Sunday, September 11, 2011

Football on 9-11 Crushes the Grinch of Terrorism

This weekend we memorialize the tragic terrorist attack of 9-11 ten years ago. The date falls on Sunday, of the NFL's opening weekend.

Though the official kick-off to the football weekend is Thursday through the Monday Night Football game on September 12th, today is the day that we are officially back to football. Thursday night was like Christmas Eve: sure, everyone was saying "Merry Christmas", but the presents were still cloaked in wrapped anonymity beneath the tree at home. And while the socks from Aunt Clara were the one gift you were allowed to open, the good stuff was still waiting until the magic of Christmas morning.

Today is Christmas for football fans. Packers robes flanked by Lions slippers, morning coffee from a Cowboys's all good.

And like the Grinch hoping to gaze upon Americans wallowing in grief, terrorism instead witnesses something amazing. We honor those who died a decade ago on that fateful morning, but we celebrate with unabashed arrogance the spirit and passion of a lifestyle by which the terrorists are so threatened.

And there is no greater metaphor for the American spirit of teamwork and strategy, resiliency and endurance, and conquest through dedicated commitment and sacrifice than the great American game of football played at the highest level: The NFL!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Big Play Scoring

Big Play Scoring


Points Play Description

1 First Down to First Down
1 Gain of 20+ yards
1 Field Goal
1 4th Down Conversion
2 Gain of 40+ yards
2 Touchdown
2 2-Point Conversion
3 Touchdown of 50+ yards


Points Play Description

1 Sack
1 Forced Punt
1 Hold Opponent to Red Zone Field Goal
1 Fumble Recovery
1 Interception
2 Forced Turnover on Downs
2 Fumble Recovery in/returned to Red Zone
2 Interception in/returned to Red Zone
2 Safety
3 Defensive Touchdown

Special Teams

Points Play Description

1 Punt/Kickoff Return Team Pinned inside 5-yard line
1 Punt/Kickoff Return Team returns ball beyond the 50-yard line
2 Punt/Kickoff Return Team returns ball to Red Zone
2 Onside Kickoff Executed Successfully
3 Punt/Kickoff Return for a touchdown

Remember, points earned are points kept. No play, no matter how boneheaded, results in Big Play Points being subtracted.

Big Play Scoring (and its associated components including, but not limited to, its proprietary system of weighted scoring for varying levels of “Big Plays”) is the original idea of Michael A. Knapp, aka Four-9---The Paper Texan, with All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Texans Fans Ready to Feast on Some Football!

The problem for card-carrying members of PETA that attend bullfights is that regardless of the silver lining they may take away from the contest, in the end they have to admit that the player for whom they rooted never really had a shot, Houston Texans helmet design logo pun intended! In the past, despite some impressive, if fleeting, moments that perhaps included goring the matador, by the end of the day there was no doubt regarding the source of the beef for the dinner upon which our team's opponent feasted: The Houston Texans themselves!

On Monday Night Football's pre-Season 41 premiere at Reliant Stadium, Texans fans were ready (finally!) for some football. With high profile starters (Arian Foster, Andre Johnson, Brian Cushing) out of the game to nurse non-season-opener-threatening injuries, there was a chance to see what the younger fresh draft choices and undrafted free agents could do. Of more than a little interest was how new Defensive Coordinator Wade Philips' new 3-4 scheme could provide some degree of hope in the form of improvement for the team's maligned defense.

Pre-season is about making the most of the opportunity to evaluate young talent, and the decision on who to keep so that they in one form or another can contribute to the organization's continued development this season and in the future. Potential players kept on to fill the void in the event of unfortunate injuries to starters, or to be traded to acquire additional talent for a more appropriate fit for the team, have the spotlight squarely on them during pre-season games.

Lester Jean, Matt Leinart, and first round draft choice JJ Watt played very well, but the most impressive stat of the night was Neil Rackers going 2-2 with field goals from 49 and 47 yards. Yet to be determined is if Mario Williams can adequately assimilate into a two-point stance as an outside linebacker and contribute like this team needs. But with a host of athletes competing for the limited number of defensive back positions available, it appears that the one glaring weakness of the team is going to be vastly improved this year.

It is important not to be carried away one way or another another based upon a single pre-season game win or loss. But the Houston Texans prevailing upon the New York Jets 20-16 in the style with which they won is certainly not a reason for concern. So for NFL opponents that have the Houston Texans circled as a day on which to feast upon great barbecue, they may want to first make sure they themselves are not on the menu!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Tiger Brews Rock Bottom's Up Cheer

Throughout the past year and a half's most precipitous fall from grace any athlete has ever endured, Tiger Woods suffered the deserved slings and arrows associated with his scruples-deficient personal life. But one thing you could never call him was the person who just played a round of golf so pitiful he would not have a decent shot at winning even your local country club's weekend tournament. Until now.

