Friday, September 30, 2011

Ending Things

The answer is: no. I am not on suicide watch. I do not think that I ever was. There was a dizzying spell right after the Longoria walk-off, in the where I kind of blacked out—I think, so my mind could adequately suppress what had happened in all of Wednesday night’s game—and I came too lying in the back of car that did not belong to me (true story).

In my fantasy league, my buddy—whose team is currently 0-and-3 but was favored before the season started—texted me and said that his fantasy team was like the Sox in September. Great players that cannot get it done.

Ouch. He is a D-Backs fan. Baseball life is good for him right now.

The morning after friends and co-workers treated the situation as if there had been a death in the family. Hand shakes, consoling e-mails, and dozens of ‘I’m-so-sorries’. There were a few that directly had to ask what happened because they missed the games entirely. Those were fun, re-living the play by plays, 12 hours after the fact.

But in all honesty, I cannot really be angry at anyone, but the Red Sox. I cannot point the finger away from the team—even though I **expletive** hate the Yankees for doing exactly nothing. Gosh dammit. In the latter part of the Rays and Yankees game, I sent out the following Twitter, Google+, and Facebook updates:

 “I swear, if the Yankees get on their knees on blow Tampa Bay, and screw me over... I'll kill someone.”
 “You suck d--- Yankees, I can't stand you. What the Eff is your problem.”
 “You gosh damn effing Tankers, I effing hate you.”

The last status that containing ‘Tankers’, was the first one that I posted, but because I was updating my status on my phone, when you type the word ‘Yankees’ it auto-corrects to tankers. How poetic.

In the bottom of the ninth inning of that Tampa/New York game, when Dan Johnson was at the plate, I was watching the game on my iPad with MLB.tv app. For every game you watch, you can choose if you want to view video feed of the home or away team. I chose the Rays feed. It did a couple quick shots of the Rays dugout, showing the dejected look on their player’s faces; one strike away from almost, but not quite completing their improbable comeback and finalizing the subsequent Red Sox collapse. I felt a tinge of sadness for them. The feeling of your baseball season ending is never pleasant, it is a feeling of... ‘I just wasted so much time for nothing.’ There was a pain in my heart for what they were about to go through. (In the writing business, we call the previous sentence f-o-r-s-h-a-d-o-w-i-n-g).

No need to get in to the messy details. If you want to re-live it, Bill Simmons did a running diary of the game found here. I will share a small excerpt of that article which perfectly describes the Red Sox unbelievable and never-in-the-history-of-baseball collapse, in which he closed by writing:

“They [the Red Sox] blew basic baseball plays, botched fly balls, dropped relay throws, ended games by getting caught stealing, threw meatballs, bitched at each other, admitted to being scared … you name it, they did it. They choked away Game 162 by getting three guys thrown out on the basepaths, by blowing a 3-2 lead in the ninth, by botching a season-deciding fly ball, by letting Chris Davis, Nolan Reimold and Robert Andino beat them with two outs in the ninth. You can't say it was unbelievable, because, actually, it was totally believable.”

In regards to talking about the Red Sox 2011 season, and it’s ending—and to quote Forrest Gump—“That’s all I have to say about that.” But I do have a few things to say, elsewhere.

To start, lets talk about a game we all love, Words with Friends, and it’s social problems. Lately I cannot get enough of it, but there are too many gray areas involved that lack etiquette guidelines.

PROBLEM #1
The most glaring of these is the whole post-game, do I say, “yes I want a rematch” if I beat you, or do I decline and let you decide that? Or when I get on my phone and I have a notification that says I just lost, of course I want a rematch, but did you already start one because you found out that you beat me, before I did? What the hell is happening? I do not know what to do. Nobody does. I cannot tell you, how many multiple games I have going on right now with the same person because of this exact problem. I have four different games going on right now between myself and my sister-in-law. It needs to stop. With so many duplicate games, nobody knows which game to be the more emotionally invested in. We need to fix this.

PROBLEM #2
Words with Friends (WWF) and the cause and effect ripple of the Cheats with Friends (CWF) users. Look, we all know the difference between trying letter combinations to get that triple letter or triple word and because of this you “find” a word and the difference between people who go straight for the CWF. The CWF user problem is affecting the non-users, because the non-users remember these bogus words. I am one of those people. If I am in a game and someone plays a random word that seems totally fishy, I am certainly going to try and use that word down the road.

A prime example is the word: oxyacids. I played this word against my wife a week ago because some CWF player (you know who you are) added the ‘oxy’ when I played the word ‘acids’. My own brother refuses to play WWF with me because he thinks I cheated by playing random words I learned in other games, like ‘rotgut’. Stop using Cheats with Friends people, because you are inadvertently making me look like a cheater.

