The President and the National Anthem

national anthem protests
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

In light of the unfortunate comments the president made last night in Alabama, I thought I’d share a link to my thoughts on the subject from a year ago. To reset the discussion I’ll provide a preface, for those who might need it.

During a preseason NFL game in 2016, the cameras caught Colin Kaepernick, then the QB for the San Francisco 49ers, silently protesting racial injustice in society by sitting during the national anthem. This immediately caught nationwide attention. I was out of town when the news came across my feed so I did not immediately respond. I caught glimpses of supporters and detractors of the action on social media but, again, I was otherwise occupied and, anyway, taking my time to let it sink in. One thing I pride myself in is not having gut-reactions to events.

Last night during a rally in Alabama, Donald Trump called upon the owners in the NFL to fire players who kneel during the national anthem. He chose to call anyone who protests in this manner a “son of a bitch.” Hardly presidential talk, but well within his rights to express. Which is an important distinction, because the right of expression is the very thing at stake here.

My initial reactions are in the link I provided. My thoughts have evolved again, as they should. Colin Kaepernick did not dodge out bounds, but has stood strong in the pocket. Others have joined his crusade. He has proven to be the leader of a peaceable movement of protest. He deserves our applause.

The president, on the other hand, deserves only our disdain on this. I am a big fan of the game of football, and an even bigger fan of the ideals of this nation. Any president who would take a stance against those ideals should be taken to task. Perhaps even fired.

With that, I’ll leave the link to my initial thoughts which, I believe, still largely hold strong. Agree or disagree with a stance, we, as Americans, should support the right to express it. It is, or ought to be, the American way.

Standing Behind the Sitting QB

Football is Back

A little over 36 hours ago, Tom Brady and the Patriots played Alex Smith and the Kansas City Chiefs. It was the opening game of the 2017 NFL season. A little over 24 hours from now, the rest of the games begin. This Sunday everybody but the Saints, Vikings, Broncos, Chargers, Dolphins, and Buccaneers will play. The former four play on Monday night; the latter two had their game moved to December due to the dangers of Hurricane Irma.

This is a pretty exciting weekend.

Football is back.

I love the game of football and have since about the time I fell in love with beer. I didn’t care for either when I was young; my association with both started after high school. That would have been around 1987.

My team, as is widely known, is the Los Angeles Rams. The story of how I became a Rams fan is documented early on in this blog. The briefest synopsis of that story is this: I became a Rams fan out of spite and because of superheroes. Superheroes have played a part in virtually everything I’ve become. It’s probably the only thing I took with me from my youth as I evolved. Cheers to them.

The Los Angeles Rams will be a better team this year. Dumping Jeff Fisher was the first, smart move they made this offseason, and they did it before it even began. Adding Sean McVay, an offensive-minded guru, was a great next step. Surrounding their 2016 #1 overall pick, QB Jared Goff, with an improved offensive line, an upgraded receiving corps, and another weapon at TE in the draft, were even better steps. All we ever asked Jeff Fisher, as fans, was to produce a team that was interesting to watch. Ranking pretty much last in the NFL in offensive production, as they did virtually every year the mustachioed-one coached the team, was as far from that as you can get. This team, this year, could be exciting. Very exciting.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m still predicting 6 wins, 10 losses.

The NFL isn’t easy. Jeff Fisher left Sean McVay a rebuilding project. Jared Goff is young and unproven. The right side of the offensive line is still suspect. Todd Gurley is coming off a disappointing year. The defensive unit is learning a new scheme. It might take time to gel.

If it does gel, quickly, then we’ll see some surprises. The difference between 6-10 and the first winning season since 2003 is only 3 victories. It could happen.

But even if it doesn’t, these Rams will be exciting to watch. They’ll score more points. They’ll play closer, and make more big plays. There will be hope at the end of the season that the playoffs are coming. Soon.

In the meantime, the haves will continue to have. Kansas City is better than advertised, if Thursday was any indication. The Pittsburgh Steelers have a stocked roster and are hungry for a seventh ring. The Dallas Cowboys and Oakland Raiders are on the rise. Seattle and Green Bay are championship contenders again. The Atlanta Falcons may have a better roster than they did a year ago, and they nearly won the Super Bowl. Tom Brady and the New England Patriots can never be counted out.

