One of the underrated joys in life is sitting down with a book and just getting lost for a while. I was reading my current book and there was a passage which referred to a Norman Rockwell painting known as “Marine Homecoming.” It got me to thinking about the old Saturday Evening Post, which has been in existence in one form or another since November, 1821. My curiosity piqued, I went back and noticed the essays and stories and poems that some of the greats contributed: Agatha Christie, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Faulkner, Vonnegut, and many MANY others – so how is it this magazine lost its popularity? I mean after all, this is a paper that had well written stories and celebrated American life OUTSIDE of LA/NYC/DC and talked about things that were important to those in the middle of the country.
Where has Americana gone? Is Americana an acceptable virtue of life in today’s society? I honestly wonder. It seems as if it’s wrong to celebrate life and actually read short stories? I sometimes wonder if we as a generation along with the ones moving forward were cheated by not taking advantage of something like the SEP. Do they even teach short stories and literature in school anymore?
Some of you are wondering what this might have to do with sports. In 1967, the paper was sued for defamation because they wrote an article that implied that Bear Bryant and Wally Butts conspired to fix a game between Alabama and Georgia. Butts was awarded $3 million, and there were other issues related to libel that went all the way to the Supreme Court, but the paper was never the same. This is one slant on the whole issue here. Interesting reading to be sure.
The good news is that the Saturday Evening Post still exists on newsstands (is there such a thing as this anymore?), but it’s also online, but they tease you: Read part of the story, then you have to pay to subscribe. The way of the future, paying for a glimpse of the past right???
MLB – Epitaph for 2014. When people think back to the MLB season of 2014, I have to believe that one word may come to mind if you are just a fan of Baseball – FUN!!! When is the last time that any of us could say “Hey, MLB is a damn good time/thing right now!”? There’s just so many positives – it was a no non-sense zone for the most part (outside of that d-bag Puig), but this season also had plenty of drama on the diamond.
Please forgive my movie analogies – I know I sound a lot like Tony DiNozzo, but this is how I see Baseball right now. 20 years ago, there was a Baseball movie that came out called “Little Big League.” It was about a 12 year old kid who loves Baseball and whose grandfather died and gave him the Minnesota Twins. He then went out and named himself the Skipper. He saw Baseball rightly so from the eyes of a child and struggled with adults who took a game he loved and removed the fun and made it a business – there was no joy for his players, yet in the end, the ball players came around and just had fun. It was silly and not a particularly great movie, but it got me to thinking about the 2014 version of Kansas City. They relaxed, had fun, and lookie what happened…
Well in 2014, this 50 year old got to see Baseball from the eyes of that 12 year old and in a sense I regained a certain joy of summertime that I long ago forgot about. But you know what? I’m also jealous. I’m jealous of Jeff and of Doug and Kyle, and all the others who always had the love of the game and never lost it. I’m jealous that I turned away from the X’s and O’s of the game, and quite honestly it’s a life regret that I took so long to regain my enthusiasm for the sport.
2014 was interesting for me: How do you not enjoy taking in a game at ATT Park in San Francisco? Or what about doing a cross-country drive and hit Target Field grabbing some fantastic grub in a beautiful stadium, and yes, celebrating the 20 year anniversary of Little Big League with the stars of the movie. AND what about Kauffman Stadium? Oh, and for kicks, visiting Arizona AND Florida Spring Training wasn’t too shabby. Add in Jerry’s visit to Wrigley Field, and it was an incredible year.
For me, I also got to see how others enjoy it- for instance Doug down in Arizona telling me all about D-backs games in Phoenix, Kyle writing about Toronto, all the talk of sitting in the seats at Fenway, and the minor league stadiums. My son tells me about Wrigley Field and then All-Star Monday at Target Field. There’s really no other sport that you can talk like this.
And what about on the field this season? How could you (even as an SF fan) not get with Kansas City going all the way to the final game of the World Series and watch Moustakas and Hosmer FINALLY play to their vast capabilities, while Madison Bumgarner had his coming out party? And as a San Francisco fan, how do I not enjoy what they have done since 2010? How was it not cool to see Oakland, Seattle, Cleveland, Milwaukee, and Pittsburgh do the “small market teams” proud? And what about those solid, solid teams in Baltimore and Washington and St. Louis?
For that matter, how do you not enjoy watching the beginnings being built in Houston with their kids starting to produce and the North Side of Chicago? And what about how Miami played .500 ball all season long? You see strides in San Diego, and then you see that teams are showing signs of life in Minnesota as well with their talent starting to heat up – but still needing a pitching staff.
