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DBB Special Report: My 100 Favorite Bars – Open or Closed – in the World (Post-Covid Addendum)

| May 24th, 2024

In July of 2019, I published a listing of my 100 favorite bars – open or closed – in the world. Since that time, a pandemic happened, and my passport expired, so I have not traveled much. Nevertheless, today I present an addendum to that list, a collection of bars that have emerged in my life over the last five years; the five toughest years the bar business has faced.


#10. McGovern’s Tavern, Newark NJ.

After receiving some good and relieving news during a meeting at Rutgers-Newark, the future home of my academic studies, I retreated back to this bar I’d spent many days in as a younger lad. My intention was to have a beer or two and take the 3:00 PM train home. I ended up on the 8:05. In that one visit McGovern’s restored its place in my drinking life, even if the exterior bears no resemblance to the old stays. (See the picture directly below.)


#9. Gantry Bar and Kitchen, Long Island City NY.

During Covid, this was the first bar that allowed us to come inside and drink at the counter. For people who consider the barroom the centerpiece of their social life, this was an amazing moment. Gantry’s location – almost exactly at the halfway point along the NYC Marathon route – made it the perfect spot to experience my favorite day in the city all year. (Shoutout to Ashling O’Dwyer, the person I’m most excited to have encountered during the Covid era.)


#8. The Bar at Hollow Brook Golf Club, Cortlandt Manor NY.

There is an artistry to the golf club bar, and the great ones feel like extensions of the round you’ve just played. At Hollow Brook you can sidle up the bar for a cold pint and watch the pros on television or turn around and watch the hackers come up the 9th through a wall of floor-to-ceiling windows. (There’s also a patio to enjoy, but I’ve never sat on it.) Like most great golf club bars, you start thinking about far before your final putt on 18.


#7. Pic-a-Lilli Pub, Atlantic City NJ. (Closed October 2022)

I celebrated my 40th birthday in Atlantic City and “the Pic” had the best wings I’ve ever eaten outside of Buffalo. That was January of 2022. But the end of that year, the bar was no more, and another Atlantic City landmark was gone.

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What Can Keep the 2024 Bears from Contending? Just the Sacks, Ma’am.

| May 17th, 2024


In February of 2019, the New England Patriots won the most boring Super Bowl game ever played, snoozing the nation with a 13-3 victory over a then dramatically overmatched, and now Scrooge McDuck-esque wealthy Jared Goff. That Pats team defied the statistical odds, specifically in one category: they were one of the league’s worst pass rushing units, finishing the regular season T-30 in sack total.

Sacks, many argue, are an overrated statistic. I do not endorse this argument. Pressure is great, numerically. But pressure doesn’t hurt. Pressure doesn’t lead to a frightened quarterback putting the football on the turf inside his own ten. Pressure doesn’t sideline your rival’s quarterback for multiple weeks in the stretch run. The threat of violence from a street corner bully can be incredibly effective, but your relationship to him is dramatically altered once he’s socked you in the jaw.

Since that New England Super Bowl dud, here are the regular season sack rankings of the Super Bowl champions:

2019 Chiefs: 11th.

2020 Bucs: T-4.

2021 Rams: 3.

2022 Chiefs: 2.

2023 Chiefs: 2.

Sack the quarterback, win the chip. The 2023 Bears were 31st in the sport, 30 sacks behind the league-leading Baltimore Ravens. So, what has to change? A significant amount.

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With Caleb Williams Comes a “Little Bit of Star Quality”

| May 10th, 2024

“What’s new Buenos Aires?I’m new–I want to say I’m just a little stuck on youYou’ll be on me too!

I get out here Buenos AiresStand back–you ought to know what’cha gonna get in meJust a little touch of star quality!”

Evita, lyric by Tim Rice


What is star quality? How does one quantify it? Richard Zanuck, one of the producers of Jaws (and countless other non-shark films) tried to sum it, saying, “Star quality is one of the most difficult things to describe. It emanates from the person, and he may not even understand it himself. It’s a quality that separates the star from the rest of us.”

Star quality, when it comes to sports, is perhaps even more difficult to define than it is in Hollywood, but there are correlations. Michael Shannon and Campbell Scott and Cherry Jones are brilliant actors, but are they stars? Of course not. “I’m going to see the new Cherry Jones film” is a sentence that has never been uttered outside of my apartment. D.J. Moore and Jaylon Johnson are a brilliant wide receiver/corner combo, but how many tickets do you think the two players are responsible for selling? I would argue very, very few. If Jaylon Johnson walked into my local bar for trivia night, there’s a chance I wouldn’t even recognize him.

Brilliance does not equal stardom in sports, but it is a requirement, because stardom without brilliance is mere celebrity. The Kelce brothers are stars in the NFL not just because of pop star girlfriends, shirtless beer guzzling and a top podcast. That helps, and their personalities enable those things, but they are stars in the NFL because they complement those personalities with two of the greatest careers seen at their respective positions.

