Sunday, October 28, 2012

The LL Chronicles #23: F for Effort

I've been coaching or managing my son's Little League teams since 2008.  During that time, I've come to expect several events that invariably occur over the course of a season. 

For instance...someone's going to cry.  This doesn't happen during EVERY game, but given enough time, there will be a child who is overcome with emotion after striking out or taking a pitch in the ribs or...stealing a base?  This is the actual conversation that occurred during yesterday's game, after one of my players successfully stole second base and then frantically called time out. 

Me: "You OK, Michael?" 

Michael: "My hand hurts." 

Me: "How'd you hurt your hand?  You didn't even slide." 

Michael: "I hurt it playing football." 

Me: " it hurts because you ran to second base?" 

Michael: [sobbing] "Yeah..." 

Me: "Can you stay in and..." 

Michael: "NO!" 

Other predictable in-game events include ill-timed bathroom breaks, my son Jalen theatrically hamming it up for the dozens -- and dozens! -- in attendance and...the annual lack-of-effort, mailing-it-in game. 

I know this is true, because -- for whatever reason -- I remember each one.  Last spring, my Little League Athletics lost to the Braves, 17-5.  And, when my team showed more effort and energy in racing towards the postgame plate of cupcakes than they did at any point during the game, I dragged them all back to the field and gave them...the speech.  The previous autumn, my team lethargically lost to a squad we'd beaten easily twice before.  They, too, were on the receiving end of...the speech. 

Perhaps it's not deserving of the melodramatic ellipsis that precedes it, but "the speech" -- my passive-aggressive attempt to convey fury and rage in a way that seven and eight-year-olds can appreciate -- has become a once-a-season tradition. 

After our first two games of the current fall season, we'd defeated our opponents by a combined score of 39-4.  In our third game,  we played another undefeated team.  This group was led by a manager who's infamous -- within the admittedly tight confines of our Little League district -- for his over-the-top intensity.  And, in spite of the fact that they were missing their two best players, we lost 15-8.  I called our performance "listless" on Twitter, but I was being kind.  Jalen showed some energy in a failed attempt to score from third base on a wild pitch, but not even his irresponsible Ty Cobb-ian spikes-high slide could motivate his teammates to try. 

After the game, it was time for a team meeting and, yes, the speech. 

I hit on all of the youth sports talking points, starting with "opening qualifiers that soften coach's obvious frustration": 

Look, I know it's hot out here.  I know it's been a long day for some of you... 

From there, I jumped into the basics of counting, telling time and emphasizing prime numbers: 

Three hours.  THREE.  That's all the time I ask.  That's how much effort I need from you.  There are 24 hours in a day and I need you to give me three of 'em.  The rest are yours.  Do whatever you want with 'em. 

Now, build to the guilt trip: 

If you don't want to give a good, honest effort, then let me know.  I don't care if we win or lose, but if you're not going to TRY, then let me know.  Let me know so I can tell your parents how much money they're wasting.  Let me know so I can give your at-bats to someone who WANTS to be here. 

And, finish with the empty threat: 

If we play like that next week, I'll just have the league cancel the rest of our season.  And, you can explain to your parents why your weekends are suddenly free.  Don't have 'em call me!  You tell 'em. [pause...point...lower voice] You tell 'em. 

Several days later, we held our weekly practice.  It was clear that my words hadn't resonated with a certain player.  He spent the first few minutes literally rolling around on the infield dirt as he pantomimed dives for imaginary ground balls up the middle.  He punctuated this with self-gratifying giggles and an overall obliviousness to the drills going on around him. 

Me: "ETHAN! Do you want to be here today?" 

Ethan: "Uh, well...not really." 

Me: [Genuinely shocked at his honest response] "Oh! Well, how 'bout you spend the next 90 minute running laps around the parking lot?  That way, you won't be on the field -- where you don't want to be -- and everyone's happy.  Would you like that? 

Look...I know how that sounded.  In my defense, (1) I immediately felt terrible about telling a child to run around incoming and outgoing cars for the next hour and a half and (2) I used my best "Ben Stiller in 'Happy Gilmore'" condescending cadence, so it was more "comedic" than "child-endangerment".  Besides, Ethan pulled it together for the rest of our practice, so DON'T TELL ANYBODY. 

