Archive | November, 2014

Giving Thanks, NFL Style

27 Nov

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?

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.


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.’

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.

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.).

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

“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 / / 11-24-14),” the controversial catching-aid is in the spotlight as never before.


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.


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.


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.


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

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).


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.


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.


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.


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.

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

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.


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:



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


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.).


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

NFL14 Cherry Picks W11: Grounding Hail Mary

14 Nov

Flop Jack

NFL Week 10: 49ers 27, Saints 24 (OT).

“A (flop) by any other name (“offensive pass interference”) would smell as (bad).”

Before Simultaneous-gate paralyzed the NFL for a week in 2012 (GB v SEA), the half-ending Hail Mary was a thrilling, at times chaotic physical drama that, due to its nature, unofficially allowed for a looser application of the rules. Outcomes were unpredictable and lady luck presided. And no, she didn’t wear pink.

But most importantly, the Hail Mary pass was always a good time, for fans and players.

Rarely and only in the most egregious circumstance was a near-miraculous TD catch ever invalidated.

No one messed with Hail Mary pre-2012. She had her standards, took her job seriously, no question, but she was a free-spirit, unencumbered and usually left most fans with a smile on their face, even if completion (TD) was not achieved.

But now that the replay fanatics have gotten a-hold of the game, she’s gone corporate and you never saw such sad eyes.

Since the Great Whine-fest of 2012, NFL officials on the field and upstairs are held to a strict-scrutiny standard, where every grab & push (flops are inexplicably ignored) is eye-balled to extreme and chicanery (49ers Cox) can rule the day, ending the game on a thud.


It’s possible the governors of our beloved NFL game truly do mean well in choosing this fretful pathway of inconsistent, micro-management, but then they’re the same guys who sold players on glove-wear.

In closing seconds of last Sunday’s 49ers – Saints game, bomb-catching Jimmy Graham was ruled in replay to’ve “fouled” faux-defender Perrish Cox and his TD grab was tossed.

But seeing is believing.

Everything’s connected, especially in sport. As such, it’s impossible to separate Perry’s apparent flop from Jim’s arm extension which was made to appear greater only by the Niner’s melodramatic drop. Had Cox not gone down in some post-election politicking, any arm-body contact in review would’ve been deemed incidental to the nature of the play (standing scrum), a form that defines most every Hail Mary heave.

Where flagrant foulage is absent, referees serve best who ‘let the players play’ to decide the outcome in those final moments.

And maybe someday, someone with power, moxy, brains and a real love for football will restore our Hail Mary to her perfect (imperfect) state. Not bloody likely but I’ll keep hoping and remembering how it used to be.

Sharp Cheddar

The Green Bay juggernaut got back on track at Lambeau last Sunday, putting on quite the offensive display in trouncing intra-division and leather-helmet rival da’ Bears (55-14). When Aaron Rodgers clicks, only Peyton, Drew & Tom compare (18-27 / 315y /

Packers have been feasting on smaller game only to be roughed up in higher weight class (SEA, DET & NO), so they can’t be considered NFC topper just yet.

Sunday they face a new-look Eagles squad with much-maligned but rejuvenated Jets cast-off Mark Sanchez under center. Mark can’t shake his “fumble” tag that junior media petulantly persist in attaching, but if he keeps birds flyin’ onward & upward, and that’s a big but (no pun intended), the juvenile set will have to cast their dispersions elsewhere.


Besides a Philly team that‘s adjusted well to D-Jax’s departure, under-the-radar defending champs Seattle are gaining momentum, NFCN leading Detroit has a new discipline (Caldwell) and Arian’s neo-cardiac Cards are full of cackle, even w/Palmer out (ACL).

GB’s remaining slate is a curious one with most mettle match-ups at home facing the Eagles, Patriots, Falcons and Lions. The road-test looks reasonably navigable as most dreaded rival Minnesota are downright Bear-ish in 2014, Buffalo, with veteran Orton manning controls is just viable but Tampa’s Lovie Smith does know the Pack well.

The drubbing Green Bay gave Chicago was impressive enough.

