We haven't spoken about the baseball playoffs on here. But we've been watching. The Giants have jumped out to a 2-0 lead but there is still a long way to go. Last night at game 2, a Lincecum-esque Steve Perry led the AT&T Park crowd in a (shortened) rendition of 'Don't Stop Believing'. It looks pretty magical and I for one don't care if that song has been the most downloaded song on Itunes or it is ironically cool to hate on that song, I never get tired of hearing it. I don't know if this is equal to the "Danger Zone" played during the Lakers/Nuggets playoff game where they had Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer up on the screen.
Friday, October 29
It's been a ASD tradition to wish all 5 people that read this blog a happy and safe holiday weekend. I will continue that tradition although it appears a lot of people out there don't get it. Look, I'll be the first to admit I am not the sharpest apple slicer in the bin but dammit just because you do stupid things doesn't mean you should stop trying to be responsible. You would think a football player whose team was rocked by a dorm brawl last year would use some calculated restraint when it came to boozin' and wheelin', but no. The player is reinstated and might play this weekend. This is not a slam against MSU, because it is the norm everywhere.
We are taught at a young age that the world is cut and dry, black and white (not in the racist sense), right and wrong. How foolishly idealistic we treat our children. Maybe it's done to save what innocence they have left but rest assured when little Johnny starts playing high school sports, everything changes. College educations, crazed parents, and most of all dolla$ become involved. As Nicky Santoro said, "dollars, always about the dollars." Dollars might not be the end of all the means, but money is the most significant embodiement of everything we pretend to hate about sports but at the same time glorify. You're the coach of a team, your best player steals some clothes, gets pulled for a DUI, or gives his girlfriend the back of his hand, do you sit him? If we could sit on a throne like Solomon then the call is easy; based on the kind of society we want to be, the kid sits, thusly gets punished and learns a valuable lesson.
But it's not that simple. Coaches have an innate desire to win, plus everyone railing against them if they don't. They also have much more to lose. In some cases their reputation and a nice plump paycheck are hanging in the balance, so you think they care what some pencil-pushing fatass with an online column thinks if they let a kid play. Sports is an opportunity for us to be hypocrites of the highest order. How can they let a kid play?! Then when your team has a troublemaker you turn around and defend him. I would never act in such a immoral manner! Yes you would and you do in your everyday life. In your office, with your neighbors, and your kids. It's only a game! No, not only because think about how seirously you take beerleague softball game, your pick-up game at the Y, or that family version of Wii-tennis or scrabble.
So by all means, go out and do something stupid this weekend. Can you please just try and make sure you don't do it while holding responsibility for other lives in your hands?
Chris Rainey's Jack-o-Lantern via
Thursday, October 28
Today many people in sports are discussing the unfortunate death of a Notre Dame student, but it's not a sports story. The fact that the young man was filming the football team is largely irrelevant. Work Place Safety is the phrase people should be discussing. Much of the anger at Notre Dame lies in deep-seeded dislike for the University not, in all cases, true outrage over the incident. The problem for Notre Dame is quite simple. Someone knew, someone had to know, someone gets paid to know better. That young man never should have been in that tower. Whether he was recording football practice or a theatre production, he... wait. He wouldn't have been up in a scissor lift in 50 mph winds for a play or a musical. Therein lies the sports story.
For generations Notre Dame has painted itself, not always inaccurately, as a special place, a different place. Sadly, they've proved they're very much like a lot of other places, they prioritized football over the safety of a student. Football is King. Some of the horror stories from the south have proven that over the years, but Notre Dame is supposed to be special. Where athletes room with regular students and academics and character stand for more than most. As tarnished as the UNC brand has become over the last several months, ND may have done even more damage.
Notre Dame bought into the overinflated sense of self-importance that football coaches and players carry around with them daily. Someone at Notre Dame who knew the dangers and risks involved with putting that young man in that scissor lift ignored both OSHA and manufacturer recommendations, regulations and warnings regarding high winds. All in the name of football. All in the name of a 4-4 football team that has an indoor practice facility.
That Jim Tressel, Ohio State's head coach, expressed concerns for his cameramen just a day prior will not help Notre Dame's case, but another instance from earlier this very year illustrates the football over safety mentality that coaches often operate under. The Denver Broncos had a practice in May (May people! May!) with high winds including gusts over 70 MPH and head coach Josh McDaniels noted that he was concerned about the cameraman in the swaying 30-foot-high scissor lift, but not enough to let him come down until after practice.
Football players have to constantly convince themselves of the importance of the "mission", how else could they willingly launch their bodies into the fray to take such physical abuse again and again. Coaches often have a similar mission first mindset that makes them appear callous and dismissive of things not directly related to the mission. Why do so many coaches not go out onto the field when a player is injured? Because they have to stay focused on the game plan, because an injured player cannot help with the task at hand, because they're the one who sent the young man onto the field where he was hurt, why? The reason certainly differs for all coaches, but there's an element of bravado, of not wanting to appear weak, of not wanting their other players to be concerned with their own safety. It's why players fight to get their helmets back after injuries, its why team doctors get yelled at by coaches for holding a kid out, it's why the very players whose lives could be made better after football by a rule designed to protect them rail against it. They believe winning football is the most important thing, even though in nearly all cases the impact of winning or losing is far greater in their mind than in actuality. It's part of the make-up needed by many to convince themselves to keep playing or coaching. Unfortunately, in Notre Dame's case someone was blinded by this football first mindset, that players and coaches need to be protected from in many cases, and it cost a young man his life. The accident isn't about sports, but it's all about sports too.
