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What We Definitely, Probably, Maybe Know About the NFL So Far

Perhaps more than any other sport, the NFL season has a way of flying by in what feels like the blink of an eye. And faster than you can say Tua Tagovailoa, each NFL team’s regular season is one-eighth complete with Week 2 officially behind us. Week 3 gets underway tonight. It is a Jaguars game, so you’d be forgiven if you don’t really care unless you’re starting Gardner Minshew in your fantasy league for some reason. If so, my heart goes out to you. But with two whole weeks of football in the books, there’s no better time than now to make some hard and fast declarations as to which teams are good and which ones are terrible based on that two-game sample. This is just what we do in the world of sports punditry. What am I supposed to do? Wait until the end of October to pretend I have well-informed insight? Thanksgiving? CHRISTMAS??? No, I believe in seizing the present to spout off opinions that definitely need more time to develop before I can pretend I know what I’m talking about. So here I go acting like I know a lot based on watching a little.

These Teams Are Very Good and Should Be Feared

Have you heard about these New England Patriots? It turns out that when they play football games, they generally win them. The addition of Antonio Brown just adds an extra layer of villainy to their already detestable standing as perennial Super Bowl favorite. But rest assured, this team is very good and the majority of good citizens outside of the greater Massachusetts area already appropriately hate them for it. You don’t need me to tell you to do that. It’s as automatic as Garfield hating Mondays.

Although according to this coffee mug, he’s actually quite fond of the Pats, so…bad analogy?

The Kansas City Chiefs are quarterbacked by the most exciting player in the league in Patrick Mahomes and are off to a 2-0 start. This team is going to score a buttload of points and should probably be considered the most likely to rid us of our annual New England nightmare. However, because the universe is cold and cruel, I fully anticipate they will lose in heartbreaking fashion when the AFC Championship Game is inevitably played in Foxboro come January.

The Baltimore Ravens are one of my favorite stories so far, simply because they have a quarterback who lots of people thought should be a running back when he came out of college. Instead, Lamar Jackson has carved up defenses through the first two weeks. Granted, those defenses belonged to the Dolphins and Cardinals respectively, but 82 points in two weeks is nothing to just write off. As much talk as there was about the Browns overcoming years of being doo doo and having a decent shot of actually winning the AFC North this offseason, Baltimore appears as though they will be the tallest hurdle that Baker Mayfield and co. will have to leap over to get there.

I’m putting the Los Angeles Rams on this list for a few reasons. First, they were in the Super Bowl last year and I don’t have any reason to believe that was a fluke. But more importantly, they’re off to a 2-0 start without Jared Goff having played all that great. That description certainly applies more to his overwhelmingly blah performance in Week 1 against Carolina than his respectable showing this past week against New Orleans. But if and when he consistently performs up to his number-one-overall pick potential, the Rams will be very dangerous. Todd Gurley is a nightmare to tackle and Aaron Donald spearheads a defense that has shown itself to be one of the best in the league at creating turnovers. I expect them to be just fine in the only division in football that has three teams off to a perfect start.

These Teams Are Very Bad and Should Feel Bad About Themselves

The Miami Dolphins might be the worst football team ever assembled, and strangely that’s kind of the point. This is the NFL version of the team from Major League where the unstated goal is to find a collection of players who are bad enough to ensure that they will lose as often as possible. The results through two weeks couldn’t possibly be more laughable. These dead fish have been outscored by a combined 102-10 in their first two games. Unless Ryan Fitzpatrick’s beard becomes sentient and learns how to fend off a pass rush, the likelihood of this team winning a game this year appears to be somewhere between not great and no chance in hell.

That beard tho…
📷: Washington Post

UPDATE: Fitzpatrick and his beard have reportedly been relegated to back up in favor of a clean-shaven Josh Rosen

My New York football Giants have been run incompetently for several years now, and their sixth 0-2 start in the last seven seasons is hardly a surprise. It’s nothing short of depressing to see what has become of the twilight of Eli Manning’s career. That potentially Hall of Fame career now appears to have officially struck midnight with Eli being benched in favor of sixth-overall pick Daniel Jones, who actually looks like what would happen if the Lego company tried to make an Eli Manning.

Collect the whole set!
📷: USA Today

I understand that the Giants’ problems extend far beyond the quarterback position and in fact don’t even start there, but the glory days of this franchise are so far back in the rear view mirror, they have completely faded from sight. Bartender, I need a new drink. I seem to have spilled my tears into this one and it’s gotten a little salty.

Alas, the Giants are not the only dumpster fire of a football team that calls Metlife Stadium home. The Jets are off to another one of their “same old Jets” starts to the year. They are also 0-2, and have managed to lose one quarterback to mononucleosis and another to a gross-looking ankle injury. Something called a Luke Falk is now their starter for likely at least the next two games and perhaps longer. The good news is those games will be against a couple of pushovers in the Patriots and Eagles. Oh wait, those teams are actually pretty goddamn good. Well at least the schedule should get favorable once Sam Darnold presumably returns in Week 5, right? Checks schedule, sees Cowboys Week 5 and Patriots (again) in Week 6. Well, Gang Green nation. There’s always next year.

Bless Tim Burke for this Sam Darnold graphic generator so I can bring you this important PSA

The Pittsburgh Steelers were not supposed to be a part of the bad list when the year began. But now that they are 0-2 and Ben Roethlisberger has been ruled out for the season, it’s hard to imagine things getting much better for them. The Donte Moncrief signing wasn’t necessarily supposed to be akin to the second coming of Jerry Rice, but he has been about as bad as could be so far. After catching 3 of his 10 targets for a whopping 7 yards in his Pittsburgh debut, he was targeted just once in Week 2, and that was a pass that bounced off of his hands and was promptly intercepted. At least they wouldn’t do anything foolish like trade a first-round pick for Minkah Fitzpatrick, except that’s exactly what they did on Monday. The question that remains is can Mason Rudolph turn this team’s fortunes around? Granted, he looked pretty good in almost leading them to a comeback against Seattle. But as I’ve already made clear, it’s my job to make grand declarations based on basically nothing, so my answer is no and he probably shouldn’t even try. But while we’re on the subject of having to fill in for injured quarterbacks…

Look At All These Injured Quarterbacks!

