Friday, January 31, 2014

I Want to Smoke Some of These

I almost grabbed some of these Gran Habano Vintage 2002 Corojos last time they went on sale at Cigars International.  I think they're cheaper this time.  $39.99 for 20 of the robustos.  A little more for Churchills or Gordos.  Plus free shipping.  Fat rich smokes in a cedar wrapper.  Never had one, but the reviews are nice.  For $2, I'm not sure I could lose.

Need to make some humidor room.  You should buy some, at least. I also ran into a stupid deal from Thompson.  You might need me to forward you the link, although code 49348 might work.  If you spend $99 bucks, you get 4 Rocky Patels, 4 Montecristos and 4 AVOs for free.  So grab some La Relobas, get 3 free My Fathers with that, and grab a box of something else or a couple of samplers, and you just stuffed you humidor for $100.

I strongly urge you to get on the mailing list with CI, Thompson, JR Cigar and anyone else you can.  They send email only deals every day.  I can forward them to you.  Just ask.

Going outside to look at the snow with a 5 Vegas Series A Anomaly.  Happy shopping.

How Does the Legion of Boom match up with Denver's Receivers?

The Denver Broncos and Peyton Manning put up monumental passing numbers this year, but they haven't faced a defense like Seattle's. While Denver led the league with 340.2 passing yards per game, Seattle led the league in passing defense, allowing only half as many yards (172). Something's got to give.

So who's the best pass defense Denver's faced this year? On paper it belongs to the 2-14 Houston Texans, who were 3rd in the league with 189 yards allowed. Manning torched them for 400 yards in Week 16. Something about averaging only 17.2 points per game keeps most teams from needing throw much.

Okay, second best passing defense? 7-9 New York Giants, who were #10 in the league with 223.3 yards per game. Denver's division opponents were #25 Kansas City, #28 Oakland and #29 San Diego. They faced none of the elite defenses in the league this year.

Numbers don't always tell the truth, right Houston? So let's cast them aside and ask who really gave Denver a tough time this year. By far it was New England in Week 12 . Peyton threw for only 150 yards in the overtime loss. Aqib Talib led the defense, but as usual it was great game-planning by Bill Belichick that hampered Manning. Denver's four uncharacteristic turnovers hurt, too.

Denver has not seen a defensive backfield like Seattle's. Not the size, speed or smarts. So who's covering who in the Super Bowl? Saying that this guy will match up against that guy is over-simplifying things, but it's the best way to analyze the situation.

Richard Sherman vs. Demaryius Thomas
Our biggest mouth has no fear of shadowing the opponent's best receiver. He erased Anquan Boldin in Week 2 and he's been eliminating people ever since. Both players are 6-3. Sherman is giving up about 30 pounds of weight, but I haven't seen anyone outmuscle him this year. Thomas will make some plays, but Manning likes to make the easy throw. He'll find a better matchup than Sherman versus anyone.

Byron Maxwell vs. Eric Decker
Maxwell has gone from “the guy replacing Brandon Browner” to “the guy who made us forget Brandon Browner”. Seattle's defense is better without Browner, anyway. Quicker with less attitude and fewer penalties, although ESPN's David Fleming makes a good argument why great defenses get flagged and still win. Maxwell (6-1, 207) is giving up a little size to Decker (6-3, 214) but he's been making big plays ever since Browner's suspension gave him the opportunity. He has 10 passes defensed and 4 interceptions in the last 6 games.

Walter Thurmond vs. Wes Welker
Thurmond's back from suspension at just the right time. I'm not truly sure how Pete Carroll will play it, but Thurmond's the most logical matchup against the Slot Machine. His 5-ll height matches up better with the 5-9 Welker. I also expect Bobby Wagner or K.J. Wright to float around the middle and discourage passes to Welker. He's a tricky guy to cover, no matter what, but having Thurmond or Jeremy Lane as third and fourth corners is luxurious depth.

