Friday, December 29, 2017

The Last Growl

I started this blog over 8 years ago. Frequent readers may have noticed the number of posts has decreased during the last few years. I’ve been pondering the blog’s future for awhile, and after 719 posts, including this one, and over 240,000 page views, I’ve decided it’s time to close up shop, sign off one last time, and retire from the blogosphere.

It’s not because this heart transplant recipient’s health is failing. On the contrary - I’m approaching the 11th anniversary of my transplant and am still doing great. God continues to bless me tremendously.

The decision boils down to one thing – The Sheepdog is weary, and he’s weary for a number of reasons.

First, Google’s Blogger platform has become unreliable. More and more frequently, something doesn’t work correctly, some font has changed, a sidebar tool has been discontinued, a plug-in has failed, or some other aggravating issue has arisen whenever I log in to write. For example. when I wrote this post, the Zemanta plug-in I've used for years had stopped working .... again. I guess I really shouldn’t be surprised, because Blogger is free. Therefore, Google has no incentive to keep it functioning at a high level. It’s the ol’ “you get what you pay for”.

Second, I’m not feeling the motivation to write the blog anymore, which is fueled somewhat by the Blogger issues mentioned above. I could switch to another platform, such as Wordpress, but I’m just not willing to build the site again, nor pay for the service. Sometimes over the last few years, I actually had to force myself to write just to keep the blog active. I’ve had enough of that, too. I’ve read a few articles and studies which have shown that blog readership is declining. Some of that is due to the popularity of Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms. People just aren’t as interested in reading blogs anymore. Based upon my pageviews declining and no comments on posts, it appears these studies are correct.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Rule #4

Rule #4 -

Credit - ClipArt Panda

"I can get by
 with a little help from my friends."

Joe Cocker - 1968

Monday, October 9, 2017

Thanks Jan

"Vixen" album cover - via Wikipedia user Weatherman90 (here)
In 2012, the original members of Vixen, Jan Kuehnemund, Janet Gardner, Roxy Petrucci, and Share Pedersen (now Ross), were in the final stages of a planned band reunion. Then, in January 2013 just days before they were going to make an official announcement, Jan, the band's founder, was diagnosed with cancer. She fought the disease for nearly a year, but unfortunately passed away October 10, 2013, 4 years ago tomorrow, and the band's and its fans dreams of a complete reunion of it's original lineup never came to fruition.

Today's Music Monday is in memory of Jan and the great music she left us with. Told that an all-female heavy metal band would never make it, she and her bandmates were determined to prove the naysayers wrong, and man, did they ever.

Both of today's music videos are of songs from the bands debut self-titled album, Vixen, released in 1988. They both feature Jan's guitar playing and provide some great memories for her fans, including me, of her doing what she loved - playing her guitar. She was a talented guitarist.

Video #1 is of "Love Made Me" (embedded below or can be enjoyed here). Video #2 is of "Cryin' " which was filmed live at MTV's 1989 New Years Eve special (embedded below or enjoy it here).

Friday, October 6, 2017

Delaware Outlaws Discrimination In Organ Transplantation

Recently, Delaware Governor John Carney signed into law a bill banning discrimination in organ transplantation based upon a person's disability. Thanks to Gov. Carney and the Delaware legislature, the state is now the 6th in the U.S. to outlaw such practices.

English: A collection of pictograms. Three of ...
English: A collection of pictograms. Three of them used by the United States National Park Service. A package containing those three and all NPS symbols is available at the Open Icon Library (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I know from experience that there are a number of criteria by which a patient is evaluated in order to determine if a person is a suitable organ transplant candidate. This bill specifically prohibits a person's disability from being the reason they are denied transplant services and / or considered for transplant.

Rep. Debra Heffernan, the legislation's sponsor, said, "With this bill in place, families will have peace of mind and know that their loved one with a disability has the right to be treated fairly when they are undergoing the extremely taxing process of pursuing a life-saving transplant."

Governor Carney added, "A true measure of the commitment of government to the people is how well it addresses the needs of those who are living with disabilities. By signing this legislation into law, we are taking action to ensure individuals with disabilities have access to organ transplant procedures."

I agree with both of them wholeheartedly, and I implore Congress and President Trump to keep this non-discrimination theme in mind as they continue to work on the repeal and replace of ObamaCare.  The pre-existing conditions protection MUST be kept in place in whatever piece of legislation they ultimately agree on. Any discrimination to healthcare access is immoral and must be banned, because it ultimately leads to lives being needlessly lost.

I have 1 question in regards to Delaware's new legislation. Why do ONLY 6 states have such a law in place? Shame on the other 44 of you. Every state should have such a law on the books. I call upon the governors and legislators in the 44 states who have no such law to get to work and get it done.

Read More: article - "Gov. Carney Signs Bill Banning Organ Transplant Discrimination" 

Monday, September 11, 2017

What If Today Was Your Last Day?

What if today was your last day?

September 11th. Today, we're remembering that dreadful day. It's likely that at some point today, you've thought about what you were doing when you heard the news. I know I have. I remember it like it was yesterday.

I was still working full-time and was about halfway through my battle with heart disease. I arrived at work a few minutes before 8 a.m. and was just settling in. The report came over my radio that a small plane had flown into the World Trade Center. Next report said, no - it was an airliner. So, I thought, "How does an airliner accidentally fly into a building that tall? How could the pilot not see it?" Then, the shock, disbelief, and horror set in when the next report said it had been done intentionally. It was terrorism.

What if today was your last day?

CNN breaking the news of a plane crash at the ...
CNN breaking the news of a plane crash at the World Trade Center (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Just like myself, millions of Americans went to work that day like any other weekday. We expected to come home to our families that night, have dinner, watch some TV, go to bed, and get up and do it again the following day. Unfortunately, several thousand of them did not have that opportunity, because of the hate within 19 evil men.

What if today was your last day?

The thousands who perished in the towers, the Pentagon, or serving as first responders and crew members on those planes had no idea what their day had in store for them. Neither did their families who saw their worlds changed forever in the blink of an eye, as did millions of us watching on TV. We will never be the same even though it happened 16 years ago.

