Thursday, October 29, 2020

You Play to Win the Game (Part III)

This year has been a wacky one all around, so it is not surprising that our sports got messed up along the way. After cancellations by conferences around the country paused our college football season, we were supposed to enjoy the first week of Mountain West football last week. Which we did with one noticeable exception: my favorite team. New Mexico was scheduled to head to Fort Collins to kick off the season, but outbreaks of COVID in the county surrounding the Lobo's campus caused the game to be cancelled. This was disappointing - I was excited for the Rams to play under the new coaching staff and against a team that they should beat (and have not lost to in a decade). We moved onto week two and it gave me an extra few days to pull together my predictions for the year. And wow... not sure how to predict anything at this point. But I have done it for the past two seasons, so here we go again... 

New Mexico

COVID wins. Everyone else loses.

at Fresno State

CSU is a slight road favorite over the Bulldogs. Fresno lost last week to Hawaii. Since this appears to be one of the few winnable games on the schedule, I'm riding the Rams in this one. 

Wyoming

The Rams have not beaten Wyoming since 2015. Life is terrible and the Bronze Boot returns to Laramie. 

at Boise State

El. Oh. El. A win on the Smurf Turf would be a goddamn miracle. This is a blowout loss. 

UNLV

Thankfully, there are a few Mountain West Conference teams that are struggling like our Rams. UNLV is one of them and this is a game the Rams NEED to win. 

at Air Force

Just like Wyoming, CSU has not beaten Air Force since 2015. The Ram/Falcon trophy stays with the Zoomies. 

at San Diego State

A road trip against a team that is consistently at the top of the West Division. Rams lose a close one. 

Utah State

Aggie on Aggie violence. Despite the home matchup, Utah State has been a problem for the Rams. CSU closes out the season with another loss. 

Final tally: 

2-5-1 (Wins-Losses-COVID). The Steve Addazio era has begun. 

WeekOpponentPredictionResultFlick's Picks
1New MexicoWCOVID0 - 0
2at Fresno StateW
3WyomingL
4at Boise StateL
5UNLVW
6at Air ForceL
7at San Diego StateL
8Utah StateL

Friday, June 05, 2020

Black Lives Matter

Closing my eyes and falling asleep has been more difficult for me recently. The images and videos from across the nation flash through my brain. The emotion and angst of the people protesting fill my mental voids. I am a 37 year old white male who grew up in a middle class suburban family who now has a college degree, a stable career, and my own middle class white suburban family. What the hell do I know about the struggles and injustices of the black community? 

The murder of George Floyd was the latest episode in this horror story of police brutality directed toward minorities. Nine minutes of unlawful and inhumane torture ended the life of a man whose crimes were being a black man and an alleged counterfeit $20 bill. The absurdity of that last sentence creates pits in my stomach. How can you not be outraged? 

Everything in my life has been a product of the privilege that I have been fortunate to have since birth. My family life, my education, my opportunities, my employment, my health, my house, my cars, my safety - all receiving assistance along the way from the color of my skin, the zip code of my birth, and the income of my family. In the casino of life, I am the house. 

1619 (exact date disputed among historians) - First slaves arrive on American soil
1863 - Emancipation Proclamation
1865 - 13th Amendment to the Constitution
1934 - National Housing Act
1964 - Civil Right Act
1965 - Voting Rights Act
1968 - Fair Housing Act
1970s and 1980s - War on Crime
1994 - Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act

Hundreds of years of slavery. One hundred years between the end of slavery and national legislation protecting the rights of black humans. From Lincoln's famous address until today, we have seen practices like redlining, Jim Crow laws, active hate groups, mass incarceration, a privatized prison system profiting off full facilities, excessive minimum sentencing, racial disparity in the legal system, a financially crippling health care system, and militarized police forces all holding poor communities in their increasingly poor situations. And those disadvantaged communities are overwhelmingly filled with people who earned their freedom after we had a head start of several hundred years. 

The nasty and horrible truth is that the system that we reside in favors those of us who have been in power the longest. It is that system that allows those inhumane policemen to commit violent (even deadly) acts against minorities with little to no repercussions. It is that system that is being protested. And it is that system that must be changed. 



