Author: kevinpfisher

I've known me my whole life, and I'm still trying to figure myself out and learn more about me. Here's a small peek into that window...

Special teams not special for Hawks

For the second time in five years, the Seahawks and Falcons squared off in the Georgia Dome for the right to play in the NFC championship game.

Like 2012, the Seahawks enter the game riding high off a demonstrative win in the wildcard round having defeated the Detroit Lions last week 26-6 in Seattle. Having secured the second seed in the last week of the regular season with a win over the New Orleans Saints, the Falcons spent last weekend resting and preparing.

These two teams last met in Seattle during week five, when the Hawks came back to win 26-24 after blowing a 17-3 halftime lead. The game proved to be much fodder for talk radio hosts’ during the week as it ended on a controversial non-call on the Hawks’ Richard Sherman as he defended Atlanta’s Julio Jones on a fourth-down incompletion. While the refs declined to call pass interference to the chagrin of Atlanta fans, the play was also marred by an illegal head slap from Jones to Sherman at the beginning.

After a holding call backed up the Hawks to their 11-yard line on the opening kickoff, Russell Wilson and the offense marched methodically down the field, although Germain Ifedi suffered an ankle injury near midfield and was forced to leave the game. He did not return. A pair of third-down conversions by Baldwin and Rawls kept the drive alive before a 7-yard touchdown pass from Wilson to Graham on another third down capped the 14-play drive.

Quarterback Matt Ryan and the league’s highest-scoring offense answered with their own 14-yard drive culminating in a 7-yard pass to Julio Jones. The drive was highlighted by the two-time All-Pro Jones, who caught 3 passes for 27 yards and drew a holding penalty on Sherman.

Devin Hester, playing against his former team, returned the ensuing kickoff to the Seahawks 45-yard line. Paul Richardson picked up where he left off from the previous week, securing a diving 33-yard catch. But Wilson was sacked by the Falcon’s Brooks Reed and the Seahawks were forced to settle for a 33-yard field goal by Steven Hauschka for a 10-7 lead.

After a three-and-out by Atlanta, Hester returned the punt 80 yards, although it was all for naught as a holding penalty nullified the play and backed the Hawks up on their own 7-yard line. Two plays later, Ben Garland was credited with a sack in the endzone for a safety after Wilson was tripped by Rees Odhiambo. Odhiambo, playing for the injured Ifedi, stepped on Wilson’s foot as the quarterback took the snap from Justin Britt. The safety was the Falcons’ third in their past eight postseason games.

After the free kick, Atlanta drove down the field and Matt Bryant’s 35-yard field goal gave the Falcons a 12-10 lead with just over six minutes left before halftime.

Jon Ryan pinned the Falcons back on the 1-yard line with a 60-yard punt, but the Falcons took the ball right down the field. The Falcons faced no third downs and MVP-candidate Ryan completed 7-9 passes on the drive, culminating in a 14-yard toss to a wide-open Coleman in the left side of the endzone.

Another holding penalty on special teams left Wilson and Co. on the 8-yard line with 48 seconds before half. In the shadow of their endzone,the Hawks elected to run the ball twice with Alex Collins and entered the intermission trailing by nine.

The Falcons received the kick and DeShawn Shead suffered a non-contact knee injury on the first play from scrimmage as he was trying to cover Taylor Gabriel. Shead walked off the field under his own power and was replaced by DeAndre Elliott. Shead did not return.

Unfortunately for the Seahawks, Michael Bennett was also hurt during the drive as Atlanta marched towards the end zone. Bennett was able to return,but Devonta Freeman’s one-yard carry gave Atlanta a 25-10 lead with 9:16 left in the third quarter. Matt Bryant drilled the extra point to push the Falcons’ lead to 16.

On the kickoff return Hester was cut down at the Seahawks 11-yard line, backing up Wilson and the offense for the ensuing drive. Thomas Rawls provided a little spark for the stagnant offense, but the Seahawks were unable to capitalize and were forced to punt. However, an illegal formation rarely seen on the defense provided the Seahawks with another first down and new life.

After a four-yard loss by Rawls, Wilson hit postseason cult-hero Richardson for a 40-yard gain to the Atlanta 28. However, the drive stalled six plays later and Hauschka nailed a 26-yard field goal to cut Atlanta’s lead to 13 late in the third quarter.

But Atlanta answered and drove right down the field, highlighted by a 53-yard completion from Ryan to Freeman to beat a blitz. Cliff Avril was attempting to cover Freeman in a mistimed zone blitz and missed the tackle, resulting in the big play. Bryant’s 31-yard goal pushed the lead back to 16 to start the fourth quarter.

On the ensuing drive, a false start backed the Hawks up five yards to the 20-yard line.  Wilson overthrew Baldwin on a deep pass by a half-step on second down, and the Seahawks were forced to call a timeout on third down. After the regrouping, Wilson’s attempt to convert a third-and-15 was turned away on a scramble four yards short and the Seahawks were forced to punt for the second time.

