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NFL17 Cherry Picks W16: Gurley’s the Guy But Houseman MVP Meter Says It’s Brady’s To Lose

19 Dec

He’s been the most valuable player on the League’s best team in NFL 2017 and in the running for the AP – MVP award nearly every year since he first laced ‘em up in 2000. The man is quarterback Tom Brady of the New England Patriots.

— — —

No NFL’er has made a bold, season-long claim to the Associated Press’ coveted MVP award in this 2017 regular campaign but it’s always just arm’s reach away for that Q/RB who can, down the stretch, grab for the gusto and hold on tight.

TB’s the reigning Super champion quarterback and 2-time winner of the prized piece of personal hardware which today is probably a chunk o’ glass or some kinda’ metallic disaster? And while he’s not having his best statistical season in this his 17th (14g / 11-3: 67C%, 4163y, 28t-7i, 8.1ypa, 2gwd) it’s good enough to put him atop the MVP perch as this regular season enters its stretch run on just two games remaining before the playoffs burst upon the sporting scene.

Tom is no lock for the AP swag.

Brady’s big hurdle each season to take the big hardware is not stats nor W-L but that a GQ gestalt and sustained success breed resentment among the more namby-pamby votership. The San Mateo native hasn’t been in ten straight championship games like Otto Graham but his name has been bantered about for MVP in 15 of his 17 runs (+ 7 Supers). Awesome? Sure. More like epical.

Other names that make my short list of 2017 dark-horse candidates:

Coming as no surprise, it’s a ball-carrier in Rams 2nd-year man, Todd Gurley (14g / 10-4: 1187y, 17td (13r – 4c), 4.6ypc, 54c – 630y, 5fm) who poses the biggest challenge at W16 and may run off with the award if Tom trips-up.

If T&T both stumble, next on the trophy totem pole would be that contender-team QB in a group of four (4) that includes the Chiefs veteran Alex Smith (14g: 67.8C%, 3738y, 25-5, 8.0ypa, 3gwd, 34sk), the Lions’ Matthew Stafford (14g / 66C%, 3920y, 25-9, 7.8, 4gwd, 43sk), Rams’ Jared Goff and the Saints Drew Brees, who decides to separate himself from the rest of the passer pack.

As to Ben Roethlisberger, the Steelers destined-for-Cantonization QB, had he converted 10 of his 14 interceptions into TDs (26), the Big guy’d be right up there on the perch of possibility with the Terrific guy (Tom).

And keep in mind that an MVP trophy is minted in offensive metal, meaning, run-backs and QBs are traditionally the target talents for receipt with the one, rare kicker selection in Washington’s Mark Moseley (82), such requiring an exceptional season performance in a field fairly thin of competitors. No man from the trenches yet (lineman). That’s gotta’ be some kind of sin, eh?

Be that as it may, if you don’t have a defender in the matterful mix, those men on the side of the field that proves oh-so important in crunch time when most stoppers and their headsetted mentors seem to come apart at the seams and ‘prevent’ NOBODY from scoring, then you can‘t consider yourself very well-informed and more importantly, a real football fan.

At this posting, 2017’s top-dogs of tackle are Zach Brown of the Washington Redskins, Blake Martinez of the Green Bay Packers and like sophomore Joe Schobert of the 0-14 Cleveland Browns, all who tally 127 total takedowns with the latter two tipping scales on pass-D and forced-fumble categories (Joe‘s 4th-year co-worker in Christian Kirksey has 124 total and 2 FFs, making one think Brownies should build on D-side first). Were any of the three to take trophy, they’d become only the 3rd defender to do so. Stoppers, like kickers & receivers, rarely get fair consideration from AP’ers, only the greatest in Alan Page (71) and Lawrence Taylor (86) having been tabbed for MVP immortality.

— — —

The biggest personal prize in professional football this side of the 49th parallel (CFL) is about momentum, early and on-going.

With two more games remaining in this NFL season, two more chances for players with MVP aspirations to prove their worth in the eyes of the AP, the obscure but finely calibrated John Houseman MVP Meter is pointing to Tom Brady as the most valuable and deserving player for the coveted prize, an awarding that would be the future Hall-of-Famer‘s third capture.

Be aware, this meter gauges the player who most deserves to MVP, not the man who ultimately receives the most AP votes. Sometimes casters are wrong.

Wondering what is the Houseman MVP Meter?

Houseman (b.1902 Bucharest – 1988) was a producer of theater (Federal / Mercury) and then films who later in life became an actor of note in supporting roles in such movies as ThePaperChase (73 Oscar®), ThreeDaysOfTheCondor and the classic sporting flick, Rollerball (75). But he may be best remembered for his SmithBarney TV ads uttering in his distinctive high-hat voice, “They earn money the old-fashioned way, they eaaaaaarn it.”

— — —

In spooning through the simmering statistical soup of NFL 2017 in search of the most serious of AP – MVP candidates, I came across these curiosities:

1) Surfing for the single-season record for most player tackles in an NFL season, a stat not kept until more recent times (90s) and still escaping me, I discovered this unrelated yet grand mark: Cleveland’s great QB, Otto Graham, competed in TEN straight pro title games (AAFC / NFL). Struggle as today’s Brownies do, there was a time in the 50s when the Forest City bunch, guided by coaching genius Paul Brown, and their nemesis the Lions, were both football elite.

