Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Random Late Season NFL Power Rankings

After a series of overly righteous rants, the FGR is past due for some mindless fun which immediately calls to mind the modern day Roman Empire that is the NFL. Before you scoff at that, remember that there was a time when the thought of baseball not being the most popular and powerful sport in America was unfathomable. Then the players and owners started treating each other like the Real Housewives of Wrigley Field at roughly the same time that the NFL was being run by Pete Rozelle, almost inarguably the savviest commissioner in the history of sports. At some undefined point in the 1980's under Rozelle's leadership, the NFL blew by Major League Baseball so fast that it made Mookie Wilson's bobblehead spin.

You can literally find a picture
of anything on the internet.
Now the NFL is being run by Roger Goodell, almost inarguably the least savvy commissioner in the history of professional sports (not named Gary Bettman). With the injuries piling-up, the quality of play deteriorating and the referees displaying the competence and proficiency of a Chipotle food inspector, the league appears to be ready to take at least a minor tumble. (The fact that Hollywood is about to release a movie that basically takes the position that football = brain damage sure isn't going to help grow the young fanbase).The NFL isn't even selling the best football product anymore. College football has become Coke to the NFL's Pepsi since the upstanding men and women who run the schools finally committed to selling-out completely and having a playoff . . . not that I'm complaining.*         

But we're getting ranty again and this was supposed to be about fun so let's get back on track. We were going to base these rankings on which team would beat which other team on a neutral field if the game was played this Sunday but that's a waste of time because the last time I checked (which was about five minutes ago), NFL teams don't play on neutral fields until the Super Bowl. So we'll go the extra yard (see what I did there . . . extra yard) by predicting the playoff teams and then factoring in likely homefield advantages and bye weeks to ultimately reach a Super Bowl prediction. We're also going to give consideration to a team's head coach and quarterback situation when it looks like it might lead to future success or impending disaster. Let's build the drama slowly by going worst to first: 

32: Baltimore Ravens: Put quite simply, the Ravens could not beat another NFL team right now if the Harbaugh family was reffing the game. If fans can draw one positive from the blowout losses the last two weeks, it's that they no longer have to hear how every game this season has been decided by eight points or less. As a Ravens fan, I found that very irritating because it's the kind of thing you'd overhear a group of Browns fans say at the trailer park holiday party.

31. San Diego Chargers: Their four wins this year are against the Lions, Browns, Jaguars and Dolphins. They've lost eight of their last ten games. They just gave a four year, $83,000,000 contract to a 34 year old quarterback who's 46-48 in the regular season since 2009 and has only been to the playoffs once during that stretch. On a positive note, their first round draft pick is averaging 3.5 yards per carry with no touchdowns and four fumbles so they've got that going for them . . . which is nice.

30. Dallas Cowboys: They might deserve to be one or two spots higher but we're putting them here because Jerry Jones, Greg Hardy and Dez Bryant are like the guy who shows-up to court wearing a t-shirt that says "Eat Me Your Honor." They're not going to get the benefit of the doubt. It's going to be fun watching Sean Payton toy with Jerry this offseason before blowing him off to coach somewhere else.

29. Atlanta Falcons: The Falcons started the season 6-1 and have now lost six of their last seven including two to Tampa Bay and one each to the 49ers and the Colts who were being quarterbacked by Blaine Gabbert and Matt Hasselback respectively (as opposed to respectably). The Falcons are now 16-29 since the start of 2013 which was right about the time they signed Matt Ryan to a five year, $103,750,000 contract. Who says money can't buy crappiness?      

28. Tennessee Titans: When judging the Marcus Mariota v. Jameis Winston debate, keep in mind that Winston's skill position players are Doug Martin, Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson while Mariota has . . . hold on . . . give me a second I know they have a tight end named Clancy or Demetri or something . . . (you mean Delanie Walker?) . . . Mariota has the worst supporting cast since John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever.

"I don't know what to tell you Jerry.
Blaine Gabbert just wasn't my type."
27. San Francisco 49ers: On the morning of February 4th, 2013, 49er fans woke-up to the sting of a Super Bowl loss that was tempered by the fact that they had arguably the best young head coach/quarterback combination in the game. On the morning of December 14th, 2015, 49er fans woke-up to the sting of an uncompetitive 24-10 loss to the Browns that was tempered by the fact that their team is coached by Jim Tomsula and their quarterback is the NFL equivalent of the girl who "just didn't do it" for Newman. (I'm not sure that's what "tempered" means).

26. Cleveland Browns: Mike Pettine has brought "helicopter parenting" to the NFL. Rumor has it that he's already bought Johnny Manziel a hoverboard for Christmas and told him he can ride it on the team plane.  

25. Indianapolis Colts: The Colts gave-up a combined 96 points to the Steelers and the Jaguars (yes, the Jaguars) and just lost a game, and essentially the division, to a Texans team quarterbacked by a guy who was cut by the 4-10 Cowboys last month (Brandon "The Weed Man" Weeden). I once quit a job where I was hardly doing anything anyway and the company asked if I would stay for another two weeks so I obliged them by showing-up at 10:00 a.m. every day, having a cup of coffee while wasting other people's time and then going to lunch and a matinee at the movie theatre down the street. Let's just say that Chuck Pagano picked a great time to enter lame duck territory because between the new Star Wars movie, Creed, Point BreakThe Big Short, Spotlight and more, there's never been a better two weeks to be on coaching auto-pilot.

Hey, you'll always have 2009.
24. New Orleans Saints: I'm glad we held-off writing about the Saints until Tuesday morning so we could properly factor-in whatever that was on Monday night. Of all the teams about which you could say, "it's time to blow this shit up" (and there are many), none appears more in need of a complete demolition job than the Saints. Drew Brees is nearing the end of his contract which means that a different team that believes it's only a quarterback away may be willing to give-up something to rent him for a year or two (Houston? Do you read me Houston?). Also, Sean Payton needs a new challenge and there is a dome team with a franchise quarterback about 700 miles north that he could make a Super Bowl run with next year. Sorry Saints fans but welcome to the Adam Gase/Garrett Grayson era. Might be time to dust-off the paper bags.     

