Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Biking in New Orleans

Two things before we start. One: I’m completely unharmed, for friends and family reading this. Two: There is no hyperbole in this post.

I just started work at an IT consulting company in downtown New Orleans, about three miles down St. Charles Avenue from where I live. Since it was 50 degrees a few mornings ago, I decided to bike to work.

The first major intersection between my house and downtown is Napoleon Avenue. Around that area, St. Charles has a boulevard where the streetcar runs, one lane of traffic and a curb lane. Bike lanes run from approximately Octavia Avenue all the way west to the riverbend, but there are no bike lanes going east (downtown) from where I live. Because of this, I usually stay fairly close to the parked cars in the curb lane.

I waited for the light to change and crossed Napoleon Avenue, getting up to speed as I did so. There was a bright blue car, possibly a minivan, possibly a sedan, sitting on the curb about 20-30 feet past the intersection. As my front wheel passed the car’s left rear wheel, I saw the driver’s door begin to open, perhaps five or six inches outward, directly in front of me. 

What happened next was pure instinct; the thinking part of my brain was not involved. I had less than a second to react. I yanked on the handlebars as hard as I ever have. The bike slewed crazily to the left and out into the middle of the driving lane. I cleared the edge of the car door by no more than two or three inches. Thankfully, the car coming through the intersection behind me either threw on the brakes or was already pretty far behind me, because I was not hit.

Less than a second.

At this point, I started thinking again. My bike has road tires, which are not built to grip the road during violent 45-degree turns, and it was wobbling like crazy and still going at a pretty high speed. I’m going to crash in the middle of the street, I thought, imagined myself falling, and started preparing to take the blow on my forearms.

Again, my body had other ideas. Without orders from the top, I slammed both my forearms down on the handlebars, which were weaving back and forth. That stabilized them, the bike stopped weaving, and I began to guide it back towards the curb lane. I turned around and looked back during this process and heard a woman shout “Sorry!” This all took place in a second or two but seemed much longer.

As I got back out of the driving lane, I shouted “Jesus! Fuck! Christ!” On “Christ”, the car behind me—a white SUV—pulled alongside me, and the man inside hollered “Are you okay?” I said something reassuring, I don’t remember what, and he drove off.

That was the end of it. I wasn’t hurt. I stopped a few blocks later to adjust my clothing and whatnot, but that was it. I missed it entirely. I went to work, did work things, and eventually got out of work. 

Around 5:35 that evening, I was biking home on St. Charles, having just passed Lee Circle and passed under the freeway bridge. Again, I was biking fairly close to the parked cars. I was wearing grey pants and a dark green sweatshirt. I had my red taillight and white headlight on, although they were not flashing so that any idiot could see them. Apparently that’s necessary here.

I never saw the black sedan until it pulled up alongside me. Its lights were on, and so was its turn signal. It began to turn directly into my path. I have no reason to believe he saw me.

This time was different. Instead of an instant of pure reflex and a violent change, everything seemed to be happening in pleasant slow motion. I pulled back on the brakes, again instinctively, but I had time to lazily contemplate the movement of the car. It didn’t register that I was about to hit it. It was moving ponderously into my path, and I remember thinking that the driver was cutting it pretty fine.

I was lucky again. We were in the middle of a block. Instead of turning onto a street, he turned into a driveway that happened to have a gate. That meant he was slowing down almost as much as I was. The angles kept changing as we raced to the bottom.

Because of this, instead of hitting him at full speed, I only nudged his right rear door with my left handlebar as he finished cutting me off. We came to a stop.

I was too disgusted to say or do anything. I remember being completely unsurprised that this had happened again. There was no noise from the car, so I pulled off the sock that served me as a glove, gave a big smile and a sardonic thumbs-up, and got back on the bike, shaking from the waist down.

I can think of three possible explanations for me not hitting the first car. Either the driver paused in the middle of opening the door, or she realized what was happening and pulled it back in a split second, or I simply dodged it entirely. Whatever it was, that was one of the most amazing things I have ever done. I have no doubt that if I’d been just a touch slower to recognize and react to what was happening, I would have smashed into the car door and suffered serious injury. The same goes for the second car. If I hadn’t recognized what was happening and slowed down, I would have plowed into its side at a considerable speed.

I’m very glad I can do that. I hope it does not prove necessary on every single commute. Who needs coffee when you have a heart attack?

