Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Erin Andrews is wearing WHAT, now? It's hard to imagine getting turned on by THAT.

While I sit slaving away, working nearly an hour a day at my job, one of my law clerks is living it up in California, where he attends USC or some such and as an attendee and bogus enrollee in some kind of weird "Sports Law" group, he got to work behind the scenes at an ESPN college game day, and sent me some pictures that I'll use to lead into a story about The Masturbating (Or NOT!) ESPN Executive.

Here he is with Desmond Howard, who (this'll cement my sports credentials) I didn't immediately recognize either by name or looks. I had to ask Law Clerk "Who's Desmond Howard?"

Hey, that Super Bowl was a long time ago. Also, how am I supposed to recognize a football player without his jersey on?

And here is Erin Andrews, who everyone says is hot but who I think is at best "sports hot" and not real hot. For some reason, Erin Andrews is wearing a penguin blanket despite (a) being in southern California, and (b) penguins not being associated with USC, ESPN, southern California or any other thing that might cause Erin Andrews to wear a penguin blanket.

She probably did it to get attention.

Erin Andrews is not just the kind of person who wears a penguin snuggie at a pregame show. She's also the kind of person who may or may not have been masturbated in front of, according to Deadspin.com, which reported recently on a lawsuit filed to quell another lawsuit, and Erin Andrews' sexiness (?!?) is mixed in, of course.

Deadspin's story told how Keith Clinkscales, a former ESPN VP, had sued another former ESPN employee because, Clinkscales said, the other ESPN employee was about to slander him. Deadspin opted to lead into the lawsuits story by highlighting the claim that particularly incensed Keith Clinkscales: The report that he'd used his iPad to (partially)(allegedly) cover up his masturbating while sitting next to Erin Andrews on a plane:

Earlier this year, Clinkscales traveled to Los Angeles with Erin Andrews for a work-related event. Andrews sat in the middle, while Clinkscales was on the aisle. It was in either first or business class. What happened next was related by Andrews herself to both Connie, her husband, and ESPN anchor Sage Steele. At some point during the trip, Andrews saw Clinkscales masturbating in his seat, beneath his iPad.

Raise your hand if you just thought: "There's an app for THAT?!?!?!"

The story goes on:

When he realized he had been caught, Andrews told Connie, Clinkscales panicked and muttered, "You know, I'm one of your bosses." .... Andrews did not respond to email requests or text messages ...for comment. A call to one of her attorneys, Scott Carr, was not returned. Another source not connected to Connie recently asked Andrews if Clinkscales had jerked off in front of her. Andrews acknowledged that it had happened, according to the source.

If you are keeping score, Erin Andrews' now-legendary sexiness (?!) has sent one man to prison and derailed the career (allegedly) of another man. But rest assured that Erin Andrews will in no way use her legendary sexiness to promote her own career while reassuring people that she's in no way using her sexiness to promote her own career, just as Erin Andrews would never consider putting herself on a meat market show like The Bachelorette and then get mad because she spread the word that she wanted to go on The Bachelorette, would never try to capitalize on her stalker situation by talking about how she's not trying to capitalize on her stalker situation, and certainly did not rise all the way to the middle of sportscasting because of freak accidents and her legendary sexiness.

That's why Erin Andrews has earned the respect of the people she works with.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Here is your 2011 Christmas Icon, to put you in the holiday spirit.

As we prepare for this holiday season, let's keep in mind what's truly important about this time of year:

Two-buck waffle makers, all you can grab.

Don't worry about keeping your pants up, either. It's what Jesus would want.

My Nonsportsmanlike Conduct! Nongift! Nonguide! is on its way. Until then, tide yourself over and distract yourself from the sadness brought on by realizing that that woman has now cornered the market on waffle makers on eBay for years by reading the past couple years' guides:

The 2009 Nongift! Nonguide!

The 2010 Nongift! Nonguide!

Monday, November 14, 2011

If I had to rebuild society, and could only have as a helper a sportswriter or a Kardashian, I'd choose... (SNAP! Judgment)

When we last left SNAP! Judgment, our hero was dangling from a tree branch just below the edge of a cliff that somehow stood on the edge of a sea filled with sharp rocks and rock-climbing sharks, and also there was somehow a railroad track that our hero was tied to...

Just thought I'd inject a little bit of excitement into this post. Who doesn't like to simply create a storyline or two for readers to latch onto and talk about for a while? Not me. I don't not... wait. I'm all mixed around.

Time again for my weekly (or so) round-up of NFL games and what I thought of them, in alphabetical order, which is the best possible order, and also time again to decide what team shall be dead to me this week!

Prior to this, I've decided that the Atlanta Falcons and Tennessee Titans aren't worth talking about on a weekly basis; nothing they do is exciting or interesting enough to warrant spending time in this recap on, and so those teams are dead to me.

This week's newly-deceased team is Tampa Bay. The Buccaneers, as I noted last week, are perenially mentioned as a team that might do something. They might make a run. They might win this game. They might do that or the other thing.

You know what? Everyone might do something. We all know that guy who sits around talking about how he's going to go back to school or go start jogging or write that novel or run for President or whatever it is.

That guy's not going to do it.

People who are going to do something do that thing. They don't make resolutions, they don't rebuild, they don't plan to make plans.

If the Buccaneers were ever going to be interesting, they'd be interesting. They're not. So long to them for this year.

On to the recaps!

Arizona Cardinals: The single funniest thing I read about sports all week long came from Deadspin, which wrote:

Arizona at Philadelphia (FOX): At one point in time, this was going to be a much more exciting game. Now it's just two teams with a combined 5 wins hoping to sucker their fans into thinking they've got a run in them. The story line of the day: Kevin Kolb returns to where he built his reputation: the Philadelphia sideline.

Note that I did not write that. Deadspin wrote that. I did not. That's what the indentation means. I don't want to end up like "renowned" (?) blogger Jim Romanesko, who recently was forced into retirement for not properly attributing language he aggregated from other sources.

(Aggregating being okay if you attribute it, I suppose. That is: I'm allowed to post what you post if I post that I'm posting what you post. Viva La Internet!)

Romanesko was so beloved at his job that he had to quit twice:

According to her post, Romenesko offered to resign and she refused to accept his resignation at the time.

At 8:15 p.m. on Thursday night, Moos published a second post, announcing Romenesko's departure

(Source.) Of course, I don't have to worry about getting fired. I run this blog myself. But with world-renowned journalists occasionally checking in, I'm trying to be on my best behavior.

Then again, aren't we all just plagiarists? Consider this: The world recently gave all kinds of props to a guy who claimed he'd proven that an Infinite Number Of Monkeys would type Shakespeare when given the chance, even though he'd not proven that at all but instead had proven simply that people don't understand what random is and can be suckered in by "science" all too easily.

If that guy proved that aggregating random syllables and matching them to texts constitutes "writing Shakespeare's plays" then everyone is just plagiarizing everybody else and nobody's got a copyright on anything.

Consider, for example, Herman Cain's statement regarding the first sexual harassment victim to come forward and identify herself. Cain declared:

I saw [Gloria] Allred and her client [Bialek] yesterday in that news conference for the very first time.... My first response … was, ‘I don't even know who this woman is.... I didn't recognize the face. I didn't recognize the name, nor the voice.
I have already used many of those words in this post. Did I copy from Herman Cain? Probably. Why wouldn't I?

The point I'm trying to make is: The Arizona Cardinals overpaid for Kevin Kolb.

Baltimore Ravens: The Ravens almost were my team to kill off this week, but then they went and lost to the Owned-By-A-Horrible-Person-Seahawks, which allows me to say this: We will never see Joe Flacco hoisting a Super Bowl trophy unless he steals it from a quarterback who won it for another team.

The Ravens won their last/only Super Bowl via a combination of getting to play a bad team and having a defense that I think actually strangled a guy. They would not have been in that position in the first place had Minnesota actually played in that 41-0 loss to the New York Giants that inexplicably put Kerry Collins into a Super Bowl in a game that was marked, actually, by being the single most average matchup ever -- as the Giants were just below average in points scored in the regular season that year and the Ravens were just above average in that same category.

