CFP: A Matter of Caliber

15 Dec ............football.NCAA.Wilson

When it comes to most sporting playoffs, the post-season net is cast far & wide. The fatter the field grows, the more glims gander and the more moola is made.

But money’s not the only motivation towards inclusiveness.

A small respect goes out to regionalism as well as a tip o’ the cap to quality by assuring the best team is included and gets crowned the year’s champion.

In football, the NFL and college differ slightly in their respective playoff picture. Both, like NCAA b-ball, are single-elimination, but the party’s noticeably bigger in the pros.

NFL punches 12 tickets, six in each conference (AFC / NFC) with four division winners and two wild entrants, while the new College Football Playoff system seeds four schools.

Since someone started awarding college football’s national championship, retroactively selected by Mr. Parke Davis (‘33 (Princeton)) who generously started the list running from 1869 (Wikipedia)), the title has most often been decided on a two-team tussle.

As a myriad of competing pollsters sprang forth over the decades, sometimes that meant dueling title match-ups over the holidays, where the two winning schools could simultaneously hold the winner’s cup and rightly call themselves national champs.

And it worked out pretty well. There were some rightful grumblings (1970), but all in all, it pleased the nation on the whole.

Then greed worked its way into the picture (80s) and a push for a playoff began.

.............UTx.wc.cca.Johntex.05.thum

I favored the duel polling-system (AP / UPI) over the BCS. It was a unique operation. Where else but boxing and college football could you have two, legitimate champs and hardly anyone squawked?

As the CFP rolled out its first final four selection this week, the Committee took heat for passing on two 11-1 schools in TCU (6) and Baylor (5). But given the narrow parameters within which they selected, they have to be commended for, overall, doing a fine job.

The problem: Committee’s action was half-measured. A 4-team field’s too small.

If the changes that took us from a duel polling system, to BCS and then the CFP, were suppose to promote one thing virtuous beyond working their money-makers, it was that every championship caliber team would make the playoff.

Popular opinion would say TCU and Baylor both possess the same CC as do selectees defending champ Florida State, Ohio State, Alabama and Oregon, though, those same folks would be hard-pressed to bump any of the chosen four.

Some sports put on a big playoff bash: NBA, NHL, NCAA b-ball, hockey and baseball, too. The pool is diluted in early rounds but whomever runs the gauntlet, survives the long arduous journey will leave little doubt they are the best team in the land.

Other venues like NFL and MLB have expanded their playoff franchise and the results are mixed. Not infrequently, the hottest team, not necessarily the best, will take the trophy.

The College Football Playoff Committee certainly understands the multiple goals they’re entrusted to pursue in their mandate, things like $$$, quality of competition and fairness, as well as the practical limitations in holding a gridiron playoff during holiday season.

But at some point the CFP field will likely have to be expanded to eight teams.

Every year you can count on anywhere from 2 to 8 clubs who are, by regular season’s end, clearly in possession of something special. In pigskin play, the field of top talent is small. Some years, one team may stand slightly taller than the rest, but there’s always at least a few more who qualify as possessing the championship wherewithal.

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Two teams tangling for the title is what we had. Four, in most seasons, won’t be enough. Six won’t work, so it’s gotta’ be eight. That means another week of playoff. And there in may lay the crux of the problem.

The truth behind the Committee’s decision to forego an eight-team, expanded field and the additional week of playoff it would require, may never be fully revealed.

Not likely it was an academic conflict a bigger playoff might’ve posed for players as could be inferred. Concern over studies from the greed-meisters of College Enterprise, Inc.? Fat chance.

More likely it was a competing financial interest(s).

Expanding the playoff pool has potential of diluting the quality of competition.

Again, some season’s there’ll be only 2 or 3 top-talent teams to test. Other years, like 2014, it may be as many as 5 or 6. But better to be inclusive (8) than exclusive (4) and leave out some serious contenders and the title’s worth in doubt.

That means the grumblings will grow. That was bearable 20 years ago but with today’s information highways in social media and the internet, the rumblings could prove grizzly.

Events like these prefer to be settled, predictable every year so money-makers can plan accordingly, but maybe a flex-format is a route to consider. Leave the Cmte the option of expanding or retracting the field each year, depending on the caliber of teams in that particular season of play.

Whatever the reason(s), they best get it corrected soon or the squawk-meter will red-line with complaints every December and “Remember the Alamo” will turn into ‘Remember Baylor -TCU.’

Steven Keys
Brass Tacks
Photo credit: NCAA official football, Wilson; UTx, wc.cca, 2005, Johntex; TxTU, K.Mericle, wc.cca, 6.7.07
Posted: 12.15.14 @ 5:37; edit 6:51pm EST

NFL14 Cherry Picks W15: Sizing-Up

12 Dec .............tailor.Erfurt.Wlocka.Wehse.GFA.1956.wc.cca69k

Measuring the Material

It’s the most…wonderful time…of the year.” That it is, Andy Williams, that it is.

At churches and temples, holy folk never see so many familiar and new faces.

For family and friends it’s time to re-acquaint, while party-goers get acquainted.

And for merchants and merchandisers, the holidays rain down “shiny new pennies” from heaven.

Let’s face it, in today’s American consumerocracy, this season is, for most, largely about one thing and one thing only, gifting: giving and getting, seemingly in bushel-baskets.

The buying is fast & furious from early November right up to the big day, Christmas. If you’re fortunate enough to have some disposable income to spend and invigorate the economy, the challenges can prove numerous and nerve-racking. Giving, and getting, aren’t as easy as you’d think.

1) What to buy your loved ones that’s new and pleasing;

2) Where to get your kids favorite, hard-to-find toys, and then finding a parking spot when you finally track one down; and

3) Sizing up. The clothing buy can be a vexing one with blends and variations in maker quality. The more info the maker provides the less risk we buyers assume and why free-shipping is a deal-clincher when purchasing by mail.

