Tag Archives: Sporting Gods

NFL17 Pre-Play: Triumvirate Intact, Patriots Grip On Power Remains Firm

1 Jun

Hail the New England Patriots’ Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and Robert Kraft!

Never in the history of sport has a tightly-woven triad of money (owner), brain (coach) & brawn (player) so effectively organized and implemented an operation of success over such a long period of time and with so little apparent friction as have these three, compatible personalities.

Historically, the triumvirate has shown mixed results.

The ancient Romans, building blocks to Western civilization, triumvirated a couple of times (Caesar – Crassus – Pompey 60 BC / Antony – Octavian – Lepidus 43BC), without much claim to victory, save brief respites from war.

Jumping forward to the North American pro sport scene, you’d be hard-pressed to find the same owner, coach (mgr) and top player remaining together winning titles for anywhere near as long as the Foxborough Three have been doing it.

There were the Habs (1944-79), Yanks (1923-62), Celtics & Lakers, dynasties we’ve been talking about for generations but none a triumvirate of top-level talent staying intact for as prolonged a period as these Patriots powerbrokers.

There were the Lombardi – Green Bay teams where ownership (EC – BoD), coach and key offensive player in Bart Starr, the way under-rated Bart Starr, won lots o’ titles but in a much more concentrated timeline (1961 – 68). Condensed greatness is potent (70s Steelers / 80s 49ers) and terrific in its own way but not of the championship continuum on topic here and special too itself.

It’s in the NBA where is found the only real comparison to the Patriots trio-of-time-tested-title-takers, that being the San Antonio Spurs.

The trifecta of Peoria native and current owner Peter Holt (1993), coach Gregg Popovich (1996 >) and recently retired center and championship nexus in Tim Duncan (1997-16) garnered five NBA titles (’99, 03, 05, 07, 14) in sixteen seasons, though never back-to-back (NE: 04-05), requisite for the dynasty.

But that was then, this is now, and wow, the Foxborough Three are defending NFL champions again after their Swing Time SB51 OT win over the ‘gotta’ still be stunned’ Falcons, having made the grade even as their starry starter in Brady had to sit the first four on his Deflategate susp’n. The red, white & blue bunch have been setting and maintaining a standard of sport excellence unlikely to be matched for a long, long time. Never say never, right?

Detractors will bemoan, ‘Hey dingdong, don’t forget Spygate, you fool!’ Always class-acts, and never redundant, the bemoaner boys. Rules violations are wrong, some even bad, i.e., failing to cooperate with an investigation (destroying a phone). But the general public, those with no serious rivalry axe-to-grind or having little interest in promoting their own brand of team who seek ’The Greatest’ award (Cowboys, Steelers, Packers, 49ers), just won’t be too bothered by black-marks on a team’s historical ledger that involve spying or stretching of the rules, outside game-fixing and PEDs. Spys have helped us win wars. A bit off-track here but that’s how the more rationally-minded fan will think.

Can they keep it going? Not forever, they can‘t, as hard as that is to imagine in 2017. Someday Tom will hang up his cleats, Bill hand in his headset one last time and Rob just won’t care anymore. All three have accomplished just about everything they can in the business of football, personally and as a team.

With Tom and Bill both having set the new standard in SB tandem wins with five and the team having set the record for Super Bowl appearances last February in Houston with their ninth (9) (5-4) (Pitt – Dallas – Denver all at eight (8)), about the only achievement unattained is to match and then surpass the Steelers league leading six (6) victories in the Big Game.

But as long as Brady stays healthy and the Foxborough Triumvirate keeps itself amused, an NFL bound to get more amusing, and lengthy, if not better, with Raja Goodell’s kow-tow in relaxing celebration rules, Pats should keep winning.

If you’re expecting to read here roster depth-chart chatter, draft break-downs and musings on New England’s 2017 schedule, forget it. Trust, in Belichick & Company’s judgment and future performance, has never been more earned.

Besides, who’s gonna’ stop ‘em? Anyone in the AFC?

Ben’s a trooper but needs sideline help; Denver & Houston have D but the Os are iffy; Colts & Titans have Os but Ds are doubtful; Raiders Las Vegas engagement came at a bad time for a still maturing Carr; Harbaugh & Flacco know how but is owner listening; KC will play out the string with Reid & Smith; Miami has a good QB in Tannehill but no good game-plan and Cincy, well, they’re Cincy.

In the weaker NFC the Cards turned conundrum; Wilson has D but needs a plan from Pete, not protest (CK); Rodgers needs a run-buddy and a D; Saints showed spunk late; Bucs are rising; Cats didn’t claw back in 2016; Eli is locked-in (‘20); Cousins may’ve peaked and that leaves Atlanta who need to shake off the shame.

Maybe it’s like those other eras with one, or two, dominant clubs, Pack in the 60s, Pitt – Dallas in 70s, 49ers in the 80s: Until the big dog (NE) loses its bite, everyone keeps focusing on the leader of the pack, tripping over their tail at the worst possible times. Course, having a defense that can close the deal is key, its absence to continue to be the biggest issue for most teams in 2017.

But in every NFL season there is the unexpected, that turnaround team where everything begins to click (Falcons / Raiders 2016-17), or sustained success sprouts from where no special tillage had been undertaken (Dallas draft).

As long as Robert Kraft, Tom Brady and Bill Belichick remain together in good spirits and keep “calm(ing) the envious spirit” in those sporadic challenges to their predominance, efforts that will require a charmed season aided in no small part by a capricious Sporting God set (See; Carolina ‘15 – Dallas ‘16), this 21st century will remain the Patriots Period, period.

Steven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: NFL-wikiproject, wc.cca, Ixnay-Beao; Belichick-Kraft-Kerry, wc, US-Department-of-State, 4.25.15; T.Brady, wc, K.Allison, 8.28.09; W.Wood, Topps, 1970.
Posted: 6.1.17 @ 2:13p EST, edit 6.26; Copyright © 2017

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NCAAF16: Bad Karma Behind the Brian Kelly – Notre Dame Blues?

22 Nov

Karmic Backlash

It’s become standard operating procedure today for many in the mainstream and social media, that when a public figure makes a misstep or puts them self too far ahead of interested others, that judgment is passed quickly and with teeth.

