Author: sammano

I'm just a guy...just a man trying to survive in this wacky world, stay true to myself (whatever that means), maybe have some fun, have a positive influence on people and events, and navigate this curvy, bumpy road called life.

The Prodigal Player Brings His Talents Back to the Mistake By the Lake

The Bible tells a story about The Prodigal Son, a young man who decides to take his inheritance and leave home only to come crawling back when he has blown his fortune. Prodigal is word derived from the Latin term prodigus, meaning “to drive away or squander”. Instead of telling his offspring “I told you so” the boy’s father instead welcomes his child back into the family with open arms. It is a story of forgiveness. It is a story of redemption. It is a story of humility. It is a story of grace.

 

Few people outside of the city of Cleveland, OH have been as hard on NBA superstar LeBron James as myself. I am not nearly as passionate in my lb1fandom of professional basketball as I am when it comes to other sports and have never really had a favorite team. I preferred the Lakers over the Celtics in the 80’s (more about that some other time), loved Dr. J., and like most young men of my generation thought Michael Jordan was the greatest player to ever dribble & dunk (I still do). I am a sucker for the underdog, so when James was drafted #1 overall straight out of high school by his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers in 2003 I thought it was a nice story. It helped that the hapless Cavs hadn’t been much more than mediocre for most of their three decades of existence before James’ arrival. Unlike so many “franchise saviors” whose hype far exceeds tangible results LeBron James was everything he was said to be and more, carrying the Cleveland Cavaliers almost singlehandedly on his back to 5 playoff runs in 7 years, including a trip to the Finals in 2007.

 

But then he tossed it all away in 2010. He “took his talents to South Beach”, forming a “Big Three” alongside Dwayne Wade & Chris Bosh for the Miami Heat. And I hated it. I hated the way players were now conspiring to form super teams instead of allowing coaches & general managers to build teams organically the old fashioned way. I hated the TV spectacle that was The Decision. I hated the pep rally in Miami where this new Big Three promised “not one, not two, not three, not four, not five…” NBA titles. I hated seeing a guy spit in the face of his home town in just about the most obnoxious way possible. I hated the fact that Cleveland was pretty much screwed because let’s face it…big time free agents, no matter what sport is involved, are almost always going to choose sexier destinations like New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, & Dallas.

 

lb2Over the next four seasons I delighted not in cheering for any particular NBA team but in rooting against the evil Miami Heat. I was ecstatic in 2011 & 2014 when they lost the championship series (to the Dallas Mavericks & San Antonio Spurs respectively), and was bitterly disappointed in 2012 & 2013 when the Heat won back-to-back titles. Most people would probably be kind and say that The Big Three fulfilled their mission, but I gleefully opine that they missed the mark and severely underachieved. Yes four NBA Finals in four years and two championships in that time is impressive, but I would submit to you that it is the bare minimum of what was expected, potential that was elevated to a virtual fever pitch of entitled assumption by the PR machine and the powers-that-be in Miami.

 

In the course of those four years a few things have occurred. First, after nearly four decades of the NBA focusing its marketing on individual stars…Bird, Magic, Jordan, Shaq, Kobe, ‘Melo…there seems to have been an awakening that basketball is a team game and none of those players achieved success on an island. The San Antonio Spurs certainly have their stars, but they were able to win the title this year and damn near won it in 2013 because they had an overall better, deeper team than the Heat. An NBA roster has 13 players. Your top 2 or 3 guys might be better than mine, but if my bench is far superior than I’ve got a fighting chance. Secondly, there are some factors that cannot be defeated by any team no matter how talented they may be. No one has ever beaten Father Time (except maybe Tim Duncan). In sports players & teams can decline quickly…almost overnight…due to injury & age. Miami’s Big Three didn’t seem nearly as intimidating in 2014 as they did four years earlier. And LeBron James himself seems to have changed, which is really the crux of my whole point here today.

 

We see celebrities every day. We see them on TV & in movies, download their music, read about them on The Internet, and watch their games in the case of professional athletes. We like to think that we know them. We form opinions about whether someone is a nice guy, a vapid airhead, or a total jerk. In many cases we are likely on the right track, but sometimes we may misjudge.

 

I, along with many people, was disgusted with the way LeBron James handled his departure from Cleveland four years ago. What we didn’t realize lb3until now was that James himself at some point looked back in disgust as well. Like The Prodigal Son he has been humbled. No he isn’t crawling back to Cleveland broken & destitute. Far from it. But he seems to have realized that in the long run winning championships in Miami wasn’t all that much easier than attempting to do so in Cleveland. He seemingly understands that following the money to New York or Los Angeles or even adding another couple of rings in Miami wasn’t going to be nearly as satisfying as being able to put together a championship team in his home town. LeBron James has matured. He has gained perspective. He has grown in wisdom. Do I sound surprised?? Yes I suppose I do.

 

Rather than repeat The Decision James instead opted to announce his return to Cleveland via a rather classy & well-written essay on the Sports Illustrated website. He speaks wistfully about his childhood in Akron, OH, but what really caught my attention was what he says about Miami, and I feel stupid for never having considered the point before. You see, LeBron James was drafted into the NBA from high school, a practice that is now forbidden by league rules. LeBron went from high school in Akron to pro basketball in Cleveland…less than an hour away. He never went to college. Sure that was his choice and a smart move financially. However, for me college was the best four years of my life. I didn’t venture too far away from home (about 3 hours), but I got far enough away that I was able to do some stupid things, meet some awesome people, learn how to be independent, and figure out life from a slightly different angle. The four years LeBron James spent in Miami were his college years, the difference being that he didn’t have to take math classes he’ll never use, he probably never had to stand outside at 3am on a cold January night after some drunken jackass thought it’d be funny to pull the fire alarm in the dorm, and I am quite sure he has no student loan debt. He had his fun. He has two championship rings and probably had his share of good times in South Florida. But now he has graduated to the next phase just like the rest of us. For me that means drinking skim milk instead of Jagermeister and it means that if I am up past midnight I’m either reading a book or writing a piece for The Manofesto rather than hanging out at a bar playing darts and listening to Brown-Eyed Girl. For LeBron James it means that winning another ring for himself isn’t as meaningful as winning for his family, friends, and the place where he “walked, ran, cried, & bled” throughout his life.

 

lb4The story of The Prodigal Son has a few layers. There is the son who discovers that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side and humbly comes home. There is the father who not only welcomes the son back but celebrates his return. And there is the older brother, a killjoy who is understandably a bit resentful. There will be those who will transfer their hatred of the Miami Heat to the Cleveland Cavaliers simply because they decided 4 years ago that LeBron James is a prick and they aren’t changing their mind. So be it. I can appreciate the sentiment. But I choose…for whatever little it is worth in the grand scheme of life…to be merciful & gracious. Plus I am just glad that imbecile Johnny Manziel has been knocked off the sports page headlines for atleast a few days.

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Points of Ponderation…..Episode 2.14

A semi-regular attempt to address some of life’s minutiae that might otherwise be overlooked…..

 

 

 

 

 

I’m really not all that excited about Stephen Colbert taking over for David Letterman. Sure I think Letterman is long overdue for retirement. He stopped colbertbeing brilliant about a decade ago. But Colbert just doesn’t frost my cupcake. I thought maybe Conan O’Brien or even Jay Leno might get the call. It’s odd how late night TV has gone from pretty solid to kind of mediocre so quickly. Jimmy Fallon is doing a variety show completely centered on himself instead of The Tonight Show. Late Night with Seth Myers is bland and has the worst sidekick in the history of late night television in Fred Armisen. Jimmy Kimmel is cool but needs to start doing real time shows on Friday night. Craig Ferguson departing CBS’ Late Late Show doesn’t move my dial one way or another, but the decision on who will take over that slot is huge. If it’s another whiff like Colbert that waters down the whole concept of late night TV even more, but if they somehow pull an awesome rabbit out of the hat it could save the genre.

 
So I’ve been following something called “Pickup Lines” on Twitter and here are a few of the funniest/weirdest:
If you were a transformer, you’d be Optimus Fine.
You must be the square root of two, because I feel irrational around you.
Hi, I’m writing a paper on the finer things in life and I was wondering if I could interview you.
Is your name Ariel?? Because I think we mermaid for each other.
Are you my homework? Cause I’m not doing you but I definitely should be.
Interested in making some magic together? My wand is at the ready.
If you were a triangle you’d be acute one.
Know what’s on the menu? Me-n-u.
Do you like Pizza Hut? Cause I’ll stuff your crust.
You look familiar. Did we have class together? I could’ve sworn we had chemistry.
Would you like to get into a philosophical quandary over coffee?
There are Skittles in my mouth. Wanna taste the rainbow?
Are you from Tennessee? Cause you’re the only ten I see.
If you were a Dementor, I’d become a criminal just to get your kiss.
You must be from Pearl Harbor, because baby, you’re the bomb.
Cheesy?? Of course. Would anyone actually use these?? God I hope not. But they are good for a chuckle or two so if you do the Twitter thing check it out.

 

 

 

Has anyone ever noticed that TV characters rarely sit on the couch?? They’ll sit on the arm of the couch, or lean on the back…but not often do they actually sit on the couch like a normal person. Weird.

 
Speaking of Twitter, I recently saw a tweet from a lovely young lady that said something to the effect of “I don’t want a nice guy. I want a man.” I was left tough guywondering what the heck that even means. Do the two have to be mutually exclusive?? I completely understand that most women aren’t attracted to wimps. They want a man in their life that will take care of them and protect them. I get it. But just because a guy is “nice” doesn’t mean he isn’t a real man. Another acquaintance of mine on Facebook was publically pondering the question “Why am I so turned on by guitar players, marines, bad boys, heroes, and dominant men??”. I politely replied that it was because she had been unduly influenced by TV, movies, & pop culture. Is it any wonder why the divorce rate is so high in America?? I actually feel sorry for women. They grow up desiring some kind of rock star/50 Shades of Grey/Fonzie hybrid that just doesn’t exist. They end up in loveless marriages with narcissistic posers who ignore them at best and oftentimes treat them much worse. A cynical opinion?? Sure. But nonetheless likely a pretty accurate assessment.

 
I think hyphenated surnames are arrogant & pretentious. Pick one name and go with it.

 

 

 

I was watching an episode of HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher awhile back because despite being a Godless liberal who is wrong about most everything cartermaherMaher can be kind of funny and his show oddly informative. Maher was interviewing former President Carter and asked him if…if…Republicans are able to capture both houses of Congress and then win The White House in 2016 (a tall order to be sure) does he believe that they’ll try to repeal Obamacare. President Carter said yes, but he then added a very interesting statement. He said Republicans would try to repeal Obamacare but it’d be difficult because by then so many people would depend on it. And I thought to myself “There it is!!”. That lone statement explains not only the Democrat playbook, but also the very reason why we should be careful about government programs in the first place. They sound good. They always sound like a really fine idea. An idea that helps people. Who doesn’t want to help people?? But what happens is that folks become dependent on these programs, which does two things. It negatively impacts our economy and it robs people of any kind of motivation to work hard, be self-reliant, and solve their own problems. Why help yourself when Big Government will take care of you?? It also ensures Democrats long & repeated terms in political office because who are most people going to vote for…the person who’s going to give them free stuff or the person who wants to take their free stuff away?? None of this is news to anyone who has been paying attention, but I thought it was fascinating to hear a former President outright admit it.

