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NFL19: Belichick-Brady Eke Out Excellence as Sense of Swan Song Season Settles In

23 Apr

It must be the hope, the dream of every pro athlete and coach, to finish-out a career on top of their game, either in strong stats or preferably, hoisting a champion’s hardware. And so much the better if this good fortune can be had with a body and mind that are still largely in-tact and, where the jock is concerned, untainted by the PED tattoo (ugh).

Fantastic final season finishes are not uncommon and deposited in the memory banks of fans and followers. For this writer, a few of them stand-out:

Golf great Jack Nicklaus wins the 1986 Masters for a record 6th time at age 46; Steffi Graf wins her 22nd and final major singles title in taking the 1999 French Open, her 6th; In his 16th and final NHL campaign, Alberta-born Lanny McDonald captains the Calgary Flames to their first and only Stanley Cup (1988-89); Reliever extraordinaire Mariano Rivera ends his career in style by nabbing 44 saves on a stellar 2.11 ERA, securing a 1st-ballot HOF election; And Peyton Manning, plagued for two years by a neck injury, returns to the Denver lineup at mid-season to lead the Broncos to an SB50 victory before calling it a career.

And then there were those singular, final-game feats, like the Splendid Splinter, Ted Williams who, on September 28, 1960, homered at Fenway in his final at-bat of a long, illustrious career (1939), and the Bambino, Babe Ruth, swating three home runs at Pirates’ Forbes Field on May 25, 1935, in his fond, if not somewhat inconspicuous farewell to the business of baseball.

But my favorite goodbye involves one of sports great personalities.

I lived in Wisconsin in 1976 when, that December, Marquette University men’s basketball coach Al McGuire surprised nearly everyone when he made statement he would be stepping down from his post at season’s end, an end not realized until his Warriors would win the NCAA national championship that following March by defeating his Finals opponent, Dean Smith’s UNC Tar Heels.

A dreamy career ending, if their ever was one.

There are two fellas today employed in Foxborough, Massachusetts, one a player, the other a coach, both getting long in the football tooth, highly accomplished (6 NFL titles) and both at that point in their careers where thoughts must certainly be turning to that day in the not too distant future when closure is in the cards.

The fellas: Quarterback Tom Brady (00) and his only pro head coach, Bill Belichick (91-5; 00), both still seemingly at the top of their games entering NFL19, all aglow after brushing aside the latest challenge to their decades long supremacy, the upstart Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl 53 (13-3) who clearly got Belichicked, mate. It wasn’t a pretty win, yet it was a win and that’s all that matters in the NFL battle for the championship.

But it does beg the question, at their advanced NFL ages, eking out excellence in ever more narrow margins of victory and with key cog Rob Gronkowski having shown the way with his recent retirement announcement, is this the right time for B&B to peg 2019-20 as their final, swan song season?

And keep these points in mind: 1) When they do exit, Bill and Tom will likely do it in the same season, and 2) avoid the now common ‘This is my final season’ announcement and hopefully spare us a farewell gift-giving tour (ugh).

Here then are the reasons why I think this will be their last hurrah.

The clearest reason why Bill and Tom call it quits after this season, they’ve got little else of significance to achieve. Getting that second back-to-back (03-04, 04-05), a technical dynasty, may be the only thing motivating B&B at this point.

If one does not consider them the masterminds of the greatest team in NFL history (It’s a debatable topic), they’re certainly right near the top of any reasonable list. And to be frank, the Pats are the only consistent ’big fish’ in what’s become a little NFL pond of competition, the only real challenge left for them being their respective battles against age.

And when Belichick does leave the Patriots, I don’t suspect he’s going to take the Lombardi route in assuming a new challenge as Vince did in DC (1969). I’d expect he follows John Madden’s play-call and stays out for good, maybe accepts an advisory position with Kraft & Co.: “Easy money.”

Then there’s reason #2 to think this is a swan song season: Preserving health.

Tom’s been fairly fortunate in the injury department. He missed almost all of 2008 with a knee bang but has had fewer concussions than other QBs with as many seasons. He doesn’t want to press his luck and his wife may think as much. And even though Belichick works the sidelines, his job classifies as high stress, a state now considered by heart experts to be one of the highest risk-factors for myocardial infarction and poor health in general, along with sugar addiction.

