AFCN status report. //Steelers-Bengals-Ravens

I asked Zarathustra1 to take the AFC North for us because his football opinions and mine sometimes diverge and he’s a uniquely fun read.  What I hadn’t considered is that the guy who goes last out of this group AND is charged with the AFC North review … kinda carries the weight of the world.  A lot of pressure got dropped on Zara and he’s responded heroically.  We’re going to take this in two parts:  today reviewing the Ravens-Steelers-Bengals; tomorrow the Browns and predictions.  Here’s part one.


I experienced quite a bit of panic preparing for this post.  Sure, there was the natural anxiety that builds up when procrastinating, but that is manageable enough and something with which most of us are familiar.  But then I read all the other posts leading up to this one and … oy.  The stress became quite a bit less manageable.  It would be impossible for me to equal any one of them.  Especially considering that my life has been torn asunder by a terrible affliction.  My priorities have become irreparably warped and I’m afraid that I have lost my way.  The cross I bear is not drugs and it isn’t booze or gambling or loose women.  (Though I may or may not bear some these crosses as well.)  No, it is a far worse challenge I face.  Frickin’ children.  I’ve been spending my days at parks and coach’s pitch baseball games and unsuccessfully attempting to console a very inconsolable newborn.  These kids are making it damn near impossible to keep up with the pretty substantial internet habit I’ve cultivated over the years.  And the booze and the gambling and so forth … well, I’ve had to actually curtail them slightly.   There is only so much time in a day and I’m awfully embarrassed to confess this in a public forum, but I’ve only been able to half-heartedly follow the NFL this off season.  As a result I felt woefully unprepared for this assignment.  If there were any hope of pulling this off it would not be via conventional means.

Curious-george-pictures

Convenient distraction.

I plopped one of the kids in front of the TV with Netflix on and let a season’s worth of Curious George episodes play.  I placed the (screaming) baby in its swing and fled to the man cave, where I keep my floatation tank.  For those that are unfamiliar, a flotation tank is chamber–in this case about 4′ by 8′–where you float in salt water at skin temperature in total darkness creating a complete sensory deprivation environment at zero-gravity.  Once you settle into your float you can experience the absence of your physical body and encounter nothing but pure mind.  Some enter these chambers to achieve profound meditative states and some ponder timeless spiritual and metaphysical questions.  Those may be worthwhile motifs for some, but I sought something far more important.  I sought to discover the answers to the AFC North.

1075378_223650547785273_2007103164_o

If you’ve got the tank, use it.

Even though I’ve floated before, it was still with trepidation that I entered the chamber.  It is like when when Luke, while training with Yoda in the Dagobah System, before entering the jungle where the dark side of the force was strong asked Yoda what he would find there and Yoda stoically replied, “Only what you bring with you.”  There was plenty of fear of what I might encounter in the makeshift tomb.

It takes a little while to adjust to the sensation (or lack there of) of the float.  Once you do however you have to blink your eyelids to remember whether they are open or closed. There is only darkness. And so it was for me.  Until I saw the colors that it is. Bright red and blue and yellow lights circled around me.  The colors soon faded away and I again faced complete darkness.  Then I started to hear a noise.  This should have been impossible as I was wearing ear plugs and my ears were submerged in water.  I concentrated on the noise for several minutes in an attempt to discern what exactly it could be.  It was a voice.


“Hello, Coach Cowher here.  Did you know about high speed internet service with Time Warner Cable?”

coachshoot_bts71

Also hosts Longaberger parties.

I was frozen in terror.  I had encountered a damn demon.  And not just any demon, but the spawn of an unholy alliance between the Pittsburgh Steelers and one of the most reprehensible enterprises in America — Time Warner Cable.  I entered this damn tank looking for answers to the mysteries of the AFC North, not to battle frickin’ demons.  “I’m getting too old for this shit,” I thought to myself as I tried to recollect some of the spells of Mr. Crowley, but to no avail.

“Begone archfiend,” I bellowed. “Your wickedness will find not respite here.  Begone I say!”

“But Zara,” Cowher slobbered.  “You came seeking the answers of the North.  Did you really expect it to be only rainbows and gumdrops?  There is a great darkness in this division.  Do you believe by merely ignoring it that it will cease to exist?  I was once like you.  I had a house in Strongsville even.  But then darkness swallowed me.  Heed my words about the Steelers lest your fate be as mine.”

“Very well Coach Cowher.  Very well.  But you would be unwise to lead me astray with your dark art.”

