Meditation: Pleasure, Part IV

Pleasure is something we all seem to want, or at least, it is something that you would think, you should want. But somehow, over the years, the word pleasure, or the seeking of pleasure, has taken on this negative viewpoint. The most obvious example of this feeling, is the articles you can read about guilty pleasures. These articles will list about 10 to 12 things, that you should feel guilty about, when pursuing these endeavors . These lists can range from bubble baths, to binge watching TV, and playing hooky from work. Then, there is Freud’s Pleasure Principle. This is the theory, that as babies, we want immediate gratification, and will do anything to get it. This will gradually subside when we get older, as REALITY sets in. The reality is, that sometimes we must wait, a proper amount of time, to receive our pleasurable experience. In some cases, there is this feeling of sophistication when it comes to pleasure. This is when art and museums, are the things that gives one pleasure. Pleasure is one of the few words that is directly associated with sex. That can creative negative thoughts for many. There is this atmosphere of distain, for people that are constantly seeking pleasure. Shouldn’t all of us be seeking pleasure. Maybe, it’s the reason we seek pleasure, that is creating the problem.

You should seek to make every experience a pleasurable one. Some people may say that is just about impossible, but I think it is something to strive for. However, the major reason I think people seek pleasure, is to avoid pain. It is this avoidance of pain, through the use of drugs and alcohol, that can lead to physical addiction. The other detrimental behaviors I wrote about in previous blogs, such as being on social media, the internet, your phone, and video games, may also be due to the avoidance of pain, or painful experiences. Pleasure is confused with avoidance or dulling of pain in everyday life. That good old alcohol buzz may feel pleasurable, but it is nothing more than a blocking device, for what is causing your discomfort. The same thing could be said for products, that claim to create pleasure. It is a tough road sometimes, just to find pleasures, in the simple things of life. This is simply finding pleasure, for the sake of pleasure. Some philosophies believe, that the only way to know you are alive, is to suffer. This may seem to be a little extreme, but it could be true. Trying to avoid pain and suffering, is a fruitless endeavor. It has been shown that avoiding loss, is a very high human priority. People seem to want to avoid losing money at all costs, rather than taking a moderate risk, to make money. Avoidance is giving pleasure a bad name.

You must embrace life for what it is. It is a series of ups and downs. Seeking pleasurable things to make you happy, is never a bad thing. There is so much of life, that can not be controlled. When something gives you joy, appreciate it, and be happy. Remember, there are no guilty pleasures in life, just the wrong reason for seeking them. Look for pleasure when things are going great. When something bad happens feel the pain, embrace it the best you can, and hope for a better tomorrow. Great losses in your life can be the hardest to overcome. Remember the ones we have lost would want us to move on and continue to get the most out of life we have. Pleasure is always worth seeking as it will improve the body and the mind. What pleasure can not do, is minimize or suppress the pain and suffering found in life.

Meditation: Pleasure, Part III

In the first two parts of discussing pleasure, I wrote about how pleasure seems to create problems in our lives, and the chemicals in the body, that seem to be the agents, in allowing us to feel pleasure. In this blog, I am going to look at ways health experts have tried to control these chemicals, in order to treat psychological problems, and improve our lives. They have tried to do this through medications, and a process that is termed dopamine fasting. Both are an ever evolving processes, which you could say is true of anything involving the brain. These techniques and medications, some of which have been used for years, have meant with various degrees of success. Unfortunately, there is a long way to go, before we are really going to know what is going on, in that thing between our ears.

Dopamine fasting is a relatively new technique, which came to fame, about 2018. Basically, it is abstaining from “addictive” technologies, like the cell phone, social media, the computer, and internet gaming. The proponents of dopamine fasting, say it can even help in overeating, and gambling. The term dopamine fasting is a misnomer. Even people who advocate this method, know it does not affect dopamine levels. They fessed up to this, when it was brought to their attention, that there is no good reason to reduce dopamine levels. It does too many things to help brain function, so reducing it, is not a good idea. What they are trying to do, is to avoid overstimulation of the brain. Dopamine fasting is nothing more than some behavior modification techniques. When you read articles about dopamine fasting, they make it sound so easy. If this was an easy thing to do, taking away all technical stimulation for a finite period of time, then why would we need dopamine fasting. You would just set aside a particular time not to be on the computer, your phone etc. All the things that dopamine fasting is suppose to help are not physically addicting. It is a an insult to people that are battling the physical addiction to alcohol and drugs, to use the word addiction for the aforementioned behaviors. It is not easy to stop some of these destructive behaviors, but your body is not going to go into a horrible withdrawal. Dopamine fasting is simply another way of saying find a quiet spot and breathe.

