Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Hits & Misses

As I sit here finishing my breakfast, I can't help but think that this whole Bagel & Cream Cheese thing just might catch on...

But thank god it's Tuesday, and all across America that can mean only one thing. Yes, boys and girls, it's Cavemen night on ABC Television -- the show that's sweeping the nation!

I just read that there are 755,000 American citizens on the U.S. government terrorist watch list. Doesn't that make you feel a lot safer? After all, that's quite a few sleeper cells.

This Day In History: 1975. Spain's Francisco Franco steps down as dictator and starts second career as tiresome Saturday Night Live punchline.

If that wasn't the worst World Series of all time, it's only because the last 4 or 5 have also sucked big wind. Three sweeps in the last 4 years, the other a 5-game series.

But America got its free fucking taco, and at the end of the day, isn't that what it's all about?

I don't mind Joe Buck, he's actually a pretty good play-by-play man in two sports; sure, he's a bit of a smart-ass , but likable in a Greg Kinnear kinda way if you don't think about it too much. His shilling during the whole in-game Taco Bell promo, however, even for Fox, was crass and low-class.
And speaking of low-class, when you look it up in the football dictionary, there's a picture of a scowling Bill Belichick, the NFL's Captain Ahab, in trademark gray hoodie. What other conclusion can you draw after the Patriots once again needlessly, classlessly ran up the score, this time against the Redskins en route to a 52-7 rout. Even after a Brady to Wes Welker TD made it 45-0 with just over 9 minutes left, when the Pats got the ball back after a 3-and-out by Washington, backup QB Matt Cassell threw three straight times en route to yet another score.

Any wonder that outside of Boston, every football fan in America will be tuning into this Sundays Pats-Colts battle of unbeatens in Indy and pulling hard for the Belicheat Bullies to finally get their well-deserved comeuppance from the football gods.

In case you hadn't noticed, New England has outscored opponents by a crushing 331-127 margin -- a mind-boggling 204-point advantage -- which translates into an average per-game beatdown this season of 42-16. To put it in perspective, the Pats have scored 43 TDs so far -- or as many as the rest of their lousy division -- Buffalo (10 TDs), New York (15), Miami (18) -- combined. And their 8 victories double the wins eked out by the 3-4 Bills, 1-7 Jets and 0-8 Dolphins.
In the New York market this past weekend, we were subjected to two of the all-time fugliest games in recent memory -- the Giants taking on an incredibly bad Dolphins team from London, followed by a Jets-Bills crapfest. It would be impossible to accurately convey the torturous boredom these two games represented.

Played in a steady downpour on a muddy field with treacherous footing -- and who could've expected inclement weather in London? -- and featuring a steady procession of dropped passes and similar miscues, this game alone set back the NFL marketing effort a good decade or two. That is, until the Jets and Bills faced off, thrilling fans the world over with a game utterly devoid of excitement. This one was still tied at 3 after 3 of the most tedious quarters ever played. All hell broke loose in the form of a single, deciding J.P. Losman touchdown in the 4th, propelling the jubilant Bills to their first season sweep of the dreadful Jets since 1997 -- and all but ending Chad Pennington 's career as New York's starting QB.

There seem to be a lot of bad in-game coaching decisions in the NFL this year, and first-year Miami head man Cam Cameron seems to be making more than his share as he learns on the job. Sunday he made a few more, including a gutless decision late in the 3rd quarter when, trailing 13-0, he sends his FG kicker in on 4th down from the Giants 5-yard line. The Dolphins would later cut the lead to 13-10, only to squander whatever small chance they had by executing the worst onsides kick attempt ever, where Jay Feely gave his team literally zero chance to recover by skidding the ball directly out of bounds on a line.

Earlier in the game, Cameron showed why this whole head coaching thing may be over his own head. As mentioned, the field conditions at London's Wembley Stadium were atrocious bordering on dangerously unplayable, but that apparently didn't factor into Cameron's play calling. On the very first drive, Miami was running the ball well behind journeyman Jesse Chapman, so on 3rd and 2, Cameron has backup QB Cleo Lemon dropping back and trying to connect with the Dolphins corps of woefully nondescript receivers, and of course the result is an incomplete pass. To get an idea of what was coming, remember a few weeks ago Cameron was the guy who somehow thought it would be a good idea to use his oft-concussed QB to block a defensive lineman, thus effectively ending Trent Green's career and in turn thoughtlessly unleashing the much-unheralded Cleo Lemon Era on an undeserving populace.

On the second Miami possession, the Dolphins face another 3rd and 2 near midfield. Remember, it's a driving rain and the pigskin is obviously more slippery than usual. So Cameron -- offensive coordinator for the five previous years in weatherless San Diego -- foolishly decides this is as good a time as any to trot out a trick play. He has WR Marty Booker going in motion, then lining up under center, where he takes the snap and predictably proceeds to considerately fumble the ball back to the Giants -- showing our overseas cousins why his Dolphins, for some unknown reason the second most popular U.S. football team in Jolly Old, are winless after 8 games.

