september 2015

The new NFL season is almost upon us, and HBO is doing its part to prepare us with two shows that focus on the sport: the long running training camp documentary series Hard Knocks, which follows a single team through training camp and the preseason, and Ballers, a fictional show starring The Rock as Spencer Strasmore, a retired football star who's trying to become a sports agent.

Let's start with Ballers: I actually like this show better than I expected to, although at the completion of the season I felt like they didn't progress with the characters nearly as much as I thought they would after the first couple of episodes, and they also avoided showing too much of the really ugly side of the sport despite a glancing subplot where Spencer gets evaluated for brain damage (he doesn't have it—an easy happy ending that this show has a few too many of).

The gold standard for dramas about professional football remains ESPN's lamentably short-lived show Playmakers, which aired for one season way back in 2003. Despite good ratings and rave reviews from critics, ESPN canceled the show because the NFL thought it was showing too much of the ugly side of football and threatened to jeopardize ESPN's ability to broadcast and cover NFL games.

HBO also has a relationship with the NFL, and you get the feeling that they had script approval for Ballers the same way the US military does if you want to use any US military equipment or uniforms in your movie—even though it's technically a drama, it's more more lighthearted and humorous than Playmakers was, and although you see players engaging in negative behavior, it's generally of the partying, prankster shenanigans and not the serious themes that Playmaker covered (like rampant PED use, a star quarterback paying an assistant to make sure one of his one night stands gets an abortion, etc.). You don't hire The Rock to make a serious downer of a show, and you certainly don't hire Rob Corddry to play his sidekick if you don't want the show to be seen more as sitcom than serious drama.

Still, it's been fun to watch, although it's hard not to compare it to Playmakers and realize that it could have been so much more than what it is. The second season will need to step it up to keep me watching, though—it felt like the last two or three episodes were just sleepwalking to an inevitable positive outcome for all the main characters, and a lot of the tension that had built up over the season between some of those characters just dissolved without any real resolution to the underlying conflict.

I've watched the last few seasons of Hard Knocks, and I've always enjoyed it no matter which team is being profiled (they are not usually teams that are expected to be playoff contenders, with the lone recent exception of Cincinnati, who almost don't count because even though they've made the playoffs several times in the past few years, they haven't won a playoff game since 1990).

This year focuses on the Houston Texans, and it's my least favorite season in the series so far. The team basically has one star—defensive end J.J. Watt—and it seems like half the episodes are about him—J.J. Watt in the weight room, J.J. Watt signing autographs, J.J. Watt joking around with teammates, J.J. Watt taking a nap in the afternoon, and on and on. Yeah, he's a great player, and yeah, he may be the most interesting thing about the Texans. But he's really not that interesting.

As the season has gone on, there's been more focus on the bubble players who either get cut at the end of the preseason or who barely make it onto the final 53 man roster, which is what the show typically focuses on, but there's been very little exploration of the coaches' work routines and personal lives, another element that is typically featured in the show. The head coach is also a bit of a boor—almost a made for tv movie caricature of a Rex Ryan type coach—and he's the coach that gets most of the screen time, and that doesn't help matters either.

I wish this was a show that aired all season long, and that it aired for every single team—it would be amazing each week if we saw a recap of the game preparation and behind-the-scenes footage from the actual game from the previous week as we waited for the next game to be played. But even though I think every NFL fan would love to have that happen, the coaches and the players would be extremely unlikely to sign off on it, so it will never happen. Instead, we'll get a few weeks every August where we'll get some very basic level of insight into what it takes to build an NFL roster and prepare for a season, usually with a team that we're not all that interested in otherwise. But I guess it's better than this show not existing at all.

So: the question now is not whether the Braves are going to finish with a winning record or have a chance at the playoffs: it's whether they will win another series this season (at the moment you wonder if they're even capable of winning another GAME), or whether they will finish with the absolute worst record in baseball or just one of the worst.

Since August 9, they have only won three games—less than a game a week—and they are currently in the midst of an 8 game losing streak after dropping three in a row at home against Miami, the only team that they had completely owned this season prior to this week (they were 10-2 against the Marlins in their prior meetings this year). And they've also been blown out far too often—in that same stretch, the opposing team has scored at least 5 run 15 times, and in the past week they've had three games where the opposition has scored 15 or more runs.

