The Los Angeles Rams’ Historic 2018 Season Ends in Heartbreak

The 2018 NFL season has come to a close. Like many of you, I didn’t expect it to end this way. The heartbreak was supposed to go to the other team. I believed the Los Angeles Rams would finally get sweet, sweet vengeance against New England Patriots QB Tom Brady and Head Coach Bill Belichick.

But here we are.

The confetti has fallen. The Lombardi Trophy has been presented. It’s heading back to Foxborough. Again.

Yuck.

I am angry, frustrated, and sad. And I’m sympathetic to the players who actually played in the game because I’m sure they’re feeling the same way. The defense had the game of their life, holding Brady and the Patriots to only 3 points going into the 4th quarter. The offense knows that it was anemic and needed to do better. And for some of the players eyeing retirement, this may have been their last shot.

But, while it’s easy to get caught in the vacuum of this loss, I understand, as we all should, that this season was amazing. Two or more seasons ago, getting to the Super Bowl was a pipe dream. Now, we know we’re coming back, we’re too good not to. Maybe it’s next season, maybe it’s two seasons from now, but we’ll be back. The playoffs are no longer going to be strangers to us and this team either, they’re going to be a close friend that we see often.

So, let’s take some time to mourn this loss and then as 3k said, move forward. Onward, and upward.

One last thing while we’re all trolling around social media: Let’s try and remember that the players are human beings too.

On to the offseason.

This Article was originally written by Kristian and published at Turf Show Times

An ode to LA Rams Punter Johnny Hekker

I’d like to take a moment to reflect on of the most the under-appreciated players in the NFL: Los Angeles Rams P Johnny Hekker.

I know what you’re thinking. “Kristian, what do you mean underappreciated? I appreciate the hell out of him!” And I believe you! You, dear reader, are a Rams fan. You and I have experienced a prolonged period where the best unit the Rams would field on Sundays was the Special Teams unit. A lot of that is thanks to the very capable abilities of Special Teams Coach John Fassel, but Hekker’s contributions are tremendous.

When our offense was terrible, he gave our defense a fighting chance by literally flipping the field, kicking punts as far as 78 yards. I’m going to give you a second to take that in.

And punting isn’t his only skill, he can throw the ball too. He’s got an overall 60% completion rate and a career 112.4 passer rating. To compare, Jared Goff has a 60.2% completion rate and a 90.5 passer rating. I’m not advocating for Hekker to replace Goff here (or am I?), that’d be dumb, but there is a reason why, for a long time, Hekker has been considered the emergency QB with out reservations from anyone.

And this last week, when K Greg Zuerlein had a pre-game injury against the Cardinals, it was Hekker who stepped in to make the kicks. His kick offs were great, and he made a 20 yard field goal and a point after attempt. Those aren’t Zuerlein numbers to be sure, but in a league where people paid to do nothing but kick field goals and PATs are missing left and right, that’s nothing to scoff at. When asked about it after the game Hekker said it was “A little nerve-wracking, but I’ve watched the best kicker in the NFL, week in and week out, watching Greg Zuerlein practice. I just tried to emulate him as best I could.”

What a professional.

I was hoping he’d win Special Teams player of the Week, but that went to Tennessee Titans S Dane Cruikshank for an admittedly impressive 66-yard reception and touchdown from a fake punt situation. I’m ok with that.

All those words to say that in a league where it seems like all the headlines and attention go to the flashiest players and only turns to the special teams when they do badly, I wanted to heap some praise on our own #6 for being awesome.

Stay awesome, J Hekk.



*This Article was originally written by Kristian and published at Turf Show Times

Through Successes and Setbacks, LA Rams QB Jared Goff Pushes Forward

The hype and expectations surrounding the Los Angeles Rams and starting quarterback Jared Goff in 2018 is pretty amazing considering where things were just a year ago.

Goff was the #1 overall draft pick in the 2016 NFL Draft and is now considered a sleeper candidate for MVP in the 2018 season. During a sit-down interview held Monday, July 9th, by Thuzio Executive Club, the young QB discussed his road to the NFL and how he’s able to persevere when things go badly.