The once unanimously worshipped as the world's best golfer ever has hit rock bottom. Slithering off to the parking lot of a major championship with failing to have even made the cut necessary to continue competing through the weekend, Tiger is no longer anything but the curious case of exhausted talent apparently incapable of ever winning ANY tournament again, much less a major championship.

Experts in the field of psychiatry, therapy, and psychology speak of the prerequisite to hit rock bottom before one can return to a level of greatness associated with the ultimate superiority and domination. But without the desire and commitment to do what is necessary to improve in the first place, rock bottom can in the end be nothing more than an uncomfortable surface upon which to rest in perpetuity, diminished by the luxury of millions of dollars to buffer the otherwise jagged edges of discomfort.

The question is no longer if Tiger is where he needs to be to finally mount a comeback, but if he has what it takes to ignore the comfort of his failure and instead court the pain of exertion and effort necessary to once again be the best there ever was.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Ladies and Gentlemen...Your 2011 Houston Texans!

Colts Home Loss 0-1

Dolphins Away Win 1-1

Saints Away Loss 1-2

Steelers Home Loss 1-3

1-3 for the first quarter of season

Raiders Home Win 2-3

Ravens Away Loss 2-4

Titans Away Win 3-4

Jaguars Home Win 4-4

3-1 for the second quarter of season

Browns Home Win 5-4

Buccaneers Away Loss 5-5

Jaguars Away Win 6-5

Falcons Home Loss 6-6

2-2 for the third quarter of season

Bengals Away Win 7-6

Panthers Home Win 8-6

Colts Away Loss 8-7

Titans Home Win 9-7

3-1 for the final quarter of season

At 9-7, the Houston Texans in their tenth season for the first time have a winning record in their division (4-2), and have only their second ever winning record overall, but once again fail to make the playoffs. Bob McNair says he cannot in good conscience fire a coach who has delivered a winning product for him and the city of Houston.

You heard it here first, of course!

Steve Williams Errs Dirty Laundry; Gives Tiger Single Point of Focus

Steve Williams may in the end be not only the contributor as caddy to 13 of Tiger Woods' 14 major championships, but also the dire-strait last ditch effort for the eventual comeback of the once sure-fire bet to surpass Jack Nicklaus' 18 total majors.

Tiger in the past 20 months since his Thanksgiving Holiday unintentional game of chicken with a fire hydrant and his neighbor's front lawn Sycamore Tree has been unable to focus a single point of attack against the myriad of distracting forces preventing his resurrection back to the top of the golf world. He's been like a camper trying to fight off a thousand mosquitoes! Injuries, shame, diminished game and mental toughness...even his very identity has suffered.

Think about it. For Tiger to have lost it all --- the fame, the glory, the money, the respect, the lifestyle (secret and otherwise) --- he has got to be madder than Augustus Gloop at Fat Camp! He may even be mad at himself, though that's a stretch not seen since your last Bikram Yoga class. And no matter how much he tried to harness the negative energy of what ailed him to achieve some positive level of improvement, there just was no appreciable synergy in return for his efforts to vanquish the sum of varied maladies, if even possible.

But then Steve Williams caddied for Adam Scott who won the WGC Bridgestone at Firestone. In and of itself, that alone would probably have equated to nothing more than just one more mosquito swarming around Tiger's head. But Williams had to speak up and fan the flames of what were otherwise probably only the dying embers of the remains of any potential comeback for Tiger.

That did it. Tiger no longer has to manufacture the undeserved, unearned, and unwarranted disdain for TMZ, Elin, or a no-longer-adoring fanbase. Instead, he can singularly with lazer-focus project his mining of the necessary energy to finally mount a successful comeback. He will not be ridiculously at odds with sanity relative to the people, himself included, to whom he did such destruction, but instead to a chirpish ex-caddy.

Thank you, Steve, for making golf interesting again!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

For Texans Fans, Waiting is the Hardest Part

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers said it best when they warned and lamented that "You take it on faith, you take it to the heart, the waiting is the hardest part."

The fact is that the Houston Texans, NFL record holders for the longest period without a playoff appearance, have been asking you the fans year after year to take on faith and take it to the heart that they have finally put the pieces together to make a playoff run. But year after year they fail to deliver as players, coaches, and an organization. There have always been fantastic excuses masquerading as explanations as to why they always come up short.

But in their sixth year as General Manager and Head Coach, Rick Smith and Gary Kubiak will no longer have any viable modus operandi other than to go for broke, because their bank of good will for being "good guys" who "do things the right way" and fill their roster with "character guys" is dead-flat empty.

Respected defensive schemer Wade Phillips, changed assignments for star player Mario Williams, and the acquisition of help for the NFL's worst ever secondary in the form of Jonathan Joseph at cornerback and Danieal Manning at safety are going to have to finally be enough to balance out an offense that is good enough and deserves to be in the playoffs.

