Thursday, November 30, 2017


There are those in the world of football proclaiming this goal by Everton's Wayne Rooney the greatest score of all time.

If not the greatest, it's in the discussion. One-timer with the laces from behind the midfield stripe - it's hard to overstate the amount of skill required to pull that off.

Celebrate the aging Rooney today while you toast W&M's own Connor Burchfield, who dropped a CAA and school-record 10 three-pointers on Marshall last night.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017


Your occasional compilation of flotsam and jetsam, compiled when I probably should've been doing something to advance my career or improve myself. Or at least not staring at Twitter and getting angrier and angrier about the state of our nation's affairs.

Paste Magazine released its annual list of the year's best albums. As always, it's a mix of somewhat mainstream alternative and hip-hop and stuff that modestly aware but not deeply immersed hipster suburban dads haven't ever heard of. Case in point, Kendrick Lamar's excellent DAMN. is second on the list. But the top spot is occupied by Jay Som's Everybody Works. Your guess is as good as mine, though Melina Duterte's ethereal fuzz-core is cool, if a bit laid-back weird. Father John Misty, Run the Jewels, Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile, LCD Soundsystem, New Pornographers, Alvvays, Jason Isbell, and King Krule all made the top 15, but so did Sampha, Mount Eerie, and Sheer Mag. I've got some catching up to do.

If you didn't see Sunday's Grey Cup between the Toronto Argonauts and the Calgary Stampeders, you might've missed the greatest moment in Canadian history. In a driving snowstorm, Ontario's own Shania Twain entered stage right aboard a dogsled, and was escorted to the stage by a phalanx of Mounties. For real.

Morrissey recently said some pretty stupid shit about Kevin Spacey, among several other things. And the AV Club dropped a solid, if obvious headline:

A modest tax reform proposal: the Government should buy a shitload of Bitcoin and wait. Next step, we're all rich. Show me how I'm wrong.

We're in the market for a NCAA hoops squadron for G:TB to adopt. We could do worse than Texas, which played spirited games against Duke and Gonzaga in the PK80 event, taking both teams to overtime before losing. Mo Bamba is both fun to watch and to say, and Kerwin Roach has hops like Arrogant Bastard.

Zman introduced Bring a Trailer into our lives recently. And now I'm addicted. Thanks, zman.

It's almost Gheorghemas, so head into the comments to tell us what you want this year. Other than a new government.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

This Week in Wrenball: One Shining Moment

Oliver Tot has been the very definition of a role player during his time at William & Mary. The senior guard from Slovakia entered last night's game against Old Dominion having taken a total of three shots through the season's first four games in just under 14 minutes per game. He's played 86 games for the Wrens, averaging 1.2 points, 1.1 rebounds, and 1.1 assists per game in his limited minutes providing backcourt depth. On a team that spaces the court and shoots three-pointers with abandon, he attempts one triple every 3.4 games.

Last night, though, he did this:

Tot's only shot lifted the Tribe to a 79-77 win over their local rivals, and gave W&M its sixth win in the last seven over a team that used to dominate the Green and Gold. In a season that's likely to provide many more valleys than peaks, Tot's SportsCenter Top 10-worthy heave may well be the highest of highlights.

The Wrens host Marshall on Wednesday before starting a three-game road trip that culminates December 9th against Ohio State. As Prince Akeem says, that one may be 'in de face'.

But hey, we'll always have Ollie Tot.

Friday, November 24, 2017

20/18 Foresight

Depending on when you hunker down to read this, we're about 200 days from the kickoff of the 2018 World Cup. While many of us are still smarting from the U.S. Men's National Team's galling failure to qualify (and really, how did those fuckers manage to gack qualifying in what's objectively the easiest confederation in the world?), the rest of the planet is still planning to hold the event. And since it's going to happen regardless of how much we care about it, we decided that we'd make the best of it.

Most years, I'd move on from the U.S. to my second favorite footballing nation, the Netherlands. But the Dutch are in the midst of an identity crisis and fucked up their UEFA campaign from the jump, so they'll be joining Sam's Army (and Italy, Ireland, Ghana, the Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Chile, and several other traditionally strong sides) as spectators. So I need to find yet another team for which to root.

In the spirit of our exhaustive search for a new favorite NFL team, we bring you Gheorghe's definitive guide to determining your World Cup rooting interest. By 'your', we mean, 'my'.

Since there are 32 sides competing in Russia, and I don't have the stamina to write something pithy about each nation, the G:TB staff established a set of ground rules regarding the choice of a temporary favorite national side. To wit:

1. We can't root for a previous champion, because that feels bandwagony (so we send our regrets to Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, England, France, Germany, and Spain)
2. We definitely can't pull for countries actively trying to undermine the United States (fuck off, Russia, and Iran - and Trumpistan, for what it's worth)
3. We certainly cannot root in good conscience for countries that are home to Cristiano Ronaldo (Tchau, Portugal)
4. We don't feel good about rooting for countries we've never seen actually play soccer (apologies to you, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, and Serbia)
5. And finally, we won't be rooting for countries that don't have a single player on the roster with whom we're familiar (our bad, Japan and Tunisia)

As we're nothing if not rule followers, we're down to 17 national teams for whom we're willing to root. A couple more rules, maybe, to help us narrow it down. Guidelines, perhaps.

Since we want to root for a team that's got a reasonable chance to at least advance to the knockout stages, we're sad to say that Australia's probably not going to be our team. As fun as it is to say Socceroos, and as much personal affinity as we've got for the Land Down Under, they're just not going to advance. The same is true for our CONCACAF pals from Panama. (Seriously, we couldn't beat Panama in a 10-match qualifying tournament? Fuck us.) Peru are a great story, qualifying out of the brutal CONMEBOL death march for their first World Cup since 1982, but la Blanquirroja aren't going beyond the group stage. And South Korea's a modest 59th in the FIFA World Rankings, behind such minnows as Haiti and Jamaica. Little chance for them to advance and earn my love.

We should probably also take a stand as it relates to vaguely despotic regimes, so even though we celebrated Egypt's qualification and Mo Saleh is tearing the EPL up for my second-favorite English side, we really can't root for them.

Mexico are a tempting choice as our closest World Cup-playing neighbors. Our cultures are increasingly interwoven, and El Tri have a chance to make a decent run. But rooting for Mexico would be a little like rooting for Auburn. And I wouldn't root for Auburn against Russia.

Iceland are an awesome story, a country of 300,000 competing on the world's largest sporting stage. Their hardworking collection of interchangeable Somethingssons appeal to our sense of the underdog. But everyone's going to be in a hurry to back StrĂ¡karnir okkar (and to learn how to pronounce it), so we're going to reluctantly go a different direction.

