Archive | May, 2015

NBA15: Does Curry Rate With 70s Rick Barry?

25 May


Errol Flynn and Hedy Lamarr had it, Sidney Poitier radiates it today.

Bear Bryant and Vince Lombardi were instilled with it, before they began shaping minds and winning national titles.

Politicians Barbara Jordan, Juan and Eva Peron, Huey Long, FDR, John Kennedy, Teddy Roosevelt and Abe Lincoln all had it.

Rebels George Washington, Emiliano Zapata, Mahatma Gandhi and, I’d guess, Spartacus (Thracian) were imbued with the quality of presence.

Artistic performers Maya Plisetskaya (d. 5.2.15) and Rita Moreno have it.

Baseball men Roberto Clemente and Walter Alston both shared the trait.

And all the major prophets are reported to have had it.

If those figures don’t quite explain it for you, maybe you caught Kelly’s Heroes (‘70) this Memorial weekend. Telly Savalas character, Sergeant “Big Joe,” he had presence, and how.

What is presence?

It might be described as the ability to command a respect, a pointed attention, admiration or even awe from people in the room because of past deeds or present mannerism.

It can be conveyed and perceived by one’s physical appearance, a personality, outspoken or unassuming, and even something as simple as a distinctive laugh or one telling act.

Dignity and leadership are usually concomitant but, unlike grace, attribute with which one must be born (See; “Mr. Pitt (Seinfeld))”), a presence can be acquired.


Golden State Warriors point guard and reigning Assc’n MVP, Wardell Stephen Curry II might have presence. We don’t really know that for sure, not yet. We’ll find out soon enough.

The pathway for Oakland’s NBA rep to the 2015 NBA Finals has not exactly been the gauntlet from Hades. In fact, in recent memory, I can’t recall an easier road to the championship for either Eastern or Western Conference playoff combatants.

Be that as it may, Warriors are on cusp of their first Finals in 40 years (‘75), up on the Rockets, 3-0, and will hoist the O’Brien if they can close it and then meet the challenge that is likely to be the Cleveland Cavaliers, who’re besting Atlanta by the same 3-0 margin and poised to make the Finals even as their #2 scorer and top rebounder Kev Love went out early in playoff action with a dislocated shoulder (R1 v BOS).

That ‘74-75 Warriors’ team (48-34) took the Walter Brown title trophy by sweeping the Bullets 4-0, a DC squad with names like Unseld, Truck Robinson, Haskins, Riordan and the “Big E,” Elvin Hayes. No slouches by any means.

GSW had top talent too, with names like Keith “Jamal” Wilkes, Clifford Ray, Butch Beard, man-on-the-boards George Johnson, and a guy who most definitely evoked a presence. His name, Richard “Rick” Francis Dennis Barry III.


Rick was a 6-7, 200+ forward out of the University of Miami who handled ball like a guard: passing, driving to basket and shooting mid-to-long jumpers, before the advent of the 3-pointer (‘79). A 4-time ABA and 8-time NBA All-Star, Barry won ROY honors in 1966, was MVP of the 1975 Finals and is a member of the NBA Hall of Fame.

Intensity and an unabashed drive to win would’ve described basketball legend Barry to a tee. Compete, multi-skilled player, those work, too.

Not a particularly gregarious fellow from a fans perspective, or maybe his teammates, either, Rick bounced around numerous teams before finally settling back in San Fran from 1972-78, finishing his playing career in Houston (’78-80) and then heading into the broadcast booth where he showed the same devotion to his new trade.

But Barry was a winner and made few excuses. Frank and too the point, the man from New Jersey held himself to the same high standard he did co-workers. As memorable as his shooting touch and lightening quick reflexes was his trademark underhand free-throw shooting style that served him well (.893 (SC: .900)).

How do the two stars stack-up?

Steve’s size (6-3, 185+) make him a true guard. Whether on point or shooting will depend on the game’s flow which often means he’s launching 3-pointers at will.

Barry (14y): 25 pts (35.6 ‘67), 5 ast (6.2 ‘75), 7 rbs (8.4 ‘73), .456 fg% (.464 ‘75).
Curry (6y): 21 pts (24 ’14), 7 ast (8.5 ’14), 4 rbs (4.5 ’09), .471 fg% (.487 ‘15).


Of those figures (rounded), one may surprise in comparative field-goal percentages.

With the long-distance 3PA you might expect today’s b-baller to have a lower %. But keep in mind, most attempts are either half-defended or not at all (foul on a 3PA and it’s a possible 4-pt‘er). So if you get good at it, like Stephen, as was his coach, Steve Kerr in his playing days (UA/ CHI /SA), it’s almost a freebie.