Wednesday, October 27
BLINK BLINK went the little Horned Frog one day,
BLINK BLINK went the little Horned Frog.
BLINK BLINK went the little Horned Frog one day,
and his eyes went BLINK BLINK BLINK.
CHUG CHUG went the BCS one day,
SMUSH SMUSH went the little Horned Frog.
His eyes didn't go BLINK BLINK anymore,
Because they all got eaten by a dog.
A slight variation on a song I used to sing at Camp Eagle Rock as a kid. The little green frog was replaced by the symbol of TCU (which is actually a lizard but when it blinks it shoots blood out of its eye). I thought about changing the last word to strength of schedule but why kill a good rhyme?
The common sentiment in college football this year, and football in general, is that things are wide open. It is good from a spectator point-of-view, every week brings new exciting games with wide sweeping implications. However, with all these new contenders it makes it even more confusing when media, fans, and pollsters rely on reputation prior season performance to place these teams. Now granted there is a long way to go before the season is over. Undefeateds still may fall, Alabama has a great chance of sneaking back into the picture, and we may very well see a logjam at the front of the line.
TCU is one of the best teams in the country. That is not an opinion, it is a fact. They are a great team. The confines of the current system however will not allow them to make the BCS title game in Glendale, even if they go undefeated. I am not going to argue about whether the system is just or not, it is what it is. I simply want to show that the Horned Frogs are playing for a statement BCS game in January, not the crystal trophy. More after the break.
Have you watched TCU play a game? Seriously? More than one? This team is as good defensively as anyone. We will get to the weaker schedule but if Gary Patterson was preparing for any quality opponent I would bet on his defense to make a strong showing. The Frogs rank number 1 in the country in average points allowed, with 9.0. Nine points a game in today's spread it out, fly around college football. They held the high octane offenses of SMU and Baylor under their season averages. Baylor was held to 10 points, while they average nearly 35. The loss of DE Jerry Hughes, who was a beast for them last year led everyone to discount the defense from where it was last year. So far they have proven to be just as good. Gary Patterson is a damn good coach, the incident with the concussed player doesn't speak well for him, but
The offense has not been far behind. They've scored under 30 only once (a 27-0 victory over Colorado State) and rank 7th in points scored. Again, their competition has not been upper-tier all the way through but when you dominate opponents like this consistently, it shows you are that good.
Good enough to make the title game? Again, not under this system. It is not a lack of respect. People know TCU is good. They hear about them constantly and some people give them more credit for not railing against the system the way the folks in Boise seem too. As far as watching them, sometimes it is not that easy. The Mountain West has its own network and sometimes there games are Versus. That right there is not a recipe for eyeballs on your team. They had a showcase against Oregon State in Cowboy Stadium on ESPN on opening weekend, but it aired opposite LSU-North Carolina so not everyone was watching. Most would watch highlights or scan the boxscore. Oregon State is being used as a barometer this season. They played both TCU and Boise State. They are clinging to a top 25 ranking right now but an overtime loss in Washington has them sitting at 3-3. They did manage to beat #9 Arizona making them as of now the only team to play three top 10 teams. The Beavers are a good team, but will their record reflect it after they get through the rest of their schedule? The loss of James Rodgers did not help.
TCU's other BCS opponent this year was Baylor, who wasn't expected to be seen as a quality opponent but the Bears have are thus far undefeated in Big 12 play. As noted above the Frogs hammered Baylor 45-10, but don't expect the strong ranking from Baylor to hold up. They still have Texas, Oklahoma State, and Oklahoma on the schedule.
Last year, TCU played at Virginia (not a good team but still a BCS opponent on the road, in Death Valley against Clemson, at BYU (they were ranked 16 at the time they played them and were much better than this year), and Utah at home. It was a schedule that was not too far above the slate they have this year but all the chips began to fall in front of them. After they destroyed Utah 55-28 when gameday came to their campus, people began to take note. The Alabama-Florida winner was guaranteed to get to Pasadena but Texas needed a fortunate clock stoppage and a last second field goal to get the other spot. TCU was left waiting in the wings, 3 in the polls, 4 in the BCS. They were instead forced into the Fiesta Bowl against fellow non-AQ Boise State. Boise had a month to craft their offensive attack, which had routed opponents all year. TCU was up to task as they held them to just 10 points. The difference turned out to be a fake punt from their own 33 for the Broncos in a 17-10 win. It was a bitter defeat, because TCU knew this was the only game when a majority of the country was watching. The Frogs beat the Broncos in 2008 in the Poinsettia Bowl but the stakes were not as high. TCU quarterback Andy Dalton had a nightmare game, throwing 3 picks and constantly derailing offensive drives. I still feel TCU was the better team but you have to prove it on the grand stage.
