Two Tales of One City (The NFL on REO)

Power Rankings

I got some help this week for the NFL Power Rankings from fellow REO contributors Gowdy Cannon and Mike Lytle. I asked them to rank their top 15 teams. I then assigned a point value to each team based on where they were ranked and then added those points together to get the final product – The NFL on REO Top Ten. (Example for the ranking: A 1st place vote receives 15 points, a 2nd place vote receives 14 points, and a 15th place vote receives 1 point.) I’ve listed the total point value for each team so you can see how this all came together. For the tie-breakers, I listed the rationale for why one team was placed above the other.

1. New England – 45
Back when the Patriots were 2-2 with what was by far the last place team in defensive points given up, it looked like the rest of the league may have had a prayer of not having to deal with this constant playoff juggernaut this year. It was a testimony to how incredible the offense is that they were 2-2 since most teams would have been 0-4 giving up 38 points every week.

But as anyone could see coming, the Patriots turned it around on D. They have been the best team in the league on defense as far as giving up points for the last eight weeks and have a chance to do something very few teams have done the last 30 years – go nine straight games giving up 17 or less. They are now solidly a Top Ten defense in the league by this simple yet extremely important criteria. The O still deserves credit though – the Patriots give up a bunch of yards but recently had 94 straight drives by their opponents start in the opponent’s territory. A record for the last 25 years. That is a credit to NE not turning it over and moving the ball when they have it.

This team is still the champ and the favorite until something major changes. – Gowdy Cannon

2. Pittsburgh – 40 (The Steelers had two number 2 votes while the Eagles only had one.)

3. Philadelphia – 40

4. Minnesota – 36
Just by stats and the eye test this team seems elite and poised to make a run in January. They have a Top 2 defense by the most basic measures and a solid running game and, to this point, excellent quarterback play by Case Keenum and at least for a game or so, Sam Bradford. I know the NFL stereotype is that you have to have an elite QB to win it all and this would cause concern for the Vikings, no matter how well Keenum or Bradford are playing. But seeing as how half the of the last twelve Super Bowls were won by Eli Manning, Joe Flacco, two of Ben Roethlisberger’s most mediocre seasons and a wooden dummy that looked like Peyton Manning, I think the standard belief is often wrong. And while Keenum isn’t anywhere close to Russell Wilson, he could at least be as effective as Wilson was in 2013.

The bigger problem to me is Minnesota’s history. I don’t think it’s by chance that Atlanta and Carolina didn’t get it done the last two years. The NFL is very much the haves and the have-nots historically and it takes either a special QB like John Elway or Drew Brees or a historically great defense like Seattle to cut through years and years of losing and choking. – Gowdy Cannon

5. New Orleans – 33
Giving Drew Brees that running game has been the just what this team needed. Ingram and Kamara have both been impressive this season and they will give the Saints something they have not had in some time – a strong running attack for bad weather games in the playoffs. – Phill Lytle

6. Seattle – 31
The Seattle Seahawks have been one of the top NFL teams for the last several years with two Super Bowl appearances and one win plus several other trips to the playoffs. Most of their recent success has been due to their league best defense and a strong running game. This season that script has been flipped. Their defense is still in the top 10, although much closer to 10 than 1. Their rushing offense ranks 21st in the league and many of those yards are from quarterback Russell Wilson. Wilson is currently accounting for over 80% of his team’s offense. If he keeps up this pace he will set an all time record. Seattle may not be complete enough to challenge for a title this year, but with Wilson under center we would never count them out. – Mike Lytle

7. LA Rams – 27
I’m not sold. Sorry, I’m just not. I realize their offense has been historically good, but history shows us that great offenses don’t always go far in the playoffs when faced with good defenses and bad playing conditions. Plus, while Goff has been good this season, and much better than his rookie season, this is a guy that has never really played in a big game in his life. His University of California teams were never that great and some of them were terrible. I’m just not convinced he will play up to his regular season standard when faced with a tough opponent in the playoffs. – Phill Lytle

8. Carolina – 21 (There was no difference in voting between these two teams – each had the same votes: 10,9, and 8. I listed them alphabetically.)

9. Jacksonville – 21

10. Tennessee – 20


It’s a good, yet frustrating, time to be a sport’s fan in Nashville

Today, December 6th, 2017, Nashville has a first-place team in two different sports. In the NHL, the Nashville Predators are leading the Western Conference, as well as the Central Division. In the NFL, the Tennessee Titans are in first place in the AFC South. Both fan-bases have a lot to be excited about with the results they are seeing. Both teams are winning at a high percentage. Both teams look poised to make it to the playoffs, though the Predators have a long way to go before that becomes a reality due to the length of the NHL season. But beyond that, the reactions to these two first-place teams could not be any more different. The Nashville Predators are the darlings of the city while the Tennessee Titans seem like the often maligned, step-child. How did we get here?

The 2017-2018 Nashville Predators are one of the best teams in the NHL. They are the defending Western Conference Champions and appear to have improved since their impressive playoff run last season. They play an exciting, action-packed style that leaves the fans happy and satisfied. They win and they win with style. Simply put, they are a joy to watch.

The 2017-2018 Titans have the third-best record in the AFC and are in place as the 3rd seed for the playoffs. They barely missed the playoffs last year, going 9-7 in coach Mike Mularkey’s first full season. They continue to win games even though the product on the field leaves a lot to be desired. They are inconsistent and seem to play down to their competition. Simply put, they are a constant frustration to watch.

I find myself in a weird spot when discussing the Titans with other fans. I acknowledge that the team has been erratic. I realize that this team should not consistently be in close games against many of their opponents. They should be able to handily beat a good number of the teams they have faced this season, but instead, they have struggled to put it all together until very late in many of these games. Their young, star QB, Marcus Mariota has been just as erratic and frustrating with his performance this season. Taken as a whole, the Titans have not made it easy for their fans to feel optimistic about this season.

Except for one thing: They just keep winning.

You can deduct style points all you want, but the truth of the matter is, the Tennessee Titans are 8-4. They are 4-1 in their division. They are one of only a handful of teams this season with a winning record against teams with records over .500. (They beat: 8-4 Seattle, 8-4 Jacksonville, and 7-5 Baltimore. They lost to 10-2 Pittsburgh.) The Titans find ways to win, week after week and at some point, the fans just need to accept them for what they are: A frustrating, erratic, hard-working, and successful team.

