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The Two-Bit Fantasy Advice Column – Who to Draft?: Chiefs and Panthers Edition

The Two-Bit Fantasy Advice Column – Who to Draft?: Chiefs and Panthers Edition

This is the Two-Bit Fantasy Advice Column.  I don’t have a better name for it, and frankly, I don’t offer solid fantasy advice.  I just needed a title to keep with the theme of discussing fantasy football.  I’m playing in four leagues this season (idiot) so I’ll be trying to pay attention to NFL news as much as possible.  This is today’s installment.  Don’t forget to check out other pieces on fantasy football on the site as well, including this recent article by Matt.

Drafting a player on your fantasy football team that is part of a “committee” effort on their actual NFL team can be a very frustrating experience.  Fantasy sports involves the proverbial roll of the dice every week, despite what DraftKings lawyers may tell you about “skilled” games.  But the risk of chance is even greater when one starts a player that shares the offensive load with a multitude of other players.

Player A averages a measly five carries per game over the course of a month – maybe found the end zone once in those four games.  He is a waste of a spot.  Looks like this team is rolling with Player B.  Time for Player A to take a seat on the bench.  First game on the bench: 25 touches, 130 yards, 2 touchdowns.  Every.  Damn.  Time.

So essentially, these two entries below are positions on teams that seem to be up in the air at the moment, and it could cause issues for you when it comes to draft day.  Kansas City and Carolina are both going to be very good football teams this year (may or may not have placed a wager on KC to win the AFC West.  +200 if you are so inclined, but remember that gambling is illegal and I am talking about Monopoly money).  Good teams, for the most part, typically have good fantasy players on offense.  There is no doubt that you will want a Chief or a Panther in your fantasy line up.  The question now becomes: which player?

These, of course, are only two platoons to keep an eye on.  Obviously there are other areas of concern for other teams in the league as well, such as New England’s back field (avoid at all costs) or how Arizona will implement Chris Johnson and Andre Ellington into their offensive attack (they won’t).  These are just some thoughts – not all.

Kansas City Chiefs – Running Back

Jamaal Charles (RB12, ADP: 24.6)

Charcandrick West (RB74, ADP: undrafted)

Spencer Ware (RB55, ADP: 145.8)

The Kansas City Chiefs won 11 straight games last season, including a playoff win, with a platoon of running backs that seemingly no one had ever heard of.  West, Ware, and fourth-stringer, Knile Davis, helped take on the load, following Jamaal Charles’ ACL-tear.  It was a success, relatively speaking, given that West and Ware combined for 1,037 yards and 10 touchdowns.

This sight has become all too familiar to trust Charles as a first-rounder anymore.

No one is questioning who the lead back is in Kansas City – Charles is arguably the most explosive back in the NFL in the open field (haha get it) when he is healthy.  But he is never healthy and it’s a damn shame for the league, and a damn shame for your fantasy team.  But when he is starting, obviously the reps will be his.  This is not a question of who starts, but it is a question of who to handcuff to Charles and also who might steal touchdowns away from the other backs.

Spencer Ware.

For example, West got 160 carries last season while Ware received 72.  This translated to about 50 more fantasy points for West on the season.  But Ware scored six rushing touchdowns, all of which came inside the 10-yard line, whereas West scored three from that distance.  West had longer scores, indicating some form of big-play capability, but again, he had the ball almost twice as much.  Spencer Ware, on the other hand, was far more efficient, in terms of fantasy.  Pro Football Focus reported that Ware scored approximately 0.70 points for fantasy opportunity, whereas West scored approximately 0.33.   Twice as effective for your fantasy line up when the ball is in his hand.  And as Ware’s reps continue to climb, so does his ADP – ESPN’s depth chart currently lists West as the second-string back, but the fantasy rankings tell a different story.  Ware seems to be the safest bet here.

Carolina Panthers – Wide Receiver

Kelvin Benjamin (WR18, ADP: 40.4)

Ted Ginn Jr. (WR78, ADP: 133.6)

Devin Funchess (WR50, ADP: 131.5)

The Carolina Panthers finished last season with a 15-1 record and were led in their passing game by Greg Olsen and Ted Ginn Jr.  Ted Ginn Jr.  Not a jokeSomeone needs to fill this void.

Kelvin Benjamin was one of two highly-touted wide outs drafted in 2015, and just like his fellow first-round wide out, Kevin White of the Chicago Bears, Benjamin sat out of the entire 2015 with an unfortunate knee injury.  We have yet to see Kelvin Benjamin play a single game in the NFL, yet he is currently being drafted in and amongst the likes of Keenan Allen, T.Y. Hilton, and Julian Edelman.  The reason being – he was an absolute monster in college.

Indeed, that does not always translate over to the NFL, but providing Cam Newton, who tends to almost always miss high or long when he throws a bad pass (76 of 94 “bad passes” were deemed “overthrown” in 2014, for example), with a 6’5”, 240 pound monster is one hell of an upgrade for the reigning NFL’s Most Valuable Player.  Frankly, it is downright scary.

Carolina feels as though a first-round draft pick is well worth catches like this.

Benjamin is not the only mammoth-sized wide out on this team, however.  Twenty-two year old Devin Funchess also boasts a 6’5”, 240 pound frame and moved to wide receiver from his tight end position that he played in college.  Funchess emerged last year as an impressive complement to Olsen and Ginn Jr., finishing the season with 473 yards and 5 touchdowns.  Three years a junior to Benjamin, who is 25-years old, and one season of experience ahead of Benjamin places Funchess in an interesting spot.  There is a definite chance that he becomes the WR1 on this team, at least in the short term, given Benjamin’s continued recovery from a knee injury.  And if all goes as planned for the Panthers, perhaps a Benjamin/Funchess/Olsen passing attack would dominate an already feeble NFC South division.

Funchess is rising on many draft boards (up an average of +20.6 spots this week alone in ESPN leagues), and Benjamin’s hype as yet to subside, despite missing an entire season with a knee injury.  Needless to say – you should be able to forget about Ted Ginn Jr. in Carolina.  Neither Benjamin nor Funchess would hurt you in a WR2 position.


