Saturday, December 25, 2010

Badvertising: Trojan Triphoria


I saw this crazy little ad yesterday, during the day, in the middle of a Star Wars Marathon on Spike. So I'm sure no kids were watching. Not that I care if kids see stuff like this, since they either don't know what it is or if they do know should be taught that the female orgasm is a wonderful thing which should be encouraged and pursued with gusto. So you'll get no morality lesson from me.

But still, just... wow. What a crazy ad, and what a time to have it on. I thought it was funny, but it seems more like an ad aimed at guys, similar to any number of low comedy beer commercials, with the aim to get them to purchase said product for the lady in their lives. It doesn't seem like the type of ad which would actually make women buy things.

The product name is interesting too: Triphoria. I assume its a combination of "Three" (for the 3 options) and "Euphoria". But it also sounds like one of those name brand medicines they sell using ambiguous commercial with lots of old people biking in the woods, like Propecia or Cialis. Or alternatively, it sounds like some kind of virus you don't want to get. The Triphoria Virus: it kills you three ways!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Holiday Thought Experiment

A quick Holiday Economics thought experiment: is famous for their free Super Saver Shipping, which is bulk ground shipping that they promise will take 5-9 business days.  Often times products will arrive sooner, but this is not guaranteed.  All during December Amazon had a countdown of how many days were left that customers could still enjoy Super Saver shipping and have their purchases arrive in time for Christmas.  As expected the last day was 9 days before Christmas.

And then suddenly I get an email: Super Saver has been extended.  Suddenly you can take advantage all the way till the 19th, a mere 6 days till Christmas, and a Sunday no less, which will certainly cut down shipping speed.


How can they guarantee 5 day shipping on shipping which is supposed to take 5-9 days, especially during the busiest shipping season of the entire year?

My hypothesis: Amazon has decided to pay the increased cost of faster shipping, still calling it Super Saver but actually eating more of the cost per unit shipped.  This will cut into their profit margin, but its worthwhile in this limited situation. Amazon knows that most people have a certain amount they will spend for their Christmas purchases, and they need to take this step in order to offset their biggest drawback as a shopping service: the need to order things far in advance.

So Amazon accepts a lower margin per purchase, but does so in order to capture purchases which they otherwise would have been shut out of.

There is a side note here: Amazon could have told customers that they were planning to extend the Super Saver deadline beforehand, but they choose to wait until the clock had "run out" before announcing the extension.  The reason for this is easy: psychologically pressure as many sales as possible before the false deadline, and then cash in on any "bonus sales" they got during the extended deadline.  It also likely saved them some money, because they will not have to pay the extra shipping charges on orders which they theoretically would have gotten anyway but would have been delayed due to later ordering.

Sometimes the world really does work in a way described in Econ books.  Maybe its a Christmas miracle?

Monday, November 15, 2010

Le Burger C'est Magnifique

I saw this article about how 5 Super-Chefs combined their forces to become a VoltronChef for some benefit at the Four Seasons.  It was a mild little article without a lot to remember, but there was one quote at the end which made me very happy.

Joel Robuchon was named "Chef of the Century" by Gault Millua.  He has contributed to Larousse Gastronomique, authored several other bestselling cookbooks, is a role model for generations of aspiring chefs, and has been awarded more Michelin Stars than any other chef in the whole bloody world.   So what words from this culinary Grand Master made me smile so smugly?
"And Robuchon wanted to hit up electronics stores; he admitted that he loves an In-n-Out burger, but that shopping is his real guilty pleasure."
His guilty food pleasure is a Double Double.  This from a man who owns the top 5 rated restaurants in the whole country and the top rated restaurant in Las Vegas.  I think In-n-Out should get a Michelin Star by default for that.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Show Must Go On

I haven't yet had a chance to see Lombardi on Broadway, but I hope I get a chance to take it in before the run is up.  I very much enjoyed David Maraniss's "When Pride Still Mattered", the thorough Lombardi biography which inspired the play.

Even if I don't get a chance to see Lombardi, I know I'll do whatever it takes to see the follow up play:

Friday, November 12, 2010

Badvertising: TurkeyTail


Turkey day is coming people, so don't forget to stock up on the essentials.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Happy Veterans Day

Veteran's day was originally Armistice Day, the day that marked the end of the Great War. I was hoping to have completed reading a book dealing with that conflict to review for a post today, but I dropped the ball.

World War one is less remembered in our country for many reasons, but at least it's remembered, if only indirectly, through the establishment of Veteran's Day as a national holiday.

Of course, the War to End all Wars did no such thing. As a result, men like Richard Winters had to lead another generation into battle. His story has been well documented, but thankfully its power has not diminished over time.  The ending to the documentary "We Stand Alone Together" remains especially poignant.

Happy Veteran's day to all vets and those on active duty. Thank you.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Sugar Stasi and Freedom Fries

Welcome back to "Food and Politics" week!  For our next course we turn to the Quitta from Wasilla.

Half term Governor Sarah Palin gave a speech at a fundraiser for a private school in Pennsylvania, and her remarks caused some "controversy".  Which is exactly what they were designed to do.  Imagine that.

Palin kicked off "cookiegate" (gag) by decrying a proposed ban on cookies in schools which the evil government (read: the democratically elected state government of Pennsylvania) is planning to implement.  This totalitarian rule will be enforced by the Sugar Stasi, who will roam the halls confiscating anything that isn't whole grain, low fat and free of taste.  Violators will be punished with plates of steamed lima beans, which is better than those monsters deserve!

Well, not quite. You see, the state government is thinking about possibly voting on recommendations to schools, which would encourage them to limit the sweets offered at in class parties, and to encourage them to offer health snacks too.  There is no "ban" of any kind.  There are no penalties for not following the guidelines. 

We can debate the impact of such guidelines.  My guess would be that they wouldn't amount to much, especially since a lot of effort has already been made by some parents to provide healthier foods at these occasions.  Given that these are free guidelines meant to encourage healthy eating, the worst we can probably say is that they will have no effect.  Whatever we think, its important to look at the actual facts of the situation before we react.

Amazingly, Palin failed to address the truth or nuance of the situation. Instead, she "liberated" the dangerously underweight kids in the audience by bringing them store bought sugar cookies and then railed against the "nanny state".  Her rhetoric was perfectly reasonable and informed:

"I wanted these kids to bring home the idea to their parents for discussion," said Palin. "Who should be making the decisions what you eat, school choice and everything else? Should it be government or should it be the parents? It should be the parents."

Um... Governor Palin. The State DOES decide what a lot of these kids eat.  Each of those kids who gets a school provided breakfast or lunch, or who pays for one in the cafeteria, is being served by the state.  At an even larger level, a huge portion of most of these kids' (and our) diets are shaped by government agriculture policy, usually in a bad way.  If you're really worried about the government's role in the pantry, there are much, much bigger (and fattier) fish to fry.

Furthermore, there is no proposed restriction here on what parents (the citizens who elected the government who is making these rules) can give to their kids.  None.

The best part of all this: this was a private school.  Even if cupcakes, sweets and cookies were outright banned by the public school system, it wouldn't effect ability of the kids at this institution to stuff their pie holes until the Type 2 kicked in.  Just as Adam Smith intended.

Shattering the looking glass

This is the New York Times today.  For a short time it was the lead story on the Front Page.

"Biden Parodies in The Onion Strike Comic Gold"

The money quote:

“Let me get this straight: You want to interview the vice president about stories about him in The Onion?” Mr. Carney asked, sounding at once amused and dumbfounded by the request. “Well, I’ll give you credit for trying.”

This is "The Paper of Record" for the United States of America.

Its not even under "Arts and Leisure", its in the "Business" section.

They did a story is about a series of parodies by a fake newspaper. 