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Breaking Down the Red Cross's Response to the Damning ProPublica Report of 10/29

As someone who served as an Americorps volunteer with FEMA in the five months following Tropical Storm Sandy, the waste, mismanagement of resources, inadequate treatment of volunteers and prioritization of "looking good" over "doing good" described in ProPublica's article is completely unsurprising. FEMA was guilty of all of these sins, so it is not surprising that FEMA's close partner organization is also guilty of those sins.

When a large organization is guilty of bureaucratic waste and mismanagement, the last thing you would expect them to do is make a honest accounting of their sins and own up to what went wrong. The Red Cross, in this respect, is no different from any other agency that has been caught out.

Let's parse their anodyne, noncommittal, deeply outraged response, shall we? Actual lines from the press release (which is here) will be in bold, commentary in regular text.

It is regrettable

Translation: We wish you hadn't aired our dirty laundry.

that ProPublica and NPR have used the two-year anniversary (sigh) of Superstorm Sandy's landfall to paint a distorted and inaccurate picture of a Red Cross response that helped tens of thousands of people who urgently needed our services with hot meals, shelter, relief supplies and financial support.

No doubt the Red Cross did indeed do this. ProPublica even mentions in its article that the Red Cross, when challenged, likes to throw out huge numbers of people it says it helped--and that shouldn't be discounted or underplayed. At the same time, doing a lot of things right does not obliterate the things they did very, very wrong--like allowing sex offenders into childrens' play areas, for example, or wasting 30% of available meals ostensibly for disaster survivors. Just because you did a lot of good is not a valid argument that you didn't also do some bad. It's more a PR shield than an actual response--note that their objection is to "the inaccurate picture" painted--and the Red Cross doesn't respond directly to most of the specific charges from ProPublica.

Our mission is to alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies, and that alone is what guided our service delivery decisions during Sandy and during every emergency. [Italics theirs]

This is the exception. They say this so boldly--alone--but then why is there an internal Red Cross document that alludes to Red Cross Headquarters "diverting assests [sic] for public relations purposes"? Why is there an email from a Mass Care officer, a guy on the ground, from 11/18/12, reporting that 15 of 37 trucks were diverted at one point for public relations purposes? Not responding directly to these pieces of evidence--which come, again, from within the Red Cross--seems a lot to me like the "ignore it and hope it goes away" approach to PR, which is an idiotic way to approach the problem. Repeat after me: The existence of the ProPublica article is not a PR problem that you have to solve. The problems within your organization that lead to poor service are the real problems that you need to solve.

We are proud of the work of our 17,000 Sandy workers – nearly all of them volunteers– who served more than 17.5 million meals and snacks, distributed 7 million relief items, and provided 74,000 overnight stays in shelters. Two years after Sandy’s landfall, the Red Cross has spent or committed to spend $310 million, which is 99 percent of the $311.5 million raised for our Sandy response. 

Yes, true, but how much was wasted? And given the Mass Care officer's testimony that 30% of meals were wasted, one wonders if that 17.5 million number covers meals actually served, or merely the total number of meals ordered, without accounting for waste and inefficiency? How do situations like the one described in the article, where a Red Cross kitchen serving 22,000 meals was ordered to scale up to 220,000 the next day, count? Would you count the number of meals that actually made it into the mouths of disaster survivors (something like 70,000 Danishes delivered, half of those wasted, according to ProPublica) or would you ring up 220,000 on your balance sheet and say you did that? This is a real question because the internal report revealed that the size of the disaster "crippled" the Red Cross's ability to tabulate what it had accomplished, and apparently the Red Cross is unusually opaque when it comes to telling the public how it actually spends its money. That $310 million that was spent lost some percentage to administrative overhead and waste, but it's impossible to tell how much from the numbers they provide the public.

And our surveys show that the overwhelming majority of the people we served had a positive experience with the Red Cross and the services we provided.

Will you make those surveys, or aggregated numbers from them, available to the public? What was your surveying methodology? Who was asked, and when? Is it possible that survivors rated you well on the whole because you fed and sheltered them during and after the storm, but nevertheless had concerns about your management? What is an "overwhelming majority", on a percentage basis of the people asked? Do the surveys contain leading questions? Is there a place for survivors to provide suggestions, and have you taken those suggestions into account? Again, as a random schmuck, I have no reason to reflexively believe you when you're in full cover-your-ass mode and won't make the details that back up what you're saying available to me.

In the chaotic first few hours and days after a disaster, it is impossible to meet every need, especially on a disaster as big as Sandy. When problems occur, we try to fix them quickly, and we always strive to do better. 