There are a handful of other European countries that we like but can't really get fully behind for no particularly good reason. Croatia's uniforms might be the best in the competition. Poland features the sublime Robert Lewandoski. Sweden eliminated the Italians, and boasts Swedish women. Switzerland is a beautiful land, and Xherdan Shaqiri is my kind of diminutive footballer. Tottenham's Christian Eriksson cast aside a reputation for poor international play to drive Denmark to a place in Russia. But I can't get excited by any of those squads.

One of the best things I've ever seen at a live sporting event is the spontaneous joy of Cameroonian fans as they celebrated their team in an Olympic match against Canada in 1984. Nigerian and Senegalese backers will bring that same emotion and atmosphere next summer. I'll be pulling for both to advance. But they're not my top choices.

Colombia's got a bit of snakebitten World Cup history, to the point where their 1994 loss to the United States cost defender Carlos Escobar his life in a shooting upon his return home. And in James Rodriguez, Radamel Falcao, and Juan Cuadrado, they've got talent to burn. But I can't root for a team coached by a guy named Pekerman, can I?

Belgium may well be the best team in the tournament. They're lousy with top-flight talent, from Manchester United's Romelu Lukaku up top, to Eden Hazard, Marouane Fellaini, and Dries Mertens i the midfield, to Vincent Kompany, Jan Vertonghen, and Toby Alderweireld in the back and Thibaut Courtois in goal. Not to mention Kevin de Bruyne, who might be the best player in the world right now, non-Messi division. The Red Devils are my choice to win it all, and I'd be happy to see it.

Unless it came at Costa Rica's expense. Our CONCACAF rivals reached the quarterfinals in the 2014 World Cup, narrowly falling to the Netherlands in a penalty shootout. They thrashed the USMNT twice in the final round of qualifying, tallying a total of six goals while blanking us. They play a hard-nosed, fast-paced brand of soccer. In Real Madrid's Keylor Navas, they've got one of the world's best goalkeepers. Captain Bryan Ruiz made 97 appearances for Fulham before signing with Portuguese club Sporting CP. Their World Cup squad will feature a half-dozen MLS players. And Costa Rica is a beautiful place that's on our list of places to go for Spring Break, which is nice.

Vamos Los Ticos!

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Happy Actual Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving Gheorghies. This Gheorghie has a lot to be thankful for this year, including having this little corner of the electronic world to share with all of you. Thanks for the witty commentary, legal analysis, sometimes thoughtful insight, filler, general buffoonery, and for being a place that always offers a smile even on days when life in the real world is not so hot. 

Here a a few Thanksgiving clips you can watch while avoiding political debate with uncle Ed. 

First up is Alf helping host the 1989 Thanksgiving day parade. Watch everyone’s favorite Melmacian talk about the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and make jokes about Ishtar and Willard Scott’s weight. 

Staying in the 80’s, we have a very Cheers-y Thanksgiving. Rob and I are planning on recreating this for his in-laws enjoyment. 

And finally, the Thanksgiving clip that needs no introduction:

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Happy Early Thanksgiving

I am here to balance out Dave's 2,000 word opuses (opusii?)

Don't hand this man* the carving knife

*this noted double murderer once rushed for 273 yards against the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving Day. and lost.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Machine vs. Anti-Machine: 2017 Highland Park Soccer Wrap Up

On several occasions, Zman and TR have referred to their town's travel soccer program as "the machine," and this always makes me chuckle . . . for example, in Zman's masterful post about poopus interruptus, he explained that TR's children-- who are slightly older than Zman's children-- were "thus more entrenched in the machine that is our local travel sports program." I am sure from an outside perspective, especially a parent's outside perspective, that competitive travel sports must seem byzantine, biased, and downright bananas. A giant shiny sorting and crushing machine, that sucks up children, grinds them into their constituent skills, extracts the childish zeal from them, and then spits them out into the proper slot.

I teach (and once coached) in such a town (East Brunswick). The soccer program is large, competitive, and bureaucratic. When I coached middle school soccer there, three travel teams funneled into my tryouts. At least fifty kids would attend. All 8th graders. All skilled, seasoned travel soccer players. I would take twenty out of those fifty kids. They had five days to prove they were one of the top twenty (and I could recognize the top ten in five minutes, so it was really forty kids-- many of them similar-- vying for ten slots). Tryouts ran from Monday through Friday, and on Thursday the varsity coach, a good friend of mine, would come help me assess kids. It was intense. I ran them into the ground the first tryout, to eliminate a few kids that way. This led to the infamous Potato Chip Incident. But most of them stuck it out, despite the running, because they were travel soccer players. They were used to running (many of the kids who didn't make the team became cross country runners).

There was a playground adjacent to the field, in a shady wood. The last day of tryouts, I would sit on a tire swing and call the kids over, one by one, and tell them the deal. I did it face-to-face because I felt like posting a list was cowardly. I tried to keep it positive, but it was rough work. Kids cried. Parents cried. Players whose entire identities were wrapped up in playing soccer were told for the first time in their life that they weren't good enough. East Brunswick is a giant school, a typical grade is close to 800 kids. Most middle school soccer teams are grades 6 - 8, but because of the way that the schools are divided, the East Brunswick team is only 8th graders. Learning you're the 32nd best soccer player in your grade is bitter medicine to swallow.

So I would conference with each kid at the jungle gym, and either give them good news or tell them what to work on for next year: you've got no weak foot, you don't pick your head up, your first touch is abysmal, etc. and then I would encourage them to practice and then go out for the freshman team. I told them I was only one person, and while I did my best, I certainly made mistakes: it was hard to evaluate so many players in such a short time. I told them I hoped they would prove me wrong in a year, and there were certainly kids that did so. There was even a kid who got cut all the way along and didn't make the team until he was a senior, and then won a starting position and scored some significant goals that season. But those stories are rare. I teach senior English, and I've read plenty of college essays from former East Brunswick soccer players about when they learned-- despite what adults had been telling them-- that they weren't special, they weren't good enough, and they weren't going to succeed.

So that was what it was like working in the machine. Hyper-competitive, stressful, and exclusionary.

When I started coaching my younger son's travel team in my hometown, Highland Park, I had to retire from coaching at East Brunswick. I tried to keep this information on the down-low, but the Highland Park athletic director-- a friend of mine-- got wind of this. Actually, his wife got wind of it and insisted that he hire me. I demurred at first, because I was happy to retire from the everyday grind of school practice, and I was excited to coach my son. Plus, the travel commitment seemed light: two travel practices a week and games on Sunday. But somehow, with much flattery, the AD and his wife convinced me to step in and coach at the school as well. If you're a superficial soul like myself, it's hard to resist flattery. The high school team has practice and games six days a week-- Monday through Saturday. Travel practice would be Tuesday and Thursday evening, just after high school practice ended and travel games would be on Sunday. So that added up to seven days a week of coaching (with double practices on Tuesday and Thursday . . . those days I essentially coached from 3 PM to 7.30 PM, with just enough time for a snack). I'm not sure why I agreed to this-- probably because I am susceptible to flattery-- but I did.

