Archive | August, 2014

Chin Music’14: Selig’s Legacy? Rose, Receipts & Records

28 Aug

It’s funny, some people‘s priorities.

Two weeks ago the grand old game announces its biggest change in leadership in 20+ years and who does Sports Illustrated see fit to grace their cover but the ephemeral state of Mo’Ne-mania. Oy vey.

.......Selig.wc.cca.10.31.10.3.6m.CJCosS.M.Mullen

On August 14th baseball’s owners selected a new MLB Commissioner to replace Allan Huber “Bud” Selig who’ll be stepping down shortly after conclusion of the 2014 season.

The new man’s name: Robert D. Manfred, Jr.

Born in New York State (Rome) around 1958 (couldn’t verify) and educated at Cornell (BS) and Harvard (JD), Rob’s not well known to the general public but as the current COO of MLB is no doubt a familiar face to the cufflink crowd and the media set.

........R.Manfred.wc.cca.7.15.14.fanfest.A.Pardavila.3.5m

Word from ESPN’s T.J. Quinn and Tim Kurkjian is that Rob is an experienced attorney in labor matters and sharp as a tack (“really bright“). That’s fine.

As for the out-going Selig, when he hands in his executive washroom key and calls it a career, Milwaukee’s favorite son (b.1934) will have served the 2nd longest tenure (1992 – 15) of the nine Commissioners. Only the legendary Kenesaw Mountain Landis (1920 – 44), the original baseball Czar who blazed the trail and lowered the boom on the 1919 World Series fixing Black Sox (‘20), served longer.

For Rob, it’s wait & see as he’ll take the reins just prior to Alex Rodriguez likely return.

For Bud, it’s some well deserved R&R, time with family & friends, periodic corporate boards, occasional speaking engagements and finally time to warm-up the VCR player and watch The Rockford Files tapes that’ve been gathering dust all these years.

And how will history treat #9, the man who brought major league ball back to beer-town (‘70) and then guided America’s national pastime for so many years? For a man whose dedication to the job is second only to Kennie, he oughta’ have a legacy, right? Right.

Bud’s legacy in three words: money, Rose and records.

Money Maniacal

Big money can be good news or bad, depending on the circles in which you travel.

If you’ve been a financial partner with MLB during the reign of Selig, like say, an owner, an employee, a shareholder in one of baseball’s many business ventures, Allan will be hailed as the best money manager the game’s ever seen, hands down.

Baseball’s annual take? Somewhere around 6 billion. Not too shabby.

But if you’re outside the “circle of trust,” i.e., unadorned fan, Selig’s unabashed, pointed pursuit of profit-taking has altered your game in some not entirely un-destructive ways.

If there was anything constant, unique, quaint or subtly satisfying about major league baseball, Selig either altered it to the point it was unrecognizable (all star game) or sacrificed it altogether (day-time World Series) in the name of money maximization.

Major league baseball is a for-profit enterprise, has been since 1869. That owners want a man-on-point who maximizes profits is, in the abstract, a rational tack to take.

Yet baseball is not abstract. It’s special state as national pastime and concomitant antitrust immunity mean that business as usual won’t always cut the mustard in the sacred game.

The Commissioner has always had a duel role: he serves at behest of the owners to make a tidy profit, yet, must also balance that pursuit with the best interests of, not just MLB, but with those who make the game a valuable commodity in the first place, the fans.

Inter-league play

Debuting in 1997, this novelty wore off fast.

When Yankees face Mets or White Sox the Cubs, it’s practically just another ball-game now. Most saw the malaise coming, which explains why commissioners from Landis to Vincent refrained. Prior to inter-league, the rare AL v. NL meet in World Series and exhibitions (taken very seriously by players & fans alike) was special and highly anticipated. But ‘special’ merely waves a red-cape to the bullish agent-for-change.

Night World Series

Culturally, nothing exuded modernaire Americana more than the World Series skip: boxing your pencils (school) or closing shop (work) to take in an afternoon fall classic.

I was lucky to’ve attended one of the last day Series in 1982, held at, coincidently, Selig’s old stomping grounds, Milwaukee County Stadium: Brewers vs Cards. A classic match, mine was a crisp October afternoon, as I witnessed Brew Crew forge a thrilling victory in G5, only to see STL win in 7 when Bruce Sutter’s split-finger proved difference-maker.

But those days are long gone, thanks to Bud and predecessors Kuhn, Giamatti & Vincent, though Selig’s been in the dark his entire tenure. The LCS & WS are now exclusively night affairs that end near midnite (Zzzz). The last day World Series was played in 1987 as Twins hosted the Cards in HHH Dome (G6); the last outdoor fall classic day-game was in ‘84 at old Tiger Stadium for Game five as the Padres and Garvey & Gwynn came a’ calling.