So when current Notre Dame football coach Brian Kelly bid his then employer the University of Cincinnati an unexpected sayonara in December of 2009 before conclusion of their football campaign (Sugar Bowl), one would’ve expected his dubious departure to’ve received the same testy treatment.

kelly-wc-j-meier-7-25-12-356kInstead, sport observers turned a collective blind eye to the move: No big deal.

Why the kid gloves then for Kelly and his new employer, the University of Notre Dame? South Bend clout? Chicago clout? Boston clout? Catholic clout? The Pope’s a powerful pontiff. No lo sé.

When Kelly, who, on taking the job in northwest Indiana, was in his 3rd season with the Bearcats (‘06 (1) – 09), a tenure that began when he left C. Michigan to take the reins from Mark Dantonio (MSU) to coach UC in the International Bowl and compiled a 33-6 mark, undertook in-season negotiations with ND to fill the void created by Charlie Weis’ firing and left Cincinnati (#3) before their Sugar Bowl (UF), this observer expected negative reverberations for the opportunistic act. But outside of maybe southwest Ohio, nary a peep was heard from sporting types on what could be termed, at best, exploitive, at worst, unethical behavior on Brian’s part who apparently lets nothing so trifling as loyalty and spirit-of-contract stand in the way of what looks to be the perfect job (cha-ching!).

In fairness to the Everett, Massachusetts native (10.25.61), the slightly seamy game of coaching musical chairs has become as standard of a practice in college football as has that rush to judgment in the world of scribblers & gossips.

Nevertheless, Brian Kelly and his Notre Dame cohorts might now be getting their comeuppance for their crass contract play some seven years back. Maybe Mark Dantonio and his Michigan State handlers, too (MSU 3 -8 (2016)).

notredame-logo-wc-nduBut not from mainstreamers and social gadflies. Uh uh. The media are as captured and compliant as an FDA new drug approval committee. Eek.

Rather, Kelly might be getting his just deserts from the Sporting Gods, those spirited entities in charge of that immeasurable force called karma. In his case, bad karma. Specifically, the karmic backlash.

As of last Saturday’s contest, a 34-31 loss to Virginia Tech, his record with the Fighting Irish stands at a modest 59-30 (.662), 3-3 in bowl action. Brian did as early as his third season get the green & gold to a BCS title game (12-1), then got steam-rolled by the Crimson Tide, 42-14. Since then it’s been fair-to-middling.

“Was you ever bit by a dead bee?”

Last January Notre Dame and Brian Kelly inked a 6-year extension. While other terms such as salary were not made available, the coach’s haul is estimated to be $4 million a year (coacheshotseat.com).

AD Jack Swarbrick (2008), Trustee Chair John Brennan and Board members chose to re-invest in Kelly in a signing just weeks after the team took another PS shellacking, this time in the BattleFrog Fiesta Bowl from the team coached by the other half of the two-coach dominated FBS system, the Ohio State Buckeyes and Urban Meyer, 44-28 (See Also: Saban (CBK: Krzyzewski & Calipari)).

Their basis: Swarbrick cited the word “foundation” and it having been laid with knowing care by Brian Kelly in key facets of a strong college football enterprise.

Also factoring into their decision may’ve been the fact that his coach’s win-% (.705 (55-23 thru 2015)) ranks better than Weis, Willingham, Davies and Faust, all four who came in just above or below the .550 mark. Terrific.

notredamestadium-wc-1930-bpl-tichnor-3mBut “foundation” and ‘better than Charlie, Ty, Bob & Gerry’ ain’t gonna’ cut it when it’s Notre Dame football, where Rockne, Layden, Leahy, Parseghian, Devine & Holtz forged a standard that became bigger than life, a regal reputation admired by sport fans from coast to coast.

Like Dallas (1996) in the NFL, the Fighting Irish are still top dog nationally. When they do well, the world seems right with money-makers and fans alike. But with Nick and Urban building legendary programs in their respective schools, that top spot gets more tenuous with every season sans national title #16, the last coming as far back as 1988 (Holtz), the longest drought since Knute arrived (1918).

With the Irish falling at home to Virginia Tech their 2016 record sinks to 4-7.

The Irish had five players go pro after post-2015, but all the top factories lose most of their rated workforce to the NFL draft come declaration day. Michigan, Ohio State, Alabama, Washington, PSU, they all cope with the talent drain.

Brian Kelly represents that growing element in college sport where personal opportunity becomes the “foundation” of that individual’s coaching career, ergo the Cincinnati play. Coaching legend Larry Brown is their poster-boy. And it’s a mind-set that always has an eye open for NFL possibilities (BK- Eagles 2012).

Notre Dame Trustees would be wise to adopt a similar approach. Re-read its football coach and athletic director contracts, in good faith, but in a light most favorable to its University and in perpetuating its champions legacy. Then, when they find their new candidates, make them reasonably generous offers but only AFTER the college football season ends. Oy vey.

macroecono-lamcasinoroyal-2011-wcSteven Keys
MacroSport
Photo credit: B.Kelly, wc.cca, 9.171.2, Andyohsbass09; Kelly, wc, J.Meier, 7.25.12; ND-logo, wc, UND; ND-Stadium, wc, BPL, TichnorBros, 1930; macroecono, lamcasinoroyal, wc, 2011
Posted: 11.22.16 @ 3:17pm, edit @ 5:17 EST; Copyright © 2016

MLB16 Chin Music: Cubs Win Is Just More Cloudburst For Rainmaker Epstein

6 Nov

Those Sporting Gods are a funny bunch of deities. Not funny like a “clown,” oh no, but curious, like that monkey on PBS (“George”).

sportingmeetinggods-wc-1630-cv-poelenburgh-3mAt times they seem asleep at the wheel, having no interest whatsoever in the goings-on of sport, letting just about any Whosit on a hot-streak hoist the Title hardware (‘86 Mets, ‘06 Heat, ‘15 GSW, ’14 Seahawks), then, at other times, the Sporting Gods just can’t keep their all-guiding hands off of the controls.

It’s the latter practice that looks to’ve been in operation for major league baseball’s World Series 2016 that pitted two Title-starved opponents in the Cleveland Indians against the Chicago Cubs.

The Gods must’ve had themselves a good long laugh.

