Thursday, October 31, 2013


My youngest daughter is nine years old. She's seen the Red Sox win three World Series championships. My grandfather is 94. He's seen the Red Sox win three World Series championships.

The day after the Sox clinched the 2004 World Series, I wrote this on the late, not-really-lamented Misery Loves Company, "Somewhere, Charlie Brown is smoking a cigarette, the Little Red-Haired Girl's head nestled against his shoulder as they lay in the afterglow of beautiful cartoon lovemaking. Lucy's sitting outside wondering how the hell he kicked that ball so far."

Forgive that purple prose - I was pretty damn over the moon. 2013 is necessarily different than 2004's once in a lifetime fortnight, but my jump off the couch after Koji Uehara struck out Matt Carpenter wasn't a whole lot different.

I said last night that 2004 team will always occupy a place of honor in my personal sporting pantheon. But the 2013 squad is close second. Hirsute goofballery both served to tighten the bonds of teamwork and mask (pun only minimally intended) a very resolute, disciplined, and professional group of ballplayers.

Ten years ago, I couldn't imagine saying this, but Sox fans are a pretty goddamn blessed bunch.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

New Major Lazer Video!

I'm probably the only person around here who likes Major Lazer (and it's well documented that they confuse the hell out of Dave) but I figured everyone (except maybe Shlara) would enjoy their latest video. The premise: take a handful of beautiful young women, put them in skimpy-to-nonexistent outfits, and project a laser show onto them while they smoke blunts. Sort of like a dancehall version of the Exploding Plastic Inevitable only with better looking people and less dangerous drugs. And more sideboob.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Low Point

Huh, how 'bout that? We have actually used the 'bunch of fucking slackers' label before.

Consider this your NBA Opening Night comment thread.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Walk on the Other Side

RIP Lou Reed, who passed away today at the age of 71.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

"To The Pain" Pick 'Em: Nine Times

Danimal Picks

It’s unfortunate not to have taken advantage of Mark’s 1-2 wkd last week. It hurt the big Russian. Time is running out. I need a 3-0 against a goose egg. Help me out Mark.

Baylor -34.5 at Kansas
Is Charlie Cheeseburger still down there in Lawrence? I thought so. A rarity it is to side with the team giving soooo maneeee points on the road. Why so? Because for the first weekend of the season, I am letting myself be influenced by other betting sources. I have not done so up until this point and you can see where it’s gotten me. For this game, I do so. It’s as simple as that. I did & do like Baylor despite the lay down. The other sources cemented it for me. And then I looked at what Kansas has done up to this point. Don’t bother. It’s bad. Hey, Baylor. Let’s go.

Fresno State -8.5 at San Deee-Aago State
It hasn’t fared well for me, picking the home doggy. But I must stick with it. I will stick with it. I haven’t seen one play from either of these two teams. They play really late at night, like…after 10 pm. Danimal’s usually spooning with his sweet bride by that time, sometimes consciously and sometimes not, but that’s another story. As an aside, when I think Aztec I think Walter White. Fresno State likes to score points. They also have a tendency to keep games close. This is a rivalry game, with the Bulldogs coming into the Adobe undefeated and most certainly in front of a raucous crowd. Bulldogs don’t like raucousness. Or Adobes. Aztecs will protect their Adobe.

Duke +13.5 at VaTech
Every single person is picking Missouri this week over the Caaacks. That was my other possible bet here. But no. I will go my own way here.
This is one of those classic VT games they should win handily but won’t. They may even puke all over themselves and lose it. Duke’s not bad…5-2 albeit with nothing too impressive under the Win column. This is a big game for them, almost huge. And the Hokies have next week’s game against Miami on their mind. And it’s time for Logan Thomas to revert back to his old ways after several straight solid performances. And this is just what the Hokies do, struggle when they shouldn’t.
And so I pick…..DUKE

Your bonus pick of the wkd the San Francisco 49’rs….it doesn’t matter what the line is. Cheery-o!

Mark Picks

I reached a new low, or new high depending on your point of view, on Thursday night. I knew the Bucs were going to get trounced by the Panthers and was looking for a parlay. I didn't like Mississippi State and their high school offense -12 over Kentucky. But, but I was intrigued by the possibility of St. Louis and Michael Wacha at +1.5 runs in Game 2 in Fenway. And what do you know? It worked. For now. I understand that this is the beginning of the end. I bet on a baseball game. I hope you'll all stop to give me you pocket change when I'm destitute and living under a highway overpass.

Baylor -34.5 at Kansas
Remember when we all thought Charlie Weis was a good football coach? I'm sure Danimal loved him at one point. Hell, I was actually excited when Will Muschamp lured him to Gainesville fresh off of a season commanding a dynamic Kansas City Cheifs offense. That excitement, like most of Charlie's attempts at dieting, quickly waned. Charlie Weis is not a good football coach. And he's certainly not the  offensive genius he was once hailed to be. Art Briles, now that guy has a schematic advantage. BAYLOR.

Louisville -20.5 at South Florida
UCF ruined Lousiville's season. Truthfully, Lousiville wasn't going to make the BCS Title game. Their schedule was too bad and the program doesn't have the national cache to overcome that. However, they could've gone undefeated, made a second consecutive BCS game and then bitched endlessly that they were snubbed. Well, that's all gone now too. That tends to happen when you blow a three touchdown lead to a directional school at home on Friday night. Now, we may end up with the Golden Knights of UCF and alcoholic George O'Leary in a BCS game. Meanwhile, I'm just hoping Florida gets bowl eligible at this point. Tis been a strange season. Did I ever mention that UCF was my other choice when I was deciding where to transfer to for my junior year? Well, it was. Thank Spurrier things worked out the way they did. UCF fucking blows. Anyway, this isn't Jim Leavitt's South Florida. They suck out loud and Lousiville's going to take out all their season ruined anger on the Bulls tonight. CARDINALS.

UCLA at Oregon (-24)
Oregon didn't cover for the first time all season last week. Much of that had to do with a slew of first half turnovers. The rest you can blame on Washington State keeping in their starters and throwing 89 passes during the game. 89 is a lot of fucking passes. Speaking of a lot, that's a lot of points to give up to a team that was undefeated before losing at Stanford last week. I'm a little worried about it. But I'm going to ride Oregon here. They get D'Anthony Thomas back from an ankle injury and they get the Bruins in Eugene for a night game. Oregon wears down UCLA and pulls away late.  Take the Ducks...but don't celebrate by snorting blow in your car later.

(This one's for you, Shlara. It's the least I could do after you rooted for the Gators against LSU)

Friday, October 25, 2013

Gheorghe The (Retired) Baller

He (still) got game.

  video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

Watch This Documentary About Sam Berns

I met Sam Berns about 12 years ago when he was 5 or 6. I hadn't though about him in almost a decade until I read Rick Reilly's story about Sam's visit to a Patriots practice. I was more surprised to hear that Sam is alive than to see his name on ESPN's website. Here's why.

Life According To Sam - Trailer from Fine Films on Vimeo.

You can watch Sam's documentary on HBO Go. And you should.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Return of the King, Alternatively Titled "Further Proof that zman is an Idiot"

This post is not about hobbits. Peyton Manning returned to Indianapolis for a greatly ballyhooed game against his old team. The Broncos were a 6 point favorite and up to that point they were laying waste to the opposition and Manning was playing otherworldly football. The internet was awash with talk of "Evil Manning" and how the move to the Broncos sparked some killer instinct in him. So I chose Denver as my "best bet" (meaning that game counts for 2 points) in my picks pool. They lost, natch.

I say "natch" not just because I famously put the mush on my best bets, but also because Manning has a history of coming up small in big spots. He's 9-11 in the playoffs and 6-11 in the regular season against the archrival Patriots. I could dig deeper but I'm too lazy so I'm just going to say that Manning tends to wilt under the glare of the brightest spotlights.

