Draft Day

draftday

The first NFL draft I can remember watching in its entirety was in 1991. My Los Angeles Rams had just come off their worst season in almost a decade and they had the 5th pick in the draft. The Dallas Cowboys were picking first, still collecting a bonanza from the trade of Herschel Walker, and they took a defensive tackle named Russell Maryland. The buzz in the room, and the anticipation at the podium, was intoxicating.

The Rams selected a cornerback – they needed a cornerback! – named Todd Lyght. Todd Lyght would go on to play for the Rams in Los Angeles and in St Louis for the next ten years, winning a Super Bowl with the team following the 1999 season. He was also named an all-pro that same year, and I watched the very moment he walked to the podium. I’ve watched every Ram walk to the podium since.

By and large the Rams haven’t been very good at this. The names have been luminary, and low. For every Jerome Bettis there was a Trung Candidate; for every Isaac Bruce there was a Lawrence Phillips. Many of the players the Rams selected — like Bettis, Sean Gilbert, Wayne Gandy, and Eddie Kennison – went on to find success on other teams.

But I watch nonetheless.

I watch every player in the first round step up to that podium. I imagine the possibilities, I critique the fit, and I celebrate the perceived winners and pan the perceived losers. The offseason, for me, is as exciting as the regular season in many ways, and the NFL draft is the Super Bowl of the offseason.

Tomorrow night is draft night, 2016. This will be the 25th consecutive 1st round that I have watched and my Los Angeles Rams, through hook and crook, have secured the 1st pick in the draft.

I’m pretty damn excited about that.

The Rams need a quarterback and there are two good ones available. All indications are that Carson Wentz, out of North Dakota, is going to the be the better one but the Rams are dead set on getting the other one, Jared Goff.

With the first pick in the draft the Rams will select the 2nd best QB.

I told you they weren’t very good at this.

But with that “hay in the barn,” as Rams General Manager Les Snead said recently, I’ll sit back, accept the pick, root for him like crazy, and enjoy the rest of the show. The future of the NFL will walk to the podium 31 times on Thursday night, and I can’t wait.

Incidentally, I do about a dozen mock drafts every year. Mock drafts are stupid. They’re speculative. They’re a waste of time and the finished result of all the hard work and preparation never amounts to a hill of beans. They’re dumb.

So here’s mine. 😉

Enjoy … and thanks for reading!

