I Hate the NFL

I'm not sure if my headline is entirely accurate, but it's pretty damn close.  The NFL has become equal parts irritation and annoyance on days that don't start with "Sun."  And that's what this comes down to.  Today is Thursday and today I hate the NFL.  Tomorrow is Friday, and I will hate the NFL.  After that? Saturday.  And I'll hate the NFL on that day as well.

Then comes Sunday.  And for one day, when all there is are games and highlights, I will enjoy football again.  But then Monday will role around and the whole vicious cycle will start all over again.  So what is it that fills me with such vitriol?  Let's get started.

I hate Thursday Night Football

Thanksgiving football was fun and cheeky.  Everyone has off of work and nobody wants to talk to family anyways.  Even opening the season on a Thursday night has been a nice touch.  It is an attention grabbing event and the teams are well rested.

But the rest of the season all we get are poorly prepared, poorly rested and generally shitty football games.  There's nothing like having your team play a shitty game on a night when you'd rather just take a damn nap so you can get through your Friday and make it to the weekend.

Seriously nobody wants to watch football on Thursday nights.  I would rather do anything than give up four hours in the middle of the week.  You have one day. ONE DAY. And that's enough.  I fucking hate Thursday Night Football, just go away already.

I hate Roger Goodell
This Guy Sucks

This sums it up better than I can but I'm still going to give it a try.  Roger Goodell is a shitty commissioner and has done absolutely nothing to improve the league while continuing with a pattern of bad decisions that has left the league with a repeated number of black eyes. Let's throw a few of the headline grabbers out there:

18 Game Schedule
Replacement Refs
Criminal Owners
Player Discipline
The Ray Rice Fiasco
The Washington Redskins

Yea, he definitely deserves a vote of confidence from the billionaires that are his bosses continually give him.  Honestly, it's like Paul Tagliabue gave him a goose that laid golden eggs and he's slowly but surely bashing it's head against the ground, plucking it's feathers and getting ready to deep fry that sucker so he can eat it and leave it as a big pile of shit.  I hate Roger Goodell and what he's done to this league.

I hate the NFL Draft

Three days of this garbage?  Are you kidding me?  I'm supposed to give up three days in the middle of spring toward a damn draft?  No. Just No.  Here's the deal, the draft doesn't matter.  There is absolutely nothing entertaining about this event.  Hey, here's a bunch of people that most likely won't be as good as we want them to be except for all these guys we aren't really paying attention to that may end up being stars.

It's a crap shoot and the coverage is absolutely insufferable.  Well anything that involves Chris Berman is absolutely insufferable.  Amazing that Mel Kiper can make a career out of moderately accurately guessing where players will be drafted but is just godawful at predicting whether or not they'll be decent players.

I hate ESPN

Does this really fit with my 345 day a year hatred of the NFL.  Why yes, yes it does.  No news organization or media group (short of Peter King at Sports Illustrated) is more in bed with the NFL than ESPN.  The personalities that they trot out on a week to week basis to talk all things FOOTBALL make me want to stab myself in the ears.

It's this constant and unstoppable inundation of annoying information that first makes one associate "NFL" with "STFU."  I really, really, really hate ESPN.

I hate the Lack of Player Protection

You want to decrease head injuries?  How about meaningful punishments.  Helmet-to-helmet hit?  Four game minimum suspension EVERY TIME.  See how willing players are to take a shot at a player if it's going to cost them 25% of their salary every time they do it.  This game is dangerous enough as it is, if the league isn't properly punishing players for making it more dangerous how can you enact reasonable and lasting change?

I hate this complete and utter Lack of Player Protection.

I hate the Locker Room Mentality

I've had enough of the macho boys club.  Of a bunch of guys thinking that they can't move into the 21st century with the rest of us because they are MEN who play FOOTBALL.  I hate the Richie Incognitos and Chris Cullivers of the world.  And I hate that the NFL puts them in a position to have their bigotry and general shitty-ness a platform to spew the nonsense.

I hate the message that if you won't play through your injury then you are a pussy.  Man up, never mind the fact that you may be ruining your body and your mind for the rest of your life.  I hate the face that this locker room culture is viewed as acceptable and so little is being done to change it, in any sport.

But Most of All

I hate that the NFL has such potential to be a force for the positive and this is how they choose to exist in the world.  The league doesn't need to throw money at social issues, issues like domestic violence, at risk youth, bullying and the list goes on.

