Preseason Football & Peek at the Picks

Hello again everybody...

Happy Hump-Day to you all. Today's my last Fair/RNC-less day until September 4th. I'm really not trying to whine about it. Really. It is what it is. This is my 7th State Fair working at the mighty 830, so by now it should be old hat, right? Yeah, something like that.

If any of you are planning to be out at the great Minnesota get-together on either of the Sundays it's in session, stop by the 'CCO booth on Carnes Ave. between 1 and 6pm and say hello. I don't mind working out there all that much. We generally amuse ourselves counting the number of mullets (male and female) or the number of hairy guys wearing wife-beaters. If you can get past the "testing your faith in humanity" aspect of it, it's actually quite entertaining.

But on to today's Take. Today, I'm going to give you my rant on pre-season football. One I hope most of you will agree with. Then it's this week's Peek at the Picks segment. Things are getting tight in plenty of divisions as we head towards the last month of the season. And my picks are surprisingly hanging in there. Well, in the NL they are anyway!

There is nothing worse than aggressive stupidity.
- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749 - 1832), German writer.

Are you listening Jeff Kent? Are you?

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I've told you in the past that I'm really not sure how much NFL I'm going to be covering this fall. Those of you who received my college football emails know that I sprinkled a little NFL into those, so it's entirely possible I'll tack a note or two on when I start my college football columns.

(Aside: Can you believe the first college football games begin a week from tomorrow? Expect my first column on the wonder of NCAA pigskin that day, August 28th.)

But I do have to give you this one NFL rant. We're about halfway through the exhibition season and I'm already bored to tears. In my mind there's nothing more pointless than pre-season NFL football.

The players who become so compelling over the course of the 17-week regular season, play on average a quarter and a half or so. After that it's guys who'll be delivering pizzas until the Arena Football League season begins. Why should I sit down and commit myself to 3 hours of watching football when I don't know half of the guys who are playing, and more importantly when I don't need to know who they are because they won't be making the main rosters?

Another thing that drives me crazy is the sloppy play. In the short amount of time that the starters are actually in the game, there are all kinds of errors as new teammates start to get used to each other's timing. And the rest of the time you have less-skilled players in the game, so of course there are going to be all kinds of mistakes. Clearly, that's not any fun to watch. Plus coaches are so desperate to save their best plays for the regular season, that the plays they do call are so vanilla that even without mistakes it's boring to watch.

And lastly, one of the things that makes football so compelling is the small number of games. In the NFL you play 16 and in college you play 12. Compare those to baseball (162) and hockey or basketball (82) and you can easily see why each game in a football season takes on such a high level of importance. But that drama is completely missing in the pre-season. None of these 4 games matter. As a fan, you're basically holding your breath for the first half, hoping none of the front-line players are seriously injured. And strangely enough, you almost breath a sigh of relief if your starting running back rolls an ankle in the first game, because it's not a serious injury and just to be safe, you know they'll keep him out of the rest of the pre-season games, which in turn will prevent him from getting more seriously hurt.

How freaking convoluted is that?!

You hear rumors from time to time that the NFL's considering shortening the exhibition season to 2 games and lengthen the regular season to 18 games. To which I say, "Hell yes!" The sooner the better. Two exhibition games aren't odious. And adding two games to the regular season won't significantly reduce the drama of each single game that I referenced earlier.

The only potential downside that I see is that it would make it more difficult for someone to come along and have a perfect season and finally shut those idiots from the '72 Dolphins up!

Finally today, it's this week's Peek at the Picks segment where I compare my pre-season baseball picks to the current MLB standings. And then you, my dear readers have the opportunity to mock and ridicule my prognostication skills. Like you need the excuse!

NL East: New York Mets, 69-57 (Dan's Pick: NY Mets)
The "other" team from New York is once again on top of the East. 1.5 games isn't a huge margin over Philadelphia. But those pesky Marlins have finally dropped to 4 games back and dropping 6 of their last 10 seems to have finally dropped them out of the race. But even though the shocking season in Tampa has overshadowed the Marlins' season, what Florida has done so far this year shouldn't be overlooked. Anybody who tells you that any team has "bought a championship" is full of it, and the Marlins are a big part of the evidence to back you up. Met's Magic Number: 36.

NL Central: Chicago Cubs, 77-48 (DP: Cubs)
The Cubs are tied with the Rays for the best record in baseball. Now there's a sentence I never thought I'd type! That's like typing "perennial Big Ten contender, Minnesota Golden Gophers". Sorry Goldy, it's a cheap shot, but it's true. The Cubbies have opened up a 6-game lead on the Brewers and a 8.5-game lead over the Cardinals. I'm not saying they have this thing sewn up, but somewhere there's a plus-sized gal with a Chicago accent warming up her voice. Chicago's Magic Number: 31.

