Friday, September 19, 2014

2014 Rookie QB Watch: Week 3

By Liam Madigan-Fried

Okay, what the hell is wrong with the NFL right now? The Buffalo Bills are at the top of the AFC East  and so far, Ryan Fitzpatrick has proven to be a better fantasy prospect in the first two weeks than both Tom Brady and Drew Brees. In fact, one of the few things I see that has any degree of normalcy to it, is the fact that Robert Griffin III has gotten himself injured...again. Whatever, the rest of the NFL isn’t my problem, but these four guys are:

Derek Carr: Let us get started as we normally do, with the rookie out in Oakland. For the second straight week, Carr demonstrated that he has all the tools and potential to become a first-rate quarterback. Even with his relatively strong performance thus far, people are still questioning whether or not he’s the right fit for Oakland. When you go ahead and look back at the numbers for Sunday, you’ll realize he pretty much had to carry his team through the game versus the Houston Texans. He threw for 263 yards as well as a fourth quarter touchdown, the glory of which was unfortunately marred by two interceptions.  Carr also led the team in rushing on the day with 57 yards on just five carries. It seems to me that right now, Carr is the true definition of a workhorse quarterback. Unfortunately for Carr, he's surrounded by a team full of washed-up veterans. I have yet to see any of these guys contribute anything more than a few fluke good plays (mostly thanks to Carr) and some ill-timed lost fumbles. The Raiders management is really grasping at straws now for play-makers on offense, having just signed former San Diego Chargers wide receiver Vincent Brown-whose racked up a lengthy injury history in his three years in the league (boy, just what this team needs!)  Brown's addition comes as a result of the Raiders needing to make a move at wideout, after Rod Streater went down with hip-flexor injury last Sunday. So naturally, the Raiders bring in an injury prone free agent who got waived by the team that drafted him this offseason due to a calf issue. Honestly, just what the hell are they smoking in Oakland? The Raiders' season is already heading for a long and turbulent road and it won't get any easier when they face the New England Patriots on the road this Sunday. Despite how poorly the Raiders have played to-date, hopefully they'll keep Carr in at quarterback so that he may be better suited to lead this team more successfully in the future.

Johnny Manziel: All I can say is good for Brian Hoyer. His performance on Sunday (throwing 24/40 with one TD), especially in the second half, impressed me among many others. It wasn’t perfect, but it was definitely a step in the right direction for the sixth-year quarterback. Realistically, there must be at least a few people up in The Browns front office now wondering whether their 22nd overall pick may have been better suited for the deep receiving class presented in 2014, rather than the ball-slinging cowboy out of Texas A&M. With all due respect to Johnny Manziel, the kid has definitely got talent, but like I said last week, if things keep going well for Hoyer this year and possibly next, I could definitely see them pacing him on the trade block. Teams looking for a new possible franchise option such as the Rams -who currently find themselves at a crossroads with Sam Bradford, who suffered a torn ACL for a second straight season- could look at Manziel as an option moving forward. Manziel did make onto the field for a whopping three plays last Sunday against the Saints as the "special" offensive package for Manziel made its long-awaited debut. Two of those snaps came as handoffs to Isaiah Crowell, while the third one was an incomplete pass intended for fullback Ray Agnew. I’ll give it to Manziel, the pass was on target and would have been a completion had Agnew just been able to hold onto it, but on the other hand, he could definitely have made the throw a few seconds sooner without getting so far outside of the pocket. In the fast-paced style of game play in the NFL, those few seconds really count. We definitely haven’t seen the last of Manziel on the field for the Browns, but fans definitely should get more used to seeing Hoyer out there on Sunday. As much as Johnny Football enthusiasts would love to see him take the field,  Hoyer gives The Browns' best chance at winning right now.

