Friday, January 31, 2014

'Bout That Action

"'Bout that action, boss."
-Marshawn Lynch, when asked why he's not talking more at the Super Bowl

Yes, the action indeed, Marshawn. Speaking of action, there is some this weekend, and lately, some daily action in the markets which are making for some interesting times. Let's start with the game and how these teams got there.

The NFC Championship game was just awesome. Carroll and Harbaugh took what they knew from college, which is, the team with the biggest baddest dudes win. Basically the front seven of both teams are filled with freakish monsters. Throw in safeties and tight ends like Vernon Davis (perhaps the baddest monster of them all) and Kam Chancellor, and there's going to be some action. Seattle won, but San Francisco outplayed them for most of the game and in the future Kaepernick might choose Boldin/Davis against Not Sherman for that last throw. Taking into account Seattle's huge home field advantage, the real contest might be won by regular season standings. Last year Seattle traveled as a Wild Card and this year San Francisco was attempting to win its third road playoff game.

The AFC Championship game was a joke. Tom Brady's Band of Midgets/The Genius' All Big East Secondary against Manning's Monsters at altitude. Yeah, this was going to be close. The takeaway here is not the winner. It's the hubris of Belichick and Kraft for letting players like Richard Seymour and Wes Welker go and thinking you can replace them with dead bodies from the morgue. Winning 11 games with Matt Cassel was probably the worst thing that ever happened to the Patriots, because it made Belichick think he could carry four guys from Rutgers and Hofstra in his secondary. Really? I can tell you, as a Big East alum, that our football sucks (Yes, Rutgers is now in the AAC, but they'll always be Schiano's crappy Big East team to me! Nice hire by the way, Tampa.). There are exceptions, but I don't see Darrelle Revis among this bunch, let alone four of him. Maybe guys like Mike McCarthy, who screwed the 49ers by choosing Alex Smith over Aaron Rodgers when he was San Francisco's OC, or Belichick, men who have fallen ass backwards into the best quarterback situations in NFL history, think they can get away with this kind of crap. And for twelve games or so every year, they can. But come playoff time, when your defense's best play is giving up a six-yard draw and you've given Tom Brady a 5'6" former option QB (1. No way Edelman is 5'10" and 2. Julian, you're still my hero!) as his best receiver, you deserve to get pummeled.

Take away also that while Denver seemingly moved at will in their playoff games, they managed to average just 25 points/game (13 less than during the regular season, at home, against pretty bad defenses), while Seattle's punt, punt, punt, TD offense averaged 23 points/game. And Denver hasn't played a defense remotely like Seattle's, so things should get interesting.

The market is also full of action, content to blast off or tank on alternating days while individual stocks make double-digit moves during earnings. I suspect Yellen has already been handed the Bernanke playbook and if we keep heading down, she'll be quick to include language in the Fed minutes about slowing us down some tapering or how fragile the economy is. Yellen wasn't chosen because she's tough on the printing presses. My one solution, and one that should have been evident from either the fix of March 09' or the Buffett infusion, is BAC. I know, thanks for the reco when it was at $2, but I still think there's plenty of time. I have been in short-term calls several times over the last few years as the stock kept rising, but now I am committed. Bad news has been good news for the stock, and good news has been even better. As BAC continues to grow while shedding mortgage liability and avoiding some of the JPM type missteps, I think the steady rise will continue. I own Jan 16' calls at several strikes. Enjoy the game.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Get a Grip on (or) Ghosts of Girlfriends Past

I actually heard Mark Schlereth, one of the more well-spoken ESPN former athletes/talking heads, insist that the NFL has about the same percentage of criminals as any other company, about 1%. His partner, another former NFL player, quickly agreed with him as they rationalized this comment under the guise of "increased visibility." The NFL has about 1500 dudes. The company I work for has about 1500 dudes. Since the Super Bowl ended, there have been about 30 arrests of NFL players and draft picks. That's 2%, Mark. Two of those arrests were for murder, and in case we forgot, Jovan Belcher of the Kansas City Chiefs was deprived of the opportunity to be arrested because he committed suicide after definitely murdering his daughter and girlfriend.