When my kids reached middle school, I switched from varsity assistant/JV coach to the middle school coach, for child care reasons. The middle school field is right next to my house, in Donaldson Park. Soccer practice doubled as child care. My older son-- a sixth grader-- was on the middle school team, and his younger brother-- in fifth grade-- was supposed to come home from school and walk the dog down to the field and check in with me, to illustrate that he was home safe and that he was a responsible child. This rarely happened. Ian would go on various adventures around town while I worried about him, but I couldn't go find him because I had to run practice. And he didn't have a cell-phone. The next year was simpler: both my kids were on the middle school team and both would come to middle school practice.

Anyway, the Highland Park middle school team is the anti-machine. We have no cuts. We take all comers. I'm so involved in the travel program that I know what team every player is on, who their coach is, and then we work out a reasonable schedule. Two of our players play out of town on one of the best club teams in the state. They still consistently come to practice, but they often have to leave early. Some kids come to practice for 30 minutes, because they have club or travel practice later in the day. Kids skip when they need to. Some kids attend every practice and then attend their travel practice-- they can't get enough soccer. I had thirty-five kids on my roster this year. I don't think they were ever all at practice on the same day, but I often had to run a practice for twenty-five kids. This was challenging-- running a practice for twenty-plus kids, on a half field-- and a terrible half-field at that on (the girls team uses the other half) tailoring the activities to kids of varying ages and skill levels . . . but it usually worked out.

The older kids learned to play and practice with smaller kids, and this made their game better. They had to be more accurate with their passes, more graceful with their moves,  and less profane with their language. The little kids had to step it up. Occasionally, I'd have to put restrictions on the best players-- three touches, you can't score, etc.-- but mainly I focused on skill work, grids, and very little scrimmaging. I am an intolerant grouch at practice. There is no fucking around. The goal of practice is to do high level soccer stuff so we can crush all the other teams. My rhetoric is simple: we are a tiny school, we are the underdog, we are too small to compete with these teams, we should have no chance but you are a special group of kids and you should only be here if you're totally focused on defying the odds. This is not a social event. There are fifty boys in the 8th grade class, and twenty of them played on the middle school team.

Everyone on the team knows the deal with the games. The 8th graders and a few 7th graders are in the starting rotation. We're playing to win. If we get a lead, then I sub in the other kids. Sometimes we have thirty kids on the sideline. It's nuts. This season, we beat teams so badly and so quickly that all the little kids got in nearly every game. I always controlled the score of the game, so we never beat a team by more than five goals, but in a couple of games we were on headers and full volleys in the first fifteen minutes. Then-- and I feel bad for these teams-- I would release the sixth graders. We'd be up by three goals or so-- and a swarm of very motivated locusts would take the field. They wouldn't score, but they wouldn't get scored on, and they would pressure every every pass, slide tackle, run like maniacs, and make the most of their limited minutes. Then I'd put the starting crew in to end the half and they'd knock another goal in.

In the past two years, the middle school team has only lost one game (New Brunswick). This year we went 13 - 0. We couldn't find a team to beat us. The last game of the season, we picked up South Brunswick, a school seven times our size. In the huddle before the game, I was frank with them. I told them that the AD and I tried to find a team to beat them. They were annoyed, as they wanted to remain the only undefeated middle school team ever in Highland Park history, but I told them that I was going to do my best to prevent that. Highland Park is a very small school-- we're Group I. We have just over one hundred kids per class. We had already beaten Metuchen, a very good group II school, and New Brunswick, a group IV school whose middle school team had never lost a game. Ever. But the final win over South Brunswick was wonderful. They were bigger and faster than us, but we beat them all over the field. They never came close to scoring. My older son, who is small, got carted off the field after putting his body on a giant kid. My other son, who is even smaller, replaced him and hammered the giant kid. Everyone played hard and fast and smart, and even though our star player was having an off day, we won 2 - 0. I was a proud dad and a proud coach.

We've got every athlete in town playing soccer, and this all-feet-on-deck mentality has its costs. Highland Park was once a football town, but now they can barely field a varsity team. The middle school team folded two years ago. Everyone is playing soccer, and we've decided, in a very anti-machine way, to keep everyone in the program and see what happens. In East Brunswick, if you don't make varsity as a sophomore, you're on the chopping block. Juniors on JV become seniors sitting on the varsity bench, and seniors on the varsity bench cause unrest. In Highland Park, we let players hang around forever. The varsity coach even gives them the option: they can sit the varsity bench or get some minutes playing JV, which is generally unheard of . . . but we're a small town. And no one complains because the hierarchy is apparent. Everyone knows who the best kids are because there aren't as many players, and when you don't cut people, they get to play with the same kids every day and figure out just what their role it.

The boys varsity team-- which is comprised of a fairly even mix of seniors, juniors, sophomores, and freshman-- had a storybook season. They play in the Blue division with the group 2 schools, and they won the division handily. In the county tournament, which is generally a mess for the smaller schools, they beat St. Joes-- a group 4 school and perennial soccer powerhouse-- coming back from a two goal deficit. Then they played South Brunswick, the two seed in the county, a giant school and a soccer powerhouse, and they led them 2 - 0 deep into the second half, but gave up three goals in the last eighteen minutes. They were exhausted, playing without subs, and their star scorer-- Jonah Bieberman-- went down with a pulled hamstring. It was a tough loss, but it was probably better that they got eliminated from the county tournament because the smaller schools focus on the state tournament, where you play schools in your group. The girls varsity team had a fabulous season as well, winning their division, and some big games in the county tournament and the states, before petering out (mainly due to injuries).

In the state bracket, the boys were the number one seed in central Jersey. They won their first game handily, and then faced perennial rival South River, a primarily Portuguese and Hispanic total soccer town. South River knew they were outmatched, so they parked the bus-- brilliantly-- and played for the counter. Highland Park attacked for 90 minutes, then two overtime periods, without any luck. There was a force field around the goal. After two overtimes, the game was still tied and went into penalty kicks. The first set of five ended in a tie. Three kicks into the second set, it appeared Highland Park had won it. The shot was buried in the corner. Two senior players ripped their shirts off and sprinted towards the winning kicker . . . but they missed the fact that the goalie slid out toward the ball, caught it with his toe and it spun just wide. Early celebration . . . very bad juju. The two Highland Park players sheepishly put their shirts back on and returned to the fifty yard line, with the rest of the PK kickers. It took twenty-two penalty kicks to decide the match  . . . Highland Park won, and their star scorer (one of the premature shirt rippers) shot the deciding PK. I never saw anything like it. The moms of the PK shooters were hugging each other, hiding their faces, as they couldn't bear to watch the PKs.  When it was over, one of the South River players fell to the turf, curled into an inconsolable ball, crying at the outcome.