 

 

 

I recently tried chai tea for the first time. They were giving out free samples at a local grocery store. I wasn’t impressed and think I will stick with regular tea.

 

 

 

There has been a lot of debate…for some odd reason…on social media lately about whether or not it is safe to give dogs ice cubes. My Rocco has been roccochomping on ice since he was a baby (he 6 years old now) and has never had any adverse effects, so I think the idea that it causes harm is a myth.

Superfluous 7 Most Awesome Fictional Dads

Tomorrow is Father’s Day. If you are blessed enough to still have your own father around please take some time out of your day to call or visit and tell him you love him. I daddon’t have any children myself (that I know of), but I’d like to think that I would have been a pretty good father just by following the examples of my own Dad and his father, my Papaw Jim. At any rate, I thought today might be a good time to take a look at some fun examples of fatherhood as presented to us thru the prism of literature, movies, & television. So it is with deep admiration & respect to all good fathers out there that I present…..

 

 

 
from the home office in Worth County, Iowa, which contains the cities of Manly & Fertile…Worth County, where Manly men meet Fertile women…..

 

 

 
The (Supersized) Superfluous 7 Most Awesome Fictional Dads:

 

 

 

7 Sam Baldwin (Sleepless in Seattle) & Danny Tanner (Full House)
sbTwo widower Dads. 1989’s Sleepless in Seattle ranks 45th of my 100 Favorite Movies, and even though it is a rom-com there are no shortage of scenes showing Tom dtHanks’ Sam interacting with his young son. The sting of the death of the wife/mother is addressed and it is touching how father & son are getting thru the loss together. Okay sure…Sam loses points for his kid hopping onto a plane for a cross country trek to The Big Apple by himself, but all is forgiven when he chases after the boy and lovingly embraces him after he finds him at the Empire State Building. Bob Saget’s Danny Tanner may be the most unrealistically sweet father in TV history and he too loses points for needing his brother-in-law Uncle Jessie and best friend Joey to move in and help raise three young girls, but who the heck wouldn’t want such a nice guy for a Dad??

 

 

6 Daniel Hillard (Mrs. Doubtfire) & Mike Brady (The Brady Bunch)
doubtfireA divorcee & and the patriarch of one of entertainment’s first blended families. All that needs to be said about Robin Williams’ eponymous character in 1993’s Mrs. bradyDoubtfire (43rd on my list) is that the dude is willing to dress up like an old woman in order to spend time with his children. That’s devotion. I like the fact that Mrs. Doubtfire addresses divorce realistically. The parents don’t magically get back together, but they do find a way to focus on the children and do what is best for them. One thing that always struck me about The Brady Bunch was how the boys called Carol Brady Mom (she was their stepmother) and the girls called Mr. Brady Dad (he was their stepfather). Blending families is rarely that easy in the real world, but in the 60’s, 70’s, & 80’s the powers-that-be understood that folks watch television to escape from reality…a fact that seems to have been all but forgotten these days. I was dumbfounded when as an adult I learned that Robert Reed was a) gay and b) hated his role as Mr. Brady.

 

5 Bob Cratchit (A Christmas Carol)
Cratchit is mostly known as grumpy old miser Ebenezer Scrooge’s underpaid & overworked clerk in Dickens’ tale, but he is also shown to be a dedicated husband and father to six children. One cratchitof those children is Tiny Tim who is what we might call a “special needs child” in modern parlance. It is never explicitly stated what Tiny Tim suffers from, although it is likely to have been rickets, kidney disease, or tuberculosis. The problem is that Bob only makes about $2 per week and can barely afford to feed his family let alone pay for the medical care his son needs. Despite these struggles Bob Cratchit keeps a smile on his face and forges ahead, doing what must be done to provide a decent & happy life for his children. He reminds me just a bit of my own father, who had a demanding job that paid the bills but certainly never allowed us to be wealthy, and also had to spend a disproportionate amount of time, energy, & resources on me because of my disability.

 

 

 

4 Clark Griswold (The Vacation Series) & Howard Cunningham…aka “Mr. C.” (Happy Days)
cgYes Clark Griswold is a dufus. And yes he had a weird flirtation with a nameless babe in a convertible. But when you watch the Vacation movies one thing that is very clear mrcis that Clark loves his children and is devoted to his family. That’s nice to see, especially these days. Howard Cunningham forgot that his eldest son Chuck even existed, but otherwise he is the quintessential sitcom Dad. He was always around to give sage advice to Richie & Joanie, put up with Richie’s goofy friends Ralph Malph & Potsie, and even became a father figure to Fonzie. And let’s not overlook the fact that Mr. C was a business owner as well. Role models rock.

 

 

3 Cliff Huxtable (The Cosby Show) & Vito Corleone (The Godfather)
Cliff HuxtableSpeaking of role models, I have commented previously about the interesting way that the Huxtable family was presented on The Cosby Show. No housing projects or blue corleonecollar jobs for this upwardly mobile & well educated black family. Mom was an attorney and Dad was a doctor. As a father Heathcliff was patient & funny, and even when he became exasperated by the trials & tribulations of raising five children he exhibited an enviable level of composure & mercy. Now I know that mob boss Don Corleone seems like an odd choice (especially paired alongside Dr. Huxtable), but though his…imperfections…are far different from those of the aforementioned Clark Griswold I think there is a lot of similarity in the love & devotion they show their family. When eldest son Santino is gunned down and Vito sees the body in the funeral parlor he completely breaks down, distraught over “what they did to my boy”. He is clearly unhappy about Michael becoming involved in “the business” because he had higher hopes for his youngest son. Don Vito opines that “a man who doesn’t spend time with his family can never be a real man”, and I think he’s pretty spot on.

 

 

2 Atticus Finch (To Kill a Mockingbird)
What can I say about Atticus Finch that hasn’t already been echoed by a plethora of fans of both the Pulitzer Prize winning novel and the Academy Award nominated film?? Atticus is kind,  atticus-and-kidspatient, wise, intelligent, honorable, & decent. He has been hailed as a hero by some…maybe the only time in history that lawyer & hero have intersected. His two children, Scout & Jem, love and respect the man to the moon & back. The entire town of Maycomb, AL admires him. Author Harper Lee based Atticus on her own father, and I have to say that if he was half the man that Atticus is shown to be then Ms. Lee was a lucky girl indeed. Gregory Peck brought Atticus to life in the 1962 movie, and his portrayal is a nearly perfect reflection of the man we see in the book. However I would strongly urge anyone who has seen the film but not read the book to go out right now and buy the book!! As good as the movie is the book is 10x better. And if you have not partaken of either then you need to do so ASAP. The subject matter is far from pleasant, but it is presented in such an accessible way by Harper Lee that anyone who enjoys reading even just a little bit will breeze right through it in a few days. Heck I think I might just have to read the book again myself.

 

 

1 Andy Taylor (The Andy Griffith Show)
No one knows exactly what Heaven is like, but I’d like to think that somewhere up there a TV room exists where The Andy Griffith Show plays on an endless…dare I say eternal…loop. Sheriff atTaylor is a widower with one child, 6 year old Opie. Opie’s mother is never named and barely mentioned. We only know that she died when Opie was a baby. The relationship between Andy & Opie is probably one of the purest, most accurate, & honest father/son interactions we have ever seen in television, books, or movies. I say that because Andy isn’t always saccharine sweet with Opie and he doesn’t treat his son like he’s a perfect angel. Opie gets into mischief occasionally, and when that happens his father exhibits slight anger & disappointment. However Andy isn’t mean. He is always fair with Opie and desires for his son to learn from mistakes. There are times when Andy jumps to the wrong conclusion and discovers that though Opie may have technically done the wrong thing he did it for the right reasons. Sure Aunt Bea moves in to do the cooking & cleaning and to manage the household, but Andy never dodges his responsibility to raise is son. He spends time with Opie, whether it is fishing at Myers Lake, chillin’ on the front porch, or just hanging out at the courthouse on a slow day in Mayberry (which is pretty much every day in Mayberry…a huge part of its charm). He disciplines Opie, but he also talks to him, providing valuable lessons about honor, integrity, love, respect, friendship, accountability, & courage. As a matter of fact Sheriff Taylor seemingly teaches those lessons to the entire town of Mayberry. He doesn’t scream, shout, show off, or crave the spotlight…he just leads by example and does what’s right.

Winning & Musing…..Volume 1.14

The sun is shining, birds are chirping, & lawns are being mowed throughout the land. It is springtime in America!! And one thing that means is a variety of sports stories about which I…as usual…have some thoughts. Sit a spell and join me…you know you want to.

 

 

 

 

A few post-NFL Draft contemplations:
• The NFL Network provides much better coverage than ESPN. I watched ESPN’s coverage of the first round because…well…it’s just been such a tradition for so long. Chris Berman & Mel Kiper Jr. are like the Jerry Lewis of football…you only see them once a year so you sure do look forward to that occasion (sadly of course Lewis’ MDA Telethon…once a Labor Day Weekend staple of Americana…has now quietly faded away). However, they have now introduced Jon Gruden, Todd McShay, & Ray Lewis into the mix (and apparently eased out Tom Jackson), and I found Gruden & “Shooter” Lewis to be rather grating. They love the sound of their own voices and seem far too pleased with their alleged expertise. By the 3rd round the guys on ESPN weren’t even paying attention to the announcement of the draft choices anymore, so I flipped over to NFL Network and found their coverage to be much more focused, cerebral, & low-key. Maybe next year I’ll cut the ESPN cord completely on draft weekend.
• The Cleveland Browns did the right thing by not taking QB Johnny Manziel at the #4 spot and instead grabbing him with the 22nd choice in the first round. I still think manzielit’s 50/50 as to whether he’ll be a superstar or a complete bust. He’s too small and I’m not a fan of his selfish & arrogant demeanor. I am not at all sure that he can withstand the pounding of NFL defenses. But if he does fail miserably atleast it’ll be in Cleveland, and I will laugh and laugh and laugh and laugh and laugh…lol.
• During the 2nd round of the draft Commissioner Fidel Goodell introduces legends/Hall-of-Famers from each franchise to announce their team’s draft pick: Marvin Harrison for the Colts, Chad Pennington for the Jets, Aeneas Williams for the Cardinals, Mike Singletary for the Bears, Herman Moore for the Lions, etc. were some of this year’s guests. Anyway, I have an idea. Next year they should let the biggest disappointment/embarrassment for each team make the pick: Jamarcus Russell for the Raiders, Rae Carruth (live from prison) for the Carolina Panthers, Ryan Leaf for the Chargers, Tony Mandarich for the Packers, former coach Bobby Petrino for the Falcons, Akili Smith & KiJana Carter together for the Bengals, Art Schlichter for the Colts (also from prison), Lawrence Phillips for the Rams (he’s in prison too!!). OJ Simpson (from prison…of course) could announce picks for both the Buffalo Bills & San Francisco 49ers. This would be a ratings bonanza. Make it happen NFL.
• After 41 years on this planet and nearly as long as a Pittsburgh Steelers fan I finally had an epiphany about The Steeler Way during the draft. Whereas most teams Steelers-Logoassign a particular value to individual players the Steelers focus on the value of each position, and obviously they believe that the most valuable position is linebacker. For the second year in a row the Steelers spent their 1st round draft pick on a linebacker. In 2013 it was Jarvis Jones from Georgia and this year it was Ryan Shazier from Ohio St. I don’t have a huge problem with the Shazier pick…I just didn’t think it was necessary with Jones, Lawrence Timmons, Jason Worilds, & a few other young guys in the mix already. The vast majority of Steeler fans were expecting them to choose a much needed cornerback in one of the first couple of rounds, but instead they waited until the 5th round to pick CB Shaquille Richardson from Arizona. What that tells me is that the suits in The ‘Burgh don’t think there is that big of a difference between a 1st round corner and a 5th round corner. A few years ago I would have just went along with that logic and assumed the powers-that-be knew what they were doing…but these days I’m not so sure.
• Some possible steals: QB Logan Thomas from Virginia Tech to the Arizona Cardinals in the 4th round, RB Lache Seastrunk from Baylor to the Washington Redskins in the 6th round, RB Ka’Deem Carey from Arizona to the Chicago Bears in the 4th round, QB AJ McCarron from Alabama to the Cincinnati Bengals in the 5th round, QB Zach Mettenberger from LSU to the Tennessee Titans in the 6th round, CB Keith McGill from Utah to the Oakland Raiders in the 4th round, & G David Yankey from Stanford to the Minnesota Vikings in the 5th round.

