Wednesday, February 18, 2015

My Old Man

It's been one year since I lost my dad. On days like today, when I'm thinking about him a lot, I go for all the good stuff.

The shop humor from years of working with dudes. How he always used to say "It pays to advertise" if he caught anyone with their fly down. How he called me "sport" even though I was a terrible sport. How he used to laugh at The Andy Griffith Show and go "That Barney... What an asshole!" His old man feats of strength, like doing 10 one handed pull-ups at 65 and squeezing scales up to 350 lbs. The time I got caught smashing stink bombs on my 7th grade teacher's porch and he just told me to cover my tracks better. When I was very young and we used to watch Johnny Carson, and he would take the time to explain every joke, (again, to someone with no life experience and without even a cursory knowledge of the female body). How he could fix or make anything, like a go-kart, grappling hook, and incredibly dangerous slingshot that used an old coffee can of nuts and bolts as ammunition. The way he hated smokers. The way he used the word "outrageous."

Most of all, I remember my dad's insane work capacity. The shear amount of work my dad was able to accomplish in a single day was amazing. How he used to work all day then cut grass for four hours. He was always bleeding. Always had grease somewhere on his body. Burnt hair. He worked constantly and had his own, often maddening, way of doing things, but I admired him for it. 

If you've still got your dad, give him a call and tell him you love him. If you don't, have a listen to this song. It won't help with the feeling bad but sometimes that's okay.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Geno Being Geno

If you haven't seen Geno's reaction to Marc-André Fleury's 300th win, you must: it's classic Geno.

"My whole memories, I am score every practice, 10 goals.
Every shootout, I score on him. I don’t know how he win 300. It surprises me."
For those of you who aren't Penguins fans, "Geno" is Evgeni Malkin, star Russian forward (and incredibly non-native English speaker) for the Pittsburgh Penguins.... who play in the NHL.... which is hockey. Malkin's other famous quotes include, "I'm not use backhand lot because is backhand is little bit no good," and "It's fine - I play without pants."

You may also be wondering where he gets a name like "Geno," being so Russian and all. Well, this is the same city that pronounces the very French word Versailles as "Ver-sales" and used to insist the Franco Harris was Italian American rather than African American.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Looking ahead to 2015?

For those of you whose football teams are not faring so well this season, you're maybe starting to wonder, "Who can I start praying that my team drafts next year?" This is a great  time to be asking this question, given that a fair amount of NFL teams have shown their true identity and we now know quite a bit about the likely 2015 draft class.

Let's be clear on one thing - I am by no means an expert on college football. As far as I'm concerned, college football only exists to feed the NFL. There are two main reasons I could really never get into college ball: (1) I never went to a school with a big-time football program, and (2) I really enjoy following the players as much as the team. But in college, just about the time I get to know a guy - poof, he's graduated. So, with that caveat, understand that I'm not going to make any of my own evaluations of possible 2015 draft fodder.

Instead, I'll trust the crack squad at CNNSI. "CNNSI?" you ask? I've been on a month-long boycott of ESPN, ever since they suspended Bill Simmons for calling Roger Goodell a liar. My distaste for ESPN has been long and growing, but this was really the situation that brought it to a head. Bottom line, this boycott is a topic for another time, but all you really need to know now is that I'm doing my damnedest to get sports reporting from other sources...hence the CNNSI reference here.

For those of you looking ahead to 2015, Andy Staples has recently posted the top 50 prospects for next year's draft. It's an interesting run-down, and there's a few things I'd like to highlight here.

1) The big trend? The front seven. 
I found it interesting that, of the top 50 players on the big board, 20 of them (13 d-linemen, 7 linebackers) came from the front seven. Certainly, there are fluctuations in emphasis from year to year, based on both team strategy and available talent. For example, there are few running backs on the list, and none ranked higher than Melvin Gordon at #17, since the NFL is so tritely a "passing league" nowadays. I'm not sure if the emphasis on the front seven is just based on the talent pool, or an increased desire for teams to be able to rush the QB. 

