The SST/CAMS Case: A Tale of Poor Communication (and a Possible Vendetta)

People love the Stadium Super Trucks. It’s a fan favorite in the United States and has seen multiple steps in the right direction in Australia, between entertaining race finishes and an agreement with Boost Mobile to further grow the series.

Well, except for CAMS.

Over the past few days, I’ve been following a court case surrounding CAMS and SST in which the latter is banned from racing in CAMS-sanctioned events (which is nearly every major Australian event, to be honest) due to safety concerns after a wheel nearly hit a pedestrian bridge at the Perth event in May. In the end, CAMS won in a decision made earlier today.

When I first heard the news, I was taken aback for obvious reasons, but I was also pretty suspicious for a few reasons. Before I get to those, I’ll voice my thoughts on the reasoning.

Why the Ban Happened

So here’s the story for those out of the loop: in the Perth race in May, Matt Nolan wrecked while coming off a ramp near the start/finish line, causing him to roll multiple times and lose a wheel. Said wheel ended up hitting a spectator bridge. A few days after the race, CAMS decided to suspend the series from competing in further support rounds on safety grounds.

From an objective point of view, I can understand why the decision was made. Last thing you want is for flying debris to hit fans. That’s why plate racing has caused so much controversy in NASCAR after incidents like Kyle Larson’s 2013 Daytona wreck and Austin Dillon’s 2015 flip into the catchfence there.

However, the decision to stop SST came before they ran at a street course. Perth’s Barbagallo Raceway is a permanent track. I get they’re worried about it happening on the streets since the track is far more confined, but this is a decision based on a freak accident at a closed circuit. Furthermore, people pointed out the bridge is supposed to be empty during races.

The decision was delayed when SST brought up other series that have had parts fly off, including a tailshaft that hit a sign at the Bathurst 1000, proving this isn’t an SST thing but a racing in general issue. But either way, it’s probably best for SST to make some adjustments to avoid a repeat or worse consequences, right?

Once SST caught wind of the situation, they got to work on making safety improvements; particularly, they made stronger wheels that are less likely to come off in wrecks. Australian racing legend Larry Perkins inspected the trucks and gave his support, saying “the safety standard was on par with V8 Supercars.” Okay, so the trucks are now safer and they have the seal of approval. The ball is now in CAMS’ court.

And they proceed to drop-kick it out of the arena.

Not only does CAMS seem to ignore the improvements (apparently, the judge was surprised at CAMS’ lawyer saying CAMS had not inspected them), but they apparently tried to make changes themselves without the consent of SST officials. Guys, if you’re trying to figure out something like spectator safety, you don’t leave one side in the dark while you try to fix them yourself.

Reading CAMS’ statement on the matter (which reeks of smug PR bullcrap), it featured this comment:

These concerns were put to the category manager who failed to provide a satisfactory and suitable response to the dangers identified and the decision was then made to suspend the category in Australia.

Well, what the hell do you think they were doing with the new wheels?

“Very Naked Communication”

Safety changes aside, that and the final decision are actually not what pisses me off the most about this. It’s the horrible communication between CAMS and SST.

Regardless of what side you’re on, you have to agree about one thing: if the decision to ban SST was made in May, why did CAMS wait until July to tell them?

Imagine an NFL player decides to use PEDS in Week 1 and he gets hurt in the game, keeping him out until the halfway point of the season. The NFL sees he failed his drug test and decides to suspend him indefinitely, but doesn’t tell him or anyone else until he comes back in Week 8. The NFL brass might be suspect, but they wouldn’t wait that long to announce he would be suspended.

Even the judge called the interactions between CAMS and SST “very naked communication.” I know Australia and North Carolina are very far apart, but it’s 2018. I can easily send a message, whether by email or text or even a chat client like Discord, to a friend on the other side of either ocean and they’d receive it in seconds.

What on earth did CAMS do? Write the notice in ink, send a messenger onto a ship, sail him through Cape Horn at the southernmost tip of South America, drop him off in Central America, then have him go on some magical and dangerous journey by foot and horseback before Pony Expressing his way to SST headquarters? Matters like this should not be taking months to communicate in the 21st century.

CAMS also had the gall to add this remark:

It’s important to note this suspension has been in place since May, 2018.

That doesn’t make you some lifesaving hero who knew what would happen. That just shines you in an even worse light because you waited so long to tell SST of your decision.

If you’re trying to get SST out of Australia because you don’t like them, you should have informed them immediately after placing the ban. Not only would it have taken them by surprise, they wouldn’t have had time to come up with safety improvements to support their case. It’s like if Japan bombed Pearl Harbor but didn’t declare war on the United States until the spring of 1942, when the American war machine is already prepared for retaliation.

A Grudge?