For all the fans of both teams out there, enjoy both kinds of winning. Enjoy watching the Nashville Predators dominate the ice. Titans’ fans haven’t seen that kind of dominance in a very long time. It reminds me a lot of the 2000 team that steamrolled through the regular season. Frankly, I have no idea what this year’s Titans’ team reminds me of. (Insert your own joke here.) What I do know is that they are winning and that they have a few more winnable games left this season and a great shot at hosting a playoff game. How awesome is that? So, get on board people. Enjoy the ride, even if it is unpredictable and occasionally bumpy. It’s better than it has been in a very long time




The NFL and the Myth of Parity (The NFL on REO)

The NFL and the Myth of Parity

by Mike Lytle

 

It is pretty much universally accepted that the NFL wants parity around the league. In 1992 the league introduced unrestricted free agency which gave every team access to the same pool of players. In 1994 a league wide salary cap was adopted which meant that every team had the exact same limit on what they could spend on players. No matter how deep the owner’s pockets were or how much money the team generated from their fans the playing field was, at least theoretically, level. I don’t dispute these facts and I completely agree that the NFL wants every team to have a chance to compete for a Super Bowl. This is not like college football where teams like Alabama and Ohio State are simply more talented than just about every team they play and should compete for a title just about every year. While teams like Indiana and Vanderbilt will be lucky to post a winning record once every five years.

Anyone who follows the league knows that on average there are six new playoff teams each year (out of twelve) and that each fall just about every fan base feels like their team has a chance to do something special if things break right for them. It is one of the reasons that despite negative publicity and a recent drop in the ratings the NFL is still the highest rated sport in our country by a pretty wide margin.

If we left it at that I think we would all agree that there is parity in the NFL and most would agree that that is a good thing. Unfortunately many fans and even respected sports media members want to take it further. Just about every year, especially if a dominant team does not establish themselves early in the season, you will hear a chorus of complaints. They say things like “the NFL wants every team to finish 8-8” or “there are no good teams this year, everyone is somewhere between bad or mediocre”.

I want to be clear that this is a ridiculous position that is not supported by any of the evidence we have at our disposal. Each and every year there are great teams. Each and every year there are terrible teams. The league will never have anything close to a bunch of middle of the pack teams. It just won’t happen. Unlike the NBA or college football we might not know who the great or terrible teams will be before the season starts, but rest assured they will emerge every season.

Let’s look at the numbers. I decided to go back to the year 2000 partially because it is a nice round number and partially because the cries of “too much parity” started in the late 90s when the salary cap had crippled previous dynasties like the 49ers and the Cowboys. If the NFL is really a race to the middle like some say we would expect to see very few, if any, really great teams and very few, if any, really bad teams from year to year.

I (arbitrarily!) decided that the mark of a very good/great team should be 13 wins. A 13-3 record is an 81.25 winning percentage. If you are going up against highly paid professionals each week and can win over 80% of the time then you are doing something right. Since the year 2000 there has been at least one 13 win (or better) team each season except for two. In 2002 there were three 12 win teams, but nobody reached 13 or more. In 2014 there were four 12 win teams.

On the flip side, if you are winning three or fewer games in a season then you just aren’t very good. Since 2000 there has been only one season when at least one team did not finish with 3-13 or worse. That season 4-12 was the worst record in the league.

What do these numbers tell us? The main lesson is that virtually every year there are great teams in the NFL that win over 80% of their games. Most of the time there are a few teams like this per season. There are also really terrible teams in the league virtually every season that win less than 20% of their games.

The second lesson is to ignore sports radio and TV personalities who need to fill several hours each week. They fall to the temptation of overstating things. Fans do this as well, but at least they are not getting paid for their terrible opinions. This season when the Patriots and Steelers started more slowly than expected and no dominant team was emerging early in the season I heard the cries. I knew they would be proven wrong and sure enough the Patriots and Steelers are both 9-2 and on pace to win 13 games each. The Eagles are even better as they are on pace to go 14-2. On the other end of the spectrum the Browns are 0-11 and the 49ers are 1-10. So much for parity.




Random Musings (The NFL on REO)

Goodbye Fitz!

Earlier this year, a few of us from the REO staff worked on a Power Rankings for Nashville Sports Talk Radio. We assigned points to every show in four categories, we took the averages of each of those ratings, and then we used that data to come up with our final rankings. Before we had a chance to finalize the article to present our rankings, one of the major radio stations in Nashville made some major changes to their lineup, which obviously rendered our previous rankings pointless. We decided to go back to the drawing board, allow the new iterations of shows some time to come into their own, and then re-rank everyone. Sadly, that delay is costing us again as one of the local shows – Braden and Fitz on 102.5 The Game is coming to an end. Jason Fitz is moving to a nationally syndicated show with ESPN Radio and Braden Gall will probably be part of whatever show 102.5 The Game puts together once Fitz departs.

I hate this. Not to get too deep into the inner workings of REO, when we conducted our original rankings, Braden and Fitz came out as the number 2 show in Nashville. Braden and Fitz were a new show – they have barely been on the air for a year – and they already were doing a show that was smarter, funnier, and more enjoyable than some of the long-standing local shows. Fitz is very good at keeping the conversation moving and he worked really well with Braden Gall.

So, I am happy for Fitz because this is obviously a huge career opportunity for him but I am sad for our Nashville market because we are losing a good show. I hope that whoever they get to replace Fitz will be able to keep the show as interesting. (On a personal note, I would love for them to move Willy Daunic to mornings but I realize that is probably impossible with his Nashville Predators responsibilities.)


Skycam?

On Thursday Night Football, the NFL Network and NBC decided to use Skycam as the primary camera angle. It was a big deal, as no other game had been purposely covered that way before. From what I can tell, it received a mixed response from fans. There was no mixed response in my house: We all hated it. My sons watch football with me, particularly my two oldest who are fourteen and thirteen. The thirteen-year-old loves to play Madden. He is probably the perfect audience for the Skycam view and he was not particularly thrilled. My fourteen year old has never been a big gamer so his negative response was much more predictable to me.