This is true, and should not be underplayed (although that is their job). But there is a difference, as my fellow FEMA Corps members and I learned in the FEMA response, between problems that are inherent to the crazy post-disaster environment and problems created by bureaucratic mismanagement, lousy priorities (I point again to the food trucks diverted for photo opportunities), and infighting. I'm glad that the Red Cross says it fixes problems, but since it has not acknowledged in this release that any of the problems outlined in the article actually exist, that tends to make me pessimistic about whether those problems were actually fixed.

As we do with all major disasters, the Red Cross proactively sought feedback from hundreds of volunteers, staff and others as part of a thorough review of its response to Sandy. Based on that feedback, and our own evaluation, we implemented changes to continuously strengthen our service delivery. 

'Continuously strengthen' is such a mealymouthed phrase; it describes fixing problems without ever acknowledging that there were problems that needed to be fixed. I don't have much to say about this part; it's simply impossible to judge its veracity until the next major disaster. It is possible that the Red Cross made some changes, as the internal review conducted away from the cold light of the press was far more honest and candid than the Red Cross was willing to be in this release. However, when the first item on the list of "Hinderances" [sic] is the Red Cross National Headquarters, whose sins include "Direct involvement in Service Delivery decisions without local understanding" and "Diverting assests [sic] for public relations purposes"... well, I don't feel like the public has much reason to be optimistic. If the senior leadership is part of the problem, what are the odds that they spontaneously became part of the solution without any outside pressure to change, up until this point? It smells to me like there's plenty of work to be done here.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Brave Crusaders and Amoral Idiots

