Friday, April 29, 2011

A Draft Recap all about the Redskins

The NFL Draft is an event unlike any other in sports. Fans, players, coaches and front offices all wait expectantly with the hope that one single decision can sway the direction of their franchise for the next decade.

But more than that, you get the rare ability to connect with college kids on a deeply emotional level. You can see a 22 year old, who has worked his whole life to reach one goal - playing in the NFL - finally realize his dream. You get to see his every emotion as Emperor Palpatine Commissioner Goodell calls his name, "With the 2nd pick in the NFL draft, the Denver Broncos select: Von Miller."

The uninhibited reactions, the tears, the overwhelming sense of pride, and the jack-o-lantern grins smeared across the faces of young men when they feel their phone ring in their hand, look down and hear on the other end, "Son, how do you feel about becoming a New Orlean Saint?". It's unreal. It's why we watch. It's what makes the NFL the most popular sport in America.

It's why my twitter feed was filled with comments like, "Why does the NFL draft make me wanna cry!?".

To be fair, most of those were from 49ers fans realizing their front office is as inept as a blowfish throwing darts.

I won't go pick by pick, I will spend too much time on the Redskins, and I will do everything in my power to entertain you and convince you my opinions are right (some things never change).

Quarterbacks in the Draft
Drafting a quarterback is more exciting than seeing Tony Romo in a "Face Punching Booth". Everyone can talk themselves into any quarterback being the savior of the franchise. Why? Because of that pretty boy jerk, Tom Brady. Drafted with the 199th overall pick he became on of the top 5 QBs of all time. Now I'm expected to believe that Blaine Gabbert (worst QB name of ALL TIME, by the way) is going to be the franchise savior for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Really?

When had anyone even heard of Blaine Gabbert before Andrew Luck declared he was staying at Stanford another year? Same with Christian Ponder. In 2010 they said Jake Locker could have gone #1 overall in this draft, then he put together (another) unimpressive, sub-par, losing record season and STILL got drafted 8th. Andrew Dalton? Still on the board for a reason. Ryan Mallet? Can't run, can't speak coherently, and will probably be suspended his first year for actually smoking a joint between drills at mini-camp. Cam Newton? Boom or bust. Likely bust, especially in Carolina.

Here's what happened. NFL fans love quarterbacks. We also love the QB Camp show Jon Gruden does with the prospective players. So draft pundits hype these guys up so much that teams are forced to take them because their fans absolutely must have them. Then, for the first time since Prince was partying like it was 1999, three quarterbacks were taken in the Top 10.

So, am I happy the Redskins traded away the #10 pick to the Jaguars so they could draft Gabbert? Absolutely. It's a position where you must get the right guy, and when you have so many holes to fill (like Washington does) you can't risk it on a chance player. Trade that pick away to someone who is grasping for a QB, get another second round pick and move down just 6 spots in the draft. It's a no-brainer.

Here's the simple litmus test I apply. Can you imagine hearing, "Blaine Gabbert has just won the Super Bowl!" or "Blaine Gabbert is a lock for the Hall of Fame when he retires"? No way! That's the worst name since Tim Couch! Couch!! If the name doesn't work, the player won't work.

That said, Ryan Kerrigan could turn out to be a Nancy....

Get it? Nancy Kerrigan?

I'll be accepting my Nobel Peace Prize for Comedy in 2012.

With the 16th pick in the draft, the Washington Redskins select...
I had a hard time figuring out what I wanted the Redskins to do before this draft. I knew they shouldn't trade up, and I didn't want a first round quarterback. For a while I wanted a sexy pick, like a wide receiver, or a smart pick like an offensive lineman. The more I thought about it, however, I realized (or was told by my friend Michael) that our defense is close to being great. We have play makers on that side of the ball and if we get a few more pieces we can be a force on the field. Remember the 2001 Ravens? They won a Super Bowl with the best defense on Earth and Trent Dilfer (Dilfer!) as quarterback.

Ryan Kerrigan is going to be a good fit on this defense, he was, by the way, the Big 10 Defensive Player of the Year. You know another Redskin great who was named Big 10 Defensive PotY? A stud named Lavar Arrington. You never know.

