ NFL: troubled, but not w/out standard.

But on the college scene where idyllic pronouncements are carved into marble facades, good sportsmanship gets thrown under the visitor’s bus when poll positioning is at stake.

The Michigan State Spartans, long in proud tradition, hosted intra-State rival E. Michigan last Saturday and put a 73 – 14 thumping on the Mid-American member. The small school record-enhancer will get a nice check, but in these match-ups, with big disparity in score & recruitment, 70 is the jerk-line and “winning (like that, isn’t) everything,” Coach Dantonio.

Secret Agenda Man?

Add former Patriots linebacker and current ESPN “analyst” Tedy Bruschi to the list of celebrities to call for Roger Goodell’s resignation. On Friday after Goodell’s ill-advised presser, the former Patriot stated this on ESPN:

..........T.Bruschi.wc.cca.J.Kern.ESPN.11.3.11.thumb

“One of the only ways Roger Goodell could’ve lived up to standards he placed on us as players…was to step down because he’s (NFL‘s) ultimate (“Tedy” / USAT / Lisk / 9-19).”

Ted Bruschi has always been Ted Bruschi’s biggest fan.

And for a guy whose NFL legacy benefited from Roger’s even handling of Spygate, it’s safe to assume gratitude is not high atop Bruschi’s list of values. That probably means the former Patriot gives no credit to the Commissioner for his role in bringing NFL’s PED prevention program into the 21st century with recent upgrade (blood draws), sending a hopeful message to young athletes that NFLPA “players” resisted giving for so long. Analyze that, Tedy.

Mueller Time

Though he doesn’t possess power to compel evidence, the man heading up the NFL’s Ray Rice – Janay Palmer investigation (NFLPA has followed Suit (Smith)), former FBI Director Robert Mueller will have something almost as good working for him: experience.

..........R.Mueller.wc.cca.2011.FBI

And for the naysayers predicting a whitewash: when such people seek and will only accept one outcome, what else could you expect but apathy? Besides, would a man who likely has a few million secured away and reputation for ethics on the line, allow a business affiliation to turn into a conflict of interest? Not bloody likely, mate.

One result I’d hope comes from Mueller’s search for truth is determination on chain-of-custody issue (evidence) and tabloid acquisition of such. TMZ is seen by most as Paul Revere but more accurately a golden calf for those of weak faith. And when investigation is complete, whether result shows up, down or middling for RG, the nation will accept it because the Boards of Directors of the corporate sponsors will accept it. Go Green!

Curious Quotes

“How successful can you be, given the (weapons at your disposal)?” Query from ESPN post-game field reporter for Ted Bridgewater after he’d subbed for injured Matt Cassel in Vikes 20-9 loss to the Saints. Pose questions for the players, Ma’am, not statements.

.........Cherries.on.cloth.thumb

Cherry Picks Week 4: London Calling

Giants (1-2) @ Redskins (1-2): 9-25 CBS 8:30 EST: NYG wins
Packers (1-2) @ Bears (2-1): 9-28 Fox 1:00: Green Bay wins
Bills (2-1) @ Texans (2-1): CBS 1:00: Houston wins
Panthers (2-1) @ Ravens (2-1) CBS 1:00: Baltimore wins
Dolphins (1-2) @ Raiders (0-3) CBS 1:00: Miami wins, Arrgh!
Eagles (3-0) @ 49ers: Fox 4:30 (Clash-of-the-Week): SF wins
Saints (1-2) @ Cowboys (2-1): NBC 8:35: New Orleans wins
Patriots (2-1) @ Chiefs (1-2): 9-29 ESPN 8:35: KC wins

Record: 19 – 9

Steven Keys
NFL Hunch Line
Photo credits: G.Garson / 1940 – MGM – P&P / wc.cca / 36k; G.Garson / 1942 – MGM – R.Harvest / wc.cca / 19k; R.Goodell / wc.cca / 8.30.12 / SSG T.Wade / USMA; P.Tagliabue / wc.cca / 8.4.02 / G.Mitchell – USNavy; A.Rodgers / wc.cca / M.Morbeck / 2008; T.Bruschi / wc.cca / 11.3.11 / ESPN / J.Kern; R.Mueller / wc.cca / 2011 / US – FBI; Cherries on cloth / wc.cca / picdrome / 6.11.11

Posted: 9-25-14 @ 11:00pm EST

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.