Friday, November 29, 2013

A Little Short Story: The Candlestick Goodbye

   Walking into Brian Schottenheimer's office, he glanced at the myriad of warning signs posted near the door. Jeff Fisher wondered why "Hard Hats" were necessary, and the hand rails running between desks looked odd. He jumped back when a Rams staffer  - standing just inside the doorway in a hazardous materials suit  - held out a small waste basket. He shook his head as he tried to read the young man's lips behind the heavy Plexiglas face mask. He directed Fisher's attention to the colored lines painted on the plush carpeting, then the color code sign on the wall next to him.

"Coach, if you're looking for the OC, follow the blue line."

Slowly nodding his head, he walked off toward Schottenheimer's office, occasionally glancing down at the floor. He passed through the office space, noticing everything seemed to be padded. Desk corners had foam rubber duct taped to them, while every chair appeared to be bolted to the floor? The few people he saw working on desk top computers wore thick rubber gloves. He touched one of them on the shoulder, then pointed at the gloves she was wearing. The staffer shrugged, then pointed a rubberized finger at the "High Voltage" signs plastered all over her desk.

"Oh, for the love of..." He looked up at the ceiling, blew out a long breath, and continued on to his offensive coordinator's office. When he entered, Brian turned from the huge flat screen monitor he'd been studying - from twenty-plus feet away. Wearing goggles, and what appeared to be a Radiologist's protective vest, he smiled at the St. Louis Rams' head coach.

"I'll just be a second, coach. I'm going over some game film of the 49ers, and I think I found a weakness on their defense we can exploit." Using a laser pointer, he pointed at an area two yards beyond the line of scrimmage. Fisher walked closer to the monitor, and shrugged. "Careful coach! Those monitors give off radiation, and this laser pointer has been shown to blind rats in laboratory tests." Brian turned off the pointer, placing it back in it's lead lined lock box on the table next to him. "Whew! That was close!"

Fisher felt a nervous laughter rising within him. "Yeah... Brian, you may be taking the whole safety thing a little far?" He'd come to talk with Schottenheimer about opening up the Rams offense, but decided on taking another tack.

"You can't be too safe, Coach. Look, I know you think the playbook is short on exciting things like scoring touchdowns, first down or winning. But let's look at the BIG picture." He hit a button on his laptop, and the screen showed what looked like an actuarial table from Blue Cross/Blue Shield. "If we can maintain this level of play for two more years, we'll save $34.82 on medical insurance premiums." Brian smiled and nodded at the screen.

Fisher's mouth dropped open as he looked back and forth from the screen to Brian. He pulled out his wallet, and removed two twenty dollar bills. Placing them on Brian's desk, he said "Keep the change. Look, let's put aside the offense for a moment. I have a job for you that'll show whether you're ready to be a NFL head coach. It's BIG, Brian, and I think you're the guy who can handle it."

Brian stared at the money. hH was about to tell Jeff how many bacteria and diseases the greenbacks were saturated with, when Jeff's assignment cut through his thoughts. "I'm your guy, coach. Whatever it is, consider it DONE!" He reached for a box of surgical gloves, putting them under his arm like a football.
"Um, OK... Meet me in my office in an hour, and leave the gloves here." Fisher backed away slowly toward the door.

*****

"Really? You want her to come to your office?" Jeff's executive assistant stared at him. "Can I take lunch early?"

"Yes I want her here, and no, you can't leave. Just don't make any sudden moves or make eye contact." Jeff continued into his office, closing the door. he stared out the window for a few moments, considering the drastic course he was about to take. It has to be done, he told himself. A knock on the door brought him back to the moment at hand. He ran to his desk, sliding into the big comfortable chair. He gripped the armrests, blew out a long breath and said, "Come in". Nothing happened. He stared at the door. Then a voice, that made him cringe, emanated through the thick oak door...

"I'm a lady, dammit! You expect me to open the door?" Derinda Platt leaned against the door frame, and winked at the assistant who occasionally glance up from her work. Counting to five, she grabbed the knob and opened the door hard. It met with resistance, and she heard a head bouncing off wood sound, followed by a "Ouch!" The door swung open, and Derinda watched as Jeff Fisher staggered back to his desk, holding a hand to his nose. "You, Kevin and Lester fall for that every damn time!"

Fisher rubbed his nose as he faced the wall behind his desk. "Yeah, it's funny every time too. Take a seat..." He turned to see Derinda sitting in his chair. "I meant..." He lamely pointed at the chair on the other side of his desk, then gave up. Jeff walked around and sat in the visitor's seat, facing her across HIS desk. "I have a favor to ask..."

"Sure thing, Coach. What do I get in return?" Derinda smiled at him.

"You get a paycheck..." He groused, then seeing it hadn't registered, his shoulders slumped. "OK, what do you want?" Jeff hating asking Derinda for anything, because it always came with a cost. He actually liked this tall, blonde, nutcase of a woman. It had taken time to get used to her, but he'd finally seen why St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke kept her around. You could never be complacent with Derinda around. She loved the team, and everyone in the organization. In fact, he knew her to be one of the nicest, big-hearted people he'd ever met. You just had to be able to handle her "crazy", which wasn't an easy thing to do. Every player on the team was scared to death of her, but they also universally loved her. If the players ever had a problem they didn't want to bring to him, they went to Derinda and no one else.