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Much easier to size-up is the NFL’s State of Contendership at week 15.

In the NFC, seven teams are in contention for at least a wild-card spot with two of those ultimately joining the post-season on Divisional crown invites. That’s not alot, in part because the South will have only one playoff entrant, a champion at no better than 8-8.

Cardinals (10-3) are currently the #1 seed but appear on shaky ground with QB Palmer out and fill-in Stanton gamely seeking his grass-legs underneath. That puts Green Bay (10-3) as National favorite, especially with a remaining slate that looks favorable (@ BUF, @ TB, DET) compared to Arizona’s gloomy gauntlet (@ STL, SEA, @ SF).

Staunch road wins like Seattle’s last Sunday in Philadelphia is what’s missing from GB’s 2014 performance plate. McCarthy & Company will put on a good face if they happen to draw ‘Hawks in the PS, revenge and all (W1 (L)), but no one can relish idea of taking on Pete Carroll’s crew in January, not even at Lambeau. In Pack’s favor would be Wilson’s short resume on playoff roadies (1-1). His Badger bloodline could help.

All at 9-4, Dallas, Philly & Detroit have flexed their muscles in 2014 but look iffy of late. Lions would get the nod on balance-of-talent but, like Cowboys, have a history of late-season fade to overcome, not helped by a closer at Lambeau.

And defending champ Seattle looks to be peaking at the right time (9-4) with successive road wins over top talent (SF / PHI), a success that’ll be tested as they hit the airways for two of their final three (@ SF / AZ / @ STL). A week 1 rematch in Green Bay seems imminent.

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In the AFC it’s much the same, as two perennial powers stand out, Denver (10-3) and New England (10-3), with three, 2nd-tier aspirants trying to move up in class (SD / IND / CIN) and two hoping to recapture some past glory (PIT / BAL).

Colts (9-4) can improve on last year‘s playoff shootout (Chiefs 45-44) and then shellacking at Foxborough (22-43); Cincy leads the North by a tie (8-4-1) as Dalton rounds into form but defense gives up killer quarters (25-4Q v PIT), while Chargers search for the verve they showed in ‘14 PS (1-1) and that run game.

Steelers (‘09 & 11) and Ravens (‘13) still have pieces remaining from Super days, most notably at quarterback (Ben / Joe) and coach, but must find consistency.

Kansas City (7-6) is the Conference’s biggest bummer in 2014 but, like Texans and Dolphins, still hold some hope.

Curious Quotes

ESPN (Disney) has taken on a rougher edge, a casual crudeness in recent years, designed to appeal (?) to the younger audience and last Sunday’s pre-game chatter fit the form.

What the show was titled I did not take note, but pre-game analysis was the focus. The standard two-host format was in place because one just won’t do, while former players Ron Jaworski and Tom Waddle fielded the questions.

For some time now I’ve sought a complete, on-line listing of ESPN personalities but have come up empty. As such, I couldn’t identify the male host who posed the awkward query, but it went something like this:

Paraphrased: ‘Was Bruce Arians (Cardinals head coach) “lying” when he said (QB sub) Stanton could take them to the Super Bowl?’ Ouch. And the guy was serious.

That’d be like asking Major League Baseball, was it “lying” in 1905 when it dubbed their new championship match between fledgling American and senior circuit National, the World Series, or would Joe Namath have been a liar if his bold Super Bowl III prediction of defeating the favored Colts not come to pass?

Only today would those posers require answers: no, and no. In the case of MLB, you might call it, appreciable hyperbole, with Joe and Bruce, plain optimism.

How low can ESPN producers go? Earth’s innards seem the limit.

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Cherry Picks Week 15: Testing Mettle

Cards (10-3) @ STL (6-7): 12-11 NFLN 8:25 EST: AZ wins
Packers (10-3) @ Buffalo (7-6): 12-14 Fox 1:00: GB wins
Bengals (8-4-1) @ CLE (7-6): CBS 1:00 (GOTW): CIN wins
Texans (7-6) @ Indianapolis (9-4): CBS 1:00: Colts win
Dolphins (7-6) @ New England (10-3): CBS 1:00: NE wins
Steelers (8-5) @ Atlanta (5-8): CBS 1:00: Falcons win
Broncos (10-3) @ San Diego (8-5): CBS 4:05: Bolts win
Vikings (6-7) @ Detroit (9-4): Fox 4:25: Lions win
49ers (7-6) @ Seattle (9-4): Fox 4:25: Seahawks win
Cowboys (9-4) @ Philly (9-4): 8:30 NBC: Eagles win
Saints (5-8) @ CHI (5-8): 12-15 ESPN 8:30: Bears win

Record: 72 – 42 – 1

Steven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: tailoring, Erfurt.Wolcka.Wehse, GFA, 1956, wc.cca; tailoring, VEB.Erfurt.Schmidt, GFA, 1955, wc.cca; NFL wikiproject; cherries, Hispalois, Spain, 7.2.12, wc.cca.
Posted: 12.11.14 @ 8:29; edit 11:59pm EST

NFL14 Cherry Picks W14: “Kingdom for a (QB)!”

4 Dec ..........Richard3.10-1912.wc.cca.276k

Quarterback Crude

A (quarterback, a quarterback), my kingdom for a (quarterback).”

That’s word-play on a famous line from Shakespeare’s work, Richard III (A5 S4).

Edward de Vere (1550-1604), 17th Earl of Oxford and author of Shakespeare papers (a/k/a “Shake-a-Spear”), was quite the pen-master, quilled variety.

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No word-processors, no writing tablets and not much in the way of research tools, beyond monasteries and small, private libraries, in those days of minstrels and non-refrigerated beef, all making Edward’s exploits that much more stupendous.

