Sunday, September 30, 2012

A Day Late and $40,000 Short

There have been few G:TB posts more anticlimactic than this one.  We're sorry.  Roger Goodell and 32 owners threw us for a loop when they agreed to the referees' demands and ended the charade parade.  Read on anyway, if you're bored, at work, or both.

Earlier this week, Gheorghe assembled a round table (it was actually trapezoidal) of experts in several fields related to the labor dispute between the NFL owners and the referees.  We analyzed the issues, made predictions, revealed our hopes and outcomes, and pondered our place in the universe.  We laughed, we cried, we kissed three hours of our life goodbye.

It's all moot now, but frankly, some of the guys made points interesting enough to post, anyway.  Plus, there's a Charlie Wilson's War kind of ending to this that could be filed under "Things That Make You Go Hmmmm."

Here goes.

The G:TB Replacement Referees Round Table

The Participants

Matt DuRagn: high school & college football referee; crimson nape
G. Chaucer Burberry: lobbyist formerly employed by the Department of Labor; natty dresser
Mr. Truck: irreverent blogger; opinionated SOB
Mike Shanahan: NFL coach for now; old yeller
Clarence: moderator; this is the only form of moderation in which he's ever partaken


Clarence: Gentlemen, thank you for convening on such short notice.  Who needs a beer?
Truck: It has to be Guinness.  Every other beer gives me terrible gas.
Burberry: Lovely.  Do you have anything in a single malt?
Shanahan: Woodchuck Cider.
DuRagn: Another terrible decision, Coach. I'll take anything in a red solo cup.

Clarence: Dear Lord.  Let's just get started.

Clarence: On a scale of 1 to 10, from what you've seen thus far, how would you rate the officiating by the replacements?
DuRagn: 6...mostly because of player control.
Clarence: What's the most fundamentally poor call you've seen?
DuRagn: Roughing the passer in the Green Bay game on Monday night... and most personal fouls that are NOT called - they have no player control in the game, mostly because I think they are star-struck.
Shanahan: Everything in the Rams game.
DuRagn: Stop whining. Your team didn't sneak out of town in the middle of the night or anything.
Truck: They call them zebras, but their performance sure has been spotty!!
Shanahan: [frowns]

Clarence: This season has been high on ridicule. Given that, isn't it sad Chris Cooley isn't on the team to take part in it?
Shanahan: Look, I love the guy. I didn't cut Chris Cooley nearly so much as I eradicated Rob Squirrel from the fan base. Have you seen the Saints this year?
Clarence: More than fair.

Clarence: One can assume the poor product from the replacements has strengthened the case of the locked out referees to the point where the NFL must submit. To what degree is that true? Is there a chance the NFL just doesn't give a crap?
Burberry: The public outcry certainly helps the refs, but the only true pressure point on the league relates to ratings and revenues, both of which are experiencing all-time highs. Ultimately, the NFL’s chief concerns relate to what they believe are overly generous and unsustainable pension contribution demands by the referees. The League sees the national trend in this area as it relates to public sector workers and some private sector union pension programs, and they are unwilling to go down a road they believe leads to financial ruin. Furthermore, pension benefits offered to the refs may have implications for future pension demands from the players, who now receive very modest retirement benefits from the league in most cases.

Clarence: If Goodell & Co. cave now, would that set a dangerous precedent for future negotiations? Do you think they might hold out longer just to reach an accord on "mutually agreeable terms"?
Burberry: If the league were not prepared to go the entire season with the replacement refs, they never would have let the season get underway. The league will not “cave” to the refs' demands. Period. I think the league would argue that replacement referees by nature invite much greater scrutiny, and that were that level of scrutiny to be applied to the normal referees, we would see similar levels of second-guessing and hand-wringing. Furthermore, at this point, I think the refs are still the party feeling more (financial) pain as a result of the lockout.

Clarence: Coach, how does this impact your game plan from week to week, if at all?
Shanahan: Shut up.

Clarence: People seem to forget that the "real" NFL refs are cursed more loudly with every passing year. Is the performance standard expectation going to be way too high when they return? Are they just setting themselves up for further crucifixion?
DuRagn: I think at first the "public" will relax on them just thinking that they are that much better, but they are still human and eventually a call will go against "your" team and the criticizing will get right back to where it was.
Truck: Crucifixion, one cross each, the line on the left.
DuRagn: [giggles]
Shanahan: Shut . . .  up.

Clarence: What famous labor dispute does the NFL referee lockout remind you of? What high-end DC restaurant does it remind you of?
Burberry: There are very few famous labor disputes… everyone either cites one of the sports strikes or the 1980’s air traffic controller strikes. This reminds me of none of those. High end restaurant? The impact of the replacement refs does somewhat mirror what took place at 1789 when the “Clyde’s” restaurant group bought it out and took it over and many people felt the quality dropped off as a direct result of the long-time Georgetown institution being bought by a “chain.” In truth, the product there had begun to deteriorate years earlier.
Shanahan: [just stares viciously and gets redder in the face]

Clarence: An astute person on this blog commented that the replacement reffed games had the feel of Lord of the Flies. (a) Would Roger Goodell be Piggy in that scenario? (b) Please make another literary analogy for the referee lockout. (c) What are the chances LotF was the last book that "astute" person actually read?
Truck: Yes. I think the lock-out is more like Finnegan’s Wake. A lot of complicated nonsense that in the end might mean absolutely nothing. Good.
Shanahan: I'd say A Tale of Two Cities. The juxtaposed duality of Sydney Carton and Charles Darnay mirror the owners and the referees, the tragic ending harks back to Josh Morgan's gaffe, and the constant themes of redemption of resurrection can be spotted throughout this sad episode.
[silence]
DuRagn: Especially when you yell "Jesus Christ" at the line judge.
Shanahan: Shut it.
Truck: A Sale of Two Titties.
Clarence: Definitely not.
Shanahan: I will fucking kill you people.

Clarence: If Hollywood does what we think they will and produces The Replacements II about this situation, who will play Roger Goodell? Or Ed Hochuli?
Burberry: I think Eric Stoltz has the appropriate ginger bonafides to play Goodell, though Phillip Seymour Hoffman might be a more inspired choice with a bit more gravitas. I think if he really hits the gym, Ed O’Neill could play Hochuli.
DuRagn: Tom Arnold as the commish. Larry the Cable Guy as Hochuli.

Clarence: Who's the best -- Markbreit, Seeman, Hochuli, or Cashion?
DuRagn: I am a little biased here, but you have listed all Referees....in truth, the Referee doesn't really do much to officiate a game...it's the other six guys. But since you restricted me to these four, I would say Markbreit...but he was earlier in the game. Hochuli has the advantage of more training, better training, and better technology for training. Like asking who is better, the 1972 Dolphins or the 18-1 Patriots (forget which year).
Burberry: Hillbilly.
DuRagn: Hey, I went to William & Mary, the second oldest university that's in the Colonial capital of Williamsburg!
Burberry: Quillbilly.

Clarence: What song that you have learned in your quest for 100 has the most parallels with this lockout?
Truck: Soccer has consumed my life so much that I’ve stopped memorizing songs . . . I’m doing this in between my two practices today while Ian is at piano. My life is absurd. Perhaps "You Don't Know How It Feels" by Tom Petty. It’s tough to make calls in front of 60,000 people.

Clarence: If someone is soulless and futureless enough to cross lines and ref these games, do you think they care that they are doing a subpar job and being ridiculed across the country?
DuRagn: I truly think they want to do a good job, but the game is over their heads in terms of rules, speed, and the fact that they know they are under a microscope. For most/all, this is the only shot they will have at the big time.

Clarence: Most players and talking heads are repeatedly insisting that "the integrity of the entire sport" is at stake if these replacement refs are allowed to remain. You're an English teacher, so answer this: What's that more of -- hyperbole, or, considering the arrest records and greed of the collective saying it, irony?
Truck: Eventually the replacement refs will become as skilled as the old refs, but it may take a while. so it might not be hyperbole right now, but it's a sliding scale. The integrity could return either way . . . and it's not life or death (or a child's education) so really, who care if it takes a while. I love that the oddsmakers are having trouble with the spreads because of this . . . a neat consequence.

Clarence: Mr. Truck, the only football you watch is Giant games, and even then only when it's convenient -- when you're not out grabbing salamanders, strapping your dog into Inquisition-style torture devices, and reading science fiction books. Does the drama surrounding the replacement refs -- and the allegation that it leads to more injuries, more in-game fights, and bizarrely controversial game results entice you into watching more football? Or do you see this level of soap opera-quality melodrama and histrionics all the time in high school, thereby precluding any piquing of your interest?
Truck: I haven't noticed a lick of difference during the Giants games . . . and I’ve caught most of every game . . . and I’m barely following this. I sat alone today at cafeteria duty manically drawing 7 year old soccer drills in an attempt to figure out a simple way to lure little kids into playing clearing balls out of traffic to a target.
Shanahan: Hey, soccer bitch, you do know we're talking about American football here, right?