Roethlisberger is done for the year. So is Nick Foles. Drew Brees is out six weeks. Deshaun Watson and Carson Wentz have no business still being alive after getting squashed by large football men this past week. I’ve already talked about Sam Darnold coming down with smoochies disease in addition to his backup Trevor Siemian having his ankle reduced to shrapnel.

I’m really sorry, Sam. In all sincerity I wish you a speedy recovery.

All this is before I even mention Cam Newton, who I can’t be convinced isn’t dealing with some kind of injury, whether it’s related to his surgically repaired shoulder or not. It’s only a matter of time before NFL quarterback is being featured on that World’s Most Dangerous Jobs show on History Channel or TLC or whatever the fuck network it’s on. One thing’s for sure. No matter how many QBs go down, NFL teams will surely try to resurrect Bart Starr before they give Colin Kaepernick a call. That’s because as has been firmly established by now, the only unforgivable sin in the NFL is kneeling for the national anthem. No really, it’s a wonderful sports league. Oh boy, it seems my eyes have rolled so far back in my head I can’t see anymore. Oh well.


So there you have it. Two weeks in the books and I think I know everything. Despite the fact I’ve covered less than half of the league in this piece, I think we all know what’s going to go down the rest of the way by now. Sure, there are a bunch of teams that are off to good starts that will probably come crashing down to earth in the weeks to come (looking at you, Buffalo), as well as some teams that have some kinks to work out before they make a push for a playoff spot (looking at you, should-be-winless Atlanta). Now let’s all look forward to Week 3, after which much of what I said here can and should be completely disregarded. LET’S PLAY SOME MORE FOOTBAW!

They’re Not This Dumb, They’re Bullshitting You

Wading into the waters of political discussion on the Internet is a lot like jumping into a shark tank. But there was an exchange on Twitter this past week that I think really highlights where we’re at nowadays, and I want to talk about it for a minute here.

Let me first state clearly that I am not what you would call a Chuck Schumer fan. I believe he has been mostly feckless in his current position as Senate minority leader. However, he sent out this tweet last week in which he starts by stating a fact supported by scientific data:

Now, whether or not you agree that climate change is the greatest threat facing our planet – it is – I don’t think it’s audacious to say that there is cause for concern when you consider that July was the 415th consecutive month that global temperatures were higher than 20th century averages.

Alternatively, you could be Texas senator John Cornyn, who quote tweeted Schumer and inserted his own commentary on the issue by proclaiming with all the gravitas of a wet fart: “It’s summer, Chuck.”

Let me count the ways that this is a dumb thing to say. For starters, the entire southern hemisphere of the planet could respond by simply saying, “It’s winter, John.” Second, even if it was summer everywhere – it isn’t – this is surely not the first time we’ve ever had summer. In fact, there have been…(counts on fingers)…like, a lot of them over the course of human history. We should be able to agree that it’s a bad sign that the five hottest years ever recorded were (in order) 2016, 2015, 2017, 2018 and 2014. You might recognize those as the last five years in a row.

Needless to say, Cornyn was shredded for his quip in the replies. A reasonable person might have been willing to just take the L and move on. But not Cornyn. No, he decided to double down.

This is a classic cop out. Say something stupid and then tell everyone you were just kidding. Here’s the thing, though. Where’s the joke in what he said? I can’t find it. “You ever notice how summer is hot?” is not the kind of zinger that’s gonna land anyone a Netflix comedy special. But more to the point, what Cornyn is unwittingly admitting here is one of two things. He’s either really that dumb, or he’s purposefully obfuscating to make people think of climate change as something worth joking about instead of acting on. And I’m willing to bet it’s the latter.

It speaks to the larger strategy at play here from people who have a financial interest in keeping climate change solutions at bay. They’ve turned this into a political issue, which it really shouldn’t be. Ensuring the planet is inhabitable should be stakes in which every person has a vested interest, regardless of party lines. But somehow, it’s become an issue of belief, as if debating the merits of the science portending a global crisis is akin to talking about the existence of ghosts.

Climate change conversations should be data based. And the data says we’re fucked if we don’t take considerable steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But of course, reducing greenhouse gas emissions means placing regulations on industry, which is clearly a no go for those holding political power in the United States at the moment. Hence the withdrawal from the Paris accord. Hence the elimination of endagered species protection. Hence the rolling back of common sense environmental regulations. Hence the use of climate change as a punchline instead of a threat. And hence on and henceforth.

You see, it’s a game to these people. Large donors from influential corporations will continue to line their pockets to keep telling you that all of this is nothing to worry about. It’s a dangerous game in which the survival of future generations is on the line. But it’s not just on climate change that this strategy is applied. It seems no matter the issue, they’re going to at least attempt to do this dance to convince you that it’s really not all that important as long as corporations and wealthy special interest groups have carte blanche to do whatever they want.

When sensible gun legislation is introduced, they’ll tell you that it just won’t work, despite the fact that it has for every developed nation outside of the United States. They’ll say you can’t legislate crazy, even as they oppose or eliminate background check programs that would help to prevent guns from falling into the hands of the mentally ill. They’ll legislate women’s reproductive rights to protect the unborn fetus instead of the woman being forced to carry a baby to term even if that pregnancy is the product of rape or incest. Iowa congressman Steve King – whose track record permits him to be politely described as a racist reptile – went so far as to say the following:

“What if we went back through all the family trees and just pulled those people out that were products of rape and incest? Would there be any population of the world left if we did that?”

Steve King, an asshole

In King’s case, this might actually be a genuine belief that he holds. I can’t stress enough how much of a prick he is. But more often than not, politicians of his ilk are beholden to their corporate masters and will use whatever coded language they need to use to make sure that their interests are prioritized over those of the people who vote them into office. That point could easily be directed at people on both sides of the aisle, but it’s my observation that Republicans do seem to be more brazen about it.