CAMS screwing SST over with a decision that leaves its future in Australia in question. Why does that sound so familiar?

Oh right, because it happened before. I even wrote about it.

I really believe CAMS has had some sort of animosity with Robby Gordon ever since the hooning incident (which had occurred since local security guards were more than happy to allow it, I must add), if not further back. In the blog post I linked, Gordon has had some clashes in the past, including one about safety violations that led to a fine, but Gordon has shown that he is willing to fix his errors.

Additionally, while defending SST, barrister Stewart Anderson said CAMS and Gordon had formed an agreement on February 20 that elaborated CAMS had been satisfied with the way SST was being run. Don’t tell me CAMS is suddenly doing an about-face from that. If they are, it would be a massive breach of the doctrine of good faith in Australian contract laws.

Unlike the visa fiasco, which was eventually reverted once Gordon paid a donation and apologized, the future of SST in Australia seems to be in genuine trouble with this ban. It’s a huge shame, especially with how much Boost Mobile has started to invest into their new partnership.

To repeat what I wrote in that post: “This is a lose-lose-lose situation for CAMS, SST, and the fans.  For CAMS (who view it as a win), I have a feeling they’re going to be suffering from a PR nightmare because of this; for SST, they have just lost plenty of future race dates with the Supercars; for the fans, especially in Australia, one of their favorite support events is gone.”

Considering the less-than-positive reaction to the SuperUtes, it’s not surprising that I’ve seen a few people suggest the SST ban is a conspiracy to push the Australian-bred SuperUtes over the American stadium trucks. Is there really one? I personally don’t think so, but my eyebrows are certainly raised.

This whole matter just ticks me off. I understand why CAMS might be concerned about spectator safety, but the way they handled this case angers me more than the original reason for it happening.

Hey SST, my suggestion of heading to Japan still applies. I hear they love their motorsports, and there’s no doubt in my mind that something as wild as stadium trucks on asphalt would intrigue them.


Childhood, Nostalgia, and Nyanpasu: Non Non Biyori Connects with the Past

Nostalgia is a hell of a drug. You hear about it all the time when people reminisce about the “good ol’ days” when they were growing up. Boy bands, pop punk, MTV actually playing music, the list goes on.

That’s what makes Non Non Biyori such an interesting anime. It’s a slice-of-life show that is grounded in reality yet also offers a feeling of the past. When you watch it, you relate to the characters because their actions remind you of you growing up. Childhood is a very important step in life and is one that NNB handles extremely well, and watching it as an adult helps bring back memories of those days.

Obligatory spoiler warning

So what is Non Non Biyori about? Simply put, it is a slice-of-life show (you know I love those) focusing on the lives of four grade/middle school girls living in the countryside. Their home village of Asahigaoka is a peaceful and calm setting so you shouldn’t be expecting anything crazy to occur, yet the girls’ activities are enjoyable to watch.

How much one likes a slice of life really depends on how much they can connect with the characters, and NNB does that beautifully. The characters are entertaining to watch and that’s a good thing, but it’s the ability for the watcher to relate to them that makes the show really work. After all, I’m sure everyone has freaked out over their tests — Natsumi’s rant about struggling to interpret an author’s meaning behind a book triggers bad flashbacks of AP English classes — or watched embarrassing videos of themselves from their childhoods — I have too many of those, sadly.

It’s even more than just that as the show also touches on serious topics. In Episodes 4 of both seasons, Renge is introduced to the concepts of loss in the forms of a friend leaving and tadpole shrimp she had been raising dying. It’s not easy for kids to learn and comprehend how death and losing someone they care about work, but NNB addresses this in a manner that nearly everyone can understand and relate to. For many of us, our first experiences with death is usually in the form of losing a pet when we were kids, and there are countless instances of close friends moving away. Both are incredibly heartbreaking moments that the show handles perfectly.

As I said above, nostalgia is a huge driving factor in Non Non Biyori. Although not everyone lives in the countryside, the everyday activities of the girls and their experiences feature many aspects that remind the viewer of something from their past.

In S1E9, Komari and Konomi are playing on a Super Famicom; while it’s a Japan-only system, it’s a welcome surprise for those with the worldwide counterpart, the SNES. I never had a SNES but I had a Nintendo 64, and seeing Komari blow on the cartridge took me back to when I used to do it all the time just to play Mario Kart 64. Later in the episode, Natsumi is cleaning her room when she stumbles upon toys that she used to play with when she was younger, such as rubber toy poppers and Slinkys. Seeing those toys reminded me of when I used to play with them all the time in elementary school. In another episode, Komari and Renge play with toy glider planes, which I have memories of building back then.

