Monthly Archives: October 2012

Happy NBA day! Here are a few stories to keep your eye on this season.

I’d like to tell you the greatest story ever told. “Once upon a time there was a boy named LeBron…”

Last week, I wrote a preview to my NBA preview where I stated my case that ultimately the outcome to the season isn’t murky but rather crystal clear. Essentially, we’re looking at three potential teams left standing when all is said and done.

But, as I stated, there are still plenty of stories to follow throughout the upcoming season. In lieu of a team-by-team rundown, I’m going to highlight a few story-arcs that I’ll be watching and enjoying this season.

The Champions

I think we’re going to have to get used to this.

Three teams to rule them all; unfortunately that’s about it.  OKC, the Lakers, and the Heat are the class of the league and there’s roughly a 100% chance that one of these three will hoist the “Kia Presents the Larry O’Brien Trophy during the Kia Presents the 2013 NBA Post-Game Championship Presentation, sponsored by Adidas… are you in? Ceremony”.

Here’s a rundown of each of those teams in order of my predicted finish.

The Miami Heat:

The Heatles proved last season that they’re the real deal by exercising some demons and changing the way any team that has championship aspirations approaches this season. Who’s going smaller? Anyone? Oh yeah, almost everyone.

They score with abandon, they play defense with abandon, and have we discussed how LeBron James now has a pretty formidable post-game? We haven’t? Well, he has and let me tell you, it’s terrifying.

To go along with this newly discovered post-monster, they also have second and third wheels Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh. During the offseason they found time to add outside shooter extraordinaire Ray Allen and former outside shooter extraordinaire Rashard Lewis.

Is their bench still a little weak? Maybe, but the fact remains that they’re the defending league champs and they also happen to reside in the Eastern Conference. This means that for most of the season their opponents will be a glorified D-League. They’re good enough, they’re smart enough, and dog gonnit their playoff competition will be terrible.

The Lakers:

The staff here at The Couchletes recently did an NBA predictions post that may or may not be posted sometime after Kevin gets back from his honeymoon so let me spoil things right now. I picked the Thunder to win the West and lose to the Heat in the finals. Of course, this was before I was woken up from a post-gangnum style slumber to find out that Sam Presti had mortgaged his teams present for its future. This brings us to the Lakers.

The Lakers, thanks to the Thunder are now the frontrunners in the Western Conference. However, there’s a big, BIG “if” and it’s that they’re the frontrunners as long as they stay healthy. Yes, they have four future Hall-of-Famers on the roster but Steve Nash is nearly 40, Kobe’s knees probably need another round of blood spinning, Pau Gasol is in the bad part of his 30s, and Dwight Howard just had back surgery. If one of those four go down come playoff time they’ll have to rely on their bench, which consists of stalwarts like Devin Ebanks. In layman’s terms, they don’t have a bench, like, at all.

The Lakers are the leagues strongest and weakest team, if that’s even possible. Yes, I’m picking them to make it to the finals but with one tweak to Howard’s back or Kobe’s knee, or if age catches up to Steve Nash or Pau and this could all come crashing down. The 2012-2013 Lakers will be operating at a very high level but they’ll be doing it all without a net.

Oklahoma City Thunder

I’ve already touched on the Thunder a bit. They decided they couldn’t turn a profit and retain James Harden so they’ve sent him to Houston. This is a huge risk for the Thunder. It’s a huge risk because they had a 4-year window where they were essentially guaranteed a trip to the finals. The Thunder ownership and front office have decided to forego that window and attempt to be the NBA’s first ever self-sustaining team.

I’m not so sure it’s going to work. Harden was an excellent ball-handler who is virtually unstoppable in the Pick-and-Roll, and one of the leagues most efficient scorers. He also served as a kind of security blanket for the team’s offense whenever Russell Westbrook decided to go off the reservation. They swapped him for future lottery picks, a rookie that someday might be a poor-man’s version of the player they already had and Kevin Martin, an excellent shooter who can’t dribble, defend, and has pretty much been a shell of his former self since the league changed how they call shooting fouls.

So, who likes the Thunder?

I still do. Not as much as I did, but I still like them. Any time you have Kevin Durant you’re going to have a punchers chance of making it. The only issue is that I don’t think they’ll have enough to make it this year. Not without Harden. But like I said in the Lakers section, if something happens to any one of the four fragile super-stars on the Lakeshow, the Thunder will reclaim the title of next in line to lose to the Heat.

Yay them.

The former champions

In a weak Eastern Conference they may have enough. Just don’t ask them to play during the early bird special.

Another fascinating story to watch this year will be how two excellent coaches try to maintain their team’s historically high quality of play for one final go at a championship.

Since I didn’t bring them up during the above section, I’m not expecting the San Antonio Spurs or the Boston Celtics to actually make it to the finals. I think they’ll come up just a little too short, but I am expecting them to play some excellent ball nonetheless.

Now, if you held a gun to my head I might say that the Celtics have a chance to slip past the Heat. It’s the nature of the game that sometimes upsets happen. They also have a style of play that lends itself to that very thing happening. They like to play defense, they like to play rough, and they like to play physical. Also, it helps that the Eastern conference is god-awful which will help cover over up the fact that they’ve been a terrible offensive team over the past couple years.

