If the Lions Are On the Clock, It Must Be NFL Draft Day

joey-harrington-matt-millen-detroit-lions-nfl-draft

A couple of quick thoughts on today’s NFL Draft:

(1) With the Bulls and Blackhawks in the playoffs, both the White Sox and Cubs not yet knocked out of the postseason race two weeks into the baseball season, and the fact that the Bears essentially have had their draft already with the Jay Cutler trade, it’s been nice to not have to deal with several weeks of babble of who the Bears will take in the NFL Draft.  In past years, the Chicago sports media would have been in all-draft mode for days on end with supposed life or death questions of the Bears’ future.  Sure, the Bears still need an arsenal of wide receivers for Jay Cutler to actually throw to and I’m very interested to see where various Illini players such as Vontae Davis will end up, yet these concerns pale in comparison to everything else that’s happening on the Chicago sports scene.  Don’t get me wrong – I enjoy draft talk as much as anyone, but I really love watching my favorite NBA team being competitive in the playoffs (notwithstanding this past Thursday evening) a whole lot more.  It’s great to have actual games on the field dominate the sports discussion in Chicago in April as opposed to the war room at Halas Hall.

(2) The NFL has compounded its mistake of moving the draft start time from its long-time slot at 11:00 am CT on the first day to 2:00 pm CT last year by pushing this year’s start time back another hour to 3:00 pm CT.  I understand that this move was made to draw in more viewers in prime time.  However, it takes away a lot of the allure of the NFL Draft as a television event in the first place.  To me, it’s a perfect “have the TV on in the background event” and an excuse to get together with your buddies to hang out for a whole morning and afternoon in a low-key manner while you invent creations such as bacon tacos (as Minneapolis Red Sox and I did the year that the Vikings forgot to get their draft pick in on time).  However, it’s far from a prime time edge-of-your-seat event (particularly when playoff basketball and hockey games are alternative options).  So, instead of the draft having already started in the late morning as a write this post, ESPN and ESPN News are in the midst of an 8-hour marathon of punditry (featuring the legendary hair of Mel Kiper, Jr.) on draft prospects, even though the world already knows that Matthew Stafford of Georgia is going to be picked first by the Detroit Lions.  (Let’s see if that pick works better than, well, every Lions pick since Barry Sanders.)  The NFL had a great all-day format for the draft, but its belief that this is somehow a compelling prime time event is misguided and, as a result, this will be the second year in a row where I’ll watch little, if any, of what was once one of my favorite not-on-the-field sports events of the year (next to NCAA Tournament Selection Sunday, the NBA Draft, and the NBA Draft Lottery) as someone that has always wanted to run a sports team.

(Image from The Nasty Boys)

A Trip Across the Pond and Frank the Tank’s Football Parlay – Christmas 2008 Edition

london-house-of-parliament-big-ben

I apologize for the brief hiatus since I had to travel to London for work last week.  While this might sound glamorous on paper (and certainly compared to my first job out of law school where I was sent to exotic locales such as Danville and Flint, it’s a significant step-up), I didn’t have time to do any sort of sightseeing because I was working over 13 hours a day (which would have killed me if it wasn’t for the fact that I had visited all of the major touristy items in London on a previous occasion).  Of course, the one thing about much of Europe is that they pay as much attention to American news as their own news, which is root of their insistence that we aren’t worldly since we don’t reciprocate.  The fantastic Rod Blagojevich story was front-page news in the London tabloids and at the top of the hour on the BBC all week long with the tie to Barack Obama’s Senate seat (everyone over there LOVES our President-elect, if you hadn’t figured that out already – he’s seriously just behind The Beatles in the U.K. exultation power rankings).  Also, thanks to Sky Sports 2 (the Deuce!), I was able to watch the start of the Bears-Saints game at 1 a.m.London time last Thursday evening/Friday morning (Minneapolis Red Sox aptly pointed out that the British have greater access to NFL Network games than Americans) prior to falling asleep.  Interestingly enough, former Bear Shaun Gayle provides studio commentary for NFL games in the U.K. – apparently, there is enough of a cult following for American football (along with the presence of ex-pats) over there that the NFL gets pretty good coverage.  (It’s better than, say, coverage of the English Premier League over here.  Speaking of which, my only disappointment from the trip was that my work schedule prevented me from seeing Chelsea play a Champions League game in the middle of the week, knowing full well that Chelsea fans brought soccer hooliganism to new heights during the 1980s.)  As far as British television was concerned, it felt as if though I never left Chicago.

