The End of an Era? (I think not.)

One could argue that the Patriots reign of terror ended yesterday at the hands of the Baltimore Ravens. One could stomp and crow and shout for the hills, the King is Dead! The King is Dead! The Ravens have slayed the King!
One could also just hand out business cards proclaiming themselves an idiot.

The Patriots were so good, so automatic, so money in the bank for so long that anything less than winning seems to be failure.

Understandable.

But to call the era of relevancy complete, after this season? Really? What are they going to do? Blow up Gillette Stadium and sell the franchise to the idiots at Majestic Reality Co.? Change their name to the LA Riots? Let’s be careful as we define the end of this season as it relates to history. Many teams have come back from devastating losses to be champions again. Every week in the NFL is a massive crapshoot. To now define the future based on one bad loss/season is pure folly. To be shocked by the loss to the Ravens or the way it happened only tells me you haven’t been watching the Patriots this season or you were watching them through red, blue and flying Elvis silver colored glasses. Beware of Sportscenter, it makes you stupid. The way the Patriots lost yesterday was only surprising for one reason, it happened at home. All of their weaknesses were exploited at the same time. The only thing that kept them in the game at all was the fact that the opposing quarterback completed 4 passes in the win. (So Kelley Washington, relax out there bud. You guys just became cannon fodder for the Colts)

The Indianapolis Colts, the AFC’s current team of royalty have made the playoffs every season since 2002. They won the Super Bowl once. (2006) Does that mean that every year the Colts lost they were at the end of an era? No, every season the team retools, reworks the franchise a little bit. They then go out and play again the next season.

One team gets to win the Superbowl per year. The Patriots had a down year on all three sides of the ball. That doesn’t mean they’re leaving the league. They couldn’t finish games, they couldn’t win tough road games, they couldn’t beat other good football teams. Does this mean that everything we’ve learned about the franchise is no longer accurate? Everything that happened between the years 2000 and 20010 is now kaput, because, uh, we have zero context to base it on? Because Bill Belichick doesn’t put on a little hat and dance and make jokes for the media in his press conferences? Because Tom Brady has sex on the regular with a Brazilian super model? Is this the other shoe dropping or is it just what the NFL has been about in the free agency era. The NFL that the Patriots somehow managed to beat consistently over the last decade. Oh I know, It’s because we like things in tidy little packages and a decade just ended. Therefore all things that occurred in that decade must be ending too. Right?

They have 4 draft picks in the first day of the draft, one of the best quarterbacks, best deep threats and best coach’s in the NFL. (Along with a slew of other “nearly best” distinctions) The absence of perfection does not equal zero. Pop quiz, who wins the AFC east next season?

You really want to put your money on the New York/ New Jersey Football Jets?

The Patriots reign of terror will end when Brady and Belichick hang ’em up. Unless of course they manage to pull off the rarest of all feats, the dynasty transition. Don’t think the Indianapolis Peyton Mannings are immune to this either. (Paging Curtis Painter) This is all assuming that football in 2011 isn’t canceled in the name of pure unadulterated greed. Which is looking more and more the case.

In football, as in life, you lose sometimes. You make mistakes. You have down years. You sacrifice for the future while trying your hardest for the present. These things happen. Your past success may not indicate future performance but it sure helps when you’re in the business of prognostication. The Patriots will contend again.

The thing is, in sport, the games always need to be played. A play, a game, a season, an entire era is defined one block, one read, one decision at a time. Mistakes are made, capitalized upon. A linebackers hips turn the wrong way, a safety baits a throw. Every moment of every game there are minute details that help determine the outcome of the play, the game, the season. No other team in sports in judged in such a knee jerk way. The Lakers lose by nearly four dozen points in a finals game and come back the next season to win it all. The Penguins can’t beat the Redwings until suddenly they can. The Yankees suffer the curse of A-Rod and then they don’t. Our collective rush to judgment is so profound in modern society that facts are trampled, speculation becomes headline. The Patriots aren’t done forever and ever. Neither are the Eagles, the Packers or the Bengals. Each player, each coach, each franchise will suffer its wounds and move back towards victory the best they can. If systems and talent are in place more games will be won than lost. Opportunities will occur again.

Chances are, this time next year the Patriots will be in a position to make a run again and the media may or may not be telling you “The Patriots NEVER EVER lose a home game in the playoffs!” “You NEVER EVER bet against the Patriots in this situation!” “The Patriots have the BIG GAME EXPERIENCE!”

That’s when you’ll have your opportunity to make your own judgments. Good luck out there.

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Filed under Bill Belichick, New England Patriots, NFL, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady

Belichick

First of all, I think the replay showed a first down. The official who spotted the ball did not have the best angle to make the call and he had a defender in his way to boot. If they make that first down, game over.

On the other hand, if you punt the ball to Peyton Manning with two minutes left at home, up by less than a touchdown, you are largely conceding the game. If anyone thinks that Peyton doesn’t march the team down the field and score you’re nuts.

I think we should be celebrating greatness or at least the pursuit of it. Instead, the status quo rules again. The same people who line up to criticize Belichick for “running up the score” will now appear in droves to say that it was a horrible call and finally we have proof that Bill Belichick is a big meanie and no longer a “genius”.

The decision to go for the first down shows several things. One, supreme confidence in his football team. Obviously, if they make the first down, Bill’s genius nearly doubles in size. He would have been heralded by the media, the fans and the Patriots players (past and present) alike. (yea Rodney Harrison, I’m looking at you, Mr. Declarative Statement) He would have won the game.