Besides all of these, seeing Komari’s love for her stuffed bear reminds me of how much I adored stuffed animals when I was in elementary school. I used to have these giant stuffed turtles and bears and I would give them names like Frank (probably after Franklin from the book series) and Freezer (a William “Refrigerator” Perry tribute?). I’m not sure what happened to them, which makes me feel a bit guilty considering how much Komari is taking care of hers even as a middle schooler.

It doesn’t even need to be material objects like toys and games that make me reminisce. Renge and Natsumi declare a stick to be a legendary sword, Natsumi and Komari run away from home after an argument between the former and her mother, participating in school events; these are all activities that I remember doing when I was younger. You don’t need to explicitly connect with the show on every instance (I’ve only played in snow once in my life, for example), but it’s easy to get that nostalgic vibe from what the characters are up to.

After finishing the show, I showed my mom a few episodes to gauge her interest (helps that she’s already seen other SoL shows like K-On! and Tamako Market). When we watched just the first episode, she was already able to draw parallels between the characters and her life growing up in rural Vietnam. For example, Natsumi, Komari, and Renge express surprise at Hotaru carrying her house key to school with her and locking her doors as they don’t do the same (since their houses don’t have locks); likewise, my mom said her family’s house also didn’t have locks.

Speaking of moms, NNB also seems like it would connect well with parents. I’m obviously not a father, but the aforementioned nostalgia probably helps many parents whose kids are now out of the house (for college or work) connect with the show. In Episode 10 of Repeat, Kaede teaches Renge how to ride a bike, which has its speed bumps as Renge falls over and Kaede chases after her to help out. I’m sure many parents can say they’ve had the same experience with their children. Finally, as sunset looms, Renge finally rides off as Kaede stands and looks on. Like a parent watching their child go off to college, her help and support have guided Renge through the motions, but now, she is able to do it herself.

Beyond that, I bet parents can certainly think of the times their kids have gotten into arguments and other antics with them like Natsumi and her mom. How many moms and dads have had their children threaten to run away over some claimed injustice, only to come back shortly after? How many have had fierce fights over their kids’ less-than-optimal report cards that they tried to hide?

A good slice of life knows how to create entertainment from the mundane. For Non Non Biyori, the premise of country life might sound boring, but how it’s able to make the viewer recollect their memories growing up is one of the reasons why it is such a great show.

Besides all of this, what are my thoughts on the show itself? Well, I absolutely love it and it’s not just for the reasons listed above. The scenery is incredible and the music is amazing. The characters are all lovable and fun. I couldn’t stop smiling with each episode, and it is so heartwarming and wholesome to watch. Non Non Biyori has served as a relaxing yet fun getaway from the stresses of the real world, and I’m glad to have picked it up.

I can’t wait for the movie!

How Reddit’s Server Errors Taught Me to Backup Everything (And Make an Archive)

So Reddit has been… not interesting in recent times, to say the least. With the redesign in effect, among other things, the site has been far more glitchy lately. Random logouts, forcing the redesign, and worst of all, 503 errors, the list goes on.

With the site going down on occasion, I’ve been getting worried about losing my hard-earned work: my writeups, historical articles, and other OC. While I have all of them organized on my Reddit userpage, the recent issues have made me a bit concerned; if Reddit goes down for an extended period of time and is severely hampered, what’s going to happen to my work? What if I want to show it off but I can’t because, well, the site’s down?

The obvious answer would be to create backup files of the documents to have ready. This isn’t just something that applies to Reddit posts either, as backing up any sort of file would be important since you never know what could happen to it. In my case, since I want my writeups to be readily available to people in the event of another Reddit malfunction, I figured, “Why not have them on a site that I’m already very familiar with?”

Enter Zappa’s Writing Archive.

This is a WordPress blog in a similar vein to Zappa Racing, but will be used exclusively for me to copy over my Reddit pieces. NASCAR Storytime, Bears History, /r/NFL historical works, and other original content that were initially on Reddit will be there for reading. I’ll still be using this site to voice my personal thoughts, but if Reddit decides to shit the bed, there’s always that site.

It’s obviously still a work-in-progress as I try to figure out the theme before migrating all 50+ articles I’ve written, but Rome wasn’t built in a day.

NASCAR’s Social Media Factionalism is Stupid.

The beauty of the Internet is that it allows people to connect with one another all around the world and discuss their favorite topics with each other in various ways. For NASCAR fans, Twitter is the go-to place for 280-character bits of news and funny content in real time. Instagram is a great platform for sharing photos on race day. Facebook, when it’s not being used to stalk that girl you like, helps people arrange meetups and groups. Reddit lets fans interact with one another, discuss various topics, and with its up/downvote system, launch more talk.

The Internet also lets Twitter completely shit on Reddit like it’s the black cow of the NASCAR fanbase.

