Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Chiefs Inept?

Chiefs Woes Continue

I've been lucky. The scheduling has meant that the Chiefs have been live on TV for two of the three games so far this season.

(I can hear someone out there screaming that I've been very unlucky the way they are playing!)

Fans could just about take the lacklustre performance against the Texans – at least we won the game. You could make some kind of a case for the effort against the Broncos. Given just a little bit of co-operation from the football gods, we could have won.

But, the Packers? The Packers? Crisis time is looming large.

Now don't get me wrong, the Packers are a good football team. But, disappointingly, and I mean ugly disappointingly, the Chiefs made them look like a great football team. One of my enduring images of the game was Aaron Rogers sitting on the sidelines (having constructed a big lead) looking over the results of his efforts and smiling condescendingly.

Forget the score. The Chiefs were never in this game.

Why? Where to start?

On offence the Chiefs could not move the ball. The tone was set right at the beginning. The pre-game hype had it that the boys in red could run the ball and Jamaal Charles would have a big day. He got 49 yards on 11 carries. The three TD's are irrelevant. The running game was more or less non existent the whole game. Meanwhile the Packers could keep the Chiefs defense honest by rushing for 130 yards.

So, we had to rely on Alex Smith to win the game with his arm. Not pretty sight. Again the stats are misleading. The Great Hope that was Jeremy Macklin had no catches in the first half. He finished with what looks like a respectable afternoon – 8 catches for 141 and a touchdown. Take away the one big catch and he averages about 10 yards a catch. For this we paid big money? (Watching him miss simple downfield blocking assignments was too painful to comment on.)

On defence, the tribe looked like rabbits in the headlights. Tamba Hali had a sack. The containment of a mobile QB like Rogers was on a high school level. The tacking dummy would have been of more use than the real players. It was embarrassing to watch. The Packers had seven sacks and god knows how many hurries.

So, is this just a bad day at the office? Was this just a game the Chiefs were destined to lose anyway? Can they put this performance behind them and move on?

The signs are not good.

Andy Reid's post-game press conference was interesting. He could barely contain his exasperation at the lack of skill, preparation or professionalism in the team. It is his job to prepare the players, and I'm now wondering if he is up to it.

Yes, it's only game three. There is another game away next week (mercifully not on TV, I hope) against the 3-0 Bungles who were narrow winners over the Ravens.

Another poor performance by Reid, Smith and the other starters could start the boo-boys, start the calls for Chase Daniels at QB, start the call for Reid to go and start the beginning, if not the end, of a reality check. A one and three start is staring the Chiefs in the face and the omens are not good.

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

US Army - Part Two

Wherein I sojourn in Texas (the only place in the world where you can stand up to your bum in mud and have the sand hit you in the face), do my RVN training, am posted to the Big Red One and end up in Norway

It is generally true that we humans have a very over-inflated opinion of our ability to affect events. We like to think we are in control. We like to believe, “I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul”.

This is, in my experience, seldom true. You could just as easily argue that life is a series of unanticipated and unrelated accidents. My experiences in 69 - 70 - 71 prove this point rather nicely.

I had leave over Christmas 1969 and spent it in Independence. No-one else was about. Everyone was off was assisting Uncle Sam. I saw the family and a few friends. I booked my ticket to Texas on Trans-Texas Airways. I think I flew to College Station, Texas. I remember I had a lot of trouble getting a ticket. I soon found out why.

Fort Hood, Texas is near Waco. Near, in this context means Texas near, which is about about mid-distant between Waco and Austin. The adjacent town is called Killeen. It has little to offer the serving soldier, as Bell County was one of the dry counties in Texas. Even today just 11 the 254 counties in Texas are officially “wet”. It's a funny old place. You'd think with the sand hitting you in the face you could at least get a beer!

When I arrived in January 1969, there was a mass influx of personnel to Ft Hood. Why? Who knows? You may remember I got the word at Ft Bragg, “Who wants to go to Ft Hood?” and I said “Me!”.

There were so many troops arriving at the same time that our bags were left at the airport to be collected and delivered to the base over the next week or so.

