2024 NFL Draft: How the Bears can set themselves up beautifully

The Chicago Bears played an ugly game against the Minnesota Vikings last night, narrowly escaping with a 12-10 victory. Sure, the Vikings are still in the playoff race, but the more interesting aspect of this game was the NFL draft implications.

With the Bears victory, they now sit at 4 wins alongside 6 other teams. These teams are now slotted in between 4 and 10 in the draft order, so the final few weeks will be very important to determine where teams will pick in the top 10.

Another thing that the Bears win resulted in was the bottom 3 teams separating themselves from the pack. The Carolina Panthers (1-10), Arizona Cardinals (2-10) and New England Patriots (2-9) have the worst three records in the league. Unfortunately for Carolina, their dismal season won’t end up resulting in the 1st overall pick. The Panthers traded up in the 2023 draft in order to take quarterback Bryce Young, sending their 2024 first rounder to the Bears. The Bears have to be absolutely thrilled with their current situation.

The once dominate Windy City franchise has been terrible for quite a while, with their last playoff win coming in 2010. There’s a good chance that the team may be on the upswing, with the potential of having two top-5 picks in next April’s draft. Luckily for the Bears, it’s shaping up to be a great draft, especially at the top.

There are expected to be two generational talents available in the draft, starting with USC quarterback Caleb Williams. Williams is one of the top quarterback prospects in the last 10 years, as he checks all the boxes teams look for in a franchise signal-caller. The Bears do have Justin Fields, who has had his moments as the team’s starter, but has also had a hard time staying healthy. If the team ends up with the first selection, it would likely be difficult for them not to take Williams. That could potentially set up a trade of Fields to another team.

The other generational talent likely to be available is Marvin Harrison Jr., a wide receiver from Ohio State University. The son of a Hall of Famer, Harrison reminds some scouts of Jamaar Chase from a couple of seasons ago. Like Williams, he is likely one of the top prospects at his position in the last decade.

If the Bears could pull off the acquisition of both Williams and Harrison, they are going to be in a phenomenal position going forward. With Aaron Rodgers out of the division, the Green Bay Packers reign of terror over the NFC North has finally ended. It might finally be time for the Bears to return to greatness.

Kickers are people too! Why NFL placekicking is in its golden era

When most people think of football players, they aren’t usually thinking of 5’10”, 170 pounders. Most NFL kickers look like they could be accountants or professional poker players, not professional athletes.

Did you realize that kicking in the NFL has never been better? A lot has been made of the quality of the NFL game lately, with Tom Brady recently commenting on the mediocrity prevalent in the game. It’s probably safe to assume that he was talking about offense and defense, and not the kicking game.

To put this into perspective, 3 of the 4 highest league-wide kicking percentage seasons all time have been in the last 3 seasons. Why are kickers all of a sudden that much more accurate? For one, more and more young players are zeroing in on a career as a kicker. As recently as a decade or two ago, a lot of NFL kickers were simply failed soccer players. With the explosion of football in the United States over that time period, kids are training to be football kickers from a young age, perfecting their craft and getting used to kicking the prolate spheroid shaped ball.

Another crazy fact is that the top 5 kickers in all time career field goal percentage are active players. After a missed kick on Sunday night, arguably the best kicker in the game, Justin Tucker, fell to 2nd place with an 89.93% average. Passing Tucker with an even 90.00% mark was Atlanta Falcons kicker Younghoe Koo, just the 4th South Korean born player in NFL history.

Koo moved with his parents to the United States in the 6th grade, where he was convinced by classmates to take up football after displaying a ridiculous kicking leg at recess. After setting the career field goal percentage record at Georgia Southern University, Koo got a chance with the San Diego Chargers in 2017. As he quickly found out, the life of an NFL kicker can be a rough one. He was cut after just 4 games, starting a journey of building his resume back up in the Alliance of American Football League. After the league folded, Koo had some chances with some other teams, before finally latching on with the Falcons. Flash forward a few years, and Koo is one of the top kickers in the league.