2) Best names on the list.
Every year, I run down the list of available prospects and look for two things: first, who are the players that I'd love to have on my team, and second, what are the names I'd like to have on my team. A few years ago, Barkevious Mingo topped this list. Last year, it was probably Haha Clinton-Dix. This year's crop doesn't have any real standouts. For you Chris Fuamatu-Ma'afala fans, there are a few multisyllabic names of note, such as Ifo Expre-Olomu, and Hau'oli Kikaha.

My sleeper pick is Cedric Ogbuehi (OT, Texas A&M). There would be some real potential here if he played d-end or linebacker, because I could easily see a scary pass-rusher being nicknamed "Oogey-Boogey" or "The Boogie Man" by NFL vets who couldn't be bothered to learn the correct pronunciation of his name (it's, "ah-BOO-ee" for those of you who are interested). Bottom line, your best hope is probably D'Haquille "Duke" Williams. It's not often you get to hear, "My name's D'Haquille, but everybody calls me 'Duke.'"

3) Guy I most want on my team.
For my money, I'm going with Brandon Sherff (OT, Iowa). He's the top-rated offensive lineman on Staples' list, and apparently is a vicious blocker. Check out this video for evidence:

He also gets honorable mention in the name category. I could see lots of bastardizations of "Sherrif" that work well for a guy whose trying to protect your QB's blind side... like I said, slim pickin's on the names.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Marlins Sign Stanton, Make Pirates Look Bad

Earlier this week, the Miami Marlins signed Giancarlo "Mike" Stanton (that might be the first time "Mike" has been put in quotes like that) to a 13-year, $325 contract. I think it's now obvious why the Marlins weren't willing to part ways with Stanton last season, as they were planning to, as Beyonce would say, "put a ring on it."

If you sign a $325 million contract and DON'T do this, then it's true that athletes aren't real people.
I am not so much a baseball fan as a Pirates fan, so allow me to immediately view this through my Pirates-colored glasses.

Obviously, this makes the Pirates in general, and their relationship with Andrew McCutchen in particular, look pretty bad. While you could very well make an argument that a 13-year contract for a 25 year-old (like Stanton) isn't exactly comparable to something that might be offered to McCutchen when he next becomes a free agent (2018, at which point he'll be ~32), my argument here applies to the fact that Cutch is averaging less than $10 million on his contract, compared to Stanton's deal that averages $25 million over its life. That's a sign of commitment to signing your cornerstone players, something the Pirates have never been accused of. To be fair, they haven't had many such pieces to speak of, but the point still stands.

I'm proud of the signings of Cutch and Marte, but the fact is that Pirates have and will continue to short their fans when it comes to committing to talent. Here's three reasons why the Stanton signing makes the Pirates - and their standard list of excuses - look bad as a franchise.

1) The Marlins could have asked for the same "hometown discount" that the Pirates have been banking on all along with McCutchen. Stanton was drafted in the second round by the Marlins in 2007, and has played for the franchise for his entire career. So all the arguments that the Pirates can make about Cutch's history with the team, centerpiece stature, yada yada yada - those all apply for Stanton, too.

McCutchen knows he's being shorted - you can see it in his eyes.
2) The Marlins are one of the few franchises who make less money than the Pirates. According to Forbes, the Pirates are currently ranked 23rd in terms of overall franchise value ($572 million), while the Marlins are ranked 27th ($500 million). That might seem like an overly simplistic picture, but - likely due to their recent success - the 2014 Pirates outperformed the 2014 Marlins in every financial metric Forbes has to offer. What's more, the total value of the Stanton contract is worth more than twice the Marlins' TOTAL revenue for 2014 ($159 million). Bottom line, all the excuses the Pirates have made in the past about being small-market and low-budget apply for the Marlins...and then some.

3) Stanton simply doesn't compare to McCutchen. Stanton is a phenomenal player. One of the dominant power hitters in the game, a two-time all star at the age of 25, and a runner-up for NL MVP last year. But he's no McCutchen. McCutchen is a true five-tool player who can do anything you want on the baseball field. He can bat in any position in your line-up, and has still produced with varying (sometimes nonexistent) support around him. Defensively, most baseball writers will tell you that Cutch's metrics don't put him among the top center fielders, but you can't deny that he has great range, makes phenomenal plays, and is far from what you might call a liability. The ultimate compliment you can pay Cutch is that at least one blogger had the audacity to put him in the same breath with Mike Trout (GASP!).

