A Day at the Phantom Gourmet

The 2016 Phantom Gourmet Food Festival had it all. There were creampuffs, meatballs, clam chowder, and endless bags of Utz potato chips. There was a dance contest, a costume contest, and even a VIP party for the friends of Ernie Boch Jr. Rumor on the street was it had everything you’re looking for.

 

 

 

 

Who To Follow?

Bomani Jones – Polarizing personality that has strong opinions on race, as well as races role in sports. Also, doesn’t shy away from entertaining trolls so that’s fun to watch play out.

Brian Stelter – Host of Reliable Sources on CNN, lead media correspondent on CNN as well. Always on top of current political happenings, seems to never sleep.

Chad Finn – Columnist for both Boston.com and The Boston Globe who has interesting columns and opinions on his beat. Very easy to consume.

Richard Deitsch – writer and reporter for Sports Illustrated that has a focus on media. Seems to have a particular focus on ESPN, often focuses on how they cover topics and treat controversy.

Jon Favreau – Former speechwriter for President Barack Obama, columnist at The Ringer. Doesn’t shy away from voicing his opinion.

Wesley Morris – Critic-at-large for the New York Times. Often tackles race and culture as topics.

Charles P. Pierce – Political writer for Esquire Magazine, crosses over naturally into the realm of sports and frequently retweets other writers that are in the same lane as him.

Keith Law – ESPN writer who focuses on the MLB, but doesn’t shy away from sharing his opinions on twitter.

Jason Whitlock – I can only take him and his hot takes in small doses, but I think he (willingly) plays the devil’s advocate and has been given a large platform at Fox Sports.

Mike Wise – Senior Writer at ESPN’s The Undefeated. Has a history of being outspoken on cultural issues pertaining to sports.

Pablo S. Torre – Senior writer for ESPN as well as a contributor on Outside the Lines as well as other ESPN programming. Harvard grad, formerly of Sports Illustrated, that has a history of diving deep into issues in sports.

Michael Lee – One of my favorite NBA writers, now at Yahoo by way of The Washington Post. I would expect some good coverage from him regarding the anticipated protests in the NBA this season.

Digital Newspapers

With a download time of two hours and a charge of $5 per hour of use, the tele-paper  was going nowhere. It had a small market due to the fact that the necessary technology was only obtainable for a minute percentage of the population. More than anything it was an attempt to get the ball rolling on keeping the news cycle on par with technological advances.

In a 1994 video covering the future of electronic news Roger Fidler projects the next 5 years, 10 years, and 15 years of consuming news will lead to a reliance on the Tablet, and Fiddler explains that the goal of his Innovation Design Lab is to create a bridge of familiarity. This particular point stands out because he is essentially describing the ability of tech companies in the present day to get their customers to adapt to new products, operating systems, and forms of consumption by creating the illusion that you as the customer have the option to choose, when in reality the decision is already made for you. As long as the bridge to get from point A to point B is an easy one, in this case the bridge from a physical newspaper to an electronic newspaper, the pushback will only be from the minority.

Fast forward another decade and the technology that we had been subjected too had been on such a rise that the skeptics started to shine through. The future of technology was ominous, and in this EPIC 2015 video  there is an almost Orwellian tone. The Google Grid, a hypothetical next step for Google to take which is outlined in the video stands out to be as particularly peculiar. Shortly following the introduction of the Grid comes the partnership of Google and Amazon, countered by the New York Times going “off-line” and becoming a source of news only for the “elite and elderly”. This is where the line is officially drawn and a cultural divide is predicted. Although I don’t think it has come to fruition, perhaps it is merely too subtle for me to notice.

The expected silence from the MLB and where Colin Kaepernick has brought us

Vox – When it comes to professional basketball and football, black players make up the majority. Seventy-four percent and 68 percent of athletes are black in the NBA and NFL respectively. In the WNBA, black women make up 71.7 percent of the players. So while racial disparities persist when it comes to team owners in these leagues — no black person has ever owned an NFL team and there are nearly no black owners for all three men’s leagues in basketball and football — players can at least protest on the grounds that they know they’re collectively indispensable.

By contrast, black baseball players are largely on their own. African Americans make up only 8 percent of players in major league baseball, according to USA Today.


This week Baltimore Orioles outfielder Adam Jones said, “We already have two strikes against us already, so you might as well not kick yourself out of the game. In football, you can’t kick them out. You need those players. In baseball, they don’t need us. Baseball is a white man’s sport.”

