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NFL17 Cherry Picks W10: It’s Elementary, Watson, Poise’n-In-the-Pocket Is the Cure

9 Nov

It’d be easy for Houston Texans to get gloomy about the Deshaun Watson injury, an ACL tear that occurred in practice after their W9 nail-bitter loss in Seattle.

But it’s not all doom. There is reason for hope.

The fine young field general in-the-making might actually come out the whole, long ordeal a wiser, better quarterback. Really.

The anterior cruciate ligament spans the knee. It’s tear will result from a sudden, hard twist of that joint as the foot is well grounded or caught in the turf. The knee bears weight better than it turns, as this common athletic injury attests.

Things were looking rather promising for the Texans (3-3) and their rookie starter who took to the NFL like a duck to water (61.8%, 19t-8i, 8.3 ypc), fresh off a national championship at Clemson. One complaint: The Gainesville, Georgia native is flash, a run-QB who’s a strong tendency to rabbit under pressure, a habit that carried him to many a football victory from grade school to his Carolina college but won‘t fly for long with the big boys of the pro circuit.

The glass-half-full observer can look to the Arizona Cardinals’ veteran running back Adrian Peterson as example of how a player can recover and return to top form even after an ACL tear, operation and rehabilitation.

Adrian, who, in 2017 began his first NFL season in a color other than purple after signing with Saints, only to be cut after W4, then picked up by Arizona after all-purpose David Johnson went out with a dislocated wrist, suffered his ACL tear in 2014 opener. He was back on the field in 2015, miraculously winning the NFL rushing crown with the 3rd highest season run total in his long career (07).

In 2016 Peterson suffered his 2d ACL tear on the other knee. While it’s still early and Father-Time will someday catch up to All-day, he looks to be fashioning a second miracle comeback in the Sunset State. In three games Adrian has run 74 times for 314y on a 4.2 ypc. Pretty spiffy stuff for a 2-time ACL rehabber.

The glass-half-empty set will cite Peterson’s running style (less lateral plant than run-QB Watson) and the sad case of former aspiring signal-caller Rob Griffin as examples of how the ACL rupture can change things for the worse.

RG3, as he was tagged by the junior media, took the Heisman at Baylor even as he had suffered an ACL tear in his sophomore year and was selected #2 overall in the NFL12 draft. And before DW, Griffin too would take the NFL by storm.

Entering week 14 play against Baltimore, the later-to-be-named ROY and Pro-Bowler, had led the Redskins offense to a 6-6 record. Then it happened, another knee bang. Not a tear this time but a sprain of the LCL that would mark the beginning of the end for Griffin’s professional game. He would sit out W15 but return to action to lead Washington to the Wild Card game but again tear his ACL in the loss to Seattle. There were no more high points for Robert whose last season was with Cleveland in 2016, cut short by a broken shoulder-bone.

Both the Peterson and Griffin cases point to two conclusions: 1) Modern medicine, for those who can afford it, will work wonders in orthopedic injury, and 2) every medical case is somewhat unique in its prognosis, treatment and recovery. Cost is the same, all of it high, but outcomes are hard to predict.

On return to the playing field, Watson will need to make quick adjustments: Changes in his mental approach to the game.

First off, he must ditch the flash form of quarterback play (3-3, 36r – 269y) and learn for the first time in his career, pocket poise, finding the tenacity to take the hits behind-the-line as they come and where he’ll have more means to handle the blows. Why: 1) rabbit will expose his knees to greater risk of injury downfield where funny footing is more likely and defender hits can be more damaging, and 2) poise’n-in-the-pocket will force Deshaun into RIF, ‘reading is fundamental.’ The best field generals in the pro-ranks are read proficient.

Some QBs use their top physical skills in arm strength, accuracy and mobility behind the line to find time to read the defense and find gaps. Others use their fluid-intellect and 20/20 vision to make-up for lesser physical traits. Run-QB is typically weak on defensive vocabulary and in every NFL case so far has failed to make the adjustment. It’s like learning a whole new language as an adult: Very difficult. The best hope: Complete commitment and immersion.

In the long run the poise’n pro-style is the better way of NFL quarterbacking, affording a longer career for the player, happier fans in point totals & wins and then more hardware for everyone involved, MVPs and rings (See; Brady, Big-Ben, Rodgers). And as flash QB will keep dominating in the college ranks on its great success by Heismans, CFP titles and perpetuation of coaching-lite, the disconnect between the pro and amateur QB styles with remain.

