Family, Football & Viva Mexico
“Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts; it even breaks your heart. But that’s OK. The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind.” – Anthony Bourdain
For anyone who knows me, it’s no secret that our family (Jen, Jackson, and me) love to travel. I’ve written about how important I believe it is to get out of your comfort zone and see the world. But unfortunately, it wasn’t something my family did when I was growing up, outside of a few trips to heavily-trafficked tourist destinations and the yearly treks to Lake McConaughy in Nebraska.
Why we mostly stayed grounded in Colorado is up for debate; my best guess is a mix of cost and my hectic baseball schedule in the summer both played significant roles.
This column, however, isn’t about that.
This column is a love story. As I write this, I am 36,000 feet above sea level in a giant metal tube moving approximately 600 miles per hour somewhere over Mexico or Texas – I can’t be sure which.
We are on our way home from Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, Mexico. We have spent the last two weeks in this beautiful city I now consider a second home.
Home Away From Home
If you are unfamiliar, Puerto Vallarta (PV) is a town on the western coast of Mexico. It sits in Bahìa de Banderas – the Bay of Flags – one of the largest bays in the world. It mixes beautiful blue waters to the west and the impressive, jungle-covered Sierra Madre mountain range to the east.
In many areas, it’s precisely what you would expect of a coastal tourist destination in Mexico; towering resorts with hundreds of rooms, pristine private beaches, expensive drinks and hoards of Americans and Canadians running amuck. There are dozens upon dozens of boats in the bay at any given moment; some on fishing excursions, some snorkeling, some just drinking and enjoying the view. You can rent an all-terrain vehicle and traverse the jungles, take a day trip inland, or take a water taxi to a few remote cities not accessible by any reasonable cars.
Initial Impressions & Lessons
The first time we came here – my first time outside the U.S. for any extended period – was in 2020. It was a very typical tourist experience. We mostly stayed at our resort, consuming gallons of margaritas and food geared towards people who primarily want bland, comfortable American-style food.
On that trip, my father-in-law booked a half-day fishing excursion for himself, my brother-in-law, Matt, and me. It’s a typical activity in a bay full of exotic and delicious fish. Our guide – I believe his name was Gustavo, so we’ll roll with it – was a delightful man full of stories. Towards the end of our adventure, he and I began talking about life and American culture versus PV and Mexican culture. I didn’t know it then, but our conversation would impact my world in a way I never imagined possible.
It’s a fair perception of America that we are a land full of greed and gluttony. I don’t think even the most affluent “Gringo” would argue.
That’s essentially the American Dream, right? Work as hard as possible and accumulate as much wealth as possible until you’re six feet under, and none of it matters. But, something he said to me has stuck in my brain for nearly two and a half years now and will likely never leave.
“Why do you all work so hard and leave so little time for enjoyment?” he asked.
“Because, Gustavo, we’re all taught that’s true success,” I said. “Work for things. Work towards retirement when you’re 65. Then, and only then, unless, of course, you are a fortunate soul who was born into wealth, are you allowed to enjoy your life.”
“That’s no way to live,” he said. “We believe in hard work here. As you can see, of course, we work hard, and many have very little. But we work for each other, as well. Black, white, brown; we are all the same. If you find yourself hungry, you can walk to the farm down the road, and the farmer will not only give you one tomato to quell your hunger, he will provide you with 20 because he knows you will do the same for him when he is in need. And that, mi amigo, is what our culture is here in Puerto Vallarta.”
For the rest of that trip, which was unknowingly leading up to a global pandemic, I observed the culture around us. We spent some time in the downtown region, shopping at the local produce markets and eating local fare. I saw how the people treated one another with a kindness that is rare stateside.
What I once saw as chaotic and terrifying driving became organized, collaborative chaos where people help each other get from point A to point B quickly and safely. Have you ever seen a car stop at a sign or traffic light to let another car turn in front of them? If you said no, you haven’t been to PV.
Food: The Universal Language
We have now been to PV four times. Since that first trip, we have chosen to live as much like locals as possible when we’re there. We have found local eateries we enjoy outside of the tourist traps like Señor Frog’s and the Hard Rock Cafe.
