Tag Archives: poetry

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

4 Nov

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NFL17 Cherry Picks W9

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

Record: 34 – 23

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

Advertisements

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

6 Apr

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

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

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

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

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

— — —

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

I’m no curmudgeon. I like football.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Symbolism matters. Money matters, too.

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

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

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

MLB17: Cubs Atop, Everything Old Is New Again, Even 19c. Championships, SABR-Snobs

9 Mar

Set to defend their first MLB title since 1908, the Chicago Cubs have stepped off cloud nine and back onto terra firma to begin their quest for a 2nd title-in-tandem (1907-08) by taking to spring training in their longtime Arizona locale.

Success has a way of opening passage ways in the mind heretofore unexplored and the Cubs brains must be booty-laden with new discoveries. Not likely, though, that franchise history is big on their brains, not since their World Series win over the Indians (4-3) and subsequent victory parade that wove its way through the Windy City last November.

What else is not on the Cubs’ brains is pre-season predictions.

Spring training will trigger in the mind of baseball writers a slew of topics to typically include new roster additions, departures and the all important pitching rotation with ancillary arms in relief included.

To those media who matriculate in the sabrmetric school, the last degrees of winter and early buds of spring will always lead to, ta-da, the ranking, i.e., ‘Who‘s #1?’ It’s click-bait and best served when the entrée has cooled down (all-time greats) and won’t burn the palate with rank predictions.

Almost any other March in any other year the question of who is baseball’s pre-season best would be a small curiosity.

But if you have to ask ‘who’ in this particular spring (See; Cubs), even in rhetoric, you may be better suited to the mock draft department, all leagues and associations, where the minutia of musings on the ephemeralia of college hopefuls never ends, if you can find a seat. Crowded in there.

It can’t be denied that the legion of Bruins fans numbering more than the ancient Roman and Yankees empires combined, coupled with story-driven media, will be, on regular occasion, reveling this season in that long, glorious Cubs chronicle of great teams and players, right up until the present version take to the post-season in hunt for that dynasty-affirming, fairly elusive, back-to-back World Series win (See; SF, LAA, LAD, KC, PIT, MIN, CHW, STL, BAL, etc.).

The Cubbies have hit, pitched, fielded and run those bases all the way back to elite status, making it entirely appropriate now to take those moth-balled memories, some sweet, some bitter, out of storage to put on display to keep reminding us from where we came and then where we hope to go.

William Hulbert

Feeling Western baseball was getting the high-hat treatment from Eastern snobs, Chicagoan William Hulbert (1832 – 82) founded and, after its initial campaign (1876), assumed presidency of both the White Stockings (Cubs) and the National League, holding the fledgling 8-team organization together through its toughest times in bravely tackling issues in game-fixing and scheduling indifference by banishing offenders, and corralling destabilizing players on the money chase in instituting movement restrictions, i.e., the first reserve clause.

1876 – 77 White Stockings: The first MLB championship

Al Spalding
Deacon White
Ross Barnes
Cal McVey

Adrian Constantine “Cap” Anson (1B – Mgr, 1876 – 96)

When recounting the history of the National League Chicago baseball club (1876), first known as the White Stockings, then Colts, Orphans and today’s Cubs, or for that matter the chronicle of major league baseball itself, it begins with Adrian “Cap” Anson, the profession’s early notable batsman, manager and personality. His numbers, no matter disingenuous efforts by contemporary sabrmetric tinkers & twiddlers to deplete, do remain, as his tenure (1871 – 1898), stellar benchmarks (1939 (HoF)) for baseball hopefuls.

Noteworthy in Anson’s career is having managed the Stocks to five (5) championships in seven seasons (1880-86), the major’s first dynasty. That’s championships, NOT pennants, for where there’s one pennant-winner in a season there necessarily must be an opposite organization with their own flag-waver, both of whom meet in an official, culminatory contest. And when a team does all that the schedule permits, even with no money-grab playoff or opposite League face-off (which is no perfect test, anyway (See; Cubs 1906 & Pats 2007-08)), and compiles the best record of the assemblage (8), THAT is a championship as worthy as any World Series won in 2017.

Those achievements would tarnish after his death (1922) as Cap’s role in setting the color barrier, in particular the ban of Fleet Walker, the first American black player to roster in the majors (Toledo 1883-84). Though his stance is of record, Anson’s impact is much debated. Of no debate is that no Caucasian of note, in sport or politics, called to break the ban until Mr. Rickey, testament that we are a product of our times. Do we then strike all names from MLB annals pre-1947? What thinkers had done since Gutenberg’s press was to balance the good against bad, expecting that Anson today would regret his greed. And given that the mass of sport media in 2017 would enshrine misdeeders Clemens & Bonds if given the chance, striking such a balance should come easy.

1880 – 86 Stocks: Five (5) championships, three in-a-row

Larry Corcoran
Fred Goldsmith
Michael “King” Kelly
Frank Gore
Abner Dalrymple
Tommy Burns –
Ned Williamson
John Clarkson

1890 – 1900 Colts – Orphans

Clark Griffith
Bill Hutchinson

Frank Selee (Mgr. 1902-05 (d.1909))

Former Braves championship manager (x5) shaped the Cubs’ roster that would, under Frank Chance’s leadership, gel into the greatest team in baseball history.

1906 – 1910 Cubs: Four pennants, back-to-back WS titles (1907-08), the Merkle Boner game (9.23.08), its resulting tie-breaker playoff at hostile Polo Grounds (10.8) taken by the Bruins (4-2) and “Baseball’s Sad Lexicon (Franklin P. Adams)” in Tinker to Evers to Chance (’10) 

Joe Tinker
Johnny Evers
Frank Chance
Jack Taylor
Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown
Orval Overall
Ed Ruelbach
Frank “Wildfire” Schulte (.994 outfield 1908)
Heinie Zimmerman (triple-crown winner)
Harry Steinfeldt (3B) & Jim Sheckard (46 sacrifices ’09)
Johnny Kling (catcher)
Carl Lundgren
Jack Pfiester, King Cole & outfielder Jack McCarthy who in facing the Pirates on 4.26.05, threw-out three baserunners at homeplate to set a major-league mark.

1914 – 15: Chas. Weeghman Park (Wrigley) opens – Whales (Federal)

1918 NL Pennant (L v. Boston (4-2))

Though falling to the Speaker – Ruth – Red Sox, the Bruins scored more runs and fashioned a lower team ERA than the Beaneaters.

Hippo Vaughn
Claude Hendrix
Lefty Tyler
Charlie Hollocher
Fred Merkle
Grover Cleveland “Pete” Alexander (1918-25)

1921 – 22: Bill Wrigley acquires majority holding in the Cubs while in 1922 first-bagger Ray Grimes sets the consecutive-game RBI streak at 17 and selective batsman Charles Hollocher whiffs a mere five (5) times in 592 at-bats.