Two, Bill Belichick is very secure in his job. The vast majority of coaches in the NFL would never let that decision cross their minds because they are afraid of losing their paychecks. His job is secure. He went for the win. He lost the game. Moving on next week to the Jets.

Three, they made a good play call, completed the pass, and had a questionable spot dictate the end of the game. It was a matter of inches at the most. It’s not like they fumbled the snap or scrambled and threw it away. The play could not have been closer.

If you’re a Belichick hater and you want to criticize him, criticize him for time and replay management. Bill is usually one of the best in the NFL at clock management, yet Brady is calling a timeout to go over a play they just had several minutes to discuss? Why were there not several options? What exactly happened there? The circumstances are pretty specific… An official’s review of a play only occurs “within” two minutes. The time on the clock when the attempted conversion failed, two minutes. The Patriots had no time outs and were unable to initiate a video review of the spot. By the time the Patriots had a replay they wanted to challenge, they had burned 3 timeouts. They had stopped scoring every drive. They had given Peyton Manning all the time he needed to engineer a comeback. When you’re playing a team like the Colts and you have them on the ground, step on their necks. Double tap them, if you will. You can’t allow them to zombie their way to a 6 point deficit with two minutes remaining. If you’re looking for a point to criticize Belichick on, let’s talk about the play call on 3rd and 2. If you’re going to go for it on 4th anyway, why force an out to a very well covered Wes Welker? A bubble screen to Welker on 3rd and 2, great call. An off tackle or stretch run with a spread formation, great call. A timing route that was nearly picked off and returned for a touchdown? Why that Bill? Why not chip away half of the distance or even convert right there with a play call that has more factors involved than a receivers hand’s being at the same spot the ball is (and the defender’s not). A simple out route is a great play call if the defender is playing off, but if it’s tight man coverage and he even suspects it for a second he can jump the route and break up the pass. (or worse) A play involving team blocking and a runners ability minimizes risk of breakdown. There’s a good chance you gain at least half the distance you require even if the play was less than successful, setting up a quick snap QB sneak, or a run up the face of the D or a play action pass. Or something other than a two yard pass. Because at that point, in a 4th and 2 situation, the other team’s defense is really, really focused on Wes Welker, the tight end and Kevin Faulk. Like, really, really focused. In 4th and 1 or less, they have to account for Welker and Faulk, the TE, the run play, the play action pass, the QB sneak, the fade to Moss, the deep ball… all of it. It just seemed to me like the Patriots fumbled the end of that game. By fumbled I mean clock management and play calling. The coaches department. The players, for the most part, executed what they were asked to. If you’re going to criticize the head coach, dig a little deeper than the 4th and two.

The thing that cracks me up (oh, I’m not laughing) is the swell of fans and media calling it a bad call. Ok, sure. It didn’t work out. But the Patriots have converted over 70% of their 4th down conversions this season. The move showed balls the size of hippity hops. He believes in his offense and he knows what happens if Manning gets the ball back. The Patriots defense was able to do little more than surprise and trip up the Colts offense. On a long enough time line you run out of surprises for Manning, In fact, when the Colts stopped trying to run the ball and became as Manning later said more “one dimensional” they started moving the ball and scoring nearly at will. Not to go all Ayn Rand on you but I appreciate the boldness. I want the coach of my football team to have the freedom to make bold decisions. I am tired of panels and committee’s deciding our fates. Here’s a guy who has earned the right to make a decision. It’s so rare that we allow one man to do anything anymore. Everyone has to agree and compromise on everything and a singular vision gets blurred and sidetracked. Yet here we have a guy who’s sole desire is to improve his football team and win football games and people line up to tear him down. He made the call, they failed. They lost the game. Life moves on. Jets next week, division game, try to do better every minute.

When Shanahan went for two to win the game last season, he was a genius. When Belichick went for a 1st down vs Atlanta this season, on his own 24 yard line, he was lauded for the decision. When Belichick has his long snapper snap the ball through the uprights vs Denver in 2003, he was brilliant. When coaches make very bold decisions and they succeed, the masses trip over themselves to celebrate their guts, their confidence, their brilliance.

But you can’t have it both ways. You either support a decision or you don’t. You can’t just wait for the results to come in and decide then, with the benefit of hindsight, whether a good decision was made or not. A coach has to make decision’s based on a litany of factors, all within a very finite amount of time. The vast majority of the time NFL coaches go the safe route, the conservative approach. The vast majority of the time, a coach will call the prevent defense instead of blitzing, punt the ball instead of going for the first down. Often these conservative approaches produce head shaking and frustration among the fans. Going for the win is glorious. Coming up an inch short, considerably less glory. But before you know what the outcome is, you have to decide.

At that point in the game, if the Patriots convert the first down, they have won the game.

But they didn’t, and they lost the game. Would he do it again, in the playoffs? Let’s hope we have a chance to see. Because say what you want, that was an awesome football game.

I hope the Pats win next week by a hundred.

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Filed under Ayn Rand, Bill Belichick, Indianapolis Colts, New England Patriots, NFL, Peyton Manning, Sports, Tom Brady, Zombieland

The NFL goes to the UK

It’s been far too long. Six weeks ago I was struck by a car while riding my bicycle in Venice, CA. Shoulder surgery has kept me from being able to extend my arm to type. It’s been quite a stretch to miss, as a writer with my interests. I’ll try to keep it topical and reasonably short.

A few thoughts on the NFL in England.
I like the regular season games overseas. It’s fascinating to watch international fans cheer for American football. This year, one of my favorite aspects of the crowd seemed to dissipate. In the past, every time an official was speaking the crowd would boo and hiss him, even if it was just an explanation of a procedural penalty with little game impact. This time around it wasn’t as obvious. Fans actually seemed to follow the game action too, not just randomly getting loud and quiet. Still not as in tune as an American crowd, but starting to appear, (at least through the TV) like they are into the game situations.