Highland Park then played Bound Brook, a better team than South River-- Hispanic kids with parents hailing mainly from Costa Rica and Ecuador-- and though Bound Brook put on a skillful and deceptive possession clinic in the first half, they only scored once, on a masterful trick corner kick and then-- as predicted by Mickey Landis, the gruff older parent of the star center-back-- Bound Brook folded in the second half, tired and cold, and Highland Park won 2 -1. 

The sectional final was against the defending champions, Asbury Park. Their star striker-- the Haitian sensation Davensky Joinvilmar-- was supposed to be unstoppable. Highland Park soccer had never won a central Jersey sectional title, but they were playing at home and it was very very cold. Very unlike Haiti. Despite the sub-freezing temperature and wind, the stands were packed. Joinvilmar was dangerous ever time he touched the ball-- but he never scored. Highland Park dissected the rest of the Asbury team and won 5 -1 . . . unheard of in a sectional final. They will get a banner in the gym for this. They went on to play in the state semi-finals against the winner of the south Jersey section, but bad luck struck-- three of their best players came down with the flu, and none of them played in the second half. One of them came off the field at halftime puking. Despite this, they took Glassboro into the second half with a zero-zero tie, before finally succumbing 2 to 0.

The whole town was so proud of this team, and the whole town had a hand in coaching them.  Which brings us to the anti-machine. Our varsity coach is a genuinely inspirational figure (he's done an iron-man triathlon and he doesn't have an ironic bone in his body). And all we want to do is send him well-trained players, as many as we can, because Highland Park is tiny and generally has no depth (the varsity team managed their astounding run with two subs).

Which brings us to the travel program. The anti-machine. The ramshackle slipshod contraption that we call Highland Park travel soccer. We don't have enough players to sustain a travel team in every grade, but we manage it (for the boys . . . the girls only have a team for every two years). We hold "try-outs" and a few kids do get cut, but essentially, if you can run and have any kind of athletic ability, you've made the team. It's a glorified rec program with a few stars. This fact pretty much explains everything: I am the try-out coordinator, and I had to make and distribute flyers. Anyone who knows me can imagine how that turned out.

I thought my younger son's team was going to fall apart at the end of last season, but I managed to pick up some younger kids and a miracle named Jesus . . . who saved our souls and our defense. Our travel soccer program costs $225 a season . . . if you can afford it. If you can't, then you can pay whatever you can afford. It's totally inclusive. Somehow-- because we have a guy in the program who works for the MLS-- this includes one day a week of Red Bull training. The Red Bull trainers are fantastic, and I've learned a shitload from them, which I've immediately applied at the middle school level.

Despite this anti-machine methodology, my older son is playing on a flight one team. He is NOT a flight one player, but he's surviving. In any other town, he would be cut, but instead he's getting a chance to play high level soccer, and if he grows next year, he'll be fine. Sometimes, my younger son-- who is much better-- plays as a guest for his team. That's the way it works. They win some and lose some, but they're competing with much bigger towns.

My team plays a couple flights down but the teams are very competitive: Bloomfield, Scotch Plains, some club out in Philipsburg?-- and so I was worried: half my kids are too young and many of them can't accurately pass a ball, but the heart of my team has been with me since they were seven. My younger son and a few of the other "veterans" are damned good. But plenty of kids on my team are green. It's a very different system. The stars of the team know it rests on them to score the goals and do the difficult marking, and the other team members are role players. They hustle, win balls, bang into people, and continue to practice. They don't get cut, and they eventually improve. Sometimes they grow huge and strong and end up on the varsity field as an enforcer.

I thought we might lose every game this season, as we adjusted to the new players, the 11 v 11, and the big field, but we ended up tied for first in the flight. Three of the teams were better than us, but they didn't know how to win. If it wasn't for a missed PK and some terrible officiating, we would have won the flight outright.

Highland Park is a liberal, diverse town. Rutgers professors, Jewish folk of every stripe and denomination, Asian and Indian immigrants, African-Americans, hippies, Hispanics, hipsters, and lesbians. Sports are not our strong point. So the soccer success has really galvanized the town. Everyone has a hand in it. The travel soccer program is run by volunteers. Despite this, we have teams playing in Mid New Jersey Flight 1 and MAPS. There's nothing more fun than beating a team with a paid full-time trainer with a British or Dutch accent (as we did Sunday night). Soccer has been monetized in our area, and many parents want to get their child on the most expensive club team they can afford. Full time trainers, lots of tournaments, many levels of play, plenty of gears and treads in the machine. We're doing the opposite in Highland Park. The very best players will play on clubs out of town, but that's the exception. And they still participate on the middle school team and the high school team, because we're small, informed and flexible. It's nothing like a machine. It's the anti-machine, and it's changed the way I think about sports. We're keeping everyone involved because when you're in a small town and you're playing JV soccer, this happens often: a varsity kid sprints over to the JV field, during the game, and says, "Sebastian got hurt! We need a midfielder" and you get called up and you step in and play fantastic, because you've got no choice, there's no one else on the depth chart behind you. There's no pressure. You just play.

I recognize this post is a long-winded mess, but I wanted to commemorate this fantastic season in Highland Park. I donated an insane amount of time to this project, as did many other coaches, managers, parents, players etc, and it's paying off. The parents are supportive, the town is united, there were no complaints about playing time, no one was cut, and everyone contributed. And next year, we're going to be even better.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Greatest. Wine label. Ever.

Was sent to Total Wine on Saturday, and as I wandered the store for an hour, sampling everything available, I stumbled upon this beauty:

It's the YOLO County that really makes me crack up. Perhaps Drake is somehow involved in this wine operation.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Bottoms Up for Professor Truck

I just finished a new song, "Lost Souls." It's somewhere between the romanticised sit-com utopia of the Cheers Theme song and the depressive alcoholism of The Replacements "Here Comes a Regular." Whitney should be singing it, and maybe the next time he comes to New Jersey, he can lend me his larynx.

Also, please note I found the string section of my synth program. Strings! They seem fitting.

Lost Souls

All you lost souls, all you lost souls, come in, come in--
come out of the rain, repent your sins.
All you angels, chained to demons, come in, come in--
it does not matter where you've been.