23. Detroit Lions: Well Detroit, you took your shot with a quarterback who chucks it off his back foot to one of the best receivers in NFL history and it yielded two winning season out of seven and no playoff wins. The good news is that it was a better run than the previous eight years when you went 31-97 with no playoff appearances. The bad news is that the last seven years qualified as good news.         

22. St. Louis Rams: In the battle for 23rd place supremacy against Detroit two weeks ago, the Rams under-sucked the Lions so congratulations St. Louis fans. Your prize is at least one more year of Jeff Fisher, the coach who always gets fired three years too late but you can take solace in the fact that the team will probably be playing in California so most of you will be rooting for them to implode anyway.

21. Miami Dolphins: Sometimes it's hard to tell if the Dolphins are the Falcons of the AFC or if the Falcons are the Dolphins of the NFC. I think this year the Dolphins are the Falcons of the AFC because they gave their fans just a shred more false hope that they were almost going to be a playoff team and kept it going later in the season. Ryan Tannehill also still appears to be trying. Bless his heart. This could be Plan "B" for Sean Payton if he opts for warmer weather than Indy has to offer and an owner less likely to star in a reality show called "Billionaire Rehab."

20. Chicago Bears: We are nearing the end of the seventh year of the Smokin' Jay Cutler era in Chicago and it appears to have peaked with two winning seasons and one playoff appearance. It might be time to cut ties so it's a good thing they didn't just sign him to a seven year $126,700,000 contract in 2014. Wait what? Never mind. Smoke-up Chicago!    

19-17. Jacksonville Jaguars, Oakland Raiders and Tampa Bay Buccaneers: From a purely statistical standpoint we know that one of these teams has found a viable starting quarterback and the other two are doomed to wasting at least the next three years under the false perception that they have (a/k/a the "Boller Blackout Period"). And while I have no actual statistics to back this up, allow me to distract you with a long overdue cheerleader shot while we move on to the next team.

There could be much to smile about 
in Tampa Bay. I know I'm smiling.
16. Philadelphia Eagles: Sam Bradford is a free agent after this season so Chip Kelly gave-up Nick Foles, a 2nd round pick and a 4th round pick for what will be at best an 8-8 season. The good news for Kelly is that Philadelphia players and fans have expressed nearly universal support for him and . . . sorry, couldn't finish it with a straight face. BOOOOO!!!!!!   

15. Buffalo Bills: The last time the Bills won more than nine games was in 1999 when their coach was Wade Phillips and their quarterback was . . . (wait for it) . . . Doug Flutie. Here are their win totals per season since: 8, 3, 8, 6, 9, 5, 7, 7, 7, 6, 4, 6, 6, 6, 9, ?. Not surprisingly, when you run those numbers through the Germans' World War II Enigma Code machine, they spell "M-E-D-I-O-C-R-I-T-Y."     

14. New York Giants: The Giants appear to have found the next great receiver from the Terrell Owens/Chad Ochocinco mold which is great unless you're into things like team chemistry, class, dignity, etc.

13. Kansas City Chiefs: The Chiefs should probably be in the 7th spot instead of the Jets because they have the easiest schedule of the three 9-5 teams trying to land the last two playoff spots but come on. They're the Chiefs. Stop it.    

And now for your 2015 NFL playoff teams led by the. . . [covering microphone](. . . is this right? . . . are you sure?) . . . like I said, led by the. . . 

12. Houston Texans: We know for a fact that a team has to win the AFC South which recently purse-snatched the worst division in football title from the NFC East. The Texans appear to be that team which means that we are heading for a playoff game that could feature The Weed Man against the Jets which in turn means that Ryan Fitzpatrick will be favored on the road in the playoffs. How in the hell did we get here?   

11. Washington Redskins: I'm not sure I'm ready to live in a world where the Redskins appear competent and apparently neither are Redskin fans because I told a half dozen of them on Monday that they've wrapped-up the division and every single one of them immediately covered their ears and started a heated argument with the voices in their head that ended with them saying "fuck you Dan Snyder!"   

10. Minnesota Vikings: The Vikings are an anomaly in today's NFL because they would absolutely beat every team ranked lower than them on this list and, at the same time, there is no way they're beating any team ranked above them. We need a name for this like the "Peterson Principle" or the "Bridgewater Line" or the "No We Don't Need a Name for this Dork."    

9. Green Bay Packers: On two possessions late in the game at Oakland, the Packers had a chance to slam the door on the Raiders and here's what they did. From first and goal at the one, they went shitty pass, run for a two yard loss, another shitty pass and field goal. A few minutes later, they were at the Oakland 15 with 2:44 to play and Aaron Rodgers threw an up for grabs interception that could only be described as Delhommian. The Packers currently look like a drunk who is right on the borderline of functional and dysfunctional (not that I've had any experience with that).

Why not? He's won big
games in Baltimore before.
8. Cincinnati Bengals: Andy Dalton is out for the foreseeable future which means the keys to the inevitable playoff Titanic have been handed to back-up A.J. McCarron who will carry-on the not so proud tradition of former Crimson Tide quarterbacks. The good news for McCarron, Cincinnati and Alabama is that (a) the Bengals end the season at home against the Ravens who might be starting Shane Falco by then and (b) their recent playoff record can only improve with McCarron at quarterback. (That one I can back-up with statistics).

7. New York Jets: If Todd Bowles asked me to write his speech before the fictional coach of the year selection committee, it would go something like this. "Hello. In support of my application for coach of the year I would just like to say 'Ryan Fitzpatrick' . . . Thank you."