Kam Chancellor vs. Julius Thomas
Remember that shot Kam put on Vernon Davis last year? Vernon doesn't. Remember those big games Jimmy Graham had against the Seahawks? Me neither. That linebacker Seattle has playing strong safety will not make it easy on Julius, who's a good football player having a great season thanks to Manning's accuracy. Peyton hits good players in the hands, in stride, and lets them get seperior numbers. Nothing against some of the solid professionals Manning has made into superstars in his career, but it's a fact. Chancellor plus Seattle's linebackers will allow very little space for Julius.

Earl Thomas vs. Colorado
Earl's watching tape right now, worming his way into Peyton's brain. Manning will get his completions, but Thomas will make sure run-after-catch is limited. He'll separate the ball from the Bronco on some occasions, too. He's been swift and decisive reacting to the ball all year. Sunday will be no different.

K.J. Wright and Bobby Wagner vs. Knowshon Moreno
Manning will be checking down to Moreno. It will be up to Seattle's linebackers and linemen to sniff out screens before they turn into big plays. The Seahawks are studying the Bronco's tricks. Their hustle is unmatched. I think they slip some blockers and blow up some passes to the flats.

Andre Caldwell?
We can't forget about that guy. He's good for a deep bomb now and then in four receiver sets. He'd start on most teams. Denver's just too deep.

Seattle's pass rush vs. Denver's line
Denver's offensive line has kept Manning quite clean lately. Peyton helps them out by unloading the ball quickly. The key for Seattle will be playing tight, effective man-to-man coverage, freeing up the front seven to blitz and stunt. If you can make Manning uncomfortable, you can beat him. If he stays in rhythm and has space around his feet, he'll dissect you like a frog.

So what did 86 say?
Eventually, I said I like our chances. Denver hasn't seen a defensive backfield as big, fast, smart and deep as Seattle's. Manning picked apart New England after Aqib Talib got hurt. The Seahawks have five or six DBs of his caliber. Denver hasn't faced linebackers as quick as Wright, Wagner and Bruce Irvin. Manning will have his toughest day of the year. He'll get his yards, though. He'll put the ball in the end-zone, but not as often as he'd like.

If Seattle's offense can control the ball, run well and win time of possession, Denver will be fighting uphill.

I like the Seahawks' chances in bad weather, too. But that's another story. Blow, winds, blow.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

My Richard Sherman Opinion

Everyone has to have a Richard Sherman opinion. You need to know how you stand on this issue because it extends far beyond football. Here are my thoughts:

My first reaction is that I like my athletes to speak with their actions. I like the Marshawn Lynch approach. “I'm just about that action, boss.” On the rare occasion I'm given a compliment, I like to deflect it or defuse it.

When asked how I deal with a hectic bar rush, I've told someone: “Panic. I cannot stress the importance of freaking out.”

I often use the Lombardi quote about making big plays: “Just act like you've been there before.”

So when I see jaws moving high-speed after a play, I wish that player would focus on the next play instead. After the game, everyone will know who's the best and who's second. No need to talk about it now.

My second thought involves how little I know about being a successful athlete. I have a history of quitting when things got tough. After four years of football, I realized I was a slow undersized freshman who was third-string everything. I looked for something I was more talented at. I got into track and cross country. I improved at running until pain took the fun out of it. I quit that too. I wrestled in junior high until I lost twice to a team-mate I considered inferior to me. So I quit that.

I've never had the dominant force of personality to be great at anything. I am not prepared to judge a person who has achieved great things and is continuing to achieve.

In hindsight, as a youth I believed in talent and hard work but I did not know how to intelligently improve myself at anything physical.

Richard Sherman's giant confidence is what powered him to where he is today. When no one believed in him, he believed in himself. When he vocalizes that, the teams follows him.

Third, I do understand the forces of stress and adrenalin. Bar-tending is the only parallel I have with sports. I approach that game with a mindset that all the customers are coming at me with the intent to prove me unfit for the job. I respond with drinks, food, wit, jokes and anything else they want, all the while being a gracious host. But in my mind, I am fighting them off. In my own brain, when tickets keep coming and needful voices are on every side, I urge myself to maintain focus, keep my handwork and footwork clean, to keep digging and know that I will be the last one standing.

