Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Norv: The Best Damned Interview Ever

I'm still trying to get my head around the fact that the Chargers hired Norv Turner to fill their coaching vacancy. I understand that waiting until mid February limits the pool of candidates somewhat, but recycling Turner? Why?

Turner's career record as a head coach is 58-82-1.

Read that sentence again.

Widely considered a nice guy, it is thought he will bring a calmness to the franchise. Because as everyone knows, since Tony Dungy and Lovie Smith each made it to the Super Bowl calmness is the new genius.

Turner has had ample opportunity to prove his mettle as a Head Coach, and pretty much stunk up the joint each time. The only rationale I can think of is that he must be the single most awesome interview, ever.

Maybe it went like this:

Chargers: Norv, what makes you think you can lead this team?
Turner: As you know, Troy Aikman loves me, and together with him, Emmit Smith, Michael Irvin and a killer O-Line, we won a few Super Bowls, remember?
Chargers: That's right! You guys were awesome!
Turner: You betcha. Did I mention that Troy let me introduce him when he was inducted into the Hall of Fame? We're pretty tight, and, as you might have heard, we won a few Super Bowls together.
Chargers: Damn, what a track record! What about your stints as Head Coach with Washington and Oakland? Seems like there were some tough times there.
Turner: Irvin, Smith, Larry Allen.
Chargers: But, but what about Randy Moss? How come he quit on you?
Turner: Jay Novacek! Moose Johnston! All at their best under my tutelage!
Chargers: And, dealing with Daniel Snyder and Al Davis, how did that go?
Turner: Hall of Famer Troy Aikman! Have you seen these ginormous rings? Look at the size of this damn thing!
Chargers: You're hired!

Saturday, February 17, 2007

The Bronx Zoo? Hardly

As Spring Training begins, it is once again the New York Yankees that are dominating the back pages of the New York papers as well as talk radio. Let’s look at the big issues surrounding this team as the 2007 season gets underway:

Carl Pavano/Mike Mussina

Basically, Mussina called out Pavano for being a big prima donna who is hurt more than he pitches. Well, not in so many words, but that was the meat of the statement. What was the problem? Mussina was pretty much right on the money. If Pavano wants to earn his keep and get respect in the locker room, he needs to quit being held back by petty injuries, suck it up and pitch. The two had a brief closed door meeting with skipper Joe Torre this week and seemed to make nice. It will be interesting to see if Pavano tries too hard to impress his teammates, and ends up getting hurt in the process. The guy is pretty damned fragile, after all.

Mariano Rivera

A very convincing case could be made that Rivera, not Jeter, not Bernie Williams, was the single most important member of the team which won four World Series in five seasons. Now the closer is facing an expiring contract after this year, and would like nothing more than to have it addressed prior to the season. Age is a factor, no question, but the feeling here is the Yankees will find a way to get this taken care of before it becomes a bigger issue. The guy has barely slowed down, and is still dominant, though perhaps a bit more fragile. Sure, he’ll tank a couple of early and mid-season saves, but his big game and postseason records are above reproach. The fact that this team has given him precious few chances over the past few playoff series reflects on the overall makeup and performance of the rest of the players, not Mo. Believe me, I would like nothing more than to see him skip town and close out the Yankees in a big spot (hmm…how we he look in a Boston uniform?), but Steinbrenner will likely step in and demand this get taken care of, ensuring Rivera retires a Yankee.

Bernie Williams

A tougher call for the team to make involves Bernie Williams. The outfielder seemed to be poised to take a bench role last year, but was forced into action with the injuries to Hideki Matsui and Gary Sheffield, and performed admirably. Now, with the signing of 1B Doug Mientkiewicz to spell Jason Giambi (making him more of a full time DH), it’s Bernie who is getting squeezed. Rather than release him, the team offered him a minor league contract with the assurances that he would likely get a spot on the 25 man roster. Williams is currently balking at the offer, feeling that he can still get it done, elsewhere if necessary. Since Giambi is basically immovable due to his enormous contract, it’s the classy lifelong Yankee who gets the short end of the stick. Fair? Nope, but the business end of baseball tends to rear its ugly head far too often, particularly with 38 year old players. Here as well, I would like nothing more than to see #51 don another uniform, come back and stick it to the Yankees in a big spot. I can’t wait to see how this plays out.


