Michael Sam: The First Gay Gladiator

Welcome to a seminar on sexual orientation and the workplace…Let’s begin. I’ll spare you the agonizing b.s., but what if your workplace is a football field? Better yet, what if much of your workplace activity revolves around following and debating things that happen on a football field? Well then, chances are you know the name Michael Sam by today.

The Missouri graduate is eligible for the NFL draft this May and he is gay. Players are and have been gay while earning NFL paychecks but they never have entered or at any point in their career been open about their sexuality until now prospectively. The media seized the opportunity, and rightly so, to publicize this heroic announcement for Sam. The question quickly arose: How will this affect his draft stock? Unfortunately, that’s a valid question due to the culture of the sport in question but also the fanaticism attached to that culture.

The NFL is a physical game, a sport that glorifies toughness, strength, even anger. It is a sport of intimidation. Some might accurately call those primal characteristics, while others are fans of the sport because of this gladiator worship. But, this news story framed against the backdrop of the NFL’s image of brutality brings about a meaningful discussion of abhorrent stereotypes associated with homosexuality. Let’s examine a few

Gay men are weak: Michael Sam lead this SEC in sacks this past season at a position that demands physical strength.

Gay men are a locker room distraction: Why? Because once everyone hits the showers they are just going to rape the enitre locker room? This idea is homophobic, born out of fear by heterosexuals. Being homosexual is not equivalent to being a sexual predator. Get over yourselves straight men. What makes you think you’d even attract gay men?

Why does a gay athlete have to be open about his or her sexuality? This comes from a starting point of bigotry. The only reason this is news is because we are such an intolerant people and worship traditionalism even in the realm of sports which is such an asinine ideal that sports deserve some sort of sanctity. Michael Sam didn’t have to come out before he becomes an NFL player, but he felt it was important that he did so that there could be a shift in the NFL status quo which I find admirable.

Now, more importantly, consider the reverse of some of these stereotypes. Why is it assumed that masculine male athletes in the NFL are heterosexual? I think this is important because there is an association that develops. Masculinity=glorifying the gladiator mentality which is celebrated therefore gay men are excluded yet that assumes that we are to take gender cues and subsequently sexuality clues from this primitive idea of the male athlete (hero). This is a huge issue because we want our boys to play sports and compete and emulate their pro athlete role models but why must that encouragement be reinforced with the idea that this is the only way to be a man? Michael Sam is a gay football player. There are straight ballet dancers too but yet our associations tell us that those caricatures are to be gawked at. This comes from an unexplored place in our culture that has everything to do with gender when it doesn’t have to. Our love affair with the NFL has adverse affects when it comes to ideas about how the next generation of men should behave. This is extremely problematic and ignorant. You are not more or less of a man if you tackle other men, or if you have a “mean streak”, or if you play the piano, or tap dance. This big news about Michael Sam is big news because of our tendency to compartmentalize and stereotype but we often do not consider that this mistake permeates to subsequent generations who will do the same unless we teach them tolerance and openness when it pertains to gender and sexuality. The NFL is so mindless, the gladiator mentality so pointless and impractical, so why should we allow it to be so prominent in what we think a masculine man should be? Why do we strive to emulate that archetype? There were Michael Sams before and there will be more gay athletes and the way Michael Sam is accepted or rejected will have a lot to do with how comfortable those athletes are in sharing their true identities with the unforgiving sports world. We all should reflect on why it has taken this long and prioritize what is truly valuable if anything about the NFL while realizing that it’s reach extends further than we acknowledge it does.

Who Dat 12th Man? Danny California’s 2014 NFL Divisional Round Playoff Predictions and Analysis

Last week’s Wild Card Playoff round was just as crazy and interesting to watch as promised. The first game between Indy and KC was a wild one, with (as I predicted, at least, the comeback part) the Colts coming roaring back from a 28 point deficit to humiliate a Chiefs team that put a hurting on Indianapolis (even without Jamaal Charles) in the first half. Andrew Luck is starting to cement himself as the most elite quarterback of his draft class, and perhaps is destined to be the NFL’s best someday soon. Following that game, New Orleans went into frigid Philadelphia and behind journeyman kicker Shayne Graham’s leg, the Saints found a few rounds of birdshot left and shot down the Eagles and their playoff hopes in the final seconds. On Sunday. we saw Andy Dalton post his best postseason QB rating yet out of three total games (at a 67.0 rating, yikes) and the Bengals get destroyed by San Diego despite the flurries and the fact that Philip Rivers is still under center. And finally, in what seems to be proof that cold weather isn’t as much as a factor as I thought, San Francisco went into the negative wind chill temps of Lambeau Field and pulled out a close win over Green Bay.

This weekend promises more balmy temperatures (even in Foxboro, Massachusetts) compared to last week, and also throws the teams with first round byes into play, making things a little bit more interesting.

Saturday, January 11th Games

New Orleans Saints @ Seattle Seahawks, 4:35 PM EST

According to popular consensus, most people though that the Saints would win last week. With Drew Brees at the helm and a better tested coaching staff and roster, New Orleans held the slight advantage over Philadelphia. Typically, Saints football is thought to be Brees throwing for four scores and the defense doing just enough to ensure that the don’t get outscored. Last Saturday though, perhaps everyone not nicknamed “The Wolfman” was surprised as Brees threw two pretty bad picks, and the defense and running game stepped up and came through to produce a win for the Saints. New Orleans also exorcised the demons of playing on the road in the playoffs, going into frigid Philly and shutting down rushing champion Lesean McCoy. It seemed though, that the Eagles lost the game more than the Saints won it, as some key mistakes and overt conservativity of Nick Foles doomed the Philly offense. If the Saints are going to advance to the NFC Championship game, they will have to keep their turnovers down (3 against the Eagles was almost too many), and have an aerial attack that was missing when these two teams met earlier this season in a Seattle blowout.