Maybe I work for a model employer, or maybe there is a massive cover-up going on within my national company, but I think you would be hard pressed to compare the arrest rates and type of crime being committed by the employees of the two organizations, or, any other organization of similar size in the country. I was more than a little surprised to hear such an ignorant statement come out of someone not named Wilbon or Bayless.

But separating yourself from long-held beliefs can be difficult, even in the face of overwhelming evidence. Take the NBA Finals for example. Context becomes important when analyzing events. The two former NBA player/analysts were imploring Lebron James to shoot more at all costs, damn the results. Rose and Magic cringed at every loss, rooting for LJ with every launched jumper. The other two analysts flanking the pros were Wilbon and Simmons.

We've already documented all you need to know about Wilbon. He's the guy who didn't vote for Barry Sanders for the Heisman "because he played in a cornfield." So you know from the start that his ability to identify the best player is nonexistent. Throw in the fact that he's from Chicago and the Jordan bias becomes so thick that even Magic has to shut him up every few sentences.

But Simmons' response was a bit more puzzling. The same guy who has created a place for thoughtful and intelligent writing ranging from Bob Dylan anecdotes to All-22 type breakdowns of the Patriots running game in the form of Grantland, curled up into a mid-80s fog of Larry Bird references and retread Emmitt Smith-like titles make you better arguments. The disgust he and Wilbon demonstrated after Game 6 were not for the lost opportunities for Tim Duncan and the Spurs' Way, but for the Spurs failure to crush Lebron.  This continued through post-game interviews in Game 7, a game in which Lebron had pretty clearly the best elimination game performance in finals history. A performance that was nearly derailed by the following.

In what could only be called a Tim Donaghy moment, the refs called a lane violation on the Heat in the third quarter, negating a made Lebron free throw (yes, he should've had 38 points). This is a call that rarely sees action in the regular season, let alone a nail-biting Game 7 of the finals. Up two (not three due to the bogus call) with less than a minute to play, Mario Chalmers puts up a few Shaq-like free throws and instead of sealing the win, we are left to wonder if a Spurs fix/Heat collapse, is inevitable. Instead, Lebron swishes a jumper (after getting fouled first by Parker) with 27 seconds left and throws in a steal and two more free throws to end the game.  As Jeff Van Gundy vomits (his bitterness towards the Heat for firing his brother is not hard to pick up on) all over Mike Breen, Simmons and Wilbon hit their delete keys for their pre-written Lebron choke columns.

But the final minute of Game 7 was hardly a microcosm of all Lebron did to win that series. He hit the game winner in Game 6 also.  He blocked Tim Duncan for the third time in the series.  At the start of Game 6, Lebron, as he did in Game 7 of the Pacers series by taking George, simply volunteered to guard Ginobli and Parker. Ginobli was so incapable of even dribbling against LJ, that he was removed from the game after four minutes before proceeding to have the worst game of his life. Without Manu (runner-up Heat MVP) in the game, James switched to Parker over the next seven quarters. Parker, who before the series Rose had praised as a top-five NBA player, and elevated to "maybe top-three" after his multiple travel, Hail Mary bankshot to seal Game 1, was never heard from again. He shot 9-35 in those last two games, and was swallowed by Lebron. The prevailing wisdom that James would fatigue chasing Parker around screen after screen now seems laughable as Parker was literally unable to finish the last two games.  He was seen sucking air on the bench during the most crucial times of both games while Lebron destroyed the Spurs late despite playing 50 minutes in Game 6.

Oh yeah, one more thing. Three of the Heat's top 6 rotation guys scored zero points in Game 7.  Zeeeerrrrooooo. Bosh, Allen, and Miller made no shots. And yet, they somehow still won.  Please show me a game in which James Worthy and Kareem aided Magic with zero points. Please show me a game in which McHale and Parrish secured a championship by scoring zero. And I'm sure Jordan played a game in which Pippen and Kerr, with a little help from Kukoc, scored zero.