On their next possession, Atlanta successfully challenged an incompletion on third down, resulting in a conversion as Justin Hardy was able to get both feet in-bounds. But the Seahawks defense stiffened, with tackle for loss by Bennett followed by  a sack by Frank Clark on second down resulted in third and long.

After just a 33-yard punt by the Falcon’s Matt Bosher, the Seahawks took possession of the ball at their 33-yard line with just over 11 minutes to play. A couple of Wilson scrambles and a completion to Baldwin put the ball at the Falcon’s 30-yard line with 9:12 left. But an incompletion, a sack, and pressure on third-down led to a desperation heave by Wilson that was picked off by Ricardo Allen at the Falcons nine-yard line. Allen ran it back to the Seahawks 45, effectively ending the game with eight-and-a-half minutes left on the clock. Ryan’s 3-yard touchdown pass to Mohamed Sanu was the icing on the cake in what might be the final game ever in the Georgia Dome.

Devin Hester’s 74-yard kickoff return was immediately followed by a 31-yard touchdown from Wilson to Baldwin, but it proved too little, too late for the Seahawks.

Deion Jones’ interception off a juggled tip by Seattle’s Luke Willson with two and half minutes left sealed the win for the Falcons. The Falcons chose to kneel three times after reaching the Seahawks two-yard line, preserving the 36-20 win.

After finishing the first half 8-9 for 92 yards and a touchdown, Wilson struggled in the second half before garbage time, finishing 17-30 for 225 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. Ryan showed that his All-Pro season was no fluke, shredding the Earl Thomas-less secondary for 338 yards, 3 touchdowns and no interceptions.

Atlanta awaits the winner of tomorrow’s game between Dallas and Green Bay. If Green Bay wins, Atlanta will host the NFC Championship. If the Cowboys prevail, Dallas will host the Falcons and  the NFC Championship will showcase the number one and two seeds for the third consecutive year.

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Junior

Griffey

Root for the laundry, they say. Don’t take it personal, it’s just a business. Don’t let sport stars be your heroes. You’ll understand when you’re older.

As kids, we don’t understand any of this. As adults, we don’t want to admit we understand this. Sports are our escapes, our way to avoid reality, a chance to pause life and relax for a few hours.

As a kid growing up in Seattle, it was impossible to not emulate everything Ken Griffey Jr. did. Maybe it was the mega-watt smile, the backwards hat, the charisma and confidence oozing from Junior’s eyes, all of it. Whatever it was, Junior became the cool older cousin to a generation of children in the Pacific Northwest. Whatever he did, we did. Natural right-handed batters switched and tried hitting lefty. One ear, only the left ear, was pierced (alright maybe that was only me, but I doubt it). Gloves and bats were painted black and the coveted #24 jersey begat arguments, near-fistfights, tears and jubilation in countless little leagues. Hours were spent practicing fantasizing about robbing homeruns defensively and crushing them during our turn at-bat.

For a decade, Junior was ours. Even as the national spotlight grew and the attention transfixed the nation, the pride in our hearts grew exponentially with every video game, Wheaties box, movie and TV show appearances. All the Nike commercials that were supposed to be clear hyperbole would incite Mariners fans who would swear up and down that Junior could do everything if he wanted to. Griffey versus Bonds wasn’t a debate in the Northwest, not even close. In fact, it was a joke to some, fighting words to others, but largely ignored by the masses.

The All-Century team in 1999 was probably the pinnacle of adoration for us. Everything we did was talk about our older cousin, our hearts bursting with pride, rocking Seattle caps everywhere we went. Whispers of Ruth and Aaron became normal conversation and went from dubious to confidence in just a few years’ time. Even with players such as Randy Johnson, Alex Rodriguez, Edgar and Tino Martinez, Jay Buhner, there was no doubt that the team and Seattle was Junior’s.

February 10th, 2000 broke a million hearts, if not more.

Watching Junior, OUR Junior grin ear-to-ear and answer questions wearing a Reds hat 2,000 miles away in Ohio seemed like a never-ending nightmare. We told ourselves it was an April Fool’s joke, even though the calendar smirked and declared otherwise. We pinched ourselves and we slapped our faces, but we couldn’t wake up, because we weren’t asleep. We couldn’t breathe, and we couldn’t believe it was true. We didn’t want to believe it was true. In the year that followed, we tried to rally behind Rodriguez, but it wasn’t the same. With one eye following the Reds and Junior, baseball in Seattle wasn’t the same. How do you replace your favorite? How do you love another? How do you replace charisma and charm, especially a decades’ worth of goodwill overnight? Not with the cold and calculating Rodriguez, who surprised no one a year later when he took the cash from the Rangers.