The NFL could make a difference by setting an example.  By leading the way and showing fans and kids how to not be awful people.  Instead we're left people like Ray Lewis, Greg Hardy and Jim Irsay to be shining stars for the most impactful league in the United States. And I hate that.


Revisiting 3rd and 3

After a few days of reflection, I'd like to delve a bit deeper into Rodgers error in judgement on 3rd and 3 in the third quarter.

That isn't to say he's off the hook.  It felt a bit like the Giants playoff game in 2007 to me, when Favre looked so cold that he would rather go home early than finish the game.  I remember thinking to myself, "If the yearly goal is to make the Super Bowl, and the Packers will have to play in Lambeau in January to get there, then I don't think Brett Favre can be our QB anymore."  Both Rodgers's and Favre's plays left me reevaluating who they were.

I'm not suggesting Rodgers is no longer capable of leading the Packers.  Far from it.   I simply believe that this is a play Rodgers should have made.  It's a play people have come to expect him to make, simply because he's been that good.  I'm still frustrated that he botched it, and I might argue he would be too, were he in my shoes.

We actually got an excellent example of this on Thursday night.  Consider the differences between the two offensive linemen who took the field on Thursday night as injury relief:  Corey Linsley and Derek Sherrod.

Linsley, a rookie playing his very first regular season NFL game on a huge stage, played a very good game, making one mistake while otherwise being invisible, a desired trait on the offensive line.   Sherrod, on the other hand, was embarrassed to the tune of recovering the fumble that he allowed in his own endzone for a safety.  But who drew the wrath of Rodgers on camera?  Linsley.


It's a difference of expectation.  Linsley had prepared all week for this game with the starters, and barring a personnel change, will be starting until week 9.  Sherrod, on the other hand, was a reserve unexpectedly jumping into a game against the defending Super Bowl champs.  Maybe Rodgers has a higher opinion of Linsley, maybe he just feels Linsley has more potential than Sherrod, but the bottom line is Rodgers demanded perfection from Linsley, and when he didn't deliver, he heard about it.  Rodgers had no such expectations for Sherrod, which might tell us something about Sherrod's future with the team.

So as Rodgers goes with Linsley, so do I with Rodgers, as should anyone else rooting for Green Bay.  If that's Scott Tolzien filling in due to injury and erring, I give him a pass .  But Aaron Rodgers is arguably the best quarterback in the NFL.  He holds the current record for highest career passer rating, preps for games with a relentless attention to detail, and year after year has proven his ability to make plays with his arm and his feet that very few at his position can mimic.  Most of the time he lives up to that standard, but on third and three at a pivotal moment in a nationally televised game, he fell short.  I don't think it's unfair to expect him to make that play, and I think he would agree.


Three and Out

Four quarters to win a game, four downs to get a first down. There are a lot of reasons the Packers lost Thursday night:  rushing defense, an injury to Bryan Bulaga, and poor play by the receivers.  But if I had to pick four key plays, here's how the Packers blew it on Thursday night in four downs.

First down:  Brad Jones drops an interception in the first quarter

Yes, Zach Miller made a nice defensive play on offense, but we're not that far removed from training camp, and that was a textbook tip drill.  Brad Jones, in a game this big, has GOT to catch that ball.  If Jones holds on to that interception, Mike Daniels never runs into the kicker, the Packers take over at midfield, and the Packers are in position to score first instead of the Seahawks.  This play could change the entire landscape of the game.

As a side note, I'm beyond done with Brad Jones.  Give me Jamari Lattimore.  Give me Sam Barrington.  Hell, bring back Nick Barnett, but if you're going to stick with the vanilla AJ Hawk in the middle, you need a wild card to pair him with.

Second down: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix drops an interception in the second quarter

This is a play the safety should make.  The Packers are only down 7 near the end of the second quarter, and if Ha Ha holds on to this ball and just goes down, the Packers likely get at minimum 3 points, and at best tie the game going into the half.  The dynamic of the game coming out of half time drastically changes with this pick.

There is a silver lining to this play, however.  We have a rookie here who was in position to make a play, as he was several times in this game.  Although we have a pretty small sample size, Ha Ha seems to have the proverbial "nose for the ball", which tells me that we likely have our replacement for the painfully average Morgan Burnett, perhaps as soon as midseason.  The secondary is suddenly a strength, which is encouraging.