Teddy Bridgewater: Okay, so maybe I spoke too soon about the whole “Matt Cassel is finally playing like a franchise quarterback” thing. In fairness, Cassel did look the part in the Week 1. Week 2, on the other hand, not so much...  His completion percentage was average (throwing 19/36), but what really nailed the coffin shut for Cassel on Sunday was the four interceptions on the afternoon. Cassel's four INT's played a big part in allowing the Patriots to keep possession as long as they did, thus controlling the overall tempo of the game. After he got intercepted for the third time by Logan Ryan the crowd began chanting very audibly “TEDDY...TEDDY”; sending a clear message to the Minnesota sideline “We want to see what this kid can do”. When Cassel's on, can be a very talented pocket passer. But, Bridgewater is somebody who can give them more versatility thanks to his ability to make plays with his legs as well as his arm. The fans obviously want their team to try something different, so don’t be surprised to see Bridgewater make his debut this Sunday versus the New Orleans Saints. Also don’t be surprised to see Christian Ponder starting once again at benchwarmer.

Blake Bortles: I was ready to write how Chad Henne needs to get the boot and make way for the rookie until I read an interview recently with Cecil Shorts III, calling for people to get a better understanding of what it means to be an NFL quarterback and why Henne isn’t the problem down in Jacksonville. This interview made me stop and think how true that is on a lot of levels. After all, Jacksonville’s offensive line could hardly protect the pocket last Sunday against the Redskins- allowing Henne to get sacked a total of 10 times in the game. Can we really expect a quarterback to play up to capacity when he hardly has time to look up field? We also can’t expect a corps of talented young receivers to spread their wings when their quarterback doesn’t even have the opportunity to target them. Henne’s performance overall wasn’t dreadful, but it definitely wasn’t good, as he was 14/28 with a touchdown and an interception on the day. Henne also led the anemic Jaguars rushing attack with 17 yards on a mere three carries. I stand by my prediction that  Blake Bortles will end 2014 as the starter for the Jags, but I’m willing to admit that me along with many others may have been a bit too quick to place the blame on Henne. The Jaguars are an absolute mess on both sides of the ball, so it's really unfair to say that the play of the quarterback is the only thing holding them back. My prediction for the foreseeable future, is we might see Bortles take a few snaps to get his feet wet-much like what Mike Pettine did with Manziel in Cleveland- but he most likely won’t get a shot at a start until week six (assuming the Jaguars bad luck continues the way it has).

Thursday, September 18, 2014

50 Most Underrated Albums of the 2000's (So Far): #18

                                                   18.All That Remains-The Fall of Ideals (2006)                              
Metalcore became the hot shit genre in metal in the mid-2000's. While they were a number of bands responsible for the genre's breakout success, Massachusetts acts Killswitch Engage, Unearth and Shadows Fall were at the forefront of the movement. In 2006, All That Remains followed the path laid out by their Massachusetts counterparts and became the next big thing in metalcore with their second full-length, The Fall of Ideals. The Fall of Ideals offered up similar thrills as other metalcore albums with plenty of affective melodic choruses, breakdowns and quality riffage, but what made this record really stand out is the heavy melodic death metal influence throughout. Phil Labonte's screams are absolutely beast-like on tracks like "The Weak Willed", "Become the Catalyst" and "Six"- which is easily the most well-known track on the album thanks to Guitar Hero II. There is practically no one in the genre that can match up to the sheer power of Labonte's growls and high-screams. Adding to the melo-death influence here is the remarkable drumming of Shannon Lucas. Lucas-who went onto drum for The Black Dahlia Murder and Battlecross after he left All That Remains in 2007-steals the show from the other talented musicians in the band. There is no doubt in my mind that the drumming on this record was the primary reason The Black Dahlia Murder hired him almost immediately after he quit All That Remains . Unfortunately, All That Remains music took a huge nose dive in quality after this record came out; which is a damn shame because this record seemed like the perfect launching point for the band to become metalcore juggernauts.All That Remains may descended into the wasteland of radio hard rock with their recent material, but the impact and brilliance of The Fall of Ideals will never be forgotten.

