Marriage Mondays

July 14th, 2014 § Leave a Comment

Need Perspective

It isn’t so much that marriage is hard as it is that all of life is hard. And living it well, requires a fair amount of “against the grain” effort. The problem with us is that we do not want to live the life we admire, the life worthy of praise. We do not want to follow our heroes. Instead, we want to go where we can’t be bothered and talk. And talk. And talk. That’s our problem.

A life well lived is hard and good. Why would marriage be any different?

Fail

June 30th, 2014 § Leave a Comment

There was an essay portion of the exam. It asked for a brief summary of the last book I had read. I wrote a little something about Escape from New York by Mike McQuay, the book made more famous by its film adaptation. If the random dotting of multiple choice answers somehow didn’t do it, I insured my fate with my ramblings about the virtues of Snake Plissken. It was a lock. I slept like a baby that night.

A couple weeks later, my parents told me what I already knew. I had failed the entrance exam to the exclusive prep boarding school. They were set to pour every penny they had and every penny they were going to make to maneuver us within striking distance of one of those Ivy League Schools. The private prep school. One tour of that place was all I needed to see. Dorm rooms with random kids. Dorks walking around in pleaded trousers, ties and loafers … well, they looked dorky to me at the time. A formal dining hall. What do you think the chances were of me finding a bowl of rice and some kimchee in that joint? Exactly. Moving from West LA to the Suburbs ripped us from ourselves. This? What was this going to do us? A month in that place, we’d hardly know ourselves. Forget it. No way I was going.

Our minds were made up; we were throwing that exam.

What I didn’t realize until I saw the look in my Father’s eyes was what the failure would mean to him. All I thought about was keeping myself out of that silly place. What he had to come to terms with was that his sons were dumb. The notice of failure came with it our scores. In my eagerness to keep my feet out of the fire as it were, I had been overzealous in portraying my stupidity. Of course I couldn’t tell him I threw the exam, he’d have wrung my neck. But now that I’ve seen my own children, you know, through that rosy lens only parents have, I wish I would’ve told him I threw it. It would’ve been worth taking the lumps to give my Father the relief of knowing that his son was not an idiot.

Facebook

June 27th, 2014 § Leave a Comment

Facebook is like the combination of a 20 year high school reunion, bumper stickers and “What I did last summer” slide show, rolled together, streaming, non-stop in all its “Hey, look at me!” glory.

I don’t know … maybe it’s just me. I am going to be forty-five this year. Anyway, you can follow me on Twitter @theRealCookedGoose … just kidding.

Fantasy Friday

June 7th, 2014 § Leave a Comment

Bargain Hunters 

It’s basic economics. I know it, so we’re talkin’ elementary basic. Buy low. If you manage to buy low, you limit exposure to potential disaster and set yourself up for the possibility of a windfall. It’s true in real estate. It’s true in stocks. And why not? It’s true in fantasy football. Last season, RGIII was an unmitigated disaster. For what most people paid, he ended the season sitting no. 18 in scoring among QBs, one spot under Carson Palmer. With the Redskins going down, Rob sat out the final three weeks, which as you know if you’re reading this coincides with fantasy playoffs. Was RGIII a monster his rookie season? Yes. Was his value inflated last season? Yes.

Take a little lesson from recent history. As you sit in your fantasy war room, let the sound of bursting bubbles linger in ears. Dot Com … Pop! Real Estate … Pop! Colin Kaepernick … Pop! Doug Martin … Pop! And at every round, look for a bargain. Here’s a list of undervalued players at each position:

Quarterback:
1. Jay Cutler – Did you know that Jay Cutler and Josh McCown combined would have been the third highest scoring QB in fantasy? Trestman knows what he’s doing. They still have Marshall and Jeffery, and one of the best pass catching RBs in Forte.
2. Matt Ryan – Maybe he’s too nice a guy. More boy scout than cowboy. I don’t know, but the guy is always undervalued. And now coming off a bad year. Look for Matty Ice on special. Julio Jones coming back, Roddy White on the other side. And with their defense, they’ll have to keep chucking it.
3. Andy Dalton – Don’t look now, but Dalton was the fourth highest scoring QB in fantasy. Nobody cares. He’ll be sitting there in the 5th.
4. Tom Brady – Can it be possible? Every fantasy dork…ur…analyst will be calling for Tom Brady to be outside the top ten. If Gronk is healthy, I’m taking a look at Tommy and his Uggs.

