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NFL17 Cherry Picks W17: Like Unique Gifts & Good Men, A Franchise QB Is ‘Hard to Find’

27 Dec

Ever wonder why a quarterback’s never been drafted U.S. President?

They’re popular enough, the well-decorated variety, anyway.

Most signal-callers possess a pretty good leadership ability. Most of ‘em, not all (See; JohnnyManziel and ColinKaepernick).

Nearly all of ’em can audiblize at the line, i.e. think on their feet. That would prove helpful with the testy press-corps.

I don’t know how ‘threading-the-needle’ would help as Chief Executive but you’ve gotta’ figure it would have to come in handy somewhere.

There’ve been a few close calls.

There was Jack Kemp, former championship Buffalo Bills’ QB (64-65 AFL) and 1996 VP candidate on the Bob Dole ticket.

President John Kennedy and clan were known to engage in a spontaneous touch football before and during his White House tenure (1961-63).

Ronald Reagan, 40th US President, portrayed an early-era quarterback, known then as a single-wing tailback, as the legendary George Gipp in the 1940 bio-pic, Knute Rockne All-American, co-starring Milwaukee native Pat O’Brien as the equally tragic and successful Notre Dame head coach.

But never has there been an ex-college or professional gridiron field-general to call signals from the Oval Office on Pennyslvania Avenue.

It’s true, the game itself has only been around less than half as long as the nation (1776), and then highly-prized less than one quarter of that time (1910 >).

With the popularity QBs enjoy throughout North America (+ CFL) and World NFL (London / Mexico), a starship lift-off in junior high and on up to the pros, a cheer resonating louder than that heard by most politicians and even war-heroes (post-WW2), you’d think a gridiorn field-general would’ve connected for an Electoral College touchdown at some point these past 100 or so years.

You’d think.

But I suppose when you endure enough heavy hits in the pocket, for those QBs with poise, you’d be kinda’ crazy to venture forth into the pressure-packed position of President to suffer even more “slings and arrows.”

Be that as it may, ever since MickeyMantle, BillRussell, CassiusClay and BobbyOrr retired, the quarterback has reigned supreme in much of NorthAmerica’s non-soccer sports world. There’s no doubt on that point.

Which all leads to this troubling observation on an unsettling state of affairs in World NFL: We’re running out of professional grade quarterbacks, making it even less likely one will ever man, or woman, the Oval Office.

TomBrady, BigBen and DrewBrees won’t play forever, even as they’ve been giving good imitations of such capability in their long and illustrious careers.

Flash-QB’s the culprit, and the collegiate coach-lite mentality that leans heavy on the modern-day single-wing tailback. As long as the RIF-challenged signal-caller keeps running and winning Heismans & NCAA championships (Young, Tebow, Manziel, Newton, Winston, Watson), the pro-prepped, poise-under-pressure pocket passer (PPPUPPP) will be a rare NFL commodity.

And the social sins of greed and arrogance are only making the matter worse.

The Elway Effect: John, on fatherly advice, refused to report to Baltimore after the Colts made him the first selection in the 1983 NFL draft. UCLA’s Josh Rosen seems to be following the same gameplan. Maybe good for him, not for football and its fans.

So where does that leave the Cleveland Browns and Chicago Bears of the National, teams that seem to forever be trying to fill their field-general void?

The quick answer, based on our obsession with guys under center who must lead their offense that scores-at-will in what’s come to be known as a quarterback league, is a revolving-door of QB experimentation. Pick the best one available and hope your coordinators can inspire bravery in the pocket and hobble his rabbit habit.

Better answer: Defense. Build a 60-minute crew that can tackle, front to back, and then settle for a capable signal-caller who won’t be expected to carry the offense but merely protect the ball and execute the game plan with a certain courage and savvy. Simple, eh? Oy vey.

