March 7th, 2014 § Leave a Comment
Blame it on Arian
Free agency kicks off next Tuesday. Some serious dudes are going to be hitting the open market. Game changers like Michael Bennett who led your Super Bowl winning Seattle Seahawks with 8.5 sacks and Jairus Byrd who since joining the league has had more interceptions and forced fumbles (33) than any other safety. They and a number of others will have more than a few “under the cap” suitors looking to secure their services. What’s common about these two and other interesting free agents is that they fall on the defensive side of the ball.
Offensive players entering free agency in 2014 come with more questions than answers: Is Eric Decker what the numbers tell us he is or has he been elevated beyond recognition by the company he keeps? Can Michael Vick who could not do it in Chip Kelly’s offense do it in a place like … say Minnesota? Is Maurice Jones Drew running on fumes?
Teams courting these players will not be doing so because they are infatuated but because they are desperate. Missteps, missed opportunities have brought them to a place of reluctant commitments – commitments that come with them that sickening feeling: “I feel trapped.” And no team will feel more trapped, more desperate than those looking to fill the positional need at Running Back.
First off, the Running Back is a rapidly diminishing role. Do you remember the last Running Back to take a team to the Super Bowl? You may have to go all the way back to Terrell Davis. It’s a pass happy league with the diminished role of the RB being chopped further into specialized, committee systems. Furthermore, the RB – outside of maybe the Nose Guard – takes more punishment than any other position in the league making 30 years the standard age at which they are led to pasture.
Recent history of high profile RB signings isn’t helping. There’s Steven Jackson who was supposed to shore up the Falcons backfield but ended up playing twelve games, failing for the first time since his rookie season to crack a 1000 yds, and producing a career worst 3.5 per carry avg. Chris Johnson signed what was the richest contract given to a RB and promptly followed with the worst season of his career. He ended 2013 by dipping below 4 yds per carry avg. And as disasters go, can’t forget Arian Foster.
Foster went from an undrafted free agent to taking over the league in 2010. After a second outstanding season, Foster was rewarded with a five-year, 43.5 million dollar contract before the 2012 season. A no brainer – as safe an investment as you can get. After struggling through an injury plagued 2013 pre-season, Foster was ultimately put on IR after playing only eight games. This offseason, between the news of back surgery and rehab, word got out that Foster allegedly fathered a child with a University of Houston coed. Doh! How’s that long term deal looking now?
Next week, Darren McFadden will sit across the table from a GM. The fear of commitment will be palpable.
“Hey, man, I know there are some durability issues, but I’m still young. And when I’m on the field, there’s no question about my productivity.”
“Look, nothing you can say will put me at ease … you can blame Arian for that.”
March 6th, 2014 § Leave a Comment
I confess that I have a condescending attitude toward the Oscars, like the whole thing’s beneath me or something. I dismiss it as a beauty pageant of sorts – a popularity contest. The red carpet, posing for the cameras in their Versaces, all the “who’s who” hoopla. Entertainment reporters who are – let’s face it – not real reporters going on a gluttonous butt sniffing frenzy. What does any of this have to do with art?
Like I know something about art. That’s why it’s a confession; I’m aware that my disdain for the glittery Hollywood ball is wrong. I of all people have no right to look down on anything. “What have you done that’s so great that artists being recognized for reaching the heights of their craft is beneath you?” A good question to which I have no good answer.
Over the years, my misguided attitude has kept me from tuning in. This year, my teenage daughter wanted to watch the Academy Awards. My wife and I have always felt that in parenting “blocking access” needs to be used sparingly. “You want to watch? Sure, let’s watch it together.”
Other than Ellen DeGeneres being surprisingly good, the show pretty much went as I expected. Ho hum. Then it happened. In the Best Supporting Actor category, a ten second sample of Jared Leto’s offering flashed on the screen. The transvestite Rayon’s sorrowful, tortured, solitary moment in front of a mirror was stunning. Wow. Give the man his Oscar.
