Saturday, November 05, 2011

Why the U.S. Sucks at Soccer (Or "Why Producing and Consuming Isn't Enough Nowadays")


As the world inches closer to the precipice of a financial meltdown, I thought I’d take a minute to look at why America is royally dicked in the coming years.

Industrial society is organized around producers and consumers.  Producers transform raw materials into something more valuable (called a product), which is then sold to consumers, who make the judgment that they value the product enough (as compared to the price) to spend their hard-earned dollars on purchasing it, or at least purchasing the right to use it.

A nation full of consumers is doomed to failure because nothing new is produced; the population ends up shifting its focus to obtaining more money to buy more products without mind to anything in particular.  At some point, collecting more things just becomes “the name of the game,” and it IS a game of sorts for those that want to play it; keeping up with the Joneses, getting newer, faster, shinier crap to show off or play with.  Sure, I appreciate the finer things in life just like anyone else, but the finer things should be a rare treat or serve some larger purpose than simply trying to fill whatever gaping void these people feel in their souls.

Of course, the government’s solution to this problem is to produce more stuff, and though that’s more in the proper direction, it’s still off the mark.  You could decide to ramp up car production all you want, or make shirts or shoes or whatever good that you want, but odds are that at some point all of those products will become either replaceable, or able to be constructed automatically, either by robots or through nanotechnology or advanced, 3D printing techniques.  Or a nanorobot with a 3D printer, even!

What this country needs more of is INNOVATION (See there, I even wrote it in big letters so that you couldn’t miss it).  We are now a nation that has become afraid to fail.  “Teach to the test.”  “Don’t step out of line or you’ll be cast aside.” “Do exactly as the coach says.” “Don’t make waves at work, or else you’ll never get promoted.”  “You have a well-paying job, why not just stay there and live ‘the good life.’”

But that’s the problem, isn’t it? Instead of working at something that’s just “okay” to live the current “good life” in your few off-hours, your work should always be to somehow raise the standard of living worldwide, and make a difference.  In order to do so, you have to be creative and take risks.  But creativity is frowned upon in a world filled with X’s and O’s and expository essays, with standardized tests and institutionalized procedures. 

True, as an economy, this country does need products to succeed, and people to buy those products, but where are all of those new products going to come from?  There’s only so much marketing you can do to convince people to spend money on shit they don’t need (though we’re certainly testing the outer limits of that assertion at the moment with crap like the shake weight). 

It’s the same reason that the U.S. gets killed in soccer worldwide; our youth coaches demand that kids play a system and follow their instructions exactly.  “Their way” is the exact way to do things, and any kid that says otherwise is “difficult to coach” or just plain bad.  Creativity, ingenuity, and impulsiveness are frowned upon and weeded out.

Meanwhile, millions of kids in Rio de Janiero play with makeshift inflated condom balls wrapped with string, largely without adult supervision, and are allowed to figure out the game for themselves.  Once they get to be of the age where serious competition starts, you have a variety of unique talents that can be coached in certain respects, but still retain enough of that individualistic “something” to set themselves apart from their teammates.  America is assembling robots from kits; Brazil is handcrafting playmakers from marble.

The most damning instance of this phenomenon is in the public school system, which now preaches teaching to the test while cutting ancillary programs like art, music, and even phys ed.  We encourage memorization and repetition in our children when these are the exact things that machines CAN do much easier, faster, and cheaper than people. 

What should we encourage instead?  Activities that utilize creativity, problem solving, and questioning the way that things have always been done while maintaining the open-mindedness to appreciate why things are currently done a certain way.  We need to teach kids to think like individuals, not machines.

“But D.J., if you do that, you’ll have a bunch of dumb people daydreaming and nothing getting done!”  First of all, I think a lot of “dumb” people could easily be trained to think much more efficiently and creatively; they just have it beaten out of them by the school system and (admittedly) give in far too often to stupid distractions.  Secondly, if you’re a bum for fifty years but then come up with an idea that transforms the world, or inspires someone else to do so, then isn’t that far more worthwhile than the guy that never even tries to come up with anything earth-shattering, and dies after a comfortable, middle-aged existence, not even a blip on this rock that will eventually return to stardust anyway?

At least if you learn to think creatively and find something that you’re passionate about, you can make strides in that field, and hopefully make life a little better for current and future generations along the way.  That’s worth something, isn’t it?

Anyway, thanks for hearing me out after my extended hiatus from the blogs.  Think I’m an idiot?  Just want to say hi?  Leave me a comment or hit me up on twitter or e-mail below.

D.J. Gelner is an attorney-turned-writer in St. Louis, Mo.  Follow him on twitter (@djgelner) or e-mail him (djssuperblog@gmail.com) if you have any questions.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Marshall Faulk, Running Backs, Quarterbacks, and the Changing NFL

This weekend was supposed to be a special weekend for Rams fans, filled with all kinds of pomp and circumstance, a coronation for one of the greatest players in NFL history as blue and gold swirled all around.

