Sunday, July 8, 2012

The "I Guess It's Time I Try To Do An NFL Preview" NFL Preview: The Indianapolis Colts

I am not what you'd call "up" on sports, and by that I mean that as I write this I know less than ever about sports, something that becomes glaringly obvious whenever I pay attention to sports, like last night, when, at 3 a.m., Mr Bunches woke up yelling for me.

"Dad! Dad! Where are you Dad!" he hollered from inside his room, and I staggered out of bed calling out that I was on my way and sit tight and I got to his room and turned on the light and found him sitting on his bed, his Spongebob blanket askew.

"What is it?" I asked him.

"Press the button?" he asked back, and pointed to the TV.  Press The Button means play the DVD that is in the player, in this case, Despicable Me, which was on the title screen but not playing.

That's part of why I don't pay as much attention to sports as I used to: I have Mr Bunches and Mr F, and they're more fun than sports, so the Old Me, which was the Younger Version Of Me, so if you're keeping track, then Present Me is old, whereas Old Me was young, because he was in the past, see?

Anyway, Old Me used to spend more time watching sports (mostly football) and paying attentiont o sports by listening to ESPN Radio and The Dan Patrick Show and reading the sports page and Tuesday Morning Quarterback and all that.

Present Me, though, doesn't do much of that stuff, in part because on Sundays I no longer want to devote 3, 4, 5+ hours to watching football, and so I've become choosier about my sporting events that I watch, demanding that they seem interesting before I will schedule time to view them.  If a game or event doesn't promise to be interesting, I won't make time to watch it, anymore than I would go see a movie every week at noon or read whatever book someone handed me.

I still follow the news, and if it's important enough news to get mentioned on a nonsports-news show, I will hear about it, which is how I heard LeBron got a title in a strike-shortened season, but mostly I don't pay attention to sportscentric reporting, like ESPN or The Dan Patrick Show, because I found them not entertaining anymore.

If you follow too much ESPN or regular sports reporting of any sort for that matter, whether local or national, TV, radio, or print, here's what you find: A lot of the same thing over and over and over and not much of it very interesting, at least to me.

There's a constant chatter, in sports reporting, about minutiae and details, about batting averages and OBP and that stuff bores me.  That and the repetition; it's not just that SportsCenter repeats every hour literally every hour, but that in these talk shows and "news"casts, the same ideas and thoughts get repeated over and over with no new spins or twists or even new ideas.

There are literally hundreds of sports, and thousands of athletes -- and hundreds of teams within those sports.  There are, by my estimation, millions of sports stories per year, and yet we keep having the same reporting and the same discussion of those few top stories and in the same exact way.

Take NFL previews: Every year, everybody, including me, does an NFL preview.  Our local NFL preview is done by the folks at the Wisconsin State Journal (Motto: We'll suck up to the UW so you don't have to) and features, typically, an obituary-sized little box where each team is given about two paragraphs that goes something like this:

The ___________(insert team name) finished last season ____________(insert either strong or poorly; no other finishes are possible in SportWriting) with a record of _______(insert any random numbers; nobody checks.)

In the offseason, _______(team) drafted ____________(for three teams chosen at random, insert poorly; for the remaining 29 teams, insert excellently), and in doing so cemented their position as ____________ (insert cellar-dweller or division leader; this blank need not relate to your last blank at all.)

This year, ________(team, hopefully the same one as the last two blanks) will face a significant challenge in that [they must play road games/ they have a new quarterback, coach, owner, or stadium/continue to have to score points to win games, isn't that a bit unfair/are the Buffalo Bills](select one or more), but so far in training camp ______________ (insert name of football player everyone will recognize; I suggest "Tony Romo") has looked strong.

Projected finish:  12-4.  (Note:  All teams must be projected to finish 12-4, except for the Jacksonville Jaguars, who are expected to finish 0-31, and the New England Patriots*, who will be revealed to have been the go-betweens in Operation Fast & Furious).

Meanwhile, for an in-depth look at the local team, which is the Green Bay Packers if you live anywhere in Wisconsin because it's considered gauche to cross a state line to root for a team, the WSJ will publish a week-long series in which they will (seriously) examine in detail the strength, speed and other skills of such people as potential back-up tight ends.

And people will pore over that and discuss it and call up talk shows and discuss in detail whether the punter or the backup QB should be the holder on point-after attempts and those are the same people who cannot successfully name three cabinet-level departments.