The medical profession has tried to help people, by trying to affect the chemicals of pleasure, with medication. The most common way they have done this, is with medications called antidepressants. Right now, there are at least 22 medications, described as antidepressants. There is no question, that these medications have saved thousands of lives, and have helped people make it through some really dark times. Even though the medical profession doesn’t like to hear this, there is a lot of trial and error, when it comes to prescribing these medications. That is why it is imperative to be acutely aware of how these drugs, or any combination of them, is making you feel. You are the blood work, the MRI, and contrast study, all rolled up into one. There are no good tests, that are able to discern, how effective these drugs are. Hopefully some day, there will be ways to tell just what these drugs are doing, and when they are doing it. In the final part of looking at pleasure, I will look at the feeling itself, and try to figure out why, it is perceived to be, at times such a problem.

Food: Cholesterol, Fat, and The Mediterranean Diet

This blog is going to discuss three aspects of nutrition, but not in the way you might think. There is a massive amount of information on all three subjects, on the wonderful internet. What is interesting, is how much conflicting information there is, especially about cholesterol. One thing is clear, despite all the negative aspects of having too much cholesterol, or too much fat in your diet, both have very specific, and necessary functions, to maintain proper health. Unless you are suffering from severe malnutrition, or have some odd genetic issue, it would be extremely rare, to have not enough cholesterol and fat in your system. However, there does seem to be this obsession with fat free foods, so it could be possible, that if someone went to extreme levels, with some of these fat free foods, that they could wind up with some kind of fat deficiency. Let’s look at what cholesterol and fat are supposed to do.

Cholesterol is necessary to make hormones, helps the body make Vitamin D from sunlight, aids in digestion, boosts the immune system, helps maintain cell wall flexibility, and improves brain function. Boosting brain function is one of the most important things it does. Over 25% of the bodies Cholesterol is found in the brain. There are two types of cholesterol, high density lipoprotein (HDL) and low density lipoprotein (LDL). Lipoproteins are the particles that transport cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood stream. Triglycerides are the main constituents of natural fats and oils. The LDL is often call the bad cholesterol. However, this is the cholesterol, that travels to all the areas of the body, and allows cholesterol to perform it’s functions. What makes it bad, is that if you have an excess of LDL, then if will have a tendency to attach to the inside of blood vessels, which causes the blockages, that lead to heart attacks and strokes. The HDL is called the good cholesterol. This cholesterol transports the LDL back to the liver, where it is eliminated from the body. HDL can help break down that sludge, that forms on the arteries. HDL does nothing to help cholesterol do its job. Fat is an essential part of your diet. It provides energy, helps absorbs certain nutrients, and maintains your core body temperature. It also combines with cholesterol to do many of the same functions, that cholesterol does. Again there is good fat and bad fat. The bad fat is call trans fat and saturated fat. Trans fat is the worst fat, and is found in a lot of processed foods, and red meat. When you consume trans fat, you increase the bad cholesterol, and decrease the good cholesterol, the dreaded double whammy. The good fat is polyunsaturated fat, and is found in fatty fish, and various oils. It is the good fat, because it contains the omega 6 and omega 3 fatty acids, which are necessary for brain health and cell growth.

This brings us to the Mediterranean diet, which is the diet of choice to try and control your cholesterol, and take in the healthy fat. It is a very flexible diet, but it does want you to limit your intake of red meat and pork, to no more than once a week, for either. What the diet wants you to consume, is lots of fruits and vegetables, fish and poultry, some grains and nuts. Stay away from the processed foods, and you are well on your way. The Mediterranean Diet is big on the use of Olive Oil. Olive Oil falls under the heading of monounsaturated fatty acids. Nuts contain this kind of fatty acid. This fatty acid is considered a healthy fat, which lowers the bad cholesterol and raises the good cholesterol. Try to explore the Mediterranean diet, and make it become as much a part of your lifestyle as you can. The biggest thing is to avoid processed foods at all costs, because they are going to be loaded with trans fats. Here, is what I consider are the worst. Breakfast cereal, potato chips and chips of any kind, processed meats, such as bacon, lunch meats and hot dogs, microwave popcorn, and fruits in syrup, are to be totally avoided. Things that are frozen or dried, are not quite as bad, and can be eaten once in awhile.