Today's Music Monday is a special one as we remember. It has the opportunity to be the most powerful, positive, motivational, life-changing post I've ever been inspired to do on this blog, if we let it. My hope is that it makes you think and changes us all in a good way.

What if today was your last day?

Nickelback has received a lot of criticism over the years, much of it deserved, due to the racy music lyrics in some of their songs. However, "If Today Was Your Last Day" contains none of that. The band absolutely nailed it with the lyrics in this song. If you've never heard it, you are in for a treat. You may even want to share it with friends and family.

The song should make us think about what's really important. If you've heard some of the band's criticism, I encourage you to put it aside and take the time to watch today's music video. Listen carefully to the lyrics and think about what the band is saying. I think you'll find that even an ol' rock band can provide some thoughtful insight and wisdom every now and then. Don't write it off just because it's Nickelback. You'll be cheating yourself if you do. It could be the best 4 minutes of your day. Don't judge a book by it's cover or a song by the name of the band.

One other thing - watch the video all the way through. At the beginning, you may think, "This doesn't look good. This is gonna end badly." I thought the same thing and got a pleasant surprise. You will, too. Just trust The Sheepdog on this one. You'll thank me later.

Video is embedded below or can be watched by clicking here.

To the families of all who lost loved ones that day, my prayers continue to go out to you. To all the military families who have lost loved ones fighting the war against terrorism, thank you for your sacrifice.

To the rest of us, I'll ask again - what if today was your last day?

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Transplant Recipient Realizes Her Dream

In 2011, Arlinda Griffin had been on the transplant waiting list for nearly 3 years. Due to severe diabetes, she was nearly blind and desperately needed a kidney and pancreas transplant. When Eric Smith tragically lost his life in an automobile accident on June 12, 2011, he became a hero to Arlinda, because he was an organ and tissue donor who saved her life and the lives of several others. Eric also helped many through tissue donation.

English: Citizens Bank Park view from Pavilion...
English: Citizens Bank Park view from Pavilion Deck (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
After Arlinda received her transplant, she became friends with Eric's mom, Mary Smith. As their friendship grew, Arlinda confided in her that she had a lifelong dream of singing the national anthem at a Philadelphia Phillies baseball game. Once learning of Arlinda's dream, Mary went to work to make it happen.

On July 29th, during the Phillies' annual Gift of Life organ donation awareness night, Arlinda accomplished the dream, the goal, she had kept to herself since her childhood. After escorting Arlinda onto the field for the national anthem, Mary was in tears as Arlinda became the first organ transplant recipient to sing the national anthem at Citizens Bank Park saying, "I'm hoping that people attending the game will appreciate the value of being an organ donor."

There are approximately 117, 000 Americans currently on the transplant waiting list. One is added about every 10 minutes. Today, around 20 Americans will run out of time waiting and die leaving behind spouses, children, fiancees, parents, siblings, and friends. To break the numbers down a little further, 1 American dies about every hour to hour and a half. In my opinion, that's inexcusable when the solution to ending this needless dying is as simple as all Americans voluntarily registering as organ and tissue donors.

To learn how to register as a donor, please visit Donate Life America's website by clicking here.

It won't take but about 2 minutes of your time, so to borrow a phrase from Nike, "Just Do It!"

Read More: - see article on titled "Singing the Gift of Life At the Phillies Game"

Related articles:

Monday, July 17, 2017

Thanks Chris

When I moved to Middle Tennessee in 1993, Nashville had the best rock station on the face of the planet - WKDF. It didn't matter when you listened or what song was on, it was good stuff. Their song rotation ranged from hard rock, to '70s classic rock, to southern rock, to '80s hair / glam metal, and even grunge. It was awesome. Then, one day around 1 p.m., I returned to the office from lunch and found that it was over - WKDF had switched to country. It went from awesome to totally sucking. I wanted to loose my lunch. I hate country music. It hurts my ears. It's like fingernails screeching across a chalkboard.

Chris Cornell of Soundgarden and Audioslave
Chris Cornell of Soundgarden and Audioslave (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I'm sure that like everything else, it was about money, but ever since, Nashville has been without a good radio station. If you're a rocker, your choices are Jack FM or The Rock. I guess Jack is ok if you like having a song by Guns 'N Roses, Metallica, or .38 Special followed by Michael Jackson or Madonna. Yuck. I guess The Rock is ok if you want to hear The Beatles, The Clash, Rush, or Led Zeppelin every third song, but I don't. However, a critique of Nashville rock radio is not the purpose of this post.

It was on WKDF where I first heard Soundgarden and frontman Chris Cornell during the grunge explosion of the early to mid-'90s. Mixing that band and Nirvana, Stone Temple Pilots, Pearl Jam, and Alice In Chains in with the other rock genres mentioned above was the norm. In fact, nearly 5 years ago, I posted a Music Monday double shot of my two favorite Soundgarden hits - "Black Hole Sun" and "Fell On Black Days" (here). Loved those songs in the '90s and still do today. Arguably, the 2 best ballads to come out of the grunge era.

Back in May, we lost Chris Cornell. He was a talented musician. In the time since, I've read several articles surrounding his death. Some were done in good taste and some in poor. There are many who knew him well and miss him dearly, and it is my belief that the rest of us should remember Chris for the music he left us with, instead of the way he left us.

Therefore, as a memorial to Chris, today's Music Monday is Soundgarden's "Spoonman", which is about a street performer who plays spoons - not a guitar or drums, but spoons. The song's music video can be watched by clicking here and is also embedded below.

Thanks for the music, Chris.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The Sheepdog's Pick Is In

I doubt anyone is as ready as I am for football season to get started. I've already spent some time working on fantasy football draft boards and may have watched more of the 2017 NFL Draft than any others of my lifetime. Mainly, I was not only interested in which team would pick Florida State running back Dalvin Cook, but I just missed football. I think there are a number of teams that passed on Cook who will eventually realize they made a HUGE mistake.

National Football League Draft
National Football League Draft (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Back in March, I wrote an article expressing my opinion and displeasure with the direction I perceived the Pittsburgh Steelers to be headed in, and, that after 40 years of following them, I was ready to move on. In my opinion, today's Steelers have left their blue collar roots. In fact, regarding the Steelers, I suspect my feelings are similar to Ronald Reagan's when he said, "I didn't leave the Democratic Party, The Democratic Party left me." Well, I'm not leaving the Steelers, the Steelers have left me. Click here to read my article if you missed it.