February 28th, 2014 § Leave a Comment
Did you hear what Jerry Jones said? Last week at the Combine in Indy, to commemorate the 25th anniversary of his acquisition of America’s Team, Jones sat down with Chris Mortensen and Suzy Kolber of ESPN. During the interview, Mortensen sac’d up and asked the big question, “Are you going bring in a GM?”
The Dallas Cowboys has one, don’t have to count ‘em … ’cause there’s only one playoff win since ’96. That’s one in 16 seasons. Despite holding down the top spot in worth (Forbes puts the Cowboys at 2.3 billion), the Boys have been the picture of mediocrity since their early ’90s run. Over this period, there have been a “turnstile” of head coaches – six in all. The one constant has been Jerry Jones in the General Manager’s seat. So, naturally, the question is going to come up.
Paraphrasing, Jones response was, “I paid 140 million for this team, which Lamar Hunt (Principal founder of the AFL, founder and owner of KC Chiefs) called the riskiest thing he’d ever seen. I risked everything, and so earned the right to have all critical decisions regarding the team to go through me. If someone else has the balls to pony up a comparable figure then he can tell me what to do.” Really? You’re going with that? “I bought it. It’s mine!” Oh, that’s not childish at all.
Geez. You’re not painting a tricycle. It’s only one of a handful of the most recognizable sports franchises in the world. It’s a marquee team of the most popular sport in America. The Cowboys represent the City of Dallas at the very least, but more likely the State of Texas. Not to mention the countless people who literally make their living on the team. It’s a little bigger than you, don’t you think?
Yeah, absolutely, there’s something to be said about being an owner. Of course that affords you certain rights. No dispute there. Those rights however do not include installing yourself into a role and then not holding yourself to the same standards to which every other one of your employees are held. Wait a minute … could this be the reason why Jason Garrett still has a job? Why they do not draft another QB? The reason why Montee Kiffin is still on their staff? Has the disparity in standards created such a tension in Jones that now he has unwittingly begun to apply the mediocre standards he allows for himself onto the rest of his organization?
Whatever is going on, it’s equivalent to a billionaire with little flight experience, upon purchasing an airline insisting, “I bought this thing, it’s mine so no one’s going to tell me I can’t fly the New York to London leg. Damn it!”
With a blind man at the helm, it’s no wonder the team has one playoff win in sixteen seasons. And it’s not looking good for you Cowboy fans. Money and power has a way of blinding a man, but you’d think over a decade of ineptitude would restore some sight. You would think. And with Jerry Jones, you’d be wrong.
February 26th, 2014 § Leave a Comment
A man gathers and gathers, but cannot stop the slipping through the fingers. Like one piling a mound of sand …
The migration out to the ‘burbs is in search of a better life. More space. Less crime. Empty sidewalks – nowhere to loiter. Keep the kids out of trouble, in the classroom. If you have the means, you do it: You make the sacrifices for your family. On paper, it computes. So, I have to believe as my Father pulled up to his little castle in his brand new Cadillac Sedan de Ville, as he drove down the descending driveway past his plum tree, his heart was filled if only in fleeting moments with the sense that he had gathered a good life for himself and his family.
But life is not lived on paper … as we all know. No sooner do we step back to admire, we notice the slipping away. Unforeseen – virtually, unknowable things. He couldn’t have anticipated it, but the move was rough for his boys. In those two years in West LA, me and my older brother had found a place for ourselves. A role in the script. The move took us from that … that colorful complexity of Cameron Crowe to the vanilla simplicity of John Hughes. It’s not that we weren’t called “chinks” in LA, it’s just that everyone else was called something too. And somehow that made us laugh as much as fight. With the move to the ‘burbs, we went from seeing ourselves in the cool afro’d kid, riding shotgun with Spicoli to being Long Duck Dong. And none of it was funny anymore.
The “slipping through the fingers” happened with my parents too. Liver cancer was found in my Father less than a year after the move. Just when all seemed to be gathered, life itself slipped through his fingers. Two years later he was gone, and with him the future my Mother and he must have held somewhere in their hearts.
