Tag Archives: football

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

12 Oct

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Arizona Cardinals (2-3)

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

Dallas Cowboys (2-3)

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

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

Los Angeles Rams (3-2)

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

Pittsburgh Steelers (3-2)

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

NFL Cherry Picks Week 6

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

Record: 16 – 11

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

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NFL17 Cherry Picks W5: Post-Tragedy, Sport Isn’t So Trivial As Tonic, Even With Knee-Jerks & Blessed Bullies

7 Oct

In the wake of the Las Vegas shooting last Sunday, NFL 2017 happenings might seem rather trivial to anyone not a gambler or working in the myriad of League-related enterprises, on the field of play and off.

On the other hand, as a national unifier, sporting events can be quite valuable in the healing process (See; President Kennedy’s murder (11.22.63) and Cmsr. Pete Rozelle’s decision to play the games post consult with WH-PS Salinger). Almost any activity that brings people together to think, talk and listen to eachother, yes, listen, can be a therapeutic. “It’s a good thing.”

This Sunday, NFL athletes have an opportunity to ditch the arrogance, find light in the darkness, take hold of truth and stand together ♫ for hope.

— — —

The shocking massacre where over 50 people were murdered and hundreds more were wounded by a deranged hotel high-rise gunman Stephen Paddock will likely have NFL knee-protesters conjuring up some sort of gesture of sympathy that they hope lends credence to their self-serving symbolic piggy-back upon the national anthem‘s moment of reflection.

To the speculation on what drove the crazed killer to such an awful act, it’s appropriate to toggle the gun-control topic as it relates to the caliber of weaponry used in the mass killing. Even the NRA agrees on that point (bump-stock ban).

Paddock’s rapid fire capability increased the carnage greatly. In comparison, the Texas Tower shooter on Austin campus, Charles Whitman, killed fifteen people and injured over thirty on August 1, 1966 in using bolt-action rifle. But it’s fair to say that a person of normal mental state could have an armory at their disposal and not seek to harm anyone, while one possessed of hateful thoughts could have no weapons readily available yet find enough to wreck havoc.

How can a freedom loving people correct or combat an oppressive, corporately captured government that is unresponsive to a clearly-stated will of the people without armaments? It’s a different world from 1776 but the principle of preparedness still applies, one incorporated in the 2nd Amendment with its affordance of the personal right to bear arms, a right recognized over time by those who emerse themselves in discerning the true and full meaning of America’s ruling document, the Constitution.

Then there’s Paddock’s mental state.

Investigation of his medical records, cabinets and autopsy will give a picture of whether the mass murderer had pathological and / or a pharmacologically-aided mental malady. His behavior seems to fit a recent pattern seen in shooters where medications were present and strongly suspected of playing a major part in their change from manageable psychosis to rampaging killers.

— — —

Acts of heroism can occur during and immediately after tragedies and Las Vegas had its share of brave Samaritans. They speak to humanity‘s better side in caring, courage and giving hope while also standing in stark contrast to other not-so-heroic acts in troubled states.

I’m referring to NFL player and protester, Michael Bennett.

The Seahawks defender was at a Las Vegas gambling hall during the Mayweaher-McGregor fight August 26th and took to skedaddle during reports of gun-fire. Caught on camera running through the facility, he certainly drew the attention of responding police. They detained Bennett for questioning, then he was released. In viewing the videos made public last week, I’d not say the police were friendly, though, checking his handcuffs for comfort was sporting. But they did appear and sound reasonable in the force applied, far different from the “excessive” or brutal tags the Seattle celebrity affixes in his claims.

That MB took flight when reported shots rang out is something for he, his conscience and lawyer to ponder. But that he diverted attention from his embarrassing behavior by what appears either mistaken or known false claims of racial profiling (detained at gunpoint “for doing nothing more than being a black man”)* and mistreatment by the Las Vegas Metro, at a time when honest racial dialogue is needed, and then boot-strapped his rickety claims onto Mr. Pig-Socks protest show, THAT is disturbing indeed.

— — —

It is the anthem’s period for reflection that has always been a sanctuary from our present personal troubles and team differences, a respite from bickering and bad-mouth to focus on the good in our lives, communities and planet. No nation’s flag is unstained with misdeeds but such reality need not prevent honest, brave agents-for-change from pursuing more sincere avenues for dialogue.

But that all changed long before the Kaepernick knee-jerks started to make conformity a bad word. After the 9-11 attacks, GOP conservatives used Francis Scott Key’s unifier as a means to push their OWN selfish agenda by adding religion into the mix in form of God Bless America (Berlin), still forced upon fans by many sport team owners, a fandom who, likely in majority, would just assume leave religion at home or place of their own choosing.