Clarence: Matt, as a referee, are you rooting for these scabs to do well or fail miserably?
DuRagn: Don't really care. I feel bad for them because they cannot win. It doesn't matter how they call a game, it will never be good enough. Do you really think we are discussing bad calls more than when the real officials were in the game? I don't, but it's easier now to blame it on the scabs. Take the simultaneous catch last night in the Green Bay-Seattle game....that was really a tough call. Do you think the real refs would have called it (either way) and not been criticized to the 9th degree.

Clarence: G. Chaucer, What result are you expecting from this mess?
Burberry: I think agreement on terms will be reached before October 15, with the NFL getting 75% of what it wants. The general public and the sports pundits keep saying that “with each passing week” the NFL is under more pressure to cave. I think the opposite is true. With each passing week, we further normalize the replacement refs and the striking refs anxiety about their finances and concerns about never retaining their old jobs grow. 99% of NFL fans can name either one ref (Hochuli) or none. We could tell most NFL fans that we brought the old refs back next Sunday, and then still send out the replacements and no one would know any different.

Clarence: Mr. Truck, you were previously noted for siding with the players in labor disputes against the owners.
Truck: I was?
Clarence: Yes. You said the players would idiotically spend the money and pump up the economy, while the owners would hoard it. Whom are you rooting for in the NFL versus the refs, and why?
Truck: I must admit to being pro-union-- especially because it's in my best interest-- and I think America needs more union jobs. This is either going to be great for the union or horrible, depending on if the scab refs get their act together. Probably will always remain subjective.
Clarence: Do you know what I am even talking about?
Truck: No. Not at all.

Clarence: Okay, I'd say that about wraps it up. Thanks to each of you for your input, and now back to your miserable lives.

*  *  *  *  *

Well, within 24 hours of the round table, the league and its officials had resolved their differences.  We won't take total credit for that.

I do think this was a misguided post-settlement quote that I read:
"The owners appear to have grossly overestimated their bargaining power and underestimated the bargaining power of the referees," said Richard Sheehan, a University of Notre Dame finance professor who specializes in the economics of sports. "Referees had the option, at least in the short-term, of not agreeing with whatever the NFL powers demanded," "The owners' arrogance and hubris led them to make a large wager that the referees' job was so easy that they could hire replacements and no one would notice. Unfortunately, fans noticed. If there was any doubt that the owners made an incredibly misinformed bet, the doubt was removed Monday night." 
Based on the comments of our participants, especially G. Chaucer Burberry, I tend to believe that this finance professor was dead wrong -- the league didn't think the job was easy, they just didn't care if the officiating was subpar.  That element simply wasn't going to chase the fans away.  And it didn't.  In the end, it was the owners' arrogance and hubris that likely led them to settle; they didn't like being mocked and vilified all over national television and in every newspaper.  They made the right bet, but they couldn't handle the public condemnation for doing it.

And that's one to grow on.

Truck:  Grow one.
DuRagn: [giggles]
Shanahan:  Seriously.  I will slit your throat and watch you bleed.


Saturday, September 29, 2012

Ryder Cup, Day 2: Honk if You're Honky

Open thread for your commenting enjoyment, brought to you by the otherworldly play of Keegan Bradley and Phil Mickelson.


Friday, September 28, 2012

Ryder Cup, Day 1: The Wheelhouse Reunites

Reunited and it feels so good...

 

So it seems Wheelhouse Geoff and Wheelhouse Jerry will be taking in the Ryder Cup from the comfort of, Jerry's couch, maybe? Not sure the local, but the fellas have the day off to watch golf, and perhaps find time to chime in here on what they're seeing on the magic television box. Enjoy the A.M. Ales, gents.

For the rest of us, treat this post as your Ryder Cup Day 1 Open Thread...at least until it gets trumped by one of the two filler items I see Statler and Waldorf have in draft.

P.S. Is Geoff "Peaches"? Making Jerry "Herb"?

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Ryder Guestie: Wheelhouse Geoff Previews The 2012 Ryder Cup

Wheelhouse Geoff emerges from the rubble of, well, the wheelhouse to provide us a look at the 2012 Ryder Cup. America, F**k Yeah.

The 39th Ryder Cup gets underway on Friday at Medinah Country Club just outside of Chicago, where the European Team will attempt to continue what has been two decades of near dominance over the US.

The Ryder Cup is unique amongst all modern sporting events for a variety of reasons. First off, none of these guys are getting paid to be there and all the winners get is a modest looking trophy and bragging rights. Yet every two years, you see more passion, excitement and spastic, poorly executed high fives from the competitors than you do at any other event. Secondly, the format is unique in that its not only match play, but much of the competition is team (two-man) match play. On Friday and Saturday, a total of eight matches will be played each day, each worth one point. Half of the matches will be Four Balls matches (commonly called "best ball") wherein the low score amongst the four players wins the hole. The other matches will be foursomes matches (commonly called "alternate shot"), in that one player tees off, and his partner then hits the second shot and they alternate until the ball is holed. Low score on the hole wins. The former format is one used quite often by weekend golfers and elsewhere and the latter is never used by anyone ever except at the Ryder Cup, because its incredibly stupid.

The US has a 27-11-1 record in the Ryder Cup, but has won only four of the last 13 competitions, dating back to 1985. The lion's share of US wins came before 1979, when the Euro team was expanded from just Great Britain/Ireland to all of continental Europe. Since then, Europe has won 9 of the 16 matches. Even more troubling is that we have lost 3 of the last 5 Ryder Cups on US soil. This recent futility is due largely to the Europeans success in the Friday/Saturday teams competitions. The US, conversely, has consistently been dominant during the Sunday singles matches, just not always dominant enough to make up for the shellacking they took the previous two days.

Most experts are picking the US as the favorites this year, but that seems to be the case every year. Its true that the US squad is stacked, but historically that's a harbinger of shitty golf to come. Of the last 12 major championships, eight have been won by 2012 Ryder Cup participants, four by US players (Webb Simpson, Keegan Bradley, Phil Mickelson and Bubba Watson) and four by Euros (Rory McIlroy (2), Martin Kaymer and Graeme McDowell). The other four recent majors were won by Darren Clarke (a 2012 Euro Team assistant captain) and an assortment of South Africans with increasingly odd last names and awkward smiles (Els, Schwartzel, Oosthuizen).

Team USA is captained by Davis Love III, who possesses all the sexiness, charisma and excitement of a bologna sandwich. Davis, a strong player on tour for many years, probably underachieved by winning only one major championship, the 1997 PGA. His other claim to fame may be the putt he made in 1993 at the Belfry that won the Ryder Cup for Team USA. Historically, having a reputation as a dynamic, highly motivational guy has produced mixed results when it comes to Ryder captains. Paul Azinger and Ben Crenshaw fit that bill, and they led winning squads in '08 at Valhalla and '99 at Brookline, respectively. Corey Pavin has a similar reputation as a firery guy, as do Curtis Strange and Hal Sutton, and their captaincies were not successful and highly criticized. Davis' laid back, steady approach mirrors that of his closest friend on tour, Fred Couples, who has been hugely successful as a Presidents Cup captain.

The Euros captain this year is two time Masters champion Jose Maria Olazabal, who I would not urinate on were he on fire. Olazabal has a charming personality as long as you are endeared by aloof, self-important glowering. As a Ryder cupper, Olazabal has an 18-6-2 record, except no one can remember or find video of the matches he lost. When paired with the late Seve Ballesteros, the pair was 11-2-0 in team play. Ballesteros, who died earlier this year of brain cancer, Is largely credited with transforming the Ryder Cup competitions from a US walkover into a real (and somewhat bitter) competition. How revered is Seve by the Euros? His silhouette will be on each Euro player's bag tho weekend, Jerry West/NBA style.

Strategy

Course set up and pairings will be the two most talked about topics this week when it comes to Davis Love and to a lesser extent Olazabal. The home team captain gets to set up the course however he sees fit. This year, Davis has taken advantage of that opportunity to a more considerable extent than many of his predecessors. When Davis went to examine Medinah a couple weeks back, he left the course requesting two alterations. 1. Make it longer. It is now stretched out past 7500 yards. 2. Get rid of the US Open style rough, and at the edge of each fairway add a 20 yard second cut. This effectively widened the fairways by 40 yards and made the rough a non-factor. The US team is longer than the Euros, and they don't drive it as straight, thus this seems a smart move.

As to pairings, the Euros have ready made teams with unimpeachable recent Ryder records. Expect McIlroy to play with McDowell, Westwood with Luke Donald (they shot a reported 59 practicing four balls on Tuesday), and some combo of Ian Poulter with Paul Casey or Justin Rose.

The US pairings are harder to predict. Tiger will likely be with either Steve Stricker (a captains choice who is having a bad year) or Jim Furyk Mickelson will be paired with Webb Simpson and Keagan Bradley and God only knows on the rest. I'm hoping for a Bubba Watson/Jason Dufner "Southern Idiots" pairing, which produced great theater and great results in '08 with JB Holmes and Boo Weekley in the roles of the idiots.

Players to Watch


Tiger Woods record in the Ryder is a modest 13-14-2, which sadly makes him one of our better participants since 1995. Medinah, however, hosted the PGA Championship in 1999 and 2006. Guess who won both of those?