Of course, they could totally prove me wrong. Because yeah, the additions of Jason Terry and Courtney Lee will certainly speed up their pace, I just don’t think it’ll be enough. Regardless, watch this iteration of the Celtics. It might be your last chance.

The Spurs on the other hand are actually a much better team, but they play in the West so they’ll have to go through teams like the Lakers, Thunder, Nuggets, Grizzlies and more. They have a hard slog just to make it to the finals so I’m not sure these old dogs have it in them for one final run of thrilling, beautiful, and championship caliber basketball.


Minnesota’s new mascot. “Crunch” the disintegrating meniscus.

Last season’s schedule was a terror on the ligaments and cartilage of some of the leagues brightest stars. Over the span of a few months we saw Ricky Rubio, Iman Shumpert, Derrick Rose, and Jeremy Lin all get sidelined with ACL tears or meniscus issues. On top of that Blake Griffin had minor knee surgery during the offseason, Kobe Bryant’s blood-spun joints are getting ever more fragile and we’ll also be witnessing the cartilage free comeback of former all-star Brandon Roy.

A lot of futures rest on these knees (fans, teams, sponsors). It’ll be fascinating to watch how they handle their minutes throughout the 82 game grind. I know as a Timberwolves fan I’ll be holding my breath during every game.

Northwest Division

Get used to these logos. They’re really cool… and really good.

It’s made up of teams in small-markets but I contend that no division in basketball will be as entertaining, and no division will be filled with higher-quality play night after night. In fact, it has the very real potential to field four of the eight western conference playoff teams.

Starting with the Thunder who we’ve already discussed, we’re also going to see some pretty special ball from the Denver Nuggets (a sleeper championship team), Utah Jazz, Minnesota Timberwolves, and even at times the Portland Trailblazers.

If you love basketball, especially beautiful basketball, watch the Northwest Division. You won’t be disappointed.

The story will go on…and on… and on… and…

Of course, there are many other stories to watch this year but these are the ones I’ll be watching and therefore these are the ones you should be watching. If you have other narratives you’re looking forward to watching this year feel free to share them. I’m always in the mood for a good story.

By Mark Gaspar
Follow Mark on Twitter at @markgaspar

The Politicalization of American Athletes

Tim Tebow, Craig James, Heath Schuler and Lynn Swann, a Mount Rushmore of American Athlete Attempts at a Political Career

“I haven’t ruled it out. Whatever avenue I feel like I can make a difference in, I’d love to do. I haven’t ruled out anything like that. It won’t be anytime soon in my future, but it’ll be something I’ll at least look at and consider one day.”
-Tim Tebow, New York Jets quarterback, on his future in politics

In a recent interview with Rich Cimini of ESPN New York, New York Jets backup quarterback Tim Tebow answered a question from Cimini with the above statement. The exact question that Cimini asked was, “With your popularity, especially in Florida, would you ever consider running for political office after you’re done with football?”

Focus on one word in that question that Cimini asked Tebow – popularity. Tebow hasn’t done anything to show the public he has political aspirations, yet because he’s a popular figure in today’s culture, it didn’t come as a shock that the question was posed. We know nothing about Tebow’s political position. Sure, we can draw some conclusions based on what we know about him – where he grew up, his family, his religion – but we don’t know his perspective on the United States economy or foreign affairs or healthcare or education. Yet, somehow the man is thrown around as a somewhat viable future political candidate. That’s not a jab at Tebow. I don’t fault him at all. The question came out of nowhere. He’s the type of guy that wants to help people and make a difference, so maybe he would be good in politics. At the very least, I can see how he would think he can help people through a political career.

What I’m asking is should we even be discussing him as a political candidate?

Tebow certainly wouldn’t be the first athlete to enter the political arena after his sports career ends. Athletes love competition, they love the stardom they have with fans, they love winning. It’s no surprise that a life in politics would enter the minds of some after they leave athletics. Some have even been successful in politics. Bill Bradley, Jack Kemp, JC Watts, Jim Bunning, Steve Largent and Heath Schuler have all seen some degree of success in politics after retiring from their respective sports. Recently we’ve also seen Jon Runyan, Kevin Johnson and Dave Bing enter office. However, for every Bradley or Kemp there’s a Lynn Swann or, even worse, Craig James that has failed.

Countless other athletes such as Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal have been asked about taking a stab at politics.

Why are we even asking them about the possibility of entering politics though?

Because they’re popular.

The same reason Tebow was asked.

I’d like to say that those elected to public office are the best leaders, the most intelligent, the ones with the best plan. Unfortunately I can’t say that. In most instances, it’s not the best and brightest that are running for leadership positions in our political landscape. It’s often people that are popular. Or charismatic. Or even worse, power hungry. Right now we’re in the midst of a presidential election between current president Barack Obama and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney. Are these two men the smartest we have to choose from? Probably not. Are they the very best leaders for our country? Debatable. They’re likeable to their respective side of the political aisle though.

Politics are a popularity contest. Years ago, it was who was popular with the backroom cronies and good ‘ol boys of each political party. Today it’s who’s popular with the general American public – who’s charismatic, who looks the part? Go back to even George Washington. He was elected not because of any grand plan he had for the young United States, but because he was the commander in chief that had just led us to our freedom.

