Killer’s Rookies and Sleeper Running backs ‘13

Montee Ball

Montee Ball

It’s that time of year again were we start putting our fantasy pitchers, catchers and outfielders to rest in our mind and we wake the beast of gridiron obsession. Like slow moving fantasy zombies we browse magazine racks at the local Wal–Mart or Gas Station for Fantasy Football Magazines with promises of previously unknown knowledge. This will be no different. Commissioners from all around begin to dread the schedule conflict of every coach in the league just to make draft day and time. Coaches in those same leagues still can’t figure out how the draft works or the leagues’ rules. Each one of us will beam with confidence as “MY” team looks great on paper. ESPN sees a spike in viewer numbers as well as NFL network. A tidal wave of speculation and prognostication is surfed by eager players clicking away on lap tops, PCs, and electronic media just looking for that one guy who can put their team on top. Welcome to Fantasy Football season.
In this article I’ve decided to cover some obvious to maybe not so obvious running backs as potential sleepers. When I mention sleepers, I mean players who can contribute to your team at some point in the season as a stash or sneaky starter. I also wanted to educate and review this season’s crop of running back rookies. So let’s get started and enjoy!
Montee Ball: Denver Broncos
Ball seems an obvious rookie starter and has been very productive in college. Denver felt comfortable enough after drafting the Wisconsin running back to let former starter Willis McGahee go. I would really like to think Ball as the next Edgerrin James. Most likely this is for not. There are a few knocks on him to point out. One of the reasons he did fall to the 2nd round of the draft was his lack of top end speed. But note at the rookie combine he posted a 4.66 40 which was respectable for 19th out of 33 tailbacks who worked out that day. The other knock on Ball was his massive workload at Wisconsin; he amassed 924 carries in 4 seasons for the badgers. It’s reminiscent of former Lions back and first round pick, Kevin Smith, who out of college amassed 405 carries in three seasons at Central Florida. 405 of those carries came in his final year at Central vs. Ball’s final year at Wisconsin with 356. Plenty of tread on Ball has been worn. The plus side of this is that Ball more than proved he is capable of staying healthy with the heavy workload. Durability is not the issue…yet. So why would Montee be a sleeper? Easy, because people are worried about him sharing carries with a bulkier Ronnie Hillman and quickly fading Knowshon Moreno. Hillman had his chance last year and as of early OTAs, Hillman had been getting a lot of carries for negative yardage. To put that to rest Elway declared Ball as a 3 down back and Hillman as “Change of Pace”. The other answer is more than a few in your league immediately and ignorantly thinks, “Ron Dayne”, as they have been burnt by the former Wisconsin product. Ron Dayne he is not, by any means. Don’t let Ball fall too far as he will be grabbed earlier than you think, as anyone associated with Peyton Manning’s offense will.

Vick Ballard: Indianapolis Colts
Ballard could be a big time sleeper. Though he is not a flashy running back, he has nothing but opportunity coming out his ears. Yes, I know, Indy media has Ahmad Bradshaw inked in as the starter. Did anyone notice that Indy was also the only team somewhat serious about signing Bradshaw? Both backs are about the same size and stature, but Ballard is younger and healthier. In Bradshaw’s 6 seasons, only twice did he reach the pinnacle 1,000 yards. Not to mention a back whose main tools, being his feet and legs, have suffered multiple injuries. Let’s not forget that Bradshaw also shared his workload with Brandon Jacobs and Derrick Ward. He was unable to beat those two outright for the job and only once, in 2011, did he get it full time. I’m not so sure a team would pencil in a guy, so fragile, as “starter”. Ballard on the other hand did share backfield duties with a diversity of backs, often replacing an injured and pedestrian Donald Brown. His rookie year he managed 814 yards and 2 TDs respectably in a time share. He also proved he can play full time and produce, as he did vs. a tough Texans defense for 105 yards week 15 and in the playoffs vs. Baltimore for 91 yards. I see another time share until injury to Bradshaw and a sneaky pickup.

Le’veon Bell: Pittsburgh Steelers
Pittsburgh and running backs are like Nutella and Graham Crackers; they’re just meant to be together. Bell could be the real deal in Steel Town. He’s big (6’ 2” 230lbs), he’s fast enough (low 4.48 40), and strong. How strong? The Michigan State back ran for 1,700 yards last year; of those about 900 yards were after contact. That is a true measurable, due to the rarity of the holes to be the same in the NFL as they were in college. He can run inside and out, catch the ball and could be heavily relied on in Todd Haley’s offense. Bell faces little to no competition for carries which means he could be in line for some very solid numbers. I wouldn’t be surprised if he was the top rookie by season’s end. All Bell does is run over defenders that get in his way. The knocks on him is that he is a little slow on picking up the blitz and the Steelers offensive line is pretty weak, but that’s okay because his Spartan Line was awful too. He makes up for it as a spectacular pass blocker and receiver out of the back field. UPDATE: As of the release of this article Le’veon Bell suffered a Lisfranc injury and is expected to miss 6 – 8 weeks. Steelers are expected to go with Isaac Redman at running back. I’m not sold.