If ever there was a game where Peyton Manning would plumb the depths of his anger and channel it into his play, this was it. Instead he fumbled a ball out of the endzone for a safety and opened the floodgates for a deluge of Colt scores halfway through the second quarter. The Broncos would never regain the lead.

Hall of Fame caliber QB's don't change teams too often, but I thought of a few and looked up how they performed against their old teams. Here's what I found:

It's easier to read if you click on the table.

The first guy I thought of was Joe Montana. As you can see he put on a masterful performance for the Chiefs against the Niners. This likely surprises no one -- if anyone is going to vengefully drop a perfect game against the team that spurned him it's going to be Montana.

Steve McNair likely isn't a Hall of Famer, but he played with the Titans/Oilers for 11 years, won a league MVP in Tennesse, and took the Titans to the Super Bowl. When he returned to Nashville as a Raven he carried the offense, throwing 47 times (5th most attempts in one game in his career) for 373 yards (3rd highest single-game effort) and a respectable 90.1 passer rating. More importantly, he led the game-winning drive, capping things off with the winning TD to Derrick Mason.

Unlike McNair, Warren Moon is in the Hall of Fame, and unlike McNair, Moon's lone game against the Oilers/Titans organization wasn't particularly statistically impressive, especially compared to Moon's lofty standards. But Moon completed over 65% of his passes, threw 2 TD, and, most importantly, his team won.

Drew Brees is 2-0 against the Chargers. In those games he went 59-86 (69% completion!) for 709 yards, 7 TD and 1 INT. Not too shabby.

Steve Young was 3-0 against the Bucs and his stats are pretty outstanding:

Brett Favre's numbers against Green Bay are a typically Favreian mixed bag. When you break out the first two games, however, he looks really good:

Kurt Warner has a lot of former teams, so many that I had to color-code them in my chart. I included Green Bay in this exercise because they signed him as an undrafted free agent in 1994 but eventually cut him because they already had Brett Favre and future R**skin all-time great Mark Brunell, famously forcing Warner into the Arena League and a brief stint stocking shelves at a Hy-Vee. By my count Warner went 9-4 against teams that dumped him:

These 13 games are almost an entire NFL season, and taken in that light his numbers aren't hugely impressive. So I reorganized them by opponent:

Warner owned the Packers, winning each of his games against them with each of his three subsequent teams. His first win was a playoff game, so it was especially big. His second was probably his most impressive win as a Giant because the Packers were the only team he beat that finished with a winning record that year. Finally, he absolutely pistol-whipped Aaron Rodgers' team in the playoffs with an eye-popping performance.

Warner's numbers against the Giants aren't that great. Notably, he decided to void his contract, the Giants didn't cut him. So maybe he had pangs of guilt when he played them.

Warner went 5-2 against the Rams. He lost his first game against them, but he put on a show when he returned to St. Louis. Interestingly, he won all three games against the Rams in St. Louis. If you throw out his two home losses, his numbers are (unsurprisingly) even better:

Then I tried to think of big-name QBs who changed teams and sucked. This is what I came up with:

On one hand this is unfair because Bledsoe and McNabb were at the end of their careers and had little left in the tank, that's why they were cut or traded. And they went to shitty teams. But the same can be said for many of the players examined above (notably Warner to the Giants and then Cardinals) but they still beat their old teams.

Here's my thesis: Bledsoe, McNabb, and Palmer were drafted very highly and adored throughout their college careers. They were given the reins to their teams from the moment they were drafted, they never had to sit behind a veteran or fight to get playing time. As a result they were coddled a bit and never developed the inner rage that fuels many great competitors. By contrast, Montana was a 3rd round pick and sat his first year. Moon had to play in Canada for years because no one would play a black QB in the NFL. Favre was a 2nd round pick who didn't play in Atlanta and they dealt him away early. Young went #1 in the supplemental draft but he had to sit and angrily fester behind Montana for years. Warner, as discussed above, is a famous Cinderella story. McNair was the #5 pick in the draft but he didn't play until his 3rd year, forced to watch Chris Chandler play 0.500 ball and getting a little PT only when the Crystal Chandelier was injured. Brees was a second round pick and was uncerimoniously dumped by the Chargers (who sat him for a year behind Flutie), then no one but the Saints wanted him.

Which pattern does Peyton Manning fit? Clearly the Bledsoe/McNabb/Palmer scenario. He was adored so much in college that children born in the late 1990's throughout Tennesse are named Peyton. The Colts drafted him #1 overall and started him right away without forcing him to compete for his job. Never once in his football career has Peyton Manning ever had to fight for his job, never once has he feared that someone else would take his livelihood from him, and as a result I suspect that he's been robbed of the opportunity to develop a killer competitive instinct like, say, Michael Jordan or Tom Brady (If the Pats ever cut Brady he would destroy them given the opportunity. You know I'm right on this. How big would the line need to be for you to take the Pats? 10? 14? 17?). Petyon's always been treated like a king, given everything he ever desired on a silver platter, so he doesn't know how to scrap like a pauper to get what he wants. And that's why I was an idiot for making the Broncos my best bet last week

Finally, because I have irrational dislike for Matt Hasselbeck and Mark Brunell ...

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Economy of Words

My ass has been kicked lately. My workday life has been a whirlwind of travel, conferences, government shutdowns (and associated briefing after briefing with senior management about my assessment of Congress' behavior - I said 'anyone who says they know what this Congress will do isn't to be trusted' a lot), and strategic planning. At home, my kids are so busy that I don't know whether any of us are coming or going, and my wife was recently away for five days. For the first weekend I can remember, I didn't see a down of college football on Saturday, and the only NFL I saw was in a bar in Philly.

I offer this as an apology for the lack of even half-assed content of late, and as an explanation for today's post.

Over the past several years, SMITH Magazine has published more than 700,000 short life stories as part of its Six-Word Memoir project. In the magazine's own words, "Writing in Six Words is a simple, creative way to get to the essence of anything—from the breaking news of the day to your own life and the way you live it."

The opening sentence of this post is my Six-Word Memoir: Real-Time Version. And here's the first draft of Gheorghe: The Blog's:

Erudition and Dipshittery in unequal measure.

Your challenge, friends, is to improve upon that in the comments below. And maybe tell the world your six-word story.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Is that a #PantslessGriffin on my TV?

The CAA released their 2013-14 television schedule today as part of their annual media day, and will you look at that, the Pantsless Griffins of William and Mary actually appear six times on said (conference) sked.
  • Sat., Jan. 18 James Madison at William & Mary CSN-MA; CSN-P; CSN-NE; CSS; SNY (TD) 4:00 PM
  • Sun., Feb. 2 William & Mary at James Madison NBCSN 2:30 PM
  • Sat., Feb. 15 Towson at William & Mary CSN-MA; CSN-P; CSN-NE; CSS; SNY 4:00 PM
  • Sat., Feb. 22 Northeastern at William & Mary CSN-MA; CSN-P; CSN-NE; CSS, SNY (TD) 4:00 PM
  • Sat., Mar. 1 William & Mary at Towson CSN-MA; CSN-P; CSN-NE; CSS; SNY 4:00 PM
  • Thu., Jan. 23 William & Mary at UNCW CAA-TV; CSN-MA+; TCN-P; CSN-NE; WECT 7:00 PM
There are high expectations for this edition of the Tribe, something rob or I are afraid to discuss in public (a 5th place finish, as predicted below, would be tremendously disappointing). But let's just say there aren't a lot of years where preseason accolades are thrown at not one, but two, Tribe hoopsters:
At the Colonial Athletic Association’s annual media day, the William and Mary men’s basketball team placed a pair of players on preseason all-league teams, while the Tribe was picked fifth in the preseason poll. Junior guard Marcus Thornton was selected Preseason First Team All-CAA, while senior forward Tim Rusthoven garnered second-team honors.
Poochie Griffin

Sunday, October 20, 2013

NFL Week 7 Open Thread: Remember these posters?

