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Living Legend with 4 Code S Finals all of which he won in a row, the one and only: Maru
Dark Horses looking to show off their skills and climb to the very top: Trap, Solar, Dream
The Jin Air Boys were the consensus duo looking to dominate this Group - namely Maru would completely obliterate long time victim Solar, while Trap would flex on the relatively low name value Dream and show off his historically strong PvT from there to either get out right away or reach M5, where either of the favorites would likely slap around whoever was left regardless. The issue with that straightforward enough "plan" turned out to be the willingness of Solar and Dream to play their parts, instead they decided to prove themselves as some of the strongest players in the scene at the moment and kick off a day of upsets in the process. Warning: Spoilers Ahead, Obviously It's not just a Dream and although to some it may have felt like a nightmare by the end, the Terran Dark Horse did his thing all the same and managed to come out 1st once again this Season. In the aftermath of literally only upsets, Trap threw everything and the kitchen sink at his opponents to claw his way through to 2nd, shakily reaching the Playoffs for the second time this year.
Ice And Chrome | When the Blueflame Hellion shenanigans got scouted before even fully leaving their Factory, the writing was honestly on the wall for this one. Solar showed solid defense, got some Roaches and started off with the Carapace Upgrade, which was the right call as he very quickly figured out the Bio followup to avoid going down a losing line himself. Maru eventually lost a big chunk of his Hellions while accomplishing no econ damage overall, slowing himself down further and losing control of the map completely. Still, the Terran push arrived at the fourth Hatch and got the planned deletion there, however the Zerg then simply swept most of the enemy forces away and just double expanded from that point. Maru decided his best chance after that would be to hunker down and set up the 2/2 push to the best of his abilities, however when it eventually started it was going insanely slow, giving Solar a window to pull off a sick counter attack around 12:40 picking off reinforcements and econ alike to turn the Terran around, which basically sealed his fate. From there the Zerg did his thing i.e. consumed the entire map with creep, built up a ridiculous bank to fuel his endless assault and kept pounding his opponent's chances into the ground by picking off armies and SCVs at will. Maru dug in hard and did what he could, ultimately it just didn't look like he had it in him to win from an impossible position today, so as the situation became increasingly more dire in a rare showcase of Ultras not losing you the game Solar crashed into his opponent at 26:00 for the final real fight to force him out.
Pillars of Gold | The next map felt a lot more normal as the Terran decided to go with some standard Hellion Liberator harassment to keep his opponent busy while getting ready for the push. Although some sick micro was required around 07:20 Maru pulled it off and as a result the fourth Hatch was removed from the game and there would be no double expanding allowed this time. The defense back at home was solid to stop the counter attack attempts, the supply spiked as you would expect and by 13:00 it was clear Solar was running on fumes as he desperately looked for any way to get some breathing room to catch back up in army, something Maru wouldn't allow here as he smashed the Zerg over the head with his superior force.
Ever Dream | With nothing worth mentioning beyond the fact the third CC landed before the fourth Hatch was started, things were looking good for the Terran as he set the table for one last parade. Instead, Solar made an absolutely critical play in picking off reinforcements and SCVs around 06:55 completely putting his opponent off rhythm as the Swarm grew on the map and the Ling Bane Muta roamed it freely. Maru once again went for the G1 plan of just holding on until your opponent bleeds enough resources to allow you back in the game, something Solar had no interest in doing as he picked off CCs and crashed wave after wave into the Terran while taking sufficient fights around 14:00 to open up the SCV lines for destruction and an even more one-sided set of skirmishes a or so minute later would be the finishing touches on an absolutely perfect game from the Zerg.
Pillars of Gold | The opening Blink pressure and relatively fast three CCs made it so both players had their assigned roles to play for the next ten minutes, namely the Terran defending to the best of his ability as the Protoss did what he could to pick off SCVs and contain him. Dream played that stereotypical back and forth to near perfection, losing little if not anything at all, while powering hard on his three CCs as Trap took a fourth and transitioned into Colossi. I thought we would be in for a relatively longer game from there, but the Terran had other plans, doing a key setup around 09:25 which lead to a decisive engagement that simply melted the Protoss forces, leaving the bases defenseless as the parade danced its way to victory.
Deathaura | The proxy Starport and multi-pronged pokes by Dream at the start were met with rock solid defense by his opponent, allowing Trap to safely grow on the map at a rapid pace while freely teching up for the most part. What was then an essentially 2.5 base push from the Terran got immediately sent back home to help put out the Warp Prism Zealot fire, which was counter balanced slightly by some Hellions doing their own work across the map. Dream made sure to kill off the Prism through the power of the Viking however was unable to realistically push even as the Protoss still didn't have Storm completely done while taking his fourth Nexus. Trap decided the econ and tech leads weren't enough, so he then took his army and in what's sadly become a typical move for him in the matchup drove it straight into the sieged Terran at 09:25 after which things were a lot more even then they ever should have been. Dream picked off the new Prism, got some important snipes on Templar and overall postured defensively. It was at that point that Trap seemingly got his foot on the opponent's throat as he started picking off bases left and right around 14:25 only to find the price he'd paid to accomplish that would end up being too high. Dream took his then army supply lead and marched it across the map, finding a borderline defenseless Protoss waiting for him there and as he picked off a Nexus or two in response while replacing his own missing CCs, it quickly became clear the Terran had not only survived the storm but come out the other end looking all smiles while heading into the winners' match.
Pillars of Gold | I felt excited when the third Hatch got proxied in a random corner of the map, only for this game to turn into a glorified build order win as the Terran tried utilizing Hellbats for an early push in 2020. When the flimsy attack ran into just a few slow Roaches seeing as both players couldn't lose at the same time the Zerg took this one home with their own counter assault at 05:25.
Deathaura | Thankfully, business picked up significantly on the second map in terms of quality, with a BC rush supported by three CCs coming out from the Terran. The choice to go with Overlord Speed paid off for the Zerg, getting to see literally everything and defend accordingly, transitioning into Roach Corruptor to answer his opponent's Mech. The addition of Infestors for Solar paid off a number of times, however Dream's patient play would turn out to be the deciding factor here. The first significant battle went down around 13:10 as maxed out Mech once again proved to be indomitable. Solar did what he could to barely clear the Terran army and hold on, from there he tried remaxing on Ling Bane which did initially pay off as the once Thor Tank force turned to Cyclones and Hellions, however Dream's macro engine wasn't skipping a beat and his bank was only growing in comparison as the game went on. Perhaps the choice to go with Broods was the proverbial nail in the coffin after that, in any case at 17:05 the Winfestors did everything they could to bring the Swarm victory, however as the dust settled there just wasn't enough Solar left over to snowball into a killing blow and from there Dream never let him have another real chance at taking the game, perfectly piloting his Mech to victory.
Golden Wall | When the Terran went for relatively fast three CCs and lost his Reaper, I could see how you would think the Roach Ling flood coming his way would be a problem, however with a Banshee on the way and a human behind the controls it was always going to be really hard for the Zerg to get anything done. The extremely flawed attack crashed and burned around 05:00 minutes into the game, making it all but over. Solar did what he could to get some Muta Ling Bane out, however Dream's expected push was too big and too fast to ever lose at that point, so the Terran basically went through the motions and closed things out with ease accordingly.
Deathaura | Trap decided it was time to flip some coins, which is always a solid gameplan when your normal stuff is getting you nowhere. As luck would have it, Maru's Reaper scouted his opponent's Prism and Dark Shrine after a small mishap at the front, at which point my brain said "go next". Instead, one of the worst defenses I've ever seen from a Terran player resulted in 13 SCVs dying over the course of the DT harassment that started around 04:45 and by the time the Protoss forces were dealt with the accumulated lead had grown so big that Maru immediately tapped out when his first attempt to do anything on the map was met with a Blink snipe on his Medivac.
Eternal Empire | With quick three bases for each player, I thought we would be in for a long one here, however not even 07:10 into the game Trap started spewing out Zealots all over Maru's bases and the response was unbelievably slow, resulting in 18 SCVs paying the price by the time the harass was fully dealt with. From there the Protoss definitely showed a lot more patience i.e. didn't try attacking up ramps into a sieged position for no reason, so with Maru just hunkering down and crossing his fingers at that point - as there wasn't much else he could do after allowing such a deficit to occur - the battle would come to a close around 13:00 as Trap arrived right on time to win a huge fight in the open and in doing so deny an enemy base while growing himself uncontested back at home, turning this game into a Math problem the Terran could no longer solve.
Pillars of Gold | We all knew it would be Glaives o'clock here, what none of us suspected was how reserved Trap would be with them as he set up his DT squad to take out his opponent's Lair. From there the already crippled Zerg did what he could to stabilize but the Protoss pressure continued, resulting in a relatively quick snipe on the fourth Hatch as well, at which point Solar was completely economically screwed. Trap built up a terrifying carefully constructed army and never allowed his opponent to go more than even on bases, which I'm sure you all understand is extremely uncommon for PvZ, so as the Protoss forces grew more and more insurmountable the Jin Air survivor just calmly took his time and beat his opponent into a pulp, nemesis statuses be damned tonight.
Ice And Chrome | The attempted repeat of the Glaives into DT build did not go well as Solar was no longer blindsided so things spiraled from there. A questionable recall triggered by some Lings surrounding an Immortal across the map sealed the fate of Trap's attempted and already flimsy push around 08:00 at which point the Mutas started flooding in so the Zerg's fun could begin. Solar didn't find enough damage to straight up end the game, however he did max out first by a good margin and lets be real had a big enough lead that a few botched attacks just couldn't take away. As the Protoss forces powered up and took increasingly better fights, the proverbial tipping of the scales occurred at roughly 12:20 with the Zerg accepting direct engagements were no longer on the table & kicking off the base race accordingly. In the chaos that followed, Trap lost every Probe on the map and Solar had just enough money to hide a Hatch and overall deal with the situation slightly better, so largely thanks to his Muta flock and the thinly spread out Protoss forces he managed to close this one out in tight fashion.
Ever Dream | Skipping the Glaives and going straight for DTs would have looked really cool if it had worked out, instead it got scouted and at that moment the pressure vacuum was intense. Trap improvised significantly, even using DTs to defend his third Nexus in the aftermath, and just went into Blink Robo from there to try turning this into a game. Solar was essentially chilling on four bases at that time, picking off what he could with little effort and teching up for the lategame. That's likely the reason why it felt like he got caught with his pants down circa 09:20 when Trap arrived way ahead of schedule, coming in at the absolute perfect angle and controlling his army to perfection to melt the Swarm under his feet, securing the win out of nowhere in the process.
It was summed up pretty nicely by the end on the broadcast - Bizzaro World, Upset Central Station.
Match of the Night - the safest choice here would be M1, where lots of people enjoyed G1 and then by G2 it was Maru finally putting on some pressure and looking a lot more like himself & the closer in G3 where Solar's proactive play was something else; I do feel like we also have to give Dream a shoutout, though, for that Mech masterclass in G2 of the Winners' match, definitely showed us how it's done while down on match point.
Finally, here are some of my closing thoughts on each player:
Dream has now won two Groups in a row, when do we stop saying it's an upset? I think it was pretty fair to consider him outgunned heading into tonight, I certainly don't believe anyone honestly expected him to overcome both Trap and Maru back to back - which funnily enough, he didn't have to do - nevertheless the level of play he showed was incredibly solid, the future is definitely looking bright for Dream if he can keep this level up while everyone around him falters.
Trap adds another victory to the coin-flip history he shares with Maru and then overcomes his nemesis in Solar to make up for that opening match, not bad considering he could have easily been eliminated first tonight. That said, I think it's borderline impossible to feel confident he'll do much better than last Season beyond this point, the new holes in his PvT this year are getting increasingly more obvious and the progress towards overcoming his PvZ problem feels shaky at the best of times.
Solar won the only match I didn't think he could tonight and then lost to the other two players as if to spite anyone trying to make rational predictions. I don't know what more we can do for him in that regard, the audience isn't even allowed in the building, I expected this Zerg to benefit in a Cure-esque way from the current predicament of the GSL but it seems like Solar is Solar, lets put it that way. It's a shame to think he's clearly got the skills to reach the next level of your Dark-Rogue-soO trifecta, but when it comes to crunch time Solar is just nowhere to be found as usual.
Maru looked slow and flawed here, basically felt like his wrists were gone slash he was playing on no sleep or had food poisoning or something. As we each go through the five stages of grief while looking back on his performance here, by far the one match he had no business losing was against his victim, so when he did all bets were off, but even then in the opening map against Trap the game was basically handed to him and he couldn't do anything to win there either. Lets hope this was just a terrible night that'll get lost in history accordingly, because every day Maru isn't showing up at the peak of his abilities is another day where we all lose the chance to enjoy his greatness even more than we already have.
As always, if you think differently or have something interesting to add, feel free to do so in the comments below. Catch you on Saturday for Group D, where Cure will show if he has what it takes to make it back into the Playoffs after the most successful season of his career, however to do so he'll have to go through a monster former teammate in Rogue, the faded but still willing and able Stats & finally the once upon a time best in Zest. Thanks as always for reading & see you when I see you! (: -M
Going through old issues of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter and posting highlights in my own words. For anyone interested, I highly recommend signing up for the actual site at f4wonline and checking out the full archives. PREVIOUSLY:
PROGRAMMING NOTE:Some of you may have missed last week's post because I didn't do it on Wednesday. Ended up posting it Thursday instead, so it's there in the archives below if you missed it. I know this 2002 series of Rewinds doesn't really have the momentum or appeal that it had back when I was posting them 3 times a week for years on end. Sorry about that, like I said before, I just decided to post these on a whim when the virus started and didn't really prepare for it so it's all kinda haphazard. But just didn't want anyone to miss the one from last week if it flew under the radar.
Steve Austin walked out of WWE this week and threw everything into upheaval. As a result, Raw featured Vince McMahon challenging Ric Flair to a match for ownership of the entire company. It was the ultimate final blow-off to a huge long-term angle, and they did it with only 2 hours of build-up. With Vince now in charge of both shows, questions are swirling about whether this spells the end of the brand split, only a few months in. The reason this all happened is because, only 6 hours before Raw went on the air, Steve Austin showed up to the arena and found out he was scheduled to wrestle (and Dave thinks put over, though he hasn't confirmed that yet) Brock Lesner. Dave immediately points out the obvious, that an Austin vs. Lesnar match is something you should build up ahead of time, not throw it on free TV with no build up at all. Plus, he's still so new, he's incredibly green, and he's spent the last few months selling way too much for people like the Hardyz and Bubba Ray Dudley. Hell, before he debuted in WWE, he wasn't even the most over guy in OVW. He's nowhere near the level you'd expect for him to be winning matches with Steve Austin un-hyped on free TV. In fact, Lesnar should probably go through just about everyone else on the roster before putting him against Austin. That's a potential Wrestlemania-level match and Dave seems befuddled that they would just book it for Raw like this.