The disembodied voice of Bill Cowher began:

Re-signed: CB Ike Taylor, OLB Jason Worilds, LS Greg Warren, S Will Allen, TE Heath Miller, OL Guy Whimper, OL Cody Wallace, TE Michael Palmer.
Veteran additions: RB LeGarrette Blount, WR Darrius Heyward-Bey, CB Brice McCain, FS Mike Mitchell, LB Arthur Moats, WR Lance Moore, P Adam Podlesh, NT Cam Thomas.
Veteran subtractions: DB Curtis Brown, OT Levi Brown, WR Plaxico Burress, FS Ryan Clark, WR Jerricho Cotchery, RB Jonathan Dwyer, LB Larry Foote, DE Ziggy Hood, TE David Johnson, RB Felix Jones, DE Brett Keisel, K Mat McBriar, G Eric Olsen, WR Emmanuel Sanders, RB LaRod Stephens-Howling, LB Stevenson Sylvester, C Fernando Velasco, LB Jamaal Westerman, LB LaMarr Woodley, NT Al Woods.
Draft picks: 1-Ryan Shazier (OLB), 2-Stephon Tuitt (DE), 3-Dri Archer (RB), 4-Martavis Bryant (WR), 5a-Shaquille Richardson (CB), 5b-Wesley Johnson (OT), 6-Dan McCullers (DT), 6-Jordan Zumwalt (OLB), 7-Rob Blanchflower (TE).

Grade: B-

2014 Rookie Mini Camp

“Shazier is a speedy guy who runs around getting blocked. His tackling technique involves grabbing ball carriers near the shoulder pads and trying to ballroom dance them to the turf.”

The Steelers have been missing on draft picks for a few years now and are due to see their fortune turn.  Shazier has flaws, but he is athletic and crazy fast.  It was certainly a reach to take him when they did, but he wouldn’t have been there when they picked again and some times fans are a little too cavalier in their assessments of how easy it is to move around the board in the early rounds.  Nice player with a load of potential that will make a difference for them out of the gate.  And for as much as Shazier might have been a reach for where they took him in the first round, Tuitt was probably a bit of steal for where they got him in the second.  He will be in the rotation right away.  Both these picks should help fortify the front seven.  Archer will be a helluva weapon if he can stay healthy.  Bryant may flop, but was well worth the risk of a fourth round pick.  I have no clue on the other guys.  It is uncanny how many of these kids are named after Shaq.  I can’t wait until the Kobe’s starting arriving in a few years.

People will make a big deal about losing Emanuel Sanders, but I’m not a fan.  He will most likely put up some big numbers with Peyton Manning and some will criticize the Steelers for letting him go, but that is a ridiculous standard as everyone puts up ridiculous number with Manning. The Steelers definitely need some help at receiver, but there are too many other areas that needed to be addressed and would have been neglected if they had overpaid Sanders.  Cotchery is not the receiver that Sanders is, but is reliable and may have made some sense to retain at the price as opposed to the chasing the perpetually unfulfilled potential of Heyward-Bey.

131110_PanthersNiners1809_bay124

The only appropriate post-Kaepernick-sack dance.

Mike Mitchell should be an upgrade over Ryan Clark and I believe the thinking was pretty universal around these parts that Moats was a quality free-agent target.

Blount was a little overrated coming off the pounding he put on the Colts in the playoffs, but I think that was a very nice signing.  All the more so with the addition of Mike Munchak.  I think we may be seeing a shift back to the ground game with the teams in the North and the Steelers should be vicious.  I would not be at all surprised if they end up with the best running game in the conference.

Nothing about the offseason screamed “spectacular,” such is not the Steeler way. This was just a very solid retooling. Plug a hole or two, upgrade from an aging veteran here and there, and add some interesting prospects via the draft.

The voice of the demon Cowher faded and I was haunted the return of total silence.  The red, blue, and yellow lights soon returned, each throbbing rhythmically like a strobe light.  A tunnel formed and a little elfin creature appeared through the colorful tunnel of light.

“I don’t think so little elf.  I’ve met your kind before.  I know of your mischievous ways.  There was that time in college at that outdoor music festival….”

“Nevermind me.  I’m not going where you seek.  I’m merely passing through.  But beware the end of the tunnel.  There is some pretty weird stuff that way.”

“Oh.  Well, thanks for the warning I guess.”

“Ok.  Cheerio.  I must be going.  I have a meeting with a Peruvian shaman and I’m already terribly late.”


Thoth

Thoth.

The elf disappeared in a blink.  I dared not traverse the tunnel.  I sat motionless, then the tunnel approached me.  The colors swallowed me whole, racing through to the bottom and a sea of bright white light.  What appeared to be a man appeared, as the figure drew near I saw that it was not a man, not completely anyway.  It was the body of a man with the head of a black bird.  It was a therianthrope.  And I recognized him instantly.  It was the Egyptian deity Thoth.

