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NBA16: Curry Tres and How the ABA Got the Last Laugh

31 Mar

Poison Pill

A metaphorical meeting between the official ABA (Spaulding) and NBA (Wilson) game balls sometime in early 1976:

NBA: ‘Hey, ABBA, you look kinda’ down, like you need a needle & air but bad. You must’ve heard the news. It’s in the hopper, the merger’s set.

ABA: Merger? That’s cute. More like leveraged buyout, no? I’m just sick over it, like I was bounced around a discothèque for days. Ten years, good times, sustainable profits, the Nets could take Rick Barry and those Warriors easy, hell, the Celtics in six. What was it all for?

......ABA.J.Hadnot.1967.wc.323k.Oaks.thmNBA: For? Are you kidding me? So we could close off avenues of profit and pick your bones clean for expansion, that’s what for. You know the score, competition will not be tolerated. Look at baseball, the WFL, it’s the American way: Monopoly. Didn’t you see Rollerball? The Suits & Skirts in DC are trained seals, the Robes, too. Throw ‘em some smelt ($), give ‘em a bouncy ball to perch on and it’s all set.

ABA: What about the Founding Fathers, The Wealth of Nations (A.Smith), competition in the marketplace, Lincoln, FDR, democracy?

NBA: That‘s political. This is business, baby. Whoever has the jack gets to make more jack. And the faux fan, he doesn’t even care. And he’s majority. They wouldn’t make a peep if it meant missing McDonald’s or a Starsky & Hutch. Laverne & Shirley, maybe. When’d you fall off the rubber truck?

ABA: At least some of us will ♫ survive ♫. Of all four clubs, Spurs, Nets, Nuggets, Pacers, I figure the Nuggets…no, the Nets…the Nets will really shine in the National. They’ve been a dynasty here since 1974. Watch n’ see.

NBA: Maybe. That Dr. J is something else, David Thompson, too.

ABA: Could you do me one favor, Nash, it’s no biggie.

NBA: Name it, amigo.

.....ABA.R.Taylor.wc.thm.WA-Caps.1969ABA (Sniffle): Could you take something on, something we in the American have really taken pride in, something that set us apart.

NBA: The ball, that red, white & blue pom-pon? You gotta’ be kidding? Sorry, no offense, ABBA, you know I love you, all balls, any shape, size or color, but c’mon.

ABA: Are ya’ done? Geez. No, not the ball.

NBA: What then!?

ABA: The 3-point shot. It’d mean alot to us. And it’s kitschy.

NBA: Kitschy, huh? Kind of a gimmick I‘d say…hey, take it easy, ABBA, here’s a Kleenex®. Okay, I’ll pitch it to Larry (O’Brien). He doesn’t even watch. Loves The Rockford Files and Kojak. But I’ve got his ear. If I want it in the game, it’ll happen. Bank on it (‘79).

ABA: Thanks, friend (wink).’

Curry Conundrum

This gimmick, some’ll call it an innovation, has never been bigger than in 2016.

With reigning MVP and NBA champ Steve Curry sinking 3-pointers as often as you’ll hear ‘awesome’ uttered in a 24-hr time span, and a finesse heretofore unseen in World NBA, the shot that turned the game into a near non-contact sport has never been more matterful to players & coaches and noticeable to those who monitor basketball’s ebb & flow.

.....Curry.wc.4.6.14.N.Salzman.thmbBut on-the-whole the game’s b-ball beacon has never luminated on such a weak signal. And for that you can thank the tres.

For starters, it’s a long-distance launch that for all practical purpose is almost indefensible. The phrase ‘defending the 3-point’ is downright oxymoronic.

The Curry conundrum is a mindset of indecision: Defender either plays the 3-pt shooter tight, creating back space big enough for a tractor-trailer while risking the 4-pt play (and momentum swing) too easily afforded in these quick-whistle / phantom phoul times; or, he / she opts out of trying to stop the tres altogether after running the cost / benefit analysis which, to the Curry class, is an open invitation with near 50% likelihood of success. Excellent odds for a fat swish.

Steve found his niche and perfected the play (his coach Steve wasn’t too shabby himself). Credit Curry for that. He and others before him took the manner of game given and after a few decades of practice are making the most of it. Now every kid on the block can be a hero. And isn’t that wonderful?

And we’re moving closer to apples & oranges in species of basketball.

The former game fashioned by founder Jim Naismith (1891) was exciting enough to keep fans fascinated for five generations. At it’s core fueling the fun was the symbiotic “association (The Triangle, 1.15.1892 (JN))” between inside – outside games: Power & positioning around the basket contrasted with daring drives to the hoop and swish artistry from the perimeter, all of equal value.

.....Naismith.wc.Evdcoldeportes.thmIt’s now given way to a new millennial form of play termed by this writer as ICBM: Inter-Continental Ball-istic Mode where the 3-point threat pulls most the action away from the frontcourt (paint & post) and into the back, out on the arc (wings) far from the rim and into a nether region of uncertainty. The tres may account for under a third of a game’s total point output but impacts the entirety.

The big guys don’t really know where to post anymore: Up top, down low, somewhere in between (no-man‘s land). Because of that we’ll never know just how good LeBron James could’ve been in the true power-forward position.

Is this what Commissioner Larry O’Brien & Co. foresaw for the NBA when they instituted the 3-point shot in the ‘79-80 season, a basketball game where the once celebrated center spot has lost so much significance it doesn’t even rate mention on the annual All-Star ballot? At first blush I’d answer, no, they did not.

On deeper reflection, however, the prevailing mood amongst guardians of the game may’ve been to seek a change in tempo and temper

In wake of the devastating punch Lakers’ Kermit Washington threw at Rockets’ Rudy Tomjanovich in a 1977 on-court fracas, a slug so severe it collapsed his face and required multiple surgeries to repair the damage, NBA owners may’ve been seeking a means to calm the game, to a degree, by rule change.