Though I am no longer a gamer, when I was younger I did play video games a lot. In fact, I spent hours playing video games. I concentrated mostly on sports’ games, with lots of Baseball Stars and Joe Montana Football. (You see, we had the Sega Genesis and never owned any Nintendo after the original, so we were unable to play Madden unless we were at a friend’s house.) Mostly though, we played Tecmo Bowl and Tecmo Super Bowl. And for my money, football video games hit their peak with those two and have been going downhill ever since. So my preferred camera angle is whatever camera angle looks the closest to how Tecmo displayed the action. And that is certainly not Skycam!

What did you, my dear readers, think about Skycam? Would you be okay with more broadcasts using it as the primary camera angle or would it work better if used as part of the rotation?


Three Takes on Marcus Mariota

Mariota has had a very uneven season. Perhaps you are having a hard time figuring out why he seems to have regressed this season. I am here to help. Here are the hater, the homer, and the halfway take. We will start with the hater.

Hater

Marcus Mariota is not a good NFL QB. He cannot play from the pocket, as his stats in 2017 bare out. He has only thrown 8 touchdowns this season and 10 interceptions. The Titans added weapons to the offense and somehow he has gotten worse. He is uncomfortable under pressure, cannot throw to the outside, and has a less-than-average deep throw. In addition, he is not a good leader. He does not talk. He does not rally his team by getting in their faces and pushing them to be better. He is too timid, too quiet, and too mild-mannered to ever be an elite QB in the NFL.

Homer

Marcus Mariota deserves the benefit of the doubt for this season. His critics like to forget that he missed the entire offseason, rehabbing a broken leg. He was unable to do football activities until right before training camp started. Missing all of the offseason work and preparation put him behind from the opening game. Then, to make matters worse, he injured his hamstring the fourth game of the season and has not been anywhere near 100% since that game. In addition, do not forget that many of his interceptions this season have been on his receivers running the wrong route. Yes, the team added weapons this offseason, but becoming familiar with each other takes time and with Mariota missing time due to injury, they have not been able to gel the way the need to. We just need to give it time to work. Mariota is still capable of being an elite QB in the NFL.

Halfway

Marcus Mariota has been inconsistent this season. While he has not been anywhere near as bad as his detractors will claim he has not been blameless in the Titans offensive struggles. He has been less comfortable in the pocket, for a variety of reasons. He has been less decisive and accurate in third down and red zone opportunities. He has made a few throws that were just plain awful. However, he has also had his share of bad luck with multiple touchdowns either dropped or taken off the board due to bad calls. Those things affect his final stat line in ways that critics and national media people simply do not acknowledge or recognize. This will be a frustrating season for Titans fans though because as it stands, it does not appear that Mariota will have enough time to truly heal and feel comfortable with his new offensive weapons. That does not mean this will be a lost season. Even with a less than 100% effective Mariota, the Titans should still be a playoff team which is a huge step forward for a team that has missed the playoffs for nearly a decade. Right now, Mariota is a middle-of-the-pack QB with the ability to take strides to make it close to the top 10 by the time the season ends. Will he do it? I am leaning ever so slightly to yes.


In a couple of weeks, we will be posting the ¾ season Power Rankings. This time around, I hope to be joined by Gowdy Cannon and Mike Lytle in coming up a more definitive Top Ten. The next two weeks are going to be huge for so many teams as far as playoff implications are concerned. People might complain and criticize the quality of teams in the NFL this season, particularly in the AFC, but right now, there are 13 teams in the AFC with legitimate hopes for the playoffs. And the NFC has 13 as well. That is 26 teams out of 32 that are still holding on to hope for a postseason berth. That is insane. I realize the product is a bit watered down this season but at least this is not like some other sports where the outcome seems set in stone two weeks into the regular season. Hope springs eternal in the NFL.

 

See you next week.

 




All Roads Lead to Nashville (The NFL on REO)

I’m too hyped about tomorrow’s game between the Tennessee Titans and the Pittsburgh Steelers to get any real work done this week. It is easily one of the best matchups of the season with two division leaders squaring off in prime-time. If you have read this column before you know that I am a die-hard Titans fan. Have been since 1999. More on that in a bit. For today’s edition of The NFL on REO, my brain naturally turned to all things Titans – even in ways that probably won’t make much sense to anyone else. But, as I have said before, it’s my article and I will do whatever I want.


The worst game of the week, even though it went to overtime and on the surface seemed exciting, was between the Los Angeles Chargers and the Jacksonville Jaguars. I am still struggling to understand how the Jaguars won that game. Down by three points, they turned the ball over twice in the final two minutes of the 4th quarter…and they still won. The Chargers had one simple job to do: run out the clock, and they could not do it. (Blake Bortles continues to prove that he is terrible and will be the downfall of an otherwise talented team.) How does this relate to the Titans you ask? Easy, the Jags are fighting for the AFC South crown and are Tennessee’s only real competition at this point. A loss against the Chargers would have been huge for the Titans. Also, Ken Wisenhunt is the offensive coordinator for the Chargers and I blame him completely for being unable to run out the clock at the end of the game. If you have already removed all memories of Wisenhunt from your mind I don’t blame you. Even so, he was the head coach for the Titans for one and a half horrible, awful, terrible season. Somehow, his ability to pull defeat from the jaws of victory for the Titans has stayed with him even though he is now coaching on the West coast. Thanks a lot, Ken!


Peter King is Sports Illustrated’s lead NFL writer. He writes a column every week called Monday Morning Quarterback. These are massive, thousands of words articles. Unless I missed it, his most recent column had ZERO mentions of the Titans beating the Bengals. (He did mention Bengals player Vontaze Burfict getting ejected, though that had everything to do with Bufict being a moron and nothing to do with the Titans.) I realize the Titans are not a glamorous team. I realize they are not a great team at this point. But, they have won four games in a row and are leading their division over half-way through the season. Not to mention, Marcus Mariota has led the team on last-minute, game-winning drives in three of the last four games. But yeah, don’t write one word about them in your NFL column. That seems logical.