Numbers vs. Rings – Is Philip Rivers a Hall of Fame Quarterback?

Numbers vs. Rings – Is Philip Rivers a Hall of Fame Quarterback?

In the Super Bowl era, only five quarterbacks have been enshrined in the NFL Hall of Fame without winning a championship: Dan Fouts, Jim Kelly, Dan Marino, Warren Moon, and Fran Tarkenton.  Marino lost one; Tarkenton lost three; and Kelly lost a remarkable four Super Bowls, four years in a row.  But the individual performances of these five quarterbacks were too great to deny.

It seems as though, more than any other individual position in sports, the “no ring” stigma that follows a quarterback throughout his career is the biggest knock on a final resumé – especially when it comes to evaluating whether said quarterback is a Hall-of-Famer.  It is nearly essential – hence why there are only five names that have gotten over that hump.  Esiason, McNabb, Cunningham, Testaverde, and Ken Anderson are among the very talented QBs still on the outside, looking in.  Those names do not strike me as Hall of Famers anyways but whatever.

Regardless, the point is that, for the most part, if you don’t get a ring, you don’t get in.  More so than any other major American professional sports hall of fame.

With that foundation set, let’s look at the modern NFL, in which the quarterback position has completely changed.  The once-legendary 4,000 passing-yards-in-a-season mark (which was surpassed for the first time by Dan Fouts), for example, was achieved by 12 quarterbacks last season alone – eight of which played for teams that finished the season with a .500 record or worse.  So this stat is not even a feat that is indicative of a successful year.  The game is wide open, running backs have become a dispensable commodity while teams throw 50+ times a game, and no longer are the days in which calling a quarterback a “game manager” serves as a compliment for one’s career (take a look at the career stat line of recently enshrined Ken Stabler and compare it to current quarterbacks).

What effect does the state of the current offensive onslaught have on how we evaluate a quarterback’s career in the future?  I have no idea – I cannot see into the future.  But it is a question worth pondering, considering a statistic like 4,000 passing yards in a season is now watered down.

So we have now laid out the Hall of Fame chances of non-winners and the inflated statistics of the modern-day quarterback.  Enter Philip Rivers, stage right.

What do we make of Rivers’ career?  It has been the highest of highs (well, except for that “no Super Bowl” thing I mentioned), and it has been the lowest of lows.  There have been five seasons of playoff appearances, and six seasons of having to listen to Norv Turner.  There was time spent with Antonio Gates, Ladanian Tomlinson, Malcom Floyd, and Vincent Jackson.  And there were times with… well with people that are not named those four names (and maybe add Keenan Allen).

Perhaps my favorite Philip Rivers statistic is the fact that throughout his tumultuous career, the man has never missed a start.  Literally, never.  He took over the starting job for San Diego in 2006 when Drew Brees left for New Orleans, and he has not sat down since.  Remarkable.  Also – fun fact that you learn when you research all of this stuff: the Miami Dolphins were competing with New Orleans to sign Drew Brees and they decided that Brees’ shoulder was a question mark, so they chose to sign Daunte Culpepper instead.  Yup, that happened.

But consecutive-start streaks do not reserve a place for a quarterback in the Hall of Fame.  It takes much more.  And here is where Philip Rivers has trouble.  I am all over the place in this piece but stick with me.  Let’s go back to the fact that the current NFL is stacked with talent at quarterback talent.

Tom Brady, (recently retired) Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger, Eli Manning.  This is the current top-tier of quarterbacks, in terms of a Hall of Fame resumé.  They all belong.  If anyone disagrees with that statement, I live in Hartford, Connecticut and I bench like 5 reps of 185 pounds over 3 sets.   Come fight me.

Does Philip Rivers belong in this class?

Well, that depends on how voters treat that aforementioned influx in quarterback statistics.  But there is still the one thing that each of those quarterbacks I listed has that Philip Rivers does not.  Yup.  That damned ring.

What’s worse – Philip Rivers is arguably the third-best quarterback in his own draft class, let alone the third-best in the NFL.  But recently posted a piece this summer that showed that, despite those rings, Rivers actually surpasses Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger in passer rating, passing yards per season, completion percentage, and TD/interception ratio over the span of their career.  The only main statistic he trails behind these two in is career passing yards.  But again, he sat behind Drew Brees for two whole seasons.  The other two had a two-year head start.  Statistically, Rivers is a better quarterback than Ben Roethlisberger and Eli Manning.

Rivers is currently 14th all-time in passing yards, 11th in passing touchdowns, and 8th in quarterback rating.  And these numbers will only rise.  Rivers is 34-years old and is obviously durable, given the 160-game streak of consecutive starts.  He also recently signed a 4-year, $83 million contract extension with San Diego that also keeps his job secure, pending some sort of disaster.  Who knows – he could also go for a Brett Favre-type run of a million different teams in his 40s, although I doubt it.  Almost no one has dedicated themselves to such a losing team like Rivers has, other than maybe Tony Gwynn’s 19-year career with the Padres of the same city.  Wow, I’m so sorry, San Diego.  At least you get 75-degree days from January to December.

What helps Philip Rivers’ Hall of Fame case in my eyes, other than the solid career statistics, is simply just the way you watch Philip Rivers play football.  He just passes a Hall of Famer eye test.  I don’t know what it is.  He is the penultimate gamer.  Arguing for Rivers to be enshrined forever in Canton is an uphill battle, but I just cannot picture the NFL in the 21st century without the Baron in the Bolo Tie (just came up with that.  That is Shaun’s trademark).

All of those career rankings I previously mentioned place him just behind quarterbacks that are already in the Hall, or are in that class of current top-tier players.  The only names that Rivers trails who are not in the mix for a place in the Hall are names like Drew Bledsoe and Vinny Testaverde (passing yards) and Tony Romo and Russell Wilson (quarterback rating).

Essentially, the one title that Philip Rivers undoubtedly can carry with him is “Best quarterback in NFL history to never appear in a Super Bowl.”

But he probably needs more.  And with that sweet paycheck that he received with his contract extension, comes a team in disarray, in a division that includes three teams that are one, two, or maybe even three echelons above San Diego.  Rivers just cannot catch a break.

