Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Astute Observations & Thoughtful Reflections

AS USUAL, we will as a nation go overboard in mourning our latest round of celebrity passings this week. First it was James Brown, really an American tragedy in many ways in terms of the personal demons that haunted his life -- all glossed over in the fawning coverage of the first few days after he died. And really for the average music fan, maybe three or four recognizable songs, although I Feel Good, Brand New Bag, Sex Machine and Say It Loud were terrific radio songs -- back in the days when radio actually played stuff that wasn't from a rigidly controlled play list. I mean, this wasn't like a Ray Charles or Johnny Cash passing away. And color me uninformed, but how exactly did James Brown change music -- and when you've answered that riddle, then tell me what exactly does changing music even mean? You can get back to me on those...

And of course Gerald Ford, our 38th President, tucked inconspicuously between Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter, passed away today. Unfortunately, that numerical designation is Ford's biggest executive level achievement -- if you don't count helping to "rig" the Warren Court after the JFK assassination. Ford, the Art Howe of American presidents, was more widely known as the butt of numerous Saturday Night Live skits than for anything he accomplished during his brief residence at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. And like Howe, he was probably a nice guy who loved his family, but Gerald Ford was also one of the most lackluster presidents in American history -- rivaling only long-forgotten failures and footnotes like William Howard Taft, George Bush Senior and one of our two unexceptional Harrison presidencies for all-time ineffectualness and sheer mediocrity (Benjamin lost the popular vote in 1888 by 100,000 votes to Grover Cleveland but won the electoral college, while grandpa William Henry famously chose not to wear an overcoat to his inauguration -- foolishly encouraging the bitter, biting cold weather to just "Bring It On" -- and then died in 1841 of pneumonia after just 30 days in office, making Ford seem like an important four-term president in comparison!) Oh yeah, Ford pardoned Tricky Dick Nixon and other Watergate culprits in September of '74, showing he had no balls right out the gate, and then almost got shot by a member of the Manson family whose nickname was "Squeaky," which I guess is cool in a creepy sorta way. And oh yeah again, he once may have told the City of New York to drop dead. (Insert yawning sound here.) His wife Betty started a clinic/halfway house for celebrity drunks and junkies. Throw in his collegiate football career at Michigan, where he played before players wore face masks & helmets, and that's all you need to know about the man. Oh yeah redux, of course we're all grateful for his service in the War of 1812. We owe that greatest generation still...

Now, I'm sure you will find obituaries more comprehensive and more reverential in tone elsewhere on the Web, but we don't play that here, at least not today.

Wikipedia somewhat soberly disputes the fact that William Henry Harrison died solely from his exposure to the elements, calling the account a misconception; but even if the story is apocryphal, it's too good not to use it here. But there is no doubt that Harrison gave the longest inauguration speech in history, at 8,445 words and almost two hours, or slightly more than double the amount of total words that George W. Bush has READ in his entire lifetime. Another fun Wikipedia fact is that doctors used opium, castor oil, Virginia snakeweed (whatever that is, although I think I copped a dime bag of it in Washington Square Park in 1979), and even actual snakes in the attempt to cure Harrison. But said treatments only made matters worse and Harrison lapsed into delirium shortly thereafter, something he also shares with Bush 43 these days, Harrison would ultimately expire of "jaundice, overwhelming septicemia" and the dreaded "lower lobe pneumonia." Now, you can probably survive a case of upper or middle lobe pneumonia and underwhelming or merely whelming regular septicemia separately, but taken together they obviously formed one deadly, president-killing combo. So it goes...