But maybe most important of the mental adjustments will be that Deshaun regains his former confidence. This holds true for his coaching staff as well, that they too find confidence again in their former QB. And they must keep in mind that Peterson didn’t have to learn a new language as will their man Watson.

NFL17 Cherry Picks Week 10

Seattle @ Arizona: 11.9 NBC 8:25: Hawks
Packers @ Chicago: 11.12 Fox 1:00: Bears
Los Angeles Bolts @ Jags: CBS 1:00: LA
New Orleans @ Buffalo: Fox 1:00: Saints
NewYorkJets @ Buccaneers: CBS 1:00: TB
Vikings @ Washington: Fox 1:00: Redskins
Cincinnati @ Tennessee: Fox 1:00: Cincy
Cowboys @ Atlanta: Fox 4:25: Falcons
New York @ SanFrancisco: Fox 4:25: NYG
Miami @ Carolina: 11.13 Disney 8:30: Cats

Record: 38 – 27

Steven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: NFL-symbol, wikiproject, 2011; D.Watson, wc.cca, 1.10.16, Atlanta-Falcons; A.Peterson, wc, 1.28.12, Arvee5.0; R.Griffin, wc, L.Boyd, M.Green, USMC – NYC, 4.26.12; cherries, B.Kua, 6.1.08; J.Otto, TCG, 1970
Posted: 11.9.17 @ 3:20pE; Copyright © 2017

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NFL17 Cherry Picks W9: It’s Paradise Found For Gridiron Leg-Men In London Town

4 Nov

NFL London Games is proving a Paradise for those players rostered to leg the ball, whether it be field-goals, kickoffs or punting the pigskin (cowhide) to opponents in an act of sportsmanship on their own failure to fashion a score.

That last bit is on slim chance a reader new to North American football (China, GreatBritain, Mexico, etc.), just happens to read my post and could use a little insight into just exactly how the gridiron game works and why (I’m still cricket-challenged). And that’s a chance slimmer than the one the Cleveland Browns presently hold (0-8) for winning the 2018 Lamar Hunt trophy (+ SB52 ticket to Minneapolis 2.2.17). But you do what you can.

In this age of massive passing stats, still highly-valued run-games (See; Ezekiel Elliott), sieve-like defense (prevent) and corresponding scoreboard tilt, kickers in football have generally been treated by most fans as chopped liver: Not a salivator but good for the mind and body.

One man’s punter whipping-boy can be another’s perfect athlete. That’s the case for NFL kickers when they sail off USA shore to the other side of the pond.

Here’s what the Browns injury-sidelined, perennial All-Pro tackle Joe Thomas had to say in observation of the Twickenham Stadium crowd while in attendance of last Sunday’s Pond East contest (and loss) against the Vikings, with Wembley Stadium serving as the other NFL London venue:

“The English sure seem to enjoy the kicking plays, the biggest applause seem to be these punts (USAToday – sports, 10.30.17 (@ JoeThomas73 on Twitter))!”

In actuality, this would be more of a return to paradise than a first find, as the kicking game was, in football’s early years, one of its most valued aspects.

Names like Pat O’Dea (UW 1898-99 (CFHOF 62)) and Jim Thorpe (Carlisle 1910-12 (CFHOF 51)) made national headlines with their famous footwork, long before Walter Camp turned the forward pass into a gridiron strategy staple.

The English (rugby) and the Mexican (fútbol – soccor) can teach us Yankees a new perspective, a broader appreciation for all the aspects of our own game. Because as every NFL fan knows, the kicking game, with all its memorable moments both good and bad can, when you least expect it, prove decisive.

And that’s the way we want to keep it. ¡Sí cómo no!