When the subject of cholesterol and fat are explored on the internet, the opinions are as varied, as eat all the high fat and cholesterol foods you want, or do not eat anything, that you would consider high in either. Obviously some middle ground is needed, and the above should get you started. The bottom line on all this, is to start to make and eat real food. It is not that hard to do. There are great granola recipes, made from rolled oats, if you have to get a cereal fix. There is a great variety of foods out there, that are easy to make, and will lead to a healthier body.

Golf: Intention

When you look at the title of this blog, you may think, that intention should be under meditation. If you google intention, you will find many sites related to life goals, and ways to make powerful intentions. Intention may be the one tool, that we are leaving out of our golf games. I was going to hold off on this blog for awhile, because I think intention is the thing that as sparked my own golf game, but I wanted to get more rounds under my belt, before I wrote about it. I have played 13 rounds using intention as my main thought process. What prompted me to write about this now, was watching the Phoenix Open. I do not think I have seen so many top players struggle so much, during a final round. The leaders were putting balls in the water, in the cacti, in sand traps, and missing more putts than I could count. When Brooks Koepka pitched in for an eagle on the 17th hole, I clapped, and said out loud, somebody finally did something. It was the winning shot of the tournament. After watching so much failure, from the best players in the world, it made me think that maybe everybody is missing intention in their golf game.

Intention can be defined in different ways. Intention can be something that you want, and plan to do. Intentions can be how you want to feel, or simply what you’d like to get out of the day. There are websites dedicated to how to go about setting intentions, to make your life powerful and strong. This is a breakdown of what most of them say. Set an intention and let it go. Set these intentions when you are feeling content and not when you feel you are lacking something. Detach yourself from the outcome. Allow the universe to handle the outcome. Try keeping the mind quiet. Keep things on the short term. Keep things positive and make sure that your intentions are always evolving. Try to stay in the present moment. You can see how all of this can be applied to golf. One of my favorites is keeping things on the short term. Don’t get ahead of yourself. Another one I like, is to keep your intentions evolving, because that is what the round is going to do, evolve. Before we move forward, we need to differentiate between intent and visualization, since visualization is so much a part of golf. There is some debate on this subject, but I do believe there is a distinct difference. Intent is a determination to do something. Visualization is related to mental imagery. You can visualize golf shots, but you must apply intention, as the final step. I will say, visualization is not as big a part of my game, since I have applied intention. We have all been there when our golf games have abandoned us. Here are some examples of things that have affected my own game. Hitting the poor tee shot into trouble. This may happen about 5 to 7 holes into the round. It does not really matter how I am scoring. I have hit 4 or 5 drivers in the round, and they have all been very good to excellent drives. The holes, however, have been fairly easy driving holes and now the 8th hole has some trouble on it. I do not care where the trouble is, left or right or on both sides, just a narrow driving hole. I have hit good drives up to this point, but sure enough my drive on this hole finds the woods, water, or worse the out of bounds. Another good example, I am hitting the driver well all day, even on the tight holes, but my irons into the green are atrocious. Then, there is the day that on the par 3’s I am hitting great iron shots, but I am driving so bad, that you never get to take advantage of your good iron play. Finally, there is putting. Of course putting would be involved, when you are thinking about missed opportunities, or bad shots. I may start out a round not playing all that great, but my putting is holding the round together, because I am making some nice par saves by sinking a handful of 6 to 10 footers, or longer. Then like many times in golf, I hit a good shot out of the blue, to about 10 feet, for a birdie, and of course, I miss the putt. This is where I believe intention can help reduce and eventually eliminate these bad shots.