And they didn't even mention the best one:

Biden Invites Nation's Women To Tax Code Discussion At Private Mountain Chalet

When you pick cherries, beware of the pits

The Atlantic brings us an article about the psychological basis for our nation's (or any nations) political polarization.  As evidence of this polarization, Lane Wallace points to another recent column by Charles Blow of the New York Times, using Blow's arguments to counter beliefs expressed by President Obama that most voters are not merely partisan automatons:

In his press conference following last week's election, President Obama told a questioning reporter that he "didn't believe people carried around with them a fixed ideology"--that if you'd asked most people on Election Day, they would have said that there were some things they agreed with Democrats on and some things they agreed with Republicans on.

Wallace then cites Blow's article as evidence that the President is incorrect in this belief.  Unfortunately (or fortunately, perhaps), Blow's alarmist thesis about the danger of our partisan divide is not very convincing once you look at his data.

Blow supports his arguments with two bits of data.  The first is shown in a graph found here, which illustrates a downward trend in ideological crossover voting in Congressional elections over the last 30 years.  In other words, self identified liberal voters have been less likely to vote for Republican House candidates.  Likewise, conservatives have been voting for Democrats in decreasing numbers. Certainly a possibly sign of polarization, but scale is also important.  As you'll notice, the big drop on the liberal side is from 20% to 10% since 1982.  For conservative voters, the drop is larger, from the low 30s to mid teens.  Both trends indicate a higher degree of partisan sorting, but the small magnitude is not so alarming as Blow makes it out to be and the conclusions of hostile partisan conflict do not necessarily follow from the evidence.  The alarmist could point out that crossover voting has declined 50% (I'm surprised Blow didn't given the tone of his piece), but its just as accurate to point out that crossover was never that likely and has only become slightly less likely.

What's happening here?  There are many possibly explanations, mostly having to do with partisan sorting and the realigment of the parties over this period.  Its no secret that the old Southern Democrats have all but vanished, replaced by Southern Republicans who are of a different party but occupy much of the same ideological space. Likewise the moderate Republican may also be going extinct in some areas like the Northeast.  This has created more polarization in Congress, as measured by roll call votes.

We must remember, however, that the underlying policy preferences of the electorate need not be changed.  The same district which would have elected a Southern Democrat 40 years ago may now elect a Republican instead, but this need not lead to any significantly more gridlock or polarization than it did then.  The voting record may be more conservative overall, but the policy preferences of the district are may be basically unchanged.  If the behavior of the Representative follows these preferences than the policy outcomes need not be necessarily different.

Another thing to remember is that this is a sample of voters, who we might expect to be more loyal to a given party.  This is especially true for midterm elections, which are lower profile affairs where motivated partisans are far more likely to turn out in order to support their chosen political party. 

Finally, there a huge piece of the puzzle left out: moderates.  Self described moderate voters are the largest group in out body politic, and as they go so goes any election.  Obama won because he won more moderate support.  Republicans won this month because they flipped that around. The plurality of voters, by very definition, favor moderation. 

Blow's other piece of data is even less convincing.  He writes:

And the new Republican majority in the House comes to power with a sour sentiment from their electorate: make no deals and take no prisoners. A May poll released by the Pew Research Center found that a plurality of Republican voters said that they were less likely to vote for a candidate who “will compromise with people they disagree with.” They want either steamrollers or roadblocks, not consensus-builders.

Fortunately for us, and unfortunately for his argument, Blow helpfully links to the poll in question.  In looking at it, we see that what he says is technically true: 40% of self identified Republican voters say that a willingness to compromise does not appeal to them when casting their Congressional vote.  Sour, indeed.  But looking closer, we see that almost equal number of that same group, 35%, say that a willingness to compromise is actually a positive for them.  Additionally, 20% are unsure.  So if we take the glass is (more than) half full approach,  60% of Republicans did not express an overt dislike for compromise. 

Further hurting this story is the fact that the other two relevant groups, Democrats and Independents (both of which are larger than Republicans), willingness to compromise won out among voters.  For the whole sample, 42% said that ability to compromise would effect their vote positively, while 29% were indifferent to the quality.  Bringing up the rear were those who disliked compromise in a candidate, with only 22% rating it as a negative.

The funniest thing is that Blow somehow missed the title of Pew's press release for the poll: 

"Willingness to Compromise a Plus in Midterms".

He must have needed a whole bucket for all the cherries he was picking.

One even larger issue with Blow's whole thesis is the fact that he never really addressed what President Obama said about voters!  The President was referring to policy preferences, not merely to partisan vote choice.  Its been proven by smarter men than me that the average citizen is capable of holding a variety of policy opinions which cross what we would assume to be the normal partisan lines.  Context, nuance, world conditions and random chance all factor into citizen's expressed preferences at any given time, be it Election day or any other day of the year.  Furthermore, there is much that strong majorities of Americans do agree on when asked about their individual policy preferences.  This agreement cuts across ideologies, partisanship, and generations.

Political polarization is real.  Its likely growing, especially among elites, and it does create real problems to efforts to create good policy.  But hyperbole and bad science don't help the situation.  Let's not forget that this nation of ours was once so divided that it literally divided, and the results were not pretty.  With that in mind I have to disagree with Blow when he declares that we are in the "twilight of American moderation".

Monday, November 8, 2010

Government Cheese...

"...and living in a van down by the River!"

Interesting article in the Times this weekend, which sheds some light but also brings up a lot of questions. 

To summarize: The government heavily subsidizes our dairy industry.  The end result being that the government ends up owning a lot of cheese.  A lot.  As in hundreds of millions of pounds of cheese.  Naturally the government can only have so many Taco Tuesdays, and so they need to find a way to get rid of all of this extra milk and cheese that they own.

To help in this process, the government formed an agency called Dairy Management, which sounds like a CIA front company if I ever heard one.  Dairy Management is funded mostly by fees on dairy producers, with a small portion of its budget coming from taxes.  But in reality, all of this money is tax money, since the dairy farmers are paying back a portion of their government subsidies.  DM's job is to promote the consumption of milk products, especially cheese.  To do this, they have worked and continue to work with fast food companies to develop and promote new products with more cheese content.

More cheese on pizza equals more cheese sales,” Mr. Gallagher, the Dairy Management chief executive, wrote in a guest column in a trade publication last year. “In fact, if every pizza included one more ounce of cheese, we would sell an additional 250 million pounds of cheese annually.”

More cheese means more cheese. Got it.

The article goes on to describe how DM used their stunning grasp of cheese economics to help Dominoes develop a better pizza which was enjoyed more by customers and thus helped their sales.  And by "better" pizza they mean "they put a whole lot more cheese on top".

Anyone who knows anything about nutrition knows that cheese is high in deliciousness but low in health value. It tends to be high in calories, fat, and saturated fat, which is why people love it so much. But these pro-cheese efforts come in direct conflict with other government efforts to get people to eat a healthier diet, one which is lower in saturated fat and, by extension, contains less cheese. That's punchline to this article, as it points out the conflict here between different government agencies.

I like this article overall, and I think its the type of investigative news we need more of.  My only objection is the way the story is framed overall.  The writer frames it as a negative case of "government vs. government", which of course is true, but in reality its not as crazy or idiotic as its made out to be.  There are legitimate competing interests here, public health vs. the dairy industry, and both have been successful in getting their voices heard by the government.  Dairy Management exists because the Dairy industry has been able to put political and financial pressure on the government to create a subsidy regime.  The public health concerns exist because another part of the citizenry has pressured the government to try and promote healthy eating.  The government has responded to the demands of its constituencies, which is often a complicated and contradictory.

I would have preferred the author to talk more about the driving force in all this: the huge subsidies given to the dairy industry and their effects.  The really root of the problem and what to be done with it is barely discussed. Maybe this is a realistic view to take since changing the status quo would be so difficult, if not impossible, but I think it would be more productive to focus on solving the larger problem instead of putting all the emphasis on the conflicts of interest.  I think most Americans, myself included, can probably agree that its a good thing in theory to have a strong dairy industry.  But I think we can also agree that when paying out enormous subsidies actually results in the American diet becoming less healthy, this is a bad thing.  I'm not sure exactly where the balance should be, but I think that these subsidy efforts need to be pared back or eliminated.