As for the Shakespeare character, allegedly from Stratford on Avon and emblazoned on 75 million beakers to attest to the fable, he was about as real as The Cat in the Hat.

And what was the #1 folly (sport) in de Vere’s day? Falconry, talons & tearing. The sport of aristocrats. They didn’t mess around in 1589, and if you did and got caught, it was off to the Tower of London or chopping block for you, poor devil.

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What Richard shrieked on the battlefield as his world came crashing down around him differed slightly from the version above, but so similar are the sentiments to that of many an NFL king in 2014 it’s hardly worth quibbling over: a desperate and decisive shortage of a critical element to victory, at Bosworth, a horse, here, a top flight quarterback.

What the owner of a floundering franchise wouldn’t give for a top field general to take his offensive team to higher ground and winning ways.

Wide receivers can be game-changers (See; Rice & Alworth).

A few teams have ridden a running back to glory (See; Brown & Riggins).

A stout defense can make good offense look pedestrian (See; SEA ‘13 & CHI ‘85).

But even with a guy like Ray Lewis or NaVorro Bowman roaming the terrain, you best have a reliable Mr. Matriculator under center or kiss any Super Bowl plans goodbye. It’s why the quarterback gets the cheers in victory and jeers in defeat.

A good signal-caller is hard to find.

Today, there are approximately 60 rostered quarterbacks in the NFL. For those franchises who’ve secured their man, it’s like money in the bank: surety.

Teams that win consistently are QB contented. He need not be Canton bound, i.e., Peyton or Tom, but a dependable bloke who wins more than he loses, i.e., Flacco and Rivers.

By my count there’ll be 18-20 settled quarterback spots as summer camps open in ‘15, all but one (CAR) pocket-passers or mobile managers. That leaves a dozen or so teams that can be fairly characterized as facing a QB quandary and will then more than likely seek a starter, whether by draft, trade, free-agency or giving a current rosteree his big chance.

Keep in mind, of those 20 odd established stars, you’ve got half a dozen veteran QBs with 10+ years under their belts and another half dozen closing in fast on their 1st decade.

And while their jobs are not (or shouldn’t be) in danger, four of those est’d passers, Ryan, Brees, Cutler and Eli, are putting up numbers while having a tough time translating them into wins. But there is something called team defense, or lack thereof, and if put on the open-market, these guys’d move but fast.

Who will fill those vacancies when they come open in the not-too-distant future? Talented pro quarterbacks don’t grow on trees, they need nurturing, time to develop. Can’t crank ‘em out like so many widgets, not the pro type, anyway.

After getting the basics in high school, it’s college where advanced training for signal-callers is suppose to take place. But “there’s a problem, Houston.”

Unlike major league baseball, where an extensive minor league farm system will weed out college grads who don’t make the grade while grooming the honor roll, pro football gets Joe college straight off campus w/all his habits, good and bad.

A quarterback crisis looms on the NFL horizon.

It’s a paltry plight compared to the impending worldwide energy crisis that will prove catastrophic at the pace we’re on (2035?), but for the serious NFL fan and general manager, this present positional predicament should be of paramount importance.

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The player pipe-line running from college to the NFL, supplying trained passers, is dryin’ up quicker than a Texas’ oil well. Why? Sir Runs-a-lot is all the rage in amateur-land.

High school and college coaches both are taking a short-cut, using their EZ-Pass® on the highway to glory by slotting Mr. Athletic into the quarterback spot, giving him carte blanche to hog the ball and bring home the bacon.

And it‘s paid off in pork bellies.

National championships and Heisman awards are proof that flash-QB works wonders at the lower level of play, where disparity of talent can be wider than the Lone Star State.

Trouble is, teachers (coach) and students both are foregoing their Football 101 studies. They can prove time-consuming, tedious and a painful learning process enroute to becoming a proficient pocket passer, one who reads defense beyond “See Spot run.”

And NFL fans are paying the price.

Not unlike the 3-pointer in basketball, the proliferation of run-QB has set into motion a devolution of football, where today’s “Gridiron Flash” or modern-day single-wing tailback (30s) (‘read-option’ misnomer), is retarding decades of progress as the art of quarterbacking steadily becomes, if not a lost calling, a rare craft, indeed.

When Mr. Freelancer hit’s the pro scene, GMs are left “wishin’ and hopin’ and thinking’ and prayin’” his game doesn’t get lost in translation, a prayer that’s going unanswered.

The Suits aren’t the only ones biting at the bit.

Co-workers at tight-end, wide-receiver and backfield can’t be all too pleased at the fewer touches they get when run-QB covets the ball and fails to spread the joy. Those 2-3 fewer takes each game add-up over course of a season, lowering totals and the valuation that can show-up on draft days and contracting time.

Remember Mike Vick, now with the Jets? Moments of prowess (’03 (ATL v GB)), a bad break of his own making but not enough tools in the kit (56C%, 59-50).

Cam Newton takes NFL by storm in his first season (‘11), passes over 4000 yards (60%), sets rookie scoring mark (35td (14r)) and can’t get back in sync (27-31).

Colin Kaepernick bursts on the scene making Green Bay sharp look Swiss cheesy but couldn’t close the deal when spotlight shone bright (See: SB47 & NFCT‘14).

Tim Tebow makes the most of his chance by taking Broncos and USA on a wild ride called Tebowmania (’11 (7-4)) while setting the bar low on a QB staple (47.9C%).

And Rob Griffin looked a diamond in the rough (9-6, 66%, 20-5i (‘11)) but a panache for pace provoked injury (knee / ankle), eventual benching and now his future is foggy.

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As for Seattle’s starry young quarterback Russ Wilson, run-QB supporters claim him as one of their own, example of why the flash-form is a winner. And they’d be wrong.

Wilson ran lots at Wisconsin but raised Lombardi only as he reigned-in the run-habit under Pete Carroll, evolving into a pro-set, mobile-manager, actually rushing fewer times (3-26) than did similar styled Roger Staubach in his first Super start (5-18 (SB6)).