“Well hello there Thoth.  I suppose you are here to teach me of the Ravens and their peculiar Baltimore ways.”

Thoth was clearly bothered.  “Um, no. I’m hear to tell you about the Bengals.  What?  Do you think we all know each other too?  I don’t know a damn thing about the effing Ravens.  Where do you humans get off?  Just because I have bird like features doesn’t make me a damn expert on birds.  I’m a therianthrope anyway in case you haven’t noticed.  But I suppose you think we all look alike.”

“No, no, no Thoth.  You are quite unique.  I promise I meant no offense.  Please speak to me what you know of these Bengals.”

“Very well Zarathustra.”

Re-signed: G Mike Pollak, S Taylor Mays
Veteran additions: QB Jason Campbell, OT Marshall Newhouse, DB R.J. Stanford, LB Dontay Moch, SS Danieal Manning.
Veteran subtractions: LB Michael Boley, OT Anthony Collins, C Kyle Cook, DB Chris Crocker, DB Brandon Ghee, WR Andrew Hawkins, DE Michael Johnson, P Zoltan Mesko, OT Dennis Roland, TE Alex Smith, LB James Harrison, QB Josh Johnson.
Draft picks: 1-Darqueze Dennard (CB), 2-Jeremy Hill (RB), 3-Will Clarke (DE), 4-Russell Bodine (C), 5-AJ McCarron (QB), 6-Marquis Flowers (OLB), 7a-James Wright (WR), 7b-Lavelle Westbrooks (CB).

Grade: C-.

Marvin Lewis, Hue Jackson

Hue Jackson is divide-by-zero levels of improvement at OC.

Count me among those that believe the Bengals are better off without Jay Gruden.  At the same time though I do think some of the criticism of him was unfair.  After all Andy Dalton is the quarterback and it is very possible that Gruden deserves some credit for the fact that Dalton is even an average quarterback.  Moreover, the Bengal offense did a pretty good job playing complimentary football and letting the stellar defense do their job.  The Bengals were 2nd in the league in time of possession and I don’t believe it to be much of a stretch to say that if the offense was unable to stay on the field the defense would not have been near as good and last season — and the two previous playoff seasons — might have turned out much differently.  That being said, I liked Hue Jackson in Oakland.  They were pretty creative at times and he appeared to have had them moving in the right direction before he made that bizarre power grab after Al Davis died and of course the historically awful Carson Palmer trade.  I know nothing of Guenther, but I have to believe losing Zimmer could be a big deal.  I can’t think of another coordinator who left his team this past year that will be missed as much as Zimmer, especially with an aging secondary and with the loss of Michael Johnson.

Hawkins may be missed — and it will be interesting to see what Kyle Shanahan will do with him — but the Bengals have a shitload of offensive weapons and I think Sanzenbacher may end of being a better pure slot receiver than Hawkins anyway.

Danieal Manning may have been playing out of position last year with the Texans and could be poised to bounce back as another successful Bengals reclamation project in the secondary.

Darqueze Dennard

Softer Darqueze.

I will not pretend to be an expert on all of the players they drafted.  I love Dennard and can’t believe he lasted as long as did.  I also love the pairing of Jeremy Hill with Gio Bernard.  Should be another dominant running tandem in the division.  They probably should have taken a QB earlier so should be docked points there.  If I were a Bengals fan I would be more than a little troubled that what should be a team contending for the super bowl has a quarterback room consisting of Andy Dalton, Jason Campbell, and A.J. McCarron.  Hugh Jackson has a history with Jason Campbell — the last (only?) time he experienced any success — so I wouldn’t be surprised if he ends up starting some games for them.  Good luck with that.

So I love Dennard and like Hill; Manning and Sanzenbacher could prove nice signings, but that is not enough to make up for the loss of Zimmer and Johnson and the failure obtain at least a decent qb back-up Dalton if injured to say nothing of supplant him if he proves ineffectual.

Exit Thoth..


I lost all concept of time. For what I will assume was several moments I floated in darkness, unaware that a world even existed outside of this tomb of sensory deprivation.  Then, in an instant, everything turned bright white.  Not a white light though.  It was almost like a giant white movie screen had dropped in front of me. A window gradually appeared.  It was just a normal house window with a pane and segregated into two sections with a lock.  I looked out the window and saw the sky–a relatively sunny partly cloudy Spring day.  But then a crack appeared in the sky and a hand reached out to me.  Had I entered a David Bowie song?  Had the strangers arrived today?  Were they here to stay?  I felt a tremendous foreboding.  I looked to my left and saw a beautiful woman with long red hair, sans clothes.  It was Melisandre from Game of Thrones.

melisandre_by_tercelbg-d6rg480

Clothed Melisandre.