And reason #3 why B&B likely call it quits after this season? It’s like Gordie Lightfoot says, “walk away like a movie star (♪ IfYouCouldReadMyMind ♫).” The Patriots presently are the NFL standard and can hold their heads high.

Even if New England fails to win their fourth consecutive Hunt trophy (AFC) (They’ve copped four of the last five, five of the last eight), a simple winning mark (9-7), playoffs or not, would go down in my book as a successful exit.

How Gronk’s absence will play on team chemistry is hard to predict. He’d a great career and one of Tom’s favorite targets for nine seasons (2010-19), but then Bill has cycled through many great players in his New England reign, finding such, or he and Tom molding those men INTO greatness.

Whenever the two DO decide to hang up their respective cleats and headset, it’s certain they’ll take a good part of the NFL with them, explanation to follow.

Their departure will mark the end of an era, not just one that saw a franchise sustain success on the girdiron for 20+ seasons, but the end of an era in how the game is played and then enjoyed, it seems progressively less & less by an evermore fickle fandom, many who‘ve made whipping-boys of the zebra set.

Though pocket passers will always remain in the game in some numbers as they matriculate the ball and fire-up the exictement best, Tom’s stand-tall-in-the-pocket style of quarterbacking, in opposite of the rabbit-habit trend (aka, flash-QB or single-wing tailback), will become more rare as every year passes, no pun. The college training ground guarantees it. If given a choice to take hits in the pocket, learning to read with poise, or run-at-will with the ball over incapable collegiate defenses, most young athletes will choose the latter.

The NFL has always been a business first, but since B&B teamed-up we’ve seen a serious ratcheting-up of profit-taking in TV transmission, advertising, stadium and merchandise costs. No stone goes unturned today where even player jerseys and shoe-wear become billboards, enriching owners and players alike.

But the biggest change they’ll leave behind is the NFL’s new commitment to the millennial business model in youthenization, one that demands constant change and has a haughty disdain for continuity (tradition).

This callow, artless approach is seen in endless uniform changes (Nike) and rule tinker, to appease the target market (ages 8-28); Networks display little for serious sport fans but cater to those who boner-up on celebrity, sex and shallow trash talk; skittish online reporters deliver the new message while stifling fan input (no more fan-blogging or comments allowed), and gimmickry in ephemeral events like combines, weekly power ranks, endless mock-drafts, mindless re-drafts from years past, their one concession to history, and then the oversold draft day itself where youth is served a heaping helping of freshly-baked heroes to devour, most who never really pan out anyway (6-8 yrs+).

So consider this an early adieu, Misters Belichick and Brady. Don’t spend it all in one place and thanks for the memories because they’re probably going to have to last us real NFL fans the rest of our lives.

StevenKeys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: NFL-symbol, 2011, wikiproject; Brady-Belichick-x4; Patriots-HOF, wc.cca, Leoparmr, 10.20.08
Posted: 4.22 @ 9:04pE; Copyright © 2019

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NBA Playoffs 2019: Lite Ball + Feeble Foes Should Keep GSW Off ‘The Greatest’ Perch

14 Apr

With the NBA playoffs set to tipoff today @ 2:30pE, the question on the minds of every serious basketball fan is pretty straightforward: Does ANY team stand a good chance of toppling the Golden State Warriors from the lofty, championship perch they‘ve been occupying for most of the past five years?

The most likely, logical answer is a quick and decisive, ‘No.’

Such fans know, that unless the competition has been hiding their light under a bushel or unexpected injury rears its ugly head in the Oakland camp, there’s no team in this NBA19, not the Bucks, Raptors, Rockets, Nuggets nor Trailblazers that is possessing of the cohesive player talent (Curry, Durant, etc.) and coaching prowess (Kerr) to out-pace the Wars in their E-ZPass® highway drive to the Finals where a 4th title in five seasons, beckons.

Some may say, ‘These Dubs (A moniker entirely unbefitting of a champion) are vulnerable this season, well off their 73-win record pace set in 2015-16.’ And I will say, fixating on records and numbers can prove mistaken.

The Warriors won-loss this 2018-19 season is important only in that it puts them in a good post-season position, which they’ve got with 57 regular season wins, good enough to give them home-court throughout the Western playoffs.