Seriously, the animosity between NASCAR fans on Twitter, Reddit, and other social media platforms is ridiculous. Whenever something pops up involving /r/NASCAR, non-Redditors on Twitter use the opportunity to bring it down. /r/NASCAR (and Twitter) hates Facebook as they view it as a cesspool of racism and negativity, leading to the creation of /r/NASCARFBComments to poke fun at them. If a controversial tweet is posted on Reddit, you can expect a reply to be, “Lol, check out the replies to the tweet. They’re hilarious.”

People on their respective sites seem to have a massive superiority complex over those on other platforms, even when they all like the same thing. When the rear window investigations began springing up (a supposed /r/NASCAR creation) and drivers began suffering L1 penalties, Twitter fans saw it as NASCAR “caving in” to Reddit and indirectly told Redditors to go back to “pretending [Matt] DiBenedetto is actually good some more”. When the bogus Matt Crafton/IndyCar rumor surfaced on /r/INDYCAR (yes, not /r/NASCAR) and people questioned its legitimacy, unsurprisingly, Twitter saw it as Reddit being “full of shit”.

It’s very similar to the rivalry between NASCAR, F1, and IndyCar fans. Each fanbase thinks their form of racing is better than the other two and every side has their massive generalizations regarding each other. NASCAR fans are stereotyped as rednecks who enjoy cars going in circles. F1 fans are seen as prissy snobs who like watching cars that can’t pass. IndyCar fans are massive elitists who are following an inferior product hampered by the CART/IRL split of the 1990s. For fans of all three disciplines, this creates a very uncomfortable feeling like being behind enemy lines as racing series that they enjoy are being torn apart.

NASCAR social media doesn’t have the benefit of following completely different forms of racing. Everyone on Reddit, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, etc., are all fans of the same sport: NASCAR. It doesn’t matter which platform you’re on, you enjoy stock car racing and want to talk about it, so you are a NASCAR fan. /u/johnnyracer24 watches the Houston Astros regularly, but he is a NASCAR fan. @x24Ever loves Oklahoma football, but he is a NASCAR fan. Justin Nguyen might blog about weird shit like anime and watch cooking videos on Facebook all day long, but he is a NASCAR fan.

However, this shared interest in NASCAR doesn’t stop people from assuming their superiority over other websites and making generalizations about the other. In the eyes of other platforms, Reddit is full of virgins who have nothing better to do than stare at rear windows all day and jack off to DiBurrito. Twitter is filled with shitty parody accounts and wannabe journalists with a god complex, and Facebook is a toxic, Trump-supporting, racist hellhole. Every site has its dumbasses and armchair mechanics, so it’s idiotic to lump everyone else in. There are Redditors who don’t like DiBenedetto. There are Twitter users who don’t instantly block everyone who disagrees with them. There are Facebook folks who aren’t racist or conservative. This hostility towards other platforms containing people who like the same thing as you is an utter joke, and for those who visit all three of them, it sucks seeing your other communities get trashed on.

Besides, it’s not like there’s no mutual agreement in what each platform thinks. Regardless of which site I go to, I still run into people who think Brian France is doing a poor job at running NASCAR and certain decisions are hurting the sport rather than helping.

Just grow the fuck up. We’re all fans of the same thing, so stop grabbing at each other’s throats and turning social media into a NASCAR Civil War. Can’t we just get along?

Sincerely, a very exasperated /r/NASCAR moderator/Twitter user/Facebook cooking video watcher.

A Silent Cheer: An Athlete’s Road to Redemption

Shouya Ishida and Michael Vick have something in common.

I’m sure your first thought is, “What the hell are you talking about?”, but hear me out. Having recently watched A Silent Voice and read its manga (both of which are excellent in their own ways, 10/10), I feel like I’m obligated to write about something. The emotional and very meaningful content in both can draw plenty of discussion about topics like bullying and disabilities, but since I’m that one guy who likes to compare anime to sports for some reason, what comes to mind for me is a different aspect: the journey to redemption.

Quick summary of A Silent Voice for the uninitiated (spoilers ahead, obviously): In elementary school, Shouya bullies a newly-arriving student, Shouko Nishimiya, who also happens to be deaf. When word of his harassment reaches the principal, he is singled out as the perpetrator, and when he attempts to drag his friends into the mess, the bullying turns on him. As a result, as the years progress, he becomes an outcast as others learn of his past. Now in high school, he seeks Shouko with the hope of making amends.

Although he meets her again and they become friends, Shouya is still haunted by his past, and many of his old friends point out that just being nice to her isn’t going to atone for what he did. In fact, trying to fix what has been damaged can be seen as a selfish act on Shouya’s part. Much of the film’s plot revolves around his struggle to redeem himself (the manga does the same, but it also focuses on other characters and subplots), which had me thinking about the football world.