All Star Game (Home Run Derby Week)

Baseball means different things to different people. By mid-season it means one thing for every player, manager, announcer and vendor in the stands: a grind.

The 162-game MLB regular season starts with spring training (Feb) and culminates with mid-October’s fall classic. By July the guys are prit’ near pooped and in need of a break to re-charge batteries and spend quality time with family & friends.

The All Star game‘s been around since the 30s. Players know the score. Some took it seriously, others were glad to miss out on the honor (See; Above). When the game was a semi-serious exhibition it passed muster with most. Then Selig & Co. started to fiddle.

I don’t know if it was the hellacious hissy-fit thrown by a 100 hot-headed Milwaukeeans (and their barrage of beer bottles) after 2002 game was declared a tie, or All Star revamp was a natural course of things for today’s corporate chiseler who leaves no stone un-turned, but what used to be an enjoyable diversion is now an over-baked ham ($).

The pre-game home run derby now over-shadows the game itself which’s become anti-climatic, though I suspect even kids are bored with this muscle vestige of the steroid era.

And the fiddling didn’t stop there.

Tweakers decided to attach a carrot in form of WS home field for best League, not best record, in hopes of inspiring heartier play. But to think All Star participants in July are motivated by a carrot in October, realizing there’s chance he may end up helping a hated rival in the Series in some extended sense of League spirit, hit’s the height of absurdity.

World Baseball Classic

This one had market saturation written all over it from get go (‘06).

The format can be electric. World Cup of soccer is captivating, Little League (LLWS) has made its worldly mark (S. Korea ‘14) and I hear-tell cricket is a global success story, too. But not every international venture thrives, i.e., Olympics and FIBA World Cup, both of which need a return to amateurism. Fat ($) chance.

Strengths: WBC (Wasn’t that a belt?) can showcase individual talent and gives those developing baseball nations another place to grow & measure out.

But like All Star angst, the US roster is always hit & miss, and treads on the League play that every nation from Japan to Mexico puts at a premium. Time to pull the plug.

Calculated Leadership

Instant Replay

Easy to appreciate why Allan Huber caved to cry-babies and gave ‘em their instant replay bottle. On a different metaphorical plane, IR is the 400 lbs gorilla that’s been banging on the door for years and fed a steady diet of replay-bananas by video TV producers.

But sport was never intended for exactitude, not like heart surgery or bridge building.

Proponents ask, ‘Don’t you want to know the truth (and not that polite)?’ Sure I do, but not at the cost. Presently, it slows the game to a crawl, killing momentum and interest. And in a sport that already pushes fan patience to the limit, that’s untenable.

And when IR is combined w/micro-management like the new Posey rule (HPCR), it’s a cocktail for frustration that some sportswriters seem bent on using as verbal ammunition in an early offensive against umpires to win their ultimate replacement w/ technology.

Umpires will, on occasion, make a mistake and need their performance monitored for quality, but an occasional helping of blissful ignorance (no-IR) is good for the digestion.

PED Wars*

Don’t tag Bud with this depressing development.

As a legacy, PEDs is everyone‘s inheritance, from Little League to MMA, Hong Kong to Halifax, anyone who’s partaken, pushed, protected (union lawyers & player reps) or piped-down when they could’ve & should’ve spoken up.

Selig did not introduce PEDs to players nor rationalize their cheating role. His burden to bear is the delay in taking action on a clearly present plague (90s), and then when action finally occurred in ‘06 (Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program), implementing an out-dated mode (urine) and even now seems half-measured (spring-only blood draw).

Players union (MLBPA) has been the roadblock to resolution and bears blame for current insufficiency of testing (See Also: NFLPA), leaving open the window of opportunity. It’s why leadership is key: higher-ups who possess the know-how, character and wherewithal to use their bully-pulpits to push for progress, as unpopular as it may be at the time.

Record Book Jumble*

Professional baseball goes way back, the year 1869, to be exact.

History then has always been a big part of MLB, with fans and owners alike (Charlie O. Finely the exception (orange ball)). Even while names like John Clarkson and Buck Ewing rarely make Sportscenter, the fact is, sometimes they do. Other games have their colorful pasts and some teams honor it proudly (Packers), but in no other sport has history been as much a part of fan life, daily musings and (pre-Selig) League policy, as it has in MLB.

The stories, pictures, records, they all bring it home. Championship, individual, team, seasonal, career, however you break ‘em down, it’s those markers in time, name and number that are the bread & butter, the heart & soul of America’s oldest merriment.

But history’s a dirty word to some in 2014.

Formerly an honored guest, it’s fallen on hard times, displaced by obsession w/math, science and PC. While JFK certainly put a premium on “systematized knowledge (See; NASA),” he was the last President to promote the importance of embracing our past.

