Monday, January 22, 2007

Playa Hater's Ball: Super Bowl XLI

At this juncture in my life, I don't see myself as a pessimist anymore. My unbridled cynicism has infested every aspect of my being. Pessimist is far too soft a label for a hater of my stature. We have reached the point where I can't help but find the negative aspects of even my favorite things in this world; i.e., the Super Bowl.

It's America's quintessential national holiday - a time when family and friends get together, eat fattening snack foods, down several alcohol-infused beverages, and gather around a glowing piece of metal to watch hundreds of ploys for you to buy shit you don't need. And there's some kind of football game of large significance being played - but half the people watching could care less. This inevitably leads to inane questioning and bitching of monumental proportions by those not immersed in pro pigskin - and, correspondingly, great agitation of people like myself, who wonder why the hell we went to a party to watch this game with these people, knowing damn well that a six-pack, batch of chicken wings and a closed door with the game would bring us more joy.

At this time I would like to redirect your attention to the negative sides of this year's festivities. This year has brought us sensational parity in the NFL. By parity, I mean bad quarterback play, poor decision making and a lot of three-and-outs. The big game pits the embattled Colts against the tradition-heavy Chicago Bears, in a showdown sure to make Sprint, Gatorade, MasterCard, the NFL shop, and a myriad of other Peyton product pitchers salivate.

I bring to you an open vent, teeming with frustration and disgusting over-analysis. The following are 5 storylines you will be tired of in two weeks, after they have been incessantly bashed into your skull by the media powers that be:

1) Lovie Smith and Tony Dungy are great friends.
Remember the Herm Edwards - Tony Dungy snugglefest that we were treated to in the wild card round? Imagine that, ad nauseam, times 3450 this week. I expected all-out man groping at the end of that game after the fluffy sideline reporters' pieces about those two lovebirds. Now, let's dissect this same storyline, again and again, only now all the media outlets who DON'T cover sports 355 days a year can get in on the act, too.
My realistic hope is that the friendship aspect takes a back seat to the fact that these two men are the first African-American coaches in the history of the NFL to make it to the Super Bowl. This is a big moment in the history of the league, and should be treated as such. No sarcasm there, just keeping it real.

2) Peyton gets the monkey off his back
Well, not quite. My early pick is the Indianapolis Peytons in this game, but we'll be treated to 'he doesn't have the big win' angles for another X amount of seasons if he goes Marino on us and loses in 2 weeks. Unlike most of the country, I DIDN'T want to see him beat Captain America and Coach Obi Wan in the AFC title game. Why? Because the Peyton Manning face brings me great joy. His reaction after Logan Mankins fell on that loose ball in the end zone was the best laugh I had all week. Please don't take that away from me, football gods. A relieved, smiling Peyton isn't nearly as entertaining as a laser-armed ball of frustration.

3) Can the Bears win in spite of Grossman?
Oh, Rextasy. Your monumental douchebaggery cost me many a fantasy game this season. Now, after leading 'On The Clock' to a staggering 4-9 mark, you've gone and rode your great defense through a weak NFC all the way to the promised land. I'd like to think that The Sex Cannon (name credit - KissingSuzyKolber sports blog), who looked like a 4-year old who lost his Mommy in the mall at the end of the first half Sunday, would be inept enough to fold under pressure, but the guy is just as likely to throw a tipped-touchdown pass to Berrian. And no, the Bears can't win in spite of Grossman. They'll need a solid effort from him if they expect to win big XLI.

4) The Colts D was crap in the regular season
And now, they're... well, less crappy. Bob Sanders is making himself into the biggest difference maker in the league at safety for the way his presence has changed the persona of the Colts defense the past three weeks. If it were up to our instant-oatmeal-society ESPN analysts, we would send him to Canton right now. We also would have put Tony Romo somewhere between Staubach and Aikman the day after Thanksgiving, though, and you know how that turned out. My circumvented point is that Sanders turns the Colts defense from horrible to slightly below average, and that will probably be enough to slow down Rextasy and the Bears' solid running game.