In the 3 months since I wrote that article, I don't feel that things have gotten any better in Pittsburgh. For instance, one drama queen, Antonio Brown, has now been given a mega contract, which I expect will only encourage even more drama queenness from him, and the other drama queen, Le'Veon Bell, is sitting out OTA's, basically pouting, in order to wrangle a mega contract of his own out of the Steelers. My opinion is that just as it was a mistake to pay Brown, it would be an even bigger mistake to pay Bell with his injury history and being suspended for parts of 2 seasons for violations of the NFL's substance abuse policy. I think that paying both of them will finish sinking the organization. However, I suspect that eventually the Steelers will give in and do so. Personally, I would have traded both of them prior to the draft. Some sucker would have given a minimum of a 2nd round pick for each, and likely a 1st.

About a week after I wrote the Steelers' article, I posted another ranking and explaining which teams I was considering moving to. Click here to read that article. There were 6 on the list ranked as follows:
  1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
  2. Oakland Raiders
  3. Indianapolis Colts
  4. Arizona Cardinals
  5. Atlanta Falcons
  6. Detroit Lions
Oakland Raiders logo
Oakland Raiders logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Today, I'll share which team I picked, but honestly, the rankings didn't change much. Detroit stayed at 6, and Atlanta at 5. However, Oakland dropped from 2 down to 4. Why? Honestly, I grew weary of the drama regarding the move to Las Vegas. I also have concerns that even though a Raiders move to Vegas has a nice ring to it and is kinda cool, it's riddled with problems. For example, the city of Oakland now hates the team and wants it gone sooner rather than later, and according to a couple of articles I've read about the Las Vegas stadium financing deal, I can't help but wonder if a crash and burn might be coming. Another question is after a promising 2016, prior to Derek Carr's injury, will the distraction of the move prove too much for this young team to handle and 2017, and the years to come, be a disappointment in terms of not living up to expectations?

Overall, the Raiders dropped, because after getting sick of all the Steelers' drama, I've had enough of it. Been there. Done that. I just want people to shut up and play football.

Monday, May 8, 2017

A Double Dose of Rebellion on Music Monday

English: Flag of the Assembly of Tennessee
English: Flag of the Assembly of Tennessee (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The Sheepdog is rather perturbed. In fact, I've had it with the Republican-controlled Tennessee Legislature and Governor "Slick Billy" Haslam. Since they've taken power, they've insisted on telling Tennesseans how much allergy medication we can buy, where we can and can't carry our guns, where we can take a selfie, and more. I could go on and on. That's not freedom, and it needs to stop.

So, today, I'm musically expressing my continued displeasure with these bums, and I'll start with a music video from Monster Truck. Their song "Don't Tell Me How To Live" is a good way to start this double shot of music on the 2nd Monday in May. The video is embedded below or can be watched by clicking here.

Hang on, though, this video is like the "warm-up band" at a rock concert. The Sheepdog's just getting started. The best, "the headliner", is below.

The previous grievances I've had with the Tennessee Legislature and the governor are not my biggest problem with them, though. Recently, these so-called "conservatives" rammed through what will turn out to be the biggest tax increase on Tennesseans in my lifetime. These liars, with the help of the media and fuzzy math, conned many Tennesseans into believing it is "The Largest Tax Cut in Tennessee History".

Nothing could be further from the truth, because the few taxes that are cut in the legislation will only benefit a few, mainly the wealthy, and the cut in the sales tax on food will be far outweighed by the increase in the gas tax and the diesel fuel tax. In fact, the increase in the diesel fuel tax will force up prices on ALL products sold in Tennessee as transportation and shipping costs will go up across the board and be passed on to consumers. It's basic Economics 101 no matter what the politicians tell you.

So, to thoroughly express my outrage with the Tennessee liars' con-job, "the headliner" on this edition of double-shot music Monday is Nickelback with their #1 hit "Edge Of A Revolution". It's perfect here with images of school kids turning from conformists going along with the status quo into nonconformists refusing to take it anymore.

Until Tennesseans do the same thing and stop voting the same Tennessee politicians back into office every single election, nothing will change. They will continue to do whatever they want to us. Video is embedded below or can be watched by clicking here.

Due to some of the images in the video, I know someone's thinking,"Wow. The Sheepdog's gone full-Commie on us." Absolutely not. Neither am I encouraging rioting in Tennessee. All I'm saying by sharing this video is don't buy into the Tennessee GOP's "mass delusion" that the fuel tax increase will actually be a tax cut, because "they're depending on mass confusion". "Don't lay down and accept this fate." Instead, be revolutionaries with your vote on Election Day 2018 by voting every single, sorry Tennessee incumbent out of office regardless of party.

Don't be a sheep. Be a sheepdog. Let your vote be your teeth. I promise you I will.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Basketball and Transplants

April is organ donation awareness month. With approximately 120,000 Americans currently awaiting a life-saving organ transplant and about 20 of them dying every day waiting, it is good that a former NBA player was recently honored for giving the gift of life to many through organ and tissue donation.

West's silhouette serves as the current NBA logo.
West's silhouette serves as the current NBA logo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Jerome Kersey's life was cut short in 2015 by a blood clot that traveled from his leg to his lung. He was recently honored by Donate Life Northwest at a Portland Trailblazers basketball game. The 17-year NBA vet was a hero in death saving the lives of several, including several children, and giving sight to 4 people through cornea donation.

Kersey's gifts not only helped many people but also give a sense of comfort and peace to his daughter, Kiara, who misses him dearly. "What it means to me personally is my dad's legacy hasn't died and that he's still paying it forward," she said. For the ones Kersey helped, he will always be remembered as a hero.

You can be a hero, too, by registering as an organ and tissue donor. For more information about organ and tissue donation, including how to register in the state where you live, please visit Donate Life America's website by clicking here.

