Monday, February 27, 2006

NFL Combine

I understand the need for the NFL combine. I really do. It really helps some guys showcase their skills. What I don't understand is how Superstars in college are suddenly passed up by guys you have barely heard of during the college season based on the combine. This year's hot stuff is Vanderbilt QB Jay Cutler. He's big, strong armed, and I guess has decent quickness and speed. So naturally he's a cut above college superman Vince Young and possibly Matt Leinart. Young's decision to not workout at the combine, along with his throwing motion and wonderlic test results (even if it's a 16 it's not fabulous) have given teams cause for concern. As far as not working out, can you blame him? I mean the guys at the combine will pick that throwing motion apart. At the combine they are looking for specific things and if you don't fit into the mold it will work against you. Vince's speed, athleticism and arm strength would score high but I guarantee you his throwing motion would be mercilessly picked on. Now maybe his throwing motion will really screw him up in the pros. I don't know. Brett Favre wasn't the model of quarterback mechanics either and he did all right. On the other hand Jay Cutler seemingly has it all. So did Jeff George if you remember. He was a NFL combine god and got a # 1 pick based on what he did there. So how did that work out for you Indianapolis?

I just think past performance on the field ought to rate a tad bit higher than a few days hanging out in gym shorts and running drills. That's just me.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

College Basketball.

So other than getting giddy as hell over ice dancing in the Olympic games I've been struggling to care about sports for the past couple of weeks. But I really feel like I'm now over football and I'm ready to concentrate on college basketball. Yeah I know, I'm a little late and the college basketball season is almost over. So what. To me, this is the really interesting time for college b-ball anyway. I'm guessing I'm not alone in this either. I'm catching up though and there are a few teams listed below that I will be rooting for as we head towards March Madness.

1. Utah State Aggies. What can I say, it's my alma mater. Plus it's a bonus that the Ags have been pretty good for awhile now. Their last 5 season records are 24-8, 25-4, 24-9, 23-8, and 28-6. They have been in the Big West Conference, so like many non-power conference teams that do well every year they have still have had to win their conference tourney to get into the "Big Dance". Some of their best regular seasons have gone down the tubes with an upset in the Big West tournament. Two years ago they were ranked 21st in the nation and had a 25-3 record. They were upset in the conference tournament, and got screwed by NCAA selection committee. If it had been a team from a power conference ranked in the top 25 they would have got in. Such is life in smaller conferences. You get used to it. Now Utah State is in the WAC and I guess you could consider that a mid-major conference but it's really only a slight step up from the Big West conference. So I imagine the expectations will be the same. They are 18-6 right now but there is no doubt in my mind they need the conference tourney championship to get into the 64 team field.

2. Duke Blue Devils. Yep. I like Duke and I really like Reddick. Let the scorn begin. I can't help it, I've been rooting for Duke ever since the days of Johnny Dawkins. It's not rational. I mean I've had other sports teams that I liked as a youngster (Yankees, Cowboys, etc) that I despise now. Why not Duke as well? They're like the Yankees of college b-ball, exactly the type of team I usually root against, and by all rights I should be making voodoo dolls of Reddick and putting them through my lawn mover before every game. I just like em. I can't explain it. Maybe part of it is that I've always hated North Carolina and at some level I felt like I'd be almost a Tar Heel fan by rejecting Duke. I couldn't have that on my conscience.

3. Georgetown. I was a huge Hoya fan as a teenager and they are another team I've stuck with through the years. They haven't been much good since the 80's and early 90's but I'll still watch their games occasionally. I would love to see another era of "Hoya Paranoia". Just don't ask me to name anybody on their team right now.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Pro-Bowl Blues

I realized last night as I was watching the news that the Pro-Bowl was played yesterday and I had forgotten to watch it or even tivo it. How does a self-professed football fanatic like myself forget to watch pro football players in the last event of the season? Simple. The Pro Bowl sucks. I think I have only watched the entire game once in my life. Although I have to say the coaches shirts for the game are a really good idea. See Shanahan's face in the pic? His eyes say "I'm pissed", but his shirt says, "Aloha!". Good stuff.

What's the biggest reason this game sucks and nobody cares? It really comes down to one thing. It's played after the season. Now logic says due to the violent nature of the sport this is the only time it could be played. And I agree. It couldn't be played any other time. But their is no denying that the NBA and MLB games are more interesting and more controversial (who got snubbed, who got in that shouldn't, etc.) because it's mid-season and fan interest in their games are higher.

