I have a three-inch scar under my right eye that sort of traces the shape of my eye socket. When asked about it, I often give the short-but-still-technically-accurate answer: I was hit with a baseball bat. I prefer this version; it sounds cool, at least in the abstract, and it momentarily gives me the cache of James Dalton at the Double Deuce (or, at the very least, Wade Garrett).
The problem, as with pretty much any story that makes me seem cool, is that the facade quickly falls away once the details start coming out. In this case, the most pesky detail is the part where the person who hit me with the bat was ... me. Which is, like, super bad for you.
Let me back up. This all took place in the halcyon days of April 1995, in that window between when Eazy-E died and when Braveheart was released in theaters. For me, it was early in the baseball season of my junior year of high school.1 Which explains where the bat came from, if nothing else.
Anyway, after baseball practice on sunny afternoon, my friend Charlie and I were killing time, waiting on another friend (also named Charley). There was an old basketball lying in the yard, and Charlie tossed it toward me. I flicked my bat it and sent it over Charlie's leaping attempt to catch it. It was as he was retrieving the ball that Charlie noticed the empty house across the street and uttered the fateful words:
Swing harder and see if you can hit it over that house.
Well, sure! That made total sense. After all, if an Ecksteinian swing had gone that far, imagine what a real swing could do!
Perhaps because of the blunt-force trauma, the next few seconds exist in my brain only as snapshots rather than as one, continuous, coherent memory. There's Charlie lobbing the ball my direction again. There's me, swinging like Jeromy Burnitz (or Randall Simon). There's the near-simultaneous ping of the ball on the bat and the bat rebounding violently into my face. There's me, on the ground, clutching my now-bloody eye and ... laughing?
Yup, laughing. As soon as I hit the ground, I recalled how, about two weeks before, I'd come home to find my little brother with a big knot on his forehead and what was likely a low-grade concussion. It seems that he had attempted to hit a thrown basketball with a bat and had the exact same result (sans blood). I'd mocked him mercilessly for days for this. Now here I was, skin over my zygomatic bone split open as a result of one-upping my brother's stupidity.
Well, given that I should have known better --- if not intuitively, then at least following Dusty's injury --- there was no way I was going to the emergency room. Instead, I went inside, flushed the gash with a lot of cold water (ouch.), and had Charlie apply some small butterfly bandages as I pinched it shut (double ouch). Which explains the scarring.
I mention all of this for three reasons. First, it's funny, even to the guy who hit himself. Second, I think the head trauma probably explains more about my sense of humor than I am comfortable exploring. Third, however, and most importantly, this entire story is sort of one big metaphor for the Texans under Kubiak.
Remove the specifics of my story and just think about the big picture: I knew what the likely outcome of X was. I did X anyway, and the first time it didn't backfire and give me the likely outcome. So I decided to do X even more aggressively, and I got an even more aggressive version of the likely outcome. That's pretty much every facet of your 2007-to-present Houston Texans in a nutshell.
Richard Smith sucks? Bring in Frank Bush, who is like a reversed negative of a picture of Richard Smith!
The team's most glaring hole is the lack of a real nose tackle? Bring in more undersized guys, but with higher motors!
Secondary is awful? Draft a kid and thrust him into a starting role so he can learn on the job!
Swing Harder! Cheer louder! Lather, rinse repeat!
Maybe I am a jerk for bringing this up right now. I mean, it is the week of The Draft, when hope springs eternal even when there is no labor deal and football might not be played in 2011. And don't get me wrong: I certainly hope that the hiring of Wade Phillips signals the end of the Swing Harder! Texans and the beginning of the "maybe don't hit the damn basketball in the first place, genius" Texans. I mean, in theory, the move to his 3-4, combined with the tenuous hold Kubiak has on his job, means that more than just lip service will be paid to improving the defense and playing 60 actual minutes of football each week. That would be awesome.
You know what else would have been awesome? If I'd sent that basketball soaring over the house and had not bashed myself in the face. The scar on my cheek, however, suggests that just because it might be awesome if something worked out in the best possible way does not mean that it will.
Subject-Matter Jurisdiction Blues.
