Friday, December 21, 2018

Limerick Friday #448: The Wolfpack May Have Finally Found A Winner (Or 20), Plus Disney Never Fails

Once our roster was thinner
Like Manute Bol skipping dinner
Now the Pack is 10-baller deep
On the national scene we do creep
Because Kevin Keatts is a winner

Topical, with irony skipped
From the headlines, it's totally ripped
"Man in the High Castle" returned
With rage, Season 3 burned
Into a frenzy the storyline got whipped

'Tis the holiday season once more
I've avoided almost every mall store
A time for memories old and new
And tears shed solely for you
A rose for Mom, still missed to the core

Early Signing Day arrived with a bang
With athletes the future could hang
Trying to build that in-state wall
Like Trump's, except real and tall
Reminds me of when Chuck Amato sang

A week full of rides and lines
Of snacks, joy, and Jedi signs
Disney made us tired but blessed
With two kids asleep on my chest
Magic is still possible in these times

Friday, October 26, 2018

Limerick Friday #447: Gase's Dolphins Are A-dam Shame, Plus Jimmy McGill Becomes Saul Goodman

Let me state my case
To fire one Adam Gase
His ego can't fit in the buildin'
While his record is worse than Joe Philbin
Another mistake it's time to erase

A team of bust after bust
Without any players to trust
Those who aren't busts are hurt
I guess I'm no fantasy expert
But I have lots of new words I've cussed

Too many chefs in the kitchen
Leads to stallouts and bitchin'
Or maybe no Indians and too many chiefs
If you're allowed to say that with beefs
Maybe it's "open" we should be ditchin'

The Pack came in riding high
'Til Doeren left 'em high and dry
Clemson bitched 'em up and down
Let Dabo treat 'em like a clown
Regroup and reset and retry

"Better Call Saul" getting a bit grim
As McGill becomes the Goodman him
Beautiful and sad
When you know who breaks bad
The ballad of Jimmy and Kim

Last time ...

Friday, September 21, 2018

Limerick Friday #446: "Castle Rock" An Homage And A Revelation, Plus Don't Look Now, But Miami

The surprise of the summer
Was a real up-and-comer
It had a few King easter eggs
But it stood on its own legs
"Castle Rock," you were your own amazing drummer

Fedora downplayed concussions like a dink
With an insane football-military link
Came across like he was drunk
To distract from his shoe-selling punks
At ShoeNC, no one ever thinks

The expectations were low
And the hope even less so
But on the way to the top draft pick
Something happened kinda quick
And now the Dolphins are somehow 2-0

Quite the talented fellow
Even with management like Jello
Shmigital Shmemand you handled
Even when it all got tangled
Poise, thy name is Zammiello

The Brits can spin a tale
A mystery that never goes stale
The scenery defines "Broadchurch"
Leaving viewers to search
For clues in every hill and dale

Last time ...

This Is Everything.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Limerick Friday #445: Training Camp Is Upon Us, Plus "Dark" Set My Summer On Fire

Football is back, never fear
Dolphins subplots are very near
Training camp has finally arrove
An underdog narrative wove
More Gase excuses I hope not to hear

"Handmaid's Tale" a cautionary roam
Through a Gilead that hits too close to home
Aunt Lydia propelled season one
Season two stumbled under the gun
But Elisabeth Moss is like a brilliant-acting gnome

A promising season up in smoke
Like a Snoop Dogg mellow toke
A fast fade for the Pack Nine
Couldn't navigate the postseason landmine
Avent wavers between genius and joke

Coaching passed like a middle-aged dream
Now we say farewell to swim team
Summer flying by, it's clear
But I think I say that every year
Nostalgia closer than ever, it seems

Had a little taste of "The Lake"
Plus a kinda "Stranger Things" take
And perhaps of a touch of "Twin Peaks"
And something for "True Detective" geeks
To the brilliance of "Dark" you should wake

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Limerick Friday #444: Scottish Tears For Frightened Rabbit, Plus RFK & Hope's Final Blow

Off the Forth, you rode a soft Scottish breeze
Launched Frightened Rabbit across the seas
Your soul was the essence of the band
You swam until you couldn't see land
Scott Hutchison, please now rest in ease

