The Disney Channel Original Movie Manifesto

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This isn’t a slideshow.

Just wanted to get that out of the way early for all of you out there so you don’t have to spend 120 clicks and page loads to get through Bleacher Report’s “Top 25 Eastern European WAGs of the Bass Pro Series.”

With that said, I can’t ignore that Complex Magazine dropped down and got their Bleacher Report on in December with this “Top 25 Disney Channel Original Movies”. It was pretty solid and for the most part they didn’t have any glaring omissions or discrepancies in their rankings. Having “The Color of Friendship” a spot ahead of “Jett Jackson: The Movie” was a lapse in judgment but TCOF won an Emmy so I can’t be too critical of its placement.

Here’s the thing; I’m not going to rank the movies. I’m just not going to do it. I’m not that guy. I’m not above the game. But because I respect the game however, we will use the Complex rankings as a contrast point as we go through and hash all this out.

DISCLAIMER: I write this piece with great pride and great prejudice.  All of us have had a different experience with Disney Channel Original Movies (hereafter referred to as “DCOMs”) and we all have different memories and opinions of them now. Age is a big deal. I was born in 1986 so I was hitting the prime of DCOMs at the age of about 14. If you were 18 in 2000 you probably would have missed this wonderful experience and if you were 10 you would have looked at these movies in a much different light.

Considering all that, looking back at the DCOM universe is like looking back through a kaleidoscope. It’s just a little bit different for each one of us, but it’s always beautiful in its own unique way. With all that out of the way and speaking of beautiful, let’s get started…

ZENON: THE PRISM

Everyone has their own DCOM experience, so there has to be an origin point of where we all can gauge exactly what perspective we have. That point is Zenon; the prism through which we can understand and define each person’s individual experience.

When “Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century” came out on January 23, 1999, I was 13 years old. This was the perfect age to experience Kirsten Storms, who was also 13 in the movie, but more importantly – was 15 in real life. Among many transcendent casting choices in the history of DCOMs, this may have been the most impressive, because when “Zenon: The Zequel” came out in 2001, Zenon Kar was 15 played by a 17-year old Storms, who much like Lindsay Lohan at that age was at her aesthetic peak. Two years did this:

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So for me and many others born from 1985 to 1988, a 15-year old Storms in 1999 and a 17-year old Storms in 2001 were both dangerously well-timed as our emotions towards the opposite sex were developing.

As previously stated, if you weren’t in that window, the DCOM experience was probably very different for you. This has to be understood when considering how you personally viewed these movies. This is why Zenon may hold a very special place in the hearts and sexual development of many 23 to 28-year olds you know today.

So the prism through which I write this is the prism of hitting Zenon in the sweet spot, and all opinions and sentiments written forthcoming should be known to be from that perspective. I also want to acknowledge that in the previous sentence I incorporated the phrase “hitting Zenon in the sweet spot” and did not make any kind of euphemism or innuendo whatsoever. Impressive, I know.

The other pillar that Zenon serves for our purposes is as a cutoff point. This whole thing can be a jumble when dictating what is and what isn’t a DCOM. So Zenon will be our point of reference again. Here is a rough breakdown of what we are dealing with movie-wise here:

Disney Channel Premiers (sometimes also known as “Premears” – see what they did there)

54 movies beginning in 1983 with “Tiger Town” and going all the way up to 1997’s “The Paper Brigade” (more on this later).

Disney Channel Original Movies (DCOMs)

Currently at 97 movies, beginning with “Northern Lights” in 1997 and now the most recent being 2013’s “Teen Beach Musical” which someone apparently forgot to give an actual name.

“Zoog” Disney Channel Movies

Scholars and historians have been at odds to determine what, if any, the distinction is between the “Zoog” movies and DCOMs. The Disney Wiki has the breakdown at 43 Zoog movies and 48 DCOMs. Most of the heavy hitters are considered under this Zoog category (Brink, Zenon, Tsunami, etc). They list the oft-unlisted gem “P.U.N.K.S.” which introduced us all to Jessica Alba, and they omit “The Paper Brigade” altogether.

This is where Zenon continues to act as our final modifier for this exercise. Not one of us could sustain through all 97 DCOMs; it’s cross-generational and everyone has a different timeframe. No one who was old enough to watch and enjoy “The Paper Brigade” for instance would also be able to watch and enjoy “High School Musical” in the same way; it’s just not possible. Enjoying “High School Musical” is a task in itself. So we will consider everything from “The Paper Brigade” up to “Zenon: Z3” which came out June 11, 2004 officially a DCOM.

The post-Z3 world was an incoherent mess that had a bunch of Halloweentown sequels including “Halloweentown High,” “Return to Halloweentown,” and “The Halloweentown Chainsaw Massacre.” All the magic was officially ruined when “High School Musical” came out at the beginning of 2006. There were five or six Cheetah Girls movies in this retard soup and once everything was burned to the ground in 2007 they released the sequel to “Johnny Tsunami” and officially pissed on the ashes. That movie will not be mentioned or named. The only thing that ending it at Z3 really robs us of is the Lebron James-like rise of Aly Michalka through the more recent DCOMs. We were robbed of seeing exactly how she got to the point that she was averaging a triple-double every night. For example:

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How there wasn’t at least a conversation about an edgier Zenon reboot with Michalka before she blew up is one of the all-time “left on the table” moments in Disney history. Maybe in television history. It kept me up last night.

Anyway…from “The Paper Brigade” in 1997 to “Z3” in 2004 we have 50 movies we can consider fully certified DCOMs. I’m including “P.U.N.K.S.” because it had Brandon Baker before “Tsunami” and was the first time we got the privilege of laying eyes on Jessica Alba. I’m excluding “Northern Lights” in 1997 because Diane Keaton was in it, no one watched it, and it sounds like an Emily Bronte novel.

Also not including “You Lucky Dog” because it’s about a dog psychiatrist played by Kirk Cameron who can read dogs’ minds. At one point this could’ve been promising but after “Kirk Cameron and Bananas” happened we really have to omit anything Cameron related.

Like I said before I’m not ranking these. I’m not James Franco I can’t just do whatever the fuck I want. I have some discipline and respect.  There’s too much nuance and too many gaps to just line em all up. The only way to go is to break this down pyramid style and I will humbly do my best to do justice to this masterpiece collection. In that spirit…

THE WORLD BEFORE DCOMs

Life before DCOMs was rough and sparse. Like the ABA before the merger there were different rules, and the memories for those of us who grew up with the NBA are hazy to nonexistent. However, you have to know where you came from to truly appreciate where you are now. That’s why 1995’s “Escape to Witch Mountain” deserves to be mentioned.  There are aliens and purple energy and Ari’s wife from Entourage and a mountain, but most importantly we were introduced to DCOM legend Erik von Detten. EvD is a gift that we would have to wait three years to open. It also unfortunately gave us this gift that we’d wait 14 years to open and then immediately return. I’m sure The Rock kicked that mountains ass in a sweet cut-off though.

The other pre-DCOM worth mentioning is the rollerblading movie before the rollerblading movie, “Airborne” from 1993. It’s about a kid who loves to surf who was displaced from his home to an unfamiliar world where he excels at a new sport – this plotline may sound familiar. And it begins the clichéd downhill rollerblade race ending that we see pop up in later in movies like “Brink!”, “Shakespeare in Love,” and “Schindler’s List.”  It also gives us a young Seth Green, a young Jack Black, and this Wikipedia synopsis of the ending:

An aggressive and athletic Snake reaches the finish first for Mitchell’s team, but two preps swiftly follow suit. Needing only one more person to win and with Blane in sight of the end, he decides to barrel into Mitchell but poorly times his attack and instead lands in the waters below. This leaves Jack and Mitchell in clear sight of the finish line, as they approach in tandem victory to the cheers of their awaiting schoolmates, and kisses of respective love interests. Mitchell has finally earned the respect of Jack and his friends, and he is lifted on the shoulders of a cheering crowd as the movie ends”

And yes, the ending is as epic as that paragraph describes. Don’t even bother watching it.  It makes me physically upset that I didn’t write the phrase “and kisses of respective love interests” in that paragraph. Absolute fire.

Okay, so now that we’ve mentioned the OGs, we can get into it…

LEVEL ONE: Those That Exist So That We May Know What is Better

Under Wraps, Can of Worms, Stepsister from Planet Weird, Ready to Run, Mom’s Got a Date with a Vampire, The Ultimate Christmas Present, Hounded, The Jennie Project, Halloweentown II: Kalabar’s Revenge, ‘Twas the Night, The Scream Team, You Wish!, Right on Track, Eddie’s Million Dollar Cook Off, Pixel Perfect

15 Movies here that will get us started on the base of our pyramid. There may be one in here that you particularly enjoyed – maybe something hit close to home and you have a special place for it. Maybe you were one of those freaks that was into the whole “Halloweentown” thing and you actually know who this “Kalabar” jamoch is and why his revenge is important enough to get a subtitle. Nothing wrong with that…but just know you are absolutely wrong for liking it.

Diamonds we can pick out of this Level One rough: “Can of Worms” gave us Erika Christensen, who we later got to enjoy in the “Leave it to Beaver” reboot and “Swimfan.” We saw Tahj Mowry and a very young Shia LaBeouf in “Hounded,” which was almost enough to sneak it out of the first tier, but it also had Ed Begley Jr. in it, who really loves the environment and definitely isn’t crazy.

Some of you may have liked some of these movies but it’s hard to make an argument for any of them to crack the top 10 let alone the top 25. Not one was in the Complex top 25 and there is a reason for that. We move on.

LEVEL TWO: Women Be Shoppin’

The Color of Friendship, Rip Girls, Quints, A Ring of Endless Light, Cadet Kelly, The Cheetah Girls, Kim Possible Movie: A Sitch in Time, Gotta Kick it Up!

You can probably pick up what I’m putting down here just by the context clues. Positives here: A young Camille Belle, a pre-Marissa Mischa Barton, Hillary Duff and CCR in the same movie, and Eric Matthews as Ron Stoppable.

I personally didn’t really enjoy any of these, but I know that many of the ladies out there did and therefore we oblige them and give them their own level. I don’t support domestic violence and I think Chris Brown is an animal…however, if there was a female I may hit it’s probably going to be that girl from “Quint.” A lot of pent-up resentment for me there for some reason.

The whole Kim Possible era is worth mentioning because it’s tough to handicap after the fact. They had a great formula: spy cartoon, CCR voicing the main character, Christina Milian killing the theme song, and a voice-over cast that included Will Friedle, Tahj Mowry, Nicole Sullivan, Kirsten Storms, Gary Cole (yup that’s Lumbergh), Patrick Warburton, Patton Oswalt as Professor Dementor, Rider Strong as someone named Brick Flagg, and a naked mole rat. Despite all this, I can’t ever really remember enjoying the damn thing I just remember that stupid four-note beepy ringtone thing they always played with it.

