Tuesday, April 29, 2008

NFL draft report card: A for Affort!

Websites dedicated to analyzing and grading the NFL draft are the third most common on the Internet trailing only those featuring porn and those promoting gold and agriculture stocks to Canadian retail investors. So why would I, with my humble little column, dare enter the fray? Good question. Firstly, that's a stupid question and secondly, I have an edge. While most of the analysts focusing on the draft spend countless hours poring over tapes, stats, Wonderlic scores and criminal background checks I have the advantage of having very little time, experience or resources. Most of the acknowledged experts who preview, and then review, the draft are usually made to look like absolute fools once those selected actually start playing (assuming they ever make an NFL roster. I'm looking at you Oakland Raiders!) so perhaps the time has come for a whole new approach. Without any further ado, here goes...

The first ten picks were not made by the Buffalo Bills so I'm going to venture a guess that there were a couple of decent picks, presumably the Falcons and Lions made bad choices (Lions weren't even in the top 10. Shows what I know) and that Howie Long's son is ridiculously overrated just like his Dad was. Beyond that, who cares (you read the not Bills part, right?). At number 11 we have the 87.5% Buffalo/12.5% Toronto Bills. They addressed one of their two glaring needs with...

CB Leodis McKelvin of Troy. This pick was a homerun and here's why:
a) Have you ever met someone named Leodis you haven't liked?
b) Helen of Troy was hot but couldn't run a sub 4.5 40. McKelvin of Troy can. Best of both worlds.
c) Insurance for the Bills in the return game and immediate help in nickel and dime packages even if he isn't ready to start across from Terrence McGee. By midseason our starting corners will be just Leodis and Terry McGee. La dee da, da da da da da da da.


A new favorite at all-girls summer camps


Picks 12 through 40 were again made by other teams that I couldn't have cared less about. A handful of guys from big name schools picked too high, two or three guys who will be in NFL Europe by 2010, the Lions presumably picked up another couple receivers and the first Kentwan ever selected in the first round. It's a big day for Kentwans everywhere. With the 41st pick, the Buffalo Bills selected:

WR James Hardy of Indiana. Another one knocked out of the park by the Bills brass. I immediately went searching for a Hardy jersey on eBay only to find a bunch of obscenely expensive t-shirts. Let me get this straight, there are t-shirt with tattooish patterns and rhinestones that sell for over $200...to men?! You idiots. You've seen this movie before with that last incarnation of "Hardy" t-shirts. It was called Von Dutch. Now you can find all the trucker hats you want on the TJ Maxx clearance tables beside the poker chip sets and martini shakers. Anyways, Hardy is exactly what this team needs. The shady past is hopefully fully in the past. Besides, there have been some truly awful receivers who were choirboys. Michael Irvin went to the Hall of Fame with his fur coat, coke and hookers in hand.

42 through 71 more of the same. Why can't you guys just go on auto-draft so we can get to the Bills next pick. Finally (a day later!!!!) we get back to Buffalo at 72.

DE Chris Ellis of Virginia Tech. Defensive end....Pass rush specialist....Va. Tech....name that doesn't clearly denote whether he is white or black.....Bruuuuuuuuuuuuuce!

Blah, blah, blah on to pick 115 and the highlight of round 4.

CB Reggie Corner of Akron. You know when someone says "____ is my middle name" to indicate some sort of interest or aptitude. Well, Reggie Corner has them all beat. Corner is his last name (his middle name is lockdown) and yes, if you're wondering, he is a Corner of the Lancashire Corners. They've been proud corners for generations, going back to the late 18th century. Unfortunately, Johnny Pass Catching Tight End decided against entering the draft this year.

116 through 131 went by without a German or anyone who graduated with a degree in Pharmacology selected. I wonder what Mel Kiper thinks of that! Whatever he thinks he'll be proven wrong in less than 18 months so I guess it's irrelevant. At 132, the next member of the future Super Bowl champions is:

TE Derek Fine of Kansas. I'm pretty sure he was the bass player on their 5th and 6th albums. Unfortunately he had nothing to do with "Carry on my Wayward Son". Still, a valuable addition to the thin tight end ranks.

