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NFL Cherry Picks W15: ♪ Oh By Gosh By Golly, It’s Time For Favorites & Football Folly ♫

15 Dec

For most fans who heavily vest in NFL 2017-18, they’ve three favorite things come the holiday season: 1) A matriculatory quarteback to run their team’s offense, i.e., can move the chains & master the red-zone, 2) A defense that plays the whole 60, and 3) a head coach who values both (1&2) and won’t over-identify with players, press or sabrmetrics (See; Bill Belichick).

I’m a fan and heavily-vested myself but won’t put all my ‘favorite’ eggs in one basket (NFL – NCAA), especially when that basket puts consumers lowest on their totem-pole of valued assets. My favorite things at Christmas time are more numerous than cars that fill a 5:30p Walmart parking lot in early December.

Not “raindrops on roses” or “whiskers on kittens” mind you. I leave that kind of imagery to the talents of Mary Martin and Julie Andrews as they nurtured their youthful yodelers in the pre-War Austrian Alps: Yodel-ay-hee-hoo!

No, instead, my favorite Yultide feelings emanate largely from the traditional and classic holidays sounds of Christmas royalty like Perry Como, Tony Bennett, Sammy Davis, Jo Stafford, the Sinatras, Al Hirt, Vaughn Monroe, Jack Jones, Barbara Streisand, Doris Day, Rosemary Clooney, Bobby Vinton, Peggy Lee, Neil Diamond, Mel Tormé, Ella Fitzgerald and Gene Autry, just to name a few.

Nothing spikes the egg-nog of emotions like the music of the holiday season. There’s no other time of the year, no other genre of melodies, carols and orchestrations so packed full of cheer-ful, “soulsome (Curtis)” and sentimental sounds as the months of (late) November and December.

Sure, by month’s end we’re all pretty well saturated with the season’s messages in manger and money and then all the motoring, mingling and the melodies too (Sirius 2017 favorites: Classic: JamesGalway (flute) & ScottKritzer (guitar); Traditional: TonyBennett & Mele Kalikimaka), but as that great American saying goes, ‘better to eat too much turkey than none at all.’

My Favorite Things

♫ Mix and a-mingle in the jingling feet ♫

Sport: football, outside, daytime, frigid (15°+) and no wind. I’d not suffer even my worst enemy that bone-chilling winter breeze

Athlete: Any footballer who refuses (@ 20°+) to don sticky (cheat) gloves

NFL coach: Bill Belichick. A favorite press-conference retort in deflection Jr. reporter criticism of Bill’s non-devotion to metrics: “You (reporter) could attend Northeastern Analytics Conference, get your fill of it there”

NFL team colors: MinnesotaVikings

NFL team logo: WashingtonRedskins

NFL venue: SoldierField, ChicagoBears (1924)

NCAA team logo: Longhorns, University of Texas-Austin

Christmas film: ItsAWonderfulLife (46), RKO-Liberty, FrankCapra

Holiday song: WinterWonderland, J.Mathis (58), Bernard & Smith (34)

♫ Chestnuts roasting on an open fire ♫

Voice: WhiteChristmas, Crosby – Trotter – Darby (42), Berlin

Pop: ItsTheMostWonderfulTimeOfTheYear, Williams – Pola & Wyle (63)

Rock: JingleBellRock, B.Helms, H.Garland & Kerr – Beal & Boothe (57)

Rockette: RockinAroundTheChristmasTree, BrendaLee, J.Marks (58)

Tribal: IllBeHomeForChristmas, J.Vale (64), Kent – Gannon – Ram

Guitar: AwayInTheManger, ScottKritzer, USA-in-origin, author (?)

Global: OTannenbaum, Nat King Cole (60) & Army, Anschütz & Franck

Film: HaveYourself, MeetMeInStLouis, J.Garland, Martin-Drake (44)

Duet: SteveLawrence and EydieGormé, That Holiday Feeling (64)!

Wife’s song: BabyIt’sColdOutside: Jones & Matthews (99), Loesser (44)

♫ Tiny tots with eyes all a-glow ♫

Kid: SantaClausIsCominToTown, R.Conniff (59), Coots & Gillespie

Hymn: JoyToTheWorld, PhiladelphiaBrass (67), Watt – Handel

Orchestra: SleighRide, BostonPops, Fiedler (49), Anderson & M.Parish

Aria: SheepMaySafelyGraze, BostonPops, Fiedler, J.S.Bach (1713)

Jazz: CoolYule, LouisArmstrong & Commanders, SteveAllen (53)

Original: JingleBells, Sammy Davis Jr., JamesLordPierpont (1857)

Blues: IveGotMyLoveToKeepMeWarm, Holiday (37), Stafford (56), Berlin

Humor: YoureAMeanOneMrGrinch, Ravenscroft & Geisel – Hague (66)