1929 – 1945: Pennants (5), Hack-Attack and Ruth’s called shot (‘32 WS)

Joe McCarthy (Mgr. 1929 WS)
Charlie Root
Kiki Cuyler
Rogers Hornsby
Hack Wilson (191 RBI in 1930)
Lon Warneke
Charlie Grimm (player-Mgr. 1932, 35, 38 (H) & 45; ashes on Wrigley (83))
Billy Herman
Dizzy Dean
Bill Lee
Claude Passeau
Stan Hack
Bill Nicholson
Phil Cavarretta
Andy Pafko

Gabby Hartnett
Mgr. – player 1938 World Series: “Homer in the Gloamin’”

With the 1938 season closing and Pirates clinging to 1st place, the leaders headed to neck-breather Chicago for a key 3-game clash where catcher Charles “Gabby” Hartnett won G2 on a thrill by clouting a 9th inning tator at twilight (gloaming (Scottish)), inspiring his Cubs to sweep that series and St. Louis to grab the flag. Sadly for the Faithful, inspiration waned as the Yanks swept Chicago in four.

1950s Lean Years

Hank Sauer (MVP 1952)
Ernie Banks (MVP 1958-59)

I met the great Ernie Banks in his baseball gloaming, aka, twilight (Are you paying attention?), in the summer of 1971, not long after he’d retired from the game and was holding a signing for his new book titled, Mr. Cub, on the sidewalk outside a store in my suburban Chicago town of Glencoe. My parents provided well for me and my five siblings, always top Christmas and birthday gifts, but getting a toy or $15 (?) book on short notice off-holiday was out of the question. I’d eventually get Ernie’s book, still have it, but not until the next year. So, I being 9 yrs old, wanting his autograph, a bit bold but lacking in full discretion, asked Banks for his signature on my Mickey Mantle Rawlings® ball glove. The legend obliged, sans that signature smile. But I, not satisfied (‘Hey, hey, let’s (get) two!’), put an ever-so-small piece of paper no bigger than a JFK 50 cent piece, onto the table for another mark. Well, Ernie Banks was not pleased, not pleased at all. But I was pleased as punch and skedaddled home. I lost that scrap signature but still will with regularity gaze and smile upon the Mantle glove with Banks name in green-felt pen. Thanks, Mr. Cub.

Ken Hubbs Cut Short

Were he alive today he’d be 75 (12.23.41), but promising young 2nd bagger Ken Hubbs, whose slick field and capable bat won him a gold glove and 1962 ROY honors, along with his small aircraft passenger Dennis Doyle, both tragically died in plane crash near Provo, Utah on February 13, 1964 enroute to Doyle’s home and wife who’d recently given birth, in Colton, California.

Durocher’s Revival (1965 – 72)

Leo “The Lip,” who’d rostered with Murderers’ Row (‘28-9), Gashouse Gang (34), guided the Bums to a flag (41), Giants to glory (54) and then returned the sorry Cubs back to respectability, takes most the flak for their late season swoon in 1969 when their All-Star laden squad appeared headed to their first World Series in almost a quarter century. And poppycock to that. Durocher gets his share, of course, but cry-babies and clueless vets must bear most the burden for the old man. Those of us who remember (I was just a gerbil then, but I do recall Gramps telling me, ‘Hey Steve, Kessinger went 4-for-4 yesterday!) point no fingers but form a half-smile at what might’ve been and the joy that was.

Ernie Banks
Billy Williams
Fergie Jenkins
Ron Santo
Don Kessinger
Glenn Beckert
Randy Hundley
Don Young
Bill Hands
Ken Holtzman
Phil Regan
Ted Abernathy
Jim Hickman
Dick Selma

1970s Malaise

Bill “Mad Dog” Madlock: BA titles 1975-76
Rick “Bid Daddy” Reuschel: 1973-81, 83-84

1981: Tribune Company buys Cubs

Dallas Green Unstitches ‘Loser’ Tag

It seemed to come outta’ nowhere, the super and ultimately sad season of 1984. If ‘Big Brother’ was watching he must’ve had a good laugh on us Chicago Cubs fans, with unexpected help from corporate Commissioner and Evanston native, Peter Ueberroth who saw fit to give 2nd best NL record-holders but nite-game capable, the San Diego Padres, home field which proved decisive in the short series (3-2). The Cubs were sunshine supermen in G1 (13-0) and G2 (4-2), then should-be HOF’er Steve Garvey and electee (07), Tony Gwynn took control for San Diego, frustrating the Northsiders and their fans once more.

Jim Frey
Don Zimmer
Harry Caray & Steve Stone
Ryne Sandburg
Rick Sutcliffe
Leon Durham
Thad Bosley
Greg Maddux
Bob Dernier
Ron Cey
Henry Cotto
Gary Matthews
Lee Smith
Tim Stoddard
Steve Trout
Larry Bowa
Dennis Eckersley
Richie Hebner
Jody Davis, ♫ catcher without a peer (H.Caray) ♫

1989 NLCS (L 4-1 v. SF)

Don Zimmer
Ryne Sandberg
Andre Dawson
Shawon Dunston
Lloyd McClendon
Mark Grace
Greg Maddux
Jerome Walton
Dwight Smith
Mitch Webster
Rick Sutcliffe
Mike Bielecki
Scott Sanderson
Mitch Williams

1998 NLDS (L 3-0 v. ATL), Mgr. Jim Riggleman

2003 NLCS (L 4-3 v. FLA)

Call it reasonable fan interference, meaning, Steve Bartman wasn’t obliged to remain seated with 1) real chance of being hit by a foul ball, and 2) expectation no Cubs player could’ve snagged it. As such, no ejection. But because Alou did have a chance to grab the wall-straddling foul-ball, hence his protest, umpires were obliged to call fan interference yet cowered from their duty in not charging the out to eventual rally team, Florida. But Cubs were 88-74 in 2003, making fans unbridled expectations unreasonable and the outcome digestible.

Dusty Baker
Sammy Sosa
Moises Alou
Mark Grudzielanek
Corey Patterson
Alex Gonzalez
Kenny Lofton
Mark Prior
Kerry Wood
Carlos Zambrano
Matt Clement
Joe Borowski
Aramis Ramirez
Kyle Farnsworth
Mike Remlinger

The Piniella Years

2007 NLDS (L 3-0 v. AZ)
2008 NLDS (L 3-0 v. LA)

The Ricketts (09) – EpsteinMaddon Years

2015 NLCS (L 4-0 v. STL)
2016 WS (W 4-3 v. Indians)

Dallas had a certain touch in managing (PHI ‘80 WS) and generaling (CHC ‘84, 89), but Theo Epstein & Joe Maddon have a clobber between ‘em, like in that Weavers’ song ( If I had a hammer…), forging winners like a blacksmith did a wheel frame for proper strength and balance in the long journey. Yee-hah!

