Archive | October, 2014

Chin Music’14: Batty for Balls & Strikes

28 Oct

Forest for the Trees

In an age of monopoly where one brand or theme will hog the shelf, baseball too has its fair share of conforming, domineering trends.

On the diamond, it’s been performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs), drag-pants, walk-off bunny-hop hysteria, maple bats (& their attendant shards), sugar-water baths, shave-cream pie-in-the-face and hair, lots & lots o’ hair.

Cue the Cowsills, please:

Let it fly in the breeze
And get caught in the trees
Give a home to the fleas in my hair
A home for the fleas
A hive for the buzzin’ bees
A nest for birds
There ain’t no words
For the beauty, the splendor, the wonder
Of my…
Hair, hair, hair, hair, hair, hair, hair
Flow it, show it
Long as God can grow it
My hair…,
I want it long, straight, curly, fuzzy
Snaggy, shaggy, ratty, matty
Oily, greasy, fleecy
Shining, gleaming, streaming
Flaxen, waxen
Knotted, polka-dotted
Twisted, beaded, braided
Powdered, flowered, and confettied
Bangled, tangled, spangled, and spaghettied (“Hair (‘69)”)!”

In the marketing & media biz it’s the billion-dollar fantasy fad, its kissing cousin in the promotion department, sabermetrics, and the ever-present ranking that stock the shelf.

On TV, the new wave in producer-think has given viewers such innovations in coverage as graphic sound-effects (“Bam! Wham! Sock! Zap! Ka-pow!) and the always scintillating in-game dugout interview (Zzzzz). “Holy perfect pitch, Batman!”

And when it comes to the talking heads, the bias is downright batty.


Color-commentators and in-studio analysts will whittle a whole 9-inning contest down to one topic: balls & strikes. Aaron Boone and Orel Hershiser must talk about it in their sleep. ‘Uh, what, what’s that honey, a slider low & outside is his money pitch? Oy vey!’

Typifying of the trend was the Baseball Tonight segment on Sportscenter (ESPN) following Giants G2 win over host Royals (7-2).

Karl Ravech presided over a panel of experts that included Kurt Schilling, Barry Larkin & John Kruk, all of whom spent 10 minutes talking of nothing else but pitch selection, as if it were the ‘be all and end all’ of baseball. It ain’t.

But the batty breakdowns are just one more de-humanizing trend that mistakenly proclaims sport to be entirely quantifiable with numbers, category or ranking.

Unless there’s fantasy tie-in, saber-think considers it boring, trite and unprofitable.

Sport technicians couldn’t have gotten away with this 50, hell, 10 years ago. The adults would not’ve stood for it. They’d have demanded more, in substance and humanity.

With the NFL cruising along, poised to knock Jesus off his long-held perch atop the Sunday ranking (AM game), its biggest rival in the sporting biz in baseball has hard enough time getting and keeping viewers glued to the tube and is ill-advised to bore the begeebers out of fans in a simple kow-tow to some intangible trend in quantus.

“More feeling,” producers.

Joe Maddon Sweepstakes

It came as no shock, but the timing was a bit surprising, when noted Rays manager Joe Maddon decided to opt-out of his contract w/Tampa Bay on Friday, a team he’d guided for 9 seasons, including a pennant-winner in ‘08.

The reason? Take your pick:

1) Money, or lack of it, from an ownership (Sternberg) who was unwilling to pay for either players or proven leadership (Mgr), but now wants to move that to Montreal;

2) A dispassionate fan-base who got more worked-up over Jeter than their own Rays;

3) Craves a bigger market w/bigger spotlight and more plentiful opportunities.

Rays’ President Matt Silverman: “We’re turning the page (ESPN 10-24).” Guess so.

Marc Topkin of TBT (ESPN 10-24) believes Gabe Kapler, a former Rays player, is on a short-list, and that the Rays may consult with players on their choice. The players? Huh. Asking the students who they want for a teacher. A club going nowhere fast.


Maddon’s agent Alan Nero has stated Joe is “prepared to take a year off,” unless “the situation is right (“Joe” / TSD (Pioneer Press) / 10-25 / M.Birch). Ballsy.

Joe’s a popular guy, outside the Boston and New York areas. But even there, that disdain is accompanied by an overall respect for the man’s managerial talents, just as long as he’s not in the opposite dugout from their beloved Bombers & Beaneaters.

If he does sit for a spell, the opportunities will grow.


Only a man who’d managed a Yankees’ dynasty (Torre) might see LAD as anything less than baseball heaven. Donny “Baseball” is set in blue, at least for 2015, so says GBM. If Dodgers don’t look playoff primed post Home Run Derby & Family Fun Extravaganza (all star week), the non-negotiation negotiations may start in earnest with JM.


Some folks idea of a good laugh, but Cubbies have won more games (10,551) than any other ball-club, excepting the Giants (10,780), and fielded what’s arguably the greatest team in history (1906 – 10). So there‘s that.

Beyond their glory and status as America’s most beloved sports team, owner Ricketts and GM Epstein are set to spend serious specie on the man who can do for Northsiders what Moses did for the Israelites. BoSox rebirth was grand, but this’d be a national celebration.

Current Cubs’ skipper Rick Renteria receives good marks for his performance since signing a 3-year deal in 2013. Maddon might like the challenge, and the payoff.


As it stands today, Terry Collins will be managing the final year of his contract in 2015 with the Mets holding an option for 2016. Anywhere Maddon would land will be a challenge to build a winner, but New York is New York.

Small market clubs

Not a likely destination for one of Maddon’s reputation and asking price (reported to be $5M), but don’t rule ’em out as Joe might just favor being ‘big fish in a small pond,’ and the tempered expectations that wade in the water. If the money’s right, small may win.

California Dreamin’

Though Royals are regal opponents, Giants are “one small step (win)” away from certain baseball dynasty, but “one giant leap” from ever becoming California’s favorite club.


As the Cowboys will always be America‘s Team, so too the Dodgers will forever hold a special place in hearts of most Californians. Title droughts won’t change the sentiments, not as long as these two franchises remain true to their missions to field competitive ball clubs and honor their storied pasts in uniform & logo. Nike don’t know style.

The Giants do have one, outside chance to win over hearts & minds of Californians.

If San Francisco can string together multiple, championship campaigns, relatively close in time, and the Dodgers continue to come up short, they might win over the Golden State.


Their Oakland rivals across the bay were on the verge (Swingin’ As (‘72 – 74) & Brothers Bash (‘88 – 90)), but couldn’t keep the good times rolling, not with the financial frugality of Moneyball running the operation.

Steven Keys
Can o’ Corn
Photo credit: Batman – Girl, 8.24.67, ABC, wc.cca; english bats, 1875, wc.cca, PSM; J.Maddon, wc.cca, 4.14.14, K.Allison; Hollywood, 8.3.07, Sorn, wc.cca; GoldenGate, wc.cca, R.Niewiroski, 1.1.07
Posted: 10-28-14 @ 2:16pm EST


NFL14 Cherry Picks W8: Green Bay Gouda

23 Oct


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.


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.


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.


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).


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.


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


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.


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“ / (E/M) / 10-21 / Maloy).”


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.

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

“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.


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.


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.


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 /,” as is rookie contributor Armonty Bryant (DE) with a torn ACL (“Browns” / Hanzus / 10-13 /

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.


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.


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 / 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.


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” / / 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, in cooperation w/ (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.


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

Return of Royalty

I could’ve gotten on, 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?


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.


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.


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.


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

“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.


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.


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.


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.


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!”


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).


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.


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.


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

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?


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;


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);


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


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;”


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;

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;


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;


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.


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.

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