The Seahawks have been one of, if not the favorite to win the NFC since the start of the season. With a healthy Percy Harvin alongside weapons Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch leading the way on offense, Seattle plays punishing defense on the other side of the ball which paves the way to victory. By giving up the second fewest PPG on the season built on giving up the fewest offensive yards, Seattle’s defense is the reason this team wins, and is even capable of scoring by themselves by leading the league in INTs with 28, and forcing the fourth most fumbles with 15. Add in an offense that scores the second most points in the NFL per game and has the third most rushing yards on average, the ‘Hawks control the clock, make minimal mistakes on offense, and force mistakes on defense. There really isn’t a better all-around team in the league. Combine that with CenturyLink field and the “12th Man” that the crowd dubs themselves as, and it’s hard not to pick them to go all the way. And yet, in this divisional round, I am doing the unheard of and picking New Orleans. The Saints have already been embarrassed in Seattle, they know what it’s like and will deal better a second time around. They’ve gotten the road victory monkey off their back and their defense is coming together well as a unit. Last week they shut down McCoy to the point where he was completely irrelevant, which I believe they can replicate against Lynch. And, I think Drew Brees is due. To have him go on the road and throw three touchdowns is exactly what is needed for the team from the Big Easy, with Shayne Graham delivering again to send the Saints to the championship game. 27-24 New Orleans

Indianapolis Colts @ New England Patriots, 8:15 PM EST

Anybody who watched last week’s Wild Card game involving the Colts had to be astonished. I haven’t talked to anyone yet who turned it off at halftime thinking it was over, but I’m sure those piteous people exist somewhere. Andrew Luck led a seriously insane comeback against the playoff greenhorn Chiefs, and helped solidify his name as the best up and coming quarterback in the league. Unfortunately for Indy, their defense was exposed and they lost a few players to injuries which never helps in a playoff run. But, they still have the explosive TY Hilton and talented Luck to put up points on the scoreboard in a hurry. The Colts are riding momentum right now having now won four straight, and for a streaky team like theirs this is nothing but good news. The only serious problem shown on Saturday was the running game. Trent Richardson is turning out to be totally useless with Donald Brown completely taking over the ground attack. Although when a team is down by 28 they shouldn’t really be running the ball, it’s still a little concerning that Richardson is such a bust. Indianapolis also signed ex-Patriots receiver Deion Branch to plug the gap filled by Darrius “Todd Pinkston” Hayward-Bey. Whether this helps or not is yet to be seen, but it would be nice to see Branch burn his former team once or twice at the ripe age of 34.

Of course, the Patriots are used to these January battles with the Colts, this time without Peyton Manning at the helm of the opposition. That means that Tom Brady and Emperor Belicheat will have an evil game plan that is tried and true, and this time around should result in Brady receiving high fives from his teammates. The thing I don’t like about New England is that they’re rather untested during the regular season. Sure, they beat Denver and New Orleans, but most of the other games they played were really soft. The AFC East is a partial joke, as the Bills are a bad team, the Jets are a bad unpredictable team, and the Dolphins are an above-average mediocre team. Still, the Patriots managed going only 4-2 in their own division, losing their other two games to playoff teams Cincinnati and Carolina. The Patriots are also banged up on offense, missing all of their good pass catchers (Gronk), as Kenbrell Thompkins and Julian Edelman will need to come up big for Tom Brady. Stevan Ridley has also shown some promise on the ground, basically splitting carries with LeGarrette Blount, who between the two of them average 4.75 YPC. New England’s defense is underrated too , as their run defense is the only thing that is a problem, which against the Colts isn’t a real problem at all. If Andy Reid’s Alex Smith can throw for four TD’s against Indy, just imagine what Tom Brady and Bill Belichick can do. I don’t want the Patriots to win, but the combination of a good ground attack, solid pass defense, the home crowd in Foxboro,. and the intangibles that are the Brady and Belichick combo should pull it out against the young Luck(y) upstarts. 38-27 New England

Sunday, January 12th Games

San Francisco 49ers @ Carolina Panthers, 1:05 PM EST

The Niners managed to pull it out last week against Green Bay, I’ll give them that much. The only problem is, they played such a close game against the weakest division champion outside of Philadelphia. Colin Kaepernick overcame his mistakes by using his legs to torch the Packers defense, who you would have thought would have learned by now to keep a man spy on the QB. Michael Crabtree also came up huge for San Fran, grabbing 125 yards worth of passes, completely overshadowing Number One receiver Anquan Boldin in the Green Bay game. They also played good downfield coverage, not allowing receivers to run loose in the secondary and letting Aaron Rodgers beat them. This should be a low-scoring, grind-it-out defensive game, just like the 10-9 Carolina victory that these two teams played back in Week 10.

