Thursday, January 24, 2013


Pete has informed me that this attempt at a blog will be revamped in 2013 (soon).  So why not make the last post that has nothing to do with sports and rants against American Gun Culture? Cause I'm an idiot, but here we go.

"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

Isn't it great that this sentence has turned our nation into a haven for weapon wielding wackos who feel that it is their duty to own guns for their "safety?"

Listen, I think the founding Fathers and framers of the Constitution had it right.  So far be it from me to question them on matters of government and law.  But what are they really saying here?  My understanding is that we had just escaped a tyrannical empire and culture that had gone on for centuries by disarming the populace and forcing their will upon them.  This is the perfect way to dominate and control your subjects.  This is not what the USA was going to be about.  So no government should have the right to take away our right to bear arms and fight for our rights.

I think all Americans would agree with that.  So, if you are a gun owner, and proud of the fact that you are protecting yourself, your family, and your nation from tyranny, then you should have to register as a gun owner and militia member, ready to serve the nation whenever you are called upon.  If we have an armed society, why should we have a professional military?  If we have a professional military, why should we have an armed society?  What are we protecting ourselves from?

I could go on and on and on.  Think about this.  What scares you more? Being robbed on the street, or going to the mall and getting blown away by some maniac? Yeah, that's what I thought.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

The Death of the NFL

Well, it's the Packers' Bye Week, so while watching college football and getting tired of hearing about the Lakers, why not go on a rant about the NFL's demise?

Why am I thinking of this? I went on a mini-rant the other day about the NFL fining Packers 3rd/4th string TE/Special Teams player, 2nd year, 7th round draft pick, Ryan Taylor.  This guy is the definition of "workmanlike."  When you are drafted #218 overall by the reigning Super Bowl Champion, and the 2nd TE drafted by the team in the draft, the likelihood of making the team is not great.  You are not handed a guaranteed multi-million dollar contract.  You sign a deal that gives you a signing bonus of about $60K, and you get a 4 year deal for about $500K a year.  Not bad right? 2 million bucks, hell, most of us would love that.  The NFL offers opportunities to 53 players on 32 teams to make a "living" playing football.  So, yeah, it's dream come true for almost 1700 people.

So why did I title this the "death of the NFL?"  Compared to normal people, the NFL life is great.  But compared to other sports (except maybe Hockey) it is horrible.  The NBA has only 15 roster spots, but almost all contracts are guaranteed.  A 1st round pick will get about 4 years 14 million before being eligible for free agency and a huge 80-90 million dollar payday.  In MLB, you have to put your time in the Minors before making the big bucks, but still, each team has 25 active roster spots, and different levels of minor league baseball to play and hone your skills.  Journeyman type bullpen relievers or utility infielders make 2-3 million a year, guaranteed.  Superstars make $150-$300 million GUARANTEED.  Alex Rodgriguez could start sucking big time at the age of 37 with $200 million left on his contract and still get paid... oh wait that is already happening.

My point is this.  The NFL is the most difficult sports league to play for.  You have a career of 3, maybe 4 years.  If you're awesome like Favre, Woodson, London Fletcher, Urlacher, or a kicker, you can play 16-18 years and make some major $$$.  But watch out for ROGER GOODELL.  The evil commissioner of the NFL.  I am pretty sure he looks for opportunities to fine or suspend players.  This is where the Ryan Taylor thing comes in .  This guys makes $28,500 (gross) a week from Sept-Dec.  Not bad, right?  Well, not so great when ROGER GOODELL fines you $21,000 in one week for a blindside block.  What the hell are you supposed to do?  Defensive and special teams players get penalized and fined so much I seriously have doubts that kids 15-20 years from now will want to put that hard work in.  I think we are looking at an NFL in 15-20 years that looks like 7-7 drills.  Hell, maybe they will just go 7-7, forget blocking and rushing the passer.  Maybe GOODELL can work that in the new CBA in 2022. On top of that, the NFL thinks it is an unstoppable beast.  They subject us to awful Thursday night matchups that compromise the health and safety of players, and put games like Kansas City/San Diego and Jacksonville/Indianapolis in Prime Time.  No one asked for that crap.  OH, and did I mention GOODELL wants to put a team in England!? What the hell?!  Has he talked to Gary Bettman for advice?  Lets dilute our brand by putting teams in markets that don't care! What a great idea.  Get serious.

One other point.  The reason why the NFL destroys every other sport in the US is because it is ingrained in us.  High school on Thurs/Fri, College on Saturday (or Tuesday, or whatever stupid day ESPN wants to show a game these days... but that's a different post...), and NFL on Sunday.  When you are 8, 12, 15, you put that helmet on and feel like you are part of something.  But as collegiate and professional sports start to target younger and younger players, I have to wonder if basketball, baseball, hell, even soccer coaches start poaching football kids at a young age.

Example: You are 14; a 3 sport star.  Baseball, basketball, football.  You are varsity, all state material at both.  The prep schools are calling your mom.  What should you do?  Who the hell is going to play football?  If I am this kid, I am playing baseball first, then basketball, then football if I am too stupid to do anything else.    So basically 3 kind of kids will play football.  Poor, southern, and midwestern kids who still love the game and want to play, athletic kids who aren't quite good enough to play basketball, and workmanlike grinders who just love to hit people and compete.  But I feel like we will run out of premier athletes (Adrian Peterson, Andrew Luck, Jason Pierre-Paul, Ray Lewis) who want to play anymore.

Summation: The NFL, with it's overregulatory, "No Fun League" approach, combined with opportunities in other sports that do not have the life altering injury factor, and overexpansion, will dilute itself to the point of irrelevance by the 2040s or so.  Fortunately I'll be old and senile by then and probably still enjoy it.  But I feel sorry for the next generation.  You can blame ROGER GOODELL.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

How Bad is the Big 10?

