Football Is The New Boxing

Philadelphia Eagles v Dallas Cowboys

In many ways, it was not a good series of days for the NFL this Thanksgiving weekend past. The games played on the 12th week of play were for the most part entertaining, but it’s getting clearer that the league has serious issues.

First, the concussion issue is a continued pain in their side, and it should be. Findings were released the day before Thanksgiving that NFL legend Frank Gifford suffered from CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy) that’s being found in more recently retired players. Gifford was famously the target of Chuck Bednarik in a 1960 NFL game where a vicious tackle by the Philadelphia Eagle injured Gifford, who didn’t resume playing for the Giants until 1962.

While the NFL is constantly improving what they call its “concussion protocol,” it’s clear from the retired players currently suffering that the league could have done more earlier. The question is: is it doing enough to protect players now?

There’s another issue the NFL has that is starting to remind me of professional prizefighting: the officiating, and how it seems to have gotten worse in recent years.

Namely, I speak of the recent Denver Broncos 30-24 win in overtime against New England’s Patriots, though there were other games were the crews look like they ate too much weekend turkey. Watching the game on NBC, it seemed like there was something Al Michaels or Cris Collinsworth wanted to say, but didn’t have the gumption to say.

It seemed to me that the calls against New England were way out of proportion to the calls against Denver, and that the Broncos always seemed to get close calls in their favor while Patriot players had to have been murdered to get a Broncos penalty.

Even the usually calm Tom Brady (who I called in a tweet Johnathan E. from the 1975 version of Rollerball) was seen a few times jawing with the officiating crew, pleading for better results a few times. Revenge for the whole Deflategate fiasco, I wondered, as Skip Bayless did on ESPN this morning?

I’ve been watching NFL games and seeking a better understanding of them since I was seven years old in 1978. (Other kids were reading nursery rhymes, I was reading the NFL Record and Fact Book.) When you have broadcasters like Jim Nantz saying on the air (as he did yesterday) that there’s an ambiguity about what a legal NFL catch is, and what a catch is not, there are issues.

The question is, will the league do anything about all of this, or will it continue to bury its head in the sand, saying this is all just muse for our entertainment?

That Other Free Kick

I bet some of you out there didn’t know this arcane NFL rule.

After a punt or kickoff is caught by a fair catch, the receiving team is entitled to a free kick (also known as a fair catch kick), which is not the same as a free kick that takes place after a safety is scored. The defensive team, like as is the case during a kickoff, has to retreat 10 yards from the line of scrimmage.

There is no snap, and the ball must be held at the line of scrimmage by a holder. If the kick goes through the uprights of the goal posts, it counts as a field goal and scores three points. The last known such successful kick in the NFL took place on November 21, 1976 when Ray Wersching kicked one for San Diego over Buffalo.

The YouTube clip is from an NFL game between the Indianapolis Colts and the New England Patriots from November 18, 1984. Charlie Jones and Bob Griese were calling the action for NBC that day as the Patriots rolled to a 50-17 win.

Just thought I’d mention it. You never know when this rule may show up.

Fanaticism In The Homeland

I happened to be nearby a TV most of the afternoon on Black Friday, hoping to watch some collegiate football.

Then I saw on my IPhone about some sort of incident in Colorado Springs, Colorado at a Planned Parenthood building.

The cable news outlets ran with the story for hours, but because the sniper (whose name I will not mention here, as he did nothing good to deserve being mentioned) wouldn’t stop shooting. When he surrendered a little past 7pm ET, three people had been killed, including a police officer. Nine others had been taken to the hospital with gunshot wounds, but did not have life threatening injuries.

They don’t know a lot about the shooter yet, but Planned Parenthood has been a target in recent years of people who I would call domestic religious fanatics. All because this organization teaches contraception and family planning? Regardless of how you feel about abortions (I’m pro-choice, by the way), we live in a free society. If you object for what another side stands for, you use you words. Not your guns.

That also doesn’t mean we should take firearms away from everybody because a few people (as compared to the 300,000,000 or so of the rest of us) go crazy with their weapons. I choose not to own a gun, but like the abortion issue, I believe that society should make their own choices as a whole.

Live as you wish, but do so responsibly. That’s the way I’d do it.

Flashback: “The Future” by Leonard Cohen

The last couple of years, I’ve been doing Christmas themed “Flashback” segments from the day after Thanksgiving onward. This year, I thought I’d break this “tradition” on my blog before it really takes foot.

I don’t know about you, but between Thanksgiving and Christmas, a little Xmas music is good. A lot of it is overkill. So, my current thinking is to do a Christmas flashback on December 18 and the big day of December 25th.

In the meantime, I haven’t played any Leonard Cohen in a while. This track is one of my favorites of his, from the Natural Born Killers soundtrack.

Gratitude

turkey

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day here in the United States, and the start to what I like to call the “Big Three” holidays of the year. In the summertime, we get the “Little Three” of Memorial Day, the 4th of July, and Labor Day that punctuate the unofficial beginning and ending of summertime.

