4th and a mile with Paul Muth

Help me sound cool: A Super Bowl guide for the casual fan

Help me sound cool: A Super Bowl guide for the casual fan
Tom Brady is looking to win his 7th Super Bowl. Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images.

If you've been counting down the days until February 7th, 2021, this string of text probably isn't for you.

If you're...a little less invested...you've come to the right place.

This is and has always been a primer for those that just need a little backstory before the game. I've made a career off of faking it until I make it, so I'm just here to pay it forward.

This is what you forward to your friends that heard there was going to be a party in early February, but just now realized that it was a football thing.

Let's go.

What's going on

The Super Bowl, no need to act that naive.

Who's playing?

The Kansas City Chiefs versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Help me sound cool

The Kansas City Chiefs are looking for the first back to back Super Bowl Championship since 2004. Guess who won it?

The dude quarterbacking the team they're facing, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Who's quarterbacking the Bucs? (yes that's how it's abbreviated)

Tom Brady. The Uggs spokesman. Gisele Bündchen's less successful spouse. Also the most successful quarterback in NFL history. Look him up.

He's a good looking dude.

FOCUS.

What about the other quarterback?

Patrick Mahomes? Well he went to Texas Tech, he's already a league MVP, Super Bowl champion, Super Bowl MVP and he's only 25. He also throws no-look passes like a robot and sounds like Kermit the Frog.

What about the rest of the Chiefs?

You'll hear the name Tyreek Hill a lot. He's the fastest man on the planet. I think. His nickname is "Cheetah," which means a lot considering that professionally fast people gave him a fast nickname.

On defense look for a guy named Tyrann Matthieu. His nickname is "The Honey Badger," which is just cool as hell. He's from LSU, and he used to play for the Texans. Since he left Houston, the Texans have finished the past two seasons with one of the worst rated pass defenses in all of football.

Seems like a guy worth keeping around, but I digress.

Sure, ok. What about the Bucs?

Watch for Mike Evans. He's a giant wide receiver who's basically a basketball player that just jumps over everyone and catches everything. He's an A&M alum, and is so unabashedly Texan that he catered Whataburger at his wedding. You can't root against that, unless you're from California or something.

On defense look for Devin White. Well, you won't have to. He'll make himself known.

Anything else?

Tampa Bay is the first team to play a Super Bowl in their home stadium. Oh, and Tom Brady is 700 years old.

So who wins?

Vegas has the Chiefs favored, and they should. But I've learned over the past 20 years to never--ever--bet against Thomas Edward Patrick Brady Jr.

Ever.

I call 31-27 Bucs, because I want to see Rob Gronkowski do Rob Gronkowski things.

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The Astros are back in action Friday night against the A's. Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images.

The Astros need to whip up on the Oakland A’s this weekend in California as they did in sweeping four from them last week at Minute Maid Park. That was the start of a homestand which ended up with seven wins in 10 games. That goes down as a successful homestand, especially since it felt like the Astros’ prior winning homestand came while Donald Trump was President (it actually started in late July). Still, 7-3 doesn’t feel like a smashing success with it ending by dropping two of three games to the lowly Los Angeles Angels.

It is not exactly with bated breath that anyone should be waiting on Jose Abreu’s return to the lineup, but it’s coming. It should not be on this road trip. After the three games with the A’s the Astros move up the coast for a big four game set with American League West leading Seattle. The M's start all right-handed pitchers. That is no time to sit Jon Singleton to see if Abreu has managed to pump a few drops of gas into his tank while spending the better part of this month at the Astros’ minor league complex. It’s not as if Singleton has been stellar since Abreu’s departure, but by comparison, he’s been Lou Gehrig-esque. The series with the Mariners isn’t make or break but the Astros are strongly advised to get at least a split. That it should be Framber Valdez starting the opener Monday night doesn’t breed tremendous confidence, coming off his meltdown outing against the Angels. Another start, another opportunity.

The Mariners are at the Nationals this weekend, starting it a mere four and a half games ahead of the Astros. In four of the five other divisions the Astros' 22-28 record would have them at least 10 games off the lead.

One step forward, two steps back

Speaking of washed-up first basemen, Joey Votto should be a future Hall of Famer. The 40-year-old Canadian is trying to make it back to the big leagues via the minor leagues with the Toronto Blue Jays. Votto was an absolutely tremendous player with the Cincinnati Reds. As the Beastie Boys said, “Ch-check it out.” Over Jeff Bagwell’s first ten seasons with the Astros he hit .305 with a .417 on-base percentage and .552 slugging percentage, yielding a phenomenal .970 OPS. Over Votto’s first ten full seasons with the Reds: .313/.429/.540 for an exactly phenomenal .970 OPS. Where am I going with this? Read on!

Votto had phenomenal strike zone and bat control. He turned 30 during the 2013 season. That year Votto had 581 at bats. He popped out to an infielder once the entire season. Alex Bregman turned 30 the third day of this season. Bregman popped out to the shortstop four times in the Angels series. So much for Bregman’s “knob past the ball” epiphany that saw him hit three home runs over two games last week. Going into the weekend Bregman has one hit in his last 23 at bats. His season stats continue to be pitiful: a .209 batting average and .607 OPS. Bregman has only struck out once in the 23 at bats of his latest deep freeze. It’s that so much of his contract is feeble. There is a lot of season left for Bregman to build up to decent numbers, but one-third of the regular season will be complete after the Astros play the Mariners Monday night.

While Bregman’s season to date has basically been one long slump, Jose Altuve is in a funk of his own. Since blasting a homer Monday, Altuve is hitless in 12 at bats. Mini-slumps happen to everybody but Altuve’s woes trace back farther. Over his last 15 games, Altuve is batting .175. He last had more than one hit in a game May 5. He’s also drawn just two walks over those 15 games. It’s tough to ever sit Altuve, but he’s probably playing a little too much. Altuve turned 34 earlier this month. He has started 48 of the Astros 50 games at second base. Mauricio Dubon should be getting a start per week at second (and probably another at third given Bregman’s level of play). Over a full season not playing the field once per week still means 135 starts. Altuve should mix in some more at designated hitter (he has just one DH game so far this season). Wear and tear is a real thing, players don’t grow less susceptible to it as they get to their mid-30s.

King Tuck

On the flip side, Kyle Tucker! So far this season, he’s making himself as much money as Bregman is costing himself. Only Shohei Ohtani (1.069) starts the weekend action with an OPS higher than Tucker’s 1.060. The law of averages dictates that Tucker won’t finish as high as 1.060, but if he does, it would be the greatest full-length season offensive performance in Astros’ history. Jeff Bagwell posted an absurd 1.201 OPS in the strike-shortened 1994 campaign. Yordan Alvarez came in at 1.067 in his 87 games played rookie season of 2019. Lance Berkman’s 2001 was a monster. Enron Field was more hitter-friendly then than Minute Maid Park is now, but Berkman’s numbers were “Oh My Gosh!” spectacular. .331 batting average, 55 doubles (second in franchise history to Craig Biggio's 56 in 1999), 34 homers, .430 on-base percentage, .620 slugging percentage, and 1.051 OPS. And that was just Berkman’s second full season in the majors. Lance finished fifth in National League Most Valuable Player Award voting. Giant-headed Barry Bonds won MVP with his 73 home runs among other sicko stats.

* Catch our weekly Stone Cold ‘Stros podcast. Brandon Strange, Josh Jordan, and I discuss varied Astros topics. The first post for the week generally goes up Monday afternoon (second part released Tuesday) via The SportsMap HOU YouTube channel or listen to episodes in their entirety at Apple, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

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