Tuesday, October 29, 2013

How Twitter Has Changed My Fandom (And Writing)

How Twitter Has Changed My Fandom (And Writing)

TSFJ’s 6 NBA Players Of Intrigue For The 2013-14 Season

TSFJ’s 6 NBA Players Of Intrigue For The 2013-14 Season

Andrew Bynum because I fully expect him to put up 25-12 playing with Kyrie Irving, re-establishing himself as the best young big in the league, and becoming a perennial all-star … all without ever having stepped foot on the court during his remarkable Philadelphia 76ers career. But then again, this is Cleveland, and we all know God hates Cleveland … which may explain why Bynum still has not actually stepped on the court in live game action yet — and is still not cleared to play. Can I change my answer to watching Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings — two of my favorite players in the league — in Detroit? I guess not, since I already destroyed Joe Dumars. Bynum it is. - See more at: http://www.thesportsfanjournal.com/sports/basketball/6-nba-players-intrigue-2013-14-season/4/#sthash.RhcVL8yh.dpuf
Andrew Bynum because I fully expect him to put up 25-12 playing with Kyrie Irving, re-establishing himself as the best young big in the league, and becoming a perennial all-star … all without ever having stepped foot on the court during his remarkable Philadelphia 76ers career. But then again, this is Cleveland, and we all know God hates Cleveland … which may explain why Bynum still has not actually stepped on the court in live game action yet — and is still not cleared to play. Can I change my answer to watching Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings — two of my favorite players in the league — in Detroit? I guess not, since I already destroyed Joe Dumars. Bynum it is.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Second-Guess the Coach: Chip Kelly

Yesterday the Eagles laid their second straight egg, failing to score a point offensively and losing their 10th straight home game. The defense, which was supposed to be the Achilles heel of this team, played its second straight strong game. The offense, which was supposed to carry this team to any wins the Eagles got this season, which was supposed to be revolutionary, did absolutely nothing for the second straight game.

Yes, I know there are quarterback problems. But teams are scoring points with Terrelle Pryor and Geno Smith and Mike Glennon and Ryan Fitzpatrick and Thad Lewis, so over the course of two games, an offense should be able to muster something regardless of who the quarterback is. The Eagles haven't, and that brings me to my obligatory day-after-loss, second-guess the coach post.

Chip Kelly has made some, shall we say ... curious decisions in his first eight games as the Eagles head coach. Chip is a likeable guy. Chip has a lot of experience on a football field. There will naturally be some growing pains and a learning curve for a coach jumping from the college ranks to the pros. And he inherited a terrible team. There was a lot of roster turnover and glaring holes at a lot of positions, and it will take time for Chip to address these issues and to construct the team the way he would like to have it constructed. But as the baffling decisions begin to pile up, at some point they must be called out.

The first thing that bothered me happened before the game even began. It involved the week of preparation leading up to the game. It was pretty evident that Mike Vick was not 100%. Now I fully support the decision to start him. He gives you the best chance to win, and you hope that at 70% or so he can get the job done. Starting Mike is not my issue.

Quick story. I had some quarterback issues of my own on one of my fantasy teams. I had Andrew Luck on a bye and an injured Jay Cutler as my backup. I found myself needing a quarterback to play this week. I received a trade proposal offering me Vick. As I was mulling it over, the sender texted me asking if I was going to accept it. My response was, "Yeah, I wanna do it, but I'm scared that he will get hurt in the first quarter." I ultimately used the waiver wire to find a quarterback.

Now if I can see this situation coming from my couch in the suburbs, how can the coach of the team who is with the team all the time and is getting paid millions of dollars not see it coming? Why not do a near even split with the first-team reps in practice, knowing that there was a very real possibility that Vick wouldn't last the game, so that your rookie backup could feel that he had some semblance of preparation should he have to come in the game? It was a lack of foresight and preparation that I find baffling.

OK, so then the game starts. The defense is playing well; the offense is not. Even when they move the ball, the rookie quarterback does a rookie quarterback thing and messes it up. This brings me to the first of four in-game decisions that were curious, to put it lightly.

Your offense finally moves the ball. You reach first and goal from the Giants 2-yard line. You have one of the best running backs in the league. And you have a rookie fourth-round pick quarterback in the game. There is no reason why you wouldn't run the ball at least twice. Frankly, if you can't run for two yards you don't deserve to score anyway. But Chip decides to throw, the rookie quarterback holds on to the ball too long, fumbles, and you come away with nothing. I've spent the last 14 years yelling at my TV, "Run the bleeping ball!" when the Eagles were inside the 5-yard line. I got a new coach and with him a new hope that those days were behind me. Instead I was left there sitting and having Andy Reid flashbacks.

