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Fantasy Football Makes Me a Better Man... and a Worse Person

Chris Schneck

Fantasy football makes me a better man and a worse person.

Millennial male bonding is difficult in 2015. A lot of the staples of male bonding are defunct, irrelevant, unsustainable, or downright stupid. I don't always get to see my best guy friends, and when I do, we don't always find a respectful or productive activity to occupy our time. 

It is no longer all right to objectify women at a strip club. Most of our dads took the cars to the dealership when something went wrong and millennial men can barely change the toilet paper, let along the oil in an automobile. We definitely can’t hunt, and shouldn’t try. I know how to swipe right on Tinder, but there is no way that I am using my Tinder finger to pull an actual trigger on an actual weapon.  These days, it’s like Drake says – “Yeah, trigger fingers turn to Twitter fingers.”

If catcalling women, fixing cars, and shooting shit are no longer relevant ways for millennial men to bond with one another, what can fill the void?

Thank god for fantasy football.

Try this – walk around, find any millennial male, and mutter “explicative Cam Newton, five explicative touchdowns.” I guarantee that you will have a 2-minute conversation about the intricacies of fantasy football. 

Fantasy football is an activity that isn’t demeaning to woman (even though the NFL may be taking us there). Between the thousands of hot takes and random chance, anyone can participate and everyone can win. (Unless you play daily fantasy football – in which case everyone can play and only hedge fund managers win.)

But in traditional, yearlong leagues, there are draft parties and email threads that bring men together to bitch, banter, and bond. I am in leagues with best friends and dudes halfway across the country that I know now as “Gonky Kong” and “Watt me Whip, Watt me JJ.” I still play in a league with teachers – male and female – from the middle school where I used to teach.

With fantasy football, I am part of something. I am part of a group and I meet new friends. We talk and we laugh. Fantasy football makes me a more healthy man. I am no longer confined to lonely Sundays or empty inboxes.

Fantasy football also makes me a terrible person.

Marshawn Lynch is currently traveling to Philadelphia to see a specialist about an abdominal injury by Dr. William Meyers, a surgeon who specializes in sports hernias.  And I hope the bulge associated with the hernia has punctured his skin and explodes – like a gallon of milk that should never have been placed in that plastic grocery bag for the 5 block walk back to your apartment.

After some time spent on Web MD, I now know that a sports hernia is a tear to the oblique abdominal muscles. You can read more about the medical mumbo jumbo, but the injury involves a bulge under the skin, which generates a lot of pain, near the groin. Really, this picture says it all.

Definitely not good. 

Definitely not good. 

Which is awful news for Mr. Lynch but fantastic freaking news for me.

You see, I have a player on my team named Thomas Rawls. You may not have heard of him because he is a rookie running back behind Marshawn Lynch on the depth chart.

Even though Rawls doesn’t have the name recognition or the Skittles commercials, he has performed like Lynch – in games when Lynch isn’t healthy. In those games, Rawls has scored 10, 22, and 37 fantasy points.

I added Rawls to my team off of something called the "waiver wire" – its like the used car lot for fantasy football players. For the most part, the waiver wire is filled with scrubs and back of the bench players that are closer to coaching high school football than starting for an NFL team.

Finding a starter who can get you 10, 20, or 30 fantasy points a week is like ordering $12 all-you-can-drink-mimosas. You would be happy with getting a free refill of orangey goodness, but they keep refilling your cup and you end up drinking 12 mimosas!  Of course, you immediately decide in your champagne induced stupor that you’re coming back for bottomless mimosas every flipping Sunday!

The thing is – I can only enjoy my bottomless Thomas if Lynch is seriously injured, requires surgery, and can no longer play the game he loves. 

To keep playing fantasy football and building healthy relationships with other millennial men means that I will continue to roll the dice with my humanity, my compassion, and my integrity. Do you draft Adrian Peterson with your first round pick, knowing that he beat the shit out of a child? Can you play the Cowboys defense, knowing Greg Hardy used the same amount of force on the last tackle that he used to hit his woman? Do you yell for Case Keenum to get up and walk it off or do you yell for a stretcher, when something like this happens?