Poured your soul into song
Your music obscured what was wrong
Considered yourself a modern leper
With pleas your songs you would pepper
Through these your legacy lives long

Depression abounds, music says
Yours sustained many for days
We lost a distinct sound
Without you around
To remind us to sing the greys

The injuries they come gushing
To the bottom the Mets are rushing
A disabled list full of heroes
As the box score fills with zeroes
Just another summer in Flushing

With his brother's loss he had to cope
Still gave the needy a helping rope
In complacency he found a foe
And tragically, a half-century ago
The final death blow of hope

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Dolphins Draft 2018: Miami Takes A Definitive Stance On The Age-Old Personnel Question Of Need Vs. Talent

I've been doing Dolphins draft recaps for years and years, and one constant over the years (besides almost unfathomably bad drafts) is [insert-failed-GM's-name-here] swearing up and down that Miami was true to its board, taking the best player available throughout. But this year more than any in memory, there was no denying (even though the team will try to) that Miami elected to draft by need vs. BPA, which in the best scenario leads to short-term results at the potential expense of long-term excellence. 

Indeed, the 'Fins' first four picks should assume sizeable roles in Miami early in their careers, with rover Minkah Fitzpatrick and tight end Mike Gesicki getting every opportunity to be game-changers. With their own career prospects riding on this draft, general manager Mike Tannenbaum and (to a lesser extent) coach Adam Gase took the personally prudent and easy way out by filling the most glaring holes in order of priority.

All that being said, down the road this draft (like many others) is likely to be judged on who Miami didn't draft -- specifically, Josh Rosen, and generally, any quarterback whatsoever. Also, in an offseason that saw Ndamokong Suh jettisoned and the enigmatic Jordan Phillips enter a contract year, the Dolphins didn't take a defensive tackle, either.

While you can (and Miami did) grab a veteran DT to plug and play, it's odd to me that a self-styled "quarterback guru" hasn't made any moves designed to arm him with a young prospect that he can mold to take over his offense. The Dolphins have moved heaven and earth to give Gase every possible avenue to stocking the offensive personnel he wants, bending over backward to move players in and out for an offense that was allegedly designed to succeed on scheme over personnel. And even though I don't consider myself a Ryan Tannehill "hater" (he's a middle-of-the-road NFL signal-caller), I certainly wouldn't want to be hitching my professional wagon to him to the extent that Miami's front office has.

Set against this questionable strategy are a number of other questions about the 'Fins' offseason to date and beyond: Does this draft class fit the newfound emphasis on culture? To that end, is culture just an excuse used by an overwhelmed and outmatched coaching staff? Has Gase been sufficiently humbled by a rocky 2017 or will his ego continue to be a barrier to improvement? How much will this offseason impact the future of the uneasy alliance of Tannenbaum, Gase, and general manager Chris Grier?

Against that backdrop, here's what the 'Fins came up with in the 2018 NFL Draft ...

1st round, 11th Overall: Minkah Fitzpatrick, S, Alabama
I have no doubt that Fitzpatrick is a fine player who will give Miami schematic versatility in the back seven. However, in what will become a theme throughout this analysis, poor roster management helped drive this pick, which is never ideal. The Dolphins have one of the league's top (and highest-paid) safeties in Reshad Jones, but they compromised that fact by inexplicably giving an on-suspension T.J. MacDonald a hefty contract extension in training camp last year. After MacDonald served his half-season suspension and began playing, it dawned on the coaching staff (which has been dramatically overhauled and seemingly ridden of cokeheads) that Jones and MacDonald were too similar in playing styles and unable to communicate well. In an effort to resolve that issue, Miami decided to take a 'tweener defensive back in Fitzpatrick, with the hope that his positional flexibility offsets the safety redundancy that has been created. I have concerns about taking a player at 11th overall who is a positional projection, on top of the idea that Alabama players usually come to the pros physically spent and without much room too grow. Again, I don't have too many issues with the player, but in the context of the moves that precipitated his necessity and who was still on the board (Rosen), he's going to have to be a big-time contributor early on to win over many observers.