See the light behind the bottles,
find yourself an empty stool,
make a pile of your dollars,
and then you know what to do.

It's hard to make your way,
in the world today,
when everybody knows your name.
And there's no one left to blame.

A faded photo in your wallet.
You, your ex, and the dog.
Maybe someday soon you'll call her,
maybe when the leaves start to fall.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Please Help Me Make a Christmas Party Playlist for the Christmas Party I'm Regretfully Hosting

My neighborhood holds a progressive Christmas party every year across three houses. The host houses change every year and zwoman (in a moment of great drunken weakness) agreed to host the first leg this year. I am dead serious when I say all of you are invited. If I have to open my doors to a bunch of people I don't know and a handful of people I actively dislike, then you can come too. December 16th, be there or be square. I'll make sure there's enough booze for everyone to get plastered.

This party is a bit of a drag for several reasons, not the least of which is the music situation. The first two houses never have any music, and the third house plays Taylor Swift to make all the drunken fools dance. That's not on tap for this year in zhome. I will have a stunningly dominant playlist for my portion of the party and it will be so because all of you will help me.

I want to include cool takes on classics, like "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" by Jimmy Smith. Along those lines, a few jams from "A Christmas Gift to You from Phil Spector" will make the cut because everyone recognizes every song on the album and they're great ... and I roomed with Spector for two years so I owe him some spins. I want to include older groovy stuff like "North Pole Rock" by Cathy Sharpe or "Gee Whiz it's Christmas" by Carla Thomas. I am definitely including some punk rock numbers like "Father Christmas" by The Kinks and "Merry Christmas (I Don't Want to Fight Tonight)" by The Ramones. "Christmas in Hollis" is a given, as is "Back Door Santa" by Clarence Carter because that's what Run-D.M.C. sampled and it's a damn good song.

I absolutely 100% need to include subversive songs that will make my neighbors go "WTF" but I don't want to cross certain lines. I am not including "Millie Pulled a Pistol on Santa" by De La Soul because pedophilia is just too inappropriate for a holiday party (Roy Moore is not invited even if he reads this blog). I also am not including "White Palms" by Black Rebel Motorcycle Club even though it's one of my favorite songs and it talks about Jesus because it's too off the Christmas mark--it literally dares Jesus to come back. "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer" doesn't even deserve a link simply because it's too bad a song.

If you're feeling too lazy to contribute to my playlist, go to hell. I emailed Rex Doane for some subversive suggestions and he replied! A guy who has no idea who I am replied to my request for playlist help so you can too. Rex generally suggested I check out his playlist archive for gems like last year's Christmas Eve show. He also gave me two of his favorite low brow/no brow Christmas songs:

Please suggest some songs and come to my (god-awful) party to see if your picks made the playlist.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Cards for Hilarity

Barring some sort of unforeseen inheritance event or lottery fortune, I consider it highly unlikely that I'll ever have fuck you money. I'm okay with this. I'm making a concerted effort to cut back on my 'fuck you' output.

Hantoot, Temkin
If I did somehow fall into that kind of cash, though, I'd really like to believe that I'd use it like Max Temkin and Ben Hantoot are using theirs*.

Hantoot and Temkin are the co-creators of Cards Against Humanity, the very adult-focused 'party game for horrible people'. Each year, they spring for an oddball holiday marketing stunt. Three years ago, for example, they bought an island off the coast of Maine, named it 'Hawaii 2', and gave customers license to visit.

For the 2017 festive season, they've upped the ante, politically, if not financially.

The company has launched a website entitled 'Cards Against Humanity Saves America', which opens with the words, "It’s 2017, and the government is being run by a toilet. We have no choice: Cards Against Humanity is going to save America." And that's just the beginning.

The coup de grace is a bit of cheeky real estate maneuvering targeting the Developer-in-Chief. As the company explains, "Donald Trump is a preposterous golem who is afraid of Mexicans. He is so afraid that he wants to build a twenty-billion dollar wall that everyone knows will accomplish nothing. So we’ve purchased a plot of vacant land on the border and retained a law firm specializing in eminent domain to make it as time-consuming and expensive as possible for the wall to get built."

They know they won't succeed in blocking the wall, but they choose the path of pain in the ass. I think we can all relate to and admire that instinct.

God Bless you, Messrs. Hantoot and Temkin. May your sick senses of humor and willingness to jam a stick in the Man's eye never wane.

* I knew Cards Against Humanity was popular, but I had no idea they were banking fuck you money. Good for those fucking whackdoodles.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Fuck You Cancer - Continued

Rob's recent "Fuck You, Cancer" post followed shortly thereafter by a Tweet from Shlara announcing her 7-year anniversary of being free of cancer not to mention Whit's recent push for additional volume from those of us who are, well, under-performing as it pertains to submitting posts, prompted me to contribute to our Q4 content output. (SOD material there, no?)

Over the last twelve months I've become involved with a young charity here in town, the Apryle Showers Foundation. Founded and led by a neighbor, friend, and all around world-class guy has made it an honor to do so. Though not terrible by any means, the website is in the process of being completely revamped so no judging please should you meander that way. And should you, you'll read Bill's story. A year or so into his marriage to Apryle, the second for both of them, and on the same day he was let go from his job, they learned about her death sentence. How they handled it is still awe inspiring to me and every single person that knows either or both.

Anyway, the purpose of the quick post is simply to raise some awareness for a good cause, though I do reserve the right to ask for a few dollars down the road. I'd ask Rob and Mark to share among your friends and family here in North Florida, and for all to remember this should God forbid, a friend or family member becomes someone who might benefit from its offering.

Last year we held our inaugural 10K race. With 476 runners and roughly $40,000 raised, we exceeded the expectations of all including those of us that put on the event. Saturday, April 8th, is the date of next year's run so put on the calendar if you are feeling frisky. In the meantime, Like us on the Facebook please.

That is all - carry on.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

This Week in Wrenball: Let's Get This Over With

Not walking through that door
William & Mary's men's basketball team won 77 games over the past four seasons, the most by any Tribe team over a similar span in 65 years. In the previous 10 seasons, W&M made the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) tournament final four times after never having reached the precipice of the NCAA Tournament before. W&M beat Maryland, Wake Forest, and N.C. State on the road in recent years. Two different Tribe players signed contracts with the Boston Celtics in the past two years.

We're gonna need those memories to keep us warm this season. The Golden Age, as it were, is over.

Omar Prewitt and Daniel Dixon graduated, taking with them 34.9 points per game. Jack Whitman transferred to Kansas, and then left, oddly. In any case, he was W&M's third-leading scorer and second-leading rebounder last season. Greg Malinowksi transferred to Georgetown - he made 52 threes on 40.0% shooting and was probably the team's best perimeter defender. Those four represented 64.5% of the Tribe's scoring and 54.6% of the squad's rebounding in 2016-17, while accounting for 60.1% of the team's three pointers.