Third down:  Aaron Rodgers throws the ball away in the third quarter

This one hurts the most.  Brad Jones is someone I have no faith in, and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is a rookie.  But Rodgers is our guy. The face of the franchise. He's molded his role on the team as a guy who unabashedly demands the most of his teammates and sets the tone with his play.  So when you're that guy, how do you throw the ball away on 3rd and 3 with enough real estate in front of you to get a first down with your legs?  That play concerned me more than anything tonight.  Perhaps there was a miscommunication between him and Nelson on the play, but they say winners want the ball in their hand with the game on the line, and I'd argue that the game was on the line here. I'm disappointed that Rodgers didn't tuck and run.

And if you're going to defend the decision, I'll say right now that I don't care if McCarthy doesn't like him running for first downs.  I can't remember who said it, but a coach once said (and I'm paraphrasing), "There are two types of players I can't win with:  those who never listen to me, and those who always listen to me."  That was a play where Rodgers should have ignored his coach.

Punt:  Brad Jones is called for holding in the fourth quater

Early in the drive Green Bay had Seattle stopped on third down on their own 24 yard line when the aforementioned Brad Jones commits a holding penalty to give Seattle an automatic first down.  By passing, the Seahawks seem to be trying to give the Packers a shot, but they can't capitalize.

If this stop is made, there's still an outside chance (however slim) at scoring twice and winning 30-29.  Instead, Russell Wilson directed a soul crushing 13 play, 80 yard drive, culminating with a TD pass on 4th and 1 from the GB 15 yard line.

Final score:  36-16.

0-1 to start the season.  This loss is far from a death knell, and even with injuries to Bryan Bulaga and Richard Rodgers, you have to like the Packers chances next week against the perennially hapless Jets. With that being said, after opening and closing the last two seasons with losses to the 49ers, it's hard not to wonder if the best case scenario this year is deja vu all over again, only with the Seahawks as the substitute.


My Weak-ly Thoughts

So many times, I think of something I want to say, but I can never really formulate it into a full post. So, I'm hoping to have a weekly article with all of my, weak thoughts. Enjoy!

Buster Olney is Back on the Braun Offensive:

Buster Olney, on the anniversary of Ryan Braun's admission and suspension for PED use, has put together an article highlighting how Braun is a different hitter than in previous years. I'll admit, fairly topical, and certainly noteworthy, so what's my problem with it? It's the implication.

Olney points out that so far in 2014, Braun has gone to opposite field much more than in year's past. Also, the balls Braun has pulled, have had less distance. .... Olney leaves the rest up to you, stopping short of suggesting Braun, now clean of PED's, is not the same player he was with PED's. Olney does of course mention Braun is having a great year, but it's almost a side thought.

The evidence sounds damning, but take into account Braun's lingering injuries, most notably the damaged nerve in his thumb. Usually player's receive high praise when injury forces them to change up their approach and still succeed, but not Braun. With all of that said, I'm not necessarily defending Braun, it's been rumored he was taking PED's for a nagging injury (which he seems to be prone to), so perhaps this adjustment is still a result. But let's give some credit to a player having a terrific year and making necessary adjustments to help his team win.

The Milwaukee Bucks

Yes, I do have a thought about the Bucks. Don't be alarmed, I'm not sick. I have half a notion to start caring once more about the Bucks, and thus in turn, the NBA. I have very mixed feelings on this. I grew up as many kids of my age did, a fan of the Jordan Era Bulls. Then, as I got older, I became a fan of the hometown team. I got to experience the electric atmosphere as the 2001 Bucks beat the Hornets at the Bradley Center, this is OUR HOUSE! Then, the series against the 76'ers came. You can read about it in Bill Simmons' "The Book of Basketball's Lost Pages" under item 10. NBA was dead to me. It was clear (to me) the game was rigged.

Of course, in the years after we learned of one referee fixing games as a debt to the mob, but that to me, seemed like it wasn't the whole story. Plus, the Bucks were mired in terrible mediocrity, and had little interest in making splashes.

Now, the Bucks have new ownership, and hopefully that means a new direction. While his NBA talent is still unknown, Jabari Parker is a flashy draft pick, and he's said all of the right things, which gives me hope there is a base now to build off of. This almost feels like Mark Attanasio taking over the Brewers and having some young prospects named Fielder and Braun start to showcase their abilities. I was on that train from the beginning and it's been a fun ride. Perhaps I want to jump on the Bucks now, and enjoy the same thing?  I was not a fan of the Jason Kidd hiring, nor a fan of how it was handled....but who knows, no risk, no reward.