Of course, I don’t think anybody could have predicted that the Panthers would be here after starting the season 0-2. Looking back on their season though, it is almost amazing how nobody could have seen how good this Panthers team was. Their only bad loss was to a Buffalo Bills team on the road by one point. Their other losses were in New Orleans where everybody loses, and against the Seahawks and the Cardinals. They weren’t really gifted with an easy schedule either, as they had to play the West (Seattle, San Fran, and Arizona all had 11 or more wins), the Saints twice, and the Patriots and Dolphins. Going 4-3 in those games is a testament to the talent of Carolina, especially on the defensive side of the ball. They’ve given up the least points per game of any team, along with only an average of surrendering 80 yards a game on the ground. Although not a high-caliber offense, being able to grind out yards on the ground and having a multi-talented quarterback in Cam Newton give this Panthers squad enough to work with in terms of reaching pay dirt. All the Panthers have to do is shut down Kaepernick’s running game, and they’ll win this game. 17-12 Carolina

San Diego Chargers @ Denver Broncos, 4:40 PM EST

Well, the Chargers sure proved me wrong last week. I don’t know if it was more of the Bengals channeling the Bungles of old, or San Diego actually putting a charge into something, but that was one game that I got sorely wrong. They’re playing good football, Philip Rivers isn’t making mistakes, and the running game dominated last week. Except, again, you were playing the Bengals who turned the ball over in embarrassing fashion. Don’t expect that from Peyton Manning and the best offense in NFL history this week. Although the Chargers have played Denver pretty well this year, I don’t see this game being very close. It’s Manning time, and he’s going to reign. The good news is, since San Diego beat the Broncos once this year already, all those bothersome people who say “it’s so hard to beat the same team three times in the same year” can keep their traps shut. But come on, this is the Denver Broncos, and this is Peyton Manning, who will have Wes Welker back in addition to every single other offensive weapon this team has. Denver cruises. 38-24 Denver

The Wild, Wild Wests : Your Guide to the Correct Predictions and Analysis of the 2014 NFL WildCard Playoff Weekend

It really is amazing what a difference a year can make. A year ago, my Washington Redskins had just come off the NFC East division title and were set to host their first playoff game against the upstart Seattle Seahawks. Everything was going well, RG3 was firing on all cylinders as the ‘Skins put up a 14 point lead that quickly started to fade as Griffin III got injured and was kept in the game by Shanny, which basically took away RG3’s playmaking ability. A healthy Robert Griffin would’ve had Pete Carroll selling used cars out of his back yard, but we all know the ending to this story. Washington proceeded to go 3-13 this year, forfeiting their Number 2 overall draft pick to St. Louis from the trade up to grab Griffin, and Mike Shanahan got canned because of disagreements with Darth Daniel Snyder.

Just as one year can make a difference to my favorite team, so can it affect the overall playoff scheme in the NFL. So if you need to make some quick cash, read the factual predictions and analysis that I have below, and prepare to become a rich man.

Saturday, January 4th Games

Kansas City Chiefs @ Indianapolis Colts 4:35 PM EST

Remember when people were talking about KC running the table and being undefeated? Obviously that hasn’t been realistic since Priest Holmes was their star player, but Andy Reid has certainly turned this team around. In a division where three out of the four teams made the playoffs, Kansas City’s 11-5 record can be rather deceiving. They haven’t really beaten anybody very good, and other than blowing out horrible teams like Jacksonville, NYG, and the Redskins, they’ve lost to every playoff team except for a game against Philadelphia. There are some great things about this team, with Reid doing an amazing job turning the keys of the offense over to an electric player in Jamaal Charles, and creating a terrific defense that can take advantage of the offense controlling the clock. But, Alex Smith is still their quarterback, and he fails to make plays when he needs to, lacking good receivers to help him out. I like what this KC team has built so far, however they’re not battle tested enough to survive in the world of the playoffs.

Indianapolis on the other hand is perhaps the most battle tested team in the league. They’re very streaky, and despite the loss of veteran offensive leader Reggie Wayne, have come together to see the emergence of TY Hilton and a team with a defense that is built to bend but not break.  They’ve beaten both number one teams in each league, and wrecked the Chiefs during the regular season at Arrowhead. They also beat the 49ers, but got shellacked by the underrated Arizona Cardinals and the terrible St Louis Rams. The Colts have built a reputation on starting slow but coming back, led by Andrew Luck who has cut his interceptions in half from last year. I don’t think they’re going to come out guns blazing, even though they are on a three game win streak. Two of those wins came against the awful teams in Houston and Jacksonville, and the other was against KC who turned the ball over four times to gift wrap the victory to Indy. I expect them to be down 14-3 or so at the half, but to come back and force Alex Smith into a bad play or two and coast to victory. 27-17 Indianapolis

New Orleans Saints @ Philadelphia Eagles 8:10 PM EST

I love the Saints and cannot stand the Eagles and their obnoxious fans. As I’ve said before, living in the great state of Pennsylvania is torture if you’re not a fan of either of their football teams. Steelers fans are like the village idiot, whereas Eagles fans are like the village drunk. You simply can’t win either way. Although the Saints are playing away from the friendly confines of the Louisiana Superdome, I really think this team is vastly underrated. People say “oh, well the Saints are playing on the road so they’re definitely going to lose this game.” Yes, all their losses have come on the road this season. But look who they were playing. They barely lost in a game that they should have won to New England, they lost to the best team in the NFC in the most hostile atmosphere (whose crowd noise registers on the Richter Scale) in Seattle, and they lost to division champion Carolina. Granted, they also lost to the most inconsistent and unpredictable team in the NFL in the New York Jets, as well as the St Louis Rams (who, it may be noted, embarrassed the Colts as well), but they also beat a healthy Chicago Bears team on the road. Don’t forget that this team has the best statistical quarterback of our current generation in Drew Brees, and a much improved defense under Rob “the Wolfman” Ryan.