Even after being handed a new cult hero in Ichiro, our hearts longed for Griffey, the one who spurned us. Always wanting what we can’t have, as the Mariners’ play declined, our lust for Griffey increased. Mariner cornerstones Martinez and Buhner retired, replaced by anonymous jerseys and players. Although Junior’s career in Cincinnati didn’t materialize the way he envisioned, our support never wavered. When he hurt, we hurt. All those trips to the disabled list broke us inside. When highlights aired across SportsCenter with homeruns #400, 500, 600, our faces smiled, but our hearts screamed in agony. When he returned as a visitor in 2007, the outpouring of seven years’ worth of repressed cheers, love and adoration flooded over and nearly overwhelmed the man. You never forget your first love, and Junior had branded his mark across millions of hearts in the Northwest.

They say you can’t go home again, but Junior being Junior, proved that wrong twice. Having left for Cincinnati for himself, and coming back to Seattle for us. February 18, 2009 proved just how much we missed Junior. Even though we never stopped wearing our #24 jerseys, after nine years they were relevant again. The backwards hats never left, but the smiles were genuine again. Welcome home, Junior, we screamed. We embraced him again, and again it fit just right. We loved like he never left. Even now, the #24 jerseys at Safeco easily outnumber the rest. The house that Griffey built, indeed. Only the house isn’t just physically at 1250 1st Ave in Seattle. It is in the hearts of parents’ who passed the love of the M’s to their children, in the hearts of the generation of kids emulating 24, in the forefront of every fan who roots for the Mariners. Mariners, Junior. Junior, Mariners. Forever ubiquitous.

It is only fitting that #24 gets inducted on July 24. The alignment is delicious, and once again, Seattle’s Junior has the attention of the nation. Our smiles are genuine, our hearts proud again, our childhood memories scream to the forefront of our minds as today escapes from our fantasies and becomes reality…when you know, you know. 27 years ago, we knew what we saw in that 19-year-old kid who couldn’t stop smiling. Junior, you carried us for so many years. Today, we carry you.

 

Alivia Brown feature

It is a typical February day at the Lewiston Golf and Country Club with grim, gray skies and a slight but chilly breeze making its presence known to golfers. A group of golfers converse as they meander through the parking lot en route to the clubhouse, but they are scarcely noticed by Alivia Brown, if at all. Brown, a sophomore golfer for the WSU women’s golf team, bends at the waist, leans on her driver with one hand and tees up her own ball with the other before stepping back to eyeball the fairway on the tenth hole.

As Brown settles into her stance adjacent the tee, her head raises slightly, as she takes one last glance at the fairway before refocusing on the small white orb at her feet. In one swift, vigorous fluid motion Brown’s hands lead her momentum back, slightly pauses, and drives all her kinetic motion through the head of the club into the ball as her momentum shifts from her right leg to her left, hands flying high on the follow-through. Her head rises and eyes follow the flight of the screaming projectile, landing hundreds of yards away, dead center of the fairway as the ball rolls to a rest. There is no look of celebration, no glance of admiration, just a slight flash of satisfaction from her steely-eyed gaze as she pulls another ball out of her pocket, tees it up and readies herself to repeat her sequence once again.

A mere year and a half into her college career and already Brown’s name can be found all over the Washington State record books. Brown finished her freshman season with eight top-25 finishes in eleven tournaments, which tied the school record for the most as a freshman golfer. She averaged a score of 74.74 strokes per round, another freshman record and good enough for the fifth best average in school history. Her lowest round of 68 tied for the second-lowest round in school history and her dual 71s Brown carded at regionals was tied for the lowest postseason round.

After the completion of the regular season, Brown competed as an individual and finished sixth in the NCAA regionals at St. George, Utah and earned an invitation to the NCAA nationals as well last summer. Showing no regard for sports superstitions, she has completely disregarded a potential sophomore slump. During the fall season, Brown averaged 73.20 strokes per round, which would set the all-time record for the university.

Despite the accolades and the records already in hand, Brown isn’t focused on her accomplishments, choosing to focus on the upcoming challenges in her career.

“There’s certain things you get to enjoy about it, and to smile about, because it means your hard work is paying off,” said Brown. “But in the grand scheme of things, it’s more motivation to keep going and to keep focusing on the process.”

Three of the next four tournaments for the WSU women’s golf team will be tournaments and courses the team competed on last year, starting off in Peoria, Arizona on February 21 in the Westbrook Spring Invitational. Last year, Brown recorded a tenth-place finish in the tournament, carding a one-under score of 215.

“It’s always a challenge to play a course, no matter if you’ve played it before or not,” Brown said. “But the nice thing is you can take your game plans you made the previous year and just adjust it for this year.”

After a three-month layoff, the WSU’s women’s golf team teed off in the Westbrook Spring Invitational as part of a 15-team field. While the team finished last with a score of 887 (+23), 33 shots behind tournament winner Oregon, the Cougs finished within six shots of Nebraska, College of Charleston and Indiana.

