Returning to normal, a bit shocking


This was a ‘normal’ weekend. Which was a bit shocking to my system. Saturday was a fully relaxed day. Sunday was full, but fun. And musing on an epiphany I had about sports.

Saturday was a quiet day at home. Kim took Jimmy to his tournament, as it was in a smaller gym, and therefore would have been hard to keep the little ones entertained. But I did not have anything planned for the day otherwise. No big house projects, or really any projects. I ended up spending much of the day reading. It was a refreshing change of pace for me.

Jimmy did not have a good tournament. He is running into an odd predicament, he is tall for his weight. And so most of the the top wrestlers at his weight are shorter. So what he really needs to do is work on building up his weight. But he has such good eating habits that it will actually be hard for him to do that (certainly not an issue I have ever had.) I did some research and have given him some tips, some dietary habits for him to follow that are not bad for him in the long run. We will see how that goes.

Sunday was full, but it was normal stuff.  Grocery shopping for the week. D&D with the boys. Followed by the Broncos game. And then a relatively quiet evening, or at least as quiet as it can be with 3 extra teenage boys spending the night as Jimmy had a sleepover. Since today is a day off for the kids for MLK day. And it gives Jimmy a chance to kind of catch up and spend some time with his buddies that he doesn’t see during the week any more.

The Broncos game was a mixed bag. Way too close to really enjoy during the game itself. And more than a little frustrating as there were more than a few miscues and self inflicted wounds.  But the Broncos won, which was a good thing. Although I have to admit even that is a bit of a mixed bag. Because the Super Bowl is the same day as our next Denver game. And if the Broncos are in the Super Bowl I imagine we will end up hosting a party, which means that the Denver game is postponed for 2 weeks. So there is a part of me that kind of hopes that the Broncos lose so I am not forced with having to make that choice. But only a part of me feels that, for the most part I want the Broncos to win.

Which leads into my next thought, an epiphany I had about sports. My Dad came over  on Saturday to watch some of one of the playoff games. He asked me if I had watched the College Championship game. And I was able to put together a coherent reason why I did not watch. I enjoy watching football for the most part, although that enjoyment has waned over the years. And if there is a team I like playing I will definitely try to watch. But, if there is a team playing that I do not like, and the other team is one I don’t much care about, then I can very easily skip watching it. Because in that case all I care about is one team losing, not so much the other team winning. And that just isn’t much fun, watching a game solely in the hopes of a negative result. Which gives me a good rule of thumb for any sport moving forward. Before devoting time to watching the event ask myself: is there a team that I really like? If not, is there a team I don’t like? If not, is it a sport I enjoy watching just to watch? If not, change the channel, turn it off, do something different.

So, the weekend was a mixed bag. A return to those weekends when I could truly relax and enjoy myself. And plenty of things to actually enjoy. But it was such a change that it felt odd to get that time to relax.

 

Talking football, Blood bowl, Magic the Gathering


It is the mid-week, a day I have neglected to blog about for a few weeks. But today I have some things to talk about that are not directly linked to family. I have a few thoughts on NFL Free Agency regarding my 2 favorite teams. I have a game report and discussion of a Blood Bowl game. And last some thoughts on Magic, kids and West Side.

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NFL free agency opened yesterday and my 2 favorite teams (just to update I am an NFL bigamist) chose different approaches. Since they will be playing very similar schedules this year, including facing each other, the results of these approaches will become apparent.

The Rams have apparently decided to sit out the land rush for the ‘top’ players. Instead choosing to focus on middle tier players and the draft to keep building what is a very young team. For the most part I agree with this approach. There wasn’t a player out there that would make a substantial difference to the team, certainly not one worth the potential cost. It is clear that the Rams front office is in this for the long haul, building a contender from the ground up, rather than chasing the marquee players.

The Broncos on the other hand took the opposite approach, already shelling out for 2 top players at their respective positions. And they are apparently in the running for at least one if not 2 more players. The best part of this is they are focusing on what was broken: the secondary. No one was scared of the Broncos secondary and defense last year, certainly not once Miller got hurt. Not to say that a better defense would have made a big difference in the Super Bowl. But if they couple this focus on rebuilding & improving the defense with a revised approach to the offense that is aimed at more balance I think they will accomplish the one thing they really needed to do. Insure that Peyton Manning does not have to win every game, that other parts of the team can take care of that and he can just be a part of the overall package. So overall I am happy with both teams because they are doing what is best for where they are right now.