Additionally, if DeMeco Ryans can play to a level prior to last year's week #6 season-ending injury, if Brian Cushing can bounce back from his sophomore slump, and if J.J. Watt can deliver as a first-rate first round draft pick, there likely is indeed reason for optimism for the Houston Texans.

But right now, all we can do is wait...and that's the hardest part.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Masters in Augusta Presents Schwartzel's First Major; Announces Tiger's Second Coming

The roars from the final round of The 75th Masters in Augusta, Georgia heralded a long overdue rebirth of energy, enthusiasm, and renewed level of interest in professional golf not seen since the beginning of Tiger Woods' precipitous fall from grace that began 18 months ago. In a tournament whose final round represented a flurry of fury of effort from both recognized and unfamiliar names to casual and hardcore fans alike, the tradition of excellence was uninterrupted, even if a comeback in particular left you feeling as incomplete as the spelling of the eventual champion's first name.

Charl Schwartzel slipped on the green jacket for the first time as he reigned in the first Major of his career. Despite a revolving door of would-be competitors threatening to take the lead, for only the second time in 21 years the eventual champion would not come from the day's final pairing of McIlroy and Cabrera. McIlroy, at just 21, was heading into Sunday after his improbable lead of the entire tournament. He faltered as many predicted would absolutely happen, and finished with a score of 80 to leave him tied for 15th. Despite having played the first three days at -12, his final day effort of +8 left the door wide open for players who still had good golf left in them for Sunday.

And come to play they did! Not since Alfred Hitchcock tapped Tippy Hedren have you seen so many birdies! But it was the two that eluded Tiger Woods on the back 9 that prevented his triumphant return to the top of the golf world. Despite coming from -5 to finish at 10 under for the tournament with a final day score of 67, it was Schwartzel's tournament record first ever 4 birdies on the final four holes to put him at 14 under to secure the victory ahead of the steady Scott and Day who tied for second at -12.

As unlikely as Rori McIlroy continuing to hold court among the sport's lords was the expectation that Tiger would have what it took to mount a successful charge. But Tiger's failure was not based on playing or putting poorly, but instead because of leaving a couple literally on the lip of the cup. Despite finishing 4th, this signals the end of the Tiger-less era of golf, and the only temporarily returned status as immortal and bullet-proof Jack Nicklaus' record 18 career majors.

And for the first time in a year and a half, golf is interesting again. From this corner, "Amen!"

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

UConn Marches Beyond the Madness of Butler's Poor Shooting

UConn persevered over Brad Stevens-coached Butler 53-41 at Reliant Stadium to take the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship, Coach Jim Calhoun's third since 1999.

The scrappy #8 seed Butler from the heart of Basketball City, USA mustered a mere 18% shooting from the floor, eventually allowing the 34% of their opponents the margin necessary for victory. Kemba Walker (5-19, 16 points) has been the star of this tournament since his team's historic run commencing with their improbable 5 wins in 5 days to take the Big East Basketball Championship and earn an automatic berth to the Big Dance as a #3 seed.

Conventional wisdom spoke of the advantage of the contest leaning towards the front court of Butler's Matt Howard and Andrew Smith, as well as the maturity and depth of the bench of the Bulldogs. Allowing for the dominant play of the Huskies' Walker, the game was shaping up to be a battle between the "bigs" of Butler and the "quicks" of Connecticut's back court.

But it was UConn's front court of Tyler Olander, Roscoe Smith, and Alex Oriakhi (5-6, 11 points, 11 rebounds, 4 blocks) who intimidated, out-muscled, and out-hustled the blue-collar tandem of Butler's Howard (1-13, 6 points, 7 rebounds) and Smith (2-9, 5 points, 9 rebounds.) With the worst shooting performance in the tournament's championship game history, the Bulldogs would not have what it took, despite holding UConn to two separate five minute scoring droughts in the first half to lead 22 - 19 at intermission.

Butler opened up the first half with a Chase Stigall 3-pointer giving his team a 25 - 19 advantage. This bucket, together with the one by Shelvin Mack from long range to close out the first half as time expired, represented greater than 25% of the Bulldog's total offense for the game at that point. The Huskies scored the next seven straight points, and a Lamb steal punctuated with a fast-break dunk to make it 31 - 26 highlighted the dire straits of a Butler team that would suffer being outscored 14 - 1 during a dry-spell that saw them go in excess of seven minutes before making a field goal, and not another one before an additional six minutes!

In the end, it was the poise and leadership of UConn's Walker, the intimidation and defense by Oriakhi and Olander, and the X-factor of Lamb that proved to be too much for the deflated play and poor execution of what one can only charitably refer to as the offense of Butler.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

March Madness Culminates with Insanity at Reliant

OK, sports you go: The Final Four in Houston at Reliant Stadium. The NCAA men's basketball championship will be the first champion decided in our city since the New England Patriots defeated the Carolina Panthers on February 1, 2004.