Standout Tracks
1.The Weak Willed https//www.youtube.com/watch?v=M2RUU-AVvlQ
2.Whispers (I Hear You) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nzv9MV79qSU
3.Six http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M0pYWGjECLE

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Album Review: Lana Del Rey-Ultraviolence

When it comes to recent pop star success stories, there is none more unconventional or surprising than than that of Lana Del Rey. Del Rey's sound is about as inaccessible and bizarre as you can get for pop music yet her 2012 major-label debut, Born to Die, went platinum- which is an incredibly rare feat in the world of modern music. Del Rey's third full-length, Ultraviolence, offers up another successful collection of forlorn tracks that should further solidify her place as the queen of abstract pop music

Ultraviolence remarkably manages to be darker than anything Del Rey has recorded in the past. The trippy, hip-hop-inspired beats that ruled Born to Die sounded downright cheery compared to the somber guitar and string arrangements that make up Ultraviolence. Unlike Born to Die- which had a few brief moments of sunshine permeate through darkness- the vibe on Ultraviolence is all gloom all the time.

The darker, understated musical landscapes of Ultraviolence really bring out the power of Del Rey's voice. Del Rey may not be the most gifted singer in terms of pure vocal talent, but the rawness and emotional power she has in her voice is something to behold. It's evident that Del Rey is pouring every ounce of her soul into each one of this songs and her haunting and often tortured vocal delivery hammers that point home to the utmost degree. With the level of transparency Del Rey shows on Ultraviolence, you'd have to look long and hard to find another major modern artist that's even half as introspective and honest in their music.

Even with a noticeably darker atmosphere than her previous material, Del Rey is still able to craft a bunch of wildly catchy tracks. Despite the dreary nature of her music,  Del Rey displays a skill for hook writing that puts pretty much every other modern pop star to shame.  "West Coast", "Shades of Cool" and "Cruel World" all feature top-notch hooks that get instantly embedded into your memory. Some may write off her constant refrains of the chorus as lazy, but I found the repetition to really reenforce the emotional power of each song. It's no coincidence that the most emotionally resonate songs on this record are the ones with the strongest hooks. Songs with this much pessimism and perpetual darkness in them shouldn't have hooks that are this affective, but Del Rey defies the odds and makes it happen. 

Ultraviolence is an immensely haunting record that simply can not be forgotten. The more experimental and depressing nature of this album makes it a bit more of an uneven listen than the consistently brilliant Born to Die, but the number of phenomenal songs here heavily outweigh the amount of filler. In a time where synth/EDM-tinged pop rules the Top 40 landscape, Del Rey is the bold, bleak voice that was needed to shake things up. As long as she continues to be honest in her music and avoids adhering to traditional pop formulas, she'll remain one of the most intriguing artists in the entire music industry.

3.5/5 Stars
Standout Tracks
1.West Coast
2.Shades of Cool
3.Brooklyn Baby

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

2014 Fantasy Football Week 2 Winners and Losers

Quarterback
MVP: Aaron Rodgers (Packers)
After getting suffocated by the Seahawks in Week 1, Aaron Rodgers returned to his typical dominance in Week 2 against the Jets. Rodgers got off to a rocky start, but ended up taking up over in the game late in the second quarter as the Packers rallied from an early 18-point deficit to defeat the Jets on Sunday afternoon. Rodgers 346- yard, 3 TD performance was pretty much par for the course for one of the most reliably dominant fantasy players in recent history. Expect similar domination in Week 3 as Rodgers faces the weak Lions secondary.
Honorable Mentions: Jay Cutler (Bears), Phillip Rivers (Chargers), Peyton Manning (Broncos)