Well, now we move on to 2015, and before that the Hot Stove League, where already players names are being talked about – Pablo Sandoval to Boston for instance.
MLB Trade. And just yesterday Atlanta and St. Louis hooked up on a deal that sent Shelby Miller to Atlanta for Jason Heyward and Tyrell Jenkins and Jordan Walden? Me thinks Atlanta gave up a bit much and it makes St. Louis that much better.
Farewell to 2014 – you were a great season, THE standard for future seasons. Baseball is in a great spot right now and I hope 2015 can be more of the same. I can promise you MLB, I’ll be back. Speaking of which:
Uncle B.O.B.’s World Tour Stop - #5. Yes folks it’s official, Uncle B.O.B. will be going back out on the road next March and this time while it includes South Florida, we are also going to DisneyWorld, or Epcot Center to be more precise which allows me to also have a greater choice of which Spring Training game I would like to attend. And to my friends in Michigan, it may very well be in Lakeland catching a Detroit game…
Be on the lookout because Stop #6 is in the planning stage with a very cool “Bucket List” side trip included. I was also blind-sided and surprised about a proposed #7 which IF it happens, I can’t wait for and it will be different for the Gab – to an area not covered regularly by the Gab, and might even be particularly pleasing to the Beeze who has mentioned a desire to go there.
West Hills Update. Jerry’s team hit the road to Salinas for their final game, going in 9-0 and needing a win to win their conference. Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be as Hartnell came back from down 16-3 to win 24-16 – the teams both ended up at 9-1 and were co-champs. The good news is that the kids still got to host Yuba College in the NCFC American Division Bowl.
Props to the West Hills team and it’s coaching staff who took an abysmal program and in one year turned in a 9-1 record. That is quite an accomplishment and while the loss might sting, the performance this season is worthy of respect.
Good Story of the Week: This is a bittersweet one. 75 year old Wilbur Heath was dying of Cancer and he had one final wish, the longtime civic supporter wanted to see his beloved high school football team one last time which is one of the powerhouses here in the Sacramento area. On Friday Night, he was brought in by ambulance. From his bed with folks surrounding him, he watched the game from the track at the 50. As a special surprise, he was wheeled out to midfield for the opening coin toss. Sunday Night, he died, content. RIP Wilbur. Here is his story:
This week's Monday Moaning is feeling slightly different...Sure, I managed to post a pic of a nice set of cans...That's kinda what I do here...But the words won't be wrapped up in tits, ass, and sports...this week I'm looking a little deeper inside myself...
On this Monday, an old friend, a childhood friend, is being laid to rest...I hadn't even thought much of her over many, many years...Random, occasional memories from the distant past pop up once and awhile...But not often...Then another old friend posted an old pic of them together, and it got me asking questions...It seems many of us lost touch with her, and a couple had been looking for her...They found her, fighting cancer for the second time, and losing this time...
For two weeks the images of her face, an amazing smile seemed to be haunting me...Had I been a dick to her at times? Of course I had, I was dumb, horny kid, and she had boobs...I'm sure I said and did idiot stuff...Had I been nice? Had I been a good friend? I know I had at times...I do have some memories left in this head full of voices...But clearly I hadn't been a great friend...I won't lie, I've been somewhat surprised by how much this old classmates passing has bothered me...Yes, 38 is far too young to die...But it's more then that...
I remember when I first got on Facebook, and all this other social media...How fucking cool was it...I was suddenly reconnecting with old friends, and connecting with new ones...Awesome...Well, it's easy to say we reconnected, if that means I 'saw your kids pics on facebook'...'I favorite your tweet'...But are we really reconnecting? Maybe we're just getting a glimpse of our old friends lives, as well as giving a glimpse back...
Yes, we all grow up...We change over the many years...We go different directions...We get jobs, get married, have kids, We gain weight, we lose it...Well, you may have lost it, I haven't...We pay bills, and more bills...(by the way, anyone have an extra $10,000?)....We lose track of time, let alone people...Our plans don't always work out as we hoped, or expected, or wanted...Sometimes for better, sometimes for worse...
It's not hard to lose track of friends...The hard part is keeping them in our lives...Finding the time do more then just post something on facebook, or shooting a text blast...I mean actually talking...Seeing each other...Life and our obligations get in the way easily...But I want to make a slight change in my life...I want to make time, no matter how brief, to be a better friend...To actually see some people I use see...That I use to know...I' not sure how, and I'm sure it will be a pain in the ass at times...But an old friend named Lauren made me realize that I've lost touch with a lot special people over the years...At the end of or time at St. James her quote in the memory book was "Get out there and change the world, you lazy bums!!"