The leader of the horned frogs, which are actually lizards, rocks a mock turtle.
Enter this year, with everyone talking about Boise State. Mainly because they had a Labor Day showdown with Virginia Tech at FedEx Field. They also did quite a bit of talking about the BCS and how they deserved their shot, since they were also passed over for the title game last year. TCU entered lower in the polls but once again have beaten everyone out there on their schedule. They now sit at #4 in all the polls and the BCS. It seems so tantalizingly close. Another huge showdown with the now #8 ranked Utah in two weeks looms. How far will that vault them if they win? Enough to make up for playing bottom-feeders New Mexico and UNLV? The weakness of those two teams will likely spell doom as far as the computers are concerned. According to the Sagarin poll, the Frogs have the 62nd ranked schedule. It is the biggest factor working against them. If any of the other undefeateds (Oregon, Michigan State, Missouri, Auburn) don't lose, they get to the title game before TCU. A one loss Alabama team gets in ahead of TCU. If TCU is undefeated and there is a one loss Ohio State, Wisconsin, Auburn, Oklahoma, Missouri, etc. team sitting there it is a tough call. Also, what about Boise? Let's say Auburn wins out (don't think they will) and everyone else has one loss. If TCU and Boise are the only other undefeateds does that mean it is down to those two for a shot at the title? Right now it appears the advantage is in TCU's favor from the computers, but Boise is ahead in the polls. Which means they will be ranked number 2 right behind an undefeated Auburn. Will the computers be enough to get TCU ahead of Boise?
To even get to that scenario, TCU needs to win out, which I think they will. Will they get their shot? I remain doubtful. A lot of dominoes have to fall their way. The hardliners in college football will be pointing to TCU's schedule, saying the tough road of a undefeated/1-loss BCS school holds more weight. I cannot sit here and disagree with them. TCU is a victim of what conference it plays in and big schools hesitant to play them consistently. Will that change in the future? Utah is leaving for the Pac 12 next year. Boise is coming in. That seems a swap rather than an upgrade. The ability of playoff expansion, or a plus 1 would give schools like TCU that extra opportunity. If a school from a non-AQ is deemed to have a high rank early in the season, plays quality BCS schools in its non-conference, faces top 25 teams multiple times during the year, and goes undefeated there should be a way to get them an opportunity to face the other worthy teams. Many would disagree, and say the non-AQs don't face the week in, week out tests that BCS conference schools do. Others would argue that there is an opportunity for teams like TCU to make the title game, if all the other AQ schools fall by the wayside. The bottom line this year is that the last scenario is all TCU can hope for. Despite the upheaval in football this year I don't see it happening. The Frogs will remain a great team, but one watching the title game instead of playing it in.
Ratings and rankings were drawn from the polls, but most of the info was based on this week's Sagarin rankings.
Tuesday, October 26
Just a week after people worried that football players would be wearing skirts after "new rules" or rather new penalties were introduced, the last rule that would allegedly result in putting skirts on quarterbacks was being ignored. During the Panthers/49ers game, Carolina QB Matt Moore was hit low by a lunging defender and tweaked his knee. Moore's knee locked straight, looking eerily similar to the play that injured Carson Palmer in the playoffs (back when he was good). I was unable to find video, because well it's the Panthers and Matt Moore's not a star, but Head Coach John Fox was livid. A man more known for his clapping, gum chewing, and incorrect challenges the outward display of dismay was a refreshing site, although the referee's decision to ignore a potentially season or in Moore's case possibly career-ending (he's a free agent that has lost his starting job once this season) hit is inexcusable.
The Star System exists in sports. The Star System does not, however, have a place when player safety is in play. A hold that goes uncalled, more downfield contact allowed, or even the assumption of a penalty against another player when a star falls are all acceptable, even if unfortunate, plays where the Star System can emerge. Penalties designed expressly with safety in mind, however, should be above such a system. A player no matter how mediocre or ordinary deserves the same protection from the officials and the NFL when it comes to protection from injury. With some calls such as the horse-collar tackle the calls appear obvious and are most often correctly enforced, but a class system seems to have clearly emerged when it comes to protecting quarterbacks.
If the NFL truly cares about player safety (a whole other discussion) officials that miss calls when player safety is involved, should be fined/chastised/reprimanded publicly by the League. ESPN's mockery of a blown offensive pass interference call against Andre Johnson had a direct impact in the following weeks with Offensive PI being called more readily, even in some cases when it was unwarranted. If players can be publicly fined or suspended, the arbiters of the rules should face similar punishments when they fail in their duties to protect those same players. This public record would help to show players, fans, and fellow officials just how serious the NFL takes player safety. To implement a star system in these instances only shifts the weight to the negative in the NFL's constant balancing act between All-American and barbaric.