I have not seen very many Hollywood movies about the days of slavery, or the days of the civil rights movement. The only one I've seen recently is Steven Spielberg's Amistad, where the focus of the movie is the legal question of whether rebelling slaves aboard a slave ship can be legally considered people. Of course, the good guys win, against great odds. But what struck me most about the movie was the character and tenor of the opposition. To the early-21st-century white liberal viewer, like me, they appear hopelessly backwards. Their arguments don't make sense. There's nothing they can say that would make their side of the case, denying legal personhood to rebelling slaves, okay.
Immediately after the movie, I wondered what modern-day issues of civil or women's or sexual rights are going to look equally one-sided in the Hollywood movies of fifty years from now. I feel like it's common among my friends to look forward and say "Well, the people fighting gay marriage are on the wrong side of history. Boy, aren't they going to look like idiots in a generation or two". And they probably are.
Something that's been on my mind for a few days, though, is the opinions of the other side. By virtue of being young and liberal and socializing mostly with young liberals who share my views, I don't often run into anybody who disagrees with me on issues like 'Should gay people be allowed to get married?'. There was a column, however, in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, right after the Supreme Court declined to hear the appeals of several states whose bans on gay marriage had been struck down. The column was by a supporter of the bans, and you can read it here.
I disagree completely with this column, but that's not why I'm posting it. For the first time in a considerable time, I was reading the genuine, unfiltered opinions of The Other Side. And for the first time in a considerable time, I began to understand why they believe what they believe. You read through the column and see lines like these: "Marriage is not a creation of the state — it existed before the state. The state appropriately seeks to protect it. Marriage is the union of one man and one woman, and it matters to the state because that's the only sexual union naturally capable of producing children — Wisconsin's future taxpayers, workers, leaders and more."
Again, I'm not arguing in favor of this statement. I disagree with it. I believe marriage is a human institution created for human reasons, and it is up to humans to decide when to change the laws that govern us; I also believe that the state does not have a compelling interest in regulating marriage, as expressed by the judge who rejected the State of Wisconsin's arguments on those grounds.
But I read that paragraph, and I read that column, and for the first time in a considerable time I began to understand the internal logic that goes into the arguments with which I disagree. Of course if you believe marriage exists above the state, you disagree with a legal effort to change what it means. Of course if you genuinely believe that kids are better off with one man and one woman as parents, studies be damned, you'll structure your beliefs based on that. That's why the author believes what she believes, and that is where the opposition comes from. It's a popular pastime among liberal columnists (well, columnists on both sides, really) to pick at the underlying reasons why people believe what they believe; well, conservatives are afraid of change, so of course they oppose gay marriage. Well, liberals can't rely on themselves, so of course they support big government. It's a popular sport. This is something different: actually trying to understand why the opposition believes what they believe.
It's fair to say that I'm too far removed from this issue and too dispassionate about it to really hold this view. After all, if the state restricted my right to marry, or sit at a lunch counter, because of my religion or skin color, it's fair to say I'd be less interested in understanding why the Other Side believes what they believe, and more interested in overturning the real-world consequences of those beliefs that interfered with my life.
But this is important because, regardless of the Hollywood version of events where the Amistad opposition is reduced to helpless flabbling and eventually melts into the background while John Quincy Adams orates magnificently about the rights of man, there is always going to be opposition to what we like to call "progressive" social changes. There are always going to be people who dig in their heels to it, based on tradition, religion, or some other reason. I was just reading the Supreme Court decision in a case called Lombard, et al. vs. Louisiana, a civil rights case from the sixties, involving the state of Louisiana trying to punish four activists (three black, one white) who sat at a whites-only lunch counter and asked to be served. The opinion, authored by Chief Justice Earl Warren, contained the following quotes from Louisiana authorities:
"The Superintendent of Police issued a highly publicized statement which discussed the incident and stated that "We wish to urge the parents of both white and Negro students who participated in today's sit-in demonstration to urge upon these young people that such actions are not in the community interest. . . . [W]e want everyone to fully understand that the police department and its personnel is ready and able to enforce the laws of the city of New Orleans and the state of Louisiana." 2 On September 13, [373 U.S. 267, 271] four days before petitioners' arrest, the Mayor of New Orleans issued an unequivocal statement condemning such conduct and demanding its cessation. This statement was also widely publicized; it read in part:
"I have today directed the superintendent of police that no additional sit-in demonstrations . . . will be permitted . . . regardless of the avowed purpose or intent of the participants . . . .
. . . . .
"It is my determination that the community interest, the public safety, and the economic welfare of this city require that such demonstrations cease and that henceforth they be prohibited by the police department." 
After Lombard, et. al. won the case, these people didn't just go away, right? That's the Mayor and the Superintendent of Police. The Mayor was a three-time candidate for Governor of Louisiana; the Superintendent of Police was active in public life for decades afterward, eventually becoming a member of the New Orleans City Council. You read a retrospective like this about white parents rushing to pull their children out of newly integrated schools. The parents didn't just go away when the court case was won, right? They presumably were still out there, grudgingly living with the new reality, fighting tooth and nail every change for the betterment of black New Orleanians. 
Community interest. Public safety. Economic welfare. There are always going to be these kinds of respectable veneers for racism, sexism, religious discrimination, and all the other evils. I'm suggesting that without giving in to those evils, it is worth our while, once in a while, to shed the Amistad perspective of the progressive liberal side of things as brave crusaders opposed by amoral idiots and adopt a perspective of people opposed by other people who happen to be wrong. I truly believe that the way to change peoples' minds is to understand what they believe and why. Only then can you effectively argue against it. It's so much more effective than just yelling at each other. Remember, the Other Side thinks you're crazy, too, and they're not going away. They don't shamefacedly walk offscreen at the end of the movie and disappear forever. They're going to keep resisting and resisting and resisting. If your view is that they're all hopeless old lunatics and eventually they'll all die and young liberals will reign supreme, well, that's great. In the meantime, they're going to be here, and we might as well try to understand what they believe. Not, for the umpteenth time, because we agree, but because "it is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it", as the quote attributed to Aristotle goes, and because understanding the Other Side's views will help you engage with them and hopefully change them. That's how you move beyond partisanship, that's how you get off cable news and late-night television, that's how you get people to talk to each other, that's how you change minds.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Packers-Lions Tape Tales: One Personnel Package to Rule them All and Other Stories

Once upon a time, Mike McCarthy used to be known as the king of swapping out personnel to find the most advantageous matchup; he'd go with an inverted wishbone, two-fullback look one snap, and split four wides and a TE out on the next snap. At least against the Lions, those days seemed to be over with. Except for a brief period in the third quarter when they went with four wides, the Packers ran their three-WR, one-TE, one-RB package exclusively. Not once did anyone go in motion before the snap, Cobb was always the slot WR and was never alone on a side, and the main variation seemed to be whether the TE was split out or tight; it was almost always shotgun. No two-TE sets, no fullback on the field (kuuuuuuhn?), no bunches or stacked WRs, nothing. I mention this not as a criticism necessarily--after all, if it worked, who would complain--but it was very jarring to see on tape.

-Speaking of the offense, there was much blather this week about Rodgers focusing too much on Nelson, but I really didn't see that on tape. He was targeting Quarless and Cobb with decent results right up until the bitter end.