The cupboard, she is looking bare. With only 10 scholarship players, and only one returning starter, the Tribe is both inexperienced and lacking in depth.

David Cohn is that only returning starter, and while he's poised to become the all-time assist leader in program history, he's limited offensively. Sophomore Nathan Knight showed a ton of promise in his rookie season, and offers W&M the kind of skilled, athletic big man we haven't seen since Tim Rusthoven, but he's prone to foul trouble, and the Tribe has exactly zero post players with even a minute of collegiate experience behind him. Connor Burchfield is a great shooter, if someone can get him a shot. He and Paul Rowley are nice complementary players. The problem this year is that both of them will have to start.

Boston College transfer Matt Milon showed promise in the Tribe's pre-season tour to Jamaica, as did freshmen Luke Loewe and Jihar Williams.

W&M opened its season Friday on the road against a High Point team that was a middling Big South outfit last year. It wasn't pretty. The Wrens made just five of 22 three-pointers, had just four assists on 20 total made field goals (all four by Cohn - nobody else dropped a single dime), were outrebounded by 11, and committed 15 turnovers to the Panthers' nine. High Point built a 12-point halftime lead before burying the overmatched Tribe in the second half on the way to a 100-64 win.

We've begun a season where a number of CAA teams look to take big steps forward, and the green and gold have pretty clearly taken several in the opposite direction. In Tony We Trust, and all that, but if this team is to win even 10 games, it'll take one of his great coaching jobs.

It's not all bleak, if you're willing to expand your parameters. The Tribe's had a strong recruiting year, securing commitments from four highly-regarded prospects, at least by W&M standards. And speaking of W&M standards, three of them are named Thornton, Quinn, and Chase. Those are first names. Those guys can't get here soon enough.

If you came here seeking standard-issue Wrenball optimism, you'll need to give us a few weeks. Or, if we beat Hampton on Wednesday, a few days. Our love for the Wrens remains unconditional, but it might be a tough love this season.

Friday, November 10, 2017

WWzD/Automotive Alphabet Aerobics: A is for Alfa

I haven't done a WWzD post in a while, and I have an idea for a recurring gimmick/series that no one except rob will enjoy, and rob will only enjoy it because it increases our post count. Armed with the internet, the alphabet, and my impeccable taste in automobiles, I will march through marques and mark the models I moon over in three price brackets.

My automotive list of things to do includes owning an Italian car at least once. Almost all are completely out of my financial reach. Luckily, Alfa Romeo made some really cool cars that are now really affordable. I love the boat-tail Duetto, but those will set you back at least $30k. For less than half that price you can get a much newer Spider, like this tidy example in Armonk, NY for $12,500:

21,000 miles with the hard top included? Yes please! Chisel them down to around $10k and smile with the top down all spring summer and fall.

Maybe you don't like two seat rear-wheel-drive convertibles (because you're a fool). Or maybe you just don't want to spend that much. You're in luck--Alfa made a front-wheel-drive sedan called the 164 and I love it. I dated a girl whose father had a 164. I got farther with the girl than the car. Would you trust me with this?

That car is the Quadrifoglio version, which is Italian for "fast and fragile." Those can be a little more expensive than the lesser 164s, but no matter what you do get one with the V6 cuz dat Busso!:

For under $5000 you can get that beautiful car in green over biscuit with (a slightly detuned version of) that engine. I am always on the lookout for one of these within driving distance of zhome and came within a few hundred bucks of winning one on relatively recently.

Maybe you're a baller and money is no object. What then?

Alfa's been around for over 100 years and they've made a bunch of cool cars. Import laws now allow for the insanely weird Lego-on-steroids SZ to be brought into the US. This one is $105,000.

I really dig the SZ but would only get one if I had fuck you money and it was one of ten cars in my collection. It just screams "1990" too much to be my Sunday driver.

The Montreal is so "1970's Italian supercar" that it hurts. And many were made in orange, which is awesome, and the gauge cluster is crazy.

But this still isn't quite right. Like I said, I'm biased towards rear-wheel-drive two-seat convertibles, and I have a soft spot for real vintage stuff so the Giulietta Spider is just about perfect.

This one is a 1959, one owner (!?!?!?), numbers matching, original bill of sale ... GAH! And who doesn't want to sit behind this steering wheel for hours at a time?

For $135,000 you could build a significant addition on your house or you could drive around in this thing while your old lady rides shotgun pretending to be Sophia Loren. It's a tough choice for some but I'll take my busted kitchen and the Giulietta every time. zwoman, for the record, does not agree. Luckily I have neither an extra $135k nor the garage space for this perfect specimen of Milanese style and engineering.

As a side note, Ray Allen drives an 8C. I know this because FOG:TB JP once got his doors blown off by Ray Allen in his 8C in Waltham. You could do a lot worse.

Thursday, November 09, 2017

Fashion is Dumb: Same Day Delivery Edition

WTF is this?

Too lazy to write a lot of words, but post count, right?

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Fuck You, Cancer

Today is November 7. I've been on vacation since November 1, which means that I've completely coincidentally not shaved even once this month.

That's convenient for reasons both personal and communal.

As to the latter, the Movember movement enters its 15th year of (hair)raising awareness of men's cancer health issues. Most readers know of Movember's call to hairy arms this time of year, asking men to grow facial topiary to raise money for research and awareness of men's cancer issues. My father died of cancer, as did his sister, and both of my grandfathers survived prostate cancer. I'll either live into my 90s, or die from cancer before I turn 70. It's not an academic matter to me and the community of men impacted every day by this fucking disease.

What's convenient, in this case, is the fact that I have an excuse to grow a mustache, now that I'm a week into November with the beginnings of one (as pictured, badly).

On a more immediate note, by the time you read this post, one of my closest professional friends will likely be right in the middle of a double mastectomy/reconstructive surgical procedure. Her name is Heather. She's 40, the mother of two young boys, and as competitive as the day is long. She'll learn tomorrow after her surgery whether she needs 12 weeks of chemotherapy to rid her of that fucking thing, or 28. I mentioned here (or on Twitter, hard to remember) that I'd recently participated in a flash mob. The occasion was the sales team she leads breaking into song and dance to show them how much they cared for her and supported her. They're #heatherstrong for her, because she's that for them all the time.

You don't know her, but you'd like her. And you know lots of people like her, some of them right her in Gheorgheland.

For Heather, and for Shlara, and for millions of others, I'm going to look stupid as hell this month. Fuck you if you think that's funny. And fuck cancer.