Part of what has been on my mind has been my uncertainty as to what I can do as a 37 year old white male in the suburbs to help combat these injustices. Luckily, I have found people like Emmanuel Acho to help me figure that out. 

I owe it to Paul, Emmanuel, and the black community to do my part. Personal accountability is key in improving our society, so here is my individual pledge. It is not enough, but it is a start.   

First and most importantly, I promise to listen to Paul and Emmanuel and others who can provide first-hand knowledge on their upbringing as a black human in this world. 

I promise to educate myself on the history and current struggles of the black community. I will never be able to fully comprehend the depths of your struggles, but I can do my research and I can have empathy. 

I promise to educate my children in the same regard. Change starts in the home. Fortunately, this already started with an intense and deep conversation just the other night between my wife, my kids, and me about race and the current state of affairs. Their natural disgust toward racism was a warm reminder that hate is taught and that we are going through this process with genuinely kind and good kids. 

I promise to use my power as a voting citizen to fill our local, state, and federal government with individuals who understand the importance of this issue and who will work to right this wrong. 

I promise to support and empower minorities in my line of work. That starts with a personal re-engagement with the Conference of Minority Transportation Officials (COMTO) and a new commitment to organizations like the CSU chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) to promote a more equitable, inclusive, and diverse workplace.

If you do not think there is a problem in our society, how would you respond to Jane's request?  


Friday, December 13, 2019

2019 Ram Recap - Week 14 - Going Bowling

Apologies for the delay - between life and work, I have not had time to get this thing updated. Without further ado, the final Ram Recap of the Mike Bobo era...

The early afternoon Black Friday football game and corresponding morning tailgating caused the Flick family to be more proactive about game day planning than usual. The scheduled 8:00 am departure on Friday forced us to organize our gear on Thanksgiving before any family festivities began. With the cold and snowy weather forecast, I set about packing our gear with a high probability that Sarah would skip out at some point. Sarah and I gathered our warm weather gear for us and the kids and piled the tailgating supplies in the garage before heading over to Sarah's grandma's house for Thanksgiving dinner. There were no comments from the wife about staying home.

The next morning, it was a brisk 19 degrees as I began packing the van. Tables, grills, stoves, gas canisters, and piles of warm clothes and blankets were stacked in the back of the car. There were no comments from the wife about staying home.

The kids were jostled awake and long underwear and warm clothes were layered on small bodies. They slapped on their winter boots and headed to the packed car warming in the garage. There were no comments from the wife about staying home.

The house was closed up, the dogs were kenneled, and Sarah and I wandered out to the garage to drive to Fort Collins. She really was coming...

Despite leaving 40 minutes after we planned, we still were the only people in Lot 445 when we arrived. The Nelsons arrived shortly after. The Turgeons and Landrys (and Keith's propane heater) followed quickly behind. We were ready for CSU's "bowl game" as Mike Bobo had previously dubbed this Ram/Bronco matchup.

Boise State entered the contest already having clinched the Mountain Division of the Mountain West Conference. With their ticket already punched to the MWC championship game against the Rainbow Warriors, Boise was playing for something much bigger -- consideration for a New Years bowl game. CSU maintained contact with the ranked Broncos, but Boise State was able to maintain a lead for much of the game. While the seven point loss did bisect the spread, the Rams loss left them at 4-8 on the year and with questions lingering about the future of the coaching staff. 

The Positives:

  • Camden started breaking down as the game started. He was cold. He wanted to go home. After taking a quick nap on my lap, he bounced back and was without complaint the rest of the game. And I mean the rest of the game -- all the way until the clock hit zeros. The older two kids did awesome, despite the weather. It helped that strangers sitting below our seats in the coaches' terrace were throwing them cookies and Jolly Ranchers... 

  • Even Sarah made it to the final whistle!

  • The Rams played well against a tough opponent. Effort is rarely the problem with these Mike Bobo teams. The team played their butts off for their coach's last game at the helm. 
  • John Jancek's defense once again was impressive. After a dismal 2018 campaign, Jancek's side of the ball produced at a rate not seen in Fort Collins since the Sonny Lubick days. Just look at the improvements made from 2018 to the 2019 season.
  • The Ram football season is over, so I no longer have to come up with creative ways to talk about a bad football team. 

