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NFL17 Wild Cherry Picks: 8 Teams, 4 Games and One Tough Call (NY@GB)

6 Jan

rodgers-wc-k-allison-1-10-16-dc-429kSaving the best for last? Maybe so, when schedulers slated the Green Bay Packers to host, once again, the New York Giants Sunday afternoon in the last of four NFL wild-card contests (4:40 EST), a cavalcade of contenders that kicks-off Saturday.

All the action marks the first leg in a three week playoff race whose finish-line is NRG Stadium in Houston come February 5th for Super Bowl 51.

The Lambeau clash figures the keenest with the Carr-less Raiders visiting that same NRG field to face the Texans (1.7), the 0-3 closing Lions traveling to Seattle to take on the Seahawks (1.7) and another clipboard-QB led team in Miami must fly north to battle the Lombardi-laden, Big Ben-led Steelers (1.8).

manning-gb-wc-1-15-12-m-morbeck-296kPressing the point on the closer (NY-GB), Pack’s one of the hottest teams in the NFL (NE #1), appearing to’ve figured a way out of the funk that stunk up their 1st-half of 2016. For their part, the Giants, with two wins vs. Dallas, have gotten quite cozy playing in Green Bay in the most intense of circumstance, knocking Packers from the playoffs twice in recency, first, a Conference contest in 2008 (Favre / Eli), then again in a 2012 Divisional (Rodgers / Eli). Pick’em.

The playoffs mark a new beginning in the championship campaign of conquest. It’s when the crème de la crème get mettle-tested by the fiercest foes and not infrequently worst weather mother nature can dole out.

For the pro player, his body’s telling him it’s time to pack-it-in (no pun) for winter, catch up on sleep, reacquaint with friends & family, read the mail, walk the dog, anything but more football. Then the contract say otherwise, bills to pay and the desire to be the best, all driving him onward in hopes of greater glory.

Which team can prove Julius Caesar and cross the Rubicon in conqueroring the vast playoff landscape and its combatants? Some teams clearly have a leg up on the competition in weaponry, positioning and the art of field tactics & technique.

Home-field and 1st-Rd byes, deserved as it they are, give a decided advantage. And while all 12 invitees are endowed with the spirit and physical skills to take the VLT (Vince Lombardi trophy), only a handful are cloaked in that garb of destiny.

cherries-wc-cca-3-3m-b-kua-6-1-8Wild Cherry Picks: Veni Vidi Vici

Raiders (12-4) @ Texans (9-7): 1.7 Disney 4:35: Texans win

Detroit Lions (9-7) @ Seattle Seahawks (10-5-1): NBC 8:15: ‘Hawks win

Miami Dolphins (10-6) @ Pittsburgh (11-5): 1.8 CBS 1:05: Steelers win

New York Giants (11-5) @ Green Bay Packers (10-6): Fox 4:40: NY wins

Record: 80 – 90 – 3

nfl-symbol-wikiproject-6kbSteven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: Giants-fan, wc.cca, Darasman, 11.26.12; A.Rodgers, wc, 1.10.16, DC, K.Allison; E.Manning, @GB, wc, 1.15.12, M.Morbeck; cherries, B.Kua, wc, 6.1.08; NFL-symbol, wikiproject
Posted: 1.6..17 @ 11:22am EST; Copyright © 2017

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NFL16: History of the Decline & Fall of the Cowboys’ Empire?

27 Apr

Some’ll read this title and say, ‘Au contraire, Steven, the Dallas Cowboys are far from decline (the rise part, that’s implied (See; Gibbon)), they’re NFL’s most valuable commodity.’ In other words, ‘you’re a certifiable loon, Mr. Keys.’

The ‘loon’ line would be way off-base most days but when talking strictly dollars & cents they’d be right on-point.

Forbes last year valued Jerry Jones’ football enterprise at approximately $4 billion, twice the League average (Google). That’s alot of loot and alot of rise.

But there’s more than one way to catalog a cow.

...........Cowboys.cheer.7.16.11.wc.D.Wertman.thmFrom this viewing vaquero’s vantage point the gridiron guys from Dallas are in steady, uninterrupted decline, looking ‘all hat and no cattle’ as the sun sets on one frustrating, unfulfilled season after another, their last NFC championship coming in 1996 (v GB) on way to their most recent NFL title in SB30 (v PIT).

And the Cowboys roundup still somehow manages to pull off the America’s Team thing. Like “Shane” said, “the brand sticks.” Pray tell, why?

Uniforms & logo are classic cool and Jones has shown good sense to steadfastly refuse any aspirations to change by kids at Nike who seem expert at messing up a good thing (See; Browns, TB, etc.). Plus, nobody really cares about the AT tag anymore. Belichick & Brady don‘t and Packers’ fans want it too much.

But the long-running futility that’s displayed on the Arlington, Texas field renamed AT&T Stadium (‘14) is a major drag and hardly befitting of a franchise that had became the standard of success in American sport ever since Mickey Mantle hung up his spikes (‘68) and Bill Russell called it a career (‘69).

..........Jones.12.7.15.K.Allison.wc.thmMurchisons & friends (Hawn, Wynne, Lee) gave it life (1960), firm of Schramm, Brandt & Landry gave Cowboys form, early-QB Eddie LeBaron made it fun, All-Pros Don Perkins, Mel Renfro and “Dandy” Don Meredith made it close (Ice Bowl) and Roger “The Dodger” Staubach, Bob Lilly, Ray Wright, Chuck Howley & Dan Reeves got the 1st brass ring (‘71). Then Drew Pearson, Tony Dorsett and Randy White helped hand Tom and Dallas their 2d NFL title (‘78) and Jerry Jones, Jimmy Johnson and Barry Switzer worked the mental maneuvers to resurrect the glory in the 90s with 3 rings in 4.

Since Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, Deion Sanders and Michael Irvin hoisted their last Lombardi 20 years ago (1996) the Cowboys have made the post-season but eight times and have not been close to a Super Bowl without having played in nary one NFC championship contest.

Twenty years is a long drought for any team but for the Cowboys crowd it must feel like the well’s run dry for a thirst that’ll never be quenched. Gulp.

And the worst of it is that charismatic Jerry who bought the club in ’89 from the giving arms of the RTC who’d intervened as then owner “Bum” Bright was neck deep in the savings & loan scandal, doesn’t seem all too concerned with Cowboys plight, apparently content with the trophies on his mantel, AT&T rental fees and the resounding cash-register ring he savors with every quarterly report.