The point is, don’t let these bullshitters razzle dazzle their way past your sensibilities. They’re going to keep trying to tell you that you’re crazy for feeling the way you do by reframing warranted concern as you getting all bent out of shape over nothing. But you’re not crazy.

Just remember that the battle here is not with the people who vote for these cretins. Those in power love nothing better than when we get caught up sniping at each other when they’re the ones that should be held accountable. That’s why you’ll notice that none of my anger in this piece has been directed at voters. I’m doing my best not to judge anyone for using their vote in whichever way they see fit, even if I don’t see how it’s possible to turn a blind eye to so much of the cruelty on display in Washington these days. There’s so much to be pissed off about every day that it’s easy to become exhausted by it all. In many ways, that’s part of the strategy. So let’s try to keep it focused. And here’s to hoping we can vote these clowns out of office as soon as possible.

5 Weird Sports Terms We Never Thought to Question

Sports can be funny sometimes. Seemingly every night on the highlight show of your choosing, you might watch something that you’ve never seen before. Something so wacky it seems to defy all semblance of logic or reason. But perhaps nothing about sports is stranger than some of the terminology that gets used to describe particular recurring events. Here are five examples of weirdo sports terminology that we throw around as if they’re normal things to say, and everyone just goes along with it.

Baseball: Golden Sombrero

This refers to when a batter strikes out four times in the same game. I guess since doing just about anything three times in a game can be referred to as a “hat trick” – which really should be a hockey/soccer term exclusively – baseball people decided to double down on the hat reference and just make it bigger. Something I learned today: According to Baseball Reference, striking out five times in a game is known as a platinum sombrero. Sammy Sosa is the all-time leader in that category with four. But at least they didn’t go any further than that. I mean, no one would be silly enough to coin a term for the ultra rare six strikeout performance…Wait, check that. Apparently, that’s called a titanium sombrero. Well, one thing’s for sure – whether figuratively or literally – no one wants to wear that hat.

Hockey: Apple

This is a cutesy slang name for an assist. Why? Well after doing some thorough research into the term’s origins, it turns out there is a very deep and elaborate explanation for this. It’s because – and stay with me here – assist and apple both start with the same letter. No, seriously. That’s the reason. By that logic, I propose a motion to start referring to goals as grapefruits. As in, Connor McDavid had a really good game tonight. Two grapefruits and an apple on his stat line. Mmmm, nutritious!

Soccer/Basketball: Nutmeg

This refers to when an offensive player either dribbles or passes the ball directly between the legs of a defender. If you’re not sure where this term came from, but you’re thinking, “There’s no way that’s actually a testicle reference, is it?” …Well yes, it absolutely is. After looking into this further, I discovered this little tidbit on Wikipedia that provides an alternative explanation:

Another theory was postulated by Peter Seddon in his book, Football Talk – The Language And Folklore Of The World’s Greatest Game. The word, he suggests, arose because of a sharp practice used in nutmeg exports between North America and England. “Nutmegs were such a valuable commodity that unscrupulous exporters were to pull a fast one by mixing a helping of wooden replicas into the sacks being shipped to England,” writes Seddon. “Being nutmegged soon came to imply stupidity on the part of the duped victim and cleverness on the part of the trickster.” 

I suppose it is more fun to say someone got nutmegged than it is to say they were Trojan horsed. But let’s be serious. I’m not buying this importer/exporter explanation. I know a balls reference when I see one.

Football: Pooch Punt

This describes a short kick designed to prevent a long return, but you’d be forgiven if you think it sounds more like the kind of thing that would get your PETA membership revoked. When you consider there is also a football play known as a flea flicker, I’m starting to think that there’s some kind of odd connection between dogs and football.

But while we’re on the subject of football, you may have heard the term Monday morning quarterback used to describe someone who uses the power of hindsight to critique a football team’s decision making. Well, today I learned that there is a European equivalent used with soccer critics. That term is Thursday morning tippy tappy. I swear I’m not making that up. My life is appreciably better for knowing this. I hope you now feel the same way.

Baseball: A couple of ways we describe curveballs

I can understand why a baseball commentator would describe a curveball as a bender or a hook. Those are quite clearly desriptions of the movement the pitch makes as it approaches home plate. Even referring to it as a deuce makes sense, because the catcher will put down two fingers to signal for that pitch. But where on earth did we come up with the term yakker? That sounds more to me like that one friend of yours who just doesn’t know how to hold their liquor. They know who they are.

But hands down, my favourite curveball word is the term Uncle Charlie. I mean, WHAT? In trying to find the origin of this, I stumbled across a website which offers what can be generously described as a convoluted explanation:

Some historians of the game say the term is connected to CB Radio use in the 1970s.  Some CB radio users at the time referred to the Federal Communications Commission as “Uncle Charlie”.  They say the slight connection between“Curveball” (CB) and CB Radio somehow allowed the term “Uncle Charlie” to jump this very loose connection.

sportsfanfocus.com

A “very loose connection” indeed. I’d have an easier time accepting that the person who coined this term simultaneously had a hard time hitting the curve, and a grumpy uncle they never wanted to invite over for dinner. Uncle Charlie? I never want to see him. The pitch or the person.

Got any other ridiculous sports terms that require more of an explanation? Leave them in the comments below. You can also find me on Twitter (@MaxMadeATweet) or on Instagram (@maxmadeagram). Holler at me any time. I’ll see ya next week!

The Yankees Do Nothing, and Will Probably Win Nothing

The MLB Trade Deadline has come and gone, and the first-place New York Yankees have decided that what they have is enough to win a World Series this year. Well, at least what they’ve decided is that they weren’t willing to part with any top-tier prospects to bolster a pitching staff that has scuffled its way through the last few weeks since the All Star break.

In a vacuum, it’s hard to have an enormous problem with the decision not to thin out a promising prospect pool for the kinds of pitchers that were available at the deadline this year. Once it became clear that the thought of Noah Syndergaard in pinstripes was nothing more than a talk radio caller’s pipe dream, it honestly didn’t make a ton of sense to part with a player the likes of Clint Frazier or even Deivi Garcia to land someone like Robbie Ray. That’s true even if Frazier seems to have fallen out of favor with the front office and doesn’t appear to have a spot on this team in any capacity, at least for this particular season.

