Monday, October 31, 2011

I've Seen This Movie Before.. and it is Not Enough

So as I was watching tonight's Eagles beatdown of the Cowboys, we came to that inevitable moment when NBC's Al Michaels belittled the Eagle fans for (a) worrying about their team when they were 1-4, and (b) perhaps not being entirely down with Coach For Life Andy Reid's Coach For Life status.

To which I have to say something that does not require words, seeing how it's more of an elegant presentation of both hands, with knuckles facing the media, then a fast but not hurried rotation downward of all fingers, save the middle.

Look, I *get* that the media thinks that Eagle Fan is just all kinds of wrong for not appreciating CFL. He's such a good guy, you see, and certainly well-versed at giving the nationals what they need prior to the game. His teams play an entertaining brand of football, and Michael Vick equals prime time ratings, even in beatdown games.

But for heaven's sake... do two wins over division rivals that appear to be much more paper than tiger, seeing how neither is in the habit of reaching the playoffs or winning games once there, excuse all past sins? Specifically Weeks 2 through 5, which more or less ensured that no matter how good they play over the next 9 weeks, they will be on the road and, in all likelihood, playing extra games and losing before the Super Bowl?

I appreciate the fact that Cowboy Fan and Redskin Fan has had a very bad time of it during the Reid Era. That used to warm my heart. I also do not begrudge Giant Fan his Tyree Helmet Trophy, seeing how it thoroughly ruined the sh*t of Patriot Fan, and for the most part, that situation has been better for me than him, the game earlier this year notwithstanding.

But, um, after a decade and a half, it's really not enough.

The Eagles under Reid do this: they stumble from the gate, regroup during the break, make a run, blow a game or two, win playoff games when they have byes, lose when they face better teams on the road. They also then pat themselves on the back, a lot, and behave as if they've reinvented football for living up to their ceiling of pretending contending. And while tonight's game was about as good as they can play, it didn't tell me anything about that I didn't already know about this team. To wit:

> When the oppo lets LeSean McCoy (and before him, Brian Westbrook) beat them, and the team is intelligent enough to use him, they win

> When the oppo forgets the running game, as the Cowboys did tonight despite DeMarco Murray averaging over 10 yards a carry, they win

> When the oppo doesn't cash in on the half dozen or so opportunities per game to recover fumbles, make interceptions and recover tipped balls, they win

> When they get off to a fast start, since they don't have the discipline to play clean and without negative emotion, they win, and

> When the oppo does not have the discipline or athleticism to spy Vick and prevent him from making the 6 to 12 odd back-breaking runs a game that they need to maintain drives, they win.

Otherwise? Not so much.

They are exceptional at exposing bad teams. Beating good ones? Not so much.

They are solid at maintaining morale when other teams quit. Beating teams that have not quit? Not so much.

And until CFL moves on, perhaps via the fork or through some other faster agent... this is what they are, and what they will be.

So they've curb stomped the Cowboys and Redskins, the two bad teams in the division. The Giants might also be overtaken; they really did try hard to lose to the winless Fish today. They might even get past the Saints, who have somehow spit the bit in two of the last three weeks to the Rams and Bucs.

But beating the Packers?

Not on their best day, not even on their home field, and neither of those things are going to happen. Just as in bygone years to the Warner Rams, the Brady Patriots, the Gruden Bucs, the Delhomme Panthers, the Warner Cardinals, last year's Rodgers Packers and so many, many others.

So cheer. Clap for CFL Tinkerbell and the Michael Vick Project, close your eyes and think kind thoughts over how the defense has looked a whole lot less sieve-like in the past 120 minutes.

But just remember how this movie ends, so it doesn't come as any kind of surprise.

Roll the credits.

40 Eagles - Cowboys Takeaways

40) Between the '20s, there is no better offense in NFL history than this Eagles team

39) Jason Peters clearly gets his rocks off when he gets to block a cornerback

38) That first Dallas series on defense proved that Buddy only raised one son, and kept this one in the crawl space

37) I keep waiting to see why Alex Henery was a high draft pick, or employed

36) The first sack of Tony Romo was Aikman-esque in its concussive potential

35) The second sack of Romo was shocking in that Dallas didn't get a bailout flag for a late hit

34) Dallas punter Mat McBriar was limited by his lack of a second T

33) if you had 6 minutes in the first quarter for the first inexplicably wasted timeout in this week's Eagles mistake pool, you win

32) And... if you had a false start after the timeout, you get double bonus points

31) Vick nearly fumbled and ran for 11 yards on a play that defined his existence

30) Rob Ryan's going to have to grow a lot more hair to keep his genius reputation after this game

29) Martellus Bennett now has even more embarrassing film, in that he becomes the second TE owned by an Eagles LB in the last ten years (the other, Macho Harris v. Tony Gonzalez)

28) Vick's delay of game flag over his scramble spike showed that the refs still aren't ready to roll over for him, no matter how hard he pules

27) I'm not sure that I'm emotionally prepared to live in a world where Brent Celek is good again, which meant that his second half was oddly comforting

26) Jason Kelcie forgot he was in a shotgun snap, which would have been worrisome if the Cowboys had actually showed up

25) I guess we've all got 18 more months of Andy Reid now

24) The fact that we saw a correct coach's challenge from Reid was another sign that we're through the looking glass, people

23) Now that Al Davis is gone, Jerruh Jones wringing his hands in the owner's box is as close as we get to Monty Burns in the NFL

22) DeSean Jackson has clearly been playing too many video games for his punt return strategy

21) Vick's had better first halves, but not this year

20) Working on Keith Brooking is the same, it seems, as pulling his pants down and carving a jailhouse tat

19) When every member of your DL is winning their matchup, defensive coordination gets a lot easier

18) Once again according to the announcers, the Wide Nine is the cause of, and solution to, all of life's problems

17) The third quarter backwards pass ruling showed that the refs were doing everything they could to inflate Andy Reid's challenge statistics

16) It was really hard to tell if the Eagles were good or Dallas just totally disinterested

15) By the law of transitive uninteresting SNF games, Romo is now Curtis Painter

14) There is no truth to the rumor that Ryan asked DJ for his autograph after the game

13) This was the best game yet for punter Chas Henry, since he only was in for one play and made the tackle

12) For the second straight game, the Eagles not only beat a division rival, but also hurt them a lot, too

11) Rob Ryan is clearly a genius, since he made the Eagles beat him with their best player (Shady McCoy) who is also the least likely to turn the ball over

10) Seriously, McCoy needs to find some easier way to celebrate with poor Howard Mudd

9) Al Michaels decided to crap all over Eagle Fan for daring to express concern with the team's 1-4 start and nausea-inducing, gutless play

8) You can praise and damn Dez Bryant in the same moment by saying that he looks like a young Terrell Owens

7) Romo's touchdown to Laurent Robinson means that Kurt Coleman can be the scapegoat benched defender of the week

6) The defense now has back to back games where the other team's RB didn't go for 100 yards, which sounds a lot better than DeMarco Murray's 10 yards a carry and inexplicable lack of work night

5) DeMarcus Ware had four sacks tonight, which tells you that stat isn't all that meaningful

4) Dallas has real issues in the hurry-up offense, as their center can't actually make the shotgun snap routinely

3) Just to make sure there's some consistency to the year, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie whiffed badly on a tackle of Dez Bryant

2) Murray's a good running back, but has no idea what to do on a screen pass yet... which makes him still better than Felix Jones

1) Bryant and Romo showed more anger over not scoring a completely meaningless TD over a missed Nnamdi Asomugha PI call with six minutes left than anything else all night

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Top 10 NFL Week 8 Ad Questions

10) Are the people who work at Farmer's capable of talking about animals without fondling them?

9) Is there a hallucinogenic compound in the McRib sandwich that will make me behave like a total tool?

8) If T.Rowe Price can understand tenuous connections in finance, why can't they understand that less than 1% of the viewing audience still has money to invest?

7) Is it telling that my kids really want to go to the Geico Robot Day Care facility?

6) Does Aaron Rodgers feel good about having any number of fat people massage their junk in front of him... and how, exactly, does this sell insurance?

5) Is one of the side effects of erectile dysfunction medication the inability to see in color, or to judge when I need to step on the gas to get through a muddy patch?

4) Will Visa send me to Indianpolis in February even if I don't want to go?

3) Should Adam Sandler's continued existence be blamed on the free market, or should we also hold President Obama to task for not arranging a much needed assassination?

2) Why does Bud Light feel like every NFL experience is painful and embarrassing, when there are also groupies, weekly paychecks that are more than most people make in a year, media mouthjobs and the occasional opportunity to cripple people who deeply deserve it?

1) If I let my child near a Windows PC, will they turn into a smug and pudgy bastard who pitches me constantly for a dog?

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Top 12 Consolations for Rangers Fans

Fifty years and counting, with back to back cruel Octobers at the hands of the NL champion. Ranger Fan needs some bucking up. That's what we do around here!