I love the idea of Kerrigan rushing the passer with Brian Orakpo. That gives us two stud edge rushers who are quick, strong, and love getting after the ball. Kerrigan tied a Big 10 record by forcing 14 fumbles in his career. He was 2nd All-Time at Purdue with 33.5 sacks, and 4th in the nation with 57 tackles for loss. This is a guy who makes plays in the backfield. Stops up the run, and gets after the quarterback

More importantly, he brings something to the Redskins we don't see too often with our new player acquisitions: strong character, a high motor, and an unrelenting work ethic.

I know another white pass rusher in the league with long hair and an unquenchable thirst for getting after the quarterback: Clay Matthews, who is busying brushing his hair, polishing his Super Bowl ring and feasting on the flesh of quarterbacks.

Above all, Kerrigan's character, work ethic, and resolve prove to me he's a solid pick that will improve our defense, add depth and give us something to build on.

Second Round/McNabb?
The Skins still have two picks in the 2nd round and can do some damage and fill a few holes with their picks. They can afford to take a look at a guy like Andrew Dalton or Ryan Mallet if thats who they like and still get an offensive tackle or skill player if they're available. For the record, I do not like Dalton or Mallet.

Here's one more thing I think is worth talking about. Where is Donovan McNabb going? Is it just me, or are the only people propagating his departure the media? Has anyone on the Redskins addressed them parting ways? Or has it just been talking heads on ESPN and local sports radio who are so certain this relationship is finished?

He didn't have a good year last year. He didn't and he got benched. That happens when you try to get your receivers to catch the ball with their feet. Plus, we only sat him for the final three games after we were already eliminated from playoff contention. Call me an optimist but I see that as protecting as asset from getting his kneecaps bashed while scrambling away from rhino sized defensive ends in a game that doesn't matter.

Sure McNabb never got benched in Philadelphia. His back up QBs were also a garbage man and my librarian's mother (read, just slightly worse than Rex Grossman (Grossman!!) ). Not to mention he always had talent to throw to and a strong offensive line to protect him.

Why gamble on a QB in a draft that is weak on them when you have McNabb (serviceable) and Grossman (a good punching bag) around for another year. We don't need to win the Super Bowl this year. We just need to raise the talent, fix the holes, and right the ship. Create a culture of winning and of developing good, young players. Protect our draft picks and get on the right track for the future.

Or we could throw every game and try to get Andrew Luck next year...who knows.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Myrtle Beach

There is a magical little place in South Carolina where the grass is always green, the weather is crisp and clear each day and all your vacationing needs are within a pleasant afternoon stroll down flower encompassed sidewalks.

Unfortunately, I went to Myrtle Beach.

Me and 13 other good-intentioned young men embarked on a four-day adventure to North Myrtle Beach a few weeks ago to give our friend an auspicious send-off from bachelordom into the wonderful world I call marriage.

I suppose I could have just said it was a bachelor party...but they made a thesaurus for a reason, didn't they?

I'm going to attempt to recap a few of the highlights without boring you to tears or breaking the ultimate bachelor party vow of silence. But let's be real- if you invite me on a trip with you anywhere, the story of that trip will end up on this blog within a few weeks and I'll make myself to look like a hero while you look like a baboon trying to get peanut-butter off the roof of his mouth. You've been warned.

It's worth noting up front that this was really a golf trip. Four days, three rounds of golf and if you're obsessed like me, you play a local par 3 the morning before the first round cause you wanna be sharp. I wouldn't say I'm Rory McIlroy or anything...but I am.

Here's the breakdown-

Travel day.
Here are the highlights of travel day.


OK, that was it. Seriously. That's it. I'm not kidding you guys! On the trip down the three people in my car were doing one of three things.

1. Breaking down every possible scenario in the NFL draft,
2. Sleeping, or
3. Critiquing the ability of the local road crews to place the orange cones on the road. How was the spacing between each one? Was it consistent? If they were closing a lane did the angle cut off too quickly causing back-ups at the merge? Or was the grade just right? How close to the dashed road line were the cones? Is there a difference in difficulty between placing the big orange barrels vs. the pointy cones? If I were to start that job today would they start me with cones or barrels? How big of an impact does the driver of the truck have? If he varies his speed does it throw the cone-placer off? Does the driver use cruise control? Do large construction trucks have cruise control?

