Dear Mr. Haslam,
First let me congratulate you on your (somewhat) recent purchase of the Cleveland Browns football franchise. As a long-time fan, I was overjoyed that the team finally had an owner as passionate about his football team and front-office hiring process as he is about honoring rebates to his valued Pilot Flying J customers. Unfortunately, it appears Joe Banner and Mike Lombardi
are failing you in your coaching search and underwhelmed in last year’s free-agency signings. While Lombardi has excelled at beating the statistical odds of failure with his draft record, I imagine we’d prefer someone who beats the statistical odds of drafting success.
So rather than waste another year for another 4-win season that will inevitably occur when Lombardi drafts Samus Aran (she’s got a cannon for an arm!) at QB and brings in the Super Mario Brothers as our one-two punch from the backfield in the hopes they stomp defensive linemen, I suggest you fire him and replace him with myself. As an avid player of Madden 25, I’ve won 2 more games with the 2013 Browns than your version of the team, and on the back of a solid free-agency and draft, took my Browns to a 12-4 record and Superbowl Championship in 2014. I followed this with a 10-6 season and division championship, and a 6-1 record to date in 2015.
Before you scoff at my credentials, let me remind you that you expressed interest in bringing in “proven winners.” While my virtual GM success may have led to delusions of grandeur, judging by your current front office, it seems this is a core value of the organization, and atleast my virtual success surpasses Mike Lombardi’s (a man whose draft board consists of players picked from Tecmo Bowl rosters) real-world efforts. As I understand you may remain unconvinced, allow me to present you with my action plan for leading the Cleveland Browns to the Super Bowl should you hire me as your general manager.
My last act as GM will be to switch job titles with Assistant GM Ray Farmer, who I assume you recognize as the only member of the front office with a clue and will not allow to depart for the Miami Dolphin’s GM job. You know, the Dolphins, that team that withheld the fact that Davone Bess had been hospitalized for mental issues before the Browns traded for him. But before I swap with Farmer, lets re-sign Alex Mack and T.J. Ward, and quick. We’ll use that franchise tag for one of them if we have to because there is no sense in opening more holes than our team already has.
Speaking of holes, the first place to start filling them is in free-agency. And speaking again of holes, let’s sign somebody that can make some for our running backs (when defenses make contact with them 1.2 yard after the handoff on average, you aren’t going to get many yard on the ground). Guard is our weakest position, and we are going to pick up two solid guys if you hire me as your GM, starting with Jon Asamoah. The second guard can be found in the mock draft I have presented below.
Our defensive backfield lacks height, and for that reason I’ll aggressively pursue Aqib Talib and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie in free agency to pair up with Joe Haden, which will allow our new head coach (whoever that may be) to move Buster Skrine to the nickel where he excels the most. Pulling either of those cornerbacks from their respective teams will be a tall order, but I’m happy to spend your money to make a go of it, and if that doesn’t work, I’ve got us covered in the draft.
Once we’ve held Davone Bess, Brandon Weeden, and Greg Little accountable by cutting them, we can start replacing them. While the last two we’ll replace in the draft, we’ll target Julian Edelman to replace Bess as a slot receiver. If we can’t sign him, we can give Josh Cooper a shot as he showed enough in the final games of the season to take a closer look at him.
Now onto the draft. Our biggest needs are at QB, WR, OL, RB and FB on the offensive side, and ILB and CB on the defensive side, so we’ll draft accordingly. Below I present you my mock draft to make the best use of the ten draft picks we have in 2014:
Round 1(a): Totally Teddy
Now just hear me out. I know everyone in Berea has a bit of a man-crush on Johnny Football, and if Teddy Bridgewater isn’t available at the 4th pick, I’m all for picking Manziel or Bortles, but Bridgewater is the complete, highest-reward, least-risk package the Browns need. Why? Because with all due respect, sir, you have a habit of firing your coaches and bringing in new ones. With new coaches are new systems. Manziel may excel in some systems and fail in others. Bridgewater, on the other hand, has the brains and accuracy to excel regardless of the system.
Worried about his weight? One phone call to former Browns lineman and current restaurant proprietor Al Bubba Baker will take care of that. I love me some ribs…nom nom!