 

 
If there is one thing that we have learned from the Donald Sterling scandal it is that NBA owners do not really own their team. They are actually owners of 3.33% of the league, and if the other 96.67% of ownership decides to turn on a fellow owner it’s all over. I don’t necessarily have an issue with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver banning Donald Sterling for life, and I won’t disagree when the rest of the owners vote to make him sell the team. It is what is best for business. In reality the man is 82 years old & obviously not well, so it was probably a matter of time before the Los Angeles Clippers ended up with new ownership anyway. And let us not shed a tear for Sterling or his family, all of whom will become even wealthier when the team purchased for $12 million sterlingin 1981 is sold for a half billion. Having said that, recent events do concern me just a little. Look…very few people would even try to defend the inane racist ramblings of a guy like Sterling. He’s an old kook who seems to have lost a few too many of his marbles. But imagine if the bank could come and repo your car or evict you from your house…not for being delinquent in your payments but because they disagree with your sociopolitical opinions. That’s not the America that I know & love…it’s fascism. I understand that a professional sports league is a unique entity. As an owner Donald Sterling, to a degree, represents the team, the league, & the city of Los Angeles. I understand that his belief system is not deemed appropriate by most anyone with a lick of sense. However it is also my understanding that Donald Sterling did not commit a crime. Actually the fact is that Sterling’s racist tendencies have been well known for many years and there have been instances in the past where he probably did commit crimes by way of housing discrimination and the NBA turned a blind eye. But now, when the actual crime committed was by the “girlfriend” who secretly taped Sterling’s conversations, the NBA decides to take drastic action to cover their rear ends in the midst of a public relations nightmare. As I said, hardly anyone would even attempt to support Donald Sterling’s idiocy, but what if losing everything you own because a person you trusted clandestinely recorded your deepest personal thoughts becomes commonplace?? What if just about everybody in the country was cheering your demise?? It is easy to revel in Donald Sterling’s implosion because he is just about the least sympathetic character imaginable…but what if it happened to you?? It’s a slippery slope…one that we must be aware of and concerned about in 21st century America.

 

 
I have watched only a couple Pittsburgh Pirates games in the past month. As I feared last season’s “breakthrough” and the end of two decades of losing pittsburghpirateswas just a mirage. This team isn’t there yet and I’m beginning to doubt whether they ever will be. They lack a killer instinct. They lack the will to win. The pitching isn’t nearly as dominant as it should be after concentrating on that aspect of the game with the draft & the farm system over the past several years. And there is very little offense. They are averaging 3.91 runs/game. The division leading Milwaukee Brewers are averaging 4.02 runs/game. The Detroit Tigers & San Francisco Giants…currently the two best teams in baseball…are scoring 4.85 and 4.18 runs/game respectively. These may seem like miniscule statistical differences, but baseball is a game of statistics. If Player A gets 150 hits in 500 at bats during a season that’s .93 hits/game and a .300 batting average, which probably means he’s an All-Star and over the course of an entire career possibly a Hall-of-Famer. Meanwhile, if Player B gets just 130 hits in 500 at bats it is .80 hits/game, a .260 batting average, and over the course of a career would be looked at as quite prosaic. Twenty hits less in the span of 162 games and look at the difference in perception. It’s the difference between winning two World Series in the past decade…like the Boston Red Sox, San Francisco Giants, & St. Louis Cardinals have all done…and the Pirates.

 

 
I suppose I need to comment on this whole Michael Sam thing…..
Essentially what everything boils down to is that ESPN and others in the media deserve nearly all of the blame for any negativity that has landed at the feet sam1of Michael Sam. For those who may have been off the grid in the past week Sam was a defensive end for the Missouri Tigers. He was named the SEC Defensive Player of the Year for 2013, but due to his small stature and other pedestrian measurables was deemed a fringe NFL prospect. In February he “came out” publically in an interview (not surprisingly on ESPN) because announcing to the whole world that you are gay has become a rite of passage for all level of celebrities in 21st century America, which is my main problem with the whole thing. I am physically disabled and have spent my entire life trying to just fit in. I don’t like calling attention to myself. I just want to be treated normally…like everyone else. That quest has been a defining aspect of everything I have ever done. The “LBGT community” will say that what they want is equality & fairness, but it seems like what they truly desire is to be celebrated and treated like trailblazing heroes. ESPN’s coverage of Michael Sam has been somewhat disconcerting. A lot of folks were kvetching about Sam kissing his boyfriend when he was drafted, but my question is why were there cameras there in the first place?? I watch the NFL Draft every year. By the 4th round talking heads like Mel Kiper Jr. & Todd McShay have completely lost interest in keeping up with sam2the picks as they are announced and are still yapping on & on about top guys like Johnny Manziel & Jadeveon Clowney. I can’t ever remember them having cameras on a 7th round draft choice as he receives the phone call from the team selecting him. So why does Michael Sam get that kind of coverage?? Because he is gay?? That’s not equality…that’s putting someone up on a pedestal they haven’t earned. And then people wonder why there is anger & frustration. It must be nice for Michael Sam to know that he is a virtual lock to make the St. Louis Rams, and make no mistake…he will be on the team when the season starts. The NFL, ESPN, and the entire leftist media have too much invested at this point for Sam to fail. Good for him. I wish him well. He is a good football player. Most of them are at that level. I just hope for his sake that someday his playing skills will be the center of attention and not his sexual preference…something that should have never become an issue in the first place.

2014 NFL Mock Draft 2.0

We are now only a few days away from the real deal…the 2014 NFL Annual Selection Meeting, aka The Draft. I knew when I did my initial mock draft back in February that a lot of things would change over the course of time. Free agency has significantly altered the landscape, as it tends to do each year. Several teams filled some holes, while others have new needs that we weren’t sure they’d have a couple of months ago. The Combine and various pro days have raised the profile of some players, while cooling the enthusiasm for others. We now have a much clearer picture of the direction many teams may or atleast should go. Once again let me remind you that this is a three round mock, and I do throw in a few trades. Real trades that are already in place will say “via/X Team” in parentheses, while trades that are purely my own creation will say “trade w/X Team”. So without any further ado let’s look into the ol’ crystal ball and see what we might expect from this year’s draft.

 

 

 

Round 1

1 Houston Texans
DE Jadeveon Clowney (Clemson)
At one point I was firmly convinced that the Texans would be able to trade out of this spot and amass a boatload of picks. However, as things have progressed that has houston-texans-mobile-wallpaperbecome a far less likely scenario. No one seems completely sold on this year’s crop of quarterbacks, so teams will be mostly content to stay where they are and let a signal caller fall to them. Clowney is a rare prospect who I believe will put the pedal to the medal when it counts. The combination of Clowney & JJ Watt instantly makes Houston’s defense one of the most feared in the NFL. They can snag a quarterback later.

 

2 St. Louis Rams (via Washington Redskins)
LB Khalil Mack (Buffalo)
The Rams are in a tough position. They’d probably jump at the opportunity to trade down, but the lukewarm affection for the quarterbacks makes it St_Louis_Ramsdoubtful that anyone will offer much to move up to this spot. Mack has been getting a lot of love and has drawn comparisons to Denver Broncos’ linebacker Von Miller.

 

3 Jacksonville Jaguars
WR Sammy Watkins (Clemson)
Watkins is far & away the best skill player in this year’s draft. The Jags are losing receiver Justin Blackmon due to an indefinite suspension for substance abuse, and to Jacksonville_Jaguarsbe honest Blackmon had been a bit of a disappointment anyway. If he comes back and pans out…great. But if not Watkins is a fantastic replacement. Jacksonville too can get their quarterback later.

 

4 Baltimore Ravens (trade w/Cleveland Browns)
T Greg Robinson (Auburn)
What to do?? The Browns had their eye on Watkins but he is off the board. It is probably too early to pull the trigger on one of the quarterbacks in this spot. With MitchellBaltimore_Ravens2 Schwartz and All-Pro Joe Thomas manning the tackle spots there is no need for the Browns to spend this pick on that position. However, though no one is likely to trade up for a QB there may be a few suitors looking for a franchise tackle. The Ravens lost Michael Oher (you remember The Blind Side with Sandra Bullock, right??) in free agency but did re-sign Eugene Monroe. I don’t think it really matters who plays left and who plays right. With guys like Robinson & Monroe Baltimore’s offensive line once again looks formidable.

 

5 Oakland Raiders
T Jake Matthews (Texas A&M)
With Robinson off the board the Raiders are forced to go with option B. They don’t need a quarterback after signing Matt Schaub this offseason, and Matthews should raidersbe a solid franchise tackle for the next decade.

 

6 Atlanta Falcons
LB Anthony Barr (UCLA)
Barr is the best pass rusher available and might be a steal even at this spot. There could be some buzz about the Vikings & Bucs looking to movefalcons up to get the quarterback they want, but at the end of the day I think both will stand pat.

 

7 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
QB Blake Bortles (Central Florida)
There’s a new regime in Tampa. There will be a new quarterback because not even the old regime was completely sold on Mike Glennon. BortlesTampa_Bay_Buccaneers_Helmet has prototype size & measurables. The only knock against him is the fact that he played at a C-USA school instead of an SEC, Big 10, or Pac 12 school. It should also help that Bortles will be well known to the Tampa crowd since Central Florida is just down the road.
8 New York Giants (trade w/Minnesota Vikings)
WR Mike Evans (Texas A&M)
The Vikings need a quarterback as well, but it’s still too early. The Giants need a receiver to replace the departed Hakeem Nicks. It’s a win/win for both teams.Giants Logo

 

9 Buffalo Bills
T Taylor Lewan (Michigan)
The Bills won’t waste any time turning in their draft card when they see the only remaining tackle worthy of a Top 10 pick still on the board.Buffalo_Bills_Helmet

 

10 Detroit Lions
CB Darquez Dennard (Michigan St.)
The Lions defensive backfield was atrocious last season, and the Seattle Seahawks have proven how important a great Detroit_Lions_Helmetsecondary can be.