As I am writing this Wisconsin is losing 14-3 to Utah St, so maybe I should calm down on judging the whole Big 10 as a joke.  But maybe I shouldn't.

This year's Cowboy Classic at Cowboys Stadium was billed as a top 10 matchup of BCS contenders.  Alabama thoroughly embarrassed Michigan.  Denard Robinson looked horrible.  The 27 point beat down didn't even tell the whole story.  Alabama was better than Michigan in every way, and it wasn't even close.

But the next few couple weeks might have even been worse for their reputation.  Last week, two Big 10 teams (Wisconsin & Nebraska) went out West to take on the bottom feeders of the Pac 12.  Both teams lost in embarrassing fashion.  Nebraska gave up over 600 yards of offense to unranked UCLA.  Oregon State held Montee Ball to 61 yards rushing and the Badgers couldn't score until garbage time.

This week wasn't a heck of a lot better for other "top" Big 10 teams.  Michigan State is losing to Notre Dame at the half.  Ohio State could barely beat Cal (who missed 3 FGs and lost by 7).  Nebraska turned the ball over 4 times in the 2nd half vs. Arkansas State and didn't put them away until the 4th qtr.  Oh, and Indiana is losing to Ball State.

(I did not mention Penn St's opening 2 weeks debacles on purpose)

So having said all of that, I think most of us upper Midwesterners realized in about 06 or 07 that the Big 10 just couldn't hang with the SEC.  Florida and LSU made that pretty clear in a couple BCS Championship Games vs. Ohio State.  The last 2 times the Big 10 had a National Champion were controversial.  Ohio State in 2002 has been dubbed the "luckeyes" because of the phantom pass interference called on Miami in OT.  Then of course there is Michigan in 1997 who split with Nebraska.  That was the season that ushered in the BCS to match up #1 VS. #2 regardless of conference bowl affiliation.  Before that Penn State won the National Championship in 1986 and 1982.  So, in my lifetime, the Big 10 has won 4 National Champsionships, one of them split. 

So why does the Big 10 have this reputation as a power conference? Well, just like everything else in college football, tradition and history matters more than reality.  I honestly feel that the Big 10 has become a conference that has a lot of pageantry and passionate fan bases, but is just not relevant in the National Championship picture.  What really makes me think here is that the playoff format is coming soon, with the top 4 getting to play in a mini-playoff.  Will the Big 10 continue to get one of their average teams in that top 4 based on history?  Probably.  And that's a shame.  We all know that the top 4 teams every year should basically be the top 3 SEC teams and either USC or Oklahoma.  But somehow Michigan or Ohio State will manage to con the public into believing that they are top notch NCAA Football teams.

So I guess the question is, can the Big 10 win another 4 National Titles in the next 30 years of my life? I wouldn't bet on it.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Patrick's NFL Preview

Patrick's NFL Preview (This Year with Fantasy Advice!)



Buffalo Bills:
Two straight years I think the Bills made the right moves in the draft
and free agency, focusing on defense.  they have locked up Ryan
Fitzpatrick, which seems about as brilliant as locking up Derek
Anderson, Jake Delhomme, or Kevin Kolb at this point.  But can he be
an effective QB? I think he can. Unfortunately for Buffalo the
division is very competitive.  The AFC East probably has the easiest
draw with the NFC West & AFC South, although I expect those divisions
to be much improved over last year.  Long story short, another 3rd
place finish for the Bills.
Fantasy Note: Fred Jackson was a stud last year until he got hurt.
This is not an uncommon theme with this year's RB crop.  Might not be
a bad idea to grab him in the mid to late 3rd round.  (Pete says: I got Fred 
in the 5th, started him in Week 1, and because of his injury lost by .14 points.  
Thanks for nothing Fred.)

Miami Dolphins:
Ryan Tannehill? Please, if you are a Dolphins fan don't even worry
about him this year, because he will suck, if he plays at all.  Not
that Matt Moore or David Garrard is much better.  As usual they have a
young, talented defense.  Seems to me to the untrained eye that they
have 2 main weaknesses.  Making big plays in the passing game, and
their secondary.  In a division with Tom Brady, that doesn't bode
well.  Seems to me like another 7-9 type season and a coach with his
job on the line.
Fantasy Note: Miami might have been the worst fantasy football team of
the past 2-3 years.  Highest ranked player according to ESPN is Reggie
Bush at 51.  As usual stay away from any WR they have.

New York Jets:
Every year I bitch about how much Sanchez sucks, and how overrated the
Jets are.  Everyone on this team has gotten worse the past 3 years,
except Revis I suppose.  Since Rex Ryan took over, here is how I see
it:  Sanchez: Worse.  O-Line: Worse.  D-Line: Worse.  LB: Worse.  WR:
Worse.  RB: Worse. Special Teams: Worse.  Add to that the Tebow/New
York/Rex Ryan's craziness factor and I do not see this season going
well at all.  I want to predict a 4-12 disaster, but somehow I think
they'll pull 7-8 wins out to give delusional NY fans some dreams.
Fantasy Note: Speaking of bad FF teams.  The highest ranked Jet is
Shonn Greene at 69.  Do not be fooled into any of their WRs or QBs
higher than the 8th or 9th RD.

New England Patriots:
They are the anti-Jets.  Year after year they get older, or lose some
familiar players, or make bizarre decisions that leave you scratching
your head.  And year after year they go 12-4.  And Tom Brady is
awesome.  And white Tight Ends set record numbers.  And white WRs play
defense.  And they somehow make everyone else in the AFC look shitty
while doing this.  And then they choke in the playoffs/Super Bowl
(post 2004).  It will be tough to dethrone Belichick and company
coming of the Super Bowl loss, especially considering the overall
shittiness of the division.
Fantasy Note: We all know the numbers this passing game can put up.
Rookie RB Stevan Ridley is getting some early buzz.  But just take
Gronk in the early 2nd and watch the TDs pile up.