6. Denver Broncos: You have to give the Broncos credit for rolling the dice on Peyton Manning and really, who knew that it would end-up with them in this odd state of quarterback limbo not knowing the exact condition of Manning's health and how it would affect their future? (Um, everybody knew that). Right. Good luck with that John Elway. Remember, Tim Tebow is only a phone call away.

5. Carolina Panthers: The Panthers are a great story as they prance and preen to the top seed in the NFC like one of those college dance squads (not cheerleaders . . . dance squads) that "straddles" the fine line between mischievous and Motley Crue video. I just think they're a year away from winning two games over the likes of Arizona, Seattle and Green Bay. But what do I know? I also thought that Aaron Rodgers might actually be a viable fantasy quarterback in the playoffs because he's AARON FUCKING RODGERS WHAT THE FU . . .!!! I'm ok.  

4. Pittsburgh Steelers: With the Ravens' season in the toilet, I find myself strangely rooting for the Steelers to succeed. Maybe it's because I despise the team that sits at #2 in the rankings so much that it has driven me to some kind of bizarre case of NFL Stockholm Syndrome. Or maybe it's because the Steelers have assembled the coolest and most fun to watch quarterback/receiver combination since the Don Coryell Chargers. Regardless of what's causing it, it feels about as comfortable as a pair of loose socks (note to self: change socks when you get home).

3. Seattle Seahawks: Forget the wins over the Ravens and Browns because those were essentially scrimmages. They dismantled the Vikings and beat the Steelers fairly convincingly in consecutive weeks. They might be the best team in the league but they're probably going to have to win three road games to get to the Super Bowl and that's probably not going to happen. It's a shame that we're not going to get to see or hear about the "12th Man" in Janurary and by "shame" I mean "relief."

2. New England Patriots: If you still don't believe that Bill Belichik is the devil and Tom Brady is the son he fathered with an East German javelin star back in 1977, then check-out the way that the 2015 AFC universe has been manipulated to guarantee success for the Patriots. If the current seedings hold, these A-holes won't even be tested before the Super Bowl unless they run into the Steelers. Their other playoff opponent will be quarterbacked by Ryan Fitzpatrick, Alex Smith, A.J. McCarron, Brock Osweiler or Zombie Peyton Manning. Don't be surprised if Ben Roethlisberger is injured in a bizarre domestic accident between now and the first week of January. They already tried hitting him with a car back in 2006. Look for them to up the ante this year with something like hot water heater explosion or a freak drone crash.

Bruce Arians has come a long
way from middle school bully to
top notch NFL head coach.
1. Arizona Cardinals: They need to win one of their next two to lock-up the #2 seed and, if they do that, their path to the Super Bowl should be fairly clear as they would likely host Green Bay before going to Carolina or hosting Seattle. Tough games to be sure but they should win them. Then it will probably be a showdown with the Patriots where we will finally be able to answer the question, "is there a God?" because there is no way a benevolent creator of the universe and source of all moral authority would allow Belichik and Brady to win yet another Super Bowl. If he/she were to permit such a thing to occur, I'm afraid all hope is lost. Merry Christmas!  
        
Footnotes

* Now they just need to expand it to eight teams and play the first round with two weeknight doubleheaders before Christmas. If they had done that this year, we could have had the following match-ups on December 22nd and 23rd: Clemson v. Notre Dame, Alabama v. Ohio State, Michigan State v. Stanford and Oklahoma v. Iowa. Is that something you might be interested in? Holy shit if Bud Light and the National Chicken Wing Council haven't offered $10 Million to make that happen already, then they're asleep at the switch.     

Friday, December 11, 2015

Fumbled Opportunity

You'd be hard-pressed these days to identify the single most scum-baggish thing about politicians and the media but allow me to take a shot by calling them out for the way that they disingenuously use the men and women of the military to impress us with their patriotism. The politicians are the worst as they litter the campaign trail with promises to improve veterans services then do next to nothing once they're elected. It's a massive cluster fuck of an injustice that is frankly way beyond anything I'm qualified to write about.*   

So let me climb down onto a smaller soapbox to address a far more minor military related clusterfuck of an injustice. The clusterfuckers in this case were ESPN (shocker), the Heisman Trust (see . . . we put the word "trust" right in our name) and several hundred sportswriters who once again made it clear that they shouldn't be allowed to vote on anything more significant than the first two rounds of American Idol. The wronged party in this case was Naval Academy quarterback Keenan Reynolds.  

Keenan Reynolds has been the starter at Navy for the past four seasons. He is college football's all-time leader in rushing touchdowns with 83. So far in 2015, he has led Navy to a 9-2 record and a top 25 ranking while rushing for 1,093 yards and 19 touchdowns (tied for second most in the country). Based on his performance, the ESPN "experts" added him to their Heisman Trophy experts poll which in turn meant he was listed on the fan ballot for Nissan-ESPN's Heisman House fan vote, a contest that would award the winner one actual vote for the Heisman Trophy. Soon after he was placed on the ballot, Reynolds took the lead in fan voting for obvious reasons that had nearly everything to do with his impending military service. I mean who wouldn't vote for the guy from Navy? (Besides SEC fans). 

"I don't know how the names
get on the website. Who do
I look like Harry Potter?"
In his most recent game against 19th ranked Houston, Reynolds passed for 312 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 84 yards and a touchdown. A few days later, his name was removed from the fan ballot. When ESPN was asked why the player leading in the poll would be removed from the ballot, their public relations department coughed-up the following explanation via email: "When the names change on the ESPN Experts’ Poll, they automatically change on the Heisman House site. ESPN and Nissan have no control over what names are on the Heisman House ballot.