Will sport prove a tonic this Sunday for survivors of the hellish attack, their friends and families, the empathetic fandom and NFL players who take to field for Week 5 competitions? It’s a choice they all have.

Think on this little bit of philosophy, NFL protesters: Sometimes it is of necessity but other times conformity is just “pure (cowardice).”

Cherry Picks Week 5

Buffalo @ Cincy: 10.8 CBS 1:00: Bengals
Panthers @ Detroit: Fox 1:00: Lions
Chargers @ NYG: CBS 1:00 GTW: Giants
Cardinals @ Philadelphia: Fox 1:00: Eagles
Jacksonville @ Steelers: CBS 1:00: Jaguars
Baltimore @ Raiders: CBS 4:05: Ravens
Seattle @ Rams: CBS 4:05: Seahawks
Packers @ Cowboys: Fox 4:25: GreenBay
Chiefs @ Houston: NBC 8:30: KansasCity
Vikes @ Bears: 10.9 Disney 8:30: Vikings

Record: 8 – 9

Steven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Posted: 10.6.17 @ 8:04p EST; Copyright © 2017
Photo credit: NFL-symbol, wikiproject, 2011; Grieving, Sarajevo, 1992, wc.cca, Lions-Cemetary-Funeral, MikhailEvstafiev; Michael-Bennet, wc, J.Beall, 8.7.14; Kate-Smith, wc, Radio-Mirror, 5.1.34; ripe-cherries, wc, Chirak, 6.24.7; Jim-Marshall, TCG, 1970
References (*): Si.com / “Police Release Videos” / 9.29.17 / D.Rapaport

NFL17 Cherry Picks W4: ‘Comes The Revolution?’ Not Without a Message of Hope

27 Sep

Last season ex-QB Colin Kaepernick took a knee. Last week President Donald Trump reflected on the protest at a political rally by putting a foot (in his mouth). His words then incited NFL’ers from all walks on Sunday to stand arm & arm prior to W3 action as a show of unity in response to the Chief Executive’s unflattering though not exactly shocking remarks.

All of it constituting a snoozer of a class in NFL Anatomy 101.

And for once it wasn’t Roger Goodell at the center in the storm of player and junior-media discontent. Though, I haven’t yet seen a picture of the Raja hand-in-hand with any players or fellow Cufflinks in defiance of the President’s remarks. If I do I may get a print and have it framed. Oy vey.

The hubbub created a distraction not unlike that in the days just after sleazoids at TMZ released the Ray Rice – Jinay Palmer punch video, another topic tornado that tore through the entertainment media terrain only to weaken in strength when the slate of W3 games turned out to be quite watchable.

*Kaepernick wasn’t directly responsible for this knee-jerk show of League unity and apparent reinvigeration of his vague, racism-laced protest (See; white-only pig socks). The Commander-in-Chief can take full responsibility for the current melodramatic State of the Players’ Union.

The President, in lambasting (“fire”) NFL nappers (national anthem protesters), owners, fans (“leave the stadium”) and even League efforts to reduce post-career concussion-related maladies (“ruining the game“)* was kind of like that kid on the playground who unexpectedly grabs the football only to run around wildly while the regulars stand motionless in amazement, a bit befuddled, except THIS time, instead of letting the energetic ball-hog run himself out in seclusion, the populars decided to lock arms, feign anger and spotlight the little devil.

I like a bold President who speaks plain when occasion calls (“buck stops here (Truman)”), but a little bit o’ judgment (“son of a b#tch” was bad), even when stumping for votes (Sen.Strange (AL)) goes a long way in making the Term a success, especially when you’ve got your index primed to press (v. N.Korea).

Presidential PC Push Back

The one truly disturbing aspect about the President’s comments on the NFL was his disregard for the League’s effort to reduce the post-career onset of what has become a national health tragedy in neuro-degenerative disorder, mainly in trying to make helmets more effective and ban certain tackling techniques that always cheapened the spirit of sport. Football players and real fans understand.

If Trump’s family have been spared the scourge of Alzheimers and like dementia, referred to today by some in the medical community as diabetes of the brain (sugar), they can consider themselves very lucky because most Americans are becoming very familiar with the sorrow and stress, mental + financial, that accompanies the disease, including afflicted patient and tireless caregivers.

Better that both sides protest the harm that the nation’s sugar-diet wrecks upon its collective body and soul. But what would sponsor PepsiCo say?

There’s hypocrisy on both sides of this protest aisle.

The Trenders (NFLPA), more than a few who take childish pride in on-field & social-media trash-talk, have lined up behind a person (CK) they may not like, whose specific message is unclear and who they probably wish to just fade, are taking on a politican who rags about a monopoly (See; USFL 83-86) yet whose economic game-plan aims to, just as did former-President Obama, secure those very cartels that leave consumers powerless.