5) Prince: too risque for halftime?
This is for the Fox Newses of the world. Who cares? I'm 22, not 32. Prince is before my time, and I've never claimed to be big on old school jams. My best memory of Prince was the time Charlie Murphy and I got our asses handed to us at his crib playing basketball. I say we bring Janet back, nipple clips and all.

If you'll excuse me, I'm going to go serve Harris, Jennings, and Wideman pancakes.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Picks Destined to Fail, Division Round Edition

Holy cover-2 zone, Batman! It's the greatest weekend of the NFL season, and to my giddy, girlish delight we've got the top-4 seeds in each conference still around for the party. As an adamant anti-Dallas personality, I'm also pleased that the Cowgirls are not going to be featured on my television screen this week. As for Tony Romo, what can I say that hasn't been said, printed or left in a threatening / taunting voicemail. I honestly felt bad for the guy last weekend, but at the same time, another week of the Cowboys means another week of T.O., and I need to hear that man's voice about as much as John Mellencamp's at this point.

I'm not going to write that much here, because, well, I'm not getting paid to write this. But as a man of my word, here's one man's analysis of the next two glorious days of playoff football (home teams in CAPS):

Colts 23, RAVENS 26
Peyton's happy feet last week against KC had to have the Ravens salivating. It's getting to the point where you just cannot pick Peyton Manning and/or Tony Dungy in January. They got bailed out last week by a coach unwilling to waver from a game plan everyone in the building knew they would stick to when Herm Edwards decided to run right into 8 and 9 man fronts on every possession. By the way, If Hermanation would have gone play action earlier, and starting using his bigger tight ends against a small Colts secondary, the Chiefs would have avoided the epic stink bomb they dropped last week. See: what they did on their ONE good drive, and my post before the game. By the way, this prediction is rendered void should Kyle Boller be seen on the playing field at any time.

Pats 31, BOLTS 16
I'm banking on Marty slipping into trademark, classic Marty mode, clamming up when Belichick stacks the line to take away LT, and refusing to turn Rivers (in his first playoff game) loose until it's too late. Mr. Brady has become more comfortable with his WEAK recieving core, and the Pats' defense may actually be their best in 5 years.

Eagles 22, SAINTS 31
I'm not ready to see the beautiful Saints' story die. Colston is healthy again, and Lito Sheppard is out - I think Brees will light it up.

Seahawks 12, BEARS 16
I think the Bears can win this game, even with a space cadet at quarterback. The weather will be awful in Chicago, and I can't see a Lovie Smith team, at home, with an extra week to prepare, losing to a very mediocre Seahawk club.

John Mellencamp 4,872, JRAY -12

Thursday, January 11, 2007

I'm Not Talking About Steroids After This

It's an unfortunate reality that Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken got less publicity in the national sports media this week than their tainted contemporary, Mark McGwire. The former two's inductions into the Hall of Fame, though, are really just a preview of the next 15 years of what is already a nauseating, tired debate about performance-enhancing drugs in professional sports.

I'm going under the working assumption that McGwire, along with a colossal amount of his peers in professional baseball, did use steroids in the 80's and 90's. Anyone who thinks otherwise is naive. You're also naive if you think it still is not going on today - sports science will always be several steps ahead of the press, the government, and organizational bodies that have jurisdictive power in such matters. There is no test in existance that can detect the presence of human growth hormone (HGH), so who's to say that it's not being used by athletes? Bodybuilders have been singing its praises for years. And don't think because YOU haven't heard of the hot new works-too-well illegal enhancer, Pro Baller A hasn't. It's part of his line of work - he has.

Just as kids will find new ways to get high, drug dealers will find new methods of cooking and slinging product, and so on, people will always be seeking a competitive edge. It's the product of a competitive world - addiction, money, winning, whatever - is more important to many people than the perception people have of them.