I was always impressed with Kim though for extending her career beyond her Disney channel fame which was always a difficult task; she got a haircut, a boob job, and a headset and had a good run as a spokeswoman for eSurance.

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 LEVEL 3: Never Go Full Retard

Miracle in Lane 2, Tru Confessions, Rain Main

Frankie Muniz is handicapped, Shia LaBeouf is special and holy hell I’m depressed. Just remember, Shia’s got chops man. Megan Fox and robot movies aside, kid can act.

LEVEL 4: WHOA!

Horse Sense, Jumping Ship, The Other Me, Going to the Mat

We must pay respect to the Disney Channel Royal family – The Lawrences. “Brotherly Love” was solid and there was nothing wrong with their collective jump to movies. “Horse Sense” left out Matthew, who was busy tearing up the college years of BMW and dating Rachel, who was a good foot and a half taller than him, but the whole gang got back together for “Jumping Ship” in 2001.

Andrew had a couple solo projects – surprising considering he was The Hapsburg Prince of the clan – with “The Other Me” and “Going to the Mat.” Both were pretty forgettable, as have been The Lawrence Brothers as a whole as time has gone on. After Matthew played a Sidney Crosby-like character in “H-E-Double Hockey Sticks” I was convinced he was destined for big things. This was not he case however. He flamed out after “The Hot Chick” (or during it more likely) and we haven’t heard of him since.

LEVEL 5: If You Bought the VHS It Was Acceptable

Halloweentown, Up, Up and Away, Phantom of the Megaplex, The Poof Point, Full Court Miracle, Don’t Look Under the Bed

Now we are getting somewhere. These were slightly more memorable and had a little bit more substance to them than just the base-level DCOMs. On the Complex list, we have #9, #19, #20, and #24 here on Level 5.

I really don’t get the whole Halloweentown thing. Didn’t like it, never watched it more than once, and was disgusted at all the attention it got. I simply put it here because it would be complete personal bias to put it any lower. I had devout allegiance to R.L. Stine and the cinematic adaptation of “The Haunted Mask” that Goosebumps put out on VHS in 1996. I wasn’t going to waver and it felt wrong to have more than one childhood Halloween movie. I was a loyal kid growing up. That’s why if anyone suggested playing Perfect Dark to “change it up” instead of hammering Dual RCP-90s all day in Goldeneye I went into anaphylactic shock.

This was a solid group; you had Erin Chambers for all you ginger ninjas out there, the movie that inspired Benjamin Button, a fantastic adaptation of “Phantom of the Opera” which none of knew was an adaptation of “Phantom of the Opera” at the time, and a politically-correct box-checker about a black family of superheroes that did about as much for racial progress as “Hangin with Mr. Cooper” did.

LEVEL 6: Too Famous for Disney

Get a Clue, P.U.N.K.S

Person 1: “Hey Matt, I think Lindsay Lohan was hottest in Mean Girls.”

Person 2: “Hey Matt, I think Lindsay Lohan was hottest in The Parent Trap.”

Look, neither of you are wrong. Both have valid arguments, but I’m going to split the difference and go with “Get a Clue” Lohan as my favorite Lohan – it’s where you can kiiiiiind of see the shame spiral get started.

From 1998 to 2004, LiLo went Parent Trap – Life Size – Get a Clue – Confessions – Mean Girls and was poised to absolutely take over the game. The cliff that she falls off of after “Mean Girls” could be arguably the most drastic in the history of IMDB pages. Draw a line after “Mean Girls” and its astonishing where her career ended up. Cocaine is a hell of a drug.

Alba as we all know did the opposite, and snuck up on all of us in 1999. Here is the craziest part: Alba was in two legitimate movies in 1999 other than “P.U.N.K.S.”: “Never Been Kissed,” and “Idle Hands.” Her performance in “Idle Hands” was all-time breakout hotness type stuff playing the love-interest of a burgeoning Devon Sawa.

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Jessica Alba: 1999 :: Mike Trout: 2012. A five-tool rookie year like we’ve never seen before. Talent is just talent people.

LEVEL 7: Executing the Formula

The Thirteenth Year, Genius, Alley Cats Strike, The Luck of the Irish, Motocrossed

When Zuckerberg had the idea for DCOMs as an undergraduate at Harvard, these five movies were what he had in mind. Each of these succeeded as the perfect execution of the DCOM formula. A solid plot, great young casting, some involvement with a sport, and a predictable yet solid and entertaining conclusion. These are all memorable, rewatchable, and each cannot be scoffed at if someone were to say that one of these was their favorite DCOM.

A couple things in Level 7 DCOMs worth noting:

- The kid who played the main character in “The Thirteenth Year” was named Chez Starbuck. How he didn’t end up doing porn is one of the great DCOM mysteries (I can’t confirm he didn’t I am just assuming).

- “Alley Cats Strike” is the third greatest bowling movie of all time. Chew on that for a second. Behind “Kingpin” and “The Big Lewbowski,” the 2000 DCOM comes in third without much argument. Bonus: it gave us the introduction of Kaley Cuoco.

- The only problem with “The Luck of the Irish” was the fact that Ryan Merriman was an absolute embarrassment at basketball.  He right-hand power dribbles his way through the whole movie, culminating in a final game where he pulls of the greatest steal in the history of basketball:

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He made that steal on his way to leading the Soaring Eagles to the win after being down 72-64 with a minute to go and an evil leprechaun playing for the other team. All for a kid with no left hand.

- Finally, I still can’t decide if Andy Carson from “Motocrossed” was hotter with short hair or long hair. I’m not sure what that says about me but I feel like Talon felt the same way.

LEVEL 8: Lead Pipe Locks – Movies from Shows

Jett Jackson: The Movie, The Even Stevens Movie

These were no-brainers. Jett Jackson was one of the greatest premises in television history, and making a movie out of the thing was about as sure a bet as you could make. And of course, the thing delivered. Jett Jackson and Silverstone’s worlds became one in a genius writing move that had Jett actually save Silverstone, Artemis, and Hawk from Dr. Kragg at one point. Great stuff. My only overarching disappointment with Jett Jackson is that the whole half tucked-in buttondown thing that JB did never really caught on. Beckham even tried to make it happen.

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“The Even Stevens Movie” was what it should have been – a more ridiculous longer episode of the show. They grabbed Beans, went on a family vacation that turned out to be a reality show, and hijinx ensue. It was sort of ahead of its time with the whole reality show thing. Clearly “Influenza: The Musical” was a more culturally significant event I’m not going to argue with you, but unfortunately that can’t be considered.

TIER 9: The Elite

Smart House, The Zenon Trilogy, Johnny Tsunami, The Paper Brigade

First of all, we’ll get the WTF moment out of the way. Guess who directed “Smart House”? LeVar Effing Burton. I’ll give you all a minute to wrap your heads around this. The guy who was on “Roots,” hosted “Reading Rainbow” for a thousand years, and was on “Star Trek: The Next Generation” was also responsible for one of the greatest DCOMs ever. That’s range.

After that, you have Ryan Merriman again, solidifying his place on the DCOM Mount Rushmore alongside Brandon Baker, Lee Thompson Young, and EvD. There is no female version of Mount Rushmore because K-Storms is so far ahead of everyone else it’s not even a discussion.

“Smart House” was great, gave us the second best DCOM original song, and helped launched the 4-month career of red-headed-step-child-boy-band Five with “Slam Dunk Da Funk”. I personally thought “When the Lights Go Out” was their crowning achievement but SDDF was their most popular and was incorporated into the movie seamlessly.

Let’s finish this though – so what was the best DCOM original song? I’m surprised you even have to ask. Of course it’s Protozoa’s “Supernova Girl” from Zenon. Another reason why these movies are in a level of their own – they launched chart-topping hit singles. “Supernova Girl” was the #1 song IN THE ENTIRE GALAXY. Protozoa ain’t nothin to fuck wit.

We’ve covered Zenon enough so we can move right on to another tour-de-force performance by Storms and segway right into “Johnny Tsunami.”

Before we get into all the great things about JT, lets first address the huge Asian elephant in the room. Yes…the actual Johnny Tsunami, Johnny’s grandfather, happens to be Shang Tsung from “Mortal Kombat.”

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This was brushed over in the movie and is rarely brought up, probably because of the damage it would have done to all of us back in 1999. Luckily I did not realize this until I was mature enough to handle it. I mean the guy killed Lui Kang’s brother for seemingly no reason whatsoever…then retired to Hawaii and became a surfing legend. #doublelife

Basically here is how JT happened: They said, alright let’s get Brandon Baker, the kid looks Hawaiian and he’s an up-and-comer here so we can let him drive this thing. We’ll take our two most marketable stars right now – Storms and Lee Thompson Young – and flank him with crazy talent. We’ll take the basic plot of “Brink!” because that killed, add snow and make pretty much the same movie.

Translation = They were not fucking around. They knew this thing was going to be legit and they made sure it had no chance at failing. Bravo Disney Channel.  You pulled it off. There are many who claim this as the best DCOM ever and I can’t say I really have an argument against it. I may not agree, but I can’t argue with you.

“The Paper Brigade” gets the mention here as THE most underrated of all DCOMs. This is partly because some may not consider it a DCOM. However, being someone who once had a championship fantasy football team named after this movie, and wrote under the pseudonym “Gunther Wheeler” on fantasy message boards in high school, I may be slightly biased.

Kyle Howard and Joseph-Gordon Levitt were neck and neck back then and there careers forked in very different directions. Crazy that it was pretty much a toss-up between the two back then.

LEVEL 10: When you woke up this morning did you say to yourself “Today I’m gonna talk,” or “Today, I’m gonna skate”?

Brink!

This was the first one that landed. The first DCOM to define the rest. Brink! was the domino that started this whole thing. This was The Blueprint. All others that followed must pay tribute to what Brink! allowed them to do.

The movie was shot in California – the whole thing was sunny and fun to watch. EvD’s hair was the only hair to ever approach Shawn Hunter level.  You had the definitive DCOM good vs. evil contrast with Team X-Blades and Soul-Skaters/Team Pup ‘N Suds, even with Brink going to the dark side and then triumphantly coming back. The movie made rollerblading cool. Think about that. Rollerblading now is something you can’t legally do until you tell your parents you’re gay. After Brink! it was a legitimate activity.

