Monthly Archives: August 2011

It’s my fantasy

Yes, like almost every male in the civilized world, I do Fantasy Football.

It’s what the cool people do. We pick our teams, we talk about picking our teams, we rationalize why we picked the players we picked and we tell ourselves our team is the best team.

It’s what guys do. And a few females, too, from what I understand.

Andre Johnson was my first-round pick in the "Sports Daily" fantasy draft Wednesday night. I haven't stopped patting myself on the back for the way I went about picking my team.

Although because they have evolved at a faster rate, most women treat Fantasy Football as one of life’s strange male whims. They look at fantasy drafts as an excuse to go shopping, so it’s all good.

Anyway, I’m just back from my 2011 “Sports Daily” fantasy draft and I gotta tell you: I picked a heck of a team. I think I’ve got a chance to win our 10-team league. I really do. Honest.

We showed up at Sidepockets tonight ready to go. I got the No. 8 pick in the draft and immediately set into motion a strategy that would allow me to make a solid pick at that spot, and another one with the No. 13 pick. My wife, Debbie, was along and offered some sound advice, which I of course ignored, along the way. I shouldn’t have ignored her suggestions because this girl knows her football. But how would it look for me to tell the guys that I chose so-and-so because my wife told me to?

I definitely screwed up, though, by not taking Oakland kicker Sebastian Janikowski, which Debbie asked me to do. I instead went with the Saints’ Garrett Hartley in the 14th round of the 16-round draft, which amazingly was over in just one hour and twenty minutes.

By now, I’m sure you’re dying to see my team. OK, I’m ready to divulge it to you. Feel free to make comments on how well you think I did. If you think I did poorly, please don’t feel free to make comments. I’m highly sensitive about this stuff and only want to be applauded. At least until the games start and I sink into seventh or eighth place.

Now for my picks.

Round 1 – Andre Johnson, WR, Houston

Round 2 – Calvin Johnson, WR, Detroit

Round 3 – LeGarrett Blount, RB, Tampa Bay

Round 4 – Peyton Hillis, RB, Cleveland

Round 5 – Matt Schaub, QB, Houston

Round 6 – Beanie Wells, RB, Arizona

Round 7 – Jimmy Graham, TE, New Orleans

Round 8 – Marshawn Lynch, RB, Seattle

Round 9 – A.J. Green, WR, Cincinnati

Round 10 – Mike Tolbert, RB, San Diego

Round 11 – Josh Freeman, QB, Tampa Bay

Round 12 – Antonio Brown, WR, Pittsburgh

Round 13 – Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England

Round 14 – Garrett Hartley, K, New Orleans

Round 15 – Tampa Bay defense

Round 16 – Greg Little, WR, Cleveland

Not bad, huh? I made a mistake by picking Gronkowski in Round 13, but I think I can easily correct that. I meant to go with St. Louis rookie Lance Kendricks with that pick, but let him slip my mind.

My best picks: I loved getting the two game-breaking receivers in rounds 1 and 2. Johnson and Johnson, I call them. Clever, isn’t it? I’m slightly concerned whether Hills and Blount can be as good as they were last season, when both backs were fantasy steals. I had Hillis on my “Sports Daily” team and he was more than a solid contributor. And Blount is a monster who will get a ton of carries for the Bucs.

I really wanted Green Bay tight end Jermichael Finley, who was on my team last season but was hurt in the early going. But he was picked one spot ahead of my pick, so I went with Graham, who figures to be a favorite target of Drew Brees in New Orleans.

I took a chance on three reserve receivers – Green, Brown and Little – but like the upside of those guys. And it was a steal, I think, to get Freeman in the 11th round. He gives me a great alternative should Schaub get injured or perform below expectations in Houston. I think Schaub is primed for a huge season, though, and I hope he completes about 3,000 passes to Johnson.

All in all it was a fun night. There were a few picks I wish I could do over, but I like my team. And I’ll like it until it starts doing poorly, at which time I won’t like it anymore. That’s how us Fantasy Football guys operate.

Michael Vick’s redemption

I think it’s important to remember what Michael Vick did.

Not on the football field. It’s easy to remember him there and to anticipate the many more thrills he is sure to provide his fans in the

Michael Vick

years to come, especially after agreeing to six-year, $100 million contract with the Philadelphia Eagles on Tuesday.

It’s important to remember what Vick did to dogs. How he strangled them, drowned them and slammed at least one of their body’s into the ground when they failed to perform as well as he wanted them to in dog fights. That’s what got Vick 19 months in Leavenworth’s federal penitentiary and that’s why so many people – unimpressed by Vick’s remarkable athletic feats – will never forgive him.