It’s crazy to think that for how good Tucker and Koo have been, Kansas City Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker has an argument for being better than both. He sits 3rd in all time kick percentage at 89.30, aided by a perfect 20 for 20 in field goals this season. He’s been riding a high for awhile now, ever since kicking the game winning field goal in the Super Bowl last February.

We’re living in the golden age of NFL kicking, and there’s a good chance that efficiency and kicking power will only increase as the years go by. Tucker holds the all time longest field goal record of 66 yards, but I believe it’s only a matter of time before somebody hits 70. At any rate, there’s a good chance that the days of a team’s kicker being called an idiot are long over.


The death of the beer coaster

I’ve always been a big collector. From baseball cards to stamps, I often get fixated on acquiring an entire set of some sort of collection, and then spending countless hours sorting them.

Collecting coasters is something that I got into within the last decade. I love it because it acts as a great souvenir from different places that doesn’t cost you anything. Throughout my travels around Europe, Central and South America, I’ve made a point to grab a coaster at whatever bar or brewery I could find one at. I’ve found all kinds of cool ones over the years, as employees are always more than happy to give me a couple whenever I’ve asked.

One of the more memorable experiences was in Norway. I was at a brewery and asked for a coaster, but was shocked to hear that coasters do not exist anywhere in the country. Due to regulations against promoting alcohol culture, no advertisements for beer exist whatsoever. This unfortunately extended to coasters. This actually led to a cool outcome though, as one guy gave me a free glass instead. At a different brewery, I was given a wooden coaster that was commemorating a popular Norwegian board game. I was thrilled with these finds considering I was expecting to leave the country without a single coaster.

I’ve noticed over the past couple of years that breweries are simply not carrying coasters as much any more. The reasons make some sense. Despite them seeming like a harmless piece of cardboard, the costs for customized coasters can be pretty steep. In addition to the cost, their purpose is not all that useful.

I work at a brewery in North Vancouver that refuses to have any coasters whatsoever. This kills me a little bit inside, since it would be nice to add the brewery I work at to my collection. There are definitely some wet rings that develop on tables, but we wipe down the tables enough that they never leave any sort of mark. However, using coasters at home is smart, because who has the time to constantly wipe down your tables?

Will coasters make a triumphant return to relevancy? Eh, I doubt it. With recent reports of the financial struggle of craft breweries, there doesn’t really seem to be a point of incurring extra costs right now for something like coasters. Perhaps in another ten years I’ll pivot to a different beer-related collection, like stickers. For now, I’m going to try to wrangle up as many of these things as I can.

A look at the rough and tumble world of ostrich racing

Have you ever rode a horse? Most people have probably some experience with the idea at the very least. Horse riding is a big part of our culture, as it used to be a popular form of transportation back in the day. Nowadays, watching horses race is very popular, especially amongst degenerate gamblers.

Riding a horse is fairly easy, especially compared to riding other animals. For those daredevils looking for something more challenging, you can’t get much more intense than riding a friggin’ ostrich. That’s right, there are maniacs out there that make a living off of riding these flightless beasts.

Originating in South Africa as far back as the 1800’s, ostrich racing has become a (somewhat) popular endeavor in certain spots in the United States. An ostrich farm was opened in Jacksonville, Florida in 1892, where racing and general ostrich related activities went on. Believe it or not, this served as a tourist attraction for the area. The farm existed until 1912, where they had to move locations due to unruly ostrich behaviour.

It’s hard enough to keep ostriches in a caged off area, so you’re probably wondering why on earth somebody would jump on their backs and ride them. People realize that ostriches hold the enviable title as the world’s fastest running birds, right? Due to their awkward bodies, staying steady while on top of them must be very difficult.

Where do these races happen, you ask? Anybody that is anybody in ostrich racing makes the pilgrimage to Chandler, Arizona for the annual Ostrich Festival, with 2024 being it’s 34th year. These festivals have many different carnival games and rides and what not.