Denver Broncos:
This is very simple.  The have Peyton Manning, not Tim Tebow.  They
win the AFC West.
Fantasy Note:  Look for 1000 Yard seasons from both Eric Decker &
Demayrius Thomas. Wouldn't be a bad idea to grab Thomas in the 5th.
Peyton Manning will probably last til the 5th as well if you go heavy
RB/WR the 1st 4 rounds.

Kansas City Chiefs:
This is very simple.  They have Matt Cassell.  They don't win the AFC West.
Fantasy Note: Peyton Hillis & Jamaal Charles should make a nice RB
duo.  Bet on Charles separating himself as the season wears on.  If
you take Charles in the 2nd you can probably grab Hillis in the 7th if
you believe in the whole handcuff thing.

Oakland Raiders:
Interested to see how Reggie McKenzie reshapes the Oakland roster.  He
has already made his mark.  This will be a rebuilding year.  They will
probably squeak 6 or 7 wins out, but Carson Palmer is not the QB of
the future, and the defense needs to be rebuilt to fit Dennis Allen's
Fantasy Note: Bay Area insight alert.  Rod Streater.  He has been the
best WR for OAK this preseason.  He's 6'3" 200, a little skinny, and
he went undrafted out of Temple.  Reggie McKenzie picked him up and he
is threatening to take a starting job from Moore or Ford.  And like in
real life, he will probably go undrafted.  Take him in the 14th or
15th or make him your first wire transaction after seeing what he does
after the 1st week or 2.

San Diego Chargers:
Rumor has it that Antonio Gates is in shape, healthy, and tearing up
Training Camp so far.  Philip Rivers and Ryan Matthews should have big
years.  Yes, they lost Vincent Jackson.  And they still have Norv
Turner.  So I just can't pick them to win more than 9 games.
Fantasy Note: Vincent Jackson left, and he was basically replaced by
former Saints 3rd WR Robert Meachem.  He has managed to land with
another proficient QB and offense, so might not be a bad grab in the
7th or 8th.


Houston Texans:
On paper they are the runaway favorite in this division.  They have
made good personnel decisions recently, but it seems like losing
DeMeco Ryans & Mario Williams in one year will hurt.  But then again
Mario Williams was hurt most of last year and Ryans was not their
prototypical 3-4 type LB.  Can Matt Schaub, Andre Johnson, and Arian
Foster stay healthy? If so, they win the division running away.  If
not watch out for Tennessee.  Yeah, I said it...
Fantasy Note: You know who I like? Owen Daniels.  Mostly because he
went to Wisconsin, but also because he looks like he should be an
insurance salesman.  Also is a nice grab at TE if you miss out on the
top tier guys that will go early.

Indianapolis Colts:
Obviously they have gutted their roster and gone into rebuilding mode
around Andrew Luck.  Smart move.  Maybe the struggle through a 5 win
season this year, but in 2013 they will be back.
Fantasy Note:  Highest rated player on ESPN is RB Donald Brown.  Maybe
he will be a nice safety net for Luck.  Will Luck & Fleener's rapport
from college carry over to good stats in the NFL? Probably not, but
worth keeping an eye on.

Jacksonville Jaguars:
Their quarterback is Blaine Gabbert, their starting RB is holding out,
and their top pick and expected starting WR is already in trouble with
the law.  Yeah... 5 wins here they come.
Fantasy Note: Justin Blackmon actually looked pretty good in his first
preseason game.  Not sure which is a bigger question mark though: Can
he stay out of Jail? or can Blaine Gabbert actually be an NFL QB that
can get him the ball.

Tennessee Titans:
In the Jeff Fischer years I would always assume that he would pull
some garbage out of his butt and put together a competitive team,
maybe even a division contender with Kerry Collins and some other fat
white guys.  Things have changed in Tennessee, but I feel like Jake
Locker will step into the starting role at some point, Chris Johnson
will be CJ2K, and Kenny Britt will stay out of jail.  Are they going
to win the Super Bowl? No.  Could they go 10-6 and spoil they Texans
march to a division title?  Why not?
Fantasy Note: If Tennessee is wise they will feed Chris Johnson this 
year to take the pressure off Jake Locker.  If you own him you are 
definitely hoping this is the case.


Baltimore Ravens:
A lot of expectations on this team.  Flacco has basically made it
clear that he is in the "elite" QB ranks.  OK, time to prove it.  Ray
Rice sure helps.  And Ray Lewis & Ed Reed being 2 of the greatest ever
at their position does too.  The Suggs injury sucks, and if they have
injury problems with Rice or Boldin they could be in trouble.  But
overall, they will compete with Pittsburgh for the division.
Fantasy Note:
Ray Rice is probably the best back in Fantasy Land this year.  Can
Torrey Smith continue to emerge as a number one type receiver? It
depends on Flacco, although I wouldn't recommend having him as
anything other than a back up.

Cincinnati Bengals:
I like what they are doing in the 'Nati.  Making smart decisions up
and down their roster and building depth through the draft.  But this
year seems like a sophomore slump for Andy Dalton to me.  The running
game will be iffy, and Jerome Simpson and his flips are gone, so AJ
Green & Jermaine Gresham really have to step up.  I like where the
defense is at, but in this division they need to be great.  We'll see.
They'll compete.
Fantasy Note:
They didn't look too hot in the 3rd preseason game against the
Packers.  hard to really pinpoint anyone on this team to get excited
about, as the running back position has become a weakness instead of a
strength.  If  you miss out on Gronk or Jimmy Graham you might want to
think of Gresham.