Whether that was a true motive or not it’s calming effect has been so certain it turned the game prosaic where the defensive pulse is so weak the doctor would pronounce the basketball patient comatose.

.....Horse.carosuel.12.30.12.Dinkum.wc.thmSide-effect has been an activity that more resembles a game of running H.O.R.S.E. than a battle on the boards, where every trot down court is merely set-up for matching long-range lift-offs: Low contact, no designed plays, create a space, feed me the ball and watch it fly. Whoop-dee-frickin-do.

Surprisingly, or not, it’s the women’s game (WNBA / college) that is the truer form of roundball in 2016. The strength and torque, as it were, are lesser with the ladies but the synergy between shooter skill and physical fortitude in the paint still thrives to maintain a harmony and a verve that bests the big boys.

Clearly, NBA overlords did not fully consider the gradual but inescapable game-changing impact this ABA osmosis would have on the National and b-ball in general, to the great detriment of the tremendous inside – outside dichotomy that had defined the game from its inception and made it a captivating show.

Perusing my 1983 paperback edition of The Complete Handbook of Pro Basketball (Z. Hollander), the NBA 3-pt shot was slowly mastered and adapted into play where 100 attempts was fairly rare for most shooting guards in the early 80s and the top takers like Mike Bratz (CLE 138a – 46 (82)), Mike Donleavy (SA 194 – 67 (83)), Joe Hassett (214 – 71 (82)) and Darrell Griffith (257 – 92 (85)) only rarely reached the 200 plateau. The championship clubs of the day like the Lakers, Celtics, Pistons (80s), Bulls and Rockets (90s) were still seriously symmetrical working both inside and outside games.

Might the 3-pointer go the way of the dodo bird? Doubtful. Love it and leave it (in place) probably says it best. It’s now the central component to today’s distant cousin of the Naismith game, even as fan interest ebbs low. Sad to think for those who love the rich, full flavor basketball that had thrived for 100 years.

.....straight_shooter.thmbSteven Keys
Straight Shooter
Photo credits: ABA, Darden-Moe, wc.cca, 1970; ABA, Oakland, J.Hadnot, 1967, wc; ABA, R.Taylor, DC-Caps, 1969, wc; S.Curry, 4.6.14, N.Salzman, wc; horse-carousel, Paris, MoFA, Dinkum, wc, 12.30.12; J.Naismith, wc, Evdcoldeportes; J.Naismith, wc; Straight-shooter, produce-label;
Posted: 3.31.16 @ 12:24pm EST; Copyright © 2016



NFL15 Cherry Picks W13: “Importance of Folly”

3 Dec

Go With Mojo

Sport fan that I am you’d think on turkey day I’d be glued to the tube (we’re not on the plasma-screen, yet) devouring the Cats-Cowboys contest before it got gamy (33-14), which was before Romo suffered a re-break of his clavicle. Poor guy. But like “Chet” said (Monte Walsh ‘70), “no one gets to be a Cowboy forever.” Ain’t it the truth.

Instead, I was tuned to TCM where they were running a family festival of flicks.

.......Taylor.1956.Giant.611k.thmThe players: 1940s #1 box-office draw Mickey Rooney (“Mi”) as ex-jockey wayfarer turned trainer, adorable Liz Taylor as wisp of a girl (“Velvet Brown”) who rides “the Pie,” blossoming beauty Angela Lansbury (“Edwina”) and veteran character actors Reginald Owen, Arthur Treacher (race patron), Arthur Shields and Anne Revere and Donald Crisp as the sage & certain “Brown” parents. Oh yeah, and least I forget, little Jackie Jenkins (“Donald”), the bug collector.

A movie with more wit & wisdom you will never find. If you’ve of a warming heart and sporting blood, this one’s for you.

Clarence Brown (director), Pandro Berman (producer) and Helen Deutsch (writer) packed this 2-hr beauty with enough practical proverbs, humor and heart-tugging tension to hold the interest of everyone but especially those who have ever lovingly engaged a “folly” in the dream to become a champion.

Not one to spoil an ending, suffice to say that Velvet and her “Sussex” stallion-in-spirit, the “Pie,” short for “murderous pirate,” an off-the-cuff remark made by its frustrated prior owner, give viewers what is arguably the greatest race in all of moviedom, chariot (Ben-Hur (‘59)) and car cruises (Bullitt (‘68)) included.

.......Revere.1947.wc.thm.Gentlemen'sVelvet personified the best of sport: An unflinching dedication, respect for the time & effort needed to achieve a champion’s end and most important of all, a full vesting of emotions, including an unabashed admission of the need for “glory” that only “folly” fulfills, this last trait inherited from “Mrs. Brown” who was herself imbued with spirit to compete, having swum “the Channel” in her youth.

If you don’t think emotion, heart, is central to sport, you don’t belong, not on the field, anyway. Probably wouldn’t do to have you in with the Suits & Skirts, either.

Lombardi said it, when you enter the world of sport you “bring your emotions with you.” Include in there having a good “cry” sometimes, too (Time 3/70).

Others don’t see it that way.

To them, the spectacle of sport is viewed through eye of an actuarial, calculating gains and risks as an insurance agent drafts a policy. Emotion? Only as necessary.

Enter Chuck Pagano, the Indianapolis Colts’ head coach. The Chuckster is in a bit of a sticky-wicket.