This is the story of how the Tennessee Titans won my heart

I am confident that my story is not that unique. The 1999-2000 season was a magical one for those of us living in Nashville. The Houston/Tennessee Oilers finally had a home and a name. The Tennessee Titans captured the imagination of an entire city that first season. They moved into their new home, Adelphia Coliseum, and proceeded to shock the NFL and the world with their improbable run to the Super Bowl.

I do have a confession to make though: I was not a fully formed fanatic until the end of that season. I grew up a Cleveland Browns fan. (I know…) I lost that team to an awful, greedy move by an awful, greedy owner. When Cleveland was awarded a new franchise and created the Browns once again, it was too late for me. I no longer cared. I had moved on. So, the 1999-2000 season found me as more of a football fan and less of a fan of any particular team.

The first call to my heart occurred on January 8, 2000 – the fittingly named “Music City Miracle” game. At that time, I was working as a security guard to help pay for college. I had the sleep-depriving graveyard shift – 11 PM to 7 AM. I worked that Saturday, got home, and opted to try to sleep for a few hours before the game started. I overslept. I remember waking up, turning on the television and watching the Buffalo Bills’ kicker, Steve Christie drive a 41-yard field goal through the uprights to give his team a 16-15 lead. There were only seconds left in the game, enough time for either a crazy kickoff return attempt or some sort of Hail Mary after the kickoff. Neither of those options seemed especially hopeful. I’ll admit, I was depressed and frustrated. I hated to see the 13-3 season end like this. I hated that I had missed the entire game, only to watch them lose. I hated that they were losing to an inferior Buffalo team.

Then it happened. The short kick. Lorenzo Neal catching it and handing it to Frank Wycheck. Wycheck throwing a perfect lateral to Kevin Dyson. Dyson running down the sideline with an escort of blockers. I sat there in my bed with my arms above my head in celebration. To this day, I am so thankful that I woke up in time to see it.

But even that didn’t completely win me over. I know, how could that play not win me over? I can’t explain it, but I guess my only excuse is that I was being overly selective and careful with my next choice. I wanted to be sure that the team I picked to be MY team was worthy of my fandom.

The Titans became worthy, and then some, at Super Bowl XXXIV. The first half was an ugly one for the Titans and did little to bring me around to their cause. But once the second half started, and Steve McNair and Eddie George willed their team to tie the game, I found myself buying in. The final drive by the Titans, with impossible play after impossible play by McNair broke down all my other defenses. I was hooked. I was sold. I was a Tennessee Titans’ fan. I realize they lost that game, but that didn’t matter to me. I wanted to root for a team that had to work hard for success. I wanted to root for a team that played tough, physical football. I wanted to root for a team that left it all out on the field.

The Titans were that team.


So that’s it for today. What stood out to you in Week 10? What is the story for how you came to love your favorite team? Comment below. We love to hear from our readers.




Midseason NFL Superlatives (The NFL on REO)

It has been a long week and I don’t have the time or the desire to churn out another 1,500 words on the NFL. Instead, I have opted for the lazy man’s way out of this problem and have decided to do a list of superlatives at the half-way point of the 2017 season. I realize that we just watched Week 9 and it sounds weird to say this is the half-way point, but if you actually look at the records and how many games teams have played, this is a much more natural mid-way point than the end of Week 8. Plus, it’s my article and I can do whatever I want.


Most improved team

The Los Angeles Rams. There is no other answer here. If you said anything else, go to the end of the line and take a long, hard look at your life. Bonus points to the Rams for being coached by a former Boy Band Member!

 

 

Most disappointing team

The New York Giants. They were 11-5 last season. They might actually be the worst team in the league this season. They are bad from top to bottom. I think they are in for a clean-sweep this offseason.

 

Most annoying storyline that just won’t go away

Colin Kaepernick. Every time I read another Kaepernick story, positive or negative, this is my response:

 

Player that needs to stop doing interviews or press conferences

Cam Newton. First, he makes derogatory remarks towards female reporters and then most recently, he makes some strange Titanic allusion that leaves everyone pretty sure that he doesn’t really know that the Titanic sank.

 

Worst Pre-Game Speech

There will be no topping the infamous Jameis Winston “W” speech that happened this past Sunday. I’ll let it speak for itself.

Worst Roger

Roger Goodell. Fire him.

 

Worst Uniforms

Still the Jacksonville Jaguars.

 

Best Career Move

Tony Romo retiring to work in the booth for CBS. I’ve said it before, but Romo has been a complete revelation. He even makes Jim Nance better and I thought that was impossible.

 

Worst Career Move

A.J. Green repeatedly punching Jalen Ramsey’s helmet. He didn’t get hurt but it’s about the dumbest thing anyone can do on the football field. Helmet is harder than hand. Every time.

 

Most likely to have the worst record

I think this will be a toss up between Cleveland and San Francisco with Cleveland “winning” out in the end. The Browns are the textbook example of incompetence and dysfunction – you only need to look at how they botched the trade deadline.

 

Most likely to win it all

I am not a gambler. If I were, I would probably put my money on the Patriots. No, they have not looked like the best team in the NFL this season, but they have still been a top 5 team for most of it and we all know what their tract record is in the post-season. How can you bet against them at this point? Doesn’t mean I have to like it though. If I can’t experience the Patriots failing, then at least I have this:

 


What about you? What superlatives would you hand out for this season? Use the comment section below to chime in.




Why We Can’t Get Enough of the ’80s

Within the span of a few weeks in Summer of 2010, Hollywood gave us movies by the name of The A-Team and The Karate Kid wrapped around a 7-game NBA Finals between the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers. I posted to Facebook “I’m going to miss the 80s when the Summer is over!”

Oh, 1980s. We love you so much. We love you so much that we’ve never truly let you go.

The meteoric rise of the TV Show Stranger Things has proven this true. Don’t worry; this isn’t another article about the show. It’s just to say that for all the hoopla, one recurring theme you hear fans talk about is the nonstop ’80s references. For people like me, who love the ’80s, it is absolutely part of the appeal. Even Will’s bowl haircut.