Jalen was the starting pitcher in our next game, giving up one run in two innings and reducing his obese ERA from 21.00 to 14.40.  (Oh, don't look at me like that.  My son's the one who eats up the real-time statistical updates.  I'm merely the conduit via pocket calculator.)  We won by a 15-2 tally.  Everyone in the lineup scored at least one run and, if memory serves, I didn't make any of my players snake their way between entering and/or exiting cars, afterwards. 

Who knew the prospect of "parking lot dodge-car" could be such an effective motivational tool? 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

2012 NFL Pickery -- Week #8

Last Week 

Aaron: 10-2
Joe: 9-3
Current Standings 

Joe: 64-39
Aaron: 59-44

Tampa Bay at Minnesota  (Thursday) 

Aaron: So, Joe sent me his write-up before I had a chance to do mine. I'm surprised (not surprised) that he went with the self-serving fantasy football angle when this Samantha Steele/Christian Ponder conundrum is entering its second full week of being a…thing.  For those of you who HAVEN'T heard, Vikings QB Ponder is dating ESPN college football reporter/obligatory blonde beauty Steele.  It's caused quite a dust-up on…hell, I dunno…Deadspin?  I guess?  It's the first time the dating habits of a Minnesota athlete have been so publicly displayed since the heyday of Ravishing Rick Rude's "What I'd like to have right now…" pre-match promos.  This is a big deal!  (No, it's not.)  Pick: Minnesota 

Joe: I know it's annoying when people only notice these things for selfish fantasy purposes but WHAT was that bullshit at the end of the Bucs-Saints game last week? I'm no replacement-level official, but HOW is it possible that the rule says that a DB shoving a WR out the back of the end zone is neither a penalty NOR that WR is allowed to catch the ball even after he's re-established himself in bounds? This opens up a whole new universe of red-zone defensive strategy, if true. (Whatever, I really needed that Mike Williams TD.) Tampa's defense looks awfully generous, and Minnesota, on a short week, at home, et cetera, et cetera. Pick: Minnesota

San Diego at Cleveland

Aaron: There are no words to describe how much joy the past two weeks have brought me. Here in San Diego, the Chargers fanbase continues to loudly -- profanely! -- lament their team's humiliating loss to Broncos.  Our eternally terrible sports-talk radio stations can't take enough angry calls to satiate my schadenfreude. Eddie from El Cajon!  Tom from downtown! Mike from Del Mar!    More!  More!  Pick: San Diego 

Joe: If Phillip Rivers is even capable of having a bounce back blowout against a bad team, this would be the week for it. Pick: San Diego

Seattle at Detroit

Aaron: There was a genuinely interesting discussion on DLHQ this week regarding the racial component in the amount of criticism received/not received this season between struggling QBs Cam Newton and Matt Stafford.  As an African-American, here's my take:  Stafford's the one who torpedoed my big-money fantasy team this year, so f**k him -- regardless of color.  Pick: Seattle 

Joe: Not to wade into choppy waters or anything, but Newton was also given much more praise/attention last season for his heroics than Stafford was, so his increased scrutiny doesn't surprise me. That said, as a fellow victim of the Matthew Stafford Fantasy Killing Spree, I'm with you: f*ck that guy. Pick: Detroit

Jacksonville at Green Bay

Aaron: Injuries to Jacksonville's starting quarterback and running back turned last week's Jaguars v. Raiders game into one of the most awful offensive performances of my lifetime.  And, the Packers are a titch better than the Raiders, you guys.  Analysis!  Pick: Green Bay 

Joe: This is going to be a pile-on as undignified as anything you'll see in football all year. Pick: Green Bay

Miami at N.Y. Jets

Aaron: The Jets showed some spunk in last week's OT loss to the Patriots.  Although, Jets head coach/defensive genius emeritus Rex Ryan would be well served to NOT give Tom Brady 12-15 yards of free field on every snap in the last minute of a close game.  Pick: NY Jets 

Joe: Miami probably should have won their earlier matchup this season. The Jets rarely play two good games in a row. And despite being on the road, the hurricane conditions in New York today should make the Dolphins feel right at home. Pick: Miami

Carolina at Chicago

Aaron: Just to recap...the Panthers draft QB Cam Newton, hand him the keys to the franchise and ginormous dollar-sign-labeled sacks of cash.  Newton struggles -- in just in his second season -- and is getting killed for NOT giving clich├ęd postgame interviews like a 10-year veteran and his sh*tty body language?!  Let's hope he pulls it together before he flunks out of finishing school.  Pick: Chicago 