RunningBacks:
1. LeVeon Bell – After coming recovering from a preseason foot injury, Bell played every game. Doesn’t cede touches. Goal line. Averaged double digits. All behind a injury riddled, patch work line. All without making a peep. What’s not to like?
2. DeMarco Murray – Yes, missed games with injury, but only two. Rest of the way, solid with flashes of spectacular. Dallas knows it’s better when it runs DeMarco. The injuries keep him off the radar.
3. Ryan Mathews – Slow start, but came on down the stretch. McCoy has to know that Mathews is their best rusher. A conservative offensive minded coach, McCoy will keep a balanced attack.

WideReceiver:
1. Andre Johnson – Texans going to be better all the way around. Maybe even very good. Like I wrote before, I’m a Bill O’Brien believer. You think Andre Johnson is done? I don’t.
2. Victor Cruz – Shocker of a year. Eli was throwing more balls to corners than to his receivers. I think Eli sorts himself out. The Giants get better, and Victor Cruz is dancing the salsa a good deal more than four times.
3. No. 2 WRs – Just look at a top five WRs and turn 180 to find a nice deal across the way.

TE
1. Greg Olsen - Never gets much love, but the dude never drops a ball. Might get crowded without any real receivers around, but then it could be also be said that he’s the only one around.
2. Jordan Reed – Concussions knocked him out, but big and athletic. Nice set of hands.
3. Rob Gronkowski – If fully healthy, you could get a legit 2nd round guy in the 4th or later.

 

 

Fantasy Friday

May 23rd, 2014 § Leave a Comment

Quarterback Hype

These teams made the playoffs last season:
NFC – Saints, Eagles, Niners, Packers, Panthers, and Seahawks
AFC - Chiefs, Colts, Chargers, Bengals, Pats, and Broncos

Of the six NFC teams, only two had first round QBs: Panthers’ Cam Newton and Packers’ Aaron Rodgers. Newton went number one overall, and Rodgers famously sweated ’til the 24th pick.

First rounders fared better in the AFC. Of the six teams, four boasted first round signal callers, three of those four were first overall picks: Smith, Luck, and Manning.

That makes half the Quarterbacks in last season’s playoffs non first rounders. Surprising? Wait, there’s more.

The final four teams were led onto the field by Quarterbacks with the average draft position of 78th. 78th! That’s middle of the 3rd round in case you were wondering. And it’s not just a weird year. The four Quarterbacks widely considered the standard bearers at their position for the past 10+ seasons have the average draft position of 64. That’s the last pick of the 2nd round.

And just in case you’re counting, the Seattle Seahawks with their 3rd round QB put a historical beatdown on the Broncos and their number one overall QB.

None of this has deterred NFL front offices. They’re still jumping into the first round like desperate home buyers into an absurdly inflated housing market. Case in point, the three teams that took a Quarterback in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft took the following dudes in the first round as recent as a couple years ago: Blaine Gabbert, Brandon Weeden and Christian Ponder. Unfazed. They were right back at it. That’s nuts.

I hear it all the time, “You can’t win without a Quarterback.” Well, you can’t win burning first round draft picks reaching for Brandon Weedens either.

Okay, time to get dorky. Does this translate to fantasy? I think it does. Yes.

 

 

No Quittin’

May 21st, 2014 § Leave a Comment

An honest look at myself, all 5’9″ 145 of me, and I knew a basketball player wasn’t coming from me. No. Nor a football player. The apple falling from this flimsy tree was going to get his shot in baseball. Most likely, as a middle infielder. Hit for average; flash a little leather. So, although my sport was basketball, the game to which I steered my son was baseball. Bought him a glove, taught him to catch and throw, and got him into Little League.

It was all going to plan. He was the best player on his team. No, really, I’m being objective here. A solid, if not a power hitter, but more importantly he fielded his position well. Toward the end of the season, he even turned a double play – snagging a line drive and flipping to second to nail the runner straying off the bag. After the last game of the season, with visions of Davey Lopes dancing in my head, I asked,

So, how’d you like baseball?
Eh…it was okay.
Just okay? You played really well. It was fun, no?
Yeah, I guess.
Do you want to play next year?
Mmm … no, I don’t think I really want to do this again.