And all this in search of a better life. A better life? What exactly is a “better” life anyway? Is it in the gathering … this and that, oh, and that other? The wanting and the having? If the distance between us could have been removed, what would he have told me about life … about what he saw as he stood at the end of it? As it slipped through his fingers, I think he got a real good look. And so without bitterness, in the darkness of an early July morning, he quietly surrendered.
February 19th, 2014 § 4 Comments
After some two plus years, we were out of West Los Angeles. We left behind Palms Junior High, the bus rides to Westwood, Tower Records, Penny loafers, Venice, black kids bussed in and Jewish kids from the Fairfax District, KDAY, Prince and Bruce Lee. We headed East, the burbs. The four bedroom house with the basketball court and swimming pool was no consolation for the quiet and the heat. The air – stale, vacuumed of energy by homogeneity. “Bro, where the hell are we?” Yanked from Fast Times at Ridgemont High and dropped into The Breakfast Club.
And what precipitated this unfortunate change in script? Three armed men walked into Hillis Liquor one night. My parents and a family friend were put, face down on the floor. With the business end of a shotgun pressed against the back of my Father’s ear, the register was emptied.
Years later when my parents told us the story, they glossed over the robbery but told in vivid detail what they saw when they got home. They looked into our room and found their two boys fast asleep. Oblivious. The thought of their sons waking as orphans sent a shudder through them that a loaded gun could not.
Standing there, without a spoken word, the decision to get out of the liquor store business was made. Just like that. All good fathers are prepared to restructure their lives for the sake of their children. When it threatened his children’s well being, my Father walked from the only business he’d known into the uncertainty of starting over.
February 4th, 2014 § Leave a Comment
Did I say the Broncos?
Yes, I believe I did. Well, I don’t have to believe. All I have to do is scroll down and read it. Funny how clear it is now. The two Broncos units with significant injuries were the offensive line and the secondary. Injuries on the line occurred at the start of season, and by the time they’d arrived in New Jersey, Denver had answered the questions about the line. It is worth noting however that one of those injuries were to their all pro left tackle, Ryan Clady. The secondary was another story. A patch work group composed of stars of yesteryear and undrafted free agents took a huge hit when they lost their best player in the first round of the playoffs. Chris Harris’ injury meant that Champ Bailey who had been struggling with his own injury all season would be pushed into the starting spot opposite Rodgers-Cromartie. And other guys like journeyman Tony Carter would have to play a major role.
The prevailing sentiment was that Seattle didn’t have the weapons to exploit Denver’s weakness in the secondary. Seattle would do it’s usual twenty-five to Marshawn Lynch, dink and dunk to Golden Tate and Doug Baldwin, and see what they could get out of Harvin. In the first quarter, that is pretty much what we saw. After being spotted two points, and with two trips deep into the redzone, all Seattle could muster was 8-0 lead. Denver accomplished its defensive priority by shutting down Marshawn Lynch. What it could not do the rest of the game was stop Seattle on 3rd downs. Nor could the unsung offensive line that had overachieved keep Seattle’s edge rushers off Peyton Manning. In the end, the two units beleaguered by injury had no answer for the deeper, healthier, younger Seahawks.
But what is not being talked about are the turnovers and the near turnover. There were technically four turnovers in the game. Two interceptions which included a pick six and two fumbles. But if you include the safety on Denver’s first play and the failed fourth down attempt at the end of the first half, we’re looking at six turnovers. And then there was the near turnover which was in my opinion one of the most critical plays in the game. With Denver down 0-8 late in the first quarter, Knowshon Moreno fumbled on a second and manageable, something like 2nd and 4. Although he recovered the ball, it made it 3rd and 7. On the very next play, on 3rd and 7, down 8, and yet to convert a 1st down, Manning pressed. The pick to Chancellor set up Seattle’s first TD. 15-0. It got down right ugly after that.
From the other side of here, tough to see Denver’s line so thoroughly dominated. Tough to see Seattle complete pass after 3rd down conversion pass. Tough to see special teams play be so one sided. But more than anything, it was hard to see Denver turn the ball over what amounts to six times.