Ian Poulter is 8-3-1 in the last three Ryders. He has seemed near unbeatable and there's no reason to expect that to change.

Nicolas Colsarts is a new member of Team Euro and is notably the longest player in the competition and the first Belgian to participate in this event. He has a long history of being highly talented and the shitting the bed. I expect both he, and Martin Kaymer, to be used sparingly on Friday and Saturday.

Sergio Garcia is back on team Euro after being an assistant captain in 2010 because he was playing like a 13 handicap back then. His game has returned to form since then, and odds are he will play well this weekend. He has a career 14-6-4 Ryder record, so expect him to be nancing around the greens like a homosexual at a Lady Gaga concert every time he makes an eight foot putt.

The US team has four Ryder rookies (to the Euros one: Colsarts) in Bradley, Simpson, Dufner and FedEx Cup champ Brandt Snedecker. Simpson distinguished himself quite well in last year's President's Cup and as a group, if these guys don't provide a good number of our points, we're screwed. Our big name players (Tiger, Phil, Stricker, Furyk) have an average age of 42. I don't expect them to carry the load.

Prediction

I think the US wins the 14.5 points necessary to take back the Cup (in the event of a 14-14 tie, Europe retains the Cup). I'm pretty well sold on some of our younger players, especially because guys like Bradley and Simpson are such strong putters. If the US is down by two points or less going into Sunday, I think we will be in solid position to win.

Along with Wheelhouse Jerry, I'm talking the day off Friday to drink deep the aura of the Ryder Cup. The over/under on the first time Johnny Miller accuses someone of choking like a dog is set at 9:15am Friday. Take the under.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Fashion is Dum -- wait, WTF, those are cheerleaders?

Courtesy of the fine folks at USA Today and their funky new dot designs comes this story perfect for a "Fashion is Dumb" post. As most of you should know by now (except maybe Clarence...not sure he is aware the NBA still exists), los Nets de Nueva Jersey have moved a few miles north, to Brooklyn. Jay-Z is (literally) a minority owner in the team, and Russian billionare Mikhail "Opulence" Prokhorov is the owner, meaning no expense has been spared in anything related to the team: from the new Barclays Center to the concessions at the game (and silverware) to the team's uniform's to the cheerleaders outfits.

Wait, strike that, this appears to be the new cheerleader outfits, and it looks like they borrowed this look from hookers who used to inhabit the neighborhood:


Are those things made of f'ing leather? Latex? Both, maybe? Go Nets.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Music Mondays with Shlara, Part Deux

My Wednesday was spent at the 9:30 Club with Glen Hansard and his 14-person ensemble. You may be familiar with Glen from his band The Frames, or his minor role in The Commitments or his starring role in the hugely successful Irish indie hit Once.

Side note--if you like music and you have not seen the movie Once, you must stop reading this post and add it to your Netflix queue immediately. (Everyone focuses on "Falling Slowly" which is a beautiful song but my favorite from the film is "Leave")

This review will be completely biased because I love Glen--and, let's be honest, who doesn't love an angst-y, Irish ginger?

He's like an Irish Springsteen--he leaves it all out on the stage every night (Except the night a few years ago in Baltimore, when he admitted that they went on a bender the night before and he was hungover.) Glen's passion while performing demands the audience's attention, and he loves conversing with the audience in between songs--so its a very intimate experience, regardless of the size of the venue. They played 2+ hours and half-way through this show he noted how much he loves playing 9:30 Club, and after the show he tweeted that the evening was a "shot in the soul" so I'm not exaggerating here.

Glen famously dropped out of high school and started his career busking on Dublin's streets. He still has the heart and drive of a busker, despite his sustained success. Plus, he's legitimately talented. And yes, those are holes in his guitar (see clips below)--he wore holes in his guitar from strumming.

The band included his mates from The Frames, some additional strings, the horn section from the Levon Helm band and two women from a DC choir who joined him in performing at Sargent Shriver's funeral last year. They played some tunes from his new album, some Frames hits, and some covers: Justin Timerblake's Cry Me a River, Van Morrison's Astral Weeks, Springsteen's Drive All Night. They also wove a few covers into Glen songs: RESPECT and Redemption Song. I've been to other shows when he weaves in "Ring of Fire" and the "Pure Imagination" song from the 1970's version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. He ended the show (as he does many shows) with the Irish pub song, "The Parting Glass" and shots of whiskey for the entire band.

He's the kind of performer that draws you in, wins you over and makes you a fan for life--even if you don't like his kind of music. You can't leave a show in which Glen is performing, and say you had a boring evening. Here's a sampling from YouTube:

This one is for KQ--Glen & Eddie Vedder singing the Once mega-hit "Falling Slowly"

  

And this is classic Glen performing Astral Weeks--it's just him and his guitar and ALL OF THAT SOUND



Second show was Dirks Bentley at Nats Park following Saturday's game when the Nats crushed the Brewers and Gio Gonzalez earned his 20th win. NATITUDE!!! That show sounded fine as we were leaving the park...but I'm not a big country music person, so I can't be 100% sure. We did notice a lot of people in the stands who seemed to be country music fans--there were some redic outfits pairing cowboy boots and shorts or sundresses. And I think some of the Nats players like Dirks, so I'm sure they had fun.

Next up on Music Mondays: Emmet Swimming (hello 90's) and then in a few weeks I'll review that TV show Nashville. Yes, it's country music, but there's no way I can hate a show with Tami Taylor as the lead. Even if she is playing a washed up country star.

[Hoping Clarence and Marls can add their recap of the NJ Springsteen show--assuming they remember the evening.]

Punch Drunk Runners

I assume you don't really want to see a collection of photos from Ragnar DC, so I'll spare you. (Though they'll be popping up on Facebook over the next several days, I'm assured.) But I figured the people of G:TB would get a kick out of this one.


The population of my van consisted of me, my wife, two neighbors of ours, and two guys I hadn't met prior to running the race. When I returned to the van after hitting the rest room early in the race to find the message under the driver's side door, I knew I'd found kindred dipshit spirits. I wasn't disappointed. (In a preposterous coincidence, one of the guys I hadn't met is married to one of the late, great Dave Flynn's wife's best friends.)

Who's doing it with us next year? I can promise giddy, punch-drunk comedy, open air sleeping, milkshakes at 2:00 am in the presence of the cows that produced the milk, the occasional middle distance run, and well-earned postrace beers. See you at the starting line.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

My House Was Divided

As all of you are aware, I attended and graduated from the University of Florida. As some of you may not know, the entire rest of my family consists of Florida State supporters. Both of my older sisters graduated from FSU. Both of my brothers-in-law attended FSU. And my parents have been FSU season ticket holders since 1988 when my oldest sister enrolled at Florida State. As a result of this, I've attended many, many FSU games during my lifetime. Plenty of memorable ones too. The 'Choke at Doak', the 'Sean Taylor game'. Shit, I was even in attendance when Ty Willingham came into Tallahassee and gave the Noles a beatdown and had irish fans dreaming of National Titles. Plenty of the games I saw were during my early youth but a good number also happened during my time as a student at Florida. See, if Florida was on a bye or playing an away game that didn't conflict with the FSU game that day I'd often go up to Tallahassee for the weekend to visit my family (my oldest sister, her husband and kids live in Tallahassee) and attend the football game. Not because I enjoy hearing the racist FSU war chant 3500 times a night, but because I enjoy high profile college football games (and it's always fun to be in Doak Campbell Stadium when the Seminoles lose). Why am I bringing this up? Well, I'm tired of looking at a shirtless midget every time I log on to G:TB...and because I was in the stadium the last time that FSU took on Clemson in a high profile night game. It didn't start well for Clemson.



That was pretty much all she wrote for Clemson that night. Let's hope tonight's game is more exciting. It's a big (and long) day of college football kids. Hydrate, pace yourselves and meet me in the comments.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Ragnar the (Not All That) Horrible

By the time you deskbound slackers (and Dave) read this, I'll be rolling across Interstate 68 on the way to Cumberland, Maryland and the start line for the 2012 running of Ragnar DC. For the uninitiated, the Ragnar is a 200-mile, 12-person relay (you can choose to do it with 6 people, but that's just stupid). Our version begins in Rocky Gap State Park and finishes at National Harbor near Washington, DC.

As cool as they are, I won't be wearing these glasses during Ragnar
I'll be running a total of 15.1 miles over three relay legs (I'm runner #5, in case you're scoring at home), which doesn't seem all that daunting, frankly. I'm told, though, that the combination of no sleep, cramped quarters (we're basically packed into a van when we're not running), and no sleep makes what would normally be an easy training run into a bit of an ordeal.

My first leg is 4.1 miles on a dirt road through the Green Ridge Forest. Given our 10:30 am start, I should take the baton at about 2:30 pm. Easy, peasy. Except for the 1.2 mile stretch where I climb 520 vertical feet.

I grab the baton again for a 7.3 mile jaunt near Fort Ritchie. At my current fitness level (fit! not strong!), I can do 7.3 miles in my sleep. The problem is that I may well be trying to do so, as I expect this leg to start at about 1:30 am.