Cherry Picks Week 17

Packers @ Detroit: 12.31 Fox 1:00: Lions
Texans @ Indianapolis: CBS 1:00: Texans
Redskins @ NewYork: Fox 1:00: Giants
Cowboys @ Philadelphia: Fox 1:00: Dallas
Jacksonville @ Titans: CBS 4:25: Jaguars
Buffalo @ Dolphins: CBS 4:25: Miami
Raiders @ LosAngeles: CBS 4:25: Oakland
Cardinals @ Seattle: Fox 4:25: Seahawks
SanFrancisco @ LosAngeles: Fox 4:25: LAR
Panthers @ Atlanta: Fox 4:25: Falcons
Kansas City @ Broncos: CBS 4:25: Chiefs
New Orleans @ Buccaneers: Fox 4:25: Saints

Record: 71 – 52 (Won’t include W16 MIN @ GB)

StevenKeys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: NFL-symbol, wikiproject, 2011; J.Garoppolo, wc.cca, CaseyMcNeil, 12.17.17; C.Wentz, 9.10.17, K.Allison, wc, Hanover-MD; Cherries-cloth, 2011, picdrome, wc; JimMarshall, ToppsChewingGum, 1970
Posted: 12.27.17 @ 3:47pE; Copyright © 2017

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NFL17 Cherry Picks W16: Gurley’s the Guy But Houseman MVP Meter Says It’s Brady’s To Lose

19 Dec

He’s been the most valuable player on the League’s best team in NFL 2017 and in the running for the AP – MVP award nearly every year since he first laced ‘em up in 2000. The man is quarterback Tom Brady of the New England Patriots.

— — —

No NFL’er has made a bold, season-long claim to the Associated Press’ coveted MVP award in this 2017 regular campaign but it’s always just arm’s reach away for that Q/RB who can, down the stretch, grab for the gusto and hold on tight.

TB’s the reigning Super champion quarterback and 2-time winner of the prized piece of personal hardware which today is probably a chunk o’ glass or some kinda’ metallic disaster? And while he’s not having his best statistical season in this his 17th (14g / 11-3: 67C%, 4163y, 28t-7i, 8.1ypa, 2gwd) it’s good enough to put him atop the MVP perch as this regular season enters its stretch run on just two games remaining before the playoffs burst upon the sporting scene.

Tom is no lock for the AP swag.

Brady’s big hurdle each season to take the big hardware is not stats nor W-L but that a GQ gestalt and sustained success breed resentment among the more namby-pamby votership. The San Mateo native hasn’t been in ten straight championship games like Otto Graham but his name has been bantered about for MVP in 15 of his 17 runs (+ 7 Supers). Awesome? Sure. More like epical.

Other names that make my short list of 2017 dark-horse candidates:

Coming as no surprise, it’s a ball-carrier in Rams 2nd-year man, Todd Gurley (14g / 10-4: 1187y, 17td (13r – 4c), 4.6ypc, 54c – 630y, 5fm) who poses the biggest challenge at W16 and may run off with the award if Tom trips-up.

If T&T both stumble, next on the trophy totem pole would be that contender-team QB in a group of four (4) that includes the Chiefs veteran Alex Smith (14g: 67.8C%, 3738y, 25-5, 8.0ypa, 3gwd, 34sk), the Lions’ Matthew Stafford (14g / 66C%, 3920y, 25-9, 7.8, 4gwd, 43sk), Rams’ Jared Goff and the Saints Drew Brees, who decides to separate himself from the rest of the passer pack.

As to Ben Roethlisberger, the Steelers destined-for-Cantonization QB, had he converted 10 of his 14 interceptions into TDs (26), the Big guy’d be right up there on the perch of possibility with the Terrific guy (Tom).

And keep in mind that an MVP trophy is minted in offensive metal, meaning, run-backs and QBs are traditionally the target talents for receipt with the one, rare kicker selection in Washington’s Mark Moseley (82), such requiring an exceptional season performance in a field fairly thin of competitors. No man from the trenches yet (lineman). That’s gotta’ be some kind of sin, eh?

Be that as it may, if you don’t have a defender in the matterful mix, those men on the side of the field that proves oh-so important in crunch time when most stoppers and their headsetted mentors seem to come apart at the seams and ‘prevent’ NOBODY from scoring, then you can‘t consider yourself very well-informed and more importantly, a real football fan.

