Miscellanity #1 (5/4/15): Notes from “Capacity Weekend”

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Did you ever have one of those weekends? I’m thinking of a tightly compressed span of days that was so abnormally packed with business and interest and distractions and various things of note that it exhausted and exhilarated in essentially equal – though, in real time, constantly shifting – measure? Yeah, me neither, or at least not with any regularity, though every once in a while the worm (or is it the screw?) just turns and turns. This debut edition of DAE’s (latest) new column, “Miscellanity”, may well end up being both its first and only issue. It’s a practical matter, really. This past weekend, which featured, in Saturday, the widely touted “busiest day in sports history” since at least the last one, was such a convergence of “must see” events in several of the arenas that most interest me – Music, Football, TV, Boxing – that I could well have emerged from it having written not one but four new columns.* Behold, “Capacity Weekend”, so named for its high concentration of ridiculously exclusive events fixed alternately firmly in the national consciousness (Draft 2015, Avengers sequel, Sunday night prestige TV), fleetingly in the national consciousness (the boxing mega-PPV), and on a highly specialized local level only (Sunday night S.C.O.T.S. concert). Just skip to the topics that most interest you. My normal species of florid/noxious prose largely ends here in favor of jumping all over the map, saying what I have to say, and then moving on to the next thing.

*After a good deal of deliberation overnight, I decided to at least carve my original 5000+ word post into thirds. In theory, this should help with readability, and also bookkeeping, as it separates the headlines of the original post (the fight, the show) from the comparative footnotes. Thanks for your patience and patronage.

Because this past weekend, for better and worse, there was always a next thing…

2015 Steelers Draft (Thu – Sat)

Though GM Kevin Colbert is ever loath to say it out loud, the Steelers do, in fact, often draft for need just like any other team out there. After a three-day, seven-round bounty that yielded two linebackers, two corners, a receiver, a tight end, a safety, and a defensive lineman, Colbert let down his guard somewhat and freely admitted what we already knew: that his/our defense was a piece or four short and needed shoring up immediately. If it wasn’t to come from free agency, where the Steelers have a historically spotty track record, an infusion of special and specialized youth via the draft would be crucial. Here’s how I thought they did:

Round 1, Pick 22 (22 Overall): Alvin “Bud” Dupree, OLB, Kentucky – At 6’4”, 269 lbs, Dupree is one of the serious athletic freaks in the entire draft, with bona fides in both pass rushing and coverage established from his time at Kentucky, where he was asked to do at least a little bit of everything. Anyone who read my most recent “Steelers Thoughts” might remember that this was pick I was hoping for, not only because Dupree’s potential, if properly polished, is straight off the charts, but because his mixture of size and power (kind of like XLIII hero Lamar Woodley but with even better overall measurables) will make him much more difficult to be pushed around or marginalized the way 2013 1st rounder Jarvis Jones has been thus far.

Round 2, Pick 24 (56): Senquez Golson, CB, Mississippi – The Ravens leapt in front of us to “steal” the delightfully named TE Maxx Williams one pick before the Steelers took diminutive interception machine Golson. I’ve little doubt Williams will evolve into a heck of a target for Bert Flacco and co., but Colbert went out of his way after the fact to state that Golson would’ve been the pick regardless. Looking at his eye-popping tape and college production (10 INTs in 2014, compared to the combined Steelers CB corps’ 11), it’s easy to see why. Golson is 5’8” and some loose change, but plays with ball-hawking tenacity that will instantly upgrade the secondary. Those of you who didn’t watch ESPN’s draft coverage missed Mel Kiper’s hyperventilating soliloquy in which he called Golson one of the best values of either round. I rewound it a few times.

Round 3, Pick 23 (87): Sammie Coates, WR, Auburn – Widely criticized as a reach in exactly the way that last year’s pick of Martavis Bryant in the fourth round wasn’t, Auburn’s Coates easily has the potential to equal or better him, if he can eliminate some of the dumbfounding drops that plagued his college career. In terms of size and speed, Coates is everything you’d want, and has a knack for making tough catches in space even as he muffs the occasional easy one. Coach him up, wind him up, let him go, and we’ll see what happens. Though I didn’t initially understand it, I like the pick just fine now. Our WR corps could be an unholy terror next year if the chips fall the right way.