......Pagano.wc.8.20.09.K.Allison.thmHis starry young QB Andy Luck (35-20 (’12); 3-3 PS) struggled (2-5) this topsy-turvy 2015 and is set to return from a kidney hurt sometime soon, likely displacing veteran Matt Hasselbeck (205-156 (’99)), even as the former Super signal-caller (40: SEA (L v PIT)) has steadied the listing ship that was Indy earlier in the campaign by leading Colts in four victories and back into the mix.

If those numbers weren’t enough to get you behind Matt Hasselbeck, read on:

1) Nothing alters Luck’s status as Colts’ future, not even were Hasselbeck to lead Indy to SB50. Matt’s playing superbly but at 40 is playing out his string;

2) Andrew can be inserted anytime, if Matt loses the magic or suffers injury; and

3) Don’t mess with mojo. ‘If it works (and current guy got the machine running) don’t fix it.’ This had been a prevailing maxim and seems so in Denver where the Brock v Peyton debate rages. But then today’s drive to youthenize can work a double-std: Matt will likely be benched, Brock will play on.

Becher’s Brook

Soon into National Velvet the viewer learns of a hazard of hedges & trench in the handicap steeplechase known as “Becher’s Brook.” It can make mice of men and break beast of body & mind. As such, Mickey does his best to prepare his charge and her ride for the tough test that lies ahead. Both prove up to the task.

And it’s at this holiday stage in NFL’s course that every contender team should be asking themselves, ‘What Becher’s Brook lay ahead in our own pathway to glory?’ What major obstacle must each team overcome to get their ticket punched for that trip to Santa Clara (SB50) come February?

Fine lines: Every contender aught gage & wage the men-in-the-trenches. All good things come to those who control the line of scrimmage.

Split-the-Uprights: Grand National (1839) pre-dates US ‘ball (1869 (Wikipedia)), but the kicking-game’s been key from get-go, preceding forward pass by 30 years. Many a game comes down to a FG and practice makes perfect

Green Bay: Fill Jordy Nelson void. Not since 1930s could a 7-4 GB squad be underdog vs 4-7 Lions team. Worm turned? More like, Back to the Future..Shock.

Chicago: Sporting gods are having a ball in 2015, inviting Halas to join the fun (GB), yet wouldn’t take the founder’s call vs Denver (failed 2-pt’er (17-15)). Bears, like Vikes, need to score more points (21 (#24)) and hope Forte has another gear

......Viktor.11.7.10.wc.thm.MN-NG.2Minnesota: Seattle is a Certified Mettle Match but Green Bay (@ 1.3) is the Vikings’ litmus test

Indianapolis: Luck-on-return v. Hotter-than-pistol Hasselbeck

Denver: Brock v Peyton: Mustangs were 7-2 under Manning. The 2 Ls, nail-bitter (@ IND) and hobble City (KC). 7-2 this sorry NFL season is near champion

Seattle: Don’t scoreboard-watch (AZ), just keep doing what you’re doing

Arizona: Keep protecting Carson (17sk), blocking for David ‘Stiff Arm’ Johnson who’ll need to step up and try to get kicker Catanzaro more tries from 50+ (0-1).

Tampa Bay: Giving up too many points (25.4 (#25))

Atlanta: Getting next win (@ TB) could turn tide, Ryan avoiding INTs (12), return of healthy Freeman and the kicker spot settled are all brooks to breach

.....Stafford.wc.8.20.15.K.Allison.thmb.Detroit: Must send Green Bay packing (12.6), again, and the mojo will mushroom. More run-game would help.

Carolina: Tune out the naysayers, believe it’s earned (11-0) and Camster-the-Hamster needs to cut down on the rabbit

NFC East: Giants, Redskins and Eagles all must work to find consistency…somewhere, somewhere, sometime.

Kansas City: Like Lions, besting their long time rival (@ OAK) is a booster, QB Smith keeps playing his game and like many clubs, get more from the RBs

Oakland: Tough slate, and like TB, defense needs to catch-up to the offense

Houston: QB carousel (Hoyer+) and need more run (5td), but if Texans win 2 of next 3, chances for playoff slot are good

Cincinnati: Don’t look to the playoffs, spell Dalton’s arm with more run-game and try to get Nugent (K) some 50+ tries (0-0).

.....Roethlisberger.9.9.12.J.Beall.thmb.wcPittsburgh: Big Ben’s health overrides all which makes DeAngleo Williams contribution a key component

New York Jets: Another rival match-up (@ NYG) that sets the tone for the stretch run in a season where playoff spots are there for the taking

Buffalo: Like the Falcons, a win this Sunday could improve the outlook greatly for the remaining slate is not the toughest

New England: Protect Brady (25sk), catch his passes and hope to see NYG

The Human League

As November turns to December the whine-fest continues. Burp.

....ref.NFL.Cheffers.wc.2013.royalbroil.WI.thmThe bash of NFL officials goes on as the bullies get drunk on sour grapes & self-love. And sadly, NFL knee-jerks scramble to appease (“Report: Officiating Crew“ / / 12.1.15).

NFL referees, like baseball umpires, are the go-to whipping boys (now a few girls to feel the pain) for faux-fan scribes & sportscasters who groove on the gripe and fans who drink it in till their bellies fill, neither knowing when to say ‘when.’

Between the cry-babies, Chicken Littles and cluckheads who fear for profits, none of ‘em will cork-it until the human element is removed entirely from our tumultuous merriments and turned into video games where software kids decide the fates, who wins, who loses. Then they’ll gripe some more. Ugh.