Then the NFL went ahead and cancelled Sam Bradford’s appearance in the Hall of Fame game.

I guess we’ll have to settle for Marshall Faulk’s enshrinement in the Hall of Fame instead.

In all seriousness, though, Faulk was the greatest St. Louis Ram of all time (though Kurt Warner fans may dispute that assertion) and is certainly deserving of being the headliner of the weekend as a first-ballot inductee.

My first “holy shit!” moment seeing Faulk was during the Rams-Browns game in 1999 at what was then the TWA dome.  I remember it like it was yesterday: the first time I ever saw the Rams win in person.  We all remember that crazy run where Faulk juked and dashed his way 35 yards to daylight against the Browns, coming to a full stop, Looney Tunes-style, to let Browns defenders fly by before accelerating like an F-18 on an aircraft carrier to blow past everyone at full speed.  I would say that it was something out of a video game, but I’m pretty sure that the physics engine in the Madden series wouldn’t allow that play to happen.  It was really an unreal demonstration of human athleticism, and I likely wouldn’t have believed it happened if I hadn’t seen it with my own two eyes.

Marshall was a rarity: a complete running back with a unique skill-set.  Too many running backs fit a given archetype in today’s game: they’re either a “power back” (like Steven Jackson or LaGarrette Blount) or “speed back” (Chris Johnson, Jamaal Charles) or “third down back” (Darren Sproles, Kevin Faulk).  None of them really put it all together.  The closest guy is probably Adrian Peterson, but he doesn’t do enough on passing downs to fit the mold.  Most running backs have a limited skill set: power, speed, agility, vision, and (for some) hands, and even these skills are usually parceled out among the rotation of backs that make up most backfields.

That’s why it’s always a disaster when teams try to make enormous, Herschel Walker-type deals for running backs.  Much like in daily American life, you’re only as valuable as your unique skill set, and as good as Herschel Walker and Ricky Williams were, they were basically just power/speed hybrids.  Additionally, running back skills decline somewhat more quickly than skills at other positions; playing running back means lots of collisions and lots of wear and tear.  It’s simply not worth it to give up the farm for most running backs out there.  The last running back that I think would’ve been worth such a bold trade?  Take a guess.  None other than Mr. Faulk himself.  And the Rams were able to secure his services for 2nd and 5th round draft choices. 

Quarterbacks, on the other hand, have to have a wide variety of transferrable skills; there’s no such thing as a “third down QB,” wildcat guys notwithstanding.  Accuracy, arm strength, both in terms of range and velocity, awareness, decision-making, leadership, so-called “escapeability,” and even size all come into play when evaluating modern quarterbacks, and that’s without taking into account all of the running back skills that are increasingly becoming a part of many QBs’ toolbox.  It doesn’t hurt that many of these skills get better with age (to a point), especially among the elite quarterbacks in the league.

The only problem is that because of the value of elite quarterbacks that possess many of these skills, teams simply will not trade them; not even for a Herschel Walker-type of deal.  That’s why teams either have to trade for QBs that are too old and fading (McNabb) or too young but with potential (Matt Schaub, Charlie Whitehurst), or they have to hope that fate and circumstances conspire to deliver the perfect QB at the perfect time (Peyton Manning, and hopefully Bradford).  That’s why teams probably settle for running backs and receivers more often than quarterback help; it’s less expensive, and can have “an impact” on the offense you run.  And, no offense to these guys, but when Trent Dilfer, Jeff Hostetler, and Mark Rypien have all hoisted the Lombardi Trophy, it sends the message to teams that sometimes “good enough” at quarterback is really good enough.

As teams continue to ramp up passing attacks across the league, it would stand to reason that quarterbacks will continue to rise in value, and running backs will continue to fall.  I generally agree with this, but as with anything in life, there are exceptions.  Because of his versatility and value to the passing game, not just as a pass-catcher, but also on the blitz pickup, a magically rejuvenated Faulk would probably be of greater value now more than ever.  You don’t think an offensive coordinator would want a guy that could motion out into the flat and act as a fourth wideout, or motion in from the slot and be trusted to make blitz pickups?  Those guys simply don’t exist in the modern game. 

Not only that, but it’s exactly those kinds of things that were a part of Mike Martz’s offense that dragged the rest of the league, kicking and screaming, toward the more pass-oriented attack that is used by top offensive teams.  When other teams couldn’t find one Marshall Faulk, they looked to two and three guys to provide that same selection of skills at the position over a broader base.  This was certainly good for those teams that employed the method, including Super Bowl winners like the Patriots (Antowaine Smith/Corey Dillon + Kevin Faulk) and Giants (Bradshaw + Jacobs + Ward), but it’s far more valuable and impressive to find that skill set in a single person.