Jared Goff’s path to the NFL started at the Elite 11, a competition for high school quarterbacks. He finished top seven out of 25 but failed to win the MVP award for the competition. Goff was undeterred, taking that failure and turning it into an MVP award at the All-Nike Camp just two days later.

Those performances alone didn’t translate into a flood of college interest, and so Goff wasn’t sure football would be the path he would take. He played football, baseball and basketball in high school, maximizing his chances for an athletic scholarship:

I knew it wasn’t going to be basketball. I’m a 6’2” white guy, and I can’t shoot. It wasn’t going to be basketball.

The scholarship offers eventually came. Four offers were made, but he ultimately chose UC Berkeley, his parents’ alma mater.

In his freshman year with the California Golden Bears, Goff was named the starter after a four-way roster battle, the first true freshman starter to start for the season opener in the school’s history. While it was a record-setting season for Goff, the final win-loss record didn’t reflect it. He finished his freshman season with a 1–11 record and a separated shoulder in his throwing arm from the final game against Stanford. ILB Shayne Skov had broken through the O-line, forcing Goff to scramble:

I remember vividly. He’s about to hit me, and I can either throw the ball and dive a little bit or I’m just gonna, like, eat this. And I remember thinking, ‘it’s the last game of the season so I’m just gonna eat it.’

The hit caused a Grade 1 separation, but Goff chose to go back in. Two series later, a second hit caused him to fall on to the already injured arm, worsening the separation to a Grade 3:

Funny story about that pass. I threw the pass, he catches it, he goes like 60 yards. Ended up breaking the single-season record for yardage on that last play. It was the end of the season, whatever. I had four months to recover.

The shoulder would require surgery, but that was ok with Goff though. And recover he would. Not even the team’s dismal record during his freshman season was enough to keep him down:

If I throw an interception or do something bad, I literally don’t even think about it again. And I try to treat throwing a touchdown or a good play the same way because I think that’s the best way to play quarterback.

Goff was the starter again his sophomore and junior seasons at Cal, and each year he improved on the previous year’s record. He finished No. 2 in passing efficiency in the school’s history, second only to former Cal QB and now Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers, whom you may have heard of.

But even with his growing success and likely impending selection as the number one or number two overall draft pick, he remained grounded.

“There’s a story about you that goes something like this,” the moderator, Yogi Roth, recalled, “You’re walking on the college campus at Cal. You’re about to be an extremely high draft pick, and a random passer-by comes up to you and says ‘OH MY GOD! You’re Jared Goff! You’re the quarterback, right?’ And the story goes,” the moderator continued, “that you said, ‘Nah, I’m just a student here at Cal.’ and that individual was a scout in the National Football League.”

Goff admitted that the celebrity of it all was something he wasn’t prepared for, and at the time he just wanted to be left alone. He admits he’s gotten better over time, but it was definitely overwhelming at first.

As we all know, Goff went #1 overall in early 2016 taken by the newly-relocated Los Angeles Rams. After backing up starter QB Case Keenum for nine games, Goff was promoted to starter in the November game against the Miami Dolphins. To say that he struggled would be an understatement. Seven games and a Head Coach firing later, he’d finish the season 0–7.

But just like with his freshman season at Cal, Goff didn’t let that deter him. He took those struggles, paired it with newly-minted Head Coach Sean McVay’s “Newer, faster, crazier offense” and put out an 11–5 season that ended in a playoff run, 3,804 passing yards, and 28 touchdowns. And now, fans are expecting an encore.

As I said in the opening, there are huge expectations on the Rams and Jared Goff for 2018.

Coming into this year, we need to treat it just like we were bad last year. If we don’t, you see it happen all the time, where teams come in with that buzz and then fall flat.

Goff’s ability to ignore failures and successes and focusing on the now will serve him well during this season. If he has a bad game, or if this season doesn’t go as planned, don’t expect it to take down Jared Goff.

He’ll use it as fuel to propel him to even greater heights.



This Article was originally written by Kristian and published at Turf Show Times

Joining the Team at The Turf Show Times

I’m excited to announce that as of Tuesday of last week, I’m officially a contributor to Turf Show Times. I’m looking forward to adding my skills to that already talented group. Hopefully, I can put out some sweet, sweet content the rest of LA Rams community will be excited to read.

Horns Up!

