Tuesday, January 30, 2007

One Last Word on Barbaro....

This is the last post about Barbaro, I promise. Yesterday, it was reported that television stations actually broke into regular programming, BREAKING NEWS, to report the death of a horse. Even more mind boggling was the follow-up report I saw on one of my local stations this morning, in which the graphic read Heroic Horse.

Wait just a god damn minute.

Fast? I get.
Athletic? Sure.
Majestic? Yeah, why not.

But "Hero"?

Webster's defines 'hero" as follows:
Main Entry: he·ro
Pronunciation: 'hir-(")O
Function: noun
Inflected Form(s): plural heroes
Etymology: Latin heros, from Greek hErOs
1 a : a mythological or legendary figure often of divine descent endowed with great strength or ability b : an illustrious warrior c : a man admired for his achievements and noble qualities d : one that shows great courage
2 a : the principal male character in a literary or dramatic work b : the central figure in an event, period, or movement
3 plural usually heros : SUBMARINE 2
4 : an object of extreme admiration and devotion : IDOL

Once again, I need to emphasize, Barbaro was an effing horse. Was he a myhological figure? Nope. An illustrious warrior? Not really. A principal male literary character? Maybe in some senior citizen fan fiction, but in reality, no. Did he show great courage? I don't think so. He didn't decide on his own that his leg should be filled with pins to keep it together. He didn't vailiantly keep a stiff upper lip while the doctors gave him their grave diagnosis. He didn't think to himself how he could inspire others who face hardships to keep going on. He didn't think, period. He's a horse, or, was a horse.

My guess is that he felt a ton of pain in his leg, and wished for the sweet release only death could bring. Who the hell knows? To call him a "hero" is an insult to real human heroes one could encounter on a daily basis. So, to all you crazy ass people who feel the need to post a thank you note to a horse, listen up:

A firefighter who goes into a burning building to rescue a kid or an elderly person? Hero.
A soldier who dives on a live grenade to save his buddies? Hero.
A black woman who won't give up her seat to a white guy on a bus in Alabama in 1955? Yep, hero.

A horse who shatters his leg while running in a race to make rich guys more money, then is forced to undergo various medical procedures in an effort to keep himself alive so he can maybe someday produce twenty or thirty colts who might inherit his one ability, running really fast, which in turn will make more money for said rich guys?

Not a hero.

Monday, January 29, 2007

R.I.P., Handsome Horse

Legendary Kentucky Derby winner Barabro was euthanized today, after a lengthy rehabilitation. The brave animal who inspired us all went quietly, and bravely, like the champion he was. I can't verify that, since I wasn't there, but I can;t imagine this wonderful beast going out any other way, can you?

Wiseass bloggers and crazy old ladies throughout the country are mourning the loss, as are filthy rich horse breeders who will lose out on a prized stud.

To add your thoughts, go to the official Barabaro Message Board. Don't be snarky - they don't take that very well. Remember that now, especially now, Barbaro will not be able to read your post, nor have it read to him, because he is dead. Actually, he could have had someone read them to him before, but he would not have understood them, because he was a horse.

Barbaro Cares Not What You Think (what?)

Thursday, January 25, 2007

NFL Miscellany

Wow, the one matchup I not only didn’t anticipate, but didn’t want to see, has come into being: Colts vs. Bears. This column was once again incorrect in a game involving Indianapolis, making it a playoff hat trick. Wonder if the choice for the Super Bowl will keep that record intact?

We’re in the down period as far as pre-game hype is concerned, as the teams and the media have yet to descend upon Miami. Once there, we can look forward next week to a slew of articles and video stories about, well, pretty much nothing. Below is a quickie summary of what you can look forward to reading and hearing about.

Peyton Manning – The Monkey Is Off His Back
Tony Dungy/Lovie Smith – Hey, has anyone noticed that both guys are black?
Tank Johnson – Ankle bracelet: yes or no?
Marvin Harrison – He’s the Anti T.O., which is why we won’t talk to him
Rex Grossman – Just how bad will he be?
Archie/Eli Manning – Why are we talking to you guys again?