Russ & Pete are now the template for conversion from playground run-around to savvy NFL signal-caller. Keys are a personality to permit, and a coach who knows his stuff.

And Manziel? Still a sideliner. Some say he’ll change the NFL (“yute(ful)” indiscretion). He’ll get his shot, but flash tends to think himself Superman, always able to make things happen. NFL defensive studs will make you regret such folly, when “the better part of valour is discretion (See; Buffalo, ‘Don‘t even think about it‘ fumble).” On busted play, drop & roll, kid.

The devolution at quarterback won’t end anytime soon. Question is, will NFL fans, with their higher standard and refined football tastes, forego the pass game, a central, defining trait of pro-play since Sid Gillman made the scene (AFL ‘60), in favor of run-rabbit-run?

Answer: It’s about as likely as a gusher in the Keystone State, or a photograph of young Billy Shakespeare scribbling and burning the midnite oil. When pigs fly.

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

Cherry Picks Week 14: “Importance of Folly”

Dallas (8-4) @ Chicago (5-7): 12-4 NFLN 8:25: Bears win
Ravens (7-5) @ MIA (7-5): 12-7 CBS 1:00: Dolphins win
Colts (8-4) @ Cleveland (7-5): CBS 1:00: Browns win
Steelers (7-5) @ Cincinnati (8-3-1): CBS 1:00: Pitt wins
St. Louis (5-7) @ Washington (3-9): Fox 1:00: Redskins win
Buffalo (7-5) @ Denver (9-3): CBS 4:05: Broncos win
Chiefs (7-5) @ Arizona (9-3): CBS 4:05: Kansas City wins
San Francisco (7-5) @ Oakland (1-11): Fox 4:25: Raiders win
Hawks (8-4) @ Philadelphia (9-3): Fox 4:25 (GOTW): Seattle wins
Patriots (9-3) @ San Diego (8-4): 8:30 NBC: New England wins
Falcons (5-7) @ Green Bay (9-3): 12-8 8:30 ESPN: Green Bay wins

Record: 66 – 37 – 1

Steven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: Richard3, wc.cca, 10-1912; deVere, wc.cca, 1575, Brown&Harding; penny-Richard3, R.Suarez, wc.cca; NFL.wikiproject; Wilson, 11.11.12, Maurer, wc.cca; Cherries-on-cloth, 6.2011, picdrome, wc.cca.
Posted: 12.4.14 @ 5:54pm; edit 12.5 @ 1:02am EST

Giving Thanks, NFL Style

27 Nov ...............baby-toss.wc.cca.3.23.09.A.Garrett.516k

While a heretofore widely unknown wide-out for the Giants, Odell Beckham, was garnering all the attention this week in NFL for his gaudy grab in game against Dallas, the best post-game story barely made a ripple with the media, mainstream and otherwise.

The Jacksonville Jaguars season of discontent continued (1-10) after their visit to Lucas Oil Stadium last Sunday as they suffered yet another shellacking, this one at the hands of Chuck Pagano’s Colts, 23-3.

Things will get better, Jaguars, even if it’s in California?

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One of the happy highlights of the mustangs win was a 73-yard touchdown strike from Andy Luck to wide-receiver, and new father, T.Y. Hilton (4r / 122y / 1td).

Frosting on the cake here, for those who favor uplifting endzone events as opposed to the bummer brand (See: “Flop-Jack”), was T.Y.’s unique revelry upon crossing the plane.

No spike, no dance, no crowd leap this time, instead, T.Y. (Eugene) got creative and began caressing the Wilson® as it were a baby, a beautiful girl in this case.

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There was a new addition to the Hilton family last week as Eugene’s wife, Shantrell, who, I’m assuming, with the help of her medical professionals, brought a bouncing baby girl into the world. Her name, Eugenia, I suppose after her Dad. That’s nice.

ESPN gave the heartfelt hurray some brief air-play on Monday.

Hanna Storm did the honors, zinging Eugene with a closing ha-ha that only a junior producer could’ve fashioned: “Does she have good hands?” I think he said, ‘yes.’

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I don’t have children but my wife, Marianne, has three and now three granddaughters.

As she pulled on-call duty this Thanksgiving holiday, her skillful and slender hands will be helping, most likely, more than one expectant couple deliver their own bundle(s) of joy in her capacity as a CNM (certified nurse midwife) at one of our Atlanta area hospitals.

And contrary to pop-culture belief (Seinfeld), the only things that will be “flying” in the delivery rooms are the sound decibels, in absence of epidural, and grateful hearts.

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In a poignant moment of parental pride and familial devotion, Mr. Hilton displayed his thankfulness for all the nation to see. It’s not an outpouring of emotion we’re accustomed to viewing in these arrogant times, where so many, old and young alike, think themselves in possession of all life’s answers & truths and a full entitlement to most of its pleasures.

Sport takes alot of flak these days from critics far & wide, sometimes deservedly so, but too often it stems from a general disdain the non-sporting classes have for the world of tumultuous merriment (See; anti-Redskins, sports betting, sticky-gloves, CFP, etc.).

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But Eugene is not unique. He is, in fact, the norm in pro sport and his gratitude for the goodness that life can produce is a fine example to those who too often focus their gaze and grind upon the glorified, the grandiose, the grotesque, the graft and grievance.

Steven Keys
Macro Sport
Photo credits: baby-toss, wc.cca, 11.29.08, A.Garrett; baby-bulldog, 1892, H.Walker, wc.cca; Bundesarchiv, Tibet, E.Krause, 1938, wc.cca; baby-bath, J.Orsini, wc.cca, 1.10.13; Mom-baby, 2000, Gambia, wc.cca; baby,yawn-Mom, 1958, wc.cca, Muratov.
Posted: 11.27.14 @ 6:42pm; edit 11.28 @ 11:03pm EST

NFL14 Cherry Picks W13: Clingons Invade NFL

27 Nov ...............Klingons.wc.cca.8.12.07.Eric.162k

“Hail, (Isotoner®)!”