Giovani Bernard: Cincinnati Bengals
Benjarvus Green-Ellis may need a neck brace after the preseason. Just over his should and coming up fast, is first running back taken overall in the 2013 draft, Giovani Bernard. The former Tar Heel is an explosive threat, but at 5’-9” and 206lbs, he may just be a change of pace back the Bengals have been looking for. Bernard is extremely elusive and can explode around the edge. When working in space he is nasty, which makes him a big threat on special teams. He is phenomenal out of the backfield as a receiver and draws comparisons to Darren Sproles. On the surface he looks great but he does have problems with pass blocking and he did tear an ACL in 2010. Most likely it will be the dreaded “running back by committee” (RBBC) scheme in Cincy. At best it could be a 50-50 time share in the beginning of the season and Bernard overtakes the starting role by midpoint. Still, there are plenty of touches to go around as last year Bengals Backs touched the ball 401 times.

Andre Brown: New York Giants
I know David Wilson’s fantasy stock is rising but lets’ not forget that the G-Men love RBBC. It was no mistake that the Giants avoided exposing Wilson early on. Wilson has tremendous upside and tremendous downside. Although Wilson averaged about 5 yards per carry he only scored 4 rushing touchdowns on 71 attempts. Wilson will spell Brown at the goal-line and the short-yardage situations. Brown was on a tear prior his November ’12 broken fibula. In that short time the former practice squad back had 73 attempts for 385 yards, a team leading 5.3 yard average, and 8 touchdowns. Whereas Wilson had trouble with Blitz pickups, Brown did not. Knowing how to protect the QB will keep you on the field longer. Those flaws for Wilson will lead to more touches for Brown. Neither back will be a number one, but fantasy number wise its Brown’s for the taking in the Thunder and Lightning scheme.

Bryce Brown: Philadelphia Eagles
When Chip Kelly was hired as Head Coach of the Eagles one could be sure that he would have no problem running the ball. In the last 4 years that Kelly coached the Ducks they had a 62-38 run-to-pass ratio. Sick, I know. Just last year alone, Kelly’s Ducks averaged 315.2 rushing yards per game, third-highest in the nation. To make a Kelly offense tick he emphasizes the run and then run some more. Most likely LeSean McCoy will benefit from this, yet the heavy workload makes McCoy a risk with his recent injuries. When McCoy did miss time it was the former 7th round pick, Brown, who averaged 4.9 yards per carry as an explosive runner. The unfortunate and unimpressive part of Brown’s game was his 4 fumbles in which he lost 3. When McCoy did return to health he supplanted Brown as the starter. McCoy isn’t known as an injury prone player but another concussion could sideline him for a significant time. Even if McCoy manages to stay healthy the whole season, there will still be a huge role for backup Brown who at 6’-3” 223lbs, could steal goal-line carries from the smaller McCoy. The fumbling issues should also be corrected by season start, thus gaining more confidence by the coaching staff and finding creative ways to get both versatile backs on the field.

Jonathan Franklin: Green Bay Packers
It’s a well known fact that drafting a player in the first and second rounds of the draft don’t necessarily mean that player is best fit for your system, it’s more like getting a blue chipper you hope plays well in your system. It’s the players chosen in rounds 3 through 5 that you find your Pro Bowlers and system guys. Did anyone notice that Packers GM, Ted Thompson, jumped back into the fourth round and made a trade with the Denver Broncos to nab UCLA’s all time leading rusher, Jonathan Franklin? I did. A Lacy and Franklin combo could be nasty in an Aaron Rogers – led aerial attack. Franklin is a totally different runner than Lacy. Lacy is more your power back and thrives off contact, whereas Franklin is speedy and able to change direction quickly. The knock on Franklin is his size at 5’-10” and 205lbs, and he will be competing for the backup role alongside veterans James Starks and Alex Green. I doubt they will be much competition. I don’t see Franklin overtaking Lacy for the starting role unless injury occurs. I do however see the shifty back getting about 10-12 carries a game. A solid and productive back.

Mike Gillislee: Miami Dolphins
Without a doubt the Dolphins running back job belongs to Lamar Miller as it’s his job to lose. On the other hand there is plenty of doubt to who belongs at the number 2 back position. So far that position belongs to Daniel Thomas. Gillislee is a deep sleeper, but a strong senior season at Florida, where he led the SEC in carries (244, and a strong Senior Bowl showed he is a capable primary back. Potentially he shows the talent to be the Dolphin’s dark horse at the skill position. Though he’s not speedy, he is a “one-cut and go” back who has patience to wait for his blockers and burst to drive. Though he has shown pass catching ability, it does need some fine tuning. He is excellent in picking up the blitz and could be asked to play in case of ineffective and just about bust, Daniel Thomas. The reality is, Daniel Thomas is the 2nd back behind Miller until the coaching staff tire of his tip toeing through tackles routine. You can wait on Gillislee and stash mid season.

Mike Goodson: New York Jets
I’m going to try and touch this mess that is the New York Jets. First off they let an overrated Shonn Greene walk via free agency and replaced him with Mike Goodson and Chris Ivory. First let me say I don’t trust in Goodson, but he is a sleeper. Second of all, he needs to show up to Jets camp. Deep sleeper…snooze. The Jets preseason will be a three-way competition between Ivory, Goodson, and McKnight; whom I will cover later. To be honest Goodson hasn’t been productive since his stint with the Panthers and only last year got 35 carries in spot work for an injured Darren McFadden in Oakland. To Goodson’s credit, Oakland was so bad last year; nobody could look good running the ball.