    1. Rams – Jared Goff (QB, Cal)
      • I believe Carson Wentz will be the better player, but Goff is better right now. Rams play it safe.
    2. Eagles – Carson Wentz (QB, North Dakota State)
      • Philly wins the sweepstakes; pays less and get the better prospect.
    3. Chargers – Laremy Tunsil (OT, Ole Miss)
      • A lot of talk about trading back, or taking CB Jalen Ramsey, but Tunsil is the best player in the draft at a position San Diego seriously needs to upgrade.
    4. Cowboys – Jalen Ramsey (DB, Florida State)
      • Ramsey can play corner or safety, and play either rather well. He’s been projected as high as the 1st pick in the draft, and that’s rare for a defensive back.
    5. Jaguars – Myles Jack (LB, UCLA)
      • The Jaguars have to improve their front seven, so Bosa is also a good possibility here. But Jack is a difference maker and too good to pass up, even with the injury concern.
    6. Ravens – Joey Bosa (DE, Ohio State)
      • The first order of business for the Ravens… rebuild the defense.
    7. 49ers – DeForest Buckner (DL, Oregon)
      • San Francisco is still reeling from all the defections on their defense, and they’ll need to address that. Buckner is a talent that can rotate all along the line.
    8. Browns – Ezekiel Elliot (RB, Ohio State)
      • I believe they will trade down again with Paxton Lynch as the target, but Elliot is probably the pick in this spot either way.
    9. Buccaneers – Vernon Hargreaves III (CB, Florida)
      • This fit is almost too good to believe. Is there anybody not projecting VHIII to Tampa?
    10. Giants – Ronnie Stanley (OT, Notre Dame)
      • Teams with Ereck Flowers from last year to provide a decade of protection.
    11. Bears – Shaq Lawson (DE, Clemson)
      • They are really wishing Stanley had slipped one more spot, but since he didn’t the Bears will settle for an upgrade on the other side of the line.
    12. Saints – Sheldon Rankins (DT, Louisville)
      • New Orleans needs help in the middle on both sides of the ball.
    13. Dolphins – Jack Conklin (OT, Michigan State)
      • Conklin will project as a guard for Miami, where they are in sore need of bodies.
    14. Raiders – Leonard Floyd (OLB, Georgia)
      • Oakland needs linebackers that can cover and rush the passer. Floyd can do both.
    15. Titans – Taylor Decker (OT, Ohio State)
      • Tennessee traded out of the Tunsil sweepstakes, and traded too far down to score Stanley or Conklin. They must reach for Decker here and solve their tackle problem.
    16. Lions – Laquon Treadwell (WR, Ole Miss)
      • Megatron must be replaced. Treadwell ran a slower than expected 40 and slipped right into Detroit’s hands. If any of the OT’s slip, though, they’ll take one of them.
    17. Falcons – Darron Lee (OLB, Ohio State)
      • Atlanta will need offensive weapons in the coming rounds, but will take the 4.4 speed linebacker here to improve that defense.
    18. Colts – Ryan Kelly (C, Alabama)
      • Fixing the o-line is priority one; Indianapolis must keep Andrew Luck upright.
    19. Bills – Robert Nkemdiche (DL, Ole Miss)
      • Mario Williams was a disappointment on defense, and Rex Ryan is all about defense.
    20. Jets – Paxton Lynch (QB, Memphis)
      • If the Browns don’t trade back and scoop this kid, the Jets will be overjoyed.
    21. Redskins – Reggie Ragland (ILB, Alabama)
      • Or DT Jarran Reed. The middle of the defense must be improved.
    22. Texans – Corey Coleman (WR, Baylor)
      • Houston needs help almost everywhere on offense. Coleman is a perfect fit.
    23. Vikings – Josh Doctson (WR, TCU)
      • Will Fuller is also an option here, but another offensive weapon is needed.
    24. Bengals – A’Shawn Robinson (DT, Alabama)
      • Missing out on the two WRs above turns into a boon; DT is a much bigger need in Cincinnati.
    25. Steelers – Eli Apple (CB, Ohio State)
      • The secondary is atrocious. Apple is the perfect ingredient to fix that.
    26. Seahawks – Germain Ifedi (OT, Texas A&M)
      • Jason Spriggs is another option here. Seattle must rebuild their offensive line.
    27. Packers – Jarran Reed (DT, Alabama)
      • Although linebacker is a bigger concern, the talent here is too much to pass up.
    28. Chiefs – William Jackson (CB, Houston)
      • He’ll team with Marcus Peters to solidify the corners.
    29. Cardinals – Mackensie Alexander (CB, Clemson)
      • Arizona can take a wait-and-see approach and take the best corner or lineman available.
    30. Panthers – Jason Spriggs (OT, Indiana)
      • The tackles were exposed in the Super Bowl. Spriggs falls into their lap.
    31. Broncos – Connor Cook (QB, Michigan State)
      • Barring a trade up to get Lynch, Denver picks the 4th best QB in the draft. If Cook doesn’t pass the leadership test for Elway, then DE Dodd or Spence will go here.

Only 31 picks in the first round this year, because the Patriots forfeited their pick over the deflate-gate scandal. Air pressure matters.

Again, thanks for reading, and enjoy the draft!

Tavern Philosophy: Rethinking the Minimum Wage

pub thinking

Last night over a beer I had a partial conversation with a friend about the effects of the minimum wage increase. It was a partial conversation because it was being discussed in the larger context of how busy the work day was, how much we love cheese sticks, and how steep a price the Philadelphia Eagles paid to move up to #2. In short, we touched the bare surface of the debate.

But my short response to the $15 minimum wage was this: I’m for it.

He had brought it up because there is some early evidence that Seattle’s job force has been affected detrimentally by the increase they passed last year. There is some evidence, as well, that jobs will be lost in the clothing and food sector in California as the wage increase goes into effect. UC Berkeley has reportedly cut some 500 jobs already in response to the bill. Hard to know how much of that is connected to minimum wage increases, but it is something to keep an eye on.

Here’s what we do know: we know that over the course of the last 40 years or so the minimum wage, and the wages of all lower and middle class workers, has stalled. In many cases and in many industries real wages have actually fallen. Fallen.

“Real wages,” by the way, is an economic term that essentially means wages in comparison to inflation. It reflects on how much buying power you have with the wages you receive. $4 an hour, for example, had the same buying power in 1973 as about $22.50 an hour would buy today.

The conversation, as brief as it was last night, prompted me to wake up, pour coffee, and research the heck out of the topic. I learned some things. I learned that minimum wage in 1973 was about a buck-sixty and would be about $10.50 today if tied to inflation. I think it would be the rare bird that would argue with at least a $10.50 minimum wage today. But inflation is hardly the only index to tie wages to. If tied to worker productivity – the amount of output a worker can produce in one hour, comparatively – the minimum wage today would be around $22 an hour.