So when you see Marshall Faulk standing at that podium in Canton this weekend, remember just how valuable he was to those Greatest Show on Turf teams of the late nineties and early…aughts(?).  And think about his remarkable impact on the position of running back, and how the way he was used changed the National Football League.

Questions?  Comments?  Like the new football-centric approach the blog is taking?  Hate it?  E-mail the Blogmogger team at blogmogger@yahoo.com.

Friday, July 22, 2011

My God…When Will it End?

Despite the positive indicators on both sides of the NFL Lockout, as I write this on Friday, there is currently no labor agreement.  This whole thing has been a mess from the start, and I do think that both sides are to blame somewhat.  Right now, though, the blame lies squarely with two parties in the process.

The players.

And the lawyers.

Let me explain.  The players didn’t receive a final draft of the document allegedly until right before the owners’ vote last night.  Speaking from experience, this is likely the fault of the lawyers from both sides, in a pretty bald-faced attempt to pile up billable hours for bonus purposes, but more on that later.  What is ridiculous is that somebody on the players’ side read the document, saw that some minor things had changed, and events unfurled like this:

/someone reads completed document, notices minor changes.


//players blow up twitter with fantastic stories about how there are bloody 12” machetes sticking out of their backs.

The whole thing is a bit ridiculous, and speaks to some of the dangers of twitter.  It’s a fantastic resource for getting information quickly, but it’s also a great way for misinformation to spread organically, like a wildfire, though twitter is set up in such a way that there aren’t any potential firebreaks other than someone with more “social proof” (like a Peter King) stopping the rumors in their tracks.  Unfortunately, this didn’t happen, as most of the media seem to be fanning the flames, despite nothing being reported about what exactly was “changed” in the deal.

Here’s why I don’t think the owners are at fault on this one: if these changes are so egregious, why hasn’t anyone come out and given at least one example of a materially-changed term?  What more-than-likely happened is that overworked, grunt lawyers on both sides have been exchanging language back-and-forth between pots of coffee and crushed-up Adderall around the clock for a few days now.  At some point, there were probably some minor changes made to the wording for legal purposes.  I have no way of knowing exactly what those changes were, but experience tells me that they were probably relatively minor, “Cover-Your-Ass” type things that would have to be included in any ten year deal.  Is it possible that someone made a mistake along the way?  Sure.  It happens.  As meticulous as they are, lawyers still make mistakes, especially when they haven’t slept for two or three nights, as was probably the case in this deal.  But I think that whatever changes were made to the agreement are being blown completely out of proportion.

Here’s where it breaks down on the players’ side: someone heard “changes,” and instead of seeking out more information from De Smith or someone else equally in the know, they decided to go public with whatever limited information they had.  This is pretty irresponsible of whomever did it (especially if it’s a lawyer or part of the management team), but it’s out now, and it is what it is.  At least Kevin Mawae is trying to minimize the damage now by saying that it’s not such a big deal after all, and there still may be a player vote tonight.  Still, to show such paranoia in these kinds of high-stakes negotiations could be interpreted as a sign of weakness by the players; it’s perhaps more dangerous to cry wolf in this situation if they are ultimately wrong, as such a claim (if unproven) significantly undermines the business acumen of the players as a whole, all because a few guys got a bit trigger-happy on twitter.

The real culprits, though, are the lawyers.  I think it’s far more likely that there was a breakdown in communication somewhere in the negotiation process between the NFLPA attorneys and their clients.  You can’t put it solely on the lawyers; maybe De Smith told them he needed to get some shut-eye, and not to bother him unless it was of “crucial importance.”  I’ve had clients make similar requests before, only to later blow up at us as a negotiation ploy.  What I do know is that lawyers love billable hours.  They are the lifeblood of the vast majority of law firms.  More time “tweaking” the document, or in this case, reviewing it for “nefarious activity” by the owners, means more billable time.  Many of these attorneys charge up to $1,000 per hour for their time, with even first-year associates at the kind of firms both sides are using billing out at over $400 per hour.  You don’t think that putting a team of ten-or-so lawyers on it for another 8-12 hours means some real cash for the firm?  Please.

The lawyers for the owners, though, are similarly guilty.  Apparently, they didn’t complete the document until the “eleventh hour,” right before the owners’ meeting last night.  This also reeks of trying to pack as many hours onto their bill as possible, though, to be fair, their team was probably also horribly overworked and going on adrenaline/chemical stimulants.  They should have completed the document ahead of time so that both sides had more of a chance to review it, and to curb all of this paranoia, “he-said, she-said,” before it started. 