Darren McFadden: Oakland Raiders
Yes he is a sleeper. Let me ask you this; how many coaches will let McFadden slide just due to his slide in production and being injury prone? McFadden is a sleeper…even though he’s never played more than 13 games in a season. He has lost the confidence of fantasy players’ game wide. He is definitely not worth investing in early, we know that, but Oakland has decided to go back to a Power-Run scheme vs. the previous ill-suited Zone scheme. Others forget that McFadden is only turning 26 this August, thus he still has potential in his prime. In 2010 and 2011, McFadden was bona fide #1 Fantasy running back averaging 5.2 yards or more a carry. That being the case, fantasy owners must be comfortable with the knowledge knowing McFadden won’t play a full season. If your okay with that than maybe you can get a resemblance of his 2010 production of 1,157 rushing yards 7 touchdowns, and 507 receiving yards and 3 touchdowns. Just a quick observation, the Raiders offensive line coach is former Jets offensive coordinator and Dolphins head coach/offensive line coach, Tony Sporano. Miami’s running game under Sporano averaged more than four yards per carry in five of his eight years, peaking at 4.4 in 2009. As the Dallas Cowboys run coordinator and O-Line coach he got big production from the likes of Julius Jones and Marion Barber. I’ll let you chew on that for a bit.

Reshard Medenhall: Arizona Cardinals
After trying to return 9 months post ACL it looked like Medenhall’s tires all but worn out. In his years with the Steelers he never was anything that popped or compelled you to think he was elite talent. Well, unless you count production. Medenhall’s game is about the goal-line where 28 of his 31 career touchdowns have been goal – to – go situations. Now he finds himself in Arizona with new head coach and former Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians. Under Arians, Medenhall averaged 1,100 yards and 10 touchdowns per season. Reshard should get plenty of goal-line looks this season as long as he can keep playing time distance from Ryan Williams and rookies Stepfan Taylor and Andre Ellington.

Eddie Lacy: Green Bay Packers
So all he has to do is beat out incumbent starter Dujaun Harris…serious. Lacy is considered the prototypical cow-bell back. Meaning he can carry the ball and the offense. Albeit an every down back, Lacy has yet to be adept to the passing game, and that may be holding him back from being named starter, well initially. Every year it‘s about comparisons and every year people want to know who is the next Adrian Peterson. Last year it was supposed to be Trent Richardson, but I argue it was Doug Martin. Lacy seems to have it all; power, size, and balance. Lacy also lacks pass protection, inconsistent vision, and breakaway speed. A very powerful runner though he is no A.P.. As fascinating as Lacy is, One must remember that this is Aaron Rodgers team. That being said, if Eddie can’t protect his star QB, then he won’t stay on the field every down. Coaches won’t tolerate just chipping defenders in pass protection. As a runner, Lacy’s ability to elude defenders is nothing short of impressive. He is hardly a one-trick pony either, displaying stop-start ability and a quick spin move. He excels pushing the pile and breaking tackles, doesn’t tap dance on contact and finishes runs. His power allows a team to punish defenses between the tackles. Lacy is a very reliable short yardage option who thrives on the inside game but is versatile enough to make it to the corner seam and make defenders miss. Now all he needs to do is win the starting job in Green Bay.


Free Fall; A reflection By Chad Killinger

What is it about today? Are you able to jump feet first into this all perfect, yet rare opportunity, that only us lucky few get to experience? Is Life really so complicated or do we make it complicated? What if it’s just waking up next to the one you love and noticing the way their features soften in the morning light, or how gentle their chest raises and lowers with each dreaming breath?
What if it’s just laughing with your child and inviting yourself into their world of abstract love, unconditional smiles? Maybe it’s stepping outside and tasting the air of a new morning and looking up at a totally different sky than the day before. Could it be appreciating the familiarity of the neighbors barking dog? Is it the excitement of discovering something new? Maybe about ourselves or others…
Why do we let our minds trick us into fear? Will the teacher be afraid that their students think they’re frauds? Does the pastor fear his congregation finding him a hypocrite? The fast food employee feeling less important than the individual they’re serving “To Go” in the suit? Will people follow you when called to lead? The questions of rejection and the harshness of our own self judgment, “I can’t…”, “This is impossible for me…”, “I’m not deserving…”. Why do we do these things to ourselves?
What is it about you today?
Do you want to love? Do want to laugh, sing, cry? Do you want to build something great? Do you just want to exist? Did you get to say, “Good bye…”?
The end is so close and we make the experience of life so difficult sometimes.
Missed deadlines and missed opportunities. Missed connections and missed eye contact. Lost relatives and lost jobs. Trivial worries and insignificant agendas. Is it so complicated that we keep missing a bigger picture?
Are you going to hold a hand today? Are you really going to hold on to that apology? Can you step out of your comfort zone to be a blessing and hope for another? Can you let go of that which stops you from enjoying what you already have? When you lay your head down and close your eyes does it get louder? What really is the vice that holds you back?
When we are born, we are in a free fall. Some of us fall with grace and beauty and some of us fall with arms flailing and grasping for anything and everything we can hold. Fear is an anchor on our back and anger is a jet pack spiraling us down. The floor is coming faster than you think.
What is it about today? Is it the pleasant aroma of coffee? Is it getting to start over and creating again? Is it just staring and admiring the remarkable invention of love and free will? Are things so complicated?
Are your fears worth validating? Be vulnerable. Is this a sign? Be open to it. Is this the End? Perhaps it’s the beginning of something bigger than you or I.