PROBLEM #3
Do not start a game with a three-letter word. Especially a three-letter words that cannot be turned in to a longer word. Words like “but”, “can”, “bit”, and “fin”—those words are fine. They can all be turned in to butter, cantor, bitten, and finish. I am talking about words like “hah” and “biz”. What the freak are you trying to do to the board? Just do a tile swap. The game has not started yet; there is not a huge advantage to be had by being the person to start the game. There certainly is not an advantage to playing “hah”. Nobody knows how to build on that, and those that do, use Cheats with Friends. You add to the problem and not the solution.

PROBLEM #4
The whole “should I” or “should I not” start a game with you because we are Facebook friends? Nobody knows what to do. We all have friends on Facebook that we have added or they have added us because the two of you went to the same high school or took the same class in college. You never actually hung out with this person. Maybe you have been to a couple of the same parties, but there were 15+ people at this party, so you were not forced to interact them. I am talking about the people that you never write on each other’s wall or message or anything like that, and you would feel weird if you wrote on their wall for their birthday. The only reason you added or accepted said person because

A) you know their face or had a class project with them, and;
B) all you really want out of the Facebook friendship is the luxury of being able to stalk them on the off chance that they should they ever get married/divorced, do something crazy, get fat or get hot, put up super skanky Halloween pictures, suddenly invent something and get mega rich, compete on reality TV, or become famous.

We are all just a bunch people gamblers, playing the numbers, waiting for some ish to go down. Period. My question is this: because we are not friends—or what friends should be—is it weird if I start a WWF game with you because all the other people that I play with on a regular basis are being lazy and not updating our games? I merely need to get my WWF nicotine fix, OK. I am not trying to stalk you, I just want to play some damn words already. We need to determine if this is a line that is copasetic to cross.

Sooo…

In an attempt to add order to the world of WWF and right the ship, the writing team at HITS has come up with the following guidelines and rules:

1) If you win a game and the program prompts you start a re-match, decline. The person you just beat, is going to get the same message. Let them say yes, and play first. Perhaps the think you cheated a bunch and do not want to play you again. Which brings us to rule two;
2) Stop using Cheats with Friends. If you really do know an ambiguous word, then use the message feature, and drop a clarifying line the person you are playing. Same thing goes for you, if you think, they cheated.
3) Do not play, short, dead-end words to start any game. Swap tiles. This is the only time that you should ever feel obligated to open the board up.
4) HITS writers are making an executive decision on this one. Start a game with anyone and everyone. Who cares? We need to burst out of our shy, voyeuristic tendencies. If someone starts a game a game with you, it is not because they love you. The want to get their words on, and that is all.


FINAL THOUGHTS
In closing, I just want to say that I love my Boston Red Sox no matter how they may historically screw themselves. Going in to the month of September, the Sox had a 99.6% chance of making the playoffs, and now they are sitting on the couch just like me. I still love them and I still love baseball.

Predictions: Whoever wins the D-Backs/Brewers series is your World Series Champion. If not them, anyone but New York.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Adrian Peterson: this generation's Barry Sanders?

Usually, I am not super big making comparisons of athletes; especially when they play within the same sport. Typically, I like to compare players from two different sports. For example, I have always thought that Grant Hill was the Ken Griffey Jr. of the NBA, because I will always wonder what might have been, if either of those guys had never encounter the nagging injuries they did. With Griffey, I think we see him smashing the home run record, which never gets touched, until late in Albert Pujols career. With grant… I am not entirely sure. Maybe an NBA title somewhere along his career. But we will never know, but those are the types of comparisons I like to make.

Breaking out of my norm, I have been wrestling with one player mirror for a couple of days. No, it is not, “Is Cam Newton the next Michael Vick?” No. Although, I do think that is the best case scenario for Newton. Only time will tell. My curiousness has lately been this:

Is Adrian Peterson this generation’s Barry Sanders?

The more I think about it the more convinced I become. Adrian Peterson is a gangster talent, super good, and is never going to miss an opportunity to be great. The Viking organization knows these facts just as well as every other NFL general manager does, and that is why Adrian Peterson will never be traded or outbid by any other NFL team when his contract is about to come up. Ever. Probably for his entire career, but most definitely for the prime of his career, Adrian Peterson is going to be in Minnesota Vikings jersey. Viking fans everywhere are rejoicing. The only thing that would put him out of Minny uniform, is if he suddenly became a Randy Moss-like head case. Viking fans everywhere are solemnly nodding their heads. But he never will be a head case. Viking fans everywhere are, again, rejoicing.