Two powerhouses of the past, UConn of the past two decades and Kentucky of the past half century, will play each other Saturday to determine who will play for the championship. Butler plays upstart VCU as they battle for the right to try on the lone remaining glass slipper and claim their identity as the true Cinderella.

More than ever before, this year's Final Four is more a story of the teams' coaches than the schools' teams. Jim Calhoun of UConn is looking for vindication and validation as coach of his team that battled all season long in the Big East, with the scars to prove it, in what many consider the sport's toughest conference. Jim Calipari of Kentucky is trying to prove he does not deserve to be considered the greasiest thing this side of Jiffy Lube. Brad Stevens of Butler is playing Saturday for the right to have his team play its second championship game in as many years without looking old enough to have graduated college himself! And Shaka Smart will look to continue to defy the odds and his team's naysayers regarding VCU's right to be in the tournament, and their prospects of winning it all.

Because of the brackets, we are guaranteed a David vs. Goliath match-up: It will be either VCU or Butler against UConn or Kentucky. Butler will prevail against the innovative and brilliant Shaka Smart - coached VCU, and then will defeat the Calipari - led Wildcats who will make some incomprehensible last minute mistake in a situation borne of a game with inexplicably non-existent fundamentals that will still result in the lauding of a coach for his ability to recruit in a new era of "one-and-dones", but still falls short of coaching squads to a championship.

And that's why this Final Four will be more about coaches. Brad Stevens and Shaka Smart chose to build and lead programs that develop and grow programs, as opposed to leveraging university reputation to seize fleeting moments. Butler was a nice story last year and came within an "all so close" bank shot of beating Duke for the championship, but no one really expected them back again. Yet here they are, poised to take down either of the two giants remaining Monday night.

And even if it's not the Bulldogs, there will be the Rams challenged to win just one more game to be the greatest story in the history of the NCAA tournament.

Shaka can, Shaka can...Shaka can!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Mai's Restaurant Rising from the Ashes a Pham-ily Affair

Mai's Restaurant, a Houston institution as the first choice for Vietnamese cuisine for over 30 years, is reopening April 16th fourteen months after a fire threatened to extinguish the hopes and dreams of now four generations of Anna Pham's family. February 15th, 2010 just one day after Tet, the celebration of the Lunar New Year, Mai's Restaurant at 3403 Milam suffered a devastating fire for which no one in the family was prepared.

Anna Pham, grand-daughter of Vietnamese immigrants who arrived in Houston in 1975, was seven months pregnant with her third child. She saw the desperation and loss of hope in her family's eyes and those of employees who had known nothing other than the pride of continuing on the traditions of Houston's first Vietnamese restaurant.

Now just one week away from a Grand Re-Opening for which reservations are currently being accepted, the final touches are being made in preparation for the, albeit interrupted, continued tradition of excellence. The list of those impressed by Mai's Restaurant includes entertaining legends ranging from Patti LaBelle to ZZ Top, and movers and shakers from the political landscape that include ex-Presidents, Mayors, and council members.

Anna Pham charged herself with the accountability and responsibility to lead Mai's Restaurant onward by executing a strategy that embraces a balance between the establishment's revered and honored history with its bright future. A graduate of the University of Houston with a degree in marketing and management and ten years of business experience under her belt, Anna knew that her vision to lead Mai's forward would be well served by a commitment to leverage social media networking and the latest technological applications of Facebook and Twitter with a ubiquitously recognized as requisite web presence.

This departure from the family tradition of business that had previously relied solely on word of mouth and reputation, was in fact a natural progression. Enlisting the expertise of Kimberly Park Communications to ensure the proper marketing of the restaurant and it's reopening means it will be ready to serve its excited loyal clientele hungry to return to one of their favorite restaurants. Anna recognizes dining is a social experience, and her use of Studio Red Architects has left Mai's nearly double the occupancy of the original 107 to 211 left to dine within its tranquil and relaxing design of jade and bamboo.

Anna's vision was to create with interior transitions a marriage of three generations with an appreciation for the foundation of success of the past with hope for the future. The result: hip Japanese Restaurant meets established Steakhouse. Because the restaurant's long hours of availability means Anna had to ensure the interior was as appropriate for people enjoying a business lunch as it was for late-night weekend revelers, she ensured the interior was pleasing and exciting to all.

They say that "taxes" are one of only two guarantees in life. But just one day after your tax returns are due, I guarantee you will be impressed with the efforts borne of the energy and passion of Anna Pham as she has taken Mai's Restaurant forward and beyond tragedy and positioned it for 30 more years of greatness as it continues to be Houston's first choice for Vietnamese cuisine.

Mai's Restaurant
3403 Milam Houston, Texas

Monday, February 14, 2011

Baseball Scores Big

OK, sports fan, you made it through the first of roughly 30 weekends with no NFL. Never mind that in less than a month the current labor agreement between players and owners expires and then we will be in very real peril of either a delayed season, or---perish the thought...a complete cancellation of the 2011 campaign!