Philadelphia isn’t exactly a pushover this year though. They’re probably the most volatile team in the playoffs, capable of losing hysterically or creating an utter blowout. Nick Foles it seems is the answer to the Eagles’ quarterback search, and with one of the most talented running backs (and rushing champion) Lesean McCoy, their offense is very potent even without mentioning playmaker Desean Jackson. However, like Kansas City, their record is a bit deceiving. They played in the worst divison in the NFL, and yet failed to have any convincing victories against any of those horrible teams, even losing to the Giants and the Cowboys once each. For being gifted three turnovers by Kyle Orton and the Dallas Cowboys last week, they still almost found a way to lose the game. The defense is a leaky siv, and it seems like their team almost quits in the second half letting teams back into games with ease. They also have only beat one team that is currently in the playoffs (the Green Bay Packers), and that was when Green Bay didn’t have Aaron Rodgers. The Eagles have several things going for them, such as the weather and the Saints on the road, but barring a massive offensive output, I don’t seem them winning this game. 24-20 New Orleans

Sunday, January 5th Games

San Diego Chargers @ Cincinnati Bengals, 1:05 PM EST

The Chargers in my mind simply don’t belong here. Yes, they’ve played in the second best division in football, but if Philip Rivers wasn’t having a career year this team would be under .500. San Diego has quietly been able to beat playoff teams in Philadelphia, Indianapolis, and the Chiefs backups, but they have also lost games to the dreadful ‘Skins, Texans, Raiders, and Titans. Keenan Allen has had a breakout season, and it seems that Ryan Mathews might finally be restoring decency to the running game of the Chargers. Danny Woodhead has also been a key acquisition, fitting nicely into the utility playmaker role by catching the second most passes on the team and rushing for over 400 yards in a backup role. This team is all about offense, with a defense focused on bending as much as possible and trying to desperately not get outscored by the opponent. Even though their D is middle of the pack where PPG (points per game)  is concerned, they rank fourth to last when it comes to YAPG (yards allowed per game). It’s all about the offense in Sea World, where if the Rivers doesn’t dry up, the team has a chance to win.

Cincinnati is a bit of a question mark in these playoffs. They have beaten Indy, San Diego, Miami, New England, and Green Bay, but they’re playoff untested. Remember how they got blown out by TJ Yates and the Texans last year? This team is virtually unchanged, sporting a better defense but benefitting majorly from a division that has gotten considerably weaker. Andy Dalton is progressing and maturing, but still is missing a soul. AJ Green has turned into a monster of a wide receiver, capable of torching any cornerback for a huge gain. Giovani Bernard still has the run of the year, but the split carries role he gets with “The Law Firm”, BenJarvus Green-Ellis is hindering his talent. The trouble with this team is that if Dalton does nothing, this team will lose. Without a threatening running game, Dalton has to put points on the board by himself, and have a good game for the Bengals to win. Which, with the Chargers defense and undefeated Bengals record at home, shouldn’t really be much of an issue. 34-20 Cincy

San Francisco 49ers @ Green Bay Packers, 4:40 PM EST

The Niners are 12-4. And they’re a five seed. The Packers have won eight games, and they’re a number four seed. It really sucks to be San Francisco, because they’re going to lose this game even though they’re such a good team, and only because they play in the same division as the Seattle Seahawks. Why? There’s only one thing you need to look at. The weather. In Green Bay on Sunday, the high is going to be 1. One degree Fahrenheit. With a low of -19 at night. The record low in San Francisco for January 5th is 39 degrees, a whole 38 degrees warmer than the highest predicted temperature on Sunday. The furthest North San Fran has had to play this year was against Seattle, in September. There’s no way this tropical team is going to be ready to play in the utterly bitter cold that is at Lambeau Field, where Aaron Rodgers and the Packer faithful will thrive and create a hostile environment for Colin Kaepernick and the rest of the 49er team. 35-10 Green Bay

You Really Should Hate the Boston Red Sox as Much as the New York Yankees

Even if you are a casual fan of baseball, you know who the big bad enemy is. The Evil Empire. The Bronx Bombers. The Pinstripers. The New York Yankees. You probably hate most of the teams in your division, simply because they are the rivals of your favorite team. But those Yankees, every fan of the 31 other teams have it inbred in them to hate the NYY. From their entitled fans, to their jerk players, to the capitalistic way they run their team, ask any baseball fan to give you a reason to hate the Yanks and they’ll give you five.

But, I’m here to tell you, that your hate should be directed at another team that likes to market itself as the anti-Yankees. The Boston Red Sox. This anti-NYY sentiment is all a facade, because beneath it all, the Sox and their fans are just as bad as those in the Yankee ballpark. Below, is why.

1. Even their own good players do not return after a successful season

Perhaps you’ve seen the news. Talented BoSox outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury has recently signed with the New York Yankees. Which, is quite frankly, embarrassing. Ellsbury was a huge part of the 2013 Boston World Series run and victory. When healthy, he’s one of the best all around players in baseball. According to his contract, he would become a free agent after the 2013 season. Naturally, what a team does after having a World Series winning year is to retain the key players, and attempt to build their success from the past year in an attempt to repeat that success the next year. Now, nobody has been able to win back-to-back World Series since the 1999 and 2000 Yankees (the team to come closest was my Philadelphia Phillies in 08-09), but it is the idea that since you (should) have had the best team in baseball, that you want to keep that team at the same level of play to earn another title.