In other words, the minimum value of the American worker has increased at more than twice the pace of their salary.

Look, we all know where all the money goes by now. As American productivity has increased the wages for top earners have reached astronomical levels while the wages for average Americans have stagnated or decreased.  Corporate profits have soared, at far past the adjusted levels of both inflation and productivity. The American elite took your gains. Thank you for all your hard work.

So, yeah, I’m for an increase in the minimum wage. It’s the least we can do for the least among us. Give some back. But that is not the solution. It’s a strike against the establishment, but it is not the solution.

Had my conversation continued with my friend I would have laid some of this down, and more. I would have talked not only about the living wage and the inequality in America but about the automation of basic services. I would have talked about a basic income for everyone. I would have talked about the leisure life that is, or should be, coming for all Americans, and for all people in the democratic world.

My friend told me that companies in Seattle are replacing human workers with machines. I’ve been hearing how this is coming for years, and there is evidence that half of all American workers will be replaced by automatons in the coming decades. There is evidence that nearly half the workforce could be replaced by robots now. My answer to the automated services in Seattle was … “good.”

We need to move beyond the work-for-pay epoch of American life, anyway. We need to end wage slavery.

We didn’t get that far in the conversation, we were distracted by group texts, refills, salad dressings and those belly laughs that make midweek beer-stops in local taverns so worthwhile. I didn’t mind that; I never do.

But I’m grateful for the conversation, however brief, because it got me to think. It got me to pull up facts, to read more from both sides, and to burst through once again to the larger truth. I’ve been telling everyone who will listen that a $15 minimum wage is good, but I always forget to finish the sentence. It’s good, but it is not good enough. It won’t level the playing field. It won’t end the horror of abusive inequality. It won’t end the reign of the almighty dollar. It won’t even come close.

But do it anyway. At best, it gives some form of living wage to the slaves of society. At worst, it reveals the flaws that remain in the system and we’ll have to rise up even bolder to fix them.

A $15 minimum wage is just a band-aid. But when you’re bleeding and you have to do something to stop it, sometimes a band-aid will do. Let’s put a band-aid on the problem, then, order another round, and talk about real solutions to all of society’s ills.

And while you’re at it pass the cheese sticks. I love cheese sticks.

For Love

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Our lives are so complicated. The world is all expectations and it is easy in the hustle and bustle to lose ourselves, to become something other than genuine. I have, in many times past, lost myself to the distractions of life, lost my way – if I ever truly had one – and wandered far afield of my path. One thing has always brought me back.

Love.

Today is April 17, 2016, and the person that means more to me than any in this world is turning 41.

To celebrate, me and this amazing group of people we are somehow lucky enough to call our friends threw her a surprise party. She was stunned. She thought for all the world that she was going to the party of another friend. Whenever she suspected, I deflected. “It’s not always about you, baby, we have to be there for others. We’ll make it up to you after.” I am the devil.

But it worked.

For the last twenty-some-odd years of my life there has been a constant, this thing called love that saves me and breaks me in equal and powerful measures; this woman that humbles me and empowers me like no force on Earth. I cannot imagine a single step in my journey without her.

If I had to do it all again I would change almost nothing, except somehow find a way to be a better man to my wife. I would remember more things that I had forgotten, concede more victories that I have won, create more moments of sheer exhilaration like the one I saw last night on her face, when she saw the truth. I would never miss an opportunity to make her feel unique. To make her feel cherished.

The beauty of life is that it goes on. All the promises we never kept can be made again. All the love we left unattended can be regarded going forth. I vow to do that very thing, to make me worthy of the love she gives. I truly hope that I am.

Happy Birthday, Mrs C. Happy Birthday, Suzie Cummings. Happy Birthday, love of my life. Today I am your servant, and I am your servant for every day that comes.

Thank you.

Thank you, most of all, for love.

Hollywood or Bust

wentz

Once the move to Los Angeles was finalized the Rams needed to make a big splash. They just did.

I figured that meant going out and signing RGIII, or trading for Colin Kaepernick, or even trying to lure that Manning guy out of retirement. I didn’t see this coming; I didn’t see this coming at all.

This morning, a long time high school buddy of mine hit my Facebook wall with a stunning bit of (I figured) false news.

“The Rams just picked up the #1 pick from the Titans!”

No way, I said. For real, I asked?

For real.

I was in the middle of my daily journal entry and no force on Earth is allowed to interrupt that. The wife knows. The dogs know. The mother-in-law knows. Tom is writing, do not disturb. But something about that chime on my phone made me look. I took a glance. My jaw dropped.