But Stranger Things isn’t even close to alone on this. As people my age have begun to become producers in Hollywood, the love for the decade has become common. There are so many 80s references in Psych I cannot even count them or catch all of them. But there’s no mistaking why Ralph Macchio has a guest spot on the show or why Shawn once said “ding ding” to Carl Weathers.

I have often and loudly proclaimed the ’80s as the best decade for just about everything. It was, in a phrase of the times, rad. Here is why:

 

The Music

I’ll brawl to the death over this one. The only time I have ever felt cool in the history of my life was in second grade riding in the back of my brother Tracy’s T-top Mustang on the way to school, listening to “Money for Nothing” by Dire Straights. And “The Power of Love” by Huey Lewis and the News. And “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor.

Does life get any better? I submit that it does not!

I grew up dreaming about the day I would dance with my wife to “Can’t Fight This Feeling” by REO Speedwagon and “Lost In Your Eyes” by Debbi Gibson. And you better believe I fulfilled this dream with Kayla in 2014. I can take you to the exact spot in Walker-Gamble Elementary when I first heard “Every Rose Has Its Thorns” by Poison. And who among us doesn’t automatically feel like dancing without inhibition when we hear “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” or singing in unison with a huge group of people during “Come On Eileen”?

Some of my favorite memories ever are being at karaoke hearing Josh Crowe sing “Total Eclipse of the Heart”. Or singing “You Spin Me Right Round” at the top of my lungs at 9 years old without an ounce of self-consciousness. And to go all Hebrews 11 on you, What more can I say? Time doesn’t permit to tell you about Bon Jovi, Tom Petty, Aerosmith, U2, Prince and Guns N’ Roses.

I’m positive in a Top 100 song decade vs. decade battle, the ’80s would annihilate the competition. And if you still doubt that I offer up the following as a mic drop:

 

 

and

 

 

Television

I’ll be honest: in any list of my favorite shows of all-time, the #1 show (Seinfeld) is from the ’90s and most of the rest of the Top 10 will be from this century. Yet despite this, back then we still had no shortage of shows that were perfect for that time. Family Ties, Who’s the Boss?, Growing Pains, The Cosby Show and even lesser known shows like ALF (I had the lunchbox in 4th grade) and 227 (with Hal Williams as Lester Jenkins) were weekly viewing for my family. I have often said that I know my parents made us work when we were children, and we played outside a lot but it seems like if you name a show from the 80s, we watched it. And we loved it. Who didn’t love Tuti from Facts of Life?

 

 

 

TV Theme Songs and Intros

Half of our TV Theme Song Top 10 list features shows from the ’80s. Because that decade was the golden age of introducing shows by putting the perfect music with the actors’ names in real life. Some told epic background stories (The A-Team), others gave welcoming, feelgood invitations (Cheers), some were impossible not to sing along with (The Jeffersons) and others just played cool music over cool video (Magnum PI, Miami Vice). They just don’t make TV Intros like they used to.

 

 

Saturday Morning Cartoons 

Here is another category where the ’80s dominates the field. It’s hard to fathom the fact that for a short time in my life I got to watch ThunderCats, He-Man, Muppet Babies, Transformers and G.I. Joe all in the same week. We all grew up not just watching these shows, but playing them outside, pretended to be the characters, owning the action figures and using our imaginations in a way that seems foreign these days.

 

 

And it wasn’t just make believe that we learned. We all learned wisdom and life knowledge and that “Knowing is half the battle.” (G.I. JOE!!!)

 

GIJoe Knowing Is Half The Battle GIF - GIJoe KnowingIsHalfTheBattle TheMoreYouKnow GIFs

 

A few years later brought the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Duck Tales, cementing this decade as the most prolific cartoon decade of all-time.

 

 

Movies 

Again, other decades can compete in this category but any decade that gave us Back to the Future, Die Hard, The Goonies, Ghostbusters, The Karate Kid, Rambo, Beverly Hills Cop, Indiana Jones, The Princess Bride, Top Gun and The Terminator has to be on the short list for best ever. Not to mention that many consider Rocky III and IV to best the best of those movies and the ’80s introduced us to Yoda and a more authoritative, finalized version of Darth Vader. And that there is widespread belief that Empire is the greatest Star Wars film.

Beyond that the 80s brought us timeless coming of age pieces like The Breakfast Club and 16 Candles, child acting legends like Corey Haim and Corey Feldman, and some of the best fantasy ever in Labyrinth and The NeverEnding Story. David Bowie was a legend that probably didn’t put his pants on one leg at a time. And man I had a crush on Jennifer Connelly. And it’s a shame that kids today will never know the thrill of going to the local video rental store and getting Spaceballs for the 17th time. Ridiculous speed! My hometown had 300 people growing up, one traffic light and zero fast food places. But we had two video rental stores!

And again, lest there be any doubt, go find Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure and watch it. I rest my case.

 

 

 

Professional Wrestling 

Ric Flair and Four Horsemen…Hulk Hogan slamming Andre the Giant…Dusty Rhodes, The Road Warriors, The Ultimate Warrior, Hacksaw Jim Duggan (HOOOOO!!!!), The Rock N Roll Express vs. The Midnight Express, Randy Macho Man “OOOH YEAH” Savage (wrestlers made a lot of random, boisterous sounds but they were super cool), chairs thrown in the ring, steel cages, referees getting knocked out, bad guys cheating, heroes dashing in from the dressing room…what a time to be alive! If my dad wanted to me punish me, a very effective way was to take away Saturday wresting.

3 GIF - WWE Wrestling HulkHuogan GIFs

 

 

NBA Basketball

There were great moments all across sports this decade by people like Jordan, Montana and Kirk Gibson, but all decades have great moments. Only one decade has ever given us Lakers vs. Celtics, Celtics vs. 76ers, Lakers vs. Pistons, Celtics vs. Pistons, and Larry vs. Magic. The modern NBA era is close, closer than any other. But the NBA in the ’80s is about as white-hot as any league could be. Somewhere between Bird telling all of the Lakers he was going to make a three in all their faces in a Finals game and Kevin McHale giving Kurt Rambis a Russian Sickle (classic 80’s wrestling move), the league entered rarefied realms of entertainment. Hearing the Garden Crowd chant “BEAT L-A!! BEAT L-A!!!’ is something I’m thrilled to have witnessed live.