First drive of the second half, trailing 12-0, you find yourself in a 4th and 10 from the Giants 32. Chip elects to go for it, doesn't get it, turnover on downs. I believe in the postgame press conference he said something about the wind being an issue at that end of the field. And we all know that Alex Henery has been less than consistent this season. Even with those factors, personally I still would have sent out the field-goal unit. But I could understand your reservations, if you hadn't trotted out the same FG kicker the week before for a 60-yard attempt. Attempting a 60-yarder, which under most circumstances makes very little sense, makes even less sense if you are scared to send him out for a 49- or 50-yarder the very next week.

Around 10 minutes left in the game you run into a 4th and 4 from the Giants 47, now trailing 15-0. This time Chip decides to punt. He said his reasoning was because he knew the defense could get a stop. But that still doesn't make sense. If you fail to convert, you should still be able to count on that stop if you are so confident in it. And the reward of going for it and converting far outweighs the risk of turning it over on downs around midfield.

And finally, the onside kick. You finally score thanks to a gift from the Giants special teams. There are a little over four minutes left in the game. You have one timeout. Chip decides to kick the onside kick. Chip cited the fact that he only had that one timeout as the reason he felt the need to go for the onsides kick.

I couldn't disagree more. If you kick onside and don't get it, then even if you get the stop you need you will more than likely be pinned deep in your own zone. Now you have to drive the whole field, with a rookie QB and no timeouts, to try to tie the game. If you kick it deep and get the stop you need, you most likely get the ball somewhere between your own 30 and midfield, greatly improving your chances at getting the needed score score. Kicking it short also opens the door for the possibility that you do get the ball back, but only after the Giants have kicked a FG that puts the game out of reach. If you kick it deep, you eliminate that possibility because if they end up getting into FG range the game is already over anyway because of the time situation. Recovering an onside kick has such a low probability that there was really no upside, no reason, to do so in that situation.

It's far too early to make any kind of final analysis of Chip Kelly. Maybe he gets his feet under him, adjusts to some of the differences between the pro and college game, gets some of his own personnel in here, addresses the shortcomings this team has talent-wise, and becomes a very good head coach for the Eagles. He certainly has the potential. Or maybe these baffling decisions continue to pile up, the team continues to struggle despite upgrades in personnel, the team continues to meander its way through irrelevancy, and it becomes evident that the Eagles have made a mistake in their coach selection.

Whatever the Chip Kelly era ends up being in Philadelphia (and hopefully it's good because if not and the Eagles got this wrong then they are back at square one again), the in-game errors that in the first few weeks were dismissed as "rookie" head coach mistakes that would not be reoccurring have begun to lean toward being tendencies, and that is not a good sign for the Philadelphia Eagles.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Starting Lineups: The ‘Golden’ Miami Hurricanes

Starting Lineups: The ‘Golden’ Miami Hurricanes

It's Friday, Time to Dance

Wednesday night, I will be in attendance for the 2013-14 Philadelphia 76ers' season-opener, in which they will most assuredly lose by 50 points to the two-time defending NBA champion Miami Heat. At said game, Allen Iverson will officially announce his retirement in front of the fans who watched him go from excited rookie to leading scorer to troubled star to MVP and back, so might as well enjoy a little Allen Iverson name dropping from Nas.

The Sixers are going to be entertainingly, historically awful, and frankly I can't wait.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Starting Lineups: From Peyton Manning To Andrew Luck, Colts Fans Have Nothing To Complain About

Starting Lineups: From Peyton Manning To Andrew Luck, Colts Fans Have Nothing To Complain About

It's Friday, Time to Dance

Jim Leyland did some gutsy managing in Game 5 of the ALCS with his team down 3-1 in the series, which turned out to be a stroke of genius as the Detroit Tigers pulled off the victory and have a chance to tie things up tomorrow against the Boston Red Sox.

So now is as good a time as any to enjoy the dancing moves of Jim Leyland.

Dallas Sucks.

Monday, October 14, 2013

A Fabulous Football Weekend

There was plenty to look forward to this past weekend for football fans in Philadelphia/Pennsylvania. Saturday evening Penn State hosted undefeated, 18th-ranked Michigan, looking to rebound from an ugly 44-24 defeat at Indiana, the first time the Hoosiers have ever beaten the Nittany Lions. Then on Sunday, the Eagles traveled to Tampa Bay looking to build off of their win over the Giants the previous week and knowing that a W would leave them no worse than in a first-place tie with the hated Cowboys.