NFL17 Cherry Picks W9

Cincy @ Jaguars: 11.5 CBS 1:00: Jackson
LosAngeles @ NewYork: Fox 1:00: Giants
Atlanta @ Carolina: Fox 1:00: F-Birds
Baltimore @ Tennessee: CBS 1:00: Ravens
Arizona @ SanFrancisco: Fox 4:05: 49ers
KansasCity @ Cowboys: CBS 4:25: Dallas
Raiders @ Dolphins: NBC 8:30: Oakland
Detroit @ Packers: 11.6 Disney 8:30: Lions

Record: 34 – 23

Steven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: NFL-symbol, wikiproject, 2011; mini-skirted-legs, wc.cca, S/E-England, 1972, IXIA; J.Thomas, D.Whitner, E.Drost, 4.14.15, wc; Cherries-ripe, wc, 6.24.07, Chirak; mini-skirted-lady, wc, 8.5.70, PiccadillyCircus, JaneArt
Posted: 11.3.17 @ 11:29pE; Copyright © 2017

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

24 Oct

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

— — —

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

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

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

— — —

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— — —

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

Both clubs are spirited and driven by sense of community.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

21 Oct

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

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

— — —

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

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

— — —

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— — —

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

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

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

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

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

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

— — —

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

But “the times they are a-changin.’”

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

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

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

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

NFL Cherry Picks Week 7

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

Record: 22 – 15

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

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

21 Apr

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

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

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

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

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

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

— — —

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

17 Apr

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

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

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

— — —

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— — —

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

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

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

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

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

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

NFL17 – Las Vegas: Think Symbolism Is For Suckers? Try Sitting Out Francis Scott Key

6 Apr

Las Vegas Raiders: It has a certain NFL ring to it, no pun, even as I’m not a fan of the relocation. But “a rose is a rose,” i.e., it is what it is, in pragmatic speak.

The Raiders name is not what I would envision for the League’s newest member of metropoli (2019), a family of locales where, once you’re in it’s not hard to get out (Oakland, San Diego, St. Louis), i.e., no knuckle-crushing or horse-head sheets. Though, Davis-the-Younger will no doubt take heed of Tom’s warning, “you can’t go home again,” not to set things right, anyway.

That’s not because the silver & black pirate-guy image is not a terrific motif. Arguably, it’s the NFL’s best. I’ve got a hat and cherish it. And its slogan from the mind of AFL original and their legendary owner Al Davis (d.2011), ‘just win baby,’ flows from the lips like wine on a Spanish galleon.

But when a city (LV) – State (NV) contract to commit $1.5 billion (+) to build a new home in cement & girders, coupled with the fact that those parties-of-the-first-part are landlocked (not oceanside), they’ve every right…no, they’ve every obligation to nix half-measures, start anew and wave their own design.

I like the Nevada Sunsets or Las Vegas Buffets (seriously) as new name possibilities, but if the Raiders name remains, which it probably will, the slogan and uniforms will need some detail work: ‘Just roll baby’ and gold ($) trim to create a sense of both separation and remembrance of their California roots.

— — —

Back to the decision to relocate, a move marking the ramblin’ Raiders third attempt to find a permanent home (‘82-94 LA).

I’m no curmudgeon. I like football.

I like city- states that’ll fork over the ducats to get it done (new stadium).

And I like games of chance in their proper place, person and time. But this is neither the place nor the time to set-up shop in the gambling capital of the Milky Way galaxy, outer rim, notwithstanding.

NFL Cufflinks collected in Phoenix the last weekend in March and voted on Monday 31-1 (Mia) to give go-ahead to majority holder Mark Davis to move his father’s silver & black baby from Oakland 400 miles southeast to Sin City.

Vegas’ detractors in its smaller TV market (#40 +/-) (Bay area #5 +/-), and a more transient, tourist-based economy were obviously out-weighed by its biggest asset in that the citizenry of Nevada are willing to foot a little over one-third the $2 billion bill expected for a new stadium planned to open for play in 2020.

But sport + gambling (≠ success) = $#8%?@!! (big trouble).

Does an NFL presence in Las Vegas (NHL’s Golden Knights (there’s a bold name) begin play in 2017) necessarily mean team personnel will be rubbing shoulders with corrupt elements, those who’d solicit game-change (fix)? No, it does not.

The morality of individual or corporate greed aside, Vegas’ strip is no longer gangster-operated as it was in the heyday of heavies (1950 – 70s) as depicted so colorfully (gulp) in the Martin Scorsese crime-drama, Casino (95).

It’s now quite the opposite as Sin City is one of American’s favorite destinations for family fun, food and wholesome frolic.