There are some other, more disturbing parts of the article.  They discuss possible faked or fudged scientific research meant to promote dairy foods as health foods, and possible retribution against researchers who refused to shape their findings in this way.  If true this would be far worse in my mind than the idea of promoting putting more cheese on a pizza.  Its one think to push a product and let the free market decide (though in this case I doubt you could call it a true free market), its another thing to poison the well of information while people are making those decisions.

One thing that really struck me that wasn't talked about in the article: Just how freaking dumb is Dominoes?  They knew their pizzas sucked.  They wanted to sell more pizzas.  Yet it took a government agency to clue them into the simple idea of adding more cheese.  How was this such a big mystery?  I put cheese on lots of stuff, because its great and it makes just about everything better.  Its not that complicated:

1) People like cheese
2) Add more cheese
3) Profit

Dominoes isn't the only fast food company which has made use of Dairy Management in order to increase their sales.  Pizza Hut's idea to put cheese directly into the crust was a DM innovation, as was their "Summer of Cheese" marketing campaign.  Which is just baffling to me.  For all we here about the innovative power of the private sector and the idiocy of the government, why does it take a government agency with an agenda to clue in the private sector on the basics their own business?

I can't wait till next week when there will be an article about how Pork Management caused a revolutionary breakthrough when they clued in food providers that people really like bacon.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Wherefor art thou, Highlights?

It seems I praised NFL films a bit too much in my post to open the season.  I think they've started to take me for granted.

First, they haven't produced "Game of the Week" since the end of the 2008-2009 season.  The last "Game of the Week" was the Super Bowl between the Steelers and Cardinals.  Its now been a season and a half with no new features.  My only guess at the reason is the death of narrator Harry Kalas in April 2009.  Harry's death was a loss for all of us, but surely the show must go on, right?

Another thing which is bad may not be related to NFL Films directly, but is related to the NFL and how it handles its video content.  For some reason the NFL has ceased to create self contained highlight videos during this season.  These are videos of a game which show only highlights coupled with the radio calls of the given team making the highlight, which no studio input or outside narration.  They would always be listed simply, with a title like "Chargers 21, Raiders 14". Now for some reason this practice has stopped, which is really a pain because the only way to try and get a full video of highlights is through a recap show.  That can be fine sometimes, but its far from perfect. I've seen them do highlights for a game where 40+ points were scored, and the whole reel consisted of one play and lasted less than 30 seconds.  That's hardly what I'd call full coverage.

So what's the deal?  Where are our highlights?

Saturday, November 6, 2010


Tonight I went to a dumpy little pizza place to get a sandwich.  This particular place is really basic, they appear to have only like 5 items, all with big pictures on the board.  It only looks like there are 2 types of pizza, cheese and a different type of cheese, and everything comes with a flat fountain drink and costs a nice round number, like $5 or $6.  No separate tax calculation or anything too complicated.

But they do make a good meatball sandwich.

Anyway, I got said sandwich and the fountain drink it comes with, and before I had said anything the cashier was packing it all up to go.  It was at this point I realized there was no one dining in, every one of the few customers in the store was getting their food to go. And its not a small place, there is plenty of seating.

But the funniest thing is that the cashier proceeded to put the top on my drink and then put it directly into the paper bag, next to the sandwich.  I'd never seen this done before, mostly because its crazy and just asking for a spill.  But the whole experience seemed to imply strongly that they didn't want anyone hanging around to, you know, eat their food.

The name of this establishment?  "Family Affair".

I'm pretty sure that place is a front.

Election Fever: the Recovery

We had an election this week.  An election which proceeded normally by most measures, and was strange by others.  We knew from lunch time on 1/20/2009 that the President's party was going to lose seats in the midterms, we just didn't know how many. 

If you had told me a year ago (or 6 months ago, or whenever), that the Republicans would win 60+ seats, I would have thought it possible.  If you had told me that Harry Reid would be reelected to his Senate seat, I would be skeptical, but allowed that it, too, was possible.  Now, if you had told me that both of these things would happen on the same day, I would have thought you were nuts.  I would have gladly taken your money and given you good odds against it, and today I would be much lighter in the wallet as a result of my hubris.  The only consolation I take is knowing that I wouldn't be the only prognosticator who would have been so very wrong. 

There were a few things that salvaged this from being a complete fucking disaster.  Thankfully, Sharron Angle was defeated.  I'm also thankful that O'Donnell was defeated, but that was a sure thing, while Angle looked to be on her way to Washington. And that wouldn't have been good, because Sharron Angle is a crazy person.

Let me say that again, because it brings a certain type of catharsis: Sharron Angle is a crazy person.

In my own home state we cut our typical, slightly right of center swath through a series of ballot measures.  No (legal) pot parties for now. No taxes to pay for state parks. No new taxes at all actually.  But at the same time our voters were clearheaded enough to see through a ballot measure which I'm pretty sure was written on the Koch family stationary, and we also introduced a mild bit of sanity into our government with the passage of prop 25. So overall I'd give us a B-, thought I fear that we've just kicked the can down the road again, and we are running out of road.

There was a lot to be upset about, but I wasn't.  Truth be told, there was only one thing which really got on my nerves.  Not the outcome.  Not the endless, boring analysis and hand wringing from the chattering class, which appears to be the only growth industry in America right now.

No, the thing which really got me steamed was a segment on ABC nightly news (I know, I know) the day after, talking about soon to be Speaker Boehner.  The soft focus was in full effect, and they opened the piece with a "But who is this new man, chosen to lead the House?"

John Boehner has been in Congress for twenty goddamn years.  He was already Majority Leader, and he has been Minority Leader for 4 years. There isn't a big mystery here.  But, sadly, there is.  Because I soon realized that most of the people watching this segment were probably getting introduced to the Tan Man for the first time ever, and it made me feel sad.  And angry.  And pasty.

Its not even about Boehner.  I don't loathe him a tenth as much as I loathe many of his minions, soon free to roam the House at will and sit in the big boy chairs.  Bachmann.  Barton.  Issa.  King. The other King, who has the same name and looks a lot like the other, other King but isn't him.   Boehner is downright lovable by comparison.  But the Boehner piece made me realize that if people can't even be bothered to learn who he is, what chance do the rest of them have of being exposed as the monsters they are?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Meat and Potatoes

There's a new show on Food Network, called "Meat and Potatoes".

I actually watched (sort of) what I think is the first episode of it.  I say sort of because I had it on the TV with no sound, looking over intermittently while working on the computer.  From what I could tell, the show involves one shot of meats in various forms after another.  First there was some grilled chicken.  Then some steaks. Then some ribs. Then what looked like rack of lamb.  All these foodstuffs seemed to be added, one by one, onto a platter over the course of the show.  At one point there was some sauce.  There was also some bald guy who occasionally took a bite of the various cooked meats on display.  There was a short 

From my brief, muted viewing of the show, "Meat and Potatoes" looks tasty, especially since it looks heavy on the former and light on the latter.  But I'm not sure I see the point.  It looked like an even more generic version of "Triple D" or something like that.  Most of the travel/food shows showcase things that are interesting or unique: giant food, crazy food, "The Best Thing I Ever Ate", etc.  This didn't seem to have any particular angle, at least that I could discern without the sound.

Oh well. I doubt I'll watch again, especially since the next episode is likely to balance things out with a heavy dose of spuds.

Just in Time!

Today in the mail I got a magazine style bit of campaign literature.  It outlines all the ways in which Jerry Brown is the devil incarnate, and all the ways in which Meg Whitman would be the best thing to happen to California since the founding of In-n-Out.  It looks fairly well put together and must have cost a pretty penny to create and mail out to millions of potential voters.  No doubt it was paid for out of the record setting $190 million dollars Whitman spent on here own campaign, the most private money spent by any candidate for any office ever in history.