Read more: article - "How One Late NBA Players Simple Choice Is Saving Lives"

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Baseball and Transplants

With the 2017 Major League Baseball Season opener just around the corner, I figured today was a great time to share some good news about Hall of Famer Rod Carew. I remember watching him play for the Minnesota Twins and California Angels (now known as the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim) back when I was a boy. He more than earned his place in the hall of fame.

English: Rod Carew, Panamanian former Mayor Le...
English: Rod Carew, Panamanian former Mayor League Player and Baseball hall of fame member. Photo by Tito Herrera/ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Carew, 71, suffered a heart attack back in September 2015, which led to him having to have blood clots removed and a LVAD (left ventricular assist device) implanted to aid the pumping function of his heart after the damage from the heart attack. However, thanks to his new, healthy heart, the LVAD is no longer needed.

After spending 7 weeks away from home for the transplant surgery and subsequent recovery, Carew is doing great. In fact, he's feeling so good that he wanted to attend spring training in Florida. However, it was not possible as a person is not allowed to fly for at least 3 months after transplant.

Interestingly, Carew's new heart came from a 29-year-old donor, and Carew's jersey number was - 29. Coincidence? I think not. I think the Good Lord had a plan for Rod Carew, just as He did for me, and does for you, too.

Welcome to The Transplant Family, Mr. Carew! I wish you the best in your new life. I surely enjoyed watching you play baseball as a boy. Play ball!!
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)

Read more: article titled ""Hall of Famer Rod Carew Returns Home After Heart, Kidney Transplant Surgery"

Friday, March 10, 2017

Which Team Will The Sheepdog Choose In Free Agency?

Yesterday, NFL Free Agency began, and as I wrote last week (here), I'm looking for a new team myself - a new favorite team, as a fan.  I actually begin "scouting" (for lack of a better term) teams after the AFC Championship game. I started with 8 potential candidates, but now, for various reasons, I'm down to 6.

The criteria I'm using to evaluate teams, in no particular order of priority, are:
  1. history / legacy,
  2. proximity to Middle Tennessee,
  3. drama or lack thereof (includes political involvement),
  4. future potential, and 
  5. located in a warm weather climate or has domed stadium.
English: American football with clock to repre...
English: American football with clock to represent a "current sports or American football event" (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The 2 teams I've eliminated from consideration are the Jacksonville Jaguars and Carolina Panthers. Both were removed due to political drama. First, Jaguars owner, Shahid Khan (here), and Panthers' Head Coach, Ron Rivera (here), voiced their opposition to President Trump's immigration plan.

Before someone says, "Oh, that's racist of you." No, that has nothing to do with it, as I have voiced my opposition to mixing football and politics multiple times before - here and here and here. I've been consistent on this. I truly don't care where you're from nor what the color of your skin is if you own or coach an NFL team. It doesn't matter to me if you're pink, purple, or polka dotted, or if you're from Mars. Just don't mix politics with football like these 2 guys did. Myself and millions of others follow sports as a way of escaping politics. It's all about the game. Don't ruin it for us.

There's one other problem I have with the Jaguars. NFL teams are involved with various charities, including children's organizations and military groups. They do some good work. However, according to the Jaguars website (here), on their "Foundation Page", under their "Give N Go" program, it says several types of non-profit groups are ineligible to participate in this fundraising program. One of them is "church groups". Why? What do the Jaguars have against churches? These 2 big strikes against the Jags kinda suck, too, because they had one BIG plus - their cool uniforms.

So, "Who are the 6 teams left?", you ask. In reverse order from least favorite to the front runner, here they are.

6. Detroit Lions - The Lions meet some of my criteria - they play in a dome at Ford Field, have a long history as an NFL franchise, and you don't hear much drama from them. Even with playing indoors, there's some downside to the Lions for me - the 10 hour drive from Middle Tennessee for a home game and the potential for nasty weather during the 2nd half of the NFL season. However, I do like their colors of blue and silver, and it would be nice to be part of the fan base if the franchise ever wins that first Super Bowl trophy. Realistically, though, the Lions are a distant long-shot to be my team.

5. Atlanta Falcons - I like what I see with this franchise. Dan Quinn has made vast improvements to this team since being named head coach, just as I expected he would. The young team is built to be in the Super Bowl hunt for at least the next 3 to 4 years. Although, I think they may taken a step back this year, since offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan left to take the head coaching position in San Francisco.

Atlanta Falcons logo
Atlanta Falcons logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Atlanta begins play this year in the new Mercedes Benz Stadium, and it's only a 4-hour drive to Atlanta for me. I've heard of little to no drama involving this team, and Coach Quinn's team is one of the most active in the league in supporting the military, as evidenced by the team dedicating one game this last season to honoring America's fallen (here). Coach Quinn even won the NFL's 2016 Salute to Service Award. The downside - the Atlanta traffic on gameday, and any other day for that matter.

Besides the traffic, there's another strike against the Falcons. They have chosen to do the same thing as the Jaguars in relation to their community outreach and charity work. On Atlanta's website, on the "Community" page, under "Donation Policy" (here), it clearly states, ""We do not provide donated items to churches, synagogues, or other places of worship."

Religious groups do a lot of work with kids, so why not support them in that work? What do the Jaguars and the Falcons have against these organizations? I don't get it. Of the 8 teams I've considered during this process, ONLY the Jaguars and the Falcons have this stipulation. I had the Falcons ranked at #2 on my list until finding this.  

4. Arizona Cardinals - one word for this franchise - potential. The defense is solid and they have multiple playmakers on offense. In my opinion, David Johnson is currently the best running back in the NFL, and it's group of young wide receivers are fun to watch. If his health will hold up, I think Head Coach Bruce Arians has a legitimate shot at winning this franchise it's first Super Bowl trophy in the near future.

Arizona is a little distance from Tennessee, but a game in the Cardinals' new domed stadium might prove to be a nice weekend getaway when it turns cold here late in the year. Plus, once again, I haven't heard of much drama out of this team.

3. Indianapolis Colts - The team's history goes waaaaaaaayyyyyyy back to the championship winning Baltimore Colts of yesteryear. The Colts play in a domed stadium less than a 5-hour drive from me, and since they are in the same division with the Tennessee Titans, I could conceivably get in at least one game every year when they make their annual trip to Nashville. I think they are a little ways off from being a Super Bowl contender again, as they need a lot of help on defense. Plus, the offensive line needs to be beefed up, or Andrew Luck will continue to get beat up and injured. They could really use a top tier running back, too.