Well, I may not be changing the world, but I'm gonna work on changing my world slightly...
As we watch the NFL today, we may see fads like the read-option come and go, absurd scoring show up and die down, and weird new rules that make even replay useless, but one of the biggest changes goes unnoticed, probably because you can't see it.
A lot of young quarterbacks have come aboard as instant starters in the past few years. Many have fallen or are falling by the wayside. They just weren't that good. So how did they manage to look good (or even play) in Year One? Such a thing was unheard of years ago, and years ago the running game dominated far more than today. You'd think almost anybody could hand off, and in an age of complex playbooks, disguised defenses and the like, it seems impossible that someone could handle an offense that quickly.
Answer: in most cases, they can't. That big difference we've seen is all due not to colleges suddenly turning out pro-calibre QBs by the dozens. It's not due to a flood of running QBs, always anathema to the NFL with its big, fast defenses. It's way simpler than that.
It's that radio in the helmets. Hand signals and shuttling guards may have been the same thing, but it's like comparing smoke signals to walkie-talkies or a compass to a GPS.
In the hands of a good OC, the radio is a powerful tool. But it doesn't make a young quarterback with fast legs and a great arm a great quarterback. It just seems to for a while. Once defenses get a book on the kid, radios don't help much. In fact, the defenses may be getting a book on the system.
First, they have radios too. Second, all they have to do is more disguising and changing up. That forces the kid to have to audible. Imagine trying to call an audible while your OC is barking his audible (and it is audible I'm sure) into your eardrums. Especially if you're either too green to audible well in the first place, or maybe even never were good enough. Suddenly you're exposed. Ever wonder why teams are suddenly using up their timeouts in the middle of halves when nothing seems to justify wasting one?
How many of the young studs that flooded the league a few years ago are still looking good? Not many. Dropping like flies. A few have stuck and some are even prospering. As usual. But the stock of many has dropped through the floor.
The onset of radio created an illusion. One of the illusions was the absurd scoring we suddenly were seeing a few years ago, which died down somewhat. Another was the total dominance of the aerial game and the proclaimed demise of the running game. Last season, suddenly, things turned back, culminating in a Super Bowl win by a team without a high-powered air game but with a big running back and a powerful defense. Another, apparently, was the sudden leap of rookies into starting jobs.
Still, radio is here to stay. It begs the question of whether we're seeing the final round of true quarterbacks now. Eventually, the telecom equipment and the teams' expertise in using it will result in everything being called on time, even call changes. It'll be a chess game with the real players in a skybox. Maybe in a lot of places it is already.
So here's the test: take away the radios. Leave the QBs on their own, maybe with hand signals or replacements carrying in a play. What happens then? Who could react all by himself? Who could run a no-huddle without having the luxury of even getting plays from the sideline? Let's rank today's starters on that basis alone.
Peyton Manning, love him or hate him, has no trouble calling his own plays. He's a genuine throwback, and he has to read defenses more complex (or so we are told) than those his generational predecessors had to face.
Tom Brady didn't burst into the NFL ready to call his own plays, but he's become almost as good as Manning at it. Sometimes better.
Aaron Rodgers seems capable of handling and changing up an offense on the fly. He predates helmet radio, not by too much, but by enough.
Drew Brees has been around long enough to know. He's not going to get lost if his helmet blows a fuse.
Ben Roethlisberger has the benefit of his team's style. He's a play extender. One would think the Steelers run a fairly simple playbook by modern standards. They've been more of a real-time reaction team, a throw-and-catch offense that adjusts to Ben buying time. It's worked. He doesn't need helmet radio.
Phil Rivers is an old pro by helmet radio standards. It probably irritates him. Carson Palmer doesn't need it either. Toss Tony Romo, Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco, Eli Manning, Jay Cutler and a number of other veterans into the mix. They'd survive.
That leaves us with young guys on the fence. Who looks like he probably woudn't be able to handle the old way?
The running quarterbacks appear to be the worst off. Even with radios, after a couple of years in the league suddenly Cam Newton, Robert Griffin, even Colin Kaepernick aren't looking like what they once were. Defenses have adjusted.
Guys like Christian Ponder, Blaine Gabbert, Jake Locker, Sam Bradford and a few more of their contemporaries seem to have faded away largely, some due to injury but also due to diminishing effectiveness.