Over the last few years, the races have come under fire for their inhumane treatment of the birds. Some locals view ostrich races as a random development, since ostriches were historically raised for their feathers in Arizona, not for racing. Many different organizations, especially PETA, have been clear about their desire to shut down the races for good. The point has been made that horses and camels have been domesticated and are more appropriate to ride compared to ostriches, who don’t exactly have the body for human riding.

Putting aside the abuse concerns, there’s no doubt that some of these riders get what’s coming to them for having the idiotic idea of riding an ostrich. At the Emerald Downs ostrich race of 2019, the first five ostriches to cross the finish line did so without a jockey on their back.

In the world we live in today, who knows how long ostrich racing will continue to be a thing. For now, if you’re interested in checking it out, feel free to book your tickets for the show this March.


MLB Offseason: Which hitters offer the best value?

With the winter meetings set to kick off in Nashville on December 4th, many Major League teams are gearing up to add some fire power to their lineups. It seems like a bit of a down year for position player free agents, so we might see some trades in addition to signings this year. You can take a look at the top pitching values in free agency here.

The elite (and expensive) options

Shohei Ohtani’s free agent chase has been well documented. It’s worth noting that the Japanese star won’t pitch in 2024, so he should have a chance to play almost every day as a DH for his new team. Ohtani is sure to break the bank, so most teams simply have no chance to sign him.

Cody Bellinger had a renaissance year in 2023, rocking an .881 OPS in his first year with the Chicago Cubs. The 2019 NL MVP was able to return to stardom after 3 pedestrian years with the Dodgers from 2020-2022. Bellinger seems like he’s poised to cash in with a long term deal, as he’ll be just 28 for the start of the 2024 season.

Will cost some money, but could pay off in a big way

Jorge Soler somewhat quietly hit 36 home runs last year for the Marlins, with an OPS of .853. Soler has been a steady source of power for the last few years, and was an instrumental part of the Atlanta Braves’ 2021 World Series championship, taking home the MVP award. It remains to be seen how many years the 32-year old will receive on the market. For a contending team, adding Soler to the middle of their lineup would make them considerably more dangerous.

JD Martinez signed a 1-year deal with the Dodgers last offseason for $10, and he ended up paying off in a big way. The 36-year old slugged 33 home runs as an integral part of the middle of the Dodgers order. Martinez seems poised to receive another 1 or 2 year deal worth around the same amount of money, if not more. For a young team needing a veteran presence, they couldn’t do much better than Martinez.

Cheaper options that could be steals

Rhys Hoskins had a rough end to his tenure with the Phillies. After posting 5 straight years of an OPS over .800, the slugging first basemen tore his ACL and missed the entire 2023 season. With Bryce Harper’s permanent move to first base, the team decided to move on from the veteran. Coming off an injury presents some risk, but the 30-year old should be able to return to the middle of the lineup for a team willing to take the chance.

Tommy Pham was an integral part of the Arizona Diamondbacks run to the World Series, and seems poised to parlay that into a multi-year free agent deal. The 36-year old has played on 4 different teams in the last two years, and will likely jump at the chance to play for the same team for an entire season. His .720 OPS in the regular season won’t excite many, but we’ll see if his success in the playoffs helps his free agent case.

MLB Offseason: Which pitcher offers the best value?

As the MLB offseason continues towards the winter meetings next week, most teams are still in the hunt for some of the game’s biggest free agents. When the postseason hits, it always seems evident that pitching is king.

The teams that have a couple of top-flight starting pitchers and bullpens seem to always have a great shot at making it to the World Series. Teams can acquire pitchers through free agency as well as via trades, with price tag impacting each team’s decision.

