Thursday, August 13, 2015

Patriots-Packers drinking game: Thirsty Thursday pre-season opener edition

We're finally going to see football players on a football field instead of appearing in a court room. And even though the first pre-season game doesn't mean much, it's still football. And it will still be the Super Bowl Champions taking the field.

So here's a drinking game that will help you pass out before all the starters are taken out of the game. And if you actually play this game, you'll be on to alcohol poison, the emergency room, and then the morgue. Here it is...

Anytime a commentator says...
"Deflate" = take 1 drink of beer
"Gate" = 1 drink
"Wells" = 1 drink
"Goodell" = 1 drink
"PSI" = 1 drink
"Pressure" = 1 drink
"Court" = 1 drink
"Appeal" = 1 drink
"Mortensen tweet" = drink 11 of 12 beers in a 12 pack
"Suspension" = drink a mixed drink (a.k.a. a suspension, for you science nerds out there)
"Garoppolo" = 1 drink
"Pre-season" = 1 drink
"Incomplete" = 1 drink


Anytime this happens...
Touchback = 1 drink
Kick return = drink until the return is over
Turnover = finish your beer
The Patriots go no huddle = 1 drink per snap
A Patriots player you don't know touches the ball = 1 drink
An announcer is unsure of a player's name = 1 shot of liquor
Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady are compared = drink until it stops
You think you saw Vince Wilfork, but you didn't = finish your beer, drink a shot, eat a turkey leg
The announcers stop talking about what's happening in the game = 1 drink


Anytime this is on screen...
A shot of a football or footballs = 1 shot of liquor
A ballboy = 1 drink
Bill Belichick = 1 drink
Tom Brady = drink for 12 seconds
The number 12 (including graphics) = 1 drink
Bob Kraft = 1 drink
Kraft talking to someone = drink the entire time he's talking
The words "Free Brady" = 1 drink
Any sign or shirt with a hashtag on it = 1 drink
The Lombardi Trophy = 1 drink per trophy
A ring = 1 drink per ring


Bonus Obscure Player Scavenger Hunt!!!
Drink every time these players are spotted on the field. And the first to announce they've spotted them also has the authority to dispense drink commands to others until the next player is spotted. And just like discipline in the NFL, appealing these drink commands is futile. So here are the players to watch for...

Offense:
Jonathan Krause, #16 - WR
Shaq Mason, #69 - OL
Tyler Gaffney, #36 - RB

Defense:
Geneo Grissom, #48 - listed at DL but played some TE in college
Dax Swanson, #25 - DB
Xzavier Dickson (not a typo), #42 - LB

So there you go! Get lubed up responsibly folks!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

When idiots conspire: How the meatheads running the NFL sabotaged their own conspiracy to hurt the Patriots

DeflateGate. Like Brett Favre, every time this story seems about to go away, it comes back.

The more we learn about DeflateGate, the clearer it becomes that high ranking NFL officials were hell bent on crucifying the Patriots. But they were careless and stupid with their conspiracy. And they underestimated the willingness of one man to fight; one of the most competitive and mentally toughest athletes in the history of sports: Tom Brady.

The false details in the Mortensen tweet launched this story into orbit. Despite pleas from the Patriots, the NFL didn't correct the leak. They allowed inaccurate information to be the basis of the biggest sports story of the year. The true pressure measurements were revealed 106 days later in the Wells Report.

But whoever leaked the inaccurate details to Mortensen, and whoever decided not to correct them, should have known that at some point the truth would come out. And people would ask questions about the NFL's motives behind the leak and their decision not to correct it.

The Mortensen tweet has become irrelevant as evidence against the Patriots. But in the case against the NFL, it's Exhibit A.

Why fill the Wells Report with so much shoddy science and desperately convoluted logic? The Wells-Pash Report didn't make the NFL's case, it undermined it. For example, referee Walt Anderson's recollection of which pressure gauge he used pre-game, was refuted based on a shaky scientific argument that relied on Anderson's recollection of the Colts' balls' pre-game pressures. So Anderson's memory was deemed unlikely to be true, based on the reliability of his memory. Why allow that to be published?