Monday, October 25
Back at work today after my 3 day weekend down at The U. What a weekend, and not just from a football standpoint. The Canes got a 33-10 win over North Carolina and I got to see a lot of old friends, eat at all the old haunts, and threw (more than) a few back. The fairweather fans had flown after the F$U game, and Sun Life only sat 60% full. That didn't stop the ridiculous tailgate we had going, the local talent from being on full display, or our spirits from being dampened. If Miami plays with that kind of energy and passion the rest of the year, I don't care if it results in losses. Even the stoic Randy Shannon was body bumping players.
A 15 yard penalty for Shawn Spence riding Brandon Harris like a horsey and Orlando Franklin bringing his Ric Flair impression to the table was refreshing.
We are going to try to focus on college football this week, as we have slightly ignored it. Work is busy so who knows what we get to. I'll have to manage my timeouts better than Kirk Ferentz.
Thursday, October 21
We love college basketball here at ASD. In fact, it was one of the bonding tenants of Catfish and my's friendship in the rolling plains of North Carolina. We enjoy discussing and debating everything and anything college basketball. Growing up in ACC country less than 100 miles (as the crow flies) from Tobacco Road, college basketball dominated the local sports landscape. It's a passion we still follow to this day.
Yesterday, the ACC held its basketball media day in Charlotte. Their location was the the Renaissance Suites Hotel, which means literally nothing to a lot of people. he hotel, however, sits across from the former site of the Charlotte Coliseum which has a special place in Charlotte sports and college basketball lore. Yet I digress.
A vote was held for the preseason poll by the ACC media as is tradition. Duke, which figures to be the prohibitive favorite in the conference and a contender to repeat for the title, received just about all of the first place votes. Now we certianly know preseason polls are rearely worth the brainpower it takes to tabulate the votes, but it is always a good piece of fodder for discussion. Here are how the votes turned out:
1. Duke (61) 743; 2. Virginia Tech 632; 3. North Carolina (1) 622; 4. N.C. State 526; 5. Florida State 496; 6. Maryland 432; 7. Clemson 335; 8. Miami 305; 9. Georgia Tech 274; 10. Boston College 173; 11. Virginia 164; 12. Wake Forest 134.
Now who could be that lone person who had Carolina finishing first in the ACC? I'm sure if I really strain my noodle I might be able to come up with a few possibilities. By the way, does anyone know where Catfish was yesterday? Hmmmm, curious. Curious indeed.
It's Duke, then everyone else [Charlotte Observer]
Wednesday, October 20
Indeed, the party is ruined. No discussion has dominated sports talk more this week than the NFL dealing with severe hits to the head and how to police them. There seems to be (like most issues in this country) two factions: football traditionalists who feel the new measures will result in the pussification of America and those that feel head trauma needs to be reduced as much as possible.
I believe that you cannot truly eradicate head injuries from football. Hits and collisions will happen. The Dunta Robinson-DeSean Jackson collision as an example. In the video above James Harrison uses his head as a weapon against Josh Cribbs, knocking the ball loose. Cribbs is left on the ground while Harrison gets up and celebrates. This type of play is one that has been championed in football ever since heavy padding and helmets were no longer leather. Harrison could have used his tremendous power to tackle Cribbs on what was already a play for minimal gain, but it seems (cannot exactly say as fact) that Harrison knew if he launched his helmet as a weapon he could knock Cribbs senseless and therefore dislodge the ball. It is these type of hits that we are seeing permanent damage from in former NFL athletes.
In the second hit I do not fault Harrison as much, he is going for a forearm hit to Massaquoi to dislodge the ball and/or get a flashy hit. Massaquoi's head ducking leads to contact with the helmets. Still, what would be called for there would be a driving tackle into Massaquoi's midsection to shoulder pads. Instead, there is a culture in the NFL now to make a big "pop" of a hit, instead of the fundamental take down. People complain about the lack of fundamental play in basketball leading to turnovers and sloppy play, have you noticed a lot of horrible tackling in football lately? It's there, and it's widespread. One of the reasons is players going for a big hit and missing.
We are a bloodthirsty society, I can't deny even I like to see violence. I as much as anyone was championing the release of The Expendables. I like seeing hard hits in football, but knowing what we know now about concussions I don't like seeing head trauma. Football can still be a violent game and give fans thrills without permitting the collisions that knock players out of the game and can cause long-term damage to their lives. The "they know what they are signing up for when they play football" argument is weak. Every football player knows there are inherent risk but they play because they either like the game, like the money or both. But if you tell a player that steps can be taken to reduce the chance of brain damage and the game made safer most players would be for that. The twist is that the players think they can't play effectively if that safety precaution is taking away shots to the head.
It will be interesting to see how the NFL implements their new policy. If they do it correctly, players will not senselessly launch themselves at others as a first resort. This can be an opportunity for coaches and players to reaffirm proper tackling technique and wrapping up. James Harrison can say he is going to retire and that is fine. Take your talents somewhere else, the WWE maybe. I hear they are lax on certain employee health policies. This past weekend should be seen as an incredible teaching tool about this issue. Sometimes these hits happen suddenly (Robinson's hit), sometimes the hit is part of an ill-conceived notion that it is acceptable and celebrated (Harrison on Cribbs), and sometimes it is just plain wrong (Meriweather on Heap).