In the less tangible, harder to quantify measure of contribution to team success, phrases like heart & soul and capable of ‘carrying on his back’ would apply most readily to both men’s on-court play.

Barry had a couple losing, a few very successful and most campaigns around 10 wins > .500. Steve’s in his 6th year, the first 3 where he’s had a new coach in each, the losses out-numbered the wins nearly 2-to-1. As the Warriors’ worm began to turn (‘12-13), the wins have piled-up, even before coach Kerr’s arrival (‘14).

There’s no debating Steve’s a “smooth operator.” Not in the Sade sense (dude sounded a cad), but a guy who’s a cool customer and succeeds by keeping emotions in check. His present popularity trends so high it rivals Dick Sherman’s for the hearts of Junior America, made only more certain by his heading the VORP sabr-stat category ( Ugh.

Rickster, on the other hand, he tended to rub folks the wrong way.

But then top-tier competitors don’t often make a whole lot a’ friends and will not infrequently foster animosity & jealously in the bushel baskets (See; T.Brady).


Steve didn’t hurt his starry status with celebrity – social media followers by his post-game (HOU) press conference earlier last week when he just happened to bring his adorable little daughter on stage. Why, I don’t know, but it was memorable.

Even though the jobs are in most respects worlds apart, given that the photo-ops took place at times when the President was in relaxation mode, if that’s possible with a Commander-in-Chief (it appeared to be so), the Curry & Cutie-pie photo tandem (her peering from underneath table) was somewhat reminiscent of the movies and photoplay of JFK and his kids (Caroline & John-John) taken in the big Oval (’61-63), a name apropos, given that particular circumstance: oval (office), ovary, ovum (egg).

Awards and cute won’t by themselves satisfy the Sporting Gods.

If and when they do qualify for Finals (Ain‘t over ‘til it‘s over, will say Rockets & Hawks), Curry, Coach Kerr & Co. will have tall task ahead in facing what again looks to be the Eastern representative in a surprisingly, or not so (See; above), resilient Cleveland Cavaliers club.

The 3-point Kid vs Mr. Strength, LeBron James, would offer a curious contrast in scoring styles.

Key categories: steals, free-throws and rebounding, with Love out, all edge GSW, while turnovers, with focus on both teams top ball-handlers in James and Curry, are a wash, as both cough it up plenty. The same could be said for team defense.


Both franchises rank around the middle (“a C, not falling behind, not showing off (Costanza)”). In b-ball, unlike the gridiron and net-minding (ice & grass), score stoppage is not as clear an indicator of prowess when you consider half of the top-ten teams in total points allowed ranking were poor threats to championize.

So, between the two (GSW / CLE), who’d be most likely to hoist the O’Brien?

The numbers, a 1st-year coach in Kerr who’s near as popular as Curry and who, at this juncture, has quickly taken on the wily rep formerly possessed of his playing-days mentor (Jackson) and that LeBron is without that game-in, game-out multi-skilled cohort on which he’s come to rely (See; Wade-Love), all say Golden State.

But the Sporting Gods can be mercurial.

I wouldn’t say they’ve got a soft spot for James (2-3 Finals), but Steve’s fellow Akron native does seem imbued with a dynamic this post-season that looks, arguably, not just more determined but skillful than ever. Oh yeah, LeBron’s got proven presence, too, and, like Mr. Curry, does not get rattled easy.

1975: That’s the last time Golden State was Finalized and then took title. Forty years. That the Cavaliers have never won an NBA championship probably works them no more a motivation. Both teams and towns really want that trophy.

Gerald Ford, former VP under the resigned Dick Nixon, occupied the White House that year, Foolish Pleasure was running for roses, ABA was in it’s last season before ‘merger’ and inflation and Vietnam’s fall to the Communists were top topics in the news which was disseminated by radio, print, broadcast TV and Ma Bell, decades before integrated circuits, mobility and digitalization dominated our lives.

Rick Barry paled in popularity to Stephen Curry, but Rick earned himself a ring and a deserved place among basketball‘s immortals.

Help take a title, Stephen, and you’ll have presence too, the kind that lasts all…year…long.


Steven Keys
Straight Shooter
Photo credits: S.Curry, 3.2.11, K.Allison, wc.cca; Curry, wc, 2.24.15, K.Allison; R.Barry, GSW, 1972, wc; Barry, SportingNews, 1976, wc; S.Kerr, 2.24.15, wc, K.Allison; L.James, wc, 1.25.15, E.Drost; StraightShooter, produce-label.
Posted: 5.25.15 @ 12:21; edit 11:57am EST

Note: This article is dedicated on Memorial weekend to the men and women in the American and allied armed forces and support units who have in the past or are presently serving Stateside, in the air, sea or foreign lands around the globe.