Joe Maddon
Anthony Rizzo
Dexter Fowler
Jon Lester
Kyle Hendricks
Travis Wood
Ben Zobrist
Hector Rondon
Addison Russell
Trevor Cahill
Javier Baez
Kris Bryant
Jason Hammel
Aroldis Chapman
John Lackey
Jake Arrieta

Play ball!

Steven Keys
Can of Corn
Photo credits: Cubs-logo,1914, Wjmummert, wc.cca; E.Banks, Bowman, 1955, wc; K.Bryant, wc, 7.9.14, M.Haas; W.Hulbert, NYPL, wc; Chicago-White-Stockings, 1885, wc; Cubs, 1906, wc, BPL; G.Hartnett, Goudey, 1933, wc; GlennBeckert, wc, 1967, TSN; H.Mason-D.Green, SABRO, wc, 8.1.09; can-of-corn
Posted: 3.9.17 @ 11:10am EST, adds 3.10, 6.20, 10.12; Copyright © 2017

NFL16 Cherry Picks W5: Fine Lines in the Trench

6 Oct

Men in the Midst

Stoppers who plug the drain,
Orange cones that close the lane,
Coach banks he’ll make the run stop,
Signal-caller trusts he throws timely block,
Men in the midst are not nameless in fact,
So big a Steinway could balance on back,
It’s the sack that’ll pull in the fantasy views,
But it’s battle of brawn to decide win or lose.

— — —

In pro football where nearly all the guys are a 3XL (even most the kickers are pumped today), they are the biggest men on the block, bar none. And that’s BIG.

They are the offensive and defensive linemen, the men in the trench, each hovering around 300 pounds. A mass of rumble and wrangle, they’re the ground troops manning the line of demarcation, that “dividin’ line” as “Lonesome Rhodes” would’ve called it, separating both teams at the snap. And whomever controls that ebb n’ flow will, more than likely, control the battle’s tenor and then the outcome of the war.

thomas-wc-4-14-15-6-6m-e-drost*Though highly valued by teammates, coaches and cufflinks, linemen work for the most part in anonymity, shunning the spotlight that naturally swings onto the glory-stat guys handling the pigskin for pass, province (rush), picks and put-downs (sacks).

A lineman, either side of the ball, will not win the NFL’s most valuable player award for the 2016 regular season. You can take that to the bank.

The Minnesota Vikings Alan Page (DT) was the first defender and lineman to cart home the award in 1971. He remains the last lineman and only one of two defensive stalwarts (Lawrence Taylor (‘86)) to win it since the Associated Press (AP) began awarding its version in 1958 (J.Brown).

The chance of another lineman winning the trophy are about as poor as a pro-choice candidate winning the Republican party’s presidential nod, or vice versa (anti-abortion Democrat winning their party‘s delegate count…): < 2 percent.

Quiz time: What’s the most valuable skill on the defensive side of the ball?

A) Interception – fumble finesse
B) Pressure on the quarterback
C) The art of tackling, or
D) Stopping – slowing the run

page-wc-ebony-1-1970-342kIf you answered ‘C’ you’re a football aficionado, possessing a broad understanding of the game and ample appreciation for what makes it tick.

Interceptions and forced-fumbles are terrific. They stop opponents dead in their tracks and flip it all around, i.e., you get the ball back. But they’re rare and too much focus on their fruition takes your game away from the major tasks at hand: Stopping momentum by more practical means in tackling and pass disruption.

Sacks too are sweet and give an emotional boost but again, they’re a rarity. The high is fleeting and the effort afforded in their unlikely event is better spent elsewhere, hello Mr. Linebacker (Matthews, etc.). It’s why J.J. Watt was a better player when his tackles began trending upward, regardless of the sack count.

How do you know a good rope? Personal stats won‘t do ya‘ much good. There aren’t many. A fine line more than any other aspect of football is a team effort.

That takes you to the team league-leader tallies to rate the top lines.

For offense the categories of concern are as follows: 1) Total offense (yards gained per game), 2) passing ygpg, 3) rushing ygpg and 4) QB-sacks allowed.

mangold-wc-nycmarines-11-13-09-554k-sgt-r-clintonAt Week 5 the Falcons, Cowboys and Raiders’ lines are faring pretty well and it shows in the W-L. See the sacks-allowed so far (NFL average = 8+): CIN (13), IND (15), JAX (12), KC (13), CHI (11), DET (10), TB (10), CAR (13), AZ (12); NYJ (6), HOU (7), DC (7), OAK (2), PHI (4), DAL (6), NYG (6), MIN (6), NO (7), SF (3).

The 49ers and Saints are conundrums.

One statistic for a team or player by itself won’t tell the whole story. Put all your prognostication chips on one number and you’re bound to lose the farm. But they do give clues. Of their three (3) losses, New Orleans, beset by injuries already, two (W1-2) were by a total of only 4 points. They may not be as bad as their won-loss purports.

And the best defensive lines? You take the same route: Total defense (yards allowed per game), passing yards, etc. (See: http://www.nfl.com/stats/team and http://www.pro-football-reference.com/teams).

When rating the individuals, the team experts know best (coaches, GMs, scouts, players, favorite press), but Pro Bowl selection, even as the game itself has devolved to a dangerously dull level (Rice v. Irvin), still offers some standard.

Active NFL linemen with five (5) or more Pro Bowl selections: Joe Thomas (CLE), Dwight Freeney (ATL), Jason Peters (PHI), Jahri Evans (NO), Nick Mangold (NYJ), Vince Wilfork (HOU) and Haloti Ngata (DET).

cherries-hispalois-spain-wc-thm-7-2-12Cherry Picks Week 5: “Sufferin’ succotash!

AZ (1-3) @ SF (1-3): 10.6 CBS 8:25: 49ers win
NE (3-1) @ CLE (0-4): 10.9 CBS 1:00: Pats win
Eagles (3-0) @ DET (1-3): Fox 1:00: Lions win
Bears (1-3) @ Colts (1-3): Fox 1:00: Indy wins
Tennessee Titans (1-3) @ Dolphins (1-3): CBS 1:00: Miami wins
Washington Redskins (2-2) @ Baltimore (3-1): Fox 1:00: Ravens win
Houston Texans (3-1) @ Vikings (4-0): CBS 1:00 (GTW): Texans win
Falcons (3-1) @ Denver Broncos (4-0): Fox 4:05 (GTW): Atlanta wins
Cincinnati (2-2) @ Dallas Cowboys (3-1): CBS 4:25: Bengals win
Buffalo Bills (2-2) @ Los Angeles (3-1): CBS 4:25 (GTW): Rams win
San Diego Chargers (1-3) @ Raiders (3-1): CBS 4:25 (GTW): Bolts win
New York Giants (2-2) @ Green Bay (2-1): NBC 8:30 (GTW): GB wins
Tampa Bay (1-3) @ Carolina (1-3): 10.10 Disney 8:30: Panthers win

Record: 18 – 23

......NFL-symbol.wikiproject.6kbSteven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: J.Thomas-Whitner, wc.cca, 4.14.15, E.Drost; J.Thomas, wc, 4.14.15, E.Drost; A.Page, Ebony, wc, 1.1970; N.Mangold, wc, NYC.Marines, Sgt-R.Clinton, 11.13.9; cherries, Hispalois, Spain, wc, 7.2.12; NFL-symbol, wikiproject
Posted: 10.6.16 @ 12:58am EST; Copyright © 2016

NFL16: No Herschel Heist (’89), But ‘Holy Crap,’ Vikes!