If this movie didn’t affect your childhood in a positive way then you probably are having trouble transitioning into a functional and successful adult. Fear not, though – thanks to the magic of YouTube, you can relive all the soul-skating magic in one click. And that’s the only way we can really send this thing out. Thanks for wasting all that time reading this and here is another 96 minutes you can waste. Also, if anyone has a Team X-Blades tank I will gladly take it off your hands for a fair price.

X-Blades Tank

 

The Cure for Tanking

America is much better than England. We left the whole “King and Queen” nonsense and never looked back. Now we are awesome, and the coolest people in England want to spend all their time over here (see: Spice Girls, David Beckham, Ricky Gervais, Adele, Austin Powers). More fun, nicer weather, better food, and cleaner teeth. A feeling best summed up by our country’s two current Poet Laureates Matthew Richard Stone and Randolph Severn Parker III when they penned “America, fuck yeah.”

While we wallow in our own bottomless pit of awesomeness, however, England has solved something that we can’t seem to figure out. And the worst part is it has to do with something that our country takes the most pride in – our sports.

The English Premier League functions much like the American Indians did with the buffalo. They utilize every part of the animal and waste nothing. The EPL has figured out how to squeeze every last drop of drama and entertainment from the very worst teams in the league. The battle to prevent being relegated to the lower division is arguably as entertaining as the battle for the league championship. The worst three teams in the top league at season’s end are forced to play in an entirely different league the following year – which has mountains upon mountains of negative implications with players, fans, and money.

This creates an incredibly dramatic end of the season that causes the worst teams to play some of their best futbol all the way to their final game – thus making it exciting for the fans. Without the presence of a player draft each year – the English soccer structure is mainly based on youth academies and deep pockets – the league has completely solved the problem of tanking. Teams cannot tank; their livelihood depends on it. Fans of any team in the league will never have a game in which they don’t want their team to win.

When people debate which sport or teams have “the best fans,” English soccer and American college football usually come up. They have “the most passionate fans.” Well there is a reason for that. Not coincidentally, both of these fans are NEVER faced with a situation where they would want their team to lose. There is a never a scenario in either sport where you could even fathom wanting your team not to prevail.

So why don’t we try harder to get our other sports to that point?

The rookie draft is the wildcard here, because these sports don’t have it. The draft is the catalyst to the problem. But don’t think we haven’t identified this problem before and attempted to fix it. We have a lottery in both the NBA and NHL. The NFL doesn’t have as much of a problem because of the shortened season and the fact that it would take a zombie apocalypse a la “The Walking Dead” to take down interest in the juggernaut of a league (and I wouldn’t be shocked if for an episode Rick and Shane had to traverse through the walker-infested Atlanta to catch a Falcons game).

The best show on televsion not named "The Challenge: Battle of the Exes."

Quick Tangent: Let’s spend a moment on “The Walking Dead” here. What a show. Very few on TV that you can argue are better right now. If you aren’t watching “The Walking Dead” right now, here are five reasons to know if you should:

  1. If you loved “Lost” and also hated “Lost” at the same time.
  2. If you like when the main character of a show – who is also a cop – caps two 8-year old girls in the head in less than two full seasons and he is viewed as the shows protagonist and moral center.
  3. If you like watching “Man vs. Wild” because you think it might help if you ever get stuck in the jungle and had to survive by yourself. This is that times 1,000.
  4. If you like Brady v. Manning, Magic v. Bird, Maverick v. Iceman, Jack v. Locke or any other alpha-male rivalry.
  5. If you like a show where only 1 character is off-limits to be killed at all times.

Back to the topic at hand…Our lack of creativity in this matter has been lazy. The lottery system doesn’t work and teams still tank to get the best odds they can possibly get. Odds shouldn’t have anything to do with it. Some have suggested a sort of “tournament” for the teams not in the playoffs competing for the right to the #1 overall pick. While this would be, as Bill Simmons calls it, “entertaining as hell,” it isn’t feasible. It still levels the playing field and loses the point of having the worst teams get the best players. In this situation, however engaging it may be to fans, it makes the worst teams in the league compete against teams that barely missed the playoffs with no advantage. Problem not solved.

For a while I put tanking in the pile of “questions with no answers” along with “should we pay college players?” and “is Hillary Swank attractive?” but I think I may have finally found an answer.

It came from a likely place: the G8 Summit of sports analytics, the “The MIT Sloan Conference,” which was held last week in Boston. One man, Adam Gold, a graduate student at Missouri, proposed his solution to tanking.

Before I go into what it is – I have to tell you that I LOVE IT. I really love it. I love it so much that if it grew old and forgot who I was because it had Alzheimer’s I would go to its nursing home every day and read it a story I wrote about our life hoping that one day it would remember me.

The basic breakdown is this (and think of it in terms of the NHL and NBA, and maaaaybe MLB): As soon as a team is mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, their record is wiped clean and they begin to accumulate wins in their remaining games. Out of all of the teams who are mathematically eliminated from the playoffs – which is eventually everyone who does not make the playoffs at some point – whoever has the most points (NHL) or wins (NBA, MLB) gets the #1 overall pick.

So for instance, if the Bobcats are mathematically eliminated this year with 20 games remaining on their schedule, their record in those final 20 games will count towards their draft order. They have 20 games to win as many as they possibly can. Let’s say they go 7-13. The Nets, on the other hand, get eliminated with 10 games left. Now if they go 8-2 in those 10 games, they would get the #1 pick over the Bobcats if they were the teams with the best two records “post-elimination.”

This accounts for a fair system for teams that aren’t good for the bulk of the season, but it also prevents teams from tanking at the end. It essentially gives relevance to the final part of the season for almost every team. Your mathematical elimination, which in the past would signify the end of your season, would really be the beginning of an entirely new season, where winning was incredibly valuable. The worse off you are, the more games you get to accumulate wins (or points in the NHL).

Everyone stays involved, everyone stays on top of their game, and teams cannot tank. You just can’t. If your team even attempts to tank, you would get unequivocally blasted from fans, analysts, and anyone involved with the team. And no matter what, as a fan, you would never have the Sophie’s Choice of whether or not you want to betray your fan-hood and root for your team to lose.

Late-season ticket sales would jump for teams who previously were “out of the race.” These games would be televised and would spawn a whole new wrinkle for the NBA, NHL, and MLB to market. The league wins, the fans win, the teams win, and the players who are going to be drafted win – they go to a team that earned the right to pick them and may be better off because they played well at the end of the year.

We never want a situation where teams and players are intentionally losing – whether it is noticeable to the naked eye or not – and this would essentially get rid of it.

For some perspective: in the NBA last year, it was argued that the Timberwolves tanked at the end of the year to attempt and get the highest pick possible. They had 19 games after they were mathematically eliminated from the playoffs and went 2-17. Any way you slice it, they weren’t fighting tooth and nail to win those games. It was brutal to be a Timberwolves fan those last 19 games, and no one was showing up to watch because of it. They ended up picking 2nd in the lottery. With the new system, they would have been knocked all the way down to selecting 10th overall because of their lack of effort at the end – a vastly different situation. Derrick Williams turns into Jimmer Fredette.

And speaking of the Kings, they went 9-11 in their 20 games post-elimination last year, and because of that, they had the 5th worst record and had a bad draw in the lottery: they got the 10th overall pick despite having the 5th worst record. The 9 wins they had post-elimination however would have been the most of any non-playoff team. They would have been rewarded for their success late in the year and would now have Kyrie Irving running the show. Slightly different outcomes.

Think about some of the drama in the games down the stretch. Let’s go back to the LeBron draft. It’s the last night of the 2003 season. The Cavs and the Raptors are tied for the most “post-elimination” wins and they play each other. Winner gets #1 pick, loser gets #2. You would watch that game. The teams are playing their ass off for that game. And the winner is rewarded with LeBron James. That game is televised, it gets great ratings, and the fans get to root like hell for their team to win. Like I said, I LOVE THIS IDEA.

Check out this table that would determine the NHL Draft last year in this new way:

(Graph courtesy of http://blogs.edmontonjournal.com/2012/03/03/how-to-prevent-fall-for-hall-and-fail-for-nail-campaigns/)

The tie would be broken by 1. Most post-elimination wins 2. Least post-elimination regulation losses. 3. Worst record pre-elimination

The Oilers, who were the worst team in the league and won the lottery, had 3x as many games as a team like the Blues to accumulate points. The Oilers, one could argue, utilized the “tanking” strategy effectively and were rewarded because of it. If they knew that they had 12 games to get as many points as possible, the outcome could have been the same, but it would have been because they played well. If you told the Oilers they would have 12 games and the Blues had 4, there is no reason, no matter how bad the Oilers are, that if the Oilers knew they were playing for something that the Blues would have more points. The Blues in this scenario ended up picking 11th while playing well down the stretch and getting nothing for it except a random selection in the lottery.

Every team’s effort would be maximized – which is all we really want as fans. Teams that are in the playoffs will continue to play at their highest level possible. Teams on the fringe will be doing everything they can because their hopes are still alive. And now, there will be only a small chunk of time (between when a team is aesthetically out of contention to when it is mathematically out) where teams would essentially have nothing to play for. Maybe a few teams would tank those games to try and get to that “Elimination Point,” but after that, the more they lose the worse off they are. (“Elimination Point” is also the title of  a Wimbledon-themed murder mystery starring Jean Claude van Damme that needs to get made.)

The lottery is a broken system. It is in place in an attempt to prevent teams from tanking because it makes it uncertain where your draft position will be based on your record. However I would argue it would cause more teams to want to lose because of the possibility of getting the #1 overall pick. In the NBA and NHL, where the #1 pick is enormously more valuable than the #2 pick, this is a nonsensical way to decide who gets that pick. Either do it straight up like the NFL or don’t do it at all. The lottery is a confusing and unhappy middle to the problem. So let’s take a page out of our hygienically-deficient friends across the pond, adopt “The Post-Elimination System,” and use the whole buffalo.

What if Andrew Luck Came Out Last Year…?

It is truly amazing that this actually happened.

Prepare for 1500 words on what would have happened if Andrew Luck was gay.

Just kidding. Were talking about Luck entering the draft last year as opposed to this year. However that article may have been just as if not more interesting. We’ll put it on the backburner for now.

So like many of you, I watched the Peyton and Jim Irsay press conference today and it just felt weird. Now, I’m not on either side here. I’m not a Colts fan and I don’t particularly loathe Peyton Manning for any reason. I’m you normal, average football fan who can appreciate the 6’4’’ quarterback with a laser, rocket arm. That’s why it surprised me how weird it felt watching Peyton stand there behind Jim Irsay as Irsay seemingly was realizing as he spoke that he was really doing this.