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Well all good things must come to an end. And the glorious win streak of the Black Pillar Panthers came to it’s end last night. About the only good things that can be said about the game was no Panthers players got permanently injured and I will have a full roster for the next game. And the fact that the game was effectively meaningless as I had already gotten myself into the Championship game. But the sad fact remains that the damn Wood elves remain my kryptonite. But I had fun overall, and with 3 players gaining new skills the Panthers remain poised for bigger and better things.

It has been fun to play in these leagues, it is an excellent diversion. And the only real drawback is that the game room is not well heated so on cold nights my feet end up becoming ice cubes which makes it very hard to get home and get to sleep. But I can live that in general, as the weather is improving.

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It is official, someone has opened a Magic the Gathering in Old Colorado City. Which means no more saving up for trips to Wal Mart to buy more cards. And from what I can see in the web site it has space for open games and tournaments. Which also makes it a little easier to get Jimmy out of the house and together with his buddies. We will check it out this weekend, see how big it really is etc. I know that so long as it remains friendly I will try to make sure that the shop gets at least my families Magic business. Because I really appreciate the fact that there is something on the West Side, when there hasn’t been a real hobby shop west of Academy and south of Constitution since the Compleat Gamer closed. So the real key will be how open and hospitable the place is for the kids, will it be a place that I can take Jimmy to and drop him off for a couple of hours on a weekend day? That remains to be seen.

Coming to grips with a surprising reality


Realizing that we can no longer put off a major decision on Danny. Allowing children to grow up and take some responsibility. And a final word on the Super Bowl.

Danny & Learning

The signs have been there, really they have been there for a while. And after more than a little resistance and a lot of discussion the time has come to get aggressive on helping Danny. For quite a while we have had some problems reconciling what we see as his ability and intelligence with what comes back on his report card. But recent events have made it increasingly clear that he very likely has a learning disability. That is hard to accept for me, not because I think it is impossible, but simply because I had very few problems myself (aside from motivation) which makes it hard to detect in my own children.

So now comes the fun part, getting the testing done. The school district does not do the testing due to lack of funding. It is unlikely that my insurance will pay for it. And then when we do the testing, assuming it comes back with the results that we expect then the school will have to make adjustments along with us.

I can accept that this is the case, and I know it has no impact on who Danny is and in the long run will be worth it, and help him. But it is still strange, and infuriating that we & the school did not detect it earlier.

Responsibility

Today is a snow day here. Mostly because it is really cold, 6 below when I left the house to come to work. But it was my first real test of telling the kids that Jimmy is ‘in charge’. And then just leaving them to their devices (literally as they were all playing on their Kindle’s and computers when I left.) Legally I know Jimmy can do this. And I know that with Mom next door they have resources easily accessible plus some level of supervision. But it is still a big step for the kids to basically leave them alone at the house.

Broncos

I’ve spent the last couple of days reading recaps, assessments, interviews etc. about the Super Bowl. And have come to a horrible realization that I have been here before. As an admitted sports bigamist I have also been a life long fan of the Rams, first in LA, then in St. Louis. And a lot of what happened in the Super Bowl and the stories afterwards read like a repeat of the 2002 Super Bowl, and the 2003 Super Bowl as well. What everyone agrees happened in 2002 is that the Rams, with a great offense, came into the Super Bowl and refused to alter their game plan, even when it was obvious that the Patriots had their scheme figured out. Many of the post game analysis of that game was about how the Rams Coach, Mike Martz, stubbornly refused to run the ball more, even when it was clear the Patriots were able to defend the pass at the expense of leaving the run game open. Even creepier was what happened in 2003 when a great offense lost against a great defense (the last technical #1 vs. #1 matchup before this year), and many of the defensive players talked about knowing the plays as they developed.