NFL15: Tinker Bell Alert at Owner’s Meet

23 May

They’re back at it.

The tweakers, or as I’ve begun to call them, the tinker bells.


Those in the NFL’s upper echelon, probably under 30, who seem never satisfied with their wildly successful enterprise and must tinker or fix something that most often seems to work just fine. Change for change’s sake.

The Tinker Bell reference has nada to do with the Disney computer animated fairy, but rather, the J.M. Barrie character in the 1904 play titled, Peter Pan, who “mended pots and kettles…of the fairy folk (Wikipedia).” Just wanted to be clear.

Case in point: At the 2015 NFL owner’s meeting being held in San Francisco this week, the Competition Committee voted upon and discussed a number of topics, among them the placement of the PAT attempt (point after TD), also known as the extra-point (XP).

Overwhelmingly, members voted to change the point of placement from the 2-yd line, a spot it’s been for about 100 (?) years, and move it back to the 15, with Oakland and DC voting, nay. In addition, if defenders recover the ball on a block or fumble, it can be returned to the kicking team’s end zone for 2-points. Yippee!


And word is, more changes could be in the offing.

One famous sportswriter has called the extra-point attempt the “most boring” play in all of tumultuous merriment (I was a fan of sportswriter Heywood Hale Broun). He actually wrote “sport (“Fixing the Most Boring“ / 5.19 / P.King / SI).”

Myself, I’d argue the most excruciatingly “boring” part of any NFL game telecast are the scads of TV time-outs that water-down the action we attempt to drink in and digest with some semblance of continuity.

Every NFL fan knows as much and appreciates that the “PAT” has historically added a finer point of skill-test, diversity, as it were, to the game.

And though proponents of the change would probably say, ‘We didn’t ditch it, we made it more challenging so it can work as it may’ve been originally intended, as a possible point of distinguishment to prevent tie scores.‘ Fair enough.


But apart from the fact that nobody, not so’s you’d notice, was complaining, this constant tinkerment with kicking aspects of the game of gridiron appears headed to what a small sect of ants-in-their-pants types seem more set on and that is elimination in its entirety of the foot-game from football, an aspect that’s pre-dated the forward pass, put at 1906 by some, 1876 by others (Camp & Thompson).

Buffalo Bills’ 29-year old place-kicker Dan Carpenter, who’s entering his 8th year as an NFL assailer of pigskins (spheroids today made of cowhide) and who made the 2009 Pro Bowl, is not all too happy with the XPA rule changes.

Dan wonders why a change that is likely (not “more probable than not”) to increase the rate of harder “collisions” with the 2-point gain gotten in a return of blocked kick, when the League and union have taken steps to reduce chances of such violent contacts?


And for the record, Carpenter has missed but a mere two XPAs in his NFL career (217 / 219). Highly challenging they are not.

Change can be good, for many reasons. Maybe best when it leads to the eliminations of unnecessary risks to player health, unsportsmanlike conduct or enhances a valuable competitive spirit of the sport.

But when agents-for-change ($) seek to validate their jobs by fixing things that work, including logos & uniforms which remain pleasing to the mass of fandom (See; Nike), in utter indifference to the Big Boring (tons o’ TV time-outs), changes that can sometimes go haywire (See; NCAA OT), it’s time fans sent the NFL a message: Stop tinkering with our game, tinker bells. We’re happy. If the faux fans are not, they can take up biking, watching HSN, solving math puzzles or tune into Disney’s ESPNU. It’s 24/7. Knock yourselves out, with loads of fun.


Steven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credits: B.Cundiff, wc.cca, 8.2.14, E.D.Drost, CLE-NFL; M.Crosby, 10.7.07, wc.cca, P.Cutler, GB-NFL; J.Reed, wc, 9.29.08, Andy, PIT-NFL; J.Brieske, Michigan, wc, 1947; R.Goodell, wc, 8.30.12, SSG, T.Wade, USMA; Tinker.Bell, WonderCon, wc, 7731, Mooshuu, 4.19.14; NFL-symbol, Wikiproject.
Posted: 5.22.15 @ 11:26pm; edit 5.23 @ 1:07am EST

NFL15: Krafty Move or Senior Moment?

21 May

Recent news of Patriots’ owner Robert Kraft’s decision to forgo appeal of the penalty levied on his team by the NFL for what it perceived was a knowing “circumvention” of the League’s loosely enforced in-game ball inflation standards (Deflategate), caught most of us fans off guard.