..........Romo.10.13.10.bigcatsliar.wc.thmbWhen the ’Boys looked to be turning the corner onto Contender Alley back in 2014-15, compiling a RS mark of 12-4 and only exiting playoffs after a gut-wrenching defeat to longtime nemesis Green Bay in the divisional (26-21) (THAT was a catch, and one heck-of-a-catch at that (D.Bryant)!), they lost their run game in the off-season bidding wars when 1500+ man DeMarco Murray chased the bigger bucks (PHI) only to flounder in Philly and then stat-star but oft-injured, long-time Dallas QB Tony Romo (‘06) went down with a clavicle break in W4 as the club limped to 4-12 in 2015.

Tony’s a topper in the pocket and his jersey number surely retired one day but has the luck of a may-fly and crunch-credentials that are somewhat questionable (2-4 PS). He just turned 36 (4.21) and is nearing the end of a long, notable trail.

Because there’s a dearth of pro-style, proven QBs in NFL ranks and Draft16 will have to, in Gomer Pyle speak, “surprise, surprise,” to help alleviate that sorry state, Romo still carries a premium and has full support of Jones, as he should.

But while Cowboys are beginning to re-establish their trademark defense with key team ranks ending upward in middle-of-the-pack in 2015 (#16 papg (23.4) / #17 yapg 9348)), All-Pros Jason Witten, Dez Bryant and Romo are no spring chickens and the ‘need-list’ in Big D is longer than a…chuckwagon chow-line at Chisholm Trail’s close.

.........RomanLegion.wc.StoriadItalia.1979.Mainz.tmDrafts are largely exercises in ephemeralia so don’t expect big reversal of last season’s 4-12 to a 2014 result. Boosting Dallas’ and every team’s chances is that the present state of (quality) competition in the NFL is probably at its lowest ebb in decades (See last season’s flops: ATL, NO, DET, MIA, SD, BAL, CHI, NYG, PHI, etc.) (See Also: NBA16) and anything is possible in NFL16-17.

Though Barbarians are massing at the borders there’s still time for Jerry Jones to put Dallas’ house in order and set ‘em again on that path to glory.

Unless he wants to go down in Texas football lore as the Romulus Augustulus of Cowboys’ empire, he serving as the last Western Roman emperor when the Vandals & Visigoths swarmed Rome (476 AD), he best turn his major attention away from the cha-ching ($) and back to turning this thing around but quick.

“Rome wudn’t burnt in a day (B.Hopkins, American Graffiti (‘75))” but when it was it wudn’t pretty and all the statues came tumbling down. Gasp!

.....macroecono.lamcasinoroyal.2011.wcSteven Keys
MacroSport
Photo credits: Cowboys.helmet, wc, 5.16.8, Dukeha; Cowboys.Cheer, wc, 7.16.11, D.Wertman; J.Jones, wc, 12.7.15, K.Allison; T.Romo, 10.13.10, bigcatsliar, wc; Barbarians.Rome, wc.cca, 19c, EV.Luminais, BAL; Roman.Legion, wc, Mainz, StoriadItalia, 1979; macroecono, lamcasinoroyal, wc.cca, 2011.
Posted: 4.27.16 @ 4:09pm; Copyright © 2016

MLB16 Chin Music: Barry Bonds, Elections & Lies-by-Right

4 Mar

‘You knew but what’d ya’ll do?’

“Oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practise to deceive!” Marmion, by Walter Scott (1808)

Webmaster Barry Bonds rejoined his “fraternity” last month to serve as hitting coach for the Miami Marlins as baseball‘s spring training got underway in the Cactus (AZ) and Grapefruit (FL) Leagues. As expected the official home run king was queried by reporters on the Cooperstown topic and his failure to win election. Bonds’ response: “God knows I’m a Hall of Famer.”

......Bonds.J.Accordino.wc.1993.thmbNearly everyone, excepting, if I recall right, Tom Boswell at Washington Post who speculated on steroid use in the late 80s, looked away, cheered wildly while Bonds and his brothers in bash appeared to be juicing with reckless abandon, some afraid of player backlash, some in hero-worship and others defending memorabilia cachets.

That fact poses a cultural conundrum: What do you, the BBWAA, do with a Cooperstown candidate whom you, and the majority, believe tainted himself, his marks and MLB by engaging in a PED-plan during his career while you sat on your pens? Leave Bonds, McGwire, Sosa and their ilk, some proven, some admitted, others strongly suspected PED‘ers, off of your ballots, even as you gave tacit approval, seems the answer.

Barry is the official, if not, publicly sanctioned holder of the two most cherished marks in the annals of baseball: Single-season (73) and career home run totals (762), yet, he pays a price for what appears to’ve been a career fueled by performance enhancers. His arrogant persona doesn’t help his case, though, younger voters seem to find it fascinating.

And what price do we the fans pay for letting the players, their union, formerly an agent for equity, embed steroids, HGH and the other cheat-drugs into our sports, at all levels, causing a cancer we have still not engaged with aggressive treatment (In pro ball “115 failed drug tests…since January 2015 (“Jenrry Mejia’s Free-fall” / 2.12 / SI / Verducci)”)?

......McGwire.wc.6.29.11.6m.K.Allison.thmAs Big Mac and Sammy were barreling over Maris’ mark (61) in ‘98, some of us were neither fooled nor pleased. One apologist at the time engaged me on the topic and made this sorry claim in their defense: ‘Even if they are using, steriods don’t improve performance.’ Yeah, that’s why they juiced, ‘cause they didn’t help. Like sticky-gloves (NFL), they wear ‘em ‘cause they look good, right? Oy vey.

Besides providing an unfair, unnatural aid in play, i.e., cheating, and, if used outside the supervision of a medical pro who administers in open practice, causing a slew of serious, long-term side effects, PEDs do add muscle mass which increases swing velocity and power. It‘s pretty simple.

That public complacency, along with the window of opportunity remaining open for PED cheats by an absence of mandated in-season blood draws for every MLB rosteree, are the 10,000 lbs elephants in the room everyone ignores.