"First, I need to know just how big this favor is so I can make sure you're giving as much as you're askin' for? And it better not be anything to do with dating one of your old, fat coaching buddies." Derinda leaned over his desk and wagged a finger at him.

Fisher held his hands out in front of him, "It's not, but I do want you to accompany Brian Schottenheimer to a news event. You'll be part of a panel for a Bay Area TV show discussing the Rams - 49ers game."

Derinda looked at him with squinted eyes. "Let me get this straight: YOU want me on TV, representing the Rams?" Suspicious motives began to bounce around inside her skull. "YOU, want me to talk about the 49ers... In public? Who else is on this little panel?"

"Well, there's 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman, and a guy from a big fan site called Niner Nation. His name is Dave Fucillo. He's supposed to be an expert on the 49ers, and he hates the Rams with a white hot passion. He's been making fun of the team all week, and saying bad things about our rookies." He watched Derinda for a few seconds. She had both of her hands pressed hard to his desk top, and her back went rigid when he said someone was saying bad things about the rookies. He knew she had a thing about protecting the younger players, and would pitch a flat out nutty on this unsuspecting Niner Nation guy. It would be a GREAT show, and he, Kevin and Les were already making plans to watch it with the entire team.

Derinda tried to control herself. Fucillo, huh? His name sounded like some sick, twisted pasta. She bolted up from behind the desk. "I'll beat that spaghetti man to a pulp!"

Jeff had no idea what she was talking about, but fought back the urge to laugh. "You don't have to beat up anyone, even though he called Tavon Austin a midget who hates..." He let it build for a second, " Puppies!"

Derinda exploded. In a single motion, she tipped over Fisher's desk, sending papers and a computer flying. "PUPPIES!"

Jeff nodded, "Yes, puppies! I'm not sure if Tavon will ever stop crying. Stedman Bailey is sitting with him now..."

Standing at full attention, back straight as a rail, she asked "When do I leave?" Without waiting to hear his answer, she marched out of the room. He heard a crash and scream from the front office. Walking slowly to the door, he peered out. Papers were still floating slowly to the floor, as his executive assistant crawled out from under her desk mumbling something about "hating that woman..." At that moment, Brian appeared in the doorway.

"Come in Brian," Jeff smiled. Now he had to break the news to his offensive coordinator.

*****

"We're LIVE in ten seconds," the show's producer said to the gathered panel. Some fidgeted in their seats, adjusting the small microphones clipped to their cloths. The show's host looked at each of his guests. While the two coaches chatted amiably between themselves, Dave Fucillo sat nervously beside a strikingly beautiful Rams front office representative. Every time he tried to say something to her, it came out sounding like "Gurgle... phitt, gurb, San Francisco? He was blushing so badly, the make up people were having trouble with his ever changing facial hues. The tall, blonde woman just glared at him, though he did think she said something about "puppies"?

"Good Morning San Francisco! We have a great show for you today. With the last game between the 49ers and Rams coming up this Sunday in Candlestick Park - before the move next season to Levi Stadium in Santa Clara - we thought it would be interesting to get an insider view on one of the most storied NFL rivalries in league history." He smiled into the camera, and the shot widened to show the assembled panel. "Joining us today are the offensive coordinators for both teams - Greg Roman from the 49ers, and Brian Schottenheimer from the Rams. The camera zoomed in on Roman, then Schottenheimer, who was dabbing on what looked like sunscreen from a small tube.

Brian looked at the camera, as a small hand from his right appeared in frame, swatting the tube from his hand. He looked at Derinda, who whispered for him to "man up!" He looked up at the bright studio lights, then longingly at the tube of sunscreen sliding across the floor, before turning back up at the camera. "Thank you for having me here today."

The camera bounced back and forth between Derinda and Brian for a few seconds, then over to the host. "Also joining us, is Derinda Platt from the Rams' front office. She has one of the longest job titles I've ever seen?" He was reading from a tele-prompter. "It says here you're the Executive Director of Player Personnel, Quality Control, Community Out-Reach, and Puppy Welfare?"

Derinda had added the last part to her title just before the show began. She smacked Dave Fucillo in the chest with the back of her hand. "Did you hear that pasta boy? Puppies! I'd like to start off by saying Tavon Austin loves puppies and isn't a midget... er, uh, I mean, a little person of a height challenged nature who needs a ladder." She smacked Fucillo in the chest again.

Roman and Brian stared at her, as Dave rubbed his chest and responded, "Gleasle lady!, Gurp flug ack!"
"So you're a foreigner? I knew it! You probably eat puppies... and kittens! Probably bake 'em up in a pie and serve them a la mode you sick, twisted, son of a bit..." Derinda flew out of her chair onto Fucillo, both toppling over backward as he sat looking stunned.