The SuperBowl is a memory now. The climax is over. It's like sex. Nobody wants to make out after the deed is done. We just want to go to sleep now. Thats the Pro-Bowl.

Give me a couple of months and I'll be ready to watch anything resembling football. Right now I'm going to go take a nap.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

NFL End of Season Thoughts:

Cool Stuff from the 2005 Season

---Steve Smith and Santana Moss showing teams that little guys can play big and be more than just possession receivers. You just have to have supernatural speed and incredible hops.

---The Steelers proving that it ain't over until the fat lady sings. Or at least until Jerome Bettis announces his retirement.

---Willie Parker coming out of nowhere to rush for over 1,000 yards.

---Carson Palmer turning into an all-pro type QB.

---The Patriots losing in the playoffs and Tom Brady proving me wrong. He is mortal and at least temporarily no longer employed by the Prince of Darkness.

---Clinton Portis interviews. This man is a genius.

---The Love Boat cruise. I know, I'm demented but if you have to have a storyline that's beat to death it might as well be one that involves strippers, boats, lawsuits, and Dante Culpepper denials.

---The Bears defense. At least until the Carolina game. They were pretty good. There is no other explanation for them being in the playoffs, especially with the division II offense they had.

Not So Cool Stuff from the 2005 Season

---Carson Palmer's injury. Ruined what could have been a nice playoff game.

---Payton Manning's annual playoff meltdown. Payton has a nasty habit of losing his cajones in big playoff games against tough defenses.

---P. Manning's off-season gift for his offensive lineman: constructive criticism from a "good teamate".

---Bad Beards. Kyle Orton, say it ain't so. Jake and Ben, the new Gillette has 5 freaking blades! It's pricey but I think you'll be allright.

---Gaps in teeth. Shaun Alexander and Michael Strahan, remember you're not in England, orthodontists can operate legally here in America.

---Matt Millen, Terrell Owens, Drew Rosenhaus, and Mike Martz. No explanation needed right?

---Joe Theismann masquerading as a broadcaster. Now he will be on the Monday night crew. Hopefully Kornheiser will call him out when he says stupid stuff. "What?! Joe that makes no sense at all. You just contradicted yourself 3 times in that sentence!" Of course this would happen every few minutes, so look for Kornheiser to be gone by midseason.

---Jim Mora giving up the smelling salts. Why Jim, why?

---The Jets bad luck at the QB position. I think at one point they considered bringing Joe Namath back. He was making out with ESPN's Suzy Colber though and couldn't be reached.

---SuperBowl XL. This year's version was kinda like that XL popcorn you eat in a movie theater. It looks like it might be tasty but after you've finished it you want to throw up.

---SuperBowl whining. I'm busting myself here. It's getting old, I know. I swear I'm through after today. I just don't care enough about either team to think about it anymore. But it did suck though didn't it? The Seahawks blew chance after chance, the refs blew their credibility, and other than two very cool plays (Randle El TD throw and the Parker TD run) the Steelers looked flat. Ok then. I'm done.

---Did I already say Mike Martz?

---The Rams season. Disappointing again this year for us Ram fans. Mediocre at best. Just a few quick hits on the Rams while I'm on the subject:
1. In case I haven't made it clear, Mike Martz gone from the Rams is a very good thing.

2. Marshall Faulk got screwed this past season. When he did get to play he showed that he still had the legs and moves to make a difference in a game. He should have been given at least a third of the carries per game.

3. I'm irrational when it comes to Marshall Faulk. I just wish he would respond to my invitations to come and hang out at my house. We could do cool stuff like look at my football card collection and watch episodes of The Office together.

4. Tory Holt showed why he is one of the best and most underrated receivers in the game. He tied for 2nd in the league for most receptions with 102. He was sixth in the league in yards with 1331 racked up. Plus he missed two games with injury.

5. Keys to success for next season. A) Upgrade the defensive personnel and schemes. B) Don't abandon the passing oriented offense but fine tune it so that Bulger is better protected (remember he moves like he is in quicksand) and the running game isn't forgotten for long stretches in the game. .