Joe: Well now you've got me thinking of Cam Newton as Will Smith in Six Degrees of Separation, practicing the phrase "bottle of beer" over and over and over ... Pick: Chicago

Atlanta at Philadelphia

Aaron: The "Nick Foles Era" starts at halftime, right?  If so, I'm warning you that EVERY lede written about this on Monday will include a terrible joke about Michael Vick, "passing the torch" and an interception.  Pick: Philadelphia 

Joe: Nothing about how his career has gone to the dogs? Pick: Atlanta

Indianapolis at Tennessee

Aaron: Shout out to sportswriters and talking heads everywhere for keeping the 200th "Chris Johnson is BACK" narrative of the season as fresh as the first one.  Pick: Indianapolis 

Joe: If you can't have a career day against this Bills defense, who CAN you have a career day against. Indy's the better team, with the better QB, but they're still inconsistent. Pick: Tennessee

New England at St. Louis

Aaron: The NFL has yet to stage a game in London's Wembley Stadium that -- entertainment-wise -- compares to SummerSlam 1992, held in the same venue.  And, that card included Nailz v. Virgil.  Pick: New England 

Joe: Look, I missed out on the first two times that New England lost out to unlikely NFC West competition. I don't care if this is throwing a game away -- I want in on the ground floor this time. Pick: St. Louis
Washington at Pittsburgh

Aaron: Surprised to see the Steelers defense is still putting up solid numbers this season.  Sure seems like they've been in a few more shootouts than usual.  They should be able to contain the RGIII Hyperbole Machine for a few quarters, anyway.  Pick: Pittsburgh 

Joe: Washington's overrated, but so is Pittsburgh, and I don't think they can keep up in a shootout. Pick: Washington

Oakland at Kansas City

Aaron: Brady Quinn is starting for the Chiefs at quarterback this week.  Pick: Oakland 

Joe:  Good point. Pick: Oakland 


N.Y. Giants at Dallas

Aaron: I can never remember all of the arcane rules that apply to NFC East v. NFC East competition, so I'll just assume that the Giants NEVER lose to the same intra-division foe twice in one season.  Pick: NY Giants 

Joe: Yeah, this one could very well end up being a revenge blowout, satisfying Cowboys-haters the world over. Pick: NY Giants

New Orleans at Denver

Aaron: You know Peyton Manning might be finding his way back to "Manning-ian" status when sportswriters start littering their work with veiled accusations regarding his obvious increase in arm strength since the beginning of the season.  Captain Ahab and his white Canseco, I suppose.  Pick: Denver 

Joe: I hate that sportswriters' tendency to deify quarterbacks and their heroics has made me start to roll my eyes at the mention of Drew Brees lately. I've always liked Drew Brees! Stop making me sick of hearing about how you can never count him out or whatever! Pick: Denver

San Francisco at Arizona

Aaron: Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are angling for halftime interviews on Monday Night Football.  Asking the questions? Chris Berman.  There are men and women who sacrifice their lives for this sh*t.  Pick: San Francisco 

Joe: The NFC West's turnaround this season is as shocking as it is life-affirming. Where's the Clint Eastwood ad about how THIS down-and-out American institution crawled its way back from oblivion? Pick: San Francisco

Thursday, October 18, 2012

2012 NFL Pickery -- Week #7

Last Week 

Joe: 7-7
Aaron: 4-10 
Current Standings 

Joe: 55-36
Aaron: 49-42

Seattle at San Francisco (Thursday) 

Aaron: So,'re telling me that home teams are 4-1 on Thursday nights this season while my record for picking Thursday night winners is 1-4?  If only there was a pattern to be discerned from this.  While I research this, I'll just pick my Thursday night winners based on the cuter helmet.  And, yes, it IS the same formula used by Dwayne in the "Give Me Odds" episode of What's Happening!! -- original air date, November 10, 1977.  Pick: San Francisco 

Joe: I know the "WTF NFC West?!" storyline is a pretty easy one, but SERIOUSLY, THOUGH! Seattle's resume has the most dubious victory (though doesn't the replacement-ref scandal seem like ages ago now), and they have to share their Pats win with the Cardinals, while the 49ers have been kind of enough to remind us every three weeks or so that we tend to overrate them due to their being the 49ers. This seems like a classic rebound game though. Pick: San Francisco