The best show to watch, if you’re a fan, is the NFL Matchup show on ESPN. Ron Jaworski, Merril Hoge and Sal Palantonio actually break down game film and provide real insight as to what might actually happen on the field. They do so without the stupid ass frat boy laughing at our dumb jokes style found on each and every pregame show. I mean, if Shannon Sharpe, Dan Marino, Howie Long, Jerome Bettis and Chris Berman were as funny as their respective co-panelists would lead one to believe, they’d be headlining in Vegas. No human interest stories either on the Matchup, just nuts and bolts gridiron talk. It's refreshing to find a show on ESPN devoid of cross-promotional Disney crap and/or "look-at-how-hip-we-are" posturing.

See, I just saved you lots of valuable time. You’re welcome.

In other NFL News this week, Bill Parcells has retired again. The Tuna has been an example of the law of diminishing returns over the years, making more money at each coaching gig while having his teams never reach the level reached at his immediately preceding job:

Giants - Won two Super Bowls
Pats – Won AFC Championship, lost Super Bowl
Jets – Won wild card and divisional playoff games, lost AFC Championship
Cowboys – Lost two wild card games in four seasons

It’s hard to say whether or not Parcells is the latest example of a coach getting older, then having a more difficult time relating to “today’s players”, whatever that means. Every time someone brings that up, I remind myself that he coached Lawrence Taylor, quite possibly the craziest character ever to play the game. Of course the media throngs lined up in front of T.O. to get his opinion on the Tuna’s retirement, and #81 was just as classy as ever:

When I talked to [Parcells] for the first time we left an impression on each
other. I still think he is a great guy. But he is like my grandmother. You love
the person, but they are stuck in their old-school ways. You can't move them
from their way of thought

Hey, here’s a thought: maybe T.O. is simply as uncoachable idiot. To be among the five most thrown to receivers in the NFL (as he was in 2006), lead the league in drops (which he did in 2006), and still have the stones to complain about not being used properly (which he did, this week), well, that’s just hard to understand. He’ll be lots of fun as his skills diminish and he’s the last person to figure it out. It’s not too hard to see the image of a 39 year-old Owens suiting up for the Texans and bitterly complaining he isn’t getting the ball enough. Here's another thought: maybe if you guys stopped sticking a microphone in his face after every little event, and didn't deem his every utterance "newsworthy", maybe, just maybe, he'd go away.

As for Parcells, would it really be that much of a surprise to see A.) some desperate lowly team (Raiders?) offer him a contract within the next 2-3 years, or B.) see him dance around the topic with the media before finally accepting it? See you on a pregame show soon, you big lug!

Saturday, January 20, 2007

NFL Picks – Conference Championship

A stellar postseason so far, as this column has gone 6-2, with both losses resulting from picking against the Colts. The funny thing is that Indy has arguably played two of its worst offensive games of the year, but the defense has stepped it up with a pair of top notch efforts. Scary also is how close the final score predictions were, given that attempting to predict such things is a Quixotic effort in the first place.

With just three games remaining until we close out this season, and with a winning post season prediction record already clinched, the picks for the Conference title games follow below.

New Orleans at Chicago

A very intriguing matchup, as the Saints have become America’s New Team. Honestly, what cold hearted bastard out there doesn’t want to see New Orleans take this game and march into it’s first ever Super Bowl? The print media, for one, is collectively salivating about the wistful, poetic articles that will be written (Saints: Pride of A Rebuilding City, etc.). Television producers are readying the soft focus, twinkly music, human interest pieces already…. good times all around.