The clingons have arrived and they’re every bit as ugly as we imagined.

No, no, not the Star Trek variety (“Klingon“). Not exactly a handsome race but then look who’s hooked on The Walking Dead. Ugh.

These particular clingons hail from planet Earth: manufactured glove wear. All made in the USA? I wouldn’t know and don’t expect any reporter to brave the question, either.

They’re good for keeping your digits dry in rain and alive when the thermometer read falls below 32°. But as far as the game of football goes they’re a plague of such sissified proportions they make me wonder whatever happened to the visceral sport I once knew.

And they’re a force so financially formidable now it’s pretty much assured these landing-pad, oven-mitts will unfortunately be around “as long as the grass grow, the wind blow and the sky is blue,” or the Lambeau leap and sack-dances keeping rolling our eyes.

I don’t recall exactly what year it was when the first all-season, sticky-glove received player / League approval and then appeared on the gridiron, but I image it went largely unnoticed by the gaze of fandom and uncommented upon by compliant media.

But with Giants’ receiver Odell Beckham making the one-handed grab “heard ‘round the (sporting) world” against the Cowboys Sunday night (DAL 31-28), hailed by those more impressionables as “the greatest grab in NFL history (“Odell” / King / SI.com / 11-24-14),” the controversial catching-aid is in the spotlight as never before.

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Unfortunately we’ll never know how many truly great grabs football receivers will make in this era of high marketing, including Beckham’s now all-too-common catch, with aerial aiding sticky-gloves having changed the football landscape from high school to the pros.

Catching-aids (no pun) like gripper gloves and the banned adhesive that was known in the 70s as stick’em (Stickum® is a trade-name), constitute unfair play in league, if not class, with PEDs, making hand-action almost unnecessary and increasing surface area by 22%.

The percentage is a guess but I challenge anyone to prove a lesser figure. Fat chance.

And then I don’t remember feeling deprived or deficient in hellacious hauls by skilled & savvy receivers before the sticky-glove plague swept the football nation.

Soon, marketers, NFL brass and their pen-wielding allies-in-shill will have all America’s grade school kids wearing these ridiculous greed-grabbers and TD enhancers that hang in the aisle next to the mouth guards. And like we needed more scoring. Ugh.

There’s a practical place & time for skin-saving covers, from frigid cold (See; Ice Bowl ’67) to “wiwee“ wet weather. Last Sunday night wasn’t it. Beckham’s highlighted reception likely never materializes without NFL’s new clingon ally, the sticky-glove.

This is what happens when non-sport fans manage your game. Halas and Hutson must be spinning. “For the times they are a-changin.'” Cha-ching ($)!

But giving thanks this week for those few, independent-minded hold-outs who’ve not yet caved to the crass conformity in cover, men who still trust their hands, respect and simply just enjoy the game of football as it’s best played, clean and Cling Free®.

Clash of the Juggernauts

The day, November 30, 2014, 4:25 CST, Lambeau (City) Field. One you’ll be telling your grandchildren about? Ahhh, “maybe no,” but it should be a barnburner.

It’s the irresistible force taking on the unstoppable horde this late afternoon Sunday.

Coaching superstar Bill Belichick, led by his glamour quarterback and ring-laden, Tom Brady, takes on the rising coaching star from America’s Dairyland, stout guru Mike McCarthy and his QB, heir to the Favre throne, Discount Double-Checker Aaron Rodgers for what many are saying is a preview of the season’s upcoming Super Bowl 49.

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Don’t know why, but the mythical “Connor” family (Roseanne) of “Lanford” Illinois comes to my mind here, something about turkey day and the pleasures of gobble & gorge.

But this battle of scoring-punch heavyweights ain’t about food nor family matters, it’s about something “Dan,” “DJ” and “Darlene” loved almost as much as dishing insults and warm, fuzzy make-ups, and that’s football. Though, their favored form just happened to be an entertainment entree served a little south on I-43 / 94 at Soldiers Field: da’ Bears.

Pack (8-3) overcame early season miscues and now stand alone atop NFCN after having slipped by struggling but spunkified rival Vikings last Sunday, while former co-leader Detroit fell with a whimper to these same New Englanders (9-2) in Foxborough.

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

Picking a favorite here is like choosing between bacon and chocolate: not easily done.

And given the Super Bowl feel that’s in the air and TV advertisers have no doubt been drooling about for weeks, maybe a friendly wager between the Mayors of Green Bay and Boston (Foxborough) should be riding on the outcome of this highly-touted tussle?

Mayor Schmitt can put up paper products (G-P / P&G), Usinger’s® sausage and Miller High Life® (Milwaukee), while Mayor Walsh might solicit some Dunkin’ Donuts®, Baskin-Robbins® and BBC (Sam Adams) beer from his regional corporate allies in an interstate gesture of good spirit and fellow-American fun.

Marty’s gonna’ love that summer sausage on a saltine. Satisfying.