I thought about it for a second, trying to pinpoint where my unsettled feeling was coming from. Then it hit me. This shouldn’t be happening. It was like everyone involved felt like they were in some parallel universe where this situation should have never occurred. This wasn’t meant to be. But a series of events transpired and suddenly everyone feels like Neo when he wakes up in that oozy-bubble thing with all those tubes connected to him.

The press conference that happened today was the result of a decision that did not happen recently; one that seemingly had no effect on Peyton Manning or the Indianapolis Colts at the time it was made. As Dr. Ian Malcolm once said: “A butterfly can flap its wings in Peking and in Central Park you get rain instead of sunshine.”

In our case, you can associate the following: “Butterfly” = Andrew Luck, “Flap its wings” = Stay in school, “Peking” = Stanford, “Central Park” = Indianapolis, “Rain” = Cutting the greatest player in your franchise’s history without knowing for sure he can’t compete at the same all-world level  to put an entire city on the shoulders of a 22-year old with more pressure on him than maybe any other player in the history of sports, and “Sunshine” = Peyton coming back and playing out his career in white and blue.

The fun part of this game is going back in time, changing one little detail and letting the dominoes fall. We will play this little game and see just where we might be if Andrew Luck decided to take the money and come out of school last year, which for all intents and purposes he was very close to doing.

DOMINO #1: The first thing that changes is that the Carolina Panthers select Andrew Luck with the #1 pick in the draft. No question this would have happened. Luck takes over from day 1 and becomes the face of the Panthers. This is a no-brainer pick at the time, even though the Luck-Newton debate would probably be slightly more competitive than the Luck-RG3 debate. This opens up some very interesting scenarios for Cam Newton, especially with the knowledge we have now of how good he would have been.

DOMINO #2: So where does Newton end up? You have Denver at #2, Buffalo at #3, Cincinnati at #4, San Francisco at #7, Tennessee at #8, Jacksonville at #10, and Minnesota at #12. All of these would be appropriate locations for the Heisman trophy winner. Tennessee, Jacksonville, and Minnesota all used those picks to take a QB and Cincinnati used their high 2nd rounder on one.  Newton wouldn’t last past Cincinnati at #4 in this scenario, so for any of these other teams to grab him, they would have to trade up. Considering all these teams need a QB, and one of them could have fallen in love with Newton, this is a perfectly plausible scenario.

Let’s analyze the sexiest question. Could Denver have passed up Newton at #2? Knowing what we know now, you would have to say absolutely not. But at the time, it would have been an all-time difficult decision. Let’s look at it from the perspective of John Elway’s love life: Elway at the time was married to Kyle Orton – she cooks, she’s faithful, she’s someone you can have kids with, but not exactly the nicest to look at. Sort of a very unexceptional arranged marriage. Elway isn’t exactly excited about his current significant other. One night Elway gets a call from his buddy Josh who has been dating this hot young blonde. After Josh, probably too young to be dating and slightly irresponsible, blacked out from too much tequila, Elway was stuck taking home Josh’s date. Orton hasn’t exactly been appreciating Elway, so he decides to bed the young blonde even though he knows she doesn’t really have it all upstairs. The next morning he wakes up next to Tim Tebow and immediately regrets the decision. She looks great naked but he already knows she’s not long-term material. (There is way too much innuendo to even begin to get into with Tebow here, so we will just move on).

In our new Luck-comes-out-early situation, Elway now gets a third option: He can get away from the awkward one-night stand and divorce his mediocre wife and take a chance with a 21-year-old who just won Miss Universe. You aren’t sure what you are getting long-term, but it could solve all your problems. Does winning Miss Universe translate domestically, or will you be stuck with years of high-maintenance and adultery and end up losing half of everything you have?

A difficult decision indeed. I say Denver may field some trade offers a la the Rams this year, but let’s say the power of Tebow prevails once again. The Broncos pass on Newton and take Von Miller, which still gives them a franchise-calber defender and changes their path very little. This also (if this is even possible) intensifies the scrutiny Tebow is under, knowing the team passed up on Cam Newton because of him. This can only yield more entertainment and might finally kill Skip Bayless as he tries to find some way to defend this decision when Cam Newton is single-handedly saving the Buffalo Bills…which means…

DOMINO #3: With the 3rd overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, the Buffalo Bills select Cameron Newton, Quarterback from Auburn University. Ryan Fitzpatrick becomes the lame-duck starter, mails it in for 4 weeks until the Bills get fed up and put in Newton. Newton performs as he did this year, but because he misses 3 games, he loses Rookie of the Year to Andrew Luck.  The Bills then don’t give that premature ejaculation of a contract to Fitzpatrick and the franchise is set up with an attack of Newton-Jackson-Spiller-Stevie Johnson for the next five years. I’ll pause here and give all the Bills fans a second to punch the nearest wall.

DOMINO #4: Ryan Fitzpatrick gets cut at the end of the season and ends up as your opening day starter for the 2012 Washington Redskins. With Fitzpatrick on the market, and the Redskins falling short of getting a QB anywhere else, this is almost a certainty to happen. Fitz goes 5-2, becomes the toast of DC, and Dan Snyder gives the bearded one The Premature Ejaculation Deal. Fitz  then goes in the tank, throws 10 picks in the next 3 games and get benched for The Sex Cannon, who the team resigned as a backup before the season. After Sexy Rexy does his thing for a few weeks, he is benched for rookie Brock Osweiler, who the Skins drafts way too high in the 2nd round of the 2012 draft, and the Redskin Quarterback Clusterfuck continues for another year. This is my favorite domino because it means the Redskins have another year where they somehow cease to make any progress whatsoever.

DOMINO #5, 6 and 7: The Bengals still take AJ Green and the Cardinals follow suit with Peterson. For funzies, I think the Browns stand pat knowing Marcell Dareus has fallen to them at 6 with the Bills taking Newton instead. Knowing what we know now, Aldon Smith is the pick here, but back then Dareus was higher. The Browns selected DT Phil Taylor and DE Jabaal Sheard with their next two picks, so clearly that’s the position they were looking at. They tell Atlanta no thanks on the trade (even though it was a good one for them – and still would be here) and they snag Dareus.

DOMINO #8: The Niners now have an interesting choice to make with Julio Jones on the board. Jones or Aldon Smith? Looking at it from our perspective, it’s a tough choice. Both performed excellently as rookies – Smith probably outshining his expectations more than Jones, but both can be argued were equally effective. The Niners desperately needed another weapon on the outside in the playoffs, and Jones could have put them over the top…ever-changing NFL history by beating the Giants, Eli not getting his 2nd ring, and perhaps Tom Brady and Bill Belichick becoming one of the greatest dynasties in NFL history. Or it could be argued that without Aldon Smith, that defense isn’t as effective and nothing changes. I’ll leave this answer up to you.

DOMINO #9: For the sake of not over-speculating the draft, we will stop there. On to the season, where the Colts will still be awful as Peyton misses every game. However, Jim Caldwell and Bill Polian keep their jobs, and the Colts go into the 2012 off-season with a re-grouping mentality and the #1 overall pick. They never even consider cutting Peyton. It may not even be mentioned as a possibility. Because of the success of Newton and Luck last year, RG3 becomes the coveted prize and the Colts are in a fantastic position of being able to hold out for the highest bidder. But trust me, they DO NOT do this for Robert Griffin III.

DOMINO #10: The Colts hear lots of offers, but end up swapping their #1 overall to Cleveland for Cleveland’s 1st (#4) and 2nd (#36) round pick plus their #1 in 2013. The Colts get 3 of the first 36 picks plus a potential top-10 #1 next year. They take Trent Richardson at #4, giving them an immediate impact runner who can carry the team post-Peyton. They then get Coby Fleener, Andrew Luck’s favorite target at Stanford with the 33rd pick to give Peyton another red-zone target and a successor to Dallas Clark. They snag a offensive lineman at #36, and continue to add pieces with the #1 pick in the final 4 rounds. They re-sign Reggie Wayne, Pierre Garcon, and Robert Mathis in the offseason, hopefully add some depth in the secondary, and come into the year with a healthy Manning/Richardson/Wayne/Garcon/Collie/Clark/Fleener offense with Mathis and Freeney still anchoring an improving defense. If you are a Colts fan, is that better than a Luck/Addai/Maybe Garcon/Definitely not Wayne/Clark offense with Robert Mathis almost for sure leaving as well with a new coach and a new GM? Um chyeah. Not even close.

This gives you another definite run at the Super Bowl with a wide-open AFC South that was unexpectedly weak last year. With Matt Schaub’s health uncertainty and Mario Williams leaving for greener pastures (and by greener pastures I literally mean fields upon fields of money), all the Colts would have to do is win 10 games with a last place schedule and Manning/Richardson/Garcon/Collie/Clark/Fleener/Mathis/Freeney and they win that division. Plus they get a Jake Locker-led Titans team and Blaine Gabbert aka Mark Sanchez Lite and the Jags two times. I like those chances.

Ipso facto, if Andrew Luck comes out last year, we get to avoid this awkward press conference the Colts had today. Luck is the new face of the Carolina Panthers, Cam Newton gives the fans of Buffalo a lot to be excited for, the Browns mortgage their future for RG3, and Peyton gets the band back together, adds Trent Richardson and some pieces and takes another run at the Super Bowl all while Ryan Fitzpatrick watches as a much, much poorer man (and a Redskin backup to boot). Quite a different picture than we have now, wouldn’t you say?

Speaking of Harvard, if this goes down, none of this Jeremy Lin stuff would have happened. Even the slightest ripple in the space-time continuum would alter the series of events that let everything fall into place for Lin. So the New York Knicks can thank Andrew Luck for staying in school. And so can whatever team ends up with Peyton Manning.

Aaron Rodgers, the Indianapolis Colts, and The Gyllenhaal Switch

I’ve been taking a stand for a few years now that angers people:  “Batman Begins” is better than “The Dark Knight.” Sorry I’m not sorry. I would watch “Batman Begins” before “The Dark Knight” ten times over. There are two words that bring me to this shocking conclusion and two words only: Maggie Gyllenhaal.

Her selection in “The Dark Knight” to play Rachel Dawes, the love interest of Bruce Wayne/Batman, is very much like the iceberg that sunk the Titanic. No one saw it coming and it’s not a whole lot to look at on the surface.  Every time she is on the screen it angers me to the point where I cannot enjoy the movie. Even when she isn’t in the scene…in the back of my mind I know she is lurking somewhere and  shall be on screen wasting my time and Batman’s time once again.