Is it a krafty move or a senior moment?


More likely the latter, though, not used here in mockery of a memory lapse but in recognition that Robert is nearing 74 (6.4.41), a time in life when one wisely becomes more selective of which battles are worth or not worth engaging. Life is short, no matter the gene strands.

Around lunch-time on Tuesday Bob made his announcement to accept the team penalty, leaving his quarterback Tom Brady to continue on with his own appeal of the 4-game susp’n he had received. Kraft’s reason: he feels this matter has gone on “too long.”

At first blush such an explanation seems reasonable enough.

But it doesn’t take long to start fathoming some possibly negative and slightly serious ramifications for the Foxborough footballers.


Bailing at this point in time may give the public, in particular, opponents of the Patriots Way, the perception that Bob either lacks faith in Tom’s story (non-circumvention) or that his own prior public statements that had expressed full faith & credit in his starry QB are lacking themselves in full veracity, even if opposite is true and his support is rock-solid.

That’s where legacy will come into play with fans and historians.

Passing on an appeal of the team penalty, a $1M fine and draft ding (-2), might even have an adverse effect on his player Tom’s appeal, theoretically, by re-affirming in the mind of the arbiter (Roger Goodell) the belief of appellant’s wrong-doing while lessening the mental state of impartiality.

Remember, this is a judge in Goodell who’s neutrality on hearing this appeal of a ruling handed down by his own office (T. Vincent, EVP-FO) is already at issue (NFLPA seeks independent-arbiter). Unity, joinder in spirit, would seem preferred in such scenarios.


Though, it’s also fair to speculate that Bob Kraft’s decision might just as well have a positive effect on the Commissioner’s appeal ruling in that, Roger could do Tom a ‘solid (reduce penalty (2g)),’ on the facts, of course, in return for his owner’s acceptance of the League’s punishment ($1M, etc.) and, to a degree, its claimed validity.

Trouble with that hypothesis, apart from its acceptance of a possible due process violation and the bad precedent it sets, is that Brady likely wants no part of a namby-pamby reduction, he wants complete clearance on League’s claim of wrong-doing based, apparently so, on the Wells Hunch Report.

Not just “more probable than not (51%),” but likely that Tom and Bob have discussed these matters and yesterday’s statement is an agreed upon route. Likely, not certainly. One never wants to push the big kahuna (Kraft) to engage a battle he’d rather not, does one, Tom? Discretion, good judgment, can be the better part of valor, and friendship.


Steven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credits: R.Kraft, wc.cca, 12.14.08, BrokenSphere, OAK; Kraft&Bush, P.Morse, WH, wc, 5.15.04; T.Brady, wc, 10.11.09, J.Beall; R.Kraft, wc, 12.14.08, BrokenSphere, OAK; NFL-symbol, wikiproject.
Posted: 5.20.15 @ 10:21pm Eastern Standard Time

2014 Duds Look to Re-Launch in NFL 2015

18 May

Now that NFL Draft 2015, brought to us by the City of Big Shoulders (Chicago), is in the books (Is there any event less deserving of its big build-up than the televised dice-roll that is the draft?), it’s a good time to glance back at what was, and what lay ahead.


Though, safe to write that a plan to look back and examine the past (history), a tradition that’d bonded families, communities and a nation for centuries long, would not exactly meet with applause from your average audience in 2015.

Nothing to do with sage Satchel Paige (“Don’t look back, something might be gaining on you”), but due to these two states: 1) a tendency today to love ourselves, our times with a fulsomeness, and 2) not much moolah to be made in getting too reflective.

It’s why Disney in its youthenization movement has forsaken its Classic and ESPN News channels to make way for the likes of ESPNU and scads of re-broadcasts, while their History channel (Hearst 50%) airs almost anything but, i.e., Pawn Stars, Swamp People, Ax Men and the like.

But while Mr. Obama doesn’t appear to put history too high up on his list (See; D-Day gum gauche) and the GOP can have selective memory, we sport fans put a premium on the past.

Whether it’s records & sabrmetrics, throwback uniforms, collectibles or the passing of a former great, oh-so sport fans will not soon forget from where their own journey began.


And looking back over NFL 2014-15, it’s safe to write that it was one of the most memorable in recent years, for better and for worse.

Had it not been for the plethora of spotlight-grabbing storylines, i.e., Hernandez arrest, Rice-gate, the Peterson case and then post-season inflatables (exaggerated stories) like Catch-gate, or non-Catch, as it were (DAL @ GB), Meltdown-gate (poor Mike McCarthy (SEA @ GB)), Deflate-gate, featuring ‘Frick & Frack (J&M), and finally, 2nd-Guess-gate (poor Pete Carroll (SEA v NE)), this particular topic might’ve hovered above the radar and been spotted: the Duds.