But it certainly isn’t a good look for Brian Cashman and Co. when you consider the Houston Astros managed to snag Zack Greinke from the Diamondbacks on the same day he pitched against the Yankees in the Bronx. The Astros’ rotation was already a cut above that of the Yanks, and now the argument could be made that Houston’s worst starter is at least as good as New York’s best.

I’m not at all what you would call a slave to statistics – especially a stat like ERA – but when you consider that there isn’t a single Yankees’ starter with an earned run average below 4.00, it’s impossible to argue that starting pitching wasn’t and isn’t a glaring need on this team. What the Yankees’ hierarchy is essentially telling its fan base is that they plan on winning playoff games by scoring a ton of runs. That isn’t necessarily an empty threat considering the depth of their lineup, but I think we’ve all seen enough postseason baseball to know that generally isn’t how things work.

Sure, there’s a possibility that Luis Severino could return in September and re-assert himself as the ace of the staff. Yes, Dellin Betances could come back and add another dynamic arm out of the bullpen so that the starters won’t be required to go six or seven innings deep come October. But count me among the Yankee fans who just doesn’t see how the Bombers can win a seven-game series against a team like Houston as things are currently constructed.

Make no mistake, this Yankee team is one of just a handful in the league that can be considered championship quality. But watching the pitching staff labor to get outs against the high-powered offenses of the Twins and Red Sox last week was enough to instill more than just a little bit of doubt that they are up to the task. Should they fail to win it all this year, the vitriol that much of the fan base will hurl at the front office will be expected, and frankly, deserved.

It goes back to the offseason when they decided they didn’t need someone like Patrick Corbin enough to pay top dollar for him over six years. Even as Dallas Kuechel remained unsigned through the first two months of the season, the Yanks allowed themselves to be outbid by Atlanta, even though he only ended up signing a one-year deal for $13M. To snooze their way through the trade deadline while Greinke, Marcus Stroman and Trevor Bauer all changed uniforms doesn’t really make much sense to me when you consider how quickly championship windows can close.

There are arguments to be made about whether or not those three guys in particular would be a good fit for New York, but barring a spectacular turnaround, it certainly doesn’t seem like the investments the Yankees did make in J.A. Happ and C.C. Sabathia were the answer. Domingo German has been a revelation, but the more his innings pile up, the less likely it is that he is a factor come playoff time. I still believe in Masahiro Tanaka as a reliable postseason stalwart, but his performance of late has left a lot to be desired. And as far as James Paxton goes, it’s hard to look at his first year in pinstripes as anything other than a disappointment at this point.

When you get right down to it, the Yankees had a need to address and they chose not to do it. That doesn’t mean they’re punting on the season or anything like that. After all, as I write this they hold an 8-game lead in the American League East and there is no reason at all to fear that they will let that slip. The concern obviously lies in what will happen when they find themselves having to find a way to get 27 outs against Houston, Boston or Minnesota without being outscored four games out of seven.

It’s hard to write a piece like this without sounding like a typical spoiled Yankee fan, but the fact remains that it has been a decade since this team won a ring. I know, I can already hear the fans of championship-starved franchises playing tiny violins for me, but I just think it would be a damn shame for the Yanks to waste another year with this marvelous lineup only to come up empty-handed.

This attitude of “Well, we can just sign Gerrit Cole in the offseason and everything will be fine!” just doesn’t cut it for me. For one, I want to win THIS year. And second, what indication has this team given you in the way they’ve conducted their business over the last several seasons that they would actually pull the trigger on a multi-year megadeal for a pitcher that will be turning 29 in September? If they end up talking themselves out of doing such a thing, I can’t say I’d find myself surprised.

Before I end this piece on such a critical note, I want to make sure I point out that Cashman does deserve a ton of credit for the diamonds in the rough he has found when it comes to position players. Luke Voit, Gio Urshela and Cameron Maybin have all played excellent baseball since putting on the pinstripes. Mike Tauchman has been a pleasant surprise even if he’s played a more regular role than was designed for him at the start of the season.

But the reason why they say pitching and defense wins championships is because that has borne itself out to be true more often than not. It’s hard to make the case right now that the Yankees have enough pitching to pick them to win in October. It would be wonderful if I get proven wrong. Here’s hoping that August and September sees the Yankees’ staff piece it all together. But Andy Pettitte isn’t walking through that door.

An Ode to otis

I’ve been quiet on this blog lately. It’s been a few weeks since I’ve posted anything here. That’s not really for any particular reason other than the fact that I’ve been a little bit lazy. But there is also another reason. The last few weeks in particular have been filled with anticipation in my apartment. That’s because my brother, Sam, who some of you may already know as maSHerman, has been campaigning his debut album, otis. And honestly, it’s the only thing I’ve really wanted to write about. But I knew that I had to wait until today to do that.

That’s because this past Friday, otis was finally released and is now available to stream on Spotify, Apple Music or any other music streaming service you might subscribe to. I could go on and on about how beautifully written and produced this record is, but instead, this piece is going to be more about what my experience has been watching it all come together.

otis is a relationship album in every sense of the term. It’s a true story that he lived through, and it transformed the way he views life, love, faith and fate. I’m not going to get into the intricate details of that story here because it’s not mine to tell. Sam has found another way to do that himself, and that will be shared with you some time this week. But suffice to say, otis is an album that has literally taken years to come together.

It was some time early last year that Sam shared with me a complete track list of instrumentals consisting of what otis was intended to be. He walked me through the concepts behind each song. Originally, otis was essentially going to be a recreation of this relationship. It was going to be very narrative-heavy and some of his production choices were purposefully jarring to represent individual moments, like the night they broke up for instance. The idea for the overall concept of the album was that he was going to take these two characters and trap them on an album together. One character was going to be this ideal and unrealistically perfect female. The other would be the role that he felt he played in this relationship: an obsessive, overbearing male.

