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MLB-WS2017: Sabrmetrics, the Rush to Forgive & Ensconced In Anaheim..of Greater Los Angeles

19 Nov

Hail the Houston Astros, MLB17’s World Series champion.

Last year it was the Chicago Cubs ending the drought of all baseball droughts (1908) in taking the title which’d seemed pretty well in the Cleveland Indians’ grasp (4-3). This year it was a first-time winner, the Astros, who joined the Major club back in 1962 as the Colt .45s and having failed in their one prior Series opportunity in falling to the White Sox in 2005 (4-0), those Pale Hose nabbing their first WS in quite a spell (1917).

The opinion amongst media is that this Astros team is a template for the future MLB. Meaning, a steady, snoozy diet of numbers and more numbers (Zzzzz).

Why the Cubs (2016), Royals (2015), Red Sox (2013) and Giants (2014, 2012, 2010) weren’t touted as such, who knows? It probably has something to do with the fact these present champions are what some are calling a sabrmetric special, aka, analytics. There’s an apropos pun if there ever was one.

Houston operators in manager A.J. Hinch (formerly of the Athletics (See; Moneyball)), GM Jeff Luhnow and club PBO Reid Ryan all relied heavily on statistics, aka, “data,” to shape, guide their roster to the promised land, making the Astros the first sabrheaded organization to grab-hold of that brass ring.

But don’t bet the farm on Houston just yet, no matter how the numbers crunch.

Astros team ERA in WS17, a whopping 4.64.

Astros team BA: .230; OB%: .297; and SLG: .467. Those #s mean the Houston dudes hit poorly throughout but slugged for go-ahead runs in key moments as the Dodgers’ slightly better pitching faltered at the worst possible times (4.45).

Those numbers, the trophy, they suggest one word: Opportunistc. That’s a good trait but not one that’ll bedrock for a dynasty.

— — —

Not too surprising to know that winning a World Series is no guarantee for lifetime employment in the Major League baseball ranks as both former skippers of note, Joe Girardi (NYY 09) and John Farrell (BOS 2013) discovered in being fired post-playoff runs by their respective ball-clubs. John was canned after the Red Sox fell to the Astros in the 2017 ALDS, 3-1, Joe pink-slipped when his Yankees lost to the same Houston club in the ALCS, 4-3.

Not every owner accords that achievement (a WS title) with such an ephemeral appreciation. Some hold it close to their hearts, or so it would appear.

Case in point, billboard billionaire (OutdoorSystems) and Angels’ owner since 2003, Tuscon native Arturo Moreno. The wheeler-dealer seems to hold the view that such achievement should afford a manager his job as long as he wants to continue in the position. Bully for him.

Mike Scioscia completed his 18th year at the helm of the Halos at conclusion of 2017. It was his 2d consecutive sub-.500 finish, in a total of six. In all, Scioscia has compiled a 1570-1346 record (.538), managed seven post-season appearances, one 100-win year (08) and one World Series in 2002, the Angels only Pennant that resulted in a championship win over the Giants, 4-3.

♪♫ And the beat goes on ♪♫.

— — —

Consider how World Series 2017 will NOT be best remembered:

The Astros first MLB title.

It’s fan-friendly watchability: G5 (Astros 13-12) ended at 1:17 AM – EST.

Cries of foul for what appeared an official ball juiced to the threads.

Clay Kershaw finally performing, for one start (G1), anyway, like the pitching great his regular season stats have predicted for years.

No, it won’t be remembered best for any of those.

What World Series 2017 WILL be best remembered for is racism, it’s knowing expression through the Astros’ Yuli Gurriel and its appeasement by Major League baseball’s Cufflink-in-Chief, Commissioner Rob Manfred.

You could say, prejudice got a pass, until spring. Sigh.

The setting: G3 in Houston with the Series knotted-up at 1-1. It’s bottom of the 2d, the Astros’ Gurriel, a 33-year old Cuban in his first full major league season, hit’s a solo shot off of Dodgers’ starter and Japanese native, Yu Darvish (b.1986) who’d been a Texas Ranger (13) through the first-half of 2017.