Not in this writer’s memory have so many pre-season hopefuls seriously under-performed and played like they had something better to do but hung around anyway, to our chagrin. Largely on the QB issue, Houston, the Jets, Buffalo, Cleveland, Minnesota, St. Louis and Washington were not considered by most to be serious contenders pre-2014.

I count three American clubs (MIA, SD & KC) and six in the National Conference (NYG, CHI, ATL, NO, CAR & SF) who either made lift-off but veered off course into oblivion or never got off the launching pad in the first place.


Miami Dolphins: 8-8 (2014)


Finishing 8-8 in ‘13 in midst of Bullygate, Joe Philbin survived the fallout and young QB Ryan Tannehill looked a keeper, even as fickle fans called for change. Despite low support in ‘14, Ryan had MIA in top-half offensively (ypg (14)), saw C% rise nicely (66%), hit 4000 mark and had nifty 27-12 TD ratio. But MIA couldn’t build momentum, even as LB Jelani Jenkins finished with 110 total tackles and the D finished #12 (ypg), just ahead of eventual Super champ and intra-divisional rival, the Krafty Patriots.

Draft‘15: Devante Parker, Louisville, WR, 1R-14; Jordan Phillips, Okla., NT, 2-20.

San Diego Chargers: 9-7

Having gone deeper into ‘14 playoffs with loss to Denver in divisional (24-17), Bolts were expected to take the next step up to serious contender. But while Phil Rivers kept up his end (66.5%, 4286y, 31-18), legs of Ryan Mathews which’d been a catalyst in ‘13 reverted to old form as he stared only 7g and moved to Philly in FA. Defense held the fort with FS Eric Weddle roaming wide (114t) and the stoppers coming in respectable ranks: 9th ypg (338) and 13th in ppg (21.8). Expect 3y head coach McCoy to right the ship.

Draft‘15: Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin, RB, 1R-15; Denzel Perryman, Miami, R2-16

Kansas City Chiefs: 9-7


Bolts, say howdy-do to your kissin’ cousins, figuratively speaking, intra-division foe, the KC Chiefs. Another 2013 achiever (L 44-45 IND ‘14 WC) who had justifiably high hopes of rising above the rabble in ‘14. So much of hope, figuratively so. Chiefs rollercoaster in ‘14 left observers scratching heads, their own, of course. QB Smith was stout again (65%, 18-6) even with leaky line (45s). Run-QB should be so brave. Charles settled to earth (1033 / 291 / 9td) from a Wow! ‘13 as offense finished w/in sight of cellar (#25 ypg). Like SD, defense carried at 7th ypg and 2nd ppg. And like his Chargers‘ counterpart, Andy Reid’s got the men. Whether he’s got plan, even KC faithful aren’t sure anymore.

Draft‘15: Marcus Peters, Washington, CB, 1R-18; Mitch Morse, MO, OL, 2R-17.


I don’t know if the Packers, Cowboys and Seahawks were as good as their spiffy records sported or just that their competition was so lacking that they simply had no choice but to win, lots and lots of games.

Lions, Cardinals and Eagles were others clubs who had seasons of note.

Detroit won 11 games (11-5) for first time in over two decades (12-4 ‘91) under new HC Caldwell and actually knocked off intra-division stalwart Green Bay in W3 (19-7). That alone is big doings for the usual also-rans of the NFC North.


The surprising Cards looked the new force in the NFC until vet QB Carson Palmer went down midway and rising star head coach in Bruce Arians did his best to answer the rash of injuries that decimated his bunch as they limped into the playoffs.

And the Eagles missed the cut at 10-6 but showed spunk in staying respectable after QB Foles (STL) hit the DL and Sanchez entered. Chip Kelly and owner Jeff Lurie’s response: shake-up the roster (Bradford, Tebow (?), Murray, etc.) and give it another whirl.

New York Giants: 6-10
Draft‘15: Ereck Flowers, Miami, OB, 1R-9; Landon Collins, Alabama, S, 2R-33.

Chicago Bears: 5-11
Draft‘15: Kevin White, WV, WR, 1R-7; Eddie Goldman, Florida St., DT, 2R-7.

Atlanta Falcons: 6-10
Draft‘15: Vic Beasley, Clemson, LB, 1R-8; Jason Collins, LSU, CB, 2R-10.

New Orleans Saints: 7-9
Draft‘15: Andrus Peat, STAN, OT, 1R-13; Steve Anthony, LB, Clemson, 1R-31.