Brown finished this year’s tournament with a score of 217 (+1) but finished in a tie for 23rd place in a much more competitive field.

When the NCAA women’s golf national rankings were released on Wednesday, the rankings showed how competitive the Pac-12 is, placing seven entries in the top-25. USC led the way with a No.1 ranking, followed by No.6 UCLA, No.9 UW, No.11 Stanford, No.`12 Arizona, No.14 California, and  No.15 ASU. Rounding out the Pac-12 teams were No.27 Oregon, No. 29 Colorado, No.68 WSU and No.76 OSU.

The women’s golf team will be looking to maintain their strong start as a whole, as the team averaged 296.20 strokes per round during the first half. The current team record for lowest average tournament score is 299.45 strokes, set just last season under Head Coach Kelli Kamimura. As noted, Brown leads the way with an average of 73.20 strokes, although teammate Cherokee Kim is right behind her with an average of 73.53 strokes per round. WSU’s women’s golf record is held by Anastasia Kostina, who carded an average round 73.82 strokes during the 2005-06 season.

After the first tournament of the spring, both the team and Brown picked up right where they left off in November. The team’s score of 887 equates to an average round of 295.67, lowering its cumulative season score to 296.11. Meanwhile in her three rounds, Brown carded scores of 74, 70 and 73 (72.33 round average) scored a cumulative 217 (+1) for the tournament. Her season averaged dropped from 73.20 to 73.06 with five tournaments to play. Kim’s three rounds of identical 75s raised her overall average to 73.78, but she too remains on pace to beat Kostina’s mark.

As the spring season unfolds, Brown sounds eager to compete against the quality competition in each tournament.

“I get to go out and play golf every day,” said Brown. “Not everyone gets to do that. I had a lot of fun playing and got to compete against the best people in the country, and I’m hoping to do the same this year. I just need to keep working on what I’ve been doing the past year.”

Hope Springs Eternal

IMG_20160124_210632

After a 14-year hiatus, FOX relaunched The X-Files last Sunday night to strong ratings and good reviews, followed by a second episode last Monday night that was equally well-received. This weekend, the Mariners look to revive their playoff hopes coming off their own 14-year hiatus from the postseason with the 18th annual Mariners FanFest at Safeco Field.

The two-day affair is being promoted by the team as an opportunity for fans to experience Safeco Field in non-traditional ways: Ride a zipline across the outfield, throw in the bullpen, take a picture on the mound and dream of being the next Felix, to name a few. But the headlining attraction of the fanfest is always the players, and this year is (?) no different.

The M’s have trotted out eight “current stars” and four “future stars”. The problem with the labeling is that it can be argued that of the twelve players, only one is an established star and the remaining eleven are not worthy of the description.

Current Stars

There is no arguing that Kyle Seager is a star, although he struggled after an All-Star campaign in 2014. Seager is not a superstar by any stretch of the imagination, and arguably not worthy of a $100 million contract, but that’s a debate for another post. Of the remaining seven, Taijuan Walker, James Paxton and Leonys Martin have the best chance to blossom into stars. Although each has offered tantalyzing glimpses of their potential, none have produced a truly impactful full season.  However, the potential for these three to shine remains as Paxton is only 27, Martin celebrates his 28th birthday in March and Walker will turn a mere 24 years old in August.

While Steve Cishek and Charlie Furbush are integral pieces in the bullpen, neither is a star nor flash any signs of being one. Over a 162-game season, both pitchers average 60+ appearances, 68 innings pitched and Walks plus Hits per Inning Pitched (WHIP) right around 1.20. Both pitchers are also 30 years old, with Cishek logging six years of service and Furbush five years in the big leagues. At this point in their careers both pitchers can be counted on to deliver solid, dependable relief, but to expect lights-out dominance would be foolhardy.

Finally, the lights shine on Chris Iannetta and Steve Clevenger. Two career backup catchers battling it out for the starting gig, due to Mike Zunino’s inability to develop thanks to the previous regime rushing him to the big leagues and Jesus Sucre’s inability to hit major-league pitching (and broken leg suffered in winter ball). The loser of the competition will still see starts probably 2-3 times a week. Both players seemingly fit the mold of Mariners’ catchers throughout the franchises’ history: no hit, all glove backstops. Iannetta has power; even in a lost season last year due to injury, he hit 10 homeruns in 272 at-bats. But he managed only 41 other hits in the remaining 262 at-bats, resulting in an average of .188. Recall that in 2015 Mike Zunino hit .174 with 11 homeruns in 350 at-bats. Technically an upgrade, although certainly not awe-inspiring.  For his part, Steve Clevenger hit .287 with 2 homeruns, but was limited to 30 games and 101 at-bats due to a finger injury and being in Triple-A Norfolk for the majority of the year. Clevenger has never played more than 69 games in a season.

Future stars

Potential: it means so much, and yet so little. It means one can, it means one could, it means one currently isn’t.