Simmons was willing to concede after the series that James could now enter the discussion of Top 10 ever, you know, maybe comparable to (his hero) Bird. The same Bird who played with like five other HOFers. But Jordan? How dare Magic even mention it. Jordan had to match up on super scorers like uh, who did he guard? Hornacek? Russell (Byron, not Bill)? Hersey Hawkins? Oh, that's right, he had Rodman and Pippen for that.  The three-man zone the Spurs employed against James? As Grantland pointed out, this would've caused opposing defenses to be called for about 80 technicals against the Bulls because zone defense was simply illegal when Jordan played.  Does James somehow lose credibility by leading easily the worst NBA finals team ever at age 22?  Better to just get basted out of the playoffs every year like the pre-Jackson Jordan did for his first five years than make a run?

So whether it's defending the league that gave you everything or your childhood heroes (even the ones that punch their teammates in the face), nostalgia tends to cloud reality. As the commercial says,
nostalgia is dumb.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Start Your Engines

Can we get the chemicals in
Cause anything's better than this
Mix it up with Vicodin
Cause anything's better than this...
The city is dying
(at least to me)
The city is dead now
(my kingdom for a friend)
From Company by Third Eye Blind

Please watch this before proceeding:

Welcome to the world of Emergency Medicine.  The funniest thing about this video is that anyone who has worked in the ER or clinic has heard all of this before.  It's all true!  Recently when I informed a patient that I was fully aware that they had received 90 Vicodins a mere 5 days ago and that doctor shopping was a felony, the response was,
"Anyway, I'm going to need some Vicodin or my money back."
"What if you wanted methadone or coke, should I write that too?"
Pause while they actually consider this as a serious question...
"No, that's crazy!  Just the Vicodin."

When I volunteered in Mississippi after the hurricanes, we set up clinics at local churches to provide free medical exams and hand out samples of antibiotics.  By mid-morning of the first day we were forced to post signs that said "No Lortab or controlled substances." Most of the patients standing in lines ten-deep turned around and left.

When I was in high school, I didn't know anyone who did more than smoke a little pot, let alone know where to get anything stronger.  Some of my younger co-workers (not far removed from high school) have told me that coke, Xanax, and basically any controlled substance have been readily available to them since 7th grade. Yeah, that's a problem.

Now to the weekend.  While the Clevelander in me will always root for the Ravens to crash and burn, I'm convinced that the 49ers defense is overrated.  Not in the way that the Ravens old-man D has been for years, but overrated nonetheless.  I believe we have a case of several players achieving Pro Bowl status due to the super studs carrying their load right next to them (i.e. Bowman and A. Smith).  That's why any line over three would scare me a little on the 49ers.  However, until you play the 9ers, I think it's impossible to account for their option in a consistent manner.  That and Kaepernick has a gun.  So in order, thanks to America's willingness to bet on anything, I would consider the following:

Longest FG O/U 44.5-In a dome?  With the kicker who has made the longest FG in NFL history on one side and a rookie bomber on the other, over easy.

Will there be a 4th down conversion-Will there be a sibling rivalry full of testosterone-juiced cojones with two guys who like to gamble in a normal game?  Please, yes.

Longest Punt O/U 57.5-Last report I saw had Andy Lee (Go Pitt!) kicking balls off the roof of the Superdome.  Dome.  Over.

Good luck and enjoy.  Ferry for Red Bull Island leaves around 2.

                      Football shaped RumChata pancakes

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Rolling With My Bronies

So it's come down to this. It's not new but it's new for me; grown men watching My Little Pony on the Hub network. Not because their children love it, not because it's nostalgic for their wives, but because it lets them escape reality for 30 minutes once a week. When my wife told me about this I thought it was a joke, but I see multiple websites and blogs dedicated to this "phenomenon." 

