Your list is here, and there's not much I'm going to be say about it, other than I'm clearly a fan of what Anonymous' father does to him. You've got to admire that kind of commitment.
Thursday, January 31, 2008
In my home town of Philadelphia, we have bombed our own residents, assaulted a drunken and abusive Santa Claus, fired off flare guns at Eagles games, cheered when Michael Irvin appeared to be paralyzed, threw batteries at JD Drew, and booed the very best players for our teams without discretion or sense.
On the other hand, we never went into a million-dollar pants-wetting Fox News Panic over LED signs. Game Over For Infinity.
Congratulations, Boston, for commemorating the first anniversary of One Thirty One, an event that the rest of the nation will remember with fondness, long after your sports teams have faded into obscurity.
Because while there are plenty of teams that will win the big game, there's only one town that welcomed its new Alien Overlords from the Moon. Congratulations!
New England is a 12 point favorite, down from 14 at the open. The over/under is 54, down from 55.
Having already made fun of this kind of thing earlier this week at the Carnival, shamed by my sub-.500 prognostication record, and embittered by a matchup that's had me rooting for Bruce Dern in a blimp, injuries and pestilence... well, dammit, there's been 265 picks this year up to now, so let's just get this over the finish line, shall we?
There's basically two ways to go on this pick.
1) Tight game. Here, what you've got going for you is the last two months of Patriot football, where Brady hasn't protected the ball to his previous levels, the linebackers and safeties have given up a lot to tight ends and running backs in the middle, the special teams haven't made the back-breaking plays and Lawrence Maroney has been more important to the offense than Randy Moss. You are also betting on the idea that Eli Manning and the Giants have momentum, a good running game, and a pass rush that will give the Patriots enough long third downs to get off the field, keeping them under 30 points.
There are four problems with this theory.
a) Belichick has had two weeks to plan for Tom Coughlin. What was normally a small advantage just got larger.
b) Eli Manning doesn't do well with odd-man blitzes, and the single best thing this Patriot defense does is get heat that way. Rodney Harrison may be one of the dirtiest players in the NFL, good for at least one boneheaded penalty per game, and if he played for the Giants, Patriot Fan would want him tried for war crimes. He also gets to the QB nearly every time he's sent.
c) Super Bowls tend toward bad game blowouts, though that trend has not shown up very often recently.
d) The Giants' secondary has done an admirable job in covering for its safe spots, mostly due to the pressure of the front line. But they've also played three playoff games against QBs that all played their worst game of the season against them. That's not all coincidence, but rolling craps four times in a row is hard to do, and every observer of those Giants playoff games have talked about how there have been opportunities downfield for the opposition. Translation: Guys Are Wide Open.
2) Blowout. If you're going with a blowout, you're picking the favorites; no one, short of a tremendously myopic Giants Fan, thinks that Blue will win in a walk. With this option, you're thinking the early-season good-weather Patriot offense will show up... in a warm-weather stadium in Arizona. You've also got the strong likelihood of a bounce-back game from Brady, who did throw three picks against the Chargers, and the G-Men being concerned enough about Maroney to risk playing off Moss a little more than the Jaguars and Chargers did. You're also gambling that Manning will turn back into the QB that looked like a legacy pick up until December of 2007.
The troubles with this theory are:
a) Karma. From the Boston Globe letting you pre-order a book celebrating the Perfect Season to the Brady Boot questions, from Spygate to Moss And Battery, you're throwing your money on a big cover win from a team whose public approval ratings have more or less mirrored the Bush Administration. Patriot Act, indeed.
b) Recency. The Patriots have played the last two months with a growing stick up their ass -- there's just been less of the run-it-up gadgetry, LBs in the backfield, reverse and other stuff going on. Teams have been making them dink and dunk, which they've happily done... but that kind of thing doesn't usually create the 40+ point output that causes easy covers.
c) Special teams. The Giants have a reasonable edge here, especially if Feagles and Tynes don't spit the bit like they did in the sub-zero cold of Green Bay. The Pats will need to go farther, and take more time to do it.
d) As 12.5 point favorites that are going for perfection, against a #5 seed that hasn't been here before, the Giants are as loose as a SB team can be. If the game isn't a blowout in the second quarter, it's not going to be a blowout later.
Having said all that... I just think the Pats are going to score in the red zone all day in good weather, and that they are just not going to be denied. I'm also, of course, betting the opposite of what I'm rooting for, if only because the Giants made TO cry.
Patriots 35, Giants 20... which is the Pats plus the OVER. Your MVP, with 3 TDs from short range and over 100 yards on the day, is Lawrence Maroney.
Your list is here, and it's the first one ever to use roman numerals. (By the way, did you know that our current system of numerology was introduced to Europeans by the invading Muslims in the middle ages? Just something to keep it mind if some bigot goes off on Islam.
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
Your list is here, and consider this one a public service for all of the other bloggers out there that are hurting for stuff to write about this week.
(Not me, though. I'm actually hurting for time to write in the first place... Besides, there's all that stuff I wrote over the weekend. Go read that already, you relentless reading machines.)
Monday, January 28, 2008
This will probably piss some of you off, in that I go all Devil's Advocate-y and argue for government interaction in sports (or, at least, point out how MLB has screwed the pooch so badly that they deserve it). (And before you ask, yes, I do loves me some Hugo Chavez / Vladdy Lenin / Denny Kucinich / Any Other Freaky Leftist you'd like to list, Hate America, Eat Puppies and Burn Flags at Gay Weddings In Paganish orgies. It's a wonder I can keep up with all of the Kollektiv's activities!)
The full discussion is over at the Carnival, but here's my contribution to it, just so you can't avoid it:
"Given the current situation with Major League Baseball, do you think it's appropriate for the government to get involved in professional sports?"
DMtShooter, Five Tool Tool...
MLB as a current institution monopolizes professional baseball for the entire country. There is no free market system by which, say, an up and coming metropolis like Las Vegas or Portland could get a team without decades of legal wrangling and heartache, and another city's fans getting jobbed over in the process.
That's not a free market, and government isn't involved in that decision at all, other than to give MLB the green light to do just that with the anti-trust exemption. MLB also fails to share its revenue or cap its salaries in a way in which teams from MLB+ (i.e., Boston, New York, Chicago and Los Angeles) do not have an incredible, and eventually ruinous, competitive advantage (witness Japan, aka the supplemental farm system for the rich).
True, small market teams can have their brief windows of excitement, but why should anyone choose to be a Twins, Tribe, A's or Marlins fan, knowing that all of the good players will be shipped out as soon as you actually know their names? (Note: I am an A's fan. And bitter...)
MLB also played ostrich with performance enhancers, selling out the long-term integrity of the sport for a few years of homer-fueled attendance.
Their Hall of Fame kept Buck O'Neill out and dozens of forgettable mediocrities in. The worst commissioner in the history of the sport will have the longest tenure. And finally, the leagues don't play by the same freaking rules. DH or no DH; pick and be done with it, for heaven's sakes. It's only been 35 years.
What, exactly, could the government do that's worse than this performance? (... this is a rhetorical question. I'm very aware of Katrina, Iraq, Plamegate, Bin Laden being alive and the dozens of other litanies from the past few years. Besides, we're talking more about Congress than the Executive Branch getting involved here, or at least threatening to get involved.)
And for every knee-jerk libertarian who wants to denigrate any act of government, I'm sorry that you Hate Our Troops. I also hope that you refuse to use any of those evil government roads, electrical grids, telecommunications or plumbing systems.
It's also implicit that you let yourself be indicted by a grand jury, since government lawyers are part of the government, and therefore must not be able to do anything. It's OK if you're convicted, though, since government jails are ran by government guards, so you'll probably be able to escape just by challenging them to a game of hide and go seek (we now return you to your regularly scheduled rant that relates to sports).
Government interaction is a lot like a labor union -- if your corporation was so badly run, so abusive to its workers, or violated so many laws that you've got one, you probably freaking deserve it. Besides, you know who'd really hate Congress getting involved in MLB? Baseball owners and the baseball union. Both of which are, um, loathsome scumbags that make decent people spit. So why not wish another pox on their house?
(End of drop. Comment here, there, or anywhere, really. I'll be in the back with all of my other commie buddies, figuring out how to take away your guns.)
Sunday, January 27, 2008
Yes, you probably didn't even know this was a debate, but you also probably didn't catch the ABC mouth job for the Mamba this afternoon. Scoreboard says... Cavs won on the road, and Kobe's checking Andrew Bynum's status to see if he should pule for another trade request. Give me the younger, bigger, stronger, less crazy guy, please.
We're not unreasonable. I mean, no one's going to eat your eyes.