After all the celebrating, taking his dugout seat and of course seeming in good spirits, Gurriel threw a racist brick at Darvish (Because Yu was thoughtless enough to toss a homer pitch?) in putting fingers to his eyes in childish Western-mimick of an Asian appearance, laughing and thinking himself cute. Not done, he also was overheard spewing the word chinito, meaning Chinese boy.

In Bugs Bunny speak, Yuli is a “maroon.” But he claims to understand this mental state, at least its wrong, so MLB, his ‘mates, Astros’ fans, major and junior media have all rushed to forgive the offender. How wonderful (ugh).

Commissioner Rob Manfred did not suspend YG, not even for one contest in a Series that went seven (I‘d have banned him from entering either stadium for two (2) games). Instead, Rob gave Gurriel a 5-game delayed supension to commence at the start of the 2018 season, assuming he’s still on the team. He turns 34 in June, per his birth certificate.

And with that deferred susp’n which presently amounts to no punishment at all, an awful message was sent to the public: In the rush to forgive and return to calm waters (Darvish took the high road but was in no good position to protest), racism will be tolerated by MLB if the offender “understands” his wrong, claims non-intent and an immediate susp’n in penalty might upset the balance of play when TV ratings ($) are at stake.

And what DIDN’T Baseball’s response do?

It didn’t help Baseball, domestically or internationally. That it was the Dodgers on the receiving end of Gurriel’s racist buffoonery works double damage to the national pastime’s image, the team that in Brooklyn under the Walter O’Malley, Branch Rickey, Mulvey & Smith ownership, rostered Jackie Robinson to break the color barrier (47) and has since been a leader in making the game a showcase of diversity for all races including Hispanic Central America (Fernandomania) and throughout much of the Orient (Nomomania).

It didn’t aid in the fight against racism.

It didn’t help Rob Manfred who is now a symbol of weak leadership, defined forever by his failure to take the bull by the horns.

And it didn’t really help the Astros whose title is now tainted, reminiscent of the Italian national soccer team’s World Cup win in 2006 (Germany).

When deadlocked in the championship match, Marco Materazzi hurled a harsh, family insult to France’s superstar Zinedine Zidane who head butted the offender to the ground. ZZ of course received the red-card (expelled), Italy received the advantage in OT and went on to win the Cup yet left their pride on the field.

Astros won the Series. I don’t know how much Gurriel’s presence shaped the result. He did contribute. Exactly how much of a factor his presence in all games 4 thru 7 had is neither here nor there, for justice, doing the right thing, shouldn’t balance on whether the wrongdoer is a star player or off-the-bench reserve.

But as disturbing as Gurriel’s goof and Manfred’s knee-buckle was how the Astros rallied around their teammate, acting as if his friendly clubhouse persona absolved each of them from holding the Cuban to a standard of decency and he to any sort of symbolic sacrifice in Series time lost.

So much progress yet still a ways to go. I’m hopeful Yuri helps us get there.

Steven Keys
Can of Corn
Photo credit: can-of-corn; YuriGurriel, wc.cca, 7.23.17, Baltimore, K.Allison, 1.8m; MikeScioscia, 12.9.15, A.PardavilaIII, wc.cca, MLB-WinterMeet, 5.2m; RobManfred, wc.cca, 7.15.14, wc.cca, fanfest, A.PardavilaIII, 3.5m; Y.Gurriel, 7.23.17, wc.cca, Baltimore, K.Allison, 1.2m;
Posted: 11.18.17 @ 8:28pE, edit 11.19; Copyright © 2017

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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 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

NBA.F17: Resting Has Warriors Besting LeBron’s Backs-to-the-Wall Gang

6 Jun

It was as plain as even the rather small nose on the forlorn face of Stephen Curry as he watched his Golden State Warriors in the closing seconds of last June’s NBA Finals, about to drop their third game, second in a row, to their fierce foes the Cleveland Cavaliers who were going to take game six (115-101) and even-up the Series at 3-3, the defending champs having squandered a 3-1 lead: The 2016 single-season record setters in victories (73) were, not surprisingly, dog tired.