How do you apply intention to your golf game? When those bad shots happened in the past, I would look at various things to help correct the problem. I would look at my swing. In fact there is one train of thought that your driver swing and iron swing are two different swings. I got away from that process, and also got away from swing thoughts on the golf course. But that does not mean I do not think about anything. On driving, the old thought process would be to try and visualize the shot and try to avoid trouble when the situation called for it. When it came to iron shots, the first thing I would have to do is to figure out what club to hit. In that process you weigh things like the wind, and where the trouble is around the green, and whether I would hit a draw or fade. This thinking would sometimes lead to a lot of indecision. On short shots you would try to visualized the shot, and you would do the same thing on putting. When you begin to put intention into your game you wind up making the game much simpler. It comes as close to trying to play with a blank mind as you can get. Now, when I have a driver in my hand, I go through my routine, but now I think simply of where I want the ball to go, which is the middle of the fairway, no matter what the hole is like. With irons I still have to go through the process of picking a club, but once the club is chosen, I simply think of where I want the ball on the green. With the short game and putting I think of where I want the ball to end up, in the hole. One little adjustment I make, which I think is critical, is that before I execute the shot, I look at the spot where I think I will pick up the ball, when I look up. On full shots I look at spot in the sky, and at about the height, I think the ball will be. On short shots, I look where I think the ball will be when I look up. I do the same think on putts. Since I have been doing this, I work the ball less consciously, but I work it more intuitively. I am aware of, but pretty much ignore trouble. Since I have been letting intention be my main focus during a round, my scores have been, between 72 and 84 with 9 out of 13 rounds being in the 70’s. One of the biggest improvements of my game has been the rhythm of my swing. I can’t say it never gets out of whack anymore, but it does not happen very often. Intention is something that is simple, but can be hard to put into practice, with the usual things going on when playing golf. Only time will tell if this will be a permanent, and beneficial way for me to play golf. It may take a lot of time, since we are in a winter wonderland right now, in Western Pa., with no end in sight.

Golf: Grip Pressure

How firmly or lightly do you hold the golf club when you swing? Grip pressure is such a subjective thing, that it can be very difficult to describe. One of the basic themes when discussing grip pressure is that most people hold the club too tight, in a so called death grip. Most instruction is geared to having a lighter grip on the club. Before we get to the ways that grip pressure has been described, I want to define two words, tight and firm. Tight is defined as fixed, fastened, or closed firmly; hard to move, undo, or open. Firm, when applied to gripping something, is defined, as having steady but not excessive power or strength. Now let’s look at the way grip pressure has been described in golf instruction over the years. This will not be a complete list by any means, but you will see some of the imaginative ways grip pressure has been described.

Probably the most common instruction has been to grip firmly with the middle two fingers of the right hand and the last three fingers of the left hand. In contrast the thumb and forefinger should have light pressure on the club. You can find this instruction in many golf books including Arnold Palmer’s My Game and Yours, and Ben Hogan’s Five Lessons.

Another idea when it came to grip pressure was that the left hand should grip the club more firmly than the right hand. Tommy Armour described the pressure of the left hand as about the same as the pressure you would apply when opening a door knob.. Bobby Jones in his instructional writings, advocates a much firmer grip with the left hand, when compared with the right. He also emphasizes those last three fingers of the left hand.

Ernest Jones, the swing the clubhead instructor, freely used the words tight and firm when talking about the grip. He felt the average golfer gripped the club too tight but advocated a firm grip. All three instructors talked about firm left hands, but not so firm, as to feel that the forearms are tightening up. They all three felt the right hand should grip the club lightly or with a lot less pressure than the left.

Leave it to Sam Snead to come up with a unique description of grip pressure. He felt you should hold the club like you were holding a bird and trying to keep it from flying away. What some people forget is that Sam probably had the most powerful hands in golf. I am sure it felt exactly like this to him.

Tiger Woods makes an interesting point in his book, How I Play Golf, concerning grip pressure. He feels that the reason many people grip the club too tight, is because their grip is faulty, and therefore it is difficult for them to maintain control of the club, unless they grip the club very tightly. Tiger likes to feel that his hands fit snugly on the club.

Even though most experts agree, that the average or beginning golfer grips the club too tightly, they still believe that you must have at least a firm grip on the club, especially with the left hand. Even though they do use the word firm in their instruction, I think this fear of gripping too tightly, has led many of us to grip the club without the necessary firmness. I think this may be even more true of the short game and putting. All that is ever talked about, is how light the grip pressure should be in putting. It is often said, that right before you putt, somebody should be able to come up, and take the putter right out of your hands, if you have the right grip pressure. As with so many other things in this game, I do not think there is enough experimentation going on, when it comes to grip pressure. I do not think that anyone, who is shooting in the 80’s, is holding the club too tight, for any phase of their game. However, they may be holding the club too loosely. Many advocates of light grip pressure, say, that as you start to swing the club, that you will instinctively increase your grip pressure. This goes against what some instructors say, that grip pressure should be constant, throughout the swing. You can not do that, if you are starting with light pressure, at address. Even though grip pressure may be difficult to describe, it has to be one of easiest things in one’s golf game to fool around with. Try different pressures for all phases of your game. You will never know what you might find, like consistency and fun.