 So I don't care much for regular old sports "reporting" and when I listen to or read about sports, it tends to be on Grantland, where to my surprise they really does make almost every kind of sport including basketball interesting, or on NPR, where they sometimes let that cranky old guy Frank DeFord do sports reports and he talks about why it would have been a shame if that horse this year had won the Triple Crown because of his disgraced owners and handlers -- didn't hear that on ESPN, did you? -- because to me, if you're going to say something about something, you should try to be interesting about that.

I'm not talking, there, about doctors delivering bad news or network anchors on the headlines, although the latter certainly wouldn't be hurt by being more interesting.  I'm talking about people like me, people talking about sports or pop culture or our lives or whatever it is we're all talking about online, here and in podcasts and on the radio and TV: be interesting, above all.  Don't just parrot back what everyone already said; that's what HuffPo is for.  Instead, have a new take on it or new information or a new way of presenting it or talk about something nobody else is talking about.

That's what I try to do here, and if ESPN or Dan Patrick or any of those guys bothered to do that, I'd listen to them a lot more.

I begin with that lengthy preface because it bears repeating that when I do this NFL Preview, which I try to complete every year and never do, I'm not basing it on any real source of knowledge. And that sometimes bugs people, that I will do a preview of their team even though I spend less than 1 hour per week, on average, reading about or listening to or watching sports.

"How can you tell me such-and-such might be no good when you don't pay attention to the team everyday?" sometimes people ask me.

To which I say "How can you vote when you spend 99.9% of your waking hours thinking about LeBron James?  It's your fault we don't have nationalized health care yet and people are dying in the streets."

So with that, enough talk!  Time to start... um, talking about the NFL Preview this year, which I'm going to do in reverse order, starting with the worst team and moving to the best, as judged by their NFL regular season records last year.

And here's what I'll do: I'll give you my general impression of and prediction for the team as a baseline test for what knowledge I've got.  I'll then give you a sort of summary of something someone else says, after I do my assessment, and then I'll give you, because I always like to have a pop culture twist in here, the 1980s One Hit Wonder song that sums up that team's prospects for the year.

Let's see how this works, shall we?

The Indianapolis Colts.

What I Know About Them Without Even Researching:  The Colts finished 2-14 last year, which I learned when I had to look them up on to decide the order of this series.  The Colts got rid of St. Peyton Manning, who will now be healing the lame in Colorado (walking on water is easier in the thin mountain air, I understand.)  I think the Colts got rid of everyone else, too, except maybe Curtis Painter, who lingers around Indianapolis the way that fat kid with the rat, Neville, lingered around Hogwarts.  I was never quite sure how Neville was going to fit in, whether he would be comic relief or a serious character, and having read all the books and watched one of the movies, I'm still not sure what the deal was with Neville.

Speaking of Neville and Harry Potter, remember that J.K. Rowling is releasing an "adult" book this year, but "adult" is in quotes because this isn't 50 Shades of Gryffindor Purple,  it's a book about local politics in England and it's supposed to be darkly comic.  Apparently, pre-orders rank it about 600th on Amazon, if my recollection is correct.  Publishers are wondering whether Rowlings' fans, having grown up reading her books, will transition smoothly over to the new genre, a question that only seems to have no bearing on a Colts' NFL preview if you're a moron, in that anybody with half a brain could see that I was about to say...

...that the question is very similar to whether Colts fans will adapt to the new world of Andrew Luck under center, with no Bill Polian (am I right that Bill Polian is gone? Who knows?) to select talent to put around him and no Tony Dungy to actually coach a team rather than simply let them play the way Jim Caldwell did.  (Is Jim gone, too?)

There's a lot of hype over Andrew Luck, and every time I hear his name, I ask the person talking about him to name one decent team Andrew Luck beat in college, and what I get in return is:

"Well, he played for Stanford and they're in the PAC-10 and they... well, USC... only..."

And I'm a big enough man to not say "Exactly."  (Instead, I just smirk and say "I've got work to do" even though I don't.)

Is Andrew Luck any good? God only knows.  Apparently he did quite well in college playing against the powerhouses of the PAC-10, which collectively have won -3 BCS National Championships, by my count, if you take away the ones that USC won while they were allowed to pay their players.

Here is how college football works: There is the SEC, which is full of really good teams.  Then there is the Big-12, which has some really good teams.  Then there is Ohio State.