Each of the four players listed above are 23 years old and younger, but Powell is the only one to play higher than at Single-A level and the only one to be invited to spring training this year. None of the four can be counted on in 2016 and it’s reasonable to assume that 2018 may be the first year any of them impact the big-league club. Given the M’s history of being unable to consistently develop any players into major contributors, it is possible that none of the four will blossom in Seattle.

There are only so many references to 1995 that a Mariners fan can endure. The franchise’s inability to remain relevant past Memorial Day for the last 13 seasons has proven beyond frustrating to Seattleites, as there is three months until Seahawks training camp from that point. After watching other also-rans such as the Royals, Rays, and Astros develop into American League powers, the excuses must begin to dissipate. One cannot but hope that this is finally the year that the monkey gets off Seattle’s back and that July and August is good for more than Seahawks training camp, Seafair and barbecues.

Alexander Pope’s “An Essay on Man” introduced the world to the beauty that”hope springs eternal”. While Pope was discussing God’s relationship to man, it can be argued that his descriptor is not limited to such a comparison.Optimism always awakens pre-spring training in 30 cities across North America, especially in a city who’s fans are thirsty for more than a mere postseason dalliance in October. Pitchers and catchers report February 19, but for Mariners fans, the 2016 season begins now.

Fanfest

Good riddance, Moses bread

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“I don’t think I was out of control,” Bennett said. “I  just hit the quarterback. Just because he’s the quarterback it’s a big deal. Carriers get hit all the time and knocked to the ground, but the only time people care — one, he’s the quarterback and he gets paid a lot of money and people just put this zoom-in screen on it so it becomes a big deal. But I can show you tons of plays where offensive linemen are jumping on guys all the time and it’s not a big deal.”

“I  hit him, he got back up. I pushed him back down, he got back up. I pushed him down again. What was I supposed to do, let him get back up?”

These quotes by the effervescent, outspoken Michael Bennett show precisely why the Seahawks must remove Bennett from the equation. Bennett speaks from his heart and never holds back; but his heart appears to be in a place of arrogance, conceit, and selfishness.

Bennett has a reputation for being a comedian and is a favorite of many in the media for always being willing to provide a juicy soundbite. Recently he’s made headlines for saying he didn’t like Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford because Stafford was from Texas. Bennett’s reasoning was that Texas is where JFK was killed. Tongue-in-cheek, probably, but Bennett also interrupted an interview with Kam Chancellor on live television demanding that owner Paul Allen pay him.  But as Bennett has no filter in the public eye, it isn’t a stretch to assume he’s got no filter in the privacy of the locker room or the halls of the front office.

Bennett has been a good, not great player for the Seahawks after they re-signed him after the 2012 season. The Seahawks have said they never wanted to let him go after initially signing him as an undrafted free agent in 2009, but they lost him when he was cut to make room for a since-released offensive tackle for depth reasons. Bennett was claimed by Tampa Bay and played 4 decent seasons. When he re-signed with the Hawks, it was for a one-year “prove it” deal as rumors floated that he had a torn rotator cuff. Bennett led the Hawks with 8.5 sacks during their Super Bowl year and was re-signed again with a good-but-not-great 4-year, 28.5 million dollar deal with $16 million guaranteed.

Ever since Bennett signed the deal, he’s harped for more money. Bennett finds a way to bring up his contract in seemingly every conversation, insisting that he’s underpaid and deserves more due to his play. Bennett’s contract is the exact same one that Cliff Avril signed one year later; the contracts are valued at the 13th-richest for defensive ends. When you factor in defensive tackle contracts, where Bennett often slides in on third downs and other passing situations, the value slides to 25th best in the NFL. Yet Avril never mentions his contract status. Could it be that Bennett has a point, that he has outperformed his contract?

In a word, HELLNO. Bennett impacts games for the Seahawks, but it must be noted that he impacts it both positively and negatively. In Bennett’s two full years back with the Hawks, he’s finished tied for 29th and tied for 36th in sacks. Certainly, sacks are not the end-all measure of a defensive lineman’s effectiveness. But one can’t help but wonder what kind of numbers players such as J.J. Watt, Mario Williams or even players such as DeMarcus Ware or Cameron Wake would rack up playing with the Legion of Boom.

However, the negative impact of Bennett is his inane ability to commit penalties in the most inopportune times. The gif above cost the Seahawks 51 yards of field position at the end of the first half against the Bengals. The Hawks drove down the field and salvaged a field goal before intermission, but the lack of a touchdown proved costly in the 27-24 overtime loss. However, this was not even the most costly penalty that Bennett has committed in a Seahawks jersey.

While many Seahawks fans linger on the ugly interception on the goal line in Super Bowl XLIX, the game wasn’t over. New England had possession on the half-yard line. Although improbable, the Seahawks could still conceivably force a safety and get the ball back with a chance for a game-winning field goal attempt. Of course, Tom Brady and the Patriots used a hard-count and took advantage of Bennett’s aggressiveness, drawing an encroachment penalty that moved the line of scrimmage of the shadow of the goal line and effectively ended the game.