That's probably just "Chicken Little, meet Doomsday" worrying. I am guessing billionaire owners and millionaire players will figure out a way to get things resolved. Regardless, it is time to find something else other than football to entertain you. Maybe it is too soon to get wrapped up in college hoops to hone your knowledge of teams and their intricacies relative to where you should seed them in your office's March Madness Tournament Bracket Challenge, or too early to devote yourself to the NBA as they jockey for playoff positioning for a post-season that does not get interesting for yet another 100 days!

That leaves us with baseball. But, if you are like me, you find the traditional reporting of "Hits, Runs, and Errors" deficient in adequately describing the game's action. So, stay with me as I offer you a way to make baseball every bit as compelling and entertaining an engagement of your time as is football: Big Play Scoring!


Points / Big Play Description
1 Triple with No Outs
1 Run
2 Stealing Home
2 Home run
3 Two RBI Home Run
4 Three RBI Home Run
5 Grand Slam Home Run


Points / Big Play Description
1 Double Play
1 Bases Loaded Inning-ending Out
1 Runner Thrown Out stealing / leading off / tagging up
2 Inning-ending Double Play
3 Bases Loaded Inning-ending Double Play


Points / Big Play Description
1 RISP Strikeout
1 Closer Strikeout
2 Bases Loaded Inning-ending Strikeout

Remember, no "doubling up" on big play points. It's one or the other. But, as always, tally the greater number of "big play points" for any given Big Play. Also, big play points earned are big play points kept. No play, no matter how boneheaded, results in subtraction of big play points.

Play Ball!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Green Bay's Defense Prevents Pittsburgh's Offense from Winning Superbowl XLV

I'm sure the Green Bay Packers could not have been happy with having earlier had a three touchdowns to three points lead over the Pittsburgh Steelers to now lead by only six points in Superbowl XLV. With only two minutes remaining and Ben Roethlisberger with a resume that already included a Super Bowl winning touchdown drive in the waning seconds just two years earlier versus the Cardinals, the Green Bay defense had to admit there was a bit of a Packer Pucker Factor going on.

The Packers knew all too well of Roethlisberger's capability of late-game heroics without recounting past Superbowls. The last time these two teams met was week #14 in the 2009 regular season. That game was a Heinz Field Shoot-out the Steelers won 37-36 on the final play of the game on a 19-yard Wallace touchdown reception with no time remaining courtesy of the aforementioned more than capable of heroics Big Ben. That game was a stunner in more ways than one: It featured 52 "Big Plays", 29 of them provided by Pittsuburgh to Green Bay's 23. The final drive included a converted 4th & 7 with a 32-yard Santonio Holmes reception. Once again, Green Bay led by six with their defense on the field versus an opponent they knew all too well through personal experience was able to drive the length of the field in a pressurized situation and score a game winning touchdown to persevere by one measly point.

Today's game had amazing symmetry to both their game 14 months earlier, and Superbowl XXXII. But in this contest Green Bay cut Pittsburgh's Big Plays by 50% from their previous meeting, while Green Bay played at an even higher level. Early in the third quarter, Roethlisberger on a 2nd & 7 scrambled for a six-yard gain that he took out of bounds rather than absorb the impact of a collision with Packers Safety Charlie Peprah. That's not the kind of attitude and effort at heroics we have come to expect from Superbowl winning quarterbacks ever since John Elway's famous helicopter hit from Super Bowl XXXII, coincidentally, also against the Packers.

Never mind that the ensuing 3rd & 1 was easily converted on the next just somehow knew that this quarterback this time was not going to have what it took. And he didn't. The Green Bay Packers forced the Pittsburgh Steelers to turn it over on downs after a failed 4th & 5 pass attempt to Wallace.

In a post-season that saw the Green Bay Packers recover from a regular season that one didn't have to be a "hawk-eye" to see that they were a walking M*A*S*H unit, they ramped up their big play making ability against a Pittsburgh Steelers squad that was content to rev down their style to one of executing long, methodical, grind-it-out drives.

75% of the previous Superbowls had a team commit at least 3 turnovers, and then lose the game more than 90% of the time. Pittsburgh fell into that statistical disadvantage with Big Ben's two interceptions and Rashard Mendenhall's fumble resulting in 21 points for the Packers offense.

In the end, it was too much for the Steelers to overcome, and the Packers won Superbowl XLV 31 - 25.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Super-Bowling for Combine

I know you judge the success of the NFL in your city of Houston by the success (or lack thereof) of your hometown Texans, but I have a thought for you as sobering and every bit as disheartening as it is for a 7-year old to hear there in fact is no Santa Claus:

It does not matter if your Houston Texans NEVER make the playoffs, much less WIN a post-season game for the Bayou City to be a strong contributor to the continued dominance and success of the NFL. The only thing it takes for an NFL city to be tenable is a fan base that loves football. I did not say the fan base has to love its team, and for the record, for the moment you do. All the people have to do is love the product that is the world's highest level of professional football, and given its availability, they will stand in line on Sunday to slurp it up.