Some of the best food we’ve ever had is at a literal shack on the Palmeres beach just south of town. We found some of the best rotisserie chicken on the planet at this tiny chain called El Pechugon. It’s a simple storefront with no inside area. You walk up, order your chicken and sides – Spanish rice, seasoned and roasted potatoes, beans, salsa and some of the best corn tortillas I’ve ever had – then head on your way.
Cooking with local ingredients is another way we continue to try to connect to the culture there. Food isn’t just a window to the soul; it’s also the universal language. We ride the bus (this is not for the faint of heart, even for us, it can be, at times, overwhelming) and shop the local markets for our goods, especially the locally sourced cheeses, meats and incredibly fresh produce.
We also speak as much Español as possible (we’re working on becoming fluent), and always remember, we are guests there. Most of the full-time residents of PV speak some English and are always glad to help us to expand our vocabulary further. They don’t mind that we struggle with the language. They seem to appreciate that we are trying to learn and assimilate to their home.
Where I Want to Be
As we approach Denver, I already miss our second home. Every time we are in PV, I am reminded of the world I want to be in – one full of helpful, kind, unassuming people who say hello and smile as they pass by, even if they know we don’t speak the same language.
We all know we’re doing our best to get by. People there don’t honk their horns at each other. They don’t yell at one another, sneer or cut others off. They’re not pushy, selfish or impolite. They understand we all have one life, and the happier we are collectively, the better the world around us will be. That is where I want to be.
I am not looking forward to returning to the rudeness and unkindness, a stalwart of American culture. It’s the “me, me, me” attitude that lacks respect for other people and walks of life. Consumerism, commercialism; I detest all of it, yet it is a way of life you cannot escape here.
Instead of being upset and disheartened, I now try to impart those things here in any way I can. I try to be kind, though it can be tough when everyone around you is high-strung and stressed out. We do everything we can to teach Jackson these things before he becomes jaded by the world around him as we have.
I challenge you to try kindness, as well. The next time someone cuts you off in traffic, just let it go instead of getting angry and honking your horn or flipping them the bird. Open doors for random strangers, regardless of gender, big or small. Smile and say hello to a stranger. Wave at a random passer-by. Be a human being and let the rest take care of itself. It works in Mexico; it can surely work here.
Now that I’m back stateside, it’s time to prepare for some football! It’s been a long offseason full of wild trades, surprising free agency signings and some drama. Much like trying to get back into the swing of things when returning from vacation, digging into the initial training camp impacts of the offseason carousel can be very daunting.
Our drafts are right around the corner, so it’s time to get some insight into who you should target and who you need to steer clear of in this week’s edition of “Hot, Medium & Mild!”
Hot, Medium & Mild: Early WR Camp Insight
Summer is winding down, school will soon be back in session and the NFL training camp is underway. Finally, it’s the time of year when your dynasty format brain snaps back to redraft format, even if slowly at first. Instead of plotting trades and rebuilding orphaned teams, we are finally seeing all the moving parts and pieces from an insane offseason in action and getting a feel for the fantasy impact of these new situations.
Some of the most significant moves, including recent ones we will discuss shortly, came at the wide receiver position. In Points Per Reception (PPR) formats, some of these moves could have a massive effect on how you draft your teams.
In this edition of “Hot, Medium & Mild,” I’m going to break down two receivers I believe have high upside and one I would be steering clear of at their current Average Draft Position (ADP).
HOT — Trinidad Moruga Scorpion
Deebo Samuel (WR, San Francisco 49ers)
This offseason has been a rollercoaster for Deebo Samuel and the San Francisco 49ers. First, Samuel publicly voiced his displeasure with contract negotiations and, at one point, removed all mentions of the organization on social media. As a result, rumors and speculation ran wild, with many believing Samuel would be in a different uniform come August. It was hard to want to buy into the talented receiver who broke out last season, finishing as the overall PPR WR3.
However, that fear of uncertainty was calmed this past week when Samuel signed a three-year, $73.5 million contract extension, keeping him in red, white and gold at least through the 2025 season.
Though there will be growing pains with Lance, Samuel will again be the No. 1 target in San Francisco’s offense. In Week 18, with Lance as the starter, Samuel had an outstanding performance, accounting for 29 PPR points, which included eight carries for 45 yards and a touchdown.