12) Losing to Chris Carpenter doesn't cause any special rancor, really

11) With any luck, that's the last time you'll need to root for Darren Oliver and Arthur Rhodes

10) Maybe next year, Nelson Cruz won't be so scared of the wall

9) Your team could easily overbid for Albert Pujols out of spite

8) We're entering that time of the year when the rest of the country is more miserable than you

7) If you want CJ Wilson back, he's going to be much more affordable now

6) You can, of course, just blame this on George W. Bush

5) Maybe this will convince Nolan Ryan that he's better off in an owner's box, rather than front and center for Fox

4) Maybe next year, Ron Washington will work out that whole pinch hitting thing

3) It's not like you aren't kind of used to this by now

2) You still have the Cowboy... um, high school and college football

1) Since you didn't lose the Mets or Dodgers, you might be able to avoid seeing highlights of this Series for the rest of your life

Kamikaze Poker

We're well past 2am at the poker game, on a night where I've rebuyed in the tournament and still gone out first, at a cash table where I'm up from my starting stack, but not exactly setting the world on fire. In a six-handed game of pot limit Omaha (high only), I get a pair of jacks and a middling flush draw. The board misses all of that, and the player on my right bets.

And for some reason -- boredom? suicidal urges? -- I call. So does a third player.

The turn is a second club to go with two diamonds now; I have no flush draw. The player on my right bets it harder.

And for some reason -- the desire to hit a miracle jack on the river and still lose? -- I call. So does the third player.

The river completes the club draw and a bunch of other possible hands. And something tells me that neither player is happy to see it.

So I say the magic words.

Pot. As in, I bet the pot. With every chip I have, on a hand that can't possibly be ahead of either player.

And as soon as I do it, I'm confident it's going to work. The first player agonizes for a good couple of minutes. The second player starts moaning about how could I possibly stay up with my King-high flush draw, how could I possibly stay in after the two previous bets...

And, well, I've had worse times.

Finally, the first player throws it away; turns out that he hit the wheel, but it goes into the muck. The second player mucks as well.

And I show the bluff, and the table more or less breaks to go smoke a cigarette and, I suspect, go find a dog to kick or something.

I didn't actually play all that well tonight; I was too impatient in the tournament and kept losing with trips in Omaha, as if trips in Omaha is any kind of a hand, really.

But the only thing I'm going to really remember from this game in the long run?

Shoving and bluffing, of course. Wonderfully stupid, surprisingly effective idiocy.

Friday, October 28, 2011

A Brief And Not Very Charitable Moment About Terrell Owens' Rumored Suicide Attempt

So there's rumors on the Interwebs that prior to that tryout that no NFL team bothered to attend, everyone's favorite media trainwreck tried to do himself harm with prescription pills.

Scholars of this sideshow will note that this story echoes the 2006 incident in which he seemingly did the same thing, only with a publicist that had no clue about, well, anything, spouting into a microphone. (Oh, Kim Etheredge. Such a promising career, that.)

Now, far be it for me to mock someone who is battling depression. I've known too many people that have struggled against the same issue, and have periodically been there myself...

But, um, TO?

*Girls* try to take themselves out with pills. Not enough of them, in places where they will be found, so that the whole world can stop everything and exclaim with horror as to the loss and our need to help.

*Men*, especially men who are used to violence and shows of masculinity, go for something more mechanical, with very little regard for housekeeping.

Me, personally? If faced with the prognosis of spectacularly painful and expensive wasting disease, I'd take a truly heroic level of conscious-altering things, and shoot for the idea of an eternity where my soul looks back and says, "Well, at least I didn't dip into the pool a toe at a time."

But that's me; an actual guy rather than a fake one, someone who will take a spotlight only on my terms, a person with more self-respect than a reality TV "star", someone who tries very hard not to overstay his welcome or make my problems into someone else's.

You, sir? Not so much.

And maybe that, rather than the lack of an NFL team willing to put up with your butter-fingered dotage, is the issue, don't you think?

Play us out, Frank...

12 World Series Game Six Takeaways

12) If you aren't sick of the "This could be the last time Albert Pujols does X" meme, you might not be human

11) The ticking time bomb that is Nefty Feliz's poor control finally went boom

10) When in doubt, the Cardinals should hit the ball to the fat kid in right

9) Tony LaRussa's players are so used to his over-managing that his pitchers are accustomed to game on the line at bats

8) Whether you are a Rangers' fan or not, watching Sad Nolan Ryan is kind of fun

7) If you are one of those tedious people who go on about how 1-0 games are the ultimate in drama, I'm glad you didn't watch this game

6) Any relapse in Josh Hamilton's future life in recovery can be traced back to not getting to be the World Series ending hero

5) If David Freese were as tough as Matt Holliday, he'd have gone on the DL from the home plate walk-off celebration

4) Pulling your last decent reliever for the pinch hitting magic that is Esteban German might not make Ron Washington's highlight reel

3) There were seven innings of baseball before this got really good, but no one needs to remember them

2) Being down to your last strike on two separate occasions and winning the game anyway might give the Cardinals some momentum

1) The idea that Jake Westbrook would be the winning pitcher might be the most improbable thing that happened in a game filled with improbable things

Thursday, October 27, 2011

My Heart Is Filled With Blood

Appearing in a friend's Facebook page, the spectacular news that Joe Newman, a singular American musical genius that takes up where Frank Zappa left off, is back at the musical game. I've been listening to Joe's work (aka, The Rudy Schwartz Project) for decades now, and was under the impression that he had stopped making new music 15 years ago... so this is just manna from heaven for me.

The RSP is not, of course, for everyone; that's why I love it. It's delightfully profane at times, unspeakably catchy, about as commercial as a thrown brick, and completely unique. Give it a spin, will you? There's plenty more here, too...

NFL Week 8 Picks: Favorite, Schmavorite

Last week, there were three clear big favorites on the board: the Packers on the road against the Vikings and rookie QB Christian Ponder making his first start, the Saints at home against the Colts, and the Ravens on the road against the moribound Jaguars. And when the week was over, those teams were 1-2 ATS, and just 2-1 on the actual scoreboard.

This week, the point spreads are crazy high -- a half dozen games are over 9 points on the spread -- and there's no chance, really, of all six of these games getting a cover. So going chalk isn't an option, and neither is not having the courage to look like a chump when your dog cover goes belly up. It's gambling: if you are afraid to look stupid, you shouldn't be doing this.

And with that... on to the picks!

* * * * *

Indianapolis at TENNESSEE (-9)

It's never pretty when a team quits, and you can't put too fine a point on this: the Colts flat out quit on national television against the Saints last week. The fact that they still ran a hurry-up offense during it says something else; that the coaches really didn't care either, and were completely OK with the score getting run up as high as the Saints wanted to go. When it was all over, it was something historic, and the small positive steps made in the last month had been obliterated.

It's hard to see how they turn it around on the road a week later, against an angry Titans team that got curb-stomped on their own last week against the Texans. This will be the week that Chris Johnson's fantasy team owners, assuming they are still paying attention, start to feel better.

Titans 24, Colts 13

SAINTS (-13) at Rams

Any questions about the Saints' offense now? No, of course not, and this week they get a Rams' team that just gave up the Dallas' rushing record to a guy (DeMarco Murray) who had less yards in his career than he got in several runs against their defense. With QB Sam Bradford still gimpy and the team looking as if it's ready to fold the tents, a pinball machine is the last thing they need. Count on the crowd to be mostly traveling Saints Fans, and the cover to come in the first half.

Saints 38, Rams 13

Miami at NY GIANTS (-10)

I hate laying the big point wood on so many teams... but the Giants are coming off a bye, getting healthy on defense, capable of doing damage on the ground and in the air, and playing a team that just sold out the players to fill the building with Tim Tebow fans. Miami's capable of a cover here, especially if QB Eli Manning turns the ball over, but you can't count on that happening. It'll be close, but Blue will cover.

Giants 27, Dolphiins 16

Minnesota at CAROLINA (-3.5)

The Vikings displayed some spark beyond QB Christian Ponder last week at home against the Packers, but the Panthers on the road against the force of nature that is Cam Newton is a whole 'nother kettle of fish. Teams are starting to sell out to stop the rook, which is making the Panther running game come back into relevance... and just what this defense needed. RB Adrian Peterson is going to be an all-day problem for them, but I think Ponder makes some mistakes this week.

Panthers 24, Vikings 20

ARIZONA at Baltimore (-13)

And that... is why the gambling public hates the Ravens, and why they've spent so many years knocking on the door of the AFC North but not getting through. When the Ravens lose, it's got a flavor to it, from sudden air turbulence offensive problems to dubious penalty calls that just cause everyone on the sideline to unravel. They should blow the one-win Cardinals out this week; this team was not a good road crew even when they were good, and the last time Kevin Kolb was here, he gave Donovan McNabb the last year and a half of his tenure in Philadelphia back to him. But the number is too big, and the Ravens are too erratic, for me to go that way. (Oh, and Kolb to WR Larry Fitzgerald in garbage time can be useful.)