Cleveland Browns:
Yikes.  Sure, Trent Richardson should be excellent.  Weedon will suck.
 The team is being sold.  Holmgren has no clue what he's doing without
having Favre/White gifted to him or a balding Matt Hasselbeck leading
his team.  And they are still Cleveland.  Sorry...
Fantasy Note:
Irrelevant  (Pete Says: Best. Analysis. Ever.)

Pittsburgh Steelers:
Ben Roethlisberger is good.  I hate to admit it, but he is.  So is
their receiving corps.  If Mike Wallace would get his head out of his
ass and just sign his tender they would be a top 5 or 6 offense no
problem.  Granted, when you put your body on the line every week for
those 60 Minutes pieces you have to get yours when you can.  Oh
wait... Anyway, this is a 3 team race in the North, and someone will
probably be left out.  Experience, coaching, and playmaking makes me
think the Steelers will survive, but if Andy Dalton progresses and the
Steelers have some internal strife with the receivers, etc. we could
be in for a surprise.
Fantasy Note:
In mocks I have been doing and by most rankings you can get Ben
Roethlisberger in the 8th or 9th.  If you want to load up on other
skill positions early and wait for Big Ben to fall to you late you
might just surprise some people.



Dallas Cowboys:
I talk a lot of trash about the Cowboys, but they were one wide open
pass away from winning the East and keeping the Giants out of the
playoffs last year.  Still, I think their talent is overrated by the
media, and Tony Romo is just not a Super Bowl caliber QB.  The
secondary will probably improve as the season goes on, and they will
put up some decent numbers, but the typical Dallas distractions (and
Romo) will keep them from being a legitimate Super Bowl contender.
Fantasy Note:
I like Miles Austin, but I would probably avoid him with his injury
history.  Demarco Murray should be a beast.

New York Giants:
Can the Giants avoid repeating history? Last time they won the Super
Bowl they didn't make the playoffs the following year.  In the NFC
East that's not that hard to imagine.  Philly & Dallas will compete,
and Hell, the Giants lost to Rex Grossman twice last year.  Still, I
think the defensive line is primed for another dominant season, and
Eli Manning has really come into his own.  They have had some losses,
some significant (Jake Ballard/Mario Manningham) some not so much
(Brandon-1 yard and a cloud of fat dust-Jacobs).  Still, if they stay
healthy there is no reason they shouldn't contend for the Title again.
Fantasy Note:
If you miss out on Rodgers/Brees/Brady/Stafford/Newton, no need to
worry, stock up on RB/WR and grab Eli in the late 4th or 5th.

Philadelphia Eagles:
First and foremost I will never believe in Michael Vick.  I think
their defense will be strong this year.  Last year they added a lot of
splash players, but this year they beefed up with the draft.  It
should come together for them.  But can Vick stay healthy? And is he
really a threat anymore?  Will DeSean Jackson quit being a douche?
Still, if LeSean McCoy is healthy and Vick can play 13-14 solid games,
with an improved defense they will challenge the Giants for the East.
Fantasy Note:
DO NOT DRAFT MICHAEL VICK.  He is a fantasy owner Killer just as much
as a coach killer.

Washington Redskins:
RGIII.  That's pretty much all you'll hear about them this year.  He
will have his struggles.  The Redskins still don't have the talent.
Fantasy Note:
This might be remotely interesting if Mike Shanahan wasn't hiding who
he would play at RB.  So just avoid them all.


Arizona Cardinals:
The QB battle is the big story here.  Skelton or Kolb?  Kolb was the
big splash last year, but Skelton rallied the team and almost took
them to a .500 record after a dismal start.  Defensively they can
compete, but getting the ball to Larry Fitzgerald & rookie Michael
Floyd will be the key here.  Wisenhunt's job might be on the line if
they can't make a playoff push here.
Fantasy Note:
Larry Fitzgerald is rated as a late 1st round pick, and Skelton and
him seemed to have chemistry last year.  Seems a little high to me

Saint Louis Rams:
Well, I like what they did in the draft.  They are hoping Jackson and
Bradford come back at full strength, and if every one of their WRs
does not blow out their knees this year, they might have a team.
Still not quite sure they can challenge for the division title quite
yet, but I do believe Jeff Fischer will have them in contention by
Fantasy Note:
The only thing I can say here is that at some point Steven Jackson is
going to wear down.  Is there anyone on this roster than can be a

San Francisco 49ers:
They were in the NFC Title game last year.  Jim Harbaugh worked some
magic with Alex Smith and the defense did what they do and a 13-3
record and NFC Championship game at home was the result.  Can they do
it again, with everyone expecting it now?  Will Randy Moss, Mario
Manningham, rookies AJ Jenkins & LaMichael James actually make this an
explosive offense?  I am still not quite sure, because Alex Smith is
still the QB.  But hey, Jim Harbaugh might be some sort of "QB
whisperer" and turn Alex Smith into Aaron Rodgers.  OK, probably not,
but if he progresses again they should be in the hunt.  Or they'll go
8-8.  Who knows.
Fantasy Note:
Just stay away from their WRs.  And Frank Gore.  And Alex Smith.
Vernon Davis is your guy, and maybe get Kendall Hunter late.

Seattle Seahawks:
They should be improved over last year, with another semi-interesting
QB battle going on.  Matt Flynn was signed from Green Bay to be their
starter (a la Matt Hasselbeck a decade ago).  Tarvaris Jackson won't
go away quietly, and Russell Wilson (3rd round pick from Wisconsin,
and a future starter in this league in his own right) will compete,
but expect Flynn to get the job.  Can Golden Tate, Doug Baldwin,
Braylon Edwards, Sidney Rice and Ben Obamanu become a solid NFL
receiving corps?  Will Marshawn Lynch learn how to call a cab?  Expect
Seattle to hover around .500 again.
Fantasy Note:
Marshawn was a beast last year.  If he is their horse again he should
be a top 15 pick.  But you have to worry that he'll do something
stupid and Goodell will lay the hammer.