Rivers always manages to come through, individually, however.  Last year is a perfect example – a 4-12 record for the Chargers while Rivers finished second in the NFL in passing yards.  This is the paradox of his career.  How do you evaluate a quarterback in comparison to his team?  Sure, Roethlisberger won his first Super Bowl as a rookie, but it was on the back of his defense and he was part of the supporting cast.  But that does not discredit him one bit.  Rivers, on the other hand, exceeds expectations consistently while he plays on a terrible team and he gets thrown to the back of the pack.  Football is viewed as the ultimate “team game” so it has its pros and cons when a player is compared to the other 21 starters on his roster.

Sources (my Dad and brother) tell me that there is no way Rivers is a Hall of Famer.  They cannot get past the “no championship” stigma.  But those same sources (my Dad and brother) were quick to immediately admit that Rivers is certainly a better quarterback than Fouts, Kelly, Moon, and Tarkenton.  Marino is a different argument.  So once again, here we are, stuck in the middle: there is no way he should make it, but he is definitely better than those who made it without a ring.  My only response to that is a shrug of the shoulders.  Why not add Rivers to the conversation?

Watch the Throne, Five Years Later: Re-Examining the Album’s Most Important Song

Watch the Throne, Five Years Later: Re-Examining the Album’s Most Important Song

This is the week of Monday, August 8th and the date marks the fifth birthday of Watch The Throne – a beautiful, pulsating, gilded, collaborative musical effort by Jay and Ye. This is an important – near perfectly produced and enunciated album – that’s a biased opinion but regardless this thing deserves a lot of attention so we’re hosting the first annual Watch The Throne week here at The Open Field in honor of as much. A feature a day, maybe more, and fun stuff in between. na na na. 


If you asked me what Kanye West and Jay-Z’s 2011 album, Watch the Throne, encapsulated in one sentence, I would just have to point you to the 2:42 mark in the album’s tenth track, “Murder to Excellence,” because I cannot describe it any better than Jay-Z does.

It’s a celebration of Black excellence

Imagine the mantra that Biggie and Diddy (or P. Diddy, or Puff Daddy, or whatever he is called) gave us in 1997 – “mo’ money, mo’ problems” – and extend that for 12 tracks (16 if you’re on the Bonus version).  Ye and Jay gave us an hour’s worth of materialism, grandeur, excess, and all of the downfalls that come with it: feeling like an outsider as a Black man at the top, critics constantly trying to tear down the image of a superstar, and the values that change a person when the money comes rolling in.  I can’t say I understand where they are coming from, given my background, but the message is surely clear and very digestible.

That is an understated album cover…

Everything about the album was LARGE.  So large, in fact, that it was met with contempt by some in the hip hop community.

“There will be no reprieve for the thieves / There will be no respect for The Thrones”

Killer Mike of Run The Jewels, in the 2013 track, Sea Legs, off of their debut album.

Basically, some took this album as a departure from the “true art” of hip hop, or whatever holier-than-thou reason they had to diss this album.  These were two artists that made it in the game, and now they were going to go all commercial on us and brag.  Sort of a weird reason to complain, considering the foundation of hip hop is built on braggadocio like this.  But despite the critics, there is no denying Watch the Throne’s impact on the genre in the 21st century.

Shea Serrano’s 2015 book, The Rap Yearbook, is a tremendous read for any fan of the genre.  It is informative, hysterical, and sheds light on some of the more intimate stories behind the most influential songs in hip hop.  And his chapter on the year 2011 names “N***** in Paris” as the most important song of that year.  I cannot disagree.  That track was everywhere.  The song became such an anthem that the two went on a world tour following the album’s release and played it on repeat at every show – including a whopping 12 times in a row when they performed in Paris.

Serrano does an excellent job of diving into the near-perfect dichotomy of Jay and Kanye as a duo as well.  By labeling Kanye as the “loudmouth” (who knew?) and Jay as the “machine,” Serrano argues that nothing about that song, or really the album in general, would have delivered the message as effectively without these two points of view.  They were perfect to play off of each other, going line for line throughout the album.

Jay is the cold, calculated success story about setting yourself above the rap game by rapping about life in the streets that he is now so far removed from.  Kanye, on the other hand, is the boisterous, wild character that is going in his own direction, despite whether it places him above everyone in the rap game or not.  The two stories about their meteoric rise to fame is vastly different, but their close friendship and musical relationship ties them to each other like no other duo.  Their two different visions of being a successful Black man in modern pop culture gives the listener two paths they can take to reach the same conclusion – that they are above the fray and disconnected from the environment they grew up in, but they still cannot ignore that life altogether, nor can they ignore being Black at the same time.

An even greater testament to the impact of Watch the Throne might actually be the “Rebuttal” section of Serrano’s chapter on “N***** in Paris.”  The Rap Yearbook has a portion of the book where, at the end of each year, he has another writer offer a couple paragraphs on another song that came out in said year of the subject song, arguing why that song should have actually been labeled “Most Important.”  It allows a discussion to form about what else was going on in the rap game at the time when whatever song Serrano is writing about was released.

And sometimes, I find myself agreeing with the counter-arguments too.  2000’s debate between Jay-Z’s “Big Pimpin’” and Outkast’s “So Fresh, So Clean,” or 1985’s debate between Doug E. Fresh & Slick Rick’s “La Di Da Di” and Run DMC’s “King of Rock” allow the reader to audibly go “hmm” while thinking about differing opinions.  Side note: no mention of Nas’ “N.Y. State of Mind” in 1994 was blasphemy, although “Juicy” is probably the greatest rap song of all-time so I’ll accept it.

The 2011 chapter boasts a write-up on “Otis,” which was also on Watch the Throne.  So in order to find the most important song of 2011, one did not have to even leave this album in order to find a counter-argument.  It just took over everything.  Both songs, by the way, took him Grammy awards for “Best Rap Performance” in 2011 and 2012, respectively.

“Ball so hard, I’m shocked too / I’m supposed to be locked up too / If you escaped what I escaped / you’d be in Paris getting f***** up too.”