There’s a difference between a comeback story and a redemption story. Although both words have the same general meaning of making a return from a darker time, a comeback is when someone is struck by adversity that is (for the most part) out of their control, from which they bounce back. An example would be a player suffering a major injury one year, only to return to form the year after and enjoy success. The NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year Award is the embodiment of this, and many comeback stories are also feel-good ones that fans can easily root for.

Redemption stories, on the other hand, begin as a result of misfortune that is brought upon themselves, usually in the form of arrests or other controversies. When a player goes through one of these, it’s a lot harder than a comeback story because they not only have to deal with their personal demons, but the fans and media are likely not on their side. While there are some supporters, the general opinion towards them would be contempt and dislike.

Michael Vick is a classic example of a successful redemption. His fall from grace is one of the hardest in sports as the former Falcons star faced jail time for his involvement in a dog fighting ring. After being released from prison, he returned to the NFL with the Eagles, where he enjoyed a pretty impressive tenure. Nevertheless, it’s not uncommon for fans to still be angry toward him for the dog fighting fiasco; despite serving his time, there are some things that fans will never forgive. That story and the negative stigma surrounding him will remain with Vick for the rest of his life, but like Shouya, he has redeemed himself in the eyes of many, both in terms of on-field performance and his animal rights activism.

One /r/NFL user wrote:

I love animals – especially dogs – and wrote Vick off as an awful human being who was probably lost forever.

He had quite a track record of being a very selfish douchebag. Look up things like “Ron Mexico” to get a glimpse.

He had the typical pattern of “do lots and lots of bad things, eventually get caught, have my agent write up an ‘apology’ immediately that says that I’m ‘so sorry’ and ‘it will never happen again,’ keep on doing the exact same things, wash, rinse, repeat.”

These guys do this all the time. Look at Manziel. Every time he’d get caught, he sounded so contrite, as if he were actually going to change.

When Vick got out, I didn’t believe in him at all. But… he’s done so much, repeatedly, without reverting to his old ways, that I truly believe he’s the biggest redemption story in sports off the top of my head.

“To face all your demons, put them in the past, and be forthright about it; it is the best thing you can do,” Vick stated.

Of course, not all stories have a happy ending. For every success, there are plenty of failures. How many times have players like Ray McDonald, Aldon Smith, and Greg Hardy been given second chances only to completely squander them?

That’s why Johnny Manziel is an interesting case. After effectively kicking himself out of the NFL because of his off-field antics, he’s currently mounting a comeback tour of his own with The Spring League. Even some NFL teams have reportedly expressed interest in giving him another chance.

Should things go his way, it would certainly be a successful redemption, but there are some factors that one must consider: he might claim to be sober, among other things, after going through rehab and other treatment, but there’s no guarantee that he’s a completely changed person just yet. Understandably, this leads to plenty of skepticism, such as from fans who believe he blew his one shot and should not get another, but it also doesn’t hurt to at least see what he can do. Personally, I’m supporting Manziel’s comeback season and think he has improved as a person, but we’ll just have to see.

I’m all for second chances, especially if the offender has done his time/has proven that he has changed for the better. Wife beaters and other similar cases are shunned by the sports world for good reason, but I feel like if they can somehow show that they are no longer the idiots they were and have served their punishments, they should at least get one more shot. If they screw that up, then it’s over, but if they can prove that they are different now, why not?

Whenever a player returns from an arrest and seeks redemption, the hawk’s eyes will be on him. He can apologize all he wants, but he needs to prove that he has fully changed. Not this PR “I feel remorseful for what I have done” crap, but also show that the old self is finally a thing of the past. He can talk the talk, but can he walk the walk?

Shouya certainly did. So did Vick.

Yet Another Bears Mock Draft (2018 Edition)

Everyone bear with me (yes, pun intended), it’s that time of year for mock drafts. Continuing a tradition of mine that has carried on since sometime in 2012, let’s do this. Here are my top picks for the Bears with some alternative options should things go astray.

This is assuming no trades occur. Knowing Ryan Pace (and NFL GMs in general), I find it unlikely, but for my sanity, let’s keep the picks where they are.

Round 1 (#8): Quenton Nelson (OG, Notre Dame)

I have a bad feeling that a team like the Buccaneers will beat the Bears to him, but for the sake of avoiding complications, he’s my top prospect. With Josh Sitton gone, the Bears have a hole to fill at left guard. Eric Kush and Earl Watford may be good depth, but I’m not sold on them as starters. Jordan Morgan may be returning from injury, but I’m more inclined to take a prospect like Nelson over him.