It had been a whirlwind campaign of championship and achievements for the Bay boys, having bested LeBron’s bunch in Finals 2015 (4-2), his 2d Cleveland tenure, then almost running the table the following regular season to reach those 2016 Finals only to fall short (3-4) to what in the aftermath must’ve seemed a certain James’ destiny to bring a first NBA title to his native Ohio.

That Wars’ leader and star Curry had bagged two (2) consecutive MVP awards added just that much more glitter, and pressure, to their mostly joyous run.

So when coach Steve Kerr & Company failed to complete the technical dynasty (at least two (2) sequential championships), all asked, ‘What happened?’

LeBron James happened, of course, but there’s a bit more to it than that.

The following is an excerpt of an article I wrote last July in wake of Wars unexpected collapse and Cavs historical comeback win, postulating what was a major factor in the result and what the future (F17) held in store:

“The weary factor: It’s why Warriors failed to close the deal on what might’ve been the greatest season in NBA history. Ironically, those 73 RS wins that put them on precipice of immortality were also the reason why they fell short. Winning that many takes its toll, as previewed in the WC final vs OKC (4-3) where the champs had to pull their fat outta’ the fire just to move on. Of course, those 1995-96 Bulls piled a weary-worthy total themselves in their super season (72-10) and still managed to take the title vs Seattle (4-2). Just sayin.’

Rubbermaid® NBA Finals 2017

NBA’s powers-that-be salivate over thought of a Cavs – Wars 3-peat. Who’s gonna’ stop ‘em, besides the injury bug? That the Association’s quality of competition rating is at lowest ebb since the scaling was first calibrated by this writer some years back, matters not in the least to the Cufflinks, the same frat-boys who think tanking’s a joke, as long as the Big Celebrities make it to the Big Party, i.e., LeBron, Stevo, Durantula, Love & Irving.

Even if Durant does work a small drain of the splash-pool and Lue takes no action to teach Kyrie who’s #1 (James) and fundamentals of point play, i.e., ‘See the ball, set a play, pass the ball,’ these two teams should have little trouble making it into next season’s Finals, again barring any notable injury issues.

If they do meet, it’s Warriors who likely take the rubber-match.

Kyrie Irving’s not about to learn that kindergarten starter-skill called sharing and former All-Star Kevin Love is now so marginalized by team & press that LeBron’s gonna’ lose whatever hair he has left by season’s end.

For the Oaklanders, they’ve already got the 73, the substantive one (See; B.Bonds (‘01)), and Kerr will make damn sure his men are better rested this time in event they make the WC finals. Sixty-plus should get home-court…no tanking, mind you, but Stevo will give his starters…respites as needed to avoid weariness that turned splash into a prolonged belly-flop in G5-7 (https://stevenkeys.wordpress.com/2016/07/11/nba17-too-many-cooks-spoil-the-splash-but-cavs-wars-are-rubbermade-for-re-match/).”

So, did Kerr work to curb enthusiasm in a strategy to help ensure his men had enough Finals end-game this time around? The six (6) fewer regular season victories (67-15) suggests he might have. Of course, having 2014 MVP Kevin Durant rostered this season has certainly played a part to ease some burden, maintain energy levels, while at the same time easing his own workload for the first time since his rookie NBA campaign in 2007 (Seattle (OKC)).

Which brings this Series, this terrific NBA trilogy of titledom that may someday rival the fantastic Lakers v. Boston feud of the 80s (Jordan never had a great rivalry) to its critical point: Game 3. It’s winner will likely win these Finals, for a third W for the Wars will break Cleveland’s spirit while a Cavs victory will enspirt a team that seems to play best when their backs are to the wall.

We might even get one of those forever frozen in time moments, as when Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson, at center for Jabbar, scored on that baby hook-shot late to steal G5 (?) in the Garden, going a long way in helping LA win the ‘87 Series and then the rightful claim to supremecy as the decade‘s best. We might.

