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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)

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

29 Jun

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

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

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

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

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

Weigh-in would size the Irishman a bit bigger:

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

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

— — —

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— — —

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

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

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

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

But then there is something called assumption of risk.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NFL17: Adrian Peterson Pressing For Saint-hood On a 2d Miracle Comeback

27 Apr

Adrian Peterson v. Marshawn Lynch

If New Orleans Saints new superstar in Adrian Peterson can pull off yet another miracle comeback as he did in 2015 when, post-injury, he led the League in rush yards and the Vikes to an 11-5 mark, it won’t qualify him for sainthood by Vatican standards but it should help to return the NFL Saints back to contendership while exorcizing any demon that All-Day may’ve realized in last year’s physical and family troubles. “The power of Christ (and a Super Bowl ring) compels you!”

On Monday, Peterson inked a 2-yr, $7 million deal with the Saints (3.5M gtd (2.5b)) that has a potential to pay the future HOF’er $8M+ if incentives are met.

Adrian’s exit from Minnesota and subsequent sign with his former team’s 2010 NFCC opponent, ironic in that it was they (NO) who forced him into fumblitis (3) to stymie his one chance at Super trip, marks the end of an era for the franchise which is still seeking its first SB win in four tries and return trip to the Big Game since 1977 when Bud Grant strolled the frigid Metropolitan (MoA) sideline.

In Peterson’s ten seasons in the Land of 10.000 Lakes, missing almost two complete campaigns due to knee injuries, Purple made the playoffs four (4) times, getting as far as the NFCC once with Brett Favre under center, Adrian winning All-Pro honors four times and MVP (AP) in 2012.

The Vikings have some things to smile about on the departure of their franchise face: A glittering new stadium (US Bank), veteran, fairly savvy QB in Sam Bradford and a head coach in Mike Zimmer who has returned the Norseman to a semblance of defensive respectability (#3 yapg / #6 papg) that has only been seen sporadically since the Vikings glory days in the 70s.

But while their braintrust in GM Rick Spielman, owners Wilf (Zygi – Mark) and the coach may feel equal parts of gratitude and relief when the optioned-out Peterson turns topic, they’ve still got a major problem in matriculation (offense) that’s persisted since Favre’s exit, one which the Draft won’t resolve quickly.

The Saints, on the other hand, they matriculate just fine.

In final 2016 regular season ranks, New Orleans led all teams in yards gained per game (426), just ahead of NFC champion, Atlanta (416 (#2)), and flip it with their regional rival in the all important points scored per game category (#1 / 33.8), putting up on average 29+ per (#2) last year.

When you’ve got record-setter Drew Brees expertly manning the controls (2001), an ageless wonder who, like Tom Brady, looks to have some kind of a Dorian Gray thing going, sans the gruesome painting (See; O.Wilde), offense is rarely a problem. Those 1000 receivers can come in (Michael Thomas) and go out (Brandin Cooks (NE)) and Brees just keeps breezing along.

And even a quarterbacking-machine like Brees needs a break from the pressure now and then. And that’s the run game’s job, assuming the OL is doing theirs.

Besides relieving the signal-caller of certain stress, a good ground attack also helps keep the defense on its toes and guessing. New Orleans got that in 2016 from backfield tandem in Mark Ingram (5.1) and the since departed Tim Hightower (4.1 (SF)). And that’s where All-Day will come into play.

But it’s the defensive side, once a strong suit for the gold & black but now New Orleans’ mountain to conquer, that‘ll need most attention. Key defensive ranks in 2016: #27 in yards allowed per contest; #31 points per. The collapsing Falcons (See; SB51) better join that climbing team, too, or can forget winning, let alone getting back to the Big Game (#25 / 27).

— — —

With the Raiders recent acquisition of game-dormant but very visible running back Marshawn Lynch from the Seahawks for a 2018 draft swap (5R for 6R), there emerges a curious comparison to the Saints own Peterson pick-up.

Lynch sat out all of last season and played < half of 2015. It’s good to workout (ML passed his Oakland test), but that won’t replace game hits and habits. Like Adrian, Marsh is no spring chicken, having turned 31 last week (2007). In AARP years (1 NFL year = 5 AARP), both men would be eligible for benefits & discounts (Caution: Always find & read boilerplate before contracting). Unlike Adrian, Marshawn has a title ring, playing a small but key role in ‘Hawks SB48 win.