Cherry Picks Week 13

Pack (7-4) @ Lions (4-7); 12.3 CBS 8:25: GB wins
Jets (6-5) @ NYG (5-6); 12.6 CBS 1:00: Giants win
Cards (9-2) @ Rams (4-7); Fox 1:00: Arizona wins
Atlanta (6-5) @ Bucs (5-6); Fox 1:00: Falcons win
SEA (6-5) @ MIN (8-3); Fox 1:00 (GTW): Hawks win
49ers (3-8) @ Chicago (5-6); Fox 1:00: Bears win
Texans (6-5) @ Bills (5-6); CBS 1:00: Houston wins
Bengals (9-2) @ CVD (2-9); CBS 1:00: Cincy wins
Chiefs (6-5) @ Raiders (5-6); CBS 4:05; Kansas City wins
Denver (9-2) @ Chargers (3-8); CBS 4:05: San Diego wins
Eagles (4-7) @ New England (10-1); Fox 4:25: Patriots win
Carolina (11-0) @ New Orleans (4-7); Fox 4:25: Saints win
Colts (6-5) @ Pitt (6-5); NBC 8:30 (GTW2): Steelers win
Dallas (3-8) @ Redskins (5-6); 12.7 Disney 8:30: DC wins

Record: 62 – 63

...NFL-symbol.wikiproject.6kbSteven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: National-Velvet, MGM, wc.cca, 1945, NBoRM; E.Taylor, 1956, Giant, wc; A.Revere, 1947, Gentlemens-Agreement, wc; C.Pagano, 8.20.09, K.Allison, wc; National-Velvet, MGM, wc.cca, 1945, NBoRM; Viktor, 11.7.10, wc, MN-NG; M.Stafford, 8.20.15, K.Allison, wc; B.Roethlisberger, 9.9.12, J.Beall, wc; NFL-referee, Cheffers, 2013, WI, royal broil, wc; Cherries, Hispalois, Spain, 7.2.12, wc; NFL-symbol, wikiproject
Posted: 12.3.15 @ 6:03pm EST; Copyright © 2015

NFL15 Cherry Picks W6: Pink-Eye, Sweet-Tooth

15 Oct


.....pinkeye.wc.9.11.07.P33tr.thmSince 2009, the month of October has kicked-off a blizzard of pink that falls heavy over America’s top pro’l football circuit, the National Football League.

It’s a joint-enterprise teaming the NFL with the American Cancer Society (“A Critical Catch) to increase awareness of breast cancer and ostensibly to raise money for research and education through the sale of pink-wear and related merchandise.’s reported, however, that only near 8% of sale proceeds actually make it to research coffers (“Pinkwashing“ / medicaldaily / 10.16.13 / Weller). Assuming the number’s accurate, that’s not a whole lotta‘ headway.

The fight against cancer by raising money to educate, treat and fund research is common cause. Some have taken the pink thing to heart (DeAngelo Williams (PIT)) and join in what appears a sincere solidarity to pursue those points.

.....pinkheart.D.Sharon.Pruitt.12.8.06.wcBut a tepid tally ($) which will hopefully help to fuel that fight, crass marketing (in it’s element pink is splendid but hideous on the gridiron) and a singular target subject (breast), maybe designed in large part to merely bridge NFL’s consumer gender gap, should leave fans wanting more and, at the same time, wanting less.

Let us together fight all forms of cancer with dedication, dignity (no on-field pink-wear) and devoid of any doubts on altruistic goals.

Heart & Soul

The NFL is a for-profit enterprise. Outside it’s purview of business & entertainment it’s under no obligation, moral or otherwise, to join in fights against any disease. Anything it or any other going-concern decides to give in good faith to combat illness is a good thing.

.....sugar.cuboid.10.30.5.wc.Carioca.thmBut as they’ve shown a spirited effort in the breast cancer fight, the National might consider teaming with it’s top sponsor PepsiCo in taking the lead in combating another major health concern in curtailing the world’s growing obsession with sugar, known to have inflammatory and oxidizing effects throughout the human body.

For every one woman who dies of breast cancer, six will die of heart disease.

The list is long: cardiovascular disease, diabetes, fatty liver infiltration, neurodegenerative disorder (Alzheimer’s) and even possible link between large and long-term consumption of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) by expectant mothers and rise in diagnosis of developmental disorder autism which “increased 91% between 2005 to 2010 despite fewer children receiving special education overall during the same time period ( (CPJ) / “A macroepigenetic approach” / R.Dufault et al / 2012, 4:6).”

....HFCS.tanker.T.Arthur.6.3.8.wc.thmAdmittedly, it’s hard to see NFL asking a sponsor to invite consumers to cut intake of sugar, it’s bread & butter, so to speak. PepsiCo, like Coke®, is a business helping feed the world and its growing numbers. Part of the answer may lie in reduction of sugar ingredient throughout their line, coupled with education effort on health risks posed by excess consumption, before the Washingtonians may decide to intervene. FFT.

Curious Quote…from the past

Ruth Gordon (Harold & Maude (‘71)):

....Gordon&Wood.wc.2.28.66.WB.GGA“Alot of people enjoy being dead, but they’re not dead, really. They’re just backing away from life. Reach out, take a chance, get hurt even, but play as well as you can.

Go team go! Give me an L, give me an I, give me a V, give me an E, L-I-V-E…LIVE! Otherwise you got nothing to talk about in the locker-room.” Ruth was wise, and cute as the dickens.