Steven Keys
Nothing But Net
Photo credit: basketball-net, wc.cca, 1995, static; S.Kerr-NBA.referee, wc, 2.24.25, K.Allison; S.Curry, wc, N.Salzman, 4.6.14; Love-Irving-James, 10.1.14, wc, E.Drost;
Posted: 6.6.17 @ 6:45p EST; Copyright © 2017

Yore Movie Swells: Tasty Love Triangles and Bad Triangle Art In Celluloid Cinema

4 Jun

The Movie Love Triangle

The number three (3): It’s not just holy (Trinity), the tres is a basic element in life’s periodic table of circumstance. It’s found almost as often as carbon, chlorophyll and car chase scenes. Alot more fun than the number one but without all that pressure that can come with two.

What has three sides, fills with equal parts love, hate and confusion, shakes-out quicker than you can say Jack Robinson but takes an hour to drink in its full, rich flavor? A bad banana daiquiri? Take another swig. It’s the movie love triangle!

There’s something about having three of whatever it is that makes it a force to reckon with, the third adding balance when two gets a bit wobbly (The Quiet American (58 / 02)) or necessary tension to give the ride more spring (Kelly + Reynolds + O’Connor (Singin’ In the Rain (52)).

Some notable trios:

A good place to start is the nursery rhymes in the Three Little Pigs, Three Blind Mice and Goldie Locks and the Three Bears;

The bejeweled triple crowns in baseball and horse-racing;

Three strike (MLB – 1888) and three strike rules (crime convictions = life jail);

Early 20th century trio of bear Cubs in Joe Tinker (SS), Johnny Evers (2B) and Frank Chance (1B) (hot-corner Harry Steinfeldt forever in the shadow) who were the tar & nails that held their champion-ship together;

Memorable NHL scoring threesomes in the Punch (40s Habs Toe Blake, Elmer Lach and Maurice “Rocket” Richard), the Production (post-WW2 Red Wings in Gordie Howe, Frank Mahovlich and Alex Delvecchio) and Party lines (80s Blackhawks Al Secord, Dennis Savard and Steve Larmer);

Famous film trios The Three Musketeers (35), The Three Stooges (34), Paradise for Three (38) the Three Amigos (86 (ugh)), “Tuco” – “Blondie” & “Angel-eyes (The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (66))” and The French Line with gorgeous Jane Russell, handsome Gilbert Roland and dedicated Arthur Hunnicutt (1954).

The New England championship triumvirate in current quarterback Tom Brady, head coach Bill Belichick and owner Robert Kraft.

Pop music loved the tres: The Three Degrees, Three Dog Night, songs “Knock Three Times“ and “♫ once, twice…three times a lady ♫.”

The big three Allied powers in WW2: Soviets, British and Yanks;

Our constitution-based government works its check and balance through the three branches of judiciary, legislative and executive powers.

There were the three bucks (4-6 pointers?) that showed-up in our backyard last summer just for a brief look-see.

And the tastiest lunchtime triad ever served up in the hot dog (uncured), bean soup & potato chips (mustard & pickle preferred, paper napkin a must).

The pointed passion circle is not as certain as death and taxes in life’s journey but it’s definitely in the top five, “definitely!”

A cinema staple since before the Swingline® started holding it all together, the love triangle fastens fans to their seats as sure as drama and mad-cap adventure, its popularity from the fact that the tricky triad holds a chapter in most biographies, whether you knew it or not (gulp).

But it’s on the silver screen where the crowded state of affairs takes on a curious, usually pretty interesting aura of angst.

The Hollywood pros in front and behind the camera can make almost anything look glamorous, from bad deeds (Bonnie and Clyde (67)) to something as simple as turning down bed sheets in prelude to a lustful encounter (This Sporting Life (63)). So why wouldn’t the love triangle translate too?

They began in the silents and ran strong well into the 1960s providing plots and pushing viewers to pick a side. By the polyester period (70s) the triangle had, for the most part, been shelved with the occasional re-appearance (Working Girl (88) / Titanic (97) / Amores Perros (00)), for old times sake (?).

The listing herein is not exhaustive of movie love triangles by any means, but examples of some of the worst, the best and how in spite of a terrible triangle a good time can still be had by viewers.