You can believe coach Kerr had a good, long talk with his men following their failure to close the deal against Cleveland in the 2016 Finals, putting an asterisk (*) on their record-setting regular-season result (73). Plain and simple, GSW ran outta‘ gas. Steve hasn’t let that happen again and most likely emphasized the art of pacing. That doesn’t mean you tank, it means you hold a modicum of energy in reserve while keeping your eyes on the prize, the O’Brien trophy.

Yet, that quickie Q&A (who can challenge these champs), leads to a 2nd, more provocative question that even fans in-the-know may have trouble answering: If these Warriors win this 2019 championship, will their record, four titles in five seasons, the last three consecutively, make them the greatest NBA team ever, a long, colorful history that began in post-War 1946 (BAA)?

Winning a record 73 games enroute to their first of three 21st century titles (2015, 17-18), adds merit to their case, one of course bolstered accordingly with every additional O’Brien trophy garnered.

But as dense as is the championship aura that surrounds today’s GSW, the best team since the Duncan-led Spurs, hanging heavy overhead is the cloud of truth, a mass of molecules recognizing that the Wars’ glory has been achieved against some of the weakest competition in the annals of the NBA playoffs.

In their consecutive Finals run (2015-18), all four of the Warriors Series have been played versus the LeBron-led Cavaliers, taking the first (4-2), one the losers let slip-away, then conceding the next Finals to James Gang in another close one (3-4). GSW would re-focus, winning the next two Finals (2017-18) by trouncing the punchless Cavs in both, needing only nine games in total. But even when the Series were close, neither Finalist was exactly battle-tested in their respective Conference, riding the E-Zpass® roadway to make each Finale.

The grueling playoff gauntlet in both the NBA and NHL had been defining traits of toughness and championship worth, separating the pro sports from those less challenging versions in of NFL and MLB. It still is defining in hockey where the Stanley Cup winner more often than not has had most series go six or seven games. That has not been true for these titletown Warriors.

Typically, GSW concedes just 1-2 contests en route to the Finals. That’s not greatness, that’s poor product, Adam. You’re not fooling anyone, not over 18.

While the gold standard in sport is measured in championship metallica, it is weighted by its karat-count in quality of competition. It’s a long-standing, cross-cultural principle that has been applied by generations of people when measuring greatness in sport or any competitive endeavour.

Curiously, you’ll hear the standard referenced in the Classic Sydney Pollack film, Jeremiah Johnson (72) as trapper-pal “Del Gue (Gierasch)” schools Jay-Jay on his Indian combatant’s mind-set: “Some Indians .. a tribe’s greatness is figured on how mighty its enemies be.” Made sense then, still does today.

While today’s NBA is ebbing at its lowest level in quality of competition in its long organization history, this is a fairly new state of affairs.

In the early days (1940s-60s), as the Assc’n was getting financial footing, both dominant clubs in the Minneapolis Lakers (v. Knicks & Warriors) and then Boston Celtics faced some stiff competition (St. Louis & Los Angeles Lakers).

The 1970s were loaded to the gills with great teams in the Lakers, Knicks, Bucks, Bullets (Wizards), Supersonics, Celtics and the then Rick Barry-led Warriors battling and then holding, if even for a brief time, Association supremacy.

The 1980s represent what is arguably the NBA’s high-water mark in popularity, seeing Magic Johnson’s Lakers and Larry Bird’s Celtics dominate, with the 76ers and Pistons taking titles earlier and late in the decade.

The Phil Jackson-led Bulls (Chicago didn’t gel until PJ arrived) owned the 90s without much fierce Finals competition until they’d face the Jazz near decade‘s close, and even then, the outcomes were never seriously in doubt.

The new century has seen three memorable teams in the Jackson – Bryant Lakers (six rings), the Popovich, Duncan, Parker and Ginóbili Spurs (five titles in fifteen) and today’s the Kerr, Curry and Durant Warriors.

The Spurs – Lakers rivalry (1999 >) was pretty tremendous, so good it’s hard to pick the better team. They’d a similar number of titles, one had longevity (SA), the other multiple, triple-season dynasties (LA).

On the Warriors‘ ledger, there’s only Cleveland, a worthy opponent for the first two Series (2015-16), but by the third Finals, the Cavaliers just looked plain bored, in total, only winning one game in two sets. That’s pretty pathetic.