On and on we went. It was a 7 hour drive and that conversation took up about 5 hours of it.

Thursday Night-
The Arrival and Dinner.
Once the group finally arrived we figured we'd hit the town for dinner. Head into the densest area of restaurants and wander around until boredom or fatigue set in.

We all donned our Thursday night finest. Buttoned up shirts? Check. Jeans with intentional holes? Check. Boat shoes or sandals? Check. Watches Timepieces? Check. Wallet full of money? Eh...we'll figure it out.

We piled into the 15 passenger van because when you're on a bachelor party you gotta ride in style and let the townies drive you around. And when I say "townies" I mean it. Our driver Jason told us on the trip that everyone he knew in high school either "played football or was a meth-head". His words, not mine.

Let's just say he didn't have an answer when we asked him what position he played.

So we arrive at our destination and let the fun begin. We grabbed a bite to eat, wandered around, checked out a few of the local establishments to see if anything worthwhile is going on and began to wonder where all the people were. Wasn't this the central hub for all life at Myrtle Beach? Weren't there more restaurants per square foot here than white guys on a golf course? What was going on?!

Ah, yes. It was a Thursday night. In the middle of April. There were more people at Dane Cook's last movie premier. I think I was in bed by 9:30pm.

What?! I had an busy day coming up.

Round 1.
Early morning wake up for me and my roomie, Ricky. We had our first round of golf at 2pm and wanted to hit a local par 3 course (for the golf-illiterate, a "par 3" course is the Rhode Island of golf courses. It has what is legally required to be called a golf course, but is so small and insignificant people don't usually acknowledge its existence).

Ricky and I got all of our bad shots out of the way early, returned to the condo grabbed a bite to eat then headed out for the afternoon round of golf. We are the terminator robots of golf.

Three groups, ten players, and one hole that was 767 yards (Again, for the golf-illiterate, that's the Texas of golf holes. No need for it to be that big, but insanely proud that it is bigger, longer and more fun than any other hole in the world. Plus, it gives everyone who plays there an ill-conceived feeling of self-entitlement).

Round 2.
Remember when there were all those tornadoes in Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina? And it was hailing, and the wind was crazy and things were flooding and there was weeping and gnashing of teeth?

Well it missed us and we played a sunny round of golf with, perhaps, a touch of extra wind. Plus our bachelor netted a 75 foot birdie putt while I ran around the green screaming like I just won American Idol.

Saturday Night-
We asked one of the members of our group to recommend a good seafood place. We listened as he rattled on for five minutes telling us all of the bad seafood places. So we asked again.

We ended up at a place called Duffy Street.

Ever seen Kitchen Nightmares? The show with Chef Gordon Ramsey where he goes around to failing restaurants, screams at them, uses words like "dreadful" and destroys the self-esteem of every restaurant worker in sight? I found a candidate for that show.

Every item on the menu came deep fried. No, seriously. You had two options for food that was not deep fried- the steam pot, or the "Pirate's Plate", a menu item outlined in red and highlighted as "the perfect non-fried seafood combination." That is a direct quote. I'm not kidding!

Naturally, we all had a blast.

But, there was some unhappy porcelain hardware later.

Round 3. Travel.
Up early for a 9am round of golf that was an hour away, then immediately following that round a 6 hour drive home.

That idea can't miss right? Nothing can go wrong with that!

I vaguely remember waking up at a gas station in the middle of North Carolina buying a Butterfinger and a Gatorade (the staple meal of professional video game players everywhere) and trying to remember why I couldn't feel my upper body.

Before I knew it I was at home unpacking and receiving a text from the guy who drove me saying I left my golf shoes in the car. 24 years old and still losing my shoes.

It could have been worse, he could have asked to continue our discussion on construction cone placement.

For more on this extravagant journey, you should have been following me on Twitter! Again, my two rules of being invited on a trip anywhere: 1) I will tweet about it, 2) I will probably write a blog about it. You can't miss!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Good Friday

I've been to a bar mitzvah. Two, in fact. I've discussed and read the Qur'an with Muslim friends. I've even sat through an entire Catholic mass.