When you think about it that way, the way that many politicians rise to prominence, it comes as no surprise that athletes are looked at as potential political candidates. They’re always in the eye of the public. We know them. We recognize them. We’re comfortable with them. So we push them toward the role. Few probably came to the idea on their own, others led them in that direction.

Initially, I began writing this post with the intent to criticize the people that put athletes on a pedestal and push them toward politics. As I began actually typing it out I realized that we actually treat athletes no differently than the others we push into politics. Popularity and awareness rule. It’s why Minnesota elected this guy as governor. So I can’t blame people for doing what the regular, non sports loving population does. And couldn’t you just see Derek Jeter, Drew Brees, David Robinson or Brett Favre serving as a Congressman? Ok, maybe not Favre, but then again… He does remind me of a certain saxophone wielding man from Arkansas that used to lead our country.

By Kevin York
Follow Kevin on Twitter at @kevin_york

A preview to my NBA preview: The fates have decided this won’t end the way I want. But you know what? I’m okay with it.

My thoughts exactly.

As The Couchletes’ resident NBA guru, I’ve been tasked with providing a little content to whet your appetite before the real games begin. Before I get there though, I wanted to deliver a preview to my preview. First, I should explain two important elements that have not only shaped my overall view of sports, but more importantly for this post and on a more micro-level, Basketball.

First, I am a fan of Minnesota sports. This fact alone puts me in rarefied air. Only fans of all Cleveland sports and those who root for the Buffalo Bills can even begin to lay claim to a more miserable sports existence. Whether it’s the Vikings, all University of Minnesota athletics, losing the North Stars to Dallas (only to see them win the Stanley Cup a few years later), the early retirement and death of Kirby Puckett, or pretty much the entire existence of my beloved Timberwolves I’m accustomed to disappointment and heartache. To be sure, there are years when it seems like something different could happen. But when those rare times come along, those times when it feels like the stars could finally align, I can rest easy because fate, I know has other plans. Plans that mean something especially horrendous is in the works. When this happens a lot of fun is had trying to imagine what that horrendous thing could be. Trust me though, it’s always so much worse (Brett Favre anyone?).

Second, I have a non-sexual man crush on Ricky Rubio that at times veers dangerously close to being non non-sexual. Of course, this second fact fits perfectly like a pair of Russian nesting dolls with point number one. I am used to disappointment. As a fan of Minnesota sports, I am not allowed to have nice things.

I mention these because I thought the demise of Ricky Rubio’s ACL last year would have taken care of point number one this season. How could we be good without our dear Spanish Unicorn? But then a funny thing started to happen. The Timberwolves front office, long whipping boy of the NBA’s elite pundits, turned intelligent. They dumped below-average players like Darko! Michael Beasley, Anothony Randolph, and Anthony Tolliver. They traded for 3-point specialist Chase Budinger and do-shit specialist Donte Cunngingham to serve as front-line back ups.

Never a team to engage in free agent spending, they went outside their comfort zone and signed a possibly rejuvenated Brandon Roy out of retirement and a possibly rejuvenated Andrei Kirilenko out of Russia. Joining him from the former iron curtain would also be his CSKA Moscow/Russian National Team teammate and floppy haired muppet Alexey Shved.

I mention all this because up until a few days ago this team was a mid-seed playoff team at worst (even with Rubio out until the end of December) and a team that could actually scare title contenders like the Thunder and Lakers at best. I mention a few days ago this was possible because a few days ago Kevin Love hadn’t broken his hand doing knuckle push-ups.

Can the Timberwolves make the playoffs without the best power forward in the league for the first month? More than likely yes. Their November schedule is easy enough and the rest of the roster talented enough that they can probably put together a .500 record. If they can do that, they should be fine. But this is beside the point. Because if I’m being honest, it really doesn’t matter. Not in the NBA.

You see, because unlike the NFL or MLB where literally anything can happen once you reach the post-season (just ask St. Louis) the NBA is built solidly upon a hierarchy, a veritable glass ceiling that all but a few teams in a given season cannot hope to break.

So, unless you’re fans of the Oklahoma City Thunder, Los Angeles Lakers, or Miami Heat you might as well start relaxing right now and just focus on enjoying quality basketball because your team ain’t winning shit.

More than any other league, being a fan of NBA basketball means you engage in the Sisyphean task of hope and despair every season. Why? Because maybe sometime your team will be bad enough so you can draft a Kevin Durant or, global warming will turn your city into a place full of nice weather and beautiful women. But if you don’t live in a beautiful location and you can’t draft a well-balanced superstar with zero ego than you’re pretty much out of luck. Enjoy pushing that boulder this season, who knows, maybe you’ll actually get it to the top this time… oh wait, I know… you won’t.

But you know what? It doesn’t matter. Not really. Because NBA fans have found ways to accept the fact that our favorite team won’t be spraying themselves with champagne (well, at least after winning a championship) at the end of the season. We’ve come to appreciate the little things. Because even if baseball and football are America’s games let’s face it, baseball is boring and football either won’t exist or will have morphed into a variation of two-hand touch within the next 20 years. That leaves us with Basketball, a sport full of the most physically gifted athletes partaking in a game that is so inherently beautiful and thrilling to watch it really doesn’t even matter that my team has essentially no chance of making it out of the first round.