Also weighting down the Warriors from rising to the top of any reasonable ‘Greatest All-Time’ ranking is their manner of play.

It’s lite-ball, relying heavily on the 3-point shot, a gimmick that originated in the colorful, long defunct American Basketball Association (1967-76).

It’s a shot whose nonchalance and often unchallenged release has changed the manner and mindset of the sport, one which had been an aggressive game of controlled contact but now has lost its center, figuratively and literally.

For 90 years a balance existed between inside and outside play.

That symmetry has now gone the way of the 3-second and traveling calls, with the center position nearly obsolete, drives to the basket, shots in general, going uncontested (no defense) and most the game played passively out on the arc.

Excepting the occasional ego-flair-up, flying elbow or alley-oop, b-ball seems to have become just one, long game of HORSE. It’s so tiresome that even Playoffs can‘t hold the players interest as the 76ers’ Joel Embiid and Amir Johnson are reported to have been texting in-game versus the Nets. Guess who won?

History shows the NBA runs best when it’s an ample stable of thoroughbreds, bangers inside, men like Wilt-the-Stilt, Kareem, Bill Russell, Lucas, George Mikan, Elgin Baylor, Willis Reed, Dave Cowens, Wes Unseld, Bill Laimbeer, Moses Malone, the Big-E and power forwards like Jerry West, Big-O, Havlicek, Worthy, Bird, Dirk, Magic and Dr.J, the type of men who could do it all.

Steve Curry is the NBA’s 3-point king (value-rated in rings), having learned from one of the best in a championship player, his coach, Steve Kerr (.454 – 16sn). But that‘s a pretty small principality to rule in comparison to those rough & tumble territories won-over by the guys mentioned above.

As for Mr. James, he’s always had the powerful frame but surprisingly spent most of his time on the outside. You’ve gotta’ bleed on the court to be in the running for the greatest team in NBA history, figuratively AND literally, and out on the circle it’s almost as dry as a fresh Band-Aid®. There are too many topper teams in consideration for the top spot to expect anything less.

LeBron has three big problems today: 1) Father Time; 2) an Association-wide dearth of talent, where finding another Kev Love or multi-skilled Dwyane Wade has never been so difficult; and 3) boredom.

That last problem may be his toughest to fix, yet won’t be alleviated by wearing multiple hats (player – coach – GM) or making puppet-coaches suffer as scapegoats (Walton – Lue). It’s like that idiom, ‘a lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client.‘ Duties must be delegated, or at least divided accordingly.

Is the Association on brink of bankruptcy? Heck, no.

Mr. Silver, and what an appropriate last name for an NBA Commissioner only concerned with coin, has but one target market: Kids aged 7-17, the same age range @Disney (fka ESPN) settled on when the Skipper era set sail (2000?). As long as the junior sport media and other marketers can create celebrity images for kids to follow through mock-drafts and merchandising, no matter the quality of court play, mountains of money will be made for all investors concerned.

It’s celebrity that drives the game today, not sport.

Owners probably began coming around to that idea about the time Julius ‘Dr.J’ Erving made his much ballyhooed arrival in the NBA (76) after having starred in rival ABA with Virginia and New Jersey (drafted in 72 by Milwaukee 1R-#12).

The great success of Magic and Bird would bring the celebrity-sell into greater focus for the Cufflinks, and by the time Jordan’s best days were over (98), his Bulls team having maintained the balance but benefiting from their own ‘Rules’ as well, the issue was settled: “Don’t sell the steak, sell the sizzle (C.Kramer).”

But with this limited, 21st century vision of tumultuous merriment, the NBA will keep trending niche, never again challenging the NFL or MLB (boring as all get-out but beneficiary of a long history (1876)) for America’s top sporting spot.

StevenKeys
NothingButNet
Photo credit: basketball-board, wc.cca, 1995, mid-static; S.Curry, wc, C.Saatsaz, Denver, 11-2017; S.Kerr, wc, 11-2017, Denver, C.Saatsaz; K.Durant, Curry, Denver, C.Saatsaz, 11-2017
Posted: 4.13 @ 10:18pE, gram-edit 4.16; Copyright © 2019

NCAAF-19: No Checkmate, As Saban-Swinney Plot Next Move In Champions Chess Match

13 Jan

Saban v. Swinney: In today‘s sporting America it may be the best thing going.