The election was two days ago.

I'm an absentee voter, so my ballot was filled out two weeks ago.

Maybe next time spend enough money to mail out your campaign pitch to people while they still have time to vote.  Mailing it early might not change anyone's mind, but I can guarantee that this magazine can't possibly effect my vote now.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A plea

Tonight's Chalie Rose featured two brilliant sages offering their insights on the election: David Brooks and Chris Mathews.

Shoot me.  Right in the head.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Fine Wine?

I've noticed an odd new marketing trend which has popped up a lot in recent weeks.  I keep getting and/or seeing offers for bulk wine purchase at supposedly huge discounts.  I've gotten at least two such offers from my credit card companies, one in the mail, one with a magazine I subscribe to, and I've even seen a variation offered on Groupon.

The basic setup is you get 12 bottles for around $60, plus tax and about $20 for shipping.  So all in you pay around $85-90.  Divide that by 12 and you're paying about $7 a bottle for wine.  I think a few of them may have cost a little more, but in general it totals to under $100.  And each of these "deals" is advertised as giving you a savings of around $100, since the supposed retail price is $150+.

Whether this is a deal you are interested in depends on your consumption of and taste in wine.  I haven't yet taken advantage of it, but that could change.  But what's really interesting to me is why all these "wine clubs" seem to have sprung up in the last few months.  Is there a glut of unsold wine which dealers are eager to get rid of?  Are inventories really so high?  I suppose it possible, if wine consumption has gone down with the economy.  Wine doesn't necessarily go bad, at least not quickly, but it does take up space and eventually you have to move product.  It would make sense as the driving force behind all these "clubs" and deals.

Looking at another issue, is there really so much profit margin built into the wine business that they can cut their prices in half and still be economically viable?  And are all these supposedly independent wine clubs actually being run by the same distributors?  I mean, I seriously doubt that the New York Times has gotten into the wine selling business, they probably are just putting their name on it and taking a cut.  So what's the story?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Random NFL fact of the day

I just realized something: each of the last 3 years, the Browns have defeated the defending Super Bowl Champions. 

Last week they beat the Saints.

In 2009 they beat the Steelers.

In 2008 they beat the Giants.

They didn't play the Colts in 2007.  Which is probably good for the Colts.

Not sure what this means.  Maybe its just coincidence.  Maybe its some neat factoid about parity in the NFL.

Maybe I think about football too much.

Sisyphus 2010

I've never worked with photoshop, but since we are headed for a long off season I figured I might as well give it a try. Behold, the mind of a nerdy football fanatic!

Monday, October 18, 2010


Things are bad right now for the Bolts.  Real bad, and looking to get worse.  But as bad as they are, at least we can always rely on the suffering of others to cheer us up.   Bless the 1-5 Cowboys and their hilarious screwups for bringing a glimmer of joy to our hearts. 

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Tea for Me, no Tea for You

"A hall full of elderly white people in Medicare-paid scooters, railing against government spending and imagining themselves revolutionaries as they cheer on the vice-presidential puppet hand-picked by the GOP establishment. If there exists a better snapshot of everything the Tea Party represents, I can't imagine it. "
While this isn't the most comprehensive or groundbreaking article on the so called Tea Party movement, Matt Taibbi does hit on some great points in tracing its evolution and current status.  

I'm not sure what would be more infuriating: if these people get what they say they want, or if they don't.  I wonder if they would even know the difference.

Badvertising: Junk vs Junk

Americans eat crap. And we eat a lot of it. And so do our kids, and as a result a lot of them are overweight and develop poor eating habits which affect their health for the rest of their lives. This is a serious issue, which needs to be addressed in serious and honest ways and with adjustments to our public policy, much of which actually fuels the problem with

But ads like this aren't the answer. Sure, its entertaining and sick and engaging on a gut level. I wondered, I cringed, I laughed. But it doesn't get the right message across, and its extreme to the point of self parody, which pretty much kills any power it might have had to sway the diet choices of its viewers.

Cheeseburgers are not heroin. They aren't the healthiest thing in the world, but they sure as hell aren't heroin. It would have been better to play up positive food choices, or to focus attention on educating people on why things like HFCS are unhealthy, or what the role of moderation in diet choices. Instead we get this admittedly shocking but ultimately empty and feckless ad.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Half Full, Half Empty

Two games into the season, its time for some snap judgements!  The optimist in me sees big things ahead, while the pessimist in me is grumbling over another tumbler of scotch. 

Empty:  Ryan Mathews is averaging a fumble a game.  He's Adrian Peterson without the production.
Full:  Its only because his enormous muscles make it hard for him to secure the ball.

Full: Ryan Mathews apparently has magical healing abilities.
Empty: If he's so tough, why did he get hurt in the first place?

Empty: We're gonna trade VJ to the Vikes, who will then beat us in the Super Bowl on a TD he scores.
Full: At least we'll get their draft picks in a draft which probably won't happen.

Full: No punt coverage breakdowns this week.
Empty: No need for coverage when the punt is blocked.

Full: Ryan Mathews respects his elders.
Empty: Calling him "Coach Norv"?  Come on kid, that's just wrong.

Full: We are strongly favored against the Seahawks.
Empty: An incredibly loud stadium in an place where it rains 90% of the time.  Sound familiar?

Full: Antoine Cason is playing great and is also a great interview.
Empty: Mathematically, compared to Cro, there's a far lower chance he will produce a talented offspring.

Empty: has apparently gone away, so we don't have our coverage maps.
Full: "The game is blacked out".  What else do you need to know?

Empty: The Chiefs are currently in first place.
Full: The Chiefs are currently in first place.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A goo by any other name...

Apparently those really awful PR commercials didn't do the trick.  Despite all the money spent by America's Corn Refiners, people just don't seem to like High Fructose Corn Syrup.  Wait, scratch that.  America LOVES HFCS, but for some reason they don't like its name.  Which is totally bogus, given that its made up of 4 words which are, at worst, neutral, and at best really great (who doesn't love syrup?)

But faced with a fat and hateful public, our patriotic corn syrup makers have decided to face the music and change things.  No, they won't be halting production on our blessed obesity sludge.  Nor will they be tweaking the formula to make it healthier.  They've done the best thing of all: given it a new name!


Its sugar!  Made from corn!  Which is healthy (sort of, but not really this particular kind of corn). 

So rest easy and eat up America. No more harmful fructose syrup for us.  Just good old fashion corn sugar, like Squanto taught the Pilgrims how to grow.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

A lot of Blue Hokie

College football fans, I beg of you: can we please stop the BCS debate circle jerk for 5 freaking seconds and just enjoy the fact that its football season?  Is it possible for us to just reflect and enjoy the spectacle that was Boise State vs. Virginia Tech for what it was, and not try to weigh it down with a lot meaningless baggage?  Its bad enough that ESPN was and is shoving the narrative down our throats constantly.  But we all know that ESPN and the whole sports media is filled with soulless, brainless hacks and hype makers.  So I implore you, ignore the sound machine and enjoy the ride.

Here's what happened last night: two good football teams beat the shit out of each other for our amusement.  It was a glorious thing to behold, and a worthy candidate for inclusion high on a list of reasons to love college football (or sports in general).  Enjoy it, because its a great thing and a great way to kick off the football season, which I shouldn't have to remind you is a marathon, not a sprint.  Maybe Boise stumbles, maybe they run the table, maybe they do or don't "deserve" a shot at the big one.  All I know is that I'm gonna focus on the games this Saturday instead of gnashing my teeth over a hypothetical game next year.

Other random thoughts from the game:

-Kellen Moore has one goofy throwing motion, but damned if he doesn't get the ball where it has to go. 

-Tyrod Taylor looks like he's growing into his potential, and its gonna be fun to watch what he can do in the ACC this year. 