Round 4, Pick 22 (121): Doran Grant, CB, Ohio State – This year’s seemingly obligatory Buckeye is a pretty great value pick in the fourth round, a 2014 first team All Big Ten performer who had five interceptions and came up big on the brightest stages en route to OSU’s National Championship. I was a big proponent of selecting two CBs in this draft, though I was expecting them to be two different players. That was before Dupree fell into our laps at #22, so instead of reaching a bit for what would’ve been the fourth highest rated CB in round one, we get a sterling OLB prospect and not one but two ball-hawking CBs. The early rounds fell quite well for us, indeed.

Round 5, Pick 24 (160): Jesse James, TE, Penn State – He has a name to rival aforementioned new Ratbird Williams, if not the universally agreed upon production and upside. As long as Heath Miller breathes, I’m going to slightly devalue the TE position, but round five was a great place to finally snag one. I was noncommittal on James’ potential (I’m not big on giving roster spots to folks who can block 5% better than, say, Michael Palmer) but then I heard Kiper complaining that James declared for the draft instead of returning to PSU for his senior campaign, which, with the extra year of seasoning, might’ve propelled him into the top two rounds in 2016. So James is a developmental talent with serious physical pluses and, apparently, serious potential to develop. Sign me up.

I don’t have firm opinions in either direction on round six picks L.T. Walton (DT, Central Michigan) or Anthony Chickillo (DE/LB, Miami FL), but they provide much-needed potential depth in the front seven. As a Buckeye fan, it makes me ill that we had multiple shots at D-lineman Michael Bennett, who is one of the best interior collegiate rushers I’ve ever seen, yet refused to pull the trigger. I’m much more immediately on board with the seventh round steal of Louisville Safety Gerod Holliman, whose thirteen interceptions led the nation last year. “He lacks intangible A, and is weak on element B, yet nevertheless intercepted 13 passes in as many games.” Yeah, I’ll roll the dice. With the arrival of Golson, Grant, and Holliman, Colbert quipped the Steelers were “adding 29 interceptions to their secondary”, one which last year could charitably be said to have both overachieved and underperformed. If Dupree becomes what he could become and we hit on at least two out of our three new DBs and one out of our two new pass catchers (though I think they all have significant potential), I don’t know how you grade this Steelers draft any lower than a B. I’d hew closer to a B+. I love not just that we addressed needs but how we did so. It’s an inexact science, and a famously fickle enterprise, but I feel 1000% better about the team going forward than I did a week ago today.

“Avengers: Age of Ultron” attempt #1 (Fri)

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In a weekend where seemingly everything was a hot ticket worthy of arrival hours in advance, I obviously didn’t do the due diligence or necessary legwork on Joss Whedon’s new Avengers epic, which from what I’ve heard so far, is essentially the Wrestlemania of superhero movies. I arrived in time for a 5:30 showing on Friday and decided to bypass the line and go straight for the kiosk. This particular theater is one of those new style showplaces with plush, home theater recliners and reserved seating. When I walked in, I noticed, with surprise and a freshly formed pit in my stomach, that the 6:30, 7:30 and 8:30 shows had already sold out. The kiosk did say that tickets were available for the 5:30, but only two, and, by two, I mean the very first two, front row, stage left, jammed right up against the screen. I grumbled to myself and grudgingly decided against paying $10 for a matinee showing of outwardly the most kinetic and visually busy movie of the summer, if not the year. It was definitely a disappointment, though only up to a point. I’ll most likely see it tomorrow, and the full DAE review will come soon enough after. If I was to knock my neck out of joint this weekend, I wanted it to be at Sunday’s concert and not because I spent two and a half hours staring straight up at the nearest 28% of a movie screen, however pretty and/or explody it might be.