Last Friday night, I was fortunate enough to put together the first of what I'm hoping will be a long series of poker nights in the Man Space. We had seven men good and true, played for moderate stakes, and everyone seemed to have a good time; the game lasted four hours. I hadn't played for over a decade, since before the Poker Boom, and we split the night up with the dealer calling the hand, rather than getting into nonstop hold'em and hardcore machismo. (I imposed a buy-in and maximum bet limit, so that no one got really hurt or crazed.)
While writing the next day, I flicked on one of the dozen-odd late-night poker shows in the background to see if I'd catch any pointers... and I can't, for the life of me, see the reason why anyone watches these things. It's not like golf, where I can really admire people who are clearly better than me -- I'm sure all of these players are better than me, but determining that from watching a few drawn-out hands is impossible.
It was more this: why would you watch someone doing a fun thing, rather than go do the fun thing yourself? If I'm in the mood to learn about poker and play a few hands, you go grab a computer and get to it. Watching other people, that you do not know, play cards is right up there with watching people knit.
(Final point: if you're local to NJ, not an ass, and want to waste some time, send an email to dmt shooter at gmail dot com. There might be a chair or two free from time to time.)
On the off chance that the reader is led to think that the NBA might be ready to jostle MLB for the spot of Bestus Little Brother to the all-encompassing monster that is the NFL... read this little piece in the NYT about the Sonics and their probable last season in Seattle.
In it, coach/scapegoat PJ Carlesimo "shakes his head" when driving past the Mariners' Safeco Field and the Seahawks' Qwest Field, two of the best stadiums in the country, and wonders why his team has to suffer the indignities of Key Arena. To answer that question, the following points.
1) Why is it always about a new arena for sports team owners? Why can't local taxpayers just pay them the money directly, every year, in an interest-bearing account -- since there is no freaking difference, other than an efficiency in the transaction? Perhaps the team could just also send around large men to collect the money, for that personal touch. Call it Team Insurance. Bad things happen to teams and fans that don't have Insurance.
2) In recent court documents, the Sonics produced a survey that showed showed 66 percent of respondents said the team’s leaving (for Oklahoma City, where the team's new owners reside) would make "no difference in their lives."
Hey, since when is that admissible? The Sixers could probably get that number to 90. Knick Fans, so long as Isiah and the Dolans are involved, might break 100% by offering to help them pack. Many Clipper season ticket holders are still not sure why the Lakers are wearing those funny uniforms, and why the celebrity count isn't as high as it used to be at the games. This is a bad road for the NBA to take.
3) David Stern told reporters in November that Settle would not get another NBA franchise should the Sonics leave. One assumes this is a valid threat, since without a team, the city isn't going to go about building an arena.
Now, Stern has to say that to try to leverage the city, but I'm not exactly sure why the league is willing to throw away a relationship with a growing and vibrant Pacific Rim city, especially with the league's success in drawing talent and interest from China, in order to establish a bigger toehold in middle America.
Then again, maybe the league just thinks it's better off playing in cities like Portland, Sacramento, San Antonio. Orlando and Oakland (I keed, I keed.... kind of) that have no NFL or MLB franchise. That way, they ensure a more dedicated fan base. Unfortunately, that logic doesn't seem to be doing much to fill the seats in one-team towns like Memphis, New Orleans and Atlanta (oh, the keeding will not stop). It also means the league will go under as soon as the NFL wakes up and launches a domestic spring league, the way that the market for football absolutely demands.
But in the short run, please note that no NFL team is having issues like this one... and MLB, for all of its constant rogering of the small markets, doesn't have an issue of team owners buying in to just try to move a franchise at their earliest opportunity. Which makes the NBA the third major league, despite a salary cap that makes sense and allows small and large market teams to compete equally, and the largest talent base of any US league.
And finally, this -- when, oh when, will some league finally break down and pluck the low-hanging fruit that is Las Vegas?
In Bloomington, Illinois tonight, according to Yahoo Sports, Isiah Thomas's kid was arrested for underaged drinking and disorderly conduct. They nabbed him in a hospital, it seems, after Some Fisticuffs in a townie bar.
High on the list of questions the cops should have asked...
1) Was the guy that punched you trying to drive the lane for a layup in a blowout win?
2) When you shouted obscenities at the cops before they decided to arrest you, were you just following the same instincts that caused your dad to sign Mailk Rose and Jerome James?
3) Since the Knicks have said that your father would have no comment, would you now like to sign the petition for him to be fired?
4) Does your problem with alcohol relate to the fact that Jordan's kid plays for Illinois, or from your dad turning his Hall of Fame playing career into a Unabomber-esque taint from which no creature is likely to escape?
5) Have you negotiated for a buyout from your family yet?
Word in the blogosphere is that Chris Webber, currently collecting a ridiculous amount of money in the final year of that Maloofian Monstrosity of a contract that Billy King just had to have on the Sixers, may sign with the Don Nelson Warriors.
No, seriously. (Yes, I know, it took me a while to stop giggling, too.)
From the Contra Costa Times, which sounds like a minor paper to Eastern eyes, but is actually something of a leader out in the Bay Area, especially when it comes to sports...
Two team officials confirmed that the Warriors are in discussions with Webber, who played his rookie season with the Warriors in 1993-94. There is some belief the two parties are close to an agreement.So let's get this straight... two guys that more or less destroyed the franchise nearly 15 years ago are going to reunite. They both have outsized egos, questionable commitments to the defensive skills or commitment that actually wins basketball games, and a need to be seen as The Reason Why The Team Is Winning. We're going to add that to a mixture that has Baron Davis, who's great but fragile, and the legitimate insanity that is Stephen Jackson.
A different source confirmed that Webber and Warriors coach Don Nelson, who separated on bad terms in 1994, have talked in an attempt to put the past behind them. Warriors executive vice president of basketball operations Chris Mullin has said a big man is on his wish list.
By bringing C-Webb in, we'll also retard the development of Andris Biedrins, the W's current big man who might actually have some interest in playing defense. We'll also mess with the head of Al Harrington, who has given them some decent bench production against strong odds that he'd pout, and utterly destroy them defensively, just as he did to the Pistons last year. And these are the Nellie Warriors, so it's not like there is defense to burn here.
Finally, there is this -- um, Webb would be a fine basketball player in a wheelchair league. With slow chairs. He can not run. He can not jump. His playoff record is nearly as bad as Nellie's. Other than that, how did you like the play, Mrs. Lincoln?
I realize this just sounds like the bitterness of an ex-Sixers fan here, but didn't they trade Jason Richardson for Brandan Wright, and draft Patrick O'Bryant in the first round, for some kind of actual reason? Or is Nellie just trying to orchestrate the exact same screw job as 1994, so he can feel young again?
I've been in one of those cycles were people feel compelled to ask me questions about the blog, and repeating myself is boring. So here's the recent FAQ, in print form, so that I can just point people to the site and go back to being breathtakingly antisocial.
1) "How many T-shirts do you sell, anyway"
Who are you, the IRS? Not enough. Buy some. They make tits on a girl look big, and tits on a boy look small. It's freaking magic. Buy extras.
2) "What's your posting schedule?"
The Epic Drops happen Sunday through Thursday nights, so that site can have something to start its day with, and so that Scrap won't put out his cigarette in my face. The FTT work is a lot more scattershot, but my basic rule of thumb is to try not to let the scroll of content on the left try not to be too dwarfed by the business on the right. Yes, motivations to write are just that stupid for bloggers. Or, at least, this one.
3) "How much traffic and ad revenue do you get?"
Who are you, the IRS? Not enough. Click on some ads. Especially now that the New York Times is advertising on the site. Sure, they gave Judith Miller carte blanche to repeat the Bush Administration's lies to get us into the war in Iraq and pay William Kristol to be wrong about everything, but they're really liberal!
4) "How come you don't review movies, write about your personal life, inflict your musical tastes, cover reality television shows as if they were sports or provide link drops to other sites?"
For the first four, because this is (mostly) a sports blog, so I make the assumption that you're only here if you care about sports. I'm pretty sure that you don't care about me or the other writers on this site. And if you do, buy a shirt.
On the last one, because I'm just too lazy, but we might start doing that.
5) "Do you consider yourself a journalist?"
I was trained as one, but you can not pay me enough to go stand in a locker room and smell Athlete Stench while listening to savants recite cliches while they are mostly naked. I'm not quite sure why anyone accepts money for that job, really.
My favorite part of this is when the Testy Insanity spreads to Reggie Theus... or maybe its the Tru Warier's constant King Kong chest pounding... or the odd sense that his teammates are either with him or just too scared to not slap his hand as he's leaving... well, play it, by all means. There's too much here to miss.