Warm: ItsAMarshmallowWorld, Dean Martin (66), Sigman & DeRose

Glow: RudolphTheRedNosedReindeer; Martino (64), Horne (66), Marks

♫ Thumpety thump-thump, thumpety thump-thump ♫

Hot: SantaBaby, EarthaKitt, J.Javits & P.Springer (53)

Cold: FrostyTheSnowman, Patti Page – Rollins & Nelson (50)

Hope: TheresAlwaysTomorrow, Rudolph (TV ‘64), JanisOrenstein

Waltz: Nutcracker, WaltzOfTheFlowers, Ormendy, Tchaikovsky (1892)

Interpretative: Nutcracker, DukeEllington (60), Tchaikovsky (1892)

Imitation: Carrie – KingOfQueens: SantaBaby & MarshmallowWorld

Swing: TheLittleDrummerBoy, CountBasieOrchestra, Davis

Elvis: HereComesSantaClaus, E.Presley (57), Haldeman & Autry

Beatles: HappyXmas (SoThisIs…), J.Lennon – Y.Ono & HCC (71)

Instrumental: VinceGuaraldiTrio, A Charlie Brown Christmas (65)

Chorus: WeNeedALittleChristmas, PercyFaith – J. Herman (66)

♫ Fire’s dyin’ but we’re still good-byin’ ♫

Christmas toy: TudorElectricFootball

Holiday TV: 3-way tie with RudolphTheRedNosedReindeer (64), A Charlie Brown Christmas (65) and DrSeussHowTheGrinchStoleChristmas (66)

Commercial spot: AndréChampagne, “Ring in the holidays (1970-80s)”

Holiday snack: Salt: nut (pistachio) & seed (pepitas); Sweet (cocoa 70%)

Dinner: Baked ham, twice-baked potatoes, corn niblets & chill Chardonnay

Good Cheer: Retail: BaileysIrishCream; Homemade: brandy spiked egg-nog

Holiday supplement: Boswellia (frankenincense)

Date: The day NFL votes to sever ties with Nike (Color-Rush) & TNF (ugh)

NFL Cherry Picks Week 15

Bolts @ KC: 12.16 NFLN 8:30: Chiefs
Pack @ Carolina: 12.17 Fox 1:00: Cats
Dolphins @ Buffalo: CBS 1:00: Miami
Arizona @ Washington: Fox 1:00: Cards
Philadelphia @ NewYork: Fox 1:00: NYG
NewYork @ NewOrleans: CBS 1:00: Saints
LosAngeles @ Seattle: Fox 4:05: Seahawks
New England @ Steelers: CBS 4:25: Pats
Cowboys @ Oakland: NBC 8:30: Raiders
Falcons @ Tampa: 12.18 Disney: Atlanta

Record: 57 – 45

Steven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: NFL-symbol, wikiproject, 2011; C.Plummer, J.Andrews, wc, SoM, 1964, 20CF; Sound-of-Music-theater, M.Martin, wc.cca, 1959, T.Frissell; Armstrong, wc, LoC, NYWT, 1953; A-Charlie-Brown-Christmas, J.Flannery, USPS, 2015; Tudor-Electric-Football, wc, 1974, J.Mena; cherries, wc, B.Kua, 6.1.08; WillieWood, ToppsChewingGum, 1970
Posted: 12.15 @ 3:22pE; Copyright © 2017

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NFL17 Cherry Picks W13: Not Exactly N.Korea Nukes But Eli Benching Is One Giant Cloud o’ Controversy

2 Dec

It’s not exactly news of North Korea and the dangerous game of nuclear chicken they’ve been playing with America and the rest of the free, rational world.

It’s not of the plethora of liberated sexual harassment and / or battery claims being leveled at many of the nation’s most trusted male politicians and entertainers since the Harvey Weinstein case first broke in November.

And it’s not even as serious as the injury exit of GB’s 2-time MVP Aaron Rodgers who we all know will return before Lambeau leapers jump out any windows.

But the benching of the Giants future Hall-of-Fame quarterback Eli Manning (1.3.81) in favor of Geno Smith, well, that is, in Chiefs-of-Staff parlance, a move whose questionable judgment might ultimately make that which shaped the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion look a little less flawed in comparison.

The New York Giants 2nd-year head coach Ben McAdoo, apparently with owner John Mara’s blessing, decided earlier this week to sideline the 2-time SuperBowl winning signal-caller, both title wins versus the mighty New England Patriots (2008 / 12), in an effort to jump-start the G-Men’s 2017 season (2-9), one which’s been on the cinder-blocks for quite some time now.

Eli, the younger brother of the recently retired Peyton Manning (2016), is playing in his 14th season out of Ole Miss. He’s been healthy this season and putting up fairly decent numbers in (62.5%, 14t-7i, 2411). The touchdowns and pass-yards are down significantly but then his top receivers in Odell Beckham and Brandon Marshall went out early with ankle bangs.

How will the former Jets starter Geno Smith fare? It’s hard to imagine it’d be any better than did Mr. Manning. And that’s being generous.