-I was lukewarm about the new uniforms that Nike designed for both teams, with the exception of the Tech helmets, which were bad ass.  Reminds me of a motorcycle helmet from Sons of Anarchy.

-I realized that my observations sound a little PKish.  I apologize. 

Badvertising: Sunday NFL Countdown (featuring a special guest apperance)

This is a weird one, because its a great bad commercial.

Philip Rivers has 5 young children. As trying as that must be for parents early on a weekend morning, I guarantee its better than having to babysit for these guys.

This is not a great commercial, because it doesn't make me actually want to watch Sunday Countdown. Its a great bad commercial, because it accurately distills why its such an unwatchable, soul-grating program. That look on Rivers's face at the end is perfect. Spending your Sunday morning with these moronic, braying chuckleheads would be agony, especially since you know you are just hours from the blessed glow of watching actual football being played.

There is one good line in this spot, which rings partially true because, despite his great movement in the pocket, Rivers does run like a goofy kid wearing snowshoes.

I'm also curious about whether that's his lucky jersey shirt that he wears the night before a game. I always figured he wore his piggy wiggly shirt for good luck.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

I DEMAND that we have fun!

Now I want a snack!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Quote of the day: HST returns

              "There is nothing supernatural about it, but I have seen it happen over and over. Football fans share a universal language that cuts across many cultures and many personality types. A serious football fan is never alone. We are legion, and Football is often the only thing we have in common. We recognize each other instantly, even if we have to speak in sign language. No doubt it has something to do with the gambling instinct, which is also universal.

              The next time you find yourself in need of conversation in some backwoods foreign airport, as I have from time to time, take this tip and look around for the nearest public TV set that is tuned to a football game. That will be your oasis, no matter how long your layover may. You will get your questions answered."


Another piece of wisdom from the always quotable Dr. Thompson.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Quote of the day

"In any case, I have watched football games from every angle from the sideline in Oakland and the huddle in Frankfort, Ky., to the top row of the Superdome in New Orleans and the press box in Washington -- I have watched them in Kezar Stadium and from the deck of a big sailing yacht 500 miles south of Bermuda with naked women lolling around -- and I can tell you for sure that the best seat in any house is right in front of a high-end TV set with a few good friends who know football and like to see green money moving around the room. That is how it should be done. Selah."

                                                                                                              -Hunter S. Thompson

It's almost here.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Rites (and Wrongs) of Autumn

      The mercury is ever so slowly creeping downward.  Each day is a bit shorter.  The leaves are starting to turn.  The change of the seasons brings many things: numbing cold, work, holidays with family, the end of sitting in the sun and drinking to your hearts content.  But the trade-off for all these things is the return of my favorite institution:  The National Football League! 

      No other sports league brings me such joy and heartache.  Baseball is fun, and basketball and soccer can be a nice enough distractions during the off season, but nothing tops the excitement that the NFL brings to my life.  Football is my favorite sport, and the way I know that is the "reason test".  Its simple: for any other sport, I need a reason to watch.  Doesn't have to be a good reason: my favorite team is playing, some player I like is in the game, a record could be broken, its the playoffs or a championship match.  I'll watch curling if a gold medal is on the line.  But I always need something to draw me in, otherwise I won't really care enough to sit down and watch.

     But football is the exception.  I need no reason.  Pro, college, high school, whatever you got, I'll watch it, and I'll love it.  And of all these levels, the NFL is my favorite. So in anticipation of another great season, I've endeavored to talk about some of the things that I love and hate about professional football.  The positive things that make being a fan more enjoyable, and the negative factors which seek to suck the joy from this wonderful game of ours.  Just for semi-clarity's sake, positive things will get a fun little positive note, while negative things will get a bad note, and the extent of the note will be a pseudo gauge of my feelings about that thing.  For example, something marked "Touchdown" will be better than something marked "Field Goal".  Obviously.  And everything is colorized for your eye straining convenience! So let's make a like a fullback on the goal line and plunge right in!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Ya think?

Quote of the day: "He asked me to marry him way too early. And he wasn't divorced yet. I should have known there was a problem."

-Marianne Gingrich, 2nd wife of Newt Gingrich, in this month's Esquire

I always knew Newt was a scumbag, but hearing it from (one) of his ex-wives really puts a face on his hypocritical evil. I swear with every fiber of my being that I'll do whatever necessary to keep that man out of the White House.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Babysitter of the future

Its the babysitting solution of every parent's dreams!

No more having to shell out for some snotty teenager who will probably spend the whole night eating your food and messing up your TIVO settings. No more longing for lazy ass scientists to invent a reliable robot nanny. No more begging family and neighbors to watch your kid (and making promises to watch theirs in return) while you head out to catch a movie and some badly needed cocktails.

The baby is happy, fed, and safe. Its not going anywhere in that thing, and choking isn't an issue.

Brilliant! Though I wouldn't recommend prolonged use. And you probably shouldn't put it on your best chairs in the living room like this couple did. I recommend a tarp.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Knockout remix

Ok, so stupid FIFA with their stupid copyright has blocked the first video I put up of the Donovan goal. Fascists! Don't they know that The Beautiful Game belongs to all of the world's people?

But here's an even more exciting version of the goal.

I actually had the Spanish language ESPN on for the goal due to browser problems at around the 80th minute, but even they weren't this excited. Radio takes special talent to both show and tell.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Knocking down the door to the Knockout round


What a long strange trip its been, following this team through the CONCACAF qualifying, Confed cup, and through 3 excruciating group round games. I've watched enough soccer in my life to know that we were all but dead in the water, at 0-0, about to suffer the indignity of being unbeaten and still going home early. We would have had justification to piss and moan about the refs for the next 4 years, but that's all history now. Ghana on Saturday, and only 4 wins from the hardware.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

This was a man

Coach John Wooden went home tonight. There will be a ton of stories and retrospectives on his life and work, most of which will be better than mine, but I still wanted to add my short memorial.

I never got to see Wooden coach, as he had retired long before my time. I never met the man despite sharing a city with him my whole life. I never even really played the sport at which he was such an amazing talent and had unmatched success as a coach. And yet he did touch my life in some small way.

Like most who have played sports, I've read his seminal book, Wooden, and tried to glean whatever I could from it. I wish I could say that he's inspired me to be a great person and succeed both on and off the field of play, but that wouldn't be accurate. To be sure, I've tried many times to follow his advice, but I've always fallen short.

Despite this, his words stick with me. I can still quote a lot of it from memory. I read from his book when I was asked to lead prayer in school. One of my favorite passages has nothing to do with basketball, but about appreciating what you have. Wooden tells the story of a graduation at which he got a $2 bill as a present, along with the sage advice that as long as he kept that he would never be broke. Its a simple story but its always stuck with me, as has most of his advice.

At my high school graduation I gave a copy of Wooden to each of my closet friends. Who knows if they ever read them, took the messages to heart, or tossed them at the first convenience, but I'm still glad I gave them out, as I cannot imagine a better gift for a young person.

I already knew of Wooden's passing, but there was one voice I longed to hear tell it. Thankfully, we still have Vin, and as expected he was touching and poignant through the grief of the moment.

I would say Rest in Peace, but I can't imagine a more useless urging. Coach Wooden lived in peace, he'll surely rest just fine.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Badvertising: World Cup

Its almost World Cup time people!

I know that most Americans don't actually care that much about the actual biggest sporting event in the world (no apologies to the Super Bowl, as much as I love it). Despite the fact that soccer is (was?) the fastest growing sport in America and far more of our youth put on shin guards than shoulder pads, the game suffers at the spectator level. Which may seem odd considering we are undoubtedly the best spectators on the whole damn planet.

Many people blame this on things like the crowding out by other sports, the inferior product that is the MLS, or the simple fact that soccer games have no commercials (a huge oversight).

But I think the problem is pretty simple: poor marketing.