To be fair, Testy was facing the Jazz and Matt Harpring. It's not like that combination hasn't provoked lesser psychos to murder. Also, he recently announced his retirement from rap, so maybe he's just feeling blocked creatively. Or, just from looking at him, that he's in a permanent case of roid rage. (And yet, still doesn't really rebound that much. Those muscles are for show, not tell.) Finally, the man has to live in Sactown now. I've been there. It's flat. Not to put too fine a point on it, but in the immortal words of Chris Rock covering the New Hampshire primary. I'm guessing he's not finding a lot of hair care products.
In other news, the Kings are 18-24 and 7 games out of the last playoff spot in the West, though they are better since getting Bibby and Martin back. Are the Maloofs still even paying attention?
The players at the end of the Boston bench kept looking over their shoulders to the tunnel to see if Kevin Garnett was coming back out of the locker room.It was just an abdominal strain, and not really any issue for Garnett to recover from. But take a look at the minutes that the Celtics starters logged -- Pierce 42:15, Allen 40:25. For the 7-35 Wolves?
They didn't need to worry.
"I wasn't going to do anything that would to jeopardize my future," Garnett said after his last-second steal helped the Boston Celtics beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 87-86 on Friday night. "But my philosophy has always been that if I can play, if I can run, if I can move, if I can blink, if I can wake up in the morning, I'm going to play."
The next best record in the East? Detroit, at 31-13. And yet, here are the Celtics and Doc Rivers, at the halfway mark of the season, still managing minutes as if they had a shot at the all-time win mark, or as if they were scrambling for the 8th seed. For the year, Pierce and Allen are 18th and 19th in the entire NBA in minutes per game.
There are only three teams that put two of their players on the floor more than the Celtics. They are the Wiz (Butler and Jamison), who are down Arenas and trying to stay afloat, the Warriors (Davis and Jackson), an intriguing also-ran in the West who need home court to do anything in the playoffs, and the Magic (Howard and Lewis), who at least are burning with young gas.
Neither of those duos have the miles of Pierce and Allen, and of course, none of them are on teams with the kind of margin of error that the Celtics' fast start have given them.
You have to go to the 52nd and 57th ranked players by minutes per game, which would be Rip Hamilton and Tony Parker, to find a Piston or Spur. And in other news, the Celtics are 5-4 in their last 9 games, and, um, beat the T-Wolves by a freaking point. At home. Next stop: totally shocking injuries!
In pro wrestling and carnie lingo, a mark is a member of the paying public that's ready and willing to be duped, tricked, or if you are feeling charitable, entertained. A smart is someone in that crowd that's in on the routine, or part of the business.
We spend our time, as sports fans, ping-ponging between these two roles. The mark roots for the laundry, thinks that home field advantage is all about the rabid support we give our team, and is much more willing to listen to discussions about heart, character, and grit.
The smart watches for signs of betting conspiracies or league-wide directives, and while they may be harder to please, they're also much more likely to watch.
Both want to just be Fans, want to just be entertained and enthralled and waive their sense of disbelief for the duration of the entertainment.
Marks may become Smarts, but Smarts will never become Marks... at least not full-time. Smarts may become Marks over individual players (especially if the player in question is young and possessing of limitless potential), but they'll never go back to being Marks all the time.
Marks will always outnumber Smarts. And cheer louder, buy more merchandise, take more kids to the game, leave earlier, and be much more disturbed by steroid, HGH or any other enhancement.
And this, really, is the danger of roids and HGH, and why the glibertarian approach of saying that we should just let anyone do anything falls down. Not because it makes the record books meaningless, or because it adds a bloodsport / Colosseum aspect to all of our sports that's unseemly at best and inhuman at worst.
But because a sport that's playing to an audience of just Smarts is (a) small, (b) quiet, (c) meager, and (d) depressing. It's like a musician playing a gig to no one but other musicians, or bloggers only being read by other bloggers, or chefs cooking only for restaurant workers. It may seem like the way to finally get the idiots out of the conversation, and a welcome change to all of the pandering to the masses... but it's also not sustainable.
Marks are needed. And steroids kill them.
I was listening to a Will Leitch / Sports Media Journal podcast the other day; it's a pretty good piece, though a little bit fractious at the close. Will's pimping his new book, and during the conversation, he compared the sports fans relationship to ESPN to the Christian Right's relationship with the Republican Party -- in that the parent organization will irritate and/or confound the base, but at the end of the day, the base won't leave, because there is no other game in town.
I see his point, but the analogy fails for one reason. Politically, when the other side wins as a result of your side becoming fragmented, your side suffers, and you blame yourself for it. (See Nader 2000 voters, or at least, any of them who aren't basically nihilists.) With sports, if you start going elsewhere for your news, ESPN doesn't go away. At least, not for a very long time.
The bigger issue is whether or not ESPN has really gotten worse, or if the audience that grew up with ESPN is now growing old and embittered. ESPN, being a media machine, won't care very much, because the prime purchasing demographic is 18 to 35 year old folks. Once you are past a certain age, you become more or less irrelevant and superfluous to the ad machines that fuels all of this stuff. (This is one of the reasons why Fox News isn't nearly the money maker that their raw numbers says they should be, and why newspapers are losing ground fast to online. But I digress.)
I think there is a market for an edgy, youth-oriented and yet smarter competitor to ESPN; right now, the Lemur's idea of edgy is the Stu Scott Wandering Eye Minstrel Show, or letting Leatherman Berman go off his meds to make even older and more embarrassing pop references. (Seriously, the only "Hogan's Heroes" reference that should be made involves Bob Crane's freaky death. Everything else just makes me think you just got color television.)
But Youth inevitably equates to Dumb in network land, and there's two big problems with the approach:
1) No one has proven that hardcore sports fan is actually attracting the money demographic in the way that it used to. Frankly, if I were doing media buying to reach that group, I'd be moving heaven and earth to get signage inside video games. Your display ads should be in Wii games for mass market stuff now, and in the upcoming Grand Theft Auto game for the edgy teen / young adult stuff. But media buyers are really good at continuing to buy the same stuff they've always bought, which is one of the reasons why the Super Bowl sells out in a heartbeat...
2) If a competitor actually starts to make headway on the Lemur with a new show that has the same appeal of the '90s Olbermann/Patrick Big Show... the Lemur will take note, scratch its chin thoughtfully, and write a check to any and all revolutionaries. End of insurrection (though maybe the Lemur would become watchable again, at least for a little while).
So to get to the point of having any kind of meaningful competition, you'd need a deep-pocketed competitor that thinks the demographic is worth losing money hand over fist to for at leas t3 to 5 years, who will take a leap of faith that younger audiences are smarter than they are usually given credit for.
Or who will somehow change the media paradigm to make older viewers attractive to advertisers, and then make a show that calls to mind what it was that we all used to like about the Lemur. You know, kind of like what we all used to like about Simmons.
(Damn, I think I just depressed myself, too.)
Friday, January 25, 2008
H/t, Original Mookie...
From a Baseball Prospectus email. The list is "Top 5 Unluckiest AL Starters". (And if you haven't heard or remembered, Kennedy died in the off-season.)
Player, Team, W, L, E(W), E(L), LUCK
Joe Kennedy, OAK, 3, 9, 6.1, 4.3, -6.82
Gil Meche, KCA, 9, 13, 13.3, 10.6, -6.71
Edwin Jackson, TBA, 5, 15, 8.4, 13.2, -5.18
Jarrod Washburn, SEA, 10, 15, 11.4, 11.3, -5.07
Daniel Cabrera, BAL, 9, 18, 10.3, 14.8, -4.45
Reached for comment, the Archtype Figure of Death said, "Ain't I a stinker?"
Thursday, January 24, 2008
Well, it's four days later... and while the Ninja's suggestion is a fantastic one, I'm still feeling near-total ambivalence about watching the game. Here's a list if you, like Peter Frampton, feel like we do... and the video's fun, too.
Don over at the very strong With Malice asked me to throw him some words, and I did. It's the only place you're going to read a sentence that has the words MVP and Stephen Jackson in close proximity.
Also, he's paying me in yen, which I assume is worth more than US dollars by now. (Finally, it should be noted that expanding our presence in the Pacific Rim is a key point to our dreams of world domination, and if I can just get Japanese schoolgirls wearing FTT shirts, I'll die happy -- and so will you. Admit it.)
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
The photo on the right (h/t Deadspin and the San-Diego Union Leader) isn't recent. It's from 2005. It's also not terribly new or novel to crack on New England Fan, much in the same way that it's not new or novel to crack on Tom Cruise, Britney Spears or neo-Nazis. (For the record, this blog isn't afraid to note its opposition to all three, and our pride in having been against all three since "Rain Man.") And yet, still, this needs to be said.