There are some surprises looming. The Carolina Panthers are only one season removed from a Super Bowl berth, and they still have Cam Newton. The Broncos have had the best defense in the NFL for years, and probably still do. The New York Giants are due another Manning miracle.

Anything is possible.

If I had to guess with my head, I’d say that the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Atlanta Falcons have the best teams in their respective conferences. That’s the smart Super Bowl pick. My heart keeps telling me we’ll see the Dallas Cowboys play the Oakland Raiders. That’s my hunch pick. If it’s the Carolina Panthers and the Kansas City Chiefs, that’s okay, too.

Every game is a great one. Every team has a storyline.

Football is back.

I’m a little excited about that.

Rambling, Man

Football is over.

Well, not forever, but just for the 16-17 season. A few thoughts:

That was such an amazing Super Bowl. I don’t have to tell you that. When the 4th quarter rolled around I turned to a room of 30-40 people and said “anybody here think Tom Brady can’t score three times in the 4th quarter?!” Nobody doubted it. I did. I didn’t think it could really happen. Not in the Super Bowl. Not the way he looked. Impossible. If he isn’t the best QB to ever play the game I don’t know who is. I thought that before this Super Bowl, and I know it now. You do, too.

Kurt Warner was selected to join the luminaries in the Hall of Fame this year. His story is among the best ever told. Rags to riches to unwanted to the Super Bowl with Arizona to the Hall of Fame. I tell my version of his story here, and I defend his induction. I love being a part of CaliSportsNews. I love to write.

In case you missed it, I also wrote about the Rams and Chargers offseasons. I think my next article will take a look at the stadium being built, but I have some other ideas, too. Look for something new around Thursday. I love to write.

I see a lot of mock drafts out there already; it’s too soon, I think. I want to do one but I think it’s just too soon. The draft is April 27th. I’ll do an official one for CaliSports a couple of weeks before that. Really, that’s 6-8 weeks away. Not too far.

Unrelated to football:

Ludo has become an angel. After we brought home the new cage, he just crates right up without question. The other day I took a 10-minute nap at lunchtime (I do that), and when the alarm went off on my phone he jumped up from where he was curled up next to me, ran to his cage, and laid down. No words spoken. He knew my lunch hour was up and I was headed back to work. It’s amazing how a source of such frustration can one day, suddenly, become something so amazing. The light went on. My puppy became a dog.

I don’t like it when people refer to Donald Trump as an orange-something. I never liked the reference to the color of his skin. It’s his character that matters; his deplorable, rotten character. America blew it, but it seems to be coming around to that fact now. The value of a president has nothing to do with the color of his skin.

Maybe I’m splitting hairs here.

I didn’t mean to make a hair joke.

The illegal immigration roundups aren’t getting enough attention. In a week where we saw everyone rise to the defense of Elizabeth Warren when the establishment tried to silence her, a week where the preposterous immigration ban was stifled, and a week where more and more Americans are challenging the veracity of Trump’s belligerent claims, the rounding up of immigrants has almost gone unnoticed. Maybe that’s the Machiavellian plan, to distract us by doing so many things at once that we can’t gain the moral footing on any one of them. Maybe it’s a chaos war.

Oh well. We knew we were in for a long one. There are signs of temperance coming from inside the walls of the White House, however slight. He’s softening on diplomatic rhetoric. It’s a start. If our checks and balances push him into becoming an ordinary right-wing president, instead of a tyrannical authoritarian demagogue, then we will have won. The pendulum swings both ways, in time. That’s okay. The concern comes when the pendulum swings too far one way, gets stuck in an adjoining wall, and lets the waters of democracy seep out.

I probably could have done a better job with that metaphor. 😉

At any rate, cheers to the post-football world. I have a head cold today so I won’t be lifting spirits, but cheers nonetheless. Sorry about the rambling nature of this entry, but I’m in a rambling mood.

I’ve been at this blog thing for a year now and I still can’t get enough.

I love to write.