Still remember having several of these, across all sports, plastered around my bedroom. I threw in a few gems below (I had the Bo Jackson one), but for a longread on the guys behind this poster phenomenon (the Costacos brothers), check out this great piece.

See you all in the comments. Football.

[h/t upnorthtrips and SB Nation]

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Eight is Enough: To The Pain Picks Continue

(TR Interlude (Introlude?): No Eight is Enough Reference Can Be Made Without a Photo of Willie Aames and his hair.  I've fist-fought over this belief in the past and will do so again on a moment's notice. The picks can be a "Page Down" click away. I don't care. And fantastically enough, a Willie Aames label has already been used on this blog.  Good job, guys.)

Danimal Picks

It only took 7 weeks but Danimal finally did it…He beat Mark! Bad News (Hughes), Danimal is still 5 games back on the year. Is this where he REALLY makes his move?

FSU -3 at Clemson
Ummm…yeah, I don’t think so. FSU walloped Maryland last week 63-0. Is that what this line is based on? Of course it isn’t. The makers of lines, lines makers if you will, are way smarter than that. They must know something we mortals don’t to have the Seminoles favored by 3 going into the stadium otherwise known as Death Valley occupied by a Clemson team that is undefeated AND who have undeniably had a tougher road to 6-0. Clemson played poorly last week against a totally (dude) inferior BC team. So what. Who cares? Show me a team that has yet to play a bad game and I’ll show you Oregon. But that’s it. Clemson should be will be is was highly annoyed with the dis. Eff them say the Tigers and Hear us ROAR! Go Tigers!

Texas Tech -5 at WVU
Oh boy. Am I going against my pal’s wishes who implored me to “stay away from the Mounties” after beating a then top-10 ranked Oklahoma State in week 4? You bet your sweet ass I am. You know who I’m talkin’ to. There are a couple of key reasons I’m going with the TeeTees here…1) they’re the TeeTees; 2) they have 3rd best passing offense in the America, fuck yeah; 3) 14th in Scoring; 4) 15th in overall defense; and 5) the opening line on this game was TT -9.5. I feel this is a bargain I just cannot pass up people. Oh, and 6) I told you I only had a “couple” of reasons but I spewed out 5! Show me the TEETEEES!!!!

Purdue +27 at Mich St
Betting for such a shite team is never, ever a good idea unless they’re trending upward in some shape or form. And trending upward Purdue is not. Buuuut, 27 seems a tad bit on the high side for me. Michigan State isn’t exactly a powerhouse. They scored 55 against Youngstown St & 42 against the Hoosyourdaddies? Other than that it’s been pretty ho-hum. But then I look at Purdue’s accomplishments. They are absolutely terrible. I’m embarrassed for the Irish by only beating them by 7. That my friends, is a terrible joke. I honestly came in here with intent of betting on PeeeYOU! but that says it all.
Here we go Sparty Here we go!

Mark's Picks

I'm coming off two straight losing weeks here at Gheorghe: The Blog (I broke even last week thanks to a late decision to take Boise State after I realized Utah State QB Chuckie Keeton was out for the year. Yay for degenerate gambler type knowledge!) and Danimal is starting to creep on me. I'm going to blame last week on the distraction of my Baton Rouge/New Orleans trip which may or may not have resulted in me quickly making my picks while stoned and waiting for my plane in the beautiful Melbourne airport. This week though I'm stuck at home while my wife parties in Mexico at a Jewish Wedding. That's right, two Jews getting married in Mexico. The 21st Century is awesome, y'all.

Washington State @ Oregon (-39.5)
I fucked up last week. After riding Oregon regardless of the point spread all year I got spooked by Washington's performance against Stanford and chose not to give the 14 points to the Huskies. As you all know by now, I'm dumb. As we learned from Stanford's loss to Utah, the Stanford-Washington game was more about Stanford than Washington, though the Huskies are still strong to quite strong. Anywho, I'm sorry Oregon. I'm sorry I didn't believe in you. Please take me back. I'll never hurt you and your ridiculous uniforms again. DUCKS.

(Note: A video of Tim Meadows as Ike Turner was supposed to be in this spot but NBC thinks we don't deserve that. Why do you want to hurt us, NBC?)

South Carolina (-7.5) @ Tennessee
The Volunteers have tripped me up once already this season but that was more about Georgia's offensive injuries than Tennesee being any good. South Carolina hammered Arkansas last weekend and I think they've started to find their legs after a September filled with some weird out of conference games, trumped up controversies and QB injuries.  The Gamecocks are just too talented for Tennessee. South Carolina pulls away in the second half and wins by two TDs.

Arkansas @ Alabama (-29)
Despite being a CFB dynasty, it's risky laying a lot of points with Alabama. Their style of play often lends to easy wins that don't cover the massive point spreads set by Vegas. I'd imagine that is what many people think when they see this line. Not me. This is the most explosive Alabama offense that Nick Saban's ever had in Tuscaloosa and Arkansas has been exposed the past two weeks. After looking semi-competent early in the year, the Razorbacks have fallen apart against two good SEC defenses in Florida and South Carolina. Arkansas has scored 17 points combined against those two teams and they rank 113th in the nation in passing. You're not going to rush for a ton of yards against a Nick Saban coached Alabama team. Like, ever. This is going to get ugly. Roll Tide. Speaking of the Tide. Have you met Phyllis? She seems lovely.

Spontaneous Motivation Begets Spontaneous Motivation

In an effort to become more phat and less fat of late, I have tried to improve my decision-making.  No more four-scotch nights while watching Homeland with the wife. No more train beers. Less red meat, fried food and pizza. It's been tough, but it's for a good purpose.

Last night, as I often do on the weekend, I set the alarm for an early rise on Saturday morning to hit the gym. This morning, as I almost never do, I actually got up and made it to the gym when I planned to.  "TR's Awesome Mix" was playing on my iPhone while I wailed on my pecs and quads. And early on in my workout, while the sun was still down, an old favorite came on that I hadn't heard in years - Mooney Suzuki's "I Woke Up This Morning."  Some of you may know this band.  They were the NYC band left out of the rock revival movement from the early aughts that made the Vines, the Hives, the White Stripes, Sahara Hotnights and others famous for a minute or more.  Great three-chord rock band that was a blast live, but somehow missed the boat.  If you look carefully, you see them for a minute in Jack Black's School of Rock.

It was one of those songs that felt too fitting to not be a simple twist of fate. At least that's how I chose to process it, even there is a 5% chance I will hear it any time I work out, assuming I go through 20 of the 400 tunes on my Awesome Mix every time I work out.  So my spontaneous motivation to hit the gym resulted in spontaneous motivation to share this tune with the tens of you reading this.

So here it is, a little dose of kick-ass for your morning.  No video with this link, so focus on the audio. And turn that shit UP.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Friday Mishmash Potpourri Filler

As we await yet another exciting week of college football picks from Danimal and Mark, a new post is needed, because honestly, how many times can you watch a video about magnetic zippers? Because I am devoid of creativity or writing prowess, compiled below is basically whatever the f*ck I felt like putting in a filler post...

***It is well-documented what fans we are of musical mashups, particularly if they involve the Muppets or Sesame Street. Well, today, I present to you a mashup just one notch below the Sesame Street gold standard (here's some others too if you care to waste time today):

***It's a tired topic, but unbelievably, I think crusty old Charles Krauthammer might have hit the nail on the head with this "Redskins name" column. Though I'm sure Mike "Over 1 Million Dead Horses Beaten" Wise will have a retort in the Post by Monday.

***Further proof that ESS EEE CEE fandom is in fact fanatical...

***Some people 'round these parts seem to care about el futbol. Then how about a little something for that crowd, Teej? Here you go - it's the 2014 FIFA World Cup Group Stage Draws Simulator. Let me know when you find us a quality Group of Death.