At this posting, 2017’s top-dogs of tackle are Zach Brown of the Washington Redskins, Blake Martinez of the Green Bay Packers and like sophomore Joe Schobert of the 0-14 Cleveland Browns, all who tally 127 total takedowns with the latter two tipping scales on pass-D and forced-fumble categories (Joe‘s 4th-year co-worker in Christian Kirksey has 124 total and 2 FFs, making one think Brownies should build on D-side first). Were any of the three to take trophy, they’d become only the 3rd defender to do so. Stoppers, like kickers & receivers, rarely get fair consideration from AP’ers, only the greatest in Alan Page (71) and Lawrence Taylor (86) having been tabbed for MVP immortality.

— — —

The biggest personal prize in professional football this side of the 49th parallel (CFL) is about momentum, early and on-going.

With two more games remaining in this NFL season, two more chances for players with MVP aspirations to prove their worth in the eyes of the AP, the obscure but finely calibrated John Houseman MVP Meter is pointing to Tom Brady as the most valuable and deserving player for the coveted prize, an awarding that would be the future Hall-of-Famer‘s third capture.

Be aware, this meter gauges the player who most deserves to MVP, not the man who ultimately receives the most AP votes. Sometimes casters are wrong.

Wondering what is the Houseman MVP Meter?

Houseman (b.1902 Bucharest – 1988) was a producer of theater (Federal / Mercury) and then films who later in life became an actor of note in supporting roles in such movies as ThePaperChase (73 Oscar®), ThreeDaysOfTheCondor and the classic sporting flick, Rollerball (75). But he may be best remembered for his SmithBarney TV ads uttering in his distinctive high-hat voice, “They earn money the old-fashioned way, they eaaaaaarn it.”

— — —

In spooning through the simmering statistical soup of NFL 2017 in search of the most serious of AP – MVP candidates, I came across these curiosities:

1) Surfing for the single-season record for most player tackles in an NFL season, a stat not kept until more recent times (90s) and still escaping me, I discovered this unrelated yet grand mark: Cleveland’s great QB, Otto Graham, competed in TEN straight pro title games (AAFC / NFL). Struggle as today’s Brownies do, there was a time in the 50s when the Forest City bunch, guided by coaching genius Paul Brown, and their nemesis the Lions, were both football elite.

2) Cowboys’ running back Alfred Morris is having a fine comeback year. Filling in for the suspended Ezekiel Elliott, the former Redskins All-Pro who until recently appeared to be washed-up and ready to wash-out of the game, has carried the pigskin 113 times for 546 yards for a spiffy 4.8 rushing average.

3) As impressive as Carson Wentz’ numbers were up to his season-ending ACL injury in Week 14 (@ LAR), the Eagles 2nd-year QB will not be an MVP candidate for 2017. Like Brady in 2016 who too missed one-quarter of the season, his absence on the front end, Carson’s 4g lost takes him out of consideration. Same holds true for the Steelers Antonio Brown, the top wide-receiver pick unitl he too went out on injury last Sunday.

Cherry Picks Week 16: Bad Blood

Minnestoa @ GB: 12.23 NBC 8:30: Pack
Detroit @ Bengals: 12.24 Fox 1:00: Cincy
Dolphins @ KansasCity: CBS 1:00: Chiefs
Cleveland @ Chicago: CBS 1:00: Bears
Falcons @ NewOrleans: Fox 1:00: Saints
Denver @ Washington: CBS 1:00: Redskins
LARams @ Tennessee: Fox 1:00: Titans
LAChargers @ NewYorkJets: CBS 1:00: LAC
Jacksonville @ SanFran: CBS 4:05: Jaguars
Seahawks @ Cowboys: Fox 4:25: Seattle
NewYorkGiants @ Arizona: Fox 4:25: AZ
Raiders @ Philly: 12.25 Disney 8:30: Eagles

Record: 62 – 50

StevenKeys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: NFL-symbol, wikiproject, 200; T.Brady, wc.cca, A.Campbell, 9.14.14; G.Spralding, A.Smith, USAF, SAFMH-Denver, wc, 11.26.16; N.Bradham, Z.Brown, wc, 9.10.17, Hanover-MD, K.Allison; J.Houseman, A.Light, 5-1979, NFS-LA; cherries, Hispalois, 7.2.12, wc, Careres-Spain; J.Otto, 1970, ToppsChewingGum
Posted: 12.19.17 @ 3:22pE; Copyright © 2017