Football can and should be played without taking shots at players heads. The ignorance or blind eye turned by players and coaches is no excuse for allowing these sort of collisions. The speed and strength of the athletes will never prevent them fully, but a policy to stop a practice that could very well be more detrimental than steroids should be embraced not seen as a de-machofication of the league. But what do I know, I never played the game.
Monday, October 18
I am doing my best not to let this post come down as high and mighty or give the impression that I am omnipotent. I'm not going to harp on how I was once a coach, because the sport I coached was completely different from football and did not involve the split-second decisions I will be discussing. Nor am I suggesting that I could do a superior job to the men patrolling the sidelines on Saturday and Sunday. However, with all that said (which was my tribute to "I don't want to disrespect my teammates but..") there has been a multitude of mistakes made by coaches in end-of-game management this season. Perhaps coaches have always been making these errors but in the era of DVR, instant replays, and week-long second guessing they have been magnified even more. A few examples and extrapolating after the jump.
While there have been many examples to pull from, these are some that stick out from the season.
I know the Packers-Bears Sunday night game took place weeks ago, but it sticks out in my mind. The Packers were driving with the game tied 17-17 when James Jones fumbled the ball on right in front of the Packers sideline to set up the winning Bears' field goal. This started a very odd chain of events. Packers coach Mike McCarthy decided to challenge the fumble. The ball clearly was fumbled and kept in-bounds by the Bears defense. McCarthy essentially tossed away a timeout. Then as the Bears drove deep into the Packers' red zone they were allowed to run down the clock to four seconds as Robbie Gould kicked the game-winner.
This is from a game probably most of America did not see but I attended this past Saturday. After Rutgers stormed back with 14 fourth-quarter points to tie Army at 17. Rutgers then pinned Army deep and forced a punt. The Scarlet Knights took the ball to the 31 yard-line with no time outs and about 33 seconds left. Now they did not haphazardly lose those timeouts, they used them on Army's previous possession to stop the clock and get the ball back. From there Rutgers coach Greg Schiano ran a horribly drawn-up QB scramble to get the ball on the correct hash for his kicker. The play lost two yards so here is the ball at the 33 which makes for a 50 yard try. Did I mention this was in the New Meadowlands Stadium where the wind was blowing at a light 20 mph? Army then granted Rutgers a reprieve by calling timeout to set-up their defense. Rutgers then spends the timeout trying to figure out what to do at which point the QB misplaces his helmet and costs the team a delay of game penalty. Back another 5 yards, out of FG range. The next play by Rutgers results in an Army sack and ends any chance of winning in regulation. Rutgers did win in overtime 23-20.
Scenario # 3
South Carolina, or Sakarlina as they are becoming affectionately known as, was happily blowing the doors of Kentucky 28-10. Then the Wildcats produced a furious rally. The Gamecocks trailed 31-28 down the stretch but were able to get the ball down to Kentucky's 20 yard line. With the clock stopped at 11 seconds South Carolina called a timeout, their last one. Then, the old ball coach called in a deep pass play to go for the win. Stephen Garcia threw into double coverage, the ball was tipped and intercepted by Kentucky. Instead of a 37-yard field goal to tie the game, the game was over.
Scenario # 4
The granddaddy of them all. Much like end of the movie se7en, the conclusion of the Tennessee-LSU game will be puzzled over and studied and followed forever. With LSU driving late in the game down 14-10, this happened.
Is it saying too much that both coaching staffs lost their grip on this game? After the Vols somehow let LSU march down the entire field on them, it turned into a goal line stand. LSU decided to run the ball on 3rd down with 30 seconds and no timeouts. I guess that would be fine except they seemed to have no clue what they were doing once the play failed. They then scrambled some kind of mess onto the field and would have had the clock run out on them only their center snapped it before the clock ran out. Of course Jordan Jefferson was not prepared and the snap went into the backfield and should have ended the game. That is, until it was revealed the Vols were equally as insane in their final defensive stand. After stopping the Tigers on 3rd down, Tennessee reacted to the LSU panic by panicking themselves. They tried to match the Tigers with substitutions and got caught on the very wrong side of mathematics. They ended up having 13 players on the field after they had 3 guys run on and 3 start to run off, only to have two of those running off turnaround and run back on. What they should have done was stand pat with their personnel, or at least make sure they had 11 on. Vince Dooley was furious and indignant at the end of the game but the refs gave the Vols time to make substitutions, they just botched it. They already had goal line personnel in there, just call a defense and stand firm, LSU clearly had no idea what to do. In this case, gross incompetence was outdone by ludicrous incompetence.
Now these four examples are all different, but the theme runs the same: coaches need to be prepared for these situations. Often times the announcers and/or analysts talk about how players need to step it up at the end of halves and games. While true, the coaches need to be able to make these decisions quickly and correctly. We hear all the time about players practicing end of game situations, the two-minute drill routine. Coaches should be using these situations to put themselves in the right mind for when they arise in the games. Clearly, a lot of them are not.