Baker Mayfield has the personality, but not the game. Justin Jefferson has the game, but not the personality. The list of those who combine both attributes is a short one and that’s what makes a Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Patrick Mahomes, Mike Singletary, Ray Lewis, Deion Sanders, Reggie White, Lawrence Taylor, Randy Moss, etc. so unique. Hell, Aaron Rodgers might three clubs (or more) short of a full golf bag but his stardom, and the attention it receives, are undeniable. (Joe Burrow and Cam Newton always struck me as fake stars. Great players who put on funny outfits to gain the attention they believe accompanies stardom.)

Cade McNown could have been the greatest QB to ever play but that “personality” was never going to breed stardom. Same with Rex Grossman and Mitch Trubisky. Jay Cutler had a remarkably unique personality, but he polarized the cities in which he played to such a degree that transcendent stardom seemed an impossibility. Justin Fields had electric moments on the field but offered very little elsewhere. Could you imagine Fields in these State Farm commercials Mahomes does?

Caleb already does the commercials. Dr. Pepper. Wendy’s. You name it.

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Praising the Poles Project: Evaluation, Aggression, Confidence.

| May 3rd, 2024


I don’t know what the Jerry Angelo “project” was; his tenure was marred by a pernicious reluctance to add top receiver talent and ultimately doomed by Caleb Hanie’s inability to play the quarterback position at a high school level.

I don’t know what the Phil Emery “project” was; his tenure never got out of the starting gate, as hiring Marc Trestman (and not Bruce Arians) derailed any potential success for the organization on his watch.

I think I know what the Ryan Pace “project” was, but he learned the single most important lesson for an NFL GM: if you get the quarterback wrong your chance at success is minimal. (And he technically got it wrong twice.)

The Ryan Poles Project may sound like the name of a 70s prog rock band, but it is actually the most coherently executed management plan the Chicago Bears have displayed in forty years. It’s had a clear, definable trajectory since George McCaskey met Poles at that Blackhawks Bar in O’Hare (or something). But its legibility took form even before that meeting.

When the Bears were interviewing general manager candidates to replace Pace, no candidate was more honest than Poles. He looked George and Ted in the eyes and told them, in no uncertain terms, that the roster was crap. He told them he would have to burn the entire thing to the ground, collapse it like one of those Vegas casinos that can no longer survive an endless series of minor renovations. He told them what he envisioned was not a quick fix, but instead a multi-year project that would end with the Bears being consistent contenders. He needed them to commit to that vision, that project. And they did.

Flus brought in.

But say goodbye

to Khalil, Bob Quinn

and some Roquan guy.

Loss after loss,

Fans head for the hills.

But hold up, hoss.

It’s Davis Mills!

Like healing a leper,

They’ve got the first pick.

And here comes Dave Tepper,

the des-per-ate prick.

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Tomorrow: Final Pre-Draft DBB Spaces!

| April 19th, 2024


We hide in spaces,

Dark and disturbing spaces.

Discussing the draft.


Tomorrow, at 2 PM ET, Robert Schmitz and I will be hosting a listener-driven event on Spaces. We’ll do a brief introduction but then we’ll “open up phone lines” and let the listeners take over with questions. All topics are on the table; this is the Spaces equivalent of a Reddit AMA. But, you know, let’s try and stay on the draft topic.

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Lance Zierlein’s “Postcards from the Edge”: A Draft Survey of a Major Position of Need

| April 12th, 2024


Dallas Turner, Edge, Alabama

Zierlein Comparison: Brian Burns

Zierlein Overview: “Long and athletic with the explosive traits needed to become an impactful NFL pass rusher. Turner’s first-step quickness and elite closing burst are important building blocks, but he still needs to work on his process from Point A to Point B. He hasn’t learned to create the space and angles needed to consistently attack the edges, but that should come with better hand development and a more diversified approach. A team would be wise to widen him out and allow him a better runway to ignite his burst and overwhelm tackles with his speed. He’s added 20 pounds since coming to Alabama, but he struggles at times to stack and shed run blockers or set a firm edge. Turner’s frame and game are much less developed than Will Anderson Jr.’s coming out of Alabama last year, so it could take time for him to make his mark as a starting 3-4 outside linebacker.”

Video: 


Jared Verse, Edge, FSU

Zierlein Comparison: LaMarr Woodley

Zierlein Overview: “Talented edge defender with the field demeanor, athleticism and skill set to rack up statistics in key categories fairly early in his NFL career. Verse dominated at Albany and then showed an ability to do the same at Florida State. He’s twitchy and compact, with explosiveness featured at the point of attack and in his upfield burst as a pass rusher. He’s great with his hands and does a nice job of diagnosing plays quickly and staying out of the clinches of offensive linemen looking to snatch him up. Verse’s ability to threaten the edge only bolsters his hellish speed-to-power bull-rushing ability to run tackles deep into the pocket. He can play up or down and should be in consideration for all defensive schemes looking to add a safe, high-impact edge.”