Which is all to say: The Ravens are not a good team. And Joe Flacco is not a good quarterback. Flacco is 26th in quarterback rating, so he's less efficient than Kyle Orton (who's 25th); Flacco is less efficient than a guy who got benched in favor of Tebow. Flacco's 20 sacks put him just behind such luminaries as Blaine Gabbert (which is not a real name). He's 12th in yards thrown, total, but 26th in average yards, worse than John Beck. He's thrown 7 interceptions to 10 touchdowns.

Oh, and he completes only about 54% of his passes. So even though I'd suspect, based on those numbers, that every single pass he throws is a screen pass to his running back, Flacco's only completing half of those, and he's just about as likely to toss an interception as he is a touchdown.

So why does Flacco get so much credit and the Ravens get so much press?

Beats me.

The Ravens have beaten, in order, Pittsburgh, the Rams, the Jets, the Texans, the Cardinals, and Pittsburgh again. There's three suspect wins right in that list. And they've lost to Seattle, Jacksonville, and the Titans -- three terrible teams. They've been outscored 284-225 this season, and while their defense is third-best in the NFL in terms of total points, big whoop: Jacksonville's is fourth.

is an interesting stat, too: The Ravens' offense is 19th in the league in time of possession, behind the Bills, Dolphins, Jaguars, and Panthers, to name a few. But they're sixth in plays from scrimmage. So they get lots of chances to do something with the ball, but don't do anything with it.

The quarterback matters more than ever in the NFL. Joe Flacco is not a good quarterback. The Ravens aren't good, either.

Buffalo Bills: Two weeks ago, I finally bought into the Bills this year, figuring that even an NFL owner hellbent on moving the team to Toronto in the next year or two must have some reason for handing a quarterback a $24,000,000 guaranteed check as a raise when that quarterback had exactly 9 wins at the time.

Turns out I was wrong.

I don't place a lot of stock in sportswriters, who are less useful to society than any single Kardashian, but they do watch a lot of sports and see things that I don't because I watch the opposite (i.e., "not a lot of sports"). So this week, I was watching to see if what Grantland said last week about Obi-Wan Fitzpatrick was true.

Here's what Grantland said:

The newly extended Bills quarterback was placed into a bad spot by the Jets defense, which took away all of his underneath throws and forced Fitzpatrick into the weak part of his game, throwing downfield. He doesn't have an accurate deep ball or the receivers to get significant separation from cornerbacks.... Other teams will see the Jets defense on film and try to emulate it against Fitzpatrick and this Bills offense over the rest of the season, and it will be up to Donald Jones and Stevie Johnson to make plays downfield. For that to happen, Fitzpatrick needs to get the ball to them.

That brings up many points:

1. Isn't throwing the ball downfield really what separates a quarterback from every other player on the team? What football player can't dump a ball 10 feet away, or toss a lob to the back of the end zone from thirty feet? The Bills replaced Trent "Captain Checkdown" Edwards, a player who wouldn't throw downfield, with Fitzpatrick, a player who can't.

2. Were the Bills unaware that they'd given a God-guaranteed (according to Jim Kelly, getting paid $24,000,000 is a right) ghastly amount of money to a guy who can't throw the ball downfield?

3. Why is it that the Bills don't have a receiver who can separate from a cornerback? Oh, yeah.

4. Also, here's why sportswriters are dumb: Other teams didn't emulate the Jets. As Jim Nantz and Phil Simms pointed out during Sunday's Bills-Cowboys game, the Cowboys don't have cover guys like the Jets.

Didn't matter: I watched, until the 3rd quarter when CBS cut to a more interesting game, as Obi Wan heaved pass after pass downfield, terribly over- or under-throwing any receiver who happened to be in the same ZIP code as the $24,000,000 Man. Sportwriters, you blew it even though you tried: Teams that watch the Bills on film will realize that Ryan Fitzpatrick has all the accuracy of a man being shot out of a cannon, or one of those cool Pumpkin Catapults.

In fact, I'm so disappointed in Obi Wan that I'm revoking his Rogue-Mutt-given nickname, and from now on, he's Trebuchet Fitzpatrick.

Oh, and here's another thing, both for Bills' Coach Chan Gailey and Nantz/Simms: For it to be a screen play, you need blockers. Blockers are the screen after which the play is named. The Bills ran many, many purported screen plays, but with no blockers in front of the player getting the ball, those weren't actual screen plays. They were tackling drills for the Cowboys, who handled them fine.

Oh, and one other another thing: REALLY? A ##*#&$#^% SACK ON THE FIRST OFFENSIVE PLAY? From an unblocked defensive lineman? Who was a first-round pick? And who was the subject of an interview with your team just prior to the game?

I don't mind if teams I root for lose. I really don't. I mind when they don't even bother trying. Ralph Wilson, you could've done some good with that $24,000,000, but apparently you have money to burn, and why people are mad about Kim Kardashian's wedding ripping them out of $20,000,000 when it didn't really because you got the entertainment you wanted and that's what she's there for, but they're not mad that Trebuchet Fitzpatrick earned more to suck it up onfield for a couple of weeks.

I'd rather Kim Kardashian was quarterbacking the Bills, and if her mom wanted to run the team, well, at least it would be entertaining. CBS never cut away from a Kardashian to show actual entertainment.

I was actually relieved to see that the Bills' game next week will not be on TV.

Carolina Panthers: Hey, whatever happened to The Cam Newton Experience? Aren't we still supposed to be thrilled at how easily a guy who's actually been getting paid to play football for several years became a "real" pro? Cam's throwing a lot, he's got a decent quarterback rating (7th in the league), but the team is still losing, as they did this week, scoring only 3 points.

The Panthers were 2-14 last year. This year, with a new coach and a new hotshot quarterback but largely the same team otherwise, they're 2-7 with 7 games left. I pointed out that a free agent only helps a team a little -- I estimate a good free agent adds 2 wins to a team's schedule -- and a rookie is a free agent, only a little worse because they aren't as experienced as a regular free agent.

Expect the Panthers to be 4-12 this year.

Chicago Bears: The rematch! Or something, with Detroit coming to town still all burned up over the Calvin Johnson catch last year. I didn't pay much attention to this game because these teams are playing for a wild card at best, but I see Chicago scored 37 points. They're 6-3, and I didn't hear much this week about having all those coaches around is messing up Jay Cutler, or whatever it was sportswriters liked to talk about in the first couple weeks of the season.

What'd be nice is if sportswriters just sat around and watched the Kardashians and wrote about them. That recursion would let the rest of society be extra-productive.

Oh, wait. They already do that. Quite a bit. In fact, ESPN has a whole Kardashian archive. (It's not ESKN, is it, now?)

Cincinnati Bengals: One of those NFL guys on that NFL show -- you know the one, that guy with the suit -- said Andy Dalton is the most underrated player in the NFL right now.

I have this ongoing discussion with The Boy in which we try to decide what it means to be underrated, really. To me, it seems simple: You are underrated if everyone's estimation of you is less than what you really are worth. For example, Colin Hanks recently went on NPR and explained his Twitter tagline to host Peter Sagal:

SAGAL: And your twitter bio describes you as, quote, "that guy from that one thing you think is way underrated," unquote.


SAGAL: What is that thing?

HANKS: That thing apparently is everything on my resume.

SAGAL: There you are.


HANKS: No, there's always someone who just says, you know, hey man that thing - the blank, movie blank, that's way underrated.


SAGAL: That thing that you did does not suck nearly as much as everybody else says it does.

That, I think, is a far better way of looking at what it means to say someone is underrated: It means "I don't think you suck nearly as much as everyone else thinks you suck."

So to be underrated, the general populace must mostly agree that you suck, but you must then not suck.