In the NFL, using challenges and timeouts wisely often goes by the wayside. Coaches can be great at the X's and O's but all that can go out the window if the team is scrambling around during the final minutes and you are taking 45 seconds to make a decision that needed to be made 20 seconds ago. Poor clock management is nothing new, and Eagles fans can probably tell you all about Andy Reid and bad decisions.
In the college game, it just appears that most coaches figure they will know what to do when the time comes. There is only so much time they can work with the players each week (right Rich-Rod?) and so much devotion is paid to getting schemes right, end of game planning may go to the backburner. Ironically a lot of times a closely contested game comes down to making the right plays and calls as the clock winds down. Either through practice or prior preparation (get a laminated sheet for situations even) a coach should know what they are going to do within 5-10 seconds of a situation presenting itself. It is not an easy task, but then again neither is coaching.
Friday, October 15
Thursday, October 14
Be proud America, we have finally completed the exporting of the NBA to the rest of the world. China and Brazil got their brawl on just over a minute into their game against Brasil. China was preparing for the Asian Games next month so we can anticipate more of an artistic kerfuffle then. I expect some Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon stuff when they play another Asian nation.
Thursday, October 7
Ten years ago today, one of college football's greatest rivalries added another epic chapter. I had the pleasure of being there on that hot Miami day in October 2000. I saw a lot of great games in the Old Orange Bowl; I saw wide rights and lefts, Kellen Winslow sky what seemed like 20 feet for a 4th and 11 pass, a comeback after being down 33-10 to Florida, Devin Hester being ridiculous, and so on. The game in 2000 though is still my all-time favorite.
Miami had climbed out of probation and was again fully stocked with NFL talent. Florida State was the number one team in the country. There were a lot seniors like Dan Morgan and Santana Moss that had suffered a 47-0 defeat a few years earlier at the hands of the Seminoles. The Orange Bowl was packed, the place was electric. One of the great things about the OB being an incredibly old stadium, along with all the bad things, was that the stadium would literally shake when a full house went crazy. I don't think I ever have heard a crowd as loud as when Jeremy Shockey caught the go-ahead TD pass from Ken Dorsey with 46 seconds left.
This weekend the rivalry again is renewed. Now not as much is on the line as 2000. Miami got the royal screwjob by the BCS computers and missed out on the national title game even though Florida State was behind them in the polls. Both teams have shown flashes of brilliance but fell short against top ten teams on the road. They do not play in the same division of the ACC but a win on Saturday gives them a big step forward in securing a place in the ACC title game. The key to the game will be Miami's defense, their D-line in particular, against Seminole QB Christian Ponder. Miami's defense has been revitalized on the strength of a punishing and deep D-line. Ponder has been a Cane killer so far in his career. He has gone for over 300 yards in his two games against Miami. Rick Petri, the returning Miami D-line coach has Miami turning up the pressure with the front four and making tackles in the backfield. With Miami once again getting pressure, it has lead to some turnovers which they have not been getting in the last few seasons. There is one catch though, Ponder can move around and scramble just like Pryor from Ohio State. If Miami hopes to keep the Florida State offense contained they must tackle Ponder before he scrambles away to make a throw or run upfield. It should be another great chapter in the history of these two schools and thankfully it has the Saturday night spotlight.
Tuesday, October 5
What if I told you Bayside High was hit with a 5 year long hurricane? Childhood icon and lord of tang Zack Morris was apparently not only ahead of his time with cell phone use. It makes sense that Zack would be a fan of the U in the late 80s, early 90s when SBTB took place. Like the U he was on the cutting edge and willing to push the boundaries. Yet he was always focused on taking home the ultimate prize in the game (Kelly).
I wish I could write here more often. Hell, I wish I had the ability to move things with my mind but we all don't get what we want. Even though there has been a paucity of posts it has not mean we have stopped watching sports. In fact, due to the recent acquisition of DVR in my place there has been even more viewing going on. That's right, I finally joined the rest of civilized society and it was as wonderful as I had hoped for. I've been paying attention to the baseball races winding down but of course especially on football. We're not here to give you late breaking news, just to add our perspective on some of the stories. With that said, here is a story from each division in the NFL that has grabbed attention this so far after week 4.
When your a Jet, you blow .16
I think the Braylon Edwards ordeal has helped the Jets rather than hurt them. They sit at 2-1 and atop the AFC East at the moment. All the focus in the local media shifted from Darrelle Revis' burnt hamstring and Mark Sanchez's quarterbacking to philosophical discussions on whether Edwards should have been suspended and the proper way to calculate alcohol intake. Seriously, on sports radio up here they spent more time discussing how police measure BAC and how Braylon would be more adept at handling that amount of intake than the actual games on the field. It worked. Well kind of, that just kept Jets other than Rex Ryan from having to discuss whether Braylon would be suspended.