100 days from now for the 2011 NFL Draft you are going to be settled around your HD Flat Screen or at a local bar on an uncomfortable stool surrounded by comforting waitstaff serving watered down draft beer as you watch the Houston Texans select their team's next player. Don't believe me? To quote John Bender (John Hughes fan---sue me!), "I'll bet you a million dollars you are."

But before the draft you will be showing your friends your original formula for analysis of the athleticism of this year's rookie class, based on what you saw at the combine in Indy. So, while some may point to this weekend as the end of the 2010 season, you and I know it's really just the beginning of the continuation of the glorious continuum that is the NFL circle of life!

So put on the most garish garment of your local lanes' wardrobe and yell like there's no tomorrow for a "7 - 10 Split", because we're going Super-Bowling for Combine!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Who's Ready for Skeeters?!!!!!!

Around these parts, the arrival of the pesky pest we affectionately or otherwise lazily refer to as a "Skeeter" is a necessary if unpleasant accompaniment we begrudgingly accept with the all-too-welcomed advent of Spring. All you need then is the sweet smell of freshly cut grass and the unmistakable sensation of sound that is the "Crack!" of a wood bat laid between the seams of a fastball.

Thanks to the City of Sugar Land, soon we'll have both! The arrival of Skeeters in Spring 2012 will mean it is time for professional baseball and affordable family fun. This vision was not without early hurdles. Sugar Land knew that Major League Baseball's Houston Astros would never have approved of any affiliated team in the Greater Houston area. So the SW suburb had to consider teams from independent leagues.

Originally, after Sugar Land residents voted for the allocation of civic revenues towards the construction of a new baseball park, the former Omaha Royals were interested in packing up and heading on south to our fair part of the country. That resulted in Omaha doing what was necessary to keep their team in the form of construction of Warner Park.

Sugar Land then looked eastward to the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball, modelled after the success of the Pacific Coast League but with facilities in excess of those of AAA baseball. The ALPB requires that markets be able to sustain a stadium of between 4,000-7,500 seats. Sugar Land contracted Opening Day Partners to construct state of the art StarTex Power Field as the team's home field because of their reputation for construction of high caliber stadiums. StarTex will seat 7,500 for baseball (expandable to 10,000) and can be used in alternate configurations for other events including football, soccer, lacrosse, cheerleading, band competitions, concerts, group outings and scout sleepovers.

With their amazing stadium's construction under way, Sugar Land was still considering membership in leagues like the American Association and the United Baseball league, because both organizations had teams located in Texas. However, they eventually decided on the ALPB in part because Opening Day Partners' other teams were already members. Sugar Land's entry into the Atlantic League was formally announced on May 18, 2010.

The Sugar Land Skeeters, the first of a planned four to six team Western Division, is the latest team in the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball and the only team in the league that plays outside what is referred to as the Northeast megalopolis. They start "taking hacks" at professional baseball April 2012.

Who's ready for Skeeters?!!!!!!

Big Play Scoring

Have you ever wondered why a 17-14 game can be infinitely more compelling than a 27-24 game? How is it that the game with less points can be immeasurably more entertaining to watch, while the contest with more points can manage to be slightly more boring than watching paint dry?

I have the answer! Due to popular demand and a national uprising regarding the nuts, bolts, and inner workings of the concept that is "Big Play Scoring", I am providing you with the previously proprietary analysis of football games.

The next time you watch a football game, score "Big Plays" of both teams and keep a running total of the tally of Big Play Points vs. Scoreboard Points at each score and at the end of each period. At the conclusion of the contest, it is the team with the most Big Play Points that will prevail on the scoreboard. Interestingly enough, Big Play Points totals will tell a more accurate story of how close or lopsided, entertaining or boring, the game really was.

Here's how you do it:

The offense, defense, and special teams are awarded the number of points specified below for achievement of the corresponding "Big Play". Remember, no "doubling up" on's one or the other, though you should choose the "Big Play Points" award that grants the most points. For example, a gain of 40+ yards on First Down would not get 1 Point for going "First Down to First Down" and 2 Points for a "Gain of 40+ yards". You would award just the two points for the offense having gained 40+ yards.

Also, we have to have strict adherence to the rules of Big Play Scoring. A gain of 10 yards on First Down would garner a point because it results in going "First Down to First Down". On any other down, there must be a gain of at least 20 yards to get points. For example, a gain of 19 yards on 2nd or 3rd down would not be awarded points, and it only would deserve points on 4th Down if it resulted in a "4th Down Conversion".

On some occassions, both teams can score Big Play Points on the same play: If an offensive unt in the Red Zone is held to a Field Goal, they would get 1 Point for having scored, but the defensive unit would also be awarded 1 Point for having held their opponent in the Red Zone to only a Field Goal.