Not with the winning Bruins (4-3), the team most pre-season prognosticators pegged to take the title, but in affecting the crazy course by which the Cubbies finally navigated their way, once again (‘07-08), back to the champion’s podium.

As for the Indians, Mgr Terry Francona and Cleveland brass will have ’em back.

chancemcgraw-5-2-1911-gg-bain-loc-wc-66kEmphasis on the adverb ‘again’ as most people, even the raucous revelers on State Street, have no idea (interest) that there were times, like in the 1880s (Cap Anson, King “Hook-Slide” Kelly, John Clarkson) and then early 1900s (Chance, Evers, Tinker, Brown, Kling, Overall, Steinfeldt, Reulbach) when the name Chicago Cubs struck fear into the hearts of men, even the likes of Cobb, Wagner, McGinnity & McGraw.

First, the Gods put the Tribe out front (3-1), building hope for their frustrated fans who hadn‘t had a championship since Red River was in the theaters (“Yeeee-ha!” (‘48)), then they set the Cubs, who hadn’t even taken a pennant since that heart-wrenching year of 1945 (FDR – WW2), storming back to even it up at three, most of their wins coming on the road, no less, at Progressive Field.

And if that weren’t enough to trigger the PVCs, then the deciding game seven (7) goes extra innings (Zzzzz), has a rain-delay and had baseball writers pulling their hair out not knowing which title they were gonna’ post (’Cleveland, City of Champs!’ or ‘Cubs Win, Cubs Win, Cubs Win!’).

james-wc-4-27-8-k-allison-3-8mEven a kingly presence in the crowd (LeBron James) couldn’t turn the trick for the Tribe.

But if there are any fans in sportdom who can fully appreciate both the lows of losing the big match (Indians) and then the cathartic joy that comes with winning the Chalice of a Champion (Cavaliers), it would be those who reside in and around the Forest City, Ohio.

So after all their fun n’ games, why’d the Gods tab Chicago the winner?

If there’s one thing the Divinities will not tolerate, something they simply abhor, it is the haphazard stewardship of baseball records.

If you write about rounders often you will come to rely on the wealth of statistics made available on the web at baseball-reference.com. The same sort of repository exists for many of the major American merriments. When you cut through all the sabrmetric snooze (WAR, OPS, etc.), the site’s smorgasbord of stats is a tremendous baseball resource for which this user is grateful.

gold-medieval-ring-wc-sonofthesands-britain-146kBut when the boys who run the site brazenly decided in-Series to award championship rings to the Indians (appearing as a gold icon next to the relevant year in the “Postseason” section (all now removed)), as early as the close of game three (3) with Tribe up 2-1, the Sporting Gods decided on a winner: The Cubs. There’s that, and the fact that the Northsider’s dry-spell for a World Series winner (1908), whether based at West Side Grounds or Weeghman – Wrigley Field, had Cleveland’s beat by 40 years. Plenty parched.

— — —

He was near demigod status in his role shaping the Francona Red Sox teams that ended their own championship drought in 2004 and reigned again in 2007. But in doing the same for the parched pin-strippers on Chicago’s Northside (See Also; GM Jed Hoyer), Theo Nathaniel Epstein (b.12.29.73 (NY)) left behind the wunderkind tag and joined a select group of baseball executives (GM – PBO), builders who, when funded ($), create dream seasons and dynasties. It’s a membership that includes Branch Rickey (OH) and Ed Barrow (“born in a covered wagon in Springfield (Ill.)(Wikipedia)).” Big stuff.

inherit-tracy-wc-1960-ua-54kBut with progress comes a cost, a quid pro quo. You gain something, you give something up. For the Cubs and their followers that price may be the ‘lovable’ they’ve been serving up since 1945.

Spencer Tracy (“Henry Drummond”) spoke to this yin-yang thing in Stanley Kramer’s highly acclaimed Scopes Monkey Trial movie, Inherit the Wind (‘60):

Progress has never been a bargain. You have to pay for it.
Sometimes I think there’s a man who sits behind a counter and says, ‘All right, you can have a telephone but you lose privacy and the charm of distance.
Madam, you may vote but at a price. You lose the right to retreat behind the powder puff or your petticoat. And Mister, you may conquer the air but the birds will lose their wonder and the clouds will smell of gasoline.’”

The faithful, Cubs ownership in the Ricketts family and Manager Joe Maddon, both deserving of the Rainmaker tag themselves, the sports media, all have failed to consider what it will really mean to the Cozy World of Confine now that the Cubs have won their 3rd World Series championship.

epstein-wc-slingsby-9-8-10-688kThe red, white & blue Bruins have built so much out of “nothing” it became the most beloved brand in all of sports. Everybody likes the Cubs, even before 2016. The undying love they engender in their fans nationwide is admired on par with Yankees’ prowess in play.

Winning changes everything. Fenway fans in their 40s understand that. There’s a new expectation, standard in Bean Town and Chicago, too. Anything short of a World Series title gets an incomplete grade. Tension rises, especially amongst the fair-weather fan who jumped the bandwagon and has wherewithal of a wet peanut.

Finally breaking that championship drought (’04 (1918 v Cubs)) can be cathartic for those who still hold the pain from chances that got away (‘67, ‘75, ‘86). But it’s a different mood in Boston these days. Success is sweet but it can be a pretty girl with a fickle heart: Warm when in clover, cold when the chips are down.

And that’s half hyperbole.

The victory parade down Michigan Avenue in November, so thick with confetti The Fugitive could’ve eluded police for days, was a beautiful sight to behold.

chicago-mi-ave-wc-4-9-11-l-fuss-2-8mA man who knew a thing or two about progress was at the Allied controls when the Cubs were in spring training and about to embark on a season that would take them to what was to be their last NL pennant and fall classic prior to 2016 (1945). That man was U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882 – April 12, 1945 (d. Warm Springs, GA)):

This is what 4-termer FDR, the standard by which all Presidents are measured, had to say about progress: “The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much (Yankees & Cardinals), but whether we provide enough for those who have too little (Royals (2015) and Cubs (2016)).”

Hooray for progress!

