NFL14 Cherry Picks W16: Poli-Spo 101

20 Dec

Soliciting Sport

Poli-sci: That’s college slang for a course in political science. Basically, it’s the study of government and people, powerful ones in particular, usually at the federal level and with a little history, economics and psychology mixed in for flavor. Life, essentially.

It was my minor while I matriculated, majoring in history. Surprisingly, not much politics, just the facts. Teachers are smart like that.

Today there’s a new subject sweeping America, it’s called poli-spo. That’s short for political sportician, which is the more likeable cousin of the sport technician (Costas, KO, SAS, sport radio, etc.), which is the former college roommate of the sport mortician (sabermetrics, fantasy) who can bore you to death.

They’re men and women who use the sport subject to achieve political and / or monetary ends. Left-wing, right-wing, it’s open enrollment, but definitely Machiavellian, i.e., ‘ends justify the means.’ Sincerity is an elective.

It’s a course that’s not yet been officially sanctioned by Harvard trustees (I just made it this week), but it’s actually been taught for many years now, going back to the Caesars who tossed victory garlands at the Coliseum, the stone one, in Rome, old days. History.

Politicians used to kiss babies. Now they tour on the sport cycle. Here’s a short list of some of the most recognizable, recent enrollees in poli-spo 101:

Chris Christie

The New Jersey Governor (‘10) is a Cowboys fan since childhood. No surprise there, as Dallas became America’s Team in Chris’ formative years (70s) under leadership of Tom Landry and Roger “the dodger” Staubach. Only the Favre phenomena has compared.


Now he’s taken his passion on the road to back his ‘boys. Funny it happens to coincide with Cowboy contention and a likely Presidential run. Maybe CC sees their stars aligning. But he best tread lightly. Hitching your wagon to Romo’s star is a risky association as Tone has a panache for ‘falling’ in clutch-time, not exactly what we seek in a Chief.

And I’m guessing, if Christie happens to run for New Jersey governor again, he won’t be donning the ten-gallon in AC.

President Obama

When the Commander-in-Chief spoke on ESPN’s “The Herd” last week, chiding the NFL (and NFLPA?) for being “behind the curve” on issue of domestic violence (Rice), Mr. Obama piled-on in manner not unlike Ken Starr and his politicizing of the Lewinsky affair (’98), a fishing expedition that left America holding its nose, bitter at the GOP and sympathetic with the bungling and personally humiliated President Clinton and his embarrassed family.

Just as the President cut a deal with the “monster(s)” of healthcare to fashion the ACA, Roger Goodell too took the easier route in relying on the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s template for his initial handling of the Ray Rice susp‘n (2g).

Had Mr. Obama been ahead of the curve on the issue himself, given federal guidance beyond the slew of standard speeches Chiefs and Cabinet members give on various topics and been proactive on this matter typically governed by State criminal codes, before it became hot, trendy topic on which other agendas might ride, his criticism here might carry weight with the public.

Voters of all ages are looking for independent minded leadership that works with others for solutions, not bandwagon-jumping and piling-on. Poor play, Mr. Prez.

Hillary Clinton

I count three ball caps she’s worn (Cubs, Sox & Yanks), but if Hillary hits the campaign trail again, the former First Lady and Secretary of State may give former MLB traveling-man Octavio Dotel (13 hats) a run for his money.

Wearing different hats, glad-handing, as it were, in the political arena, is a-okay. They gotta’ give voters what they want, i.e., “sweet little lies.“ We voters don’t handle the truth so well.


But when Clinton boards the anti-Redskins bandwagon in 2014, after decades of tacit public approval of the 80-year old Washington motif, leadership and sincerity become issues of concern for the would-be presidential candidate.

Want to create millions of named racists in America over-night? Start a logo war.

One could consider it mean-spirited and irresponsible to join and further a national campaign, begun surprisingly the same year Nike® assumes the NFL uniform contract (’12), that tries to add millions & millions of supposed racists to America’s roll of ignorance. That roll necessarily must include all connected to the NFL, the production, distribution and consumption. That probably comes to about 85% of the nation, give or take.

Those who’d validate those attaching harsh label (“racist”) to those who’d vote ‘yes’ on the under-siege motif, a vote absent the hate, the prejudice that makes-up racism, seem more than happy to do just that in adding mass amounts of names to their bad-people list.

Not exactly what Martin, Jack, Cesar and Bobby had in mind, Hillary.

“Tanks for Nut’in!’”

If “Maggs (Caddyshack)” were in with the Brownies, not the girls club, the footballers, she’d be livid. I wouldn’t say Cleveland tanked it against intrastate rival Cincinnati last Sunday (30-0 CIN), but this Browns team was clearly dispirited in W15 action.

It’s been a season of highs & lows for the Forest City bunch, playoff contenders through much of 2014 with some nice wins. But injuries to key cogs (Mack / Gordon) and a late-season switch-a-roo at quarterback (J.Manziel) by head coach Mike Pettine has got to have players somewhat befuddled.


It’s not as if head honchos must poll their rosters to make a QB change. That can’t work. But taking the pulse, getting a read from team leaders is a favored tack. Maybe Mike did as much, though, it doesn’t look that way.