 

 

Video Games 

Two Words: TECMO BOWL

And before that there was John Elway’s QB. And before that “Ten Yard Fight”. And before that the Atari football game where you had to make the block men face forward before each play. What an evolution!

Image result for gif of Tecmo Bowl

 

And there is so much more! In some ways, I miss the 80s the same way Toto misses the rains down in Africa. Yet in others, I don’t really have to. Thanks to Stranger Things and Psych and the magic of the internet, I can transport myself back in time on a whim.

 

Do you remember the ’80s? What did you love most about it?




Who Watches the Watchmen? (The NFL on REO)

In Watchmen, the genre-defining masterpiece by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, there is a slogan that can be seen throughout the graphic novel, spray-painted on walls, “Who watches the Watchmen?” It’s a message about keeping those in power accountable and if that is even possible. While the things I examine this week are much less important in the grand scheme, I believe they belong in the conversation. It’s too often that we find incompetence or worse coming from those that are in a place of power in the sports’ world – whether it be the leagues, the teams, or the media that covers it all. So here is my attempt to watch the watchmen.


Media Incompetence

Reading and listening to sports media is a frustrating and sometimes exasperating use of my time. I don’t think I am alone in that reaction. I get it. There will be honest, and even logical, differences of opinion. I have no problem with those. I may not like it when my favorite teams get unfairly criticized or ignored, but on some level, I understand the reasoning behind those decisions. But sometimes, or a lot of the time, sports’ writers and talkers go too far. They make absurd declarations that no intelligent person can defend. (See: EVERY WORD FROM THE LIPS OF SKIP BAYLESS.) Or sometimes, they seem to lack the simple skill of real analysis or evaluation. I’ll give you an example.

Sports Illustrated does a weekly NFL Power Rankings Poll. There are typically 17 to 18 voters and most of them have voted throughout the season. Each submits their own Power Rankings and then the totals are compiled and the Official Power Poll is created.

In this week’s Power Rankings (and last week’s for that matter) my Tennessee Titans received a 30th place vote from one of the voters.

30th.

There are 32 teams in the NFL. And this person that purports to know the NFL voted the Titans as the 3rd worst team in the NFL. Look, I have no problem with the voters keeping the Titans out of the top half of the Power Rankings. They have not been a good team this year. They have been uneven and inconsistent. But even with all that, they are still 4-3, first in their division, and have wins over the Seahawks and the Jaguars – two teams that are numbers 5 and 13 respectively. The Titans’ worst loss – the debacle in Houston – was to the number 11 ranked team according to the Power Ranking. They don’t “show their work” on the Power Rankings so I don’t know who to call out publicly but if I could I would. It’s dumb and completely unsupportable.


It depends on what your definition of the word “catch” is…

Another week in the NFL, another controversial catch/no catch situation. This week’s biggest offender – the Zach Miller no-catch call in the Chicago vs. New Orleans game. At this point, no one officiating an NFL game knows for sure what a catch is. For an exhaustive breakdown of some of the most controversial calls in the past few years, go visit this link. It has videos and gifs and everything.

I reached out to some of my fellow REO writers Mike, Gowdy, and Mark to get their opinions on this topic. Have it fellas!

Gowdy:
For the last seven years, the NFL has massacred logic and the English language over what the meaning of a “catch” is in football. It started with Calvin Johnson vs. my Bears in 2010, reached its controversial peak in a Dallas vs. Green Bay playoff game with Dez Bryant in January of 2015 and has continued until last Sunday when Zach Miller made (what is logically and semantically) a catch vs. New Orleans in the end zone for a TD.  But no, the referees ruled that it’s not a catch with the NFL’s Pharisee-like definition of a very simple concept.

Look, I get it to some degree. When a player bobbles the ball as he’s falling to the ground, it can mean he didn’t catch it in that he didn’t procure it to a reasonable level, meaning he “dropped” it. I don’t want to throw the baby out with the bath water and leave it all to subjectivity. But give the referees some latitude to use some common sense. Any time you over-define words and concepts, you run a huge risk of leaving out a human’s ability to reason and interpret. That is exactly what has been happening in the NFL for years now.Their catch rule reads like a chapter in Leviticus. It needs to change. Because otherwise, it hurts people’s brains, creates injustice (in a sports sense) and takes some fun out of the game.

Mike:
I am usually not a “things were so much better in the good old days” type person, but when it comes to catching a football in the NFL this was so much better in the good old days. I remember a time when players, coaches, refs, and fans all had the same basic understanding of what constituted a catch. Now we have to go through a checklist of questions like “Did he clearly possess the ball?” “Did he make a football move?” “Did he maintain possession all the way to the ground?” “At any point in the process of catching the football did the ball make any unnatural motion that could potentially leave an ounce of doubt in the minds of all those looking on as to the veracity of the aforementioned completion?”

I may have made one of those questions up, but you get my point. It should not be this difficult. I am not a Dallas Cowboys fan, but if what Dez Bryant did against the Packers in the 2015 playoffs can’t be ruled a catch then we need to rethink the whole thing. It hasn’t really improved since then despite the tinkering. The solution, as always, fire Roger Goddell.

Mark:
What exactly is a catch according to the NFL?  Ah, one the great mysteries of the cosmos.  Philosophers, scientists, and theologians have debated this topic for a millennium.  Verily, this is an inescapable question that every man and woman struggles with at some point in their existence.  Unfortunately, those who wrestle with this question are often NFL referees.  In recent years the definition of catch according to the rule book has become so convoluted that refs might need a legal degree to fully comprehend the nature of a catch.  As a result we’ve seen legal “loopholes” exploited (occasionally at the most inopportune of times in the post season!) to deny a team/player of what should have been a catch.

 

I think they all make very valid points, especially the part about firing Goodell. Mike is wise. Listen to Mike. Gowdy is no slouch either using words like massacre and semantically. This is an NFL column for crying out loud! That kinda talk is too fancy for us common folk! And Mark, well Mark decided to take a more philosophical approach. Nothing wrong with that.