-Ndamukong Suh, he of ill fame, *abused* Lang and Linsley inside. Another much-ballyhooed topic this week was Lacy and his lousy 3.1 yards per carry. Well, a lot of those runs were out of the shotgun, and I counted three times where Lacy wanted to take it straight upfield but Suh had destroyed Lang inside--and I mean destroyed; the first time it happened, Suh's initial punch turned Lang completely around, putting him perpendicular to the line of scrimmage. When that happened, Lacy inevitably bounced it outside and got strung out, since he lacks great speed, and smothered. This happened to Harris as well. Starks seemed much better at picking his way through trash and turning upfield, perhaps because he committed to the inside runs more beyond the initial read.

-The Packers ran some really weird blocking schemes in an effort to control Suh, Nick Fairley and their comrades. Here's an example. First and 10 in the first quarter.  Ezekiel Ansah is the RDE, Fairley the RDT. Opposite them are Bakhtiari, Sitton and Richard Rodgers, tight to the line next to Bakhtiari. At the snap, Sitton immediately pulls to the second level, Rodgers takes the DE, and Bakhtiari turns and blocks Fairley from the side as he flies upfield, effectively trapping him out of the play. (The play went south because of Suh's crushing Lang as previously mentioned, but that had little to do with this blocking pattern.) The Packers pulled Sitton, Lang and Linsley quite a few times, mixed in cut-blocks on passing plays, and once double-teamed both Suh and Fairley while leaving Ansah unblocked (which somehow worked). It looked like a lot of time and effort went into controlling Detroit's defensive front, but with one TE and no FB, I saw a lot of DeAndre Levy and Stephen Tulloch flying into the line and getting past a guard or center whose job it was to deal with him. Corey Linsley, bless his heart, looked very unaware on the second level when trying to pick up LBs.

-I think we get spoiled by Rodgers’ ability to make something happen outside the pocket; usually, it’s a first down to Cobb or some other big play. Today, Rodgers always seemed to be facing very tight coverage when he rolled to the right, and ended up throwing into coverage or throwing it away. I think this was because of the ubiquitous Suh and Fairley, who several times shot into the backfield on passing plays and forced Rodgers to move sooner than he’d have liked to. Because the receivers didn’t have as much time to lose their coverage, as they usually do on a Rodgers rollout that takes 4-5 seconds to develop, the rollouts didn’t look nearly as good.

-On defense, the Packers had no answer for Reggie Bush. Whenever the Lions wanted Bush, or third-down back “The Chronicles of” Theo Riddick, the back would circle out of the backfield, wide-open, and catch the ball for an easy five yards before the CB or S wrapped him up. The Packers’ ILBs were either too slow to get over to Bush from the middle of the field or were looking at beautiful butterflies, but almost every time the Lions tried it, it worked.

-The Lions never had an answer for Peppers. He had several hits on the QB in addition to his sack, all of them after flying around the corner against the Lions’ woeful RTs. He shared partial responsibility for Neal’s sack, forced another two incomplete passes with QB hits, and was as responsible as anyone for keeping Green Bay in the game.

-Two depressing things to close. One: No matter how many Packers are on the field, third-and-short for the enemy always feels like a foregone conclusion, whether they’re running against the nickel or a four-DT line. Two: Tramon Williams and Micah Hyde delivered some solid hits, and the D-line was generally able to cover people up, but man, our linebackers. Neal, Hawk, Lattimore, Barrington: when they’re not bouncing off backs or receivers and letting them churn forward for more yardage, they’re getting driven backwards for extra yardage even when they make the tackle. You watch footage from the 2010 team, like the Redskins game in Week 5: when someone catches a ball over the middle or runs up the gut, they get stopped. It doesn’t have to be a blow-up hit, but the ballcarrier generally stops moving forward when hit. Must be nice to be the Seahawks or somebody and take that sort of thing for granted, because we can’t do it consistently.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Sammy Baugh's Weird, Wonderful Wikipedia Page