Baseball’s best player (Harper) is still unsigned;
NFL playoffs have more pretenders than a Platters reunion;
In its peak period, NHL is getting bumped for soccer gossip, and ..
The NBA has never been more passé with competition ebbing low.

But the praise is piling high for William Christopher “Dabo” Swinney, five days after he and his Clemson Tigers garnered their second CFP national championship in three seasons (2017 / 19), both titles coming with wins over the most highly regarded college football program in the land these past 15 years, arguably all-time, that being Nick Saban’s Alabama Crimson Tide.

And “there’s the rub,” as Hamlet might’ve said, the big question in all this Clemson euphoria: Who then exactly IS today’s top program?

While the gold standard in sport is measured in championship metallica, it is weighted by its karat-count in quality of competition. Put another way, “some Indians .. a tribe’s greatness is figured on how mighty its enemies be (D.Gue).”

Besting the top dog in Alabama, twice in their last three championship games, certainly qualifies as weighty competition. Add to that poundage, the fact that the Tide’s last victory in the this burgeoning rivalry was of the lesser semi-final variety (CFP-18). As we all know in the sporting world, it is the biggest stage (championship) that proves the toughest test then matters the most.

And those who follow college sport closely, know that the first and most important ingredient in the championship metallurgy process is successful recruitment. And therein lay the OTHER rub.

Before Clemson football can make a serious claim to supremecy, Dabo & Company must first create a public perception among high-school players, parents and principals that their school is #1. Two national titles in three years (3 total) are big steps in that direction.

But affecting perception goes deeper than displaying contemporary accolades.

The Tigers history is a long one (b.1896), and proud, but the Tide have one themselves (b.1892), claiming seventeen (17) national titles and a modern-era stature that is second to none, including that of Notre Dame’s (11), one which is fast losing its golden luster, having last won a national title in 88 (Holtz).

Another aspect of program perception is the image of its head coach, the master-mind behind all of the success. Players, even the great ones, will move on, the college variety especially quick today (2-3 yrs).

If there’s enough of success, what develops might be called a cult of personality, a money mood (not legal tender but valuation) that the coach will use to fuel the recruitment. Pete Carroll had it, as did John Wooden, Jimmy Johnson, Mike Krzyzewski, Pat Summitt, Knute Rockne, Bear Bryant, Eddie Robinson, Woody Hayes, Fielding Yost, Rod Dedeaux, Jerry York, Herb Brooks and Saban.

It’s a status that doesn’t necessarily remain, in its entirety, at the school where it began, but will leave, in some degree, with the coach if they happen to make an exit and as long as they keep winning (Saban: LSU > UA).

Swinney‘s cult is building fast.

So, what might he do to turn demigod, making top prospects tab Clemson as the coolest place to matriculate in the classroom and the gridiron? A third national title in the not too distant future is a necessity (many coaches have tallied, two), and if it forms a back-to-back dynasty (2019-20), so much the better.

Of no interest to Clemson folk but of great benefit to Swinney’s status would be moving on to a different school to take on the challenge of creating another championship program as did misters Saban and Urban Meyer (UF > OSU). But then it may be a bit early for such considerations.

Back to recruitment, it’s a little like the chicken-and-egg thing.

How do you consistently recruit the best until you are seen as the best, which you won’t be seen as until you recruit the best? All this made the more difficult when the current perceived best in Saban is still very much in the mix?

Yet, that’s exactly the kind of challenge a champion meets head on as they move to dethrone the current ruler of the roost, any difficulties be damned.

And if Dabo does one day rule the roost, you can be sure we’ll not mispronounce nor mis-spell his name ever again. One of the perks of being head rooster.

StevenKeys
MacroSport
Photo credit: chess-game, checkmate, wc.cca; D.Swinney, wc, 10.31.15, Lambeau-Leap80; N.Saban, wc, 10.13.07, Crassic; macroecono, wc, lambcasinoroyal, 2011
Posted: 1.12 @ 7:58pE, edit 1.13; Copyright © 2019

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

StevenKeys
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.

StevenKeys
StraightShooter
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: thisdayinquotes.com, 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 PFR.com, 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; SI.com)). 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