Ravens 24, Cardinals 20

JACKSONVILLE at Houston (-10)

Another monster number for a home team that tends to spit the bit. The Jaguars are coming off a ferocious defensive effort on MNF against the Ravens, and would have won the game handily if RB Maurice Jones-Drew hadn't spent much of the game putting the ball on the ground. The offense is limited and can't win a shootout, but I think this defense can keep RB Arian Foster contained, and keep the number covered.

Texans 24, Jaguars 17

WASHINGTON at Buffalo (-6)

This line has moved two points to the home team since the start of the week, and I get it: the Redskins keep losing players (Tim Hightower, Santana Moss), and they are facing a Bills' team that's one of the best stories in the NFL. But they haven't been in the position of being a big home favorite before, and the 'Skins replacements for those injured players (Jabar Gaffney, Ryan Torain) are actually better than the guys they replace. QB John Beck is a tolerable game manager, and if you don't throw picks against this secondary, you can move the ball on them. A lot. So... it's a cover, and maybe even an upset, for the road dogs.

Bills 20, Redskins 17

DETROIT at Denver (NL)

This one is all over the lost, starting at Denver being a 3-point favorite, and now gooing back to a 2.5 point dog. That's all the doing of QB Matthew Stafford, who looks more likely to pay than not at this point. Denver, of course, is basking in the glow of the Tebow Resurrection in Miami (perhaps you saw the highlights?), but the Lions actually need this game, and while they are one-dimensional with RB Jahvid Best out with long-term concussion issues, that one dimension works against the Broncos. Tebow will play better this week and put up some numbers, but this Broncos team has bigger problems than the QB.

Lions 31, Broncos 20

NEW ENGLAND at Pittsburgh (+3)

A possible playoff preview, which you can more or less say every year about these teams, and another opportunity for the Steelers to show that their battered and ancient defense is still up to the task of being an elite unit. They haven't been taking the ball away, which is just about the only way under the current rules to stop this Patriots team, who beat you with RBs and TEs now, rather than the WRs. On offense, the offensive line is a constant problem, and contributing to a weak year for RB Rashard Mendenhall.

This week, they'll give a good fight; this is a better team that the one that the Ravens blew out in Week One. But the margin for error is just about gone, and unless QB Ben Roethlisberger has a monster game, it's not going to happen. He just might, but it's not how you bet.

Patriots 28, Steelers 24

CLEVELAND (+9.5) at San Francisco

Are you ready to lay just under double digits on an Alex Smith led team, with offensive weapons that you can safely ignore in just about any fantasy league, in a home game a week after a bye? I get that the Browns' offense was horrific last week against Seattle, but I'm not sure that the Niners are putting more than 17 points on the board, either. Which means that we're just a Smith mistake or two, and a long Browns figgie, from a cover. And once again, maybe even something more, since this Niners team really isn't used to being expected to win by a lot.

Niners 17, Browns 13

Cincinnati at SEATTLE (+3)

Here's a sentence that you just aren't expecting to hear, ever: the Seahawks' passing offense really missed QB Tarvaris Jackson. (And yes, Charlie Whitehurst really is that awful.) At home against a Bengals team that isn't going to be able to run the ball, I'm looking for a 200-yard 2-TD kind of day from His Tarvness, which should add up with some rushing yards for more than enough to get this one down. Besides, there's a reason why this is one of the best home field advantages in the league. (And yes, this pick goes straight into the crapper if Jackson can't go. Sigh.)

Seahawks 24, Bengals 13

DALLAS at Philadelphia (-3.5)

With a win, the Eagles would go to 3-4, in a division with the reeling Redskins and the suspect late season Giants. They'll welcome back Jason Peters and Trent Cole, aka their two best line players, and as you've been hearing all week locally, Andy Reid is just deadly with more prep time after a bye. Against a Cowboys team that has a collection of fourth-quarter flameouts, this looks like the time to snap back into the Reid Era's trademark mid to late season surge before the playoff flameout.

But you know what? Patterns have to end at some point.

Dallas has the two things that crush this Eagles' defense, both historically and in the current time: a running game and a star TE. On defense, they can rush the passer without a blitz, and this Eagles' team never gets through a game with QB Michael Vick staying clean. Eagle Fan, who is never a bastion of confidence even in the good times, isn't exactly a great home field right now either.

There will be points; WR DeSean Jackson owns the Cowboys, and RB LeSean McCoy might be the best player at his position in the league. But the Cowboys have weapons as well, with Murray giving them a better threat than Felix Jones, and the WR duo of Miles Austin and Dez Bryant giving Tony Romo targets. (Hint: go after Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who might be the most disappointing acquisition in recent team history.)

So the pattern breaks here, this year, to this Cowboys' team, in front of the nation. Should be just a world of fun, really.

Cowboys 34, Eagles 31

SAN DIEGO at Kansas City (+3.5)

There's something rotten in ChargerLand, where QB Philip Rivers is looking like he's ready to take his exit by any means necessary, and the team looking lost in the two minute drill. But they haven't fallen so far as to lose to a Chiefs' team that started the year with repeat cart visits to important pieces, and without any explosive offensive plays outside of WR Dwayne Bowe. And the Chargers are still good enough to take away that. Besides, there's no way that Rivers fails to make the nationally enduring audience of ESPN hostages miss out on three hours of knob slobbing from the QB lovers in the World Wide Lemur booth. (Feel free to not watch this network, really.)

Last week: 4-8-1

Year to date: 53-45-4

Career: 460-450-20

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Top 10 reasons why no NFL teams went to the TO Workout

10) They knew that they would either have to talk to him, or to ESPN

9) Afraid to create a bidding war from zero to zero

8) Parking was at a real premium, seeing how the egos and entourage need special consideration

7) Knew that with Jerry Rice on hand, the best available spent wideout wasn't working out

6) They'd rather not appear on anything shown by the NFL Network

5) What with the price of gas these days, best just to watch on TV

4) Didn't want to see Casey Hanson, the AFL QB who threw to him today, thrown under the bus

3) Fringe WRs generally need to play special teams and shut the hell up

2) Way too much going on, seeing how it happened on a Tuesday where there was no actual sports going on

1) Somehow didn't see the need to scout ancient drop-prone possession receiver with knee issues who are the most notorious clubhouse lawyer in football

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Why People Hate Tim Tebow

This open is going to be ignored, of course, but I don't actually hate the guy. I have no rooting interest for or against the Broncos or anyone else in the AFC West, don't care about college ball, and have no axe to grind here. But since the guy seems like the biggest lightning rod in the league, let's have at it, shall we?

Here's the crux of the biscuit, and the thing that the media isn't getting, but the blogosphere is: there's a whole generation of people who actually think it's OK to hate conservatives. What if there were a middling NFL QB who was verbal about his believes on a woman's right to choose, or even if he filmed a television ad supporting that -- don't you think that he'd get some heat from Red State America for that sort of thing? I can see the Fred Phelps Brigade of Unquestionable Losers picketing their games, or his every appearance on the field being pre-empted by the words "controversial."

But, um, folks? Every state north and east of Pennsylvania is filled with people who have, for the better part of the last decade and much more, looked at parts south and west (at least until you get to the Rockies, or maybe even the Pacific) as a Tucky. These folks wouldn't move to a Tucky even if you employed them, for fear that their children will grow up be Tuckians. These folks also generally make up 40 to 50% of the country, and they don't much see why AM radio, reactionary religions and active contempt for the rest of the world has to be part of their life. And for the most part, it isn't, and it doesn't.

So there's that. And then there's the simple fact that what Tebow brings to the table as fairly undisputed strengths -- size, mobility, toughness, leadership, and a flair for performance under pressure -- isn't generally seen as revolutionary pieces to the puzzle. If Tebow, with that arm motion, velocity and inaccuracy, can be a successful NFL QB, then we should be dramatically increasing the number of guys who we think can play the position. And maybe that's a good thing in the long run, but in the short run? It can hurt the eyes.

(Speaking of hurting the eyes, it can't help even the Tebow fans to have Skip Bayless in their corner. I'm fairly sure that if Bayless came out in favor of breathing oxygen, occupying space and not dying of a painful disease, I might want to rethink some things. Moving on.)

There's also this. The number of people who went to the University of Florida? Fairly trivial, in comparison with the people who *didn't* go the University of Florida. The number of people who root for the Broncos? Similar story. The number of people who have Tebow on their fantasy team? No more than 8 to 10% of the people who play fantasy. The number of people who've bet against this guy for spreads and parleys? Much, much, much higher than the number of people who have bet with him.

The simple fact of the matter is this: there is *no* player in the NFL that a majority of the audience is rooting for. I'd go even further on this: this Beloved Player has never existed. Sure, there are guys that people respect -- Walter Payton, Drew Brees, Troy Polamalu, etc. -- but when the media starts to fluff for a guy like Brett Favre, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady -- it just turns off a pretty substantial percentage of the populace. Of course, we also have to put up with the braying jackassery of yesterday's "heroes" that we didn't root for in the studios and broadcast booths. Anyway.

