Thursday, April 28, 2011

Volume 6, Number 7: A Draft Like No Other

Well, here we are... the NFL Draft begins tonight.

But due to the labor impasse, it is unlike any that we, the professional football fans, have ever seen. That's because teams will have to draft for needs that they could have filled through trades or free agency in previous seasons.

Presently, teams cannot sign free agents, because without a new collective bargaining agreement in place, there is no way of knowing exactly who is a free agent. Carolina Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams and San Diego Chargers wide receiver Vincent Jackson are two examples of players who would be restricted free agents if the old CBA was still in effect, but could become unrestricted (and thus free to sign with any team) if a new CBA says they can. With respect to the Draft, teams now have to spend draft picks to fill needs that they might have been able to fill via free agency. For example, an NFL team (such as the Miami Dolphins or New England Patriots) might have to draft a running back early on because Williams is presently not able to sign with that or any other team.

Teams also cannot trade for veteran players. Trading comes into play in the weeks leading up to the draft and during the draft, when players are traded for draft picks (examples from last year included Donovan McNabb, Santonio Holmes and Leon Washington). Again, NFL teams are going to have to draft to fill needs in situations where trading a lower draft pick for a veteran might have worked.

Once the draft is completed, teams cannot sign undrafted players (as they become free agents after the draft).

Finally, teams cannot sign the players they did draft to contracts (particularly because the owners and players have not yet agreed on a new rookie wage scale--it makes perfect sense because no team should ever have to pay millions in guaranteed money to unproven players like JaMarcus Russell, but the players have wanted the owners to reallocate the money they save under such a new wage scale to a pension fund, and that has been a sticking point).

Things I'd love to see happen:
  • For the game: Darnit, owners, you've lost. When ESPN--a network that just gave you a ton of money to keep Monday Night Football--keeps saying stuff along those lines (as in this column by Gene Wojciechowski), Commissioner Roger Goodell and the owners had better listen. Basically, get back to the table and be prepared to make some concessions to the players. You and the players both have way too much to lose here.
  • For my Detroit Lions: I hope that either CB Prince Amukamara (Nebraska) or OT Tyron Smith (USC) fall to #13 and the Lions take whichever of the two they can get (Amukamara's my first choice). Their secondary, while improved over what we had a few years ago, still needs a shutdown corner and I still look back on when they passed on CB Quentin Jammer in 2002 in favor of QB Joey Harrington. Smith would be an upgrade for an offensive line that sorely needs it. I still contend that the Lions should have drafted OT Michael Oher with the 20th overall pick in 2009, mainly because they had just spent $42 million in guaranteed money on Matthew Stafford and owed it to him and the team to protect that investment and Jeff Backus is not, and has never been, a franchise tackle. The O-line and the secondary have both been needs for this team for years and I'll be happy if the Lions can satisfy either one.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Volume 6, Number 6: Diet Soda Reviews, Part V

Here I go again, trying a few different diet sodas and letting you know what I think:

Diet 7-Up: Thumbs up because I liked it, but it just wasn't as chug-worthy as Sprite Zero was. Back in the days when I drank regular sodas (1982-2010), I liked 7-Up better than Sprite, so I thought maybe I would like Diet 7-Up better than Sprite Zero. Nope--I guess certain flavors work better with certain artificial sweeteners.

Boylan Diet Root Beer: I found this at a local Big Lots store and thought I'd try it because this brand is a) one I don't see at local chains like Meijer and Kroger, and b) is a brand that goes for about $4 a bottle on "more expensive" is supposed to mean "better" right? Another point of note is that unlike the other root beers I've tried, this brand uses a blend of sucralose and acesulfame potassium. Sadly, this one tasted like someone spiked it with some sort of medicine (Sucrets, maybe?). Thumbs down to this particular variety (note: I have never tried Boylan's regular sodas so I cannot say as to how good those would taste, and my thumbs down review is not meant to discourage people from buying Boylan products).

Diet Dad's Root Beer: I also found this at a local Big Lots and it also uses a blend of sucralose and acesulfame potassium. Diet Dad's tasted better than Boylan, but it left behind an aftertaste I didn't like, so thumbs down to this one, too. (Again, it's possible that the regular Dad's tastes way better, but I am not reviewing regular sodas here. My previous experience with Dad's Root Beer was--drumroll, please--those little barrel-shaped hard candies you see in that Halloween candy mix, the one that also has the Smarties and the Dubble Bubble bubble gum.)

Meijer Diet Encore Cherry Cola: Thumbs down. I really disliked this one. It tasted like someone had spiked Cherry Coke Zero with sawdust. It ranks right down there with Walmart's Diet Root Beer among the worst diet sodas I've had. I don't think anything with cherry flavoring in it is supposed to have "hints of wood". (Note: Meijer is a chain of hypermarkets that is based in my home state of Michigan, but also has locations in Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Kentucky.)

Meijer Diet Cream Soda: Thumbs up. Yes, I said up, even though Meijer's store-branded food and drink products have had a mostly bad track record with me. Meijer has themselves a very good imitation of Diet A&W Cream Soda--I liked the taste and found the aftertaste very easy to live with (because, as with Diet A&W Cream Soda, the flavor goes well with the aspartame/ace-K artificial sweetener).

I just asked Faygo (via their Facebook page) if they could look into using an aspartame/ace-K blend. Their diet sodas currently use aspartame, which, in my book, puts them a decade behind many of the other diet soda makers.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Volume 6, Number 5: Clean Plates

Have you ever heard that phrase, "You could lose weight if you left some food on your plate?" A number of weight loss web sites, such as this one, or this one, will say that. But I usually disagree with that statement.

Cooking at home as much as I do, it seems to me that if, at the point that my hunger was satisfied, I still had "extra" food on my plate, then I cooked too much for that one meal.

Don't get me wrong--it's always good to stop eating when your hunger is satisfied. And there are circumstances where cooking less is not possible--you can't exactly tell a restaurant to cut back on the amount they make. It's generally one size for one price, and I suppose you could always "doggy bag" whatever's left over.

But at home, I prefer to get what I pay for and that's why leaving food on my plate never enters into the equation. If I can save it for leftovers, fine--I always have leftovers from frozen 12" pizzas and Hamburger/Chicken/Tuna Helpers--but there is no way anything gets left on my plate. My retort to that age-old saying about leaving a little on your plate is this: it would be less wasteful to cook less food than to leave "extra" food on the plate. A few less rotini in the boiling water here and a few less tater tots in the oven there would surely stretch your food dollar farther.

Or better yet, buy a little less food to begin with!