Apparently Austin felt the same way because he and his wife Debra left the building and flew home before Vince McMahon even arrived to the arena, the second time since Wrestlemania that he has walked out on the company. A source who was there when McMahon learned of the news said that, for the first time anyone could remember, Vince seemed to drop his "game face" and there seemed to be genuine panic about what to do. Rock has one foot out the door to Hollywood. Undertaker and Triple H are banged up and won't be around forever (bet). Business is already collapsing. And now the biggest star the company's ever had just walked out the door. Last time Austin walked out after Wrestlemania, he was only away for 2 weeks. This time, there's a feeling it could be much longer. Those close to Austin say he's been unhappy for months and this decision wasn't anything specifically to do with the Lesnar match. That just happened to be the final straw. Austin made news last week when he went on the WWE's Byte This show and voiced his frustrations with the company's creative direction. Plans had been put into motion over the last couple weeks for Austin to feud with Eddie Guerrero and then Chris Benoit, which he was happy about (he was enjoying his recent house show matches with Eddie and Benoit is one of Austin's favorite opponents) but that's out the window now. Austin and Vince McMahon reportedly haven't been on good terms for several months now and word is the night before Raw, the two of them had a very heated conversation over the phone that left Austin pissed off and frustrated even before this went down.
And that's the deal on Austin. He has more money than he'll ever be able to spend and doesn't have any financial need to wrestle. He only does so because he enjoys it. And if he doesn't enjoy it anymore, then by all means, it's his right to leave and he doesn't owe the business anything if he wants to hang up the boots. But Dave does feel like Austin owes WWE at least a few weeks to write him out of storylines since he's such an important piece of the company. Walking out from a live TV taping is unprofessional and it leaves guys like Guerrero and Benoit left hanging, thus screwing up their future plans and money-making potential too (yeah, that's something that doesn't get talked about much. Austin walking out fucked Guerrero over pretty hard here. It would take him another 2 years to get back into that main event scene that he would have been involved in here). That being said, pretty much everyone in the locker room sympathizes with Austin and agrees with his complaints about the creative direction of the company, but not many of them were defending the way he walked out. And given that this is the second time he's done it, the feeling is he shouldn't be allowed back without facing some actual punishment this time.
So anyway, the day of Raw, they went into panic mode and had to re-write the entire show. And with the feeling Austin won't be coming back anytime soon, Vince felt they needed to do something big. So they went with blowing off the dual-owners angle in a match that was designed to turn Flair babyface again and establish Vince as the heel owner of everything. There was also discussion of turning Undertaker babyface again, since he's been getting more cheers than RVD when they work together at house shows lately but they decided against that for now (they end up doing it in a couple weeks). So now Flair has been abruptly turned back, after only turning heel a few weeks prior. The brand split may or may not be dead. And there we stand.
In what would have been a major story during any other week, DDP has officially retired from wrestling at age 46. Unfortunately, Austin's walk-out overshadowed everything. The decision on DDP's retirement was actually made by Vince McMahon and Jim Ross, who pretty much made the choice for him after they got his medical reports. DDP has been advised by multiple doctors that his spine is shot and he needs to retire. For the company's own liability, WWE decided to listen to the doctors and DDP agreed. There has been talk of finding ways for DDP to work the remainder of his contract for the company in a non-wrestling capacity. (He obviously ends up wrestling a handful of matches in the years since, but for the most part, this really was the end of DDP's in-ring career as a full-time wrestler).
There were a couple of moments on Raw this week where Shawn Michaels was cutting a promo and made a comment about Austin "losing his top spot" and another comment later about Rock "stealing Triple H's spot." A lot of people in the company backstage were upset, feeling like this was the same ol' Shawn, going into business for himself and trashing on Austin and Rock and yada yada. Not the case. Those comments were actually scripted for Shawn to say because they want to get over the idea that Shawn on the mic is a loose cannon and you never know when he might start "shooting" and say something he's not supposed to. It's all very dumb, you see. Almost like Vince Russo is coming back any day now or something.
Dave gives a big preview and rundown of the Jarrett family's new NWA-TNA promotion, which has its debut show next week on PPV. Not all cable systems are carrying it, however. Cablevision and Dish Network both declined to carry it, but DirecTV is. This cuts down on the number of available homes for the show and probably cuts 20-30% off their potential revenue. The main PPV provider in Canada, Viewer's Choice, has also declined to carry it. Steep mountain to climb here. Dave expects them to do decent numbers for their first show but predicts an XFL-like collapse after that. By week 3, Dave is scared for their chances. From here, Dave gives the whole history of other promotions who've tried to make it on PPV in the U.S., with varying degrees of success and failure. UWFI, UFC, ECW, WCW, PRIDE, etc, WWF has even toyed with similar ideas. In 1991, they did the one-off Tuesday In Texas PPV as a test to see if they could run PPVs back-to-back (Survivor Series was only the week prior) and it was a flop. The original concept for Shotgun Saturday Night was for it to be a weekly Saturday night PPV with a similar >$10 price point, but that idea got scrapped before it got off the ground and it became just another TV show. Dave doesn't think TNA is going to make it without a TV deal. This PPV exclusive plan just has too much working against it. The Jarretts have talked about the millions of disenfranchised fans that stopped watching after WCW died, and it's true. Those people are out there. But those millions of fans all checked out between 1999-2001, and TNA isn't going to win them back by using the same people and the same concepts that ran those viewers away from WCW. All your wacky booking ideas, your Vince Russos, your Jeff Jarretts as champion, bringing in guys that even WWE won't touch (Scott Hall), etc. Those are all the same things that ran away those WCW viewers. Dave just doesn't see how this experiment can work in its current form.
Vince McMahon himself was the latest guest on WWE's Byte This show and needless to say, it was interesting. Vince denied the idea that the wrestling business is "cyclical" and said it's more like a series of peaks and valleys that have slowly been trending upwards over the years. Vince also admitted WWE doesn't always make the best decisions but says their batting average is good overall. Vince also said he's proud to have the word "wrestling" in their company name, which is a pretty big about-face from all the years he's tried to publicly claim they were "sports entertainment, not wrestling." He admitted things are rough right now but said there are huge changes coming soon that will change the entire industry but wouldn't elaborate on what he had planned (I think time has proven that the answer to this was nothing whatsoever. They had no idea what they were doing during this time and were just making shit up as they went along). Vince acknowledged that Austin has been frustrated lately and said Austin is the most demanding of all the wrestlers in WWE. Vince also said he pays no attention to the internet because everyone thinks they're a booker. He also complained that it's hard to live up to people's expectations because fans all think they know everything now. Acknowledged ratings being down and played it off like, yes, WWE is sick. But it's only a cold, not pneumonia or anything, so don't panic.
More notes from Vince on Byte This because huge unbroken paragraphs suck: he hinted at producing movies starring WWE talent. Dave thinks that's a bad idea. "No Holds Barred," anyone? Criticized backyard wrestling, which Dave actually agrees with him 100% on. Was asked about bringing Vince Russo back and said he hasn't given it any thought but he has an open door policy (see you next week, Russo! Jeez, it almost makes you wonder if Vince got the idea from this interview or something). When asked about the recent Jim Cornette/Ed Ferrara incident, Vince basically seemed disinterested but said he admires Cornette's passion for wrestling but felt spitting in Ferrara's face was unprofessional. When asked about NWA-TNA, Vince said he didn't understand how they could do it without television. Trying to get people to pay $9.95 a week for a 2 hour show (a minor league product at that, because anything other than WWE is basically minor leagues at this point), when they already get Raw and Smackdown on free television. Otherwise, he said he has no opinions on it because he hasn't seen it, but Vince seems to share Dave's opinion. He doesn't see this PPV model as sustainable and doesn't seem particularly threatened by it.
NJPW's latest Best of the Super Juniors tournament is in the books and was a disappointment, just like everything else in NJPW lately. Koji Kanemoto won a pretty boring tournament. There was only one new name involved, which was Michinoku Pro wrestler Curry Man (Christopher Daniels under a mask). He's talented and charismatic but he's not even that big a star in Michinoku Pro, much less to the NJPW audience. Otherwise, it was more of the same, with no real notable matches.
Zero-1 in Japan is hoping to put together a working relationship with NWA-TNA. Specifically, they're hoping they can do a Shinya Hashimoto vs. Ken Shamrock feud, perhaps over the NWA title.
While training for his comeback, Kenta Kobashi messed up his shoulder doing bench presses, because of course he did. Doctors have told him not to return too soon but he still plans to be back in the ring by next month. Because of course he does.
NJPW's latest show at Budokan Hall was a disaster. From photos Dave saw, he figures there couldn't have been more than 3,500 fans in the building. Even at its weakest after the NOAH exodus, AJPW never fell below 7,000 at Budokan and this show looked to be half that. It's likely the smallest crowd NJPW has ever drawn to that arena. The whole show was said to be terrible because of the depressing atmosphere of a building that was 2/3 empty.
This week's World Cup game between Japan and Russia did a 66.1 TV rating, making it the #2 highest rated sports broadcast in the history of Japan. This is notable because by doing so, it surpassed the Rikidozan vs. Destroyer match from 1963, which did a 64.0 rating, knocking it down to #3 (for what it's worth, it's believed that a Rikidozan vs. Lou Thesz match in 1957 was actually watched by even more people, but official ratings weren't kept as detailed back then, so it can't be counted for sure).
Dave has read some excerpts from the new Shaun Assael book on Vince McMahon called "Sex, Lies, and Headlocks." From what he's read, Dave says it's a very good and accurate portrayal of how the WWE has grown to what it is today. Vince's former close friend and VP of Titan Sports during the expansion era Jim Troy and Jim Barnett were both interviewed for it, among others. If you're a hardcore fan who's been following the Observer for years, there's nothing new here that you probably don't already know from a major story standpoint, but there's some interesting details at least that were new to Dave. But to the average fan, this should be pretty eye-opening. Dave expects to have a full review soon.
CZW held its second annual Best of the Best tournament at the old ECW Arena and the show got rave reviews. Particularly British wrestlers Jodie Fleisch and Jonny Storm, who tore the house down in their match. Trent Acid defeated Fleisch to win the tournament.
The Coen brothers, producers of the movie "Fargo", have had talks with Bobby Heenan about doing a movie based on his life (this pretty obviously went nowhere).
New Jack is no longer working with XPW and has jumped ship to work with a rival local promoter in Southern California. Perhaps not coincidentally, the last check New Jack received from XPW promoter Rob Black for $800 ended up bouncing. Dave says New Jack probably isn't the guy you want to write bad checks to.
NWA-TNA has changed its taping plans and no longer plans to tour, and they will now be live every week. The first two shows will be taped this week in Huntsville and after that, all future shows will be live from Nashville at the 9,000-seat Municipal Auditorium. Apparently the rent for that building is really cheap because a newer, more modern arena was just built nearby, so TNA can afford it. That being said, with as much trouble as they're having selling tickets for the debut show in Huntsville, Dave thinks it's pretty optimistic to start trying to run live tapings in the same 9,000-seat building every week. He thinks they would be much better off running a small 800-seat building every week, with a smaller, more intimate atmosphere that would come across a lot better on TV than a big cavernous arena that, inevitably, is going to be mostly empty (to this day, 18 years later, TNA/Impact has never once drawn a crowd of 9,000 fans. Never even really close actually).
Various other TNA notes: Dave runs down the list of confirmed names for TNA's first taping. Rick Steiner, K-Krush (formerly K-Kwik in WWF), Konnan, Steve Corino, The Harris Brothers, Psicosis, and a bunch of others. Don Frye has talked to Jeff Jarrett about coming in to work a match with Ken Shamrock. Jackie Fargo is going to be there doing something. They made an offer to Shane Douglas but he only agreed to come in if they didn't hire Francine (some kind of falling out between them). TNA decided they'd rather have Francine. They're expected to be doing some kind of old school vs. new school angle so....yay. More latter-years WCW shit. Mike & Todd Shane are coming in as a tag team called Dick & Rod Johnson and will have costumes that apparently look like penises, just in case you were still on the fence about whether Vince Russo is involved. The top stars are basically making around $3,500 per week which is a pretty decent salary for one day's work every week. The guys without name value, on the other hand, are getting $300 per show and are covering their own transportation. Just in case you were still on the fence about whether Jerry Jarrett is involved.
Ken Shamrock did an interview and acknowledged that he hasn't done pro-wrestling in a few years and knows he's going to be rusty. He also said he's worried because with only 1 show per week, he won't really be able to get enough matches under his belt to get good again. He also said he's signed a 3 fight deal with UFC and will be fighting Tito Ortiz in September, which turns out to be a pretty huge damn deal.
Dave saw the K-1 match with former WCW developmental wrestler Bob Sapp vs. some dude. Doesn't matter. What matters is Bob Sapp is enormous ("makes Brock Lesnar look like Jerry Lynn"). And he mauled this poor guy. In fact, it looked like Sapp was trying to get DQ'd, as he started kicking and kneeing the guy while he was down and just treating it like a street fight, violating lots of rules in the process. He was DQ'd but then K-1 booked Sapp and this other dude for a rematch in July. That leads Dave to think this was planned as an effort to get Sapp over as a lunatic, but if it was a work, somebody should have told the other guy because Sapp fucked him right on up. "This was like everyone feared Mike Tyson would behave, but 1,000 times worse and from a man far more scary." Furthermore, Sapp came out in a full Ric Flair robe and to Ric Flair' ring music, and the arena went insane. Sapp has massive superstar appeal in Japan right now and promoting him as a violent psychopath who has no regards for the rules in a shoot fight appears to be getting over huge.
Edge will not need surgery for his torn labrum injury, so he'll only miss a few weeks of action instead of a few months. Edge is in the midst of the biggest push of his career and this is his chance to finally break through to the next level so needless to say, good news.
Notes from Raw: show opened with Vince walking out, which was unexpected since this is Flair's show. He said Austin wasn't there and made a point of saying Austin was too much of a coward to be there. Pretty well buried Austin and buried Raw as a bad show (blaming Flair in kayfabe for all the show's real life problems. Sorta like last year when they actually turned the bad ratings into a storyline by trying to blame it on Corbin. Some things never change). They're doing a storyline with Trish making fun of Molly Holly for allegedly having a fat ass because, again, some things never change. Former Tough Enough contestant Chris Nowinski debuted doing the Harvard grad gimmick like the heel jock in every teen movie. "The heel jock." Never change Dave. Shawn Michaels made his big return, cut his promo joining the NWO and turning heel on the fans before superkicking Booker T out of the group. So theoretically, this should mean Booker T should have to work his way through the entire NWO one by one before getting to Shawn at the end, in what should be Shawn's first match back. "I'm not holding my breath," Dave says. And of course, Vince beat Flair to take control of both shows. Horrible match but considering it was a last minute panic move, understandable under the circumstances. Lesnar ran in and helped Vince win the match.
Notes from Smackdown: during a big pull-apart brawl, several agents ran in to break it up. Among them were Dean Malenko and Fit Finlay, appearing on TV for the first time in their new backstage roles, and John Lauranitis who was also shown on TV last week. More gay jokes with Billy and Chuck and Rico, which Dave calls Russo-esque. Not quite yet. Jamie Noble was introduced with Nidia from Tough Enough season 1 as his valet, in a feud with Hurricane. There was a big effort to make Bob Holly a star this week, starting a feud with he and Kurt Angle and they really pushed Holly hard as a star and Angle busted his ass to try and get him over. And they did a show-long angle with Maven in the hospital (he's legit injured) and Torrie Wilson shows up, it's implied that she gives him a blowjob, and then Dr. Tajiri shows up, mists Torrie and beats up Maven. Dave is at least happy that they're trying to make an angle out of Maven's injury so he has a storyline to come back to, which is more effort than they put into most stuff these days.