Now I was hoping to write a bit more of an in-depth piece, perhaps even dedicating a piece to each game, but work sucked today and the man is holding me down and I really just want to get into relaxation mode, so instead I'm just going to touch on a few things from each game. As we all know, Penn State used an improbable comeback and four overtimes to upset the visiting Wolverines. And Nick Foles played a stellar game in leading the Eagles to a second straight win on Sunday.

I'll start with Penn State. What an amazing game. As a fan, just the excitement level and the roller coaster ride of a game that it was was just fantastic. Penn State builds early momentum and a lead at the half, only to see all of that completely reverse on the opening drive of the second half with a Zach Zwinak fumble that got returned for a touchdown.

And that brings me to my first point. I am tired of Zach Zwinak running the football. He is big and slow and in my opinion should be a fullback, only touching the ball a few times a game. Instead, he leads the team in carries. He is averaging 4.3 yards per carry, but it really seems like the majority of his runs are for 2 or 3 yards, especially in recent weeks. Bill Belton is far more explosive and has more characteristics of a prototypical halfback, and I would like to see him start to get the majority of the carries. I would also like to see promising sophomore Akeel Lynch get some more action. He showed some good things when he got some time early in the year, but has all but disappeared as of late.

Anyway I had to listen to the third quarter and a bit of the fourth on the radio because I was heading to the Rev's house, and the reception was shoddy at best. I managed to hear Michigan take a 10-point lead. I got to Rev's in time to see Sam Ficken hit a field goal to cut the lead to 7. And then Penn State has the ball, still down 7, with only 50 seconds remaining and no timeouts, and a true freshman quarterback playing in his first home Big Ten game. Rev and I were prepared to move on with our nights activities, figuring there was no way they would be able to mount a touchdown drive in that situation. But then they did. If I remember correctly, it took four plays, two incredible catches by Allen Robinson and a QB sneak by Christian Hackenberg.

The second thing that stood out to me was the play of Hackenberg. He is playing in his first Big Ten home game, in front of 108,000 people, on national television, against an undefeated rival. After navigating a successful first half, how would he respond to a miserable third quarter that saw Penn State get outscored 17-3 and saw the halftime lead turn into a deficit? He kept making throws, kept his team in the game, got enough to get Ficken into field-goal range to cut the lead to 7, then lead one of the most incredible and exciting drives I've  ever seen. Sure, he's made some mistakes, some misreads, some poor throws, some poor decisions. But overall he has been very good, showing a good arm and, most impressively, incredible poise. As he continues to mature, he gives Penn State fans a lot to be excited about.

And finally, the play of Allen Robinson. I can't say enough about this guy or what he means to this team. He has consistently been one of the best players on the field this season, and continues to work his way into the conversation about the best receivers in the entire nation. Not only does he consistently put up big numbers, but his two catches on the Nittany Lions' game-tying drive were epic. First, an incredible, somehow-keep-a-foot-in-bounds-as-the-rest-of-your-body-dangles-over-the-sideline beauty that was initially ruled incomplete. Then another beauty jumping over a defender and falling in bounds at the one-yard line to set up the game-tying sneak by Hackenberg. Just incredible plays in their own right, not to mention the circumstances under which they took place. Kid is a stud, and it's a pleasure watching him week in and week out.

After the Nittany Lions' instant classic, it was on to Eagles-Bucs on Sunday. Like I said, the Eagles looked to build off their win in the Meadowlands against a struggling Bucs team. Other than trying to get a second win in a row, evening their record a 3-3 and try to remain atop the NFC East with the Cowboys, the story line was Nick Foles making his first start of the season.

Foles did not disappoint. All he did was go 22-31 for 296 yards and three touchdowns and no interceptions, while adding another touchdown on the ground. He was decisive with the ball and spread the ball around, hitting eight different receivers. He managed to help Riley Cooper actually be a factor in the game, and DeSean Jackson continued his stellar season. Shady did what we have come to expect Shady to do, and the offense was in rhythm pretty much all afternoon. It was a very impressive performance from the second-year QB.

The defense stepped up as well. Sure, the Bucs started Mike Glennon at quarterback and were missing Mike Williams due to injury. But the Bucs still boast playmaking type players in Doug Martin and Vincent Jackson. The defense allowed only 3 points in the second half, and one player really stood out to me. People expected players like Fletcher Cox and Mychal Kendricks to have good seasons, and they both played good games on Sunday. So to did DeMeco Ryans, who was all over the field while rounding up 12 tackles. But the player whom I was most impressed with was one who no one really talked about during the offseason and one who plays for the Birds' most beleaguered unit, the secondary. That player was Bradley Fletcher. Fletcher had several nice pass deflections and added an interception as well. It was really nice to see someone step up on what has been an absolutely atrocious secondary for two years now.