Like his predecessor, Smith (12-18, 57%, 28-36) will have benefit of a capable OL (26sk) and fine run tandem in Orleans Darkwa (4.6) and Wayne Gallman (4.1). But Gino too will be trying to turn an offense ebbing low in key team stats (#28 yapg / 31 pppg), a direct result of the depleted receiver corps in a League that just won’t permit much success on a ‘3-yards-and-a-cloud-of dust’ game plan (Defense: #31 / 22).

As for stanchion Eli, where exactly his NFL road takes him is unmarked at this point.

Manning may end up back in the starters spot before this season’s end, his handlers hoping he uses this time on the sideline to refocus, recharge his batteries, or, he may remain a clipboarder for the remainder while the Giants shop him services, contract permitting.

It’s all a shocking turn of events in MetLife land.

It’s shocking to those of us who follow NFL football and know the dearth in quality quarterbacks, only to get worse with the no-read, flash-QB so popular on the coaching-lite collegiate scene, all making this a very odd time for the franchise to (maybe) be ‘moving on’ from the Manning era. And then, seven INTs on a 2-9 record ain’t exactly throwing the season away, oy vey.

Cherry Picks Week 13: Mettle-Testing

Lions @ Ravens: 12.3 Fox 1:00: Baltimore
Minnesota @ Falcons: Fox 1:00: Atlanta
KansasCity @ NewYork: CBS 1:00: Chiefs
Broncos @ Dolphins: CBS 1:00: Miami
Buccaneers @ GreenBay: Fox 1:00: Tampa
NewEngland @ Buffalo: CBS 1:00: Bills
SanFrancisco @ Chicago: CBS 1:00: 49ers
NewYork @ Raiders: Fox 4:25: Oakland
Panthers @ NewOrleans: Fox 4:25: Saints
LosAngelesRams @ Arizona: Fox 4:25: Cards
Philadelphia @ Seattle: NBC 8:30: Seattle
Pitt @ Cincinnati: 12.4 Disney 8:30: Bengals

Record: 46 – 34

StevenKeys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: NFL-symbol, wikiproject, 2011; E.Manning, wc.cca, 10.10.10, AJ.Guel; G.Smith, wc, 8.11.13, Eltiempo10; cherries-cloth, wc, 2011, picdrome; TCG, J.Marshall, 1970
Posted: 12.2.17 @ 4:53pE; Copyright © 2017

MLB-WS2017: Sabrmetrics, the Rush to Forgive & Ensconced In Anaheim..of Greater Los Angeles

19 Nov

Hail the Houston Astros, MLB17’s World Series champion.

Last year it was the Chicago Cubs ending the drought of all baseball droughts (1908) in taking the title which’d seemed pretty well in the Cleveland Indians’ grasp (4-3). This year it was a first-time winner, the Astros, who joined the Major club back in 1962 as the Colt .45s and having failed in their one prior Series opportunity in falling to the White Sox in 2005 (4-0), those Pale Hose nabbing their first WS in quite a spell (1917).

The opinion amongst media is that this Astros team is a template for the future MLB. Meaning, a steady, snoozy diet of numbers and more numbers (Zzzzz).

Why the Cubs (2016), Royals (2015), Red Sox (2013) and Giants (2014, 2012, 2010) weren’t touted as such, who knows? It probably has something to do with the fact these present champions are what some are calling a sabrmetric special, aka, analytics. There’s an apropos pun if there ever was one.

Houston operators in manager A.J. Hinch (formerly of the Athletics (See; Moneyball)), GM Jeff Luhnow and club PBO Reid Ryan all relied heavily on statistics, aka, “data,” to shape, guide their roster to the promised land, making the Astros the first sabrheaded organization to grab-hold of that brass ring.

But don’t bet the farm on Houston just yet, no matter how the numbers crunch.

Astros team ERA in WS17, a whopping 4.64.

Astros team BA: .230; OB%: .297; and SLG: .467. Those #s mean the Houston dudes hit poorly throughout but slugged for go-ahead runs in key moments as the Dodgers’ slightly better pitching faltered at the worst possible times (4.45).

Those numbers, the trophy, they suggest one word: Opportunistc. That’s a good trait but not one that’ll bedrock for a dynasty.

— — —

Not too surprising to know that winning a World Series is no guarantee for lifetime employment in the Major League baseball ranks as both former skippers of note, Joe Girardi (NYY 09) and John Farrell (BOS 2013) discovered in being fired post-playoff runs by their respective ball-clubs. John was canned after the Red Sox fell to the Astros in the 2017 ALDS, 3-1, Joe pink-slipped when his Yankees lost to the same Houston club in the ALCS, 4-3.

Not every owner accords that achievement (a WS title) with such an ephemeral appreciation. Some hold it close to their hearts, or so it would appear.