The sky is the limit for Samuel in 2022. He could see significant rushing opportunities with a mobile quarterback now at the helm, which could also lead to more targets in play-action situations. His upside is another 1,400 receiving-yard, 350-plus rushing yard campaign with 14-plus touchdowns. His current ADP, according to FantasyPros’ ADP tracker, is WR6. The only wide receiver I am taking before Samuel in redraft formats is Cooper Kupp.
MEDIUM — Anaheim Chile
Allen Lazard (WR, Green Bay Packers)
It was a strange feeling not seeing Davante Adams alongside quarterback Aaron Rodgers to start Green Bay’s training camp. But now, in Las Vegas with college teammate Derek Carr, Adams has moved on, and Green Bay has moved on. There has been debate over who would take the lion’s share of Adams’ receiving work, with the leading candidates being rookie Christian Watson and veteran Allen Lazard. However, the recent injury to Watson holding him out of camp has made things a little clearer.
The “next-man-up” thought process isn’t always good, but it seems to fit in this situation. Adams was a workhorse in 2021, seeing 169 targets resulting in 123 catches and 11 touchdowns. While those targets will be spread out amongst multiple players, including running backs Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon and tight end Robert Tonyan, Lazard is a known entity for Rodgers. He earned 60 targets last season, 14 of which were in the red zone, on his way to eight touchdowns, all as the third receiving option behind Adams and Jones.
There is no reason to think that Lazard couldn’t sneak into the WR2 tier this season. Even when Watson returns from injury, Rodgers is notorious for preferring veterans. Adams finished his first two seasons in Green Bay as the PPR WR74 and 66 before exploding into a perennial top-15 fantasy wide receiver.
Lazard’s 60 targets from 2021 could easily double, putting him well over 100 targets. With a career catch rate of 68.6 percent, 120 targets could get him 81 catches along with more red zone opportunities. Lazard is currently being drafted as the WR47, putting him in the middle of the ninth round in a 12-team league. Drafting him at his ADP is a low-risk, high-reward gamble you should be taking.
MILD — Banana Pepper
Jerry Jeudy (WR, Denver Broncos)
The Denver Broncos have a new-look offense heading into 2022. With the acquisition of quarterback Russell Wilson, all eyes are on a team expected to turn things around quickly. Wilson will have one of the best receiving corps in the league at his disposal, with Courtland Sutton, Tim Patrick, KJ Hamler and Jerry Jeudy all vying for targets. While we have seen Wilson spread the ball around in Seattle, it stands to reason someone will be the odd man out in fantasy football, and my money is on Jeudy.
When Denver drafted Jeudy with the 15th-overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, expectations were sky-high for the talented receiver out of Alabama. Drew Lock was primed to break out, and the Broncos had optimism they could return to winning form.
Instead, Lock only played in 13 games and was a disaster. Jeudy saw 113 targets but only managed 52 catches and three touchdowns. 2021 saw more of the same, with Teddy Bridgewater being mediocre and Jeudy missing seven games due to injury. We didn’t see much to be excited about when he was playing. He managed 38 catches on 56 targets for 467 yards. His average Yards Per Reception (YPR) also dipped from 16.5 in 2020 to 12.3 last season.
Wilson is a massive upgrade over Lock and Bridgewater; that’s not up for debate. Having a veteran like him leading the offense boosts all skill-position players on this team. However, when head coach Nathaniel Hackett was the offensive coordinator in Green Bay, they rarely used a slot receiver, and Wilson comes from a system in Seattle that rarely utilized the slot. Jeudy has primarily lined up in the slot the last two seasons, and camp would indicate that will again be the case.
He will still have opportunities, but the high-value targets in this Denver attack will go primarily to Sutton and Patrick on the outside. His current ADP of WR33 puts him in the WR3 tier, likely his ceiling in 2022. I rather take my chances on a receiver like Juju Smith-Schuster or Rashod Bateman, both with a similar ADP.
That’s all for me, folks! I hope you find my spicy and not-so-spicy advice and notes useful. Until next time!
With most of our kids heading back to school over the next few weeks, it’s most appropriate to throw out a #DadJoke you can use to annoy your littles one last time before they hit the classroom!
Dad: What did you learn in school today, son?
Son: Not enough, dad. I have to go back tomorrow.
As always, thanks for reading. For more fantasy and life content, find me on Twitter @NatePolvogt.