 

11 Tennessee Titans
DT Aaron Donald
Do the Titans need a quarterback?? Or will the Jake Locker era be given a one year reprieve?? EitherTennessee_Titans_Helmet way Tennessee passes on a signal caller here and goes for the highest rated defensive lineman on the board.

 

12 Minnesota Vikings (trade w/New York Giants)
QB Derek Carr (Fresno St.)
The Vikings get the quarterback of the future. Atleast until next year. Two strikes against Carr: small school, and the fact that his older brothervikingshelmet1 David is one of the more notable busts in recent memory. Fair?? Probably not. Only time will tell.

 

13 St. Louis Rams
S Hasean Clinton-Dix
With their second 1st round pick the Rams continue to upgrade a defense that ranked 15th in the league in 2013. Not bad…but not great either.St_Louis_Rams

 

14 Chicago Bears
CB Justin Gilbert (Oklahoma St.)
The Bears had their eye on Clinton-Dix, but have other needs as well. Gilbert is a significant upgrade for a defense that ranked 30th out of 32 chicago-bears-logo13teams last season.

 

15 Cleveland Browns (trade w/Pittsburgh Steelers)
QB Johnny Manziel (Texas A&M)
The Browns are spooked by rumors that the Cowboys may be interested in Manziel. The rumors are probably poppycock, Cleveland_Browns_Helmetbut then again Jerry Jones is nuttier than a damn fruitcake so who knows?? At any rate, Johnny Football is one of the most polarizing prospects I’ve ever seen. Is he more like Fran Tarkenton or Fran Drescher?? Is he Drew Brees or Drew Stanton?? Can he be tamed just enough to become a good NFL quarterback without losing the improv skills that make him special?? Is he sturdy enough to make it thru an NFL season?? Getting two people to agree on Manziel is like trying to find a bipartisan political candidate that everyone likes. Only time will tell, but in the meantime the Browns pretty much have to pull the trigger here.

 

16 Dallas Cowboys
LB Ryan Shazier (Ohio St.)
DeMarcus Ware signed with the Denver Broncos in the offseason so the Cowboys have to rebuild the defense. Shazier is smaller than Ware and is much more dallas-cowboys-dallas-cowboys-15496395-1280-1024comparable to guys like former NFL stars Sam Mills or Zach Thomas. He’s fast & can get to the quarterback, or he can drop back in coverage.

 

17 Pittsburgh Steelers (trade w/Baltimore Ravens & Cleveland Browns)
CB Kyle Fuller (Virginia Tech)
The Steelers are disappointed that both Dennard & Gilbert are off the board, along with the top tackles. They could use a receiver to replace thediamond-steelers departed Emanuel Sanders & Jerricho Cotchery, but after signing Lance Moore & Darrius Heyward-Bey it’s not as big of an issue, especially with the top two wideouts off the board. The best player available that fits a need is Fuller, who can get his feet wet this season and then take over for Ike Taylor in 2015.

 

18 New York Jets
TE Eric Ebron (North Carolina)
The signing of free agent receiver Eric Decker doesn’t completely eliminate the need to draft a wideout, but it makes it less of a priority. The valueJets-Pin-Pro at this spot is tight end. In the past few years a big athletic tight end has become a huge weapon in the NFL…almost a necessity. And right now the Jets tight ends are Jeff Cumberand, Zach Sudfeld, & Chris Pantale, which sounds more like the accounting faculty at a junior college.

 

19 Miami Dolphins
G Zack Martin (Notre Dame)
The Dolphins solidify their offensive line with someone who hopefully won’t find themselves in the midst of an idiotic bullying scandal. Nearly everyMiami_Dolphins_Helmet mock draft I have seen has Martin going to the Dolphins, so who am I to rock the boat??

 

 

20 Carolina Panthers (trade w/Arizona Cardinals)
T Cyrus Kouandjio (Alabama)
The Panthers need to replace the retired Jordan Gross on the offensive line. Yes wide receiver is also a priority, but they can carolina_panthers_logo-14336address that need in later rounds. A franchise left tackle is more important. It’s worth the price to move up.

 

 

21 Green Bay Packers
S Calvin Pryor (Louisville)
The Packers have long been considered one of the NFL’s best teams but the truth is that the offense…lead by QB Aaron Rogers and a plethora ofGreen_Bay_Packers_Helmet good receivers…has covered for some weaknesses on the defense. They can’t pass on a hard-nosed athletic safety that can play centerfield for the next decade.

 

22 Philadelphia Eagles
LB CJ Moseley (Alabama)
Head coach Chip Kelly is an offensive guru, but if he really wants to take his team to the top he needs to pay attention to the defense. Moseley is a well-rounded player philadelphia_eagles-3715with tremendous leadership skills.

 

23 Kansas City Chiefs
WR Marqise Lee (USC)
The Chiefs need another weapon for quarterback Alex Smith. With this move WR Dwayne Bowe will see less double teams and the Chiefs might not implode late in the kc-chiefs-logoseason like they did last year.

 

24 Cincinnati Bengals
DE Dee Ford (Auburn)
The Bengals are a solid playoff team so they can afford to reach just a bit for a pass rusher with a big upside. This pick might look like pure genius Cincinnati_Bengals_Helmetin 3 or 4 years.

 

25 San Diego Chargers
G Xavier Su’a-Filo (UCLA)
The Chargers flew under the radar in 2013 and right into the playoffs. Time may be running out for quarterback Philip Rivers to fulfill the potentialSan_Diego_Chargers_Helmet3 so many thought he had when drafted a decade ago. The best way to maximize his abilities is to keep him upright and give him time to find a receiver downfield.

 

26 Cleveland Browns (via Indianapolis Colts)
WR Brandin Cooks (Oregon St.)
The Browns have addressed the quarterback issue by drafting Johnny Football and also signing free agents Vince Young & Tyler Thigpen (and don’t forget Brian Hoyer Cleveland_Browns_Helmetis still around recovering from a torn ACL). They also signed free agent RB Ben Tate who is ready to be a feature back after backing up Arian Foster in Houston for the past few years. There are certainly opportunities to trade out of this spot, but instead the Browns get Manziel a speedy slot receiver.

 

27 Houston Texans (trade w/New Orleans Saints)
QB Teddy Bridgewater (Louisville)
The Texans trade back into the first round due to concern that the Arizona Cardinals may be looking for a quarterback as well. Bridgewater was once considered a houston texans logo2potential #1 overall pick but questions have arisen…as they always do. Much like Manziel it is a 50/50 proposition as to whether Bridgewater will be a competent NFL quarterback or a complete bust, but with a QB depth chart that includes Case Keenum, TJ Yates, & Ryan Fitzpatrick Houston has to make this move.

 

28 Arizona Cardinals (trade w/Carolina Panthers)
S Jimmie Ward (Northern Illinois)
The Cards will be mildly disappointed that the top tier quarterbacks are all gone, but not terribly so. They can get another year or two out of 34 year old Carson Palmer nflarizonacardinalsand still may be able to snag a pretty good signal caller in a later round that they can develop slowly. Ward joins a stellar defensive backfield that includes Tyrann Mathieu, Patrick Petersen, & Antonio Cromartie.

 

29 New England Patriots
TE Jace Amaro (Texas Tech)
The Patriots need to move on from the Aaron Hernandez mess and of course we all know that Rob Gronkowski has become unreliable on a variety of levels. Tom BradyNew_England_Patriots_Helmet is just plain better when he has a big dependable target that can go up and get the ball.

 

30 San Francisco 49ers
CB Bradley Roby (Ohio St.)
The 49ers are still amongst the top teams in the NFL, but they must be vigilant in not letting the team get old. Roby should improve the secondary,San-Francisco-49ers and if the Seattle Seahawks proved anything it’s that an awesome secondary can be a key to a championship.

 

31 Denver Broncos
G Joel Bitonio (Nevada)
I have really been impressed with what the Broncos have done in the offseason. They let the ancient Champ Bailey move on to New Orleans and broncos-4759replaced him with Aqib Talib. They further upgraded the secondary with safety TJ Ward, who fled Cleveland like a Ukrainian refugee. They signed receiver Emmanuel Sanders away from the Steelers. Sanders isn’t a top flight wideout but he’s a reliable third or fourth option which is all Peyton Manning really needs and I think he can be every bit as productive as the departed Eric Decker. And DeMarcus Ware left the dysfunctional Cowboys and will now be sacking opposing quarterbacks for Denver. I think the focus now becomes protecting Manning. A team can never have enough solid offensive linemen.

 

32 Seattle Seahawks
T Morgan Moses (Virginia)
The defending Super Bowl Champions would be the odds on favorite to repeat without adding a single player to their roster. However, they did suffer some losses this seattle-seahawks1offseason. Offensive tackle Breno Giacomini is now with the NY Jets. Defensive end Red Bryant signed a free agent contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars, who also signed another Seahawks defensive end Chris Clemons. Receiver Golden Tate departed to the Detroit Lions. Percy Harvin & Sidney Rice are both back and reportedly healthy, so I don’t think receiver is a top priority. The signing of Michael Bennett eases the pain of the loss of Clemons & Bryant. Moses solidifies an offensive line that absolutely must protect QB Russell Wilson and create holes for RB Marshawn Lynch for Seattle to have the same level of success in 2014 as they had last year.

 

 

Round 2

33 New Orleans Saints (trade w/Houston Texans)
CB Jason Verrett (TCU)
There are a few intriguing receivers on the board, but the secondary is a bigger need. Verrett can spend a year learning from 112 year old Champ Bailey and then take his starting spot next season when Bailey is at home yelling at kids to get off his damn lawn.

 

34 Washington Redskins
DT Rashede Hageman (Minnesota)
The Redskins didn’t have a first round choice after trading it away a couple years ago in the draft day deal that brought them quarterback RGIII. They still end up getting first round talent though, and improve their defense in the process.

 

35 Pittsburgh Steelers (trade w/Cleveland Browns)
DE Kony Ealy (Missouri)
The Steelers were a lot more active in free agency than usual, plugging holes at nose tackle (Cam Thomas, formerly of the Chargers), safety (Mike Mitchell, formerly of the Panthers), and wide receiver (Lance Moore, formerly of the Saints, and Darrius Heyward-Bey, formerly of the Colts). I think that’s more offseason additions than Pittsburgh has made in the previous 5 seasons combined. However, they are still a bit thin at defensive end even if former first round pick Cameron Heyward develops into what he needs to become.

 

36 Oakland Raiders
WR Odell Beckham Jr. (LSU)
After missing out on Sammy Watkins in Round 1 the Raiders will be pleased to see Beckham still on the board. He should immediately challenge Rod Streeter & Denarius Moore for a starting spot.