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

Cherry Picks Week 13: “Dreams of Victory”

Bears (5-6) @ DET (7-4): 11-27 CBS 12:30 EST: Chicago wins
Eagles (8-3) @ Dallas (8-3): Fox 4:30: Philadelphia wins
Seahawks (7-4) @ San Fran (7-4): NBC 8:30: Hawks win
Browns (7-4) @ Buffalo (6-5): 11-30 CBS 1:00: Bills win
Chargers (7-4) @ Baltimore (7-4): CBS 1:00: Bolts win
Saints (4-7) @ Pittsburgh (7-4): Fox 1:00: New Orleans wins
Cardinals (9-2) @ Atlanta (4-7): Fox 4:05: Falcons win
Patriots (9-2) @ GB (8-3): CBS 4:25 (GOTW): Pats win
Broncos (8-3) @ Kansas City (7-4): NBC 8:30: Chiefs win

Record: 60 – 34 – 1

Steven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credits: Klingons, wc.cca, 8.12.07, Eric; NFL-gloves, USMC, wc.cca, Iraq, 7.27.06, Cpl R.Lewis; Belichick, 8.28.09, wc.cca, K.Allison; McCarthy, wc.cca, 8.11.07, TJ.Grant; cherries, B.Kua, wc.cca.
Posted: 11.26.14 @ 11:54pm; 11.27 edit @ 4:36pm EST

NFL14 Cherry Picks W12: “Hail (Arians)!”

21 Nov ...........AZ.Cards.8.29.13.wc.cca.J.Beall.7m

Formula for Success

Even with the Clark Kent frames, no one’ll confuse the Cardinals Bruce Arians, or Joe Maddon (Cubs) for that matter, with “the man of steel.” But who needs muscles and wavy locks when the owner (Bidwill) is paying for the brawniest brain on the NFL block?

It’s been a long, methodical journey that has brought Mr. Arians (b.1952) to this pleasing point in his coaching career.

A “wishbone” quarterback at Virginia Tech (‘74) (a word I miss hearing), Bruce began as a grad-assistant (VT ‘75) and has held twelve various coaching posts since, heading it up at Temple (’83-88), interim in Indy in Pagano‘s absence (‘12 (9-3)) and now directs the Arizona desert Redbirds (‘13) (Wikipedia).

..........J.Hawkins(Arrius).wc.cca.1959.BenHur.thumb

I’m beginning to think those guys who mold winners, craft champions, must all follow that famous line from one of the great molders in sportium, Branch Rickey (1881-1965), who left memorable marks in St. Louis, Brooklyn (Jackie) and Pittsburgh (Clemente).

Rickey’s great adage: “Sometimes the best trades are the ones you don’t make.“

When you’re trying build a winner, it’s best to start in-house, see what you’ve got, separate the wheat from the chaff as it were and add new ingredients as need be.

It’s true enough, holding onto a good player is sometimes just plain, dumb luck, having shopped their services and found no good buyer. But then some gridiron gurus just seem to have a knack, a keen ability at valuation of talent like that fine orchestra conductor who can pick out sweet and sours notes from wherever they emanate.

In short, the great ones (Belichick, Bochy, Pops, etc.) have a formula for success.

Arians first order of business upon arriving in the sunset State, the player variety, anyway, was finding the key-est of ingredients: a skillful quarterback to take over after Kev Kolb was concussed out of football. We hope Kevin is finding the best treatment.

...........C.Palmer.9.8.14.wc.cca.G.Buch.thumb

Thirteen-year veteran Carson Palmer, formerly of Oakland (’11-12), was the component.

Though he’d played admirably on a less-than-great Raiders squad, not being of the run-class of quarterbacking, so favored by junior-media, and having instead well-honed pocket skills, Palmer was not a favorite of the football press. But the guru w/the glasses saw something in the former Bengals star that his trendy naysayers did not.

Cardinals have met and exceeded one pre-season prognostication as NFC “darkhorse,” compiling a 9-1 mark, even as wily vet Palmer, who was having a Renaissance season, went down & out with a major knee bang (ACL) in W10 to be lost for the duration.

Palmer’s exit was just one of many roster voids Arians and his staff have had to fill since training-camp kicked-off in Glendale last summer.

The defense took notable hits as stick-men Dansby yodeled his way to the Forest City (CLE) and Daryl Washington was suspended early (a/a), while budding young star Ty Mathieu missed early-action recovering from a 2013 knee injury.

The re-worked ‘bastion of bird’ has been fairly staunch (344 ypg (13) / 17.6 ppg (3)), as Johnson (58t-3i) and Jefferson (49t) are complimented by Bucannon (43t), Cromartie (3i), Powers (3i) and Mathieu to form a formidable stick & safety backfield.

It’s the pass rush that’s been pretty pedestrian, scoring only 18 sacks in 10 games.

...........D.Stanton.8.29.12.wc.cca.J.Beall.thmb

Thirty year-old signal-caller Drew Stanton has seen limited duty but filled in capably (C% 53.6 / 5td-2i / 1-0 (6-3cr)) in closing out the win versus Rams when Carson went down. The former Spartan looks to have all the pocket tools in his kit-bag and then baptism-by-fire can sometimes prove divine.

Besides sound quarterback play, i.e., protect the ball, Cards will need more giddy-up in the run game to compensate for lesser pass-efficiency. That means Ellington (624y / 3.4 (41rec / 356y)) and the run men will be expected to pick it up, which can also be said for a receiver corps that will not be a full-force with star Larry Fitzgerald knee hobbled.

But it may take both a Superman’s strength and Clark Kent smarts to survive the gauntlet that awaits Arizona in what has to be the most hellacious remaining schedule in NFL14.

Home games include KC and Seattle with four roadies in Atlanta, St. Louis, who stifled mighty Denver, Seattle again and San Fran, respectively, to close it out.

Where’s that damn bye week when you need one, eh?

Ending last season in loss to intra-division rival San Fran (20-23), at home, no less, dashing any playoff hope, must still stick in Arians’ craw, as it should. Settling that score w/out your #1 QB will be a tall task for the Cards but if anyone can get his crew up for the challenge that lay ahead it’s the resourceful commander Bruce Arians & staff.

Chicago Blues

While the Cardinals, formerly of St. Louis and Chicago (b.1920), are experiencing revival of sorts, their distant cousins in the Windy City, the Bears (b.1920), are having another lackluster season and the natives, in the media, anyway, are getting restless.