2nd round, 42nd Overall: Mike Gesicki, TE, Penn State
The Dolphins had their pick of tight ends with the 10th pick in the second round, and they opted (somewhat surprisingly) for Gesicki. There is no question that Miami had a glaring need at the position, and by all accounts, Gesicki is an athletic mismatch who can challenge the seams and give the 'Fins a needed red zone weapon. However, many scouting reports led with the observation that he can't block his way out of a paperbag (apologies to Rob Konrad and Bryan Cox), meaning that Miami took a one-dimensional player, which always has repercussions (more on that later). If Gesicki catches 50 balls and turns into a viable scoring weapon, all is forgotten; however, if he's a liability in the running game, has difficulty getting off the line, and makes the offense more predictable, this braintrust gets no excuses. 

3rd Round, 73rd Overall: Jerome Baker, OLB, Ohio State
Tannenbaum, Gase, & Co. doubled down on one-dimensional players by reaching for Baker, a player whose performance declined when he wasn't paired with another NFL-caliber player in once and future teammate Raquan McMillan. Like Gesicki, Baker is a measurables athlete with a major strength (pass coverage) and a major deficiency (run leverage). There was serious talent on the board at a variety of positions when Baker was taken, and a number of observers were surprised that he went in this spot. From a need standpoint, Baker fits the bill; the hope is he can find his rhythm alongside McMillan, shore up the 'Fins' woeful second-line coverage, and demonstrate that he's a three-down 'backer. However, his addition means that Miami came out of the draft's first two days with a positional projection and two one-dimensional players. Keeping this in mind, the rumors that owner and PR dumpster fire Stephen Ross was underwhelmed with the Dolphins' early haul is not that surprising -- or unwarranted.

4th Round, 123rd Overall: Durham Smythe, TE, Notre Dame
Remember when we talked about the repercussions involved in taking limited players? Well, the bill came due when Miami felt it necessary to cover for Gesicki's inability to block by taking arguably the draft's best blocking tight end in Smythe. If Gesicki appears to be a rich man's Jordan Thomas (an amalgam of Jordan Cameron and Julius Thomas), Smythe could be a rich man's Anthony Fasano, the fellow Notre Dame alum he's ostensibly replacing. In some quarters, Smythe was deemed to be the more well-rounded and better overall player than Gesicki, and if both players can carve out roles in two-tight end formations, there is merit to this selection. But again, with a number of surprising players still available at need positions (quarterback and defensive tackle), the 'Fins went need over best player available -- a formula that eventually costs personnel men their jobs.

4th Round, 131st Overall: Kalen Ballage, RB, Arizona State
Miami grabbed the underachieving and unpolished Ballage eight picks after Smythe, giving the Dolphins three offensive players in the first four rounds. While Ballage has undeniable potential, he's at best a third-string running back in an offense allegedly designed to spread out touches. From a scouting standpoint, my unscientific take is that my Wolfpack played Arizona State in its bowl game, and I don't remember Ballage playing (he had five touches for 22 yards). Take it for what it's worth, but when your team takes a running back in the fourth round, you'd prefer that he impacted a game you saw a few months prior. Kenyan Drake has been injury prone and inconsistent and I'm almost positive Frank Gore split carries with Edgerrin James at one point, so Ballage will have the opportunity to realize his potential. But while Gase gets his way with yet another offensive weapon, he also loses one more of the excuses that he loves to lean on.

6th Round, 209th Overall: Cornell Armstrong, DB, Southern Miss
There was some buzz around Armstrong after his selection due to his 40 time (4.39 seconds by one account), and it's fair to hold out hope that Miami found a late-round gem at a position you can never have enough of. He's a little undersized for the Dolphins' prototype, but the team got hit hard by injuries at corner a year ago, and there's always room for another corner based on the sheer number of four- and five-wide receiver sets that are in vogue. Miami has to hope that Armstrong can forge a role on special teams and develop as a down-the-road contributor in sub packages.

7th Round, 227th Overall: Quentin Poling, LB, Ohio
Poling is another undersized prospect with plus measurables, and the returns from analysts were favorable after his choice. The scouting maxim goes that you're looking for players with at least one standout quality at this stage of the draft, and Poling put up elite testing numbers at the Combine. Similar to Armstrong, Poling plays at a position of extreme need and is thought to have real potential to stick on special teams. 