Pitchers off the board

We’ve already had three of the top available free agents come off the board, with Aaron Nola returning to the Philadelphia Phillies (7 years, $172 million), Kenta Maeda joining the Detroit Tigers (2 years, $24 million), and Sonny Gray just recently joining the St. Louis Cardinals (3 years, $75 million).  From a value stand point, I like the Maeda deal best, especially, as he’s shown no signs of slowing down despite being 36 years old. I have a feeling the Nola contract will look bad for the Phillies in a couple of years, as they may be paying for past success compared to future value. He had an almost identical fielding independent pitching (FIP) ERA as Maeda did last year (4.03 vs 4.02), but will earn quite a bit more money on an annual basis.

The elite (and expensive) options

It will be interesting to see where the other top pitchers on the market end up going. I believe there are three elite options left: Shohei Ohtani, Blake Snell, and Yoshinobu Yamamoto.

Ohtani’s inevitable massive contract has been well documented, and remains the best option for teams that could afford him. Snell is coming off his second Cy Young award, and is likely to sign a deal similar in length and money to Nola’s deal. I have a feeling that whoever signs Snell will likely regret it down the road, similar to the Phillies and Aaron Nola. The biggest mystery in this group is Yamamoto, who will enter the Major Leagues after dominating in the Nippon Professional League. Since he’s only 25, Yamamoto is sure to receive a long term deal. Teams may be skeptical given the unknown nature, but there’s a good chance that he’ll be a star early on in his career.

Values to be found elsewhere

Eduardo Rodriguez is a player who has quietly been a steady pitcher for a number of years, but playing for the Tigers has kept him under the radar. With a 3.66 FIP last year, Rodriguez would be a solid 2 or 3 pitcher for somebody next year, and may come at a much cheaper price than some of the top guys.

Clayton Kershaw is 36 years old, but his numbers were still solid in 2023. It’s best to temper expectations with the future Hall of Famer, as he will no longer be an ace type of pitcher. If a team signs Kershaw to a 1 or 2 year deal expecting him to be their 3rd starter, I’m sure they would be pleased with the results.

There are a number of pitchers potentially available via trade that may not be obvious to the general population. One guy that may or may not get moved, but yet I’m high on as a bounce back candidate, is Dylan Cease. After finishing 2nd in AL Cy Young voting in 2022, the wheels came off for the young lefthander in 2023. There’s reason to believe that he got a bit unlucky last year, as his left on base percentage fell from 82.3% to 69.4%. Cease won’t be a free agent until 2026, so it remains to be seen whether the White Sox would demand a big return.


Which of the four major sports makes for the best fantasy experience?

Fantasy sports continues to grow in popularity, with many different sports now offering an online product. There are several different fantasy platforms, with over 7 million people on Yahoo alone. Baseball was the first sport to be used for fantasy purposes, with roots back to the 1960s.

Nowadays, many different sports offer a fantasy product, from the four major sports to others like golf and car racing. For the sake of this article, I’m going to focus on the four most popular sports, namely baseball, basketball, hockey, and football. I play all four of these every year, and there’s definitely some pros and cons with each. If you’ve played any of these, you also know that the time commitment can impact how committed you stay throughout the year.

Least Fun: Basketball

Basketball is definitely my least favourite of the four major sports. There are some aspects of this sport that lead to the fantasy product being extremely frustrating. Most of all, it’s the fact that players seem to take days off for ‘load management’ reasons. This means that you could sometimes go a full week without a star player playing a game, which is super frustrating. Compared to other sports, there also seems to be a bit more predictability, as there are fewer players to pick up throughout the year to help your team out.

Pretty Decent, but some frustrating aspects: Hockey

Hockey has a lot of variation in terms of player performance every year, but there are some annoying things about it. For one, teams don’t really release a whole lot of information. This is true about both injuries as well as which goalies will start in net in a given game. It’s happened to me multiple times where I haven’t got word if a goalie will start until after rosters lock for the start of the game. The NHL should really regulate this so that information comes out ahead of time, like in other sports. Degenerate gamblers and fantasy nerds would appreciate it.