Turns out the NFL has already joined the list of manly relics of generations past. The NFL, the head coach, and the training staff left him in the game. We teach kids not to be bystanders, but the NFL stood right by and put a player at risk. I'll be looking for a new hobby soon. As usual, being a better man is not as important as being a better person. 

ESPN: choosing Goodell over Grantland since 2015. Shouts to the Shootaround Crew.

Chris Schneck

There was basketball all weekend, but no Grantland Shootaround or Grantland NBA Overnight. 

We are left to our own devices today because ESPN, a sibling subsidary and important revenue stream of The Walt Disney Cororation, decided ironically to reenact the plot line of a Disney Movie -- The Lion King.

ESPN is Scar, the manipulating, egotistical, and plotting antagonist who thinks only in terms of how assume as much power as possible. Scar doesn't let anyone talk about Mufasa and ESPN doesn't let anyone talk about Goodell. 

Grantland is Mufasa - a noble beacon of honesty and humility who looks out for the best interests of the sports ecosystem. Are either perfect? No -- but both Mufasa and Grantland are far better than Pride Rock or the Internet ever deserved. 

Us? We are Simba - left wondering if *we* killed Grantland. Would one more click on Andrew Sharp's hot take have given us one more Shootaround? I, like Simba, feel responsible for the death of the thing I loved so much. If I had visited Stamps.com or bought a ticket from Seat Geek, could this have been prevented? Now, I, like Simba, am forced to wander the wilderness, except without a catchy sing-a-long to save the day. 

Where do you turn when old-reliable is gone? What will resonate in the white noise of the post-Grantland internet? 

Before attempting answers to those nihilistic questions, let's pour one out for the homies -- Sharp, Shea Serrano, Kirk Goldsberry, Rafe Bartholomew, Danny Chau, Jason Concepcion, and the rest of the starting squad.  

Now that we are 40 ounces lighter and another 40 ounces drunker -- let's continue. 

Were all those guys great writers? You bet. But that isn't why we loved them. We read them in the office, we read them on the shitter, and we read them when the girlfriend wasn't looking (and when she was) because of their transcendent enthusiasm for the best things about basketball. The utter ridiculousness of Russ. The extra sauceness in Philly. And BOOGIE. 

They didn't care who won the game or won the championship. They cared about who won the moment and who lost. Let's try some Rafiki shit and attempt to realign the stars. Let's Shootaround not without Grantland, but because of Grantland. Because you sure as hell know they have one hell of an email thread going on without us saying some fucking hilarious things about ESPN. 

So let's shoot around. 

I rode with the Warriors last postseason. I was watching Game 2 at a bar and told the waiter to send shots to our table as soon as the Warriors got within 8 points of the Cavs. And even as I was screaming terrible, terrible things about the rascally, weaselly Australian, I grew to respect him. And, now?! The Cavs are outscoring opponents truly absurd clip of 55.6 points per 100 possessions when Richard Jefferson, Tristan Thomson, and Matthew "Watch your Extematies" Delladova share the floor. They are also doing this: 

In other news, the American Colonies probably didn't realize it when the tide turned against the British. One day they were freezing their muskets off in Valley Forge and the next day the British were taking the long boat trip back to London. Daniel Murphy didn't realize shit was about to get real in the World Series. 

But this is what the turning point looks like aboard Commodore Hinkie's submarine. We are on the come up because Captain Dario is coming! And, he is coming sooner than we thought! Good God Almighty! 

The thought had been that he would wait until the summer of 2017 to cross the Atlantic and sign his contract when he was no longer restricted by the rookie pay scale, but apparently things are getting iffy in Turkish Basketball League: "I can't say I'm happy with the situation. But it's not all that bad," Saric said recently. 

Yes. You are Dario Saric and you were excited for the draft, but not nearly as excited as Philadelphia is to watch bring back big man basketball with JoJo and Jahlil. 

Even LeBron knows that the 76ers are like good scotch - just give it a little more time! 

Basketball can't be confined to one adjective. It can be beautiful in a nostalgic Hoosiers sort of way. It can be Thunderous in a Russy Stardust sort of way. Every night there are plenty of plays that make us love the game. There are also plenty of plays that wonder if someone might be better off playing with a football or a land mine. 