LVP: Tom Brady (Patriots)
The Patriots may have crushed the Vikings on Sunday, but Tom Brady had very to little do with it. Brady only attempted 22 passes on the day and a vast majority of them were short dump-offs to Julian Edelman, Aaron Dobson and Shane Vereen. If Brady can't deliver against the lowly Raiders this week, he will firmly be out of the QB1 equation for the rest of 2014.
Dishonorable Mentions: Drew Brees (Saints), Matt Ryan (Falcons), Jake Locker (Titans)

Running Back
MVP: Giovani Bernard (Bengals)
Darren Sproles' dominance against the Colts on Monday night was the most impressive running back performance of the week, but since he wasn't started in a majority of fantasy leagues, Giovani Bernard was the most valuable running back from a fantasy perspective. Bernard showed his two-way capabilities all day long as he gauged the Falcons for 169 yards from scrimmage (90 rushing, 79 receiving) and a touchdown. Bernard is adapting nicely to his role as the workhorse back in Hue Jackson's run-first system and I'd be surprised if he didn't keep putting up solid numbers week in and week out.
Honorable Mentions: Darren Sproles (Eagles), DeMarco Murray (Cowboys), Arian Foster (Texans)

LVP: Matt Forte (Bears)
With Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery nursing injuries, it seemed like Matt Forte would be the focus of the Bears offense in Sunday night's contest with the 49ers. For whatever reason, that wasn't the case. Forte was a complete non-factor as he got stuffed every time he got the ball and finished with a mere 36 total yards (21 rushing, 15 receiving) on the night. The road doesn't get any easier for Forte as he's up against the top-ranked Jets run defense in Week 3.
Dishonorable Mentions: Toby Gerhart (Jaguars), Montee Ball (Broncos), Eddie Lacy (Packers)

Wide Receiver
MVP: Jordy Nelson (Packers)
No one benefited more from Aaron Rodgers' explosive performance on Sunday than Jordy Nelson. Nelson-the longtime favorite target of Rodgers- finished with a career-high 209 yards and a touchdown on the day. Nelson is just a straight-up beast and as long as Rodgers is in the lineup, he'll be a perennial top 10 wideout in fantasy football.
Honorable Mentions: Brandon Marshall (Bears), Randall Cobb (Packers), Sammy Watkins (Bills)

LVP: Pierre Garcon (Redskins)
The Redskins went off for an offensive explosion against the Jaguars on Sunday. Oddly enough, top wideout Pierre Garcon was not invited to join in on the fun. Garcon finished with only a single catch for 12 yards on the afternoon. Even with number two wideout DeSean Jackson getting knocked out of the game in the first quarter with a shoulder injury, Garcon could just not produce. Garcon is still one of the focal points of the Redskins offense, so I'll chalk up this performance as nothing more than an off-week.
Dishonorable Mentions: Cordarelle Patterson (Vikings), Torrey Smith (Ravens), Marques Colston (Saints)

Tight End
MVP: Antonio Gates (Chargers)
Remember before the season when all the so-called experts said Antonio Gates' days in the NFL were numbered and Ladarius Green was going to severely cut into his playing time in 2014? Gates silenced any skeptics this week with a 96-yard, 3 TD performance against the revered Seahawks defense. Gates is showing no signs of slowing down and is a no-brainer weekly TE1 start moving forward.
Honorable Mention: Jimmy Graham (Saints), Delanie Walker (Titans), Julius Thomas (Broncos)

LVP: Rob Gronkowski (Patriots)
Rob Gronkowski is still blatantly hobbled by his torn ACL in 2013 and it's shown in his production thus far in 2014. Based on how sluggish he looked, he was fortunate to finish with 32 yards on 4 receptions in Sunday's contest with the Vikings. With his limited snap count and explosiveness at the moment, Gronkowski is borderline useless he gets in the endzone. Gronkowksi is a borderline TE1 with a relatively low ceiling until he's back at 100%.
Dishonorable Mentions: Jason Witten (Cowboys), Dennis Pitta (Ravens), Charles Clay (Dolphins)