The Best Intro Sport: Football

Football is probably the easiest fantasy sport to get into due to the nature of how the matchups are set up. Unlike other sports that require you to set up your lineup daily, in football, you only have to set your lineup for the week. This makes it easy to stay engaged and also makes each week exciting, as most teams play on Sunday at the same time. The waiver system of picking up players each week is also probably the most fair way to acquire players. The higher number of injuries in football also means that many potential league winning players can become available throughout the year.

The Best Fantasy Sport: Baseball

Alright alright, I am most definitely biased with this one, as baseball is my favourite sport. But hear me out. The baseball season is a marathon, with 162 regular season games in roughly 185 days. This means that this fantasy sport is the most fulfilling, as there is always a lineup for you to set every single day. For that reason, baseball is also the most intense, and the biggest time commitment. Unlike other sports that heavily value opportunity (i.e. a starting running back in football is very valuable), baseball is all about production. It doesn’t matter if a player has an amazing opportunity if he doesn’t take advantage of it. Throw in the fact that baseball is the OG fantasy sport, and it’s a no-brainer.

What does your hat curve say about you as a sports fan?

As a diehard sports fan, I often notice the hats of teams that people rep throughout the day. On several occasions, I’ve been excited to talk to someone for wearing the hat of one of my favourite teams. More often than that, I get a buzzkill response such as ‘I just like the hat.’

I never understood why sports team hats became mainstream enough that people that have no interest in sports simply rep them for the colours. Don’t you think this is kind of weird? I mean you could simply buy a yellow hat, but people will instead buy a New Era Pittsburgh Pirates instead, despite not knowing the difference between a fastball and a flashbulb.

After years of engaging folks based on their hats, I’ve noticed that there are a few tells that can indicate if they are indeed a sports fan or not.

Brand new flat brim, with possible sticker still left on = No chance they’re a fan

The folks that buy a hat and place it on their head raw are the biggest problem I’ve found. The chance that they are a fan of the team they are rocking is basically 0%. Hip-hop culture made this look popular, but usually those artists would at least be wearing a hat from their hometown. Maybe since we don’t have many teams in Vancouver, people just pick a random hat instead? I don’t know, but at any rate, I now know better than to ask if these people caught the game last night.

Slight to moderate curve = Flip a coin

Folks that wear their hats with a slight bend vary quite a bit. They could easily be a big fan, or have no clue whatsoever about the team they are wearing on their head. I definitely fit into this category, as I have a slight to moderate bend on my hat. Unless I’m at a game or amongst sports fans, I almost never receive comments from anyone about my hat. Granted, I’m usually wearing an Atlanta Braves hat, which is a notorious hat that people wear exclusively for fashion reasons only.

Aggressive curve = Bonafide fan

If you see someone sporting a hat with a curve that looks like a semi-circle, you can bet your bottom dollar that you have found yourself a sports fan. Usually you will also see some serious wear on a hat like this. Chances are, this person has had this hat for years and probably has a story or two to go along with it. Feel free to confidently approach this person with your hottest takes about their team.

The best sports to play outside this winter

It’s not a hot take to say that summer is much more pleasant to play sports outside. Pretty much every sport is a possibility to play outdoors during the summer, but once the weather gets chillier, the potential options dwindle quite a bit.

Strap in for the best outdoor sports options for this winter, starting with the most obvious.

The Well Established Winter Sports: Skiing and snowboarding

Skiing is easily the best and most popular sport to partake in, especially living on the west coast of Canada. There is no absence of gnarly resorts and ski hills to check out, promising to keep your weekends occupied all season long.

The ski culture is so established in Vancouver area, with three local mountains within a half hour drive of downtown. I don’t think most people realize how lucky we are to have this. Do you know any other major cities that have a ski hill this close to the city, let alone three?

Aside from these three, there’s also the epic Whistler Blackcomb resort within a two hour drive. We are truly spoiled for options here in Vancouver.

