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December 12, 2013

Week 15 Thursday Night Pick

San Diego @ Denver (-10.5)

Ryan: You know how this works with Chargers game by now. Heads is Chargers, Tails is Broncos …. Chargers cover.

Asif: I have doubts that San Diego’s defense has the wherewithal to hang with the Broncos. Denver covers.

 


May 15, 2013

World Wide Wednesday

Deep Routes

At GQ, Bethlehem Shoals misses Oklahoma City’s former big three:

Granted, sports are inherently rational. Teams want to win. They win by scoring more points. While, in my opinion, the NBA is at its best when one unexpected moment of transcendence is matched by another until the clock runs out, most basketball consists of well-tested hunches and reasonable reactions. For every J.R. Smith, who plays as if probability were a bad dream, there’s a Derek Fisher, who spins miracles out of common sense. OKC general manager Sam Presti reasoned that some legitimate size (Serge Ibaka) was more essential to the team than another explosive scorer.

Sports are also a business, which means they can be exceedingly, dislikable rational. The decision to trade Harden was forced by the cap; of course the front office would’ve preferred to keep Durant, Harden, and Westbrook AND Ibaka. It was also forced by the market. What the Thunder got for Harden has ended up being fairly unremarkable. But really, how well would it have it gone to abruptly devalue Westbrook’s brand-new max deal by putting him on the trading block?

Via Longform: In 1977, Woody Allen profiled Earl Monroe for Sport:

My impressions of Monroe then? I immediately ranked him with Willie Mays and Sugar Ray Robinson as athletes who went beyond the level of sports and sport to the realm of sports as art. Seemingly awkward and yet breathtakingly graceful, with an unimpressive physique, knobby knees, and the tiny ankles of a thoroughbred racehourse, Monroe in seasons would put on exhibiton after exhibition of simply magical shot-making. One sportswriter wrote that his misses are more exciting than more guys’ baskets. It’s pointless to describe Monroe on the court. It’s been done a thousand times by good writers who try vainly to communicate in print the excitement with which he plays. They refer to his head fakes, shoulder fakes, spins, double pumps, stutter steps, hip shots, arms and legs flying in different directions at once, but these things in themselves do not sum up the ferocious rush he gives the audience. After all, there are players like Nate Archibald, Dave Bing, Walt Frazier, Julius Erving, Connie Hawkins, who have unusual grace, beauty, and excitement, and who also dip and twist and toss their bodies one way while their arms move another way as they hang in space.

What makes Monroe different is the indescribable heat of genius that burns deep inside him. Some kind of diabolical intensity comes across his face when he has the ball. One is suddenly transported to a more primitive place. It’s roots time. The eyes are big and white, the teeth flash, the nostrils flare. He dribbles the ball too high, but with a controlled violence. The audience gets high with anticipation of some new type of thrill about to occur. Seconds later he is moving in aggressively, one on one, against a defender and you sense the man is in trouble. Monroe is suddenly double-teamed and now there are two men hanging all over him. Then it happens. A quick twist, a sudden move, and he’s by both men. Either that or a series of flashing arm moves cease with a lightning pass to a teammate he has never even bothered to look at.

Verge writer Paul Miller spent a year away from the Internet. His return column:

And everything started out great, let me tell you. I did stop and smell the flowers. My life was full of serendipitous events: real life meetings, frisbee, bike rides, and Greek literature. With no clear idea how I did it, I wrote half my novel, and turned in an essay nearly every week to The Verge. In one of the early months my boss expressed slight frustration at how much I was writing, which has never happened before and never happened since.

I lost 15 pounds without really trying. I bought some new clothes. People kept telling me how good I looked, how happy I seemed. In one session, my therapist literally patted himself on the back.

I was a little bored, a little lonely, but I found it a wonderful change of pace. I wrote in August, “It’s the boredom and lack of stimulation that drives me to do things I really care about, like writing and spending time with others.” I was pretty sure I had it all figured out, and told everyone as much.

As my head uncluttered, my attention span expanded. In my first month or two, 10 pages of The Odyssey was a slog. Now I can read 100 pages in a sitting, or, if the prose is easy and I’m really enthralled, a few hundred.

I learned to appreciate an idea that can’t be summed up in a blog post, but instead needs a novel-length exposition. By pulling away from the echo chamber of internet culture, I found my ideas branching out in new directions. I felt different, and a little eccentric, and I liked it.

Quick Reads

- Hipster Mario characters [Imgur]

- Web sites and the organizations that cover them have vastly different metrics for measuring traffic [Digiday]

- Reddit has become mainstream media [Ad Age]

- Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen sold a piece of art that I think I could create for $43.8 million in auction [KREM]

Food Porn

Chicken and waffles @ Bistro Dre

Bacon cheeseburger @ Butcher & Burger


December 7, 2012

Week 14 NFL Picks

My record this season is downright embarrassing. All I can do is HIGHLY advise you to bet the other way on all my picks. Like, I’m the Raiders of picking games. I need a MIRACLE to claw my way up to .500 on the season.