This is a sad, sad state for this franchise, but it's a road they've been headed down for years. They haven't won a playoff series since 2001, and they haven't had a true superstar on the team since Chipper Jones (and they haven't had a superstar in his prime since Jones was in his prime, which was around the same time they last won a playoff series).

Now it seems like every time they come up with a rising star, they trade him or lose him to free agency (or, even worse, see the player lose their mojo one or two years into a big deal and never fulfill their star potential) and restock from a farm system that is a long way from being the best in the business like it was during the 90s. Freddie Freeman and Nick Markakis are the only two Braves on the current roster that I can name off the top of my head, and the only reason I know Markakis is because he was a star in Baltimore when I lived in that city.

Next year will be the final year in a stadium that will only be 20 years old when they move out of it, and it's hard to think of a reason to want to watch the team at all. They are likely to suffer through another awful year (although hopefully not as awful as the last couple of months have been) and then stupidly relocate to a stadium that will be more expensive and less convenient to get to, which will further reduce the desire to see the team play live.

I was so excited to move to Atlanta where I could easily go to see my favorite team play whenever I wanted, but after a couple of trips my first summer here and another couple of visits the next year, I haven't had a strong desire to go back to the ballpark. I still try to catch games on tv, but it's so disheartening to see them blow leads late in the game (which happened a lot in the first half of the season) or tune in in the middle of the game and see that they are already so deep in the hole that there's no point in watching further (which has happened a lot recently).

This is starting to feel a lot like my years in Baltimore watching the Orioles, who had an epic 14 year losing streak and seemed to suffer from a lot of the same problems that the Braves have now. Granted, the Braves are only two years removed from a 96 win season, and these past two years of losing seasons are the only two consecutive losing seasons since 1989-1990, but it's hard to see how the problems they have are going to be fixed in the next year or two (or five), especially with their current strategy of always rebuilding from within and trading away anyone who seems halfway decent once they reach a certain market value.

The Ravens played their final preseason game in Atlanta last night, so just like I did three years ago when they did the same thing, I took Will to the Georgia Dome to see them play.

I got pretty good seats on Stubhub for pretty cheap—6 rows back in a section right behind the Ravens bench—but I'm not sure how much it really mattered. It was fun to be that close to see some of the action, but none of the starters played (pretty typical for the final preseason game), nor did any of the players come over to the stands to say hi or sign autographs or anything. And that was a little disappointing—there were quite a few purple jerseys in the seats around us, and I remember some of the players coming over last time we came to a preseason game.

But Will had a ball anyway. He loved riding the MARTA train to the stadium, and he loved all the snack options—he ended up eating two hot dogs, a cup of Dippin Dots, and half a bag of cotton candy. And he stayed reasonably engaged with the game, at least until we got close to halftime, when he started to get sleepy (the game didn't start until 7, and we usually put him to bed around 8). But last time he only made it to the end of the first quarter, so maybe next time they come to town he'll actually be able to make it through a whole game.

I'm excited for the upcoming season, and I might even be able to see a regular season game in Baltimore when I'm up in DC for a conference. The Ravens have a tough schedule early on, with 5 of their first 7 games on the road (including four games on the west coast, which introduces further difficulties), and there are still some question marks in the wide receiving corps (their first round pick, who was meant to replace Torrey Smith, has been injured since the first day of training camp and obviously won't make an impact early in the season), but the secondary, which was the main reason they didn't go to the Super Bowl last year, has been much improved (at least on paper), and in general the core of their defensive and offensive lines are intact.

I'm still not sure if they are Super Bowl bound this year (they've become somewhat of a trendy pick to represent the AFC), but I definitely think they have a great shot at the playoffs and a good chance to win the division. I can't wait for the season to start, and even though I didn't get to see any of the starters play, this is the closest I've come to see the Ravens play since I left Baltimore, and it was a fun way to spend a boys night out with Will.

I've been gradually increasing the distance I've been running on my weekend run (I also do a couple of runs during the week, but I typically stick to my now-standard 4 mile route for those), and this weekend I finally did the equivalent of a 10K, giving me the confidence to sign up for a real one sometime in the next few months.

If I can continue to expand my range, I might think about a 10 miler at some point, and possibly even a half marathon, but my more immediate goal is to work on my speed for the 5K distance. Right now my best times have me running an average of an 11 minute mile over the course of a 5K (down from close to 14 minutes per mile from when I first started running this distance about six months ago), and I'd really like to run at least one official 5K where I finish it in under half an hour (meaning I have to run faster than 10 minutes per mile).