Round 1(b): Mountain Man
If we are going to invest our first round pick in a QB, we’d better protect him, and who better to do so than the behemoth that is Cyril Richardson? Aside from being a good pass protector, he will plow holes into defensive lines for our third round pick (see below), and he is versatile, having succeeded at both guard and tackle, which gives us options on the offensive line. Want to plug him in at right guard? Sure! Want to shift Mitchell Schwartz to guard and put Richardson at tackle for those bread-and-butter off-tackle runs? You got it.
Oh, and don’t be turned off by his last name. If he ends up being a bust, we can always trade him to the Indianopolis Colts for a first round draft pick.
Round 2: The Other Beckham
While your previous owner is likely more enamored with Beckham the futbol player, I present to you the other Beckham, as in Odell Beckham, Jr., the outstanding wide receiver from LSU. This fast and shifty wide-receiver is a perfect complement to the long and lean Josh Gordon to provide our team with receiving threats at all levels of the field.
Round 3(a): The Middle Men
With D’qwell Jackson aging and Chris Robertson showing all the covering abilities of a lace blanket, we need to turn our attention to the middle linebackers. Assuming we can renegotiate Jackson’s contract and keep him around for a couple more years, we can just focus on drafting an athletic cover linebacker. Fortunately for us, there are two guys projected at the second or third round that fit the bill: FSU’s Christian Jones and UCONN’s Yawin Smallwood. Despite his 6’4″ and 234 pound frame, Jones covers so well that FSU actually lined him up against Sammy Watkins on occasion. He also separates well from blockers to make tackles.
As a more typical run-stopping linebacker, Smallwood could be a solid eventual replacement for Jackson. He has the speed and quickness to cover well (with proper coaching) and fill Robertson’s role until Jackson retires, transitions to a backup role, or leaves the Browns entirely, at which point we could look for another cover linebacker in future drafts.
Round 3(b): Paging Dr. Jekyll…
At 6’0 and 236 pounds, Carlos Hyde possesses the frame to hammer through the holes made for him by Cyril Richardson and play hard-nosed AFC North football. As an OSU prospect, he’ll be comfortable running the ball between the tackles come the December frost. With 31 touchdowns over his last two college seasons, he certainly has a nose for the endzone, something Browns running backs lacked in 2013. If we bring back Dion Lewis, Edwin Baker, and Chris Ogbonnaya, we’ll be able to change the pace of the running game and make use of them in the passing game as well.
Round 4(a): The “Don’t Put Your Eggs In One Basket” Pick
With this pick, we’ll want to pay attention to the QBs that remain on the board. While I’m confident in Bridgewater, the QB position is the most important position in all of football (and I daresay all of team sports), and therefore warrant spending multiple assets at the position. This is the spot to pick up a promising developmental QB. Some names to look for, if they are still available, are Tajh Boyd, Aaron Murray, David Fales, and Jimmy Garappolo.
Round 4(b): Baptizing the Secondary
As I mentioned in my free-agency discussion, bringing in one of those tall cornerbacks from Denver or New England is going to be tough to pull off. Therefore we pick up Stanley Jean-Baptiste, the 6′ 3″ cornerback from Nebraska. He’s been compared to Richard Sherman (sans the interview tirade) and showed up at the Senior Bowl, returning an interception for a touchdown. He may take some time to develop, but Skrine did well enough in 2013 that we could stand to take that time, especially if we can improve the pass rush.
Round 5: He’s No Wall Flower
At at 6’4” 260lbs, Rob Blanchflower out of my neck of the woods (UMASS) has good size for the position he plays. Though he is a good route-runner with decent speed and agility, he’s of real interest to the Browns because of his good blocking skills, something that the team could really use at tight end to compliment Jordan Cameron’s phenomenal ability as a receiving tight end.
Round 6 You Can’t Cope With Copeland
During the regular season, the Browns tried to compensate for the lack of a bruising fullback by lining up Billy Winn in the backfield. That didn’t pan out so well, but J.C. Copleand, the 6′ 270 pound fullback from LSU will. He runs a 4.77 in the 40 which is pretty fast for a man his size, but we’ll be bringing him in to lead block for our running backs and to work those short yardage situations.