So guess what are the 2 themes that have cropped up after this game? First, the Broncos more or less abandoned their run game in the first half, kept throwing it when it was clear that the Seahawks defense was very capable of defending all of the routes and plays that were called. Sadly and oddly guess who is the man the Broncos offensive coordinator calls his mentor? Mike Martz, the same coach whose stubbornness in sticking to his game plan partially cost his team a Super Bowl. I sincerely hope he learns his lesson and makes adjustments before next season, and in general. Second, some of the Seahawks players are talking about how they basically knew what routes and plays the Broncos would run as the plays were starting. I don’t think this was a case of spying or a failure to change like what happened with the Raiders. But again, this comes back to coaching. You know as a coach that the other team has 2 weeks to prepare and all the film in the world on your team. So if you are a good coach you make adjustments, taking advantage of the fact that you have one of the greatest quarterback minds of all time and do something different, or disguise what you are doing better. And again this did not happen.

I am not trying to take anything away from the Seahawks, they played a practically flawless game. And I am not trying to deflect some of the blame from the players who did not execute well (I am looking at the offensive line.) But I do think that there was a serious failure on the part of the coaches leading up to the game and during the game. And it is a failure that I hope they learn from before next season, otherwise they could end up in the same exile that Mike Martz eventually ended up in because of his refusal to adjust his style.

Well that’s over, time to move on


Overall I had a pretty good weekend. Friday night and Saturday were curl up in the house and watch movies while it snowed outside moments. Other than a trip to the grocery store and a few other errands it was very quiet. Sunday I had some fun with the kids in the snow, did some cleaning and preparing the house. Played some computer and read. And then the game happened, for which the best that I can say is that I didn’t lose my temper, and kept it in perspective.

We watched a variety of movies over the weekend. Some action, some dramas, some kids movies. It was mostly a day of rest, especially for Kim as it was her only day off, as she had to work Sunday morning. I made a point on Sunday to get the kids off the electronics and they had a good day. The little ones had their friends over. And they all went sledding down at West for quite a while. I think they had a good weekend.

As I said, the best I can say about the game was that I handled it well, kept it in perspective as some people around me were melting down. I can point the finger at 4 things really. First, terrible coaching, I think that the offensive game plan was just terrible, pretty much played exactly into how not to beat the Seahawks. Second, the offensive line picked a terrible moment to have it’s absolute worst game of the season. Third, the defense just finally wore out, attrition from losing 5 starters finally took it’s toll (which also led to the horrendous special teams play.) Fourth, the Seahawks played their best possible game of the season at the exact right time, pretty much the exact opposite of the Broncos.

My wish list for the off season for the Broncos.

First, get everyone on the defense healthy and on the same page so the team that could simply not afford to take chances and play with any aggression can do so again. I think that game showed what happens when you have a full compliment of starting caliber players, which the Broncos did not have by the time the game started. I think getting Wolfe, Vickerson, Miller, Moore, Harris Jr. back will go a long way towards this. I think people forget how good the defense that won our Super Bowls was, it wasn’t just Elway and Davis.

Second, dedicate a large portion of the planning on how to improve the running game, making it a major factor instead of a counter punch and change of pace. I think adding another consistent tight end of H-back type would go a long way towards this. Again, if any lesson from the last Super Bowl victories can be carried forward it is that it took the arrival of Davis to get Elway his championships.

Third, get a more consistent game breaker for special teams and offense. This requires some explanation. I think that the Holliday experiment has run it’s course and we need a player who can be more consistent returning kicks. And I think that if we lose Decker we need a receiver who is a true burner to help take the top off the defense, who scares defenses the way Harvin did for the Seahawks.

Can they get all of those? I think to some extent yes, getting injured players back is relatively simple. And just changing the emphasis on offense can be done, even if Moreno leaves. The game breaker is a little harder, but the 2 players that might be available in the draft are Marqise Lee or DeAnthony Thomas. I think either of those could step in on the return game, and also be that threat that keeps teams from just playing short zones and refusing to honor the deep passing game.

But in the end, it’s a game, and now that I have put all these thoughts down on ‘paper’ I can move on. I can alter my weekend focus. And the family as a whole can work on finding different things to do.