And it is that complacency which is Barry’s best argument to persuade voters to back his enshrinement. Even in a mental state of deceit, how can one be said to be cheating if near everyone, though suspecting skullduggery, does not make serious statement to prevent the behavior until years later? Arguably, it‘s not.

.....Coperstown.Sign.7.26.8.O.Yamamoto.thm“To sin by silence when we should protest makes cowards of men (Ella Wheeler Wilcox (JFK (‘91))).” If a tree falls in the forest to send campers dodging for cover who claim they did not see it crash, did it actually topple, did it make a sound and can we still use it for firewood? Hmmm.

Additionally, while steroids were banned by baseball in 1991, testing didn’t begin until 2003, then a ramped-up Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program in 2006, one year before Mr. Bonds’ final year and spring blood draws finally instituted in 2014. That fact that it’s taken so long to even get to this point in the fight (and window of opportunity still ajar) must go to the issue of wrongfulness on Bonds’ part.

Barry & Co. would add that he never tested positive for steroids. But that’s not the hand he really wants to play. When you and your union (MLBPA) stave off for decades the best method to detect illicit drug use, i.e., timely blood draws, a player crowing that he never tested positive is a poor defense, indeed.

Martha Knows

But employing the complacency defense would of course require Barry come clean, admit to a knowing, intentional use of PEDs. Words toxic to his psyche.

Everyone already believes he juiced. The grotesque ballooning of his head alone is pretty persuasive sign. Now, he’s just seen by most as a stubborn, somewhat frightened man. Life can be scary, oh, boy, can it, but choosing the truth can help.

“One brave thing.”

That’s what Joseph Cotton (“Holly”) opted for as events came to a head in the great film, The Third Man (’49) set in post-war Vienna.

It might invite the feds back into his life stemming from the BALCO matter (2003-15) if not precluded by double jeopardy. His lawyers would give him the skinny on how the feds might proceed.

.....Stewart.wc.thm.D.Shankbone.9.21.9I’m not one but I can’t imagine such a show of courage would be met with anything less than a forward-thinking response by prosecutors (those that bungled the case), something to maintain perjury precedent and negotiate agreements on fines and maybe even a brief jail stay. Barry could do that standing on his head, even today’s smaller version.

Consider billionairess Martha Stewart. Today the Super Chef is groovin.’ She’s in a better place now than before she landed in the clink.

Coming clean would sway the court of public opinion, cloak Barry in garb of leadership and grant him bully-pulpit to argue for more stringent PED-prevention. Big dog Bonds could become a bridge between former users and guardians of the game in discussing a solution to how exactly baseball’s Elias record book might be revised.

What I fear is that younger voters who will soon be majority block of BBWAA, an age that watched in awe as Barry piled-up MVPs and they filled-up boxes of memorabilia, elect him before a progressive catharsis could ever take place.

In 2016 Bonds received roughly 44% of votes (75%), up considerably from the 35% he’d been receiving his first 3-years of eligibility. Barry and Roger Clemens both (45%) are now well positioned for future gains though they could just as easily get mired in the 40s.

Winning election to the Hall of Fame, however, will change little for Barry.

....Bonds.8.25.06.thm.K.Rushforth.wcWithout a doubt, taking up residence in Cooperstown validates one’s career and all appurtenant to it, i.e., titles, awards and records, like a wave from the magic wand of wonderful. Ting! Barry, however, he’s a special case.

The distrust that his name inspires among most fans, sustained by his aloofness which includes his failure to admit an apparent PED protocol, will keep that dark cloud stationary over head and probably Cooperstown as well if elected. And though he has his supporters, their children aren’t likely to carry Dad’s passion forward: Do the different is how it usually works in generational ways.

Coming clean presents a great opportunity for Bonds.

Yes, it’s an outrageous act that comes with risks, some dread. Great acts don’t come easy nor their results cheap. But when you admit to something most already believe to be true the effect can be cleansing, open up avenues to progress & pride that living the lie will never do, even with a bronze plaque.

Public ridicule, even hatred would intensify for a time, giving fodder to trogs who think through their digestive tracts. You prepare for that. In time, truth and the courage it took to express it become a bastion for baseball fans and the brave.

“A rose is rose is a rose”

And Barry best beware of those who’d dissuade by comparison to Rose’s mea culpas that won him no new fans nor a lift of his lifetime ban.

Firstly, most of us aren’t really sure Pete’s come completely clean anyway, and then don’t really care to know anymore.

....Rose.K.Junstorm.1.11.08.thm.LV.wcSecond, while druggies cheat the game like gamblers and both make themselves subject to blackmail by associates, the motives can be quite different. Roid-heads at least seek to enhance their play, win the game. Gamblers on the other hand, they use the game, sometimes in loss, to fuel their real motive, the chance habit.

Besides that, Rose violated a code well known since Black Sox (1920), entered a contract (‘89), waited too long to make public admission and even then left doubt as to veracity when he finally did, i.e., maybe playing to lose.

A concern for Barry comes from the same supporters who may soon elect him to the Hall. They might advise against any revelation of wrong-doing. Barry’s likely lie is their lie, too. Overnight they’d turn his harshest critics. Officially establish PED use through admission and Bonds’ collectible stock drops like a rock.

Giambi and McGwire came clean though Mark passed on his initial opportunity, coining one of the queerest quips ever uttered in testimony before Congress: “I’m not here to talk about the past (‘05).” ¡Ay, caramba! But in 2010, likely at urging of Cardinals’ brass, Big Mac confessed to using steriods in his MLB career though he took shelter in the now all too common recovery-from-injury excuse rather than performance boost.

Then there’s Canseco, Mark’s brother-in-bash during their salad days as A’s.

....Canseco.wc.5.14.11.B.Horowitz.thm.WorJose’s opted for cartoon figure, afraid to embrace his iconic status as a game-changing whistleblower. Some in his profession call him a rat. Like Count Dracula, cheats hate the light of day. The revelations (claims) made in his book “Juiced (‘05)” slapped us wise on the rampant use of PEDs in MLB and gave impetus to the on-going reclamation project with no end in sight.

But Barry’s the big dog. He holds, by hook, crook or natural talent, records and MVPs. His admission, full and heart-felt, would carry weight in the war on drugs.

That shouldn’t, however, punch his ticket to immortality (HoF).

MLB banned steroids in 1991. The honor-system (test-free), but a rule is a rule and PEDs do enhance production, substantially. That makes his marks unlikely the stuff of Ruth, Mays, Mathewson and Roberto.