Tennessee at Buffalo 

Aaron: Within a span of six months, Buffalo fans endured the controversial goal by the Dallas Stars and their beloved Sabres in game six of the Stanley Cup Finals AND the "Music City Miracle" loss by their Bills.  This goes a long way towards explaining Joe's recurring Brett Hull, Lorenzo Neal, Frank Wycheck and Kevin Dyson-related night terrors.  Pick: Buffalo 

Joe: By my self-imposed directive that I should pick the Bills to beat bad teams and lose to good teams this season, my pick here should be elementary. The win at Arizona threw that off-balance last week. Time to restore balance to the force. Pick: Tennessee

Baltimore at Houston 

Aaron: 37-year-old Ravens LB Ray Lewis suffered a "complete triceps tear", but there's reportedly a chance that he could be back on the field before the end of the season. Older athlete playing at an all-pro level suffers grotesque exploding muscle injury and has chance at an expedited, heretofore medically-impossible recovery time.  Even Barry Bonds is like, "C'mon, y'all...".  Pick: Houston 

Joe: A bit of underreported good news for Ravens fans this week, as Lewis's triceps injury was to his non-snitching arm. Repeat: his non-snitching arm. Pick: Houston

Washington at NY Giants 

Aaron: The Giants went into San Francisco last week and beat a very good 49ers team without QB Eli Manning putting up exceptional numbers.  Like Linus and the Great Pumpkin, I keeping waiting for that annual late-October appearance from "mediocre Eli".  I never know what to expect when the NFC East Mega-Powers explode and this one feels like we'll be retroactively talking about how "...we should've seen this loss coming..." for the Giants come Monday.  Still...  Pick: NY Giants 

Joe: Here I am, shaking my head at people who refuse to accept that Eli has evolved. And yet, these NFC East matchups steadfastly refuse to make sense. Could the Giants drop all three games against their division opponents? I guess I'm saying yes? Pick: Washington

New Orleans at Tampa Bay 

Aaron: Damned if I can figure out the Saints.  But, they're coming off a bye week AND get to play the second-worst pass defense in the NFL, so we can all mothball New Orleans' whole "riddle wrapped in an enigma wrapped in a vest" description for at least one week.  Pick: New Orleans 

Joe: Tampa's just as much of an enigma, though. I'm not sure I love them as much as I did in their blowout of the Chiefs, but with the transitive property at work, KC beat New Orleans, so the Bucs should beat them by at least 40 points!!! Pick: Tampa Bay

Green Bay at St. Louis 

Aaron: So, the Packers that we've been waiting for all season finally showed up last Sunday in Houston and people are ready to elevate them into the "team you DON'T want to play" pantheon?  I like this match-up for the Rams, actually. They've got a very good pass defense and...wait, Houston had a good pass defense, too.  Pick: Green Bay 

Joe: I think the Packers win, but it's back to those unsatisfying "why isn't this a blowout?" wins. Pick: Green Bay

Arizona at Minnesota 

Aaron: Cardinals QB Kevin Kolb suffered a serious injury last week that involved two of his ribs separating from his sternum.  Between this and the concussion epidemic, my young son will NEVER play football.  He prefers pitching, anyway.  You know what kind of injuries keep a pitcher from making a start?  A blister. A "tired" arm. Et cetera.  Pick: Minnesota 

Joe: The NFC's two feel-good surprise teams of the season get to beat up on each other for our amusement. Taking the home team against a good defense. Pick: Minnesota

 Cleveland at Indianapolis 

Aaron: It's a little unseemly to attribute every Colts win as an inspirational effort for their leukemia-stricken head coach, while chalking up the losses to the "pressure" of playing for their leukemia-stricken head coach.  There's some truth on both sides, I'm sure.  Also true? The Browns are abominable.  Pick: Indianapolis 

Joe: It's important for a growing rookie QB to feed on slow-moving prey like the Browns in order to sustain him through the lean weeks. Pick: Indianapolis