Where Peterson gets winning points is in his attitude.

Lynch promotes himself as a free-spirit, some might say a wingnut. That’s cute when times are good but when rough waters hit, it’s the kooks that tend to pout and withdraw inward, a bad character trait in the ups & downs of team sport. In addition, because of his extended absence from the NFL, one has to seriously question Marshawn’s level of commitment to the competition.

With Adrian commitment is never in question. Imbued with great determination, his drive for perfection is pronounced, maybe too much so at times, in himself and with those around him. Big question on Peterson is not whether there is still sufficient ‘gas in the tank’ but will the tires hold out (knees)? Like Lynch, AP has missed nearly two of the last three seasons and turned 32 in March.

Ingram (2011), who joined the 1000 rusher club in 2016, is expected to remain the #1 carrier in Sean Payton – Pete Carmichael’s scoring scheme. If Peterson can contribute 600 on the ground, 200 in the air and impart some of his 10 years of NFL experience to the up n‘ comers, GM Mickey Loomis will be pleased.

The Saints (7-9) were competitive down the stretch in 2016, going 3-3 with only the Detroit loss a poor show. Again, a serious reconfiguration of D-scheme is New Orleans’ key to success in 2017 (See; Atlanta), but a healthy and occasionally electric Adrian could give their offense that added pop to keep defenders, and then the whole Saints sideline, confident in a return to contendership.

Commentators in the Bayou and in the Saints’ circle of strategy are tempering expectations over the arrival of the rehabbed and rather aged Mr. Peterson. But his gangbusters style of run and Hall-of-Fame credentials will no doubt give Saints fans hope that Adrian has another miracle in his pocket, or in his legs, as it were. The man and his mission to make good will likely be in their prayers.

Steven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: NFL-wikiproject; A.Peterson, Arvee5.0, 1.28.12, wc.cca; D.Brees-Conways, USMC, E.Kirk-Cuomo, 11.2.9; M.Lynch, wc, 2.5.14, D.Sizer; Mosaic-Saint, Geolina, AachenCathedral, wc, Germany, 2011; J.Otto, Topps, 1970.
Posted: 4.27.17 @ 4:16pm; Copyright © 2017

NFL17: Draft Dogs and Pony Show to Exhibit at Philadelphia Museum of Art

21 Apr

Gotta’ hand it to the curators of the upcoming 2017 NFL Draft, they can spin friggin’ straw into freakin’ gold, holy Rumpelstiltskin!

With a player product possessing of such a high degree of uncertainty as do most college draftees, the Cufflinks have done a splendid job in persuading media conglomerate (Disney / Comcast / NA / Fox / TW) that draft days (4.27 – 29) are “must see TV” and the plethora of fluctuating mockery (pre-draft boards) that precede ‘em are required homework for every fantasy follower.

Within this year’s mildly-anticipated draft will quite possibly be a future Hall-of-Famer, maybe two, likely multiple Pro Bowlers (today about half the NFLPA membership) and anywhere from 30-50% who will roster in the NFL and / or practice squads for on average of 3-5 years.

On the flip side, of the seven (7) rounds of picks, including those of the compensatory selections, about 2/3rds will last for but from 0-2 years in the National (50-70%), never to roster or just in for a cup o’ Gatorade®. Keep in mind that the League does need to replenish its ranks, so, even if that year’s pool is rated luke-warm, if teams are top-heavy in older players, the so-so selectees may get an atypically longer look-see from needy coaches & GMs.

With those numbers, with that state of ephemeralia, it’s nothing short of miraculous the job that NFL Suits & Skirts have done in selling this Traveling Circus of Selection to the buying public.

I use ‘buying public’ generously here, given that 90% of those enthralled with the tedious tally of picks over three days are young males aged 9-22, 20% of those matriculating in sport media. But hey, they’re consumers, too, you know it.

— — —

I’ve listed herein a break-down of all the 1R pick performances from last year’s 2016 draft held in the city with “Big Shoulders,” in total a result I believe that’s pretty typical of most first-year, first-rounders in the League.