Then with the 147th pick in the 5th round the good guys went out and got:

LB Alvin Bowen of Iowa State. An undersized linebacker. You can never have too many of those! I know nothing of him so I'm going to make up something interesting. Alvin speaks Aramaic and once correctly identified the last 23 US Presidents by their handwriting alone. He was stumped by James Garfield who Bowen claimed never used cursive and that the whole test was a fraud. Alvin is clearly someone who doesn't like to lose. That's exactly what this team needs especially on special teams where he is most likely to see the bulk of his playing time.

Round 6 saw the Bills make a pick that seemed a bit strange at first, but there was method to their madness.

RB Xavier Odom of Northwest Missouri State. I immediately thought this guy's name sounded made up and so did his school. It turns out this was a diversion the Bills used to confuse the Patriot spies within the war room. While they were busy trying to figure out who this guy was the Bills were able to write down the names of their next three picks without anyone in New England seeing them. If you rearrange the letters in "Northwest Missouri State" you get "Belichick go F yourself". If the Patriots were smart enough they would have realized the ruse from the start. The Bills have enough running back for three or four teams in the shape of one Marshawn Lynch.

With pick #219 the Bills made a very intriguing selection.

OL Demetrius Bell of Northwestern State. Demetrius' Dad never really identified with his son. "I'm pretty sure he's mine but boy, does he ever look like that mailman". Let me explain that stupid joke, Demetrius Bell's deadbeat dad is multimillionaire Republican, Karl "The Mailman" Malone. Apparently this mailman didn't always deliver when it came to solid parenting or sufficient child support. Hopefully Demetrius, who is (like his father) a ridiculously gifted athlete, can channel the anger towards his deadbeat Dad into becoming a force on the O-line. The Bills best lineman now, Jason Peters, was an even more raw project when he was brought in as an undrafted free agent so there is precedent here.

Anyone not drafted now must really be pissing themselves. Inboxes are being filled with resumes of applicants with half-finished Communications degrees. With the 224th pick the Bills threw a bone to:

WR Steve Johnson of Kentucky. Surprisingly a guy named Steve Johnson from Kentucky has dreads. Apparently he's buddies with Marshawn so he must be amazing.

The Bills last pick was a compensatory pick for losing a free agent. I think the concept of compensatory picks should be used in all facets of life. "Sorry I your stole your girlfriend but hey, you'll get a late 10th round pick to try and replace her". It would certainly take the sting out of life's more traumatic moments. I think this was also the basis of the Marshall Plan but then again history was not my major.

CB Kennard Cox of Pitt. Well Ken, good luck. Guys picked 251st rarely make it but at least you can enjoy a training camp in Rochester. I'm sure they'll let you keep your jersey.

Well that's it. Overall I'd say the draft was perfect. The two glaring needs were met with the first two picks and everything else is gravy. Now we wait. If anyone knows of a way that I can hibernate until two-a-days start, let me know.

Get to Know Your Fellow Commuters: International Edition

...what types of salad dressing do you have?

- (in heavy Italian accent) Uhh, we have oil and vinegar on table.

- No, I mean like ranch, thousand islands. What are my choices?

- The oil is right here.

- I guess that means Eye-talian dressing?

(this was an actual conversation between a group of American tourists and a remarkably restrained Italian waitress overhead recently outside of Rome)

***


The Holt family has recently returned from Italy (this fact should explain the lack of output from us here at the WWNW). While there is much to love about that fine country there was one very disturbing aspect that reminded me all too much of home. We were staying in a small Tuscan town just outside of Florence. After a number of days filled with adventurous and often frustrating attempts to navigate the area by car we decided to take the train into Florence (notice I am not using the Italian name for the city. There is very little in the world more annoying than someone who comes back from a trip and shares their new found 10-word foreign vocabulary with their friends and co-workers. "The coffee was so much better in Bartthhelona." It's all very Madonna/Paltrow-esque).