Jacksonville at Oakland 

Aaron: Interesting stretch for my Raiders with three winnable games over the next three weeks. I'm not ready to read anything into last week's near-miss in Atlanta.  Oakland committed 12 penalties (after entering the game with just 10 penalties all season), RB Darren McFadden averaged just 2.5 yards/carry, and QB Carson Palmer crapped the bed with a late pick-six.  Yet, somehow this sh*tty Jags team has become a de facto gut check for the Raiders.  Pick: Oakland 

Joe: Weird seeing such support for a crappy team on the road against an inconsistent team. Not buying. Pick: Oakland

NY Jets at New England 

 Aaron: I understand how the hyper-critical, hyper-cynical 24/7 news thrasher is designed to pulverize professional athletes, but the recent Tom Brady backlash by Patriots fans seems unfair -- even by the standards of a fanbase that has hated on him at times for the length of his hair and his home in California.  He's old, you guys.  He's just old.  Pick: New England 

Joe: I hate when I'm forced to defend Tom Brady, but Cam's exactly right. This is a classic anger game where the Pats let their fans re-inflate their heads while their teams runs up the score. Pick: New England

Pittsburgh at Cincinnati 

Aaron: How do these low-scoring, defense-first AFC North showdowns always seem to be featured on Sunday night or Monday night in primetime?  It's excruciating football that's filled with field goals and punts.  It's pro football's answer to the league that lets the pitcher hit.  Pick: Cincinnati 

Joe: Too true. Picking against the trends here -- Pittsburgh is a team in decline, while the Bengals are going to be maddeningly tough to shake. All NFL prognosticators make "reverse-psychology" as integral to their strategies as I do, right? Pick: Pittsburgh

Detroit at Chicago 

Aaron: The Detroit sportswriters get to cover Yankees 3B/pariah Alex Rodriguez AND Bears QB Jay Cutler in the span of about five days?  How will Mitch Albom juxtapose the two and turn it into another saccharine best-seller that's perfect for Father's Day?!  Pick: Chicago 

Joe: Hate everything about Detroit this week, from their awful quarterback to the dome-team-outdoors thing, to the fact that even their wins look like losses. But I'm not ready for the 5-1 Bears. I'm just not. Pick: Detroit

Thursday, October 11, 2012

2012 NFL Pickery -- Week #6

Last Week 

Joe: 10-4
Aaron: 9-5 

Current Standings 

Joe: 48-29
Aaron: 45-32

Pittsburgh at Tennessee 

Aaron: Lots of ugly football last week and the Steelers' unwatchable contribution followed their usual low-scoring, formulaic slog.  The Titans are undeniably awful, but these Thursday Night games do tend to bring out the best in the home underdogs.  Tennessee outright?  Nah, but they'll hang around long enough for late Steelers score to decide it.  Pick: Pittsburgh 

Joe: It's a good thing there's so much baseball on tonight to distract from this dog of a game. Are the Steelers the most uninteresting playoff contender in the league? Nobody even cares about Roethlisberger and how he's a disgusting rapist anymore. They're the better team here, but I continue to hold on to some dumb hope that the Titans are a spoiler this season. Plus, like I said before, gotta keep these Thursday picks interesting. Pick: Tennessee

Oakland at Atlanta 

Aaron: Weird season for my Raiders, as the media narrative surrounding them seems to change from week to week.  After losing to the Dolphins in week two, the team was "terrible".  Oakland upset Pittsburgh in week three and the team has "heart".  Peyton Manning surgically removes the Raiders' hearts in week four and we're back to "terrible".  One thing hasn't changed: the Raiders' secondary IS terrible.  If you missed the evisceration that was Buffalo at San Francisco last week, you'll get to witness it here.  Pick: Atlanta 

Joe: Nobody's really going to have any faith in the Falcons once the playoffs roll around, right? Pick: Atlanta

Cincinnati at Cleveland 

Aaron: Is this the game in which we all look at Cleveland's last two or three weeks as moral victories based on their effort or relatively small margin of defeat and pick 'em to beat an up-and-down Bengals team at home for their first victory of the season?  Just checking.  Pick: Cincinnati 

Joe: Oh, twist my arm. Pick: Cleveland

St. Louis at Miami 

Aaron: I'm not sure that a pair of in-division home wins are enough of a case for me to pick the Rams this week.  The Dolphins surprisingly possess the best run defense in the league, which shouldn't surprise anyone who can actually name someone on Miami's defensive front line.  Without looking it up, Joe.  I am not that person.  Pick: Miami 