Atlanta Falcons:
I get the feeling this Matt Ryan honeymoon is ending.  He is a solid
QB, but doesn't make big time plays.  Julio Jones & Roddy White are a
nice WR tandem, so there will be no excuses if the Falcons stumble
down the stretch or in the 1st round of the playoffs again.  Michael
Turner isn't getting any younger, and the defense has trouble rushing
the passer, and defending the pass in general.  I wonder if they might
drop below .500 for the first time in Matt Ryan's tenure.
Fantasy Note:
Some rankings have Julio Jones as a top 20 pick.  Seems a little high
to me.  But Roddy White and Jones both are going to be solid WRs to
line up week after week.

Carolina Panthers:
Improvement is definitely expected in Carolina this year.  Cam Newton
broke record after record last year as the rookie #1 pick exceeded all
expectations.  This year he will not sneak up on anyone, but that
might not matter.  He is one of the most purely talented players to
come into the NFL in a long time.  If he continues to improve, and the
management can make competent personnel decision around him I expect
them to contend sooner rather than later.  This year might be a little
early, but they will definitely compete for the division.
Fantasy Note:
This RB situation is ridiculous.  Who are they, the 2003 Denver
Broncos?  Jonathan Stewart, DeAngelo Williams, and Mike Tolbert.  Who
to pick? Probably stay away from all of them, unless one drops to you
and you need depth.

New Orleans Saints:
The Saints have had one of the worst offseasons I have ever seen in
professional sports.  Suspensions, scandal, a Drew Brees Holdout
(since resolved) and a bad draft to top it off, I don't have a heck of
a lot of confidence that this franchise can stay together going
forward.  However, there is enough talent on this team (AKA Drew
Brees) to contend for the South, and maybe NFC.  This will be even
more on Brees shoulders than usual.  He must hold it together, not
force it, and be the leader this team needs.  If he does, they should
win the NFC South, otherwise they could flop.
Fantasy Note:
I have seen rankings that have Darren Sproles rated as the 14th
highest player in PPR leagues.  Keep that in mind if you give points
for recepts, otherwise stay away until the 4th or 5th RD.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers:
I want to think Tampa is back on track.  Raheem Morris flamed out last
year.  But so did Josh Freeman.  And the QB makes the team.  So was
last year an anomaly?  Is Josh Freeman the real deal?  Most people
like what they did in the draft, as do I.  I think I need to see
improvement across the board to really believe that Greg Schiano,
former Rutgers coach, can lead a team at the next level.  If he can,
the Bucs can make the NFC South the NFL's most competitive division.
Fantasy Note:
Doug Martin is rising on Mock Draft boards.  Looks like he is taking
the starting role from LeGarrette Blount.  Let's hope LeGarrette
doesn't punch him over it.


Chicago Bears:
The Bears always scare me.  Defense always competes, and Special teams
is always near the top of the league.  Jay Cutler had this team
rolling last year until he spaztically broke his finger attempting to
tackle a defender after an interception last year.  Matt Forte got the
new contract, so everyone expects another 1400 yd rushing, 600 yd
receiving season.  Cutler has Brandon Marshal & Alshon Jeffrey now.
Like Matt Ryan, there is no longer any excuse in Chicago for failing
to make plays.  They will compete in the NFC North.
Fantasy Note:
I have been seeing Alshon Jeffrey available in the last round of most
mocks.  Not a bad stab if the rest of your roster is filled and you
can wait a few weeks for a potential breakout WR.

Detroit Lions:
This team has some talent.  Unfortunately, it is tied up in 2 players.
Calvin Johnson is out of this world, and Matt Stafford is the perfect
QB for this team.  They can light it up any day.  But if everyone can
stop getting arrested all the time, the defense can come together, and
Ndamakong Suh can stop stomping on people, they will definitely give
the Packers & Bears a run for their money in the division.
Fantasy Note:
I am not joking about this: I will not draft Calvin Johnson.  Madden
Curse.  Matt Stafford is money though.

Green Bay Packers:
You won't hear a lot of gloating and grandstanding here.  The Packers
are one of the best teams in the NFL.  But they have a lot of
challenges to overcome.  A weakened secondary, poor pass rush,
injuries and inexperience at LB are keeping Packers fans worried.  But
hey, they have the best player in the NFL.  Aaron Rodgers is superb.
He and his deep receiving corps headed by Jordy Nelson (yeah that's
right, I said it) will cause nightmares for NFL defenses.  They should
win the NFC North, but they won't be 15-1 again.
Fantasy Note:
I think most people have realized this by now, but take Jordy Nelson
before Greg Jennings this year if you have a choice of the two.  And
take Cedric Benson in the 10th or 11th if he's still around.  Should
be good for 6-7 TDs.

Minnesota Vikings:
Remember when they were relevant?  Besides having a mulleted defensive
star with the number 69 and a stud RB coming back from major surgery?
The defense is bad, Christian Ponder is bad, and Percy Harvin has
headaches.  Get ready for another top 5 pick Minnesota.
Fantasy Note:
Sucks that Adrian Peterson is hurt.  I hate Minnesota but as a
football fan I hope he comes back strong.  Some people are saying grab
Toby Gerhart as insurance, but he is just not that good.  Just stay
away from the Vikings if you can.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Ignorance is Bliss

This is not a steroid post, I promise.

Melky Cabrera, Bartolo Colon, Lance Armstrong.  One week, three "heroes" "tainted."

Here in the United States of America, we pride ourselves on certain things.  Freedom, liberty, opportunity, equality.  One of the big reasons we have a problem with steroids is because of the "unequal playing field" it causes.  In theory, if everyone were juicing, we wouldn't have a problem with it.  But, we want our athletes to be "pure."  We want to believe that these guys are doing it the "right way."  We believe these guys are just like us.  Sure, they have a little more skill, luck, dedication, and hard work, but we Americans like to think that Professional athletes are grinding day in and day out just like we are at our normal jobs.