Jones is one of only a handful of black players in the MLB, but underrepresentation
is a trend that goes far past the players. The opportunities for latino players and black players alike are scarce when their playing days are over. In a conversation with ESPN’s Howard Bryant for his piece titled Don’t expect protests in baseball — it’s a white man’s game by design David Ortiz said, “The opportunities, they speak for themselves. Compare the number of Latinos with the number of Latino managers, you know what I’m saying? Sometimes I get so frustrated about it. But you can’t wait for anyone to give you something. Sometimes I tell the young guys, ‘Be smart. Save, because there won’t be anything here for you when it’s done. Make as much money as you can in the game, and get your black ass out.”

Soon we will be entering what I consider the sweet spot of the annual sports  news cycle. Once October rolls around the NFL is in the swing of its regular season, the MLB is entering the playoffs, the NHL and NBA are on the verge of kicking off regular season play. There is only so much time for each of the four major American sports to be covered enough to reach a mass audience, especially in an election year. The discussion of how to present yourself during the playing of the national anthem originally brought to the forefront by San Francisco 49ers Quarterback Colin Kaepernick is a story that has life being breathed into it by news outlets across the spectrum and has even led to President Obama making a statement to reiterate Kaepernick’s constitutional right to kneel during the playing of the Star Spangled Banner amidst the uproar.

Kaepernick’s protest intersects with the hot button political topics regarding the status of race relations in America, and the history of protests in the NBA point towards it gaining more momentum when their season tips off. Oklahoma City Thunder guard Victor Oladipo predicted that Kaepernick’s protest will carry over into the NBA season. And why wouldn’t it? All of the most prominent NBA players are black, and they can’t be told to be quiet as some media members have tried to do with Kaepernick. The likes of Lebron James, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul have shown that they will use their popularity and the platform they have earned to speak out on the issues of racial profiling, take their message at the 2016 ESPY’s for example. ESPN allowed them to take the stage to open up the program, which should be taken as a sign of things to come. Kaepernick is just the beginning, these discussions are only getting started.

What I Hope To Cover

For my blog I intend to follow how the media covers controversial topics with a focus on sports.  I will strive to compare the quality of coverage both at a local level (sports talk radio programs such as Felger & Mazz, Dennis & Callahan, Boston Globe, Boston Herald, etc.) as well as on a national level with a focus on comparing the quality and depth of discussion that happens on major daily programs such as Around The Horn and First Take. I will follow two journalists that focus on the media specifically in Chad Finn of Boston.com and the Globe , and Richard Deitsch of Sports Illustrated, and keep an eye on what they are covering. Ultimately, I hope to siphon through the “hot takes” on topics, and determine which ones carry weight and which ones are simply “click bait”.
For example, there will be  difference in the tone of a day time program such as First Take than their would be on a evening program such as Around The Horn. Through this lense I hope to have the ability to give my own opinion on what audience is being catered to, the depth and quality of the discussion, the weight of the opinions being given on these programs through my eyes as well as through the eyes of the target audience. Twitter, specifically the advanced search option, will be a very useful tool in getting a feel for what people are talking about.

Guilty Until Proven Innocent: The Tale of Tom Brady

Training camp is set to take off later this week while hype levels for the defending Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots are uncomfortably low. Malcolm Butler emerged from the shadows to help reassert the Patriots dominance on the league, but that is a secondary headline going into training camp. Reports are that Tom Brady was waiting for the doors at Gillette Stadium to open on Monday morning, three days before he was expected to report to camp, so you tell me if Patriots fans should worry about the end of the debacle that Deflate-gate has morphed into.

Goodell upheld Brady’s suspension, but I truly don’t care about all that. Consistency is not the NFL’s strong suit. Brett Favre wouldn’t turn his cell phone over while being investigated for sending inappropriate pictures to a team reporter and was fined $50,000. And yet, the fact that Brady wouldn’t hand his cell phone over and later destroyed it was Goodell’s most emphasized point when announcing the full suspension being upheld. Does Brady look a little childish, and even a little arrogant for destroying his phone? Sure. Was it a power move? The type of move that a player the NFLPA is ready to rally around would pull? Absolutely. You must remember he wasn’t handing it over regardless. Requesting someone’s personal text messages for a work dispute is a slippery slope, and under no circumstances was Brady required to turn it over.  Brady admitted to having the phone destroyed, and even received documentation that the information from the destroyed phone was permanently gone.  Goodell continues to push the narrative that Brady has damaged the integrity of the game. I think that Goodell knows he has found a formidable match up for his own ego, which he has recently renamed “The Shield”, and will go to war to protect it.  Likewise, the NFLPA has found the perfect case and the perfect player to rally around in hopes of taking steps towards straightening out Goodell’s path of inconsistency and destruction. Goodell wants to punish Brady, so punish him. Give him four games off and see what happens when he comes back. There is still a chance that Brady won’t miss a single game depending on what happens when the NFLPA takes the case to Federal court. Sports Illustrated’s Michael McCann outlined Brady’s options in court here so take a look at that if you want the legal jargon.