Joe: I mean ... Jason Taylor, right? Pick: Miami

Indianapolis at NY Jets 

Aaron: After last week's emotional win home win against Green Bay, the Colts will inevitably be the inspirational pick here against the dysfunctional Jets.  But, sometimes the happy ending goes horribly wrong.  Like when a rookie QB plays on the road or for those of you who planned on voting "Democrat" in November.  Pick: NY Jets 

Joe: I refuse to listen to you on BOTH those counts, sir. And I will also not mention baseball AT ALL right now. Pick: Indianapolis

Detroit at Philadelphia 

Aaron: Have the Eagles fielded the three most famous black quarterbacks in NFL history?  I need to bring this up at my barbershop next weekend, but Randall Cunningham, Donovan McNabb and Michael Vick are 75% of the famous black QB Mount Rushmore, no?  Who's the fourth?  Warren Moon?  Good, borderline great, but famous?  Steve McNair?  More famous in death.  Holy cow, is it Kordell Stewart?  Pick: Philadelphia 

Joe: Doug Williams won a Super Bowl! Daunte Culpepper was a 1st-round fantasy pick! Vince Young is Kordell Stewart with a NCAA National Championship! Pick: Philadelphia
Kansas City at Tampa Bay 

Aaron: The Bucs have nice little run defense, but a closer look at the numbers shows that they've been stopping a sorry collection of RBs this year -- including Carolina's two-headed, four-legged mediocrity, Dallas' perpetual black hole in the backfield and, of course, Ahmad Bradshaw.  Pick: Kansas City 

Joe: Kansas City's defense might be the perfect salve for Tampa's sputtering offense, though. Pick: Tampa Bay

Dallas at Baltimore 

Aaron: Look, I've defended Cowboys QB Tony Romo. I think he gets WAY too much sh*t considering the supporting cast that Old Man Jones has brought on board.  But, the narrative after last week's loss to the Bears ("It wasn't Romo's fault!  His receivers can't run routes!") makes me wonder if we've come all the way back around to mollycoddling the guy.  This week should take care of that conundrum.  Pick: Baltimore 

Joe: Mollycoddling! Jalen, you go out back and cut your daddy a switch! Pick: Baltimore

New England at Seattle 

Aaron: The Seahawks field a top 10 running game and a top 10 defense against both the run and the pass.  They're next to last in passing offense, though, so this one should be low-scoring and dependent on the ground game.  Seattle certainly could steal this, but would you trust Seahawks QB Russell Wilson to move the length of the field, if needed, to win the game?  Now, how about Tom Brady?  Yup.  Pick: New England 

Joe: All my usual platitudes about "It would be great to see the Pats lose but they won't" apply here. Pick: New England

Buffalo at Arizona 

Aaron: Fun fact -- With last week's loss, Bills head coach Chan Gailey's career winning percentage is .435.  It all depends on when he's fired this year, but he still maintains a slim lead over the career winning percentage of Dick Jauron, the previous Bills head coach (.423). So, there's that, Joe.  Pick: Arizona 

Joe: He's not getting fired this year. He's a good coach. Not even kidding. Pick: Arizona

NY Giants at San Francisco 

Aaron: We're six weeks into the season and STILL haven't had one of those nonsensical week-long sports talk conversations where we collectively ask, "What's wrong with Eli Manning?" or "Has Tom Coughlin lost this team?"  We're due.  Pick: San Francisco 

Joe: Are we? I'm sensing an overconfident letdown game. Or am I hoping for it? Pick: NY Giants

Minnesota at Washington 

Aaron: I'm not trying to make light of this, but the Redskins QB options are a concussed Robert Griffin III or a healthy Rex Grossman.  I mean...they're  Pick: Minnesota 

Joe: Keep trying to find SOMETHING interesting to say about this one, but I'm coming up empty. Hey! Remember when the Redskins won the Super Bowl IN Minnesota? Perfect place for a Super Bowl, the dead of winter in January in Minneapolis. Who'd they beat again? Pick: Minnesota

Green Bay at Houston 

Aaron: The performance of Texans RB Arian Foster single-handedly torpedoed two of my fantasy teams last week.  I'm just saying I'll be pissed if he doesn't give that same kind of effort here, when he knows he WON'T be playing against my fantasy team.  Pick: Houston 