Life returning to normal, plus I’ve got some thoughts on the Super Bowl


Finally got all the kids to go to school today, but first they have their second 2 hour weather delay of the week and third in just over a week. Got Jimmy back to school after only 2 days of fighting the abdominal migraine this time, which is much better than prior instances. Now if I could just get Danny to get past his mental issues we might be home free. Only have the game on tap this weekend as we decided to skip the weekend wrestling tournament since Jimmy was sick and will not have much strength to wrestle.

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Just another aside: look SUV owners, just because you are willing to forego decent gas mileage in the name of ‘safety’ and other reasons does not mean you have a license to drive like an ass. Not once but twice today on the drive into work, in the slick snow and ice I was tailgated by jerks in SUV’s. Clearly they thought that because they own this big ass, impractical vehicle that they had the right to drive as fast as they want despite the weather. What assholes!

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I very patiently waited until the Friday before the game to provide my thoughts. There are a couple of thoughts that have run through my brain. And of course I have been digesting a lot analysis over the last 2 weeks. Here are my thoughts:

Offense vs. Defense

There has been some disagreement over what really qualified as the Number 1 Offense versus Number 1 defense. But this breakdown seems to be the consensus:

This year’s New Jersey Super Bowl will be the sixth time since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger that the top-rated offense has met the top-rated defense. So far, defense is 4-1 — Bucs over Raiders (2003), Giants over Bills (1991), 49ers over Dolphins (1985), and Steelers over Cowboys (1979), with the top offense prevailing only in 1990 (49ers over Broncos)

First, I think that you can disregard the 1979 game because it came before the rules expanded passing games. I think the 1985 game has some similarities, in that the 49er secondary was extraordinary and the Seattle one this year is also quite good. But where the comparison breaks is that the Seattle offense cannot come close to that 49er offense and that was the real difference in that game. The 1990 game has to be discounted for the simple fact that that was the height of the NFC conference dominance, and the Broncos defensive stats were simply not credible because of that. You should also disregard the 2003 game because that was the worst coached game I can remember on the part of the Raiders, many Buccaneer defensive players talk about how they knew the plays as they were being called. That leaves the 1991 game, which I think is the likeliest scenario for a Seahawk victory: just keep the Denver offense off the field and hang on for dear life.

I think if you are looking for other comparisons the 2000 Super Bowl is also remarkably apt. I could see this game staying really close, until the Broncos catch that one break to take a lead, and then hanging on at the end. I could see the Broncos taking a lead and then Russell Wilson catching fire as the Broncos defense gets tired of chasing him around the field, just like the Rams did with Steve McNair.

What I don’t expect is a blow out. I could see Denver getting a lead and comfortably winning despite some late scores, like they did in the playoffs (and throughout much of the season.) I could see Seattle winning by keeping Denver off the field and frustrating them with long time consuming drives, but not being able to blow them off the field.

Deeper analysis:

Seattle Defense versus Denver Offense

This is obviously the marquee match up. And I expect the Seattle Defense to have it’s moments. The will likely get some pressure on Manning. And will probably frustrate the Denver receivers with some questionable coverage. But in the end I think the difference will be Manning and the depth of Denver’s offense. I think that when the Broncos go with 3 wide outs and 1 tight end they create too many match up problems, and that when Manning finds a weakness he will attack it successfully, possibly over and over.

Seattle Offense versus Denver Defense

Here is where I think the Broncos have a more decided advantage. Especially if the Broncos get a late lead, I don’t see Seattle being able to strike quickly. I think that the Denver secondary has the talent to take away what is a decent but not great receiving corps. And that the Broncos run defense is better than people give it credit. The obvious X factor is Russell Wilson & his scrambling and running, which could create problems, although the Broncos did handle Vick, RG III and Terrell Pryor this season so it won’t be their first taste of a mobile quarterback. The other X factor is Percy Harvin, but I question his health and durability at this point despite his claims that he is healthy.

Special teams

With Harvin healthy I think that Seattle has the more dangerous return game. But don’t discount what the unpredictable Trindon Holiday can do. I think the kickers are a wash, both are equally good, and the weather reports don’t indicate that will have a huge effect on the kicking game.