***The horror. The tragedy. No, not the new sitcom "Dads", but this news out of the ole Bluegrass State: "Bourbon heist | Pappy Van Winkle stolen in apparent inside job". I, being a novice liquor drinker, did not realize Pappy was "one of the nation's most sought-after bourbons", but apparently both zman and rob were well aware of this Pappy story, as similar links were forwarded demanded this be mentioned in a post. Senor Van Winkle sells for about $130 a bottle and is apparently worth “$300 or $400 a bottle” on the secondary market. So, while not exactly the Lufthansa Heist, the culprits are likely going to do quite well for themselves...until of course they get drunk off their stolen product and stupidly brag about it on some social media outlet. It will happen.

I said Mishmash, not Mushmouth...

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Technology Makes Life Better

(This post brought to you by extreme fatigue with Washington's political shitshow. Searched long and hard for something completely unrelated, but nearly as stupid, and came up with...zippers.)

There are very few things that aggravate me more than shitty zippers. Fumbling in the cold to get a jacket on, my fingers rapidly losing feeling, or trying to get my kids into their winter coats - these drive me batshit. (Truth in advertising: way too many things drive me batshit. I'm working on it.)

Finally, after generations of Americans faced struggles like mine, technological disruption has come to the zipper industry. Engineer Scott Peters set out to help his uncle, suffering from a degenerative muscular disease, and created a prototype magnetic zipper lock. At the same time, Kevin Plank was driving his Under Armour team to innovate in the apparel space. Peanut butter, meet chocolate.

Simple, elegant, awesome.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

An offline editor's request

rob emailed me this morning and asked that we post the image below, directed at Congress (I would have to think he wants this specifically aimed at the House):

I took some creative liberties in WHAT type of middle finger image was chosen.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Gheorghe: The Nanobrewery

In response to yesterday's report on the Federal Government's role in delaying the distribution of craft beer to a thirsty market, a patriotic American asked a simple question freighted with import. "Maybe it's possible for people to brew, sell, buy, and drink beer without having to ask permission from our bureaucratic betters?", he wondered.

Libertarians, beer-drinkers, and all who chafe at the heavy yoke of bureaucracy, rejoice, for salvation beckons. A team led by former Microsoft exec Bill Mitchell (at this point, aren't we all former Microsoft execs) is on the verge of marketing the PicoBrew Zymatic, "an automatic beer brewing appliance that can create an endless stream of high-quality beers".

Mitchell, whose grandfather invented Tang and Pop Rocks (!), and his brother are avid homebrewers. They started PicoBrew in 2010, frustrated with the inconsistency inherent in the home brewing process, as well as the highly labor-intensive nature of it. Their objective: create the brewer's version of the breadmaker or espresso machine.

The result is both simple to use (and more importantly, clean) and sophisticated enough to enable users to consistently recreate recipes used by the pioneers of the craft brew scene or experiment with their own. The touchscreen-controlled brewing process takes an hour, and according to PicoBrew, beer is ready to drink as soon as five days after brewing.

The PicoBrew team's Kickstarter campaign has yielded more than twice as much funding as required, and the funds will be used to initiate final production activities. I'll buy the machine, but someone else is responsible for designing the labels. And we'll need someone to distract the Feds while we ship the results to our community members outside the DC area. Probably gonna want a lawyer involved, too. I think we've got that covered.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Boston Keg Party

As a non-partisan and deeply unserious blog, we have no interest in a discussion of the various causes of the ongoing shutdown of the Federal Government. So you won't find any commentary on the abject lunacy of the wingnut rump of the GOP here. (Though, if we think about it, dipshittery is a subject with which we have some expertise.) In fact, we would've been perfectly content to ignore the entire moronic freakshow.

But then they came for our beer.

As a result of the shutdown, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Board (TTB), a small agency within the Treasury Department, has seen its staffing significantly reduced. Among other things, the TTB processes applications for new breweries, recipes and labels. And now, it can't do any of that.

Swill-drinking mouth-breathers (this is definitely NOT a place for a parenthetical joke about correlation between Budweiser consumption and Tea Party leanings, and I wouldn't think of implying such a thing), will be unaffected by the TTB's effective closure, as mass-market brewers will still produce and distribute their standard products. But America's craft brewers, who routinely bring new seasonal and one-off products to market, are unable to do so without the TTB's approval.

Lagunitas Chief Operating Officer Todd Stevenson was quoted by the Boston Globe in a story on the issue. Per the Globe, "He said the company was planning to submit an application to package its autumn seasonal Hairy Eyeball in 22-ounce bottles instead of 12-ounce bottles but can’t move forward."

I hope you'll all join me this weekend in stocking up on your favorite craft brew and then depleting said stock. It's the least you can do for America.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

"To The Pain" Pick 'Em: Lucky 7s

We have made it to Week 7 of the gambling battle royale between Danimal and Mark...

Whoops, wrong 7...
Danimal Picks

BC +24.5 vs Clemson
Mark is to Oregon as Dan is to Clemson…not always on GTB but almost always somewhere.

UF +7 vs LSU
Tyler Murphy! in his 3rd start, his first against a competitive unit and in a teeny bit scary of a place when you’re the away team. This week, Bat-oh! Rouge gets the best of ‘em...

LSU TX +14 vs OKLA
Longhorns are going to come and play for Mack. Oklahoma is pretty decent, but not much more than that. Rivalry game with a team’s back against the wall.
Hook’em Horns, and don’t be surprised by an upset here.

Regarding Broncos/Jags
I’ll bite at 28. (it is as 26.5 Tuesday afternoon) I obviously don’t mind taking the dog. For every reason there is to bet on the Jags there are 3-4 to go w/the Broncos. Newly added to the list is the season-ending injury to the Jags first pick in the draft, Left Tackle Luke Joeckel. That’s okay. He was only the 2nd or 3rd best player. Oh, and Gabbert is out again this week too which doesn’t hurt us unless you count scoring more points a bad thing. Any supporters of Gabbert that existed prior to last week have officially disappeared. He is friendless in Jacksonville with exception to 13 & 14 year old Bieber fans. See ya Blaine.

The reasons to take the Jags:
1) Denver’s D – obviously somewhat porous. DFL in Passing D with Dallas having the 31st. (jags are 10th) Though they haven’t gone up against Jaguar nation yet, led by oh fuck it never mind. Jax may be able to squirt out 2+ TD’s and a Figgie or 2. Justin Blackmon is back in the line-up and Cecil Shorts is turning out to be pretty solid – call it 17-20 and maybe more! pts…; that puts Denver at 45. They scored 51 in the world’s greatest shootout last week. Denver had 9 scoring drives (NINE TIMES). Average time per scoring drive was under about 3 ½ minutes; Dallas had 8 scoring drives with an average TOP of under 2.5 minutes. That’s getting after it. A few first downs, a few forced punts….it COULD be close.
2) This should get a laugh, but Jacksonville is improving and they give a shit.
3) If Denver gets up by 4-5 TD’s with a qtr left….will they keep their starters in? Hope not.
That’s about all I got for “reasons you MIGHT possibly consider betting on the Jaguars”.

Mark Picks

I had a losing record last week for the first time this year. Is this the beginning of my regression to the mean? Probably. Or was it just an unlucky week for me as half of Georgia's team went down to injury and Stanford was particularly anemic offensively for the first time all year? That's what I'm telling myself.

Either way, the next two week of college football are about as good as it gets in the regular season. Two Saturdays packed with intraconference top 25 match ups. I'm excited. How about you? Actually, I don't really care about you. I'm about to get on a plan to New Orleans. It's all about me right now. Anywho, onto the picks.

Oklahoma (-14.5) vs. Texas
Bob Stoops has dominated Mack Brown in the Red River Rivalry. Even when Texas was good, which they definitely aren't this season. Just last week they needed some generous (or crooked) officiating to escape a loss, and probably ousting of Brown, to Iowa State. Meanwhile, after losing the QB battle in fall camp Blake Bell has been terrific since becoming the starting QB due to the injury to Trevor Knight. Bell is still pretty raw as a passer but he's got a big arm and he's a load to stop with the ball in his hands. On top of that, Texas has struggled with running QBs this season (see: BYU and Ole Miss). Barry Switzer will be hammered by 2:30 EST and the Sooners win.