Our party included my wife, her mom, her aunt, Charlie and I. As we walked on to the rain I assumed that someone would vacate for any, or all, of us. Father with baby in arms, new mom, Grandmother or Great-Aunt are all people with a claim on seats that clearly subordinates that of the median train passenger. This group appeared to be a particularly able-bodied one yet, no one got up. It was a full ten minutes of pacing up and down the train before the single decent person on the crowded train did the right thing and offered up her seat.

I'm reasonably confident that even the miserable crowd on a typical Bloor-Danforth westbound morning run would have at least a couple volunteers gave up their seat. Quit clearly, in Italy TTC stands for Treno full of Total Crap. The most surprising aspect of this collection of asswipes on rails is how much they worshipped young Charlie everywhere else we went in the country. We could hardly walk a block without being stopped so some starstruck local could fawn over little Charlie. It was as if we were pushing a 9.5 kg George Clooney around town. Men and woman, young and old, it was as if these people had never seen the world's cutest and smartest little blonde toddler before, that is, unless it required the sacrifice of standing for a 25 minute train ride. On that train she, and the surprising amount of stress she was putting on Daddy's back, might as well have been invisible. These are, for the most part, wonderful people accept when seating is involved. Then everyone's inner Mussolini shows up.

What was the big deal? Italians stand around a lot. They drink coffee standing at the counter. There are no public benches anywhere. Doorways are full of people smoking while standing. I saw little old ladies trekking up Tuscan roads. It is quite evident that they have learned to cope very well in the absence of a chairs. The seats weren't even that comfortable. So to all but one of the passengers on the Filigne Valdarno to Florence route last week, voi suck!

Other than that, Italy was wonderful. Thanks for asking.

I came home to one very troubling sight. Where the Hell did all these "diehard" Montreal Canadiens fans come from? When I go away is no one keeping an eye on this place? By the number of car flags seen around town you'd think Marty McFly had gone back to the Plains of Abraham and seriously messed things up.

There are a couple of possible explanations for this contagion of habs fandom. Firstly, the "closeted" Habs fan now feels free to flaunt their deviant proclivities given that Leaf fans have been demoralized by three straight years of missing the playoffs. While bothersome there's really no solution. As Leafs fans we have no ammunition to berate legitimate Canadiens fans with, even if they are being more boisterous now that the hometown team has been vanquished.

The second explanation (and most likely both of these are applicable to some degree) is that these are Leaf fans who are just jumping on the Montreal bandwagon because they're the only remaining Canadian team. This is quite simply ridiculous. Would Yankee fans support the Red Sox if they were to face the Jays just because their teams both played their home games in the same country? This is more of the misguided nationalism that I have lamented in the past. Would Canadiens fans don the blue and white if we made it farther in the playoffs than they did? If you believe that, well, you're an idiot.

In sports, former enemies don't band together to take on greater foes. This isn't Revenge of the Nerds 2. If you are a fan of the Maple Leafs you cannot also be a fan of the Canadiens or the Senators. I heard the same sort of absurd talk last year when Ottawa made their run to the finals. If Ottawa was in a seven game series against the combined stars from North Korea, Iran and Syria I would have bought an "Axis of Evil" jersey. Yankees fans can't support the Red Sox. People will souls can't support the Patriots. It is unnatural behaviour. Your contempt for your rival should far outweigh any potential allegiance you may have based on something less pertinent like geography, religion or culture. Ethnographers and paleontologists have been chronicling this for centuries. It's science, look it up. So unless you are a legitimate fan of the Canadiens, and the Canadiens alone, take that damn flag of the car and go watch a Jays game, you treasonous fool.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Get to know your Fellow Commuters: Part 4

....No, no, no. I said "caulk". I was talking about the advertisement with David Suzuki and his "caulk". I guess that did sound kind of funny.