EJ Manuel and Geno Smith looked somewhat promising as rookies and fell off the earth in their second years.
You have to wonder if some or all of these guys were propped up for a year or two by their helmets.
But even the young guys who are making it --- guys like Russell Wilson, Andrew Luck, Ryan Tannehill and Nick Foles --- how can you tell if they'd be able to handle no radio, if only because they've had it since they first set foot on an NFL field? In a few years, almost everybody will be as lost without it as we'd be without cellphones. Remember 20 years ago when you didn't really need one except to call for a tow? Or 30 years ago when you didn't need one at all? Need it now?
It'll be the same. Even before the radios, Manning was being touted as a throwback, a guy who ran the team like Unitas once did. He and his veteran rivals won't be around forever.
And when they're gone, will the Wonderlic test for quarterbacks be a thing of the past?
Probably not. But they won't be using the gray matter like they once had to, either. It's kind of ironic. As offenses and defenses become vastly more complicated, a dumb-down happens at the position that needs to know the most.
Will the next great QB generation still be the best field generals, or just the best field corporals, with the real generals all looking down from a booth? You have to wonder what the NFL's motivation was in having the sideline do all the thinking, even in real time. Or maybe you don't. Maybe it's all part of turning all players into more of a commodity.
Hello Gabbers, and welcome to another edition of Storminnorman's Sports Blog, the who would have thunk this was taking place edition. I mean seriously, can you guys actually remember, or were even alive to see the last time these two teams were actually considered the best teams in the NFC? I know I can't, and the only people that were alive in my family the last time the Lions were decent was my mom and dad, and they hadn't graduated from high school yet.....
The Lions-Cardinals face-off at 4:25 on Sunday for the conference lead, which should become an interesting defensive struggle considering both defenses rank in the top 5 in the NFL.....
Even though he has matured both as a quarterback and a person, would you want to put your playoff lives on his shoulders? I got a taste when the Lions drafted him, not completely his fault, but no. Not that Stafford is doing any better this year, but I would rather have Stafford over Stanton.
I like the Lions chances on Sunday over the Cards, more because of their defense than their offense. So I look for a shoot-out, because nothing ever turns out the way it should.
The Red Wings-Black Hawks faced-off last night in an Original Six match-up that didn't quite shape up to the game that I expected to see, with the Wings winning 4-1. The Wings dominated the game after the 1st period, and Jimmy Howard continues to look like the goalie that was traded for over the summer versus instead of the goalie we seen over the past year.
The Pistons beat the Thunder for the first time in quite a while last night as Brandon Jennings scored 29 to lead them to victory.
Victor Martinez signed his 4-year deal yesterday to remain in Detroit, while the Tigers announced they wouldn't be retaining the services of Torrii Hunter, which only means another rookie outfielder in Detroit next season.
Well that's all I got, I apologize for being late. Please stop by to the right, and visit SunTzu
The NFL was kind enough to schedule a Thursday Night Football game between two of the poor sisters of the AFC East, Buffalo and Miami. Both teams have struggled with consistency and both have 5-4 records and are tied for second in the division behind New England who is 7-2. Once again the fan bases in the AFC East are looking at quarterback Tom Brady having an MVP caliber season and head coach Bill Belichick putting together a strong defense as they once again look like a favorite to go deep in the playoffs.
Since 2001, the division has been in a stranglehold of the Belichick and Brady led New England Patriots. The Patriots have won the division every season save for 2002 and 2008. In both seasons the Patriots still tied for the division lead in victories but missed the playoffs on tie-breakers. Also, 2002 was Brady’s second season as a starter and 2008 was when he played just one quarter of football being sidelined the entire season with a knee injury.
In Buffalo, the Bills are still lamenting the end of the Marv Levy era in the late 1980s and early 1990s where the Bills went to (and lost) four consecutive Super Bowls and were an almost automatic double-digit winning team. Since Wade Phillips was run out of Western New York following the 2000 season that saw him run the Levy machine into the ground, the Bills have topped .500 just once when they won nine games in 2004.
The Bills have finished 7-9 or worse every season since that nine win season. They have run through head coaches looking for a winner starting with Philips (1998-2000), Gregg Williams (2001-2003), Mike Mularkey (2004-2005), Dick Jauron (2006-2009). Chan Gailey (2010-2012), and now Doug Marrone (2013-present). With five wins through nine weeks, this is the most successful team in Buffalo in a decade.