The Wells Report was never about finding truth, it was about finding guilt. It didn't make the case against the Patriots or Brady, it helped start the case against the NFL.

The League's motives in DeflateGate became clear when the Patriots and Tom Brady were severely punished. The team in part for previous rules violations (SpyGate). And Brady for being "generally aware," and for not handing over his cell phone.

Did Troy Vincent and the NFL do any research into their own precedents? Didn't they remember Brett Favre being fined $50k in 2010 for not turning over his cell phone? Or 2009 when a Jets equipment staffer was suspended for tampering with a kicking ball, but the kicker wasn't punished at all, or even investigated?

Why was the NFL so harsh with the punishments? Imagine if the NFL had just fined Brady. This story might have gone to sleep long ago. But just fining Brady was unacceptable. Why?

The motives for harshness and revenge against the Patriots are abundant. Goodell wanted to rebuild his reputation as League Sheriff. Former Jets president Mike Kensil's motives are obvious. The Ravens were infuriated about ineligible receivers the week prior. A number of other teams think the Patriots are pathological cheaters. Supported by a handful of owners, the same executives who leaked fake air pressures to Mortensen were likely the same people who pressured for and had the power to enforce the harshest possible punishment.

Brady became the scapegoat. The NFL needed a specific villain to blame. Witch hunts need a witch. Pinning such a huge scandal on two no-name team employees wouldn't satisfy.

Brady was singled out because he was mentioned in texts. Because he refused to hand over his phone. And if he appealed, the NFL knew they could have their Meathead in Chief Goodell hear the appeal and then deny it. So he'd be compelled to settle (and admit guilt) or go all the way to Court.

This was their opportunity to sink their teeth in. So they did. Revenge, paranoia, reputation, all motives were satisfied by the severe punishments.

The NFL thought Patriots would accept it. And they were right about that. Bob Kraft accepted the loss of draft picks and the $1 million fine. Kraft's only recourse was to sue the League, and Goodell correctly predicted that Kraft wouldn't.

But the NFL miscalculated when they messed with Tom Brady. Big time. They completely underestimated him. Which is their most monumental mistake in this comedy of errors. Many have underestimated Tom Brady. And he's proven them all wrong.

The NFL execs and owners behind this conspiracy didn't plan this through. They didn't realize that false information leaked out would one day be proven false. They didn't realize that the bad science and flimsy logic of the Wells Report would be used more often as evidence against the NFL as opposed to evidence against Tom Brady.

And they didn't realize that a 6th round draft pick out of Michigan who fought and won a roster spot, then fought his way up a depth chart, then fought and won 4 Super Bowls, would fight and be able to beat them.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Roger Goodell and the NFL crave headlines, not justice

"Tom Brady destroyed his phone" is the latest salacious and headline hungry statement/leak that the NFL has disbursed in its efforts to make Brady look as guilty as possible, and to make Roger Goodell look like the punisher of the wicked. This was never about PSI, it was about perception: Goodell's perception as the strict disciplinarian, and the perception that some owners around the NFL have of the Patriots getting away with cheating.

Brady destroyed his phone. He destroyed his phone? He destroyed his phone! Why did he destroy his phone? Who destroys their phone? Why would an innocent man destroy his phone? The dramatic phrasing was intended to make headlines. The NFL didn't just break news, they wrote the first line of every story.

How many times did you hear the word "destroy" in the past 24 hours? The NFL could have said the phone was "replaced," or "disposed of." They could have said the memory card was destroyed, or erased, or swiped. Nope, the whole phone was destroyed. And if Brady had agreed to admit his guilt and accept a reduced suspension, the NFL would have kept his destroyed phone a secret.

Think about. This "damning" evidence, this so-called "smoking gun" was something the NFL was happy to keep under wraps, so long as Brady gave them the confession they wanted.