That pathetic hollow explanation would seem lame enough if that's where the story ended but, after a minor public outcry, it was announced that Reynolds' name would be put back on the ballot. Apparently, amid a showering of well-deserved boos, ESPN and Nissan found the magic button that took them from having "no control over what names are on the Heisman House ballot" to having full control over what names are on the ballot. Funny how being loudly called-out for doing the wrong thing makes people realize that the option of doing the right thing was available to them the whole time. Maybe one of these days ESPN will avail themselves of that option before someone has to hand them a map showing them how to get there.**

With his name back on the ballot, Reynolds won the fan vote with 40% to 32% for Alabama running back and probable winner, Derrick Henry (no other player received more than 3%). Based on the Heisman poll, his career accomplishments, his strong 2015 season and the fact that, upon graduating, he will serve as an officer in the United States Navy, many expected that the Heisman Trust would invite Reynolds to the Heisman Trophy ceremony in New York this Saturday. They didn't. 

Now it's no surprise that Reynolds didn't receive enough votes to qualify for an invitation. As noted earlier, most of the voters are sportswriters who treat their ballots as if they will ultimately be burned to create white smoke rising from the Vatican. So, despite the option to name up to three players on the ballot and the fact that most of them never see some of the candidates actually play, they likely deemed their ballots too hallowed to include a player from a lesser conference. Even when that player lapped the field in the intangible qualities that are supposed to be factored into the voting process (more on that in a second).

We do, however, know that Reynolds received some votes because the fans gave him one and he got a couple more from past Heisman winners and Naval Academy graduates Roger Staubach and Joe Bellino who wrote in a joint statement, that "[i]f the voters carefully read the mission of the Heisman Trophy, the first person that should come to mind is Keenan Reynolds." The "mission" to which they refer is the Heisman Trust Mission Statement which begins: "The Heisman Memorial Trophy annually recognizes the outstanding college football player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity." You know, like Johnny Manziel and Jameis Winston ("But I thought the crab legs were free").


"I'm looking at you Mr. Booster."
So why not just invite him anyway? Well, applying Kanell logic, the invitation process is either run entirely by soulless computers or the Heisman Trust and ESPN didn't recognize the opportunity they had. The Army-Navy game is this Saturday at 3:00 p.m. in Philadelphia. The Heisman Trophy ceremony starts at 8:00 p.m. Arrangements had already been made to fly Reynolds from Philadelphia to New York by helicopter for the ceremony where he would have appeared in his Navy dress uniform. To say it would have been inspiring would be an understatement.

It's just hard to fathom that ESPN and the Heisman Trust would whiff on this considering how much the media likes to hype their own "salutes to service." It doesn't even make sense from a business standpoint as Reynolds' presence at the ceremony would have increased ratings. And imagine the goosebump inducing video they could have produced interweaving his highlight runs (and there were many) with examples of the hard work and commitment it takes to graduate from the Naval Academy. Either they considered all of this and decided it was a bad idea or they failed to consider it altogether. Either way, they're inept.      

To invite Keenan Reynolds would have been the equivalent of going for two to win on the final play of the game except with absolutely no risk of failing. What possible downside could there have been? Baker Mayfield fans protesting outside the ceremony? (The fact that no one outside of Oklahoma knows who Baker Mayfield is kind of proves my point). It would've been such a simple gesture that would have meant something to all members of the military and it was right there in front of them. All they had to do was invite him. Instead, they decided to kick the extra point and play for overtime . . . and they fumbled the snap.

Footnotes  

* If you want to read something about this cluster fuck that's written by someone qualified, t
he Washington Post published a Pulitzer Prize winning in-depth report on the deplorable conditions at Walter Reed Army Medical Center back in 2007 which apparently served as a wake-up call to a whole bunch of people including those responsible for the deplorable conditions at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. I'm pretty sure someone got fired. Beyond that, not much has changed considering that veterans are still waiting too long to get substandard medical care at shoddy rundown facilities.   

** Earlier this week, ESPN's Ryan Russillo and Danny Kanell, who have a radio show that should be called "Mommy Look at Me," decided to devote ten minutes of airtime to explaining how ESPN was actually the victim in this controversy. There were two plausible scenarios according to Kanell: (1) ESPN had no control over the process and was therefore being unjustly criticized or (2) ESPN hated Keenan Reynolds. This is straight out of the 24 hour news channel Jedi mind-trick textbook of offering two explanations for something, one that makes you look good and another that's too outrageous to be true so the listener is left with only the option of believing the one that makes you look good. Except in this case there was a third option as ESPN effectively acknowledged that it screwed-up when they fixed their mistake by putting Reynolds back on the ballot. Just admit that your company botched it Danny and get back to talking about what you and Ryan do when you're not talking about each other on the radio.  

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Thankful for John Skipper

It has been nearly a month since the Grantland website was shut-down by ESPN president John Skipper but the continued presence of its link on my screen serves as a constant reminder of the sizable void that was suddenly created in my reading list. While some may scoff at the fact that I relied so heavily for my literary fulfillment on a website devoted to relatively short works on sports, pop culture and Game of Thrones worship, I would counter with the sage words of George Costanza who, in response to the question, "what do you read?" . . . responded, "I like Mike Lupica." Unlike Costanza, I am not unemployed and living with my parents, however, I am bald and I do have a constant need for highbrow (or even medium-brow) entertainment that can be consumed in ten minute intervals while I cram lunch down my throat, sit in a carpool line or do that other thing that seems to take men ten minutes and women thirty seconds.

When I first learned that Grantland was finished, I kind of shrugged it off as no big deal but there have been numerous occasions over the past few weeks where I've reached for the icon which still sits at #2 on my list of favorites right behind the Fantasy Golf Report (what would you expect?) and just ahead of The OnionIMDB* and the site I use to reserve tee times. (The Grantland link still works but now when you click on it, all you get is a message that says, "It was a good run" and access to the archives). Obviously I had established a connection to Grantland that was greater than I realized but why? Let's take a look.