At least that is the general sentiment for teams outside of Miami. However, for some reason Jacoby thought his chances at winning would be best served in New York, rather than resigning with Boston. Which means, one of three things. Either A) Ellsbury thought the team was not good enough to keep winning, or B) Ellsbury simply wanted out of Boston, or C) Ellsbury only cared about money. Because he is not an old outfielder (still in his baseball prime at 30), and has two World Series rings, a Gold Glove, Silver Slugger, Comeback Player of the year,  and 3 time stolen base titles to his name, we can safely assume that not only is he a more than an above-average player, but he is going to get a large contract. Which, the Red Sox with their deep pockets, should be willing to pony up for especially with a classy player like Ellsbury who consistently brings home the bacon.

So is it the money that purely motivates Jacoby? I highly doubt it. A player of his caliber is going to demand a high salary no matter what team he is on, and well, he is a Mormon (insert stereotype here). Could it be option A? Maybe, I never thought this year’s BoSox team was actually very good in the first place, they simply got lucky. But to be honest, I am leaning toward option B, because this is very reminiscent of another Sox outfielder who left the team for the hated Evil Empire. Remember Johnny Damon? Back in 2005, following a playoff run that year and the miraculous 2004 WS the year before, Damon was one of the biggest fan favorites with his Christ-like beard and scrappy play. However, Boston refused to negotiate a deal with Damon that extended beyond three years, so he abandoned ship for a team that actually wanted him, in New York. In this case, Boston should have paid Damon what he wanted, to keep their team in contention and their fan base happy. Instead, their arbitrary front office decided to be stubborn and not negotiate, and thus JD ended up in the Big Apple. I can easily see the same thing happening with Ellsbury this time around.

If a player wants to stick with a team, they will stay with them even if it means taking a pay cut. Look at Cliff Lee when he resigned with the Phillies. He could have signed with the Yankees for more money, yet he wished to return to Philadelphia instead. I can tell you first hand that Philly is not exactly the best place to live or raise a family, nor the most friendly atmosphere to play in. But, he saw something there that was what he wanted, and chose to return. Ellsbury or Damon could have done the same thing, but either Boston was not hospitable enough, or the Sox did not try hard enough to retain them.

2. Their Organizational Crux is a Roider

It was revealed four years ago that David Ortiz tested positive for performance enhancing drugs in 2003, in a governmental report on an investigation of the sport of baseball. He cheated, plain and simple. You want to know who never tested positive on a drug test? Barry Bonds. Sure, he was embroiled in a scandal involving his personal trainer, but there’s no solid evidence that Bonds was a steroid user, just speculation. Yet, there’s solid evidence that Ortiz cheated, and he is somehow a hero, whereas Bonds is a villain. The truth is though, we probably would not be talking about this if Torii Hunter were two years younger and would have (should have) caught the grand slam ball that Ortiz hit in the ALCS.

3. The Red Sox are Hypocrites

The biggest critique and ammo that Boston had in their arsenal with their 2004 World Series win was that they beat the big bad Yankees, who spent like a liberal who just hiked taxes. This small Boston team embarrassed the giant Yanks, and it was awesome. And yet, between 2006 and 2011, the Red Sox had the second biggest payroll in the Majors, buying several players at high prices. Those players would be Victor Martinez, Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, John Lackey, Josh Beckett, Bobby Jenks, Erik Bedard, Daisuke Matsuzaka, and Adrian Beltre. Granted, they won the Series again in 2007 (without most of the players I just listed), but it doesn’t change the simple fact that the Sox contradicted themselves and became the team they hated the most.

4. Red Sox fans are also Patriots, Celtics, and Bruins fans

Do I really need to explain this?

5. Nobody outside of Boston wanted them to win the 2013 World Series, which they didn’t deserve anyway

I have family in Colorado that are Rockies fans. As such, you would think that they would harbor an apathetic sentiment toward an American League East Coast team, and a little bit more of a negative sentiment toward the midwest NL team in St Louis. However, for obvious reasons they were all extremely disappointed when Boston won the Series. Why? Because their team was ridiculously obnoxious, and won because the Cardinals lost the series, not because Boston won it. St Louis gave away Game 1 with their ace Adam Wainwright on the mound, with defensive and mental miscues all over. If the Cards could have taken just that one game, it would have forced at the very least a Game 7. Not to mention the fact that the Cardinals got more hits than the Red Sox overall, and despite the Game 1 debacle, made three fewer errors in the entire series than the Sox. And, take away the performance that Senor Steroid had, and Boston is dead in the water to ANY playoff National League team, even the hapless Pittsburgh Pirates. Their annoying team of beards, bellies, and crappy castoffs, was not loveable like they tried to advertise. It was exactly like the first adjective I used to describe their team. Annoying.

6. History aside, Fenway Park sucks

Remember our Ballpark Reviews from the summer? Those are based on ESPN’s ballpark tour in the Summer of ’06. In which, they reviewed Fenway Park where the Red Sox play. They gave it a decent review because of the atmosphere (not because of the merits of the stadium), but let us remember one thing about that atmosphere and how it’s changed. You are going to be surrounded by fans from Bah-stan who think the Red Sax are Gad’s Greatest Gift to Hamanity. And then, if it is September, there is sure to be someone wearing a Brady jersey just saying how the Greatriots are the best football team in the Unated States. When at Fenway, I just find the cheapest beer and pray that whoever is playing against the Sox slaughters them.

Are the Red Sox worse than the Yankees? Depends on the season, honestly. This year, because they were/are in the spotlight, they’re pretty much the worst. The year before, they stank, and it was awesome. The good thing about the Yankees is that they are consistently good and consistently stick to the same routine of creating funds and spending them on large profile players. It’s what they do. They don’t pretend to be anything else, and that’s why you hate them. What makes the Sox so bad is that they do pretend to be something else, when in reality they are not any better. That, and of course the five other reasons that I have listed above.