Switching to WordPress

I’ve done it. I’ve migrated my site, or most of it, to a self-hosted WordPress. Previously I’d hosted Dragonami on Squarespace because it’s ridiculously easy to set up and maintain. I didn’t have to worry about anything but my content. Recently, though, I got the itch to try something new. I started dabbling around with HTML & CSS, messing around with a test site on GitHub Pages using Jekyll because it was free and easy.

There came a point where I realized that Jekyll wasn’t going to do it for me. So I bought some hosting and installed WordPress. In my previous attempts to use WordPress, I wasn’t happy with the free theme offerings. Most themes did one or two things I wanted, but none did all of them, and most didn’t handle them the way I wanted. So obviously the way to go is to write your own.

Here is where you stop me and say “Wait a minute Kristian, you know there are some great paid options.” I hear what you’re saying, and I looked. Most of the are super expensive, and this site is really just a hobby at this point. I’m not making any money from it, and I don’t know that I ever will, so it wasn’t worth it to me to spend the money. Additionally, I want to learn to do things myself. I may never be a fully fledged web developer, but I like to have at least a basic understanding of how my blog works.

With that in mind, I set out to something to explain to me what goes into a WordPress theme. After a few Google searches, I came across this excellent series of posts by Tania Rascia. What was great was that they didn’t just ask me to paste code into a file. Sure, you could do that (I chose to type in the code), but she explained to you what it did and how it worked with the greater WordPress system.

Learning ‘PHP’, the language WordPress is coded in, was easy enough. having taken a few programming courses over a few languages in college, once I learned the general syntax, I was off to the races. At this point, I know just enough to be dangerous, and can read and understand basic structures. Anything more complex, and I’m Googling to find out what’s happening. I’m still learning the finer points of organizing my website as far as HTML elements go. CSS is simple enough, though when I’m trying to do something specific, Google is again my go to.

At this point, the overall structure and design of Dragonami is hugely inspired by John Gruber’s ‘Daring Fireball’. Almost to the point of being a clone with a different logo and color scheme (sorry John). But I’m no designer, and I really like that aesthetic. Hopefully, should he ever come across my site, John will be flattered rather than upset. Or even better, maybe my skills will have progressed by then to the point that it’s an original expression of me and not just of something I find inspiring.

Some people use services like Squarespace because they want to just write. I thought that’s what I wanted too. But now I realize that a lot of my enjoyment comes from doing what Squarespace manages for me. So until I get bored, I’ll keep tweaking and adjusting this blog and learning more in the process.

The Main Street Electrical Parade: Encore

I finally made it to Disneyland to watch ‘The Main Street Electrical Parade’. This was the parade I grew up watching. It still holds a very special place in my heart. Don’t get me wrong, I love ‘Fantasmic’, it gives me chills every time I watch it, but there’s something about the music and all the lights that I find electrifying (see what I did there?). I was sad to see it go in 1996, but luckily, I was able to go to Disneyland before it stopped it’s now extended homecoming run on August 20th, and it was just as magical as I remember it.

If you grew up with the parade, I strongly recommend you go see it. While maybe not as visually impressive as some of the newer parades and shows, the feelings of nostalgia are definitely real. If you didn’t grow up with it, I still recommend you go watch it to catch a part of Disney Park History before it goes away. I was thrilled they brought it back again, but they may not do it again, so catch it while it’s still around.

All Trump. All the Time.

This last week has been a rollercoaster. Trump’s first full week in office has been…exhausting. It started with the inauguration, and was followed the next day by an argument with the media over crowd size. Then there was the Women’s March. Then the week kicked off with a flurry of executive orders, including the grant freeze and gag order on scientific research. The middle of the week brought Climate Change facts from the National Park Service, then deletion of those tweets, then Rogue NPS Twitter accounts. And the end of the week brought more executive orders, including the ban on refugees and visas issued to people coming from certain countries, which in turn, sparked more protests and action from the ACLU. Like I said, it’s been exhausting, and it’s only been one week!

Because of all of this, my Twitter has gone from being fun stuff about tech, Apple, the Rams, Star Wars, Disney, and other random things to being all Trump, or outrage about something Trump has done, all the time. And that’s how my brain has shifted. It’s what’s been on my mind. All my brain power has been occupied following our new Commander in Chief. My own tweets and retweets have largely been about these same things (I’ve lost a few followers because of this). I tried to fight this, and I haven’t written as much here because I wanted this blog to be about Apple and Technology mostly and other things secondarily.