“It will be alright my child.”  She stroked my head in comfort.  “They have indeed arrived, but they have come to help.”

I was still quite anxious, but she was able to deliver some calm.  I suddenly felt my body twitch and I was tugged and pulled on by I don’t know how many hands.  The hands adjusted my spine and massaged my muscle tissue.  This is actually quite nice, I thought. Then an incredibly sharp pain pierced my shpincter.  “What the f–?” I started to scream, but Melisandre stroked my head gently.  “It’s okay. It will only last a moment and you will feel much much better.  Just breathe through it.”

I took her advice and just continued to breathe.  And she was right.  It all soon passed and I did indeed feel great.  “What is happening?  Who are they?”

“Well, they are your distant human ancestors.  They are here from another dimension to study you and heal you.”

“Do you mean aliens?”

“Of course.  That is what your species calls them anyway.  I am your conduit to them.  They don’t have bodies in any physical sense you could possibly comprehend with your quaint little monkey brain.”

I was gobsmacked.  “I…I have to confess. I’ve never really believed in aliens or any of that nonsense.”

Ancient Aliens

The information has been made available to us.

“Well I must confess that I’m shocked by your ignorance.  Have you never seen the television program Ancient Aliens?  It is on the HISTORY channel, you know?  They don’t put things on that channel that are not actually real life history.  What?  You thought that show show was the mental masturbation of dimwitted cranks?”

“Well….”

“Well,” she interrupted curtly, “you should feel quite embarrassed.”

Feeling chastened I promised her that I was indeed quite embarrassed.  “Would you mind returning to stoking my head?”

“Of course, my poor ignorant human child.  Of course.”

She returned to the comforting yet seductive strokes. “Do you have the answers I seek?”

“I do,” she soothed. “All the mysteries of your world will be revealed.”

“Pfew.  What do these aliens of superior intelligence think of the Browns this offseason.”

She has visibly stunned by my question.  “I offer you the wisdom of the universe.  The answer to any question your species has ever pondered…. And you ask about something as inconsequential as football?  The Cleveland Browns?”

“I do.  This Mr. Kanicki fella has asked me to write about the AFC North for his wonderful website, but I’m afraid it is well past due at this point.  I am interested in the meaning of life and all of the eternal questions, but I dont really have time for any of that now.”

She pulled away from me in visible horror as if I myself was a demon like Bill Cowher.

“So I beg of you red woman, tell me of the Browns.”

“My poor, poor child.  It is too late.  You are too far gone.  I will speak to you of the Browns.”


Re-signed: TE Dennis Pitta, LB Daryl Smith, WR Jacoby Jones, T Eugene Monroe, S Jeromy Miles, DT Terrence Cody.
Veteran additions: TE Owen Daniels, RB Justin Forsett, SS Darian Stewart, WR Steve Smith, C Jeremy Zuttah.
Veteran subtractions: TE Dallas Clark, TE Ed Dickson, WR Tandon Doss, CB Corey Graham, SS James Ihedigbo, DE Arthur Jones, FB Vonta Leach, LB Jameel McClain, OT Michael Oher, RB Bernard Scott, WR Brandon Stokley.
Draft picks: 1-C.J. Mosley (ILB), 2-Timmy Jernigan (DT), 3a-Terrence Brooks (S), 3b-Crockett Gillmore (TE), 4a-Brent Urban (DT), 4b-Lorenzo Taliaferro (RB), 5-John Urschel (G), 6-Keith Wenning (QB), 7-Michael Campanaro (WR).

Grade B-

abc-news

Kubiak: offensive kick starter?

Sometimes it can be too easy blame offensive coordinators when things go wrong without fully considering the context they are operating under.  For instance, Jim Caldwell was awful last year, but it does seem relevant to consider that Anqun Boldin was gone and Dennis Pitta injured most of the year; that Ray Rice looked like a shadow of his  former self and Bernard Pierce was ineffectual as his back-up.  And the o-line?  Not good.  So Caldwell probably didnt have the tools necessary to run a successful offense.  With all that being said though, Gary Kubiak should be a significant upgrade.

Steve Smith, Cam Newton

New threat for the AFCN.