All right, let's get to some football. The sooner we get it over with the better. Watching the Cowboys stink it up on Christmas night was absolute torture -- well, relative torture I should say; the real thing is having to navigate your way through tourist-infested Midtown Manhattan (what, you thought I was gonna use Guantanamo Bay as a metaphor? Au contraire, Pierre.) As you know, I used to be SO down with the 'Boys, but now I'm just a whole big hurtful of down on the Dallas Cowboys, as in...
...I'm down on the Big Tuna Bill Parcells himself. First I found out that when the Eagles were 5-6 and reeling a month ago, Parcells has to play Dr. Phil and place a call to their head coach Andy Reid, consoling him on Donovan McNabb's injury. Let me see if I can tactfully convey what I said to myself when I heard about it. It was something along the lines of: ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME!! SINCE WHEN DO YOU CALL A RIVAL HEAD COACH IN THE MIDDLE OF A SEASON? IS THIS THE MESSAGE YOU CHOOSE TO SEND TO YOUR TEAM? Did Nixon pick up the phone to see how Ho Chi Minh was doing handling all the grief? Did Charles DeGaulle get Adolph on the wireless and ask how Eva was holding up? I'm guessing no. More to the point, did Vince Lombardi call up Tom Landry before the Ice Bowl and say, "Tom old pal, don't forget to pack your scarves and mittens, we're expecting some inclement weather up here in Green Bay, so good luck to all your fine players in the upcoming contest." Never happened. Well, how many times do I have to make the point that while war is not a game of football, the game of football is indeed a lot like war -- except in war you don't often get the opportunity to pat the other guy's butt after a good play. Sometimes, but not too often, and that's probably not a bad thing. This is one of many of modern life's barbarous contradictions. I'm just saying that it was such a wimpy, sorry-ass thing for an old school guy like Parcells to do. After the season, go over to Reid's house and play with his kids for all I care, but to try to perk up a rival coach in your very own division? No way, no how, no no no, a thousand times no.
I also question Parcells' motivational skills, given that the Eagles game was the third debacle at home this year, following the Giants loss on Monday night and then the Saints Sunday nighter two weeks ago. I've supported most of the personnel moves Parcells has made his first four years with the team, but something is very wrong with the spirit, the soul if you will, of the Dallas Cowboys -- and it can't all be laid at the swollen head of Terrell Owens, if I can mix metaphors here.

I am also still of the opinion that defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer has to go. The term coordinator here really assumes that the defense is coached and organized and schooled in the tendencies of the opposing offense. But to anyone with even a cursory knowledge of X's & O's who has watched the defense the last three weeks -- 42 points but easily could have been much more given up against the Saints, 28 versus a mediocre Falcons offense that scored 3 points against Carolina the following week, and of course 23 points and four drives of more than 77 yards by the Eagles -- there is nothing coordinated about the Cowboys on the defensive side of the ball. Nosetackle Jason Ferguson, one of the few warriors Dallas has on D, said that often the players didn't know the down and/or distance on many plays against the Eagles. Let that sink in for a minute and then tell me Zimmer should stay. But the blame goes to Parcells for retaining him when the facts say he has no experience in a 3-4 defense.

Coaching aside, I am down on the entire defense right now except for Ferguson, Akin Ayodele, Terence Newman, Aaron Glenn and of course DeMarcus Ware. The loss of LB Greg Ellis took away at least half the pass rush, and Clueless "Zip" Zimmer still drops Ware, the only pass rushing bullet left in the arsenal, back in coverage far too often. If you're an offense, you're loving that the defense is not rushing Ware; so what if he drops off into the flat, just find somewhere else to throw the ball! If he's rushing on every down like Shawn Merriman, he can wreak havoc on EVERY down.

I am past down on T.O. right now. We tried it, it didn't work, let's move on. Leaving aside all the off the field distractions, on the field he's been good but not 10 million dollars of good, not best in the league good. In short, he hasn't been great -- not with all the drops he's had and all the bad pass routes he's run, constantly going out of bounds and not leaving his QB enough room on the sideline. And he had one of two big drops on Monday, the other one was by Terry Glenn. On both plays, Romo scrambled yet threw two on the mark passes -- the one to Owens would have turned the game around, and when it went through his hands so did the Cowboys chances in the game. I know he's got some finger injuries, but if you're on the field you're gonna be held accountable.