The NFL lacks evidence, so they deploy innuendo. Whatever facts there are behind Brady's phone being disposed of become irrelevant. How did he destroy it? Was it physically destroyed or just dismantled and the information erased? Was it smashed to bits or dropped in water or blown up or melted or hurled into space?

We don't know the details, and the NFL doesn't care to know them. Details are important when seeking justice. And their lack of importance in the DeflateGate maelstrom demonstrates how uninterested in truth and justice Goodell and the NFL have been since this whole thing started.

The investigation into DeflateGate was only secondarily about trying to find out if the Patriots deflated footballs, and if so, under whose authority and with whose knowledge. The primary goal of the Wells Report, and of every leak and NFL statement, has been to make Brady and the Patriots look as guilty as possible.

A referee claimed to use one gauge to test footballs, but his memory was refuted by the Wells Report, because it destroyed the NFL's case. His memory was deemed faulty based on the reliability of his own memory. I'm not making that up. You can't make that up. His recollection of the Colts' ball's pressures was used as the basis of the argument to refute his recollection of which pressure gauge he used. So his memory is unreliable, based on an argument that relied on his memory.

Remember the leak that broke this entire story? The Patriots were said to have been caught with 11 of 12 footballs 2+ pounds of pressure under the legal minimum. The footballs were indeed below the 12.5 minimum, but not by as much as the leak and the ensuing story claimed. They were, according to one gauge, deflated about as much as the Laws of Physics would predict. But that fact wasn't revealed for months. Even though the NFL knew the leak was inaccurate.

Information with incorrect details was leaked, reported, and then was used as a foundation for the biggest story of the 2014 NFL season. The NFL knew the leaked information was inaccurate, and did nothing to correct it.Why?

Why be so wary of details? Because details don't matter in a witch hunt. Details don't matter when the owners of the Colts and Ravens want to see the Patriots pay, and the Commissioner wants to appear to be a hardass. Sheriff Goodell needed to prove that he's a man of law and order. So with the backing of a group of frustrated owners, the witch hunt and trials by fire began.

This has been a smear campaign from its outset. Incorrect facts were leaked and went uncorrected for months. The Wells Report was based on faulty physics and convoluted logic. And now this bombshell about a phone, which was never going to be given as evidence anyway, being "destroyed," is the latest effort by the NFL to crucify Brady in public, while ignoring any truth or details which might reveal what actually happened.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Tom Brady was stupid to destroy his phone, but I understand

The NFL for some reason needed a few weeks to come to the decision to do nothing about Tom Brady's suspension, and keep it at 4 games. This was announced literally on the eve of training camp, with Patriots players scheduled to report on Wednesday the 29th and Brady himself already in Foxborough. The bombshell with the announcement is the fact that Tom Brady evidently destroyed his cell phone during the investigation.

Frankly, the cell phone being destroyed is impossible to defend or explain. The NFL using the word "destroyed" is intentionally dramatic. It conjures an image of Tom Brady blowing his phone up with an M-80, or dropping it in a river in the wilderness. What actually happened to the phone is probably less theatrical. How many of us actually know what happens when we trade in or donate our phones?

Even if the phone was the smoking gun, you still don't destroy it. You just refuse to hand it over. You accidentally leave it next to a magnet, or drop it in the pool, or lose it while hiking, or let Gronk spike it into oblivion as an apparent joke.

It was not smart for Brady to have his phone "destroyed."

But I understand it. The witch hunt atmosphere created by the NFL's leaks and the media firestorm around this story would make it difficult to consistently make calculated and correct decisions. Brady couldn't simply admit guilt for this misdemeanor because it was being treated like a felony. Admitting guilt would tarnish your legacy and everything you've worked for your entire life, not to mention demoralize your teammates before the biggest game of their lives. Brady couldn't be honest so all he could do was shape, twist, and hide the truth as best as he could.

Some people are good at hiding the truth and deceiving people. You don't even notice them. Others aren't very good at it.

