Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Redskins Name Change That Just Makes Sense



Before quarterback Rex Grossman left the Washington Redskins, the most apt new name for the club was obviousthe Washington Rex-slings.

Not only would that moniker have eased over the tongue like chili from Ben's, but would've born culture relevance, and dare I say, gravitas. The old silhouetted logo might have been adapted to Rex’s face too, his crew cut neatly replacing the current feathers atop it. Equally as important, the old school ‘R’ would have stayed put as a result. It was just a win-win for Washington's marketing department and Hog fans alike.


But unfortunately Rexy is in Cleveland now, where his slingshots will soon send third-string vapor trails across the Ohio sky. You want to talk about LeBron James’ contribution to the state’s economy: how about the extra air traffic personnel needed at Hopkins International to track Rex-fueled spirals? You can’t rely on one guy downing venti-sized Americanos for that. No, you need a team. This is the sort of job creation the Rex brand delivers folks.

Well, as wonderful as it all would have been, this can’t happen until Mr Grossman goes back to Washington. And cursory visits, like his most recent preseason pine warming, just aren't enough. We need him in the burgundy and gold to make this all a reality.

So until then, there are several other name suggestions that might satisfy picketers. Firstly, I’m not against RedHawks, but it’s not quite right is it? It would require a drastic logo change, and while many people want a clean break from Washington’s footballing past, there’s no need to transform the entire image is there? For this reason, I’m higher on RedFeathers. There’s something dignified about it. And it rollsnot quite like Rexslingsbut it still drops from your lips in a tight end-over-end fashion. It’d also work with all existing logos.


The other name suggestion worth consideration is Braves, mostly because it was the team's original name back in 1932, but also has better brand implications than the current nickname. Club insiders could appease owner Dan Snyder with this one as well, by noting the courage needed to make the switch, especially after he has long resisted. They could draw up pie charts and powerpoint graphs that show how the move could reshape his reputation, raising it from Richard Nixon territory to Theismann and Duke Ellington company.

Still, I know what you’re thinking. You can’t get Rexslings out of your head, right? Me neither. There’s still time America. There's still time.


Saturday, August 16, 2014

Eli Shoots For The Stars On Broadway


Eli Manning might be more divisive than the new Turtles movie. At least the heroes-in-a-half-shell never seemed to care about their detractors. 

Eli, on the other hand, well, he's more contemplative.

It's a funny thing playing quarterback in New York, mostly because you're only as good as your last down, or fur coat purchase for that matter. Consider that Eli is a two-time Super Bowl champ and yet an all-time punching bag among pundits. Some seem to especially resent his penchant for suddenly improbable moments, and those people are usually Patriots fans, like Grantland’s head honcho Bill Simmons. 

The Sports Guy is right that Manning pulls passes out of his rear in a way that'd make Copperfield gush. But by the same token, you might say the Giants signal-caller simply has guts. I’m not talking about the sort of big ones it takes to ask out Gisele Bundchen, but the kind that leads you to toss a prayer into the swirling Meadowlands winds in front of 80,000 screaming fans. Gisele turns you down, at least you’re going home with your cool hair and in a sports car. But blow a big pass in New York and you’re spending the night in the shadows of the MetLife concourse my friend.


The point is that I admire Eli for his understated bravado. He’s like the quietly over-confident movie friend who thinks he’s got a chance with Emma Stone's character. The shame is he just might, if he’d stop wearing shades in the cafeteria.

Apparently most Giants fans agree that the younger Manning still has special something to offer. In fact, about 74% of people in a NJ.com poll said they still had faith in often maligned QB, as of this week. That’s a stronger vote of confidence than I’m sure Big Apple fans would be willing to give Jets pilot Geno Smith. "EEhhh Geno, whenareyouagonnalearnah?!"

Ahead of Eli's eleventh season, the G-Men think tank ordered in the playbook made famous on the opposite coast. Yes, starting in early September, you’ll see New York’s No.10 make shorter drops and more promptly let it fly as he looks for high percentage readsJoe Montana style. This West Coast move is aimed at curtailing his errors and presumably will give the offense a better chance of avoiding three-and-outs.

However, many writers have jumped on the audacious 70% completion goal the Giants have scribbled at the top of Eli's To Do list, deriding it as a hard target for the best ever, let alone a QB who's never surpassed the 63% mark. Fair enough, but this system will give New York's receivers a chance to improve, and I'd count on Manning to make it work. 