This one has gotten less play with the above issues in the forefront, but is the big elephant in the room. ARod has proven time and time again that he is simply not suited to play in New York. As someone who always tries to carefully measure his words and do the right thing, he has an incredible knack for rubbing just about everyone the wrong way (except Michael Kay, who adores him to the point of nausea). The word is Rodriguez hasn’t been fully accepted in the locker room, and that might stem from Derek Jeter. Jeter and ARod, former friends (though the extent of that friendship is somewhat debatable), allegedly haven’t seen eye-to-eye since Rodriguez made some disparaging remarks in a GQ article a few years back. Rodriguez needs to understand that he will never be held in the same regard here as Jeter – even if he wins four rings. Jeter is quite simply, The Man. He’s the Captain, he is media friendly without being controversial, and the fans absolutely adore him. Remember when he was mired in that 0 for 33 slump a few seasons ago? The fans were pulling for him so hard, they never booed, and yelled encouragement as he trotted off the field after yet another pop-up. Imagine if ARod went through a similar stretch. The boos would be deafening, talk radio would be screaming for a trade, and the back pages would explode.

Jeter could quell this by simply making some kind of brief public statement about how there is no feud, how Rodriguez is one of the guys, etc. Even if he is full of it, it might go a long way toward getting this out of the media.

These controversies are nothing compared to the late seventies Bronx Zoo, that’s for certain. Those guys proved that players in the locker room could absolutely hate each other and still win. It’s becoming rarer these days, as the players are part of one big happy fraternity, and change teams even more frequently. One could also chalk up the amount of coverage devoted to these issues being a result of having nothing else to cover.

Here’s hoping the 2007 Yankees dominate the back pages, and WFAN, while the Mets quietly go about their business and win the NL East again.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Tim Hardaway: NBA Ambassador

Tim Hardaway, thank you! It is so refreshing to see a public figure not hide behind politically correct statements, and really tell it like he or she sees it. Unlike other NBA players, who responded about as one would expect when asked about having a gay teammate, you spoke your mind:

You know, I hate gay people, so I let it be known. I don't like gay people and I
don't like to be around gay people. I am homophobic. I don't like it. It
shouldn't be in the world or in the United States.

No pussyfooting around the issue for you, Tim, no way, no how! Not you!

Oh, critics might say you were acting somehow bigoted, or hateful. Pshaw! You were simply telling the truth as you know it. If you feel that it is okay to “hate” (not “disapprove of the lifestyle”, or “not understand”) an entire group of people, that’s your right! Others might speculate your feelings stem from some past incident, such as a time where one of those people gave you a certain look. Or maybe the time you flipped on SpectraVision on that road trip and was repulsed by the girl-on-girl movie those pigs forced upon you. Where was the traditional man/woman porn, as God intended?

Others will point to statistics, which state that anywhere from 1 in 10 to 1 in 50 people are that way, which means you would undoubtedly run into on of the hated folks without even knowing it, and treated them civilly. If only you had known! Maybe if they had to wear armbands, or have a forehead tattoo or something, it would be so much easier, right?

Even though you were somewhat forced to issue an apology, kudos for keeping things in perspective:

There are more important things to worry about than my
comments. We should
be more concerned about President (George) Bush and all
the people dying in

Stay classy big guy.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Tyson Enters Rehab

I think the most shocking thing about this story was that it had never happened before. That’s right, for all the things this guy has endured over the past twenty years, rehab was not one of them! Who knew?

The best part was how he is going in for “various addictions”. I didn’t know that was an option. What could his rehab schedule possibly look like? We’ve obtained an exclusive transcript of the Tyson schedule:

Day One
8:00 AM Wake up
9:00 AM Drugs - are bad, mmkay.
10:00 AM Why buttocks fondling is not your God given right.
11:30 AM Body art – why your first tattoo should be more discreet.
1:00 PM Women – Getting them to listen without striking them.
3:00 PM Money – Why saving some can be a good idea sometimes.
4:00 PM Don King – He’s just plain evil, dude

Repeat each session for at least 28 days.
Good luck Mike!

Thanks, Barry

Thanks, Barry.