So similar, it’s then only fitting these four sorrowful squads get lumped together.


If you didn’t predict rebound for all four in 2014 (Saints did go 11-5 in ‘13 after falling to 7-9 (’12) in Bountygate year) you’re not much of an NFL‘er.

That looked to be an easy call as all four possess well-est’d QBs (Eli Manning, Cutler, Ryan & Brees) and had proven head coaches directing the action. Both Coughlin (NYG) and Peyton are Lombardi lofters, Mike Smith (ATL (Dan Quinn)) is the winningest coach in Falcons history (66 (7)) and Marc Trestman (CHI (John Fox)) had an NFL resume won along w/ back-to-back Grey Cups (Montreal ‘09-10). Cool credentials all around.

But look no further than the woeful defensive showings of all four clubs and it’s easy to see how things once again came unraveled for this football Gang of Four. All four brought up the defensive rear in the all-important categories of yards per game (ypg) (32-29) and fell to the bottom ten in points per game (ppg).

Carolina Panthers: 7-9-1


Though Cats sparkled at 12-4 in 2013, their pitiful playoff loss at home to the 49ers (10-23) had to make one wonder if the gaudy record was more mirage than matter. And sure enough, Carolina sunk to a losing mark in 2014 but did manage to take the South and win back smidgen of respect in knocking off the MASH unit that’d become Arizona in Wild Card round (27-16) before falling prey to Super-bound Seattle in divisional (17-31).

Camster’s moving in wrong direction as the scamper trends up again (103a / 539y) while pocket poise proves elusive (58.5% / 18-12). But as long Luke Kuechly keeps the defense top-tier (171tt (CAR 340 ypg (10))), Panthers are players.

Draft‘15: Shaq Thompson, WA, LB, 1R-25; Dev Funchess, MI, WR, 2R-9.

San Francisco 49ers: 8-8

Something tells me it may be awhile before we see the Niners trolling again for Super Swag. When that brass ring swings around (NFCC ‘12 & ‘14 / SB47), you’d better grab it with gusto and hold on tite for it may not come again for quite…some…time.


Anyone who thought San Francisco was a top contender in 2014, and there were many, might want to consider covering a different beat in 2015. Mediocrity was an easy call.

More troubling than Colin Kaepernick and coach’s inability to master the red-zone in crunch time (NFCC’14 / SB47) was the loss of arguably the game’s top defender in NaVarro Bowman to a torn ACL during the ‘14 NFC title match (v SEA).

Master motivator Jim Harbaugh (Jim Tomsula (E. Mangini DC)) has returned to his alma mater pump life back into a gasping Michigan program, perennial All-Pro Pat Willis has hung up the cleats and Bowman is hoping to return to form even as there is no position in football that puts more pressure on the intricate knee-joint than rover-in-the-middle.

Draft‘15: Arik Armstead, Oregon, DT, 1R-17; Jaquiski Tartt, SAM, S, R2-14.


Steven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo Credits: E.Manning, M.Holzworth, wc, USAF, 11.19.13; E.Manning, wc, GB, M.Morbeck, 1.15.12; chewing bubblegum, 12.5.06, wc, Mary; A.Smith, wc, 1.26.14, Cpl.M.Bragg, USMC; R.Tannehill, wc, J.Rivera, 9.16.12; B.Arians, wc, 9.8.14, FF.Swami; J.Cutler, wc, 11.1.09, M.Schadle; C.Newton, 9.28.14, K.Allison, wc; C.Kaepernick, wc, 9.9.12, GB, M.Morbeck; NFL-symbol, Wikiproject.
Posted: 5.18.15 @ 6:47pm; edit @ 11:08 EST

NFL15: Why Goodell Goofed in Patriots Penalty

12 May

Update: Shortly before this write was set to post on Monday, the NFL announced that Tom Brady would be suspended four games and the Patriots penalized $1M with the loss of two draft picks for their role in what the League believes was a rules violative effort to deflate game balls below acceptable standard.

* * * * * * * *

I wouldn’t exactly call it karmic backlash but these past twelve months have been one, hellacious rollercoaster ride for NFL’s standard bearer franchise, the New England Patriots.

The 2014 season began under cloud of apprehension over the arrest, indictment and impending criminal trial of former tight-end Aaron Hernandez, eventually found guilty last April by the State of Massachusetts of 1° murder. Downward.


In February the Patriots took a tremendous Super Bowl win, their fourth under coach Bill Belichick, over Junior America’s favorite team, the defending champion Seattle Seahawks (28-24). Upward.