The stage crew ran onto the set as the host announced they'd be right back after a short commercial break. Across town the Rams' hotel, the roar from behind a conference hall door hit high volume. Jeff Fisher, Les Snead and Kevin Demoff had front row seats before a 100 inch TV screen. The entire Rams team was there, most high-five-ing and laughing as they watched Derinda.

"So as much as I'm enjoying this, why did you assign Brian?" Demoff smiled as he asked. Les couldn't stop laughing as he turned to hear Fisher's reasons.

Jeff shook his head, "Just wait and see..." He pointed at the show returning from commercial break.  Order had been restored, though Fucillo had been relocated to the far end of the stage away from Derinda. Her hair was tousled, and one of her shoes was missing.

"We're back. It seems like emotions are running high? Ms. Platt, why did you attack Mr. Fucillo?"

Derinda rolled her eyes, "You call that an attack? Ha!" She made a small wave of her hand.

The host and the rest of the panel stared at her. "Didn't you burn down the Today Show set a few years ago?"

"The damn turkey did it, not me. We aren't cooking anything today, are we?" The host shook his head. "Whew, That's a load off my mind." She relaxed a bit.

"Let's get back to the little altercation you had before the break. You said something about puppies, then flew at Dave here. Why?"

"Well, Dave here..." She took off her remaining shoe and threw it at Fucillo. "He likes to make stuff up about innocent young kids tryin' to make their way in the world."

"I did no such thing!" Dave adamantly interjected."... And quit throwing things at me."

"What did he say?" The host couldn't resist.

"Well, he's been making fun of one of our players. He called him, er, uh... Well, let's just say he used a bad word to describe Tavon Austin. Where's the damn ACLU when you need 'em?"

"I just said he's short for a NFL wide receiver, and..." Dave ducked as a glass of water flew toward him. "Stop that! I'm here to talk about the game this Sunday..."

"You're one of those Blogger guys, so you don't talk. You type. I have a friend in New Mexico who blogs for the Rams, and he told me you're a terrorist bent on world domination and eats puppy sandwiches covered in tofu. He also says you run a place called "Niner Nation" and are trying to supseed from America!"

"That's "secede" you wack-a-doodle!" Dave rolled his eye, then noticed Schottenheimer and Roman - who'd heard about Derinda before now -  both shaking their heads.

"See! He admits to eating puppy sandwiches!" Derinda stood up and pointed at him.

"I did no such thing... Did I?" He glanced at the host, who nodded as he edged away from Dave. Greg and Brian moved their chairs back a little.

Derinda jumped up on the host's small desk off to their right. Her hair hanging in front of her face, legs spaced in attack mode. "That's why the Rams have to win this Sunday! If we don't this guy will destroy Christmas. It will be another one of those "four sore and eleventy jillion years ago" things as he tries to tear the world apart because of his puppy fetish."

That's "four SCORE and seventy years ago" from the Gettysburg address..." He looked plaintively around the set, but everyone was eyeing him suspiciously.

"So you have a secret address in Gettysburg, eh? The FBI is going to kick your ass!" She made a giant leap toward Dave as the cameras cut away once again...

*****

Why he was in handcuff too, he had no idea. The show had devolved into a riot, as Derinda tried to claw her way toward Dave Fucillo. Not knowing what else to do, he'd tried to pull people away from Derinda. Crazy or not, she was part of his Rams' family. He and Roman had exchanged words about the coming game, and Brian now had a growing black eye. As he and Derinda were slid into the back seat of a police car, Brian looked at her. Dress torn at the sleeve, she sported a black eye too. Her hair was stick out at odd angles, and her make up was smeared.

"Guess we showed them, eh Brian?" She said with a smile. "...And looked at you! All messed up in back of a smelly old police car..."

Brian nodded as he smiled. He hadn't even noticed his surrounds, which only yesterday would've sent him screaming for a anti-bacterial shower. "I'm not really sure what we showed them, but it was something they'll remember." Me too, he thought. "Why'd you go so crazy on that blog guy?"

She looked at him with mild shock on her face, then shook her head slowly. "You don't get it, do you Brian? The Rams are about to play their last game EVER, in one of the most famous stadiums in NFL history. This is the greatest NFL rivalry around, and all everyone wants to do is talk about the same things they say every week. Hell, I know that Dave guy didn't say anything bad about Tavon Austin, and Jeff thought he had me believin' he did." She smiled, "But all I know is, it was a great reason to come to San Francisco and say my goodbyes to that beautiful, hell hole of a stadium. I don't suppose you could come up with a way for the Rams to shock the hell out of the 49ers this Sunday?"

"You tell me? Anything you want me to do, I'll do." Brian began thinking of bizarre plays just as Derinda said:

"Go frickin' crazy! That's all I ask..."

*****

*** If you'd like to read more of my short story scribbles, Go Here! ***

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Unending Miscue: The Middle East and the West

  I'm not sure if it's a rumble, or simply a high pitched un-hearable sound. It's there though, and it must emanate from somewhere...