As for betting, practically anyone, anywhere with internet capability can make a wager in 2017. Knowing a bookie, or as “Jim Rockford” would’ve quipped, “those short little guys in their green cigars,” is no more necessary than dressing up for the game in fedora and dress-jacket (See; 50s photos).

And that, while gambler age seems of little concern to sport moguls or Americans in general as all the Majors have been soliciting investments from children by way of fantasy for a decade now yet raising not a peep from politicos nor socialites.

It’s one thing to bombard kids with shoe and team apparel advertisements where the buyer gets something concrete in return, but the fantasy gamble offers no such quid pro quo, only speculation as if it were Romper Room roulette.

The goings-on in Las Vegas is not so much the problem with it housing a major pro sport team, but rather, the symbolism of what used to go-on (bone-break / life-savings lost) and still does in the Neon City (gambling galore).

‘What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas’ may apply to a whole slew of sultry affairs in Sin Central but not when it comes to symbolism.

The city’s wagering reputation, even as fun-parks fill-up daily with families working to scrub that image clean, will remain the same were the Girl & Boy Scouts, Policeman’s Benevolent Society and Sisters of Notre Dame to all relocate their headquarters to Nevada’s most populous city.

That means the message will remain the same with a Vegas major: ‘Gambling is good for everyone in the NFL fan family, its partners in business and pink-wear (ACS),’ where the gamble cancer-patients and families fretfully undertake every-day is the costliest of all and was the real message behind early Breaking Bad.

While I’m confident the vast majority of Nevada citizenry are as hard-working (or lazy) as anywhere else in America and probably have little or no connection to the gamble, that’s not what the public nor players will see.

Some jocks might use Vegas venue as excuse to cross the line (‘Hey, the Big Boys (NFL) are rolling in it, takin’ chances, why not me?’). Why not indeed? It’s a crossover that, if it did happen and were detected today by League watch-dogs would likely not be broadcast in the news as it was in 1919-20 (Black Sox).

Can’t mess with the golden goose, right? Right. And athletes don’t need another reason to cheat themselves and the fans (See; PEDs).

Think of former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, aka, Kaep Krusader, and ask yourself if symbolism doesn’t matter.

Kaepernick was never gonna’ be an elite QB, not with his red-zone blues, a habit of coming up empty on the goal-line late in the big game (SB47 – NFCC14). It was a run-QB skill-set that would keep him in the back-up or temporary starter’s role. Once that status became clear in 2016, the Anthem kneel-down began as he threw caution to the wind which became his best completion percentage (ugh).

But Kaepernick’s matured in the pocket, less likey to rabbit and improved TD ratio (v. INT) which should’ve made him an ideal clip-boarder to have rostered if a starter goes down. But no such luck for him, not at this posting.

Clearly, it’s not CK’s limited skill-set that has him waiting on the phone call. Had he caught one more break and put it in the end-zone to win SB47 (+ power-outage), he’d be sporting one of those god-awful-looking champion rings.

And it’s not his National anthem stance, or sit, in protest of what he claims a brutal American police policy. These United States were born in protest (1776-83) and can appreciate, or at least stomach, a sincere objection.

Instead, it’s Kaepernick’s racist pig socks that depicted only white (pink) police that he sported as he hit stride on his shtick, which has him persona non grata and unemployed apart from Beats By Dre, etcetera. And that’s not owner collusion, that’s fighting the good fight against ignorance and hatred.

Symbolism matters. Money matters, too.

But when you make a pact to be the gambling Mecca to every creature with coin or credit (‘Take me to your (ATM)’), a social contract Las Vegan elders freely entered, you forfeit the moral right to house a major professional sporting enterprise, meaning, all bets are off, or on, or whatever the bad one is.

The National Football League, who, ironically, have been successfully fighting a legal battle against the sport-betting biz, it’s sponsors and current Vegas elders are all in breach, non-actionable as that state will remain.

Steven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: R.Goodell, NFL, wc.cca, 8.30.12, SSG.T.Wade, USMA; LasVegas-sign, wc, 4.19.05, D.Vasquez; dice-Antonio, wc, JGuzzMaan, 6.24.16; C.Kaepernick, wc, M.Morbeck, 9.9.12; NFL-wikiproject
Posted: 4.6.17 @ 12:28am EST, edit 4.10; Copyright © 2017