5 Sep

The Herschel Walker deal. If you followed NFL football 25 years ago you know what those words mean.

The Minnesota Vikings, specifically, their brain-trust of Mike Lynn (GM), head coach Jerry Burns and owner Max Winter, bet a good share of the fjord (farm) on the Dallas Cowboys All-Pro ball-carrier in hopes it would put ‘em over the top, i.e., get the Norsemen back on the Super stage.

The date: October 12, 1989.

The details: Vikings received former Heisman-winner Herschel Walker (UGA), who’d run wild in the defunct USFL (5562 (3)) and vacillated from exquisite to pedestrian in parts of four seasons with Dallas (3), plus four mid-round draftees (J. Reed). Cowboys got five Purple players and an armload of draft picks, most conditional but realized as three (3) 1Rs, three (3) 2Rs, a 3R and 6R., a pool from which toppers Alvin Harper, Darren Woodson and Emmitt Smith were had.

The general impression of the day? Lots o’ shock and a bit of awe.

..........Spielman.wc.8.4.14.M.Deery.wideMy personal take: Gilding the lily or, in those famous words of Elizabethan penmeister Edward de Vere (Shake-a-Spear), the Norsemen were “add(ing) another hue unto the rainbow (King John (1590s)).”

Talented Vikes had been knocking on the door the season prior, making NFCC and taking eventual winner DC down to the wire, unable to punch it in as final seconds ticked off. Darrin Nelson was their top ground-man (6-800 / 4.5+ per) and had a fine QB in Wade Wilson, a stout line (Zimmerman, Lowdermilk & Irwin), All-Pro TE Steve Jordan and all-everything in Anthony Carter. D wasn’t too shabby either with padded-up Pro Joey Browner in the secondary, Studwell & Solomon in the middle and pass-rush ruffians Chris Doleman and Keith Millard.

Pretty nice “rainbow.”

The result: Herschel was competent in his 2.75 years in purple (4.1 (3.2 PS (89))), but then so was Nelson. Some say he wasn’t employed properly. And that’d be balderdash. Imagine Gale Sayers, Chuck Foreman or Jerome Bettis failing to be used properly. Not possible. Hersch was rated the same (1514 (‘88)). When the handwriting was on the wall, Walker ran like he’d hit that wall and showed no interest in scaling it, not in Minneapolis.

Dallas parlayed 3-4 of Minnesota’s umpteen players & picks into key contributors to three Super Bowl wins in the 90s. Good but not a great result, and even then could’ve just as easily produced nothing of serious value.

..........Walker.5.14.10.wc.USArmy.J.VannucciDrafts are always a dice roll, regardless of research and pre-draft hype. Just as often as not, no matter the # of selections, any draft can be a bust, resulting in few or no long-term player benefits for the club.

More than the benefits Dallas received from Minnesota’s largesse, due in credit to the Cowboys and luck, it was the high expectations for Walker, poured by Jones and guzzled up by Minnesota dealers, that went unfulfilled and borne by the Vikings, which constitutes the crux of this historical trade.

And that’s the backdrop for what transpired last week on the NFL wheeler-dealer front, to offer some perspective on Saturday’s surprising Sam Bradford deal engineered between the Vikings current brain-trust in Rick Spielman (GM), Mike Zimmer (HC) and owner Zygi Wilf, and the Eagles inner-circle of Howie Roseman (GM), head coach Doug Pederson and their owner Jeff Lurie.

You can’t say Philly got a Herschel haul like Dallas did, getting two draft picks and cash (1R (‘17) + 4R (18) + $7M ($18M)), or that Minnesota mortgaged their future on the 6th-year signal-caller from OKC, (b.1987) as they did in 1989. But to those fans with a long memory, the vibrations that emanate from this present song will strike familiar flat notes with the former ditty of disaster.

.........Bradford.wc.USEmbassyLondon.thm.10.23.12Sam’s got real upside, there’s no doubt about that.

He’s a quality pocket-passer in his prime, more NFL vetted than was Walker. When healthy, he averages 3500+ pass, C% 60+ and a 20-13 TD-ratio. Not elite #s but solid, enough to help get one to the Conference title.

Bradford’s downside is that he’s injury-prone, beginning at close of his college days in Norman (UO) and a state which has subtracted time from two of his five pro campaigns (2010 / ‘13). One more concern not so easily quantified as injury debits and TD credits is Sam’s leadership level, more specifically, clutch capability. A question (?) mark.

Most perplexing and vexing about Minnesota’s adding Bradford, as too in the Walker case, is its arguable non-necessity. No gilding the lily here but the need is questionable because the quarterback spot appeared already well in-hand with veteran field general Shaun Hill’s patient presence on Vikings’ roster.

Some media report that Hill has been penciled-in as Vikings’ Week 1 starter.

The 10-year QB who’s been clip-boarding and offering insights to the project that has proven to be TD-challenged Ted Bridgewater, had been prepared for just such a circumstance yet couldn‘t have expected he’d be used merely as a bridge-QB, to bide time for a newly signed rosteree in Bradford to get acclimated.

.........Hill.wc.10.4.15.J.Beall.738kLoyalty is no favored virtue today, neither is composure (v. panic), but Hill under center gave Minnesota an experienced, proven presence in what could be Adrian Peterson‘s swan song in Land of 10,000 Lakes.

When given the opportunity, Shaun Hill has proven a quite capable matriculator.

The Maryland Terrapin began in brief with the Vikes in 2005, then moved to San Fran. As a starter for parts of 3 seasons he compiled what could be called an impressive rookie record in W-L (10-6), C% 62+, TD-ratio (23-11) and pass (3400+). That was a 49ers club that, like this current Minnesota group, was building to contendership (Singletary to Harbaugh) while his next stop was in Detroit which hasn’t had an NFL title since Bobby Layne.

As to Mr. Bridgewater, sidelined for the 2016 season with an ACL tear, he’s gotta’ be scratching his head as well.

It’s one thing to have your back-up fill the breach when you go down but to bring in a hired-gun still in prime, that can change the 2017 dynamic drastically, depending on the Vikes 2016 and if Ted returns in-tact, not unlikely given the wonders worked by today’s surgeons (See; All-Day (ACL)).