One thing is certain, it’s football season. It’s here. We made it folks.  Now let’s look ahead at the 2015-2016 New England Patriots season, by the numbers.

Zero:  The combined amount of fucks Bill Belichick and I give about Deflategate.

1:   The amount of tears that will trickle down my cheek when Brady makes his season debut at Gillette Stadium and the banner is revealed, whenever that might be.

3:  The amount of games the Patriots will lose this season.

5: The amount of rings Tom Brady will leave San Francisco with next February.

6:  By Week 6 the Patriots will be declared dead in the water by the media.

14:  By Week 14 some people will realize the Patriots are poised for a deep playoff run.

25: The amount of times I will realize how much I miss Vince Wilfork this season.

30:  Combined number sacks between the three-headed monster of Chandler Jones, Rob Ninkovich, and Jabaal Sheard.

35:  The Patriots margin of victory over the Colts in Week Six.

240:  Combined number of catches Brandon Lafell, Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola will have.

When I Look At Danny Amendola All I See Is J.D. Drew

The date is October 20th, 2007, in the midst of the American League Championship Series between the Boston Red Sox and the Cleveland Indians. On a brisk fall night at The World’s Most Beloved Ball Park J.D. Drew steps to the plate in the first inning of Game 6 with the bases juiced.

“Oh great. This overpaid, emotionless stiff again. Why couldn’t we have kept Trot Nixon? Now that guy was a dirt dog,” said every Boston Red Sox fan everywhere.

With one swing of the bat all was forgotten.

That’s just how it is sometimes. Replacing a local legend isn’t easy, especially when the legion of fans consider you overpaid, injury prone, and relatively underwhelming. Red Sox fans were comfortable with Trot Nixon. He showed up to work everyday. The Boston “B” on his helmet was barely visible beneath the globs of pine-tar. He was always going to be second in line if Alex Rodriquez or any New York Yankee needed to get put in their place (first in line was Jason Varitek of course). Five years and 70 million dollars later Drew is calling the vast, oddly shaped right field in Fenway home and nobody knew exactly how to feel about it.

Bringing Danny Amendola on board after watching Wes Welker pack his bags and move out to Denver felt a lot like it did with the Nixon to Drew change over. It was not a change that Patriots fans were prepared for. After two full seasons with Amendola on the roster it appears that Julian Edelman was best suited to slide into Welker’s role as Tom Brady’s security blanket. To this point in his Patriots career Amendola has at times appeared to be a waste of a roster spot. But things seem to be changing right before our very eyes.

Saying Amendola showed up in the Divisional round matchup against the Baltimore Ravens would be an understatement, ending the night with five catches for 81 yards and two touchdown’s. Brady appears comfortable with him, and if the Ravens game wasn’t his J.D. Drew “I’m actually kind of glad we have that guy” moment, I expect it to occur this Sunday in the Super Bowl.

If the Seahawks matchup across the field without any major wrinkles in their scheme we will likely see Amendola with the most favorable matchup for most of the game. Brady will seek out Jeremy Lane, a guy who might be not understand what he is up against considering his recent slander of Rob Gronkowski. Lane is an outside corner forced into the slot due to the elite talent the Seahawks have on the outside and Amendola might be the one who draws that matchup most frequently. I expect him to capitalize.

 

 

Andrew Luck Kills You With Kindness

WSJ – Luck has become famous for congratulating – sincerely and enthusiastically – any player to hit him hard. Any sack is met with a hearty congratulations, such as “great job
 or “what a hit!” He yells it after hard hits that don’t result in sacks, too. It is, players say, just about the weirdest thing any quarterback does in the NFL.

It’s stories like this that make me glad the Patriots already took care of the Baltimore Ravens. As fun as it was going into the Ravens game with a pure hatred for the opponent, I can only take that level of stress so often. With Andrew Luck and his delicious neck beard coming to Foxboro I can breathe easy, for I know he will bring plenty of compliments for the opposing team with him and he will leave with a yet another Belichick-induced loss under his belt. At this point the story lines have been worn out but to be quite honest there weren’t many to start with. The best thing about this game will be whether or not Adam Vinatieri can continue his streak of never missing a field goal when it matters most (Thanks Adam!).