Jay, getting introspective on us, in a way that only Jay can.

Well, I am going to put those two tracks to the side for a second, and I am going to submit a new nominee off of Watch the Throne as a song that, while it may not be the “most important,” better encapsulates the introspective thinking and conscious understanding of where these two rappers were in their career in 2011.  That song, is the sixth track off of this platinum album, titled “New Day.”

A song that boasted production from the Wu Tang Clan’s mastermind, RZA, as well as the legend, Mike Dean, this track was four and a half minutes of Jay and Ye taking a step back from the hard-hitting “I’m rich” message this album carried and examined what this level of success was doing to their lives.  The structure of the song presented one verse from each artist, speaking directly to their hypothetical sons (for Kanye, there is no more hypothetical, given that he now has Saint).

Let’s start with Kanye.  The constant tabloid-headline-subject, perennial brazen jerk, that has become one of the most polarizing figures in music history.  Kanye’s son has to overcome the image of being the spawn of a human that has never learned to shut his mouth, and because of that, Kanye recognizes that there is a stigma that will automatically attach to him.  So Kanye decides to lay out a roadmap of what he will teach his kid in order to avoid the trouble that Kanye has gotten into himself.

And I’ll never let my son have an ego

He’ll be nice to everyone, wherever he go

I mean I might even make him be Republican

So everybody know he love white people

Okay, that is a good start.  I’m not exactly sure why he had to go right at Republicans, considering there are plenty of Democrats that despise him as well.

And I’ll never let him ever hit the telethon

I mean even if people dying and the world ends

Oh, that’s right.  Yeah, you did that stupid thing during a telethon one time.

Kanye proceeds to tell his son that he “never budged” on everything and that was his major drawback.  He is right, for sure.  Kanye’s verse hits many of his flaws, head on, and he doesn’t shy away from what he has done.  If there is one characteristic of Kanye that many casual fans (or haters) understand, it is that this guy is incredibly vulnerable.  He is basically constantly living in that sense of insecurity you feel when you text your friend at 4:59 on a Friday afternoon, asking “what are you up to this evening?” and you don’t get an answer back.

“They haven’t answered – why didn’t they answer? – what did I do to piss them off? – do they hate me? – screw them if they hate me – that’s their loss.”

Word to the wise, from Kanye, and from me too: don’t think like that.  It’s a waste of time and emotion.

Then Jay-Z comes in on the second verse.  Jay has always been a level above Kanye in the rap game, and most of it comes from the fact that he came before Kanye, essentially created Kanye, and quite frankly – because he is more talented than Kanye at rapping.

But Jay’s past escapades are far more nefarious than Kanye.  Remember when that wet-blanket-of-a-human-being, Tomi Lahren, wanted to remind us that Jay-Z sold drugs?

Yes, we all remember.  Jay-Z also took this sound bite and used it in a song this year with rapper, Pusha T, which was pretty bad ass.

But Jay does NOT shy away from where he came from – he can’t anymore, considering he built his image off of this past.

Sorry, Junior, I already ruined you

Yeah, kind of.

Teach you good values so you can cherish it

Took me 26 years just to find my path

I suppose it is worth mentioning Jay was 26 when he released his debut album, Reasonable Doubt.  He was much older when Watch the Throne dropped.  But Jay’s verse after this comes from a place of intense self-doubt and insecurity, given his upbringing.  For all his past faults, Jay just wants to be a good dad at the end of the day.  That’s really all we men really want.  Football on Sundays and being a good dad.  We are simple animals.

I just pray we was in love on the night that we conceived him

Promise never to leave him even if his Mama tweakin’

‘Cause my dad left me and I promise never repeat him

Never repeat him, never repeat him

Well, Jay, your wife is certainly not going to be tweaking anytime soon.  We all know that.  But this message has been something Jay has addressed in the past – not wanting to be his father, feeling bad for his mother for raising him solo, forgiving her faults because of her situation, etc.  This is the image of Black America that Jay and Kanye still try to address on Watch the Throne, right alongside the image of success and excess.  Their starting point is just different – it’s unfortunate, but it’s true.  And now that these two have positions of power unlike any of their childhood peers, they have no idea how to deal with it.

So, they might as well ball out a little bit, like “N***** in Paris” shows us, but then understand the potential for downfalls, like “New Day” does.  This is the most important song on this outstanding album, because it paints these two larger-than-life characters as mere men.  And they understand that men are mortal and have faults.

Schoolboy Q Comes for That “Album of the Year” Crown with This Summer’s Release, “Blank Face LP”

Schoolboy Q Comes for That “Album of the Year” Crown with This Summer’s Release, “Blank Face LP”

Here is the thing about releasing an album or a film in the summer – there only seems to be two extremes.  Either it (a) captivates the entire nation and becomes a cultural sensation; or (b) it falters and falls into oblivion.  Is that entirely a fact?  I have no idea.  Shout out to the I Am Rapaport Podcast with this quote: “we don’t fact check around here.”

But I think it’s true because during the summer people are crazy busy.  Everyone is out and about – there is no time to hit a movie theater or… wherever people buy music now… unless it is raining and you got to entertain the kids.  I know how it goes – I was that little punk that was going to eventually break something in the house if I wasn’t preoccupied immediately during bad weather.

So, my point is basically that, here I am one week after Schoolboy Q’s fourth release, Blank Face LP, and I am just getting around to listening to the album because I have been all over the map.  Had I waited any longer, I probably would have forgotten this album dropped.  But I am glad I didn’t do that.  Oh my goodness, this album.  Buckle up.

I finally gave the time to Blank Face LP while driving to a softball game the other night (is that the whitest thing I have ever said?  That’s probably the whitest thing I have ever said), and it started out much like other recent “New” West Coast albums have sounded.  TorcH comes on with the deep, lingering drum beat, while haunting piano riffs are layered on top.  It is the sound that Dr. Dre championed during the 90’s.  But in Dre’s 2015 album, Compton, he experimented with guitar solos over his old recipe for success, and it has caught on.  This seems to be the standard in West Coast hip hop at the moment.  I dig it.