Sam spent a lot of time and energy working towards creating that version of otis. He got as far as releasing two songs last year that were originally supposed to be album cuts. You might know them as Signals and Facetime. Those two songs are still availble to listen to on the streamers, and they provide a great insight into what otis came very close to sounding like. But as he continued to try and create this angsty, true-to-life recreation of the story, he began to feel as though he was missing the mark.

For one thing, it seemed from my perspective that trying to get in the headspace of transcribing the more difficult experiences he went through in and after this relationship was not doing him any favors in terms of his mental health. I mean, he was actively trying to relive traumatic memories, which is not something I would recommend to anyone. But I understood why he was doing it from an artistic perspective. More importantly though, he came to the realization that he was writing this album with the wrong approach.

Sam’s thought process as it relates to the story of this relationship had matured over time. He had found solace in music and in this wonderful community of artists that he surrounds himself with. He was in a better place, even if he wasn’t free from the attachment that he still felt to this person he was writing about. Frankly, he felt like the whole vibe of this album was wrong. In fact, he felt like an idiot for approaching it that way.

That’s when he wrote the song Stupid Stupid, another track which is currently available to stream. This marked the official turning point in the development of otis. It was right around this time that Sam took that original playlist of instrumentals – which I might add also had full lyric sheets attached to them – and scrapped the whole damn thing.

He had his new direction. He knew how he wanted to approach this album and was resolute in the idea that he was finally going to do this the right way. He just needed that first song to get the ball rolling. But I don’t think either of us would have guessed that it would have been something that happened in my life that would have accomplished that.

It was this past January. I was beaming with excitement because a girl I’m very close to was coming back to Vancouver to visit for the first time since she had left town to go travel across Europe. I hadn’t seen her since we had taken a trip to Paris together in September. But we were having communication issues. To make a long story short, I assumed that she would be staying with me that week. So when she told me the day she was to arrive that she was actually going to be staying at her friend’s place, I was dismayed and confused. There was clearly something she needed to tell me, but for whatever reason she couldn’t bring herself to let me know what was going on in her head.

I vented about this to Sam for about an hour. Needless to say, he related heavily to the concept. Eventually, I decided to go out and take a walk to clear my mind. I came back about 45 minutes later to find Sam in the living room with his guitar in hand. He told me he had just written a song and asked if he could play it for me. And that’s when I heard this hook for the first time:

Why can’t you just talk to me?
What are you scared of?
Is there something you’re hiding that you just can’t get rid of?
Where do you go?
You don’t have to leave me alone
You’re welcome in my heart and in my home
But you gotta talk to me

talk to me

He had a verse to go with it. Within minutes, he had his studio set up to record and started laying it down. And to my delight, he invited me to write a verse of my own. So I did. And that, ladies and germs, is how talk to me became the first song that was married to the otis track list. It would eventually be the first official single for the album, complete with music video and everything. It was after that song was written and recorded that things began to snowball creatively.

Over the course of the next few months, otis started coming together bit by bit. His music family, NYHLA Records, had a group writing session not long after which helped him add to his track list. That was the night that am i enough materialized after Sam got into a room with Micah Berlow, a magnificent guitarist for the band Ghulo, as well as uber-talented singer/songwriter and eventual NYHLA signee, Biawanna. The combination of Micah’s guitar with Biawanna’s beautifully written hook helped to make that track an obvious lock for the album, and it too would become a single.

When I call you, I try out a joke, say, “Hi, is this the girlfriend store?”
You say my tired voice might just be the cutest thing that you ever heard before
You say you love me and you wish I was beneath you
I said I kinda am, that’s why I don’t believe you
Am I ruinous?
Why am I like this?

am i enough

I was in the room for the writing process on most of the songs on this album, which is something I will always remember. Make no mistake, I believe my role in the development of this album is a relatively small one, but there are moments throughout this project that have my fingerprints on them, and that is such a cool thing for me to experience.

I particularly remember being present for the writing session for caught, which was a song designed to be a nod sonically to the days Sam and I would listen to tons of pop punk music. If you hear blink-182 type instrumentation and harmonies on that track, I assure you that’s no accident.

You know, it’s hard to give me stage fright since I sing and play guitar
But now that I got what I wanted I’m the dog that caught the car

caught

There were also days I would come home from work to find Sam putting the finishing touches on a new song. Listening to otis, part one for the first time was eye-opening. That song is literally the perfect intro track because it encapsualtes the thesis of the album in a delightfully creative way.

I hate these boys who sing about girls and make us feel bad for them
I hate these boys who sing about girls like “Oooh, she the one”
I hate these boys who sing about girls and say, “This woman is my world”
Cause they’re all trash and they’re all wrong, except for me

otis, part one

otis, part two might be the most enjoyable listen on the entire project. It’s a delightful country bumpkin love song that Sam wrote and recorded on Valentine’s Day. Before he had that song on the track list, I remember him joking about how he had somehow neglected to write an actual love song on this album about love. Well this track checked that box and then some.

You’re my favorite album of all time
I can’t believe you were mine
I hope you know that my love runs deeper than my experience with signs
I could listen to you talk about slugs and mushrooms every day
I think your art’s as cool as your taste and your brilliant mind
Also, you’re fine

otis, part two

I think the song that really put this whole thing over the top for me was the night that I came home and was treated to the song limerent for the first time. Don’t get me wrong. I had been thoroughly pleased by everything he had created until that point, and I already knew that this album was going to be a hit. But limerent is just so goddamn impressive. It moved me to my core. The guitar riff is one of my favorites on the entire album, and Sam also provides arguably his best vocal performance of the record on that track.

O my love, get out of my sight
No matter where you’re always there to flash before my eyes
I try to make your bed somewhere outside my head
And let you go, but we both know you’ll find a way back in

limerent

The hardest slot on the project for him to fill was easily Track 9. At one point the song that filled that space was a whole ass rap song called music is tight. When Sam decided that wasn’t appropriate, he wrote a song called ttyl, which was designed to be upbeat and served the purpose of tying a nice, happy bow around this whole story. It was a good song, but the problem was that it didn’t feel like an authentic representation of what he felt.