But some people – perhaps most – have forgiven Vick. Since he was released from prison, he has said all the right things. He has expressed the proper contrition for his terrible deeds and appears to understand just how terrible they were. His shame doesn’t appear concocted.

EvenĀ  when meeting with the media in Philadelphia on Wednesday, Vick was perfect in his oral presentation.

“It’s a lot of money, however you look at it,” Vick said. “Obviously, it’s going to create a lot of demands. I know what comes along with it, and I know how to handle it. But it’s not even about the money. It’s about the changes that have been made in my life. Kids have an opportunity to see that you should never count yourself out.”

But here’s the part of what Vick said that impresses me most:

“At the same time, don’t put yourself in a position where you’ve got to make a miraculous comeback. That’s not what it’s about.”

Those of us who haven’t fully embraced Vick yet cite not only his heinous crimes, but the lifestyle that produced those crimes. Vick, richer than he could have ever imagined because of football, flaunted his wealth in unhealthy ways. He attracted the wrong crowd, perhaps even encouraged those people to be in his camp.

Has he, in fact, changed his lifestyle to the point where the old ways will never tempt him?

We can’t know that. We can only ingest what we’re given and attempt to draw a conclusion. Those of us with open minds do that. Those who decided they would never forgive Vick – and I understand and even applaud that sentiment – have turned off the Vick spigot. He is out of their lives forever.

I find myself giving Vick a second chance. And I wonder if I would be doing the same if his name were Michael Vickers and he lived down the block. We talk so much in America about the willingness of people to forgive but we seem more willing to do so with a celebrity or outstanding athlete, people who are in the public eye.

It’s undoubtedly helps Vick that he has come back bigger, faster and with more passing accuracy than he had before his 19-month prison sentence. We have to blink our eyes at times to believe what we’re seeing from Vick, who spent a season as Philly’s backup before taking over as the starter in 2010.

The Eagles are a fashionable pick to win the Super Bowl this season because of several recent post-lockout acquisitions. But they wouldn’t be getting such accolades if it weren’t for Vick, who at times last season was the most dynamic player anyone had ever seen.

Hard to believe it was the same guy who was so erratic during his six seasons in Atlanta, which included two Pro Bowls and a whole bunch of head shaking because of questionable decision-making and just so-so accuracy.

Vick was often out of control on the field, so it’s not all that surprising that his life away from football was so sinister. Like so many young athletes who come from next to nothing, he had to have been overwhelmed by his sudden wealth and fame. Along with it came an air of invincibility, a feeling that he could do anything he pleased without fear of repercussion.

Killing dogs – dogs that he trained to fight – was outside of his perspective. I question whether he even knew what he was doing was wrong.

Which doesn’t make it right. Or even tolerable. Vick ultimately got what he deserved. The sentence, in this case, fit the crime. But that’s the tangible sentence. There is a part of Vick’s punishment that is hard to quantify. He can never win back the people who have abandoned him. There are only a percentage of us willing to forgive him.

We do with trepidation. We wonder whether throwing $100 million at this man is wise, given what he has done with his wealth in the past.

In the end, though, we have Vick’s words. And his demeanor. Both are impressive enough to make some of us accept him back and hope his story has a positive ending.

Plus – and we wouldn’t be honest if we didn’t admit this – it’s a lot of fun to watch Vick play football. He’s one of the most exciting players in NFL history.

To those who will never be tempted to watch Vick play again, I understand. More power to you.

But I will watch. And continue to forgive. And, lastly, cross my fingers.

How I spent my summer

It’s time to once again to saddle up and get ready for another football season, although I haven’t saddled up literally in decades and would be frightened beyond belief now to get anywhere near a horse. Or a mule, for that matter.

This is a great time of year, provided it ever cools down. I love the beginning of football season and the final month of the baseball regular season leading into the playoffs. It’s only seven weeks or so until the beginning of college basketball practice, believe it or not. It’s fun when the sports seasons converge.

But, as always, a part of me will miss summer. And this has been one of the best summers ever.

First, it’s my first summer as the groom of my wonderful wife, Debbie. We were married last December (I’m sure you saw pictures in “People” magazine) and we spent our honeymoon in Gettysburg and Pittsburgh, Pa. Yes, when you think of romance I know you think of Pittsburgh, but we had a great time.

We drove – approximately 2,700 miles in all – and had not once tense moment. Oh, who am I kidding? I got lost numerous times in Pittsburgh and admit I’m not the coolest customer when I have no idea where I am or what I need to do to get to where I want to be. There were some hairy moments. But once we arrived at our rat-infested motel (OK, not really but not exactly a honeymoon suite), everything was fine.