Additionally, the artist that utters the first lyric on the album is Anderson .Paak (these are not typos. Anderson really puts a stupid period there, and Schoolboy really capitalizes all of his “H”s).  This only adds to the New West sound.  Beginning once again with Compton, Dr. Dre introduced the world to .Paak and he has skyrocketed to the top of the game.  Now you have to have Anderson .Paak on your album.  Funny how it always seems to be Dr. Dre that starts a massive musical movement.  Hmm.

But with what started off as a familiar sound turned into an hour and 13 minutes of one much different ride.  Schoolboy, who plays the role of the jester in one of hip hop’s premier quartets, Black Hippy (along with Kendrick Lamar, Jay Rock, and Ab-Soul), channeled some serious emotion throughout BF.  Indeed, Schoolboy has been introspective in the past when it came to his drug dealing and drug addicted past, but on this album it is much more mature and focused.  But here, whether he is addressing incarceration (Tookie Knows II), or past relationship troubles with his family and friends (Know Ya Wrong), or even slipping back into that life (Groovy Tony), the message he is sending doesn’t just sound like an angry young, black kid lashing out.

He can’t lash out anymore.  I mean, he probably could, but the guy is in a new stage of life.  Anyone who follows hoovaq on Snapchat knows this guy seems like dad of the year.  There are new priorities in his life, and he is certainly not afraid of addressing them.  This isn’t the same guy that rapped about his hands on the steering wheel with weed and brews back in 2012.

Let’s put the rags down and raise our kids
Let’s put the guns down and blaze a spliff
Let’s do it now, ain’t no buts or ifs

It took a Blood to get me Pringle chips
You can learn to fly or take the ladder
Real n**** shit, all lives matter, both sides

But when he does lash out, whoa boy.  In an unfortunate but extremely relevant situation, considering the album dropped right at the same time as some psycho took out five cops during a peaceful protest about race relations on July 8th,  Schoolboy takes on modern social issues as well.  Neva CHange, for example, has Q screaming about the racial struggles between black men in the streets and police officers.  The vivid pictures he paints are sobering, in one word.  And for Schoolboy, the bucket hat wearing, weed smoking goofball, this was a real mature step forward, artistically.

My lawyers stay on retainer
When white folks point the finger
Place my neck on that hanger
Shit, no wonder we riot

N****s still killin’ n****s
Child support killin’ n****s
Cops enslavin’ us n****s

The production also changed throughout the album as well.  BF doesn’t just thump out the Dre beats I mentioned earlier.  All the stars came out on this album, including Metro Boomin, Tyler, The Creator, The Alchemist, Swizz Beats, and of course Top Dawg Entertainment’s in-house production crew.  The diversity is perfect for the flow.  It was a perfect combination of West Coast influence with trombones and trumpets, boom bap drums here and there, and more modern-sounding styles.

Schoolboy Q’s 2014 album, Oxymoron, which exploded Q onto the scene and even got a nod with a Grammy nomination, seemed like a dozen radio singles.  Don’t get me wrong – I still listen to it often.  But those were individual songs that each blew up on their own.  The cohesiveness of Blank Face, however, is a completely different direction.  This feels the exact opposite.  Q was putting a project together with this album, rather than trying to get one song into everyone’s headphones.

Sure, there are still stars all over this album (Kanye West, Miguel, Vince Staples, SZA, Anderson .Paak, E-40, Jadakiss, etc.), but other than THat Part, the tracks feel like they are part of just a piece of a much bigger plan.  And what is even more interesting is who is not featured on this album.  No Kendrick, Jay Rock, or Ab-Soul.  There are hints of Kendrick’s voice in some of the background vocals here and there, but other than one song with SZA, Schoolboy’s record label mates are absent.  He went rogue on this one, and it paid off.  This wasn’t just more of the good old stuff – this was some new great stuff.


Schoolboy Q has also always had the talent to mix and match rhyme schemes with diverse deliveries on his songs, but on this album he takes it to the next level.  The first verse and third verse of Dope Dealer, for example, sound like two different people.  He is all over the spectrum with his delivery, sometimes riding the beat as smooth as silk, and other times plowing through the rhythm with his growling, choppy style, with no regard for the production.


Blank Face LP better turn into a smash hit, because Q deserves that with this one.  I can’t give a favorite song yet, because I don’t have one.  But I also can’t give you a least favorite song yet, either, because they are all tremendous.  I’m glad Q took his time with this one, rather than ride his Grammy Awards wave into some C+ follow-up to Oxymoron.  This was way above my expectations.

I was thoroughly impressed.  This album has the chance to raise Schoolboy up to a new tier in the current rap game.  I now have a summer rap album to go alongside Chance the Rapper.  Please go listen to this album.

Kevin Durant Sweepstakes Time! Let’s Pitch Him the City of Boston as Best We Can

Kevin Durant Sweepstakes Time! Let’s Pitch Him the City of Boston as Best We Can

by Shaun (@slough44)

Boston is now in the front of the line for one of the biggest free agent signings in the past couple decades.  Kevin Durant.  My goodness, wouldn’t that be nice?  May not happen, though.  The Celtics now have some cap space, but so does half the league, given this notorious spike in the NBA salary cap.  So the odds might be slim, but the biggest surprise to me has been, quite frankly, that they even have a chance.  They’ve never had that before.

I didn’t feel like going to hunt for old articles to link to this post, and if you Google “Boston Celtics bad free agent market” you cannot even sniff what you’re looking for because the news is too packed with the fact that they are a big player in 2016.  But historically, Boston has not been the best place to come play for an NBA free agent.  Gun to my head, you ask me “Miami, Los Angeles, or Boston?” and it’ll take me quite a while to give you an answer.  And that’s just chubby old me.  Now imagine being an NBA superstar.  It just is not going to happen.

GUANGZHOU, CHINA - JULY 09: (CHINA OUT) NBA player Kevin Durant of Oklahoma City Thunder reacts during a meet and greet with fans at South China Agricultural University on July 9, 2011 in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province of China. (Photo by ChinaFotoPress/Getty Images)

But now here we are!  Very exciting times.  Now that it is the first of July, free agent season begins.  So what will the Celtics pitch to Durant during their interview?  God only knows, but we need to come up with some good ideas.  There are plenty of things to pitch to an NBA all-star about this city.  So rich in culture, food, the arts, history.  You name it, Boston has it.  I have put together a list of things that we can use to lure in Durantula.