To dig into the PR guts of the whole operation, I have to wonder if the NFL sent in publicity coaches to speak with players and coaches to help avoid any embarrassing gaffes. Watching 4 post game pressers and reading a dozen or so articles on the game gave me the message to the English fans, We love the experience, the fans here have been great, we love England, God save the queen, the NFL and it’s players are proud to play in Wembley Stadium, etc. The more polished the source, the more on message the answers seemed to be. Belichick and Brady nailed it, Welker a little less corporate of an answer, and Brandon Meriweather even less. It’s not that they didn’t stick to the message, it’s more that their responses were less focused. I can’t see why the NFL wouldn’t send in specific PR types to help these guys. When you’re running what is essentially a sovereign nation, you have to take these things into account. A slip of the lip by a player or coach that offends the sensibilities of the common Englishman could be devastating to the NFL’s obvious desire to expand their brand internationally.

The NFL and the media really wanted this to play like all of London was transfixed, even for a day, about this amazing sport of American Football and the National Football League in particular. A quick check of the most read, emailed and discussed topics on theguardian.uk Sunday night revealed that the masses were far from focused on the NFL. The excitement generated from the game in London was largely relegated to the small but legitimate group of NFL fans who live there and the media machine. In a way, if it’s in the paper or on the web, it is a big deal, even if the citizens didn’t think of it on their own. It’s self fulfilling, do something out of the ordinary and people will talk about it. I do believe though, that the fact that stories about Manchester United , Morrissey’s on stage collapse and Leona Lewis (who?) rank among the top ten viewed and the NFL’s annual trip to London does not appear on any of the top ten lists, speaks volumes about the masses interest in the game.

I do think that the NFL would work in London. It may be far from ideal for the players and teams on the schedule, but it would work on a business level, easily. First of all, if the NFL had a team in London, it would gain access to the British and European airwaves. People would be able to / be forced to watch NFL football at home and in pubs. They would be inclined to root for the team, even if just casually at first because of intense national pride and curiosity. The beauty of the NFL is the supreme product on the field. There are aspects of the league that irritate consumers but when it comes down to it, the product delivers. Years like this where the competitive balance of the league is drastically off are the exception not the rule. Even in this season, when there are more horrible teams than I can remember in recent memory, prime time games have been excellent, with few blowouts and several close finishes. The strength of the NFL has historically been it’s conduciveness to television. A heavy television presence in the 80’s spawned a lost generation of British fans. A local rooting interest would only serve to fuel the fire. Sports shows, web sites, blogs, newspapers would have no choice but to cover the rest of the league, at least to provide fans of the local club the basic info required to root for a team. The built in fanbase and novelty alone would keep Wembley packed to the rafters. The NFL may never approach soccer’s appeal, but it doesn’t have to. We’re not talking about the WNBA here. We’re talking about a supreme athletic event that directly appeals to a sports fan’s general desire for strategy, strength and athleticism. People will watch. The entire United Kingdom would have one team to root for.

Logistically, kind of a nightmare. The way the NFL builds their schedule, a team plays a home and away with each divisional opponent, (6 games) the league and TV interests cherry pick some interesting matchups and each division rotates games against a division in the other conference. This means that every 4 years, London would have to play teams like Seattle, Arizona, Oakland, San Diego, Denver… Now we’re talking about a 6,000 mile flight, twice in a week. It’s not exactly Australia but at that level jet lag still becomes a serious factor. Then you have the competitive hangover on the next week’s game. This season, the Patriots and the Bucs get a bye week immediately following the international flight. A 16 game schedule with a one bye week per team would be incredibly difficult to assemble in a way that didn’t make teams resent each away game with the London team. An 18 game schedule with two bye weeks would simplify things but a sea change and schedule expansion is already something the NFLPA has opposed.

The NFL needs to expand internationally in part because it’s a greedy corporation. (redundant, I know) It also needs to expand because it may be peaking or even reaching a plateau for the first time in it’s history. American companies in general are no longer enamored or satisfied with the 300 plus million citizens of the United States. Small fries when you start glancing at our planets population of over 6 billion people. More zero’s equal more zero’s in the profits column and America just ain’t as big as it used to be. Globalization is upon us, and it’s not just manufacturing.

I wonder if the magic pull of the NFL may be decreasing a tick in our near future anyway. An expansion of the league will upset it’s perfect 32 team symmetry and incredibly balanced scheduling. An expansion of the schedule could lead to more injuries and missed games by the leagues best players. It could continue to erode that feeling that every game really really matters. In a way, they need to expand for the hearts and mind as much as for the wallet. Anything can become over saturated, America and the NFL are no exception.

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Filed under England, NFL, Sports, Tom Brady, United Kingdom

Half Favre, Half VickSoxPublicHealthCareOption

Ugg…

Sorry it’s been so long. Work, vacation, slow news month and family visits have kept me from putting some words together in weeks.

This Brett Favre thing. I’ve written about it before. I’ll try to keep it short this time. I do have a couple new thoughts on the matter.

I don’t think Brett ever stopped coming back. I know he called off his return several weeks ago due to tendon damage in his shoulder. I know that (with the exception of the NFL network), Favrewatch was declared dead. In my opinion, Favre just didn’t want to hole up in dorm room for a few weeks and take part in training camp. I think that Childress, the Vikings and Favre knew that he was going to come flying in on his shiny Lear Jet and just didn’t want him to absorb (another) PR hit because he didn’t want to attend camp. Saying that this all transpired on a Tuesday afternoon phone call from Childress, well, that’s just a flat out lie.