We went to a couple of St. Louis Cardinals games against the Pittsburgh Pirates. I’ve been wanting to go to a game at PNC Park for a while now and it’s as beautiful as it looks on television. Plus, the Cardinals won both of the games we saw before starting on a down-slide that has left them 10 1/2 games behind the Milwaukee Brewers in the National League Central as I type.

The Cardinals are always a huge part of my summer. I’ve watched dozen of games – with Debbie by my side – and even though the team has fallen out of contention, I’ll continue to watch. There’s something forlorn about that, but it’s my life and this is how I choose to live it.

We had a screened-in patio built on our house. At least I think we did. It’s been so miserably hot that we haven’t had a chance to use it much, but that’ll change once the football season starts. Right? Tell me that’ll change when the football season starts. We also put up some fence in the back yard. I like saying that because it makes me feel like one of the Cartright boys from “Bonanza.” Those guys, especially Hoss and Little Joe, were always putting up some fence. Hop Sing was always cooking, but I don’t cook so I don’t think there’s much comparison to me and Hop Sing.

I played a lot of golf. One day, at MacDonald Park, I thought I had played for the last time. My game fell apart. It was if I had reverted back to when I was just starting out back in the – well, it’s not necessary to fill in that date. You get the point. I couldn’t hit anything. I completely lost it and I considered dumping my clubs in the closest lake, something my friends will tell you is no exaggeration.

But the next time out, I was a little better. And finally, I got back to playing decent golf. Never anything great, but decent. I shot a 79 at Sim Park on Saturday, only the fifth time I’ve broken 80 in my life. I was 3-over on the final two holes or it would have been better. If I’m sounding like Golf Guy, I’ll soon get over it. Because there’s nothing quite so annoying as “Golf Guy.”

The radio show has gone well. We had a good summer, except for a slight mishandling of the World Series of Face/Off championship game. But mistakes happen. To me, they happen fairly frequently.

I’m ready for football season. I’m headed for Kansas State on Saturday to watch the Wildcats play Eastern Kentucky. Shouldn’t be much of a game, but there are a lot of interesting stories surrounding K-State this season. I like to get into the groove of a season and this one should be telling for both Kansas schools. No one is expecting a whole lot from either, but I think Kansas State could surprise some people. Not surprise people by going 10-2 or anything like that, but I think seven wins is within reach with an outside chance to get to eight.

The blog will be appearing regularly now through the end of the basketball season. I’ll have a couple of weeks off during the late fall/early winter months, but for the most part I’ll be hard at work for the next seven months. It’ll be fun talking with you. As always, your comments and suggestions are welcome. Provided they’re complimentary comments and valid suggestions, of course.

The tenuous state of the Big 12

Texas, I presume, is happy.

That’s because the Longhorns soon will have their own television outlet, in a partnership with ESPN. It’s because Texas is drowning in money, owns the state of Texas with one of the largest alumni bases in the country and bosses around the other schools in the Big 12 because, well, it can. It’s Texas.

Now the rest of the schools in the Big 12 will tell you they’re happy as can be with the current 10-school arrangement. They remember just over a year ago, when the league nearly dissolved following the departures of Nebraska and Colorado and the near moves of A&M (SEC), and Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State (Pac-10). They don’t like remembering that chain of events that nearly led to the end of the conference.

But while UT is skipping merrily along, eating a cake, the rest of the conference schools pick up the crumbs. Even with a new lucrative conference television contract and assurances from Texas that it’s committed to the Big 12 into the future, there is uneasiness surrounding the league. That was exacerbated Wednesday when Texas Gov. Rick Perry verified to Dallas Morning News reporters that representatives from his alma mater, Texas A&M, were having discussions with the powers that be in the SEC.

Oh boy, here we go again.

Nobody from A&M has verified Perry’s assertion, but it all fits. A&M doesn’t like being Texas’ little brother in the state of Texas and the Aggies would be a great addition to the SEC, which would likely bring along another school to bring its membership to 14. Texas Tech, perhaps?

Kansas and especially Kansas State should be especially queasy about A&M’s potential flirtation with the SEC. Let’s face it, outside of Texas there are no obvious happy campers in the Big 12.

Oklahoma and Oklahoma State could still easily depart for the Pac-12 at some point. Missouri felt jilted by the Big 10, which added Nebraska but left the Tigers, so sure they were on their way north, at the doorstep. Iowa State is the crazy uncle the rest of the conference tries to hide in the cellar. The Cyclones are nothing but a necessary evil in the Big 12 and have no appeal to the Big 10.

Kansas and Kansas State have some things going for them, definitely.

KU brings the Kansas City television market into play and has one of the nation’s top men’s basketball programs. Kansas State has had outstanding football in the past and looks to be solid again in men’s basketball. But K-State’s Manhattan location is not a plus and neither of the Kansas schools does much to hold the Big 12 together.