.....canned cornSteven Keys
Can o’ Corn
Photo credit: T.Epstein, wc.cca, 10.22.16, A.PardavilaIII; Sporting(MeetingGods), wc, 1630, CV.Poelenburgh; J.McGraw-F.Chance, wc, 5.2.1911, GG.Bain, LoC; L.James, wc, K.Allison, 4.27.8; gold-medieval-ring, wc, Britain, Sonofthesands; Inherit-the-wind, S.Tracy, UA, 1960; Epstein, wc, 9.8.10, S.Slingsby; MichiganAve., wc, Chicago, L.Fuss, 4.9.11, Canned-corn
Posted: 11.5.16 @ 9:57pm EST; Copyright © 2016

NFL16 Cherry Picks W8: Poise’n in the Pocket, Philip Rivers Just Keeps Rollin’

27 Oct

Live-wire.

Fully charged.

Gung-ho, go-getter.

The Decatur Dynamo.

Jay Cutler’s bizarro-world opposite (Sorry JC, it‘s not you, it’s ‘dem (‘da Bears)).

All tags that hang well on San Diego Chargers sanguine quarterback, Philip Rivers. Some seem tailor-made, given that Rivers (‘04) has been signal-calling for over a decade on a team nicknamed, the Bolts.

rivers-1-12-14-wc-j-beall-2mIn the football vernacular, Phil Rivers is best described as such: Prototype pro-set pocket passer, aka, PPPP. And with all those peas it’s no wonder Phil’s “bursting with country fresh (goodness) (ahem).”

Why the fawning over a signal-caller with a career playoff mark of 4-5? Because in all sport there are men, top-tier players, who 1) Seem destined to toil on teams that are incapable of fully utilizing their talents (under-staffed), 2) happen to join a club just after the cork-popping has ceased (Lafontaine (NYI) / Murcer (NYY)), or 3) get traded the same season it all comes together, his former acquiring what’s supposed to’ve been the missing piece to a championship puzzle.

In baseball, such a soul would be Ernie Banks, though, you could just as well throw in Billy Williams, Ron Santo and Fergie Jenkins.

Then there’s Akron’s first great NBA power-player, HOF center Nate Thurmond (d.2016) who for thirteen San Fran seasons battled the best big men in history, then got shipped to Chicago (C. Ray) the year the Warriors got title #2 (‘74-75).

In the NHL it’s current superskate Alex Ovechkin (DC) and past greats Gilbert Perreault, Marcel Dionne, Rod Gilbert and Peter Stastny to name a few.

It’s always a somewhat tenuous claim that one particular player could’ve won titles on a better club or should be held largely blameless for their current team’s struggles, no matter the stat-line and pollyannaish persona he may possess.

chargers-cheer-wc-1-2m-dirk-9-4-9The dynamic of team sport is a complicated creature.

Who knows then if Rivers would’ve gone deeper into the playoffs and made a Super had the Chargers opted to keep Drew Brees on board (30-28) and chosen to jettison Phil instead to New Orleans? You just can’t know.

What you can know are the numbers.

Here then are the numbers Phil has compiled in his 10+ at Chargers’ helm: 98-76, 65C%, 43K+ pass, 294-139 TD-ratio and 25 GWDs. If he keeps matriculating as he has PR’s gonna’ have his #17 retired and join that Cantonese sect like former Bolts’ quarterback great, Dan Fouts (’93 (#14)).

Interesting to note is the steady rise in the Bolts QB-sack totals.

In the Decatur Dynamo’s first 4 years as a starter, Chargers averaged just under 25 sacks per (24.75), whereas, since 2010 that number’s risen to 37+, a figure the 2016 Chargers’ offense is on pace to match (17). And though not privy to numbers on quarterback-hurries, common sense would say they’ve increased at a like rate.

So what’s in store for the Chargers the rest of 2016?

Standing at 3-4 in the AFC West and the NFL in the full throes of parity, Bolts are still very much in the thick of the playoff hunt. But if there’s a team more plagued by injuries than San Diego, I know not who they be. I count 21 in SD sick-bay.

mccoy-wc-8-28-13-tl-fenney-usn-471kHead coach Mike McCoy is in his fourth season with a win-loss mark of 25-30.

An undrafted QB out of Utah – LBS (b. SF ‘72) and having brief stints in both NFLE and CFL, Mike’s signal-caller savvy was expected to be the tonic to turn Phil’s game up a notch and the Chargers into Super Bowl contenders.

Things looked promising early on as San Diego went 9-7 in 2013, made the post-season, beat the Cincinnati Bengals convincingly in the wild-card (27-10) and then played eventual AFC titlist the Denver Broncos close in the Divisional, falling 24-17.

But since then, progress has stalled.

Going 9-7 again in 2014, the Bolts missed the PS and then stumbled badly to 4-12 last season. Inconsistency has marked the 2016 campaign, not helped by all those hurts, but nevertheless playing every Sunday to win, their four (4) loses, three on the road (@ KC, IND & OAK), having happened by a total of just 14 points.

Encouraging as well are the team ranks: In yard gained per game (ygpg), Bolts come in at a respectable #13 (365.3 (#1 ATL 433.6)) and hold down the vaunted #2 spot in points scored (pspg (29.4)), then defeating the #1 in the Falcons (32) in OT last weekend on the road in Atlanta. A-1 confidence booster.

On the defense side is where SD’s injuries have taken their biggest toll as the Bolts rank a pedestrian 21st in yards allowed per game (yapg) and are trending trouble at 24th in points allowed per (papg). Ugh.

rivers-k-allison-wc-10-1-06-1-5m-baltimoreSchedule-wise, the Chargers have to be hopeful.

A challenging game at Sports Authority (DEN) awaits in W8, but the Bolts’ bye comes at an opportune time (W11) while the rest of the slate is not too imposing, meaning, most opponents wouldn’t frighten a Girl Scout troop on Halloween. Boo!

With a steady offensive attack that can recall & retain what seems a lost art of pass-protection, a tightened-up D, especially late, a little luck from the sporting gods (injuries) and San Diego should slip into the playoff party, by the backdoor, but in. Then, as any sport fan worth their units in amperes knows, anything can happen.

For Philip, a man who appears iron-laden in not having missed a start in ten-plus campaigns (See Also: D.Brees), he could have 3-to-4 productive seasons left in those limbs, if those offensive sack totals start trending the other way (down).