The NFL missed out on the always lucrative Patriots/Broncos match-up when Peyton Manning fully developed into a ghost of his former self, with the new version being transparent for a full playoff football game rather than just the second half. Instead we are graced with a Brady vs. Luck match-up, one that to this point has looked a lot like Maximus vs. The Emperor on repeat, with a huge nod to the running game. (Patriots average margin of victory in the past three games vs. The Colts: 26 points.)

It’s not easy to root against Luck and the Indianapolis Colts. Alright maybe that is an exaggeration. Jim Irsay, their owner, is simply a huge dirt bag. But forget that. For now, let’s focus on the good.

Colt’s head coach Chuck Pagano is the type of guy you want to succeed. His battle with cancer in the midst of his first season with the Colts was captivating and inspirational. Members of the team shaved their heads to show their support.  If you haven’t seen his locker room speech during his first visit back to the Colts locker room, you should really take a look. There is just something about that type of thing that captivates me. That’s a big reason it won’t be nearly as fun to watch Tom Brady and the Patriots blow them out of Gillette Stadium this Sunday as it would have been if Peyton Manning was currently packing his Depends for a trip to Foxboro.

Luck might be “next” in the AFC, but Brady is still the line leader. Somewhere in this make-believe AFC Quarterback’s 3rd grade class Big Ben is stuffing Andy Dalton into a locker.

Treat yo self 2014: The Jets are coming to Foxboro.

treat yo self

Tonight we will be a treat yo self night. Every time the Patriots match up with the Jets on Thursday night, it’s fun to watch. Whether its an overtime thriller like it was in 2008 with Matt Cassel at the helm, or a clinic on thegame of football as it was on Thanksgiving night in 2012. Tonight, it should be more than that. Tonight should be officially known as Treat Yo Self 2014.

So what exactly will we be treated too tonight? The Jets are a 24 hour soap opera and the Patriots look like a tea
m on a mission that is finally putting it together.  I will get this out of the way now, Jerod Mayo is done for the season and potentially has played his last game as a Patriot. He could take the good old “Patriots discount” next offseason if he wants, but there is no way Bill Belichick will take that 10+ million dollar cap-hit for a player coming surgery on his torn patellar-tendon. Mayo could agree to restructure, he seems like that type of player, but it will be interesting to watch.

The loss of Stevan Ridley hurts me as a fan and a human being. The guy was 25 years-old and in the final year of his rookie contract. Patriots fan follow Belichick’s lead in chastising his habit of fumbling at the absolute worst times, but at the end of the day he was a running back with the perfect running style for this offense and the skill set to be a stud. The guy rushed for 1,200+ yards in 2012, his sophomore season as a 3rd round pick. I hope to see him back in a Patriots uniform next year and for a few after that. (And i wouldn’t mind seeing someone overpay Shane Vereen.) Now he is entering free agency as a guy who will get half the money he deserves because he is coming off ACL and MCL reconstruction.

But anyway, tonight will be a treat yo self night for these four reasons.

Darelle Revis will be a man on a mission.

First game against the Jets? I smell a swift kick to the nuts coming their way. It will be directed at Jets owner Woody Johnson, someone who just didn’t appreciated Revis the way he should have. This offseason during the few hours that he was a free agent he never got a call from the Jets. He was interested, Rex Ryan was interested, but Woody Johnson wasn’t. t And a pick six is on the horizon. What better night than Ty Law Appreciation Night for Revis to take it to a whole new level?

Gronk

As a whole it seems that Rob Gronkowski doesn’t get the respect he deserves across the league. Injury prone is the word that is usually attached to him, but man is he a force on the field. For me he is a top 5 target in the NFL. Few players have the ability to stretch a defense in the ways that Gronk does.

Vince Wilfork doing his thing

If you don’t take a few plays every night to appreciate Vince Wilfork every game you should start too. The guy eats double teams for a living. That doesn’t mean he can’t get moving when he needs too though. One of the last true nose tackles in the NFL, a dying breed, but he can do it all. He and opposing center Nick Mangold are not strangers either. Expect some trash talk, and a classic battle between two seasoned veterans.