One thing I really can't fault the Pirates for is looking out for the long-term health of the franchise. We've seen Miami drop mad cash before, only to have to dump ALL of those players within two seasons, and their franchise is not in nearly the same position as Pittsburgh's. If this bet doesn't pay off for the Marlins, they'll be set back another 2-4 years. And let's be honest, it won't. The probability of Stanton playing out this contract in Miami is slim-to-none. But that doesn't matter - at this point in time, signings like this are just something that fans and agents can point to, and that perception has a big impact on the recruitment and retention of both players and fans.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Franchises that are just screwed...

When the Steelers aren't playing on Sunday, I am provided with a nice perspective on the NFL. I listen to pre-game shows, watch games, and scan the analysis without searching for those keywords - Steelers, Pittsburgh, AFC North - that might otherwise skew my media intake. Similarly, I wake up on a Monday morning like the other day and can sit back with a completely unbiased perspective on where teams are headed.

I woke up Monday and checked Facebook, only to realize that there are a few select franchises that are just totally f'd. Keep in mind, there are several teams - that is the collection of players and coaches currently assembled - that are screwed, but these could be fixed in a draft class or two (e.g., Buccaneers, Titans). But then there are franchises that are just in a bad situation from which they are not likely to recover in the next 3-5 years or even more. Those teams that need a league wide intervention, move to LA, or a Little Big League scenario where some 8th grader takes over as GM.

Obviously, there are those teams like the Raiders and Jaguars that are easy pickin's. They're screwed and we all know it and to write a post about how awful those franchises are would be like that SNL skit when Peyton Manning dominates some toddlers in football.

I throw, you's not that hard.
Instead, I'd like to focus a little more on some of those teams where you might not realize just how bad they have it...

The Washington Redskins
This team has been in turmoil since Joe Gibbs was there...the first time. I'd like to set aside the issue of the team name, but I really don't think you can. It's a hot button issue that generates tons of media attention, and you know that any time a player or coach is getting interviewed outside of the locker room (i.e., where the popular media lurk) they have to field a question about it. In case you're wondering what my stance is: change the name already. You want to know how you can tell if a term is offensive? Well it's a good sign if the group of people to whom you're referring launch a national campaign to explain how offensive that term is.

So there's that distraction. But then there's the on-the-field issues, too. You pay a king's ransom to get RGIII, the savior who so tantalizingly led you to the playoffs in his first season. Then the injury issues begin. Then the offensive line crumbles around him. Then, despite having a seemingly great set of weapons (Alfred Morris, DeSean Jackson, Peter Son, Jordan Reed), the only QB who can win games is....wait for it... Colt McCoy!?!? So much so that fans on Sunday, as Washington was being trounced 27-2 by the hapless Bucaneers, began chanting for McCoy over Griffin.

When the Browns drafted Colt McCoy, they hoped he be a savior...
just not for another team. Classic Browns!
To be sure, there is a lot to work with in Washington, and the team could - in theory - turn it around in a year or two (and much more likely two). But given the QB issues, the clear lack of leadership at the top, and the fact that you hired a former Bengals OC as your head coach, I'm betting that the aforementioned radical change (Dan Snyder dies unexpectedly in a hooker-related accident and his 11 year-old niece takes over the team in "Little Big League 2"!) is what's needed.

The Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles lost on Sunday...bad. After the Packers dropped their second straight fifty-burger, Eagles fans were in an uproar, or maybe the term is "down-roar," because Eagles fans, more than any other   I know, are easily depressed about their team's situation.

Now, mind you, the Eagles are 7-3, that's SEVEN AND THREE, and tied for the lead in the NFC East. Important to note that they are tied with the Cowboys who are not only the worst second-half team of...forever, but have also yet to play the Eagles. In other words, if the Eagles can manage to take two from the Cowboys, they should have the division locked (take note, Steeler fans).