All in all it was a great football weekend for Philadelphia and Pennsylvania — hell the Steelers even won. While expectations will remain tempered at Penn State as the program navigates the NCAA sanctions, the team provided its fans with a all-time great win and a reason to hope as things go forward.

For the Eagles, they moved their record to 3-3, and have set up a huge match-up with the hated Cowboys that will end with one team gaining a leg up in the standings and taking sole possession of first place as we approach the midpoint of the season. Nothing is better than an Eagles-Cowboys game that has meaning, and it should be a fun week leading up to it. Dallas Sucks.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Starting Lineups: Sports Can Save Us All

Starting Lineups: Sports Can Save Us All

It's Friday, Time to Dance

Well, this one is pretty easy. Enjoy DeSean Jackson salsa-ing his way into first place.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Starting Lineups: Some ‘Fans’ Need To Just Stay Home

Starting Lineups: Some ‘Fans’ Need To Just Stay Home

It's Friday, Time to Dace

The Eagles, like the rest of the NFC East, aren't very good. So might as well join in on the amazingness that was late '80s/early '90s nostalgia.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Runner's High Race Primer Review

Race Primer Review
As a runner, I wanted to share my review of this drink mix from Runner's High called Race Primer. It's not a sports drink aimed at hydrating and keeping you full of electrolytes. It's a drink mix that you take before you run, bike, swim, etc. to "prime" your body for your workout. You should basically save it for your long runs, hard runs, and races. They recommend not taking it more than 3 times per week or you can build a tolerance to some of the effects. This is referring to the caffeine and if you are already a regular coffee drinker, you've already built up that tolerance to some of the benefits of caffeine. Basically if you don't get a regular caffeine fix, then you should take it before races for it's benefits. If you do get a regular caffeine fix, then you should still take it before your race for the remaining benefits and to avoid suffering from caffeine withdrawal. The only reason you shouldn't get some caffeine in before your race is if you have a caffeine sensitivity or a low tolerance. If that's the case and you can't handle caffeine then you shouldn't take this at all.

Side stitches are a problem for runners if they eat or drink too much before running. This is true for me as well, but Runner's High made this to mix with a small 4 ounces of liquid. That's less than 3 shots worth. You can see the final 4 ounce mixed serving in the last picture. I take it about an hour before I run just to be safe. It's not a delicious concoction, but it's not bad and also not a lot to drink. Runner's High said the caffeine makes it bitter and they didn't want to put too much sugar in or make you have to drink too much. They don't use artificial sweeteners either, so it's a natural mix. It's definitely drinkable though and the glass is empty before you know it, but I recommend mixing it with some lemon-lime gatorade instead of water if you want to take away the slight bitterness. It becomes almost tasteless mixed with 8 ounces, but that's too much to drink before running for me. Side stitches are not an issue for me before cycling though so I can eat or drink as much as I want. Sometimes for long rides I would mix this in with my sports drink and sip it as I went.

Race Primer Review Serving SizeThis basically replaces the pre-race coffee, energy drink, gel, flat coke, or whatever you've been using before. The label says it increases aerobic energy, improves time to exhaustion, protects against high blood acidity, clears more ammonia, increases cardiac output, and stimulates the nitric oxide system. I can't specifically point out which of those things are happening, but I know that something is happening.  This puts me in an awake and ready to run state and yet I am also relaxed. It's not something that made me hyper and jumping out of my skin only to burn out shortly after. I was a believer after my first use when I took it before a long run. I never felt like my leg muscles were really burning with effort even on the steepest hills. It felt like the only thing that was limiting me was how much air I could pull in. I beat my Broad Street Run 10 mile race time that night. For those that don't know, the Broad Street Run is flat as a pancake and the 10 miles I had just run on Race Primer had several significant hills. I even felt like I had more left in me after I finished, but decided I shouldn't overdo it. You still need to hydrate and get calories in during your run or your legs are going to run out of steam eventually, but this helped make the long run fly by.

Race Primer Final Mix Since then I have used Race Primer many more times and love it. It helped me to a half marathon PR and makes me feel the "runner's high" with every workout. One mistake I made was when I once used it for a long run in the evening and I couldn't fall asleep until about 3am. I now stick to using it in the morning only.

It's listed for sale at $29.95 which works out to about $1.25 per serving. That may be more expensive than a normal sports drink, but this isn't a sports drink. When people are paying $3 for a 5 Hour Energy shot, I don't think this pricing is that bad at all for what it brings to the table.

Overall I think it's a great product for it's purpose and I recommend giving it a try. If you can handle caffeine and aren't afraid of a few shots worth of bitterness, then I don't see any reason not to.

You can find more detailed information about Race Primer at the Runner's High website here: http://www.runnershighnutrition.com/race-primer/