Don't get me wrong - I'm a sucker for the endearing tradition of baseball. I love it. Two summers ago, when I took my kid brother to the Negro League HOF/museum in Kansas City, it was one of the best days of my life. I savor the stuff. But honestly, if I'm a retired pro jock, living off interest and playing golf everyday, whether or not a bunch of stodgy sportswriters think I'm worthy to be in their club wouldn't be significant to me. These people sit on their high horses as moral police, judging whether it's righteous or not to use steroids in order to get an edge. Phrases like "they cheated the fans" never have resonance with me, because if you're a sports fan, and you're dull enough to put a dude who runs a 40 exceptionally fast, or can throw a baseball 95 MPH on an idolic pedestal, that'd be a YOU problem.

"Cheating the game" is another trite sportswriter's phrase found when no real substance is present. The truth is, guys like McGwire, Ken Caminiti, Jason Giambi, and the like, used at a time when their competition was using, as well. Granted, not everyone was using, but they had the option to since it was not against the rules of the game. To me, that's not "cheating the game." If that's the case, then anything that one player has access to that another doesn't would be cheating. Where does this slope take us? Timed film analysis before NFL games? Equivocal training facilities and staff for every NBA franchise? Imagine this exchange:

League official: "Hey, Coach Belichick, we at the office got word that you have developed several different schemes to slow down LT this weekend. In the interest of fairness, we're going to need you to share those with the other 31 franchises."

"Cheating the game" is the pitcher scuffing the baseball with an emory board, or an NBA player missing shots to cover a spread, or a quarterback intentionally getting picked off. By giving a disingenuous effort, or using something against the rules to gain leverage on the opposition is to cheat the game, or cheat the fans. I'm not trying to advocate or support steroid use, pre-or-post baseball legislation, I just believe that morally chastising people is ridiculous, and is done to an obscene extent in the media. Who are we to throw stones? Strategic or personnel decisions in sports can be ridiculed for their implications on franchises or programs - but to evaluate PEOPLE is a path I choose not to tread on.

All that being said, I wouldn't take steroids into account, ever, when judging whether or not to vote a player into Cooperstown. We don't know who did and didn't do it, and frankly, I don't care. The damage has been done already to the sport, and the black eye is one that will never subside.

The Hall of Fame is built to reflect the history of the game, and to accurately reflect that history, an era that was loaded with juicers should have its greatest enshrined, too. Let's not teach American baseball history the way that most schools in America teach American history - by picking and choosing it's finer moments, and shunning the negative ones. Denial and lies are always worse than accepting fault.

Now, for McGwire: the man was never an MVP. He won a gold glove, but the legitimacy of that award is growing more and more suspect each year - the thing is given out on almost reputation alone, and half the time isn't handed to the best defensive player. It sounds sexy to say "he won X gold gloves," but to me, the thing is like a Grammy given to a rap artist: the guy with the biggest name gets an award given out by a disconnected board of judges.

He also was a career .263 hitter, but makes up for that some with his .394 OBP. His homer totals are impressive, but 15 years from now, he may not be in the top 12 all time anymore. Thome, A-Rod, Manny and Griffey will all pass him within 5 years in all likelihood. His career was plagued by injuries, but he still managed to (obviously) hit a ton of home runs. He had minimal speed, and was basically a one-trick pony. It was a hell of a trick, though.

I didn't lose respect for him because of 'roids, I lost respect for him because he acted like a little bitch on Capitol Hill. Despite this, I would have elected him this year. For one, he would have to deal with the pressures of addressing a hostile crowd, something he cried trying to do in front of congress. And two, I wouldn't have to listen to this same debate next year, and for the next 10 years, as self-righteous writers bicker about the morality of steroids.

Football picks tomorrow.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Playoffs!??! Picks Bound to Fail, sponsored by Jim Mora, Sr.