Cherry Picks Week 6: Some real beauties

Atlanta (5-0) @ New Orleans (1-4): 10.15 CBS 8:25; Saints win
Redskins (2-3) @ New York (3-1): 10.18 Fox 1:00; Jets win
Arizona (4-1) @ Pittsburgh (3-2): Fox 1:00 (GOTW): Cards win
Kansas City (1-4) @ Minnesota (2-2): CBS 1:00: Chiefs win
Cincy (5-0) @ Buffalo (3-2): CBS 1:00 (GOTW): Bengals win
Denver (5-0) @ Cleveland (2-3): CBS 1:00: Broncos win
Carolina (4-0) @ Seattle (2-3): Fox 4:05 (GOTW): Seahawks win
San Diego (2-3) @ Green Bay (5-0): CBS 4:25: Packers win
Ravens (1-4) @ 49ers (2-3): CBS 4:25: Baltimore wins
New England (4-0) @ Indianapolis (3-2): NBC 8:30: Pats win
Giants (3-2) @ Philadelphia (2-3): 10.19 ESPN 8:30: Eagles win

Record: 20 – 23

...NFL-symbol.wikiproject.6kbSteven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo Credit: pink, wc, Jarcje, 7.22.8; pinkeye, wc, P33tr, 9.11.7; grapefruit, THOR, 11.20.8, wc; A Little Love, D.Sharon.Pruitt, wc, 12.8.6; ; cube-sugar, HFCS, wc, 10.30.5, Carioca; HFCS-tank-car, wc, T.Arthur, 6.3.8; Wood&Gordon, GGA, 2.28.66, WB; ripe-cherries, wc, Chirak, 6.24.7; NFL-wikiproject
Posted: 10.14.15 @ 5:13pm EST; Copyright ® 2015

Bills Like IKE: 2nd Chance or Free Pass?

17 Aug

It’s been the talk of town, New York town, that is, for good part of this past week. And it’s likely to have some traction running well into the NFL 2015 season.

News broke Tuesday (8.11) that New York Jets starting quarterback, 3rd-year man Geno Smith, suffered a broken jaw at the hand of 2nd-year, small defensive-end (6” 1’ / 261), IK Enemkpali who‘d appeared in but 6 contests in 2014, making a mere 2 tackles (1a).

“Sucker-punch” was the phrase of the day.


The rumor-mill was working fast & furious in the hours and days following, offering much speculation but little or nothing in the form of substance. The consensus was that a believed debt owed in the form of a $600 airline ticket was the assailant’s motivation with no small amount of bad judgment at the root cause.

The non-refundable ticket has probably been source of more arguments and animosity in America than vacation destination debate and infidelity, combined.

Equally blind-sided was 1st-year NYJ head coach Todd Bowles who handled his press conference like a seasoned pro but, as expected, offered little insight into the fracas except that IKE had been summarily dismissed (waived) from the Jets and that changing a team’s “culture (reporter queries are getting Dumb and Dumber by the day)” doesn’t happen “overnight.”

But no sooner had IKE been set adrift in an NFL sea awash in wannabes, than the free-swinger from Pflugerville, Texas was thrown a line and hauled in by the Buffalo Bills who claimed him off those waivers. Enemkpali will be reuniting with Bills 1st-year head coach Rex Ryan who drafted IKE when he headed-up the Jets draft selection in ’14.

It’s the type of act that defines Rex Ryan’s persona, i.e., player’s coach.


Less confrontational someone like former Raiders owner-coach, Al Davis (d.2011), and less enigmatic than Belichick, RR’s more akin to Seahawks’ Pete Carroll. But all like-minded in providing port of sanctuary for the occasional misfit & malcontent, though, Rex has “miles to go“ before he matches Al’s record of safe-harbor (See; R.Incognito (BUF)).

Who doesn’t like 2nd-chances, who’s not a hater or hypocrite?

It’s a dice roll but often affords good press, might fuel some locker-room mojo and pay big dividends (See; Raiders SB11, 15 & 18; M.Lynch (SEA)).

The problem with Buffalo’s move is apparent failure of Bills’ brass (GM Whaley) to set a condition precedent to claiming IKE, i.e., first, require he man-up by attempting a sincere, face-to-face w/Smith whose rep will always suffer from this emasculation, hopefully including reciprocating apologies from both parties.

Talk, or lawyer-vetted public apologizes, can be cheap, just as PCP-mandated counseling can fall on deaf ears. A face-to-face would’ve been a gesture benefiting all interested parties and the NFL, i.e., ‘mistakes happen, we make it right.’

An opportunity lost.

Jets Jab speaks to the immense power of imagery in 2015.

Even with the non-sport brutality that is MMA being forced on the masses by marketers, and using ladies, too, no less (equal opportunity viciousness), the power of the video-displayed punch on public passions is all too evident in wake of the Rice-Palmer elevator incident and to a lesser media-degree, the LeGarrette Blount jab at Byron Hout a few back (NCAA).

Oregon Duck Blount, who’d just seen his Heisman and team’s national title hopes take a nose dive in ‘09 loss to Boise State, received a punitive pounding for what amounted to a reflexive message-punch to a taunting, in-your-face Hout. A long suspension and serious drop in NFL draft (‘10) was the result for the star RB.

You’ll not see state criminal codes change but the Blount-Hout dust-up raised a valid question of whether physical force (SD) should be sanctioned in certain circumstance absent meeting of traditional standard, the reasonable belief in (serious) bodily harm. If a punch recipient’s words, manner & timing incite a reasonable but irresistible impulse towards physicality (See also; Zidane), as adjudicator I’d be open to finding it justifiable.

But that’s all theory.

What is real is LeGarrette’s resilient rebound in the pro-ranks, a success story (SB49 ring) that warrants a cover shot (Sports Illustrated). His own punch-line speaks to the power of video, even as it’s sometimes overstated and oversold (See; Disney (ESPN)).

To the Bills, whose newest rosteree in IKE was luckily spared the same degree of national outrage that often accompanies wide, public dissemination of audio (Sterling) and video-captured moments of indiscretion, seeking success (Ws & $) and fomenting feel-good by affording a 2nd-chance is, on the surface, a-okay.

But if it comes by enabling quasi-criminal acts and jellyfish mentality (fear of taking responsibility) it’s just more over-identification from the likeable coach (who hadn’t even spoken with IKE pre-claim) and maybe an excuse for a troubled player to simply carry his overt-anger elsewhere, off-field, to another unsuspecting victim. Maybe.