I believe Nelson would be a great replacement for Sitton right out of the gate, especially as he would be getting continuity in an offensive line coach with Harry Hiestand. He is an absolute monster on the field and would be a Day 1 starter in the NFL.

Other considerations

Minkah Fitzpatrick (DB, Alabama)

Let’s say Nelson gets picked before the Bears are on the clock. Now what? Enter Minkah Fitzpatrick.

I think Fitzpatrick would be a great addition to the secondary. While defensive backs aren’t a major need for the Bears, this is more a case of bolstering the unit with one of the top defenders in the draft. Yes, the Bears already have Eddie Jackson and Adrian Amos at safety, along with Kyle Fuller and Prince Amukamara at corner, but Fitzpatrick can play both positions, making him a very versatile player.

Denzel Ward (CB, Ohio State)

The Bears appear to be “pretty high” on Ward, and like Fitzpatrick, he can be a good boost to an already solid secondary. Although he’s not a hard-hitting type of corner, he has great footwork and can play the ballhawk role.

Calvin Ridley (WR, Alabama)

Before the arrival of Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel, Ridley was my top pick for the Bears. Besides being a Bears fan himself, Ridley is also one hell of a receiver and would definitely be a great pickup. However, thanks to said signings, WR isn’t as huge of a need anymore or at least shouldn’t be addressed with the #8 pick. This is a relatively deep draft class for receivers. I’m still mentioning him here since I wouldn’t be too upset if we drafted him.

Round 2 (#39): Courtland Sutton (WR, SMU)

With Cameron Meredith off to New Orleans, Mitchell Trubisky could use a new weapon. Yes, he has Robinson and Gabriel (and, assuming he’s healthy for once, Kevin White), but he needs a true #2 receiver.

As stated earlier, the 2018 class is pretty good for receivers. In this case, I’m going for Courtland Sutton. At 6’4″, he is a tall player and is a hell of a red zone receiver, the latter all the more perfect for a team that was surprisingly impressive inside the 20 despite having a frustrating passing offense.

Other considerations

Equanimeous St. Brown (WR, Notre Dame)

I was torn on whether to put Sutton or St. Brown as my second rounder. Like Sutton, St. Brown is a big receiver as he stands at 6’5″. His stats may not be sexy, but that was a product of playing in a mediocre offense led by Brandon Wimbush. His 4.48 40-yard dash time is sure to also add some bonus points to him.

I’d also like to hear any reporters and announcers covering the Bears try to say his first name.

Will Hernandez (G, UTEP)

Let’s assume Nelson does not get drafted by the Bears in the first round. Again, with Sitton out of the picture, guard opposite Kyle Long has a gap. Hernandez’s name has been tossed around as a high second, low first type of player, so if the Bears look to go guard in the second, they should pounce quickly if they want Hernandez, who was very impressive at UTEP. Although Walter Football believes he would be a better fit in a power-man blocking scheme instead of a zone (as the Bears had run under John Fox and likely will continue to do so under Matt Nagy), I think he can adjust to either.

Round 4 (#106): Hercules Mata’afa (DE, Washington State)

Although the Bears have a good front seven, the depth is a lot more glaring. Akiem Hicks may be the best defensive lineman on the team, but he could use some more help in the trenches. Jonathan Bullard and Roy Robertson-Harris are alright, but don’t really scream scary defensive ends. How can you not consider a guy named Hercules to join the D-line?

Mata’afa played defensive tackle at Washington State, but can probably make the shift to end. Considering how impressive he is when it comes to getting to the quarterback, he can easily fill the edge rusher role.

Other considerations

Darren Carrington (WR, Utah)

Let’s assume no receiver is selected in the first two rounds. New offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich would probably like working with his former Oregon receiver again in the pros, so let’s bring Carrington up.

Carrington was impressive during his early college career under Helfrich at Oregon, but didn’t do too well in 2016 before deciding to transfer to Utah in 2017. Compared to his frustrating 2016 season, the 2017 campaign fared better for him. If the Bears haven’t selected a receiver, why not go for someone who is familiar with the OC?

Round 4 (#115): Shaquem Griffin (LB, UCF)

One not familiar with Shaquem Griffin would likely write him off due to only having one hand, but it hasn’t made him a worse player. If anything, him dominating at the college level proved that it made him better.

Griffin is an absolute beast and was a crucial part of the undefeated 2017 UCF team. He might not be the next Lawrence Taylor, but I think Vic Fangio would appreciate having a player as highly motivated and talented as Griffin. Considering his Combine results, he can be a highly dangerous pass rusher that fulfills the need for blitzers.

Other considerations

Uchenna Nwosu (LB, USC)

As a USC fan, I will admit that I am biased in having Nwosu on my list. However, he had a good 2017 in terms of sacks and providing pressure. Like Griffin, he would be good at filling a need at linebacker, plus he can play edge rusher.