I have close friends who are openly, and not so openly, gay. I've had friends whose marriage fell apart, and friends whose marriage was carefully pieced back together over months of patience, forgiveness, and mercy. I listen to the Liberal and Conservative agendas with an open mind, knowing the truth is usually somewhere in the middle. I've heard poor speakers present great truths, and I've heard great speakers preach lies.

I've heard cynics twist, and massage the Truth into something that appeases them and satisfies their needs. I've heard scholars attempt to prove, disprove and alter the meaning of multiple historical religious texts.

I'm good friends with Yankees fans, Patriots fans and Cowboys fans and I even go so far as to tolerate Lakers fans.

If you ask me to have a traditional Passover seder, I'd oblige. If you wanted me to light the Umoja candle on the first day of Kwanza, I'd be honored to be included in your celebration. If I fasted with you for Ramadan we'd both grow in our faith.

Yet if I say, "Would you let me tell you the story of Jesus Christ?" you might shut down. Liar. Hypocrite. Irrelevant. Heard it all before. As though a bad experience with a church, a person, a family member gives cause to render an entire text inaccurate, inapplicable and inane. As though the actions of one, or many, claiming to be Christian does the same.

My point is this. I know people are different. I know lives are different. I know few people have the family that I have, or the friendships I've been blessed by. I know few people have 3 older brothers to lean on, let alone 150 brothers to have grown with throughout college. I know faith does not come easy.

I also know people are broken. In need of a savior. In need of help.

I know that the greatest honor Good Friday gets from most of us is that its listed first, above Earth Day, on our calendars. Yet if we take a second to remember why we celebrate Good Friday, why its on our calendars at all, our perspective on life would change. We celebrate this day to remember a God who came as a man, who taught of love, redemption and healing. Who proved through word and action that he was more than a man, and who took on our sin and faced our punishment that we might not have to. We celebrate this day to remember the sacrifice. The death. And that three days later, he rose.

If you've made it this far in the blog I'm grateful. As a friend, I ask you to consider these truths. If you're willing, listen to this re-telling of the story of Christ's death (you can listen from the website, no downloads). It rocked me to my core. And it's not a sermon, promise. Simply elegant, powerful, and descriptive story-telling.

I think if we're willing to open our minds up past what we already know, and let the world affect us, things that are true will present themselves.

Happy Good Friday!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Two Lists of Three

I'm back after my month-long hiatus for the atrocity that was my previous blog post. If ever there was a year to ignore all the advice I gave you about the NCAA Tournament, it was this year. I feel I have paid my dues, and punished myself for my previous mis-deeds, and now I am back. And just in time too.

We only have a few weeks left of meaningful sports before the black hole of major league baseball is all that is left to "entertain" us for the summer. I don't mean to startle you here, but once the NBA and NHL playoffs end baseball is all we'll have until the NFL labor negotiation dispute is settled. At least last year we had the World Cup to take our minds off of things. Why couldn't the World Cup have been played this year, during the lockout? That's just more proof that soccer hates America.

I figure I should squeeze every last drop out of these playoffs because they are shaping up to be more exciting than a dinner party with Sigfried and Roy.

The NBA Playoffs are filled with story lines. You have the superstars each grasping for a title and a shot at immortality. Regular stars grasping for the one moment, one game, that will change how they're remembered forever. And the Knicks bench slowly finding out that they will actually have to contribute because running a 5-on-1 with Carmelo against the Celtics doesn't work (see: LeBron, 2010).

Plus you have the NHL playoffs with all of their incredible story lines and star players. You know them...Alex Ovechkin other Russian guy. That one guy from Canada and those two brothers who play for a team either in the Eastern Conference or the Western Conference, I can't remember which.

Point is, the Washington Capitals are looking for penance from their previous years playoff catastrophes and I'm here to give it to them.

For the sake of time, and creativity, I'll give you three things to watch for in each of these playoffs. Don't worry, the three things won't be hyper-specific like "Kobe's left knee, Chris Bosh's PER, and Amare's back spasms". They would have been, but my editor advised me not too.