Defense
MVP: New England Patriots
What a difference a week makes. After their Week 1 collapse against the Dolphins, the Patriots wreaked havoc on the Vikings in Week 2. The Pats D allowed a mere 7 points on the day and sweetened the pot with 6 sacks, 4 INT's, a blocked field goal and a defensive touchdown. This type of suffocating play is what people expected from the Patriots this year and with the amount of question marks they currently have on offense, this is the way the defense needs to play every week. I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if they duplicated this success again this Sunday in their home opener against the Raiders.
Honorable Mentions: Buffalo Bills, Arizona Cardinals, Baltimore Ravens

LVP: Seattle Seahawks
Even defenses that are dominant as the Seahawks have off-days. The Seahawks defense was on-the-field for an exorbitant amount of time on Sunday in 100+ degree heat against the Chargers and that level of fatigue played a major factor in the result of the game. The Seahawks allowed 30 points and finished with zero takeaways for the first time since Week 11 last year. The Seahawks will be returning to the friendly confines of  CenturyLink Field this Sunday, so they should be able to return to form right away.
Dishonorable Mentions: Miami Dolphins, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Green Bay Packers

Sunday, September 14, 2014

2014 Rookie QB Watch: Week 2

By Liam Madigan-Fried 
Derek Carr: As most analysts and fans alike predicted, Derek Carr didn’t show the poise of an All-Pro right out of the gate despite ending the game with a 94.7 QB rating. However, Carr showed good judgement and flashes of passing brilliance by going 20 for 32 with two touchdown passes in his first game as a pro against the New York Jets. Unfortunately, Carr just couldn’t keep up the consistency much past the first quarter. After throwing for his first NFL touchdown, he went scoreless through the second and third quarters, before finding James Jones in the endzone during the fourth quarter, for his second and final touchdown of the night. It wasn’t a great night for Raider fans who expected to see a revamped offense. Instead, the performance left many people, including myself saying “what the hell happened with Maurice Jones-Drew?” Jones-Drew only ran for 11 yards on 9 carries in his first game for a franchise that he’s supposed to be helping ‘rebuild’ (and I use that term loosely). To make matters worse for the Raiders, Jones-Drew injured his hand late in the Jets game, and is questionable for the upcoming game against Houston. While the Raiders offense underwhelmed, they were not solely to blame for the loss against the Jets. Jets running backs Chris Ivory and Chris Johnson put up a combined 170 yards on the ground- included a 71-yard touchdown run by Ivory that clinched the victory for the Jets. Safe to say the flurry of offseason moves the Raiders made on defense don’t appear to be working as planned. If things continue like this, Carr could find himself on the bench in a week or two. The Raiders have Matt Schaub waiting in the wings and may sit Carr with the blind hope that Schaub can revert back to whatever got him and the Texans to the playoffs in 2012. My prediction is the same as last week, Schaub will give an amatuer-esque performance in his last few chances of being a starter, before the Raiders decide to ditch the vet and develop the rookie instead.

Johnny Manziel: One team whom I think has remained very clear about their intent to develop their star rookie (despite what everybody else has been saying) is the Cleveland Browns with Johnny Manziel. Despite last Sunday’s loss to Pittsburgh, Brian Hoyer and company did not make it easy for the Steelers defense come the second half, garnering 24 unanswered points in total, ending the game at a respectable score of 30-27. There were whispers and rumblings before the game and in the weeks leading up to it, that head coach Mike Pettine would want to use some sort of package to utilize Manziel; well that didn’t happen. As he said before the start of training camp, and I respect him for sticking by it, is that the Browns are not going to let jersey and ticket sales determine their depth chart. If those things are truly not going to be factored into any decisions, Hoyer has made a pretty good case right off the bat as to why he should be the starter- as those 24 points came as the result of four straight scoring drives right after the start of the second half. Hoyer also showed great confidence and production in the up-tempo offense, completing 80.0 percent of his passes from the no-huddle (NFL.com). In closing, don’t expect to see Mr. ‘Money’ Manziel starting anytime soon. I think it’s true that The Browns believe him to be the future of the franchise, but in that regard I don’t think they want to push their baby bird out of the nest just yet. But, Manziel fans beware, this is Cleveland we’re talking about. Hoyer didn’t come to the city as a rookie, therefore he may have some sort of immunity to the the QB curse of the city. So if he plays well over this and maybe even next season, Manziel might get the boot in Cleveland.