......Bridgewater.8.4.14.wc.M.Deery.6.5mCommentators must remember to tailor their views in knowledge they are not often privy to all facts and devilish details which imbue these sort of deals (moi). But as that wise Assyrian named Ahikar wrote many centuries ago, ‘a sparrow in thy hand is better than a thousand sparrows flying (Wikipedia)’ or an Eagle who went 7-7 (25-37) with 14 INTs. Put another way, ‘If it works, don’t fix it,’ Mr. Spielman.

If this deal proves a win-win for both teams, that’s just terrific. God knows Philly and Minnesota could use some good fortune.

While Eagles roll the dice in going all-in on rookie Carson Wentz who’s cut his QB-teeth on FCS competition (NDSU), then enticed Vikings to bite by assuming lion’s share of Bradford’s 2016 pay ($11M ($18M)), it’s the Purple who engage a slightly more risky game of chance in the Bradford deal in betting multiple top draft picks in apparent pass on a ready n’ able substitute in Mr. Hill.

Curses don’t exist except in minds of the malleable. The many misfortunes borne by NFL’s Minnesota franchise come not from boogie-men and demonic spells, nor a lack of generally wise management (2009 pick-up of Brett Favre, while costly in salary, proved sage (NFCC10), for a season, anyway), but instead from the lack of two All-Pro virtues: Patience and trust.

Of course, knowing when to make “adjustments (SB4)” and employing the art of tackling (NFCC 1999, ‘01) rank pretty high on that list, too.

......NFL-symbol.wikiproject.6kbSteven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: Vikings, wc.cca, wordmark, 2004; R.Spielman, wc, M.Deery, 8.4.14; H.Walker, wc, USArmy, 5.14.10, J.Vannucci; H.Walker, RepPeterson, wc, 5.5.4, wc, PE4Life; Viktor, wc, M.Mekuk, 11.7.10, MN-NG; S.Bradford, wc, 10.23.12, USEmbassyLondon; S.Hill, wc, 10.4.15, J.Beall;
Posted: 9.5.16 @ 2:32am EST; Copyright © 2016

MLB16 Chin Music: The Last Iconic, Hack’s 191 Endures As Ueber-Think Thrives

24 Aug

The Ueber Code: No $tone Unturned

Evanston, Illinois: That’s the birthplace.

It aught tell the reader, onto which of Windy City’s two major league ball-clubs I pin my hopes n’ dreams for World Series glory. It aught.

Not familiar with Chicagoland, beyond sports, its famous residents (Prez Obama, Ray Kroc (McDonald‘s), Carl Sandburg (“Big Shoulders”), Oprah Winfrey, Bill Murray) and the legends (Mrs. O‘Leary, Al Capone, Harry Caray)?

...........Hack.Wilson.smile.faceNo map-app? No problem. Some clues: I think Hank O’Day had moxie to burn while bribe-taking Joe Jackson, human as we all are, has no place in the Hall, ever.

Still in the dark? Hmmm, okay, let’s see…oh, oh, I’ve got it, this should flip the switch: My team was the first dynasty of professional baseball, winning the flag (6) or taking 2nd (3) nine of MLB’s first 15 years (1876 – 90) and today can make a strong case in claim of title to our nation’s most beloved sports franchise, i.e., America’s Team. A claim.

That‘s right, you got it, I’m a Chicago Cubs fan.

And like any Bruins backer worth their weight in beehive bounty, I accept the White Sox as a necessity to Chicago’s baseball gestalt, appreciating their one-half part in helping make that rare state, a metropolis supporting two major league teams (NYC, SF Bay, LA metro). Were they members of rival operations, i.e., a Federal, Players or American Association, that’d be even the better (quality & cost controls), but the Courts and compliant media don’t see it that way and most fans, even with $20 nachos, aren’t squawkin.’ Buuurp!

..........Comiskey.wc.thm.1910.BPLI’d appreciate South Siders even more had they chosen to keep “Old Roman” Charles Comiskey’s (1859-31) name for their new digs (1991-02), one that drips with cachet, first gaining national prominence in late 1880s as key cog in those great St. Louis Browns clubs (AA) and then of course as founder of Chicago’s entrant into the new rival American League, rather than cave to corporate shill, i.e., US Cellular, a tag with about as much cachet as a corn-dog n’ cola. Buuurp!

Nevertheless, I do hold the Pale Hose in higher regard than HFCS, most TV and fellow Evanstonian Peter Ueberroth who as Commissioner in ‘84 PS gave Cubs playoff chances, their first in 40 years (25 more than Padres existed), the short shrift in awarding the Garvey – Gwynn Padres home-field (SD 3-2), even as San Diego was five up in the loss column over the Sandburg – Sutcliffe North-siders, then strong-armed the Cubs into installing lights in the friendly confines.

Not very nice, Peter.

And not all too bright either, given that this baseball version of America’s Team was likely the favored opponent of neutralites around baseball nation who were eagerly anticipating the match-up with Sparky’s roaring Tigers (DET 4-1 SD).

But that sort of play was $OP for Pete in his two Directorships, the first selling the summer semi-Olympics in Los Angeles (Commies stay home after Corporates boycott Moscow (80)), then in steering MLB operations (Oct.1984-89), a procedure that would change the business of sport management forever.

..........Ueberroth.wc.USGov.thm.WrigleyWhile his baseball reign was a cup o’ coffee in Commissioner time, his directives have had staying power, becoming the template for sport leaders from coast to coast in both professional and semi-pro (NCAA) ranks.

The Ueber Principle: Maximization of profit potential (MPP). Nothing’s sacred, nothing’s off the table. Everything in the sport is either a billboard or bargaining chip in a profit scheme. If it doesn’t turn a buck, it’s out with the recyclables, Dude. Continuity, style, history, reflection, ‘Where’s the consumerism in those, Loser?’ Oy vey.

In a real sense, Pete’s tack was an outgrowth from Earl Butz’ game-plan for US farm families in the 70s, President Nixon & Ford’s landscape-changing Secretary of Agriculture: ‘Get big or get out!’ Sans the subsidies (anti-trust?), but ballparks no small contributor to the push on high-fructose corn syrup consumption.

And it’s not just greedy owners and media minions who push the UP, union rank n’ file (& Retainers) are at the front of the profit parade. When it comes to money in sport the enemies (owners) of my enemies (players) are friends. Cha-ching!

Ueberroth’s predecessor Bowie Kuhn (1969-84) was no Ernie Banks (“Let’s play two!”) and had his critics in owners (Finley / Steinbrenner) and players both (Flood / Mays & Mantle (casino ties)). But the Maryland native and former NL lawyer did exude a sporting spirit in maintaining a competitive field, backed the induction of Negro League greats into the Hall as their BoD resisted and had an awares of the corrupting influence that some forms of profiteering can have on a game‘s integrity (fantasy gamble, etc.). Cufflink with a conscience?

.....Kuhn.wc.MLB.1982.thmToday, those kind of views will make you a sauropod, flagged straight into the tar-pits. Gulp!