Steven Keys
Macro Sport
Photo credits: G.Smith, 8.11.13, Eltiempo10, wc; Buffalo, wordmark, wc, M.Epsilon; R.Ryan, 10.23.11, wc, M.O’Leary; L.Blount, 1.19.14, J.Beall, wc; NFL-symbol, wikiproject.
Posted: 8.17.15 @ 12:11am; Copyright ® 2015

NFL14 Cherry Picks W3: Only the Lonely

19 Sep

“The Loneliness of the Long Distance (Leader)”

Nobody likes a leader.

Most aren’t too crazy about clever blokes or knights on white charger, either, but that’s another piece.

Hyperbole, to be sure, but when it gets down to the nitty gritty, people just don’t get too jacked-up about forward thinkers and truth tellers. Go figure.


Oh, some will, in certain circumstances, follow a leader’s command, i.e., military (“fight & obey”), fire & police (rural) and Wal-Mart store managers, when you can find ‘em.

The great ones (Abe – JFK – Jackie) will remain in the memories of the populace;

Their loving spouses will stand by their sides in tough times, and nearly everyone will take full advantage of any broad benefits that may accrue from brave stewardship.

But to actually like them? That’s probably a ‘no.’

Leaders make hard decisions, give clear message, can sacrifice friendships, careers and sometimes give their lives. They test our integrity and force us to think beyond ourselves and our times. And their choices might mean we have to sacrifice for the greater good. Imagine that? In 1944, sure, but 2014, not a very popular proposition.

The Old Hickorys, Honest Abes, Grovers, Teddys & Franklins, Woodrows, JFKs, they can have their time in the sun but it doesn’t usually last all that long.

To say leadership posts are challenging is an understatement, though, some offices do provide their perks and compensate accordingly, i.e. the reported $40M earned by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell in 2013. It may be lonely at the top but far from boring.

And those bronze statues proliferating everywhere? They ain’t got nothin’ to do with it.

It’s always been this way, as far back as the solitary tribal chieftain who stared into the unknown with no one to consult but the sky above and his or her person.


Baseball Commissioner Kuhn (‘69 – 84) was often at odds w/ specific owners (Finley / Turner) and sometimes players (Flood / Aaron), but there was a different level of respect back then, and Czars weren’t called upon near as frequent to act the disciplinarian.

Today we live in the information age. Combine it with a prevailing sense of entitlement, widespread aggression (MMA & Rd rage), disdain for integrity and an unbridled greed and you’ve got a state of cultural garden where leadership rarely grows (See: Vote 2016).

For Roger, that means this new wave of player criminal charging and League response can engender rebuke from, not only women advocates, but also from the torch & pitchfork crowd, meaning, anyone in conflict w/NFL policy, be it anti-Redskins, bitter Saints fans & the like, youthful angst, PED pushers, snobs on sport or just a pissy attitude.

The mainstream media does it’s part to fuel the flames of discontent.

Their goal: increase traffic on information highways (soc-media & TV), sensationalize the troubled topics, work the non-sporting, junior public into a frenzy with relentless and repetitious coverage of said topics, make a bushel of bills ($) and get that promotion.

But even Goodell’s biggest critics, those with a smidgen of humility, must concede that what the NFL is experiencing presently in off-field criminal and PED-related player conduct is unprecedented in its long history (c. 1919).

NFL, like other pro sports, is and always has been, a microcosm of the world in which it operates. The recent troubles besetting the League are largely age-old in their nature.

Drug – alcohol violations and / or abuse

Some recent violators: J. Irsay, J. Gordon, W. Welker & Aldon Smith

Back 30 years ago it was a different plague: cocaine.

I penned my first college paper back in the 80s (MATC) on the topic of recreational drugs in pro sport. The athletes whose careers were derailed or ruined altogether were many.

The PED plague is different. It has an element of chicanery that’s more widespread, more insidious. It’s disdain for fair-play & health sends terrible message to kids: ‘Look at me, I score big digits, big $ and don’t do LSD like grandpa & grandma did, how’s that wrong?’

The Phillips selection & off-field violence

Some recent chargees: R. Rice, R. McDonald, G. Hardy, A. Peterson & J. Dwyer

Like substance abuse, physical brutality is an enduring societal curse. The drafting of Cornhusker Lawrence Phillips (STL ‘96 / R1-6), and then his re-signing (MIA – SF), a man who’d been arrested for assaulting a former girlfriend while in Lincoln, in defiance of his character red-flags, was a bad sign for the League but not unique in the business.


Phillips is currently serving sentences in the California prison system for “felony assault (three teens w/car)” and “assault (on former girlfriend) with great bodily injury, false imprisonment, making a criminal threat, and auto theft (See: Wikipedia).”

One wonders if the believed prevalence of performance-enhancers is contributing to the upsurge in violence off the field, and outburst on it, making recent report of deal between NFL & union in upgrading League’s “Policy and Program for Substances of Abuse,” a welcome bit of news. That good is colored by report of an enabling down-grade of standard, courtesy of NFLPA cufflinks no doubt, in the “recreational” drug category, sending a glaring mixed message.

‘Rob Peter to pay Paul,’ who can‘t find his sandals in the haze? Oy vey.

Oddly enough, the Mob of Concern, aka, League critics, emanate a deafening silence, not just on the recent recreational drug enhancement, but on what should also be topics of concern in child gaming and a lowered Heisman standard, i.e., Jameis Winston (FSU).

Not the roulette wheel or Art Schlichter (80s) varieties of gambling, not yet (See: Silver (NBA)), but the seemingly innocuous, kid-friendly fantasy gaming that rakes in millions and indoctrinates children into routines useful in wagering, as if it were finger-painting.