So anyone who doesn't understand why some people -- hell, maybe even a majority of NFL fans -- want this guy to fail are fooling themselves. And that's even beyond the very real possibility that Tebow is nothing more than a supersized Detmer, a fraud of the highest calling, and a guy that would have never, ever gotten the chance to play QB if he had been, well, black.

But that's a whole 'nother kettle of hate, isn't it?

Monday, October 24, 2011

Ten World Series Game Five Takeaways

10) At some point, as so many other team have, you will be sorry for employing fungible relievers like Octavio Dotel and that lefty Scrabble guy

9) Adrian Beltre's Tom Seaver home run brought a smile to the face of people who can not possibly have been awake

8) Ship Shumaker might be the game's first Amish centerfielder

7) I guess we're almost out of time for Ian Kinsler to have a season-ending injury

6) As the Series wears on, both managers are getting more and more dance-tastic

5) You have to admire the way that MLB managed to schedule Game Four and Game Five for the two worst prime-time NFL games in recent memory

4) Tony LaRussa might want to rethink this whole "Allen Craig Tries To Steal A Base" idea

3) Nick Punto has had better days, which is to say almost all of them

2) The CJ Wilson Salary Drive Postseason didn't exactly go the way he planned

1) With the series going back to St. Louis and two out of three games in Texas being low scoring, count on any remaining games being 1-0 extra inning jobs

Travel, And Gambling, Is Punishment For Our Sins

How? Let me count the ways.

> Trying to get some writing done in the midst of what seem to be every passenger on the plane that needs to get up, stretch, talk, mess with the overhead compartment and more more more

> Having Ernest Graham and Darren McFadden, both of whom went down with injuries early, and gave me next to nothing

> Squalling infant two rows up, because that's just the way it goes on Sunday afternoon flights, also known as when the business traveling public is most assuredly not flying

> Having a terrible situation at QB on my roto team, and failing to pick up Christian Ponder or Tim Tebow, because Carson Palmer and Matt Cassel were somehow better ideas

> Watching the Packers give up the cheap late cover score, then run the clock out to cost me any further chance of drama (and lo, there would have been $390 worth of drama)

> TSA doing the ID two-step, just to make sure that I wind up spilling the contents of my wallet while trying to get my personal effects together

> Realizing that your suckout waiver wire grab of breakout RB DeMarco Murray is just going to keep you in the middling middle, given the zeroes from the other RBs

> Seriously, I think this kid has two or three extra sets of lungs, and that the rest of the passengers on the plane would probably be OK with stuffing her in an overhead, or seeing if she's be happier outside

> Bilingual couple that need to conduct a very loud and long conversation despite, well, not sitting together, because it's not like I'm sitting here or something, trying hard to get the headphones up high enough to drown them out

> After two hours, distressed infant is still screeching like a banshee ever 30 to 45 seconds, or just with a long enough interval to give you hope that she's finally asleep, but no

> Having the Saints bust out to that peaceful easy cover, inevitable as soon as the Packers spit the bit

> No, seriously, I've flown on planes with bad babies before, and this one was the Hitler of bad babies

Top Ten NFL Week 7 Ad Takeaways

10) If I buy home improvement products from Lowe's, will my house be shaken down to the component pieces?

9) Are all Wells Fargo customers irredeemable douchebags?

8) Do people really still think that Australians do something special when they prepare food?

7) Are the people who are watching NFL football really interested in a furry animated movie?

6) Do I need a Windows PC to create videos that will make my immediate family look like tools?

5) If I drink a frappe from McDonald's, will I be moved to bellow "ME TIME!" even if I'm completely alone?

4) How does making a middling hot woman in her mid '30s shower a lot sell Web site hosting services?

3) Can we blame Sharon Osbourne for Honda ruining "Crazy Train", or should we just accept that it's kind of amazing that they hadn't sold it already?

2) If I don't have 4G service from AT&T, will I lose any sense of tact, decorum, or common sense in my office?

1) Has anyone ever made the decision on which pizza to order based on a league sponsorship?

Finally, The Crest Of The Poker Wave?

I was walking though Harvey's Tahoe this morning, so many hours and miles ago, at an ungodly early hour, and took a last longing look over at the poker room... and yes, even in the dawning hours when you should be sleeping, working out, eating a very early breakfast or preparing to atone, there was still one table going.

And it's more of a matter of there just being one table that makes me wonder.

In the time that I was at the table on Friday night, people were talking about the upcoming WSOP event, but without any great enthusiasm. The dealers were also talking to the regulars about dealer layoffs, and smaller tournaments, and an overall loss of action. In retrospect, I think this is why people were so friendly at my table; I might have been the first piece of fresh meat they'd seen in weeks.

And sure, maybe that's just Tahoe. It's off-season there, without the usual snowbird crowds of dumb kid trustafarian money, and this is a part of the world where the Internet probably never took that much hold, seeing how outside is just awfully damn compelling. Every brick and mortar on the East Coast that I've been to this year has been jumping with people, and while the home game is starting to slip from its three table heyday, it's hard to think that this is indicative of some larger movement.

And yet.

Every wave has to decay at some point, doesn't it?

The super-aggro play of the Internet Kidz isn't catching anyone by surprise anymore, and there's only so long that you can play like that, I think, before you go broke or crazy or pro, and very few people are going to get to the last one. The end of online has to hurt the popularity at some point; less opportunity to game is just less mindshare for game, and fewer new players being brought into the mix. If there are fewer new players, there's less dumb money, and less dumb money means less meat for the rest of the ecosystem. There's a lot less poker on television anymore, and what is on just doesn't seem all that important, if it ever was. When the WSOP is a bunch of 20-something fast twitchers who are more or less devoid of personality, that's got to hurt.

Eventually, all things go down.

Until, of course, your state and federal government finally come to their senses, legalize and legislate and tax tax tax it, and create a playing field where payouts are secure, play is sanctioned, and games and levels are more or less streamlined.

It's the only logical thing to do, right? Then again, you could have said the same thing about legalizing marijuana for the tax advantages, too.

Oh, and by the way? If poker going down means less shove and hopers giving me no hope of managing my bankroll with a sense of sanity at my local palace of sin...

And less money in the lives of human trainwrecks like Phil Hellmuth, Mike Matusow and Annie Duke...

And a better overall sense of balance and understanding that this is vice, and nothing more than that...

Well, down poker down, says I. And probably you too, really.

Twelve World Series Game Four Takeaways

12) The fact that Ron Washington didn't deploy his best starting pitcher until Game Four should give Cardinal Fan some hope that, no matter what, Tony LaRussa will win this by his own damned self

11) Speaking of Wash, I'm pretty sure he can take something for that jittery problem, if you catch my drift

10) Few things on this earth seem more hittable than Edwin Jackson in the first inning

9) Josh Hamilton is playing with a sports hernia, which the Fox team mercifully did not discuss at length

8) At some point, you have to think that Fox will just Photoshop cast members of shows they want to pointlessly hype into seats without them actually having to go to the stadium

7) It says something about the Cardinals' confidence in Jackson that sent the pitching coach out to talk to him after outs

6) After the Game Three fireworks, it's hard to imagine that both of these teams are actually the same guys

5) For some reason, Fox seems to think that we need to see live shots of Jerry Jones' empy mausoleum during a baseball game

4) Nothing is quite as riveting as the Cardinals' stall ball delay when going to a new pitcher

3) The ticking time bomb that is Nefty Feliz, Wild Closer, is still ticking

2) Angel Fan has to be all kinds of bent that Mike Scoscia let Mike Napoli go, seeing as he more or less ended this game with a home run that would put hair on your teeth

1) While I have no real rooting interest in this Series, the Rangers' mascot-level embrace of George W. Bush is making things hard

Sunday, October 23, 2011

FTT Off Topic: The High Life

As always with FTT O-T, it's a big wide Internet and this ain't going to be about sports. Go bail if you aren't ready to indulge.

You are looking at a 9,000 square foot house in Incline Village, NV, near South Lake Tahoe. I was fortunate enough to be invited to the wedding of a close friend to her new husband today, and, um, there appears to be some cash in the relationship. Either that, or they just know somebody, because Dear Lord, Was This Place Lush.

The wedding and reception were held in the same place; the chapel area, as it were, seated 70 or so comfortably, with great acoustics for the Shooter Wife's harp playing. Here's the view over her shoulder during the recessional.

Afterwards, there was some of the best food I ever ate (tiger prawns? fillet Mignon aperitifs? tri-tip steak? um, yes, kill me, more), a preposterously good raspberry pumpkin chocolate cherry cake, booze and more booze... and the sense that these two people, as much as any two people can, deserved it. They brought people from all over the country, they housed a couple dozen of them in this amazing place, and no one got sloppy drunk or had impossible children or anything else you could even get jealous at them for. I have no doubt that they are going to be together for the duration, that both families are just thrilled by this, and that today was just the start of a great life together as husband and wife.