But because Adrian Peterson is so good, the chances of him playing on a Viking team that will make the Super Bowl are no bueno. No bueno at all actually. I will tell you why. It is simple really. Because of how good Peterson is, the Minnestoa Vikings will never completely suck enough in order to nail that cannot miss pick (read: QB, something along the lines of an Andrew Luck). His greatness will become his Achilles heel. It will plague him, just like it plagued Barry Sanders, and therefore Adrian Peterson will never be combined with a current Top 10 quarterback. The Donovan McNabb trade is not going to take the Vikings to the promise-land. How can it? McNabb is not the player he once was, because if he were, he would still be with the Eagles or at the very least, the Washington Redskins. You realize the Redskins told themselves John Beck or Rex Grossman were better quarterbacks. It is no bueno for a third time Viking fans. Even if he does OK, who is McNabb going to throw to?

It was hard for Donovan McNabb to do it in his prime when had a money Brian Westbrook running the football and was throwing TD passes to Terrell Owens—whose on the field prowess loomed far above any other wide out in the league. Unfortunely, Terrell Owens knew that, and it pissed people off. That Eagle team was very close, but they were unfortunate to match up against the early 2000s dynasty, known as the New England Patriots. That was McNabb in his best-case scenario and it did not get done. And that was 7 years ago.

So how is McNabb going to do it now, after the semi-washed up season we saw in Washington? And how will he do it being traded to team with ZERO elite wide outs? All of these facts do not bode well for Adrian Peterson—just like it did not bode will for Barry Sanders back in the day. The numbers do not lie when you look at Barry’s Lions team seasons stacked up next to Peterson’s Vikings team seasons. They actually paint the same picture.

The Detroit Lions seasons when Barry was on the team:

1989 7-9 3rd NFC Central
1990 6-10 3rd NFC Central
1991 12-4 1st NFC Central
1992 5-11 5th NFC Central
1993 10-6 1st NFC Central
1994 9-7 3rd NFC Central
1995 10-6 2nd NFC Central
1996 5-11 5th NFC Central
1997 9-7 3rd NFC Central
1998 5-11 4th NFC Central

The Detroit Lions won their division twice during Barry Sanders career. The 1991 first place finish came in spite of the Lions losing starting quarterback, Rodney Peete, midway through the season. With the loss of Peete, the two reasons the Lions finished so well that year, came as a result of Barry’s combined 1,885 yards rushing/receiving and 17 touchdowns. The other factor was one of renewed and unbeatable fighting spirit birthed from tragedy. In a game against the Los Angeles Rams, Lions starting guard, Mike Utley, sustained an injury at the beginning of the fourth quarter, which left him paralyzed from the chest down. Without being able to feel his arms or legs, somehow, as he was being carted off the field, Mike Utley was able to give the fans in attendance a ‘thumbs up’—forever cementing his fighting spirit that would later lead to him creating the Mike Utely Foundation which seeks a cure for paralysis. The Detroit Lions would wear his #60 on their helmets for the rest of the season and would win their remaining six games. The Lions would eventually lose to the eventual Super Bowl Champion, Washington Redskins, in the NFC Championship game.

The division-winning season of 1993, was a combination of quarterbacks Rodney Peete, Erik Kramer and again, running back Barry Sanders. Sanders was limited by injury that and only played in 11 games, yet he was able to notch 1115 yards, a paltry 3 rushing TDs, and trip to the Pro Bowl. The Lions lost in the NFC Wild Card game to the Green Bay Packers.

Now peep the four seasons the Vikings have played with AP:

2007 8-8 2nd NFC North
2008 10-6 1st NFC North
2009 12-4 1st NFC North
2010 6-10 4th NFC North

Adrian Peterson burst on to the scene in 2007 by winning Rookie of the Year, rushing for 1,342 yards, and 12 touchdowns. He would go on to the Pro Bowl that same year and win that games’ Most Valuable Player award.

The following season, when the Vikings ended up winning their division with credit being given—much like the 1991 Lions season—mainly to Peterson. Peterson played even better as a sophomore in the NFL than he did as a rookie, increasing his rushing yards by 419, to a total of 1,760. He had minimal dip in touchdowns, going from 12 to 10. The starting quarterback for the Vikings that season, was none other than Tavaris Jackson who failed to put up 2,000 yard passing and posted a 70.8 quarterback rating.