Fantasy gaming just might be the new “Joe Camel.” ‘Gambling rocks!’ Ugh.

As for college’s reigning king Jameis, anyone telling you his recent high jinks are causing his stock to drop w/NFL Suits & scouts by way of the character issue, don’t you believe it. As long as Winston appears drug & criminal-case free, and keeps matriculating that ball, the Suits consider the young man “clean as whistle” and a lock for NFL Draft.15’s #1.


Goodell would’ve fared better and avoided much of the present faux-fuss had he gone the appeaser route, played to the crowd, aka, Adam Silver, by sensationalizing sad scenarios for PR (initially suspending Rice for a whole season), rather than respecting the template laid down by the Atlantic Prosecutor and likely approved by the victim, Palmer – Rice.

Off-field player issues are largely outside their employer’s control, beyond measures of deterrence & incentive. Goodell et al have, like an attuned, savvy signal-caller, audiblized at the line of scrimmage, having enhanced the PCP and “leadership team” on domestic issues. NFL does not seek and will not be expected to become a suedo-police state.

The dust is just starting to settle now on the NFL scene, with no new reports of any player being inducted into the criminal legal process as of this posting. Day’s not over.

Roger Goodell will keep suffering the slings & arrows of the non-sporting set who seek to capitalize ($) on his troubles (The Daily Show, Olbermann, Peter King, NOW, etcetera), but odds should favor him keeping his job even after the Mueller report is issued.

We know what Gloria Gaynor would say…sing, question on Roger is, does he want to survive as Commissioner? Owners & most fans would hope, yes, but “lonely are the brave” and no amount of loot can make a culturally thankless and very trying job worth keeping.

Curious Quote

“This is Robert’s team (Redskins). My job is to be the back-up quarterback.” Hmmm.

That was the soft speak of current #1 Washington QB, Kirk Cousins, who spoke Monday after subbing for the injured RG3 (ankle) and leading Redskins to a 41-10 win on Sunday over the hapless Jags whose junior fandom is biting at the bit for Mr. Bortles.


Message for Kirk: Make no apologies. Your “job” is whatever coaches tell you it is, and I’d guess that’s to lead your team into the end zone. Courtesy is good, but either you’re all-in and embrace the leadership role or it’s time to hand in your pads.

Encouraging Signs

Jay Cutler, Bears QB (@ SF): Tosses 4 TDs to bring Monsters back from a 3Q, 20-7 deficit for a 28-20 win. Equally discouraging for the other hombres, who miss Bowman.


Packers’ defense (v. NYJ): After giving 14, 1Q points, cheesy got chintzy and gave but one TD the next three. It was the Jets. As usual, Burnett (6-4) & Hawk (5 -5) lead the Pack.

Chris Conte, Bears’ safety: Conte made interception of the weekend as “that daring young man…(flew) through the air with greatest of ease,” to take away a 2Q Colin toss. Now, if speedy Christopher can only learn to fly (tackle) low (See: Bills’ Jackson, W1).


Cherry Picks Week 3: Bring ‘em on, please!

Chargers (2-0) @ Buffalo (2-0): 9-21 CBS 1:00 EST: San Diego wins
Redskins (1-1) @ Philadelphia (2-0): Fox 1:00: Eagles win
Ravens (1-1) @ Cleveland (1-1): CBS 1:00: Baltimore wins
Packers (1-1) @ Detroit (1-1): Fox 1:00: Green Bay wins
49ers (1-1) @ Arizona: Fox 4:10: San Francisco wins
Broncos (2-0) @ Seattle (1-1) (GOTW): CBS 4:30: ‘Hawks win, again
Chiefs (0-2) @ Miami (1-1): CBS 4:30: Kansas City wins
Steelers (1-1) @ Carolina (2-0): NBC 8:35: Pittsburgh wins
Bears (1-1) @ New York Jets (1-1): 9-22 ESPN 8:35: Chicago wins

Record: 12 – 7

Steven Keys
NFL Hunch Line
Photo Credits: Un-named US soldier & R. Goodell / Afghan. / 7.10.08 / wc.cca / Sgt. B.Del Vecchio; R.Goodell / 8.30.12 / wc.cca / SSG T.Wade / USMA; NFL – wikiproject; L.Phillips / 8.21.05 / wc.cca / LA-Sheriff; J.Winston / wc.cca / D.July / 10.8.13; K.Cousins / 7.31.12 / wc.cca / K.Allison; J.Cutler / wc.cca / 11.1.09 / M.Schadle; ripe cherries / wc.cca / Chirak / 6.24.07

Posted: 9-19-14 @ 2:28pm EST

NFL Hunch Line: Cover Pink Proves Timely

2 Sep

Too little, too late.

That had been the prevailing sentiment of an already disgruntled NFL fan-base shortly after hearing news last Thursday (8/28) that Roger Goodell had tightened-up the League policy on substantiated claims of domestic violence & related wrongs committed by players & League employees.


Knee-jerk might’ve summed-it-up, just fine.

But that maligning mood may give way to a new sentiment, i.e., better late than never, as the NFL’s fresh-off-the-press, enhanced standard will be tested before the ink’s dry.

Reported on Sunday was the arrest & bail-walk of 49ers veteran defensive lineman Ray McDonald (8y) on a domestic violence incident (“49ers“ / USA-Ty / L.Jones / 8-31-14).


The following is a key paragraph in the upgrade that the Commissioner’s office gave the NFL’s Personal Conduct Policy (PCP) and detailed in letter sent out to owners last week:

Effective immediately, violations of the (PCP) regarding assault, battery, domestic violence or sexual assault that involve physical force will be subject to a suspension without pay of six games for a first offense, with consideration given to mitigating factors, as well as a longer suspension when circumstances warrant….A second offense will result in banishment from the NFL; while an individual may petition for reinstatement after one year, there will be no presumption or assurance that the petition will be granted. These disciplinary standards will apply to all NFL personnel (“Roger Goodell Letter” / / 8-29-14).