 

37 Atlanta Falcons
DE Demarcus Lawrence (Boise St.)
The Falcons continue to upgrade their pass rush. Tyson Jackson came over from the Kansas City Chiefs in the offseason but Jonathan Babineux is 32 years old. Lawrence can be added into the rotation gradually.

 

38 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
T JaWuan James (Tennessee)
Whether Bortles seizes the starting QB job immediately or Josh McCown mans the position for awhile it is vitally important to provide either guy with as much protection as possible. James would have an opportunity to compete for a starting job.

 

39 Jacksonville Jaguars
QB Tom Savage (Pitt)
Bortles, Manziel, Bridgewater, & Carr are all off the board, but the Jags have their pick of the second tier QBs, some of whom have been rising up draft boards and may end up being just as good or better as the first wave. Savage has been getting a lot of love in the past few weeks and has drawn comparisons to Drew Bledsoe. If absolutely necessary Jacksonville can start Chad Henne this season and let Savage develop.

 

40 Minnesota Vikings
LB Jeremiah Attaochu (Georgia Tech)
With Derek Carr in the fold the Vikings can now concentrate on other needs. Attaochu would likely become an immediate starter in Minnesota’s 3-4 scheme alongside veteran Chad Greenway.

 

41 Buffalo Bills
WR Kelvin Benjamin (Florida St.)
Buffalo’s receiving corps is solid but uninspiring. Reuniting quarterback EJ Manuel with former college teammate Benjamin would be a stroke of genius on the part of the Bills.
42 Tennessee Titans
CB Keith McGill (Utah)
The Titans once again pass on a quarterback (Jake Locker lives to see another day!!), not to mention a franchise running back to replace the departed Chris Johnson. Instead they choose to replace All-Pro corner Alterraun Verner, who is now plying his trade for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

 

43 Minnesota Vikings (trade w/New York Giants)
G Gabe Jackson (Mississippi St.)
The Vikings get an extra pick after moving down in the first round. They take the opportunity to address the offensive line and get a much needed upgrade on the inside.

 

44 St. Louis Rams
T Antonio Richardson (Tennessee)
Richardson is a massive tackle that should provide plenty of protection for QB Sam Bradford as well as open up holes for whoever totes the rock for St. Louis. Richardson, Jake Long, & Rodger Saffold would comprise a rather impressive line.

 

45 Detroit Lions
S Deone Bucannon (Washington St.)
The Lions continue to upgrade their secondary. Bucannon should step right into the starting lineup.

 

46 Pittsburgh Steelers
T Billy Turner (North Dakota St.)
There’s a lot of value left on the board at this spot. After addressing some key needs in free agency the Steelers decide to use this pick to add depth to the offensive line, where injuries have been an issue the past couple of seasons.

 

47 Cleveland Browns (trade w/Baltimore Ravens)
CB Lamarcus Joyner (Florida St.)
The Browns have their quarterback and also added an outstanding receiver that should be comfortable in the slot. Now they add a cornerback that will be a nice bookend with All-Pro Joe Haden.

 

48 Dallas Cowboys
S Terrence Brooks (Florida St.)
The secondary has been a significant issue for Dallas for awhile. Brooks should immediately crack the starting lineup.

 

49 New York Jets
NT Louis Nix III
Jets head coach Rex Ryan just might wet himself when he sees Nix available in this spot. Nix plugging the middle with Sheldon Richardson & Muhammed Wilkerson on either side would certainly make a formidable defensive line.

 

50 Miami Dolphins
G Dakota Dozier (Furman)
First round selection Zack Martin can actually slide over to the tackle position opposite free agent signee Branden Albert and Dozier can step into a starting guard slot. Add in starting center Mike Pouncey and all the sudden the Dolphins’ offensive line woes begin to look a bit smaller in the rear view mirror.

 

51 Chicago Bears
DT Timmy Jernigan (Florida St.)
The Bears added free agents Lamarr Houston & Jared Allen on the defensive line, which certainly helps make up for the loss of Julius Peppers & Henry Melton. But adding another piece…especially since Allen is 32 years old…isn’t the worst idea in the world. Jernigan is a first round talent that falls simply because a lot of teams had more pressing needs. He is a steal here.

 

52 Arizona Cardinals
QB Jimmy Garoppolo (Eastern Illinois)
Garoppolo got peoples’ attention in post-season collegiate all-star games. He has the least amount of pressure of any of the quarterbacks chosen thus far because there is no chance he’ll be the starter in Arizona in 2014 or maybe even the following season. He can spend his first couple of seasons learning from Carson Palmer before taking command when Palmer decides to hang ‘em up.

 

53 Green Bay Packers
TE Austin Jenkins (Washington)
The Packers need to replace Jermichael Finley. Jenkins isn’t quite the freakish athlete that other tight ends like New Orleans’ Jimmie Graham or San Diego’s Antonio Gates are, but at 6ft.6 and 252 lbs. he is an imposing red zone target.

 

54 Philadelphia Eagles
WR Allen Robinson (Penn St.)
DeSean Jackson was released by the Eagles and is now catching balls for the Washington Redskins. The Eagles need a replacement. Robinson has tremendous value at this spot.

 

55 Cincinnati Bengals
CB Stanley Jean-Baptiste (Nebraska)
The Bengals need some youth at the corner position. It doesn’t hurt that the young man is 6ft3.

 

56 San Francisco 49ers (via Kansas City Chiefs)
C Weston Richburg (Colorado St.)
‘Frisco has an outstanding offensive line, but they won’t pass up an opportunity to make it even better.

 

57 San Diego Chargers
CB Marcus Roberson (Florida)
The Chargers have depth at corner but not a lot of big time talent. Roberson should be able to secure a lot of playing time as a rookie and maybe even grab a starting spot.

 

58 New Orleans Saints
WR Donte Moncrief (Ole Miss)
Lance Moore left via free agency and is now a Pittsburgh Steeler. Marques Colston & Robert Meacham are both around 30-ish. Not old by any means, but probably old enough that adding a fresh talent to the mix isn’t a bad idea.

 

59 Indianapolis Colts
WR Jordan Matthews (Vanderbilt)
The Colts didn’t have a first round pick so this choice has to have some impact. While it is true that they signed Hakeem Nicks in free agency and have TY Hilton, it is also true that perennial Pro Bowler Reggie Wayne is 35 years old. Matthews is too good to pass up at this spot.

 

60 Arizona Cardinals (trade w/Carolina Panthers)
LB Carl Bradford (Arizona St.)
I’ve been calling the Cardinals the Pittsburgh Steelers of the west for awhile. A lot of former Steelers seem to end up in Arizona. Former Cardinals head coach Ken Whisenhunt (now the head coach for the Tennessee Titans) was a former Steelers offensive coordinator. Current Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians is a former Steelers offensive coordinator. Cardinals assistant head coach Tom Moore is a former Steelers offensive coordinator. Former Steelers offensive line coach Larry Zierlein is now an assistant line coach in Arizona. Former Steelers defensive tackle Brenston Bucker is now the Cardinals defensive line coach. If you want to go back in time a bit Steelers Hall of Famer Mean Joe Greene spent a season coaching the Cardinals defensive line in 2003. It seems as if The Steeler Way has kind of been transmitted to Arizona thru osmosis, with one of those philosophies being fast athletic linebackers who can get to the quarterback. John Abraham is 36 years old and it is time to fine his successor.
61 San Francisco 49ers
WR Martavis Bryant (Clemson)
The 49ers are up again and this time choose to add to their deep yet prosaic receiving corps. Anquan Boldin is 33 years old and there’s really no one behind him that’d scare defenses at all.

 

62 New England Patriots
DT Stephon Tuitt (Notre Dame)
Vince Wilfork is 32 years old. Here is his replacement in a year or two.

 

63 Denver Broncos
WR Jarvis Landry (LSU)
Peyton Manning still has Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker, & tight end Julius Thomas to throw to, as well as free agent signee Emmanuel Sanders. But Welker is 33 years old so adding some depth at the position is probably a good call.

 

64 Seattle Seahawks
WR Davante Adams (Fresno St.)
Percy Harvin & Sidney Rice are back for the defending Super Bowl Champions, but there is little else at the position after the departure of Golden Tate. Adams is a suitable replacement for Tate.

 

 

 

Round 3

65 New Orleans Saints (trade w/Houston Texans)
T Jack Mewhort (Ohio St.)
The Saints have to upgrade their offensive line.

 

66 Washington Redskins
S Dion Bailey (USC)
Washington’s secondary is led by DeAngelo Hall, Brandon Meriweather, & free agent signee Ryan Clark, who are all north of 30. A youth movement is in order.

 

67 Oakland Raiders
QB Zach Mettenberger
This might be the biggest steal of the draft. Sure the Raiders have Matt Schaub. But let us not forget that Matt Schaub was about as good a quarterback last season as the one-armed man from The Fugitive. It’d be amazing if Mettenberger dropped this far. At 6ft5 and 224lbs. he has prototypical size. The fact that he is coming off of a torn ACL likely explains his second tier status amongst the quarterbacks.

 

68 Atlanta Falcons
TE Troy Niklas (Notre Dame)
14 time Pro Bowler and surefire future Hall-of-Famer Tony Gonzalez has retired. It’ll be difficult to replace him, but someone has to try.

 

69 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
G David Yankey (Stanford)
Don’t be surprised if the Bucs double down on offensive line depth.

 

70 Jacksonville Jaguars
T Cameron Fleming (Stanford)
Back-to-back Stanford linemen find NFL homes. Fleming and 2013 first round pick Luke Joeckel would form quite the impressive tandem on the Jags offensive line.

 

71 Cleveland Browns
G Cyril Richardson (Baylor)
Richardson is a massive guard that takes the interior of the Browns line from impressive to potentially magnificent.

 

72 Minnesota Vikings
CB Jaylen Watkins (Florida)
Depth in the secondary is important, especially when the Vikings face the Detroit Lions and All Pro Wide Receiver Calvin Johnson twice a year.

 

73 San Francisco 49ers (trade w/Buffalo Bills)
DE Scott Crichton (Oregon St.)
Justin Smith is 34 years old. It’s time to find his successor and the 49ers have enough ammunition to move up and get a who has dropped a bit lower than he had been projected.

 

74 New York Giants
RB Carlos Hyde (Ohio St.)
Is it too soon to give up on 2012 first round pick David Wilson?? Probably. But he just underwent surgery for spinal stenosis so his future is cloudy at best.

 

75 St. Louis Rams
T James Hurst (North Carolina)
Hurst has seen his draft stock plummet after breaking his leg in the 2013 Belk Bowl. However, the Rams can afford to roll the dice even if they have to stash the young man on the PUP list for awhile. He can work his way into a starting spot in a year or two.

 

76 Detroit Lions
C Travis Swanson (Arkansas)
When you have a star quarterback like Matthew Stafford it makes sense to invest in protection for him. Dominic Raiola is 35 years old. The youngster can learn his craft for a year before taking over in 2015.

 

77 Buffalo Bills (trade w/San Francisco 49ers via Tennessee Titans)
LB Telvin Smith (Florida St.)
The Bills don’t necessarily need a linebacker, but the value here is too good to pass up.