Meditation: Pleasure, Part II

In order to understand pleasure, we have to look at the logistics of how the mind and the body experiences pleasure. Pleasure is created by neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are chemical substances that are released at the end of a nerve fiber by the arrival of a nerve impulse and, by diffusing across the synapse or junction, causes the transfer of the impulse to another nerve fiber, a muscle fiber, or some other structure. The exact number of neurotransmitters is unknown but more than 200 have been identified. Neurotransmitters are different types of protein substances that are manufactured by the body from the foods we eat. Most of the western diets are high in protein, so the body does not have much trouble in making neurotransmitters. The neurotransmitter that has been related to pleasure is dopamine. Dopamine  has a number of important functions in the brain; this includes regulation of motor behavior, pleasures related to motivation and also emotional arousal. It plays a critical role in the reward system.

Dopamine is made from the amino acid L-Dopa, which can be synthesized indirectly from the essential amino acid phenylalanine or directly from the non-essential amino acid tyrosine. These amino acids  are found in nearly every protein and so are readily available in food, with tyrosine being the most common. Although dopamine is also found in many types of food, it is incapable of crossing the blood-brain barrier that surrounds and protects the brain. It must therefore be synthesized inside the brain to perform its neuronal activity. That is not a problem because both L-dopa and tyrosine can cross the barrier and therefore Dopamine is made by the brain, for the brain. Dopamine can cause health problems if an individual has too little or too much in their system. The most common disease linked to a Dopamine deficiency is Parkinson’s Disease. You can measure Dopamine in the blood. Since Dopamine can not cross the blood brain barrier, this is not going to tell you how much Dopamine is in the brain. Until recently there was no way of knowing how much Dopamine was in the brain. Now MIT has developed MRI sensors, that consist of magnetic proteins that can bind to dopamine. When this binding takes place, researchers can continuously monitor dopamine levels in a specific part of the brain. One of the key discoveries was that dopamine did not make neurons more active, but made neurons active for longer periods of time. Unless your are going to be hooked up to the these sensors, no one is really going to know what is happening in the dopamine brain system.

There are other feel good substances in the body. Dopamine, Serotonin and Oxytocin often referred to as the happy hormones, even though only one is a hormone. They are all connected with each other when it comes to pleasure. Endorphins are stored and produced in the pituitary gland. They can inhibit pain mechanisms. You create endorphins when you do something related to exercise that you really like to do. All of these chemicals are involved in the feelings of pleasure and reward and how to get both. When any of these chemicals get out of whack not matter what the reason, we begin to have problems. This can make pleasure seem so confounding at times. Sometimes, it is what we do to bring all this in balance, that can at times make everything worse.

Meditation: Pleasure, Part I

When we think of pleasure, we think of things that make us happy, bring us joy, makes life fun, and results in a feeling of contentment and joy. Pleasure is defined, as a feeling of happy satisfaction and enjoyment. This sounds like a rather simple endeavor. However, not all people agree on what is pleasurable. Pleasure originates in the most complex organ of the body, the brain. There is the disorder known as anhedonia, which is the inability to feel pleasure. Another condition, related to a perceived lack of pleasure, is dysphoria which is a state of unease or generalized dissatisfaction with life. There are many opinions about pleasure. Some groups feel that pleasure is something that should not be sought. There are other opinions, that pleasure and suffering are the only way we know that we are alive. There are ideas, that when pleasure is associated with rewards, that this can lead to destructive behavior. There is a feeling that happiness and pleasure are not synonymous. That seeking out a more productive and meaningful life may not be a pleasurable experience, but your life may be more satisfying, and therefore you are happier. By constantly seeking pleasure, one will not pursue contemplation, which does not reside in orgasmic thrills, or sensations of warmth, but in deep absorption and immersion, a state we now call “flow.” And during this state there is neither thought nor feeling. You are simply “one with the music. In other words pleasure can inhibit meditation. I am not sure that I agree.