Monday, November 06, 2017

Somebody Has a Case of the Mondays

Another mass shooting, the Virginia gubernatorial race continues to tighten due to the traction gained by a really slimy, fear mongering campaign, and it now gets dark at about 4:30. I’m going to just leave this here:

Saturday, November 04, 2017

Saturday College Football Open Thread - Bettors Edition

Rob remains in Florida sunning his diminutive self at the "House of the Mouse" and if social media is to believed, Tejus is in Chicago helping lay the groundwork for the next real estate bubble.  Sad!  

With those two top of the masthead contributers on the shelf for the next few days it is falling to the second string G:TB'ers to pick up some of the slack.  (A little help from Almighty Yojo would be appreciated if that guy could remember his password)

As none of you will remember, several years ago in this space we used the "Dwayne from What's Happening!" football pick strategy to predict the NFL playoffs.   I'm not sure how those picks turned out (and I'm too lazy to go back and check) but I thought that we might revisit making gambling decisions based on a totally illogical strategy.   Today's slate of top 25 match-ups in college football seems like the perfect place to start.

So, with out further ado, here is the first in a likely non-reoccouring feature called "Marls Picks College Football Games Based on Which Mascot Would Win In a Fight."

#7 Penn State vs. #14 Michigan State (PSU -10)

This is a battle between child molesting "Nittany Lions" vs. Spartans.  First of all, fuck Penn State.   No really, fuck them and their child molesting cover up bullshit.  Thankfully, based on mascot analysis, MSU should kick the everliving crap out of PSU.

It's these guys:

versus a Pennsylvania lion.  

Pick:   Take the Spartans and the points.

#21 Stanford vs. #25 Washington State (Stanford -1.5)

This game pits some trees against a bunch of cougars.  If they were playing cougars like the "cougars in the outfield" made famous by Shlara and KQ, this might be a different story.  But, alas Washington State is adamant that their mascot is a feline of some sort.  Unfortunately, all that type of cougar can do is pee on the tree.

Pick:    Take the nerds and lay the points

#4 Clemson vs. #20 NC State (Clemson -8.5)

At first blush, this match-up might seem to favor the men from South Carolina.  Surely a tiger would take down an overgrown dog, right? However, you have to remember that this is a wolf pack we are talking about here.

Here is a bunch of wolves taking down a bison:

Or attacking a guy with meat tied to his body:

Pick:    Take the wolf pack getting the points

#5 Oklahoma vs. #11 Oklahoma State (OK St. -1.5)

The annual "Bedlam" game matches up people in a wagon:

against a plastic headed cowboy with a gun.

Seems like a no brainer to me.  Folks who lived in sod houses against an honest to goodness cowboy.  My only issues is the fact that the OK State cowboy is always depicted as walking bowlegged as if he is really saddle sore or has severe groin area chafing.  That type of issue could cause a problem in the long run, but I'm betting on the cowboy having enough talc to get him through an win the day.

Pick:   Take the cowboys and lay the wood

#19 LSU vs. #2 Alabama (Bama -21.5)

Ok, so this game features tigers fighting a red tide of some sort.  I grew up on Long Island where the  shellfish industry is constantly being threatened by "red tide", which is just a really big, gross algae bloom.  It looks like this:

Would this bother a tiger at all?  How would a tiger take on an algae bloom?  I have no clue.  Maybe this is a good signal that 21.5 point a shitload of points to lay in a rivalry game.

Pick:  No bet

#13 Virginia Tech vs. #10 Miami (Miami -2.5)

This this game matches up turkeys against a storm of immense devastating power.  Does not really seem like a fair fight, even when you take into account the fact that the Hokies were once called the Fighting Gobblers.  Notwithstanding the fact that the Hokies might be a fighting foul/cock of some sort, I still think the 100+ mph winds of the hurricanes have the edge.

Pick:   Take the 'Canes

Friday, November 03, 2017

One TRILLION Dollars

Hi folks. Guess what? Turns out I'm homeless until next Wednesday. Sanding and staining of floors is resulting in my eviction. Every single item that was in the first floor of my home is stuffed into a pod on my driveway, in my basement or in any nook available upstairs. The family and I will be kicking it in a Hyatt with a kitchenette for five nights. It's all pretty awful.

Given the frantic last-minute work to make this happen, I am working from "home," which means parking in the local Starbucks and commenting to myself on moms in athleisure pants while halfheartedly tinkering in Excel files. Athleisure pants are a strong look for many women (but a sub-optimal look for many more).

As I type this, everybody's favorite mega-cap tech stock (Apple) is pushing new all-time highs, at about $172.60/share. Shares are up 2.9% today after another strong earnings report and strong demand for their newest overpriced phones. Today's rally means the company's market capitalization (share price * shares outstanding) is now $868 billion. To those of you who are not scoring at home, this is a big number. A ha-yuge number. Rarified air among U.S equities. I remember the end of the last century, when the tech bubble was at its heyday, that Microsoft's market cap reached $500 billion. This was a big deal to a nerd like me at the time. I didn't realize that MSFT at $60/shr was a moment, not a movement.  MSFT shares would fall all the way to $15/shr amid the financial crisis, and they wouldn't break through the $60/shr level again until late 2016.

So here's the rub - my savvy mathematic skills tell me that Apple will be worth $1 trillion if it has another 15% rally. That, my friends, is a shit ton of money. I have a meager investment in AAPL shares that supports my standing as a thousandaire, so I'm here with my pom poms, rooting on the rally.

There are other mega-caps out there for sure: Google ($716 B), Microsoft ($648 B), Amazon ($527 B) and Facebook ($520 B) are in the half-tril posse as well. But Apple is the big dog right now. At least until the Saudi Aramco IPO in 2018.

The boys are thirsty in Atlanta and there’s beer in Texarkana

Soooooooo, our fearless leader is off to the Epcot Food & Wine festival and has left the “inmates to run the asylum”.  I feel ok using that phrase for three reasons. One, I’m not a mega wealthy team owner talking about his black employees. Two, I’m actually using the correct phrase. Three, with the exception of Shlara, you are all filthy animals. But I digress...

Anyway, Whitney demanded Friday filler and I am here to help despite being hung over at a conference in Atlanta listening to Dr. Sanjay Gupta give the last day morning keynote address. (Note to Sanjay, never take the last day morning slot at an insurance conference.  People are just trying not to barf.)

Using all my contacts in the department of Homeland Security, the Future Farmers of America, and the Orlando Chamber of Commerce, I was able to secure a photo of Rob hanging with Sleeping Beauty at Disney. 