A solution might be a separate wing for PED’ers, proven and suspected. A stigma would attach, a neo-segregation, of sorts, this one integrity-based. But it would offer a much needed compromise to a festering problem we all helped forge that works a black mark on our era that we must accept, must embrace: Recognize achievements but chances forgone and a cowardly greed that tarnished our time.

Bonds & Clemens side would say they never failed / tested positive for PEDs nor can be tied to reliable evidence of having engaged in doping behavior. And that statement could be compromised with credible information.

While both did as federal defendants essentially prevail in their trials, evidence did come to light that could lead a neutral-minded person to form the reasonable belief that both men did engage in the use of PEDs during their careers.

....Clemens.wc.thm.K.Allison.6.27.07Brian McNamee had been a personal trainer to Roger and did give what could be deemed compelling testimony and provided physical exhibits (syringe) he claimed to’ve used on Clemens, while federal prosecutors obtained BALCO files that included a set of linking documents on Bonds from November 2000. On one, Bonds’ name with a number that corresponded to the other containing the name “Barry B.” and positive test results for two anabolic steriods.

Bonds claims to have not knowingly taken PEDs.

You can choose to believe Barry but it’s not unreasonable to disbelieve, given his corresponding super surge in power numbers with the time feds claimed he was using enhancements, together with his BALCO association, known to’ve provided and administered the regimen. If it walks, quacks like a duck.

Even if you think neither baseball star can be tied to unethical supplementation when contemplating your imaginary ballot, strong suspicion can be sufficient to form a reasonable belief that both Bonds and Clemens cheated the game with PEDs based on their physical appearance and on-field performance patterns.

Your own standard of review need not conform to those required in a court venue where civil (C&C / PoE) or criminal (BRD) matters are adjudicated. Always Shepardize, so to speak, but no one’s liberty nor property are at issue when voting on a Cooperstown plaque.

Captain’s Courageous?

What is the best voting standard?

Informed, free of bias and prejudice, of course, and if a claim of wrong-doing may attach to a candidate, a standard analogous to that by which a magistrate would base issuance of a search warrant seems apropos: Reasonable suspicion.

As noted, MLBPA forestalled blood draws for years, the preferred method, only agreeing to a spring test in 2014. To argue on one hand ‘I never tested positive’ while on the other having collectively prevented yourself from being tested or only in the most cursory fashion (urine) during your career is a faulty premise.

...blood-test.wc.Vegasjon.9.11.14.thmHad a player been outspoken about instituting high-level or any testing in early days of PED signing (90s), that man should receive a consideration. But I don’t recall any such man having taken that stand (some White Sox in spring 2005 took a position, briefly (union)), certainly not Misters Bonds nor Clemens.

As it stands, Bonds the batter and Clemens the pitcher are symbols, PED sign-posts to two destinations: 1) Big boost in production, longevity & moolah ($), and 2) the state of disgrace if pulled over for violation or waving red flags.

A likely third destination for riders on the PED junket: Related health concerns in the immediate or future states such as a compromised immunity, candida and as serious as heart disease and stroke. The younger one begins, the greater the risk.

Enshrine Barry and Roger and the symbolism is destroyed.

Message to kids or anyone balancing risk vs gain on the PED call would tilt gain, given the financial rewards, MLB’s on-going promotion of power (HRD), pretty fair chance you won’t get busted with the window that remains open and that the ultimate accolade in Cooperstown can stay on the table.

Why then should Bonds come clean? Because it’s the right thing to do.

That reads kinda’ corny today. Bravery as cultural norm stopped being cool long ago. The lie is almost hip today. Fibs & fraud are hardly new, it’s been going on since we were fishes? How does a fish lie? Flat in the pan but that’s not the issue (♫ da-boom chh! ♫). Difference today is lies are done with impunity, obviousness, almost a taunt.

...Gandhi.wc.thm.pre1942In coming clean Barry would find tremendous satisfaction he’d never regret. It could also aid his health, everyone’s, as truth-telling is a stress reducing and a major contributor to maladies of the heart (See; “The Sinatra Solution: Metabolic Cardiology,” Basic Health Pub., 2007). Over time his favorability rating would rise.

Remember what Gandhi said: “Even if minority of one, the truth is the truth.” Substance does not need quantity. “The truth cannot be destroyed (O’Dea, Johnny Belinda (‘48)).” It can be hidden, Barryied from public eyes but it will always exist in some state, known by someone, somewhere.

Barry would keep his money and seasonal accolades (MVP) but forgo the Hall of Good ‘n Plenty and concede to a record book re-do. Sacred stuff, and numbers were never so big if somewhat suffocating (See; sabrmetrics (WAR, etc.)).

I don’t see either star finding the luminosity to shine bright. Self-denial is seen as ‘Un-American Activity’ in Consumer 2016. These guys grab with both hands.

“Greed is good.” America’s motto today. Trump is its face. Don has what McCain, even as hero, could never carry off: Maverickness. That can turn loose cannon. Clinton is sharp as a tack, doesn’t ruffle easy and will take at least 2 debates by her experience. She, however, is the face of appeasement. Strength’s a question. Both flag negatives like snow-belt springs pot-holes in March. We’re not doing well with Chiefs in DC these past 40 years. We are what we eat.

Roger and Barry will win election in the not too distant future. They’ll jump for joy and their rookie cards will rise in value. But over time they’ll fare worse in the court of public opinion, if that’s possible, drawing more resentment for arguably ‘getting away with it’ and helping tarnish the game’s sacrosanct Elias record book.

They’ve a great opportunity, a responsibility, in fact, as did Rose, being key cog in the Big Red Machine, arguably the best all-time. It’s in their hands.

Oh, where o’ where are the “Captain’s Courageous?”