A team’s 1st-round pick is certainly not wholly determinative of the success or failure of that year’s draft or its decision-making. The following rounds (2-7 (+C)), assuming every team chooses in most of those later phases, can, on wisdom and a little luck, bolster a clubs roster for years to come, even as the #1 turns pumpkin before its pie-time (bust-a-roo).

But that first pick, even as a 2nd-rounder, is also a very well vetted pick.

And not just combine skills but mental maneuverability as well, in test form and real world record, making Deshaun Watson’s surprise visit to a Tuscaloosa eatery a few weeks back, with no intro, no greet n’ meet before settling-in to start a good vibe, a display of ghastly gall that may’ve banked on the race – rivalry confusion to pull off the play, a factor then in his reliability rating, on field and off.

There is bold & brave, and then there is just plain bad judgment. Rivals worth their weight will often need only the smallest excuse to be generous beyond their legal duty. I guess small is still humungous for the gargantuan ego.

But in truth, most of the time and hope that a search committee invests will ride on that first selection. When it doesn’t pan out or provides less-than-expected benefit, it puts just that much more pressure on the following picks, where the pool of talent dilutes accordingly with each passing round, to pan in. And of course, draft outcomes will play to some degree on the tenor of talks come contract time with established veterans

That doesn’t mean that positively peachy picks can’t be had on the back branches. They certainly can as the Dallas Cowboys (Dak Prescott 4R(C) -MVP candidate), Chicago Bears (Jordan Howard 5R) and Kansas City Chiefs proved (Tyreek Hill 5R, 1T-All Pro) with some of the best grabs in the bunch for 2016.

#31: Germain Ifedi, OT, Seattle Seahawks, 13g (13s)*
#30: Vernon Butler, DT, Carolina Panthers, 10g (0s), 1-fr, 1.5s, 5t-8a
#29: Robert Nkemdiche, DT, Arizona Cardinals, DT, 5g (0)
#28: Joshua Garnett, OG, San Francisco 49ers, 15g (11), 3fr
#27: Kenny Clark, DT, Green Bay Packers, 16g (2), 2-fr, 13t-8a
#26: Paxton Lynch, QB, Denver Broncos, 3g (2), 1-1, 59%, 2t-1i, 6.ypa
#25: Artie Burns, CB, Pittsburgh Steelers, 16g (9), 3i, 13pd, 51t-13a
#24: William Jackson, CB, Cincinnati Bengals, 0g, pre-season injury (pec)
#23: Laquon Treadwell, WR, Minnesota Vikings, 9g (1), 1r, punt team
#22: Josh Doctson, WR, Washington Redskins, 2g (0), 2r, not “healthy (?)”
#21: Will Fuller, WR, Houston Texans, 14g (13), 47r, 635y, 2td
#20: Darron Lee, LB, New York Jets, 13g (9), 42t-28a
#19: Shaq Lawson, DE, Buffalo Bills, 10g (1), 7t-6a
#18: Ryan Kelly, C, Indianapolis Colts, 16g (16), “one of good pieces (GM)”
#17: Keanu Neal, S, Atlanta Falcons, 14g (14), 72t-33a, 5pd, 5ff
#16: Taylor Decker, OT, Detroit Lions, 16g (16)
#15: Corey Coleman, WR, Cleveland Browns, 10g (10), 33r, 413y, 3td
#14: Karl Joseph, S, Oakland Raiders, 12g (9), 44t-16a, 1i, 1ff
#13: Laremy Tunsil, OT, Miami Dolphins, 14g (14)
#12: Sheldon Rankins, DT, New Orleans Saints, 9g (0), 4sk, 15t-5a
#11: Vern Hargreaves, CB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 16 (16), 10pd, 68t-8a
#10: Eli Apple, CB, New York Giants, 14g (11), 7pd, 41t-8a, 1i-1ff-2fr
#9: Leonard Floyd, LB, Chicago Bears, 12g (12), 7sk, 23t-10a (W11 neck-C))
#8: Jack Conklin, OT, Tennessee Titans, 16g (16), AP.1T – All-Pro
#7: DeForest Buckner, DE, San Francisco 49ers, 15g (15), 6sk, 2fr, 43t-30a
#6: Ronnie Stanley, OT, Baltimore Ravens, 12g (12), AFCN – ROY
#5: Jalen Ramsey, CB, Jacksonville Jaguars, 16 (16), 2i, 14pd, 55t-10a
#4: Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Dallas, 15g (15), 1631y, 15td, 32r – 363y, 1T-All Pro
#3: Joey Bosa, DE, Los Angeles Chargers, 12 (11), 10.5sk, 29t-12a
#2: Carson Wentz, QB, Philadelphia Eagles, 16g (16), 62%, 7-9, 16t-14i
#1: Jared Goff, QB, Los Angeles Rams, 7g (7), 55%, 0-7, 5t-7i, 5+ypa
* Patriots forfeited 29th 1R pick per Deflategate penalty to reduce total to 31