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

A Bills/Browns Review, Alternately Titled "A Tale of Two Shitties"

Some might say we've been mercifully spared, while others might say mercilessly denied, another of my Bills/Browns previews because the Bills and Browns finished third and fourth in their divisions, respectively, in 2016 (as opposed to their usual last-place finishes that produce this herpetic matchup). As a result I wrote this Bills/Browns review, to review some of the awful decisions they've made.

My friend Mark is a Dolphins fan and he has a theory about the NFL draft: take a quarterback every year, and if you don't have a good one take the best one you can get in the first round, even if you have to trade up. In his view, amassing piles of draft picks like the Patriots do is great only if you have a good quarterback like the Patriots do. This opinion reflects the harsh reality that it's almost impossible to win a Super Bowl with even an average quarterback. Thus having great depth in the defensive backfield and tremendous special teams specialists does you little good unless you have a real stud under center.

Mark is further of the view that you know if a QB is a bust after two years. If so, move on. He's fine with rolling the dice on a high draft pick and moving on quickly if the player is a bust, so long as this risk is taken at the QB position. In his view, a complete bust is better than winding up with a guy like Ryan Tannehill because it's easy to move on from a bust. If you move on from Ryan Tannehill you could wind up with a total bust or even worse, Jay Cutler, so you're stuck with mediocrity for a number of years until the coach gets fired and a new regime comes in and cleans house.

The Browns highlight the flaws in Mark's theory. I'll explain. Here are the names of people who have thrown ten or more passes in a game for the Browns since 2012:

Cody Kessler
DeShone Kizer
Kevin Hogan
Robert Griffin
Josh McCown
Charlie Whitehurst
Austin Davis
Johnny Manziel
Brian Hoyer
Jason Campbell
Brandon Weeden
Thaddeus Lewis
Colt McCoy

Factory of sadness indeed. Here are the names of some QBs the Browns chose not to draft since 2012:

Deshaun Watson (they traded this pick to Houston, then took DeShone Kizer later)
Carson Wentz (they traded this pick to Philadelphia, then took Cody Kessler later)
Dak Prescott (they took Cody Kessler the round before)
Derek Carr (they took Johnny Manziel the round before)
Jimmy Garoppolo (again, they took Johnny Manziel the round before)
Russell Wilson (they took Brandon Weeden two rounds before)
Kirk Cousins (again, they took Bradon Weeden three rounds before)

To be fair, every team in the league passed on Prescott, Garoppolo, Wilson and Cousins ... and the Browns drafted Weeden, Manziel, Kessler and Kizer so they seem to be following Mark's theory. But the theory works best if the folks making the picks aren't completely asleep at the wheel. But even a blind squirrel can manage to bust a nut once every six drafts, right?

It is well established that I'm an idiot. However, when the Bills traded back from #10 in this year's draft I said "Did the Bills just do something that makes sense? Wow." and then "Although I would've been excited for them to get Deshaun Watson." He was tremendous in college and he's looked great so far this year. It didn't require piercing insight to recognize that Watson had yoodge upside--did you see the National Championship game?

Further, when the R**skins drafted Robert Griffin they also drafted Kirk Cousins. These picks worked out (compared to the situation in Cleveland at least). Would it have killed the Browns to take Weeden AND Cousins or Kessler AND Prescott? It's not like they're using their picks wisely and drafting well at other positions.

Seriously, the Browns suck at drafting all over the field. Here's the top 25 players the Browns drafted since 2012 ranked by career average value:

You know you're bad at drafting when the third-best player you've taken in the last six years is Trent Richardson. Who the hell is Mitchell Schwartz, other than the best Browns draftee of the past six years? I would've assumed he was a CPA, anesthesiologist, maybe a securities litigator. Turns out he's a Kansas City Chief! He went to KC last year and turned in his best career season to date in terms of AV. Typical Browns. Note that eight of these top 25 aren't in the the NFL anymore. That's not good.

All this is to say: the Browns realize that they don't have a QB, they realize that they need a QB, and they're actively drafting QB's, but they're either too dumb or too shook or too cheap or some combination thereof to draft a QB early in the first round. They need to talk to Mark. He hasn't said this, but I think his theory demonstrates the problem with advanced metrics that focus too much on "draft capital." Having all 32 picks in the seventh round might add up to a lot of "draft capital," but none of those players are likely to make your team better. At some point you have to take your balls out of your purse and spend a bunch of capital on a highly rated quaterback.

Buffalo's recent history highlights the potential merits of Mark's theory--you are never going to get a good QB unless you draft one (except for the Saints with Drew Brees, which must still piss off Charger fans). Here's a list of alleged humans that threw 10 or more passes for the Bills since 2012:

Tyrod Taylor
Cardale Jones
EJ Manuel
Kyle Orton
Jeff Tuel
Thaddeus Lewis (overlap!)
Ryan Fitzpatrick

Not exactly a beauty pageant. Unlike Cleveland, the Bills don't seem to feel any need to address this deficiency. Here's who they've drafted at QB since 2012:

Nathan Peterman
Cardale Jones
EJ Manuel

It's as if they're completely ignoring the position. Like the Browns they suck at drafting too:

Ten of their top 25 picks from the last six drafts are out of the league. Awful.

More remarkable, in my view, was their recent move to trade Marcell Dareus to Jacksonville for a sixth round pick. Much is made of the Bills' long-running failure to reach the postseason. What makes this particularly painful is that they haven't completely bottomed out (unlike the Browns) so they're typically good enough to get 6-7 wins and don't draft at the top of the board. Dareus, however, was the third pick of the 2011 draft and he played well for Buffalo. Getting only a sixth round pick for him is painful. You know what's really painful though? This:

Buffalo could've had any of these players on their team today other than Cam Newton or Von Miller. Instead they have a future sixth round pick. How's that for effective use of draft capital?! But I guess it isn't much more frustrating than this:

Buffalo could've stayed at 9, drafted Odell Beckham Jr. (or anyone else on this list except for Blake Bortles), and still had a first round pick in 2015. Instead they traded up for Sammy Watkins who they later traded for EJ Gaines and a 2nd round pick.

The one thing that remains constant is the Browns seem destined to win no more than four games, while the Bills are a near-lock to win six or seven. Which is particularly galling given that the Bills' personnel decisions make it appear that they're tanking. They can't even tank right!

I foresee the Browns having a top-three pick in April, while the Bills will have their own pick (figure somewhere around 14-16) and the Chiefs' (figure somewhere around 28-29). The Bills will trade both picks and Tyrod Taylor to the Browns for their pick, then draft a nose tackle. The Browns will draft QBs with both of the Bills' picks and both will suck. Whoever picks one or two spots after the Bills will get a Pro Bowl caliber QB. Neither team will hire Mark, but maybe they should.