Case in point, billboard billionaire (OutdoorSystems) and Angels’ owner since 2003, Tuscon native Arturo Moreno. The wheeler-dealer seems to hold the view that such achievement should afford a manager his job as long as he wants to continue in the position. Bully for him.

Mike Scioscia completed his 18th year at the helm of the Halos at conclusion of 2017. It was his 2d consecutive sub-.500 finish, in a total of six. In all, Scioscia has compiled a 1570-1346 record (.538), managed seven post-season appearances, one 100-win year (08) and one World Series in 2002, the Angels only Pennant that resulted in a championship win over the Giants, 4-3.

♪♫ And the beat goes on ♪♫.

— — —

Consider how World Series 2017 will NOT be best remembered:

The Astros first MLB title.

It’s fan-friendly watchability: G5 (Astros 13-12) ended at 1:17 AM – EST.

Cries of foul for what appeared an official ball juiced to the threads.

Clay Kershaw finally performing, for one start (G1), anyway, like the pitching great his regular season stats have predicted for years.

No, it won’t be remembered best for any of those.

What World Series 2017 WILL be best remembered for is racism, it’s knowing expression through the Astros’ Yuli Gurriel and its appeasement by Major League baseball’s Cufflink-in-Chief, Commissioner Rob Manfred.

You could say, prejudice got a pass, until spring. Sigh.

The setting: G3 in Houston with the Series knotted-up at 1-1. It’s bottom of the 2d, the Astros’ Gurriel, a 33-year old Cuban in his first full major league season, hit’s a solo shot off of Dodgers’ starter and Japanese native, Yu Darvish (b.1986) who’d been a Texas Ranger (13) through the first-half of 2017.

After all the celebrating, taking his dugout seat and of course seeming in good spirits, Gurriel threw a racist brick at Darvish (Because Yu was thoughtless enough to toss a homer pitch?) in putting fingers to his eyes in childish Western-mimick of an Asian appearance, laughing and thinking himself cute. Not done, he also was overheard spewing the word chinito, meaning Chinese boy.

In Bugs Bunny speak, Yuli is a “maroon.” But he claims to understand this mental state, at least its wrong, so MLB, his ‘mates, Astros’ fans, major and junior media have all rushed to forgive the offender. How wonderful (ugh).

Commissioner Rob Manfred did not suspend YG, not even for one contest in a Series that went seven (I‘d have banned him from entering either stadium for two (2) games). Instead, Rob gave Gurriel a 5-game delayed supension to commence at the start of the 2018 season, assuming he’s still on the team. He turns 34 in June, per his birth certificate.

And with that deferred susp’n which presently amounts to no punishment at all, an awful message was sent to the public: In the rush to forgive and return to calm waters (Darvish took the high road but was in no good position to protest), racism will be tolerated by MLB if the offender “understands” his wrong, claims non-intent and an immediate susp’n in penalty might upset the balance of play when TV ratings ($) are at stake.

And what DIDN’T Baseball’s response do?

It didn’t help Baseball, domestically or internationally. That it was the Dodgers on the receiving end of Gurriel’s racist buffoonery works double damage to the national pastime’s image, the team that in Brooklyn under the Walter O’Malley, Branch Rickey, Mulvey & Smith ownership, rostered Jackie Robinson to break the color barrier (47) and has since been a leader in making the game a showcase of diversity for all races including Hispanic Central America (Fernandomania) and throughout much of the Orient (Nomomania).

It didn’t aid in the fight against racism.

It didn’t help Rob Manfred who is now a symbol of weak leadership, defined forever by his failure to take the bull by the horns.

And it didn’t really help the Astros whose title is now tainted, reminiscent of the Italian national soccer team’s World Cup win in 2006 (Germany).

When deadlocked in the championship match, Marco Materazzi hurled a harsh, family insult to France’s superstar Zinedine Zidane who head butted the offender to the ground. ZZ of course received the red-card (expelled), Italy received the advantage in OT and went on to win the Cup yet left their pride on the field.

Astros won the Series. I don’t know how much Gurriel’s presence shaped the result. He did contribute. Exactly how much of a factor his presence in all games 4 thru 7 had is neither here nor there, for justice, doing the right thing, shouldn’t balance on whether the wrongdoer is a star player or off-the-bench reserve.

But as disturbing as Gurriel’s goof and Manfred’s knee-buckle was how the Astros rallied around their teammate, acting as if his friendly clubhouse persona absolved each of them from holding the Cuban to a standard of decency and he to any sort of symbolic sacrifice in Series time lost.

So much progress yet still a ways to go. I’m hopeful Yuri helps us get there.