NFL Week 12 Picks

Bad bad week last week. 1-3-1. Overall: 28-26-1

Green Bay minus 4.5 v Minnesota: Tolzien has played well and Minnesota’s defense is horrendous. Pack win 34-20

Chicago plus 1.5 at St. Louis: Battle of backup QB’s. Bears run D will have to stop Zac Stacy but Clemens won’t be able to win this game for the Rams. Bears 23-17

New York Giants minus 2.5 v Dallas. Who knows with these matchups but the Giants have won a few in a row and the Cowboys don’t win big games especially not on the road. Giants 31-27

New England plus 2.5 v Denver. Brady won’t lose two primetime games in a row. This one is at home and Denver is a little banged up. Patriots 35-34

New York Jets plus 3.5 at Baltimore. The Jets are terrible on the road but hey, they got blown out last week, so I’m sure they’ll bounce back right? That’s how it has been all season. Jets win 23-14.

NFL Week 11 Picks

Last Week: 3-2 Overall: 27-23

New York Jets minus 1 at Buffalo: Woods and Johnson are both out for Buffalo and Manuel looked bad next week. Jets win 20-17 unless Geno gives it away.

Washington plus 4.5 at Philadelphia: Philly doesn’t win at home. Washington has had a long week with extra time to prepare. They fought back in the second half of the first matchup and the offense last week was fine. Desperation mode brings out a win for the ‘Skins 31-28.

San Francisco plus 3 at New Orleans: The 49ers looked bad at home last week so what better time to go on the road against a team Kaepernick plays well against? Niners behind Kap win 34-31.

Denver minus 7.5 v Kansas City. Primetime game in Denver brings out the best in Peyton. I don’t think this is close. Denver 34-13.

Jacksonville plus 8 v Arizona: Second week in a row I’m going with the Jags but what makes you trust Arizona on the road? Cardinals win 23-17.

The Correct Guide to Scoring Settings in Fantasy Football

Let’s face it. The vast majority of men, or even football fans in general have at the very least one fantasy football team. It is estimated that over 19 million people have a fantasy football team. The only problem is, everything is so scattered across multiple websites such as NFL.com, Yahoo!, ESPN, and CBS Sportsline, that somewhere along the line the standard system of scoring gets lost in the plot. Fantasy managers will argue until the end of time how a league should be scored and what makes the most sense, but I am here to enlighten you on how the league standard should be.

You should aim for 12-14 teams in a league. 10 is too small, and 16 is too much. In a 12 team league, the top six should make the playoffs with no playoff byes. In a 14 team league, the top eight should make playoffs with the top two receiving playoff byes.

To begin, fantasy football is an offensive game. It is about scoring points, racking up yards, and using skill positions to reward good players with points that help their team at the very least compete in real life. The primary objective in football is to score a lot of points, just like in fantasy. As such, the way that points are scored (touchdowns hopefully) should always carry the most weight. Like it or not, in order to create a fantasy version of the game it needs to bear an approximation to how scores are created in the reality version. You win by scoring touchdowns, not by throwing for just 400 yards. The touchdown is almighty, and will always be six points universally. Also, all bonus points for long plays or X amount of yards after a certain amount get thrown out. Those simply do not make sense.

Quarterback

1 QB Slot per team

1 Point for 30 yards passing – A good quarterback should generally have three times the passing yards as a good running back has rushing or three times the passing yards as a good receiver has catching. Just as a 150 yard receiving or rushing game is good, so is a 450 yard passing game.

1 Point for every 10 yards rushing – Universal.

6 Points for Touchdowns – Universal. Even with quarterbacks. Yahoo! standard is 4 points just to balance out quarterbacks with other players, but let’s be honest here.  You have one field marshal on your team, the guy who is calling the plays and reading the defense. He is going to be the most valuable player if your team wins consistently. He should be rewarded in such a way.

-3 Points for Interceptions and Fumbles Lost – Turnovers are killer. Even though some fumbles can be the fault of the offensive line, some interceptions can be the fault of the wide receiver. A 2 TD 3 INT game should not be rewarding. That’s simply not a good (or a standard Jon Kitna) performance.

-2, 0, 2 Points for Completion Percentage Below 50%, between 50 and 70, and above 70 – completion percentage is HUGE and never scored. Although some of it relies on the receivers drops, if you complete less than 50% of your passes, or you complete above 70%, you should be penalized and rewarded accordingly.

2 Points for 2 Point Conversion – Universal.

Wide Receiver

2 Slots, flex option. It’s hard to find teams outside of one that Peyton Manning or Drew Brees is on that uses more than either three wideouts, or two wide receivers and a tight end on a consistent basis. Our settings will be similar.

1 Point for 10 yards receiving – Universal.

6 Points for Touchdown – Universal.

0.5 Points per reception – You have to reward wide receivers for catching the ball, simple as that. One point is simply too much, and can drastically alter the game, especially with running backs. Half a point is a perfect medium.

-.05 Points per drop – Just as catching giveth, dropping taketh away.

1 Point for 10 yards rushing – Universal.

-3 Points per fumble lost – WR fumbling is inexcusable.

2 Points for 2 Point Conversion – Universal.

Running Back

2 Slots, no flex option. A team hardly utilizes more than two running backs in a game unless one is injured. Your team should follow suit.