I am also way down on the running game and the play calling and the offensive line at times, because they go hand in hand. I thought if Julius Jones stayed healthy, and he has, he would have the monster year that someone like San Francisco's Frank Gore is having -- 1,400, 1,500, even 1,600 yards was not out of the question, even with Marion Barber taking a lot of carries. But it hasn't happened. Jones is leaving far too many yards on the field, and has inexplicably regressed since his rookie year. The play calling by offensive coordinator Tony Sporano has also sucked, showing no touch and giving the team no real identity.

I am disappointed but by no means down on Tony Romo. You knew it wasn't gonna be peaches & cream every game, so this downturn was expected. Sure, he threw two picks against the Eagles and tries to force things too much. But Dallas ran off 16 fewer plays than the Eagles, but more telling held the ball for only 23 minutes to the Eagles 37. Romo completed only 14-29, but the drops killed him; the T.O. drop and the Glenn drop would have added at least 100 yards to his stats. Romo has shown me too much in terms of leadership, confidence, ability, poise and talent to turn back now. It's most of the rest of the team that seemed to quit out there Monday night. The offense is still 5th overall in the entire NFL, and Romo trails only Peyton Manning in 3rd down conversions, although he has fallen to 6th in passer rating. Now, as far as making the Pro Bowl, it wouldn't have bothered me if Romo didn't make it this year; I was more disappointed that CB Terence Newman and TE Jason Witten were left off the squad. Even T.O. could make a case. But other than Drew Brees and Marc Bulger of the Rams (who quietly passed for over 4,000 yards, with 23 TDs and only 8 picks), it's not like anyone severely outplayed young Romo and was overlooked. You wanna bring up Chicago's Rex Grossman? Nope. Atlanta's Michael Vick? Can't see it. The Giants' very own Eli Manning? Please, I'm eating here.

All that negativity aside, we are in the playoffs, but then in all likelihood so are the 7-8 New York Football Giants. In fact, watching Dallas the last month, I know how Giants fans must have felt most of this year: Your expectations are sky high, but the team underachieves so often it leaves you down in the dumps. At least the Giants can legitimately use injuries as an excuse; unlike last year, except for the season-ending Ellis injury, Dallas has been remarkably healthy. Of course, the Giants are also Team Turmoil, which gives that franchise an unseemly taint from a fan's perspective. For Exhibit A, see Shockey, Jeremy. See also headcase, loudmouth and ass, pain in the.

So let's get another #1 receiver in here next year, improve the O-Line, add another stud pass rusher, and a safety or two if we decide to move Roy Williams to LB or some kind of monster back, because his coverage "skills" have killed us in some big spots this year. And of course we have to cut short the T.O. experiment, admit defeat, and reload. The positives include having a young QB in place, a great tight end in Jason Witten, a franchise defensive piece in Ware. But if this season has taught us anything, it's that fortunes can change in a heartbeat and turn on a dime. But first you have to show some heart. I'm not holding my breath on that one.

Let's see, what else can I bitch and moan about... Oh yeah, do you believe my cell phone bill was over 70 bucks last month. It's SUPPOSED to come in at around 35 bucks for my crappy plan at Sprint, which gives you 1,000 weekends/nights after 9:00pm minutes, but only a paltry 300 minutes for all other calls, which -- I've done the math -- comes out to an all but microscopic 15 minutes a day! I mean, I talk fast and all -- life being short and me being from New York -- but c'mon. I went over by less than an hour, and it's like 50 cents a minute penalty, so for the second month in a row I went crazy when I saw the bill. Last month I thought I learned my lesson, but now I have to be ruthless in my discipline and not initiate any unnecessary calls. So if you call 347/624-9572, make it quick and to the point, because in my case time is all too much money to mention. It makes me almost want to, which happens to be a real Website with pictures of hot young babes "trampling, crushing and smashing telephones." Pretty kinky. Go figure. Who knew...
One funny thing to note about the passing of TV writer Chris Hayward last week, the guy who helped create the Munsters, Rocky & Bullwinkle and Dudley Do-Right, among other hit shows, and who also wrote for Get Smart and Barney Miller. It turns out that laid-back Canada was not all that amused about the cartoon portrayal of a Royal Canadian Mountie as a bumbling dimwit, who was often seen riding his horse backward. A spoof of silent movie melodramas, Dudley's lot in life was to relentlessly but futilely chase the dastardly villain Snidely Whiplash -- one of the great names in all of cartoon-dom -- as well as to cheerfully repeat catchphrases like "We always get our man!" and "Have no fear, Dudley Do-Right is Here!" Kind of reminds me of a certain president... Alas, Hayward did live long enough to see his beloved Dudley Do-Right turned into an atrocious feature film starring Brendan Frazer in the title role, joining the ranks of every movie starring Brendan Frazer and all too many other movies as Films That Really Had No Business Being Made Or Shown To The Public -- or green-lighted, as they used to say in Hollywood.