Steven Keys
Can of Corn
Photo credit: can-of-corn; YuriGurriel, wc.cca, 7.23.17, Baltimore, K.Allison, 1.8m; MikeScioscia, 12.9.15, A.PardavilaIII, wc.cca, MLB-WinterMeet, 5.2m; RobManfred, wc.cca, 7.15.14, wc.cca, fanfest, A.PardavilaIII, 3.5m; Y.Gurriel, 7.23.17, wc.cca, Baltimore, K.Allison, 1.2m;
Posted: 11.18.17 @ 8:28pE, edit 11.19; 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

MLB17 Chin-Music: Dodgers Drought Ends As Cubs Quench-Quest Begins Anew

24 Oct

The Los Angeles Dodgers and Chicago Cubs NLCS proved something beyond the fact the best National League ball-club in MLB17 calls Chavez Ravine their home. It also proved that the post-season is a whole ‘nother ball-game where ANYTHING can happen and often does.

— — —

The post-script on the defending champ Chicago Cubs 2017 has seen them take the first step in starting another Championship drought, one they surely hope won’t come close to their last (1908 – 2016) which spanned five wars, nineteen Presidents and fifteen Ken Burns PBS series. Monopoly’s definitely in vogue.

If you exclude the Bruins first six (6) MLB championships in the calculation (1876, 80-2, 85-6), termed ‘pennants’ by the sabrheaded scribbler set who are about as sporting as a DMV clerk late for lunch, and start figuring from the World Series opener in 1903, the Northsiders averaged about one fall classic every two years the first decade (1906-08, 10), every four (4) up to the end of WW2 (1918, 29, 32, 35, 38, 45).

It is post-War when the Cubs really began to thirst for a Series return, about seventy (70) years having elapsed before last season’s true pennant (When a team goes as far as it can go in the competition (1876 – 1902, pre-playoff League titles), THAT’S a championship!).

— — —

Ironic now in that NLCS opponents Chicago and Los Angeles played the series almost in complete opposite of their late season forms.

The Dodgers are playing like champions now, yet crawled to the regular season finish line, winning their West division by going 17-24 (1-16 from 8.16 – 9.11) down the stretch and bobbling a good opportunity post-Home Run Derby (87 – 34) to best the Bruins 1906 wins mark of 116 (104).

The Cubs meanwhile had been playing like anything but defending champs, standing under .500 on July 9th (43 – 45). But they found their rhythm and played with seriousness the rest of the way, finishing a respectable 92 – 70 to take the Central division flag and hold out good hope of winning the franchise their second set of back-to-back World Series championships (1907-08).

All of it pointing to the fact that once the playoffs begin, anything can happen and pre-playoff predictions are mostly filler for the 15,000 corporate junior journalist sport blogs that monopolize the intenet landscape.

The post-season is an Athletes in Wonderland where expections are like that grinning Cheshire cat, here one day, gone the next. The best clubs give kitty the boot to take charge and make destiny their own.

The Cubs future still looks to be a bright one, having most of the players, the manager and Cufflink crew to contend again. And even were the Dodgers to take this Series, there’s no National League club that looks all that imposing. Junior Circuit’s not exactly bursting at the seams with juggernauts, either.

Los Angeles ended their own World Series drought in making it back to the fall classic for the first time since 1988. And as so often happens, the topsy turvy nature of post-season play had Tommy Lasorda’s underdog team up-ending the muscle-bound Bash Brothers from Oakland, 4-1, emotionally spurred by legendary limping pinch-hitter Kirk Gibson who seemed to hold Roy Hobbs “Wonderboy” in his hands in homering late to win G1 and set the title tone.

— — —

The Dodgers ended their Pennant drought by easily dispatching with Chicago, 4-1, but can Los Angeles quench their thirst for another cup o’ championship bubbly (10), or will the spirited American League flag-wavers the Astros bring home their first World Series trophy that opens Tuesday nite in Houston “♫ where you better walk right (H.D. Stanton) ♫?”

Both clubs are spirited and driven by sense of community.

The Astros are “Houston Strong,” bearing a uniform patch in honor of the vicitms and devastation wrought by Hurricane Harvey, while the Dodgers have recently retired, long-time broadcaster Vin Scully, the above mentioned Kirk Gibson and the mission to reclaim the hearts of America’s largest metropolis (See; Angels, Rams & Chargers) as their mindful motivations.

Both managers in Dave Roberts (LAD) and A.J. Hinch (HOU) are fairly new at their respective helms, in their mid-40s and of like player pedigree. Hinch, however, has been indoctrinated into the sabrmetric school of thought (uniformed in Oakland for three seasons) while Roberts is more out of the baseball academy mold, i.e., enough with the numbers already, oy vey.

Both teams hit, field and pitch on most occasions, hence, the Pennants, but it is stalwart moundsmen in the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw and Astros wily veteran Verlander who will set the tone, be the bellwethers and ultimately decide the outcome, each likely to get two (2) starts if it goes seven.

Both Cy-clones have had their 2d season struggles and hope to etch better legacy onto all the hardware they’ve accumulated by-way of this October classic.

Verlander’s presently pitching in another stratosphere this post-season but in his two WS appearances, versus St.Louis (06) and then SF (12), he’s a combined 0-3 and an ERA (8.49) about as high as that aforementioned atmospheric layer.