...canned cornSteven Keys
Can o’ Corn
Photo credit: B.Bonds, 7.21.07, guano, wc.cca; Bonds, wc, J.Accordino, 1993; M.McGwire, wc, 6.29.11, K.Allison; Cooperston.Signs, wc, 7.26.08, O.Yamamoto; M.Stewart, wc, D.Shankbone, 9.21.9; Bonds, wc, 8.25.06, K.Rushforth; P.Rose, wc, 1.11.08, K.Junstorm, LV; J.Canseco, wc, 5.14.11, B.Horowitz, Worcester; R.Clemens, wc, 6.27.07, K.Allison; blood-test, wc, 9.11.14, Vegasjon; M.Gandhi, wc, pre1942; canned-corn.
Posted: 3.4.16 @ 12:27p, edit (title) 10.22.16 @ 2:28p ET; Copyright © 2016

NFL16 – SB50: Cam Cues Days of Dart & Dash

4 Feb

Modern Maximus at 50

Old Rome had it’s Circus Maximus where chariots raced, gladiators got jugular, arts performed, gods were honored and general revelry ensued for the masses.

........Newton.wc.C.Brice.9.11.11.thmWe have our “great Circus” in 2016. We call it the Super Bowl. Next in line, #50 (’67).

And for the first time since the merger, the Romans, numerals, that is, got the heave-ho. About time, we say, Mr. Goodell, no offense, Julius, Caesar, that is.

Our version of the High Hootenanny is a bit tamer than the Empire’s public shindig, though, I wouldn’t be surprised if the ancients were more adept than are we today in the art of restroom deployment. Very ‘public’ but very present (See; Rick Steve’s Europe (Rome)). Terrific engineers, were those “world shakin’” Italians.

.......CircusMaximus.wc.04.Xeospeed.thmHigh-light of Super Bowl week is, of course, the NFL championship game held Sunday night in Santa Clara, Ca-li-for-ni-a (CBS 6:30 EST), pitting the slightly surprising AFC champ Denver Broncos against NFC titlists, the Panthers of Carolina.

Both are, as Gen. Allenby would’ve said, “riding the whirlwind (J.Hawkins).”

Though Gary Kubiak head coaches his first Super, like his counterpart in Carolina’s Ron Rivera, about half the Broncos remain from the squad that took a shellacking in SB48 at hands of Seattle (43-8). The Cats make only their 2d showing, first since they came up short in SB38 versus the Patriots, 32-29.

Team records are out the window before a championship. And it’s defense that defines both clubs in this one. It is on that side of the ball, as it was with Seattle, upon which their offenses feed for emotional fire.

Cats are led by perennial All-Pro linebacker Luke Kuechly and safety Kurt Coleman (LB T. Davis plays with screws in his arm and DE K. Short a bunged knee), while Denver features ILBs Dan Trevathan and Brandon Marshall with outsider Von Miller specializing in the sack (11).

.......Trevathan.9.9.12.J.Beall.wc.thm,JPGUsually overlooked in pre-game analysis, even as one of the oldest, key aspects of the football contest, the kicking games, compare well. Punters Britton Colquitt (DEN) and Brad Nortman (CAR) rate equal as do the place-kickers, though, edge to Denver (B. McManus) in the PS (7-7 (Gano 2-2) and 50+ (5-7 (2-2) v 2-4 (0)).

But as always in this quarterback league, the signal-callers are the focal points of Super Bowl spotlight and scribery.

And excepting their Southeaster Conference heritage (TN – AU), the two guys at the offensive controls could not be more different.

Some dissimilarities are obvious, in age and race.

This season, like the past five, Cam has been near epitome of physical wherewithal, playing in 78 of 80 RS games for the Cats while Peyton has struggled to stay suited with various maladies, missing all of 2011 (neck) and about 1/3 of 2015. Though, fair to point out he had made every start in 2012-14.

......Newton.wc.7.12.11.thm.sportiqeLess noticeable to the casualite is their difference in style: Peyton’s proto-typical pocket passer who relies on his not-what-it-used-to-be arm, savvy and run sufficiency. That necessarily includes a stout O-line, backs that can block, his own ability to read D with proficiency and handy men who can hang on.

Cam is flash. Forgoing education time in the pocket classroom, Newton bolts quickly when the pressure comes and first-look receivers are covered, carrying more of the load but also living on the wild-side by inviting downfield hits and making his tendency to rabbit a red-flag to defenders and their strategists.

Ironically, if Cam & Co. hoist the VLT Sunday it’ll mark the beginning of the end of the pocket-passer’s NFL dominance, given how coach-free run-QB proliferates in college, just as one of the greatest passers all-time in Manning is pondering his final curtain call on a storied career in what may be his swan song game.

Rumor (“report”) says SB50 will be Manning’s last game (NFLN). Someone has even planted the LA Rams seed as a possible new home in 2016 for the Broncos starting QB. Story slots need filling for Super week and the latter one was fun.

.....Manning.thm.9.14.14.J.Beall.wc.ccaThe reasons why Peyton would retire post-SB50 are multitude. But if Manning-the-Elder-Son plays well in a win or even a close loss there’s reason to believe he’d return for one more go at it in 2016-17, health permitting and Broncos’ (another club) braintrust concurring, making this “report” appear more speculatory even as Ian Rapoport generally hits his marks.

Unlike Favre in finale (2010-11), Manning still seems vested with desire to compete. His next game (“one week at a time”) will have everything to do with how long he maintains that desire, making it unlikely he’d have a “plan” in place, let alone reveal it to anyone outside immediate family. Someone made a mis-read

But even if Sir Runs-Alot does not hoist it Sunday, the day of run-QB’s dominance is just a hop, skip & jump away. Pocket passer will rule the roost for this and into the next decade but “the bell tolls” for the glory days of the dynamic & diverse NFL offense.

Age of the new millennial QB is here and Newton is it‘s John Hancock.

♫ Rock Your Baby ♫

It’s been presaged since he hoisted the heavy hardware at Auburn in 2010: The BCS title trophy, Tigers’ 2d national (’57), and the still-coveted-in-some-circles (Disney (ESPN)) huge Heisman doorstop.

Now Cam Newton preps to play on the biggest stage in American sport, the Super Bowl, hoping to hoist the heaviest in accolade in the vaunted VLT (Vince Lombardi trophy). And the 2015 MVP? That race looks like Newton will take the tape since Brady & Palmer stumbled late and the top NFL defender almost always crosses the finish-line unnoticed or with little fanfare (See; N.Bowman).

.....Newton.2011.wc.thm.Pantherfan11The man from Atlanta was made for the spotlight: Ear-to-ear smile, 6’5 frame, multi-faceted skill-set and a showmanship that exhibits on cue. Cam’s “bursting with country fresh flavor (Seinfeld),” gosh darnit!

