Sunday, December 4, 2016

Yes Sir

Good old Verne, Verne Lundquist that is, announced he is stepping down from full-time work as a football broadcaster, which means the SEC Network is taking a big hit only slightly less daunting than would be an Alabama loss in September.

Verne did a lot of 49er games back in the 1980s as the Number Two NFL play-by-play man for CBS, partnered for a time with Dan Dierdorf, who went on to Monday Night Football. You can get an idea of Verne's professionalism and his urbane, encouraging nature just by asking Mr Dierdorf-- and, we're sure, his most recent partner, former NFL quarterback Gary Danielson. By all accounts Verne Lundquist is one of those men who makes friendships easily, and then keeps them.  He's also something of a Renaissance man, well-read, well-traveled, knowledgeable, yet relatable. We were always impressed by what seemed to be a vast reserve of native intelligence just beneath the folksy exterior he presented.

In recent months we've waved goodbye to the likes of Lon Simmons, Vin Scully, and now Verne Lundquist. We're glad Verne will continue part-time, with his true passions: the Masters, the PGA, and the NCAA Championship.

A class act all the way, Verne Lundquist's own farewell to football fans can be found here:

Monday, October 3, 2016

Uncle Vin

Vin Scully has been the voice of major-league baseball for so long now it's not only impossible to imagine the sport without his gentle, unobtrusive, yet authoritative cadence, it's going to be impossible to hear it. So many of today's game announcers and commentators have developed and polished their style under the influence of Vin's consummate professionalism, we fans will be hearing the echoes of Vin's delivery for decades to come. Vin was all about setting the standard-- an imitable, if rarely achievable, standard.

Some may not remember that Vin, in addition to Dodger games and the old NBC Game of the Week, also did football broadcasts for CBS years ago. His final call was one few of our age or persuasion will forget-- the 1981 NFC Championship Game between the 49ers and Cowboys, played at Candlestick Park on January 10, 1982. We were huddled in a warm kitchen on a record low-temperature day 3000 miles from the 'Stick as Vin made the call: "Clark caught it!...  It's a madhouse at Candlestick!" Vin Scully artfully conveyed the converged tension, release, and sudden exuberance of such a moment many times, and he never had to shout. Dick Enberg, among others, carried on with Vin's distinctive influence on the broadcast of NFL games for decades afterward.

The length and breadth of  Vin Scully's career, 67 years at the mic, from age 21 in Brooklyn replacing the legendary Red Barber, to Sunday's last broadcast at AT&T Park, was filled with historic and memorable events. You can cite his perfect response to Hank Aaron's 715th home run-- he simply let the long, loud, uproarious response of the crowd speak for itself, without marring the moment with a single word-- or to yesterday's kind, magnanimous, and perfectly unassuming farewell to a life's work spent sharing his company with others, or to any of a dozen other moments, as the epitome of Vin Scully's career. They're all out there for posterity. We'll miss him, and we wish him a long and joyful life the rest of the way.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Michael Robert Price

Friend, inspiration, beloved brother in Christ;
Loving husband, loving father, loving family man.
Good and faithful servant;
Rest in the Lord now and evermore. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Curb Your Temper

No, this is not a plea for "tolerance" (which misguided folk misrepresent as "acceptance") in the wake of the Kaepernick-plus-untold-numbers-of-other-players National Anthem issue. Our opinion on it is straightforward and simple. First, it's not a "free speech" issue since no one is calling for anyone's arrest. Second, the team we love to hate, the Seattle Seahawks, had it exactly right when they stood and linked arms as a team, emphasizing unity over so-called diversity. Third, no matter whether or not this was the proper time and place for Kap's "protest" (we don't believe it was, but you may disagree), there's no doubt it was, and remains, a "me-first" gesture in a game which values teamwork above all.  And finally, the NFL's insistence on rigid uniform policies, which threatens players who honor fallen police officers and 9-11 heroes while allowing disrespect for our flag and those who fought for it, is ridiculous in the present context and likely to cost the league money, attendance, and support. As it should.

Instead, this is a suggestion that while we needn't "curb" our enthusiasm over the 49ers' unexpected demolition of the Los Angeles Rams on Monday night, we may want to "temper" that enthusiasm just a little.

It was only a year ago that the Jim Tomsula 49ers, with Kaepernick under center, walked all over the Minnesota Vikings in similar fashion as the season opened. We all know how that turned out. The Vikings won their division, and the 49ers finished in the cellar of theirs.  Then, as now, the 49er quarterback looked poised, confident, and decisive in his play-making. Then, as now, the running game was dominant. Then, as now, the defense roared  across the field, looking very much like a "Jim Harbaugh"-style defense.