Records

Ryan
Last week: 4-12 (!!!!!!!!!)
This week (so far): 1-0
Season: 87-102-5

Asif
Last week: 8-8
This week (so far): 1-0
Season: 93-96-5

Baltimore @ Washington (-2.5)

Ryan: I’ve been overthinking games like this one all year. I’m done with that. I’m gonna start going with my gut instead of thinking that lines seem weird, assuming that Vegas “knows something,” and picking the other way. The Redskins are hot. They’ve won three games in a row, all against division rivals. They lead the league in rushing. RGIII is the only starting quarterback not named Aaron Rodgers who hasn’t thrown two interceptions in a game yet this season.

If you want to read a very insightful breakdown of the Redskins’ pistol offense, Bucky Brooks put one together for NFL.com.

The Ravens might be the worst 9-3 team I’ve ever seen. I’m not sure whether it’s age, injuries, or saving themselves for the playoffs – or some combination of those three – but they haven’t beaten a good team since Week 3 against the Patriots when the replacement refs swung the game. (Since then, the only teams they’ve beaten that would even come close to qualifying as “good” are the Cowboys and the Steelers with Charlie Batch.) Redskins cover.

Asif: Possible letdown game for the Redskins after an extremely lucky win over the Giants last week (RGIII fumble right into the waiting hands of Josh Morgan for a TD? Bad snap leading to Lawrence Tynes missing a field goal inside of 50 yards?). Ravens cover.

Continue reading Week 14 NFL Picks


November 29, 2012

Quick Pick: Saints @ Falcons

New Orleans @ Atlanta (-3.5)

Ryan: These games are always close, and both of these teams are coming off short weeks after physical games. This is probably going to be another Thursday night slopfest. Saints cover.

Asif: Biggest sports non-story of the week? The Saints bus getting egged in Atlanta. Falcons cover.


November 28, 2012

World Wide Wednesday

Deep Routes

A pretty enlightening NY Times Q&A with Fat Joe:

Q. You were a longtime coach at the Entertainers Basketball Classic tournament at Rucker Park in Harlem. And in 2003, your team was set to play Jay-Z’s team in the championship game. But the game never occurred. Can you explain?

A. I had been successful at Rucker for years. I would take the summer off to coach and run a team out there, and then Jay brought a team to Harlem that summer, with Beyoncé in the stands watching. And his team was smacking down everyone they played, so it was inevitable for our two teams to meet in the championship game. On his team for that game, he had Shaquille O’Neal, LeBron James, Tracy McGrady, Lamar Odom and Jamal Crawford. I countered and brought in Allen Iverson, Stephon Marbury, Al Harrington, Mike Bibby, Carmelo, Amar’e, Zach Randolph and Rafer Alston. I had a crew, and he had a crew, and we were about to go at it. And then the blackout hit New York City, so the game was canceled. The next day, the power came back, and the game was rescheduled. And Jay’s team didn’t show up. They forfeited the championship.

Q. Have you ever asked him about it?

A. Never again. I haven’t even talked to Jay-Z again after that incident.

In Slate, Stefan Fatsis writes about the dangers of youth tackle football:

I know that Matt Chaney, who wrote for the roundtable this week about the tackling technique that won’t make football safer, is on board with the idea that tackle football is simply too dangerous for the brains of children, and that a distinction needs to be made between what adult men choose to do professionally and what kids are permitted or often pushed to do by parents and other adults. In his new book, Concussions and Our Kids, co-written with journalist Mark Hyman, Cantu proposes barring tackle football before age 14, or the start of high school. The cutoff is arbitrary, Cantu said at the Washington panel. The more important consideration is an individual child’s physical development: If he’s skeletally immature, if he hasn’t developed axillary hair, he shouldn’t play tackle football.

“Youngsters are not miniature adults,” Cantu said. For starters, he explained, their brains are not fully myelinated, meaning their nerve cells lack the complete coating that offers protection. That makes them more susceptible to concussions and means they recover more slowly from them than adults. Cantu said children have big heads relative to the rest of their bodies and weak necks, creating a “bobblehead-doll effect” that elevates the risk of concussion. They typically play in the oldest equipment, with the least educated coaches, and with little or no available medical care. They are allowed to hit each other in practice—up to 40 minutes per session in Pop Warner football, under new guidelines—to a greater extent than NFL players are in season. And finally, kids are unable to provide meaningful informed consent. “Rarely do they really understand the risk they’re taking,” Cantu said.

Continue reading World Wide Wednesday


October 4, 2012

Quick Pick: Cardinals @ Rams

Arizona (-1.5) at St. Louis

Ryan: I watched a good portion of the Rams’ upset win against the Seahawks last week and this St. Louis team is a lot better than people realize. Jeff Fisher, whose presence I’ll acknowledge having underrated in my NFL Preview, seems to have turned around their defense pretty quickly. They are second in the NFL with eight interceptions (the Bears lead the league with 11). Their offense, meanwhile, looked better against Seattle’s strong D than the Packers did the week before.