Teddy Bridgewater: 32nd overall pick Teddy Bridgewater is patiently waiting for Matt Cassel to step aside and give him his moment in the very small amount of sunlight that Minnesota has to offer. The only thing is, Matt Cassel seems to be hogging it all. Last sunday against the St. Louis Rams, Cassel was 17 for 25 with two touchdowns and no interceptions. Wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson managed to run for a total of 102 yards on three carries, throwing off a Rams defense who had honed in on Adrian Peterson. Peterson by his usual standards had a pretty tame night, putting up only 75 yards on 21 carries with no touchdowns. Still, Peterson is going to remain the biggest weapon for the Vikings offense this year, and with this revelation of talent on the ground rushing for Patterson last Sunday, the Vikings may have found their bread and butter for the 2014 season. As long as Cassel can stay consistent in his game play and decision making, there’s no reason why he can’t utilize the weapons to make a convincing run at the playoffs this season. As for Bridgewater,  I just don't see him getting a lot of playing this time season. As as long as Cassel continues to play like a franchise quarterback, Bridgewater will remain on the bench. Only thing I can be sure of at this point, is that Bridgewater will definitely see more time than Christian Ponder in 2014.

Blake Bortles: I’ve made no secret that Bortles is my favorite rookie quarterback, and based on last Sundays outcome in which the Jags gave up a 17-0 lead at halftime, it’s looking more and more like we might see him coming off the bench sooner than later. Chad Henne is nothing more than an average game -manager, and despite the fact that sources say the team rallied around him this offseason, his play may end up putting the team in danger of another disastrous season. The points scored in the first half were much more an attribution from spectacular plays made by undrafted rookie Allen Hurns, rather than the skill of the plain bagel quarterback Henne. With wide receiver Cecil Shorts III being held up with injury and Toby Gerhart failing as the work-horse back (42 yards on 18 carries), it seems like any kind of veteran support on the offensive side of the ball is unreliable thus far. What could the Jags do to turn it around? Simple, give it to the rookies. Bortles showed way more prowess in the offseason than any other rookie QB, so much so in fact that had it had come from Johnny Manziel, the anchors of ESPN may have jizzed themselves more than when Lebron won his second straight title. Then there’s rookie wide receivers Hurns and Marqise Lee, who together put up 172 yards receiving and two touchdowns. If veteran tight end Marcedes Lewis gets going, the Jaguars receiving corps could become a big threat to defenses this season. All the Jaguars need to turn things around is a quarterback with a big arm that can make plays and I firmly believes that Bortles is that guy.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Ray Rice and Domestic Violence: The NFL's Colossal Failure

Even if you don't pay attention to the NFL, you're more than likely well aware of the current situation involving former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice. A video of Rice knocking out his then-fiancĂ©e, now wife Janay Palmer in an Atlantic City casino elevator in February surfaced on Monday courtesy of TMZ. Rice had previously been suspended two games for the incident in July, but once the video surfaced on Monday, the Baltimore Ravens terminated his contract immediately and the NFL suspended Rice indefinitely. Without further knowledge of the situation, it seems like the NFL and the Ravens acted swiftly and handed Rice an appropriately harsh punishment. However, any fan that's fully immersed in the NFL, realizes just how bad Rodger Goodell and the Ravens organization screwed up the handling of this situation and how truly pathetic their attempt to cover their asses is.