(Note: Did you know that Blake Bell doesn't pronounce his name in the traditional manner? It's true.)

Alabama (-27) @ Kentucky
This is not the Alabama team of the past two years. The offensive line has been inconsistent which has affected AJ McCarron's ability to take advantage of a talented group of WRs. More importantly, the defense isn't dominant and now it's without one of it's top two players in Saftery Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix (Orlando stand up!). So why am I laying 27 points on the road? Because Kentucky is awful. It's also nearly basketball season so I expect even fewer Wildcat fans than normal to attend this game. They'll be too busy putting money in FedEx envelopes for guys like Julius Randle and the Harrison twins to care about their football team getting dump trucked. Take the Tide.

Northwestern (+10) @ Wisconsin
Northwestern put forth a valiant effort against Ohio State last week. Right up until the Buckeyes blocked a punt for a TD I thought that the Wildcats (Seriously, stop with the Wildcats nickname. Enough.) would win. The concern in this game is Northwestern being let down after the biggest home game in the program's history and not being able to recover in time for a trip to Madison. Two reasons why I think that won't happen here: (1) Northwestern is 0-1 in the Big Ten and have to win here if they want a shot at a rematch with Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship game and (2) I think Pat Fitzgerald is one of the best coaches in CFB. He'll have his guys focused and ready to go. Take the points and Northwestern's smart kids.

Bonus: You'll notice there is no Oregon or Stanford picks this week for the first time all season. While I think Oregon wins, Washington's performance against Stanford has me concerned enough to be weary of giving up 14 on the road to the Huskies. HOWEVA, the O/U is 76 for Oregon-Washington. That's a ton of points but both these teams average over 80 plays a game. So, despite my reticence to bet totals I'm telling you to take the over.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Of Butt Pats and Circuses

The documentary '$chooled: The Price of College Sports', opens with a visually and aurally thrilling montage of a football Saturday in Tallahassee. Pounding music, the tangible excitement of the crowd, the pageantry - all powerfully evocative of what we love about college athletics.

The opening is powerful in another way, as well, setting up the distinct and jarring contrast between our passion for the games and the too-often coldly calculating way we treat the athletes that play them for our entertainment.

Thanks, once again, to the kindness of one of our own, the Teej, Mrs. Teej, and I were fortunate to attend a screening of the documentary Wednesday night at the headquarters of the National Cable and Telecommunications Association (NCTA). We rubbed shoulders with Bobby Valentine, the executive producer of the film (Teej rubbed more than that, to be sure*), met former Penn State and NFL linebacker Andre Collins, and shared time in a bathroom line with former Redskin Darnerien McCants.

After viewing the film, I confess to very mixed feelings. I love college sports. I love the theater, the passion, the emotion. I love the spectacle, and the drama, and the whole damn circus. But except for the occasional thought about the concept of compensating collegiate athletes, I've given very little consideration to the welfare of those that entertain us.

The film offers a view into a system that churns out massive profits based on a design intentionally crafted to restrict the rights of its most important participants. When former NCAA President Walter Byers and his legal team hit on the term 'student-athletes' in the 1950s as a means to defend the organization against workman's compensation claims, he could have scarcely known how successful his gambit would ultimately prove.

Today's revenue sport student-athletes have nearly every aspect of their collegiate lives dictated for them - when to eat, what to study (and what not to - many have no opportunity to pursue majors whose requirements conflict with practice and game time), what to wear (don't see many Duke basketball players wearing Adidas). If they push back, unless they're among the elite, they run the risk of losing their scholarship, one that's renewable on an annual basis at the sole discretion of the university (read: coaching staff).

It's entirely true that student athletes receive significant compensation in the form of scholarships, which have both economic and intangible value. For a substantial majority of collegiate athletes, especially those in non-revenue sports, a scholarship is arguably more valuable to them than to the university. But as Branch pointed out after the screening, no college athlete has the same economic rights as those taken for granted by their classmates. If an English major publishes a novel, her eligibility as a teaching assistant won't be revoked, in one example.

After the screening, journalist John Ourand moderated a panel discussion about the issue, which featured Valentine, noted scholar Taylor Branch (upon whose e-book, The Cartel, the film is based), former UNC fullback Devin Ramsey, UNC academic support specialist Mary Willingham, and producer Andrew Muscato.

The discussion was wide-ranging, but ultimately centered on Branch's fundamental call for a discussion about ensuring the basic rights of athletes as participants in the marketplace. There is no panacea, nor were any substantive policy recommendations offered. Valentine made what I thought a very cogent comparison of today's student-athlete with professional baseball players in the reserve clause era. Prior to the advent of free agency, professional baseball players had no freedom of movement - they served at the whims of their team's owners until they weren't needed. Only when the players got a seat at the table did fair market principles begin to take hold. And despite widely-held fears that free agency and money would ruin the game, 45 years later, Major League Baseball thrives by nearly any measure.

The evening's most interesting exchange occurred between Valentine (who was as charismatic, engaging, and just plain fun as you could've hoped) and George Mason men's basketball coach Paul Hewitt (best described in this case as something that rhymes with 'thick'), who attended the screening and offered a highly critical response to the film. Hewitt lambasted the filmmakers for telling a one-sided story, which on the face of it is a reasonable criticism, except that the film offered no claim towards balance - it's absolutely got a point of view. But Hewitt surely understands that there's a multi-billion dollar media-industrial complex dedicated to telling the side of the story he wants told. He's clearly invested in the maintenance of the status quo - his own university is a case study in the potential impact of intercollegiate athletics.

'Nice ass, Pedroia, but you're no Doyle.'
Lamar Butler, Folarin Campbell, Tony Skinn and the rest of the 2006 George Mason Final Four squad will have phenomenal memories for the rest of their lives, and they'll never, ever pay for a drink in Brion's. But their school generated hundreds of millions of dollars from their exploits, and their coach, Jim Larranaga, first leveraged the team's run to a large pay raise and then to a job in the ACC. There's an inequity there that could be rectified by smart people with an interest in the overall health and well-being of the student-athlete.

After seeing the film and hearing the discussion, I have more questions than answers. I'm not necessarily supportive of paying all college athletes, because I think there's a real difference between revenue and non-revenue sports, and I think such a policy would create severe financial burdens on a number of institutions. However, I do think there's potential in a system that enables athletes to seek market value for their images/services. As noted above, a vast majority of collegiate athletes receive very fair returns in the form of scholarships and opportunities, but that small minority that don't is substantially undervalued in comparison to their contributions. Finding an equitable way to close that gap wouldn't destroy what we love about collegiate athletics any more than Curt Flood did professional baseball.

You can catch the movie on EPIX October 16 at 8:00 pm. If nothing else, in combination with the recent Frontline documentary on the NFL's concussion issues, it's an invitation to continued conversation.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Geaux Gators

15 years ago today I attended my first high profile Gator Football game as a University of Florida student. Well, attended isn't exactly true. Let me back up a bit.

It was October 10, 1998 and Florida was taking on LSU at The Swamp at 8 pm on ESPN. At the time, LSU wasn't the established SEC power that it is now. Nick Saban was still a few years away from becoming the Head Coach in Baton Rouge and restoring the Tigers to their former glory. Prior to Saban, LSU Football had seen quite a few lean years under the leadership of coaching luminaries like Curly Hallman and Gerry DiNardo. However, just a year earlier defending National Champion and #1 ranked Gators had gone into Baton Rouge on a Saturday night and been handled by a pretty average Tiger team. So, despite LSU still being less than "back", this game had some cache.

This particular Saturday also happened to be my 21st birthday. Greg drove down from Williamsburg with a pack of exchange students from Manchester, England in tow and the previous night and day leading up to the game had been appropriately boozy.