I'm not going to defend Tom Brady as innocent. I am going to point out how absurd this story has been from the beginning. This was a set-up. This was Brady getting caught stealing a candy bar and getting charged with grand theft auto, because some elements of the NFL want to see him pay.

Brady evidently broke a rule, got caught, and didn't come clean. He should be punished for violating the initial rule, which was an equipment violation. Should he be punished for obstructing "justice?" I'm not so sure. The NFL didn't seem to be seeking justice, it seemed to be seeking to destroy his reputation. That's vengeance, not justice.

Pedro Martinez is greatness beyond greatness

Pedro Martinez was by far the best thing going during the Great Boston Sports Depression between Larry Bird and Tom Brady. Before Boston teams won Super Bowls and World Series, all we fans could be proud of was a skinny, cocky, unbelievably dominant Dominican pitcher.

It can be difficult to remember the mindset we had in the late '90s and very early 2000s, before the Patriots won the Super Bowl, before the Curse was Reversed, before Boston teams claimed 9 titles in 14 years. And with the abundance of Boston sports heroes in this young century (Brady, Ortiz, Garnett, Thomas, and so on), we kind of forget how special Pedro Martinez actually was, and how for a few years he provided us with that feeling of joy and sense of superiority once every 5 days. So let's remind ourselves of his greatness beyond greatness.

From 1997 to 2000, he was perhaps the best pitcher of all-time
At the height of the most offensive era in MLB history, Pedro Martinez was by far the best pitcher. From '97 to 2000 he won 77 games (19.25 per season). He struck out 1,153 (288.25 per season) and had a 2.12 ERA. In those 4 homerun heavy seasons, he only allowed 68 balls to leave the park. He allowed an impossibly low 9 homeruns in 1999, only 0.34% of the total homeruns hit by AL batters.

He won 3 Cy Youngs in this stretch, and probably should have won an MVP. But we'll get to that later.

In 2000 he struck out almost 9 times as many batters (8.88) as he walked. In 1999 he allowed 0.4 HR per every 9 IP. In '97 the barely 170 pound Pedro threw 241.1 innings. In 2000 his WHIP of 0.737 set the record for the lowest of all time, 0.032 lower than Guy Hecker's WHIP in 1882. Yes, Pedro broke a 118-year-old record. And he did that in the steroid era, in a league with a DH.

While sluggers were smashing Roger Maris' single-season HR record, Pedro was challenging Bob Gibson's ERA record (which was set on a higher mound, and with pitchers batting). Pedro Martinez did more to limit offense in the steroid era than mandatory PED testing eventually did.

His playoff performances were legendary
In Game 5 of the 1999 ALDS against Cleveland, Pedro Martinez pitched 6 no-hit innings of relief in the deciding game of the series. Despite his arm being worn out and his fastball considerably slowed, he held an offense that had scored 1,000+ runs that season, to zero hits. Manny Ramirez, Jim Thome, the Alomars, Kenny Lofton, all of them failed to get hits off Pedro. He entered the game when it was 8-8, the Sox won 12-8, and claimed their first playoff series since 1986.

Then in Game 3 of the '99 ALCS, Pedro beat the Yankees with 7 scoreless innings. He only allowed 2 hits and struck out 12. It was New York's only loss of the post-season.

He could have been the winner of Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS if not for poor management. Had Grady Little gone to the bullpen to finish the game, few people in Boston would know who Aaron Boone was. Pedro was brilliant for 7 innings, then began to falter in the 8th. Had he been removed, the Red Sox probably would have gone to the World Series, and had a good chance against the Marlins.

He was a big part of the Red Sox winning the 2004 World Series
Since we tend to associate Pedro so much with the pre-2004 era of Red Sox history, we forget how vital he was to the Sox winning the World Series in '04. Not only with his pitching, but just with his presence. His presence on the team made the Sox a contender, and the new ownership parlayed that in their pursuit of players like Curt Schilling. Pedro was also part of that team's loose yet confident attitude.