Various WWE notes: referee Tim White suffered a torn rotator cuff in the Backlash Hell in a Cell match and will need surgery that will keep him out of the ring for months. Rey Mysterio is scheduled to debut on WWE house shows this week and, as of now, is expected to be wearing his mask again. Terry Taylor has been reaching out to get hired, but the company won't return his calls (they eventually re-hire him in September).
There's been a lot of praise for the new Spiderman comic "Tangled Web" which was written by Raven (I had to research this, but yeah. "Tangled Web" was a Spiderman anthology series that lasted about 2 years and had 22 issues. Each issue was written by different authors. Issue 14 was called "The Last Shoot" and sure enough, it was co-written by Raven alongside Brian Azzarello, who is the mind behind one of my favorite comic series of all time, 100 Bullets. And I had no idea. Wild).
The long-discussed plan of having Arn Anderson as Chris Benoit's manager seems to be off the table now. The thought is Anderson has been devalued so much in recent months (they pretty much wheel him out every time they need someone to take a beating for heat in a Flair feud) that he wouldn't be effective as a manager for a strong, serious heel.
Tough Enough II winner Linda Miles made her in-ring debut on Velocity, against Ivory. She was accompanied by fellow winner Jackie Gayda, who turned heel on her and cost Linda the match. Dave thinks it's waaaaaay too early to put these 2 women in a feud against each other considering how green they both still are.
The Rock, Vince McMahon, Undertaker, Jerry Lawler, Jm Ross, Triple H, Stephanie McMahon, and Shane McMahon were all in Memphis at the Mike Tyson/Lennox Lewis fight last week. Rock could be seen on camera a few rows deep throughout the fight, while Vince was shown on camera as a celebrity in attendance before the fight. The others were never shown on-camera, but they were all there. The PPV is estimated to have done 1.8 million buys and grossed a record $103 million, which are numbers that WWE can only dream of. Prior to the PPV, Rock co-hosted a pre-show party with guests such as Halle Berry and Britney Spears.
NEXT WEDNESDAY:Steve Austin accused of abusing Debra, much more on that situation and Austin's walkout, Jesse Ventura not running for re-election, Rock wrestles in Hawaii, and more...
Your 2020 Season Survival Guide and R/Baseball Refresher!
Before we dive in, if you want to participate in the annual Call Your Shot season predictions contest, you can find it here. It's FINALLY coming! Welcome to the 2020 MLB Season! We are so glad you are here. Don't let the length of this post scare you, we just wanted to consolidate all the relevant information that people have questions about into one place to start the season off. This is your survival guide for the 2020 season, it should have all the pertinent information to answer most of your questions! If you are a brand new fan I'd recommend going through most of it, if you're a veteran you'll know which sections you'll want to read by their headings. My goal here is that both new and returning fans can learn how to better enjoy the season and know what's going on on Baseball this year. Okay, take some time and read through what you want to read through below! This is the fourth year of doing this. Every year I go through the previous years comments to find things that should be added or corrected for the next edition, so if you have any great resources or information that you think would be beneficial to add, please comment it below! Sections:
Introduction for new and renewed interest fans.
Rule changes for 2020
Finding a Team
Knowing Where Different Teams Stand
Your Team's Sub
Twitter, Podcasts, and Other General News/Analysis Sources
The Statistical Titans: Baseball Reference and Fangraphs
Where to watch? Your TV and Streaming Guide
MLB At Bat App
How to watch baseball.
Where to watch highlights and game recaps.
TL;DR: Find a way to enjoy the game.
Introduction for new and renewed interest fans.
Baseball normally has a long season. I don't just mean that in terms of time between opening day and the World Series (which can be considered long as it is), but also the 162 games played in 183 days, 18-20 times against the same 4 teams each. It can be daunting, and many people lose interest by "the dog days" of June and July. This year things are going to be a little different. With only 60 games on the schedule (assuming we make it through without a major clubhouse covid outbreak that cancels games versus that team) every game is going to matter about 3x as much as one in a normal regular season. Tensions will be high, but we might not feel it because there won't be that much crowd noise. THAT SAID - they're still playing 60 games in 66 days, which means almost every day for the next two months isn't just packed with baseball, they're packed with YOUR FAVORITE TEAMS baseball, which while exciting after months without any American sports in the regular season (MLS - a tournament is not the regular season) can end up feeling overwhelming when you just finished watching a late game go into extras then wake up to realize there's an afternoon game on in six hours. This guide is meant to help you if you wish to avoid being one of those who feels overwhelmed and loses interest a couple weeks after Opening Day. First and foremost if you are a new fan or newly returning, you must remember one thing: you do not need to watch every game. Many football fans, and even some basketball and hockey fans, find this difficult, they're used to setting aside a few nights a week to watch their team, and they can watch all the games. Baseball isn't like that. For the next two months, your team will only have 6 days where they won't be playing a game. And some of the games they play will start as early as 9:20am (Pacific Time), others will end after 1am (Eastern Time). If you miss a game it's okay, odds are there's another one tomorrow. If you miss a week, no big deal, hell if you get busy for a few months and aren't able to watch you team, that's not an issue, because you can still follow your team. Baseball is a game to be followed. In the old days it meant picking up the morning paper and checking the box scores. Now it means being able to have a final score texted/tweeted/messaged/emailed/what-evered to you the minute the game ends, or rolling over in bed when you can't sleep and grabbing your phone to check the West Coast scores. It means being able to check reddit in the morning to see any breaking news from across the league, or catch a story you missed. We live in a time where you can go to MLB.com and get a recap of every game from last night in less than 10 minutes. Honestly, baseball was made to be consumed, and the technology age makes it easier than ever, whether you want to spend hours every day pouring over stats and analysis, or 15 seconds to see how your team and their playoff rivals did today. The rest of this guide is mostly dedicated to ways that you can help yourself follow your team, and if you have time follow the entirety of MLB. Anyways, enough rambling, TL;DR Don't worry if you miss games, there'll be one tomorrow.
Rule Changes for 2020
For this season only (or so they say...):
The NL will utilize the DH full time.
In extra innings the person in the batting order immediately before the lead off hitter will start on second base.
Games suspended due to rain will continue play at a later date rather than be washed out and restarted.
Arguing within six feet of an umpire or participating in a fight will be met with heftier fines and suspensions this yaer.
Pitchers will be allowed a wet rag to be brought out from the dugout in lieu of being able to lick their fingers for better grip.
Each team has a 20 extra players in their "taxi squad" in addition to their active roster and 40-man roster.
Active rosters will start at 30 players, then will be cut to 28 after two weeks, then 26 after four weeks.
Spitting is not allowed.
Non-social distanced celebrations are not allowed.
Permanent (as any rule change can be in baseball) rule changes for 2020 and beyond:
Three batter minimum - pitcher entering the game must face a minimum of three batters unless they complete an inning.
The MLB Active Roster is expanded from 25 players to 26 players.
Finding a Team
I always recommend following the local team since you'll have more access to news about them in the local media and should be able to get their radio broadcast, as well as TV broadcasts of them if you have cable/satellite/streaming, and depending on where you're at the occasional over the air game, but if you don't live by a team or don't want to follow the local team, or are just looking for a second team to follow, I wrote this in depth guide to picking a team that's the right fit for you.
Knowing Where Different Teams Stand
Every year ESPN, Sports Illustrated, FOX, NBS, and every other sports related site puts out their season previews. These are great for getting a basic rundown of what is going on with each team, and a simple google search will bring up a plethora of possible articles to read. If what you really want is a fans perspective on what each team's expectations condensed into a few short comments, I'd highly recommend going through each teams day from our annual "Why will X team exceed expectations?" series. All the previous posts are linked in the Astros thread.
Alright, so plugging baseball on baseball seems a bit redundant, but I think it's a good reminder that this is a great hub for all your MLB news throughout the season while still letting you see the occasional amazing college/minor league/foreign league performance. During the season there are a number of features to keep you informed of all the goings on around baseball. Every day of the season (and a portion of the offseason) we have General Discussion threads we call Around the Horn. These are great places to ask questions and discuss anything that you want to know about baseball but don't feel like it deserves it's own post. In the Around the Horn post you'll be able to see a full schedule of what is going on around Baseball every week. Here are the weekly features: Daily: Nightly Pick'Em - A six year running contest to pick the result of one game every day. Details can be found in this thread. Monday: Power Rankings - A team of 30 fans from every team in baseball, led by masochist fearless leader kasutori_jack, releases their composite power rankings of the 30 teams. This leads to well thought out discussions and some in depth analysis, as well as salty fans crying about how their team is underrated (there may be more of the latter than the former, but it's still a great way to keep your finger on the pulse of how every team is doing). Monday (Unofficial) - The last few years thekmanpwnudwn has posted a State of the Subreddits post that gives the top post from each team's subreddit from the last week. This is a great roundup post for staying up to date on what all the different team fandoms are feeling, and helps you catch any milestones you might have otherwise missed. Tuesday: Weekly Awards - Led by lemcoe9 a different team of a fan from every team releases the results of their weekly (and monthly) voting for who the best position player and pitcher was since the last vote was taken. Once again, a great way to keep track of which players are on hot streaks, and who's dominating the league. Wednesday: Wild Card Wednesday - Each week a new contest, trivia game, or just out of the box fun thread will be stickied! Got an idea? Let the mods know! Thursdays: Division Discussions - We rotate between the Easts, Centrals, and Wests to do some more in depth talk about where the playoff races and teams stand. If you only have time for one baseball thread every week and want to keep up with the league, this is the thread to set aside time for. Friday: Trash Talk/Compliment/Complaint - FRIDAYS ARE FUN DAYS, WE ROTATE BETWEEN TRASH TALK, COMPLIMENT, TRASH TALK, AND COMPLAIN THREADS! TRADITION STATES ALL COMMENTS BE IN ALL CAPS AND ENDING IN EXCLAMATION POINTS! WE ROTATE RATHER THAN HAVE A SET DAY FOR EACH ALL SEASON BECAUSE IT'S A LONG SEASON AND ANY ONE OF THE THREE THREADS CAN GET STALE FAST IF YOU DON'T LEAVE TIME FOR MORE AMMUNITION! Saturday: Saturday is when we usually plug in occasional things that don't necessarily deserve weekly attention. Things like in depth stat discussions, memorobilia sharing, craft projects, etc. Sunday: Game of the Week - Sunday is the one day a week where we get together as a subreddit to watch a baseball game together, since it's the one time every week where there's only one game going on and there's guaranteed to be a game. The Sunday Night Baseball game thread is usually posted a couple hours before the first pitch. In addition the playoffs, and select premier match-ups (mostly at the very end of the season where there is a lot riding on a regular season game) we host game threads for all baseball users. These are neutral thread, for more info on less neutral ones skip to the next section. We may experiment with game threads in baseball for the MLB.tv Free Game of the Day this year. In addition to all these features, it really is a great place to keep up with breaking news and highlights. It'll be posted here minutes after someone tweets it, and long before it's on MLB.com. Team beat writers get the stories first, and it's easier to check in here a couple times a day than follow every one of them. Plus there's something the kids are calling "dank memes" (but not too many, because us mods don't allow too much moisture to get into the servers).
Your Team's Subreddit (And other team subs as well)
The mods at baseball have one goal - help you have the best possible reddit baseball experience, and a LOT of that is helping you get connected to other fans of your team (which feels a little like a cop-out because it means less work for us if you're doing more on your team's sub, but your team's mods aren't complaining.) One of the main draws of team subs (other than in depth discussion with like-fan-minded users, getting breaking news and analysis on your team, team-memes, and other reddit discussions that come up from a group of individuals who can agree on one thing) are game threads. At this time (to the best of my knowledge) every team sub hosts game threads for their team's games, and you can easily access them in the sidebar during the season by clicking on the team's logo in the schedule (we're working on getting that up to speed, MLB changed some parts of their RSS and background data and we've had to work around that to get our automated system back up). We like to keep the game threads in team subs for a few reasons, one of which is we want to support the team subs and send them relevant traffic when we can because they really do an amazing job, another is because with 15 games a day this place would look like crap if we had game threads for every game or let users post them as they please (we've tried it, it blots out news, discussion, and highlights and looks like crap, baseball doesn't have only a couple days set aside for games or focus on marquee match ups like many other sports, it's 2430 games played in 183 days and is better when it's spread out.) Even if you're not a game thread person though, getting connected with a good team sub can make disappointing seasons more bearable, and great seasons more exciting, and I know plenty of users that said that their team's sub basically keeps them fans. Team subs are also a great place to get connected to...
Twitter, Podcasts, and other General News/Analysis Sources
Going to be honest here, I don't use twitter and I do not frequently read other people's blogs. I know many people do and enjoy it, and I believe the best way to find the people to follow/sites to visit that interest you the most are to hang around your team's sub and note which Tweets/Sites that are linked to that most often peak your interest. Your list of favorite baseball writers is going to be different than my favorite list, and finding the right twitter personalities, podcasts hosts, and bloggers can make game analysis more interesting for you even if your team is playing like crap and it's the middle of July. Here are some common suggestions for some general baseball twitter accounts and podcasts to get you started, but like I said, find what you like and follow those: Twitter
The Statistical Titans: Baseball Reference and Fangraphs
Literally every day you will find a link or to BaseballReference.com or Fangraphs.com here, it's a given, and it's because these are the two most extensive free baseball databases that are easy to navigate. If you want to look up anything about baseball history, check Baseball Reference, if you want to look up how players stack up with non-proprietary advanced metrics or read an insightful blog post about why someone is overrated/underrated or overperforming/underperforming, check Fangraphs. With these two sites you have all the stats and figures you need to make a competent argument for basically anything you want with a little cherry picking. A large part of the modern baseball world is statistics and you're going to find yourself getting more immersed in discussing the game if you can get a handle on all the terms getting thrown around. If you are brand new to baseball, take a little while to get to know the game before diving into these sites, but if you have a handle on the basics and are ready to know what this WAR everyone is talking about is, dive into the glossaries and find the statistics. When you get the basics, creating your own analysis doesn't seem as daunting, and one of the reasons I love baseball is that I can deconstruct pretty much every play and find some meaning behind it. If you are like that and enjoy numbers, theoretical projections, and breaking things down into simple figures before reconstructing them into something long and beautiful, then learning the basics of sabrmetrics will make you a baseball fan for life. If, on the other hand, you just want to enjoy the game for the beautiful pastime that it is by watching, then we've got a little bit to go through...
Where to Watch? - Your TV and Streaming Guide
So a big part of baseball is, you know, actually being able to watch the games (though as I talk about at the end, it might not necessarily be the case for you, and that doesn't mean you can't enjoy baseball, skip down and see what I'm talking about in the final section). First off, if you are looking for free games to watch, you are in luck! MLB.tv streams one game a day for free on MLB.com and Yahoo.com. These games are subject to local blackouts (details on those in the MLB.tv section) but are definitely worth watching if you're trying to see if you'll enjoy baseball, or just need a free baseball fix. Facebook is also streaming one game a week during the season for free. The other free games available are from May 18 to July 13 on Saturday night and Thursday nights in September when FOX airs games on their OTA affiliated networks. Believe it or not, TV antennas still work in most areas, and these games are free to watch. Some teams also broadcast select games on OTA networks in their region. Okay, so now the more expensive stuff. If you have even the most basic cable package (or log in information) you probably have ESPN. ESPN airs games every Sunday Night as well as Wednesday Night and Opening Weekend. These games are also available on ESPN Go. You also probably have a regional sports channel. This is where almost all of your local teams games will be aired. Here is a decent breakdown of every team and what network they are carried on. TBS is also on even the most basic networks, they air games the final 13 Sundays of the regular season in the afternoon. FS1 and FOX carry baseball games almost every Saturday of the season, and MLB Network carries games pretty much every day. A list of currently scheduled national broadcasts is available here, not all games have been chosen so there will be more added to the list. For all these networks (except for the Dodgers, Orioles, and Nationals regional networks) there are options to stream the games online provided you have cable login information for the channel. During the playoffs FS1, TBS, and MLB Network will carry most of the games, with ESPN carrying a wild card game and FOX carrying the World Series. Now there are also streaming services that grant access to most of the previously mentioned channels:
Sling TV Orange package gets you ESPN, ESPN 2, and TBS.