The games are no longer pastimes but merely vehicles for money-makers with smallest of pretense given to quaint notions of reflection & trust. No surprise then that most players now live by the Machiavellian (or Orson Wellesian (The War of the Worlds (radio ‘38))) credo: ‘Ends ($$) justify the means (PEDs),’ or, in present verbage, ‘Cheat if you can get away with it (smirk), even if you don’t (See: Lance, Braun, A-Rod, Lochte, Al-Jazeera 4, etc.) because you’ll get a Disney gig either way. Honk!

And the passengers taken for a ride in the vehicle? Young consumers, of course, the most malleable market who slurp celebrity n’ selling-points the media’s all too eager to pour (Goodell’s grim, rule change needed, officiating awful, etc.).

Hoping for Hatchlings

With the 2016 Cubs cruising to a Central crown, a 2nd straight post-season and most people’s pick to win their first Pennant in over 70 years, you might think I’d be giddy with good vibrations. And then you’d probably be new to sports.

.........Wrigley.wc.Jblesage.5.28.08.thmIf there’s one thing a well-weathered Wrigleyite is not, it is a chicken-counter, as in before those proverbial eggs get hatched. Hatchlings here being the necessary deeds & titles (playoff ticket punched, NLDS win, NLCS, etc) that must be in-hand for residence in Champion City.

The caution comes from generations of fan disappointment, starting with every Cubs contender post-1918, from Hippo Vaughn’s hopefuls, who had a higher BA (.210 v .186), scored more total runs (Red Sox’ Ruth top RBI man (2))) and lower ERA (2.18 v 2.30) than their ‘victorious’ Boston opponents, to last season’s NLCS fellows of fizzle (0-4 NYM) and 11 other post-season busts in between.

Wilson Watch: The New 61

But there is an achievement so impressive, so weighty that Bruins’ backers can, around late-August of every season, reflect upon with pride and satisfaction, one that’s not likely to be eclipsed anytime soon if ever, and that is Hall of Famer Hack Wilson’s eye-popping 1930 single-season tally of 191 RBIs.

This season, that satisfaction came earlier as the only challenges to the 191 were mounted by Ed Encarnacion (TOR) and Nolan Arenado (COL) who just hit the 100 RBI mark last week. With five weeks to go it’s safe to say, “forget about it.”

........Hack-wilson_bat.thmHack’s record will likely stand for another winter and is so frozen in place it’s gonna’ take a serious bump-up in greenhouse gas emissions and disappearance of at least one polar cap to melt the icy wall of invincibility that seems to surround the mark.

There are many tremendous single-season records in MLB’s annals that’ve been achieved, challenged and sometimes bested since it‘s first opening day in 1876.

A short list of some unique and still standing notables:

· Boston Beaneater Hugh Duffy bats .440, wins NL Triple Crown in 1894;
· Same season, Phillies’ Billy Hamilton crosses home plate 198 times;
· Christy Mathewson wins 31 (1.27) and tosses 3 CG-SOs in 1905 Series;
· Ed Walsh wins 40 in ‘08 (1.42 / 464 IN / 42 CG) as Sox team bats .224;
· Ruth’s 1921: 177r, .378ba, 16tp, .846slg, 17sb, 145bb, 59hr and 171rbi;
· Indians’ Joe Sewell strikes out a mere four times in 608 at-bats in 1925;
· Rogers Hornsby wins 2nd Triple Crown in 1925 batting .403 (.401 ‘22);
· AL Leader in HR, R, SLG & OB%, Ted Williams hits .406 in style (41);
· Dodgers’ Jackie Robinson breaks MLB color barrier, wins ROY in ‘47;
· A’s Bill Fischer pitches 84.1 straight innings w/out issuing a walk in ‘62;
· B. Gibson (22-9 / 1.12) & D. McLain (31-6 / 28 CG) go pitch crazy in 1968;
· O. Hershiser throws 59 scoreless innings en route to ‘88 Series win (A’s).

Some sportologists try to sell the theory that the ‘streak’ is baseball’s grandest feat for its high stress and unassailability. And to that I say, poppycock, Doc.

.......Barrow.Ruth.Frazee.McInnis.wc.1918.TSN.282kSuch marks may prove invincible once sanctioned but anything subject to official scoring (Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio’s 56) or personal discretion (Cal Ripken’s 2632) will, upon closer inspection, reveal weak-links in their chains of greatness.

Ever since Yankees’ GM Ed Barrow snatched the Babe from Beantown (‘19), fans have thrilled at power-ball. Goodbye spitters, dead-ball hitters and “Hit ‘em where they ain‘t” (Keeler),..hello lively ball, home run call and “Holy cow, he did it (Rizzuto)!”

In supplanting Ruth’s 60 single-season homer mark (‘27) in 1961, Maris’ number became the biggest jewel in the crown of baseball exploits and holy grail every big bopper in the game wanted to grasp. If the stars aligned, both homer marks did invite serious challenges: Foxx (58 / ‘32); Wilson (56 / ‘30); Greenberg (58 / ’38); Kiner (54 / ‘49); Griffey (56 / ‘97).

But it was the possibility which made them enticing and then easy prey for the performance-enhancing slugs.

Juicers blew by the iconic 61 like it suddenly didn’t exist, as fans & media went ga-ga over Mark & Sammy (’98). The hypocrites could fill every park in the land.

.......Sisler.Ruth.Cobb.10.4.24.wc.929k.LoCSome of the great bat marks felled in recent years:

Maris’ 61, SS – HR (‘61), bested by Mark McGwire & Sammy Sosa (‘98), then Barry Bonds’ 73 (‘01);
Hank Aaron’s 755 career HR (‘76), overtaken by San Francisco Giants Bonds’ 762 total in 2007;
George Sisler’s SS – 257 hits (‘20), surpassed by Seattle Mariners’ Ichiro Suzuki in 2004 with 262 safeties.

Baseball’s governors have a sticky-wicket on their manicured hands: What does Elias Sports Bureau do about Bonds tainted tallies (73 / 762)? Does Ichiro get a pass? Not bold-decision makers and, as noted, focused on coin rather than history, Manfred & Co. will likely continue on the ‘do-nothing’ path and leave the mess for future generations to resolve. Guardians of the game? Ugh.

What the major league game clearly needs is an injection of some Kenesaw Mountain Landisonium to give baseball back its courage and clarity, in play, ownership, management, media coverage and record-keeping, a bedrock component since 1876 . Get Pfizer on that one, STAT.

As such, Roger’s fabled 61 will never regain its former luster, leaving one, last, great, untouched single-season, power mark, free from the grimy fingerprints left by drug-cheats, calling-cards ignored by baseball’s cops on the beat (MLB & collectors in media) who seem only interested in making their pension.

......Hack.Wilson.Goudey.wc.1933.thmWilson’s gargantuan RBI record has stood the test of time (86 years) and serves as testament to what a man on a team stamped Good Dugout Seal-of-Approval can achieve w/out body armor, cortisone, PEDs and $30M-a-year (K).