Kershaw, though 2-0 this PS, still posts a 4.40 ERA on 17 game starts with a 6-7 W-L mark, both in opposite of stellar regular stats in .692 W%, 2.36 ERA and what managers-fans-&-mates always love, a spiffy 4-to-1 S/O-to-BB ratio.

Another player I plan to watch is Dodgers’ late-season pickup from the Metropolitans, veteran and former Verlander teammate in Detroit (WS 06), fleet of foot outfielder Curtis Granderson. Curtis has seen his best days as a Tiger and then Bronx Bomber but still plays strong, like a late-career Kenny Loften.

In his two World Series, the first with Justin versus the Cards in 2006, 2d with the Mets versus Kansas City, he, like Verlander, showed his youth in the earlier Classic (.095 / 1r) but had impact in the later, knocking in five (5) RBI, three (3) and six (6) runs (.250) in the losing effort against the champion Royals.

On that basis, and because I want to wrap this up, I’m tabbing LA in seven.

Steven Keys
Can of Corn
Photo credit: LA-Dodgers-logo, wc.cca; C.Kershaw, wc, ArturoPardavilaIII, 5.20.15; C.Bellinger, wc, 9.21.17, Peetlesnumber1; Cheshire-Cat, AliceInWonderland, JohnTenniel, 1889, wc; D.Roberts, wc, 12.7.15, A.PardavilaIII; Canned-corn
Posted: 10.24.17 @ 1:13aE, edit @ 4:15p; Copyright © 2017

NFL17 Cherry Picks W7: Minus Rodgers, Packer-Backers Brace For Future Shock

21 Oct

For the Green Bay Packers and their frothy fandom, NFL 2017 has poured them a big brimming beverage of Future Shock to imbibe. Drink up, blessed ones.

But the title of their novel state reads different than the 1970 best-seller: How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love Football Without a Great Quarterback Under Center. It should fly off the shelves. Sure, Steve.

— — —

Future Shock was a non-ficition write penned by New Yorker Alvin Toffler (1928 – 2016). It was a well-received prediction on how change, through technologies and their profit-seeking managers, will become a constant in the lives of every person on the planet. It’s a prediction that’s proved fairly accurate.

Now the Pack are faced with the toughest change any team, any not sporting a defensive leader the likes of Bobby Wagner or Luke Kuechly, will face in a season: The loss of their offensive field general in Aaron Rodgers. A difference here: Most changes today are designed to optimize profits. This one wasn’t designed and definately won’t spur gains as Rodgers happens to be that rare, well-decorated four-star variety commander (five-star: Baugh, Graham, Clark, Layne, Van Brocklin, Starr, Namath, Griese, Jurgensen, Staubach, Unitas, Bradshaw, Montana, Brady, Aikman, Favre, Roethlisberger, Mannings).

— — —

The green & yellow stand at 4-2 in this still fairly early yet angstful NFL season, thank you, knee-jerks, tied with Minnesota atop the NFC North. The 2-time MVP Rodgers sustained a 2nd collarbone break in 3+ seasons (13) early in last week’s road contest versus the Vikings who currently hold the tie-breaker.

But this time the injury is a bit more troubling for Rodgers.

The Chico, California born and Cal-Berkely educated Rodgers is 3-years older than when he had the last CB-fracture, expecting then the heal process to be slightly slower and maybe less certain. The body ages, skin gets thinner and bones more brittle. We can slow the process, but it still ages. Worse is that the injury this time fissures on his better half, his right, throwing side.

The surgery is complete and it’s postulated the 2010 Super Bowl winner and Kaepernick fan will miss the rest of the 2017 season. But don’t be surprised if he makes a return before the regular slate finishes. That would be fine timing for GB because his Packers team will no doubt still be in the thick of it, having only to compete in the typically sad-sack North Division (1960s). That is, if his backup in 2d-year man out of UCLA (5R-2015), Brett Hundley (2g / 56C% / 1t-3i), can muster enough offense to help his team take 3-4 victories and make Rodgers’ task (making the post-season) that less daunting.

In 2013, Rodgers went down in W9 (v CHI). Under Matt Flynn the Packers played to 2-5-1. Upon Aaron’s return W17 versus those Bears, GB won the game to make the playoffs at 8-7-1 where they lost a nail-bitter at home to none other than the Harbaugh 49ers (20-23) and Kaepernick who, as he always did to GB in the post-season, passed poor (16-30) but ran wild (98y) to victory.

Any new signal-caller, especially in Green Bay where expectations run higher than the cholesteral count of a tailgating, beer-guzzling, cheese-inhaling, bratwurst hound on game-day, can use some serious help from his backfield. Maybe ‘use’ isn’t the right word: desperately needs the help of his backfield mates. Brett might have that in Ty Montgomery and Aaron Jones.