 

78 Baltimore Ravens
S Brock Vereen (Minnesota)
Vereen probably has a good chance at cracking the starting lineup and pairing up with safety and 2013 first round pick Matt Elam.

 

79 Dallas Cowboys
DE Marcus Smith (Louisville)
The Cowboys would be thrilled to find Smith still available at this spot. All the sudden the loss of DeMarcus Ware doesn’t seem all that horrible.

 

80 New York Jets
WR Cody Latimer (Indiana)
I don’t know a whole lot about Latimer, but draftniks like Kiper & McShay seem high on him so that’s good enough for me. The Jets need weapons for whomever wins the quarterback battle between Geno Smith & Michael Vick.

 

81 Miami Dolphins
RB Jeremy Hill (LSU)
With their offensive line woes alleviated the Dolphins can now move forward with other pressing concerns. They don’t seem to be enamored with any of Lamar Miller, Daniel Thomas, or Mike Gillislee. They signed Knowshon Moreno in free agency, but he’s just about as pedestrian as those other guys. Hill has been getting a lot of love from the talking heads and could form a decent 1-2 punch with Moreno.

 

82 Chicago Bears
LB Kyle Van Noy (BYU)
Lance Briggs & DJ Williams are both north of 30. It can’t hurt to add some youth to the linebacking corps.

 

83 Cleveland Browns (via Pittsburgh Steelers)
RB D’Anthony Thomas (Oregon)
Ben Tate will be the every down back in Cleveland, but Thomas adds a dimension to the offense that the Browns have been lacking since…well…always. Imagine being a defensive coordinator and having to prepare for Johnny Manziel AND D’Anthony Thomas.

 

84 Arizona Cardinals
DT Dominique Easley (Florida)
Darnell Dockett is 32 years old. Easley can learn from him before eventually taking his place.

 

85 Green Bay Packers
WR Paul Richardson (Colorado)
James Jones left Green Bay in free agency and is now an Oakland Raider. The Packers won’t miss a beat with this rookie replacement playing alongside mainstays Jordy Nelson & Randall Cobb.

 

86 Philadelphia Eagles
S Ed Reynolds (Stanford)
The Eagles have a need at safety. Problem solved.

 

87 Kansas City Chiefs
QB AJ McCarron (Alabama)
Rumors have been circulating that the Chefs may be in the market for a quarterback. Many believe that Alex Smith played way beyond his talent level in 2013 and are just waiting for him to come crashing to Earth. That may happen. Or he could be a solid starter for the next couple of years and then fade away after a decent decade long career. Either way McCarron is an intriguing addition. He is probably best served by being a reliable backup for 2 or 3 years before being handed the reins.

 

88 Cincinnati Bengals
WR Dri Archer (Kent St.)
The Bengals receiving corps looks rather prosaic when you get past AJ Green. This pick could add a little excitement.

 

89 San Diego Chargers
QB Aaron Murray (Georgia)
The Chargers jump on the quarterback train and get themselves what they hope will be Phillip Rivers’ successor in a few years.

 

90 Indianapolis Colts
C Marcus Martin (USC)
With a valuable commodity like Andrew Luck offensive line depth is an enormous consideration.

 

91 New Orleans Saints
LB Chris Borland (Wisconsin)
The talking heads have been giving some love to Borland. I’ve heard him compared to Zach Thomas & Chris Spielman, which in my mind means that what he may lack in natural athleticism he makes up for with solid work ethic, and it’s never a bad thing to have a guy like that on your team.

 

92 Carolina Panthers
WR Devin Street (Pitt)
Right now Jerricho Cotchery & Jason Avant are the starting wideouts for the Panthers. That may get you thru the season, but adding another receiver is essential. Street is probably a bit of a reach at this spot but Carolina has no choice.

 

93 New England Patriots
T Michael Schofield (Michigan)
Tom Brady might have 3 or 4 more years left to grab one more Lombardi Trophy, but if that is to happen offensive line depth is of the utmost importance.

 

94 Buffalo Bills (trade w/San Francisco 49ers)
TE C.J. Fiedorowicz (Iowa)
Personally I am a big fan of Bills tight end Scott Chandler, another Iowa Hawkeye. I think he’s a decent red zone target. However, he only caught 2 touchdowns in 2013, which was down from 6 in 2012 and why a lot of folks seem to think that the Bills need an upgrade. A two tight end package could become an effective weapon for Buffalo.
95 Denver Broncos
CB Pierre Desir (Lindenwood)
For anyone that may be curious Lindenwood is a Division II school in Missouri. The Broncos need to some depth in the secondary and I like cornerbacks that are 6 foot +.

 

96 Minnesota Vikings (via Seattle Seahawks)
RB Charles Sims (West Virginia)
A few things. First of all backup running back Toby Gerhart fled Minnesota and grabbed the opportunity to become the feature back in Jacksonville. One can hardly blame him. Secondly All-Universe RB Adrian Peterson is 29 years old and has an injury history. Having a solid backup is crucial for the Vikings. And while Peterson is pretty much a straight ahead bulldozer Sims specializes in catching the ball out of the backfield, which will be a nice option for whomever is behind center in Minnesota.

 

97 Pittsburgh Steelers (compensatory pick)
WR Brandon Coleman (Rutgers)
The Steelers offset losses to the receiving corps with a couple of free agent signings, but that doesn’t mean they won’t add another piece in the draft. Coleman is the type of big body that Ben Roethlisberger has coveted for years. He’s raw and may need a year or two to develop, but the upside is there.

 

98 Green Bay Packers (compensatory pick)
LB Christian Jones (Florida St.)
Newly signed linebacker Julius Peppers is 34 years old, so even with the presence of AJ Hawk & Clay Matthews it wouldn’t hurt to have one eye on the future and add some depth.

 

99 Baltimore Ravens (compensatory pick)
WR L’Damian Washington (Missouri)
Steve Smith came to Baltimore from the Carolina Panthers this offseason, but he is 35 years old. The Ravens need to add a big body to complement speedster Torrey Smith. Joe Flacco seemed like a lot better quarterback a couple of years ago when he had Anquan Boldin as a security blanket.

 

100 San Francisco 49ers (compensatory pick)
LB Shane Skov (Stanford)
We all witnessed the horrific knee injury to linebacker Navorro Bowman in the NFC Championship. I’m not sure where he stands in the recovery process, but I think it is unlikely that he’d be able to play at a high level in 2014…if at all. The Niners need to find a replacement.

Death, Divorce, & Illegitimate Children: HIMYM & The Evolution of Series Finales

tv1I’ve spent some time here at The Manofesto trashing the state of television in 21st century America, but I also feel as if I have given a fair amount of credit to what I consider to be great shows of both the past and the present. It’s just that there seems to be a lot less quality in the present, even though quantity is by far more voluminous than when I was growing up. Plus there are other things to do now, like spend time on The Internet and work for a living. Oh to be a child again. At any rate, one of the few fictional shows that I have enjoyed in the past decade was CBS’s Monday night juggernaut How I Met Your Mother, which recently aired its series finale after a 9 year run.

 

Series finales have always held a special place in my heart. I’m the sentimental type that hates saying goodbye, dislikes change, & embraces nostalgia with gusto. The television landscape has always been an unforgiving one, with shows coming & going faster than cars at a fast food drive thru. But that is why I learned to appreciate well written high caliber shows that stuck around for awhile. Due to my disability I didn’t get to do a lot of the things other kids did, so though I didn’t realize it at the time my childhood was a bit more isolated and solitary. Television was a good friend to that lonesome kid in the wheelchair sitting at home while others my age were out riding bikes & playing sandlot baseball, and to the teenager whose contemporaries were sneaking out to drink, smoke, & chase girls. So when a show I loved was ending and the finale came on it was a “moment” for me.

 

MASH_GoodbyeEven though I didn’t really care for M*A*S*H as a child I still remember the buzz around its finale in Cosby-show-finale_l1983…still one of the most watched television shows in history. The scene where Hawkeye Pierce is flying away in a helicopter while BJ Honeycutt spells out the word “goodbye” with rocks is iconic. I get a bit misty thinking about Joanie & Chachi getting married (and Mr. C’s toast) in the last episode of Happy Days in 1984. Probably the best finale of all time is the 1990 swan song for Newhart, which found Bob waking up in his old digs from the original 1970’s Bob Newhart Show beside former TV wife Suzanne Pleshette and realizing that all that Vermont country inn business with Larry, Darryl, & Darryl was just a dream. The 1993 finale of Cheers is probably more memorable for the cast’s live drunken appearance on The Tonight Show afterward. Nighttime soap Dallas ended its 13 year run in 1991 with a classic cliffhanger, this time leaving us wondering if JR Ewing shot himself. CBS cancelled soap opera Guiding Light in 2009 after a 70+ year run that preceded television, and even though the show had run out of gas years earlier the last episode was sweet & tasteful. newhart17aSo too was the end of 80’s powerhouse sitcom The Cosby Show in 1992, which ended with Cliff & Claire Huxtable literally dancing off the stage. The 1998 finale for Seinfeld was somewhat unsatisfactory, but in hindsight seems appropriate for the characters. Two of my all-time favorite finales are the final 6ftvoyage of Star Trek: The Next Generation in 1994 and the “death” of HBO’s Six Feet Under in 2005, both of which had their profound thought-provoking moments. One would be hard pressed to find a couple of hours of better television. And then there was the pleasant & tidy 1994 Friends finale, which basically saw each of the 6 main characters find a happy ending. Unrealistic?? Probably. But it left us with a smile on our face even though a show we loved was departing.

 

himymI use Friends as a segue on purpose. I’ve always thought that How I Met Your Mother shared a certain kinship with Friends. Both had a group of young adults hanging out together in New York. Friends had Monica’s loft, HIMYM had Lily & Marshall’s apartment. Friends had Central Perk, HIMYM had McClaren’s. Friends had Ross & Rachel, HIMYM had Barney & Robin…or so we thought. HIMYM never had the pop culture cache of Friends, and its cast never became quite the cultural phenomenon. However, HIMYM did things that Friends never even dreamed of. The non-linear storytelling, awash in flashbacks & flash forwards, with a framing device of a dad telling his children how he’d met their mother many years before, all pointing toward a specific end that the writers crafted before the pilot was even broadcast was daring, unique, and well done. That is until the finale.

 

It is at this point that I will be discussing specifics about the HIMYM finale, so if for some reason you DVRed it and haven’t had a chance to watch yet you may want to leave and come back later.

 

I’ve spent some time on Twitter and elsewhere online gauging reaction to the HIMYM finale, and the reaction seems to be about 60% negative. I guess that means that it wasn’t completely horrible. But it could have been so much better.

 

For starters, how dare the writers wait until the last season to introduce us to the mother and then so flippantly kill her off in the blink of an eye. Death in a sitcom is always tricky and should be used sparingly. HIMYM itself killed off Marshall’s father in season 6, but at that point it was a creative spark that spawned important growth in a main himym2character. Some might argue that The Mother (her name is Tracy McConnell) wasn’t a main character but I’d disagree. We spent nearly a decade waiting for her only to find out she died?? Unacceptable. Part of the problem also is that the casting of Cristin Milioti as Tracy was so perfect that the audience fell in love with her instantly just like Ted Mosby. She was the perfect gal for Ted to find his happily-ever-after with…and then all the sudden she’s dead.