Now, the Foxborough franchise is beset, their starry signal-caller Tom Brady in particular, by one more of what’s becoming a long, continuous line of storylines (Sterling-Stiviano, Rice, Sam, etc.) that seem to suck-in the entire sports cycle like a black-hole and has come to be known as Deflategate, harkening back to that original ‘gate’ scandal of somewhat greater significance in Nixon’s Watergate (‘73). But don’t try selling that to the trolls.

Which makes this writer wonder why NBA’s Cleveland club got off easy with their in-game video (v CHI) that made light of domestic violence. Maybe the Tosh.0 effect: degradation for laughs. As long as the offensive display was “not intended” to offend, as Cavs’ brass responded, I guess it wasn’t protest-worthy, I guess.

The power of royalty (James) and near-monopoly (Nike®).

Since NFL began its inquiry into whether or not Patriots & staffers Jim McNally and John Jastremski (‘Frick & Frack‘) feloniously fiddled with 2015’s AFCC Wilsons (IND) by deflating psi without official OK, wrapped-up last week on Ted Wells issuance of his report (“more probable than not” that Patriots worked a “deliberate effort to circumvent (NFL) rules” and Brady was likely aware), the saga has come to a halt, waiting on Commissioner Roger Goodell’s ruling.'10.HordeFTL.Wilson.thmb

As popular today as a black-hole storyline is the new national tendency to kick a winner when they’re down. Maybe that’s not so new, but clearly a habit taken up with a passion by millennials and their kin. Course, Fox News has been awful popular since the 90s, so there’s that. Suffice to write, it‘s a lonely walk “On The Sunny Side of the Street (McHugh & Fields)” in 2015.

It helps explain why the last prior inquiry (Mueller) that looked into NFL handling of the Rice matter and largely cleared Goodell of wrong-doing was met with a fair skepticism, while the arguably over-reach conclusions of the Wells report have been widely adopted.

The common thread: Whether it’s jumping anti-Redskins bandwagon, screaming for Roger’s resignation (Rice-gate) or trashing Tom as “The Public Enemy (31),” those who seek the League’s downfall will keep trolling for topics.

The minutemen are clearly winners, NFL’s biggest since America’s former Team, the Cowboys, were ropin’ Lombardis (mid-90s), and certainly down. So if you polled sport news followers (not fans, necessarily), most believe Brady “circumvented” and should then be punished by the Commissioner with fine and/or suspension.

That attitude makes the ‘How’ question (What sort of penalty should the All-Pro quarterback be handed?), the query of choice amongst non-footballers.

But given that, 1) There’s no good evidence a suspected “circumvention” was a long-standing ploy in Foxborough; 2) the Wilson’s slightly deflated state had any measurable bearing on the outcome of contests (See: AFCC (Colts) & SB49 (SEA)), unlike the harm that was Bountygate (See; Favre & Warner ‘10-PS); and, 3) that if the expected penalty, whatever form it takes, is assessed on New England, it will, as some speculate, be source of legal challenge and most “likely” voided on appeal (See; Vilma ‘13), the better question is this: Should Patriots and Brady be punished at all?


The answer: No.

While I trust Attorney Wells & staff acted in good faith, they appear to’ve over-broadly interpreted their duty as one that, if at all possible (‘reasonably’ omitted), should come to a conclusion as if in a civil court property-divvy.

But in Deflategate there’s no property dispute, no necessity for a determination.

More probable than not” or a preponderance of evidence (51%) is a standard used in civil trials across the land everyday when property & rights are put at issue and a decision must be rendered to settle a dispute. Loosely stated, the court says to the trier of fact, ‘You don’t have to be certain but we need a decision, so decide, one way or the other.’

Never written into law or formally instructed, the 51 percentile is a generally accepted understanding of the application of the standard by triers of fact.

Simply stated, in civil cases where a decision must be made up or down, one side or another, the ‘preponderance / more probable’ standard provides an easier deciding point from where the subject property can be divvied without the greater mental, emotional investment required in meeting the clear & convincing (75%) and criminal BRD (90% +/-) benchmarks.

But a preponderance being equal to a likelihood, the conclusion that Wells and media reports so haphazardly toss around in claim of Brady knowledge of a supposed deflating scheme, well, that’s pure gobbledygook. Since when does 2% (51 – 49 = 2) create likelihood of anything?


If Wells investigators didn’t have evidence to make firm findings, which appears the case, and questions on intent to tamper / deflate are left unanswered, so be it.

The Wells Report feels like conjectured conclusion where a result was so strongly sought that it would not be denied regardless of its “basis.” It suggests wrong-doing by Patriots even as it’s probabilities go largely unsupported by direct evidence.