Thanks for wanting to stick around for at least 3 more seasons. I honestly don’t know how baseball would function without you.

Thanks for postponing the mother of all Hall of Fame debates until at least 2013. That’s not what baseball needs right now, man.

Thanks for injecting race into the Home Run record pursuit. Honestly, it’s like most of us forgot Hank Aaron was black, and Babe Ruth was white. Remember when you boldly said you were only concerned about passing the big fat white guy? What happened there?

Thanks for making milquetoast Commissioner Bud Selig hem and haw with the media when asked what he will be doing to acknowledge your inevitable record breaking 756th HR. After all, Bowie Kuhn couldn’t be bothered to attend the game where Aaron hit #715, right?

Thanks for creating perhaps the largest asterisk in sports history. I imagine the record books will need to use a 72 point font next to whatever number you finally end up with.

Thanks for redefining the term “hanging on to break a record”. Not since Pete Rose’s ugly last few seasons banging out cheap singles to set the all time hits record have we seen such courage in the face of physical decline.

Thanks for having the courage to stand up and say that both Pete Rose and Mark McGwire should be Hall of Famers. No other big leaguer has had the guts to state it as plainly as you did. For someone who has no possible motive for stating that a man who admittedly bet on baseball (but not his own team, dammit!) and a man whose sudden bulk resulted in a late career power surge, then saw his body break down once he stopped using the substance found in his locker, and basically took the fifth when asked by Congress if he used steroids, well, that takes a stand up guy. You, Barry, are that man!

Thanks for not being willing to sign the cause in your new contract which stipulates basically that all bets are off if you’re indicted. What kind of crap is that? Stand you’re ground, Barry, and fight the power.

By the way, can you tell me where I can get some of that flax seed oil? (I tried to reach VIctor Conte, but then the feds starting calling me and I don't need that hassle right now.) My joints are acting up, and I’m not as young as I used to be, but I figure I could really dominate my softball league this summer if I had a little, you know, help.

Thanks again, Big(er than you ever were before) Guy!

Monday, February 5, 2007

Predictions? Not So Good....

Most sports pundits will not go back and revisit their predictions after the fact, unless said choices were 100% accurate.

That? Is where I'm different.

With yet another loss this post season picking against Indianapolis (making a perfect 0-4 record) under my belt, I'd like ot go over my specific points highlighted in my Super Bowl preview, and see how I did.

Point #1: The game will be unusually high scoring.
Not really, as the score didn't even crack the "over". The weather could have been a factor, and would be an obviouis cop out choice for me to make, but Indy had a game plan to chew up clock and wear down the Bears defense, and that well executed plan had more to do with the relatively low point total.
Prediction Result: Incorrect.

Point #2: Special Teams will be a huge factor
Proven correct 14 seconds in. Why Indy kicked to Hester I'll never know, but they only did it once.
Prediction Result: Somehwhat correct.

Point #3: Turnovers will be the key
Though the number of turnovers was high, they evened out, with several dircetly related to the conditions. The two 4th quarter picks of errant Grossman passes were more in line with what I was thinking, and the one returned for a TD pretty much iced the game.
Prediction Result: Dead on

Point #4: Rex Grossman is under absolutely no pressure, but Peyton Manning is
More of an observation than a prediction. Manning rose to the occasion after a shaky start, and spent the better part of the game simply taking what he was given, and not forcing throws. Grossman had a chance to be a hero in the 4th quarter, after fumbling and stubling earlier, but threw two ugly picks which cemented his reputation as an erratic QB.

Point #5: Where is Marvin Harrison?
Obviously the Colts knew what we all knew, that #88 had to get involved, and he did. Harrison caught five balls for 59 yards, but was clearly in the mix unlike previous games in these playoffs.

Point #6: The Pick - Bears 34 Colts 26
We all know what happened here. I never really believed in Indy since that nasty loss to the Jaguars late in the year where the defense allowed 300+ rushing yards. Obviously the return of Bob Sanders was huge. As is usually the case, my personal feelings toward a team weighed heavily in my pick, and more often than not I get burned by that.
Prediction Result: Could not have been more wrong.