7th Round, 229th Overall: Jason Sanders, K, New Mexico
The conjecture is that Miami essentially gave this selection to special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi, letting him hand-pick the next Dolphins kicker. By all accounts, Rizzi scoured the country in search of a placekicker, and he chose a guy with underwhelming numbers (22 of 28 the past two years) but the highest ceiling. Many consider Rizzi to be among the league's finest special teams coaches, so I'll yield to his expertise here, at a position that Miami has struggled to solve long term.

Best-case scenario: Fitzpatrick seizes a starting role immediately, shoring up the back end, freeing up Jones to make plays around the line of scrimmage, and shifting MacDonald into a hybrid role where he finds his stride. Baker reunites with a healthy McMillan to take pressure off of Kiko Alonso and solve Miami's never-ending struggles with opposing tight ends. On offense, Gesicki and Smythe team up to overhaul the Dolphins' tight end unit, turning a weakness into a strength and boosting the team's touchdown percentage in the red zone, while Ballage emerges as a threat out of the backfield as a third-down back. In the third phase, Sanders delivers routine touchbacks and makes enough field goals to keep the 'Fins offense respectable, while one of Poling and Armstrong develops into a special teams ace. The Dolphins surprise, going 10-6 before being drilled 222-0 by the Ravens in a wildcard game.

Worst-case scenario: Fitzpatrick struggles to find his best position in the secondary while Baker becomes a liability in the run game to sap his overall confidence. Gesicki is manhandled at the line of scrimmage, Smythe can't stand out enough as a blocker to justify significant snaps, and Ballage isn't consistent enough to earn the coaches' trust and a third-down role. Armstrong and Poling don't make the team, while Sanders has difficulty adjusting to the NFL and robs the team of scoring opportunities. Tannenbaum departs (is this worst case, really?), Gase is firmly on the hot seat, and Miami "earns" a lofty draft pick in a draft devoid of top-caliber quarterback talent in 2019. Gloria Estefan gets hit by another bus, Ross is linked to the Russian NRA, and to divert attention, he names Derek Jeter coach and general manager around mid-term elections.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Limerick Friday #443: "Sneaky Pete" Comes Back With A Bang, Plus The "Douche Knight" Gets The Boot

Give me a front-row seat
For a show deserving a repeat
A vehicle for Giovanni Ribisi
Playing a character both honest and greasy
The low-key phenomenal "Sneaky Pete"

Before State could say we enjoy ya
He decided to become a Hoya
Softer than Turkish pudding
Never quite got his footing
Referees will always give him paranoia

Oversaw some difficult times
As well as some stumbling climbs
Had to push the Don out the door
From Jimmy Johnson he expected more
RIP Wayne Huizenga, of which nothing rhymes

A series of one-dimensional picks
From big schools instead of the sticks
But doubling down on tight end
Without a quarterback on whom to depend
Another stumbling Miami draft, just for kicks

For a little while, boy could he pitch
Of professionalism, he had not a stitch
He'd party all New York night
Then get lit up under the lights
Matt Harvey, just one more UNC bitch

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Limerick Friday #442: Hollywood Loses An Underrated Character Actor, Plus March Sadness

In "Say Anything," emoted stoic pain
Phenomenal as "Frazier's" Martin Crane
He was the emotional core
Offsetting some psychobabble bore
RIP John Mahoney, an acting treasure it's plain

A generation that's not just text readers 
These kids act like leaders
While adults act like kids
And keep our country on the skids
Maybe they're more than just Tide Pod eaters

The government killed his Dad
Blamed it on a trip gone bad
Personal life forgone
To pursue an obsession long
"Wormwood," hard to watch but glad

Destroyed all my bracket sheets
With the ugliest of all beats
No-showed against Seton Hall
But I do have to say, y'all
This is a promising debut for Keatts

After the Pack bitter pill
A&M gave us a thrill
Pounded the 'Holes to dust
Justice against the unjust
Michael Jordan face across Cheater Hill

Friday, January 26, 2018

Limerick Friday #441: A Super Bowl Full Of Dry Heaves, Plus The Pack Is A Sputtering Surprise

The Cheatriots dug out of a hole
For yet another Super Bowl
Five calls in a row
Gave them plenty of mo' 
One penalty on them, roll NFL roll