It’s been quite an NFL ride for Carolina’s 3-time All-Pro signal-caller, if you like roller-coasters. Beats the Zipper or that spider thing.

Rookie year (‘11) seemed to bode well for big things to come.

The Panters went 6-10, Camster-the-Hamster scampered for a frosh record 14 TDs and passed for 4000+. Not too shabby for a rookie. But with every step forward there was another step back. The C%’s and TD-ratios fluctuated as did W-L records: Good (12-4 (‘13)), not so good (5-8-1 (‘14)).

But when expectations are high those up & down swings won’t, as they used to say in the Napoleonic Wars, cut the mustard. Sacré bleu!

Now comes NFL 2015-16.

Just when many fans were losing patience, beginning to waver, having serious doubts about his game and whether he could channel physical talents into sustainable team success, Cam plays a turn-the-corner type season.

.....Rivera.6.10.11.R.Paraglide.wc.thmDoes that mean Cam’s come of age? Depends on the venue.

In the home setting, he and his love were just recently blessed with a bouncing baby boy (“Chosen”). Key to the first year of rearing: Parents “buying (each other’s) chairs (Phenomenon ‘96).” Stack ’em on the porch if need be. It’s worth it.

On gridiron he’s finally looking pro-efficient, comfortable.

Generaling the Panthers’ offense to a 17-1 record and cusp of greatness can qualify as professional maturity. The fact that 2015 was the worst year in this memory for quality of competition amongst the NFL ranks should detract little from that assessment.

Those who gripe about his fly routine on TD are working OT to find fault. He’s a hot-dog (70s), there’s no doubt there. Superman never boasted. But success, i.e., taking the VLT, will automatically fit one with suit of maturity to market pizzas and pop, commercially convenient as that may be (See; Lynch & Gronkowski).

Kurious Kindred Spirits

Ironically, it was 30 years ago last week Cam’s kindred spirit was also drinking in the limelight and would lead his offense to victory in SB20 (1.26.86).

....McMahon.93.wc.Diz28.thbThe man who invented the helmet head-butt, battled Commish Pete Rozelle over headband displays and teammate of Cam coach Ron River, Bears’ QB Jim McMahon, was constituting the offensive and emotional catalyst for Chicago’s magical run in 1985-86, culminating with their resounding win over the Patriots (46-10) in the Louisiana Superdome.

The sporting gods were busy in the Windy City in 1985, a season of “gods and monsters (“Dr. Pretorius”)”), endowing liberally (Dent, Marshall, Singletary, Payton, Frazier, etc.). But it was McMahon who set the run in motion that MNF in Minnesota when he came off the bench to engineer a killer-quarter with three quick TD strikes.

Numbers never lie? Fiddlesticks. They can tell tall tales. Jim’s 1985 totals were almost Igor-ish in comparison to most but his leadership and moxie were immeasurable. After that game the Monsters of Midway never looked back and finished the regular like Carolina at 15-1, a trip to Miami in W13 the lone blemish when Fuller started and the noise-meter red-lined to no avail.

...Bears.AIoC.wc.2.19.07.thm.SenorCodoThe Bears big season didn’t forge a “new world” of dynasty for Halas Hall but it did set a standard for singular season prowess by which all modern NFL champions are measured.

As for the New England Patriots, the Super Bowl stage is the Great Exaggerator: Winners who ride a wave, the defeated who can often be living Murphy‘s Law. The Patriots got a taste of title (AFCC) and wanted more (See: the Bills of Foxborough).

Cam Newton hopes in possessing that same McMahon cocky-charisma, his teammates can feed off it to fuel the fire to victory.

One issue to note for both QBs: If adversity hits (DDD: down double-digits), can Cam and Peyton keep cool and turn air-of-superiority into resilient resurgence? Broncos have had a wealth of adversity in this campaign, Carolina’s mostly cruised. How one handles adversity may be the truest test of a champion.

Flash Cam

Newton still struggles a bit with the celebrity, bristling at criticism, not unlike another kindred spirit in Sir Isaac Newton. England’s Mr. Motion was said to run from counter-takes like the plague. Nobody likes flak. But unless perfect or all powerful it’s a life reality. Some know it better than others and adapt as need.

...FlashCam.Kodak.6.15.15.J.Haupt.thmIn a Super Bowl press conference last week Cam had this to say: “I’m an African-American quarterback that may scare alot of people because they…they haven’t seen nothin’ that they can compare me to (1.27.16).”

Showing his race card may’ve over-played the hand.

Last time a run-QB was on the Super stage he got handed his lunch (Kaep). Then the lights went out and SF feasted (SB47). Maybe Newton’s the one feeling the jitters. When he tables the race topic and keeps on football he can make a fair point. Many fans do disfavor the flash form that Cam displays. Don’t count the “yutes (My Cousin Vinny ‘92)” among them. Kids have no interest whatsoever in cartoon-football (Pro Bowl Rice v Irvin) but they just adore muscle-bound run-QB (See also; the Home Run Derby).

Why the pass on run-QB? Because Sir Runs-Alot is a ball-hog, taking touches from receivers and ball-carriers both, making them less relevant and the game less diverse, though, Panthers’ faithful aren’t complaining. In college, where run-QB has come to dominate, they’re nearly unstoppable (See; Saban).

...Kapp.wc.EllensburgDaily.73k.12.26.69.thmIt’s a style throwback to the single-wing tailback (40s), a “wide open” type of quarterbacking, “not contained (NFL Films).” Vikings’ Joe Kapp may’ve been the last true SWTB, Cunningham and Young reviving the form slightly, though, showing top talent for pass. Russ Wilson’s style stirred the debate but is cut more from the Staubach cloth: Mobility as necessity (1st-downs).

Will Cam’s style come to dominate the pros?

That’s been the debate since “nothin’” Mike Vick exploded onto the scene in ’02. Kaep, another “nothin’” in Cam’s view, gave flash a boost but got red-zone blues in crunch. And therein lay one of it’s fatal flaws: Exiting the (pocket) classroom early to avoid hits but forgoing the education in D-read comprehension that rounds out the “skill set.” ‘No pain, no gain’ should begin in the juniors.

....cherries.cloth.picdrome.6.2011.thmGiven the law of supply n’ demand (See; NCAA), if Carolina can cash-in for Santa Clara gold the debate may be over. Either outcome, run-QB is here to stay.