But then again, isn’t that what we should want? Where’s the fun in some team who barely made it into the playoffs going on a run and winning it all? Sure, for a brief instant it might be thrilling to watch an underdog run off a series of wins but underdogs don’t win on their skill. They win when they make the game ugly. They win when they take a game out of its natural rhythm. They win when they get the refs involved. They win when they strip the beauty, grace, and excitement out of a beautiful, thrilling, and exciting game. So why would I want to root for that?

Basketball is not like any other sport. Basketball is all about fate. Fate put me in my place. In hindsight I’m just thankful it taught me my lesson before the season started. But if I’m being honest, I’ve still got a lot to be thankful for. I’m still going to get to see my team run Rick Adelman’s “Corner Offense” beautifully from time to time, their passes careening from one side of the floor to the other before ending in a Kevin Love 3-pointer from the top of the arc, or a Nikola Pekovic dunk. I’m still going to get to see Ricky Rubio smile and do Ricky Rubio type things. I’m also going to see Tony Parker run around like a whirling dervish, James Harden’s beard, LeBron James’ evolving post-game, and I’m going sit back and feel the terror and beauty of a Steve Nash/Dwight Howard pick-n-roll game wash over me in an awesome wave.

These are all things we’re going to see this year, these and so many more. Because though we may know how the story is going to end (and trust me, I’ll still hope against hope that I can get that boulder up the hill this time) we don’t know how it’s going to get there. But one thing I do know is that it will be thrilling and it will be beautiful.

One last thing I’m thankful for: I have NBA League Pass, which means I can see and enjoy all of the above.

Hope you’ll watch with me this year. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to tempt fate.

By Mark Gaspar
Follow Mark on Twitter at @markgaspar

10 Things We Really Hate About “Fans”

It happens every single year. Either a handful of sports teams that are typically bad end up playing well or a sports’ season approaches its climax and “fans” come out of the woodwork to be a part of it. We all know these people by a variety of different labels: fair-weather fans, bandwagoners, casual fans … annoying, etc. In the spirit of being somewhat nice let’s stick with “casual fans.”

Casual fans are passionate and interested, purchase merchandise, tickets, and concession food just like the rest of us. They drink lots of beer and enjoy tailgating. They may even be knowledgeable about the sport at-hand. The problem isn’t what they do when they show up it’s when they choose to show up, if they do at all.

“Real” fans always care about the sport or team, or both, and have been around through the good and bad times every team inevitably experiences over the years. They don’t magically appear in October for the NLCS. They don’t spontaneously turnout for the NFC Championship game. They’re always there. They can name the players on the team and in most cases recant important statistics about them.

Ask any of this of a casual fan and more often than not you won’t get a reply. I’ve had this conversation with a lot of people and about a lot of different sub-topics of this overarching concept of fandom and most ask, “what does it hurt?” The answer to that is really simple: absolutely nothing, but for fans of teams that often struggle a little loyalty and stick-to-it-ness would be greatly appreciated. And I know what will be said, “but the casual fan is just as important as the diehard.” My only response to that is: To whom? Fortunately for me, I don’t care about your money so whether you come once a year or not at all isn’t important.

With all of that in mind, we wanted to put together the Top 10 things the faux-fan would do. If any of these apply to you it may be time to reassess your approach because chances are you’re making yourself look like a fool to a great number of people.

1. If you live in a state but pin your fandom to out-of-state franchises, yet have no reasonable reason for why that is.

2. If you wear team gear that is sewn together to pair the jerseys/logos of two different teams.

3. If all your team gear looks brand new or is from some commemorative event (World Series, All-Star Game, Playoffs).

4. If the way you talk about sports changes come playoff time. “The [team name]s are ok. I kind of follow them” to “The [team name] are awesome, I love them, never miss a game!”

5. If you can’t name more than two players on “your” team.

6. If you take time off from work to go to the playoffs but never attend regular season games.

7. If you root for two teams from the same sport that are from the same general area or play in the same division (e.g. You can’t be both a Yankees and Mets fan or a Red Sox and Orioles fan).

8. If you’re “Fantasy Sport Guy.” Playing fantasy sports does not make you a “fan.”

9. If your team isn’t very good, you haven’t been following but still insist on reliving the glory days of your franchise.

10. If you only repeat things you’ve heard or read about your team while participating in conversations about sports.

NFL Week 7: The Couchletes Pick ‘Em

If you’re not a girlfriend or wife you just have to love Thursday night football. For me, it’s the best of both worlds. We get one game in primetime, which is totally manageable for people with kids and a career. In being just one game, we’re not overwhelmed trying to take in game action from across the country, flipping channel to channel or settling in for a long Red Zone viewing stint. But it’s still football and it makes it feel like the weekend, reminding us all that, yes, there is still one more business day in the week left but ONLY ONE!

Last week’s games threw our experts for a loop. The “any given Sunday” mantra could be heard loud and clear. Starting with last Thursday’s game where the Titans, yes those Titans, defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers by a field goal. I know, twilight zone material right there. The Browns, YES THOSE BROWNS, actually won a game – the first of 29-year-old rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden’s career and a shameful display by a 2011 playoff team, the Bengals.

Some weekly standbys s***t the bed, including the 49ers, Cowboys (though we knew they’d find a way to lose), Patriots, and Texans; not to mention the incredible comeback by Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos (I hate you, Phillip Rivers). Since we do a weekly power ranking of the top five teams in the league, these outcomes were all noteworthy to us and things we didn’t necessarily anticipate; though, they’re what make us love the sport so much.

