Todd Berner | Hobbies & Interests

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Is 2016 a Rotten Egg for the NOLA Pelicans?

There is little silver lining in New Orleans for the Pelicans right now. With eight losses and no wins, the only team in the Western Conference with such an abysmal record, the Pelicans are facing an uphill battle that is only getting harder. Granted, no one expected the Pelicans to effortlessly glide their way into the postseason, but 0-8? Really?

Thankfully, it is far, far too early in the season to be making such postseason condemnations. 74 games are left—so although Pelicans are not flying high now, they may be doing so in the future. Let’s take a look at the positives. Namely, Anthony Davis.

A hyper-athletic big man capable of both hitting hard in the paint and running the court, Davis carries the roster on his broad shoulders. This poor start for New Orleans is not at all like the Sixers and their historical losing streak spanning the 2014 and 2015 seasons (at an astounding, though depressing 28 losses). In fact, Davis is currently averaging a double with 30.9 pts and 11.4 rebounds (not to mention an impressive 3.0 blocks). Yet, despite Davis’ clear leadership both in stats and in character, he is hardly the only star talent on the struggling NBA squad.

Tim Frazier and E’Twaun Moore, in particular, have improved considerably and are bright prospects. While Jrue Holiday spends time with his unfortunately ill wife and Tyreke Evans is sidelined for his knee, both Frazier and Moore have stepped up to fill their shoes. Their vast improvement coupled with the eventual return of two of the league’s best scorers in Holiday and Evans bodes very well for the future.

Additionally, it’s not like the Pelicans have been blowing games against subpar teams. They have gone head to head with some of the best teams in the league, twice with the Warriors alone (the West’s champion last year); and even in those games, they lost by a cumulative 18 points between the two. That’s not even counting their two overtime losses where they just barely missed the cut.

The Grizzlies beat them 89-83 in a hard fought battle to the end, but it was clear the Pelicans were still exhausted and reeling from the previous night’s game with the Milwaukee Bucks. The second overtime defeat was dealt from the Phoenix Suns just two days after the bristled Grizzlies. Taking into account the Pelicans’ reduced roster and the closeness of the games just mentioned, great things are right around the corner for the Crescent City’s NBA representatives.

With an MVP candidate in Davis, spectacular talent to return, and an upcoming easier schedule, the Pelicans are in good shape to hatch a golden egg postseason run—soon.

The Saints’ Savior’s Questionable Future

Drew Brees has seemingly been the Saints’ savior over the years. Coming back from what should have been a career-ending injury to establish the timeless legacy he has is a 30 for 30 just waiting to be made, and it’s this resilience that has won the hearts and minds of New Orleans fans across the nation. Yet, the question of his contract extension still looms large in nearly every conversation even remotely involving the Saints.

Training camp has started and negotiations still haven’t stopped. To put the situation in as base terms as possible: Brees wants four more years and the Saints want Brees but don’t want to commit to four years with him. Now, from Brees’ perspective, it only makes sense that he wants four more years. Already having displayed an absolutely remarkable affinity for physicality (his recovery speaks for itself), he also has the numbers to back him; and he doesn’t think they’re going anywhere. In fact, he has even gone so far as to claim that he can play well beyond forty. He’s thirty-seven now so that would make him forty-one by the expiration of his desired contract.

While Brees is no doubt an outstanding quarterback (honestly, legendary may be a more accurate adjective here), that is not say he will stay such. Every player has a shelf life, and as unfortunate as that is, it’s the incontrovertible truth. When Saints Vice President Mickey Loomis was asked how negotiations were proceeding, he responded that the ball is in Drew’s court.

Certainly, this is not Sean Payton’s, Mickey Loomis’, or Drew Brees’ first time around and they all seem to be waiting one another out, or rather, Loomis and Payton are trying to wait out Drew Brees. In the meantime, it is the fans who are struggling with the stress of uncertainty, who have to wrestle with the anxiety of their greatest player potentially leaving the franchise after a historical role with them.

Apparently, Brees has a self-imposed deadline of September 11th, the season opener against the Oakland Raiders, for the proceedings to come to a close. As training camp continues, here’s to hoping that Brees and the staff can compromise so that the fans do not have to suffer any longer than necessary. All this said, the Saints could be in for a fantastic, or a miserable season. As we approach the beginning of the 2016 season, all I can say is—Who Dat?