As you may know, I used to live in the Philadelphia area (a period which I refer to as "the dark ages"), which provides me some insight on this in two ways. First, it was simply amazing to watch the Eagles and their fans run Andy Reid, his franchise-record 130 wins, and his 9 playoff appearances (including 5 conference championships) right out of town. Sure, they didn't win a Super Bowl, but the type of franchise he built is the one lots of teams would kill for. Teams like, oh, I dunno...Kansas City?

But the Eagles and Reid parted ways, he found the Chiefs and the Eagles found Chip Kelly. Philly went to the playoffs in his first season, the offense was just as up-tempo as everyone thought it would be, and all was well in the world... until that aforementioned fifty-burger.

Yes, you should position them in Kansas City.
On Monday, social media was abuzz with complaints about the Eagles. One Eagles fan site had already doomed the secondary and Mark Sanchez (wait - wasn't he now the perfect fit for Chip Kelly's system?).

Here's why the Eagles are screwed. Because even at 7-3 and with a division lead, they still aren't happy. They never will be happy. I could imagine that even a Super Bowl title would be accompanied by questions around the play calling and doubts about the margin of victory. I could wax poetic about how living in Philadelphia robs your sole, pales your skin, and makes you generally dead inside, but I won't...or maybe I just did. Regardless, I guess their state of mind as people in general is certainly understandable, just not excusable. (I heard that phrase watching an old episode of House last night. Sweet, right?) So when, as a fan base, you know you can never achieve your goal - which is being satisfied, let alone happy, with cheering for your team - you are the epitome of being screwed.

The Oakland Raiders
I know I said I wouldn't pick on Oakland, but they are just so, so awfully bad that I have to give them a shout out. Poor NFL Network, having to make it seem like any game in Oakland should be interesting. Yes, the Raiders are most definitely case you hadn't noticed.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Inters-Species Erotica

I wish I were talking about that ridiculous scene in Clerks 2 where the dude has sex with the donkey.

Sadly, I'm not.

I'm talking about something far more horrifying. Seals having sex with penguins.

You didn't think dolphins were the only 
sexual deviants of the sea, did you?

Scientists have been observing some really fucked up behavior in the sexual habits of the fur seal lately. They've been boning penguins. Not, uh, consensually either. More like a prison style thing. This comes from an article which features not one - but three - videos of seals banging penguins. Check the article out. The scientific community is texting a communal "WTF?!"

This is... troubling. 

There's a Bill Cosby joke to be made in here somewhere but I simply don't have the stomach for it. So it's probably better to just soften the blow by saying I passed on a Bill Cosby joke then let your mind wander to any number of awful, groaner punchlines to even worse jokes than I would have made, while still taking the high road of not making the Cosby joke. 

is probably a really bad person. 

Look at all the penguin's boys there just standing around like "I can't believe this is happening. If only I had arms or was nimble and athletic on land as I am in water. I could stop this."

Instead the penguins just stand around like dopes, completely helpless to the unwanted advances of the seal. 

There are two major takeaways from this.

First, can we get the ball rolling on clubbing seals again? It's brutal and inhumane - but look what they're doing to penguins! This is a situation where two wrongs could make a right. 

Second, thank Christ there's no NHL team called The Seals. Seriously. Take a second to think about how unbearable every Seals/Penguins matchup would be with the "Seals buttfuck Pens" signs, t-shirt, etc. there would be for each meeting. What if this were a video of a bruin having sex with a penguin? 

It wouldn't be unlike the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs. 

This is probably a higher priority than ebola. Definitely higher than climate change, anyway. Get on it, scientists. This is too close to home. 

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Great...Martavius Bryant

So, I'm totally just stealing this from Facebook under the clause of "it's better to ask forgiveness than permission." Besides, once you post it to Facebook, they own it and you don't... or something.

A friend posted this (and if he reads this and wants credit, I will gladly come back and insert his name):

"This is my conversation with the manager who is currently beating me by 67 points in fantasy football this week. I have Martavius Bryant yet to play. Never say die"

This is the kind of positive attitude and optimism that exist at the nexus between playing fantasy football and being a Steelers fan. Take notes.