This state helps explain why Bud will be handing to Rob one sticky-wicket in the mess that’s been made of the MLB – Elias record book. Nobody wants to touch this one. Ford Frick (1951 – 65) took flak for asterisking Maris’ 61 (‘61), but at least he cared to act.

There are record books, and then there are record books, and baseball’s is the grandest. Since PEDs began making waves in baseball’s sea of numbers in late 80s, some of the most cherished marks have capsized: s/s hits (262 / Ichiro ‘04); s/s HRs (73 / Bonds ‘01); s/s slug-% (.863 / Bonds ‘01); s/s OB-% (.609 / Bonds ‘04) and career HR (762 / Bonds).

Putting the book right in striking or asterisking known or reasonably suspected PED’ers will face stiff opposition, a fight Selig shied from. Some may even claim an intellectual property right to holding their ill-gotten marks. But nobody said the job of Commissioner was easy. And then MLB doesn’t really have a choice.

Until the record book is set right, baseball is just wrong.

Pete Rose*

While leaving the record book in sorry state may be his biggest breach, holding firm on the Rose lifetime ban is Bud Selig’s single biggest achievement. Nothing else comes close. And you can expect his successor Manfred to hold the line on Rose as well.

Consider that the ban is as much a part of baseball as home runs, both of which, coincidently, took off in the same era (Roaring ‘20s). Remove it, and MLB sinks.

........B.Giamatti.1989.R.Stewart.wc.cca.HS-fair.use81k

Not forgetting his sudden death in 1989 shortly after negotiating and instituting the Rose ban, Bart Giamatti did, nonetheless, have a slightly easier time of it than would Selig on the fan front. Pete hadn’t yet built up the large following back then that he has today, a number that grows with every autograph he signs, and Pete signs a truckload.

Beyond the “hustle,” the gritty game he exhibited in play days, Rose has become a cause célèbre for anyone with a gripe on baseball, government or authority in general.

The ban’s purpose: maintain a standard that sends a clear message that, if connected to MLB, don’t bet on the game, ever, for if you do and are caught, you’re banned, forever.

........P.Rose.wc.cca.Kjunstorm.1.11.08.4.5m.Vegas-CP

Those who love the game of baseball know that no one man, no matter his glorious play or keen managerial talents, is bigger than the game itself: not Ruth, not Gehrig, not Jackie, not Mantle, not Clemente, not Jeter, nobody.

Besides, the polarizing, semi-tragic figure that Pete Rose has fashioned himself into carries more cachet outside baseball than in it. Yet, he seems to’ve taken-up the reverse image of Groucho Marx’ famous line and made it his mantra. Pete: “(wants) to belong to (a) club that (won’t) accept (him) as a member.” Something tells me that’s not what the legendary comedian had in mind.

* Manfred-watch topic

Steven Keys
Can o’ Corn
Photo credit: M.Mullen & B.Selig / 10-31-10 / wc.cca / JCoS / 3.6m; R.Manfred / 7.15.14 / wc.cca / fanfest / A.Pardavila / 3.5m; B.Giamatti / wc.cca / R.Stewart / HS-fair-use / 81k; P.Rose / wc.cca / Kjunstorm / 1.11.08 / Vegas CP / 4.5m

Posted: 8-28 @ 1:43pm EST

Edit: 8-28 @ 4:38, 5:10pm; 8-29 @ 12:40am

Advertisements

Spur-ring Change in an ESPN World

17 Aug

Earlier this month the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs took “one small step for (woman)” when they announced the hiring of the first female game coach in Association history in the person of Becky Hammon, a long time WNBA guard who is currently rostered on Spurs sister organization, the San Antonio Stars.

Side-bar: Sisters in step have to include 2014 Little League World Series ball-players Emma March (VAN) and Mo‘Ne Davis (PHI) who’re leaving their own imprints on the surface of Planet Equality.

Hammon will not be the first woman assistant coach in NBA history. That honor belongs to Lisa Boyer who worked as a Cavaliers practice coach in 2001-02 under John Lucas but was paid by the now defunct WNBA franchise Cleveland Rockers (1997 – 03).

Reigning NBA championship guru, Gregg Popovich, had this to say on the hire:

I very much look forward to the addition of Becky Hammon to our staff. Having observed her working with our team this past season I’m confident her basketball IQ, work ethic and interpersonal skills will be a great benefit to the Spurs (NBA.com / “Spurs / 8-5-14).”

......B.Hammon.wc.cca.5.09.P.Shilikov.1.2m

It remains to be shown this writer, however, if in fact Becky will actually be on Spurs’ payroll or instead compensated indirectly as was Ms. Boyer back in 2001 (“terms of the (Hammon) contract were not announced,” as is “club policy” / “Spurs” / NBA.com).