Amazing if it’s cold enough for a lake to freeze over: Skating and hockey

This is a winter activity that is much better in other spots in Canada. Vancouver simply doesn’t get cold enough for bodies of water to freeze. Elsewhere in Canada, skating on a frozen lake or pond is a right of passage. The best bet might be to embark on a little road trip north so that you can find a quality spot.

If you can successfully find a frozen lake, you won’t regret it. There’s something so satisfying about the uninterrupted ice. Unlike a skating rink, that has boards preventing you from truly letting loose, you can skate as fast as you want outside. Every Canadian should experience this at least once.

Underrated, but totally worth it: Tennis

If you are like most people in the Lower Mainland, you probably fill up your local public tennis courts when the weather is nice. The problem with that of course is that long queues often develop. Countless times I’ve tried to play some tennis in the summer, only to be kicked off after the minimum time of 30 minutes.

Chances are, you want to play a bit longer than that. That’s why playing tennis in the winter is the best. The main obstacle is of course the rain, so you’ll have to wait for a dry day. But don’t let the cold weather turn you off. Once you get moving around, you’ll warm up pretty quickly. All you really need is maybe a pair of gloves and a toque, and you’re good to go. The best part is that nobody will have this idea, so you’re free to play as long as you want.

Ranking the NFL’s playoff teams

Week 12 is well underway in the NFL, with three Thanksgiving games yesterday and another game going on this afternoon. As we get closer to the playoffs, a clearer picture of the league’s best teams is starting to come into focus. Of course, even teams with good records could easily crash and burn come playoff time.

Super Bowl or bust

Kansas City Chiefs, Philadelphia Eagles, San Francisco 49ers, Baltimore Ravens, Dallas Cowboys

For these five teams, nothing but a Super Bowl victory will be considered a success this year. For the defending champion Chiefs and runner’s up Eagles, this goes without saying, and both teams appear poised to get back to the big game this season.

The 49ers have had the league’s best defense for a couple of seasons now, and appear to be the biggest obstacle standing in the way of the Eagles. Last year, injuries to the quarterback position doomed them, as 4th string Josh Johnson had to start the NFC championship game. If starter Brock Purdy stays healthy, they have a chance to go all the way.

The Ravens and Cowboys are two solid teams that I don’t think most people give them much chance to win the Super Bowl. People are so used to them getting to the playoffs and then losing in the first couple rounds that I believe it would be a shock to see them pull off a championship. Lamar Jackson and Dak Prescott are in their 6th and 8th seasons, respectively, and the clock may be ticking for them to win the whole thing.

Cool that they’re good this year, but not their time yet

Detroit Lions, Jacksonville Jaguars, Houston Texans, Cleveland Browns

For the last few decades, these four teams have been fixtures at the bottom of NFL standings. Things have finally turned around, as they’ve all seen some success this year.

The Lions and Browns have been doing it on the heels of a solid overall roster. The Lions’ Jared Goff and Browns’ Deshaun Watson haven’t been spectacular, but the players around them have allowed them to manage the game and not be heroes. It seems highly unlikely that these teams will go on a huge run, as some ugly losses this year have showed that they probably don’t have what it takes to hang with the big boys just yet.

The Jaguars and Texans both have young quarterbacks that promise to have their teams in the mix for years. The Jaguars made the playoffs last year, and appear to be the most likely of this group to build on their showing a year ago and possibly advance to the AFC championship game. The Texans have been led by star rookie C.J. Stroud, but who’s kidding who, they’ll simply be happy to make it into the postseason.

Darkhorse Super Bowl team

Buffalo Bills

Sure you can go ahead and write off the Bills this year. At 6-5, they are likely out of the mix for the top spot in the AFC, and will need to string some wins together to make it into the postseason. They have lost some close games this year, but their point differential of +104 is 4th in the NFL, indicating that they are one of the best teams in the league. We’ve seen how well they’ve played the Chiefs in the playoffs in years’ past. With the Bengals likely bowing out due to the injury to quarterback Joe Burrow, it wouldn’t be shocking to see the Bills go on a run in January.