NL West: Arizona Diamondbacks, 65-60 (DP: D'backs)
The D'backs haven't fallen out of first place, but they've spent plenty of days sharing it with those pesky boys in blue out of L.A. As of today, Arizona holds a one game lead over the Dodgers, but I have little doubt that'll continue to vacillate over the next few weeks. It's my opinion that Arizona's superior starting pitching (even with L.A.'s addition of Greg Maddux) will make just enough of a difference to keep them in first when it counts. But I don't expect their final lead in the standings to be any more than 3 games. Arizona's Magic Number: 37.
NL Wildcard: Milwaukee Brewers, 72-55 (DP: L.A. Dodgers, 7 Games Back)
Well I can't get all the NL picks right? I mean God wouldn't allow that to happen. 72-55? I didn't really realize that the Crew was having a season quite that impressive. I suppose that happens when you have a club like the Cubs in your division. But still, Milwaukee fans have to be pretty damned pleased. The Brewers have a 2.5-game lead over the Cardinals and a 4-game lead over the Phillies. I wouldn't consider either of those margins a lock, but I definitely like the position that Milwaukee's in. Milwaukee's Magic Number: 33.

AL East: Tampa Bay Rays, 77-48 (DP: Boston, whom I hate, 4.5 GB)
I have to admit, I'm more than a little surprised. Tampa lost OF Carl Crawford and 3B Evan Longoria in the last couple of weeks and hasn't missed a beat. They've even lengthened their lead over the Red Sox (whom I hate). And it's not like they've been playing soft teams. Tonight, they're going for a sweep of the Angels who have the second-best record in the AL. Boston (whom I hate) hasn't exactly been stuck in neutral, winning 7 of their last 10. But the Rays have flat out been better and right now, I'm not sure what's going to slow them down. As for the Yankees? Better luck next year fellas. Tampa's Magic Number: 33.

AL Central: Chicago White Sox, 72-53 (DP: Detroit, 10.5 GB)
I said it last week, but I'll reiterate it: Detroit's dead. They've got no shot at making the playoffs which flat-out floors me given the moves they've made in the off-season. I'm not sure what kind of shake-ups are going to occur when this season's done, but I'll be surprised if everybody keeps their jobs in Motown. The Whities have a 1-game lead over the Twins. And based on the scores of today's day-games, that doesn't look like it'll change before Minnesota hits the road for their epic 14-game road trip. Working in the Twins favor over the next couple of weeks are the relative schedules. While the Twins are playing L.A., Seattle, Oakland and Toronto on the road (3 of which they're clearly better than) the White Sox are playing Tampa (at home), Baltimore, Boston and Cleveland (all road games). I'm not saying the next two weeks will decide the division, but they certainly have the potential to. Chicago's Magic Number: 37.

AL West: Los Angeles Angels, 76-48 (DP: Seattle, 30.5 GB)
Obviously this one's in the bag. What's surprised me is the way that the Halo's have been handled in Tampa. One series does not a playoff preview make, but one does start to wonder if the Angels aren't getting a tad bored with their 15.5-game lead in the Western division. It seems to me that Mike Scoscia is way too good of a manager to let that happen for long, but I do wonder... L.A.'s Magic Number: 22.

AL Wildcard: Boston Red Sox (whom I hate), 73-53 (DP: Cleveland, 15GB)
I'm not going to get off the mat on this one either. But it is an interesting race. Boston (whom I hate) is in the lead, but it's an ever-narrowing margin as the Twins are only 1.5 games behind them. I suppose you could call it a 3-team race really between Boston, Chicago and Minnesota. The Yankees are 6.5 games back and they're about to get passed by the Blue Jays who are only a game behind them. While I'm sure that a post-season without the Yankees or the Red Sox (whom I hate) would have Fox Sports executives leaping from 30-story buildings, I think it'd be rather enjoyable. Tampa/Minnesota, L.A./Chicago? I'd watch those! Boston (whom I hate) has a Magic Number of 36.

So I'm 3 of 8 on my predictions. Those of you who saw my college football picks last year are nodding your heads right now. For the rest of you? Trust me, this is par for the course.

That's all for today. Hope you have a wonderful mid-week. I'll be back on Friday, bitching about the Fair I'm sure. Until then, thanks for reading!


  1. In reverse order:

    3 of 8? Nah, that's still right one too many times to be par for Dan-voodoo.

    Maybe I'm a bit of a grammar fiend (yeah, laugh now), but vacillate kinda holds a kind of "indecisive" connotation. If you mean more of a "back and forth" kind of thing, you should use oscillate.

    "Perennial Big Ten contender, Minnesota Golden Gophers" is only true in Wrestling.

    Cancel the NFL, and split the NCAA games between Saturday and Sunday.