Finally, I complete my portion of the race with an easy 3.7 miles on the Rock Creek Trail near the mean streets of Kensington. I'm hoping the hallucinations resulting from 24 straight waking hours, copious amounts of Gatorade, and fistfuls of trail mix will yield some deep life insights. Or at least a cool idea for a tattoo.

Our team name, Las Vacas Bravas, allegedly means 'The Mad Cows'. The team captain is Hispanic, so I trust his translation, though he grew up in Fairfax and doesn't, to my knowledge, speak Spanish. I don't have the foggiest idea where the name came from, though I do anticipate making a lot of jokes involving the words 'moo', 'bovine', and 'steak'. Please feel free to submit your ideas - we've got 30 hours of downtime to fill.

Follow me on Twitter, as I'll be trying to entertain myself while not pounding the pavement. And I expect you all to join me next year as we field Team G:TB in Ragnar DC 2013. 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Hungover Filler

rob wants a post up. I can barely type. BUT, it has been quite some time since I went to the well with this one, so enjoy:


Also, let's discuss in the comments whether Carolina beats the Gints tonight. I say yes.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Worth Millions of Words

Some of you may know Taylor Morris' story, but even if you don't, I won't waste time repeating it. Not when these pictures are so much more powerful. Pan through the entire series, and take your time doing it.


Dipshittery, as always, just over the horizon.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

@BaconBaking, NFL Pick Expert

My inability to gamble is well-documented in this space. So this year, I smartened up and asked the wife to make the weekly picks. Only two weeks for this to pay dividends, as you will see below:


Winning one week nets us $150. I will not even pretend to make a pick the rest of the season.

As an aside, I did make one pick this weekend, in my Survivor Pool. I switched the Giants (which the wife had chosen) to the Patriots. I think we all know how that turned out.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Music Mondays With Shlara

Last week, I saw two bands on back-to-back nights in wildly different venues. Both presented a HUGE ensemble and featured many truly talented musicians. Equally enjoyable experiences for different reasons.

Thursday was Devotchka at 6th & I Street Synagogue. Friday was Bruce & The E Street Band at Nationals Park.

Devotchka (means “girl” in Russian)—they are from Colorado and started as a house band for burlesque shows. (The last time they were in DC, they played 9:30 Club and had these women dancing/twirling from these ribbons of silk fabric hanging from the rafters—very Cirque de Soliel). You may know them from the Little Miss Sunshine soundtrack. The band is four people: Nick is the lead singer, guitar player and keeper of the Devotchka sound, Tom is a classically trained violinist and also plays the accordion on some songs, Jeanie (the chick) plays the upright bass and the Sousaphone (and my friend Bill tells me she was in a Civil War reenactment band before Devotchka), and my favorite—Shawn—the drummer, percussionist, trumpet player and keyboard player. They dress formally and are usually color-coordinated.


Last week’s show was in the sanctuary of the historical synagogue in Chinatown—which also doubles as a concert venue. The band performs on what I would call the “altar” (as a Catholic) and the concert-goers sit in the pews. There’s no standing in the aisles—that big 9:30 Club bouncer is there to ensure everyone follows the rules. 6th & I sells soda, water and beer that they put in these branded tumblers with a lid—like a travel coffee mug. You can bring the beer to your pew.

Devothchka’s sound is unique—a little polka, a little mariachi, a little angsty Smiths—some people call it “gypsy punk.” And because of the special venue, they brought in some additional musicians—two more violins and a cello, another trumpet player, another percussionist, a clarinet player and an oboist. The additional musicians added depth to the sound, and with the dimly lit sanctuary, the crowd of obedient hipsters sitting quietly in the pews, you could really lose yourself in the music. Their sound is upbeat and engaging and haunting and oftentimes seems more European than American. And they are SO GOOD live—it was a treat to see them in such an intimate setting.


How It Ends:

We’re Leaving:


The next night, I went to see Bruuuuuce at the biggest venue in DC. I’m pretty sure everyone on this blog has seen the E Street Band, so I’ll just share a few observations:

  • There were lots of old people attending the show who don’t get out much and are not familiar with the protocol on the Metro. I was actually scared that I was going to get trampled at some point.
  • The people with seats on the field had a grove of port-a-potties at their disposal. They were set up in the Nats bullpen. Gross. And I hope it doesn’t impact Clippard for the next home stand, we need him on his game.
  • Bruce looks incredible for 62—especially when you put him next to most of the Boomers sitting in the stands—its impressive.
  • Someone in the crowd handed Bruce a slice of pizza at one point, and he took a bite…that was kind of gross too.

  • Someone else had their 4-year-old son on the field (They did give him those HUGE headphones, to help protect his ears.) And the parents handed him over to Bruce during “Waiting on a Sunny Day” because the kid knew the words. Of course, as soon as Bruce put a mic in the boy’s face, he stopped singing. It was really cute.
  • There must be like 25 people in the band at this point—I couldn’t see the entire stage from my seats, so it could be a bit smaller, but there are at least 20 people.
  • The crowd could not get enough of Clarence Clemons’ son filling in on sax. Early on (I think it was during Hungry Heart), Bruce looked at Clemons junior and said, “You weren’t alive when this song came out” And there’s this really nice silent video tribute to Clarence during Tenth Avenue Freeze Out.
  • He added “Viagra-taking” to the list of adjectives when telling the crowd they’ve just seen The E Street Band. Funny.
  • They did a few classics in a reggae-ish style and some in a more blue-grassy style. I liked the interpretations.
  • I was kind-of expecting them to play “Glory Days”—I mean, we’re sitting in a baseball stadium. Sadly, they didn’t—the only disappointment of the show.
  • The E Street band has SO MUCH FUN doing these shows—it amazes me that they still perform like it’s their first tour. If you can’t have a good time with the E Street Band, you need meds.
  • I saw them for the first time in 1985 (Born in the USA) at RFK stadium, with my mom. (I still have that concert t-shirt!) We sat next to a reporter from Rolling Stone and I remember him saying to me “You haven’t seen them before? You’re going to love this—they pour their hearts out for the fans.” He’s right and it was worth the $100 to sit in the upper deck on Friday.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Mixed Feelings

My oldest daughter is a creative kid, far more interested in art and dance than in the sports that dominated my early life. (Fortunately, I've got a second daughter through whom to live out my vicarious athletic dreams.) She's also got, shall we say, an interesting personality. Part lawyer, part lunatic, part Liza Minnelli, with no filter and very little regard for what other people think of her. Many of these things will serve her well later in life. Many also drive me fucking batshit.

I mention all this by way of introducing the video below. She just started rehearsing her first ever competitive duo routine. Her partner (a boy - I don't approve) is similarly goofy and unique. And so their teacher/choreographer chose this song for them:


I'll let you know how it goes.

Friday, September 14, 2012

One to Grow On

As some of you know, I'm training for the Richmond Marathon, scheduled for November 10. I'm learning all kinds of interesting things about distance running, from nutrition to the best means for averting chafing (this one's really important), to how great a bacon, egg, and cheese bagel tastes after 16 miles. But there's one thing I already knew that I think vital enough to share with all of you, because until very recently my wife didn't know how to do it.

Ladies and gentlemen, don't let your friends snot rocket without proper training:

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Thursday Night Football Filler

I did not realize the NFL was playing games EVERY Thursday night this season. Packers/Bears kicks off in less than two hours tonight, and frankly, it feels a little weird. Wheelhouse Jerome touched on this in the comments the other day (good touch, not the Sandusky touch), and I'm not sure I am a fan of this. It forces me to make game picks sooner, and set lineups sooner. Well, not really, but I'm on a whining roll, so I will continue. Thursday nights should be saved for the classics...you know, The Cosby Show, Cheers, Night Court. What the f**k does Jordy Nelson know about Bull Shannon? Nothing I say. OK, I'm done now. Roll the clip...

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

From the Mouths of Doggs

I don't intend this to be a political commentary. If anyone can find a similarly goofy takedown of President Obama, I'm happy to post it as a response*. I just find Snoop entertaining, and find the notion of foreign journalists asking his opinion on U.S. politics even more so. Enjoy the Doggfather as he drops knowledge.



*Note that this is boilerplate language suggested by G:TB's legal staff and probably not an accurate statement.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Earth Crisis

Today's rightfully an occasion for somber reflection. It's also a chance to celebrate America in a more enthusiastic manner.

The U.S. Men's National Team takes on Jamaica in Cleveland tonight in the back end of a home and home series that has major implications on our qualification for the 2014 World Cup. The Reggae Boyz slotted a pair of free kicks against the run of play on Friday in Kingston to knock off the U.S. for the first time in history, 2-1. The win gives Jamaica the lead in the four-team CONCACAF semifinal group, with the U.S. tied with Guatemala for second and Antigua & Barbuda bringing up the rear. The top two teams in the group advance to final qualifying.