As T.E. Lawrence might‘ve said, “this is going to be fun.”

 

Super 50 Cherry Pick: Denver Broncos

Record: 104 – 101

...NFL-symbol.wikiproject.6kbSteven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: C.Newton, 9.28.14, wc.cca, K.Allison; Newton, wc.cca, C.Brice, 9.11.11; CircusMaximus, wc, Rome, 8.14.06, G.O’Beirne; CircusMaximus, wc.cca, Rome, 2004, Xeospeed; D.Trevathan, wc.cca, 9.9.12, J.Beall; Newton, wc.cca, 1.26.14, HI, M.Bragg, USArmy; Newton, wc, 7.12.11, sportiqe; P.Manning, 9.14.14, wc.cca, J.Beall; Newton, 2011, wc.cca, Pantherfan11; R.Rivera, wc.cca, Paraglide, 6.10.11; McMahon, Diz28, wc, 1993; Bears, AIoChicago, SenorCodo, wc, 2.19.07; FlashCam, Kodak, 6.15.15, 1950s, J.Haupt, wc; J.Kapp, BC.Lions, VancouverPL, wc, 1960; J.Kapp, EllensburgDaily, wc, 12.26.69; cherries-cloth, picdrome, 2001, wc; NFL-symbol, wikiproject.
Posted: 2.4.16 @ 2:19pm, edit 4:34 EST; Copyright © 2016

NFL14 Cherry Picks W4: Calling Mrs. Miniver

26 Sep

“A (football) by any other name would (sail) as sweet”

Oh, how we could use more souls like “Mrs. Miniver” on this side of the pond, to advise & consent those who occupy our seats power. The nasty John Oliver, he you can have back, England, but “Kay,” oh my gosh, more like her we need.

One of those Chairs-in-Command sits in America’s fourth branch: the media monopolies, who’ve apparently ordered their army of producers, scribes & staff to take offensive to try toppling NFL’s head honcho, Commissioner Roger Goodell.

Mrs. Miniver (‘42) is William Wyler’s heart-warming film that tells the tale of a fictional matriarch running a household in England at outbreak of WWII and how she & family cope with the trials & tribulations on the home-front that befall soon after their nation’s entrance into the War (‘39) upon Nazi Germany’s invasion of Poland.

.........G.Garson.wc.cca.42.R.Harvest.thumb

Why a reference here in sport article to a beautiful lass from Hollywood’s golden age?

Week 4 on the NFL schedule sees the start of London-fest, with the first of three games slated to be played at Wembley Stadium. Phase I features the Miami Dolphins versus the home-designated Oakland Raiders. That means, of course, the Sir Francis Drake and Sir Henry Morgan fan-clubs should be in full attendance:

Gangway, ye scallywags & scurvy dogs! Mess with me booty (grog, fish & chips) and you’ll be keelhauled quicker than a pirate can separate a dandy from his coin purse!

No movie gave American audiences a better dramatic window through which to view the lives of our British Allies across the Atlantic in their lonely fight to halt Axis powers Westward blitzkrieg, than did this film gem starring the redheaded Greer Garson, who’d captivated movie goers three years earlier w/Robert Donat in the classic, Goodbye, Mr. Chips (’39).

Garson’s inspirational character was cinematic but certainly emblematic of millions of women, people, who held down the home front for the fighting forces, working arsenal of democracy, keeping a semblance of sanity in place and sometimes sacrificing their lives.

World War 2 exposed a frightening & prevalent capacity in our human race for organized cruelty & greed by way of the Axis powers (ESPN still shamelessly employs their own version of “Axis” visual gadgetry). But by good triumphing over evil, the grace of god or simply better military strategies, the resolute Allied forces prevailed.

Watching Mrs. Miniver last weekend (TCM), I couldn’t help but appreciate how different were the eras, the spirit of community and mental approach taken to trying times.

Today’s mental tack: mountains made of media mole-hills, privacy exposed for profit, self sacrifice too rarely afforded, patience is anything but a virtue,…you get the idea.

Charming, easy-on-the-eyes, neighborly, strong of constitution, even stops to smell roses and appreciates history (“Richard I“), maybe “Kay’s” most endearing trait today would be her ability to defuse the explosive situation, i.e, angry blue bloods (“Lady Beldon (Dame May Whitty)” and armed & dangerous, downed German pilots (Helmut Dantine).

..........Goodell.thumbnail.flag

Roger Goodell may wish he’d booked a flight to “Kay’s” old stomping grounds for this weekend’s festivities, offering him a brief escape from the Hounds of the Barkervilles.

Because of the politicized protest on domestic violence that’s quickly turned lynch-mob in tenor, lacking a more constructive, practical, honest purpose & tone, it’s come clear now that the anti-Goodell campaign is really the anti-Redskins push (‘12 / Nike joins NFL) in different garb, w/assorted malicious mercenaries joining the horde:

Grudge-holders (Bountygate, Simultaneous-gate, ex-players (Bruschi)); PED-punished player entourages; profit-seeking ($) opportunists (TMZ, Oliver, ESPN, Costas, etc.), and simply those who just don‘t like sport and believe those that do are moronic, some w/ agenda (NOW), others a prejudice. Not a big group, but a big megaphone (Disney, Time Inc., etc.).

To be concerned, a bit angered by recent wave of player criminal arrests is appreciable.

But to make Goodell scapegoat for this rare confluence of badness, spotlighted by tabloid tape drop (TMZ) after an initial League response (Rice 2g) that was not atypical, as news & leisure-media grant immunity to NFLPA, is shameful, and more so, unbelievable.

..........P.Tagliabue.wc.cca.8.4.02.G.Mitchell.thumb

As a plan took shape in the 90s under then Commissioner Paul Tagliabue to bring kids & female consumers into the NFL fold, the failure to use their bully-pulpit to expose player refusal (NFLPA) to raise their own standard of behavior to a level comporting better with the new audience, chiefly, drug use, in particular PEDs, sowed seeds of trouble and either innocently or negligently created environment where Rice-gate was bound to happen.

In a highly flammable state where player misdeeds start the burn, fanned by all the above (“Grudge-holders, etc.), and a Commissioner who, ever since Tagliabue vacated Bounty-gate suspensions (12-‘12) (after arbitrator voided (9) & NFL reinstate (10)), has had his authority, prestige severely undercut, NFL’s leadership post itself has been compromised no matter who sits atop, leaving the direction, value & health of the League uncertain.