The question we’re asking these days is: How good is your good?

Regardless of a recent loss or not, the rest of this season will be dictated by overall strength and consistency, not to mention health, not a few good performances against bad teams. Parody has never been greater in the league.

With that, here are week 7 picks from the rest of my fellow Couchletes.

Match-up Kevin Ryan Rahul Hoa Mark

The Seattle Seahawks: Top of the League or Overrated?

On Sunday the Seattle Seahawks improved to 4-2 by beating the New England Patriots 24-23. After the game, Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman made the following comment to Yahoo! Sports:

“Any time you run a gimmick offense, you’re a little bit afraid — you’re not sound in what you’re doing in your base stuff. You’re running this hurry-up stuff, and there’s a reason it’s not effective, because there are great defenses out there who will stuff it. We figured out early in the game what the calls were, what they were doing, and what the adjustments were. We started executing better, and that’s why they got only six points in the second half.”

Sherman jawed back and forth with New England quarterback Tom Brady throughout the game, and following it, he and Seahawk safety Earl Thomas confronted Brady. As Sherman told the Tacoma News Tribune, the two Seattle defenders communicated to Brady, “We’re greater than you. We’re better than you. You’re just a man — we’re a team.”

Here’s a photo of Sherman approaching Brady following the game.

Classy and respectable approach to one of the game’s greatest players, huh?

Lil Jon Richard Sherman also asserts that Seattle has the best defense in the league. He tweeted about the game and the two teams as well: “Patriots fans mad lol… Talking bout Super Bowl rings…. What have u done lately? Oh ur 3-3 lol”.

The guy does a whole lot of talking, especially for only being a second year player. Richard, the Patriots offense has been one of the league’s best over the past six or seven seasons. It’s not a “gimmick.” Tom Brady was schooling the league while you were still a little freshman in high school. You should also know that you didn’t ‘stuff’ the Pats no huddle offense. In fact, go back and look at your game tape. They ran a no huddle for 25% of their plays or less.

Also, learn some respect. Brady’s a first ballot Hall of Famer. You’ve done nothing in your short career thus far. You’ve won four three eh, we’ll say three and a half games. Brady is a legend with three Super Bowl rings. Were you looking for respect with your comments and actions after that game? I hope not. All you really did was show your immaturity and intelligence. Or actually lack thereof. Typically Stanford people present themselves much better. You really need some perspective (this was ONE game against a non-division opponent) and some self restraint.

But now, Lil Jon Richard, let’s go back to your tweet about the Pats only winning three games. How many games have you and your Seahawks won and lost? And what’s the real strength of that record?

You’ve beaten a Dallas team that’s struggled heavily on offense and on the road this year. You beat Carolina, a team that’s having difficulties in Cam Newton’s second year and coached by Ron Rivera (we’re now seeing why he never got any of those head coaching jobs he had been interviewing for when he was the Bears defensive coordinator). Then you beat New England in a game where they really seemed to beat themselves more than you beat them. You lost on the road to an Arizona team that doesn’t look quite as good now as it did after the first three weeks of the season. You also lost on the road to St. Louis, which I would say is an average team. They have a solid defense, but no playmakers on offense. You also of course had a loss win loss against the Packers. Some people put an asterisk next to that “win.” I’m one of those people since it led me to write a letter to Roger Goodell that resulted in the reinstatement of the NFL’s official referees.

I looked into the Seahawks defensive stats and had planned on listing them in this post to analyze. But then I realized, why bother? Look at these teams – Dallas, Carolina, Arizona, St. Louis. Those are some poor, poor playing offensive teams. Seattle played the Packers when Green Bay was struggling to really figure out what it was doing. Packers coach Mike McCarthy actually put a game plan together that seemed to be better suited for Seattle’s defense than Green Bay’s offense. Russell Wilson earned a win for throwing an interception, maybe the NFL should give McCarthy a win for the brilliant game plan he devised…for Seattle.

The only team Seattle has played that has a good offense is New England. Sherman and his teammates on the Seahawks D gave up 475 yard of offense to Brady and the Patriots in that game. That’s a top tier defense? I don’t think we’d see the Niners, Vikings or Bears doing that. The Ravens only gave up 396 yards to New England in week three.

I feel like the media has greatly exaggerated how “great” Seattle’s defense is because they’re looking at stats against sub-par opponents. They’re also looking too heavily at that eight sack first half against Green Bay where McCarthy and the Packer offensive line did everything short of rolling out a red carpet leading to an already prone Aaron Rodgers.

Look at the broader picture here, mainstream media. What would you say is the strength of this defense? Pass rushing is what I think most would respond with, citing Chris Clemons and Bruce Irvin. I think many forget, or don’t even realize, that Irvin isn’t a starter. Red Bryant is the starting defensive end opposite Clemons. Why? Because Irvin is undersized. He’s a liability against the run. Irvin is closer to the size of an outside linebacker in a 3-4, but Seattle plays a base 4-3 with Irvin on the line as an end. The problem is he’s smaller than nearly all defensive ends in a 4-3. He’s also smaller than a number of outside linebackers in a 3-4. He’s a tweener and Seattle is essentially playing him as a one down defensive end in more obvious passing situations. Bryant is the regular end because he’s bigger and stronger and can stop the run.