2. Oakland Raiders - DA RAAAYDAAAS!! I know, I know, this one doesn't make sense for 2 reasons:
  1. Per my criteria above, I'm wanting to avoid drama, and the Raiders are often the "Drama Kings" of the NFL . They have a longgggggg history of being the bad boys of the NFL. 
  2. The Raiders and Steelers are longtime rivals. I really don't care about, as far as this decision goes.
The Raiders probably meet the "history / legacy" criteria more than any of the other 6 candidates. Their history goes back to 1960 with 3 Super Bowl victories. They're also young with great future potential. I felt like they were a legit Super Bowl contender last year before the season even started. Unfortunately, their hopes were eliminated when Derek Carr went down with a broken leg in week 16. That was hard to watch.

As far as proximity to Tennessee, they're all the way over on the West Coast .... for now. What if their proposed moved to Las Vegas comes to fruition? They'd be a little closer, but not significantly. Vegas is only a 4-hour flight, though, and "Las Vegas Raiders" has a nice ring to it. The Raiders and Vegas seem like a perfect match - Sin City and the bad boys of the NFL. I like it. Plus, as far as the drama, they'll be no surprises. It's the Raiders - you expect it.

Oakland Raiders logo
Oakland Raiders logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
One suggestion I'd like to make to the Raiders organization - if you do move to Las Vegas, consider a uniform upgrade. Vegas is all about the flash and the show, and those uniforms are .... well, bland. Don't scrap 'em, just upgrade them a little. For instance, on the black home jerseys, add some silver in a few places to give that black jersey a little flash. On the white away jerseys, add some black and even some silver there, also. Some sort of highlights, stripes, or something. Heck, bring in a silver alternative jersey, too, with black lettering and numbers. Now, that would be cool.

Also, I think changing the font of the letters and numbers on the jerseys would be good. Maybe something like Tampa Bay has or even like the Oregon Ducks. If you go to Vegas, those uniforms need some flash. Afterall, "It's Vegas, Baby!" 

Another reason I have the Raiders ranked #2 is because of something owner Mark Davis said in November 2015 during an interview (read about it here). As most know, several NFL players have been in the news over the last few years due to domestic violence. Davis, said in regards to domestic violence, "It's just something we can't tolerate. I don't know how to fix it in society, but we can't have it on our team." Bravo Mr. Davis!! This is a stance The Sheepdog can get behind. It's an interesting one, too, considering the Raiders reputation for being "dirty" and other things. So, the question becomes, if the Raiders can take this stance, why can't other teams, and the NFL as a whole, do the same thing?

1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - I reaaaally like what I see in this team. They're young on both sides of the ball and have got some playmakers. I think they are just a few players away from making serious playoff runs. They need some elite players on defense. The addition of Desean Jackson yesterday via free agency adds the threat of another "stud wide receiver" opposite Mike Evans. Jackson will draw pass coverage away from Evans. If they can improve the offensive line in order to keep Jameis Winston from having to run for his life repeatedly, and add an elite running back, this offense could be a nightmare for any defense and be really fun to watch.

My wife and I visited Tampa a few years ago and loved the city. It's so beautiful I could live there. The climate is perfect, too. Even though it's about an 11-hour drive from Nashville, it would be a nice weekend getaway for a game when the cold fronts come billowing through Tennessee in November and December. I could even catch a Bucs game in Atlanta once a year, since they are division rivals.

The other thing I like about the Bucs is an aspect of their community involvement. According to the Bucs' website (here), back in December, the Glazer family partnered with Tampa Bay's Metropolitan Ministries in a cereal drive to help ensure area children have breakfast. At the bottom of the Bucs' website page where information about the project is disclosed is an "About Metropolitan Ministries" section. It states:
Metropolitan Ministries faithfully reaches out to poor, hungry and homeless men, women and children in their time of need - providing life-changing answers. Metropolitan Ministries' mission is to care for the homeless and those at risk of becoming homeless in our community through services that alleviate suffering, promote dignity, and instill self-sufficiency ... as an expression of the ongoing ministry of Jesus Christ. 
In the age where the name of Jesus is taboo most of the time, I commend the Bucs' for having the mission of Metropolitan Ministries containing the name of Jesus Christ on the team's website. It's the exact opposite of what the Jaguars and Falcons have chosen to do. None of the other teams I'm considering have language remotely similar on their website.


The Bucs' and Raiders are running a close race. Then, there's a little gap back to a tight heat between Indy and Arizona. It's then further back still to Atlanta, and then as I said, the Lions are even further back and a real longshot. I'm gonna make a decision sometime after the 2017 NFL Draft in April.

These rankings could change a little or even drastically over the next few months. If one of my 6 contenders selects Florida State running back Dalvin Cook in the draft, their stock will go up, possibly drastically. I really enjoyed watching that kid play college football. Likewise, if one signs either Johnny Manziel or Colin Kaepernick in free agency, their stock will go down, way down. I've seen enough of "Johnny Football", and I'm still wondering why Kaepernick is still in the NFL after disrespecting the American flag, the country, and our military and law enforcement. It should not have been tolerated. The 49ers should have cut him immediately. The NFL should have nipped it in the bud, too, when other players across the league joined in.

Lastly, if you're on staff, or somehow associated, with one of the 6 contenders above, and would like to make a case as to why your team should be my team, please feel free to contact me. I would welcome all the information I can get as I continue my deliberations. Just contact me via e-mail. Likewise, if you're a fan of 1 of the 6, feel free to give your input, too, in the comment section of this article. Just make sure you follow my "Comments Policy".

I know it's only March, but I'm really looking forward to football this fall.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Steelers Nation In Distress

I've been a Pittsburgh Steelers fan for about 40 years. However, I've never seen the team in as big of a mess as it is now. Even the down years of the '80s, when they only reached the playoffs 4 of 10 seasons and only advanced to the conference championship once, were nothing compared to the undisciplined, poorly coached football team that currently calls Heinz Field home. And yes, I know they won the AFC North, made the playoffs, and reached the AFC Championship this year. However, Steelers Nation is in distress like I've never seen before.