While many cite Donald’s USFL venture for comparison, I happened upon a curious quote by actor Aldo Ray whose birthday was on Monday (1926-91). Here is what the 50-60s tough-guy and co-star in one of the great sport comedies, Pat and Mike (52), had to say about…saying things: “I regret I don’t have more control of my tongue because I speak too frankly and honestly, and this world is not meant for frank, honest people. They don’t mix. Reality is pretty phony.”*

Yes, honesty is not always the best policy. It’s subject to common sense or, again, that mental ability we call judgment capability. Tell a Yank they can’t reasonably protest and you’re in for a fight. That one goes WAY back (See; 1776).

But the NFL platform today presents a unique stage for protest. It’s a symbolic power-grab where progress sits the bench for political profiteering by displays of anger, much less justified than in 1968 (Olympics), with little risk of ramification as entire teams lock arms and cocoon themselves cozily in the spirit of club.

Try pulling this kneel thing at your Walmart company picnic during a pledge or anthem and you may not last too long with the Arkansas-headquartered operation, whether in Little Rock or Kalamazoo.

“Comes the revolution?”* Not bloody likely.

For a successful movement you start with seriousness, then add hope to the message, not just self-serving anger and nervous conformity. But hope needs truth, a good share, anyway and honesty-patriots in 2017 are in shorter supply than were clean meat and woolen socks at Valley Forge (1777-78).

Marriage Rocks

What then is the end game here?

The mass player protests seem intended to spite the President while owners and coaches most assuredly joined up to keep it all cool. Not the most sincere protest, so don’t expect it to continue indefinitely, not in the same form, anyway. And with Kaep short on truth and his goals lacking clarity, like, were he seeking due process or specific facts in cases of investigated police misconduct from City, State or Justice Department watchdogs, player passion for protest will likely give way to career concerns, sooner than later, for most of the hand holders.

Will NFL owners put the ‘welcome mat’ out for Mr. Pig Socks and recruit an owner to roster the flashman to further spite the Oval Officer? Probably not, as the majority of fans, even minorities, are not too cool with Kaep and his agenda. But expect the NFL Cufflinks, even as President Trump serves their economic interests, to have a good chuckle or two postulating the possibility.

The marriage between sport and patriotism has been a long one. Like all recognized unions in bliss, it has had its ups and it has had its downs but for the most part it’s been one of purpose and contentment.

If the NFL and it players continue to use that consecrated coupling as a means to vet-out every feeling and foible facilitated by any trend that on-ramps the virtual highway, the divorce proceedings will begin in earnest, not between the partners sport and patriotism, but that joining of loyal football fans and the discretionary relationship they’ve long had with the game and its well-paid profiteers.

Perhaps wiser heads can impress upon the faux protesters the realities of life: ‘Your conference call to Misters Goodell and Smith is ready now, Ms. Nooyi.’

Cherry Picks Week 4: Back to Business

Bears @ Packers: 9.28 CBS 8:25: GreenBay
Titans @ Texans: 10.1 CBS 1:00: Houston
Steelers @ Baltimore: CBS 1:00: Ravens
Detroit @ Minnesota: Fox 1:00: Vikings
LosAngeles @ Cowboys: Fox 1:00: Rams
Buffalo @ Atlanta: CBS 1:00: Falcons
Philadelphia @ LosAngeles: Fox 4:05: Eagles
Raiders @ Denver: CBS 4:25: Oakland
Indianapolis @ Seattle: NBC 8:30: Seahawks
Washington @ KC: 10.2 Disney 8:30: Chiefs

Record: 2-5

Steven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: NFL-symbol, wikiproject, 2011; President-D.Trump, Transition-2017, wc.cca, 11.9.16, 450k; IndraNooyi, PepsiCo, 1.23.08, wc.cca, Davos, 3m, WEF; British-General Cornwallis-Surrender-At-Yorktown, 115k, JohnTrumbull, oil, 1797; JimOtto, NFL, Topps, 1970
Posted: 9.27.17 @ 12:16aE, edit 9.28; Copyright © 2017
References: *Cnn.com, “Trump: NFL Owners Should Fire Players Who Protest,” S.Tatum, 9.23.17; “The Battle Cry of Aldo Ray”. Movieline, 1.1.91 (Wikipedia); Glenda Farrell, Here Comes Carter (36), WarnerBrothers

NFL17 Cherry Picks W1: Nuff With Knees & QBs, It’s Time For Bridesmaids & Tacklese

8 Sep

Even the best NFL tacklers like Seattle Seahawks’ Bobby Wagner could enjoy the chick-flick Bridesmaids (2011). That’s no foolin.’