As always, Asia is way ahead of us. The South Koreans, possibly looking to psych out their evil goatee wearing twins to the North who also somehow made the World Cup (honestly, how can a nation sanctioned by every other country in the Solar System be allowed into FIFA?), have come up with probably the most amazing soccer promotion ever.

This isn't the same lame old crap like bringing over a washed up Beckham or painting a bunch of hot naked women in the flags of the participating countries. But I think all will agree that this genius move by the Koreans makes soccer a whole lot more interesting.

A distant second in the World Cup marketing department is a series of interesting and entertaining portraits featuring each participating team. The Swiss picture is my favorite.

Winning the consolation game is yet another overlong, overproduced and overawesome World Cup commercial by Nike.

Look, there's Kobe!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Clean up Crew- A Revolution in Fitness

I've done it. I've come up with a perfect new workout, which is guaranteed to burn lots of calories and work all the important muscles from head to toe.

Its quite simple.

Step 1: Wait till my gym is close to closing time.

Step 2: Clean up after all the meat heads and clueless morons who are too busy doing their exercises incorrectly to re-rack their weights properly. Put back all the dumbbells laying around on the floor (bonus points if you put them on the right rack!). Put away the plates which are strewn around the room or left on various barbells.

Step 3: Try to resist the urge to come in the next day and hurt anyone you see making a mess in the first place.

I guarantee great results if you stick to this program. And who knows? Maybe the fact that the gym is actually in working order will let someone do some actual productive working out.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Elin's Revenge

$750 million? Good lord thasalatta money!

I know Tiger is rich, but even that has to put a dent into his formidable fiscal empire. Sure, he'll still be richer than almost everyone else in the world put together, but he obviously does care about money. I doubt he was wearing that Swoosh for his health.

In a way, this may be good for Tiger. I know a lot of people, myself included, wondered what possible motivation Tiger had to make nice and keep busting his ass at golf, given that he had more money than a Walton kid. Maybe losing a good chunk of his party money will encourage him to keep trying to tear up the links with a renewed energy.

P.S. Elin, I know you gotta get paid and get your hair done and buy TYCO with his money, but if you could spare a measly half billion so that the Chargers could build their new Downtown Stadium, the City of San Diego would be forever in your debt. Cause right now they're too much in everyone else's debt to come up with the cash. Thanks.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Wenlock and Mandeville: The Early Years

Oh Good Gravy. I've found the origin story for our new mascot overlords, spelled out in this happy little video.

It all makes perfect sense now. British people are crazy.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Dumber, Scarier, Crazier

Behold, your Official Mascots for the Games of the XXX Olympiad:

I'm sure Lord Zeus and Baron Pierre de Coubertin are looking together down from heaven with big drunken smiles of pride at what has become of their beloved games.

These abominations of nature are named Wenlock and Mandeville. Wenlock was named after some forgotten place where they had the Olympics before they were called the Olympics. Mandeville is a hospital.

And lest we forget, mascots are created not just to bring joy into the hearts of children and inspire World Peace and understanding. They also have the most important job of all: bringing in that cold, hard cash. As you might expect, these twin monsters will be showing up not only in your nightmares but will also be featured on shirts, hats, a cartoon series, and lots of other magical worthless crap. My favorite part:

The Cyclops design allows the mascots’ eyes to work as lenses, and digital cameras in the shape of the characters will be available.

What a time to be alive! And just as a reminder, there are not one, but 2 Christmas shopping seasons before the 2012 games. Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Random Thought: Running habits

I try to go running as much as I can. Usually I take a radio or, more commonly, an Ipod so I can listen to music while I exercise. I've developed a habit of wearing whatever musical device I'm wearing on my left arm using an armstrap. I've done this for years.

Lately I've been feeling a little odd running, and I thought maybe it was from my Ipod affecting my movement in one direction. Which is ridiculous when you consider how small it is, but I decided to switch things up and wear it on my right arm.

Bad idea.

It totally messed me up. I was off balance, the cord was all over the place, and it was totally awkward trying to adjust the volume or songs. I felt like I had to learn how to run all over again, and it didn't do much for my running.

Its just amazing how much something can become a habit, to the point that even a relatively small change, just moving it to the other side of my body, could be such a disaster. Its not like I was driving a car on the left side or attempting to write left handed. Its just an Ipod I took on a jog.

Of course, maybe I'm just a spaz.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Feeling a draft (with video!)

The draft has come and gone, and the Chargers once again managed to defy almost any an all expectations I had about which direction they might go. Even the picks which I did think might happen (Matthews and Thomas), happened far earlier and later than I would have expected.

Its a funny thing about the draft. Every year there are 252 players chosen, and many many more who are signed as UFDAs. Every year we look over these players, their numbers, their stats, game film, interviews and DNA sequencing, trying to figure out who will boom and who will bust. Every year we talk ourselves into how great it would be to have certain players, usually far, far more than your team could draft even with a dozen first round picks.

And then as soon as the draft is over and your team's picks are known, you immediate have to delude yourself into thinking that these players are the only ones who will pan out. Those other guys who you were drooling over last week? Busts, every last one of them. Too slow, too small, too soft, too lazy, too dumb, too many baby-mommas. Not like our new guys, who are all pro-bowl bound.

So lets take a look at the new Chargers and how they fit into our Super Bowl plans.

Ryan Mathews, RB, Fresno State

I've already made my feelings on Mathews known in a previous post. The general consensus seems to be that the Chargers gave up too much to go get Matthews, but in reality he never would have gotten down to 28. The Seahawks were rumored to want him at 14, so the move to 12 makes sense. Even though the trade seems extreme, when you actually look at the point values its not.

Let's look at the trade.

The Chargers get:

#12 – 1200 points
#110 – 74
#173 – 23.2

#28 – 660
#40 – 500
#126 – 46

And Tim Dobbins, who wasn't going to make the team anyway according to Kevin Acee. So in terms of draft picks, the Chargers actually came out ahead 90 points, which is the equivalent of a 4th round draft pick. So the real question is, whats the value of Tim Dobbins? He's a good special teamer but he's only ever been a backup for the Chargers, and even if he did make the team this year it would be his last because of his contract situation. What's more important, the Chargers got the player that they did want, one who potentially could do great things for them.

This is the exact same thing that happened with the Eric Weddle trade. Everyone looked at the number of picks, as opposed to the value of the picks, and so what was actually an even trade on the point scale gets criticized needlessly.

There are a lot of videos of Matthews and his highlights, but this one seems to be the most complete. Check out the acceleration, wiggle, and balance.

Donald Butler, ILB, Washington

I hadn't really looked at ILBs prior to the draft, but in hindsight I should have seen this coming. Dobbins was gone either way, and the remaining 3 ILBs are all in the last year of their current contracts. Cooper is 31, so his days as a Charger are likely numbered, and its impossible to back on both Burnett and Siler being retained.

Overall I like the pick. Butler seems like a good football player who is physical and has good instincts, though he does have limitations. He has neither top end speed nor size, but he should fit just fine in the middle of a 3-4. We'll have to wait and see, but I predict he'll be a quick contributor and eventual starter, next year if not this year.

I couldn't find a good video to embed, but here's a video from which tells you a little about our new linebacker.

Darrell Stuckey, Saftey, Kansas

Very similar to Butler, in that he has neither elite size nor speed, but he's a great all around player who will knock your ass to the ground. I hadn't really looked at safeties either since there were areas of bigger need, but I think this is another quality pick. He should be able to contribute on special teams both as a returned and a cover guy, and he might be an upgrade at safety over Kevin Ellison. Same type of player, but two steps faster.

He's also very dedicated, to both football and his education.

Cam Thomas, NT, North Carolina

"I'm country strong ... Lift hay, cut grass, pick up motors."

Yes indeed, he's all kinds of strong. Just take a look the film from the Senior bowl. He's number 95, with the light blue UNC helmet, and he makes his living shoving guards into the backfield.