I root against rival teams of my own but I also call it like I see it. Mark Sanchez has played well the last two weeks. The turning point came against the Patriots when the Jets were shut down in the first quarter. A chorus of boos rained down from many a bro in the stadium. At that point Brian Schottenheimer finally decided to turn Sanchez loose. Thanks to the Patriots secondary, it worked. If the Pats had held the clamps on El Sanchupaquatal, confidence would not have emerged. The offense would have remained as tight as a horsehair knot on a catapult. Amazingly I think the Pats offense was at fault for this turn of events. They were unable to sustain any drives in the second half, allowing the Jets to dominate the TOP. A big win over their division rivals invigorated the Jets and the Braylon incident dominated all headlines and questions. The joke turned out to be on the media; Edwards sat out one quarter, came in and scored a go-ahead 60-yard touchdown. Nobody cares about your moral high horses and sadly no one cares that Braylon could have easily killed someone, himself, or his two teammates. Everyone just wants to talk about him doing the Dougie in the end zone. The Jets went on to torch the Bills (not the biggest accomplishment but still) this past Sunday.
The Jets have weaknesses yes, but it appears as of now they will live up to the playoff (not willing to say Super Bowl yet) hype that they built up for themselves through their talk and HBO. Hell, LT is abusing defenders again.
Laser-Rocket Slingshot arm
I saw a lot, pretty much all, of Tennessee's 29-10 win over the Giants in week 3. What caught my eye aside from the Eli Manning Lamar from the Revenge of the Nerds-esque shotput interception and multiple personal fouls was Vince Young's delivery. I guess you can say VY bounced back from his nightmare performance against the Steelers in which Kerry Collins was exhumed to take his place. Young went 10-16 for 118 yards and a touchdown. He did not turn the ball over. However, I just can't watch him sling the ball like a wad of pizza dough and feel he is going to be a great passer in the league. This past Sunday he went up to 28 attempts and completed 17 for a very pedestrian 173 yards.
Vince Young has gone from Vick 2.0 prodigy to walking disaster to redeemed QB to game manger. His job is to keep the defense honest while Jeff Fisher runs the tires bald on Chris Johnson. Phillip Rivers will tell you unconventional throwing motions don't mean anything if you can get the ball there. Yet I don't think Vince can get the ball there consistently with the way his ball is slung out from his hand. The Titans sit at 2-2, tied with the Jags and Colts and looking up at the Texans in the AFC South. At this point you can't change Young's mechanics, and the only viable alternative is Crazy Heart himself Kerry Collins. So it is Vince's team to manage.
Men of Troy
The homeristic Hurricane fan wants me to argue that Ed Reed is the best safety of this generation. Realistically, you have to include Troy Polamalu in that category. He and Reed have been head and shoulders above the rest of the league the past few years. Reed won't return until later the season and may not even play past this year due to injuries. Polamalu is back from injury and making spectacular plays.
Pittsburgh was just supposed to hold on until Gray Dong the Magnificent returns this week but they went 3-1. They did lose a tight one to the Ravens but many thought the Ravens would put distance between them and the Steelers in the AFC North with Big Ben out. Not to go ESPN analyst on this situation but I definitely think there is a psychological edge Polamalu gives to the rest of the defense. Pass rushers and cornerbacks know he is back there keeping watch over the deep balls and he will come up and make a play in the running game. Think back to last year and how awful the Steelers defense was without him. When you talk about a guy like that, it is pretty much what the phrase MVP is supposed to mean.
Somewhere They Belong
A little divergent allusion to music for the AFC West's note. I'm not all about Linkin Park. In fact, I wouldn't even call myself a fan. I first heard of them driving to practice in college with a teammate and I was not a fan of their screaming (which they did more of in their earlier work I think) at 5:30 in the morning. Then they became much more mainstream and everyone has heard of them. Look, the transformers movies have their suck amplified by the Linkin Park themesongs, especially the 2nd one but I won't lie, I have a few of their songs on my mp3 player. When I'm at the gym, I'm the kind of mind monkey that will use a rush I get from a song to finish up a run, erg session, or lifting set strong. Sounds lame? It probably is but whatever gets the job done. A few Linkin Park songs do that for me, but 'Shadow of the Day' is not one of them. I can get pumped by 'Somewhere I Belong' and I that song came on my mix yesterday. When considering my AFC West focus which are the Chiefs, I think of Charlie Weis and Romeo Crennel.
These guys both would be considered failures at their respective head coaching ventures, but damned if I don't think they know a ton about football. A lot more than you or me. It is not a new addage but some coaches are better as coordinators than head coaches. Neither of these guys are likely to run the show again but as far as implementing a game plan, they are on par with just about anyone in the league. Most people that think of the Patriots now are the way they were during their Super Bowl run. Present perception does not equal past reality. When the Patriots were winning their Super Bowls they had a dynamic pass attack that included play action and a variety of screens that was complimented by a pounding run game. When Weis left and the Pats got Moss and Welker, Josh McDaniels changed the scheme. The defense a strong up front 3-4 with linebackers capable of pass rushing or dropping into coverage and veteran secondary players. Crennel and Belichick put the clamps on teams so bad they changed the rules..I mean they emphasized rules already in place (/Polian'd). Once those players left Belichick created a new identity.
The bottom line is that the Chiefs are not the most talented team in the league, but they have a lot of potential and having those two guys guiding the offense and defense bodes well for the future.