Joe: Whereas an uncommonly quiet day from Andre Johnson saved by fantasy bacon. Yin and Yang! Pick: Houston

Denver at San Diego 

Aaron: I didn't think I could enjoy a Chargers loss any more thoroughly. But, listening to their fans meticulously piss n' moan about the officiating -- verbally breaking down the Saints game tape like the Zapruder film -- all week long has been absolutely magical for me.  Magical.  Pick: San Diego 

Joe: One of these days, I want a link to a blog written by one of Cam's neighbors or co-workers or someone who is subject to all these anti-Chargers screeds on a daily basis. I just want to see how the city of San Diego copes with such an assault. Pick: San Diego

Thursday, October 4, 2012

2012 NFL Pickery -- Week #5

Last Week 

Aaron: 11-4
Joe: 11-4 

Current Standings 

Joe: 38-25
Aaron: 36-27
Arizona at St. Louis 

Aaron: It's easy to look sideways at the Cardinals' three-point OT squeaker at home over a mediocre Dolphins team last week and question whether Arizona's 4-0 record is real or a mirage. You know what's even easier? Picking against a Rams team that's playing on a short week with a dinged-up running back against a decent run defense. Pick: Arizona 

Joe: I actually thought the Cardinals showed a lot in that win over Miami. Fighting off an obvious letdown game and coming back to do so? Sure, it was Miami, but they've been a tough out this season. So is St. Louis, I should mention, and you know how I feel about division games on the road. I think Arizona is the clear better team here, with their defense, but why not make it interesting? Pick: St. Louis

Miami at Cincinnati

Aaron: The Bengals are in the middle of an especially unimpressive run of cupcake opponents -- Jacksonville! Cleveland! (Twice!) Miami! -- and could be 5-1 in advance of their Week #7 Sunday night showdown against the Steelers. I was WAY late to the Bengals bandwagon last year and had to stand in the aisle. Of course, I was thrown through the windshield when the bandwagon crashed after I picked Cincinnati to beat Houston in the first round of the playoffs. I've learned nothing! Pick: Cincinnati

Joe: God, remember when these two teams and the Bills were the top of the AFC heap in the early '90s? ...No? Well, it happened! And Americans watched a show called Picket Fences! It was a different time! Pick: Cincinnati

Green Bay at Indianapolis

Aaron: So, who'll be the first national football writer or TV personality to juxtapose the Packers' tainted Monday Night Football loss two weeks ago with the recent news of Colts head coach Chuck Pagano's leukemia diagnosis and use it to condescendingly explain to us all what REAL hardships are? (It'll be Bob Costas.) And, will he be able to fit it all into a single "Sunday Night Essay" segment? Pick: Green Bay

Joe: Is THIS the week the Packers actually decide to start playing? Also, is there a head coach in the league you're more certain you'd have hated in college than Mike McCarthy? Pick: Green Bay

Baltimore at Kansas City

Aaron: A "Show-Me State" thought experiment: Ask any dyed-in-the-wool, red-state Missourian if he/she would rather have four more years of President Obama or 2 3/4 more years of Chiefs head coach Romeo Crennel finishing his current contract. You have to live with one! Pick: Baltimore

Joe: How long til we start talking about Jamaal Charles and Dwayne Bowe like we talked about Larry Fitzgerald last season? Fantasy juggernauts stuck on terrible teams: life's greatest tragedy! Pick: Baltimore

Atlanta at Washington

Aaron: The Redskins aren't a great team, but they're good enough to give the Falcons a few fits with their offense. All things being equal, I'd even take the Redskins if rookie QB Robert Griffin III wasn't, y'know, a rookie. But, if we learned nothing else from Jamie Foxx's performance as rookie QB "Steamin' Willie Beamen" in Any Given Sunday, it's that Jamie Foxx is kinda overrated as an actor. Wait, that was Ray that taught us that. Never mind. Pick: Atlanta

Joe: I guess I'm the guy who overrates the Redskins this year? At least for picking purposes. No team can stay unbeaten forever! Or for five weeks, I guess! Pick: Washington

Philadelphia at Pittsburgh

Aaron: The death of Raiders owner Al Davis guarantees that I won't have to worry about any "Raiders Acquire Eagles QB Vick for Draft Picks" headlines this offseason. I would've happened, people. Pick: Pittsburgh