Jonas Gray

With so many questions about the Patriots backfield i can’t picture Brandon Bolden sliding in to get the bulk of the carries and i don’t know if they view Vereen as an every down back. If Gray is on the 46 man roster game tonight he won’t be riding pine. I can see him coming out of nowhere with the Patriots bringing back some of that power running style they used with good old Lagarrette Blount. At 5’10” and 225 pounds Gray will not be easy to bring down in the rain, especially with James Devlin leading the way.

Prediction

Patriots 31 Jets 3. I hate picking big Patriots wins, but tonight is going to be one. The Jets are a team with serious problems that go deeper than the roster, and i’m not sure the familiarity of division rivals will matter. It should be a fun game to watch.

Trade Deadline Red Sox Reset

The 2014 Boston Red Sox are one of the most frustrating teams to watch in recent memory. I almost feel guilty critiquing them after the 2013 championship run, so I have chosen to give them a pass, and put my trust in the ownership group. It’s silly to critique an ownership group like the John Henry trio. They are always putting a plan in motion, in a way they are a lot like the Celtics with Danny “Trader Danny” Ainge at the helm. While franchises like the Patriots and Bruins have a rock solid structure, the Celtics and Red Sox are constantly adapting to trends.

Maybe they are packing it in this year. The things that went well for them in the 2013 World Series season (Nava / Gomes platoon being ultra effective, Victorino playing way above his pay grade, Buchholz not throwing extended batting practice every fifth day) have blown up directly in their face.  Brock Holt has been a catalyst for this lineup, which is great and horrible at the same time. You can’t rely on Holt to be Jacoby Ellsbury at the top of the lineup. Eventually he will turn back into Brock Holt. Don’t be surprised if he hits below .275 the rest of the way out. He might finish the season at a respectable .285, but it will be due to the inflated first half. Obviously, Holt isn’t the problem. The Legend of Brock Holt is one of those tall tales that would be way cooler if it was taking place during a season when we weren’t relying on it to keep us hovering seven games under .500 all season. Jake Peavy left the Sox with nine losses, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. In all nine of his losses he received more than three runs of support zero times. He let up five earned runs or more in four of those losses. However, he had five no decisions with two earned runs or less.

It doesn’t matter how you look at this season. Anyway you slice it, has been bad. The team has been easy to root for, but tough to watch. That almost makes it harder than a season like 2012 when you could choose to not watch the games as a form of rebellion. Last year was supposed to be a bridge year but it ended up being a championship season. It wasn’t a fluke by any means, it was just a perfect storm of overachieving player’s, beards, and chemistry. Maybe this year is the real bridge year.

The Red Sox have a plan, and it should involve Jon Lester. Don’t say, “They need to stop acting like they are spending on a Minnesota budget” because they aren’t. The Lester debacle is unique in that they took “hometown discount” to a new level with the low-ball 4-year $70 million offer in Spring Training. That was nearly disrespectful, yet he remains loyal to the city of Boston. Lester continuously says this is where he wants to be. As a skeptic of any quotes that comes from an athlete’s mouth during a contract year, I wholeheartedly believe Lester.

There are guys like David Ortiz who you love because he is an entertainer. He is a larger than life character who will crush a fastball, flip his bat, and drags his nuts around the bases going at a snail like pace (I’m looking at you Chris Archer).

You love Jon Lester because he is the kind of guy you would want your son to emulate in Little League. A very abbreviated version of his story goes something like this. In 2006 Lester was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin Lymphoma, a treatable cancer. He returned during the 2007 season only to became the third starter in baseball history to get his first postseason win in the clinching game of a World Series, which is kind of admirable.. But most of all you are drawn to Lester because he seems genuine when he talks so glowingly about the Red Sox franchise. Maybe he has a different outlook on life than most athletes who haven’t come back from a bout with cancer. Boston was there for him during what was likely his lowest moment. Outside of his role on the 2012 “Bobby Valentine Variety Show” Red Sox, he has been everything a fan, a teammate, a coach, or an owner could want. Regardless of what happens in the next two days I firmly believe Jon Lester will be in a Red Sox uniform in 2015.

Optimism as a Red Sox fan is still new to most. Three World Series’s in a decade should have done a lot to change that, but it hasn’t. Be patient, wait until next year, because this offseason should be huge. Giancarlo Stanton will be on the market, there are a few big arms set to hit free agency, and Ben Cherington should be making serious moves. After the 2015 season the Red Sox don’t have any big money left on the books other than Pedroia, Ortiz, and Buchholz. If there is a player out there that they have their eye on, they won’t hesitate to open up the check book.