Did someone say
Game of Thrones?
We'll begin with a brief history lifted primarily (and by "primarily" I mean "exclusively") from Wikipedia. Grantland was a sports and pop-culture blog owned and operated by ESPN. It was started in 2011 by veteran writer and sports journalist Bill Simmons who remained as editor in chief until May of 2015 at which time Skipper told the New York Times that ESPN would not be renewing Simmons' contract. This decision effectively ended Simmons' tenure at ESPN. Later in the month, Chris Connelly was announced as interim editor-in-chief. At that point, the writing was on the wall for the site because, despite all of the other high quality writers it featured, Simmons was the heart and soul of Grantland. With him out of the picture, it was on life support and Skipper was standing there like a trust fund kid with the plug in one hand and his estranged father's last will and testament in the other.

But it didn't have to be that way because in the roughly four years of its existence, Grantland grew way beyond Simmons' pet project into the online version of what Sports Illustrated*** used to be when it was worthy of a full cover-to-cover inspection every week. What the Grantland website ultimately became is not easily defined but it was kind of a clearinghouse for quality writing on topics of sports, pop culture and politics. Often these topics were blended together so you might have found yourself reading an Andy Greenwald column about how Will Ferrell emerged victorious from a NCAA Tournament style field of 64 Saturday Night Live cast members or a Jason Concepcion piece devoted to identifying the greatest fictional basketball player of all time.    

It was kind of all over the place with no parameters or boundaries so you never knew what you were going to find when you visited and that lack of clear definition may have contributed to its getting whacked. I mean what consumer wants to be constantly presented with a variety of quality options? That'd be like going to a diner with a hangover and having to decide whether you wanted a cheeseburger, french toast or a western omelet. That's just too many choices (said no one ever).


The Americans is the best show
that you're probably not watching.
In the case of Grantland, you may have checked-in for some simple NFL picks and then found yourself completely distracted by Mark Lisanti's Mad Men Power Rankings or Charles Pierce's Dean Smith obituary or Brian Phillips' deconstruction of the FIFA presidential election. I'm sure the fact that the site covered topics unrelated to ESPN programming instead of shilling strictly for the mothership also contributed to its downfall. The fat cats at Disney (which owns ESPN) could not have been pleased that Grantland was sparking interest in non-Disney programming like Breaking Bad (AMC), The Americans (FX) and Homeland (Showtime).

That's certainly how I read the termination slip that Skipper handed to the site on or about October 30th: "Effective immediately we are suspending the publication of Grantland. After careful consideration, we have decided to direct our time and energy going forward to projects that we believe will have a broader and more significant impact across our enterprise blah blah blah . . ." (I added that last part). In other words, we're going to focus more on pimping our own shows, cheerleading for the sports we televise and promoting the daily fantasy sports companies we're in bed with while at the same time pretending to be an objective journalistic enterprise. A website devoted to quality journalism not only doesn't fit with that mission, it hinders it. 

If you question my questioning of Skipper's motives and credibility, consider that back in May after ESPN parted ways with Simmons, he said that the network was “committed to Grantland.” I guess he meant "committed" in the same way that we're all "committed" to getting more out of our gym memberships, learning a foreign language and converting all of our old home movies from VHS to digital. "Committed" my ass. The only reasons Skipper kept Grantland going for another five months were (1) he didn't want killing it to look like a spite move after splitting with Simmons and (2) ESPN has a huge stake in the NBA and one of the things that Grantland did best was cover the NBA even post-Simmons thanks to Jalen Rose, Zach Lowe, Andrew Sharp, Kirk Goldsberry, et al. Don't think that the end of Grantland coming three days after the start of the regular season was a coincidence because there is rarely anything coincidental about these types of decisions.

So now that ESPN won't be taxed by having to run a basically autonomous website, it will have more "time and energy" to focus on programming like the IQ bankrupting First Take featuring the tag team of Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless who together should go by the name "The Assassins of Intelligent Discourse." It would appear that this is just another stage in the evolutionary dumbing down of the network marked by the departure of talent like Dan Patrick, Rich Eisen, Robin Roberts, Colin Cowherd, Keith Olbermann, Brian Kenny, Charlie Steiner, Harold Reynolds, etc. You may not have liked them and some of their departures weren't ESPN's fault but the fact is that they were all thoughtful and provocative and they're all gone.

Don't forget hot sideline reporters
like every parking lot attendant's
worst nightmare, Britt McHenry.
Now the faces and voices of the franchise are Mike & Mike who are great if you also get a kick out of your uncle who tells the same jokes every time you see him and then laughs way too hard at the punch lines, the over the top Dan Le Batard and shouting clowns like Smith and Bayless. Beyond them you have a crew of competent yet indistinguishable SportsCenter anchors and panel after panel of ex-players/coaches battling for thirty seconds of airtime to make a barely tangential connection between the topic of the day and some story from their past. If it wasn't for PTICollege Gameday, Mel Kiper and Scott Van Pelt, the entire network would be almost unwatchable. Thanks to the dumping of Grantland, they don't produce anything worth reading either. The classic double threat.

There was a priceless moment during ESPN's broadcast of last Monday night's Bills-Patriots game when it came time for Mike Tirico to read the promo for next week's game featuring the 3-7 Ravens without Joe Flacco against the 2-8 Browns (I wonder how much "time and energy" went into picking that inevitable turd as a Monday night game). Tirico asked Jon Gruden "do you like yourself some football?" and then chuckled before finishing "because we're going to test that next week." Of course Gruden came back with some typical Gruden bullshit ("TGB") about a smash-mouth game between two division rivals and capped it off with something that sounded like a pirate coughing-up a hairball for emphasis. And that really sums-up the current ESPN mission statement doesn't it: We're going to sell our customers a steaming pile of crap but first we're going to have one of our ex-player/coaches wrap it in shiny paper, put a big bow on it and deliver it with some flowers to hide the smell. 