Does anyone think Andy Dalton sucks? He was on a team that vied for the national championship and he outplayed Wisconsin, didn't he? Is he the TCU quarterback that won the Rose Bowl last year in a game for which The Boy still owes me a TCU shirt? I'm pretty sure he is, and I'm pretty sure he was drafted in the second round, and was promoted to starter and has been getting accolades. So many accolades, in fact, that Bleacher Report already (in a story I didn't bother reading) looked at the 2012 draft and found seven quarterbacks who could be the next Andy Dalton.

When someone is talking about there being a next you, you are not underrated. Nobody who doesn't get an adequate amount of credit has people thinking "Who might be the next guy to match this current guy?"

So really what's going on is that the NFL guy, whoever he was, had nothing much useful to add to the analysis, so he decided to create a storyline: "Andy Dalton! Everyone thinks he sucks! But he doesn't, really! So let's talk about that!"

You know who else simply creates storylines to get people talking?

Cleveland Browns: I honestly don't know anything about this team. Is Mike Holmgren still the GM? There was always talk of a feud between him and Ron Wolf back in the good days of the Brett Favre era before all of Wisconsin was hypnotized into hating him and then he gave them a reason by sexting young women from his Crocs-lounge. If there was a feud, Ron Wolf is whistling all the way past the graveyard*

*never really understood that expression
as he watches Holmgren build a team that can't compete with the Rams.

The recap of the game at NFL.com says that the fans booed the Browns, with booing being limited mostly to sporting events, according to the Freakonomics podcast I listened to while scrubbing my kitchen floor Sunday night, during which I learned that even a Thomas Paine impersonator can make me feel as though he's apologizing for Philadelphia fans being so awful that they'll root for a Dog Killer.

I know this part is about Cleveland, but what's to say about them other than the vigor with which Peyton Hillis once denied, on The Dan Patrick Show, that he was faking injury to get more money, convinced me that he's holding out to get more money. That, or God hates him: Hillis has missed five weeks with a hamstring injury (?) while Reggie White, who we know God loved, had his hamstring injury healed in a week.(Actually 9 days, which says something about how bad that injury was. God created the world in 7 days, but it took 9 to heal Reggie. God might have been taking some time off, though. He was 1,996 years old at the time and maybe was starting to wind things down at God, Inc. and let Jesus take on more of the day-to-day operations.)

(We know God loved Reggie, because he told Reggie to go to Green Bay as the first-ever Big Name Free Agent, even though Reggie proclaimed he wasn't looking for money or glory, but for a chance to work with inner-city youth. Green Bay isn't large enough to have an Inner City. It's not, technically, large enough, to have a city. But back then, Green Bay also didn't ticket people just for being black, so they had that, plus $17,000,000, going for them in the Reggie Race.)

(Also: Reggie White and Brett Favre help prove my point about free agents. Although they improved the Packers, it wasn't until the Packers got Keith Jackson midway through their Super Bowl season that they actually beat Dallas in the playoffs and won the Super Bowl under Holmgren, so they went from 4-12 before hiring Holmgren to 13-3 the year they won the Super Bowl, but had added, during that time, Reggie White, Brett Favre, Keith Jackson, Desmond Howard, Don Beebe, Santana Dotson, Eugene Robinson, and, of course, Jim McMahon, who would prove absolutely uninstrumental in securing the first Packer Super Bowl victory of the Modern Era (a/k/a "The Only Football Era Anyone But Your Grandpa Cares About. Talking about olden days football is like talking about 1930s "super" heroes, who were anything but. They were just guys who had boring day jobs and so they carried around date-rape drugs but needed to justify it:

So, adding free agents doesn't really matter until you create an entire team out of them. And Peyton Hillis is lying. And, finally, that Thomas Paine impersonator, quickly:

Freakonomics tried to justify Philadelphia fans booing Santa, and cheering Michael Irvin's near-paralysis and other actions that would justify us voting Philadelphia off the island by noting that Philadelphia was the birthplace of the intellectual side of the American revolution, and talking to a Thomas Paine impersonator about that (the Paine impersonator being one of those annoying guys who stays in character: "Starbucks? I'm not familiar with...") but there's a big difference, if you ask me, which you did, between "Deciding to stand up for individual liberty and a representative form of government" and "throwing batteries at players." Whatever Philadelphia's lofty goals at one time, it now cheers for a guy who electrocuted puppies.

Dallas Cowboys: Tony Romo, don't get comfortable. It's easy to look good when the team you're playing against is more concerned about whether they'll soon get overpaid (as is their God-given right?) in weird plastic Canadian money. If there was a bright spot in the 3/4 of the game CBS bothered airing Sunday, it's that the game likely served as the highlight for the Cowboys' season, something for fans to remember when they sit around in January watching other teams in the playoffs and realizing that they're going to be stuck with Rick Perry treating their state like he's Jesse James and Texas is a series of tattooed slutty girls.

I know that analogy doesn't really work, given that Jesse James cheated on America's New Sweetheart while Rick Perry just allowed campaign contributors to build toxic waste dumps at the expense of local schools, but if I can get America to associate the Republican Party with Kat Von D,

then the battle is halfway won.

Dallas, meanwhile, is halfway to when Tony Romo starts thinking about vacation and blows their season for him. Romo once won 13 straight November games, but that was back in 2009, and that stat comes from Bleacher Report, which about a year before had questioned whether Romo could ever win the "big game."

If you're reading Bleacher Report, then you know that in 2008, they said Romo was headed in the "wrong direction," then gave him an "A" in their 2009 review of the Cowboys, before this year asking whether Tony Romo is the most overrated quarterback in the NFL. Bleacher Report's conclusion?

They don't know.

Seriously. Each panel of the slideshow asks a question, and the final answer is "Tony Romo is rated exactly where he should be."

If America took every penny earned by sportswriters/casters/etc-ers from here on out and stuffed it directly into Kim Kardashian's g-string, this country would be a better place.

Denver Broncos: Meanwhile, 3/4 of the way across the country from South Canada, New York, there's a quarterback everyone can't say enough bad about, but who is 3-1 in his starts and has the entire world in almost as much of an uproar as the Kardashivorce. The only way Tim Tebow could be more controversial is if he gay married Jesus, which, if he'd gone to the Bills like I wanted him to, he could do once the Bills move to Canada.

Let's give sports analysts a break and see what a sports player has to say about stuff and junk: Darelle Revis, who used to be someone, says that the Broncos "read-option" offense can only work with Dog Killer Michael Vick and Chris Johnson, not Tim Tebow and whoever the Broncos have lining up at RB. Darelle Revis not only isn't anyone anymore, but also is unfamiliar with the records posted by those two guys this season.

What's amazing about the Tebow haters is that Denver ran on 55 of 63 plays last week; Tebow threw 8 passes and completed 2. Why don't traditionalists love him? All we ever hear from anyone associated with football "analysis" is "you've got to run the ball to win" and other versions of that mantra. Now, Denver is running the ball and winning, and people hate Tebow.

I wore my Denver Broncos jersey on Sunday, by the way -- the one I got when the Broncos beat the Packers in the Super Bowl as a result of a bet with my brother. It's not Tebow, but it'll do.

Detroit Lions: In the Mostly Hypothetical Guest Preview, Rogue Mutt said of the Lions:

I’m supposed to compare them to a romantic movie character. I haven’t really watched any ‘80s John Hughes other than “Ferris Bueller” and “Breakfast Club,” so let’s go outside the box a little with my favorite comedy about Star Trek geeks: 1998’s “Free Enterprise.”

In the movie is a character named Schweiger, who’s a nerd working as a low-budget film editor. He laments in the movie that he’s paid $2,000 to Great Encounters to find a woman and still hasn’t got to first base yet.

That pretty much sums up the Lions for the last 20 years. They’ve paid millions (maybe even a billion by now) in free agents and draft picks and haven’t gotten to second base. By the end of the movie Schweiger still hasn’t got any action, and I don’t think the Lions will be getting any this year either.

So now you’re Lions Ready, which is their slogan. Like most things concerning the Lions it makes no sense.