Of course, that’s the point. We cannot see the other side of here. It’s why Vegas always wins. Why an orangutan ironically named Eli is 7-0. Why I’ll be eating crow. Damn. Can you pass the salt? This crow looks gamey.
January 31st, 2014 § Leave a Comment
Clash of the Titans
So, I hear there’s a game this Sunday?
The Denver Broncos meet the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLVIII or 48 for you Roman numerically challenged. The number one offense in NFL history, as in “all time” – we’re not talking since the merger; we’re talking “ever” – meets one of the top ten defenses of all time. There are dudes applying some sort of advanced mathematics to come up with a metric represented by an acronym DVOA (If you’re interested, you can read about it in Bill Barnwell’s article “Tale of Two Cities” on Grantland.com). It overwhelms with nerdy confusion, thus convincingly putting a scientific nail in the barber shop argument, “The Best Ever.” But really, we don’t need to sit in a fluorescent lit room with a row of hard seats and a white board to be convinced of the transcendent merits of these teams. They pass the “eye ball” test. Watching Seattle’s D transform the Saints into the Jaguars on a Monday night was good enough for me. As was seeing the Broncos hang 49 in the season opener against the reigning Super Bowl Champs. And if the historic quality of the match-up wasn’t enough to get us geeked beyond what grown men ought to be permitted, this whole thing is being thrown down in the Empire State … well, technically in Jersey, but again let’s not let technicality get in the way of a good story. Oh yeah. It’s on.
On a fantasy note and by “fantasy” I mean “lesser”, this year is a case of life imitating fantasy. The number one offensive fantasy player, Peyton Manning, is going against the number two fantasy D/ST – the Chief’s who swooned down the stretch edged out the Seahawks by a meager 3 pts. and that only because they had the Redskins in week 14. Seattle was clearly the most consistent D/ST in fantasy and the best in the last month. They are the top dogs, but other studs will be on display this Sunday. Basically the entire Denver skill position set were useful fantasy options with Knowshon Moreno and Julius Thomas being “out of nowhere” value picks. Beastmode gave owners what they were looking for with a early first round pick. And Golden Tate overachieved in the void created by the injuries to Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin. Speaking of Percy Harvin and life imitating fantasy, owners picked up Harvin and waited with bated anticipation, hoping that the all purpose WR would carry them through the playoffs. Seattle waited and waited only to see Harvin knocked out of the Divisional Round. Will Harvin be a factor in the outcome Sunday or will life continue to imitate art?
Okay, so who wins? Vegas has thrown it’s “hands in the air” with a 2.5 line. Two days before the game the money is moving toward Seattle. Something about the trend of Dogs covering in recent Super Bowls, and defenses over offenses with the elements giving further edge to the Legion of Boom. And apparently there’s some ape savant who’s picked Seattle? Really? We’re listening to monkeys now?
I’m taking Denver, 27-23. Whether I look smart Sunday night or clueless will depend in my opinion on line play. With all the hoopla about Denver’s weapons and Seattle’s secondary, I think it will come down to whether or not Denver’s O-Line can keep Peyton clean for 2.5 seconds.
January 24th, 2014 § 1 Comment
Through the glass door adorned with various beer ads and other non-descript stickers to a slight incline onto the main floor. On the left were the two top sliding glass door freezers packed with bags of ice and ice cream; on the right was the back of a small, waist level news stand … no, really a magazine rack. All I remember of it were the Hustler and Playboys tucked away in the corner … forbidden fruit blinking neon on the drab tree. Beyond it was the wall of liquor. Literally, a wall – front to back , top to bottom, a distilled menagerie of the establishment’s namesake. To a ten year old boy, it might as well have been decorative … the sweet tooth there long before a taste for spirits.