It wasn’t until Joan Carver – one of Vancouver’s best-kept secrets – played a beautiful guitar melody that Sam knew he had the direction for what Track 9 should sound like. And out of that instrumental, camellia was born. It’s a song that more accurately represents his feelings, and it may be my favourite song on the project. In my mind, it’s a perfect song.

There’s a beauty in the gray I feel
That’s why I live where it rains all year
No, I’ll release you in the summer
And appreciate the colour
I’ll release you in the summer

camellia

There’s really only one song left that I feel like I need to talk about here, and I purposely saved it for last. It’s also the last song on the album, although technically, it was the first one to be written. Last month on this blog, I wrote a detailed piece about my dad and the devastating circumstances surrounding the last year of his life. About a year ago, I was having some freaky experiences that caused me to allow myself to believe it was possible that my dad was trying to communicate with me from the beyond somehow. So I wrote a song about it.

I took that song to Sam, and he liked it enough that he wanted to help me refine it. So he and I sat down and retooled the lyric sheet. He put an acoustic guitar instrumental behind my vocals, and bam, we had a song called legacy. We would later rewrite the song again to remove all negative language from it, and I am so proud of the finished product. It was Sam’s idea to rebrand the song as legacy, by max and that is an enormous honour. I’m so happy this song is out in the world. It may not be a part of the relationship story behind otis, but it fits the theme of closure.

If you haven’t listened to otis yet, you really need to. It is a masterpiece. I may have a biased opinion, but I promise you I’m not lying. The songwriting is what carries the project from start to finish, and if there’s one thing that you can automatically rely on with any maSHerman project, the production value is outstanding. I am so fucking proud of my brother for the hard work and care that he put into this record. He’s only getting started, folks. So why not get aboard the maSHerman train now? You’re gonna be in for a wild ride. The future starts now.

Listen to otis:
http://smarturl.it/otis

20 20’s Hindsights

This week will mark the 20th piece that I have written since I started this here blog back in February. In that spirit, I’ve decided to come up with a concept for this one that ties into that number. So here’s what I’ve got. Now that I’m a few years into my thirties, it’s pretty wild to think about how my feelings and philosophies have evolved since I was just a kid trying to figure out how life works. So without further ado, here are 20 lessons I learned in my 20’s in no particular order.

20) Things don’t always happen for a reason

This may fly in the face of your beliefs, and if you are the kind of person that believes that everything does happen for a reason, please don’t take this to mean that I’m saying you’re wrong. I’m only speaking to my experience. Everyone gets thrown countless curveballs over the course of their existence, and oftentimes there may seem to be no rhyme or reason why. What I do believe is not so much that there’s a universal explanation behind those things happening, but that if you respond to those events in a constructive way, life has a way of putting you right where you’re supposed to be, whether that be mentally or physically.

Having said that, sometimes life deals people a particularly shitty hand, and the hills they have to climb to overcome those things may seem more like mountains. That’s why I have to stop short of saying something cheesy like “anything is possible with the right attitude!” because life is a lot more difficult than any dumbass motivational poster with a cat on it can capture.

19) You are the only person who can prioritize your own happiness

Happiness is not a given. If you’re like me and you’ve struggled with depression, you know how exhausting it can be to try to dig yourself out of it. Leaning on people you love is an important part of finding your way. And there’s no doubt that having a strong support system is hugely important. I’m blessed to be able to say unequivocally that I do. But it took me making some extremely difficult decisions and making my happiness a priority to get to a place where being content with my life and my surroundings is at least the baseline that has set me up to be able to move forward. No one else is going to do that for you.

18) No one should be defined by what they do for a living, because nobody is just one thing

I used to work in sports radio in New York. I loved that job. Now I work as a server in a restaurant. I can’t say I love it. But when I talk about what makes me who I am, neither of those things would be one of the first five or six things I would mention. I have occupational goals for myself that I haven’t attained yet. But even if and when I do, it won’t be what defines me. That’s because before I would describe myself by what I do to make money, I’d tell you about the character attributes that make up who I actually am. I’d tell you about how I try to present myself to the world. It’s only as we go further down the list that I’d mention that, oh yeah, I also love writing and broadcasting and that those are things I’m passionate enough about that I hope to be able to monetize them enough that one day I can make a living.

17) Change isn’t always good, but when you decide to make the change yourself it usually is

I absolutely detest the phrase “change is a good thing!” That’s because every one of us has had to endure a change in their life that they didn’t ask for and they didn’t want. But when you decide that you need to make a change for the better, pulling the trigger on those kinds of decisions often lead to the most fulfilling experiences imaginable. Case in point, my decision to leave radio and the only home I’ve ever known to come to Vancouver and start anew. My life is so much better for that decision. It’s changes like that which I decided to make for myself that have always been the ones that have paid dividends.

16) You can’t half-ass love

I’m sure many of us have been in a relationship before that we were in just for the sake of being in a relationship. That has never, and will never be enough to make love work. Hell, I was in a relationship like that for six years at one point. It wasn’t fair to either one of us. All it did was make the heartbreak feel worse when it inevitably ended. If you love someone and want to be with them, you either go all in or you don’t go in at all.

15) Work to live, don’t live to work

This is not to say that having a strong work ethic isn’t important. But no one should have to be in a position where 80 to 90 percent of what their life is made up of is working. There’s an exception to this if you genuinely love what you do. But in those cases, working and living are often more intertwined. For most of us, six or seven-day work weeks are draining and leave you with little or no time to actually experience what life is all about. Even if you have to make room for fun in your schedule by planning it out ahead of time, fucking do it. Because devoting too much of your time to working a job you don’t love is an absolute soul sucker.

14) Mistakes are a part of the process

Hey, guess what? You’re gonna fuck up. A lot. Embrace it and learn from it. What’s the old saying about the definition of insanity? It’s when you keep doing the same things and expecting different results. Try doing things whichever way you see fit. Fail at it. And then try it again a different way.