People might not have believed him earlier in the season, but the Lions are 1-3 in their last 4 games, and Matt Stafford and his broken finger on his throwing hand threw four interceptions against the Bears on Sunday. And Detroit has to play the Packers twice more this year, a team they trail by 3 games in their division.

"By the end of the movie, Schweiger still hasn't got any action."

Green Bay Packers: I have started asking people in Wisconsin this question: "Forget whether the Packers will go undefeated this season. Do you think they'll ever lose a game again, EVER?" What's amazing is that Packer fans (I'm only a lukewarm supporter of the team) pause to consider that question seriously. They don't laugh and say "That's funny." They actually stop to think "Hmmm... I wonder if there will ever come a time when the Packers lose another game?"

At the start of the Monday night game, the announcers (whoever they are; MNF isn't a big deal anymore since it went to basic cable) wondered why Packers Coach Mike "Mike" McCarthy traditionally defers when his team wins the toss. I think it's because he's messing with the league. He knows the Packers are better than pretty much every team out there, and just wants to screw with their heads. That's why he goes for it on 4th-and-5 when he's up 17-0, that's why he defers, that's why he does crazy onside kicks. I originally disliked Coach Mike. But since last year's playoff run, I'm a wholehearted supporter of him. He's a better coach, I think, than Holmgren was.

Houston Texans: Doesn't matter. They're not going to win the Super Bowl.

Indianapolis Colts: If you adopt my idea for the Fan Vote Wild Card, the Colts have a reason to play the rest of the season. Under the current system, Colts fans have no reason to care, and the fact that the Colts aren't even trying will skew the rest of the NFL season. Playoffs solve everything! There's no way a playoff system ever results in anything being wrong with a sports league! USA USA USA! Luckily, the Colts' remaining schedule includes no teams that will actually have a shot at winning the Super Bowl, either. Which means there are seven games on the schedule that mean nothing and aren't even interesting. USA USA USA!

Jacksonville Jaguars: Beat the Colts, but still ended up being the team voted "Most Likely To Have only 25 words written about them by me this week."

Kansas City Chiefs: You say: "That preseason prediction that the Chiefs would edge out the Packers in the Super Bowl is looking pretty remote." I say: "The Chiefs are only 1 game out of first in their division and a team quarterbacked by football legend Tyler Palko is a team poised to make a run." Palko's a four-year veteran who is averaging 2.2 completions per season. Those are Tebow-like numbers.

Miami Dolphins: Don't care. And neither do you. Admit it. You were peeking ahead to see if there's finally a team whose name starts with Q. But you'll have to wait until Quebec gets the Jaguars; the Bills are going to Toronto.

Minnesota Vikings: According to those "MNF" guys, Vikings DE Jared Allen "practically invented the sack." But the term sack was actually attributed to Deacon Jones, who said a sack hurt a team the way being sacked hurt a city. And he did it for the best of reasons: publicity. Jones wanted a term that was short enough to fit into a headline so that more could be written about him. Deacon also wasn't his real name. His real name was David. He changed it so that people would remember his name.

Deacon Jones: Fame Whore.

New England Patriots*: God, how I hate them. I understand they beat the Jets in the game that was going on while I was watching the Bills not bother mentally going to Dallas. That's enough about them.

New Orleans Saints: Unfortunately, I can't talk about them without talking about a deceased team, so let me resurrect Zombie Atlanta Falcons for a moment and say this: If a team is inches away from the end zone and kicks a field goal, fans get upset and "analysts" say "If you can't gain a few inches, you don't belong in the NFL." If a team is inches away from hanging on to the ball and keeping the Saints' offense off the field in sudden-death overtime, and goes for it, fans get upset and say "you've got to punt it away."

If you can't gain a few inches, you don't belong in the NFL.

The problem was not with Zombie Atlanta Falcons' decision to go for it, it was with the playcalling. Call something creative. Call a quick sneak. Or a fake sneak -- have your quarterback go up to the line and do a quick snap to the running back while the quarterback dives to his left. Or something.

Twice this year, a football coach has gone for the win rather than playing it safe. Twice, the coach has been criticized (once for the wrong reason entirely). Enjoy your season of safe punts next year, NFL fans.

To the Saints: "Not losing" isn't the same as "winning."

New York Giants: Something something Eli Manning something something. I'll get the details later; you get the gist.

New York Jets: Rex Ryan, at his press conference, tried the old reverse psychology bit, saying that when he declared his team out of it before, they went on a winning streak, so he'd declare his team out of it again. Imagine his pre-game speeches:

[SCENE: JETS' LOCKER ROOM. PLAYERS SIT SILENTLY, HEADS DOWN, AS REX RYAN SOBS INTO A HANDKERCHIEF FOR SEVERAL MINUTES BEFORE LOOKING UP]: Look guys, you're probably going to die out there today. I don't mean metaphorically, whatever a metaphor is. I mean that you people are so weak and pathetic you might actually be killed. In fact, I'd be amazed if you can find your way onto the field from this locker room. I'm not going to bother coaching you today. I'm going to sit here and eat these chicken wings. Do what you want to do. Nothing matters, anyway, and ultimately the universe is going to fall into a state of stasis. Do you know what stasis is? Not expanding, not contracting. Just... dead. Like our chances in this game and all others. It's meaningless. If anyone wants me, I'll be hooking my car exhaust up to my office. Bye.

Sounds about right.

Oakland Raiders: Carson Palmer has fewer wins this season than Tim Tebow. Is Carson Palmer the most overrated quarterback in the NFL? A Special Bleacher Report Investigation reveals... maybe! Maybe not!

Philadelphia Eagles: In a turn of events that I can only say makes me sadder than Rex Ryan giving a pep talk, you just know Andy Reid is getting fired and Dog Killer Michael Vick will still be on this team next year. If I were Reid, I'd go out in style. I'd call nothing but passes until Vick got the snot beat out of him, then bench him.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Are old! Last year, they were a savvy veteran team. This year, they're old! Unless they win, in which case they're veterans!

San Diego Chargers:
At the chat portion of the NFL Game Center for this game, one fan has posted a 2012 Mock Draft in which the Jets are taking Andrew Luck #1. Meanwhile, Philip Rivers continues to unimpress.

San Francisco 49ers: They're all set to be this year's team that rolls through the regular season and gets stomped by the first team they face in the playoffs. The 49ers' 8 wins have been against the Seahawks, Bengals, Buccaneers, Eagles, Lions, Cleveland, Washington, and the Giants. One playoff contender among the entire list, and they were outpassed and outrun by the Giants in that game, which they won by 7.

Seattle Seahawks: Beat the Ravens. See what I mean about the Ravens?

St. Louis Rams: Beat the Browns. See what I mean about the Browns? Sam Bradford is guaranteed $50 million, which means he has twice as many rights as Trebuchet Fitzpatrick does, which is unfair because Bradford and Trebuchet have both won about the same number of games. Turns out an Ivy League degree doesn't always result in higher pay.

Washington Redskins:
I missed the return of Sexy Rex Grossman? I wonder how much Mike Shanahan will get to coach the Eagles into oblivion next year?

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Immutable Rules Of Football Might Be Somewhat Mutable (Classic NC!)

In the previous iteration of this blog on another address, I posted several years back on a topic that I called "The Immutable Rules Of Football." Having referred to them recently, and needing a filler post here, I thought I'd revisit that post and repost it on this site.

Note: I know that since then, the Cardinals have gone to the Super Bowl. But they lost it, so my rules kind of still hold.


As the football season begins again – tonight is the Hall of Fame game, the first of the preseason exhibition matches – it is time to review some of the Immutable Rules by which The Trouble With Roy lives.

Those rules are: 1. The only nonbreakfast food you can eat for breakfast without being a weirdo is cold pizza.

2. Arizona, Houston, and Cleveland will not be good this season.

3. Free agents do not make that big of a difference in football.

I know, these rules may seem controversial. Many of you might want to quibble with them, take issue. You are probably right now preparing to send me an email or leave a comment taking me to task. You are typing right now: I could eat a hamburger for breakfast if I wanted to.