Duke Dawson (CB, Florida)

Let’s assume the Bears don’t draft a defensive back like Fitzpatrick or Ward. Should the Bears choose to address the secondary in the mid-rounds, I’m suggesting Duke Dawson. Dawson is projected as a slot cornerback. While Bryce Callahan is decent at the position, again, boosting the secondary would be good.

Round 5 (#145): Siran Neal (S/CB, Jacksonville State)

If the last draft has taught Bears fans anything, it’s that Pace loves drafting small-school players. Tarik Cohen was from the FCS North Carolina A&T, while Adam Shaheen and the previously-mentioned Morgan hailed from Division II schools. Jacksonville State is an FCS school.

Although the Bears already have Jackson and Amos at safety, Neal can play both safety and corner, providing depth at both positions. He also happens to be good at stopping the run and, according to Walter Football, can contribute on special teams.

Other considerations

Royce Freeman (RB, Oregon)

Similar to Carrington, Helfrich would probably like to work with his former Oregon running back again. When the rumors of Jordan Howard being traded to the Dolphins for Jarvis Landry first circulated, I recall Freeman being among the possible names. At Oregon, he was a power back like Howard who impressed during his first two seasons, but struggled with injuries in 2017. Despite his concern, if Jackson has proven Bears fans anything, Pace would probably be confident that Freeman can get back up to speed.

Round 6 (#181): Alex Cappa (OT, Humboldt State)

Remember what I said about how Pace loves drafting small-school guys? Guess what? Humboldt State is a Division II school.

Despite this small-school stigma usually being a turn-off for fans, Cappa impressed enough to make the Senior Bowl roster. While the level of competition he faced wasn’t the best, he was still good enough to make the Division II All-American first team, among other praise. Charles Leno Jr. and Bobby Massie are serviceable tackles at best, but there’s nothing wrong with getting some competition and development. Massie in particular is the weakest link on the line.

Humboldt State has not had a draft pick since Scotty Reagan in 1991, but Cappa may be the one who breaks the streak.

Round 7 (#224): Ryan Nall, Oregon State (RB)

If the last three drafts have taught Bears fans anything, it’s that Pace also loves drafting running backs. Jeremy Langford, Howard, Cohen, it wouldn’t be surprising if Pace decides to pick another RB. In this case, I’m going with Ryan Nall.

Nall is a bruising type of back who can play both halfback and fullback. The Bears are already pretty set at RB, especially with Benny Cunningham and Michael Burton at FB, but it wouldn’t hurt to get some more competition in there. Since he’s projected to be a seventh rounder or a UDFA, he can be stashed on the practice squad if he isn’t NFL ready by the regular season. It would really depend on how much Nall can contribute on special teams.

Other considerations

Joe Kupcikevicius (OT, Azusa Pacific)

To be honest, my attention was only piqued because of his college for two reasons: they sent me a lot of recruitment letters when I was in high school, and because I watch too much K-On!. However, he has also caught the eye of NFL scouts, with the Bears meeting him during a Pro Day. An Oak Grove, Illinois native, he was a solid offensive lineman at Azusa Pacific (Division II school, so we all know Pace is interested). He’s currently projected to be an undrafted free agent and I would personally pick him up after the Draft, but hey.

If my 2017 mock draft is any indicator, I’m going to get virtually every pick wrong (yes, even my alternative suggestions).

This is why I’m not an NFL GM.

Yuru Camp is the Pinnacle of Comfiness: My Thoughts in 1,271 Words

If Friday the 13th and other Western movies have taught me anything, it’s that camping will suck and/or result in my untimely demise. What about Eastern media? From Japan, the world received the anime Yuru Camp. Unlike the death and suffering in the films I watched over the years, this anime instead provided a more comfy side of camping.

It’s only fitting to open this post by talking about the opening, right?

“SHINY DAYS” by Asaka can be summed up in three words: Catchy as hell.

More often than not, I found myself moving along and even dancing to the song. It isn’t hard to find an urge to dance to a song as catchy as this; in fact, it’s easy as 1, 2, 3! Yes, that was intentional. The start of the song is reminiscent of the Jackson 5, which spurred a lot of mashups. Although I don’t consider myself a fan of the Jackson 5 or Michael Jackson, I’ve heard a few of their songs like the aforementioned “ABC” and “I Want You Back”, both of which seem to be the biggest connections people have made to “SHINY DAYS”.

While we’re on the topic of music, the ending (“Fuyubiyori” by Eri Sasakia) is a complete contrast to the upbeat and catchy “SHINY DAYS”, and instead aligns itself more properly with the general theme of the show itself. It’s a lot slower and softer, which gives it a more relaxing vibe that makes you want to lay back in a chair and close your eyes. I can’t help but whistle along every time I listen to it.