Maybe more impressive and deserving of good karma down the road is Coach Mike McCarthy’s apparent refusal to run up scores when opponents appear out-classed.

At the rate they were going (28 2Q points), Pack probably could’ve scored 75 on the toothless Monsters of Midway who’ve hit the skids after a promising start to the season. Instead, the host team kept it respectable with one TD in each of the final two quarters.

That’s class, something too rarely seen on the college scene where piling it on for poll position is the norm.

A Matter of Choice

If you polled those women whose boyfriends, husbands or partners follow the NFL and asked them, which of the Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson cases they found most disturbing, I’d hazard a guess it’s the child abuse / discipline matter that has the Vikings former MVP indefinitely suspended by the NFL.

The NFLPA filed a non-injury grievance with the NFL on Monday asking that Adrian Peterson be removed the Commissioner’s Exempt list. The hearing on that request is to be held next Monday, as ESPN “reports (11-12).”

As shocking and inciting of outrage as are the Rice – Janay Palmer video releases, the victim apparently made a choice to forgive her assailant and afford him, her husband, and their marriage, a second chance. A brave person, and I wish the Rices both, as I do Adrian Peterson and his family members, all the best in their journeys.

Most women support choice.


NFL Cherry Picks Week 11

Bills (5-4) @ Miami (5-4): 11-13 NFLN 8:30: Dolphins win
Texans (4-5) @ Cleveland (6-3): 11-16 CBS 1:00: HOU wins
Bengals (5-3-1) @ New Orleans: CBS 1:00: Saints wins
Seahawks (6-3) @ Kansas City (6-3): 1:00 Fox: Chiefs win
49ers (5-4) @ New York (3-6): Fox 1:00: Giants win
Lions (7-2) @ Arizona (8-1): Fox 4:30 (GOTW): Cards win
Eagles (7-2) @ Green Bay (6-3): Fox 4:30: Packers win
Patriots (7-2) @ Indianapolis (6-3): NBC 8:35: Pats win

Record: 50 – 29 – 1

Steven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credits: Blessed Virgin Mary, wc.cca, W.Moroder, Groden-Oritisei, Italy, 2008; P.Cox, 8.26.12, J.Beall, wc.cca; Packers print, wc.cca, 1959; ripe cherries, wc.cca, Chirak, 6.24.07
Posted: 11-13-14 @ 10:06pm EST

Jackson Hops Anti-Redskins Bandwagon

10 Nov

Count New York Knickerbockers’ President and former player, coaching titlist Phil Jackson among the celebrities who’ve recently discovered and publicly declared a personal aversion to Dan Snyder and the Washington Redskins 80+ year old motif.

On Monday, Jackson took to Twitter and threw his support behind anti-Redskinites who made a gathering outside TCF Bank Stadium at the University of Minnesota to protest Sunday’s Vikings – Redskins game in hopes of putting a feather in cap of Ray Halbritter Oneida and give boost to Nike plans for revamping the entire NFL logo landscape.


As the “really big shoooe” might say, change ($) is constant. Cha-ching.

I recall an appearance Jackson made on The Tonight Show some 20 years back when the Zen-meister was then coach at Chicago. What led him to ask, I do not remember, but Jay Leno queried the coach if he listened to Rush Limbaugh and that sort of diatribe. Phil responded, ‘No, I don’t, I’m into rational discourse,’ or something to that affect.

Phil was a different sort in those days. No bandwagoneer, he conveyed an independence of thought that gave him an aura of soulful serenity.

So long Mr. Soulful.

The fact he’s reported to have a history of coloring his locker-room comments w/Indian references makes this recent declaration no less empty when you consider a majority of rank & file tribal membership may support the Redskins moniker but remain un-polled.

Maybe back then I was confusing independence with aloofness.


Knicks president might just be one of those people who use their talent for sport only as a means to an end. Call them technicians, akin to saberheads and pandering politicos, aka, John Kerry the wind-surfer (‘04) and President Obama b-ball enthusiast or “hack” golfer. Gotta’ write, Jordan was a little rough on the CIC. Can’t all be baseball stars, eh, Mike?