So if pass rushing isn’t Seattle’s real strength, maybe it’s stopping the run. They haven’t allowed a 100 yard game yet after all. The most they’ve allowed is 87, which came on Sunday against new England. Look again at who they’ve played though. None of those teams is a strong running team. We’ll see how their run defense stands up against San Francisco this coming Sunday.

So it has to be pass defense. That’s their strength. I guess by default, you’d call it their strength right now since no one besides Brady lit them up. But then again, none of those other quarterbacks have really lit it up against anyone this year, minus Rodgers this past Sunday against Houston. That one doesn’t count though since McCarthy developed his first half game plan from the Seattle point of view rather than Green Bay’s.

Seattle has had a fairly favorable schedule through the first six weeks and to their credit, they’ve made the most of it. However, looking at the rest of the schedule, I see an 8-8 team. The Seahawks play much better at home than on the road (see: struggles against Carolina, Arizona and St. Louis) and they have some tough road games remaining.

The team lacks leadership and I have a feeling Sherman’s comments may be the tipping point into that becoming more obvious. They don’t seem to have veteran leadership. A team like the Ravens would never allow Sherman or any other rookie to get away with that kind of criticism of Tom Brady. Pete Carroll has never been a good leader of professionals. It’s why he largely failed in previous NFL stints. He’s a college guy. Ra! Ra! Ra! That works in college. He’s comfortable with it. Why do you think he’s surrounded himself with a lot of young players. Because older veterans may not buy into the philosophy as much. But we’re seeing the kinks in the armor. A team that’s really strong at home, but struggles on the road with inferior opponents? That’s the making of a college football team.

Seattle is 4-2, yes, but let’s not make them into world beaters just yet. Talk to me when they’ve won something. Like a playoff spot or even better, a playoff game. Until then, Lil Jon Richard Sherman, Seattle fans and the short sighted media…give me a break.

Photo Credit: Elaine Thompson, AP

By Kevin York
Follow Kevin on Twitter at @kevin_york

NFL Week 6: The Couchletes Pick ‘Em

While Cam Newton may love him some him, we love us some FOOTBALL. It doesn’t get much better than football in the fall – the crisp, colder air, the smell of fire, pumpkin spice latte’s (which means we’re close to egg nog season!), seasonal beers (Kevin is frothing at the mouth) and baseball almost out of the way. It’s a great time of year.

Don’t get me wrong, I love baseball and my Oakland A’s, but the MLB is doing it wrong with scheduling whereas the NFL has really figured out how to dominated year-round, but I’ll save that for another post. Oh, and the NHL is practically done for the year. Well done, guys.

As we look back now on a very gutsy, inspired and Chuckstrong performance by the Indianapolis Colts led by RoY frontrunner Andrew Luck, yet another trouncing by the 49ers, and solid performances by the Texans and Falcons to remain unbeaten, it’s hard not to get misty-eyed at the thought of being more than a quarter of the way through the season. I think we all kind of smiled when the Jets lost again, though. Good job, good effort, guys.

Last week’s picks surfaced yet another champion, or should I say championS. Kevin, who is clearly trying to be me (the leading picker this season so far), tied me for the most correct picks with 10 out of 14. This week is shaping up to be a great one with a couple of our experts taking fliers on a few teams and others seemingly picking against the grain hoping to hit it big.

Will the pick risks be worth it? Will the Jets actually win a home game before they have to start Tebow over Sanchise? Only time will tell. Here are Week 6 picks.

Match-up Kevin Ryan Rahul Hoa Mark

Choose Me as Your Fantasy Football Commissioner

Fantasy football the way it should be run in 2012…

I’ve been playing fantasy football for ten years. I’m currently in two fantasy football leagues. One is with a group of guys I work with and used to work with. The other is with a group of guys (and a couple girls) that I’m friends with. There aren’t that many differences in the two leagues. They’re run similarly, the scoring is comparable, rosters are built in the same fashion.

For some reason I’ve been thinking about fantasy football a lot more this year. Not my team. Not trades or waiver wire pick-ups or analyzing player stats. I’ve been thinking about the actual structure of fantasy football. It seems that most leagues are run the same way they were ten years ago. Yet the game has changed greatly from the way it was played in 2002 to the way it’s played now. Technology has improved. Statistical analysis has improved (and is much more readily available). So why are we still playing this game the same way when we could be playing it in a way that lines up much closer with the way the game is played in the NFL?

This is an open letter recruiting people to be in a fantasy football league with me next year, where as commissioner, I will bring the game into the year 2012. Want to join the league? Read my proposal and let us know by dropping us an email at If for some reason there’s huge interest, I’ll have to limit it to the first 11 people I hear from.

Dear fellow Fantasy Football player,

The time has come for change. A change from the norm. A change in the way we’re playing fantasy football. A change to a model that more closely resembles the way the NFL works and an NFL franchise is run. It’s being done on Madden. Why don’t we do it with a fantasy league?

This is my proposal. This is my recommendation. This could be our 2013 fantasy football league…

—The league will be a dynasty league. We’ll keep all players from 2013 to 2014 and the years following. If, for some reason, someone decides to not play the next year, someone will inherit a current team.