Sling TV Blue package gets you FOX, FS1, FS2, TBS, and most regional sports networks.
Youtube TV gets you FOX, ESPN, ESPN 2, FS1, TBS, MLB Network, and some regional sports networks.
HULU Live gets you FOX, ESPN, ESPN 2, FS1, FS2, TBS, and your regional sports networks.
Playstation Vue Access gets you FOX, ESPN, ESPN 2, FS1, FS2, and TBS.
Playstation Vue Core adds MLB Network to the Access channels.
Playstation Vue Sports Extra adds regional sports networks in addition to your other channels.
AT&T TV Now Live a Little gets you FOX, ESPN, ESPN 2, FS1, and TBS and your regional sports networks.
AT&T TV Now Just Right adds MLB Network to the Live a Little channels.
AT&T TV Now Go Big adds FS2 to the Just Right channels.
FUBO Premier gets you FOX, FS1, and your regional sports networks
Also, ESPN+ will carry select games pretty much daily throughout the season.
MLB.TV - the Ultimate Fan Investment
Alright, so a few things to cover with this, first of all YOU WILL NOT BE ABLE TO LEGALLY STREAM IN MARKET GAMES IF YOU LIVE IN THE UNITED STATES. MLB.tv uses your IP address to see where you are located, and if it pings back that you are in a team's home market it will not let you watch the game LIVE. Here is where you can find what games MLB.tv will black you out from. National broadcasts on ESPN, FOX, and TBS are also subject to blackouts within the United States (MLB Network games are not). Before you ask, yes there are less than legal ways to get around this (spoofing your IP address, subreddit dedicated to mlb streams, etc.), but I won't be talking about those in detail here. IF YOU ARE OUTSIDE OF THE UNITED STATES AND CANADA, YOU WILL HAVE NO BLACKOUTS. Even if you are blacked out, you will be able to watch the game 90 minutes after it finishes, so if you work a late shift or stay up late it might be worth it for you anyways even if you only want to follow one team. Military members and college students, don't forget to apply your 35% discount! "But I don't want to watch EVERY out of market game, I just want to watch MY team!" Cool, for $25 less there's a single team option that will allow you to watch all your team's non-blacked out games! Personally, I'd pay the extra $25 for the opportunity to watch every Kershaw, Bumgarner, and Scherzer start, or put the Cubs on in the background while working on a Friday afternoon, but to each their own. "But I don't want to commit for a full year!" That's okay, there's a monthly option as well in case you know there are months where you can't watch as much. Some of the fun features of MLB.tv include the ability to watch four games at once and quickly swap your audio from one to another (seriously, I'm never on commercial break when I'm watching baseball, unless there's only one game on I'm able to watch it all, and in September that's huge) and condensed games. What are condensed games? They go through and cut out all the time between pitches and innings, meaning if you want to watch a whole game in less than a half hour (or are searching desperately for a play to make a .gif or streamable out of that for some reason isn't considered a highlight) it's really easy. If you're someone who really wants to get into the game but can't figure out how to grind through watching a full game, Condensed Games are great for keeping up with a team while you learn the little details between pitches that somehow make watching the catcher twiddle his fingers exciting for some fans. Also, new this year, MLB has added some great baseball documentaries to your MLB.tv subscription, giving you access to more than just games for the first time. In addition, there are two great resources to enhance your total immersion into baseball if there are multiple games going on. Please note for both of these you must already be logged into MLB.tv to make them work. The first, and most basic, is Brooks Baseball's MLB.TV Redzone. It will automatically take you to the highest leverage game going on, and will automatically shift you to another game between innings OR if another game enters a higher leverage situation. For a more personalized touch, The Baseball Guage has MLB.TV Game Changer which lets you customize your preferences so MLB.tv will always switch to the game that is most relevant to you. This is great if you play fantasy and want to keep up with your players, are waiting for someone to hit a milestone, or if you want to make sure your action is broken into to follow a no-hitter in progress. It also gives you a free subscription to...
MLB AtBat - The Most Underrated Way to Stay Connected to Baseball
MLB AtBat is MLB's official application. It comes in two versions, the free version which has ads but is useful for keeping up to date with all the scores, and the paid version ($19.99 for the year of $2.99 monthly) which gives you access to ad-free content, Gameday on your mobile device, and (most valuable) access to every team's radio stream for every game during the season and postseason completely blackout free. If there's a day game, you can bet I'm listening to it at work, if I'm mowing the lawn on a Saturday I'm listening to a game, when I can't sleep at night, on comes a West Coast game. To get the paid version you must download the free version, then subscribe within the app, or log into an MLB account that has MLB.tv. Baseball was made to be on the radio, it's a sport that is very easy to follow the action with the right announcer. At work (or school) it's great because you can half listen, and when the announcer gets excited you can instantly tune back in to hear what's going on. This is the most underrated way to stay connected to your team throughout the year. Before I could afford MLB.tv, this was the way to go, and it honestly makes me question every year whether getting the MLB.tv package is worth is when I can get 80% of the entertainment value from listening to the games (and every year I manage to forget to unsubscribe, for many reasons listed above). Gameday on mobile is also a great feature, it lets you quickly check in on the action during brief recesses in meetings (or under the table during meetings), or breaks between classes (or under a desk in classes). This is honestly my primary means of keeping track of Twins games throughout the year. My wife thinks I'm crazy when I could just watch the game, but instead am nervously checking my phone every couple minutes. IF I WATCH I JINX THE TEAM, HONEY!
How to watch baseball?
So this is a question that we get from many new fans who are just trying to figure out what the hell is going on and why people find this game so fascinating. I'll get the elephant in the room out of the way, yes there are some "boring" parts of watching baseball on TV. The camera fans to a batter spitting and adjusting his gloves, the pitcher adjusts his crotch then licks his fingers, random shots of a bored looking manager, etc. When you are actually at the ballpark you can be watching where the catcher and fielders set up to try to predict the pitch that is coming (read The Hidden Language of Baseball by Paul Dickson for some great insight into how to interpret this), but on TV it's not usually the case. This is where I have some suggestions for new fans trying to get into it. First off, if you are looking for just a relaxing day, embrace the slow pace with a beer and veg out on the couch while watching. It's meant to be slow and relaxing (until it gets tense and exciting, usually with runners on). Seriously, when was the last time you just sat and did nothing? Mid July afternoon games are a perfect way to reach that zen of half-consciousness, until something happens to get you sucked into the action. Another option to stay engaged is keeping score. I find keeping score relaxing and looking back through a scorebook can be fun to see what you were doing a few years ago (except for that damn unfinished scorecard from 2015 where A-Rod hit the most predictable home run in Twins-Yankees history and I sent my scorecard flying to the other side of the room). As NPR once put it, keeping score is a knowledge making activity, and if you have the time and patience for it it is a great way to learn the game. There are a couple different guides to keeping score, and most scorebooks/cards will have a brief example of how to do so. If you have any questions, the Around the Horn thread is a great place to ask! Gamethreads are another way to get together with other baseball fans and pass the time between pitches, especially in team subs you get to know the regulars and conversations start to wonder away from baseball at times throughout the game, and that's fine. Baseball is an excuse to enjoy a summer day. For those that want to actually understand what is going on during that time, though, there are some options. Watching Baseball Smarter by Zack Hample (who despite his reputation on this subreddit knows some stuff and actually pops in from time to time to comment on different things) is a good starting place for new fans. Baseball for Dummies and The Complete Idiots Guide to Baseball are also good starting points for those willing to sit and read for a little bit. For those who don't want to read a book, I guess I can touch on what I'm looking for between pitches. A big part of baseball is pitch selection, so scouting out a pitchers repertoire of pitches is a good starting point, BrooksBaseball.net has great cheat sheets on every pitcher in the game, and PitcherList.com has a visual example of each pitcher's pitches so you can see what you can be looking for. Anyways, I mention that because the whole reason the catcher is twiddling his fingers behind the plate is to go over with the pitcher what pitch is going to be thrown. What I'm watching for between pitches is where the catcher is setting up behind the plate and guessing which pitch is going to be thrown. A 2-0 and 3-1 count are known as hitters counts because the pitcher needs to throw a strike or risk walking the batter, when the count reaches either of those pay attention, because the hitters going to be looking for his perfect pitch and there's probably going to be some action on the field. 0-1, 0-2, and 1-2 are pitcher's counts, look for curveball, slider or other somewhat nasty pitch to be thrown to get the batter to swing at a bad pitch, or a fastball inside to catch them off guard. If you have any questions about this, go ahead and ask in an around the horn thread.
Where to watch highlights and game recaps.
There are many many places to see highlights and game recaps, this is not an exhaustive list, but is a good start. For highlights, bigger highlights will often be posed here on baseball a few minutes after they occur, if you wish to post them please familiarize yourself with the subreddit rules. They also appear relatively quickly on MLB.com in each games Gameday area. For a pretty slick collection of highlights from across MLB, https://baseball.theate is a great place to exclusively watch highlights. There are a few ways to get great game recaps. If you have MLB Network, every day Quick Pitch is an hour-long show that recaps every game from the previous day. It usually starts after MLB Tonight (about 10pm EDT) or whatever game MLB Network is showing finishes up, and runs until 10am EDT the next day. MLB.com also puts out recaps of every game by the next morning, usually a 2-5 minutes quick rundown of highlights that can be found on the game recap. It also puts out Fastcast videos on youtube and their website every morning which has a brief rundown of all the games from the previous day. Here's an example of a Fastcast from two seasons ago. If you want one concise place to see most of these, efitz11 was amazing last season and posted video links to every game recap and fastcast in the daily Around the Horn thread. Here's an example. I am unsure if they plan to continue it this year, but it would be surely appreciated!
TL;DR Finding what you enjoy about the game.
When it boils down to it, baseball is about finding entertainment and enjoyment, and don't let anyone try to tell you how to enjoy baseball. If you want nothing to do with statistical analysis and just want to enjoy what's going on on the field, don't let anyone tell you you aren't enough of a fan, and if you want to dissect a player into their strengths and components using statcast and advanced metrics don't let anyone tell you you're reading into the game too much. You can follow one team, and only one team, or you can follow multiple teams, don't let anyone tell you you're not a true fan for wearing another team's gear or enjoying their games. You might enjoy bat flips and flamboyance, or reserved speedy home run trots. You might not even enjoy physically watching a game (especially not if your team isn't playing), but find yourself loving keeping track of your team through the season and tracking your players or maybe just the thrill of the standings race and scoreboard watching or maybe you just love all the numbers that get thrown around and arguing about their relevancy. That's okay, eventually I believe enjoyment of the game itself will come, but even if it doesn't, the long baseball season is still creating a place of enjoyment for you, and that's what matters. If you have any questions, once again, feel free to ask them in our daily Around the Horn thread, or below in the comments, or if you really want to feel free to PM with questions and I'd be happy to answer. So watch games this week and join in the discussion here, you'll naturally find yourself gravitating towards certain players or teams and enjoying different aspects of the game. Baseball is a long season, find what you enjoy, stick to it, dwell on it, and enjoy it. TL;DR for the TL;DR - Baseball is fun
I know what you’re thinking. It’s 2020. Who the hell still uses fax machines? You’re right obviously. There can’t be many people who are still using them in this day and age, but apparently, my office is one of them. They don’t actually use it of course , but it sits there in the printing room, unplugged and gathering dust. For some reason, nobody ever dared throw it away. My guess is that nobody from management ever took enough interest, or were worried one of the old guard would throw a hissy fit if it disappeared one day. I suppose it’s one of those relics people keep around “just in case”. Whatever the reason, we’ve got one. And despite working in coding, whenever something electrical breaks in the office, I get asked if I can help fix it. (Here’s a life lesson - never show anyone at work you’re good with computers. Suddenly you’ll be working two jobs for the price of one.) Since I’m a sucker for a pretty woman, and too polite to say no, about four months ago when a pretty woman asked if I could fix the fax machine, you bet your ass I quit scrolling on reddit and headed to the printer room. Turned out to be an easy fix - it was just out of ink. But, since pretty much all our cartridges are those rip off branded ones that only work with a specific printer, sourcing new ink meant I had to order some online. After searching the cubicles I finally found the girl to let her know it should be working in a couple of days. I was hoping for “My hero” and possibly a bit of light swooning, but she didn’t even look up from her phone and all I got was a “K, thanks”. She’d just been asked by her manager to do an inventory check and passed it down the line to me. Great. This was back when Covid-19 was still just a rising trend on twitter, before the world went into full blown panic mode. Despite my best efforts to ignore current events, I still got sucked into the standard water cooler conversations that everyone was having, and I forgot all about the fax machine until the ink arrived the next week. Even after filling the fax machine up, one of its little lights was still flashing. The machine was so old, whatever symbol had been placed directly under the electric diodes had long since faded. Despite the missing symbols, I realised it was trying to print something but had no paper. Ink and paper. Heroic fix, right? The moment I loaded it with A4, this ancient little machine snatched the paper and began churning out page after page. It was that archaic nineties sound, when you could hear the ink plotter whirring back and forth. Just printing one page seemed to take almost a minute, but the pages soon piled up and just kept on coming. I supposed that even though the fax machine had been off all these years, it had just instantly resumed whatever print queue was still in its internal storage. If the fax number had been live all this time, it could well be processing every single file that had been sent to our company fax number since nineteen-ninety-whenever. Looking down at the pages it had spat out, I could see how it ran out of ink. The pages were full black and white pictures. The resolution was terrible though. I hovered around for a minute, but this machine would not stop printing. Flicking through the images, I checked to see if someone had accidentally punched in too many zeroes when they chose how many copies to print, but each page was different. They all followed the same format though, a full black and white image, and a big number in the top right corner. I puzzled over it, trying to make patterns out of the numbers, but they were all over the place. 