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

15 Dec

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Favorite Things

♫ Mix and a-mingle in the jingling feet ♫

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

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

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

NFL team colors: MinnesotaVikings

NFL team logo: WashingtonRedskins

NFL venue: SoldierField, ChicagoBears (1924)

NCAA team logo: Longhorns, University of Texas-Austin

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

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

♫ Chestnuts roasting on an open fire ♫

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

♫ Tiny tots with eyes all a-glow ♫

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

♫ Thumpety thump-thump, thumpety thump-thump ♫

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

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

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

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

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

Imitation: Carrie – KingOfQueens: SantaBaby & MarshmallowWorld

Swing: TheLittleDrummerBoy, CountBasieOrchestra, Davis

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

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

Instrumental: VinceGuaraldiTrio, A Charlie Brown Christmas (65)

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

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

Christmas toy: TudorElectricFootball

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

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

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

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

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

Holiday supplement: Boswellia (frankenincense)

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

NFL Cherry Picks Week 15

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

Record: 57 – 45

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

NFL17 Cherry Picks W8: An 18-Year Feast But Still No Bliss Point For Brady Fans

28 Oct

It may now be that time for Tom Brady, after eighteen seasons of uninterrupted stellar quarterback play, to get tagged with that special moniker, the one that naturally bestows upon a fabulous personality or field general: King.

It’s a funny thing, though, typically, the royal moniker will associate with a guy who you wouldn’t normally expect could carry off the titanesque title.

There was King Donovan, the spouse of Imogene Coca and a 1950s character actor best known for his supporting role to lead Kevin McCarthy in the great science fiction, anti-Communist thriller, Invasion of the Body Snatchers (56).

There was “King Football,” 1940s-50s Hollywood heart-throb, Victor Mature. It‘s the nickname Vic‘s character “Pete Wilson” was bestowed in the 1949 film Easy Living when he played star tailback (QB) for the fictional pro team “Chicago Chiefs” but is then afflicted with a heart ailment, threatening his career and marriage to gold-digger wife, the lovely & leggy, Lizabeth Scott.

There was the original sporting King (James) Brady, an Elmer, New Jersey native who pitched in brief stints with four MLB clubs in the early 20th century (3-2 / 3.08), a stretch that included one start with the Boston Red Sox in 1908, going the distance on an 8-hit shutout. That’s pretty spiffy stuff.

And there was, if not the most famous, surely the most curious of all monarchical entertainers, King (James) Corcoran, another Jerseyite and legendary signal-caller known as the “poor man’s Joe Namath.” Not too shabby.

A University of Maryland Terrapin, KC bounced around the semi-pro circuit for good part of a decade (Waterbury Orbits 1967 >), finishing his run in the short-lived NFL rival operation, the World Football League for the Philadelphia Bell (1974-75), leading the League in TDs (31) and in 1982 being inducted into the American Football Association Semi-Pro Football Hall of Fame.

So notorious was King Corcoran as a self-promoting ladies man that his character was the basis for an episode of The Rockford Files entitled, “The No-Cut Contract (76)” and portrayed as “Larry ‘King’ Sturtevant” by then All In The Family co-star, future director and son of classic comedian, Carl Reiner, his son, Rob. And the son pulled it off, with “caps.”

Like Rob, and Roy…Rogers, “King of the cowboys,” Tom could pull it off, too.

Brady’s personal and team achievements are too many to list without boring the bejeebers out of the reader. Suffice to say, leading his career-long team, the New England Patriots, to seven Lamar Hunt (AFCC) and five Vince Lombardi trophies (SB), including last season’s memorable come-from-behind win over the Atlanta Falcons, leads that long list of accomplishments.

But deserved as he is, I’m not so sure Tom’d want the royal tag.

Never self-promoting or boisterous, apart from those occasional on-field outbursts of team spirit, Tom is a leader by example who leaves the swagger to those so inclined, winners and losers. It’s a style in league with the League’s greatest, from Sammy Baugh to Bart Starr to Brett Favre.