There were 1st round dandies (12) in Draft 2016, impact possibilities (12) and wish-we-had-it-overs (7). Any wash-outs are still pending.

It’s not exactly an exhaustive analysis but then who wants to fall asleep at the screen (See; sabrmetrics)? Likewise, it’s not exactly hard to demonstrate just how over-sold is the NFL draft every year, at least as family entertainment.

In the League’s defense, they target their market (See; above) and probably reach it to some degree of satisfaction, keeping the boys busy for a few days and host city restaurants hopping with happy customers.

Nearly every NFL fan will take a gander at their team’s #1 selection, and then the tally of names / positions / college affiliations of the rest when it’s all done by Sunday AM. Fans of football won’t invest too much mental energy but will instead put the lion’s share of their trust in their team’s calculations of particular needs and then to pick accordingly, even if that‘s the next best player available.

There is good art, there is bad art, and then there is NFL Draft 2017 jammin’ up the parking lots and lavatories with their performance art and all the drama “of a bladder (Twain on viewing Shakespeare bust in Straftford-upon-Avon).”

Steven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: NFL-wikiproject, Ixnay-Beao; R.Goodell-L.Boyd-M.Green, NFL.Draft, NYC, 4.26.12, R.Clinton; E.Elliott, wc, 11.9.14, WOSNsports; D.Watson, wc, 1.10.16, AtlantaFalcons; JimMarshall, Topps, 1970
Posted: 4.21.17 @ 1:07pm; Copyright © 2017
Sources: Wikipedia (draft) & pro-football-reference (#s)

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

17 Apr

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

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

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

— — —

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— — —

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

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

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

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

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

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

NFL17: A Patriots Peer, It’s Back To Top-Tier or These Packers Turn Flat-Beer

28 Mar

Pretendership: It’s an NFL station most Green Bay Packers devotees have never knelt before in prayer for guidance and delivery. Anyone rooting for the Acme club yet having no recollection of the play that made John Brockington and Lynn Dickey house-hold names in the badger state is probably in that blessed group.

But that’s for later.

For now, just imagine rooting for an NFL team, one that not only wins most of its regular season games but will have on display any given year a future Cantonese or two roaming the turf, that for most of your conscious life has been an NFL contender. Imagine that. Easy enough for New England Patriots faithful but for the rest of fandom it’s a little hard to picture even in the mind’s eye.

Twenty-five years of pretty much football bliss in Northeastern Wisconsin’s Fox Valley, thanks in large part to two men (GMs), four if you count the coaches (Holmgren / McCarthy), six if you include the QBs (Favre / Rodgers).

Sure, there were some struggles, a few 8-8s seasons, even a couple losing campaigns, but there was always an easy scapegoat to find (Ray Rhodes, Mike Sherman, Bill Schroeder) and soon enough the Good Ship Green & Yellow would find its contender course again and all was ship-shape.

The Ron Wolf and Ted Thompson Packers have never dominated the sport as did former Green Bay juggernauts under Vince Lombardi (60s) or founding father Curly Lambeau (20-40s) but playoff births have been nearly automatic since 1992 and the two Super Bowl victories (1997 & 2011) have given the period of prosperity a legitimacy that can only come with championships.

While the Patriots recent reign of championships is incomparable in this still newish century of play, it’s not hyperbole to write that it is actually the Packers, hang with me here, by way of a crafty continuity in success that’ve been the more impressive of NFL’s two most juggernautious franchises these past 25 years.