I've occasionally seen my four-year-old watching the show and thought hey, there's a cute little show about horses.  I never thought that instead of talking about football or even playing a war game online, some grown men would see this and say, "let's talk about fantasy unicorns and how that allows us to not be men or husbands or earthlings for half an hour."  I see this on an everyday basis; people who are just out of touch and want to check out.  "Friendship may be magic," but there's nothing magical about what this says about the state of our society.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Coin Toss

China slowing (really slowing), Germany slowing, and the U.S. has slowed to half the predicted growth of our finest economist.  Market down 8 out of last 11 days, money outflows continue to be the trend (no volume), and yet, we remain near the highs of the year.  We have to look no further than the next 6 days where Draghi and BB will spew the promises of prosperity that can only come with more money.  Sorry, Greece, you're out.  But the rest of the kids can put $2 in the iTunes box for 3 more songs.  Yeah, it used to be 3 for a $1 but remember, we don't have inflation.

Never mind warnings from little companies like Caterpillar and FedEx about the world coming to an end, pre-announcing after 1 more earnings pump.  No, it's out of our hands now.  We'll know soon enough whether or not we should only own shiny stuff and companies named Apple.

In the meantime, football is back to save us from the Orioles once-a-decade success and the inversely correlated Tiger Woods hate-o-meter/golf score ramblings.  Living in South Florida and having seen Hard Knocks, you can safely bet against the Dolphins every week and with The Pack after week 6.  These events, fortunately, have no correlation with the Fed.

Sunday, June 10, 2012


"That day in Chicago, why did you stand up?"
"Because I didn't want to see you fail."
Glenn Close to Robert Redford in The Natural

I dislike basketball, especially professional basketball, almost in its entirety.  But I am oddly drawn to the recent playoffs for one reason, Lebron James.  Much of the reason I root for James is because he's from my hometown (almost, Akron is close enough) and because he single handedly reinvigorated sports in Cleveland at a time when C-town was (and still is) in perpetual decline.  But there's something else.  Game 6 aside, I am continually amazed that we are confronted with an obvious situation of someone being clearly the best at something in the entire world without its recognition and even a disdain that we haven't seen for another in sports since Barry Sanders.

The measuring stick that haunts them both is team success.  Odd, considering their peers consider them without peer across the board.  But we are relegated to the opinions of beer-gutted, balding pseudo-ESPN personalities who deem themselves final arbiters of greatness.  So in the way the we ignored Sanders perpetually making a 3-win team a playoff contender, we ignore James making first a 30-win team a finals contender, and now, the Heat perpetual championship contenders.  Maybe that's why, as with Sanders' comparisons to Jim Brown, that Lebron's performance is compared to Wilt, because nothing in between has been as good.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Ain't No Way

It's harder to tell these days what's more fixed, the NBA playoffs or the market.  It's as if Tim Donaghy or Bruno Iksil are the real villains.  Sure, they're both criminals, but they served much more evil masters.  Donaghy admitted to fixing games but said you're crazy if you think I'm the only one.  As L. Jon Wertheim and Tobias Moskowitz mentioned in their book, Scorecasting, one NBA assistant coach told the broadcasters before a game, "ain't no way we're winning this motherfucker."

Its' not hard to see that in Miami the same intentional foul on Lebron James gets two shots and the ball and the next game in Boston it's not even called a foul.  The same goes for the likes of Jamie Dimon and "old Wall St." as Hedgeye is fond of calling them.  CDS trades are alive and well and earnings and growth forecasts remain unchanged while entire countries are literally collapsing.  We are again at zero for the year after Friday's collapse.

My advice? Either stay away entirely or embrace the horror because the casino is open for business.  If short, stay very short through etfs or weekly options because the day will come, and it will come after the market closes, where global money printing is announced.  This may not pre-date Greek elections, but that's only 2 weeks away.  If you were to avoid this market altogether, no one would fault you.