Hypocrisy a word too kind
For the racist leading the blind
Weep for the future
Fix gaping wounds with a suture
A government publicly losing its mind

Another long offseason looms
After another season of dooms
Can Gase look in the mirror
And see his problems clearer
He'd better or he's gone, I'd assume

Find cardio somewhere
Eat better if you dare
Chase happiness in your world
Let dreams be unfurled
Rededicate through commitment and care

No upperclassmen to be found
As State gets up off the ground
They play hard as hell
Can't quite make it to the bell
But with Keatts, they're upward bound

Monday, January 15, 2018

Scooter & Hum’s Top Five Books of the Year 2017

In a year littered with strong candidates, coming up with the top five books I read in the past 12 months was as difficult as ever. Compounding the challenge was the presence of a couple of books whose cultural impact lent them more consideration than they otherwise would have warranted. As a result, Cory Doctorow’s “Walkway” landing outside the top five by a hair was as tough an omission as I can remember during the Scooties selection process—made even harder by the fact that I exchanged emails with the author during the course of the year. Entering the second decade of the Scooties’ existence, I look forward to more such dilemmas in coming years.

Without further ado …

#1: "The High Mountains of Portugal," by Yann Martel 

What I Say Now:

In the spirit of Stephen King, Martel picked up the kernel of a story he began a quarter-century before, finishing it when he was a more mature and nuanced writer. “The High Mountains of Portugal” achieves an admirable balance of shock, brilliance, and the comic absurd in nearly equal parts. To me, Martel is a treasure, as previous Scooties have demonstrated, and this book is a worthy successor to his previous works of art.

Passages to Remember: 

"When he looks in his eyes in the mirror when he shaves, he sees empty rooms. And the way he goes about his days, he is a ghost who haunts his own life."

"A man or a woman may not need to work so hard to live, but a cog in a system must turn ceaselessly."

"Long before Darwin, a priest lucid in his madness encountered four chimpanzees on a forlorn island in Africa and hit upon a great truth: We are risen apes, not fallen angels."

"Mostly, though, we went about with quiet, reserved insanity. It's what you do."

"Odo is a being of the present moment, Peter realizes. Of the river of time, he worries about neither its spring nor its delta."

"Because to suffer and do nothing is to be nothing, while to suffer and do something is to become someone."

#2: "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn," by Betty Smith

What I Say Now:

Essentially an autobiography, this story evoked real emotion that snuck up on you while building a subtle sense of shared experience with the characters. Smith’s prose was sparse but moving, elevating this book to well-deserved stature as perhaps the defining depiction of poverty-stricken, wartime New York City. As an added bonus, "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" served as an ode to reading, spurring numerous hipster tattoos.

Passages to Remember: 

"Sometimes when you had nothing at all and it was raining and you were alone in the flat, it was wonderful to know that you could have something even though it was only a cup of black and bitter coffee."

"The Nolans just couldn't get enough of life. They lived their own lives up to the hilt but that wasn't enough. They had to fill in on the lives of all the people they made contact with."

"Feeling his arms around her and instinctively adjusting herself to his rhythm, Katie knew that he was the man she wanted. She'd ask nothing more than to look at him and to listen to him for the rest of her life. Then and there, she decided that those privileges were worth slaving for all her life."

"The sad thing was in the knowing that all their nerve would get them nowhere in the world and that they were lost as all people in Brooklyn seem lost when the day is nearly over and even though the sun is still bright, it is thin and doesn't give you warmth when it shines on you."

"One delves into the imagination and finds beauty there. The writer, like the artist, must strive for beauty always."
"What is beauty?" asked the child.
"I can think of no better definition than Keats': 'Beauty is truth, truth beauty.'"
"Francie took her courage into her two hands and said, "Those stories are the truth."

"Only let me be something every blessed minute. And when I sleep, let me dream all the time so that not one little piece of living is ever lost."

"If there was only one tree like that in the world, you would think it was beautiful," said Katie. "But because there are so many, you just can't see how beautiful it really is."

#3: "Doomed City," by Arkady & Boris Strugatsky

What I Say Now:

This story by the Strugatsky brothers was hugely controversial in the context of Communist Russia, but despite that backdrop, it was funnier than expected, evoking “Animal Farm” and “Catch-22” at times. There was admittedly a lot of symbolism and satire to wade through, making the book confusing and hard to follow at times. The brothers were clearly working on a number of levels, but the end result was an interesting read as well as a compelling political and social commentary.