If holiday depression hits me, it always seems to do so on Thanksgiving Day. Don’t know why that is, or maybe it’s just an issue I don’t want to delve into for whatever mental block I put on myself.

I have a lot to be thankful for, don’t get me wrong. My life hasn’t go the way I thought it would, but can anyone honestly say that completely?

I don’t talk about this often, but my life could have ended at age 6. The way I see it, I’ve had at least 38 years and change worth of gravy. I do believe in God’s existence, and do believe he put me here for a reason. What is that reason? That part I’m still working on, and will be until my time here ends. As Bill Murray recently said on Twitter:

I’m thankful for my friends and family. I’m an only child, and my father died of cancer 25 years ago. My mother is still an everyday part of my life, and I’m grateful for that. Friends come and friends go, but families are forever, and being part of a family is forever.

I’m grateful God gave me a brain to harness every day, and I try and put it to good use. At home, I’m always listening to an audio book if I have spare time, and try and learn things that might be practical.

I’m even grateful I’ve been to, let’s see…22 of the 50 states. Want to get to the other 26 of the “continental 48” at least. That’s still a goal of mine.

Finally, I’m grateful to have become a pet owner this year for the first time in my 40’s. My tabby Harry was destined to be put down last winter, and I just couldn’t allow it to happen. Sometimes he pesters and misbehaves, but I like him. He’s like the cat version of myself, really.

I wish all you the happiest of Thanksgivings. Eat plenty of turkey (or the vegetarian equivalent if you so choose), and I’ll be back on Black Friday for the Flashback.

DraftKings And Not So Dead Money

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I had a much better weekend at DraftKings this weekend.  I entered 13 contests for $1 each, and won all 13.

Over the weekend, I decided to give DraftKings one more try.

I was glad I did.

Instead of these poker tournament style picks I made last week and did disastrously, I played in contests that were another offshoot from poker tournaments: the 50/50 style events. Actually the odds are about 44.2% in your favor, because for every five people that win, about 11.3 enter. (So it’s more like a 44/56.)

I read up on what some of the experts were saying as to who to choose, but it was a pick I went with that proved to be a difference maker. I saw that the Philadelphia Eagles regular quarterback, Sam Bradford, had been injured the previous week, and would be starting Mark Sanchez in his place. I figured he wouldn’t be effective with the Eagles offense, which would give the Bucs and Jameis Winston more time with the ball, so in about half of my picks, I picked Winston and favored target, wide receiver Mike Evans.

At 1:35pm Sunday, I saw Winston throw a touchdown pass to Evans for a Buccaneer touchdown from four yards out, and whooped it up for that moment. I also had Doug Martin in some picks, who rushed for 235 yards against an Eagle defense getting a lot of attention among daily fantasy players.

It all came down to last night’s Patriots-Bills contest. I needed Brandon LaFell and Lagarette Blount to put up average numbers, and Danny Amendola not to have a big night. As Amendola made a big catch in the second half, I was in some real danger of losing one of my 13 picks as it drifted near the border line of finishing out of the money.

Then I saw Amendola on the sideline late in the game, having injured his right knee. The Patriots had a slight lead of 20-10 most of that fourth quarter (winning 20-13), so Tom Brady handed off to Mr. Blount frequently. The time ticked away with the Bills scrambling to get out of bounds on a play in the last few seconds, but couldn’t stop the clock with no time outs left when the final play didn’t get to the side of the field that would have set up a desperation Hail Mary pass to try and tie or game.

(Had the Bills gotten a TD, they could have won had they tried the more riskier two-point conversion, but most coaches would kick the extra point and taken their chances in overtime to get the win.)

I made 13 NFL picks this weekend, and won all 13.

This morning, I went to the site and cashed out all of my winnings via PayPal. There’s a lot of rumor in the news about DraftKings being shut down by state or federal governments, and is in ongoing battles over its legality. When there were similar arguments over online poker four years ago, the U.S. government just shut down the sites without warning. If you had money in play at one of those sites, good luck trying to get it back in your lifetime. Some people haven’t been compensated all these years later.

As much as I’d want to continue playing, the future of these sites appears very much in doubt. I’m getting out while I can.

Finally, Autumn

70inflorida

I was mentioning a couple of weeks ago that there were signs that the very long summer of 2015 around these parts were about to come to an end.

This morning, it finally did. It’s 49 degrees at Tampa International Airport at just past 8am as I type this. With a humidity rate of 69%, you can really feel a chill in the air.

Knowing the cooler weather was coming, I shut down the air conditioning unit once the cold front passed in the afternoon. After watching the Bengals-Cardinals game last night, I wanted to bed and began sweating. The house hadn’t cooled down yet.

I put some headphones on to listen to some YouTube sleeping videos. I feel naked without a fan of some kind to lull me to sleep and keep the everyday (or night) racket stifled. I opened a few windows just a bit.

During the night, I felt the chill of the cooler weather, and quickly grabbed a nearby blanket.

I couldn’t help but smile. In the wee hours of November 23rd, summer had unofficially ended.