—The exchange of money will be handled via PayPal and posted to a site like Splitwise so everyone in the league can see the status of money owed. Seems like handling physical money and trying to keep track of it always gets messy, so we’ll be doing it completely online.

—Draft order for the first draft will be determined randomly. The order for all drafts following the first will be determined by the previous year’s finish. The team that finished last will draft first, the champion will draft last. It will operate this way for all rounds. There will be no snaking.

—The draft will be done online. People within close proximity of each other will be encouraged to draft together at one physical location (though it’s not mandatory), but you will make all your selections online yourself.

—All drafts following the inaugural draft, we will only draft players that were taken in that spring’s NFL draft. So we’ll be drafting college players. There will be 6 rounds for each year’s ‘college’ draft.

—All drafts after the inaugural draft will be held in late summer. The inaugural draft will be held after the first two pre-season games of 2013.

—We will use the pre-season to determine our final rosters. Team owners will have the option of keeping players from their past season’s team or keeping newly drafted rookies. Either is fine, but teams will be cut down to a maximum roster size of 26 players following the final pre-season game, which means everyone will drop 6 players.

—The rosters will look like this:

Offensive Starters
Offensive Flex (RB, WR or TE):
Offensive Flex:
Offensive Flex:
Offensive Flex:
Offensive Flex:

Defensive Starters
Defensive Flex (DE or LB):

Special Teams Starters

7 bench players

That’s right. We won’t be forcing you to play a running back in this passing era. After all, it’s not 2002. The days of Shaun Alexander, Priest Holmes and Marshall Faulk racking up huge fantasy weeks is gone. It’s a passing league. A number of teams rarely use a RB in their offensive scheme, more and more are using two TEs. Of course there are others, like San Francisco or Baltimore, that focus on the run (it’s a Harbaugh thing, I guess). It should be your choice how you want to build your team.

We also won’t be forcing you to pick one defensive team. That system is flawed and dated. A team could allow 20 points and lose, but have 2 INTs, 3.5 sacks and 2 fumble recoveries and still give you a good number of points. Meanwhile, another team could win, allow 3 points by just playing solid defense, have no INTs, no fumble recoveries and maybe 2 sacks and give you less points than a team that lost. A poor system – so we won’t be dealing with it. Individual players will give you tackles, sacks, tackles for loss, INTs, fumbles forced, fumble recoveries, etc. No defensive ‘team’ also means that punt and kick returns will count for the individual players.

The Defensive Flex position will allow you to build your defense as you like – either a 3-4 or a 4-3.

Yes, you see a punter included. Punters will receive points for pinning opponents within the 5 yard line, within the 10 yard line and on a sliding scale based on length of the punt. If a punt goes a short distance and isn’t a pinning situation, you could lose points.

—Each owner will be allowed one in-game substitution. So if your QB gets hurt in the first quarter and you have another QB on your bench you can sub that player in. Or, let’s say you have Reggie Bush and he’s resorted to playing like 2009 Reggie, you have the option to replace him. However, you can only substitute using a player on your bench at the beginning of that week’s games. So if your QB gets hurt and you don’t have one on the bench, you’re screwed. You can’t go pick one up.

So that’s it. A fantasy football league for 2012. A league that will allow for more strategy. A league for us. Who’s with me?

Your future commissioner,

By Kevin York
Follow Kevin on Twitter at @kevin_york

NFL Week 5: The Couchletes Pick ‘Em

Week 4 of the NFL season was one to remember. The 49ers absolutely steamrolled an injury- and inept-quarterback-prone Jets team despite having to travel cross-country for the game. The surprising Arizona Cardinals took care of business against the Eagles to remain unbeaten. The Patriots looked shaky in the first half but righted the ship and destroyed a hopeful Bills team with 31 4th quarter points; a Bills team that Kevin maintains was “built to beat the Pats.” The Raiders were, well … The Raiders were the Raiders and got their asses handed to them by Denver. And the Packers. Ohhhh, Packers. You are going to drive Kevin to the bottle if you keep this up.

All in all, it was a great week of NFL football. It was also one that saw a new champion emerge among us Couchletes. With the help of some picks that seemed straight up illogical at the time of publishing, Rahul took this week with 14 of 15 correct picks. Despite this momentary burst of brilliance, Ryan snatched the overall lead with a total of 20 out of 31 correct picks. Don’t hate, Rahul.

With that, I think we all agree that we’re looking forward to Week 5 where the slimmest of margins will likely produce yet another weekly winner. It was tough to pick against the favorites this week but as they say, any given Sunday.

Match-up Kevin Ryan Rahul Hoa Mark

The Overabundance of Superman in American Sports

“Superheroes fill a gap in the pop culture psyche, similar to the role of Greek mythology. There isn’t really anything else that does the job in modern terms. For me, Batman is the one that can most clearly be taken seriously. He’s not from another planet, or filled with radioactive gunk. I mean, Superman is essentially a god, but Batman is more like Hercules: he’s a human being, very flawed, and bridges the divide.”Christopher Nolan

Everyone needs a hero, some would even say a superhero. Despite their fictional nature, as a culture we worship these characters. We try to emulate their ideals and what they represent, we dress up in their outfits at Halloween, and we make movies about them. All of those things are fine in my book because they represent good things – admiration, imitation, etc.