So while most in the sporting biz are preoccupied with the movements of Colin Kaepernick, the musings of Tom Brady and the whereabouts (bench or under-center) of hotter than a West Texas sidewalk in July, Rayne Dakota Prescott, Phil Rivers will just keep playing and lighting up that scoreboard.

cherries-hispalois-7-2-12-caceres-spain-wc-4-4mCherry Picks W8: Even Steven

DC (4-3) v. CIN (3-4): 10.30 Fox 9:30a (L): Cincy wins
Chiefs (4-2) @ Colts (3-4): CBS 1:00: Kansas City wins
Cardinals (3-3-1) @ Carolina (1-5): Fox 1:00: Cards win
Oakland Raiders (5-2) @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-3): CBS 1:00: TB wins
Seattle Seahawks (4-2) @ New Orleans Saints (2-4): Fox 1:00: Saints win
Detroit Lions (4-3) @ Houston Texans (4-3): Fox 1:00: Houston wins
New England Pats (6-1) @ Buffalo Bills (4-3): CBS 1:00: Buffalo wins
San Diego Bolts (3-4) @ Denver Broncos (5-2): CBS 4:05: Chargers win
Green Bay Packers (4-2) @ Atlanta Falcons (4-3): Fox 4:25: Falcons win
Philadelphia Eagles (4-2) @ Dallas Cowboys (5-1): NBC 8:30: Eagles win

Record: 35 – 35 – 1
Chargers (LA – SD (b.1960)): 424 – 424 – 11

......NFL-symbol.wikiproject.6kbSteven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: Chargers-wordmark, wc.cca, sportslogos, 8.25.15; P.Rivers, wc, 1.12.14, J.Beall; Chargers-cheer, wc, 9.4.9, Dirk; M.McCoy, wc, TL.Fenney, 8.28.13; Rivers, wc, K.Allison, 10.1.06; cherries, wc, Hispalois, Spain, 7.2.12; NFL-symbol, wikproject
Posted: 10.26.16 @ 11:14pm EST, edit 10.28 @ 11:15am; Copyright © 2016
References: Pelletier’s greatesthockeylegends.com; (PFR).com; Wikipedia

NFL16 Cherry Picks W7: Dallas QB Dilemma Asks, ‘What Would Tony Do?’

19 Oct

If you like to write and then have habit of coupling that hobby with a love for everything that is the NFL, everything, that is, except Disney (ESPN) and Deion Sanders FaceTime chats (NFLN (ugh)), this particular hour in the week is one that either has you grooving with good thoughts or fumbling for a feature.

That time is Sunday afternoon around 4 o’clock (EST). It’s when everyone and their Grampa should be taking it easy, when NFL’s early slate of games have come to a close and the twilight tussles are just about to kick-off. It’s also when themes begin to emerge from the game results to work a collage of motifs that’ll be used in promotion of next weekend’s match-ups.

Side-bar: If you want to read a good definition for ‘Grampa,’ …this is difficult, go to urbandictionary.com (“sm1l3 (8.21.8)”). Too often a post place for petulance and porn-obsessed whatevers, this person’s insightful, heartfelt, humorous and non-conforming rendition gives UD a much needed injection of class.

hammock-wc-9-13-07-bjorn-som-tenger-45kSome topics are on-going but in the course of the game crystallize into a clear controversy (Dallas QB, hot-seat sizzle, etc.), others having just sprouted and quickly blossomed into fragrant fodder for the media to breath-in and exhale (injuries, officiating).

A few toppers from Week 6:

Did Kaep Krusader meet his Lionheart (or Saladin) in Buffalo loss? It wouldn’t take clouty customers the caliber of Richard or An-Nasir to expose the limited repertoire emanating from Colin-of-the-Crude-Socks (27-21 W-L / 57t – 26i).

Will Chuck Pagano, Todd Bowles, John Fox and any number of other struggling NFL coaches last the duration of campaign 2016?

Big Ben injured again (“I’ll be back”) while Ryan Tannehill staves off boyish boo-birds for one more week, keeping GMs around the League wondering ‘what if.’

Are the Packers in full throes of decline and rapid exit from the juggernaut category? Maybe, maybe not, but the Chicago Bears in this newish century (W7 @ GB 10.20) are the cure for whatever ails any NFL team.

How did the Cardinals’ David Johnson (UNI) fly under so many radars in D15?

But Ben hurts his knees near every season now, Pack’s been trending down since Cheese-Melt (@ SEA 1.18.15) and Oddball Odell is strictly Disney (ugh).

prescott-helmet-9-18-16-k-allison-thmSo that leaves the Dallas quarterback quandary at the top of the topic pile until Cowboys come off their bye to take on visiting division rival, the Eagles (W8).

With rookie Dak Prescott leading Cowboys offensive charge in timely triumph over Green Bay (30-16) (fifth consecutive W), a place steeped in sad outcomes for the Dallas gang, and deep-rooted veteran All-Pro Tony Romo set to return from his injury in the not too distant future, owner Jerry Jones and HC Jason Garrett are presented with that most wonderful of all coaching conundrums, having two capable QBs at the ready.

Nobody, not Jerry nor Dak, was happier post-Packers rout than was Mr. Garrett whose doubters could line the length of the old Chisholm Trail.

The Cowboys’ 2015 divisional playoff loss at Lambeau (Sometimes the sporting gods do take a hand (See: Cheese-Melt above)) still sits wrong in the saddle for Dallas dudes and dudettes and this win buries a few of those Fox Valley demons.

Yet the demons in Dallas still remain, those that’ve been keeping America’s Team from putting together their first Super Bowl run since 1996. And as every football fan knows, the decision to fill that quarterback slot is too important to be swayed by public opinion poll or political fronts that move in and out.

Many have been weighing in on this Texas-sized topic, including former signal-calling stalwart, Mr. Brett Favre, he now of the Cantonese sect (2016) and most recently uniformed with the Minnesota Vikings (‘09-10).

favre-dugan-wc-11-15-9-mn-ng-1-8mFavre backs Dak, who happens to wear the same #4 jersey and did his pro apprenticeship, like Brett (USM), in the great State of Mississippi (State).

Stepping into the Fox telecast booth last Sunday, “Mississippi” claims friendship and respect for Tony but believes you don’t mess with chemistry.

But then Brett in his playing days was not the sort to happily concede to another (Rodgers?), team chemistry or whatnot, not as long as the NFL ironman could walk upright. Had a former QB the likes of Jay Schroeder been invited to step on the Dak-Romo scale, you could expect a whole different take on the topic.