At the end of it all, when all the guests are fat, happy, drunk and broke, I'd tell you I was the greatest if no one was listening.

I'd do it all for a couple hundred bucks.

When a football player spends three hours in the middle of a fight that could end his career with a painful injury or a humiliating loss, his heart is racing, his adrenalin and endorphins are flowing, his senses are polished to a razor's edge and his mind has never been processing this fast. When a reporter puts a microphone in his face a minute after the biggest play of his life, a play he has prepared for and dreamed of for years, don't be surprised when raw emotion and pride come out.

Consider fourth the history between Michael Crabtree and Richard Sherman. At a charity softball game sponsored by Larry Fitzgerald, Sherman tried to shake Crabtree's hand but instead the receiver tried to start a fight. Sherman told his older brother Branton: “I'm going to make a play and embarrass him.”

After Sherman tipped the ball away from Crabtree to Malcolm Smith for the game-sealing interception, he tried to shake his hand again. “Hell of a game,” Sherman said. Instead of a sportsmanship, Sherman got a shove to the face. An adrenalized Sherman gave the choke sign to Colin Kaepernick, the guy who made three turnovers in the last quarter of the game. A minute later, Erin Andrews put a microphone in front of him and got none of the standard blah-blah.

She thought the interview was awesome, though Fox cut it, afraid something nasty would happen. “You expect these guys to play like maniacs and animals for 60 minutes,” she said. “And then 90 seconds after he makes a career-defining, game-changing play, I'm gonna be mad because he's not giving me a cliché answer.”

Could someone take the most emotional thing you ever said and define you with it? Would that be fair?

Fifth and final, get to know the guy. The guy who writes for Monday Morning Quarterback. The guy who responded to reporters' questions with his team-mates statistics, saying the cameras should be in front of them. I've never heard or read about Sherman swearing. He speaks with precise purpose. As a writer, do I envy many football players' eloquence? Not many, but I wish I could use words like Richard Sherman.

He regrets bad-mouthing Michael Crabtree, whatever the back-story. He says you never want to bring a man down to build yourself up. Take that with you.

Maybe I'll stop at six. Of all the Seahawks, I think Sherman is most prepared to handle all the criticism, attention and scrutiny that comes with the Super Bowl. He's shouldering that so the rest of the team can concentrate on the game. I don't think at all that his comments after the San Francisco game were scripted, but I think he is deliberately accepting the target on his chest during the Super Bowl hype. He knows how to play the media game.

I'll conclude with a question: Why is no one questioning Michael Crabtree's sportsmanship or talking about his thuggishness?

Fake Flowers

I like flowers fake, sewn and glued, nylon
And polyester. Woven frayed petals
With coarse grain, plastic stems, acrylic dew.
Never lie nor wilt. Won’t curl or change face.
Sunlight or dark, will be with you always.
In a dollar vase, give me fake flowers.
Unscented, no pollen or honeybees.
Not hungry, always growing at the sun.
Fabricate me twelve bomb-proof pseudo-silk
Injection-molded polymer flowers.

I don't like to talk much about my poems.  They should speak for themselves without need of explanation.  This is one of my first 10x10s.  Ten syllables per line.  Ten lines per stanza.  Written bit by bit during numerous breakfasts at cafes with artificial flowers at the table.  Like everything, it is about women.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

More Deals from the Oscuro Corner

Monday the 3rd of February will be a big day here at the 86 the Poet blog.  Even bigger if the Seahawks win, but I'll let them settle that on the field.  This site will become dedicated to five things I love: my wife's art, my writing, food, football and cigars.  I will do my best to post every day.  For the first week, I'm doing a lot of content.

One of my regular features will be tipping you off to good cigar deals.  This is how I shop.  I keep an eye on some trusted sites and wait for a great price on cigars I know and trust.  If you're patient, you'll find stuff at 60% off or more.  I'm focussing on oscuro and maduro (dark) cigars from trusted brands I can get for under $3 each.  These deals often sell out fast, so I urge you to strike like a mongoose.  Faster than a cobra, that is.