A loss this evening would give the U.S. absolutely no margin for error over the remainder of this stage. Jurgen Klinsmann's team has had very good results this year in friendly matches, beating Mexico on the road, and topping Italy, but the loss to Jamaica and a desultory tie against Guatemala are decidedly subpar outcomes. The USMNT faces a great deal of pressure tonight at a venue in which they've never lost, and will be without and injured Landon Donovan (big loss) and a card-suspended Clarence Goodson (less big).

ESPN2's got the match at 8:00 this evening. I expect you to be glued to your televisions.

UPDATE:

Because we care about what our fans think, a little equal opportunity.



Monday, September 10, 2012

Listen, There's Music in the Air

And NFL football, too. In honor of yesterday's real opening day, some kickass rock and roll from post-punk legend Bob Mould, who ripped through a 20-song set at the 9:30 Club Saturday night that has my ears still ringing. Mould played all of Sugar's 1992 record, Copper Blue, before taking a break to talk to the crowd. Then the band proceeded to play off of Mould's new record, Silver Age, which features 'The Descent', a return to Mould's power pop roots:



The band closed with Husker Du's 'Could You Be the One', an apt ode to my new football rooting experiment.



Capped off the evening with a chili half smoke from Ben's Chili Bowl, so my intestines were well prepared to make things uncomfortable for my neighbors at our Saints/Skins viewing party.

Happy Football.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

A Random Act of Kindness in a Savage Part of the Land

As some of you are aware, I was fortunate enough to embark on an unusual seven-day sports odyssey in late August. Over a span of seven days, I went to three different "major" sporting events (using the phrase liberally) in three different states. Two were for work, in different cities, and on somebody else's dime. These events were: Panthers at Jets in an NFL exhibition game on Sunday August 26th, Cardinals at Pirates on Wednesday August 29th and Alabama vs. Michigan in Dallas on Saturday September 1st.

As a fan of all live sports, especially those in new stadiums, I was pretty excited for these events. In retrospect, it turned out to be a less dynamic odyssey than expected. I left the exhibition game before halftime because my 5 y/o and 3 y/o boys were starting to fall apart from the 8 PM start time. I saw little of the Pirates game because we were parked at the bar in the stadium, feeding free booze to a disgruntled group of guys who reconcile working in Pittsburgh by getting violently wasted and being very appreciative that folks come to visit them in that town. I did see a lot of a pretty bad football game in Dallas, but that experience was more tied into soaking in my first major college football game (I'm excluding Rutgers-Louisville), seeing Jerry Jones' impressive palace in Arlington, and pondering what life would have been like had I attended an SEC school for college.

So not any "memories of a lifetime" from this sojourn. Except one. As I was walking into MetLife stadium before the Jets game, a young Latina woman ran up to me. She told me she randomly took a picture of me and my sons on her cell phone because she thought it would be a cool shot. She thought it turned out well and wanted to send it to me. Her boyfriend was with her and they both were genuinely happy to do this. I note that this is extremely abnormal behavior in East Rutherford. So I gave the woman my cell phone and two minutes later, a photo appeared. It turned out that I did have a memory of a lifetime after all.

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Bills/Jets Preview - lists of [Gary] Reasons

I'm excited for opening day at the Meadowlands (or whatever it's called now) for several reasons:

1. TR will drive, which means that I can ...
2. Drink lots of Leinenkugel, which is ...
3. Served about 50 feet from our new seats, which are ...
4. No longer in Fireman Ed's section, so I ...
5. Hopefully won't have to deal with too many non-season ticket holding meatheads ...
6. Which will allow me to peacefully rock my Jim & Thurman & Andre & Bruce shirt ...


7. Because the Bills are in town!

Various NFL previews opine that the Bills will win between 9 and 11 games, finish second in the AFC East, and, for the first time since 1999, make the playoffs. Most of this is based on big-name acquisitions on the defensive side of the ball. Factor in Kyle Williams' return and the defense should be much improved.


I am less optimistic about the Bills for several reasons:

1. Recent history is not on their side.
2. Ryan Fitzpatrick is still their quarterback.
3. David Nelson is their #2 receiver (sorry Mark).
4. The offensive line is still bad -- they have the same misfits as last year.
5. The improved D-line will not necessarily translate into better pass defense, which I've maligned here before.
6. Chan Gaily and Buddy Nix still work here.

I expect one of their (patent pending) 5-2 starts going into their bye week, followed by one of their (patented) 2-7 finishes. The two losses will be ... Pats and tomorrow's Jets game.

By contrast, everyone expects the Jets to be bad this year, like no more than 7 wins bad. I think they'll win at least 10, for several reasons:

1. The defense will be better; Barnwell said so.
2. I think Chaz Schilens will have a monster year; all this Cro-related "I'm the second-best receiver" nonsense is a smokescreen to cover up Chaz's breakout.
3. Tim Tebow is a better runner than Shonn Greene and a better passer than Ronnie Brown, so if the Jets use him as a running back and toss in the occasional wildcat play they will be in servicable shape on offense. In my clueless opinion, at least.
4. They play the AFC South, NFC West, and a disfunctional Steelers team in week 2.
5. Rex Ryan lost 106 pounds. That kind of life-extending good mojo has to carry through to other aspects.


The Jets will flabbergast the Bills tomorrow with Sanchez and Tebow in the same backfield. Tebow will rush for 100 yards, throw for 100 yards, and account for at least 2 TD. Sanchez will bang some preposterously gorgeous 18-year-old heiress/supermodel/gymnast/physicist/stripper three times using seven positions.

Final score: Jets 24, Bills 13

And lest you think I'm all out of lists of reasons:

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Alas poor Roddick, we knew him Horatio

The 2012 US Open will be Andy Roddick's last tournament, and although we've talked about Roddick here before, his retirement deserves a post of its own.

Through no fault of his own, Roddick made professional tennis his vocation at possibly the worst time in the history of the game, namely Roger Federer's prime. You know how good Federer is, but you might not know that Federer played Roddick twenty-six times since 2001. Roddick only won four of those matches, going oh-for-eight in majors. Four of those majors were finals -- three at Wimbledon and one at Flushing Meadows. Three were semi-final matches -- two Australians and one Wimbledon. The eighth was a quarterfinal match at the US Open. The point of all this? Roddick probably would have won two or three more majors if Federer decided to stay in Switzerland and make milk chocolate or hide illegally obtained money in neutrally located banks.

Roddick "only" won one major title, the 2003 US Open, right before Federer went on a decade-long reign of domination. As a result, we (or at least I) tend to think of Roddick as a bit over-rated. No one thinks he is as good as Sampras and Agassi, rightfully so, but I oddly think much more highly of Pat Rafter. I say oddly because ... go compare Rafter and Roddick, I'll wait.

Roddick won three times as many tournaments and twice as much money. He was ousted in the semi-final round in five majors compared to Rafter's three. Roddick was knocked out in the quarters in nine times to Rafter's zero. Roddick is 128-44 in major play while Rafter went 76-33. Both were ranked #1 at some point. The big differnce in Rafter's favor: he was 2-2 in major finals while Roddick went 1-4. But Rafter's two wins came against Greg Rusedski and Mark Phillipoussis, not exactly players of Federer's caliber. So why is my view so skewed?

(Note that I refuse to pander to the lowest common denominator, i.e., Teedge, and I will not engage in a head-to-head comparison of their wives. You know who Roddick married. Do a Google image search and you'll find that Rafter did pretty well too.)

Probably because I feel like Roddick could have done more. His game is perfect for fast surfaces. Watch him play and adjectives like violent, belligerent, compact, brutal will bubble up in your mind.

His forehand is an uppercut that would make Mike Tyson proud. Coaches teach you to twist at the waist and bring the racquet back with both hands. You're supposed to keep your shoulders level throughout and use your legs to adjust to the height of the ball.

Here's how Federer hits a forehand:



Textbook. Nadal is similar:



Roddick doesn't do that. Instead, he drops his right shoulder so that it's aligned somewhere around his left nipple, then whips everything north of his nutsack through the ball, winding up with both shoulders about parallel. Here's Roddick taking practice forehands.



Here's one in-game.



That's some pugilistic shit, right? Compare:



(We need more Tyson videos around here. I imagine Mark sitting at his computer, moving his head in vertical approval.)

Roddick's serve is a mechanistic marvel. There is no extraneous motion. His swing is so remarkably compact, in fact, that it's irreconcilable with the amount of power he generates. When seen in real-time speed it looks like he doesn't even pull the racquet back -- as he tosses he cocks the racquet straight up and then, instantly, put it through the ball. But viewed in slow-mo the truth becomes apparent. He really does bring the racquet back, if only for an imperceptible period of time, before snapping through. I have no idea how he does this so fast. The slow-mo starts around 1:16:



This allowed him to hit the rudest serve ever.



The best comparison I can make is Billy Wagner's throwing motion. No idea how he gets so much ehat from so little motion.