Again, it’s possible that the sides were drafting up until the last minute, but here’s why I don’t think that’s true: bonuses in the legal world are often based off of billable hour targets, i.e. you bill 2200 hours, you get $15,000 in bonus.  With such large teams of lawyers working on this deal, it’s entirely possible that one or two lawyers on either side decided that they were going to squeeze some more billables out of this for bonus purposes, and became "difficult" to try to stretch out the process.  Ethical?  No way.  But practical?  You know it.  I’ve seen it happen on deals that I worked on before—there’s no other explanation for some of the petty behavior exhibited by lawyers in the closing minutes of negotiating a deal.    

In the end, the players shouldn’t  feel so “betrayed,” and the owners should have made sure that the players got the actual CBA document a little bit earlier, and controlled their team of lawyers a bit more.  If it comes to light that the owners were actually trying to pull something on the players later on today with tangible evidence, I’ll be the first one to apologize.  But from my own experience, I think what’s really going on is the perfect storm between second-or-third-hand knowledge, and overworked, over-billing lawyers.

Now, can we please get something done here so that we can get back to football?

Questions?  Comments?  Thought I quit being a lawyer months ago?  E-mail the Blogmogger team at blogmogger@yahoo.com.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Number 200

It's amazing that this site has been going for close to five years now. Was it really so long ago that a group of rag-tag ne'er-do-wells banded together to write (hopefully) funny articles about sports, entertainment, and just plain crazy shit? We went from the heights of Deadspin to the lows of…err…"a year ago," but through it all, we've had at least a couple of loyal readers that have (again, hopefully) been entertained by our schtick.

"Wait a minute—this sounds like a setup for retiring the blog!" No, you wait a minute, buddy. Nobody's going anywhere. I hope to start updating this site more regularly in the future, but to be honest, most of my efforts for the moment are focused on building my new site (www.djgelner.com), as well as several other side projects, including a wine blog, wine book, and a podcast. I'll provide more details as I can, but for the moment, I assure you that this site will continue to exist in some form or another.

I just wanted to thank everyone that has stuck with this thing through the good times and bad, and who has had the patience to stick with me on my first attempt at blogging. We've gained and lost contributors and hot topics through the years (anyone remember LOST?), but we've tried to at least entertain you a little bit when we put stuff up here, and I hope to continue that (and maybe lure back some of the old gang to write) for years to come.

Again, thanks for your support, and here's to making it 200 more.

Questions? Comments? Had no idea I was so into wine? E-mail the Blogmogger team at blogmogger@yahoo.com.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Super Bowl Picks, Plus Odds and Ends


It's really shitty weather outside right now. If you believe the local news here in town, this is the beginning of Ragnarok, the Norse end of the world. God Damn it, I think Odin and Loki just bit the big one! We're all fucked! Run for your lives! At any rate, with the Super Bowl coming up in a few days, I figured that I'd preview it. To fill space make the post more substantial, I'll throw in some random ramblings at the end. Onto the column…



Pittsburgh vs. Green Bay (-3)



I really have no idea why Green Bay is giving three in this one. It kind of boggles the mind. Sure, Pittsburgh's O-line now features three fat guys that were working in a steel mill when the season started. And yes, Green Bay, when motivated, can march the ball down the field. The problem is, I saw two fairly similar teams out there last week: good passing attacks, solid defenses, but prone to letting the other team slide down the stretch. There was surprisingly little throat-stepping action going on. That's odd, because normally the Steelers just put on the steel-toed boots and step on people's throats for fun. You have to think that killer instinct can be reawakened.



Still, this line just doesn't make any sense to me. The Steelers have (by far) a better running game than the Packers. Both teams have dangerous 3-4 rushers (James Harrison for Pittsburgh and Clay Matthews for Green Bay). Both feature good, big-armed QBs with mobility. So what are the key differences in this one? I can think of two of them:



1) Troy Polamalu can make a big play at any given time. Packers fans will counter that Charles Woodson can do the same, but Polamalu can make big hits and cause fumbles in addition to being a ballhawk. Woodson can't. This is a huge advantage for Pittsburgh, provided Troy stays healthy and finishes the game.



2) Roethlisburger-to-Wallace can go for 50 yards or more on any given play. It's true that the Packers can get 15 yard chunks at a time when they are going well. But they don't really have an offensive answer to when Roethlisberger can roll out and bomb it to Wallace for 50 yards at a time. Those 2 extra plays it takes the Packers to go the same distance (when they're really clicking, mind you) are two more chances for Pittsburgh's defense to make big plays. Even one pick or fumble in those extra plays can be the difference in a game like this.



Intangibles: On the one hand, you have Mike Tomlin, master dog trainer and brilliant head coach who is making his second Super Bowl appearance in four years of head coaching. On the other hand, you have McCartman, who's pret-ty lit-ul scheme worked out quite well this year. Both teams are decimated by injuries. Both cities have a lot of obese central and eastern European immigrants that enjoy various cased meats. Still, for the coaching staff and reasons above, I think the pick has to be the Steelers.



