Sunday, January 17, 2016

On a Serious Note

Hey everyone.  If you don't mind, I'd like to bring us to a more serious topic (don't worry; I'm currently working on a larger post for later).  I also apologize for the delay, but you'll be glad to know that I shouldn't be quite so delayed going forward, as the bulk of the cause of those was some technical issues.

Now that that's out of the way, let's continue.

For those of you that don't know, I'm employed by an organization that works to help people that have been affected by disasters.  This includes meeting people that have had fires in their respective homes.  Now, considering that I have been living and working in San Antonio; the seventh largest city in the United States, and one whose economy is hugely based off of service industries and is therefore relatively low income for over a year, I have seen quite a few home fires.  Some in normal homes, some in nice apartments, some in what might as well be shacks that were completely abandoned in terms of healthy living by all but the scummiest of landlords.

For the most part, the fire responses that I have taken part in, while sad, have had people come out unharmed.  Unfortunately, there have been those that I have gone on where the family affected wasn't so lucky; those are the responses that will truly break your heart.  On the worst of those responses, there has been a single constant on all of them.  What is that constant?

These, I'm sure that you all know, are called burglar bars.  You see these a lot in the inner city neighborhoods across the country.  Their intended purpose is to keep those trying to get in the home unlawfully from doing so.  Unfortunately, they have the unintended consequence of keeping people in in time of an emergency.

I'm going to try to write this with all of the dignity that I can muster, so bear with me: Fuck.  Burglar.  Bars.

These things are the absolute bane of my existence.  Every time I drive by a house that has these up, all I see are homes that are potential death traps.  People in home fires have about two minutes to escape; when most of the exits are covered up by these abominations, the people inside have to be really lucky that the fire doesn't come between them and the doors if they want to escape with their life.  On top of that, but remember that the bars are supposed to keep burglars out?  Well, unfortunately, pieces of metal aren't smart enough to distinguish between burglars and firefighters trying to get into the home to save the lives of those who can't get out.  So, not only is the person inside potentially helpless, but help is impeded from coming in, taking away a safe avenue of home entry.

I can understand the impulse to protect one's home from robbery, especially in neighborhoods that are a little less than friendly (which every city has).  That being said, a person living in a home is more likely to prevent their own escape from a fire than they are to prevent a burglary-especially when a burglar can come in with a crowbar and/or a power drill and take the bars out themselves.

If your home already has burglar bars on the windows, I implore you to remove them or ask your landlord if you can do so.  If you're that worried about burglars, get a rosebush and/or cactus and put it underneath the window on the outside; you're just as likely to impede potential burglars and it's easier to deal with sharp plants than it is to deal with smoke inhalation and extremely hot temperatures.

And it'll make me smile too.

Friday, January 1, 2016

College Football Playoff Review: Football 101

Well that sucked.

The two semifinal games were about as exciting as a wet firework.

Orange Bowl: Clemson 37, Oklahoma 17

Cotton Bowl: Alabama 38, Michigan State 0


Both of these games, on paper, looked like interesting match-ups between teams that play very similar styles of football: the Orange Bowl had promise to be one heck of a display of fast-paced exciting offense, and the Cotton Bowl looked like a tough defensive struggle with poetic runs of five yards made possible by pure heart and desire.  No matter what kind of football fan you are, the College Football Playoff looked like it would provide you with some quality drama over the New Year's Eve holiday.

As one could tell from the final scores, neither game turned out to be very competitive at the end.  Clemson and Alabama went into the half, decided to turn up the intensity and subsequently blew their respective opponents out of the solar system.

In the interest of fairness, the Orange Bowl had a very good first half, with the Tigers and Sooners giving each other about as good as they got for the first half.  Deshaun Watson running the zone read run scheme to perfection against Baker Mayfield's improvisation.  The first half was characterized by a back and forth with strong offense and good, competitive defense.  This all changed when Samaje Perine went down with an injury, ultimately killing OU's running attack, and the Clemson offensive line took over and started blowing the Oklahoma defense off the line.  Four yards.  Five yards.  Nine yards.  Clemson started churning yardage on the ground like it was nothing.  In the second half, Clemson outscored Oklahoma 21-0.  Just absolute pure domination.

The Cotton Bowl, after a quarter and a half of each team feeling the other out, was a demolition.  Neither team could score on the other for the first twenty-two minutes while both were running into the walls of front-seven units that the two teams possess.  It was a matter of which passing game would break out: the Spartan attack featuring Connor Cook, one of the best QBs in the country with Burbridge and Kings, or the Tide's Jake Coker along with Calvin Ridley and his merry band of WRs.  As one can imagine, looking at the score, it was Coker and the Tide's air attack that took control with some impressive game planning by Lane Kiffin.  Cook never did quite recover from his injured shoulder, and when he threw an interception at the goal line at the end of the first half, that was all she wrote.  Alabama took control from that point on and crushed Michigan State for the rest of the game.

There are a couple of takeaways from both of these games: Deshaun Watson looks like the best player in the country; his gravitas on the field led to almost all of Clemson's offensive production.  The threat of him in the run game not only helps his tailback (Gallman was amazing in Orange Bowl), but it also helps his offensive line, because the defense is forced to read and react against that run game, which slows the defensive line down, therefore making them easier to move off of where they want to be.  Without Watson, I'm not sure that the Tigers win the ACC, and they definitely wouldn't be in the semifinal.  He has the most potential to dominate any particular game he's in.  On the other hand, Alabama's front line is an impressive unit to behold.  They held Michigan State's tough running attack to almost nothing (MSU had a a net rushing total of -2 yards until the fourth quarter, when the game was already out of hand), and they got consistent pressure on Cook, especially up the middle without blitzing.  The Spartan QB was constantly harassed and either taking sacks or throwing inaccurate passes to his receivers, who were blanketed in double-coverage.

This leads to the most important lesson of all, which is the fact that football is incredibly simple: whichever team can physically move the other against their will will win the game 99.999999999% of the time.  The most important players to watch aren't the WRs, they aren't the RBs, and they really aren't the QBs.  The most important players to watch are on the offensive and defensive lines.  If one team's line beats the other team's line, that team is going to control the entire pace of play and the other team will be taken out of what they want to do.

For example, Clemson destroyed Oklahoma in the second half because the Tiger offensive line was pushing the Sooner defensive line back four and five yards on nearly every play.  When that happens, the defense can't run downhill to take care of the run game, and is therefore on its heels.  This is the death knell of good defense, as the defense is already unsure of what will happen on a given play; they have to react to the offense by the nature of the offense having possession of the ball.  If they're delayed an extra half second by not being able to run toward the line to make plays, then they are at a severe disadvantage (after all, an average football play takes about three seconds, if that; meaning a half second represents about 18% of the total time of the average play).

This works the other way as well; Alabama was able to crush Michigan State because their defensive line blew apart the Spartan offensive line, and stopped the run before any tailback could get started.  They also prevented the quarterback and receivers from ever getting into a comfortable rhythm (which is nigh essential to a strong passing attack).  The Spartan offense was rendered impotent because the offensive line couldn't hold their position consistently.

Winning the line play is Football 101.  And these two games put that fact on full display.

Given that, as far as a prediction for the National Championship game, I can't bring myself to pick against Alabama and that defense.  As much as I love Watson (and I still think that he's the best player on the field), the Crimson Tide are a stronger overall team.

Alabama 34, Clemson 17.

I hope that I'm wrong.