I apologized to my journal and wrote a quick blurb like, “sorry, the Rams just traded for the #1 pick; I gotta go.” I think it’ll understand. I write a lot about the Rams in my journal.

Signing off of penzu.com – incidentally the greatest online journal thing I’ve ever seen – I immediately typed in nfl.com. I love the modern age. I went from online, encrypted journaling to social media glancing to headline football news in approximately twenty-eight seconds. The only lag time there was for a sip of coffee.

And there it was, big and bold. The headline wasn’t in bold but the move was as bold as they come. The Rams gave up 2-1sts, 2-2nds, and 2-3rds over the next two years to move up 14 spots and lay claim to the first overall pick in the 2016 draft. That’s the splash I was talking about. They dove in steep and they dove in deep.

The next thing I did is go figure out which QB was the target. The kid from Cal, Jared Goff, has gotten a lot of attention the last couple of years, but the other kid – from the small college – has been rising up the ranks like crazy lately. That kid, they say, is the target.

On April 28th, 2016, just two weeks from today, Carson Wentz, the big kid with the big arm from North Dakota State, is going to be the 1st overall pick in the NFL draft. He’s going to be a Los Angeles Ram. He’s going to be the first Los Angeles Ram ever chosen in the new era of Los Angeles football. There’s going to be a lot riding on him. No pressure. From Bismarck to Fargo to Hollywood. No pressure.

The word on Wentz is that he’s super-smart, really athletic, has a strong, accurate arm, and a good presence in the pocket. The word, too, is that he’s a good kid, without a lot of baggage.

Nobody knows if he’s the next Manning or the next Leaf. Nobody knows if the Rams just traded up for John Elway or sold the farm for Robert Griffin. All we know is the team that finally made it home this offseason just made the move of the offseason. Hollywood is in the headlines again. Feast or famine, these guys are going for broke. They invested heavily. They went for a blockbuster.

But isn’t that what Hollywood is all about?

The Best Thing I Do All Week

pen and paper

Since my last entry, nearly a week ago, I’ve been spending as much of my free time as possible researching phrases like “how to make money blogging.” It’s exhausting. I’ve absorbed thousands of words on the subject and learned about sites such as leavingworkbehind.com, problogger.net and minterest.org – resources I knew nothing about before. I feel alternately ready to dive into the world of professional writing at this very moment … and then suddenly light years away.

I feel confident in my ability to write; I’ve always felt I had a knack. I feel confident that there is an abundance of opportunity out there for a man like me to make a living turning words into phrases, phrases into sentences, sentences into paragraphs and paragraphs into content. I’m not afraid to do the work. I love to write. What I am afraid of – if afraid is the right word – is stampeding ingloriously down the wrong path. I tend to go into whatever I go into with guns blazing; I always go all-in at the poker table way too soon. I’m a gambler. I’m willing to bet it all on a single play. I can’t afford to do that here. Can I?

As the weeks stretch forward into months I have an image in the back of my head of me quitting my job and writing full-time by 50. I’m 47 for a few more months so I’ve given myself plenty of time to master my craft, focus my intentions, and pick the right path. Plenty of time. The only problem with that is that the further I get down this road the more and more I want to just … write.

Just. Write.

This is my 12th entry into tombeingtom.com and I’ve tried to space out each installment so as not to wear out the welcome. But here’s the dirty little secret … the moment I close one page I long to open another. I could post daily. I could post twice daily. This is the most enjoyable thing I do, all week long.

That is both the most satisfying and frightening thing I’ve written since January 21st, the day I decided to blog.

I know 100% that I am on the right track in my search for my one big thing. My career in sales, these last 12 years, is about to go the way of my career in landscaping the previous 12. I’ve put in as much time as I care into both of those vocations. I gave them my due diligence. I’m not that person anymore.

I’m a writer now.

At least, that’s what I hope I am.

The words “don’t quit your day job” just went through your head, and they went through mine, too. I know that because I’m psychic; writing is a form of mind-reading. Stephen King, in his memoir “On Writing” said that writing is telepathy. We put words on paper and transfer the thoughts in our heads straight into yours. It’s the only Stephen King book I’ve ever read, and that feels like a pity. I’ll fix that.

I intend to read more than I’ve ever read before, these coming months. I intend to write more than I’ve ever written. I intend to start making money doing it. I intend to keep my day job, because I’m also a rational human being with an addiction to eating and drinking beer. Some things you can’t give up.

I can see a day on the horizon, however, where I go all-in. Where I leave work behind. Where I become a pro blogger. Where I just … write.