Sure, New England coaching genius Bill Belichick and his sure-to-be 1st ballot HOF quarterback extraordinaire in Tom Brady are likely the most terrific title tandem in the Super Bowl era (See also; Noll & Bradshaw, Landry & Staubach, Walsh & Montana), but the manners in which both Wolf and then Thompson engineered their respective coach – QB tandems-in-terrificness are the templates in ‘How To,’ 1) Acquire a diamond-in-the-rough bench-warmer (Brett (ATL)), and 2) draft a replacement (Aaron) for a living legend.

Just imagine, two consecutive GMs who respectively displayed an expertise in post-draft patience (Ron) and then prediction on player longevity (Ted), that player in Favre being, to Wisconsin sports fans, next to God, making it very risky business to draft any heir apparent in 2005 (Aaron).

Wolf’s persistence and then shrewd calculation in extracting Favre from Atlanta’s roster in trading a #1 pick (respectful enough to get their interest but not so generous to get ’em wondering) should be an example to every GM and fantasy fan, i.e., that post-draft follow-up can be of greater value than draft day doings.

And Thompson, in showing Brett the door by drafting the Berkeley Bear Rodgers in 2005, took one humongous gamble. To appreciate just how bold a move it was you have know just how popular was the man from Southern Miss.

Directly north up in Wisconsin, Favre was bigger than Lombardi had ever been, in part because every female sport fan in America’s Dairyland had become enamored with the dude. And that’s putting it mildly.

You think Tom Brady’s huge in 2017? He is, but Brett Favre was huger. Hell, Brett was bigger than the NFL. The Green Bay Renaissance that he and his team fashioned, back-to-back Super Bowls and plenty o’ playoff action, briefly put them in the America’s Team seat, after the Aikman Cowboys disbanded, a starry status that played no small role in facilitating formation of the still budding international game in the early 2000s (Mexico City (05), London (07)).

Consider that when “Onslow (Geoff Hughes)” dons Packers gear on the hit British TV comedy, Keeping Up Appearances (1990-95),” it’s not because of NFL rules changes or networks addition of female sideliners. It was Favre, plain & simple.

So if Rodgers doesn’t pan out when handed the offensive reins in 2008, Ted probably gets run out of paper-mill country on a rail, figuratively speaking, after hustling out the family dog first (See; Devine ‘74). But instead, the pan turned up gold and Ted will get a street named after himself, if he hasn’t already.

“Mississippi,” as Falcons Jerry Glanville referred to the rookie QB in smirk, had a couple good seasons left in the tank when he exited Lambeau: An injury-affected Jets campaign (10-6) and two seasons with arch-rival Minnesota, the first in 2009 which would be his best single statistical show and see the Vikes fall to the Bounty-gate Saints in the NFCC10-OT and finale when he dragged himself back for one more go before hanging up his Canton-bound cleats.

♫ Shades of Mediocrity ♫

Mercurial might aptly describe the 2016-17 Green Bay Packers.

Hovering around .500 to the midway, then going three (losses) in the hole, the Pack found some consistency the rest of the way (6 + 2PS) until getting stomped in the NFCC at Mercedes-Benz (Georgia) Dome (44-21 (24-0 H)).

The party isn’t over, not by a long shot, not while perennial MVP entry Aaron Rodgers has his legs underneath and maintains his pin-point passing precision. But some of the good-times have started to head for the exits and a few of those that remain are looking a bit green around the gills (gulp).

One of those always in attendance is the Green Bay defense. It’s a curiosity for even as they helped raise a Lombardi for head coach Mike McCarthy in 2011, it’s also a unit that’s looked wather wobbly since the Reggie White – George Koonce – Sean Jones – LeRoy Butler bunch broke-up.

Team ranks tell the tale. In 2016, the Green figured about where they usually do in the McCarthy era, 22nd in yards allowed per game (364), 21st in points (24+). In the NFCC17 those middling marks came home to roost as Atlanta feasted.

At the center of the defensive scheme has been The Hair, sack-minded linebacker Clay Matthews. Never a top tackler, perplexing for a middle-man, Clay’s numbers have been trending down since that Super season to the point where real value should be a real question for GB staff. He does make a fun soup commercial.