But here's the thing.  What are sports, really? Entertainment, right?  And if we can get a little inspiration or an underdog story, that makes it all the better.  And of the past decade, who could argue against Lance Armstrong being the most inspiring athlete in the USA?  He won 7 Tour de France titles in a row.  Americans know little to nothing about cycling, but we can understand numbers, and that was good.  Plus, this guy got cancer, and still kept kicking butt.  Rumors persisted though, was he clean?  Lance held that he had never tested positive for any banned substance.  And he hadn't, much like Barry Bonds.  But it's not that easy.  It never is.  Years went by, and the powers that be continued investigating and years later seemed to have enough evidence to bring Lance down.  So he did something that we never would accept from our hero.  He gave up.  He beat cancer, but he couldn't beat the stigma of being a steroid user.

The point of all this rambling is that I wonder how much "purity" is really important in today's society when it comes to our athletes.  What if we found out, 70 years later, that Lou Gehrig was taking steroids throughout his career to battle the debilitating weakness he was feeling day to day?  (Obviously this is a wild analogy, and I in no way believe this).  His speech on June 21st 1939 is one of the most inspiration moments in our country's history, not just in the sports realm.  If he were "doping" to cope with this terrible disease and ailment that he was feeling in his formerly strong body, would we be appalled?  Would we even want to know?  No, we wouldn't.  We want to look back, reminisce, remember the good old days, and think about how this guy meant so much to us.

Nowadays it is very rare for an athlete to make it through the public eye and receive that kind of admiration from society.  Brett Favre, Tiger Woods, & Michael Jordan have been close.  But they're not perfect, and people have turned against them.  We are just not able to have athletes as heroes with all the information we have nowadays.  Maybe that is why Tim Tebow is so popular.  We all believe he is a straight shooter, I know I do (at least with life, not his passes).  But who knows, maybe someday we find out he is knocking up skanks left and right, or a member of the KKK (disclaimer: previous sentence is using HYPERBOLE to make a point).  Fact is, we like to have heroes, and it sucks to have them torn down left and right, day after day.  The saying "ignorance is bliss" never has seemed more appropriate than it does in 2012.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Joe Paterno and Penn State Are Not Alone In Their Guilt

The report issued today by former FBI director Louis Freeh regarding the incidents at Penn State has added a huge amount of very unsettling information to the story of Jerry Sandusky, Joe Paterno, and the cover-up of the worst crime to involve a football program probably ever.  Honestly I’ve watched more coverage than I had any inclination to, and I’ve heard just about anyone that’s watched a football game weigh in on how this effects the legacy of Penn State an Paterno as its coach.  Sadly, in all this discussion, there have been four major issues that have escaped either the cognizance or the journalistic integrity of the hundreds of talking heads getting their 15 minutes.  For the record: I think that immediate reactions, especially in a situation like this, are a large part of the failure of our current media.  We have traded perspective for immediacy, and we have no hope of going back.  Worse yet, Matt Millen will never be called to task for his equivocation of his feelings about Paterno in light of Freeh’s report, and neither will Mark May for his outright condemnation.  Not that they should be challenged on substance, as I understand what each was attempting to impart, but that in the first half-hour after the Freeh report was read, they were willing to appear on camera and try to make substantive comments without fully processing this new information first.  Despite what the oversensitive culture of Americans-Agaisnt-“Ism”s would have you believe, no person can process this type of information at the desired rate, especially those closest to the situation.  Emotion clouds rationality; immediacy is a disease and perspective is the cure.  Sadly, our American society is currently enamored with emotion and immediacy, God help us all.
With that pontificating over, let me address the four aspects of this particular story that are the most difficult or troubling and are receiving the least (if any) discussion.

1) Joe Paterno’s legacy will lack any depth.
From here on out, Paterno will be a snapshot of what could go wrong.  The thousands of young men that he tutored and aided throughout his tenure will be brushed aside so that we can focus on his most massive shortcoming.  To ignore that Paterno utterly failed to attempt to stop Sandusky (if he even believed that his best friend was doing/could do such a thing) would be ludicrous.  But to remember him ONLY as the man who didn’t do enough and covered up his inaction is also to shortchange the amount of good he did.

2) The Paterno Family (Jay especially) could do with a reality check.
Undoubtedly someone, somewhere, is making a boatload of cash to “advise” the Paterno’s on their public image in the wake of this news.  Whoever that person is/those persons are should be euthanized with all deliberate speed.  To “hold the line” and maintain the integrity of JoePa in the face of unquestionable damning evidence is downright stupid.  Jay Paterno actually contended that, “the idea that there was some big concealment is an unfair characterization.”  Obviously Jay Paterno has been gifted either with blissful ignorance or the unmatched inability to process factual information. 
Fact: in 1998 Sandusky was viewed engaging in an inappropriate act with a minor. 
Fact: Joe Paterno did report this information, at least to some degree, to his superiors.[1] 
Fact: for whatever reason, this information did not become public knowledge, nor was it pursed beyond whatever measures JoePa took until the case was brought against Sandusky late last year.
Fact: Sandusky was convicted of 45 counts of sexual assault on a minor.
Thus, if Sandusky was first ‘discovered’ in 1998, but not charged and tried until 2011/2012, then one of two things happened.  Either the report was pursued faithfully and nothing came of it, or the report was buried (or “covered up” or some other synonym) until the first of Sandusky’s accusers came forward, finally blowing the lid off of the whole thing.  Jay Paterno claims that the latter couldn’t have happened, while still admitting the former was not the case either in a hugely equivocating statement that, “It can be argued that Joe Paterno didn’t do enough.”  You’re goddamn right it can.  And it can also be said that the facts show an undeniable concealment of the facts, no matter what Jay Paterno believes.  I don’t begrudge him the difficulty of learning all these horrible things about his father, with whom he worked closely and has recently lost, but at some point reality needs to break through the cloud of emotion and sink in.  Obviously the media would have hounded the Paterno family for comment, and they did a relatively noble thing by trying to get out in front of the report, but whatever advice they’re getting they should do the exact opposite.  Jay’s comments today were the worst move in this storyline since Bob Costas destroyed Jerry Sandusky on national television.