Go forth and be bold, friends.

For the Love of the Game

There’s a football game this weekend.

It’s a pretty big one.

I’m known to be a passionate and outspoken man, and one of my biggest passions is for the game of football. I love the game.

I fell in love with the game when I was 18, just after high school. Those were the first days of the party life for me and I’d wake up on someone’s couch most Sundays – after a hell of a good time – and flip on the tube. In the room, generally filled with recovering revelers, there would be a rousing round of cries for their football game. I had never much watched it before then, but I gave it a go.

Looking at it through the now-infamous critical Cummings eye, I broke it down mentally. I watched this chess match develop before me between offensive and defensive units. Like superhero battles in the comics I loved, each titan would square off against a rival, equally matched. But, like the Avengers versus the Masters of Evil, the individual fight was a part of a larger ballet. Each personal success or failure influenced the larger production. Defeat was not an option. Everything was on the line.

I came to love football, I suppose, for different reasons than most.

But come to love it I did. Sundays, in time, became “my time.” Eventually I married, but Mrs C would know, during the fall, that I would prepare each weekend for 9 hours of the game. I watched every broadcast, taking notes. In time, I would mimic the words of the broadcasters in the booth, delivering their lines moments before they did. There was a pattern to their game as well. I learned it. I learned everything I could about the game.

The offseason became as important as the season to me. I would produce mock drafts, trying to project the needs of every team and the most critical young player to fill it. Free agency became a new game to me in the 90s. I read every publication I could get my hands on in the spring and the summer. I awaited that glorious moment when the first foot hit leather in August. Even the preseason was glorious; 53 players or more were vying for 22 spots. Offense. Defense. War.

I’m older now, but my passion for the game remains unbroken. I don’t sit around all day Sunday anymore taking notes, memorizing lines, or building rosters. Well, not every Sunday. But I do still absorb everything about the game I can get my hands on. I still watch as much of it as I can. I still imagine conducting the orchestra and I always, always, always second-guess the call.

There’s a pretty big game this weekend. It’s a football game. It’s the culmination of all the battles on all the turfs in all the stadiums in America. And beyond. 106 players, in 44 starting positions, will lay it all on the line for the most coveted title of all. Super Bowl Champion.

I’ll be with family. I’ll have beer and snacks and football pools and party games all around me. If I can help it I won’t miss a snap. I’ll analyze every play. I’ll second-guess every call. My passion on display.

Immediately after, I’ll start planning strategic offseason moves. I’ll mock some drafts and begin the six-month journey to the next first kick. I’ll write some stuff like this.

There’s a pretty big game this weekend, one I’m pretty passionate about.

It’s the 51st Super Bowl.

I can hardly wait.

LA Story

I have a theory.

Bear with me, this one gets kind of wacky and involves a brief history lesson.

The history lesson starts in 1946. In 1946, Daniel Farrell Reeves, the owner of the Cleveland Rams, struck a deal with the National Football League and became the first person to own a professional sports team in the city of Los Angeles. The Los Angeles Rams, with their iconic golden horns, stayed in the city of Los Angeles for 49 years.

In 1960, the Los Angeles Rams were joined by another football franchise, the Los Angeles Chargers of the American Football League. The competition with the Chargers lasted only one year, however. In 1961, Chargers owner and hotel magnate Barron Hilton moved the team to San Diego. The Chargers would stay in San Diego for 56 years.

In 1982, another charter member of the American Football League, who had merged with the National Football League in 1970, moved to Los Angeles from Oakland. The Los Angeles Raiders stayed in Southern California until 1995. When they left they had the distinction of being the only professional football team to bring a championship to Los Angeles, having won the Super Bowl after the 1983 season.

Still with me?

The same year that the Raiders returned to their birth city of Oakland, in 1995, the struggling Rams moved to St Louis. With the Raiders in Oakland and the Rams in Missouri, the city of Los Angeles was without a NFL team entirely, for the first time in almost 50 years. It would be another 21 years before any team in the NFL would call Los Angeles their home again.