This season, New England surprised by stumbling out of the starting blocks, losing at home in W1 to the Chiefs (27-42). They’ve righted the ship, going 5-1 since then and hope to bump it to six wins (v Bolts) before their bye in W9.

Tom himself has been, take a guess, ter-RI-fico (66.4 C%, 15t-2i, 8.4 yppa).

In the Pats two loses, their offense averaged 28.5 per contest. Not too shabby as shabby usually goes in this League, one whose Thursday nite event was dominated in media by a god damn cat running onto the field.

TNF, it’s gotta’ go already, geez, Louise.

Brady’s top five attributes: 1) Pocket presence (smarts & wherewithal to hang in the pocket and take the hits necessary to read D); 2) Judgment capability (low INTs); 3) Top talent (thread the needle); 4) Thick-skin (the tenacity to throw-off loss and rebound), and 5) What neurologists call a fluid intellect. Presented with a new circumstance, Tom can figure it out and quickly. Belichick helps.

NFL Cherry Picks Week 8

MIN @ CLE (L): 10.29 NFLN 9:30: Vikings
Atlanta @ NewYorkJets: Fox 1:00: Falcons
Carolina @ Buccaneers: Fox 1:00: TampaBay
Chicago @ NewOrleans: Fox 1:00: Saints
Oakland @ Buffalo Bills: CBS 1:00: Raiders
Indianapolis @ Cincinnati: CBS 1:00: Bengals
Houston @ Seahawks: CBS 4:05: Seattle
Cowboys @ DC Redskins: Fox 4:25: Dallas
Pittsburgh @ DetroitLions: NBC 8:30: Steelers

Record: 27 – 21

Steven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo Credit: NFL-symbol, wikiproject, 2011; TomBrady, wc.cca, 9.14.14, A.Campbell; T.Brady, wc.cca, KeithAllison, WashingtonDC, 8.28.09; BartStarr, wc.cca, 1967?; cherries-cloth, picdrome, wc.cca, 2011; JimMarshall, TCG, 1970
Posted: 10.27.17 @ 10:32pE, edit 10.28; Copyright © 2017

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

24 Oct

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

— — —

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

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

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

— — —

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— — —

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

Both clubs are spirited and driven by sense of community.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NFL17 Cherry Picks 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

ESPN17: Start Bailing ‘Little Buddy,’ This Skipper Can’t Steer a Ship Either

4 May

ESPN president and Disney Suit John Skipper would never be confused on sight with Alan Hale’s seafaring TV character of the 1960s shipwreck comedy, Gilligan’s Island (’64-67 CBS). Now “Thurston Howell III,” Jim Backus’ sarcastic and always well-attired millionaire on the high-traffic but officially deserted key, he might bear a slightly better resemblance, at least in trappings.

Hale Jr. (“Skipper”), the son and near image of his famous actor father (mother was silent star Gretchen Hartman) and namesake who teamed with many greats including Errol Flynn in The Adventures of Robin Hood (38) (“Little John”), played the perpetually frustrated captain with the half-dozen castaways and bore little physical likeness to the contemporary Cufflink and Columbia graduate.

But were you to compare the two on their judgment and disposition of respective charges (“S.S. Minnow” v. ESPN), “Mr. Howell” might very well say this of both leaders: ‘Now I say, Lovie, there are two men cut from the same cloth…burlap!’

Disney ≠ sports

Last week the Disney (ESPN) sports network made the real news page when they announced the firing of 100 or so employees, some of long standing like NFL reporter / insider, Ed Werder and anchor Jay Crawford.

You want details on the pink-slip parade? You’ll have to peruse the net yourself. I can’t afford the megabytes, not with usage rates soaring skyward (oy vey).

Suffice to write, if these terminations are consistent with the industry approach in recent years, most of the pinkees were male, white, older (35+) and performed their jobs with overall skill and dedication, i.e., too many college degrees for too few jobs and with too many niche markets to meet.

Do we care about the cut-down, even as sport fans? Hmmm, not really. Aside from the smidgen of camaraderie I feel for the majority in that I too am male, white, degreed and older, those fired should’ve seen this coming years ago and prepared accordingly with resume updates in phone #s and references.