Just like that. So long, Davey Lopes. As we exposed our kids to various things, we told ourselves we weren’t going to push. We felt those parents shoving kids into everything, riding them hours on end to squeeze prodigiousness from an average fruit was borderline abusive. No way we were going to be one of those parents.

A year later, we had our older two in a community swim league. Sure enough they took to it like ducklings to water. By the end of the eight week season, our son and daughter were making great improvements in their strokes and competing admirably in their events. At the end of the swim season, with visions of Natalie Coughlin dancing in our heads, we asked,

So, how’d you like swim?
Yeah…it was fun. I liked it.
Cool. You two were sure good at it. It was so fun watching you compete.
Thank you.
So, swim team next year?
Mmm … I don’t know. Maybe. I’m not sure if I want to do it again.

What! We realized right then that if left to themselves, they were going to choose the path of least resistance. As parents, we have to be careful not to force our children into stuff because we need for them to excel for our benefit. At the same time, it is our responsibility to teach diligence, hard work, discipline, and commitment. If we allow them to quit anything they don’t “like” then they’ll imagine a world revolving around their whims. Comfort and pleasure will be dials on their compass and quitting will be a solution to difficult problems.

The deal was they were going to swim for at least two more seasons. We told them that once they had put in some good work and developed in the sport, they would be free to make a decision on whether or not to continue. If at that point they realized that swimming just wasn’t their thing, then fine.

Today, they are, all three, excellent competitive swimmers. I think if you asked them, they would each tell you that they are grateful for having been pushed some.

Marriage Mondays

May 19th, 2014 § Leave a Comment

Thank God she’s not like me …

At the time, it was the maddest she’d ever been at me. Two years into marriage, we were moving from our first apartment. Before I get to why she was so mad, let me set the stage. First of all, I’ve always had an exceptional ability to underestimate the time required to accomplish a given task. I’m really good at it. It’s a gift. I think it’s due to a rather generous combination of two distinct traits: procrastination and minimalism. I can procrastinate with the best of ‘em. With a deadline rapidly approaching, I have no pulse. Never did. My “timing” antenna is so broke, by the time I realize it’s too late, there’s not even time to panic. I jump over panic and go straight to resignation. Assisting in my procrastination is my natural tendency to whittle things down. I’m always asking, “Do we need that?” If we don’t need all that, well, we don’t have to start so early now, do we?

With an apartment full of stuff, my wife, who is not at all a procrastinator, got us started packing the place early. With the move set for Saturday, she had us packing the kitchen up Monday night. By Tuesday, we had most of the kitchen packed and ready to go. When I surveyed the apartment Tuesday evening after work, I thought, “We’re pretty much done.” My broke antenna told me that we were way ahead of schedule. If anything, we needed to slow this thing down. I kept telling her the procrastinator’s mantra, “Look. There’s the bedroom. Mostly big pieces. And then the bathroom, which we can pretty much throw in a couple boxes. The living room – big pieces. And … (Here’s the key part of the mantra) we have ALL DAY Wednesday, ALL DAY Thursday … and so on.” I supported my argument with minimalistic reasoning, “And we don’t need to pack everything in boxes. Some of that stuff can just get thrown in the car. We don’t want that stuff in the U-Haul anyway.” Did I believe anything I was saying? Yeah, sure, like an alcoholic believes he’s only going to “Wet his beak.”

The day of the move, I decided I had time for a quick, early morning surf. A truck wasn’t available until after 3PM – I probably called too late. By the time, I got around to “Doing some last minute packing” it became apparent that a good deal of the apartment wasn’t ready to be moved into a truck. You know moves, the day of, all kinds of stuff just keeps pouring out of every corner. When a bunch of our friends arrived to help us move, they ended up helping us pack first, which is a definite “No no.” In the midst of the stress of being late – did I mention my wife is not down with being late? – and the embarrassment of imposing on the goodwill of our friends, my wife was pissed. I think I really did see smoke coming out of her ears.