The Negatives: 

  • The Rams still have never won a football game against Boise State.
  •  This program is a dumpster toilet fire. 

Up Next - The Next Era:

Had my picks been an actual football team, the final tally (8-4) would have been decent enough to receive an invitation to an early bowl game against the Western Michigan Chippewas.

As for the actual football team, the 4-8 record in season number five was the final nail in the Mike Bobo coaching coffin. On Wednesday, December 4th, Mike Bobo and CSU mutually agreed to part ways (with a shockingly low $1.82 million buyout) and Mike Bobo is no longer the head coach of the CSU football team. His offensive acumen quickly landed him a new gig as the offensive coordinator at the University of South Carolina. The Rams coaching search landed on Steve Addazio, the former Boston College head football coach. More on the entire coaching swap in a later post...

I enjoyed doing this again this season: I hope you enjoyed following along. May the 2020 Ram season start with a strong showing against our neighbors to the south up at Canvas Stadium.

WeekOpponentPredictionResultFlick's Picks
1Colorado (Denver)LCU 52 - CSU 311 - 0
2Western IllinoisWCSU 38 - WIU 132 - 0
3at ArkansasLUA 55 - CSU 343 - 0
4ToledoWUT 41 - CSU 353 - 1
5at Utah StateLUSU 34 - CSU 244 - 1
6San Diego StateLSDSU 24 - CSU 105 - 1
7at New MexicoWCSU 35 - UNM 216 - 1
8BYE------
9at Fresno StateLCSU 41 - FSU 316 - 2
10UNLVWCSU 37 - UNLV 177 - 2
11BYE--

12Air ForceWAFA 38 - CSU 217 - 3
13at WyomingWWYO 17 - CSU 77 - 4
14Boise StateLBSU 31 - CSU 248 - 4


Tuesday, November 26, 2019

2019 Ram Recap - Week 13 - W(h)y(?)oming

This may be hard to believe, but the weather in Laramie for a battle over the Bronze Boot was really cold and terrible. Never could have predicted that. Also cold? The Rams offense. While seven points does get you taco's, it rarely is enough to win a football game. And that is exactly what happened. Looking back through the drive summaries of the game, the first half was boring as hell - five punts, a touchdown for each team, and a Wyoming kneel down to end the half tied at seven. The second half was just as lame, but more diverse - four punts, one touchdown, one field goal, one interception, one missed field goal, two turnover on downs, and one sad Wyoming drive to run out the clock.

The Positives:

  • John Jancek's defense played well enough to win the game. They legitimately did. They gave up 17 points to a rival, despite the offense giving Wyoming short fields on one of the touchdown drives. After last year's horrendous start to the Jancek era, his defense has been a strength as this season has progressed. 
  • Warren Jackson remains the best player on the field. Six receptions for 95 yards and a touchdown is pretty pedestrian for Jackson, but he did accomplish a major career milestone in the loss. 
  • As this game was on a Friday night in Laramie, I was not able to drive up to watch it in person. That means that I was able to avoid the cold (20-something degrees at kickoff and falling) and watch from the warmth of my living room. And believe me, I tried everything: 
  • The white pants/white jerseys/white helmets with green bones is such a clean look. 
  • [This was from last week. Still applies.] As you can tell, I am stretching a bit to find positives. I am so damn sick of losing rivalry games. 

The Negatives: 