2) Cowboys’ running back Alfred Morris is having a fine comeback year. Filling in for the suspended Ezekiel Elliott, the former Redskins All-Pro who until recently appeared to be washed-up and ready to wash-out of the game, has carried the pigskin 113 times for 546 yards for a spiffy 4.8 rushing average.

3) As impressive as Carson Wentz’ numbers were up to his season-ending ACL injury in Week 14 (@ LAR), the Eagles 2nd-year QB will not be an MVP candidate for 2017. Like Brady in 2016 who too missed one-quarter of the season, his absence on the front end, Carson’s 4g lost takes him out of consideration. Same holds true for the Steelers Antonio Brown, the top wide-receiver pick unitl he too went out on injury last Sunday.

Cherry Picks Week 16: Bad Blood

Minnestoa @ GB: 12.23 NBC 8:30: Pack
Detroit @ Bengals: 12.24 Fox 1:00: Cincy
Dolphins @ KansasCity: CBS 1:00: Chiefs
Cleveland @ Chicago: CBS 1:00: Bears
Falcons @ NewOrleans: Fox 1:00: Saints
Denver @ Washington: CBS 1:00: Redskins
LARams @ Tennessee: Fox 1:00: Titans
LAChargers @ NewYorkJets: CBS 1:00: LAC
Jacksonville @ SanFran: CBS 4:05: Jaguars
Seahawks @ Cowboys: Fox 4:25: Seattle
NewYorkGiants @ Arizona: Fox 4:25: AZ
Raiders @ Philly: 12.25 Disney 8:30: Eagles

Record: 62 – 50

NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: NFL-symbol, wikiproject, 200; T.Brady, wc.cca, A.Campbell, 9.14.14; G.Spralding, A.Smith, USAF, SAFMH-Denver, wc, 11.26.16; N.Bradham, Z.Brown, wc, 9.10.17, Hanover-MD, K.Allison; J.Houseman, A.Light, 5-1979, NFS-LA; cherries, Hispalois, 7.2.12, wc, Careres-Spain; J.Otto, 1970, ToppsChewingGum
Posted: 12.19.17 @ 3:22pE; Copyright © 2017


NFL17 Cherry Picks W8: An 18-Year Feast But Still No Bliss Point For Brady Fans

28 Oct

It may now be that time for Tom Brady, after eighteen seasons of uninterrupted stellar quarterback play, to get tagged with that special moniker, the one that naturally bestows upon a fabulous personality or field general: King.

It’s a funny thing, though, typically, the royal moniker will associate with a guy who you wouldn’t normally expect could carry off the titanesque title.

There was King Donovan, the spouse of Imogene Coca and a 1950s character actor best known for his supporting role to lead Kevin McCarthy in the great science fiction, anti-Communist thriller, Invasion of the Body Snatchers (56).

There was “King Football,” 1940s-50s Hollywood heart-throb, Victor Mature. It‘s the nickname Vic‘s character “Pete Wilson” was bestowed in the 1949 film Easy Living when he played star tailback (QB) for the fictional pro team “Chicago Chiefs” but is then afflicted with a heart ailment, threatening his career and marriage to gold-digger wife, the lovely & leggy, Lizabeth Scott.

There was the original sporting King (James) Brady, an Elmer, New Jersey native who pitched in brief stints with four MLB clubs in the early 20th century (3-2 / 3.08), a stretch that included one start with the Boston Red Sox in 1908, going the distance on an 8-hit shutout. That’s pretty spiffy stuff.

And there was, if not the most famous, surely the most curious of all monarchical entertainers, King (James) Corcoran, another Jerseyite and legendary signal-caller known as the “poor man’s Joe Namath.” Not too shabby.

A University of Maryland Terrapin, KC bounced around the semi-pro circuit for good part of a decade (Waterbury Orbits 1967 >), finishing his run in the short-lived NFL rival operation, the World Football League for the Philadelphia Bell (1974-75), leading the League in TDs (31) and in 1982 being inducted into the American Football Association Semi-Pro Football Hall of Fame.

So notorious was King Corcoran as a self-promoting ladies man that his character was the basis for an episode of The Rockford Files entitled, “The No-Cut Contract (76)” and portrayed as “Larry ‘King’ Sturtevant” by then All In The Family co-star, future director and son of classic comedian, Carl Reiner, his son, Rob. And the son pulled it off, with “caps.”

Like Rob, and Roy…Rogers, “King of the cowboys,” Tom could pull it off, too.

Brady’s personal and team achievements are too many to list without boring the bejeebers out of the reader. Suffice to say, leading his career-long team, the New England Patriots, to seven Lamar Hunt (AFCC) and five Vince Lombardi trophies (SB), including last season’s memorable come-from-behind win over the Atlanta Falcons, leads that long list of accomplishments.

But deserved as he is, I’m not so sure Tom’d want the royal tag.

Never self-promoting or boisterous, apart from those occasional on-field outbursts of team spirit, Tom is a leader by example who leaves the swagger to those so inclined, winners and losers. It’s a style in league with the League’s greatest, from Sammy Baugh to Bart Starr to Brett Favre.

This season, New England surprised by stumbling out of the starting blocks, losing at home in W1 to the Chiefs (27-42). They’ve righted the ship, going 5-1 since then and hope to bump it to six wins (v Bolts) before their bye in W9.

Tom himself has been, take a guess, ter-RI-fico (66.4 C%, 15t-2i, 8.4 yppa).