Years ago, I heard someone say, “One of the most important truths: Not everyone is like you.” Sixteen years in, I can attest that this is indeed true of me and my wife. In many ways we are not alike. Sometimes those differences are the sources of our conflicts. But more often, although unfortunately not as readily observed, they are what fills out our lives. We have grown to understand and appreciate our differences. She makes allowances for my quirks. She’s learned to laugh at my idiosyncrasies. My wife does not procrastinate. She’s not a minimalist. She’s merciful, humble and kind. Thank God she’s not like me.

Fantasy Friday

May 13th, 2014 § Leave a Comment

Ram It

I was a Rams fan. Was. In 1995 Georgia Frontiere moved the Rams to St Louis. When she did, I swore life-long hatred of the old lady and her Rams. Good riddance! Yeah, as most first love break ups tend to be, it was irrationally bitter.

A life-long vow of hatred is a life-long vow. Truth be told, I’ve been known to hold a grudge or two. And so the eventual successes in St Louis did nothing to budge me. The “Greatest Show on Turf”? Whatever. Kurt Warner’s “Stocking shelves to Super Bowl MVP” story. Meh. Nothing could make me look at ‘em the same way – the way I used to look at Vince Ferregamo, Wendell Tyler, Jack Youngblood. So, I thought. Hey, I’m not saying I’m coming back. I’m just saying they’re making it real hard for me to stay away.

First of all, it’s hard to hate Jeff Fisher. The dude sports one of the all time mustaches. And let’s get this straight, it’s not a hipster mustache. A “Johnny come lately” mustache. No, it’s his stache. The same one that’s been warming his lip for 20 years. The only other dude I know who’s rolled that tight with his mustache is Tom Selleck. Suits have gone from baggy to Euro form fitting, hair cuts from fluffy to cropped and back. Through it all, Jeff Fisher said, “Screw it. I’m rolling steady like Tom. 80s stache and my mullet. Thank you very much.” No, Jeff. Thank you.

.

The man runs his team like he masters his grooming. Principled and unwavering. This past weekend’s NFL draft was a perfect example. In a high flying, pass happy NFL, the Rams with a glaring need at WR looked squarely at Sammy Watkins with their 2nd overall pick and said, “Screw it. We’re going to keep beefing up,” and grabbed Greg Robinson, the big, athletic left tackle out of Auburn. And then with the 13th overall pick, they took Aaron Donald of Pitt. I’ve never seen Aaron Donald play, but I know he looks like this and did the second most bench reps (35) while running the 5th fastest 40 among D-linemen at the combine.

Donald will be joining a front with Long, Quinn, and Brockers that is already considered one of the best in the League. The Fearsome Foursome is back.

With the next three of four picks, the Rams went Corner, Safety, and Corner.

If the Rams ever win me back, it’s going to be in this era – The Jeff Fisher era. He knows who he is and is committed to being who he is. The mustache stays. The mullet gets rocked. That’s Fisher. It’s what you get. Just as his teams were in Tennessee, the Rams are going to be solid on defense and they’re going to run the ball. Bully ball. Smash mouth football. Whatever you want to call it, I’m finding it hard not to like.

Fantasy tid bit …
This loaded D is going to be coached by Gregg Williams. Who’s Gregg Williams? He’s the dude busted for “Bountygate”. The mastermind behind putting a contract on Brett Favre in the ’09 NFC Championship game. Loads of talent and a lunatic coordinating? Yeah, give me some of that.

Birds and the Bees

May 8th, 2014 § Leave a Comment

“The Birds and the Bees” was revealed to me in a series of unplanned, disjointed discoveries. By the time Palms Jr High decided that I had attained the appropriate age for such an education, I’d already been taught. Maybe “taught” is a bit generous; I had been exposed. Knowing that the sources of my “Sex Ed” were less than well-intentioned, I determined early on that my kid was going to hear about it from me first.

I’m not giving you the manuscript of our conversation. It remains a treasured, private time between me and my son (My wife had the conversation with our daughter). In lieu of a “play by play”, here’s a break down of the principles which guided our conversation.