Coach Pete Carroll loves to rave about Bennett’s aggressiveness and smarts, often praising Bennett for anticipating plays and recognizing what opposing offences are trying to do. But over the past 2 1/4 years (including playoffs), Bennett has been flagged 33 times, with only 6 of those penalties being declined. In the Green Bay game this year alone, Bennett was flagged four times, although all four were declined. However, the results of the four plays were ugly: 1) a 22-yard completion, 2) a 29-yard touchdown pass, 3) a 52-yard penalty on Richard Sherman (GB sends all players on go routes when they realize it’s a free play) and 4) an 8-yard run that stood after offsetting penalties.

http://overthecap.com/contract-embed/359/

Bennett’s contract is set up for the Seahawks to walk away from Bennett next year with minimal impact on the cap. Pay attention specifically to the  post-June 1st cuts and trade options. With no more guaranteed money remaining in the contract, there are incentives to both trade and release Bennett at the end of the year. Cutting Bennett after the season saves the Hawks an additional two million in cap room, but doesn’t guarantee any compensation, although it is probable the NFL would award the Seahawks a compensatory pick late in the 2017 draft. Trading Bennett would be a little more feasible. It would be a slightly higher cap hit but would probably net the Hawks a fifth or sixth round pick, which would likely be higher than the compensatory pick.

Moving on from Bennett isn’t unfeasible after the season. With young guys such as Frank Clark, Cassius Marsh, Demarcus Dobbs,(remember these names) Ryan Robinson and Robert Thomas, the Hawks are stacked at defensive end. Jordan Hill gains another year to become a force and Jesse Williams has time to recover from cancer without any undue pressure to provide grunt up the middle. Dobbs and Will Tukuafu have proven they can remain stout against the run as well, and with new defensive coordinator Kris Richard’s willingness to blitz more than his predecessors, the defense might not miss Bennett as much as it would appear.

Wishful Memories

I thought about you today

All the things we’ve never done

Everything I didn’t say

So much that’s never known

Because wishful memories are all I have

Questions never answered

So much is left unsaid

You’re in my head and to that I hold

In my heart you need to see

Are wishful memories

I’ll think about you tomorrow

Just like I did yesterday

All these times that come and go

And all I know is that I don’t

We live our lives and time it goes

Could’ve, should’ve, would’ve but

Still wondering what never was

So one thing you need to be shown

Are wishful memories

I’m sorry, Miss Jackson. I am for real

Dear Beautiful,

I am writing you this letter because I need to voice my thoughts. I need to get them out of my head. I wish I was saying this to you rather than writing it, and who knows if you’ll be receptive to reading it, but I hope this helps me find balance.

First and foremost, I miss my friend. I truly enjoyed your company and I hope you enjoyed mine.

Irony seems to be the theme of my thoughts. I confess I hate texting as the primary mechanism to get to know you, although this letter is going to run into the exact same problem. I hate this because my personality is neither truncated nor black and white, and I’m sure yours isn’t either. But you interpret my tone with your personality, and I interpret yours with mine, and neither of us really learns who the other is. Miscommunication sucks.

I told everyone that I asked you out on a whim, which isn’t entirely true. I’ve had a baby crush on you since we met, and I’d thought about asking you out for a while. I never thought I’d actually do it though, and that was the whim. I basically dared myself to ask you out. You already know you’re the first woman in nine years to say yes, but you’re also the first woman in five years that I’ve actually truly chased. I can count on one hand the number of women who have captured my attention. After you said yes, my priority this summer became getting to know you and building up our friendship.

I admit that I’m a bit rusty when it comes to flirting with a woman and trying to capture her attention. Not only did I rarely chase any women, I really didn’t even try. I was completely oblivious to women’s attempts to flirt with me, and I didn’t attempt to improve my interactions with them.  My actions have portrayed me as a needy, clingy dude and that’s not who I am. I realize the irony of insisting we meet today and then writing this letter to explain that’s not who I am, but I’m really not. I’ve had one girlfriend my whole life, and she lived in Portland while I was here. We dated for four months, which translates to roughly two weeks of actual relationship. That was when I was 21, and I naively thought relationships would continue to materialize as I got older. I just never really learned how to talk to women. Which is kind of embarrassing at my age, but it is what it is.

When you’ve been single without prospects as long as I have, you learn how to be independent, how to be happy and content alone. When you’ve avoided pursuing relationships like I have, you lose touch with how to play the game. But thanks to friends in relationships, friends who constantly sleep around, well-meaning friends who continually ask why you’re not involved… in the back of your mind there’s always the thought that to be in a relationship, you have to change. I got a little enthusiastic, to say the least.

I began to feel things that I hadn’t felt in a long time. I’d been good all by myself for so long that I didn’t know how to express what I felt, or even understand. You got me flustered, and I don’t do that.