If you’ll pardon the repeated use of a colloquialism for a minute, this sucked for the city of Los Angeles, sucked for fans of the LA market, and sucked for the NFL, who had lost out on the 2nd biggest media market in the United States. The loss of revenue was astounding.

Enter 2016. The St Louis Rams, who had fallen into decline as a franchise after bringing a championship to the city of St Louis in 2000, finagled their way back to Los Angeles under the wily machinations of Enos Stanley Kroenke. Kroenke is a real estate tycoon turned sports mogul and current owner of the Rams. With big money behind him, and big support from the powers-that-be, Stan Kroenke proposed to build an entertainment venue in Los Angeles like no other. As a token of goodwill, he also welcomed a co-sponsor or tenant to join him in the glitzy LA market.

At the same time, in 2016, the San Diego Chargers and the Oakland Raiders were putting in bids to be “the team” to finally take over the Los Angeles market after more than two decades of football vacuity.

I’ve been waiting nearly a year now to use the word “vacuity” in my blog.

The Chargers and Raiders lost out in their bids in 2016, and returned home to negotiate new stadiums in San Diego and Oakland, respectively. The following year, however – to the day – the San Diego Chargers owner Alexander Spanos announced that his team would be joining the Los Angeles market as the eventual tenants of Stanley Kroenke and his $3 billion stadium. Bereft of an NFL presence for two decades, the Los Angeles fans now had two teams to call their own.

Here’s my crazy theory:

The Los Angeles Rams will meet the Los Angeles Chargers in the Super Bowl in 2021, which will be held in Stan Kroenke’s brand spanking new multibillion-dollar venue.

Think about it. These crafty NFL tycoons lost out on billions of dollars when the LA market was vacant for 21 years, and they aim to get it back. In one night.

You might think me mad now, with visions of hippodroming* at the highest levels of our sport but mark my words. LA vs LA in LA for the biggest prize of all: money.

The following year for the Super Bowl has yet to be determined, as of this writing, but I have a theory about that as well. The Oakland Raiders, the big losers in the quest for LA, are now bound for Las Vegas, by all accounts. They’ll get their own home game in a Super Bowl the following year, against somebody from the NFC that doesn’t matter. Probably the Eagles. See, the Raiders had to be paid compensation for losing out on the nation’s second biggest market, a market where – by all accounts – they have the most fans of any of the suitors. So they were given Super Bowl LVI. The game is fixed in their favor. In Las Vegas. Go figure.

Thank you for taking the time to hear my tale. Now go about your day. Let this sink in.

You heard it here first. 😉

*Hippodroming is a word I just discovered, unlike vacuity, and it means, essentially, “to fix a sports contest with a predetermined winner.” Once I saw the word I had to use it in a sentence. Immediately. Good day!

Jeff Fisher

I never really had a problem with the hiring of Jeff Fisher. If I could go back in time I would have made the same decision five years ago that the Rams did: hire the best man for the job. At the time, Jeff Fisher was the best man for the job.

We were hideous before Jeff Fisher. The worst team in the NFL. That’s documented. The year that Jeff Fisher joined us we were coming off the worst 5-year record in NFL history. That’s bad. That’s historically bad. We had no talent, no drive, no direction, and no business playing in the NFL.

Then, Jeff Fisher became available to us.

I said at the time, though no one really listened to me back then, that Jeff Fisher was the perfect 5-year hire. Fisher had a history of putting competitive ball clubs on the field that played hard, stayed in virtually every game, and eked out 8-8 records most years. Occasionally, his teams won a few more games than 8; occasionally a few less. But, mostly, they competed and hung around the .500 mark.

That’s what I wanted. A new culture of competitiveness. I wasn’t asking to go from 3-13 to 13-3 because, frankly, I didn’t see that kind of coach out there at the time. Jeff, I said, get us back to respectability. Get us back to the middle of the pack. If, in 5 years, we make the playoffs a couple times, great. If not, get us a chance in a few Decembers so that Rams football is fun again. Okay, Jeff said, I’ll do it.


That first year, he got us to 7-8-1, just as he promised. Well, he didn’t promise the tie but nonetheless, it was right there. We were an improved ball club. We were on the rise. The next year, about the same. The next year, a little dip.