1 Point for 10 yards rushing. – Universal.

6 Points per Touchdown – Universal.

1 Point for 10 yards receiving – Universal.

.5 Point per Reception – Universal.

-.05 Points per drop – Universal.

-3 Points per fumble lost – You simply cannot put the ball on the ground.

2 Points for 2 Point Conversion – Universal.

Flex Position (WR/TE)

We go one flex position that is receiving only and no tight end slot. Generously, one-third of the NFL has a good consistently receiving tight end. The value in the tight end is not just their pass catching skills, but blocking skills just as much, which are not measured in our offensive style of scoring. This cannot warrant a standalone tight end slot, but for those that wish to take a chance and grab a premier end, there’s still room to stick them in. Otherwise, just go with a third wide receiver.

Scoring the same as Wide Receiver

Kicker

You must have one kicker in fantasy football, bar none. The kicker is essential to scoring plays, and is on some occasions in reality, the leading scorer on the team. Drafting kickers is also rather fickle, because although you want a kicker from a good team that puts points on the board, you also want one that kicks the most field goals because they are the most valuable. Scoring should be as follows

1 Point for Extra Point

3 Points for field goals 0-39 yards

3.5 Points for field goals 40-49 yards

4 Points for field goals 50+ yards

-1 Point for PAT missed (not blocked)

-2 Points for field goals under 29 yards missed (not blocked)

2 Points for Game Winning Field Goal

Defense/Special Teams

This is where it gets the most complicated. The defense and special teams (minus kickers) are units, and as units should be a little more involved in scoring than individuals. It’s like a pitcher in baseball or goalie in hockey. Prevention of scoring is held in the utmost regard, especially when it comes to a unit like a defense in football. Drafting individual players on defense is foolish, because since we do not draft entire 11 man offenses individually, we should not do the same for defense. Because a defense (and Special Teams) is a team effort instead of a skill position effort, they will be displayed as so. Yards against should not be counted for or against a defense. Touchdowns, as I said earlier, rule supreme (as should winning the game as the unit). You can leak like a sieve on defense, but if you limit the amount of scores you have done your job well.

6 Points for Touchdowns – On Defense or Special Teams

2 Points for blocked kicks

2 Points for kick returns into opponent territory

2 Points for punts inside the opponent 15

4 Points for Team Win

2 Points for Safety

3 Points for INT or Fumble Recovery

1.5 Points Per Sack

12 Points for Shutout

7 Points for 1-9 Points Allowed

4 Points for 10-19 Points Allowed

0 Points for 20-29 Points Allowed

 

 

 Agree or disagree with how I think fantasy leagues should be scored? Comment and let me know!

NFL Week 10 Picks

Last Week: 4-1 Overall: 24-21

Jacksonville plus 13 at Tennessee. The Jags have lost every game by double digits but hey, if they lose by 10, they cover. Tennessee 24-14

Pittsburgh minus 3 v. Buffalo. E.J. Manuel is back but has been out for several weeks and the Steelers are a desperate team at home. Steelers beat rookie QB’s. Pittsburgh 30-23.

Cincinnati minus 1.5 at Baltimore. Traditionally, the Bengals struggle on the road and Baltimore dominates at home but Baltimore is just bad right now. Ray Rice can’t run and Flacco passes very well to the opposing team. I think the Bengals will have just enough, 20-17.

Carolina plus 6 at San Francisco. This was a tough game to pick but Carolina has a defense now. Newton will make enough plays to keep this one tight. S.F. wins 27-24

Indianapolis minus 9.5 v St. Louis. The Colts are at home coming off of a poor performance and the Rams still don’t have a quarterback. The only way the Colts don’t perform well is if Zac Stacy wins it by himself but he is banged up and questionable. Colts 28-13.

The Sport of Capitalism

Sports fans tenaciously defend the integrity of the game they love by espousing their love of their team’s tradition, the parity of their favorite sport correlating with the excitement of unpredictability and volatility, and the pureness of the game itself with the phrase “for the love of the game.” Can we draw legitimate parallels between creating a level playing field on an actual playing field and our beloved economic system? How would we feel if our favorite team lost more games simply because they had more black players than the rest of the league? What if our favorite team was prohibited from truly understanding the fundamentals and rules of the game because the governing body or league didn’t afford them the resources to educate themselves? What if our favorite team was forced to compete with the players that all the other teams did not want and had no opportunity to employ the most talented and capable athletes in their respective sport? Would we watch? Would we cry foul play? In every major sport in America, we have witnessed measures to combat these potential detriments to the playing field’s equality and the health of the game itself through revenue sharing, luxury taxes, protective free agency rights, draft pick compensation limitations, salary caps, the serpentine draft process itself, and tampering rules. These protocols were implemented to create an environment of parity and one where competition would be more entertaining and legitimate. Who is our favorite team in the sport of capitalism? Are parallel measures being implemented on this competitive playing field to make it more equal and thusly make it more worthwhile and fair to all its participants? The answer is a resounding no.

There is a fixed amount of wealth to be distributed within a society. The disbursement method espoused by capitalism can be summarized by the phrase, “You can have it when you pry it from my cold, dead hands.” The profit motive outweighs the moral imperative when regarding capitalism. Wealth is aristocratically protected by generational inheritance which ruins any possibility for legitimate social mobility. The bourgeois are for the most part exempt from significant taxation because wealth itself is not taxed. The truly wealthy do not have income and are being paid to invest their money far more than the rate at which their investments are taxed. In fact, the Federal Reserve bank in our capitalist economic system is a private organization that has its own profit agenda from which we borrow from literally and figuratively. So, in America, the proverbial championship contenders, to use a sports phrase, are always the same. They are always contending for the prize each season (maximum profit) but against what competition?