Plus, I really need something to do in the wintertime! I've tried to get into hockey, a sport that is super fun to watch....but minor league hockey is hard to get into. I've accepted Milwaukee will not get an NHL team, so I might as well enjoy the NBA team......maybe.

The Brewers

Ouch on that end of the 1st half! It felt like the Brewers were just going to put it on cruise to the playoffs, just keep those 10 game splits in the positive and the Central would be ours. Well, the lead has evaporated, and now the battle is on. I think everyone is done moping about it (I hope). So, let's enjoy being in a real playoff race, 4 teams vying for crown of NL Central Champs.....baseball just got a whole lot more exciting for the final few months! Get out to the Park, avoid the fires and cheer on the team! This reminds me, I need to get to another game.

A New Beer I Tried & Would Like To Talk About

I was just in Florida on a mini-vacation with the wife, and whenever I'm in Florida, I look for anything from Cigar City Brewing. It's a magnificent brewery based out of Tampa. Seriously, if you see some, snatch it up. Better yet, if you have time to kill and you're near the Tampa airport, stop by their facility. I feel like all Cigar City beers have a unique under
lying taste to them that I can't explain. It's smooth, it's mellow, it's freaking delicious! Well, while in West Palm Beach I came across a beer of theirs I haven't had yet. Invasion Pale Ale. It's a session ale, so the low alcohol was handy since I was drinking all day in the sun, but the flavor was still very present. Great hop taste, with a good malty balance.


The Value of the Game

This month, my dad turned seventy.  He's now entering his eighth decade on this planet. But I'm not here to talk about that.  We're a German family, we don't share.  Every 'I love you' and 'thanks for everything' goes unsaid, we all mean to say it and we all know it's true but it doesn't need to be vocalized.  No - That's not what I'm here to talk about though.

I'm not here to talk about the rough times.  I'm not going to talk about that month in fifth grade when in a span of four weeks we lost two grandparents, one from each side of the family and I remember sitting in a worn out old recliner and having my Dad come sit next to me.  He didn't say anything... I told him 'We're having a bad month' and he said 'We are.'  Because we were. That's not the memory I'm here to talk about.

What I'm here to talk to you about is the beauty of a game.  Of any game.  It's the value of sport, the connection of family and the reason so many of us come to the games we love.  I'm here to share with you memories.  I'm here to help you understand why I love these games - not for the wins and the championships - but for the value they bring to my life and my relationships.

I'm here to talk to you about a season ticket holder.  Of Wisconsin Hockey since the late 60's.  A guy from a small town in southern Illinois who decided to check out something new and four decades later calls his 31-year-old son to convince him to come to town to catch the game with him (the son never goes back often enough).  That's the same son that can vividly remember sitting in the kitchen with his old man hanging on every word of the radio broadcast 20 years earlier, weekend after weekend.

I'm here to talk to you about three kids, and a terrible Wisconsin football team.  See this guy from southern Illinois also had season tickets to football and there was a time not long ago when the Badgers couldn't fill their stadium to save their lives, so we always ended up with better seats and more tickets.  I can hardly remember Tom Brady at Michigan but I can always remember my dad with seat cushions and hot chocolate.

See we went to Badger football games for years and years, my brother, my sister and I. Yet between the three of us, we can barely scare up a handful of results for all those games we invested our Saturdays in. However we can tell you about the brat stand by the train tracks (now bike path) that our dad always stopped at.  The kids didn't often eat there, but dad never missed a chance. And he never forgot sauerkraut.

I'm not here to talk about the dark times.  When I was unemployed and struggling to get back to the field I had worked so hard to break in to, I faced the end of the most important relationship I had to this point in my life.  Marriage can be ugly.  I'm not here to tell you how, when I broke this news to my parents - I broke down.  And my dad gave me a hug and I'll never forget that.  Because, the assumed had met a moment not to be assumed the most important people showed up for it.  That's not what I'm here to talk to you about.

I want to tell you about being a kid and learning to ski.  About all the fear dissipating because as I slid unbalanced and unsteady down the hill I did it with my dad holding me up.  We learned to ski when we learned to walk.  And each one of us three kids will still make time to fly down a mountain with this guy from southern Illinois.

I'm here to tell you about a soccer team without a coach.  And experience be damned, there he was again.  Fostering an experience for a group of kids because every kid should have a team and every team needs a coach.  Was he a good coach?  Probably not, but without those teams I wouldn't have the relationships I have today.