Far be it from us here at WardensWorld to take sides in celebrity feuds, but the very public Donald Trump-Rosie O'Donnell tete-a-tete has so tapped into the national zeitgeist that it requires us all to look within ourselves and take a stand. And I choose to jump right in and declare that the Donald is an insecure, hateful sumbitch. Everything Rosie said is documented fact, everything Trump said reveals a toxic mind that is teetering on the downside of sanity. For instance, it's a fact that Trump is not a self-made man (his dad Fred Trump left Donald something like 25,000 apartment buildings when he passed away to that big luxury rental unit in the sky). Fact: the man's bad comb-over and past marital woes are legitimate comic fodder for anyone with a microphone. In addition, Miss America is an anachronism anyway, Trump is an asshole whose show is for losers, to paraphrase Trump himself, and his cracks about Rosie's weight, sexual preference and ratings are below the belt even by our by now compromised standards of celebro-fare. And the fact that Trump is allowed to promote his crap game show and hideous books as a regular guest on the Imus in the Morning show says it all about both men; you're known by the company you keep, and both Imus and Trump deserve each other.

Speaking of celebs in the news, how about that wacky chauffeur of Yoko Ono, threatening to release unflattering pictures and, even worse, embarrassing recordings? This may be the worst attempt at extortion in legal history, because aside from Walking On Thin Ice, Ono's entire music career is really one big punchline with the public already. It's sorta like a Democrat threatening to release some sound bites that will make President Bush seem unintelligent. I mean, find me some that DON'T! (Insert sound of raucous laughter here.)

Hey Jeff Skilling, you were once a smug yuppie prick at Enron who later ruined the world's seventh largest company and cheated workers out of their pensions and caused untold suffering for thousands of employees who lost their jobs, all due to your greed and fraud. So where you going? Well, it's not exactly Disneyland, but for the next 24 years and four months, we'll know where to find you -- as someone's deregulated cell bitch at a federally funded penitentiary in Minnesota. Enjoy your stay, Jeff!

I saw where George Bush asked Congress for another $99.78 billion for prosecuting the Iraq War. It seems the marketing department at the Pentagon uses the same rock-solid premise as those retailers who price crappy stuff at $9.99, lest consumers balk at paying a full $10.00 for something they didn't really want in the first place -- kind of like this debacle of a war. The Bush sales pitch had to be like one of those manic old Crazy Eddie commercials: "At Crazy Georgie's, we're practically giving this war away! For just $99.78 billion -- not $100 billion, not even $99.99 billion -- but for just slightly more than a mere 99 billion dollars, we will prolong this disastrous, disgraceful, un-winnable conflict another couple of years! Our prices are like our policies! They're IN-SA-A-A-A-ANE!!"



good picture

jimithegreek said...

damn good, but you didn't mention TO going over to Eagles hotel and kissing n hanging with the boyz

WardensWorld said...

I forgot about that. Yeah, fraternizing with the enemy. It's all part of why sports isn't as good as it was. Back in the 1960s, you didn't see first basemen smile or even talk to the opposing players when they reached first; now they're joking and laughing and having a good old time. Why should we as fans take it more seriously than the players?

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