The policy enhancer came in response to a string of events starting last February.

Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice was arrested, along with then girlfriend, now wife, Janay Palmer, for aggravated assault (Palmer was not charged) in an Atlantic City hotel elevator. Rice was seen on video exiting and pulling an apparently unconscious Palmer out onto the hallway. The athlete reached agreement with County attorney whereby he may avoid conviction if he meets certain counseling and other requirements.


In late July Goodell suspended Rice for what seemed to many a light, disaffected 2-game suspension to start the 2014 NFL season.

While NFL’s action last week is clearly designed to show compassion for victims of the harmful behaviors listed in their letter, to work a deterrent, and address short-comings in the NFL – PCP policy, it should come as little surprise that it’s also most likely intended to stop the bleeding, i.e., head off an anticipated consumer backlash from the fairer sex.

The prevailing perception has been that the NFL’s ‘by the book’ approach in addressing Rice’s criminal – legal circumstance (?) was insufficient and insensitive.

Some may’ve also seen it as contradicting the League’s pro-female stance in procurement of women consumers into it’s football family by way of merchandise, TV personas and sponsorship of a breast cancer awareness campaign (“A Crucial Catch”) as parlayed in the god-awful, gaudy pink game apparel proliferating in the League come October.


There are three developing markets in the NFL: children, foreigners and women.

The kids are an easy sell: games (fantasy), glitz & gimmicks. It’s a ‘can’t miss.’

The foreign market has always been a tough nut to crack, given how soccer is god most everywhere outside North America. Any in-roads made are considered a plus.

And State-side, the female consumer sector is potentially huge. It is, however, selective.

Football is an all-male sport (Mo‘Ne Got Pads?). And though it espouses values in team-work, self-sacrifice, loyalty and sportsmanship (sure), it’s brutish & violent at its core, something most women avoid like ESPN (See; S.A. Smith) and socket wrenches.

Just the thought of Mom having been a pro-football fan gives this writer the willies.

While Goodell was roundly criticized for the nearly inconsequential 2g ban given Rice after his “incident of domestic violence,” and failed to explain exactly how NFL could’ve “allowed (their) standards to fall below where they should be (on DV) (“Roger” / espn),” I wrote at the time that the Commissioner’s actions were, to a degree, out of his own control, shaped by a justice system, the parties and precedent, including the CBA.


As well, Roger has given no indication of being soft on bad behavior, i.e., “Bountygate and Bullygate,” and recent Aldon Smith (9g / SF) and Josh Gordon (2014 / CLE) bans.

Where the Commissioner might’ve spared himself, his entity, some verbal flogging was by way of the PR department. If his hands were in fact tied, communicate that fact to the people, Roger.

There is one point (letter) I would, if given the chance, bend Roger’s ear on. He wrote: “The public response reinforced my belief that the NFL is held to a higher standard (“Roger”).”

“Higher?” Really, than what, the Legends (Lingerie) League?

Uh-uh, Roger, not a “higher” standard, just a standard. Lawyers, right?

Though the League had to be a bit jolted by the collective thumbs-down given its Rice punishment, it must’ve suspected it wouldn’t take long, sadly, for its new, ameliorating measures (PCP) to be called into action, showing those fickle fans that the NFL now means business and affording them reason to come back home and help put it back in the pink.


They just didn’t figure this long, or short (See above; McDonald).

As to Mr. McDonald, the NFL is monitoring the legal process, lawyer-vetted statements will be disseminated accordingly and the public (media & fans) hopefully observes w/emotional detachment.

Then, when the final report is issued and the fallen chips are all stacked, we can assume that any pointed questions directed to the principals will be side-stepped and the standard, ‘I take full responsibility’ will be spewed forth. All we ask is that we‘re spared the other standard (& poor) line in after-math: ‘It is what it is.’ Ugh.

But be assured, if cause does arise from McDonald or future employee incidents where violence or force is confirmed, Goodell & Co. are now, not only empowered but poised to act on that authority w/all due speed, clarity, fairness & firmness, showing the world the NFL has heart and holds human dignity amongst its highest values. Highest.

But as long as Ray Rice laces ‘em up, he’ll remain a symbol of leadership’s need to, not just talk the talk (pink wear and lady sideline reporters), but walk the walk, as well.

And to the Rices or any persons involved in domestic disturbance, be it believed victims, accused, local authorities, family and even employers, we fans wish them well in working out of that troubled state, and remain hopeful that the end results will most often become a learning experience rather than tragic memory of a day, a time, gone terribly wrong.

We also hope that where there are those who sit in judgment, their passing hand is guided by courage & wisdom yet tempered w/compassion, foresight, independence and humility.

Steven Keys
NFL Hunch Line
Photo credits: Goodell / wc.cca / 8.30.12 / SSG-T.Wade – USMA / 2.9m;  Goodell & unidentified soldier / wc.cca / 7.10.08 / Sgt. B.DelVecchio / Afghan / 616k;  McDonald / wc.cca / 8.21.8 / D.Kaczmarczyk / 181k / thumb; Rice / wc.cca / 8.12.12 / 1ravencowboysnflfan / 65k; US.Navy / 10.7.12 / Steelers / 1.5m / wc.cca / Lt. J.Prunera; NFL symbol / wikiproject / Ixnay – Beao / 1.21.10; Redskins – cheer / wc.cca / US.Navy / Italy / 361k.

Posted: 9.1.14 @ 10:57pm, EST