The run game, as party-goers go, hasn’t had much to say lately.

The weighty part of the ball-carry was spending most of its time at the buffet. But Lacy’s gone now and won’t find better eats in the greater Seattle metro, that is unless you really like salmon. And maybe that‘s the point. Bon appétit, Eddie.

Ty Montgomery (2y-SU) filled the void nicely in 2016, for a time, then faded late, 2010 draftee James Starks was not re-signed of , another 2d-yr. in big guy (6’1 255) Aaron Ripkowski (Sooner) will full-back just fine (4.4 – 2td), F/A pick-up Don Jackson (Nevada) had 10 carries last year while former Seahawk Christine Michaels was inked to a deal but has much to prove (9-GS from 2013 (4.3)).

Finding replacements, not mockery, is why the draft matters.

And then there’s Mike ‘What Have You Done For Us Lately’ McCarthy.

Coaching the Green Bay Packers, an early NFL entrant (1921) with accolades enough to fill a cruise liner (sink it along with its Captain in rough waters), is like riding a tiger: When times is good, everybody purrs, but when the champagne rarely flows, the big kitty pitches a fit and sometimes eats its own (gulp).

Mike’s got a monkey on his back clutching an NFCC runner-up trophy in symbol of GB’s disaster known as Cheese-Melt 2015. Packers 1st half lead frittered away and overtime nailed their coffin shut as the Seahawks returned to the Super.

Mike McCarthy has been suffering the “slings and arrows” of regional critics with no return trip to the Big Game. But the rather disappointing playoff runs, enabled by a rather terrific career regular mark (.651), is just part of a pattern he’s displayed since being hired to replace Mike Sherman in 2006. Some good years, a few pedestrian and patience, more patience.

There’s only one Bill Belichick, folks.

Mike’s big mistake was caving to pressure after the Melt to concede offensive play-call, a concession he…revoked (?) at last season’s midpoint. Trust then becomes an issue. But remember, MM turned Packers back into champions when all looked discombobulated, six (6) years after the guy who was prone to sideline temper tantrums left for the State of Washington.

It wasn’t easy filling Favre’s sizable shoes…wait…come to think of it, it actually was pretty easy for Thompson. But Brett was bigger than life and there’s only been one mobile pocket-passer the likes of Mr. Rodgers, a player who, as he will enter his thirteenth (13) NFL summer camp shortly, I’d give four (4) 1Rs in trade today if by some fluke he became free and I a GM in need.

Such a smooth succession in kingly QBs in Packerland in pass of the bejeweled scepter of signal-caller royalty, the Patriots (Belichick – Brady) have not yet displayed. Course, they haven’t had the need. When Tom retires, likely same time Bill hangs up his headset, we’ll see how they do it in Foxborough.

But the Pack are on the championship clock. They need to return to elite status in 2017 (12-4) or their royal carriage may turn pumpkin before anyone expects it.

Last season’s road to the Halas Trophy (NFCC) was not exactly strewn with pot-holes in serious contenders. It was more like the E-ZPass® highway.

The Atlanta Falcons were the real deal in 2016-17 yet may still feel the reel this upcoming campaign from their colossal collapse in SB51.

To write that the rest of the NFC was deficient would be an understatement.

Though much ballyhooed after a W1 loss to the Giants, the Cowboys much anticipated playoff turned Texas-sized soufflé in loss at home to Green Bay; G-Men and Lions proved pretenders, not because they lost in the PS which, by itself is no fraud, but in both getting shellacked; Seattle, never quite the same since losing SB49, gave one of those shellackings (DET) but then got one themselves (ATL); and while Tampa surged to respectability, Redskins never got rhythm, Vikes were extra-mercurial (6-0), Panthers licked their wounds all season (SB50 – L) and pre-season hopeful Arizona never got going.

Residence in the once vaunted North divsion, f/k/a Black & Blue, always boosts the Packers pre-season rank which sits just under Atlanta as NFC favorites, ahead of Seattle (Lacy ≠ Lynch), then Arian’s Cardinals sure to rebound, the Giants, Lions, Dallas who won’t surprise in 2017, D-Vikes, maturing Bucs and sometimes capable conundrums in Redskins, Eagles, Saints and Carolina.