  In a socio-geographic kind of vicariance, this world is split along many line, and even more points. Like mountains rising to form unique barriers, so does circumstance. Driven by wants, needs, greed, or simply a lack of empathy for one another, humanity just can't seem to resist trying to change humanity. Philosophies, religions, politics and customs, drive our world crazy at times. People do horrible things to one another, and in a quest to show some are better, they do horrible things in reply.

  Nations are man-made; lines drawn in an ever changing map, shouting to all this is where you are, until you are not. One step this way or that, defines where you are, but not who you'll be. In increasing instances, a pattern to define what should and shouldn't be believed or allowed is pressed forward by the more dominant. It's a part of our world's history, and as each civilization rises and falls, all are marked forever for failing to acknowledge rights of others to exist.

  The lines scratched on a map in 1916 may have been one of the worst things mankind has ever done to itself. Written in ink, in hues inspired by arrogance and greed, the Sykes-Picot Agreement divided the Ottoman Empire. Two men - one from France and the other from England - unknowingly set the stage for what would become known as the volatile Middle East of today. In a rush to capture post-World War I power and influence, portions of Europe and the Caucasus region were divided up as spoils. Lesser areas to the south - known for inhospitable deserts and new found oil beneath the endless sands - were given little consideration in terms of the people who called this area their home. No one knew, as the ink dried on this new map - which carved up what was once part of the Persian Empire - that the spark of hatred and war had its first flash, leading to a century of blood spilling on the sand.

  The politically drawn maps of this time were a disaster, and would directly impact the advent of World War II. War reparations crippled Germany, allowing a Austrian corporal with a funny mustache to rise to power, and set the world ablaze in the 1930s and 1940s. All the while, desert tribes screamed to be heard, only to be met by troops of empires destined to dissolve. It's tough not to wonder what the Middle east would've been like if oil had never found its way to its substrata. While it's true the areas inhabitants had a long history of battling one another - just as Native American had for thousands of years - the unwanted intercession of societies without frame, context or sentience in both cases, caused the near annihilation their cultures.

  The Middle East is a concurrent and unending calamity. Western societies made Kings, and even created new countries. Kuwait didn't exist before Sykes-Picot, and in what can be found as morbidly humorous, anyone can see by looking at a modern map how little thought went into its creation. Straight lines on a map are rare, but have a look at the lines drawn in 1916. In a complete disregard for the people in the region, Sykes-Picot announced to the world this is what would be. France and England propped up rulers, and sent troops when the people cried foul. Somewhere in this mess, a growing economic world power - The United States of America - decided to step into the fray. As the Cold War became more real, the U.S. decided oil resources in the region needed to be protected from the Soviet Union. France and England two-stepped their way out, handing off the Middle East to an unprepared America.

  We Americans were naive to think the Middle East was something easily handled. But the money being made, and industries which continued to flourish by an unending pipeline of oil, was just too much to pass up. Turning a blind eye to the people of the region, slowly but surely distinct groups began to form, with Islam as its load stone. Not unlike the Christian Inquisitions in history, the first Islamic Inquisition began to form. Orthodoxy became a central rallying point for cultures known in the past for their disparate natures. Clerical rule tracked with the Roman Catholic Inquisitional doctrines of the past. Made worse by a Western history of crusades in the region, and the hundreds of thousands killed, Orthodox clerics had a fertile ground to create what we have today.

  It's 2013, and the Western nations still haven't learned. So too, the people of the region are being blindly led down a path of violence and revenge for past ills. The simplest of minds can see this Middle East - the one of Western making - is a bottomless pit. After a decade of war in the region, the U.S. and United Nations are still making the same mistakes the British and French did almost a century ago. As all out war has died down, and troops begin to return home, Syria has stepped over a line with the use of chemical weapons. No one denies if found to be true - really true - that action of some kind must be taken to prevent the Syrian government from believing it's OK to use weapons of mass destruction. The problem here is in how the world's reaction should manifest itself.

  In the light of history, one glaring fact is irrefutably true. If the West kills someone in this region, it irrevocable continues the trend of violence and fuels radical Islamic extremists. They can point at our ships, missiles and troops, saying they will never leave. They can point at the innocent who die at the hands of "smart weapons" and say this will never end. Suicide bomber become manifest out of ignorance, easily swayed by the carnage wrought and evidenced before them. Allowing an individual to make war as revenge for lost family members and friends is something Islamic extremist clerics covet and encourage. It's cheap war, and promises of martyrdom for killing the innocent cloud the minds of the desperate.

  For a chance at ending the cycle of carnage, Syria must be called to answer by their fellow Arab nations alone. They have the weapons procured over the decades to achieve justice for those killed by the Syrian government with chemical weapons. Yet, for some unknown reason, the Kings and countries created and encouraged from the time of Sikes-Picot want the Western nations to continue their headlong dash into the Middle East. This may be craven, but it's hard to discount the billions Western countries contribute to select Middle Eastern countries, many of whom rely on this foreign aid to fuel their economies. But they also need this aid to hold their countrymen at bey. Saudi Arabian's royal family is huge, and have lived the life of the rich while their regional fellows have existed in doubt and poverty. Israel came into existence and survives due to the largess of the U.S. and rightly so. The assorted Emirates - Westernized to the point they cause Islamic Extremists attractive counter life style choices for those they wish to rule - rely on the threat of U.S. military might to defend their borders and leadership.