3) Why is no one talking about Joe Paterno’s age?
One of my favorite columnists, Jason Whitlock, has cried conspiracy about this whole thing from the beginning, citing the rather large coincidence that it wasn’t until after Paterno passed Eddie Robinson as the winningest coach in DI history that this story came out.  The conspiracy is a bit too much for me to believe, but there is one point that no one seems to be brining up.  When the Sandusky incident was first brought to Paterno in 1998 Joe Paterno was 72 years old.  The average age of an NCAA football coach in the 1990s?  55.6.[2]  This still puts Paterno at an outlier end of the average age when this all started fourteen years ago.  The fact that no one is willing to question the possibility that Paterno had begun to lose a step as far as his mental faculties are concerned is troubling.  After all, we are dealing with a sport that presents evidence of brain trauma at four times the statistical average.  And Paterno did play football for Brown when he was in college.   I don’t think that it’s too much to posit that the decision made by a 72 year old Paterno regarding the accusations against longtime friend Sandusky could have been far different than the decisions Paterno would have made in Penn State’s 1986 National title season – at age 60.  Moreover, consider how fast our world changes.  How many of us went directly to Twitter for news two years ago?  Football is notoriously monarchical in its discipline, and yes-men last longer than anyone who challenges the status quo.  Don’t believe me?  Wrack your brain for the last relevant and positive thing that Bill Parcells has done.  Nevermind that he has left the cupboard bare at both the Cowboys and Dolphins, he won two Super Bowls!  You know who else won two Super Bowls?  Mike Tomlin.  Tomlin is 31 years Parcells’s junior.  When you think back on this Penn State scandal and all the awful things that happened, remember this:  through it all Joe Paterno was a septuagenarian or older.  Age was, to some degree, a factor.  That is inescapable and should not be ignored.

4) At what point are we allowed to chastise the NCAA?
That omnipotent, billion-dollar body of regulation that looks out for the well being of its ‘student’-athletes has, thus far, escaped most criticism.  For all the criticism of “lack of institutional control” that pervades every sanction of every other school (Miami, anyone?) isn’t found here, because exactly the opposite has happened.  Penn State was allowed to develop too much institutional control.  My dad pointed out that the whole thing reminded him of the cliché that “absolute power corrupts absolutely”.  I think that’s a rather prescient comment in this case, as the figure of Joe Paterno was so engrained at Penn State that he could do no wrong – and if he did wrong, no one was really going to tell him otherwise.  And it is the NCAA in its entirety, the culture they breed, the way they dispose justice, the way they care only about image and profit, that allowed for Penn State to develop a situation in which football ruled all.  Sadly, and predictably, the NCAA will face exactly zero repercussions from this, because the media and the knee-jerk college football diehards are to busy placing the blame on people no longer in power and a man six months dead.

And while healing is more important than punishment, punishment is still sought.  The answer is definitely not to cancel any or all of a Penn State football season.[3]  The kids, the ‘student’-athletes that the NCAA purportedly looks after had nothing to do with a cover up that happened 14 years ago.  Sadly, though, that is the pattern of the NCAA, to punish the descendants for the guilt of the ancestors.  Regardless of the outcome, things are almost sure to get worse before they get better.

[1] We obviously now have confirmation that Joe Paterno basically ran Penn State as far as football goes.  That will be discussed below.
[3] If I had my choice, Penn State would be stripped of all victories from 1999-2012, including their 2005 and 2008 conference championships.  All members of the coaching staff/administration that were at fault for allowing the Sandusky case to persist would be banned for life from NCAA employment.  Going forward, schools would face a “two strikes” policy.  The first time they were exposed as having participated in a criminal conspiracy of this magnitude (which is, by the way, FAR different from “improper benefits” or whatever bullshit rules the NCAA dreams up to keep their labor free) they would receive and immediate ten-year ban from conference or national title competition or bowl participation.  The second strike?  An indefinite ban, reviewable only every twenty years by a panel of NCAA personnel and independent arbiters.  It seems harsh, but the current culture favors extended concealment of infractions over admittance of guilt, because as the time gap grows evidence and testimony can become more muddled.  If even the slightest hint of an infraction sets a program back a decade, we can hopefully work toward a better transparency in the future culture of NCAA football.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