One would guess the Spurs go all in and make BH an official NBA coach upon conclusion of this WNBA season, her last, and then buckling-on her spurs for duty.

Side-bar sequel: Bear in mind Spencer Tracy’s (Drummond: Inherit the Wind (‘60)): “Progress was never a bargain, you have to pay for it.” Will more girls rising to higher levels of play simply mean more youngsters will feel pressured into using PEDs?

But while San Antonio and NBA look to’ve taken a step forward for gender equality, Disney’s sport media arm ESPN, the self-anointed “worldwide leader” in all things athletic, seem to have taken “one giant leap (backward) for mankind” when they recently opted for suspention (suspension + vacation) of their acerbic & self-satisfied First Take co-host, Stephen Smith, rather than outright dismissal, after Smith made dicey dialogue in wake of the NFL’s suspension of troubled Ravens’ run-back, Ray Rice.

......R.Rice.wc.cca.8.17.10.USAF-SS.B.Hughes.1.36m

The general Rice facts:

The Ravens’ star and then girlfriend Janay Palmer were both arrested in February for a disturbance at an Atlantic City hotel. The event occurred in an elevator where, upon exit, Rice was seen on video pulling Palmer, apparently out cold, into the hallway. Rice was charged with 3° aggravated assault. The next day both were married. In May, he entered a not guilty plea seeking entrance into a State “pretrial intervention program” or in alternative, a plea bargain requiring A/M counseling (“Ray” / NFL.com (AP) / 5-1-14).

In July, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell handed down the League’s punishment: a two-game suspension for Rice to start the 2014-15 season.

What exactly transpired in the elevator has not been made public and Rice is not talking, or, as ESPN’s Keith Olbermann has put it, Ray has not “owned up.”

The fact Rice was initially arrested, then indicted (GJ) in what looks to be an absence of mitigating facts that Palmer’s prone state was internally or drug induced, leaves only one reasonable assumption: she was victim of a serious, physical blow by the accused.

.......R.Goodell.8.30.12.wc.cca.2.9m.SSG.T.Wade.USMA

Goodell’s taken flak for what some see as serving up ‘punishment light’ in the Rice case, and that on top of what could seem to the casual observer as a kid-gloved prosecution.

I was in that camp myself early on, disappointed in what appeared a lack of leadership by Atlantic County prosecutor and NFL headquarters both. But I’ve come around.

When a party (Palmer) appears to have little or no desire to see the system of justice carried to its fullest extent, stronger evidence is wanting, the other party (Rice) is 1st time offender and precedent looms, ‘book throwing’ is out of the question . That’s this.

And keep in mind too that Goodell is hardly lacking in the wherewithal department when it comes to punishing wrongdoers, as Bountygate and Bullygate suspensions attested.

While my heart says Ray got off easy, the brain says Goodell’s 2-game ban was prudent.

But curiously, prudence proves a poor substitute where public perception demands more.

In the public’s eyes, League’s response to Rice speaks to a woeful lack of concern on the issue of domestic violence against women. Due to that perception, right or wrong as it is, NFL’s hard-on-the-eyes, pink-wear campaign, designed to aid fight versus breast cancer, with a welcome up-tick in female fandom, could experience a consumer backlash.

NFL’s actions on Rice are somewhat shaped by precedent, not so, for ESPN.

State crime codes, along w/ ancient mores & norms, provide that a person is permitted, even encouraged, to defend themselves or others in close proximity if under a physical threat that’s imminent, unavoidable (locales vary on retreat), presents threat of bodily harm and the force used is reasonable & necessary to repeal the threat.

Might such a defense be what Mr. Rice claimed: a physical force used on Palmer in the elevator was justifiable?

And this is where Mr. Smith’s comment red-flags.

On ESPN, Stephen used the word “provoke” to describe how generally, one (Palmer?) may help to bring about a physical retort by their own behavior. The concept self-defense would’ve sufficed there, but then, what self-respecting macho man wants to publicly admit to such a need in the presence of a woman?

Putting aside cheap word games, the question of force reasonably necessary arises.

A punch, slap, physical aggression from any adult, whichever gender, can be hurtful, even deadly serious. America’s female correctional facilities do not lack for residents.

But Ray Rice has thighs the size of tree trunks, arms as big as logs, and twice as fast.

That he appeared no worse for wear in video, albeit, not the clearest imagery, while Janay was laid-out prone on the hotel carpet, strongly suggests Rice was either the aggressor or at least exceeded his grant in S/D, or “provok(ery),” if you prefer.

.......S.Smith.wc.cca.7.31.10.Diversity1.101k

Smith is more than simply a TV commentator, he’s a network motif.