 The more than sad fact is, if Western nations leave the Middle East, it will almost guarantee a region civil war. While oil will have an important place in world economies for decades to come, the prospect of alternative energy research supplanting petroleum as a primary means of powering cars and industry looms on the horizon. If held to be true, the oil kingdoms are destined to lose their power on the world stage. If they are to survive, they must set forward their own ability to exist with reduced or removed foreign influence, aid, and protection.

  If there has ever been a better time for the League of Arab nations to establish themselves as capable of minding their own human rights, it's now. The U.S. or its allies intervening in Syria will add to the problems faced in the Middle East. Enforcing outside beliefs or philosophies - however right or intended - is just a further step down the road of refusing to learn and correct historical miscues. The idea a country as powerful as the U.S. could lose respect in the eyes of the world is close to laughable. While many countries hold America with scorn - for whatever reason - none can possibly doubt the will or means of the mightiest military in the history of the world. If anything, leaving some doubt in where and when the U.S. may strike, would increase second thoughts of a potential transgressor. Currently, every country in the region factors in a U.S. response, and banks on the time they'll need to move key assets away from areas the U.S. would deem acceptable targets. In a dance no country can maintain, Islamic Extremists bank on the U.S and their allies reaching a point of futility, and they will. If history has taught us anything, it's that Middle East peace can only be had if the people of the region truly want it, and have the open avenue to achieve it...

Monday, May 27, 2013

Charlie Sheen, Gilbert Gottfried, and Amanda Bynes to be NFL announcing crew?

 The NFL off season is a time of change for its 32 teams. Players are flung through a revolving door; arriving and leaving at a fever pitch. Front offices add and dump player scouts. General managers try to dial in every aspect of their organizations. It's pure carnage at times, and it would make Darwin smile...

 Into this hiring and firing frenzy, is added the different sports networks jumbling up their game announcing crews. Former players audition for that "life after football" career, hoping to move from the locker room to the broadcast booth. I remember the times when Monday Night Football tried to experiment with Dennis Miller as a color analyst. Disaster followed, with Miller making obsequious comments, tinged with A.C.T. binge words and references:


"(Kurt)Warner had more hands in his face than an OB-GYN delivering Vishnu's triplets!" 
"I haven't seen anyone rely on the ground game this much since the battle of Verdun." 
"That field goal attempt was so far to the left it nearly decapitated Lyndon LaRouche." 
"The Cowboy's defense has more holes in it than Ronny Milsapp and Jose Feliciano after a game of lawn darts."


It could happen again... Not Miller, since he's had his chance, but there are others who could add something to game days... 

How about Gilbert Gottfried? We need an annoying voice? Can you imagine the voice of the Aflac Duck doing commentary next to Jon Gruden? 






Ah, the whimsical, dulcet tones of Gottfried would have the MNF audience longing for commercial breaks.  They may not want him as a spokesman when there's a natural disaster. He's the only person I've ever known who to have the entire country Japan hate him. His post-tsunami Tweets have become infamous, so he's a perfect fit for MNF:




I think Charlie Sheen would be an interesting choice by the NFL. Who doesn't love rants about drugs, hookers, and... Hookers? The former "2 1/2 Men" star found new and different ways to make people revile him. But he's so eloquent...



A little controversy to build rating for the NFL would work, wouldn't it? They may have to set Sheen/Esteves up in a booth separated from the regular crew though. But think about how great he'd be interviewing NFL players? What a great role model for guys like Tyrann Mathieu? If they could get Amanda Bynes as a sidelines reporter, I'd tune in to want this train wreck in the making. The TV camera running on cables over the field would be permanently stationed to watch these two. Bynes running the wrong way down the sidelines after a touchdown, and Sheen up in the booth screaming directions at her like a drug rehab version of Marco Polo...

Lately, SBNation's Matt Ufford and Dan Rubenstein might make interesting choices. I think "Dan on Fire" would make a great audition video. He's proven he can make things up on the fly, and 98% of his audience believes he's serious, even when he isn't? "Kobe Bryant faked his injury? They believed it. Manziel transferring to Minnesota? They put it in the bank? Charles Barkley a secret member of the KKK? Oops! Sorry Dan! You never should've told me, so it's your bad. 

 With Dan in the booth would be "Mr. Positive-I went to Northwestern-My soul is filled with puppies" - Matt Ufford. Some people think Matt's a bit negative, but if you look closely he actually winks after he says anything. So when he says things like the women on a certain college campus are ugly, he doesn't really mean it. Matt is Dean Martin to Dan's Jerry Lewis. If we add in Spencer Hall and Ryan Van Bibber, they'd be the Marx Brothers? (Ryan is Zeppo)

What a foursome for NFL game day! Ryan doing the play-by-play, Ufford throwing in the odd "I hate him", Hall sitting on a sidelines bench drinking beer, and Dan commenting on how Jim Harbaugh just signed a 20 year contract to coach in Canada...