Now, for a little bonus material:



-HAHAHAHAHAHA! Oh man, I CANNOT stop laughing when media types make jokes about, "Which was worse, the Pro Bowl or the NHL All Star Game?" Man, these guys are true comedic revolutionaries, much like Lenny Bruce, George Carlin, or Eddie Murphy. I mean, both games clearly suck, but both allow corporate sponsors that aren't important enough to be invited to the Super Bowl or Stanley Cup to mingle with the players and otherwise enjoy a weekend of corporate debauchery. So unless you guys have a better idea on how to accomplish this, I'd suggest you shut the fuck up.



-Baseball starts up again soon. Eh. For the first time in a while, I'm not terribly excited about a new baseball season. Maybe it's because the Cardinals have let their roster and culture get a little stale. Maybe it's because of the whole Pujols circus. Maybe it's because games have gotten so long and (dare I say it?) boring that I don't really want to watch the Cards play the Pirates on a random Tuesday in July. I don't know, but they better do something to fix the sport. The only thing I can think of off-hand is implementing all of the rule changes from Super Baseball 2020. That would involve a lot of girls learning how to play baseball at a professional level fairly quickly, as well as many, many advances in robotics and artificial intelligence. To which I say, GET ON IT, EGGHEADS! WE ONLY HAVE NINE YEARS LEFT! Alternatively, we could go the route of Base Wars and let robots beat the shit out of each other whenever they have a dispute. Either path would be far more interesting than this…"product" that teams drag out there season after interminable season.



-There are a few movies I want to see, provided we still have movie theaters after the End of the World. I haven't seen The Fighter yet, and 127 Hours and The King's Speech also look like they'd be pretty good. I think I'm going to prepare for Oscar season this year. You know what that means: Little Fockers, here I come!



-Finally, I know that there are all kinds of crazy new first-person shooter games out there, and video game technology continues to progress at a pretty good clip, but I'll be goddamned if I don't find myself keep returning to Final Fantasy Tactics, Madden '04, and the Mass Effect games. Sometimes, games are truly timeless. Now if only they'd release that roster update for Madden '04 so that I can turn Sam Bradford into the greatest QB of all time…



Questions? Comments? Worried about the implications of Ragnarok on your day-to-day life? E-mail the Blogmogger team at blogmogger@yahoo.com.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Championship Weekend and Other NFL Thoughts


This would be kind of a boring column if I just did the straightforward picks for the two championship games, so I'm going to start with a "Random Ramblings"-style selection of my finest NFL thoughts from the past week.

-Love the Josh McDaniels hire for the Rams. Somebody get the man a video camera already! He and Bradford should be locked in a room at Rams park 20 hours per day until the lockout starts. I love assholes like Tim Hasselbeck that question the move because they think that a young QB couldn't possibly learn two systems in consecutive years. Look Bald Asshole, just because you were too dense to pick up offenses WHEN YOU DID NOTHING BUT CARRY THE BACKUP QB'S WATER TO HIM DURING YOUR TIME AS A THIRD-STRINGER, that doesn't mean that an intelligent young lad like Bradford can't pick up an offense that is surprisingly similar to the one he played in college, only adapted to the NFL. Christ, sometimes I think these guys are just rocking the boat for the sake of rocking it, then they get all pissy when the boat capsizes and no one wants to save them. Assholes.

-Good luck with Pat Shurmer, Cleveland. One of my favorite lines of the week goes to Randy Karraker on 101 ESPN, when he said, "And you know the Browns are going to take A.J. Green. He'd be the perfect weapon to catch those three yard outs." Classic. I can imagine the befuddled look on Colt McCoy's face when he gets his first 3rd and 9 playcall piped into his helmet.

"Uh, coach, we have nine yards to go. A three-yard cross to this random white guy probably won't cut it."

"JUST CALL THE FUCKING PLAY! I AM THE HEAD COACH OF THIS FUCKING TEAM, NOW SHUT THE FUCK UP! IF YOU WON'T DO IT, I'LL FIND SOMEONE WHO WILL! MISTER DELHOMME IS THE NEW XO!"

"Okay, Jesus Christ, I'll run the play, no need to get so excited about it."

Devastating. Good luck digging out of this one, Browns.

-Wha happen? I thought the Patriots were the Greatest Team of All Time this year. Ever since they took your little camera away, Billy boy, you haven't been so good, eh? Now we have the camera—fuck yaself!

-This draft is turning out to be one giant clusterfuck. Luck and Blackmon out. Little chance Julio Jones gets to the Rams. No idea where Carolina is going to go. If the Panthers take Gabbert, they'll have two disappointing QBs fighting for playing time, though they would be well-served to let Clausen take the heat for a while to give Gabbert time to grow up and become a man. Personally, I think they should take Nick Fairley. He was the only guy in the national title game that impressed me even a little.