13) There is no use in trying to curry favor with people who don’t give a shit about you

This could apply to anyone from a boss to a friend. But when people make it abundantly clear that they don’t have your best interests in mind, there is no use in trying to win them over and have them come around. That shit just ain’t gonna happen.

12) Set boundaries

To be honest, this is one that I still haven’t fully learned yet. But I’m working on it. If you feel like people are regularly taking your kindness for granted and walking all over you, it’s likely because to some extent you’re allowing it to happen. Put your foot down when someone crosses the line. It may be uncomfortable, especially when it’s someone you care about who is responsible, but if they care about you, they’ll respect what you’re saying. You don’t have to put up with bullshit just to make it easier for people to like you. Take a stand when you feel like you’re being taken advantage of.

11) Talk less, listen more

When people come to you with a problem, it’s not always advice that they’re looking for. Sometimes we just want to feel like we’re being heard. So many of us keep our feelings bottled up inside because we don’t want to bother anyone else with our bullshit. But I would hope we’ve all had the experience of how liberating it can feel to just say the things we’re thinking out loud to someone who isn’t going to judge or feel it necessary to respond. Oftentimes the response can come off as defensive or just be completely unnecessary. There’s a lot of power that can be derived from simply hearing someone out and validating what they are feeling.

10) Never deny what you’re feeling

Don’t say “I’m fine” if you’re not fine. That isn’t a show of strength. It’s a show of denial, and it’s 100% counterproductive. Communication is everything. There’s also a difference between allowing yourself to feel sad as opposed to wallowing in it. The former is not only acceptable, it’s important. The latter is when it’s time to do something about it.

9) Prioritize self care

This feeds back into what I was talking about with the whole “don’t live to work” message, but I can’t stress enough how important it is to give yourself a break if you need to give your brain a rest. Get outside. See your friends. Be with family. Or if it’s what you really need, just stay inside and do nothing all day. Play video games. Read a book. Listen to music. Some people might refer to some of these things as distractions or a waste of time. But I’d tell you we all need to be distracted from the grind of everyday life from time to time. This shit is exhausting.

8) It’s ok to ask for help

Independence is a wonderful thing. But if everything you do is an independent venture, you’re fucked. We all need to lean on others to keep going sometimes. Surround yourself with the right people, and feed off of each other. Needing help isn’t a sign of being weak. In fact, having the wherewithal to understand that you can’t do it on your own and reaching out to those you trust to help you is an indicator that you’re mentally tough enough to understand that what you’re exposing isn’t your weakness. If anything, all you’re exposing is your humanity.

7) Strive for improvement over perfection

No one and nothing is perfect. So don’t try to make it perfect. Just make it better. Even if you take a step back, understand that’s normal. Progress is never a straight line. There will always be peaks and valleys. Just stay with it and you’ll be fine as long as you’re approach is sound.

6) Romantic relationships won’t “fix” you

If you are self-aware enough and feel like you still have a lot of work to do on yourself, getting into a committed romantic relationship may be the worst thing you can do during that process. Being lonely sucks, but I find that to be much more preferable than heaping your baggage onto another person in hopes that they can help lift you out of your issues. A romantic partner shouldn’t be there to play the role of savior. That’s not a symbiotic relationship, and it can be extremely harmful.

5) Understand that you don’t always understand

Lord knows I’ve faced my share of difficulties throughtout the course of my life, but all things considered, I’ve lived a pretty blessed existence. I can’t even begin to wrap my head around some of the things that those less fortunate than myself have had to endure. That’s one of the reasons why this attitude of “just lift yourself up by your boot straps” that so many people have towards those living in poverty bothers me so much. Compassion runs woefully thin in our modern society. And that’s a goddamn shame. It’s infuriating to people who are struggling to hear condescending advice from people who have absolutely no grasp on what it’s like to be in their position. So to all those who think they have the answers to everyone’s problems, you don’t. So knock that shit off.

4) Comapring yourself to others is useless

This has been a tough one for me. I tried carving out a career for myself at a place where I was surrounded by people way more accomplished than me. Even now, I look at the amazing work being done by some of my friends and former coworkers and it makes me feel inferior by comparison. But I recognize I have to stop that. Everyone is on their own timeline, and just because you may not be where you want to be yet doesn’t mean you won’t get there. The comparison game is not only useless, it’s damaging to your confidence and your overall psyche. Just do you.

3) Never read the comments/replies

I mean, of course I do read them. But I almost always regret it. Social media is a wonderful thing in a lot of ways, but it’s also a cesspool of human misery. I’ve vowed to do my best to never take to heart the thoughts that some anonymous jag has submitted from behind the safety of their keyboard. You know what’s all the rage these days? Rage. And most of it is useless bullshit that you’d be better off not even allowing to enter your mind.

2) Strive to do things that scare you

Facing down fear is an oppprtunity for growth. There are things that I strive to do with my life that scare the shit out of me. But that’s part of the reason I want to do them. I remember how nervous I was about hosting a three-hour talk show on the radio. But that experience is on a short list of the cooler things I’ve ever done in my life. In fact, when I think about what scares me, most of that fear comes from the worry that I will invest my time and energy into something and put myself out there only for the people in my audience to hate it. But there’s also an inevitability that not everyone is going to like everything I do. Embrace the fear. Many times it helps you rise to the occasion.

1) Maintaining a positive mindset is as rewarding as it is difficult

Oh boy. After all that talk about not wanting to be cheesy, I’m ending on a note that could be on one of those cat posters. Oops. But this one is just too true not to include. Let me make this clear. When you’re depressed, it’s very easy to succumb to negative thoughts. All you have to do is nothing. Feelings of sadness are intrusive, and can take over a depressed mind with ease.

Recognizing the need for change and then enacting that change are two separate steps in the path out of that cycle. The first one is easy. The second step is anything but. But with a change in mindset and the help of others, you can get to a place where you find yourself on the other side of that negativity, and you’ll likely find yourself in a place where life is actually easier to live. Don’t get me wrong. That doesn’t mean everything will always be peaches and cream. There isn’t a permanent fix for depression. But that’s why I used the word maintaining a positive mindset. Just like any piece of machinery, our brains need maintenance from time to time. So be kind to yourself.