Three points to keep in mind: 1) There are good and there are bad L/Ts. Geometric juxtaposition is no guarantee for a good watch, unless Seiko’s keeping time; 2) The bad are not necessarily bad movies, in fact, some are good enough to keep you glued, with the tacky triad usually stemming from non-believability and a normally strong male lead (Lancaster, Mitchum, Garfield, etc.) written as a sap, and 3) Not all three sides need be of the human species, for included here is a big ape, Alien pods and even something as intangible as duty, the tangible kind found in the “Bushwood Country Club” pool (Caddyshack (80)).

The Bad Triangle

Baby Doll (56): Either kiss her (“Doll”) or cut her free, “Archie,“ but why you never gave “Silva” a swift kick in the pants I never understood.

Casablanca (42): Neck n’ neck with Citizen Kane to take vintage cinema’s Over-rated Cup (contemporary field is crowded) which explains why two of its three (+Bogart) leads in Paul Henreid and Ingrid Bergman never bought the hype. That she’d end up at his café to cheat on her Nazi-pursued husband is about as believable as Rita Hayworth a blonde (The Lady From Shanghai (47)).

Champion (49): Real-to-life in its portrayal of how brash boys (Douglas) always get the girl over the nice guys (Kennedy), buy a really, really bad boxing and babes movie. Was first big hit for film giants Stanley Kramer and Kirk while Ruth looks splendid in her white, one-piece swimsuit. And any pre-development shots of the California Pacific coast are always way, way cool.

Cleopatra (34 / 63): Don’t trust me, go ahead and watch. Pack a lunch (4h+).

Criss Cross (49): Only the marvelous mood-setting L.A. locales (Bunker Hill district, downtown, etc.) were believable.

East of Eden (55): All’s hunky-dory between “Abra (Harris)” and “Aron (Davalos)” who props his odd-ball brother “Caleb (Dean),” the later who turns their world upside down with wartime profiteering, stealing the girl’s heart, driving the jilted into the War to cause their father’s stroke. One bad triangle.

Gilda (46): Top tune (“Put the Blame On Mame”), copper Calleia at his best, Ford (fists) and Macready (cane) impress in the clutch but like Casablanca (42), former flames reuniting where they do is complete balderdash, this time down Argentina way, then add in Hayworth’s kooky choice in Nazi-sympathizer spouse (“Mundson”), all make this L/T…T/L (totally limp).

Holiday Affair (49): Cute film with judge Harry Morgan snapping off wisecracks like fireworks. A good Ajax scrub for bad-boy toker Bob Mitchum. But single-Mom Leigh dumping oxymoronic likable lawyer and long-time suitor Wendell Corey (“Carl”) for fly-by-seat-of-his-hobo-pants “Steve?” C’mon, “Connie!”

Humoresque (47): After she (Crawford) finally wins his heart and he (Garfield) finally makes up his mind, she takes the long walk into the sea of love.

It Came From Beneath the Sea (55): Shameless display of flirt and emasculation. Only wish the NMO (normal man out) Curtis (“John”) had taken the short, chain-smoking smart-ass Tobey character (“Pete”) and Howard Hughes’ girlfriend (?) Faith Domergue (“Les”) and clunked their heads together at close. So awkward even Ray Harryhausen’s typical top-tier SMA couldn’t save this bad boy…girl.

Out of the Past (47): This one is a love rectangle (square) where Jane Greer (“Moffat”) had allure in spades but like Burt Lancaster in The Killers (46) when the love-sick “Swede” practically commits suicide in letting tough guys Charles McGraw and William Conrad (“bright boy”) blow uncontested into his room to empty their revolvers, Robert Mitchum (“Bailey”) too plays the super sap.

Pal Joey (57): Even Sinatra’s voice can’t fuel this clunker.

Red Dust (32) (Mogambo (53)): Gable never runs out but adulteresses in both (Astor – Kelly) are so poorly scripted you wonder why they bothered.

Sabrina: (54) Paramount tabbed “terrific triangle” but usually sharp-as-a-tack Holden is scripted an idiot and Bogart’s bored until final smackdown.