Beginning around 2012, the CT-based media giant swung to a different tack.

Stephen became the mid-day face of the new ESPN, a hip-hop happening network where everyone’s touchin’ screen, movin’ & groovin,’ but where at times you may feel you’re inside a big cocktail shaker: one part Ketel One® vodka, other, Real Housewives.

Then there’s old man Skip Bayless, the former face, back when his very popular 1st and 10 segment ruled the ratings but which was then surprisingly given the boot, who’s been demoted to the George “Gabby” Hayes saddle, i.e., side-kick.

ESPN’s new mission: youthenize, everything & always. These folk used to set the standard. Now they just drive in the same tired trends.

First shake-up, ditch the old reliables like Classic and ESPN News, in same manner CNN dumped Headline News for hardcore gossip. As if kids couldn’t handle quality.

In its place: ESPNU (can’t get enough SEC redo & Title IX), radio-TV amalgamations and their double-dip commercial spots, a flagship program (Sportscenter) that, when it’s not reduced to ticker-tape status at screen’s bottom is so packed to the port-holes w/teen soundtracks, club-wear dress & talking heads you’d think you were at a discothèque.

Enter Stephen, who joined forces with cocky kindred spirits C. Cowherd, T. Kornheiser and spit-sure, ex-jocks like Ted Bruschi, Mark Schlereth and Marcellus Wiley as members in ESPN’s AKC: All-Knowing Club.

And the kids, like the adults who tune-in religiously to shock-jockery AM radio, eat it up like it were a Skittle®-coated, Oreo®-cookie ice-cream bar, so the Suits think.

If ESPN president John Skipper (2012) and Disney cohorts think for one minute that the new face and his line (“provoke”) will continue passing muster with the viewership they so desperately court (kids and women), they’ve got another thing coming.

But that’s one of the many beauty-marks on the monopoly figure: she’s never wrong, and when she is, she’s not. Hey, you want all-in, metaphors come with admission. Welcome to equality.

Steven Keys
Straight Shooter
Posted: 8-17 @ 6:44 pm, EST
Photo credit: B.Hammon / wc.cca / P.Shilikov – 5.09 (x2);  R.Goodell / 8.30.12 / wc.cca / SSg – T.Wade / USMA / 2.9m;  R.Rice / wc.cca / 8.17.10 / USAF – SSg B.Hughes;  S.Smith / wc.cca / 7.31.10 / Diversity1 / 101k.

Edit: 8/17 @ 8:48pm

Chin Music’14: Best Summer Smells

12 Aug

Ahh, the smells of summertime.

Smells: that’s a funny word.

Phonetically, it identifies one of moviedom’s most beloved jurists,“ Judge Smails” Caddyshack (‘80): “How ‘bout a Fresca?”).

By definition, it’ll convey two quite different meanings, depending on how it’s used as a part of speech.

Spoken as a noun (‘What is that smell?’), it can act as a warning that trouble is in the air, i.e., “Danger, Will Robinson (Lost in Space ‘67)!”

But used as a verb (‘Honey, I smell something wonderful, what’s cooking?’), it can signal your olfactory sense is taking you to a special place.

......marmot.WA.J.Pang.wc.cca.7.6.08.948k

Summer serves up a smorgasbord of smells, though, I wouldn’t sell the others seasons short as they too offer-up their own memorable aromas.

In autumn, the best smell (just covering good ones here) has gotta’ be burning leaves.

It’s gotten to be a rarity today with State & local clean air prohibitions that require bagging instead. Some sovereignties, however, are relaxing that rule and again permitting this time-honored tradition of leaf disposal to the enjoyment of noses nearby.

In spring there’s a myriad of buds & blossoms, greenery & grasses competing for your attention. I’d go the subtle route and tab the simple tulip. This flower exudes a very faint aroma but it’s earthy and always speaks to new beginnings.

And in winter, it’s the smell of rain finally in the Southwest desert.

......smell.Bora.dhe.drunjet.2.12.13.A.Haliti.wc.cca.63k

In northern climes there are two smells that stand out: fresh fallen snow, if it’s not -10, wind-blown and pelting the face like 1000 pin-pricks, and then the upward smoke (if you remembered to open the flue) from that crackling fire in your home hearth.

Summers finest: comfort smells

Fresh cut grass

I could do without the by-products that come by-way of the manicure, like the noise that paralyzes the neighborhood from mowers & blowers, and the chemicals & pollutants, but the resultant smell is as American as apple pie, hot dogs and an afternoon Drumstick® from the freezer. Yuuum-ee.