Saturday Morning Cartoons

I have to believe growing up in the 80s allowed myself and others like me to be a part of something special Saturday mornings. It was a golden age of animation and sugar cereals. There was nothing like waking up as a child and eating your Fruit Loops or Sugar Smacks, and watching Saturday Morning Cartoons in your whitie tighties. It was an age before crappy anime series of characters always yelling to each other in normal conversation or some parent sensitive cartoon on being nice to everything and everyone.

Saturday Morning cartoons led to today’s prime time animations and movies. The Don Bluth films and Disney Films ruled children movie goings. Nothing was CGI. It was bliss and brainless. It drove imagination and parents with kids who had ADHD crazy.

I want to share that with my own children and anyone who has never experienced any of that. So I decided to start a weekly series called Killer’s Saturday Morning Cartoons. I will feature some episodes or series of the same cartoons I grew up with every Saturday, on this blog. I won’t try to bore you to much with background but I will give a bit of history on the show(s).

So now is the time to grab your favorite cereal and sit in your underwear and zone out. Welcome to Killer’s Saturday Morning Cartoons.

Today we will be watching 3 episodes. The first is Star Wars Droids episode 1. This series only ran for one season but lasted 13 episodes in 1985. Until 1986, when the episodes were rebroadcast alongside the animated Ewoks as the “Ewoks and Droids Adventure Hour”.

The next cartoon is Kidd Video. Its original run was on NBC from 1984 to 1985, but continued in reruns on the network until 1987, when CBS picked the show up. The band was created specifically for the show; they performed their own songs and they provided the voices for their cartoon counterparts.

Finally we finish today with Captain N The Game Master. Nintendo’s series in the height of the NES game system domination. Your favorite video game characters all together in Video Land. The series aired on television from 1989 to 1991 as part of the Saturday morning cartoon lineup on NBC.

There is a hole in the Viking Ship

pattersonAnyone who knows me knows that I’m a huge NFL fan, to be specific, a huge Dolphins fan. I’m also a transplant in the Twin Cities from Hialeah. Actually from all over due to my father being in the military, but Hialeah is where I was born and briefly resided. Much of my family is from the Miami – Dade area.

Nonetheless I’ve been a Minnesota resident since 1991 and during that time I’ve gotten to know the Minnesota Vikings franchise and their fans a little better. The irony of it all is that the Vikings and the Dolphins share alot in common. Such as records, plenty of players, coaches, and front office personnel. Actually one the worst front office guys for the Dolphins is now one of the best GMs the Vikings ever had. Rick Spielman.

in 2000 Spielman was the Dolphins Vice President of Player Personnel until he was promoted in 2002 to Senior Vice President-Football Operations/Player Personnel, and eventually General Manager in 2004. During that time the Dolphins drafts were disastrous. Barely worth mentioning in the 4 years were OL Vernon Carey and Yeremiah Bell…barely. I could name a plethora of busts or plyers with potential that never came to be….LB Eddie Moore, CB Will Poole, and LB Tony Bua to name a few. I’ve heard Spielman claim on Minnesota’s sports authority radio station, KFAN 100.3 FM, that he pretty much had nothing to do in the decision making during Dolphins draft. I guess I don’t blame him for taking that stance…Tony Bua….

When Spielman arrived he took over Fran Foley’s old job as Vikings’ Vice President of Player Personnel in 2006, I thought I was going to see the Dolphins demise all over again. Except this time the Dolphins were played by the Vikings. Well I did not. Actually it was a slow build of stability. Players of worth were being drafted; LB Chad Greenway, RB Adrian Peterson, WR Sydney Rice,  C John Sullivan, on and on! Where the hell was this in Miami, Spielman?!

But he doesn’t get a free pass. He also brought aboard Brad Childress, and the ever so self loving and retiring Brett Favre. He was part of the “O.K.” for the return of Randy Moss for a draft pick. The Vikes fans should be so lucky to have an owner willing to spend, albeit poorly invested. But the drafts stayed for the most part solid. And I watched my Dolphins suffer still through Spielman and Company’s aftermath of picks piled on by Sparano and Parcells insanity.

The Vikes 2012 draft was absolutely brilliant. Almost every pick made an immediate impact and contributed to their playoff season. The real gem wasn’t Kalil but a questionable kicker named Blair Walsh. I dare to say it was Walsh who was MVP of that Vikings squad. FG after FG adds up fast and especially when it’s clutch. Hell, even WR Jarius Wright filled in admirably for the *ahem* injured Percy Harvin.

But I saw something very amiss before the 2012 season started. A very open middle underneath and overwhelmed MLBs.