Weather

It will be cold, but all current predictions indicate it will be dry and minimal wind. Which obviously makes thing easier for the Broncos. Despite the old QB in the cold addage I think after a season of playing and practicing in the cold has accustomed Manning to playing a game in the cold, and adrenalin and equipment will make up the difference.

Summary

I predict a good, competitive game. I think both teams are capable of bringing out the best in each other. I’m not going to jinx things by predicting a winner. Plus there is no way I can be objective. And either way, I will kiss my kids goodnight after the game, and Monday will be another day.

Surviving through teamwork & communication


With the arrival of school comes the return of the really busy schedule. Scouts 2 days a week, wrestling 2-3 times a week, school, full time work for both of us. At this point Kim & I barely see each other over the middle of the week. But that is all okay, because we have become a team, and a good team that communicates and splits its duties so everything is covered.

That is how we will handle days like Saturday. Where Kim will depart early with Jimmy for a wrestling tournament. And around lunch time I will drop Emily off for child care and take Danny to a Scouting event. And then we will all rejoin in the evening for Scout night at CC hockey. Granted, not all weekends are like this, but it has gotten close.

And we couldn’t handle all this without teamwork and communication. Teamwork that means we each do our part. I handle the school mornings and drop off, and bedtimes. Kim handles the pickup and afternoon home work. And we split meal preparation. And we cooperate on the weekends to cover all the weekly chores that need to be performed. We have become a well oiled machine, settling into our roles and doing our part.

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And with this weekend it is almost all done. One or 2 more games and the football silliness will be over for a number of months. And as always I welcome the end of the season. The pre-occupation, the time spent, the wasted emotional energy, almost done, ready to be put on the shelf for 6 months.

I am much calmer this week than last week. I think getting past that first round made a huge mental difference. I’m not saying we are somehow playing a worse team or that this week will be easier for the Broncos. If anything we are playing a more dangerous team. But at this point if we lose it won’t feel the same as if we had lost to San Diego, or that damn Baltimore loss last year. I’m not predicting a loss, I think the Broncos will win, because I think getting the Patriots away from New England is the real difference, not like forcing a dome team to play outside but it is a big difference maker.

But either way it feels good to be getting close to the end.

Another step on the road, and gradually getting back to normal


At last, all 3 children are at school. We have a full 5 day week to look forward to.  And then a super busy start to the 3 day weekend, but at least there is that 3 day weekend to look forward to.

Saturday was a relaxed day for the most part. We took Chewie in to get a very necessary grooming. Emily went to a Girl Scout event. And otherwise we kept it low key. Tried to focus on getting everyone as much rest as possible, to recover from their various ailments.

Sunday was also relaxed at the start. I managed to get back into running (although clearly not fully back to health yet.) And the kids ended up having a day at home without anything dramatic and got another good nights rest.

Kim and I on the other hand spent Sunday morning getting ready and then drove up to Denver to attend the Broncos game. Thanks again to Dave for giving us the tickets! I will talk football specifics later. But suffice to say we had a good time. And handled the cold wind as well as we could (layers, as always the secret was layers.)

At last though we can focus on settling into the routine: kids in school, establish the after school routine of home work and regular bedtimes. Regular extra-curricular activities (Girl Scouts, Cub Scouts, wrestling club.) And then await the next inevitable challenge to that routine.

Obviously I was pleased with the results of the Broncos game. It was harder than I would have liked, a few too many unforced errors. But hey, a win is a win, and when you can claim a win when your team loses the turnover battle 2-0, and also misses a field goal you have to be happy with the results. Now comes the seemingly inevitable rematch with the evil Patriots. But for once they have to come to Denver. And I would like to think that this team has the ability, in Denver in decent weather, to game plan around what the Patriots will throw at them.

On the other side of things it is a downright depressing time to be a Rams fan. Because they have the terrible fate of being in the same division as the 2 teams playing in the NFC conference championship game. And based on how these teams are playing and are made up it is unlikely that they will get worse in coming years. So the Rams have to figure out how to get not just a little better, but a lot better in what could be the toughest division in the NFL.