And that is the most satisfying and frightening thing I have EVER said.

How I Became a Rams Fan

vinceWhen I was a kid I had no interest in sports. While my brother and the other neighborhood kids were playing touch football in the streets, or wiffle baseball in the Wheelers’ driveway, I was pretending to be Captain America or Captain Kirk or, occasionally, Heath Barkley. I would run around with some prop in my hand or the lid of a metal garbage can and I would make up stories with setups, confrontations, and resolutions and just have fun by myself. I was always the hero.

But, on occasion, the kids across the street needed an extra body to make it even teams and they would call out to Tommy to come play. Even if I didn’t really want to I always would because my brother was three years older than me, much bigger than me, and a whole lot meaner than me. I couldn’t tell him no. I mean that. I really couldn’t. Not without bruises.

I wasn’t very good at hitting the wiffle ball, or catching a fly ball, or anything that had to do with touch football, but I ended up having a good time sometimes. As I got older I played a little more but I don’t remember if that was because I started to like it or if maybe someone moved away and I was all they had left. Either way, I came to enjoy the comedy of it and the other kids started to laugh at my self-deprecation. I never really got made fun of by others because I was too good at doing that myself. I learned to be clever instead of athletic.

I got a lot of flak, though, because I didn’t watch sports. I didn’t know anyone in baseball at all. I knew Merlin Olsen from Little House on the Prairie. I knew Fran Tarkenton from That’s Incredible!

So when I got asked who my favorite player was or who my favorite team was I deferred the question or responded in some smart-ass way like “well, I like Iron Man more than Green Lantern but not as much as the Hulk.” Almost everyone but my brother would laugh; my brother would give me a bruise. We played on.

When no one was looking sometimes I would, however, peruse all the colorful football helmets and remember being impressed by two of them: the Rams one reminded me of the mask of Goliath, one of my favorite childhood superheroes, and the Chargers one reminded me of Garth Ranzz.

One day, the kids would not let up about naming a favorite team. I don’t remember which friends were being particular asses about it – or how old I was exactly when it happened – I only remember they wouldn’t proceed with the game until I gave them an answer. I was stuck. Space Giants was coming on in twenty minutes; I had to get the game over.

I asked the others who their favorite teams were. Mind you, we lived in Central California and we were playing street football in the suburbs of Salinas so San Francisco was only 100 miles away.

“The 49ers!” most of them replied. They thought they had a convert, I’m sure.

“And who do the 49ers hate most?” I asked. I honestly didn’t know.

“The Rams!” they shouted.

Perfect, I thought. Goliath colors.

“Then I am a Rams fan.”

It stuck. Over the course of the next several months, or years – who knows – I added the Dodgers from LA (because SF fans hated them, too) and the Lakers from Los Angeles because, by that time, I was LA all the way. It was still several years, though, before I actually watched any of them play a game. It was a good decade before I came to enjoy sports at all.

Today I do. I love the game of football, to nobody’s surprise. I still get asked today how the hell I became a Rams fan and I enjoy telling the story. I’m a Rams fan out of spite. Or, at least, that’s how it started. I’m a Rams fan today because I’ve always been one. Isn’t that how it works?

Tim

This morning I woke up to the bitter news that a friend had passed. I don’t know the circumstances of his passing, only that one day he was doing the things he loved best — bowling and laughing with friends — and the next day he was gone. I’ve heard rumors of heart failure, which can strike in an instant. If older than me, this friend was not by much. It is alarming.

To know this man you would know that he had a heart of pure gold, and was always there with a quick wry comment and always willing to pitch in. He had a big, strong smile that would make his eyes squint. He got the jokes, and I could often hear him laugh at things I said from two lanes away. He was one of the select few that would stop at my work to say hi just because he was driving by. It is a pity that the weavers of destiny do not take into account “nice guy” when they decide your fate.

To hear of the passing, to feel the loss, of someone so close to your own inner circle is staggering. He was only one lane over in my journey of life and maybe two cars ahead. To take that curve and see the wreckage is a warning to me, I know. The warning isn’t to beware death or live cautiously in the slower lane but to live fully, to accelerate through the curves, and keep a big, strong smile to share every day. Life is too short, by far.

I don’t know when the end will come for me. Nobody does. I don’t know what happens after. Nobody does. I can only hope that the hereafter is a place of peace, in whatever form that takes. I hope that our memories live on somehow, but if they do not it becomes all the more crucial to hold the memories of those fallen in our own hearts and to share their stories compassionately.

In some cases that just comes naturally. This is just such a case. Farewell, my friend. Keep the heavens smiling; and teach the angels to bowl.