If Texas A&M bolts the conference, how much longer before others follow suit? And if Kansas and Kansas State don’t appeal to conferences such as the Big 10, ACC or Big East, what choices will they have? The Mountain West? Conference USA?

If you thought this issue was going away when the Big 12 pulled things together last summer, you were kidding yourself. Because instead of pulling things together, the conference more patched things up. And patches don’t last forever.

Texas A&M isn’t happy. Call it envy if you want. The Aggies can’t be happy with all the muscle being applied by Texas these days. If the Big 12 was a pie, Texas is about six of its servings. That piece of leftover crust is Iowa State. I hate to pick on the Cyclones, but they’re in a bad way.

As if we already weren’t aware, football is the driving force in college athletics. It’s what led Nebraska to the Big 10 and Colorado to the Big 12. It’s what swayed Utah and to join the Pac-10 and TCU to make the head-scratching move to the Big East.

We might love our college basketball here in Kansas, but it’s important to acknowledge that basketball isn’t going to determine the future of college sports.

Football is.

And there is a long way to go before the dust settles. The re-alignment of conferences is ongoing and the Big 12 is in jeopardy, no matter what the guys in the suits in Dallas tell us.

Hold on for a wild ride.

Does Bryce Brown get it?

I guess I have always just assumed Wichitan and Tennessee transfer Bryce Brown was going to be the 2011 starting tailback at Kansas State. Even as I heard rumblings coming out of Manhattan this summer that Brown was living up to his reputation, I figured it wouldn’t be long before he was.

Perhaps I am guilty of over-estimating Brown. Perhaps many are.

Judging from a Kellis Robinett story about Brown, who recently was chosen to the preseason All-Big 12 team,

Kansas State red-shirt sophomore Bryce Brown, from Wichita East, turns upfield during the Wildcats' spring game in April.

in Saturday’s Eagle, it doesn’t appear Brown has a lock to anything, except perhaps to Coach Bill Snyder’s doghouse.

I couldn’t believe some of the things Brown told reporters, and I would guess it’ll be a long time before the media gets another chance for an interview session with Brown.

He did not come across as a guy who is taking his situation serious. He’s a sophomore redshirt with three years of eligibility remaining after playing his freshman season for the Vols. Coming out of high school Brown was considered one of the top running back prospects in the country. He was good at Tennessee and had moments when he was better than good.

But instead of staying in Manhattan this summer with so many of his teammates, Brown said he instead went back and forth from Wichita to Tennessee, although coaches did not approve of that decision. He missed several voluntary workouts, much to Snyder’s chagrin. Anybody who knows Snyder knows the word “voluntary” consists of nine letters that have little meaning.

“Yeah, I did,” Brown told reporters when asked if he had missed some of the “voluntary” gatherings. “I actually missed quite a few. I was here and there, kinda doing my own thing.”

I’ll bet Snyder especially enjoyed reading that. If there’s one thing he gets a kick out of, it’s players who kinda do their own thing.

Brown, from the statements he made in the article, didn’t sound too concerned about how his playing time might be affected by his summer activities, even though Snyder said two other tailbacks – John Hubert and Robert Rose – are squarely in the mix.

Even so, Brown doesn’t sound like he’s in fear of losing a job he might not even have.

“It all depends on me,” he said. “It all depends on how I’m working and how much information I can retain and how I’m performing. Because in the end it’s all about performance and I am very confident in myself that I can be the starting back.”

Brown went on to say how he wants to be a vocal leader for the Kansas State football team, but that’s a role that seems more likely to land with his brother, Arthur, he has made a big splash as a linebacker for the Wildcats. He, unlike his younger brother, has been around Manhattan a lot.

Arthur Brown has said all the right things of late and takes nothing for granted. He’s highly motivated to have a breakout season after struggling for two seasons at Miami (Fla.), where things did not fall together for him. He, as you might expect, appears to be humbled by that experience.

That does not seem to be the case for the 6-foot, 220-pound Bryce Brown, who has been battling some nagging injuries to his ankle and hip. He said he has been concerned about how his body is responding to rehab, so he decided to train his own way.

Again, I can see Snyder cringing as he heard or read about Brown’s comments.

There’s still almost a month before the Kansas State season opener. Brown has already transferred once so there aren’t many options for him. He’s playing for a coach who isn’t going to give him anything based on his reputation. In fact, Snyder has long made due – and very successfully, I might add – with players who aren’t four- or five-star recruits coming out of high school. In many ways, he has always appeared more comfortable coaching those kinds of players.

Brown’s reputation precedes him at Kansas State. Both good and bad. If I were him, I’d be careful about speaking my mind in front of the media the next time he has that chance. If there is a next time.