I got lucky. I was assigned to Company C, 141st Armoured Signal Battalion. I was shown to the barracks. I met some guys. I easily made some friends. The lucky boys in my barracks had managed to wrangle their way into a real cushy job. I was soon included.

Most of these lads were ex-crew chiefs on UH1 helicopters. Returning from Viet Nam, they had time to do and somehow ended up at Ft Hood. (If the Army had any sense they would have just discharged them and saved the money they were paying them!) Anyway, these troops had somehow become the specialists in Public Address systems.

Our job was simple. Every time the Commanding General (or some other high-ranking officer) wanted to make a speech, we set up the PA system. There was, in true Army fashion, an officer in charge but, none of them who were ever assigned to us had any idea what we did, how we did it, where we did it or when we did it. Magic! (Actually, the poor officers were at the mercy of the PA troops. If one decided to become too ARMY for us, the next time the CG grabbed the mike he was likely to get an electrical shock – officers of that type didn't last long!)

The best part was we did no duties. No KP. No guard duty. No duties other than take care of the PA system. We had two trucks and a jeep – none of which were subject to the ordinary Motor Pool regulations. We alone could sign them out. We went where we wanted, when we wanted and with whom we wanted. I never did completely understand how we did it – but it worked. The ranking NCO was only a SP/5, but he ran the whole show and also rings around anyone who started poking their noses into our business.

Sound too good to be true! Well, it was not always plain sailing. For example the General might make a welcoming speech in the theatre. Excellent. Set up the mikes and amps, plug them in and then go backstage and have a nap! Simple!

At other times, he might want to address the troops on a rifle range or a tank firing range. Not so simple. First of all you needed power. That meant a gas-powered generator and a lot of power cable. Not too much of a problem for our trucks were a veritable Aladdin’s Cave of stuff we had “borrowed” from other units. So, we had the equipment. But, to use it outdoors we needed sandbags – lots of lovely sandbags. The Commanding General did not want to hear the noise of a generator. We would have to build a double or triple sandbag enclosure around the generator - !2 feet high and five or six layers thick. We put the generator inside. Standing outside you couldn't hear it from 10 feet away. Then all you have to do is run the microphone cable and you were in business.

In the course of all these endeavours, I got to see some amazing, not always pleasant, sights. There was the time some tank driver – who wasn't looking where he was going – managed to hang a track over the side of a concrete bridge over a stream. He flipped the tank into the stream bed on it's turret. Unfortunately, this was one of the few times a Texas stream was filled with water. The whole crew was trapped inside and drowned. So, we set up the PA equipment and the Commanding General made a speech. No idea what he said for them boys in the tank were as dead as door-nails.

Another good one occurred when some bright spark was cleaning a 175mm self-propelled gun. Somehow he managed to hit the wrong switch and the gun began to elevate fully. Then the breech began to move smartly towards the bottom of the carriage. Bright Spark managed to get himself wedged into a very small space between the breech and the carriage.

In order to get him out, numerous ingenious solutions were suggested and some were even tried. The only thing that worked ruined the gun. Two large, metal D-rings were welded onto the barrel of the 175 and two tow trucks pulled and lifted at the same time. Bright Spark got out, but the gun was, not entirely unexpectedly, completely ruined! The CG had a lot to say about that one!

In between all these exciting events I coped with the Texas summer. We were lucky. We had air-conditioned barracks. Not everyone did. We were give salt tablets with every meal. I learned to chew tobacco. I watched the Moon landing in July of 69. I was effectively killing time. I bought a small motorcycle – a 150 cc Honda – on the back of which one of my mates, Quigley, used to ride with an M14 (remember the endless supply of contraband?) complete with ammo he had stolen from the rifle ranges and take pot shots at cows. Ft Hood was “open range”.

Then, the time was up.

I got orders for Viet Nam in late August. I was posted to the 1st Infantry Division. I had injections for every disease known to man (and a few others). I did my RVN training – chiefly consisting of qualifying as Expert with the M16 and being eaten alive by Texas chiggers and I was all ready to go.

Then, I got a message to report to Company HQ.