When the thin one (Kristen Wiig) starts to panic on the jetliner (pills + liquor), triggering the air-marshal plan, it’s on-the-spot volunteer “Megan (Melissa McCarthy),” a G5 federal employee, who lays her friend flat with the best flying tackle seen by this football fan since Pat Willis patrolled the tundra (ret. 2015).

‘That was acting, Steve.’ Sure, but then sport itself can be fairly fantastic.

Take soccer (fútbol) for example. ¡Ay, caramba! Those guys fall to the turf more than The Bad News Bears (76), pre-“Kelly Leak (Jackie Earle Haley)” and “Amanda (Tatum O‘Neal).”

— — —

For all the fascination with scoring by guys like Tom Brady and David Johnson, the foundation of every team will lay in its defense. It’s football 101.

And if you don’t have it for the whole shebang, i.e., 4Qs for 16Gs and the entire post-season, you’re in for a shootout at worst possible time, something the Atlanta Falcons, and Green Bay Packers for that matter (NFCC), know about all…too…well.

The two key measures in team defense have traditionally been yards allowed per game (yapg) and point allowed per game (papg). Why? Because you can’t pile up points without both of ‘em. Get it?

In NFL16, Houston (301), Arizona, Minnesota, Denver and Seattle (319) held down the top five (5) spots in the former category (yapg). Combined, they were eight (8) games over .500, two division titles, three (3) had winning marks with the Vikes even-Steven and Cards ½ game under. Not proof-positive of the D’s value, but not too shabby an indicator, either.

A better gauge might be the later rank, papg.

Those top five (5): New England (15.6), Giants, Seahawks, Broncos & Cowboys, a combined thrity-five and one-half games (35.5) over .500. “Zowie!”

The short story, and that’s what you’ll get most often at NFLCherryPicks in opposite of the trend to long story (See; sabrmetrics), is that defense matters, alot.

We know about the Patriots positioning prior to the playoffs (#8 / 1) but where’d the Falcons finish up in the top D rankings?

An inglorious 25th (yapg) and 27th (papg) is where the A-Birds settled in. And like I wrote above, those deficienies will not remain hidden forever. Great teams will expose them in the brightest of lights.

So if Atlanta was so deficient on the defensive side, how would you think they could make it through the post-season and into the Big Game?

Besides stellar offensive efforts by their quarterback and League MVP Matt Ryan, 3rd-year RB Devonta Freeman, another monster stat-season by receiver Julio Jones and offensive line that did their job (37s), the non-team-related reason was that the NFC was a veritable graveyard of competition in 2016.

Youth-movement-led Cowboys rolled after a W1 loss to the Giants but proceeded to flop in the PS, Green Bay had to kick-start its campaign and lost home-field in the process, Seattle hasn’t been the same since Lynch went wingnut and Arizona, expected by some to make the SB51, proved the Big Enigma of 2016.

Falcons’ defense did have its performers that shone bright when it counted most, of note was the League’s top sack-master in Vic Beasley (15.5) and the 25th best tackler in Deion Jones (75s – 33a). Those aren’t eye-popping stats but Jones was busy elsewhere, having 14 PDs and 3 INTs. Another player, or two, like Deion and A-Birds might make a return trip to the Big Game in 2018.

Cherry Picks Week 1: On the right foot

Chiefs @ New England: 9.7 NBC 8:30: NE
Cardinals @ Detroit: 9.10 Fox 1:00: Arizona
Buccaneers @ Miami: Fox 1:00: Tampa Bay
Raiders @ Tennessee: CBS 1:00: Titans
Ravens @ Cincinnati: CBS 1:00: Bengals
Seahawks @ Green Bay: Fox 4:25: Packers
Giants @ Dallas: NBC 8:30: New York
NO @ Minnesota: 9.11 Disney 7:10: Vikings

2014: 97 – 55 -1 (NE)
2015: 105 – 101 – 1 (DEN)
2016: 88 – 93 – 3 (NE (8 – 3))

StevenKeys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credits: NFL-icon, wikiproject; B.Wagner, wc.cca, 10.6.14, K.Allison; M.Ryan, 8.8.16, wc, E.Drost; cherries, Hispalois, Caceres-Spain, wc, 7.2.12; Wood, Topps, 1970
Posted: 9.7.17 @ 8:28pE; Copyright © 2017

NFL17 Pre-Play: Bloom Is Off But Arians Still In League’s Elite Coach Class

5 Sep

NFL 2017 head coach ranking with Bruce Arians of Arizona Cardinals @ #5:

1) Bill Belichick, New England Patriots
2) Pete Carroll, Seattle Seahawks
3) Mike McCarthy, Green Bay Packers
4) John Harbaugh, Baltimore Ravens
5) Bruce Arians, Arizona Cardinals

— — —

It was a rough 2016 for the Arizona Cardinals and their 5th-yr HC Bruce Arians who still gets mentioned when the NFL’s best are bantered about.