I do find it amusing that in the pool footage of Brett walking onto the Vikings practice field for the first time he is shown struggling with his helmet. It appears that his helmet is too small for his head. (or maybe it’s the other way around).

The more I hear people hate on Brett, the more I start to root for him again. It’s slowly becoming a rule of thumb for me, if vocal America is angry at you, my instinct is to go the other way. Yea his behavior is ridiculous. Yea, I’ve been a vocal critic. But who are we to tell a man when he has to stop playing football? Maybe if he had handled the other stuff better, the retirements, the press conferences, the media zoo, this wouldn’t be such an issue, but really, the guy is a quarterback, not a publicist. His job is to throw an awkwardly shaped ball, not shape his image for America. My point is, he’s not exactly a savvy guy. It’s harder to hate a guy for incompetence. I’d be shocked if this whole dog and pony show was anything other than mismanagement by unqualified people.

Speaking of unqualified people, Brad Childress is such a dope. He looks like he should be teaching geology at the local community college

Mike Vick is the big winner here. The national media flew out of Philly before you could say rape stick. Our nations collective attention deficit disorder continues to be on full display

As far as Mike Vick goes, the man went to federal prison and served 23 months. Why shouldn’t he get an opportunity to work again? No brainer in my opinion. If you went to prison for two years you’d lose your job, but that doesn’t mean you wouldn’t be able to work in your field again. We should be celebrating the fact that a celebrity charged with a crime actually served time in prison, not demanding more punishment. Don’t get greedy folks, baby steps. You all know that Dante Stallworth killed a man right? A human being, a father? Go check out his prison sentence and talk to me about Mike Vick. We love dogs more than people. I get it. I love dogs. Honestly though, Dogs>people? Michael Jackson is revered worldwide even though he may or may not have been a diddler but Mike Vick is a monster? I’ll gladly argue this point with anyone up for it.

I think Visanthe Shiancoe has become almost draftable by this new development. AP’s draft buzz is a universal #1, but this helps his status immeasurably. Teams won’t be able to load up on the run quite so often, leading to more space (and more yards) for AP. Easy money with that #1 overall pick.

Speaking of fantasy football, I love/hate this years draft. It seems like each position has three elite guys and a bunch of maybes and question marks. The rookie running back class is weak and the veterans are hanging on by a thread.

I believe David Ortiz.

If you’re in Boston these days, beware of falling sky. It’s been awhile since the Sox were as manic depressive as this and it shows in their fans increasingly bitter and desperate behavior. WEEI, not normally known for it’s rational commentary has touched on pre 2004 levels of illogical callers. Every time Red Sox Nation gets out their Patriots jerseys the Sox win a must win and pull them back in. I’m glad the Red Sox picked up Alex Gonzalez, he can field, he can’t hit, but he can lay down a bunt. I think we can all agree that bunting and middle of the diamond defense are essential components of a playoff team. As far as my beloved team goes, they don’t suck, but they have a real hard time beating good baseball teams and that worries me immensly. Clay Buchholz continues his run of top of the rotation opponents with Roy Halladay tonight on ESPN. I hope they can go 3 hours without bringing up ole #4, but I doubt it. I’d imagine that even in Toronto, in an MLB game, Brett Favre’s name will be said at least twice.

My game ball this week goes to Congressman Barney Frank. In the face of hundreds of extremist drones/operatives/nutjobs most members of our legislative branch of government have elected to forgo reality and try to engage these people in a civil manner. (As if they would do the same) Well, here’s some of Mr. Franks better quotes from a recent town hall meeting in lovely Dartmouth, Massachusetts.

“… he (Frank) gave up when one woman compared health care proposals favored by Frank and President Obama to policies of Nazi Germany.

“When you ask me that question, I’m going to revert to my ethnic heritage and ask you a question: On what planet do you spend most of your time?” Frank asked. “You stand there with a picture of the president defaced to look like Hitler and compare the effort to increase health care to the Nazis,” he said, adding such behavior demonstrated the strength of First Amendment guarantees of what he called “contemptible” free speech.
“Trying to have a conversation with you would be like trying to argue with a dining room table,” Frank said to the woman. “I have no interest in doing it.”

Thanks to Barney Barn Barn. I needed that. If you violently oppose a public health care option, I suggest you get laid off and contract cancer. Or better still, get cancer and be out of work for so long that you are fired and lose your health insurance. Or better still, pay hundreds or thousands of dollars a month from that point on because you are high risk due to your previous condition. This isn’t about Obama. This is about doctors who normally go to third world countries doing their volunteer work right here in America. Rural America, the new 3rd world, this time with Walmart and McDonalds. Get Diabetes. See if we care.

Until next time….

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Filed under Boston Red Sox, Brett Favre, Clay Buchholz, Michael Jackson, Michael Vick, Minnesota Vikings, MLB, NFL, President Obama, Red Sox, Sports, Stallworth, Toronto Blue Jays

I have a genetic condition

Last week, Nomar Garciaparra returned to Fenway Park for the first time since being traded away from Boston in 2003. He received a rousing and emotional standing ovation from the fans and held court with the media before the game. His demeanor with the media was jovial, open and nostalgic.

As a Boston fan it was nice to see. It’s not why I write of it though.

I write about this homecoming because of an interesting revelation Nomar made during said pre game press conference. Apparently, Nomar has a genetic condition which causes excess scar tissue to develop at the injury site and limits rehabilitation and increase the likelihood of additional injury.

!