Wild card weekend is upon us, and I'd like to take a moment to list the NFC teams who have a snowball's chance in Hell at entertaining me mildly this weekend. ... That deafening silence you hear from the peanut gallery is the collective yawn of America when looking at the Seabags-Cowboys and Philly-Giants matchups. Hooray, Parity!

Each of these teams are inherently flawed, with the Eagles showing the most promise out of the group. That being said, I'm a big McNabb guy, and will be openly rooting against the success of Jeff Garcia this postseason, due to the fallout that a Super Bowl appearance may inflict on the perennially underrated Chunky Soup pitchman.

The Chiefs-Colts game is the matchup I personally am looking forward to the most. The obvious plotline is LJ wreaking havoc on the Colts run defense, but the real question will be if Trent Green can get Tony Gonzalez heavily involved in the passing game against an undersized Indy secondary. Peyton Manning knows he has to basically play a perfect game, every game, if he's going to get to Miami this year, and I'm banking on 4 TD's from him tomorrow against a very average KC pass defense. The Chiefs can't match that with the ground game alone, and though ball control is the primary focus of their offensive game plan, they'll need to go deep on play action a time or two if they expect to win this one.

Here are one man's predictions for the Wild Card round, home team in caps:
Chiefs 31, COLTS 34
Dallas 24, SEATTLE 27
Giants 19, PHILLY 27
Jets 13, PATS 31

The NFL has been so unpredictable all season, that I thought I would drop a little reverse psychology on the games this week. You hear that, NFL? I'm calling your bluff! Favorites outright, in a microcasm of what I think will be a bit of a dull experience this weekend. This league has to get predictable eventually, right?? RIGHT!??!

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

2006: The Airing of Grievances

The year 2006 was a landmark year in terms of the ineptitude of my favorite sports entities. Allow me to piss and moan about the past 12 months, award-show style, as I hand out trophies to the people and franchises who disappointed me the most. Don't worry, the list is lengthy, and fueled by a deep resentment toward those celebrating, oh, I don't know, world series victories.

My Britney Spears cerca 1998 Tease of the Year award goes to the Houston Astros, for their quasi-inspired play for the majority of the season, followed by their now customary late season stomp toward the playoffs. In 10 fantastic, unbelievable days, the 'Stros went from finished to on the brink of winning the NL Central, thanks to what would have been the biggest collapse in baseball history by the Cards. The possibility of this happening turned me into a giddy schoolgirl just imagining the possibility of reveling in 1) my own sense of elation and 2) the misery of the annoying Cardinal fans I endure here in Missouri. But predictably, the Astros couldn't capitalize on the Redbirds' mediocrity, and hit like 4th graders in the last series of the season against Atlanta.

The Cardinals then rode their clear wave of momentum through the mediocre NL in the playoffs, then defeated a Detroit Tiger team whose pitching staff forgot how to play defense. Don't get in a tissy, Cardinal fan, your team won, and you reserve the right to be smarmy as champions. Congratulations. On a positive note, I was privvied to seeing a roided-up Kenny Rogers, who shouted maniacally and doctored baseballs to everyone's enjoyment.

The Houston Rockets get no awards this year, since I'm not entirely sure they played in the past 12 months. Injuries have rendered our promising roster hapless, while we stand in the now monumental shadows of the hated Mavs, Spurs, and Suns, who will undoubtedly duke it out in the West Finals for the next three years. Tracy McGrady will officially be known as T-Back to me until his injury problems subside and he proves to me that he hasn't come down with Grant Hill syndrome. On the other hand, Yao Ming made fantastic advances in his game when he was healthy. While continuing to improve an already stellar jumpshot and swift turnaround moves, he is playing the game with a swagger that was absent in his first few years in Houston.

None of this matters to anyone I get to talk to on a daily basis, though, because the only thing they remember about Yao is Nate Robinson blocking him in a game a month ago. They ignore the fact that Nate fouled him on the play, Yao destroyed the Knicks that night, and the Rockets won the game. Of course, seven people at Mizzou follow the NBA, so I probably shouldn't invest much in most of their opinions, anyway.