Arians must be a firm believer in aberration, i.e., an unpleasant deviation from the norm. He HAS to be because he won’t, he CAN’T believe that his fairly talent-laden NFC West squad would again lay an egg like they did in NFL 2016 when, in oppposite of many favorable prognostications by fans & press and general roster health they finished a disappointing 7-8-1. Eek.

Progression can be a wonderful thing. From it will spring forth hopes, learning experiences and maybe, just maybe, a 5-year, $25M ($15M guaranteed) contract with a nice buyout clause ($7.5M). Maybe.

I don’t know how the Paterson, New Jersey native’s, who is set to turn 65 in October (10.3.52), contract with owner Bill Bidwell reads but given his former progression, its terms are most likely fair & balanced to both sides.

The problem with progression is that any sudden halt in one’s steady forward progress and it can be bone-jarring. Ouch!

— — —

Beginning his coaching career at Virginia Tech in 1975 as a graduate assistant, Bruce didn’t get his first top NFL gig until late in the game at age sixty when he took over as Indianapolis interim for the ailing Chuck Pagano who was out in cancer treatment (2012) and proceeded to win the first of his two AP-COY awards (+ 2014). In 2013 he took the reins at Arizona and kept winning, going 34-14, a total that excludes his 9-3 Colts mark (11-5), W-L numbers diverted to Pagano‘s career tally by NFL’s record keepers.

2012: Colts 9 – 3
2013: Cards 10 – 6
2014: Cards 11 – 5
2015: Cards 13 – 3
2016: Cards 7 – 8 – 1

Odd as Arizona’s 2016 devolution, odder still was that it happened even as there were some quite notable individual and team bright spots.

Veteran quarterback Carson Palmer, the Bengals’ 1st-Rd draftee out of USC in 2004, appeared to’ve fully recovered from his 2014 knee injury, making fifteen starts and putting up reasonable if not great numbers.

Career-long Card and another 04 draftee in receiver Larry Fitzgerald had his eight 1000-yd season in 2016, surpassing the 100 career total in TDs (104).

On defense, Arizona sported a double-digited sack-duo in linebackers Markus Golden (12.5 / tie 3rd) and Chandler Jones (11 / 8th). Not how I’d use my main-defenders (sacks) but it got the job done in part as AZ’s defense ranked a spiffy #2 in yapg (305 (301 HOU)) but a so-so #14 in papg at 22.6 (15.6 NE).

The brightest spot was rising star and MVP candidate (I had him #2 heading into W17), running-back / receiver David Johnson, the 2nd-year man out of Northern Iowa who ran for 1239 (+ 16td), caught 80 passes for 879 yards (+ 4td) and led the League with 20 pay-dirts in total.

Some small comfort for Arians & Crew may’ve been the fact that 2016 was, as Winston Churchill put it in describing the Soviet Union circa 1939, “a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma,” especially in the ho-hum NFC which may help to account for this prognosticator’s worst effort to date.

In the American, surprise disappointments were the Jets (10-6 (15) > 5-11 (16)), the Ravens (10-6 (14) > 5-11 > 8-8 (16)) and the Bengals (12-4 (15) > 6-9-1 (16)) who were expected to contend and then, of course, el-foldo come playoffs.

In the NFC, Cards and defending Halas hoisters, Carolina, were favored to shine but stumbled in start and never recovered; Seattle didn’t find the fierceness and only Atlanta & GB looked worthy of taking on New England. And if you thought Dallas (13-3) was the real-deal with the rookies, you don’t watch much NFL.

Will Arizona rebound in 2017? League’s looking pretty pathetic these days, bound to get worse with the art of tackling fading fast and flash-QB filling the ranks, meaning, any team with pro talent in key positions, and that means AZ, should have a good shot a taking the Hunt or Halas trophy come January.