Cam Thomas is a project with a lot of upside but a lot of risk as well. I'm glad the Chargers were able to get him so late in the draft, but whether or not he really is a steal will depend on how well it pans out. Honestly I don't love him as a player at this point. Were I building a defense from scratch I wouldn't start with him. However, the Charger's aren't in that situation. They have one huge need, and that's for a "country strong" space eater. Pretty much the only thing Cam Thomas does is eat space. Seems like a good fit. He's not going to be Warren Sapp, but at 30-35 snaps a game in run situations he can be a great value.

The other thing to love is that he has a huge personality. I've heard him in interviews and Kevin Acee is correct, he's like a more hyper Marcus McNeil. If he sticks around, who knows, maybe there's a Thomas jersey in my future.

Jonathan Crompton, QB, Tennessee

Catfish Crompton. The Crompfish. Oh boy.

We did need a third QB, and I didn't really like our options in the later rounds. So I guess it could be worse. But my immediate reaction upon hearing the pick was to think back to this piece at EDSBS, written last year by a Vols fan in the midst of deep, Crompton caused depression. Yes, he turned it around later and had a pretty good end to his senior year, but he'll always be a catfish to me.

I'll have to defer to Norv on this. As much as we rip on him, there's on thing at which Norv has few equals in this world: developing NFL quarterbacks. If he saw something in this kid that can be molded into a decent backup then I'll trust him.

I'll give him this though, he seems to have a good arm.

However, I have to question using that pick to get him. More value could have been had at almost any other position. To me, this was the biggest wasted pick this year, considering that this is a guy who we all hope never sees the field.

My own personal theory is that AJ needs for the Bolts to have at least two hick QBs on the roster at all times, and since Charlie Whitehurst was gone he had to fill in our quota.

Dedrick Epps, TE, Miami

We needed another tight end, and he was about the only one still left on the board at the end of the 7th round. He seems to be an all around average player. Average size, average speed, average reciever, average blocker. But above average effort, which is always important. I have no expectations of him either way, but if he does turn out to be a decent player I'll be happy with that.

I did manage to find one tape of him making a pretty nice catch.

Other thoughts

We drafted no O-lineman, no receivers, and only one running back. The first two have been addressed with a couple of good UDFA pickups who may pan out, but the last one is still up in the air. We have 4 RBs who will make the roster (Mathews, Sproles, Tolbert and Hester). Who is the 5th? Mason, who we got off waivers? Can Curtis Brinkley come back from his unfortunate gunshot wound last year? Are we waiting for cuts in order to snatch someone up?

I was honestly hoping for and expecting more movement on the RB front. Even though Sproles and Mathews will carry the load during the season, someone needs to take over and handle all the carries during the preseason, and we could always used more competition and depth at a position like RB, where injuries are so common. I'm guessing this will be addressed between now and camp.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Mocking the draft, part 3

Let's continue our look at possible new running backs for the Chargers. Again, these are in no particular order. We shift to the south.

Jonathan Dwyer, Georgia Tech

His stock has apparently dropped a lot lately, mostly because his 40 time sucked. I could see him as a 3rd or later round pick for the Bolts, but I don't think he's first round material anymore.

On paper Dwyer seems like a solid prospect. Good size, Ok speed, great production. However, it gets really hard to judge that because of the triple option system he was it. How much do you discount for the skew that comes from playing in Paul Johnson's run first, run second, run always offensive set? In that context his production, while solid, has less of a shine. I'm also not sure he gives you much in the passing game, which is something that is vital for the Bolts. I wouldn't be totally shocked to see Dwyer get drafted by the Chargers, but I wouldn't bet on it either. Frankly I think they can get better players in the first two rounds, though he would be a good value in the third should he slip that far.

Ben Tate, Auburn

Tate heads a trio of SEC backs who are all similar in abilities and reputation going into the draft. As much as I hate to admit it, the SEC is a premier conference in terms of NFL quality talent, and any running back who can survive in that meat grinder deserves some draft consideration.

Of the three, I think Tate has the best chance to be a superstar in the NFL. He's a strong runner who still has some good speed and enough size and power to last in the NFL. Tate had strong though not amazing production, and he also contributes in the passing game. Overall I think he has a solid NFL career ahead of him, and I'd be happy to see the bolts take him.

Anthony Dixon, Mississippi State

Our next SEC entry comes in the form of big bad Bulldog Anthony Dixon. Dixon is the power back from the SEC group. Not a ton of speed or explosiveness. Nevertheless, he was very, very productive at Mississippi state. He's the Bulldogs all time leading rusher and won first team all-SEC last year, and he did all that on a team without very much talent surrounding him. I've seen him run and I like it. Hard to tackle, quick to cut and get into the gap, and he always falls forward. He won't turn a 4 yard gain into a 40 yard gain, but he will turn a 1 yard gain into a 4 yard gain. That has value too, and the Chargers could use it.

The downside? Well, he is slow, no getting around that. Is he too slow to make a big impact in the NFL? I honestly don't know. If the bolts grabbed him in the 3rd round or later I'd be glad to risk it.

Montario Hardesty, Tennessee

The last of our SEC trio is probably the biggest question mark. He has an injury history, having his ACL repaired, but it was a few years ago so he seems recovered. Hardesty is a mystery because he wasn't really productive until his fifth and final college season. Part of that is the time he missed with his ACL, and part of it is that Tennessee was downright awful for part of his career. But it still begs the question, why was he a late bloomer who couldn't pass up Arian Foster for significant playing time? He played in a lot of games but almost always as a backup. I've watched some film on Hardesty and, while he doesn't knock me over, he does look like he'll be a solid if unspectacular NFL running back. Not as fast as Tate, not as powerful as Dixon, but he has enough of each that he can run it hard and move the chains. Given the choice between him and Tate, who had similar measurables and production, I'd take Tate, but its not a huge gap.

Realistically I would be happy with any of these three if the price is right. All three have shown they can run the ball with some authority, contribute in the passing game, and have proven themselves against top competition. They probably won't fully replace LT, but they can be good enough to help the Bolts be successful.

That pretty much wraps up the running backs who I suspect the Chargers might take in the first 3 rounds. There are few others who they might take a flyer on, so I'll quickly give my opinions on them.

LaGarrett Blount, Oregon

Boom or Bust. Obviously there are HUGE red flags here concerning his work ethic, attitude, and penchant for sucker puching opponents and getting suspended for most of the year. Upside? He's a human wrecking ball. Not super fast, but he'll run you over and leave his cleat marks all over your corpse (metaphorically, that is). Its a gamble to be sure, but possibly one worth taking in the 5th round or later.

Dexter McCluster, Ole Miss

The second coming of Sproles. Smaller than a kicker but fast as a jackrabbit, and for good reason since most NFL linebackers could probably pick him up with one arm. I think he's a fantastic football player who was very productive against a lot of top defenses in college. One can never predict how transitions like that will go, and even after marveling at Sproles in the NFL we are all aware of his limitations. I don't think McCluster will fall far enough for the Chargers to make a move for him as a possible Sproles replacement.

Lonyae Miller, Fresno State

Lost his staring job to Ryan Matthews, though I'm not sure why since I don't follow the Bulldogs that closely. Seems to have all the measurables (5-11, 220, 4.5) and was fairly productive before losing his job. If he happens to be around when the Chargers pick in the 7th round I wouldn't be shocked if they took a flyer on him as the possible 3rd tailback.

Mocking the draft, part 2

Ok, I've gotten my annual "don't draft a QB first" rant out of the way.

Now on to more pressing matters: the Chargers' new running back.

By the end of the draft, and possibly within 24 hours of this post, the Chargers will have a new RB on their roster. Putting aside the possibility of a trade, this new player will certainly be drafted, and most likely in the first 3 rounds. I actually suspect that more than one will be drafted, but such things are hard to figure either way. I'm doubtful on the prospect of AJ spending a first rounder on this new ball carrier. It certainly could happen, but this class is so deep in backs I suspect they could pass in the first and still get a great pick in the 2nd, 3rd or even 4th.