2 782 45 99999999999999 1.315 800 The images didn’t seem to form any sort of logical grouping either. They weren’t adverts or presentation materials. They didn’t look professional or creative. They were just random. People. Things. One was just a weird floaty ball thing; it looked like a space hopper, but for aliens. I let the pile of paper flop back down and scrolled on my phone. Eventually it would print everything, surely? I was getting a little bit too distracted by the girls of ‘GoneMild’ when an abrupt halt to the fax machine’s endless whirring made me look up. It had finally stopped printing. When I moved closer to look, the light was flashing again. Out of ink.... Grumbling to myself, I headed to the supply cupboard to grab the bottle I’d bought. Luckily, I’d had to buy in bulk, so still had plenty left. Since the fax machine was running low on paper, I topped that up too. Knowing I couldn’t spend the whole day standing next to this fax machine looking at abundant cleavage, I scooped up the images, set them to one side and let the fax machine do its thing. Just before I left for the day, I went to go check on it. It had stopped printing, but only because it had run out of ink. Again. Cursing whichever moron had sent an entire graphic novel collection to the fax machine twenty years ago, I tried to see if I could somehow clear the print queue, but the buttons didn’t do anything and there was no display panel, just lights that blinked when it needed something. There’s a joke about my ex-girlfriend there somewhere, but let’s not go there. Figuring maybe it would finish overnight, I moved the fresh stack of printed pictures - still just numbers and images - next to the previous pile and reloaded the fax machine with ink and paper. It dutifully resumed whirring and spitting out new images. It wasn’t a surprise the next day to find that the fax machine’s thirst for ink (and my time) had not yet been quenched. It almost seemed proud of its new collection of prints, and I quickly flicked through to see if this pile was any different, but it was just as nonsensical and bizarre as the rest. I could - and probably should - have left it. But I was curious to see how much longer this queue would last before I reached the end. Without sitting there and counting them, there must have been easily three hundred pages of weird images. How many more could there be? Besides, the ink I’d bought wouldn’t be compatible with any of the other printers our company owned, so I might as well use it. I topped up the machine again and left it humming and chewing through a fresh pack of A4. Halfway through the day, there was a knock at my office door, and an extremely pissed off woman from upper management asked me what the hell I was printing on company time. She practically dragged me to the printing room, whilst I did a less-than-spectacular attempt at explaining the situation. “Look at this!” she said, gesturing wildly at the fax machine. The light was blinking again, as if to taunt me. On top of the fresh stack of paper was the number ‘84’, and an image of a man’s face, close up, clearly in pain. Agony might have been a better way to describe it. Even with the pixelated and crappy monotone quality of the printer, you could see the man’s facial muscles contorting, eyes clamped shut, teeth bared. “I haven’t printed any of this,” I said quickly, holding up my hands, “this is just whatever is left from the last time it was on.” “Even so, you can’t just leave them lying around,” she hissed, splaying the pages and pulling them out to show me. I’d just been looking for patterns, but she was searching for offensive images, and in the stack of hundreds, there were plenty to choose from. Images of fire and blood, people wearing sinister masks, dead bodies just lying in the street. When she pulled them out and lumped them together, it didn’t look good. “This is completely unacceptable! Get rid of them.” She picked up the rest of the papers and dumped them in my hands. As she scrambled around, the only thing I could think to mutter was “it’s still not finished printing.” “Just leave it,” she snapped, pulling out the plug and sticking the fax machine on its old dusty shelf, “it’s 2020, who still uses these things?” She was right, of course. I’d known the only reason they’d wanted it turned on was for an inventory check. Nobody actually wanted to use it. But I guess programmers are naturally curious about how things work. Or I am, at least. I still wanted to see how deep this particular rabbit hole went, but it wasn’t worth losing my job over. I’d not really noticed how bad some of the images were. I turned the pages upside down as I walked back to my office, to avoid anyone else seeing them. Hovering over the bin, I was half tempted to keep them. They were kind of cool, in a weird way. But what was I going to do with hundreds of random images and numbers? I dropped the whole stack into the bin, and forgot about it. I browsed reddit, and when my colleague came in we talked about how crazy this whole coronavirus thing was. That was before the lockdown. We started working from home before the Government shut down the country. It’s been a weird few months - like living in a really boring movie - but I was actually kind of glad to get back to work. I’m a creature of routine, I guess. Not everybody was as eager or as willing to go back to the office as I was, so the place was pretty deserted when I got to work. I did a little bit of catching up with the few faces I saw and knew, then sat down at my computer. No word of a lie, it actually had cobwebs on it. I grabbed some tissues from my drawer and wiped the screen, then as I slid across to throw it in the bin - I froze. The papers from the fax machine. In all the lockdown craziness, I’d forgotten all about them, but even the cleaners had been sent home when it all kicked off. The papers were still in my bin. The top page was still the one that I'd been yelled at for. The pained face, twisted in an excruciating grimace. Only there was a difference now that made the skin on my arms tingle. I recognised the face. The whole world recognised that face now. On a four month old piece of paper, printed in monotone black, was George Floyd. When I’d first seen this image, I had no idea who he was. It wasn’t the face the TV was showing though; the normal photo of him looking into the camera, alive and well. It was the face that you had to go on internet videos to see. Pinned down. Knee on his neck. Dying. For a moment, me and George just stared at each other. Then I reached down and slowly pulled all the papers out of the bin, shaking my head. Was I remembering things wrong? Had George died before lockdown? Even if he had, why was a fax machine printing pictures of his death? I pulled up google, and checked. George Floyd died May 25th 2020. We left the office the first week of March. I just sat there, slowly spinning in my chair, completely unable to process the image in front of me. Then I remembered there were hundreds more pages underneath. Scattering them around the table, my mouth hung open as I began to recognise things I didn’t know the last time I saw them. The weird blob that had just looked like an alien space hopper, my eyes now instantly saw it was the coronavirus, viewed under a microscope. If I’d have been paying more attention at the time, I’d have probably known. There were riots and protests, a police officer with bullet wounds in his chest, a black teenager hung in a noose, the dead bodies in the street were wearing face masks. A shiver wrapped its way around my entire body as cold realisation spilled over me. Only a few images made any sense to me, but every single one had happened after it had been printed. It couldn’t be right. Someone must have changed the pictures. They were so low quality, I must just be seeing things. I snatched the picture of George up. It was him. There was no denying it. It was him. My eyes flicked to the ‘84’ at the top right corner. Should I put them in order? I slid the papers around, searching for an ‘83’ or ‘85’, then I paused. He died almost three months after this was printed… Pulling up the calendar on my computer, I started counting backwards from May 25th. As my finger moved closer and closer to the week we’d left the office, I forced myself to count out loud, but each number just came out in a strangled whisper. “Eighty-one, eighty-two, eighty-three…” My finger pointed to March 3rd and fell away. I couldn’t physically say the number. But it was the same as the one printed in black above George Floyd’s final moments. Casting my mind back, I tried desperately to remember what day I printed off these pages. I knew I got the ink delivery on a Monday, and I was printing for one more day before I got told to stop. March 3rd was a Tuesday. The fax machine hadn’t just printed the future. It had told me how many days until it happened. As if it had been trying to warn me. In that moment, I became extremely aware of how cold it was in my office, and how quiet. My hands slid by themselves to the pile of papers, rummaging around until I could find another to verify. All the rioters were too vague; I needed something more specific. At first I passed straight over an image of Big Ben and empty London streets, but then I realised that it could represent the UK going into lockdown. Only when I pulled out the paper did I see the number. 31080 I couldn’t remember exactly how many days had passed between printing and lockdown, but somehow that seemed a little high. Maybe my day theory was just a coincidence with George. Still, here I was surrounded by hundreds of images that the fax machine had somehow known would happen before they did. I was just about to go and check the machine was still in the printing room, when my eyes landed on a page that made me pause. It showed a man in an untucked shirt and jeans carrying a large box. One that looked a lot like the fax machine. And the man looked a lot like me, even down to the clothes I was wearing. Despite the cold air, I was starting to sweat. Both my arms were trembling with faint shivers, and I puffed out a deep lungful of air, half to hear something familiar and natural, half to break the silence that was digging under my skin. I ignored the man who looked like me as best I could, and concentrated on the number. 128. Frowning, I turned back to the calendar and counted the days. One hundred and twenty eight days from March 3rd would be tomorrow. So, tomorrow I’d grab the fax machine? In the clothes I was wearing today? If I’d not seen the image, I would have gone to grab it and bring it into the office right now. Looking back at the picture, it was impossible to tell where I was going or even where I was. The background might as well have been a snowstorm for all the grainy blots and faded ink. Why was it printing pictures of me, or at least, someone who looked like me? And why such a mundane event? Fighting the urge to rip that page into little pieces, I decided to go to the printing room and see if the fax machine was still there. Weirdly, I was sort of relieved when I saw it was. Maybe I was worried someone might have taken it, and the mystery would be over. Raiding the supply cupboard for the remaining bottle of ink, I scooped the fax machine up in one arm and headed back to the office. I didn’t want to hold it like the man in the picture was, but because of its awkward shape and weight, I ended up doing exactly that. Placing it down on my desk, I unravelled the cord and plugged the fax machine in, topping it up with ink and paper. Almost immediately, it resumed screeching and chewing through the paper. Mind racing, I looked at all the printed images and numbers, spread chaotically all over my desk. Snatching up the image that looked like me, I clutched it in both hands and stared at it so hard, my eyes must have been close to boring holes right through it. It didn’t look like me. It was me. There was no denying it. Desperately glancing back and forth at the number and my calendar, I realised that most of these pages had been printed on Monday 2nd March, not Tuesday 3rd of March. By searching through them like a frantic idiot, I’d mixed them all up. If this one of me had been printed on the Monday, the number was accurate. 128 days until it had come true. The machine had predicted exactly what I’d do, and even though I saw the image, I still did it. I threw up into the bin. Some part of my brain had still been holding onto the possibility that somebody was messing with me, but the page clutched in my shaking hands was proof that this was something else entirely. The fax machine was printing the future. Hundreds of pages of events that happened after they were printed. I threw up again, dry heaving until there was nothing left in my stomach. Wiping my mouth, I screwed up the image of myself and the fax machine and tossed it in the bin. It wasn’t like the others, and I had to wrestle with myself not to grab a lighter and set the thing on fire. George Floyd and the others had been creepy. The image with me in it - that I’d literally just fulfilled - took my soul and shook it. I was sweating so much I began to stain the other papers as I ruffled through them. All the images I recognised seemed significant for one reason or another. The kind of events that history would document. How was I included? Fumbling through my colleague’s drawers, I found what I was looking for. His cigarettes. I normally only smoke when I’m drunk, but needed something to stop my brain racing. As I lit it and took a deep drag of hot vapourised tar, I dimly realised I’d never had a cigarette sober, and there was a reason for that. Puffing out thick plumes of foul tasting smoke and biting down a cough, I searched through the other images. How many had happened? How many were still to come? Were there any that were wrong? Since I’d already messed up the divide between Monday and Tuesday, I decided to take out the ones I knew had happened. It helped a little bit, and stacked together I could see my theory about the numbers equalling days needed some refinement. Images of the riots following George’s death had all sorts of digits on, ranging from 2.6 to 7862027. Since I knew they’d definitely happened, I played around with the numbers a bit, and realised that if I treated the big numbers as seconds or minutes, they would fit the timeline much better. The small numbers generally worked out as months or weeks. Except for some that I could tell were actually days. It didn’t take long for my head to start hurting, and I didn’t think it was the cigarette. So the image showed what would happen, and the number referred to when, in varying time formats. I was trying to think how I could organise the remaining images when the fax machine stopped printing. Out of ink again. God dammit. The top page was just money on a counter, and I noticed something that had eluded me on the other images. The fax machine didn’t print text. Other than the number in the corner, there were no letters or symbols of any kind on the image itself. The bank notes were blank, with Queen Elizabeth’s face the defining feature that let me know it was currency. The top left number on this one was very small. 0.0329 Placing the stack neatly on my colleagues desk - I did not want to mix these up with the others - I reached for the bottle of ink and my heart sank. It was practically empty, with only a few dribbles of black ink at the bottom. Immediately, I jumped online to buy more. With delivery times, I’d likely have to wait a couple of days to print more of the future. I bit off a laugh. What was I thinking? I couldn’t just sit on this, this was more important than some office schmuck waiting for a parcel. I needed to tell someone. The government needed this, or the UN or something. Someone who wasn’t me. Pouring the last remnants of ink into the fax machine, I took out my phone. Who to call? My boss? The police? My local councillor? My fingers hovered over the numbers, wondering how I’d prove it. All my proof had already happened. Only that angry upper management woman had seen them beforehand, and she didn’t exactly seem like someone who I could get easily get on board. I didn’t even know her name. Paralysed, I looked back at the papers, as if they might help me. The one with the money. That was a small number. It should be happening soon. The currency was British. That meant I’d got both space and time within at least some close proximity. But what did it mean? Money on a counter. That could be anything. Everybody in the country had money. I could reach into my wallet right now and put money on the- I took out my wallet and opened it up. Two fivers and a twenty. Comparing the size and the pictures didn’t take long to see that the image showed the same. There were coins on the counter too. I unzipped my wallet and began to dig out my coins. I had four, and the image only had three. Relief washed over me as I figured it was likely just an extreme coincidence. Then, as I pulled out the coins to check closer, one slipped from my fingers and clattered to the floor, bouncing and rolling away. I lurched after it, but it disappeared underneath a filing cabinet. Cursing, I examined my remaining coins. They were identical to those in the image. The one under the filing cabinet wasn’t there. This was my money. The fax machine sputtered to a stop and I leapt out my chair, half in shock, half spurred to action. It was my money in the picture. The fax machine was predicting what I’d do again. I placed my money on the table and stepped back, waiting for something to happen. Nothing did, of course. I even tried rearranging it, to closer match the image. Nothing. Looking at the fresh papers, it hadn’t even finished printing the latest one. It was still half stuck in the machine. I carefully pulled it out, and my blood went cold. At the bottom of a set of stairs, was a tangled heap of limbs. The face hadn’t been printed yet, but I recognised the untucked shirt. The trainers too, I recognised, even underneath the blood. And tauntingly, just on the edge of the image, was the fax machine. This was me. Dead. Swallowing, I became painfully aware of the number printed above the image. 6. Six? Six what, days? Years? Minutes? Seconds? If I’d had anything left to vomit, it would have come out. I needed to get out of here. I needed to take this machine and prove it was real to someone else or smash it to bits and throw it in a river or burn it or - Forcing myself to take long, deep breaths, I studied the image. What if seeing this image made me panic and leave with the fax machine? What if, in my blind panic, I slipped on the stairs, and that’s what made the image come true? Calming down a little, I realised I could just wait. There were no stairs in my office. If I just didn’t leave for a little bit longer, that ruled out seconds and minutes. I still had seven hours of my shift left, so I could rule out hours too. That just left days, weeks, months and years to worry about, right? And I could worry about them later. So I sat still for a few minutes, sickly smile growing on my face. After what could well have been six minutes, one of the lights on the fax machine lit up, blinking red. That particular LED had never lit up before, and I found myself wishing I could have some idea what symbol would have been underneath it. I decided it was because I’d beaten it. I’d not followed the future it had predicted for me, and so it wasn’t happy. Jokingly, I fed the paper back to it. “Want this back?” I said out loud with a smile. My smile shattered when the fax machine took it. It snatched the paper out my hand and garbled it in reverse, spitting out a clean white paper back into the feed tray. There was the briefest pause, and then it began printing again. Once more, it ran out of ink before finishing, and the image came out incomplete. It was almost identical. A mangled body wearing my clothes, blood covered pages scattered all around, and a fax machine lying on its side. Instead of stairs, skid marks of a tyre ran underneath the pages and my body.. My face hadn’t printed this time either, and the number 0.00476 hung ominously above me. Part of me wanted to immediately run the numbers, to see how long I had to avoid roads to stop this becoming true. But part of me knew the truth. The similarity of the images was too striking. The exact same prediction, just a different cause in a different place. Same death, just slightly later. The fax machine was apparently convinced this was my destiny. On my computer, I closed the calculator and opened a Word document. This Word document. In a moment I’ll save it and email it to you. Please note the timestamp. I’ve managed to push back my destiny once. The fax machine has shown me what to avoid and roughly how long for. The blinking red light even tells me when it’s safe. I’ve got a few strategies to survive, but this is my failsafe in case I’m wrong. It’s not like I can stay in this office forever. The pictures are important, and I’m amongst them, which means my actions are important. I can’t sit in my office hiding away, whilst the literal future of humanity sits in my hands. I’m going to get more ink. *** [ error code 54 ] (846) [ highlighted for retrieval and clean up ]
Will the Minnesota Vikings win OVER/UNDER 8.5 games? By University Stats Prof!