Inconsistent views aside, Favre was a gridiron king, and a demigod to boot in the grand State of Wisconsin, oh my gosh. Such players can return to action anytime they choose, damn that chemistry thing. ‘I‘ll take it from here, Sport, so you take a seat and watch how it’s done!’

Had Jim Garoppolo remained healthy and taken Pats to 4-0 during Brady’s 2016 susp’n, nobody would’ve begrudged Tom’s return to the starter role no matter if Jim had tossed 20 TDs to that point.

Tony’s not a king. He’s a prince among men and Jerry loves him dearly but he has no throne upon which to sit (stand), i.e., a record-of-note, an MVP nor Super Bowl title. The ring-bearers are about the only guys who can make that long-standing (lame) line on ‘injury won’t lose your starter’s job’ make any sense.

What Would Tony Do (WWTD)?

jones-12-7-15-k-allison-wc-339kThis might be how the decision goes down:

The braintrust will call Romo into Jones’ office for a chat. They’ll talk about his health status (back), his thoughts on team chemistry and the Dak dynamic since the rookie took the ball and Tony’s eagerness to getting back in the saddle.

Tone’s been a performer for Dallas (‘04) and deserves his say, maybe even the final version. And that’s just what Jerry and Jason will likely to do: Holding off any public discussion – announcement on the matter until Romo is in full re-possession of his health and is game ready (to do otherwise would only ding Dak’s confidence), J&J will play out the Romo string and ask Tony to make the call. Meaning, the long-time Cowboy will get back under center to resume the starter’s job when fit and expect to continue that good chemistry at the first opportunity.

Recent reports have Romo continuing his rehab beyond the bye and Cowboys’ game against the Eagles (W8), meaning, Dynamic Dak will likely have at least one more start to either enhance his aura of invincibility or expose an Achilles heel.

Not as unpredictable as portrayed, Jerry Jones loyalty can be counted upon, at least that’s the perception. And if Prescott progresses as Cowboys hope, the Louisiana native can expect the same treatment.

I too got caught up in Dak-delirium. ‘If it works don’t fix it’ is one of my favorites and Prescott is working just fine (5-1, 69 C%, 7t-1i, only 3.5 rush per (man’s poise-n in the pocket)). But also mindful that the Dak-led-Cowboys have topped five teams with a collective 14-16 record, minus the five Dallas drubbings.

romo-10-13-10-bigcatsliar-wc-343kAnyone with a winner’s heart, a champion’s spirit, will take the reins when given the chance and damn any torpedoes that come their way on knowledge that that‘s your duty. With numbers like Tony has put up in his ten years riding Cowboys‘ point, even as his clutch capability has been questioned (127 GS, 74-49, 65+ C%, 247t-117i), he holds ample depth-charges to drop any naysayer’s way. Ka-boom!

How would rookie Dak respond to clipboard duty? Like a trooper, I’d suppose, making the standard pitch to play but having wherewithal to accept the switch (demotion), tune out the nincompoops captured in his moment, know his day will come again soon enough and even appreciate the reduction in pressure. Consider DP still has alot to learn, much of which Tony Romo can teach.

A key to success in Romo’s return (and giving him the choice essentially tabs him to start) is that Dak is fully supportive. That helps keep the junior media in check when Romo has an off game and the squawking ensues for their new fantasy fave and lessens likelihood that socially-driven teammates will take to brood.

As to those teammates, if possessing of a champion’s heart they’ll take to Tony’s return like a professional and play with gusto. That’s the Cowboys’ way. If not, Jerry knows where to ship-off a sour-puss. Somewhere with lots o’ snow.

cherries-wc-cca-b-kua-6-1-08-3-3mCherry Picks Week 7: Tussle in Twickenham

NYG (3-3) @ Rams (3-3): 10.23 (L) NFL 9:30a: LA wins
Saints (2-3) @ Chiefs (3-2): Fox 1:00: Kansas City wins
Vikings (5-0) @ Philadelphia (3-2): Fox 1:00: Eagles win
Washington Redskins (4-2) @ Detroit Lions (3-3): Fox 1:00: Detroit wins
Buffalo Bills (4-2) @ Miami Dolphins (2-4): CBS 1:00: Dolphins win
San Diego Chargers (2-4) @ Atlanta (4-2): Fox 4:05(GTW): Bolts win
Seattle Seahawks (4-1) @ Arizona (3-3): NBC 8:30 (GTW): Cards win
Houston Texans (4-2) @ Denver (4-2): 10.24 Disney 8:30: Texans win

Record: 30 – 33

......NFL-symbol.wikiproject.6kbSteven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: T.Romo, ProBowl, wc.cca, EV.Gonzales, USN, 2.10.08; Romo, hat, wc, K.Allison, 12.7.15; Man-in-hammock, Bjorn-Som-Tenger, 9.13.07, wc; D.Prescott, wc, K.Allison, 9.18.16; B.Favre-Dugan, wc, 11.15.09, MN-NG; Favre, wc, M.Morbeck, 10.24.10; J.Jones, wc, 12.7.15, K.Allison; T.Romo, wc, bigcatsliar, 10.13.10; cherries, B.Kua, 6.1.08, wc; NFL-symbol, wikiproject;
Posted: 10.19.16 @ 5:38pm, edit @ 7:50 EST; Copyright © 2016

MLB16 Chin Music: Angels Weep But Gods Still Favor Pujols & Trout

29 Sep

It won’t be the question that keeps Anaheim Angels’ braintrust fidgeting when their 2016 season ends with conclusion of Sunday afternoon’s game against the visiting Astros. More likely it will be the implementation, whenever that might be, of the painful answer they already know: Mike Scioscia has gotta’ go.

Mike’s a pretty brilliant baseball mind. No doubt on that point (.541 (17)). And in his day, a pretty nifty ball-player, too. A two-time All-Star and champion (1981, ‘88), he was a mainstay backstop with Southern California rival, the Dodgers.

scioscia-wc-12-9-15-a-pardavilaiii-5-2m-wintermtgJim Fregosi (1979-81) and Gene Mauch (1981-82, ‘85-87) made the Anaheim Angels of Greater Los Angeles Metro respectable but it was Scioscia who finally molded and managed them to that brass ring, the 2002 World Series title (v. SF). To date it’s the Angels only pennant and championship.