.......sunbath.wc.cca.O.Magnus.9.2000

Beach balm

Whether you’re at the beach or in the backyard soaking up the sun, no odor says summer fun like tanning lotion. Coconut seems the flavor of choice in today’s sunscreen where nearly all are now progressively UV protectant (SPF). What’s not progressive and sometimes harder on the glims is the beach-wear trend towards less material (strings) and, apart from the head, completely hairless. But Gillette® couldn’t be happier.

The barbecue

Some love chicken & ribs on the grill. For others it’s steak all the way. I’m partial to the tubular varieties, i.e., hot dogs, brats & kielbasa. But there’s one concoction that, once it hit’s the searing steel grates will miraculously turn into succulent food for the gods and fill the neighborhood with an aroma that even vegans can’t pan: hamburger.

......SenseofSmell.P.Mercier.wc.cca.1747.3.5m

Herb garden

You won’t likely see or smell this plant variety outside your grocer, but Wikipedia defines herbs as plants “used for flavoring, food, medicine or perfume.” My Mom grew herbs and I, at Dad’s urging, pulled more than a few weeds in my youth. I had little appreciation then for their purpose, but in thyme, learned to stop and smell the sage, basil & rosemary.

Burn rubber

At opposite end of the smell spectrum is the engine exhaust that billows-up at raceways around America come summertime Saturday night. Some find heaven in the inhale of an odoriferous lily, others in the switch to ignite, explosion to power, pump to piston, crank of shaft and depress of pedal that produces the roaring aroma of automotive joy.

.....Dinky_Mihiri_2005_WC

Fragrant Fido

It’s no easy task giving Rover (or Gato) its bi-yearly bath, but it must be done, especially if fleas make an uninvited visit. Damn. And when the job is completed and Rover shakes & bakes in that summer sun (in-door bath (warm water), keep covered with towel until outside), the smell of clean & fresh will seem well worth the wet & wild experience.

Back-to-school blues?

I loved school, grades 1-8. High school, ahh, that’s where you learned about cliques. Same in professional school. One of my joys was the new gear, in cloths (Sears?) and school supplies we’d get in July in preparation. In the early grades (K – 5) we filled a cardboard box with the essentials: eraser, pencils, maybe a compass, ruler, crayons, sharpener, Elmer’s® glue. “Smells like safety (“Spanish Mike Alvarez,” Reno 911).”

......supplies.Clorox.wc.cca.8.18.10.Elizabeth.Lansing.310k

County corn-a-copia

No place is as chock full o’ fragrance as your County fair. From the animal barns, to the cavalcade of concessionaries on popcorn & pretzels, funnel cakes & fajitas, cotton candy & corn-dogs, the County showcase is where your nose gets the blue ribbon workout.

Baseball bouquet

Like the County shindig, the ballpark too will saturate your sniffer with steady stream of smells. It’s the major league stadium that affords widest variety of vapors, though, even there it’s gotten near antiseptic. Like Vegas, the pros are selling a family theme. It means lots o’ flashing lights and hairy mascots w/ big feet. There’s still the old reliable aromas like infield grass, grillers, popcorn & peanuts, beer & soda and new nachos. But health & manners have sadly relegated my earliest park memory to near oblivion: cigar smoke.

......concessions.6.24.12.wc.cca.OTB.Mataconis

Not nearly as exciting but more visceral are the ball field fragrances from your days of youth: leather glove & neatsfoot oil, chalk stripping, field clover and sweet chamomile.

Steven Keys
Can o’ Corn
Photo credits: woman smelling rose / wc.cca / 6.3.8 / D.Sharon.Pruitt; concessions / 6.24.12 / wc.cca / Mataconis; marmot / WA / J.Pang / wc.cca / 7.6.8; sunbath / wc.cca / O.Magnus / 9.2000; Sense of Smell / wc.cca / P.Mercier / 1747; Dinky dog / Mihiri / wc.cca / ‘05; Bora dhe drunjet (wood pile) / 2.12.13 / wc.cca / A.Haliti; supplies – Clorox / 8.18.10 / wc.cca / Elizabeth – Lansing.

Ranking Lite: NFL’14 Training Camps

4 Aug

The ranking: It’s all the rage in online sports.

Not the statistical rankings on players and teams, like QB comp % or team defense. Very popular and helpful to all sorts of sport minded individuals.

I’m referring to the writer’s rank, as in, listing.

For the content editor who loathes history, humor and crabby old commentary, the rank, alongside celebrity sound-bites, bikini blaze and sabermetric syntax helps to fill the bill for their fantasy fixated, target-audience, ages 8 – 18.

Examples:

Weekly best team ranking

The trouble here, once you get outside, oh, say, top 10, the ranks get a bit hard to justify. Kinda’ like picking best head of lettuce in the produce isle: not…much…difference.

Best players ranking

NFL.com’s “Top 100 Players” list. The inclusion, exclusion, the ranking, all of it smacks of a presumptuous panel with too much time on their hands, too little or flimsy justification and an air of uppish.