Any sports fan of a certain age has, I am sure, gotten the occasional burst of static as to how they are just great big nerds for being so into stuff that is clearly meaningless. (This is multiplied if you play fantasy sports.) As my three-sport fantasy addiction, my pilgrimages to live games as quasi-vacations, and this blog shows, I'm more addicted than most. And yet...
I've never painted myself. Or gotten anything pierced or tattooed. Or paid a scalper. I haven't called a talk radio show for over 15 years, or listened to one in 2. I don't go on bulletin boards to defend my team. I don't memorize statistics. Since moving to the East Coast in June of 2006, I've gone to nearly as many live theater or music performances as I have to games. I don't speak in the third person when discussing my team, unless I'm trying to make fun of people who do.
Also, I think if you are doing most of the above, there is a strong possibility that you are a freaking moron. But what the hell, I spend my free time blogging about sports for pennies on the hour, so who am I to talk?
At some very basic level, sports is a vice. It's time you could be spending with your family, working, exercising, doing charitable works or even just getting enough sleep. It's money that you could be putting aside for more meaningful pursuits, or investments that will have a greater return on investment than chewing gum. I'm an Eagles, A's and Sixers fan; I may spend the rest of my life waiting for a championship that will never come.
Will Leitch at Deadspin likes to talk about how sports fans are smarter, on average, than expected -- and that it's just that freaks on the right get the camera time. I'd like to believe that; there are enough smart sports blogs and commenters. But at some point, there's got to be some face time for those of us that aren't yahoos and don't fall for braying jackass fake controversy shows, right?
(Crickets. Sweat on upper lip. More crickets.)
And we'll be back with which team has the sluttier cheerleaders and/or wives, complete with videos and images, so come on back, y'all!
Your link is here, and it's got a special secret video of a Coughlin coaching session under the fold. But seriously, Giants Fan... if your team slays the dragon and wins, you've pretty much got to burn your Shockey and Barber jerseys, right? (I know -- what Shockey and Barber jerseys?)
The image is from This Week In Milford, the Web's dominant Gil Thorp blog. GT is kind of a Mary Worth for the sports pages, only with even more self-loathing.
And what does this have to do with sports, you might ask, and is this part of that whole scary Experimental Phase that I posted about last night? You're both right!
When I was growing up with the Philadelphia Daily News, and playing fantasy sports back in the day when we had to (gasp!) use pen and paper and rely on the USA Today for stats, our only source for how our players did was the box scores in the newspaper.
And there, every day, was this strip.
For no good reason.
And since it's a cartoon, and takes only slightly more time to read than to look at... and it was on a page that we were all staring bullets into... well, it was impossible to *not* read Gil Thorp.
He was the "This Is Our Country" of the box scores. Only more persistent.
Every time you finish a Gil Thorp, you kind of want to hurt yourself, and then maybe, the guy who wrote it, or the people who brought it to you.
And yet, after a while, a dull -- very dull -- moment of zombie consciousness would kick in, and you'd realize that Milford was in a playoff and maybe they'd win AND HOLY MOTHER I'M READING GIL THORP!
Like most things about sports, you can easily imagine enjoying the experience without the strange '50s netherworld that is GT. But once you've gotten exposed to it, much in the same way that people eat at White Castle or listen to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs or watch midgets wrestle, you're not getting out of it alive. (Perhaps I've shared too much.)
Anyway, FTT is... proud? no... ashamed? kind of, but not quite... nonplussed! that's it! nonplussed! ... about spreading this fevered aspect of our adolescence to a new generation. We're planning on sharing out of context panels from time to time, assuming that the Welcome to Milford guy doesn't freak out that we're impinging on his gimmick.
But by all means, go to his site, read some GTs, and then smack yourself in the face. It's curiously addictive!
Here's your link, and there's your image of a 1999 Russian soup line. Who knew they had those recently? I thought the Russkies were all awash in petrodollars and mob money.
A brief moment of sports blogosphere business... In the next few weeks, you're going to hear a lot of puling about how these are the worst two weeks of the year in sports... but I'm hoping you'll still make FTT a daily part of a nutritious breakfast. With the focus more or less going off the NFL, I'm looking to take the blog in different directions with more experimental stuff. (But don't get too worried. It's still going to be a sports blog. We have pride in our wanking, dammit.)
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
I've been avoiding the question since the Giants improbable Sunday night win. But when my eight-year-old son finally asked me "Who are you rooting for in the Super Bowl?", I knew I had to confront the issue.
As an Eagles fan, the Giants are my natural enemy. Every instinct I have tells me that I need to root against the Men in Blue.
And like any good football fan, I find the Patriots insufferable. I have zero interest in seeing a team was found to have cheated celebrate a 19-0 season.
So after thinking about this, I realized that there is a perfect solution.
I want the Giants to outplay the Patriots throughout the game, but I want the Pats to win.
By one point.
On a blown call. A horrible, game-deciding blown call. In a game plagued with bad calls that all go the Pats way.
I'm rooting for phantom holding penalties, whistles inadvertantly blown when fumbles are still live, blatant pass interference that goes unchecked, "tuck" calls on apparent Brady fumbles, and a mysterious malfunction in the Giants headsets during the final drive.
I want this SB to go down in history as The Fluke Bowl, the championship that was stolen from the Giants. Nothing would please me more than to see the Perfect Season completely overshadowed by the controversy, and, as an added bonus, NY fans go crazy with righteous fury over losing the Lombardi trophy to a team that they dominated in every way on the field.
I can't tell you how much I want to see this happen. It's really the only possible satisfying outcome.
Monday, January 21, 2008
So I'm catching up with Spiritual Hero Stephen Colbert, and he interviewed the freakish author of the tome that appears to the right of these words. While it seems odd and wrong and something only a complete loser would go for... well, the same thing was true of personal ads and dating sites in the not-so-distant past, so maybe the author has a point. But enough about cold and impersonal nooky, and the inevitable and sad jokes about my first marriage. Getting back to the point of the blog, at what point does sports transcend the ability of humans to perform it?
We've already seen this in chess, where a computer has beaten many grandmasters. Recently, a competitor with an implant raised questions in a track and field event. If you are one of the glibertarians who believe that steroids are just fine, then cybernetics is as well. So why not root for robots?
We'll start with the welcome innovation of field goal kickers that don't break your heart. After a few years and the inevitable cozying up to the Vinateri2000, we'll move to wall-like offensive line "men" that never jump offsides, no matter how loud the road crowd is. Next up, a possession wide receiver that never whines to the ref for a flag. It's all good!
Finally, we'd reach the culmination in a quarterback that really does know when the pressure is coming, a second before it happens... not that, of course, the pressure will ever get there, due to the force field of protection that will wrap it in a warm cocoon until the milisecond before the ball is launched. Plus, we'll never have to worry about QB Robo (as opposed to QB Romo) losing his focus for some hussy she-bot!
I, for one, will welcome our Robot Overlords, but only if they are wearing Eagle Green. But I can't help but think we'll always have last year's model or software... or that the PatriotBots are introducing viruses to their opponents.
Your list is here... and 24 hours later, I'm still rooting for Bruce Dern and the blimp. I'm honestly tempted to take a miss on the game, and live blog that, just to be utterly unique in the sports blogosphere. But somehow, I doubt that I'm going to have enough readers for the marathon Putt-Putt posting...
Sunday, January 20, 2008
Your list is here, and honestly... I know I'm going to watch the Super Bowl in two weeks, and I'm going to try to enjoy knowing that one of these two fan bases is going to feel bitterly disappointed, but great googly moogly... with the exception of Pats-Cowboys, this is the worst possible outcome for Eagles fans.
Either we get to hear about the Perfectriots (and yes, I've got copyright already, so pay up) for the rest of our lives, or I get to see Eli and Plexico and Michael Strahan and Tom Coughlin and the rest of the franchise that I would have bet anything were going to be 6-10 and cleaning house next year... all parading about. And I *work* in New York, dammit, albeit in a part of it that no one admits to caring about football in.
Maybe there's still time for the Bruce Dern option?
The Packers win the toss and take the ball, and Robinson returns it to their own 26. They've done little if anything to deserve to be in this game, and Favre is 9 of 16 for 21 yards in the second half -- wow. Grant for 2 to the left, and Justin Tuck is down.
Honestly, if the Packers can get just one first down here, I think the Giants could collapse like a house of cards. They've had so many chances to still be playing... and then Favre throws his second back-breaking pick of the day, and this time, Corey Webster doesn't have the RW McQuarters's politeness of turning it back over. The G-Men start at the Packers 34.