Sammy Baugh's Wikipedia page has a weird historical quirk--scratch that, a million weird historical quirks. He was a QB, a Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee in 1963 and is one of the Redskins' greatest players. But check this out:
-Baugh was a three-sport athlete at TCU, and was offered a job as a football coach at TCU after his senior year. Instead, he signed a minor-league contract with the St. Louis Cardinals before getting discouraged and turning to football. He was then drafted sixth overall in 1937.
-As the sixth overall pick, he got a one-year contract.
-Per Wikipedia, on being drafted by the Redskins, he said "I didn't know what they were talking about, because frankly, I had never heard of either the draft or the Washington Redskins." I will pray every day from now until the 2015 draft that someone says this during the pre-draft craziness.
-He also said this: "I didn't know how much pro players were making, but I thought they were making pretty good money. So I asked Mr. Marshall for $8,000, and I finally got it. Later I felt like a robber when I found out what Cliff Battles and some of those other good players were making. I'll tell you what the highest-priced boy in Washington was getting the year before—not half as much as $8,000! Three of them—Cliff Battles, Turk Edwards and Wayne Millner—got peanuts, and all of 'em in the Hall of Fame now. If I had known what they were getting I'd have never asked for $8,000."
-The government's CPI inflation calculator runs that to about $132,140.00 in modern dollars. IN THE MIDDLE OF THE GREAT DEPRESSION.
-Playing both ways, he once threw four touchdown passes and picked off four enemy passes IN THE SAME GAME. In 1943, which might as well be 943, he led the league in completion percentage (55.6%), interceptions (11), and punting average (45.9 yards); the top in the NFL in 2013 was 48.9 by a guy who plays in Oakland, so, you know, not bad. He also holds the best all-time single-season average, 51.4 yards.
-On Halloween 1943 vs. the Brooklyn Dodgers, he became the first player to ever throw for six touchdowns; he did it again on "Sammy Baugh Day" in 1947 vs. the Cardinals, amassing 355 yards. In 1947.
-Weirdest of all: he was a five-time All-Star, five-time All-Pro, two-time Player of the Year (some kind of primitive MVP award) and led the league in passing six times, which only Steve Young has ever matched, and is in the Hall of Fame... but only made one Pro Bowl in his career. (It was discontinued in 1942 and revived only in 1950.) Also, the Pro Bowl used to be the defending champions against the rest of the league's all-stars, which, why can't we have that nowadays????? That'd be amazing!

Monday, September 22, 2014

The Short, Wonderful History of the College of Wooster in the NFL

·       On a whim, I decided to see if any Fighting Scots have ever played in the NFL. The answer is yes: six of them, four in the league's early days. Hank Critchfield, a 5'10", 207-pound center, played for the Cleveland Indians in 1931. Wilson "Willie" Flattery, a giant for his time at 6'0", 220, was a two-year guard for the Canton Bulldogs in '25-'26. Johnnie Layport, a preposterous 5'9", 170-pound guard/tackle, actually switched teams in his three-year career; he spent 1924 with the Columbus Tigers, and 1925-26 with the Dayton Triangles. 

      Ben Roderick, who was born in the nineteenth century and attended Columbia and Boston College along with Wooster, played for four teams as a 5'9", 175-pound FB/HB/QB. In 1923, he played four games apiece for the Buffalo All-Americans and the immortal 11-0-1 Canton Bulldogs, who won the championship that year. (The 1972 Dolphins can suck a dick: the 1920, 1922, 1923 and 1929 (Packers!) champions were all undefeated.) After two years away from football, Roderick returned to the Bulldogs in 1926 before playing a final season for the Buffalo Bisons, surely the worst team name in NFL history, in 1927.
Dan Callahan was the only Wooster player to grace the major leagues between 1931 and the glory days of the 1980s, playing one season as a 6'0", 230-pound guard for the New York Titans under Sammy Baugh.* But he was merely setting the table for--are you ready?--the legend of Blake Moore.
Feast your eyes upon him. Blake Moore towers above the greats of Wooster football, a 6'5", 267-pound colossus. All men feared him. Defying all odds, he played in 77 games as a guard/center for Cincinnati (1980-83) and Green Bay ('84-'85), eclipsing the careers of his five predecessors combined. But that's not even the zenith of the monumental career of Wooster's greatest warrior. 

E. Blake Moore, giant of the Wooster graduates, has done something no one else had ever done, except for maybe Ben Roderick: he scored an honest-to-God NFL touchdown. Two of them. In each of his years with the Packers, who obviously saw something in him that Cincinnati didn't, he lined up as an eligible receiver and caught one three-yard touchdown pass. Two catches, career, two touchdowns: the greatest ratio in NFL history.
Moore is currently an Executive Vice President at Mackenzie Financial Corporation; he was a history major and fourth-generation Fighting Scot. He went to Harvard Law School after football, practiced law for four years, then became a money manager. He also wrote the world's worst-titled autobiography, Through a Pigskin Prism

*The legend of Sammy Baugh will have to wait until next post.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Ruthlessly Editing Tyler Dunne, Part III

I really didn't want to keep doing these, Tyler. I thought you had learned the error of your ways. (You even stopped posting articles for a couple of days, which was nice.) And then you posted your article of 9/2/14, findable here, and made me wonder if the Journal Sentinel even has editors anymore. Here's Part I and Part II

Let's begin. 

