Thursday, April 15, 2010

Picking the Right Stuff

Hang on to your tomahawk!

As we approach the annual slug-fest that is the NFL draft, the KC Chiefs appear to be sitting pretty with the number five pick.

Would that it were so easy.

For months I've been willing the Chiefs to draft the top line-backer available at number five. None of the the professional scenarios are with me on that one.

Thomas Jones, Casey Wiegmann and Ryan Lilja all arrived on the offensive side of the ball in free agency. This is a departure from usual Chief's tactics and has pleased the fans no end. But, with the offence being strengthened will the folks who are supposed to know (Coach and GM) then go for a defensive player in Round One?

Early in the process it was mooted that Eric Berry – Safety from Tennessee was a sure fire pick for the Chiefs at five. Now, nobody is quite sure. Apparently the draft is deep and some very good players (including safeties) might be still on the board in round two. Chiefs might pass on making a rookie safety a number one pick. With only four linebackers in the top 32 picks it may be that the Chiefs will not go with my choice for that reason alone.

Where else might they go on offense? Tackles? With two in the frame to go in the first few picks there may be none available.

Then again, on defense have the Chiefs given up on the Tackles they have, specifically Glenn Dorsey? If so, and there is quality still on the board when the five pick rolls around the pick may go that way.

All the mock drafts highlight one immutable dilemma.

Do you pick the top player left on your team draft board – or go for the top player at the position you are most in need of? I expect the latter.

Why? Some area are already sown up. Matt Cassell will be the QB in 2010. Scott Pioli has a record of grabbing good QB's in the late rounds. He won't hesitate to do the same this time if the opportunity presents itself. RB's look full with the addition of Jones. O-line has already been strengthened – but youth might tempt Scott at center, guard or tackle. D-line may need improvement, but at what cost? You can't have too many good CB's but the Chiefs look strong here.

That only leaves Wide Receivers. How I would love it if the management grabbed the top receiver at five! Problem is Des Bryant, Oklahoma State is the top mock prospect – but he has personal issues! After losing WR Dwayne Bowe to a bout of “inappropriate activity” and finally getting rid of Larry Johnson, the Chiefs are unlikely to take a flyer on Bryant. Next up is Arrelious Benn from Illinois and they are the only two in the top 32 mock picks. Despite my efforts to upgrade the receivers it looks like real talent is lacking in round one.

My final take. It's most important for the Chiefs not to make a mistake at number five. They may well try to trade out of this high pick. If they have to choose, I expect them to take the top player, whatever the position, at number five. My gut feeling is it will be Berry – but one of the top quality offensive tackles, if available, might just trump him.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


I love to tell the story about Versailles. It perfectly sums up some of the more esoteric attitudes towards language. It also provides an opportunity to laugh at yourself, which is generally a good and therapeutic thing. I always included it in English lessons.

In addition to being a rather famous palace in France, Versailles is also a small town in Missouri. It's almost smack in the middle of the state and has one abiding claim to fame. Well, apparently, two - as I just found out that Bud Walton, one of the founders of Wal-Mart is a native son. The other one is the fact that Versailles is not pronounced like its more famous French namesake but, rather, as it is spelled. Ver Sales.

This is not uncommon is the U.S.A. Many foreign words (particularly place names) have English pronunciations. There must be a fantastic dissertation somewhere which explains this phenomenon. I am convinced that it has nothing to do with the ignorance and parochialism of the natives. It most probably has its roots in the well-documented, historical penchant for “boosting” in rural America.

Boosting was, and may still be, a common practice dating from the settlement of the west. Small towns of no consequence spring up - convinced that if only the railroad drops tracks in its direction it will be the next Chicago. In an effort to attract custom they borrow a more famous and influential name, like Versailles.

Examples abound in Missouri. We have Cap au Gris, Roubidoux, La Plata, Marquand, Terre Haute, River aux Vases, Bois D'Arc, Guiteau, Portage de Sioux, Creve Coeur, De Lisle, Duquesne, Gravois Mills, Weableau, Chouteau Springs, Bevier, Fontainbleau, Rocheport, Mirabile, De Soto, Montreal, Terre du Lac, Cape Girardeau, Lyon, Moselle, Belgique, Femme Osage, Vichy, Des Arc and Cabanage de Renaudiere – not to mention a lake, Pomme de Terre, which in what Mark Twain called “the ordinary Pike County dialect” is definitely called Pom d tar. Some of the others retain their original pronunciation. How many? I'm not sure. I know Des Arc pronounces all the consonants and Cap au Griz probably sounds the last “Z”. Not surprising to know that Missouri was part of the Louisiana Purchase.