Others, like Neil Paine of Five Thirty Eight also contend that the idea of trying to mitigate mistakes doesn't always pay off. I can't argue this, especially when we know Eli can drop his head faster than Matt Schaub's in a Houston deli if things go off course. On a cool night at Lincoln Financial Field, with the boos raining down and your palms sweatier than the day Cougar turned in his wings, you might rather see Eli heave a few speculators, right? 

Time, and Manning's timing, will tell.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Bounty Hunters Out As Fantasy Tilts Into New Era


In the world of money collection there have been a few exceptional talents. Among them, Rocky Balboa, Chili Palmer and that roundish guy from Rounders. Not surprisingly, they all packed a punch, and a few pounds.

The ultimate pound of flesh guy was Shakespeare's Shylock, of course, but it's way too early in the football calendar to get literary. Let's save that for when the Raiders and Dolphins meet in London Town.

Now you could employ one of the aforementioned goons to collect your fantasy football payments, but it’d probably come at a premium and who knows if you’d come away without a black eye for your trouble. Alternatively, there's a more roguish figure like Boba Fett, who always seemed efficiently cool, but you know, I think that weird salivating sandpit in Return Of The Jedi may have digested him by now.


Meanwhile, there's a company by the name of Tilt that's based in San Francisco and formerly known as Crowdtilt, which has moved into this arena  the seemingly untapped market of fantasy football fee collection.

The premise of its new offering is that collecting league entry fees can be a hassle, and while I've never had to do it, I've certainly sensed the agitation it's caused league managers when asked for "just two more days...please...I'll pay you double....whatever you want."

Who knew fantasy commissioners wielded the power of Don Corleone?

Using Tilt, which has partnered with sports media giant ESPN in this endeavor, league commissioners log in through Facebook, and can set payments and the number of teams involved before any prize money is made available. 

The company charges 95c fee for each team using a debit card and an additional 2.9% processing charge if the payment is made by credit card. This is a one time fee, it should be noted. Commissioners can also communicate with team owners in their league through the Tilt system and customize payouts as required.


The partnership with Disney-owned ESPN is a strong turn for Tilt, something in the realm of Colin Kaepernick looping a long ball to Vernon Davis. This is a joint score, however, because Tilt's technology will provide ESPN and its fantasy players with an easy to use and secure payment set-up, which was previously lacking. On the other side, ESPN's brand clout presumably appealed to Tilt.

Tilt started in 2012 as a firm that helps people crowdfund, raise or pool money. Last year it shortened its name to Tilt with the aim of broadening its vision to include the idea of something tipping or tilting behind a critical mass. In this vein, moving into fantasy football is a clever step.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Pro Football In 10 Yard Pixels


My favorite football video game as a kid was the mental headlock, 10-yard Fight. 

I was nine when it was released, which gifted me with a suitable lack of expectation and a necessary amount of patience to enjoy such a limited game. But then again, 10-yard Fight moved video gamers beyond Atari’s raw pixilation and into, well, a slightly sharper variation of little blurry squares. 


The beauty of Fight—as anyone nostalgic about the original batch of Nintendo offerings will attest to—was its simplicity. No fancy intro featuring Kid Rock or Creed. No mistimed broadcasting on a loop. No overcompensating mini-games because the main product’s bogged down in complex playbooks. 

Instead, Fight resourced one offensive mode—the read-option. Your quarterback simply took the snap and could make three choices: 1) run, 2) toss the ball horizontally to a running back, or 3) throw the ball to your lone down-field receiver. It was the sort of stark, unscheduled, draw-it-up-the-sand approach to football that made you fall in love with the sport in the first place. 


The Fight signal-caller, hurriedly scans for space, reads the lean of defenders’ bodies and chooses an angle, by foot or by air. It’s a basic premise with an understated beauty. But 10-yard Fight is polarizing because most gamers, and even those with a penchant for anything retro, prefer the oft-heralded Tecmo Bowl. And to be fair, Tecmo seems a superb blend of dynamism and graphical prowess in hindsight. 

Fight never matched its game play, and yet made up the difference with quirky, old-fashioned touches, chief of which were its sound effects. Its mirthful audio snippets can only be described as cuts from an abandoned Casio keyboard recording session, which provided both practical and emotional checkpoints for a game that hinged on such things. Fight’s intermittent jingles signalled new downs, first downs, and touchdowns—but more importantly, success! 

Football deconstructed into 10-yard struggles posed a feasible and enticing challenge in the Eighties, kind of like the “It girls” they casted during the era’s teen movies: Cindy Mancini in Can’t Buy Me Love or Andy in the The Goonies were just the types of love interests nerds locked in their rooms with Nintendo could not attain, but hoped to. Yet, if you consider today’s It girl—Madden on the Xbox, if you will—they’re all uninhibited nymphs whose mere silhouettes are enough to unsettle the fit of your Dockers. It’s a challenge of another kind. 