StevenKeys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: NFL-sign, wikiproject; B.Arians, G.Skidmore, 8.5.16, Glendale, wc; L.Fitzgerald, wc, Al-Anbar, Al-Asad, USO, 3.8.09, Cpl-J.Hernandez, Cpt-J.Daniels; Arians, 3.22.17, DoC, T.LaRussa, G.Skidmore; Topps, J.Otto, 1970
Posted: 9.5.17 @ 4.28pE; Copyright © 2017

NFL17 Pre-Play: Nobody Bullied the Beav and No One Needles the NFL, Kaep Krew

9 Aug

If you’re an NFL fan or root for Colin Kaepernick, not always mutually exclusive mental states, and feed those foibles by perusing online sport sites, you’ll know it has become common in recent years for certain players to have developed a cult-like following amongst the media, junior scribes, in particular. Individually, five names have received more press than probably every player combined, excepting Broadway Joe, of course, since the National went on-wire in 1920:

1) Johnny Manziel
2) Tim Tebow
3) Michael Sam
4) Colin Kaepernick
5) Richard Sherman

At this posting only one of the five, Sherman, has a job with our nation’s new national pastime (When a home run derby is your showcase event of the season, there’s big trouble) and soon to become international funfest (See; London).

Of the other four, it’s possible Manziel and Kaepernick could get a call for a 2017 quarterback tryout as injuries begin to mount in the League on commencement of training camps and contact. But that’s becoming more doubtful as the recent rapid-signing in Miami of free-agent QB Jay Cutler and longer-than-expected list of somewhat suspect number (#) ones (Kessler (CLE), McCown (NYJ), Hoyer (SF), Taylor (BUF), Glennon (CHI), Siemian (DEN), Savage (HOU)) penciled-in for 2017 strongly suggests about both their desirability.

For Tebow, who last played with the Jets in 2012, the chance of an NFL return is nearly nil. Tim’s rather particular (prideful), shunning CFL and tight-end talk, a spot for which he was tailor-made. Same holds true for Sam (nil) who never made a roster after being drafted late in 2014 (7 / 249), having two tryouts (STL / DAL), an invite to a combine and a brief suit-up with Montreal (CFL). Mike does, for some reason, have his own page at PFR.com, sans the Alouettes.

None of those deactivated states has stopped certain media from alternatively appeasing (groupies) or depressing (fans of sport) readers with a steady stream of stories seemingly designed to persuade, cajole or bully the League, its owners and neutral fans into giving three of the four another shot at the big time.

But “Eddie Haskell” couldn’t bully “Beaver Cleaver,” Reid & Pelosi couldn’t bully Dan Snyder, his Washington Redskins and the American Indian rank & file (See; WP “9 of 10” poll (2016)) and nobody bullies the NFL to decide who it hires and who it doesn’t. An exception: Ray Rice and women’s advocacy. The ex-Raven’s rehab appears real but his stigma sticks: Video is video, thanks to TMZ (ugh).

If you think that’s a poor analogy, then you never knew Leave It to Beaver (1957-63). It’s impact on Americana made Vince Lombardi’s power sweep look almost happenstance. And if you don’t know the sweep (Kramer – Gregg) you’d best bone up. Start in State of Ohio, then find George Halas (IL) and go from there.

Michael Sam

When Sam told the nation of his homosexual orientation just prior to the 2014 NFL draft, likely hoping to forestall his stock drop to a level so low he feared being undrafted entirely, his act was lauded by captured media as socially significant. It might have been more accurately called a self-serving act of leverage. A League that would appear unwelcoming to the first openly gay pro football player, college skill-set aside, might suffer a consumer backlash, so the Suits & Skirts may’ve thunk. Sam gets the call late from a Rams club seeking a re-location vote, then a tryout from affable Jerry Jones who is always looking for new renters (AT&T). The NFL looked open-minded, Sam got his cup o’ Gatorade® and everybody felt a little cheated.

Colin Kaepernick

Sherman recently claimed Kaepernick is being blackballed on his race. But that won’t fly. The NFL’s composition is overwhelmingly African-American. Others claim jingoism is motivating CK’s critics, arising from what appeared an anthem protest on police brutality, suspiciously timed as the former 49er’s starter-string in San Francisco looked to’ve run out. But America was born on protest (Stamp Act 1765). Refusing to stand at attention for the flag ceremony is disfavored but not necessarily offensive to most citizens of these United States. What owners may’ve found abhorrent (Tuesday nite ESPN reports Giants’ owner John Mara likes the Milwaukee-native to suit-up somewhere in the NFL for 2017) were Colin’s racist white pig socks. It doesn’t have to be a forgiveable act but until Kaepernick takes responsibility, even a re-signing won’t make him legitimate.

What if nobody comes calling from the NFL, where does Colin go from there? Oprah? That’d be nice, for him, when he and his co-author get a book done (I don’t know Dick’s writing skills but he does like a by-line (See; SI.com)). And believing in something (faith) is not enough. Wisdom, and no small amount of courage, do both matter. Protest can be passionate, or it can be theater if it lacks heart & soul (truth). And he can forget about autograph shows, they’re pro-diversity and patriotic, but the NBA célébrité will always be welcoming.