Montgomery looked somewhat promising last season: On 77 attempts he scored 3 TDs with a spiffy 5.9 YPC. That average has come down in 2017 (3.2) but the Stanford man has only carried the pigskin around 10 times per contest. Some guys need regualr action to get it rolling and Ty may be one of those guys.

Rookie Jones (2017 – 5R – TX-EP) had a great game in Dallas where he gained 125 (6.8) and scored a touchdown (45-215y / 4.8 / 2t). But of couse, Aaron’s largely an unknown at this point in time. And promising is promising.

— — —

Since the early 1990s, the Green Bay Packers roadway to the championship has been one paved mostly with easy victories, MVP awards, a plethora of All-Pro selections, more Super Bowl trips than most NFL clubs (3) and lots o’ lots o’ friendly national press coverage for the green & yellow gang.

It began in 1991 with the arrival of one crafty General Manager in Ron Wolf (HOF15), he of the Oakland Raiders chamipionship ways. Wolf would secure the key components to Green Bay’s long-awaited post-Lombardi revival.

In 1992 Wolf persuaded 49ers assistant Mike Holmgren to take up residence in a place that’d become a graveyard for coaches ever since the Great One’s departure following the Pack’s victory over AFL Raiders in SB2 (68).

Then he pulled off the master-stroke, the deal that proved linchpin to the whole Green Bay renaissance and his eventual election to Canton when he snatched a rookie bench-warmer quarterback / party-animal with a rocket arm named Brett “Mississippi” Favre from Atlanta’s roster for one 1st-round draft pick.

In 1993, shoring up the Packers’ defense became Wolf’s focus as he enticed Philadelphia Eagles free-agent sack-master Reggie White to “boldly go where (fewer of his black race had been going) before,” Green Bay, Wisconsin.

After that group had won two NFC titles, Wolf retired and the torch was passed to Ted Thompson (2005) who “boldly (went) where no man had gone before” in drafting a 1R QB (Rodgers) to replace a still vibrant, iron-willed, Wisconsin demi-god in Favre, and show the future Hall-of-Famer the proverbial door.

— — —

In this run of success, Green Bay has returned to the Super Bowl three times, won an arm-load of NFC North trophies and muscled their way into becoming a Thanksgiving regular along with traditionals Detroit & Dallas. And while it’s fallen short of the Walsh – Seifert string and Cowboys title tally of the 90s, you wouldn’t know it by the cock-sure confidence most ‘Backers exude from every pore, every minute, everyday since the rebirth began.

But “the times they are a-changin.’”

The first collarbone crack heard ‘round Wisconsin in 2013 sidelined the master matriculator in W9 and the Packers nose-dove (0-3-1). Expect something similar this time around. It’s just a taste of something they haven’t had to stomach since the days of Lindy Infante‘s final campaign: mediocrity.

In fact, there’s a whole generation of Packerland folk who’ve never know the despair most the rest of NFL fandom experience with a certain regularity, who’ve never had their faith tested, week in, week out, year after year.

A great QB is a god-send. His ability to read D (fluid intellect), implement a plan, take hits in the pocket while possessing an innate ability to move the ball, all add up to wins and may mask what is otherwise an uninspired team.

Someday the Packers will be slumming, blue bloods without a great signal-caller, without even be a ‘can’t miss’ college draftee in their sights (See; 1970s-80s). But in the not-to-distant future, Mr. Rodgers will return and will win many more games. So if you’re a Packer-backer, just “relax.” Know that both of those futures will come to fruition and that a little humility goes a long way in preparation.

NFL Cherry Picks Week 7

Ravens @ Vikes: 10.22 CBS 1:00: Baltimore
Saints @ Green Bay: Fox 1:00: New Orleans
New York Jets @ Miami: Fox 1:00: Dolphins
Panthers @ Chicago: CBS 1:00: Bears
Cardinals @ Los Angeles Rams: Fox 1:00: AZ
Jacksonville @ Indianapolis: CBS 1:00: Colts
Dallas @ San Francisco: Fox 4:05: Cowboys
Bengals @ Pittsburgh: CBS 4:25: Cincinnati
Seahawks @ New York Giants: CBS 4:25: Seattle
Falcons @ New England: NBC 8:30: Atlanta
Redskins @ Eagles: 10.23 Disney 8:30: DC

Record: 22 – 15

Steven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: NFL-symbol, wikiproject, 2011; A.Rodgers, 12.30.12, Minneapolis, wc.cca, JoeBielawa, E.Griffen; Rodgers, M.Morbeck, wc,12.27.09, LambeauField; B.Favre, Dugan, wc,11.15.09, MN-NationalGuard; cherries, Hispalois, 7.2.12, Caceres-Spain, wc; Jim-Otto, 1970, TCG
Posted: 10.20.17 @ 10:47pE; Copyright © 2017

NFL17 Cherry Picks W6: Skin CAN Be Topical, When Thickness Is the Theme

12 Oct

We’re 1/3rd the way through NFL 2017 and only the Kansas City Chiefs’ mark remains, like that rare high school mug, unblemished (5-0), having avoided the deflating though brief malaise that will accompany that first loss of the season to keep the hopeful if naïve notion alive that ANYTHING is possible (16-0).