Pay attention to the Big Play Scoring rules. You should understand, for example, that a failed Onside Kick attempt that is recovered beyond the 50-yard line (as, of course, is likely by very definition of a failed Onside Kick attempt) would count as 1 Big Play Point because it is in effect the Special Teams returning (recovering) a Punt/Kickoff beyond the 50-yard line.

Here's the official rules for Big Play Scoring:


Points & Play Description

1 First Down to First Down
1 Gain of 20+ yards
1 Field Goal
1 4th Down Conversion
2 Gain of 40+ yards
2 Touchdown
2 2-Point Conversion
3 Touchdown of 50+ yards


Points & Play Description

1 Sack
1 Forced Punt
1 Hold Opponent to Red Zone Field Goal
1 Fumble Recovery
1 Interception
2 Forced Turnover on Downs
2 Fumble Recovery in/returned to Red Zone
2 Interception in/returned to Red Zone
2 Safety
3 Defensive Touchdown

Special Teams

Points & Play Description

1 Punt/Kickoff Return Team Pinned inside 5-yard line
1 Punt/Kickoff Return Team returns ball beyond the 50-yard line
2 Punt/Kickoff Return Team returns ball to Red Zone
2 Onside Kickoff Executed Successfully
3 Punt/Kickoff Return for a touchdown

Remember, points earned are points kept. No play, no matter how boneheaded, results in Big Play Points being subtracted.

For oficial "Big Play Tracker" and "Big Play Data Input" sheets, just e-mail a request to to begin your fun with Big Play Scoring!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Super Bowl Prediction

The last time the Packers and Steelers played it was their one meeting in 2009, during the regular season at Heinz Field on December 20th.

The game featured a total of 52 big plays that were nicely sprinkled around just under 900 yards passing by Aaron Rodgers (383) and Ben Roethlisberger (503) to 7 receivers each!

But we saw this past weekend in the NFL's Conference Championship Games that while Green Bay is still about making big plays, Pittsburgh is content to grind out long, clock-eating drives. The Steelers' 14 big plays against the Jets this past weekend pale to the 29 they had against Green Bay's 23 a year ago. But the Packers' 36 big plays against the Bears last weekend shows a team that is ramping up their firepower both offensively and defensively.

So that's what this Super Bowl is going to be about: A Mike Tomlin strategy to instead of winning a barn burner of a shootout against Mike McCarthy like he did with his 37-36 victory last season, grinding out a victory with methodically executed extended offensive drives captained by his reliable quarterback. After all, Pittsburgh's defense, though diminished in their impact by an achilles' heel injury-hampered Troy Polamalu, will not have to worry about stopping the firepower of Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense if they are not on the field.

So, while Aaron Rodgers and his arsenal of offensive weaponry are capable of amazing productivity, look to the Steelers to do what is necessary to keep them on the sidelines. In a Super Bowl that all but Pittsburgh fans will call one of the most boring in recent memory, the Packers will fall to the Steelers 23 - 10.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Bears and Jets fall to the Big Plays of Packers and Steelers

I hope you've had your fill of irrelevant analysis of yesterday's conference championships, because I have a tasty tray of the most delectable delicacy of information for you describing why the teams that won were victorious.

It's quite simple, really...they made Big Plays, and their opponents did not.

You tell me who you think wins a contest when for the first half of the game the Green Bay Packers make 3 times as many big plays as the Chicago Bears, who then have to play catch up with a 3rd string quarterback you've never heard of, but for some reason reminds you of the character with a funny voice from the golden age of television's Green Acres!

Leading up to the game, you knew it was imperative that Jay Cutler deliver an at least semi-decent effort. Perhaps if Chicago's special teams could on occasion give him a short field with which to work, or otherwise provide its own magic, the Bears might stand a chance. But the special teams unit of the Monsters of the Midway was frightening only to their own fans. Devon Hester may be ridiculous, but he was ineffective. Consider in comparison that Green Bay's special teams had three big plays to go along with Aaron Rodgers' veritable clinic of how to advance a ball down the field at will.

The Jets had only three big plays by half-time at Heinz Field to Pittsburgh's ten. Despite having scored nine points in just under five minutes via a safety and touchdown, because they had earlier spent nearly half of the final period to then fail to score any points in the Red Zone, there was too little time remaining to overcome what would prevail to be a final score of 24-19.

In the battle of big plays, both conference championships were one-sided. The Bears fell to the Packers the way a flashlight pales in comparison to the sun, and the Jets were outdone by the Steelers the way a lawnmower would be overwhelmed by an industrial diesel engine: No contest!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

One if by Land, Two if by Sea, Three if no We

Because you are a fan of the Paper Texan, you already know that "the thrilling experience of victory in competition is necessarily preceded by the genuine satisfaction that comes from having prepared for it." That's the kind of genius you usually can't get without shelling out $40-$50 for an excellent book on leadership in the NFL along the lines of "Coaching Matters", a wonderful read that recounts the qualities in common of great coaches in the history of, say it like Cosell, the National Football League.