MVP – awards ranking

Seems never too soon for the award spec. I used to object, like most readers, for the first installment always comes a tad early (1st month in). But I now find it a quick & easy way to catch-up on a new season I’ve been a little slow to follow.

Pre-Draft ranking (mock and fantasy)

These are the biggies, so we’re told, for the Xbox set. I’ll start following the ponies before I put much stock in draft doings. For GMs and coaches it’s part of the job, for fans of the real game, not many endeavors are quite as fruitless.

Esoteric rank

CFB AM: Ranking the Top 5 Summer Videos from Alabama Players,“ courtesy of Foxsports (7-30 / T.Mitrosilis). Who’d a’ thunk?

All-time greats ranking

A personal favorite, reading and composing, though recency, not history, is the prevailing mind-set. If NBA, just ink-in Jordan #1. They always do, “guar-own-teed (D.Heffernan).”

Negative ranking, the “Gloomy Gus” report, as it were: the worst and over-rated lists.

Over-rated player list: “Boomer: NFL’s 5 Most Overrated Players (SI.com / 7-30 / Esiason).” Advice: stick with the ‘under,’ you’ll feel better afterwards.

Worst rankings are too many to tally. Some examples:

Worst fielding error or penalty in each season;
Worst coaching hires;
Worst trade or draft pick of all-time (trade NOT made is more curious), and
The worst interview or presser ever given (Dick Sherman (NFCT-14)?).

Not much goes unnoticed or unassailed by today’s media wonks.

So it only stands to reason that some joker with pen (moi) ventures forth into believed uncharted territory (internet ‘s a vast sea), plant the flag and undertake the first official ranking of NFL training camps.

Be aware, this is not an awesomely epic listing, with statistical fat, roster predictions, Twitter feuds, contractual updates or the latest wire-news on injuries & maybe-trades.

This is ranking-lite: less filling of statistics & teams and tasty short-takes on NFL topicality.

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

1) Cleveland Browns

Some hope he turns the NFL on its head, others expect he’ll flop. Love or hate him, Jon Manziel is Camp 2014’s hottest commodity, though, if you ask the kids, Sherman rules (See; Madden15). All the hoopla in Berea makes Jon’s QB rival Hoyer’s status, come kick-off, that much more curious. But given the rookie’s apparent disdain for making new bookish friends (“me vs. the playbook”), the nod may go to the 6-year guy.

2) Seattle Seahawks

It’s Sherman-mania in Renton. For a man who made just 3 tackles in SB48 and got carted off in Fred Williamson fashion (SB1), he sure gets the love. That gift of gab can build empires (See; Napoleon). There’s an aura that surrounds a champion in TC but that can disappear quick as a cool summer breeze (See; Ravens‘13). What Seattle has that may get ‘em back-to-back super-jack is a coach (Pete) – QB (Russ) symbiosis, a defensive core (Kam / Bob / Earl) that sticks like nobody’s business and some dubious opposition.

3) New England Patriots

Belichick & Brady: they go together like Scotch & soda, Rodgers & Hammerstein, Woodrow & Wilson. No wonder the camera loves these guys. It won’t last forever and Pats inability to part ways with egg-shell Gronk may be keeping them from another Super. But as long as Bill & Tom are both healthy & happy, Mr. Kraft’s Patriots will be serious contenders.

4) New Orleans Saints

My pre-season #1 and best bet to hoist in February. Brees is stoked, run-by-cmte in tact and the defense bolstering. Sean Payton has a laser focus and points his beam to another ring, but he best get lavishly paid TE Jim Graham on same team page or his habitual, me-first, NFL banned goal-post dunks, re-appearing in camp as some kind of pointless statement to the League, will prove ridiculous.

5) Denver Broncos

Other teams have bounced back from Super Bowl funk admirably (Bills / Redskins / Vikes), some to become champions, others suffered same fate. Peyton’s the difference maker and likely won’t go down like the greatest Johnny Unitas (SD). To take in this legendary QB for what may be his last campy hurrah would be well worth the visit.

......NFL.tc.RG3.wc.cca.7.31.12.K.Allison.2.7m

6) Washington Redskins

It’s the most talked about knee since Broadway Joe’s (‘70) and makes Redskins camp a major curiosity this summer 2014. Will RG3 hold up? New coach Gruden says it’s not a concern. We all know it is, as does Rob and everyone else in DC who follows football, which excludes the President, Senate Majority leader, House Minority and female White House aspirant with initials HRC. Rob has a new top target in D-Jax. Question is, can he get him the ball? When he can’t he’s got motor-man Al Morris to pass on the pigskin.