You’re typing that, I know, because the other two Immutable Rules are really unquestionable. They are as certain as gravity.

Let’s make my point through a test: Pick up something right now. Anything. A pen, a coffee mug, your second-oldest, just do it. Ready? Now drop the thing you picked up. Unless it really was your second-oldest. Don’t drop that kid. But everyone else, drop it.

It fell to the ground, didn’t it? Whatever you picked up fell and kept falling until something stopped it. And really, you were absolutely sure that would happen, right? That’s how certainImmutable Laws 2 and 3 are. You do not need to question them, you do not need to wonder

What would happen if Cleveland drafted the best offensive lineman in college

and also a mediocre quarterback? [NOTE: This was way before everyone knew Brady Quinn would be a mediocre quarterback. I'm prescient. Like Paul Atreides.]

You don’t need to ask that any more than you had to ask What will happen when I drop this coffee mug? The outcome in both cases is certain: Cleveland will not make the playoffs and your wife will yell at you to quit making a mess.

There are still those of you who will protest. Sportscasters, fans, whoever you are, you’ll sayHouston could surprise you, or Arizona has a new coach. But don’t bother. We won’t see Houston in the Superbowl. Or even the playoffs. And given how bad they are, we probably won’t see Houston on television. (Or Arizona, or Cleveland.)

(A note to people, too, who say things like Arizona could be the surprise team this year. That’s not a prediction, or even an opinion. It’s nothing. It’s blather, nonsensical blather on the level of "it is what it is" or other inane statements. Almost anything “could” happen. Saying a team “could” be good is akin to telling me it “could” be raining outside when you haven’t looked. It’s no use.)

The third Rule is equally uncontestable. I live in Packerland and have had to hear for several years now how terrible it is that the Packers do not sign a big-name free agent, or even a middle-sized name free agent. Sportswriters and opinionators and fans bemoan the prospects of the Pack because Ted Thompson will not go after whoever the rest of the world is salivating over. (This year it was Randy Moss at first, and now Larry Johnson. Whoever the flavor of the month is, Packer fans want to sign him.)

I feel alone in fighting upstream against that current. I keep telling them, and anyone who will listen: Free agents do not make that big of difference in football. It’s not like baseball, where you can bring in a pitcher or hitter or first baseman and it makes a huge impact. Baseball is fundamentally different; it’s not really a team game. In any baseball play, there are only 1 or 2 or maybe 3 or 4 people involved, total. Because batting averages are between 0.300 and 0.400, on about 60% of baseball plays only two players from a ‘team’ are involved, the pitcher and the catcher. (I’m not counting the batter; he’s on a different team.) If the batter hits the ball, it’s then one-player game or a two-player game as someone fields the ball. On a ground-out to the shortstop, a very common play, the players involved are pitcher, shortstop, first basemen. And not only does the pitcher not need to coordinate at all with the other two, but 66% of the team isn’t involved at all.

Everyone said it wouldn't matter,

but aren't the Yankees doing

well right now?

Football is not like that. In football, every player is fundamentally involved on every play (unless the player in question is Randy Moss, who admitted he takes plays off.) Lineman and backs block, receivers run routes drawing coverage downfield, the quarterback hands the ball off. All eleven have to work together as a team. What that means is two things.

First, it is harder for a free agent to work into that mix. On most good football teams, the coach and many of the players have been together for a couple of years; not many rookies play a big role on winning teams. (Last year, one of the best-known rookies, Devin Hester, played only on special teams.) Free agents have to pick up the scheme and get to know their teammates.

Secondly, a free agent makes up less than 10% of the unit he joins. A free agent pitcher in baseball is one of two players who count on 60% of the plays. A free agent receiver is one of 11 players. As a smaller percentage, the free agent in football has a harder time affecting the quality of play. A good pitcher can improve a team that had terrible fielding by not letting the ball be hit to them. A good receiver has a lot of trouble improving the running game.

But let’s look at some other facts. Consider the biggest free agent signings in the past few years. The biggest free agents in the 2006 season were Edgerrin James and Drew Brees.

James went to Arizona. How’d they do? Arizona was 5-11. James was 12th in the NFL in rushing and 22nd in rushing TDs.

It could be argued that Brees was a great sign for the Saints and that he made a major impact, because the Saints ended up 10-6 and were in the NFC Championship.

While Brees was number 1 in passing yards, and third in passing TDs, was he doing that on a bad team?Sure, it could be argued, but it would be wrong.

No. The Saints went 3-13 the year before, when they played all their games on the road after Katrina. In the years before Katrina, New Orleans was 8-8 (2004), 8-8 (2003), 9-7 (2002), and 7-9 (2001). So leaving aside the anomaly year after Katrina, adding Brees – and Reggie Bush, let’s not forget – gave New Orleans exactly 2 more wins than they had in 2004 and 2003, and one more than 2002. And during those years, the Saints were playing 2 games a year against Carolina, which went to a Superbowl, and Tampa Bay, which won a Superbowl. New Orleans was, in other words, a pretty good team before Brees, and they were a slightly better team after adding him. (And Bush.)

And their new coach was every bit as lucky as Gruden was with Tampa Bay, stepping into a team that was already close.

Do I even need to mention how those teams that bring in free agents all the time do? You Redskins and Raiders fans, do you still welcome the big-name free agents?

A free agent might help an already-good team over the top. That’s certainly the hope for the Patriots with Randy Moss. The Patriots were 20 seconds away from the Superbowl last year, and have been in 3 Superbowls this decade, all without a great receiver. They are a good team, with or without Moss. They hope to be a slightly better – a 20-second-better—team with Moss. But for the rest of your teams – including the Packers - -they are either beyond hope (see Rule 2) or they need help on more than one front. And you get that help not by paying $23 million dollars to a guy that some other team wanted to get rid of, but by drafting and building and having a good coach.

Everyone's got a family. Yours just wasn't as funny as theirs.

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of American Family Insurance for SocialSpark. All opinions are 100% mine.


Remember being a kid?  (NOTE: Yep. This is NOT going to be one of those posts about how when I was a kid, things were so much better, because let’s face it, when I was a kid, things were NOT better.  Things are NEVER better in the past.  The past sucked, no matter what part of the past you’re talking about, unless you mean “last weekend.”  Anything further back in time than last weekend was an awful time. 

Go back too far in the past and you’ve got plagues and witches.  Go back not-so-far in the past and people wore full body wool suits and WIGS all the time, even in August, even in the South.  Go back to the “past” that existed when I was a kid and everyone dressed like Melanie Griffith in “Working Girl,” which, okay, I think that shoulder-pads-and-big-hair look is hot but that’s because I grew up in the 1980s and therefore am messed up, which you knew even BEFORE you consider that I first spiked my hair and then got a perm one time.

Anyway, I got thinking about the past because I was watching these “Stand Up For Family” videos that American Family has put out.  I know, I know: I’m the kind of guy who watches videos sponsored by an insurance company.

But in this case, even you may want to be that kind of guy.  American Family Insurance is doing this thing where they’re sponsoring comics on what they call a “Stand Up For Family” comedy special: a bunch of comedians talking about their family, and some of these guys are funny.

The funniest one I’ve watched so far is Bill Bellamy talking about growing up, and particularly freeze tag.  I won’t spoil it for you, but he’s funny, and he’s right about freeze tag, too - -kids are always doing that.

There are other hilarious ones, like Mark Viera talking about threatening his wife that he was leaving, and his wife just laughing and offering to get the door for him.  You should go watch all of them; chalk it up to work like I do – AmFam’s an insurance company, remember, so you can probably claim that you had to research it or something—and get some laughs.


They’ll make you think about your family differently – or maybe not  Maybe you had a family like Bill Bellamy’s.