Here are a few picks for today:

FC Premium Cigar Sampler #13 + 30 Cigar Humidor. $34.21 from Cigars International.

I like everything La Gloria Cubana does.  I know those Wavells are good, although I like the darker ones even better.  I trust Romeo y Julieta to make nice product, so I bet those Bullies won't disappoint.  The value of the deal depends on whether you need the humidor.  It's a bit small for my liking.  Mine's a 100 count.  I have an article on picking the right humidor coming next week.

Bottom line: not counting the humidor, the cigars are $3.42 each plus shipping.  If you or a buddy wants a small humidor, the cigars are a steal.  Up to you.

Dark and Cheap Sampler.  30 for $47.95 from Thompson.
I'll tell you the truth: I've smoked none of these and nothing from these brands.  But search for "Thompson cigar coupon" and you'll get 10% off and free shipping, bringing you down to $1.44 a pop.  You can bet most of these are worth more than that.  The others you can give away late at night to a drunk buddy who'll think they're awesome.  Yeah, this picture's fuzzy, but they all look like my kind of inky stinky.

AVO Domaine Cigarillos. 10 for $18.95 or 100 for $170.30 from Cigars International.
Not always do we have an hour and a half to lounge with a Churchill.  And these days it's too cold to sit outside forever.  It's nice to have some short attention span smokes in your collection.  I've never had a Domaine, but every AVO I've ever smoked was full, smooth and expertly built.  These got a 91 rating and a spot on the Top 50 list.  For under $20, I'll tuck a tin of these in my coat pocket.

Friday, January 24, 2014

The Oakland Raiderettes are Suing the Raiders

After being taken to school by most of the NFL, the Oakland Raiders are being taken to court by their own cheerleaders.

You can disappoint your fans. You can waste your draft picks. You can fire your head coach so he can beat you in the Super Bowl. You can disrespect Al Davis' ghost in any number of ways (although I think he's been dead for centuries) but at least pay your cheerleaders.

So former Oakland Raiderettes are suing the team for unfair employment practices including unpaid salary and unpaid overtime. By contract, the cheerleaders are paid $125 for 10 home games (including preseason) and are not paid until the end of the year. They are not paid for rehearsal or other team events, adding up to less than $5 per hour. California minimum wage was $8 hourly in 2013.

Allegedly the team has not paid them that much.

“I love the Raiders and I love being a Raiderette,” said lead plaintiff Lacy T. “But someone has to stand up for all of the women of the NFL who work so hard for the fans and the teams.”

The women are not paid for makeup, hair styling or travel to photo shoots. They can also be fined for failing to wear the right clothing to workouts or not bringing a yoga mat.

"It's as if the Raiders' owners believe that the laws that protect all workers in California just don't apply to them," their attorney Sharon Vinick told the San Jose Mercury News. "I have never seen an employment contract with so many illegal provisions."

Yet poor pay for NFL cheerleaders is not exclusive to the Raiders. They seem to be paying about the league average. But at least the rest of the league is paying it.

So why would a woman accept below minimum wage to work for a multi-billion dollar organization? Putting “NFL Cheerleader” on your resume is a great career launching point, leading to potential acting, coaching and modeling jobs. Desperate Housewife Teri Hatcher is a former 49er cheerleader. But to pay a cheerleader $1250 a year while paying a practice squad player $6250 a game is unfair. Yes, even an NFL benchwarmer is an elite athlete, but so is an NFL cheerleader. Don't believe me? You try this:

Ever since I dated half the cheerleading squad my freshman year at Dominican College, I've had a soft spot for those hard working ladies.  There were four cheerleaders that year.

Seattle Seahawks and Old Women Mining the 49ers

The old women are coming to the rec room with a plan. One was selected to make the green and blue cake. One brought Skittles to throw when their Marshawn Lynch scored a TD. Others brought the broom and dustpan to sweep up the candy. And the old woman with the Seattle Seahawks Mickey doll damn sure brought it. One brought a six pack of Anchor Steam. The ones in the know just couldn’t tell her it was a very famous San Francisco beer.