Germany is also well represented with Kaiser, Rhineland, Stakenburg, Frankenstein, Koenig, Dresden, Westphalia, Ghermanville, Wittenburg, Kiel, Kohl and Hamburg.

Countries abound: The Phillipines, Cuba, Mexico, Sweden, Netherlands, China, Scotland and Egypt are all represented.

I personally like Gad's Hill from Henry IV.

Classics? How about Syracuse, Cairo, Cleopatra, Halcyon, Nineveh, Boaz, Troy and Avalon?

England? Eton, Worcester, Newmarket, Cambridge, Lancaster, Beaufort, Winchester and Cornwall.

We've even got Napoleon (Missouri) meeting his Waterloo (Missouri) with Wellington, Missouri in attendance.

Not to be outdone, we've got Tightwad out in Henry County, Lickskillet in Putnam and (my favourites) Jolly and Jollification in Newton County. Seldom Seen is in Pemiscot County but should be in Worth County which has only 2270 inhabitants – no wonder Worth is lacking in outstanding names!

Finally we get to the title: Odessa which is really in Ukraine (also in Texas). The Missouri Odessa is in Lafayette County and has a population of 4818 souls. It was an unremarkable place when last I visited, and that was some 40 years ago. I suspect it's fairly unremarkable still.

I was listening to WHB in Kansas City, as you do, and they had a crazy idea to walk from Higginsville (also Lafayette County) to Kansas City. About 50 miles. Sadly, I can't even remember why? Now-a-days it would be some kind of charity fund-raiser. Sorry, I can't remember. When you're only 17-18 you do a lot of dumb things. I did.

Stupidly, I convinced some others to go with me. After work at 70 Hi Drive In off we went. It was late. I think the walk started at midnight. Somehow I persuaded my Old Man to drive us to Higginsville at midnight. He dropped us off. We started off. We had no real idea how far 50 miles is. We soon learned.

Some fool was running down Interstate 70. I'm not sure how he didn't get killed. Perhaps he did and I never heard about it.

Discretion being the better part of valour, we decided to walk down Old 40 Hi-Way instead of the Interstate. Seemed safer and more scenic. Bit hillier, but safer.

We lasted about 3 or 4 hours. Not only did we get very tired but we also got very sleepy. It was dry but quite cold. We staggered into the first populated place (Odessa, Missouri) in the wee hours. I was desperately hoping to find somewhere open, like a gas station or all-night diner – anywhere with a phone. I was prepared to be mightily abused by the OM for being such a myrmidon (I'm convinced this was the word he used – though he always pronounced it as rom a dom) – usually prefaced with Goddamn!

We came over the last hill. The lights of a gas station loomed invitingly. We staggered towards it to find the OM sitting in the car at the side of the road.

He said something like, “I figured you guys would get about this far.”

We had our moments through the years, but I don't think I ever loved him more than I did outside a gas station in Odessa, Missouri in the early hours.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Cartoon Rooney

Uber-Chavs Rule!

I'm sure he is the reincarnation of a Bash Street Kid! He sure looks like it.

Nevertheless, England's hopes of lifting the World Cup in South Africa rest clearly on the shoulders of the uber-chav, Wayne Rooney.

So, how do the football authorities ensure that he is in top form, rested and well prepared enough to lead the challenge? You guessed it – they don't.

Cartoon Roon falls over and limps out of the end of Champions League game this week. The country holds its breath. Commentators and pundits are aghast, and have no real suggestions or solutions as to how this might be avoided.

Best interview I saw after the match was with a group of Red Devil supporters arriving back at the airport in Manchester. One divvie even spouted, “I don't care if he can't play for England, as long as he is able to play in the next Champions League match.” It may sound daft but the structure of football almost ensures that England could only win the World Cup if it was a complete fluke.

Never mind FIFA and their umpteen refs. Never mind the obscene scheduling which ensures that the tournament is held at the end of the domestic season so that the players are either injured or knackered. Never mind the penchant for holding it in hot, dry, inhospitable countries – usually at altitude!

The tragedy is that when the Cup gets closer people who know better will be talking up England's chances to the detriment of countries who have the sense to organise things much better.

England should insist on the release of players on Jan 1 in any World Cup year. Then it would be up to the England management to pick the club games they play in. The players should be fit and rested before any World Cup game. Clubs should be compensated for the loss of their players. Compensated, but not reimbursed. After all – if you don't want to lose your players to the national team – don't sign them in the first place.

How is is that rugby and cricket can stage important competitions without having to cancel the club games?

England football administrators are either stupid or negligent. You choose.