Sure. Just stop all of the fucking insanity our new presidency is doing, then we’ll have the luxury of talking about tech more of the time. https://t.co/SQW5R4kCu2

— Marco Arment (@marcoarment) January 29, 2017

Trump is happening, however. Trump is on my mind. So while I’m going to definitely try to stay on message, I can’t pretend that I don’t feel that my country is falling apart. I can’t pretend that everything is fine, because it’s not. So if this causes me to lose followers, oh well. If this causes me to lose readers, I’m sorry to see you go, but that’s your prerogative. I’m done staying silent because I can’t stay on topic. Trump is the topic. It’s unfortunate, but it’s the world we live in.

Ten Years Later: iPhone

Today is the tenth anniversary of the introduction of the iPhone. I remember vividly how excited I was for this product. I had just jumped on the Apple train with my first iPod in 2005, and had followed what Apple rumor mill there was (it definitely wasn’t as extensive as it is today) and knew that there was likely some kind of phone product coming out soon. What Steve Jobs introduced that day went way beyond anything that I could imagine.

It’s hard to believe or really remember all the staples of modern smartphone interactions that were introduced that day. The many advances that were made, not only in technology, but also in UI and Hardware design. Watching the keynote again last night I was reminded of life before iPhone, and my wife was shocked at how many things didn’t exist prior to it. One that stuck out to my wife was Visual Voicemail. “Wait, that didn’t exist until iPhone?” That’s right. Before that you had to listen through 4 potentially meaningless voicemails just to get to the 5th which is from your mom. Barbaric, I know, but that’s how it was done.

There are many other moments where Steve explains why they made certain decisions. Why sync iPhone through iTunes and the same cable as an iPod? Well, because everyone already knows how to do that, it’s one less thing to learn. Pinch to zoom in your photos or webpages, why not, that makes perfect sense. A full HTML Web browser, responsive and powerful native applications, Slide to Unlock (because they wanted a motion that wouldn’t trigger by accident in your pocket). So much about the iPhone seemed impossible, and now just seem quaint in their ubiquity or even out-datedness. It wasn’t without it’s shortcomings. This first iteration didn’t have 3rd-Party native applications, there was no App Store. All you had was web apps and native suite of apps that Apple included. But over the next 10 years, Apple would address all the original gripes and more. You can compare for yourself by watching the keynote and comparing that first iPhone to the marvel of modern technology that is iPhone 7.

I encourage you to watch the keynote. It’s a wonderful example of Steve Jobs in his finest and his favorite element: introducing an impossible product that he is genuinely excited about. It’s also a reminder of how far technology and Apple have moved in the last decade, and it makes a geek like me hopeful for all the cool stuff that will come out, not just from Apple, but from all of the technology sector, over the decade to come.

2016 LA Rams Season Wrap-Up

I wrote earlier this year about how my Rams fandom started, and that my wife and I had bought season tickets for their return to LA. Needless to say the season hasn’t gone quite as I or any other Rams fan had hoped. The excitement of having my team back in my city that had grown during training camp and the first two games of the pre-season quickly faded during the disaster that was the Monday Night Football game agains San Francisco. That 28-0 loss quickly grounded me back in reality and reminded me that these were still the Rams, and a move to a new city wasn’t going to change that.

The home opener against Seattle was a slog to a 6-3 that would be the only home victory Fisher and the Rams would produce to date. The two wins that followed were hard fought, but were enough to create some excitement. It was the first time that we’d go into week 5 with a 3-1 record since 2006. I’ll let that sink in for a little bit.

The 30-19 loss to the Bills at home stung, but if I’m honest with myself, I saw it coming. They were coming into the game emboldened by the shut out they had handed New England the week before. The game in Detroit the following week, I think, is where I realized that this wasn’t going to be the season that I’d hoped. It showed me that it didn’t matter if the offense finally found its flow. That game would be the best game of both Case Keenum’s (QB) and Kenny Britt’s (WR) careers. Yet the defense couldn’t hold the Lions back, and ended up losing the game 28-31.