Early - Whenever you think your child is ready, minus that by two. My son was about ten years old when I had the talk with him. Considering what kids see and hear these days, that’s probably about as long as you can wait.
Man Up - It’s not a easy subject. It will be awkward for both of you. The more you “hem and haw” and squirm, the more you’re liable to freak your kid out. What needs done, got to be done. Why am I talkin’ like a cowboy? So, look ‘em in the eye and talk straight.
Big Picture - Start with big picture. When misplaced or disconnected, sexuality takes a bad turn. Think context. What is the meaning of nakedness? Of embrace? Shame? How important is trust? Commitment? The big picture gives rhyme and reason to the “Wait ’til your married” admonition.
Nuts and bolts - Anatomy. Physiology. Kinesiology. You know, all that sexy stuff.
Positive - Just look around and you know – Sex is a powerful thing. The temptation is to take a cautionary tone. Don’t tell ‘em no lies. I told him, when properly lined up, it’s very nice. Instead of warning, emphasize timing.
Brevity - You’ll have to re-visit, multiple times, so keep it short. My son was relieved when it was done.

We had the talk at the local breakfast place. When we got in the car, I could tell he wanted to ask me something. He had passed on my invitation for questions inside. Driving out of the parking lot, he couldn’t resist.
“So, you do that with Mom?”
I turned to him with a smirk of mischief, “Yup. As often as we can.”
He shook his head - disgusted and amused.

Fantasy Friday

April 25th, 2014 § Leave a Comment

Not Clownin’ Around …

As with all things thick in rhetoric, sports talk is rife with hyperbole. “The greatest game ever.” “This will go down in the annals of …” Annals? What annals? You mean, ESPN Classics? And get a load of some of these nicknames: The Great One, The King, Broadway Joe, The Iron Horse. We are talking about a game, right? Balls. Sticks. Boys and girls running around, keeping score. I’ll admit that sports do rise to plateaus above “play” on occasion. Yes, character is tested, the heart measured. Agreed. But the way they were advertising the Masters, you’d think Jim Nantz was selling some sort of Neo-Transcendentalism. C’mon, let’s just all settle down. Not every kid showing promise is the “Second coming of …” Not every kid with the unique combination of size, speed, and manual dexterity is a freak.

With all that said, and I believe every word of it, Jadeveon Clowney is a F R E A K, Freak. Let me put it to you like this: The kid … no, wait, the man is 6’5″ 266. At the NFL Combine last month, that very large man ran a 4.53 40. To put that number into perspective, Clowney ran a faster time than 20 of the 33 Running Backs. And faster than 19 of the 45 Wide Receivers. His 1.5 10 yard split is faster than the average of WR splits over the past five years. That’s just crazy. What makes the stat noteworthy is that Clowney will make his money as an edge rusher. 10 yards is about the distance he’ll have to cover to get to a dropped back QB.

So, will he be the number one overall pick? Only the Texans can answer that question in a meaningful way. I think they should, but whether they do or not is not of the utmost importance. Not anymore. The Texans already got their man. I say it’s not Clowney or a replacement QB for the released Matt Schaub. Nope. Their most important acquisition was coaxed out of Happy Valley. Bill O’Brien. Upon what am I basing this assertion? Well, O’Brien had the moxie to take the Penn State job in the wake of Sandusky. Not only did he step into the shoes of Joe Paterno, who was Penn State Football, he did so under a multi-year post season ban and stripped of 40 scholarships. Stars jumped ship and the Nittany Lions got smashed in his debut by the Ohio University Bobcats. O’Brien promptly turned the whole thing on a dime, going 8-4 and 6-2 in Conference. 6-2 in his first season, in the Big Ten with one arm tied around his back! In his two years, he managed to pull a 15-9 record garnering him a box full of coaching trophies including the Paul “Bear” Bryant College Coach of the Year. But none of that is the reason I think he turns the Texans around. It’s this:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=33V0hSri6BM

Do you see who O’Brien is yelling at? That’s Tom Fabulous. League MVP. Superbowl MVP. The unrivaled leader of the Patriots. More importantly, the dude gets respect in the toughest sport in the world while sporting a salon cut and reping Uggs. That’s untouchable. Forget Jadeveon. Anyone who’s got the stones to go after Tommy like that is not Clownin’ around.