With pleasure now becoming more complicated, it was only a matter of time, before neuroscience would have to get involved. Neuroscience, at one time, felt that only objective behavior reactions could be studied, and pleasure was a subjective reaction, depending on what each individual felt was pleasurable. With new technology in brain studies, that viewpoint, while still being argued, is in the vast minority today. Today, a neuroscience of pleasure can be pursued as successfully as the neuroscience of perception, learning, cognition, or other well-studied psychological functions. Neuroscience did show the evolution of hedonic reactions. Hedonism is a family of theories that all have pleasure as a central theme. There is this conflict between hedonism and religion. By constantly seeking pleasure, it could ruin your life. However, most religions follow the principles of hedonism, seeking pleasure and avoiding pain. Trying to get into heaven, and avoiding hell at all costs is one of the basics of Christianity.

Pleasure, which looked so simple, turns out to be one of the most complex and misunderstood mental experiences. There are many things that can give people pleasure. Sometimes these pleasurable experiences can lead to destructive behavior. Why can’t things that are perceived to be pleasurable always be good for us? Why can’t we perceive, that in the long run, what we find pleasurable is causing us harm? How are we blocking things that would give us pleasure, and help us live better lives? Chemistry seems to be the answer. The number and the amount of these chemicals, seems to be the elusive answer to the previous questions. As this is explored further, you may get the same feeling that I have, that science is not all that close to an answer.

Sports: Baseball, Eliminating the Great at Bat

Anybody who watches or follows baseball, knows what the great at bat is. For those of you that don’t, the great at bat, is where the batter battles the pitcher, by fouling off pitch after pitch. The pitcher will throw between 10 to 15 pitches, and once in awhile more. No matter what the batter does, strikes out, makes an out by putting a ball in play, or gets a hit or a walk, the announcer will say, that was a great at bat. I absolutely agree 100%. It is also very BORING and TIME CONSUMING. As the pitcher gets more and more frustrated by the batter fouling off all those pitches, he usually slows down his approach. In the era of 100 pitch counts, the pitcher is using up 10 to 15% of his limit on one batter. Other than the appreciation of the great at bat, there is nothing good about the great at bat. It slows the game down, it is by far, the longest period of time in the game, where there is little, or no action, except the pitcher throwing, and the batter swinging, and fouling off pitches. It wastes the pitcher talents, by having to throw so many pitches, to one batter. The problem is the foul ball. Baseball has never really known what to do with the foul ball. In the beginning, it was hard to define, and through the years the definition changed. The one thing that has never changed, is there is no penalty for foul balls, except when you foul off a bunt attempt, with 2 strikes, and your out. This all needs to change, if baseball is going to move along in the 21st Century, and add some excitement to the game. It will take a couple of simple, but bold rule changes to make this happen.

We need to make 3 the magic number in baseball. We already have 3 strikes your out. We need for 3 fouls to be an out. Foul balls would become a separate entity. Finally, walks would be reduced to 3 balls. Let’s look at what this would do. The most pitches any batter would face would be 7. The new full count would be, 2 balls, 2 strikes, and 2 fouls. This would be the first true full count, because on the next pitch something is going to happen. The batter is going to strike out, foul out, walk, or make an in play hit, or out. There would be this defined end point, to the pitcher-batter confrontation. It would be the first time in baseball history, that you would know, that something was going to happen, on the next pitch. There would be this new, and I’m sure some would call odd strategy situation, when a batter would foul off the first two pitches. He could take 2 strikes in a row. However, does the pitcher groove two strikes, thinking the same thing. Would the batter take those strikes, or would he go after those pitches risking hitting the 3rd foul ball, and making an out. With these rules in effect, the starting pitcher would have more of a chance of going deeper in the game. Pitchers would be forced to throw the ball over the plate more. The 3 ball rule may not get more balls in play, but it would make walks happen faster. These two rule changes would keep the game moving. It might not cut down how long a 9 inning game lasts, in time, but in that time frame, there is going to be a lot more action. Baseball is realizing that people can not spend 3 to 4 hours at a baseball game. We now have the 7 inning doubleheader, and a runner on 2ond, to start an extra inning. Baseball needs to continue to catch up to the times, and have a game that is going to have continuous action, and not a spot in the game, where one batter fouls off pitch after pitch after pitch, zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. This is the best way to get new fans to start watching, what use to be called the national pastime.