I think I'm also finally at a point where I can call myself a runner without feeling like I'm faking it. I run 3-4 times a week, my distance and pace are improving, and despite my slow time compared to people who have been running since they were much younger than I am now, I'm pretty proud of how much I've progressed over the past few months.

We had a pretty good long holiday weekend. On Saturday we drove up to Lake Burton and rented a pontoon boat with some friends in the afternoon, and had a great time just hanging out and catching up (these were friends from college who we haven't seen in a couple of years). We brought sandwiches and snacks for the boat, and every now and then we'd park and go swimming in the lake for a little while. Will thought all of this was great, especially when they let him steer the boat.

On Sunday we walked to the Decatur Book Festival and spent a few hours there. It's interesting to me to see how my perspective on this event has changed over the past few years since I moved from reading traditional print books to reading almost exclusively ebook titles. I no longer go here looking to purchase anything, but, if anything, to get a sense of books/authors that I might want to look up later. The one exception to this is still books for kids—I don't ever see those being replaced by an e-reader, and those are still the books that we're most likely to purchase and bring home with us from an event like this.

I still appreciate what a local bookseller can bring to the table in terms of cultivating a relationship with authors and helping to promote them in the local reading community, but until someone solves the riddle of how you get a commission of some sort to a local bookseller who might have recommended a title to you that you later purchase online in an ebook format, this industry is going to be in dire straights. And of course companies like Amazon don't really care about local bookstores or want to find any way to share their profits with them so they can stay in business—in the world of Jeff Bezos, no one should buy anything ever except through Amazon.

The holiday itself was pretty relaxed. We stayed home and had hamburgers and corn on the cob for dinner, and really didn't do much beyond that (I think Julie and Will did some yardwork, but my responsibilities in that area are limited to mowing the lawn). A good weekend, and a nice break between summer and fall in a year when the summer feels like it was over before it really started.

The NFL season kicks off tonight with the Steelers playing the Patriots, a matchup that I couldn't dislike any more than I do. This is a no-win situation for me as a Ravens fan, because somebody has to win, and I don't like seeing either of these teams win EVER.

So while I won't be rooting for anyone, there are some better outcomes in terms of the Ravens season. As much as I'd love to see the cheating Patriots and the lying scumbag Tom Brady be humliated on a national stage on their home field, it's better for the Ravens if the Steelers start out 0-1, especially given the tough early schedule that Baltimore has.

But again, no matter who wins, I'm not going to be happy about it. My ideal outcome would be New England winning 3-0 but Brady getting injured and missing the rest of the season, which would put a serious damper on any playoff hopes that the Patriots have. I know, I know, it's wrong to hope for a player to get hurt. But it's Brady for god's sake, and if you live anywhere outside of the northeast, you know you all secretly want that to happen too.


Yes, I would have liked it if the Ravens had been able to pull out a victory in Denver yesterday, but they weren't expected to win this game anyway, and there were a lot of positives (and yes, some negatives) to take away from their performance.

The good: The last time the Ravens played in Denver two years ago (also to open the season), Manning threw seven touchdowns against them in a blowout. This time, the Ravens limited the Broncos to 19 points and only one touchdown (and that was a defensive touchdown after an interception—Manning never didn't throw a touchdown pass). This bodes well for the defense, especially the revamped secondary which was such a big problem last season.

The bad: The Ravens offense was never able to get the run game going, which limited what they could do in the passing game. The passing game also wasn't helped by the poor play of the offensive line, which is surprising because they are returning seven starters from one of the best O-lines in the NFL last season. The Denver defense was bringing pressure against Flacco all night, and he was sacked three times. Both the protection and the run blocking are going to have to get back to where they were last season if this team is going to have any chance at scoring points.

The ugly: The loss of veteran Terrell Suggs, who is the heart and soul of the defense. He left in the first quarter with what later turned out to be a torn achilles, and he is out of the rest of the season. Not only does this hurt our pass rushing, a strength of the defense last season, it also means that someone else is going to have to step up to become the on-field and the locker room leader for a unit that has a lot of young players and/or players who are new to the team.