When the Vikings won the division for the second year in a row, Adrian Peterson was again solid. Racking up 1,383 yards on the ground and a gargantuan 18 rushing touchdowns. He also posted a career high in receiving yards with 436, giving him a 1991 Barry Sanders-eqse 1,819 all-purpose yards and +1 on Barry’s 17 touchdown total. The Vikings were further blessed by the arrival of Brett Favre that year, and Brett’s miracle season. For the first time in 19-year career, at the ripe old age of 40, Favre posted a 100.0+ quarterback rating on the season, with a rating of 107.2, and kept his interceptions in the single digits (7). His previous low for INTs was 13… coming from all the way back in the 1996 season. So too, like Barry’s 1993 season, Adrian had another productive rushing year, but his team was also aided by the quarterback position. The Minnesota Vikings would lose to the eventual Super Bowl Champion, New Orlean Saints, in the NFC Championship game. Hmm… didn’t the Lions do something like that?

If we are honest with one another, barring the unlikely Brett Favre formula happening to McNabb—playing whole career for city that worshipped him, only be let go and then play for a random team, only to wind up on the Vikings the following season—Adrian Peterson’s saving grace is resting on shoulders of Christian Ponder. Let’s face it. That is the cold hard truth. Somehow, Ponder is going to have to become, at minimum, a Tony Romo, Ben Roethlisberger or Matt Ryan for his franchise in order for the Vikings to find Super Bowl glory. Every championship caliber team needs a gutty quarterback and either a stand out half back or wide out. Minnesota has AP, so they can get by without a stud receiver. But they need the right quarterback to make it happen. If Ponder is not that guy, then it looks like Peterson becomes this generation’s Barry Sanders.

I guess all I need to do is figure out if saying such a thing, is a compliment or something to be sad about. Perhaps it is both.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

NFL & Post Draft Thoughts

We made it. And Ben Roethlisberger went without raping someone this off-season! If only the lockout had been as strong as the Capital City Nightclub’s bathroom door the night Big Ben was in town—then we might not even have a season to kick off. But we do, and this season’s kicks off happens to be between the 2010 Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers and the 2009 Super Bowl Champion New Orleans Saints. Top tier quarterback vs. another top tier quarterback. Personally, I am hoping for a shellacking delivered by the Saints to the Packers. Something along the lines of Drew Brees repeating his performance against the Detriot Lions Week 1 in 2009, and Aaron Rodgers mirroring his Week 4 start, in 2008, against the Falcons.

In the last seven days I have completed two Fantasy Football drafts. I will get in the breakdown at the end of this column. This week has also taught me something I think that I have always known about myself. I cannot compete in a bunch of different fantasy drafts. Hell, I can barely even compete in two. How people play in thirty different leagues is beyond me. Friend league, work league, random online league, church league, league with the pizza delivery guy, etc. It is too much for me. I know my limits, what can I say? It is like drinking Red Bull. Drink one, maybe two, and you are feeling super positive—you might even decided to get your butt in gear and write a column. But drink four or more, and you either feel like you are going to throw up or you curl up in the corner convinced you are going to die. To much fun and joy can be a bad thing.

In addition to rooting for the guys on your team, a big chunk of joy associated with Fantasy Football is rooting against the guys on your opponents’ team. The more leagues you participate in, the more players you are likely to have in one league, but not have in the other. I do not want to pull for Philip Rivers in one league, and pray he snaps his arm in nine places in the other. It is a conflict of interest and I like to have my fantasy loyalties as PC as possible.

More often than not, because I like to keep my group of guys as uniform as possible, I usually end up with a couple players on both of my teams. And if you are going to draft the same players (if possible) in every league… why do you need to have 5 copies of the same lineup? For example, in both the leagues I participate in, I have quarterback Drew Bress and wide receiver Roddy White. Those are my guys and I will have no problem hoping they break every NFL record week in, week out. But that is it. Almost ever other player I own, has me battling my principles of do good and do terrible or “do just enough to help me in this matchup, but not so good that you screw me over in my other one.” I hate that.

Over the years I have collected some multiple league, fantasy pearls. Granted, I have only ever done a maximum of two separate Fantasy Football leagues at the same time, so take this for what it is worth, but I have figured at least much:

A) There is always one team you manage that trumps the other one.

In my case, that is the auction draft league I set up just last year, even though the other league is one I have been a part of since 2003. The very league that popped my fantasy cherry. Normally, I am a lifer when it comes to sports things, but the layout in my year-two brainchild league is so much more… more. Ya know? If that makes sense. I was crazy with the amount of spread sheets I prepared, and how much I would spend on Player X if Player Y had already been drafted, and so on and so forth. I made sure I to pick my spots—almost too carefully because post draft I had about $20 left over that I could have used to get a particular receiver I wanted. In my other league, I kind of winged it, and drafted more dangerously. Do not get me wrong, I care about that league, and I want to whoop some ass, but the process and path I am taking to do it, is a bit more cavalier.