The 191 is the new standard for power prowess, benchmark for immortality. It’s the new 61. But you won’t hear that on Disney (ESPN) or MLB Network.

Had Hack painted his masterpiece with a New York brush (NYG 1923-25) instead of Chicago, epicenter of trains, Great Lakes traffic, commodities & Midwest flair, Gotham City scribes would’ve immortalized Wilson’s fantastic feat in poetry & prose (See; Franklin Pierce Adams). As it stands, the media mecca of America will never pay homage to a record set by a Second City sultan.

Another reason Hack’s 191 is marginalized: So few have challenged it.

There were Gehrig (184 / ‘31), Greenberg (183 / ‘37) & Foxx (175 / ‘38), but even with today’s advantages in armor, medicine, nite n’ lites, travel-zip, more games, AL-DH, Denver and lower mound, 153 (T. Davis / ’62) and 165 (M. Ramirez / ’99) are closest anyone’s gotten in over 60y. Tigers Miguel Cabrera stood at 130 with five weeks+ left in the 2012 season and finished with a thud (139).

RBIs need three things: Base-runners, a team-mentality and general health.

......MeetingGods.wc.1630.Poelenburch.RPG-Mauritshuis.3mRuth ushered in homer-ball but Depression era players were frugal fellows, never forgetting the purpose behind batting: Score runs, win games! Today’s Home Run Derby mindset sneers at OBP and then, when the table is set, too many batters ( & Mgrs) fixate on the long ball.

Maybe the Sporting Gods guard the 191 as an emblem to an era. Good riddance to segregation and the fixola (1919) which was embedding but honoring the days free of nightly walk-off bunny-hop hysteria, Gatorade® drench, shave cream pie-in-the-face routine, drag pants, body armor, late-game World Series snooze (Zzzz), drug cheats (PEDs), tinker-bells (in rule change), sabrmetrics nor hanger-ons who hope for Hall call. Only records most 30s guys cared about spun on a Victrola.

And maybe Cubs finally take the Pennant again this season, maybe they don’t.

What’s certain now and likely to remain certain for the foreseeable future is that practically no one remembers who won the Pennants or World Series two years ago but nearly every baseball fan worth their weight in salted peanuts n’ franks knows the name of the man who holds major league baseball’s single-season runs-batted-in mark. “Hackidu” it’s you! That aught tell you something about the sacrosanct status of records, Mr. Manfred. So get crackin!’

.....canned cornSteven Keys
Can o’ Corn
Photo Credit: H.Wilson-R.Hornsby, Chicago Cubs; H.Wilson; C.Comiskey, BPL, 1910, wc.cca; P.Ueberroth, wc, Wrigley, US.Gov; B.Kuhn, wc, 1982, MLB; Wrigley.Field, Jblesage, wc, 5.28.8; H.Wilson; E.Barrow, B.Ruth, H.Frazee, S.McInnis, wc, 1918, TSN; G.Sisler, B.Ruth, T.Cobb, LoC, wc, 10.4.24; Wilson, Goudey, wc, 1933; Meeting.Gods, wc, 1630, Poelenburch, RPG-Mauritshuis; Canned-corn
Posted: 8.24.16 @ 2:17pm EST; Copyright © 2016

NFL16: Uff Da! Vikings Have ‘Miles to Go’ in Frosty North

4 Aug

Home Sweet Home

There’s nothing like getting new digs.

As school gets under way across America, that’s just what alot of folks are doing before the rains come and the snow flies.

It’s alot of work getting settled in but once you unpack, make the connections, fill in the familiarities it’ll feel like home again. Course, it’s a little different for renters (moi): Fewer commitments but sometimes more surprises.

“Chris Stevens” explored the topic in Northern Exposure: There are two kinds of people, he said, “owners” and “renters.” The “Morning” man came into a small inheritance and tried the proprietor thing for a spell to help a friend (“Holling”) but soon discovered such was not the life for him. He bailed on the venture and let Vincoeur keep the stake. A truly inspirational TV show if there ever was one.

.........Favre.11.15.09.wc.1.2m.NG.MNThat vision on people aught not to be confused with the “Blondie” version (The Good the Bad and the Ugly): “There two kinds of people, my friend (“Tuco”), those with loaded guns and those who dig. You dig.” But I digress.

The Minnesota Vikings have new digs.

US Bank Stadium is built. It’s big, bodacious, glassy, steely and it recently held a 2-day grand opening for the public (7.23-24). Uff da! That’s Norwegian for booyah or wow!

Nixing a return to open-air design of Black n’ Blue rivals Green Bay (Lambeau), Chicago (Soldiers) and their own Metropolitan (d.1981) that saw so many wins in the 60s & 70s when Bud Grant’s teams were undisputed rulers of the Northwest Territory, the powers instead chose a fixed-roof (Ford) in an abstract expression that’ll keep bodies cozy and revenue rolling in (SB52).

I know what you’re thinking, are the Wilfs (Zygi) renters or owners of this brand spankin’ new stadium? Sure you are.

Though team owners and other investors covered 52% (+/-) of construction cost while tax dollars from State residents and Minneapolis visitors (“hospitality tax”) pick up the rest of the tab (48%), more or less, the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority, a body created by State legislature and comprised of government-selected membership will own, “control and operate (SMG)” the whole kit n’ kaboodle (Wikipedia). Purr-fect.

.........USBankStdm.wc.7.24.16.Darb02.2mNo longer laughing stock of the League as when the having-let-fall-into-disrepair Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome (1982-14) roof collapsed on Vikings’ sad 2010 season (HHH’s memory deserved better), then relegated to semi-welcome guests at TCF Bank the last two seasons as University Regents pitched a PC fit right on cue when Purple hosted the Washington R-Words…oh, wait, aboriginal Americans are fine with the name (“9 of 10”), Redskins, the reigning NFCN champs (11-5) are ready n’ willing to make this season the start of a new era of championship play.

Question is, are these 2016 Norsemen able…to fulfill that mission?

They may have a ways “to go” before forging a destiny and own even their North division, one the Pack dominated for most of these past 25 years beginning with Hall of Fame inductee (8.6) and former Viking, Brett Favre’s GB tenure (‘92), and then which the Vikes had owned for most of 70s (Grant) and 80s (Burns).

Black & Blue Betters

No surprise then that NFL schedulers picked Vikings’ arch-nemesis the Packers to do the honors of helping break-the-seal on the new USB (interface) Stadium in W2 action (9.18) after the Minnesotans return from Tennessee (Pack @ Jax) to open divisional play and begin the trek to SB51 in Houston (2.7.17).

No surprise either that both Minny & Heebie-GB were saddled with juggernaut-caliber schedules, or, as our friends the Brits will soon be pouring into the frothy football colloquy, ‘That‘s one bloody tough sed-jewel, mate!’ I look forward.