Skilled, well-compensated but much maligned signal-caller Jay Cutler is taking most the heat, not so much from fans and players but scribes who need someone to scribble about when the idea ink-well runs dry. Being a quarterback, short a Super Bowl ring and master of a perpetual sullen expression that would’ve given Koko Taylor (1928-09) the blues, Jay has always made an easy target for the faux-fan and namby-pamby media.

........J.Cutler.wc.cca.11.1.09.M.Schadle.thumb

But while Cutler’s been less than Brady-esque in 2014, his numbers don‘t prove out the weight of criticism.

He’s connecting well with his corps as evidenced by a tremendous comp-% (67) and posts a TD-ratio better-than-average (21-12). It’s the toothless Monsters of Midway on defense that aught bear most the blame for coach Trestman’s sour 2nd-year at the helm.

There are bright spots on both sides of the ball as 5th-year DE Willie Young is having his best season yet approaching double-digit sacks (8) and Matt Forte keeps churning out the yards on the ground (733 / 4.2) and in the air (575 / 67) (Pro-football-reference).

“When it’s not working, go back to basics (Dr. Becker).” Good advice for health matters, also good advice for football. And to keep that blood-pressure right, take your fish oil, Co-Q10, magnesium, polyphenolic anti-oxidants, exercise regularly, tune into your favorite melodies and tune out those critics.

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

NFL14 Cherry Picks Week 12: Going Long

Browns (6-4) @ Atlanta (4-6): 11-23 1:00 CBS: ATL wins
Bengals (6-3-1) @ Houston (5-5): 1:00 CBS: Cincy wins
Lions (7-3) @ New England (8-2): 1:00 Fox: Patriots win
Cards (9-1) @ Seattle (6-4): 4:05 Fox (GOTW): SEA wins
Dolphins (6-4) @ Denver (7-3): 4:25 CBS: Broncos win
Cowboys (7-3) @ New York (3-7): 8:30 NBC: Giants win
Ravens (6-4) @ Saints (4-6): 11-24 8:30 ESPN: NO wins

Record: 56 – 31 – 1

Steven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credits: AZ-Cards, 8.29.13, wc.cca, J.Beall; J.Hawkins(Arias), Ben-Hur, wc.cca, 1959; Palmer, wc.cca, G.Buch, 9.8.14; Stanton, wc.cca, 8.29.12, J.Beall; J.Cutler, 11.1.09, Schadle, wc.cca; Cherries, 7.2.12, Hispalois, Spain, wc.cca.
Posted: 11-21-14 @ 6:55pm; edit @ 11:29 EST

Can Sport Topic Turn Elections?

19 Nov ...........NH.vote.11.5.13.M.Buckawicki.wc.cca.1.3m

Can sporting events swing an election? Short answer: not likely.

You wouldn’t think sport and its figures would ever play much of a role in voter-think, nationally or on the local level, apart from credentialing the candidate with a notoriety, i.e., Jack Kemp, Jim Bunning and Bill Bradley.

When there’s no one, single topic that stokes the fires of voter passion, like a military matter or an inspirational persona, well known (Reagan) or new to the national scene (Carter, Obama), that’s when mood can play a decisive role.

Results from Election 2014 have seen the GOP back in congressional clover, retaking the Senate to add to a House majority and, with lame duck Democrat Barack Obama manning the Oval Office, divided government is set to rule these United States for at least 2 years.

But before that all takes full affect, many are asking, why? Why did Republicans receive a mini-mandate from voters, coast-to-coast?

Theories abound as to the cause(s) of the Democrats demise.

Mid-terms are notorious for poor voter turnout. And when one party has held the top spot for six years and one of the two Congressional chambers for quite a spell, change feels right to a majority. No pun intended.

That usually bodes well for Republicans. Unless there’s a hotly contested local election, the citizenry doesn’t get all that jacked-up about the supporting cast. Because we ex-colonialists are still monarchists at heart, it’s the Presidential vote that really floats our boats, especially younger voters. And unfortunately for the donkey-set, da’ Dems had precious little in the way of victories to motivate base and swingers.

The economy, immigration, foreign stability, race relations (“That could’ve been my son”), all either saw little forward progress or seem to’ve taken a step backwards.

War on terrorism (2001) has had real success and faces new challenges including clarification of mission, while the ACA (Obamacare) is working for some folks but has created angst, not just amongst GOP’ers but downcast Dems who’d sought single payer and see ACA as only validating the “monster(s)” of healthcare who keep costs and profits grossly high.

And that‘s where a pervading and prevailing national mood comes into play. America’s on-edge.

..........C.Cassius.Longinus.63BC.CNG.wc.cca.thumb

Candidates and pundits know well, emotion is a powerful potion in politics.

It can be a passion, one that arises from an tragedy (post-JFK (LBJ), 9-11-01 (GWB)) or builds over time (The Depression (FDR)). It can sweep across party lines, or it can simply reflect a general malaise, an apprehension that weighs heavy on the national spirit.

That’d be 2014.

What then on the sporting scene could possibly affect the national spirit?

Point-shaving scandal? Nope, but if Silver gets his way the odds are favorable.

ESPN (Disney) has decided to change course and return to its former state as an independent-minded, high-standard sport network? Pure fantasia.

Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley teaming up for 2016 Presidential run? Nope, though there have been dicier combos. I would listen.

It wasn’t one event but a series of manufactured topics in the sport world, as short on substance as they were sincerity. And when Democratic leaders and mainstream media jumped on board each topic, moderate and even some Dem loyalists may’ve begun to see the party of Jefferson, Jackson, FDR & JFK in a whole new, dim-bulb light.

The disenchanted, feeling disenfranchised, didn’t all vote GOP, they just didn’t vote.

Democrats look more and more like their Republican counterparts every year.