I would say the 20011 season for the Vikings LBs was poor…horrible. I also noticed they did nothing to correct it in the 2012 draft. If anything they were maybe hoping S Harrison Smith could help out. Unfortunately Smith is not Superman. As the 2012 regular season was rolling in I was listening to Paul Charchian on KFAN during his Fantasy Football radio show give advise on players to play during the Vikes/Jags game. He kept missing the name, “Mercedes Lewis”. I tried to call in and call him on it and even predicted a big day for Lewis on my own Fantasy advice Twitter account, @BRHLFF I was right on the money; 8 Sep

“Jags TE Marcedes Lewis could be a Huge sneaky Start. Last year Vikings D got burned by opposing TEs. New OC says Lewis will B endzone threat”

That was just the start.

So what does that have to do with anything? Quite a bit actually. Because Lewis went on to burn the Vikes for 5 catches for 52 yards and a TD. Vikings cannot cover the TE. Harrison Smith was brought in to help with that but was kept busy enough helping a young burnable secondary. The Vikes LBs were going to be exposed all year and TEs lick their Chops when facing them. Here is some evidence:

Week 1 vs Jags TE Mercedes Lewis 5 – 52- 1TD

Week 2 vs Colts TE Dwayne Allen 1-3 – 1TD/ TE Coby Fleener 1- 16 and here is the telling tale…Donnie Avery slants over the middle for a 41 yard gain at one point. Finishes the day with 9 -111 yards

Week 3 vs San Francisco TE Vernon Davis 5 – 53 – 1TD (Davis was the only one to score a TD that day for SF)

Week 4 vs Lions TE Brandon Pettigrew 7 – 67/TE Tony Scheffler 1-16

Week 5 vs Titans TE Jared Cook 5 – 37 – 1TD

Week 6 vs Redskins TE Fred Davis 3 – 46. Note: LB/FB Darrel Young scores on LBs during endzone playaction. The same play will be used against Vikes for a TD in week 8 vs Tampa when Eric Loring Scores

Week 7 vs Cardinals TE Rob Housler…yes Rob Housler 5 – 54(10.1 yards per catch) First Down!

Week 8 vs Tampa Bay TE Dallas Clark 3 – 40(13.3 ypc)/ FB Eric Loring scores TD on exact play used in playaction during previous Redskins game.

Week 9 vs Seahawks TE Zack Miller 2 -47

Week 10 vs Lions TE Brandon Pettigrew  3 – 32 – 1TD (in two games 10 – 99 – 1TD)

Week 11 BYE

Week 12 vs Bears(who refuse to throw to TEs) TE Kellen Davis 1 – 15/TE Evan Rodriguez 1- 11

Week 13 vs Packers TE Jermichael Finley 6 – 60

Week 14 vs Bears TE Kellen Davis 3 – 25

Week 15 vs Rams TE Lance Kendricks  3 – 35 – 1TD/TE Chris Harkey 1 – 21

Week 16 vs Texans TE Owen Daniels 3 – 27

Week 17 vs Packers TE Jermichael Finley 8 – 72 (in two games 14 – 132)

I found it interesting in the post season how Green Bay decided to attack the Viking defense. Over the middle and underneath. Jennings, Jordy Nelson, and John Kuhn attacked the middle knowing the Vikes MLB would not be able to handle the pressure. In those 16 games the opposing TE position alone averaged just over 11.3 yards per catch and scored 6 TDs!

So here is my point. Spielman had me believing that this year was going to be another brilliant draft by him and his people. I was feeling it with DT Floyd and CB Rhodes, these guys are drafting need and shoring up their Defense! Guess What! They traded back into the first round just like last year! I couldn’t believe it! Who is this Spielman guy?! They needed a ILB bad and Ogletree, Te’o, and Minter where all right there for the taking!

To me this was an absolute no brainer and Spielman is really a Draft genius….

With the 29th overall pick the Vikings draft, Cordarrelle Patterson, WR , Tennessee.

Wait, what?! You traded away your picks including your #52 for a WR?! The draft is deep with Wideouts! I could not believe it. Maybe some of the old Dolphins Spielman is still there.

I’m not saying Patterson is an awful pick, because he is not. Frankly, his ability to run after the catch is amazing. But I definitely think it was a price too high considering the blatant need for ILB. I guess the Vikes think they can mask the hole on Defense again this year by slowing opposing teams offenses down with the Run and kill them with spot on FGs. Be assured the numbers do speak for themselves and I don’t find it a coincidence the Bears new Coaching staff went after TE Martellus Bennett this offseason. Everyone but the Vikes see the glaring hole. Of course when you make a playoff run it’s no big deal, but I have a feeling this year it will be. Spielman blinked and I saw what was before.