I have nothing against Maggie Gyllenhaal personally. She seems like a very nice woman and I’m sure that she is. It’s not even really that I can’t buy into the “hey-audience-pretend-not-to-notice” actress swap they pulled because Tom Cruise told Katie Holmes she had to worship an alien race that came out of a volcano instead of filming the second Batman movie (I wish I was making that up).

This is not an adequate replacement.

It is just preposterous to me to believe that Bruce Wayne would go to such lengths to save Maggie Gyllenhaal. I watch the movie waiting and hoping for Christian Bale to turn to the camera and say “Eff this. I’m not wasting any more precious time saving this 7.  There are much more important things going on here.”

You tell me which is more believable: A mastermind criminal nicknamed “The Joker” places a bomb on two ferrys – one transporting criminals and one normal citizens – and gives them each the ability to detonate the opposing ferry’s bomb while he watches from an abandoned skyscraper OR Maggie Gyllenhaal playing an attractive and compelling love interest.

For me, if Katie Holmes is in “The Dark Knight,” I’m 100% on board. Gyllenhaal ruins it for me. Luckily, the movie was good enough and had enough going on despite her that it was still well-received and very successful.

Now if you were to take a movie that was not so good…perhaps a movie that was completely reliant on its attractive female lead – “The Gyllenhaal Switch” as we will call it just won’t fly.

For example…how do these sound?

“Tomb Raider” starring Maggie Gyllenhaal.

“Into the Blue” starring Maggie Gyllenhaal.

“Entrapment” starring Maggie Gyllenhaal.

“Desperado” starring Maggie Gyllenhaal.

“Summer Catch” starring Maggie Gyllenhaal.

“Striptease” starring Maggie Gyllenhaal.

You get my point. If you Gyllenhaal Switch any of these movies they turn into unwatchable turds. What if Aladdin went into the market and saved the poor cloaked girl stealing an apple…and when the hood came off it was not Princess Jasmine…but it was Princess Maggie? Animated Disney movies might have ceased to exist at that exact moment.

Fortunately for us, none of these things happened.

Unfortunately for the 2011 Indianapolis Colts, they were forced to pull off their own Gyllenhaal Switch. (and I’m not saying this because Curtis Painter is about as attractive a woman as Maggie Gullenhaal).

Curtis Painter also the son of Dr. Okun from Independence Day..."peace....nooooo peace"

The Colts had to take their charismatic, compelling, sexy leading actress and replace her with someone who was the 8th hottest chick in “Mona Lisa Smile.”

This has caused the Colts to be 0-12 this year with basically the same supporting cast as 2010.  The Colts were the movie “Tomb Raider” and Peyton Manning was a young, busty Angelina Jolie. Gyllenhaal Switch that shit and you go from a 10-6 playoff team to not winning a single game through twelve weeks.

This made me wonder. If the Colts were “Tomb Raider,” what are the Packers this year? Is Aaron Rodgers as valuable to his team/movie as Manning/Jolie? If you take him away, are the Rodgers-less Packers as bad as the Manning-less Colts?

This is Peyton Manning.

Using some statistical comparisons to Peyton Manning and the 2010 Colts, we can try to get that answer.

There are 3 ways to compare the situations. The first is comparing Peyton Manning’s 2010 season with Aaron Rodgers’ 2011 season (projected out to 16 games):

2011 PACKERS: RODGERS (Projected)

2010 COLTS: Manning (16 games)

Record

16-0

10-6

Yards

5,125

4,700

TDs

49

33

INTs

7

17

Comp. %

70.6 %

66.3 %

NFL Rank

3rd

1st

Sacks

39

16

QB RTG

125.3

91.9

PPG

35.0

27.2

TOP

31:37

29:55

Rodgers statistically is better across the board. More yards, TDs, Comp %, and QB rating while having less INTs and no losses (so far).  From an individual standpoint, Aaron Rodgers in 2011 is much better than Peyton Manning was in 2010. The statistical difference (especially TD-INT ratio) alone could be worth an extra 4-6 wins depending on how the Packers finish the season their last 6 games.

If you go to the next level metric-wise, you can compare the two quarterbacks with some stats help from Football Outsiders.  Using their QB metrics (DYAR, DVOA, and EYards – All explained here, we can get a better idea of just how valuable each QB is to his respective team.

2011 PACKERS: RODGERS (Proj: 16 games)

2010 COLTS: Manning (16 games)

DYAR

1,720

1,679

DVOA

55.0 %

25.0 %

Eyards

4,432

6,032

The two are almost exactly the same when it comes to DYAR – which compares each player’s production versus what the average quarterback would produce in the same situations in relation to total yardage. In DVOA  – which measures the value of each player on each play over what the average replacement would be – the advantage goes significantly to Rodgers; he is that much more valuable than whoever his replacement would be on each play. The final stat, EYards – “Effective Yards,” which measures how effective a player is beyond just the sheer numbers (and based on usage) – goes to Manning. Looking at the 3 next-level stats, Rodgers is worth more every play while Manning is worth more because of the volume of how much he was used…so their respective values to their teams somewhat evens out.

A good comparison here is Brookyln Decker in the movie “Just Go With It” against Jolie in “Tomb Raider.” When she is on screen, Decker’s performance in “Just Go With It” is off-the-charts. Scene-for-scene, it’s arguably some of the best stuff we’ve seen in cinema in quite some time. Jolie on the other hand is the entire movie in “Tomb Raider.” It’s 100 minutes of Jolie being consistently hot. Her usage rate is nuts.

Rodgers is much like Decker. You would probably give Decker – a blonde Victoria’s Secret model crossed with a Hooters waitress – the slight edge over Jolie – brunette, extremely attractive, and almost equally as endowed, but with a few extra years and the burden of being somewhat of a legitimate actress.

Looks just like Aaron Rodgers to me.

So statistically, both QBs are about as valuable to their team; just in different ways. You may even give Rodgers the edge.  Now we have to look at some other factors, though – the supporting casts.

The 2010 Colts and the 2011 Packers were both lacking high-producing backfields and both had similar weapons as far as receivers and tight ends go (very good – with Manning dealing with some WR injuries throughout the year). From an offensive line standpoint, the 2010 Colts gave up only 16 sacks – which was 29th among quarterbacks – while Peyton was 1st in pass attempts – an incredible job by the line.  While some of this can be attributed to Manning, Aaron Rodgers in 2011 is on pace to be sacked 39 times. So offensively, both teams are very similar – with the Colts having better protection.

On the other side of the ball, both team’s defenses were not particularly good. Two defensive stats can be used to compare these: the NFL Total Defense Rankings (based on yards per game) and Football Outsider’s Defensive Efficiency Ranking (“Defensive DVOA”):

2010 IND Defensive DVOA = 8.2 % (24th)

-          Total Defense: 341.6 ypg (20th)

2011 GB Defensive DVOA = 12.3 % (26th)

-          Total Defense: 397.8 ypg (31st)

Comparing the two, Indianapolis had the better defense…or to put it more appropriately, Indianapolis’ defense was less awful. Green Bay’s 2011 defense is among the very worst in the league.  While they do have quite a few take-aways and have had some opportunistic plays, from an overall standpoint they have been one of the worst in the league.

Finally. with the hypothesis – the Packers losing Aaron Rodgers – you have to take into account whoever the replacement would be. As an example, here is how the Colts’ Gyllenhaal switch fared this year:

2010 COLTS: Manning

(16 games)

2011 COLTS: QBs (Proj: 16 games)

Record

10-6

0-16

Yards

4700

3106

TDs

33

13

INTs

17

15

Comp. %

66.3

56.1

NFL Rank

1st

26th

Sacks

16

33

QB RTG

91.9

71.8

PPG

27.2

14.5

TOP

29:55

25:27

The Colts’ QBs have been well below average. It is arguable that you could say Matt Flynn would fare better than the Colts’ group of Gyllenhaals (Collins/Painter/Orlovsky). If you give Flynn the benefit of the doubt and say he would be average, the difference between Rodgers 2011 season and Manning’s 2010 season would most likely be about the same as the difference between Flynn’s potential average season and the Colts’ QBs in 2011. (Note: Flynn looking like Matt Damon does not warrant a comparison in this NFL-to-Hollywood analogy).

With Flynn as the unknown entity in this situation, it is conceivable that as a QB with almost no experience, Flynn could be just as bad as the collective of Colts’ QBs this year – which would make the drop-off in quarterback play for the hypothetical Rodgers-less Packers that much more pronounced.

Considering everything – Green Bay defense, offensive line, and backfield – without Aaron Rodgers this team doesn’t win 6 games. It looks like Manning (10-6 in 2010) is going to be worth about 10 wins if the Colts’ stay on their valiant path to 0 wins. By all statistical indication, Rodgers is worth at least 10+ wins, and if the Packers finish 16-0 with him, they would be at best 6-10 without him. I say closer to 4-12.

So the conclusions we have drawn here are as follows: the 2011 Colts are “Tomb Raider” without Angelina Jolie, Brooklyn Decker in “Just Go With It” may have the highest VORP (VORA?) of any actress in any movie ever, and The Gyllenhaal Switch is the opposite of The Ewing Theory.

Oh yeah…and the 2011 Packers might be as bad as the 2011 Colts without Aaron Rodgers.

*** I’d also like to point out we went 1600+ words without “Tim,” “Tebow,” or “Jesus Christ” being any of them. Your welcome.

The Hurt Feelings Report

You probably didn’t see this anywhere, but a long-tenured football coach – someone considered a “legend” by many – was forced out of his position last week because of some very poor decision making.

That’s right…our fears have all come true…Pat Lynch has resigned. I’ll give you all a minute to collect yourselves.

For those of you not in my key demographic – fans of Wyoming high school football – let me introduce you to Mr. Lynch.

Pat Lynch

This is the face of America.

Pat Lynch has been the head coach of Buffalo High School (aptly nicknamed “The Bison”)  since 1998. His 14-year tenure has included 12 playoff appearances and back-to-back 4A state titles in 2004 and 2005. (note: If you are like me and wondering how Wyoming has 4A high school football – the 1A and 2A division are allowed to use cattle as linemen to fill out rosters.  3A and 4A have rules that state all players must be actual people).

Obviously Pat Lynch has been successful. So why was he forced to resign from his head coaching duties last week by the notoriously conservative Johnson County School Board? Apparently the JCSB does not appreciate the coach soliciting feedback from his players in order to better provide the optimal learning environment that is so critical to young men playing high school football.

Coach Lynch was growing frustrated with his offensive players complaining and started questioning their lack of toughness, so he did what any great football coach would do – he came up with a way to fix the problem. He gave them a survey.