I had a random thought in the shower on Friday, which led to a number of conversations with people about it. Specifically, it was this: Folsom Prison is a state prison in California. Reno is in Nevada. If Johnny Cash shot a man in Reno just to watch him die, why in the world is he being housed in a California state prison?
Predictably, both because most of my friends are lawyers and because an even higher percentage of them like to argue about inane stuff (which is why we are friends), a number of theories were posited.
- Paul's Theory #1: He had been arrested in California and was awaiting extradition. I don't buy it. The lyrics make it pretty clear that (a) he'd been in Folsom for a while ("I ain't seen the sunshine, since I don't know when") and (b) he's going to be there forever ("I'm stuck in Folsom Prison, and time keeps draggin' on").
- Paul's Theory #2: He was imprisoned at Folsom for some other crime, and he's just recounting the cold-blooded murder in Reno as proof of why he "had it comin'," as the song says. This theory was echoed by Lee, but I don't think that's right. I mean, he's telling a story about being in prison, and he mentions a specific crime. It just defies song-writing convention (to say nothing of his story-telling abilities) to think that he would not specify the reason he was in that prison.
- Evan's Theory: He shot the guy just over the California-Nevada line, the guy drove the 14 miles to Reno, bleeding the whole time, and then Cash shot the man again in Reno, so you have two separate acts that would have each been fatal, and both states could exercise jurisdiction. Possible, but you're not really shooting him in Reno just to watch him die if you have the kind of animus it takes to chase him down and shoot him again. There'd have to be a backstory there, I think. Also, that assumes a level of familiarity with interstate jurisdiction that I doubt Cash had when he was writing the song at 19 years old while in the Air Force.
In the end, I could only come up with two explanations. The first is simply that it was a screw-up that nobody caught or even thought about until well after the song was popular. The seems like the most likely answer.
The second is my own personal theory, that it was a very subtle, very meta criticism of lawyers generally. After all, any decent attorney would have made the jurisdiction argument in a California court and would have won on it. Subject-matter jurisdiction can never be waived.2 Here, however, we have to assume that his attorney did not make the argument, and Cash was, in effect, wrongly convicted. Oh, sure, he knew he had it comin' in a general sense, but he is in Folsom not because of his own acts, but because of the failures of his attorney.
This theory, strange as it is, sort of even makes sense in the context of Cash's real life. He was born during the Depression, and his family was forced to move from Kingsland, AR, to a cotton farm in Dyess, AR, when he was three years old. The people from that time and place frequently have long-term grudges against lawyers and bankers and other types that seemed to have it so much easier.
But, yeah...it was probably just a screw-up.
The Case For Robert Quinn.
After Wade Phillips was hired, I wrote a post at BRB explaining Wade's 3-4 and how it differed from a traditional 3-4. In that post, I argued that Mario Williams should play the weak outside linebacker, DeMarcus Ware-type role, writing:
I realize that Mario, at 290+, seems a better fit for DE than WOLB. I disagree for two reasons: (1) Mario's skills would be wasted to a large degree as a defensive end and (2) Mario can thrive in the DeMarcus Ware role. There is literally nothing Ware can do in that role that Mario couldn't do. Come flying off the edge with a running start and beat the LT who also has responsibility for Antonio Smith? Easy peasy. Use that same running start and beat the LT with a bull rush? Hell, that's easier than the way Mario does it now, starting from a three-point stance. Tackle a running back rushing off left tackle? Sho'nuff. Drop into the flat zone? Mario has done it before, in what he calls "the Richard Smith years."
In my opinion, then, the strongest case for taking Robert Quinn with the first pick (should he fall that far) is because the Texans didn't listen to me about what to do with Mario. By which I mean, if Mario is not going to play that role, then you still need someone who can fill that WOLB position. Quinn ran a 4.59 at his pro day, while putting up a 33-inch vertical jump and 24 reps and measuring 6-4/265. Quinn has been slotted in mock drafts as high as #3 overall, and he's generally considered the most explosive edge rusher in the draft. On top of all of that, the man is confident: when asked who he compared favorably to in the NFL, he said that he just wanted to be "the first Robert Quinn."
The Case Against Robert Quinn.