***

This Friday afternoon is moving at the speed of continental drift (or a Molina brother, take your pick). 4 o'clock felt like three days ago. I'm in desperate need of something to occupy my mind for the next hour or so. If MLSE really wants to reach out to the fans they should have one of their teams, on a rotating basis, play a Friday afternoon game. It would engender much goodwill with the fans looking for something to get the clock moving at the end of the week. Even better they could have an extended intermission, between say 5:30 and 6:30 regardless of the sport, so we could watch the conclusion at home or at a local establishment with a beer in hand. At first glance it sounds a bit absurd but if you consider the PVR world we all live in it seems less ridiculous. Now that media can be consumed on an a la carte basis why not take the work out of it for your customers. This is starting to make more and more sense. I hope you're reading this Dick Peddie. I'll even let you take credit for the idea.

Oh, I almost forgot. I've got a couple more people to add to the "Get to know your fellow commuter" series. Ah screw it, I'll finish this on Monday...

Monday, April 7, 2008

Too soon?

..."well," said the nurse "they seem pretty cold. I guess we can take his gun away now".

***

Thursday, April 3, 2008

The Complete Lack of Passion that Unites us all

...first of all, it was for a part in A Chorus Line, secondly, it was the eighties and finally, I was probably high. Things were a lot different back then so don't you dare judge me.

***

I've had some time to cool down. I think I can now comment on the pathetic end of the 2007-2008 Toronto Maple Leafs season without resorting to violence or tears. While the newspaper pundits, talking heads and predominantly mouth-breathing fans that call the local radio stations are tripping over themselves to point fingers at every player and every member of the organization, very little criticism is being levelled at those that deserve it the most. A week ago this Tuesday, the Leafs came home after back-to-back wins in Buffalo and Ottawa to play what had somehow become a legitimately important hockey game against Boston. The Bruins were the weakened prey desperately clinging to the 8th and final playoff spot and we, the Maple Leafs, were hot on their heels. The game started with the young Leafs looking nervous and suddenly unsure of themselves as they faced a game that actually meant something. This is where your fans rise up to support you with both encouragement and energy. It is the players' job to win but every now and again those in the seats are called upon for a bit of a push. Football teams put the "12th man" on their walls of fame because of these very moments. Of course, we all know what happened. The fans showed up late, sat on their hands and eventually started booing before leaving early. Game over. Season over.

There's been a certain symmetry to this forgettable season. It started with a spirited effort on the ice which was met with apathy and petulance from the privileged assemblage at the house that inflated investment management fees and $100 oil built (see October 4th post) and ended with an even less enthusiastic response when it was needed most. The energy and electricity that the home team thrives off of was absent throughout the 40 home games played to date, with the possible exception of this past Saturday's game when the lower bowl was full of Montreal fans. As distasteful a concept as that is, at least there was a large gathering of actual hockey fans in the good seats. In fact, that meaningless game was the most fun I'd had at a Leafs game in the last few years.

As I watched the Jays and Yankees play their opening night game I was literally moved by the passion of the sold out crowd. This was for 1 of 162 games in a season rather than a "do or die", "lose and you're done" affair. Plus, its in New York where their bankers are richer, their CEOs are more important and their old money is even older (and more monied) than ours. If there is any populace that has a justifiable case to act like a bunch of self-important, "too cool to stand up and make noise" wallflowers it's them, not us. Yet, there they are. Standing and yelling, resplendent in team colours, even if they came directly from their Wall Street offices or a foie gras tasting in the Hamptons. Okay, that may be a bit of a stretch but please allow me a bit of leeway for exaggeration here for emphasis.

What is it about our upper crust (be they legitimately up and crusty or just pretending to be so) that makes them so miserable? Why must they ruin every sporting event in this city by turning it into a place to be seen but definitely not heard? Furthermore, why does this not elicit more of an outcry from the legitimate fans of the Leafs or those of the other Toronto teams? Sure the team has a myriad of deficiencies and ample room for improvement, but at some point the silent majority in the golds and platinum must shoulder some of the blame for yet another waste of a season. Look deep inside that empty suit of yours and see if there is even the slightest bit of you that actually cares about this team. If so, and I'm begging you here, just stay at home next year. If you must just please don't buy Raptors playoff tickets as well. It's Spring so the ByMark patio will be open soon. Take your clients or meet your douchebag friends there.