Desert Hornet Dream by Chad Killinger

Somewhere it’s said we are shaped by life’s experiences. Whether those experiences are big or small, each can have its own impact on the soul. Sometimes those experiences can take hold of the imagination in the way a snake would constricts its prey and slowly consume it. Feeling every fiber of that being, tasting where it’s been, and how it got there. Savoring the long slow process and digesting what could be a long interlude to the next consumption. I had such an experience once, as a ten year old boy. It took place on a naval base during a typical hot August day in a small desert town in Ridgecrest California. A town that was hours away from any major California city and sitting just off a gentle cool base of a portion of the Sierra Nevada mountains. It could be a scorching 100 degree heat and all one had to do was take an hour or so drive up the mountain to a comfortable 70 degree picnic.
The base we lived on was the Naval Weapons Station, China Lake, located in the Western Mojave Desert region of California, about 150 miles north of Los Angeles. China Lake is the United States Navy’s largest single landholding, representing 85 percent of the Navy’s land for weapons and armaments research, development, acquisition, testing and evaluation use. In total, its two ranges and main site cover more than 1,100,000 acres, an area larger than the state of Rhode Island. It was a gold mine of history and nature. The majority of the land is undeveloped and provides habitat for more than 340 species of wildlife, including wild horses, burros, Big Horn Sheep and endangered animals, such as the desert tortoise and Mojave Tui Chub. Tui Chub are just feeder fish native to North America; they are the main food source for cutthroat trout in the region. China Lake is also home to 650 plant types. It is far from vast and empty wasteland to be sure.
My father was a Navy vet for 21 years. He was very proud of his job. When I say proud, I mean proud like how proud that fat German kid from Willy-Wonka felt when he pulled a Golden ticket. During the Vietnam War one of my father’s tasks would be the expedient repair of military aircraft to get them off the ground all while taking fire from the enemy. Yet he didn’t like to talk about it. As a matter of fact he would rather tell you about the ignoble toe nails he has from diabetes. My dad loved to talk about his babies. When I say ‘babies’, common sense would say he was talking about myself and my two siblings. No, my dad was talking about his hulking flying rhinos of variable intakes, radar intercept officers, and 2.2 showing on the mach meter strapped to powerful and reliable J79 engines that would fill your nostrils with exhaust until you dropped the canopy. Otherwise known as the F-4 Phantom II. He loved that aircraft.
My Dad would say, “It’s in that seat in that hangar where challenges are met, friendships are forged, and the nation’s will is carried out! “.
I really never understood his infatuation with one particular jet. I mean there were so many cool ones to choose from and with the release of” Top Gun” , I personally thought the F-14 was way cooler. Well, until my dad told me it was nicknamed “Flying Turkey” (when landing, the movement of its control surfaces makes it look like a turkey). So on this one particular summer day, my dad decided he was going to bring me to work. I remember being a little taken aback because I had plans with to eat breakfast with Lucky and the Super Friends, and if I had time, I might have been able to fit Voltron in too. Little did I know or could prepare for what I was about to experience that day.
We loaded into the family Nissan truck with the sun eaten paint job and matching rusted wheel covers and exited out of the compact rows of small homes that were military housing. My father decided to take the long way to work via a scenic desert road. I loved taking drives or biking down the mostly empty roads. I remember looking to one side and seeing hulking majestic mountain ranges peering over cotton stretched clouds. Looking to the other side a tremendous bare canvas of rock, sand, tumble weeds, and the occasional road runner just out of your reach. Every time your eyes wander back to study the distant landscape it seems as if it were merely a projection onto the horizon. It almost feels surreal.
The searing temperature hits you, and has a way to make you look up for relief at the sky and it seems like an impeccable contrast to the ground on which you stand, impassive and blue. It feels as though the gentle eye of God peers down on you, time seems to stand still, and you suddenly feel calm. It is a peace and a respect for the irony of how life flourishing can be suffocated by the radiant light and heat of the desert. It was my playground.
Now as a kid I’ve been in plenty of aircraft hangars and seen a luxury of military aircraft. To say it was “old hat” would be an understatement. I still enjoyed being around it all. The hangers were these colossal barn like structures that housed winged horses capable of raining down death, like Gods of fire from mythical times might rain down destruction. Everything a boy could wish for.
We stopped by the workshop first before entering the main hangar. The shop was no different than what you would see from an auto mechanics shop. Greased tools in large yellow work worn tool boxes labeled with stickers of crude language and half naked women. My Dad never made a big deal over me reading them. He just reminded me not to repeat or speak any of it to front of my mom, “..Because shit flows downhill and I’m not listening to that crap from her today about you…”. Fair enough.
After my Dad had checked in and got his work together we toured through the small and sterile hallway out to the main of the hangar. Now out of body experience, or OBE, is described as usually brief experiences in which a person’s consciousness seems to depart from his or her body, enabling observation of the world from a point of view other than that of the physical body and by means other than those of the physical senses.
That was exactly how I felt when I turned the corner into the main hangar and saw my first F-18 Hornet.
My skin broke out in small goose bumps as the back of my hair stood on ends. There it rested, a leviathan of wing and perfect mechanical beauty. A giant sleeping eagle made of alloy and pride. It’s body more than capable of being the tip of the Greek god Apollo’s arrow. It’s flight true and deadly. The empty canopy, a single eye of a Phoenix. I couldn’t contain my excitement, “Can I see it dad?”, only came out as a whisper as if subconsciously I didn’t want to wake it only to have it fly away in surprise.
“You can sit in it!”, he smiled.
That was the best thing I’ve ever heard my dad say to me, that is, until he told me how proud he was of me before his passing from colon cancer years later in my Adulthood.
At that point I ran up the aircraft ladder so fast that I don’t recall ever feeling the steps below my feet. I could tell my Dad was just as excited for me as he laughed when I put the Pilot’s helmet on.
“Hold on Chad! Let’s get the straps to fit you!”, he said, as I couldn’t keep still looking around in my own ecstasy.
It was like putting a Dixie cup over a marble. I kept pushing it up so as to see out the black tinted visor. The instrument panel overwhelmed my brain and imagination with labels, switches, and random casings. The seat was forgiving and large like a Kings throne. As I grabbed the flight stick and pulled back on it, I imagined this is what Luke felt like in his first X-Wing! Then I surfaced through clouds of childhood imagination. I radioed the tower as they gave me the All Clear. This flight was not an aggression, it was a rider breaking in his steed! We performed barrel rolls, loops, and low pass flybys! I practiced Anti Communist MIG jet maneuvers by what I called, “The Cuban Figure Eight”.
The sun was just starting to reach its highest point in the sky as I had reached the highest point in my boyhood. Oh man, if my friends could see me now! And somewhere below in the speck bare canvas of rock, sand, tumble weeds, and the occasional road runner just out of my reach, my dad smiled and waved to me. Telling me to be careful, that he loves me, and not to stall the engines. I couldn’t make out to where exactly he was, but I could hear him. Laughing and giving instruction, all while letting me dream.