Steve Smith is past his prime but still provides Flacco with a viable receiving option; same goes for Owen Daniels –albeit to a lesser degree– if he stays healthy.  They re-signed Jacoby Jones which was smart.  I have really come to appreciate his game. He damn near singe-handedly won them games against Minnesota and Pittsburgh last year.  On the line they were able to hold on to Monroe and if the addition of Zuttah can at least bring competence to the position it will be a nice upgrade over Gradkowski at center.  Oher is gone, but it was probably wise not to overpay for a right tackle, especially considering the way the cap constricts so damn tightly at other positions when you pay your quarterback as much they pay Flacco. No team manages the cap with perfect efficiency and there are essentially premium dollars you can use to overpay a little bit to a player here or there in order in retain or add a player that can really help your roster.  The Flacco deal pretty much eats up all those premium dollars and forces them to be damn near perfect in efficiency with the remaining roster.  So no more Oher.  And on defense no more Arthur Jones, Corey Graham, or James Ihedigbo.   All solid players who will be missed.

cdn.mse.psddev

We should know in the first year about Mosley.

As if the draft were not of vital importance to every team in the league, the Flacco deal, by restricting the team’s ability to pay market value for veterans in free agency, exerts even more pressure on the Ravens drafts and ability to develop young players to contribute immediately.  This year appears to have been another solid but not sexy Ravens draft.  Just like the Steelers, the Ravens fortified the front seven with their first two picks.  Mosley will likely start week one and should be at least competent as a rookie starter next to a solid veteran like Darryl Smith.  I expect Jernigan to have a larger immediate impact.  Terrence Brooks will need to start immediately as well which may be turn out well, but it is generally not a good thing when you are relying on unproven mid-round picks to start as rookies.  Crockett Gilmore gives them a tight end to develop if Owen Daniels can’t return to form and Urschel will hopefully provide depth on the interior of the o-line, something they need desperately.  I know nothing of Taliaferro other than that he is a small school back with some nice athleticism.  He looks like a different type of player, but the pick seems to be in the same vein as the Browns pick of Terrance West.  Wenning is a nice project in the 6th round.  There is a lot to like about him–as has been explained on several occasions by the propietor of this fine website–but it will be an uphill battle for him to even end up a career back-up.  You never know though.  He makes the team this year and develops nicely.  Next year he is the back-up and Flacco goes down and he is starting; he plays decently and the Ravens trade him for say a 3rd round pick.  I would not wager a dime on this actually happening, but a developmental quarterback with some decent talent and was a winner in college is a very nice pick in the 6th round.  Campanaro is a likely practice squad player who can maybe develop into a solid slot receiver.

Overall, a solid draft and the additions of Steve Smith, Owen Daniels and Zuttah should help the offense quite a bit–to say nothing of the upgrade from Caldwell to Kubiak–and if that were the only consideration I think the offseason grade would be around a B or even B+, but the losses of some solid players on the defensive side must be considered and I give them a B-.

I crooked my eyebrow and gave the red woman a sidelong glance. “Um, that was the Baltimore Ravens.  You said you were going to tell me about the Browns.”

For the first time she demonstrated a lack of self-assurance. “What?  You asked about the Browns and I spoke of the Browns.”

“No.”  I slowly shook my head.  I was a bit embarrassed for her.  “Those were the Ravens.  They used to be the Browns.  But they moved to Baltimore almost 20 years ago.”

“Really?”  She asked in astonishment.  “I was not aware of such a move.”

“So….you claim to possess the answers to the eternal questions, but you didn’t know about the Browns move to Baltimore?  Yikes….kind of a big deal where I come from.”

“Sooooorrry,” she replied with a patronization betwixt with mockery, like Bill Maher always does on his HBO show. “I didn’t know about the Cleveland Browns and the NFL.. It may be a big deal where you come from, but where I came from, you know the center of the cosmos where we are surrounded by infinite wisdom, yeah, not that important here.”

“If they aren’t up to date on the NFL where you are from I don’t think I’m all that interested.”

“I don’t suspect you are.  I don’t suspect you are.  Farewell Zarathustra,” she mocked with air quotes when she said Zarathustra, “what a stupid internet moniker.”


Back tomorrow with Zara’s — still sensory deprived — look at the and Browns’ off-seasons plus divisional predictions.

  1. We all understand the 2001 opening’s connection to today’s post, right? [back]

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  • mgbode

    If anyone ever questions the reasoning for the internet, then they need to be directed to this page, the article above and the comment thread below. It is the paragon of internet ramblings.

  • Pingback: AFCN status report. //Browns+projections - Kanick()

  • Petefranklin

    Check this out. Dawg Pound Nation. Steeler fans…not bad.