The Inaugural Tarek Tabbara "Reeaalllyyyy?" Award goes to Mizzou Football, who perplexed fans in ways we didn't know were possible over the course of the season. Was it the Tecmo Bowl-style running game, featuring no more than three running plays? The playcalling brilliance of Coach Pinkel - which included gems like running 4-WR shotgun, spread packages inside the opponents' 2-yard line? Or was it the way they were admittedly robbed by officials against juggernaut Iowa State? No, the "Really??" moment of the year came during the Sun Bowl, when, after witnessing the team blow another late lead, I really wasn't that shocked or disappointed. I have grown to expect letdown as a Mizzou fan.

The Frank Costanza Grievance of the Year Award goes to everyone's favorite insignificant NFL franchise, the Houston Texans. This year really was a constant exercise in frustration and 'WTF-ism' for anyone with brain activity who was either forced or compelled to follow this team. Our consolation prize for the Hindenburg-like disaster of 2005 was winning the number one pick in the draft. The Texans, when presented the options of two Heisman winners (Bush and Leinart), hometown hero and state icon Vince Young, or trading the pick down in order to get more pieces to help the team, went with the only logical choice: a defensive end with half of a productive season under his belt.

I'd like to thank the Texans for this, because as my Columbia acquaintances' embassador to the city of Houston, I was given the opportunity to rationalize this decision to countless football fans, drunk males, and various fucktards over the course of the year. Meanwhile, the Darth Vader of my youth, Bud Adams, who moved my beloved Oilers to Tennessee when I was a kid, drafted Vince Young, who promptly urinated all over the Texans at Reliant Stadium in his first visit to the H as a pro. Vince left the field screaming, "THIS IS MY CITY!" and pounding his chest after his 40-yard touchdown scamper beat the Texans in OT. Coach Kubes' inaugural campaign was littered with injuries, but the team did show promise, tripling the win output of last year by going 6-10. Most depressing statistic: this 6-win total was one win shy of our franchise best.

This sums up the grievances I had during the past 12 months. It's not that everything sucks, though, my friends, it's just more fun to complain about these things in a joking matter in this format. Now, I must put the Festivus Pole back in the crawl space.

Football is way more entertaining than real life

An orgasmic, gluttonous day of football watching was capped off tonight by one of the 10 best football games I feel I've ever seen. My OU and Big XII ties had me pulling for the favored Sooners (I should say the David-versus-Goliath, or call them 'big dogs,' since those two trite analogies were RELENTLESSLY POUNDED into my brain by Cliche Kingpin and lovable dwarf Thom Brennaman), but as Mr. Carter says, "Real recognizes real." Boise State proved that they are, in fact, realer than we all believed.

Bronco quarterback and obvious toolbox Jared Zabransky managed to spearhead a ridiculous touchdown drive to tie the game in the final minute of regulation, despite his Vanderjagt earring and bad tattoos. The game will serve as fantastic fodder for people to bitch about this sport not having an actual post-season with merit. I can't worry about that now, though, because I'm still aflutter from the insanity that took place in Phoenix tonight.

Twelve hours of college football taught me alot today. I learned that Carmen Electra digs scraggly, unkempt men who are fond of 1.99 burritos. Ford apparently likes to live on the edge, and features an amazing new car that can drive on rooftops. I also wondered how much money Will.I.Am has banked off the liscensing to "Let's Get Retarded/It Started," which, under FCC regulations, must be featued in 1 out of every 12 advertisements. Altogether, now: "THIS IS OURRRR COUNTRRRRYYYY." Excuse me, I'm going to go shove a golf tee into my inner ear.

Sadly, and obviously, the joy of today was tempered by the sad death of Denver Bronco CB Darrent Williams. To me, the loss is another example of alcohol and egoes exploding in senseless violence. Happy New Year everybody!