Seattle Energy exudes throughout the Seattle Seahawks' practice facility. A glass case holding the team's 2013 Super Bowl rings greets you in the lobby. Loud rap music later blares in the locker room. General manager John Schneider — unlike his former boss, Ted Thompson — bounds off the field as if ready to take a Student Body Sweep Right himself.
(I am forced to admit that your first sentence is not grammatically incorrect. However, it's still painfully awkward to read. A person can exude energy, or a place, but you've written it so that the energy is the subject of the sentence instead of the object. It just looks bizarre. Also, why is the word "later" necessary?)
And, of course, at the podium is Richard Sherman. In pure form.
Through the NFL's obsessive embrace of fantasy football-driven, patty-cake defense, Sherman would seem to be Culprit No. 1. The league is cracking down on illegal contact.
(Would it kill you to say something simply. "The NFL is cracking down on illegal contact in 2014, and it's likely to hit the Seahawks hardest." You don't have to pretty it up with stupid little phrases like "patty-cake defense". News flash, Tyler: newspaper reporters are paid to be clear and concise. You are neither. Why are you getting paid, again?)
Seattle, Sherman says, plays within the rules and always has.
"We're happy the emphasis is there," Sherman said, "because it'll give people less excuses."
And does it affect his style?
"Obviously not."
With that, he snaps his head to a new question. This is the player who has become the emblem of Seattle's rise. The swagger starts with Sherman, the trash-talking Stanford grad fresh off a four-year, $56 million contract extension. When the Green Bay Packers enter CenturyLink Field on Thursday, he'll cast the most intimidating shadow.
(He "snaps his head to a new question"? Think about that for just a second, Tyler. Just think about that. What are you saying? Why is that sentence even necessary? And why isn't the second sentence "Sherman has become the face of the Seahawks" or something like that? It's so unnecessarily wordy, so... clumsy. I don't like the wordiness of "cast the most intimidating shadow", but at least it sort of works. That doesn't.)
From riding that new fine line in coverage to a looming "chess match" with Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, Sherman is central to Seattle's unparalleled bravado.
"He's had his best camp, his best off-season work. Clearly," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "He's so disciplined about what he's doing. His attitude has been perfect. He hasn't missed a minute of practice. He's done everything, taken all the reps, done everything we've asked him to do.
"I think he's been his most focused. He's been on it the whole time."
On Monday, Sherman called the practice field a personal "sanctuary." This off-season capped a rise to celebrity status — he checked all the necessary boxes. A new deal. A high-profile Twitter feud (with Arizona's Patrick Peterson). A Madden cover shot. Back to the field, to practice, he said you can "free your mind of all the distractions" and improve.
(It's a little weird that you don't mention the thing that catapulted him to celebrity status, namely the pass breakup vs. Michael Crabtree in the NFC Championship Game and his subsequent interview with some reporter, but I guess that's forgivable--you're only a reporter, you're not expected to know things.)
He's forced to be near-perfect because opportunities on game day are so fleeting.
It can get lonely for Sherman. Lining up at left cornerback for 15 of 16 games last year, Sherman often was treated like Barry Bonds at the plate. Quarterbacks simply walked him, choosing to test other cornerbacks. And blanketing his deep third of the field, the 6-foot-3 Sherman still managed eight interceptions and 16 pass breakups in 2013.
(The Bonds analogy is tiresome, but this paragraph has a deeper problem than that. Tyler, it's 2014, and ProFootballFocus exists. You can't be a football reporter in 2014 and not know about it, right? You can use numbers from that site to bolster the point you're trying to make: that QBs avoided Sherman last year. The number of targets he got and the number of completions he allowed is something you can find out. You don't need something as asinine as "Quarterbacks simply walked him", you can provide data! Why don't you? Hell, for the stats you do use, you could say that that was the best percentage of picks/breakups compared to his number of targets in the league, or something. The resources are available for you to be so much better than this.)
So he has a message to all quarterbacks. Don't leave him hanging.
"I hope I get a lot of action," Sherman said. "Hopefully, teams come at me all the time. It's fun. It makes the game very fun for both teams. I don't expect any of that, though."
Thus, the Richard Sherman-Jordy Nelson duels may be sporadic, if existent at all. Green Bay used Jarrett Boykin on its right side (Sherman's left) most of last season. Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn does expect to see Sherman on Nelson at times because, he said, the Packers "move him around a lot."
Quinn did call this summer one of the best "technical times" Sherman has had since Seattle drafted him in 2011. When opportunities are sparse — and they probably will be Thursday night — Sherman must know when to strike.