In the Pats two loses, their offense averaged 28.5 per contest. Not too shabby as shabby usually goes in this League, one whose Thursday nite event was dominated in media by a god damn cat running onto the field.

TNF, it’s gotta’ go already, geez, Louise.

Brady’s top five attributes: 1) Pocket presence (smarts & wherewithal to hang in the pocket and take the hits necessary to read D); 2) Judgment capability (low INTs); 3) Top talent (thread the needle); 4) Thick-skin (the tenacity to throw-off loss and rebound), and 5) What neurologists call a fluid intellect. Presented with a new circumstance, Tom can figure it out and quickly. Belichick helps.

NFL Cherry Picks Week 8

MIN @ CLE (L): 10.29 NFLN 9:30: Vikings
Atlanta @ NewYorkJets: Fox 1:00: Falcons
Carolina @ Buccaneers: Fox 1:00: TampaBay
Chicago @ NewOrleans: Fox 1:00: Saints
Oakland @ Buffalo Bills: CBS 1:00: Raiders
Indianapolis @ Cincinnati: CBS 1:00: Bengals
Houston @ Seahawks: CBS 4:05: Seattle
Cowboys @ DC Redskins: Fox 4:25: Dallas
Pittsburgh @ DetroitLions: NBC 8:30: Steelers

Record: 27 – 21

Steven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo Credit: NFL-symbol, wikiproject, 2011; TomBrady, wc.cca, 9.14.14, A.Campbell; T.Brady, wc.cca, KeithAllison, WashingtonDC, 8.28.09; BartStarr, wc.cca, 1967?; cherries-cloth, picdrome, wc.cca, 2011; JimMarshall, TCG, 1970
Posted: 10.27.17 @ 10:32pE, edit 10.28; Copyright © 2017

Mayweather Win Settles It: ‘Report of (Boxing’s) Death Has Been Greatly Exaggerated’

30 Aug

The big boxing news from the Floyd Mayweather v. Conor McGregor trans-tactic fight last Saturday nite (8.26): Pugilism still reigns supreme in the world of wingding combat. As writer, humorist, philosopher and fight fan (?) Mark Twain would’ve likely put it: “The report of (boxing’s) death was an exaggeration.”

Here’s the line of questioning to listen for to get a good sense of whether a sport truly matters to the masses. On the big day the general public, young and old, men and women both, will be overheard to ask these three (3) questions:

1) Who’s fighting?
2) Who’s winning?
3) Who won?

Even my better-half, who ponders sports about as much as a lifeguard follows the morning farm report, was aware of the Big Bash. If it’s on National Public Radio (NPR) in the car, she’s listening. And when “something is in the air there’s no stopping it (R.Whorf, YankeeDoodleDandy (42))!”

Were UFC to hold championship MMA bouts in every weight division and give away a year’s free supply of any flavor Baskin-Robbins® ice cream to the first million pay-per-view customers, that in all likelihood STILL wouldn’t make a ripple in Lake Media.

And how did the Conor v. Floyd fight play out? To say it was competitive would be a bit generous to the loser, though, fans who paid big bucks seem to‘ve been overall pleased with the product, if reports are to be believed (See above; “exaggerated”).

Floyd won by a TKO in the 10th round but ruled the scorecard by comfortable margins nearly throughout the bout, the current co-record holder (Marciano) in undefeated wins (50-0) connecting on 170 punches to 111 for McGregor.

Most interesting is that many casual observers across the nation seemed genuinely interested in the bout, even excited. That hasn’t happened since George Foreman returned to the ring in the 1990s. No high voltage event like that generated by the Fight of the Century in 1971 when, on March 8th at MSG, Smokin’ Joe Frazier defeated the previously undefeated Muhammad Ali by flooring the former Cassius Clay in the final of 15-rounds to win a unanimous decision. But even so, M&M surely was an electric affair that returned boxing, however briefly, to the stature it had formerly held as a matter-of-course.

The winner was gracious in victory while the loser appeared less than so, partying afterwards like only the money really mattered.

But with the champ Mayweather now riding off into the sunset and the Hall of Fame his next big stop on the box-trail, one has to wonder if the sport made more practical by the Marquess of Queenberry rules (1867) can keep the momentum going?

With boxing having been marginalized in recent decades by changing tastes and a promoters pay-per-view greed-grab that keeps championship bouts reserved for only the most devout and financially fluid followers, it’s not likely that ANY individual or clan of boxers (1980s Sugar Ray Leonard – Marvin Hagler – Thomas Hearns) could today resurrect the competitions to their former top-tier status enjoyed for over 100 years.

Be that as it may, and regardless of how long young media males push the UFC product, it won’t be MMA that ever steps in and fills the void where pugilism once ruled the hearts of Americans, a peoples who will always be ready & waiting for that next, great boxer or match to light the marquee, if not the actual ring.