This mass, forced exodus may be just one more phase in a pattern of ill-advised changes that’ve been steadily implemented since Skipper took to steering content calls in 2005. Though, in the case of fired NFL analyst Trent Dilfer, the former QB had not been the same since he seems to’ve taken that bad (saboteur-ish (?)) advice from “Kenny Mitchell” on the set to develop an edge (See; Rob Parker).

What the downsize does do is provide a sounding-board for this former Disney devotee to vent views on likely motivations behind the on-going chintzy changes being wrought by Skipper & Co. to the network’s motif & mission, and then the big markers along this sad journey that have turned what had been a sport fan dreamland (1979 – 2010) into a nightmare that seems to have no good end.

♫ Those Were The Days My Friend ♫

I was a regular of ESPN’s early entrée in the 1980s. I think those like me had grown up on ABC Wide World of Sport and figured this was the next best step.

Diversity in race, gender and games was absent in the anchorage and content in this Mercury stage of cable media, so to speak. But by Apollo phase (85 >) pay-load in variety had launched, hit pay-dirt ($) and has been in orbit ever since.

Bottom-line: Everybody was welcome. Male or female, black or white, young or old, USA-born or foreign, most viewers had a common thread running through their collective letter jacket: A sincere love of sport. We didn’t care if you were a purple octopus from Venus reading the copy, if you knew your stuff, we could tell and we watched. And if you didn’t, we could spot that too. But those fakes never showed up on the Sportscenter back then or were awful terrific actors.

If a fan of the American majors (MLB, NFL, etc.) and highlights, you were in clover. Sport news served piping hot, before poker (Zzzz), college aid (ESPNU), morning fashion plate, kid content (X Games), music promos, Sportscenter specialty segments and all those boorish talking heads. Had the foreign sporting fare been served up (soccer (fútbol), rugby, béisbol – 野球 – 야구), their fans too would be waxing sentimental and grinding their teeth over ESPN’s devolution.

And there was always the ticker at the bottom of the screen as your fall-back to get scores, sans the endless sabrmetric snooze for today‘s fantasy gambler.

For $12 a month, basic cable gave you a whole new world of information, not as broadly capable as the internet but less pricey and totally cool.

For news you got locals, networks and CNN Headline 24-7 with neutral anchors who just read the copy. For sport you got TBS (Braves), WGN (Cubs), USA network and Bristol-based ESPN: Also 24-7 with anchors in standard-issue blazers. Then came the acquisitions by ABC (‘84), Capital Cities Communications (‘85) and in 1996 the game-changer in The Walt Disney Company.

The anchor personalities were memorable (Tom Mees (d.1996) and Charley Steiner come to mind), all clear, often clever without being cute. There wasn’t a clunker among ‘em. The savvy Linda Cohn and Bob Ley are the two remaining but most moved on to greener pastures ($) only to fall off the map, so to speak.

And now it’s all gone, gone with the wind in Turner vernacular.

Youthenization

In the 90s began the serious expansion and then dilution of the ESPN product.

First came ESPN Radio (‘92), ESPN2 (93), ESPY nite (Only SAG name is worse) and then the X Games (95), the start of a youthenization that’s swept the TV dial (Expect a “Harry Potter” marathon on TCM in the not too distant future) and all consumerland (See; Honda Civic). All reasonable enough ventures but started a process of change that’s become OCD with the Suits & Skirts in charge.

With Disney’s stewardship an arrogant air began to permeate the place. Contra-indicated, given the history of Walt‘s baby, but this wasn‘t your father’s Disney.

Media high-hats arrived like Tony Kornheiser, Stephen Smith, Skip Bayless, most on the Sports Reporters not named Dick Shaap or John Saunders, radio Colin Cowherd, onliner Bill Simmons, host Trey Wingo and former jocks in Marcellus Wiley, Tedy Bruschi and Mark Schlereth, all displaying to differing degrees, that boyish bravado to stoke confrontation and then have come to define the new ESPN gestalt: Edgy and most often annoying as hell, for sport fans, anyway.

Once at the content wheel, John put his Disney-sized staple-remover to work.