He wasn't that great in the 2004 regular season. And in the ALCS against the Yankees, he struggled. However in Game 3 of the World Series he threw 7 scoreless innings, allowing only 3 hits. This was a great post-season start in the most important series in Red Sox history this side of 1920, and Pedro's pitching was a major contribution.

He should have won the MVP in 1999
Apart from Pedro and Nomar, the 1999 Red Sox weren't very good. Jose Offerman, Wilton Veras, Damon Buford, Darren Lewis, Reggie Jefferson, Ed Sprague. The #2 pitcher was Bret Saberhagen, when he was healthy. Then there was Mark Portugal, Pat Rapp, and Brian Rose. John "Way Back" Wasdin was still out in the bullpen. It wasn't a very good team. Yet they won 94 games. They were 25-5 (.833) when Pedro started, and 69-63 (.523) when he didn't. I'd say he was quite valuable to that team's success.

He had an ERA of 2.07, struck out 313 batters, had a WHIP of 0.923, was AL Pitcher of the Month 4 times, and led the AL in WAR. He only allowed 9 homeruns in 213.1 innings (1 per 23.7 innings). He came in 2nd in MVP voting, behind Ivan Rodriguez. Why? Because some people didn't think a pitcher should be eligible for the MVP because they're not "every day players." Pedro got one more 1st place vote than Rodriguez did. But some voters felt that the Cy Young was for pitchers, the MVP was for positional players, and left Pedro off their ballot. So I-Rod won.

He threw a perfect game, but not really, but really
In 1995, Pedro retired every batter he faced for 9 innings. However, after 9 innings the Expos and Padres were still tied 0-0. The Expos scored in the 10th, but Pedro allowed a double in the bottom of the inning and was relieved. So he didn't even get credit for a shutout, let alone a perfect game.

Nevertheless, he still pitched 9 perfect innings, still retired 27 straight batters from 1st to 9th. And a ball from the game is in Cooperstown with other balls from no-hitters.



Pedro was often on teams that didn't support him very much. We can only imagine how much higher his winning percentage would be if he had more help.

The abundance of absurd but true Pedro stories
Remember his performance in the '99 All-Star Game? He struck out Hall of Famer and 12 time All-Star Barry Larkin. Then Larry Walker, who was hitting .382 at the time. Pedro then punched out Sosa and McGwire, who had combined for 136 homeruns the year before and hit 128 in '99. After Matt Williams reached on an error, Pedro struck out Jeff Bagwell and I-Rod threw Williams out trying to steal second. The most impressive 2 innings pitched of all time.

2,222. That's how many homeruns were hit by guys Pedro struck out in the 1999 All-Star Game

Remember the 17 strikeout one-hitter against the Yankees?

Remember the no-hit bid against the Devil Rays after he hit Gerald Williams with a pitch?

Remember when the Red Sox played a 19 inning game in Seattle in 2000, then Pedro saved the bullpen the next day with an efficient complete game? It was one of his most impressive demonstrations as a pitcher. He only struck out 7 (he was averaging 11.8 K/9 that year), instead pitching to contact and inducing 14 groundballs (including 2 GIDP) to keep his pitch count low. He won the game, and saved the beleaguered bullpen.

His stuff was amazing. And when his fastball gradually lost its ferocity, his accuracy and pitching acumen allowed him to remain elite. He was an artist. He was one of the smartest players in the game and one of the goofiest. He had a small body but big balls. He dominated, he enraged, he impressed, he intimidated, the game revolved around him when he was pitching.

You absolutely had to watch his starts. You coveted tickets to see him pitch in person at Fenway. Each start had a realistic chance to be a no-hitter or a 20 strikeout game. You learned Spanish because of him. Pedro didn't just dominate the game, he dominated the lives of Boston sports fans.

Monday, July 27, 2015

No more Boston 2024 (thank God)

Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh doesn't want to put taxpayers in the position to pay for cost overruns. That unwillingness to make Boston's citizens the insurance policy for Boston 2024 has resulted in Boston's bid being dropped completely. And thank fucking God for that.