That was enough for me.

At that point in time, after his third season, I figured we’d seen about all we were going to see from a Jeff Fisher team and it was time to move on. I fired him. Thanks, Jeff, for getting us back to mediocrity, now I need someone in there to take us to the next level. Okay, he said, thanks for the opportunity. I began looking for a new coach.

But the Rams didn’t.

The Rams kept him; they kept Jeff Fisher employed. Because of that, Jeff Fisher nabbed a running back #10 overall in the next draft, much to my chagrin. We had been running the ball just fine with a committee and we had bigger needs. Much bigger needs. Needs on the offensive line. My hashtag, #FireJeffFisher, started back then.

Todd Gurley, the running back we nabbed as a luxury we did not need, ran fine. We finished another mediocre 7-9 and Jeff Fisher headed into his 4th offseason. It was a good one, that offseason, because it was the offseason that took the Rams from their 30-year vacation to St Louis back to their home in LA. That’s really all I expected in that offseason, the move. But Jeff Fisher made another cockamamie move, his last one. He traded up to the 1st pick in the draft to grab the 2nd best QB available. Now we had a new home, a new QB, a semi-new RB, no offensive line and the same old mediocre coach. We were screwed. I said it. I said Jeff Fisher just drafted the nail in his coffin. I said that someone else will be developing Jared Goff because the best we can hope for from a rookie QB on this roster was a 6-10 record, and a 6-10 record would get Jeff fired.

The Rams went 4-12 and Jeff Fisher got fired. He was finally gone, two years too late. Now he hands the program over to somebody else, with as many question marks as the team had five years ago. Get us back to mediocrity, I said, then go away. He said okay. He lied. He lingered just long enough to get us back to historically bad.

Thank you, Jeff Fisher, for your time with the organization. Thank you for three or four years of almost getting back to .500 football. Thank you for making us tougher, sticking around too long, and making us weak again. Here’s your $35 million dollars, now go away.

The next person to step in has their work cut out for them. They have to rebuild the worst offensive line in football. They have to develop an offense without a wide receiver, with a struggling running back, and without a proven quarterback. They have to modernize the team that Jeff Fisher stuck in the 80’s.

Thank you again, Jeff Fisher.

The good news is that this is a year it can be done. There are some really good, young coaches out there with innovative ideas, coaches who have grown up in the modern era of the pass-first, run-next, score-points NFL. Offense brings fans. Offense wins games. Defense wins championships but offense wins games and there still isn’t a team in the NFL that can get to a championship without winning games. Start there, Coach Next-Guy, start there.

I’ll tell you who I want and I’ll tell you what I want from him and I’ll tell you how long I want him to stick around next time we talk. I’ll tell you, but you won’t listen. Jeff Fisher didn’t listen last time. The Rams didn’t listen last time. That’s the plight of the die-hard fan: we always know what’s best for the team, but the team never listens.

No matter how hard I yell.

So long, Jeff Fisher. You did your best and that was exactly what I expected you’d do. You weren’t cut out to be a winner, just a guy who could get a team to try for a couple of years. You did. We tried. Now we need to excel, and that’s a job for another guy.

I only wish you’d known that sooner.

One Sunday In

With 87.5% of the games already played for week one, I have some thoughts:

The Colin Kaepernick saga continues. Kaepernick himself doesn’t play until tonight, but some players around the NFL joined his silent protest yesterday. A few, like Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Marcus Peters, stood for the national anthem but raised their fists in a traditional symbol of Black Power.

I remain where I was when this all began – stand, sit, raise your fist, cover your heart … it’s fine. It’s a free country and free means free to me.

I went into yesterday’s games having a hard time picking any powerhouse teams – teams that are immediately projected to be favorites to win it all. The Arizona Cardinals were one of the teams on my short list, but they fell in a hard-fought contest to a New England Patriot team minus Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, and key members of the offensive line. The Patriots themselves might be the best team in the league come mid-October, but right now it would be hard to say there’s a true super-team. The number of close games we saw on the first Sunday of the season lends credence to the idea the league is especially competitive this year, with many contenders for the title.

We’ll see what Pittsburgh does tonight.