The old women assess the three new men who have come to watch the game. None brought food. They don’t want to listen to the game watching rules. One has anger management issues. One was a former college place kicker. His loud knowledge of the game quickly becomes condescending and irritating. The other is hard of hearing. He soon leaves. The old women’s screaming is too much for him. The one man who is always there avoids these new watchers. Maybe he leaves well enough alone. Maybe he feels the old women’s wary shift in attitude. He eats his snacks in the same corner where he always sits, alone.

Read the rest at The Penalty Flag.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Cigar Sale Alert

I own too many cigars.  I see deals all the time but can't justify buying them just because they're cheap.  My humidor can't hold them and I only smoke about two a week these days.  What I can do, however, is tip you off to the sales so they can make you happy.

A year and a half ago I started working at Legends of Fire at the Northern Quest Casino in Airway Heights, Washington.  The six months I worked there taught me a lot.  I still have a passion for carefully grown, aged, selected and hand-rolled tobacco.  But I'm a cheapskate.

I've learned how to hunt the internet for good deals.  Trouble is, it's tricky buying cigars you can't touch or smell.  I'd never pay top dollar for a stick I can't pick out of a humidor myself.  But I know what I like and if I can get some for under $3 each from a brand I recognize, I'll take that bargain.

I'm an oscuro and maduro guy.  That means I like them dark, inky, leathery, earthy and peppery.  Not too spicy but with a hint of black peppercorn to compliment the beefiness.  I have some brands I know well and some I trust to make good stuff.  Other labels I know I don't like or just won't risk good money on.

So it pays to be patient.  If you have some smokes in your box and don't need more tomorrow, you can make a hobby out of looking through sites for cigars you like at good prices.  Easier yet if you get on their mailing list and let them send you info on specials.

I've decided to save you some trouble and routinely post deals as I find them.  I'll be sticking to smokes I'd like to buy.  Maybe I'll grab some myself, but as I said, I find more deals than I can take advantage of.

Here's the birth of The Oscuro Corner.  A section of my blog dedicated to finding great dark, rich cigars at 3 bucks or less a piece.  Today's deals are:

10 La Gloria Cubana Serie N JSB 5.5"x54 plus 10 capacity Herfador for $36.99 from Cigars International.  Absolutely one of my favorite cigars at a favorite size.  If you don't have a travel case, you need one.  This one's big enough to take to the poker game or on vacation or wherever.  Airtight and waterproof.  Bulletproof if they're small bullets.

20 La Reloba Seleccion Robusto Oscuro 5"x50 plus 3 pack bonus for $64 from Thompson Cigar.
Use a coupon code to get 10% off and free shipping:
This coupon is always available, making Thompson one of my favorites.  I hate paying for shipping.

More Cowbell Sampler II from Cigars International.  12 cigars for $25.  2 each of 6 different types.  3 of them I've had and like a lot, including the La Gloria Cubana Wavell Maduro.  The other 3 look proper.  Samplers are a great way to find new favorites, especially at this price.  Use this coupon code to get an 8 cigar sampler and a 5 capacity Herfador.  As I said, you need a travel case.

More to come from The Oscuro Corner.  Major rebuild coming to this site the day after the Super Bowl.

Monday, January 20, 2014

49ers' mistakes outweighed the Seahawks' mistakes

The Seattle Seahawks could have easily lost and sent the San Francisco 49ers to the Super Bowl instead. They made enough mistakes to lose. Fortunately, the 49ers' mistakes outweighed the Seahawks' mistakes.

I liked the Seahawks' first offensive play for a moment. I thought it would be important for Russell Wilson to throw it deep early to keep San Francisco's defense from crowding the running game. Seattle started with a play-action roll-out and RW was looking to do just that. Uncharacteristically, he wasn't watching his back or being careful with the ball. Aldon Smith stripped him and recovered.

Read the rest at The Penalty Flag.