Now, in fairness, no team in the NFL has been hit harder by injury than Miami, losing their starting QB, RB, MLB and TE and trading away Chris Chambers, their best WR, with the possible exception of the St. Louis Rams and Buffalo Bills. So Cameron may get a mulligan for 2007 from Miami management, but he'll be on a short leash next year to prove that he isn't the latest in a long line of candidates that make better coordinators or position coaches than head coaches.

Speaking of ex-coaches, Bill Cowher gets this week's Captain Obvious award for his comments on the CBS postgame show Sunday. Previewing next week's Game of the Century, Cowher let viewers know that, in his opinion, "This Patriots team is playing very, very well" heading into the Colts game. That's the kind of insight only an ex-coach can provide.
But mastering the obvious is an art not lost on the league's present coaches, at least if Tennessee Titans head honcho Jeff Fisher has anything to say about it. Following another ugly win in which his team could muster only 13 points against Oakland, with starting QB Vince Young throwing for a scant 42 yards on 8-14 passing and generating only 11 yards more with his legs, Fisher offered this nugget on the state of his offensively challenged 5-2 team: "The only thing lacking on this team is touchdowns." Unfortunately for Jeff, crossing the goal line is the league's agreed-upon method of scoring 6 points, so you can see what an unfair disadvantage that is to the Titans.

My new favorite player in the league is Denver DE Elvis Dumervil. He's the only defensive lineman listed under 6 foot, at 5'11" and 260 pounds, and he's not just taking up less space than his teammates, he's an impact player -- with 6 sacks and a pick on the season.

Elsewhere on the name front, the player with the best moniker in the game -- real name Hannibal Navies, which sounds like a Wikipedia article -- was just cut by the San Francisco 49ers. The only thing worse these days is actually playing for the 2-5 49ers.
The Patriots' shocking dominance aside, in many games there are but 2 or 3 "hinge" plays separating the winning and losing teams; some plays can swing the score 14 points -- from 7 points in one direction to 7 in the other. One such play took place in the Cowboys' hard-fought 24-14 win over the Vikings last week. In the second half, with the game tied at 14, Cowboys DE DeMarcus Ware just misses a sack of the Vikings QB that would take Minny out of field goal range and probably force a punt, and with the score still locked at 14, Dallas ball at around their 20, it's anybody's game from there on . Instead, after the incompletion, Vikes K Ryan Longwell lined up for a 48-yarder to break the tie. But DE Chris Canty, the Cowboys tallest player at 6'7", manages to get a hand on the kick and the blocked FG is returned 68 yards by S Pat Watkins for a TD. The FG would have put the Vikes ahead 17-14, now suddenly it's 21-14 Cowboys -- a 10-point hinge play that swings the game in favor of Dallas.

This game had more than one hinge play. In the second quarter the Cowtown Romos were driving for a go-ahead score when WR Pat Crayton is stripped and the ball returned 57 yards for a Vikings' defensive TD. So instead of 10-7 or 14-7 Dallas, it's 14-7 Minnesota Norsemen at the half, despite 28-32 passing by Tony Romo for 231 yards and the Cowboys outgaining the Vikings by a decisive 250-77 margin. That's what a few timely hinge plays can do in a game. Even in the Dallas-New England game won by the Pats 48-27, the Cowboys had a 24-21 lead in the 3rd, but the hinge plays in that game were penalties -- specifically a converted 4th and 1 wiped out by a flag for holding.
By the way, Romo finally got his big payday -- on the same day that America's Skank, Britney Spears, allegedly "favored" him with a lap dance at an L.A. nightclub. File under: Luck, Some guys have all the. The new 6-year contract is for close to $70 million, with over $30 mil guaranteed. Not bad for an undrafted free agent whose first contract in 2003 was for $10,000! Romo did little more than ride the pine in games and run the scout team in practice for over 3 seasons before getting his big break -- starting his first game exactly one year ago (10/29/06) against Carolina in relief of beleaguered Drew Bledsoe. But Romo's contract, like the one Tom Brady signed, is reported to be cap-friendly, in that it allows Dallas to continue to surround Romo with talent.

How low are Denver sports fans feeling this morning? First, fans had to witness the Rockies' sorry asses get swept out of the World Series by Boston, suffering the ignominy of watching the other team celebrate a championship on your home field. Which reminds me. Do us all a favor: if you're gonna put up such futile resistance, then don't even bother getting to the World Series in the first place. That was embarrassingly uncompetitive.