The Cardinals are 4-0, but I’m not sold on them yet. As Bill Barnwell pointed out, they only narrowly beat the 1-3 Dolphins after recovering all six of both teams’ fumbles last week. I’m gonna go with the home team and the points here. Rams cover.

Asif: I’m not really sure why this line is so low. It’s a three-way tie between Arizona, San Francsico and Seattle for best defense in the NFL (maybe you can put the Bears in there too, though I wonder how much of last week’s performance is due to their ability and how much is just Romo-derp) and I’d honestly give the edge to Arizona because of Calais Campbell. St. Louis is better than people think (Jeff Fisher is the best coach in the NFL without a ring), but I don’t see them pulling this one out. Arizona covers.


September 27, 2012

Quick Pick: Browns @ Ravens

Cleveland at Baltimore (-12)

Ryan: On one hand, all the lines are still skewed for the home teams this week because of the lingering stench of the replacement refs. On the other, the Browns are 0-3 and lost by 10 at home to the Bills last week. Now I don’t know WHAT to decide. These high lines are always a complete crapshoot. I guess the Browns cover.

Asif: So, my fantasy team was looking like a juggernaut going into last week with Trent Richardson, CJ Spiller, Hakeem Nicks, Jordy Nelson, Aaron Rodgers, Dwayne Bowe, and Tony Gonzalez. Then, of course, Nicks and Spiller got hurt (I started Stevan Ridley with Nicks out) Richardson sucked, and the debacle in Seattle which I will never speak of again ensued. Long story short, my highest scorer last week was the Bears defense. I still won my game (yay 14 team league!), but now I have no idea what to think. Is Trent Richardson actually good? Or was his awesome Week 2 performance just a product of a cringe-worthy Bengals defense? Whatever the case, I’m not optimistic at all. Hoping and praying that this doesn’t turn into a blowout so the Browns don’t abandon the run and I can get some points, I’ll pick Cleveland to cover.


September 17, 2012

Best Tweets from NFL Week 2


September 14, 2012

Week 2 NFL Picks

What. A. Game.

I of course mean this from the perspective of a Packers fan living in Chicago as opposed to a neutral viewer or Bears fan.

Whatever doubts we had about the toughness of this Green Bay team were laid to rest last night when they came out and physically BEAT DOWN the Bears. This was especially the case on defense, where the Packers sacked Jay Cutler seven times and notched four interceptions. This game was a huge stepping stone for a unit that had not put together a game like that in almost two years.

It’s incredible how much better the Packers secondary looks when there is a viable pass rush. What Clay Matthews did to Jay Cutler is illegal in most red states. Tramon Williams stuck closer to Brandon Marshall than his own shadow as Marshall didn’t catch a pass until the fourth. Alshon Jeffery and Earl Bennett’s faces are on milk cartons this morning.

It’s too soon to overreact, though. The Packers aren’t going to cakewalk to an NFC North title or Super Bowl because they beared down in Week 2. The drops have been terrible so far and everybody has been guilty of them. While it’s impossible to expect the defense to play every week as well as it did last night, it needs to be closer to that than it was last week against the 49ers. I go to bed praying that whatever Clay Matthews has done to get back to this level of play never results in a failed drug test.

For Bears fans, that was about as bad a game as you can imagine. Giving up a fake field goal for a touchdown, drops, dumb penalties that killed drives on offense (Gabe Carimi’s personal foul) and extended them on defense (12 men on the field), a stubborn refusal to alter an offensive game plan that simply was not working, a high ankle sprain for Matt Forte, and Jay Cutler’s meltdown on the sidelines on rookie tackle J’Marcus Webb.

There was a lot of backlash to Cutler’s yelling at teammates yesterday and, as tends to happen, backlash to the backlash. “Why is it OK for Aaron Rodgers to yell at James Jones?” people asked.

There are definite differences in body language. Cutler slinks his shoulders and gets rattled by adversity. Rodgers, Tom Brady, and Peyton Manning yell at their teammates but don’t let it affect them on later series. When things are going poorly for Cutler, you don’t expect him to rebound from it in the same way. There are legitimate questions about his leadership today.

Even though there are only 16 games, it’s a long season. Bears fans will be an awful combination of angry, sad, and nervous for the next 10 days but this team still has the talent to contend. They have to make adjustments on offense. Last night, they were lucky that Cutler didn’t get hurt as he kept dropping back and getting CRUSHED because his offensive line was a sieve and receivers were never open. It was mind boggling that Chicago offensive coordinator Mike Tice did not call for more runs and quick routes. But these are issues that can be addressed.

The intense rivalry magnifies victory and defeat but this season was not made or broken for either team last night.

On to the picks:

Season:
Ryan: 10-7
Asif: 5-12

Continue reading Week 2 NFL Picks


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