Okay most of you could care less about the Rams, but what about your teams or stuff you saw this year? What did you think was cool or not this past season? I’d be interested to know what I left out or what you didn’t agree with.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

SuperBowl Thoughts

  • This game wasn't awful but it wasn't a good one either. The sad part was that it had potential. Take away 3 very crappy calls that went against the Seahawks (iffy offensive pass inteference that wiped a touchdown out, Roethlisberger TD dive that wasn't a TD, and a very ticky-tack holding call that wiped out a Seattle spot on the 1 yard line) and maybe we've got ourselves a game.

  • thought the Willie Parker TD run and the Randle El TD throw were pretty cool. I was hoping Parker would outplay the Bus. He didn't do much else but that run was a killer to start the 2nd half.

  • Seattle needs to work on clock management. It seems like this is an epidemic in the NFL the last couple of seasons. There are lots of head coaches and quarterbacks who don't know what the word "urgent" means. If they throw in a nice per-diem I wouldn't mind teaching a class on this for teams.

  • The NFC's #1 seed just lost to the AFC's # 6 seed and nobody is surprised. It actually would have been an upset if it had been the other way around. Clearly the NFC has some serious work to do. Go Rams.

  • One thing I know is that in three years if you ask me to name the 2006 SuperBowl champion it might take me a couple of minutes to remember.

  • For two million buck commercials they kinda sucked didn't they? Budweiser is just trying too hard for laughs. The two best ones were the Ameriquest commercials. Both involved classic facial expressions from a mother and daughter. I loved the baloon release by the little girl when she thinks her dad is dead. The reaction of the guy who finds the chick on his lap in the airplane made me grin as well.

  • I realized I misread the Snowman omen that I mentioned yesterday. I just went out and took a look at the kids Snowman. It doesn't resemble a bird today. I was a day early. It had some more melting to do. It now looks exactly like one of Bill Cowher's daughters. Damn.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Pre-game thoughts on the SuperBowl

A couple of reflections before the big game tomorrow:

1. I would rather watch the Lifetime channel than I would the SuperBowl pregame stuff and the halftime show. I need football not overhyped speculation and Mick Jagger's tongue. However, I'd reconsider the halftime show if someone can gurantee me a Janet Jackson appearance.

2. I'm picking the Seahawks in a close one. I don't have a good reason for doing so other than the fact that the Snowman I was building with my 3 and 4 year old the other day has melted enough now that the head resembles a bird. Snowmen omens can't be ignored can they?

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Players can be overrated but Personality cannot

I was pondering today the significance of a professional athlete's personality in regards to their perception by other players, media and fans.
As the Bettis love-bus rolls on this week and some are debating his merit as a hall of famer and his place among the all-time great running backs I am becoming further convinced this would not even be an issue if Jerome was a jerk. Would he have survived Cowher's doghouse had he demanded all the carries and acted like a petulant child the last couple of seasons (as some others have done in his position)? Doubtful. His career may have ended right there. He was a good guy and good teamate. However, his weaknesses (career yards per carry is only 3.9) are generally glossed over and his strengths (look how nimble this fat guy's feet are and how he drags tacklers!) are often over-rated. I've said it before, Bettis has been a good running back. Not great, but good over a long period of time. Does that make him a hall of famer? Personally I don't think so but you can't deny longevity has played a role in many good (not great) athletes getting hall of fame votes (especially in baseball).

Personality plays a huge part in how we perceive athletes and the slack we cut or don't cut for them. Brett Favre gets very little criticism and his achievements are often blown out of proportion. We like him. When Terrell Owens finally plays again any mistakes he makes on the field will also be overrated. We don't like him. Chad Johnson can act brash and cocky yet he's a likeable guy. We give him a little rope. When Michael Jordan was a one-man team for the Bulls in the 80's there was some criticism but for the most part he was right in the beginning stages of idol-worship. We really liked him. Kobe Bryant is a one-man team right now but he's been an idiot in the past and we don't like him. Charles Barkley and Karl Malone both were great players but couldn't bring championships to their teams. Yet Malone is criticized far more than Barkley for this. Not a surprise. While Malone generally avoids the jerk label it is not hard to see that Barkley is the more likeable guy.

I'm sure agents wish they could bottle a magic personality formula and serve it to all their athlete clients (although some agents like Scott Borus and Drew Rosenhaus would need a dose themselves). There is always going to be more money, praise, fame, and opportunity for guys that we want to love. I guess that's ok. I wouldn't want it the other way around.