Not so fast. The Bears are still the top seeded team, playing at home in what all Chicagoans hope will be a frigid Soldier Field. This group finally got the monkey off its collective back last week by winning a playoff game, and finally have their swagger back. Up and down QB Rex Grossman was a little bit of both in last week’s win over Seattle, with the good outweighing the bad. The Bears can probably get by so long as he doesn’t self destruct and cough up a few turnovers. The ground attack of Thomas Jones and Cedric Benson can keep the chains moving, while also keeping the potent Saint offense off the field. The defense, while banged up with several starters missing, could gain an extra step by playing at home, and will need it against the speedy Saints.

New Orleans, on the other hand, needs to keep that suddenly struggling Bear D off balance. Coach Sean Payton has a ton of weapons at his disposal, and the feeling is he has a few looks he’ll be throwing out that haven’t shown up on any game film yet. QB Drew Brees will need to manage the game efficiently, and HB Deuce McAlister, with his straight ahead style, could be a more important weapon than the elusive Reggie Bush. Getting Bush into open space, where he is a constant big play threat, is something the Bears will try to prevent.

The feeling here is the Saints have too many weapons, and the depleted, struggling Bear defense might not be able to fully contain them. If this game was in October, the selection would be Chicago with no hesitation. However, New Orleans has that look right now of a team of destiny, and in its 40th season, will finally punch a ticket to the Super Bowl. Let the media onslaught begin.

Saints 27 Bears 20

New England at Indianapolis

Again with these two? The seemingly annual playoff clash between these two AFC powerhouses features some newer storylines (Adam Vinatieri switching sides), along with the same old stories (Peyton Manning’s playoff struggles against Belichick/Brady).

The biggest surprise in the Colts getting this far has been, without question, the defense. After completely stuffing Kansas City, it went on the road and stymied Baltimore as well. Granted, neither one of those teams can be considered an offensive powerhouse, but the pre-game hype never seemed to mention even the slightest possibility the Colts could shut down anyone. Peyton Manning has been positively Grossman-like in both games, throwing only one TD with five picks. That the Colts still managed to win each game is a testament to how well the defense bailed them out, as conventional wisdom dictated Indy was toast without a big game from its QB.

The rivalry has actually been somewhat one sided of late, with Indy winning the last two regular season games rather handily. Coach Dungy’s crew has to be brimming with confidence going into this game, but one has to wonder if the mindset behind closed doors is more of the “Man, I sure hope can finally beat these guys” rather than “it’s our time, they can’t stop us.”. Spreading the ball around, getting a solid effort from the ground tandem of Joseph Addai and Dominic Rhodes, and limiting mistakes on the offensive side are thing the Colts have to do to pull this one out.

The Patriots, on the other hand, did it again last week. By “it”, I mean “win another game they probably should have lost”. Watching the Chargers implode with stupid on and off field decisions was painful to watch. Seeing Tom Brady rebound after throwing that late INT overturned by the Troy Brown forced fumble was a thing of beauty. Brady wasn’t great for much of the game, but, as he usually does, he was great when he had to be. The Pats always seem to have the ability to take a mile when given an inch, particularly in the playoffs, and last week was no exception.

Going into a hostile environment, as an underdog, only serves to embolden these guys. Can the resurgent Indy defense stop the Pats? Maybe, in spots, but not to the level it shutdown KC and Baltimore. Playing in the dome, on turf, makes players like Dwight Freeny more dangerous, and should the Colts grab a lead he will be teeing off on Brady. New England’s defense will miss Rodney Harrison, but Belichick likely has some defensive looks up his sleeve which Manning hasn’t seen yet.

Like New Orleans, the Colts seem to have a bit of mojo working thus far, and look like Destiny’s Darlings. That said, I just can’t pick against the Patriots as long as #12 is under center in a playoff game, and the guy in the dirty hoodie is patrolling the sidelines. Manning will likely get his stats, unlike prior playoff battles, but the pick here is the Pats, setting up a Super Bowl in which they will not be the sentimental favorites.

Patriots 23 Colts 20

Last week: 3-1

Playoff totals: 6-2