Eight quarterbacks threw for over 300 yards. Nine wideouts had over 100 yards receiving. One of them caught 12 passes during the game and closed in on 200 yards. Only one running back, Lamar Miller, broke the 100-yard mark in rushing. He ran for 106 yards, but it took him 28 carries to get there. Only seven running backs had 20 or more carries.

After some initial thoughts that the era of the running back had returned – with 2 top 10 picks in the draft going to ball carriers in the last 2 years – the overwhelming evidence is that the passing game still dominates in the NFL.

The feature back appears to be a dinosaur.

At this point, the decision to take the 2nd best QB in the draft with the #1 overall pick appears to be biting the Rams in the ass. Carson Wentz is 1-0 as a starter with a 101 QB rating. Jared Goff is a 3rd-string backup. Jeff Fisher, your thoughts?

Completely unrelated to sports, but what  the heck is really wrong with Hillary Clinton?

Thanks for taking the time to read … look forward to hearing your thoughts. The NFL is King!

The Biggest Game

It’s opening day 2016! I thought I’d take the occasion and re-post my very first entry, published 7 months and 5 days ago on Facebook – just before Super Bowl 50. It’s been a long and intriguing offseason and I can’t wait to get the games started again, for real. Take a moment, if you can, and re-read the one that started it all!

I was too young to remember the first one. In fact, the first one was played 500 days and a month before I was born. I missed the second one, too, by about 24 weeks. By the time of the third one I was about 6 months old and Joe Namath was guaranteeing a victory for the upstart Jets. I didn’t watch it; I only remember it through pictures.

Throughout my youth it was always on in the background. I can remember people talking about it as early as 1972 or 1973, but I was a baby with a big imagination and a fascination for superheroes not footballers. I was probably 10 or 11 years old before anyone got me to really pay attention to the thing. I was around that age when I chose a favorite team for the first time, but it wasn’t because I’d ever seen them play. I chose my favorite team out of spite, but that’s a story for another time.

I don’t remember ever sitting down and actually watching a game, much less a Super Bowl, when I was young. The first one I really remember watching wasn’t until 1983, when John Riggins ran roughshod over the Miami Dolphin defense in the Orange Bowl at Pasadena. I think I went over to visit a buddy on a Sunday, I was about 14, and he was the best Dungeon Master I knew. Before he would run a game, though, he wanted to watch the Super Bowl. I was reluctant, but fuck it. I gave it a go.

It was two years later when I watched my next NFL game, and it happened to be a Super Bowl, too. My buddy at the time – not the same buddy as the other buddy – was a huge Miami Dolphins fan and just about everyone else I knew was a San Francisco 49er fan. Those two teams were meeting in the biggest game of the year so our youth pastor had a Super Bowl “party” and invited us all to come see. I wasn’t impressed; it was a really lousy game and my buddy’s team lost to the only team I hated.

Yes, I hated the 49ers even before I was a football fan. I told you the story had spite.

But the very next year I had the fever. A TV Guide showed up at my door the next summer – or was it a Reader’s Digest? – and it had a tiny cover story called “Who is the best running back in the NFL?” In the corner caption was a picture of a guy in royal blue with bright yellow horns, wearing goggles, and he looked for all the world like a superhero to me. His name was Eric Dickerson and he was the best player on the team I had spitefully chosen as my favorite several years before. I think the article ranked him second and said he was the most explosive player in the league. Ranked #1 was a fella named “Walter Payton.”

I had to see what that guy was like.

Well, that happened to be 1985 and that fella was a Chicago Bear and the Chicago Bears were about to make a historic run that fell just one game short of a perfect NFL season. Walter Payton’s team beat Eric Dickerson’s team in the game before the Super Bowl and then Walter Payton’s team won the 20th Super Bowl ever.

And I knew all about these guys. I read about them before the season ever started. I was hooked.