Some may question whether surveying a high school football team is an effective strategy for a coach. Others may say that is a time-tested method to make everyone involved feel like their voices are heard and their opinions matter. Here is Coach Lynch’s “Hurt Feelings Report,” I’ll let you be the judge:

Now I usually allow the stories to speak for themselves and rarely lend my own opinion to things like this. With that being said, I find this survey to be extremely comprehensive. The animation is fantastic, the layout is easily understandable – you aren’t getting lost on this page – and it covers who, what, when, where, why, and how. What more could you possibly ask for? The attention to detail is a testament to Coach Lynch’s back-to-back state titles.

It requires two signatures and the signature of a supervisor – all proper practice according to Johnson County Schoolboard Bylaws. The only real issue I had with it was some grammatical errors (“woman like hormones” should be hyphenated, and I believe “blanky” is appropriately spelled with an -ie and not a -y). Other than that, I felt like this was well-thought out.

Sure, some people have nit-picked and interpreted some things on the HFR as “offensive.” These Occupy Wall Street, granola-eating liberal elites in rural Wyoming may need a survey of their own in my opinion. Their problems with the HFR are a little ridiculous.

Is asking high school children if “they need a tissue for their tears” inappropriate? No. Is suggesting any of these children are “a pussy,” “a little bitch,” or “a cry baby” inaccurate? Maybe not.  Is calling high school kids homosexual slurs like “queers” or suggesting that “their butt is easily hurt” not accepted in mainstream society? Um, no have you not seen Glee?

I think the concern that Coach Lynch shows on the survey is commendable. Asking the questions that aren’t being asked, like “do you have woman like hormones?” prove the depth of Lynch’s caring for the children and medical knowledge. Male Testosterone Deficiency (MTD) is a serious problem among today’s youth and Estrogen Replacement Treatment (ERT) is a dangerous procedure that some of these kids need to talk about at a young age so they don’t end up like Chaz Bono.

Of course Coach Lynch’s idea for more parental involvement cannot be negatively portrayed.  Asking if players “want their mommy” or making it known for those players who may have tragically lost their mothers that he is there to provide them with comfort from himself or someone else shows me great compassion.  If he did have any players who had tragically lost their mother, I’m sure they were thankful to be reminded of such a traumatic experience on a piece of paper handed to them by their football coach.

Lynch provides ample opportunity for accountability; asking players to name anyone that may have failed to give them the proper inspiration that they needed. The man runs a tight ship and insubordination cannot be tolerated. He also makes a material gesture in offering to give them hygiene products, medicine, and bedding for those who may be too poor to afford any of that – presumably those who may have lost their mothers and have no one to provide for them now.

Now even though the JCSB acted like a bunch of cry-baby pussies who want their mommy and forced Lynch to resign, they clearly still know talent and compassion when they see it, and allowed Lynch to retain his role as high school guidance counselor – a position widely known to be a well-respected and desirable occupation for young men everywhere.

Rumor is that Coach Lynch will be lured away from his lucrative guidance counselor position to take a job with Zagat. They have offered a record-salary to Lynch, citing his natural survey-writing acumen to be “some of the best raw talent we’ve seen in years.” The US Government has also been in touch with Lynch to potentially run the Department of Commerce which is responsible for the US Census, but after his experience with the bureaucracy of the Johnson County School Board, it is unlikely he takes a government gig. As far as critical acclaim, “Inside the Actor’s Studio” host James Lipton is on record as saying “the genius in this survey is reminiscent of Bernard Pivot.”

Obviously Lynch will land on his feet, so all you Penn State undergrads out there can put down the pitchforks and stop the march on Buffalo High School. I encourage all of you to use the HFR and suggest it to your supervisors at work – or if you are in a position of power, modify it and give it to your employees or students in order to get the best feedback possible to better do your job.

For those of you who want more on the subject matter, I implore you to pick up this fantastic read.

(Credit to finding this outstanding gem of a story goes to my dear friend and director of expansionary efforts Daniel Stockton)

Lockouts Can Be Fun

Despite the look on Commander Stern’s face, the NBA lockout so far has been great.   I’m sorry to those “long-term-thinking” people out there.  I’m dealing with the present – right here, right now.  And right now I’m having more fun than any off-season I’ve had so far.

With fewer restrictions, fans have been entertained with this free-for-all that we’ve had for the last few weeks that wouldn’t be possible sans-lockout.  Obviously this is the slight spike before a very, very steep decline, but I am going to enjoy it while it lasts.

Unlike the NFL – who timed the lockout so perfectly that we skipped all the boring parts of the off-season, crammed all free-agent moves and signings into two weeks, and are in such football-withdrawal that the ratings this year are going to be (and already have been) through the roof – the NBA lockout has no end in sight. Most say there will not be basketball this year.

I’m okay with this…as long as we can get creative.

Instead of playing overseas, going on a summer league tour, working at home depot, or playing professional beach volleyball, why not play the sport you love in the country you already play it in?

I give you the “2011 Professional Streetball League presented by Sprite (or Redbull).”

Here’s the hook: groups of current NBA players can enter the league based on their alma-maters.  Whoever can suit up five guys from the same school can get into the league. Teams can only have five players, only one team per alma-mater.  The guys are playing for pride – who has the best NBA alumni – and a $5 million dollar purse for the league champions provided by our sponsor, Sprite. Or Red Bull.  There’s really no one else who would be able to sponsor this.  “The 2011 Professional Streetball League presented by Dove Soap” just doesn’t sound right.

The PSL will go a little something like this:

GAME RULES – Each game will have two (2) twenty (20) minute halves with a running clock at all times except the last two (2) minutes of each half.  There will be no referees for calling fouls and no foul shots.  Referees will throw jump ball, run the clock, and keep score.  All fouls and out-of-bounds will be played as if games were pick-up games.  If defensive player calls a shooting foul, “And-1″ rules will apply and basket can count.  If offensive player calls a foul, the play is dead and a basket cannot be scored. Ball to be checked by players at top of the key to bring the ball back in play after a called foul.  Regulation-size street courts with 3-point line.  Each net must be a chain net.  Game balls have to be pinwheel colored red-white-and-blue.

COACHES – Each team will be allowed to have one “Hype Man” who can be on the sidelines with a microphone but will not be allowed to have any coaches.  Each team’s respective Hype Man can only speak when his team has possession of the ball or his team has a big block or steal on defense.

UNIFORMS – Teams can wear whatever they want, but all must be wearing the matching uniforms. Accessories are encouraged.

GAMBLING AND DRUGS (performance-enhancing or recreational) – Both are highly encouraged before, during, and after games. Players can bet on or against themselves and with other players.

DISPUTES – Any and all disputes (in-game and out-of-game) will be settled by PSL Commissioner William “World Wide Wes” Wesley.

LOCATION OF GAMES – Teams on the west coast will play at Venice Beach Courts in Los Angeles, California (courts made famous by the movie “White Men Can’t Jump”).  Teams on the east coast will play at the Barry Farms courts in Washington, DC.  The playoffs and championship will be played in Rucker Park in New York City.

You can put a cat in an oven, but that don't make it a biscuit.

At this point I hope you’ve already been racking your head as to which schools would have teams and who would be the best.  Well, I’m ten steps ahead of you.  I’ve used a highly scientific method to select the best streetball starting fives for each eligible school.  Combining John Hollinger’s PER ratings with Stephen A. Smith’s totally biased rants and opinions on each player we have created SPER (Street Player Efficiency Rating).  SPER shows how good a player would be in a pick-up game (i.e. who you would pick first if you were the captain of a team for a pick-up game), and the teams have been chosen accordingly.

As a short addendum to our criteria of teams based on alma-maters, we will also allow four non-college teams to participate.  Two teams of players coming straight from high school (High School North and High School South with the Mason Dixon Line being the separating factor – where the players attended high school not where they were from orginially).  And two teams of international players (a European International Team and a Non-European International Team).

We put all these teams together and will give you how it would shake out in a top 25:

 (Receiving Votes) Cal

  1. Jason Kidd (Mavericks)
  2. Ryan Anderson (Magic)
  3. Leon Powe (Grizzlies)
  4. Sean Marks (Bobcats)
  5. Francisco Elson (Jazz)

Cal’s team has a 38-year old point guard, a white shooting guard, the only player in NBA history from New Zealand, and a seven-foot dutch black guy named Francisco.  The team sets up well positionally from one to five, and they would be a lot of fun to see on the court together, but they may lose every game they play by 40.

(Receiving Votes) Maryland

  1. Steve Blake (Lakers)
  2. Steve Francis (Beijing Ducks)
  3. Greivas Vazquez (Grizzlies)
  4. Chris Wilcox (*Pistons)
  5. Joe Smith (*Lakers)

So Steve Francis last played in China and Wilcox and Smith are basically out of the league.  The Terps will not be denied.  Juan Dixon actually tried out and did not make the team.  Nick Caner-Medley had the same fate.  Either way a backcourt of Blake, the original Franchise, and General Greivas would be entertaining as hell.  How many people do you think would punch Grevias in the face in this league?  With no refs and unruly, possibly intoxicated, probably armed fans right on top of the court, Greivas may be the first casualty of the PSL.

#25. UNLV

  1. Marcus Banks (Hornets)
  2. Isiah Rider (No One)
  3. Lou Amundson (Suns)
  4. Shawn Marion (Mavericks)
  5. Joel Anthony (Heat)

Anyone who has ever been featured on or produced their own rap album gets automatic entrance into the league if they want.  This qualifies Isiah aka J.R. who provided the track “Funk in the Trunk” on the 1994 Album  “B-Ball’s Best Kept Secret” which featured songs performed by NBA players including Gary Payton, Brian Shaw, and Jason Kidd.  As far as the UNLV PSL team goes, you put Rider with big Lou Amundson, Marion, and Joel “The Forehead” Anthony and you don’t have a terrible squad.  They won’t be scaring anyone, but for UNLV, that’s not bad.

It's time to tell the world again...

#24. Georgetown

  1. Dajuan Summers (Montepaschi Siena)
  2. Patrick Ewing Jr. (Hornets)
  3. Jeff Green (Celtics)
  4. Greg Monroe (Pistons)
  5. Roy Hibbert (Pacers)

Dajuan comes back from Italy to fill out the Hoyas team, which surprisingly is headlined by Greg Monroe, arguably the most effective rookie last year not named Griffin (Griffin aside: the one player you would want to see in this league is Griffin, unfortunately his Sooners are only represented by himself, Eduardo Najera, and Willie Warren, so they were ineligible to compete).  G-Town has some height, but they lack the fireworks that are required for this type of game.