What has become a problem that is quickly getting out of control is the modern day athlete’s mental image of themselves and what they represent and to whom.

We glorify our modern day athletes as if they, too, are superheros. For the greatest collection of egomaniacs and self-promoters we, the fans, are responsible for the influx in inflated egos and unrealistic self-images the athletes of today have. As if winning the genetic lottery wasn’t enough …

What I would give to be a 6’4″, 230lb., strong-armed, 4.3 40, multimillionaire quarterback, let me tell you. Unfortunately, I’m a 30-something, 5’10” 190(ish)lb., athletically deteriorating father of two. It’s quite the contrast, isn’t it?

It’s what chaps my ass whenever I watch sports these days. While I’m busy hanging on to my glory days when I would hit a home run in baseball and the newspaper would write about how “Ryan Jack cranked one out in the 7th to give his team the lead,” the spoiled rotten “professional” athletes are making millions for playing the same games we did as kids and setting poor examples for young fans worldwide. The “I’m not a role model” thing has been talked about for years, but we all know you don’t volunteer for that job, you’re bestowed the honor of being looked up to by being in the public eye and being at the top of your sport. It’s not something you can refute or run away from.

That’s why when I see some of today’s most popular  athletes and their obnoxious and often ridiculous celebrations whenever they do something even remotely good or noteworthy, I just want to punch them in the face. The “look at me” attitude is very, very tired, but it seems with each passing season it becomes more prevalent. I like to call it the “Superman Complex.”

What is the “Superman Complex”? It’s a complex that is prevalent most in each sports’ very best players and has led to an overabundance of Superman in modern American sports. There are a few examples:

Cam Newton:

As Scott Van Pelt said, “Cam Newton loves him some him.”

Yes, you were a prized recruit coming out of high school. Yes, you stole a laptop and got caught while in college. Yes, your father tried to sell you to the highest bidder. Yes, you won a national championship, player of the year, and Heisman. And yeah, you were the number one overall pick in the NFL draft. Oh, and the rookie of the year and a pro bowl selection. It’s not at all surprising you think so highly of yourself; we’ve all only fawned all over you for the entirety of your life. God forbid we expect you to have some humility. Despite that, you especially haven’t yet earned the right to speak in the third person. “Cam is going to tell you again. It all comes down to execution.”

Well, Cam. If that really is true, someone needs to review with you how to execute the creation of a persona or alter-ego because this bullshit Superman non-sense is waaaaay played out. You’re not the first CURRENT athlete to try their hand at the Man of Steel shtick. No one likes you, just your ability. You’re the last thing we need in sports – an arrogant, self-absorbed guy that thinks he’s Superman. Sorry, bro. You don’t compare, though we all know your kryptonite is defense. Yeah, just defense. Any defense. If it’s D-II quality, chances are you’re going to have a hard time with it.

Your Superman leaves a lot to be desired, especially when you consider those that have come before you. Give up the act and just be the Supertalent not the Superhero.

Dwight Howard:

You thought you fit the mold perfectly. You wear those pretentious black-rimmed glasses (Do they even have lenses in them?), you wore a cape and cute little outfit during the dunk contest, and generally dress up like Superman whenever you can (Just look at your Twitter background). It’s a little … uncomfortable to watch. The worst part of your Superman over that of your football-playing compadre is the lengths you go to making it known you think you’re Superman. I mean, really, these shoes are a disgrace. “The Man Child”? Really? Superman was a man, bud. And he didn’t wear Adidas.

After the display we saw from you in this offseason “The Child” is the only catch-all you need. You showed the maturity of my three-year-old daughter and you dress the part. Maybe it’s more appropriate than we all thought.

And well …

Dwight, Superman doesn’t dump.

Shaquille O’Neal

Ahhhh yeah, Shaq Diesel. Hack-a-Shaq. Shaq Fu. Shaqtus. The Big Shamrock. The Big Aristotle. Superman.

If there ever were a guy I’d be ok with messing around with the Superman act it’s Shaq. For the most part, he waited until later in his career to toy with it, after he’d been established as a great player that was well respected and a clown. We all accepted him as a clown and as a result never really took his Superman tendencies very seriously. I like that. He got tattoos, wore the logo and all that but it never seemed to be perceived as ego-driven. It was just Shaq being Shaq. That’s where the difference lies between these three. Shaq had the public on his side. He wasn’t viewed as this arrogant piece of crap that, as Nolan said, views themselves not only as Superman but as a God.

What all this really boils down to is an individual’s ability to read the coverage, so to speak. They need to be able to see themselves as the public sees them otherwise no amount of effort to seem cool is going to save you from people thinking you’re a dumbs*it.

What each of these guys should have realized early on is what Christopher Nolan points out – Superman isn’t even human or of this planet, really. He’s mythological, unrelatable and unrealistic. Batman is where it is. He has no real superpowers except his will to win, to defeat the bad and elevate the good. His outfit is way cooler, Catwoman is way hotter than Lois Lane, and he’s rich.

Or, you could just forget all of that and follow the guy with the real celebration: Aaron Rodgers. Give me that discount double-check, Rodgers!

You’d all make excellent heels in the WWE because, really, no one likes you. At all. Especially you, Cammy.

And for good measure …

Sigh … Give me a break.

By Ryan Lack
Follow Ryan on Twitter at @ryanlack