Oh, and the below ground level? Dedicated movie theater with projection screen, full-sized pool room with red velvet table, separate kitchen and full bath, and a private entrance to the whole thing. I could hold 5 or 6 table poker tournaments down there and just leave everything set up, full time. And that's just the downstairs; upstairs had indoor and outdoor hot tubs, more bedrooms than I could count, spiral staircases to secret lofty kid dormer rooms, a piano, a theater kitchen, a quarter acre yard...

And it's in freaking Incline Village, which is to say Tahoe, a living national park and resort area where the stars are plainly visible, the seasons change, there's no humidity or bugs and you can go play poker or bet on sports without any real planning at all. I don't know why any person of means does not live here, I really don't. And while I can't imagine that I will ever be of enough means to come and book a place like this for me and mine, at least now I know what it's like to live in it for 6+ hours, and dream.

Tomorrow the Shooter Wife and I drive back to San Fran, fly back on the near-overnight, and drive home from Newark after midnight. The fact that our children are there, and we miss them very much, is going to be enough to make us happy that we are home. But after 48 hours in luxury decadence? Let's just say that getting a whole lot better at poker and sports gambling to pay for this kind of thing seems much more appealing now...

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Domination, Then Dominated

The Poker Diary comes to you live tonight from South Lake Tahoe, where I am finishing off a week of work at the 24/7 Job's real live location, rather than filling the queue from the Man Cave. At the end of the week is a wedding of a close friend, so I flew the Shooter Wife out for the weekend (she plays harp and knows the bride, too), and booked us in the closest nice hotel. Why, such a coinkydink that it happens to be a casino with a poker room! I'll just go pop downstairs while you sleep, my dear, and see if I can win back dinner...

Harvey's is pretty plush; it's part of the Harrah's chain, a WSOP circuit stop, and has a pretty sedate low stakes vibe to it. While there's still a sound collection of folks who appear to have a taste for the meth at the table, there were no f-bombs (in fact, the dealer cited a player when he got close to one), several women at the table (always a plus, in my opinion), and a general vibe of let's not bet like Internet children. They play $2/$3 out here, which is weird, but does seem to foster more limped pots and post-flop fireworks. Which, I guess, is the point. It doesn't change the game that much, other than to make the chip swings go a little harder.

I sat down with $120, looking for 2 hours of action before bed, and more or less muddled around for a while; I think it's never a good sign when you throw away rags that come up trips on the first hand. I won with 7s on a c-bet where I flopped an open-ended straight with my pairs, then lost with a lot of Ace-Rag off suits, flush draws to nowhere, and big picture cards with no support; aggravating. I bled off a bit, made some reasonable folds, got no action when I splashed, and finally made a moron push move into a made hand that cost me half of my stack before I stopped the bleeding. Dumb, dumb, dumb.

Well, it's not impossible, dammit: I'm going to make this small stack last the time. A pair of 3s goes to trips and gets paid off all-in, and a half hour later, my limped 2's go to trips, then a boat on the river. Payday here, against the same poor woman who financed my trips, get me back to $95, well within hailing distance of the starting stack and with a bit of momentum... and it's only looking better when my 10-7 suited makes a flush on the river. The guy across the table bets the $25 pot, and I pay off his A-2 nut flush. Dammit; he's supposed to have a worse flush there, or at the very least, not lay down a perfect value bet for me to fail to sniff out. Back to 50%, and running out of time.

Under the gun, I get A-K off suit and limp, hoping the loose cannon on the button will raise. The pot goes family until one to the cannon's right, who pushes to $15 while looking like he's going to bite off his own hand for making the bet. The cannon calls, and I shove with full confidence for my $64 stack. I'm expecting folds -- I've been getting them most of the time on small bets, ever since showing the nuts on two previous shoves -- and when neither snaps to it, I'm feeling good about taking down the $40 bet without a showdown.

It's as good of a situation as I can hope for, and the arm chewer folds with something approaching relief... but the cannon doesn't. I flip over A-K, and he's looking ill; K-Q off, and I don't even have flushes to watch out for. Wow, this could be even better, and my mind is already doing the math to see how much over my starting stack I could be, for the first time tonight, when...

Well, hell. You've guessed by now, right? There's the queen in the window, a J on the turn to give me 10 outs on the river, and then the final blank. Two hours is up, and I'm felted, along with other words starting with f. Having played reasonably well, having felt in no way out of place or out of my league, and getting it in as good as I could have hoped, with the table seemingly sorry to see me go, almost as if they were cheering my short stack dance marathon for the past hour.

And, well, the only two words you can say in a situation like this are... That's Poker.

And also... have I ever actually won a hand with A-K?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

A Dirty Dozen World Series Takeaways

12) When a good offensive team comes from one run down in the ninth inning on the road to win Game Two, it must mean that the other team chocked

11) Tight, crisp and wonderfully dramatic baseball is about to go the hell away, and thank goodness

10) Both team's closers have more stuf than control or brains

9) If you want to shut down the game's two best offenses, just turn the thermostat down to the mid '50s

8) Fox believes that you can't live without Nolan Ryan reaction shorts, and lots of them

7) In a 2-1 game in the ninth, Tony LaRussa was down to his last position player on the bench, which is to say he managed it just like any other game

6) If Ian Kinsler is a hair slower on his ninth inning stolen base, the Cardinals lead 2-0

5) A funny thing happened on the way to LaRussa outmanaging Ron Washington every game, otherwise known as counting on Arthur Rhodes

4) Albert Pujols nicking the baseball on a play that results in an extra base is a much bigger problem than Jason Motte failing to get outs to close the game

3) The Cardinal offense looks a lot more manageable when the other team doesn't kick the ball all over the yard

2) The game actually ended at a decent hour, mostly because there was precious little offense

1) Much to the relief of the middle of America, this series is going to go long

Top 10 ideas for the new Sixers owners

In the great new age of Sixers ownership under Joshua Harris and Adam Aron, they've stressed how important it is to listen to their fans. And hey, I'm a fan! I'd really like to take something for that and stop, but since that's not an option (damn Obamacare!), let's get right into the listy goodness...

10) Violate David Stern's gag order.

You really want to show the fan base that you are different from the old guard? Tell us what you really think about what's going on. And if you helped to undermine Angry Dad Stern's plans to spank the players in public for being naughty about their allowance, you could kick Pat Croce off our list of best Sixers owner ever. (OK, it's a very, very short list.)

9) Fight with Ed Snider.

Seriously, the Lord Voldemort of the NHL has taken a pass for far too long, and needs to be talked about in as catty and dismissive a manner as possible. It's not as if there are people who care about both the Flyers and Sixers, so why not use the Dark Lord as a PR pinata?

8) Play crap games at the Palestra.

I realize that it's not realistic to eat low dollars for premium games in a college gym... but a Tuesday night against the Nets? Put it in the historic UPenn gym, one of the best places in the country to see a game, and see just how much fun you can have in a setting where people can actually walk around and shop and eat after the game. You'd also see what's possible, in terms of home court advantage and crowd excitement, rather than the sterile bank you are locked into now.

7) If you can't go to the Palestra, go to Atlantic City.

How much fun would it be to go get your gamble on in the increasingly abandoned and hellish dystopia that is Atlantic City in a world where casinos don't require a long drive? Not very, really, but it would probably be something you could sell, and would give all of us blogging types the chance/hope/dream of putting Paul Pierce on tilt at the poker table before or after his game. A man can dream.

6) Prankery!

This happened at a college game a few years ago. It needs to happen more often.

Seriously, you've got the chance to show the world the true Philadelphia fan experience -- joyous goofy fun at the expense of others, and even our own. Go nuts.

5) Bring back Big Shot!

Then tear him and Hip Hop, the current mascot, limb from limb.

Why should our Philadelphia sports atrocities always have to come from the fans? (And seriously, if we must have a mascot, just pony up to the Phillies for 41 extra dates of the Phanatic. He's the only mascot this town needs.)

4) Cheerleader Fight Club

Let's face it; actual cheerleader routines are kinda dull. But my five-year-old dream of an insurgency faction in the team stripping down to reveal enemy colors, only to be spanked into submission by the loyal members of the troupe? Gold, I tell you, gold. Plus, um, girl fighting. That's good clean family fun, isn't it?

3) Harold Katz Hate Off

I don't know about the rest of you folks, but I'm going to spend the rest of my days remembering the Harold Katz Era -- Roy Hinson for Brad Daughtery! Ruining Andrew Toney! Squandering Charles Barkley! The Doug Moe Era! -- with something approaching sheer and total seething hatred. What better way to show that you won't end up like that, then to bring the man back for an Appreciation Night that turns into a session of the dozens at his expense? (And if he's not well enough to make the trip, just dress someone up to look like him. It'll do.)

Failing that, I'll accept reparations for having to watch Shawn Bradley. The years of therapy, they have not been cheap...

2) Wear the wrong shirt? That's a paddlin'.