Sometime around 1980, my Mom and Dad bought their first business. Being Korean immigrants, naturally they bought a liquor store. The thought of that store still fills me with that warm, bountiful feeling of anticipation … you know that feeling you get as you step into your favorite “all you can shove down” buffet. Yeah, that feeling. I still see the afternoon lighting coming through the store front windows, the lighting of my after school foraging. Oh, and the happy dilemma: “Do I go Mars bar or Snickers? And do I couple that with RC Cola or Pepsi? or do I just go crazy today and grab that Big Stick that always seems to call my name.”
My first time in Hillis Liquor, as it dawned on me that by extension all this was mine, I remember feeling that in some small way I’d arrived in life. Candy, soda, Big Stick, Funyuns, and porn: I thought I’d died and gone to heaven.
January 21st, 2014 § 2 Comments
This may be old news to you. Or you may have never considered such a thing. Come to think of it, there’s fair chance that I’m “Out in the woods” babbling about things that do not exist. For what it’s worth, based on my observations, here’s what I think. You be the judge.
Around the age of eight or nine, an awareness of self develops. “Hmm … I am me.” This awareness, prompts a question: “Who am I?” I’ve written before about what I believe is our initial “look” inward. In case you’re interested
The brutally honest self assessment done secretly, internally yields a vague, and at best an unsatisfying picture of self. A picture then that must be changed, upgraded – one, we can live with. It is this quest to formulate a better answer to the question, “Who am I?” that shapes the teenage experience.
What does an amnesiac do? He looks at himself in the mirror and asks, “Who am I?” The mirror reflects back to him, at least in part, the answer. The image of self. I believe it is why peers become so important to teenagers. They reflect back an image that is alike. When the question of self is the most pressing question, a teenager cannot see himself in an elder or a child. He seeks a reflection bouncing off someone like himself. And what a teenager does as he sees the image coming into unalterable focus is he desperately tries to manipulate it into a better answer.
A teenager is consumed by a need to formulate a better answer to the question. Like others in search of an answer, he naturally turns to a mirror and asks, “Who am I?”
January 11th, 2014 § Leave a Comment
In my experience, there are some patterns. No secret to winning. No “insider” info. Some interesting patterns? Yeah.
First round. I whiffed twice in the 1st round. The first was taking LaDainian Tomlinson ahead of Chris Johnson’s historic 2000+ season. Ironically, the second was taking Chris Johnson in the middle of the 1st round, a season removed from his hold out season. Those two years, my team struggled. Barely got into the playoff with LT but I remember feeling like I had no chance. With Chris Johnson I didn’t even sniff the playoffs.
Waiver wire hero. This year it was Zac Stacy. In my first year it was Steve Slaton. Another year, it was Marques Colston. Someone dropped Marques Colston when he broke his collarbone. The projection was that the Saints wide out would be out four to six weeks. Feeling settled at the WR position, I decided to grab and stash the 4th round WR. He was out two weeks. It was the season Drew Brees was trying to break Marinos single season passing mark. Week 16 in a Saints blowout win, Brees just kept throwing. Colston ended with 16 pts. I won the championship by 1.
The bottom half. Those first two patterns, like I’ve said on numerous occasions, “Who knows?” When Zac Stacy went off against the Titans, I was just as surprised as everyone else. Grabbing a Rams running back this year was by definition a desperate play. Actually, I thought Percy Harvin was going to be my waiver wire hero. And who knew Trent Richardson and Aaron Rodgers were going to be 1st round disasters?
In my winning seasons, I got production from my TE, D/ST, and K. Unless you’re grabbing Gronk or Jimmy, those positions are going in the 8th or 9th rounds and below. Because they are not glamorous picks, most guys are shooting ‘em off in the dark. D/ST can vary wildly from season to season. Couple years ago, the Panthers D was a disaster. They couldn’t stop anyone from running it down their throat. This year, that team was the Bears. Yeah, the team that was the fantasy darling two seasons ago.
Before you forget, just make a mental note of a couple options in those spots who could give you good production in 2014.
Here are three I’m keeping in mind: Jordan Reed TE Washington Redskins, Tampa Bay Bucs D/ST, and 49ers Kicker – whoever it is.