So Roddick has a ton of physical gifts and, as a result, I failed to cut him the proper slack he deserved in light of his competition. And he wore visors. I have a perhaps irrational disdain for men who wear visors. He can also be a bit of a dick, which doesn't help:



Roddick's jackass sense of humor provides a little redemption. Here he mocks Nadal:



This sense of humor carried him through a decade of woodsheddings by Federer. Watch until the end and you'll see what I mean:



But all of this was false bravado. Nothing sums up who Roddick really is better than this:



After losing to Federer for the fourth consecutive time in a major, with the scoreboard showing 14-16 in the 5th set to add extra salt to the wound, tears in his eyes because he knew he was so close and because he probably knew he would lose and because he definitely heard his window on winning another major slam shut, he interrupted Federer's gentlemanly "good game" speech to call bullshit on the guy who tormented him professionally for years, to tool on his graciousness and smooth propriety, to let everyone know that he respected and despised Federer at the same time, and to remind us that he was simply born at the wrong time to be a tennis player. It wasn't until this crack in Roddick's smug facade that we saw who he really is and what he really wanted to be but simply could not. I wish he showed this sooner.

So I hope you watched as much of Roddick as you could this fortnight, because you won't find anyone on the pro tour who combines his ferocity and charisma, possibly ever again.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Fan Free Agency: Go Team!

The atmosphere is electric in my living room as I type this, hands quivering slightly, heart racing. I'm about to change my life, and that of millions of others. One Man's Free Agent Journey is at an end, soon to be replaced by One Man's Weird Feelings on Sunday Afternoons and the Occasional Monday.

Here with me today (at least in spirit) are representatives of the Patriots (Rob Gronkowski, obviously), Texans (Jonathan Grimes, recently added to Houston's practice squad), Saints (Sean Payton, because he's got nothing better to do), and Colts (my man Jim Irsay, who's spitting beat poetry to my bewildered cat). Irsay brought me another tie, and a giant bottle of milk from the Indianapolis 500. Payton came bearing a Bayou Philly from Cooter Brown's and a Thermos full of Sazeracs. Grimes, since he's so young, didn't think to bring anything, but he gave me some Tribe love, which was nice. And Gronk, as I'm sure you could've guessed, came accompanied by strippers. Had to send the kids to bed early.

Enough with the preliminaries, then. Let's do this. The first two teams eliminated are:

New England Patriots

The Pats were my team by birthright, the squad I first followed. Boston is my ancestral home, and while the Patriots were always a distant fourth behind the Red Sox, Celtics, and Bruins in the family pecking order, we still rooted for them. Steve Grogan was my first favorite football player - I had an awesome action figure in his likeness, complete with fully articulated arms and legs (not neck, though, so it wasn't a completely accurate rendering).

I moved to the D.C. area in the autumn of 1983, just in time for Riggo's run to glory. I'd never lived in an NFL town before, and I was swept up in the excitement. For almost 30 years. I remained fond of the Patriots, rooting for them in each of their Super Bowl appearances, but they weren't my team.

But as much as I love Boston, and despite my ties to the franchise, becoming a Patriots fan at this point in history would be the worst kind of front-running. So, apologies to my grandparents, but this prodigal son's not returning.

Houston Texans

Gary Kubiak's squad has a lot going for it. A distinctly upward trend. A superstar running back with a unique approach to life in Arian Foster. W&M's own Grimes. The league's best logo. My man Matt Schaub, possessor of a fantasy football championship ring courtesy of my inspired leadership.

But I'm compelled by all the negative press the Houston metro area has received in these parts over the past few days. I've been to Houston. I was not impressed by Houston. Houston was both hot as fuck and not terribly interesting.

But I do like the logo.

And that leaves us with the Indianapolis Colts and the New Orleans Saints. Let's break this down, tale of the tape style, into the categories I've loosely and capriciously tossed around during the decision-making process:

Uniforms

The Colts' blue and white is clean, crisp, and simple, while New Orleans' black and gold is a bit more prepared to party. It's as if the togs mirror their respective cities.

Edge: Push, either is light years better than burgundy and gold.

Personalities

The Saints have the edge here in quantity. It's hard not to like Drew Brees. Darren Sproles is one of very few NFLers I can look in the eye without hurting my neck. Mark Ingram went to Alabama. Jonathan Vilma has a huge chip on his shoulder. Marques Colston played in the CAA. Jimmy Graham threatens to overtake Gronk as the league's preeminent tight end. And if you don't know about it, Steve Gleason's story is the stuff of a Brian's Song remake - an amazingly sad and touching thing.

Meanwhile, the Colts counter with the opportunity to root for Andrew Luck from the ground floor. But after him and Dwight Freeney, badass supreme, there's not much to latch onto. Coby Fleener is fun to say, as is Mewelde Moore. Reggie Wayne and Adam Vinatieri are pros' pros. The needle isn't moving much, though.

Edge: Saints, though as Clarence noted earlier, basing this exercise on today's players is a great way to ensure we'll be doing it again in a few years, much to Jerry's glee.

Owners

Irsay's hard not to love (though don't say that anywhere near Charm City). He's equal parts hippie, musician, comedian, raconteur, and businessman. He brings loads of personality and far more importantly, clearly loves his team, his town, and his fans.

New Orleans' Tom Benson is a daft, dancing, whackadoodle with an equally clear love for his team, but he loses a lot of points for his post-Katrina semi-threats to relocate the Saints.

Edge: Colts

History

For the longest time, the Saints were one of the lowliest franchises in all of professional sports. From their inception in 1967 until 2000, they won exactly as many playoff games as G:TB did. The 1980 team lost its first 14 games, prompting fans to wear paper bags over their heads in shame at being 'Aint's' fans. The 21st Century has clearly been kinder to New Orleans, with the arrival of Brees in 2006 heralding a new era, capped by a Super Bowl win in 2009. I confess that this recent success gives me some pause, but it is tempered by the fact that my fictional Saints fan backstory will predate the championship.

The current incarnation of the Colts was birthed in infamy, carried by Mayflower vans from the bosom of Baltimore's loyal rooters. But the Peyton Manning era was certainly one of the more prolific in league history, and though the team only won a single title, their status as an elite team was sustained for a decade. Right up until last season. Which offers an intriguing opportunity for the prospective new fan.

Edge: Don't pressure me. This is hard.

Intangibles

Once again, Indy offers up Luck, while the Saints counter with the possibility of an epic 'us against the world' run that could culminate this season in the first ever home field Super Bowl.

Edge: Saints - I'm looking for instant payback on this new investment. Luck's a long play, while the possibility of Roger Goodell having to hand Drew Brees the Lombardi Trophy (let's not kid ourselves, Benson would totally do that for the 'fuck you' value) is almost too awesome to contemplate.

Location

Hoo, boy. Many of you argued that the city itself was a critical component in this process. I honestly hadn't really considered that point until you raised it.

I had a great time in my only visit to Indianapolis some 20 years ago. I don't remember all that much about it, but I do recall it being friendly, easy to navigate, and fun.

But I had one of the Hall of Fame weekends of my life in New Orleans. It's fucking New Orleans, man. The best food in the world. The best and most sustained party in the world, non-Rio de Janeiro division. The most laissez faire people in the world - or the most laissez les bon temps roulez people in the world. Your choice.

Edge: Saints. Duh.

Until two days ago, I was convinced the Colts were my new team. I already have Colts gear, courtesy of Jim Irsay. I was into the Andrew Luck thing. Honestly, I wasn't even thinking about the Saints. And then I started thinking about the Saints.

The only negative, and it's not really even a negative, is the fact that the Saints' recent success and strong prospects opens me to charges of bandwagonry. But I'd argue that nobody's really jumping on New Orleans' bandwagon. In fact, in the wake of Bountygate, people are writing them off. They've almost got the whiff of the underdog about them. Certainly, they're a great story.

And, as a really smart fellow once said, it's fucking New Orleans, man.

Oh, and the Saints' Week One opponent? The Washington Redskins.

It almost feels like fate.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Fan Free Agency: The Road to Leesburg

At this point in One Man's Free Agent Journey, it's really just an honor to still be considered. Each of the ten remaining cities are justifiably proud of their teams and their efforts thus far. But as the Kurgan well knew, there can be only one.

Onward, then, as we eliminate six more teams today in preparation for tomorrow's celebration:

Seattle Seahawks

The Hawks have a lot to recommend for their cause. Terrific home field advantage, a town I'd like to visit, unique (if a bit ugly) uniforms, Russell Wilson. But the geographical gap seems tough to bridge. I'm a notorious East Coast elitist - rooting for a West Coast team sounds difficult. And I'm not looking for difficult.

San Diego Chargers

The major negative listed above for the Seahawks is relevant to San Diego, as well, but the positives may be even stronger. The Chargers' baby blues are among the best jerseys in world sport. Philip Rivers seems like my kind of asshole. I'd welcome the opportunity to hearken back to Air Coryell when I invent my backstory as a Charger fan (and thanks to Mr. Truck for that idea - or was it Dave?). But the Chargers are coached by Norv Turner. I've seen that movie, and the ending generally features an inexplicable loss and a nasally press conference.  

Green Bay Packers

History, passion, compelling stars, a great ownership situation, the same colors as my high school and college, a hard-nosed coach with a solid track record - what's not to like about the Packers? The winter, man. No way I'm ever going to watch a game in Green Bay in the winter.