-Speaking of which, Cam Newton looked awful on the big stage. His throwing motion is usually pretty fluid and effortless, but his footwork is "bottom notch." He throws off of his back foot more often than Jim "Chris" Everett. Now we're starting to hear whispers about a JaMarcus Russell-esque work ethic. The problem is, you know some asshole like Shanahan is going to be arrogant enough to think that he can instruct him just as well as Yoda. He'd be wrong. He'd end up as a goddamn ghost talking to Newton's son on some godforsaken planet in the Dagobah system. Who wants to do that?!?

-Expect more draft coverage in the weeks to come. Onto the picks…

Jets at STEELERS -3.5

This could get ugly. Polamalu can sniff out INTs like a German Sheppard sniffing out drugs, and let's just say that Mark Sanchez has that distinctive scent of PCP. Sanchez played horribly in the first game and "OK" in the second game, can he progress? My guess is no, especially after James Harrison and Polamalu light him up a couple of times. Meanwhile, I don't even know if the Jets can lock down Mike Wallace with Revis—he might just be too fucking fast. I just think this has 7 point Steelers win written all over it.

Pick: STEELERS

Packers -3.5 at BEARS

Aaron Rodgers is bizzaro Brett Favre—he's just been getting BJs from the media all week. Meanwhile, Jay Cutler is the new Brett Favre. It's weird how history starts to repeat itself with QBs like this: Cutler=Favre. Bradford=P. Manning. Brady=Montana. Freeman=Roethlisberger. By all accounts Luck=Elway. Locker=Leaf. Newton=J. Russell. Where does Rodgers fit in? I have no clue. It just seems odd, that's all. Anyway, because it's going to be colder than a witch's tit in Chicago, and I expect this one to come down to a field goal, I have to go with…

Pick: BEARS

Questions? Comments? Seen my shiny, new personal blog yet? E-mail the Blogmogger team at blogmogger@yahoo.com.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

NFL Divisional Round Playoff Preview


All right, all right, enough with the "sappy, life-affirming" columns. I get it. All of the comments, all of the e-mails, it's just been overwhelming…silence. Oh, well, I'm just going to go ahead and assume that loyal friends of the Mog are at least semi-interested in what's going to happen this next round. I'm actually making my way to Vegas this weekend. I know—I have a problem. Oh, well. It figures that the weekend I head out there, they take away the "Free Money" sign for the first time in about a month. These lines are incredibly tough. Am I going to bet them? YOU'RE GODDAMN RIGHT I AM! On to the games:

Baltimore at Pittsburgh (-3)

Hoo boy. Somebody get the paramedics on hand for this one. Maybe a vet, too. These juiced-up monsters may be so 'roided out that we need a veterinarian. It'll be interesting to see if Flacco repeats his "Choke-o" performance from week 13. I could see this one going either way: the Ravens blow up a weakened Pittsburgh O-line, Flacco keeps his cool and is finally promoted to Assistant Night Manager, and the Ravens win by ten or so. It's just as likely that Roethlisberger comes out and forces…err…himself on the Ravens, and Polamalu picks Choke-o three times in a Pittsburgh rout. Time for the John Anthony coin flip…

Pick: Pittsburgh

NY Jets at New England (-8 ½)

I was discussing some of the games with G Gel Unit, and he wants me to put some cash on the Jets for him. I asked him if he wants me to just burn the cash or actually go through the charade of placing the bet. I think this is one of the easier ones on the board. Everyone thinks that the Jets defense is going to be so much better this time around, but I mean, come on, did anyone else see Sanchez this past week? He was horrendous. Aside from "calling the play when Jim Caldwell stupidly called a timeout with 28 seconds left," as Rex Ryan claims Sanchez did, they would've been much better with Brunell out there last week. It was like a flashback to the Chris Chandler era here in St. Louis. High-and-wide! High-and-wide! And you think this guy is going to go into Foxboro and make a game out of it against Tom Brady of all people? Yikes. Still, why do I get the sneaking suspicion that Nick Folk is going to backdoor cover this one with a meaningless field goal? Goddamn it.

Pick: New England

Green Bay vs. Atlanta (-2 ½)

This is a tough one. On the one hand, Matt Ryan never loses at home. On the other hand, his offensive coordinator has been interviewing for jobs this week. On the one hand, it is Aaron Rodgers, and he almost willed this team to win when they played in the regular season. On the other hand, Green Bay stock is at an all-season high right now. I think what it comes down to is that the 2 ½ is a slap in the face to Atlanta, as Vegas is basically saying that the Falcons are half-point dogs on a neutral field. Is Mike Smith smart enough to use that as motivation? Can you even mention point spreads to your team? What do I look like, Roger Goodell? I bet the old Scoutmaster and the Eagle Scout find a way to win this one by at least a field goal. Maybe they can find some Ginger Ale to celebrate with.