Bradshaw for 4. One suspects that the men in blue really aren't hoping to set up a field goal attempt. 2nd and 6 is a draw, and Bradshaw gets a yard. 3rd and 5 is the biggest play of the game to date... and it's incomplete to Smith, who drops it.
Tynes is on to try to end the game for the third time, this time from 47. This time, he gets it, and on some level, you have to be happy for Tynes, because now he won't be killed.
Well folks, I can truthfully say that I've never been less enthused by a Super Bowl matchup than this one. And I'll have more later, but I've got kids to put to bed, and liquor to drink. But at least that over bet won!
3rd and 10 starts the quarter, and it's just a huge play... and Favre finds Driver for 20 on a crossing route. If the Giants don't get to the QB, the WR is open -- it's just that simple.
On the next play, Favre makes a back-breaking pick, but McQuarters gives it back on the return, and I'd describe the play further, but you will see it a million times on highlight films. The net is a 15 yard gain, and how Favre doesn't throw the ball away in the first place is just kind of astounding. If the Giants lose this game, that play will haunt them.
Screen to Robinson gets nothing. Grant to the right side gets 7, and the Packers have a third and 3 from the 12. On third, Favre telegraphs the screen and throws it anyway, and Corey Webster shuts it down for a loss of 7. Mason Crosby tries to tie it from 37, and does. This game couldn't get any more compelling, really, and with that field goal, the over bet is a certain winner, the 40-point over is assured, assuming that the game ever ends. With 11:46 left, it's Packers 20, Giants 20.
The last time the Giants got the ball, Hicskson sparked them with a big return... and he does it again, with a 35-yard burst on the left sideline. The G-Men start from their 40, and Manning hits Toomer for 5. There's no doubt that he's the best Manning there ever was! Bradshaw for 3, and Seubert is down on the play as Fox sneaks in another unnecessary commercial break. Thanks, Fox! I was starting to enjoy the game!
Seubert's in a bad way, but Eli Manning and Plexico Burress do not care, and gets another great 14 yard play down the sideline. Bradshaw follows for 6 on the right side, and Packers LB Nick Collins is down after a helmet-to-helmet hit. Whoopee, another commercial break!
Harris is on the bench now as well, and the Pack has to be said to be teetering in this game, despite it being tied. Bradshaw goes nowhere on a run to the left, and it's 3rd and 5. The Pack has no chance to stop Mighty Eli here, do they? Nope... but he does have to use Big Blue's second time out. Even Fox takes mercy on us and doesn't call for the commercial break, and Harris returns for the Pack. With nine minutes left, it's a monstrously big play... and Toomer drops a clean ball from Manning, not that it would have counted anyway, as they called him for the push-off. The Packers take the penalty, rather than face the 4th and 5, and Collins returns. 3rd and 15 from the 43, and Bradshaw picks up the same 10 they just lost, as bad tackling let him get free. Coughlin goes for it, rather than trust Tynes from 51, or Feagles to pin the Packers deep. Manning is blitzed, gets the ball away, and Woodson is called for a questionable pass interference call for the first down. I'm not sure what the reft are trying to do with this game; it was physical in the first and flags in the second.
After the first down, Manning tries Burress in the end zone, and Harris knocks it down, rather than catches it. Bradshaw worms his way to the 25. Meyers tells us that Collins and Harris are cramping. 3rd and 7, and the Packers use their second time out, leaving both sides with just one left. I'm pretty sure this drive has lasted an hour, and Harris returns and doesn't look good doing it.
Manning's worst ball of the day is behind Smith, who looked open at the first down marker, and Tynes comes on to try from 43. He misses, there are no flags, Coughlin curses out Tynes -- that was fun -- and the Packers take over at their own 33. With 6:49 left, that's just immense, and if the Packers had any kind of ball-control element to them today, the Giants would be in real trouble.
First down, Favre has time and misses over the middle. Second down, Jennings almost bails out his QB on a wild high throw; Umenyiora leveled Favre at the end, but he had time for a while. Third down is an underneath route to Morency, who I'm fairly sure has never converted on third down. He's stopped, the Pack go three and out, and an ugly punt is returned to the Giants 36.
With 5:53 left, in a game in which they've had a running game and the opponent hasn't, there's never been a better chance for the road team to seize this one by the throat. Jacobs goes for 5 on first down, and COughlin's thought is the same as mine -- control the ball, control the clock, win the game on this possession. Jacobs gets a lot on a play where he could have been stopped in the backfield, and the lack of timeouts for both sides here is just huge. It's third and inches now, and if this was a prize fight, the Packers would be bleeding right now and looking very vulnerable. If I were Coughlin, I'd sneak here... and that's what he does. First down, Giants.
Aikman thinks the Giants shouldn't run the clock too much. I'm not sure which team he's been watching, since the Giants almost always snap the ball with less than five seconds left. A rollout leads to an incompletion. Jacobs is stopped after a gain of 1 on second and 10, and if the Packers want to win this game, they need a stop here. 3rd and 9, 3:30 left, Giants at midfield... and KGB is clearly offsides, but not called, and Manning is sacked. Expect to see that a few times in the highlights... and after the Feagles punt and a juggle, the Packers have it at their own 17 with 2:48 left.
The first down here is just huge, and the play call of a screen that hasn't worked all day is curious at best. It fails. 2nd and 10, and the Packer tackles jump; that's also terrible. Now it's 2nd and 15, and the home team looks scared. Favre tries Lee over the middle and it's incomplete. 3rd and 15 is looking like blood in the water... and it's another underneath route, this time to Lee for 5 yards. Coughin calls his final timeout with 2:30 left, and that was just a terrible series for the Pack.
The punt is returned by McQuarters, who fumbles, and the Packers fail to cover it, as they are trying to return it, rather than just recover. The Giants wind up with it at their own 48, and McQuarters is saved from being Goat of the Year in New York.
There has never been a more gift-wrapped opportunity to lead your team to a game-winning touchdown on the road then right here and right now. I'd argue, even, that not coming through in this moment is a bigger failure than the triumph of getting the winning score.
Bradsahw takes it to the house on terrible tackling... but it comes back on a hold. 1st and 20, and I'm wondering if either of these teams actually wants to win this game. Given the opportunities that both have whiffed on, Patriot fans have to be locking down any available point spread right now.
Tyree for a couple on a terrible tackle by Woodson, who seems more interested in playing bumper cars than putting the man on the ground. At the 2 minute warning, it 2nd and 15, and Manning finds Smith on wide-open play, and after review, it's 3rd and 1. Bradshaw slips tackles in the backfield and gets 8 yards, and Tynes is in range. After another pass to Smith, the Giants have it at the 21. Bradshaw gets it to the 19, and with the clock ticking, Manning clocks it with 4 seconds left. Tynes has to hit from 36 to send the Giants to the Super Bowl.
A high snap to Feagles, who did everything he could. A complete hook by Tynes, who, if the Giants somehow win this game, may still be out of a job on Monday. And we're into overtime. Wow, wow, wow.
Hickson starts the Giants on their 32, and the weather seems to be effecting the kickoffs more than anything else. Jacobs gets a couple in the middle, and Buck and Aikmann make the point that all of his success has been on the edge. I'm not sure how much of that is the Packers DL, and how much is Jacobs just dominating smaller defensive players. Burress gets 9 in front of Harris, and if I were the Pack, I'd be thinking about doubling him about now. (A play later, Fox's Chris Meyers says that McCarthy is thinking the same thing, but doesn't want to just yet. Well, he has only given up six points so far...)
Jacobs gets a yard on a slow developing run to the left. Manning has a clean pocket and Steve Smith wide open, but the throw is one of Manning's worst of the day, as it's behind and to the left. Big opportunity missed there. On third and 9, the play clock expires and the Giants take a timeout, and as usual, I wonder if 3rd and 14 is really so much worse than not having more time at the end of the game... and why is it that Manning takes so many time outs to avoid delay penalties as is. Harris then gets a pick after the timeout, but as Burress was on the ground, it's not surprising to see an illegal contact call for the first down. I'm not sure why Manning threw that way anyway, but it's still a big call.
Jacobs for 2 to the left, and he's not getting a lot of room even when they don't run in the middle. They try him again, and he gets 3 in the middle. Aikman buries Jacobs, not realizing of course, that by running him they're making the play-action viable, but it's a fair point that Bradshaw might be a better idea. On third down, the ball is batted down, but the Giants get lucky on a roughing the passer call that was pretty borderline; I'm not sure how the blitzer can avoid the QB on a play like that, and if he can't do that, there's no way you can blitz anymore. I'm not a neutral observer here, but that's just a terrible call. Burress now has 9 catches for 132 yards. Wow.