Minnesota Vikings

I gave this one a lot of thought. My new job has me spending a lot of time in Minneapolis, and it's a really fantastic town - great, diverse food scene, a vibrant and eclectic arts and music community (with one of the great public radio music stations I've come across in 89.3, The Current), and friendly people. Odds are good that I'll have multiple opportunities to view Vikes games in our corporate suite - and games are indoors, so the winter cold is less of an issue than it might be for Green Bay. In the end, though, I work with so many Viking fans that it would seem like I was sucking up to them if I suddenly began wearing purple.

San Francisco 49ers

Even more than Seattle and San Diego, I nearly overcame the geographical barrier with Jim Harbaugh's Niners, and the coach was the big reason. I'm a Harbacker - would love to have that guy as my team's head man. I've also always admired Frank Gore's game, and while Alex Smith would drive me nuts, I like the way he's hung in as a pro when he had lots of reasons (and lots of encouragement) to pack it in and feel sorry for himself. In the end, too much Pacific time zone.

Detroit Lions

Detroit cut William and Mary's Alex Gottlieb this week, or they probably would've advance to tomorrow's final round. They're a team on the rise, but they haven't done squat in the modern era, so I wouldn't feel like I was joining a party already in progress. Barry Sanders is one of my all-time favorite players, and Megatron might be my current favorite. Geography is destiny here, though, as I really have no interest in ever going back to Detroit. It's one of the worst places I've ever been.

If you're doing the math (or, more likely, just crossing off teams), you know that New England, Indianapolis, Houston, and New Orleans are cutting down the goalposts (just go with it) after advancing to the Final Four. If anyone can find the Vegas odds for each of the finalists, we can have a little fun with wagering. I don't even know which team it'll be myself, but I'm pretty excited to find out.

Monday, September 03, 2012

Fan Free Agency: These 11 Go

Cue vaguely martial instrumental score.

We're live in 3...2...1

Hello, friends. Welcome to Day 2 of One Man's Fan Free Agency and Erotic Journey from Milan to Minsk. (I hope the Minsk thing doesn't give away the ending.) Yesterday brought the death of the dreams of 10 fanbases, while hope remains alive for 21 others. Today, 11 more will find fate a fickle and cruel thing.

After this brief commercial interruption, we'll break some more hearts.



We're getting to the point where the cuts are harder to make. Many of the teams let go today had compelling positives, and with a couple of exceptions, I struggled to add them to the list. I didn't get this far in life by shirking hard decisions, though, and so we march on. (I got here, instead, through a combination of height-based affirmative action and sleeping with the right people.)

The next 11 cuts are:

Carolina Panthers

For whatever reason, I still don't really consider Carolina (nor Jacksonville) real NFL teams. I know they've been to a Super Bowl, and technically play a 16-game NFL schedule, but they still seem gimmicky. And their star quarterback went to Auburn. That's a problem.

St. Louis Rams

There's a lot to like about the Rams: solid uniforms, Jeff Fisher, Steven Jackson, baked ravioli. But I can't work up a really good attraction to the city. Sorry, St. Louis.

Cincinnati Bengals

We're back to that inept owner thing again. Though Mike Brown has seemingly gotten out of the way a bit of late, I think I'd still find it hard to root for his team.

Cleveland Browns

I refuse to participate in the dumbing down of America. Dog is not spelled with a 'w'. You're on notice, too, University of Georgia.

Miami Dolphins

Dan Marino's not walking through that door. Mercury Morris isn't walking through that door. And even if they did, they'd be really old. More importantly, I've just never really cared for the Fins.

Kansas City Chiefs

We're getting down to the squads that took some effort to cut. This is going to be a really fun team to watch this year, but Romeo Crennel reminds me of this guy I used to work with who really disliked me. Which I find impossible, because I'm likable as shit.

Chicago Bears

True story: I've never been to Chicago. I blame Brian Baschnagel.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

When I was about 10, I got two football jerseys for Christmas: a Bucs #76 and a Denver Broncos #14. I really don't have a clue what my parents' were thinking, because I was a New England Patriots fan at the time. But I wore that white Bucs jersey with the creamsicle orange numbers all the time. I still don't know who #76 was. If they still wore those jerseys, they'd probably have made it into the Final Four.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Hard cut here, especially given the Mike Tomlin factor, but I have too many friends and family who are Steeler fans. It'd feel a little bit bandwagony.

Buffalo Bills

I want to like the Bills - I really do. The whole underdog thing has a lot of appeal. But there's no there there. Plus, G:TB already has a couple of Bills fans in the extended family.

Denver Broncos

One of my earliest sports memories is watching the Orange Crush Broncos get hammered by the Cowboys in Super Bowl XII. According to my parents, I met Red Miller in an airport as a toddler. I'll be pulling for Peyton Manning this season. But my disdain for orange and blue is fairly well documented.

And then there were 10. Six more cuts tomorrow will give us the Final Four, which will be narrowed to My New Favorite Team on Wednesday in preparation for the season's kickoff.

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Fan Free Agency: The First Ten

Despite the doubts of the masses (read: the Teej) and my recognition that not everyone in the sporting world will understand my decision (for instance, I can already hear that Neanderthal fuckstick Rob Dibble calling me a a gutless, disloyal punk, but I move on, knowing that most geniuses were misunderstood in their time), I'm pressing forward into fan free agency. I've adopted at least part of Jerry's genius idea, and turning this week into a festival. I trust the drama is palpable.

Today, the first elimination round. These ten teams really never had a chance, and even if I decide to make this an annual event, complete with cheerleaders, live television, and (obviously) daydrinking, the odds of one of this group ever rising to the top are long, indeed.

Philadelphia Eagles

As a former Redskins fan, I was told that I was supposed to hate the Cowboys more than anything on Earth. And while I worked up a strong dislike for Dallas, I always had more visceral disdain for the Eagles. I think it has something (everything) to do with the mouth-breathing troglodytes that make up 96.4% of their fanbase. Oddly, the $20 I put on Philly to win this season's Super Bowl at 10-1 may well have been a sign that I was ready to let the Skins go.

Dallas Cowboys

Despite the fact that I dislike the Eagles more, the Cowboys are still a bunch of preening jerks, from the top down.

New York Giants

I can't ever root for an NFC East team - too much history - but if I was forced to choose one, it'd be the Giants. I like Eli Manning. I like that W&M's own Adrian Tracy made the roster. I appreciate Tom Coughlin's single-minded insanity. But I'll still never root for this team.

Arizona Cardinals

If I'm breaking up with Washington because its owner is a megalomaniacal asshat, I can't very well root for a Bill Bidwell squad, can I?

Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jags have the worst uniforms in professional sports. They play in a city that really isn't big league, by any measure, except for the quality of the people I know that live there (much love, Danimal, sister-o-mine, my brother-in-law, and my nieces and nephews). And though their owner has a world-class mustache and excellent hair, I really don't see it.




New York Jets

I get more than enough drama from my baseball rooting interest, thank you very much.

Tennessee Titans

If the word 'meh' were an NFL franchise, it'd be Tennessee.

Oakland Raiders

This team employed Lane Kiffin. It's been living off a decades-old reputation for badassery, which translates to modern times as a penchant for penalties and stupid football. I had my fill of that as a former Redskins fan.

Baltimore Ravens

Charm City's got such an inferiority complex. I don't need that sort of thing messing up my worldview.

Atlanta Falcons

There may not be a worse group of sports fans than those in Atlanta. I have no particular need to be a part of that.

The tension builds as fanbases across the league await tomorrow's selection post, where I eliminate 10 more teams, and break multiple hearts. Make sure you take some time from your Labor Day celebrations to tune in. Still time to make a pitch for your team, unless you root for one of the ten losers above.

Saturday, September 01, 2012

FOOTBAW! TEN THINGS!!!

I haven't written much lately. Or even mustered the effort to pull a Teej and throw up two sentences and a YouTube clip. I have baby in my house now. That's the ultimate excuse. Who questions someone when they blow something off and then drop a baby related excuse? Nobody, that's who. Plus, my kid is fucking lazy. She just sleeps and eats and shits. She can't even walk yet. She's 7 months old!! Lay. Zee. Anwyay, enough about my kid. I'm not hanging out with her anymore. Because college football is back and I've got better shit to do. I was so excited about it that I stopped paying attention to that needy kid a day early and actually wrote something. Ten Reasons to be even more enthused than you already were that college football is back. Or as Ron Zook would say, 'Footbaw! TEN THINGS!!!'

This list is in no particular order of importance. In fact, if the order of these items matters that much to you then just go ahead and assign them an order yourself. I’m really too fired up at the thought of all the beer, food and couch time coming my way this weekend to be bothered with these types of details.

- The Return of Steve Spurrier press conferences: One day, we’ll look back on the performances of Steve Spurrier during his interactions with the media and we’ll finally realize what a gift he was. Sure, we appreciate his Tennessee drawl and acerbic wit now but we’re never, ever, ever getting another high profile coach who so openly trolls not just his opponent but so often his own players with the skill, edge and general fuck-offedness of Steven Orr Spurrier. For shit’s sake, this is a man who once remarked about a fire at the Auburn Library (paraphrasing), “That’s a real shame. I heard some of those books hadn’t even been colored in yet.” Will Spurrier be possibly a tad less entertaining now that Stephen Garcia is no longer around to show up to practice drunk and wearing flip flops? Probably. But that still makes him more fun than 99.99% of the coaches in College Football.