The only thing that’d make matters worse for NFL would be election of a polarizing, poli-operative, faux-football proponent (C. Rice) or like celebrity into Commissioner’s post, one even the earlier Iron Maiden, “Mrs. Miniver,” would hesitate to take.

......NFL.wikiproject.6kb

“Who (brought) the dogs (in), woof, woof?”

The Green Bay Packers Aaron Rodgers has been doing something this week to which he’s almost entirely unaccustomed: quelling a growing chorus of grumblers in Packerland.

As result of Green Bay’s lethargic loss in the Silverdome last Sunday (19-7), a game where Packers’ defense actually played what normally would’ve been fine enough for a win, the Cheese Squad has fallen to 1-2 in what had been a hopeful outlook for ‘14.

The natives are restless but the Packers stellar QB is taking it in stride, as any former champ & MVP should: “Relax, we’re going to be fine,” he said on Wednesday. Okay.

..........A.Rodgers.wc.cca.M.Morbeck.08.thumb

But unless I’m mistaken (I am), those are the exact words Napoleon spoke to his Grande Armée when things were looking bleak at Waterloo (and the Duke of Wellington was closing the deal): ‘Détendez-vous, nous allons bien.’

You’re probably, right, Aaron, the offense will find its rhythm. But if losing continues, you (& MM) just want to make sure you bring the dog in at night (See; Dan Devine ‘74).

Off the Schneid

Week 3 Sunday was a time of redemption for four previously winless teams, picked by many prognosticators to contend (It‘s only Week 4): the Giants (1-2), Colts, Saints and the Kansas City Chiefs.

Most likely to run-the-table rest of the way? the Saints, KC, Indy and, sure, the Giants.

“Stay Classy,” Coach

NFL has its share of lopsided scores (W3: ATL 56 v. TB 14), and if loppy enough, will be scornfully referred to as ‘piling-it-on.’ NFL: troubled, but not w/out standard.

But on the college scene where idyllic pronouncements are carved into marble facades, good sportsmanship gets thrown under the visitor’s bus when poll positioning is at stake.

The Michigan State Spartans, long in proud tradition, hosted intra-State rival E. Michigan last Saturday and put a 73 – 14 thumping on the Mid-American member. The small school record-enhancer will get a nice check, but in these match-ups, with big disparity in score & recruitment, 70 is the jerk-line and “winning (like that, isn’t) everything,” Coach Dantonio.

Secret Agenda Man?

Add former Patriots linebacker and current ESPN “analyst” Tedy Bruschi to the list of celebrities to call for Roger Goodell’s resignation. On Friday after Goodell’s ill-advised presser, the former Patriot stated this on ESPN:

..........T.Bruschi.wc.cca.J.Kern.ESPN.11.3.11.thumb

“One of the only ways Roger Goodell could’ve lived up to standards he placed on us as players…was to step down because he’s (NFL‘s) ultimate (“Tedy” / USAT / Lisk / 9-19).”

Ted Bruschi has always been Ted Bruschi’s biggest fan.

And for a guy whose NFL legacy benefited from Roger’s even handling of Spygate, it’s safe to assume gratitude is not high atop Bruschi’s list of values. That probably means the former Patriot gives no credit to the Commissioner for his role in bringing NFL’s PED prevention program into the 21st century with recent upgrade (blood draws), sending a hopeful message to young athletes that NFLPA “players” resisted giving for so long. Analyze that, Tedy.

Mueller Time

Though he doesn’t possess power to compel evidence, the man heading up the NFL’s Ray Rice – Janay Palmer investigation (NFLPA has followed Suit (Smith)), former FBI Director Robert Mueller will have something almost as good working for him: experience.

..........R.Mueller.wc.cca.2011.FBI

And for the naysayers predicting a whitewash: when such people seek and will only accept one outcome, what else could you expect but apathy? Besides, would a man who likely has a few million secured away and reputation for ethics on the line, allow a business affiliation to turn into a conflict of interest? Not bloody likely, mate.

One result I’d hope comes from Mueller’s search for truth is determination on chain-of-custody issue (evidence) and tabloid acquisition of such. TMZ is seen by most as Paul Revere but more accurately a golden calf for those of weak faith. And when investigation is complete, whether result shows up, down or middling for RG, the nation will accept it because the Boards of Directors of the corporate sponsors will accept it. Go Green!

Curious Quotes

“How successful can you be, given the (weapons at your disposal)?” Query from ESPN post-game field reporter for Ted Bridgewater after he’d subbed for injured Matt Cassel in Vikes 20-9 loss to the Saints. Pose questions for the players, Ma’am, not statements.

.........Cherries.on.cloth.thumb

Cherry Picks Week 4: London Calling

Giants (1-2) @ Redskins (1-2): 9-25 CBS 8:30 EST: NYG wins
Packers (1-2) @ Bears (2-1): 9-28 Fox 1:00: Green Bay wins
Bills (2-1) @ Texans (2-1): CBS 1:00: Houston wins
Panthers (2-1) @ Ravens (2-1) CBS 1:00: Baltimore wins
Dolphins (1-2) @ Raiders (0-3) CBS 1:00: Miami wins, Arrgh!
Eagles (3-0) @ 49ers: Fox 4:30 (Clash-of-the-Week): SF wins
Saints (1-2) @ Cowboys (2-1): NBC 8:35: New Orleans wins
Patriots (2-1) @ Chiefs (1-2): 9-29 ESPN 8:35: KC wins

Record: 19 – 9

Steven Keys
NFL Hunch Line
Photo credits: G.Garson / 1940 – MGM – P&P / wc.cca / 36k; G.Garson / 1942 – MGM – R.Harvest / wc.cca / 19k; R.Goodell / wc.cca / 8.30.12 / SSG T.Wade / USMA; P.Tagliabue / wc.cca / 8.4.02 / G.Mitchell – USNavy; A.Rodgers / wc.cca / M.Morbeck / 2008; T.Bruschi / wc.cca / 11.3.11 / ESPN / J.Kern; R.Mueller / wc.cca / 2011 / US – FBI; Cherries on cloth / wc.cca / picdrome / 6.11.11

Posted: 9-25-14 @ 11:00pm EST