........Rodgers.wc.cca.M.Morbeck.12.7.8.73kIt’ll be a good early test for both Northern toppers. And the Bears and Lions, like the quick-learner said, ‘fool me once, shame on you, fool me (10x), shame on (my sorry ass).’ Two tougher customers with zip you won’t find than Misters Cutler & Stafford but “forget about it.”

Pack hopes to right the ship after earlier-than-expected PS exit (@ AZ), due to an atypical middling offense (#23 ygpg / 15 pspg) led by Mr. Matriculator Aaron Rodgers who suddenly looked average, missing, maybe too much, his GTG in Jordy Nelson, along with the typical (since LeRoy Butler retired) just-good-enough D that ranked in middle-of-the-NFL-pack, again (#15 yapg / 21 papg).

For the host team, of primary importance is re-establishing divisional dominance not held since 2009-10 season when Brad Childress and All-Pros Jared Allen, Adrian Peterson & Favre, who gets Cantonized (OH) on Saturday and whose NFL story contains a brief but memorable closing chapter written in purple ink, bested their regional rival in both meetings leaving no doubt on top dog.

And that’s just what any aspirant need do if seeking to unseat a sitting juggernaut like Green Bay, New England or Pittsburgh. Winning ain’t enough and it certainly ain’t everything, “Steve (J.Wayne).” Eking out a win by a field goal won’t cut it, not as the competition stiffens, meaning, even had Blair Walsh not hooked it to close out a playoff loss (SEA), Vikes short-comings were sure to roost in what‘s become a snake-pit NFCC setting (’98 / ‘10) for the Minnesotans.

Minnesota’s road to titletown must go through…Titletown, whether in Brown County (WI) or the traveling version come to pay respects at USB.

........Zimmer.9.20.14.1m.wc.MN-NGThink GB’s offense was near-anemic in 2015? Purple people came in just under green & yellow in points scored per game (#16) and a pathetic 29th in yards gained. It was of course the defense that made Vikes playoff contenders, ranking #13 in yards allowed per (344.2), just 4y behind #10 Tampa, and a stellar #5 spot in points allowed (18.9), besting NFC winners Carolina (19.2) and a mere four-tenths (0.4) behind eventual Super champs, Denver.

If you follow pro ball you know the NFL’s a quarterback League. Field generals need not pile numbers like Misters Moon, Brady or Favre but he’d better enjoy airing-it-out as habit to build leads and be Eveready® to claim it back when behind, willing to take reasonable risks, i.e. eye for threading needles, or your team will too often have to rely on the foot of a kicker, a key cog but which is no good way to blueprint a championship run.

The names Trent Dilfer, Brad Johnson, Doug Williams and Jeff Hostetler don’t conger up images of bronze busts, not so far, but they’re all deserving champions who had the physical ability and collective wherewithal to put up big numbers in big games when it mattered most.

And ‘where’ exactly Vikings’ Teddy Bridgewater will end up and ‘with’ whom when his story is written, only the Sporting Gods know for sure.

Bridge Work Ahead

The second of Vikes two 1st rounders in 2014 (32) (Bruin backer and 2015 Pro Bowl selectee Tony Barr #9), QB Bridgewater (LOU), pegged by head coach Mike Zimmer and OC Norv Turner to lead Minnesota to the promised land, appears still seated firmly at the drafting board as yet unable to translate that blueprint into an easy on-field matriculatory style and scoring scheme.

......Bridgewater.8.4.14.wc.M.Deery.6.5mTeddy, a Pro Bowl selectee himself (Who wasn’t? Oh right, “Johnny Red-Flag”), TB sports a fine career C% (65) and keeps the picks to an acceptable quantity, averaging just over ten each campaign.

But when you won’t venture forth, take calculated risks, your picks can remain few. You gotta throw ‘em to make ‘em (TDs). The Miami native throws about as many TDs (28) as INTs (21) and the sticky-gloves aren’t helping much (8f ‘15). In his one playoff appearance last January versus the Seahawks, Ted again had that nice C% (71%) but only threw for 146y and zero (0) TDs.

Safe & simple won’t get ‘er done in the elite class of competition. I put Ted (5 (1-10)) just a notch below Mr. Mariota (5.5) and the set-for-life ($$) Mr. Osweiler (6 (HOU)) in the PPP assessment: Pro potentiality and progression.

Again, I know what you’re thinking (It’s the ginkgo biloba): ‘Hey, AOTC, TB’s receiver crew was definitely not too awesome in 2015. That will change in 2016. With 1st-rounder (23) Laquon Treadwell (Ole Miss) a deep threat, Stefon Diggs (2y) taking the next level, Kyle Rudolph (TE) present n’ accounted for and Jarius Wright filling the slot, the Bridge is gonna’ start extending the field, dude!’

Maybe, but a so-so receiver corps is no good excuse for mediocre matriculate.

Top QBs, even the younger version (Luck / Wilson / Winston), make players around them better. It’s why the Nelson void does not entirely explain the Rodgers downturn in 2015. You’ve gotta’ challenge your receivers, yourself and set the bar higher, encouraging coaches to show faith and communicate (listen) all along the way. On a different team, Mr. Gronkowski is good but I doubt he‘s gronksome minus Tom Brady.

.......Peterson.1.28.12.wc.Arvee5.0.309kWith Nick Foles now in Chiefs’ fold, I say is it’s a damn shame a very capable, proven matriculator like veteran Shaun Hill who could teach a thing or two by example and was still rostered at this posting, must sit idle, only getting a start if someone goes down with injury.

And then there’s the indomitable Adrian Peterson.

All-Day had a terrific comeback season, leading NFL with 1485 yards (92.8) after sitting most of 2014 on susp’n. In 2016 he enters his 10th run. Gas left in the tank? Good guess says, yes. But big-time backs don’t often carry clubs to titles, not since John “loosen up” Riggins, Joe Morris, Ottis Anderson & Jamal Lewis were carrying the loads with capable QBs under center.

When the Vikes can turn one of those 4-team division title trophies into genuine, jewel-encrusted NFC Halas hardware and trip-to-the-Super-Bowl titles (‘77), I’ll sit up and take note. Hell, if Purple just get to an NFCC more than once a decade (98 / 10) the new digs will be worth it, even if monster trucks are the top tenant.

......NFL-symbol.wikiproject.6kbSteven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: Viktor-Spc.M.Mecuk, wc.cca, 11.7.10, MN-NG; B.Favre, 11.15.9, wc, MN-NG; USBankStdm, wc, Darb02, 7.24.16; A.Rodgers, wc, 12.7.8, M.Morbeck; M.Zimmer, wc, 9.20.14, MN-NG; T.Bridgewater, wc, 8.4.14, M.Deery; A.Peterson, wc, 1.28.12, Arvee5.0; NFL-symbol, wikiproject
Posted: 8.4.16 @ 4:45pm, edit @ 11:15 EST; Copyright © 2016