Joe: No, but seriously, how does Philly keep winning these games? Pick: Pittsburgh

Cleveland at NY Giants

Aaron: Hopefully, you guys follow at least a few Giants fans on Twitter. This feels like one of those games where they'll be dispensing ALL CAPS RAGE TWEETS throughout the first half, before the Giants remember they're two touchdowns better than their opponent and pull away late. (Don't let me down, Tom!) Pick: NY Giants

Joe: Hi, Eli, remember your trusty TE Martellus Bennett? Throw to him again. Pick: NY Giants

Seattle at Carolina

Aaron: My eight-year-old son has been reading those "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" books. One of the major plot points in the first book involves some kind of school yard curse called the "cheese touch". I'm boring you with this in the hope that our nation's sportswriters can come up with a hackneyed dairy-related nickname for the karmic "curse" that befell the Seahawks after their referee-stained victory over Green Bay two weeks ago. "The Curds Curse"? Fuck it, go with that. Pick: Carolina

Joe: I'm basically arbitrarily picking the Seahawks here, on the back of a stalwart performance by oh, let's say, Marshawn Lynch. Pick: Seattle

Chicago at Jacksonville

Aaron: The Bears' next four games are all very winnable. This should allow QB Jay Cutler to build up just enough goodwill for fearlessly leading a 7-1 team in to mid-November. He will inevitably crash and burn in back-to-back weeks against Houston and San Francisco, but that's like five or six weeks away. Let the ol' sourpuss enjoy October, OK? Pick: Chicago

Joe: Trap games still exist, right? Didn't we all have a raging, high-handed, hurt-feelings debate among sports fans as to whether trap games exist? If they do, this is certainly one. And while it gives me that deep, pit-of-your-stomach feeling like when you're at the top of a rollercoaster to pick the Jags ... oh, hell. Pick: Jacksonville

Denver at New England

Aaron: The Schadenfreude -- emanating from ESPN's Podcenter by way of Los Angeles by way of Boston -- has been out full force this week. But, before we eulogize Peyton Manning's limb, perhaps we should remember that his Broncos have lost twice this arguably the two best teams in the league. Cancel the amputation. Pick: Denver

Joe: Sweet Jesus, how would I like for Peyton to beat the Patriots this week. Only a deluded asshole would think a "reverse jinx" would work. (Also ... pretty sure it's just a "jinx" -- a "reverse jinx," like "reverse racism," is a made-up thing that doesn't even mean what you think it means. Yeah, Universal You, I said it!) Pick: New England

Buffalo at San Francisco

Aaron: Let's take Joe's mind off of this inevitable annihilation by taking him back 20 years. In 1992, the Bills played in San Francisco and defeated the 49ers 34-31 on a Thurman Thomas 11 yard TD run in the 4th quarter. QB Jim Kelly threw for 403 yards and three touchdowns. Good times. Pick: San Francisco

Joe: No punts in that game! Anyway, I guess the Bills are the "beat the bad teams, lose to the good teams" squad this year. We've had worse. Pick: San Francisco

Tennessee at Minnesota

Aaron: Titans backup QB Matt Hasselbeck, 57, looked pretty damn good in relief of an injured Jake Locker last week. If RB Chris Johnson's smoldering corpse wasn't lining up behind him, I'd give this one a closer look. Meanwhile, Minnesota is...NOT terrible? Pick: Minnesota

Joe: My bald-head boyfriend Matt Hasselbeck ... wish I could pick you here, boo! I've somehow become a Vikings semi-believer. Pick: Minnesota

San Diego at New Orleans

Aaron: Lot of confidence filling the sun-drenched streets here in San Diego this week. Three wins against three terrible teams has Chargers fans forgetting that their team isn't as good as their 3-1 record seems. With news that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is allowing exiled Saints coach Sean Payton to attend this game in some nebulous capacity, I'm smelling the laziest postgame storyline of the season. Pick: New Orleans

Joe: San Diego only beats bad teams ... but the Saints might be one. That said, they probably SHOULD have beat the Packers last week, and they can't stay winless forever. Pick: New Orleans

Houston at NY Jets

Aaron: There's no way Tim Tebow's NOT starting the second half for the Jets here, right? Pick: Houston

Joe: You're part of the problem! Pick: Houston