Round 7: Let’s Kick It
I’m not picking Cairo Santos just because his first name is my birth city. With ten picks in this draft, we can afford to spend one to get one of the best kickers in college. In 2012, he hit 26 of 27 PATs and all 21 of his field goal tries, including one from 57 yards (would he have hit the field goal at the end of the game vs. the Patriots that Billy Cundiff missed?) For his efforts he won the Lou Groza Award for the nation’s best place kicker, so it only seems fitting he’d follow in the award’s namesake’s steps and join the Browns.
Mr. Haslam, I’ve presented you with a sound strategy for free-agency and drafting to fill the biggest holes in this team. Now that you’ve finally found a head coach, one that Mike Lombardi couldn’t come out in the press conference to help present to the team. The fans seem generally pleased with this hire, so lets please them again. Fire Lombardi and hire me as the new General Manager of the Cleveland Browns.
Owner, CEO, GM, Assistant GM, Head Coach, Offensive Coordinate, Defensive Coordinator, Position Coach, & Water Boy for the 2013-2016 Virtual Cleveland Browns
My latest post for the Scientific American Guest Blog is up. It’s a response to an article at Salon that promotes some dangerous ideas about obesity by equating anti-obesity sentiments to homophobia, and downplaying the medical risks of obesity. As someone with weight problems, I thought it was important to publicly disagree with what was said in the Salon article. If you’d like to weigh in (pun intended) on the subject, the article can be found here: “Anti-Obesity Is Not The New Homophobia.”
9/11 was a traumatic day for all Americans, myself included. While I didn’t lose anyone I knew that day, we all lost a piece of ourselves. My experience of the event is complicated by the fact that I’m an Arab-American Muslim. All three pieces of that identity – the Arab, the American, and the Muslim – were profoundly effected by the events of that day.
Five or six years ago, I began writing about my experiences, and over the course of the next few years, revisited that piece, fine-tuning it into the memoir short that was published by Mobius: The Journal of Social Change. It felt appropriate to repost the link to the story, so here it is: Voices From The Corral.
I recently realized in my father-for-a-second-time daze that I’d neglected to mention my most recent guest blog post at Scientific American, entitled Scientific Arabian: Revolutions Then and Now. This article hews close to one of my motivations as a writer – to increase an awareness of the Arab world’s contributions to science in Western audiences.
As a high school student, I can’t recall a single instance where a teacher made any mention of the Arab world’s contributions to science. I DO recall learning about Avveroes and Avicenna in college, who I’d later learn through studies outside the school system were Arab scientists named Ibn Rushd and Ibn Sina. In our post 9/11 world, this sort of denial and minimization has only exacerbated the issue, and has been incorporated into a larger fabric of Arab/Islamophobia.
I’m not delusional enough to think this series will even amount to a speed-bump for the fear machine, but perhaps it’ll have a few readers thinking about how the pace of scientific advancement is connected with the sharing of information between cultures.
Two weeks ago I found myself Stupefied by my mailbox.
Contained within its dark innards was a single letter from Bruce Bethke, editor of Stupefying Stories. I wasn’t expecting a hard-copy communications from him: payment for “Two Zombies Walk into a Bar” was to be arranged via PayPal, and a response to my latest submission was expected to be a rejection via e-mail (like all other communications with this publisher), though I hoped not.
Like most any story that an author tries to publish, “HoPE” had its share of rejections – in this case, five times. Considering the experimental nature of the story (who the heck writes a story in Pythonesque code format?), and the fact that it’s only 275 words long, I fully expected another rejection.
I opened the letter and unfolded it to find a contract. For “HoPE”. What? Just like that? No acceptance e-mail? Unusual, but I’ll take it!
So why had Stupefying Stories accepted “HoPE” where others hadn’t? Its a foolish game, trying to guess the motives of editors, but I never claimed to be wise. I can think of a couple possible reasons why Bruce & Co. accepted “HoPE”:
- Go ahead and click that link up there, the one that says “Bruce Bethke“. Okay, I’ll make it easy. You can just click the one on his name two sentences earlier. Read his profile. Now, I had it in the back of my head that if I found a publisher that had some computer programmers on its staff, the story would have a shot. I wasn’t consciously aware that Bruce was a programmer when I submitted this story to his publication. Perhaps subconsciously I was. On the other hand, I’d submitted the story to Unitied Shoelaces of the Mind specifically because I thought they’d be interested in something experimental AND because the editor’s bio mentioned computer programming. In baseball terms, 1 for 2 ain’t bad. Hooray for the subconscious!