I'm not here to talk about someone who spends his retirement working on his kid's houses.  Be they five minutes away, 25 minutes away or an hour and a half away.  He and his better half will travel the distance to plant flowers, build shelving or even just mow the lawn.

What I am here to tell you about is a man who met his two sons at a bar on a Tuesday afternoon to watch a World Cup soccer game.  A game that resulted in an American loss but not one of the three family members that went to watch the game went home unsatisfied.

I'm here to tell you about why we love sports, and why we will pass that love on to those we care about.  Wins are nice but the experience is what will always be valued most.  All of those games with my dad, I can't tell you which side went home winners.  I can recall a big game here and there but the memories that stay with me are of my family, of my dad.  It's that time spent that gives me a fondness for the sports I love.  It's those times that have shown me why, win or lose, a great time should be had.

What I want to tell you is that I love sports.  I love being a part of a sold-out Kohl Center, watching the Badgers square off against the Gophers.  I love sitting at the 40-yard-line watching Wisconsin battle against Ohio State.  I love sitting at a bar, beer in hand, cheering on USA soccer or the Milwaukee Brewers.  I love lacing up my cleats and competing.

What I want you to remember is that it's not the teams that bring me back.  The names on the back of the jerseys will change.  Teams will win and lose, but there will always be more games.  The experience we have with those important to us will be what we remember most.

For all those Hockey and Football games in Madison, all those games watched at the bar.  I can't tell you who won, but I can tell you that I watched them with my dad. And I wouldn't have it any other way.


Soccer Snobbery and Other Soccer Rants

The World Cup is here, and America is tuned in, myself included. Now, I haven't had a chance to watch much more than 15 minutes or so, but that's due more to a busy life than disinterest. I like watching the World Cup, I always have, I remember watching the 1994 World Cup and enjoying Alexi Lalas' goatee and Cobi Jones' cool dreads. So, is it soccer that I like? No, it's the event I like and having national pride, just like the Olympics. I don't care about Gymnastics, but once every four years, there I am living and dying by every misstep. I think I'm like most Americans, we love big events, and we love America defeating other countries in sporting (or warring) events. When the US is eventually eliminated (or wins it all), the majority of Americans will once again lose interest in the sport. Well, the soccer snobs will live on, in an effort to annoy everyone else.

I hate the soccer snobs. Do you know one of these people, I'm sure you do. The people that call their jerseys, "kits", the fields "the pitch", and even need to refer to soccer as football....and they love to correct you on these terms the moment you say it wrong. Yes, these, are the soccer snobs. There are people who genuinely like soccer which is fine, in fact that's great, everyone should enjoy whatever sport they want. I'm not talking about those people.

So snobs. You like to go to your local soccer bar (soccer bars are such a hipster phenomenon and I hate hipsters) at noon to watch the Premier League, that's fine. Are you going to the pub, to have a pint and watch footy on the telly, occasionally using the loo while you eat some chips? No, I bet you're going to the bar, to drink some beer, watch the game on TV, occasionally using the bathroom and eating some fries. So, why do you insist on calling the soccer terms in their British form, we don't live in England, and we call things different. So, don't be a snob and tell people who want to say "nice jersey" that it's a kit. People hate you for that. I saw on Twitter someone say "this isn't hockey, it's not called an assist, it's called a cross" ...... Fuck you! Ronaldo had a hell of an assist as far as I'm concerned. I just wish the goalie (not the keeper) was in a better position on the field to stop that shot that the other dude hit with his head.

If we want soccer to take a hold in the US, we need to adapt it for our society. For instance look at the MLS teams. "Sporting Kansas City", "Dallas FC", "Real Salt Lake" etc... What the hell is that? We're mimicking the European leagues and it's stupid, especially those that put FC on their name, once again, we call it soccer here, don't be a snob MLS, people don't pay attention to snobs. Oh, and how about we change the US Men's National Team, or as it's so annoyingly tagged on Twitter #USMNT, to The US Soccer Team, or, #USSoccer, I like that better.

Oh, also a rule I hate. The offsides rule. If an offensive player gets behind the defense, sorry defense you didn't do your job. Imagine if in football the Wide Receiver got past the Safety, but that was considered "offsides", no way, stupid rule.

Also, the whole faking to be injured thing disturbs me. I know other sports have had that issue as well, but I hate it so much, and it turns me off to the game.

So, after this rant, I'll continue to watch the World Cup (only when the US plays), I'll continue to play FIFA video games (they're fun), and I'll continue to not care about actual soccer. Because, I'm American, and it's my duty.