Fight has its own sex appeal, though. How about, for example, when the marching defense is coming for you, with that tappity-tap drumming sound in your ear? Then, at a speed equitable to the one typically seen on scratchy CBS replays, you retreat your quarterback toward your own end zone, spinning and ducking in a Tim Tebow-esque fashion until ultimately you find yourself yards from the goalposts, at which point your only option – your only read – is to heave it back down field toward your lone receiver. 

If you’re lucky, the ball will sail beyond the smattering of defenders—who by this stage have mostly drifted toward the sideline in search of pixilated Gatorade—and will conclude its flight in the opposite end zone, in the hands of your receiver. The bird-like whistle will sound repetitively as your man leaps for joy on the spot, seemingly with no place else to go. You glance at the rapidly ticking clock and get ready to defend, where you’ll soon play the part of cumbersome obstacle, and your opponent will attempt to secure ground in highly-coveted 10-yard increments.


Saturday, February 15, 2014

Candlestick Park: One Last Drop Back


Candlestick print

One reason football makes other sports feel like watching checkers in heavy fog, is its iconic settings. Those big places, after all, are more than bricks and mortar, beer taps and urinal cakes, crumpled beer cups and forgotten ticket stubs under seats. They give meaning to the NFL. 

Along with Tom Brady's hair.

Soulless concrete stadiums enliven on game days because of the intangible energy that wraps around the field and its surrounding bleachers. It lifts players to rare heights and fans two feet from their seats, and lingers long after the final whistle. Atmosphere needs a place to swell. 

Sure, it might quieten each Monday, drowned out by the buzz of lawnmowers, the whip of sprinklers and sweeping brooms, and SportsCenter's 'Boo-yahs'. But any metaphysical matter that can fill an arena is capable of setting into its beams and lodging in crevices, both those within gray pylons and ourselves. It then stays a while. It's simply something that giant screens and wi-fi technology could never connect us to. 

Which is why it hurts to see such old places pulverised. 




Candlestick Park in San Francisco is slated for demolition later this year, according to SFGate.com, allowing for a prolonged farewell that may even include Paul McCartney doing a creaky version of Long Tall Sally. 

Ohhhh baby, we're gonna have some fun that night!

In the late summer of 1966, The Beatles added yet another layer to 'the Stick's' iconic fabric as only they could, in what was to be their final live show anywhere. The guitars twanged richly that evening, but it's hard to be sure over time, given the piercing screams that drown the show's lasting audio. Hitting fewer vocal peaks these days, I'm sure Sir Paul wouldn't mind those same squeals the next time around.


The Beatles at Candlestick
The Fab Four played their last live show at the Stick

It's indeed a cruel twist fate that awaits all venerable stadiums sitting on prime real estate: Developers eventually catch up to rising markets and no amount of NFL memorabilia could outstrip the value of a building on Candlestick Point. No, men with grand visions, grander than bulldozing from the backfield to the end zone, that is, chase these sorts of opportunities down like the Coyote after the Roadrunner. If they catch you, your team as you know it, is through.


If only Roger Craig was still running.

How things change. One day you're wondering if Montana can hit Rice on a fade, the next Montana's saying things like he was never that enamoured with the park anyway.

Joe, say it isn't so?

The Stick, glorious home of the mighty 49ers for more than 40 years, will supposedly turn into a shopping mall and some residential space. To progress nowadays, it seems, you must supplant history - with a few walk-in wardrobes.


Niners quarterback John Brodie, 1971

The Niners are moving to Santa Clara, a decent commute south of San Francisco, and into a $1.2 billion home which is near complete. All that's apparently missing from the new Levi's Stadium is its Bandera Bermuda grass, and the players new denim pants. Okay I made that second part up. But they will be wearing denim jocks.

Listen, I get that things - especially big cement things - become outdated. Seats shrink and scoreboards expand. Paint peels and toilets decay. Where it was once easy to find a spot for a LeBaron, an SUV is different proposition. 

Levi's Stadium, Santa Clara
A visual of the new stadium in Santa Clara

Yes, the new digs look pretty swish and will fast fill the Niners backdrop. Hey, shivering in the upper deck on an icy Monday night, might just become a distant memory. That's what we're aiming for, right? Before you know it, you'll be making crazy comments like you were never a fan of the old park. 





But I'll miss the place, typified by the lively bus ride through town and neighborhood streets, down to the arena where the winds are so fierce there's no justifiable reason to punt a football. But the 49ers did so anyway. And also rolled out plays that delighted fans so much, for so long.