I've wasted a lot of my precious youth pouring over scouting reports and daydreaming about who this new back will be and how he'll take us to the Super Bowl next year and then we'll go steady and get married and live happily ever after. But who is the Mystery Date? Let's look at the possibilities, in no particular order:

First, it won't be CJ Spiller. He'll likely be long gone by pick 28. Too bad.

Jahvid Best, Cal

I think Jahvid is a luxury that the Chargers can't afford to spend a high pick on. He's fast. Oh boy, is he fast. Put the ball in his hands in space and its game freaking over. Assuming no defenders breathe too hard within a yard of him, in which case he's a serious injury risk.

As much as it would be cool to have him on the roster (and prevent other teams from having him), Jahvid looks like a slightly bigger version of Sproles to me. Fast on the corner, deadly in space, doesn't give you much between the tackles. And really, that's what we need. It would be great to have him if we can't sign Sproles after this year, or if we trade Sproles this weekend, but as long as we have Darren I just don't see the value in spending a high pick on Jahvid, unless you plan to also draft a mauling back in the later rounds.

Ryan Matthews, Fresno State

A classic test of the Wisdom of Crowds. I say that because roughly 90% of the mock drafts I have seen (and I've seen far too many) have the Chargers taking Matthews at 28. Its amazing really, the amount of group think demonstrated here and anyone who knows anything about AJ Smith knows that this all but assures that he will not pick Matthews. Personally, I'm skeptical that Matthews will still be around at 28th. But, assuming he is there, and assuming AJ bucks his trend of bucking the trend and picks him, what do I think of him?

I'm really mixed on Matthews. Let me start with the negatives. First, he's had some injury issues and missed time because of it. Nothing too major, but we have to consider it. I've also heard mixed things about his contribution to the passing game, both catching the ball and blocking, with more than one report saying that he's a liability. This is a vital part of the Charger offense, and if its true that Matthews can't contribute there then his value is greatly reduced. Again, I don't know if its true and I don't really have the film to find out.

Another knock on Matthews is that he possibly benefited from an dominant O-line which beat up lesser opponents. One scouting report I read called him an "uncharismatic runner", meaning he tests well in shorts but doesn't play as strong as his measurables might indicate. Now, Fresno State did play some really good teams, including Wisconsin, Cincinnati and Boise State, and he was super productive against all of them. The Boise game is really impressive, as he had over 200 yards and 3 TDs against the undefeated, Fiesta Bowl winning, Oregon and TCU thumping Broncos. But even looking at those highlights, his big runs did come as the result of big holes by the Bulldog O-line. They gave him space and he took it to the house. Impressive, to be sure, but how will that translate to the NFL, where even the best O-line's aren't super dominant and the Charger O-line is far from the best at running the rock? Will he be able to pound it between the tackles successfully in addition to his big play ability?

I guess my biggest concern about Ryan Matthews is the too good to be true factor. Why should we be so lucky that he would fall to 28? If he's so great, why won't he be snatched up earlier?

Although it may seem like I'm down on Matthews, I do have some positives. He gets the Lorenzo Neal seal of approval. Even discounting the blatant Fresno State homerism, that's still a strong endorsement. And I tend to think that AJ had a pretty good eye for running back talent and how it translates to the NFL, so if he does tap Matthews I'll trust his judgment.

But the biggest thing I like about Matthews is who he makes me think of. Watching his highlight tapes, with the big runs, sharp cuts, stiff arms, incredible balance, and overall strong production, I can't help but think that he reminds me of another great back: LT. That's how LT runs. That's how he deals with defenders. That's his quickness, his cutting, his balance. And I can't help but get a little excited when I think about the possibilities.

Toby Gerhart, Stanford

Robbed of the Heisman last year, Toby is an interesting prospect to replace LT. He has a significant injury history, including an ACL replacement in his past. He was a beast among men in college, running over, around and through helpless defenders. However, this ain't college anymore, and no one can do that in the NFL. My big concern is how his body can hold up crashing into NFL defenders 25+ times a game with his upright running style. I'm also not too sure what he gives you in the passing game, though I don't see why that should be a problem.

In a lot of ways I think that Gerhart is the anti-Jahvid, which is probably fitting given that they played for Stanford and Cal, respectively. I think that Toby will be a solid between the tackles runner who won't turn the corner too well or run away from people. There's a little bit of boom or bust here. Best case scenario, this is Jerome Bettis 2.0. Worst case, he's the new Jacob Hester, and frankly we are filled up on our quota of Jacob Hesters. That said, I like what he could potentially bring to San Diego, especially as a one-two punch with Sproles.

That's the end of the California Boys at the top of the list. This is getting a little long, so we'll move on to the Southern boys in another post.

Mocking the draft, part 1

I have a confession to make: I am a draftnik.

Yes, every winter and spring I waste far, far, far too much of my worthless time invested in the NFL draft. I'll be the first to admit that its a completely mystifying, frustrating and pointless endeavor. I have no control over who the Chargers or any other team picks.

I don't do mock drafts, because they are impossible and meaningless and far too unfocused for my fanaticism. My concern is the San Diego Chargers, and its hard enough trying to figure out whats going on in AJ Smith's head. And this is a team which I know really well. God help me if I can try and figure out how the 31 other teams are go. I swear, its the most bogus thing to try to predict. In game theory, its hard enough to build and solve a game with only a few players, strategies, and payoffs. Now multiply each of those factors by about 1000 and you might get close to the complexity of predicting a draft. Not that it can't be fun, and that's what this is all about, but I just can't be bothered to try it myself. At least with a March Madness bracket I have some money riding on it and a few information shortcuts to help me with my wild guesses.

There's only two ways to go about a mock draft. The first way is to do a shit ton of research, watch a lot of film, pour over combine results and team rosters and then try to magically predict what 32 different teams will do with an infinite number of possibilities to choose from. The second way to do is to let a bunch of other people do all that, and then just copy their work. This is the way that 95% of mock drafts are done, and its how mine would have been done.

However, just because I'm too much of a lazy snob to do my own mock draft doesn't mean I don't have tons of useless, ill informed scouting data in my head which is just dying to come out. The ether needs my opinions, and I'm all to happy to oblige.

First, I'd like to say something to the Rams: Don't do it.

I said it last year to the Lions, and I've said it to a lot of other top pick teams who were goaded and pushed and bullied into doing it. Don't do it.

Don't pass on King-bloody-Kong in order to draft Sam Bradford.

I like Sam Bradford. Good athlete. Accurate. Leader. Winner. Yes, he's had some injuries, but this is football and that happens.

Don't draft him, St. Louis.

We all know what will happen. You draft this kid, pay him a ton of money, and he'll promptly get killed behind your shitty line and you'll be back to starting whatever journeyman you would have been stuck with anyway. Best case scenario, in 3 years he leads your team to a winning record. Best case, and I'm certainly not hanging my hat on that.

Even if he was a perfect QB prospect, which he isn't, this would be a bad move. As it stands Sam Bradford is a QB with the unfortunate history of having his throwing arm destroyed in painful ways. On top of that, he played for a dominant team with dominant talent in an offense which cranked out yards and points and raped and pillaged the poor, simple country defenses of the Big 12. Except, of course, for Texas, which beat him twice and gave him plenty of fits. And Florida, who had some speed and talent on that side of the ball. Basically, whenever he was pressured he came back to earth. I think he can maybe be a good QB in this league, but its no sure thing. Is this really want you want to spend the top pick and $75 million on?

Ndomukong Suh is a beast among men. His name means "House of Spears". He almost single handedly won the Big 12 Championship game despite the noticeable handicap of being a nose tackle and having no functional offense on his team. If there was any justice in the world he and Toby Gerhart would have been the first co-winners of the Heisman Trophy.

House of Spears.

Think about it, as if reflection is needed on that incredible fact.