Pick: Atlanta

Seattle at Chicago (-10)

I would have thought this spread would've overvalued Seattle quite a bit, and put them at about +6 ½ or so. I mean, they DID beat Chicago at Soldier Field earlier this season. Pete Carroll has moved on from his pathetic "quarter behind the ear" routine and onto the "endless multi-colored handkerchief." And you know what? His team is buying into it! They think he's some kind of powerful wizard like C-3PO in Return of the Jedi. They're a bunch of Ewoks! And you know what? THE EWOKS TOOK DOWN AN ARROGANT SPACE EMPIRE! I mean, sure, they had some help from a band of surprisingly technologically-advanced rebels, but they shocked the galaxy!

Pick: Seattle

So there you have it. Of course, it'll be just great when I make a small fortune off of these picks. Just fantastic. I mean, I always leave Vegas ahead! What am I down? DO YOU REALLY WANT TO KNOW!? Don't ask unless you want to go to a very, very dark place. Very dark.

VEGAS!!!

Questions? Comments? Wondering why I subject myself to self-inflicted torture once every 4-6 months or so by heading out to Vegas? E-mail the Blogmogger team at blogmogger@yahoo.com. I mean it. I still check the address and everything. If nothing else, you could get included in a mailbag. That's something, right?

Monday, January 10, 2011

Let’s Get Serious: On Life

I apologize for the recent lack of Power Rankings, but I have been focused on other projects of late. I can't talk about many of these at this point, but needless to say, they're going to be big.

I don't usually get too deep into the personal stuff on this site because, well, let's face it, most of my readers are my goofball buddies from fantasy football and people who share my distaste for all things Keith Law. But for some reason, I felt compelled to write this, if for no other reason than to get the three-week old Power Rankings off of the front page.

I've also undergone a bit of a transformation lately that has rattled my cage a little bit and allowed me to put things in perspective. I've made some big life choices that, again, for various reasons cannot be shared yet. For any of my interested readers, you will hear about them soon enough.

For the moment, though, I felt compelled to write a post about life. No, not the Martin Lawrence-Eddie Murphy…err…"comedy" from the mid-nineties. Just this existence generally. So far, I think I've lived a pretty good one. I've had a number of advantages: first and foremost a loving family that has instilled (what I think to be) a good set of core values, and has given me the means to attain a high level of education and experience. Great friends, with whom a fun time is always guaranteed. An objectively solid job with good benefits. I generally don't have to worry about where my next meal is coming from or whether I can find a dry spot and some shelter to spend the night, which is more than can be said for a good number of people on this planet.

Still, there are very few areas where I have definitively had to stand up and make a major life choice for myself. To date, the single biggest decisions that I have made were where to go to college and grad school, and those were only choices because of the generosity of my parents and similarity of financial aid packages (well, in one of those decisions that is). Aside from that, my "plan" has always been College-Grad School-Job-work for a while to save for some as-yet undefined "business"-???. It is certainly a comfortable path, but something has always felt a little "wrong" with the way I was going about things. How would I discover this "business?" How much money would I need? What would it do? And, most importantly of all, how do I get there?

Until a couple months ago, I was especially clueless about that last part. Then, my girlfriend broke up with me and really put things into perspective. At the time, I was pretty upset about it, as is to be expected. In hindsight, though, it got me to think more about what I really wanted in life. I mean, life threw me a decent curveball this summer, and I wanted to try to put a good swing on it, so to speak. After countless hours of being content to watch reality TV and playing hours upon hours of Civilization IV, I decided to get back to the productive hobbies that I enjoyed, namely reading and writing. That explains my abrupt return to the blog after my extended absence. I went on a book binge at Amazon and ordered a number of books, both for pleasure reading and self-improvement.

One of these books is the Four-Hour Workweek, by Tim Ferriss. My lazy ass thought it had everything I was looking for—this way I could spend even more time watching reality TV and playing Civ IV, right? For some reason, I put off reading it for a couple of months, though. "Not yet," I always thought. In retrospect, it was a good thing because I'm not sure I was ready for what the book truly had to offer.

I started reading the book in September. It took me a little while to get into it, but Tim's message and writing style really resonated with me. Despite this, I stopped reading it about halfway through and took a month or so to process what I had read. Tim's central message is simple, yet universally appealing: Life is short. We should not spend our time on things that don't make us happy. Find a way to cut out things and tasks that make you unhappy to leave you with more time for what you really want to do. (as an aside, I apologize if someone from Tim's team stumbles across this and I misstated it in any way—feel free to correct me if I'm wrong). This doesn't really mean sit on your ass and play more videogames, but rather find what truly makes you happy and explore it.