But if it’s not working, and it hasn’t been for six of the last seven seasons, it’s gotta’ be fixed, that is, if you (owner) still have designs on winning again.

It’s not just ‘not working’ at Angel Stadium, it seems to have slipped into reverse. From 98 wins (‘14), to 85 (‘15) to 70-whatever this 2016.

Apart from that well-meant but somewhat ill-advised Josh Hamilton signing, you can’t really lay much blame at the doorstep of Angels’ owner Arte Moreno.

scioscia-wc-4-7m-7-23-11-k-allisonNumber one, he’s forked out the moolah in massive amounts to top talent in recent years in hopes of re-capturing the glory of the early 2000s, stars enough to make a tiny All-Star team, contract-money enough to fund a tiny space program but results so small the hardware would barely furnish the mantel in a “Tiny House (ugh).”

Two, Arte’s loyal, especially to dedicated employee who brought a long suffering franchise their first championship. That’s a rare thing today, in big business or small. And then how was Moreno to know Vlad Guerrero would turn out to be post-season pedestrian (17g (‘05-08): 1.rbi, 0.hr, 7r).

The ouster of Scioscia is a move many in baseball have probably pondered at each season’s end since 2012. That year marked the Halos third consecutive absence from the post-season after having made the grade in six of eight seasons prior in that successful span from 2002 (WS) thru 2009.

Since that well-deserved World Series victory in 2002 the Angels have been ignominiously bounced from six of those playoffs, going 1-12 in four divisional series, just slightly better in the two American League Championships at 3-8.

Point being, the Angels post-title decline has been clear n’ steady. There have been respites by way of playoff appearances, some in bunches (‘04-09), one set-apart (‘14), none of them at their opening having conveyed a strong sense of World Series Wherewithal (See; Above).

morenofan-wc-j-miller-6-9-7-188kIn his defense, the Pennsylvania native (11.27.58) has had his share of untimely injuries (Hamilton, Weaver, etc.) and line-ups somewhat lacking in both pitching (starters – mid – close) and hitting, particularly contact men (.300), though, such bats are at a premium today in free-swinging MLB and Angels 2016 team-BA does trend well (.260 (6-AL)).

Current Halos’ GM Billy Eppler, a sabrmetrics adherent, has only been on the job a year and can’t be expected to shoulder much blame for current malaise, though, his number fixation (WAR, OPS, etc.) does not invite hope. Any administrative blame to be doled out must be born by Bill’s predecessor, Mariners current GM in Jerry Dipoto (2011-15), along with farm-system (Mike LaCassa) and scouting (Ric Wilson) directors. Get the big bucks, you get to bear the brunt.

But line-up deficiencies, whether they be in All-Star caliber or utility players, those workaday guys that can fly under-the-radar yet meet important team needs that don’t necessarily get quantified in sabrmetric – fantasy reports, plague nearly every team in both loops.

Even baseball’s 2016 version of the NHL’s Presidents’ Trophy winner (regular season’s best) in the Chicago Cubs (Did I just write that? Good sign, Bruins-backers), have an Achilles heel or two which Joe Maddon and Theo Epstein must lose a wink or two fretting over every nite they hit the hay (Zzzz).

pujols-4-14-12-laawc-1-26m-m-olearyTwo men you can’t fault for Angels “free-fall from ecstasy (Skowron)” are Albert Pujols and Mike Trout.

In four full and one partial season (99g / 2013) with Halos, Albert, finishing his 16th MLB run and a likely 1st-ballot HOF’er when he hangs up his spikes, has clubbed 490 (+/-) ribbies and 146 taters, 29 per, on average. Pretty terrific production for a man in his mid-30s.

How many more runs of bountiful the Sporting Gods afford Al is hard to predict.

He turns 37 in January but is seems a well tuned machine and wouldn’t surprise if he produced for 2-3 more years. But one thing this fan, and AP himself most assuredly, would not want to see is that career BA dropping below the .300 mark. It currently stands at .309 but he’s been well off that average since exiting the Gateway City and will likely fall below the hallowed marker with 1-2 more full seasons of play. It’s something to ponder, anyway.

trout-wc-7-24-11-501k-md-k-allisonMike, a fan favorite due to his easy adjustment to the majors, daring style of play and, though seems in need of work on driver attentiveness (“CHP Says…” / ocregister / 9.1.16 / Schwebke & Sudock), shows a spirit for the game and concern for others, finishes up his 6th season in Anaheim and stands as a strong AL-MVP candidate, leading the loop in OB% (.441), BBs (113), likely to reach the 30 and 100 plateaus in HRs and RBIs respectively and has surpassed the 100 mark in runs-scored for the fifth time in his relatively short MLB career. He’s presently leading in that latter category (122) in a year when it‘s a good chance that 20+ players will reach the century mark in runs.

It would not be hyperbole to write that the rise of Hamiltonism (See: Billy (198 runs in 1894)) is in no small measure due to the corresponding rise in Troutonics.

Back to Mr. Scioscia. He is an Anaheim legend and will have his number or name retired. But Mike and his betters should keep in mind that all good things come to an end and change, too often today instituted haphazardly for no good reason but to keep the pay-checks coming, can in fact work a real benefit, for the franchises and legends in question (See; Curly Lambeau, Tom Coughlin, Casey Stengel & Mike Babcock whose Red Wings record compares to Mike‘s own).

What the contract between Scioscia and Moreno states in its particulars (term, payout, etc.), this writer need not know. Such agreements, if wisely drafted, contemplate the multitude of circumstance, including the above postulated.

.....canned cornSteven Keys
Can o’ Corn
Photo credit: M.Trout, wc, MD, K.Allison, 7.23.11; M.Scioscia, 7.23.11, wc, MD, K.Allison; M.Scioscia, wc.cca, 12.9.15, A.Pardavila, WinterMeet; Moreno-Fan, J.Miller, 6.9.7, wc; A.Pujols, wc, 4.14.12, M.O’Leary; M.Trout-Fan, 7.24.11, MD, K.Allison; Canned-corn
Posted: 9.29.16 @ 4:40pm, edit @ 10:17 EST; Copyright © 2016

NFL16: Kaep Krusader Sitting Tall In Anthem Boycott? Better Guess Again

30 Aug

What lives in a man’s heart, who can really say?