Joe Flacco uses the word “Retarded”

flacco  Joe Flacco was quoted as saying Cold Weather Super Bowl is, Quote, “Retarded”. People are going to try to raise hell I’m sure over his use of the word. I feel he used the word in the right context of his opinion. He wasn’t calling anyone “Retarded”, he was referring to the idea as “Retarded”. Unfortunately for him he apologized in the same sentence for using the word knowing people will jump all over it. Let’s look at the definition.

1. To keep delaying; to continue to hinder; to prevent from progress; to render more slow in progress; to impede; to hinder; as, to retard the march of an army; to retard the motion of a ship; – opposed to accelerate.

n. 1. Retardation; delay.

I don’t agree that the idea of a Super Bowl in a cold weather city is “Retarded”. You make millions of dollars playing a game. Plenty of people in this world work in harsher conditions for much less pay. Nobody likes to hear someone making millions of dollars bitching about playing 90 minutes in the cold. Joe Flacco, your thought process is “Retarded”.

I digress.

When used in the right context the word “Retarded” can acceptable. It is part of the English language that unfortunately others have turned into unacceptable and hurtful terms. Only now to use the word in ANY context will call to the attention of the Politically Correct or easily sensitive. I say, Shut up. I have heard those same individuals use words more offensive such as “Fag, Whore, Bitch, Cunt, Fucker,…”. You name it. As for Flacco, well I don’t think in any way was he referring to the taboo mental retardation. Feel free to discuss.

Hairy Pooper and Me.


Back in the late winter of 2003, I was a “seasonal” helper for a Union plumbing outfit in the cities. My work was only supposed to consist of handing tools and digging ditches. But at $12 an hour the supervisor encouraged me to act as an “apprentice”. As anyone who works or worked in the construction trade knows you run into a lot of characters, some more intriguing than others. There were your addicts who were working for the next fix, your heavy hung over drinker, the Born Again Christian recovering addict, the asshole, the guy who didn’t speak English, and so on, and so on, then me.

My Foreman was a Jehovah witness, just for privacy I’ll call him” Scott”, who was about my age and thought everything I did in life was wrong. He mission was to convert me into his thinking. I supposed he thought the best way to get me to conform was to let me know how much my life sucked. I already knew this but it couldn’t have sucked worse than going door to door on my weekends off passing out Watch Tower magazines, ” Excuse me, Madam or Sir, do you know Jesus? I couldn’t help but notice the fine knocker you have.” ,no thanks. Anyways, Scott went on some vacation with his family in January and I was assigned to a Fat Nerdy Foreman named Bob.

Ah yes, Bob.

Bob was an aged older Plumber who pronounced his Polish heritage whenever and wherever he had a chance, “I’m a Pollack ya know!”. All I could do was laugh as if watching a mentally disabled man proclaim his retardation. He also held a degree in Theater and Arts. The man was an expert on everything. For example…

During the scorching summer months, a crew of us were assigned to dig ditches for some town homes in Ramsey and it was hot. I mean it was so hot your ball sac would Bat Wing to your inner thighs! So of course the peons, meaning summer help and apprentices, got to do this work by our lonesome and the journeymen were in the A/C unit homes doing finishing work. It went with the territory. Well Bob just happened to be in charge that day. So I suggested to the other apprentices that we get Bob to bite on a subject at break. This would allow us at least an hour of break time….at least. My friend Nate decided that I should come up with the subject matter since it was my idea. “Okay! What do you guys want to learn today?” I asked. Nate said it had to be something outrageous. Then it clicked, I said, “Time Travel, Bitches.”. I was sure Bob was a Trekkie. I told Nate that during break we would have to start bantering back and forth about time travel at the start of break.

During the scorching summer months, a crew of us were assigned to dig ditches for some town homes in Ramsey and it was hot. I mean it was so hot your ball sac would Bat Wing to your inner thighs! So of course the peons, meaning summer help and apprentices, got to do this work by our lonesome and the journeymen were in the A/C unit homes doing finishing work. It went with the territory. Well Bob just happened to be in charge that day. So I suggested to the other apprentices that we get Bob to bite on a subject at break. This would allow us at least an hour of break time….at least. My friend Nate decided that I should come up with the subject matter since it was my idea. “Okay! What do you guys want to learn today?” I asked. Nate said it had to be something outrageous. Then it clicked, I said, “Time Travel, Bitches.”. I was sure Bob was a Trekkie. I told Nate that during break we would have to start bantering back and forth about time travel at the start of break.