Whale Watching

Long Wharf is beautiful.  Especially if you have children, Kevin.  Do you have children?  Ahhh it doesn’t matter – either way, between Legal Sea Foods, Tia’s, or the site-seeing at the end of the wharf, you’re going to love it.  But here is the thing, Kevin – they have boats!

For just like $12 or something – not really sure – you can hop on one of the New England Aquarium’s cruise ships and head out of Boston Harbor and into the Atlantic to see some of nature’s most mystical creatures.  Humpback whales, I think.  They are lovely.

Now I’ll admit, I haven’t seen one in about six years.  I think it was when I was chaperoning my kid’s field trip.  But when I saw it, it was amazing.  The whale blew water in the air.  Then his tail came out of the water.  ELECTRIC stuff.  So much action over the course of like an hour and a half.

The boat is great, too.  The cruise ship doubles as the public transportation ferry that commutes from Hingham and Hull – you probably will never visit there but that’s okay.  So essentially, you get to maybe have a 1/6 chance of seeing a whale while sitting in the same booth someone prepared for a morning meeting in.  So relaxing.


South Boston

Kevin, these people will love you.  Imagine the biggest Kappa Sigma frat party you ever attended at Texas.  You probably walked through the back door, or hung out in the driveway, took a hundred pictures, and then left after one of your boys took a bottle of vodka out from behind the bar.  That sounds like my ideal college party, by the way.

Okay, so take that, and multiply it by 2,000 people.  THAT is Southie.  You will fit right in, I promise.  A 6’10”, nearly-30-year old, African-American from Washington D.C.?  You are basically a regular there!  It is a match made in heaven.


See, Kevin?  PERFECT crowd to spend your Thursday night with.

You made it to Southie in the 21st-century as well, which will benefit you.  It used to be all Irish people.  Not only did they barely speak English, but they weren’t exactly… well they just weren’t very friendly.  Nowadays, though, you have thousands of 25-year old former high school baseball studs that now work at State Street Financial as associates and voted for Trump because he “speaks his mind.”  It is SO much more refreshing there now!

And the girls are top notch, too.  You ever had Fireball Whiskey before?  No?  Well you will learn soon.  Just don’t cheer openly for the Redskins or the Capitals or Texas or pretty much any athletic team on television ever when you’re at Stats Bar & Grille.  We don’t need to be dealing with any concussions.

By the way, when you go to the beach, do you like water slightly above freezing?  No?  Alright let’s move on.

Ski Resorts


The Greater Boston Metropolitan area has them by the boatload.  My two favorites are Nashoba Valley Ski Area in Westford, and Blue Hills Ski Area in Canton.  The snow is so fluffy, and the views are gorgeous.  At Nashoba, my favorite view is of the snow-covered outdoor tiki bar that is only open in the summers when you won’t be here and you’ll be at your house in Los Angeles.

You are an athlete.  We all know that.  So skiing will not be an issue at all.  You can even get some snowboarding in the mix – trying to drag some knuckles and shred gnarly pow pow, man?  Nahhhh, I’m just kidding.  You know I’m kidding – this guy, he knows I’m a joker.  That’s what we do here, we like to work hard and play hard here in Boston.  You don’t get 17 banners in the rafters without working hard.

But anyways, back to skiing.  It’s basically a smaller Breckenridge.  It’s Aspen with some attitude.  Boston loves to ski in the winter.  Or just skitch on a trash can off the back of a bumper on a Subaru down Beacon Hill.  Either way, find a way to enjoy the snow, because your entire season will be under snow cover.  Oh, it doesn’t snow in Los Angeles or Miami?  Didn’t know that.

The Freedom Trail

There is something truly awesome, like in the truest sense of the word, about wandering through a cemetery and seeing headstones and graves of some of the nameless founding fathers of this nation.  I mean, these guys created this nation, and they died 230 years ago, so the cemetery isn’t in great shape – but still, just imagine it in your brain.  And then you get to walk through the city, on broken cobblestone, for several miles, while you look at old churches that are really just bars and nightclubs now but at least the foundation is still in the ground.

Remember Paul Revere from history class?  Yeah, he was captured like 15 miles from here in Concord but we can stand here in the middle of the street while our tour guide tells us the story.  You won’t see it at all, but then again, you haven’t seen any of it.  None of the Freedom Trail actually exists anymore.  But it is still so wonderful to follow.


Okay, so that’s my pitch to Kevin.  Four lockdown talking points to lure him here.  I don’t think he can say “no,” frankly.  If you have any other awesome ideas, share them with us.  I can send them along to Danny Ainge because we both sat courtside at a Boston College basketball game one time so I basically have his e-mail address.

And by the way, for my money, I’m thinking Kevin Durant stays in Oklahoma City.

A Look Back : Brooklyn’s Finest Turning Fiction to Truth

A Look Back : Brooklyn’s Finest Turning Fiction to Truth

Editors note : Jay-Z’s “Reasonable Doubt” turns 20 today – Shaun and Jake take takes on as much.


To release a hip hop album in New York City in 1996 was a risky career move.  Furthermore, to release a Mafioso-style hip hop album was an even larger risk.  Now go one more step – make it your debut album.  Good luck, man.

Jay-Z’s Reasonable Doubt came out 20 years ago this weekend, and it launched the career of one of hip hop’s perennial moguls.  From the Marcy Projects in Brooklyn to a music streaming service, a sports agency, and a brand of alcohol.  Reasonable Doubt started it all.  And what’s more – it was all a façade.

Jay was just foreshadowing.

Mafioso rap was running New York in the mid-90s.  Biggie, Nas, and Raekwon were the cream of the crop at the time.  Yes, Raekwon – do yourself a favor and go listen to Only Built 4 Cuban Linx.  One of the best of all-time.