Sometimes even he won’t know, not until Father Time brings it all into focus, that is, if that man (woman) finds enlightenment along the way. ‘Some grow older and wiser, some just older.’

That’s the question (♥) football fans around the nation are asking themselves following Colin Kaepernick’s decision last weekend to sit down during the national anthem in a 49ers’ pre-season, pre-game (v GB) show of defiance and determination over the on-going issue of racial inequality in the United States.

.........Kaep.9.9.12.GB.M.Morbeck.wc.cca.291kGotta admire one who advocates for justice. It’s the motive, method and then level of sincerity behind the overt act(s) that’ll peak the curiosity, cue debates, set media scrambling and strain the sensibility of more than a few commentaries.

I’ve never been a big fan of forced conformity (one reason I‘ll never be rich), though, it has its place (HOA covenants, compulsory education, military service, immunizations, speed limits, etc.). That’s where one’s judgment capability, even surrounded by advisers, will come into play.

Francis Scott Key’s Star Spangled Banner (1814) is not the ♫ toe-tapper ♫ the former Super QB (47) has come accustomed to hearing when filling his cranium with music from the ever-present head-muffins he wears (Beats-by-Dre). But its inspiration is honorable (War of 1812), its cadence easy and makes no religious test in the version of which I‘m familiar (See; God Bless America (Berlin)).

.........Key.wc.8.9.48.USPS.BE&P.378kMaybe, just maybe, Kaep has other motivations in mind as he keeps up his sit-down strike for as long as San Fran brass keep him in uniform, which was a somewhat tenuous proposition before his pessimistic statement on the nation’s racial state.

And one has to wonder exactly how tuned-in to any issue of social merit could be the Milwaukee native, Cubs draftee (‘09-R43) and Runnin’ Rebel alumnus (2010) (Wikipedia) if that issue does not emanate (w/wisdom) from lips of his favorite balladeers, given the head-gear routine and the world of NFL accoutrements in which he and every pro player is ensconced: Limited library.

As such, I have a few guesses as to what else might be driving Kaepernick’s display of social conscious and non-conformity, and why now:

1) Never Stop Caring…or Careering

With his NFL gig appearing to be in fade-mode and possessing of a business background (UNLV), pumping-up your political credentials can enhance post-NFL marketability. On the issue of racism, one on par with the national jobs outlook (always assailable), Colin can’t miss.

But that’s too risky a tack, no, Stevo? ‘Au contraire, Esteban,’ might say his agent. ‘The folks who’re characterizing Colin’s gesture as un-American were likely not in his corner before nor target-market to buy his pitch today.’ What Colin’s boycott will do is solidify a favored position with his peers that may include the SAS’y one (Disney), Black Lives Matter and many in the Democratic Presidential nominee‘s campaign who’re all too eager to remind America just how much work is yet to be done on the racial fronts, at least one of ’em, and energize a base in the process.

Key, of a different note (♫), you have gotta’ protect & promote the product ($), whatever your commodity may happen to be. Roger Goodell, DeMaurice Smith (NFLPA) and Rich Sherman know it all too well.

2) Doing the Sam-Sham

.........Sam.wc.8.23.14.ED.Drost.380kLike Mike Sam before him (2014) whose deficiency in NFL talent did not stop him from receiving ample opportunities (Rams, Alouettes, Dallas, Vet Combine) after his pre-Draft disclosure of having a homosexual orientation, a social notoriety seemingly worked as leverage, Kaep too is, intentional or not, putting his 49ers team in a rather precarious PR position where his release / trade could give, to those of a bully bent, cause to attack the club in claim of racial insensitivity when, in fact, such postulated roster move could be rationally-based entirely on talent, or the lack thereof.

Theoretically then, Kaep could, like Sam before, use his new civil rights notoriety, as leverage to, in his case, forestall any roster move.

Much speculation on my part. But two (2) points on which I am certain:

[1] While Kaep’s intentions may be just, if not entirely free of self-interest, choosing to diss the national anthem is a bad play. Mixed messages and half-measures (unilateral racism) make for poor social statement. Indifference to such can suggest impure motives; And [2], when juxtaposed against actions of others in sport (Ryan Lochte), Colin’s call deserves at the very least a modicum of patience and consideration from his critics.

.......Lochte.Phelps.Et.al.wc.Rio.8.9.16.F.Frazao.5mWhen you think of the string of wrongs that Lochte perpetrated, all working a taint upon the Olympics, Brazil, team USA and then boyish dismissiveness of taking responsibility once the bad was exposed (“I exaggerated that story”) and following favoritism afforded by many in the media and entertainment worlds (Dancing With the Stars), in a comparative sense, Colin can be fairly characterized as Walking Tall (‘73 / 04).

And “this (calculated confrontation) too shall pass.”

The San Francisco 49ers, if they don’t release / trade CK soon will seek, then demand his cooperation as preferential treatment and actions viewable as un-patriotic cannot stand, no pun intended. The NFL will then assert policy directives while NFLPA will back its member regardless of the merits or non-conformity (CBA) of his actions (See also; PEDs).

When tackling issues that sweep across the social plain, the bravest people are often the loneliest (See; Trumbo & Abbey). They count their profits in common coins of community breadth, substantive gesture and the few but sincere conversions that may come. In weight-room lingo, it’s called no pain, no gain. True progress exacts a steep price in self-sacrifice, all around.

If Colin’s cause is sincere, largely unselfish and informed (again, the ♥ thing (?)), I wish the man well. Lacking in any of those and the Sporting Gods should, in time, exact their revenge, i.e., ex-QB.

......NFL-symbol.wikiproject.6kbSteven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo Credit: C.Kaepernick, wc.cca, M.Morbeck, GB, 9.9.12; Kaepernick, 10.27.13, wc, D.Hartwig; F.S.Key, wc, 8.9.48, USPS, BE&P; M.Sam, wc, 8.24.14, ED.Drost; R.Lochte3-M.Phelps4, 4×200, wc, Rio, 8.9.16, F.Frazao, Agency.Brazil;
Posted: 8.30.16 @ 12:25pm, edit 9.1 @ 11:26am; Copyright © 2016