Saturday, February 3, 2007 Implodes

Man, the geniuses at the World Wide Leader just keep coming up with stellar ideas, don’t they? After the stunning success of ESPN Hollywood, ESPN Mobile, Cold Pizza and Quite Frankly with STEPHEN A. SMITH, the powers that be decided to open up a comments section on the famous Page 2 section of See, they know how to handle this blog thing, just open up the lines of communication! Anyone can do it!

Well, it backfired almost immediately. As chronicled on Deadspin, the commenters immediately went into mocking mode and unleashed a barrage of comments which had been commonplace on blogs like Deadspin, Kissing Suzy Kolber, With Leather, etc. Basically, the same folks who post there, posted here, and hilarity ensued. A team of ESPN flunkies (probably interns who had to stifle laughter while skimming each post) was quickly assigned to remove offending posts, which must have been the internet equivalent of Lucy and Ethel working at the candy factory.

To their credit, they eventually stopped censoring the posts, and eventually some positive stuff was posted (by ESPN staffers themselves? We’ll never know). The damage was done, the underground won.

Viva la revolucion!

The Day stood still (Deadspin)

nfl will crush you

The NFL™ will crush you
Have you noticed lately that the NFL™ has clamped down on usage of the term Super Bowl™ to describe it’s signature contest? Check out any TV or radio ad for a big chain electronics store, and you’ll hear the actors constantly refer to “the Big Game” when attempting to sell you a large screen TV.

What crap. First of all, the NFL™ has bajillions of dollars. Do they really feel the need to go after those who mention the freaking game by its name? Do they have lawyers constantly combing local radio/TV ads to see if someone dared use the name Super Bowl™? One would think the cross promotion would benefit the league, somehow drumming up more interest for the annually highest rated show on TV.

What prompted this? Was the name Super Bowl™ being misued somewhere, to sell something unsavory? Was there a Super Bowl™ special at a local massage parlor?

But wait, it gets better.

As you might have heard, a small church planned on having a get together for the game, and asked each guest to pay a small fee to help defray the costs of the food, etc. The game was to be shown on a large screen TV (apparently larger than 55’, which is an important detail). Somehow, the NFL got wind of this, and isn’t it a bit scary that this would ping the legal radar of an organization that large? It swiftly moved in with a cease and desist order.

As stated before, the NFL™ has tons of money, and seemingly is always looking for more. I have no problem with creating revenue streams and running a successful enterprise, as the NFL™ has clearly done. It’s when something gets so big and starts looking for ways to screw around with small timers that drives me nuts. Do they really think Circuit City or Best Buy is taking money out of their pockets by trying to sell someone a big screen TV before February 4th? This, coupled with the creation of the NFL Network™, designed to funnel the TV money directly to the League without having to pay the networks, smacks of trying to kill the goose that is laying tons of golden eggs.

For the sake of the NFL™, let’s hope that doesn’t happen.

You Can Sleep Better Now....

Tired of sitting home watching younger, less deserving players garner media attention, attention whore extraordinaire Brett Favre has put the spotlight squarely back on himself, smack dab in the middle of Super Bowl hype. Old Mr. Will He or Won’t He made his annual retirement decision much earlier this year, at least allowing the Packers to prepare their draft board accordingly.

Rest easy, Messers. Madden and Thiesmann, your hero is returning to the NFL for another season.

"I am so excited about coming back," the 37-year-old quarterback said Friday on the Web site of the Sun Herald in Biloxi, Miss. "We have a good nucleus of young players. We were 8-8 last year, and that's encouraging."

The fact that he is very close to taking over the #1 ranking in several career categories apparently has little to do with his decision. Nope, Brett likes the moxie of this Packer squad that went 8-8 in 2006, and thinks they can contend in 2007. The fact that his return will result in yet another batch of nationally televised games, where the announcers (particularly the two gentlemen mentioned above) can fawn over what a “great competitor” he is, how he “just loves the game so much” and is “like a big kid out there” as he tosses ill advised pass after ill advised pass has no bearing on the decision. Those tears Favre shed after the season ending meaningless win over Chicago? Bah, he was just sad the Pack didn’t make the playoffs, and a schlub like Rex Grossman would be getting more limelight in the weeks ahead.

Can we just put him in a room with Clemens, and lock the door until they both decide to go away once and for all? Oh, and ask T.O. to stop by there as well?