Many have thought, mostly due to this SI Cover, that Nomar’s injuries were because of steroid use. The theory is that his muscles got too big for his tendons and started to give out on him. This news might certainly help dampen that speculation, at the very least in the Boston sports talk radio scene.

A question though, that no one seems to be asking… What if this genetic condition had been discovered before Nomar was drafted? Or before he got his first big league contract? How many other players have a similar genetic condition but have not had their careers threatened or altered drastically by injury? As a team, wouldn’t you be less likely to put good money and development into a guy who has an injury that “limits the effects of rehab” and “increases the likelihood of additional injury”.

Should these tests be made available to clubs? If I were an agent or a players union rep I would stand up and scream absolutely not. If I owned a team, or was the general manager of a team, I would argue that the clubs sink millions and millions of dollars into these players, and we deserve to know what our likely returns will be. In a league with guaranteed contracts, players with preexisting conditions could handicap a team for years and teams should have the opportunity to negotiate salary with all medical issues on the table.

Yet Nomar had 6 1/2 good/great seasons with the Red Sox. He helped the team and fan base tremendously and was arguably one of the best shortstops the team has ever had. A genetic test may have kept that from happening and I don’t know if that’s a good thing or not. Yes, Nomar’s career was altered dramatically by injury, but he’s played 13 years of Major League Baseball, 8 of them with more than 120 games. The list of players who do not have announced genetic conditions that washed out of baseball due to injuries could fill a book. Should a man’s genetics preclude him from the opportunity to succeed in the big leagues?

While I’m on the Red Sox, I came across an interesting tidbit regarding Clay Buchholz and the Roy Halladay rumor mill. Apparently, two scouts from the Blue Jays were in the stands when Clay pitched on Sunday July 12th. Incidentally, Clay Buchholz has been called up to pitch in the Red Sox first game after the all star break, to let the pitching staff settle into order. His opponent? The Toronto Blue Jays. Toronto GM JP Ricciardi has vowed to scout players on other clubs in preparation of a potential deal, so this could just be due diligence. Something to keep an eye on though. Maybe a Buchholz, Penny and prospect X deal for Halladay? I’m sure this deal would be incredibly unpopular up north but at some point these middle of the road teams have to accept they aren’t going to do it as is and cut bait. Ricciardi is a graduate from Moneyball academy and has yet to blow up the middling Blue Jays. This could be his first move in a complete youth movement dismantling of that club. Stay tuned.

I was watching President Obama’s farewell ceremony from Ghana this weekend and almost choked on my tongue when President Obama mentioned that Ghana’s president, John Evans Atta, was a member of the Ghanian National Hockey Team. A little research has disclosed that he meant field hockey (a very popular sport for men worldwide).
Just thought I’d share that little moment of hilarity. Ghana’s national Ice Hockey team? I should have known. (Cool Runnings 2 anyone?)

It’s my opinion that Ron Artest to the Lakers was without question an excellent move. I don’t think that anyone will be calling the Lakers soft anytime soon. What’s the over/under on times Artest makes Bynum or Gasol cry by the end of training camp? It will be interesting to see Ron be Kobe’s personal attack dog this season. It’s like Rodman mixed with Pippen’s skills. As a side note, Ron Artest is a prolific Twitterer. About half of his tweets are completely absurd, the other half are totally priceless. He will certainly add to the entertainment factor of the Lake show. Ariza is a strong up and coming player, but his value was inflated by an excellent post season and by playing alongside Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol. He has a career in the NBA ahead of him but Ron Artest is a proven kind of crazy. Kudos to Ariza’s agent for completely blowing any chance he had of staying with the Lakers. It’s always nice to see an agent get bitten for overestimating his players value. Between Sheed to the Celts, Shaq to the Cavs and Ron Ron in LA I’m already fired up for a new NBA season to start.

Exactly what does the mainstream media expect Brock Lesnar to say after he battles a man with his bare hands? The guy goes from being a killer ball of raging testosterone with his life in his hands to having a microphone and a thousand cameras shoved into his face. This whole WWE chatter is fricking ridiculous. MMA fans getting righteous about the purity of their sport borders on obscene. Should he quote Shakespeare next time? Perhaps a little taste of Hemingway? Give me a break people. He fights 260 pound men for a living. What exactly are you looking for. You got your blood. Don’t cry about a couple of fingers and some naughty words.

The new Domino’s pizza ad campaign makes me want to hang myself from a freeway overpass. “Yo this is Jimmy from Philly and my philly cheese steak pizza is da bomb!” “Yo this is dudebroguy from Cali and my veggie pizza is totally tubular bro” *Choking noises, air escapes from my body* Not only do they have some of the worst pizza in the civilized world, they also continue to make horrendous ads. They were the first to jump on the “bailout” buzz term, now they shamelessly pump false regional stereotypes to pander pathetic pizzas. Ick. And when did mushrooms, spinach and olives come to represent California cuisine anyway? What’s a matter Dominoes, avocados and sprouts too expensive? Tie me a rope and loop it around a sturdy pole, I’d rather order pizza from a public pool’s snack bar than eat your crap.

Game ball this week goes to Andy Roddick. In case you missed last week’s epic Wimbledon final, take notice. Andy Roddick is now in the conversation again. I’ve been watching Andy his whole career and I’ve never seen him play a better match than the one he lost last week. He was aggressive, his focus was almost eerie, his ball striking was fierce and accurate. He has got his fitness level and game to a point where he can challenge the Federer Nadal stranglehold on the sport. Federer? Well, he’s just out of this world. Aside from his running forehand, no one part of his game will blow you away. It’s the sum of his parts and consistency that puts him head and shoulders above everyone else. He refuses to lose and will not blink when the match is on the line. The guy is incredible and his success is becoming obnoxious. I anxiously await this years US open. I can’t wait to see Roddick on the home court and hope he continues to play like he did in England. Great job Andy, thanks for the match.