The 2019 season had mitigated success for the Vikings. They secured the #6 seed in the NFC before pulling a huge upset win in overtime in New Orleans. The offense completely stalled the following week in San Francisco, though. The franchise has not gone through a losing season in five years. Head coach Mike Zimmer has really done a good job. Can the team take a forward leap and make it further into the playoffs? The team has not made it to the Super Bowl since 1976.
2. Offensive Position-by-Position Breakdown
2.1 Quarterbacks (QBs) Kirk Cousins has received more criticism than praise since signing a huge contract with the Vikings a couple of years ago. Yet, the team posted an 18-13-1 record and Cousins has thrown 56 TD passes versus 16 interceptions. His completion rate has been excellent over those two years: 69.7% (among the best of his career). The reprimand concerned more the lack of playoff wins than the level of play itself. He cleared a hurdle by leading his team to a big playoff upset in New Orleans last season, thanks to a 4-year TD pass to Kyle Rudolph in overtime. However, he followed it up with a horrific performance in San Francisco. Don’t be misled by his 21-of-29 passes completed during the game. Minnesota flirted with the postseason record for fewest first downs in a game; they only got 7 and totaled 147 yards of offense. Still, based on PFF grades, 2019 was Cousins’ best career season. He ranked as the #6 QB in the league with an 84.1 mark. Sean Mannion will once again back up Cousins. He’s clearly not the best #2 quarterback in the league. Cousins has been extremely durable throughout his career, and the Vikes hope it stays that way. 2.2 Running Backs (RBs) In my 2019 NFC North preview, I mentioned how I believed Dalvin Cook was one of the most underrated players in the league. He had only rushed for 354 and 615 yards in his first two seasons, but he had passed my eye test. I knew that, barring injuries, he would breakout as one of the top backs in the league. He did enjoy a nice 2020 season with 1,135 rushing yards and 519 receiving yards, while racking up 13 touchdowns. Two things raise some concerns about him, though. First, his lengthy injury history. He seems to get nicked up often. Secondly, his play tailed off quite a bit towards the end of the season. During the first eight games of the season, he rushed 156 times for 823 yards, which was good for a lofty 5.3 average. However, over his final six meetings (including the playoffs) he carried the ball 84 times for 256 yards, a meager 3.0 average. After being selected in the 3rd round of the draft out of Boise State, Alexander Mattison showed promise in his first year as a pro. He had 100 rushing attempts for 462 yards, a nice 4.6 yards-per-carry average. It will be interesting to see if he can carry the load if Cook goes down. 2.3 Wide Receivers (WRs) The Vikings had one of the most talented WR duo in Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs. They caught 113 and 102 passes, respectively, during the 2018 season. Those figures regressed to 30 and 63 last year. Thielen only played 10 games, but he was still on pace for just 48 receptions. What was the problem? In 2018, Minnesota had the 6th-highest number of passing attempts. In 2019, that rank dropped to 30th ! That being said, the team traded Diggs to Buffalo. He expressed frustration with Cousins and they didn’t seem to be on the same page. In order to compensate for that loss, GM Rick Spielman signed Tajae Sharpe, formerly of the Titans. He will fight for the #2 role opposite Thielen. The former fifth-rounder posted decent numbers in his first three years in the league. He used to be a starter, but his playing time got cut after Tennessee drafted A.J. Brown and signed Adam Humphries. Sharpe seems to be destined to be a #2 or #3 receiver in the NFL. The team also has high hopes for first-round rookie Justin Jefferson. He was very productive at LSU and he ranked second in 15+ yard receptions over the last two seasons (only Jerry Jeudy beat him). He wasn’t spectacular as an outside target, but he had a monster season playing in the slot last year. He’s great with contested catches and has a good shot to become an immediate starter. Bisi Johnson took advantage of Chad Beebe’s injury to grab the number three role last year. The 7th round rookie posted a 31-294-3 stat line, which was “okay”, but he seems like a long shot to become a true starter. The team finally pulled the plug on the failed Laquon Treadwell experiment. He’s been nothing short of a disappointment since being the #23 overall pick in the 2016 draft. He signed a contract with the Falcons in the offseason. 2.4 Tight Ends (TEs) The Kyle Rudolph – Irv Smith combo is very solid. Both guys played all 16 games with Rudolph recording slightly better numbers. He hauled in 39 passes for 367 yards and 6 TDs, while Smith’s numbers were 36-311-2. Rudolph made some highlight reel catches, his most important one being the game-winning TD catch in overtime in New Orleans. Smith is expected to expand his role in the offense with one year of experience under his belt and Diggs off the team. He showed very nice potential despite the Vikings relying very often on the running game. 2.5 Offensive Line (OL) This unit allowed the sixth-fewest sacks in the league, but that wasn’t necessarily a great accomplishment given the offense ran the ball so often. Overall, this is an average, or slightly above-average, offensive line. Here is a rundown of each starter’s PFF rankings:
Garrett Bradbury, 30th out of 37 centers;
Brian O’Neill, 33rd out of 81 tackles;
Riley Reiff, 38th out of 81 tackles;
Pat Elflein, 39th out of 81 guards;
Josh Kline, 26th out of 81 guards.
Bradbury and O’Neill were the youngest guys as first- and second-year players. It’s worth noting that O’Neill definitely improved the quality of his play from year one to year two. Riley Reiff was a candidate for release considering his big contract, which is not in sync with his on-field performance. He’s clearly not among the top left tackles in the league. After an atrocious 2018 season, Pat Elflein did better last year. He is in his mid-twenties and should remain an adequate starter (albeit, not a great one). Josh Kline was let go by the Vikings, possibly because of cap reasons and the fact he was now on the wrong side of 30. Still, this is a bit of a surprising move given the team’s lack of depth. 2019 fourth-round pick Dru Samia or career journeyman Dakota Dozier will be fighting for Kline’s spot. The Vikings selected a late riser in the second round of this year’s draft: Ezra Cleveland. He played over 95% of the snaps in three years with Boise State. He is mobile and very athletic. He seems like Riley Reiff’s heir apparent (who seems likely to be released next offseason). 2020 VS 2019 OFFENSE The starting lineup remains fairly intact with 9-of-11 starters returning. The QB, RB and TE positions should provide similar production in 2020. The WR position took a hit with the loss of Stefon Diggs, a very dangerous playmaker. He was among the best in contested catches. Acquiring a borderline starter like Tajae Sharpe won’t be enough to replace him. Let’s hope rookie Justin Jefferson can have an impact right away. On the offensive line, Bradbury and O’Neill may take a leap given their young age. However, Josh Kline leaving the team is hardly good news. Accordingly, I expect Minnesota’s offense to fall a little bit. Offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski left the team to take over as Cleveland’s head coach, but the system will remain the same under new OC Gary Kubiak. The latter oversaw the offense from the coaches box last year, so the transition shouldn’t be too difficult. Last year, the Vikings offense scored the eight-most points in the league, and I predict this year’s ranking to lie between the 10th and 16th spot. Final call (2020 vs 2019): Small downgrade
3. Defensive Position-by-Position Breakdown
3.1 Defensive Linemen (DLs) The best interior defender for the Vikings was clearly Linval Joseph. Unfortunately, the cash-strapped Vikings had to release him. A few days later, Minnesota signed Michael Pierce. The former Raven performed at a very similar level as Joseph, but he is four years younger. The run-stuffing nose tackle’s acquisition has to be viewed as a bit of a positive for the Vikings defense. The other guys seeing time on the interior of the defensive line aren’t very good. Both Shamar Stephen and Jaleel Johnson finished way below-average according to the PFF grading system. 3.2 Defensive Ends (DEs) / Edge Rushers (ED) The Vikings had one of the most fearsome DE duo with Danielle Hunter and Everson Griffen. They racked up 14.5 and 8 sacks, respectively. Casual fans probably know who Danielle Hunter is. But they don’t realize how good he is; he doesn’t get enough credit, possibly due to playing in a smaller market. If you look at the numbers, he’s been a beast. Did you know he became the youngest player in NFL history to reach the 50-sack mark? He picked up 14.5 sacks in each of the past two years, and he has averaged 10.9 over his five-year career. The former LSU player was a steal in the 3rd round of the 2015 draft! Everson Griffen is getting older at 32 years old. At the time of writing, he has yet to sign with a team. He is very likely to find a suitor, but all signs point towards him leaving Minnesota. That will leave a void for sure. Griffen has averaged 8.8 sacks during the last eight seasons. He has spent his entire 10-year career with the Vikings and has missed very few games. He’s a true warrior. So, who will take Griffen’s spot? Stephen Weatherly was a key reserve for the team last year, but he left for Carolina. Is Ifeadi Odenigbo ready to pick up the slack? He came out of nowhere to record seven sacks last year! After being chosen in the 7th round of the 2017 draft, Odenigbo barely played any snaps in his first two seasons. I seriously doubt he can be the long-term answer and I believe last year’s seven sacks were an outlier. 3.3 Linebackers (LBs) Eric Kendricks had one of the most improbable seasons last year. His PFF marks had varied between 59 and 69 since entering the league five years ago. Then, he earned a jaw-dropping 90.1 grade in 2019, which put him as the second-best linebacker in the entire league. He didn’t do much as a pass rusher, but he was great defending the run and covering people. Anthony Barr had a subpar year and finished as a below-average LB according to ProFootballFocus. He’s been a steady producer, but his grades have been all over the place during his six-year career. He received his second-lowest mark in 2019. Eric Wilson has been a reserve player since joining the league in 2017. He’ll likely have a similar role in the upcoming season. He did show adequate skills last year. 3.4 Cornerbacks (CBs) Wow, a lot of shuffling has taken place with Minnesota’s secondary during the offseason. Both 2019 starters, Trae Waynes and Xavier Rhodes, are gone to other teams. And their primary slot corner, Mackensie Alexander, also signed with another squad. Ouch. Waynes never played at the level of a #11 overall pick, but he yielded steady play during his five-year stint with the Vikings. His PFF grades have been very consistent year-over-year, and he repeatedly finished slightly above-average among all CBs. He’s the guy the team will miss the most. Let’s face the reality: Xavier Rhodes was one of the worst corners in the league last year. His play took a big hit in 2018, and things got even worse in 2019. He really needed a chance of scenery; perhaps joining the Colts will rejuvenate his career. As for Mackensie Alexander, I feel like the team should have tried harder to keep him. His first two seasons were difficult after getting drafted in the 2nd round out of Clemson, but his last couple of years were much more promising. He could have rendered some valuable services to a team that had just lost its two starters. The door is now wide open for 2018 first-rounder Mike Hughes. The jury is still out on whether he can assume a starting role in the NFL, but I guess we’ll find out very soon. The Vikings decided to address the glaring hole at the position by selecting Jeff Gladney with the 31st overall pick in this year’s draft. Gladney is a sound tackler and a good blitzer too. He was a four-year starter out of TCU, where he was one of just two players with at least 15 passes defended in each of the past two years. However, he has a lengthy injury history. 3.5 Safeties (S) Harrison Smith is a perennial All-Pro safety. He’s been racking up tackles and interceptions throughout his eight-year tenure in the NFL. Averaging close to 3 picks per season over such a long span is impressive. Talk about defying the odds. Anthony Harris went undrafted five years ago. Fast-forward to today, and he’s received 89.0 and 91.1 grades from PFF the last two seasons. He finished as the top safety in the NFL out of 87 qualifiers. In other words, the Vikings may have the best safety duo in the NFL. The only bad news is they lost depth when both Andrew Sendejo and Jayron Kearse left via free agency. 2020 VS 2019 DEFENSE Replacing Linval Joseph with Michael Pierce is a small gain for this Vikings defense, in my opinion. That’s about it for the good news for this unit. Stud pass rusher Everson Griffen seems destined to leave the team, and one of their main backups, Stephen Weatherly signed with the Panthers. At linebacker, I don’t mean to be a party pooper, but Kendricks is very unlikely to match his 2019 performance. He had been an average LB for four years; I doubt the switch suddenly went on and that he will keep being a top 5 linebacker in the NFL. Last year’s top three CBs are gone, as well as two backups at the safety position. As of now, the team hasn’t signed any free agent to replace them. This is not a surprise, considering the bad cap situation the team is in. They drafted a few guys, including Jeff Gladney late in the first round, but their impact remains to be seen. Many new faces on defense, plus a drop in talent invariably equals a big downgrade. The team allowed the fifth-fewest points in the league last year; they’ll be lucky if they finish above-average in 2020. Final call (2020 vs 2019): Big downgrade
4. Regular Season Wins
According to sportsbooks, the Minnesota Vikings are expected to win 8.5 games this season. Should we bet the “over” or the “under”? I'll answer this question via two different methods. 4.1 Professor MJ's Prediction I won't go into the mathematical details, but here is a summary of my own personal pick (based on my analysis above and my estimated spreads for the Vikings' 16 games): OVER 8.5 WINS
Estimated Probability: 72%
Best Odds: -121 (DraftKings)
UNDER 8.5 WINS
Estimated Probability: 28%
Best Odds: +139 (Pinnacle)
Tip: Bet OVER 8.5 wins 4.2 Based on BetOnline's Point Spreads Here is the methodology I used here:
Use BetOnline.ag’s point spreads on all 256 regular season games.
Convert those point spreads into win probabilities.
Simulate each of the 256 games, according to those win probabilities, via the R statistical software.
Repeat the previous step one million times (you get 1M simulated seasons).
Count the proportion of seasons where the Vikings won more or less than 8.5 games.
Here are the results: OVER 8.5 WINS
Estimated Probability: 63.1%
Best Odds: -121 (DraftKings)
UNDER 8.5 WINS
Estimated Probability: 36.9%
Best Odds: +139 (Pinnacle)
Tip: Bet OVER 8.5 wins Here are BetOnline’s point spreads for the Vikings’ 16 regular season games:
HOME: -6 vs ATL, -9 vs CAR, -4 vs CHI, -2.5 vs DAL, -7 vs DET, -3 vs GB, -11.5 vs JAX, -3.5 vs TEN.