- In an interview at IGMS (you’ll need an account to read the whole interview), Ben Bova said this of John Campbell:
John Campbell was very kind to new writers, very solicitous. And he was a fountain of ideas. He spent the better part of his life striving to get writers to produce the kinds of stories that he wanted for Astounding/Analog. He discovered new talent and worked ceaselessly to develop it.
Sounds a little different than your standard form rejection, doesn’t it? Now, an excerpt from an interview with Mr. Bethke:
I’d been running an online writing workshop for several years and was getting tired of hearing my workshop writers — some of whom were producing truly first-rate work — complain that they just couldn’t seem to get a break. So I started looking into it, and realized that yes, the kids were right; there really are very few editors out there now willing to do for today’s new writers what George and Charlie did for me.
And by extension, what John Campbell did for Ben Bova and others. Mind you, I’m not lamenting bygone era of supportive editors. Writers have other resources for development that Golden Age writers didn’t have (like the internet), and I can’t claim to know all the hats today’s editors wear. Still, it is refreshing to see an editor in 2012 who is willing to help nurture writers who show promise (I feel compelled to make a shout-out to another editor who works to develop writers, Stephen Ramey, who I had the pleasure of working with on Triangulation: Morning After).
The lesson just reinforces what I learned from “Voices From the Corral” and “Two Zombies Walk Into a Bar“: don’t just know the magazines you submit to – know their editors. Just don’t spam them. Definitely don’t stalk them. That’d just be rude.
I’ve heard word over at a certain social networking site that the TWO ZOMBIES WALK INTO A BAR will be (hopefully) released in three weeks. It’s been a long wait, but I’m quite excited at the prospect of seeing my first sale in print as part of an anthology. Here is the cover art for the anthology. Clicking the picture will take you over to the Stupefying Stories social network page. Go ahead and give them a like, they deserve it!
So I’ve been a bad blogger, haven’t I? June goes by, and no posts. July passes, and still no posts. Well, I hope you’ll forgive me, because I have the best excuse in the world!
Please welcome Nour, our newborn daughter. Her name means ‘Light’ in Arabic, and if you’ll forgive the cliche, she’s lit up our lives. Consider that out of the three sons my parents had, they in turn produced eight children, seven of them boys, prior to Nour’s birth. I never bought the idea that there is a 50/50 chance of having one or the other for a given couple. The bioinformatics analyst in me wonders if in fact there is a genetic disposition towards producing offspring of one or the other. But I digress.
Now that things are settling down in the A.A. Leil household, I’m finding the time to blog and write again. That means a flurry of announcements is imminent where you can read about my latest SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN blog post, take a peek at the cover art for the anthology TWO ZOMBIES WALK INTO A BAR will appear (soon!) in, and learn how I’ve been Stupefied, yet again.
In the war of words, writers frequently target cliches, reaching for that axe of manuscript destruction, lopping off sentences while screaming “die cliche die” so frightfully they’d make an Uruk-Hai proud. Most ferocious of all are the newest recruits, eager to impress the writers they critique with both sharp wit and incisive intellect. And who can blame them? The warnings to avoid cliches like the plague are drilled into them from day one by more experienced writers who themselves have been trained by their own critique experiences to kill cliches wherever they may be found. But is this for the best?
Consider Legolas from the Lord of the Rings:
Rather than slice lock and limb from his black-maned opponent in the Mines of Moria, Legolas takes aim before adroitly planting an arrow between the goblin’s beady eyes. No mess, no fuss.
As critiquers, we can take a hint from Legolas and think twice, or even thrice, before we admonish someone for using a cliche. The first question to ask ourselves is if the author is even at the stage of revision where they care about cliches. Many authors divide their writing into two stages, focusing first on the general construction of the story (plot, pacing, character development) and saving the nitpicks (like cliche words) for later. A manuscript in its early stages benefits more from critical attention to story-level problems because these are the make-or-break issues, and all the cliche-free prose in the world won’t make for a compelling read.