New College Playoff Thoughts

          With the news a few weeks ago that the NCAA will be implementing a four-team playoff for college football starting with the 2014 season, a number of those who screamed death to the BCS seem to be overjoyed.  For me, the only positive feeling I can associate with the news is excitement.  I am excited in the most literal definition possible: experiencing strong feelings of enthusiasm and eagerness – in this particular case, brought about by the unknown of what this playoff will bring.  Yet I remain apprehensive, perhaps even cynical, because the playoff has just widened the number of teams for debate while healing none of the ills that plagued the BCS-only system.  To allow you to share in my sardonic celebration, let’s take a look at the problems with the system we’re enduring for one more year, and how the four-team playoff will (not) correct these issues.
            The process is fairly simple.  At season’s end, a selection committee of important university people will select the four teams that are to participate in the playoff.  One of the advantages of this is that the selection committee will be limited in their choices.  They will not be able to haphazardly throw in Boise State during an undeserving year[1] just to placate the vocal majority (read: all of the country west of the Mississippi and north of the Mason-Dixon line) who tire of the BCS’s role as a closed group within a closed group from which the champions are decided.  On the SportsCenter immediately following the press conference that announced the new system, ESPN displayed a graphic that showed what the three most likely scenarios would have been for last year’s playoff.  The systems included:
            Straight BCS:  LSU v. Stanford, Alabama v. Oklahoma St.
            Conference Winners[2]:  LSU v. Wisconsin, Oklahoma St. v. Oregon
            “Plus 1” or Mixture:  LSU v. Wisconsin, Alabama v. Oklahoma St.
Obviously this would have its detractors and complaints about who should be “first in” or “last out” would fill the airwaves until the games were played (and then the results would be retroactively applied as proof of the original argument).  As a Badger alum, I’m far from impartial, but that seems to me to be a fair pool.  If you told me that the national title playoff in 2011 was going to be comprised of four of LSU, Alabama, Oklahoma St., Stanford, Oregon, and Wisconsin, I would have found no problem with it.  Would the Badgers getting left out have been a cause for sadness?  Sure.  Aside from LSU being skipped, however, I see no other combination of those six teams that would have been bothersome to me.
            While the field will be truly narrowed, and any selection for the most part justifiable, teams will wait to hear their name called while, just like in basketball, having no idea what the true criteria are.  This will be especially nerve wracking for every team that fails to go undefeated, as their pass to the playoff will be qualified with ideas like, “they played a tougher schedule” or “their loss counted against them less because it was on the road”, etc., etc., ad nauseam.  And this lack of selection transparency is the cause of most of the complaints that arise around college football’s championship.  In professional sports, there is a distinct hierarchy of considerations that each team is aware of at all times throughout the season and that is used to determine each league’s playoff teams.  Granted, it can sometimes come down to something as unoriginal as a coin toss, but at least said coin toss is transparent.   But this is privilege of professional sports because the pros play a balanced schedule, in the sense that each team has an allotted percentage of their games played against division, conference, and interconference rivals.  This is not the case in college sports and the result is that the games must be considered instead on a “quality” scale.[3]  Because there are about one-third as many games in college football as in college basketball, and because team winning percentages in college football will have to hover around .850 to even sniff the playoff (no conference tourneys for you sub-.500 teams here), college football teams are not afforded the discussions of both quality wins and quality losses.  Again, transparency fails, as we have absolutely no idea whether wins or losses actually count for more when comparing teams with similar records.
            Take last year for instance.  Four teams – Alabama, Oklahoma State, Stanford, and Boise State – finished the season 11-1.[4]    Boise State, who lost at home to a mediocre TCU team, ranked the lowest of the four teams.  Stanford got walloped at home by number seven Oregon, losing 53-30.  Oklahoma State, amidst the tragedy of the plane crash that claimed the lives of their women’s head basketball coach and an assistant, lost a two-overtime battle against Iowa State in Ames.  And Alabama, as I’m sure you all know, played arguably the most boring game of football involving an SEC team last year, losing at home to the top-ranked LSU Tigers 9-6 in overtime.  If we are to induce anything from these games, then, it is that the BCS formulas seem to imply that road losses are far less harmful than home losses…unless you lose to the number one team in the country.  And if we are to understand that losing is more acceptable if you do it on the road and against better teams (and thus the “quality” of the loss matters more), then the number is the only important thing in the win column. 
How do I make these inductive claims, you ask?  Well, because if the opposite were true, and win “quality” was considered when the number of losses were equal, no rational person could have ever put Alabama in the title game ahead of the Cowboys.  Alabama’s pure numbers are equal, if not better than Oklahoma State’s in a number of places, but the qualification process proves them to be against far weaker overall competition.  This is especially true as the Tide played one game against the FCS Southern Conference’s Georgia Southern Eagles.  In said game – in Tuscaloosa by the way – the Tide gave up the most points all season (21 when they were averaging 7.1 per game up to that point).  For a conference that brags continually about earning its right in the title game, the SEC sure goes out of its way to take on at least one cupcake every season.  In 2011, every one of the teams had at least one FCS opponent, and Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Mississippi State, and South Carolina managed to fit that game into the last four of the season.  Meanwhile, Oklahoma State and Stanford both played all twelve of their regular season games against Division I/FBS competition.  Better numbers against better teams makes for a no-brainer in my opinion.

Whether you favor the BCS system and its ‘every game matters’ approach, or the plus-one format (or plus-n format, depending upon the number of teams that will eventually be participating in the playoff) and its ability to provide redemption after one loss – but probably not more than that, understand that this is likely the best situation for the college football postseason that we’re going to have for years to come.  The overlordship of the NCAA is enough to prove that the NCAA is a model is broken all the way to its root.  So, being as greedy and selfish as I am usually, I’m glad to see the NCAA deliver a playoff format that is going to make more of the games actually matter.  My ill-advised bet that the Wolverines would win a National Title before the Badgers won a Rose Bowl may either land me some cash…or my Badgers a National Title.  49 days until college football, ladies and gents, let’s enjoy the hell out of it.
(PS: Look for the college football preview, coming soon!)

[1] I’m not against Boise State getting their chance, but so far they haven’t been much more than a twinkle in a mid-major lover’s eye.  Their chances to go undefeated the last two years – and as a result shake up the national title talk – have been squelched in heartbreaking fashion both times, resulting in consecutive trips to the less-than-prestigious pre-Christmas spectacle that is the Las Vegas Bowl.
[2] I did not research, nor do I know offhand, how they determine the top four conferences, but my educated (and probably correct) guess is a combination of that conference’s teams’ winning percentage and the overall strength of schedule those teams faced.
[3] I will pontificate in a later post about the stupidity of the method of “quality” figuring, which is very much the fault of college basketball mid-majors.
[4] The Houston Cougars went 12-1 but got trounced by Southern Miss in their conference championship game, effectively ending any BCS hopes or consideraitions.