The Dolphins have been struggling as well since having Don Shula and Jimmy Johnson running the team from 1970 to 1999. Dave Wannstedt had four winning seasons and two trips to the playoffs carrying on the Jimmy Johnson plan after Hall-of-Fame quarterback Dan Marino retired. Replacing Marino has been Quixotic quest as Jay Fiedler, A.J. Feeley, Gus Frerotte, Joey Harrington, Cleo Lemon, Chad Pennington, Chad Henne, and Matt Moore (among others) failed to pick-up the Marino mantle. Miami is pinning their hopes on 2012 first round draft pick Ryan Tannehill to become their quarterback of the future.
Miami tried everything to turn around the franchise, even bringing in Bill Parcells to lead the football operations. They tried college coach Nick Saban in one of the biggest disasters in turning over a franchise to a coach who belongs in college (see Washington and the Steve Spurrier disaster in 2002). Parcells led them to the playoffs in 2008 where they lost in the Wild Card round (again, no Tom Brady that year) and since then they have won 7, 7, 6, 7, and 8 games. In head coach Joe Philbin and Tannehill’s third season together the Dolphins are hoping they begin making strides.
In New York, the Jets came the closest to knocking the Patriots off the top of the division. After Bill Parcells tried to leave the Jets to Belichick in 2000 and Belichick instead resigned as “HC of the NYJ” and bolted to the Patriots. After a year of Al Groh in 2000, Herm Edwards had some productive season making the playoffs three times before the team bottomed out with four wins in 2005. The Jets raided the Patriots and stole the “Man-Genius” Eric Mangini where they immediately won ten games before losing in the Wild Card round in 2006.
Two more less than stellar seasons led to importing the brash and arrogant Rex Ryan from the Baltimore Ravens. He brought an aggressive and blitzing style of play to a franchise in desperate need of someone who “wasn’t brought in here to kiss Bill Belichick’s Super Bowl rings”. The Jets reached the AFC Championship in the first two years of Ryan’s tenure (making the playoffs as a Wild Card both times), but since the 2011 season the Jets are 24-34 without making the playoffs. The 2011 season was the last time the Jets scored more points than they allowed and are 2-8 through ten weeks of 2014.
The three AFC East teams are all in various phases of building and re-building. All three have spent high draft picks on quarterbacks in the past three years as the Dolphins spent their top ten pick in 2012 on Tannehill, the Bills invested their 2013 first round pick on E.J. Manuel, and the Jets spent a 2013 second round draft pick on Geno Smith. Smith and Manuel are sitting on the bench a year and a half in after flaming out as starters and have been replaced by veteran re-treads Michael Vick and Kyle Orton.
What is most striking is the way all three teams have suffered by focusing on their own short-sighted views being stuck in the AFC East. All three franchises have invested heavily in the running game and the defensive line. Curious.
The Dolphins brought in running backs Mike Gillislee and Knowshon Moreno and spent draft picks on Daniel Thomas and Lamar Miller. The Jets brought in Mike Goodson, Chris Ivory and Chris Johnson from other franchises while drafting Joe McKnight and Bilal Powell. The Bills invested a first round draft pick on C.J. Spiller and found diamond in the rough Fred Jackson. They also traded for Bryce Brown from Philadelphia and Anthony “Boobie” DIxon from San Francisco.
The Dolphins have edge rushers Olivier Vernon, Dion Jordan (#3 overall pick in 2013), and Cameron Wake with big bodies Earl Mitchell, Jared Odrick, and Randy Starks inside. The Bills have edge rushers Jerry Hughes and Manny Lawson to go with big pocket pushers Marcell Dareus, Kyle Williams, and Mario Williams. The Jets invested first round picks in defensive tackles Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson to join big run stuffer Damon Harrison. They have edge rushers Jason Babin, Calvin Pace and first round draft pick Quinton Coples.
All three teams have invested heavily in the running game and in a defensive line capable of generating pressure without having to blitz. Hmmmm. Sounds the game plan the New York Giants used in two Super Bowls to upset the heavily favored Patriots. A sound plan to invest that way to beat New England, but not so great at winning enough games to make the playoffs. Or win a Super Bowl.
Are the Jets, Bills, and Dolphins trying to beat the Patriots twice a season or win the Super Bowl? To me, it looks like they are looking to beat New England and struggling without a balanced defense and strong passing attack.
Getting beat repeatedly by the same team for a decade and a half can be frustrating, but it does not need to be an obsession. This obsession is stagnating three teams that could be playoff contenders with a better plan instead of all falling into the same trap.