  • The minuscule chance that CSU could stumble into bowl eligibility evaporated into the cold Wyoming wind. While I did not have much confidence in the Rams' ability to beat a top 25 Boise State, we will now all drive to Fort Collins on Black Friday without any false hope of a possible bowl game. 
  • Last week, the Rams averaged 1.3 yards per carry. Thankfully that number was improved against Wyoming where they averaged... [calculating]...[wait for it]... 1.6 yards per carry. Ugh. 
  • The first Ram offensive drive of the second half started with an incomplete pass followed by a 9 yard scramble by Patrick O'Brien. On third and one near midfield, the Rams called a QB sneak that resulted in no gain. Going for it on fourth down, the Rams reached deep into the playbook to call another QB sneak that resulted in no gain. Turnover on downs. Wyoming would then drive down half the field to score the go-ahead touchdown. The game was effectively over. I love when Bobo gets aggressive on offense. I loved that Bobo went for it on fourth down twice in the opening drive against Air Force. Placing your trust in your team to get the yardage needed to move the sticks is a great motivator. But calling a QB draw on second down and then two straight QB sneaks on third and fourth down was horrible. Wyoming had been all over the run game up to this point - pull something out of your giant offensive brain of yours and give your team a chance. That sequence was frustrating. 
  • Two drives later, the Rams had moved into Wyoming territory with a balanced attack - strong runs from Marcus McElroy and receptions by Trey McBride and Dante Wright got the Rams to the Wyoming 31 yard line. Two incomplete passes in the direction of Warren Jackson (neither was particularly close) and the Rams faced 4th down and 2. Down a touchdown on the road against a bitter rival during the fourth quarter of a freezing cold and windy contest and Mike Bobo elected to try a 50 yard field goal. Maybe the previous fourth down attempt scared him, but this was a chicken decision. What did the Rams have to lose in that scenario. You have a wide receiver who cannot be consistently defended by any cornerback in the Mountain West Conference. You do not have a single play in your playbook to get him the ball? 
  • The Rams have lost 12 straight rivalry games. Twelve straight. If you are a fourth year senior on the football teams of the University of Colorado, the United States Air Force Academy, or the University of Wyoming, you have never experienced a defeat at the hands of the football team from Colorado State University. 

Up Next - Week 14 - The Merciful End:

Bowl eligibility: out the window.

Trophy case: empty.

This season has been a frustrating continuation of the last few years of the Mike Bobo led program. Reports surfaced this week that two bottom-feeder Mountain West Conference teams already have plans to replace their coaches - Bob Davie from the University of New Mexico and Tony Sanchez from UNLV. Will Joe Parker make CSU the third MWC school to make a change? I know that the buyout money is in question, but I do not understand how Parker can look at what is transpiring with the football program and think that more time is the solution. The status quo is not working.

Our realtor always talks about the street optics of a property. If you are driving by a house that is on the market and you do not like what you see from the street, your chances of looking inside the house lessen considerably. College athletics are the street optics of university systems. CSU is a fantastic research university with a top 5 veterinary program and general academic excellence across the varying colleges. But the outward-facing, prominent public view of the university comes through the athletic department and specifically the big sports - football and basketball. When Bobo arrived on campus, CSU was positioning for something bigger - an invitation to a Power 5 conference. With the new on-campus stadium in the works, a run of success under Jim McElwain, and improved recruiting across the board, CSU football was on its way to being a top selection for any conference realignment or expansion.

In the last five years, CSU has improved our national academic rankings in most categories, has continued to expand our research capabilities, has made incredible strides to modernize and further beautify the campus, and has continued to be a leading high education system in the western United States. The athletic department has made strides as well - I can honestly say that at least 11 of the 13 varsity sports that are not football are trending upwards:

  • Women's volleyball continues their dominance of the MWC, currently ranked #11 in the country after going undefeated in conference play this season,
  • Men's cross country entered the NCAA regional meet with a national ranking of #25
  • Women's cross country has gone from a non-contender to finishing 4th at the MWC championship race,
  • Men's and women's track and field are both the defending indoor and outdoor MWC champions, 
  • Women's soccer is coming off their best season in program history (12-5-3) earning their first invite to the MWC tournament,
  • Women's softball spent portions of last season ranked in the top 25 last season and participated in the NCAA tournament, 
  • Men's golf is ranked in the top 25 and won their last three tournaments of 2019,
  • Women's golf produced record scoring during this past fall season,
  • Women's basketball had one down year last season among a run of solid MWC representation (and my favorite coach at the university),
  • Men's basketball is trending up with the return of Niko Medved and the talented young players that have followed him to Fort Collins. 
  • The remaining two programs (women's swimming and diving and women's tennis) may be trending upwards, I am not well informed team.  

And then there is the football program. The most prominent and visible and recognizable program in the department is in shambles with no signs of recovery. Three of the five power conferences will be renegotiating their media rights between 2022 and 2024, potentially shifting the college landscape similar to what we saw in 2011. That time frame worries me. Will the successes of the CSU athletic department and the academic achievements be enough to offset the doormat that is the football program? Or, can the football team do in the next two years what the other CSU programs have done to put the university in a position to be considered for any and all realignment options? At the current trajectory, I do not see that happening.