Well, first off, he has a friggin' brain tumor. Yes, it's benign and, yes, his doctors have said that it does not seem to be a problem, but given the Texans' history with injuries and player health, is that really something you want to take a chance on? He also missed all of last season due to suspension, yet, despite being fully healthy and having had a whole lot of time to prepare, he didn't exactly light the Combine on fire. He did improve his numbers dramatically at his Pro Day, however. On the field, his run defense is questionable --- he is prone to bad reads --- and he never really dominated against any top-tier competition. Finally, there will be roughly 394 "Mighty Quinn" references between Draft Day and the first snap of the season.
He's Also Very Believable As An Ohio State Grad.
I figure that everyone who loves movies has at least two movies that they are know are terrible in an objective sense, but that they love watching anyway. For me, one of those movies is Point Break.3 I love the absurdity of the FBI paying someone to learn to surf. I love the over-the-top performances by John C. McGinley as Harp and Gary Busey as Pappas. I love that they inexplicably cast the terribly unattractive Lori Petty as the "sexy" female surfer that Bodhi and Utah both love. I love the fact that, on the play where Utah tackles Bodhi into the ocean during the football game, the endzone is suddenly much further away than on every previous play.
I have seen the movie so many times, I've even started to notice things like Johnny Utah telling Tyler as part of his cover story that he'd "never even seen the ocean" prior to moving to LA, but, in a separate scene, he references playing USC in the Rose Bowl, which should have tipped Tyler off that something wasn't adding up. Yet, it wasn't until I saw the last half of this movie for the millionth time last Saturday that I realized something brand new: Keanu Reeves was the absolute perfect choice for this role.
What I mean is, in every other movie Reeves was in4, there was someone in Hollywood who could have done the part just as well, if not better. Speed? George Clooney or even Tom Hanks. The Matrix? Leonardo DiCaprio. And so on and so forth.
But in Point Break, no one could have done it better. No one else could have pulled of the unintentionally hilarious delivery of "I AM AN EFF BEE EYE AGENT!" No one else could have simultaneously been a believably narcissistic federal agent and a believably burned-out surfer. It's not that Reeves is a good actor --- he most certainly is NOT --- but that he's perfectly awful for this particular perfectly awful movie.
The Case For Julio Jones.
A trendy mock draft pick of late for the Texans, Jones has visions of the 2000 St. Louis Rams dancing in some fans' heads. That's understandable; Jones is a beast of a man, running a 4.39 40 and broad jumping 11'3" all on a broken foot. At 6-3/220, he's roughly the same size as Andre Johnson. With Jones, Johnson, Owen Daniels, and Arian Foster on the field at the same time, defenses would never be able to stop everyone, and opposing offensive coordinators would literally be wet with jealousy.
The Case Against Julio Jones.
The Texans might not do it with a nice, consistent distribution of points over each half, but the final score nearly always shows that the offense was putting the ball in the endzone at some point during the game. It's just that the defense was allowing the other team to do the same, and often. Drafting Jones here doesn't fix that, nor does it address that the new 3-4 needs an explosive edge rusher who can play from day 1. There's also a diminishing return issue here: even if Jones improves the offense, it's unlikely that he could improve the team's results overall as greatly as an impact defensive player could. Additionally, Jones' broken foot is just the latest in a string of nagging injury issues, and you still have James Casey and Dorin Dickerson as developing players who should see more looks this year, so taking Jones kind of smacks of unnecessary.
When my wife was pregnant with our daughter, we made the decision to not find out the baby's gender ahead of time. It was difficult not because we wanted to know, but because doctors and nurses assume you want to know, so we had to be sure to remind everyone every time that we did not. When she was finally born, the surprise was awesome.
When a friend and his wife were talking about having a baby, I relayed this story to them and explained why it was so awesome thusly: this is the one time in your entire life with that kid that a surprise of this magnitude involving the child will be a good thing.
What I mean is, starting seconds after he or she is born, the earth-shattering surprises will always be of a less-than-happy nature. Dad, I'm pregnant! Dad, I just got arrested for trafficking three pounds of Colombian cocaine in my rectum. Dad, I've created a holographic anime girlfriend and we plan to wed as soon as the State of New York allows it!