Then there are no good teams.

Not year-in, year-out.  There are teams that put together some accomplishments and look good for a season, or two, but year-in, year-out, there is the SEC, then a few teams in the Big-12, then Ohio State and that. is. it.

Andrew Luck may do well -- Aaron Rodgers certainly has -- but it won't have anything to do with how he played in college in the PAC-10.  (See also: Matt Leinart.)

Anyway, the Colts have Andrew Luck for the same reason that that one NBA team had to draft that Ohio State basketball player whose name I can't remember but who didn't even have a knee when they drafted him, and they probably have a bunch of other new people, and Luck is going to have to live up to the expectations of being a Number One draft pick taking over for a man most people think of as a consummate winner only he's never won very many important games, and that tells you what to think of the Colts this year: It's not what actually happened it's what people think happened.

People think St. Peyton was a consummate winner, so Luck has the deck stacked against him -- but people think Luck's college career proved he's great, too, so that's an 8-ball in front of the stacked deck, and what that means is that the Colts, unless they have amassed a bunch of talent to put around Luck and can do that let's run the ball and play defense thing are likely to watch Andrew Luck have a terrible year.

And it won't even be, if you ask me, the kind of terrible year that what's-his-name, the guy with the Carolina Panthers why can't I think of anything this morning it's too early on a Sunday to do this! had last year where he plays great but loses every game.  I'm predicting the Colts to be 5-11, and Luck to be ranked mid-range in every statistical area by the end of the year.

What somebody else said about the Colts:

Cam Newton.  It was Cam Newton I was thinking of, there.

Here's what Bleacher Report says about the Colts in their review of the biggest mysteries facing each NFL team as it enters camp:

The new face of the Indianapolis Colts franchise, Andrew Luck faces sky-high expectations in his first year as the starting quarterback.

He may have missed most OTA time thanks to the quarter schedule that Stanford follows, but based on what he has shown so far at minicamp, Colts fans have a lot to look forward to as Luck grows into his role as a team leader.

At the same time, it is worth remember [sic] that a young quarterback leading an offensive squad that has parted ways with many of their former starters is bound to have his share of rough games and rookie mistakes.

The true first test will come in training camp. Luck is still trying to get past the huge learning curve that comes with assuming the starting role right away.

At least now that school is finished, he will be able to devote himself entirely to immersion in the NFL. Hopefully that will be enough to help prevent a disappointing bumpy start to his NFL career.

That follows in the grand sportswriting tradition of never saying anything negative about people you hope someday to interview.  So Colts fans "have a lot to look forward to" as Luck shows how a leader can finish a set of irrelevant college classes rather than attend organized team activities?  Awesome.  Also, the final prediction -- hopefully -- isn't a prediction at all; it's your typical sportswriting cop-out of It could be this but it could be that.

What Bleacher Report seemed to be saying, there, is what I said: Don't hope for much.  But Bleacher Report didn't want to say that because then Luck might refuse to ever sit down and be interviewed by them, and sports "reporters" would far rather meet their idols than report.

What 1980s One-Hit Wonder Song Best Exemplifies The Colts This Year?

Aaron Rodgers is the most successful PAC-10 grad in the NFL right now, and he sat for years behind Brett Favre before being handed the job of running a team with some key veterans on it and a settled-in coaching staff.

Aaron Rodgers has won a Super Bowl.

Andrew Luck is going to be behind center from game one, because the Colts can't wait.

The Korgis released Everybody's Got To Learn Sometime in 1980, having already had modest success in the UK.  The song hit number 18 on the US Charts, but the band struggled to keep it together at all, being marketed as a duo or trio or quartet (and, really,  is that how you market a band?  "Listen to this song, it's by a duo, not one of those dumb quartets?")

Thereafter, the singer sometimes released songs as The Korgis and sometimes not, but the original duo/trio/whatever got back together in 1990 to re-record Everybody's Got To Learn Sometime, because they had learned that when you find a golden goose you stick near it. The group continued to break-up and get back together, demonstrating how hard it is to realize that you've come this close and yet that's as close as you'll ever get.

Sorry to end on a down note!  Here's a celebrity fan of the Colts to send you on your way, a little wiser, a little sadder, and a little more certain to leave here wondering "Which one was Neville, again?"

1 comment:

anna. said...

hah. i like this. and any NBA team would be lucky to get an OSU grad. so there.


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