WeekOpponentPredictionResultFlick's Picks
1Colorado (Denver)LCU 52 - CSU 311 - 0
2Western IllinoisWCSU 38 - WIU 132 - 0
3at ArkansasLUA 55 - CSU 343 - 0
4ToledoWUT 41 - CSU 353 - 1
5at Utah StateLUSU 34 - CSU 244 - 1
6San Diego StateLSDSU 24 - CSU 105 - 1
7at New MexicoWCSU 35 - UNM 216 - 1
8BYE------
9at Fresno StateLCSU 41 - FSU 316 - 2
10UNLVWCSU 37 - UNLV 177 - 2
11BYE--

12Air ForceWAFA 38 - CSU 217 - 3
13at WyomingWWYO 17 - CSU 77 - 4
14Boise StateL


Thursday, November 21, 2019

2019 Ram Recap - Week 12 - Chair Farce

The weather should have been the first indicator of things to come. What was expected to be a gorgeous, cool, fall day in Fort Collins ended up being cold and blustery. The wind during our tailgate attempted to rip away our canopy and forced sweatshirts and jackets to emerge earlier than anticipated. We figured the stadium would provide a respite from the wind, as our seats force our backs to the west and the bleachers and press box provide a tall shelter. Somehow, physics declined cooperation and the wind swirled around our seats throughout the game. Moments of calmness were fleeting and welcomed, however brief they were. Our hats and gloves and jackets and hoods and blankets battled the entire game, but were overcome at the end of the third quarter and we headed home. The cold weather and bad football team gave us a great opportunity to explore the stadium - going to the top corner of our section and giving us some cool shots.



If you are a regular reader of this website, you may remember the first bullet in The Positives section of the UNLV recap was all about the success of the Rams being tied to their early offensive outbursts. This weekend followed that script exactly - finishing the first quarter up 14 - 0 over the Falcons. Great! Then the Rams decided to do nothing else offensively for the remainder of the game, let Air Force rattle off 24 unanswered points, score a late touchdown to make it interesting, then end the game dramatically by giving up a 99 yard interception return for a touchdown as the clock showed less than 2:00 remaining in the contest. Not great. Another trophy going back to a rival for anther year...

The Positives:

  • The first drive was magical and exactly what we expect from a Bobo offense. A solid mix of run and pass, aggressive fourth down play calls, and the Rams ending it in the end zone. After this drive, I was convinced that a good defensive effort combined with this offense would be enough to head home with a victory. 
  • The defense played well for most of the contest. The Air Force offense was completely stifled to start the game - starting the game with a fumble that was returned for a CSU touchdown and then two straight punts. The Rams defense added an interception in the third quarter and played far better than the final score indicated. This loss was not on the defense. 
  • This tweet came out prior to the Air Force game, but was a great indicator of the strides that have been made this year on the defensive front. There are some high quality programs on this list. And also CSU. 

  • Our tailgate game remains strong. Despite the wind, we successfully pre-gamed without incident. At one point, our tailgate television blew off the table and (no joke) landed upright on the ground next to the table. No damage from what we could tell. The TV took the rest of the night off after that miraculous save. 
  • As you can tell, I am stretching a bit to find positives. I am so damn sick of losing rivalry games. 

The Negatives: 