The “we get in our own way” losing continued against the Giants in London, losing 17-10. But then we had a sweet respite, the bye week, followed by their return to LA for a home game agains the Carolina. But again no dice, The defense kept the Panther’s score low, but the offense couldn’t deliver the goods in front of a frustrated home crowd who booed each dropped pass and began calling for Jared Goff. This 13-10 loss cemented the fact that Case Keenum would not be starting at the Coliseum again.

In Case’s final game as the starter in New York against the Jets, the defense kept the Jets to 6 points, but the offense was again anemic, winning the game on the leg of Greg Zuerlein (K) who scored 9 points. The following week it was announced that the prodigal son, the #1 overall draft pick Jared Goff was finally ready to make his grand debut in front of a home crowd in LA to take on Miami. The Weather and the Dolphins had other plans. We were ahead until the last 5 minutes of that game. It was pouring down rain, and when the Rams were on offense, you could hear the thundering “DE-FENSE clap clap” Chants from the Miami fans at the game. To be honest, it was demoralizing as a fan, I wanted to melt in my seat.

The two road games against New Orleans and New England were equally demoralizing, we didn’t even stand a chance. We were outclassed in every sense of the word, losing the games 21-49 and 10-26 respectively. Our next home game against Atlanta was equally embarrassing. The Rams’ performance was so bad, that even Falcons fans were confused and began to feel pity for us, celebrating a Rams touchdown with us. We would lose that game 42-14.

RLRT falcons fan @ Rams game:”our defense isn’t even that good for Christ sake, we’re #27 defense!”

CC: @TurfShowTimes @seattlerams_nfl

— ⓀⓇⒾⓈⓉⒾⒶⓃ (@kristianramirez) December 11, 2016

Same guy just hi fived all the rams fans around him after that TD. https://t.co/BaFYoyp0ls

— ⓀⓇⒾⓈⓉⒾⒶⓃ (@kristianramirez) December 11, 2016

The Monday after this game, the Rams decided to fire Jeff Fisher, which is something all of Rams fandom had been calling for for Months (or a couple of years if they followed the team in St. Louis). It took a while for me to wrap my head around the idea that this was a real thing. Elation took over my Twitter stream. John Fassel (our ST coach) was named interim head coach, and he was a breath of fresh air during press conferences. A Stark contrast to the obviously rehearsed and tired and retreaded lines Jeff Fisher would feed us every week. Hopes were high, even if not for this season, we had something to look forward to next season.

Following the short week and coaching change, we met Seattle in Century Link Field to be publicly embarrassed by personified highlighters on Thursday Night Football, losing 3-24. The following week on Christmas Eve we played San Francisco at home. This game was reminiscent of the Miami game, and Coach Fassel said as much in his press conference after the game. Even with the 21-22 loss, this game was quite enjoyable. There’s something to be said about sharing a stadium with fans who are just as beaten down and dejected as you are.

Our last game of the season was the New Years Day home game against Arizona. And while the game was a 6-44 blowout, I have to say, I couldn’t even be mad. There were a couple of plays during that game, the direct snap to Tavon Austin that got called back due to illegal motion (bullsh*t?) and the lateral to Pharaoh Cooper who then threw it (quite well I might add) to Todd Gurley, which was intercepted, that made the game exciting, even though they didn’t work out as intended. And also, after waiting a whole season, we saw a successful punt fake throw from Johnny Hekker. And I just don’t hate the Cardinals, I know they’re our division rivals, but I actually kinda like them. And the fans weren’t like other fans, after the game, there was no chanting in the tunnels, there was not snap-chatting of Rams fans while asking them how they feel about losing to X team. They just went home happy.

Like I said at the top, Overall, the season isn’t what I’d hoped. I don’t think it was what any fan hoped. While a part of me knew that with Fisher at the helm at the beginning of the season, it’d be more of the same, I wanted to believe it’d be different. Obviously it didn’t turn out that way, it’s the worst season we’ve had since Fisher took over, but it was still fun to be at the games. As I noted when I bought my season tickets, being there in person and FEELING the excitement in the air during the pre-season, and during the flashes of brilliance throughout the season, was well worth it. I know some of it is the fact that it was their first season back, and I’m the first to admit that a lot of my negative feelings about this season are downplayed by the joy of having the team back in Los Angeles. So while the season was sh*t, I had a great time. And I’m definitely hopeful for the future.