Personally, I think DC and I could do a great job as NFL announcers. But that's just me...
  


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

St. Louis Rams Free Agent Report Card - A Guest Article for SBNation

 The St. Louis Rams hit the free agent market harder than I would have thought, given their small-ish salary cap situation. But with some free agents testing the market for their services, and strategic players being released, they gained the money needed to have a wild - for the Rams - shopping spree.
  In the lead up to the first day of free agency, not many fans really know what their teams have on their needs lists. The same held true for Rams fans, and it turned out a tight end was at the top of head coach Jeff Fisher's wish list. They've taken a stab at the safety position too, but I'm not sure they've found the right guy yet. Let's assume for the sake of this article that Miami offensive tackle Jake Long is signed by the Rams. taking this into account, I'm going to rate St. Louis' 2013 free agent class so far;

Jake Long, OT - This is one of those signings that will be incredibly great, or cause for lynching parties to form by mid-season. Jake Long came into the NFL as a #1 overall draft pick in 2008 by the Miami Dolphins. He's had a terrific career, but in the last few seasons he's begun to show the wear. I've been reminded by a few that his record for missed games due to injury is impressively small. Great, but let's not forget however well he's played through pain in the first few years of his career, he's an NFL offensive lineman. They get beat up by huge defensive ends, tackles and linebackers. It take a toll. Early last season I had the chance to read some of the Dolphin fans' thoughts in a few comment threads at "the Phinsider". What I remember most is how they ganged up on Long for being injured? Really? here's a look at his games played stats. What do you think?

courtesy of NFL.com

OFFENSIVE LINE
YearTeamGGS
2012Miami Dolphins1212
2011Miami Dolphins1414
2010Miami Dolphins1616
2009Miami Dolphins1616
2008Miami Dolphins1616
TOTAL7474

For three straight years he played every game, but in 2011 and '12 he missed a total of 6 games. While this isn't evidence of a possible decline in his ability or durability, I'm sure this small trend is why his medical check with the St. Louis Rams took the entire day on Wednesday. Twitter mentions said he was put through his paces by the Rams' training staff, and this may have to do with testing his strength after tearing his Triceps muscle last season.  The bottom line here is the only red flag I can find on his signing is his health, or possible lack of it. The Rams have been cursed by offensive line injuries, so I'm a bit shocked Jeff Fisher and Les Snead opted for a veteran linemen, and not staying with the evident trend of building through the NFL Draft. All in all, there's risked inherent with any free agent signing. The Rams' needs on the offensive line aren't a secret. Kudos to the Rams' front office for their aggressive approach to solving the problem. I give this acquisition a solid: B+

Jared Cook, TE - This one kind of puzzled me. Don't get me wrong, I think the rams can use as many offensive weapons as they can afford. But the amount of money thrown at Cook - $35.1 million, for 5 years/$16 million guaranteed - seemed really, well... HUGE? This isn't a guy who ranked at the top of tight end ranking last season, and has been known to drop a pass on occasion. I love his skill set, with his ability to to compete as a wide receiver as well as Tight end. He's shown a talent for highlight reel catches too. The third round pick out of South Carolina in 2009 doesn't have one of those "Wow!" stat lines either. Let's take a look courtesy of NFL.com.


RECEIVING
YearTeamGRecYdsAvgYds/GLngTD20+40+1stFUM
2012Tennessee Titans134452311.940.261T481241
2011Tennessee Titans164975915.547.480T3112342
2010Tennessee Titans162936112.422.636160180
2009Tennessee Titans149748.25.31700050
TOTAL591311,71713.129.1808253813

The most impressive statistic for Cook is his yards after catch. Combines with his size - 6'5", 348 lbs. - as well a 4.4-ish speed, he offers a unique skills package the rams' offensive coordinator, Brian Schottenheimer, could really take advantage on in the NFC West. This is a guy who matches up well against the hyper-sized defensive backs their division rivals now employ. I give this acquisition a solid: B+

William Hayes, DT/DE - Is re-signing a player, who took a flyer at free agency, worth acknowledgement as a signing? I think it is. Hayes was an enormous part of the Rams defensive success in 2012. He register 7 sacks, but more importantly became a key player who could move among the defensive line positions and excel as he did so.