Nothing ruins a night out at a game like finding yourself surrounded by Road Fan of other franchise, and with the new lower prices at the games and continued existence of Kobe and Celtic twerps in the area, not to mention the re-emergence of the Knicks as an entertaining delusion, New York Fan is bound to jump on Amtrak in greater numbers and inflict themselves upon us. So why can't we be the first franchise that not only expects the incursion, but does everything in our power to actively combat it? I'm talking about separate but unequal refreshment stands, bathroom facilities, aggressive wanding and patdowns at the gate, sudden seat downgrades, arbitrary ejections, and wildly unfair security decisions in the stands. Make it blatant, make it a point of pride, make it a reason for locals to go to the games, if only to see what new and spectacularly unpleasant thing happens next. The inevitable lawsuits will be great PR, too!

Oh, and don't skimp on the opponent, either. I want sound effects of crying babies for when they yell at the refs. I want huge coordinated chants of FLOP! for when someone goes all Soccer Player. I want embarrassing personal facts about opponents shown on the screens when they are shooting free throws, so we can choose to chant something entertaining when they shoot. Let's bring our A game here, people.

1) Actually Put The Game First.

NBA games are 2.5 hour events for the people in the seats, and during that time, far too many teams feel as if they need to stuff every possible second with some dubious idea of entertainment, even going so far as to have music during the damned game. Instead, give the event some air, please, and think about dead ball and halftime promos that are actually about hoop. So fewer bad band gigs, and more trampolines, kiddie hoop, HORSE games, spectator contests where many people shoot from half court, etc., etc.

Basically, act as if you don't have to trick us into thinking that going to the game is fun, and don't make it painful for actual basketball fans to be there. You'd be amazed at how many teams miss this now...

Soccer Player Kicks It Up A Notch

I really liked the screaming here. If only he could have remembered to breathe and pantomime contractions, I think we could have something *really* viral...

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

NFL Week 7: All In For Sin

There's an old saying about poker: look at the table and find the sucker. If you don't see one, it's you. But the happy little reverse of that is that it only takes one idiot to double you up.

Two months ago, the Bengals were clearly the biggest idiots at the table. Sitting on an asset in malcontent QB Carson Palmer, they refused to move him as the QB threatened retirement, choosing instead to put their faith in a rookie QB, throwing to young WRs, with a plodding RB. In a division with traditional powerhouses, it looked like Same Old Bengals and 4-12 or worse.

But then the all-in with 7-3 offsuit flopped trip sevens, with Andy Dalton and AJ Green looking like rookie of the year candidates. And today, the Raiders paid them off when a fourth seven hit the turn by shipping a first round pick and another conditional high pick (a #1 if Palmer gets them to a championship game, like that's going to happen) for the right to employ the one-time Heisman winner and USC TAInt machine.

It's as if they haven't watched film for the past five years, really. Palmer's not mobile, doesn't make terribly good decisions anymore, doesn't really have the arm strength, and can't have that much fire left, seeing how he was willing to walk away from the game rather than play in Cincy. In Oakland, he'll have a honeymoon of about a quarter, maybe two, and have to start right away. At least he gets an easy matchup, so it will all seem OK for now.

And maybe later, too. After all, it's not as if the Bengals never blow picks, and aren't still at the table.

And with that... on to the picks!

* * * * *

Seattle at CLEVELAND (-3)

Are the Seahawks able to come up with two surprising road wins in the early going? Not without QB Tarvaris Jackson, they aren't, and it's kind of hard to imagine that sentence ever being said in English before. Cleveland's been disappointing, with RB Peyton Hillis looking like the latest Madden Curse victim and QB Colt McCoy having real issues in stretching the field, but they'll have enough to get past this team. Besides, the Browns now have film to show them that Seattle can actually win on the road now; they won't sleep on them the way the Giants did.

Browns 24, Seahawks 16

Atlanta at DETROIT (-3.5)

Adversity Check Time for the Lions, who lost last week at home to the surprising Niners, and now have to host the talented but troubled Falcons. In the NFC North, with the defending Super Bowl champion Packers, losing just isn't something you can afford, and the Lions' upcoming schedule starts to grow real teeth right about now. Matt Ryan's good in domes, but the Lions' defensive line is going to get him early and often.

Lions 27, Falcons 20

HOUSTON at Tennessee (-3)

A funny thing happened on the way to the Texans' easy AFC South win as the Colts became the front runners in Suck For Luck; the Titans struck blue snow with Matt Hasselbeck and managed to stay over .500, which is the high-water mark for the Texans, after all. They can blame injuries, of course, on WR Andre Johnson, RB Arian Foster and DE Mario Williams, but it's the NFL: injuries happen. And speaking of injuries, WR Kenny Britt remains done, which isn't going to help the Titans at all this week. At some point, don't the Texans have to actually come through and win one of these statement games?

Texans 24, Titans 17

DENVER at Miami (-2)

The Tim Tebow Era begins against a Dolphins team that's winless, employs the hapless trainwreck that is ex-WR Brandon Marshall, and will have to turn it around after a short week and retread QB Matt Moore. The Fish also don't rush the QB at all well, which might actually help them, since it meas Tebow is going to be tempted to actually stand in the pocket and make throws. But give this to God's Own QB: he does tend to win games, especially in the state of Florida.

Denver 19, Dolphins 16

SAN DIEGO at NY Jets (+2)

Short week and home game against a team that's on the road but also off the bye. The Chargers are in the same state of limbo as fantasy owners with TE Antonio Gates, and their special teams are a massive worry against the Jets; add in early season vengeance for RB LaDanian Tomlinson, and there are lots of reasons to like the home team in a pretty fascinating matchup of very flawed teams. But this Jets' team is just way too prone to taking 1-2 quarters off on offense, and QB Philip Rivers has enough weapons to avoid CB Darrelle Revis and still move the chains.

Chargers 27, Jets 24

CHICAGO at Tampa Bay (+1)

Can you figure these Bucs out? I can't. 45 point losers to the Niners, then a home win that was downright convincing against the Saints, with loads of turnovers and a solid running game from retread Earnest Graham. Meanwhile, the Bears went from getting punked by the Lions to ending Donovan McNabb's starting NFL career. It's the very definition of a toss up, and when things are like that, I'll take the team with the better RB (Matt Forte) and the wildcard that is PR / KR / WR / Highlight Reel Devin Hester.

Bears 23, Bucs 20

Washington at CAROLINA (-3)

Wow, that Redkins feel-good year ended pretty fast, didn't it? After three quarters against the previously turnover-free Eagles secondary, Rex Grossman had reminded everyone that he was still Rex Grossman, and the vaunted Redskins' running game had been totally forgotten. On the road in NC, they'll struggle with either of their terrible signal callers, have the dubious benefit of some of their unbelieving fans, and feel the distinct displeasure of losing to a team that's not going to have a QB controversy for the next 10 to 15 years. It's also telling that the Skins' run defense got taken to the woodshed last week...

Panthers 31, Redskins 16

Kansas City at OAKLAND (-4)

We discussed this in the lede, but give the Raiders their due; they are about to enjoy a 3-week renaissance of relevance, with actual ticket sales and overconfidence. (Yes, they have a bye next week. But still.) I'm not prepared for the Bay Area to be relevant in football again, and they won't be when actual playoff games happen, but against weak teams and at home, it's going to seem like the gamble worked. It's also nice that Darren McFadden's fantasy relevance isn't going to go down the drain from the move.

And also, a final note... how crappy is Jason Campbell's life, really? A week ago you were a starting QB with a team that looked ready to extend your contract, with emerging weapons and a weak division. One play later, your collarbone is broken, your team has moved on by paying a king's ransom, and you might have started your last game in the league, since it's not as if the league was completely sold on your talents before. Oh, and yo spent the first half dozen years of your career getting passed from coordinator to coordinator like a foster child. I get that this isn't a major talent here, and that no one will remember him five years from now, but he could have been something.

Raiders 27, Chiefs 17

Pittsburgh at ARIZONA (+4)

It's the Steelers' annual West Coast road trip of pain, where a third of the crowd is wearing the colors and they don't look at all like themselves. The last time that WR Larry Fitzgerald faced this team, he nearly kept them from winning a Super Bowl, and he could easily go for numbers here against a Steeler defense that's banged up and aging. The Cardinals are also coming off a bye, which is going to help. Add it all up, and it's a Cardinals cover, if not an outright win -- and the only thing keeping me from saying win is that I think the Steelers are too well-coached, and the Cards aren't good in the red zone. But it's going to be a very near thing.

Steelers 28, Cardinals 27

ST. LOUIS at Dallas (-13)

Just too big of a number for a Rams team that can run the ball, against a Dallas team that settles for field goals way too easily. I also like the Rams to get garbage time yards and points with shiny new toy WR Brandon Lloyd, who is playing for a contract and will make some plays.

Cowboys 26, Rams 20

GREEN BAY at Minnesota (+9)

One of these games, the Packers are going to just sleep for a few quarters and miss a cover. The offensive line isn't that airtight, every QB has an off day in them, and the ball can bounce wrong. This week, with rookie QB Christian Ponder making plays and Viking Fan giving full voice to their historic hate.... isn't the week. If you want to cover the spread against this Packers team, you do it by keeping things low-key, looking non-threatening, and not being a historic rival. Oh, and having a QB that avoids turnovers would also help.