Let’s get to the show itself. Being a slice of life, there isn’t any crazy storyline, and instead simply focuses on the camping experiences of four (eventually five) high school girls: the solo camper Rin and her friend Ena, and the Outdoor Activities Club of (best girl) Nadeshiko, Chiaki, and Aoi.

Critics of slice-of-life shows tend to call them boring as nothing really happens, but you don’t need conflicts or any wild plot lines to create a good show. Characters, for example, are just as important in any anime as the story itself (heck, how well-written the characters are is crucial in any form of media). How much one likes an SOL really depends on how well they can connect with the characters; this doesn’t necessarily mean they have to relate to them, but if you don’t like the characters, it will be hard to like the show since there’s not really any plot that would convince you to keep going. In my eyes, Yuru Camp has some excellently-created characters.

I loved watching the dynamic between Rin and Nadeshiko and how they have grown since the start of the show. Early on, Rin is a quiet type who prefers camping on her own until she eventually starts to open up to Nadeshiko and the Outdoor Activities Club, but it’s not what she is strictly known for. She has her own fantasies about bears and assassins that she enjoys bringing up while bantering with Ena (and an adorable love for dogs), and although she has found a new group of friends, her interests and character don’t change. Even though she has grown to like camping with others, she still loves doing so on her own. Heck, she never even joined the club. It makes sense; as much as I like spending time with my friends, I also have my own activities that I prefer doing alone. There’s nothing wrong with having time to yourself.

Nadeshiko really reminds me of Yui Hirasawa from my favorite show K-On!, both personality-wise and how they started pursuing their respective interests (camping and music). Both start as being relatively unfamiliar in those activities, but with the help of new friends in their clubs, begin to invest themselves into said recreations more. They see how much fun their friends are having while camping and playing music that they decide to get involved as well. By the end, like how Yui has become a talented guitarist, Nadeshiko is off solo camping on her own in the same camp site where she first met Rin in the first episode. It’s a very nice example of a framing device.

Compared to the more reserved Rin, the Outdoor Activities Club is a lot more energetic and creates an atmosphere that draws comparison to the Light Music Club in K-On!: the cheerful Nadeshiko and Club President Chiaki have various conversations that really resemble the ones that the similarly positive Yui and Club President Ritsu have, while Chiaki and Aoi are childhood friends in a similar vein to Ritsu and Mio. Aoi and Mio serve as the foils to the shenanigan-prone Chiaki and Ritsu, respectively. All the more amusing that Aoi is voiced by Aki Toyosaki (Yui’s VA) and has giant eyebrows like Mugi. Unlike the Light Music Club, however, the Outdoor Activities Club actually does what the club advertises, so bonus points to the latter for living up to its name.

Besides the characters, the show really stands out in the artwork. It might not be Your Name levels of beautiful background shots, but I was still blown away by how great the scenery looked. Based on photos I’ve seen of the real life counterparts, C-Station really nailed it.

Even the food looks good. I don’t usually, if ever, watch cooking anime, but I firmly that Yuru Camp should fall under that category. I have never seen a hot pot as tasty as the one made by the campers. Besides Nadeshiko making everything look tasty, the meals also come with recipes in both text form and in the narration. If I ever decide to start camping, I am totally making the dishes that the characters cook.

Music plays a big role in making a series great. If a show does not have good music, it can easily kill the scene. Thankfully, the soundtrack in Yuru Camp has to be one of my favorites in any anime. It features a variety of different types of music that gives off a campy feeling, ranging from fiddles to banjos. None of the songs are dramatically epic, but they perfectly fit the lighthearted and relaxing mood.

Let me describe the general feel of Yuru Camp in three very easy-to-understand words: COMFY. AS. FUCK.

I know anime can romanticize things by making them look really good than they would appear in real life, and Yuru Camp is no exception. That isn’t a bad thing; after all, people watch anime, regardless of genre, so they can get a sort of escape from the harsh reality, so even if a show focuses on a topic that typically happens in real life, they handle it in a way that makes it entertaining. That’s why shows like K-On! affected me emotionally even though I hated high school. In the real world, most camping stories I’ve read usually talk about how it’s cold and wet if one goes in the winter or some other problems. Yuru Camp features some of these issues, but how it’s executed changes such a topic into something nice and fun to enjoy. The campers feel comfy every episode and we feel comfy watching them.

It’s heartwarming, it’s happy, and it’s healthy for the soul.

I am very glad to have started this show when I did. This quarter has proven to be a lot more stressful than when I first entered college, so having a relaxing show to enjoy on Thursdays after returning from classes is a really nice way of lifting my spirits on a rough day. It’s such a wholesome series to watch.