Courtesy of NFL.com

CAREER STATSMORE
SeasonTeamTacklesInterceptionsFumbles
GGSCombTotalAstSckSFTYPDefIntYdsAvgLngTDsFF
2012St. Louis Rams160352967.0--1----0.0----0
2011Tennessee Titans101161151.5--0----0.0----0
2010Tennessee Titans140322571.5--0----0.0----1
2009Tennessee Titans16115131204.0--0----0.0----2
2008Tennessee Titans80131031.0--1----0.0----1
TOTAL1471064115.00200--004


His new contract seems down right affordable by NFL standards - 3 years, $10.5 million, $3.75 million of it in a signing bonus. "Cap friendly" is a term that comes to mind. The 4th round pick in 2008 out of Winston-Salem State is small by most NFL defensive end standards. At 6'3", 273 lbs, he's shown an ability only Jeff Fisher - who drafted him for the Tennessee Titans - would know is there. To me, these are the guys who take a defense from being an also-ran, to greatness. These are the kind of guys the Pittsburgh Steelers have made their stock in trade for years - small school, huge ceiling players with zero fear on the football field. I give this re-acquisition a big time: A

Monday, October 15, 2012

Norb Vonnegut Strikes Again! 146 Pages of Pure Adrenaline

My only question for my friend Norb Vonnegut is "Why do you have to be so damn good at everything?" I still haven't forgiven him for the "Money Porn Beach read" line from his last novel. Actually, I have forgiven him but don't tell . Having the ability to show him The Novel Road now comes up when anyone "researches" beach porn because of my site's high traffic still cracks me up, and makes him feel more than a little guilty. 

 Geesh! Three bestselling financial thrillers later, my East Coast buddy decides it isn't not enough. So he decided to keep tempting us with a short yarn that's available at Barnes and Noble and Amazon as a $1.99 download.
 Here's few excerpts from "The President" :

"If anybody can sell 715,000 units of a product with no redeemable value, it’s a marketing professor from Harvard Business School. In all fairness Keith had started with a formidable asset, the name recognition of Marshall Draper. But give me a break. "Got Excellence" sucked."

"Most of the time, Drayton and I drank Jim Beam on his Boston Whaler. I don’t particularly care for bourbon, but it seemed the right choice as we explored the marshy creeks snaking through his 300-acre estate. There’s nothing like the smell of oyster banks at low tide to make me forget the trading floors, nothing like the stiff-legged egrets and the occasional alligator or two to erase all my thoughts of New York City."

"The morning research call had ended. The floor was buzzing with the sound and fury of 148 idiots in action. And I was thinking, Hat tip to Shakespeare. He understood stockbrokers and the whole business of “signifying nothing” long before we were invented."

So if your looking for a short, 146 page, fast paced read, Norb Vonnegut has what you need. Hell, when this hits the top of the e-book charts, it's quite possible The Novel Road will be the top search site for both "Beach Porn" and "The President"...

                                            

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

America's Next Author - Social Writing Contest

America's Next Author - Social Writing Contest  Have a story swirling around in your head? I just entered this contest, so pop on over and give my piece a quick read. Throwing in a great review will guarantee you at least one moment of happiness! Enjoy!

Monday, September 24, 2012

An Interview with Me? No Frickin' Way! OK, it happened...



Every now and then I do Blog interviews for people I like. I met a nice young lady over a Bookblogs.com who had recently launched her site. While I'm normally the one interviewing people, it's kind of fun to be on the other side of the questions every now and then. Here are a few excerpts from the interview by Catalina:

You are very diverse. Your blog “The Novel Road” has great interviews and views, and your new novel - Devin Briar is getting fabulous reviews. You have great short stories like Front Office Fiction that have a good following too. What do you as a writer enjoy writing the most?
First, I’d like to thank you for having me as your guest. As a long time, and moderately successful blogger, I see great things in store for your site.
All writing is fun to me. Short stories are a great way to purge my writer’s imagination. Some of the best writing experiences I’ve had writing were on dares. I wrote a Front Office Fiction (The Lighter Side of Seeing “Red”) once when a reader dared me to include “Red” from “The 70s Show” and a line from South Park. I suddenly felt the need to “Kill Kenny” and knew I could somehow fit in the words “dumb ass”... Read the full answer here
You’re quick to respond to comments by your readers. I think that’s important and it creates more of a following. Which social media tools have served you best?
The single most powerful tool anyone using social media has right now is “Tagging”. Get great at tagging your articles or Tweets. Search engines are driven by “tags” now more than ever. Get great at defining words for your articles or books. For instance, tags for my answer to this question could be: wordy, Twitter-hater, blah-blah, and Ding-Dong… Ding-Dong always gets hits! lol... Read the full answer here
Things you’ve written that make you smile? 
   I love to write humor. Yet, in my novel Devin Briar, I found the scenes where Devin and Robin sitting on the couch in their house the best writing moments. There’s something about how the two interact that makes me smile every time I read a segment of my book. They are also the most asked for segments at book readings, which really makes me smile... Read the full answer here

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

St. Louis Rams: The Game Day Gambit

This is a guest post I wrote for my friend Will Horton at RamsHerd.com

  Try! I’m known for trying to do almost anything when it comes to the St. Louis Rams. In doing so, I’ve learned a great deal. For instance, Photoshop doesn’t really capture the majesty of a Rams game ticket, or at least that’s what the guys at the stadium entrance have told me on more than one occasion… Call it Kismet or Karma, I’m left with tailgating in the parking lot of the Edward Jones Dome most Sundays, though the quick chats with law enforcement before I’m politely escorted away after presenting my current ticket “masterpiece” have become kind of a ritual…

 “So you actually paid a guy for this?” The nice St. Louis policeman waved the ticket I’d tried to use in my face.