Those were the Vikings, a good team. These are the Rams, if not exactly a bad team then certainly a team with a bad offense, from the line to the quarterback to the play-calling. Any time you win a game by 28-0 it's a good thing, and any time your QB plays with confidence it's a good thing, and any time your offensive line blasts open holes for the running game it's a good thing, and any time your defense pitches a rare shutout it's a real good thing.

But let's give it four weeks before we get excited. Yes, Chip Kelly and his coaches are capable of pulling off a surprise season, as they did with Philadelphia in 2013. But with back-to-back road games at Carolina and Seattle, followed by home dates with Dallas and the Cardinals, in the immediate future, let's see if the 49ers are still worth getting excited about come October. Keep your fingers crossed.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Sittin' on the Dock of the Bay, Wastin' Time

Well, the "bay" is about 2700 miles west of here, but as for the time-wastin' part, we've got you covered there.

With fourteen weeks gone and three to go on the NFL season, here's how we see the entire field, based on Bill Parcells' dictum that the best way to rate a team is by its-- well, by its won-lost record. Forthwith...

 1. Panthers 13-0 They've still three weeks to go/To get that 16-0  

2. Cardinals 11-2 Expect that they will peak/In season's final week  
3. Patriots 11-2 AFC opponents  fear/ Road to “50” leads through here  

4. Bengals 10-3 The shape of things to come/May hang on Dalton's thumb  
5. Broncos 10-3 Tough Raider loss at home/To Boston must they roam?  

6. Packers 9-4 Oh yes, they're in the lead/But still not up to speed  

7. Steelers 8-5 Beat Bengals big to gain/And three weeks yet remain  
8. Chiefs 8-5 Seven straight, you bet/Is wild-card all they'll get?  
9. Seahawks 8-5 Wilson's off the charts/And may still break some hearts  
10. Vikings 8-5 If they win all 3 games/Then first place will they claim  
11. Jets 8-5 To take that playoff ride/Will Bills and Pats decide?  

12. Eagles 6-7 Two more division fights/Keep them awake at nights  
13. Raiders 6-7 K-Mack's a superstar /And Carr behind ain't far  
14. Redskins 6-7 They finally won on road/As Cousins' mettle showed  
15. Giants 6-7 The schedule ain't their friend/Face Eagles at the end  
16. Bills 6-7 Rex can talk the talk/But they haven't walked the walk  
17. Buccaneers6-7 This loss leaves playoff hopes/A-hangin' on the ropes  
18. Texans 6-7 Beat Indy in the 'Dome/And bring the bacon home
19. Colts 6-7 Can Luck or Hasselbeck/Keep Houston off their neck?  
20. Falcons 6-7 The season's biggest flop/When will the losing stop?  

21. Saints 5-8 A chance to win four straight/And finish 8-and-8  
22. Jaguars 5-8 That thirty-nine-point run/They topped with fifty-one!  
23. Rams 5-8 We all know they can win/When linemen block again  
24. Bears        5-8 Can play a spoiler role/And put Vikings in a hole  
25. Dolphins 5-8 Bet Campbell won't be here/When tee it up next year 

26. Ravens 4-9 The ground has been well-tilled/It's time, John, to rebuild
27. Cowboys 4-9 One chance, it would appear/To wreck the Redskins' year  
28. Lions        4-9 Has everyone been dozing?/The window may be closing!
29. 49ers 4-9 A moment of faint hope?/Remember: York's a dope  

30. Titans 3-10 Mariota's past reproach/But who will be the coach?
31. Chargers 3-10 Is losing part of plan/To move to La-La-Land?  
32. Browns 3-10 Why win? We know it's sick/Let's get that first draft pick!    

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Parity or Parody?

Believe it.  This is exactly what the NFL wants, and what it really means, by "parity." Many have suggested that the ultimate goal of "parity" is for every team to finish 8-8 with all twelve playoff positions decided by tiebreakers. We're here to say that ain't so and never was.

No, this is what's meant by parity. After ten games, with six left to play, we have five powerful teams that have all but sewed up their divisions, six lousy teams that are all but eliminated-- and a whopping twenty-one teams that are left to scramble for seven remaining playoff spots. Yep, this is what it's all about.  A few at the top, a few at the bottom, and the great majority right smack in the middle. You need your top dogs for everyone to aim at, you need your bottom-feeders to troll for the top draft choice and/or play spoiler, and you need 70% of your fans believing their team still has a shot right up until January. That's parity, sports fans.  

Yep, you've got your perennials, the Patriots, the Broncos, the Packers-- even the Bengals, about to reach the postseason for the fifth straight year, qualify here-- on top. You've got your out-of-nowhere surprises: the Carolina Panthers' unbeaten streak and the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tampa Bay Buccaneers both in contention at Thanksgiving. You've got some recent powerhouses-- Seattle, Dallas, Indianapolis-- going through a rough patch. You've got some teams for whom the ball has seemed to bounce favorably, such as the Vikings and the Cardinals, and a few for whom the bouncing ball always seems to be a fumble recovered by the other team-- the Rams, the Saints, and the Dolphins, for example. 