B) You develop a set of principles/ideas you stick to every year.

My main set of principles are dichotomatic (yes, I invented that word.)

Explanation: any running back that has a super monster year—and they are either a rookie or have otherwise never had such a season—I am wwaaaaayyy cautious of and anti-them the following year. The exception was been Adrain Peterson. That proof was in the pudding for all to see. But with wide receivers and the occasional quarterback, I am all about their upside. And I prove it with draft picks. Between the two leagues I am in, I either own the rights to or that actual player in: Jonathan Baldwin, AJ Green, Julio Jones, Dez Bryant and Cam Newton. Make it rain!

When it comes to breakout RBs, however, you can deal me out. And I do not lose sleep over it; even if they return the next season and have another solid year.

Last year, that guy was Chris Johnson. Passed on him and he had great year. If he has another pretty decent year, I will welcome him in to the fold of players I do not mind having on my team. This year the two players I want nothing to do with are Arian Foster and Jamaal Charles. Avoided them like the plauge. Sort of. I hate the handcuff and the obligation of having to keep them. In the league I have been in since the early part of 2000 (we call them the ‘Licious Leagues’ because the league name for football is Footbalicous, basketball is Baskelicious, and baseball is Basebalicous) I somehow inherited Jamaal Charles as keeper for 2011. The league is a two-keeper league. I was obligated to keep Jamaal Charles because they said he was Top 5, and now I am obligated to keep him on the off chance that he really is, and it sucks because I do not trust the guy! I am not happy about it.

C) There is always one guy you MUST HAVE.

That guy for me is Michael Vick. I had him in my Licious Leagues, but had to let go of him after his ghetto fabulous season in 2006, when he was sent to prison. In order to get my brainchild league up and going last year, I took the season off from the Licious League, and missed out on reuniting with him in Week 2, the same way I did in my new league. I am contemplating gutting my team just to trade for him. Having the guy already on your team will allow you to focus your energy elsewhere and will help you do better in your league. It is always nice, when your must have guy is not good, because you know it will be easier to get him.

D) Winning your league championship relies 75% on who you picked up on the waiver wire, 15% draft savvy, and 10% luck.

My 2004 Footbalicious League championship came on the heels of running back Larry Johnson, who stepped in mid-season for the ever-concussed Priest Holmes. I got LJ off of waivers. That was the same season my holdover was Deuce McAllister, and he blew his knee ACL out like someone had strapped C-4 to it. Had he been healthy, I never would have picked up Johnson. Same sort of thing happened last season when I nabbed Vick off waivers, except nobody on my team got hurt. I saw flashes of 2006 in Vick’s second half of the Eagles opening game. Combo’d him with my gangster wide receivers. Won my league.

Take this for what you will. It is not a perfect science, but it is pretty damn concrete.

POST DRAFT THOUGHTS

Brainchild Draft Winner: JOEY
He was able to hold over 6 players for $90ish bucks and filled his roster with good to moderate players up and down on draft night.

Footbalicious Draft Winner: RYAN/KYLE (Co-managers)
Their holdovers were Michael Vick and Adrian Peterson. Because they won the league last year, they were able to choose their draft position. Choose first, obviously, and drafted Aaron Rogers with their first pick.

Brainchild Draft Loser: ROB
Rob overpaid for his resigns, except for Arian Foster. Unfortunely, one of the guys he overpaid for was Peyton Manning ($50), who looks like he is going to miss the entire football season.

Footbalicious Draft Loser: JUSTIN
His wife just had a baby and he was unable to show up for the draft. Auto-picked all of players. Auto-pick is not that bad, when there are a couple of other teams that are auto-pick as well. When you are the only one, it never is a good thing.

Brainchild team to look out for: JEFF
Jeff is DEEP at running back. Darren McFadden, Rashard Mendenhall, DeAngelo Williams, and LaGarrette Blount. He also has Tom Brady and Jermichael Finely who—by the way—is going to catch a zillion touchdown passes from Aaron Rodgers… after Week 1 of course ;)

Footbalicious team to look out for: ME
Brees, Roddy White, Jamaal Charles (who better do something) and upside guys like Cam Newton, AJ Green and Julio Jones. Let’s make it happen baby!

Prediction for tonight? Saints over Packers. 45 to 17. Shaboomya!