It reads like an educated hunch that clumsily leaves one of the League’s standard-bearer franchises open to petty, endless criticism and mockery even as the findings fall far short of being definitive or even likelihoods on numerous issues.

Inconclusive’ should’ve been the drafter’s opening rather than setting out front the legal standard MPTN as motif unfairly creating public impression of a likelihood of misdeeds.

Maybe fearing public backlash, claim of bias, Wells played it safe and tried to have it both ways in stating there was probably a circumvention by New England, but we lack the “basis” to definitively state it with any degree of certainty. Ugh.

It would’ve served Wells, fandom, NFL and the general public much better had the attorney followed that physician’s creed (Inman): First, do no harm.

One fact that is well established apart from the Wells Report is that enhancing football-grip is only permitted in conjunction with NFL/PA approved (sticky) glove contracts.

The Report is, however, an official hunch so it’s impact per likely League punishment will be outweighed by its blemish on Patriots’ legacy that’ll resonate almost entirely with their and the NFL’s rivals.


Goodell can, firstly, suppress that erroneous motif, digest the report, consult, ponder and then, barring any clear evidence showing Brady or other investigatees failed to cooperate on material matters germane to the discovery truth, give Tom and the Patriots a punishment pass.

But Roger’s got a problem.

The Rice matter and the misdirected, somewhat self-serving public outrcry that arose post-TMZ video drop, has emotionally neutered the Commissioner, taken from him the verve & vigor that had been defining his leadership and left a man who’s now always looking over shoulder and gauging winds, not unlike politicos who live by the polls.

Goodell must find his inner Landis (Kenesaw Mountain), his greater Giamatti (Bart), and lead with the same wisdom and courage he showed in Bountygate.

My own hunch is that Patriots engaged in some extra ball management outside strict adherence to generally accepted practice and/or rules (J&M texts appear not much more than worthless drivel). Not so much because Belichick & Company like to bend the rules but because the Patriots Way believes in testing the limits, an ambitious approach that, in other venues, can be highly praised.

But whether or not Tom likes to bleed a little psi from his pigskins, investigators aught not engage in official hunchery. They have a higher standard to meet. As I can be wrong in my suspicions, so too could they even in an official capacity.


Absent firm findings on claims of non-cooperation (one (TB) could refuse to turn over phone records for reasons that have nada to do with hiding supposedly damning information (privacy & principle)) and tampering that go beyond mere face & bearing, the facts that New England dispatched Indy with ease in the fully-inflated 2nd half of the AFCC that triggered the inquiry, bested defending champ Seattle (SB49) and that ball-control was clearly not well regulated by NFL (unattended official‘s locker-room), all go a long way in ranking this possible rule violation in same class with a player who adds extra uniform padding but below NED (noise enhancing devilry): very low.

Given how Roger’s lost his hutzpah since Rice-gate firestorm charred NFL landscape, a blind obedience to the tenuous tenor of the Wellsian Hunch would not surprise with a Brady suspension to follow (2g). If so, as mentioned above, Brady suing the League in response with NFLPA support, no matter what penalty may be levied ($1 or 1 day), is real possibility. He’d seem to have the meritorious grounds to sustain such an action.

If you’re a fan of due process (fund’l fairness), NFL and capable of subjugating a prejudice, be it team / QB rivalry or NFL policy positions, you’ll support a cautious read of Wells and a ‘no punishment’ ruling by Goodell on Deflategate.

As to the loosey-goosey nature of ball management by NFL officials who‘ve gone mostly unscathed in Deflategate reporting, that state goes to the issue of clarity. In a legal venue, claiming unawares of the law works no defense, but an unclear law as written or in enforcement can give an accused a pass to walk out the door.


But best of all, Goodell taking a punishment pass would go a long way to putting this boring little mystery novella called Deflategate up on the shelf for good, and bad.

“Brady, Brady, Brady, Almighty!” The man from Milwaukee may’ve been a prophet (Inherit the Wind (‘60)).


Steven Keys

NFL HunchLine

Photo Credits: T.Brady, wc.cca, 9.14.14, A.Campbell; T.Brady, wc, 8.28.09, K.Allison; football.Wilson, extreme, wc, 2010, HordeFTL; R.Goodell, wc, 8.30.12, SSG.T.Wade, USMA; B.Belichick, 8.28.09, wc, K.Allison; R.Goodell, wc, 7.10.08, Sgt.B.DelVecchio, Afgah; T.Brady, wc, mongomez93; S.Tracy, F.March, screenshot, Inherit, 1960, wc; NFL-wikiproject.
Posted: 5.11.15 @ 9:39pm EST