The party platform remains divergent:

Dems are pro-choice, GOP anti-abortion;
Dems favor gun restrictions, GOP favors gun ownership & presence;
Both will engage militarily with all due speed where alliance or interest exists;
Dems raise taxes on corporations & cufflinks, GOP cuts ‘em down…the taxes.

It’s the mission and tactics that’re the same: raise lots o’ money, spend it, hope to sway voters, achieve power, then leave office and join the firm for some serious profit-taking.

Democrats have taken a page outta’ Republican play-book. They haphazardly throw out the ‘racist’ word whenever it suits, just as the GOP used the ‘commie’ tag in the 50s.

We voters may get a tad lazy when it comes to casting but we’re not nitwits. It’s plain to see how both parties are now captured by their respective lobbies and extreme wings.

It’s angry Christians who ride atop the pachyderm and work the party megaphone, while the politically correct bullies dictate the donkey‘s dance tune.

PC is nothing new, but dictating party directives, that‘s a whole new ball-game.

Blind obedience to a faction is especially disturbing for a party that had, in perception if not always practice, prided itself on the tenets of rational discourse, democracy and due process. It may’ve begun as a limited tenency (white, propertied males), but expanded progressively over the decades (See; U.S. History, unrevised edition).

The manufactured storylines that made it onto the sporting goods shelf:

Anti-Redskins

............Redskins.wc.cca.thumb

A disingenuous, late-to-the-game faction that arose from a small sect that protested logo-art in the 80s and found friends in the ivory-towered elite of America’s college campuses, into a media movement coinciding with the year Nike® assumed NFL uniform duties.

Donald Sterling

A TMZ dissemination of a recording of a senile 80-year old’s racially insensitive rant is used by the new NBA czar to bounce the batty billionaire and may now have A. Silver in line for the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Last part’s a stretch but Adam’s definitely got PR boogie, even as his roughshod ride showed complete disregard for the social right to privacy, which, ironically, is sacrosanct in liberal circles (See; Roe v Wade).

Adam played his hand well, so it must’ve seemed fine time to pitch the greed grab that is gambling & sport, a marriage made in hell. Sterling’s ouster gave Silver the cachet “to boldly go where no (principled Commissioner) has gone before,” the sport-betting biz.

The man with the Mona Lisa smile is a wolf in sheep’s clothing and the 2016 presidential candidate who has sporting sense and spine to shout down such dangerous co-mingle of interests that Hi-Yo Silver proposes, could set the tone for a likely rancorous campaign.

Roger Goodell

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

Then there was the lynch-mob that sought (seeks) the job of NFL Commissioner Goodell who honored a Prosecutor’s plea-deal and a victim’s wish (Palmer) in giving Ray Rice his initial 2-game suspension. Roger’s not outta the woods yet as we wait on Mr. Mueller.

Mike Sam

Sam’s pre-Draft promotion in announcing his sexual orientation last spring brought out the media buskers in full force, even as his notoriety-giving pronouncement clearly conflicted with his claim to have only a singular interest in “football player” anonymity.

Dish Network v. TCM (TimeWarner)

Not a sport story but one that may shed light on just how pervasive PC can be.

Money’s always at the root of corporate conflict but the one between Dish Network and TimeWarner may have less to do with coinage than it does with political sensibilities.

In late October, one of TW’s top networks in Turner Classic Movies was bumped from Dish’s programming slate, along with other TW channels including CNN, in what Dish claims in an unreasonable negotiation made by the multinational media conglomerate.

The fat-cats are greedy but they’re not dumb. They know how far they can / can’t push that money envelope in contract negotiations before it falls off the table.

More likely this supposed stand-off is about format and politics.

The leaders at Dish or even TimeWarner itself who may not be negotiating in good faith, might be objecting to TCM’s catalog of films that can send PC rage-meters red-lining.

The network of classics does not edit their film stock (silent-70s), even scenes with black-face, nudity, harsh dialogue, unflattering Indian portrayals, animal brutality or misogynistic male leads, choosing instead to respect creativity, mature message and mores of the time.

In short, Turner Classic Movies is an entertainment entity that respects history and art, not exactly favored subjects of today’s politically correct bully, one of two contemporary versions of book burners (See also: anti-evolutionists, etc.).

..........Derriere.2003.wc.cca.Greudin.thumb

Excepting the Dish – TW battle, all the above topics were short on material value but were nonetheless taken up by the Democrats and their cooperative sport media allies in a singular effort to sway the LDAs (least discerning audience), 18-26 voter block.

And it worked, as social media comment threads were flooded with feigned PC outrage for every topic that hit the fan. Trouble was, LDAs didn’t vote.

It’s a tawdry tactic the Democratic party has whole-heartedly embraced. It paints a picture of a once progressive assemblage that’s fast losing touch with the standard of fairness, its long-time loyalists and those swing voters who on occasion joined its ranks.

Sport news won’t get out the vote and it won’t guide the hand of those who happen to make it into the booth. And given the nonchalant attitude most politicos exude when sport, its leadership or accoutrements (logos, etc.) are topic, it’s safe to write that they, along with most elitists and religious devotees, don’t hold the sporting class in very high regard.

But “tumultuous merriment” has been around a long time and will remain a microcosm of our nation’s mores and beliefs.

Until that person appears on the political scene who can, with charisma, brains & courage, steer Democrats back onto inclusiveness, the blue bloods would be wise to poll & heed their majority or can expect to keep playing the party pooper in too many future elections.

Steven Keys
Brass Tacks
Photo credits: NH-vote, M.Buckawicki, 11.5.13, wc.cca; C.Cassius.Longinus, 63BC, CNG, wc.cca; Redskins, wc.cca; Goodell, USMA, 8.30.12, SSG-T.Wade; M.Sam, wc.cca. 11.30.13, M.Qwertyus; Derriere, wc.cca, 2003, Greudin.
Posted: 11-19-14 @ 1:45pm; edit @ 6:44 EST

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