 “Yup! I paid a guy named Will Horton…He’s over there somewhere,” I pointed vaguely off in several directions. The policeman’s rookie partner followed the wavering line of my pointing hand. “You should go find him. When I left he was selling tickets to a bus load of Nuns… Can I get a refund for my ticket?”

 The veteran cop elbowed his newbie partner who was still scanning the crowd for the now infamous “Will”.  “You want a refund for this?” He rolled his eye, “This ticket is worse than the last time you tried this…” He pointed at a few minor glitches in the ticket’s appearance. “…For instance, most tickets have the name of the opposing team printed on them?”

 I took a quick look at the ticket he held two inches in front of my face. It said, “St. Louis Rams vs. THEM. I don’t see a problem,“ I replied. All opposing teams are “THEM”, aren’t they?

 “Then there’s the ticket price,” He forced himself not to smile. The stadium officials had caught this nut case at every home game for the last ten years. It had become a minor tradition at the Dome, and his picture was posted at every entrance. Over the years, even the police department had started a small betting pool on what this whack job from New Mexico would come up with next. They’d stopped arresting him a few years ago. His forged tickets were now part of a commemorative mural somewhere inside the Dome.

 I studied the ticket price, which seemed fair since I’d planned on prime seating. “Yeah, who do I talk to about ticket prices? They’re getting a little steep, don’t you think?” I fixed my face with a “concerned consumer” look.

 The rookie glanced at the ticket and gasped, “$11-dee jillion?” He looked at me, then wistfully at the front doors to the Dome. This earned him another elbow in the ribs from his partner.

 “Yup! It’s gettin’ a little steep if you ask me… and that doesn’t include parking. But I’m a fan, so… Aboutthat refund?” I felt sweat begin to trickle down my back.

 “Well, according to you, you get a lot for your eleven-dee jillion bucks. Your ticket says you’re seated in Stan Kroenke’s suite with ten cheerleaders? It also has something about calling plays?” The struggle not to laugh was made worse by the arrival of more officers. They’d heard the call go out that their fellow officer had won the pool by catching the guy who’d become known as “Ticket Dummy”.

 “Call me crazy,” I said. I wondered why the growing numbers of officers were all nodding their heads. “But when I attend games, I want the full experience.” I pointed at the ticket’s addition information on the back of the ticket. “You forgot to mention the sideline Jacuzzi and unlimited beer.” I nodded with satisfaction, “Game stress management like that is worth every penny, don’t you think? Plus, the play calling thing just makes the game special, am I right?” My nodding head was on a swivel now as I searched for an ally in the group of officers. I counted twenty now, and I could see a few police cars, with their lights flashing, screaming toward my little group.

 The officer tapped the ticket on his other hand as he considered what to do next. “Where are you parked? He asked, though he’d heard an officer on his chest mounted mike say, “I found it! It’s in the same spot as last year…”

 Damn! They’d found my Yugo! “I’d be glad to show you gentlemen. If you’ll follow me…” He grabbed my shirt collar as I tried to make a half step dash to freedom.

 He couldn’t keep the smile of his face any longer. He knew this guy was harmless enough, plus if he’d brought with him what he had in the past… “OK, let’s go. Did you bring the shredded green chili chicken or the Carne Asada this time?”

 “Both, plus I have a new low calorie option for those straining against the pistol belts…” I gave his stomach a light back hand slap, then broke through the now laughing crowd of policemen as they teased their friend. I began the long walk to my car, half the St. Louis Police Department in my wake. I glance over my shoulder at the Edward Jones Dome. I could hear the announcer introducing the Rams’ players. “We need to hurry guys!” I yelled at my law enforcement entourage. “It’ll take me a few minutes to set up the TV dish.” I broke into a run toward my trusty Yugo.

 The rookie looked at his partner, “Isn’t the game blacked out here?”

 His partner nodded, along with the rest of the officers who were all smiling now. “Why do you think we don’t arrest him every year?” The rookie shrugged. This earned him a light slap to the back of his head by the senior cop. “It’s because as bad as he is at forging a game ticket, he’s a freakin’ wizard at pirating a game signal. He has a 50” plasma screen TV in his car. Plus, the guy knows how to cook great Mexican food.” All the other officers in the group started nodding their heads at the mention of food. Then one by one, they all began to sprint toward the rusty Yugo in the far corner of the Edward Jones parking lot…

 I'd like to thank Will Horton for allowing me to pop in at RamsHerd.  I'm assuming you all know I'm the    author of  - Devin Briar. It's available at Amazon in paperback and KindleBarnes & NobleApple iBookstore and iTunesSmashword.com, and any other site where great books can be found. To all who've bought my book, know how much I appreciate your support!