Posted: 8.29.17 @ 10:36pE, edit 9.1; Copyright © 2017
Photo credit: Floyd-Mayweather, 6.28.11, wc.cca, ChamberOfFear, thm; Floyd-Mayweather, wc.cca, thm, 6.29.11, DeWaltPower; Conor-McGregor, wc.cca, A.Petrucenia, thm, 3.30.15, London; Straight-Shooter-produce-label
Reference:, B.Deis, Reports of Mark Twain’s (5.31.15)

NFL17 Pre-Play: Nobody Bullied the Beav and No One Needles the NFL, Kaep Krew

9 Aug

If you’re an NFL fan or root for Colin Kaepernick, not always mutually exclusive mental states, and feed those foibles by perusing online sport sites, you’ll know it has become common in recent years for certain players to have developed a cult-like following amongst the media, junior scribes, in particular. Individually, five names have received more press than probably every player combined, excepting Broadway Joe, of course, since the National went on-wire in 1920:

1) Johnny Manziel
2) Tim Tebow
3) Michael Sam
4) Colin Kaepernick
5) Richard Sherman

At this posting only one of the five, Sherman, has a job with our nation’s new national pastime (When a home run derby is your showcase event of the season, there’s big trouble) and soon to become international funfest (See; London).

Of the other four, it’s possible Manziel and Kaepernick could get a call for a 2017 quarterback tryout as injuries begin to mount in the League on commencement of training camps and contact. But that’s becoming more doubtful as the recent rapid-signing in Miami of free-agent QB Jay Cutler and longer-than-expected list of somewhat suspect number (#) ones (Kessler (CLE), McCown (NYJ), Hoyer (SF), Taylor (BUF), Glennon (CHI), Siemian (DEN), Savage (HOU)) penciled-in for 2017 strongly suggests about both their desirability.

For Tebow, who last played with the Jets in 2012, the chance of an NFL return is nearly nil. Tim’s rather particular (prideful), shunning CFL and tight-end talk, a spot for which he was tailor-made. Same holds true for Sam (nil) who never made a roster after being drafted late in 2014 (7 / 249), having two tryouts (STL / DAL), an invite to a combine and a brief suit-up with Montreal (CFL). Mike does, for some reason, have his own page at, sans the Alouettes.

None of those deactivated states has stopped certain media from alternatively appeasing (groupies) or depressing (fans of sport) readers with a steady stream of stories seemingly designed to persuade, cajole or bully the League, its owners and neutral fans into giving three of the four another shot at the big time.

But “Eddie Haskell” couldn’t bully “Beaver Cleaver,” Reid & Pelosi couldn’t bully Dan Snyder, his Washington Redskins and the American Indian rank & file (See; WP “9 of 10” poll (2016)) and nobody bullies the NFL to decide who it hires and who it doesn’t. An exception: Ray Rice and women’s advocacy. The ex-Raven’s rehab appears real but his stigma sticks: Video is video, thanks to TMZ (ugh).

If you think that’s a poor analogy, then you never knew Leave It to Beaver (1957-63). It’s impact on Americana made Vince Lombardi’s power sweep look almost happenstance. And if you don’t know the sweep (Kramer – Gregg) you’d best bone up. Start in State of Ohio, then find George Halas (IL) and go from there.

Michael Sam

When Sam told the nation of his homosexual orientation just prior to the 2014 NFL draft, likely hoping to forestall his stock drop to a level so low he feared being undrafted entirely, his act was lauded by captured media as socially significant. It might have been more accurately called a self-serving act of leverage. A League that would appear unwelcoming to the first openly gay pro football player, college skill-set aside, might suffer a consumer backlash, so the Suits & Skirts may’ve thunk. Sam gets the call late from a Rams club seeking a re-location vote, then a tryout from affable Jerry Jones who is always looking for new renters (AT&T). The NFL looked open-minded, Sam got his cup o’ Gatorade® and everybody felt a little cheated.

Colin Kaepernick

Sherman recently claimed Kaepernick is being blackballed on his race. But that won’t fly. The NFL’s composition is overwhelmingly African-American. Others claim jingoism is motivating CK’s critics, arising from what appeared an anthem protest on police brutality, suspiciously timed as the former 49er’s starter-string in San Francisco looked to’ve run out. But America was born on protest (Stamp Act 1765). Refusing to stand at attention for the flag ceremony is disfavored but not necessarily offensive to most citizens of these United States. What owners may’ve found abhorrent (Tuesday nite ESPN reports Giants’ owner John Mara likes the Milwaukee-native to suit-up somewhere in the NFL for 2017) were Colin’s racist white pig socks. It doesn’t have to be a forgiveable act but until Kaepernick takes responsibility, even a re-signing won’t make him legitimate.

What if nobody comes calling from the NFL, where does Colin go from there? Oprah? That’d be nice, for him, when he and his co-author get a book done (I don’t know Dick’s writing skills but he does like a by-line (See; And believing in something (faith) is not enough. Wisdom, and no small amount of courage, do both matter. Protest can be passionate, or it can be theater if it lacks heart & soul (truth). And he can forget about autograph shows, they’re pro-diversity and patriotic, but the NBA célébrité will always be welcoming.

John Manziel

Johnny Football: He never did earn that moniker. Jon thought talent was the trick. So did Todd Marinovich, “Robo-QB.” He could matriculate in a typhoon but made drugs his love. Manziel could’ve been the greatest college quarterback in history but made booze his squeeze. We don’t really know anything’s changed at this posting. For a run-QB who never learned to take hits in the pocket, THE pro skill, Johnny Skittles can’t afford to have fun being stupid any longer. Like Colin, Jon never respected the game, or the business. That won’t be tolerated, not by owners, players, coaches, real fans or the almighty Sponsors.