Out went trusty ESPN News (b.96), bread & butter for the sport junkie.

SportsCentury, the hour-long documentaries hosted by Chris Fowler, before he took residence in the weight room, that did more for sport and history than anything Ken Burns ever did (or likely will), was given the boot in 2007.

Pulled from premium, mid-level satellite – cable package was ESPN Classic where light-hearted (Cheap Seats) and thought-provoking diversions (Woody’s World), made with equal parts of insight and comedy, were showcased.

And due to the network coined ‘instant classic’ phrase, any game, even from the nite before, qualified as vintage, meaning, Howe v. Hull, Lasorda v. Herzog, Bird v. Magic, Marino v. Kelly, were permanently shelved as pre-historic.

Then came the clearest sign that Disney no longer had any interest whatsoever in keeping up the pretense that their ESPN property was a sports network.

Even as 1st and 10 had became the most highly anticipated daily sport debate in all of American media (2003-11), sometimes as a segment (Cold Pizza / First Take (AM gab-fest format)), later stand-alone but always diverse, Skipper pulled the plug and replaced it with a niche-market sabrmetric / diversity combo show called Numbers Never Lie, then His & Hers. Perfect.

I don’t watch much Disney (ESPN) anymore. I’d suspect not many sport fans do (unless an engineer or heart surgeon, “numbers (can) lie” plenty). Why go where you’re not welcome, especially when the time allotted for real sport news is thinner than the newest female anchor?

Who’s likely to watch the “leader” in sport coverage nowadays?

1) College females and family with a connection to Title IX;
2) College males and young brothers with fantasy play lineups;
3) Foreign-born citizens and residents (ESPN Deportes 2004);
3) NBA followers; and
4) NFL fans who have by August developed a ravenous appetite for anything football. The exits of the too comfortable Tom Jackson – Chris Berman can only fuel the hunger to feast whatever‘s put onto the plate.

Cohn spoke recently about the firings, stating that she believes “politics” played a role in the employee upheaval. That’s very likely but something long standing, more deeply engrained in the Disney dynamic is really at its root.

Youthful whimsy in cartoon defined the Disney company Walt and his brother Roy began in 1923 Los Angeles. That core purpose in selling to children and adult sentimentalities to that end has remained the focus in today’s diversified media and entertainment giant. Modern empire-builders, the Disneys understood the emerging, malleable market that were Amercia’s youth (plus their giving parents) and designed a template for success that worked as a sort of incubator of early youthenization marketing which John has simply carried over to the ESPNs.

Even as yesteryear’s cartoons and theme-park pirate patches have been replaced on the network with slinky club-wear, rap music motifs, fantasy-driven stat-parades and ESPN phone-apps, the goal remains the same: Selling to kids.

What’s good for the Donald has not always been what’s good for the Daisy.

Most perplexing in John Skipper’s management of the ESPN monopoly is that in its multitude of channel options, sufficient to cater to all their target markets in kids, females, foreign fare and angry men (radio), he could’ve quite easily stayed connected to the substantive news format on one of those channels to retain the base viewership that had always been the network’s real sustenance.

But when a better, more sport-centric, likely more popular product is juxtaposed along-side a channel that runs so much niche stuff or downright gobbledygook, that arrangement can make programmers, not necessarily prospective viewers, very uncomfortable for having slotted the ephemera in the first place.

Me and my ilk departed from ESPN Islands long ago. There’s a free charter on the south end with weather updates on the hour. It’ll take you anywhere you want. All you need to board is a suitcase full o’ frustration and a love of sport.

Steven Keys
Straight Shooter
Photo credit: TheWaltDisneyCompany, wordmark, wc.cca; A.Hale.Jr., 9.12.66, wc, GilligansIsland, CBS; ESPN, wc, word mark; ESPN2, wc, word mark; ESPN, wc, 2.26.10, Jaworski, Wingo, Schlereth, Bruschi, J.Kern; ESPN-studio, wc, Jkinsocal, Bristol-CT, 2.2.13; StraightShooter, citrus.fruit-label
Posted: 5.4.17 @ 12:28am EST, edit 5.4; Copyright © 2017