Not finding out your baby's gender ahead of time is not for everyone, I realize. Some people just cannot function with that level of uncertainty in their lives. But if you can do it, I highly, highly recommend it.
The Case For Prince Amukamara
Conversations between the Texans' defensive backs and their opponents in 2010 probably went something like this: "Hey, Kareem, slow down!" "Why? (/slows down)" "So I can go past you! (/goes past him)" And once wide receivers got past the corners, it wasn't like Houston's safety corps --- the Dane Cook of safety tandems --- was going to stop anyone. Drafting Amukamara would give the Texans a strong, physical corner who projects to start from Day 1, and it would allow Houston to move Glover Quin to free safety, where he should thrive. Amukamara really had only one bad half all last season, and that was against Justin Blackmon (who is a mutant); otherwise, he was targeted something like 1.75 times per game. He's fast (4.37), big (6-1/200), tremendously fluid, highly intelligent, and hasn't had any problems that should raise even the tiniest flags.
The Case Against Prince Amukamara
Hey, remember how Kareem Jackson was "NFL ready" and he dominated the competition from his first NFL snap? Yeah, me neither. Thing is, with very few exceptions, the learning curve for a rookie CB in the NFL is pretty steep. Even if you expect Jackson to take a major step forward this season, that would really only get him up to the level of "average," meaning you'd have an average corner on one side and another rookie going through his growing pains on the other. That doesn't seem like a recipe to shore up an already porous defense right now. Maybe Amukamara and Jackson could be a great tandem in three or four years, but the Texans' are not in "wait three or four years" mode these days. You also have to account for Amukamara never being asked to cover behind a weak pass rush.
After this it's all "orcs" and "balrogs" and "gollums"
There is a rumor floating around nerd circles that scientists at the CERN Large Hadron Collider might have discovered the long-sought Higgs boson, aka "The God Particle." Now this remains nothing but a rumor --- many people are saying it's a hoax or a statistical anomaly --- but, if true, the impact on physics would be enormous.
Briefly, so as to not put anyone to sleep, all elementary particles in particle physics are either bosons or fermions. At the risk of oversimplifying, you can think of bosons as the particles that transmit interactions or the particles that make up radiation, while fermions can be thought of as the particles that make up matter.
According to the Standard Model of particle physics, there should be five bosons: photons, the W boson, the Z boson, the gluon, and the Higgs boson.5 The first four have been observed in particle colliders, but the fifth has not. However, scientists feel fairly certain that the Higgs exists because its existence is necessary in the Standard Model to explain how the other four bosons function.
I really have nothing more to add here that wouldn't get insanely boring, so ... yeah.
One Guy's Moderately Realistic Dream Draft
Round 1: Robert Quinn, DE/OLB, Univ. of North Carolina. See above.
Round 2: Stephen Paea, NT, Oregon State Univ. Paea is the posterchild for how a 3-4 NT in Wade Phillips' system can be a little smaller. He measured at 303 at the Combine, but my guess is he'll play closer to 310 in the pros. He's insanely strong, however, and will by a nightmare for opposing interior linemen. I would not be shocked to see him gone at least ten picks before the Texans' second-round choice, but, if he's there, they'd be insane not to take him.
Round 3: Dontay Moch, DE/OLB, Univ. of Nevada. Hey, 6-1/248 and runs a 4.4 40? Really? Because that's pretty awesome. It might seem strange to go with another edge rusher in the third round, but (a) there's no guarantee Connor Barwin's injury will be totally healed by the time the season starts and (b) there's no such thing as too many pass rushers in this system. If you really want to make the Texans' secondary look non-awful, putting Moch opposite Quinn and letting them pin their ears back might just do it. Not to mention, with that kind of speed on the outside, suddenly Mario Williams has help and should see fewer double-teams.
Round 4: Curtis Marsh, CB, Utah State. I have nothing against taking a corner in this draft, I just think you do yourself a disservice by drafting one so high that you are forced to start him to open the season. Marsh is a big corner at 6-1/197, and he's fast (4.42). He's a converted running back who also brings some value as a kick returner. He's not the most physical corner in the draft by any stretch, but with good size and speed, he can make up for that.