So as we approach the day when we sit around the table and awkwardly testify (and sometimes perjure ourselves) about what we are thankful for, I would like to offer my most sincere thanks to John Skipper for the increasingly frivolous and superficial sports broadcasting company that he has given us. You shouldn't have Mr. Skipper. No really. You shouldn't have.        

Footnotes

IMDB (Internet Movie Database) is by far the most relied upon website by the FGR. It is the ultimate resource for locating basic movie quotes and cross-referencing actors with films. If you excluded pornography, I would declare it the best website ever created.

** The people have spoken and demanded a return to the kind of culturally enriching photography on which the Fantasy Golf Report was built. (Who cares if "the people" was really just four emails and three guys at the gym?) The people have been heard!  

*** I'm not exactly sure when or why I abandoned Sports Illustrated but I do remember reaching a point where I found only 10% of each issue worth reading. Some of that is attributable to the fact that a magazine that reports on events that are over a week old is always going to taste a bit stale (says the guy writing about an event that occurred over three weeks ago).

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Thursday, October 29, 2015

Defending DraftKings

The two big one day fantasy sports outlets, DraftKings and FanDuel,* have been taking a lot of heat lately for everything from incessant carnival barking to Gordon Gekko level insider trading. Well we here at the Fantasy Golf Report believe that there are two sides to every story and, with our joint background in complex litigation** and fantasy sports nerdophilia, we can't think of anyone more qualified to take-up the cause of these two beleaguered organizations whose only crime seems to be providing fantasy sports fans with a better way of life. Let the whining begin.

They Advertise Way Too Much


We can dispense with this one by asking the obvious question, "can you have too much advertising when you're communicating such a valuable public service?" I don't hear anyone complaining about the endless ads on CNN, Fox News and MSNBC enticing the elderly to buy gold.*** Or selling them on the benefits of reverse mortgages to take advantage of the equity from what is probably the only thing of value they still own after the 2008 meltdown forced them back into the role of Chick-fil-a table wiper. These companies are just trying to help people and it's no different for DraftKings and FanDuel which also offer financial security only through a giant million dollar check presented to you as confetti rains from the ceiling at your local Buffalo Wild Wings.

"What is she doing back there?
I never know what she's doing."
You see, we're not selling pipe dreams here people. According to one of their radio ads, winning at fantasy football is the key that will release you from your prison cubicle. Forget that many a successful career started in a cubicle and were inspired by the desire to graduate from it. That's for suckers who want to work. DraftKings and FanDuel are offering you a very real shortcut to financial freedom and it is their right, nay, their duty to remind you of that every five minutes with actors who have been carefully chosen to look like 32 year old men still living in their parents' basements? MOM! THE MEATLOAF! FUCK!!!

It's Really Just Illegal Gambling

No it's not. The definition of "gambling" is "playing games of chance for money." There are two types of daily fantasy sports participants: (1) Computer geniuses who enter hundreds of teams every day using sophisticated programs that virtually guarantee a return of roughly 8% over time. For them, this is not a game of chance. It's a fairly risk free investment strategy; and (2) Regular guys at Saturday cookouts with Baby Bjorns strapped to them like straitjackets playing on rumors and hunches. These guys have no chance. Either way, "chance" is not a factor so it's not gambling. What else ya got?   

Insider Trading

In case you hadn't heard, an employee of DraftKings recently won $350,000 on FanDuel and he allegedly obtained competitively advantageous information that was only available to him through his employment. Obviously we need to go back to the dictionary on this one for a basic definition of "insider trading" which is "the trading of a company's stocks or other securities by individuals with access to confidential or non-public information about the company." Notice that the definition doesn't say anything about using confidential or non-public information about the individual's company to trade the stocks or other securities of someone else's company. This is an important distinction because it turns what the sharp young minds at DraftKings and FanDuel are doing from "insider trading" to "outsider trading" which isn't even a thing.

"Now are these really the questions I
was called here to answer? Gambling
and insider trading? Please tell me
you've got something more."****
More importantly, however, is the fact that insider trading is only illegal under certain circumstances because trading stocks is regulated. DraftKings and FanDuel are not regulated so even if DraftKings' employees play their own games with full knowledge of every player picked by their customers while on a conference call with FanDuel's employees laughing about how not illegal this all is, it still wouldn't be illegal. It might destroy their credibility to the point where people would stop pl. . . (damn, almost got that one out with a straight face) but illegal? No more illegal than the Russian soldier with the machine gun slung over his shoulder cleaning out your wallet while he studies your Passport.

The Games are Rigged

Now just hold on. "Rigged" is a very strong word that implies an unfair advantage has been built into the games like loaded dice or a marked deck that gives the rigger a better chance of winning. That is not the case here. Let's take a one day fantasy football game for example. Everyone who plays gets to select from the same pool of players with the same salary cap numbers and the results are based on the stats from a professional sports league whose owners have a financial stake in the companies running the games. Tell me what's fishy about that because I'm not seeing it. Just because the aforementioned computer geniuses have software that determines hundreds of lineup combinations with a greater chance of winning that can be modified up until the games start to account for injuries and other changed circumstances doesn't mean the games are rigged. It just means your chances of winning are about the same as if the games were rigged because you might as well be playing No Limit Hold 'Em against the sharks from Rounders. That's a "you" problem my friend.   

Conclusion

To paraphrase Chris Christie channeling his inner Allen Iverson at last night's debate, "we're talking about fantasy football?!? Don't we have more important things to worry about than an unregulated multi-billion dollar industry creating a whole new generation of gambling addicts?" It's a free country. If you don't like it, move to Denmark with Bernie Sanders. In the meantime, load-up a roster for this week's games and be sure to use the promo code "CHUMP" to get $200 in bonus cash added to the money you won't win.