"Staying on it, every day, locking out," Quinn said. "You have to stay really disciplined to do that down after down because the one time you 'Ah, I'll just take a shot here,' that's when the bad one happens. So he's been disciplined this training camp."
The last time the Seahawks faced a prolific, no-huddle offense, they embarrassed the Denver Broncos and Peyton Manning, 43-8, in the Super Bowl. Afterward, Sherman revealed that players were able to jump routes by deciphering Manning's pre-snap hand signals.
In that chess match, Sherman shredded the chessboard before Manning even touched a pawn. This one? In the deafening decibel levels that await, Rodgers probably will be relying on non-verbal (and non-everything) communication, anyway.
Sherman also notes that these are two different quarterbacks.
"It's dissimilar because the offenses they run are a little different," Sherman said. "Obviously, they both get the ball out quickly. I think Aaron is more dynamic in his movement and being able to get out the pocket and be able to step up or step through, and create more time for his receivers to get open.
"Peyton," Sherman continues, snapping his fingers, "makes his decisions and he's going. He takes his hitches and he's getting the ball out. He's not going to scramble and try to create more time. So I think they're different in that respect."
(It's the little things, but you're so shitty at the little things, Tyler. A minute ago, we were in the past tense. Now we're in the present. Why? It was the same interview.)
Bank on Sherman, right cornerback Byron Maxwell and nickel cornerback Jeremy Lane staying aggressive.
In one Monday sequence, Carroll praised his players for consciously adjusting to the league's points of emphasis, for taking it "right to heart." And moments later, there was Sherman saying, "We didn't change anything. We were playing by the rules before, and we continue to play by the rules."
Either way, officials will be watching. Rodgers jokingly told Ed Hochuli's crew early this summer in Green Bay that they'll need them Week 1.
Two years ago, the Seahawks cornerbacks bullied Green Bay's receivers in the first half. They tested the 5-yard limit Hochuli vowed this summer officials would crack down on.
(Vowed is nearly as bad as "insisted", your favorite word, but at least it accurately connotes the intent of Hochuli. You're doing decently well... although, on second look, your second sentence is pretty awkward.)
Don't expect any attitude adjustment here.
Cliff Avril's eyes scowl in semi-disgust. No, the Seahawks won't need to tone anything down.
(And then, this. You have this annoying habit of assigning agency to things--great plays from Part II, energy in the opening paragraph, now Avril's eyes--that don't have agency. The eyes did not decide to do anything. Why on earth not "Cliff Avril scowls in semi-disgust?")
"They made these new rules to slow us down and guys have adapted and gotten even better," the defensive end said. "I don't think it'll slow us down one bit. You want to be aggressive. You want to make the plays you're supposed to make.
"Hit the people you're supposed to hit as hard as you can."
Again, Sherman will be the one leading the movement.
(Tyler, this article is okay. It has, for you, a pretty small number of errors. I previously reviewed a Packers Plus column and an extensive feature story on Myles White. This is a more typical pre-game story, so you're more bound by word limits and less free to gallivant through the phrasebook of clichés and hyperbole that I imagine you must have. But it isn't good. You use eight words when five would do, hype up everything you can, confuse tenses, fail to make use of helpful resources, and write poorly. Where are your real editors? Am I the only one that sees this crap that you do? Seriously, the tenses thing is the kind of error that editors are paid to catch. What is the review process like at the JS these days? Does anyone look these things over before you submit them? Are they inured to your errors?
I realized today why your over-reliance on clichés bothers me so much. I mentioned in a previous post that instead of reporting what you see, you draw your own picture and invite the reader to see that... with the implication that your own picture rarely corresponds to the things that are actually happening. Thinking about the implications of that is kind of appalling. Take the sentence from your last article, "White pretzel-knots a cornerback". We are presumably supposed to infer that White metaphorically tied him in a knot, i.e. confused him. But the words you used bear no resemblance to a thing that happened on the field--say, Myles White cut inside, turned the cornerback around, then cut outside and ran up the sidelines, leaving the CB in his wake. You're not describing the actual play in a way that gives us any indication of what happened. Instead, you're summing up the play with an image, from which we're supposed to guess at what happened in the actual play. Your use of metaphor doesn't make the events you're describing clearer for the reader, it makes it harder to understand what happened. And it's maddening because only you have the perspective--you were right there and you were watching--to show us what actually happened. We rely on you, especially for something like a practice that most people can't physically see, and when you describe something obtusely or confusingly it lets the readers down.)