Tim Tebow

It’s curious, Tim may be the only NFL signal-caller to have, in his one near-full campaign under center (2014 Denver), compiled a better than .500 record (7-4), led the most captivating team win-streak in recent memory (6-0), won a road playoff game (@ Pittsburgh) on a GWD touchdown strike, yet, the next season, be ungraciously traded away (Jets) where, for one season, he finished his brief career in a non-QB job as a decoy flanker-back (?). Curious, indeed.

Tebow’s fandom is still vast, kept current with his baseball venture in the Mets minors, one most likely to end in the same fashion to that of his pro football career when (if) on promotion he meets that “wicked” major league curveball, known to derail & dash many a career (See; Bull Durham (88)).

Most scribes never did subscribe to the Book of Timbo, hence, never did promote his cause for return. Bart Simpson just won’t rock to Christian hip-hop. Like all run-QBs, Tim’s skill-set proved limited (47.9 C%). But other wily field generals have too relied heavily on stoking emotional fires to wins & careers, Billy Kilmer comes to mind (1967: 10g, 47.5%, 0-4, 6t-11i (16y)), and Tim, had he been NFL retained, would’ve most likely seen his skill-set progress at least in the manner of fellow flashman CK: Never top tier (Brady / Moon) but a sufficiency to roster. And then nobody put fans in the seats, stadium and home, like Tebow did. The reality for the NFL is that flash-QB, with all his shortcomings (rabbit, RIF-fail), is here to stay, given his popularity in college by great success (titles / Heismans) and facilitator of coach-lite: Just give the Kid the ball and count the wins.

Steven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo Credit: NFL-wikiproject, Ixnay-Beao; C.Kaepernick, wc.cca, 10.27.13, D.Hartwig; M.Sam, wc, ED.Drost, 8.23.14; Starlito-T.Tebow-L.Garrett, wc, 11.1.12; J.Manziel, Kyle-Field, wc, shutterbug459, 10.20.12; J.Marshall, Topps, 1970.
Posted: 8.9.17 @ 12:39a EST, edit 8.10; Copyright © 2017

MMA17: In a Machiavellian Age, Hitting a Man When Down Is All Good Sport

29 Jun

Opposites in boxer Floyd Mayweather and MMA (UFC) man Conor McGregor have, through their agencies, now negotiated an attraction in (K) for a fight this summer to take place August 26th in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Constituting the first high-stakes, trans-tactic fight, it’s a contest that supporters in the respective fan bodies are hoping its winner to settle the question they’ve wanted answered since the brutish, queer combo of kicks, canvas-clinches and blood-letting pummels was imported onto North American soil back in the 1990s. The query: Who are the best fighters on the Planet?

That said, even if this match of muscle does receive all proper sanction from relevant governing bodies (so many “bodies’) and does take place, its outcome is not likely to end the debate on which manner of fight is most champion.

For starters, Floyd Jr. is no spring chicken. Correction, Mayweather’s not young anymore. For a boxer he’s an old rooster: “Cock-a-doodle-do!”

The reigning WBA and WBC, undefeated welterweight champion (49-0) and Grand Rapids, Michigan native is in his 41 year (2.24.77) while McGregor, UFC lightweight champion (21-3) and product of Dublin, Ireland, is still priming and will turn 29 in July (7.14.88). Mayweather hasn’t fought since he went the distance (12) to defeat Andre Berto in a unanimous decision on September 12, 2015 at, where else, the MGM Grand in Paradise, Nevada.

Weigh-in would size the Irishman a bit bigger:

Mayweather: 5’8” -> high 150s -> 72 inch reach
McGregor: 5’9” -> high 150s -> 74 inch reach

More important than what would appear to be both an age (energy) and bulk advantage to the Islander is that the proposed combatants have been fighting in formats that’re quite different, one could say apples and oranges different.

— — —

I won’t beat around the bush, I like oranges & apples but I don’t like MMA.

Why? You can figure that yourself. Clearly, it’s the ugliest sort of competition. Rollerball has more style. If I wrote MMA had no sporting spirit, no dignity, would it make any difference?

Be that as it may, what I dislike more is unfairness. How noble, right? Wrong.

When you don’t have money, power or position but were blessed, or burdened, with a sense of empathy, fairness matters. And the word is, is that this fight format will be of a strictly boxing nature: No kick or grapple allowed. And that just doesn’t seem fair to the European.

No more fair than it’d be to ask Floyd to find a kicking game in prep and learn to subjegate long held habits like no-grapple nor canvas-attack.

But ‘Conor already knows how to hit with his hands,’ you say. Balderdash. Not like a top boxer he doesn’t, and not with those li’l hand-wraps. So why agree to fight in the first place? Biggest payday ever, over-confidence, I suspect.

The semi-incongruent state reminds me of the Kirk Douglas – Woody Strode gladiator fight in the first hour of Spartacus (1960), the original, as the combatants are armed with different weaponry, KD a stabbing-sword and hand-shield, WS a throw-net and trident. Though ostensibly equal in value, Woody’s weaponry proved the better but he honorably sparred the “Thracian dog” his death blow, then rushed Crassius before getting a javelin in his back and…well, lost his life in the brave attempt. Let’s just say, Olivier’s daggar-wielding character needed a splatter guard (ugh).

— — —

It’s been called MMA (mixed martial arts) since the 90s, more popularly known by its business acronym, UFC (ultimate fighting championship), owned by the investor group WME-IMG with its overseeing authority based in Beverly Hills and Las Vegas. It’s financial face is a man named Dana White, a CT-born boxer turned promoter / president. The female pull has been Ronda Rousey, a woman who doesn’t look the part but also doesn’t win much anymore, either.