I would be remiss, if I did not mention the NFL Championship games, where my predictions were 50-50, just like flipping a coin. Even though I thought Kansas City would beat Buffalo, I thought Buffalo would give them a better game. They jumped out to that 9-0 lead, when Kansas City muffed a punt, and Buffalo recovered on the 2 yard line. But after that, the Chiefs dominated the action, for a fairly easy 38-24 win. Is Tom Brady riding some kind of destiny thing? I don’t know, but two teams in a row have handed him victories. The Packers weren’t quite as bad as the Saints, but a 50+ yard touchdown pass with 12 secs left in the half, that wasn’t even a Hail Mary, was horrific. Then boom, a fumble to start the 2ond half, returned to the 8 yard line. One play later, Brady threw a touchdown pass, and the Packers put themselves in a huge hole, that they could not overcome, even with Aaron Rodgers. Will the fates be kind to Tom Brady for a third time, who knows? I will be watching, the game only, as I speed through every one of those God blessed commercials, and the ridiculous half time show, on my DVR.

Sports: AFC and NFC Championship Games

Tomorrow, will be the Conference Championship games of the AFC and the NFC. I needed something mundane to write about, for various reasons, and this fits the bill, perfectly.. This will not be an in depth analysis, since I have only seen the Packers, Buccaneers, and Chiefs play once, which was last week, and the Bills twice. Watching the divisional match ups last weekend, did nothing to make me renew my interest in pro football. I will be watching tomorrow, for lack of anything better to do. Since everybody does analysis and predictions, I thought it would be fun to put my two cents in. I admit, I did do a little reading on ESPN, just to get a little more background on the teams, and I was surprised, by how many people think the Buffalo Bills are going to win tomorrow, and then follow it up with a Super Bowl win. The Chiefs won a lot of games down the stretch, by the skin of their teeth, and their defense has always been a little suspect. The Bills got off to a shaky start this year, in one respect, by winning a lot of close games, but then went on a 10 game tear, by going 9 and 1, with 8 of those wins by double digits. Their only loss was by 2 points, and that was on a Hail Mary pass on the last play of the game. Let’s take a look at the match ups.

The first game is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs the Green Bay Packers, in Green Bay. They played earlier this year with Tampa Bay easily defeating the Packers 38-10. It had to be one of Green Bay’s worse games, and tomorrow I do not expect that to happen. As Tampa Bay knows, it does not make much difference what you do in the regular season, as they defeated New Orleans, who had beaten them two times, once soundly. Bruce Arians, does not think the weather will be a factor tomorrow. It is supposed to snow, but most of the snow should stop by game time. It will be about 31 degrees and drop to about 26 when the game is over. According to the forecast the wind should not be bad. Tom Brady has always played well in cold weather. I do not know if that can be said for the rest of the Tampa Bay Bucs. The most impressive unit, last week, was the Green Bay offense. The Tampa Bay offense got handed a lot of opportunities, last week, by the benevolent New Orleans Saints. Even at 43 years of age, it is hard to go against Tom Brady, but I do think the Green Bay Packers are going to win tomorrow, and go on to win the Super Bowl.

The night game will be Buffalo at Kansas City and it does appear that Patrick Mahomes will play. Even if he did not play, I think Kansas City would beat the Buffalo Bills. Buffalo came charging into the playoffs with decisive wins, and momentum, but looked lousy last week even in victory. I feel, the big knock on the Buffalo Bills, is they do not run the football. There is something about that, I just can not get past. It is pretty much a given, that if you want to win championships you must be able to run the football. This team does not even try. Their defense is good, but Kansas City is the best offense in the AFC. I do think the game will be close, but I think the Chiefs will prevail. One thing about the Chiefs, is they seem to know how to win, by hook or crook. Last year they were behind in the AFC Championship game and the Super Bowl by 10 points, and came back, and won both games. In the Super Bowl it was a huge 4th quarter rally. This year they held on to a fourth quarter lead, against Cleveland, to win with their starting quarterback on the sidelines. They have tasted defeat one time this year. One website, called them one of the luckiest teams in football. I do not see any of that changing, and thus Kansas City will beat a red hot Buffalo Bills team. Then we will have to endure the worst spectacle in sport, the Super Bowl. You can check out my views on the Super Bowl, that have not changed, on my blog of January 31, 2020.