The First Sergeant said that I was not going to Viet Nam. I asked him where I was going. He said he didn't know, but I was going somewhere. In short time, a big bunch shipped out for SE Asia. I hung around for about a week. Eventually the First Sergeant told me I was going to Norway instead. I said something like, “You've got to be shitting me – nobody goes to Norway!” He agreed but told me, nevertheless, I was going to Norway. I was joined in this effrontery to common sense by none other than SP/4 BJ Sievers, who I had not previously met, though we were in the same battalion. More will be heard of BJ anon.

(Having puzzled about this amazing event for years, I finally decided that it was all to do with the battery of tests you do when you are in Basic Training. Now, I was always good at tests so I scored highly. So did BJ. Therefore, when two guys who were in Norway left someone somewhere ran the replacement through the system our names came out.)

BJ and I suffered the ignominy of having to clear post – a ritual which involves taking a copy of your orders all over the place, giving a copy to the relevant authority (say the medical orderlies), and getting lots of stamps on the papers whilst all the while having to put up with, “So you guys off to the Nam, yeah?” “No, actually we're going to Norway.” “You gotta be shitting me! Hey sarge you gotta see this – these guys are going to Norway!”

We had become instant, small-time celebrities.

Within a few days, we had loaded my Honda in the trunk of BJ car – a Chevy four door as I remember and set off for KC. We had a week's leave. As BJ was from Iowa he said he would drop me off in Independence cause it was on the way. We cruised past Dallas and on to KC. He dropped me off and said we would meet up at JFK on September 6th or 7th or?

At the appointed date I flew to Kennedy, met up with BJ and flew to Norway via Iceland. In those days the old 707 couldn't do the whole trip without refuelling. I remember coming into Fornebu Airport in Oslo and the Captain saying it was 7 degrees! Fortunately, he was speaking Celsius.

Monday, September 07, 2015

Chiefs Super Bowl Bound?

Chiefs Prospects 2015

I have left my analysis of the Chiefs chances until late this year. We have only got down to the 53 man roster. Only now are the pundits beginning to make realistic appraisals of the chances of the various teams.

Interestingly, opinions are divided. Almost everyone, including the neutrals, think the Chiefs will be better this season. The question is – better than what?

It is difficult to see how they could be any worse. Just remember, they lost two very good players to injury almost before the season started. Then they managed to play 16 games and not throw a touchdown to a wide-receiver. Measuring getting better by those standards should result in some kind of improvement – it would be some accomplishment if they actually got worse! Certainly the pundits think so – well quite a few of them do.

I'm sure I said last year that as Alex Smith goes so goes the Chief's season. I was right. Smith was Ok and so was the season, just missing the play-offs. This season the ante is truly upped. The tribe have provided him with some weapons down-field. Jeremy Maclin is a big free-agent signing and is a proven NFL receiver. Travis Kelce is fit and could be the new Tony Gonzales. Rookie Chris Conley looks a good prospect for stretching the field. It's now up to Smith to find them downfield and complete some passes. Couple a real passing threat with Mr Reliable and Mr Do-It-All Jamaal Charles and some points are on the horizon. The play of back-up QB, Chase Daniel, also had the fans taking notice. An excellent pre-season – which saw the Chiefs undefeated – has shown Daniel to be a more than capable replacement. The O-line has been revamped and upgraded. Thin on the ground is true but still upgraded. The defense looks strong with Derek Johnson returning at inside LB and Justin Houston having signed a big contract. Eric Berry returns, but it remains to be seen how well he has recovered from cancer. Disregarding Sean Smith's suspension, the secondary looks strong. The Chiefs have some weapons and what could be an outstanding defense. They just finished 4-0 in the pre-season. The experts have them winning anything from 8 to 12 games.

My prediction: Chiefs to make the play-offs and be one and done.

If so, where are the problems? First, as said, Alex Smith. Then the O-line (unproven, untested and no real back-ups. The coaching is just average in my opinion. Andy Reid is a proven winner, but can he get the best out of the group on hand? Only time will tell. Finally, too many players are coming back from injury. Will they hold up for the season?

My biggest fear? The Chiefs may be at the back end of the cycle and have not got all the personnel in place for a run at the Super Bowl.

Time will tell.