Footnotes

* This could just as easily been called Defending FanDuel but that didn't have quite the sweet alliterative ring to it.

** One of our writers may have once negotiated a $2,500 settlement for one of his clients and then sent said client a bill for $11,000 but that's just hearsay. (Look for next week's feature . . . Litigation: Still the Most Cost Effective Way to Settle Your Petty Disputes).

*** These commercials feature images of global unrest and warnings of the next economic collapse followed by reliable trustworthy pitchmen from our past like William Devane preaching the safety of gold because you know, the price of gold only goes in one direction - up. Gold pimp, Rosland Capital, takes it one step further with a running national debt calculator on its website to really drive home the hopelessness and inevitability of it all. I'm surprised they don't have a member of ISIS holding the calculator in one hand and a burning American flag in the other.

Remember, if you can't spot the sucker in your first
half hour at the table, then you are the sucker.
**** I know I've disgruntled a major segment of my customer base by taking a faux moral stand against featuring scantily clad Hollywood temptresses and British porn stars but allow me to make amends by referring you to Esquire's gallery entitled Emilia Clarke is the Sexiest Woman Alive in 2015. I hope this means we can still be friends.

Email the Fantasy Golf Report at fgr@fantasygolfreport.com

Friday, October 16, 2015

Top Ten Most Underrated Movie Dads

I have now been a dad for half of my adult life (gulp) so I think that qualifies me to judge the difference between a good dad and a lousy dad, especially considering my experience as both. (I'm convinced that if you're a good dad 100% of the time, then you're actually a bad dad. At least that's what I keep telling myself).* 

But this list isn't necessarily about good v. bad dads. It's about dad's who brought something significant to the table despite limited lines, screen time or both. So we've avoided the obvious choices like Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird and Liam Neeson as Bryan Mills in Taken. Also failing to make the cut were other dads we'd really like to include like George Clooney as Matt King in The Descendants (leading role), John Mahoney as Mr. Court in Say Anything (just missed the top ten) and Robert Duvall as The Great Santini (you don't make the list if the movie is named after your character).

So here we go with a somewhat random list of characters who helped drive the story in their roles as either the dad you wish you had, the dad you're glad you didn't or the dad who, upon reflection, really wasn't all that bad.

10. Vince Vaughn as Beanie: Old School


Beanie's inclusion was a close call because he is clearly one of the three main characters but his dad scenes are way down on the list of storylines and serves more of a supporting role for other characters to work off of than it's own driving force. Without Beanie as a dad, however, we never get the birthday party scene with Frank getting shot in the neck with the tranquilizer dart. (How else would you set-up an encounter between Frank and an animal trainer?) It also gave us the "earmuffs" bit which doesn't actually work in real life because no dad stops to tell his kid "earmuffs" before littering the landscape with F-Bombs. At least no dad in my house.  


Dad Grade: B- (Beanie clearly loves his kids but still seems a bit conflicted about committing to a life of monogamous fatherhood).


Best quote: "You think I like avoiding my wife and kids to hang-out with nineteen year old girls everyday?"


Runner-up: "Don't say sorry to me Frank, say it to the baby."


9. Val Bisoglio as Frank Manero, Sr.: Saturday Night Fever


The first of our three bad dads, Frank Manero is an out of work construction worker who likes to moderate dinner conversations by smacking everyone within arms reach anytime they get out of line (note that in this scene, everyone at the table takes a hit except grandma who actually gives the poor table itself a shot). If you asked him to sum-up his parenting philosophy, it would go something like "tell your kids they suck at least once a day or life will tell them for you."


"Four dollars? Shit."
Dad Grade: D- (Only because he deserves a slightly better grade than the guy below who gets the "F").

Best quote: Commenting on his son Tony's announcement that his boss just gave him a four dollar per week raise at the paint store . . . "Four dollars? . . . You know what four dollars buys today? . . . It don't even buy three dollars!"

Runner-up: "ONE PORK CHOP . . . ONE!!!" (It's in the table hitting scene).

8. Alan Arkin as Edwin Hoover: Little Miss Sunshine

Edwin Hoover edges-out his son Richard Hoover because Edwin was far more entertaining and, in his own profane way, probably a better dad. He's takes Little Miss Sunshine from a B+ movie to an "A" and for that he makes the list.  

Dad Grade: B+ (Hoover gets an extra bump for also being such an inspirational grandfather).

Best quote: "Every night it's the fucking chicken! Holy God Almighty! Is it possible just once we could get something to eat for dinner around here that's not the goddamned fucking chicken?"

Runner-up: "Fuck a lotta women kid. I have no reason to lie to you. Not just one . . . a lotta women."


7. Kurtwood Smith as Mr. Perry: Dead Poet's Society


We need at least one true villain and you'd be hard-pressed to top Mr. Perry unless you wanted to go with a pedophile, (Bill Maplewood, Happiness), a psychopath (Jack Torrance, The Shining) or a Jedi who lost his way (Darth Vader, The Empire Strikes Back).*


"I know you're going find this hard to believe but I'm
going to star in a very successful sitcom one day."
Dad Grade: F (When your son kills himself with your gun to escape the life that you have dictated for him, um, I'm afraid that's an "F"). 

Best quote: "Oh stop it. Don't be so dramatic. You make it sound like a prison term. You don't understand Neil. You have opportunities that I never dreamt of and I am not going to let you waste them." Neil killed himself that night. Eat it dad.


Runner-up: None. He had some other lines but frankly they're all too depressing. 


6. Robert Swain as Rollin: Hoosiers


Rollin had "honorable mention" written all over him until we realized how critical these two moves were: (1) At the first practice he brings his son back, has him apologize to coach Dale and then bounces the other dads and assorted small town business people when coach tells them that practice is closed; and (2) He's
 instrumental in keeping Coach Dale from getting fired. Throw-in the fact that by the end of the movie, he's working as the only assistant coach in the championship game. That kind of impact from a bit part is just what this list is all about

Dad Grade: A (He gets it).