Round 5: Alex Henery, K/P, Univ. of Nebraska. To preempt some of you, let me just say that I realize that most mock drafts have him going in the sixth. That's all fine and dandy. However, with this pick, I'm sticking with my rule of not passing on a guy when you aren't fairly sure he'll be there for your next pick. Henery is, basically, my long-term dream in a kicker, as he is also a punter. Think about that for just a second, and imagine how awesome it would be to basically have an extra roster spot that you could use on, say, another pass rusher. I say you take Henery in the fifth and make sure you get him.
Round 6: Anthony Sherman, FB, Univ. of Utah. I'm not terribly enamored with any of the fullback names, but Sherman is a good blocker who is also an excellent receiver out of the backfield (meaning Kubiak can still throwing 1 or 2 swing passes to the fullback as he is wont to do). I chose Sherman over Stanley Havili because Havili's long-term shoulder problems make me think he's not going to be enough of a blocker to actually help the Texans. If the Texans decided to go the UDFA route for a FB, I'd also be fine with Deunta Williams, FS, Univ. of North Carolina here.
Round 7: Chykie Brown, CB, Univ. of Texas. It's a combination of throwing another CB in the mix in the hopes that someone surprises you and the obligatory draft pick from the great state of Texas here. He's 5-11/190, ran a sub-4.4 at Texas' pro day, and has the physical tools to suggest he can make the leap to the NFL. With a seventh-round pick, I don't know that you can ask any more than that.
Five Things That Are Incredibly Overrated As Of April 25, 2011 (With Underrated Replacements That Are Better)
1. The Twilight books/movies. Note: I've never read one of the books or seen one of the films, but I have a rule that says "anything that 13-year-old girls, overweight housewives, and gay men all think is fantastic is, without exception, terrible." Throw in the amount of money Stephenie Meyer has made from this stuff and it can't help but top this list. (Underrated vampire movie replacement: Blade. Just two hours of slashy vampire asskicking with snarky one-liners mixed in.)
2. Gazpacho. Here's every gazpacho recipe ever written: combine salad and V-8, refrigerate, serve cold because it gets worse at room temperature. (Underrated cold soup replacement: creamy asparagus soup.)
3. Glee. Popular songs sung by "normal" people? I liked it better when it was called "Tuesday night karaoke at some crappy bar with decent drink specials and a buxom waitress that would pretend to be interested in my drunken stories, thus resulting in a ridiculously high tip." (Underrated television show replacement: Archer. Seriously, if you aren't already watching it, you are missing the funniest show on television, so don't be surprised if you find yourself eating a whole bunch of spiderwebs. You would get that reference if you'd been watching the show, jerkwad.)
4. Fall Out Boy. Ok, first, they suck. Second, they used a Simpsons reference for their name and then had the audacity to suck, which gets them additional negative marks. (Underrated Simpsons-reference-named band: None, because Fall Out Boy sucks so bad that nobody else has done a Simpsons-reference name. What I'd give for a rocking band called Cheese-Eatin' Surrender Monkeys.)
5. Blue Moon. It's not that Blue Moon is a terrible beer; it's not. It's just that it's a really, really lame version of a Belgian witbier, which is about what you'd expect, given that it's made by Coors. (Underrated witbier replacement: Hoegaarden, or, if you want something a little more obscure, Karlsquell Witte. Both are fantastic, and neither should come to you with fruit floating in it.)
1 As a totally random aside, during that season, I once played second base, third base, shortstop, right field, and catcher, all in the same game. I felt the need to share that. Do you not?
2 Which, technically, means that Cash only needed to file a habeas corpus petition while killing time in Folsom Prison. But then we're just getting WAY off on a tangent of a tangent.
3 Others on the list: Days of Thunder, Nothing But Trouble, Freddy Got Fingered
4 Except possibly "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure," in which he was forced to stretch his acting abilities to play a moron, though I see no reason that Sasha Mitchell (aka Cody Lambert from "Step by Step") could not have played this role.
5 Some quantum gravity theories include a sixth boson, the graviton.