Aside from the loss of Suggs, which has a ripple effect that could impact many important games the remainder of the season, this was not a bad performance on the road against a team that absolutely destroyed them last time the two met. We had two chances in the final minute of the game to have our receivers catch what would likely have been the game winning pass (one time it bounced off Steve Smith's facemask, another the ball was grabbed from the hands of tight end Crocket Gillmore), and if either of those plays had happened, there would be a very different story to tell about this game. Still, I have to appreciate that we were in the fight until the very end, and that with luck going a little bit more our way, this could have been a victory.

Will had his first soccer practice of the new season on Sunday, and it went reasonably well. He's definitely more involved than he was his first season, but he still tends to lose focus and lose track of the ball, and unless the ball happens to come his way and he can run with it away from the pack for a few seconds, he's also still most likely to be on the outer edge of the pack away from the action.

I was never really into sports when I was younger, so I'm not expecting him to be a great athlete or necessarily really into any particular game. But I do think exercise is important, and there are lots of strategic and social skills you can learn from sports, so I want him to be active and involved in some kind of structured athletic activity. Soccer would be a nice one in terms of ease of access to leagues and the cost of gear, but if he's not really showing much interest in it after a couple more seasons, it might be time to try some other team sports.

UGA's first football game was such a blowout against an easy non-ranked opponent that both teams agreed to call it with 10 minutes left on the clock, so that wasn't really a test for a team that has some questions at the quarterback position, which, despite what's looking like another strong running back corps, they're going to need to answer if they're going to be in the mix for an SEC and/or national title run.

Their second game was a better test against Vanderbilt, who were unranked but who are an SEC conference opponent and have a much better team than their first week opponent. And while they won fairly convincingly, it was the defense that really carried the day, while the questions about the quarterback position just got more intense. Transfer starter Greyson Lambert didn't complete a single pass in the first half, and although he started to find some rhythm in the second half, they're not going to be able to afford that kind of start against their ranked opponents.

Next week's game against South Carolina will be a big test. South Carolina isn't currently ranked like they have been the last two times UGA played them, but they always seem to give the Bulldogs problems, and a convincing win against this team, especially one that includes a better performance from the quarterback, will go a long way to convincing me that this team has a chance to make a run this year.

Thursdays used to be my work-from-home day. Now I'm in meetings for at least five hours in at least two different locations, and this is still generally just an average day for meetings. This is what my life at work has become.

Every week Will's kindergarten teacher sends home a packet of materials that includes a general note on what the class worked on that week and some examples of projects and exercises Will did during the week. This week we got an extra note from the teacher too:

Please talk to Will about talking in class. He has become quite the talker and often argues with classmates about something he thinks they have done. I encourage him to worry about himself and what he's doing rather than his classmates. Thanks!

While of course we want him to learn to behave in class, these are some of the same issues—talking too much/too loud, taking great offense at some perceived slight, intentional and/or real or not, and being a little rigid about how everyone should do something—that we have seen in him since he was very young, and things that we have worked with him (and continue to work with him) to improve.

In some ways, though, these are just strong elements of who he is, and although he can certainly work on strategies to minimize them when appropriate, he's never going to fully get rid of them, and when they are deployed at the right times, they are also things that can make him successful. The talking especially is a big reason he is so social and so popular, and I don't see that changing drastically—he's just very verbally expressive and really likes talking to people.

Ugh. That was an ugly, ugly end to a terrible performance by the Ravens. As usual, they still had a chance to win it in the final seconds despite the fact that they in no way deserved to win it, but they couldn't make it happen.

The defense was the main problem here—whenever your offense scores you 33 points, you ought to be able to win the game. Yes, it would have helped if a receiver hadn't fumbled the ball after a catch on the first Ravens possession of the game, and if they Ravens had been able to turn one or more of their field goals into touchdowns, but still 33 points is 33 points, and if your defense is doing an even passable job, that should be all you need on the offensive side of the ball to win the game.

After having a near-perfect game in Denver, the secondary, which was the bain of the defense and of the team in general for the second half of last season, had a serious lapse, and essentially let the Raiders quarterback do whatever he wanted. Yes, that was partly because there was absolutely no pass rush, and that part of the defense also has to get a lot better in the very near future if this season is to stand a chance of being salvaged after an 0-2 start, and yes, that's partly due to the absence of Terrell Suggs, but there's still no excuse for this performance.

The next three games could give us an answer on what kind of season this will be, since they play their three division rivals one week after another, and two of those games are at home. The Bengals are having a hot start and they always give the Ravens problems even when they're not so good, and with the following game happening on a short week with travel to Pittsburgh, it has become a must-win game. If they lose this game and then don't find a way to win against the Steelers four days later, their season could pretty much be over.