  • The wind. It really was not that cold in Fort Collins on Saturday evening, but the wind made watching an outdoor sporting event unbearable. 
  • During our time at the top of the section, we were vertically lined up with the northernmost suite. The kids tried their hardest to get the suite life folks to acknowledge their waving and dancing, to no avail. As I watched the kids go ham for the preoccupied audience, I was amazed by how many people in the suite were not watching the field out the window or on the television screens. Maybe I am a nut, but you came to a football game - watch the football game. 
  • While my prediction record for the season is guaranteed to be above .500, this incorrect pick hurt a lot. The loss essentially eliminates the possibility of stumbling into a bowl game. Of our last three games, this game had the best odds for a CSU victory. The start was exactly what CSU needed - a strong offensive first drive to open the scoring and a defensive score to go up by 14 in the first quarter. Then the offensive wheels just fell off. Offensive production outside of a two-play, 75 yard touchdown drive in the second half was non-existent. The offensive game plan was garbage. The offensive execution was garbage. The offensive adjustments were garbage (if they adjusted at all). 
  • I spent some time after the game texting with a buddy who was a former offensive lineman in high school and long-snapper at CSU (Hi John). Obviously, his understanding of football far exceeds any knowledge I have of the sport. His complaint was that despite the offensive line getting dominated by the smaller Air Force defensive line, CSU continued to call plays with 7 step drops. These deep drops in the pocket gave Air Force the time and space to put pressure on O'Brien before he had a chance to offload the ball. 
  • Another nugget from John: CSU is 8-31 against FBS teams with 4 or more wins. CSU is 18-1 against FCS teams and FBS teams with 3 or fewer wins. That is garbage. 
  • I can imagine being an Air Force fan is quite fun. You are the smaller team in every contest (with the service academy games as a possible exception). Yet your team plays harder than the opposition in EVERY. DAMN. GAME. There is never a question of effort or toughness or grit with that team. As one of those opposing teams, watching a smaller, less athletic team completely dominate the trenches is frustrating. The week prior to the game, CSU Creative pumped out a video where CSU talked about the tougher team winning. Well guess what, Rams. That statement remains true. 
  • The Rams rushed for 39 yards on 31 attempts. That equates to an average yards per rush of 1.3. LESS THAN A YARD AND A HALF PER RUSH. 
  • The Rams were 4-16 on 3rd down. 

Up Next - Week 13:

The good news is that the Rams still have a mathematical chance to work their way into a bowl game. The bad news is that the probability and likelihood of that happening is damn near zero. Wyoming played Boise State on the Smurf Turf earlier this month and ended up losing to the Broncos in overtime. I watched a chunk of that game and commented during the broadcast that I could not see how CSU beats either of those teams. After watching CSU against Air Force, I stand by that statement. Sorry Mikey from before the season started, your predictions are going 1-1 the remainder of the games.

First up are the Cowboys in Laramie for a Friday night tilt under the lights of War Memorial Stadium (this is assuming the state of Wyoming has discovered electricity in the last year). The Pokes are heading home after an 0-2 road trip through Boise, Idaho and Logan, Utah. Wyoming always plays hard in the Border War. The natural and longstanding rivalry between the schools is bolstered by the giant chips on the shoulders of the many Wyoming players from Colorado high schools who were overlooked by CSU during their recruiting process. Some Colorado prep star on the Cowboy roster will have a career game on Friday. It happens every year.

With a four-win season getting closer and closer, it becomes harder to envision the 2020 football season with Mike Bobo at the helm. The question has been and will continue to be the timing of the whole deal. Bobo's buyout drops precipitously after the first of the year ($5.5 million to $3 million) so it makes sense to either negotiate a reduced early buyout with Bobo or wait until January 1st to part ways. Waiting puts the Rams in a bind from a recruiting standpoint, but this program is in need of an overhaul regardless of the timing. Bobo inherited a team that in 2014 went 10-3 and was ranked in the top 25 for a short time. All the program has done since 2014 is go the wrong direction. As someone who truly respects and likes Mike Bobo the person, I have finally reached the point where I think it is time for Mike Bobo the coach to be relieved of his duties. This garbage is not acceptable.

#GoRams

WeekOpponentPredictionResultFlick's Picks
1Colorado (Denver)LCU 52 - CSU 311 - 0
2Western IllinoisWCSU 38 - WIU 132 - 0
3at ArkansasLUA 55 - CSU 343 - 0
4ToledoWUT 41 - CSU 353 - 1
5at Utah StateLUSU 34 - CSU 244 - 1
6San Diego StateLSDSU 24 - CSU 105 - 1
7at New MexicoWCSU 35 - UNM 216 - 1
8BYE------
9at Fresno StateLCSU 41 - FSU 316 - 2
10UNLVWCSU 37 - UNLV 177 - 2
11BYE--

12Air ForceWAFA 38 - CSU 217 - 3
13at WyomingW
14Boise StateL