When I was at my deepest depths, I was the one who treated myself the worst. In my own mind, there were times I felt I was worthless and that my life was hard because that’s what I deserved. That’s a dangerous way to think. It wasn’t easy to reverse that mental pattern, and it took some massive change, but coming out on the other side of it has allowed me to frame things in a more positive perspective. That doesn’t mean I’m free from the struggles that dealing with depression entails, but I am better equipped to deal with them now than I have ever been before.

I’ve still got a lot to learn. At 33, I’m a young man with so much still left to experience and grow from. Even though my 20’s weren’t necessarily the best years of my life like many people seem to think of them as, they sure did teach me a lot about how life works. I hope none of what I wrote here comes off as preachy, because that certainly wasn’t my intention. I just wanted to share some thoughts about how growing up has informed my perspective.

If anything I’ve said here strikes a chord with you, I’d love to hear from you about your experiences. Leave a comment below or find me on Twitter @MaxMadeATweet. I hope you’ll be back next week when I will likely go back to writing about something a little less weighty. Until then, take care of yourselves.

It’s a Good Time to Be a Devils Fan

You know who just had a really good weekend? ME! That’s because Ray Shero, the GM of my beloved New Jersey Devils put in some goddamn work at the NHL Draft here in Vancouver.

For starters, he used the number one pick in the draft to select 18-year-old Jack Hughes, who promises to be an elite-level talent at center for years to come. As a kicker, he was also able to snag P.K. Subban from the Nashville Predators for some spare parts, some draft picks and some major salary cap relief. And y’know what? I don’t think he’s done.

The Devils still have north of $25 million in cap space, although they will no doubt be saving a chunk of that in hopes of being able to sign Taylor Hall to an extension, seeing as how he is slated to become an unrestricted free agent after next season. But with a hoard of contending teams looking for ways to stay under the $81.5 million cap threshold for next season, Shero and Co. are in an enviable position when it comes to the flexibility of being able to add to their roster without having to subtract much.

The same can’t be said for a team like the Toronto Maple Leafs, who just had to surrender a future first round pick to Carolina simply to free themselves from the weight of Patrick Marleau’s contract. The Vegas Golden Knights are in a similar predicament. They currently find themselves more than $6 million over the cap ceiling, and it seems they will likely have to part with some high-end talent for a light return. The Devils are one of the teams best positioned to swoop in and take advantage of that much like they just did with David Poile’s situation in Nashville.

There is also a tantalizing crop of free agents available that Shero may be willing to bring on board if the price is right. Artemi Panarin highlights that list, but the idea of adding a player the likes of Anders Lee, Mats Zuccarello, Ryan Dzingel, or even Joe Pavelski is an enticing possibility. But I wouldn’t expect the Devils to start throwing cash around recklessly. After all, this summer is really putting a spotlight on the importance of having financial flexibility.

Even without taking any future maneuvers into account, the Devils roster as currently constructed is a leaps-and-bounds improvement over what they finished with last season. They may not be at Cup contender status yet, but the additions of Hughes and Subban in one weekend puts a lead block on top of the gas pedal on their rebuild. This team was thought to be years away from their contention window just a few months ago, and now they find themselves in a position where a few more savvy moves by Shero could put them right there.

The Devils also have some promising prospects in their system that might slot into the NHL lineup as early as this coming season. The impact that veterans like Subban and Andy Greene could have on the development of defenseman Ty Smith is incredibly exciting. If the organization is high enough on a guy like Swedish winger Jesper Boqvist, they likely wont feel pressure to overspend on a free agent forward. I get the sense the Devils feel like they have legit future pros down on the farm, meaning they can save their financial assets and wait to spend until they’re one or two major signings away from being a championship team.

Aside from the obvious talent boost, this team also just became a lot more fun from a personality perspective. Subban is one of my favorite characters in the league, as evidenced by this video he tweeted out after the trade to New Jersey became finalized…

#Smashville – I love you! Thank you to the @PredsNHL team, teammates, fans and community for embracing me over the past three years. Ready for this next chapter… @NJDevils are you ready for the Subbanator? 😈☝🏿👀 pic.twitter.com/rkPkkqRKRT— P.K. Subban (@PKSubban1) June 22, 2019

@PKSubban1 on Twitter

After watching cameras follow Hughes around on draft day, a few things become clear. One, the guy eats, sleeps and breathes hockey. Even as he was being whisked around from one media availability to the next, he couldn’t take his eyes off of the TV broadcast of the draft. But the other thing that is apparent from watching this video is that this kid is going to inject his personality into the locker room as well…

Follow Jack Hughes around on his first day as a Devil. pic.twitter.com/A2iWKDcbWA— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) June 22, 2019

@NJDevils on Twitter

Keeping with the theme of Devils having fun, here’s a video of Blake Coleman dancing to Old Town Road at his wedding last week just because…

There’s a part 2 and it’s even better 😂 pic.twitter.com/AmTyB0eOuW— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) June 23, 2019

@NJDevils on Twitter

All of this is to say that it’s a damn good time to be a Devils fan right now. There are few teams in the league who are as solid down the middle with Nico Hischier still on the upswing of his career. A defense corps that was once the glaring weakness on this squad is officially on the come up. Strangely enough, the biggest question mark for this team may be in between the pipes. Cory Schneider isn’t getting any younger and had a hell of a time recovering from injury last season. 22-year-old Mackenzie Blackwood showed a ton of promise in limited time, but still has a lot of room to grow his game.

Needless to say, I am giddy with anticipation over what the rest of this offseason may bring. Last season was a painful one. The litany of injuries never really gave the Devils a chance to return to the playoffs after a surprising postseason berth the year prior. But going forward, a playoff appearance should be the baseline goal for the team this season. October can’t come soon enough. And who knows, if things break right, there may be a summer in the not too distant future where the Devils are lifting the Stanley Cup over their heads once again. And best believe when that happens, we’re gonna party like it’s 1995.