- Urban Meyer’s return/slow descent into madness: On the other end of the Head Coach press conference spectrum is another former University of Florida Head Coach, Urban Meyer. Meyer is a near polar opposite of Spurrier in attitude and demeanor. Especially around the media. He prefers to give out as little info as possible and would refuse to do any press conferences altogether if he could get away with it. Want proof? See Tuesday’s short lived decision to ban the use of Twitter by any reporters who were attending Meyer’s press conferences at Ohio State. Meyer nearly killed himself (or at least almost gave himself a really bad ulcer) at Florida due, in large part, to his control freak nature and that’s only going to be magnified at Ohio State where he’ll be the most important person on campus, in town and (most likely) in the whole damn state. Meyer’s going to try and control it all. But you can’t control 18-22 year olds, or the national media covering them. Not a chance. So enjoy the ride folks. Meyer’s going to lose his shit in a major way down the road. Ohio State will be really, REALLY good before it happens. But its gonna happen. Maybe not this year but you’ll at least see the early signs of it.

- Jadeveon Clowney at MLB: If you’re not familiar with Jadeveon Clowney you should really pay more attention to the SEC. Clowney is a 19 year old manbeast who was the #1 recruit in the nation coming out of high school. Clowney, a 6'6"- 260 lb. defensive end, was recruited by every school in the nation but chose to stay home in South Carolina. He arrived on campus last summer and was almost immediately named a starter. To no one’s surprise, Clowney showed during the season that he deserved the spot by notching 8 sacks as a true freshman. So, the mere thought of a more seasoned, mature, stronger Clowney was enough to put the fear of god in every QB in the SEC. And that was before reports of Clowney possibly playing some MLB in specific packages for South Carolina this season. Will it happen? If there’s a God it will.

- Daydrinking: Few of us here at G:TB need an excuse to daydrink, but it never hurts to have one. And few things provide a better excuse for excessive daydrinking as College Football. I suggest you stock up accordingly.



- Boise State enters the post Kellen Moore era: As a graduate of the University of Florida, I only truly root for my alma mater when it comes to college football. That's exactly how it should be if you attended a school with a Division 1A (or whatever it's called now) football program. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t programs that I consistently enjoy watching. Chief among these programs is Boise State. Besides the inventive offense, the underdog dynamic, or even the understated (and might I add beautiful) color scheme they employ, there’s another angle to my semi-fandom for Boise State: I’ve been getting drunk with them for years. No really. Boise State rose to national prominence by playing as many nationally televised games as they possibly could. In the early 2000s this meant lots and lots of Friday night ESPN games. I just happened to be going to college during the early 2000s. Not coincidentally, I was usually getting drunk on Friday nights. And these nights usually started with some pregaming at the house while playing cards, dominoes and/or various drinking games while Boise State played some WAC foe in the background. So, you see, it’s like Boise State and I went to college together. Now, Kellen Moore wasn’t the Bronco QB then (it only feels like it). No, it was the legendary Jared Zabransky. Okay, maybe he wasn’t a legend but that awful tribal arm band tattoo will go down CFB history. Nevertheless, the point remains...I’ve watched a good deal of Boise State Football over the years and I’m quite interested to watch how Chris Peterson handles the transition. Boise State is a program now, not just one player BUUUUUT losing the winningest QB in CFB history (as well as breaking in a new offensive coordinator) is a huge transition. He's been your only QB for four years. You don't know what you have behind him and no matter how good the rest of the team is, if Moore’s replacement isn’t stellar there could be some bad losses ahead for this year’s Broncos (see: Florida, 1997).

- USC: Pretty simple here. USC is going to be really, really good this year. Possibly obscenely good. Their offense is going to put up video game numbers and they’re going to do that while Lane Kiffin struts the sidelines being as douchey as possible (He IS from Tampa, after all). Don’t you get the sense that Lane has been waiting for this year to stick it to every critic (and there are plenty) who has ever doubted his coaching chops? I certainly do. And if he’s going to do it, this is the year. He might have the best two WRs in the country, a stud running back he can thank the idiotic administration of Penn State for, his OLine is stocked and he’s got the best QB in CFB (though I’m not bullish on Matt Barkley as a pro prospect). If you’re a Lane hater, be careful out there this year. You might feel ill at one point or another. Hopefully, we can get some shots of Layla Kiffin a couple times a quarter to help ease the nausea.


Florda State’s inexplicable loss which knocks them out of the BCS Championship picture: Here’s the thing about FSU’s annual inexplicable loss..it’s completely explicable. Florida State hasn’t even been good, I mean truly elite in a decade. As a matter of fact, they haven't even won an ACC Championship since 2005. And I don't think I have to remind you that the ACC isn't exactly made up of a murderer's row of college football programs. Yet somehow, every single year college football fans have to hear the “Is FSU back?” questions. Last year they were being touted as BCS Championship contenders with a QB (EJ Manuel) who was a Heisman contender. How'd that work out? Just stop. Please. I’ll believe Florida State is “back” when I see them go undefeated in the ACC. A tall order, to be sure, but I’m just demanding like that if I’m to believe that a program is back among the nation’s elite. (Full disclosure: I believe FSU’s defense will be very good this year and their offense has more talented playmakers than any point in recent memory BUT I still can’t buy them as a true contender until they stop dropping games to the Wake Forests, Boston Colleges and Marylands of the college football world.)

- Dana Holgorsen unleashed on the Big 12: No, Greg, this isn't like Lilith Unleashed. Dana Holgorsen is a modern college football treasure. He looks like Jame Gumb. Has hair that’s at times reminiscent of Ernie McCracken and he’s partial to binge drinking and being thrown out of casinos in the wee hours of the West Virginia morning. So pretty much the perfect head coach for West Virginia University. In case you’d forgotten, West Virginia is now a part of the Big 12. Or as I like to call it, PAC-10 2.0.

Her'e the thing about the Big 12: The quality of play is good. Really good. But elite Big 12 teams can't match up physically with elite SEC teams. It's the same every year recently. Big 12 teams put up absurd numbers against each other and we start to hear people wondering if that year's Big 12 team with the prolific offense could matchup with the SEC team du jour. Except, we already know how this turns out. The SEC wins. The Big 12 just doesn't play much defense in recent years. So that's why this is the perfect situation for Dana Holgorsen (who was an OC in the Big 12 for Oklahoma State) and the Mountaineers to step into. Now, Maybe I'm wrong and West Virginia will get a rude awakening moving from the Big East to the Big 12. And maybe we'll all see Big 12 defenses eat Holgorsen's version of the spread alive. However if, like me, you believe that won't happen then you’re pretty excited to see what a hungover Holgorsen and senior QB Geno Smith can do in their first year in the Big 12.


- The Return of Mike Leach: Sure his Washington State team got rolled by his alma mater, BYU, last night but we're all better for having Mike Leach back in our lives. The guy loves pirates. I mean REALLY loves Pirates. He has a law degree. No background as a collegiate football player whatsoever. He's suing the shit out of a fuck ton of people right now, including Craig James (who may or may not still be under investigation for killing five hookers) and global giant ESPN (not a person, I know). And oh yeah, his teams throw the ball all over the field and score loads of points. I mean, do I really need to go on? Mike Leach is back. And this is awesome.

- The Gator QB competition: You didn't think we were going to get through the whole list without something Gator related, did you? Of course not. With that said, this is actually a pretty big story. Whether you harbor a strangely fierce dislike for the University of Florida (Shlara) or you just dislike Florida because you always secretly wanted to be a UGA frat guy who wore red pants, new balances and croakies to football games (TR) or even if you have no soul and root for Alabama (Rob), I think we can all acknowledge that the position of QB at the University of Florida has been one of the more high profile positions in the last 20 years of College Football. I won't bore you with the hows and whys, but from the beginning of the Steve Spurrier era at Florida through the end of Tim Tebow's eligibility, Florida QBs have consistently found themselves in the spotlight (John Brantley was in a different, and unfortunate, type of spotlight). This year is no different. Except, it is. You see, there is no Gator QB. At least not yet. That's because Florida sophomores Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskel are both still vying to be the starter. According to Head Coach Will Muschamp, each QB will play a quarter in the first half today and then the coaching staff will evaluate them at halftime. Great. I'm super confident in the offense.

It's not overly consequential that Will Muschamp can't decide on a QB this week against Bowling Green. But it sure as hell will be when the Gators go to College Station for the SEC opener vs. Texas A&M next week. Do I believe Muschamp when he says the QBs are about even? Yes. Do I believe he has confidence in both of them? Maybe. Shit, maybe he doesn't have confidence in either. And since Florida closes it's practices to fans and the media that's what we're all left to...guessing. We'll see them both play today and hopefully we'll see one guy emerge and take the starting job. Hopefully.