Goodell is someone I've been critical of for quite some time. Since he took over as commissioner in 2007, the league has taken a pretty significant dive in quality. Goodell has put an insane emphasis on cutting down recreational drug use amongst players and instituting rule changes that only benefit the offense and make physical, smashmouth play all but impossible. Goodell's become known for his harsh punishments and zero-tolerance polices, doling out suspensions at will to anyone that violated the rules. Goodell's history of being a stickler makes his intial soft ruling in the Rice case extremely ironic. This was the first time he's been dealt a case that called for serious discipline and he hands out a suspension that's less than what guys like Josh Gordon (one-year suspension) and Wes Welker (four games) got for testing positive for marijuana and MDMA respectively. Even without the visual confirmation of Rice knocking out his wife that this week's TMZ video provided, there was enough evidence to suspend Rice indefinitely back in February. The trusty folks at TMZ gained access to a video of Rice dragging an unconscious Palmer out of the casino elevator a mere four days after days the incident took place and a number of eye-witnesses saw them hitting one another prior to getting on the elevator. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out what happened on that elevator yet Goodell still felt like a two-game suspension was sufficient enough. The kicker in all of this is that everyone knows Goodell saw this damning video of Rice knocking out Palmer that caused him to dole out the indefinite suspension well before it was leaked to the public on Monday. Peter King of Sports Illustrated and Chris Mortensen of ESPN wrote articles describing the video in full detail back in July and just yesterday, a law enforcement official told the Associated Press that he gave the NFL the tape in April.

Despite the wave of additional evidence that all but confirms Goodell and other NFL officials saw the video long before this week, Goodell continues to play dumb with the media. All week long, Goodell has been trying to convince the general public that he knew nothing of this tape prior to the TMZ leak with absolutely no success. His interview with CBS News that aired Wednesday morning was cringe-worthy to say the least. The interviewer was clearly coached to pitch Goodell's softball questions yet he still looked flustered and you could tell he wasn't even buying the horseshit that was flying out of his mouth. It's no coincidence that Goodell gave his exclusive interview to CBS. CBS is the NFL's top partner and is premiering the league's 2014 Thursday Night football series tonight. In a culture that's more media-saavy than ever, it's honestly comical that the Goodell thought he could get this detail past the audience. The American people aren't nearly as dumb as Goodell thinks they are and if Goodell thinks a majority of the population is falling for his bullshit, face-saving PR tour; he's sorely mistaken.

The Goodell bullshit tour started a couple of weeks when he unveiled a new domestic abuse policy. The policy states the any first time offender of the domestic abuse policy will be suspended for six games and any repeat offender is subject to a lifetime ban. While it's great that there is a policy in place to punish any player who commits domestic abuse, the motives behind it are completely wrong. This policy was only put into place because Goodell faced a strong wall of backlash and didn't want to travel down that road again. Goodell's previous actions have proved that he doesn't take domestic abuse seriously. He only cares about his and the league's image, and this policy was only created to try and salvage his reputation in the court of public opinion. The loose nature of this policy is already at work as there is currently two players- Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy and 49ers defensive end Ray McDonald- have been arrested for domestic abuse in the past few months and have not yet faced any discipline from the league. The McDonald incident admittedly is loaded with sketchy details and he very well could end up being innocent, but Hardy was found guilty of assaulting and threatening to kill his ex-girlfriend in July, yet neither the league or the Panthers have suspended him. Both McDonald and Hardy played in last week's season opener and barring any sudden changes, will be playing once again this Sunday.     