So, back to Saturday night. After some hearty pregaming I walked into the stadium with a few of my roommates. I didn't walk far. A cop stationed near the entrance grabbed me and asked what was in my cargo pocket (cargo shorts are terrible, I know, but at least I wasn't wearing jolts). As you can probably guess, it was liquor. A fifth of Captain Morgan to be exact. That was as far as I'd get inside Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. I was escorted to the mini-police station/jail inside the Stadium. Upon asking for my ID the cop took a look at it and quipped "Hey, happy birthday". He then wrote me a ticket and sent me on my way. Like most of my alcohol related incidents in college (there were many) this would be nothing more than a slap on the wrist, but I wouldn't see the game in person.  Instead, I'd meet another friend at the other Swamp to watch the game. It was here where we'd run into some LSU fans/attorneys in town from Louisiana. They discovered it was my 21st birthday and subsequently filled me with free booze all night long.

Somehow, even though I missed the game, the evening ended better than I could've imagined. We drank heavily, the Gators won and eventually I met back up with two of my roommates (The other roommate passed out somewhere on campus that night. We didn't see him until Sunday afternoon. This was not an especially rare occurrence for him.) and we ended up a party a couple blocks behind the Swamp where I hooked up with a hot Cuban girl I'd never met and would never see again.  All in all, it was pretty fucking great.

Saturday it will all come full circle as I make my maiden voyage to Baton Rouge for the Florida-LSU game. I doubt I'll get kicked out of this game but maybe, just maybe I'll take pity on some poor, downtrodden LSU student and feed them booze at a bar postgame. Then again, maybe not. Either way, I'll feel lucky to be there. And not just to be there, but to be there with the same two former roommates who I "attended" that Florida-LSU game with in 1998. Life's not perfect, but sometimes its really, really good.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

I guarantee you'll want Hot Pockets after watching this video

Not only is this an amazingly effective motivator to eat more Hot Pockets, it's proof that Kate Upton smokes pot.

And Biz is still gettin' paper off of "Just a Friend." Not sure how or why Bow Wow got involved. Oddly, Daniel Day Lewis isn't.

Some Somber News

In the back of the recent W&M alumni magazine was a heartbreaking obituary that I stumbled upon when eating breakfast with my two boys last Saturday morning.  Joseph C. Marotta, W&M Class of 1996, passed away suddenly in June.  He left behind his wife, who graduated W&M the same  year, as well as five children, including nine year-old triplets.  He was 38 years old.

Joe was the president of Sigma Pi and very active in the Catholic Campus Ministry. When we used to joke about more students going to the library than the football game on a Saturday, or about how there were folks who went to dining halls at 8 AM on weekends, it was guys like Joe.  We were in the undergraduate business program together and shared some classes.  He was wildly more focused than me at the the time (no hard feat) and was an all-around nice guy.  Not somebody any of us would likely cross paths with socially, but a quality guy who went on to do great things professionally and personally in his brief time. 

The news hits me hard because I recently suffered my own loss.  In the weeks since, I found myself thinking I'm back to normal, then being jolted harder than usual when hearing about tragic events like this, even when I have little/no connection to the parties involved.

Let's hope this news emboldens us to have the passion and inspiration to pursue our interests as avidly as Joe did, even if they are wildly different.

The obituary for Joe's too short, yet very accomplished life can be found here.

Monday, October 07, 2013

Music Monday

Fatigue, they say, makes cowards of us all. And at about noon on Saturday, Bert Lahr had nothing on me.

Me, post-bonk. My wife, contemplating her life choices.
After running 7.3 miles at 6:00 on Friday night (if that mile-long climb in the middle of that leg looks like a motherfucker, well, it is) and 9.6 more at 4:20 on Saturday morning, I found myself shuffling up the Woodrow Wilson bridge in unseasonal mid-80s heat a third of the way into my final, 4.2-mile leg of Ragnar DC. And I bonked. Hard.

The rest of the race was one of the worst athletic/endurance experiences I've had. I dragged my sorry ass home in 44 minutes and 50 seconds, crossing the finish line more pissed than happy. 

In an effort to cheer myself up, I cranked the new Chvrches record all afternoon and into today. The Glaswegian trio has been described as 'a godless hurricane of kinetic pop energy'. If you dig guitar-driven hooks, Chvrches ain't your thing. But if you can find time in your rotation for ultra-poppy, super-hooky electronic stuff, this is just the thing. Oh, and in what will come as completely predictable to those of you that know my weakness for the type, lead singer Lauren Mayberry is both terribly pretty and possessing of the kind of take-no-shit-demand-respect attitude I hope to cultivate in my daughters. Check out the full album, The Bones of What You Believe, at your local internet free music purveyor, and dig on 'The Mother We Share' and 'Recover' below.

And I can't wait for next year's Ragnar.

Saturday, October 05, 2013

TTP Week Six: City Under Siege

Mark was a rockstar and posted this earlier today before his Dad of the Year trip to some bullshit volleyball tourney. I planned to get bombed at a local Oktoberfest, but instead we helped our friend find a new apartment. And then I got bombed at a Mexican joint. I'm a multicultural drunk. Please enjoy the picks below, though seriously, do not ever bet the way Danimal chooses.

Danimal Picks

Danimal on the wrong end of  an ass-kicking contest. No worries…lots of time left. And the law of averages MUST begin to work in my favor soon, no? It’s 6-8-1 verses 12-3. I do hope Mark has wagered dollars in his picks. Maybe he’ll buy me that bloody mary come season end.

I would love to bet that Tennessee/GA game (and probably will but not here) but the fact of the matter is I’m in agreement w/Mark. 10.5 points to the VOLS just seems cray cray.

Maryland +16 vs Florida State: Gotta take MD and the points, right? Two tough D’s…Maryland trying to act all tough and stuff like they could win this thing. It’s certainly possible but am guessing a 35-21 FSU Victory…. Fear the Turtle

ND +5.5 vs ASU (cowboy stadium): Getting 5.5 points here on the ground floor, or top floor rather, b/c I just think this will move down. Maybe I’m wrong. I’d imagine that none of you saw the game last week against Oklahoma. It was actually pretty well played by the Irish once they moved past the first 3 minutes of the game where they went down 14-0 after 2 quick INT’s by my boy, Turnover Tommy. In his defense, they really weren’t his fault. He did go on and throw another, and the Sooners capitalized by scoring a TD off of that one also. Dagger. I’m still with the Irish. Let’s get it done.

OR -38 vs COLO: Colorado. Just hoping to win a head-to-header….it’s the 2nd half and I’m way down.

Mark Picks

So it's week 6 and things are working out great for me so far. Im sure that means this is where the wheels start to fall off and I start betting recklessly on additional games late in the day to make up for my losses here at G:TB. I'd like to say I'm smarter than that but you've all known me (in a weird internet sort of way) for too long. You all know better. I'm not very smart. I am bald though so I got that going for me.

Oregon (-38) at Colorado: I miss Colorado being good. Remember when Ralphie used to coming roaring down from the hill with 6-10 petrified Colorado students attempting to guide him while also praying to god that he wouldn't go ape shit and gore them to death? Yeah, those were the good old days. And by good old days, I mean back when Bill McCartney ran the program, actively recruited gang members from Southern California and had his daughter knocked up by one of his own players. Now, Ralphie's stoned out of his mind, McCartney is attending Promise Keeper rallies and Colorado gets waxed on a regular basis. Oh well, nothing lasts forever. I might as well make some money. DUCKS.

