Monthly Archives: November 2014

My Name is Jonas (Gray)

jonas-gray

Happy Monday everyone. In honor of Jonas Gray’s 199 yard and 4 touchdown performance against the Colts last night, I present the following clip.

(Although If there was a Weezer song about elite offensive line play, I probably would have gone with that instead.)

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True Story Time: Randy Moss at Dave and Buster’s

I saw Randy Moss at a Dave and Buster’s in Providence, Rhode Island in March of 2013.  A good twenty percent of the clientele at D&B’s that day were wearing some kind of Patriots apparel, but nobody seemed to recognize him. Nobody, that is, except my Brother Dan.

randy on camera

Randy Moss was the subject of “Rand University,” the latest episode of the”30 for 30″ series that aired last night on ESPN. Combined with his job as an analyst on Fox Sports One, it seems that the rehabilitation of the greatest receiver I ever had the privilege to watch is nearly complete. Randy had his troubles and tantrums: some seemed like real dick moves, others were just the sort of things old white men love to complain about. He seemed misanthropic at times, joyfully exuberant at others. But now he has seemed to have slid comfortably into the part of any great athlete’s career when we appreciate him again, the part where we are just far enough away from the inglorious final years that the earth shattering prime is ripe for re-appreciation. He’s comfortable on camera, he’s funny, and he’s pretty charismatic. He still has that edge though, that slight distrust of it all. Even in a suit on a TV set, he’s still exudes a sort of independence and intelligence that most ex-players don’t. He’s still a badass, which is why we were intimidated to approach him at a Dave and Buster’s at noon on a Saturday, and why we certainly don’t have a picture to prove it (I don’t even think I had a smart phone at the time).

Myself, my cousin, and Brother Dan had converged on Providence from throughout the Northeast the previous day to see a Drive-By Truckers show at Lupo’s. After a night of drinking and crashing back at the hotel, we decided we would visit the Dave and Buster’s downtown before heading off in our separate directions. While we were there, shooting baskets at some of the many basketball games, Dan approached me and whispered in my ear.

“Dude, that’s Randy Moss.”

I turned and looked to see a black man, easily the tallest person in the room, wearing a green velour sweatsuit and a black Red Sox hat. He was standing back and watching what had to be eight or nine kids, ranging in age from four or five to sixteen or seventeen. He was the only adult with them all.

God forgive me, I denied it was him at first. “That’s not him,” I said. “Why would he be here? He just played in the Super Bowl like a month ago.”

Then I heard him speak.

“Y’all want to play over here?” he said to some of the children he was shepherding through the Dave and Buster’s. It was the same southern twang I had heard a hundred times in press conferences over the years. I could picture him saying “straight tickets, homie” when getting a stuffed animal before leaving. It was totally him.

We conferred with my cousin, frantically trying to determine what we should do. We shot baskets next to Randy to get a better look, like 12 year-olds trying to figure out a way to talk to girls at the mall. Yes, it was him, unquestionably him.

The place was packed, packed with oblivious New England fans. If we made a big deal in approaching him, it would ruin his day and his outing. We were keepers of a secret. Besides, what were we going to get from him? I’ve never understood people who see a celebrity and need to get a picture. They are like hunters who can’t just appreciate a wild animal without wanting to shoot it.

Also, it really seemed like there was zero chance Randy was letting us take a picture with him. I voted we do nothing.

“One of us has to go talk to him,” Brother Dan implored us.

“I’m telling you right now, I’m not going over there,” my cousin said.

Dan, who was 21 at the time, stood up straight and all 5’6 of him soared majestically toward the ceiling.

“I judge myself on how I respond to moments like these,” he said. “I have to say ‘hi’ to Randy Moss.”

Dan had owned a Vikings Randy Moss jersey when he was seven years old. It was the only non-Boston area jersey I ever remembered seeing in our house. Nobody was happier about Randy coming to the Patriots than Dan.

So cousin Matt came up with a plan: we would give the tickets we had earned that afternoon to one of Randy’s children. It would be a sort of offering. And in that moment, Dan would talk to Randy Moss.

I can’t explain the oceanic divide between how silly this sounds now and how important it seemed at the time, suffice to say that we were brutally hung over from the night before. Dan, unlike my cousin and I, was still young and spry.

“I’m nervous,” Dan said. “Okay.”

Randy was separated from his clan of children and was only with two girls, probably no more than seven years old, at an arcade game. There was no one else in the entire row of games. My cousin and I stood at the end of the row as Dan approached them, paper bucket of unwieldly yellow tickets in hand.