Titans Talk

Is there such a thing as a bad win? Or a good loss? According to Logan Ryan, Titans’ cornerback, there are not good losses or bad wins. Ryan has a radio show on 104.5 The Zone in Nashville where he sits in with the guys from The Midday 180. Yesterday, Paul Kuharsky vehemently pushed back against Ryan’s assertion. In Kuharsky’s view, the Tennessee Titans’ overtime win against the Cleveland Browns was a bad win. Ryan made a lot of good points in his response about how hard it is to win in the NFL, how some games just don’t go the way you want them to and you have to do everything you can to pull out the win. That’s what the Titans did against the Browns. It was an ugly win. It was a disappointing game for Titans’ fans because we had hoped to see the Titans dominate from the opening whistle. But, a win is a win. I tend to side more with Logan Ryan, an actual NFL player who has won a Super Bowl, than with a sports personality/writer.

Let me frame it this way (echoing what Ryan said on the show): Would the Houston Texans’ 41-38 loss to the Seattle Seahawks be considered a good loss for the Texans? Or would it be considered a bad win for the Seahawks? My guess is, most people (and Paul Kuharsky) would say that yes, it was a good loss because the Texans offense was so good in that game and it was very close. I also think that most people (including Paul) would say that it was a good win for the Seahawks. It was an exciting game, that’s for sure, but does that make it a good loss and a good win? Both teams struggled to do anything on defense. Both teams allowed their opponents to move the ball almost effortlessly down the field. (Both QB’s threw 4 TDs and over 400 yards. That’s a sign of very poor defense.) So why would that be a good win for the Seahawks? One side of the ball played horribly – just like the Titans offense did against the Browns. One side played really well – just like the Titans defense did against the Browns.[1. Before you lose your mind yelling at me about the quality of the opponent, know that I understand that perspective. The Browns are an awful team. The Titans should have won that game by 10+ points. I was frustrated that they didn’t. But at the end of the day, they won. To me, that is all that matters. I guarantee you that while Ryan and his teammates are happy with the win, they are well aware that they have to play much better in the future. Both of those things can be true. It’s not an either-or scenario like some in the media or in the fan-base want it to be.] A win is a win in the NFL. You take them any way you can get them. Assigning style points is for fans and writers and has no bearing what happens on the field and in the locker room.

 

 




Five Predictions For the 2017-18 NBA Season

The NBA regular season tipped off last week. The NBA has become a sport where the offseason gets more attention than the regular season. With all the blockbuster trades and huge free-agent signings, it is not hard to see why this is the case. Now we get to see how all those offseason moves will pan out. Last season I made five predictions about the NBA and somehow all five ended up happening. I was on cloud nine. My head grew to twice its normal size, I was invincible. I even considered flying to Vegas to put my skills to the test.

Thankfully the Vegas trip never happened. I contented myself instead, by making five NFL predictions for this current season. A couple of those NFL predictions aren’t looking so good this point and I have come crashing back down to earth. Apparently, I do not have the gift of prophecy.

Despite my recent failures I have decided to dust myself off and try again. What follows are five predictions for the 2017-2018 NBA season. Maybe I can recapture the magic from last year.


LeBron James will win the league MVP award. I think this will happen for a couple reasons. First, there seems to be a growing sentiment among sports media members that LeBron should win again. He has won the award four times, but his last MVP trophy was in 2013. He is still considered the best player in the world so many find it odd that he has not won this award in four years.[1. I would counter that the guys who have won the last four MVPs each deserved them.] The second reason I think LeBron will win is more practical. No matter how good Golden State is Steph Curry and Kevin Durant will take votes from each other. Russell Westbrook won last year, but his Thunder team added two all-star players so while the team should be better his numbers will almost certainly go down. The same can be said for last year’s runner-up James Harden after the Rockets added a future hall of famer in Chris Paul. Other contenders may emerge, but, if he stays healthy, LeBron’s team should win plenty of games and his numbers should be MVP worthy.


The Milwaukee Bucks will win a playoff series. Their last series win was in 2001 so it’s been a while. That is all about to change though. With Giannis Antetokounmpo[2. AKA The Greek Freak] they have a top ten player in the league. He may be a top-five player after this season. He should be a household name already, but his name is so hard to say and spell it has held him back.[3. If his name was John Smith and he played for the Knicks or Lakers you would be sick of hearing about him at this point.] He led the team in every major statistical category last season as a 22-year-old. The sky is the limit with this guy and they have built a decent team around him especially if Jabari Parker can come back from injury and regains his previous form. I expect 45-50 wins and a victory in the first round of the playoffs.


The Golden State Warriors will win 70 games this season. Only two teams in history have ever won 70 or more games in a season so to expect that out of the gate is a tall order. With the talent they have and the chemistry built by years of playing together 70 wins a real possibility. I don’t think they will chase it like they did two seasons ago when they set the win record at 73, but it is hard to see them losing a lot this season.


Fewer players will sit out games due to rest this season. Despite criticism from some[4. Charles Barkley has apparently reached the stage in life where he complains about everything. Even decisions that make perfect sense. As a long time fan of his, all I can say is “You are better than that Charles!”] the league made a wise decision to spread the regular season out a bit. They are scheduling fewer games on consecutive nights and trying to avoid the dreaded four games in five nights stretches. This should mean coaches won’t rest guys as often and it will be more likely that paying fans will get to see teams at full strength. If this works it is a win-win for everyone.


People will still complain when players do rest. I get the complaints, I really do. If someone pays the full price of a ticket only to find out that many of the players they came to see are not playing that can be a real bummer. At the same time, I totally understand why coaches rest players.[5. I find it interesting that in baseball it is a completely accepted part of the sport that players will sit out games to rest during the season, but when NBA teams started doing the same thing it signaled the rapid decline of Western civilization.] Up until about two years ago, the only team that routinely rested healthy players was the San Antonio Spurs. The Spurs also happen to be the most successful NBA franchise of the past two decades winning five championships and being a legitimate contender every year since 1997-1998. It is not a surprise that other teams started copying their techniques and strategies. Even with the schedule changes, this issue won’t go away. Coaches will rest guys during the regular season in preparation for the playoffs and sports talk show hosts and fans will complain.


There you have it. I would love to get your feedback on these predictions and hear what others think may happen this season.