[Humanity Fucks You] #6: CCT 2 and the Fenrir Suits in Action
Hello HFY, the next in my series of what happens when humanity's special gift in the stars is to have children with whoever they damn well please. As with the prior 5, I welcome constructive criticism. I don't really have much to say this time around, other than let's see if Cass's CCT ends up being 2 or 3 stories. Also, given that the perspective is shifting around I'm going to be starting each section with the date and character whose perspective it currently is. As always, all you humans and mixed breeds: Keep those comments exciting! Author Wiki | Series Wiki | World Anvil First | Previous | Next -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Post Writing Author's Note
Well, it took me 3 days to get this written and it came out as probably the biggest thing I've ever written. Part of the problem of trying to take som many things going on and put them into a single story. But, hey, I managed to get both parts of the CCT arc into good cliffhanger states. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- August 20, 2214: Cassandra Ferrell, Adams III Space Force Resupply Base Cass looked over the grass field from the tree she had taken a seat under. Along the perimeter of the field was a patchwork chain-link fence with a haphazard mix of barbed wire and razor wire laid on top of it, beyond which the well kept and only slightly out of date facilities of Adams III were visible. Looks like they were stuck with the overstock. Within the field of grass was 10 tastefully planted trees, crisscrossing packed dirt roads, a scattering of large, garage style, white tents and 3 permanent structures: A large, square stone building that had 2 doors with the Unity symbols for male and female painted on them, a 3 story, mark 13 prefabricated office building (made primarily from steel, aluminum and titanium), and a wooden building, in the shape of an ancient round house with the word "MESS" painted above the main door. This place looks half-assed. Guess the Space Forces doesn't take civilian combatants seriously. Lazily sweeping over the field again, Cass focused in on what was closer to her. 9 other groups of about 20 humans and mixed breeds mulling about, each group under one of the well planted trees with a little sign with a number on it, ranging from 1 to 10. All of the people within the groups where wearing the same white t-shirt, with CCT and a number written on the back in black, and black athletic shorts that Cass was, each with a day bag and a duffle bag placed at their feet. I feel like I'm in gym class again. Moving almost silently around and between the numbered groups, on the dirt roads, were 3 pickup trucks with metal pipes welded onto the beds to serve as mounts for a russian looking machine gun. Nothing screams militia like a technical. At least they're electric. Finally, Cass brought her attention to her group: 18 human men, all of them obviously pure blooded except for the older man with yellow eyes and green tinted hair, a skittish looking werewolf woman, and herself. Hopefully they don't get any ideas in their heads. Of her group, the men formed 3 groups that seemed to fluidly gain and lose members, with the occasional straggler talking to the old man with yellow eyes. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- August 21, 2214: Doctor Brooke Reid Ferrell, UGEC Space Force New Eden Staging Station 8 Dr. Ferrell stood on the last rung of a step ladder connecting cords into the back panel on a 240 cm tall suit of black metal armor. After attaching the final cord, she climbed down and walked over to a terminal sitting in the center of the room. With a few taps on the screen, something resembling the dashboard of a plane appeared on the terminal's screen, Dr. Ferrell quickly swiping through the pages of gauges and graphs. Finally finding what she was looking for, Dr. Ferrell pressed a 3 different big red buttons before inputting a code into the terminal. "Alright Jupiter, talk to me. Air still flowing in there?" The Doctor asked, facing her head at the metal goliath. "Yeah. Am I finally on internal power?" Asked the suit in a thundering voice that echoed in the mostly empty room. "Yes, the microfusion core is active. I've also taken the liberty of equipping Fenrir 4 with a matter anti-matter device, which will detonate if you are dead and more than 50 meters away from Mars or Jupiter. Also, turn down your output volume." "Corporate? Also, is this better." The black giant asked in a volume similar to the Doctor's. "Yes it is. The matter anti-matter device was my idea. Can't have the suits being captured. Of course, if you need to you can just remove the device and plant it like any other bomb you've used in the past." Said Dr. Ferrell as she turned back to the terminal. "That's not really that reassuring. What happens if I'm hit with an EMP?" "First, the onboard shields should absorb it. If those fail, all the important electronics are shielded. If you happen to be hit by something powerful enough to disable a destroyer, you'll already be dead." "So, care to give me the real briefing while we finish up the pre-flight checks?" "First, turn your head to the left then the right and then center your vision on the green dot on the wall. As for what is happening, Mars, Venus and you will be waiting in the asteroid belt around where the namies are predicted to move through. The area is a mix of disabled satellites, asteroids and comets that have been mined out, and trash that we don't have space for on New Eden. You will be lying in wait for the biggest ship you can sight, then using the cold thrust to attach and attack. From there, break into the ship, vent heat once stealth is no longer required, and kill everything that moves." Doctor Ferrell said matter-of-factly while scanning over the gauges and graphs displayed on the terminal in front of her. The hulking Fenrir suit moved its head left, then right, then centered as it listened. "Our objective? The actual one." "A live fire test and stop the fleet from reaching New Eden. If you do need to place the matter anti-matter bomb, make sure to get the hell away from it and activate Fenrir 4's distress beacon. Alright now move your right arm from straight down to straight up, then fully back to fully forward." The right arm of the metal suit move deftly as it followed the Doctor's orders. "So, go in guns blazing and pick the biggest fight I can? Got it." "That's the short version. Now repeat with your left arm." As the left arm made its movements, nearly nocking the suits docking station over, it asked "How are Mars and Venus?" "They're waiting at the shuttle. We're almost done. I need you to walk around a bit, then we'll double check the weapons." Doctor Ferrell said, finally looking up from her terminal to watch as her metal titan moved from its dock. "By the way, why are you doing this? This station is guaranteed to be a target. You're taking a big risk being here." The titan queried as it marched around. "This is important. Not only to New Eden and her defenders, but also to the people paying the bills. Honestly, the whole damn project and 6 years of my personal toils are at stake here. I need to be certain the suits are at 100% and that I'm on standby for if something goes wrong. I can't trust anyone else to that yet." "Oh. Shit. Guess I'd better make one hell of a show." "You better. You ready to test the weapons?" "Yeah. Shoot the already shot up armor panel?" ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- August 20, 2214: Cassandra Ferrell, Adams III Space Force Resupply Base I've just met this asshole and I already want to throttle him! Cass stood with at attention, along with the rest of Squad 4, all facing a caramel skinned, square jawed, 2 meter tall slab of human muscle wearing his blonde hair high and tight. The man was dressed in a set of camouflage fatigues with matching combat boots and the stereotypical, wide brimmed drill instructor hat. On his fatigues was a small patch above his right breast pocket with the word "ERICSSON." Did this the Instructor get his getup at a costume shop? "NOW THAT YOU MAGGOTS HAVE FIGURED OUT HOW TO STAND IN A LINE, IT'S TIME FOR INTRODUCTIONS!" Instructor Ericsson shouted, at the top of his lungs, pacing back and forth on the grass and looking over his "students" like a wolf looks over a heard of sheep. "I AM INSTRUCTOR ERICSSON AND YOU MAGGOTS WILL ONLY REFER TO ME AS INSTRUCTOR ERICSSON! WHEN YOU SAY SOMETHING TO ME, IT IS GOING TO START AND END WITH SIR! AM I UNDERSTOOD!?" Instructor Ericsson continued, stopping his pacing after his question. "SIR, YES, SIR!" Came the reply from Squad 4 as Cass's gaze drifted over to Squad 6. Danny and company where sitting cross legged on the grass while Instructor Sam called out names. One by one, hands were raised and names were crossed off her list. Instructor Sam turned around to set her clipboard down on the back of an SUV with some ablative panels attached to it, giving Cass a good view at the object of Danny's affections. She was an elf, wearing a camo T-shirt with the same black athletic shorts everyone else was wearing and blessed with fully human colored, yellow skin, sharp, squinted eyes, silky, chocolate hair done up in a bun, and blemish free skin. Her youthful, soft face became clear as Cass focused harder, as well as an athletic body with a tastefully large bosom. Jesus, Danny's setting his bar high. "NAME!" Shouted Instructor Ericsson as hard as he could, barely 20 cm from Cass's face. "Cassandra Ferrell." Cass replied, unamused. Do I look like a marine to you, asshole? "WAS I NOT LOUD ENOUGH FOR YOU, MAGGOT?! WHEN YOU WERE OFF DAY DREAMING, I TOLD YOU MAGGOTS TO START AND END EVERY SENTENCE WITH SIR!" Ericsson shouted, spraying Cass with his spit and his breath. You need a breath mint. "You actually said 'When you say something to me, it is going to start and end with sir,' but with more shouting." Cass replied, continuing to speak calmly and evenly. "Listen here, maggot, you will do what I say as I say it or I will make sure that I see every meal you eat twice." Whispered Instructor Ericsson, as he stared Cass in the eyes. Brown and blue. He's heterochromatic. "So you can talk like a normal person." Instructor Ericsson took in a deep breath before growling out "Name." "Cassandra Ferrell." I'm so glad you were paying attention the first time. "Do you have a problem with authority, maggot?" "No." "Do you have a problem hearing, maggot?" "No." "THEN WHAT THE FUCK IS YOUR PROBLEM?! MAGGOT!!" Instructor Ericsson spat out with pure venom. Cass spoke with a slightly condescending tone as she said "We could start with that I'm not a marine, that you're a Civilian Combat Training Instructor, or that CCT is meant to teach how to be a creative militia, not how to be a soldier that blindly follows orders." "THIS IS MY SQUAD, MAGGOT! YOU ARE IN MY SQUAD! I AM IN CONTR..." Cass took in a deep breath before speaking. "You have already broken 4 UGEC laws in under an hour, including verbal abuse, verbal assault, and making threats. You have also broken at least 13 different social laws, split between the Federation of Yyyn Controlled Planets and the planetary government of G31-1-4 and you've probably committed hazing, but I would have to talk to some of my coworkers to get the exact details there." "What of it?" Growled out the Instructor. I didn't realize he could turn a shade of tomato. "A minimum of 30,000 Unity credits in fines and I'm sure that the legal team over at CCT Command would love to hear about your rampant law breaking, as well." Hold the poker face. Don't smile. Before Instructor Ericsson could respond, a loud rumbling sound mixed with mechanical whining filled the air as a well used replica of a M3 halftrack drove out of one of the garage style tents. All of the groups and instructors watched as the M3 lazily rumbled across the dirt roads before parking in the center of the assembled groups. A speaker attached to the M3 shouted out "Squad 1, retrieve equipment." Walking back to the front of Squad 4, Instructor Ericsson began pacing back and forth as he shouted "LISTEN UP, MAGGOTS! WHEN SQUAD 4 GETS CALLED, I EXPECT YOU MAGGOTS TO FORM A STRAIGHT, SINGLE FILE LINE, TAKE THE EQUIPMENT THE QUARTERMASTER HANDS YOU, THANK HIM, AND RETURN TO EXACTLY WHERE YOU ARE STANDING! AM I UNDERSTOOD!?" Squad 4, including Cass, responded with a "Sir, yes, sir." This battle isn't worth it. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- August 22, 2214: Doctor Brooke Reid Ferrell, UGEC Space Force New Eden Staging Station 8 "Mars, in position, awaiting orders." "Venus, in position, awaitidng orders." "Jupiter, in position, awaiting orders." Doctor Ferrell sat in the command room, surrounded by computer terminals, monitors big and small, and Space Force officers. Her current chair was placed on a raised platform in the back, second in height to the chair in which the Admiral Wolf of the New Eden Defence Fleet sat, giving her the ability to see the whole of the command room. The ironically quarter itari Admiral Wolf looked down at Dr. Ferrell, his 2 sandy brown, sort, cat-like ears standing straight up and facing forward. "Doctor, all units are in place and our ships have returned to defensive positions. Any words to the troops before I call radio silence?" "Yes Admiral." Dr. Ferrell said, grabbing the microphone attached to her chair and pressing the TALK button. "All units, this is Doctor Ferrell. Operation Rocky Grave officially starts once Project Silent Night is activated. Until it has, you are to stay hidden. As you all know, the primary objective of Operation Rocky Grave is to prevent the namy fleet from reaching a firing position that can target New Eden, but what many of you don't know is the secondary object: To capture as many namy ships as possible. They possess tactically useful information and technology, but remember that to somebody on New Eden, each of you is more important than those ships. For that reason, I expect to see each of you return safely. Good luck and god speed." Dr. Ferrell looked up at Admiral Wolf. "I'm done." "All units, this is Admiral Wolf calling radio silence. It will be lifted 10 minutes after you successfully board an enemy vessel. Over." One by one, the dots on the tac-map at the front of the command room slowly blinked out, until only the quantum-linked comm sat remained. With that, the whole of the command room breathed a sigh of relief before continuing their duties. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- August 20, 2214: Cassandra Ferrell, Adams III Space Force Resupply Base Cass sat at the square wooden table with the skittish werewolf, her muscles aching. So far, she had set up her tent and cot, had a silent lunch with her squad, and then PT from lunch till dinner. I now understand why far worlders never seem to get fat. Cass took a moment to study the werewolf: a little under 3 meters tall, a wall of muscle covered in course black fur, with the assortment of arms and legs with the only notable change to the hands being ocean blue painted claws, and head that looked stolen straight from a wolf, gold eyes and all. She must be a gentle giant. "Sssssssssooooooooo, what's your name?" Cass asked, poking at the mystery meat stew that claimed to be beef. "Kathrine." The 3 meters of scaredy-cat replied, before nervously adding "But, but, but, my friends call me Kat." "Bet the Kat jokes get old. I'm Cassandra, but everyone calls me Cass. It's a pleasure to meet you." Cass said, holding out her right hand and putting on a gentle smile. "Yeah, they do and it is, uh, nice to meet, um, you too." Kat said, grabbing the comparatively tiny hand of Cass and giving it a good shake. I wonder if a belly rub would help her calm down. "Have you had Ericsson before?" Cass asked, picking up her bowl of mystery meat stew and drinking it quickly, before she could taste it. "Yeah, for 2 years now. I-I-I hope that you calling him out this morning makes him less shouty." Kat stated, hunching over the table as she spoke. Me too, girlfriend. "Yeah, I think everyone agrees with you there, Kat. What do you do for a job? For fun?" "Uh, um, well I'm a botanist. I mostly work on genetically engineering plants for new colonization efforts, but I've also done some work for planetary enterprises. If you've had corn, green beans or wheat products here, I worked on making those farmable on G31-1-4. As for what I do for fun? Floral gardening, mainly. I also like going to nezba concerts. It's nice, slow, quiet music." Ah ha! Got her talking confidently for a moment. "I work as a translator for the diplomats up in Yadakulter station. Not many know this, but I'm actually fluent in 3 different wresh languages. For fun, I go to parties, thought there aren't that many on Yadakulter, hang out with fiends, listen to music, and sometimes play video games. Mostly just the ones that my friends get me into." "Wow, that's way more intere..." Kat trailed off as Instructor Sam pulled a chair back from the square table. "May I join ya?" Asked Instructor Sam, while setting down her bowl of what looked to be actual beef stew. "Of course. I don't think we've met yet. I'm Cass." Cass said with a smile. "I-I-I'm Kat. Nice to, to meet ya." Kat said, her body pulling back from the table a few centimeters. "Instructor Samantha Kirk. Yes, both my parents were elves." Instructor Sam said, dismissively waving her right hand as she spoke of her lineage. Right, yyyn and elves take longer to happen than the rest of us. "What brings you over to our little table?" Inquired Cass. "I'm curious what got Erik so riled this morning. He shouted loud enough my squad couldn't hear what I was telling them and when I looked over he was close enough to kiss ya." Stated Instructor Sam before taking a bite of her actually beef stew. "He just couldn't handle someone who wouldn't play boot camp with him." Cass said nonchalantly. "You're maybe the second person I've met who can stand having Erik bear down on them. The other was an actual drill sergeant, if I remember correctly. So, how did you handle being under Erik's fire?" Instructor Sam asked, a couple of onion substitutes still in her mouth. Someone's seriously curious. "Dad's in the SF. Back when I was little, he worked shuttle maintenance for a Space Force resupply base on New Eden. Spent half my childhood following Dad all around Hawthorne. Not only have I met sensor techs scarier than Ericsson, I also spent more than a few days watching poor saps go through boot camp. Most SF RDCs actually make good babysitters." Master Chief Schmidt was actually a really nice guy when he wasn't making recruits Schmidt themselves. "RDCs?" Kat managed to get off before Instructor Sam could respond. "Recruit Division Commanders. They're the drill instructors for the Space Force, and most UGEC navies." Cass recited back. "Well that explains it. Bet he doesn't even compare to the professionals." Instructor Sam inquired. You don't even know the half of it. "He lacks the creativity and the colorful words. It's hard to see someone whose entire repertoire of 'bad words' is maggot and fuck as intimidating." Cass stated. Kat shivered a little before saying "Well, Instructor Ericsson scares me." Without a moment's hesitation Cass blurted out "That's okay. You're a sweet girl, and he has no right to yell at you!" ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- August 23, 2214: Codename Jupiter, Fenrir 4, New Eden Asteroid Belt, Anados Debris Field Jupiter squirmed in his suit of Fenrir Assault Power Armor. Sure, it was designed to be lived in for 5 days, but not comfortably. Through the visor he could see the target of the test fire, a half kilometer long, beak shaped namy battleship, slowly shedding black plating to reveal the bright yellow and red hull beneath. Can the fucking birds make anything that doesn't look like it belongs in a children's book? The Fenrir suit unlocked at Jupiter's command. Ah, it feels nice to be able to move again. With a careful squat and push, Jupiter and his armor began the slow hurtle towards the, now obviously a Kek-class, battleship. He looked around as he drifted, watching as the gamble started to show signs of paying off. Seems like the admiralty's belief that the namies were gonna bunch up was right. Within visual range (with only a 4x zoom require to see), there were hundreds of almost invisible black dots descending on the visible ships, and even a few slightly more visible shuttles. As Jupiter looked back at his target, a small jet of white fluid shooting out from his suit to correct his course, he could see Mars (Fenrir 2) and Venus (Fenrir 1) clearly against the colorful Kek-class, each drifting a hundred, or so, meters ahead of him. Guess I'm gonna be stuck buying drinks when we get back. Within five minutes, Jupiter was reorienting himself to land feet first on his target, quickly checking where Mars and Venus had landed before him. THUD. Jupiter took a moment to just walk for the first time in almost an entire day, lazily looking for where Venus was headed. Shit, if Venus finds the entrance first I'm gonna have to buy Mars dinner and drinks. To his dread, Jupiter spotted Venus already opening the maintenance panel to one of the Kek's external airlocks. It didn't take long for Jupiter to group up with the other 2 Fenrir operators, who could only communicate by hand signals and aggressive nodding. Before Charades in Space was over, Venus managed to open the airlock. The 3 of them piled in before closing the outer door and, within 2 minutes after landing, entered the battleship. When the airlock door opened, Jupiter could see a namy standing there, frozen in terror. The thing looked like someone took a dodo, made it the size of an emu, and then made it as colorful as a parrot. Fuck, fuck, shit. Jupiter dropped his shoulder down and charged, the Fenrir suit slamming into the namy, then the wall, leaving only a blood stain, a dent, and some feathers as evidence of the poor bird. That was... smooth. Looks like the doc was serious about operating at 100. Jupiter took in the bright green hallway as his team readied their weapons: Each of them was equipped with an M301 Variable Yield Magnetic Acceleration Rifle, which borrowed its appearance from H&K's G36, a different wrist and shoulder weapon for each operator, and a backup M2-T3 Machine Gun, a modification of the almost 300 year old .50 machine gun that gave it a shorter, heaver barrel, shoulder stock, and pistol grip with trigger for use with powered armor. Rifle, check. Wrist mounted plasma projector, check. Shoulder mounted grenade launcher, check. Powder weapon, check. By the 5 minutes after landing mark, Jupiter and his team had already captured the battleship's main computer and cleared it of hostiles. I'm amazed the namies put it so close to the airlock. While Venus set about pulling all the information they could, Jupiter spoke, the Fenrir suit turning his voice into something comparable to an artillery strike. "We've passed the five minute mark. Turn comms back on. I'll handle the sync with command. Mars, watch the door. Venus, keep doing whatever you are with the computer." As the stream of data started flooding in, Jupiter commanded the suit's comm suite through the automated systems, finally getting a connection to command. "Command, this is Assault Team 100. We've boarded a kek class battleship and have gained access to the main computer core. We are pulling a full data dump and will upload immediately after. Over." "Assault Team 100, this is command. We are ready to receive the packet whenever you are ready. Current positional data indicates you have boarded the Glorious Kek Class of Rightful Retribution and Mesmerizing Fire. I'm assigning your team to Battle Group 9. Over." "Assignment received. Operative Venus has the packet and is sending it now. Will coordinate with Battle Group 9. Assault Team 100 out." Jupiter waited as the tactical information of Battle Group 9 flooded in. 5 Thor suit fire teams, 20 SWAT units and 1 anti-terror unit. Primarily focused around the rear of the ship. According to the map Venus found, we're the closest to the bridge. "Battle Group 9, this is Assault Team 100. According to a map we found, we're the closest to the bridge. Going to make a mad rush for the bridge, but we'll be down one. After Operative Venus is done uploading what she can pull from the central computer, she'll group up with the closest Assault Team. How copy?" "This is Assault Team 29, serving as lead for Battle Group 9. We hear you Assault Team 100. We'll clean out the ass and perform the anti-scuttling operations, you go ahead after the bridge. Out." Jupiter turned to Mars. "You're with me. Venus, you think you can keep yourself safe?" "Go and have your guy time, I'll be fine." Venus replied with an annoyed tone. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Jupiter and Mars tore through most of the path to the bridge with ease, their M301s taking care of most of the Rightful Retribution's security crew, but they had to resort to their M2-T3s and wrist weapons when they ran into namy powered armor units. Half an hour after the landing mark, Jupiter stood at a massive armored door, which Mars was pulling open far easier than he had any right to. Why do I get the feeling this is the boss zone? Jupiter entered the massive room with his left arm extended, his M301 securely in his right. As the namy powered armor suits of ocean blue and scarlet red jumped from their ambush, Jupiter let loose with his wrist's plasma projector. The bright green and blue beam took barely a second each to cook his seven assailants inside their own armor. A blast of yellow plasma made Jupiter's shields activate fully, the operator quickly rolling to his right. Capacitors at 3% and reactor generating at full power. Please don't be a tank. Jupiter stood up from his roll and ran quickly, dodging the barrage of yellow plasma consistently being sent in his direction. After finding a position the new enemy could fire at him in, Jupiter peeked around the corner of the half melted namy tank he had hunkered behind. Firing at his position were 3 namy heavy tanks, each mounted with dual tank killing plasma projectors, anti-infantry laser cannons, and ramming blades. That is some bullshit levels of firepower. Were they planning a ground invasion? When Mars entered the vehicle bay, Jupiter had already gotten all three of the heavy tanks attention, allowing him to easily walk far enough in the bay to have the vertical clearance to launch both of his shoulder mounted anti-tank missiles. Each missile launched straight into the air, turned almost on a dime, then flew downward onto their targets. At this range, the tanks' active defenses didn't have time to intercept the missiles, allowing them to penetrate the tops of the tanks' turrets and explode leaving a lone heavy tank, which now angrily turned towards Mars. Perfect timing, you son of a bitch. Jupiter ran to the next bay as the tank followed his teammate. Capacitors at 12%. The wrist projector is going to suck up too much juice. The bay that Jupiter ran into held only the floating equivalent of a humvee, daintily hovering with a power line keeping it alive. This'll do. Jupiter grabbed the rear of the namy humvee and ran, pushing it into the vehicle bay's main corridor and giving it a single, hard push towards the last tank. As the namy humvee ripped from the power line, it quickly began falling towards the ground, skidding underneath the tank and pushing its rear higher, throwing a shot that could have killed Mars into the floor with a loud crash. Mars hauled ass into the vehicle bays as the last tank turned back to Jupiter. Capacitors at 18%. Still no good. Jupiter jumped towards a pile of crates, using the cold thrusters to provide what little extra help they could. Please be empty, please be empty. A burst of molten metal shot from the front of the crate Jupiter hid behind as the first shot from the tank hit it. Jupiter quickly looked around and found another namy humvee in its bay and sprinted over to it, barely avoiding the tank's second shot. 22%. I wish Mars had taken that wrist rocket. The namy heavy tank rumbled as it rushed towards Jupiter's position, plasma projectors glowing yellow and ready to fire. Jupiter braced to run again when the tank's plasma projectors suddenly shut down, followed by yellow plasma shooting out of the top of the turret of the tank. He quickly walked out of the vehicle bay that could have been his grave. Mars stood opposite the tank from Jupiter as he exited, holding one of the plasma projectors the namy tanks used with a long power line attached to it. Motioning down to the projector, Mars asked "Hey Jupiter, can I keep it?" "Will you remember to feed and groom it daily, Mars?" "Aww, fine." Mars tossed the tank projector to the ground, a loud thump echoing through the vehicle bay. Jupiter turned towards the fore door of the vehicle bay. Two hallways, a set of stairs, then the bridge itself. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 40 minutes after after the landing mark, Jupiter and Mars stood at the blast door to the bridge, Jupiter ramming his shoulder into the bridge door repeatedly, making the dent in it bigger and bigger. "I should have taken the grav pulse cannon Venus had." Mars said between the sounds of 30 centimeters of metal slowly giving way. "The shotgun's gonna be more useful once were in!" Jupiter said as he finally sailed through the door, sending the piece of metal into the bridge, crushing one of the too colorful birds. Mars charged in shortly after, the gatling shotgun on his wrist sending over 2,000 lead pellets into the whole of the bridge. As Jupiter stood up, recovering from winning his fight with the door, he surveyed the damage. Looks like we were just in time. Jupiter moved over to the pilots panel, which was thankfully holographic and undamaged by Mars's torrent of lead. Turning down every slider he could identify, Jupiter looked up just in time to witness a namy use the last of his life to press one of the holographic buttons. A bright yellow flashed over the view screen as a ball of plasma was launched at relativistic speeds, leaving view as quickly as it had come into it. Jupiter and Mars stood still, taking in what had just happen, when a message was broadcast to all New Eden units. "This is Captain Colbert of the Finality! Staging Station 8 has been hit! I repeat, Staging Station 8 has been hit!. Looks like atmosphere is leaking out and the Finality is picking up fires near the impact zone... Oh god, it's spinning and it looks like auto-correction is causing the station to enter a de-orbit trajectory. The Finality is moving to provide emergency aid!" Jupiter felt paralyzed. If the station de-orbited and hit anywhere on New Eden, it would be devastating. And if the Doc goes, I'm gonna have to tell Taylor. Mars, on the other hand, moved like a blur, appearing over the dying namy, unloading the last of his rotary shotgun and the final 50ish rounds of his M2 into the bird, leaving only a hole where the bird once was. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- August 25, 2214: Cassandra Ferrell, Adams III Space Force Resupply Base Cass sat at the bar, nursing a beer and rubbing her sore muscles. 5 days in a row of PT, team building exercises, and sleeping in tents on shitty wooden cots and the worst of it was the wannabe drill instructor! At least I get a two day break from it. She looked at the kigkig bartender, a 10 limbed, ant-like horror with 4 of its limbs forming a quadpod stand at its hips with the other 6 being arms with 3 clawed digits that were currently cleaning glasses and serving drinks, with two gecko-like eyes planted into an otherwise ant-like head, mandibles and all. The dirt brown exoskeleton of the kigkig made the body, head and abdomen appear as if they were armored, despite the little guy only being 120ish cm tall. "Hey Cass, how you holding up?" Came the voice of Danny as he sat down next to Cass. "Sore, but alive. They don't talk about the CCT PT in the core worlds. Wait... what are you doing here, you're not old enough to drink yet!" Cass replied. "Getting dinner and checking up on a friend. I was originally hanging out with my squad, but they've gone barhopping." "Oh. Was Sam with them?" Cass questioned, eyebrows raising. "No, she had a checkup meeting, or something like that." Danny said, his upper shoulders drooping slightly. "Have you tried asking her out?" "No. I live on the station and she lives planet side. I don't think that kind of long distance relationship would work. Besides, when would I even ask?" Danny threw up his arms as he spoke, setting them back down gently as his food arrived. "Listen, Danny. Ask her when the rest of the squad isn't around, because if you ask in front of a crowd, any yes you get'll be forced. You may have to ask her if you can talk to her in private. She seems like a nice girl, so I doubt she'll be a dick about it." Cass spoke with her motherly voice. Here I am giving sage advice. "Yeah, but that doesn't help the whole long distance thing. Having to get a shuttle down to the planet kills the idea of impromptu dates and stuff." Danny said, sounding even more defeated than before. "Look, Danny, she works for CCT. She isn't really going to be able to do the impromptu stuff, so you'd have plenty of warning on when you could go down and visit, or she could come up and visit. Outside of that, find a game, or something, on the web the two of you can have fun over. That helps to shrink the distance." "That's a good point, Cass. You win this one. You just here to drink or do you need me out of your hair?" "Don't know yet, but I'm planning on drinking proper, so you may want to go off on your own before I end up ruining our friendship while I'm drunk." Danny stood up while grabbing his food. "Enjoy your night. Oh, if your up for it tomorrow, there's an arcade I know about that the rest of my squad is 'too old for.'" Bet Danny's squad can't handle having their asses kicked by preteens with nothing better to do. "Thanks, we'll see tomorrow." Cass said, taking another sip from her drink. After an hour, or so, of drinking, eating and talking with the locals, Cass was approached by an elven woman, turning to look at the lithe figure as she approached. The woman was a roughly 160 cm tall brunette, her silky hair falling halfway down her back, with perfectly tanned skin, a soft face, as far as a drunken Cass could tell, and a body straight from baywatch. The elf's ears stuck out from her hair, the right ear having 3 silver earings rings that hugged the lobe near its point while the left was left as nature made it. I can't tell if its the booze, but she might be a goddess. Sitting down next to Cass and putting a bill, that Cass was too drunk to read quickly, on the counter, the elf turned to Cass and said "Can I buy you a drink beautiful?" "You can buy me as many as you like. I'm Cass. You?" Cass replied, a hungry smile spreading itself across her lips. "Erika. Now, what brings a cute kitsune like you to my favorite watering hole?" The elf woman replied, taking a seat and holding up 2 fingers to the kigkig bartender. "Got today and tomorrow off from CCT, so I figured I'd save tomorrow for hangover day." Cass casually shrugged as a 2 shots of clear liquid were placed before her and Erika. "First week? You gotta be sore after that." Erika jokingly said before throwing back her shot. "Hell yeah I'm sore, but I feel great right now!" Cass grabbed her shot and tossed it back. "What do you think about waking up sorer tomorrow?" Erika said, holding up 2 fingers to the bartender again, a grin matching Cass's upon her lips. "I'm listening." Cass said, leaning in closer to Erika and tossing back her shot the moment the bartender let go of it. "Well, a friend of mine is setting up an orgy tonight and when I saw you, I thought 'That cute little kitsune at the bar would make for a great friend to bring to the orgy.'" Erika said, her smile growing larger as she spoke. "You know what, I'll bite. How much longer do I have to get to know you?" Cass asked. "About an hour."
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