Five games in is when you’ve had enough ball under the belt to get a good idea of what’s working and what’s not, but not so late you can’t right the ship after a couple losses have begun to blow the vessel off course.

Since the 1960s, only the Dolphins (72) and Patriots (07) have managed to make it through the entire regular season Clearasil® clean (no losses), New England finally breaking-out (succumbing to the Giants in SB42) while Miami bested the Redskins in SB7 to stay Stridex® sound (undefeated). So in all likelihood, every team will post a pimple (loss) at some point early in the season. Eek.

It’s how a team HANDLES losing that’ll prove the biggest test.

Here’s what some famous people have had to say about winning, losing and how lemons can get turned into lemonade:

I believe the greatest failing of all is to be frightened: New Zealand (London) writer, Katherine Mansfield (Kathleen Mansfield Murry, 1888-1923)*

You can learn little from winning, you can learn everything from losing: New York Giants baseball great & WWI veteran, Christy Mathewson*

What separates the winners from the losers is how a person reacts to each new twist of fate: Donald Trump*

It is not enough to conquer, one must learn the art of seduction: Voltaire*

Okay, so that last one’s a bit bawdy for football but you get the idea, i.e., there’s more to it than winning. Holding onto power can be tougher than taking it.

But to handle a loss, even one that embarrasses badly, a good team with a champion’s constitution must have thick skin, thick enough to withstand the burning remarks of critics. And then, after the pain subsides, a mind-set for learning from the miscues that led to the collapse in confidence and play.

Who needs thick skin at this juncture? Prit near everyone, but those with a contender capability might be having their’s tested the hardest.

Arizona Cardinals (2-3)

Pre-season hopefuls, the Desert dwellers have had their skin tested in the next best (worst) manner, serious injury to a key cog, that being MVP-caliber running-back David Johnson who went out in W2 with a dislocated wrist.

Dallas Cowboys (2-3)

The Pack are always contenders for the Halas trophy (George must crack a smile up there every time someone ties his name to the Green & Yellow) with the likes of Rodgers under center, but giving ’em 20 points in the 4Q, at home in a game you had in control from the get-go has to burn the Boys skin bad.

As to some folk’s notion that last Sunday’s tussle (GB 35-31) constitutes NFL17’s game of the year, I say ‘Oh brother.’ Besides being premature (W5), any game where 30 points are allowed in the closing quarter can’t rank too high. Defense still has to count for something in the game of football.

Los Angeles Rams (3-2)

Looked to be the surprise contender of 2017 and might still fill-the-bill. With Russ Wilson, Wagner, Kam, Thomas, Wright and Coach Carroll, the Hawks, like GB, are an NFL Elite who own their Division, now that AZ has degressed. As such, there’s no shame in losing a close one to Seattle, even in LA. And when was the last time a Rams v Jaguars game seemed worth a look-see, eh?

Pittsburgh Steelers (3-2)

Ben Ben’s talk of his demise is disheartening. Ever since Tomlin did his $100K (fined) turkey-trot on T-Day (13), I’ve hoped for better leadership to utilize best the final years of Pittsburgh’s future HOF quarterback. No such luck. But here’s more advice from the sage Giants moundsman: You must have an alibi to show why you lost. If you haven’t one you must fake one. Your self-confidence must be maintained. But keep it (alibi) to yourself, where it belongs.

NFL Cherry Picks Week 6

Eagles @ Carolina: 10.12 CBS 8:25: Cats
Packers @ Vikes: 10.15 Fox 1:00 GTW: GB
Detroit @ New Orleans: Fox 1:00: Lions
Patriots @ New York Jets: CBS 1:00: Patriots
Buccaneers @ Arizona: Fox 4:05: Cardinals
Los Angeles Rams @ Jaguars: Fox 4:05: Rams
Chargers @ Raiders: CBS 4:25: Los Angeles
Pittsburgh @ KansasCity: CBS 4:25: Steelers
New York Giants @ Denver: NBC 8:30: NYG
Indianapolis @ TN: 10.16 Disney 8:30: Colts

Record: 16 – 11

Steven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: NFL-symbol, wikiproject, 2011; Katherine-Mansfield, Archives-New-Zealand, wc, “thick-skinned-toady,” T.S.Eliot-critique, 1915 (+/-); Rhinoceros, India, wc.cca, Brehms-Life-Of-Animals, 1895;
Posted: 10.12.17 @ 4:55pE; Copyright © 2017
References (*): Mathewson: 1001 Fascinating Baseball Facts, Nemec & Palmer, 1994; Pres. Donald Trump, Google; Mansfield, Wikipedia; Voltaire, Wikipedia.