Sleepless in Seattle (93): After respective hits When Sally Met Harry (89) and Big (88), Hanks and Ryan’s likeability ratings were higher than the Empire State Building, even as this triangulated affair (+ Bill Pullman) is too cute, too much kid (Malinger) and constitutes two too many remakes of a grand original, Love Affair (39) (See also; An Affair to Remember (57)).

Song of India (49): Triangle makes some sense (Sabu > Gail < Bey) but its resolution and laughter in final scene is preposterous…and cold.

Sunset Boulevard (50): Triangle again is believable enough (Swanson > Holden < Olson) but Bill’s bail on “Norma,” she not just a pretty face, is bogus.

The Cat People (42): French beauty Simone Simon can get catty but new hubbie Kent Smith (“Oliver Reed”) turns wolf with ‘friend’ “Alice (Randolph)” before honeymoon ends, leading this viewer hoping the feline feasts.

The Graduate (69): Mommie Dearest and vampish motives aside, “Benjamin (Hoffman)” was in clover with the “Mrs. (Bancroft)” but then got greedy to graze in posted pasture (Ross) to turn pathetic post-grad.

The Las Vegas Story: A marriage on the brink (Price + Russell) pushed over by an ex-lover (Mature) who investigates the husband. Guess who wins?

The Pace that Thrills (52): Vintage, daring motorcycle footage in neato-keeno but once again the bad boy (Williams) gets the gal (Carla Balenda).

The Painted Veil (34): Nice ending but Brent’s advances on Garbo feel forced. A build up to the love from happenstance would‘ve worked fine.

The Philadelphia Story (40): Kate’s not that likeable, harebrained haughty we loved so in Bringing Up Baby (38). She’s the other kind.

The Postman Always Rings Twice (46): Garfield plays out of his typical, strong, savvy persona into another unbelievable L/T super sucker for a fairly typical, scheming blonde (Turner). The ‘Crime Never Pay’s’ road-sign is posted early and makes for a long, painful drive (113m) on Sleeper Highway.

Two Guys From Milwaukee (46): Fun movie turns uncomfortable when once likable “Prince Henry (Dennis Morgan)” turns hound-dog (cad), made worse when the lady on point, Joan Leslie (“Connie”), proves full o’ fickle.

Vanessa, Her Love Story (35): Early talkie where the odd man out (Krueger) goes insane, then dies. That’s one sure way to break a triangle (ugh).

The Good Triangle

Amores Perros (00 / Mexican): Octavio y Susana y Ramiro.

An American Tragedy (31) (A Place In the Sun (52)): Triangulations are quite effective. In #1, Sydney’s smile, and other assets, captures your heart like the dark-haired radiance, among other assets, of rich girl Liz who “wow(s)” in #2 version. But on the whole, both drag out and sink themselves with identically absurd (prejudicial) courtroom boat re-enactments.

Black Narcissus (47): Nepalian nun noir.

Born Yesterday (50)

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (69)

Creature From the Black Lagoon (54): Another monster angle but this time a square that includes gill-man (x2). Though friendship replaced love, triangle took shape when Peter Benchley and Steve Spielberg turned Creature into Jaws (75).

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (88): Love (Caine) > con (Headly) < lust (Martin)

Doctor Zhivago (65): Ubiquitous “Yuri” is everywhere. Never know whose wife he’ll turn up in. First you admire, then hate him, cry and finally smile.

Fallen Angel (45)

Flowing Gold (40)

Gaslight (44)

Gone With the Wind (39): First you think of the greatest love triangle in cinema history (“Rhett > “Scarlett“ < “Ashley”), and you’d be right, then you remember big-eyed, big-hearted Melanie and the love rectangle (square) takes shape.

Great Day In the Morning (56): Love rectangle

Homecoming (48): Gutsy Gable, Turner and Baxter but Hodiak steals the show.

I Can Get It For You Wholesale (51)

I Know Where I’m Going! (45)

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (56): Most Pro-McCarthy (anti-Red) films were awkward & obvious (Dan diss on “faith”) but IOTBS is a masterpiece of metaphor & emotion with an ending all can embrace: Kevin > Dana < Pods.