Video:

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Tomorrow: DBB Spaces, 9th Pick Edition, at 1 PM ET.

| April 5th, 2024


Tomorrow, Robert and I will be hosting a DBB Spaces on Twitter at 1 PM ET. This will be an episode dedicated entirely to the ninth pick in the draft. How will it work?

  • The first few minutes of the episode will be Robert and I mock drafting the first eight picks.
  • We will then make our arguments for what the Bears both WILL DO and SHOULD DO with their options at nine.
  • We will then open up the lines for any and all fans to present their preferences for Ryan Poles. All trades and choices will be given a platform. Polite arguments will subsequently commence.

The plan is for this episode to last two hours. We want your voices to be heard. It should be a lot of fun.

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With Caleb Williams a Foregone Conclusion, All Eyes Shift to the Ninth Pick: WR Edition

| March 29th, 2024


When it comes to the ninth pick in the draft, three wide receivers seem to have consensus appeal: Marvin Harrison Jr. (Ohio State), Malik Nabers (LSU) and Rome Odunze (Washington). There are varying opinion as to the ranking of these three but the likelihood remains that at least one will be on the board when the Bears pick for the second time in the first round.

So, who are they?  As always, this time of year, I lean on Lance Zierlein at NFL.com.


Marvin Harrison Jr.

Zierlein Comparison: CeeDee Lamb.

Zierlein Overview: “Harrison comes from impressive NFL bloodlines and possesses similarities that made his father, Pro Football Hall of Famer Marvin Harrison, special. Harrison can run but isn’t a burner. What makes him tough to handle is his consistent play speed paired with quality salesmanship in his routes. He’s able to uncover no matter where he’s aligned or which part of the field his assignment takes him to, and he is capable of finishing catches in a crowd. Harrison can be sudden while working possession routes, and he’s well qualified to beat any opponent with his ball skills if the battle heads deep. Harrison is a touchdown champ with a variety of ways to excel, and that characteristic figures to follow him into the pros. He has the traits and tools to win in all three phases of the route and on all three levels of the field. He’s a pedigree prospect and a Day 1 starter with high-end production expected.”

Video:


Malik Nabers

Zierlein Comparison: Justin Jefferson.

Zierlein Overview: “Nabers is the next big thing coming out of LSU’s receiver room, with the pure explosiveness and talent to be mentioned in the same breath as former LSU stars starring in the league today. Despite a lack of polish and precision as a route-runner, Nabers’ gliding movements and speed alterations seem to disguise the top-end speed and separation potential that await opposing coverages. He’s a bouncy leaper with the athletic ability to make the impossible catches possible. He tucks away accurate throws and displays the toughness and play strength to fight for tight-window victories over the middle. Nabers will need to address his tendency to track and play deep throws with finesse, or his early advantages will turn into 50/50 battles. He can play all three receiver spots and has the profile to become a productive, high-volume target over all three levels as a potential WR1.

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Audibles From the Long Snapper: The Post-Free Agency (First Wave) Edition

| March 22nd, 2024


NOTE: Robert and I intended to start doing our weekly Spaces sessions on Twitter a few weeks back, but I have been battling one of the worst bronchial infections of my life. I’m finally returning to normal existence, and we’ll be live this Saturday (3/23) at 1 PM ET. A lot to talk about. 

Thoughts on what has transpired in the early days of free agency, starting in Chicago.

  • Do I believe Ryan Poles had second or third-round offers on the table for Justin Fields? No, I do not. If you have followed my commentary on the Fields trade market, you know that I’ve been consistent in my reporting: there has been no Fields market. If a second-round pick had been on the table, Poles would have absolutely jumped at the opportunity. This revisionist take on the market, created by the Fields camp, is an attempt to save face, to pretend his journey to Pittsburgh was self-directed. Atlanta didn’t want him. Sean Payton doesn’t think he’s very good. Minnesota preferred Sam Darnold. As we close the book on the Justin Fields era in Chicago, it’s time to be honest. He was an underwhelming performer and the league recognized that.
  • The Keenan Allen acquisition should have no influence on Poles’ draft strategy. Allen is going to be 32 years old this season. And while he is coming off his best year, the Bears can’t expect more than 2-3 seasons from him at a top-line performer. If these three wide receiving prospects – Harrison, Nabers, Odunze – are as good as many believe, the Bears shouldn’t hesitate to stand pat at number nine and bring one of them to Chicago. Always. Be. Adding. Weapons.
  • The center position is still intriguing as we look ahead to 2024. Ryan Bates is a $4 million player. That’s not backup money, especially on the interior of the offensive line. It’ll be surprising if Bates is not one of the five starting linemen in September, and I think that position is going to be center.

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