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The Man of the hour

No sports this week. Just some thoughts on Michael Jackson’s death and humanity’s response to it.

First of all, the Ayatollah had Michael Jackson killed to distract us from Iran.

I’ve come across an article that really blew my mind. So much of this story has made me cringe, but here’s a few things that really detail some of my gripes about humans and news organizations.

Man on the street, Michael Harris said “It’s like when Kennedy was assassinated,” he told the Associated Press. “I will always remember being in Times Square when Michael Jackson died.”

I’m not sure if this is a symptom or the illness, but why are we always looking for a JFK moment? These things declare themselves, but I swear to god every time something big happens, it is referred to as “It’s like when Kennedy was assassinated”

No, Michael Harris, it’s like when Michael Jackson died. Simple. Clear. A famous man died and everyone knew who he was.

Another moron with a microphone stuffed in their face:
“I grew up with his music. I used to wear Michael Jackson T-shirts every day to school,” (an unidentified fan) told CBS. “At my work I was the Michael Jackson freak! I loved him so much. I don’t know what to say. I’m just really sad. I think I’m going to start crying.”

I’ll just say this, I am so happy I don’t work with this person. To be known as “The Michael Jackson freak”, in 2009, and to be proud of it really says a lot about you.
Its almost like this person was happy he died, I’m sure the next day or two were filled with words of condolence, because the “Michael Jackson Freak” must have felt it so much more than anyone else…

Isn’t the term “Michael Jackson Freak” redundant anyway?

Anyways, as the days have gone on since the “King of Pop’s” passing, my irritation with society has grown. A few things to get off my chest…

Michael Jackson was not a great man. He was no Mother Theresa, no great philanthropist. He’s not like the guy who shovels his sidewalk in the winter or the guy tailgating you on your way to work. He’s not a person any of us can comprehend. I’ll leave his physical appearance alone, I’ll leave the low hanging fruit for others. I’m talking about the life of Jacko, his behavior and his actions for the last 20 years. This person hasn’t lived in the same world as you and I do for decades. If Jacko hadn’t been so Wacko, he would be thought of on the same lines as Prince, or David Bowie, eccentric musical superstars with incredible talent and extremely devoted fans. To me, Madonna is the best analogy for him, a former superstar becoming increasingly irrelevant in todays society. Still putting out albums and making headlines, occasionally going on tour and selling out arenas and stadiums world wide, but known as a star who’s brightest days are behind her. Instead, he became this Boo Radley figure, a larger than life recluse, a physical freak, a man everyone had a comment about, an opinion of, a joke to share. He became PeeWee Herman meets Howard Hughes, a bizzarro representative of the human race.

Yet people fall all over themselves to talk about how much they mourn his passing. They flood the streets of New York and Los Angeles. Stars book interviews and jump on planes to appear at the BET awards, all to show everyone how much they care, how relevant they are, how appreciative of his music and how much forgiveness for his lifestyle they had.

Let’s forget about the alleged molestation charges and plastic surgery. (again, too easy…)Let’s just take a little snapshot of the type of world Jacko lived in.

His three kids are named Paris Michael, Prince Michael and Prince Michael II (or as he was known, Blanket). Yes, Blanket.

If he was your neighbor or friend and he named his children these names you would mock him and question his sanity.

Two of these children are alleged to be from in vitro fertilization involving Jacko’s dermatologist (what a job, Michael Jackson’s skin doctor… ) and a woman who is yet unidentified, but rumored to not be the children’s “mother” Debbie Rowe.

The third child, Prince Michael II, (or Blanket), is alleged to be the result of a surrogate German mother who was fertilized with donated eggs and sperm.

If the person who so proudly refers to themselves as the “Michael Jackson Freak” worked next to someone who told that story about themselves, who would have been labeled “the freak” then? (and discussed ad nauseam behind their backs.) No one says, “I’m the Larry in accounting Freak!” Instead they say, “Have you met Larry, that guy in accounting?” “What a freeeeeeeeaak”

This is a guy who, while staying as a guest of the Prince of Bahrain sends his nanny to go buy a couple million dollars worth of crappy antiques in Florence, Italy, even though at the time he was hundreds of millions of dollars in debt and had no home of his own. (The antiques were put in storage.) The nanny was for his children technically, but according to various interviews and accounts she took care of him as well.

He had no concept of money or value, no understanding of what being an adult human being on the planet earth involved. He didn’t pay his children’s nanny or housekeepers, couldn’t care for himself or his own children, (or someone’s children anyway), couldn’t converse like a normal person. The guy was a child. He never grew up. He never figured out how things are done. If you dumped Michael Jackson on the street somewhere with twenty bucks and a prepaid cell phone he might not be able to find his way home. Ever.

Yet he was adored. Because he could dance and because he and his songwriters and producers made some great music that people identified with. Because people love kids, and puppies, and adults who make music that touched their hearts when they were young and free and innocent.

And they looooove to cybermourn. Which is not a word. Yet. When it makes into the dictionary I want credit.

By the hundreds of thousands, twitterers dropped Iran and Neda like a bad habit. Facebook and Myspace and Cornhole and message boards in every language filled up with “rEsT IN PeaCE KiNg of Pop” Every major news organization in the Milky Way abandoned the Iranian resistance instantly. (that story was getting old anyway, you can only talk breathlessly about the bravery of these people for so long before the public tunes you out.)