On the other hand, if they can sweep their first set of divisional games, or even go 2-1, there's every chance that they could be back in the divisional hunt, especially if they can do what they didn't manage to do on their first trip to the west coast and win at least one game (if not both games). After that, the nightmare part of their schedule will be over; only three of their remaining nine games at that point will be on the road, and they will generally be playing easier opponents (at least based on the 2014 record).

But make no mistake: an 0-2 start is a disaster, especially when both games were winnable (both were decided by less than a touchdown). The best we can hope for out of the next three games is that the Ravens are still competitive in the division race, but if things continue the way they are, their playoff chances could be approaching zero well before the halfway mark of the season.

Okay, the Bulldogs are officially looking really good this year. Yes, South Carolina isn't necessarily the team it has been in past years, but that was an absolute blowout that reinforced the known quantities of the defense and the running game and seemed to lock Greyson Lambert in as the QB after he set a school record by completing 20 straight passes and set an NCAA record for completion percentage by going 24 for 25 (96%).

And yes, Alabama is still to come in a couple of weeks, and they are a scary organization despite being currently ranked below UGA. But this will be a game between the hedges, which should give Georgia an advantage, and at this point Nick Chubb seems unstoppable. If they can keep any key playmakers from being injured in this week's might-as-well-be-an-exhibition game against Southern, they're going to have a real chance to win against Alabama and potentially move into the top 5 in the rankings.

I've had Birdman, Michael Keaton's comeback film that was surprisingly not written with him in mind as the lead. (For those who haven't seen the film, what surprising about this is that the story centers around a once-A-list actor who is now a has-been and is trying to revive his career with a dramatic production on Broadway, and whose biggest box office role was playing a superhero called Birdman, which has a lot of parallels to the state of Keaton's career before this film, his decision to star in this film, and his portrayal of Batman in two Tim Burton films.)

I'm not really sure what I thought of it. I really like Michael Keaton, but haven't liked a film he's been in in years (and I certainly haven't seen all of them, which also tells you something), and he was certainly the right choice for this film for a number of reasons. His performance is good, but perhaps better than even I would give it credit for at this point—there are dramatic moments that he fumbles a big, but that's exactly what you would expect from a has-been actor trying to stretch beyond his skills and talent. But that's exactly the character that Keaton is supposed to be playing, so then the question becomes: was that a weak scene, or was Keaton playing it weak because that's how his character would be forced to play it? In which case it becomes an extremely strong peformance.

I've always liked Edward Norton, and he delivers another strong performance here, and I have never really liked Emma Stone, but I almost like her here. I also love that this film was made to look as if it was done in a single shot—once you catch on to this trick, it's fun to look for the seams where they actually could have taken a scene break. And although it's clear that they didn't actually shoot this in a single shot, there are some pretty long single-shot scenes that certainly involved some pretty complicated choreography and camerwork, and those are interesting to watch from a technical perspective.

Mostly I don't know what to do with the magical realism portions of the movie, and since I can't tell if those are sincere portrayals of reality or some flight of madness in the protagonist's mind, it makes me start to question the reality of each scene, and of the entire film. But that was probably the point, and I've just become less flexible in my ability to handle ambiguity, so I'm not going to say this is a flaw in the film—it's more a flaw in my inability to engage with fuzzy boundaries in my old age.

I'm not sure if I would watch this one again (although it's saying something that I haven't deleted it from the DVR yet), but I'm certainly glad that I watched it once. And I'm sort of glad I waited to watch it at home, although I did have intentions of seeing this when it was in the theater—it was nice to be able to rewind and rewatch certain sections, especially once I got into the parallel technical narrative of maintaining the illusion of a single shot throughout the entire film.

I finally got around to watching the last five episodes of Gotham's first season (just in time for the start of the new season, which was part of my motivation to finally finish off those episodes), and they delivered everything I was hoping before based on how much I liked the first 15 or so episodes. I don't know exactly how it did in the ratings, but I'm very happy it has been renewed for at least one more year.

It's hard for me to make a case for this show, except to say that I'm not a DC or Batman fanboy, but I know enough about that universe (mostly from the Batman movies from the late 80s/early 90s and of course Christopher Nolan's recent trilogy) to recognize most of the characters who will become major players in Batman's world later (this is sort of a prequel series that focuses on Jim Gordon's police career in the immediate aftermath of the murders of Bruce Wayne's parents, so while Wayne is a regular character, he is still in his early teens and is a long way from becoming Batman).