No more sporting than their Democrat counterparts, Republican celebrities don’t waste too much energy faking it on tumultuous merriment. They do plenty of that elsewhere, like hunting trips (See; Cheney ‘06) and military props (See; GW Bush ‘68 (TNAG)).


What Phil, the anti-Redskins leadership and GOP elite all have in common is that oh-so delightful drive for dinero…mas & mas dinero. Phil is today, first & foremost, a business-man to whom sporting types, fans in particular, are nothing more than consumers.

And that plays right into today’s American marketing credo: servicing youth, the consumer-zombies, and the lowest common denominators (least discerning audience).

Limbaugh, w/help of a deregulated media industry, used radio to disseminate his demagoguery to millions in the 80s. Fox News launched w/satellite TV in the 90s and today, Phil, ESPN, Bill Simmons, Dick Sherman, PCBs (politically correct bullies) and any person or entity who seeks to rouse youthful passions into a figurative call to arms for whatever sale their pitching (logo war) will ride their celebrity on the techno-gadget wave in social media and world wide web.

All cut from the same cloth, just different ends of the bolt.


Jackson’s anti-Redskins pitch is just the most recent air-ball he’s chucked of late.

His stingy, public denial last summer of the San Antonio Spurs right to the usage of the “dynasty” label was a doozy.

But it’s just one of a handful of recent misfires from the man who’s banked the Knicks’ foreseeable future on the, so far, illiquid Carmelo Anthony account. Time will tell.

For a time I’d believed it was Phil who was the real difference-maker in the Bulls and most recent Lakers’ dynasties. Now I wonder if maybe it was the other way around, that it was Jackson who was just “Hitchin’ a Ride” with Mike and Kobe. New food for thought.

This is definitely the new Phil: brassy. Change is over-rated, if you’re a “human being.”

Steven Keys
Straight Shooter
Photo credits: Jordan – Jackson, S.Lipofsky, wc.cca, 1997; Washington Redskins, wc.cca, 1972; J.Kerry windsurfing; Pres.Obama, 8.26.09, P.Souza – WH, wc.cca;
Posted: 11-9-14 @ 10:51pm; edit 11-10 @ 1:55am EST

NFL14 Cherry Picks W10: Red Zone Blues

7 Nov

Achilles Heel

It’s their foible, their flaw, the weak link in the 49ers notable chain of success lo these past 4 years, the Jim Harbaugh era.

It first reared it’s ugly head in 2013 in that wild & wooly Super Bowl 47, when the lights went out in New Orleans and the Ravens, who saw their commanding, early lead slip-sliding away, held on long enough to take the victory & hoist the hardware (34-31).

On that strange February night when “swing time” was the mood, San Fran roared back from a 28-6 third-quarter deficit to cut the lead to 5 (34-29). With under 2 to play, red & gold drove to Baltimore’s 7 but stalled in the red-zone, unable to punch it in for the win.

Then there was last January’s NFC championship game where the Niners found themselves once again on the doorstep to greatness.

Down 23-17 w/30 seconds remaining in the game, ball on the Seahawks’ 18 and 1st & 10, 49ers’ quarterback Colin Kaepernick lofts an end-zone corner pass to Mike Crabtree that’s deflected and then intercepted by Seattle’s Malcolm Smith. Hawks run out the clock and head to SB48.


Most recently the 49ers faced their red-zone challenge last Sunday, trailing host St. Louis, 13-10, 1st & goal from the five w/45 ticks on the clock. Again, SF was unable to break the plane on four attempts as Colin coughed it up on a QB-sneak and Rams recovered.

Those dark days just following their gut-wrenching loss in last season’s Conference title game had to be emotionally trying for the Miners. Besides the obvious missed prospect (SB48), it placed two burdens squarely on the shoulders of San Fran’s brain-trusters:

1) Compensate for the loss of star linebacker NaVorro Bowman, key cog in their success;

2) How to school the athletic Colin Kaepernick on the finer points of being an NFL QB.

On the defensive side they usually keep it close.