Packers 31, Vikings 20

INDIANAPOLIS at New Orleans (-14)

I'm probably underestimating the anger that the Saints are going to feel for last week's loss in Tampa, and feeling too kindly about QB Curtis Painter's ability to move the sticks when down, but these SNF games tend to stay tighter than expected, too. So give me the Colts for the late suckout cover. And just how much is NBC hating the fact that they don't get flex games until late in the year?

Saints 30, Colts 20

BALTIMORE at Jacksonville (+8)

How weird is this NFL season? Jacksonville is going to be in prime time several times in the next few weeks. They just resigned WR Mike Sims-Walker, who they bounced in the off-season, and who wasn't good enough to stick with the Rams. No, seriously, the Rams. And they are about to get slapped all over the yard by the Ravens, who live for prime-time beatdowns of mediocre teams.

Ravens 27, Jaguars 16

Last week: 6-6-1

Year to date: 49-37-3

Career: 456-442-19

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

What Is, And What Should Never Be

To the right of these words are four people. Susie Wheldon. Oliver Wheldon. Sebastian Wheldon. And Dan Wheldon. You've probably, by now, heard about the last one.

I'm about to get in trouble with people I don't know, folks. It's the end of a long day, the Jets and Dolphins played a game that was instantly forgettable, the NBA no longer exists, I've said all I can say about the Eagles for now, and the Series pick has already been made, and has not started.

I'm alone in a hotel room at the start of a business trip, with my time clock all kinds of wrong. I'm missing my family and hurting in various places, and I don't have anything listy or fun to write about. And yet, the bloghole calls.

A smarter man closes the computer right now, ducks the bullet, and lives to post another day without the inevitable howls of outrage that will accompany this message. A wiser blogger just accepts the fact that some things don't need to be said, especially so close to the event.

A better man says nothing about a sport he knows next to nothing about, because he stopped watching it in the freaking 1970s, when ABC tape-delayed it and made it seem like a big damned deal, and he bought it as his very own, while the rest of the family shrugged and went about their day.

But that's just not, as longtime readers will attest, how I'm wired. So.

Dan Wheldon, in case you somehow missed this by now, is the Indy race car driver and, it seems, universally acclaimed Brit who died in a horrific crash scene on Sunday.

Now, the following caveats that aren't going to be read or remembered later: I do not doubt that he was a great guy. The video clips on the news reports speak to that, as does the raw emotions pouring out of his friends and competitors.

I also don't doubt that he was supremely talented, fun to watch for the fans of the sport, a credit to humanity and a tremendous loss to his surviving family.

So, penance paid and time to own up to the description of the blog.

Let's talk about what no one wants to say right now, shall we?

1) Death is pointless. Wheldon's was especially so.

One of the ESPN talking heads described auto racing and boxing as the only true sports, because you can die doing them. Everything else is just a game.

Well, fine. Tell you what, then: let's outlaw sports. Right now.

We don't allow gladiator bloodsport, right? Nor do we let even UFC guys go for killing assaults. Players have to wear helmets. Fines are levied for irresponsible behavior. Employers are sued into the fires of hell for unsafe working conditions. People go to jail for even the unintentional act of killing other people, assuming you can prove negligence.

Auto racing? It continues.

I'm 42, with a wife and two kids. You know what I'm not OK with? Dying. Leaving my family behind without giving them everything I can -- and money isn't the least of it, but it's pretty damned close -- to make sure that they make the world a better place. (I'm also really not good with just about anything that leaves little kids without a father, especially if the father in question was actually a decent person. In other shocking news, I'm not a big fan of our growing collection of wars, let alone wars for other people's religions and fossil fuels. But let's stay on racing for this post.)

Wheldon didn't need to race anymore. He had made money at this, had proven his talent, and clearly had the brains to go do something else to ensure that he'd be there for his family beyond the Jesus age of 33.

I get doing what you love for a living. I'm lucky enough to be able to do that, too. But if my job came with a pretty damned serious risk of death, I think I'd give it up once I had kids. Because that job is more important. And there are other jobs.

2) Grief Offs Are Unseemly.

I understand that for many of Wheldon's fans, this is powerfully awful. I get that sharing those feelings is part of the grieving process. And I get that in all things, human beings have to, on some unconscious level, compete. I'm clearly guilty of that last bit in even talking about this now.

But, um, still? Let's say that Wheldon was known, and knew himself, four or five thousand people from all of his travels and races. That's a lot, really; that's way more than any Facebook profile of anyone I've ever been in contact with. But it's still nowhere near what the media coverage of this reflects. So where is all of the grief really coming from?

Competition. A lack of connection to the people who should really matter to the mourners. The relative lack of perspective that the only constant in life is change, and that the only thing we truly own is time, and that we can not know how much we have left. And the fact that we get to watch how he died. In slow motion, even.

So, if you didn't know the man and are engaged in a prolonged fugue over his passing...

In the kindest, gentlest, softest possible voice I can express in print...

Grow up. And turn the damned television off. (And to those showing it over and over again, please keep in mind that your lives are spent in the service of, let's not put too fine a point on this, evil.)

Because this death thing you are all going through right now *isn't* about you. And it will happen over and over and over again to you, so you better get used to it.

If, of course, you are lucky.

3) If you like motor sports and aren't the least bit shaken by what happened, I'm glad not to know you.

Every time an NFL player goes off on a stretcher, I'm reminded of how the sport that is simply more compelling than anything else in North America is a vice. A gambling vice for nerds and touts, a timesuck vice for all, the sin of judging others, the sin of enjoying violence and the misery of others -- these, we all accept. But when the stretcher and ambulance comes out and everyone stares at their shoes for some serious length of time, even as awful in its commonality as that is, it should shake you. You like something that can cause permanent damage to other people.

And if you like auto racing, you like something that gets people killed. Right in front of you, in never can it be unseen fashion.

And I'm not sure how you shake that and put it the next race back on your television, really. That's a scary talent you've got there, really.

4) Wheldon's death will change very little, and in all likelihood, this would please him.

There will still be racing, probably for as long as you or I or anyone reading this blog will be alive. Whether the cars burn gasoline or electricity or hydrogen, whether the cars are open wheeled or NASCAR, whether the fans get to see cameras from the cars or 3-D or smell-o-vision or anything else you can dream up. Maybe there will be an outpouring of good will to his kids, and maybe there will be a lasting legacy or charity that takes care of them. Maybe there will be memorials to his honor than transcend the years, or his kids could grow up to race in his footsteps.

But there will still be people doing this, and in all likelihood, dying from it.

Which leaves us with the last and worst thing to say, of all the last and worst things to say...

5) A better society would not see this as entertainment.

They'd see it as a tragedy machine, a waste of finite resources, a cruel approximation of sport in which random chance can make a momentary defeat into crimes against humanity.

They'd wonder if the entertainment benefit could ever outweigh the costs, and say, well, no. No, it can not.

And if all of that seems wrong, or soft-headed, or against personal liberty, or anything else that makes you very, very angry with me for saying it, just do me one favor before you post your comment.

Go scroll up to the top of the post, and take another look at his wife and kids.

Then come back down and tell me how I'm wrong for wanting the thing that killed him to go the hell away.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The World Series Pick

This will be the third straight series in which the Cardinals are not the betting favorites. Of course, they weren't the betting favorites to even be here; the biggest collapse in September history clinched that. (Don't worry, Theoretically Existent Braves Fan: Red Sox Fan is doing everything in his considerable power to make sure that the only choke memory will be theirs. Consider it a public service.) They also just got done with a series where none of their starters were, well, good, and it just didn't matter, because they turned the Brewers into paste, albeit with help from the Brewer defense.

In this series, they will have home field, destiny, defense and an offensive core that's just scary hot right now. You know about Albert Pujols, Lance Berkman and Matt Holliday (shh, he started to mash in the last little while), but David Freese has been the monster for weeks now. He hit .545 in the NLCS to take the MVP, and Yadier Molina and Raffy Furcal have been contributing, too. Oh, and then there's this: they've more or less trotted out a cavalcade of relievers who were mostly all effective, so much so that closer Jason Motte never faced the Brewers 3-4-5 hitters. Crazy. And sure, small sample sizes, and who the hell cares. Every playoff is.

Final points about the Cards: is this team even in the position to have to come back if Adam Wainwright doesn't get hurt in the spring? And how the hell is this ownership group even considering letting Tony LaRussa go, seeing how the results are just off the charts... let alone Pujols?

The Series that no coast will watch and few networks will lead with could be all kinds of entertaining, really. Texas goes deep in offense too, but has starting pitching that's actually been good more often than not, and unlike the Brewers, they don't tend to kick the ball all over the yard. Derek Holland has a bid to become a very big name, and while CJ Wilson hasn't been real good this postseason, he's the kind of guy that can be very effective against hitters who haven't seen him much. The Cards should get a good start out of Chris Carpenter, but Carp is 35 and heavily worked, and seems to be on the good start / bad start teeter totter at this point in the year. Mike Napoli and Nelson Cruz are putting all kinds of hurt on the ball, Adrian Beltre and Josh Hamilton aren't exactly shrinking in the spotlight, and Ian Kinsler and Elvis Andrus have been setting the table. They've got a little more rest, especially in the pen, and better starting pitching.