Anyway, I fell asleep in the middle of the second quarter of the Bears game and when I woke up the next morning, I got to embark on a parents-from-Home-Alone-esque path to get home to Chicago.  When I arrived at the airport, I found out that my Virgin Atlantic flight from Heathrow to O’Hare was canceled due to “technical problems” (AKA the company wanted to consolidate a couple of less-than-full trans-Atlantic flights to save some money), which meant that I would need to have a stop-over in the Seventh Airport Gateway to Hell (AKA Dulles Airport outside of Washington, DC, which is not to be confused with the Airport Taxi Line to Hell at Las Vegas International) to transfer to a United flight to Chicago.  (Note that while I’m a cost-conscious consumer in general, I will ALWAYS pay for a direct flight when it’s my own money- I don’t have any tolerance for that transfer bullshit.  When it’s a company-paid flight on an expense account, as in this case, a direct flight is my God-given fucking right.  My indignation at Virgin Atlantic’s callousness in trying to tell me that having a transfer would “only” result in me getting home a couple of hours later than expected was only tempered by the fact that any rash action would likely be characterized as an “international incident”.)  At that point, I was in “whatever” mode and simply relieved that I wouldn’t be stranded overseas.

After having a pretty productive flight from a personal enrichment perspective (I finished up Malcolm Gladwell’s new book “Outliers”, who also currently has a great piece in the New Yorker comparing the difficulties in evaluating who will become successful NFL quarterbacks and schoolteachers, and watched both “Wall-E” and “Tropic Thunder” for the first time – all are highly recommended), I arrived at the Seventh Airport Gateway to Hell.  Since I was coming off of an international flight, I got to go through the glorious process of having to sit in line at customs, exit the secured area, pick up my luggage, check-in to my connecting flight and drop off my luggage, and then enter through the security checkpoint again.  Luckily, I had a whole twenty minutes to do all of this before my flight back to Chicago left.  As I sprinted across the corridors of the Seventh Airport Gateway to Hell and got to the front of the security line, the lovely TSA guard (AKA a Jawa without a brown robe) informed me with almost a certain sense of glee that my flight had been selected for provisional screening.  So, as my connecting flight was making a last call for boarding, I got to be pulled off to the side to patted down and have my bags thoroughly checked.  (I very politely informed another TSA guard who was a complete dead-ringer for Scott Van Pelt that I completely understood that this was a “necessary procedure” and just wanted him to be aware that my flight was about to leave.  He checked my ticket and responded, “Oooh.  I guess you’re right.  I guess we’ll try our best to do this quickly so that you can possibly make your flight.”  Mr. Van Pelt then proceeded to sit down in his chair for another five minutes before he realized that there were no other guards available and finally decided to start checking my bags.  My indignation was only tempered by the fact that any rash action would likely be characterized as a “domestic incident”.)  After finally getting through security, I would have run to my terminal, but the Seventh Airport Gateway to Hell is set up where you need to take a “bus” (AKA double-wide with a couple of wheels attached) between terminals.  Fortunately, I was able to jump onto a double-wide as it was leaving.  As you can see, this traveling day to end all traveling days, so it figured that when I finally arrived to Terminal D, I realized that my gate was the VERY LAST FUCKING ONE AT THE END – and this was a LONG FUCKING TERMINAL.  I did my best Usain Bolt impression while weighed down by a full laptop bag and literally ran as fast I could to reach my gate.  Amazingly, the plane was still there and I was able to get on.  Unfortunately, a number of my passenger-mates from London didn’t make it and, to my knowledge, no one has heard from them again.

In the only smooth part of the day (and at which point, I was pushing close to being awake for 24 hours straight), my flight from the Seventh Airport Gateway to Hell to O’Hare landed almost 45 minutes early.  The traveling gods had to throw in one last “we’re completely fucking with you today”, though, as I gave all of that early landing time back and then some waiting for my luggage to arrive… which never came.  It was, of course, still sitting at the Seventh Airport Gateway to Hell along with everyone else’s luggage from the original London flight.  At that point, it was just meant to be.  I got back to my house over 8 hours after I was scheduled to get home (with my luggage arriving the next morning).

The moral of the story: take a boat the next time that you go to England.

