Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Day 16, Quasi-Quarantine: 'Fins Hold Their Nose, Ink A Starting Guard

The Dolphins moved quickly as free agency kicked off, making their first bold strike by immediately coming to terms with ... a player labeled a "historic bust" as recently as 18 months ago. Ereck Flowers comes back to his hometown, signing a three-year, $30 million deal that includes a staggering $19.95 in guaranteed money.

The pluses: Flowers is a colossal (6-6, 335 pounds) athlete with versatility, having played both tackle positions with the Giants before shining at guard for the Redskins a season ago. On the interior, his strength proved to make all the difference -- the player who once put up 37 reps on the bench press at the scouting combine emerged as a plus player at a new position for Washington.

The negatives: The Giants tabbed Flowers as the ninth overall pick of the 2015 NFL Draft, penciling him as their left tackle from the jump. His uneven play made him a scapegoat for the tabloids, and he was cut halfway through his fourth season in New York. He played half a season in Jacksonville before moving on to a lone season in Washington -- meaning the Dolphins will be his fourth team in six seasons.

The bottom line: There is always room for an arrow-up, young (25), durable (71 starts in 75 career games) offensive lineman. The 'Fins are hoping Flowers can build on last season's steady play to help shore up a porous offensive interior. However, the arrival of Flowers delays the maturation of yet another draft pick in Michael Dieter, last year's third-rounder. Miami's massive question marks at tackle remain after this signing, and there is no guarantee that Flowers can sustain last year's performance -- his above-average play marks the outlier thus far, meaning he could return to the mean and become another trouble spot for a franchise that can't afford to backslide at any position.

It's easy to see why the Dolphins made this move -- but it does involve a bit of a roll of the dice for a team that has bad offensive lines and worse offensive line coaches for the last two decades.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Day 15, Quasi-Quarantine: Revival of 64

Heal me when I need a salve
Show me when I question what I have

Follow that road
Into the gloam
Revel in what’s showed
As it guides me home

Salt winds as fuel
When I’m hurting and sore
Rebirth and renewal
On highway 64

Crumbling structures in amber air
Bearing witness mute
Reek of rust and despair
Of time’s passage acute

Argyle shadows dapple a bridge
A checkerboard of transience
Hope lies over that ridge
Revealing the ocean’s ambience

So cradle me in the crescent
Of a sentient wave
Mold me to the present
A soul to soothe and save

An answer for every because
Restored once more 
Now bear me back to what I was

On Highway 64

Friday, March 27, 2020

Limerick Friday #460: Shelter-Skelter In Place, Day 12

I listen to "The Shins"
As the world spins
Outside is close
But we're all morose
Yet protective of kins

Stakeholders in fear
Deadlines severe
Say that again?
You need this when?
Gonna need another porch beer

We look askance
With a nervous glance
If we hear a sneeze
Or a sniffly wheeze
This is the social distance

We pretend bravure
Behind healthy behavior
But we're full of angst
And anxiety, thanks
Music has been a savior

Rinse and douse
Clean and delouse
Scrub and read social cues
And wait for new news
As we pace the house

Last time ...

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Day 11, Quasi-Quarantine: "The New Pope" Is The WTF We All Need Now

I'm late to "The New Pope," but I did watch "The Young Pope" (with Jude Law), and this is billed a continuation of that premise. More than halfway through this season, I'm experiencing a show that skirts the boundaries of the absurd, the sacrilegious, and the authentic.

John Malkovich is having a ball vamping it up as Sir John Brannox, who takes over as new pope (John Paul III) after the suspicious death of Pope Francis II and the continued coma of Pope Pius XIII (Law). There are hysterical appearances by Sharon Stone and Marilyn Manson, and the incomparable Silvio Orlando carries the day as Cardinal Angelo Voiello.

Powered by arguably the best current opening sequence on TV, "The New Pope" is cringe-worthy at times and hard to follow at others, but relies on a spine of real-world politics and irony to keep it on track. Equal parts "Twin Peaks," "The Godfather," and "Being John Malkovich," this show doesn't qualify as an easy watch, but it's been worth the effort thus far.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Day 10, Quasi-Quarantine: Last Week's Free Agency Feels Like a Lifetime Ago

Today's a good a time as any to revisit one of the Dolphins' moves early in free agency. Rumblings began about Miami chasing Dallas corner Byron Jones in the runup to the FA period starting, and while most didn't have the 'Fins opening up the checkbook to this extent, the team pounced quickly on the top available cornerback.

The pluses: Jones is a good-sized (6-1, 200 pounds) corner with a physical style of play. He's an athletic freak, holding the unofficial world record in the standing long jump (12-3) and running the 40-yard dash in 4.43 seconds. It's rare to get a crack at a 27-year-old second-team All-Pro on the open market, and Miami clearly couldn't resist. The trials and tribulations of the second-highest-paid corner in the league, the Dolphins' own Xavien Howard, likely made this an even more important move.

The negatives: The real talk is $54 million guaranteed is a lot to hand to a player with two interceptions in five NFL seasons. Yes, he likely didn't see as many passes to his side of the field, but the legit playmakers in the league find ways to force turnovers no matter what. I'm guessing the thinking here is that if Howard can return to form opposite Jones, both players will get more pick opportunities.

The bottom line: The 'Fins had a ton of money to burn and massive holes throughout the roster. The NFL has become a league that openly rewards teams that stack quality defensive backs, and coach Brian Flores runs a defensive scheme that is highly dependent on top-notch corners. It's clear that Jones fills that bill at an age that is attractive to a rebuilding franchise -- whether he can become the kind of playmaker that justifies a five-year, $82 million deal remains to be seen, but that's a quibble when a team finds itself with an option like this at the intersection of need and opportunity.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Day 9, Quasi-Quarantine: "The Plot Against America" Isn't Coronavirus

HBO's latest ripped-from-the-headlines endeavor is an adaptation of Philip Roth's stellar novel "The Plot Against America."

This work envisions Charles Lindbergh riding a wave of popular fanfare, anti-war sentiment, and dog-whistle anti-Semitism to wrest the Presidency from FDR. The story unfolds from the perspective of a young boy cocooned within his larger Jewish family, as they struggle with decisions about whose country this is, where they belong, and how to spark awareness of duplicity among the hordes.

"Though on the morning after the election disbelief prevailed, especially among the pollsters, by the day after that everybody seemed to understand everything, and the radio commentators and the news columnists made it sound as if Roosevelt's defeat had been preordained."

Just two episodes in, the HBO version is capturing the building intensity in a very real way, thanks to the efforts of executive producer David Simon, the genius behind such series as "The Wire" and "Treme."

In uncertain times when, according to one poll, only 37% of people actually believe actual words that the actual President is actually saying, "The Plot Against America" serves as both beacon and omen to our current state.

"How could I not be confused, when our disgrace and our glory were one and the same? Something essential had been destroyed and lost, and we were being coerced to be other than the Americans we were ..."

Monday, March 23, 2020

Day 8, Quasi-Quarantine: Social Distancing in a "Westworld"

The onset of Week 2. 
People are calculating days of toilet paper left. 
But Amazon is still working -- can the world really be in that much peril?
I should be planning for an apocalyptic future. I should be foraging for food and making a garden out of rabbit shit and tofu fertilizer. But I can only think of how "Westworld" is, against all odds, somehow becoming more confusing.
I just socially distanced my dog.
More later.