Friday, February 2, 2007

Super Bowl XLI Preview

So many storylines surround this game, as noted earlier. I’ve been absorbing very little information as the game gets closer, opting to go more with a gut decision.

The fact that Indy is even here is a bit mind-boggling, given the performance of Peyton Manning thus far. Conventional wisdom dictated that this team could only go as far as its superstar QB could take them, but save for the second half against New England in the AFC Title game, he’s not even been as highly rated a QB as……wait for it……Rex Grossman! Tony Dungy’s defense has risen to the occasion in each game, perhaps getting sick and tired of hearing how bad it was heading into the tournament. Getting the Patriot monkey off their collective back would have to see Manning, Harrison, Dungy et al heading into the game with clear heads, ready to go out and just play football.

The Bears, on the other hand, are playing up the disrespect angle. Given that it was a forgone conclusion that whichever team won the NFC Championship would be the automatic underdog, this is an easy route to take. While the defense is not the dominant unit it was earlier in the season, it is still is a formidable bunch. Full of speedy ball hawks, it can give opposing offenses fits. Was anyone else surprised to see who the closest Bear defender was to Reggie Bush on the 88 yard catch-and-run play in the title game? Brian Urlacher, that’s who. The man outraced two DB’s to get within sniffing distance of perhaps the single most explosive player in the game. Unreal. Manning and Co. will always have to know where #54 is, and adjust accordingly. Additionally, running the ball on these guys will not be easy for Indy.

On the offensive side, Grossman has done exactly what has been expected – manage the game, don’t take crazy chances, limit turnovers and put the team in position to win. The offense hasn’t been flashy, but it has been effective. The key in the Super Bowl for either team will be getting the lead. Both teams play much better from ahead, as most teams do. The Colts pass rush becomes lethal in obvious passing situations, while Chicago seems to simply bury teams once it has the lead – check the Saints game for a perfect example.

Which team, then, gets the edge? Initially, I was all over the Colt bandwagon, with the whole monkey off the back angle. Lately I’ve been wavering back to the Bears, and it’s been like a tennis match in my head. The predictions:

The game will be unusually high scoring - Two teams with very little Super Bowl experience between them could be easily forced into mistakes, which will lead to quick points.

Special Teams will be a huge factor – the Indy units have been among the worst in the NFL, and Devin Hester is a weapon the likes of which the NFL has never seen before. How he got less press than Dante Hall in 2003 puzzles me – he had a much better season, and Hall was getting MVP consideration at one point that year. Hester will be a factor even if he never touches the ball, but the hunch here is that he makes some magic at some point in this game.

Turnovers will be the key – The Bears thrive on them, shortening the field for the offense, while Indy has come up with several huge picks in the post season thus far, including the momentum crusher on the goal line in Baltimore in the Divisional round. Methinks a key fumble or pick will factor in the final score of the game.

Rex Grossman is under absolutely no pressure, but Peyton Manning is – He’s been expected to stink all year. In fact, Coach Lovie Smith was answering questions at the end of the regular season as to whether or not Brian Griese would be his QB in the playoffs. Smith stuck by his QB, and has been rewarded nicely. Of the two QB’s, Manning clearly has the most to prove, with the legacy of Dan Marino and early John Elway hanging over his head. A subpar performance here will do nothing to enhance his legacy, though some have said simply reaching the Super Bowl is acceptable enough at this point. I’m getting a kind of a Trent Dilfer vibe about Grossman this week.

Where is Marvin Harrison? – The Colts have struggled to get their #1 wideout involved in the offense thus far, to the point where two critical interceptions tossed by Manning involved simple in routes to Harrison. One would think that #88 needs to be a significant part of the offense if Indy is going to win this game. The Colts have done a good job getting just about every other receiver involved, including O-Lineman, but at some point the future Hall of Famer will need to play a role.

The Pick:
I’ve picked against the Colts each and every week of the playoffs so far, accounting for three of my four losses. One would think I would have learned my lesson and finally jumped aboard the Indy train.

I’m not. I think the Bear defense will throw too much at the Colts, and ultimately being the first Championship to the Second City since the Super Bowl Shuffle bunch in 1985. Given my track record with Indy, I’ll probably be eating these words on Monday morning.

Bears 34 Colts 26