I think we could become really good friends. I’ve got this romanticized idea of dating my best friend that I’ve always dreamed would come true. I want to be the friend you turn to when you need to brag about your son, or your day, or anything you’re proud of. I want to be the guy you turn to when things are in the dumps, when nothing’s going right, when you just need a shoulder to lean on. There’s an old ‘90s R&B song in which the singer croons, “I’d like to know what makes you cry, so I can be the one who always makes you smile.” I want to be the one to make you smile your gorgeous smile, the one that is the definition of ear-to-ear. Your eyes light up so bright and it makes me just want to melt, and I’d do anything to see it aimed at me again.

I just get really excited when I find something I like. You remember the movie Tommy Boy? You should google the clip, “I killed my sale.” That effectively sums up me and a girl I’m interested in.

It’s frustrating to me because I know better, but yet I somehow insist on doing things that I know don’t help. I don’t understand why I do them. For instance, I know how independent you are, yet I continually texted you constantly. I don’t text anyone, let alone everyday. I almost never use those emoticons, because I’m old enough to know better. Yet, here I was, I guess, trying to inject color and emotions into an isolated arena. I hate texts because they’re short, concise, black-and-white. There’s no emotion, and I hate that. Especially when trying to get to know someone’s personality. I have two laughs, a full-on chuckle and a polite chuckle that I use when I think something’s stupid. They sound exactly the same and differ only in length. But in a text message, I convey both by merely writing “haha”. You’d never know which one I meant.

Another ironic aspect is I’ve seen how it looks from your point of view. While I was irritated with myself for my constant attempts at contact, I’ve recently been the recipient of the same scenario. While I enjoy talking with that person, it does get to be a bit much. I’m sorry for losing my mind and being that person in your story.

The other thing that drove me nuts about texting is that while we texted often, we didn’t say anything. I still don’t know a lot of what I want to about you, and I didn’t get to share with you who I am. I’m really a quiet and reserved person, but when I talk, I talk a lot. I want to be able to tell you anything and everything, and I want you to feel completely and unabashedly relaxed around me.

I know you were busy, but I was busy too. Our timing is off. We didn’t have a lot of time together, and I wanted to make the most of it. Perhaps you did too, I don’t know. But it was frustrating to me because every time I suggested we get together, it was met with “later” or no response at all. I tested you, because I would suggest something and then wait hours before restarting the conversation. You’d respond to the new topic, and that would be disappointing to me.

I’m a good dog, beautiful. I’ll chase you if I think I have a chance to catch you. But if not, I’m more than content to sit here on the porch and watch you walk away.

I’ve played the dumb guy once, I’ve played the dumb guy twice, I’ve played the dumb guy more times than I care to admit. I’ve told myself what I wanted to hear too many times when it comes to women. The problem with reading between the lines is that you start seeing things that aren’t there, but I refuse to be devastated again. I’m not letting you in that close this quick, I’m not making that mistake again. I’m not dumb enough to believe that I am the only guy vying for your attention, but I thought we were off to a good start.

I felt like we got along really well, which is the most disappointing part. It would be different if we didn’t, but I had a great time when we did hang out. I never felt awkward or uncomfortable. I thought our conversation was delicious and I was looking forward to continuing our exchanges.

Our timing is off, I know this. Pursuing a long-distance relationship is hard.  I knew leaving for my last year of school was and is a hurdle. I know the uncertainty and mystery of my post-graduation future is an obstacle as well. I don’t know where I will end up in the next 9 months, and I understand the hesitation this leads to. I can’t promise you with anything with certainty, other than I would put your well-being and stability first.

This letter isn’t putting you on blast. I’m just trying to clear my head. I’m pretty big on being discrete. It’s a blessing and a curse, truth be told. But while people know I finally asked out a beautiful woman, I only told a handful of them your name. I was so excited and proud of you, but I only trusted a few friends to not meddle. Only one of selected few actually knows who you are. I trust her with everything.

I smile a lot when I talk about you, I smile a lot when I think about you. It’s been hard not contacting you lately, but I really needed to take this step back. My word wasn’t good, and that needed to be corrected. At the end of the day, I’m only as good as my word.  I promised you the best of me, and instead of that I’m not even sure what it was you ended up getting. You needed a break from me. I just want to make you smile, regardless of whether our friendship progresses to a relationship or remains a beautiful friendship.

I just have no idea where I stand in your mind. I hate playing games, I hate miscommunication. If we’re good, let me know. If we’re not, let me know. I just want us to be on the same page.

Even if everything goes wrong and we start to fall apart, I will understand where you are. I’ll be disappointed that this is the way our story unfolds, but I understand. You have to do what is best for you, regardless of what I or anyone else wants for you.