Passages to Remember: 

"'The Experiment is the Experiment,' said the Mentor. 'It's not understanding that is required of you but something quite different.'
'If one only knew ...'"

"Well, great writers are always grouching too. It's their normal condition, because they are society's sick conscience, although society doesn't have the slightest suspicion that they even exist."

"You're being asked a simple question: Can a society exist without creative talents?"

"Deeds should be worshipped, not statues. And maybe not even deeds should be worshipped. Because everyone only does what he's capable of doing. One makes a revolution, another makes a tin whistle. Maybe I only have enough strength for a tin whistle--so that does mean I'm shit?"

"A myth is a description of a real event as perceived by a fool and refined by a poet."

#4: "Hillbilly Elegy," by J.D. Vance

What I Say Now:

Vance’s book was trumped (pun intended) as an explanation for the ascension of Trumpism. However, in retrospect, it’s difficult to view the story outside the prism of it as a launching pad for Vance’s burgeoning conservative political career. He rightly points out the “cognitive dissonance” that Southerners experience when their perception of self doesn’t match up with reality; the choice to embrace a disconnect between their world and their values. The book fails, however, when Vance attempts to turn himself into a superhero, refusing to take responsibility and trivializing violence and destructive behavior as somehow justified or a rote fact of life in a region. Though a number of analogies fell short and Vance very clearly and evasively avoids any talk of potential solutions, “Hillbilly Elegy” ends up here due to its relative importance in the national discussion and its attempt to explain the inexplicable.

Passages to Remember: 

"There is a cultural movement in the white working class to blame problems on society or the government, and that movement gains adherents by the day."

"How much of our lives, good and bad, should we credit to our personal decisions, and how much is just the inheritance of our culture, our families, and our parents who have failed their children?"

" ... being a hillbilly meant sometimes not knowing the difference between love and war."

#5: "Sleeping Beauties," by Stephen and Owen King

What I Say Now:

The unique father-son writing format drew me in, and the plot line itself was endlessly absorbing. However, the dialogue felt a bit off for a Stephen King work, and the book suffered from some repetition and unwieldy language, which may reflect the impact of son Owen King. The story fell apart a bit at the end, with some loose ends left untied and a seeming rush to conclude. Overall, a worthwhile read and an intriguing consideration due to the father-son dynamic.

Passages to Remember: 

"Another part of getting older: you forgot what you wanted to remember, and remembered what you wanted to forget."

" ... People loved their pets, often with a degree of openness they couldn't allow themselves to express toward other people."

"Something flickered in Lila's mind, the mental equivalent of a glittering fleck in the sand, quickly washed over by a frothing wave."

"The Internet is a bright house standing above a dark cellar with a dirt floor. Falsehoods sprout like mushrooms in that cellar. Some are tasty; many are poisonous."

"The rain sounded like an ocean being stirred."

"What did any of it mean? What was the point?
"Terry decided the point might be a gun. He got out Frank's flask and had a tug."

"Loss changes you. Sometimes that's bad. Sometimes it's good. Either way, you eat your goddam pork chop and go on."

Honorable Mention (in 10 words or less):

"Walkaway," by Cory Doctorow: Absorbing, clever tech tale damaged by unrealistic, Sorkin-like dialogue.
"Two Gentlemen of Lebowski," by Adam Bertocci: Hysterical quick read cleverly translates Dude into highly quotable stanzas.
"Adventures of Huckleberry Finn," by Samuel Langhorne Clemens: Reread of literary treasure ineligible for Scooties, but welcomed excellence.
"Letterman: The Last King of Late Night," Jason Zinoman: Iffy writing somewhat sabotages biography of tortured entertainment genius.
"Content Rules,” by Ann Handley & C.C. Chapman: Good, if dated, resource collection somewhat offset by unlanded humor.
"The Open Organization," Jim Whitehurst: Manual for tech innovation through creative abrasion, tension-driven collaboration.
"Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance," by Robert M. Pirsig: Overrated tale of bad father motorcycling, thinking in fortune cookies.