Those plays have their place - and deserve an award. Let's go ahead and "honor" an ESPN Top Play every blog post, given to the player who crumples up the idea of basketball and uses it to clean himself three hours after a particularly spicy bowl of chili. 

The Innaugrial ESPN Top Play Award goes to Spencer Hawes. 

ESPN: choosing Goodell over Grantland since 2015.   

 

Basketball is Back!!

Chris Schneck

Over / under bets are the hot or not of the National Basketball Association. Are we going to swipe left or right on the following teams? Let’s find out!

The Los Angeles Lakers: Under 28. Ever go back to your alma mater for an alumni weekend and none of your friends could come back? You get stuck hanging out with some guy named Patches? Or you go out back to shotgun a beer and the sophomores are fumbling with their keys and spraying beer everywhere like its Senior Prom? Welcome to the 2015 Lakers.

Koke is back for alumni weekend and will try to resist hazing the new guys who are living in *his* fraternity house. The Lakers are so obviously not going to win 28 that Sportsbook.ag should open betting lines on other things. Over/under number of tears that Roy Hibbert sheds on the court this season. Over/under number of times Swaggy P stops the game to post on Instagram photo. Over/under number of games until Jeanie Buss goes full Jerry Jones on poor Jim Buss.

 

Golden State Warriors: Over. They won the NBA Championship last year and won 67 games before the post season even started. Steph is back and so is Clay. Iggy is back and so is Bogut. But most importantly, the Warriors Spirit Animal is back for more cool stories and even cooler adult beverages:

Sixers: Over 21. The Fighting Hinkies! The Tankadelphia Jojos! There is so much to love here – I am steering right into the skid.

Dissension in the ranks – I don’t care. Hinkie sure as hell doesn't care. Joel Embid had a setback because he wouldn’t wear his walking boot – all part of the plan! The Hinkies have the next Theo Ratliff in Nerlens Noel (which isn’t nearly as bad as it sounds). The Hinkies fleeced the Sacramento Kings out of Sauce Castillo, the number 11 draft pick in last year’s draft. And, the Hinkies will trot out the 2015-16 Rookie of the Year, Jahlil Oka-For-The-Future! Bret Brown is part of the Spurs Mafia and will coach the hell out of this team.

Here is the *real* secret sauce though: No one in the East is going to tank. Orlando is in year three of its rebuild and wants results. The Nets don’t have their pick and will strive for mediocrity. Derek Fisher is fighting for his job with the Knicks, could be fighting Matt Barnes any day, and is fighting for his future basketball wife). The Celtics, Pistons, Pacers, and Bucks all have playoff aspirations. The 76ers could win 22-25 games and still have tons of ping-pong balls.

Miami Mafia: Over 47 wins. Don't mess with the Mafia.

Flaming Hot Takes:

Ricky Rubio will run and gun his way to All Star considerations! Yes – this Ricky Rubio. Shouts to the late Flip Saunders for one of the best superstar fire sales in memory (Wiggins for Love) and the team will surely dedicate this season to Flip. Player-coach Kevin Garnett will stabilize the stable of YouTube stars and wrangle them into a basketball team under the point guard wizardry of Spanish Steve Nash.

Sauce Castillo makes more 3s than Kyle Korver. Korver is old and Sauce isn’t. Korver is so old that I remember him getting run out of Philadelphia for being too slow during W’s presidency. Guess who is in Philadelphia now? Guess who is going to see more Green Lights than Vin Diesel in Fast and Fuvious 17? That’s right – STOUSKAS!!

Playoff Seeds:

Tee-Ball Division

1.     Chicago Bulls

2.     Cleveland Cavaliers

3.     Washington Wizards

4.     Miami Heat

5.     Atlanta Hawks

6.     Toronto Raptors

7.     Boston Celtics

8.     Indiana Pacers

Legitimate Basketball Division

1.     Golden State Warriors

2.     OKC Thunder

3.     Houston Rockets

4.     LA Clippers

5.     SA Spurs

6.     Memphis Grizzlies

7.     Phoenix Suns

8.     Dallas Mavericks

This is the year of the little brothers not getting allowed to play on the Xbox because the big brother says so. Institutional memory allows the Heat, Pacers, Mavericks to claim the playoff slots that “should” probably go to the Bucks, Detroit, and Jazz. 