Of course, by "editor" I mean the high school student I convinced to read my blogs and say nice things to me in exchange for "course credit" and something I call "not being punched".

Here are three things to watch for in the NBA Playoffs:

1. The Second Round in the East - If you're an American you watch sports for one of two reasons 1) to watch the best athletes in the world play, or 2) because you want your husband/boyfriend to like you and think you're into what they're into so you suffer through games you care nothing about and sometimes say something like, "So, what happens if your team loses?". Which gives the male in this situation an opportunity to lay out every possible playoffs scenario imaginable while you get 10-20 minutes of free-time to check Facebook on your phone.

All that to say, if you like watching superstars do things that are superstar-ish, you need to watch the second round of the NBA Playoffs in the Eastern Conference. If the games go according to plan, you have the potential match-up for the Chicago Bulls (Rose, Boozer, Noah) to play the Orlando Magic (Dwight Howard, Jameer Nelson, Jason Richardson and the corpses of Hedo Turkoglu and Gilbert Arenas).

Not to mention the Celtics (Garnett, Peirce, Allen, Rondo, Perkins) battling the Heat (and those three idiots we're sick of). More importantly, however, is that these series will be so great because the teams genuinely hate each other.

Derrick Rose wants nothing other to stand over the defeated bodies of LeBron, Wade, Howard, and Garnett and sneer at them in victory while setting his sights on the Lakers in the West. Garnett will actually bite someone in the throat, and I'm almost positive LeBron will try to get Paul Pierce to collaborate on a rap album with him (we all know LeBron doesn't quite have the killer instinct we thought he did).

Point is- watch these games. They won't disappoint.

2. The Oklahoma City Thunder - There is a group of guys in the West who are all in their early 20s, genuinely like each other, care about winning and playing basketball instead of personal glory and just traded for a dominate defensive center who makes other teams think twice before driving the lane. We saw last year when the Thunder played the Lakers that they didn't have the big men to keep up with Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum. If memory serves me right, Kendrick Perkins has done a fair job handling those two in the playoffs before, and I think he's primed to do it again.

The Thunder are my pick to come out of the West. Don't bet on it, though, cause that'd be foolish. We all remember my March Madness debacle, don't we?

3. Old Teams Dying Fast - What do the San Antonio Spurs, Boston Celtics, and Los Angeles Lakers all have in common? None of them will be playing the Finals this year. Usually I'd say that because of personal bias, but this year we've seen these teams die off faster than the cast of Hamlet (that's an educational joke, you may have to look it up). The Spurs will be lucky to beat the Grizzlies in Round 1, the Celtics might not even make it past the Heat in Round 2, and if the Lakers can give away a home game to the New Orleans Hornets I'm not sure they can last through the Western Conference Finals. Or maybe I'm just hoping they can't.

Now onto hockey (read, Capitals) and three things you need to keep an eye out for.

1. No Quit in 'em - The Caps are showing something they didn't show in previous years- the "No Quit" element. I'm sure after going down 0-3 to the Rangers in Game 4 many fans turned off the TV. The Caps didn't and they ended up rallying back to win in double overtime. That's what champions do. Champions also close out series, so we'll see how they handle Game 5, but they played like they're supposed to win and that kind of swagger means the world in playoffs.
2. Best Player? - It's not Ovechkin, although he is vital to our success. I'd keep an eye on Alexander Semin and Michal Neuvirth the goal keeper. Mike Knuble is also a personal favorite, but just because his last name is a hoot to say. Knuble.
3. The Capitals - Just watch the Caps. D.C. is as much of a football town as Compton is a drive-by shooting town, but that doesn't mean the Capitals don't deserve our attention and respect. They have the best shot of bringing a title to Washington out of any of our teams have since the Joe Gibbs era. Plus, you don't want to be the guy who jumps on the bandwagon too late do you? Get on now while there is plenty of room. I saved a seat for you next to Ovi's gap tooth and Bruce Boudreau's breakfast plate of waffles and uncooked bacon.

And a final note to anyone from New York: Madison Square Garden does suck. It's the Roman Pantheon of stadiums. Everyone gets all excited to go there and take pictures, but when its all said and done its just a crumbled facade that was once something to be admired. Kind of like Derek Jeter.

See you next week!