The Mike Tomlin Era has been a debacle. His teams have consistently played down to inferior opponents. For example:
  • In 2012, the Steelers missed the playoffs with an 8-8 record losing 4 games to teams with losing records - Oakland (4-12), Tennessee (6-10), Cleveland (5-11), and San Diego (7-9). They should have worn those 4 games. If they had, they would have been in the playoffs with a 12-4 record.
  • In 2013, the Steelers missed the playoffs again with an 8-8 record losing 3 games to teams with losing records - Tennessee (7-9), Minnesota (5-10-1), and again to Oakland (4-12). Once again, they should have won those games, and if they had, they're in the playoffs. Their record would have been 11-5.
Those 7 losses, and missing the playoffs because of them, were inexcusable. In the NFL, you have to win the games you're supposed to. Oftentimes, the Steelers even struggle in the games they win against lower echelon teams. Furthermore, from 2011 to 2015, the Steelers won ONE playoff game - ONE - never advancing past the divisional round of the playoffs during that 5-year period. If Tomlin had been head coach anywhere else in the NFL, he would have been fired. Now, the team has been stopped short of a 6th Super Bowl title by the Patriots - again. While I'm not happy about any of this, I'm more troubled by a much BIGGER underlying problem - a lack of discipline, and I'm offering up 5 examples to make my point. This lack of discipline has led to consistent underachievement on the field by Tomlin's teams.

Photo Credit - (here)
First - Martavis Bryant. The kid is talented - a 2014 4th round draft pick out of Clemson. In his rookie season, he showed flashes of brilliance catching 8 TD passes in just 10 games played. He was then suspended for the first 4 games of the 2015 season for violating the NFL substance abuse policy. When he returned, he once again showed a ton of God-given talent, but then he gets busted again and suspended for the entire 2016 season.

Once can be written off to a "mistake" or immaturity. Twice, when you know that the NFL is gonna be watching you more closely, and the consequence for a 2nd offense is full-year suspension, is a problem. You're supposed to be a professional, but now you've become a distraction to your football team, because all the press wants to talk about going into the 2016 season is, "How is the loss of Bryant going to affect the Steelers' offense?" I'm all for giving someone a 2nd chance, which the Steelers did, but it's time to cut him loose.

Second, diva #1 - Le'Veon Bell. Same problem. He got busted for marijuana possession and DUI in 2015 and was suspended for 4 games by the NFL. He was actually driving while high putting innocent people in danger!! Suspension was ultimately reduced to 3 games. If I remember correctly, the incident happened the day before a pre-season game. So, when Bell's mind should have been on football, he was smoking weed and endangering the public. Seriously!?!

Think he learned his lesson? Think again. Bell was then suspended for the first 3 games of the 2016 season for a 2nd violation of the NFL's substance abuse policy. This time he failed to show up for a drug test, which under the league policy counts as a failed test. So, now 2 years in a row he's missed time early in the season for foolishness and un-professionalism, to put it mildly. He can't be counted on, and if I'm a teammate, I've had enough.

Check out his Facebook page sometime. Seems he's always got something to say about a sportswriter, because they've criticized him or not ranked him as high as he thinks he should be. He's staying busy with his rap / hip-hop recording gig, when he should really stick to football. With Bell, it seems it always, "Look at me." It would be great if he could learn some discipline, stop being a distraction, and actually play a full 16-game season.

Bell now wants a big contract extension, but if I was the one with the checkbook, I'd put him on the trade block instead, and see what kinda offers I'd get. There's sure to be some running back-needy team that would offer at least a 2nd, and likely a 1st, round pick for him. Hello Cleveland Browns (cough, cough). Heck, the Steelers might even get multiple picks out of the deal. 

Third, diva #2 - "Dancing with the Stars" / Business is Boomin'/ Ronald Ocean / Antonio Brown (or whatever name he's going by today). He's all about, "Hey look at me", too, as evidenced by his recent announcement of his alter ego "Ronald Ocean". Really?!? His Facebook live-streaming video debacle showing Coach Tomlin disrespecting the New England Patriots, with profanity and insults, showed how undisciplined this team is. Analysts, team members, and others can claim all they want that it did not affect the outcome of the New England game, but it did. Football is a game of emotion just as much as it is a game of physicality and preparation. Thanks to Brown, the Patriots used Tomlin's now public, disrespectful insults for additional motivation.
AFC Championship Game logo
AFC Championship Game logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When you couple that video with the "obviously" non-existent gameplan the coaching staff put together, it led to the perfect storm in the AFC Championship game. A butt-kicking was coming. The only question was how bad it would be.

The Steelers have just given Brown a monstrous contract, approximately $70 Million, making him the highest paid receiver in the NFL. So, instead of punishing him for the aforementioned video, they've rewarded and enabled him. So, I predict that Brown's cocky, "it's all about me behavior" will only get worse. He will become an even bigger distraction to the team.

Honestly, if I were in charge, I would have put Brown on the trade block, too. Just like with Bell, Brown would be certain to bring at least a 2nd round draft pick and likely a 1st rounder from some wide receiver needy team. However, no such trade was even considered, according to a recent article (here), even though the Steelers have received inquiries from several teams as to Brown's availability. In fact, they haven't just responded "no" to the inquiries - they've responded, "hell no!" That sounds like they've cut the conversations off before hearing what interested teams were offering. If so, that's bad business. You should always at least listen to offers, because some team might make an "offer you can't refuse".

Besides the early round draft picks the Steelers would receive from trading Bell and Brown, there is another positive to dumping the divas. It would send a message throughout the locker room that no one is more important than the team, and that there is no "I" in team. That's a message this team needs to hear, and they need to hear it LOUDLY right now. The dividends would be HUGE. 

Fourth, Ben Roethlisberger. I've actually been surprised by him lately. It seems every time he does an interview, he's calling out one or more of his teammates and criticizing them. The young wide receivers seem to take the brunt of it, too. He needs to stop. I singled Ben out, but others have done it, too. If you have a problem with one of your teammates, handle it internally. Keep it in the locker room. It doesn't need to be in the papers, on the internet, or on social media. Handle it man to man. Stop being a drama queen. Stop being a distraction. Shut up and just play football. If Tomlin were really a leader, he would have already nipped this in the bud.