Zach Lowe's MVP Picks

I don't care what the public wants. The public will vote Kobe, Dwyane, and a few other knuckleheads who were good before America decided folks had a right to be gay. Instead, I am going to predict who Grantland and Zach Lowe think deserve to honored on All-Star Weekend. 

Eastern Conference

Starters: G Kyle Lowry (20 pounds lighter); G John Wall (f*** you Collin Cowherd); FC Jimmy Butler (f*** you Derek Rose); FC LeBron James (Respect the King while you can -- Winter is Coming); FC Paul George (f*** positions)

Reserves: G Derek Rose (f*** you Jimmy Butler); G Goren Dragic G FC David Lee (Shh Don't call it a comeback); FC Pau Gasol FC Carmelo Anthony (Padding stats until he gets traded); G Derek Rose (f*** you Jimmy Butler) Wild Cards: Chris Bosh and Al Horford 

Western Conference

G Steph Curry (with the pot); G James Harden (Mr. Kardashian); FC Anthony Davis (MVP); Blake Griffin (when did he become underrated); FC Kevin Durant (Slim Reaper) 

Reserves: G Mike Conley G Andrew Wiggins (Welcome to 2015) FC Draymond Green FC Serge Ibaka FC BOOGIE Wild Cards: Mark Gasol;  Russ (no last name)

I wrote this column like


Is Chip Kelly A Racist? (Yes)

Chris Schneck

If you were to ask me this question in a bar, I wouldn’t hesitate to answer. If the Eagles were playing on Sunday and we were sharing a pitcher of beer (or two), I would respond immediately. I would tell you that I think Chip Kelly is a racist.

We are not, however, in a bar. And, talking about racism and systemic inequality in America is tough. It requires much more self-awareness and intellectual engagement than usually exists in a sports bar.

Thank god for the Internet.

Over the last year, Kelly has traded or cut four talented black players. DeSean Jackson, LeSean "Shady" McCoy, Jeremy Maclin, and Brandon Boykin once were Eagles, and now they aren't. 

The story goes that Chip has gotten rid of these players to institute a strong team “culture” and prioritizing players with “character.” Forbes profiled the Chip and praised his "culture of dignity."

His players disagree. 

He wants the full control. You see how fast he got rid of all the good players. Especially all the good black players. He got rid of rid of them the fastest. That’s the truth. There’s a reason…
— Shady McCoy
[Kelly is] uncomfortable around grown men of our culture.
— Brandon Boykin

Kelly responded, but didn’t necessarily help himself. At a 2015 May press conference, Kelly was asked to respond to the implications that he has cut some players from his team, in part, because those guys are black:

I’ve got great respect for LeSean. However, in that situation, I think he’s wrong. We put a lot of time looking into character and factors that go into selection and retention of players. Color’s never been one of them.
— Chip Kelly

In this quote, Chip concocts a cocktail equal parts white privilege and Orwellian doublespeak.   

White folks hear “culture and factors” and nod approvingly. Black people don’t. Stephen A. Smith certainly isn’t buying what Chip is selling. He quit Hot Takes for long enough to use his ESPN platform to challenge Kelly: "Chip Kelly makes decisions over the last couple of years that, dare I say, leave a few brothers feeling uncomfortable." Stephen A. gets a lot wrong, but he gets this right. 

Smith isn’t saying that Kelly is definitely a racist, but he isn’t going the other way either. Stephan A. tries to remind America that racism isn’t easy to talk about, and it deserves sincere thought and conversation.

Shady McCoy also understands how nuanced racism is, and how racists aren’t necessary bad dudes. Shady implied that Chip was a racist, and then called him a genius in the next interview. Racism and genius are not mutually exclusive character traits. McCoy didn’t contradict himself. He gave mindful feedback to an industry leader and former boss. 


Writers who rationalize Kelly’s actions and defend his racism need to dig deeper.