USMNT Training Camp is Upon Us

It is time, my fellow USMNT fans, to rejoice and celebrate the beginning of training camp. The roster has been called forth by Coach Jurgen Klinsmann, identifying 28 players we could well see representing us in the coming World Cup. Take a gander below (referenced here):

Goalkeeper: Nick Ramando, Jon Kempin, Sean Johnson, Alex Bono

Defenders: Oscar Sorto, Shane O’Neil, Perry Kitchen, Jermaine Jones, Brad Evans, Christian Dean, Steve Birnbaum, Matt Besler

Midfield: Will Trapp, Brek Shea, Dillon Serna, Marc Pelosi, Lee Nguyen, Miguel Ibarra, Luis Gill, Dennis Flores, Max Diskerud, Michael Bradley

Forwards: Gyasi Zardes, Bobby Wood, Chris Wondolowski, Julio Morales, Clint Dempsey, Tesho Akindele.

The camp is bound to promise a comprehensive review of all selected players. This new squad has a few familiar faces as well as a breath of fresh air in its new candidates. It appears 2018 is promising for a new and exciting look into a different team capable of providing the same exhilaration we have grown accustomed to. Joining the likes of esteemed veterans Jermaine Jones and Michael Bradley, Marc Pelosi in particular is a promising midfielder to watch.

The former captain of the U17 team, Pelosi is sure to provide an athletic spectacle. After signing for Liverpool but breaking his leg early on, his future has been uncertain. Luckily for him, he will now have Michael Bradley by his side to offer some guidance, thus (hopefully) elevating his game. Already currently exhibiting skill in the Liverpool U21’s, this is his well-deserved chance to see some playing time at the national level.

While of course it is exciting to see so many veterans, I do think it comes as a bit of a surprise. Personally, I was expecting a team completely full of new and invigorating players, ready to shed tears, sweat, and blood if need be for a shot at the World Cup. That said, I am sure the veterans will give it their all. Not to mention, their combined experience, field awareness, and refined skill may just give the USMNT the extra push they need for an even deeper run than before in the upcoming tournament of tournaments.

As a side note, it should be noted that both Clint Dempsey and Brad Evans will not be participating in this camp. Although listed for the roster, the reason why I listed them above, it says here that they may very well not be playing in reality. For Evans, it appears injuries like tendonitis in his knee will be barring his attendance. For Dempsey, the reason for his absence remains to be seen.

No matter what you think of the roster, I’m sure we can all agree that we are excited to see the USMNT back together again. The energy is palpable. The anticipation is building. The cup is coming.

P.S.: For your ticket to the first friendly against Iceland in Carson, California, click here.

Tips for Jazz Fest

The 45th annual New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival is well underway. The internationally renowned music festival that attracts hundreds of thousands of people from around the nation and the world alike to celebrate the unique culture and sounds of New Orleans commenced on April 24th and will run until May 3rd. Jess Simpson from Paste Magazine highlights a few things that you should keep in mind if you will be an attendee at this year’s festival.

Attend all types of concerts, not just the main attractions:

twitter390_400x400The Jazz fest attracts some of the biggest names in the music business, and thousands upon thousands of people will want to see these headliners performances. However, regional artists that you may have not necessarily heard of is what makes this event so special. First of all, these events will be much less crowded and you will most likely be able to sit very close to the action. Additionally, you may discover you really enjoy the music certain artists, or even an entire genre.

There is no need to drive:

Available parking spots in the area will be sparse, and very costly. Given the other options for transportation, there really is no need to drive. The city boasts expensive bike paths, and almost everything is within biking distance. Alternatively, you could opt for the Jazz Fest Express, a bus that picks you up and drops you just a short distance away from the festival activities. Taxi’s are also a great option as they typically offer a special rate of just five dollars per passenger during Jazz fest. Furthermore, taxi drivers also act as a tour guide, providing you a local’s perspective and knowledge the sights of New Orleans.  While not necessarily the fastest mode of transportation, a streetcar may be the most unique. If you are not in a rush, give it a try.

Arrive with an appetite and try new foods!

Jazz fest, at its core, is a celebration of Louisiana’s culture, and that includes its culinary identity as well. New Orleans is renowned for its food, and you should take full advantage of its culinary offerings while at Jazz Fest. Be sure to try out a few of the area’s famous restaurants, but also eat at the festival’s food vendors. Do not be afraid to try such dishes as crawfish pie, crawfish beignet, alligator pie, or boudin balls.