Procuring a reliable run-game is not the challenge that is finding a top-flight, resilient pocket passer, but good ball-carriers don’t grow on trees, either.

Letting lunch-a-lot Lacy exit looks prudent now, but if McCarthy, Thompson and OC in former GB ball-carrier Edgar Bennett cannot in trade or late-April draft find that impactful runner(s) to spell Rodgers and give opposing DCs a ground-attack to diagram, and then the bodies to shore-up a defense that too often turns leaky in rough waters, Packers will continue to get bounced too early from playoffs, Mike will get pink-slipped with no contribution to anyone’s awareness and this era of exuberance will creep to a close, great QB, notwithstanding.

Steven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: A.Rodgers-M.McCarthy, wc.cca, M.Morbeck, 9.9.12; Packers-print, wc, 1959; B.Belichick, wc, K.Allison, 8.28.09; A.Rodgers, wc, M.Morbeck, 12.7.08; Minnesota-Vikings-GreenBay-Packers, P.Loadholt-C.Matthews, wc, 11.14.11, M.Morbeck; M.McCarthy, TJ.Grant, wc, 8.11.07; NFL-symbol, wikiproject, Ixnay-Beao
Posted: 3.28.17 @ 11:39am EST, edit 11:01; 3.31; Copyright © 2017

Bonnie and Clyde Ambushed Again, No Badges or Bullets But Bad Manners at Academy Gala

17 Mar

If you think the 89th Academy Awards snafu, Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway being handed Best Actress envelope by staffers to announce and present the Best Picture award at the recent gala, was an accident as purported, I’m gonna’ guess there’s a good chance you’re comfortable too with the following conjectures:

1) Lee Harvey Oswald, double-agent with “Maggies drawers” and friend of clandestines Clay Shaw, David Ferrie, bag-man Jack Ruby and the FBI, fired off five shots in 3.5 seconds with one of the worst bolt-action rifles in history, ordered in the mail, aimed through a live oak in November from the Texas School Book Depository to assassinate President Kennedy;

2) A man named Shakspeare (no ‘e’ after ‘k’ spelled 3 ways), son of a Stratford-on-Avon glove-maker, with no public library or apparent capers to fortify his inspiration with the relevant nomenclature (“slang”) filling the voluminous literary product, wrote what most consider to be the greatest compilation of works in this planet’s history and yet by will devised a mere bowl and a sword but made no mention of the manuscripts likely most dear to its author’s heart;

3) Scientists, farmers, fire-fighters, polar ice-cap watchers, coastal residents and other folks in weather-affected livelihoods from around the world are blowing smoke when they red-flag a global-warming they’ve seen first-hand for years;

So how’d you do? Still a believer?

Innocent mishaps do happen but not in the Academy presentation they don’t, not with the Big presentation. In Jackson Pollock speak, “I deny the accident.” Why Mr. Beatty, who later expressed an awareness upon opening the envelope that he’d been handed the wrong card but proceeded to hand it to Dunaway without whisper of explanation is a curious bumble on his part. Age (b. 3.30.37 (79))?

Recently deceased movie expert and much beloved Robert Osborne (TCM) could attest to the fact that there have been errors committed in the AA’s long history, as when Sammy Davis Jr. was handed a wrong card on a music awarding in 1964. But none so serious in this most climactic of moments when the Best Picture Oscar® is announced and the statuette handed to the winner. It’s the high-point of the celebration and the biggest trophy in the bunch.

It’s a well vetted process that for near ninety years going back to the silents has prided itself on a meticulous production to avoid just that dreaded appearance of ineptitude, confusion and takesie backsies we saw in February, not to mention a loss of trust. I will not believe that that standard is not, for most, still in place.

But what’s the motive for one or more, and it’d likely be more (Where’s the fun doing it alone (ugh)?), to recklessly or intentionally throw a monkey-wrench into the works? Jealousy, childish, simple-minded jealousy may‘ve been the culprit.

And what does one do with cold envy? If you’re a snake, you don’t bury it, you find expression for it in skullduggery (See; Hamlet) by making two titans of the industry in Faye and Warren look bad. That they’re old, comparatively speaking, would make the theoretical dirty deed all that more satisfying to the doer(s) who, post-play, would smirk like the Grinch after his Whoville haul-away. Tee-hee.