  • Nick

    That was amazing. This whole segment has been freaking awesome. By the way, I broke bread with Zara once in Bath, OH. Frankly I wouldn’t recommend it. He spoke mostly of Andy Kaufman for an entire hour, I had to excuse myself and get some air.

    • zarathustra

      I was merely relaying the relevant news of the day my fine gent. A man potentially succeeded in faking his own death and living anonymously in upstate new york working a job and siring children
      Here and I thought you had excused yourself due to my spittling all over your food as I ranted against factory farming.

      • actovegin1armstrong

        Andy and Elvis started a farm co-op. Every woman Andy beats in a wrestling match becomes slave labor. It may not be too bad, they have Tony Clifton performing for them on Fridays.

      • bupalos

        Liked for spittle and factory farming rants.

  • actovegin1armstrong

    I told you so jk, our favorite Zoroastrian WAS most assuredly in Colorado. Flotation tank my sweet bippy, he is on a Rocky Mountain High. And, speaking of David Bowie, Zara shall soon be “The Man Who Fell to Earth”.

    • zarathustra

      Well, when I visualize my future I do see myself as a muttering drunk carelessly firing off pistols while being trapped in some kind of bizarre government-sponsored sex room….

      • bupalos

        future?

    • the incongruity between the username and avatar is staggering.

      zarathustra embodied as tony clifton?

      oh yes. we want this guy in front of a keyboard for us as much as possible.

  • Petefranklin

    So what does Zarathustra mean?
    I love the fact that Cowher took the time to slobber on you in your pool. Classic!

    • zarathustra

      Zarathustra means many things. Mostly it means that I’m intellectually insecure and hopelessly pretentious, but it is also the name a quasi-religious avatar that Nietzsche used as the stand-in for his philosophy in a book he wrote.

      • good. i wanted you to tackle that one. my main secondary takeaway was that the original Zarathustra ‘founded’ the first monotheistic philosophy/religion in persia circa 1500 BC… and that said religion became the state religion for the shah’s iran and thus plastering the logo below as a featured image for this piece might have conveyed unpleasant memories of the SAVAK if i have any iranians in the commentariat.

        • bupalos

          Jesus there goes the rest of my day. But I can’t resist, my college advisor was an Iranian straight out of the regime. First, I’m not sure it’s fair to call zoroastrianism the state religion for the Pahlavi dynasty. The Shahs’ Iran was not explicitly religious at all, in fact, it stood much like Attaturk’s regime in Turkey for modernization and secularization of the state and culture.

          But leading up to the 20th century much of Iran’s history is a competition between highly religious regional Islamist groups (that it’s not unfair to think of as invaders) and what it is probably fair to call nativist Persian regimes. Zoroaster is an ancient and recognizably Persian character that stands in distinction to foreign regional Islamism, I think any zoroastrian imagery of the time may have more to do with that conflict, and the zoroastrian’s relative tolerance for other religions and secular culture than it does some kind of overt expression of religion. It might be similar to how in more religious times in the US the founders used “deist” language in support of a less sectarian state. One might suggest that “deism” was our state religion at the founding, in reality it was simply the least sectarian option available.

          None of this is to excuse the tactics of the Shah’s SAVAK or qualify the potential horror some Iranian victims of Savak might feel at that symbol, though it’s also fair to note that the Islamic Republic that came in may have changed it’s symbol but didn’t change it’s relation to human rights at all. In fact it pretty well has taken the exact same organization and turned the volume up to 11.

          • Petefranklin

            My head just exploded.
            I should have just inquired if you asked Cowher if he was coming to the Browns next year.

          • actovegin1armstrong

            I just left TWC last week (the fiber optic bandwidth and VPLS side of the organization), and I must admit that Cowher was at least a cog in my mechanism of disillusionment.

          • bupalos

            Cower is waiting for another superbowl to be set up for him before he decides to ride another team to more TWC commercials.

          • you mean wikipedia didnt get it right?

            no really, i only knew of zoroaster as a persian ‘religion’* and didnt dig much deeper until i went looking for an image to use, saw the interesting logo above, then put on the brakes when i looked a second time and saw a passing similarity to the nazi eagle.

            imo, iran is the sleeping-est of sleeping giants. if they (read: their govt) were able to adopt “relative tolerance for other religions and secular culture” it could be a superpower or at least bump their peoples’ standard of living considerably.

            ps, agree with your read on us/founding-fathers/’deism.’

            * (though ‘philosophy’ seems the better noun and just what’s the diff between religion and philosophy anyway? faith?)