Sure enough at break time we all filed in to a air conditioned town home unit. Nate and I made sure to sit opposite sides of the room, keeping Bob in the middle. I wasn’t quite sure how to begin and Nate kept staring at me, eyes wide open as to say, “Let’s go, fucker….”. So I started.

“What if Jesus was a regular dude in our time and traveled back in time with some cool magic tricks just to set up Christianity and self worship?”

Nate shot me a look like he could actually believe that, then caught himself, “Time travel is fucking impossible you stupid shit, and why would Jesus travel back in time to get his ass kicked?”

That was a bit harsh. We both glanced at Bob sitting his fat ass on an empty overturned 5 gallon paint bucket. His body hunched over his generic Honey Bun, death gripped as if someone was looking to steal a bite. I started to speak, “Fuck you. You think going one night of drinking without shitting the bed is impossible. I bet you would like to travel back in time to change a few of those.”. Everyone looked up
Just before Nate was about respond, but then Bob took the bait, “Ya know Einstein had already developed a method of time travel!”, and then he laughed. We all laughed…for an hour and a half as Bob went on and on about time travel and sucking down his Honey Bun in-between breaths.
That was Bob.

Fast forward to early January, here I was in the darkest days of winter. The temps have dropped so far below zero none of the PVC pipe I was gluing was holding. I was miserable and my hands were exposed to the temp. Nobody else went to work that day expect me and Bob. We both apparently needed the paycheck. Bob, all bundled up in his Carhart bibs listening to his Walkman, which was playing the brand new children s book, Harry Potter. He was so excited about it, trying to tell me about this boy who finds out his parents are dead wizards, blah, blah, blah. The whole time all I can think is how much he looks like a damn Walrus involved with some weird Naval radio experiment.

As I was working and listening to Bob mumble and snicker to his story on tape, I was fighting 3 inch PVC pipe and glue. I was having a hell of a time getting it to stay without pushing itself out. The Glue wasn’t made to adhere in these cold conditions and my hands weren’t either. So there was a few times I had to ask Bob for help to twist and hold some ends. He in the course was getting irritated with me and bitched about it, “Do I need to hold your hand, Killer?”
I knew he was mainly pissed because I kept interrupting his fairy tale of some pathetic wizard prodigy. So tired of asking for his damned help I grabbed a angle drill, tapped Bob on the shoulder, and pointed to the next unit. I mouthed “Alligator Flu” to him in which he gave me a weird look back. I know you just tried it after reading this.

“I’m going to start roughing in the other unit, Douche!”

“Good! Do that. Maybe by noon it will warm up!”

What in the hell? Warm up from 10 below? What a Pollack.
So I probably was working for about 10 good solid minutes, buzzin holes, eating wood chips. Then all of a sudden in a loud, you better get your ass over here, “CHAD!”, was shouted from Bob. I couldn’t possibly think why the hell he would need me right now other than to replace the batteries on his Walkman because his fat fingers are unable to open it. I walk in the unit and see Bob walking right in to my personal space.

“I need your help”, Bob said, nose to nose.

“Okay, with what?”, backing away a bit.

Then at that moment Bob turned his back to me pulled his bib collar down a bit and asked, “Is there shit coming out my back?”

The man had gotten so excited like a little kid, about his new “book on tape”, he held his urges until finally it overcame him. He shit his trousers! He shit is bibs so hard he felt it rise up his back and possibly to his neck line!

“I can’t see a thing Bob”, trying not to laugh.

He turns back at me, “I’m going to the Gas station to clean up. I’ll be back shortly.”

This tub of turd never ceases to amaze me! Any normal person would have just called it a day! I personally would have just left and said nothing! YOU SHIT YOUR PANTS LISTENING TO HARRY POTTER!

I watched Bob step into his car and take a seat. It has to have spread even more. His ass must be so raw and itchy right now. As he started to drive away he stopped and waved me over. I walk over to his crap mobile holding my breath and telling myself there is no way I am helping him clean himself!

“I appreciate if you didn’t tell anyone.”

“I won’t Bob”

Just like that he drove to the nearest Gas station. I of course hightailed it to the crew of heating guys a few units over. I opened the door to their unit and yelled, I mean yelled, “BOB SHIT HIS BIBS!”. Dead silence. Then the whole unit erupted in laughter. In between laughs and jabs I told them what took place. I also told them I was not supposed to let anyone know. They promised they wouldn’t.

About an hour later Bob arrived back from his cleanup. He got out of the car and I could see that he came back with a couple of those Honey Buns he loves so much. I met him at the car as he was getting out.

“Feeling better?”, not that I really cared.

“Much! I got you a pastry.”

“No thanks, I’m allergic to E coli.”

“I washed my ha..”

“Hey Bob! Shitty day, huh!” , interrupted from the Heated unit garage. We could hear them laughing. Bob looked at them and then back to me.

“You told them.”

“I had to Bob. That’s a heavy burden on a guy to hold in.”

“You could have told your Priest!”

“I’m Lutheran”, unapologetic.

Bob started to walk back to his work area, “Get back to work. We’re leaving at noon.”. He then turned to the heating guys in the garage doorway, “Fuck you!”. With that I went back to what I was doing and Bob went back to his Harry Potter and at noon we had left.