Dan, who was closer in size to the seven-year old in the pink dress than to Randy, approached. Randy stood over them, protectively, with no interest in playing the game himself. Me and my cousin were trying not to stare while straining to hear.

“Do you want my tickets?” Dan asked as he walked by, coolly turning over his shoulder to offer his tickets to the girls, as if he just thought of it, as if he was on the way to toss them in the trash and thought “oh, these girls might want these tickets, I’m sure their dad didn’t make $30 million playing professional football.”

Randy didn’t turn away from the screen of the game one of the girls was playing. He stared straight ahead.

“Say thank you,” he told one of the girls.

“Thank you,” she said.

Dan hesitated. Randy was still still fixated on the screen. He hadn’t turned his head or acknowledged Dan. Dan looked at us, and we looked back, giggling more than any two men in their late twenties should be allowed to do.

“Hey, Randy, I’m, uh, a big fan,” Dan said.

Randy’s eyes did not move off the screen. After the first moment without a response I wondered if he hadn’t heard him. Dan, to his credit, held his ground. Was he not going to respond? Was he really that much of an asshole? Another second passed, with the bells and whistles of video games making the tension even worse than it already was. Dan started to open his mouth again, then closed it. He had said it loud enough. And if it wasn’t Randy, the man in question would’ve turned to look at Dan and evaluate why he was still there, standing over his daughters, calling him Randy. Randy was looking ahead so steadfastly, so complete in his avoidance of my brother, that only a life of celebrity could have trained himself to be so intentionally oblivious to a person two feet away talking directly to him.

Dan began to turn.

And then, eyes still fixated on the screen and his daughter’s score, Randy stuck out his fist at Dan. Dan looked at it for a second, and then his eyes got big as he realized what was happening.

Randy Moss was offering a fist bump.

Dan, as nonchalantly as he could, bumped him back. Randy kept staring at the screen as he slowly put his hand back in his pocket, although I swear I saw a momentary smile crawl across his face before disappearing back into a scowl.

Dan turned and walked toward us. To this day, I don’t really care about not getting a picture with Randy (although for the purposes of this post it would have been nice). No, what I truly wish I had gotten a picture of was the moon-wide, gaping smile my brother burst into after he turned back toward us. He then quickly composed himself and we walked with him away from the aisle, not wanting to attract attention to the man who just a few months before had declared himself the greatest wide receiver of all time.

“Did you see it? Did you see the fist bump?!”

That’s how I will always remember Randy Moss. The guy who brought his kids and their friends to Dave and Buster’s in Providence, Rhode Island (why Providence?) on a Saturday afternoon a month after he played, and was barely used, in his second and last Super Bowl, and who somehow was only recognized by a 21-year-old kid, a kid he reluctantly let touch his hand.

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The Education of Marcus Smart: The “does he know mid-range jumpshots are allowed?” Edition

Marcus Smart’s shot chart looks like he’s been playing NBA Jam, which is a game that already existed when Marcus was born (how old do you feel right now?)

What is missing here?

What is missing here?

Those of us who are old enough to remember NBA Jam and haven’t slipped into senility quite yet will remember that there were really only two shots in that game. There was the three, which you took if you were John Stockton, and there was the dunk, which you threw down from the rafters if you were Karl Malone, because of course you played as the Jazz. You never took jump shots inside the three-point line. With the league now increasingly understanding the value of the three-point shot, and the folly of the long two (with one exception that is a continuing source of personal schadenfreude) more and more teams are playing the NBA Jam style offense: shots are taken either at the rim or from behind the three-point line. Brad Stevens is a staunch proponent of the NBA Jam offense, and that attitude has clearly rubbed off on young Marcus Smart.

Look a that shot chart. Through four games Smart hasn’t taken a shot between 5 and 20 feet from the basket.

Smart has shot poorly so far, but that was sort of to be expected, and given that Avery Bradley has somehow developed into one of the Celtic’s best shooters after starting his career as a pure defender who ran up and down the baseline on offense like he was playing dodgeball, it isn’t necessarily something to worry about. But how high can your shooting percentage be if 21 of your 30  shots are threes? Especially when you aren’t particularly good at shooting threes? Can you really develop much of a shot if you are only shooting threes and layups?

A mid-range pull up, to say nothing of the a well executed floater, is  a prerequisite of good guard play in the NBA. It would be nice to see Marcus shoot this. Of course, I’m not blaming Marcus for this, and this is a crazy small sample. But maybe Brad should let Marcus know that it’s okay to shoot from fifteen feet every now and again?