So Neda and her symbol of hope and freedom was replaced in avatars everywhere. People silently changed their “location” from Tehran to Neverland. Everyone had a chance to talk about how deeply Michael Jackson’s music touched them, meaning, they had a chance to talk about themselves, which is really what they wanted to discuss anyway when you get right down to it.

Oh, and North Korea threatening to shoot a NUCLEAR MISSILE at the United States? That didn’t stand a chance. I mean, they were only threatening Hawaii anyway.

At least I got to hear “Beat It” 647,000 times in the last week.

He sure beat it alright. And this mock mourning period our nation (and world) suffers under? It will be washed away in an instant by something else. The Yemeni plane crash didn’t do it, it was too soon and because after all, they’re Yemeni.

But Jacko’s days are numbered. My money is on the fourth of July. America will get wasted and fatter and high on firework fumes and the stench of two stroke gasoline engines and on July 5th we will turn the page. His memorial service at the Staples Center will be covered, of course, but by then our nations collective focus will have shifted. It will be back to trying to describe what the girl on “Wipeout” did before she fell on her face and landed in the muddy water. Uhhhhhhhmerica, land of the free and home of “Help, I’m a celebrity, get me out of here!”

This week’s game ball goes to Joseph Jackson.

With the world’s news media watching the first major presser from the Jackson family compound, Joe Jackson, universally credited for helping twist Michael Jackson into the freak show he was until the day he died, led off his statement by promoting his new record label. Joe was alongside Rev Al “The Ambulance Chaser” Sharpton, who wanted to help get his face on camera. I mean, who wanted to help protect Michael Jackson’s “legacy”. (where ya been Al? Like, when the guy was alive and tarnishing his legacy for the past 20 years?) Soon afterwards, it was leaked that Joe was left out of the will. No publicity is bad publicity, right Joe? Hey everyone, next time it’s Joe Jackson’s birthday (July 26th), celebrate by beating and mentally abusing your kid. It’s for their own good.

Next week, “normalcy” returns. Happy Birthday America! (Yeeeeee-Haa!)

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Filed under Al Sharpton, Ayatollah, Boo Radley, David Bowie, Debby Rowe, facebook, Happy Birthday Uhhhhmerica, Howard Hughes, Iran, JFK, Joseph Jackson, Madonna, Michael Jackson, Michael Jackson's dermatologist, Michael Jackson's kids, Michael Jackson's kids mother, Michael Jackson's Nanny, myspace, Neda, North Korea, Prince, twitter, Yemeni plane crash

Don’t Cry for me Argentina!

Well this sure snuck up on me. A Minnesota Television Station has reported that Brett Favre is expected at training camp for the Minnesota Vikings. Wow. What a shock! It goes to show you, no matter how long you follow sports something can always come up and completely blind side you. I mean, who saw this coming?

I’ll say one thing for Brett Favre, he sure loves playing football.

Can you think of an athlete who has tarnished his “legacy” as badly as Brett has? Or inspired such anger and hate by just returning to the game he loves? The list of athletes who overstayed their talent is long and star studded. No one talks about Michael Jordan’s time with the Wiz, Jerry Rice with the Raiders, (or the Broncos for that matter). Joe Montana with the Chiefs? Ray Bourque with the Avs? Willie Mays with the Mets? Tom Seaver and Andre Dawson with the Red Sox? I could go on and on…

Brett seems to be different. It’s really the perfect storm of American hatred, one that should be studied in sociology and public relations classes in universities world wide. “The Favre”, “Pulling a Favre”, Favreing” will become part of our language, like doctors do when they are the first to discover a disease .

Step one, become every analysts go to guy for the American dream.

Every time Brett Favre was on television, live or taped for the last ten years he was heralded as a god. Focus groups must have dubbed him as popular with that elusive 19-49 year old white male demographic. Everyone with a microphone had something amazing to say about Brett Favre. His “toughness”, his “love for the game” his “down home” “Uhhhmerican country boy” “laser rocket arm” “John Deere lawn mower” “Mississippi boy” “takes chances” “sandlot style”…

Soon it was all white noise. Madden’s love for Brett Favre became a comedy bit. Literally. He became this poster boy for how football should be played. A poster boy for what the game is all about .

Phase 2 “Flip Flopping and team/fan base jerking”
Retirement. In tears , sobbing, gushing, wet slurpy nose kind of tears. Which, is very unUhhhhmerican but most of us were ok with it because he, cue the music, “loved the game” so much. (BAM)

Then he came back! Which most of us rejoiced, because the guy could obviously still throw and “loved the game so much”

Then he retired again. Then he came back again. Then again. And again. America’s tolerance for crying men who flip flop on issues and set interception records is thin. Very thin. Even Brett felt the sting .

None of this would have truly tarnished his “legacy” if Phase 2 hadn’t turned to Phase 3.

Going to another team.

At this point, fans in Green Bay had pretty much had it. His safe zone was in shambles. With Aaron Rodgers in the wings and Brett jerking them around for months on end, Packer fans were secretly and not so secretly ready to move on.

Move on he did, to a team in another division, one with zero ties to the Green Bay franchise. His exploits there were a non factor, a sideshow even. By all accounts, he was not a member of that team, an individual only. He pulled a Favre again, this time referring to completely choking and forcing the ball when things mattered most.

Ahhh, but that wasn’t enough.

Phase 5

Thankfully, Brett’s “retirement” after the Jets was done quietly. A simple press release. No tears, no cameras, no awkward moments for millions of viewers. He was done. Well, probably done. Well, maybe I think might be should be could be done. Probably.