Fifth, the coaching staff is horrible. Play calling is horrible. Game planning is terrible, perhaps even non-existent. Anyone that has followed football for any length of time knows that you don't play zone defense against Tom Brady, as the Steelers did in the AFC Championship. He will cut you to pieces if you do. You beat Tom Brady by playing man on his receivers and roughing them up at the line of scrimmage. Ya gotta rough up Brady, too. You have to get pressure on him consistently throughout the game. Just ask the Atlanta Falcons what happens if you don't. You don't necessarily have to sack him, but you have to harass him, hit him some, force him out of the pocket and off "his spot". Make him throw the ball before he wants to. Next, you also have to run the football to work the clock to keep Brady on the sideline. Once again - ask the Atlanta Falcons what happens if you don't. He can't chew up your secondary if he's not on the field! However, their inability to actually "coach" is not the coaching staff's biggest problem - they have their own discipline problems, too. Allow me to explain.

Let's start with Joey Porter, outside linebackers coach. In 2016, he violated NFL rules by being on the field during an injury timeout in a playoff game against the Cincinnati Bengals. His presence led to a scuffle. No surprise there, as scuffles seem to "find" Porter. During the week leading up to this year's playoff game against the Chiefs in Kansas City, he was arrested due to an altercation at a Pittsburgh night club. During the incident, video shows him putting his hands on a police officer. He ultimately only paid a few hundred dollars in fines for the incident, and the Steelers briefly suspended him before reinstating him just in time for the Chiefs' game.

The Steelers struggled in the game settling for 6 field goals. They couldn't get the ball in the end zone despite being inside the Chiefs 20 yard line multiple times. I think Porter was a huge distraction. If the Steelers had played a quality offense in that game, they would have been smoked. Porter's arrest prior to this game was not the first time he's been arrested, either. He's had multiple run ins with the law. He's a bad example to the young players he coaches as to how to conduct yourself as a professional in the NFL, or anywhere else for that matter.

Porter should have been fired, but instead he only received a slap on the wrist for his latest arrest. It could give the younger players the idea that they can get away with stuff, too. The team is risking a snowball affect due to the way they handled this, including more discipline issues, and more distractions.

Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin - Septem...
Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin - September 16, 2007 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Another reported incident involving Porter is more egregious, in my opinion, than the bar fight. A recent story in the Indiana Gazette details an incident (here) involving Porter at a high school football game. Up until a few months ago, Jason Gildon, a former Steeler, was the head football coach at Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic, and both Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin's and Joey Porter's sons attended school and played football there, along with Porter's nephew. That is until the boys transferred after Gildon got fired.

In the incident, Porter apparently rushed the field and verbally abused the officials calling the game. His actions got North Catholic a 15-yard penalty, and the officials asked police to intervene and remove Porter. Witnesses reported hearing Porter tell the police,"... it's gonna take more than just you." So, they called for backup. Apparently, the only thing that would calm Porter down was the threat of North Catholic having to forfeit. All in front of the young players and fans in the stands. Sounds like Porter could have been arrested there, too.

In still another reported incident, at a different game, Porter and Tomlin are said to have blocked some fans' view of the game. When asked to move by the police, they did not want to cooperate, and it sounds as if the game ending saved them from being arrested.

Now, we have at least 3 incidents - the night club altercation and the 2 incidents at the high school football games - where Jerry Porter has shown a lack of respect for authority and law enforcement. Why is he still on the Steelers' staff? The only possible explanation(s) is that Tomlin and the Rooney's are either unconcerned about it or o.k. with it. I have good friends in law enforcement, so I've got a real problem with this.

In a fourth incident, at a playoff game, people reportedly left their seats because Porter and Tomlin were smoking cigars. The stadium is non-smoking!! Here's the kicker - Mr. Rooney, Steelers' owner, and General Manager Kevin Colbert are alums of North Catholic. Colbert presently even sits on the Board of the school. Why are they putting up with the shenanigans of these 2 coaches? Fire them. Fire them now!!

Tomlin can't coach. He can't game plan. During the 5-year run I mentioned earlier, where the Steelers only won 1 playoff game, two good, longtime Steelers coaches, Bruce Arians and Dick LeBeau, left Pittsburgh. It appeared to me that both were run off as scapegoats for the team's failure to string together playoff appearances, playoff wins, and Super Bowl victories. The thing is that even though those 2 men are gone, nothing's changed. The Steelers still can't consistently win playoff games, let alone even reach Super Bowls. It's the same-ol'-same-ol'. The common denominator is Tomlin. Could it be that the problem is him? Duh. Hello.

Furthermore, no matter what they may say publicly, "Obviously", Tomlin's players do not respect him, as evidenced by the Facebook live incident with Brown. Why would you live-stream your coach's profanity-laced post-game speech disrespecting your upcoming opponent, in violation of NFL rules, if you respect him? The answer is, you wouldn't. Former Steelers' coaches Chuck Knoll and Bill Cowher wouldn't have tolerated Brown's behavior.

I guess, though, we should not be surprised by the lack of player respect for Tomlin, because it appears Tomlin doesn't respect others, either. Afterall, he's sat idly by and watched one of this assistant coaches, a subordinate, act like a jackass at his son's high school football game and embarrass Steelers fans everywhere. It appears Tomlin approves of such behavior and is more interested in "being one of the guys" than in being their leader. Terry Bradshaw was right when he referred to Tomlin as "not a great coach" but more of a "cheerleader".

Tomlin's reportedly had his own behavior issues at North Catholic games, too, including a profanity-filled locker room critique of the officials at one North Catholic game. I've also read of him refusing to sign autographs and / or take pictures with small children at North Catholic games. I understand wanting to be left alone to watch your kid play football. However, would it not be possible to handle it differently than just saying no and breaking some kid's heart? For instance, let's say a parent brings their kid over for an autograph or picture in the first half. Why not say something like, "I'd really like to watch my kid play, but if you'll come back at halftime, I'll be happy to take the pic / sign the autograph?" I think most football fans would respect that. Or, if it happens in the 2nd half, offer to hang around for a few minutes after the game. Tomlin needs to be reminded that without the fans, he has no job.