John Manziel

Johnny Football: He never did earn that moniker. Jon thought talent was the trick. So did Todd Marinovich, “Robo-QB.” He could matriculate in a typhoon but made drugs his love. Manziel could’ve been the greatest college quarterback in history but made booze his squeeze. We don’t really know anything’s changed at this posting. For a run-QB who never learned to take hits in the pocket, THE pro skill, Johnny Skittles can’t afford to have fun being stupid any longer. Like Colin, Jon never respected the game, or the business. That won’t be tolerated, not by owners, players, coaches, real fans or the almighty Sponsors.

Tim Tebow

It’s curious, Tim may be the only NFL signal-caller to have, in his one near-full campaign under center (2014 Denver), compiled a better than .500 record (7-4), led the most captivating team win-streak in recent memory (6-0), won a road playoff game (@ Pittsburgh) on a GWD touchdown strike, yet, the next season, be ungraciously traded away (Jets) where, for one season, he finished his brief career in a non-QB job as a decoy flanker-back (?). Curious, indeed.

Tebow’s fandom is still vast, kept current with his baseball venture in the Mets minors, one most likely to end in the same fashion to that of his pro football career when (if) on promotion he meets that “wicked” major league curveball, known to derail & dash many a career (See; Bull Durham (88)).

Most scribes never did subscribe to the Book of Timbo, hence, never did promote his cause for return. Bart Simpson just won’t rock to Christian hip-hop. Like all run-QBs, Tim’s skill-set proved limited (47.9 C%). But other wily field generals have too relied heavily on stoking emotional fires to wins & careers, Billy Kilmer comes to mind (1967: 10g, 47.5%, 0-4, 6t-11i (16y)), and Tim, had he been NFL retained, would’ve most likely seen his skill-set progress at least in the manner of fellow flashman CK: Never top tier (Brady / Moon) but a sufficiency to roster. And then nobody put fans in the seats, stadium and home, like Tebow did. The reality for the NFL is that flash-QB, with all his shortcomings (rabbit, RIF-fail), is here to stay, given his popularity in college by great success (titles / Heismans) and facilitator of coach-lite: Just give the Kid the ball and count the wins.

Steven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo Credit: NFL-wikiproject, Ixnay-Beao; C.Kaepernick, wc.cca, 10.27.13, D.Hartwig; M.Sam, wc, ED.Drost, 8.23.14; Starlito-T.Tebow-L.Garrett, wc, 11.1.12; J.Manziel, Kyle-Field, wc, shutterbug459, 10.20.12; J.Marshall, Topps, 1970.
Posted: 8.9.17 @ 12:39a EST, edit 8.10; Copyright © 2017

NFL17 Pre-Play: Cannabis, Chronic Player Pain and a National Conundrum

6 Jul

Mention marijuana (cannabis) to most NFL players and you’re likely to get a positive response, no pun intended.

Classified a Schedule I drug under the federal Controlled Substances Act, based largely on marijuana’s psychoactive cannabinoid, THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) (One of over 100 canabinoids, including the non-mood-altering cannabidiol (CBD) (Got your fill of biology yet?)) and the Act’s belief in that property’s serious risk for abuse, pot’s possession, sale and / or use are still prosecuted as a criminal offense in twenty-three states, nineteen more (42) if it is possessed outside of prescribed, medicinal usage.

Even so, as an agent for pain-management and escapism, cannabis, whether obtained legally or otherwise, appears to be the drug of choice amongst enough of the NFLPA membership to have spurred Dallas Cowboys’ owner and sport celebrity Jerry Jones to advocate for its allowance while speaking at the owner’s meeting in Phoenix last March.

Currently only eight states have decriminalized ganja for market sale, one of those being Cali-for-ni-a (‘99), the most recent, Nevada, and another twenty-one by prescription only. And don’t expect the former number to grow much beyond the single-digit state (no pun) anytime soon.

Even so, gone forever are the days where tokers took their only solace-in-smoke (or weed-eating, i.e., brownies) by way of High Times and the NORMAL newsletter. Business is booming for Hemp, Incorporated.

Yet, here-to-stay is marijuana’s well-earned status as a gateway drug, not just leading to stronger, more addictive varieties like narcotics, opiods, peer poisons in alcohol and cigarettes, but when engaged in youth can quickly open the door to a whole new lifestyle and not necessarily a better one. It’s one that is non-conforming to a fault while draining enthusiasm or ambition to a low level found in your forlorn basset hound. Been there, done it, woof, woof.

That status was bolstered somewhat on recent release by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine’s broadest study as yet conducted on cannabis – cannabinoids and their health effects on humanoids.

In January (1.17) the NA released its 468 page report* compiled from human subject studies for findings on the “health effects of recreational and therapeutic cannabis use” and that of its elemental cannabinoids (THC, CBD, etc.).