It's clear the Patriots, the Panthers, the Bengals, the Broncos, and the Cardinals are far enough ahead in their divisions that it will take a major collapse for any of them to give up their leads; even if they play .500 ball the rest of the way, they're likely to win. It's also clear that the NFC North will be a two-team battle with the loser a likely wild-card, and that the NFC East and AFC South will each produce one division winner, by default if nothing else, but no wild-card team. And then there are those for whom the bell has already tolled: our 49ers, the Lions, the Ravens, the Chargers, the Titans, and the inevitable Browns. That leaves three wild-card playoff berths for as many as fourteen teams to fight over. 

So let's take a division-by-division review of everybody's chances, now that winter is approaching and things are getting serious. 

NFC East. The Dallas Cowboys, at 3-7, have no shot at the wild-card, but they're only two games back in his division. And make no mistake about it, the mere presence of Tony Romo at quarterback makes every part of this team better, regardless of what the numbers may say.  Now, all of these four teams have a .500 mark in the division and there are five division games left. The Washington Redskins play in four of those, two against Dallas and one each against the Giants and Philly, who also face each other one more time. Right now we give the Giants and the 'Pokes each a 50-50 chance to win it, simply because they are the teams with the best QBs. 

NFC North. The Packers dealt the Vikings a setback this week, but Minnesota still has a two-game lead over the wild-card outsiders such as Seattle and Tampa. Both the Vikes and the Pack should make it. The Bears, who've already beaten Minnesota once, remain in the wild-card hunt at 4-6 despite losing to Denver at home when they had a chance to gain ground. Chicago have quietly improved their overall game over the past month.

NFC South. Who'd a thunk it? Tampa, winning four of six, breathing down the necks of Atlanta, who have gone 1-4 since opening the season 5-0. The Bucs already won in Atlanta and they get the Falcons at home in two weeks. Meanwhile the Saints, at 4-6, also have a win over the Falcons and get them again at season's end in Georgia. No one's catching Carolina, but the 'Card' is definitely 'Wild' in this division.

NFC West. The Rams' three straight losses have rendered their 3-0 division mark all but irrelevant; they are 1-6 outside the West. And they still have to face all three again. Seattle doesn't get another crack at Arizona until the season finale in Phoenix, and even if the Cards just go 3-3 over the last six games, the Seahawks have to win six straight just to tie. Not gonna happen, but Seattle as a wild-card team is plenty possible, and that'll still give other teams the jitters.

AFC East. The New England Patriots will win the East easily, tying the all-time record, set by the 1970s LA Rams, with their seventh straight division title. Buffalo and the Jets trail by five; we like the Bills, if they remain healthy, as a wild-card team. Not sure at all about New York after losing four of five, and we were never sure about 4-6 Miami to begin with. Like the NFC South, it's hard to see a wild-card team not coming out of this division.

AFC North. It's likely to be five straight postseasons for the Bengals, and two division titles in three years, but if  January yields another one-and-done, will Marvin Lewis get the boot? Superstitious folks will claim that once Cincinnati shows they can win a prime-time game, they will win a playoff game. Well, we already know Pittsburgh can do both, but the Steelers will go exactly as far as Ben Roethlisberger's legs will take them. Hard to tell how far that is, but they have a one-game lead for the wild-card today.

AFC South. The Jacksonville Jaguars are only one game out of first place, and it's almost December! Trouble is, they've already lost to both teams ahead of them, though the games were close. For now, presume the Indianapolis Colts, fallible though they are everywhere else, are still Kryptonite to their division rivals (3-0 so far). The Colts play at Jacksonville in three weeks and get Houston at home in four; if, and only if, they lose both those games, then the division might be up for grabs. 

AFC West. Osweiler for the season and Manning for the playoffs? Let's talk instead about the Kansas City Chiefs, winners of four straight, and a wild-card team if the season ended today. They host Buffalo this week, and then close out with five straight against teams with losing records. But two of those are against the Oakland Raiders, who are a game behind with a much tougher schedule (Packers, Broncos) ahead. If the Raiders sweep the Chiefs, maybe we'll be talking about them  at season's end.

Well, we got through that without one mention of Colin Kaepernick, Trent Baalke, Jed York, Jim Tomsula, or even Jim Harbaugh. That feels good. Doggone good.

Tomorrow? Panthers' unbeaten streak ends as Romo has a day for the ages. Eagles and Lions finish in overtime, decided by a turnover. Bears battle but Packers win a close one.

Enjoy the games and the food, but seriously, remember it is a day to give thanks to the One who created you.  Have fun and remember how blessed you are.