I don’t think I ever missed a Monday Night Football game after 1985, and I know I never missed another Super Bowl. I came to love John Elway as much as I hated Joe Montana. I got to see both of those luminaries perform incredible Super Bowl heroics over the next ten years. I got to see the Bills fall short 4 times in a row. I saw the rise of Emmitt Smith and Troy Aikman. I saw that flashy maverick Brett Favre get a championship ring. I saw the Greatest Show on Turf. I saw the New England Patriots go to six Super Bowls in twelve years and beat everyone but Eli Manning.

And now the number is 50. And here comes the venerable Peyton Manning leading the Broncos in his probable last game ever. He’s facing off against a Carolina Panther team that fell one mishap away from a perfect season, much like that Bears team 30 years before.

I’m not here to pick a winner. I’m here to enjoy the experience. I’ve been a fan of the game now for three decades and I’ve seen valiant performances, miracle plays, and astounding comebacks … I’ve seen amazing adventures and astonishing tales. It never gets old. I’m prepared for the game, I read about it all the time. I know all the players now.

They’re like superheroes to me. 😉

Standing Behind the Sitting QB

colin kaepernickWhile I was out of town this weekend, on a marathon run to Monterey County to celebrate my 30th reunion with the amazing Alisal High Class of ’86, Colin Kaepernick of the San Francisco 49ers took a seat and started a controversy. I heard about it immediately, when my NFL app fed me the news bulletin. I saw the backlash immediately, too, on the social media platforms I follow. Many spoke out instantly with disdain for his actions and for the words Colin Kaepernick chose afterwards to explain his actions. My own reactions were mixed and I decided to let the thing play out a little, while I enjoyed the weekend. I did.

My initial thought, and the one I shared with the lovely companion I had along on the ride, was this: I had no problem whatsoever with what Colin Kaepernick did, but I thought he was dumb for doing it. My thoughts on the matter have evolved from my initial reaction, as thoughts should, but they haven’t necessarily changed. I still stand firmly behind the actions of the sitting QB, but I’ll watch with interest before I judge the man.

Why I defend his right to take a seat during the national anthem should be pretty obvious; I believe in the rights of people over the rights of nations. I adhere to the philosophy that a person has a right to peaceably protest in any manner that they choose. I believe that every topic can be viewed from multiple perspectives and, because of that, I think we need to be tolerant of multiple points of view. I also believe inequality is an issue in this country – on this planet – and that needs to be addressed. So if a man wants to take a seat to protest his perception that the issue of inequality is not being properly addressed, kudos to him.

Why my initial reaction was that Colin Kaepernick was dumb for taking this stance is a bit more complicated and, probably, unfair to him. I viewed the man as a privileged athlete with a lot to lose, and I saw him as an individual who had – to my knowledge – never taken a stand like this before. I questioned, internally, whether or not he was doing this to bring awareness to a cause or doing this to get attention, and if he truly understood the implications of this action. He painted a target on himself, and became a martyr for a cause that I wasn’t aware that he believed in. He was shooting his career in the foot and I wasn’t sure that he was prepared for the aftermath.

But that was hubris on my part. To assume that I know anything about the struggles another man has gone through, inside his own self, to get to the point where he takes such a stand, well that is arrogance. I don’t know what led Colin Kaepernick to decide to sit during the national anthem and I don’t know what he will do next, now that he has. If he has thrown himself on the sword and expects that to be all he has to do then my initial reaction stands. If, however, this action is only the beginning and Colin Kaepernick becomes a champion in the fight against inequality then my initial reaction was wrong.

Regardless, it was his choice and I defend that choice. The song he sat through repeats the line “land of the free and home of the brave” four times in the full version, and Colin Kaepernick bravely exercised a freedom. He risked a great public and professional backlash to make what he feels was a necessary stance. We should honor that. We should wait a little longer before placing judgments on the character of the man. We should honor the constitutional rights that he has, that are echoed in the very song that he sat through. We should watch his actions now.

If he ducks and dodges, racing out of bounds, then we can judge his actions unworthy. If he stands tall against the rush and continues to deliver strikes against injustice, then we can judge his actions noble. Either way we should judge his actions as free, and defend his right to make them, while that banner yet waves.

I think that is what America is supposed to be about.

Draft Day


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. 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, 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 deflategate scandal. Air pressure matters.

Again, thanks for reading, and enjoy the draft!