But actually, at this point in time, it is literally impossible to separate Jay and Nas’ careers from 1996 onward.  Nas’ second album, It Was Written, came out the same week as Jay’s debut.  Word association games nowadays go something like “Jay … Bey” but quite frankly, Jay & Nas have been attached at the hip for far longer.  Nas was 22 years old on his second album while 26-year old Jay was just debuting.  And then there is their history together, which would take hours to explain.  Who will ever truly know about that ‘tek on the dresser…

So this Mafioso sound that I mention – just look at the album cover of Reasonable Doubt to get an understanding.  This was not just any “I deal drugs” type of hip hop.  What these rappers were trying to channel through their rhymes was something much larger – influenced by the likes of Scarface and The Godfather.  Pinstripe suits and fat cigars.  The girls, the cars, the lifestyle was all just too large for us to understand.  And if someone was going to get got, they were going to get got in a smooth way.  Imagine Jimmy (Robert Deniro) in Goodfellas telling his crony that spent too much money on material items after the Lufthansa robbery to just “keep going a little further,” until he is out the back door and was never seen again.  This was what these rappers were channeling.  Truly “gangster” rap.  None of that drive-by stuff.

Okay, maybe a little bit of that drive-by stuff.

Regardless, Jay executed it very well.  But it was just at a time when so many others did it just as well.  Quick Mafioso album power rankings:

  • Raekwon – Only Built 4 Cuban Linx (fight me I dare you)
  • Notorious B.I.G. – Ready to Die and everything else he ever recorded
  • Jay-Z – Reasonable Doubt
  • Nas – It Was Written

But Reasonable Doubt had this jazzy sound that the other efforts lacked.  In the same way that the Great Gatsby remake film used Kanye & Jay’s Watch the Throne as its soundtrack, if you remade a modern day, smoother, flashier Godfather (please do NOT f’ing do this), then Reasonable Doubt would be the perfect soundtrack.


But here is the other crazy thing about Jay-Z rapping on Reasonable Doubt in 1996: it was all fantasy.  Frankly, it was actually foreshadowing.  Jay-Z has the crack dealing background that Fox News likes to rip apart, but it wasn’t anywhere near the level of extravagance like the picture he painted on tracks like “Dead Presidents” or “D’Evils”.  Jay rapped about his gangster lifestyle as if it was a full-blown enterprise in 1996, and we all knew that was the furthest thing from the truth.  But here we are two decades and $500 million later…

Jay-Z has been able to create this image of himself from day one and we have all bought into it – probably yet another close comparison to Drake, but don’t say that in front of an old hip hop head or you’ll get slapped.

In 1996 he was one of Tony Montana’s associates (this album); in 2001 (The Blueprint) he was the seasoned veteran on his yacht; in 2003 (The Black Album) he was an all-out ROCKSTAR; and in 2011 (Watch the Throne) he was the embodiment of wealth.  More specifically, African-American wealth – which probably pissed off a lot more white magazine reviewers than it should have.

Present day Jay is a tremendous look in the rearview mirror on Reasonable Doubt.  It set up the career of a made man, even if he wasn’t made yet when he told us he was.

If Kanye West has sonically had the largest impact on the 21st century of hip hop, then Jay-Z has had the largest impact in terms of image.  And it all started with Reasonable Doubt.  And that’s exactly what it was: an image.  But no one can market themselves the way Sean Carter can.  This album introduced us to Jay’s incredibly smooth, slow, deliberate flow with out of this world double/triple/quadruple entendres, and it was actually new to him too!

Jay-Z’s career began before 1996, and it was nothing like what we heard on Reasonable Doubt.  That is part of the reason why this album was so surprising.  Jay turned in the flat-top haircut and blistering fast flow over snare drums for the musical version of American Gangster (hey, he should do an album about that…).


This was Jay-Z once – as someone’s back up rapper.  Did you know that?  It is not good…

Hip hop is an industry built on image, and Reasonable Doubt created one of the most important images in the history of hip hop, and quite frankly, in the history of music.  Jay-Z certainly ain’t my favorite – but he is an ICON.  And you got to pay respect when it’s due.  Reasonable Doubt is a fantastic debut album and it still stands the test of time two decades later.

I would tell you to listen to it, but it is probably only on TIDAL so too bad…

Dustin Johnson is now a Major Champion. Time to Update our “PGA Loser” Power Rankings.

Dustin Johnson is now a Major Champion. Time to Update our “PGA Loser” Power Rankings.

The USGA apparently hates bad boys.  How in the hell do you tell a human, two-thirds of the way through a golf round, that you may or may not punish them with a one-stroke penalty?  Imagine LeBron James playing the fourth quarter of Sunday night’s game without knowing the score.  If I’m up two points, maybe I slow the clock down and get it in the paint.  If I’m up three, I coast even more.  If I’m up one, or it’s tied, well now I’m mentally in an entirely different place.

That is what it is like playing the back nine of a major championship without knowing the score, times a MILLION.

But Dustin Johnson overcame it.  What a great afternoon of golf.  Post-Tiger PGA is in a tremendous place right now after a few questionable years – there are so many stars out there that make Sundays in the summer as exciting as can be.

Dustin Johnson, however, is a bad boy.  Make no mistake about it.  The cocaine suspension.  The rumors about affairs with other golfers’ wives.  The new wife, who was wearing… well let’s just say she wasn’t exactly wearing 18th-hole-at-the-country-club clothes on Sunday.  I think this was an all-out sabotage, and to try and sabotage one of the biggest choke artists in golf history was just pitiful.  And then, like a phoenix from the ashes, he rose above it all and didn’t choke!  How did Dustin Johnson not choke?

I have always liked DJ.  Tough to drop that statement after listing his resume in the last paragraph.  Whoops.  He is the longest hitter on Tour, which is always fun to watch.  He has the swagger.  And for some reason, I’ve always been a TaylorMade guy.  No reason for it.  It’s weird when people who like golf just kind of pick a brand and stick with it, but here we are.