As for the LeBron-Nike-LRMR-Manziel promo tour, the Cavaliers star is, like Christie, a Cowboys fan. Unlike the Governor, LJ keeps his Dallas devotion under his new Browns hat as he does his part to back his new friend and keep their shared interest trending.

Benched starter and just capable Brian Hoyer was not looking All-Pro in ‘14. He kept mistakes to a minimum in most games, helped forge viability for a stagnated Cleveland franchise but then the Browns hit a brick wall. Maybe ‘mates saw this as Brian’s year past midway, win or lose. They can hardly blame Jon for Sunday’s crash but he clearly wasn’t ready to start as his fumble bungle at Buffalo attested.

This week is about Pettine. Will he run the team or will the media keep assisting?

The Cutler Conundrum

Bears headed into hibernation early in 2014.

Chicago’s sorry state is not unlike the Giants of Meadowland. Though contention was expected, both under-achieved (5-9) with poor defense (CHI #30 ypg (Allen 5s – 34t) / NYG #26) and talented quarterbacks who’ve found no synergy. One difference being, G-men have recent ring-hauls (’08 / ’12) which carry weight.


Former Bears’ coach Lovie Smith, now at Tampa Bay, couldn’t beat Green Bay, while Marc Trestman can’t seem to beat much of anyone else in the League. But the prospect of re-boarding the coach carousel is one the Halas Hall brass must simply dread.

They feed off eachother, offense and defense, and it’s clearly a team effort in futility at Soldier Field in ’14 with Forte, Mundy & Willie Young the few bright spots. Trestman, Pres. Ted Phillips and GM Phil Emery know all too well it’s a seller’s market in the NFL for quality QBs and were they taking inquiries for Jay Cutler’s services the calls would be incoming.

Bears wouldn’t have been unwise this week to’ve stayed the course and ridden it out with Jay, rather than throw Jim Clausen into the frying pan. Then, in off-season, among other needs, add a favored backup QB if they can locate one and hold a competition next summer.

Curious Quotes

“Wow, that was a shocker.”

Shocking words from former 49ers head coach Steve Mariucci (NFLN) Sunday night after the Niners loss to division rival Seattle (7-17) knocked them out of the playoffs (7-7) for first time in Jim Harbaugh’s short yet quite successful San Francisco tenure (3 NFCTs).


When linebacker extraordinaire NaVorro Bowman went down (ACL) in last season’s NFCT (SEA), the Niners 2014 season was pretty much mapped out (.500 (+/-)). All-Pro Pat Willis’ absence (W6) compounded the problem: a talent and leadership mix that’s sorely missed. Not that the fill-ins aren’t very capable, they are, but there’s more to this game than shear talent.

Had Packers or Patriots’ seasons gone south because Aaron or Tom were sidelined the entirety, no one would be expressing such “shock.”

Jim Harbaugh’s structure centers on defense, no surprise there, it’s a NFCW trait, though, pocket passer Palmer at Arizona gives Arians another dimension.

And again, as we’ve seen in Chicago, the offense will take cues from the defense and vice versa, though, again, Arizona’s defense has broken with that tradition in carrying their offensive-challenged team of late, and with pluck to burn.

With run-QB Kaepernick’s broad learning-curve (red-zone blues) and defense stalwarts down, most should’ve seen 7-7 coming last January. That written, unless it’s personality clash or disparate visions, Yorks would be mistaken to let Jimbo go elsewhere. It’s not exactly a buyer’s market for top coaches, either.


Cherry Picks Week 16: Mix & Mingle

Chargers (8-6) @ San Fran (7-7): 12-20 CBS 8:25: Bolts win
Ravens (9-4) @ Houston (7-7): 12-21 CBS 1:00: Baltimore wins
Browns (7-7) @ Carolina (5-8-1): 1:00 CBS: Panthers win
Lions (10-4) @ Chicago (5-9): 1:00 Fox: Detroit wins
KC (8-6) @ Pittsburgh (9-5): CBS 1:00 (GOTW2): Steelers win
Falcons (5-9) @ New Orleans (6-8): Fox 1:00 (GOTW): NO wins
Colts (10-4) @ Dallas (10-4): CBS 4:25: Cowboys win
Seahawks (10-4) @ Arizona (11-3): NBC 8:30: Seattle wins
Denver (11-3) @ Cincy (9-4-1): 12-22 ESPN 8:30: Broncos win

Record: 78 – 47 – 1

Steven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credits: Christie, wc.cca, Jagendorf, 3.2.11; Christie, wc.cca, 2.9.11, nightscream; H.Clinton, wc.cca, ChathamHouse, 10.11.13; Manziel & Hoyer, wc.cca, 7.25.14, Drost; Cutler, wc.cca, 11.1.09, Schadle; JimHarbaugh, wc.cca, M.Dempsey, CJCoS, M.Cullen; ripe.cherries, wc.cca, Chirak, 6.24.07.
Posted: 12.19.14 @ 8:56pm; edit 12.20 @ 12:24am EST


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