Everyone should know how to physically defend themselves, a formal training probably best initiated in grade school. When cowards cheat (unawares, 2-to-1, etc.), results can get skewed, but no one should take a beating because they can’t muster the mind-set or the moves. And women in competitive fighting for profit (boxing / MMA), that’s just disturbing.

I call MMA a plague and a sure sign American culture is fast headed in the wrong direction, no matter which side of the political aisle you seat your keaster.

Of course, pugilism too can be a blood bath and on rare occasion deadly. For those who survive a career in the ring it is not uncommon after enduring years of body blows to then manifest the maladies that come with repetitive physical trauma soon into or before retirement (See; Requiem for a Heavyweight (62)).

But then there is something called assumption of risk.

Along with the waiver (AoR), the moral variety that both boxer and mixer grant upon entering their respective rings, are rules of civilized conduct, even in battle, that pugilists must honor. Chiefly among them are the Marquess of Queensberry (drafted by John Graham Chambers, London, 1865: mits, no grapple, 3-minute rounds, etc.) which set a standard of sportsmanship on the hue and cry of a sport crazed public that had grown angry with corruption, brutality and unfair practices coming to dominate the boxing show.

To some it was irony that John Douglas (MoQ), possessing a mixed reputation, some of its bad aspects undesevered by the ire he had raised in his secularist views and boxing advocacy, through the use of his name, would become the face, the sign of the progressive move towards civility in a sport that, up to the mid-1850s had been and would for years to come, remain quite brutish.

Other rules were incorporated in decades since MoQ took hold, most notably a return to neutral corner at knockdown, made common knowledge in Dempsey – Tunney II on September 22, 1927 at Soldier Field in Chicago when the challenger Jack failed to adhere to his own contracted term, resulting in a longer count for the floored champ Gene who arose to win the rematch on decision.

Do boxing’s rules ensure a fair competition, an honest result? Because of the sport’s checkered past, the fix will always come to mind if a decision appears seriously flawed, but when it’s not, I’d say for the most part, I think they do. The rules set a framework whereby good sport can be achieved. Better yet, nobody gets hit when he (she) is down for the count or in a clinch.

I‘ll be pulling for the man I believe will win the match, boxer Mayweather.

McGregor enters the fray with eyes wide open, mitigating the uneven skills issue. Maybe too wide. Youth gives Conor, presumably, edge on energy in a longer bout but also means the challenger has not realized the wisdom, in all its forms, that comes with age, evidenced sometimes by boyish, pre-fight bravado in mask of having begun to realize one’s bitten off more than one can easily chew.

And a win by Floyd might help slow the media monopolies ill-guided campaign to make MMA a family TV fixture, male teens, anyway. “Good grief.”

Steven Keys
Photo credit: macroecono, lamcasinoroyal, wc.cca, 2011; C.McGregor, wc, 3.30.15, London, A.Petrucenia; F.Mayweather, SanDiego, 8.21.10, Gen.T.Conant, Sgt.D.Gallagher, Cpl,S.Posy; Marquess-of-Queensberry, John-Douglas, wc, 1914, J.Long; blue-boxing image
Posted: 6.29.17 @ 1:50p, edit 7.2; Copyright © 2017
Reference (names / numbers): Wikipedia (UFC / MoQ)

NFL17 Pre-Play: Triumvirate Intact, Patriots Grip On Power Remains Firm

1 Jun

Hail the New England Patriots’ Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and Robert Kraft!

Never in the history of sport has a tightly-woven triad of money (owner), brain (coach) & brawn (player) so effectively organized and implemented an operation of success over such a long period of time and with so little apparent friction as have these three, compatible personalities.

Historically, the triumvirate has shown mixed results.

The ancient Romans, building blocks to Western civilization, triumvirated a couple of times (Caesar – Crassus – Pompey 60 BC / Antony – Octavian – Lepidus 43BC), without much claim to victory, save brief respites from war.

Jumping forward to the North American pro sport scene, you’d be hard-pressed to find the same owner, coach (mgr) and top player remaining together winning titles for anywhere near as long as the Foxborough Three have been doing it.

There were the Habs (1944-79), Yanks (1923-62), Celtics & Lakers, dynasties we’ve been talking about for generations but none a triumvirate of top-level talent staying intact for as prolonged a period as these Patriots powerbrokers.

There were the Lombardi – Green Bay teams where ownership (EC – BoD), coach and key offensive player in Bart Starr, the way under-rated Bart Starr, won lots o’ titles but in a much more concentrated timeline (1961 – 68). Condensed greatness is potent (70s Steelers / 80s 49ers) and terrific in its own way but not of the championship continuum on topic here and special too itself.

It’s in the NBA where is found the only real comparison to the Patriots trio-of-time-tested-title-takers, that being the San Antonio Spurs.

The trifecta of Peoria native and current owner Peter Holt (1993), coach Gregg Popovich (1996 >) and recently retired center and championship nexus in Tim Duncan (1997-16) garnered five NBA titles (’99, 03, 05, 07, 14) in sixteen seasons, though never back-to-back (NE: 04-05), requisite for the dynasty.

But that was then, this is now, and wow, the Foxborough Three are defending NFL champions again after their Swing Time SB51 OT win over the ‘gotta’ still be stunned’ Falcons, having made the grade even as their starry starter in Brady had to sit the first four on his Deflategate susp’n. The red, white & blue bunch have been setting and maintaining a standard of sport excellence unlikely to be matched for a long, long time. Never say never, right?