 

Secondly, HIMYM spent the entire final season showing us the 48 hours leading up to Barney & Robin’s wedding. Heck, they spent the last 2 or 3 years of the series building up the Barney-Robin romance (sort of a rough & tumble knockoff of Ross & Rachel). And then in the finale we see one fight three years into the marriage and POOF…they’re divorced. It was…just like the death of the mother…treated all too dismissively.

 

himym3After the divorce it took Barney about 2 seconds to revert back to his smarmy womanizing ways, culminating with a “perfect month” in which he slept with 31 women. Classy. But then he finds out that “Number 31” is pregnant. Even in the hospital waiting room while the baby momma is giving birth Barney is hoping & praying that the child isn’t his. Even classier. All that gross insensitivity however supposedly goes away the moment Barney holds his newborn daughter. Neil Patrick Harris is a great actor, and that was a good scene, but for me it was too little too late. Seeing Barney’s character development in the past few years just tossed aside in the blink of an eye was disheartening.

 

I knew the moment that Tracy died that Ted was going to end up with Robin, and as mad as I was about The Mother’s death I still might have got on board with that if they would have gotten there in a different way. But to find out that the point of the whole framing device wasn’t a father telling his kids how he met their mother but rather a widower asking his kids if they’d be cool with him reuniting with his old girlfriend…well…it was a real kick in the nads. Total bait & switch. Unforgiveable.

 

Look, I kind of understand what the writers were going for. People get divorced. Parents die. Friends drift apart. And himym4life moves forward. I get it. It’s not that I am completely against poignant moments or deep ponderations on life within the framework of a TV show. HIMYM had its share of such moments over the course of 9 years. I enjoy good writing that dives below the typical superficiality we see on most fictional shows. But the series finale is not the time for such seismic shifts in the landscape. A finale’s storyline shouldn’t be heartbreaking. Fans are sad enough that the show itself is leaving the air. We want…expect…to see happy endings for the characters. Some may argue that Marshall, Lily, Ted, Barney, & Robin got their happy endings. Maybe so. But they got them in such twisted & shambolic ways. Yes…life is messy. Real life. We watch television to escape reality…not to see it mirrored.

 

The HIMYM ending that the writers pre-conceived from the very beginning might have worked if they’d just done it slightly differently. If Barney & Robin would have wed by the end of season 8 (instead of spending the entire last season on the wedding weekend) and all the events we barely saw in the finale…Barney & Robin’s divorce, Ted & Tracy’s relationship, Barney’s new fatherhood, the gradual demise of “the gang”, Tracy’s sickness & death, Ted’s mourning & eventual need to move on, Ted & Robin reuniting…would have played out over two dozen episodes instead of a single hour then maybe…maybe…it would have made more sense. As written & produced though it left me and over half of the audience with a bitter taste in our mouths.

 

himym5The creators of How I Met Your Mother have come up with a “spinoff” of sorts, called How I Met Your Dad. Just a few days ago I was all geared up for another fun ride. Not now. After the sucker punch perpetrated by these charlatans I will not waste my time with their “sequel”. Fool me once, yada yada yada. I have been lamenting the death of television for many years, but just when I think that maybe there is hope for this great medium and give my time, attention, & affection to what I feel is an above average show something like the HIMYM finale happens. It seems as though the powers-that-be had a trick up their sleeves that we didn’t see coming. It turns out that the fans lost our own slap bet, and the final smack in the face is going to leave a mark for awhile.

Why I’m Not Going to See the Movie Noah

After lamenting recently that nearly a quarter of the way into 2014 I had yet to go to the theater and check out any new movies (because in my Noahopinion there hadn’t been any films worth the effort) I finally ventured out to the local cineplex a few days ago. Not only that, but I did a little research on what the rest of the year has to offer and came up with…to my surprise…about two dozen flicks that I hope to check out if circumstances allow such frivolity. However, one movie that I will not be spending my hard earned money on is the alleged “Biblical epic” Noah.

 

sproutsAdmittedly I am a hypocrite. Why?? Well, I have routinely criticized people who say they “hate” guys like Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity without ever having listened to them. Remember when you were a kid and you’d turn your nose up at veggies or some other kind of food and your mother would say “How do you know you don’t like it unless you try it?”?? I usually embrace that philosophy and am a bit hesitant to criticize a movie I haven’t seen. Then again, there is usually an exception to most rules and in this case Noah is it.

 

This film first came to my attention atleast a year…maybe two…ago, and my first thought was “Cool. I’ll check that out when it hits theaters”. From what I read it was clear that this wasn’t going to be the type of small independent art film that usually defines and…to a degree…hampers psmany “Christian” movies. This was going to be a big budget blockbuster complete with well-known stars and expensive special effects. Now I’m not usually a fan of computer generated effects, but in some cases they can be cool. James Cameron’s Titanic was largely a love story, but the last part of the movie…the sinking…was really well done and amazing to see on the big screen. The only 5 minutes of 2006’s Poseidon (a remake of 1972’s much superior The Poseidon Adventure) poseidonworth watching is when the rogue wave capsizes the ship. To my pretty boy disliking chagrin one of my favorite films of the past 15 years is 2000’s The Perfect Storm starring George Clooney as a doomed Gloucesterman whose ship is lost in a hurricane. The story is superb, and the effects add to the experience. So in my mind taking one of the best known stories of The Bible and giving it the big budget treatment (“The Flood will be really awesome” I thought) seemed like a great idea. But then details started to emerge out of the production.

 

The director, Darren Aronofsky, is an atheist.

 

Aronofsky admitted that Noah is ““the least biblical Bible film ever made”, as if that is something of which to be proud.

 

The word “God” is never used in the film…not once.

 

Aronofsky called Noah “the world’s first environmentalist”.

 

Noah becomes a deranged lunatic who wants to kill his entire family.

 

All the sudden I started to get a bad vibe about this whole deal. And that was before the movie even hit the theaters. Now Noah has beenthinking released to the masses and my concerns have been validated. And yes…I feel comfortable saying that without having seen the film. One can ignore the comments of 2 or 3 reviewers, but it’s hard to look past what literally dozens of people are saying about this film.

 

computer-searchNot surprisingly Noah is getting rave reviews from leftist media types. It has a 76% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with words like transcendent, daring, visionary, groundbreaking, gripping, thought-provoking, unconventional, & masterful being bandied about. However, if one digs a bit deeper (which isn’t that difficult in The Information Age) a much different view emerges. I value the opinion of folks who love God and atleast seem to make an effort to live their lives as Christ-like as possible much more than the angry, cynical, Jesus bashers who seem to delight in antagonizing Christians.

 

To be fair, this is a free country and we all have a right to worship or not worship whomever or whatever we choose. aflagSo if Mr. Aronofsky, whose 2008 movie The Wrestler I rather enjoyed, wants to be an atheist that’s cool. Go for it. But honestly…would you let a vegetarian grill your steak?? Would you let an illiterate person write your term paper?? Would you let a European immigrant who just came to America a week ago and doesn’t know a word of English teach a high school English class?? Would you let a 12 year old drive you to work?? That’s not to say that Aronofsky is a poor filmmaker or that only Christians should be allowed to make Christian films (again…that free country thing), but my Dad told me years ago that if you want a good steak you should probably go to a steakhouse and if you want Italian food you might want to try an Italian restaurant. Writers are told to “write what you know”, so it makes logical sense to me that an atheist making a movie about The Bible seems a bit anomalous.

 

bibleOne refrain that I have seen numerous times the past several days is “it’s just a movie!!”. Okay…that’s true. I’m fine with creative license. I know that two people named Jack Dawson & Rose DeWitt Bukater didn’t actually meet on the aforementioned Titanic and fall in love with the sweet dulcet tones of Celine Dion playing in the background. Two of my favorite movies, Forrest Gump and Field of Dreams, are different from the books on which they are based. Even past Biblical epics like The Ten Commandments, The Passion of the Christ, & Ben-Hur have taken a few liberties. But I do expect historical drama to fairly represent…well…history. And when it comes to the Word of God my standards are even higher. One can craft a great story (with CGI and everything!!) and not veer way off course from what actually happened (or for the more skeptical among you what was actually written).

 

Okay…so what actually happens in The Bible concerning Noah?? Another defense I’ve read about this movie is that the Genesis story about arkNoah & The Great Flood is relatively short so the powers-that-be necessarily “had to fill in the gaps”. Alright…I can buy that. However, the fact that this movie is 139 minutes long (that’s 2 hours & 19 minutes for those that don’t like math) is very telling since the average running time for a Hollywood film is right around two hours. What that says to me is that the makers of Noah didn’t struggle to fill in the gaps…it says to me that they had an agenda.

 

Whatever that agenda is…environmentalism…veganism…animal rights…the one thing that is clear is that telling a faithful story that is true to God’s Word is not even close to being part of the equation. That may be fine for a lot of folks…including Christians. It may even be desirable to many. But I just can’t do it. I have had to learn to overlook many things in the name of entertainment. There are so many movie & TV stars whose political beliefs I know are opposite to Man with pen and questionnaire. 3dmy own. Numerous athletes are of the anti-intellectual Neanderthal-thug variety that I know I could never have an intelligent conversation with. Entertainers of all kinds have very publically fallen off many a pedestal after having their personal problems, relationship issues, criminal activities, drug & alcohol battles, & general ignorance exposed. But I had to decide long ago to pick & choose whose foolishness I was willing to overlook as long as they still create a quality product that I enjoy. In the case of Noah and Darren Aronofsky they fail on all accounts because the filmmaker seems to have purposely made a film that reflects his own warped viewpoint and appears to be consciously hostile to a rather large chunk of what could have been a massive audience.

 

I am sure Noah will make a boatload of cash (pun intended). The drive-by lapdog media already loves it. Undoubtedly there will be many lukewarm “Christians” who’ll love it because of the incredible CGI and resemblance to other visually stunning & auditorily obnoxious BeanManIdeaLightblockbusters like Gladiator, Transformers, and every comic book/superhero based film of the past two decades. Well-known Christian “leaders” have already come out in support of the film if only because it is an opportunity to “begin a dialogue” and persuade people to study The Bible. But my money will not be among the hundreds of millions going into the pockets of Darren Aronofsky and whomever else stands to earn a check from Noah. I am not easily offended, and I wouldn’t even use that word in this situation. I just happen to have the privilege of living at a time in the universe’s existence where there is an abundance of data readily available that allows me to make a relatively educated choice. You may choose differently and that’s fine. Freedom is a wonderful thing.

I’m Gonna Win A Billion Dollars!!

Well okay…maybe not. But I am atleast glad I finally found some way to insert my NCAA March Madness brackets into an entry here at The Manofesto.It’s not exactly perfect, but it’ll do.

bballmadness3

As you can see, my Final Four consists of Florida, Virginia, Duke, & Oklahoma St., with the Gators eventually upending the Cowboys for the national championship. This looks like one of the more wide open & competitive tournaments in recent years, and alot of talking heads seem to be predicting a plethora of upsets. Some are even saying that none of the #1 seeds might make it to The Final Four. I don’t buy that. More often than not chalk ultimately rules the day. Oh sure there will be a few upsets. That’s what keeps things interesting. But I don’t think it’s wise to get crazy…even when the “experts” keep talking about parity and teams being “mis-seeded”. That committee is made up of folks who know what they’re doing. They certainly know more than most of us.