Georgia (-10.5) @ Tennessee: I dont understand this line. Georgia just beat LSU in a shootout and has proven it is one of the SEC's best team even with a very average defense. Tennessee on the other hand just had to squeak out a victory at home over South Alabama. I feel like I'm missing something (this is where Twitter makes the "Mark Richt has lost control of the spread for this game" joke). Or maybe Vegas just doesn't give a fuck this week. I'm not going to over analyze this and talk myself out of the bet. I'm just going with the Dawgs. Oh yeah, last week Clarence expressed surprise that I would bet on Georgia. Here's how I feel about betting on team's that I dislike:

Washington @ Stanford (-8): Washington is better than they're currently getting credit for in the polls. They deserve to be ranked higher than 15. The problem for them is that they have to go to Stanford this week to play one of the five best teams in the country. Stanford is just as physical on both sides of the ball as they've been the past few years. They also happen to be far more explosive offensively than they've been during that time frame. I'm not sure how ESPN managed to get Oregon-Stanford as a Thursday night game (11/7) this year but I feel secure in saying that it will be the highest profile Thursday Night CFB game in the history of ever. Like ever, ever. You heard it, er, read it here first. I'm taking Stanford once again. You might say my picks are boring. I say my picks are profitable.

Friday, October 04, 2013

Bite Me, Randy Newman: Throw It Down

I'm pissed at Brandon Todd.

He's 5'5". So am I.

He decided several years ago that he wanted to dunk a basketball. I decided long ago that I was never going to dunk a basketball.

He learned powerlifting techniques from Russians, gained 85 pounds of mostly muscle, and dunked a basketball. I did not.

Now I've got to figure out what it is I care enough about to work that hard to accomplish.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Wheelhouse Geoff Previews the President's Cup

Geoff has some free time on his hands this week. So we asked him to write 1,700 words that only five of you will read. 'Cause page views.

So who wants to read a lengthy preview of an event you probably didn’t even know was about to occur? Possibly no one. But, here goes—tree falling in an unpopulated woods.

Tomorrow begins the 10th President’s Cup matches, more commonly referred to as “The Ryder Cup With Different Foreigners And No Tradition or Drama.” The President’s Cup pits the International Team, comprised of the world’s best players not from the U.S. or Europe, versus the American Team. In the nine previous competitions, the US has a dominant record of 7-1-1. Yes…there was a tie…due to darkness and too much gutless pathetic collegiality.

The US has won often and easily in the President’s Cup, and no one can really figure out why. Is it because there’s no history, bad blood or attention paid to the event and thus no pressure? Is it because the International Team has no identity, nothing to bond over and in some years they all speak different languages? Is it because Greg Norman spent his four years as captain off banging all the International players’ wives while the matches are going on and they all knew it? MAYBE. In several past competitions, the Internationals have had a much stronger team than the US on paper (based on World Golf Rankings) and have still lost. Interestingly, this year, quite the opposite is true.

The President’s Cup has the same format as the Ryder Cup, except when it doesn’t. It’s similar in that two man teams play fourball (aka best ball) and foursomes (aka alternate shot)matches leading up to singles matches on Sunday. It’s different in that it’s a four day event (Ryder is just three), all 20 players play on Thursday and Friday and the captains get to take turns picking the matchups (in the Ryder Cup, captains just hand in an order of players blindly and it gets matched up with the other team’s order). In the Ryder, if the matches end in a tie, the team holding the Cup keeps the Cup (because fuck you, commies). In the President’s Cup, if it ends in a tie, the teams “share” the Cup, everyone gets a participation trophy and an “I’m Special” tee shirt and our country grows weaker, softer and the Chinese laugh. In 2003, the format stated that if The Presidents Cup ended in a tie, each Captain had to pick one player and those guys played sudden death until someone won—which is an awesome idea. Captain Nicklaus picked Tiger, Captain Player picked Els, and they played an awesome couple of holes without anyone winning. And then it got dark. And someone forgot to warm up Uncle Jack’s milk and tapioca pudding and we had to call it a tie and it was the greatest moment of sportsmanship, integrity and class since Jesus himself came down from heaven and broke up a fight in the 1964 Stanley Cup Finals. In short, it sucked.

The Teams

The International Team (world ranking in parenthesis), captained by three time major winner Nick Price (Zimbabwe) consists of:
Adam Scott (AUS) (2)
Jason Day (AUS) (16)
Charl Schwartzel (SA) (19)
Ernie Els (SA) (23)
Louie Oosthuizen (SA) (29)
Branden Grace (SA) (38)
Graham DeLaet (CAN) (32)
Richard Sterne (SA) (41)
Angel Cabrera (ARG) (51)
Marc Leishman (AUS) (61)
Brendon de Jonge (SA) (63)
Hideki Matsuyama (Japan) (30)

Happy now, Shlara?
So, this is pretty much a team of some super nice South Africans who really know how to golf their respective balls and whose parents were (allegedly) vicious murderous racists…mixed in with some dreamy Aussies, a Japanese kid and a pudgy chain smoking Argentinian who will rip your heart out and eat in front of you while your children and wife watch. Also, who the fuck are some of these guys? I believe Branden Grace was one of the bad guys in Lethal Weapon 2 and I'm 90% sure Richard Sterne has never been in my kitchen.

The US Team is captained by Fred Couples for the third consecutive year, because everyone likes Fred Couples and because Ben Crenshaw and Paul Azinger and 12 other guys did not return calls.
Tiger Woods (1)
Brandt Snedeker (9)
Phil Mickelson (3)
Matt Kuchar (8)
Jason Dufner (10)
Keegan Bradley (15)
Steve Stricker (7)
Bill Haas (28)
Hunter Mahan (26)
Zach Johnson (11)
Webb Simpson (Captain's Pick) (24)
Jordan Spieth (Captain's Pick) (21)

That team is stacked. As long as Hunter doesn’t shit all over himself again like he did in 2010 Ryder Cup and Dufner doesn’t run out of Skoal Wintergreen, this should be a blowout. And I think we are all looking forward to Keegan Bradley being paired up with Phil Mickelson again so he can reenact this scene all over the back nine at Muirfield.

The Course

This year’s event will be played at Muirfield Village Country Club in Dublin, Ohio, which is a suburb of Columbus. I spent two summers caddying at MVCC, where I was taught to 1) show up, shut up and keep up and 2) how to smoke weed inconspicuously whilst fore-caddying. Muirfield Village was among the first courses Jack Nicklaus designed and is also where he still lives part time with Barbara and the kids and his insanely high pitched nasally voice. It is home to the annual Memorial Tournament and hosted the 1986 Ryder Cup, which the US lost in a pretty stunning upset, but that’s another story for another time…like the one about the hooker with dysentery.

Tiger Woods has had incredible success at Muirfield (in 17 Memorials, Tiger is 171 under par on the par 5s. Seriously) and Matt Kuchar won the Memorial this year, two things that do bode well for the Americans. Like most Nicklaus courses, especially the early ones, every hole seems to be designed with Jack Nicklaus left to right ball flight in mind. Almost every tee shot sets up nicely for a fade (or a draw if you're a lefty like Mickelson), and players who rely upon a draw are going to encounter some shots that don't fit their eye. I'm not sure Muirfield has a “signature” hole (and I never did find the glory hole I keep hearing so much about), but both 12 and 18 serve as pretty memorable challenges. 12 is a daunting par 3 over water where the golfer finds himself teeing off almost 100 feet above the hole staring down at a green that appears to run away from you towards the water. It should make for some interesting play in some tighter matches. The 18th is a lengthy par 4 with one of the tougher tee shots you’ll find. Extremely tight fairway. Miss the fairway left and you find a creek, miss it right and you are in a bunker and blocked out by trees. If you decide to hit three wood, you’re left with a long iron into an elevated, well bunkered green. Good times all around.