Of late especially, one Bill Belichick has been figuratively fitted for his tuxedo for induction into the fictitious Hall of Fame of Coaches based on both his style and perhaps directly resulting successes in New England. And in the face of the Rex Ryan-led Jets' antithesis of the Foxborough Format made famous by the current regime, the Patriots blinked at the challenge to their once impenetrable fortress of singularly stodgy, stuffy, and sterile solitude of silence.

One by one, the Patriots' stars fell prey to the prank of participation in the school yard-styled slings of insults and cat calls, some even then falling under the wrath of Coach Belichick who briefly benched warrior and Tom Brady's Novacek-esque security blanket Wes Welker.

Athletes, especially great receivers, rely not only on the continuity and sacred system of repetition of preparation for games, they require it for anything close to the kind of performance necessary for contribution to a win in the NFL Playoffs.

Some may point to the players who blinked and lost focus by being engaged in the theatrical, if immature and tiring, distractions of the New York Jets. But I say it was Belichick himself. By benching Welker, Belichick threw Welker off of his game, and by the time he entered the contest, he was not the same player to whom we have grown accustomed. Uninspired route running, failed execution, and even dropped touchdown passes. Does that sound like the Wes Welker you know?

For the week leading up to the game, the Jets spoke of how "We were going to..." such and such, and the Patriots spoke of how they as individuals reacted. And Belichick divided his team and its talents even further.

Who would have thought Belichick being referenced by "Coaching Matters" would be a cautionary tale of the importance of not just keeping your team's head in the game, but as its leader, your own as well.

Monday, January 17, 2011

New York Jets' Glitter is Fools' Gold, and Bears Town Will Shy from Challenge

To quote Marshall Mathers..."Snap, Back to Reality"

The Houston Texans are out, and only teams vying for post-season glory remain. Let's stop cryin', lyin', and dyin' about what could have been, and instead talk intelligently about those who have earned a right to be in that conversation.

How funny is it that one of the two lanes on the road to the Superbowl goes through Chicago because after a BYE-week the Bears were able to pound at Soldier Field a Seattle Seahawks playoff team with a regular-season losing record? They now will host a suddenly healthy, resurgent, capable and dangerous Green Bay Packers team next week at the NFC Championship for their second chance at the Lombardi Trophy in 4 years.

And how peculiar is it that second year quarterback Mark Sanchez is returning to the AFC Championship in as many years, the Jets needing one more post-season road victory as they visit Pittsburgh after winning on the road both in Indy and then at Foxboro? Weird, right? Rex Ryan writing "Superbowl Bound" on Mort & Adam's Training Camp RV seems a little less delusional that it did a few weeks ago when the Patriots trounced the Jets 45 - 3, doesn't it? Nonetheless, the blue-collar Steelers will prevail over the glitz of the sons of Broadway Joe.

Green Bay and Aaron Rogers will bring Chicago down to earth with a thud - "Whoops, there goes gravity!" - and Pittsburgh will unapologetically ruin Fireman Ed's cheer at Heinz Field.

The Packers and Steelers will achieve the honor of representing the NFL in this year's Superbowl, with Cheese Country finally exercising the ghost of Brett Favre with their new franchise quarterback Aaron Rogers who takes home the MVP award for the game.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Disappointing Season Leaves Players Feeling Accountable

The Houston Texans' second win in their last ten attempts rang hollow as they persevered over the Jacksonville Jaguars 34 - 17 at Reliant Stadium to close out the franchise's ninth season at 6 - 10. Like the only other win in the better part of the last three months, this one also came against a team that was without key starters. Jacksonville's quarterback David Garrard (IR-finger) and electric running back Maurice Jones-Drew (knee) were both sidelined by injuries.

As the curtain falls again on yet another disappointing season, there was not a player in the locker room who failed to put the responsibility on themselves and each other. Although the Texans are sending three players to the Pro Bowl in Hawaii, they once again are ineligible for post-season competition. Now five-time recipient of the award Andre Johnson told me, "We just have to look at ourselves in the mirror as players to figure out how to fix what went wrong."

The truth of the matter is the blame is to be shared by the front office and coaching staff as well. Official word is still not available on whether or not Head Coach Gary Kubiak will return for a sixth season, or if Rick Smith will retain his tenure as General Manager. Together they negotiatied the team's first losing season since 2006 when they also finished at 6 - 10.

The Texans served a cold dish of revenge to the Jaguars for their Hail Mary in Jacksonville that many point to as the tipping point for the free-fall death spiral from which the team could never recover. In the press conference after the game, Gary Kubiak was asked if he was glad the season was over. He responded, "Shoot no, I want to keep playing, keep coaching."

An announcement as to whether or not that will indeed occur with this team is expected later today.