See you next season Ramily. Horns Up.

Rogue One Review (Spoiler-Free)

Now I’ve seen Rogue One twice and feel like I’ve had enough time to let my general thoughts on this percolate around in my head. So let’s start with the TL;DR: Rogue One is amazing, and if you’re even a half-way dedicated Star Wars fan and you haven’t gone to see it, what are you doing?

When Rogue One begins, there’s some mandatory exposition into the central character’s backstory and introduction to several other supporting characters. When I first saw the film, this part made me feel like this movie wasn’t going to work out. It was a bit slow going with a lot of transitioning from location to location. It also felt like the only thing Star Wars about this movie was some superficial set dressing and Storm Troopers. I was wrong.

Once the movie gets past setting up the story points, everything starts flowing, and it gets a familiar Star Wars feel. From the humor, to the action, to the way the symphonic music plays to the action happening on the screen. It was mesmerizing. There also plenty of call backs and Easter eggs for anyone paying attention, all the way from some blue milk on a counter top to a few blink-and-you’ll-miss-it references to the Star Wars: Reblels animated series. X-Wings and Star Destroyers and mentions of the Force are the big rocks that make this a Star Wars movie. They could have stopped there and been done, but those little flourishes are what fill in the gaps in between. As a long time fan, it makes the film that much more fulfilling. And if you aren’t hard core enough to catch something like a one second call out to Star Wars: Rebels, there are other little cameos and throw away lines for everyone.

The difficulty for Lucasfilm & Co. with Rogue One was always going to be two-fold. One, Creating a compelling, completely self-contained story to which the majority of moviegoers already know the ending, and two, create a cast of several brand new characters who the audience feels they know over the course of a single film. I’m going to start with the characters. The central cast of characters are people who we have never seen or heard of in any previous Star Wars property, so the writers had to create connections to the audience completely from scratch. In my opinion, they excelled at this. We don’t get complete back stories for every single character, that’d be impossible for a single film. But we get enough through dialogue and interactions that we understand the relationships between characters, and their individual personalities.

On the story front, all the writers had to go on was somehow, the rebels obtained some plans to the Death Star. Man, did they do an awesome job to flesh that out. There are so many ways they could have messed this up. I was looking, waiting for that moment where I say “…but in Episode 4, they say this, but now they say this.” Hell, George Lucas fell prey to things like this in the prequels. Like Obi-Wan clearly knowing who C-3PO and R2-D2 are, but in A New Hope saying, and acting like, he didn’t know them. Or Leia saying she remembers what her real mother looks like, but Padme dying as she was being born. Things like that seem trivial, but they gnaw at my mind. There was no such flaw that I was able to notice here in my two viewings. The story is fun, action packed, and transitions beautifully into A New Hope. It kept me engaged from beginning to end, and though I knew the ending, I didn’t know what was happening next.

In the run up to this film, I was cautiously optimistic, just like I was for The Force Awakens. I’m not a prequel hater, I actually enjoy the prequels. But those were my first full on Star Wars at the theater experience. I was born in 1985, after the release of Return of the Jedi. I didn’t have a mom or dad who enjoyed the films. I first watched them at a cousin’s house, I was bored and they happened to own all three movies, so I popped in A New Hope. I devoured them in one sitting. Every time I went to their house, it’s all I wanted to do. I never owned my own copy until the Special Editions were released. So while I admit, that even though the prequels were clean and didn’t have the same “this is a real place” feel that the originals had, I did and still do enjoy them. But the Originals are my favorites. Hands down.

The Force Awakens was a step in the right direction, an admission that Star Wars had lost its way, a sort of re-centering of the franchise. An apology of sorts in film form. Rogue One, I believe, is a statement. It says that Lucasfilm and Disney understand what makes Star Wars feel like Star Wars so well, that they can make a film set in that galaxy without the story centering on the Skywalker family. There’s more to it than just the Skywalkers and the Jedi.

The galaxy can be and is much bigger and filled with hundreds if not thousands of interesting people. The Force Awakens made me excited to have another Star Wars movie again. Rogue One made me feel like I was watching Star Wars for the first time again.