Yes, Kelly has signed black free agents. He has drafted black players.

Having a black friend, however, no longer insulates you from racist allegations. Adding black players doesn’t mean Chip Kelly isn’t a racist. Especially when 67 percent of the league is black. Racists can have black friends. Racist coaches can draft black players.

It doesn’t matter how many black players Kelly adds to the team. It doesn’t matter how many white players he cuts.

DeSean Jackson’s voice matters. The words of Shady McCoy matter. Brandon Boykin’s story matters.

Black voices matter in the NFL. They matter in America. Stop dismissing their words.

White privilege will continue to protect Coach Kelly, and will continue to plague black Eagles as long as sports journalists permit it.

Just because this story doesn’t involve X’s and O’s or free agent signings doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter. Forcing Chip Kelly to consider his racial identity, and the racial identities of his players isn’t “nonsense” or “ridiculousness.”

Let’s get folks in bars across America start talking about racism, privilege, and inequality. It won’t ruin football, I promise.

Let’s get Chip some diversity training. It might just help the Eagles win some football games. That’s all that matters, right? 

Would You Rather Be Underpaid or Overrated?

Chris Schneck

Jay-Z asks, “Would you rather be Underpaid or Overrated?” 

After Kanye finishes his verse in “So Appalled,” Jay picks up the mic and picks up the hyperbolic riff. He claims to have gone from the favorite to the most hated, as he reminds the listener of his topsy-turvy reign atop the Rap Throne. 

With the next verse, Jay-Z seems to remember the amount of money in the bank account, and the identity of the wife he goes home to at the end of the day. Through his lyrics, he seems to shake his head, shrug it off, and decide that being overrated is preferable to being underpaid.

What do you think? Would you rather be underpaid or overrated? Anyone could answer, but this privileged question seems to “plague” white millennials more than any other demographic.

We have so many opportunities for employment, which diverge in so many different directions. We can log hours in the basement of a consulting firm; we can hop a plane and teach in China; we can take on some more debt and enroll in the graduate school of our choosing.

Most jobs, however, involve coming down on one side or the other of being underpaid or overrated.  


My perspective is unique: For the last three years, I have been underpaid and overrated.

Underpaid:

I have been a public school teacher affiliated with Teach For America, and I earned a bit over $40,000. I made a bit more when I tutored after-school, and another bit more when I became chair of the Science Department. I still made less than most of my friends, who could swipe their Visas at the bar without a second thought.

I went to a good school, got good grades, and have an attractive resume, especially when I splurge for the ivory colored and cotton threaded resume paper. I could have been making more, but I wasn’t.

Overrated

I taught in a Title I school, which was staffed by mostly older, black women. Most of them were better teachers than me, but my principal didn’t think so. He thought I was a great teacher, and certainly better than the rest.

I benefitted from my privilege as a white individual in America. Then, because I was a guy, I got to double down on my privilege. I was a good teacher, but never the great one envisioned by my principal. I was overrated because of my privileged upbringing. 

You see, I have been pegged as a “leader” since my mom packed my lunch. I have been in charge of as many clubs as you can count. I have had internships and fellowships and research positions. I am as comfortable at a cocktail party as I am in a courtroom. I know how to talk you into something, and how to talk my way out of anything. If you squint your eyes, I could look like any President of the United States or CEO of a Fortune 500 company. In America, my skin color and my gender were destined to lead others, command respect, and not take shit from anyone. All of these things made me seem like a great teacher when I really wasn't. 


Identifying as underpaid or overrated is a false dichotomy.

Jay-Z should ask, and we should consider, if we are underpaid or undervalued.  We should consider if we are overrated or in over our heads. 

I can stand being underpaid. I can't stomach being undervalued or under-appreciated.

It’s not so bad being overrated. It’s downright terrifying to be in over your head. It is exhausting to tread water and just manage to keep your head above the crashing waves.

So, I’ll take being underpaid and overrated. Just make sure I don’t end up being undervalued and in over my head. 

Photo Attribution: Watch the Throne: Jay-Z & Kanye West December 2011 by U2Soul is licensed under CC BY 2.0 Enhanced from the original.