Best quote: He tears-up the ballots after the original vote count and firmly declares, "Coach Stays!" BOOM!!!

Runner-up: "Coach Stays!" (Sorry but you're not topping that).

5. J.K. Simmons as Mac MacGuff: Juno

I started writing this thing long before Whiplash was released, otherwise Simmons would probably be three spots higher based purely on his participation in one of the five best movie endings I've ever seen. As it is, Mac MacGuff is probably the closest thing we have to a real life dad on this list (remember who's writing this thing). A straight talking, sarcastic, loving dad who gets caught in a bit of a trick bag because he let his daughter be her own person. He gets bonus points for being the dad on this list you'd most like to have a couple of beers with. He's also part of the best father-daughter combo on the list and I've got one of those so even more bonus points. 


Dad Grade: A- (A little detached but definitely has his heart in the right place).

Best quote: "Look, in my opinion, the best thing you can do is find a person who loves you for exactly what your are. Good mood, bad mood, ugly, pretty, handsome, what have you, the right person is still going to think the sun shines out your ass."

Runner-up: "Who's the father Juno? . . . Paulie Bleeker? . . . I didn't think he had it in him."


Second runner-up: "Thanks for having me and my irresponsible child over to your house."


4. Derrick McGavin as Old Man Parker: A Christmas Story


Let's face it, Old Man Parker was the star of the movie but he wasn't the main subject and he didn't narrate so he makes this list under the wire and, once he satisfied the qualifying criteria, you couldn't keep him out. He's probably a more accurate depiction of a day-to-day grind it out dad than most of us would want to admit.


"He never looked at his boys
with this kind of adoration."
Dad Grade: C (We're taking the position that buying the BB gun was really just a make-up call for years of subordinating his parenting obligations to things like the pursuit of random prizes).

Best quote: Explaining why Santa brought the BB gun, "I had one when I was eight years old."

Runner-up: "SONS OF BITCHES . . . BUMPUSES!!!"

  3. Gene Hackman as Royal Tenenbaum: The Royal Tenenbaums

Royal is another somewhat borderline candidate because he's essentially the title character but this was a classic ensemble cast and if you think I'm leaving a degenerate former lawyer off this list, then you don't know me so good. 

Dad Grade: D (Again, it's all relative compared to the guy who drove his son to suicide). 

Best quote: This one is fairly self-explanatory. "I've always been considered an asshole for about as long as I can remember. That's just my style." (I feel you Royal).

Runner-up: Royal confronts Danny Glover's character, Henry Sherman, and accuses him of trying to steal his ex-wife. Royal begins the exchange by telling Sherman, "you heard me Coltrane" and concludes it with "you wanna talk some jive? I'll talk some jive. I'll talk some jive like you never heard."

2. Richard Jenkins as Dr. Dale Doback: Step Brothers


It was a close battle for the top spot thanks to Jenkins pulling-off one of the greatest straight-man performances in movie history. Without him, and perennially sneaky hot Mary Steenburgen, Step Brothers could have been a watch once and move on comedy but Dr. Huff and Dr. Doback (along with Derrick) are key reasons why you're not surfing past this movie on a random Tuesday night.  


Dad Grade: D+ (Not quite Frank Manero but when your 40 year old son is still living at home . . .).

Best quote: "I'm gonna go down to the Cheesecake Factory, have a drink." (Also winner for best overall quote).


Runner-up: "You know what I got for Christmas? A crushed soul."


1. Paul Dooley as Mr. Stohler: Breaking Away***


"I'm not 'papa,' I'm your
goddamn father!"
In the end it had to be Mr. Stohler right? He's the consummate working-class dad trying to decode the riddle that is his teenage son. He owns the movie from the moment he walks onto the screen and does not have a single word of wasted dialogue (it doesn't hurt that it's one of the best movies ever made).

Dad Grade: A (The quarry speech, showing-up for the end of the race and riding the bike at the end. We knew he had it in him).

Best quote: "No I don't feel lucky to be alive! I feel lucky I'm not dead. There's a difference."

Runner-up: Every other line he has.

Footnotes

* Sometimes it's hard to tell the difference. Case in point: A few weeks ago I stumbled onto what I thought was a free hour of daylight on a perfect September evening after shuttling all three kids to their destinations so I bolted for the first tee and squeezed in six holes of speed golf. As I was coming-off the course, I stumbled onto a group of about ten merry fellows who were getting ready to sit down to dinner and asked me to join. Alas I could not as I had promised myself that I would be home at a reasonable hour that evening to spend some time with the family but I did, however, have time for "a beer." About halfway through my second beer I glanced at my phone and noticed multiple messages from the FGW so I discreetly checked them only to be reminded that I had previously agreed to pick-up my eight year old daughter from soccer practice which had ended ten minutes prior. Oh yeah, it was now dark outside. As I bolted from the table, I only had time to say "gotta go" and as I sprinted to the car I called my wife back hoping that somehow this situation had resolved itself. Fortunately it had because she magically foresaw my screw-up and made it to the field on time. And to make the ending an even happier one, my second beer was still on the table when I returned. So you tell me . . . good dad or bad dad?    

** I never saw Natural Born Killers so Rodney Dangerfield's character does not get the mention he apparently deserves. Also, Darth Vader warrants consideration after coming full circle by saving his son's life in Return of the Jedi after previously cutting his hand off with a light saber. That's a nice comeback but he's frankly a little too mainstream.

*** If I did have an honorable mention category, Paul Dooley would've gotten a piece of that too for playing a softened version of Mr. Stohler as the dad in Sixteen Candles


Email the Fantasy Golf Report at fgr@fantasygolfreport.com (or don't).