          • bupalos

            >>> if they (read: their govt) were able to adopt “relative tolerance for other religions and secular culture” it could be a superpower>>>

            I dunno if that’s all they would need but it sure wouldn’t hurt. Actually 1960’s Iran seems to have been a pretty decent place. But I think they fell victim to the curse of having an economy based on resource extraction in an international age. There are simply no decent modern countries with economies dominated by resource extraction. It attracts the kleptocrats. Then in short order the commies and/or religious kooks come in and make things worse yet.

          • actovegin1armstrong

            The difference is blind faith jk. To arrive at cognitive conclusions or those derived from empirical evidence is to be applauded, but to believe blindly and without question because we said you have to, is a bit less admirable.

          • actovegin1armstrong

            Thank you Bupa, I shall read that many times. Right now the only part I understood was the importance of turning it up to 11.

          • bupalos

            I’ve got to get another pre-amp. It doesn’t even have numbers, just these dumb fucking dots, and most of the time when I count them it comes up to like 8 or 9, or maybe 10 at the very most when I’m being really optimistic. It’s like the thing is making fun of me.

            To make matters worse I can’t even turn it up past the 4th dot because the house shakes and the carpenter ants start flooding out from behind the cherry paneling in the dining room and threaten to go on a hunger strike. At least it looks like that’s what they are trying to intimate, I don’t know, they’re really hard to read. They’re all like ” …. ” and I’m all like “WHAT? The thing’s only on fucking 4!!!! GO BACK IN YOUR HOLE!!!” But they just scurry around like suggesting a hunger strike is imminent.

            I’m taking it back. This is nonsense.

          • actovegin1armstrong

            Did you go to Colorado with our Zoroastrian author?

      • bupalos

        And to bridge the gap between this and Kanick’s emendation, Nietzsche is drawing a parallel between the himself and the first prophet. Zoroaster came to tell the world of Zeus’s (polytheism) death and God’s birth, and Nietzsche’s Zarathustra to tell of God’s death and the birth of Eternal Recurrence. And in fact he’s really distilling and making a “religion” out of Plato, which had been badly translated as Christianity–“Platonism for the people” as he called it.

        “But who makes the clouds move before they collide? That must be Zeus, right?”
        “Not Zeus you imbecile. The Convection Principle.”

        “So Zeus has been deposed and Convection Principle has taken over. Tsk Tsk.”

      • actovegin1armstrong

        Wow, I want to read that! Was it Ray Nietzsche from the Packer’s glory days?

  • bupalos

    Nice work. BTW my inconsolable infant became incredibly consolable as soon as we figured out she had a milk protein allergy. Worth looking into.

    Nice work on the writeup. The thing that strikes me as most interesting about this division is the set of quarterback situations. As much as we hang our head about our lack there, the other 3 teams have dropped serious cash on the position that has limited the rest of their roster (this assumes Dalton gets paid). But none of those guys are really where you want to hang your hat. Dalton is erratic, Rothlisberger relies on being able to take hits but is finally breaking down, and Flacco is certainly valuable, but just as certainly is paid well over his production value and that has clearly already compromised their roster. Subtract QB and the Browns have the best roster in the division (maybe some would prefer Cinci, I wouldn’t). I don’t think we have the best chance to win the division this year, but I’m not sure I’d trade places with any of the other 3 right now.

    This assumes Cinci drops their cash on Dalton, which I fervently pray.

    • zarathustra

      I don’t think they have the best chance to win the division this year either and definitely wouldn’t trade places with the other teams in the division, especially if you consider the cap space and buffalo pick.
      It’s funny you should mention the milk protein allergy. The dr. recently recommended my wife to drop all dairy and soy. We are about a week in and are starting to see some improvement.

      • bupalos

        Sucks to be her, but it was pretty much a night and day improvement for us. Took about a week and she was a different baby.

        BTW if she’s an addict like my wifey-mate is, the coconut milk ice cream is really good but there seem to be no good cheese alternatives so don’t even waste your time there.

        • actovegin1armstrong

          I have my little wild girl on a strict cheese, bacon and liver diet. She may occasionally snack on chips with jalapeno salsa, (she really does love spicy foods). I am amazed by how much these big headed short kids eat, I made a couple of dozen pierogies today and she had a half dozen devoured before I sat down to eat with her. We finished with her at a 13 to 11 advantage, but only because I have longer arms and I kept knocking her fork off the table.
          Also guys, I am very curious about allergies. I do not understand all food allergies, but is very important for me to know the receptor cite mechanism.
          I had a friend with “hay fever” and she would start sneezing and throwing a fit anytime she was around flowers. I understand how one may be allergic to airborne pollen, but flower pollen is vectored and at least 1000 times too large to hit the mechanical allergen receptors. Is there a huge psychosomatic component? In this women there most assured was no reason possible for her to sneeze for any other reason.