The organizers of Boston 2024 were so sure of their budgeting estimates, that they were willing to put the people of Boston's money on the line to pay in case costs surpassed expectations. That's money that could go to schools, police, fire, public works, snow removal, pothole repair, instead going to pay for a velodrome. Which is a steeply banked bicycle race track. Which nobody has any use for, which is why we don't already have one.

The benefits of hosting the Olympics would have been shared among a select group of rich individuals and companies. It would be a bonanza for Suffolk Construction. Bob Kraft would get a cheap soccer specific stadium for the Revs. Everyone publicly pushing for the games to be here would have seen their wallets fatten, whether through business deals or just the paychecks they get working for the Boston 2024 organization. And if costs exceeded expectation, the people would have paid. While the beneficiaries still got paid the same.

After watching the Olympic debate on Fox 25 last week, my anti-Boston 2024 sentiment went from a small controlled fire to a raging inferno. Steve Pagliuca could not give straight answers to simple questions. Daniel Doctoroff was a smarmy jerk. Every question raised by the media or by people against Boston 2024 was dismissed as "hyperbole," or "inflammatory," or not answered at all.

And the T wouldn't benefit directly from the Olympics. There are no Boston 2024 funds allocated to improving it. The T needs to be fixed on its own, BEFORE 2024. The commuter rail and subway lack modern, functioning equipment. Routes and systems need to be updated. The amount of economic production lost due to public transportation issues is unacceptable for a major city. And we should focus on remedying these problems before taking on the challenge of catering to the Olympics.

The Boston 2024 plan was built by optimistic businessmen who stood to gain from Boston hosting. And if their optimistic cost and revenue estimates didn't come to fruition in reality, the people were going to pay. And that's wrong. You can't have one group of people enjoy the profit while another group takes the risk.

So bon voyage, Boston 2024. To translate intoto Bostonian: Go fuck yourselves.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

BBS Awards: New England Patriots win Team of the Year

The Boston Blood Sox Awards (or Bloodies) are awarded for great success and/or pitiful failure in the 2014-15 sports calendar.

Back in January of 2008, I awarded Team of the Year to the Patriots. They were 16-0. This was before I realized that I should write these posts sometime after the Super Bowl.

I'm very happy to name the Patriots as the Team of the Year for 2014-15.


They won 15 games, including a very hard fought playoff battle against the Ravens, and of course the Super Bowl against Seattle. They were tough, they were imposing, they were difficult to match up against, they were clutch.

The stars were stellar. The role players rose to the occasion. They all did their job.

The season started poorly. At one point a reporter asked Belichick if he was considering replacing Brady (who was that idiot by the way?). The team believed in itself, even though the fans and the media didn't. The Patriots moved on to Cincinnati. Then to Buffalo, then the Jets, the Bears, the Broncos, the Colts, and so on. They scored 87 points in 2 games against the "AFC Finalist" Colts.

And the Super Bowl will probably be the Game of the Century for Boston Sports.

Belichick, Brady, Gronkowski, Revis, Edelman, Wilfork, Stork, Browner, McCourty, Blount, Gray, Vereen, Amendola, LaFell, Jones, Jones, Ninkovich, Casillas, Collins, Butler.

What a great team. What a great year.

I can't wait for the 2015 season to begin.

BBS Awards: Tom Brady wins Athlete of the Year

The Boston Blood Sox Awards (or Bloodies) are awarded for great success and/or pitiful failure in the 2014-15 sports year.

Without a doubt Tom Brady was the best athlete in all of sports in 2014.


He's better than Aaron Rodgers. He beat the Seahawks. Against the best defense in the NFL, he had the best and most clutch 4th quarter of any quarterback in Super Bowl history.

And not only did he lead his team to the top of the NFL in 2014, he's currently in a fight against the NFL and just might beat the League itself.

So much better than Aaron Rodgers.