#23. Stanford

  1. Landry Fields (Knicks)
  2. Josh Childress (Suns)
  3. Jarron Collins (Blazers)
  4. Robin Lopez (Suns)
  5. Brook Lopez (Nets)

Landry is forced to play point here, as Stanford has a lot of height.  Even though this is the most renowned institution in the league, The Cardinal team has the potential for a PSL-high three afros.  On the streets this is a huge advantage, and very ironic coming from the far and away leader in “Least-Ghetto” of all the schools who are eligible.  This Stanford team could be a sleeper.

#22. Kansas

  1. Kirk Hinrich (Hawks)
  2. Brandon Rush (Pacers)
  3. Paul Pierce (Celtics)
  4. Darrell Arthur (Grizzlies)
  5. Drew Gooden (Bucks)

This is where things start to get interesting.  There is a Michael Strahan-sized gap in between #23 and #22.  Of these top 22 teams, every one of them could make a run.  The Jayhawks comes in surprisingly low here.  For a school with such traditional success, a recent National Championship, and 12 players currently playing in the NBA, one would think they would come in a little higher.  However, there best piece is an aging Paul Pierce, and few other Kansas grads are much more than role players.  Harry Potter gets the nod over Mario Chalmers, which some could argue, but the possibility of seeing Kirk Hinrich play at Rucker Park is too good to pass up.

#21. Ohio State

  1. Mike Conley (Grizzlies)
  2. Evan Turner (76ers)
  3. Michael Redd (Bucks)
  4. Daequan Cook (Thunder)
  5. Greg Oden (Blazers)

Conley and Oden get reunited here along with disappointing rook Evan Turner and the mid-comeback Michael Redd.  With Conley and Oden rekindling their flame and the other three Buckeyes having skills that translate well to a pick-up game, this team could be better than expected.   Oden’s knees on pavement and potential suspensions from the NCAA or Roger Goodell would be the only worries for OSU supporters – and that they have to play Daequan Cook as a power-forward.

#20. Washington

  1. Nate Robinson (Thunder)
  2. Brandon Roy (Blazers)
  3. Jonathan Brockman (Bucks)
  4. Quincy Pondexter (Hornets)
  5. Spencer Hawes (76ers)

If Brandon Roy’s health was better, this team would be dangerous.  Most of these guys were in school at the same time and they have a lineup that fits together better than maybe anyone else in the league.  Nate, Brandon, and Quincy all have games that translate well to the blacktop and the other two guys are white.  A nice mix if you ask me.  If Roy’s legs are underneath him, these guys could be ranked well below their actual result.

#19. Georgia Tech

  1. Jarrett Jack (Hornets)
  2. Anthony Morrow (Nets)
  3. Thad Young (76ers)
  4. Derrick Favors (Jazz)
  5. Chris Bosh (Heat)

The Yellow Jackets are solid from top to bottom, but their lack of toughness will kill them in the octagon.  Bosh is forced to play the 5 here, which is a position that is tough to play while shooting 15-foot jumpers all day.  Favors’ lack of ability to understand the NBA game should suit him well in the PSL, so look for a jump in production from him.

#18. Non-European International Team

  1. Manu Ginobili (Argentina)
  2. Andrei Kirilenko (Russia)
  3. Luis Scola (Argentina)
  4. Serge Ibaka (Congo)
  5. Nene (Brazil)

The Non-Euros will be an interesting mix and almost impossible to predict.  Manu runs the point for lack of a better option (most of the elite foreign point-guards are European).  Manu is really the only guard, and between Kirilenko, Ibaka, and Nene, this team may block every shot.  Scoring is going to be a problem and quick guards will be a tough matchup for the Non-Euros.  This team also would win the award for “Looks Most Like 90’s Culturally-Diverse Psuedo-Boyband Color Me Badd.”

They wanna sex you up.

#17. USC

  1. Nick Young (Wizards)
  2. OJ Mayo (Grizzlies)
  3. Brian Scalabrine (Bulls)
  4. Taj Gibson (Bulls)
  5. Demar DeRozan (Raptors)

Which one doesn’t belong?  If you chose the 6’9’’ 240-pound red-haired white guy in the mix of freakishly athletic black guys you would be correct.  If you take one thing away from this article, I hope its imagining Scalabrine playing streetball with this lineup.  Say what you will about the original human victory cigar (suck it Darko), but with this team – he could do some real damage.  These guys were all born to play on the playgrounds – a little touch of ginger and this team will do just fine.

#16. UNC

  1. Ty Lawson (Nuggets)
  2. Raymond Felton (Knicks)
  3. Vince Carter (Suns)
  4. Antawn Jamison (Cavaliers)
  5. Tyler Hansbrough (Pacers)

Some arguments to put The Stack on the team were made, but his SPER had declined to a point that just couldn’t cut it.  The team starts with defensive-specialist and unselfish star Vince Carter, who definitely wouldn’t take the no-rules style play and actually transform into a real black hole, sucking the entire league into his vortex.  Lawson and Felton make up one of the better back-courts in the entire league, but age and Hansbrough’s blinding paleness hurt the Tarheels when it comes to this type of play.

#15. Marquette

  1. Travis Deiner (Dinamo Sissari)
  2. Dwayne Wade (Heat)
  3. Wesley Matthews (Blazers)
  4. Lazar Hayward (Timberwolves)
  5. Steve Novak (Spurs)

This team is in the #15 spot for one reason.  It may be a little high, but considering who we are talking about here it should be merited. It’s pretty obvious I’m sure; the combination of Steve Novak and Travis Deiner is deadly enough to put the Golden Eagles in the top 15.  Deiner took his vanilla talents to Italy and his assassin-like game has only improved.  Novak is deadly when he gets to play his natural position – center.  The type of center he likes to play is traditional: roaming mainly outside the 3-point line, rarely crashing the boards, and lacking any kind of athletic prowess.

#14. Duke

  1. Corey Maggette (Bobcats)
  2. Luol Deng (Bulls)
  3. Grant Hill (Suns)
  4. Carlos Boozer (Bulls)
  5. Elton Brand (76ers)

With the second most current NBA players and the second most “fans of a school’s team who never actually went to that school,” the Blue Devils are going to be disappointed with their #14 ranking here.  They have a few below-average point guards available, but on the streets, this is the best squad.  Reddick doesn’t make the team because he writes poetry and can’t handle Maryland fans; Maggette makes the team because he would be the only guy who ever went to Duke that Jalen Rose would kick it with.  Deng would be a monster out there, but with no ball-handlers and an old and under-sized front court, the Dukies can’t crack the top 10.

#13. Syracuse

  1. Johnny Flynn (Rockets)
  2. Donte Greene (Kings)
  3. Carmelo Anthony (Knicks)
  4. Wes Johnson (Timberwolves)
  5. Hakim Warrick (Suns)

Melo might be the first overall pick on the playground.  Scoring, toughness, attitude, and a desire to show up everyone and anyone he plays against will make whatever team he is on dangerous.  However, he doesn’t have much backing him up.  Flynn and Johnson are young and were both high picks, but have not reached the potential they hope to so far.  Unfortunately for these guys, there is no 2-3 zone and no coach Boeheim in the PSL.

#12. Wake Forest

  1. Chris Paul (Hornets)
  2. Al-Farouq Aminu (Clippers)
  3. Josh Howard (Wizards)
  4. James Johnson (Raptors)
  5. Tim Duncan (Spurs)

Some great athletes book-ended by the best power-forward of his generation and perhaps the best point guard of his.  Chris Paul is the elite point guard playing in the league and his creativity will only be rewarded outdoors.  Duncan’s game doesn’t rally translate, but you never count out the big fella, especially with his first chance to team up with CP3.  If Howard can throw it back a few years and produce, this team looks very solid.

#11. Florida

  1. Jason Williams (Grizzlies)
  2. Mike Miller (Heat)
  3. Al Horford (Hawks)
  4. David Lee (Warriors)
  5. Joakim Noah (Bulls)

White Chocolate.  The OG.  That’s all you need to know here.  He’s up there in age, he may have even retired, but when the chain nets call, J-Will is there to answer.  Apologies to Matt Bonner, but there just wasn’t a place on the Gators throwback team for him.  These guys have sleeper written all over them.  They have a unique combination of hustle, skill, and white guys with tattoos, and they can match up with any other team the PSL will throw at them.  The Gators fall just outside the top 10, but they are definitely good enough to scare some people.

This is an actual picture.

#10. Arizona

  1. Gilbert Arenas (Magic)
  2. Jason Terry (Mavericks)
  3. Chase Budinger  (Rockets)
  4. Andre Iguodala (76ers)
  5. Channing Frye (Suns)

Lute Olson had his Wildcats running an open, athletic style for quite some time now.  It will pay off in the PSL , especially with Agent Zero,  who is a legend on the Barry Farms courts in DC. This team has a good mix of youth and experience, but lacks size down low.  Iggy can D up anyone, and he’ll be one of the most athletic guys on the court, but Channing at the 5 won’t really work against anyone not named Steve Novak.  Barely missing the cut for the Wildcat team: Richard Jefferson, Luke Walton, and Mike Bibby.  Missing the cut by a lot: Miles Simon.

#9. Michigan State

  1. Shannon Brown (Lakers)
  2. Maurice Ager (Timberwolves)
  3. Charlie Bell (Warriors)
  4. Jason Richardson (Magic)
  5. Zach Randolph (Grizzlies)

Tom Izzo doesn’t just make Final Fours, he produces some sneaky-good professional players as well. Shannon Brown can’t play point guard in the NBA and relies mainly on his athleticism – perfect in this particular situation.  The Spartans have to go small here with four guards, but when your big guy is Z-Bo, and there are no rules, you should do just fine.

#8. Memphis

  1. Derrick Rose (Bulls)
  2. Tyreke Evans (Kings)
  3. Rodney Carney (Grizzlies)
  4. Chris Douglas-Roberts (Bucks)
  5. Shawne Williams (Knicks)

Luckily taking the SATs isn’t a requirement to be in the league.  Rose and Reke make the Memphis team as dangerous as anyone.  Seeing those two guys on the same team is mouth-watering.  Reke gets to move to the 2, a much better position for him, and Rose can have someone help take off the scoring burden.  CDR, Carney, and big Shawne are simply there to play D and stay out of the way on offense, but that’s enough for Memphis to be all the way at #8.

#7. UConn

  1. Ben Gordon (Bulls)
  2. Ray Allen (Celtics)
  3. Rudy Gay (Grizzlies)
  4. Charlie Villanueva (Pistons)
  5. Emeka Okafor (Hornets)

A traditional powerhouse with putting guys in the league, the Huskies have plenty to choose from for their streetball starting five.  You’d love for Gordon to be a little bit more of a natural point, but in a pick-up style, he should do just fine.  They have scoring, shooting, toughness, and size.  No superstars, but maybe the most solid and consistent team in the entire PSL.