The images and sounds of them all, the many memories, still huddle around the Stick's old walls, waiting for the next great play to be called.



Joe Montana with Coach Bill Walsh
Coach Walsh helps Joe look for his keys
Candlestick Park parking lot
First ones here, and we'll be the first to leave!
And they said Sochi wouldn't be ready

Saturday, January 25, 2014

10 New Audibles For Peyton Manning On Super Bowl Sunday


The big wigs over at Broncos HQ are said to have concerns ahead of the Super Bowl because Peyton Manning's "Omaha! Omaha!" signal call has become too obvious.

In light of this, they've come up with 10 new audibles for Manning to use at the line against the Seattle Seahawks.


“Hey Irsay! Irrr-saaaayyy.....!”
“Brady’s hair....Brady.....Hair....Hut!”
“Oma-wooohhh, what's that smell?"
"New York, New York!"
"Actually it's Jersey. We're in Jersey!"
“Colts! Broncos! Same difference!"
“O brother, where art thou?”
“Wounded duck! Wounded duck!”
"Sherman! Sherman! Sherman!"
"Handsarefrozen! Frozenyahearme! Frooooo-zen!

Monday, January 13, 2014

NFL Cool Rankings: The Quest For The Holy Grail


With only four teams left to pursue the Super Bowl’s Holy Grail, it remains to be seen who escapes the series of traps left within the playoff temple. The path to the Vince Lombardi Trophy can be a treacherous one to be sure, especially with that old knight Walt Coleman patrolling the sidelines.

“Only the penitent man shall pass!” he cries.

But are there such men in this year’s crop of quarterback heroes?

First, there's Brady, who is unforgiving. Then Manning, who seems more like an everyman. How about the two young guns, Kaepernick and Wilson, who both strut the park with more bravado than prized poodles at Westminster?

Indeed, there’s no room for internalizing in the modern game. Strut! Stride! Charge! Or be charged. Run, or be roughhoused. Or rocked. That's why the older guys get rid it of it so quickly, you see.
Truth is, time is also running out. For Brady and Manning, this may be the last hurrah. For Wilson and Kaepernick it might be just the start of many blue ribbons. They're the future, or so everybody is telling us. 
Whether you side with these players, and their teams, may ultimately be framed by their cultural impact (hashtag - leaping onto a cool bandwagon).

So for the indecisive and uninitiated, here’s a quick guide to the coolness levels of the four remaining contenders.

1. Seattle Seahawks

The Hawks are the hottest team in cool colors since the Blue Man Group. They’re still hot, right? 
Anyway, you can’t help but like Wilson. He’s so slick. So fast. So cool. And can throw. Plus, his post-game comments are the stuff of, I don't know, a senator. A good senator, one without a lascivious past. He makes you believe. 
Then there’s that animal Beast Mode – a.k.a. Marshawn Lynch. Man he’s scary. He looks like the Predator, for crying out loud. 
So, if don’t have a horse in this race and need one, it’s hard to look past the suddenly favorited ringless underdog.

2. Denver Broncos

The Broncos defense is menacing. That’s what football fans say. The uniform is rich. That’s what fashionistas say. The air is rarified. That's what the media says. The old 'D' logo was once impenetrable and therefore legendary. That’s what I say.

Speaking of legends, how about Peyton Manning? They don’t come much bigger. Or better. Or humbler. He seems like a great guy. A man who studies the game more earnestly than that nerdy dude in your fantasy league who's so very pedantic on trades. What gives with that? I just need another receiver, guy. Pull the trigger. 
Anyway, if you believe in miracles - and Peyton winning at age 37 post serious injury is one - Denver should be your team. 
"Omaha! Omaha!" 
3. New England Patriots

Look, even as a neutral observer I’m finding it tough to recommend the Pats. They’re just too dynastic. Too conniving. I mean Belichick and Brady are the Gargamel and Azrael of the NFL, aren't they? Everyone else are Smurfs, scurrying for survival. And you know who Vanity is right….?

4. San Francisco 49ers

Yes, Colin Kaepernick loves to kiss his arms. Give the man a mirror and put a flower in his hat! I’m sorry but....yes he can run. Great. He sometimes even throws it well. Other times, when he's not congratulating himself, he does the two simultaneously, like a tattooed cyborg that’s short-circuiting. In fact, I’m convinced Jim Harbaugh built Kaepernick in his basement as part of an elaborate plan to unseat Alex Smith, win a Super Bowl, and more importantly, the hearts and minds of every Gen Y fan out there.