I don’t consider a 9 over and 8 or even a 10 over a 7 to be all that big of an upset, so in this year’s first round (yes I still call it the first round no matter how much they try to shove their fuzzy math down our throats), I am forecasting eight real upsets, with nearly half of them occurring in the South region. To be honest that is probably too many, but I suppose we’ll see.

Beyond the first round there are just a few teams I really like as “Cinderellas”…Tulsa, Oklahoma St., Oregon, & Nebraska. I have the Cowboys ending up in the title game and going down to Florida.

I think alot of folks are expecting early exits from traditional powers like Duke, Kansas, North Carolina, Syracuse, & Arizona, but I have all of them getting by their first round opponents and all but Arizona getting to atleast the Sweet 16. The most overrated teams in the tournament for me are Ohio St. & UCLA, both of whom I have being defeated in the first round.

So there you have it. The next couple of weekends should be alot of fun. I encourage y’all to enjoy The Madness. Fill out brackets. Enter office pools. Compete with friends. But don’t expect to walk away with Warren Buffet’s billion dollars…that prize shall be mine. But if you’re really really nice maybe…just maybe…I’ll share.

The Manofesto Presents: Literary Madness

Citizens of The Manoverse know my fondness for lists. I’ve written about my 100 Favorite Movies, 50 Favorite TV Shows, & Top 25 Christmas Carols…among other things. I have pondered the idea of doing something with books but could never really find the right way to go about it. And then a couple of months ago I had a revelation…one that I have been incubating until the perfect time. That time is now.

 

books-award-winners-300x205Today was a big day for college basketball fans, as the 68 team field for the NCAA Tournament…aka March Madness…was announced. I am not above borrowing a good idea or piggybacking off the publicity of other things, so it is with great pleasure and giddy anticipation that I announce Literary Madness.

 

I have pored over various lists and essays about the greatest novels of all time. Some of them I have read, several I have not read but Books-Quotes-47would like to, and there are quite a few that just don’t seem all that appealing to me. I must be true to myself, so in order to get to our field of 64 what I have done is choose 55 rock solid picks that are a good mix of what most agree are “classics” along with some of my own favorites. What about the other 9 spots?? Well, the basketball tournament has “play-in” games, so Literary Madness will have “read-ins” pitting multiple books by a particular author or in a certain genre against one another to decide the remaining entrants.

 

jk-rowling-quotesOnce we reach 64 each book will compete in one of four divisions: Narnia, Potter, Shakespeare, & Grisham. These divisions were given those names for a reason. CS Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia and JK Rowling’s epic Harry Potter books are not part of the competition itself. Why?? Well, because they are series that are comprised of multiple volumes, and I did not think it was fair to choose any single book out of a series nor does it seem right to enter them as an entire compilation…so they are out and must settle for this secondary honor. None of William Shakespeare’s works are part of the competition either since they are plays & poetry and not novels. I have always felt that Shakespeare was something that is best experienced as a live production (even if it is on video…if that makes any sense) the way The Bard’s works were meant to be enjoyed. And even though I have delighted in numerous John Grisham books over the past couple of decades I hardly think his stuff has the gravitas or longevity to go up against some of the world’s best loved literature so he too must settle for having a division named in his honor.

 

You may be wondering how the books will be seeded within each division. I debated that with myself and went back & forth with a few b1options. Since this whole thing is based on my own bias & preferences I decided that atleast the head-to-head matchups should be random. So I literally put each of the 55 entrants in a hat (well okay…it was actually an empty pot from my kitchen) and drew them out. I pondered taking pictures as proof of the integrity of the process, but I decided that’d be kind of lame so you’ll just have to trust me. If at this point you are thinking that I lead a sad little life and have far too much free time I would just say that you might be onto something. I will say that there are some awesome first round matchups that I will have a lot of difficulty deciding. In due time I shall reveal each bracket. Be patient.

 

b2Now anyone who has spent any significant time in The Manoverse knows that this is a long term project. If you think it’ll be finished in a few weeks like the basketball tournament then I’ve got some beachfront property in Ukraine that you’ll just adore. My goal is to complete this tournament before I die. That is as much pressure as I am willing to take on. I don’t think any of these books are in danger of suddenly becoming not good anymore, so if this project takes a few years it’s no big deal. It’ll give me plenty of material for The Manofesto and maybe keep my focus off subject matter that is frustrating, depressing, and otherwise worldly (in the negative sense of the word). That has always been the charm of books for me anyway…the ability to travel thru time and escape into The Land of Make Believe when the real world just gets to be a bit too much, which of course is nearly every day for those who work for a living or even just leave the house occasionally and are forced to deal with humanity.

 

I hope you go on this journey with me and leave plenty of feedback. Ideally I would like to put a poll up for each matchup and let Theb3 Manoverse have a hand in deciding the winners, but for that to work as well as I’d prefer we’re going to have to grow significantly. Maybe triple in size. We’ll see how it goes. It will likely take me a year or more to get thru all the “read-ins” so there is some time for proper ponderation. I will be posting the first “read-in” fairly soon (spoiler alert: it involves everyone’s favorite consulting detective) so stay tuned, God bless, and enjoy!!

Superfluous 7 – Favorite Pies (Happy Pi Day!!)

piToday is March 14…aka 3/14. Geeks, nerds, dorks, neo maxi zoom dweebies, & other assorted inhabitants of The Island of Misfit Toys happily embrace it as National Pi Day in honor of the mathematical definition of the ratio of the circumference of a circle to the diameter, which is approximately equal to 3.14 (and then a bunch of numbers afterward that don’t really matter). Let me assure you that I don’t really understand what I just wrote. Math was never my thing. I’m more of a right-brain kind of guy. However, National Pi Day seems like the perfect opportunity to talk about pi…uhhh…I mean pie. Because in The Manoverse dessert is a much more beloved topic than mathematics.

A physician would likely tell me that I’d be better off writing about (and eating) fruits & veggies rather than sweets, which have always been my kryptonite. My weight loss efforts are rarely torpedoed by chips or other assorted salty snacks. I have proven myself capable of giving up pop (or soda for those of you outside of Appalachia, Dixie, & The Bible Belt). Even fast food is more of a lazy convenience than a true addiction. However, put any kind of cookie, cake, ice cream novelty, pudding, or candy in my general vicinity and I crumble like a Kennedy at an open bar. So in honor of 3/14, aka National Pi Day, your humble Potentate of Profundity ravenously presents…..

 

 

from the home office somewhere off the coast of Nigeria in the Gulf of Guinea…..

 

 

My Superfluous 7 Favorite Pies:

 

 

 

7          Key Lime

I have never been to Florida, but someday when I do finally make it there I hope to pass thru Key West and eat some genuine key lime pie. Until then 754 AI suppose I will just have to settle for what passes as key lime pie elsewhere. I am told that true key limes are more tart & fragrant than what most of us find on the shelves at the local supermarket. At any rate, I am a huge fan of cheesecake but decided not to include it here because it is neither pie nor cake…it is its own special thing. However, key lime pie uses a very similar custard base and is just plain yummy. I could do without the usual meringue topping, but that’s a small nit to pick. Oddly enough I do not like lemon meringue pie (though my father loves it).

 

 

6          Blackberry

What is the difference between pie & cobbler?? What about bettys, crisps, & grunts?? Heck, I don’t know…and I don’t really care!! If anyone feels blackberrydifferently and is offended by me including blackberry cobbler here then I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree. There is an annual Blackberry Festival just down the road from here that is always one of the highlights of summer, and the blackberry cobbler there…topped with your choice of vanilla or blackberry ice cream…is sinfully awesome.

 

 

5          Pumpkin

What would Thanksgiving be without pumpkin pie?? It’s as essential to the tradition as turkey, stuffing, & the Macy’s Parade. The pies one purchases pumpkin-piein stores or at restaurants are decent and what probably 90% of America consumes, but if you have someone in your family that bakes the pie themselves…even if they are using canned pumpkin (they probably are)…then that is a special treat indeed. Personally I like to slather my slice with a heaping spoonful (or two) of whipped cream, but if you don’t have any of that on hand it’s all good…the pie will be just dandy on its own merits.

 

 

4          Pecan

Is it pe-khan pie (beloved by Trekkies everywhere), or is it pee-can pie?? Who knows?? This is the only pie on the list that I have actually dared to pecanmake, and it was darn tasty if I do say so myself!! The secret to pecan pie is the gooey “sauce” made with brown sugar, corn syrup (or molasses), eggs, butter, & vanilla. Otherwise you’d just have nuts in a crust, which sounds kind of prosaic. It’s a wee bit on the sweet side, but well worth the sugar stupor. I prefer to eat my pecan pie warm with a tall, ice cold glass of milk.

 

 

3          Apple

This is America, right?? There is no way that I could leave apple pie off the list. I am not sure how it became a symbol of patriotism and liberty, but apple-piethat is exactly what it has become. I prefer my apple pie warm and a-la-mode, which is a fancy French way of saying “with a big ol’ scoop (or two) of vanilla ice cream on top”. I am not particular about a decorative lattice top, and it really seems like a lot of work for something a person is just going to devour anyway. Actually I am just fine with a crumb topping. One has to be careful with the cinnamon & nutmeg, flavors that should be present but not overwhelming. My grandmother used to occasionally make something called an applesauce pie, which is exactly what it sounds like. I wasn’t a big fan. I need some texture and crunch.

 

 

2          Peanut Butter

Out of all of these pies it seems like peanut butter pie is the hardest to find. It is rarely on any restaurant dessert menu. It doesn’t seem to be easily peanut-butter-pieavailable in any grocery store. No one ever brings one to the family reunion or covered dish at church. But when it is available I do not hesitate to jump all over the opportunity. Maybe the scarcity is what makes peanut butter pie so good?? Interesting query to ponder, eh??

 

 

1          Chocolate

My grandmother…the same one that used to make the dubious applesauce pie…used to come to our house every Thanksgiving with my single chocolate-cream-pie-lfavorite food item of the day in tow…a homemade chocolate cream pie. She made her own crust too, which elevated the whole experience off the chain (I think that’s what the kids say nowadays). I have had many chocolate pies since, but nothing will ever compare to that. There are two key elements of a great chocolate pie. First of all the chocolate filling has to be right. I’ve had chocolate pies that were too chocolaty. If the color of the filling is too dark…almost black…then the flavor balance will be off. Oh…I’ll still eat it…but I won’t enjoy it quite as much. And there must be whipped cream on top. This is going to sound trivial, but unlike pumpkin pie, onto which a spoonful of whipped topping is added to an individual slice of pie after it has been cut, whipped topping should be considered as an ingredient of the chocolate pie and spread on top of the entire thing before it is ever presented for public consumption. And then if you really want to take things to the next level add some chocolate shavings on top of the whipped cream. That, ladies & gentlemen, is Heaven on a plate.