Led by safety A. Bethea (37t / 2i) and stout linebacker corps of Willis, Wilhoite & Borland, 49ers come in at #18 in points allowed (22.2) but just behind NFL leading Lions in yards per game (291.9 / 2).

But offensively there’s still a glitch in the system.

Either Harbaugh & Company don’t see a problem with their goal-line giddy-up, no new strategy, or whatever he and Colin cooked-up hasn‘t yet the right ingredients.


Kaep’s C% (64.2) is quite splendid and TD-ratio fine (12-5i), but when the field shortens into that red, meaty part, this run-QB lacks the passer mentality and skill-set to slice & dice opposing defensive schemes, making their job a lot easier.

Take away Kaepernick’s open field where he can free associate when it strikes his fancy, and he, like other flash-quarterbacks, are exposed as single-wing tailbacks posing as signal-callers. That won’t cut it in the pros, not outside Green Bay, not since the 40s.

As long as the 49ers fail to solve their red-zone mystery, their quest for Super silver will remain unfulfilled and Jim & Kaep’s San Fran futures uncertain.

Raking the Muck

If the NFL was ever to award a Purple Heart-like medallion for strength in the face of harassing media & politicos, the Washington Redskins enlistment and commissioned staff would be 2014’s indisputably most deserving recipients.

It’s safe to write that every losing team (3-6) has a degree of dissension in their ranks.

It’s also safe to write that that’s no good reason for some to attempt to ameliorate apparent slip-shod reporting by one Britt McHenry (ESPN) of a supposed quarterback rift in the Washington locker-room last weekend.


And it’s still safe to write that such she-nanigans start at the top (See; J. Skipper).

Someone’s killed off my ESPN, our ESPN. It was a monopoly before Mr. Skipper took the reins (‘05), but a skilled one at that. Kinda’ like Ma Bell before the break-up (‘82).

Formerly a standard-setter in TV sport journalism & entertainment, ESPN (Disney) has undertaken a change in direction over the past decade. Muckraking (Sam shower story, etc.) and selling to the lowest common denominator (least discerning audience) now seems the typical tack. Ms. McHenry is, in modern parlance, merely a tool carrying out network – corporate policy. Not everyone would earn their pay as such, but many do.

The silver lining in this dark cloud for the Redskins is realization that when a teammate faces hostile fire (RG3), it’s cause to circle the wagons and find a better focus for the job at hand (winning) and to shut out those who sling arrows and violate journalistic code.

Curious Quotes


Phil Simms (CBS 11-2): “This off season Denver built for Seattle, New England built for Denver (NE 43-21).”

Mike Francesa (CBS 11-3): “The Jets quarterback is not on their roster. If he (Idzik) says it is, that’s a fireable offense.”

Question to Mike: Since you postulate the query, are you the one who’s gonna’ put the Jets’ GM on the spot and ask John, in the midst of the 2014 NFL season, who is their quarterback of the future? I wouldn’t want to be that guy.


Cherry Picks Week 10: Silverdome Surf & Turf

Browns (5-3) @ Cincy (5-2-1): 11-6 8:30 NFLN: CIN wins
Chiefs (5-3) @ Buffalo (5-3): 11-9 1:00 CBS: KC wins
Miami (5-3) @ Lions (6-2): 1:00 CBS (GOTW): MIA wins
49ers (4-4) @ New Orleans (4-4): 1:00 Fox: Saints win
Giants (3-5) @ Seattle (5-3): 4:30 Fox: Seahawks win
St. Louis (3-5) @ Arizona (7-1): 4:30 Fox: Cardinals win
Bears (3-5) @ Green Bay (5-3): 8:35 NBC: Chicago wins

Record: 47 – 25 – 1

Steven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credits: Kaepernick, 10.27.13, wc.cca, D.Hartwig; Colin, 2.3.13, Au-Kirk, wc.cca; SF-football, wc.cca, 1975, Ford Museum; ESPN-HQ, CT, wc.cca, Jkinsocal, 2.1.13; Simms, wc.cca, 10.7.04, USAF, St. Louis; Cherries, B.Kua, wc.cca
Posted: 11-6-14 @ 9:10pm EST