You're supposed to, in late October, take the team that's got the better SPs. But this series looks to me like something out of the Angels-Giants Roid Era, where the Rangers just try to stay away from the Pujols Monster and get into more trouble when everyone else hits with men on base. And in sloppy games with tons of runs on the board, I'll take LaRussa over Ron Washington, and the team that's been smelling like all kinds of destiny for two months now. Cardinals in seven, with an over/under on runs scored between the two teams at 75. It's the '06 Cardinals Blue Snow year all over again, folks.

Yet Again

Today was (is, as I'm writing this) a travel night for me, with a flight out of Newark (surprisingly OK airport, at least in Terminal C, and can avoid driving via a working NJ Transit system that isn't sucking Amtrak exhaust on an off-peak hour). So I got to see the end of the Cowboys-Patriots game in the terminal, and the SNF game on the plane, because my flight had Direct TV and I have a willingness to swipe a credit card for six hours of More Sports when I can't get connection on my computer. So.

The screen that I watched Cowboys-Patriots on had a broken closed caption, so the screen didn't update from the last thing that was said, which was "Yet Again." And I gotta tell you, those two words were far better NFL analysis than, I am sure, Phil Simms was providing in the CBS A game of the week. Cowboys stall in the red zone and have to settle for field goals? Yet Again. Patriots get the callas and plays they need to pull off a win, even when they won't play very well. Yet Again. Some asinine ad gets shown for the 30th or 40th time this NFL season, making you wonder if watching NFL games without a clicker and multiple games to bounce to as something akin to self-inflicted torture? Yet Again.

As for what I actually saw from my unexpected access, the Vikings are clearly quitting on Donovan McNabb, who was about as accurate and good as he can be anymore, but the ceiling is just too small, and when your team is stupid enough to kick it to Devin Hester, you kind of deserve what you get. Christian Ponder is the better choice for this team right now, because when you have very few healthy offensive linemen, you might as well run a guy out there who can run for his life, rather than stagger. There was a play in this game in which Julius Peppers, on a bad knee, closed and shoved Five down like he was an old sack of laundry, and that's just not a play that you ever expected the one-time total field threat to have happen to him. It used to be that people wondered if McNabb could be accurate enough, or durable enough, or whether he had the leadership or whatever... but now, you get to challenge the wheels, too.

It's what happens, folks. Yet again, to McNabb. Bet on age and all that it entails; when you've had a margin of error with your legs, losing them just makes you kind of ordinary. And the Vikings are too bad to put up with ordinary.

(Oh, and Don? Don't give your folks tickets to games anymore. Seeing your mom bail on you before the Vikings did was all kinds of sad. I guess there was soup to be made, or something...)

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Some Hurried Number of Eagles - Redskins Takeaways

Do you still have time for this Eagles' team? I'm not sure that I do. I needed to do laundry, a yard mow, and pack for a week long trip; not all of these things have happened yet. So if this starts getting a bit sketchy, you'll know why. That, and the fact that the team is unwatchable.

> The difference between 2010 Vick and 2011 Vick was shown by the first play of each game against Washington. Last year, deep and huge. This year, missed by 15 yards. Oh, and the line looks awful.

> Can you stil consider a tem to be explosive on offense when they run second and long draw plays due to an inability to protect the QB?

> We have to consider it a win that Brent Celek first throw of the day didn't result in a turnover. I think.

> You know a team is poorly coached when the long snapper can't get on the field for a punt in an obvious punting situation

> If you need someone to telegraph a screen three times and throw it anyway, Rex Grossman is your man

> Kurt Coleman's pick is the first play made by a safety since Nate Allen's gloriuos false spring of 2010

> We finally found a QB and offensive play calling scheme that didn't result in an easy opening touchdown against this defense

> The roughing penalty at the end of Rex's first pick ruined a wonderful arm punt

> The roughing the passer flag instead of an intentional grounding for safety bailout for Vick was revolting to old-time football eyes, and the way the game is called now

> Celek lobbied for a PI call as if he were actually an offensive threat that refs cared about

> Todd Herremans pancaked LaRon Landry, which was so surprising that it made the team call a timeout

> Oh My God... Brent Celek made a play. And I was sitting here, watching it. Really. No. Seriously. Touchdown, Eagles! The season is saved!

> Nnamdi Asomugha ended Chris Cooley and gave us an all an orgasm

> The next drive, with big running holes, open receivers and a closing outside touchdown run by LeSean McCoy, looked like an honest to God good football team

> Coleman's flag for 15 and the bailout hit was one of those mistakes that, we might imagine, teams with Coaches For Life should not make, but credit where due... they didn't give up a first down after that

> Celek's juggle play was kind of amazing, yes, but also could have easily been a turnover, and would have been in the first five weeks

> Similarly, Vick's tipped ball to Maclin is a pick in the last five games

> The league needs to make the end zone five yards deeper so that guys can make even worse decisions on taking the ball out of the end zone on kickoffs

> Sexy Rexy's second arm punt of the day happened on first down, and made Nate Allen look like a quality safety again

> On the resulting big scramble by Vick, he's clearly much faster than Clay Harbor, who's a pass catching TE and a half dozen years younger

> It says something about my expectations for this team in the red zone that third down failures that don't result in turnovers are wins

> Graham Gano's 50 yard field goal with 30 seconds left in the half was huge for the Skins, since a miss would have given Green the ball on their 40 with a timeout and 30 seconds left, along with a shutout half

> Watching the defense actually stop a team in the red zone, rather than give up a deflating touchdown, was just kind of stunning

> The ball to Maclin showed more about the CB play than the pass, or the wideout

> The tipped ball pick in the red zone wasn't exactly surprising for people who have watched this team in 2011

> Once again, the defense actually came back to get a stop after a deflating play, which makes me wonder if they only show up against Rexy, or when desperate

> Actually good tackling to take down Roy Helu gets noticed here, even though it was a pretty routine play

> If you had the 8 minute mark of the third quarter for Vick Hurt in this week's pool, you win

> Vince Young's terrible, terrible pick to get the Redskins back in the game, as Vick trudged to the locker room, was just, um, shocking, really

> Grossman's godawful answer pick to Coleman more or less wiped the slate clean, and greased the skids for the John Beck Era

> On third and 10, five plays after injury, Vick ran for 31 and nearly killed a cheerleader

> Third and one, running from double tight ends, somehow didn't work

> Asomugha's holding penalty showed the refs no longer consider him an elite CB

> With 17:10 left in the game, Grossman has completed more balls to Coleman than anyone other than Fred Davis

> The idea that the Redskins' season hinges on Rexy turnovers isn't exactle news

> I'm not sure how John Beck scrambling for first downs jibes with the idea that the Eagle defense is fast

> To Fox pinhead Brian Billick, not being able to see the field before you are 30 means you are young, rather than, say, inexperienced or godawful

> The third down play to Santana Moss shows that you really do need to put pressure on any NFL QB, and also John Beck

> If you had Ryan Torain in your fantasy league this week, you have to be feeling personally betrayed

> Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie got very, very lucky to not give up a touchdown to Jamar Gaffney with 11 minutes left, but still celebrated as if he did something

> Washington took a delay of game to blow a long figgie chance, which isnt't exactly what you'd expect from a division winning team

> Mike Shanahan is a genius... when he has John Elway and Terrell Davis

> I, for one, feel personally cheated by the lack of a disastrous Sav Rocca punt

> McCoy to kill the clock is, well, kind of what we thought we'd see at the start of the year, not that any of that is his fault

> It says something that Green's idea of a ball control running offense has 4 WRs

> Brian Rolle gave me a stiffie when he covered Helu, just because he shows signs of actually knowing how to do that

> Dante Stallworth's drop on a long bomb where Allen just kind of ran by for funsies kind of described the Redskins' day

> Even when they are not giving up a touchdown for 55+ minutes, this defense inspires no confidence

> Beck's a loser, baby, so why don't we kill him

> On fourth and nine to end the game, you'd like to see a pass rush that actually exists

> Terence Austin's ball was a case where the Redskins finally found someone to catch a wide open deep ball

> I'm reasonably sure that I could have scored on Beck's QB draw touchdown, and I'm a 42 year old smurf

> McCoy is not just the best player on this team, he might be the best RB in the league

> Actually converting a third and inches to win the game is kind of amazing, though I'd still like to see the team sign Jared Lorenzon (he's available!) for such plays

> Washington ran 14 times for 42 yards today, which is just the most unrealistic thing that happened

> Before you get too happy, remember that this means that we all have Andy Reid to kick around for a long, long time, and

> While winning is a great deodorant, parts of this team still smell like toe cheese

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