#6. UCLA

  1. Jrue Holliday (76ers)
  2. Russel Westbrook (Thunder)
  3. Baron Davis (Cavs)
  4. Matt Barnes (Lakers)
  5. Kevin Love (Timberwolves)

With the most current NBA players (14), the Bruins could legitimately field two competitive teams (there second team would be Farmar, Collison, Afflalo, Ariza, Mbah a Moute).  This team would just be flat out fun to watch.  Baron playing without a sub may be slightly troubling (by sub I mean literally a substitute but also a hoagie) and they are small, but Barnes is a foxhole guy and Westbrook and Love back together again is a beautiful thing. This team could beat anyone in the league and no one would be surprised.

#5. Kentucky

  1. Rajon Rondo (Celtics)
  2. John Wall (Wizards)
  3. Jodie Meeks (76ers)
  4. Tayshaun Prince (Pistons)
  5. DeMarcus Cousins (Kings)

They’ve got 13 guys to choose from, and arguably two of the top five point guards in the league.  Fortunately, on the street, they can play together in harmony and wreak havoc on everyone else.  The best back-court hands down, plus Meek’s range, Prince’s experience, and Cousins’ raw skills, attitude, and size makes Kentucky frightening on paper.  They’d be even more frightening running the pavement.

#4. European International Team

  1. Ricky Rubio (Spain)
  2. Hedo Turkoglu (Turkey)
  3. Andrea Bargnani (Italy)
  4. Dirk Nowitzki (Germany)
  5. Pau Gasol (Spain)

This team is straight up stupid.  Rubio gets the nod here over Tony Parker for the entertainment value alone.  I hate kicking a man when he’s down, especially when you lose out on Eva Longoria, but Parker is French and should be used to losing and pain.  This team is big and skilled.  Some may point out a lack of toughness, and with no refs that is a legitimate concern.  That’s the reason these guys come in at #4, when they easily could be at the top of this list.

#3. Texas

  1. D.J. Augustin (Bobcats)
  2. Daniel Gibson (Cavaliers)
  3. Kevin Durant (Thunder)
  4. Maurice Evans (Wizards)
  5. LaMarcus Aldridge (Blazers)

Speed and passing at the point.  Perimeter shooting and experience at the 2.  The Travelling Durantula Circus Summer Tour continues at the 3.  Nothing at the 4 and an absolute beast at the 5. This is almost a perfectly constructed team.  You may want more size at the power forward spot, but you’ve got enough scoring, a good inside-out game, and Evans can be hidden against most teams in the league.  You may not think the Longhorns should be above a few of the teams we’ve already mentioned, but you should go ahead and watch some of the Durant videos on YouTube, where he is dropping forty-foot bombs without breaking a sweat.  It looks like the real-life version of that LeBron Powerade Commercial.

#2. High School South

  1. Brandon Jennings (Oak Hill, VA)
  2. Monta Ellis (Lanier High, MS)
  3. Stephen Jackson (Oak Hill, VA)
  4. Amar’e Stoudemire (Cypress Creek, FL)
  5. Dwight Howard (Atlanta Christian, GA)

Clearly this scientific experiment has led us in the opposite direction of supporting the now intact “one year in college” rule.  Your top two teams are the two teams made up of those men who skipped college and went straight to the big time.  One team of high school guys wasn’t enough (and honestly wasn’t fair), and more than two teams would have watered down the league, so we came to a happy medium with two (North and South) and they still have to top the list.

This team is silly.  I don’t even have to break it down; just keep looking at the starting five.  Stephen Jackson is the perfect complement to the scorers above him and the giants below.  How is this team not number one you ask?  Here’s how:

#1. High School North

  1. JR Smith (Lakewood Prep, NJ)
  2. Kobe Bryant (Lower Merion, PA)
  3. LeBron James (St. Vincent St. Mary’s, OH)
  4. Kevin Garnett (Farragut Academy, IL)
  5. Andrew Bynum (St. Joseph’s, NJ)

They don’t have a legitimate point guard.  Garnett is old.  Bynum is made of glass.  Lots of good points.  However, Kobe and LeBron could play with the Jonas Brothers and still be one of the five best teams in this league.  Give them JR Smith – who has the deepest range in the league, Garnett – the heart and soul of any team he’s on, and Bynum – who’s size and rebounding stands with anyone’s when healthy – and this is the best five-man streetball team you can come up with given the parameters.

Your 2011 PSL Champions.

In a hypothetical championship game, Jackson has to check LeBron, Kobe gets a mismatch with Ellis or Jennings, the remaining guard on the South cancels out with JR Smith, Garnett annoys the hell out of Amar’e, and Bynum does his best against Howard.  Howard will be a problem, but Kobe and LeBron will score at will and shut down Jennings and Ellis on the defensive end.  The North wins again.

The Euro team may cause these guys more problems, as Hedo could check LeBron and no one would be able to cover Dirk, but Rubio is a massive defensive hemorrhage and Bargnani would get smoked by Kobe.

So there you have it. The 2011 Professional Streetball League. To say it would be epic is an understatement.  To say you wouldn’t watch every game is a lie.  To say the championship game wouldn’t be one of the five greatest sporting events ever would be a travesty.  Let’s let Red Bull and Sprite start the bidding war for this thing and make it happen.  This could be the best lockout ever.

Simplifying Chris Johnson’s Beef: He’s Right

If the Titan's don't give up some money, you may not see this for quite some time.

Chris Johnson is holding out.  You all know this.  Like many things in the NFL, though, situations aren’t properly understood by the fans or explained by the media.  I was curious as to the particulars of the situation, so I dug a little bit and wanted to explain to all of you why Johnson is holding out and why he is absolutely correct.

Unbiased disclaimer: I don’t like players holding out.  You signed a deal, you play out the contract.  So I come into this with a negative perspective towards CJ and his current situation.  A few things in this particular case swing me the other way though:

1. Leverage

Chris Johnson has it.  A lot of it.  Right now Vegas has the Titans 2011 win total over/under at 6.5.  If CJ is in camp right now and ready to go week 1, that number is 7.5.  If Vegas knew he wasn’t playing a game all season, and you have a Matt Hasselbeck – Javon Ringer backfield, that number could easily be 4.5.  You could make a very nice argument that Johnson is more important to his team than any other running back in the league.  The Titans will be undoubtedly worse without him on the field.

2. Performance

Johnson has played three years.  He has played in 47 of 48 games over those three years.  His average numbers per season look like this: 300 carries, 1,533 yards, 11 TDs, 2 fumbles lost.  These numbers are very similar to Adrian Peterson, who would be the only other RB over the last three years you could argue was as good or better than CJ.  His numbers over his four years in the league look like this: 296 carries, 1,446 yards, 13 TDs, 3.25 fumbles lost.  Looks about even to me.  Well here are their respective contracts:

Very similar contracts for the first three years, as per the difference in draft position and the SOP for 1st-round rookie RBs.  Chris Johnson considers himself the best running back in the league – and most people can’t really disagree.  He is 1 or 2 on everyone’s list.  He has produced the last three years – better than everyone except maybe AP.  He deserves the money, and he is young enough to warrant the investment as all signs point to this continuing.

3. Liability

If Johnson gets badly hurt or hits a wall at any point in the next two years – not uncommon for running backs in this league – and he gets cut, he only gets the remainder of that guaranteed 7 million.  Which would mean over 3 or 4 years, he only gets 7 million dollars and his career could possibly be over.  NFL contracts are not guaranteed – we all know this.  Johnson realized this last year and held out for a short amount of time.  He was appeased by the team with an extra $2.5 million.  He produced again, and again was not given more money.

The average length of an NFL player’s career is 3.3 years.  Running Backs have the shortest average career length at 2.57 years.  Considering Johnson in an elite running back, his liability is extreme every time he touches the field. With 300 carries a year, the propensity for injury is massive.  Johnson isn’t Natrone Means either, he is a smaller back, he is the focus of every defense the Titans play, and he has been relatively injury-free so far in his career.

His contract still has two years left, so even if he shut his mouth and played out his current deal, performed on this same level without injury, the Titans could simply franchise him in 2013, and he wouldn’t be able to go out and get his big deal (he would still get the average of the top 5 RBs in the league, so not terrible).  He would be stuck for three years.

4. Relative Compensation

We’ve been comparing AP and CJ and come up with basically the same production.  AP is the highest paid RB in the league and makes 10.72 million this year while CJ makes 800K.  If AP is number 1, where is CJ you ask?  How about 31st.  He is the 31st highest paid RB in the league.  This puts him behind franchise-caliber All-Pro backs like Atlanta’s Ovie Mughelli (3 mil), Detroit’s Maurice Morris (1.625 mil), San Fran’s Moran Norris (1.5 mil), and Buffalo’s Corey McIntyre (950K).  I’m not sure who those last two guys are either.

He is the 241st highest paid player in the NFL.  On NFL Network’s player-voted rankings of the Top 100 players in the league that was recently done, CJ came in at 13th.  He isn’t even in the top 13 paid players on his own team – he is 19th.  Cortland Finnegan walked out of Titans’ camp this year and he makes 3.29 mil this year.  If you want to see the 18 players ahead of CJ on the Titans’ roster, check this out. The highest paid Titan is Safety Chris Hope who makes around 6 million a year.

The numbers I could find using rotoworld.com and musiccitymiracles.com put the Titans with about 9 million in cap room this year.  Clearly plenty of room to give CJ some more money.

IPSO FACTO…

Chris Johnson is 100% correct in holding out.  He is vastly under-appreciated, vastly under-paid, and seemingly stuck without a big pay-day for three more years. That would make him a 28-year-old running back with six years on his odometer.  (I would bring up Shaun Alexander getting his big contract at that point in his career and then somehow having a negative total of broken tackles for the remainder of the deal but it gives me Nam-like flashbacks).  His career could easily be over at that point, even if he was not significantly injured during that time.

He needs to get paid now, and he is too valuable to the Titans for them to be playing these shenanigans with him for the second year in a row.  So as this situation continues – if the Titans don’t give him what he deserves – remember that CJ is right and they are wrong.

The defense rests.

(For future reference: There are a few running backs who, with another productive year, will be in a similar situation next year.  Matt Forte is already grumbling this year – he is only scheduled to make 555K this season.  Other young, top-tier backs who are going to be vastly underpaid as per their expected production this year: Rashard Mendenhall (612.5K), Ray Rice (555K), Arian Foster (525K), and Shady McCoy (480K).  It will be interesting how each of these teams and players handle these situations as they become more tense.)