Jacobs to the right for 3, and the drive is now at 7 plays, 40 yards, and two back-breaking third-down penalties. A back shoulder throw to Burress gets the Giants to the Packers 11. Jacobs gets 4 in the middle on first, then slips to the 2 on second, and the Giants have third and 1 from the 2. Jacobs on third looks like he got the first down, then looks like he fumbled... but the refs decide that Kevin Boss recovered it, and got the first down. Another immense break for the visitors there, the third of the drive. On first and goal from the 1 on a broken play, the refs catch the Packers on an offsides, and the crowd has to be irate at this point; the defense certainly looks that way, as they take yet another offsides penalty. Jacobs gets the touchdown and taunts the Lambeau fans without drawing the get-even 15-yard unsportsmanlike call. The Packers faithful have to feel like they are playing against two teams right now. Giants 13, Packers 10.
After the kickoff, the Packers start at the Giants 39 after a 49-yard return from Williams. Favre starts from an empty backfield and hits Driver for 8. 2nd and 2 is a give to Grant, who just gets the first; Fox continues to note that the Packers aren't running the ball well, as if this is news. On first down, Favre doesn't get the call for PI despite active lobbying; the crowd's feeling mutinous about the refs now, and as it's a home game, I can see their point. Morency for a mediocre screen, and it's 3rd and 8 with a long field goal chance looming. Driver catches a pinball, and Sam Madison takes a terrible penalty that could be a get-even call for the last drive. Instead of 4th and 3, it'll be a first for the Packers, and Tom Coughlin is doing his Yosemite Sam impersonation.
From the Giants 12, play action buys Favre tons of time, and Donald Lee settles under a pretty ball in the end zone. After the point-after, Fox follows Sam Madison to the sidelines, where he's getting into it with his teammates. That's not a good sign for the visitors either, but if you're trading touchdowns, it's better to have the one that came from a big long drive. Our third lead change of the day brings the game to Packers 17, Giants 13.
Fox comes back from commercial to show three hot girls (well, for Green Bay) showing skin, and Aikman confesses to feeling like a big sissy. Finally, Troy, this Eagles fan agrees with your analysis! Hickson nearly matches the big Williams return, and the Giants are in business at their own 43. Not a good day for the return coverage units for either side.
Manning, from play action, has Burress for 8. Fox tells us that Burress is trash-talking the Packers bench, saying that Harris can't cover him. I think we're all aware of that by now, Plex. Bradshaw for the first, and he breaks a tackle on the next play and gets 10. Maybe it's me, and maybe he can't hold up to a lot of carries, but Bradshaw is just a much better back than Jacobs to my eyes.
Manning misses Toomer, who pushes off baldly and isn't called for it. He comes back to Toomer on second for 23 yards, and before the Giants can get the next play off, the Pack challenges. It's disallowed, and both teams have two timeouts left.
From the 13, Manning rolls out and hits Toomer for 8. In this setting, against this secondary, it's clearly his best game as a pro, and if you think I'm saying good things about him to set him up for future disappointment, you are impugning by Manning fandom, and I just can't have that. Bradshaw takes it in from there, and it's our fourth lead change of the day. Sheesh. Giants 20, Packers 17.
Five minutes ago when they were in the same situation, the Packers were energized by a big return. They won't get that this time, and they start from their 20 on a touchback. Giants have a 2-to-1 time of possession edge. Favre pumps to Driver and finds Robinson wide open for 16; Favre shook off pressure to get the ball there. It's not like there aren't holes here. Grant finally gets a hole and takes advantage, getting 13 on the left side. The next play is more like his other carries, and it's 2nd and 10. The last play of the quarter, Favre throws into triple coverage, and it incomplete. Yikes. Giants 20, Packers 17.
On the third and five that starts the quarter, Jones drops a ball that wouldn't have gotten the Packers the first anyway, and the Giants defense just looks dominating right now. The Pack punts after another three and out, and McQuarters brings it to the Giants 43.
Jacobs gets 12 on the left side. Fox tells me that the Giants benches don't work. That's seriously home field advantage, but maybe it's just pissing the Giants off, because they're just winning. Burress fights off Harris for 7, and I'd be remiss if I didn't admit that the ball was perfect. On 2nd, Burress gets open, Harris gets the flag, and he gets downfield for a big gain, then fumbles it out of bounds. Very quickly, the Giants are in the red zone, and if they can score a touchdown here, this could get ugly for the home team. Burress already has 5 for 64.
Manning rolls out and hits Toomer perfectly, but there's a false start by Hedgecock, the FB. Again, though, the passing is perfect. Who are you, Giant QB, and what have you done with Eli Manning?
Bradshaw for 3, and the Giants just seem to have a good RB no matter where they get the guy from. It's like Denver, really. Manning tries Smith, who looked like he had alligator arms, and misses. 3rd and 12 from the 19 is a big play, and the Lambeau Faithful know it -- the Giants call time rather than take the delay penalty. A reasonable ball to Tyree at the pylon, but he can't bring it in. Tynes from 37 hits, and it's 6-0 Giants... and one wonders, as one always does, if the failure in the red zone will come back to haunt the visitors. But if their defense keeps playing like this, it won't be an issue.
Robinson has real problems covering the short kick, and barely covers it inside the Packers 10. Fox's sound is picking up a lot of Giant fans, and with the yardage being 27 to 116, you can see why... but that all goes away as Donald Driver streaks free down the right sideline and goes 90 amazing yards for a touchdown. Driver fought off Corey Webster at the line of scrimmage, Favre found him in stride, and in a heartbeat, the visitors are behind. Packers 7, Giants 6.
Strong special teams coverage on a short kick gets the ball to the Giants 28, and the crowd is well and truly into it now. Bradshaw for 7 on first down, and man, the Giants just crank out good backs like an assembly line. He gets it again, but Bigby and friends penetrate, and he goes sideways for no gain. On 3rd and 3, Manning hits Burress who gets leveled by Bigby, but it's another third down conversion, and another case where Manning had a clean pocket on the rollout. The next play is ugly, as Manning tries to throw it away off his back foot and almost gets it picked. The defense is fired up now, and the lack of a flag on possible PI against Boss will make it 3rd and 10. (For my money, I think the no-call was correct.) Toomer is covered well by Woodson, and the Giants punt. Harris and Burress are more or less beating the snot out of each other on every play, and damn, it's fun to watch, except for the post-play whining. The punt is handled for no good reason, and the Pack start inside their own 30.
Grant for 2, and we get a lot of Buck and Aikman puling about being in their exposed press box. Ha ha! Favre finds Lee on one of those strong-arm throws that he still does better than anyone, and it's a nice gain up the middle. Play action to the right draws everyone, and Favre finds Jennings in the flat; he makes a man miss for 14, and the Packers are back in Giants territory and starting to click.
Favre tries Jones on a back-shoulder underthrow; it's juggled and dropped. 2nd and 10 is nearly picked on a batted ball at the line, and the Packers seem determined to throw every down. It's 3rd and 10 from the 44, and one of those plays that is worth points either way, from the possible field goal... and Ruvel Martin drops a ball off his hands as Favre throws a perfect ball on the post. If he catches it, and he should have, it's first and goal. Special teams are chippy, and the Giants start at their own 7.
With 6:21 left in the first, Jacobs runs through Barnett for 9 yards, and he's such an impossible back to figure; he either goes down easier than Shawn Alexander, or he's the second coming of Earl Campbell, depending on the play. On 2nd and 1, David Diehl gets a huge holding call, backing the Giants back to the 8. Jacobs gets little on a draw, and it's 3rd and 6. The holding penalty is looming huge right now, as the clock ticks under five minutes. Manning has one of those god-awful plays with an illegal shift, a fumbled snap, and a panicky incompletion, and the Giants will punt. That's the Eli I remember! Feagles punts it out to the Giants 47, where it's fair caught. The home team is set up to do some damage here, and could put a big stamp on this game now.
Grant for no gain, and it's hard to see how the Pack is going to run well today; Grant is at 5 carries for 9 yards, and has ran well to not lose ground. A quick slant is a misfire, and the Giants are a play away from getting off the field... but this won't be the play, as Driver draws the flag. Notable as well was that the Giants weren't able to get any real push from their blitz; watch for that later.
With a fresh set of downs, they try Grant to the right, and he gets a mighty yard. Favre finds Driver wide open for 20 yards down the gut, and these are the holes that Garcia and Romo did not get to exploit, because they didn't get the time to do it; Favre has, and he's taking advantage. Grant into the middle for a couple, and its the two minute warning.