Ironically, competition is the greatest guise of all when it comes to understanding capitalism. There is no such thing as competition in a market like our own. The more sophisticated and wealthy an economy becomes, the more consolidated and monopolized the society’s capital…The housing bubble bursting in 2008 brought windfall profits for bargain shopping banks and upper echelon investors at the cost of American’s tax dollars, pensions, and mortgages. Lending subsidies were bought and sold (absorbed would be a better word) by mega banks like JPMorgan Stanley while Goldman Sachs and CitiGroup also purchased and traded derivatives of commodified mortgage subsidies that were now insured by the Federal Government (so, long story short? the taxpayer who had their mortgage with a lender, lost their house because of volatile instability in the housing market at the fault of their lender, their lender is purchased by a larger financial institution who is now collecting on their absorbed unpaid mortgages and presenting that bill to the aggregate taxpayer (the same one who is now homeless) in the form of the bailout proceedings) Oh, but they did not stop there. Some institutions purchased defaulting mortgages from failing banks and lenders, packaged the most volatile and risky of those flaming mortgage agreements, sold their derivatives as a security to another institution and or then shorted the security of handpicked failing funds. That is insider trading. It’s a fix. The game was rigged and we wonder why the same team wins every time? Not only that but look at the results. Property, or in this case mortgages, lending capacity, and financial capital were compressed and consolidated into the hands of a few exponentially more powerful banks as a consequence of the housing crisis which fundamentally was a function of the financial institutions’ response to the Federal Reserve’s prime rate at which they lend money to the financial institutions who precipitated the fallout. Ask yourself, Cui Bono, to whose benefit? Not yours and not mine but there was an exorbitant amount of power and capital that was redistributed in this capitalistic disaster and the distribution went straight up…

Mortgage backed securities where the lender gets to pick which mortgages are included in the derivative security is tantamount to a head coach of a football team reffing the game his team plays in and being the bookie who set the spread for the contest. We wouldn’t accept those circumstances for beloved football team, so why do we guarantee this reality for ourselves and those less fortunate than us? Sports is a great example to use in this discussion because they are inherently self interested and competitive. Each team wants to win, each player wants to outshine another and so on. But, as we see in sports, the true success of the product as a whole is competitive balance and regulation. The product of capitalism is riddled with competitive imbalances, based on circumstance (race, socio-economic classifcation), corruption, and barbarism. The poor stay poor in a capitalist society and the rich stay rich. Everyone in the middle believe they are more privileged and more capable of upward advance than they actually are but the lives of those in the middle class aren’t worth the upheaval it would require to provide justice for those who are being oppressed and against those who oppress from the top down. In the sport of capitalism, every team believes they can win and pull the upset but how many times do we have to witness the slaughter on the proverbial field before we realize that that upset is never going to happen?

Finally, once we conclude the level playing field is certainly not evident we ask ourselves how might it be achieved? Herein lies the biggest problem for those who are aware of capitalism’s shortcoming and exploitation. What body is capable of regulating the sport of capitalism in the same way the league office of any of your favorite sports can pass a rule change or a revenue change themselves that will better their game? We are powerless. Congress can’t even pass budgets. Not to mention the fact that Congress and the President are all classified as bourgeois anyway and as the rules of capitalism dictate, there is no moral imperative that can quell self interest so they will do what their post asks them to rather than what the people deserve. When wealth’s distribution is stagnant, every dollar you “earn” is a dollar someone else can no longer have so we are all experiencing the problem of capitalism while we are all simultaneously exacerbating that problem. The system cannot be rectified by a commissioner like the NFL and it can’t be rectified by a powerless politic (we the people) so grassroots are in order. The best place to start? Change your allegiances within the sport of capitalism. Pick a new favorite team. Better yet? Pick a new sport altogether because a game that ensures poverty, celebrates greed, insulates the wealthy from those they exploit, and disenfranchises rational dissent is an unfair contest that is not worth paying attention to because we are intelligent enough to know the score of the game without looking at it. I’ll give you a hint, the score has never been in our favor and it never will be unless we stop playing.

NFL Week 9 Picks

Last Week: 3-2 Overall: 20-20

Almost halfway through the season and right at .500. Have some work to do to make some money!

New York Jets plus 6.5 v New Orleans Saints: Bad Geno means good Geno comes next. New Orleans struggles offensively on the road especially on the ground. I think the Jets pull the upset 20-19.

Tennessee minus 3 at St. Louis: Yes the Rams defense kept the game close against Seattle but they’re not in primetime, they’re on a short week, and Tennessee is coming off of a bye. Kellen Clemens is so so bad. Titans win 27-13.

Washington minus 1 v. San Diego: What choice does Washington have but to win home games? They have been so bad this season but this is the time of year where San Diego starts to deteriorate so what better time to do so against a desperate team on the road on the east coast with a 1:00 start time. Skins win 31-24.

Seattle minus 15.5 v Tampa Bay. Look for the defense to make plays for Seattle. The offensive was so anemic last week that I think Lynch will get the ball a lot in a simplified approach. Rookie quarterbacks and winless teams don’t fair well in the Pacific Northwest so why would this week be any different? Seattle ugly 31-14.

Indianapolis minus 2 at Houston: Houston is the home team with awful fans for a primetime game that pits them against Andrew Luck. Those fans will turn on the Keenum led Texans early and Luck will execute a victory. Colts 28-17.