And from that perspective, I can say that you don't need to understand or even notice all of the winks and nods to the larger universe of the movies and the comic books to have fun watching this show. The mythology certainly supplements the main story being told in interesting ways, but I'm confident that you don't have to know anything about who Edward Nygma, Oswald Cobblepot, or Selina Kyle will become to see them as compelling characters in this prehistory. It also doesn't hurt at all that the show has a lot of episodes that aren't remarkably different from a police procedural focused on mob conflicts, meaning it's pretty easy to digest them in single-episode doses without necessarily having to spend too much time engaged with a longer form story arc.

But those lengthier arcs are there if you care about them, and that's another thing I like about the show—you don't feel like you have to watch five or six episodes to get some sort of conclusion to, but when you do reach a major turning point or culmination of an arc after several episodes of a rising crescendo, the payoff is worth it.

I don't watch a lot of scripted major network dramas at this point—the recently canceled Hannibal is the only other one I can think of off the top of my head (although I watch a few cable series like Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, etc.)—so I don't have a lot to compare Gotham to, but if I thought there were more shows out there like this, I'd be happy to give them a try. I've had enough of the multiple NCIS/CSI spinoffs and ripoffs for a lifetime (although I never watched an NCIS series and I haven't watched CSI since sometime in its first five seasons), but there will always be a place for shows like Gotham in my personal watch list.

Still haven't watched a single episode of Fear the Walking Dead. I have a feeling that I'm going to end up DVRing all six episodes and then binging on them before I start in on the new season of The Walking Dead in October.

Oh my god. This season just turned from awful to epically terrible, and the Ravens have a chance to throw it away entirely and make it legendarily bad when they visit Pittsburgh to take on the Steelers in a few days, where a loss would give them an 0-4 record (0-2 in the division) and would essentially end their season with three quarters of the season yet to be played.

What went wrong with this game? Instead of building on the alternating strengths of the first two games, combining the defense of the first game with the offense of the second game, they combined the two terrible parts of those games, falling apart on both offense and defense.

Although they scored 24 points, the running game was non-existent with only 36 yards on the ground total, and Flacco threw an interception that led to an easy touchdown to put the Bengals up 14-0 in the first quarter. Also: seven of Baltimore's points came from a fumble recovery returned for a touchdown, meaning the offense didn't have anything to do with those point, and another seven points came after an interception that gave the Ravens the ball on a drive that eventually led to a touchdown. So for more than half of the Ravens' points, they defense had a major role.

Despite these bright spots on defense, that doesn't mean they didn't suck too. They continue to struggle in the fourth quarter, especially in the secondary—Baltimore had TWO fourth quarter leads that were blown, essentially, by the defense's inability to cover A.J. Green, who was the receiver on the final two touchdowns by the Bengals, including a single-play, 80 yard strike that put the Bengals up 21-17 just seconds after the Ravens took their first lead of the game.

I hate to even think this way given how much talent this team has, but if things continue this way, the most interesting thing about the second half of the Ravens season will be watching to see where in the top 10 picks we end up in next year's draft. Baltimore hasn't been in this position since 2007 when they went 5-11—which is also the last time they had a losing record and also the year which led them to choose a new head coach.

No matter how big of a screwup this season turns out to be, I don't think Harbaugh's job is in danger, especially after the significant personnel losses the team has already had to deal with this year (defensive stalwart Ngata was traded in the offseason and the leader of the defense Terrell Suggs was lost for the year in the first game, and first round pick Perriman, who was meant to replace wide receiver Torrey Smith (lost in free agency to the 49ers), hasn't played since injuring his knee on the first day of training camp).

But if he can't turn this around and make a decent attempt at a comeback this season (not necessarily making the playoffs or even having a winning record, but somehow keeping the ship from turning into the Titanic), it will be the first time in his career in Baltimore where his record next season could determine whether or not he has a future with the team.

Leaving for a conference tomorrow for a few days, so no updates until October. I've got one more conference this year and then I'm done with travel until next spring. I know for people who travel regularly on business, five trips in one year isn't a lot, but this is more business travel than I've ever done before (five trips from May to November), and I think this is about all I can handle.

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