Fox notes that Green Bay is colder right now than lots of other cold places. In the immortal words of Derrick Coleman, Whoop De Damn Do. Favre misses Jennings in the corner, and it's 3rd and 8 with 1:52 left -- a big play all over. Antonio Pierce make a tremendous play to fight through three blockers and get the RB (Jackson) down; it's figgie time, and the Giants take their second timeout, with 1:34 left. Without that play, the Packers get the first, keep the ball, and maybe get a touchdown later. Instead, they're held to a field goal attempt, and their offense gets another possession. Just huge. After the Crosby attempt, they'll get the ball back with a chance to do something before the half. Crosby hits from 37, and it's Packers 10, Giants 6.
Can the Giants make the Pierce play more meaningful? The Hickson return won't help matters, as he only gets it to the Giants 23. They give it to Bradshaw, who gets 9 on a draw. Then it's yet another play by Burress outfighting Harris, and the Giants take their final time out in Packers territory after an X yard gain. Burress gets open again, and has it inside the 5, but can't hold on, and it's ruled incomplete... could have gone as a completion and fumble, but right now, Burress is just killing them.
On 2nd down, Manning is brought down after a 2 yard gain, then misfires on 3rd and 8. With 11 seconds left, the Giants are going for it from the Packers 34 with no timeouts left, rather than try the long field goal. On fourth, Manning takes a coverage sack, and the Packers close the half with a knee, despite a spread formation. Odd. In a wildly entertaining and very even game, it's Packers 10, Giants 6.
(Why the image? Because you'd be surprised what you get when you look for any kind of variation on the word Giant. It's a sick world, and I'd like to take advantage of its site traffic.)
Over/under on number of times that the cold will be mentioned today: Billions and Billions. If you think that you're going to get out of this game today without a few dozen mentions of the UberHuman Focus And Dedication and Specialness of Winning Football Players, you're dreaming.
Pack wins the toss and elect to receive. Koren Robinson elects to do a funky dance with a teammate while waiting for the catch, then has to dance some more as the wind knocks the ball off the tie. Can't the NFL invent some kind of vacuum suction tee to avoid that, really?
On the rekick, Robinson gets to the 25 as the Giants special teams look frisky. Favre on a booteg play action hits the fullback (Hill) for 12; one suspect they'll do a lot to keep the pass rush on its heels. He then does the same thing in reverse to Franks and gets 11. Grant's first carry is for 2, and the ball is at midfield. On 2nd, Jennings was wide open, but the ball stays up too long and Gibril Wilson closes and almost gets the pick. Favre has time and an open man (Driver) on third, but he misses, and they'll punt. McQuarters fair catches it inside the Giants 20.
Tonight's the third coldest game in NFL history. Jacobs destroys Woodson on a 4 yard gain; a lot of that, and the Giants are going to have some thing working on throws to Woodson's side. A quick hitter to Burres gets the Giants a first down on forward progress. Play action doesn't look good, as Toomer and Manning aren't on the same page. Jacobs goes nowhere on second, and it's 3rd and 10 with Lambeau making good noise... and Manning finds Burress running open on a slant, beating Al Harris badly. Big play for the visitors.
Jacobs gets to the corner for 3, and the G-Men are in Packer territory. Toomer for 6 on a cross-field throw that was a bit dangerous, but it was accurate. On third and short, Manning draws Korey Williams offsides for a first. Burress is wide open for 10, and I'm not sure what the Packer corners are doing in this game; Woodson played off him like he was contagious. On the ninth play of the drive, Jacobs for 3, and Manning hits Boss for 11 over the middle. For my money, Boss is a better TE than Shockey.
Jacobs is met for no gain on first. On a rollout, Bigby knocks down a ball for Boss; close to a touchdown there, and the ball was on the money. On third and 10, Manning throws into the gut of the DL, who drops it. An opportunity lost, but if nose tackles could catch, they'd be tight ends. Tynes hits from 29, and the road team is up, 3-0.
Robinson brings it to the 31, and Fox treats us to a montage of Harris and Burress exchanging love taps. As an Eagles fan, I miss Al Harris; he may not have been very good, but he liked to hit people, and that's near and dear to my heart.
Robinson for a yard on a screen; Pack seem to be throwing a lot. A gimmicky shovel pass to Grant loses three and almost gets the RB killed, as Tuck and Strahan were right there. On a big third and 12, the Giants blitz effectively, and Favre dumps it to Robinson, who can't do much with it. It's a 3 and out, and after a weak 32 yard punt with no return, the Giants will start at their 40. We're 48 minutes away from a Super Bowl that the eastern media will claim is the best ever, but that the rest of the country will just kind of hate.
Toomer with an awful drop of a wide open play, as Woodson slips. Ouch. On second, Jacobs gets nothing, and we have our second 3rd and long of the game for Manning; on the first one, he found Burress for a big gain. On this one, he finds Jacobs in the flat but he can't get the whole 10, and the Giants will punt. Troy Aikman for Fox notes that the QBs are throwing more than he thought they would, because unlike Troy Aikman, these QBs are not gutless pussies. (Well, OK, maybe Eli is, but he's faking it well.) After a terrible Feagles punt, the Pack will start at their 30, and that missed opportunity for field position could be a big factor in this next drive.
With a minute left in the quarter, Grant gets 3 despite strong penetration by the Giants defensive line; right now, they are just beating the Packers on the line. Grant gets another two yards, and that's the quarter. 3-0 Giants.
Welker again with the catch for 10 and a first on a quick screen. Maroney for 20, and he's just killing the Chargers right now. 80 for the game, 64 in the half. A screen to him gets another 9... and as the Patriots get close, the power goes out in my Man Space, probably due to a space heater overloading the circuit. Cablevision's box hates it when the power goes out, so I'm going to be down for a while. Gah!
I switch over to a Web app to learn that Brady hit Welker for 6 and the touchdown, and there's that slot problem we mentioned before. Welker now has 7 catches for 56 and the touchdown, and Faulk's got 5 for 50. Stallworth and Moss have combined for 2 for 23, but that is the real magic of Brady; he doesn't much care who's open.
Sproles to the 21, and the Chargers are going no huddle. Chambers for 17 is followed by two incompletes, and then another 18 yards to Jackson. Say this for Rivers, he's not going down without a fight. Gates for 9, then Turner for the first, and they are just entering the part of the field where it all goes to hell. The power comes back up to see another incomplete, and on 3rd and 10, Harrison comes clear yet again, forcing the incomplete. Will Norv go on fourth and 10? No, he's punting with 9:21 left and down 9 points. But on the plus side, this will help that New England covering the spread bet...
Maroney jogs around end for an easy 10. He's got 81 yards this half. Brady takes a bad sack, and that's a big play here, given how the Pats haven't been that explosive today. Faulk gets 7 on a screen, setting up a huge play for whether or not the fourth quarter will have any drama. Halfway through the quarter, and under pressure, Brady finds Faulk perfectly (of course) for just enough (of course). They needed 11, and got exactly that. Short of a turnover, it's hard to see how the Chargers get the ball back twice to come back in this game now.
Maroney for a yard, and the Chargers call an unconscionable timeout. Seriously, it wasn't at the end of the previous run, it wasn't in a dire situation, it saved them very little clock. Just awful.
Surprisingly, the Pats throw on second, and Stallworth is knocked out of bounds after 6. If the Chargers can hold on 3rd, there will be some plays left in this game... but it's Faulk Again, and this one's over. The Patriots Fans don't so much applaud now as they do exhale. And order the car to be brought around. They'll be drinking the good chianti tonight!
Maroney for 2, Maroney for 5, and would it kill you bums to cover the spread? Chargers call their last time out, and CBS dwells on Tomlinson, like he would have made the difference today. Frankly, folks, the real problem injury today was Gates, because without him, the Chargers were not able to be effective in the red zone, and that's where this game was lost. Maroney for another 6, and he loses his footing before he can secure the cover. Terrible!
Maroney becomes the first Patriot to have consecutive 100-yard playoff games since the immortal Craig James. Do you miss when the Patriots could lose playoff games in desultory fashion? I refuse to admit it in either way. The two minute warning is here, and the only people watching this game intently now have to have money on the point spread. Maroney gets the first and we're into kneeldowns. Maroney ends his day with 25 carries for 122 yards, and on a day when Brady got picked 3 times, he was the clear difference.
See you in a few for the New Age Ice Bowl in Wisconsin...