Visit Sponsor's Site

Monday, November 7, 2011

Alex Smith's eyes will hypnotize you. (SNAP! Judgment)

Here is a free tip, from me to you, aimed at all the people who know about sports everywhere, but especially at the amazingly-high number of people in Middleton, Wisconsin, who recognize a 1990's-era Buffalo Bills' Bruce Smith jersey:

Assume that the person wearing such a jersey is aware that a game is on, and that since he opted to be at a public park with his kids anyway, he might just be taping the game.

I tape any football games I'm interested in watching, because that way I can actually spend some time with my kids and do things like fix the sink or read, and then watch the games uninterrupted later on. So Sunday, I was taping the Bills-vs-Jets fiasco, and was, accordingly, at the local playground at 1:15 p.m. when not one...

...not two...

but three different people came up to me and began telling me how the game was going.

Sample interaction:

SCENE: A devastatingly handsome man, the kind of man who might be created if you took all the best genes from George Clooney and Simon Baker and combined them and then put the result into a Buffalo Bills' Bruce Smith jersey [look, I'm directing this, I'll cast who I want] is helping a five-year-old into a swing and pushing him.

A man approaches:

Man Approaching: Hey! Buffalo Bills! All right! Did you know the game is on and they're...

Handsome Guy: Whoa! Whoa! I'm taping the game. Please don't tell me how it's going.

Man Approaching, with confused look: But they're...

Handsome Guy: Taping the game...

Man Approaching [Looks Sad, Shakes Head:] Okay, but I thought you'd want to know.

Handsome Guy [loses all faith in humanity, wonders how people even manage to survive to adulthood]: Taping...

That happened often enough that I had to take off my jersey, which I figure occurred roughly about 1:30 central time, which is just about when the Bills defense decided they only had to play for one half, which was longer than the Bills' offense bothered to show up for, which meant I was in for a disappointing Sunday evening.

But I did watch the game, and I was also aware that there were other games played, and I've even got time to do an entire post, here, I think, so it's time for The Return Of SNAP! Judgment, and I'll begin with The Team That's Dead To Me This Week. Remember, that's not a team I dislike, or even a team that's bad, but a team that's so boring, so not worth the time it takes to talk about them, that I'm not going to bother caring about them in this post anymore.

Previous dead teams are, right now, just the Atlanta Falcons who, in their breathtaking humdrumosity, exemplify the type of team that ought not to be mentioned, and I'm sorry I did because I dozed off for a second just typing the name.

This week's dead-to-me team: The Tennessee Titans. Why bother talking about them? Not good enough to take advantage of the complete absence of football in Indianapolis, not bad enough to be entertaining, nobody interesting on the entire team, and I already forgot their new coach's name. So you won't see them discussed in this post for the remainder of the football season.

Now, on with the alphabetical review of all the remaining living teams.

Arizona Cardinals: Kevin Kolb was out with an injury; I heard he sprained his hand repeatedly high-fiving Larry Fitzgerald on being the most overpaid combination in the NFL.

Baltimore Ravens: Joe Flacco won! Also, he's still awful.

Buffalo Bills: Jim Kelly, about a week ago, commented on Obi-Wan Fitzpatrick's contract extension (which includes $24 million in guaranteed money; does your boss guarantee you'll get paid even if you don't show up for work?) by noting that Fitzy had earned the right to that kind of money.

The fact that even a great guy like Jim Kelly thinks it's a right to be paid $24 million in guaranteed money, in a city where half of all households bring in less than $24,000 per year -- that's right, 50% of the families in Buffalo live on less than $2000 a month -- shows just how screwed up America's priorities are.

Earning obscene amounts of money isn't right or a right.

Obi-Wan, by the way, who stunk against the Jets yesterday and appeared befuddled all day long, is ranked 9th in QB rating, 5th and 4th in TDs and completion percentage respectively, but 18th in yards per game. Most analysts believe that Buffalo's success this year was due to their leading the league in turnovers and the resultant short fields, and that stat says it's true. But did Bills' leadership give raises to the entire defense? They did not. And if you watched the Bills-Jets game yesterday, you saw an offense that appeared to be entirely one-dimensional and not very creative. And you also saw why I was so hesitant to get excited about the Bills this season.

Carolina Panthers: Didn't play, but that didn't stop the NFL guys from mentioning Cam Newton, when one of them said something about Cam and Deion Sanders, who might be the most annoying man on the NFL Network, said "Don't do that to Cam." I didn't understand the exchange at all, but it was worth mentioning: Deion Sanders has a secret crush on Cam Newton.

Chicago Bears: Originally, when I started writing this on Monday morning -- it takes a long time to write this post, especially in the mornings when I haven't had 73 cups of coffee yet -- I thought Chicago didn't play this week. It wasn't until Monday night, which I spent jogging and tweeting about Herman Cain, that I realized that the Bears indeed were going to have a game this week. But here's what I wrote on Monday:

Earlier in the week I heard two guys on sports radio talking about how Jay Cutler is one of those quarterbacks whose facial expressions on the sidelines is terrible, and that's true. Cutler, like some other players, have loser face -- watch them on the sidelines when things aren't going so well. You can actually see them quit. Which, by the way, I saw on Obi-Wan Fitzpatrick's face yesterday, as well as Fred Jackson's: about the second quarter, they put on their loser-faces. Right about the time Chan Gailey decided to punt from his own 40 or so, probably because he was going to be late for his other job as an assistant manager at Arby's.

I was then going to read up on the game and say something about it, but I went to NFL.com, which might now be the single-most annoying website on the Internet, given that every single page on that site has some sort of automatically-playing video and that you can not stop them and so when I clicked over there I stopped the videogame ad but then got an ad for something featuring Mr Bill and that crashed my Chrome browser so screw you, NFL.com. If I want sports recaps, I'll go to Deadspin.

Cincinnati Bengals: I was going to say something about how everyone last year was afraid to draft Andy Dalton because he was a redhead and because NFL executives are dumb but lucky, which is how they hold on to jobs, but then I bothered to look at how the Bengals got to 6-2. They beat, in order, Cleveland, Buffalo, Jacksonville, Indianapolis, Seattle, and Tennessee. Not exactly a Rogue's Gallery. That set-up of lineups, if it was a group of supervillains, would be the enemies that regularly squared off against Hawkman. In short: the Bengals are not a good team, either. They're just not as bad a team as those other guys are. Beating up Gorilla Grodd ought not to get you invited to the JLA's satellite.

Denver Broncos: In Tom Stoppard's play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, there is a constant reference to coin-flipping, with the results of a coin toss indicating whether the play is taking place in one sort of world or another. It's quite clever, actually, once you catch on to it, even more of an obscure literary device than Vonnegut's so it goes.

Here in this world, we know which set of rules applies by whether Tebow wins or not. Tebow won this week, so the Christian God is in charge for 7 days and this will be a good week to seek social justice.

Maybe next week, Thor.

Detroit Lions: Didn't play, but watched TV instead and hoped that the Colts or Dolphins wouldn't win so that there is a chance that they won't always be the only 0-for-everything team in NFL history. Discuss: Do you want to see another team go 0-16, or would you like to see Detroit be the only team to ever unachieve that feat? Some records can't be broken, like the record for lowest-scoring college football game (0-0, Army-Notre Dame), and some ought not to be, like Detroit's 0-16.

Green Bay Packers: I skipped watching this game because who wants to watch Philip Rivers live down to being the worst/most-overrated quarterback in football? NFL Fans rated it a 75+ on the "interesting meter".

I'd tell you more, but, again, the NFL doesn't have a way to shut off that stupid video player on their site, and it slows down my computer. Let's just auto-text in "Aaron Rodgers threw for a lot of yards, Green Bay's defense continues to not be as great as people think it is even though a lot of people will get mad reading that and say "But they had those turnovers and Clay Mathews and whatnot" and will forget the Packers were playing San Diego."

Houston Texans: Look, I know the Colts are down. But Houson. Will. Not. Win. The. Super. Bowl. That's not me. That's the Immutable Rules of Football. They're. Not. Good.