I finally got around to finishing the book at Christmas, and am in the process of actually doing things to change my life for the better. I discovered a few universal truths that will form a personal "ethos" of sorts for my life going forward. In no particular order:

1. I am the boss of my own life. I make the choices and tough decisions. I do not have to answer to anyone else's ideals of what I "should" do.

This is a big one, in part because to this point, some of the most agonizing choices that I've made for myself involved which beer on tap to get, and how much to tip the waitress. I need to stop doing what other people think I should be doing, and just do what I want to do and what I love. Most of the rest of these stem from this first "grand" realization.

2. Treat others how you want to be treated.

I'm not a religious guy at all, but I do think they got it right on this one. To be honest, if people followed this one more often, a lot of religions would be out of business, though the world would be a much better place.

3. If you want to achieve a result, make active steps in that direction.

For years and years, it's always been "I'll do it later." "I want to write a book, but I'm busy at work so I'll do it later." "I want to start a business, but I don't have enough money. I'll do it later." "I want to talk to that hot chick, but she might reject me. I'll do it later." This is a certain way to a lot of regrets, and is absolutely the mindset of a loser. I don't want to be a loser—we all know what Sean Connery says about them. No, I want me a hot prom queen. Therefore, if I choose to not talk to that girl, I can't ruminate over it—I made the choice, I have to live with it.

4. Fuck detractors.

I mean, seriously, this one should be obvious, but there are a lot of people out there with ideas that are afraid to look into them any deeper because some asshole tells them, "That will never work." It doesn't even have to be anyone that has the faintest clue about whether it will be true or not because quite frequently these people don't have a fucking clue themselves, but a lot of times people will let those detractors rule their lives based on nothing more than a gut reaction. So fuck 'em—they can all go detract from each other in Detractorland for all I care. Or Afghanistan. Same difference.

5. Green Bay Packers

You have to admire that Aaron Rodgers. I mean he goes in Philly and stares down Dog Killer, Q.B….oh, wait, wrong list. Moving on…

5. Set goals on an aggressive timetable.

I haven't usually been a guy to quantify my goals, but I recently tried it, including writing a "Life Plan" for where I want to be five years from now. It's not as stupid as it sounds. I gave myself objective fenceposts to shoot for, some of which I'll fail at, some of which I'll hit, and some of which I hope to exceed. Think of it this way: imagine you're in a field with nothing but wheat for as far as the eye can see. Someone hands you a gun and tells you to shoot it. You're probably just going to shoot it into the air, or into the ground, but regardless it won't be a productive shot. All setting goals does is give you a couple of soda cans to shoot at. Are you actually accomplishing anything? I don't know. But you can at least work on your skills, which is better than shooting a gun into the air like a hoosier.

6. Make time for the people, things, and experiences that you want. Everything else is peripheral.

The Four-Hour Workweek and other similar books that I've read have made this a central goal. Life is short and fragile. In The Departed, when Frank Costello asks the guy in his bar how his mother is, and the guy replies, "She's on her way out," Frank shoots back, "We all are—act accordingly." IT'S RIGHT THERE IN THE GREATEST MOVIE OF ALL TIME, FOLKS! RIGHT UNDER OUR NOSES! At any rate, Frank is right—we could be on the next plane that crashes or in the next incident where some asshole decides he wants to shoot people up. These things hit everyone, and you have to be ready to ask yourself, "If I die tonight, will I be satisfied with my life, or could I have done more?" I've been asking myself this a lot recently, and been making steps in what I think is the right direction. If certain people are important to you, spend time with them and gain new experiences together. If you'd rather not associate with certain other people, then just fucking don't. Life is too short. We're all on our way out. Act accordingly.

7. Have Fun. Enjoy Life.

Two small rules bundled into one. Even when you're making a positive change, you can (and should) still be able to have fun. I mean, what is this, the Federation in the 24th century, where everyone is bogged down in their iPad with paperwork and only listens to classical music? Fuck that. Again, life is too short. Enjoy it.

That's about it. If I think of any more, I'll post them to the list. "DURRR…BUT DJGEL, WHICH THAR OF THOSE THAR FOOTBALL TEAMS IS BESTEST?" you ask? Don't worry, I'll still regularly be back with the usual sports and entertainment stuff in a little bit. I also want to try something radical, like maybe shorter posts on a more regular schedule. But I do want to address issues like this from time-to-time, too, namely because of the profound change people like Tim Ferriss, Chris Guillebeau, and even guys like Trent Hamm and J.D. Roth have had on my life and its newfound direction. Perhaps the best part is I don't even have a compass. Actually, the best part is that I don't even care.

Questions? Comments? Wanting to know when we're getting back to things that actually matter, like football? E-mail the BlogMogger team at blogmogger@yahoo.com.

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