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.