I want to be your best friend, and I want you to be mine. I think a lot of times people forget that the best relationships are built off the foundations of the best friendships. This is what I truly want to build. It’s kind of crazy, when you think about the circumstances that led us to even just meeting. All the different scenarios that had to play out just so in order for us to even begin interacting is absurd. I’m glad they played out this way, but I don’t want the past few weeks to be the last chapter in our friendship.

It’s taken me a couple weeks to write this down. I’ve added thoughts, re-worded phrases, took out a few things and I’ve just tried to communicate how I feel. But the bottom line is this:

I miss my friend.

I wonder if you’ll ever see this. I hope I didn’t scare you off.

Loves,

Kevin

Too many “O”s against the O’s: Caño, Montero, Trumbo, Zunino combined 0-13, 5 K’s

On another glorious Monday evening in Seattle, the Mariners sent Vidal Nuño to the mound looking to extend their recent success. The Mariners have won six of their past nine games, although they remain eight games under .500 and eight-and-a-half behind the first-place Houston Astros.

The Baltimore Orioles countered with Wei-Yin Chen and enter the contest with a 56-54 record, good for third in the American League East, five games behind the New York Yankees.

After allowing a first inning homerun to Adam Jones, Nuño settled down and retired the next eight Orioles in order. But after Jones snaps the streak with an one-out double, Chris Davis follows Jones with a sharp single to right as the O’s retake a 2-1 lead. Franklin Gutierrez had homered in the second inning for the Mariners to even the score previously.

Chris Davis extended the O’s lead in the 6th inning with a massive homerun to centerfield off of Mayckol Guaipe.

In the 9th inning, the game got interesting as Gutierrez hit a two-out double off of Orioles closer Zach Britton. Gutierrez advanced to third and scored when Austin Jackson stuck out for what would have been the final out, but the ball skipped past catcher Caleb Joseph. It appeared to be a reprieve for the Mariners with the tying run on first, but Montero struck out meekly to end the game.

Sounders, 8/01/2015- A Great Disappointment

Soccer, more so than any other team sport, emphasizes less of the one-on-one interactions and more of ball movement that leads to the casual fans’ frustrations.

“Don’t kick it backwards you idiot!”

“What kind of pass was that?”

Soccer, or futbol, is more of a 3-D chess match, if pawns and rooks and knights were allowed to move simultaneously. It is a game where the fan must recognize what the defense is setting up in response to the offense’s unrealized attack; where looking two steps ahead is not the advantage but rather the norm.

Space is at a premium on a field measuring 300′ by 150′: 20 men manage to shrink its dimensions noticeably. Although the goalkeepers never leave their designated areas, their presence is more than noticeable as they line up their forces to act, react, and counter-act strategies untold.

Anticipation is the most helpless feeling in the world; and soccer fans are held in agony throughout the match. Despite the constant flag-waving and drum that serves as the heartbeat of the stadium, the restlessness and unrecognized enthusiasm holds each tongue in limbo; a water balloon filled to capacity; a lit fuse that slowly travels its path to legacy.

The restlessness of fans grows more noticeable with each passing minute; the stadium announcement of halftime is uncomfortable as the home team trails.

Although concessions and souvenirs offer distraction, there is a noticeable uneasiness in the stands as the 15-minute intermission unfolds.

At full crescendo, the volume is as a bullet escaping a chamber; peak decibels quickly neutered or exploding as fireworks, with no inbetween to describe.

The halftime show, despite its productive donations to charity, falls flat as its intended goal of entertainment. Fans are forced to fend for themselves in search of relief and satisfaction as the clock counts down to return of the action. It is as though a junior high pep rally…the announcer tries desperately, but to no avail to maintain the attention of a increasingly bored crowd. Even past highlights and artificial noise shown on the video board flame out as the crowd merely tolerates the break from action.

The release of volume lingers as the crowd releases tension; the second score from the opposing team unnerves the crowd exponentially as it grows noticeably tense.

Despite the clear midsummer’s eve, a fog settles in over the crowd. With just under a half-hour left in the match, a substitution is made which revives the attendees. However, good intentions go for naught as the team remains lethargic and uninvolved.

As time unwinds the team grows desperate and the fans become increasingly gullible, roaring cheers at each unreachable cross or uncontrolled header before re-collecting game awareness.

A polite cheer grows as the home team offers a weak attack on goal only to be turned away dominantly by the visitors. Despite ample time with 20 minutes remaining, the visitors have stolen the soul from the Sounders and sucked the life from CenturyLink. Little is left other than the clock to run out as a third goal is stricken on the scoreboard for the adversary.

With the outcome all but decided, the home team embarrassingly goes though the motions, but there is no fight. There is no joy, no passion, no pride, no desire evident anywhere from these professional athletes. Disappointment reigns supreme as the three minutes of stoppage time only prolongs the agony and inevitable outcome.

The Vancouver Whitecaps convincingly defeat the Seattle Sounders 3-0 for the fifth time in seven attempts to extend their Northwest dominance.