Kyle Lowry, the patron saint of wide-bodied point guards, torched the Celtics for 35 points last night. He is, at least offensively, who we hope Marcus grows up to be some day. After last night’s game, it was Smart’s roller coast ride of back to back offensive series down the stretch that got all the ink. He hit the big three to tie the game at 105 with just over a minute to play before Lowry picked his pocket to put the Raptors up for good. But what actually won the game was Lowry’s 18 footer with 8 seconds left that put Toronto up by three.

That’s a mid range jumpshot and it’s often all the defense will give a point guard, especially in crunch time, when the defense is taking away the deep ball and moving to help at the rim. It would be nice to see Marcus shoot one. Just once.

 

 

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Peyton Manning is better than Tom Brady…at acting.

It’s Brady vs. Manning XVI in the snow at Foxborough!

This matchup has been broken down from every conceivable angle. Bill Barnwell went back and reviewed every game the two hall-of-fame quarterbacks have played against each other. Bill Simmons argued that Brady is more content to follow his coaches than Peyton because he grew up with older sisters (Simmons was an only child, forgive him for obsessing about siblings). I was going to try and break down today’s game based on each quarterback’s astrological signs (I mean, Peyton Manning is such an Aries, amirite?) but then I remembered that this has all gotten completely out of control and it was up to me to add some levity to all the somber monument constructing that’s been going on this past week. So let’s talk about Brady v. Manning in terms of their secondary careers as professional entertainers.

1. Acting

It’s important to remember that a large part of Peyton’s nerdy populist appeal is his incredible ease in front of the camera. Peyton is equally charming and natural whether he’s forcing a non-existent chemistry with Papa John, or he’s teaching children how to break into a car on SNL. Peyton is so relatable (to unathletic middle-aged white men) in large part because he seems like a regular guy in front of the camera, and because who hasn’t come home from work with a giant red spot on their forehead? Tom Brady has movie star looks but is painfully stilted in commercials and in his interviews he exhibits a friendlier version of Belichick’s “I’m here to talk about the Bears” approach. He’s like Joe Biden without all the gaffes.

Here’s Peyton’s best SNL skit. Notice how it is all Peyton: the camera never leaves him as he plays against type by portraying himself as a merciless sociopath. (wait, is that against type?)

Here’s Brady best SNL skit. It’s funny mostly because Tom doesn’t do much acting and serves as a pretty face. Also, he grabs Amy Poehler’s breast, which is a wonderful moment for me personally, since I love breasts, Tom Brady, and Amy Poehler. Sadly, this is the only remotely watchable clip from Tom’s lone SNL hosting gig in 2005.

http://www.liveleak.com/ll_embed?f=c7afcdc8a78d

2. Dancing

Peyton is also just more at ease with himself and his body than Tom. We can see this by how stupid Peyton’s helmet looks in comparison to Tom’s.

We can also see this when they both dance.

Again, from Peyton’s SNL episode:

Peyton might have had professional dancing instruction, since he was on SNL, which presumably employs professionals who can coach Peyton how to play Will Forte’s leg so expertly.

We should probably judge Peyton by his natural dancing ability, by what he brings when the music starts and he just feels it. 

Actually, they are remarkably similar. Peyton is a bad dancer, but he owns it, like a Dad intent on embarrassing his daughter while chaperoning her middle school dance.

Tom is bad, but it’s his lack of confidence that kills him. He’s confused about what to do with his hands. He has a “am I doing it right?” vibe.

3. Improvising

A good way to judge a professional athlete’s charisma and charm is to see what happens when the questions get weird and the athlete has to turn off the auto-pilot. Tom manages to skillfully take this super weird question, chuckle at it, and still make the cliché work.

Tom remains cordial and even compliments the weird 1920’s reporter guy for the question. That’s a nice piece of improvisation. But Peyton agrees to get interviewed by Will Ferrell in character as Ron Burgundy. He steps into the ring with an improv master, and he holds his own, even when Ron says he looks like a “succulent baby lamb.”

Okay, maybe it wasn’t all improvised.

4. Singing

Brady is on-key, like, most of the time here. I think he did just fine. JUST FINE.

Peyton’s performance here seems better until you remember that Brady was singing LIVE and that Manning probably had Katy Perry-level post production done on his voice to make it sound acceptable.

5. Modeling
This is no contest. Take away things like voice inflection, comedic timing, and natural delivery and make it all a looks contest and Peyton has no chance.

 

tom-brady-stetson-ads-05

 

vs.

peyton pizza

 

Tom modeled the shit out of that picture. Conversely, Papa John looks sexier than Peyton. It’s also worth noting that Peyton has Roger Goodell hair in this picture.

 

Conclusion:

Peyton is better, but only because he has much better weapons than Tom. (Amy Poehler’s SNL era DVOA was actually not that great).

 

 

 

 

 

 

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