Then, a night after losing to the Red Sox, to pour some more salt on an open wound, the area's football fans were "treated" last night to a brutal loss to Green Bay by the Broncos. Following an 89-yard drive, Denver's Jason Elam tied the score at 13 with no time remaining, sending the game into overtime. Then on the first play from scrimmage in OT, Packers QB Brett Favre hits Greg Jennings for a game-winning 82-yard pass. Game over, World Series over, and just maybe Broncos season over, having fallen to 3-4 with a pair of tough road games coming up -- at Detroit and at Kansas City.

Speaking of the 5-2 Lions, no one is scoffing now at Jon Kitna's bold preseason prediction that Detroit would win 10 games this year. Add the emergence of RB Kevin Jones to all those first round receivers, and the offense is potentially explosive.

Another surprise team has emerged in the form of the 4-3 Cleveland Browns, led by QB Derek Anderson, whose steady performance has kept fans from clamoring for first-round pick Brady Quinn to start. Only 24 years old himself, Anderson has 17 TDs against only 9 picks, and now has legit weapons in finally healthy TE Kellen Winslow and WRs Braylon Edwards and Joe Jurevicius. In the last two games, wins against the Rams and Dolphins, Anderson has thrown for 6 TDs with no INTs.

I hate the way the NFL schedules bye weeks. It's an unfair system in that some teams play more teams coming off byes than others, and in important games one team is therefore at a disadvantage. For instance, Dallas has had two weeks to prepare for their road game against the Eagles this week, while the Giants now have two weeks to get ready for the showdown with Dallas at the Meadowlands. My remedy is that each division takes their bye week at the same time, spread out over just four weeks from Game 7 to Game 10. But instead our commissioner is too busy trying to spread a game that is doing just fine within the confines of our borders.

Jerry Jones took a lot of heat for saying this whole overseas expansion thing, or at least traveling to Europe to play a regular season game midseason, wasn't something that would work for his Dallas Cowboys. He voiced what not only Cowboys fans but many fans leaguewide were thinking, but it came off as selfish when the media got their chance to spin it.

Yes, the Cowboys are Europe's most popular team also, followed by the Dolphins and Giants, but the Cowboys are slated to move into a brand new stadium in 2009. That leaves only this year and next year for Texas Stadium games, followed by the move to the new state of the art park. Why should Jones force fans to give up a home game, one of only 8 each year? Of course, the league could punish Jones by withholding future Super Bowls from Dallas, but they know better than to kill the golden goose, or in this case the silver & blue goose.

It's official. Joe Girardi is the new Yankees manager. I think the right guy was chosen here, but it's still kind of bittersweet that Don Mattingly announced he will not come back in any coaching capacity next year. In fact, after weeks of inactivity, things are suddenly happening all around baseball.
It looks like none other than Joe Torre is going to get the L.A. Dodgers job. The job isn't exactly vacant, with Grady Little still technically their manager, but Torre is obviously an upgrade. Grady Little is one of the sport's real nice guys who never quite wins the big one, to liberally paraphrase Leo Duracher. And that's where Mattingly is likely to end up, as Torre's bench coach. Attention Bud Selig: make the Dodgers-Yankees interleague series happen, and keep it going for the next three years at least.

Sportswriters and talk radio hosts had it all wrong: they were sure that Yankee fans would be upset if Mattingly wasn't offered the head job. But most can separate their love for Donnie Baseball the player from who they think is the best man for the manager's job. That man is Genuine Joe Girardi.

ESPN is throwing Paul O'Neill's name out there as a potential Yankees coach under Girardi. That sounds good to me. Maybe hitting coach. Hell, if he wants to pinch-hit once in a while, more than a few fans would have no problem with that.

Also, scumbag/agent Scott Boras announced during Game 4 that Alex Rodriguez is opting out of his Yankee contract to become a free agent. More than a few fans shouted Good Riddance upon hearing the news.

Let's hope the Yankees put a younger, hungrier version of what we've been used to so far this millennium on the field. If would be great if Girardi, voted Manager of the Year after his lone one-year stint as Marlins manager in 2006, could model the team after the 1996 version -- utilizing a National League blend of speed and defense, heavy on the hit-and-run and daring base-running. Anything to take back our rightful place in the standings ahead of the hated, detested, much loathed Red Sox.


Magnus Maximus said...

I would love to see the Patriots get crushed. May the field run red with their blood.

Serge A. Storms said...

I support the Patriots this weekend. My reason? Brady is the QB of my Fantasy Football team. Were it not for that fact, I'd be all about the Colts. Dungy is a class act, and Peyton seems down to earth.

Cavemen. How is this still on the air?

And the 755,000 or whatever suspected terrorists are the list of people who's blogs W managed to find when he was trying to watch the latest episode of lonelygirl15.