While Goodell and his colleagues in the league office deserve a majority of the blame for the downplaying of the domestic violence case against Rice, The Ravens certainly played their role. Where the NFL flexed their corruption muscles trying to cover up their mistakes in their handling of the Rice situation, The Ravens spent the 2014 offseason making it seem like Rice was the victim in this case. While the whole team and front office was publicly supporting him and sweeping the whole incident under the rung, there was no greater form of ignorance to the situation than from the Ravens' PR department. Right after Rice received his two-game suspension from the league, Ravens Vice President of Public Relations Kevin Byrne wrote a blog post on the official team site entitled "I Like Ray Rice" (which can be read here: http://www.baltimoreravens.com/news/article-1/Byrne-Identity-I-Like-Ray-Rice/f618f957-e03f-4fc6-919e-638552b14c2b) in which he professes his love for Rice and essentially defends his actions and integrity as a human being. This piece is legitimately disgusting to read. I understand that it's the job of a PR guy to do damage control and protect the image of this organization, but this was just ridiculous. This is a piece of propaganda that not only wants the reader to forget about the case, but manages to shift the blame away from Rice completely. It's fine if people in the Ravens front office have a positive opinion of Rice outside of this case, but to write off his actions as a non-issue is despicable. There was only one victim here and her name is Janay Palmer. Rice is not in a position to be defended by anyone. His contributions on the football field and to the Baltimore community at-large are irrelevant in this situation- he committed a violent act against a woman that just can't be excused no matter how hard the Ravens or anyone else in the league tries. 

What makes this Ravens actions with Rice that much worse is the fact that this isn't the first time they've had one of their players involved in a major criminal case. Inside linebacker Ray Lewis was linked to a 2000 murder outside of an Atlanta nightclub after two large groups of people- including Lewis and his entourage- got into a scuffle that resulted in the stabbing deaths of two men. The Lewis case may be different as there was no concrete evidence that proved Lewis committed the murder, but just like they did with Rice, the team stood behind him and didn't discipline him in anyway during the legal proceedings. The Ravens organization has been one of the most successful organizations on-the-field since their inception in 1996, but they are arguably the worst franchise in the league at handling adversity and reprimanding players that break the law.

Goodell and the Ravens should be absolutely ashamed of the way they handled this situation. They completely downplayed the severity of domestic abuse and will continue to lie about their respective stances to protect the "integrity" of the league. There is nothing that can be said or done that will fix the injustices the league has committed since the initial video of Rice dragging Palmer out of the elevator surfaced in February. Domestic violence is one of the most horrible things one human being to another, and the NFL needs to start channeling their energy towards this issue instead of bringing the hammer down on guys that smoke weed. As much as I would love to see Goodell and the Ravens brass be fired because of this, I know the odds of that happening are pretty much zero. Goodell and the Ravens' front office have too much power to be outright ousted, which means nothing will be done to prevent something like this from happening again in the future. Rice will eventually be forgiven by the general public and return to the football field, but the appalling indifference and gross negligence the NFL showed during the Rice case will never be forgotten.    

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

50 Most Underrated Albums of the 2000's (So Far): #19

19.The Story So Far-Under Soil and Dirt (2011)
Pop punk has seen a serious resurgence in the past few years. After fading away in the late 2000's, the genre has picked up a ton of momentum recently with a wave of new energetic, passionate bands that have connected with the audiences that made the likes of blink-182, Sum 41 and Fall Out Boy phenoms over a decade ago. There's a lot of great bands in this pop punk revival, but no one comes even close to touching California's The Story So Far. Their debut album, Under Soil and Dirt, is a large part of why I feel back in love with pop punk in early 2012. Upon first hearing Under Soil and Dirt, I could tell this band was special as they immediately brought be back to the my early teenage years and the glory days of the genre. Under Soil and Dirt checks all the boxes that are required to make a pop punk album and then some: The riffs have the perfect balance of clean pop and punk crunch, Parker Cannon is an elite vocalist who pours his heart and soul into every note, and every single song is wildly infectious. This is expertly crafted pop punk that sticks with you and only gets better as time goes on. Under Soil and Dirt is a pop punk classic that not only equals the genre's landmark albums of the 90's and 2000's, it surpasses them in every possible way.


Standout Tracks
1.High Regard http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jVB_CIplD14
2.Roam http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y2E0Qz3WIqc
3.Swords and Pens http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EbM51XeL1Dg