It Happened One Night (34)

King Kong (33): Cabot > Wray < Kong

Knife in the Water (62 / Polish): Triangle like only Polanski could forge.

Love Affair (39)

Miller’s Crossing (90)

Mr. & Mrs. Smith (41)

Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (48): Husband, wife and lawyer.

Norma Rae (79)

Rain Man (88): “Charlie” > “Raymond” < “Dr. Bruner”

Raw Deal (48): Marsha Hunt, Claire Trevor and Dennis O’Keefe star.

Roman Holiday (53): Anglo-Roman fairytale (D.Trumbo) of checked and triangular love: Anne, Joe and Duty

Scarlet Street (45): “Lazy Legs” messed with the wrong bank clerk who had heart of an artist (Ed) but still had a Little Caesar (31) inside (Ouch!).

Song of Love (47)

Spartacus (60): “Spartacus” and “Varinia” and “Crassus”

Sudden Fear (52): Joan still rode crest of the wave churned up by Mildred Pierce (45), proving equal to the challenge anted-up by slinky Gloria.

The Best Years of Our Lives (46): Nobody ever scored on the rebound (“Marie” > “Fred” > “Peg”) like “Captain Fred.” And I don’t care that it’s just a movie, that closing scene with Dana and Teresa pulled together like magnets is pure love.

The Big Country (58): “Jim” and “Julie” didn’t know it, but they were squaring-off with “Pat” and “Steve” just after they did the “deed”…for “Old Muddy.”

The Big Sky (52)

The Blot (21 / silent)

The Earrings of Madame de… (53): Surname excluded to protect the innocent.

The Kid from Texas (39)

The Macomber Affair (47): Tale of a troubled twosome on African hunt with a guide in the middle. Self-discovery comes at the highest price while question of intent remains as open with Hemingway as it did with Theo Dreiser.

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (62)

The Man With the Golden Arm (55): Sinatra’s best as under-rated Eleanor bravely plays the part that no dishy dame wanted.

The Night of the Iguana (64): Maybe the most psychologically instructive and then ultimately heartfelt love triangle in cinema history.

The Pope of Greenwich Village: “Paulie” > “Charlie” < “Diane”

The Red Shoes (48): One a troubled triangle of personal love (“Boris” > “Vicky” < “Julian”), inter-locking with a 2nd that, for a time, formed a perfect triad of artistic expression in dance, composition and production. TRS is in that larger-than-admitted group of movies (100 +/-) in consideration for greatest all-time.

The Seventh Veil (45): Not surprising that the sensuous, soft Ann Todd (“Francesca”) could command a pentagon of love.

The Sheepman (58)

The Spy In Black (39)

The Third Man (49): “Holly” > “Anna” < “Harry”

Trader Horn (31)

Witness (85)

Working Girl (88): Two triangles for Melanie Griffith and Harrison Ford, one each for Sigourney Weaver and Alec Baldwin, I think. At this point I’m getting a little geometrically opposed, if you know what I mean.

Steven Keys
Photo credit: JamesCVanTrees, 1922, Mitchell-camera, wc.cca; pizza-triangles, 4.5.15, sunny-mama, wc; three-deer-illuminated, Haifa, German-colony, wc, Yuval-Y, 12.18.10, CC-GFDL; Cleopatra, 1963, 20CF, wc, R.Harrison-E.Taylor; Sabrina, 1954, Paramount, W.Holden-A.Hepburn, wc; DoctorZhivago, 1965, O.Shariff-J.Christie, wc, F.Young, MGM; ScarletStreet, cop-E.Robinson-J.Bennett, wc, UP, 1945; TheRedShoes, Ballerinailina, 1948, wc.cca, TheArchers, ADA; popcorn, T.Bresson, wc.cca, 6.15.16
Posted: 5.25.17, re-post 6.4 @ 6:36pm (photo) EST; 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

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

28 Mar

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

But that’s for later.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

♫ Shades of Mediocrity ♫

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There’s only one Bill Belichick, folks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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