The Chargers outgained the Patriots by 70+ yards in the first, and won time of possession. Meanwhile, Bill Cowher and Sterling Sharpe called for Volek instead of Rivers. You have to wonder if they were told to say that for controversy, because there's no way that Norv will throw his QB for future years under the bus like that.
Curiously, Maroney takes the kickoff for the Patriots to start. He gets it to the 39 on another short Kaeding kick. Moss drops an easy ball on first, and the CBS commentators are actively talking about The Distraction. Hmm. Me, I'm wondering when his past history of playoff no-shows gets mentioned. Welker for another easy 9 yarder on second down. Evans converts another third down, and the Pats are in Charger territory. Maroney gets a yard, then Brady takes his first sack of the day on coverage, but it's a minimal loss. On 3rd and 12, Brady gets picked on a tip ball to Drayton Florence, and the Chargers have the ball in Patriots territory. Not a good decision by Brady. Wow.
Turner for 4 to the Patriots 45. Rivers on play action has Jackson wide, wide, wide open. Chargers to the Patriots 28. Play action on the next play is a throw-away, and Rivers really looks bad when he has to run. Chambers makes a ballet move to get them another first, and you can't say too much about how much better he's been in the playoffs, really. Jackson in the flat spins for 6. The wideouts are 11 for 148. Turner for 3, and it's 3rd and 1 from the 5. Very big call here, especially as a stop would be yet another red zone miss.. and Rivers calls time again in this situation. Ouch... and then they wuss out and run Turner to the left, and Seau makes the play for a loss. Kaeding hits again, and it's 14-12, Patriots.
CBS finds Subdued Girl Patriots Fan in the stands. Buck up, girl! Your team is winning!
Kaeding's best kick of the day gets to the 10; Maroney brings it to 33. Seriously, can't Scifres do this? Maroney goes for 18, and I'll say it again -- if the Patriots are going to make plays in the running game, the Chargers can not win. After a timeout, it's Maroney again, breaking a number of tackles but then falling for no gain. Luis Castillo is a beast. A pump fake by Brady who then goes to Moss for 15, who was wide open on the play. Maroney for another 11, and he's been their best player today; no wonder the game is close. He gets another 6, and they're in the red zone. A three tight end formation gets him another 4 and the first. They stay on the ground for nothing on first, and one suspects that Brady will have to pass this in.. and he gets it to Welker at the 2. Can the Chargers get a pass rush? No, but Antonio Cromartie makes a great pick. He mistakingly takes it out of the end zone, and the Chargers will start with bad field position, but still -- that's Brady's third pick of the day, and that's also the Chargers becoming +2 in turnovers for the day. Just what I, um, predicted they'd need... when I took the Patriots and the over.
Turner for 12 on first down, and so much for any Patriot safety hopes. He goes again for 3. On 2nd and 7 from the 19, Rivers misses Gates while on the run, and the Patriots brought pressure. Interesting; one suspects that pressure on Rivers will create good things for the home team. On 3rd and 7, Rivers short arms Manumaleuma from a Harrison blitz, and Scifres is in to punt. He gets it to the Patriot 32 with a bounce, and we're halfway through the third, with the over bet on life support.
Brady to Evans for 14 and a first. CBS notes that the Cromartie pick was the first for Brady in the last 215 red zone attempts; good grief. 62 touchdowns on the other side of that ledger. One suspects that average QBs are in the 2 or 3 to 1 ratio in that part of the field, because a lot of red zone picks is how you lose your job, but still. The quarter ends with the Patriots up by 2, 14-12, in a game that no one predicted.
The quarter starts with Maroney converting on 3rd and 1 on a very nice bit of patience; then Brady hits Faulk in the flat, who gets it to the 1. The Patriots are a yard away from wiping away a flat first quarter, and Maroney gets it. Evans with the key block, and what was telling about that last bit of business is that after losing the wind, the Patriots got plays from their running game. The Chargers can't win if the Patriots are getting plays from their running game. 7-3, Patriots.
Sproles has another seam on the return, but is taken down by Gostkowski. LDT still on the sidelines, and the Chargers start from their 30.
Play action to Jackson for 15, probably Rivers' best pass of the day. LDT is said to be down on the decision of Norv; ballsy if true. An ugly quail to Jackson gets another 17, and he was wide open; first time Rivers went on a designed rollout. Turner gets 4, and he's now at 7 for 30. Rivers wiggles about and finds Turner for 5, and they are at the Patriots 31 for 3rd and 1. They go play action and find Jackson again for 21, and this is a heck of an answer, though not exactly the grind it out method you'd expect or want, given the Patriots offense. Turner gets a yard. The Patriots only rush 2, Nantz mistakingly calls it great protection, and Bruschi knocks a bad ball to Gates down. Huge play here... and Rivers calls time. If all you get from two trips to the red zone against the champions is two field goal opportunities, you have to think that's going to be regretted later. Rivers finds Chambers on an underneath crossing route, but he can't beat the tackler, and it's another short figgie, this one from 23. Much better kick, and it's Patriots 7, Chargers 6.
Another short kick from Kaeding is returned by Hobbs to the Patriots 40. If the Chargers really want to win this game, a stand by the defense would help loads. Faulk for 13, and Brady's looking extremely comfortable now. Maroney gets 5 on a play that could have been stopped at 2, and that's what we'd call Telling. Welker takes a tricky screen for a couple, and it's also interesting that the Pats feel it's necessary to go for trickery. 3rd and 3 is a big play... and Jammer knocks down a ball for Moss, who doesn't have a catch today. Also tellingly, the Pats will punt; more often than not in this situation, they'd go for it. It seems to pay off, as Kelley Washington makes a great play in special teams. The Chargers will start at their own 4.
Turner for 4. He's earning himself some money today. He gets another 3 in a middle pile, and is now at 10 for 38. Big play here on third and 3 with 6 minutes left in the quarter... and the Chargers go 4 wide, with Rivers finding Sproles on a nice play in the flat. That was big. Rivers is now 10 of 17 for 105, and just as I was about to write how he was avoiding the big mistake... he throws while falling on pressure from Vrabel, and Samuel outfights Chambers for the interception. Bad play by Chambers as well. The Patriots will start on the Chargers 24, and this is not looking good for the wishes of a competitive game.
Faulk again for 11. Brady then finds Gaffney for an easy touchdown, and after 26 minutes where the road team has done a lot of what they wanted to do, they'll be down by 8. Patriots 14, Chargers 6.
Sproles to the 28, and if the Chargers can get points with this drive, it's still a game; if they can't or turn it over, it won't be. Sproles for no gain, and I think I'd have gone play action there, to show Phillip some confidence and given him more time. Play action on second is 15 to Chambers and a nice play; Chambers has 5 for 58 already, and Phillip seems to be focused on him. The Chargers pick up a stunt and Chambers is open, but the ball is badly underthrown for the second pick of the day, and Simms is making excuses as to the knee. Um, if that's the case, why is he trying to throw the 40 yard ball in the first place, and shouldn't the fact that he was downwind means that an underthrow is really, really bad? That's the kind of ball that might bring in Volek. The Patriots start at their 23 with all three timeouts.
Jammer knocks a ball to Stallworth down, and that could have been a pick, too. The wind must really be messing with the QBS today. Faulk makes yet another play on a run for 8 where he could have gone down for no gain. Two minute warning, and a very big play again here... and for the second time this half, Brady misses Welker. That Achilles' heel slot didn't kill them here. Sproles gets it back to the 35, and the Chargers have 1:45 and 2 timeouts. Heckuva three and out there by the defense.
Draw to Sproles for 6; too much clock running here, as is per usual with the Patriots opponents. Sproles on another draw breaks one all the way to the Patriots 32, and is ruled down before the fumble. A pointless booth review stops the clock at 49 seconds left. The Chargers don't seem to know that the clock runs after the review fails, and they waste 15 seconds before completing a ball to Gates, his first catch of the day, for 8. Gates looked good on that play. On 2nd and 2 with 26 seconds left from the Patriots 23, it's Sproles for a yard and in bounds, wasting the third and final Chargers time out of the half. What is it with the Patriots opponent having no idea how to handle a clock?
If I'm Norv here, this ball's going to the end zone, but he's played it conservative all day. That might have been the plan, and Rivers throws it away under pressure. Kaeding has to hit his first tough kick of the day, and he's only at .500 for his career in the playoffs. Belichick ices him at 12 seconds left in the half, but he sneaks it in anyway, and we'll have a one possession game at the half.
Well, it's not a blowout, and the Chargers secondary has done a great job with Moss and Stallworth. But not getting touchdowns in the red zone will get you killed, and Brady has the patience to beat you with Kevin Faulk and Jabbar Gaffney, if you make him. 14-9, Patriots.