7) Green Bay Packers

Had Aaron Rodgers not gone down in Wk-9 (bone break – CHI), GB’s season and playoff dalliance (20-23 SF) would’ve likely played-out different. Anticipation for ‘14 runs high at St. Norbert. The offense, in QB, corps (Nelson) and run (Lacey-Starks) seems settled, OL is close (Tretter(C)?) while the defense, stalwarts aside (Hawk / Burnett), hopes hard that the Swiss cheese state is a thing of the past. Packers’ return to glory depends on it.

8) Dallas Cowboys

In normal times, Cowboys camp would be #1, no matter the rookie class. But these ain’t normal times in Big D. Jerry Jones has just about milked what little remains of Cowboys cachet (America’s Team) from his cash cow by making event planning (AT&T) his top priority. Fans and NFL cufflinks cannot be happy with that business tack taken by its flagship franchise, but that’s free enterprise, eh? So why top 10? It’s the Cowboys.

9) Chicago Bears

New-ish coach Trestman still intrigues, Forte keeps churning and Cutler’s one tough cookie. But Jay crumbles w/ regularity and fine back-up McCown is gone. Like their northern arch-rival in the Fox, Chicago’s switched from their traditional premium stoppage-brand to defensive-lite. Halas is spinning. The presence of All Pro and former Vikings great Jared Allen in Bourbonnais (IL) is alone worth price (?) of admission.

10) Kansas City Chiefs

No team left fans scratching heads more than the Chiefs, pre-SB (DEN). Andy Reid was top COY candidate and his crew, offense, anyway, played with gusto in playoff loss to an equally porous Colts squad (44-45). Injuries happen (Hali & Houston) but KC dropped like a rock in 2nd-half of ‘13. With J. Charles & A. Smith, optimism runs high.

......NFL.tc.J.Gordon.wc.cca.7.28.12.E.Drost.1.9m

11) New York Jets

Jets are only marginal playoff contenders but Rex Ryan knows defense and always gives good interviews. With Sanchez in Philly the “butt-fumble” media kids can slither slightly West. Mr. Dungy’s recent proselytizing (Sam) left foot squarely stuck in his mouth but he was right about one thing: foul mouth is poor form. Sometimes a curse feels right (toe stub), but only a dim-bulb makes it common practice. Keep it bright in Cortland, Rex.

12) New York Giants

This abbreviated training camp tour wouldn’t be complete w/out mention of New York’s senior club. I just won’t believe the Coughlin and Eli Manning era is ready to peter-out. “Not gunna’ do it (Carvey).” News of RB Wilson’s “neck burner” is troubling for an already thin run game. But like their cross-town rivals, defense will remain stout.

13) Indianapolis Colts

Training camp’s many things, to many people. Some flock to support the team, some for curiosity, for others it’s cult of personality. Case in point, Andy Luck. What a fine start to a career the Stanfordite has had so far. But Indy’s run-game and defense are sore spots. Chiefs ran wild (WC’14) and Pats laid a whoopin’ on Pagano’s bunch (22-43) in ‘14 AFCD. But hope abounds, even as key cog Mathis (LB) serves 4G suspn for PEDs.

14) San Diego Chargers

Under the radar as 2014 kicked-off, SD played like they meant business, losing AFCD to Broncos, 17-24. Live-wire P. Rivers had one of his best (69.5 C%) while RB Mathews stayed healthy and excelled (1255y). McCoy’s 1st year pleased and synergy w/ his QB is a key. If draft dice roll can expand on a solid core at defense, Bolts figure in.

15) Arizona Cardinals

Only a flawed post-season birthing system kept late charging Cards out and division ‘champ’ Green Bay in, last season’s title tourney. AZ’s last loss to SF, at home no less, didn’t help. Arians was one of a slew of COY candies but has hands full in TC14: filling holes in decimated defense, molding OL to protect aged Palmer, finding a run attack and safely managing body temperatures in August in hotter-than-Hades Glendale, AZ.

......NFL.tc.M.Ryan.wc.cca.7.26.13.Thompson20192.909k

Top training camp tips: 1) drink plenty of water (in place of sugar liquid); 2) find periodic shade,; 3) don’t over-do-it, and 4) hit the sack early.

Steven Keys
Brass Tacks
Photo Credits: A.Morris / 8.1.12 / VA – NFL.TC / wc.cca / K.Allison / 1.9; NFL – wikiproject – NFL design; J.Gordon / 7.28.12 / wc.cca / E.Drost / OH / NFL.TC / 1.9m; M.Ryan / 7.26.13 / wc.cca / Thompson20192 / NFL.TC / GA / 909k; RG3 / 7.31.12 / NFL.TC / VA / wc.cca / K.Allison / 2.7m

Edit: 8/4 @ 12:11am