I'm sure that most Steelers fans aren't gonna believe any of this negative news about Tomlin. They'll make their case by pointing to an article on Pittsburgh Post Gazette's site (here), where former North Catholic Coach Jason Gildon says he doesn't remember Tomlin ever being in the team's locker room and cussing the officials to the team. However, could it be that it's one Steeler covering for another?

Before you write this article off as a "hit piece" or me as "a nut", you should read all the other articles I've referenced within this post and at the bottom of the page. Read every click "here". Everything I've brought out, except for my commentary, is contained within those articles. You should also read the comments within those articles. There are witnesses to the incidents and you can find the reports if you look for them. Plus, consider the following before dismissing this, because I believe 3 things give credibility to the reports regarding Porter and Tomlin's behavior at North Catholic games:
  1. Joey Porter's history of off-the-field issues.
  2. Gildon was fired as head football coach at North Catholic after just 2 seasons (here). This was after the incidents this year. The team's record was 17-6 during Gildon's tenure, including reaching the semi-finals of the state playoffs in 2015. They were one game away from reaching the state championship. Just one. No specific reason was given for his dismissal. So, why fire a guy who's had such success? He had won 74% of his games!! Did the bad behavior of his Steeler buddies have anything to do with it?
  3. Here's the most compelling reason - North Catholic Athletic Director Mike Burrell said that no one at the school wished to comment about these incidents. In fact, according to Burrell, "We just want to move on." If the reports are false, why wouldn't he or someone else at the school just say so? In my opinion, "no comment" here means these accounts are true. It makes me wonder if the school is concerned over potential backlash if they comment in the affirmative, so they've chosen to say nothing instead of lie.
Heinz Field, home of the Pittsburgh Steelers, ...
Heinz Field, home of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Pittsburgh, PA, USA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I believe the distractions and lack of discipline have the Steelers headed down a bad road, and it reminds me of what I saw happen with the University of Tennessee's (UT) football program during Phil Fulmer's tenure as head coach. I was a UT and Florida State fan for a long time, but I watched as things got really bumpy near the end of Fulmer's tenure at UT. I ended up saying "Goodbye" to being a UT fan as it became a genuine embarrassment to me as an alum. Goodbye Orange and White. It's all Garnet and Gold for me now. Go 'Noles!!

In 2 of the last 4 years of Fulmer's tenure, the Vols finished with a losing record. More and more players had run-ins with the law. The lack of discipline off the field led to a lack of discipline on the field resulting in more foolish penalties, turnovers, blown assignments, sorry fundamentals, and games lost. When Fulmer left, the cupboard was bare of talent. That was at the end of the 2008 season. In the 8 seasons since, UT has had 3 different coaches and a record of 52-58. They've had losing records 4 times, went 7-6 twice, and 9-4 twice (the last 2 years). Oh, and there's only been 1 season (2015) during that time period where they've finished over .500 in the SEC. In fact, in 5 of the last 8 seasons, they've had a losing record in the SEC. It's been 8 seasons since UT kicked Fulmer to the curb, and the football program has still not recovered. UT should have fired Fulmer much earlier. The problems created during his tenure carried over into the years after he was gone (read here).

Now, why do I bring UT in this? It's because I believe the Steelers are going down the exact same road. A lack of discipline doomed Fulmer's tenure at UT. If the Rooney's don't make some changes, the Steelers will suffer the same fate. It's not a matter of if, but rather a matter of when. I think that the monster contract just awarded to Antonio Brown will only accelerate the team's demise.

Due to the lack of discipline and accountability, the distractions, and the sorry coaching, I'm making a prediction - The Steelers WILL NOT win another Super Bowl as long as Mike Tomlin is the head coach. NOT. A. SINGLE. ONE. In fact, I highly doubt they will even reach the Super Bowl again with him in charge.

Here's something else that really frosts me - under Tomlin's leadership, or lack thereof depending on how you look at it, the franchise has squandered away a big part of The Steeler Legacy. Terry Bradshaw no longer holds a piece of the record for most Super Bowl victories by a quarterback. Coach Chuck Noll no longer holds the record for most Super Bowl wins by a head coach. These now belong to Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. It is inexcusable.

Based on what I saw happen with UT's football program, I believe dark days are ahead for Steeler Nation. For the first time in my life, I find myself seriously considering jumping off the sinking Steelers ship. I can tolerate losing records and a lack of playoff and Super Bowl wins. I can even tolerate bad behavior by players, to an extent. However, I cannot tolerate a lack of discipline, bad behavior by coaches, and no accountability to management for their actions. It's totally unacceptable, and it's become an embarrassment. The Rooney family is letting the inmates run the asylum.

Now, if you're a Steeler fan reading this and you're thinking, "Finally, somebody said what I've been feeling," I have good news. You are not alone. There are a number of us who feel this way. A few weeks ago, I ran across a Facebook group called "Fire Mike Tomlin". It's membership is growing every day. So, if you're on Facebook, look 'em up and join up. You'll find a number of like-minded folks venting their frustrations with this team and making suggestions on how to fix the problems. I'm not sure that I'm in it for the long haul, but a number of people are.

I would love for this post to bring much needed change in Pittsburgh, but I think the odds of that happening are very low, if not zero. This is not the same franchise that I began following as a young boy. It's values have changed. It's blue collar persona has changed. There were no divas or drama queens during the Chuck Noll era when the team won it's 1st four Super Bowls in a 6-year span. Coach Noll wouldn't recognize this franchise now.

For all the reasons above, I think I'm done as a Steelers fan. However, since I'm a football fanatic, I'm already scouting about a half dozen other teams, of which 1, or maybe even 2, will earn my football allegiance for the 2017 NFL season and beyond. This Steelers fan of 40 years has had enough of the divas, drama, and lack of discipline in Pittsburgh.

More on my team scouting later. In regard to the leading candidate, all I'll say right now is ..... ARRRRR!! Think you know who it is? Well, it's probably not who you think.