“Game of Thrones/Mad Men” (Sun) SPOILERS

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A handful of observations apiece on Sunday night’s episodes of HBO’s Game of Thrones, which is nimbly navigating so far a season that seemed initially rife with landmines, and AMC’s Mad Men, which is elegantly considering and trying on a number of closing themes/statements for size as its marvelous run winds down…

Game of Thrones – “Sons of the Harpy” – Season 5, Ep. 4 (HBO): Showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss continue to take gutsy chances reconfiguring George R.R. Martin’s source material, this week underlining the threat posed to Danaerys’ peace by the pro-slavery terrorists the Sons of the Harpy by drawing Grey Worm and Ser Barristan Selmy into the fray and, after a frantic, thrilling, pitched alleyway battle, leaving the two within steps of death’s door. I’m less impressed thus far with Jamie and Bronn’s excursion into Dorne, though the two make for a fairly winning action-comedy team. Some of that may be my restlessness with Dorne itself. Part of what appealed to me about the exotic seventh kingdom in Martin’s book A Feast for Crows was its pervasive palace intrigue, the idea that nothing was truly as it seemed and that everyone wanted vengeance for Prince Oberyn’s death at the thumbs of The Mountain in season four, not just the ones that proclaimed it most loudly. For the TV adaptation, Benioff and Weiss have removed a good handful of Martin’s players altogether and split the remaining Dornish contingent in two, with bereaved but pragmatic Lord Doran on one side and Oberyn’s widowed lover Ellaria on the other, where she is joined by three of the fallen prince’s equally bloodthirsty daughters. Everyone in Dorne speaks dutifully of death and revenge in lusty, uncompromising, telenovela-worthy terms, but so far lacks either Oberyn’s facility with words or lithe physicality, the outwardly blasé, imminently dangerous understatement embodied in his nickname, “The Red Viper”. Pedro Pascal’s loss was obviously a deep one, and though I’m sure the show will eventually overcome it, for now Dorne is hamstrung by the writers’ efforts to build an effective world without the anchoring presence of far and away its most interesting character.

I greatly enjoyed the conversation between Sansa and Littlefinger in the crypts below Winterfell, however, where Baelish mentioned Eddard Stark’s late sister Lyanna for the first time since the series premiere, and her unwitting, Helen of Troy-like complicity in the launch of Robert Baratheon’s rebellion against the sitting Targaryen dynasty. It’s moments like these, which (fairly) unobtrusively incorporate the rich history of Westeros while still moving the present day narrative forward, that leave me content that, whichever version may finish first (the show will), Game of Thrones is pretty much in the perfect creative hands.

Mad Men – “Lost Horizon” – Season 7, Ep. 12 (AMC): How painful, upon reflection, was it to see Don and Joan, the former the crown jewel in McCann-Erickson’s recent acquisition of SC&P – given the (advertising) world as a prize and, typically, already bored with it – and the latter subjected to a demeaning new reality at the soulless, misogynist parent agency – marginalized and condescended to – crossing paths in that elevator and making lunch plans that now will never come to fruition. Each decision, and both are fairly big, speaks to their respective character. Joan has fought in one way or another for every bit of respect and position she has gained. As a professional, she knows she should perhaps endure, if not accommodate, the McC-E leches’ come-ons and put-downs, but as a strong woman, she’s tired of being devalued and hidden out of sight. If “Lost Horizon” was to be our last glimpse of Joan, it’s a powerful and contenting one, as she strides out of Roger’s office, unbowed despite having just lost half of her buy out money. Standing up to, and trading punches with, the McCann brass was worth the fallout. Conversely, Don, the privileged male, has always been something of a seeker, the man with material and familial wealth who invariably becomes restless and beholden to philosophical concerns. He drove to Wisconsin on a whim in a desperate, last ditch attempt to reconnect with Diana. Could California be next? SC&P still has an office out there, and Don also has a Californian ex-wife. With only two episodes left, I’m of a mind Don might never return to New York at all.

That was some moment of classic Mad Men surrealistic whimsy, though, that shot of Peggy rollerskating through SC&P’s derelict offices as Roger played her accompaniment on an organ. I’ll miss this show so much in another two weeks.

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