Indianapolis Colts: So it really was all Peyton? Looks like Caldwell's controversial decision to rest Peyton for the entire regular season in order to keep him fresh for the playoffs isn't working out. Shouldn't have taken your foot off the pedal, Jim.

Jacksonville Jaguars: Did they play? Eh, who cares?

Kansas City Chiefs: Going to be hard to fulfill my prediction that you beat Green Bay in the Super Bowl this year if you don't even make the playoffs, Chiefs. And you lose to Miami? Fun fact: This game was made up almost entirely of castoffs from the Patriots* front-office. And it showed.

Minnesota Vikings: Didn't play, which makes this week no different than any other. Ba-dum bum! Don't forget to tip your waitress.

New England Patriots*: Man, I hate this team. Brady looked good in the press conference though, didn't he? The only time he looked good all day.

New Orleans Saints: Brett Favre legacy update! Drew Brees tied Brett Favre for most consecutive games with a touchdown pass (36), making him and The Greatest Ever second on that list behind "some guy only your dad cares about."

New York Giants: Eli Manning pronounced himself an elite quarterback back in August, on a par with Tom Brady. But watching highlights last night, I saw exactly one shot of Eli, and exactly one shot of Peyton. When you don't get more coverage than a guy on injured reserve, you haven't made it yet.

New York Jets: It was amazing, watching the Jets-Bills game, how many different ways Nantz and Simms found to say "Mark Sanchez sucks" without actually saying "Mark Sanchez sucks." Phrases like "this is the style of game the Jets want to play: Run and tough defense" and "Schottenheimer is managing to give Sanchez throws that get the ball out quickly" were in heavy rotation. If this game had gone any longer, they'd have had to resort to saying


Which is "Mark Sanchez sucks" in Chinese. But you got that, didn't you? His best throw of the day was the end zone interception thrown directly to Byrd on the opening drive. It was beautiful. If you're a Bills fan. And you didn't watch anything after that.

Also, I don't know what this is, but I googled "American Football In China" and found this image:

Which seems like it should be a set-up for a TV show, doesn't it?

Oakland Raiders: Speaking of overrated USC quarterbacks, Carson Palmer threw for 332 yards and three touchdowns. The Raiders had more yards and were more efficient (marginally) on third down than the Tebow-led Broncos, but Palmer also threw three interceptions and the Raiders fumbled twice, losing one. Remember all that hype about the Raiders being better? And the emotional boost they got from Art Davis dying? The Raiders are 4-4, but only have two tough games remaining, versus Chicago and Green Bay. You could see an Oakland-Cincinnati playoff game, but it'll be one that has no actual impact on who makes the Super Bowl.

In that respect, is the NFL really so different than the NCAA Bowl system? If the test of a playoff system's viability is (as I say it is) how many meaningful games the playoff system creates in the league, then the NFL's is fair-to-middling at best: Teams now need to win only seven games to make the playoffs in the NFL. The AFC West has three teams with 4 wins, one team with 3 wins. They play a lot of division games over the final 8 weeks, so the winner of that division is likely to be 8-8, making 8 games more or less meaningless to the fans.

On the flip side, the 49ers have a 5-game lead over their nearest division rival, with 8 games to play. Three more wins, and they've iced the division, making their last 5 games meaningless, as well (I'm leaving out home-field advantage, which doesn't really matter that much anymore in the NFL).

In the NCAA, every game counts. When Wisconsin lost to Michigan State, that ended their hopes for a national title. Boise State not only can't take a game off, they can't take a quarter off. Why? Because losing counts severely for NCAA teams, far more than it counts for NFL teams (and NBA teams.) And losing hurts worse because in the NCAA, the popularity of a team matters -- so teams that win, but win badly -- a close game played poorly, say -- can fall in the polls anyway.

Then there's the NFL playoffs, where increasingly some of the games appear to be bowl games with no real impact on the outcome of the Super Bowl. Last year's Seahawks series didn't really affect who made the Super Bowl: it kicked out the Saints (who wouldn't have won in Chicago) and gave Chicago a warm-up for Green Bay, but Chicago-Green Bay was almost foreordained.

I've proposed it before: The Fan Vote Wild Card: Let fans vote in the number 6 wild card after week 17, giving teams that start out horribly (like Miami) a reason to keep playing in the second half, and letting entertaining-but-bad teams (like Denver) into the playoffs. Either way -- the current system or the fan-vote system, a bad team can make the playoffs, but under my system, that bad team is at least one the fans want to see playing.

Philadelphia Eagles: Last night, on ESPN's pre-game coverage, I noted two things: 1. Every "highlight" ESPN shows of Dog Killer Michael Vick these days involves him "performing" against an inferior team. You don't see great Dog Killer plays against the Packers. Or the Steelers. Or any good team. Most of the "highlight" roll last night shows Vick playing against the Redskins, and they haven't been good since I got married. (I know you don't know my personal history, so I'll just say it's been a long time.)

And 2. ESPN treated it as news that not a single player was willing to say bad things about Andy Reid. I personally like Andy Reid as a coach, aside from his predilection for playing a guy who electrocuted puppies. But the rumors around the league are that he's unpopular and maybe headed for Miami. So ESPN went investigatin', and surprise! They couldn't find a single Eagles player willing to go on camera and say he didn't like the coach!

Imagine that! A company where nobody wants to go on the record as hating the boss! News! Newsy news news!

The existence of paid sports reporters is probably the best sign that our civilization is due to collapse.

Pittsburgh Steelers: I sure liked those uniforms they wore. I sure can't get past how the Steelers' image seems to be tarnished. I sure can't bother caring about a Ravens-Steelers game the way everyone in the NFL seems to.

San Diego Chargers: "Philip Rivers sucks" stats of the week: Rivers has thrown 14 interceptions, leading the league. He's been sacked19 times, tied for 8th with "Blaine Gabbert," which is not a real name, and Joe Flacco, who is likewise a terrible quarterback. He is ranked 20th in quarterback rating, which measures efficiency, just ahead of that guy who temporarily quarterbacks Miami. He also fumbled once against Green Bay, but he recovered that, so YAY!

San Francisco 49ers: The story of the week! They're 7-1! I saw, briefly, an interview with Alex Smith on the NFL network and all I could think is "He's really a handsome man."

He is.

Seattle Seahawks: Lost to Dallas, in a game about which I couldn't decide who I wanted to lose more. I settled on Seattle, and they did indeed lose, which means (a) I can control things with my mind, and (b) there's no (b) here. I just began labeling things before realizing I didn't have a second point and was too lazy to go change it.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: I get so lost, every year, in whether this is the year the Buccaneers become good again and take the NFL by storm. So was it this year? Or last year? Or every year? Let's face it: The Bucs had one good run, engineered entirely by Tony Dungy, who then got ousted before he could get credit for the Bucs' Super Bowl win, which was entirely him and not Jon Gruden. They're not going to be great again unless they've got a clone of Tony Dungy in a tank somewhere.

Washington Redskins: Lost to the 49ers. What good was it replacing Rex Grossman, who at least is entertaining, with this guy "John Beck?" You know what the only significance of that was? Sportscasters now get to make references to Beck, the singer, when they talk about Washington. That proves that Beck, the singer, is no longer cool, cements my point about what paid sportscasting says about our society, and serves as a good ending point for this post.

You thought I was going to go with Loser, didn't you? I'm nothing if not unpredictable.


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Professional athlete happy to accept millions more than fans will make in their entire lifetime, just to show his love of the game.

As you can see, it's not terribly difficult to write an Onion-style headline, and I could go on to write this entire story in that manner but I'm no Stephen Ambrose. When I plagiarize people, I never get caught.

So Jermichael Finley made "news" the other day -- appropriate use of quotations, as you'll see, because this isn't really news even by the lowered standards of "sports news" by announcing that whether the Green Bay Packers want to pay him millions, or even more millions, he's "down with that" as the kids and lame sportswriters say.