Detractors will bemoan, ‘Hey dingdong, don’t forget Spygate, you fool!’ Always class-acts, and never redundant, the bemoaner boys. Rules violations are wrong, some even bad, i.e., failing to cooperate with an investigation (destroying a phone). But the general public, those with no serious rivalry axe-to-grind or having little interest in promoting their own brand of team who seek ’The Greatest’ award (Cowboys, Steelers, Packers, 49ers), just won’t be too bothered by black-marks on a team’s historical ledger that involve spying or stretching of the rules, outside game-fixing and PEDs. Spys have helped us win wars. A bit off-track here but that’s how the more rationally-minded fan will think.

Can they keep it going? Not forever, they can‘t, as hard as that is to imagine in 2017. Someday Tom will hang up his cleats, Bill hand in his headset one last time and Rob just won’t care anymore. All three have accomplished just about everything they can in the business of football, personally and as a team.

With Tom and Bill both having set the new standard in SB tandem wins with five and the team having set the record for Super Bowl appearances last February in Houston with their ninth (9) (5-4) (Pitt – Dallas – Denver all at eight (8)), about the only achievement unattained is to match and then surpass the Steelers league leading six (6) victories in the Big Game.

But as long as Brady stays healthy and the Foxborough Triumvirate keeps itself amused, an NFL bound to get more amusing, and lengthy, if not better, with Raja Goodell’s kow-tow in relaxing celebration rules, Pats should keep winning.

If you’re expecting to read here roster depth-chart chatter, draft break-downs and musings on New England’s 2017 schedule, forget it. Trust, in Belichick & Company’s judgment and future performance, has never been more earned.

Besides, who’s gonna’ stop ‘em? Anyone in the AFC?

Ben’s a trooper but needs sideline help; Denver & Houston have D but the Os are iffy; Colts & Titans have Os but Ds are doubtful; Raiders Las Vegas engagement came at a bad time for a still maturing Carr; Harbaugh & Flacco know how but is owner listening; KC will play out the string with Reid & Smith; Miami has a good QB in Tannehill but no good game-plan and Cincy, well, they’re Cincy.

In the weaker NFC the Cards turned conundrum; Wilson has D but needs a plan from Pete, not protest (CK); Rodgers needs a run-buddy and a D; Saints showed spunk late; Bucs are rising; Cats didn’t claw back in 2016; Eli is locked-in (‘20); Cousins may’ve peaked and that leaves Atlanta who need to shake off the shame.

Maybe it’s like those other eras with one, or two, dominant clubs, Pack in the 60s, Pitt – Dallas in 70s, 49ers in the 80s: Until the big dog (NE) loses its bite, everyone keeps focusing on the leader of the pack, tripping over their tail at the worst possible times. Course, having a defense that can close the deal is key, its absence to continue to be the biggest issue for most teams in 2017.

But in every NFL season there is the unexpected, that turnaround team where everything begins to click (Falcons / Raiders 2016-17), or sustained success sprouts from where no special tillage had been undertaken (Dallas draft).

As long as Robert Kraft, Tom Brady and Bill Belichick remain together in good spirits and keep “calm(ing) the envious spirit” in those sporadic challenges to their predominance, efforts that will require a charmed season aided in no small part by a capricious Sporting God set (See; Carolina ‘15 – Dallas ‘16), this 21st century will remain the Patriots Period, period.

Steven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: NFL-wikiproject, wc.cca, Ixnay-Beao; Belichick-Kraft-Kerry, wc, US-Department-of-State, 4.25.15; T.Brady, wc, K.Allison, 8.28.09; W.Wood, Topps, 1970.
Posted: 6.1.17 @ 2:13p EST, edit 6.26; Copyright © 2017

MLB17 Chin Music: Will Joe’s Cubs Need a Merkle Boner to Complete This Repeat?

17 Apr

“Merkle’s Boner:” It didn’t catapult the Chicago Cubs to the 1908 Series, their 3rd in as many years, but it did by way of that game’s 1-1 tie, provide the Bruins with a means, an opportunity were the National League schedule and standings to end in a tie (Cubs & Giants) requiring a playoff (4-2 CHI) to save their bacon.

In a nutshell, the Boner was a base-running blunder committed by Fred Merkle of the New York Giants in a stretch-run contest at the NYC Polo Grounds (9.23) versus their neck n’ neck nemesis, the defending World Series champion Cubs. It denied his the New Yorkers the win as Merkle had failed to fully advance and touch second-base on a teammate’s hit, preventing the runner from third and his cross of home plate from constituting the game-winning run.

At its essence is this lesson: Baseball, all organized sport, is a game of rules to be enforced, chief among them being the act of completion by its participants in letting the world know that the ball has been caught, the runner tagged or bag reached to finish the play, providing necessary clarity. No loose ends.

— — —

Merkle was born in Watertown, Wisconsin in 1888 (Cubs-land), not far west of Milwaukee, hometown of Al Simmons (b.1902). By all rights, Fred was a rookie when he miscued, having majored briefly in ‘07, a bit longer in ‘08 – 09 and finally full-time in 1910. He had a 16-yr career, was a quality major leaguer (.273), played in five (5) World Series, all losses, including one with the Cubs in 1918 (BOS) and could be argued was somewhat blameless in the blunder.