Thank you all for allowing me to vent – here are this week’s picks (home teams in CAPS where applicable):

COLLEGE FOOTBALL PARLAY

(1) EagleBank Bowl:  Navy Midshipmen (+3) over Wake Forest Demon Demons

(2) Las Vegas Bowl:  BYU Cougars (+3) over Arizona Wildcats

(3) Hawaii Bowl:   Notre Dame Fighting Irish (-1.5) over Hawaii Warriors

Frank the Tank’s College Football Parlay Record
Last Week: 1-2

Illini Games for the Season: 5-6
Overall Season: 19-22-1

NFL FOOTBALL PARLAY

(1) Atlanta Falcons (+3.5) over MINNESOTA VIKINGS

(2) Carolina Panthers (+3) over NEW YORK GIANTS

(3) CHICAGO BEARS (-4) over Green Bay Packers

Frank the Tank’s NFL Football Parlay Record
Last Week: 1-2

Bears Games for the Season: 3-81
Overall Season: 18-18-3

Alright, so the NFL picks this week just happen to align with exactly what the Bears need in order to keep their playoff hopes alive.  It honestly wasn’t planned that way – I just thought they were pretty reasonable spreads.  (In the case of the Panthers-Giants game, if the Giants lose, then they would go into Minnesota in Week 17 needing to win just get any type of home game in playoffs, but if they win this week, then they lock up home-field advantage throughout the playoffs and likely would sit everyone against the Vikings.  As a result, Bears fans need to root for Carolina all the way this weekend.)

Also, it’s very unfortunate that I won’t be able to spend the day after Christmas checking out the Illini in the Motor City Bowl (instead, it’s a whopper of a game with Central Michigan vs. Florida Atlantic).  Still, there’s a return of a holiday tradition that used to rank right up there with the Lions ruining the Thanksgivings of everyone in Detroit:  Bulls basketball!  That’s right – it’s a Rose vs. Beasley matchup next Friday night.  It makes me reminisce of the golden days around Christmas:

I can’t help you if you’re not pumped up after watching that.  My BCS bowl and NFL week 17 picks) will come at some point next week.  Merry Christmas, everyone!

(Image from Study Languages)

Frank the Tank’s Football Parlay – 10/31/2008

There will be thoughts on the we’re-taking-every-other-week-off Illini, Kyle Orton’s smoking offense, and my continuing man crush on Derrick Rose soon.  In the meantime, here are some quick picks again on a Halloween weekend (home teams in CAPS):

COLLEGE FOOTBALL PARLAY

(1) INDIANA HOOSIERS (-2) over Central Michigan Chippewas
(2) Colorado Buffaloes (+3.5) over TEXAS A&M AGGIES
(3) ILLINOIS FIGHTING ILLINI (-2.5) over Iowa Hawkeyes (We’re on the semi-weekly schedule for Illinois showing up for games, so this ought to be a relatively easy win.  If the Illini lose this game, everyone should be fired.)

Frank the Tank’s College Football Parlay Record
Last Week: 2-1

Illini Games for the Season: 3-4
Overall Season: 15-11-1

NFL FOOTBALL PARLAY

(1) Baltimore Ravens (+1.5) over CLEVELAND BROWNS
(2) DENVER BRONCOS (-3) over Miami Dolphins
(3) Detroit Lions (+12.5) over CHICAGO BEARS (I have a bad feeling about this game, where the Bears should win but the team comes out so flat that they’ll fail to cover.  If the Bears lose this game, everyone should be fired.)

Frank the Tank’s NFL Football Parlay Record
Last Week: 2-1

Bears Games for the Season: 2-41
Overall Season: 11-10-3

(Image from Happy Hour Valley)

Good Things For You and I

Fear not, Chicago baseball fans.  We have two saviors to get us through Saturdays…

… and Sundays (at least when we’re playing Detroit).

Juice and the Neckbeard carpet bombed the Detroit Metro area for a combined total of 765 yards of offense this past weekend, leading the Illini and Bears to thrash Michigan and the Lions by a collective score of 79-27.  With Illinois tossing its Bo Schembechler voodoo doll for the first time since I was a senior in college and the Bears putting together its first complete game since the season opener (granted, the Lions will do that to you with or without Matt Millen), I can’t be too down on the White Sox elimination.  (Cubs fans deserve to be pissed, though.)  More thoughts are coming later this week.

(Images from Chicago Tribune)

Well, I’m Glad it’s Football Season – Frank the Tank’s Football Parlay – 10/3/2008

It will be another short parlay post this week as I’ve got wedding duties for a good friend.  In short, this ought to be one of those banner sports weekends in theory, with the local football scene moving from Pennsylvania to Michigan with Illinois-Michigan on Saturday and Bears-Lions on Sunday, along with both the White Sox and Cubs trying to stave off early eliminations from the playoffs (ugh).  At least as a Sox fan, this playoff appearance is a bit like playing with house money at this point since absolutely no one has any expectations for this team compared to the others in the American League.  Plus, I didn’t expect much with Javy Vasquez yesterday – the next three guys in the White Sox rotation are going to give us much more of a chance to win.  I’m not sure if there’s much I can say to Cubs fans right now to make them feel better, other than Fox executives are flipping out just as much. (Note in that article the MLB executives have politically correct quotes talking about some great storylines for small markets, while the Fox sales exec straight-up says, “It’s all about the Cubs right now.”)  Anyway, let’s hope both baseball teams and the Illini turn it around (along with my horrid handicapping as of late after a pretty good start), with the strange feeling of the Bears being the overachievers of the past week.  Here are the football picks (home teams in CAPS):