Literally say, in the case of "lame sportswriters." Witness this headline from Pro Football Talk:

Jermichael Finley is down with the franchise tag

Oh, is he? Is he "down with" that, Gregg Rosenthal?

Pro Football Talk, you may be interested to know, is a sports site that was started by lawyer Mike Florio and which grew so popular/time-consuming that Florio quit being a lawyer and started just being a sports blogger, and then was acquired as an affiliate by NBC, which is sort of my dream except that I don't want to focus on sports and also I still really like lawyering, but that's all beside the point.

What is the point is that not only did Gregg Rosenthal/PFT by that headline continue the dumbing down of sports by insisting on making their sports talk "hep" and slang-y, which is one of the most annoying things about sports talk (other annoying things include "stupid nicknames for people/things, like on the NFL Network the other day when one of the interchangeable morons said "It gets Late Early Doucet" or some gibberish of that sort, and "making jokes about how women don't like that men like sports) but also that Gregg/PFT pretended that Jermichael Finley being all down with the franchise tag (which, if he likes so much, he shoulda put a ring on)(and it's okay to steal from Beyonce because apparently that's all she does is steal dance moves from other people, making Beyonce the Stephen Ambrose of pop music, and that's the only time that analogy will ever be used.)

Also: I know, as you'll see when you go on to read the rest of this post, that Finley used the phrase down with first, but that's no excuse for Gregg/PFT to run with it. Lots of people say stupid things; reporters aren't supposed to be parrots. Braawwk! Down with that!

Where was I? Oh, yeah, Gregg/PFT pretending that Finley, who didn't play almost at all last year and yet somehow the Packers still won a Super Bowl even though they didn't even have him, saying he's down with the franchise tag is (a) news and (b) to his credit.

Let's look briefly at both.

Is it news, even by sports news standards? Consider the most basic way to determine if something is news: the "man bites dog" story. As the thinking goes, dog bites man is not news because that's what dogs do, especially pit bulls, and especially if you tell them the man is Michael Vick because you've got to believe that dog society has it in for him, and maybe all of us, because while we (you) have apparently forgiven him, I bet dogs haven't and they may ultimately get their revenge on him and people who forgave him.

I'm sorry. I'm writing this at 5:30 a.m. and I apologize for the digressions, but who am I kidding? My writing is digressions. I don't even have a point, most of the time. Imagine what it's like to live with me.

No, seriously. Imagine it. I'll wait.

If you pictured lots of pizza and quoting from Better Off Ted, you were about 98% accurate.

But when a man bites a dog, that's news, because that doesn't happen so much.

So is a football player saying "Boy, I'm really okay if they give me more money" NEWS? It's clearly not. It's not news when anyone says that, let alone a football player whose easily as known for saying how great he is as he is for actually being great.

(In his career, Finley has played in 39 games, of a total of 60 the Packers played in that time. His career average is 35 yards per game. He's not great, not yet. He has potential, I suppose, but let's not name him the new Tony Gonzalez just yet.)

But the Green Bay Packers are big on Finley, apparently (or maybe not, as they haven't yet offered him the mega-millions he's okay with -- down with-- getting paid) and so they're in negotiations, which also isn't news, especially when you consider that there's no actual proof they're in negotiations.

What the Gregg/PFT story actually reports is that Finley is hoping the Packers will, you know, make him an offer. There's a complete lack of any quotes, direct or indirect, from the Packers, so the story is essentially Jermichael Finley issuing a press release to announce that the Packers can either offer him a lot of money, or they can use the franchise tag and be required to pay him a lot of money.

And Finley, we're told by Gregg/PFT, is "saying all the right things." Things like, on if the Packers franchise tag him:

“If they do that, I’m down with that..I ain’t going to be [ticked] off. I just love the game, and I was just blessed to be making money. I’m just taking it all in.”

I'm guessing, by the use of the brackets (which are in the original PFT quote) that Finley actually didn't say the right thing there, if you want to fun a family organization.

Finley is also saying all the right things by ripping on the city he loves so much he's willing to get paid millions to go on living in. About Green Bay, he says:

“You can’t ask for a better city just because there’s nothing to do, for one thing...I’m going to be real with you, there’s less trouble you can get into."
I've been to Green Bay. You'd have to pay me to live there, too. But it's refreshing that Jermichael Finley is open with the press (he's real with them, because he's down with reality, too) and admits that one reason he loves Green Bay is he can't get into trouble there. (Unless, of course, he's black and walks across the street. Got to keep those property values up, Green Bay, right?)

So is it news that Jermichael Finley is "down with" getting paid? I think not.

More importantly, is it to Finley's credit that if the Packers don't offer him a whopping big contract and instead choose to "franchise tag" him, he's down with that, too?

The franchise tag comes in two varieties: exclusive and non-exclusive. Both versions require that the player get the greater of the average of the top 5 salaries at his position or 120% of his current pay, whichever is greater. Both require only a 1-year contract and guarantee the pay; while guaranteed contracts are becoming more common in the NFL, they're not the standard.

Which is to say: a franchise player is guaranteed at least a 20% pay increase over what he's making now. Or more. Currently, the average regular salary not including signing bonuses of the top 5 tight ends is just under $6 million. Finley is set to make $1.2 million this year, so a franchise tag guarantees him a nearly 500% salary increase.

Non-exclusive franchise players are allowed to negotiate with other teams, and if they sign an offer sheet, the franchise-team can match it, so non-exclusive players are in a position to increase their salary by more than the required amount, and may get a longer-than-one-year contract.

So what Jermichael Finley is down with is getting, at a minimum, a 20% pay increase combined with a guarantee that he'll be paid for the year, to stay in a city that keeps him out of trouble.

Does he even deserve that? What are the odds that Green Bay would, absent the franchise tag, have to pay Finley $6 million bucks? Finley, this year, is ranked (right now) 15th in receptions; while PFT says that's likely because of all the other targets Green Bay has, Packers WR Greg Jennings is ranked 5th in receptions and no other Packer is in the top 20 for that category.

When he does get the ball, he doesn't do all that much with it. Finley is 21st in average yards per reception -- while his teammate, TE Andrew Quarless, is 3rd. Granted, Quarless only has 1 reception, for 21 yards, but still, Finley is 21st, behind people like Jared Cook and Joel Dreessen, and no, I don't know who those guys are, either.

Yard per game? Finley's 10th. Longest reception? 13th. It's only in touchdowns that he cracks the top 5, tied for 4th with three other tight ends. But he balances that out by being 15th in first down percentage. So maybe Finley's number is only getting called when he's near the goal... or maybe Finley doesn't try all that hard on plays in the middle of the field. That's for smarter people than me to decide.

It's apparently not for Pro Football Talk to decide, because despite talking about pro football for a living, they did not engage in any of that analysis. They weren't down with it.

Pro Football Talk, by the way, is primarily an aggregator of news, which makes them sort of the Beyonce of sports writing. Nice work if you can get it, though, which could also be said about being a below-average, but much-hyped tight end who has decided to start trying to convince his team, and the NFL world, that he is worth $6 million a year despite all the evidence suggesting that he's not even worth the $1.2 million he'll make for this fair-to-middlin' season.

The average household income in Green Bay, Wisconsin, by the way, is $40,000. So Jermichael Finley, who apparently only bothers really trying when he's in the end zone and the cameras are on, will earn, this year alone, THIRTY TIMES what his fans pull in.

But he's down with earning 150 times what you make. He's just sayin'.

ECLIPSE: a sci-fi story about Claudius, who wanted to be the first man to reach the stars. Did he get there? Or did he commit murder? Or both? In this kaleidoscopic trip through space, time, and Claudius' mind, you'll find more questions than answers, and a thrilling, mystifying story.

"This book is brilliant. I'm still trying to figure it all out much in the same way that I sit on my couch trying to figure out a David Lynch movie like Mulholland Drive. There is just so much to wrap my head around that it becomes a little mind-boggling."

-- Author Michael Offutt, on Eclipse.

Buy the book on Amazon or on your Kindle!


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