From the perspective of the viewer this weekend, the par 5s will provide the most entertainment as all of them present great risk/reward opportunities. Both #5 and #11 have creeks weaving down the middle of the fairway which may dissuade some from using driver off the tee. And, both are pretty easily reachable in two. The second year at worked at Muirfield, I was assigned to work the driving range during The Memorial. We had a rain delay during the final round…which meant that all the golfers went to the locker room to take cover. Except for that asshole Vijay Singh. Vijay, who was leading the tournament at the time, headed straight for the range. Vijay was on the par 5 11th when play was suspended--he had 231 yards left to the hole for his second shot. So, in a driving rainstorm, he had his caddie pace off exactly 231 yards and stand, alone, out in the middle of the range getting douched with rain while Vijay pounded 3 woods at him. This went on for almost a half hour. I would guess Vijay hit 100-150 3 woods. And then it was announced that play was suspended for the day. Fast forward to Monday’s re-start, and Vijay stuck the 3 wood to two feet, tapped in his eagle and won the tournament. But he’s still an asshole. And his caddie hates him.


The US wins again going away. I was considering the contrarian pick here, because the US always won this thing when the Int’l Team looked stacked…but I’m just not seeing it. The average World Golf Ranking on the American team is 13.6 and for the Internationals its 35.4. That seems to make a International win seem highly unlikely.

This morning's opening matches are as follows:

Mahan/Sneds vs J-Day/DaLaet - I like the internationals here. This pits two of our emotionally shakier guys together --seems like a bad pairing. Also, Jason Day is a member at Muirfield Village--his wife is from Columbus. So, that feels like an advantage.

Haas/Simpson vs Scott/Matsuyama - I like the internationals here as well. Matsuyama is a really solid young player and Adam Scott has been amazing this year. Webb Simpson has had issues all year and Bill Haas is that can't help matters.

FIGJAM/Keegan vs Louis and Charl - I like team spazz here to get some points up for the good guys. "Charl" is not a name.

Stricker/Speith vs Els/deJonge -Speith is an incredible talent (I have his picture in my hope chest next to my Rand Paul centerfold from National Review) and Stricker's Midwestern folksiness and putting stroke will win the day here. I will refer to this International pairing as El Debarge all day.

Kuch/Eldrick Woods vs Cabrera/Leishman - This one really depends on whether or not Angel feels like trying this weekend. I don't think he does. I think he plans to duff it around, take the Marlboro train to flavor country 40 times a round and drink a gallon a brandy at lunch.

Johnson/Dufner vs Rissoli and Isles - Its actually versus Grace and Sterne...who don't play in the US much. I like the Americans here based solely on jingoistic homerism. That said, I worry about this pairing. Johnson's a big God-squader and I bet Dufner thinks he's about a much fun as a kick in the pants. Put Johnson with Mahan so they can quote scripture for 18 holes and put Dufner with Woods or Speith so they can talk about getting "strange"and hand jobs.

So, I've got it 4-2 US after session #1. Let's go get em.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Episode VI: A New Hope for the Weary on Erie, Alternatively Titled "I Can't Believe We Have to Watch the Bills Play the Browns on Thursday Night"

Buffalo and Cleveland have lots in common: Lake Erie, high unemployment, snow. And of course, once-proud football teams that have been epically bad for over a decade.

As you have heard me whine too many times, the Bills haven't made the playoffs since 1999. From 2000 to 2012 they won 82 games and lost 126, averaging 6.3 wins and 9.7 losses. They've suffered four consecutive seasons with double-digit losses and have seven seasons with 10 or more losses over this time frame. But they have no seasons with double-digit wins and just one season above 0.500.

The Browns might actually be worse. I say might because they made the playoffs in 2002 (with a 9-7 record) and they have a season with double-digit wins (10-6 in 2007). But they only mustered 71 wins to 137 losses from 2000 to 2012, an average of 5.5 wins and 10.5 losses per season. That's atrocious -- they averaged double-digit losses for 13 years! They lost 10 or more games 10 times since 2000! They are currently on a streak of five consecutive seasons with 5 or fewer wins. Inspiring stuff. They were an expansion team in 1999 so they went 2-14. They didn't even exist from 1996 to 1998 so they had 0 wins over that span. And before that they had the best football coach of the past 25 years ... but they fired him and moved the team to Baltimore.

I therefore refer to fans of these teams in the 1999-2012 timeframe as The Weary On Erie.

The Bills and Browns have played 17 times since 1972:

As you can see, six of these games took place in 2004 or later. This is no coincidence; the NFL purposely schedules intra-conference games based on the previous year's standings. So the AFC division winners play each other, the second place teams play each other, the third place teams play each other, and the losers play each other. And as I've already explained, the Bills and Browns have done a lot of losing over the past 10+ years. In fact, they have each other as division losers 5 times in 6 years. The missing season was 2011 -- the 2010 Browns went 5-11 and finished ahead of the 4-12 Bengals.

Unsurprisingly, this series of futility is tied at 3-3 with a bunch of ugly scores. They pick up where they left off on Thursday night when the Bills make the trek out I-90 (aka the New York Thruway, aka the Ohio Purnpike, aka AMVETS Memorial Highway) to Cleveland in another divisional losers face-off. The Bills start rookie QB EJ Manuel and at times he looks like a rookie QB.


His stats aren't great:

But they're 2-2 with a win over the defending Super Bowl champions and a game winning drive against Carolina in the 4th quarter. Sure, he only completed 45% of his passes the last two weeks but he was facing two of the better defensive coaches in the league (Rex Ryan and John Harbaugh) so he deserves to be cut a little slack. So I'm once again cautiously optimistic that Buddy Nix got this pick right.

The Browns are also 2-2, riding Brian Hoyer's hot hand to a two game win streak. Although he isn't a rookie like Manuel, Hoyer has a few newbie-looking GIFs floating around on the internet too:

But I suspect that Browns fans, just like Bills fans, have hope that they've found their new franchise QB. Hence the title of this post, in honor of the 6th (VIth?) matchup between these teams in the past 7 years.

These teams have more in common than 2-2 records and questionmarks at QB. The Bills have a -5 point differential while the Browns are -6, with average margins of victory of -1.3 and -1.5 points respectively. Although the Bills have played much closer games (all decided by 7 points or less), it's safe to say that neither team relies on one particular side of the ball to carry them.

The Browns complete 56.8% of their passes, the Bills 56.9%. Accuracy ain't their thang. But uptempo offense is: both teams rank in the top 5 for plays run so far this year (Buffalo 288, Cleveland 280). Unfortunately, both teams rank in the bottom 8 for yards per play, so maybe they should focus on quality instead of quantity. And they're tied with 7 turnovers on offense, right around the league average of 6.9 (clicks).

There's more difference on defense. The Browns have allowed the 4th fewest yards while the Bills have given up the 5th most. The Browns have the stingiest yards-per-carry defense in the league (only 2.9!!) while the Bills are the 9th most generous (4.2 ypc but I'll take anything under 4.5 at this point). Similarly, the Browns allowed a league-leading 2 passing TD so far while the Bills gave up 8 (tied for 10th). The Browns also lead the lead in yards allowed per pass attempt (5.9) while the Bills are right around the league average (7.1). The Browns also lead the league in yards per completion (9.8) whle the Bills rank 29th (13.1). The Bills lead the league with 9 INT, and the Browns have but 3 picks. But they both rank in the top 8 in terms of opposing passer rating (70.0 for Buffalo, 73.5 for Cleveland).

Remarkably, both teams rank in the top 5 in defensive plays run (298 for the Bills, 279 for the Browns) so I guess we should expect to see a lot of action with little downtime on Thursday.

I don't believe in the Bills' running game even though they've racked up the 2nd most rushing yards per game, and I expect the Browns' defense to shut down Spiller and Jackson. Although I'm not sold on Brian Hoyer, I don't have a ton of faith in Buffalo's passing defense either. I can also see recently acquired Browns RB Willis McGahee running roughshod over his former team just to remind everyone that the Bills are bad at retaining talent. Like this guy who they got to replace McGahee, and who replaced with CJ Spiller:


Yeah, I'd trade this guy for a 4th round pick. Good value.

The Bills have players named EJ, CJ, and TJ, aka the Eedge, the Ceedge, and the Teedge. That's too many -dges for my taste, and the team with the most Teedges usually loses. So I'm picking Cleveland to win 16-13.