But DJ has always been a perennial choker.  It’s been his M.O.  And not only does he choke, but he painfully chokes.  There was 2010 at Whistling Straits.  Then there was 2015 at Chambers Bay.  I mean, when Dustin Johnson chokes he goes ALL-FREAKING-TIME with it.  So I never expected Sunday to ever happen, and when the one-stroke penalty news started, I thought “well, here we go again!”


Oh my God, look at Lee Westwood’s face on the left side of the photo. Yes.

So now we need to find some new people to point and laugh at.  Some of them are mostly old faces, who have always been chokers, but now with Dustin Johnson as a certified winner, there are new loveable losers on the Tour that we need to pay attention to.  This is essentially a short list of reminders.  “Hey, did you remember these guys stink, too?”

Here is the thing with golf – and this goes for pros and amateurs alike – there is no sport more mentally infuriating.  Most likely it is because of the individuality of the whole competition.  Quite frankly, the biggest opponent in golf is the golfer him(her)self.  Which is why, as a fan of professional golf, we need chokers.  We need the drama of absolute misery.  It fuels the sport.  Greg Norman.  Retief Goosen.  Watching people fail at golf is weirdly as satisfying as watching people experience glory in golf.  Let’s find us some losers.

Sergio Garcia

Even before Dustin Johnson won on Sunday, Sergio still had the top spot among chokers.  Rooting for Sergio Garcia to fail is as American as apple pie.  Perfectly fitting that he was at the top of the leaderboard for this disaster on Sunday – same as Lee Westwood, who we will get to.

This was the man that was going to be Tiger’s arch enemy.  Nicklaus/Palmer.  Bird/Magic.  Columnists across the country painted this as the biggest golf rivalry of all-time.  Then Tiger just kept winning.  Jesus.  Sergio never stood a chance.  That went over like a fart in church.

4th at the Masters, 3rd at the British, 2nd at the U.S. Open, and 2nd at the PGA Championship.  Talk about coming up short.  Yuck.  He doesn’t just lose, however, but he does it with style.

Players Championship. Sergio is in first place.  This is essentially golf’s “fifth major” so it’s still kind of a big deal I guess.  This is going to happen!  THREE GOLF BALLS INTO THE WATER ON THE 17TH AND 18TH HOLE.  8th place finish after quadruple and double-bogeys.  Cannot make that up.  Really cannot.  Sergio will always go down in the history as the best loser in PGA Tour history and the mere fact that he is still in the hunt, major after major, only speaks volumes to how much we are going to enjoy him losing for a long time.


“A player, whose championship composure has been tested so many times…” – Jim Nantz, on the one and only Sergio.


Lee Westwood

This guy just strolls under the radar because his choking is not as fantastic as Garcia, but this guy cannot win any of the big ones.  Indeed, 42 career wins is a lot; I’ll give you that (even if only 2 of them were on the PGA tour).  But Christ, guy: 2nd at the Masters, 3rd at the U.S. Open, 2nd at the British Open, and 3rd at the PGA Championship.  Get over the hump one time for me.  Another pairing in one of the final groups this weekend and then just fades into oblivion by the end of the round.  Guy hasn’t even won a World Golf Championship tournament before, and I know that all the prize money is in the WGC – at least judging by the back of Hank Haney’s book on Tiger where he lists all of Tiger’s wins.  That’s my only knowledge on the WGC.

Lee Westwood actually ended Tiger Woods’ reign as the number one ranked golfer in the world in 2010.  He’s been at the top, despite never winning a damn thing.  Consider Westwood the Washington Capitals of professional golf.  Not to mention, after Westwood’s time at number one, Martin Kaymer reached number one, and that was probably the darkest time in golf’s recent history.  When Westwood, Kaymer, and Luke Donald were at the top of the sport, I figured we were all in trouble.

I will give Westwood one thing, however – he is a Ryder Cup stud.  That hurts even more for me because the Ryder Cup is all about pride and Lee freaking Westwood keeps causing problems for the United States.

Ian Poulter

“Don’t get me wrong, I really respect every professional golfer, but I know I haven’t played to my full potential and when that happens, it will be just me and Tiger.” – Ian Poulter, circa 2008, Golf World Magazine.

I hate Ian Poulter more than any human on the planet.  I don’t even think it is irrational hate, either.  I think there is such a good reason for hating Ian Poulter.  He dresses like a complete idiot and he acts like a jack ass for absolutely no reason.  Let’s check out Ian’s major finishes: 6th at the Masters, 12th at the U.S. Open, 2nd at the British Open, and 3rd at the PGA Championship.

Can’t even call Poulter a choker, because truth is, he never had a chance in the first place.  Guy just doesn’t cut it.  “It will be just me and Tiger.” Suuuuure, guy.

The thing about Ian Poulter is that he is the guy that wants to call everyone else out.  He wants to let you know when someone else broke an unwritten rule, or they were rude on the course, but frankly, he’s just the biggest jerk in the group.  Ohhh I don’t like how Hideki Matsuyama hit the green there.”  If you’re a baseball guy, look up Brian McCann.  That kind of moron.

TURNBERRY, SCOTLAND - JULY 16: Ian Poulter of England gestures during round one of the 138th Open Championship on the Ailsa Course, Turnberry Golf Club on July 16, 2009 in Turnberry, Scotland. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)

Rickie Fowler

I’m projecting here, because I think this is going to be Fowler’s fate.  He has one Player’s Championship title, and six PGA titles overall.  And in 2014 he had a monster season – the only player to finish in the top 5 in every single major in that calendar year.  They are also all of his best finishes in his fledgling career: 5th at the Masters, 2nd at the U.S. Open, 2nd at the British Open, and 3rd at the PGA Championship.

The entire previous paragraph sounds like a real good start for a 27-year old golfer.  But to me, everything about Fowler’s game spells trouble.  This is a golfer that has a massive following, primarily in the younger demographics.  But he has the potential to put a string of birdie, birdie, par, triple bogey together.  That kind of golfer.

Those massive blow-up holes spell nothing but trouble in a major championship.  Rickie needs to get one under his belt early in the career because that monkey on his back is only going to get larger – much like Lee Westwood.

I hope I’m wrong about this one, but we shall see…

Shaun’s good ole nugget for the end of each post: Justin Rose will win the British Open.