I can’t write to exactly when the rule of completion began to lose support, but it had, explaining in part why League officials had denied Cubs’ protest of the Pirates’ Warren Gill having pulled the same act a few games prior, even as a rule was on the books. But the point was made, a directive laid down for future enforcement and announced to relevant parties (teams) and crews.

Boner-game umpire and former player Hank O’Day needed no formal announcement for the stepped-up watch as he’d umpired the earlier Pittsburgh contest and made the call in ruling Merkle out for failing to complete the play (umpire and former pitcher himself, Bob Emslie, claimed to have not seen it).

Whether Giants Mgr John McGraw took the news to heart, instructing his team or considered the League position to enforce the completion of play to be an affront to his sensibilities, I do not know. Given Merkle’s on-field base-running (stop-short), a man who appeared possessing of an astute baseball mind, I’d hazard a guess it was the latter. What I do know is that notice had been given.

Like a double-stranded DNA virus, stubbornness is forever in all our blood-streams, countered in some by common-sense or today’s conformity craze often manifested in cliques & consumerism. But John, the talented player (1890s Orioles) and teacher, was stubborn as a mule in an age that seemed to pride itself on the trait (segregation, disdain for protective gear, safer stadiums, etc.).

Fred was the key figure in what you can call G1 of the Merkle Series. The 2d (G2) being the post-season playoff back at the Polo Grounds (10.8) where the brave Cubs (Pirates 1/2 behind) showed the baseball world who was boss in taking the tie-breaker without much trouble, 4-2. That was on the diamond. Big trouble occurred in Chicagoans having to field pre-game death threats and then fend off locker-room attackers to make an escape for their lives. The Bruins lived, then went on to best the Tigers again in the Series 4-1 to make the dynasty.

But it was the Boner-ball itself which would have an incredible story to tell, at one point tossed into the stands by Joe McGinnity to keep it away from the Cubs seeking to make the force before Merkle could return to complete it. With some strong arm tactic from the determined and tough as nails Bruins bunch, the ball was retrieved, handed to 2d-bagger Johnny Evers who made the formal force out which O’Day was obligated to enforce, nullify the run and declare the tie.

For the best firsthand account of what happened before, during, immediately and days after (playoff) the Merkle boner, Evers’ personal narrative is required reading and found in that early baseball classic, “My Greatest Day in Baseball” by famed sportswriter, John P. Carmichael (A.S. Barnes & Co., 1945).

If the greatest pitching staff in history (Brown, Pfiester, Lundgren, Taylor, Reulbach, Cole, Overall (1906-10)) was the wind behind the sails of the dynastic Cubs, it was the smart play of its infield in Bronzed trio of Bear Cubs Tinker (Mgr Federal champion Whales (1915)), Evers (Chalmers MVP Miracle Braves (1914)) and 1B-Mgr Chance, as also overlooked 3rd-sacker Harry Steinfeldt and catcher John “Noisy” Kling, that constituted the tar & nails keeping it all ship-shape.

Did Evers have a bias? I wouldn’t be surprised. But the same goes for any Giants or New York scribe who might weigh-in. Bottom-line, John was in the best spot to tell it like it was. And what a tell! Merkle melee has to be the greatest moment in MLB annals, at least on par with Ruth’s called shot (‘32), Jackie’s debut (‘47) and Rose’s slide home to win an All-Star (‘70). Movie material, for sure.

Merkle’s Boner is more than an infamous miscue. It created four maxims:

1) MLB is a rules-bound game;
2) Completion of play is not just quaint, it’s part of the product;
3) Failure to enforce the rules will be the game’s ultimate demise; and
4) The 1906-10 Chicago Cubs are the greatest baseball team in history.

— — —

Can Joe Maddon’s Cubs match their tough-as-nails forefathers to win a handful of pennants (4) and that not-all-too-common back-to-back Series tandem?

The knee-jerk would say, ‘No, it’s too tough, and they not tough enough.’

To the first part, the 2017 Cubs appear as well-stocked and managed as anyone. And as they’ve done it once already (ring it), that air of confidence puts them in the top tier of hopefuls. To the second, not many of us are as tough as they were back in the dead-ball days. Not many as sentimental, either.

Bruins are off to an inauspicious start at 6-6. A come down off their 103-win season in 2016 would be no surprise. Teams today just ain’t what they used to be (Cubs 1906-10: 116, 107, 99, 104 & 104). If the pedestrian play keeps up, the dog-days (June 20 thru August) will be a real mettle-test for the Northsiders.

But with their talent, sound skipper, a tenacious spirit to defend their title and a little bit o’ luck, these Cubbie bears can make it back to the fall classic in 2017. And if they go through the Bruce Bochy Giants to get there, all the more fun.

Steven Keys
Can of Corn
Photo credit: ChicagoCubs, wc.cca, 1917, sports logo; F.Merkle, NYT, C.Conlon, wc, 1912; CoogansBluff, wc, MerkleBonerGame, 9.23.1908; J.McGraw-F.Chance, wc, LibraryofCongress, GG.Bain, 5.2.1911; J.Evers, wc, 1910, LoC, P.Thompson; J.Maddon-B.Bean.VPSR&I, wc, 10.26.16, A.PardavilaIII; Can-of-corn
Posted: 4.17.17 @ 2:19pm EST, edit 6.21; Copyright © 2017