Stream of Consciousness (The NFL on REO)

I’m all hopped-up on pain meds so you will have to excuse this week’s installment. At least you are getting one, as I came this close to not writing anything.

I had my gallbladder removed on Friday and I am still in the recovery phase. I have to eat bland food for a bit. I have to rest and take it easy. And I have to take the aforementioned pain meds. They are nice pain meds. They make me feel warm and fuzzy. Mostly fuzzy. But with less pain. So it’s a good fuzzy. The surgery went well and my recovery seems to be going well also. I thought about ending that sentence with another “as well” but quickly realized that was a bad idea. But I can’t really trust my judgment since I am currently on drugs so maybe it wouldn’t have been a bad idea.

Frankly, I don’t care. Moving on.


This Sunday, I sat on my couch and watched a lot of football. I had nothing better to do as I had recently parted ways with my gallbladder. Here are the things that stood out to me in my drug-addled, football watching day:

Green Bay is terrible without Aaron Rogers. Perhaps Hundley will grow into a serviceable QB but so far the results have been well-below average. They won’t go after a free agent QB **cough Colin Kaepernick cough** but unless they do make a move, I don’t see them finishing better than 6-10 this season.

The San Diego Chargers are starting to look like the team I thought they could be before the season started. It’s too bad that they have no fan-base anymore. Is there a dumber move by the NFL than to move the Chargers to Los Angeles? I feel bad for those players.

Joe Flacco is not good and he hasn’t been good in a long time. He is having an atrocious season and will lose this job in the next few years if he doesn’t figure things out. Spoiler alert: he won’t figure things out.

I wrote about it last week, but there is something wrong with Matt Ryan and the Falcons offense. If I were Julio Jones, I would be demanding the ball in every meeting with the team. He is being completely underutilized this season and it is killing the team. He is on pace for only 133 targets this season when he should be getting at least 150 to 175 targets a season.

Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers are the most inconsistent, up-and-down team/player in the league. For a guy that won an MVP a few seasons ago, Newton still plays like a 1st or 2nd year QB most of the time. And he doesn’t help things by being a juvenile jerk off the field.

The Los Angeles Rams are the most unexpectedly good team I think I have ever witnessed. I can’t even with the Rams.

Don’t look now but the Miami Dolphins have won 3 games in a row. Well, they have won 2 games in a row and the Dolphins and the refs won the third…


Titans Talk

The less said about the game in Cleveland the better. A win is a win and we will just go with that.

I’m not joking. I’m not wasting my time or your time discussion that horrid performance by the offense.


I promise that next week will be better, mainly because I will probably be getting some help by another REO writer.

What stood out to you in Week 7? What teams are you most interested in this season? Tell us about it in the comment section below.




Quarterback: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (The NFL on REO)

The Good

I will readily admit that I did not expect Carson Wentz and the Philadelphia Eagles to be this good this quickly. Wentz burst on the scene last year and had all the East Coast media hyperventilating. He came crashing back to earth in the second half of the season but the buzz had been built and the media declared him one of the up-and-coming Quarterbacks to watch in 2017. For once, the media was actually correct. At least, the signs appear to be pointing in that direction. Through six games, Wentz has thrown nearly 1,600 yards, 13 touchdowns, and only 3 interceptions. He has a passer rating of 99.6. If you look a little more closely at his numbers, his improvement seems to be pretty easy to pinpoint: He protects the ball better than last year and he is making his completions count more. His completion percentage is actually almost 2% points lower than his rookie season, but he is throwing for a much higher TD% and a much lower INT%. Also, his Yards Per Attempt is substantially better in 2017. Eagles’ fans have to be excited about the future with the growth they have seen in year two for Wentz.

 

On Monday Night Football, Marcus Mariota played on one leg and had one of the best games of his young career. It was the type of performance that if he played for a team like Dallas, New York, or some other perennial media darling, it would be the talk of every NFL writer in the country. Instead, it mostly got ignored because of the Titans. That’s fine. The fans in Nashville, the smart ones that is, know what they have in Mariota. His teammates know what they have. His running ability was completely non-existent on Monday night due to a hamstring injury. He had to be a pocket passer in the most strict sense of the term. He had less mobility than Tom Brady. In a must-win game, against a division opponent that the Titans have not beaten since 2011, Marcus Mariota threw for over 300 yards with a 72% completion percentage. He led the team on three touchdown scoring drives in the second half. He carried the offense on his back and his one good leg. It’s was a defining game for a young QB and in a perfect world, it would have received much more attention than it has.


The Bad

What is going on in Atlanta? Matt Ryan looks like he has a bad case of the Super Bowl hangover. He has not played up to his usual standards at any point this season. And now, the Ryan lead Falcons blew a 17 point first half lead to the lowly Miami Dolphins led by the most hated QB in America, Jay Cutler. Evidently, Atlanta is not that great and Miami is not nearly as bad as people think. Ryan has to get things on track or this season will be a perpetual series of one lackluster game after another. The Falcons might still end the season with a winning record, but for a team that was as good as they were in 2016, that is not nearly good enough.

 

Deshaun Watson is a freak. I had a strong suspicion he would be good in the NFL but I never expected this. He has taken over the starting Quarterback position for the Houston Texans and in just a handful of games, has thrown for a league-best 15 touchdowns. It’s not all sunshine and roses with his game yet – he still throws a good number of head-scratchers every game – but what he has done so far is nothing short of amazing. My guess is, he will take a step or two back down the stretch of the season, as most rookie QB’s do once defenses get some tape on them, but that won’t take away what he has accomplished so far. And for what its worth, REO saw the rise and stardom of Watson quite some time back. Read about it here. (This is in the bad category because he plays for the Texans and they are division rivals with the Titans – my team. I am rooting for Watson but his success hurts my team.)


The Ugly

The NFL is a lesser thing without Aaron Rogers. Every game he plays is must-see TV. He is the most impressive Quarterback I have ever seen play the game. He does things no other QB can do. And now, he is probably going to miss the rest of the season. That sucks. It sucks for Green Bay fans. It sucks for NFL fans. Hopefully, he can heal and come back this season. If Brett Hundley can keep the Packers in the mix, maybe Rogers can return and add another chapter to his legend with an improbable playoff run.