As a Patriots fan it is my everlasting shame to be reminded of Super Bowl 42. The Patriots bid for a 4th title went up in smoke for a variety of reasons but the most painful of them was Eli Manning's desperation heave that was caught by David Tyree and his helmet. Now living in New York I get to listen to Eli on the radio. He does an interview with Michael Kay every week. Despite the fact that I think Michael Kay is a sack of crap, he does get good guests. So on my drive home from the gym yesterday I listened to the sack interview Eli.
Now Eli's interview is a good get because he is the QB of the New York Giants. The Giants beat the Bears 17-3 in a game Sunday Night that brought shame to the game of football. The Giants who have been **cliché alert** much maligned so far this year for their sloppy play sit at 2-2 and tied for the lead in the NFC East. Eli giving an interview over the phone sounds like a cross between the Waterboy and Gomer Pile. There are lot of clichés like "We need to execute" and "He's been working hard and preparing" but most of the interview is Eli saying "Uh" and "You know". When Kay asked him about the reception Tiki Barber got at the ring of honor ceremony (hint: it wasn't warm and fuzzy) Eli downplayed it. Kay tried to provoke him into a response considering the shots Tiki took at Eli in the past. Since this flustered Manning it took about 4 minutes of "Eahhh Ya know" before he said a coherent sentence. Eli of course took the high road. It is the right thing to do, when he easily could have mentioned how he got his ring while Tiki missed out or the fact Tiki has become a joke and cheated on his wife with some random college chick.
Are they who we thought they were?
The Packers are 3-1. They sit in second place only because they lost to the Bears last week. They are still the favorite to win the NFC North. Yet I am not so sure all of a sudden how much of a Super Bowl lock they are. A lot of people out there think they will make it to Dallas. So far this season they have not shown it. Aaron Rodgers is a very good QB, no debate there, but the Ryan Grant injury puts more on his shoulders that were already burdened with not much of a run game. The defense was opportunistic last year, but those chances will not always be there if they play solid teams. The team looks very shaky to me, yet all the "top" NFL teams have glaring weaknesses. Another factor that threw me off was last Sunday night against the Bears. Why did Mike McCarthy challenge that fumble late in the game? Then why didn't he allow the Bears to score to get the ball back? They were not Les Miles level mistakes but it really seems coaches spend a lot of time preparing schemes but not on split-second decisions in games. NFL and college there has been a rash of bad game management.
The Carolina Panthers are in disarray but not complete and utter disarray. They gave the Saints everything they had, in the Superdome, following a home loss. They still sit winless and the dregs of the NFC South and it is unlikely they will move vertically in the standings for the rest of the year. The owner of the Panthers, Jerry Richardson is a loyal man. He stood by Julius Peppers and did everything he could to keep him with Carolina. He has kept with his GM Marty Hurney and coach John Fox since 2002 and there has been a lot of success but also lately, a lot of frustration. With rookie (and emu) Jimmy Clausen starting Carolina has not inspired confidence that they are going for the gold this year. They seemed resigned to their fate and that cannot create a lot of bile in the fanbase. House will be cleaned in the offseason.
Some house may be cleaned now. Dwayne Jarrett was arrested for DUI this morning. It is his second arrest for this offense in two years. Jarrett now has more DUI arrests than career touchdowns. He has one more career start than DUIs. It is hard to pinpoint what exactly went wrong with Jarrett but his lack of production on the field and repeated undisciplined actions off it mean he will not be with them much longer. It is hard to figure out why they kept him this long in the first place.
Regurgitate some opinions to sound smart
Hey! Did you hear? The NFC West is bad. No really! Nothing makes blockheads feel smarter about the NFL this year than proclaiming how horrid the NFC West is. The winner of the division might be under .500! You're not breaking new ground. You're not being insightful, you're not productively contributing to football discussion. The teams are not that good, we know, we get it, let's move on.
All that said, why not the Rams? I admit I was down on Bradford but while he has not lit the world on fire, he has inspired his team a lot more than Max Hall(?) in Arizona, Alex "tiny hands" Smith in San Fran or Hasselbeck. Usually pundits tell you to bet on the team with the best QB. In this division, it just might be....Bradford? Holy shit this division sucks.
[I give myself bonus points for avoiding discussing Vick]
Friday, October 1
Dolphins wide receiver Brandon Marshall took umbrage to comments made on the NFL Network about his supposed lack of effort at the end of last week's Sunday Night Football loss to the Jets. He said that one of his criticizers, Sterling Sharpe was not an elite player or a Hall of Famer. Clearly Marshall is ill informed about how good Sharpe was before injuries forced him out of the league. If only Dennis Hopper were around, he could let Marshall know about the freight train. It is inexcusable for players now to not know recent history of the game or even distant history. Pick up your iPhone, Droid, Blackberry, or what have you and google the name, stats, and career of a man before you go and insult him. Information is now more readily available to us than at any other time in our current age of civilization yet the stupidity to generalize about it remains ever present. It also never hurts to reminisce about these great Hopper NFL/referee commercials. I don't know where Hopper is now that he's no longer with us, but wherever he is I do know he's not getting caught watching the paint dry.