Fade to present. The Favre to Vikings drumbeat restarted almost as soon as he became a free agent again. Brett Childress pulled his best Ollie North routine with the press, denying all knowledge of anything. No one believed him. Most just shake their heads.

He’s going to the Packers biggest divisional rival. A mortal sin. Legacy destroyed.

Most people now hate Brett Favre. An epic fall from grace. A pure mix of flip flopping, oversaturation, the “Golden Boy Syndrome”, crying on camera, blowing it on the field, overstaying his welcome, and now, going to his former teams biggest rival.

He’s blown it completely. Destroyed all credibility. Broken an unbreakable fan base. Created a nation full of anti fans. Become a train wreck, an oddity, a carny act, a punchline, a catch phrase.

All for the love of the game. Good luck Brett Favre. You’ll need it.

Pop quiz, what are you doing on weeks 5 and 9? I mean besides watching the Packers play the Vikings of course.

Well, Shaq to the Cavs is a great move. Here’s why.

I don’t think they’re that much better of a team with him. In my opinion, Shaq slows them down and will hurt them down the stretch in games. His insatiable desire for the ball and attention will distract that team from the prize over the long haul. It will help that the Cavs have a center that plays near the basket. (Ilgauskas spent 3/4’s of his time on the floor 15-20 feet away from the hoop). Maybe Shaq can get some rebounds and start some fast breaks and help the team get out of that half court dynamic. Maybe Shaq can show up to camp in shape. Maybe he’ll accept the fact that he is not the guy who should get the ball every time down the court anymore.

A lot of maybes, and none of them include free throw shooting, 4th quarter absence, dogging it up the court or talking too much.

Let’s be honest though, the Cavs will make the playoffs as one of the top 3 seeds in the east next year, lead pipe lock. They will be a factor in the playoffs and may very well push themselves over the top. Especially if the management doesn’t sit on their hands the rest of the off season. They need a three point shooting forward with long arms and good D. Maybe two of those guys. The definitely need someone who can come off the bench and provide a spark.

Without those things, they may still win the championship. But it will take a herculean effort from Mr. James and a lot of luck.

Here’s why it’s a great move. Shaq is a max contract guy. He’s gone after this year. Guess who else is a free agent after this season? Oh, you haven’t heard? Pretty much every impact player in the league . This Shaq move allows the Cavs to say, “Hey, Lebron, look, we signed a max contract guy in 09. Now we can use that money to go after another max contract guy, a guy like Chris Bosh! If you resign with us, we’ll give you Chris Bosh for the next 5 years. And obviously, we are committed to building a team around you that can win every year, not like those pie in the sky Knicks or two year window Celtics. We’re the real deal baby, stay home!”

Which seems pretty convincing to me. Every move the Cavs make to improve their team increases the odds that Bron stays in Cleveland. Locking up a max contract big man for the 09 season is a great move on the salary cap and PR front.

A ripple went through the sports world when Manny “broke his silence” during his AAA tune up with the Albuquerque Isotopes . I’d like to remind all involved that he did in fact say, “I’m not talking about it anymore” (steroids use) and “People love me everywhere I go” So the whole “broke his silence” headline thing is garbage.

Ricky Rubio just went from teen heart throb and national hero in beautiful sunny Spain to being over scrutinized and freezing cold in Minnesota. I’m curious what he thinks of Minnesota women in January next year.

After one impressive season in the NFL, Chris Johnson has decided he is going to begin the time honored tradition of alienating fans and making himself look stupid by nicknaming himself. He was apparently dissatisfied with his current moniker, the “Dash” of “Smash and Dash” (LenDale White)
His new name? “Every Coach’s Dream” Which not only rolls off the tongue, it is definitely the kind of name every coach’s dream would name himself. Nice job buddy. Next time, just keep your tweets to yourself.

As far as I’m concerned if you go gather in the streets to mourn Michael Jackson you’re an idiot. My girlfriend says, “where are his his kids?” Great question honey. Now what happens? Does the staff of nannies take over from here? Does Janet get them? Tito? Latoya? Is there a mother? Exactly how much money do you think the King of Pop blew over the course of his career? Get your guesses ready, because it’s all about to come out. Drugs, money, rumors, all of it. When do Jacko jokes become appropriate again? I was telling them 10 minutes after the news came out… How about CNN and every major network following the LA county helicopter from Westwood (nice area) to USC (the ghetto) all hoping for a glimpse. “I THINK I SEE A BODY BAG!” It’s sad, really. I’ve never understood this obsession with stars in our culture and I never will.

The game ball this week goes to South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford. The Mark Sanford who once said about then President Bill Clinton, “I think it would be much better for the country and for him personally (to resign).” In explaining why he voted to impeach the president, he said, “I think what he did in this matter was reprehensible… I feel very comfortable with my vote.” He added that Clinton lacked “moral legitimacy” (after his affair).

In case you missed it, Mark Sanford was recently caught red handed flying to Argentina to visit his mistress. He had told his staff he went hiking in the mountains and dropped off the radar. Apparently, Mr. Sanford told his wife and 4 children about the affair a month ago and had been kicked out of his house for the past two weeks.

Regardless of what side of the aisle you call your own, that smacks of moral legitimacy, don’t it?

Oh yea, one more thing, state money was used to fund an “economic development mission” to Argentina in 2008. He’s also one of the biggest bible thumping “family values” politician in the country.

Moral legitimacy and family values, to the core. Well played sir. Well played.

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Filed under Brett Favre, Chris Johnson, Cleveland Cavaliers, Lebron James, Manny Ramirez, Mark Sanford, Michael Jackson, Minnesota Vikings, MLB, NBA, NFL, Ricky Rubio, Shaq, Sports, Steroids