Today, resentment for anything that is well established, be it a person’s advanced age and concomitant accomplishments, or time-tested traditions, even those that work, especially those that work, is at its apex.

It’s an arrogant mindset that has corporate backing: Out with the old, in with the new, change, change, change, unless of course it’s a helpful myth (See; Above). Don’t eat your young, heavens no, eat your Grandparents, instead. And that, even as everyone’s parade is headed to seniorhood, whether they get there or not.

‘How could they have done it, set them up, it’s so cold, so…dishonest?’ Yup.

I’d imagine it could’ve been accomplished quite easily by any number of people in the Academy or PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) chain-of-custody, made easier by the fact that organizers, while always guarding against flaws in the production through miscommunication and lethargy, were oblivious to even the possibility of one or more of their people intentionally gumming up the works.

Organizers wouldn’t have seen it coming this time but they’ll be on alert now with stepped-up monitoring in preparation and handling of announcement-cards.

Dishonesty and devious minds, they’re as old as Neanderthal short-changing Cro-Magnon in the first trade, ‘club for clams (‘Don’t give him all those, look at his forehead for crying out loud!’).’ But when too many of our leaders and celebrities seem to care not in the least what example they set, corruption grows rampant.

It’s not hard to find a story on corruption or greed today, they’re everywhere: Politics (S.Korea), schools (cheating), business (Volkswagen), media (fake news), the Marines (nude photos).

Sport is my usual theme and there the bad news is almost a daily line:

Olympian Ryan Lochte fabricates a false robbery report to Brazilian police and receives less than a year (10m) suspension from competitive swimming;

Ongoing PED use spans across the sport spectacle. It’s buoyed by enablers and apologists like HOF-voters who, where former baseball star Iván Rodríguez is concerned, enshrined the 13-time gold glove winning catcher in 2017, his first year of eligibility, even as the Puerto Rico native was named in former Texas Rangers’ teammate Jose Canseco’s watershed book, Juiced (05), as a user of performance enhancers with Jose claiming to’ve personally injected Iván (See also PED debate; Olympic swimmers Milorad Cavic v. Michael Phelps);

Michael Sam using an announcement on his sexual orientation as a means to draw attention and maybe preference for the approaching NFL draft;

Notre Dame Heisman hopeful, LB Manti Te’o concocts a story of a non-existent girlfriend who is, of all things, dying from cancer and today rosters in the NFL;

Maybe not NBA players so much as the draft-dingy junior media who encourage the prospect of tanking, and receive monetary compensation to write as much;

— — —

We had streakers in my youth (♫ The Streak (‘74) ♫). Call is spontaneous, kooky, a bit shocking but all in good fun. Today, those nudists have grandkids who take part in flash mobs to try to intimidate and frighten.

Don’t expect more shenanigans at the Academy Awards in the near future. Nobody wants pandemonium. Strike that, MOST don’t want pandemonium.

But if I’m over fifty-five and work in the movies, I wouldn’t plan on ever attending the big ceremony ever again, not until someone come’s clean or gets called on that red carpet. And then I’m not forgetting how Maureen O’Hara was treated.

And dilly-dally on that issue shouldn’t forestall the decision to find another new host for the 2018 AA and let Jimmy Kimmel focus on his talk show, or better yet, get back to what he’s best at, Crank Yank(ing). At least “Special Ed,” “Birchum” and “Gladys” were all real, god love ‘em.

Steven Keys
Photo credit: Oscar® statuette, wc.cca, 1951, Kon-Tiki, V.Atanassova; W.Beatty, wc, A.Light, 3.26.90; Oscars®, I.Hayes, Enterprise, Shaft, 4.22.72, wc; Oscars®, Bjork-Swan, 2001, Marjan-Pejoski, C.D.Riccio, wc; Oscars®, T.Hanks, 1989, wc, Light; Oscars®, wc, Hopper-Bigelow, 2.28.11, AA83, C.Lazo, Army; D.Taylor, wc, 1967, Bonnie&Clyde, WB-7A
Posted: 3.17.17 @ 1:10pm, edit 11:17; Copyright © 2017