COLLEGE FOOTBALL PARLAY
(1) Ohio State Buckeyes (-1.5) over WISCONSIN BADGERS
(2) Florida State Seminoles (+2.5) over MIAMI HURRICANES
(3) Illinois Fighting Illini (+3) over MICHIGAN WOLVERINES (Michigan played possibly the worst first half in terms of self-inflicted wounds that I’ve ever seen from any football team but came back to win.  Still, I feel strangely good about the Illini in this game, which probably means that I’m going to be crushed by Muck Fichigan for the 959th time in life.)

Frank the Tank’s College Football Parlay Record
Last Week: 1-2

Illini Games for the Season: 1-2
Overall Season: 7-7-1

NFL FOOTBALL PARLAY
(1) BALTIMORE RAVENS (+3) over Tennessee Titans
(2) DENVER BRONCOS (-3) over Tampa Bay Buccaneers
(3) Chicago Bears (-3.5) over DETROIT LIONS (Will I get a Bears game correct this season? I feel like the Susan Lucci of the sports book.  If anything, this is empirical evidence that you should never ever gamble on a team that you are emotionally invested in.)

Frank the Tank’s NFL Football Parlay Record
Last Week: 0-3

Bears Games for the Season: 0-31
Overall Season: 4-7-1

(Image from ESPN.com)

Excited Once More and Frank the Tank’s NFL Football Parlay Picks – 9/12/2008

Like Michael Corleone, every time that I think that I’m out with the Bears, they pull me back in.  After writing a screed last week about how this is probably the least excited that I’ve been for an upcoming Bears season, they of course go out an pull off a monster upset on the road on national television.  After a few days of being drunk off of the Matt Forte Kool-Aid, a couple of things have brought me down to Earth.  First, it was remembering the occurrence of a punchless group of Bears heading into Green Bay on Sunday Night Football last year and administering an upset on par with the one this past Sunday evening, with Lovie Smith’s crew then dumping its offense into quicksand shortly thereafter.  Second, this David Haugh column in the Chicago Tribune goes over some pretty poor recent years for the Bears that followed an unexpected wins in the season openers.  Couple that with the fact that the second game of the year is at Carolina, who is coming off their own unexpected road win at San Diego, and it’s apparent that we’re not in the clear as of yet.  Well, at least I can proceed under the guise that we are at least playoff contenders in some form or fashion.  On to this week’s pro parlay picks (home teams in CAPS):

(1) Green Bay Packers (-3) over DETROIT LIONS – Let me just say that I loathe picking the Packers at any point in time, but the oddsmakers have left me no choice for the second week in a row.  The Lions just lost by 13 points to an Atlanta team that featured a rookie starting the first game of his career and allowed LaDainian Tomlinson’s old backup to run for 220 yards.  As I stated yesterday, I’m not one to question Vegas bookies, but I don’t see how this spread could be less than a touchdown in favor of Green Bay.  So, I’m giving the points here.

(2) New Orleans Saints (pick ’em) over WASHINGTON REDSKINS – I’ve always liked the home field advantage for the Redskins, but that only takes you so far.  It’s possible that Washington played as horribly as they could have played last Thursday night, yet it’s more possible that they are simply horrific this season.  Getting to lay money down on the Saints’ offensive machine against this lackluster ‘Skins team straight up is a gift.

(3) CAROLINA PANTHERS (-3) over Chicago Bears – Let me preface this pick by saying that this isn’t for reverse jinx purposes, although I’ll gladly fall on my sword in real life here.  As I alluded to above, the Panthers themselves came away with an impressive road win against a superior-on-paper AFC opponent last week just like the Bears.  I don’t think that the Panthers (regardless of the presence of Steve Smith) are necessarily better than the Bears, but they are close enough talent-wise that I believe that the home field will be determining factor.  If this game were to be played at Soldier Field, I’d take the Bears, yet since it’s in Charlotte, I’ve got to give the points.

I’ll be enjoying the weekend in lovely Champaign and checking out the newly renovated Memorial Stadium.  Hopefully, Illinois won’t have too many problems with the Ragin’ Cajuns.  Have a great weekend and Go Bears, Go White Sox, and Go Illini!

Frank the Tank’s NFL Football Parlay Record
Last Week: 2-1

Bears Games for the Season: 0-1
Overall Season: 2-1

(Image from Chicago Tribune)