          • bupalos

            So you’re saying you were in the vicinity, but there was no reason for the lady to sneeze? Because the pollen was too large?

            I’m going to ask P & Ctil about this next time I see them. Maybe there is a reason.

  • mgbode

    Fantastic and enjoyable read. And, I’m really hungry now for some reason.

    Also, coach’s pitch baseball games: The South Austin CP Scorpions will take you on anytime my friend.

    • zarathustra

      Thanks! I should warn you though, coach pitch baseball is played at a dizzying pace in around these parts. Your guys may not be able to keep up. I was just at a game that was able to clock in at just under 10 hours.

      • mgbode

        there are only 2 sports that are taken seriously in Texas. Football and Baseball. So, our kids will focus in on those 10hrs. Sure, it may look like they are sifting dirt through their fingers in the IF and picking daisy’s in the OF, but that is focus. Pure focus.

    • actovegin1armstrong

      bode, my little monkey girl is fascinated with baseball, when can she start playing? She can hit the ball consistently, but only 60 to 70 feet tops. She has also learned to catch fairly well and she does a great contralateral step and throw already. We live over in Circle C, Southwest Austin. The magical interweb makes it difficult to find your team. The only thing close to that name I could find is way up in Cedar Park.

      • mgbode

        http://southaustinbaseball.org/

        The original LL in Texas!

        I’m close-by Circle-C myself. Oak Hill is technically the closest LL, but they have what we shall call “intense” coaching of which I prefer to avoid. SALL plays on the fields behind Chuy’s in Zilker Park that overlook Lady Bird Lake and downtown and the coaches are pretty much all friends with each other.

        Teeball starts at 4yo. Coach-pitch is skill dependent, but can start for older 5yo who turn 6 during the season. Otherwise, it is for 6-8yo. Kid-pitch is advanced-8yo or 9yo and up.

        The District-11 city tournament is going on right now and both my son’s made the 7&U allstar team for South Austin (proud papa moment) playing 1B (7yo) and catcher (6yo) for the team.

        Let me know her age and if you are interested in the league and I can answer whatever questions you may have and make sure to get you hooked up with a good coach at her level (unless she’s at my kids’ age bracket, then she is welcome on the Scorpions). I should be coaching in the fall as my younger son said he wants to do baseball again (my older son is playing flag football).

        • actovegin1armstrong

          The little, wild, beastly girl is 3 years old, but very big for her age, she can throw harder than most of the 6 years olds that come to our neighbors’s to play. I guess she should wait a few years. Tee ball will not work, she does not like it. She has grown accustomed to me tossing easy ones, belt high and right over the middle. She balked at t-ball, “I want to play baseball, throw it daddy”! I was showing her a slider, curve ball, split-finger, four seamer, et cetera. She is definitely not ready to pitch.

          • mgbode

            I so want to teach my kids a knuckleball because they would dominate the kid-pitch divisions. I mean, it would take 3 innings of the other team staring at it before they even thought about swinging. then, they’d wildly (and harmlessly) chuck at the thing for the next 3 innings. by the time they’d have a chance at it, the game is over at 6 innings. Alas, I know not how to throw a knuckler with any movement (mine goes relatively straight, which may as well harken the kids back to teeball).

            Anyways, sounds like you have done great with your little girl and there are going to be a ton of proud-papa moments on the baseball diamond in the future. Throwing, catching, hitting are definitely 3 things that every single child needs to be taught (and most preferably by their dad).

            I wouldn’t downplay teeball. Where else are you going to be able to put water balloons on a tee and swing at it or have a bean bag toss to teach proper throwing mechanics or have a balloon that the kids need to keep in the air using only a plastic bat? My favorite though is Easter week when you toss them plastic eggs softly over the middle and see the joy on their faces when their bat splits the egg open and candy goes everywhere.

          • actovegin1armstrong

            My little beast practices her hitting on pinatas.
            As for the knuckler, my nephew had a terrific knuckle ball, he can teach it rather well too, but he is in Brunswick. If he comes to visit I will send him over.

  • zarathustra

    If anyone wanted further proof of what good man our host is I can assure I did everything imaginable to provoke his dark side only and time and time again he responded with the patience of Job. He asked for a post on the afc north and I gave him thousands of words describing a kooky psychedelic adventure. I told him I would have it to him by the end last but didn’t actually deliver a final draft until yesterday. This is to say nothing of my inability to competently manage my email account. He couldn’t have handled it all any more graciously.

    • bupalos

      He knew what he was getting.