Suppose the manuscript is ready for nitpicking. There are still a few things to consider before slashing that sentence. Cliches aren’t cliche to everyone. An older reader has a larger catalog of cliches in their mind than a young reader, so therefore stories for adult audiences should be more concerned about cliches than those for young audiences. Similarly, what was cliche twenty years ago may not be cliche today, and what we might think is cliche may not be cliche to most people.
Here’s an exercise that illustrates the point. A visit to ClicheFinder allows us to randomly select ten cliches from a database and list them. Here is an example:
1. In the heat of the night 2. Cudgel your brains 3. All over the place like a dogs breakfast 4. Look what the cat dragged in 5. A submarine with screen doors 6. Win's one's spurs 7. Paying lip service 8. Return to the fold 9. The game is not worth the candle 10. He's like school in the summer ...No class
How many of these cliches have you heard before? Unless you are remarkably well-read, I doubt you’ve heard all of them, and that means to you, they aren’t all cliche. Speaking for myself, I’ve only heard of 1,4,7 and 8.
Suppose we’ve asked ourselves all these questions and still think we’ve identified a cliche. Is the cliche part of dialog? People speak in cliches all the time because it quickly communicates ideas through a shared understanding of the cliche’s meaning. One of many cliches I’ve used earlier in this piece was ‘make-or-break’. Sure, I could’ve said ‘problems with plot, character, and pacing can render a reader completely disinterested in your story’, but ‘make-or-break’ is more efficient.
If we’ve asked ourselves all these questions and still think we need to strike out the cliche, then we can knock that arrow, pull that bowstring, and let our cliche-hunting fury fly because like Legolas, our aim will be true.
What if we’re on the receiving end of the critique? We can’t really control what our critique partners say, nor do we want to. As critique recipients, we should always seriously consider comments given to us, but we must also feel free to reject them. A first reader of one my stories once declared that it was cliche to use the word ‘blared’ to describe a shock jock’s voice coming from a radio. I’d never heard anyone else say that, and none of the other readers flagged the word in the manuscript. More importantly, from the point of view of the protagonist who found the shock jock’s words offensive, blared was exactly the right verb to use to describe the protagonists attitude toward what he’d heard. So I ignored the comment and moved on. The editors of Stupefying Stories didn’t seem to mind the word “blared” either, because they bought the story.
Which of the ten cliches above have you heard before? Let’s determine by group consensus which of these aren’t cliche at all. Comment below!
Over four thousand people infected, nine hundred of them suffering hemolytic-uremic syndrome, a disorder whose first symptoms are vomiting and diarrhea. For fifty individuals, it ended in death. Such is the grim toll that the 2011 E. coli epidemic wrought upon Europe, and in particular France and Germany.
When Yonatan Grad, an infectious disease physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and research fellow at the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH), first read of the outbreak in the New York Times, he thought he and his colleague, Bill Hanage, could contribute to the understanding of the outbreak.
Read the rest of “The Future of Epidemiology: Next-Gen Sequencing.”
Over at my writer’s group, Philangelus carpet-tagged a bunch of us with the Lucky 7 Game. This writer-sport’s gone viral, and though I’ve seen it spreading throughout my cyberspace haunts for a few weeks, I hadn’t been tagged until today. The rules of the game, shamelessly copied from Philangelus’s blog, are as follows:
1. Go to page 77 of your current MS
2. Go to line 7
3. Copy down the next seven lines as they’re written–no cheating!
Here is my problem. My current MS is a short story I’m working on for a contest. In the unlikely event that a contest judge or administrator reads this and happened to recognize my story later on, I could be disqualified. So instead, I’m posting the Lucky Seven from the last story I finished. From PLATINUM BLONDE:
One A.M., and the fishmongers are still at it. How is it they work the sea by day – good, honest work that God would approve of, and spit in His face by night with singing and dancing? Hypocrites.
The dock’s fish market spills out into promenade hugging the harbor. Just a few strollers tonight, and I’ve got enough cover to approach them unnoticed. God must be looking out for me. I duck into a stall, the stench from the discards of the day’s catch nearly makes me gag.
So there you have it, my Lucky Seven. In case your skeptical about the number seven being lucky, let me point out that my first two publications were both accepted at their respective markets on the seventh try!
Care to post your own Lucky Seven below?