With a focus in this write on health issues most pertinent to NFL players and their employers stemming (no pun) from the marijuana issue, there was both good news and bad news to be gleaned from the lengthy report.

The good news is that “there is substantial evidence (p.90)” cannibas can be a beneficial agent in treating chronic pain, a malady concomitant with those who engage athletics over an extended period of years.

The bad news: 1) Marijuana is still a gateway drug; 2) pot can be addictive (“problem cannabis use (333)”), especially as a teen and 3) regular use of cannabis is associated with risks of schizophrenia (“substantial (295)”), bipolar disorder (“moderate (307)”), suicide (“moderate (314)”), memory loss (“moderate evidence of…association between acute cannabis use and impairment in the cognitive domains of learning, memory and attention (275)”), anxiety (“moderate evidence daily cannabis use is associated with increased anxiety (119 / 318)”) and social phobia disorder (“heavy use (120)).”

It’s a mixed bag. The bottom-line: If in chemotherapy (nausea) or afflicted with multiple sclerosis (spasticity), the “conclusive” findings (94 / 103) tilt your risk-benefit balance in favor of marijuana’s use (“oral cannabinoids”) to alleviate suffering, assuming you’ve had your prof’l consult and sorted through the national hodge-podge of legalese. In those more serious, harder to treat medical conditions, cannabis is a proven therapy for relief, and that alone is reason for re-examination of its rather draconian federal categorizing.

But where paid athletes seeking a marijuana solution for chronic pain are subject, a state so common in their bruising professions, whether by smoke or extracts (oral), the risks posed appear too great in the benefit balance, risks arising from uneven permissibility (legality) and, more importantly, from the potential for memory decline, that very same malady central to the ongoing concussion debate that plagues hard-hitting sports like football, hockey and boxing. That’s an irony that hits like Bobby Wagner: Ouch!

And when there exists effective alternatives readily available to pain-sufferers in nutrition supplements (tart cherry & noni juice, magnesium, Co-Q10, curcumin, polyphenolic-antioxidents, Bs, D3, alpha lipoic), diet adjustments ((-) gluten, sugar, cured meats) and NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (ibuprofen, naproxen)), the so-called marijuana answer to pain management, not without its merits, proves too risky to fire-up or wash-down.

Even as the mental health and cognitive findings on pot’s use and “sustained abstinence (275)” were not based on “conclusive” or “substantial” evidentiary finding (Box S-3, “Weight-of-Evidence” standards (p.7)), it’s doubtful additional NA compilations on the polarizing weed, even with gold standard double-blind placebo controlled structures sought, will reveal the opposite to be true, that memory or bipolar – anxiety disorders are improved with its habitual use.

And keep in mind that whenever federal and state governments are at odds over a national issue of legislation, leading to a broad non-uniformity, that status will trigger Commerce and Supremacy clause inquiries and then eventually end up on the Supreme Court’s docket. So don’t vest too heavily yet.

Marijuana is here to stay, legal or illegal, medicinal or diversionary. And like it or not, Charles Barkley, pro athletes are role models to the nation’s youth. Fire up the bong and make it a public issue with lifestyle or league violations and that segment of the population least able to manage the drug properly will have their lives changed forever in health risks and bad habits.

In 2015 the League (Goodell) and NFLPA (Smith) went all namby-pamby in raising, under their collectively bargained drug policy, the level of marijuana required in test to trigger a violation, essentially telling players and the public that using what is still fairly characterized as an illicit drug is A-okay with them, because lots of the using players want it that way, even as its continued use is also fairly characterized as detrimental to their health. So there’s that.

— — —

This writer is not medically-trained (I was, as George Segal’s character “Mr. Kovacs” termed it in The Cable Guy (96), “on the pot” in my late teens, alcohol and smokes included, of course) and did not read the entire 468 page report, instead focusing on those sections most relevant to NFL player concerns. But I wrote with honesty and thoroughness befitting an 1100 word blog. For the lay-person the report is readable, somewhat unclear in spots but overall helpful by informing on a very broad and still yet under-researched subject.

Steven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: marijuana-joint, wc.cca, T.Hansen, 2.23.08; marijuana-costume, SCCE, 10.16.16, wc, G.Skidmore; marijuana-plant, J.Martin, wc, 7.14.15; marijuana-neon, wc, SanFernando-Valley, LA-CA, L.Avocado; NFL-symbol, wikiproject
Posted: 7.6.17 @ 1:03p EST, edit 7.7; Copyright © 2017
*References: National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine: http://nationalacademies.org/hmd/reports/2017/health-effects-of-cannabis-and-cannabinoids.aspx