Sports: The Division Playoffs

I watched all four division playoff games this weekend, for the first time, in about 20 years. This is what a pandemic can do to you. Normally, I would watch parts of a particular game, or the ending, if it looked like it might be close. Professional football is not what it use to be, and the game is really not all that exciting. We are down to the final four, with the Green Bay Packers hosting the Tampa Bay Bucs, and the Buffalo Bills, taking on the defending champs, Kansas City Chiefs, in Kansas City. I am going to give a brief synopsis of each game, because that is all they deserve, and then just some random thoughts, as it relates to the Steelers, and TV coverage in general. The first game of the weekend was Green Bay beating the L. A. Rams. By far, the most impressive unit of the weekend, was the Green Bay offense. But even as impressive as the Packers were, the Rams were still in the game trailing 25-18, going into the 4th quarter. The Packers got a great break on a fumble, that went right back to Aaron Rodgers, and then a few plays later, hit a 58 yard bomb, to wrap up the game. Then came Buffalo and Baltimore, or should I say, Bufoonalo and Butchimore. Between dropped balls, missed field goals, penalties, and general ineptitude, this game was laughable. The only good sequence of plays for both teams, came at the start of the second half, with Buffalo driving down, and scoring a touchdown, and then Baltimore doing the same thing, until they got inside the 10 yard line. That is when Buffalo intercepted a horrible pass from Lamar Jackson and returned it 101 yards for a touchdown and for this game, an overwhelming lead of 17 to 3. The next day started with Cleveland playing Kansas City. Even though Kansas City won by only 5 points, 22-17, and Kansas City lost their quarterback to a concussion, you never really thought the Chiefs were going to lose. Another game that featured a lot of dropped balls, and that ill-advised attempted stretch across the goal by the Cleveland receiver, which resulted in a touchback and Kansas City’s ball on the 20 yard line. There were some gutsy fourth down calls, but other than that another sleeper. Then, New Orleans decided to gift wrap a game for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Three turnovers all leading to touchdowns for the Buccaneers, with one touchdown drive being 3 yards. Another game where there were many mistakes, by both teams. Buffalo and Tampa Bay, will have to elevate their games, if they want to be competitive next week.

There were 5 quarterbacks over the age of 35, in the playoffs. Going from the youngest to the oldest, they were Aaron Rodgers 37, Ben Roethlisberger 38, Phillip Rivers 39, Drew Brees 42, and Tom Brady 43. There is no question that Ben plays like he is the oldest. My suggestion would be to shed the weight, and get back to playing the game. Both Brees and Brady made successful quarterback sneaks. Aaron Rodgers looks very mobile in the pocket and at times will pick up good gains running the football . Brees seems to have lost some arm strength but seems to move pretty well. Brady looks the same as ever. Ben, you need to recapture that zest to play the game. It was ironic to see so many 4th down chances taken in the Cleveland-Kansas City game, after Pittsburgh punted the ball away last week. The Browns went for it on 4th down, with more time on the clock, and deeper in their own territory. It’s called going after the win, Mike Tomlin. The coverage of the games was not too bad, but it did have it’s humorous moments. Tony Romo saying there is no way they are going to snap the ball, when the Chiefs snapped the ball and won the game. Troy Aikman still does not like any officiating calls and is always quick to point it out. But my favorite “analysis” was during the Green Bay game. There were two plays that were exactly the same thing but because the result was different there was a different analysis for each play. Aaron Rodgers was under pressure from the L.A. defense, scrambled around, threw slightly behind the receiver, the ball went off his hands for an incompletion and the L. A. defense was giving so much credit for “disrupting the play”. Then later in the game the exact same scenario happen. This time Rodgers scrambled, again threw the ball slightly behind the receiver, but this time the receiver caught the ball. The defense got no credit and it was all Rodgers. There is no question that dropped balls are pretty much ignored by the announcers of the game. They do mention them, of course, during the play itself, but the significance of them is quickly forgotten. I think that they want people to forget about some of the poor quality of play in the NFL. All networks are too busy trying to show replays and many times do not get back to the action until right when the ball is snapped and sometimes just after. This can be very annoying. Not quite as annoying as conducting interviews, while the game is going on. That has cut down, thanks to Covid. Next week will be the Championship Games, and it’s a good bet we won’t see any, that will be considered a classic.